Monthly Archives: November 2015

Tails: To Save Them All, the Antiquated Rules of Rescue Must Change

To the rescue who just denied my friends adopting a dog: shame on you! Not only did you break my friends’ hearts, you broke mine because you ruined it for so many other rescues by degrading my friends and making them feel like criminals.

You denied them based on a background check and charges you found from 13 to over 26 years ago! You never even met my friends. You didn’t even call their reference checks. You based your decision on something that happened decades ago. I think, Duke, the dog they wanted to adopt, cared more about who they are today.

They are a good family. They live in a nice neighborhood. They both have fantastic jobs. Duke would have lived a life of luxury filled with love. Kids to play with, doggie daycare to socialize at, and training whenever needed. They are actually an ideal family. Even the Animal Control officer WHO MET THEM gave her approval.

I have spent the last 10 years of my life entrenched in animal welfare. I have worked as a kennel tech in a county shelter holding the heads of dogs as they were euthanized. I have pulled dogs out of Amish puppy mills. Dogs so broken, they broke my very soul. I have lobbied in front of legislators begging for change. I have publicly spoke in hall meetings to improve the lives of shelter dogs in Chicago. I pull dogs from the shelter for my rescue and foster them. I spend every single day of my life educating people on the horrors of pet stores and encouraging everyone to adopt their next dog.

When rescues do what you did, it ruins everything we all work so hard for. Now my friends, feeling like criminals, believe the only way to get a dog is to buy one. Isn’t that what we, in rescue, fight so hard against? Yet, you have taught them that their only hope is to go to Petland or order a dog on-line. Rescues like yours infuriate me. You enjoy playing God and judging people and yet, your actions only make things worse for animals everywhere.

There are hundreds of thousands of pits who will be killed this year simply because of space, and yet, you deny people like my friends the opportunity to adopt one? I get that a few bar fights might persuade you to think my friend is dangerous, but that was 25 years ago when he was 20 years old? Do you really feel people don’t change? Do you really believe people should have a perfect record to adopt a dog?

Why wouldn’t you at least take the time to meet them and see where they live? Why couldn’t you call their references? Why was it so easy for you to hit the DENY button, when so many dogs are being killed? My friends want to save a dog and YOU didn’t let them.

The Kansas City Pet Project founder spoke at a Best Friends conference in July and said something to this effect:” “Imagine you are walking by a pond and you see a thousand dogs drowning. You jump in the pond and you just start throwing the dogs out of the water to ANYONE who will help save them. You don’t ask a lot of questions or worry about who the people you are. You just want to save the dogs. Well, people that is where we are right now. There are thousands of dogs drowning and we need to start acting like it.”

Your rescue is NOT looking at the whole adopter nor are you looking at the whole picture. We have millions of dogs to save, denying good people solely on background checks is never going to save them all.

Rescues like yours should be held responsible for euthanasia rates and the number of dogs bought in stores and on-line because you can’t see the forest from the trees. Sure, you might think you “saved” Duke, but your actions have now led to consequences that will do more damage. My friends will tell other friends never to bother adopting because of their horrific experience.

Their experience was horrible. It took your rescue two weeks to even get back to them on their original application. Two weeks. When will rescues learn that they are running a business and people should be treated like customers? And, after you denied them, it took your rescue another THREE days to tell them why.

If we really want people to think of rescue and adoption as a positive experience, we have to make it one. My rescue does. I wish I could say the same about yours.

I work too hard in this field to ignore what you did. I spend too much time and give too much of myself to let you off the hook. Rescues like yours are not making a positive impact on animal welfare today. I am sure you have a long list of the dogs you have saved and if that is enough for you, so be it. But, people like me are truly out to save them all – and to do that takes initiative and creative thinking. It means not judging people from behind a computer screen or with a generic point sheet. If we want to find homes for the million dogs who will be killed this year, the antiquated rules of rescues like yours must change.

Tails: A Week of WOW!

It is easy to lose hope when you are in the animal welfare world.  Everyday I am blasted with dogs on death row, rescues who need money for veterinary costs, or petitions to stop the abuse of animals across the world.  It is a sad, sad group to be a part of most of the time.

However, the last week of my life has proven to me that there is so much hope, so much to be thankful for,  and to be proud of.

