Treats on the Internets

Authorities seized more than 100 dogs from what they are calling a puppy mill in Colbert Co, AL earlier this month.  The homeowner reportedly took some of the dogs out of state prior to the raid and has refused to reveal their location.  (Thanks Laura for the link.)

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In November, Franklin Co sheriff’s deputies seized 253 animals, mostly rabbits, from a Missouri home.  The owner was charged with 21 counts of misdemeanor animal abuse.  This month, a judge ordered the animals returned stating he would have agreed with the seizure had children been involved but:

“The issue is not neglect of children however, it is neglect of animals.”

The animals have not been returned to the owner and remain in the care of the HS of Missouri which is vowing to keep them by any legal means possible.

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The Los Angeles PD wants to improve the city’s reputation and includes being compassionate to animals in that effort.  (Thanks Arlene for the link.)

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I’d never heard this before but apparently England engaged in a massive pet killing campaign prior to WW II.  I guess this isn’t the kind of doc the History Channel is clamoring to produce.

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Don’t bogart that puffer fish.

Name That Animal

This is just for fun. For anyone who hasn’t played before, the only rule is:  No researching.  Just post your best (or worst) guess in the comments.  Reading other people’s answers before posting your own is optional.  Answer will be posted in the comments tomorrow morning.

nta

Olympic Animal Sanctuary is No More

(Note:  This post is going to be uncharacteristic in a few ways:  It’s long, perhaps a little scattered and based on the assumption that readers know the back story.)

I want to start by addressing a few issues that I think have been widely misunderstood regarding Olympic Animal Sanctuary in Forks, WA.  For one, many people have expressed concern that some of the dogs at OAS did not have sufficient access to water.  A dog denied access to water will generally die after several days, depending on various conditions, so obviously the dogs at OAS had access to water.  Furthermore, since most owners do not feed a raw diet, they are likely unaware that raw fed dogs drink significantly less water than kibble fed dogs.  Just because an owner is accustomed to seeing his kibble fed dog lap up bowl after bowl of water every day, it doesn’t mean the raw fed dogs at OAS needed that same amount of water.

In addition, feeding large meals of raw food and then fasting the dog the following day is a method practiced by some raw feeders (see “Gorge and Fast”).  Although there was significant concern expressed over the typed report from the Forks police department that indicated the dogs were fed 3 times a week, an examination of the handwritten notes presumably made during the officer’s visit to OAS reveal a more accurate picture:

Portion of the typed report from the Forks PD, November 2012

Portion of the typed report from the Forks PD, November 2012

Portion of the handwritten notes attached to the Forks PD report, November 2012

Portion of the handwritten notes attached to the Forks PD report, November 2012

The handwritten notes appear to indicate OAS dogs were being fed 3 large raw meals a week, presumably followed by a day of fasting, and being supplemented with Merrick canned food, cases of which were photographed and included with the report.  Thin dogs were apparently being fed daily.  This seems to be a sound feeding plan and not indicative of animal abuse.

The main issues at OAS to my mind were the number of dogs relative to the facility’s resources and that some of the dogs were living in crates.  Many people accused Steve Markwell, owner of OAS, of being a hoarder.  A local reporter who visited OAS on short notice in April of this year wrote:

The dogs inside the building, housed mostly in back-to-back kennels in the main center of the room, greeted us with a cacophony of barks. Some snarled, a few cowered, and some perked up and jockeyed for friendly attention. The room was bright and not as smelly as I had expected considering Olympic Animal Sanctuary is home to 128 dogs. Each kennel had fresh water, a bowl of kibble, and straw-lined flooring. Most of the dogs were paired in the kennels, but some were alone. The single-dog kennels were 5-by-5 feet, and the doubles were twice that size. Many of the dogs were chewing on turkey neck treats.

On the periphery there were dogs in crates, some stacked two high. Some of these areas were unlit, squalid, and through my human eyes disturbing. Many of the dogs from these crates were the most vicious barkers, and they made it clear they did not want human attention. Markwell explained that many of the crated dogs have severe problems, such as intense resource guarding, severe fear of and/or aggression toward other dogs, or paralyzing fear of open exposure. His ultimate goal is to work with them until they are able to be moved into kennels.

