Monday, June 6, 2011

The South Responds

The article below originally appeared in the May 27, 2011 issue of Dog News. It is reprinted here by permission of the author.

The South Responds
Carlotta Cooper

I was very happy to see Matt Stander writing about “The Alabama Effect” in the May 13 issue of DOG NEWS. However, as a daughter of the South, I have a slightly different take on the situation.

I think that unless you live in the South, or perhaps unless you were born and raised here, you may not be sensitive to the disdain that comes from some of our northern friends. It applies even to the way we in the South treat our dogs. Just in the last month I’ve been told on e-mail lists and Facebook that people in the South do not give their dogs heartworm medicine and that people in the South have “an attitude of casual cruelty toward animals.” I have a suspicion that there are probably people in the north who think we are all barefoot and toothless, too. (I assure you, I have lots of shoes and all my teeth.)

I don’t know what to do about some of these stereotypes, but most people in the South take very good care of their dogs. Your dog breeder friends treat their dogs the same way the rest of you do. Puppy buyers are likely to raise and love puppies the same way as people anywhere else in the country. And cruelty is not confined to any one region of the country.

Per “The Alabama Effect,” I personally despise these northern shelters, along with the ASPCA, which have been coming down to the South to pluck dogs from shelters and even out of people’s yards in the wake of devastating tornadoes and now flooding. They claim to be saving animals but what they are really doing is making sure that the owners of these animals will never be able to be reunited with their pets.

For someone who has lost their home in a tornado, who may have family members who are injured or dead, and their dog is missing, they may be hoping that someone has kindly found the dog and taken him to their local shelter. They have no idea that there is a “dog relocation program” in place to take their poor dog off to a state a thousand miles away and that they will never have a chance to see their dog again. It seems horrible to me that these animals are being whisked away before their owners even have a chance to get their lives back together and start searching for them. These dogs are not ordinary stray dogs or unwanted dogs. These dogs are homeless due to disasters and they should not be taken out of their states.

Yet, these shelters in northern states, and elsewhere (there are some midwestern and other states involved now, too), are taking the dogs and putting them up for adoption! They are making money from the tragedies that have befallen other human beings by selling their dogs. I honestly can’t think of a much lower thing to do than that. And they are doing all this in the name of “saving the dogs.” Saving them from being found by their owners? Saving them from going home? They have taken money-making and taking dogs from their owners to new depths.

My heart really goes out to the owners of these lost dogs who will never be able to find them.

So, I do agree with a great deal in “The Alabama Effect,” but for me the onus is on these shelters which have taken the dogs. But I suppose it takes both shelters on the giving and receiving end to make this terrible system work and it should be shut down. What began as a good idea to send shelter animals where they could be adopted has now become a big-time money-making business for shelters in which animals are being taken away from owners who want their pets back. Last time I checked, shelters were not supposed to be in the business of stealing animals from people or selling them like pet stores. What’s more, these shelters are touting these dogs as “Tornado Dogs!” as a selling point! They’re trying to make people feel sorry for the dogs in order to get them adopted. How about the poor families who are looking for their pets? Doesn’t anyone feel sorry for them?

Please tell your friends to avoid shelters which engage in these practices. If they are taking animals from areas that have been hit by tornadoes and flooding, there are most likely owners who don’t know where their dogs are. Tell those shelters that people want their pets back. The least they can do is post pictures of the animals they have taken so owners can search for their pets online. Some shelters which have taken dogs have refused to do even that and they are refusing to answer anymore questions about the dogs they have taken.

And, please remember that the South is part of the United States. There are cultural differences here but we do love dogs very much. Rednecks can be nice people, too. Hunters love dogs. Good ol’ boys love dogs. If you want to find people who have a problem with dogs in the South, it’s likely to be someone’s stately grandmother who hates dirt and hair, but she would never hurt an animal.

When you’re posting on e-mail lists and other places, you might try to remember that about half the people reading your messages are from the South and they might be offended when you make stupid comments about people from the South not taking care of their dogs. I spend a lot of money every year on heartworm medicine, flea and tick prevention, vaccinations, and all the rest, for my five dogs, so such comments really don’t go down well. And everyone I know does the same for their dogs. We fought this war once so let’s not fight it again over dog care.

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