Browsing "Shelter & Rescue"
Jul 23, 2014 - Shelter & Rescue    No Comments

Supply, Demand, and Puppy Progress.

In Duluth, Minnesota, demand for puppies now outstrips the number available for adoption in rescues and shelters. This is great progress, accomplished though outreach and education, and mirrors patterns seen in many other American communities over the last two decades.

The celebration does not come without its share of frets, however:

Some worry, though, that without more adoptable puppies in the system, families inadvertently are being funneled into using puppy mills and other forms of unethical breeders.

Of course all animal lovers would like to see puppies come from only the most humane and ethical sources possible, so this concern may seem valid at first glance (indeed, in a perfect world, all puppies would come from conscientious breeders, live their entire lives with loving, responsible owners, and there would be no need for rescue at all), but if you think about the statement for a moment, it really begins to collapse in upon itself.

After all, if there were still enough adoptable puppies in the system to meet demand, that would be an indication that all the wonderful hard work that has gone into owner education, spay-neuter efforts, and making adoption a viable and appealing option for so many families had fallen short. Simply put: if you do have enough adoptable puppies to meet demand, there are still a lot of people in your community producing litters who shouldn’t be. This isn’t responsible, and it certainly isn’t good for the welfare of dogs. Unless the goal is to sell puppies, not having enough is a pretty darn good “problem” to have.

Perhaps hard to believe, but in some settings, too few puppies is actually a good thing...

It may be hard to believe… but in some settings, too few puppies is a very, very good thing!

 

There are countless reputable, responsible breeders, just as there are countless reputable, responsible rescues and shelters. Whether a potential owner chooses a breeder or a shelter as their source, our hope is that they do their homework and support the best option available.

Jul 15, 2014 - Shelter & Rescue    No Comments

You Don’t Have to Be Perfect…

You’ve seen those cute “You Don’t Have to be Perfect to Be a Perfect Parent” PSAs from AdoptUSKids, right?

If you have, and if you are like us, you immediately re-imagined them from the angle of  pet adoption.

We are all fallible; there is no such thing as a “perfect pet owner,” but we do believe there are more than enough perfect matches out there, more than enough perfect homes available for all adoptable pets.

Coming from this belief, the question becomes: how can rescues and shelters screen potential owners to maximize chances of that “perfect match?” Where is that ideal middle ground between the extremes of insulting, arbitrary reasons not to allow adoptions, and shipping animals hundreds of miles, then simply handing them off to strangers in a parking lot?

Our hats are off to all who strive to find that balance, to all who understand that great homes come in many different varieties — or to steal a line from those PSAs, that understand “you don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect pet owner.”

Potential adopters have been turned down due to age, but there are now forward-thinking programs that match seniors with pets

Hopeful adopters have been turned down due to age, but there are now several forward-thinking programs that match seniors with pets

Jun 14, 2014 - Shelter & Rescue    No Comments

The Drama of Animal Transport

Here is a provocative take on rescue transports (what we refer to at NAIA as “humane relocation”) from Animal Ark that was published several months ago.

Particularly interesting is the author’s observation of the inherent drama that accompanies animal transport, as opposed to boring ol’ local adoptions:

And, lets face it: long-distance “rescues” are much more dramatic than local ones. It is easier, therefore, to get high-profile PR for them, like this spot on Anderson Cooper about a celebrity who paid to have dogs flown from California to a no kill shelter in New York. Note: While it is nice the rescuer flew the dogs to a no kill shelter in New York, no one seems to wonder why the no kill shelter took the animals, instead of simply driving over to New York Animal Control to rescue more dogs from death row there? You can bet that the PR for both the “rescuer” and the receiving shelter had a lot to do with it.

This is so obvious, but a point that isn’t made often enough — you have heroic people who drive or fly all day, and brave dogs on a journey from likely death into a loving home — it’s so much easier to put a face and story behind a dog you adopted from 1,000 miles away than a dog you simply picked out from the local shelter. And oftentimes, these dogs with the great backstory are marketed as being smaller (read: more desirable for many adopters), and you can pick them up with less paperwork and hassle than you can from the local rescue or shelter.

Which is great for the dogs that are being transported… not so great for your local dogs who still need homes or for solving problems at their source.

girlAndSmallDog

Let me tell you the story of Rocket…

Apr 10, 2014 - Shelter & Rescue    3 Comments

Fewer Puppies Entering Rescues and Shelters Is a GOOD Thing

Interesting article on the ASPCA Professional blog today.

Interesting because it acknowledges pet overpopulation trends we have been following for years:

[…] trends all point to the very real likelihood (assuming the community pulls together at least at some levels) that your community, too, will not have many puppies some day soon. Look at the following graphs showing puppy intake in 10 different communities that we partner with. You will see that in almost all, puppy intake is down.

An interesting admission, to be sure. But even more interesting is the tone of the overall blog. A cynic would say it almost sounds like they’re worried there won’t be enough homeless puppies in the future. Uh… isn’t sheltering and rescue supposed to be about putting itself out of business, not keeping its corner of the pet selling market?

