Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Call for Change: Animals are Not Property

Rudy: currently needs a foster family. Details below.
I'm hoping for some positive change in our area in 2017 with regard to our unwanted animal population.

If you aren't familiar with the story of Ellie you should go here and read about her.  In early December, Ellie wandered into someone's yard and the property owner went inside his home, brought out his own dog and ordered it to attack Ellie because she was in his yard. This was captured on video by a brave young woman and was reported to Caddo Parish Animal Control and other officials. Ellie died of her injuries despite an heroic effort to save her. CPAS declined to press charges on the man for animal abuse because he was in his own yard and Ellie was not leashed. Ellie's owner has never come forward.

The point of that story is this: Ellie is not an anomaly. There are hundreds of Ellies throughout our area. All you have to do is look in our animal shelters which are overflowing with unwanted dogs and cats despite the very best efforts of several strong, dedicated local rescue groups who work diligently to pull and adopt out these animals. The cycle is never ending, though. The shelters remain filled.

The problem exists on several levels: first and foremost is that too many people in this part of the country see animals as property rather than sentient creatures who need love and companionship. Too many people think dogs are just something to put in the backyard and feed once a day. But hey, at least those dogs have a home, right?  No: it's not good enough. That is the basis for the "dogs as property" mindset.

Then you have the segment of our population who will refuse to spay or neuter their animals. Their excuses run from not wanting to change the dog's personality to a conviction that the animal will never reproduce or breed with another animal so what's the point? With organizations like Robinson's Rescue, who offer low-cost spay/neuter procedures, cost is not a valid excuse.  And before you know it, here comes another litter of unwanted puppies. Who follows up on those vouchers when animals are adopted to ensure they are in fact spayed or neutered?

The third factor contributing to our unwanted animal population and overflowing shelters is the backyard breeders. Go on Facebook or Craigslist and you can find hundreds of people hawking puppies born of some poor kenneled female used only for breeding and then discarded when her productivity is done.  These people have no compassion for the animals whatsoever but are only interested in the dollars they will receive after finding someone to buy these poor puppies (who will probably also then be used for breeding).

This is what a "misdemeanor" looks like.
And finally, a fourth factor we must consider is the lack of enforcement of our existing animal abuse laws and the slap-on-the-wrist justice doled out on the cases that ever actually do get prosecuted.  The most egregious that comes to mind is the Braveheart case where after a three day long trial and agonizingly clear evidence that this dog was left by the defendant to starve to death in a storage locker in a Louisiana August, the verdict was a misdemeanor. A slap on the wrist. An animal's life does not matter. It's just a dog.

So what is the answer? How do we change this? Why is our community willing to stand by and watch hundreds of animals euthanized each month because the shelters have to make room for incoming animals? Why does our community tolerate backyard breeders, people selling animals in parking lots and on Craigslist, when so many in shelters need homes? Why does our community accept a verdict like that in the Braveheart case or in Ellie's case? Why is it acceptable for a man to kill another dog because it wandered into his yard just looking for a bite to eat or a drink of water? Why do our fine, upstanding city leaders not get outraged when dogs are chained to trees, porches, fences, and left out in all of the elements with inadequate shelter? Why are the meager laws that do exist not properly enforced?

When will our community have enough of this and demand something be done?

I'm the person who changes the channel when those ASPCA commercials come on with the sad shelter dogs looking desperately through the cages. Nobody wants to see the sadness. Nobody wants to watch the video of Ellie being attacked or laying on the driveway bleeding to death. So why do we continue to let this happen?

We have several excellent rescue groups in our area working to pull dogs from shelters and send them to homes in communities with tough spay/neuter laws where there are low numbers of unwanted dogs. Some of these rescue volunteers have been known to jump out of their beds in the middle of the night to rescue a dog stranded in the middle of an interstate or sit for hours in a field behind a building working to gain the trust of a terrified stray who won't come to anyone. These people are burned out at both ends and cannot be expected to continue to carry the responsibilities of an entire community on their own shoulders when it comes to looking after the animals in our city.

As a community: Shreveport, Bossier, Springhill, Minden, Mansfield, Keithville, all of us -- we have got to stand for change. We have got to demand change. We have got to have tougher laws and we have got to have consistent enforcement on these laws. We have to educate our children that animals are not property to be discarded when you're tired of them, when they aren't cute anymore, when you move to a new house, when it no longer fits your lifestyle. It starts with the children. Educate them.

What can you do? Educate yourself. Visit the shelter. Go to Caddo Animal or go to Bossier. Visit PetSavers.  Do some research. Learn what the kill rate at the shelters is. In Caddo it used to be almost 80%. That number is down because Caddo is working harder with rescues these days, but there is still so much more room to improve.

Write your city officials. Write the mayor. Write your representatives. Demand change. Otherwise, cases like Ellie's and like Braveheart's will continue to be a source of outrage and tragedy. I'm going to print out the Shreveport animal control ordinances (linked below) and annotate changes that need to be made and then I'm going to send a copy of that to every city council member and every Caddo commissioner, and the mayor.

It's time for our community to change our perspective with regard to our animal population. We owe them that much.

Contact the City Council.

Contact the Caddo Commission.

Contact Mayor Ollie Tyler.

Caddo Parish Animal Control.

Bossier Parish Animal Control.

Shreveport Animal Control Ordinances.

(Photo of Rudy courtesy of POLA Foundation. If you can foster him contact POLA.)

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