FAIRFAX COUNTY VA - FAIRFAX COUNTY TIMES: LETTER TO THE EDITOR - "A TUNNEL-VISION FOCUS ON INCREASING 'SAVE RATES' AT ANY COST ENDANGERS BOTH ANIMALS AND THE PUBLIC...COMMUNITIES MUST FIRST BECOME NO-BIRTH BY PASSING SPAY AND NEUTER LEGISLATION THAT REQUIRES BREEDING PERMITS"
It's every dog guardian's nightmare: A man was taking his beloved spaniel, Kaiser, for a morning walk when a pit bull approached and attacked the small dog. The man, who ended up bloodied, tried desperately to protect his dog, but it was no use: Kaiser was dead. A witness described the incident as "a lion taking a mouse."
Just a few months earlier, the same pit bull, Odin, had reportedly been adopted from the Fairfax County Animal Shelter—a taxpayer-funded facility that boasts "one of the highest placement rates in the region." It was the third time he had been adopted out, despite notes in his file stating that he could be "aggressive sometimes."
And Odin is not the only aggressive dog the shelter has released into the community.
A dog named Gizmo allegedly bit the man who adopted him in the face as he was loading the dog into his vehicle, sending the man to the hospital. A former volunteer said that the shelter knew Gizmo was potentially aggressive, yet they allowed him to be adopted anyway.
In the last year alone, five workers at the Fairfax shelter have reportedly been mauled and injured by dangerous dogs. Photos of their injuries show gaping, bloody wounds with chunks of flesh missing. Yet these dogs were on the adoption floor or slated to be.
Incidents like these are increasing across the country as animal shelters are being pressured and bullied into increasing their "save rates" by people who are opposed to euthanizing animals under any circumstances. If you don't believe it, here are a few more examples:
Virginia's Fluvanna SPCA faced a $250,000 lawsuit last year after reportedly adopting out a dog named Max who bit a 5-year-old boy in the face just three days later, leaving deep lacerations. Max had apparently been previously adopted and returned twice—in both cases, because he was aggressive toward other animals. An animal behavior specialist had advised the shelter that Max was not a suitable candidate for adoption and should under no circumstances be adopted by a family with children, but the warning went unheeded.
In Austin, Texas—which "no-kill" advocates tout as a success story—the city has reportedly transferred hundreds of dogs, many aggressive, to Austin Pets Alive! to be put up for adoption, including one dog, also named Max, whom workers at the city shelter noted had "serious aggression." Max has apparently attacked several times since then, including leaping up, snapping and drawing blood from a potential adopter who was petting him.
A man who adopted a dog named Frasier from Contra Costa Animal Services in California needed some 30 stitches on his arms and wrists after the dog attacked him just hours after he took him home. The shelter's veterinary medical director reported that Frasier had been adopted out despite lunging and trying to bite a trainer in the face and behaving so aggressively that staff couldn't get close enough to him to give him a medical examination. "So anything that leaves alive makes the shelter look better statistically, even if it puts the public at risk," the veterinary medical director explained.
Dogs who are repeatedly adopted, returned, isolated and shuttled around to different facilities often develop behavioral issues from not having an established home or territory, and they are also victims of the hysterical push for "life at any cost." Being rejected over and over again is confusing and traumatic to dogs and can lead to fear-based behavior, including biting and ripping the house to shreds when left alone. Adopting out dogs who have shown a propensity to attack also makes the public leery of adopting any dogs from shelters—the vast majority of whom are friendly and loving—which results in even more euthanasia.
A tunnel-vision focus on increasing "save rates" at any cost endangers both animals and the public. Communities can only safely and humanely move toward "no-kill" by first becoming no-birth—by passing spay-and-neuter legislation that requires breeding permits; outlawing the unregulated breeding and sale of animals by breeders, pet shops, flea markets and puppy mills; and requiring citizens to care for their animals both humanely and responsibly. Commonsense public safety policies must also be established and followed at animal shelters—for everyone's safety.
Teresa Chagrin is an animal care and control specialist in the Cruelty Investigations Department of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), in Norfolk, Va.