[…]

We asked Markwell how often the dogs get outdoor time in the other yards. He said for the ones who want to go outside he gives them shifts (optimally once a day) as often as he can manage, which is less lately because of his lack of staff help due to money troubles. Other dogs, he explained, cower and run for cover if placed outside. These are the dogs so traumatized they feel frightened and vulnerable in exposed situations—the ones in the crates. “This is something that many people have difficulty understanding. Many damaged dogs come in agoraphobic. They want to hide. People see crated dogs and they think it’s cruel, but it is what these dogs choose,” said Markwell.

Allowing in members of the public on short notice to look around and take photographs is not behavior indicative of a hoarder.  Repeatedly expressing a desire for help and admitting that the sanctuary had too many animals (as seen in the typed police report snippet above as well as the one below) is also not indicative of hoarding.

Portion of Forks PD report, November 2012

Portion of Forks PD report, November 2012

Further evidence that dogs were not being hoarded at OAS is the fact that the number of dogs was reduced.  This is the opposite of hoarding.  This is a sound solution to a desperate situation.  But the numbers weren’t reduced quickly enough to satisfy what grew into an angry mob.  Steve was publicly labeled an animal abuser and the campaign to shut him down was like nothing I’ve ever witnessed in animal welfare.

Having read through the 450 pages of publicly available documents in the OAS case, it strikes me that Steve perhaps fell into the same situation that many rescuers do – stretching resources beyond their breaking point while trying to save lives.  Although it isn’t a topic widely discussed, there are some dogs and cats who are “rescued” by rescue groups and put into long term boarding situations which basically amount to life in a cage.  I call this the Black Hole of Rescue.  We don’t tend to hear about these situations until an official investigation is opened by legal authorities or some similar circumstance.  But it goes on all across the country and is more common than we’d like to think.

The dogs who fall into this Black Hole of Rescue have no meaningful social interaction with people or other dogs and receive little or no exercise.  Rescuers attempt to justify the quality of life of these dogs by telling themselves it’s temporary and it’s better than death.  The fact is, if shelter directors would start doing their jobs and stop killing animals, rescuers would not feel this overwhelming pressure to say yes to “just one more” animal when they have no resources and are unable to provide a reasonable quality of life.

While I make absolutely no claim to speak for Steve Markwell, it seems apparent to me via public documents that he may have justified dogs living in crates by telling himself it was temporary and it was better than death.  Throughout the public documents, he continually references his hopes and plans for expansion of the sanctuary.  He also states he knows he has more dogs than he can care for, that he wants to reduce the number and that he needs additional help.  He reiterates his primary concern that the dogs’ right to live not be compromised by anyone who takes them.  This does not indicate hoarding or animal abuse to me but rather someone who stretched himself too thin and is at a loss to correct the situation as quickly and efficiently as circumstance warrant.

Should Steve have stopped saying yes to “just one more” dog long before he had dogs living in crates?  Of course – as should all rescuers.  The fact that he didn’t stop saying yes is not indicative of a desire to hurt animals but rather places him in the exact same category as many rescuers operating today.  Some of those rescuers who have become overwhelmed with animals and recognize they need help are perhaps less likely to come forward and seek it in light of the lynch mob that pursued Steve Markwell, sending him, his mother and his friends violent threats.

It is a tragedy of epic proportions that we kill shelter animals for convenience in this country.  One of the human costs of this tragedy is the horrifying burden borne by rescuers who feel powerless to turn away from sentient beings in need when doing so will result in their death at the hands of those who should be protecting them.  This is one of the reasons I devote the bulk of this blog to shelter reform – it’s needed for pets and for people.  I care about both.

In addition to shelter reform, rescuers need to develop additional resources for handling dogs with aggression issues.  When rescues make a business of pulling dogs with unknown behavior histories from shelters, they are bound to get some with aggression issues.  Too many groups are unprepared for dealing with these issues and there are precious few sanctuaries for these dogs.  And now, there is one less.

