Next Tuesday the Board of Supervisors will meet to vote on budget cuts to county services. Among the unpleasant decisions rests the fate of the dogs and cats in the care of the county shelters. At the last Board meeting on May 25, supervisors questioned and made comments regarding the running of Animal Care Services. Several points were incorrect enough to force this rebuttal. I'm writing in the hopes of getting the correct information out before the Tuesday, June 8, meeting.
Consolidation of the Fort Bragg and Ukiah animal shelters has been offered to the board as a means to avoid budget cuts in the Ukiah Shelter, thus maintaining one well-working shelter as opposed to two lower-functioning shelters. The consequences of voting against this proposal will most surely mean higher euthanasia rates, as the shelters may be forced to keep dogs only for the mandated holding period--5 days for strays--before destroying them.
To this information, Supervisor McCowen stated: "We are spending a certain amount of resources on animals that are going to be euthanized anyway....We're keeping animals 60 days or longer and euthanizing them anyway after providing all their care, maybe spayed and neutered them, and then we wind up euthanizsing them anyway."
It's obvious that Mr. McCowen is not familiar with Animal Care Services, because this statement is completely without merit. Dogs deemed adoptable after passing a rigorous temperament evaluation are cared for until they are adopted. If the shelter becomes over-crowded, rescue organizations, other shelters, and foster care-givers are contacted and the shelter population is lowered. Dogs are neutered when they are adopted, not before.
Mr. McCowen further stated, "...currently we have a socialization program for pitbulls. So how long are we keeping them around in an effort to try and socialize them" when they "are going to be euthanized anyway?"
Again, the shelter does not spend it's resources on dogs or cats who are not adoptable. It is NOT shelter policy to care for but then routinely euthanize dogs.
Mr. McCowen's story about $13,000 spent on one dog who had bitten two people still has the shelter staff perplexed about the dog's identity. But the truth is, money is not squandered on any dog who has a bite record; that is not only wrong morally, it is against the rules and regulations of the county. Bite dogs who are not claimed by their owners are euthanized.
The shelter does not run a Pitbull socialization program on tax dollars. On the contrary: dedicated volunteers meet twice a week to work with dogs in a group setting. Volunteers help the shelter animals every day of the week washing food bowls, folding laundry, mopping, sweeping, but most importantly--walking dogs and petting cats and fostering animals. We do this all year long because the animals at the shelter, the ADOPTABLE dogs and cats--are innocent players who deserve a chance. Some have been abandoned by people--dumped like so much garbage. Some have escaped. Some are surrendered for a variety of reasons, often because the owners are facing financial difficulties. The owners come to the shelter in the hopes that a beloved pet will be given the opportunity to find a new home. They leave a member of their family behind, putting their faith in the shelter.
In these difficult financial times, such scenarios have become commonplace. But to counter the stories of neglect and suffering are THOUSANDS of stories of our shelter's animals finding new homes and bringing joy and meaning to many people. We encourage the supervisors, county workers, and folks in general, to come and look at the ongoing photographic show, BEFORE AND AFTER: stories of dogs who, because of the care they received at the Ukiah Shelter, moved on to better lives, and to come and see first-hand the dedication of the shelter staff, and the way the shelter operates. I certainly hope that the Board of Supervisors will realize that the decision to close the Fort Bragg shelter, unfortunate as that is, will be the only way to save tax dollars while helping the most animals find homes.
There is a quote which says: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." I couldn't agree more.
Kathy Shearn--Shelter volunteer