Click above to shop
Shannon's Products for Pet People

Once again, the local animal welfare community has run afoul of an internet troll with nothing better to do than attack people for putting all of their time and resources into animal welfare.

This particular troll trotted out the usual nonsense:

  • It’s “just a dog.”
  • How can we care so much about dogs when CHILDREN ARE BEING ABUSED?
  • If we had real lives, families, children, we wouldn’t be so foolishly obsessed with stupid animals.
  • And my favorite – who the hell do we think we are to judge how other people treat their animals?!

Well, let’s take these one at a time.

“Just a Dog”

There is no such thing. Dogs are members of my family. They think, they feel, they live and breathe. And more than that, the dogs (and the cat) for whom I am responsible are exactly that: my responsibility. When I took these animals into my home, I made a commitment to make their lives as safe, happy, and healthy as I possibly could. That commitment is unbreakable. Regardless of how my life evolves, I will plan for their care and well-being. They are totally dependent on me, and I will not let them down.

Anyone capable of uttering the words “just a dog” cannot comprehend the profound nature of such a commitment.

“But Children are Being Abused!”

Yes, they are. And it is a terrible thing. But why would anyone think for a moment that caring about animals somehow takes away from the cause of abused children? The people who use this argument seem to be saying that by caring about animals, animal welfare people are willfully ignoring the plight of abused children (or battered women or starving people in Africa – you get the idea). I do not find helping people and helping animals to be mutually exclusive.

“If We Had Real Lives…”

Really? That’s just insulting. Taking care of animals is a crucial part of my very real life.I integrate animal welfare into my day job, my evenings, my weekends. And I do so much less than many other AW advocates of my acquaintance. We deal with injured animals, neglected animals, homeless and frightened animals. We pay vet bills and raise funds for the care of the animals, we hurt when they hurt and we suffer when their suffering ends in merciful death. And since my animal welfare community includes people who are single, married, divorced, have kids, don’t have kids, have lots of money, live from one check to the next…clearly there is no “I don’t have a life” prerequisite for loving animals.

Who Are We to Judge?

We’re the people who give up our weekends to walk dogs at the smelly animal shelter. We’re the people who open our homes to animals in need. We’re the people who pay vet bills for animals who are not even our own. We’re the ones who stop traffic to get a dog out of the road. We lay face down in puddles in the rain to get baby animals out of a drain. We give up date night to take a homeless animal to a safe place. We sit up nights with sick animals. We find homes and families for animals in need. Above all, we do our best to save as many as we can, all the while knowing it will never be enough.

So when someone belittles our life’s work, when someone implies that our lives are less important because we devote them to “just dogs”…damn right we judge. For anyone who cannot grasp how vital it is to model and live kindness to animals, we judge that you lack certain qualities of true humanity.

How we treat those who depend on us for food, shelter, water,and love is a clear indicator of what kind of person we choose to be. And I choose to be that person who speaks up every day on behalf of my furry friends and family who cannot speak up for themselves.

Every animal welfare person has a reason we do what we do. For many of us, it’s just a way of life we have always lived. For others, it’s one animal that touched us so deeply that we made a lifelong commitment to helping other animals in their honor.

Most of us also develop preferences for certain breeds. No matter how much I love all animals, I have a soft spot for Pekingeses, Golden Retrievers, and Anatolian Shepherds. Another friend loves Chihuahuas – in fact, when the shelter gets in a “mean one” that no one else can handle, they call her to come work her magic. It doesn’t mean we don’t love other animals; it just means those particular breeds have an extra hold on our hearts.

Nothing wrong with that. Many animal welfare people with a strong preference for a specific breed end up working in breed rescue, where they can devote all their time and energy to saving dogs of that particular breed. I did that for a while myself, but I find that for me, working at the shelter in person with a wide variety of dogs and humans is more satisfying and interesting.

Here’s what I don’t like:

Some animal welfare people with a strong breed preference take it too far. They don’t just support their breed. They openly speak ill of other breeds.

Take a look at these two sample statements:

Option A: “I don’t work with pitbulls much, because I prefer smaller long-haired dogs like cocker spaniels. Let me introduce you to the volunteer who knows the most about the bully breeds.”

Option B: “I hate pitbulls. Everyone knows they’re all aggressive. That’s why I only work with little dogs. You need to get a little dog.”