When Steve had been pushed to the point of willingly giving up his life’s passion, he reached out to Best Friends for help, stating they were the only organization qualified to handle the type of dogs in his care.  A multi-million dollar sanctuary which appears to do an excellent job of providing a good quality of life to even the most aggressive dogs, Best Friends failed the OAS dogs.  Their response to Steve’s request for help was a non-starter and included the following condition:

“In our opinion and professional judgment, the best chance for ensuring the welfare of the dogs is for Mr. Markwell to open wide the doors of the facility and allow all qualified organizations to help immediately and unconditionally.”

In summary, BFAS was requiring that Mr. Markwell allow in anyone who calls themselves “qualified”, even if they were there because a pet psychic told them a dog at OAS said he wants to die. There appeared to be no standards for determining which groups were “qualified” to help in this unique situation and no one designated to make that determination.

BFAS was apparently requiring Mr. Markwell to unconditionally accept whatever these “qualified” organizations were willing to offer, even if it included killing the dogs. There did not appear to be any protections in place for the dogs in the BFAS response as far as protecting the dogs’ right to live.  I wrote to Best Friends seeking clarification on these issues but my letter was ignored.  BFAS quickly determined they would not be offering any help to the dogs at OAS.

Like the vast majority of people who have been following this story, I have never been to OAS or met Steve in person.  But I did work closely with him by phone for several days in 2011 when he helped us save a dog who had been abused at the Memphis pound.  Steve’s compassion impressed me and his commitment touched me deeply.  There are few people in life with whom I feel a personal connection and despite our relatively short amount of time spent together – long distance, Steve is one of those people.

When the powers that be in Memphis were turning cartwheels, making every effort to frustrate us in our endeavor to save Mario, Steve talked us through the situation.  MAS had us sign the paperwork to adopt Mario then dropped the bomb that we would have to get the feral dog out of the cage ourselves and none of the trained shelter staff would help.  If we failed, they would kill him.  Steve called and spoke with the MAS vet in order to plead for assistance in sedating Mario so he could be safely removed from the cage by rescuers.  She outright refused but Steve never gave up hope.  He spent all day on the phone, continually offering suggestions and working to prevent MAS from killing Mario.  At one particularly low point when it seemed like all our options were exhausted, Steve said, “Well we’ve done the paperwork and that has to count for something.  I want my dog.”  It was a profound moment for me.  This man, who surely had other things to do than to spend all day trying to throw a cog into the Memphis killing machine for a feral dog he’d never met, was committed to saving this dog’s life.  Eventually, with help from so many wonderful people, Mario was saved.  I will stand by Steve, anytime he is willing to have my support.

As for the dogs who have now been relinquished by Steve, it is my sincere hope that their right to live will be respected by anyone who takes them.  There are relatively few people with sufficient resources and expertise to handle aggressive dogs, which is how so many ended up at OAS, and I hope none of the dogs are killed.  The dogs have been pawns in this witch hunt game when they should have been the primary consideration.  Now the chips will fall and I hope an improved quality of life is provided to every single animal, in line with Steve’s vision for OAS.

I will close with three Olympic Animal Sanctuary videos that show Steve doing what he excels at – helping aggressive dogs.  As is evident in these videos, Steve’s skills are genuine and unique.  It pains me to think that these skills might be lost to the animal welfare community now.  And it pains me even more to know how that was orchestrated by hateful people who sought to tear someone down when he asked for help.  The rescue world is less today than it was yesterday.  I am sometimes ashamed to be human and this is one of those times.  But I am resolved to learn from this situation and to offer assistance whenever possible to good people who have become overwhelmed with too many rescue animals.  If you are in this situation, you will find a friend in me.  Let me know how I can help you.

UPDATED: NY Shelter Worker Charged with Felony Cruelty

Noelle, as depicted on the NBC4 NY website.

Noelle, as depicted on the NBC4 NY website.

