Posts Tagged ‘FAAS’

Spare Change

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

For the past couple of years, my two grandsons have been collecting every dime and nickel they find in a glass jar. The jar, when filled, was to be given to help animals. Older grandson wanted to save the wolves, but we were unable to find an organization where we were assured this small amount of money would actually help. So in the end, the boys decided to donate their coins and a few dollars to a local rescue group that gets animals out of the euthanasia list and into homes and temporary rescue groups who foster these animals. This group attends adoption events, spends endless hours grooming the animals, and uses a good photographer to get a candid shot of the animal out of their cages and in a colorful, personality-laden photos that captures something special about each adoptable animal. We knew that this group was saving lives from a prior experience – one dog who had a bad case of mange was taken off the kill list by procuring pledges for financial assistance that would mean treatment – and life itself – to this particular animal. It worked, and that dog is now barely recognizable as the sad-eyed, mange-covered, depressed being she once was. She is now full of vitality, out of the shelter, and enjoying life with her permanent family.

Spare Change to Spare a Life

The day youngest grandson took the money to donate, the local shelter was buzzing with potential adopters and many wonderful animals were waiting in cages and glassed in rooms to meet their fate.  A volunteer came out and told youngest grandson that he was going to receive the VIP treatment for his generous donation; at six, he already knew that those initials meant, and said to me, “I am going to be a Very Important Person!” Photos were taken, the money was handed over, and the animals were visited. Outside was a dog park, which delighted youngest grandson no end – a loving, gentle Beagle offered licks and paw-touches, a feisty Terrier was game for a romp around the perimeter, and a three month old puppy was demonstrating his ability with barking and chewing — all in all, a wonderful, memorable day.

When youngest grandson asked about the amount of money in the jar (recounted, just in case they would not accept the loose change), I told him it was just under $40, an amount that included two last-minute pledges of $5 from each of two supporters.  He was disappointed it had not been at least $100, and promptly had his mum find a very large jar so he could start saving again. This time he displayed a bit more aggression in his procurement techniques, immediately eyeing a small box of change within a drawer, and asking a few relatives to donate.  With this new empowerment, this new idea that money can translate into saving lives, there is no limit to what he will be able to achieve. It is both simultaneously wonderful and tragic that by just finding spare change, one can spare a life. Reader, can  you spare a dime?

 Note: This was written a few months ago. I now volunteer at the same shelter.

Saving Abraham

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Since I began working inside our local animal services shelter system, the sad reality for domesticated animals has become far more personal to me. Many people tell me the exact same thing: “I couldn’t bear to work in the shelter; it would be too sad.”  Of course, the best way to make it more joyous is to volunteer and help get more animals adopted. Our local shelter only requires four hours per month commitment, and one may just work in the laundry or behind a desk if that is how you prefer to spend your time. I talked myself into signing up by choosing humane education and photography as potential duties; I had difficulty getting through the orientation and facility tour due to the emotional impact of seeing so many distressed, caged animals. But I persevered, and signed up anyway. After all, four hours per month is not too much to squeeze into a busy life, right?

Volunteers Save Lives

But lately our shelter has been overflowing with wonderful, beautiful, smart and engaging dogs, and I have been spending every single minute I possibly could spend at the shelter.  Volunteers on the adoption floor can be the difference between a disgruntled potential adopter who leaves, and a happy adopter with a new family member. It makes catching up on household duties, running a nonprofit, and maintaining several blogs seem suddenly less significant. When the adoption floor is not busy, there are always dogs that desperately need grooming so they might capture a heart, and large dogs that need to get out of their kennels for a brief time in the kennel runs so they will be better behaved when they meet with a potential adopter. Each visit with a dog or cat, whether inside or outside (dogs only), requires either spraying with a weak bleach solution or mopping the floor with the same, in order to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.  For cats, the chance of survival is even less than for the canines, but the live release rate is getting higher and higher with an army of volunteers leading the way towards innovative solutions, and with a shelter staff that is committed to the same.

While all the volunteers seem to care about all the animals, there are admittedly a few that break our hearts. One was a very smart and beautiful dog that kept getting overlooked for adoption. He was exhibiting signs of kennel stress, and would be a bit too eager to get outside, a bit too much to handle in the small Meet and Greet indoor rooms. Because of the Texas heat, it was often difficult to convince human visitors that the kennel runs might be the best place to meet with a large dog. All the volunteers knew that Abraham was running out of time. Despite his beautiful lean physique, his handsome face, gorgeous white and light tan coloring and his amazing intelligence, this big boy was suddenly on the Urgent List. He appeared to be a Shepherd or Lab mix but his large erect ears and noble face were unique only to him. He would beseech us with his eyes, and it seemed he knew his time was quickly running out.

 A Doomed Dog

We sent round photos of this beautiful guy on our Facebook pages, begged for rescues and fosters, and hoped for the best.  We have two groups, Friends and Partners of our shelter, that work tirelessly to get the word out about our at risk animals, and they went into overdrive to save Abe. Finally someone drove from afar to take Abraham home with her. He was well-behaved in the kennel run and his potential rescuer was enchanted. That is, until another dog came into the neighboring kennel run and Abraham wanted to play so badly, he began chewing through the chain link fence with a frenetic quality that is hard to describe. He wasn’t trying to get OUT – that side of the fence was totally ignored. He just wanted to make contact with someone of his own species. There was no aggression in his desperation, just dysfunctional behavior that frightened away his final prospect. Abraham seemed doomed. My heart sank and the lovely young woman declined to adopt him and instead adopted a more manageable dog. Bless her heart for adopting and opening up a kennel space, but our big boy was on the EU list (euthanasia) for the very next day if he wasn’t claimed by 2 pm.