Which of those two statements is more useful? More appropriate? More conducive to maintaining a positive adoption environment?

Option A is a perfectly reasonable statement, based on a stated personal preference, and without expressing any overt negativity toward the less favored breed. A potential adopter seeking information would walk away from that statement with an introduction to a resource from which he or she could get could information about a dog they’re interested in. The person who says this is still being helpful, and is not being negative about the potential adopter’s breed preference.

Option B is not a reasonable statement. It expresses a blind prejudice on the part of the speaker, and it in fact conveys false and dangerous information to a potential adopter. It may completely turn the potential adopter away from the shelter. It may endanger a dog that MIGHT have gotten adopted by that person and now is still stuck in a kill shelter. It may perpetuate negative stereotypes about a particular breed or type of dog. It also conveys that the speaker thinks the person inquiring about the breed in question is WRONG, which is never good for public relations.

Speaking as an adopter and as a volunteer, I’ll say very frankly that there are some breeds I do not care for because their breed traits don’t work for me. That doesn’t make the breed bad, nor does it mean that anyone wanting to adopt a dog from one of the breeds I don’t care for is wrong or stupid. It means those dogs are not right for me.

Every dog, regardless of breed (or mix of breeds), has the perfect home waiting somewhere. Please, don’t reduce their chances of finding that perfect home by saying the wrong thing to someone who might be just right for a dog that wouldn’t be right for you.

Like it or not, every one of us represents animal welfare to the public. Let’s do it well.

Most weekends find me at the Montgomery County Animal Shelter, walking dogs and taking pictures of them to help get them adopted. For years, I have worked rescue in various capacities, and I have taken a close look at a wide variety of different animal charities and volunteer groups.

Here’s what I’ve learned. In every group, some volunteers are wonderful, helpful, and hard-working. Some are more trouble than they’re worth.

The volunteers in the first category are the ones who literally make it possible to save more animals. The ones in the second category are the ones who make it harder for the good ones to do their job.

Good volunteers can do an incredible variety of things to help. Animals shelters and rescues always need people to do the following:

  • Foster pets waiting for adoption.
  • Walk dogs.
  • Take photographs for online adoption profiles.
  • Bathe and groom dogs.
  • Clean runs and cages.
  • Wash towels and bedding.
  • Solicit donations and do fundraisers.
  • Run adoption events.
  • Do publicity.
  • Donate food, money, towels, bedding.

What makes a good volunteer? A good volunteer learns the parameters and protocols of the organization and works within them. A good volunteer always fulfills his or her commitments; if you say you’ll run an event or do a time-sensitive job, make sure it happens. Lives literally depend on you. A good volunteer learns to handle animals properly so that neither people nor animals are put at risk. It is not helpful for animals to get loose and run through a shelter. It can actually be dangerous, when you think of how many people off the street walk through a shelter, and how many animals from unknown backgrounds are all in one place.

A good volunteer sees what needs doing and finds a way to help without getting in the way of others doing their jobs. If there are already more people than space walking dogs, then go do laundry or bathe dogs. There is always something productive to be done in the shelter.

One thing that every good volunteer needs to realize is that animal welfare people often have better skills with animals than with people. That means you may find yourself working beside people with loud, overtly expressed opinions, or with poor conversational skills, or who are just plain annoying. Keep an open mind (easier said than done) and remind yourself what you have in common: the need to help animals.

Now let me say what everyone tries to avoid saying. Here’s what NOT to do.

Don’t get in the way. If, for example, someone is trying wrestle two uncooperative eighty pound dogs down the hall, that would not be the moment to walk a 5 pound chihuahua past them on a loose leash. You could provoke a fight, endanger the little dog, and jeopardize the big dogs’ adoptability status. It could even cause a volunteer to get bitten.

Remember that the shelter is not a daycare. I was horrified recently when a new volunteer showed up with a very small child and allowed the kid to run unsupervised through the shelter. We all realized what was happening when several loose dogs showed up in the lobby. The kid was opening cages. The adult? No idea where she was. After we solved that problem, I later found the adult allowing the little kid to walk a dog he couldn’t handle – right in front of the sign that said all dog walkers had to be at least sixteen. We also had someone come in to be a volunteer, but then she told the shelter that she would have to bring her new infant to the shelter with her. Nope!

