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San Francisco Pet Program: Give Puppies to Pan Handlers

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

San Francisco apparently just can’t get panhandlers to stop begging and annoying tourists and residents, so city officials have decided to keep them busy by giving them a puppy.

“Many of those dogs are considered unfit for adoption,” Rebecca Katz, Director of San Francisco Animal Care and Control, told the Associated Press. She said she is hopeful the program can help more of them find homes and reduce euthanasia.

Starting August 1, in what appears to be the newest innovation in “No Kill,” WOOF-- short for Wonderful Opportunities for Occupants and Fidos--will use a $10,000 grant from Vanessa Getty to pay panhandlers $50 to $75 a week to have a behaviorally challenged dog live with them and take it to training sessions provided by San Francisco Animal Care and Control.

To be sure that panhandlers check in with their canines several times a week, the program will also provide dog food, veterinary care and other enticements and necessities. Additional philanthropic donations will be pursued, according to Bevan Dufty of Mayor Ed Lee's office. Dufty called WOOF a “win-win for the panhandlers and the puppies,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle. -

So, is San Francisco exchanging annoying begging for increased dog poop and urination on city streets, along with nerve-jangling barking below windows in its dense housing configuration?

Not to worry, city representatives say that all WOOF participants must be living in supportive housing and not on the streets. To further ease anxiety about already problematic animals now living under blankets with equally problematic humans, the city has “anecdotal evidence to suggest the majority of panhandlers are housed,”( which is a somewhat problematic statement!). This “evidence”  apparently concludes that panhandlers already have income and merely use begging to supplement it and fill in their leisure time.

WOOF applicants must also show they're not “severely mentally ill.” (Will moderately mentally ill qualify?) The also can’t be hoarders or have a history of violence, state San Francisco officials. Addicts are OK if they are seeking treatment, according to the AP report.

But the one thing that can guarantee your new best friend will be snatched away by Animal Control is if you get caught panhandling!!

Groups that run the supportive housing units for the homeless are only cautiously supportive of the idea, reports say. Krista Gaeta is deputy director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which operates 1,600 units--none of which allows regular pets, but all of which allow service or medically approved companion dogs. She says she wants to ensure that the dogs fostered in the program aren't aggressive, which could scare other already on-edge residents, and that the clinic will have the right to say a particular pairing isn't working,” SFGate.com reports.

This experiment allows WOOF participants to adopt the animal at the end of two to six weeks or return the animal to the shelter and foster another one.

WHEN DOES REALITY SET IN ABOUT PET OVERPOPULATION?

Dogs are being transported from animal shelters nationwide by the dozens, stacked in carriers in overcrowded cargo vans driving to unknown destinations all over the U.S. and to Canada to get them off shelter rolls, please politicians, breeders, and “No Kill” advocates, and make it appear that the pet overpopulation problem is under control.

On October 21, 2010, Los Angeles Animal Services General Manager Brenda Barnette issued a news release stating, Our Animal Care Centers are filled to over flowing.” She then told Angelenos they should consider fostering an undopted shelter animals in a spare room, garage or basement to give it a break from the shelter. http://www.opposingviews.com/i/l-a-shelter-animals-fostered-in-basements-bathrooms

Now Rebecca Katz, director of San Francisco Animal Care and Control, states that she hopes the WOOF program will help the city's shelter cope with its huge influx of dogs caused by the economic downturn. The shelter is receiving 500 more dogs per year than it did before the recession. But there is no indication that the economy is the only cause.

IS THE WOOF PROGRAM THE ANSWER?

Dufty points to Matt Traywick—a formerly homeless man now living in the Empress Hotel in the Tenderloin complex--as an ideal pairing. But Traywick went to the shelter without a city program and adopted a 4-year-old bichon mix named Charlie.

Reports imply that the animals that would be given to panhandlers under the WOOF program would be from the approximately 15 percent deemed not adoptable “because they're not socialized and are rowdy, hyper or too shy to interact with humans”—in other words these dogs are unsafe around people.

It may seem like a silly question, but why would problematic animal be given to homeless people, many of whom may have criminal records, are possibly mentally ill or addicted, and living in close proximity in public housing?

Unless the underlying issues of spaying and neutering, curtailing breeding, and strict enforcement of owner-responsibility laws are addressed, is it really a positive solution to place already challenged dogs in unstable, temporary situations with unpredictable people who spend most of their time in the streets? Also, do we really believe getting a puppy will cure panhandling?

Read “American Dogs Produce 10-million Pounds of Poop a Year”) http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/animal-rights/american-dogs-produce-10-million-pounds-poop-year

Sources: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2012/06/13/state/n052815D55.DTL http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120613/A_NEWS/120619950/-1/a_news