Last week, in the wake of the reality that Lucas County Dog Warden Tom Skeldon is a dog killer, The Toledo Blade has begun reporting a listing of all dogs adopted, and all dogs killed, at the Lucas County shelter at least until changes are made in the shelter. From the 11/14 report, which features 17 dogs killed, and 4 adopted, it seems that little is being done in the short term to bring an end to shelter killing.
But it is a dog on the 11/13 report that caught the eye of one of my readers in the comment section, that is th inspiration for the blog posting. Here's the part of the report:
"Pit bull," tan/white young female "with pink toe nail polish," North University, Toledo, running at large, no muzzle
Reading this can't help but break your heart. Obviously, this dog was someone's dog. Clearly behind the scenes here was an owner that cared dearly about their dog....they loved the dog so much they POLISHED HER TOENAILS. This isn't some inner city dog fighter like Tom Skeldon would have you believe is the "typical" pit bull owner and why he needs a ban. It was a caring person, who clearly had a connection with their dog.
Somehow, the dog got free (which anyone who owns a dog can tell you, can happen, even to a responsible owner), ended up in the animal shelter, and killed.
Now, most shelters would have workers and volunteers who are compassionate about animals. They would see this dog, realize the dog had an owner, and work their butts off to find that owner. They would post flyers in the North University area. They would talk to neighbors (I mean, come on, someone HAS to know the owner of the pit bull that polishes their toenails) and would work to find the owner who loved this dog. But this was in Toledo, where only 13% of the dogs make it out alive, and thus, the dog is dead.
But then that got me thinking, what about the dogs in shelters across the U.S. that have owners, but aren't wearing pink toenail polish?
Dogs can get loose for a variety of reasons. Just a few weeks ago, my wife and I were out hiking and at the trail head, this dog came up to us. We pet the dog and checked out his collar -- his name was Huck. We have Huck some of our peanut butter sandwhich, a couple of carrots and a little drink of water. Huck was a little dirty and we couldn't find an owner, anywhere. We called the phone number on his tag and no one answered. We decided that most likely someone was looking for the dog and that we would leave him there. If Huck was there when we finished the hike, then we'd start searching for his owners.
We later met a woman on the trail, who was a little frantic that her dog had somehow wandered off while they were out hiking together and she didn't know where he went. I assume Huck and his owner were reunited.
But the moral of the story is, this was a caring owner, who was taking their dog out hiking, and the dog got loose. It happens. And the dog, gone from his owner for no more than a couple of hours had found water and mud and had gotten dirty. He looked a little disheveled.
But what would have happened if Huck had made it to a shelter and somehow lost his tags? Would the shelter have assumed that he was abandoned out in the woods? Would they have assumed that he was homeless because he was so dirty? Would they have assumed that the owner was not caring and irresponsible for letting their dog run free? Or ould they have busted their butts to try to find Huck's human hiking companion?
I guess my point is that a lot of dogs that find their way into the shelter are owned dogs. They have owners who love them, care about them, and sometimes paint their toenails pink. But what if their toenails aren't pink? What if the signs of ownership are not as obvious and the dog is a little dirty. Do we assume the dog is a stray? Or assume the dog is lost? And what resources do we put into finding the dog's home vs finding the dog a new home?
Do we think lost, not stray, even when the dog does not wear pink toenail polish or have other obvious signs of being owned? We should.