Deadline Now: Animal Welfare Issues
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Deadline Now: Animal Welfare Issues

Friday, June 24, 2011

It's been more than a year since Lucas County Dog Warden Julie Lyle took office. Host Jack Lessenberry welcomes Julie Lyle, along with John Dinon, Executive Director of the Toledo Area Humane Society, and Blade Staff Writer Claudia Boyd-Barrett to Deadline Now to discuss what progress is being made to control Lucas County's pit bull and stray dog problems, as well as other animal-related issues.

Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of Deadline Now:

A couple of weeks ago, I visited the Michigan Humane Society’s shelter in Detroit, in part because of complaints that too many animals, especially dogs, were being put down.
Some of what I saw there would make a stone weep. Yes, there were many cheerful puppies and kittens and adult dogs, animals who will find good homes. There were also animals who had been seized by an elite unit known as animal cops, bred for fighting.

There were dogs who had been tortured and had never known a loving touch. Adult dogs who were completely unsocialized and were terrified of humans. And then there was Lady, who was skin and bones and had been kept in a basement without food for weeks, and who nevertheless was still sweet and cheerful and who weakly licked me and wagged what remained of her tail.

This shelter, located in an area of extreme poverty where the population is poorly educated, has been killing seventy percent of the animals that come in. I concluded that this was sadly unavoidable, and said so on the radio. That made many people mad.

“How can you sanction killing healthy animals?” someone demanded. Personally, I can’t. I’ve had seven collies and now have an Australian Shepherd, all of whom were like children to me.

Their pictures are on the wall of my office, and I revere the memory of every one I‘ve lost, all of whom had the happiest lives I could give them. But when an animal is in terrible shape, or no decent home is to be found, a merciful death may be the most humane solution. The best way to reduce the number of animals euthanized is not to beat up on those who are forced to do them.

If we want to keep more dogs alive, we need to be willing to pay better for facilities to house them. We need to spend money on education and sterilization programs. We should perhaps think about  severe penalties for people who carelessly let them breed.

We can have no tolerance for vicious or dangerous dogs, and they do need to be painlessly destroyed. But we shouldn’t forget that they aren’t to blame. People are. And whatever your faith tradition, we owe them better than that.