Before I headed to the shelter on the final day, I contacted another member of our volunteer group who is also a member of our local animal rights group. I offered to pay his fees if someone else could house him til we could place him. It was an absolutely insane idea, since by partner in crime already has three dogs and I have no fenced yard and a home with a reigning elderly feline. Despite concerns, she decided to take the risk to get him out of there – sometimes love wins over wisdom.  But all the way to work I kept thinking it would be unfair to my pal or her three dogs and would probably end up costing her money in fees if he got out and ran rampant around the neighborhood. As I locked my car, I kept trying to decide what the ethical thing was for me to choose –putting my friend at risk or leaving Abraham to his fate. My heart was in my shoes as I lumbered towards the doors of the shelter, uncertain how I would make it through the day if I knew they were coming for Abraham at 2 pm. The reality for these animals was so stark, and all my coping mechanisms seemed to be failing.

As I reached the front door, a beautiful and athletic young woman who had been at the shelter the day before told me she was going to get Abraham – he was in Receiving, getting ready to leave the shelter, hopefully for the last time. (Some of our animals are returned, so there is no guarantee that even a good home means permanent safety.) She knew I was in love with this dog as she had spoken to me about him earlier in the week. I asked if I could take a photo of him leaving with her and she gave her consent. She later posted a photo of Abe in his new backyard, looking positively radiant.

Attitudes Save Lives

What really saved Abraham was a group effort and a belief that animals are worth saving. Due to the work of Nathan Winograd and many others, attitudes about shelter animals are changing and are facilitating more and more shelter adoptions. If our community could just get a few more percentage points of people adopting from shelters rather than buying from breeders or pet stores, all our animals could be placed. (For cats, TNR would also need to be implemented.) Every person that cross posts on Facebook and on other social media helps to save lives. Every volunteer who works in the front or back of animal services helps save lives. And, while I rejoice when a beautiful loving spirit like Abraham is saved, I never forget about the billions of animals that are unseen and die as market commodities for food, clothing, or entertainment. Still there are now four vegans volunteering at the shelter, and another one that is just getting started, bringing our numbers up to five. Every venue is a perfect place to increase understanding about how all animals matter and every day is a new opportunity towards respecting and saving animal lives.

For Abraham, all that matters is he is now home and he is now loved. Happy life, big guy, happy life!

No Kill: Widening the Circle

Friday, April 27th, 2012

A few weeks ago, I attended the DFW No Kill Workshop in Addison, Texas. Among the many inspirational speakers was vegan No Kill advocate, Nathan Winograd. Because I had heard so much negativity about the No Kill movement, I was eager to attend and learn about the movement firsthand. Was it true that this plan meant warehousing animals for months, even years? That it would mean leaving stray animals on the streets, with no place to house them? That it was irresponsible, requires large sums of money and enlarged shelters? The answers: no, no, and no, no, no. What No Kill advocates is much of what vegan activists advocate: a change in thinking. Once we change our belief system, everything else becomes possible. While few public shelters become 100% no kill, many make astounding strides in saving thousands of animal lives simply by changing their attitudes about possibilities.  Since only about 20% of animals are procured from our shelters, changing that statistic alone is bound to help.

Here are some interesting points:

  • Most of the large animal advocacy groups oppose No Kill often misstating what it means
  • Local shelters which have moved towards No Kill have reduced kill rates significantly
  • Many shelters kill even when they have ample open cages
  • The biggest single change required is a change in attitude: all animal lives matter!

Can No Kill Mean Vegan?

While most No Kill advocates are not yet vegan, some are vegan. It would be my hope that the No Kill movement would eventually widen to include all animals, not just companion animals. As an ethical vegan, there is concern for the animals in the tins, the ones that are fed to all the rescued shelter animals; we have to be concerned for their lives, too. Ending all pet breeding would be a start in the right direction, but when large wealthy groups like HSUS support pet breeding, it is doubtful that will happen anytime soon. Educating adopters about feeding their newly adopted dogs plant-based foods would be a good idea, too, but if they are still eating animals themselves, there is much education that needs to take place before that can happen.

Seagoville in our North Texas area saved 97% of the animals in their care in 2011, saving all but 15 of the 568 animals in their shelter. Other neighboring shelters which have not adopted the No Kill ethic had save rates as low as 33%. Our local animal shelter has a supportive group of volunteers that are bringing the kill ratios down significantly by a determination to value each and every life that enters the shelter. They know these animals by names they have given them; they promote them on social media sites. They attend mobile pet adoption events and help to get the word out to their friends. They fundraise and work hard to increase fosters so that more animals can get out of the shelters with their lives. And it is working.

Valuing the Invisible Animals, Too

The kill rates for slaughterhouses are close to 100%. We currently have no way to get those animals out of the treacherous lines marching them to their death. However, the same change in thinking which has caused such dramatic drops in killing for domesticated companion animals, must be changed for animals commodified for food, clothing, and entertainment. We must not tolerate the abuse and torment of animals for product testing or scientific research. If animal lives matter, and they do, we must widen the idea of No Kill to be all inclusive. It is appalling to me that Nathan Winograd has been attacked by other animal activists, by large animal advocacy groups that themselves kill thousands of animals, and by the ignorant who do not understand what the No Kill ethic is and how it works. But I still have one question that I was unable to get answered the day of the No Kill Workshop: as an ethical vegan, how can we increase the ethic of No Kill to include all animals, regardless of species?