Thursday, September 16, 2010

No Kill vs Train-Wreck Dogs

 This dog is probably a great dog.
Photo and caption by Angela Palance,a tireless advocate for the dogs at the Montgomery County Texas Animal Shelter.

I'll be honest:  I'm not a total convert to Nathan Winograd's vision of a No-Kill Nation.  It's not that I don't want all Shelters to be "no-kill", but it's that I'm not convinced it is an achievable goal.  Or even the right goal.  But Winograd and his supporters brand folks like me as "part of the problem."  We're the "nay-sayers,"  blocking the path to a swoony no-kill paradise where puppies and kittens are loved forever and ever in homes that make PetsMart managers giddy with joy.

Just because I have some reservations, doubts or unanswered questions shouldn't make me the enemy.  I've put a lot of sweat and tears in animal rescue work.  I look at what flows through the doors of the Shelter and wonder what compels us to insist that dogs like the ones below are "adoptable."

Here is a sample of what you'll find in the Adoption Rooms this week:
  • Pit Bull mixes with heavy heartworm.
  • Untrained, barely socialized young Lab mixes who will yank your arms from the sockets.
  • Elderly Labs who aren't housebroken.
  • Anxiety-riddled Rat Terriers.
  • Chihuahuas that look like genetic mish-mashes.
Checkers  is falling apart in the Shelter. I can't foster him until my husband leaves for his next business trip because this poor little guy is so anxious he just can't stop barking.  It's Shelter stress.

Most of our dogs have at least one and often more health conditions, including (but not limited to) mange, flea dermatitis, giardia, worms, or bad teeth.  And almost all of our dogs come with unknown (and unknowable) health and behavioral histories.

Who in their right mind wants these dogs?  Who on earth can afford to treat and care for these dogs?

And don't think I'm just a heartless cynic.  I know what these dogs cost because I just adopted one, my Miniature Pinscher, Chopper, who joined our pack this summer.  Chopper was an ideal adoptable candidate from our Shelter.  He was already neutered when he arrived, and he received a rabies booster, a heartworm test, microchip, and the Parvo-Distemper shot, plus Strongid for worms.

Chopper, my own personal (and much-loved) train-wreck dog.

However, Chopper is heartworm positive--so I need $400 to $600 to treat that.  He's got one rotten tooth that needs to be pulled at some point (say, $300 or so if I get the tartar scraped while he's under), plus he was positive for giardia.  Once my adoption was final, I spent $300 getting Chopper Vet-checked, including a leptospirosis vaccine, fecal smear, urine culture and a blood work panel to make sure he can handle the heartworm treatment and the tooth-removal.  I bought two antibiotics, heartworm prevention tabs, flea meds and a round of de-wormer.  These were not out-of-the-ordinary expenses.

Nathan Winograd can talk all he wants about "no-kill" policies, but the one hitch in his giddy-up, the thing that he doesn't address in his best-seller "Redemption," is whether all those wonderful Americans who would love to add a pet to their household are actually willing to put in the financial and physical work it takes to bring a Shelter dog around.  At the rate people keep bringing dogs in for owner-surrender, I don't think the American public is near as dog-friendly as Winograd paints it to be.

Li'l Dude, an un-altered Chihuahua boy is my latest foster.  He weighs all of six pounds.  He is anxious and very needy.  While crated for four hours, he managed to bend the wires on this crate with his teeth, and he chewed up the bed into 2-inch pieces of foam, plus, he got the plastic tray scooted part-way out so he could "push" the crate across the room.  He got hold of a cord to a foot control to the sewing machine (after "pushing" the crate) and chewed that up ($89--and I can't tell my husband), then he somehow finagled the door open and left poop surprises upstairs.  He was a very naughty boy.
To top it all off, he's not yet housebroken.  And he's a pushy little guy 'cause he's hung like a Clydesdale and has enough testosterone to equip a baseball team.  Since Li'l Dude needs to gain weight before he can be neutered, it's going to be awhile before he loses his family jewels.  I'm in conversation with a rescue group who might be able to take him.

