Archive for May, 2012

In the last couple of days, intake at the Montgomery County Animal Shelter has skyrocketed. On Monday and Tuesday alone, they took in about 250 animals.

Our normal intake for one day at this shelter averages around 60 animals, which is still WAY TOO HIGH. That means, using these averages, that about 6 days worth of animals arrived in just two days. We don’t know why the shelter is getting slammed at this hideous rate, but we know that we have a serious problem. The shelter is full. To be precise, it’s currently about 10% over its normal capacity.

When the shelter is full, animals die.

That is the bottom line. It’s not the shelter’s fault. It’s not the fault of the management company or the employees or the volunteers. It’s damn sure not the fault of the dogs or cats. It is entirely the fault of an irresponsible, uncaring sector of the population that treats animals as disposable.

Right now, we have two problems. First, we need to save as many of the current shelter population as we possibly can. Second, we need to try to keep this from happening over and over.

We all know what it will take to break the cycle: a massive increase in spay and neuter rates, in conjunction with a radical shift in how the local population treats animals. WAY easier said than done, but we will keep trying.

Now let’s talk about the immediate problem. There are several HUNDRED dogs and cats in immediate danger of being put to death because we are out of places to put them. I just got off the phone with the shelter director, and I do have one piece of good news. We have not YET had to euthanize for space. There were enough adoptions, rescues, fosters, and return to owners today that we bought some time for all the animals currently in the shelter.  But if there is one more day like Monday or Tuesday…the shelter cannot and will not cram animals three and four deep in the cages. That would be inhumane and dangerous. We have a temporary reprieve, but the crisis is not over.

The No Kill people would have you believe that the shelter COULD save them all if we tried harder. I’m here to tell you it’s nonsense. The shelter volunteers and employees are working tirelessly to get them out alive. They network them all over Facebook, they post them to other websites, they try to match them with rescue groups, they promote adoption, they have arranged extra adoption events this week to accomodate the sudden rush of intakes.  Our foster homes are taking in extra animals to try to free up spaces, and they are working to recruit additional fosters, too.

But the homeless dogs and cats keep coming.

Funny, I don’t see Nathan Winograd or the rest of the No Kill movement beating down our doors to help, either.

Here’s what we need to effect permanent change here in Montgomery County:

  • An increased shelter budget:  more money = more resources, including space = more lives saved. Our shelter does an amazing job with a very limited budget, but the county-assigned budget needs to keep up with the rapid growth of our population and changing standards in animal welfare. I’m tired of watching our animals get short-changed in the county budget hierarchy.
  • Improved animal welfare laws: We need to ban roadside puppy sales, and impose serious limits on breeders to prevent mills. I would also like to see spay/neuter incentives. We also need to see harsher penalties and more active prosecution of animal neglect and abuse. Some of this has to be addressed at the state level, but the active prosecution is something we have the right to demand of our district attorney.
  • Education: We need to educate, educate, educate. SO many people have pets but know nothing about their care and their needs. It’s probably too late to educate most adults, but we CAN educate children so that they grow up understanding their responsibilities to their pets. It’s why I sponsor an animal welfare group for students.

Right now, trying to save every animal that comes into the shelter system is like trying to bail out the Brazos with a Dixie cup. In a rain storm. If every metaphorical cupful equals one life saved, then we keep bailing, in honor of all the animals in all the shelters – the ones we couldn’t save.

Recently I saw a cartoon in which a pair of dogs was discussing having to leave a problem human at the shelter.

I wish.

It’s been a rough week at the Montgomery County Animal Shelter in terms of intake. There was the pitiful mama chihuahua cross dumped by her backyard breeder owners – after they ran over her foot and left her sitting around for a week with the bones exposed. There was a pair of schnauzers – supposedly “strays” but really obviously a breeding pair – and the mama had recently given birth. But the puppies weren’t with her.

This sort of thing wears on the volunteers and employees who have to try their best to save the damaged and broken animals thrown away by the crappier pseudo humans in the area. We can’t save them all, and every one we lose should have been special to someone who would have loved them and taken care of them.

But the ones that hurt me the most every single day are the older dogs. They’ve been someone’s pet. They’ve known what it was like to have a home, and food, and a bed, and then suddenly their world drops away and they end up alone and afraid in a cage, surrounded by bad smells, bright lights, and the constant noise generated by that many animals in a closed space. Others have been mistreated their whole lives, and are simultaneously grateful for any affection and afraid to accept it.