Don’t do stupid things with animals (like the aforementioned). Last weekend, I saw a volunteer tie a small dog to a fence with a slip leash. The little guy was panicking and about to strangle himself. Why did she do this? Because she and her daughters had brought out more animals than they could comfortably walk and decided to leave that one tied to a fence while they walked the others. It was dangerous, careless, and wrong. The little dog could have hurt himself or gotten loose. The dogs running loose on the other side of the fence could have tried to attack him through the fence. The volunteer was more concerned about accomodating her daughters than taking care of the dogs.

Don’t come in to the shelter and announce that we’re doing everything wrong. Don’t show up and tell us that if we really cared about the animals, we would instantly become no kill. Don’t assume that we don’t know what we’re doing. Unbelievably, I have seen perfect strangers do these things. And yet the people who are in that shelter day after day, who rehabilitate the damaged, who stay up nights with the sick and injured know more and care more than anyone off the street can possibly know.

Please, be a good volunteer. And bring your friends to do likewise. We deeply appreciate our good volunteers, we need you, we save lives because of you.

Not sure how to help? Just ask!

Repeat after me: Pets are a lifetime commitment.

I don’t know why people don’t get this. When you get a divorce, you keep your kids, so why would you not keep your pets? When you move to a new home, you don’t re-home your kids. When you get a job, you don’t dump your human kids at the shelter.

I know sometimes circumstances change, and emergencies happen. I’m not talking about those occasions when circumstances drive someone to a painful but necessary decision. I’m talking about people who either took on commitments they were unprepared to handle or who simply didn’t choose to honor those commitments. I’m talking about people who treat animals as expendable, without a thought to their needs and feelings.

Every day around the country, animals are brought to shelters and surrendered by their owners. Stupid pseudo-reasons commonly include:

  • “She doesn’t like my new boyfriend.”
  • “My apartment manager found out I had a pet they didn’t know about.”
  • “I’m getting a divorce.”
  • “I changed jobs and don’t have time for the dog.”
  • “She’s old and I don’t want to watch her die.”
  • “He doesn’t match my new couch.”
  • “My realtor says the house will sell faster if I don’t have pets.”

And a personal not-so-favorite:

  • “We’re having a baby, so we can’t have pets anymore.”

Every time I see one of these “reasons”, I want to scream. Seriously, what is WRONG with humans? How do you take an animal that you have loved, fed, bathed, groomed, and taken care of for years and dump them in a place where the odds of a lonely and frightening death are way too high?

Even worse is when people who purport to be animal welfare workers do the same thing. One poor foster dog was dumped at the shelter by his “family” and then sent to what we thought would be a permanent foster home. A few weeks later, the foster returned the dog in worse condition, saying that he had acquired a contagious skin disease. The disease is easily treatable. The foster’s dogs had all been previously exposed to this dog, which meant that dumping him at the shelter was not going to protect the other dogs from contracting the disease. And the real kicker is the dog did NOT have the skin disease when he left the shelter the first time.

The dog’s foster parent knew that leaving him at the shelter in that condition was almost certainly a death sentence. Didn’t care. Knew that the shelter vets could provide any necessary meds. Didn’t matter.

All that mattered was dumping a dog who once again found himself abandoned in the shelter by humans he trusted.

Let’s try this again. Repeat after me: Pets are a lifetime commitment.

I will never understand how anyone can abandon a family pet. And yet every day, dumped dogs, found dogs, dogs turned in by owners – they all wind up in the shelter. In our local shelter, which is run by hardworking staff who try their very best to save every animal they can, the employees have the heartbreaking task of euthanizing roughly 35 percent of the unwanted animals left to their custody.

I have seen several cases lately of animal welfare people not meeting their responsibility for foster or personal pets. It is especially upsetting to see the people who spend their lives publicly fighting against treating animals as expendable privately doing the very thing for which they criticize others.

Bottom line: If you adopt pets, you take them on for life. You commit to care for them, feed them, love them, and take care of their veterinary needs.

If you foster, that is necessarily a bit more flexible, but you make sure that you only take on those commitments you can meet, or that you set clearly defined parameters so that the parent organization knows for how long or under what circumstances you are willing to keep the animal.

You never, ever do anything that places the animal in greater jeopardy. You never, ever neglect veterinary needs. You’re not doing an animal any favors by placing him in a home that cannot afford to care for him or does not have time to meet his needs.

Pets are a commitment. Until we all choose to honor that commitment as unbreakable, the shelters will continue to fill up with the innocent victims of irresponsible humans.