 Shelter dogs are no bargain.  In fact, they are a gamble. And the Shelter doesn't offer guarantees.

Consider the heartworm issue.  Our Shelter was offering the heartworm treatment vaccine for heartworm positive dogs, but that program has been tabled due to the expense to the County. Most likely, I'll be paying for the treatment at retail prices.  Meanwhile, at the Shelter, our current dog population is running about 40 percent heartworm positive.  So step right up and get yourself a dog, but be prepared to spend some serious money--and shoulder the risks that come with heartworm treatment. At least the dog will love you back.

And just so you don't think I'm totally against the good news as preached by Winograd, I'm signed up to go to the No-Kill Austin conference at the end of September. I'm willing to listen and be convinced.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Shelter Update

We're working hard at the Shelter to get dogs and cats into fur-ever homes.  However, sometimes it feels like an uphill  battle.

Little Pic-a-Pepper

On Labor Day, I adopted "Pepper", my spunky little tri-color Chihuahua foster boy.  He's going to a home with a puppy mill-Papillon for a friend, and at-home owner who wanted a Chihuahua best friend.  Pepper hardly gave me a second glance as he left!

Then, yesterday, I was waiting to see the Shelter Vet, Dr. D.  He was conferring with a new adopter who had brought in a sweet Lab-mix puppy named Maya.  The dog was lethargic, shut down, feverish and wouldn't do much more than sleep, plus was suffering from loose stools and poor appetite.  When the pup's eyes began oozing green goop, the owner brought the dog in to try and figure out the problem.  The prognosis wasn't good--most likely distemper (Even I could tell--the dog's nose was runnning, and the pup had that stunned, woozy-eyed "Big D" look).  Dr. D. recommended euthanization, which at that point, was wise.  The owner agreed, on the condition (of course) that he could come back in a week or so to choose another dog.

Meanwhile, the Shelter is overrun with kittens and cats.  I heard, unofficially, that approximately 1,000 cats and kittens have made the trip to the EU room in the past few weeks.

We're running a big Off-Site push at four different PetsMart locations this week, as part of PetsMart's "Second Chance at Love" promotion.  The PetsMart Charities are giving larger donations to the Shelter for each pet adopted from September 6th through the 12th.  We're struggling with getting volunteers to work the weekday Off-sites--most have day jobs.  I've been hauling dogs and working Off-sites all week and am exhausted. My house is a wreck, and my husband is ready to throw a big ol' hissy fit.  Rain from Hurricane/Tropical Storm Hermione has slowed everything down.  Today, the storms have departed Houston, but the humidity and mosquitoes are back.

I brought home a tiny, russet-red boy Chihuahua last night. I took him to Off-site, then realized too late that he was ill.  He is very underweight, has upper respitory and God knows what else.  Plus he's un-altered.  He did eat last night, and has eaten this morning.  I don't know whether he'll make it or not.

Here is a video that was made, using footage shot in our Shelter a few weeks ago.

Since the beginning of summer, we have seen an increase in owner-surrenders and adoption-returns on dogs.  The owner-surrender dogs tend to fall apart in the Shelter encvironment.  I have been taking Checkers, a five or six year old Rat Terrier to Off-sites.  He thinks I'm his savior and he shrieks in his kennel if I walk out of sight, which annoys the PetsMart manager.  The store manager is not happy to have us there, but we help increase sales--one of my adopters yesterday spent $96 buying supplies, including a dog crate.  I spent $40 both this week and last week buying supplies for my dogs and fosters.  It irks me when we can't have what should be a win-win relationship with PetsMart.

Once this PetsMart deal is done this weekend, we'll be back to our regular schedule--primarily weekend events.  I just wish the stream of dogs and cats arriving at the Shelter would ease up.