A homeless man searching a Long Island gas station dumpster for food on Christmas Eve found a tiny dog.  She had been placed in the dumpster in a tied trash bag but apparently was able to chew her way out.  He immediately called police to get the dog some help.  NBC4 NY identified the man as Kevin Zabawski and spoke with him about the incident:

“I just happened to look to the side and there was a face looking at me. There was this dog in there, and I thought ‘Who the heck would leave an animal like that in the Dumpster?’ It’s way too much for me.”

The answer to Mr. Zabawski’s question turns out to be:  a public animal shelter employee.  Michael Papini, a kennel attendant at the Town of Islip Animal Shelter, was seen on surveillance video dumping the dog into the trash bin.  Members of the public later identified him after local TV news outlets aired the footage.

After being saved from the dumpster, the little dog was taken to a vet and then to the Town of Islip Animal Shelter.  Investigators did not know at the time that one of the shelter’s employees was the person they were seeking in connection with the case.  When it was determined the dog had a microchip, Suffolk Co SPCA investigators paid a visit to the registered owner.  She explained that she knew Michael Papini and that he had offered to take the dog to the shelter since she was no longer able to take care of the pet.  The owner paid Papini for his service.  He then allegedly tied the dog up in a plastic garbage bag and dropped her in the dumpster at the gas station.  Investigators report the former owner was very upset after learning what Papini had done with her dog.

“A dog like that is so easily adoptable,” [Suffolk Co SPCA chief Roy] Gross said. “How could he do that? . . . This is like a planned act of animal cruelty.”

Papini was charged with felony aggravated animal cruelty, misdemeanor animal abandonment and other charges and is scheduled to be arraigned today.

The one year old dog, now being called Noelle, is friendly and in good health, despite being left for dead in the dumpster for 18 hours.  Dozens of people have applied to adopt her from the shelter where she is receiving care.  Noelle is alive today thanks to the kindness of  Kevin Zabawski.  I hope he too has something to eat and a warm place to sleep tonight.

Thank you once again to the so-called irresponsible public for saving animals from those paid to protect them.

(Thank you Clarice for the links.)

Update, added December 29, 2013:  The shelter employee was allegedly paid $250 (CBS NY reports it was $500) by a woman he knew to take her two dogs to the shelter.  Those dogs were Cherry, whom he tied in a trash bag and tossed in a dumpster, and Bailey, who is currently missing.  Bailey is described as a cream colored, male, miniature poodle.  Authorities say Michael Papini allegedly turned Bailey loose from a parked vehicle on Cooper Street in Babylon Village about 7 a.m. on Dec. 23.  The Suffolk Co SPCA is offering a $500 reward for information leading to Bailey’s recovery.

If you live on Long Island, please keep an eye out for Bailey.  There are no publicly available photos of him as far as I know but he may look something like the dog pictured on this page, although he is possibly dirty and matted, like Cherry.

Papini posted $500 bond and is free, pending trial.  I see that extra cash came in useful for him.

Open Thread

Anything animal related goes.

Do One Thing: Port Lavaca Edition

On Saturday December 7, the high in Port Lavaca, TX was 35 degrees Fahrenheit. The police department runs the pound and houses dogs outdoors in a covered facility. Each kennel has 3 short cement walls and wire fencing at the front.

[Port Lavaca police chief James Martinez] said animal control does not have any policies regarding when a dog should be given a blanket. It is up to the discretion of the animal control officer.

But the law appears to dictate specific guidelines:

Under the general guidelines of the Texas Administrative Code for facilities quarantining or impounding animals, facilities are required to protect animals from inclement weather.

The code states: “Auxiliary heat or clean, dry bedding material shall be provided any time the ambient temperature falls below 50 degrees Fahrenheit when animals are present.”

When animal activist Carley Stringo learned that the dogs in the outdoor facility would not be provided with bedding on the night of December 7, she burst into tears. Then she took action by calling two friends to stand with her in protest outside the pound.

