Inside an Animal Shelter

Animal Welfare Issues.
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Inside an Animal Shelter

Post by abcrystcats » September 20th, 2004, 10:20 am

Last year I was finally taken to the Animal Shelter, the dreaded place I’d heard about, but had never seen. It wasn’t a long trip, so I didn’t have much time to prepare myself for what I was about to see.

We walked inside and up to the front desk where I saw Shelly, my overweight but tireless partner, turn on her charm for the shelter workers. Following an employee we passed through the inner door and the first sight on my right was rabbits. There were lots and lots of rabbits in cages, stacked up, for no reason that I could see. When I asked I was told, “Someone in town, we don’t know who, is breeding rabbits like crazy, and then abandoning them. They end up here.”

We then passed through a long hallway, paved with concrete. This was hard for me, because here were the dogs. They were lined up in mesh enclosures on either side of the walkway. They barked eagerly and wagged their tails frantically as I passed. I had to look into each cage, see each dog, each pair of eyes. I got lost in the eyes. I read the descriptions. Most of the dogs were young – many no older than one or two years old, some as old as four or five. One was seven. They were almost all mixed-breeds. They were exuberantly healthy, boisterous, eager, loud, territorial. In fact, they were all the things dogs normally are, that humans prefer them not to be. Probably, that’s why they were here. The normal dog behaviors they engaged in weren’t acceptable to their owners. Then, you had to factor in the many jobs people had lost, and along with jobs, homes were lost too. People moved into apartments where dogs weren’t wanted. I wanted to take one with me, but I couldn’t.

By this time, Shelly and the shelter worker were at the far end of the hall, waiting and beckoning. They wondered what was wrong with me. We hadn’t come for dogs, we’d come for cats. I shook it off and followed them to the next place. Shelly was going from cage to cage, assessing each prisoner carefully. One gorgeous gray tomcat made a savage swipe at my eyes through the bars. I jumped back quickly. “That one’s feral, better watch it.” my partner told me. Adult ferals mean death. They can’t be tamed and are a danger to anyone who takes them. In spite of my fear, I tried the cage a couple more times. If I could see some remembrance of human love in this cat, I might be able to get him out. No luck.

Moving to the next cage, I saw an adult Birmese. Her fur was matted and her eyes were running badly. She sneezed and looked miserable, but she was obviously once a pet. Her tag said she was slated for euthanasia. I called Shelly over. She was upset by the decision and after checking out the cat, she went off to arrange medication and transport to her home for this cat. A Birmese can be adopted, and this cat would be nursed back to health, groomed and eventually rehomed with someone who would appreciate her.

I went from cage to cage. There were more ferals, there were cats who were so scared they hid under the layers of newspaper on the cage floor and you could hardly see them, there were older cats resigned to their fate. There were few kittens. The shelter worker in this room had received a phone call while we were looking. I could hear her angrily talking about another load of rabbits that needed to be rescued from somewhere. “We already have at least 40 rabbits. To accept more rabbits, we’ll have to kill the ones we have!” She was still arguing and suggesting alternative destinations for the new rabbits when Shelly returned and picked out a few more cats to rescue. We made our way to the front office. Shelly had a couple cats under her wing, but I had none. We were looking for kittens for me, or maybe one cat, because of my limited space.

While Shelly checked out with the shelter workers, signing papers, a man came in leading a young purebred pitbull. He was a healthy, gregarious and very handsome dog. “Oh, what a good looking dog you have!”, I said. I asked about his breed, his age, and so on. The man answered all the questions until he suddenly caught himself and said, “Well, he isn’t my dog. He’s a stray, really. I found him.” As he went on from there, spinning his yarn, subtle signals passed around the room from the shelter workers to me, and back again. It was obviously his dog. He was uncomfortable about being there. He wanted to give the dog up, but he was torn. So I worked him a little. I kept going on about the dog’s good looks and intelligence a bit more. Maybe it was inconsiderate of me, but if I kept the balance right, I could push him over the edge and back out the door. Then the shelter worker told him he was in the wrong jurisdiction for his “stray” and would need to take the dog to another shelter in the area. The man left for the other shelter, but after that day, I checked all the Los Angeles shelter websites for weeks, and I never saw the dog listed. Perhaps my ploy worked, after all. I’ll never know, but I tried.

