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January 6, 2010 > Ohlone Humane Society: A New Year's Rant

Ohlone Humane Society: A New Year's Rant

By Nancy Lyon

This column is late and will hopefully squeak by the last minute deadline - and the reason is as the headline says, it's a rant because right now I'm stressed and pretty angry. Bottom-line it may be joyous and fun time for many people and that's great, but what about the trusting and frightened animals that sit in a far corner of an animal shelter kennel wondering what they did wrong and where are the people they have given their devotion to... and it's one of my tasks as a rescue liaison at the Fremont Animal Shelter to help find options for them as their time ruins out.

If you work with an animal shelter or are a member of its staff, it's a time of stress and hard, hard decisions. It is a time when a greater number of stray and abandoned animals pour into shelters where space must somehow be found to house them. The lucky animals quickly make it back home but the majority depends on the efforts of people under immense pressure to find re-homing or rescue options. The grim aspect of killing adoptable animals when shelter capacity expands beyond all reasonable efforts to humanely hold the animals as long as possible... is far from a time of celebration

With people leaving town for the holidays, the problem grows larger. Many wanting to cut costs and not board or hire qualified "pet" sitters choose to hand over the safety of their animal companions to inexperienced caretakers incapable of insuring their well-being. A portion of owners - I won't dignify them by calling them guardians or family, jettison their animals as inconvenient and expensive and abandon them to the streets.

I can honestly tell you after volunteering at the Fremont Animal Shelter for many years that what is supposed to be a time of kindness and compassion doesn't seem to trickle down to the animals; and it's a terrible time for the people who daily work at the shelter, the folks that must try to pick up the pieces of the animals' broken lives. These are the people that I know who really care, they are not perfect but I know they work tirelessly to help the animals and get them to safety.

They are not the bad guys - the real villains in this scenario are the irresponsible and exploitive people who are either uninformed or uncaring about the commitment and effort that having a companion animal or any animal requires.

Walking the kennels... how do you comfort the gray muzzled Pit mix with the sad, sad, eyes that quietly looks to you for answers, or the loyal Pit Bull with the huge growth that keeps looking around for that someone who will never come? Where is the family of the old and terribly infirm Akita who has lost all his dignity, who can't rise to eat, that must have shelter staff clean his body waste from his coat... that must die with strangers? What about multiple little small, white and fluffy dogs who were someone's "cash crop" who might have a chance? And then there's the hundred plus cats who linger in hope that someone will want a beautiful but adult cat. So many stories, some that end well but too many that don't.

Volunteers, rescuers, shelter staff workers take home remembrances of the faces of these animals in their hearts and grieve at each life lost so unnecessarily. They work tirelessly every day and need each of you to consider if you are contributing to the tragedy. Think on the following:

* Animals are thinking, feeling beings; are you worthy of their trust, loyalty and unconditional love?

* They require costly lifelong care and if you can't honestly offer that, then don't get an animal of any kind until you realistically can do so.

* They are not a toy to temporarily amuse your children until they tire of them and are discarded; or an object to complement your dˇcor or wardrobe nor a badge of your machismo.

* Are you willing and able to spay or neuter your animals so they or their offspring don't end up a shelter statistic?

* They are not a weapon to protect your home and property even though they would give their life to protect you.

* At the end of their lives are you willing to not shirk from being with them as they pass on or abandon them so you won't have to see their decline - consider that you too will age or get sick, grant them the support and respect you would want for yourself.

Rant expressed. I and others now need to get back online and on the phone looking for sanctuary for the animals languishing in shelters whose lives may depend on us. Exhausted shelter folks are depending on you to help in any way you can so they are not forced to kill the innocents. Please do your share by caring for and respecting your animal family so that we can all occasionally rest.

"We must fight against the spirit of unconscious cruelty with which we treat the animals. Animals suffer as much as we do. True humanity does not allow us to impose such sufferings on them. It is our duty to make the whole world recognize it. Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living things, humanity will not find peace."

- Albert Schweitzer, Alsatian Theologian, Musician, and Medical Missionary

If you need financial assistance to spay or neuter your companion animal or options for lower-cost veterinary assistance, contact OHS at (510) 792-4587.

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