Last Sunday, my husband and I did the first transport leg from Chicago to Minneapolis.  We were the ones picking up the fostered dogs.  There were two dogs: Carl and Smokey.  They were Shih Tzu from CACC who were both on death row until NorthStar Shih Tzu Rescue stepped up to take them.  And NorthStar was only able to because two compassionate women said they would foster the dogs sight unseen.

Carl had a troubled past and could be a bit reactive.  Smokey was old and had some severe illnesses that needed immediate treatment.  These two women each took a dog  for 30 days and treated him like a king.  When they met us in the Ikea parking lot, there were tears streaming downs their faces.  They had fallen in love.  Carl’s mom wanted to make sure he would get the training he needed and be placed in a home that would understand him.  Smokey’s mom went down the list of meds and foods that he needed as she wiped the tears from her cheeks.  Both of them handed us shopping bags full of things the dogs had acquired in just 30 days: toys, blankets, food, treats – these dogs were loved more in 30 days than, perhaps, their lifetimes.

I was completely enamored with the affection these women had for the dogs.  Sure, I had fallen in love with foster dogs before, sometimes in as little as 2 days, but to see other people fall in love and care so deeply about a “temporary” dog they never met before, I was beyond hopeful.

Tuesday, a few animal advocates and I read public statements at the Cook County Board of Commissioners meeting.  We are trying to bring about change at the Cook County Animal Control department.  Chicago is huge and crazy, but to see a group of us willing to take it on is hopeful.

Wednedsay I was invited to speak at a high school near the city.  I spoke to over 200 students and many faculty about my book Bark Until Heard and the truth about puppy mills and pet stores.  I hate public speaking, but I loved every moment BECAUSE the students and the teachers were so interested in the subject.  They truly cared about the conditions of the dogs and they really want to do the right thing.  The questions they asked were phenomenal.  I sold out of my books and they want me and Thorp to come back with more.  To engage with future generations about improving animal welfare and to see their eyes light up and make a genuine connection is beyond hopeful.  I left the school that afternoon on cloud 9.

Later Wednesday afternoon, I found myself at CACC to pick up a senior dog named Snuggles who was surrendered by his owner.  CACC’s Director retired last week and the 2nd in command left about a month ago.  I was pleased to feel a different vibe when I walked in.  I could actually sense change in the air.  The employees were kinder, more helpful.  It felt better.  Add to that a group called Advocates for Chicagoland Animals petitioning the Mayor to hire a Director with animal sheltering experience and a passion for saving animals, and I could hardly hold back a smile.  Chicago is on the precipice of HUGE change.  A high kill facility has the potential to soon save lives IF the right personnel are put in place.  There are over 1200 signatures on the petition in less than 24 hours.  So many individuals stating their personal reasons as to why they demand better for the animals at CACC.  YOU can help by signing the petition here.

Thursday rounded out the week with three more hopeful experiences.  I was interviewed by a Florida newspaper for my upcoming book signing in Cape Coral at The Waggle.  I never know how reporters will feel about my work, but this reporter was extremely supportive.  She, too, understands the horrors of puppy mills and backyard breeders.  She rescued her dogs and believes strongly in adoption only.  She was pleased to share my story and encourage people to attend my signing.

I had also gone into a small local book shop in Crystal Lake and asked if he would carry my book.  Once he learned what it was about, he, too, was supportive.  He would love to share that message and do whatever he could to bring about awareness.

By nighttime, I had read that the Chicago ordinance to prohibit pet stores from selling puppies and kittens from mass breeding facilities was UPHELD in court!  We had won!  Thanks to The Puppy Mill Project, pet stores in Chicago can only offer cats and dogs from shelters and rescue organizations!  Even on a political level and a judicial level there was absolute hope for animal welfare!

In my world, tears come everyday.  The sick dogs and unwanted cats make for depressing reading all of the time.  As animal advocates we can easily become overwhelmed and burned out.  This week has taught me so much and given me such hope.

We are not alone.  There is an entire population wanting to make a difference, eager for more knowledge.  There is a new generation who WANTS to do the right thing.  They care about animals.  From people wiling to share their homes with strange, complicated dogs to people willing to speak publicly in the name of change, the tides are turning.

The days can be sad, but it is time to wipe the tears and look-away from the heart wrenching posts and celebrate how far we have come and how much we have to look forward to!  This week is just the beginning.  Animal advocates pat yourselves on the back – we ARE making a difference and there is an army of people waiting for us to give them direction so they can join in and help!