One of the presentations that I give to high school students is entitled, “Choices.” It focuses on the sources of pet overpopulation and what is currently happening to unwanted cats and dogs in the United States. Parts of it are fun; other parts are horrifying. But it’s my way of engaging the kids and getting them to do some critical thinking. I encourage them to dig a little deeper, ask a few more questions and think more thoroughly about the issues that are being raised. Snap judgements and comments are often shared much too quickly on social media. Choices are made without enough critical analysis.
For instance, this picture of a newspaper ad from the Franklin NewsPost in Rocky Mount, Virginia showed up on facebook a few days ago:
There’s been a firestorm of comments – both pro and con – about these two organizations and their intentions. North Shore Animal League America released this comment on Sunday afternoon, October 4, 2015:
IMPORTANT NOTICE FROM NORTH SHORE ANIMAL LEAGUE AMERICA
North Shore Animal League America is proud of the over 20-year partnership with the Martinsville, VA SPCA, which has saved the lives of tens of thousands of animals and has prevented the birth of tens of thousands of more animals through our support of spay/neuter in the community. This work sometimes includes placing ads in newspapers, so people know they have options for their unwanted pets. Anyone that admits a pet DOES NOT receive any money in exchange. NSALA helps support the spay/neuter of the parent dogs, to prevent future litters.
If not for this initiative, many of these animals would be euthanased. This program has made a huge impact in the Henry County, VA area, dramatically reducing the euthanasia rate. And the SPCA there is now able to rescue animals from other areas in the state.
Read about our history of innovation of our humane relocation program.
Now that I’ve seen the ad, read NSALA’s response and clicked thru to their “history of innovation of [their] humane relocation program.” Here are the thoughts and questions that immediately come to mind:
- THE ADVERTISEMENT – The ad clearly gives the impression that either the M/HC-SPCA or NSALA – or both is trolling for puppies. The intent, as explained by North Shore Animal League, is not clear in the ad. There is no mention of spay/neuter support for the dogs that produced the puppies. In this crazy environment of faux rescue, puppy brokering and backyard breeding, it is no wonder that folks involved in rescue and sheltering might question the purpose of this ad.
- NSALA’s RESPONSE – The statement by NSALA mentions “options for their unwanted pets” and, yes, they are pulling from areas that would probably choose to euthanize due to lack of space. A good question might be: What are they doing to help prevent animals from landing in the shelters in the first place? Are “relocation programs” such as NSALA’s inadvertently giving the impression that it’s okay for your pets to keep reproducing – and that rescue groups will just step up to take away your unwanted pets?
- HUMANE RELOCATION – The link brings you to information explaining that NSALA has saved “hundreds of thousands of dogs, cats, puppies and kittens since the program’s inception in 1991.” While some of these animals are ‘local’, others are coming from across the country and from “places like Istanbul, Turkey, Turks and Caicos and Taiwan.” How many companion animals in the Northeast US have been euthanized because these non-local animals were adopted instead? (I know, I know . . . there are ‘too many bully breeds’ . . . not everyone wants a pit bull or a chihuahua . . . ) But, just how many perfectly adoptable dogs of all breeds have been euthanized in Northeast U.S. shelters because NSALA is doing a very good job of marketing their saved animals sourced from out-of-state? How much LESS expensive would it be to save and treat 300 locally sourced animals? Would it be less than the $15,000 per week that it costs to save animals across the country and around the world? (The NSALA link link is clearly a fundraising plea to support their relocation programs.)
- Some additional questions might be: What percentage of every donated dollar goes to actually helping the animals? What are NSALA’s adoption requirements? What are their animal return policies? Has there been any follow up to see how many or what percentage of these relocated animals land in local shelters? Unfortunately, it’s pretty much impossible to know just how many have been euthanized in another shelter anyway, but just later in the animal’s life cycle . . .
I’m sure the folks at NSALA believe they are doing very good work; they have, indeed, “saved” hundreds of thousands of animal lives across the country and around the world.And, I admit I don’t know the answers to the questions I’ve posed above . . . but my gut tells me to focus on supporting and helping our local animals first. I bet the 4,337 dogs and 16,739 cats that were killed in NJ shelters in 2014* would have appreciated that viewpoint, too.*NJ Department of Health Infectious and Zoonotic Disease Program 2014 Animal Intake and Disposition Details by County