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Compassionate Solutions For Dogs

Compassionate Solutions For Dogs

Postby eaglerock814 » Tue Mar 24, 2009 3:08 pm

Compassionate Alternatives
For Dogs In Santa Barbara

And In All Of Recession-Ravaged America

by JOHN YATES
American Sporting Dog Alliance
http://www.americansportingdogalliance.org
asda@conline.net

This article is archived at: http://eaglerock814.proboards107.com/in ... &thread=32

(Note to Santa Barbara County dog owners: The county task force on pet population meets Wednesday, March 25, to discuss a possible ordinance to mandate spaying and neutering of dogs and cats. The meeting is set for 4-to-6 p.m. at the Board of Supervisors Conference Room, 105 E. Anapamu St. (4th floor), in Santa Barbara. A teleconference location in Santa Maria will be held at the Board of Supervisors Conference Room, 511 E. Lakeside Parkway, in Santa Maria.)

SANTA BARBARA, CA (March 24, 2009) – A task force is close to concluding its work on alternatives to reduce the number of homeless pets in Santa Barbara County, California.

In the past, we have asked members of the task force to rely on logic, common sense and the facts, which clearly refute the need for mandatory measures to force the sterilization of pets.

In this report, we also are asking the members of the task force and the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors to use compassion for animals as a necessary part of the equation. We also believe that this report has direct bearing on several other states and municipalities across America that are considering spay/neuter mandates in these recession-plagued times.

Most Americans love animals, and that is true of most people on both sides of the debate over mandatory spay and neuter laws. This report is meant to speak to people on both sides of the issue, although we recognize that it will not influence the small but vocal minority of people who are animal rights activists who want to eliminate domestic animals from American life.

For the rest of us, the American Sporting Dog Alliance urges compassion for the dogs and cats we love that are among the most frequent victims of the current American economic crisis.

Few people would argue that America is not in the throes of a deep recession, and some would call it a full-fledged depression. For people, that has meant the loss of jobs, the loss of homes and the destruction of economic reserves that had been sheltered in investments, retirement funds and business ventures.

People have paid a terrible price, and so have the dogs, cats and other animals that have become part of their families. Since the dawn of time, the fate of humans and their animals has been inexorably intertwined.

California has been one of the hardest hit states during this recession, with soaring foreclosure and unemployment rates, increases in homelessness, and the virtual bankruptcy of government on all levels. In California, Santa Barbara has been hit particularly hard.

It simply is a fact of life that when people lose their jobs, homes and savings, their pets also pay a harsh price. Pet abandonment is on the rise, and many people have been left with no viable alternative to keep their pets. When people lose their homes, few landlords allow tenants to keep pets.

After 18 years of steady declines, dog intakes at the county shelter system increased during the past fiscal year. Euthanasia rates also increased during the past year, following 18 years of declines. It must be emphasized that these increases do not reflect unwanted pets. Instead, most of them are directly attributable to the state of the economy.

Despite that grim picture, Santa Barbara County has done an amazingly good job of providing homes for animals whose lives have been disrupted by the economic crisis. The number of extra dogs entering the sheltering system is not unmanageably large, and bright spots include increases in rescues and adoptions from the sheltering system for both dogs and cats.

The real issue is not that pets are unwanted.

It is that pets need help when their owners are experiencing hard times.

Thus, the American Sporting Dog Alliance is urging the task force and county supervisors to do two things. First, please don’t do anything to make the problem worse. Second, concentrate your ideas, energy and resources on helping pets in need.

In this report, we are offering several concrete ideas for compassionate solutions for Santa Barbara and the rest of the nation.

The first step is to avoid decisions that will make the problem worse. That translates into not doing anything that will make it harder for people to keep their pets, or that will discourage people from adopting or providing good homes for economically displaced dogs and cats.

In every community in America that has adopted a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance since the 1990’s, the short-term effect has been a large increase in the number of pets that are abandoned, and a corresponding increase in animal shelter admission and euthanasia rates.

If there was any improvement, it came after five or more years of increased abandonment and euthanasia, and thousands of innocent animals paid the price with their lives before a turnaround was achieved.

Those conclusions are clearly documented by official California reports on animal shelter data. They are indisputably true.

It also must be emphasized that those terrible prices paid by animals following spay/neuter mandates occurred during an era when the economy was strong and growing.

In today’s recession economy, it is reasonable to expect that the results would be much more devastating to dogs and cats.

