Friday, August 13, 2010

Cat Massacre in Story City Incites Debate about Archaic Rescue Techniques

OK, words are flying fast and furious over the Animal Rescue League’s role in the mass euthanasia of at least 30 helpless cats in Story City.  According to their official Facebook statement that finally appeared this past Wednesday, ARL executives only watched as Dr. Brenda Bright and her unknown assistants removed an unknown number of cats from a hoarder’s home for eventual extermination and disposal.

No one disputes that unfortunate fact.

The ARL's statement also maintains that they did not lead the efforts; they were there simply to assist. Well, maybe. You decide.  According to the Story City Chief of Police, he had spoken to Josh Colvin weeks prior to the day of the removal and that the ARL had offered to “coordinate the entire operation.”  Not having any experience in coping with a hoarding situation, Chief Haffner readily agreed and welcomed the ARL’s leadership with the understanding that local veterinarian, Brenda Bright would be the vet in charge.  Here’s the “assistance” the ARL actually did provide:
  • It was the ARL who provided the police department and Dr. Bright with the legal forms necessary for the surrender of the cats and access to the hoarder’s property.
  • It was the ARL who recruited the members of the “removal” team.
  •  It was the ARL who asked Dr. Deppe for her assistance in finding placement for the estimated 50 cats that were in the hoarder’s possession.
According to the Story City Police Department, the ARL coordinated and led the removal team. Considering the extent of their involvement, their claim of only “assisting” with the operation is a bit of a stretch.  However,  their statement does makes it clear that it wasn’t a real ARL veterinarian who declared that runny noses and eyes were life threatening illnesses and therefore wholesale euthanasia was necessary.  But, then again, the ARL stands firm in their position that it was those non-ARL vets who made the decision to kill the cats, and they just watched... and did nothing.

Again, no one disputes that unfortunate fact.  Although the ARL did take the credit in the news for “rescuing” dozens of cats from a Story City home on Wednesday, August 4th. Going so far as to say, “Some of the animals will have to be put down, but the others will be adopted through the ARL.” (Unfortunately, they haven't relayed that piece of information to their staff since several individuals who have inquired about adopting were told by an ARL representative "we do not have any of the Story City cats.")

So, that brings us to just how many cats were actually in the home and what happened to them?  All the ARL will say is that they took 12 cats to be put up for adoption.  If that’s true, (and we’d like it to be), then good for them, unfortunately, the actual events of the day and their own statements seem to contradict their ‘rescue’ claim.

Apparently, one of the reasons the ARL gave for asking Dr. Deppe to find placement for the removed cats was due to the fact that they, (ARL), told the Story City Chief of Police that they were full and could not take any of the cats.  But, let’s give the ARL the benefit of the doubt and say that they suddenly found room and elected to take those 12 cats back to Des Moines for adoption. What happened to the rest?

We know that Dr. Deppe was only allowed to save 12 animals in spite of her offer to take up to 30.  Her repeated pleas to both Dr. Bright and ARL director Tom Colvin to let her save additional lives at no cost to either the City or the owner were rebuffed.  The ARL’s official Facebook statement asks us to believe that sometime after Dr. Deppe left for the day, Dr. Bright and the ARL elected to actually permit another 12 cats to live?  OK, that still leaves us with 26 cats unaccounted for.  How many were killed and how many were given to ISU for vivisection or experimentation?  Whatever the answer, that’s over a 50% mortality rate and certainly not in keeping with the ARL’s statement to the media that, “Some of the animals will have to be put down, but the others will be adopted through the ARL.”

