Saturday, June 27, 2009

Governor's shelter proposal hurts many, saves few dollars

"A troubled economy creates lots of victims. While social services are generated to assist people who can’t pay mortgages, battle credit card debt, need temporary housing, there’s no one to advocate for the voiceless: all the companion animals flooding the shelters because their owners have lost their jobs and / or housing.
Little, if any, temporary housing allows companion animals.

The shelters face further difficulties because budget cutbacks have slashed their services and more cuts loom ahead. In California, the situation is especially dire as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposes to cut the holding period animals stay in shelters by half: to 3 days. His move would weaken the Hayden bill, passed in 1997, which stipulates stray animals be held 4 or 6 days (depending on hours of operation).
That cut would save less than .01 percent of California’s $24 billion deficit, according to testimony Jennifer Fearing, chief economist for the Human Society of the United States, gave to the state budget conference committee on June 4.
The goal of the Hayden bill, Fearing said, is to give owners more time to locate their beloved pets and to give unclaimed animals more time to be adopted to picked up by a rescue group.
In Sacramento, city and county shelters are closed Sundays and Mondays. So for pet owners whose animals wander off on the weekend, by the time Tuesday rolls around and they can peruse the shelters, their beloved Fido or Missy may be euthanized already.

In the meantime, service organizations employing animals for service or therapy often find good candidates in shelters. A Sacramento fire chaplain is well-known in town not only for his dog, Bailey, who provides him independence, but also for the comfort Bailey provides people who have suffered losses due to fire. Bailey was not only a shelter resident, but one of Johnson’s foster dogs.
Other programs involve training youth in boys camps to train service dogs; recently, trainers began meeting with prison officials to work with adult inmates.

And just recently, Blue Star Moms began working with an area dog trainer to
provide therapy dogs for military personnel returning from war. The dogs help
combat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, says Johnson.

“There’s so many things that can be done – why do we have to keep killing animals?” she asked."

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