2007-01-17 / Columnists
Pets, Pets, Pets
Too bad there isn't a sign that warns: BEWARE of Dog Rescuers- Dangerous and Deceptive. The bleeding hearts and the phonies are out there, biting the unsuspecting. They prey on town shelters and trample the name of reputable humane groups. Worst of alltheir tactics undermine the efforts of those really trying so hard to place shelter dogs in a responsible way.
First there are the animal hoarders. Their "rescues" suffer in confinement and filth, often a fate worse than the life they had before. The collector syndrome is a complex psychological disorder. Some hoarders start well-intentioned, but lose the ability to part with their waifs. Others bask in the glory of their "saves", and refuse to let anyone into their homes to see the real horror. Even if prosecuted, they are adept at moving to new locations and latching onto legitimate groups. (While editing this, I got a call to help place an Afghan used for breeding taken from a Pennsylvania hoarder with 145 dogs.) We all must be vigilant of the red flags, and inspect where our animals in transit go- be it to the fictional farm upstate or that lady too eager to take every elderly Chihuahua, sight unseen.
Next are those who misrepresent humane groups. They may falsely assure the town shelters that they have been authorized to rescue certain dogs, perhaps with aggression or serious ailments, that the group has no intention of taking. They reach out further away when the groups cut ties with them.
Last spring when placing my foster German Shorthaired Pointer via Petfinder, I corresponded several weeks with an out-of-state film maker who kept saying he'd come see my dog. For some reason (red flag), he kept stalling when I asked for vet references. He'd talk about how he helped breed rescue and how he'd assimilate her into his pack. The man dropped the right names, even said that he made a documentary for a famous veterinarian. It wasn't until I ran his name by his local Pointer Rescue that I learned of the havoc he caused and the poor Pointers he'd adopt and abandon.
Watch out for the yellow, sky blue pink journalism in print and online, scribbled by those who have never set foot in a town shelter- those who don't check facts, don't research, but instead distort what credible sources tell them. They send out Internet false alarms about imminent mass executions in pounds. They start petitions bashing shelters based on the testimony of those who never met the dog that sparked the controversy. Unfortunately, many caring animal lovers still believe everything they read. They jump on the bandwagon and the rumor takes on a life of its own. In the hysteria, the image of every shelter worker and shelter dog suffers.
Yes, many disturbing things happen in municipal shelters, but there is a vast difference between private rescues that can be choosy about dog intake and placement, and government animal control facilities that must keep an open door to all dogs and potential adopters. Educating the public and approaching officials in a professional way are the keys to positive change.
Then there are a few phony philanthropists who exploit innocent shelter dogs. They brag that they pay the bills on their "personal rescues" and advertise that they make substantial donations to animal charities, if gullible customers use their business, when in reality; they have never contributed this way at all.
The humaniacs are the most frightening because while pushing so hard and breaking the rules, they destroy the mission of their organization to rehome dogs permanently. Shelter dogs are second hand pets, many with issues or imperfections, often with unknown histories, so their caretakers can't be shady used car salesmen. Living beings' health and behavior can never be guaranteed. We are obligated to disclose all we do know- estimated age without shaving off a decade, medical condition- the old Collie had a cancerous growth removed that is likely to reoccur, and temperament- this Lab is too mouthy and hyper for young families. We can't lie to fellow volunteers or expunge bad behavior from the record as if the returned dog were a juvenile delinquent starting with a clean slate.
Screening for homes requires experience, astute judgment, some intuition, and lots of common sense. We all should learn from our errors. There should be checks and balances in each organization's procedures and consideration for the feelings of the families left waiting. We cannot disregard recommendations of the professionals hired to evaluate and train our dogs. If a respected behaviorist says that certain dogs should not be placed with kids under 12, so be it.
Private rescues, unlike pounds, have the luxury of time to make appropriate pet/owner matches. Quality rather than quantity should be the placement priority. Adoption coordinators must be more like honest marriage brokers, finding the right someone to take the dog for better or for worst, in sickness and in health, as long as they both shall live. Without ethics, we hurt the public and the very dogs, that some of us only profess to love.
+The poster pets at Babylon Town Shelter (643- 9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon are a study in black & white this week. "Panda", a neut. mix in Cage 47 looks more like the Chinese national treasure than any AKC breed. He seems very sociable with people, indifferent to cats, but does not like other dogs. "Bosco", (#18483) the 5 mon. polydactyl longhaired tuxedo kitten is quite out going and has been agreeable when used to "cat test" the dogs. See more poses of these fellows and others on the shelter's Petfinder site.
+Males: "Buster" the 2 yr. Basset in Cage 43; "Bullet"- the red Siberian Husky in Cage 7.
+Females: "Bosco's" calico sister- look closely to see her in the photo; the older mini Schnauzer.