A system in crisis

Posted by: Kathy Powelson Tags: , , , | Categories: News


Over the past week we have been advocating for the need for animal welfare and rescue organizations to focus first on BC animals. Our most recent press release condemns the BC SPCA for an internal policy that provides the provisions necessary for their shelters to import dogs from out-of-province, including the US.

Our position is primarily based on the fact that we know there to be many communities right here in BC that have massive stray dog and cat over population problems, and as a result these animals are suffering and are being killed inhumanely. Unlike the US, where the stray dog problem is an urban issue and major cities struggle to respond to neglected, stray and abused dogs suffering in their streets, BC (and the rest of Canada’s) stray dog problem is hidden from most of us. The majority of us do not see the dogs roaming the streets in small remote and northern towns. We do not see the suffering, and we are unaware that the response to these stray dogs is to shoot or drown them. In some cases, communities place a bounty on the tail of dogs in an effort to deal with the problem. 1899935_10151934037945866_787711374_n


It is not just these remote and northern communities that are struggling anymore. We have heard from many of our rescue partners in the Lower Mainland, who for the first time in a decade, have a waiting list of dogs to come into their rescue, but they do not have the foster families to help them all. As a result, dogs are dying in our local shelters because they are deteriorating in the shelter system, and with no local organization able to find a foster home to take them in, the humane option to stop the suffering is euthansia.

We struggle to tell these stories in the same dramatic fashion that images of abandoned dogs on the streets of Los Angeles tell. We do not have images of all the dogs “to be destroyed” in the these communities, as we see filling social media from major city shelters across the US. More important to those who work with these communities is building a relationship of trust, respect and understanding so they can work together to create a healthier community. Without these relationships it would not be possible to help, and at the end of the day that is the goal. Not to make the six o’clock news.

However, it is making the six o’clock news that can often have the biggest impact on the general public, and this in turn will impact where they chose to focus their support. Unfortunately, a three minute segment of a group rescuing dozens of dogs from death row in LA does not provide enough context, nor does it provide any critical insight. For example, on Saturday, August 30 CTV aired a story of the challenges a local rescue was facing after the van that was en route to LA to pick up a couple dozen dogs crashed. The story, “Rush to save dogs from euthanasia in California” shows image after image of dogs in kennels, while at the same time highlighting the critical rescue work this groups is doing. They have, after all, adopted 1,000 dogs since 2012.

shelter dog (1)

1,000 dogs since 2012

Let’s consider these numbers for a minute.

If a rescue run by volunteers were to follow commonly accepted practices of ethical and responsible rescue, how could they possibly adopt out what amounts to approximately 41 dogs a month for the past two years? With no regulation on either sides of the boarder, and no systems of accountability for animal welfare and rescue work, anyone can set themselves up as a rescue, drive across the border, pick up a truck load of dogs and place them in homes immediately upon arrival. How each organization chooses to manage their rescue work is essentially up to them, and there is no formal body to ensure we are following ethical practices.

Over the past couple of years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of organizations created solely for the purpose of importing dogs from the US and internationally. The media loves these stories, and people feel really good about saving a dog from ‘death row’. The argument we often here is, “a life is a life, it doesn’t matter where the dog is from”. That’s difficult to argue with, without sounding like you don’t care about what happens to animals outside of BC.

Paws for Hope’s mission is sustainable animal welfare in BC. We invest a lot of energy working with the rescue community to identify ways we can provide support to help build a sustainable system over the long term that can provide the utmost protection for companion animals. Our BC animals first position does not exclude organizations who in fact do import dogs from the US, but the critical distinction is these groups are not mass importers; they are often breed specific rescues and they always look to BC first. They also follow the same practices condoned by our rescues partners who are BC only. Practices such as,

1. Assessing dogs before they are pulled from the shelter
2. Placing a dog with a foster home for a minimum of 30 days before making them available for adoption
3. Spay or neutering dogs before available for adoption
4. Provide up-to-date vaccinations
5. Ensure the dog is in the best health possible and that if there will be ongoing health issues the potential adopter is made aware.
6. Be available for follow up support for the life time of the dog, including taking the dog back if the new family is no longer able/willing to take care of them.

A full and more in-depth list of commonly agreed upon ethical rescue practices can be found here.

We are very concerned that many of these organizations are not following these guidelines, and this has a dramatic negative ripple effect on animal welfare and rescue overall in our province.

Finally, as an organization committed to sustainable animal welfare we argue that the mass importing of dogs from the US and internationally does nothing to solve the issue in the community where this over population crisis exists. For every dog that is pulled from a shelter in the US, it is very likely that by the end of that same day a new dog has taken its place in the shelter. In order to make meaningful and sustainable change and to save lives over the long term, it is crucial to work with and support the local organizations and individuals working hard to make a difference.

For example, Best Friends, LA has spearheaded a No Kill LA campaign. In partnership with other organizations and shelters, the NKLA Coalition aims to make LA a no kill city by 2017. It would seem that the best way to help dogs in LA would be to support this initative and/or other initiatives doing this life saving work. To find out more about this work, you can join us on October 4 for keynote luncheon with the Executive Director of Best Friends, LA. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit our website.

In the meantime, get connected with the local community and find out ways you can help. Such as donating to help Micha, an 8 month puppy on Vancouver Island who was found on death’s door last week with over seven gaping and severely infected cuts, so infected you could smell his rotting skin. Flies were landing on him and maggots were infested in his deep neck and ear wounds. Consider fostering for one of the many organizations who are in desperate need of foster homes, such as HugABull Advocacy and Rescue Society and Victoria Humane Society. Visit your local shelter, they all have dogs who really need to get out of the shelter.

Daisy is currently at the Delta Community Animal Shelter and staff are hoping to find her a foster or forever home ASAP as she is very stressed in the shelter

Daisy is currently at the Delta Community Animal Shelter and staff are hoping to find her a foster or forever home ASAP as she is very stressed in the shelter

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