FREEPORT, Grand Bahama -- There are a large number of animals entering our shelter as strays, who were obviously owned animals. A few may have collars, (but usually no ID tag), most are friendly, and are not afraid of people.
If we required all our dogs to be house dogs, our dog adoptions would drop by more than 80%. They're pitiful enough as it is, but the least we can do is make sure the fenced area is large enough, secure enough, and that they will have suitable shade and shelter. The public might be amazed at how many yard checks we do, where we've been told the yard is securely fenced, and we arrive (wasting our precious gas and time) to find that there is a gate missing, or the fence is sagging or the bottom of it is above the ground to the point where even a 100 lb dog could easily go under it. Or they say they have shelter, but it might be a piece of plywood leaning up against the house, or a dog house suitable for a 10 lb puppy, but the 50 lb dog they want to adopt could not even get one leg inside it.
The majority of people who report lost pets to us are rmissing "purebred" animals; the vast majority being Shih Tsus and pit bull types. It seems that the average owner of a mixed breed or potcake, or cat, who has gone missing never even bothers to look for the animal. There are far too many people on this island (and elsewhere, to be fair) who are not nearly vigilant enough about keeping their pets safe. Even the owners of lost "purebreds" rarely take our advice about mounting a major campaign to find their pet. They report it to us and never place an ad, never make fliers, never mind distribute them. So called "purebred" dogs are being stolen left, right and center and the only hope of getting them back in those cases is an all out blitz.
We also take in many animals, whether strays or owner surrenders, that are suffering in one way or another from injury or illness. Most of these ailments are either preventable or treatable.
We receive a certain amount of criticism from people who think our adoption requirements are too stringent and that we're "too picky". Those that complain at the shelter are asked to walk through with one of our staff to view the current animals whose conditions cause us to be so picky. Anyone who has not visited our shelter and thinks we are too picky, is welcome to visit so we can show them why.
We do home visits for all our adoptions, including cats. Those who think our dog requirements are too stringent should be glad they are not in the U.S. or many other first world countries, where they would simply not be able to adopt a dog from a responsible shelter or rescue group to live primarily outside. We do not allow our dogs to be chained or caged; and we have seized more than a few adopted dogs found this way.
If we had a dollar for every phone call or visitor who asks if we have any "house dogs", we would not need to be begging for financial help so often! Can we please clear up once and for all that any size dog can (and should) be a house dog? In fact the largest dogs often do better in a house than the smallest. We always reply that we have a shelter full of house dogs. Then we establish that what they really meant was a small breed or toy dog.
We find that over 95% of dogs relinquished to us are outside dogs. Dogs that live strictly outside are inevitably not going to become - for the most part - beloved members of the family. They are also more likely to become nuisances, either barking too much, digging, or escaping. It's because they are bored and lonely, and again if we had a dollar for every one of these...But this is what makes them so easy to neglect and ultimately abandon. There is no bond as the poor animal was never loved to begin with. Therefore they are too easily viewed as expendable. The dog is blamed by the owner who spent no time with the dog yet expects perfection with no effort expended on his part. We are constantly astounded by people who expect these animals to be perfect and do exactly what they want yet they have put zero effort into achieving this perfection.
Please know that surrendering a pet to the shelter is also abandonment although we would much prefer that over letting them loose on the streets. This percentage also includes many so called "house dogs", who should have been living inside but had been banished outside because they were never housetrained properly, or they shed too much, or for any number of dumb reasons (most of which are fixable with a little time and commitment to the pet), or because the owner finally realized what an expense it is to keep these little long haired dogs groomed properly; gave up, and when the dog is matted beyond belief, they give them up.
We require that our cats be house cats. We know, we know - some cats really want to go outside. And there may be areas where this is not as dangerous as others. But we have seen more than our fill of mangled cats, torn apart by dogs. Especially kittens! A kitten should never be let outside, they are not strong, smart or fast enough to have a hope of getting away from a dog. Fences will not keep a cat in, they are natural climbers. Just as your children should not be allowed to do everything they want, neither should your pets! They want to go outside because they're curious. But if you can't keep them safe outside, you keep them in, plain and simple. At the very least - if your cats are allowed outside, bring them in at night! This is when most dog attacks happen.
It is not fair (to the cats) for cat owners to expect all dogs to be confined so their cats can roam. Both dogs and cats should be confined safely. Owners of both dogs and cats who allow them to roam must understand the risks they are taking by doing so. We just don't want our shelter animals subjected to those risks.
Many of our shelter cats are used to dogs, and therefore don't have a natural fear or wariness of them. If they are let outside and encounter a dog, their first instinct might not be flight, and this could prove fatal for them.
