Reality Bites: Why Rubbing Noses into Shelter Euthanasias Just Don't Work
I’ll admit to having been somewhat on edge over the last couple of weeks. Which might serve to explain how it was that I came to offer my opinion in a more direct fashion than is typical for my less-than-confrontational self.
Rest assured, however, that I seek no absolution. Remorseless am I. After all, I was provoked.
I blame PetConnection and Yes Biscuit! for my uncharacteristic riposte. That is, if a scapegoat becomes imminently more expedient than a more direct confrontation than the one I've already initiated. Because it was only after both of these well-respected pet blogging channels reported on the antics of my neighborhood animal shelter that I became aware of the remarkable transgressions that had recently taken place there.
That’s the problem with not having a television. Apart from being the last place anyone wants to attend a barbecue on a summer weekend during the World Cup, it turns out that you also miss seeing the manager of your municipal shelter attend to the euthanasia of a four-month-old puppy (on Miami local, CBS-4), while accusing the viewing public of bearing full responsibility for the tragedy.
Here’s YesBiscuit’s pitch-perfect commentary on the subject:
Yeah I guess no one will adopt him NOW but golly, doncha think having a frelling [sic] TV news crew at the shelter would have been a super opportunity to put a spit-shine on this li’l monkey and a bandanna around his neck and mention that he’s looking for a new best friend? He probably would have been adopted by the end of the day and perhaps even some other dogs could have benefited from the overflow. But instead of doing something to help him get adopted while the news crew was there, the shelter chose to kill him.
And in case you didn’t get the point, the shelter operations manager drives it into the dirt:
[Xiomara] Mordcovich said, “People need to realize what happens here, and they need to understand that this is the consequence of what happens in the community out there. This is what we all do to our best friend.
WE ALL? – No ma’am. This is not what we all do to our best friend. Killing pets and blaming the public is what you do. WE ALL are a humane society and we don’t want pets killed because they’re homeless. We want them sheltered until new homes can be secured. That’s why it’s called an animal shelter. Look it up.
I couldn’t have said it better. Well … I did try. Here was my letter to Ms. Mordcovich from last Friday:
I'm sure you've had a busy two days of e-mails over the subject of the euthanasia of a four month-old puppy that occurred during a CBS-4 visit to MDAS last month. Because I keep tabs on the national "blogosphere," the recent outrage over your words and how you handle MDAS PR in general couldn't escape my notice.
As a veterinarian, a member of this community and — like you — a crusader against animal overpopulation, I confess to having felt deeply insulted by your comments during the segment. Your fatalistic, blatantly accusatory attitude towards the "reality" of what we do when we euthanize animals came across as crass and mean-spirited. Indeed, it almost seemed as if you reveled in the euthanasia as a way for you to rub our community's nose in its own failure.
Your words: "People need to realize what happens here, and they need to understand that this is the consequence of what happens in the community out there. This is what we all do to our best friend."
This statement came across as an unfeeling, blanket indictment of the community, including those of us who do more than our share to keep animals spayed, neutered, fostered and/or permanently installed in loving homes. In short, your attitude to the news cameras seemed more like a smackdown of the community than a rallying cry to get these pets some help.
What's worse is that the opportunity to engage the community was immediately within your grasp ("please come save this puppy"), and not only did you miss it, you went out of your way to twist the knife, thereby alienating the community further — something which MDAS, above all, cannot afford to do as it struggles to build community-wide alliances.
I know you love animals. You must. I also know you have a very difficult job. Nonetheless, after watching this segment and looking for ways you might have been led astray by the news cameras (it happens, I know) I can't help thinking that you made a choice to go ahead with this poorly timed euthanasia and with your indefensibly insensitive statement. All of which makes me think that from now on, someone else at MDAS should be in charge of putting a public face on the pet overpopulation problem in our county.
Any other comments out there for those who hold the POV that communities must be punished into spay/neuter/adoption submission?
Dr. Patty Khuly