Category: Animal shelters

Interview: Steve Veigel from atcharlie

I first came across atcharlie while searching online for animal rescue supporters who aren’t affiliated with any shelter, clinic or hospital – but support the ecosystem through communities and awareness; someone who does it for the love and compassion above and beyond a vocation or business-for-profit. When I found the website, I was excited to Read More...

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Steve with his daughter’s dog: Parker.

I first came across atcharlie while searching online for animal rescue supporters who aren’t affiliated with any shelter, clinic or hospital – but support the ecosystem through communities and awareness; someone who does it for the love and compassion above and beyond a vocation or business-for-profit. When I found the website, I was excited to see that Steve was doing what I planned to do – share resources and profiles of animal shelters doing great work. I wrote to him with information about Waldo’s Friends, and – as any good website content builder would – requested a backlink for a rescue dog adoption guide. Several emails and a wonderful shoutout to Waldo’s Friends later, I realised that I had found a mentor and kindred spirit. I hope this interview gives you a peak into his ideas and work for saving abandoned animals, and spreads his unrelenting message of love at all costs.

Waldo’s Friends (WF): All your articles about rescue shelters are detailed and evocative. They encapsulate each rescue’s specific experiences, while putting things within context of the world at large (such as how BROOD began with the backdrop of tech in 1996). Particularly poignant are your descriptions of the people behind these rescues (like the amazing dog man of Wedowee) and their communities (as in the case of the Lonesome Dove Rescue). Could you tell us about your first article about a rescue, and how it affected your future articles?

Steven Veigel (SV): I always understood people trying to start a business. Like anything else, a rescue is dealing with competition. Competition for donations to survive as an organization. But with a rescue it’s not just about the business end you have to consider. It’s looking at animals, looking back at you, who cannot survive without you. It’s about their food, shelter, and medical care. It’s like caring for little children.

My first attempt at an article was actually “Hope for Life” in 2013. Pauline Cushman ran a rescue for cats and dogs in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The building was divided into two areas. One was Hope Center where she cared for abandoned animals, and Hope’s Garden Resort Boutique where dogs with owners were groomed and kenneled. The Boutique then gave her additional funds for the Hope Center.

I had just started my website with a few listings and Charlie’s story. I think I had about 40 visitors to my site (now over a million per year) and I had no idea how to interview people. But “Hope for Life” is where we got Sammy. Sammy was a dog we knew had cancer (mentioned at the beginning of Charlie’s story), so if you want to get started, go where you know and learn how to ask questions.

Pauline had never met me but knew we adopted Sammy. That at least gave us something in common to talk about. When I arrived, she was cordial but a little suspicious. What I didn’t know was that she previously had some people nosing around. She thought they were there to adopt an animal, but they weren’t. They were just poking around in her business. But despite any concerns about my true intention, she let volunteers give me a tour, spoke with me about the animal control facilities she rescued animals from in different US states, and her efforts to get the animals adopted. I watched her handling day-to-day situations with papers all over her desk. When we finished, I walked away with a few scraps of notes and a new appreciation for the dedication it took to keep operating as a charity.

What impacted me the most was when Pauline said, “It shouldn’t be about the organization. It’s about the animals.” To this day, I continue to echo those words: “It’s about the animals.”

WF: In your articles about personal experiences with rescuing animals, you’ve mentioned adopting Charlie, then fostering and eventually adopting Smoke and Ginnie, and fostering several others. Could you tell us about your decision to foster and adopt “difficult” dogs?


SV: I had grown up around farm animals and pets, but Charlie is the dog that motivated my efforts. If you will for a moment, imagine a dog that’s so quick and agile that it takes two people to corral him in a small backyard. Then, imagine you get him in the house and he leaps on top of a closed wood roll top desk and stands there balancing himself on the curvature of the roll top. He was just confused and fearful of where he was now. He had no idea what a house meant.

