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February 06, 2013

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Sharon Kennedy

I had a woman in a class say that people don't abuse/mistreat pets anymore.

Maybe you take for granted what you know?

I appreciate what I learn from a variety of places, including your blog but many people don't search out the information or just think they know...

Karen F

Thanks for this review. I read Little Boy Blue recently, as well, and was very struck by it, but like you, I had mixed feelings. I thought it was powerful in its blunt descriptions of the NC shelter -- something rare in a book intended for a general audience -- and I agree with you that many of the questions Kavin asks are good ones.

But I was disappointed that, even as she stresses the importance of marketing shelter animals, she does ultimately seem to come down on the side of spay and neuter, implying that it's the most important thing we need to do. She touches on the changes needed at shelters in her depiction of what has to improve at the Person County pound, but she doesn't logically build that out so as to imagine . . . oh, say, the shelter reform movement that's happening right now, that she (strangely, to me) appears not to be aware of.

As a note, when you're ready to write about dog transports, I hope you'll consider cases where there is alleged killing at the sending-shelter end. Just recently there was a very problematic situation in Seattle, where a rescue brought a lot of mostly-little dogs up from the high-kill shelter in Stockton, California. The Seattle-area rescue (which sent all the dogs right into foster homes) got a lot of positive press, but unfortunately their representative said in a Seattle TV interview that it's the public in Stockton that is at fault for the killing at the pound there, and that Stockton shelter staff are doing the best they can.

As you probably know, neither of those is true. Central California Pets Alive, the activist group that is trying to replace the shelter director in Stockton, has extensively documented the director's failures and the cruel ways in which animals are treated at the pound there. They were deeply upset about the transport because (a) those dogs could have been adopted out in Stockton, (b) the Seattle-area rescue gave political cover to the Stockton director, and (c) they believe dogs in Stockton were killed to maintain space for the Seattle-bound dogs . . . whose eventual departure from the pound was (d) then used by the Stockton government to make the shelter look good.

They addressed the issue in a blog post last week:

http://centralcaliforniapetsalive.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/i-am-furious-at-a-rescue-that-is-helping-save-lives/

Kim Kavin

Hello,

Thank you for taking the time to read my book "Little Boy Blue." Although you chose to give it a mixed review, I'm glad that you agree it presents the types of questions that everyday dog owners (like me) should be asking and that it offers information and details that most people outside of the animal welfare movement never stop to consider. As you note, many of the things in "Little Boy Blue" are common knowledge to rescue advocates like yourself, but they are not at all common knowledge among the general public, which is this book's target audience.

I accept that every reviewer is entitled to his own opinion, and I respect yours 100 percent. However, I would like to correct a few factual errors in your blog post to make sure that they are not repeated elsewhere. It seems that if something inaccurate gets posted on a single website, that it often ends up on others. That's the only reason I am commenting on just a few items here.

First, I did not write that the shelter where Blue was rescued is a place where more than 90 percent of the animals are killed. I wrote that the shelter has a kill rate of about 95 percent year in and year out unless rescue groups intervene. Those rescuers are working very hard to bring the overall kill rate down in ways that the shelter director does not embrace, including multi-state transports and adoptions like the one that brought Blue to me.

Second, I do not believe there are any passages that perpetuate a "mythology" of bait dogs and dog fighting. There are a number of quotes and attributions from shelter officials and full-time rescue workers who told me in interviews that people involved in dog fighting are a problem for the shelters in the part of America where Blue was found. That is not mythology; that is what they are seeing in their day-to-day work lives, at least as they explained it to me while being interviewed for this book.

Third, I do not believe that I "promote" the idea of mandatory spay/neuter ordinances. I do have one quote from a single rescue advocate who mentions this as something that she feels is needed, one quote in an 85,000-word book that devotes several chapters to spay/neuter and shows its effectiveness and its challenges in a number of ways, through a number of quoted experts on the subject.

Last, I do not state that my thoughts on spay/neuter as they relate to a dog's temperament are based on "very anecdotal evidence of just three dogs." I do write about a few of my own family's dogs as examples, because that's how stories are told so that they don't read like research papers, but obviously, I have met far more than three spayed or neutered dogs in my lifetime. It did not seem like that fact had to be spelled out for the readers, but perhaps given your confusion, I should have been more clear in that writing.

Thank you again for taking the time to review "Little Boy Blue," and kudos to you for all the time and effort that you put into writing about animal welfare on your blog. I sincerely wish you nothing but the best in your efforts to make a positive difference in dogs' lives.

Sincerely,
Kim Kavin

MichelleD

Thanks for chiming in Kim... I'd like to ask if the "mythology" of bait and fighting dogs came from a person that operates a shelter that kills most of them?

MichelleD

Also wanted to add that I don't think MOST people know any of it...or at least understand what it means. They know there are animals in shelters but don't really think about the realities - and the bigger the numbers the worse it is. We take in almost 8000 animals a year - that is 22 animals every single day. Think about having 22 animals in your house at once - then adding another 22, then adding another 22....lather, rinse, repeat 365 days a year.

With breed bans...people think "oh, you just can't have a pit bull". They don't understand that it means thousands of dogs die because they have no place to live. They don't understand how people's pets are taken from them and killed.

Brent

Kim,

Thanks for chiming in and for the nice response and there are a couple of things I'd like to clarify.

First off, thanks for the correction on the shelter kill rate. I just went back and re-read that section and I did mispeak in my post and I appologize for that. I'm debating now on re-wording that section for acccuracy.

Secondly, there is one section that led to me making this comment. It's in the chapter "a tough call to make" in which your mind races about all the worst case scenarios that Blue's rescuer might have been involved in. While many of the fears you had are ideas that are somewhat common in rescue circles, it is extremely rare that most of these fears more than a single substantiated occurrance. It is my belief that fears of these "worst case scenerios" cause shelters/rescues to make decisions that cost far more animal lives than the scenerios themselves.

Third, the mandatory spay/neuter idea was a quote from a rescuer. However, with no other side given to that idea (especially within the context of a couple of chapters on spay/neuter, it reads (intentionally or not) as an endorsement.

Finally, regardless of the number of anecdotal stories, the idea that this was presented on anecdotal information, in spite of a fair amount of scientific literature available on the topic, was troubling to me. It just seems that this is how mis-information gets passed along when we rely on anecdotes and ingore the science.

And I admit that maybe this is my over-sensitivity to certain things -- and in the grand scheme of making more people aware of the situation, and giving them many options to help, probably outweighs these drawbacks...

Thanks for coming by -- and for the book. Blue is a beautiful dog.

Brent

Brent

Karen -- thanks for your thoughts and I do concur with them. I had the same feeling, although, I think she did spend a significant amount of time in explaining how inviting the modern Northeast shelters are to potential adopters which was signicant. And thanks for sharing your blog on the topic. I think the topic of transporting is a very interesting one...for a variety of reasons.

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