Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Being Alone: The Sadness of Dogs

Dogs are such social creatures, meant to be with others of their own kind and with humans, that they feel deprived when these conditions are not met. We have bred the dog to be a communicating animal and we have been successful. Dogs need to speak and be spoken to, to touch and be touched, to love and be loved.

So where would you find depressed dogs? Dogs deprived of the above? Certainly my first thought is at the dog races where they are held in small kennels, only thought of as a product that has to satisfy. They live in an atmosphere of constant tension.

Puppy mills of course would depress any dog and should depress any human.

Experimental labs where contact is minimal and distress is at max due to pain, abuse, etc.

And now, in the so called "no kill" open door shelters. Overcrowding creates tension, stress, feelings of abandonment, fear, and it becomes a living hell for the social creature named dog.

Accepting a "no kill" program prior to installing all that is necessary to make it work is deterimental to all the animals, but particularly the dog. Cats are solitary creatures "by nature" (and who are we to determine what "nature" is), but by all observations, cats don't seek out interaction with humans quite as much as the dog.

Dogs can be anxious or irritable, be subject to panic attacks, can develop phobias if subjected to lengthly stays in shelters. Kennel stress is a bad word to use around the "no kill" shelters. Dogs seek out the companionship of humans just as quickly as they seek out other dogs, and for that matter, other animals. They just don't prosper without companionship. Dogs have actually commited suicide by some accounts. Most of us have seen depressed dogs sitting in kennels in the shelters.

You will see the Rancho Cucamonga, CA shelter mentioned often. I do this because Rancho is truly a muncipally owned open door shelter, subject to public records request. Those shelters run by non profit groups are up for suspect because they do not have to answer to the public, they don't supply public records request, and donations are at stake if they admit they are doing a poor job. Thus the Rancho shelter is the best example to use because it offers proof.

Rancho has on the city website their numbers for 2006-2007 (http://www.ci.rancho-cucamonga.ca.us/publications/RC_Annual_Report.pdf). It lists the volunteer hours and if you average it out, it comes to about 10 hours a day. Now this shelter has about 19 staff members but keep in mind that working in animal control is a high risk job. Injuries, maternal leave, etc. usually puts all animal control agencies with less than a full staff. I think two positions would usually be vacant due the above. And then there are usually at least one position that needs to be filled. We will subtract the field ACO's who are not physically at the shelter. And the front desk has to be staffed at all times and that requires two people. So that leaves around 11 staff available to interact with the animals.

The last time I looked at http://www.rcpets.info/ I saw 130 dogs and 306 cats. There were also several "others", rabbits mostly. If each dog is allowed 15 minutes a day interaction, that would be 32 man hours. If each cat is allowed 15 minutes a day interaction, that would be about 86 man hours a day. So you would need about 118 man hours a day to just provide a bare minimum of 15 minutes of human interaction. If dogs are together, they still need supervision. So Rancho with approximately 88 man hours a day with staff and 10 hours a day with a volunteer, cannot possibly provide adequate interaction that prevents kennel stress in dogs. Rancho's staff also has other duties outside of providing interaction and one on one contact with the dogs. Even though cats are somewhat different than dogs with their needs to interact, they still suffer from lack of attention.

I do hope you are getting my drift here. I am reading on Oreo's blog about how many dogs and cats are there in the Washoe and NHS shelters. How many employees and volunteers are there? Rancho boasts of over 400 volunteers. The problem is they are required to bring their parents when they come to the shelter. Thus accounting for only an average of 10 volunteer hours a day.

As I stated at the beginning, dogs are social animals. It is not so much that we needed them as they needed us. For good, stable mental health, dogs must be able to interact with us everyday. They must not be allowed to sit in a kennel for 23 hours and 45 minutes everyday. An ideal situation would be that they are taken out certainly more than once a day.

Not only do we disrespect the dog in "no kill" shelters by ignoring the need for interaction more than 15 minutes a day, if that, but these shelters put the dog in more jeopardy from fights, disease, and bad adoptions just to get them outta there. Overcrowding has resulted in vet schools thinking in terms of adding another course, Shelter Medicine in Overcrowded Shelters.

