I am writing this post in response to Carol Mither's "Are We Loving Dogs to Death" in the New York Times
In the conclusion to her piece, Mithers states, “With dogs as with much else, Americans cling to our simple, comforting narratives and our old and easy solutions.”
I absolutely agree with her on this. In general humans will cling to “simple, comforting narrative and our old and easy solutions. “ That’s exactly why one extreme example of tragedy (Valerie’s) should not be used to stop using this new strategy: Clear The Shelters. Unfortunately, Clear the Shelters is now under attack.
Second: the title of this article is problematic. It’s really not possible to “love” anything to death. Love is only a positive energy. Even though living things can suffer from a dearth of love there has never been a case in the history of life where the simple act of “love” has harmed anything. Would anyone looking at a case of abuse, neglect or even death of adopted children suggest we are “loving” them to death?
In the current political climate where people are being guided to simply trust their gut emotional response to guide their decision making, allow me to introduce a scientific study that finds that “free” adoptions are safe. In the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science (9/22/2009) a peer reviewed, statistical study found that, “No significant differences were found between groups on either measure. Programs such as this create an opportunity to positively affect cats in animal shelters by finding more homes; programs such as this also affect cat overpopulation by putting more altered cats into the community.”
In other words, “free” screened adoptions work just as well as “fee” screened adoptions. This appears to be the facts. Unfortunately with so many successful free adoptions, the exception of Valerie tragically proves the rule.
Tthere will always be mistakes made and tragedies that happen when it comes to adoptions of any kind human or animal. People are always concerned that adopted living things are more subject to abuse--even in the adoption of children. It's not clear what went wrong in Valerie's case and we need to know more. There was a lot of misinformation when the case was first reported about the circumstances surrounding the adoption and we need to understand what went wrong so something like this can be prevented in the future if possible. We can't let this be an excuse to stop adopting out animals to people who are screened.
In an article, Miller goes on to offer other aspects of the No Kill Equation as “the solution.” Yes, keeping animals out of the shelter is part of life saving. Yes, spay and neuter is also part of the equation. So are high volume adoptions. We need to do everything in the No Kill Equation to solve this problem. All the strategies need to be used in concert. We can’t cherry pick the ones we like the best.
No Kill is a grass roots movement with no “big box” humane group known to the general public (ASPCA, HSUS, PETA) going out of its way to support it. They have gotten behind some strategies of No Kill in the past and had a big impact. I am old enough to remember when the ASPCA started promoting spay and nueter in the 1970s, with veterinarians following through with this campaign and making this a part of our accepted animal culture. Yet it appears that until the “big box” groups promote ALL of the strategies of No Kill, the general public will hardly know they exists.
No Kill is a new concept and when people try new things there is always anxiety even when the new behavior is for the better. We are creatures of habit even when our habits are destructive. Despite our fear we have to continue to implement innovative strategies such as the Clear the Shelters events (with a solid screening process), which have been scientifically proven to save all healthy and treatable animals in our nation’s shelter.