Friday, July 25, 2008


Are you feeling a bit too giggly happy for your own good right now? Like maybe you just got promoted to head chief president C.E.O. of a Fortune 500 company or that superstar moviestar you've been crushing on has sworn off everything and everyone except you or maybe you've just won a zillion quadrillion dollars in the lotto? Well, then, first you might want to get off the shrooms and get back to reality and if that doesn't help then check this out. Yep, that's right, it's a kill list complete with photos, personality descriptions and dates and times of upcoming euthanasias. These good natured, healthy dogs are all going to die and the only one who can stop that is you - by adopting the dog and taking it out of the queue.

This is done to shock, obviously, to try to jar people into rescuing one or more of the poor animals on death row. There are pleas like this all over the internet many of which continue to be displayed well past the deadline and when I come across these expired notices I find myself staring at the faces of dogs who are no longer with us.

There is something about looking at the faces of the recently dead. It's like maybe there's been a mistake and it can be corrected, like maybe it's not too late. Of course that doesn't make any sense because it is too late but in those faces, there is no sign of the end that will befall them. No knowledge of the gas or the heartstick or the overdose of barbituates. I can't make the connection between those faces and the bodies of dogs in dumpsters waiting to be incinerated. In the photos, some of them may look a little down, some happy, some curious but in all of them there is a kind of hope, not so much like they're hoping for a nicer place in which to live or anything that specific, but more that if the moment, that very moment they inhabit even as the picture is being taken, is good or good enough then the future is as well. Hope is their grace and it is their sad irony.

I'm not sure how I feel about using kill lists as an adoption tactic. On the one hand, it shows us the truth - unPC'd and unsanitized. On the other, it comes across as a ransom note. It's up to you, they say, to save this animal. Make room in your house and in your heart now or the animal dies. As is typical of ransom notes, there is no mention of the perpetrators' role in this chain of events. No mention about all the people who created this situation in the first place. No mention about the lack of responsibility, fairness, compassion, loyalty and all those other traits people like to endow themselves with.

No matter what one's politics, no matter what one's relationship is with dogs, it's hard to deny this: people created them; people are supposed to be their guardians; people have intentionally let them down; now people are going to kill them. These dogs die for our sins.


Caveat said...

It's an AR tactic to instil guilt, make people think that they (and those nasty breeders of purebred dogs) are the problem.

In fact, the problem is that the shelter people have swallowed it too.

And yes, animals are dying in facilities because of the sins of others - but it isn't the usual suspects.

Nobody should adopt a pet because they feel guilty. It should be because they want one, can care for one for life and come face to face with a dog or cat that they like and are capable of handling. Of course, it's even better if it's mutual, right out of the gate but that doesn't happen often.

I just wanted to say that your blog has made me learn a lot more about TAS.

As one of the handful of people challenging the 'pit bull' ban in court, and because we get so many notes from dog owners who have been unnecessarily hassled by power-tripping TAS officers, I'm glad to see that there's another side to TAS that needs more publicity.

I didn't know they actually operated a shelter, with adoption and that there was such an array of cool dogs there.

When my old Wiener Dog finally shuffles off, I'll definitely consider visiting TAS (if I can fend off that evil friend of mine who breeds the Griffs and is always looking to place an adult, especially with me).

Keep up the good work, Fred, and please let the folk at TAS know that Caveat thinks they're doing a good job.

Fred said...

From my perspective, and my perspective may very well have a limited view, TAS is mandated to serve the public interest by enforcing the laws our politicians manufacture including what many consider to be ill-conceived ones. Above and beyond enforcing the murky letter of the law, there are people within the facility where I volunteer who have a genuine concern for the welfare of abandoned dogs (and cats and guinea pigs and hamsters and pot bellied pigs, etc.). In fact, for those good people, I would say that is their prime concern and it is they who have led the charge to turn TAS into a shelter instead of just a pound. There is much done for the care and safety of all breeds that goes unnoticed, largely because TAS would rather spend their money on dog food than on PR.

I can't say I agree with everything TAS does but I have come to realize that there is sometimes a big difference between the politicians and bureaucrats who create laws which pander to paranoia versus the front line workers, who may not necessarily fully agree with those laws but whose job it is to see those laws carried out. It's a difficult balance to keep and I can only hope that one day the laws made to regulate animals will better align with the laws made for the welfare of animals.

Caveat said...

Congrats to TAS on morphing into an actual shelter. They should blow their own horn a bit more.

Active enforcement of the catchily named 'pit bull' ban is problematic for a few reasons.

1. There's no such thing as a 'pit bull' - even the lead counsel for the AG said that in Court last year during our Remedy arguments. He claimed they were after the purebreds and that they threw in the SS clause in case someone had a purebred and lied about it.

This reveals how limited their knowledge really was. It is very easy to ID a purebred dog. They are identified by a tattoo or microchip and registered with Ag Canada-approved kennel clubs such as the CKC, ADBA, UKC etc. This is federally mandated under the Pedigree Act. It is an offense to remove identification from a purebred animal which carries a heavy penalty.

No matter what a dog resembles, no ID or registration info means he is not a purebred dog. Period. He's a mutt.

2. No one is able (or qualified) to accurately determine the ancestry of a mixed breed dog, certainly not to a standard of proof for a court case. It's just a guess and overall it's meaningless. That may change some day but it isn't happening now. Even the much-ballyhooed dog DNA screens are far from reliable even for purebred dogs and they weren't part of the mix at the time the legislation was enacted.

3. Nobody is obligated to enforce the ban. There is no mechanism that says a dog must be identified as a 'pit bull' or non 'pit bull'. So, were I an animal services officer, I'd tend to totally ignore it, since it doesn't add anything that DOLA didn't already contain - except confusion, discrimination, costly court battles and unnecessary actions which lead to the inhumane treatment of unoffending pet dogs.

The Munchie case was an excellent example of this. Not one knowledgeable dog person thought he resembled the 3 banned breeds to a 'substantially similar' degree.

Everybody I consulted pegged him as not looking like one of the 3 named breeds in Ontario - which are unbelievably rare, unlike in the US, but as resembling a popular Gundog type which is very popular up here.

In the Hansard from the debates prior to enactment, MPP Peter Kormos asked whether municipalities would be obligated to enforce the ban. The answer from the MAG was no, it's just another tool.

And so is our former Attorney General.

Nuff said.