When all is said and done, the only facts that no one disputes are the following:
  • The ARL clearly had a leadership role in the removal of “dozens of cats” from a hoarder’s home in Story City on August 4, 2010.
  • The medical evaluations and decisions to allow cats to live or die were made by licensed veterinarians not affiliated with the ARL.
  • Another licensed veterinarian and shelter owner, Dr. Lisa Deppe was present and offered to take up to 30 animals at no cost to either the City or the owner.  While Dr. Deppe’s generous offer was refused, she was allowed to save 12.
  • Tom Colvin, the ARL’s Executive Director and his son Josh, the Animal Care & Control Center Operations Manager & Cruelty Intervention Coordinator, were present to ” assist with the proper removal of the cats from the home,” but, did nothing but watch.

No one is accusing anyone of anything other than, doing nothing. When faced with the opportunity to save or kill the majority of these unfortunate animals, Dr. Bright and the two top executives of Iowa’s largest animal shelter chose to do nothing.  But they sure did take the credit for the “rescue.”

Perhaps the most chilling aspect of this tragic event is the message sent to unincorporated communities across the State of Iowa, that the area’s largest animal shelter and self-proclaimed expert in animal control promotes removal and wholesale extermination as the preferred solution to the problem of unwanted animals.   A centuries old philosophy still practiced by many, (but not all), animal shelters today.

This is the 21st Century and our laws and procedures regarding animal care and control should reflect the attitudes and morals of the day, not those of over 100 years ago.  Progressive communities across the country have embraced contemporary legislation and policies on how we, as a society, approach animal over population and control. One excellent example is the Companion Animal Protection Act . This is a law that targets shelter practices to relinquish animals to licensed qualified groups and individuals rather than euthanize the animal. This does not stop shelters from killing, but it does prevent them from refusing those who stand in front of them trying to save a life. California has one. Delaware just passed one! We can too! The time is now so that situations like what happened on August 4 in Story City are never allowed to happen again.

You have to ask yourself just how can either one of those gentlemen from the ARL stand in front of the public and ask for money to save animals after doing nothing to stop the killing in Story City when they had the chance.  Even if Dr. Bright had ignored their intervention, at least they might have tried.

But they didn’t.

Perchance they’ve just operated one way for too long to change.  Perchance they prefer to hide in their fortress behind walls built on the bodies of the tens of thousands of luckless animal companions deemed surplus by archaic policies and procedures.

Yes. It’s time for a change.  If you agree, here’s what you can do:
  • Organizations like the ARL and legislators are about numbers. So we'll give them what they can understand. We need to “see” your voice. Soft or loud, anyway you want to speak, step up and be heard. Let those who people who want to change the law, know you support them.
  • Comment on the blogs. Show your support by letting those who are courageous enough to speak out know they are not alone. Subscribe or follow their blogs and social media outlets so you can stay updated on the latest news and events.
  • Cross post everything you receive. Use social networks (like Facebook, twitter) and email friends and family. Ask them to speak out and help spread the word. We need everyone’s voice whether you live in Iowa or not. WARNING: The ARL is attempting to silence any comment or question about this topic on their facebook page. Those that have commented about this topic have had their comments deleted and have subsequently been banned from their site.
  • Notify your local news media and ask them why there is only one part of the story being told. We submitted our story to several local stations, but have heard nothing in return.
  • TALK ABOUT IT. Share the information anyway you can. Get the word out that a new era has begun. We will no longer tolerate animals being killed while organizations stand ready to save their lives.
  • Sponsor one of the lucky twelve that DID make it. Every shelter and rescue across this country is "full" and has limited funding. You can help by volunteering or sponsoring one of those 12 precious lives that Dr. Deppe fought so hard to save. Contact Jewell Animal Hospital for more information 515-827-5700 on how you can help.

This is where we start the ball rolling. We need to know how many committed souls are ready to make change! 

We are…are YOU?

If you want more information or would like to join those who are working on the new bill, please contact Citizens for Animal Welfare Reform at citizens.4.awrf@gmail.com.

More About the Story City Massacre. Finally! An Answer of Sorts

Since the tragic event in Story City occurred answers have been sought from the participants as to what actually happened - How many cats were there, how many were saved, how many were killed, and who was responsible.