And that is NOT okay.

*I originally ran this column in February of 2011. Now here we are smack in the middle of puppy season, and I have seen a number of puppies and young dogs succumb to these two awful diseases. So it seemed like the right time to run it again.*

As we move into puppy season, lots of people will be adopting new babies from shelters, and lots of foster families will be taking home entire litters of little guys.

Unfortunately, puppies do not have fully developed immune systems, which makes them very, very vulnerable to a host of illnesses that older animals either might not contract or might have a much better chance of surviving.

Two of the most common are parvovirus and distemper. It is absolutely critical that any puppy or adult dog – especially those coming from a shelter environment, where they have probably been exposed to illnesses that other animals were incubating – be vaccinated with the DHLPP virus, which immunizes pets against both of these.

Be aware that other illnesses can produce similar symptoms to some of the ones produces by parvo and distemper. I have had a veterinarian misdiagnose parvo, simply because she assumed that any shelter dog presenting with acute diarrhea must have parvo.

Fortunately, I had enough experience to know that his real problem was depleted gut syndrome from having taken a course of strong antibiotics. Laboratory tests confirmed my suspicion. I also knew that the odds were low that this dog could have contracted parvo; it was an older dog that had already been vaccinated for almost two months and out of the shelter for several weeks. He simply did not fit the profile.

The following is a quote from the veterinary chapter of the Rescuer’s Handbook © on common medical conditions of rescue dogs:

“Parvo primarily affects very young dogs under a year old, especially puppies coming from a shelter environment. If a young dog (unvaccinated or very recently vaccinated) begins to vomit and have diarrhea within about 10 days of arrival, RUN to the vet’s office. Immediate treatment is the only hope, and even then the odds are against you. The dehydration from the constant loss of body fluids is the killer in this case. Expect that the patient will need to spend several days in isolation on iv fluids at the clinic. Then go home and disinfect EVERYTHING to limit the possibility that your other animals might contract the disease.

Distemper is a virus which attacks the dog’s neurological system. Again, it has a very high mortality rate and is very contagious to unvaccinated animals. Early symptoms of distemper include fever, mild seizure activity, and eventually loss of neurological function. A common neurological result is that the dog “doesn’t know where his feet are.”  Basically, the dog becomes increasingly less able to walk, chew, drink, and even breathe properly.  Treatment is only minimally effective. The survival rate is less than ten percent, and many of the survivors suffer permanent neurological impairment, especially in the form of twitching and jerking. Survivors often look like they have a canine version of acute Tourette’s syndrome, due to the prevalence of facial tics. It is also very expensive to treat. The combination of the high cost of treatment, in conjunction with the high mortality rate and the risk of contagion, means that most veterinarians will recommend euthanasia.”

Please don’t take this information as a reason to avoid adopting or fostering shelter puppies. I am providing it strictly to help you keep your personal pets, fosters, and new arrivals as healthy as possible.

Now and again, people ask me why shelters and rescues make such a big deal about spaying and neutering animals.

Sometimes I try statistics. Over FOUR MILLION animals every year die in shelters. Since a dog can give birth to up to a dozen puppies (give or take a couple), and can have a couple of litters a year, as can all her generational female offspring, spaying a single female can take potentially hundreds of dogs out of that deadly cycle. Neutering one male can prevent the impregnation of dozens of females.

Sometimes I try medical reasons. Spaying a female can prevent certain medical conditions. Unspayed females can fall victim to pyometritis, which is a potentially fatal infection of the uterus. They are also susceptible to a number of reproductive system cancers, including mammary tumors (yes, breast cancer), that spayed females either don’t get or are much less likely to get. Unneutered males are very susceptible to testicular cancer, which is frighteningly asymptomatic until it’s quite advanced.

This time I’m going to try show and tell.

This is Dulce. This heartbreaking photo on the left is what she looked like the day she was brought into the shelter. This dog is not very old, but has obviously been bred for as many litters as her poor body would accommodate. She was malnourished, exhausted, and so heavily pregnant that walking was a major effort.

A rescue group called Heart Love Heroes (https://www.facebook.com/HeartLoveHeroes) stepped up to take Dulce in. She’s now in a foster home. It appears to be the first time in her life she has been able to live indoors, with good food, affection, and basic shelter from the elements. The photo on the right is what a few days of real care did for her. I should mention here that Heart Love Heroes is an unusual group; they bill themselves as “An initiative of Compassion, Kid-powered, Mom-supervised.” That’s right, the driving force behind this group is a couple of little girls who decided that they needed to do something. They and their mom do an amazing job.