She told fellow protester Rose Farmer, 20, of Port Lavaca, “If I have to stand out there all night long, I will.”

The women stood outside the facility from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., she said. During that time, they recruited friends to call the Port Lavaca Police Department, city manager and mayor.

At 8 p.m., two police officers arrived with Port Lavaca Animal Control Officer Donnie McGrew, Stringo said.

The police chief says the dogs were given blankets before the officers left. But I guess he didn’t want to seem like a pushover for following the law just because some animal activists demanded he do his job:

He said the need for blankets will remain at the discretion of the animal control officer.

So there. But wait – there’s more from those meddling kids:

That night, protesters formed the group Calhoun Citizens Against Animal Cruelty. The group plans to take its grievances against Port Lavaca Animal Control to the City Council during the January meeting.

Stringo said the group is trying to get placed on the meeting agenda.

“We’re pushing that they enforce the laws that are already set,” Stringo said. “The laws are there. From what I’m getting, nobody is enforcing them.”

You go girl.

Not only does it appear that the Port Lavaca police department is thumbing its nose at the law and failing to do its job, the police chief seems to be holding the pound to an absurd level of accountability, telling the local paper:

“The animals there have better protection than animals in someone’s back yard[.]”

Texas Administrative Code says nothing about an animal control officer using personal discretion to determine when a pet should be protected from inclement weather.  Nor does it say that a pound must provide better protection that “someone’s” back yard.  Who is Someone and how well protected is his yard dog from inclement weather?  Does Someone let his dog into the laundry room on cold nights?  Does Someone provide a source of heat or dry bedding for his dog when the temperature is below 50?  If the police chief can’t answer these questions, and obviously he can’t – because  farcical – he has no right using this as a basis to determine standards of care.

Do your job and uphold the law, Port Lavaca PD.

And as for you meddling kids who had the courage to do one thing:  Give ’em hell.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Merry Christmas!

Celebrating the human-animal bond with photos and captions submitted by readers:

Me with Shorty at home in Ashland City, TN.  Our special needs Pit Bull Bassett Hound boy from a litter dumped on  our road.   - Karen Josephson

Me with Shorty at home in Ashland City, TN. Our special needs Pit Bull/Bassett Hound boy from a litter dumped on
our road. – Karen Josephson

1/4/12 - Merlin napping with (and on!) me. Merlin is a cuddlebug who never misses an opportunity to cuddle, even if you're out cold and don't realize it. Picture thanks to hubby. - Carol in Alabama

1/4/12 – Merlin napping with (and on!) me. Merlin is a cuddlebug who never misses an
opportunity to cuddle, even if you’re out cold and don’t realize it. Picture thanks to hubby.
– Carol in Alabama

This is Mallymkin getting her first bath at her new home about two weeks ago.  She was seized, along with a pit bull puppy, from a bad situation by animal control.  The puppy was adopted, but Mally languished in the shelter.  Twelve years old, toothless, plagued with skin problems, her prospects were not good.  But when my husband, Frank, and I saw her photo on Facebook, we fell for her and fell hard.  We went to the shelter and adopted her the next day.  The thing is, as rough as her condition was and as rough the circumstances she came from apparently were, we could tell she was loved.  She knows how to cuddle and burrow under the covers for a snuggle.  She's sweet and tolerant and took no time at all to fit into our pack.  I feel sad for her former owners.  Maybe with a little help they could have kept her and made her life better.  I hope that somehow they know she made it out of the shelter and is safe and loved and adored by her new family.  - Denise Mulliken

This is Mallymkin getting her first bath at her new home about two weeks ago. She was seized, along with a pit bull puppy, from a bad situation by animal control. The puppy was adopted, but Mally languished in the shelter. Twelve years old, toothless, plagued with skin problems, her prospects were not good. But when my husband, Frank, and I saw her photo on Facebook, we fell for her and fell hard. We went to the shelter and adopted her the next day. – Denise Mulliken

My father and Chichi in TN. Chichi was a senior chihuahua at a high kill shelter. She is the light of my dad's life. She is celebrating her rescue with her party hat on.  - Andrea

My father and Chichi in TN. Chichi was a senior chihuahua at a high kill shelter. She is the light of my dad’s life. She is celebrating her rescue with her party hat on. – Andrea

Ten year old Billy Boy and rescuer, Lorie Beville, in emergency clinic.  Memphis, TN.  - Ona

Ten year old Billy Boy and rescuer, Lorie Beville, in emergency clinic. Memphis, TN. – Ona

Submitted by Karen F: Banana starts to express boredom at having her very own biped to ride.

