Dear Animal Shelters,
1. Don’t kill our pets.
2. Don’t leave our sick or injured pets to suffer without veterinary care.
Pets impounded at shelters are either lost, in which case their owners want them back, or they are in need of a home, in which case the shelter should release them to an adopter or a rescue group so that can happen. Since it is unknown which category strays fall under at the time of impound, the shelter staff should get to work right away to determine that. Check the pet for an ID tag and scan him for a microchip. If either is found, start making calls to find the owner. Photograph the pet and post him online. Check the shelter’s lost pet list along with the local lost pet listings online and in the newspaper. Shelter the animal for at least the mandatory holding period so that his owner can reclaim him.
Concurrently, get the pet checked out by a veterinarian. Determine if he is in need of treatment. If the need for veterinary care is urgent – that is, if it would cause the pet to suffer pain or other harm by not receiving treatment during the holding period – treat the pet. Continue looking for the owner while the pet is receiving the needed vet care. If the shelter refuses to provide care for stray pets, issue an immediate plea to the public for a foster or rescuer to provide the urgent vet care during the holding period while the owner is being sought by the shelter. Obtain the urgent vet care – do not allow the pet to suffer simply because the shelter has not yet determined if the pet will be reunited with an existing owner or adopted to a new one.
This is so not hard. Not killing impounded strays while simultaneously looking for a possible owner and obtaining vet care is an actual thing that is being done by hundreds of open admission no kill shelters all around the country. Yet many pet killing facilities view these actions as contradictory in nature. Owned cats are killed during the holding period for being elderly, for exhibiting normal behavior after being trapped, and because some people get a thrill out of killing friendly kittens. Owned dogs are killed during the holding period because staff allowed them to get into a fight with another dog, for being elderly, and because someone in the police department decides to play vet.
To make matters worse, so-called animal advocacy groups such as HSUS and Maddie’s Fund are actively encouraging shelters to not hold unidentified cats so their owners can find them but to instead give them to strangers as fast as they can get them out the door. When did stray pets become the disfigured stepchild we need to keep chained in the attic?
In Granite City, IL last weekend, AC impounded a seriously injured dog as a stray. Instead of looking for the owner while getting him the vet care he needed, AC apparently did nothing but toss him in a cage. The dog’s hip was dislocated and his leg was missing bone and tendons. Volunteers and rescuers advocated for the dog, offering to take him to a vet for desperately needed treatment of his injuries. But AC refused all offers, citing the mandatory holding period as an excuse to extend the dog’s suffering for days. Rescuers ultimately did the pound staff’s job for them and located the owner, who opted to surrender the dog due to an inability to pay for care.
Local pet lovers raised hell over the pound’s mistreatment of the dog, who is now receiving care at a local vet clinic. In response, the mayor advised AC that in future, pound staff should not sling suffering pets into cages and leave them there for days simply because there is a holding period but instead should contact rescue groups so that urgent vet care can be obtained.
Just so we’re clear: The mayor had to tell AC not to leave stray pets in pain for days on end and explain that the words “holding period” and “urgent vet care” are not impossible to reconcile. If I am this mayor, I’m wondering what the hell else needs to be explained to the staff at the pound.
Holding periods are supposed to be a protective measure to prevent families from being torn apart. They aren’t supposed to be eliminated because shelter directors won’t do their jobs. They aren’t supposed to be used against us with egregious violations in the form of killings or an excuse to force an injured pet to suffer. Shelter directors don’t get to punish the public by hurting our lost pets. It’s obvious what holding periods are for and it has to do with protecting the human-animal bond, not using them as a weapon.
The dog who suffered at the hands of Granite City AC may lose his leg as a result. But yeah, we all want the same thing and don’t be negative and blah.
(Thanks Clarice for the link.)