Metro Pets

By Laura Peterson

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”Mahatma Gandhi

Last month marked my re-entry into the world of animal rescue. I did not want to go back to that dark, sad and desperate world, but when duty calls, someone must answer; even if you see duty’s number on caller ID. Throughout my recent experience, I kept it in perspective – this is one dog among many dogs and cats in this city that need help. This is one animal I am able to make a difference for today. Always I ask myself the same question: “Why haven’t we come up with a better solution?”

No matter what the Mayor’s Alliance and Animal Care & Control say, this city is far from being a no-kill city. The dog I sprung out of Manhattan’s AC&C was already slated for euthanasia because of his breed, (Akita) despite the fact that he’s a 9 month old puppy. Not only is this dog adoptable, he’s amazing! While I was there to get the dog out, there seemed to be three people “dropping off” to every person “picking up” a pet. PEOPLE ARE YOU KIDDING ME? And how many people even consider going to AC&C to adopt a pet? At city pounds, animals that are of undesirable breed or age, or just stay around too long get euthanized, unless local organizations like New Yorkers for Companion Animals get them out.

So what can you find at the city pound? Most people assume only stray Pitbulls, feral cats and abused animals end up at the pound, but let me tell you it is quite the contrary. While I was there to pick up the Akita, I watched a 30-something year old woman and her boyfriend hand over an 8-9 year old orange tabby cat because the boyfriend is “allergic.” The woman was sobbing; the man looked annoyed. I wanted to give her a swift kick in the you-know-what (giving up your pet for a man is so beyond shallow!). Chances are, due to its age, that cat was put to sleep. The dog in the picture above, Kirby, is a breeder-quality Pomeranian with a wonderful temperament. He gets along with cats and loves people. He spent three weeks at AC&C without even a look and was getting close to his “time,” so Patty Abjamine of New Yorkers for Companion Animals got him out of there and into foster care.

“Something has to change, and it’s not the rescue system,” Abjamine says, with the agitation and bitterness that 20 years in animal rescue can get you. “Rescue is not the solution for human irresponsibility,” she goes on to say, “People just don’t know! They drop off a nine year old cat…what do they think is going to happen to that cat? How many people are out looking to adopt a nine year old cat? But no one tells this woman ‘your cat is probably going to sit in a cage for a couple of weeks and then be put down.’ No one wants to say that, so the public assumes their unwanted pets are all going to live in some wonderful new home somewhere…I don’t know where they think they go.” Abjamine’s frustration is palpable, and she’s right. I’ve worked in no-kill shelters where older animals are dropped off to basically live the rest of their lives there, mostly in a cage. Where DO people think their unwanted pets go? And the ones that come into Animal Control as strays are usually the first to be euthanized, so why people assume dumping an animal on the street or in the park means some “nice old woman” will take the animal home, I just don’t know.

I ask all of you to try to do something, if you aren’t already. Raise awareness. Consider fostering a pet if you can. Donate as much as you can to local organizations that rescue local animals. Though saving Katrina pets is nice, did you know there are many lawsuits going on now because owners have been trying to find their pets as organizations were taking the animals around the country and adopting them out? We need to help New York City pets. Why should that nine year old cat die while we are bringing another nine year old cat from New Orleans up here to find a home? Not to be insensitive – I wish they could all find homes – but we do need to take care of our own, first.

For several years I got my hands dirty, working in shelters, fostering dogs and cats in my home, rescuing strays off the street and trying to find homes for them. Back then I had crappy furniture, cheap carpeting and few things on my mind more important than saving animals. Then I “grew up.” I got a good-paying corporate job, a wonderful boyfriend, a fabulous apartment with expensive furniture and figured I’ve reached the “I’ll write a check” phase of my rescue career. This recent return to the hands-on work cost me three weeks of stress, hundreds of dollars for rescue dog related expenses and numerous sleepless nights. It also cost me my nice shady spot in the sand where I had stuck my head for a few years. I can’t foster animals the way I used to for a couple of very good reasons (namely my own dog and one of my cats; both of whom had major problems for the duration of our visitor’s stay), but I can certainly give more money, raise awareness, volunteer to help in other ways and stay consistent with it.

Will you join me?

Please consider supporting the important work of Patty Abjamine and New Yorkers for Companion Animals by considering foster care (it’s hard work! Don’t agree to do it unless you can see it through) or making a donation so they can possibly board animals that deserve the chance to live. You can reach Patty and the organization through their website at: www.geocities.com/Heartland/plains/5418/home.html#howtoreach Both Kirby, the Pomeranian, and Rainbow, the Tortie Cat, pictured above are adoptable through New Yorkers for Companion Animals. Want to cry your eyes out? Read some of the stories linked on NYCA’s webpage, especially “How Could You?” And people wonder why rescue workers are so surly!

New York’s Animal Care & Control can be found on the web at www.nycacc.org. If you are considering getting a pet, please consider starting your search there and save a deserving animal’s life.

If you are interested in the Akita puppy I fostered, check him out at www.akitarescuewny.com – his name is Koda, and that’s his picture up there at the beginning of this article!

Originally published August 2006
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