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Animal Welfare Optimism, If We Are Kind to Each Other


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Dogs, cats and other creatures have been in my life now for over 20 years. Personally, I know I’ve made a difference in a good way, everything from coming up with ideas like allowing dogs to come to the ball park (with the White Sox at first, and now replicated around America) to the Dog Cruise (a dog-friendly excursion on Lake Michigan from Mercury Skyline Cruiseline). I know – from your email – that I have saved animal lives with my advice in print, on the radio and on TV. I’ve also taken my hits for taking a stand on various issues (like staunchly standing up against breed bans) to very recently identifying the difference between right and wrong, and standing up for my ethics and for the people who work in the trenches.

On Chicago Canine Cruise

On Chicago Canine Cruise

Chicago Animal Care & ControlI do know that the people who should matter the most and are actually most indispensable in animal welfare are in many cases those that actually receive the lowest pay or no pay (volunteers), and with little fanfare. Those who caretake for cat colonies or bottle feed kittens or scoop litter at a local shelter are hardly crazy cat people; they are heroic cat people.

Because I happen to have a public platform for what I do – I tend to receive awards and honors – which I am grateful…..but I will never forget that it’s volunteers providing enrichment for dogs or cats in a shelter, or working at events to get the animals adopted, or who foster dogs, cats, green iguanas even – all these folks make it possible to save more lives.

And for those who look down their long noses at these heroes, or who take them granted, I don’t know that we need self-serving egotists in this field as their superior attitude is only insulting, and not beneficial – so get out of the way.

No doubt, in America, we’re getting it down – gradually, but we are, as more animals are being saved and fewer being relinquished.scooping cat litter in Steve Dale post

Chicago Alderman Ray Lopez and one very adoptable dog

Chicago Alderman Ray Lopez and one very adoptable dog

It’s still a bit baffling, though. In America, most people have a pet. There are more pets than children. Half of all dogs sleep in the same bed as a family member (cats sleep, well, wherever they want – but increasingly it’s indoors). About 90 percent (some polls indicate over 90 percent) of pet owners consider their pets members of the family. Yet, according to the ASPCA approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized at shelters (1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats). Dog fighting still goes on and animal cruelty appears to be on the rise (not surprising considering the increased violence toward one another, since there is a Link to human violence).

Still one “mommy blogger” once told me, if I post about child abuse – even the more horrific case, I get only half the response compared to a story about animal abuse.

Do more people more people more passionately about pet than kids? I don’t think so, yet I can’t explain the phenomenon.Steve Dale on Chicago Animal Care and Control

Susan Russell

Susan Russell

I climbed on top of this little soap box after attending the Chicago Animal Care & Control (CACC) Open House on Saturday June 18.  Let’s be honest – like so many municipal facilities, CACC has been a target in recent years. Sometimes deservedly so, sometimes the agency has only been subject to politics which has nothing directly to do with animals in their care.

I was heartened by new executive director Susan Russell’s words of optimism at the Open House event, and the previous week on the radio with me. Clearly, she wants to do the right thing. I hope she is given the time, and ultimately resources to achieve goals. She can’t do it alone. I am also encouraged by how the independent fundraising arm Friends of Chicago Animal Care & Control will be working in conjunction with CACC (talk about amazing volunteers).

Can you believe this number: Over 100 rescues and non-profit agencies now pull from CACC!

One more thing, walking up and down the new pavilion and into the cat room – I was reminding – there’s nothing wrong with these animals, except that their people gave up on them. One person in our party, and she’s been to shelters many times, was moved to tears.

If i ever find myself hardened to the reality that so many animals nationwide are still killed when they don’t need to be – I do need to find myself another profession.

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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