For the last few years particularly, we have worked hard to follow up on our adoptions regularly. Even more so after the heartbreak of Meka and Mr. Thomas in July 2009. When we call and visit adopters, it is always with great trepidation, as we inevitably are going to hear some sad stories.
Just in the last two weeks, we heard about a puppy adopted in January who ran out the gate and got knocked down and killed. A dog named Charlie who we all loved and who loved nothing more than jumping on top of his dog house and surveying all around him...found a way out of the yard and got knocked down and killed (the adopter knew Charlie had found a vulnerable piece of fence and didn't bother to fix it). Several cats who were let outside and disappeared never to be seen again. One young cat we picked up who had been attacked by dogs; she survived, but won't be going back to that home. Two beautiful chow mix dogs adopted in Dec 09, missing for weeks now - never reported missing to us. A beautiful little poodle/terrier mix whose adopter surrendered him last week because of fleas and ticks. This one was a particular insult as when he first came to us he was horribly neglected...we got him healthy, then sent him out to what we thought was a good home, only to find he was being neglected there too and banished to the laundry room and yard. Despite us having made very clear to the adopter his previous circumstances and despite their promises to take the very best care of him.
We could go on and on. This is just a very small sampling. Does anyone still think we are being too picky? We are criticized when we let dogs go to homes that later turn out to be bad, but we are also criticized for being too particular. We really can't win here, but we are determined to hold fast and do the best we can for the animals we love and care for. We are not trying to win a popularity contest - we have precious lives in our hands and they are our priority.
We are a private humane society and we have the legal right to refuse an animal to anyone. We will continue to exercise that right to protect the animals for whom we are their last hope and refuge. There may be times where we are wrong, but there have been more than a few times where we refused an adoption, and later heard the adopter got a pet from elsewhere, and said pet ended up dead in the road. Or strangled on the end of a chain. Or killed by dogs. We will always act in favor of the animal and we believe and hope that reasonable people who genuinely care for animal welfare would accept and appreciate this.
Please know that we are more than busy, we are swamped and overwhelmed. If at any time we refuse or don't respond quickly enough to an adoption application, please give us a call if you think we are wrong or you haven't heard from us. We are trying hard and truly don't want any good homes slipping through the cracks.
We will not apologize for requiring that a dog or cat be part of a family, and be cared for in every way; medically, both preventatively, and reactively when needed; physically in terms of living environment, food, and water; and emotionally. There is a reason dog and cats are considered companion animals; they were domesticated more than 10,000 years ago and are no longer able to fend for themselves. It's about time more of us started treating them as companions and not disposable lawn ornaments.
Anyone willing to help us do follow ups on our adoptions, we could really use some volunteer help with this. We have been forced to lay off seven staff in the last few months due to funding constraints and find ourselves short handed most days. Please email
or call Tip or Lisa at 352-2477 if you're interested in helping in this area. We'd be grateful for even two hours a week but we would need a commitment as to days and times in order for this to work. Of course we would provide appropriate training.
Our heartfelt thanks to those of you who love and care for their adopted pets and treat them as family.
"Never, never be afraid to do what's right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way." - Martin Luther King Jr.
Meanwhile, don't forget to get your raffle tickets to benefit the Humane Society of Grand Bahama.
Great prizes sponsored by American Airlines, Western Airlines, Harborside Resort at Atlantis, Old Bahama Bay, Celebration Cruise Line, Scott & Beth Albury, Dolly Madison and BTC. The ticket price is only $1.00 each or a book of 11 for $10.00; please support us by purchasing at least one book! They are available at the Shelter on Coral Road, or the following persons have them for sale: Gloria McGlone, Beth Hatfield, Jill Cooper, Bunny Eickelbeck, Barb Stollery, Kenton Pinder and Ivy Elden.
The raffle will be drawn on October 23rd at our "Howl at the Moon" party at the Junkanoo Beach Club on Taino Beach. This promises to be lots of fun, with door prizes, prizes for the best costumes (costumes optional), "Buck a Shot" liqueurs, a Chinese raffle, a Silent Auction, and introducing the "Howler", our signature drink for the evening, which will be presented to each guest at the door. The first 50 guests will receive their "Howler" in a "Glow" cup. Steve Davies will play for your listening and dancing pleasure from 7 pm - 10 pm, after which a DJ will rock the house! Beth Hatfield and Barb Stollery are planning great finger foods for hearty appetites, so mark the date on your calendar and purchase your tickets in advance for only $35.00 ($40.00 at the door).
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