They are terrified (and justifiably so). And because their faces show some age, and their kennel cards say SENIOR, they are less adoptable. People don’t seem to realize that older dogs have a different kind of charm that young puppies. They’re calmer, easy-going, grateful to be loved and cared for, and endlessly loyal to the people who save them. They’re past all those puppy problems like book chewing and underwear stealing.  (Yes, Oliver, I mean you.) I always have an older dog in my crew – I just can’t resist.

Right now, we have several older dogs at the Montgomery County Animal Shelter who need someone to save them.  So I thought this might be the time to share their stories. The three I’ll tell you about here are all favorites of the volunteers and employees.

First is Nelson. He has been there for far too long, and eventually his time will run out. Nelson is middle aged, with gray on his face and an air of dignified calm – until you take him out to the dog park. Then he turns into a puppy and runs and plays with the younger dogs. He has nice manners and is attentive but unobtrusive. He will make someone a fantastic pet. ID # 181537

Then there is Penny. She’s a ten year old cocker spaniel. I don’t know her origins, but like Nelson, her kind face and sweet personality make her an easy dog to love. When I asked which seniors I should feature today, multiple people posted requests for Penny; they all love her. ID #185298

And finally there is Rocky, a ten year old rat terrier. The staff members are keeping him in the quietest room in the shelter to try to minimize his stress. We know where he came from – his owners have been contacted and refuse to come claim him. He is very sad to have been abandoned to this high stress environment, and is grateful for attention from anyone who will be kind to him. ID # 185745

We rarely know why these older dogs ended up needing help at this point in their lives. Were they once loved and then abandoned when someone had a baby, got a divorce, moved? Were they never loved at all? Did they spend their lives outside looking through windows at the humans who should have loved them?

Here’s what we do know. These three – and every other dog in any shelter – deserve better than to spend their last days in a kennel surrounded by the sounds and smells of literally hundreds of other dogs. Please don’t overlook them because they’re not young. Each of them still has years of life and love left in them – if someone will just come get them out of jail and into their new lives.

Each of these dogs – and hundreds of others – is available for adoption at the Montgomery County Animal Shelter in Conroe, TX. It’s just east of I-45 on 242. They are open for adoptions 7 days a week. If you’re going north on 45, exit 242, turn right on 242, go over the bridge, and you will see the shelter on your left. Don’t wait! Save a life today.

Over the last 36 hours, I have seen a miracle in progress at the Montgomery County Animal Shelter.  The shelter posted a list of 14 dogs who were in a critical situation. Every dog on the list had been in the shelter more than 60 days, and/or was developing serious problems as a result of the confinement in the shelter.

Each of these dogs had until the end of business on Friday, May 4th, to get out of the shelter, or they would be euthanized.

Let me clarify. This shelter tries hard to save them, but 60 days or more in the shelter environment is not fair to the dogs. They start getting cage crazy from the constant confinement, and they develop health problems related to the stressful environment. Worse, because these dogs are occupying valuable adoption kennel space, new dogs come in every single day that may never get a chance at adoption because there is no kennel space for them to move into.

That’s the harsh reality of a shelter when there are more animals than spaces.

But once again, this shelter did the right thing. They posted an album with pictures and information on these 14 dogs, and begged for fosters, rescues, and adopters to step up and get them out of the shelter.

Here’s the miracle. Every single one of those dogs is now safe.

I thought I was going to be celebrating the fact that nine of them got out in less than 36 hours, and asking my readers to step up to help save the remaining five. That was where we stood when I left for a meeting at 6 pm.

When I got home at 10 pm, the first thing I saw online said we were down to two. Twelve safe, two to go.

Then I started reading comments and going through the list. And as I went from photo to photo, each one had a foster or adopter coming for them. Most have already left the building.

That’s 14 dogs. In 36 hours. After each of them had spent more than two months in the shelter. And that is a miracle.

It took dozens of people networking these 14 dogs all over the internet. It took 14 families stepping up to foster or adopt. And it immediately saved these 14 lives, in addition to opening kennel space for 14 more dogs to move up to get their chance at adoption.

So to my friends in animal welfare: if you ever wonder whether what we do makes a difference…to these 14 dogs, it meant everything. To the 14 dogs moving into their adoption spaces, even though they don’t know it yet, it means a chance to find a forever home.

Keep those miracles coming. Today was a really, really good day at the Montgomery County Animal Shelter.