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November 16, 2007

Talk Back: Problem-Solving for Homeless Pets

Readers responded with a flood of feedback to last week's blog about the apparent rift in the humane movement over the no kill issue. I'll have more to say on the issue in a future blog, but I also wanted to hear from so many of you with an interest in the issue. Among the comments I received:

You voiced, in the most articulate way, the thoughts I have had about this issue. Every thing you stated makes perfect sense. I have been thinking about how there is still this air of complacency about the issue of euthanizing pets in our country. I've been feeling more and more troubled by it. I adopted a dog and two cats from my local shelter, and I am so happy I did. And this issue has been with me since then. I am glad you are taking a leadership position, and I hope to see more political action taken. I want to know what my candidates have to say about pet-related welfare issues. Our government should be doing something about unregulated puppy mills, we should be enacting mandatory spay and neuter requirements for pit bulls, we should continue to educate the public about this unacceptable, flat out unacceptable, practice of killing healthy pets due to overpopulation. Thank you for this straightforward, plain-spoken approach to this important issue. —Kathleen

Kudos on this article. It mirrors my own point of view to a T! Reverence for life MUST extend to these precious creatures. That must be the value system that governs decisions about how to deal with animals at shelters. As Dr. Albert Schweitzer said, "Until he extends his circle of compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace." —Mike Schwager

Thank you so much for making such an important point. Chinese medicine believes you work on the "branches" of the problem to get to the "root"; you don't just attack the entire tree all at once. I strive to work with other advocates to create a community where no healthy, treatable or manageable animal is euthanized because of space or resources. But, (always a but) we are not there yet. We have to continue to fight cruelty, particularly puppy mills and fighting; continue to strengthen pet parent's understanding of the importance of spay/neuter; spend time with children teaching them about humane treatment of animals; and strengthen the positive reputations of the shelters and rescue groups within our community to encourage adoption. We can do this! But Rome wasn't built in a day. Whenever I get discouraged or overwhelmed I find inspiration by spending a day with my own pets doing something "extra fun" like going for a swim or hike or letting them on the bed with me for a movie and a nap. I absorb their energy and gratitude because once, not so long ago, they were homeless, too. Keep up your efforts and I will keep up mine. Together we will keep the torch of hope alive for all! —Shannon

I live in a very rural area of Maryland. There are three groups out in this area that help animals. I specifically do the TNR of ferals and help drive animals to rescues where they will not be put down. Our shelter has a very low adoption rate. It can only hold 12 dogs at one time. Adult cats are not often adopted. One of the groups has started a fundraiser to build a million dollar no kill shelter. This is a result of our county government not being willing to do it with our abundant county funds. I wholeheartedly believe that shelters can go no kill. Facilities must be made larger and more attractive so animals can have large enclosures and a great environment while waiting to be adopted by people that can't wait to go to this beautiful shelter. Thanks. —Linda

Very well said. I've told a lot of people that we should stop breeding dogs and cats and I'm always incredulous when they state “They'll die out.” It's the most inane argument I've heard with millions of dogs and cats in shelters. We're quite a long way from dogs and cats “dying out” and it's folly to think that we can shut down ALL breeding facilities or people who foolishly breed their pets. Too few people also understand why the “no kill” policy can be detrimental and simply lead to skipping cats and dogs to “kill” shelters. Thank you for enlightening people about that little known fact. I hope more and more people will think about the consequences before they accept from breeders or breed animals themselves. True animal lovers should consider the impact of their actions. —Sara N

