Published On: Mon, Oct 3rd, 2016

EDITORIAL: 10 days in a dog’s life   





Pets have become a big part of many families’ lives. And, because families think so much of their furry family members, pets and pet products are also big business. Pets have emotional as well as economic value.

Many municipalities, including the Qualla Boundary, have animal shelters or animal control centers. Depending on the budget and population of the municipality, these shelters range from small, poorly-staffed and equipped to large, state-of-the-art, fully-staffed operations.

I imagine being in animal control and managing animal shelters can be very frustrating. You are, generally speaking, dealing with animals that people have abandoned or abused. You are rounding up feral animals that have been in the wild so long that they have reverted back to their primal instincts. I recently heard, on a session of Tribal Council, that even the task of retrieving and dealing with animals killed in the roadways now falls to the animal control/shelter staff. Other than working in a morgue or a hospice, I can’t imagine a job that would require more emotional stamina than to work in an animal shelter.

We have all heard and seen the heartbreaking stories about “animal hoarders” who take on too many animals, trying to shelter them and ending up keeping them in deplorable conditions. We know that there are people with no heart and plenty of greed who treat animals like products; breeding them in mass quantities; providing only minimal space and food until they can broker deals with pet stores or individuals, who perpetuate misery by funding those mills. Over-breeding causes pain and suffering for both pet lovers and the animals themselves. If you have ever watched one of those heart wrenching ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) commercials or seen the programs on Animal Planet where animal rescue organizations must intervene and save helpless, diseased, starving animals, then you have seen and understand the problem.

Because of the volumes of unwanted animals that are either brought in from owners who no longer want their pets, feral animals that multiply in the wild, and animals retrieved from puppy/kitten mills and hoarders, many municipalities used to euthanize animals after a short stay in the shelters. The standard waiting time in those shelters who euthanize, and I believe this is true of the Cherokee shelter, is 10 days. I imagine the policy is a combination of knowing the capacity of the shelter and about how many animals, on average, they receive in a certain period of time. This time also allows for lost pet owners to have time to check the shelter in time to prevent a pet from being put down.

Non-profit groups of pet lovers have gathered in some communities to create “no-kill” shelters and have become very successful at raising funds, finding shelter space, equipment and food to prevent many animals from being euthanized. Groups like SARGE and ARF will even visit municipal shelters and take animals scheduled to be killed.

I know some surrounding counties are exploring the possibility of upgrading their facilities to increase capacity. I also heard some discussion in a Tribal Council session two or three months ago about the possibility of renovating or improving our shelter facility and capacity.

I think our animal control management and officers should be commended serving the community in a very difficult, sometimes traumatic, and thankless job. I know how quickly a person can become attached to an animal, and it cannot be easy to make life and death decisions every 10 days or whatever the schedule might be.

My dog is just like family to me. He has been from the moment I picked him up at 8-weeks-old. And, now, 13 years later, Smoky is an indispensable part of my family. He is afforded every canine “luxury”. He is discussed at family gathering and even has his own visitors and friends. My wife and I feel that if you are going to take on the responsibility of a pet, that you should make every effort to accommodate him. And, in return, Smoky reminds me of what unconditional love looks like. He waits for hours every day for my return from work, peering out windows and doors, whining on the front porch until he hears the sound of my vehicle approaching. When I arrive, he performs the happiness ritual (he doesn’t dance so well these days), each and every day without fail. When we are together, he never wants to be more than a few feet away.

Animals have value. We should be making every effort to provide funds, materials and manpower to ensure humane and sanitary care. I believe that no-kill animal shelters should be the goal of every municipality. We need to work with the non-profits who are finding effective ways to reduce the population of unwanted animals through sterilization and pet relocation initiatives. I have heard the argument that people should have priority when it comes to resources and I agree, they should. But, we have the resources to do both and we should.