Monday, January 5, 2009

Complex Questions with No Definitive Answers (Reply)

Lisa D Writes: As to the "unadoptable" animals, your story of Willow is an argument against that. There is a book recently published by the man who trained most of the Annie dogs (all rescues). There are several who would have been labelled "unadoptable," including one who had to live in his cellar for a time until he tamed the dog's aggressiveness. My little dog was at death's door after 5 years in a puppy mill and has made her way to a safe and happy life in Manhattan.So many good stories, and, as you say, so many others without a happy ending.

Reply: Unfortunately, we usually don't hear about the ones with unhappy endings.

For example, the Animal Cops shows on Animal Planet:

The shows will focus on the dogs who were brought back from the brink of death -- usually requiring complex surgeries and intensive care. And not say anything at all about all the healthy and friendly animals going down every day of the week. -- Animals whose only "disability" was not finding a loving home in time.

One of the most common stories on the Animal Cop shows are when the agents have to raid the home of a "horder" (or backyard breeder) and confiscate about 50 animals usually due to the owners simple failure to neuter any.

The animals are usually in horrible condition, unsocialized and living in total squalor.

But, often the investigators can find one or two adoptable kittens or puppies and following medical care, those particular animals will find loving homes at the end of the show.

"Happy story" as long as we don't bother to question what happened to the other 49 cats or dogs. Or inquire why the former owner wasn't arrested or at least fined for allowing a situation like this to occur. (Spay/neuter needs to be made mandatory by law!)

This past weekend, Animal Planet premiered a new show: "From Underdog to Wonderdog" that tests the limits of credibility and reality.

In this new show, a team comprised of dog trainer, groomer, a carpenter and (I believe) a vet tech, rescue a dog from a rescue! The dog (in this case, a Yorkie who had been hit by a car and abandoned by the previous owners) is given star treatment from medical care, grooming and training to luxurious surroundings and pampering. Adopters (who we hope have been suitably screened in terms of how and why their last dog "died" after only having the dog a few years) are not only given the dog at the end of the show, but also an entire array of gifts, including a fully "dog friendly" yard and dog house constructed by the carpenter!

I only had to wonder after watching this show if rescue groups and shelters will now be expected to provide adopters with free gifts and home reconstruction?

What next?!!!

I was actually contacted by the producer of this new show a couple of months ago.

But, when asked if we had adoptable dogs who urgently needed medical, grooming and behavioral care, I had to answer honestly that when we rescue dogs we tend to take care of these issues immediately. "What kind of rescue would we be if we didn't attend to the medical and grooming needs of our animals?" I asked.

Anyway, it is very disconcerting the expectations that are being put on rescues and shelters, primarily by the media, but fostered by many of the large organizations (such as the ASPCA) who, while having the resources and money to perform "back from the dead" rescues, often and usually turn a blind eye to the millions of healthy, friendly animals dying in shelters every year. Animals who rather than requiring life saving surgeries or months of intensive care, simply need people to promote, foster or adopt them!

While I fully agree with your point that very few (if any) animals are truly "unadoptable" as especially the rehabilitation of the Michal Vick "fighting" Pitbulls proves, the question we have to ask is, "at what price?"

Does it make sense in the long run to spend limited financial resources or many months rehabilitating or bringing back from the dead a few animals at the expense and lives of the many?

I don't know the answer to that. Its a very debatable question. It's a question I had to ponder about Willow when considering the $800.00 investment to treat her for the Heartworms. That is why I had to discuss and ask Willow's foster person, Deb if her family was willing to keep Willow with the understanding the dog might never be "adoptable" even following the medical treatment.

The truly scary thing about proving that even fighting pit bulls can be successfully rehabilitated for adoption is realizing the true horror of killing the millions of healthy and loving dogs and cats in shelters every year, 90% of whom would not require such extreme measures to try and save! -- PCA

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