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Deféseur des animaux: social-design issue

I've always been an advocate for animals. I remember in elementary school we were having a class discussion about something (my mememory doesn't have any recollection of the topic) but I do remember that my subject of choice was the unfairness of testing shampoo and other human products on animals. I also vividly remember going to the Human Society near como park while my dad was playing softball and walking through the rooms and feeling emotionally pulled towards these animals. My first ever donation, $40, I made to this animal shelter along with trying to volunteer to walk dogs there during the summer. However I was too young. When our first dog died I often persuaded my parents to take me to the Human Society to find a new one. We ended up adopting an abused dog my aunt had rescued. I remember my mom venting about the cost of certain cars like the Mustang etc and thinking that if only car brands with the name of an animal would be made to donate 1% of their earnings, that would be a start to helping these icons who in most cases are protected or endangered animals.

This weekend I found an aritcle in the Pioneer Press about the recent increase in homeless animals due to the poor economy.

When the budget's too tight for a best friend
As the economy turns sour, the number of pets being dropped off at metro-area shelters is increasing, and adoptions have waned as owners are turned out of their homes.
BY BOB SHAW | Pioneer Press

Article Last Updated: 02/09/2008 09:45:49 PM CST

staffordshire terrier.jpg

Buster, a 2½-year-old American Staffordshire terrier, looks out from the kennel where he played one day last week with Frank Caminati and Scott Amy, who visit him each day at Animal Ark, a no-kill shelter in Hastings. (SHERRI LAROSE-CHIGLO, Pioneer Press)

Photo slideshow
Dogs and cats don't worry about recessions.

But maybe they should.

Because of Minnesota's economic downturn, the number of unwanted pets given to local shelters has jumped 50 percent in one year, according to Mike Fry, manager of Animal Ark No-Kill Shelter in Hastings.

"People are moving, getting evicted, losing their houses," Fry said. "Bad economic conditions always mean bad times for pets."

At the same time, the rate of adoptions into homes is down about 20 percent, he said. "It is not a good picture," Fry said.

The increase reflects a national trend, as animal-welfare workers are seeing the fortunes of animals sinking along with the economy.

Nationally, some Humane Society shelters have reported increases of more than 125 percent in unwanted pets, said Nancy Peterson, spokeswoman for the Humane Society of the United States.

Bill Stevenson, an officer for St. Paul Animal Control, said he is seeing more animals without vaccinations or routine spaying or neutering - another sign of economic stress.

Stevenson sees far more complaints in less affluent parts of St. Paul - such as Frogtown or the lower East Side - than in wealthier sections like Highland Park.


In the Twin Cities, Fry founded the Home for All Pets Coalition, composed of 14 animalrescue groups, all of which have seen spikes in the number of incoming pets in the past year.

But curiously, many Humane Society shelters - including those in the

Twin Cities - are not seeing increases.
"People know their animals are likely to be killed at the Humane Society, so fewer people are surrendering them," Fry said. "Ironically, at the same time you are seeing empty cages at the Humane Society, we have a waiting list of 300 names."

The Humane Society's Peterson said about half of the 8 million animals accepted nationally into its shelters each year are euthanized.

She said that's because the shelters are "open admission" - they take in any animal for any reason, including old, sick or aggressive animals that can't be adopted.

Peterson said no-kill shelters - what she calls "limited admission" shelters - typically pick the healthiest and most adoptable pets until their pens are full, then turn away the rest.

"If you have a dog that is aggressive, biting or not safe, what are you going to do? You sure can't take it to a no-kill shelter," said Laurie Brickley, spokeswoman for the Animal Humane Society in the Twin Cities.

The Animal Humane Society accepted about 36,000 unwanted animals last year, she said, and 25,000 were adopted into homes or placed with other rescue groups. She didn't know the euthanasia rate but said it was well below the 50 percent national average.

The national Humane Society's Peterson said animals surrendered in an economic downturn are more likely to be healthy, adoptable animals - the kind accepted in no-kill shelters. Meanwhile, Humane Society shelters may have experienced no increase because the number of diseased or difficult-to-adopt animals isn't increasing.

Fry said Animal Ark, which completed 1,000 adoptions last year, does accept diseased and undesirable animals.

In fact, he was home most of last week caring for a dog named Bernie who is dying of cancer. In the Animal Ark shelter are two cats rescued from the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

"We care for some that (the Humane Society) would put down," Fry said. "They are not completely upfront about the mass killing they have been doing."


The economic downturn is harder on some animals than others.

Pit bulls remain the dog breed most seen in shelters, because of their undeserved reputation for aggression, Fry said.

Animals are the victims of human fashion, especially for what are considered ferocious guard dogs.

"In the '60s, it was Dobermans. Then it was Rottweilers and now pit bulls," said Fry.

Cats are among the hardest-hit, said Ingrid Harding, a volunteer with the St. Paul cat rescue group Cause for Paws.

In tough times, owners are less likely to spend the money for spaying and neutering cats than for dogs. They let cats outside, where they breed, Harding said.

"Unfortunately, people place a lesser value on cats," Harding said. "If a dog gets hit by a car, it goes to the vet. If a cat gets hit, people say, 'It's just a cat.' "

Harding - who emphasized Cause for Paws is not a no-kill group - said many pet owners don't want to wait weeks for a no-kill shelter to accept their animals.

"It's a problem, and they want it fixed," Harding said. "We are a quick-fix society. We want things perfect right away."

Bob Shaw can be reached at bshaw@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-5433.