Saturday, March 28, 2009

Uno the beagle not welcome in Gwinnett County

Uno the Beagle not welcome in Gwinnett County

America loves a hero. For many dog loving American's Uno the beagle, who won Best in Show last year, is that hero. Uno captured the hearts of America during his celebrity tour that included the first-ever White House visit by a Westminster winner. When his victory was announced Uno's howls of joy were only drowned out by the passionate response from the crowd who cheered his victory.

Uno's year started the day after he won, when he went to Sardi's for the winner's traditional plate of strip steak. He also made the rounds on a host of television shows delighting audiences with his cheerful personality.

Since then he's spent an hour with Texas Gov. Rick Perry. He rode with Snoopy, America's other most famous beagle, in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. He threw out the first pitch at Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals baseball games. Well, okay, he fetched the first pitch.

Uno rang the bell to open the NASDAQ stock exchange and spent his third birthday visiting the commander and chief, President George Bush in the White House. Laura Bush gave Uno a red-white-and-blue collar and lead as a birthday present. The famous hound also got a chance to play with 270 school kids and Girl Scouts. Later, he visited injured GIs at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Now retired, Uno is a certified therapy dog who visits Ronald McDonald Houses around the country. "Uno has a wonderful personality and temperament," said Westminster Director of Communications David Frei and TV host for USA and CNBC, who added, "I've been doing this for 20 years and have never seen a dog that the public responded to like Uno."

According to a November 26, 2008 article in the International Herald Tribune Americas, the Global Edition of the New York Times, Uno has had a busy year.
Uno had a day declared in his honor in his home state of Illinois

Uno met the family of Peanuts comic strip creator, Charles Schultz. The comic character, Snoopy, was Uno’s ink-on-paper beagle forebear.

Uno appears to love the applause and the attention heaped on him and people seem to relate to him as a type of underdog champion.

While Uno was welcomed by the White House for his accomplishments it is ironic is that his howls of joy and excitement would be in violation of this county's ordinance on nuisance barking.

If Uno or any of his champion "brood" ever decided to visit Gwinnett our county's ordinance would consider any barking exuberance of more then five times for thirty seconds would be a violation of county code. One is left to wonder whether laws written to condemn dogs like Uno are written to make prosecuting and convicting dogs like Uno rather then written advocating to assure their safety in the community.

The owner of the property Uno was visiting could be cited, pay up to a thousand dollars in fine, face six months in jail and if the animal rights attorney was inclined have Uno seized and become the property of the county governments animal shelter.

While the issue of dog's barking more then five times for thirty seconds is what a vast majority of dogs do - after all they are dogs, an ordinance of this nature will be viewed as a first of it's kind that specifically criminalize owning beagles.

Here's what the Humane Society of the United States says about traits common in beagles.

Surrender: “During my years in rescue work, the most common reason for surrender I heard was that the beagle’s barking was causing trouble with the neighbors.”
Adoption: “If a potential adopter is considering a beagle, they need to accept that beagles bark. Beagles love to bark so much that I am convinced they soon forget why they started barking and just continue to bark for the sheer enjoyment of it. A potential adopter should know that their prospective new family member will be a vocal one.

As a long time owner and advocate for beagles in our community I'm convinced too that beagles bark simply because they can. Anyone who has had the pleasure of being owned by a beagle knows that they are fiercely stubborn in their ways, have an attention span of a gnat, and follow their nose to wherever and whatever direction it takes them.

Of all the real crime issues in Gwinnett, an explosive growth in drug trafficking, illegal immigration and gang violence, the beagles are the only criminal element which have successfully visited the white house - doesn't that say something about the county's mixed up priorities?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Nathan's Blog - Why more laws don't work... without shelter reform

L.A. City Council Sheds Crocodile Tears
March 24, 2009 by Nathan J. Winograd

I believe in spay/neuter. I encourage spay/neuter. I promote incentives for spay/neuter. It is a key component of the No Kill Equation. But I am against mandatory spay/neuter laws. That is not a contradiction. It is an understanding that if one is goal oriented, and if the goal is reducing shelter intakes and shelter deaths, one does not necessarily follow the other.

As my colleague Brent Toellner at indicated in an interview I did of him last year,

In 2006, Kansas City passed mandatory spay/neuter of all “Pit Bull”-type dogs. Since the ordinance was passed, Kansas City has seen an 80% increase in the number of “Pit Bulls” killed in their city shelter. Many of these dogs are getting confiscated from homes because they were not in compliance with the spay/neuter ordinance. Young puppies are being killed because they look too “Pit Bull” and are not altered by the time they reach eight weeks of age. They’re killed only because they have not been spayed or neutered.

Many other cities have seen similar results with their mandatory spay/neuter ordinances—of both “Pit Bulls” and of all types of dogs. Los Angeles passed their mandatory spay/neuter in February of 2008, and has seen their kill numbers go up 31% this year, after more than five years of steady decline in shelter killings.

Similarly, other cities have struggled with their mandatory spay/neuter ordinances. Problems range from decreased licensing (pushing these people underground and making them harder to reach with low cost services), significant increases in animal control costs, and an increase in shelter killing rates due to the ordinances. Simply put, mandatory spay/neuter ordinances have never led to No Kill success anywhere, ever.

Giving shelters the power to impound and kill even more animals is no way to lower the death rate. Giving animal control the power to divert resources from programs that do work so that agencies can hire yet more officers to write yet more tickets, to no avail, is no way to lower the death rate.