On August 11, the ARL finally broke their silence and released the following statement on facebook.


As stated in a previous post: This is clearly an attempt to criticize those who assisted this day. We don't intend to get into a discussion about this over Facebook because there is no merit to these accusations, but we would like to provide some of the facts that are clearly missing from these posts: 

1) the ARL was asked to assist in the rescue of dozens of cats in a hoarding situation. We did not lead the efforts, we were simply there to assist. 

2). The 1 ISU vet and 1 private vet from Story City on location were not ARL vets, but are very knowledgeable veterinarians and we had full trust in their assessment of the situation. 

3). The ARL took 12 cats back to be put up for adoption.

If you have any questions on how this operation was handled, we would encourage you to contact the Story City Police Department since they led the operation and it was in their animal control oversight, not the ARL’s. AGAIN, the ARL was simply there by the request of Story City PD to assist in removing the animals from the house – not to make medical assessments, not to make euthanasia decisions, and not to send these animals to rescue groups. Story City PD does have a local vet who is the person they turn to when help is needed with neglect or abuse cases. This is the first time they had to deal with a hoarding situation, and were unprepared. ARL was asked by Story County to assist with the proper removal of the cats from the home. Dr. Deppe left well before midway through our time there, and made a lot of assumptions about what went on after she left. 

We do not even know why the ARL was brought into mud-slinging of how this event was handled. It appears that this is rooting from a small group of individuals with a vendetta against the ARL, or other non no-kill shelters in general. 

This conversation is not productive to adopting animals, so we’re not going to engage further in this argument. It’s easy to post a comment based on someone’s opinion. To throw stones at ANYONE that was there to help this crisis situation is both unfair and short-sighted. We further echo the earlier statement that the real issues in this situation is animal hording and pet overpopulation. The end.


Warning: Those who commented about this subject on the ARL's facebook page had their comments deleted and subsequently banned from their site.

At first glance it is apparent that there statement is in conflict with the news report issued on August 5 regarding the alleged rescue of dozens of cats. Their facebook statement fails to provide any definitive information as to how many cats were there, how many were saved, and how many were killed.

Are we to believe that only twelve cats out of the reported "dozens" were actually rescued and the rest were killed under the supervision of the ARL? If so, then this raises an even greater concern regarding the message this action sends to every community in Iowa...That a "rescue" really means removal and disposal.

This unconscionable behavior needs to change. Obviously, we need a new era...a new way of thinking and new solutions to address these problems.

Change is coming.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

An Animal "Rescue"Story Gone Wrong

News Channel 8's reporting of the August 4th “rescue “of well over 50 felines from a home in Story City is yet another demonstration of excellent media manipulation and management by "Iowa's largest animal shelter," the Animal Rescue League of Iowa.

Perhaps rescue was the reporter’s poor choice of words. For what actually occurred that day in Story City was a mass execution of innocent animals coordinated and sanctioned by the very people who profess by their own Mission Statement “
To promote animal welfare, the human animal bond, and prevent the overpopulation of pets.”

So, what really happened?


Had TV 8’s Angie Hunt dug a little deeper she would have discovered a few, not so flattering, but significant facts as to what was actually occurring instead of just taking the ARL’s word for it.  The only accurate portion of her story was that the individual who lived in the home with more than an estimated 50 cats did indeed ask for help, but only after an intervention was initiated by members of her family.  Since Story City does not have an ordinance limiting the number of pets a resident may have; and there were no complaints from her neighbors about wandering animals or odors, it was evident that no crime was being committed.  However, to the credit of Story City Police Chief Brian Haffner, it was obvious that unless something was done to help this person, sooner or later the community could be dealing with a more serious problem.  Not having either the experience or resources to tackle the situation, Chief Haffner did what any good leader would do, he asked for help.