After a few days of safety, proper care, and good food, Dulce spent last night producing nine beautiful puppies. Given how underweight she was, it is nothing short of miraculous that all nine puppies survived. And truthfully, we are all grateful that she ONLY had nine. If you look at her before picture, her tremendous girth had people betting that she might have as many as thirteen.

Five of those nine are females. If each of those females were to have two litters a year of nine puppies apiece, and all their female offspring did likewise…see how fast the problem grows? And then there are all the inherent risks to irresponsible breeding. Infections, high puppy mortality, retained placentas, miscarriage, mastitis, and a host of other problems could have killed this nice dog. That doesn’t include the fact that the physical demands of repeated pregnancies would have certainly shortened her lifespan.

Dulce and her puppies are lucky. They’re in a safe place. They have good food, shelter, love, and proper care. None of them will ever have to live the life of neglect that used to be Dulce’s.

And because they will all be spayed and neutered, the hundreds of puppies they would have produced will not end up in the shelter system or abandoned on the streets as Dulce did. Because those hundreds of hypothetical puppies won’t end up in the shelter system, hundreds of other dogs will have a chance, because more spaces will be available.

Take a good look at Dulce’s before picture. She’s the best advertisement I know for spaying and neutering.

Once again, the universe has sent us a special needs animal to love. (I am convinced that there is some cosmic equivalent of a red flashing sign above my roof: “Vacancy: special needs animals apply here”.)

The new kid is a middle aged lab mix. His special circumstance: he has three legs. A middle-aged three-legged lab is not exactly the most adoptable dog in the world, plus he is a bit arthritic and is still recovering from surgery.

We were already contemplating adding him to the family when his foster mom got sick and needed a place for him to go right away. That settled it. This dog is clearly MEANT for us.

So we brought him home Tuesday. He marched through the front door, plunked himself into his new bed, and settled right in. He is generally quiet, well-behaved, and easy-going.

Unlike his new siblings.

Oliver and Elizabeth, my two crazy young Pekingeses, weren’t sure what to think about the new arrival. Oliver wanted desperately inspect him from stem to stern. Elizabeth was so outraged when a new dog came through the door that she stomped her feet and overturned her water dish.

The first evening, we let the young dogs play until they were tired, and then brought the new kid into the room to meet them. They had been talking through baby gates all afternoon, but the young ones went nuts at the chance to meet their new big brother in person. After a few minutes, Elizabeth sat down and began staring fixedly at his face. I thought she was being good – until I noticed that she was curling her lip repeatedly at him in a subtle sort of Elvis sneer.

Elizabeth IS the Queen of the Universe, and she wants the Big Guy to understand that his place in the hierarchy is subordinate to hers.

Meanwhile, Oliver was trying to climb on his new big brother. Oliver has no boundaries. The new guy was not terribly sure about that, since he is still in recovery and a little worried about anyone bumping his injuries. So their first introduction was closely supervised and fairly brief.

Last night, we put them together again. This time, everyone was more relaxed, although Elizabeth did sneer a few times just for general principles. We ended up with what I suspect will be the usual distribution: Elizabeth in the recliner, Oliver on the sofa, and the Big Guy on the floor by my feet. After  a few minutes, everyone settled right down, and I was able to leave them all together in the same room for several hours.

Elizabeth is still deeply suspicious, Oliver is still nosy, and the new kid is still a little worried, but all in all, the transition is going much more smoothly than I had expected.

Welcome home, Big Guy.

You may have noticed that I took a week off.

A week ago tonight, Bumble the Special Child crossed the bridge.

Bumble had been fading for several months. He grew steadily frailer, and required more and more medication to keep him comfortable. Finally, we reached the point where keeping him comfortable was no longer possible.

Bumble came to live with me in October of 2007. He came from a small town shelter, and they were determined to place him into a rescue. I pulled him from the shelter to transport him to a foster home, as I had done for so many dogs. By the time I was two hours into the drive, I was sunk.

Bumble was deeply traumatized by whatever had happened to him. He attached himself to me like velcro, and made it quite clear that he had no intention of being nice to anyone but me. He bit my cousin. He bit the vet. He bit my dogsitter. He bit anyone he got a chance to bite. The only thing that saved him was that he had very few teeth, and most of them were so sideways that he literally could not do any damage.

