Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Window Dressing

(Picture Left: "Teddy." Wonderful German Shepherd/Samoyed mix adopted out over a year ago. Returned for "personal issues" and now in boarding for several months. Rescue is the easy part. Its finding the responsible and truly committed homes that is the bitch. Then again, we are dealing with a public that has little clue to the realities.)

Instead of fretting and worrying over what adoption possibilities we missed out on during the week my phone and Internet services were down, I should rather have counted my blessings.

It has taken days to skim through and regrettably have to delete the hundreds of shelter "Alerts" and begging appeals to rescue dogs and cats. The stories and pictures are heart-wrenching. So many small dogs -- usually in wretched, neglected condition. So many cats and even some moms and litters already starting to come in. And of course, the never-ending calamity of abandoned, cast-off, Pitbulls.

Appeals starting to sound more and more desperate, frustrated and in some cases, even angry.

Well, one cannot blame the (New Hope) people in charge of sending out the Alerts to rescue groups.

They have a tough, demanding and in many ways, a thankless job. They are limited to sending out the alerts only to rescue groups or no-kill shelters with warnings on every one, that the emails are not to be shared with the general public.

Of course (in my view) it is the public (and media) that should be receiving these daily accounts and appeals of woe, neglect, abandonment and cruelty.

The public creates the problem and ultimately, it is only the public that can solve it through greater education, awareness and responsibility.

But, instead the public and media are constantly presented with "Disneyworld"-type scenarios that all is fine in the worlds of animal rescue, sheltering and adoption.

The latest claim is that we are "no kill for space" during the months of January through March in New York City!

But, in reality, it is all just a matter of semantics and labels.

Our shelters are of course putting down hundreds of animals during these months. Seemingly as many as most other months of the year (save perhaps the particularly cruel summer.) We are just freer in attaching the "Illness" or "Behavior" labels on the dogs or cats going down during these months. That is the only real difference.

Since most animals entering our shelters usually become temporarily sick with treatable Upper Respiratory Infections or sometimes gastro-intestinal bugs, it is just a matter of waiting until the dogs or cats exhibit symptoms.

For those healthy animals with particularly resilient immune systems, a hiss (in cats) or a failing grade on one of the (controversial) SAFER (behavioral) tests in dogs will guarantee a place on the next day's Euthanasia list.

Of course when one considers that New York City lacks full service shelters in every borough and that the Manhattan Animal Control "shelter" (which was originally some type of warehouse) is under "reconstruction" for almost two years (which results in half the facility being closed) and that most rescues are beyond the saturation point, then it stands to logic and reason that a lot of animals are going to have die exactly for space.

But, to admit that is to admit all of the above.

And the city doesn't want a concerned public demanding better (or even just the truth) or an angry bunch of "Animal Rights Activists" picketing City Hall.

And so we find ways to tell the people what they want to hear.

Such as, "New York City to be No-Kill by 2015" or "We're not euthanizing for space during Janurary, February and March!"

Yep, tell the people what they want to hear.

Even if it bears no resemblance to reality.

The question to ask however is, "How do we solve problems when we don't even acknowledge that the problems exist?"

Problems such as over-bred, abused and abandoned Pitbulls. Problems such as Pet-shop-bought animals eventually ending up in shelters -- usually in horrible condition. Cats breeding and dying on city streets. People deliberately breeding animals either to make money or allow the kids to see "the miracle of birth."

The problems in fact go on and on and are too numerous and complicated to cite in a single blog entry.

But, regardless of the heady and serious problems,(mostly created by the public) we seem to make them "go away" by either hiding or lying about them. -- It's as easy as plunging a needle filled with deadly solution into a cat or dog.

The dog or cat thus, "goes away" and we can say that the animal was responsible for his/he own demise either by becoming "ill" or showing some anxiety or "unsocial" behavior in a crowded shelter.

Or, perhaps we can blame it on the rescues who aren't "stepping up to the plate" to take all the hundreds of animals flooding into the shelters every week: Senior dogs and cats suddenly dumped after more than a decade in a home ("use, abuse and lose"). Dogs and cats callously discarded because it is easier than neutering. Animals not even acknowledged as having been pets ("The mom cat and litter just walked up to me on the street!" "The poodle is a stray.").

But, to me the most shameful aspect of the entire situation is the attachment of meaningless "illness" and "behavior" labels on animals who, for the most part, are indeed dying for lack of space (or home) and overpopulation of their breed (particularly true for Pitbulls and cats.)

At the very least, we should be honest about the real reasons the animals are dying. It is to honor, respect and mourn their lives and premature deaths in our city.

Otherwise, though the individual animals "go away" (through so-called "euthanasia" and denial) the real reasons for the endless shelter killings (mostly public apathy and ignorance) will never go away as they are never addressed or even admitted to. -- PCA


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