After contacting several area shelters who declined to take responsibility for removing the cats from the home, the police department finally connected with the Colvins at the ARL who agreed to create a removal team and coordinate a “rescue.”  The “TEAM” recruited by the ARL included local veterinarian Dr. Brenda Bright, DVM,  two additional veterinarians and a number of students from Iowa State University, Sue McCaskey of Story County  Animal Shelter and finally, Dr.Lisa Deppe, DVM from Jewell, Iowa.


On August 4, 2010 those individuals and other volunteers converged in Story City and proceeded to set up operations to remove the estimated 50 plus cats from the residence.  According to eyewitness accounts, the veterinary staff had established an on-site triage to evaluate each animal as it was brought out of the home.  As more animals were recovered from the house, it became obvious to Dr. Deppe that virtually every rescued cat was being lined up to be put down.  When Dr. Deppe approached Dr. Bright, the Veterinarian  in charge, and stated that there was no need to euthanize these animals because she, (Dr. Deppe), had arranged for housing, medical care and eventual re-homing for all of the cats at no expense to either the City or the previous owner,  Dr. Bright responded with a simple NO!  When Dr. Deppe asked why not?  Dr. Bright’s curt response was, “because I said so.”

A visibly upset and shaken Dr. Deppe then approached the ARL’s Tom and Josh Colvin who were observing and asked them as Team Leaders and coordinators of this alleged rescue that they intervene and allow her to save those animals from being needlessly killed.  After all, didn’t they recruit her to do just that? Wasn’t this supposed to be a rescue?

They refused.

Dr. Deppe did finally persuade Dr. Bright into allowing her to save only 12 cats from the slaughter that continues yet today.  Remember, there were an estimated 50 plus cats in the home when this all started over a week ago and not all have been recovered. There are still more inside that the so called, “rescuers” are attempting to capture with baited traps.  Those that are caught soon join their departed brethren for apparently, there’s no mercy for these innocent animals at Dr. Bright’s Veterinary Clinic and definitely no rescue awaiting them at the ARL.

Obviously, the question is… what’s more tragic, the unnecessary deaths of so many blameless animals or the apathy of those who sanction and condone their pointless destruction when the means to their survival was standing in front of them, pleading for their lives?

As for Dr. Brenda Bright, DVM, she has to live with her conscience and the consequences of her ego driven decisions.  On the other hand, what’s another 30 or 40 cats euthanized to the ARL when, by their own admission, they routinely destroy approximately 10,000 animals a year?  That’s an average of nearly 30 a day, so it’s no surprise that after 84 years of euthanasia-mania, ARL’s management might become just a bit jaded over the prospect of overseeing the disposal of a few more cats.  It’s something most everyone in the Iowa press corps knows and yet for some reason, elects not to disclose.


Grab your Thesaurus and look up the synonyms for the word rescue.  No matter how you look at what happened on August 4
th in Story City, rescuing those animals was clearly not on the participants’ agenda!  Unless of course, killing them was just an alternate means of “setting them free.”
In view of this mindset, perhaps the Animal Rescue League should be more appropriately known as the Animal Removal League.

In a world where the press whips the public into justifiable outrage over a kitten found in a dumpster, how News Channel 8 and the rest of us can so easily buy into the ARL’s marketing hype and close our eyes to the truth is probably because we don’t want to know the truth about what really goes on behind the scenes.  It’s too ugly.  It’s just a lot easier to accept the ARL’s fairy tales because… they do make up good ones.

Instead of blindly taking their word for it, TV 8’s Angie Hunt could have reported the real story.

We could do better by demanding that they do.
Here's what YOU can Do.
  • Know who you support. It does make a difference.
  • If the story looks suspicious, it usually is. Write the news director and editor and ask if all sources were confirmed and are they available for questions.
  • Don't accept candy coated numbers from your local shelters. Demand proof. 
  • Demand that your local shelters/rescue look for solutions other than euthanasia.
  • Let your voice be heard. Comment on the articles. Your comments and your voice can be the education to another person.
  • Crosspost. Share this article with friends, families and co-workers. By crossposting, you can save another animal's life from being placed in the care of organizations that do not use life-saving techniques despite what their mission says.
  • Understand that situations that were described as above are more often than not are caused by mental illness. Have compassion for those who do not understand when "enough is enough".
References of facts:

Dr. Lisa Deppe's eye witness account can be found in her article, Cutting Through the Red Tape.


