Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Two new progressive animal-welfare links

I wanted to let everyone know about two worthy website links added to my Progressive Animal Welfare list at the right: Animal Shelter Tips and Rescue Ink.

Animal Shelter tips offers a wide variety of ideas for shelters, from fundraising to getting more volunteers to how to get more people in your shelter to adopt more animals vs. the alternatives. This site is out of Santa Fe, NM, too. Two shelter cats are the inspiration for the site.

Rescue Ink is the site of that famous rag-tag group of big biker rescue guys with hearts even bigger than their biceps. If you have not watched Rescue Ink Unleashed on the National Geographic Channel, please try to check it out on Friday nights. It airs right after The Dog Whisperer. If you don't get this channel, look out for it on DVD in the near future.

When you watch what these guys accomplish, you wish there was a group of similar tough guys with big hearts in every community to track down animal abusers and deal with the issues they encounter in reasonable, yet firm and powerful, ways. They strive to change the situation for animals and to educate abusers and teach people how to provide better for their animals. When that is not possible, they strive to get animals out of bad situations themselves.

They have great results because there is something about eight tough, inked bikers knocking on doors that garners instant respect. I can't see getting that same response if myself and some other older ladies went knocking on abuser's doors.

All kidding aside, we need this kind of outreach and help in our community. If there are any people out there reading this, whether you are a tough guy with heart or not, we need your assistance to help educate and train people to provide better for their animals. Not a week goes by that I don't get a call as the Dogs Deserve Better representative about a chained dog that could use a group of people to advocate for him or her, and I just got a call this week about an abused, half-starved female husky that is being used as a puppy machine and is being beaten by her owners. The lady witnessing this tragedy is elderly and afraid for herself and her own dogs should she try to approach this family.

Right behind the need for more spay/neuter in our area, we could really use a Rescue Ink of our own as well. I hope that as more people sit at home and watch this show, more big guys with big hearts will be inspired to do the same kind of work in their own communities.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

High-volume spay and neuter is our area's biggest need

Miles to go

It is not news to anyone that our community has a long way to go before we reach the kind of high-volume spay and neuter that will start to make a real dent in our companion-animal overpopulation numbers. I have been working the past few months on the ACTion Programs for Animals pet food bank, and it is obvious that we in animal welfare are not reaching the common masses with a message that is getting through to them about the urgency of our situation and how their individual actions (or inactions) are part of a cumulative problem that leads to the death of nearly 800-1,000 animals in our shelter each month.

Most people do not spay/neuter their pets due to the cost prohibitiveness of the surgery as well as a handful of other reasons, such as myths that have been passed onto them for generations or because they do not make the connection from their animals having litters to those thousands dying every year at our shelter. They say they find the puppies or kittens "good homes", but they don't think about what happens when those homes also do not fix their pets. It's a generational and cumulative issue that is not easy to change or tackle overnight. There are also many backyard breeders in our community as well, and we need to think of creative yet sound approaches to this problem, too.

Many animal-welfare activists call for mandatory spay/neuter (MSN) as the supposed easy answer. However, myself and other progressive animal-welfare activists strongly oppose MSN. The reasons are many. If you do your research and read the details about areas where MSN has been attempted, you see that laws and enforcement are not a simple answer either. These laws often have detrimental affects in a community, too, and not ones that animal people anticipate. If you pass and strictly enforce via Animal Control the MSN laws without having the services and support to back it up or without sanely getting people to comply with the laws, all you will end up with is more and more dead animals each year at your shelter and the same problems. People who don't obey laws will continue not doing so. If only it were that easy!

The point is to reach people in ways that start affecting future generations and start breaking down the myths and getting people in different demographics to see the connections between their actions and the issues we face. The best medicine is to engage with leaders in communities to carry the message for you. We need strong outreach and PR to do this. If you inundate the community with a smart PR effort, and then you back this up with plenty of avenues and choices for them to fix their animals, that's the only recipe that has ever worked. In areas where this is tried vs. MSN, the outcomes have been extraordinary. In this sense, it is incumbent for all in animal welfare to do their homework and learn from the mistakes and successes of others before pushing for changes in our community.

The kind of outreach we are doing with efforts like the pet food bank and pet help lines is important, but it is not going to make a huge difference overnight. We need to seriously pump up the volume of spay/neuter in our community, but to do that, we need to first work toward more services and facilities that can meet our area's demand.

The following is a link to a very important article out of the July/August 2009 Animal Sheltering magazine. Comparing our situation to that of the Gulf Coast region is not that far of a stretch, and their approach and successes in the last few years since Katrina speaks to the level of need in the Borderland as well-- for both El Paso County and Dona Ana County. Until our community starts tackling this issue with this level of effort, we will continue to see our landfills piled high with bodies of unwanted animals. That's the bottom line.

