Shame on Shenandoah, TX, Indeed!

It has recently come to my attention that the city of Shenandoah, TX, has decided not to allow animal adoptions to take place out of doors.  This means that within Shenandoah, the usual venues for adoptions, such as in front of the Petsmart store, are not available any more.

Some local rescuers complained to the City of Shenandoah about this absurd restriction.  They have yet to get a good answer.  The few answers they have received are full of errors and misinformation.

One  adoption coordinator who used to do adoption events outside of the Portofino Petsmart in Shenandoah says that location habitually generated around 100 adoptions per month.  The loss of that location, then, puts a strain on local animal welfare groups trying their best to save more animals.  Montgomery County Animal Shelter alone takes in about 1800 animals per month; losing a venue that got at least 100 of them adopted is a hard blow to take.

When local adoption groups were told that they could no longer use the space in front of Portofino Petsmart, a “city ordinance” was cited.  Multiple rescuers and volunteers confirm that Petsmart has been as helpful as they can possibly be.  Adoptions are allowed inside the store.  Unfortunately, the store is so small that it severely limits the number of animals that can be placed in the public eye for adoption.  An outdoor event would generate more adoptions and be better for the store, too.

At a recent attempted outdoor adoption event, Shenandoah police sent FIVE police cars to shut them down.  (Really?  Five cars?  There are no real crimes in Shenandoah?)

As far as I can tell from reading Shenandoah’s animal ordinances as posted on the city website, there is actually NOT a city ordinance prohibiting outdoor pet adoptions.  Furthermore, Shenandoah officials claim that the Montgomery County Animal Shelter does not serve Shenandoah.  They claim that the Shenandoah PD does its own animal control (which is deeply troubling for other reasons) and that strays are taken to the “South Montgomery County Shelter”. 

THERE IS NO SUCH PLACE.  The ONLY county shelter in Montgomery County is the very one currently banned from doing outdoor adoptions in Shenandoah.

One concerned rescuer received a reply from an Officer Bryan Carlisle.  He again made reference to the non-existent South County Shelter, and suggested that all problems could be resolved by encouraging people to go to this non-existent shelter to adopt animals.  And wow, he will even look into placing a link to that imaginary shelter on the Shenandoah city website!

As it happens, Officer Carlisle, there is already a link on the Shenandoah city website.  To MCAS.  The ONLY county shelter we have.  The very shelter not being allowed to have outdoor adoption events within Shenandoah, in spite of offers from multiple retailers to host such events in their parking lots.

The City of Shenandoah needs to get their facts in order.  Here are few facts of which their officials need to be aware.

  • There is NO SUCH PLACE as the South Montgomery County shelter.  There is only MCAS, which someone obviously knows, since there is a link to MCAS on the official city website.
  • Facebook now has a page called Shame ON You Shenandoah, TX.  It was posted on Thursday May 26th.  Today is Sunday May 29th.  The page now has 166 likes.  And we are all busily crossposting the information.
  • Adoption events have the support of local retailers, who understand that hosting these events helps the animals, helps the community, and generates business.
  • Shenandoah city officials are jeopardizing 100 or more animals per month and putting additional strain on the overtaxed county animal welfare system by refusing to allow outdoor adoption events.  Animals at public adoption events have much better odds of adoption, simply because more people see them.
  • If Shenandoah continues to act against animal welfare, other venues in the area will hold those events, which in turn will attract business to those establishments.  People who might have spent money in Shenandoah will spend it elsewhere.  Tax paying Shenandoah residents should be outraged.

Want to help?  Become a fan of the Shame on You Shenandoah, TX Facebook page.  Also, visit to contact the city government with your concerns.

Shame on Shenandoah, TX, indeed.

The puppy mill bill passed!

Anyone who knows me understands that I am NOT a fan of big government.  I hate paying taxes, and I bitterly resent government intrusion into my life.  But I make an exception when it comes to the welfare of animals.  Sadly, too many people see animals as disposable or lacking value, and they treat them accordingly.  Legal penalties for mistreatment of animals are a necessity.

This particular bill (House Bill 1451) will mandate that breeders who “exchange” more than 20 animals in one year undergo inspections, have “adequate” space to move around in, adequate shelter, appropriate ventilation and lighting, annual veterinary care including vaccinations and documentation of care, and adequate sanitation.  It will also require these “large scale” breeders to apply for a state license.

In other words, it will provide a safety net so that the animals and premises get inspected annually.  The whole objective is to prevent these breeders from turning into puppy mills.  Usually, by the time law enforcement can do anything about bad breeders, dozens or even hundreds of animals are desperately ill or dying after suffering unspeakable conditions for most of their lives.   This bill will hopefully make it easier to prevent puppy mill conditions from developing in the first place.

