Saturday, October 31, 2015

Redress of grievances

Freedom of speech, freedom of peaceable assembly, these are two of the inalienable rights protected by the document known as the bill of rights.
Protest has been an integral part of American history. Without protesters opposing what they view as injustice America as we know it wouldn't exist.
 There is a nationwide protest planned for December 18, a protest against kill shelters and other acts of cruelty towards animals.  I don't necessarily agree with the specific plan of this protest, it is scheduled to be an overnight sleep out during one of the coldest months. That is a hard thing for many people to do. It seems to me, if you are going to protest something you would want as many people as possible to know about it. It's unlikely that many people will notice an overnight protest, especially since most animal shelters are not located in heavily populated areas. Shelters tend to be found on the outskirts or less populated areas of town.
 In order for this protest to have any impact people need to know about it and people need to show up to protest. I'd  like to encourage everyone to get the word out about this, slam the local media with information about this protest,start now, let every media outlet in the vicinity of the protest sites know. Social media is a powerful tool but it is not the only tool. Use every tool available. 
Peaceable protest is one of the more powerful instruments of change we have available in this country but protest is meaningless if no one is aware of the protest, the issues that are being protested and the desired resolution. If you want to be the voice of change you must be willing to speak up and make yourself heard.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Animals among us

Today I had the pleasure (it's difficult to use that word even sarcastically) of visiting the Shawnee shelter, inside, up close and personal with all the animals, even the one working the front desk. 
The kennel area was quite clean, the interior kennel area completely free of any kind of clutter. You know, those messy things like food or water bowls or beds. I couldn't say what was outside as I couldn't see it.  The animals in this place were obviously terrified. I saw several shivering as they sat or lay in their kennel. Others barked, whined or growled out of nervousness or fear.  They all shared one thing though, that same, sick, terrified look in their eyes. The most heartbreaking was the older shepherd mix who was an owner surrender. Yes, she was abandoned in this hellhole by her owner. How many years of loyalty had she given her owner, only to be discarded in this horrible place? 
Probably the worst example of animal behavior that I saw today came from the individual working the front desk. No greeting or acknowledgement for the rescuers coming in to save the animals relegated to his "care". I guess it's easier to throw them in the gas chamber than deal with paperwork. This attitude was quite obvious in his reaction to the paperwork that had been faxed in by the rescue that was trying to help me pull this dog. The same rescue that tried all Friday afternoon to call the shelter to find out what the procedure was, and to tell them they were sending their paperwork. This shelter employee was absolutely indignant that the rescue had the nerve to ask them to hold this particular dog for them. Imagine that, someone asking them to put in such a huge amount of effort to save a dog. This employee was so busy flinging the paperwork around and ranting about how they didn't hold animals for anyone, that he didn't hear my questions about how to get the appropriate paperwork to the rescue requesting the dog. Much like their inability to answer the phone, they seem to turn a deaf ear to anyone wanting to help.
The Shawnee shelter is one ugly nightmare created by a variety of factors; The attitude of the state government and many citizens toward animal welfare. The ignorance, willful or otherwise, of the locals in their refusal to spay & neuter , vaccinate, or properly care for their pets. The shelter staff, caring and compassion are definitely not job requirements and any venture into the modern world is obviously also unthinkable.
With all these factors, is there any hope for shelter reform in Shawnee,
or will the dedicated and overwhelmed rescuers continue to be the only hope for the unfortunate animals who end up there?

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Primitive methods in a modern world

 I have yet another story about the nightmare that is the Shawnee Oklahoma animal "shelter". I am trying to get a dog out of the shelter so it won't be gassed to death, the dogs hold time is up Monday morning, it could be gassed anytime after its hold time ends. I have an out of state rescue trying to help me pull this dog. In order for any rescue to be approved to pull they must fax, yes fax, proof of their 501c3 certification to the shelter. Apparently they don't use email in animal control in Shawnee. Someone from the out of state rescue and I spent all Friday afternoon trying to call the shelter to tell them we were faxing the paperwork. Apparently they don't answer phones either...
 This brings me to the story of this poor cat who found himself in the Shawnee shelter this summer. This cat was picked up by animal control and taken to the shelter, sometime during the 48 hour stray hold it was decided that this was a feral cat. He was gassed to death. Very shortly after the cat was killed a woman and her young daughter came in to the shelter looking for their missing cat. They had tried repeatedly to call the shelter to ask if they had picked up any cats matching the description of their missing pet.The phone was never answered, so they came to the shelter. The woman was told that a cat matching the description of hers had come in, and had already been gassed. The woman asked to see the body of the cat so she could be certain it was hers. The woman, along with her young daughter, was told no, it was not something a woman should see.  What kind of condition was this poor cats body in? How horrific must the death have been? 
Death by gas chamber is not easy. It can take up to 45 minutes for an animal to die. 45 minutes of slowly suffocating, organs shutting down, lungs desperate for air. The animal screaming and clawing wildly at the walls of the chamber, and any other animal that might be in there with it. That, it seems is what happened to this woman's pet. Perhaps this cat would have been spared this fate if someone had answered the phone.
How many other lives have been lost over the years because of unanswered phones and rigid rules for approving rescues? Most people don't have or use fax machines anymore. Email is the communication method of the world today. Is there any good reason Shawnee animal control can't use email to get the required paperwork done? 
I will continue to do all I can to get this dog safety out of the shelter. I truly hope another life isn't lost because no one can answer a phone or use email.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