We thank those involved who took the time to talk to us and give us their eye witness accounts of the events to help us separate "fact" from "fluff".

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Cats Entrusted in Vet's Care are Killed

This article is dedicated to all the cats that an owner placed in the care of a licensed veterinarian…and who were killed.

Over 3 dozen cats were killed not because they were too sick to live, but because the veterinarian in charge of the rescue operation made the choice to kill.

So how bad was the situation that would cause two-thirds of the cats rescued to be deemed too sick to save?

Only one person is talking. And she disagrees with the decisions made on that day that cost these cats theirs lives.

Dr. Lisa Deppe, DVM is both a licensed veterinarian and holds a shelters license. She was asked to assist with the placement of cats of an out of control situation in Story City, Iowa. You can read her eye witness accounts of that fateful day in her article Cutting Through the Red Tape.

The Facts
Dr. Brenda Bright, DVM, of the Story City Pet Hospital was the veterinarian that was placed in charge of the rescue operation and medical assessment of the cats. She would evaluate their medical conditions and decide their fate.

Tom Colvin, Executive Director of the Animal Rescue League of Iowa and son Josh Colvin, Animal Care and Control Centers Officer and Cruelty Intervention Coordinator were on site to support the rescue operations.

Dr. Deppe was asked to coordinate the placement of the rescued cats and agreed to provide medical care for those sick, injured and those needing surgery. As a licensed veterinarian, she could provide euthanasia, if necessary. She coordinated and had on standby, licensed shelters, sanctuaries and rescues ready to receive. So, what went wrong?

The Dark Side of Dr. Bright?
Dr. Bright’s team entered the home and began capturing the cats they could and setting traps for those they could not. Outside they were briefly assessed for any obvious injuries or illness. They were then placed in carriers and sorted by those who would live, and tagged with ‘red tape’ if they were to be euthanized.

But the carriers marked with “red tape” far outnumbered those that would get to live.

As you view the photos you will notice that the cats slated for euthanasia do not show visible signs of illness or suffering. Cats can hide pain but there are no cats that are listless, lifeless or lethargic. Cats are sitting forward in their pet taxis with their heads up and alert. They are not panting from distress. They are not crying in pain. They instead are watching the world go by unaware they are about to die.

It is unknown if any blood work was done to confirm diseases. Since the cages were marked almost immediately with the “red tape”, it is assumed that no blood draws were done. Since there was no visible signs of suffering, no major injuries, no lifeless cat, or any diseases confirmed, what could Dr. Bright have seen that made her decide that these cats had to die? We don't know as Dr. Bright is not sharing any information to those who are asking.

The Red Tape
Dr. Deppe didn’t see what Dr. Bright saw. She saw cats with signs of URI and a couple injuries that she knew would require surgery. She was eager to get these felines into her clinic, where she could begin the process of giving them back their life.

But she was denied the opportunity when Dr. Bright refused to release the red tagged cats into Dr. Deppe’s care. When she turned to Tom Colvin, for support, she received a pat on the back and the assurance that things would be ok.

So the unanswered questions are: How can a licensed veterinarian be so callous that she would refuse the rights of a peer who wanted to save lives? How can the Directors of Iowa’s Largest Animal Welfare Organization stand by and allow these cats to be killed, without cause or reason, and say nothing? How can the actions of these so-called professionals be revered by Iowa’s communities as leaders?

When all was said and done, Dr. Deppe would walk away with only 12 precious lives. The rest would needlessly be killed.

