What follows is a collection of notes and observations. I have purposely avoided the data dumping so prevalent in the private sector of the shelter industry. I prefer to keep the focus on animal care and permanent placement into a private adoptive home. I find the term “ Live Release “ as offensive as “No Kill” Both attempt to define in “ black and white” the gray world of animal care and custody.
As a society that likes to think of ourselves as compassionate, It's a struggle. We fight for the “ right “ to euthanasia for the terminally ill human patient, while taking that right away from unadoptable animals trapped in pain, mentally or physically. And the sad truth is, that while we have made plans and arrangements for the humans who cannot function in a civil world, we have failed to acknowledge that many animals face similar behavior issues. They can’t function in society , most often through no fault of their own, but none-the-less they cannot be permanently adopted. It is for those unfortunates that I write this piece. They are the true victims of this failed, save at any cost, attitude.
In our home, my husband is an avid collector of music, which fights for shelf space with my collection of gardening tomes. At first glance, the impression is that we need more shelving….The answer is of course, not so easy. We have learned we tend to “ store to capacity” so increasing capacity only, is merely a temporary fix. We have to practice impulse control and learn to say, the not so gentle, no to ourselves. But animals are living books, each with their own chapter and verse, a bit trickier to decide who stays and who goes. And because animals have a spirit that can suffer tremendously from our choices, we must think before acquiring them. In the real world, nobody wants your troubles, they all have plenty of their own, and therefore stewardship of a pet is not to be taken lightly. The formative” puppy” weeks really do shape the rest of the dogs life, you don’t hear so much about feral dogs, but many would match the description, as far as interacting with humans. Yet, we box them up and put them on display; hoping against all hope the someone with an apartment will find the "stock killing" dog to be “ just what they were looking for”. And, the chronic self-soothing barker will find just the right home on a 500 acre farm with a deaf couple.
Our inability to say, as a society, we have failed and exploited animals, we have not done due diligence in the care and training of our pets, and now the animals pay. It makes me squirm just writing about it. But it is true you know, we humans have made a mess of things with our meddling. We have tweaked breeds into specific molds and then expected them to survive and thrive beyond their genetic capabilities. A dog is bred for fighting then destroyed when it does what it’s bred to do. We breed working dogs, but don’t let them work, so they find their own “ job” and that is usually at odds with what the neighbors think is good.
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There is one statement I can make with a degree of certainty. No animal was ever created or bred to happily spend life in a cage. So for all you “ crate folks” that believe Rover loves being in a crate for 10 hours , here is your wake up call. If your circumstances prohibit you from training, or living with the lack of training, don’t get a pet. We are not discussing the changes that can occur in the life of a pet when out of the blue the animal must be crated or re- homed. Those things do happen, this article is aimed at the people who know from the start the animal must be caged while they work. I do understand the argument for crate training as part of re-homing a shelter dog, but never as a permanent lifestyle. Dogs were not designed to live their life in a kennel; period…So we condemn puppy mills for confining a dog to kennel life and we praise “No Kill” for doing the same thing. The dog is miserable in a kennel, it does not distinguish to whom the kennel belongs. When I see rescue web sites asking for “foster’s” who have a garage, basement, an extra room where a dog can be stored, till it finds it’s “ forever home” I want to scream. What are we storing here ?, live animals folks, these are living animals with needs beyond food and water. We are taking troubled dogs and storing them into unmanageable creatures. I am seeing dogs with a level of disturbance, a place beyond healing that I have never seen in all my years of working with animals. Most of these guys aren’t coming back, it isn’t like a trip to the groomer and an obedience class will pull these poor creature back after month’s in a shelter. And, we need to quit pretending that the population that allowed the problem in the first place is going to repair it.
The whole No Kill movement seems to be prefaced on some “ parallel population” that is going to step up to the plate and care for these animals. I don’t know where they believe the “ good folk” have been while all this is going on. There is no plethora of caring individuals who are going to care for these animals, if they were real we would have seen them by now.
A very simplistic approach to a very complicated issue. In a society where 50 % of marriages end in divorce, the average length of time a person lives in a purchased home is 5 years, about 10 month’s in a rental, and keeps the car for 2 years; the outlook for our pets is pretty bleak. “ They” say .committed people can solve the problem, my view is; if people were committed, we wouldn’t have this problem. We are storing animals we can’t care for, the big fundraisers where the cat that shouldn’t have lived, ends up in paradise, it isn’t real….That is one pet, out of hundreds, that lack basic care, being exploited. Having shots and being neutered is a start, but these animals need much more than that, the broken tooth, the infected ear, the day to day care; these things are not being offered in the overcrowded conditions found in most no kill shelters.
We must live with the fact that some animals will die as a direct result of our selfish actions, I think that might be the fact that would make people willing to change. We cannot continue to pretend that somewhere, someone, is going to take that which we have tossed aside, and love it. We must make a commitment before getting the animal, or be willing to live without one, till we can; that is the only long term answer. It begins with the individual. We are hammered on every corner with “ off site “ adoptions, they do that for the same reason the candy bars are near the cash register. They count on the impulse purchase. Most impulse purchases get tossed and that includes pets. If a person really, really wants a pet; they go to where the pet lives. Again, “ puppies in a box in the back of a pick up” bad…..very bad !! A group of “ volunteers” at pet stores, bad,.. very bad… Adopt healthy animals from a clean facility, before they go crazy, and if every one is neutered and placed with the care it deserves , over time, balance will return.