Have you ever been inside a puppy mill? 

I have.

You smell it first.  The stench of ammonia burns your nose and eyes.  Then you hear it.  Dozens of animals whimpering, barking, howling, desperate for some kind of relief.  Then you see it.  Filthy runs and cages, animals lying in their own waste, moldy food, slime filled water dishes (if any).

The worst are the “leftovers”.  The animals who are deformed, injured, sick, from years of neglect, mistreatment, and inbreeding.  Expect to see lameness, tumors, scars, damaged eyes and ears, deformed paws or ears, collapsed jaws from years of unchecked dental disease.

Disease runs rampant through animals kept in these conditions, which is why pet store puppies or roadside vendor puppies so often develop critical illnesses shortly after purchase.

The animals are unsocialized… terrified of human contact and yet desperate for help.  Some are aggressive, the result of neglect or abuse.  Others have given up and simply lie passively waiting for whatever awful thing happens to them next.  An astonishing number have held onto their real personalities through the torture of their lives and will recover to make good pets.

According to the Austin American Statesman‘s Mike Ward, Sen. Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay wanted to raise the limit to only include those breeders with 60 or more animals.  Sen. Glenn Hegar of Katy wanted to eliminate the requirement for annual veterinary care, on the grounds that it might be too expensive.

To these two clueless individuals, I would suggest that they accompany their local law enforcement on a puppy mill bust some time.  They clearly do NOT get it.  60 animals, at a minimum, would be ten breeding bitches, each with a litter of five or more puppies.  And they think such a situation does not warrant regulation?  Or veterinary care? 

I am thrilled that this bill has passed.  We have a long way to go, but it is a major step in the right direction.

Next on my personal hit list: running the roadside puppy sellers out of Montgomery County.

People Skills: A Necessary Part of Animal Welfare

It has been alleged that I do not always play well with others.  What can I say?  I like most animals better than most people.

I find that this is true of most animal welfare people.  We spend our time repairing the damage that “people” do to the animals we love, and mourning for the ones that can’t be helped.  Let’s just face facts.  It leaves us wary of people and generally cranky about the enormous level of ignorance and cruelty we see every day.  We expect that people should understand what we understand, and we are disgusted when they don’t.

Our job is to save as many animals as possible, and it’s very easy for us to dismiss “outsiders” so that we can focus on the day to day whirlwind of feeding, bathing, medicating, transporting, and rehabilitating.  It’s infinitely more comfortable for us to focus on the animals and avoid the people.  And we invariably take refuge in dark humor and cynicism to handle the daily tragedies we can’t avoid.

There’s just one problem.

Being involved in animal welfare means dealing with people. 

The animal welfare community must educate the public about the needs of animals and the realities of issues like spay and neuter, microchipping, fencing, veterinary care, and no, we cannot guarantee a good home for your 14 year old blind, incontinent poodle with bad teeth.

Educating the public means dealing with people.

The animal welfare community’s other mandate is to promote fostering and adoption.  We advertise, network, interview, do home visits.  We explain (ad infinitum) why adoption fees are necessary.  We have to find ways to say no to inappropriate adoption candidates, who are often outraged by our “arrogance” in choosing to do what’s best for our charges.

Dealing with fosters and adopters means dealing with people.

The downfall of so many animal welfare organizations is lack of people skills.  People who are very, very good with animals sometimes are not so great with other people.  There is a reason we prefer animals!  Many fosters, agency employees, and even rescuers seeking adopters procrastinate or avoid dealing with people.  They don’t reply to emails, they don’t return phone calls, they have poor phone skills that make adopters uncomfortable, they get defensive if a potential adopter has questions about why something is done a particular way.  One group I have dealt with has one person who insists on being the primary email contact for adopters, but refuses to speak on the phone, which is very off-putting.

On the flip side, I know of many groups with phenomenal adoption placement rates.  Without exception, these groups have a public face with excellent people skills.  They return phone calls and emails promptly with complete information, they are willing to chat about the animal’s personality and quirks, they take the time to explain their rules and policies, and they generally present an attitude of accessibility and empathy.

Less successful groups may do fantastic work with the animals, but they have terrible placement rates because they are perceived as difficult to deal with. 

Bottom line: Groups with good people skills are able to save more animals because their animals get adopted faster.  To me, that means that learning to handle people, however distasteful and frustrating, is worth the effort.

Life With Bumble: Gabapentin

The Bumble Saga continues.  Last weekend, as you know, we spent a fun filled evening in the emergency clinic.  It turned out that he had luxated a patella (ouch) and it tipped his pain threshold past what he could manage.

