Thursday, June 26, 2008

Albuquerque Does it Right!

I arrived in New Mexico on Friday. Animal person that I am, I was at the Albuquerque Shelter on Saturday. This is a City that had one of the worst possible systems that was called Animal Services. An average of 28,000 animals was brought into the two shelters every year and far too many were euthanized. That is no longer true and within months it began to be turned around in a big way. Impossible, you say? Hardly. All you need is someone who cares and who is determined to do something.

In Albuquerque's case it was their Mayor, Martin Chavez, who saw the problem and set to work fixing it. In a stroke of absolute brilliance, he put Jeanine Patterson, a Registered Nurse by training, in the position of Director and she set to work turning the entire system around. For the first time in 20 years the euthanasia numbers dropped into double digits. The shelter was cleaned up and a new facility appeared in a mall where people can shop and stop by and visit cats and dogs who might just be great additions to their family. Patterson is no ordinary nurse. She opened medical clinics around the world for Intel. She knows how to make things happen. She even invited Dr. Sandra Newbury from the University of California-Davis visit because she specializes in Shelter Medicine and could make recommendations of everything from the most effective cleaning and deodorizing as well as disinfecting agents to better protocols to limit stress while cleaning cages.

Patterson is one of the nicest women I've had the pleasure of meeting and those who work with her and those who volunteer would appear to agree since there is such a warmth that passes among those at the shelter. The Albuquerque Animal Care Center is something to be seen. And something the residents of Albuquerque can take great pride in having in their City.

The shelter is clean, bright, well-maintained and there is a veterinary staff. The associate director is, in fact, John Romero who is on the New Mexico Board of Veterinary Medicine. The method of adopting is fair.

The fact is that Mayor Chavez has his own dog who goes everywhere with him, including his office every day. One of the most popular annual fund-raising events is the Mayor's Dog Ball.

In concert with this effort, is a group called Kennel Kompadres. The Friends of Kennel Kompadres are those who donate money to help augment the money the City has set aside for the Shelters. In other words, in many other places it's common for donations to a shelter to go into one fund and the money might end up being used for road repair instead of going to the shelter. Kennel Kompadres raises funds to help augment the shelter needs including humane traps for feral cats, etc., puppy and kitten formulas, kitten beds, toys, pet food to help those who foster animals for the shelter. They also do a wonderful job of humane education for children. They bring dogs and cats into school classrooms to educate the children about caring for pets and how to stay safe. They also pay for and distribute coloring books filled with animal care information and they have the equivilent of pet baseball cards for the children to collect. On the back are pet care facts, including spaying and neutering.

There is an Eastside Shelter as well as a Westside Shelter and people who truly care about animals in each.

Thanks to Mayor Chavez, Jeanine Patterson and people who augment the staff like Rick DeReyes, as well as those involved in Kennel Kompadres, many dogs and cats as well as puppies and kittens have found loving homes, life instead of death. The numbers keep coming down for euthanasia and up for adoption. Who could ask for more.

If you know me, you know that I don't impress easily. Albuquerque's Department of Animal Welfare has certainly impressed me. Their motto: Spay, Neuter, Adopt, Love serves as a shining beacon for every community in the United States. And Mayor Martin Chavez should be honored for his foresightedness, compassion, caring, and his determination to take action for the animals of Albuquerque. Bravo!

Visit the Animal Care Centers and Kennel Kompadres online:

Monday, June 16, 2008

Has the World Gone Crazy?!

I was reading my e-mail this week, when up on my screen popped a post with the most incredible story. I thought it had to be a hoax because there are so many of those. Nope. This was real. Almost surreal. And really, really ugly.

Mayor James Valley of Helena - West Helena, Arkansas, it was reported, decided to release all of that city's shelter dogs into the nearby national forest. He did WHAT??! Yes, that was my reaction. He expects defenseless dogs who are scared, lonely and abandoned to make their way in the forest. Domesticated pets are supposed to do what in order to eat, drink and find love, care and medical attention? He had the temerity to claim, according to a news report I read online in a Dallas newspaper, that the dogs were better off! The shelter is run-down, the temporary shelter wasn't good enough and all this time, when the civilized world has volunteers who raise funds for shelters, who staff them with proper personnel and integrate programs such as Karen Pryor's clicker training programs for dogs and cats in shelters to make them more adoptable, the residents and officials of Helena - West Helena, Arkansas have been doing exactly what?

By the way, releasing them into a National forest is an illegal act.

I'm still pondering all of this. I still can't believe that this has happened in a civilized society. Frankly, it makes me sick.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

It's the Economy

Sadly, one of the seldom discussed factors impacted by the economy is the family pet. With houses in foreclosure, or about to be foreclosed, soaring gas and food prices, something's gotta give. Unfortunately, that "something" is all too often the family pet. Dog or cat, they are landing in shelters and rescue groups at an alarming pace. When it comes to deciding between food and shelter, or medication and gas for the car, the family pet doesn't even begin to factor into the equation. Much loved companions are finding themselves homeless and with a limited number of days for which they'll be held at a shelter, without signs of a new home, the pet has nothing to look forward to beyond dead.

My friend, Marilyn Krieger, a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area is also in charge of Bengal Cat Rescue for the State of California. She has noticed a definite increase in the number of surrendered cats by people who simply can no longer afford to keep them. They need foster homes until permanent homes can be found. This is a pattern that repeats itself with every cat and dog breed rescue around the country.

Another close friend, Sue Janson of Wichita, Kansas points to her rescue group seeing an increase in the number of animals being relinquished by their owners because of their inability to pay for their care. They are having to make a choice: do I buy gasoline so I can get to my job? do I buy food for my kids or do I relinquish my pet because I can no longer afford him?

This is a difficult decision for everyone involved. There are no real solutions.

Perhaps you can foster a pet until a home is found. Or, perhaps, you have that home for a pet in need. Maybe you can donate food to your local rescue group or shelter. Or maybe you can help a friend who needs it so that pet can stay in his home. We must find ways to work together to resolve these issues while we wait for the economy to turn around. To paraphase: No Pet Left Behind!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Greenwich Kennel Club Dog Show's Meet the Author Event

Yesterday was the Greenwich Kennel Club Dog Show's annual "Meet the Author" event. This annual educational event, the first and probably only one of its kind at a dog show, allows the public to meet dog book authors, buy signed books and ask questions. The Taylor Farm Park show site in Norwalk, CT is an impressive stretch of land. Fortunately, there was a mild breeze blowing off the ocean because temperatures soared into the 90s.

It was such fun to meet new people, catch up with colleagues and old friends, and see dogs, dogs, dogs!

I suspect entries were down and some people who entered weren't there. That's not unusual in and of itself but I suspect soaring gas prices are to blame for a good part of it. People have to make serious choices when it comes to hobbies, to fun events. And more serious events. I plan to talk more about that in another blog post.

Meanwhile, I just want to bask in the memories of a lovely day, a wonderful show committee (Joy Brewster is an exemplary Show Chair and Donna Gilbert did a great job in her first time go as Book Signing Chair.)

Thanks to one and all for a great day and a wonderful way to kick off the Summer!