Armchair Animal Activism (it works)- Part I

From the comfort of your living room, you can have an impact on humane treatment of animals.  This is part I in a series that provides ideas on how to do so.  Today’s topic is the hundreds of thousands of homeless, unspayed/unneutered dogs and cats in the South.

Several thousand rescue dogs are transported yearly from the South to the Northeast for adoption.  Why?  The cultural norm in many places of the South is not to spay and neuter, and in many places, not to inoculate pets against disease. There are millions of homeless dogs wandering around—and starving—in the South.  There are several thousands in high-kill shelters, because adoption is not a common practice either.

You can do something about it. Cultural norms are shifted over time through the steady application of change. For example, remember how we used to call humane organizations “pounds” and homeless pets “strays”? That gradual shift away from “pound” has had an impact on how people perceive humane organizations, and the introduction of the word “rescue” to adopted animals positions the rescuers to have the added benefit of feeling good about themselves.

But back to the Southern dogs. I was told by owner of Main Line Animal Rescue that the way to make an impact on treatment of dogs from the south is to write letters to the editors of the papers there. Below is a sample letter you can use or adjust as you see fit. Search this link ( http://www.50states.com/news/ ) to identify newspapers. Copy/tailor and email the letter to the editor—be sure to include your contact info, or the editors will not publish the letters.   Thank you!

your name
address
phone
email

date

Dear Editor,

I have a friend who had good fortune to adopt a sweet dog from Alabama via a Pennsylvania animal rescue. “Finn” is a hound mix and is doing well despite a rough beginning: unneutered, homeless, and unvaccinated, Finn contracted distemper, from which he has recovered, despite lingering gait issues.

I’ve learned that in areas, spaying/neutering, and vaccinating pets are not always common practice.  Yet pet overpopulation is rampant, and in many states hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats are homeless and die slowly from starvation, disease, and injury. You can help prevent pet overpopulation and suffering.

Please consider the benefits of spaying and neutering—this prevents unwanted animals from being born, improves the animals’ disposition, and is not perceived as loss by the animals.  Here is a link: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/low-cost-spayneuter-programs where you can find low-cost clinics in your area.  Alternatively, please consider asking your local vets to provide this community service, for the good of the animals and the community (and good PR for the vet).

Respectfully,

[your name]

 

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Part V – I Came from the Deep South

continued from part IV  –

Mr. Bean, the cat, and I arrived at an armed truce, but I had the upper edge.  I know that in skirmishes between dogs and cats, the cats often lose.  I didn’t wish Mr. Bean harm, but I have thousands of years of instinct in me, and as much as I want to please my person, instinct is powerful.

The woman began supervising the cat and me at all times.  This seemed unnecessary to me.  Why, there were many times when Mr. Bean and I slept near each other, when he wound between my legs, when we walked by each other without comment.  To be fair, there were some times when I’d stalk him, when I hunkered low and keened on him, my eyes glittering black.  I knew I wouldn’t do anything actually, but the woman didn’t know this and she did not approve of my behavior.  She was irritated with me far too often.  I did not deserve this.

The trainer suggested that we adopt a second dog; she said that would likely get my focus off of Mr. Bean.  The woman said no–one dog was enough.  So that was that.

We went to the family reunion of adopted pets and their people at Main Line Animal Rescue.  I recognized the scent of the place before we turned down the lane and I sat up tall in the back seat to look.  When I jumped out of the car, I saw Jenny, a pit bull who was still there.   I overheard someone say that people have the wrong idea about pits and that they are actually one of the most devoted dogs.

Jenny and I greeted each other and I see other dogs I’d peripherally known who were now romping happily with their families.  There were new dogs there, many brought up from the South like me, and others rescued from inner city Philadelphia.

The shelter director saw me, walked over, and stooped down to pet me.  She asked us to walk through the kennels together; she wanted to show the woman something.

We passed the dogs, some with pleading eyes, some turned in on themselves and sad, some barking.  I was so happy not to still be there.  The shelter director stopped before the kennel I had been in, and there was Kentucky, who came up from Alabama with me.  He was the only one who had not been adopted, and he’d been at the rescue for a year.   Pointing to him, the director said, “Kentucky is a sweet fellow and has some remaining neurological defects from having contracted distemper in Alabama and survived it.”  Apparently the rural south is not big on vaccinating, spaying and neutering, and there are millions of homeless dogs, and a lot with preventable diseases.  Main Line Animal Rescue had had Kentucky checked out by University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School, and his neurological defects would not affect his ability to learn but his gait would remain odd, and he had a rounded back.  On occasion he fell over.Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 4.50.25 PM

Kentucky and I sniffed at each other through the chain link door and he did a little jig, hopping on three legs and spinning in a circle.   The director said, “If you would consider adopting him.  He’s a good dog and he needs a home.  He’s very shy and the shelter is not a good place for him.  The likelihood of him getting adopting is slim.  People don’t typically want a special needs dog.

My person looked at him and grew very still. I watched her and knew what she was thinking.

to be continued

Part I

Part IV – I Came from the Deep South

continued from Part III  –  “I hadn’t wanted a puppy,” I heard her say, “I planned on adopting an older dog, but Lucy’s my dog and I’m hers.  It felt like the choice was less of a choice and more of a fait accompli.”  From my perspective, I’d applied those puppy-dog eyes to many people, but she’s the only one who got it.  At this juncture, those reasons didn’t matter.  What did was that I had a home.  Recollections of my fractured past began to fade from my mind, except for one repetitive memory: my sister’s eyes as she watched me be carried away from her.

My new life kept me busy.  There was the woman and two teenagers, various family and friends who came and went, and two cats: Gracie and Mr. Bean.  Gracie was a decent being.  She walked around the house and screened porch minding her own business, occasionally greeting me by touching my nose with her nose.  Mr. Bean, however, well, suffice it to say that we had our differences.Gracie (left) Mr Bean (right)

Mr. Bean was an odd fellow.  He’d been rescued from an Amish farm, and by 6 weeks of age the small chunk removed from his ear had already healed, he was starving, and he had worms.  His personality was, shall we say, edgy.  You can tell by the look in his eyes.  He’s the one on the right.

When I met Mr. Bean, he puffed up like a dandelion puff ball and screeched.  This hurt my ears and annoyed me.  Our relationship went downhill from there.  When Mr. Bean walked by henceforth, he narrowed his eyes at me.  Sometimes my eyes got a prey-drive glint, of which the woman extremely disapproved.  Apparently among my hound mix background was greyhound, a magnificent sight hound, one of the oldest of breeds used by early man for hunting on the plains.  This ancient instinct in me was not triggered by Gracie, who was, to my mind, a reasonable being and more like a dog than a cat, but it was, intermittently, by Mr. Bean.

The woman spent a great deal of time intervening between us.  She hired a trainer to soften this edge of my otherwise beautiful behavior.  This was only partially successfully.  I did enjoy the treats she offered when she diverted my attention away from Mr. Bean.

I knew the game, and I really did want to please her, but my instinct sometimes got the better of me.  I never actually touched Mr. Bean, though he increasingly became afraid of me.

to be continued…  Part I