Read the full article here:

SAVING LIVES in the Gulf Coast: Groundbreaking spay/neuter initiative spells hope for homeless animals nationwide

The Shelter Pet Project has launched

At the end of September, the joint campaign effort by The Ad Council, Maddie's Fund, and the HSUS was launched. It features national ads and PSAs that encourage anyone looking for a new pet to adopt them from animal shelters and rescue groups vs. alternatives.

Though we still put down about 4 million pets a year nationally at shelters, studies led by Maddie's Fund show that more people each year are looking to add a new pet into their families than those that get put down. Many are what they call "swing voters"; they are not sure where they might get their next pet from, so Maddie's and their partners are trying to dispel some of the myths and fears that scare people away from shelters, such as assuming all animals that end up at shelters are damaged goods or have irreversible problems.

Some of the other things that run potential adopters off at shelters are the very shelters themselves, with too many not providing adequate customer service or adoption counseling. This campaign will also put pressure on all shelters to do a better job in these regards. As a result, Maddie's has also launched reward grants to shelters who have turned things around in their customer services. Anyone interested in learning more about this program can read about it at

When you are watching TV in the upcoming months, look for the humorous ads from The Shelter Pet Project. This is the first time The Ad Council has taken on an animal-welfare cause, so these ads should lead to more people going to look for their future pets at shelters instead of buying from pet stores or backyard breeders.

To find out more about the project, see the ads, and learn how you can help the No Kill movement, check out the website at

Friday, October 2, 2009

Update on 14 beagle lab puppies

Thanks to a huge effort by local beagle and basset rescuers Bill and Linda Hart, and lots of help they recruited from other rescuers and animal lovers, 14 former Las Cruces laboratory beagle puppies are now safe in great homes in Arizona instead of the alternative many former lab animals face ... death by euthanasia. This happy story was also made possible by the local laboratory itself, Southwest Bio-Labs, Inc., a company willing to sit and do business with animal rescuers and figure out a way to save lives instead of prematurely end them. This was one case where unnecessary death was avoided due to hard work and perseverance.

Ironically, these dogs and other animals are used to test the very drugs we give our own pets to guarantee they live long and healthy lives (prescription products such as Frontline, HeartGuard, etc.). This animal testing is mandated by federal law, as are the tests of the pharmaceuticals we take ourselves. All we can ask is that the animals used for such tests receive the best care possible, that all repeat and unnecessary tests are avoided, and that the animals receive relief from pain and suffering during testing as much as possible. There are many murky ethical, philosophical and scientific areas regarding animal testing, but what we can ask laboratories to do is be sure the source of their lab animals is not one laced with suffering (such as animals obtained from Class B dealers) and to ask that when they no longer need animals for testing, they search for alternatives to putting the animals down.

The rescue of these 14 puppies this week shows that alternatives exist and should be sought. Happy endings can be found, and no animals deserve it more than those who have sacrificed of themselves so that you, I, and our pets can live healthier and safer lives together.

Here's an update of yesterday's rescue and transport of the puppies from Bill Hart:

"Here's the latest on the 14 beagle lab puppies.

As of 9:30 p.m. last night, all were in their new homes -- safe, sound and happy. What took place yesterday morning with these puppies was nothing short of incredible. We picked up all 14 and transported them to a small but lovely park and released them all at once, not knowing what their response would be. In unison they all leaped from their transport crates and proceeded to romp and play as nature intended.

All who were there were amazed that these little guys could come from living in total confinement to run and play as though they had never seen a cage. Not only did they romp and play with each other, but they just couldn't get enough love and attention from everyone there. For a lack of a better description, they acted as though they had been reborn and whatever they had to endure in the past was completely wiped away from their short lives.

Watching these puppies was something that I and the others there will never forget. We all know that dogs cannot verbally talk to us but if you look into their eyes, they are speaking volumes. And the look in every one of these pups eyes said "thank you, thank you, thank you; we're free and we love you for setting us free and for loving us the way you do!" Yes, their eyes spoke to all of us loud and clear. To see these puppies run free and pick up sticks and pine cones and play with them as toys was something you just don't forget. What I saw yesterday was the unshakable beagle spirit entwined with loving, caring and compassionate human hearts. I saw tears of joy, heard uncontrollable laughter and saw unending smiles. I thought to myself ... this is the way it is supposed to be. What a wonderful event to have experienced!

The only things I regret about this event are that all of you did not get to share the day with the rest of us and that yesterday had to come to an end. I want to truly thank all of you for your thoughts, prayers, donations and everything else that it took to save these beautiful little beagles. I could not have done it without you. I especially want to thank Eli Valdez, Darlene, Renee and Ron, Lynn and Dan, and Linda, my more than understanding and supportive wife, who had to endure me through this whole process.

This was a beautiful day with a happy ending. Because we cared enough to intervene on behalf of these puppies, they are free, happy and most of all alive and healthy. Saying "thank you" doesn't seem to be enough but for now that's all I have. I will go to my grave remembering yesterday."