Can I vent about animal advocacy?

Lost Sharpei

Einstein wrote that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Well I’m here to tell you there are a lot of insane people working or volunteering as animal advocates.

I’ve written very little for my two animal-related Examiner columns in the past few weeks for a few reasons. I’ve been sick. I’ve been busy with other projects. And I’m fed up with animal advocates. I needed a break from all of the drama and craziness that is animal advocacy.

This happens to me every so often, usually when I’m not feeling well. When I’m sick I have far less tolerance for everything that is wrong with animal rescue today.

I think my biggest beef is with those who either see a conspiracy under every rock or who cannot see the big picture no matter what. I will give you a few examples.

Much of California law regarding shelters and what they can and cannot do is pretty cut and dry. There are a few areas that really need a court case or clarifying legislation, but for the most part, the rules are the rules. Of course, in the area of shelter law, THE RULE is the Hayden Act.

Despite many claims from shelter managers and city/county officials to the contrary, the Hayden Act is not suspended in its entirety. Actually, most of it is still in effect. But there are some provisions that are suspended. Even those provisions do not suggest in any way that government entity cannot enact zoning laws.

Such was the cause of a heated discussion with a friend who simply would not take “no” for an answer. Kern County is changing some of the zoning requirements for rescues. Basically, last time I looked at the draft they wanted a rescue that is operating in a residential area to get a conditional use permit if they want to house more that the allowed number of animals on the property. Can I say this again? IT IS NOT A VIOLATION OF THE HAYDEN ACT. IT IS NOT A VIOLATION OF THE HAYDEN ACT. IT IS NOT A VIOLATION OF THE HAYDEN ACT.

It is the right thing to do. Who wants to buy a home on a small lot only to have a zoo move in next door I love animals more than just about anyone, but rescues need to be regulated. Period.

To take this one step further, as far as I’m concerned, if a rescue wants to pull an animal and has no place to put the animal except on property not zoned for it, it is NOT a violation of the Hayden Act for the shelter to refuse to release the animal until arrangements are made to place the animal in a safe and adequate place. For example, Animal Control perhaps has already been to the property for a yearly inspection and knows the rescue is over its limit by three dogs. I feel they are completely within their right, based on their legal obligation to protect the public, to refuse to adopt another animal to that rescue until it is in compliance.

Not everyone feels the same way I do. Some say a rescue has an absolute right to an animal no matter what it plans to do with it. I simply disagree and I’m tired of arguing over it.

My other really big pet peeve is the way the rescue community demonizes all breeders. Look, I am not fond of breeders myself. I have never bred an animal and never will. But high quality breeders are a necessity AND they are part of the puzzle to reducing pet overpopulation.

That brings me to the insanity part. This may be hard to imagine for those of you who do not have 3,000 animal advocate friends on Facebook, but “networking” on social media is a big deal in the rescue community. Every day animals are networked like crazy and many are saved because of the networking. But 10,000 of them are not saved but rather killed each and every day, sometimes not so humanely in areas that don’t have the laws we have in California.

To me, every shelter in the country should be aiming to be no-kill. It is an unattainable goal because there will always be animals that have to be put down for health or temperament. But kill rates above 10 percent or are due to a lack of commitment to all of the pieces of the puzzle that will reduce pet overpopulation.

Networking is wonderful for those animals that are saved each day. But for 10,000 others, it really sucks that they have to die because there is so much short-sightedness, backstabbing, fighting, and greed in the rescue community.

Until the rescue community as a whole attacks the pet overpopulation problem with a holistic approach, there is going to be little real, lasting change. First, we need to enforce the laws we already have on the books. Then we need to fill in the gaps with new legislation. Neither of these things will happen unless we elect representatives who are dedicated to finding a solution. And we are not going to elect said representatives until the rescue community gets off their butts, registers to vote, and becomes politically active.

Next, we must educate our young in particular so they don’t look at an animal the same as every other throwaway in their lives. And finally, we must regulate puppy mills and backyard breeders.

The last item is where high quality breeders come in. There is always going to be a demand for well-bred animals, especially in some areas of working dogs, such as those who can sniff out cancer, warn a person before they have a seizure, etc. We have to stop alienating these breeders. It is in their best interest as well that backyard breeders and puppy mills be put out of business. But the rescue community is so openly hostile to these breeders that when have forced them to the other side.

The battle of pet overpopulation is not going to be won as long as the rescue community is so factionalized and, in some cases, so misinformed and unwilling to do what is right and ethical. I’m tired of those that have joined the community to make a profit off of hurting animals and the sympathy of animal lovers, and I’m tired of those who have joined the community because they love drama, especially causing it for everyone else.

I might add one more point, and this is practically blasphemy in the rescue world. There are good shelters and there are okay shelters that are really trying to work towards higher placement rates. We should not be condemning those that are trying, but instead, working with them to help them achieve their goals. I am tired of the hateful, profanity-laced rants from those who refuse to acknowledge the good and choose to only look at the negative.

I will be back to writing for my animal column in a few days. But I desperately needed a break as well as get other things done.

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