Dogs have many more needs than just food, water, and shelter. The need for human and dog companionship is just as great a need as food and water. Those of us who accept the dog as an equal know this, those who just use dogs as their venue for their personal agendas support this abuse in the "no kill" shelters. One of the purposes of this blog is to put the guilt back where it belongs rather than let these people off easy. Your personal agendas are not saving animals, it is causing more suffering. The suffering is not necessary but these people refuse to accept that there are alternatives that do not cause additional suffering.

It is often said that humans are so arrogant when they seek out life on other planets when they don't understand the life on our own planet. "No kill" doesn't understand, refuses to understand, and therefore has become the problem. I see the shelters such as Rancho and Reno as more along the lines of abuse than helping.

Being alone is the worse thing that can happen to a dog, worse than euthanasia, worse than abuse. And they are alone if a shelter has not and cannot prepare in advance before accepting to go "no kill". This is the one biggest flaw of the movement, not understanding what is needed and making sure that it is there before opening the doors. Anything less amounts to abuse.


Happy Camper said...

First let me say I love the new "puppy look' on your page. I notice the puppy is being held cupped in the hand with the palm protecting the puppy's heart. You know their little hearts really are in our hands.
The new post struck a chord with me because I do volunteer and I do see the hope fading from their eyes after time. They become so damaged that even if they find homes adjustment is often impossible. NHS claims 1,700 volunteers, but try to find one..I think if you fill out a survey form you count.
I guess pressing your point a bit further, many of these shelter dogs are special needs to begin with. They come often from homes with little interaction and end up even more isolated and unprepared to live after the shelter experience. Please keep up the good work and writing. If one person learns we are all enhanced.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if they saw those eyes in Lieds, NV??

There's a good example of how no kill ignores the suffering of dogs, no doubt.

Anonymous said...

I hope they see the eyes in their sleep. Lieds was awful and preventable. It was about stupidiy and arogance, and the animals paid, not just in dying, but in the horror they lived before they died.

HonestyHelps said...

Happy Camper, I love the puppy pic too, even though I am trying to stop puppies from being born, at least, born into unwanted situations.

Lieds was a shock yet not so. I have always felt that the no kill movement fails to see the suffering. They only concern themselves with "it's alive". I compare that with Frankenstein's "monster", it's alive but with what quality of life?

By the way has anyone seen the latest on "nokill" in San Francisco? Seems it is catching up with them also. The San Francisco Weekly has a lengthy article about the problems, although a little on the wrong side. The SPCA is answering the charges on their web site. It makes for interesting reading to say the least.

Anonymous said...

What ticks me off about the Las Vegas Lied Animal Shelter situation is that Best Friends has people on the payroll that live in L.V.--and they did nothing. Even Whino-grad didn't step in. The reason they all became silent and distant is because Lied has always been a no-kill shelter--one that failed that is.

HonestyHelps said...

ExPetCop, I find the same, if it is a "no kill" then no one comes forward. Most are afraid to speak up because to speak against "no kill" makes you a murderer, killer, and on and on. So they stay silent. And I'm not that crazy about Best Friends either. If anyone has noticed they only do if they think they will get press and donations.

I knew of a elderly couple who rescued abandoned dogs dumped in the high desert of Southern California. The couple were living in a house without a roof (from a fire) yet the dogs were well cared for, most altered from their SS checks. They were under court orders to bring the numbers down and were unable to find homes for the dogs (mostly big dogs). I contacted Best Friends because these dogs had to go or the couple would be found in contempt of court and go to jail. I even arranged for transportation but Best Friends turn them away. Other people intervened and begged Best Friends to help, nothing. Unfortunately, the dogs were euthanized, almost all of them, because animal control had no choice but to take them. No, I'm not crazy about Best Friends. I blame them for the deaths of these dogs and will not forgive them.