Submitted by Karen F: Banana starts to express boredom at having her very own biped to ride.

This is a photo of me and Chloe. Chloe and her eight puppies were dumped at a high kill shelter in Merced, a rescue pleaded for a foster home and we offered ours. After the puppies were weaned and went on to their foster/forever homes we kept mom for some rest and rehab. We ended up falling in love with her and 'failed' at fostering : ) - Loran

This is a photo of me and Chloe. Chloe and her eight puppies were dumped at a high kill shelter in Merced, a rescue pleaded for a foster home and we offered ours. After the puppies were weaned and went on to their foster/forever homes we kept mom for some rest and rehab. We ended up falling in love with her and ‘failed’ at fostering : ) – Loran

"Sheldon" after 14 months in foster care with me, Dot Kirby, Yanceyville, NC.  This tiny 11th hour rescue has an adopter!  His new Mom will be flying from Canton,OH to NC to meet him for the very first time on Jan 8, 2014 and flying him back to his forever home.

“Sheldon” after 14 months in foster care with me, Dot Kirby, Yanceyville, NC. This tiny 11th hour rescue has an adopter! His new Mom will be flying from Canton,OH to NC to meet him for the very first time on Jan 8, 2014 and flying him back to his forever home.

"Dandy".. Very shy little JRT mix, another foster baby since Dec 30, 2012   She is still waiting for her forever home. - Dot Kirby, Yanceyville, NC

“Dandy” – Very shy little JRT mix, another foster baby since Dec 30, 2012. She is still waiting for her forever home. – Dot Kirby, Yanceyville, NC

Thank you to everyone who sent in photos for this post. It was a pleasure to put all these pictures together. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope everyone is having a happy day celebrating the bond we share with our four-pawed family members.

Treats on the Internets

Researchers have found that dogs may have “facial recognition skills, similar to humans” including the ability to distinguish facial images of family members from those of strangers.

A Memphis couple fostered a dog named Stewie for months through the Desoto Animal Rescue Society and filled out an adoption application for him.  When they returned him for neutering the rescue refused to give him back to the couple, claiming they were unfit to own a dog because they left Stewie on the balcony for hours.  The couple denies the allegations and both sides have retained lawyers in the matter.  (Thanks Ona for the link.)

The tangled web that is greyhound racing in Iowa (Thanks Liz for the link.)

News piece on circovirus in dogs.  (Thanks Arlene.)

Charles Dickens received as a gift a letter opener, the handle of which included his cat’s taxidermied paw.

Game of Thrones fans and sea slug fans unite! <——sentence I’ve always wanted to type

Shelter pets are helped by compassionate people.  Sometimes caring people need help too.  This page explains risk factors, warning signs and what to do if you suspect someone is at risk for suicide.  If you need someone to talk to, help is available 24/7.

Exemplary (adjective): serving as a desirable model; representing the best of its kind

On December 5, Memphis pet advocate Jody Fisher wrote to Memphis Animal Services to ask why they had so few pets posted on PetHarbor when the $7.2 million facility has 555 cages and whether this reflected a surge in live released animals. This is the relevant portion of the response she received:

On Dec 5, 2013, at 10:21 AM, DeKeishia.Tunstall@memphistn.gov wrote:

Ms. Fisher:

We have had some exemplary numbers in terms of positive outcomes recently.