The nice vet at the EC didn’t waste time.  He gave Bumble an opiate called Torbugesic, which met my stated request to knock my little guy out for the night to relieve both his pain and his anxiety.  Since Bumble is epileptic, if he gets too anxious, he can work himself into a seizure.

When Monday rolled around, Bumble got to go visit Dr. Buchanan for laser treatment and Alpha-Stim therapy, which helped reduce the inflammation ofthe affected body parts.  But he is still not very happy, so Uncle Joey (the amazing Dr. Romero) prescribed Gabapentin.

The first time I ever heard of Gabapentin was when it was prescribed to Zoe the paralyzed dachshund for nerve pain.  It is a GABA analogue drug; apparently it is often used in humans for severe neuropathic pain associated with spinal injuries, surgery, and cancer.  In dogs, it is used for the treatment of chronic pain resulting from spinal cord conditions or other nerve-induced pain. 

For Bumble, it seems to be a good choice because his discomfort results from deformed joints which have deteriorated with age to the point that his little joints are somehow both too loosely connected and extremely stiff.  As Dr. Romero explains it to me, Gabapentin is designed to slow down the rate of neural transmission.  As I understand it, this basically means that the pain response does not transmit effectively between the brain and the body, which allows the animal to be more comfortable and to function more normally.

I’m a realist.  I know that what’s wrong with Bumble cannot be fixed.  I understand that my little boy has very limited time left.  He has many, many problems, and is often confused.  These signs of cognitive dysfunction tell me that his brain is deteriorating right along with his skeletal structure.

When Bumble came to live with me almost four years ago, he was already a senior citizen.  I knew that his structural abnormalities and epileptic seizures put him at grave risk of a shortened lifespan. And he had been so badly traumatized.  For the first six months, no one but me could even touch him without him coming untracked.  I made the choice to give him the very best rest of his life I could.  That has often meant protecting him from himself, especially from the abuse-induced behavioral issues that make him less than friendly to people he doesn’t know or accept.

My little gremlin boy took his first dose of Gabapentin tonight and is sleeping peacefully right now.  His breathing is slow and steady, his body is relaxed, and for the moment, he is comfortable.

For as long as it lasts, that’s all that matters.

Life With Bumble: The Late Night Trip to the Emergency Clinic

As many of you know, Bumble is the poster child for special needs pets.  He’s epileptic, mostly blind, mostly deaf, his teeth don’t exactly meet, and he has age related cognitive dysfunction.  He also has serious skeletal issues in the form of hip and elbow dysplasia brought on by overusing his front end to compensate for the lack of bone in his hip sockets. 

We don’t know how old he is, but he is definitely quite elderly, probably at least twelve.

For the last several months, Bumble has been receiving cold laser and alpha-stim treatments to help keep his discomfort under control.  I knew they were helping, but I didn’t realize how much until his specialist went on maternity leave.  He was due for a session this week.  Within 48 hours of missing the session, he began to show more difficulty walking.  Last night, something went wrong.

Bumble tends to talk to himself, especially late at night.  So when he started mumbling under his breath last night, I didn’t really think anything of it.  But the volume went up, and he started pacing.  And then he fell down and couldn’t get up.

I never could figure out how he did it, but somehow he twisted or strained that weak left back leg.  And since his skeletal system is fairly weak anyway, he can’t compensate for an injury to a leg.  He panicked.  He kept trying harder to get up, and he kept crying and shaking.

I was scared to death that he had dislocated a hip.  When I picked him up, he carried that left back leg up and forward just the way that a dislocation would present.  Given Bumble’s age, frailty, and medical history, that would be catastrophic.

I took him straight to the all night emergency clinic.

Mercifully, nothing was dislocated. It seems most likely that he pushed off that weak joint wrong trying to get up and strained it, which set off the pain response.  Since it was late at night when he is more confused due to age-related cognitive dysfunction, he couldn’t cope.

The clinic was able to give him stronger pain medication, which allowed him to sleep and made him stop hurting.  Today, his leg is still sore and weak, but he can walk and he is functional.

If the emergency clinic had not been there, I would not have been able to get my little boy the help he needed late on a Saturday night.  I don’t know what would have happened to him if I hadn’t been able to stop his pain.  My guess is that he would have continued to panic and struggle until he drove himself into an epileptic seizure.

Too many people assume that a pet’s illness can “wait till Monday” when their regular vet is open, because the EC is expensive or inconvenient.  That assumption often has tragic results, and truthfully, many conditions end up costing as much or more to treat because they were left untreated over the weekend.  It’s far better to spend a little extra on a quick trip to the emergency clinic than to allow your pet to suffer and deteriorate unnecessarily.

Do you know where your local veterinary emergency clinic is?  If you don’t, look it up now.  Before the late night emergency.