So he relied on moral intimidation, which he was very good at. He loved to tiptoe up behind his unsuspecting victims, give one sharp squawk, and watch them flinch. If they flinched, he felt like he won. If they didn’t, he tried harder. First the bark, then headbutting, then grabbing at pants legs. On one memorable occasion, my friend Shelley ignored him so thoroughly that he went through his usual tricks with no result. So he untied her shoe.

He never learned how to play with toys, although he often carried a dish towel around with him. His favorite game was to play chase, and he loved to torment visitors by sneaking up on them to make them flinch. He had a wicked sense of humor, and you could just see him inflate with pride and all but laugh out loud when he made someone jump.

My mother called him the Tiny Tasmanian Terrorist. My (former) housesitter called him the Exorcist – because he could swivel his head so far around to bite her. I called him Bumble, after the Abominable Snowman in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. They made the same sounds and really, they kind of walked alike.

Bumble walked funny because he had a number of major physical problems. He had no hip sockets to speak of. Where the sockets should have been, the bone was so thin that the ball of the joint sort of wallowed around loosely. Only the ligaments and muscles held the joints together.

He put all of his weight on his front end to compensate for his weak hips, so he also had elbow dysplasia from overusing those joints. An ex-ray revealed that he had one vertebra less than he should have. He was blind in his right eye from an old injury. He was epileptic, possibly as a result of whatever had happened to that eye. And he didn’t hear very well, either, although I used to wonder how much of that was selective.

But his physical problems didn’t hold a candle to his behavioral oddities. Bumble and I went through three petsitters to find one he would let in the house AND who was willing to manage him. If anyone – cousins, friends, houseguests – came in while I wasn’t home, he was prone to treeing them on the kitchen counter. He WOULD NOT be confined, so crating him or even just putting him in another room was never an option, as he would hurt himself to get out.

He was terrified of packing boxes. Best we can figure by piecing together what little we know of his history before me, his previous human probably died or went into a home or got foreclosed on. Whoever packed out the house probably threw him away, and he never forgot. He got better, but he always had a thing about cardboard packing boxes.

We never knew how old he was. Different vets guesstimated his age as anywhere from 5 to 12 years old in 2007; looking back, he was probably at the upper end of that range, but again, his physical problems made it impossible to use the normal age markers.

In his last two years, he mellowed enough to stop harassing most houseguests, and he made friends with some of my more frequent visitors – although not all of them. As his body gave out, he got chiropractic, laser therapy, acupuncture, medications and supplements, and anything else we could think of to keep him comfortable. As his mind started to slide into the fog of age-related cognitive dysfunction, we added medication for that too.

Eventually nothing could hold back the night, and after four and a half years with me, my little gremlin boy crossed the bridge.

The vet says he lived considerably longer than anticipated. But it wasn’t long enough. It never is.

Bumble taught me so much – about patience, and kindness, and devotion. He taught me about living gracefully with physical limitations, and about the limitless canine capacity to love in spite of a lifetime of reasons not to.

And I miss him.

March 1st marks the long-awaited transition from the Montgomery County Animal Shelter, county-run facility, to Montgomery County Animal Shelter run by Care Corporation.

Hurray!

We’ve been waiting and working for this for a long time. And it is going to be good. Let me tell you why…

Under county governance, the shelter operated under certain restrictions that just didn’t fit well with what an animal shelter needs. We couldn’t have part time employees. Hiring and firing have been bureaucratically time-consuming and difficult. Payments made to the shelter on credit cards were bogging down in the county financial system that had the money shifting from holding account to holding account before it eventually got back to the shelter.

It was inefficient, and in a shelter environment, the institutionalized inefficiency of a large bureaucracy literally means lives lost.

Care Corporation, as a private business, can hire who they want. They can have part time employees. They can manage their funds much more effectively, with direct control of funds going straight into their hands without wandering through holding accounts for weeks and months. They can make changes to policy, procedure, or even staffing without wading through the morass of county government.

In the new era of privatization, Care Corporation can focus intently on what’s best for the animals.

