Friday, August 8, 2008

Animal Sheltering Revolution is Here

This animal sheltering blog will cover many topics and issues concerning animal sheltering in the U.S. and in our own local shelter, which is now being run by the city/county. Our shelter has a colorful history and darker times we are happy to be past ... but, our work as a community is still cut out for us. I'd like to propose that as we repaint the past with new hues, we select more positive and progressive shades and move to a time when our shelter is operating like many successful ones in the country today that are saving 80+ percent of the animals that come in the doors instead of killing that many.

I encourage comments and will respond to them as well. I encourage you to speak up about your experiences at our shelter so that we can use those examples to show how things could be different or to give kudos where they are due.

This is about a peaceful revolution that will lead us away from bloodshed and the roughly 12,000 cat and dog bodies Dona Ana County has historically dumped in our landfill each year. It seeks to let go of the past and not dwell on it. However, this revolution is not without its detractors, and a national battle is raging now between animal welfare camps -- an old guard that is holding on to outdated notions and a new, progressive movement that is showing if we all start to think and act outside of our usual boxes, we can do wonders.

Progressive sheltering is based on a philosophy that says there are more good pet owners than bad and it is a longstanding myth that, as a nation, there "too many animals and not enough homes" ... I used to take that as fact myself, without considering it might not be such a simple truth. There is a collective group of people that spends billions of dollars a year on their animals' care and welfare; I am part of this group of people, and I know many others who are as well. We all have pictures on our cell phones of our cats and dogs and regularly show them off; we celebrate our animals' birthdays and buy them toys and treats; we dread the day they die and mourn them deeply; and some of the richest in our country even leave millions of dollars for their pet's future care and are building multi-million foundations for pet rescue efforts.

Surely, a nation made up of people like this can do better than continue to kill about 5 million homeless animals each year. It wasn't too long ago that national number was more like 15 to 20 million, and I bet at that time, no one believed it could drop to 5 million. Let's keep working to drop it lower and lower each year!

For every "deadbeat" pet owner that is abusive, neglectful, or gives their animals up to the shelter for petty problems or sometimes for legitimate reasons, such as financial hardship in this day of outrageous costs of living--there are many more like us that care about animal welfare and can join together to save more of these abandoned animals' lives. I say we not dwell on nor let those "bad" people poison us against everyone else. We can join together and do so much ... to help people resolve their issues with their animals to enrich those lives and mitigate relinquishments to the shelter ... to help others understand that they need to stop contributing to these homeless animal numbers by spaying and neutering all their pets ... and, most importantly, we can move past this decades-old blame game and start to envision new ways to approach the issue.

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again in the same way yet expecting different results ... well, I hate to say it, but our nation's shelters resemble this description, and ours has been no exception. Let's explore how we can move past this insanity.