So yesterday was a reminder of how well things can work in rescue if people collaborate and communicate. The emails go out – usually with a subject line like “FINAL CHANCE! PTS deadline tomorrow, 9/23 in GA! ADOPTABLE DOGS AND PUPPIES” or “LAST CALL FOR HELP: PUREBRED CRUELTY CASE NEEDS RESCUE BY THIS THURSDAY OR SHE WILL DIE” and the forwarding and crossposting like crazy begins.
Usually working against the clock with just mere hours left before the dreaded and all too familiar “deadline” – one or more rescue groups from somewhere in the US says YES we can take that animal. Then the planning and behind the scenes legwork begins.However the most difficult part is over – finding a group or individual rescue person to step up and save a life.
The next step is lining up legs of transportation by volunteers, to get these animals to safety. My leg is usually from the Murray County Shelter (HIGH-kill shelter in Chattsworth, GA) back to Atlanta, or perhaps a little beyond. It’s around 3 hours round trip (not including the time getting paperwork and rounding up the animals at the shelter), and the hand off is usually done in the parking lot of a fast food place or gas station.
It’s one of the most rewarding 3 hours, thinking about how I am saving some lucky furbaby or furbabies from the jaws of death – literally.
But these trips up to a high-kill shelter are also a reminder about what we, as rescuers and animal advocates, are up against – the monumental obstacles of the physical, financial and bureaucratic kind that only allows a few animals – if any at all – out of hundreds, to be saved that week. The physical and financial obstacles are incredibly difficult to navigate through, but the bureaucratic obstacles, such as county and shelter “official” politics are downright impassible. Some counties and areas are worse than others, and some even get significant press for their misdoings and downright criminal behavior. Just a few weeks ago some pups pulled from Murray were transported down to a rescue in Alabama, because that group’s local shelter refuses to work with them. Instead, they would rather kill animals that would otherwise be rescued. How sick is that? Here is a perfect example of the atrocities that are all too common in the rescue world, written by Valerie Hayes of the Atlanta Animal Welfare Examiner. The article is painful to read but incredibly crucial that this experience be exposed, so I am glad my rescuer
friend, Kristin Butler, had the strength to tell it – in order to give a voice to the voiceless.
“The emails go out late at night, with subject headings that describe lives caught in a broken system: “Urgent, these puppies scheduled to die tomorrow”, “Beautiful Maine Coon cat with kittens, last day”, “frightened collie, abuse case, needs you or she dies Wednesday”. They go out relentlessly—day after day, week after week, describing puppies, kittens, senior dogs, cats with colds, purebreds, mixed breeds, abused animals who need a hero, and once-loved family pets who, one way or another, have fallen on hard times and are now coming to the end of their time in a kill shelter. They hint at the stories of lives that will be cut short if not for the network of rescuers who use the internet to conjure up one miracle after another. They pull all-nighters getting the word out through email and Facebook. They ‘crosspost’ pictures and descriptions of the animals in need, and they coordinate the rescue offers that come through, some of which involve transport to another state. It’s a team effort and includes people around the state, the country, even the world. They’re all racing against the clock because they know that a deadline is just that.
The stories hinted at in those emails are those of the rescuers, too—they tell of triumphs—those days when no animal in a particular shelter dies, those stories that turn out right, and end with a successful “pull” when an animal is taken to the safety of a rescue group and can start a new life, but they also tell of relentless stress and a whole lot of heartache—heartache from seeing how the sheltering system treats animals as if they are disposable, heartache from not being to save them all. And it starts all over again tomorrow.
In some places, they know them by numbers, not names. Such is the case in Floyd County Animal Control in Rome, GA, where last week, the stories of 2090, 2070, and his brother 2071 should have been among those with happy endings. They had rescue lined up. Instead, by the time the morning of Wednesday August 25, 2010 was over, they lay dead, along with ten other dogs and a number of cats, including ten six-week-old kittens who also had rescue lined up. Floyd County Animal Control is closed to the public on Wednesdays. That’s when they ‘clean house’—kill all of the animals still in the shelter, and hose it down. To save the lives that could be saved, the official rescue list had to hit shelter manager Jason Broome’s email inbox before the killing started. It was time stamped 4:16 am. The killing starts at 7 am.
When rescuer Kristen Butler arrived between 9:30 and 10 am, the dog she had come to pick up, 2090, was already dead. “He said he never got anything about her having rescue. I stood in front of him and almost threw up! He got the email before he starting putting dogs down.” And he got more than one email stating that those dogs had rescue. “He either read it and didn’t care, or he didn’t care to read it. They are both just as bad. Why would you start killing animals if there was a chance that they got a last minute rescue? It is just wrong! It’s not like he does not know that every Tuesday we pull all-nighters because of his ‘I won’t wait one more minute’ Wednesday rule.”
Of 2090, she says, “She was 8 months old. She was beautiful. She was adopted. The lady had already made a vet appointment. She had a home.” She adds, “It’s even worse for cats. It’s horrible.”
The killing of animals they thought they’d saved was too much for some:
“I am leaving rescue effective this evening!”
“I will never again post for FCAC.”
“My life is utterly devastated and I cannot continue this level of involvement.”
“If everyone stops helping Floyd it will be a blood bath.”
Word of the killing of 2090, 2170 and 2171 spread like wildfire on Facebook. The world is watching this shelter. One person summed up the situation, “It’s so easy to become complacent and discouraged. We need to harness the anger and disgust we feel and turn that into energy that can be used to promote a No Kill Nation. It’s the only way that this is ever going to stop. Nothing else changes – it’s the same cycle of panic, desperate pleas for saving, tears when the ones left behind die and then it starts all over again the next day.”
Again, as always, there are more animals needing adoption or rescue at this shelter. You can see them on Petfinder or in the slideshow below. The adoption fee is $40 for puppies and dogs and $35 for cats and kittens. Wednesday will be too late.
Some rescuers are unwilling to report abuses or to publicly criticize the shelters they pull from, justifiably afraid of losing the ability to save any more animals from death. Delaware recently passed the Companion Animal Protection Act and Georgia, its cities and counties, need to follow suit. CAPA guarantees rescuers the right to rescue, and shelter pets the right to be rescued, rather than killed. The animals, animal rescuers, and animal lovers deserve that much.
Says Butler, “I refuse to look the other way. The madness over there needs to stop. I feel like if I don’t speak out, I will have participated in the deaths of those dogs.”
Broome has issued new rules, more draconian than before—animals must be off the shelter’s premises by 5 pm Tuesday or they will be killed Wednesday morning. No more ‘hold-overs’. The rules and contact information for rescuers wishing to pull from FCAC are available at the volunteer website.
Is this any way to live?
Floyd County Animal Control
431 Mathis Rd.
Rome, GA 30162-0946
Beyond heartbreaking. Beyond shocking. Beyond disgusting. Beyond terrifying. And not the first time this has happened – and worse, not the last.