Charlie’s story is not just a dog story. It’s about how I had to break down his issues into manageable categories and goals. Charlie gamed me, forced me to learn, tested me, and made me understand his emotional struggle and intellectual nature on a far deeper level than I ever had to think about.

With Charlie, we had four dogs to manage and it became my responsibility. When Charlie passed, we were motivated to foster more dogs. Our experience with fostering, and then adopting our fosters, was wonderful. We had many really sweet dogs. We had a reputation with Basset Rescue of Old Dominion (BROOD) and on our original adoption application, I selected “willing to work with difficult dogs.” So when Lisa at BROOD called asking if we could help with a special case, we did. We knowingly took dogs with aggressive cancers understanding they were only going to live one to three months. That was difficult, but we gained so much from their love it only deepened our commitment. And that brought us to Smoke and Ginnie. Two dogs that no one was going to take in, especially because they were an older bonded pair that had to be adopted together. When they arrived my wife, Jenny remarked, “Oh my, they are Charlie times two. They’re your responsibility.” They weren’t that difficult, but they did have issues.

Before Charlie, we’d have three dogs and a cat. After Charlie, we’d have four to five dogs in the house. My wife then started calling me “the dog herder.” This was not anything official. More of a title of amusement as I walked around the house with all the dogs following me and gathering wherever I was trying to work.

When I had my first knee surgery, I had to do everything with a walker, but that didn’t change the fact that I had four dogs to take care of and I was determined to do everything myself. In the beginning, a therapist would come to the house to get me started on recovery. One day she wanted to see if I could get out the back door and then back into the house properly using my walker. I not only accomplished this with the walker, I did it with the walker, a cup of coffee, and four dogs. Impressed with how I managed it all, the therapist concluded, “Well, I think we have that one covered.”

WF: What is your recommendation for people who want to follow in your steps in adopting “difficult dogs” but are hesitant due to jobs and kids?

SV: I think it’s worth noting that some things we took on did not represent a normal dog adoption. And Charlie did nip my mother-in-law in the butt. In Charlie’s defense, she wasn’t dog friendly and she did surprise us about four o’clock in the morning with a brief visit. The small hallway was dark, the dogs were barking, Charlie didn’t know her, and in our surprise, we were not paying attention to the dogs. Charlie was still new to the house, confused, and thought she might be a threat.

It’s funny now and she did not really get hurt, but it impressed me with the basic rule: Be aware of the situation and don’t put the dog in a position you know will get him in trouble. If we had just turned on the lights and got the dogs under control for a moment, Charlie never would have felt the need.

Steve and Charlie

If you want to help “difficult dogs,” understand that we’re not talking “dangerous dogs.” Difficult dogs are anxious, lacking guidance, and a bit fearful for their situation. They sometimes get labeled “dangerous” because they are unruly, like someone insisted on improperly feeding them a treat by hand and kept getting nipped. Start off by reading Charlie’s and Smoke and Ginnie’s stories. Pay attention to some subtle changes in behaviour I try to bring attention to. Learn some basic dog training, and go in with commitment. Understand you are taking responsibility for a life. They’re not a toaster you return because you don’t like the model. They’re living, feeling, sentient beings. And they are not there to protect you. You’re there to protect them.

There are literally hundreds of sweet dogs who just need a home. Rescues generally do their best to pair you with a dog that will fit your situation. Try to time your adoption when you have a couple days off so the dog can explore the house under supervision and get to know you. Don’t let small children create confusion where the dog is trying to eat. Give them a comfort zone of about six feet (two meters). Your house is already strange to them and even an established pet deserves to eat in peace. Also, don’t let small children walk around with food in their hand. Dogs are opportunistic. If they can take the cookie, depending on their previous living conditions, they might. Don’t put them in that position. And then, don’t blame the dog.

