Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hate Mail

Through our feedback form on the DPVHS website, I received this anonymous message: "I think that it is your responsibility, especially in this hard time for the MSPCA Springfield, to step up to the plate (for once) and become an open admissions shelter. I believe that any 'limited admissions' shelter has NO RIGHT to call themselves a 'Humane Society' for many reasons; one being that you constantly turn animals away and push your 'problems' onto true humane societies like the MSPCA. Who will no longer be your 'dumping ground'..so it's high time you actually help the aniamls [sic] that need it. You people may boast about your high adoption rate, but in reality it is only high because you turn a huge amount of animals away at the door or during a phone call! It's a disgrace! I hope you people decided to take action for once and not pawn your 'unwanted, non adoptable' animals on someone else."

Semantics about the definition of "humane society" aside (there being many humane societies with no sheltering function at all), this anonymous emailer does not say anything we at DPVHS do not already know. We do not boast about our "high adoption rate," because we are well aware that we achieve it only by accepting primarily those animals we believe we can successfully place for adoption. We also readily agree that this is a luxury afforded us by the presence of the MSPCA's open admission shelter in Springfield. The closing of that shelter is very likely to change some of the ways DPVHS operates, including which animals we admit.

What it is unlikely to change, however, is the DPVHS commitment to ending companion animal overpopulation. Our decision, years ago, to accept only those animals with a reasonable chance at finding a new home (even if they needed expensive rehabilitative care beforehand) was a decision based on one principal: adoption programs alone do not end animal homelessness.

DPVHS expends an enormous amount of resources--as a percentage of our budget, far more than most open admission shelters--on homelessness prevention programs (accessible or free sterilization, humane education for at-risk populations, pet food assistance, safe haven foster care, etc.). The challenge of keeping these successful programs operating while also adjusting to a higher than usual influx of animals will be a significant challenge.

While we recognize that our sheltering programs, which re-homed more than 1,300 cats and dogs last year (including 300 cats and kittens taken directly from the MSPCA in Springfield) make a difference to each of those 1,300 individual animals, they aren't the solution to too many pets and not enough homes.

The difference between a limited admission and an open admission shelter isn't simply whether all animals get admitted or not. It's an issue of how resources are allocated. In an ideal world, limited and open admission shelters (along with animal control agencies, trap-neuter-return groups, breed-specific rescuers, and others in the rescue community) all work together to end animal homelessness.

The 300 or so kittens DPVHS took each year from the MSPCA, for instance, were not adoptable kittens ready for adoption--they were infants needing weeks of foster care and medical treatment prior to placement. With the volume of animals coming through their doors during peak kitten season, the MSPCA did not have enough available foster homes to give these kittens a chance. Because DPVHS controls the influx of animals through an appointment system and prioritizing admissions for adoptable or rehabilitable animals, we do have foster homes available. Together, MSPCA and DPVHS saved those kittens' lives.

Neither of us could have done it alone. The MSPCA closing is a loss for the entire community. While my anonymous emailer's divisive and ill-informed hostility doesn't serve to help any animals, it does highlight the looming challenge facing all animal lovers in our region at the end of March when the MSPCA leaves town for good.


  1. Very well said! Thank you, Leslie! And thank you also, Dakin, for helping me as a former Animal Control Officer, with all the dogs I brought you over the years with behavioral, or health issues. When you admitted one of my guests I knew they would receive the very best care and placement. I would much rather have brought the dogs to you, knowing that care would be afforded to them at Dakin, that may have otherwise not been given to them somewhere else. By the same token, I could also refer people who were looking to adopt a pet to you with full confidence that if they chose to adopt from you, it was the best placement for both them and the pet. People in general just don't realize how much you are committed to the animals, but also to the responsible and long term benefits to humanity in general.
    Please don't let negative feedback like your "nameless" email deter you from doing what is right and best for all involved. It is these "nameless" that often times are the ones who are the cowards that DUMP unwanted animals on facilities because they are too irresponsible to have their own pets spayed and neutered, while it is facilities like Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society that is left to pick up the pieces and be the saviors for these helpless, voiceless creatures!!
    Stay strong, and stay true!
    Best wishes,
    Terri Hazzard
    Former Belchertown Animal Control Officer

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  3. What a class act you are, Leslie. Good for you for turning a conveniently unsigned, sour comment to an opportunity to tell us — again — what's really at stake here. Ginny