Tag Archives: shelters

Truths: Why I am Content Blaming All the Amish for Puppy Mills

The other night as we drove through an area of Wisconsin known for Amish communities, I posted what I thought was an innocent comment about the Amish.  I simply said that it seemed to me that whomever the God was for the Amish s/he would prefer they use electricity, buy an iPhone, and drive a car than beat a horse to death or breed dogs in filth and neglect.

While many people liked and even shared my post, there were some who felt it was wrong of me to blame all of the Amish for those behaviors.  I get it.  While I have yet to meet an Amish or Mennonite who doesn’t breed dogs, I bet there are a few out there.

This subject of Amish puppy mills is one so dear to my heart and soul that even I admit I might not be able to use rational judgement.  I wrote an entire book based on the cruelty and neglect of Amish puppy mills, so I think it is safe to say that I am in pretty deep when it comes to the subject matter.

None the less, since it was a few of my dear friends who posted the charges against me, I had no choice but to dig deeper into my own feelings to figure out why it is I am so content blaming ALL Amish for puppy mills.

One basic truth is that not all puppy mills are run by Amish.  There are hundreds across the country run by “English” (people like me).  Those mills can be just as horrendous.

So, I started REALLY thinking about this… and here is my belief.  As English people, we have no problem protesting, legislating, even criminalizing heinous, cruel behavior towards animals.  I KNOW there are millions of English people taking a stand against puppy mills (against people just like us as far as race and religion, etc…) every single day.  I see it in the pet store protests, in the political lobbying, and in social media posts.  I know that while there are people in our culture propagating puppy mills, there are also people ACTIVELY fighting it.  It is hard to accuse an entire community of being cruel, when half of the community is speaking out against the cruelty.

I have yet to see or hear of a single Amish person actively fighting against puppy mills in their communities.  I have never heard of anyone in the Amish community taking a stand for the better treatment of animals.  Yes, there might be Amish families who do treat their farm animals with compassion or have a family dog who sleeps in the house on his own bed, but until  they are willing to publicly take a stand against puppy mills or animal cruelty, they are only permitting the awful acts to continue.

I blame ALL Amish for puppy mills because no one within their community is trying to change anything.  I firmly believe that until members of their own community come out against the cruelty, they are all to blame.

Turning a blind eye to cruelty should be a crime.  The Amish people need to take responsibility for the actions of everyone in their community.  If they want to truly be the “kinder, gentler people,” they should be willing stand up and fight for the beliefs and actions that truly represent a kind community.  Keeping dogs in small wire cages, covered in feces and breeding them until they die is not what I consider a kind act.

It IS wrong to blame an entire community or race or religion based on the heinous acts of a few, however, when no one in that community appears to be against the heinous act, it isn’t a false accusation of blame, it is actually the truth.



Tails: RTO – The Low Hanging Fruit No One is Trying to Pick

There’s celebration in Wisconsin this week.  A bill passed to shorten the stray hold in shelters.  Oh, you probably can’t hear the party, because not everyone is celebrating.  Lost Dogs Wisconsin along with their umbrella organization, Lost Dogs America, tried very hard to stop the bill.  “Why?” you may ask… Well, Lost Dogs America, an ALL volunteer organization, helped reunite over 30,000 families and dogs in 2015.  It seems they know a thing or two about the bonds between pets and their owners.  They are also painfully well aware that most of the shelter systems in WI are broken.  Return to Owner (RTO) rates are tragic with many of the big shelters not making RTO a priority and rarely attempting to find owners or list found dogs on their websites.

LDA pleaded with WI legislation to fix the shelter systems BEFORE shortening the stray hold, but, sadly, they went ahead and passed the bill with no necessary improvements for shelters.  Basically, in the vast state of WI, you now have only 4 days, that is 96 hours, to find your lost dog at a shelter before they can adopt it out, transfer it to a rescue in or out of state, or kill it.  There was some stipulation for a longer hold UNLESS the dog was ill, or its behavior was a danger to the public.  The reality is those two exceptions are subject to so much interpretation that a shelter can act however it sees fit.  One bad cough or loud growl and your dog could be heading over Rainbow Bridge long before you could ever locate him.

