Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Saying Thanks Where It's Often Not Heard

This holiday season, I want to ask you to remember some people who rarely get the appreciation that they deserve. Each county in the Atlanta metro area has an animal control shelter. Most of the shelters don't have the staff and resources they need, and operate instead on a shoestring budget. The staff who work at these shelters see the worst in our community - the people who bring in their pets because they are no longer cute or healthy, the stray and abandoned animals picked up off the streets, and the inhumane cruelty cases of pets seized by the county because their owners have abused them. These shelters can't turn anyone away, and in this tough economy, there is rarely any space for incoming pets.

At every shelter, there are at least a few people who really care about the pets and want to see them leave the shelter and head to new homes. At many shelters, the whole staff is committed to saving as many pets as possible, and maintaining as high a quality of life for the pets in the facility as possible. The rescue coordinators at these shelters spend their days, and many of their evenings and weekends, desperately trying to find ways for pets to leave the shelters alive.

I have found that the workers at these shelters are all lumped into a stereotype of the uncaring "dog catcher" with no compassion or respect for the pets in their care. I'll be honest, I know at some shelters in Atlanta, that stereotype rings true. Those shelters deserve our attention to change the way the shelters are staffed and administered. But I honestly think those types of shelter workers are the exception. In my experience, most of the shelter workers in Atlanta are hardworking, compassionate people who would do anything to save the animals facing euthanasia in their shelters.

During this holiday season, take a moment to remember and appreciate the people that work at your county shelter. Tell them that you understand and appreciate the life and death decisions that they are forced to make every day. Take them a box of holiday cookies, or even just a Christmas card to wish them happy holidays. And commit yourself to helping them in their mission by donating supplies, money or time. Their mission is the same as all of ours.

Click here for a list of county animal control shelters.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Please Don't Wait for Someone Else

I want to write something that will motivate every single person who reads this to take one action today. I want to convince you that what you do, or don't do, really does matter.

In the last week, I have been overwhelmed with the battle we are fighting. This doesn't mean I am discouraged, or unmotivated, or even feel defeated. It just means I need to recruit more people to the fight. That means you.

Last Sunday, Michael Vick returned to Atlanta. A few protesters showed up outside the stadium. Unfortunately, his supporters far outnumbered them. People in Vick jerseys, with supportive signs, began tailgating in the early morning. When Michael Vick scored a touchdown during the game, the crowd went wild with excitement. Keep in mind, Vick plays for the Eagles, the other team! The people in the stands were cheering for a convicted dog fighter from the other team! Michael Vick has become simultaneously a victim and a hero to so many people. It's hard for me to even wrap my head around it. But it tells us that we live in a society where dog fighting is still socially acceptable, and punishing someone like Vick can turn him into even more of a hero. On Monday, one day after the game, I got an email about a pit bull that had her lips cut off by her owner after she lost a fight.

Have you taken any action to stop dog fighting, or to try to save pit bulls from the hands of those that have so tortured and abused them? We need you in this fight.

A few days ago, I got an email from a rescue coordinator at a local county shelter. In one day, the shelter received over 40 owner surrenders. That means 40 animals were brought in by their families and turned in to the shelter, knowing they faced almost immediate euthanasia because there was no space. The same shelter sent out a plea for the dozens of cats at the shelter who needed to be rescued or adopted. This morning, that same hardworking rescue coordinator emailed that not one person or rescue group had responded to her pleas for help.

Have you taken any action to save a pet from dying in a shelter? Have you adopted from a shelter, or fostered a pet waiting for a home? Have you sponsored a pet in a rescue organization? Have you donated newspaper or towels to your county shelter? Have you selected just one pet in danger of dying and made it your mission to find that pet a home? We need you in this fight.

And finally, yesterday, I got an email from a rescue coordinator at another county shelter about two puppies that were seized as part of a cruelty case. The puppies were only about 3-4 months old. They were starving and had their legs duct-taped together, so they couldn't even try to escape their cruel situation. The shelter wants to get these two puppies into a home -- they have been trying for over a month, and no group or individual has stepped forward.

Have you taken any action to strengthen laws in your city, county or state against animal cruelty? Have you looked the other way when you see cruelty? Have you supported local shelters or rescue groups that are caring for dogs and cats that have been abused? We need you in this fight.

I know you care. I know sometimes it's too hard to look at, and you want to look away. I know you are touched by the stories. But I also know you sometimes think someone else will take care of it. I know sometimes you are thankful for the groups like ours that take care of these issues, so that you don't have to.

But we need you in this fight. The 4 million pets in the US that are euthanized need you in this fight. The loyal and loving pit bulls who are forced to fight each other, and the thousands of bait dogs and cats that also suffer in the dog fighting world, need you in this fight. The cats at the local shelter, crammed into overcrowded cages because their owners were irresponsible and uncaring, need you in this fight. And those two starving puppies with their legs duct taped together, need you in this fight.

Please, please, do one thing today to make a difference. Don't wait for someone else to do it. Someone else is waiting for you.

I need you to be in this fight.