Moral of the Story
Dr. Bright’s actions in this situation broke no laws. But her decision to repeatedly refuse another vet of equal status the right to save lives breaks every moral and ethical obligation of the veterinarian oath. She did not show compassion to animals. Her actions were contemptible and animals died because of it.

This way of thinking is more commonly known as the "God Complex". This woman made the arrogant assumption that her opinions on the health and welfare of these cats were superior to Dr. Deppe’s. The mindset that anything that looks sick IS sick makes you wonder how she was placed in charge in the first place. Her actions make you question if she is able to “practice her profession conscientiously, with dignity and with keeping with the principals of veterinary medical ethics.”

And the animal welfare organization that stood by and allowed this to happen is equally responsible for lives being lost. They are exactly why Iowa needs a law like the Companion Animal Protection Act which targets shelter practices and forces decision makers in cases like these to turn animals over to qualified shelters, rescues and veterinarians instead of euthanizing them. It prevents this type of egotistical decision making from happening which costs millions of animals their lives every year.

Animal Welfare Professionals have the responsibility and moral obligation to protect, provide and place animal’s needs ahead of their own self-gratifying egos and philosophies. This is one of those cases where animal’s lives were lost not because of disease or illness, but because of the arrogance of those in charge. Asking for understanding and documentation of what happened is not out of line. Dr. Bright should be willing to answer questions, so when something like this happens in the future, and it will, these same mistakes are not made and lives needlessly, lost.

Dr. Deppe’s courage to come forward and place animal welfare before personal and professional needs is not only brave but admirable. Rightly, insulted and offended, Dr. Deppe doesn’t want revenge…she wants answers. She strongly believes that cats that died that day, didn’t have too. She was qualified to help and her expertise and opinions were dismissed by people she respected. She wants to understand why she was refused the right to save their lives. We all do. And because she was refused the right to save their lives she is forced to accept their fate.

What YOU Can Do?
Changing the laws is imperative, but there are things you can do today to stop tragedies like this from happening by not supporting organizations and businesses that do not practice honest and open animal welfare practices.

Make sure those places you do support really have animal welfare at heart.

And don't look the other way...take action! Your support helps save lives by allowing those who want change…make change!

Join our blog and stay up to date on news and information.

Keep up to date with our website and our facebook pages.

We encourage you to support Dr. Lisa Deppe's work by joining her blog and sharing the information to keep people informed on how to save lives.

A special thanks goes out to Amy with H.E.A.R.T for her commtiment to tell the story and dedication to making changes happen to save lives.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Cesar Millan: What Happens Now?

On June 5, Cesar Millan's Website made this statement:
We are sad to announce that after 16 years of marriage we have decided to file for divorce. The decision was made after much consideration and time. We remain caring friends, and are fully committed to the co-parenting of our two boys.
This undoubtedly will have an effect on Cesar's loyal fans and also those who vehemently oppose to his philosophy and methods with dogs. Over the past week, I have been approached by our own supporters and volunteers as to how I feel about the news and how this will effect our work.

Professionally, this news will have no affect on what we do. We integrated Cesar's Philosophy into our organizations efforts to save lives. RVAS had faced many challenges of their own prior to turning to a no-kill philosophy, but the greatest challenge was to find a way to reduce the increasing number of owner surrenders into our organization so that we could leave foster homes & shelter kennels open for those companions that really needed the shelter: homeless and wayward animals.

By working directly with pet owners, one on one, we have helped pet owners keep their pets rather than relinquish them. With an astonishing 72% of inquiries made to our organization...65% of them truly want to keep their companions, IF the behavior can be corrected. And that's where we come in. We are about solutions. We are about helping YOU, the pet owner find a solution that is right for you and your companion. And bringing Cesar's Philosophy into our work is exactly how we are saving lives and why we have been so successful!

We will continue to work with pet owners, individually to bring resolution to their pet behavior issues.