If people are having trouble finding puppies in shelters, isn’t that a good thing? Yes, lip service is given to the “great news” of fewer puppies entering the sheltering system, but the author’s concern is palpable. She is clear that she wants people getting dogs from them, as opposed to the other, bad sources.

And it would be easy to infer from this blog that there is no such thing as a “good source” outside of rescue for getting a dog. Perhaps that viewpoint is the problem, why there is such concern over fewer and fewer puppies coming through the door. For when the possibility of getting a dog from a reputable breeder is finally broached near the end of the entry, it is immediately written off as a form of elitism:

Responsible breeders are expensive, and as I have said before, I personally do not think having a dog in the family should be an elite activity. The benefits of having a dog, both physically and psychologically, are too powerful to leave just to the ‘Haves.’

Interesting position to take. Especially when one can easily pay several hundred dollars to adopt a dog from a rescue — certainly not pocket change. Is paying a few hundred more for a dog from a reputable, known source, a dog with predictable traits (energy level, size, coat, etc.) really out of reach for all but the “Haves?”

This is just a strange article all-around. We at NAIA do not fret, but celebrate fewer puppies entering animal shelters and rescues, and sincerely hope the trend continues. We also celebrate puppies born to reputable breeders, living in great homes with great care their entire life, never having to be rescued and rehomed.

Dec 4, 2012 - Shelter & Rescue    5 Comments

Rescue Without a Cause

Throwing puppies from a moving car is the kind of sick behavior you’d expect from a deranged teenager or hardened criminal, not a self-proclaimed animal rescuer, but that’s what Sheriff Heath White of Torrance County says happened last November:

Torrance County Sheriff Heath White said that, in the recent case, [Debra] Swenerton was caught in the act — tossing the dogs one by one from the driver’s side window of her vehicle — by deputies who had been alerted by the puppies’ owner.

To make matters worse, authorities suspect that this isn’t an isolated incident — that Swenerton has been dognapping for years, and may be tied to nearly 60 reports of missing dogs:

Edgewood animal control officer Mike Ring said the arrest of 59-year-old Debbie Swenerton ‘really cracked the case’ of some 60 dogs that have gone missing over the past few years.

Ring believes that Swenerton stole the dogs and then gave them to shelters, saying that they were strays she had rescued. He added that there is a possibility that Swenerton belongs to a larger group of animal activists that are concerned over the treatment of pets.

Furthermore, according to Torrance County Undersherriff Martin Rivera, Swenerton repeatedly called in cases of dog abuse on owners who were taking perfectly fine care of their pets. Assuming she is behind at least some of the disappearances, it really makes you wonder what kind of conditions these missing dogs were being “rescued” from. Vigilantism is bad enough, but to “save” a perfectly well-cared-for dog, a dog who is likely a well-loved family member, and give them to a shelter that could be using resources on animals who actually need help is obscene.

Thankfully, the puppies in this instance survived with minimal injury, but you can’t help but wonder about the rest…

 


Is she really a prisoner in her own home?

 

Jul 30, 2012 - Pet Care, Shelter & Rescue    3 Comments

The Trendiest Pet?

A recent  Arizona Republic opinion piece suggests that we should view rescued pets as the new “high-end option,” that:

Taking one home gives you bragging rights in addition to a friend for life.

And it’s trendy.

It’s amazing how fast trends change nowadays. A few short years ago, everyone had to get a doodle mix so they could be just as unique as the rest of their Generation Y friends. Then along came the dog-as-purse-accessory. Remember that? But we’re so over it — the next big push for trendiness is, apparently, rescue pets.

Trendy Dog, circa 2009: in return for pampering, Gazoo provides valuable mascara warming services.

It should go without saying that getting a pet because it is the “cool thing to do” is a pretty awful idea. Whether doodle, purse dog, that purebred you just saw in a movie, or even a rescue pet, becoming a pet owner at the urging of an emotional twinge or desire for status decreases the chance of a positive outcome for all parties. Let’s say it again together for good measure: bad idea.

A realistic assessment of your ability to properly care for a pet over a lifetime and the pet’s suitability to your lifestyle should be the first, and most important considerations. If you’re seeking out a furry (or scaled or feathered) friend for life because you want something to brag about, something to win you points with your friends — sorry, but you’re doing it wrong.

If there absolutely must be a “trendiest pet” to brag about, why can’t it be that joyous companion — friend, clown, jogging partner, bacon-beggar, protector — who is chosen with careful research and foresight, who is properly and lovingly cared for his entire life? Now that kind of lifelong commitment and bond is something to be proud of.

 

Probation for Animal Transport Cruelty

Just a few of the 141 dogs found crammed in the back of Sheehan’s U-Haul

Bonnie Sheehan of the Hearts for Hounds rescue pleaded guilty to 14 misdemeanor charges tied to her January arrest, where more than 100 dogs were found crammed inside a U-Haul truck moving from California to Virginia. She received two years probation, a fine, and will not be allowed custody of any animals while on probation. Sheehan took responsibility for the abuse and decision to move the animals; all charges against co-defendant Pamela King-McCracken, a longtime Hearts for Hounds volunteer, were dismissed.