Wayne, I adopted my first dog, Archie (a female!), from the Michigan Humane Society when I was about 5 years old. She lived a long and happy life. As an adult, I adopted two stray dogs, Sandy and Lucy, who were with my wife and me for 16 and 18 years respectively. Two years ago—a year after Lucy's death—we were looking for a new dog, but we found the Humane Society's adoption process too onerous to deal with. Gone were the days when I went to the Humane Society, found "my Archie" and took her home. We had to fill out an involved questionnaire and visit an adoption show just to see the dog we were interested in. We were told that nobody takes a dog home from the show. What came next apparently would be an inspection of our backgrounds, our home and property, and I forget what else, because I gave in at that point and visited a pet store, and for the first time in my life, purchased a little mixed breed terrier that looked a lot like Lucy. We named him "Coco." And yes, his papers showed he came from a puppy mill in Missouri. Coco has been with us for two years; he's healthy and a joy to have around. He needs a friend though, and we're looking. Sooner or later we'll find some individual owner needing to find a home for his/her dog, and Coco will have a new pal. We won't buy from a pet store, but we won't adopt from the Humane Society either, because the process is too demanding for us. I heard you say that only 20 percent of the animals get adopted. I regret that, but that's what happens when the process gets bogged down. I know you want to do right by the animals, but have a little faith—so do folks like me. Streamline your process so we can adopt. —Mike Woodruff

I totally agree with your thoughts 100 percent. I think that so many people are not aware of the realities of homeless animals and if they were made to be aware, more change could come. I have always hoped that someone like you could be on Oprah's show or another similar show to get the message out. I would only hope that she and her producers would be open to this type of information and dialogue. Thank you for all that you and The HSUS do for all of the animals. —Ames McGarey Phoenix, Ariz.

America was supposed to be the leader of the world; promoting democracy, freedom, morality, etc. Yet the most vulnerable members of our society are often being horribly abused. For some animals, they knew nothing but suffering from the day they were born to the day they died. In some instances, America has degraded itself to third world country level judging by how we treat the animals. Every day there are reports of animal cruelty/abuse cases, such as dogs tied to the bumper of the car and dragged; animals being tortured to death by pouring gasoline then setting them on fire, etc. These sadistic criminals rarely serve any jail time. Most judges are either too lenient or just simply apathetic to the plight of the animals. It would be great if we were living in a world where people are kind to the animals, and all the animals are happy and living freely in their own natural habitat. But the world is often cruel and callous. Sometimes the most loving and merciful thing to do is peaceful death, so they don't have to suffer any longer. —Sophia, Virginia

Thank you for your thoughtful article. To move forward HSUS needs: 1) to press shelters and humane societies to provide low cost spay/neuter programs especially for cats. 2) It needs to provide PSAs re: community education for responsible pet care, community responsibility for all animals in their districts, and encouragement of volunteer participation in the community as feral care givers, foster homing, and shelter service. 3) Press shelters and rescue groups to expand their foster care for young or sick animals. 4) Offer creative suggestions for comprehensive adoption programs with expanded hours and offsite venues. 5) Endorse and encourage TNR programs and feral management. —Patricia Hughes

Another way that communities could help place pets in good homes is to work with nursing homes and retirement facilities. There are many older people who have to give up their pets because they are not allowed to keep them when they move to one of these places. Others would love to adopt a homeless animal for companionship. It should be brought to the attention of administrators that the lives of their residents could be greatly improved by having pets to love. —Barbara

I hope you will start requiring shelters to post their adoption/kill rates as a first step in letting the public know how well they are doing. —Erich Riesenberg

If The HSUS didn't promote the banning of pit bulls, the number of pit bulls in the shelters would dramatically decline. In fact, if The HSUS didn't promote legislation that forced good, caring, loving, pet owners to surrender their friendly, healthy, cared for, loved, loving pets, shelters would see a lot less "overcrowding." Replace breed banning with non-breed specific dangerous dog laws, replace mandatory spay/neuter laws with low-cost, accessible S/N programs, enforce health, leash and nuisance laws that directly address issues of unsanitary conditions and uncontrolled dogs. Encourage responsible breeders who produce healthy, well-socialized puppies and provide life long support to the buyer, rather than promoting laws that make it impossible for responsible breeders to continue their hobby. —Jane Omin

Note: The HSUS opposes legislation aimed at eradicating dogs based solely on their breed. For more information, see The HSUS’s position statement on breed-specific legislation.

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