WF: Your animal rescue directory shines the light on rescue shelters. Unlike sponsored and funded organisations in animal rescue who focus almost exclusively on pet adoption listings, you focus on volunteers and organisations that run with low to no funding. Could you tell us about your decision to focus on the rescue shelters and not on animal adoption listings?

SV: I don’t really care if someone is an “established charity.” Established charities had to start somewhere and I try to note that. If someone is doing a good job trying to get pets adopted, I’m in their corner. With our throw-away societies there are just far too many animals who need our help. The only way to make a dent in the problem is to assist, advise, and encourage those who have the motivation and the dedication to take it on.

I try to bring attention to the efforts of animal rescues large and small. My articles serve two purposes. First of all, I try to invite people to learn more about animals, animal care, and the people. Second, if my article draws a reader because they’re searching for “why do dogs eat poop” (for example), maybe they’ll also notice the rescue listings while they’re on my site. Maybe they’ll be encouraged to adopt an animal and/or get involved with people in their area.

WF: You comment on the nature of volunteers, and this sentiment (mentioned in your article about BROOD) stands out: “These people struggling in the animal rescue community to get our attention are among our unsung heroes who represent the best of humanity. It doesn’t take much to help them.” In your experience, what do you consider the most challenging hurdles that a rescue shelter faces, and how best, in your opinion, do you think that regular people like us can empower them?

SV: I think the most challenging hurdles that rescues face are donations and volunteers. You can’t buy food or provide medical care if you can’t get donations. Some rescues are working in economically depressed regions, and not everyone is a master at fundraising. Just getting the donation page of your website noticed is extremely difficult given the nature of search engine rankings. That’s another major reason I do my listings. If someone finds my website, I then increase the odds (just a bit) that one of the rescues I list will also get noticed.

As for the volunteers I mentioned, they’re great people but they’re not employees. They have other employment and families they’re obligated to and they can’t always be there. On that topic, I’d like to mention that volunteering doesn’t have to take all your time. Some rescues just need help from time to time to transport a dog. They develop a list of volunteers and then put out an email to coordinate those available. I recall one time Lisa from BROOD was traveling 176 miles to bring us a foster named Caitlyn. She was also trying to pick up another dog they were rescuing from animal control in Portsmouth, Virginia. To save her time and distance, my wife drove the half hour to Portsmouth and retrieved the dog there. We brought it to our house for a couple of hours and then drove a ways to meet Lisa in a shopping center parking lot to exchange dogs. It was a good experience and we got to finally meet Lisa and chat a bit.

Donations and volunteering help empower rescues. Businesses here often provide a percentage of sales to rescues which is good for them and tax deductible. There’s even a group here in the US called Rescue Bank who developed a warehousing and distribution system for pet food. They get pet food donated (some probably overstocked) from pet food manufacturers, and then provide the food to rescues at a greatly discounted rate. The pet food manufacturers then get a tax deduction and also get to tout how they support animal rescue.

no-kill animal shelter

No-kill animal shelter

“Each and every animal on earth has as much right to be here as you and me.” – A.D Williams This quote sums up the mission statement of any legitimate no-kill animal shelter in existence today. But, what exactly is a no-kill animal shelter? A no-kill animal shelter is an animal rescue shelter that doesn’t euthanise Read More...

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“Each and every animal on earth has as much right to be here as you and me.” – A.D Williams

This quote sums up the mission statement of any legitimate no-kill animal shelter in existence today. But, what exactly is a no-kill animal shelter? A no-kill animal shelter is an animal rescue shelter that doesn’t euthanise healthy animals as a means of population control (“No-Kill Shelter”). Unlike conventional animal shelters that use euthanasia to control the animal population, no-kill animal shelters rely on adoption programs and neutering or spaying. Euthanasia in no-kill animal shelters is a reserve for the terminally ill animals and animals that are a danger to public safety. In this article, we are going to look at no-kill animal shelters from the following angles:

  • What is the no-kill movement?
  • What are the principles of no-kill animal shelters?
  • Does the no-kill policy benefit animals?
  • How can you participate in the no-kill movement?
  • Do we need more no-kill animal shelters?