We will continue to share our philosophy, experience and expertise with other shelters and rescues who want to reduce their owner surrender intake and work towards joining the no-kill movement sweeping our nation.

And we will continue our rescue efforts for those animals that truly are abandoned, wayward or homeless.

On a personal level I was only saddened by the mere fact that because of Cesar's celebrity status, he and his family probably won't be able to keep their personal life private. As we go through life, we grow not only as individuals but as couples and families. Sometimes we grow together, sometimes we grow apart.

There is one thing I can be sure of. That both Cesar & Ilusion will do what is right, for their children and for their family. And the best support that I can offer, both professionally and personally is to keep sharing Cesar's Philosophy with pet owners and to let their personal life remain private.

I invite all of my friends, family, RVAS supporters & adopters and all of Cesar Millan's supporters to do the same.

Linda R. Blakely, Director
Raccoon Valley Animal Sanctuary & Rescue

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Cesar Millan: The Philosophy behind the man.

Anyone who has tried it will agree that operating an animal shelter can be a grueling and stressful endeavor, especially when both financial and human resources are virtually non-existent. Add to that a management philosophy that utilizes euthanasia as a tool to control animal care expenses and it becomes painfully obvious that the mental and physical well being of that shelter’s animal residents are sure to be a low priority. Like many other "traditional" shelters across this country, thus was the case with Raccoon Valley Animal Sanctuary & Rescue.

In spite of all the good intentions that inspired the founding of RVAS, it had fallen on hard times and was about to close it's doors when a small group of people stepped up to save this rural Iowa shelter. It’s important to note that they did not see themselves as animal lovers, but rather as a group inspired by an innovative, shared philosophy that included rehabilitation as a major element of a new and enhanced animal care protocol; a committed resolution to find a better way than euthanasia to solve a problem. Their rationale was simple. Rehabilitation afforded the RVAS animal caretaker staff an opportunity to get to know the animal, which in turn, allowed for the creation of specific adoption criteria, correctly matching the animal’s personality to the right person or family. What they didn’t realize is that the exercise and training programs they were developing in order to help make shelter dogs more adoptable, were also laying the foundation for future programs that would be created with the express purpose of providing owners alternative solutions to unwanted behavior problems instead of surrendering their animals to a shelter.

Their initial results were most promising. According to RVAS Director, Linda R. Blakely, dogs that would ordinarily never leave their kennels were now exercised routinely throughout the day with structured exercise, including outside walks and disciplined play. Basic obedience and leadership was taught and reinforced. The net effect was a calm facility with very contented and fulfilled dogs. Severe behavior cases were given extra staffing to provide more training and exercise. It wasn’t long before the dogs were settling into their new routine, trained and fulfilled. No jumping on staff or visitors, no excess barking, no dog fights, no nervous, anxious or overexcited dogs. The prevailing attitude was that this was their home, not a holding facility and the idea was to give them the very best “home” they could have, until a permanent one could be found.

“Once these changes were initiated, Raccoon Valley became a much more pleasant place to work and most definitively a better environment for our animal residents,” says Ms. Blakely. RVAS did encounter considerable community resistance over their stricter adoption policies. Linda went on to say, “People were used to walking into the shelter, picking out a pet, filling out a form and then taking their newly adopted companion home all within 30 minutes or less.” She commented on how so many shelter and rescue organizations concern themselves with numbers; how many animals are taken in and how many are adopted. “Unfortunately, just because someone wants a pet doesn’t mean that they are prepared or even set up to have one,” she added. “We recognized that an extremely high percentage of our residents were owner surrenders. Consequently, our ultimate goal became to not only make a careful animal – human match, but to also provide the pet owner with a clear understanding of what it means to be a dog owner; and what a dog needs to live a fulfilled and balanced life with its human family. I’m proud to say that our adoption process does exactly that, resulting in a less than 1% return rate on our adoptions!” However, it wasn’t until Cesar Milan appeared on National Geographic Channel‘s, The Dog Whisperer, that we began to see some progress in terms of public acceptance of our selective adoption process.