Time and time again, studies show that people who do not spay/neuter belong to those at near, at, and below the poverty line. And Los Angeles should know, it was on the vanguard of this understanding some three decades ago, and put in place a very effective response to overcome it. As I wrote in Redemption,

On February 17, 1971, it opened the first low-cost spay/neuter clinic in the country, with the City of Los Angeles paying for the veterinary staff. By 1973, two more clinics opened and the first was expanded. In 1979, a fourth clinic became operational. The program was so successful, that within the first decade of the program Los Angeles shelters were killing half the number of animals they had been prior to the clinics. Every dollar invested in the program was saving taxpayers ten dollars in animal control costs, due to the reduced numbers of animals these shelters were handling. And despite outcry from private veterinarians and their associations when the program first began, there was no discernible loss of business over time. With four clinics operating, private veterinarians were still performing 87 percent of all neutering within Los Angeles, because the clinics were being used by poor people who would not otherwise have had their pets altered. While national “leaders” were trying to appease private veterinarians, Los Angeles had begun the march to save the animals.

Unfortunately, the clinics were closed in a round of budget cuts, and Los Angeles began following the model of punitive legislation being advanced by those national leaders. Now, it is left scrambling to try to save a badly flawed, unworkable program. And that is why the latest furor over the elimination of subsidized spay/neuter vouchers sadly misses the point.

While some activists simply do not know better and mean well, others obstinately ignore facts, experience, and history and continue to push these types of laws. They will do what they have always done—facts, logic, and history be damned. They will continue to blame the public and they will continue to fight for more and tougher laws. They will argue that their community is different, that their situation is unique, that citizens in their community are particularly—or peculiarly—irresponsible. None of this is true, but they do not care.

While they claim to be motivated by saving lives, there is something much more powerful driving them: the desire to punish. An activist truly focused on lifesaving, who subsequently learns that punitive legislation is not only a dismal failure, but that it has the opposite results (more impounds, more killing), would end their support of such methods and begin to push for regime change at animal control or the programs and services of the No Kill Equation.

By contrast, those who are intent on punishing the public are being driven by other imperatives. In the end, they so want to punish the public for not taking care of their pets as much as they think they should, they are willing to ignore all the evidence about legislation’s true results or about how to truly save lives, and instead empower animal control to kill animals in the process. Unfortunately, animal control is generally more than willing to oblige and do just that. In the end, these activists become that which they claim to most despise—people whose actions result in the impound and killing of animals. They become the “irresponsible public.”

It is clear that these individuals are not truly motivated by saving animals because they spend no effort on shelter reform legislation, and don’t even stop to think about how horrible and abusive the pounds are that the animals get taken to because of their punitive laws. In fact, they stand side by side with the perpetrators—in speeches and legislative hearings. They are the champions of continued killing, the defenders of draconian animal shelters, and the purveyors of punishment through misguided legislative efforts such as pet limit laws, leash laws, feeding bans, and mandatory spay/neuter even when community after community has shown that animals are killed because of it.

The ones that, as another colleague described,

have heard—and repeated—the mantra of “irresponsible pet ownership” as the root of all evil in the animal world. This resonates with them doubly because they tend to dislike/distrust people, and are exposed to animals that are often the result of abandonment, neglect, ignorance, or at least believe this to be true which further reinforces their dislike for people as a whole. When a local Pit Bull advocate loudly proclaimed that Pit Bulls would be better off with a “humane death” than to be adopted to the “wrong family,” the last piece finally fell into place for me. So many animal welfare people have assumed a position of moral/ethical superiority over the “masses” by virtue of their work with the animals. Only they and an elite few can properly know and care for animals. Most animals in the hands of the unwashed masses, in their estimation, would be better off dead at the hands of “caring” professionals than to be subjected to the horror of the POSSIBILITY of being in the clutches of the dreaded “irresponsible pet owner.” Many of these people are truly distraught at the idea of drastically increasing adoptions, knowing that it will be bad for the animals. In their minds, shelters MUST kill animals to protect the animals.

When you’re exposed to ugliness or just thoughtlessness toward animals, it’s very easy to fall into the mindset I describe above. I think this is why getting animal welfare folks to truly embrace No Kill as a reality (rather than just a nice idea) can be such a hit-or-miss affair and I have not yet come up with a strategy to really “reach” the people who so desperately need the killing to continue. They’re not willing to embrace the No Kill Equation because it depends on the public being a key component to solving the problem…and they will simply not accept that the cause of the problem can in any way be the solution to the problem. Only by pummeling and imposing legislative controls on people … do they see the problem being solved. All the while, they sit atop the shining throne of the animal advocate and know they are “doing good.”

They aren’t motivated by saving lives, they are about setting themselves up as “better” because they are in opposition to everyone else, the uncaring masses. They are, as my colleague noted above, “atop the shining throne of the animal advocate,” whose rule is threatened by the emerging success of the No Kill movement which says, yes some people are irresponsible, but most people do care. Most people find killing abhorrent. Most people pass on their own needs during difficult economic times in order not to have to cut back on what their animals need. Most people would do the right thing if given the information they need to make good choices, if we can cut through the fog of deceit that HSUS has been peddling for fifty years. Most people are not only part of the solution; they are the key to it. And that, according to these Naysayers, can’t be allowed to happen. Because guess what? When everyone is special, no one is special. Not only are most people as committed to animals as they are masquerading to be, but they are more so, because they oppose killing, too. So they can’t accept that. And they block it out, because what else do they have? Who else are they? They lose their identity as “saviors”—these addicts of being special at the expense of the animals.

And so they will champion Cardenas. And they will line up at the podium to thank him. And he will get his lackluster voucher program. And he will get a report that says the mandatory spay/neuter law works but its success is being obscured by rising impounds and deaths due to the economy (ignoring the fact that other communities that have been harder hit by the recession are still increasing rates of lifesaving, despite these troubled economic times). And the activists will applaud their “good work” and go back to feeling special. Meanwhile, the animals will continue to be killed.

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