What is the no-kill movement?

The no-kill movement condemns the killing of treatable and healthy animals in shelters for population control and convenience. Pets play a critical role in providing us with much-needed companionship. They are our emotional support systems. Sadly, some people do not value them as members of their families. This is why countless animals end up on the streets and eventually in an animal shelter because their owners abandoned or abused them.

According to a nationwide study in Australia, 25% of dogs and 56% of cats that end up in council pounds end up getting euthanised (“What is the no kill movement”). However, this isn’t the only solution to how we can deal with the issue of abandoned animals. With more people participating in pet adoption drives and increased awareness about adopting from shelters, this trend of animal cruelty for convenience is slowly being reversed.

What are the principles of no-kill animal shelters?

No-kill shelters in Australia run on the principles of open-mindedness, voluntary services, neutering & spaying, medical & behaviour programs, pet retention, and adoption programs.

Open-mindedness

Change has to start at the top. Animal shelters need to have open-minded leaders for them to embrace the no-kill policy. Otherwise, all efforts will be in vain. Directors in conventional animal shelters need enlightening on the benefits of adopting the no-kill policy.

Voluntary service

Taking care of animals is no small feat. It is not cheap either which is why the no-kill movement encourages voluntary participation from members of the community. Volunteers can assist many ways from donating food and services to volunteering to foster a few animals when the shelter is full. Volunteers are the backbone of the no-kill movement.

Neutering & spaying

Population control is critical in animal shelters to ensure that the number of animals is proportionate to the available resources. Neutering and spaying the animals helps control the population without euthanising healthy animals. Encouraging adoption also helps free up space in the shelters while raising money to take care of the animals left behind.

Medical & behaviour programs

Aggressive animal behaviour is one of the leading reasons for euthanasia in typical animal shelters. A dog pound will euthanise an animal the moment it shows signs of aggressive behaviour. This is, however avoidable with a few changes in pounds’ and shelters’ pet care policies. The no-kill movement advocates for comprehensive socialisation, handling and cleaning of animals to keep them healthy, happy, and friendly.

Pet retention

Some of the pets end up in shelters and pounds because their owners cannot keep them due to circumstances such as frequent travelling or moving into apartments that do not allow pets. The no-kill movement seeks to reduce such cases by giving advice that assists pet owners to keep their pets.

Adoption programs

You might have heard the slogan, “Adopt don’t shop.” It means that you should adopt a pet instead of buying. The no-kill movement encourages people to adopt pets from local animal shelters through campaigns and incentives. It is an effective and humane way to depopulate the shelters.

Does the no-kill policy benefit animals?

There is no straight answer on whether the no-kill policy is beneficial to animals or not. Many critics believe that no-kill is a myth. They argue that a no-kill shelter shouldn’t euthanise any animal no matter how sick and aggressive it is. No-kill shelters, however, euthanise terminally ill and aggressive animals. Another issue that arises is the fact that there are no universal guidelines that define a no-kill shelter. A shelter can easily label itself as a no-kill shelter without oversight or vetting from an independent regulatory body. This lack of regulation leaves a lot of wiggle room for how shelters operate and how they decide the animals that live and those that get euthanasia. For example, two no-kill shelters might differ in opinion regarding whether an amputated dog lives or dies.

On the other hand, advocates of the no-kill policy believe that it is a lifeline for abandoned animals in rescue shelters. According to no-kill policy advocates, implementing a no-kill system in animal shelters results in saved lives and happy families. These shelters play a huge role in resolving animal homelessness and finding good loving homes for the rescued animals.

So does the no-kill policy benefit animals? It all depends on how you decide to look at it. It is more or less a half empty-half full glass scenario. Sure, the no-kill policy has its flaws, but that does not mean that we should ignore the good it is doing for the rescued animals. It is a step in the right direction towards ensuring that animals get their right to live.

