In reference to the decision to euthanize 77 puppies and kittens at the Humane Society last week, director Rick Aiken appears quite irritated that people are "yelling and screaming" about this incident, and in return seems to challenge Hall County residents for not doing the same for the 23 animals that are killed on the average day at the shelter.
Yelling and screaming, although often sparked by outrageous events, are not helpful behaviors to effect change. People in Hall County have been working hard for a long time to help the Humane Society so that future euthanizations will no longer be necessary.
Individuals and businesses support the shelter financially and by sponsoring events to raise additional funds. Others donate their time in many ways by educating pet owners about neutering, running fundraising events and giving their time at the shelter so that animals can experience affection, go for walks in the sunshine and have the best chance to be adopted. There are many people in Hall County who will only adopt their family pets from a shelter.
Many of these good, animal-loving people may now be feeling betrayed by Rick’s decision to kill the animals we are trying so hard to save because of a mild respiratory infection. Dogs can and do get kennel cough, even at the best of boarding kennels, because, as Rick indicated, inoculation after exposure will not prevent the disease. Boarding kennels should and do insist on a current vaccination for kennel cough before an animal can board there. If the dog does not have a current vaccination, it must get one before going into the boarding area.
But there is always the possibility that the dog was exposed before getting the shot and may bring the disease into the kennel. Dogs with kennel cough have a nagging cough that takes a while to resolve, but it does go away. Killing puppies that might have been exposed, or might have the virus, is unconscionable.
And since cats have their own version of the disease and do not contract the canine version, it seems almost bizarre to conclude that the shelter had a breakout of both types of virus at the same time. But kittens were killed, too.
No effort was made to let the community know of the problem. Had we known, many, including me, would have been at the shelter in a heartbeat to take the puppies and kittens home for foster care until the disease and incubation times had passed. We could have returned the animals to the shelter healthy and ready to be adopted. This did not have to happen.
Perhaps the difficult and often sad job of running a shelter over a long period of time can make someone immune to the sadness and loss, as animals become ciphers rather than living creatures of God.
To the family who went through such a difficult time in adopting, please don’t give up. I know of many people who have purchased animals from breeders and found the animals to get sick or even die shortly after being brought home. There are no guarantees with living things. All everyone can do is try their best to keep animals healthy, and sometimes there is terrible pain and loss. But as you can see, the rewards will outweigh the risks.
Humane Society must stop spread of diseases
I feel that I must respond to the criticism being leveled at the Hall County Humane Society and its director. It is one thing to evaluate a human patient before diagnosing him or her as infectious. It is quite another thing to evaluate a neglected, abused or unwanted animal before admitting 30 or 40 of them a day to an already-crowded facility.
Critics apparently have no understanding of how easily viral disease spreads. The recent report of bird flu and various other diseases in animals resulting in the extermination of millions of them should be convincing evidence of the difficulties in stopping viral spread. For instance, none of the animals I know carry handkerchiefs or practice personal hygiene, which helps in preventing the spread of the human flu virus.
As a personal witness to the cleanliness of the shelter, routine daily cleaning is practiced in a conscientious and caring manner. Air duct cleaning is not often practiced in home and commercial situations and at best, would be effective only until the next infested animal arrived.
It is also an impossibility to verity the health of an animal over the period of the few days it can be kept prior to adoption. This must be considered when adopting an animal.
If blame is to be placed for this misfortune, place it where it belongs, on those who willingly allow animals to multiply when they are unwanted, ignore the Humane Society’s place to bring them in for discount spaying, neutering and immunization, and allow them to roam where they are in contact with strange and wild animals.
The Hall County Humane Society invited you to join our efforts to control the unwanted and diseased animals with your time and money. Volunteers are welcome.
BJ Jackson, M.D.
member of the Humane Society Board of Directors, Gainesville