Posts Tagged ‘holiday adoptions’
We just got our 2011 Christmas present. One hundred and two survivors of a horrific puppy mill in western Arkansas arrived at our shelter and Medical Center to begin their new lives of hope. Boston terriers, dachshunds, Pomeranians, Westies, beagles, and others who have never known the feel of human kindness, affection, or compassion. Only bars and filth, crowded cages and noise, hunger, loneliness and sickness. And even death, as a few unfortunate dogs were found dead on this property before the ASPCA came in and shut down the mill, ending the torment that has no business existing this or any other time of year.
But the holidays came a few days early for these dogs. And for us. Because taking in animals with “nowhere else to go” is our mission. And no creatures have fewer options than puppy mill survivors. So we’re gearing up for their arrival by making room available “in the inn”—our shelter, clearing the deck on our current medical cases, getting ahead of current spays and neuters, and getting this week’s adopted animals home so we can turn around their dens like a New York City hotel during the holidays.
“Shelters are dying out there,” Maureen, my shelter director, said to me as she soon as she got back from one of our local partner shelters. In spite of clearing the deck for these new arrivals, she had just picked up eight dogs and even more cats from a local partner shelter. And she has had dozens of calls from other shelters asking us to take “just one more dog.” So, when we open our doors to take in more than 100 dogs and puppies from Arkansas, what does that mean for our local partners?
It’s really Sophie’s Choice. Truth is, no one has infinite room for all the homeless animals out there. And choices do have to be made. But to us, it’s never the dogs’ fault where they’re from. And the fact is, that there are too many animals where there aren’t enough adopters. My staff knows that we help our local partner shelters first. But sometimes, the call comes in from beyond the beltway and we have to say “yes.” Like this Arkansas puppy mill rescue. And we’ll do everything in the world never to say “no” to our local animals.
My Christmas wish is for everyone who ever wanted a puppy or dog or kitten or cat, to go to their local shelter first. And never, ever, go to the Internet. Because that is where the pipeline to the puppy mill begins. We have to stop the demand for these animals. And look to our local communities to responsibly end homelessness, abandonment and neglect. Because even when Christmas comes early, it’s still never early enough for so many who need it.
The past year has been a busy one for our League. Major rescues have included 70 severely neglected dogs from a hoarding situation in Mississippi, 30 dogs from Kuwait when an animal shelter burned down, 30 animals from a North Carolina medical research laboratory under investigation for abuse, and 10 pit bulls from a suspecting dog fighting operation in Ohio.
In the case of the Mississippi dogs, the League turned out to be the closest animal shelter that could accept such a large number of dogs and treat the variety of medical problems they had: mange, infections, parasite infestations, and even gunshot wounds.
Among animal shelters and animal protection groups, the Washington Animal Rescue League has quickly become well known for our ability to carry out large-scale rescues. When natural and man-made disasters displace large numbers of pets, leave many animals sick and injured, and overwhelm local shelters, the League is always ready to help.
But we’ve been responding with great trepidation in our broken down, decaying and dilapidated trucks with the logos wearing off, freezing to death while the a/c blasted to the back of the cargo space. These trucks have put in seven years and hundreds of thousands of miles to get imperiled animals who may have never been shown any love or affection and bring them through our doors to new lives they could never have dreamed of. The trucks and their precious cargo always made it, much to our relief. But in every case, we could have done so much more and rescued so many more animals with better, more reliable, and larger rescue vehicles.
I am happy to relate that, over the past few months thanks to the generosity of Dr. Shari Barton, the Phillip Graham Fund, and many other faithful donors, we’ve raised nearly $300,000 for the purchase of new vehicles. Now we can get a new rescue vehicle,—a 26-foot custom built animal transport vehicle— and procure another van to accompany it. If you’ve ever been to a puppy mill rescue, or any rescue involving thousands of animals, you’d know that the more people helping, the better. And the extra vehicle will allow four staff members, rather than just two, to go on our rescues. And, knowing our staff, they will undoubtedly load up a few dozen more animals. With these new vehicles, we’ll be able to make more rescues in 2011, more than we have ever done before.
The rescue vehicle didn’t fit under the tree but it was the best of holiday presents. It will give animals who have nowhere else to turn a real chance of finding the lives they have always deserved. And what could be better than that?
With the winter holidays rapidly descending upon us, we are suddenly reminded at every turn of the need to be buying presents. Our radios, our televisions, our computers are all full of offers to sell us virtually anything that could even vaguely be considered a present. These days, you can buy seemingly everything and anything for your loved ones. Except, that is, for a pet.
The sight of a new kitten or puppy under the decorated tree, sporting a festive holiday ribbon around his or her neck, is a bit of Americana that has gone the way of the Yule log. It’s not done any more. At least not in the same way.
Animal shelters, like the one where I work, are largely to blame for this. For decades we were held captive by a Grinch-like paranoia that convinced us that holiday shoppers, running amok in a materialistic frenzy fueled by seasonal excesses, were in no state of mind to make rational choices about the kind of animal companion they should get. And what’s worse, they might not even be buying the animal for themselves: the kitten or puppy could end up under a tree in someone else’s house. And that someone might actually have no more interest in a pet than in the yearly fruitcake from Aunt Myrna.
So shelters across the land used to close their doors to adopters in December and leave them closed until after the holidays had passed and people regained their sanity.
That’s no longer true. The fact is, we now realize, that the holiday season may be the perfect time to introduce a new dog or cat to a household. People have time off from work and school, the family spends time together, and the busy-ness of life as we generally know it subsides just a bit. Provided that your holiday plans don’t include out-of-town travels or an influx of relatives with severe allergies, the final weeks of the year could be an ideal time to help transition animal to new home and vice versa.
We still don’t condone animals as surprise gifts, of course. The choice of a new family member—and that is just what a companion animal is—is a weighty matter. You’re not always given the luxury of choosing family members, but when you are, it’s probably wise to take full advantage of the opportunity to do so carefully.
So no surprises. And yes, that means no kitten or puppy under the tree. But as an alternative, lots of people these days wrap a box containing food bowl, collar, leash, and harness (or cat toys, brush, and scratching post) and leave that under the tree with a card promising a trip to the local shelter where a host of homeless animals of all ages, sizes, and personalities are waiting to meet their future families.
That seems to work well for all parties, and each year we find early January adoptions booming as people cash in their “adoption gift certificates.” It’s a growing tradition that we heartily approve of, as do the dozens of dogs and cats who walk out of our doors with proud new families this time of year.