Other impacts of spay/neuter mandates include a drop in dog and cat licensing revenues, a decline in rabies law compliance and a splintering of the rescue community that results in fewer opportunities to help displaced pets.

If people can’t or won’t comply with a spay/neuter mandate, the data shows that they will stop licensing their pets because proof of compliance is required. They also stop getting rabies shots or medical care for their pets, under the belief that their veterinarian will be forced to turn them in to animal control.

A decrease in licensing means that municipalities will have less money to use to solve the problem of displaced animals, and will have to scale back or terminate valuable programs such as low-cost and no-cost voluntary spay/neuter and rabies vaccination clinics.

This is being illustrated today in Los Angeles, where a spay/neuter voucher program was cancelled in the wake of a spay/neuter mandate that decimated the animal control budget.

Adoption and rescue rates also have declined following passage of spay/neuter mandates, because people are reluctant to assume additional financial burdens and liabilities for owning a pet. We would expect this aspect of the problem to be much worse today because of the economic crisis.

Because mandatory pet sterilization is inherently controversial and divisive among people who love animals, experience has shown that many people drop out of local rescue groups, and people who raise purebred dogs no longer participate in the breed rescue community. Instead of cooperation for a common cause of helping animals in need, rescue groups degenerate into a scenario of mistrust, political rivalries and loss of participants. This is happening today in Chicago, which is considering a spay/neuter mandate. It has deeply divided the rescue community there.

It also must be emphasized that Santa Barbara has one of the most successful sheltering systems in America. Its successes have been nothing short of amazing, and it had come within a hair’s breadth of no-kill for dogs before the recession hit. An 18-year track of Santa Barbara shelter statistics shows a 33-percent decline in shelter admissions and a 58-percent decline in euthanasia numbers since 1995.

These declines resulted from increased public awareness of pet population issues, a major increase in voluntary pet sterilization (at least 70-percent already are spayed or neutered), and the rapid growth of the rescue movement. We urge Santa Barbarans to do nothing to dismantle or harm this successful program before the economy improves. It is the key to long-term success.

The second part of the equation is finding compassionate solutions to help animals and people get through these tough times.

Here are our concrete suggestions to help dogs and cats in Santa Barbara and all across America to survive the recession in loving homes:

· Reduce the cost of licensing a dog or cat to a nominal fee (perhaps $1) for anyone who says he or she cannot afford to buy a license. No verification of economic need should be required, as the cost of assuring compliance would exceed revenues. Make it an honor system. If some people cheat, so be it. The revenues should be used directly to fund no-cost spay/neuter and rabies vaccination clinics.

· Enlist citizen volunteers (possibly members of local dog clubs) to literally go door-to-door to sell the $1 licenses and distribute information about low-cost and no-cost programs, and other services available to pet owners. This information should include information about what to do and who to contact if a pet owner needs help to keep a dog or cat, or is forced to relinquish it.

· Institute an amnesty program for anyone who is not in compliance with licensing or rabies laws, provided that they obtain a license (that includes a $1 license) and a rabies shot within a two-week period. Animal control officers should make every possible attempt to be non-threatening (including to illegal immigrants), and to convey the message that they are here to help. We would recommend that animal control officers wear civilian clothing that does not resemble a uniform.

· If an animal control officer finds a dog or cat that is roaming and not confined to it’s owner’s property, the emphasis should be on education rather than enforcement. Spending a couple of hours locating the owner of a stray animal and talking with that person is far more cost effective than the $300-plus cost of taking the animal to the shelter. Written warnings could be issued for a first offense.

· We would ask dog owners, dog clubs, rescue groups and civic organizations to create a food bank for pets. No one should be forced to give up a beloved dog or cat simply because they are broke. The animals deserve to stay in their homes, and we have an ethical obligation to help.

· It is urgent to increase participation in fostering programs to provide temporary shelter to displaced dogs, in order to handle the increase in shelter admissions because of the recession. We estimate that about 500 new foster homes are required in Santa Barbara County in the current economic climate. The purpose of a foster home is to provide a protected environment for an animal until its owner is able to take it back, or until a vacancy occurs in a rescue program or shelter. This would not be an easy goal to accomplish, but it could be done with incentives such as free licensing, reimbursement for food costs (much less expensive than taking the animal to a shelter or euthanizing it), or forgiveness of licensing costs for dogs and cats owned by a family providing foster care.

