I say it because I believe it needs to be said. I say it because my heart aches just a little bit more today, to hear of the death of yet another homeless animal in the Downey, California Shelter, a gentle pitty mix named Pirate. He could have gone, as foster advocates were crying on his behalf today, to one of them.
Instead, he was put to death by lethal injection at the hands of the shelter’s policies. A petition is circulating on his behalf, should you feel so moved to sign it; it’s available at the end of this essay.
Back to the subject at hand, as I am reluctant to drop down to a level of intellectual justification steeped in the quicksand of statistics – though we who love on and advocate for the lives of animals know where the numbers lie – we also know that the remedy to the long-term problem of homeless animals is spaying and neutering, education and outreach. (And if all you breeding animals could please stop to consider that for each life you bring to earth, you deliver a death sentence to a life already here, it would be appreciated on a whole ‘nother level.)
There is all that. And again, not as pressing as promoting the higher ideal of creating a more compassionate culture, because I believe that advocating for a change in ideology, philosophy, paradigm shift, consciousness or whatever term you prefer, is what is being called for in our present culture.
Isn’t your own heart feeling battered enough these days?
Let’s call for a more compassionate culture for shelter animals, who through no fault of their own, are put to death DAILY at the hands of man-made policies. (Yes, the number is 2,000.) The domestic short-hair three-year old cat, the wandering pit-terrier mutt, the Labrador mix, have an hourglass on their head from the moment they are dragged off the impound truck and brought through the shelter doors. Depending upon the shelter, it could be a matter of days – for others, months – before the pinprick of death is administered. (A good friend from NoKill Colorado once informed, a shelter animal has a 50/50 chance of making it out alive.)
Even more brutal (and still happening in certain states), are the practices where they are thrown like leftovers into a dark gas chamber to their unimaginable horror, struggling helplessly until they breathe their last breath. (Activists in Shawnee, OK successfully staged a sleep-in to end such practices for that city’s shelter in 2017.)
Whether one is a policymaker invested in the pragmatics of space and resources and economics, or a beleaguered shelter worker whose heart breaks just a little bit more each time they must hold a homeless dog or cat, look them in their pleading brown eyes and say,
Today’s your day to die,
we are reducing our humanity – and our culture at large – to a brutal, ego-centered, economically driven culture, indeed.
Anyone who’s been paying attention to what’s happening in our patriarchal, capitalistic-oriented society these days understands just how those of us on the lower rungs are being treated. It’s the same for the homeless animals – even worse, I would argue, if so inclined.
Think it has to be this way? Think again.
I’ve been looking for the alternatives to such outdated, inhumane practices for years now.
I have found – and keep finding – more foster-based rescues nationwide, than ever before. (See list below, for a few of my personal favorites.) It makes my heart feel light – and hopeful for our culture – for every foster-based rescue I learn about. There are scores of people in every state who feel the lives of dogs and cats are worth saving. Animals who get to share the homes of foster parents relax into their environment, are spared the stress of being caged up among dozens of other stressed animals, and their authentic dispositions are allowed to unfold. From there, a foster parent can communicate to potential adopters about the true nature of the fostered dog or cat before they are ushered further into their forever home. (It happens all the time!) Some become foster fails – and that’s okay, too – but it doesn’t have to be the rule. Sometimes, the dogs and cats just need a soft place to land for a while.
Don’t we all?
Our culture needs to see the foster-based rescues in existence, better support them in all ways essential – through our own fostering efforts, by donating or fulfilling a wish list – by sharing the photos and stories on our Instagram or other social media feeds – until they can find their furever homes.
When we support the efforts of others to care for the homeless lives already here, we support the higher ideal (if I now may say,) that these lives have value. They deserve the life given to them through some divine force; because, after all, what right, beyond relieving real physical suffering, does anyone have to intervene?
We honor the being before us, be it a scruffy street terrier, an abused pit-bull, a mangy shepherd mix or an elderly family dog cast out onto the street for no other reason than failure to amuse a busy family. We also say no to an outdated shelter system that treats homeless dogs and cats as inventory aging on a shelf that must be rotated in order to make room for more.
The time has come for us to reconsider what a more compassionate culture can look like – and find, create or support alternatives. It will make all our animal loving, tender, aching hearts, ache just a little bit less today.
In memory of Pirate, and all his friends in equal peril – JUST SAY NO TO KILL SHELTERS, AND YES, TO FOSTER-BASED RESCUES.
Namaste, and thank you for listening.
To sign the Downey, CA Petition:
Some of my personal favorite foster-based rescues:
https://pawsandeffectrescue.wordpress.com/, a foster-based canine rescue in the Denver metro area
https://farfels.com/, a foster-based Colorado rescue pulling dogs from high-kill shelters
https://dooverdogs.com/, a foster-based rescue pulling dogs from Colorado & Wyoming from high-kill shelters
http://www.sparpets.org/, a foster-based rescue in Shawnee, OK
https://www.pawsgivemepurpose.com/, a sanctuary for difficult to place dogs, in Southern New Jersey
https://therescueproject.net/, a Kansas City, MO foster-based rescue, providing education & resources to the community on the needs of spaying & neutering
https://bestfriends.org/, a Kanab, UT animal sanctuary dedicated to helping end the practices of killing in America’s animals shelters through building community programs & partnerships across the nation