The issue of BC based animal rescues pulling dogs from LA shelters and adopting them to local families is a highly contentious issue in the rescue community. For those that pull these dogs (and some cats) they argue that LA shelters are so full that hundreds of dogs (and cats) die each week.
It is true that LA shelters are devastatingly full, and many have 72 hour kill rates. Groups who import Chihuahuas and other small dogs argue that there are not enough small dogs in our shelter and rescue system and by bringing in small dogs, they are reducing the likelihood of people buying a dog from a pet store. Most of the dogs that are being killed in LA shelters are Pit Bull types dogs and those who bring them across the boarder feel a moral obligation to give these misunderstood dogs a second chance. All one needs to do is watch one of Hope for Paws’ tear jerking rescue videos of the many strays left to fend for themselves on LA streets and California deserts to get a small glimpse of how big the problem is.
But what of the BC crisis? Do animals not die in our shelters and on our streets? Do we not have enough Pit Bulls here to defend and fight for their rights? Is our obligation not first to our own animals, in our own back yards?
It may seem that our shelter system is not in crisis and because we don’t have the infamous “kill list” of animals that “will be destroyed” within 24 hours if they are not pulled, that animals are not being killed. Much of our crisis, however, exists hundreds of miles away from our metropolitan areas, in isolated, often forgotten communities. We don’t have a “kill list” because there are no shelters and the closest SPCA is an 8 hour drive away (weather permitting).
Many communities do not have the capacity to respond to animal welfare issues and do not have access to veterinary services. Without the support of groups with more capacity and resources, the animals in these community suffer and die on a daily basis. For example, there is an isolated community whose response to their stray dog problem is to place a bounty on dogs head. Communities members will find a stray dog, take it out of town, shoot it, cut off its tail and bring the tail into town for $30. Is this not akin to a kill list? Does this not indicate we are in crisis?
Newton is an older, in tact male, who was picked up as a stray in Terrace. Newton will be “destroyed” if he is not adopted or pulled by a rescue. It is unlikely that Newton will be adopted in time, so the Northern Animal Rescue Alliance have been madly trying to find a rescue who can take him. And the ability to take in animals from these northern communities and shelters depends on whether there is a home that is willing and able to foster them. So while groups who import dogs are utilizing foster homes for their southern dogs, dogs in the north, like Newton die.
Some dogs are lucky.
Pepper and her brother, Scamp were rescued by Northwest Animal Shelter in Smithers. Pepper had parvo and developed serious health complications as a result. Due to limited resources and access to alternative forms of care, NWAS worked to find a group in the Lower Mainland who could give her the care she needed. And although she had a very guarded prognosis, West Coast Rottweiler Rescue agreed to take her (they took her brother Scamp in a month earlier). Pepper was just recently adopted by one of the veterinarians who has been caring for her.
And it is not just our northern friends in BC that need our help, northern communities across the country rely on organizations and networks through their respective provinces to respond to crises that most of these isolated northern communities face. Organizations such as Dogs With No Names and Norway House Animal Rescue Network are specifically dedicated to respond to the plight of northern dogs in their provinces.
The argument that there are no small dogs available for adoption is a fallacy. In addition to small dog specific rescues, such as Okanagan Small Dog Rescue and Little Paws Rescue Society, other rescues, such as Broken Promises and shelters across the province often have small dogs available for adoption.
Consider the plight of Dexter and Dixie
Or Chili. Chili was dumped outside a veterinary clinic in Richmond. It took them three days to catch her because she was so terrified. She was brought to Richmond Animal Protection Society (which is also the city shelter) and upon examination it was obvious that she had spent the first 7 or 8 years of her life in a crate, breeding.
The mere mention of the ‘breed’ triggers numerous emotions and responses. For the majority of us in animal welfare, it is one of frustration, despair and anxiety as we witness the discrimination and abuse these dogs suffer as a result of media’s targeting and misrepresentation of these beloved dogs. Without rescue groups like HugABull Advocacy and Rescue Society and Bully Buddies, many pit bull type dogs would languish and die in our shelters. Their careful assessments and screening policies work to ensure that balanced dogs are being saved and placed in appropriate homes. The importance of this work cannot be overstated. By ensuring that balanced dogs are being given a second chance they are working to improve the public’s perception (and therefore, treatment) of these dogs. As they advocate for the removal of Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) in our communities, the over breeding and mistreatment of these dogs make their job hard enough. When these often abused and traumatized dogs are pulled from LA shelters, with no health and behaviour assessments, placed in ill-equipped foster homes and adopted out to inexperienced or inappropriate homes they end up on the front page of the newspaper, in one of our municipal shelters, back with the original rescue group who will post an urgent need for a foster home, or ultimately, the dog will suffer the same fate this group tried to save it from…death.
There is no shortage of pit bull type dogs needing a home in our province. All one needs to do is to peruse the adoptable pages of HugABull and Bully Buddies or visit your local shelter. The chances of their being a pit bull type dog in there are pretty high.
Like Bertie who is sits at Delta Community Animals Shelter waiting for a home.
A search on petfinder.com on the day of writing (March 23, 2013) revealed 40 pages (close to 1,000) of cats that are looking for a home. This does not include the large numbers of feral and free roaming cat colonies in our province. Without a doubt, there is a cat overpopulation crisis in Canada, let alone, BC. The last thing we need, is people bringing in a van load of cats from the states.
This is not to say our hearts do not break for the animals in LA (and other US cities, such as New York) where hundreds of animals a day are reported to be killed because there is not the space and resources to help them all. But continuing to pull animals from these situations is not solving the problem, it is merely a very temporary band aid solution to a much bigger social issue. Best Friends Animal Society has established an office and shelter in LA and has initiated a campaign to make LA a No Kill City. If the plight of LA animals is important to you, support this work. Until the community, as a whole, addresses the social issues that have created such a crisis in their city, the problem will not go away. We will continue to import animals at the expense of the thousands of animals that need our help.