Animal Control: Pound or Pet Store?
By: Diane Jessup
I’m retired from 20 years working as a municipal animal control officer. Entering the field, I thought, like any fresh young newbie, that my associates would be as eager to help animals as I. In a world full of hot, thirsty or cold, starving dogs, I wanted to wade in and help the helpless.
The face of animal control 25 years ago was very different from today. Dog catchers were not stars of popular, carefully edited “reality” shows. Stray dogs were “impounded” (hence the term “pound”) and either bailed out by owners, killed, or sold for a cheap price to whomever would take them; often research facilities.
Twenty years ago shelter managers were concerned with keeping Officer Ed from picking up the mayor’s dog again. Staff were often “cop wannabees” or those lucky enough to score a government job by passing the “aptitude test” - written by a clerk downtown who didn’t know a cairn from a collie. Shelters were certainly not places of education or enlightenment, but they did house the communities impounded and abandoned dogs.
Twenty years later, particularly in “progressive” urban areas, the picture is changing. The “pound” has been replaced by the “new” animal control—a government funded pet shop. Today’s shelter managers worry about things like the “Asilomar Accords” (a grandiose sounding plan to keep “No-Kill” and “reality based” shelters from hurtling insults at each other), how to cook the books to make their euthanasia rates look as low as a shelter in the next county, and getting every man, woman and child on the planet to sterilize their pet.
Example: Seattle Animal Control changed their name to Seattle Animal Shelter to advertise their progressive nature. No longer strictly a “pound”, SAS offers meaningful volunteer opportunities for city residents and is a meaningful information resource for pet owners. They have their own low-cost spay/neuter clinic for city residence. Make no mistake, SAS is so politically correct it is mind boggling, but they do a decent job of trying to balance “animal control” work while keeping the “humaniacs” (and often looney Council members) happy. They provide for impounded animals while also presenting themselves to the public as a “trendy” pet shop of sorts. After all, rescue pets are hip right now.
But fifty miles to the South of Seattle is an example of what happens to an animal control program when the “good old boys” are replaced with those who either are, or cannot withstand, the onslaught of the “No Kill” types. Make no mistake, people like Nathan J. Winograd and his book “Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation And The No Kill Movement in America, are able to convince a surprising number of surprisingly naive people that some mean people out there just flat want to kill cute little puppies and kittens. Winograd’s website encourages people to infiltrate local animal shelters and indeed, in Western Washington, “No Kill” groups have disrupted Seattle and King County shelters to a significant degree. Huge amounts of valuable time, energy and money has been directly removed from the care of the animals because of this interference, and these groups continue to have a negative impact on the sheltering of local animals.
The Tacoma/Pierce County Humane Society has, for many years, contracted to provided animal control services to their large community. But then the administration was taken over by the “No-Kill” faction and tough times lay ahead.
Seems it just wasn’t fashionable to deal with all those problem animals in the community. It’s hard to be PC when you’re getting your hands dirty in the reality of pet overpopulation. So the TPCHS simply dropped animal control into the lap of the woefully unprepared County and stopped taking in problematic animals. The result was devastating for the animals and pet owners in the community. For all intents and purposes, TPCHS simply became the largest pet store in town.
Like a pet store, those “shelters” which adopt a “No-Kill” attitude must accept only the cute ones, selling them (TPCHS charges a couple hundred bucks for purebreds) and slamming the door in the faces of animals which aren’t good sales prospects; the old dogs, the ugly dogs, the victims of abuse.
This is of concern to those who love all animals. Is the local animal shelter in place to help and house the victims of neglect and cruelty, or is it simply a trendy pet shop? Are the victims of fad breeding, dog fighting, cruel treatment and neglect being forsaken because they are hard to sell and thus foul up the “No-Kill” model? The answer is, sadly, yes.
Case in point: Ingrid Newkirk, co-founder of People for the “Ethical” Treatment of Animals, publicly stated that all sheltered dogs which resemble bull breeds should be killed to make room for cute dogs. “People”, she stated, “who genuinely care about dogs won’t be affected by a ban on pits.” Indeed, her famously twisted logic is exactly wrong—there is not a legitimate animal related group on the planet that has not taken a stand against breed specific legislation.
Popular and fad dogs of any type such as bull breeds, Dalmatians, rottweilers and Labradors gum up the works for the “No-Kill” folks. Quite truthfully, any animal not so brain dead it can’t be handed out like candy is a problem. And that includes an awful lot of dogs in an awful lot of breeds. Ask a reputable breeder of border collies, Jack russells, Komondorok, Akitas, shar peis, chows, basenjis, - breeds to numerous to mention - if they would recommend their dogs being handed out to the public at shelters. Reputable breeders will pale at the thought.
The reality of business in a “No-Kill” shelter is exactly that of a pet store—moving “stock” out quickly and smoothly. And it is far easier to peddle cute animals rather than the scarred, hungry, tough looking victims of abuse.
Which brings me to my point. Any animal protection agency which whines about having to house victims of dog fighting while the court case proceeds should hang their head in shame. I am sick to death of shelters complaining about having to “give up” space to cruelty case dogs. Excuse me? For what purpose are these animal “impound” facilities in place if not to house victims of cruelty while their court cases are pending?
An animal control facility owes the community - and the community’s animals - to never forget its primary purpose: to house stray animals while the owners have a chance to reclaim them, to house dangerous animals while court action is pending, and to house the innocent victims of cruelty and neglect while investigations and court action proceed. IF, and only if, there is space available after the needs of the preceding animals has been met, can healthy, friendly animals be offered for sale to the public.
Those who would reverse this order, at the expense of victimized dogs, are simply pet shops selling cats and dogs under the guise of “humane” work.