  • Improved customer service, which will lead to more adoptions.
  • Immediate receipt of funds paid by adopters, which makes the budget work like it should.
  • Better working conditions for the employees, which will lead to a more productive working environment.
  • A steady program of maintenance and improvement to the facilities and thus the lives of the animals; a cleaner, brighter, more comfortable environment will be more attractive to volunteers and adopters, and healthier for the animals.
  • Plans to improve kennel ventilation over time, as the current units wear out, which will reduce the kennel smell and help prevent spread of germs.
  • Openness to suggestions and feedback, and the freedom to act upon same.

I have tremendous confidence in Tim and Amy Holifield, the principals of Care Corporation, and in Minda Harris, the shelter director. Every single day, they put their time, money, and energy where their hearts are: with the animals. I have seen tremendous improvement over the course of their tenure on the county payroll, even within the tight constraints of the county bureaucracy.

I can’t wait to see what they can do through a private entity with more freedom and flexibility to focus on the needs of the animals instead of trying to fit the animals into the artificial structure of the county bureaucracy.

Want to see for yourself? Please, go visit the new and improved Montgomery County Animal Shelter. And then help us to help the animals by adopting, fostering, volunteering, or donating to the Montgomery County Animal Society (a nonprofit dedicated solely to the enhancement of the lives and adoptability of the animals in this shelter.).

Care Corporation has the opportunity to do something great here. Come be a part of it.

Recently there have been a number of commercials that are offensive to those of us in animal welfare.

Now, on the one hand, I’m all for freedom of speech. I have no doubt that I have offended my share of people, and mostly I don’t really care if people say things I don’t like. If I don’t like what they say, I either tell them off or ignore them. Simple.

But this is different.

Animal welfare advocates spend a lot of time and energy trying to educate the public about adoption, vaccination, spay/neuter, proper treatment of animals, and a host of related issues. One of our biggest hurdles is convincing a certain segment of the population that homeless animals don’t have something wrong with them. They end up homeless because humans fail in their obligation to provide for them, not because they are flawed in some way.

So when a company like DirecTV chooses to make fun of animal welfare advocates by essentially saying we’re all hoarders with mental problems as a result of poor life choices (ie, not having their product), it bothers me.

(See the stupid commercial here to decide for yourself if it’s annoying and inappropriate.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VObFc64OnEk

In the last year or so, I have really begun to discover the power of the media when it comes to this sort of issue. Michelin Tires rolled out an obnoxious commercial featuring dozens of cartoon animals getting squashed by drivers with bad tires, then magically re-inflated, then dancing about gleefully (with tire tracks on their little cartoon bodies), it really bothered me. I wrote them an email explaining my issues with it. Some flunky replied, and condescendingly told me that I missed the point, which was that the Michelin Man was SAVING them. I sent another email, in which I included quotes from several animal welfare people who were repulsed by the commercial. I have no idea if I had any effect, but the commercial is gone now.

When the evil puppy sellers tried to invade Montgomery County, I reported the details in my blog and suggested action. I was delighted to see my online animal welfare community step up. They wrote blistering emails to the seller and the facility, organized a protest, and generally made it very unpleasant for the puppy sellers to be here. And it was all legal! My source (a neighbor who knows the campground manager) tells me that the morons only sold ONE PUPPY and that the campground management is eager to host adoption events. Mission accomplished!

So if you, like me, are really irked by the implication that helping stray animals equals mental illness or antisocial behavior, may I suggest that you let DirecTV know how you feel?

Here is the link to their online feedback form: http://support.directv.com/app/ask

And here is their phone number: 1-800-370-3587

The email I’m sending, which you’re welcome to use:

(Dear DirecTV,)

“I work in animal welfare. I take in stray animals. I walk into traffic to save them, I stay up nights when they’re ill, I spend a fortune at the vet’s office. I volunteer at the shelter. I raise funds to care for homeless animals. I educate people about the ways to help homeless animals. And I do little in comparison to what so many other volunteers, shelter employees, and foster families do. The county shelter where I live takes in over 20,000 animals a year, and we save thousands of them BECAUSE people “take in stray animals.”

I am dismayed that any socially responsible company would portray all those of us who work to care for homeless animals as being antisocial hoarders. Hoarding is a mental illness. Animal welfare is a calling to help those who cannot help themselves. Such an ad could potentially lessen the impact of our efforts to educate the public about the value of helping homeless animals. I’m sure that’s not your intent.

Please reconsider the value of this ad.”

It will be interesting to see if I get a reply. Or if you do.