How can you participate in the no-kill movement?

Volunteer! Volunteer! Volunteer! While volunteering might not be the only way to participate in the no-kill movement, it does help a lot. In fact, voluntary services are core part of any shelter’s no-kill efforts whether through foster carers, donors, fundraisers or dog walkers. No-kill shelters often run short of resources due to the high number of animals under their care. The least we can do is to get involved as volunteers – in any capacity possible. You can become a foster carer so that your local animal shelter can free up space to rescue more animals. You can also donate cash or items that you feel might be helpful to the animals at the shelter.

Besides volunteering and donating, you can support the no-kill movement by adopting pets from no-kill shelters instead of buying them from breeders. Adopting from shelters ensures that an animal gets a loving home and frees up a spot for another animal that needs rescuing.

Taking part in awareness campaigns is yet another way for you to participate in the no-kill movement. Getting valuable buy-ins from local councils and local shelters to adopt the no-kill movement is critical to how far and wide it spreads. The more that people learn about the no-kill approach, the easier it will be to convince shelters to consider it and the community to adopt instead of buying.

Do we need more no-kill animal shelters?

To answer this, we will need to first look at some statistics. Australia is among the countries with the highest rate of pet ownership with over 60% of Australian homes owning a pet (“Cat and Dog Euthanasia in Australia”). Unfortunately, the high rate of ownership translates to many animals ending up in pounds and shelters. Many people don’t know what to do with their pets when faced with scenarios such as moving to a new country or moving into an apartment that does not allow pets. All of this adds up to more pets abandoned or surrendered to the shelters.

Without no-kill animal shelters, surrendering your pet to a shelter is akin to convicting her to a death sentence. According to statistics, out of the hundreds of thousands of animals taken into shelters and pounds annually, more than 50% end up dead (“Thousands of Animals Killed for ‘Convenience’.”). With no-kill animal shelters, we can rest easy that careless pet ownership will not be the cause for an innocent animal’s death. So to answer the question, yes, we need more no-kill animal shelters.

It’s important to add here that alongside this movement, we also need stricter laws in place to deal with reckless pet purchases from breeders, as well as legal repercussions for abandoning healthy animals. No-kill shelters should not become a happy escape for pet owners, rather they should work together with awareness drives that discourage people from buying/adopting pets they can’t care for in the long term.

All things considered…

The no-kill movement has revolutionised the world of animal rescue. It has introduced a much-needed change that we can’t ignore. We are slowly moving on from a time when losing your dog for more than 72 hours meant that you might never see her again. Today, losing your dog is no longer a death sentence for them. The community is sensitised on animals’ rights to life now more than ever. As a result, we can see more humane treatment of animals in most animal rescue centres and pounds. We can also see many people volunteering and donating to animal shelters while embracing the “Adopt don’t shop” mantra.

If you’re considering adopting your very own dog or cat, look no further. Here are some pet adoption guides that will make the decision to adopt from a shelter a lot easier.

 

References:

“Cat and Dog Euthanasia in Australia.” Pets4Life, Pets4Life, pets4life.com.au/cat-and-dog-euthanasia-in-australia/.

Tory Shepherd. “Thousands of Animals Killed for ‘Convenience’.” NewsComAu, 24 Sept. 2012, www.news.com.au/national/shelter-animals-killed-for-convenience/news-story/efbca3dcfc2d619c6f1fc633b92c99cf.

Townend, Mark. “No Kill Animal Shelters | Blog.” RSPCA Queensland, www.rspcaqld.org.au/blog/fact-check/the-no-kill-shelter-myth.

“What Is the No Kill Movement?” PetRescue – Create Happiness. Save Lives. – PetRescue, Pet Rescue, www.petrescue.com.au/library/articles/no-kill-movement.

“No-Kill Shelter.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Aug. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No-kill_shelter.

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