Tuesday, April 29, 2008

NOT JUST DOG PARKS


I think most people have noticed that this blog has recently thrown pet themed topics into the mix. True, I may have become a little dog crazed since we adopted Rilo but my peeked interest is largely due to the repeatedly expressed need for more pet amenities such as dog parks by Columbus residents.

While fenced dog parks are definitely needed to provide pets a safe place to exercise and socialize with other dogs, I have heard little discussion among pet owners about the need for better designed shelters, the place where most of these individuals have adopted their companions from. Shelters such as the Franklin County Dog Shelter (FCDS) are the intermediary care givers for our soon-to-be best friends so we should insist upon the inclusion of features that offer better treatment and care of animals. Just as we set new standards for the care of humans we should be pushing for innovative facilities that promote healing and maximally enhance the physical and emotional well being of animals as they recover from past traumas and await adoption.

A couple stories in the past few months have gotten me thinking about the condition of animal shelters. In Morgan County, Ohio the dog warden was asked to resign or be fired because all the unclaimed dogs in his care were being killed - some by gunshots- and dumped in the back of the shelter. Most of these dogs went unclaimed because the shelter had no public hours to view them. The Humane Society admits that rural communities think of their pets in a different way than more urban communities and therefore the care of the animals is low on the totem pole.

The Franklin County Dog Shelter (FCDS) is clearly NOT the understaffed barn that housed dogs in Morgan County. The FCDS animals are well tended to by staff and a large volunteer corp but the conditions of the shelter are not ideal. The cramped environment limits the amount of interaction between dogs and potential adopters and the noisy, cold environment stresses out the animals and contributes to them getting sick and developing behavioral problems. Plans are on the books for an $18 million new shelter to be built but a new building does not necessarily mean better conditions or improved accessibility for potential adopters.

My friend Jean told me about the Washington Animal Rescue League's (WARL)new facility which has essentially set a new standard for animal shelters. I was amazed to read about how much thought they placed into the facility and wanted to share with you what Franklin County could have. The WARL shelter opened in the fall of 2006and can now accommodate nearly 400 animals, an increase of 66 percent.

Some of the new features include:

separate ventilation systems for each living unit
skylights and glass apartments to maximize natural lighting
privacy nooks
elevated beds
heated flooring
flowing water and music
hutch doors

Half of you reading this just thought to yourself "I don't have a skylight, why should a dog?". The other half of you said, "Fancy Feast should also be served on pewter platters to the cats".

The reason for these added amenities is that they improve the behavior and health of the animals which means a better behaved companion for potential adopters. In addition to the noise level subsiding to to occasional bark, the ventilation systems have been essentially eliminated respiratory problems and the animals get more rest and are less fearful of people. The improved condition of the dogs and the increased number of visitation rooms is expected to contribute to an increased number of pet adoptions. The quicker turnaround time for animals to be adopted means a reduced operating expense.

The Franklin County Dog Shelter is considering such improvements to the new shelter but which and how many of them that will eventually be included are unknown.

The other improvement I would like to see to the shelter is a more central location. It is likely that the new shelter will be similarly located out in no man's land near the existing location. I found this location during my visits terribly inconvenient, confusing and a little depressing. I know the shelter is considering other locations and I am at a loss of where it could be better placed but I am sure smart people like you all can recommend multiple options.

1 comment:

Riley & Tiki said...

Required reading for people who run animal shelters should be "Redemption: the Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America" by Nathan J. Winograd of the No Kill Advocacy Center. He has some harsh things to say about the way animal shelters do business... and he's absolutely right.

Riley, Tiki, & Kesey's Mom