An Asian woman came in with a young orange cat in a trap. The cat was big, healthy, almost plump. It was very friendly and rubbed enthusiastically against the bars. To me, it looked pregnant. I asked the lady relinquishing the cat. “Oh yes,” she said. “She could be pregnant. I think she’s in heat.” It is hard to tell when cats are pregnant even when they’re not caged, but I did not want to see this orange monster pass through those doors and get clapped in a steel box. I told Shelly I wanted to take this cat home and take care of her. Shelly was busy with paperwork, but she agreed. When the lady behind the desk suddenly disappeared, another shelter worker whispered to me to pick the trap up and just walk to the car, and he’d cover me. I found out later that once the cat formally entered the shelter doors, Shelly could be charged a rescue fee. Shelly urged me out with her eyes and the worker explained that they would get the trap from me later. Waiting in the car with the orange marbled feline, I discovered my mistake. My “pregnant female” was actually an intact, vocal male. I laughed pretty hard, glad that he was spared the death, no matter what he was.

He spent a week baptizing my spare bedroom with cat urine, then he was taken to the clinic for a neuter. I learned that Shelly found a home for him the very week that he was set out for adoption. I knew she would. He was a friendly, young cat with great markings and personality to boot. Anyone would love him.

I still keep asking about the others. What about the dogs we breed but don’t want? What about the rabbits that keep popping up, in increments of 50 or 100 at a time? What about the feral cats that run around in the streets of our cities, having a pretty OK time until someone decides they’re tired of them and traps them and sends them to their deaths?

That’s the problem that I intend to address, one article at a time, on this forum, along with many other animal-related issues. I want to know why human beings think they are doing a good job by these creatures. What can we do to make it a better place for them without compromising our own needs as people? I believe can do it, we can live with animals without sacrificing them to our own selfish causes, we just don’t.

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Post by mnaz » September 23rd, 2004, 1:39 pm

We can always choose forebearance and compassion, living with
other creatures without sacrificing them to our own needs, but we often do not choose this way.

This story was depressing; like facing a difficult reality. But what
you are doing is inspiring. Thirteen cats? I don't know how you do it! I had a rescued cat until recently (she adopted me), and she was a handful, at times, all by herself. She was very vocal, and she had an odd way of modulating her meow, almost like she was trying to sing. And she was quite athletic. She liked to jump from the deck out into the apple tree. When I started traveling extensively and consistently a couple years ago, I gave her to some good friends of mine who wanted her. When I finally land somewhere, I think I might like to rescue another animal who needs it. Maybe two.

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Post by abcrystcats » September 23rd, 2004, 1:47 pm

Thanks, Mnaz, for your kind comments. Actually, it's not so hard, so far. The trick is having a place large enough so the cats feel comfortable-- each having enough territory so they don't feel crowded. I figure about 100 square feet per cat is more than enough, and fortunately I've got way over the requirement now. As for food and litter, it costs as much to feed these guys as it does to feed two Great Danes (I know, having had two Great Danes). Not a tremendous item. In facts, cats are REALLY low maintenance. Multi-cat households are the best, IMHO. They amuse themselves and exercise themselves when I cannot do it.

The worst is the vet bills. They are young now, but when they get older I feel I'd better be prepared. By that time, if all goes well, I will be a practicing vet, anyhow.

Stay tuned for better and more thought provoking articles. This was a teaser.


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Post by MrGuilty » September 3rd, 2005, 12:34 am

The News Express had a big story an expose on the animal shelter in San Antonio. One picture I wont post here. Out behind the building a big pile of dead animals. My neighbor the cat lover, the one that let her male cat wander around blind and suffering, his bones showing through his matted fur. She has one of his daughters, her first litter arrived about two months ago. Now it is pregnant again. We got kittens running around all over the place. She says she wanted it to have one litter and she would have spayed. Tells me that she will round up the kittens and take them to the shelter. I say they will kill them. She says oh no. It is a non kill shelter. I practically begged her to let me take the cat and have it spayed. She won't do it. Fancies herself a cat lover. She is a good neighbor but I have to resist the temptation to spit on her.
I used to be smart

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