Monday, August 24, 2009

Court-held animals are evidence, but they are also sentient beings

This is in response to the person who keeps asking why volunteers are allowed to socialize and handle court-held dogs and who trains them for this work. For the exact answers to your questions from our shelter and the Animal Control departments, you will have to ask them this directly. I am not sure who is allowed to do this work and not as a volunteer and how they are trained.

That said, even shelter staffers and Animal Control staff have made mistakes with court-held animals in the past. We've had cases of the shelter erroneously putting some animals down that were evidence, and there have been cases of animals dying during their holding period for various reasons while under the AC department's care. I think the gist of this is that no matter who is caring for the animals, they need to be trained well. They need to also take extra precautions to not lose a court-held animal or put them in harm's way. Safety for these animals also comes from the areas they are held.

Furthermore, just because they are evidentiary items does not mean it is okay to lock them up in a smal cage or kennel and completely ignore their right as sentient beings. No matter what the court labels them as, they are living creatues.

If we are doing our jobs well, we will BOTH safeguard the evidence as well as provide for the animals' humane care. It is possible to do both, and we should not settle for less.

These animals, especially since they are held for so long, deserve the Five Freedoms: 1. Freedom from hunger and thirst; 2. Freedom from discomfort; 3. Freedom from pain, injury, and disease; 4. Freedom to express normal behavior; and 5. Freedom from fear and distress. Their quality of life while awaiting their eventual disposition is very important, and all animal advocates should push for their humane care when cared for by the shelter, the AC department in their holding facilities, or in temporary foster homes.

More from shelter volunteer Renee Davis

Longtime and former shelter volunteer Renee Davis worked with court-held dogs at our shelter for the past year. She recently did something very brave; she spoke up publically about the conditions for dogs living in the double-wide trailer at the shelter, where they are intensely confined. She had hoped that in her bringing the issues to light, our leaders would address these concerns. To date, that has not really happened, and it is a shame.

She shared the following story with me via e-mail to show that the issues at this trailer are multi-fold and have been going on for some time:

"I believe it was September of 2008 that a dog that was kept in the double-wide trailer got out and killed a rabbit that was also housed in the trailer. I remember the shelter's vet tech at the time was so upset about this that she quit.

This year, around May, another dog housed in the trailer, who I believe was eventually transferred to Denver, got out as he did many times and jumped through the screen window over the sink. He was running around in the trailer's enclosed yard.

He saw me walking another dog in the desert, and he jumped the fence and came running up to me. He was very friendly but was not wearing a collar. I was trying to hold him and the other dog because once out in the desert, he could have escaped and run to the highway.

I was screaming at the top of my lungs; finally, another volunteer came to help me. She went to the double-wide trailer to get the staff person who was cleaning at this time. He was suprised to see the dog out. It turns out he couldn't hear me scream because was listening to music with earphones as he worked. Many of the staff regularly do this, and I feel it is unsafe. Dogs were constantly getting out from the doublewide, and this is not a safe environment for the animals or people."

MORE of us need to speak up to the shelter's management and our local leaders about the misuse of this trailer as permanent housing. Time and again, incidents like this prove that how that trailer is being used is not only against sheltering industry standards, it is inhumane.

1 comment:

MY 2 CENTS said...

If this hick--backwards--and thoroughly ignorant town can waste billions of dollars on junk, it can use some of it towards a new shelter complex. And maybe then they can get their Humane Society accreditation back. This place is a laughing stock all across the country. I certainly don't know why they like being so stupid.