|I did not get the intake number on this dog- this dog, I believe, was adopted or taken to rescue from MDAS. This is one of my new digital pieces.|
Thursday, January 19, 2012
I do get it
Once upon a time, I had a belief that as long as an animal made it alive out of a "kill" shelter, that was all that mattered. But, I know now that is a pretty ignorant belief. What I now believe is that all dogs and cats deserve not only to live- but, they deserve a home where they will be properly cared for. I believe that dogs and cats deserve to live out their lives uncaged and to get the proper medical care and proper nutrition they deserve. I believe that the animals that have been abandoned by society in shelters deserve real homes. They should never be put into situations which cause them pain and suffering.
One of the best rescues I have ever worked with is a "no kill" shelter in Des Moines IA, called the Animal Lifeline. I believe in who they are and what they do. As far as a "no kill" shelter, they are a great example of a long standing group who provides the best care for their animals- they active in the community and do not take in more than they can handle. My mistake was thinking that they were all like this. I used to volunteer there to clean, walk, give meds, do public events ... a myriad of things. I was there because I saw a strong organization that bent over backwards to take care of their medically needy residents and provided beds and toys in every cage. They made sure the dogs were walked multiple times daily and all of the cats got to have some time out of their cages daily. The food that the animals were fed was not the cheap grocery store type. They believed in quality in all aspects of the care of their animals. That is what I knew to be how a no kill was run. I made the mistake of believing they were all run like that.
Now, there are some major obstacles that shelters deal with and those are the facts that there is not an endless supply of money and adopters, but a seemingly endless supply of people dumping their pets. What this has done to the rescue community as a whole has driven a deep divide between those who are with the "kill" shelters and those with the "no kill" shelters. The thing is that people are looking at the obstacles with different understandings of the reality.
I never want a healthy animal to die in a shelter. In fact, that is why I do the work I do. I could make paintings of flowers and make a decent living off of my art, but I choose instead.. a subject that drains me financially and emotionally because I want the killing to stop. The problem with the divide with the "kill" and "no kill" sides is that they both appear to want to end the killing. But, like I said, the realities are different. Some believe that there needs to be a bigger push to get society as a whole to be more responsible since they are the ones dumping the animals - others see the shelter systems as the one at fault. If all of the dogs and cats pulled from a "kill" shelter were put into safe and loving homes or put into a quality no kill like the one I had experience with - then I would firmly plant my feet onto the "no kill" side. But, I know better. I cannot see how the full blame can be put solely on the shoulders of the "kill" shelters. Do they need to do better- yes, of course,,, but I do not believe that change can come from fighting only one front. This is a multi pronged problem that not only includes the shelter system- but, the public... and even "no kill" rescues as well.
The internet has given me a very nice ability to look into the world of rescue. I have learned that some dogs are pulled from MDAS and just left in boarding for - sometimes- months. It had never even occurred to me that boarding was being used in rescue for anything but a short term solution for issues like quarantine. Some rescues do not appear to have proper facilities - some are pulled- I think the dog is safe and then I see that same dog being posted online with someone begging for a foster. Some dogs had even ended up across the state in a rescue that had been shut down for fire code violations. There have been far too many news articles about rescues being shut down due to horrible conditions and too many stories about animals caught up in hoarding situations -- and far too many of those are operating under the guise of rescue. Some animals have even been rescued and sent to other rescues and adopters - sight unseen - in other parts of the country. (please note that, although I mention these bad examples- there are a myriad of good rescues out there who do proper home visits and have proper facilities, fosters, and funding in place prior to ever pulling an animal.. always please support good rescues)
Currently, there is no real state oversight in Florida for rescue groups. No regular inspections and no requirements for them to provided ongoing data of animals in their care- including intake numbers, adoption numbers and numbers of those who have died in their care. I am surprised with the numerous news articles I have read about rescues gone wrong that there has not been more of a push for the oversight of them. Instead, Florida has introduced the Animal Rescue Act that would require that all "kill" shelters give all animals to rescues that are going to be euthanized if those are rescues willing to take them. Of course, it is clearly stated that they can refuse to do so to groups with criminal convictions or pending animal abuse or neglect charges. However, the proposal uses the word "may".. it does not say that they cannot- it says that they "may" refuse to give the animals to them- the word "may" used in legal documents is referring to the choice to act or not. This same word also is used in regards to requiring rescues to even disclose the information. Why in the world would someone have written this in such a way that a shelter can technically not choose to even ask for a disclosure from a rescue in regards to criminal behavior involving animal abuse? Technically, this means that a city shelter could legally not do a check and they could legally not refuse to give an animal to an abuser. In addition it also states that a shelter "may" require that the rescues give them monthly inspections and stats. So again- a shelter could technically choose to not do any inspections of the rescues that are taking their animals. On the flip side, a good shelter should take the time to do all inspections and checks on criminal behavior and this language would allow them the ability to request stats and do inspections- but, are all of them going to do that? Do they all have the manpower and frankly does ever shelter even care once the animal is out their doors? Some shelters may be poorly run in some areas - they could not even care enough to bother with any checks at all. Since rescue groups are not monitored and this legislation does not mandate it - technically, dogs and cats could be saved from euthanasia only to be sent to rescues who are not doing the best by the animals.
I used to believe wholeheartedly in the Animal Rescue Act. However, I was mistaken when I first read it- I didn't really catch onto the word "may". When I first read it I thought that it was all mandated - but, I want to thank No Kill Nation for opening my eyes to unenforceable mandates. Recently I had asked them about their opposition to the proposal regarding changes in the way the city of Miami runs its shelter. One of the things I was loving about that proposal was, what I thought, was enforceable mandates regarding the very same thing that I am having problems with in the Animal Rescue Act. I had loved the part about the rescue registry and how they needed to be contacted of impending euthanasia- but, in regards to the oversight of those rescues it uses the word "may"- just as the Animal Rescue Act. Now No Kill Nation has asked everyone to oppose the legislation that Miami has proposed - and when I asked why- they simply stated that is did not have enforceable mandates. Yes, the word "may" provides discretion. Just as in the Animal Rescue Act the word "may" provides discretion regarding a pretty huge issue involving the future safety of the animals. So I want to thank them for making me realize that, what I thought was a magnificent proposal, is really just something that does not fully protect the animals. I am not sure who wrote it- but, I can't imagine why a person would not make something iron clad into the bill that would prevent the animals from going from one danger to another.
If it passes- great- but, I hope that someone will immediately begin to work on protections for the animals that create laws to license and inspect rescues. I am tired of reading stories of animals stuck in hoarding situations that are forced to live in cages their entire lives. I am sick of reading about rescues who are shut down due to not caring properly for the animals in their care. I am beyond upset about reading that animals are having to be re saved and being put right back into the system.
I want to read about shelters and rescues working together to save lives. I looked for a long time at a worthy cause that does this very thing- so that I could give them a percentage of my sales in an upcoming show. I have found that- it is a transport program right out of MDAS. They take dogs- and now cats- to no kill rescues in other cities and states. I have been assured that the no kills are looked into that they are doing the transport to. Many lives have been saved through this.. I'll talk more about transports on another blog.. this one has gotten too long... and I just needed to defend myself- because I do get it.