Thursday, May 27, 2010
The Cost of Compassion
Which brings up the question: How much should be spent trying to save a Shelter dog?
Vast amounts of money, much from non-profit fund-raising, much from individuals' own pockets, is spent on individual Shelter dogs whose plights spur people into last-ditch, major efforts. Many of these cases involve unique situations that arouse fierce sympathy. Just recently at our Shelter, major effort and expense has been spent treating a dog hit by a car (the dog is recovering) and a mature Chocolate lab whose owner dumped him with an old badly healed broken leg, which has now been amputated (this guy is recovering as well).
The latest extreme example is a GSD mix dog found along the I-45 and brought into the Shelter with bowed front legs, due to carpal flexural deformity, along with severely atrophied back legs. This dog appears otherwise healthy in spite of his condition, and he has learned to "scoot" along using his belly. Currently, the Shelter Director (who is a notoriously soft-hearted person) is investigating treatment options. Most likely, appeals will be made for outside donations. Plans include high-lighting this dog in the paper to arouse public interest. Not to suggest that it is wrong to consider treating this dog, but I still wonder if the thousands of dollars that corrective surgery will require could be better spent elsewhere within the Shelter.
Dogs tug at peoples' heartstrings and consequently their wallets--Arabella's sponsor has spent close to $800 of her own money. The sponsor has a huge emotional (not to mention financial) investment in this dog. Yet Arabella is property of Montgomery County, Texas. Without the volunteers (and I count myself in this group because I've put $150 or so toward her treatment), Arabella would already be dead.
Still, with 40 percent of all incoming dogs testing positive for heartworms, and the fact that the Shelter opts to treat these dogs at the rate of about 8 animals per week and a cost of $25,000 per year (much donated), we need to ponder the difficult issue of resource allocation. It's tough to choose. People will be upset. Some dogs will not get treated. But perhaps it would be better to affect the outcome for the greatest number of dogs.
We're not only faced with choices regarding the extreme cases, we need to develop a better approach to handling distemper cases.
Many distemper dogs are given treatments, and most, especially the puppies, die. The preventive vaccine series costs about $40-$160, depending on where the owner takes the puppy. In our area, many people don't vaccinate their puppies. Whether it is out of ignorance or lack of money is unknown. But the $1,000 spent so far on Arabella would buy a lot of distemper vaccine.
It's a thorny issue with no easy answers. What do you think? What is the best way to compassionately spend limited funds?