Yes, there are statistics that back-up some of the advantages of shorten stray holds.  Stats that show more dogs move through the shelter system quicker – HOPEFULLY resulting in more live release rates, but not always.  I don’t think anyone really challenged those stats, but, instead, argued that in the world of rescue and animal welfare, we should be trying to preserve the human-animal bond, not destroy it.

Return to Owner is an area of animal welfare few people talk about.  You certainly don’t hear the big guys talk about it much (Best Friends, HSUS – both groups who lobbied in favor of the bill).  Yet, RTO seems like an area shelters and rescues should dedicate resources to.  Why are they so willing to spend time and money on adoptions and transfers (even euthanasia) when there is a really good chance the dog sitting in the kennel already has a home?

I remember working at my county animal control… we had a binder for lost dog reports and when dogs would come in, we would check the binder.  We would also check it before placing the dog on the adoption side or euthanizing him.  However, we didn’t really do much else.  There the dog sits for a week and we just “hope” someone calls or comes in for him.

Not everyone who loses a dog knows where to look or even what to do.  LDA is trying hard to change that by educating those who contact them on the many avenues there are to find your dog, from fliers to website postings, to calling every vet, shelter and animal control in a 100 mile radius.  The truth is unless you are active in the rescue world, not many people know all the shelters and vet clinics in the area.  Rescue people take that kind of knowledge for granted.

LDA partners with Helping Lost Pets.  Helping Lost Pets has an INTERNATIONAL, FREE database that allows individuals, shelters, vet clinics, etc. to post lost and found dogs (as well as pinpoint sightings) on a map based system.  It is truly brilliant.  I did mention is was FREE, right?  Yet, there are shelters across the country NOT using it?  Shelters right in WI who choose to do nothing instead.  How does that make sense?  An animal shelter should be using all possible resources to get that dog home.

RTO is really the low-hanging fruit when it comes the array of possibilities of getting a dog out of the shelter.  To adopt a dog out, he has to stay for the stray hold period, might need medical care, he has to pass some type of temperament test or behavior assessment, he needs to have all his vaccines and be neutered, he has to sit on the adoption side waiting for the right person to want him, maybe he goes to adoption events.  Once someone adopts him, there is a fairly decent chance, he will be returned and the entire cycle starts again.

To transfer a dog, the shelter has to have partnerships with rescues in the area that they manage, the dog has to stay for the stray hold period, be medically treated,  the shelter has to reach out to rescues hoping someone will take him, they have to arrange transfer dates and at times vaccinate and neuter the dog before the rescue will take him.

To euthanize a dog, he has to stay for the stray hold, he has to be behaviorally assessed, he might have to be medically treated and, then, the decision is made to be euthanized.  For most shelter workers, that is the hardest and saddest part of the job – placing unbelievable amounts of stress and depression on shelter workers, causing them to quit the job sooner.

To return a dog to owner, the shelter simply has to post the lost dog in a database.  When the owner comes to get the dog there might be microchipping or a neuter involved, but there is no behavior assessment, no extended shelter time and rarely a chance that the owner is going to return the dog a few days later.  RTO is ALWAYS a quicker, happy ending.

RTO is not a number many shelters use to measure success, but if your dog gets lost wouldn’t you want to believe that getting him back home is part of the shelter’s responsibility as an animal welfare organization?  Wouldn’t you want to assume that a shelter’s first priority is to find the owner, not just get the dog out the shelter?

My favorite phrase is, “Dogs don’t fall from the sky.”  Not really just a phrase, a fact, right?  Yes, in some areas strays are a prevalent reality.  Yes, some people (very few) lose their dogs and don’t even try to find them.  I have found quite a few dogs in my 45 years and not one has been a stray.  Each one had a family desperately looking for them.  Interesting that when good Samaritans find dogs they almost always make incredible attempts to find the dog’s owner, yet, shelters and rescues don’t?  The irony… and the very sad reality that needs to change NOW.