· A major emphasis should be on expanding the network of community resources for displaced pets. For example, members of local dog clubs and rescue groups could approach other organizations in the community and ask for volunteers to help with the fostering program. We believe that a warm reception would be given by scouting groups, church groups, civic organizations (such as the Lion’s Club), business groups (such as the local Chamber of Commerce), service groups (such as the Kiwanis Club) and social groups (such as veterans’ organizations). These groups could provide a major untapped source of volunteers, foster homes and donations. Another example is that national scouting groups could be asked to create and honor merit badges for young people who foster, rescue or adopt displaced pets.

· Significant and realistic incentives should be provided to landlords who will allow tenants to keep their pets. This is critical in an era of numerous foreclosures. Arranging and guaranteeing insurance to cover damages by tenants’ pets would be inexpensive and practical. Since studies show that landlords report damages from pets rarely exceed $500 and few tenants have any damages from their pets, the cost of this insurance would be negligible. From a municipal government fiscal point of view, purchasing or guaranteeing this insurance would be the most economical option for people who bring their pets to a shelter because of landlord issues. It would be a major incentive for landlords to allow pets. Future tax credits also would be an economically sensible way to create an incentive for landlords to allow pets, as would commitments from dog owners and clubs to assist in any required clean-up or repairs.

· Banks and other lending institutions should be formally asked by local government to offer information about resources for displaced pets to people who face foreclosure, and perhaps to contribute to a fund to purchase rental insurance covering potential damages for tenants who have pets (see above). Financial institutions also should be asked to make formal referrals to rescue programs for people with pets who face foreclosure. These are very small favors to ask of financial institutions that have received billions of dollars in federal bailout funds.

· Retailers and manufacturers of pet foods and pet products should be approached for assistance. For example, Wal-Mart stores are America’s leading retailer of pet foods and supplies and also have an outstanding track record of supporting the community. These kinds of businesses could be asked to provide discounts or vouchers for pet food to people who participate in foster programs or who adopt a pet from a shelter or rescue group. This also is in the best interests of the businesses in both the long and short run, as these companies depend on widespread pet ownership as a vital part of their revenue stream.

· Finally, the Santa Barbara task force and supervisors should seek out communities that have found solutions to animal sheltering problems, in order to learn what works and what doesn’t. Several large cities have achieved no-kill status, or are approaching it, and they represent a major untapped resource of knowledge and experience. In this vein, we were distressed by the Task Force’s decision not to hear a presentation by Bill Bruce of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Bruce, who directs the animal control program there, has achieved near-no-kill for a sheltering system that takes in more than 5,000 dogs a year. All but a handful of these dogs are returned to their owners or find adoptive homes. In addition, Calgary’s licensing compliance has increased by 95-percent, cat euthanasia has decreased by 50-percent, and dog bite reports are at a 25-year low. Bruce’s presentation is open to the public. It is scheduled for Wednesday, March 24, at 6 p.m., immediately following the Task Force meeting in Santa Barbara.

The American Sporting Dog Alliance is urging all Santa Barbara County dog owners to contact the county supervisors and let them know that there are compassionate alternatives to a deadly and destructive spay and neuter mandate, and also that the current economic crisis requires Americans to reinvent the role of government in animal control issues.

Here is contact information for the supervisors:
1. 1st District: Salud Carbajal: Phone (805) 568-2186; Fax (805) 568-2534; Email SupervisorCarbajal@sbcbos1.org
2. 2nd District: Janet Wolf, Vice Chair: Phone (805) 568-2191; Fax (805) 568-2283; Email jwolf@sbcbos2.org
3. 3rd District: Doreen Farr: Phone (805) 568-2192; Fax(805) 568-2883; Solvang (805) 686-5095; Fax (805) 686-8133; Email dfarr@sbcbos3.org
4. 4th District: Joni Gray Lompoc: phone (805) 737-7700; Santa Maria phone (805) 346-8407; Email jgray@sbcbos4.org
5. 5th District: Joseph Centeno, Chair, Santa Maria: phone (805) 346-8400; Fax (805) 346-8404; Email jcenteno@sbcbos5.org
The American Sporting Dog Alliance represents owners, breeders and professionals who work with breeds of dogs that are used for hunting. We also welcome people who work with other breeds, as legislative issues affect all of us. We are a grassroots movement working to protect the rights of dog owners, and to assure that the traditional relationships between dogs and humans maintains its rightful place in American society and life. The American Sporting Dog Alliance also needs your help so that we can continue to work to protect the rights of dog owners. Your membership, participation and support are truly essential to the success of our mission. We are funded solely by your donations in order to maintain strict independence.
Please visit us on the web at http://www.americansportingdogalliance.org . Our email is asda@csonline.net .

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