Reaction among animal lovers has been sharply divided. While the cramped, filthy trek itself is viewed with universal horror and disgust, opinions on Sheehan herself range from “It is tragic that such a well-meaning woman would make this horrible decision.” to “Put her before the Hague.”

Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, it is something we can all agree is a tragedy — something that we never want to see happen again.

 

Investigative Journalism: Humane Relocation Edition

We are so grateful for two recent news investigations describing the insidious underbelly of humane relocation.* While we have been writing about this issue for years,** it is infrequently covered in mainstream news, and rarely with as much detail as in these two investigative reports.

First, in Atlanta, a humane society imports animals for adoption from as far away as the Bahamas, while just down the road, an overflowing municipal shelter kills over 60% of the animals it receives. Granted, definitions of “adoptable pet” vary greatly from person to person, and we accept that, but it is hard to believe none of these animals are fit for adoption. Ironically, this is the exact kind of situation where importation makes perfect sense for a humane society: there are animals in desperate need only a few miles away — just think of all the gas (and more importantly, lives) they could save if they worked locally!

Adopt Me Too!
Hey guys, I’m from next door. Don’t I deserve a home, too?

It may be that the majority of local dogs are older and less attractive to adopters than the ones that can be found out of state, but seeking out the most placeable animals is what you would expect from a pet store, not a humane society. To do its job effectively and honestly, to live up to its mission statement, a humane society must focus on all animals. Even the ones that might not be adopted right away. Especially the ones that might not be adopted right away.

In the case of certain northern rescues that import dogs and cats because pet overpopulation isn’t a local issue, you can at least see the logic behind their behavior, even if it would be preferable that they focus on the root of the problem. But why import from out of state — even out of the country — when there is a crisis in your own back yard? Especially given the limited resources available and the stated goal of helping the most animals in the most efficient way possible?

And this doesn’t even begin to cover the issues of disease transmission, deception, and heartbreak that come with humane relocation. Fortunately, they were all covered brilliantly in that other expose we mentioned, so we don’t have to here.

Unfortunately, these aren’t the only tales of woe from the world of humane relocation. It has been a serious problem for more than a decade; this is why we worked in Massachusetts to help local residents regulate importing rescue groups in 2005, why we created our Shelter Import and Reporting Model Law in 2009, why we supported Connecticut’s rescue importation bill last year, and why we are simply thrilled to see this issue finally being tackled head-on in the mainstream press.

 


* “Humane Relocation” is a term describing the importation of dogs from out of state or country for adoption — a practice often referred to by its detractors as “dog trafficking.”

** A short list of previous NAIA articles on this topic:

 

HuMaine Relocation

An interesting piece on humane relocation was posted on the Bangor Daily News website last night. Apparently, Hancock County’s SPCA shelter is importing puppies from Guam to be adopted at $500 a head.

This, in and of itself isn’t that newsworthy; the importation of puppies from out of state into northeastern shelters has been going on for years. In fact, it’s something we’ve documented for more than a decade, and an issue we have actively worked on (and are working on) at the policy level. But the language used here to describe this operation is definitely worthy of note (emphasis NAIA):

The four puppies arrived by commercial airplane late Monday, the first of 12 bound from Guam to Maine this week as part of a program that is literally pushing the boundaries of what is already a thriving “dog rescue” industry in this state.

[…]

Every year, hundreds of dogs are “rescued” from overcrowded shelters in other states and brought to Maine for adoption. More than 50 organizations are licensed by the Maine Department of Agriculture to import dogs, the vast majority of which come from southern states with less aggressive spay/neutering programs and where unadopted pets face euthanasia.

But Guam? After all, the only county in the continental U.S. that juts farther east into the Atlantic than Hancock is its neighbor, Washington County. And some dogs in Maine shelters will ultimately be euthanized because they could not find homes.

Well bless you, Kevin Miller! The scare quotes used when describing this sort of “rescue” and calling it an industry certainly represent a welcome change in tone.

For its part, the shelter seems keenly aware of how the importation may be perceived, and has gone to great lengths to bring up how carefully they are following vaccination and quarantine procedures. They have also attempted to address the issue of enabling* — but the “part of the adoption proceeds go toward spaying and neutering in Guam” falls apart once you contemplate the volume necessary to make any meaningful improvements for animals. It’s great marketing, to be sure, but does it do enough to justify this irresponsible practice? Not unless they begin importing puppies by the score — which, of course, may be their ultimate goal.

 


* Enabling: the argument that importation does nothing to solve the population and policy issues plaguing the dog’s place of origin, that it is simply trades the life of one dog for another while enabling business as usual to continue.

Stray Dogs, Project Potcake, and Low-Cost Spay/Neuter

It may be hard to imagine, especially if you are living in a world with leash laws, animal control, and a culture that spays and neuters its pets, but stray dogs — not just one or two or a small pack, but thousands upon thousands — are a very real problem in many parts of the world. This is something we’ve been documenting for quite some time, an oft-neglected issue with major implications from both an animal welfare and public health and safety standpoint. Read more »

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