From The Patriot-News
Two differing views on dealing with strays
Let's save animals from wrongful killings
Friday, August 25, 2006
The Harrisburg Humane Society misrep resents itself as a "no- kill" shelter and refuses to document its claims that it's only killing animals that have "severe medical or behavioral problems."
These two points, which we believe have not been fully explored during the recent public debate, form the basis of our campaign to Save the Animals.
Allow us to share a story. Last summer, Tiga was a friendly, playful 2-year-old black Labrador retriever mix who had been taken in by a local animal rescue group, fostered by a family whose 3-year-old daughter had become her best friend, graduated from the Hounds of Prison Education (HOPE) program -- where she'd shared an inmate's cell at the state Correctional Institution at Camp Hill 24/7 while receiving training under a professional dog trainer -- and been adopted by a local couple.
Then things went terribly wrong.
It isn't clear exactly what happened. But this much is not in dispute. In September, Tiga's owners surrendered her to the Harrisburg Humane Society.
The Humane Society never scanned her for a microchip, which would have identified her as the rescue group's foster dog. And within five days of her arrival, the Humane Society put Tiga to death.
The Humane Society claimed Tiga was killed because of aggression. Knowing that Tiga had never been aggressive during her stays at the first shelter from which she was rescued or at her foster home with four children, during testing to enter the HOPE program or during her two-month "incarceration," the rescue group asked to see Tiga's euthanasia record. According to the group, the Humane Society said Tiga's record would only be released under court subpoena.
Tiga was one of the almost 3,000 animals -- representing 40 percent of all incoming animals -- who were killed by the Humane Society last year after being labeled severely ill or aggressive, generally after temperament testing. Such tests are not used by no-kill shelters to make life or death decisions.
Was Tiga truly aggressive? And if so, why wouldn't the Humane Society provide documented proof to a group of people who had taken Tiga into their hearts? (See Tiga's memorial Web site at www.rememberme.741.com/Pets/Tiga.html.) AND SO WE return to the major focus of our campaign: Why is the Humane Society labeling thousands of animals such as Tiga as unadoptable, and why is it unwilling to be held publicly accountable for its actions?
We believe the answer to the first question is painfully obvious: No-kill shelters may not kill animals unless they are fatally ill, severely injured or truly dangerous. Becoming a no-kill facility is a long and difficult process.
Instead of following the lead of other open-admission shelters that are implementing the life-saving programs needed to become true no kill shelters, the Harrisburg Humane Society is simply killing thousands of animals and claiming they are severely ill or aggressive. But are they?
In 2002, under the Humane Society's prior administration, 4.5 percent of the incoming dogs and 28 percent of the incoming cats were categorized as ill or aggressive and killed. Last year, in stark contrast, 20 percent of the incoming dogs and 53 percent of the incoming cats were labeled as ill or aggressive and killed. Is it credible that past administrations released thousands of sick and dangerous animals into the community?
Two years ago, we asked to review all euthanasia records to determine whether the Humane Society was adhering to its own euthanasia policy that requires extensive documentation before any animal can be killed. As with Tiga's rescue group, the Humane Society denied our request. In a letter from the Humane Society's solicitor, we were advised that the records "contain information the Humane Society, as a nongovernmental, private charity, generally does not make public ..." Why not? THE HUMANE SOCIETY has done more than deny access to its records. Since 2003, it's also refused to allow the public to become members, in violation of its own bylaws, even though it depends heavily on public support. Because only members can run for the board, vote for the board or attend annual meetings, the society is being run by a group of insiders.
It's too late to save Tiga, but it's not too late to save other animals from wrongful killings. We challenge the Humane Society board to open membership to the general public, open its meetings and permit open elections; to allow a review of all euthanasia records by an independent third party; and to appoint compassionate, new leadership in the form of a new executive director and board president.