Monday, January 7, 2013
THE FANTASY CONTINUES
PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y., July 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Pam Strange thought a visit to the local animal shelter last year would awaken her 4-H group to the plight of homeless animals. She was completely unprepared for what the kids would see.
Dogs limping around with mange and open sores. Others gasping for air or dragging broken legs, struggling to fight off vicious packs in the large communal pen. "I might as well have taken them to a horror show," says the West Monroe, La., woman.
The Ouachita Humane Society is a "no-kill" shelter, part of a growing movement that claims to offer a caring alternative to euthanasia. But a six-month investigation by Reader's Digest magazine reveals atrocious conditions at some of these facilities -- even as many no-kill advocates hypocritically denounce traditional shelters as killers and butchers.
'Blinded by Compassion'
Reporter J. Todd Foster investigated numerous facilities while researching "Are These Animal Shelters Truly Humane?" for the magazine's July 2000 issue. An estimated 15 percent of the nation's 4,000 to 6,000 animal shelters now portray themselves as no-kill. Many, such as Long Island's pioneering North Shore Animal League, are well-funded and well-run. But at others, the luckless inmates are condemned to pace filthy pens for months and even years, suffering from lack of socialization and "kennel craze" -- a condition in which animals caged for long periods of time begin to twirl incessantly or lunge at passers-by.
"No-kill people do this to animals because they feel it's better than painlessly ending that animal's life," says Dean Humfleet of the Orlando Humane Society. "These people are blinded by their compassion."
"There are fates worse than death," agrees Dallas-based investigator Jef Hale, of the Humane Society of the United States. Hale visited Ouachita after Pam Strange returned with a video camera to document conditions there. "It was just terrifying," he recalls, after seeing a pack of dogs kill a weaker animal there. Strange personally arranged to have another dog, that had been left to lie untreated as it was convulsing to death from distemper, rushed to a vet. The shelter responded to its critics by hiring a veterinarian to visit regularly, increasing community involvement and paring down its population. Veterinarian Jennifer Warford, who now works for the Ouachita Humane Society, wrote to a local newspaper that she was "truly amazed at the progress" made.
Time to Work Together
Spokespersons for the no-kill movement say they do put down severely ill or vicious animals. Even Lynda Foro, founding president of Doing Things for Animals and a leader of the no-kill movement, concedes euthanasia is sometimes "the most humane alternative available."
But many no-kill advocates condemn traditional shelter operators in the most vicious terms. "I've been called a butcher, Hitler, a concentration-camp runner," says director Bill Garrett of the Atlanta Humane Society. This brand of rhetoric is not only divisive, it's hypocritical -- overcrowded no-kill shelters routinely turn away other animals, knowing they face euthanasia at nearby centers.
"We need to get past the rhetoric," says San Francisco animal control official Carl Friedman, a former SPCA administrator respected by both sides of this highly emotional issue. He calls for everyone in the animal welfare business to pull together and "work on the 'throwaway mentality' some people have regarding pets. These are living, breathing, feeling creatures."
Ultimately, the blame begins with pet owners. Until they act more responsibly -- including spaying or neutering their dogs and cats to keep the population in check -- our shelters will continue to be overwhelmed. And as Reader's Digest reports in its July 2000 issue, the no-kill cause will continue to be a seductive fantasy.
PR Newswire (http://s.tt/1t7xm)