An epidemic of ignorance

Most people in America, and much of the rest of the world, recognize that there is a serious  problem with over crowded animal shelters everywhere. Shelters are overflowing and most of the animals who end up in a shelter never get out. Those of us in animal rescue are acutely aware of this. We also understand that conditions in many of these shelters are deplorable. The holding areas are terrible and the shelter employees  are uncaring and even cruel. Animals are frequently killed because of limited space and sometimes for no discernible reason at all. I've heard of shelter animals being killed as retaliation because the shelter received complaints. The number of shelter horror stories is unbelievable. Animal rescuers and many other concerned people would like to change this.
 We hear a lot about the need for shelter reform, even efforts to make America a no kill nation. Is this a possibility? Can we achieve a no kill nation here or anywhere else for that matter? The answer is no. It is not possible, for many reasons. The number one reason no kill is impossible is the shear number of ignorant or uncaring people. Of course we don't like to think that about our fellow man, but sadly it's true.
 The biggest problem facing us is simple overpopulation. People don't spay and neuter their pets. The reasons why are numerous. The cost is too high, it's too hard to find a low cost clinic. Simple selfishness is often to blame, "I just can't do that to my pet." "I just want one litter." I think we've all heard these kinds of stories. The number of unwanted pets born each year is staggering.
The next biggest problem we see is animals that are not properly cared for. They are never vaccinated or given vet care. We see them running loose everywhere, getting in garbage, chasing other animals, often emaciated and unhealthy. Some of these animals actually have homes, they are not strays. In the area around my house dead dogs in or on the side of the roads are a common sight. They are hit by cars all the time. I don't live near a major highway or a heavily trafficked area. I live on a rural two lane road. The dogs are dying this way because people dump them in the woods or refuse to restrain them on their property. They run loose and get hit, or picked up by animal control and taken to a shelter.The other part of this particular equation is that many people don't even try to avoid hitting them. Animals lives just don't matter to many people. 
We see evidence of just how little value is placed on the lives of animals everywhere we look. It is in the over filled shelters. It is seen in the inhumane "euthanasia " methods used in many so called shelters.It is in the number of dead animals seen on roadsides everywhere. The abused, neglected, starving animals seen around the world are all irrefutable proof that there is not enough human caring and compassion in the world to hope for a system of no kill shelters anywhere. Until the attitudes of humans change we will continue to see shelters overfilled with unwanted animals that have found themselves there by many different means, none of which is the fault of the animals. 
Shelter reform is needed without a doubt,  but humanity reform is needed even more desperately.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Meet Bristol

Bristol is our OCD girl! She can only come into the house by going around the perimeter of the yard! Every time, no matter where she is in the yard she will follow the exact same route to come in. Bristol was our second dog, after getting Fritz we decided we wanted a female. We found an ad on Craigslist for a female German Shepherd for sale nearby. We drove out to the address we were given that evening. No one was home when we got there so we walked around the property. We found several dogs in a small kennel area, a horse in a corral and, in the middle of the horse corral, a pen. This pen was constructed of mismatched wire and old wood. Inside the pen was a partial wooden structure, it was made of three walls and part of a roof that had collapsed on one side. The pen was filled with horse manure and there was a large trash pile on one side of it. Also in this pen were two German Shepherd puppies. It was mid October which in Colorado is quite cold. We got back in the car to warm up and call the person who owned the puppies. She told us she was running late, she was picking up her daughter and would be there shortly. We sat and waited, playing with the puppies until we got too cold. We found ourselves really hoping that second puppy was spoken for because the thought of leaving any puppy in that horrible place was unbearable.
Eventually a car pulled up and a woman and young girl got out. The woman reeked of alcohol and Lysol. She was slurring her words as she tried to tell us all about the female puppy. The first thing we asked was if the second puppy was taken. No, she told us as she stumbled  over to open the pen, he was available. I crouched down as she released the pups, the little male  puppy immediately came over to me, put his paw on my leg and looked at me. My husband and I looked at each other and he told the woman we were taking both pups. We settled on a price for both, she was desperate for the money and agreed pretty quickly. We left with two puppies, brother and sister who became Bristol and Kuno.
 On the ride home both puppies vomited, large piles of horse manure, grass and cigarette butts. I think that had been the staple of their diet. 
This was an example of backyard breeding, not even the worst of it. I've heard many nightmare stories of backyard breeders that were far worse. These are the breeders who need to be stopped. 
When Bristol was about a year old we learned she has an autoimmune disease, it caused the muscles of her head and jaw to shrink making it difficult for her to eat. We adjusted her diet to soft foods and she began to gain weight. Apart from her small head Bristol is a very healthy active girl today, a little OCD but we love her!