“Shelter Dogs” – A documentary film by Cynthia Wade

I was flipping through channels a month or so ago and I noticed that a film called "Shelter Dogs" was playing on HBO.

I work with an animal rescue organization on the weekends called Save-a-Life Adoptions and so I think this would be an interesting watch.  I recorded it to watch on another day.

I’m not going to lie:  I’m one of those folks that donate money to animal shelter & rescue organizations annually and revel in hearing about the wonderful, positive work being done in animal advocacy.  There are so many caring people out there providing time, services, and love to help homeless dogs and cats get along, when no one else will give them a home. 

Best Friends (http://www.bestfriends.org) are the masters of this concept.  They know the majority of donation-contributing society would rather not hear about the sordid & horrific things people discovery while being an animal advocate, so what they do is they adhere to a very strict policy of only sending out "all the good news" related to adoption and animal care, focusing on the positives and only alerting people to the negatives when it’s a dire emergency.

So as a result, I indulge in the fluffy, happy, joyful materials that are delivered monthly by Best Friends and I remain satisfied and delighted whenever I get a dog adopted into a new family.  And even on days where things are slow, and no one adopts any of our animals, it was still a good day because the animals got out and got to do something different while meeting other humans.

But anyone that’s worked with homeless dogs & cats knows that there’s a much sadder, helpless side of animal advocacy.  Euthanasia in shelters, animal abuse in homes, laws treating pets as nothing more than property without rights, incurable diseases, rampant pregnancies due to a lack of spaying/neutering, professional breeding in puppy farms… all of this makes for very depressing thoughts. 

And as a volunteer you try to put it out of your mind so that you can focus on doing good things.  Althought I do have a singular, unrelenting, almost-catatonic anger that stirs whenever I hear about someone buying dogs & cats from pet stores & breeders as their first option, I’m not going to use this post to discuss the point… maybe in another post.

But then along comes this movie:  "Shelter Dogs"

I was unable to watch this movie upon my first two attempts.  I got through 5 minutes of it one time, and then the second time, I got through 15 minutes.  Both times, I had to turn it off and watch something less meaningful, less cerebral, and less emotional, because it’s just such an impactful and gut wrenching movie.

I did eventually watch through the entire movie – this time with the help of Sheepa who lay next to me throughout the movie.  The subject matter is so completely accurate to what animal rescues deal with on a daily basis it’s scary.  It touches on the internal debate animal activists have about the humanity of having "unadoptable" dogs live the rest of their lives in what are essentially prison cells.

Here’s a situation: 

  1. What do you do with a dog if he/she’s prone to biting, attacking, and is generally overly aggressive?  What do you do if that dog is beyond the capacity of society to rehabilitate – and by capacity, I mean individual time, funding, manpower, etc.?  What if that dog must be kept separate from the rest of the animals because of it’s aggressive nature, and what if no one in it’s entire lifetime would ever adopt him/her?
  2. Now what if you also have THREE well-behaved, well-mannered, socially SAFE dogs on hand that came in with that one ‘unadoptable’ dog.  What if these animals were perfect family members that were being kept in "unfamily-like quarters slowly driving them crazy from the lack of attention, the lack of interaction, and the confinement required by the walls of the shelter.
  3. Imagine that every day, these same 4 dogs – one unadoptable, three adoptable – arrive EVERY DAY.  On average however because of your capacity, you have only room for 1 of the  incoming dogs every 3 days …because imagine that it takes that long for anyone to adopt any of these homeless animals.   And because of the ‘unadoptable’ dogs taken in, your ratio of adopted versus unadopted goes lower every day forcing you to turn away dogs that would otherwise have a shot at getting adopted.  One out of every 10 dogs gets adopted.
  4. Now instead of 1 unadoptable dog and 3 adoptable ones, imagine dealing with ONE MILLION UNADOPTABLE DOGS and THREE ADOPTABLE ONES.  And most of them never get homes in private animal rescues – they instead go straight to city/county animal shelters where 9 out of every 10 dogs are euthanized.

That’s the problem:  There’s 4 million dogs, with capacity for only 1 million of them, in private foundations.  And even though 1 out of every 4 dogs is unadoptable, they still need housing somewhere.  They still need care and they still require resources, medical treatment, and volunteer time to feed & shelter.

By the way, this is all going on what there are uneducated, unsympathetic people out there that:

    There are actually people out there that have litters of puppies as a career… as money making venture… as their livelyhood.  These people prey on human vanity & our legal systems flawed view of dogs as nothing but "property".  And the dogs they don’t sell – mysteriously disappear.  Do you ever stop to think what happens to a puppy if he/she doesn’t get adopted?  Do you ever stop to think how many litters a female has had to produce for her owner? 
    …there’s a very special room in hell reserved for these people.
    And then there’s the "cultures" of people that don’t spay/neuter their animals for fear of "emasculating" them.  They hold no accountability for any animals born of their irresponsibility and they simply let puppies and strays wander the streets of places like East Los Angeles where there’s a stray dog with no owner living off of trash cans on every corner.
    …it’s these people that demonstrate how fundamentally dangerous stupidity is in America.
    There are people out ther so self-absorbed with the particulars of the dog they choose, they are willing to pay $1200 for a specific type of dog without even considering adopting, instead viewing homeless dogs as "used".  They give made-up excuses for their ignorant attitude like, "Oh, they’re psychologically scarred" or "Well, someone gave them up so they can’t be any good".

…and it’s these people that should watch this movie.

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