Thursday, January 8, 2009

(Same Old) Shelter Blues

(Picture Left: Spencer -- loving, healthy purebred Cocker Spaniel who almost died for a shelter mistake)

Rudy, our sweet little Pekingese was adopted last night. While it was surprising that a loving and totally adorable little dog like this failed to generate many adoption inquiries, the one call we got on Rudy turned out to be high quality and the appropriate home for him to go to. Rudy seemed to connect strongly to his new people as they to him (two young men who live together as partners). Both Rudy's foster person and I are very confident that the little Peke has gone off to a happy life where he will be pampered and adored.

That is of course, what we want for all of our animals.

There is good news on Daisy, as well. Though very stressed while in boarding, Daisy is happy and doing marvelously in her new foster home with Carrie and her family. The fact we can now say that Daisy is good with kids, cats and other dogs should help facilitate her ultimate adoption -- although in the current economic crisis, it is very hard to predict or feel particularly optimistic about anything.

As Carrie has become accustomed and comfortable with fostering two dogs at a time, she volunteered the other day to go to the shelter herself and pick out a new dog to foster. We both agreed that the new foster dog should probably be older and smaller than Daisy in order to minimize potential stresses in the home. It was also preferable that the new dog be a male, as generally opposite sex dogs are more compatible (Daisy is already spayed).

As circumstance would have it, there was a lovely, extremely sweet and basically healthy (already neutered!) male Cocker Spaniel at the pound, who, unbelievably was on the Euth list for the following day!

Why was "Spencer" on the list of doom?

Well, apparently either his former owners misspoke when indicating the little dog's age to be "18" or the person doing the Intake behind the counter make a whopper of a typo.

Although, Jesse, the New Hope Coordinator sent Spencer's information out in an email alert to rescue, the fact his age was indicated as "18" obviously deterred rescues from coming forward on him.

For a dumb mistake, a loving, Cocker Spaniel almost died.

To her credit, Jesse did pull Spencer from the Euth list and requested a further "evaluation" on him by the medical staff. She also pointed Spencer out to Carrie.

"18-years-old?" Carrie exclaimed. "Damn, this dog can't be 18! Can you have a vet look at him to reassess the age? Patty will have my ass if I pull an 18-year-old dog!"

Jesse brought Spencer back to medical to have a vet evaluate his real age. And to no one's surprise, the attending vet said the dog was more likely 8-years-old, not 18.

When asked by Carrie, why this error wasn't discovered sooner, the vet replied that when an animal is a "owner surrender" with an indicated age, the vet's don't bother to check or reevaluate.

That probably explains why so many of our shelter's animals have incorrect ages posted on them -- many times indicated to be older than they actually are.

Personally, I believe that many owners turning in animals give incorrect information: "I had the dog ten years!" when in fact, they only had the animal 6 or 7 years. It sound better and more committed to say one had the animal longer than they actually did. In other cases, owners simply don't remember exactly when they got the animal and round off to the highest number.

That shelter vets don't bother to question or check this information, is, to put it bluntly, disgraceful -- especially when it results in an animal dying for what really is shelter error and incompetence.

There are, in fact, many problems with New York City's animal sheltering system - a few of which have hit media reports over the past couple of days.

Apparently, the Brooklyn shelter recently experienced an outbreak of a deadly canine flu (or other) virus and a number of dogs died in their cages. Others were euthanized and still others were sent to the Manhattan shelter. For a few days, the shelter "shut down" and refused to take in dogs from the public.

All of this was kept very under wraps until some people leaked it to the press.

Unfortunately, what the press doesn't say is that sickness problems are very common in NYC shelters which are simply too overcrowded and understaffed all of the time.

The bottom line is we don't have enough animal shelters in NYC to competently and safely handle the volume of animals from a public comprised of over 8 million people.

Until shelters are built in the Bronx and Queens to deal specifically with those boroughs' animals, then dogs (and cats) like Spencer and thousands of others will continue to fall through the gaping holes of societal and political neglect. -- PCA


No comments: