Damn Cesar Millan.
While the wildly popular Dog Whisperer is a magician when it comes to problem dogs, he’s a nightmare for run-of-the-puppy-mill shelters.
For those unfamiliar with his technique, simply with a verbal “tch” and a assertive touch on the animal, he can make the unruliest pit bull sit and stay in a television minute. It’s amazing to behold.
He’s got a gift. And, because of that, he makes it seem dead simple.
It’s not. And that’s a problem.
Society now believes even the most feral of our four-legged buddies are salvageable. They are society’s innocents, and there are now scads of well-intentioned folks leaping to save their lives.
Society is decidedly squeamish about killing cats and dogs.
As a result, many North American shelters have adopted irresolute no-kill policies. This is not surprising - shelters are magnets for animal lovers. Our Mae Bachur shelter is just one of them.
And it is currently thick with abandoned animals - at last count it held nearly 40 dogs and 25 cats. It is designed to hold just 18 dogs and 17 cats.
There is a problem here. Put simply, the situation is not sustainable.
As the shelter feverishly works to save and heal castoff dogs and cats, it is bleeding money.
The board is approving expensive surgeries to repair dog gums, and to amputate ruined legs and tails. Some of these bills have topped $10,000.
It posted a $30,000 deficit this year. Last year, the deficit was $50,000.
If this continues, the organization will run out of money in two years.
And then what?
There are other, more subtle problems.
As one alert reader noted this week, by failing to cull the worst of the animals, the shelter erodes people’s confidence in the facility - who wants to adopt a wildly incontinent animal. Or a biter.
Sure, a few people have the time, patience and skills to deal with such animals. But most want a pet that is as little trouble as possible. Society will grow wary of adopting a pet from the shelter.
As well, the overcrowding is contributing to disease, such as parvovirus. The shelter has seen three outbreaks in just a few weeks. How is keeping animals caged in an overcrowded, disease-ridden shelter humane?
The bottom line is that we risk loving our abandoned animals to death.
The shelter is an important facility in our community. It saves many great animals, placing them in loving homes.
But its future is in peril unless the board makes some tough choices. The biggest is whether to continue its no-kill policy.
Deciding the fate of a living, breathing animal is a heart-rending business. Nobody wants to kill a dog, especially one that may have been abused by some nasty, twisted individual.
While damaged, violent dogs are protected by the shelter, potentially gentle, well-behaved animals die at the city pound.
So what’s the goal?
Even with 10,000 Cesar Millans you couldn’t save them all.
When it comes to pets, sometimes responsible owners must play God.
Ending the life of a loved animal is one of the hardest decisions a compassionate person will make. But, as hard as such an action is, it is often the only merciful thing to do.
So, while some consider the shelter’s no-kill policy humane, it isn’t.
It is simply a cop-out that forces the decision onto someone else.