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When will the Killing End?

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Monday, May 4, 2009

(Photo)
Nameless Beagle in FL shelter
(A desperate plea for justice and humanity and decency in the treatment of our 4-legged friends)

I love dogs in general and Beagles in particular at least as much as the next person. Which is why, at the moment, my heart feels heavy when I consider the steady hum of what has been going on for years... and what has increased in volume to a deafening roar of late. In a word, the state of the shelter system in the U.S. is simply atrocious.

This is not a happy piece. It deals with the grim reality of the state of our country's unwanted companion animals. I ask that you consider the following plea:

Every day I receive dozens of emails screaming for help from shelters and rescues who want to save Beagles. And I also hear from countless people looking to give up their family dogs for any number of reasons, some more legitimate than others. More burden on an already overtaxed system that is not just sagging - it's positively bursting at the seams. At times it all seems so futile and sad, and at times it makes me feel genuinely ill.

These animals never asked to come into the world, and they certainly don't deserve to do time in "jail"... that is, in shelters that resort to killing due to any number of factors: lack of space, lack of resources, or sometimes simply lack of compassion. Some facilities have arbitrary "hold" dates that barely allow enough time for a frantic owner to reclaim his stray pet, let alone for the rescue community to become aware of an animal in need. Some that kill "humanely" through injection, and yet others that use antiquated, even barbaric methods, from gas chambers to "taking the dog out back". There is no need to paint more graphic pictures... you get the idea.

And rescues and rescuers with their own limited resources scramble to get these dogs into safer conditions and provide them with medical help. But there are only so many rescues and there is never enough time or money to help them all. And even the most well-intentioned rescue invariably becomes it's own little Darwinian outpost, having to decide which dogs will be adopted quickly, so as not to overtax their limited resources of manpower, money, foster space, and hours in the day.

What is driving the problem?

The tap is always wide open. There is a steady flow of dogs- healthy and ill, young and old, well-behaved and those with issues that are made that much worse by being left to languish in squalid conditions in high-stress shelters. And particularly in hard economic times, the problem falls prey to the laws of supply and demand. And what of the seniors and those with severe medical issues or special needs, often left behind? These are the ones that keep rescuers up at night doing the math, thinking: "Do I use the same resources that would save 4 other dogs, or do I save this one, who will absorb time and money and require longer time in foster care?" These are terrible choices for a rescuer to have to face.

Where is justice and where is human decency for these animals in hard economic times?

Isn't it pitiful and embarrassing that in a civilized society that remains one of the wealthiest countries in the world despite economic setbacks... that this is the best that we can offer? Thousands of rescuers put their personal lives and fortunes at risk with painstaking hours spent emailing and phoning and pleading and planning and screening potential adopters and raising money to help homeless dogs. They form a virtual human chain across the country to offer sanctuary for a relative handful... yet thousands die every day. And the sad fact is that any of us involved in the rescue effort can only do so much. Because there is that never-ending supply. Is it any wonder that it is an everyday occurrence to read about good, effective rescuers who quit and give up in disgust... burned out from spending too many hours with seemingly not enough to show for it?

What is the answer?

How on earth do we even begin to address this mess? More education to increase public awareness? Government sanctions against puppy millers who overbreed and maintain animals in filthy conditions? Giving state or local governments the criteria and the muscle to ban backyard breeders? Providing incentives for spaying and neutering pets by a certain age? And who should be entrusted with monitoring and enforcing new policies?

With so many major issues taking our time and focus right now, and all of the other atrocities in the world competing for our attention on a daily basis, is there still room to consider the plight of the animals and the God-awful conditions that beset our animal "welfare" system? I believe that it is not just necessary, it is critical for us not to leave our 4-legged friends behind. As things stand now, the system is broken beyond repair. There are no rules, there are no boundaries, and healthy animals keep paying with their lives because of human beings who don't care enough to set limits regarding animal welfare.

The readers of this site {http://www.Beagles-on-the-Web.com} are intelligent and thoughtful... and they sure do love their favorite breed. The floor is open to your ideas and your opinions on this subject. And this is an important discussion to have now more than ever. (And for those readers who live outside of the U.S., I would love to hear from you, too. How do your countries handle their homeless animals and how are their shelters organized and run?) Email your thoughts and suggestions to: caron@beagles-on-the-web.com and I will post them, for the rest of us to ponder.

Caron Sarver manages the website Beagles-on-the-Web.com. She has two Beagles of her own and many whom she has helped to better lives - yet still, others suffer and die.



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