While this MAS staffer was typing this response about “exemplary numbers”, records obtained via FOIA request show that seventeen animals were being killed in the MAS snuff room:

MAS kill sheet dec 5 2013

To the best of my knowledge, only one of these seventeen animals was ever housed in the area where the public is allowed at the pound. She was an owner surrender, apparently thin and obviously scared:

Female Lab mix, 37 pounds, owner surrendered on 12-3-13, killed on 12-5-13.  Photo via Memphis Pets Alive.

Female Lab mix #261612, 37 pounds, owner surrendered on 12-3-13, killed on 12-5-13. Photo taken 12-3, via Memphis Pets Alive.

The other sixteen animals were kept behind locked doors at MAS, never to see the light of day again.  They were never walked or evaluated by a behaviorist.  No one except MAS staff knew they were there.  Many were killed for “space” while hundreds of cages sat empty at the pound.  MAS defenders refuse to stand up for the animals by publicly decrying this practice of housing animals in a private dungeon then killing them.

Exemplary is not the word that comes to mind.

Unwilling: The Bias Against Poor People Who Want to Save Shelter Pets

The Grayson Co Humane Society in KY expresses the following popular belief on its website:

If a new owner is unwilling to pay very much for an animal, it’s likely they’d also be unwilling to pay for proper care in the future – such as heartworm and flea/tick prevention, proper food, and vaccinations.

I have raged against versions of this false and discriminatory belief for years.  Not only is the claim itself baseless, it costs shelter animals their lives.  This occurs either as a direct result of steep adoption fees – because shelters kill animals instead of allowing them to be adopted for reduced or waived fees, or as an indirect result – because rescue groups tie up foster home space with animals they require exorbitant fees in order to adopt while saying they are unable to pull more animals off death row at their local pound as they have no space.  In both cases, healthy/treatable pets are being killed and I am opposed to that.  Therefore, I want to grind this myth into the dirt.

As animal advocate Christie Keith notes on her Dogged blog:

[L]et’s look at the idea that people don’t value pets they haven’t paid for.

We know this is not true because of the data that exists on this topic, looking at pets acquired for free at special adoption events.

We also know it’s not true because the single category of pet least likely to end up in a shelter is a pet given as a gift.

And every one of us involved in rescue should know it’s not true because we have houses full of pets we got for free, who we’d do anything for. I certainly never loved my free pets less than my adoption-fee or breeder-obtained pets. I never spent less money on them, treated them less well, or fought less fiercely to save them from illness and injury.

And really, by that logic, pets from puppy mill outlets should be considered the most precious of all, as they cost the most to obtain. Do you believe that to be true? I didn’t think so.

What I’m saying is this: Organizations should seriously question whether or not adoption fees are interfering with the fulfillment of their mission.

And while animal welfare groups are at it, I hope they will consider Christie’s recommendations for generating revenue outside of adoption fees and why this makes a world of sense.

For the record, I love my free pets unconditionally.  I specifically sought out a pet with a reduced/waived adoption fee when I was last looking for a pet.  The backlash for doing so consisted of a number of people who don’t know me condemning me as an animal abuser, hoarder, etc.  Some vowed to add my name to their Do Not Adopt lists and to circulate warnings against me to rescue groups in hopes of preventing me from obtaining a pet.  My reason for wanting a pet that cost very little money (which no one asked me) was that I don’t have much and the less I spend on adoption fees, the more I have to put into vet care and related expenses.  Responsible and sensible – not in any way “unwilling to pay for proper care”.

Ultimately I got a shelter dog for free and gave the person who volunteered to transport her to me the cash I had set aside for an adoption fee.  She expressed her surprise and gratitude, noting that not only would it help her with the cost of gas but also the cost of a new tire she had to put on her vehicle that morning.  And because it wasn’t a large amount of money, I was able to pay for the vet care the dog so desperately needed right away.

For those who condemn poor people as being “unwilling to pay for proper care”, you have a lot to learn.  I hope you step outside of your tiny box and see compassionate pet lovers as they really are very soon – before too many more animals die as a result of your bigotry.  People of all income levels love animals and want to save them from being needlessly killed at so-called shelters.  Let them.