“We didn’t know it, but we were practicing a form of Cesar’s philosophy all along. Once the public could see and realize the immediate benefits that his methods produced, our own credibility was substantially enhanced.”

Now armed with Cesar’s Philosophy, RVAS integrated calm/assertive leadership into every aspect of their organization including working with their volunteers, staff and new adopters! “It’s more than dog behavior modification,” says Joseph Pundzak, President of the organization, “it’s a way of life. It’s about creating balance between dog and man and in our own lives, finding peace through the chaos around us, living in the moment and realizing personal fulfillment when achieving it. And if we stop and really listen, our dogs are more than willing to tell us their needs, but only if we are willing to listen! Watching Cesar Milan demonstrate the positive results possible with a program of ‘exercise’, ‘discipline’ and ‘affection’ inspired us to expand our scope of services to those animal companions and their owners in need of immediate help.”

The next step: to design programs and services to keep those pets with homes…in their homes! The objective was simple. To decrease the amount of animals entering the shelter through owner relinquishment! The program, based on Cesar’s Way, was designed specifically for owner surrenders and included an in-home consultation, behavior modification consultation and guidance through a rehabilitation program, including owner training, at a price the pet owner could afford! Did it work? Within just a few months of the launch, the RVAS Rehabilitation/Rehome program generated incredible results. “Approximately 65% of pet owners seeking our help are able to keep their pets through this program” says Linda R. Blakely. “Just think of the number of dogs we could keep from ever having to enter a shelter if only we could spread the word to the rest of the industry that …we have living proof that there is a better way,” she added.

Julie Masimore, RVAS director of the Rehome Program shared this case. “I asked Linda to accompany me on a consult regarding a cat with litterbox issues. When we arrived, we were greeted by a Jack Russell Terrier that jumped from the floor to my shoulders. The cat leaped from its cat tree, the dog chasing it. Then there was a brief standoff between them whereas the cat leaped back over the dog, climbing back up the tree. The owner smiled and said, ‘we love it when they play like this’.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t play. The cat didn’t hiss, growl or even puff up, but it was obvious that he did not appreciate being prey for this little fuzzy thing they recently brought into their home. We quickly shifted our focus to the dogs behavior instead of the cats. A walking schedule, encouragement to enroll in agility courses and some consistent leadership in the home proved to be the answer this family needed. The cat was saved from an uncertain future in a shelter. A new dog, a JRT mix, was added to the mix, and a family was well on its way to a balanced, multi-pet home, proving once again, Cesar’s philosophy works!

Cesar’s Way is not about methods, the use of tools, or training techniques with dogs, but rather a philosophy of finding the solution between pet owner and a dog’s unwanted behavior, creating balance in the household. They urge their staff, prospective adopters and clients to begin to see companion animals as living creatures with needs that must be fulfilled in order for them to have balance in their lives instead of an intake number. When owners grab onto the overall philosophy and not just techniques, they are able to handle future challenges that come along with confidence and skill…giving them a lasting bond with their canine companions, and more importantly, keeping them for life! "By removing the humanization of our pets, we can effectively view them as they are and provide them with their needs without compromising our entire lives to do it," Linda said.

Perhaps Linda R. Blakely says it best, “I believe the most valuable lesson our organization has learned from Cesar Millan is that we should always be calm and assertive when dealing with people and their pets, and never stop learning about animal behavior. But even more importantly, keep our minds open to what these animals can teach us, not only about their behavior, but about our own!”

RVAS is beginning to share their success with other organizations, helping them become no-kill animal welfare organizations dedicated to education and rehabilitation of companion animals to eliminate the use of euthanasia as a management and population tool.

To learn more about this subject visit these links:

Raccoon Valley Animal Sanctuary & Rescue

Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

PEDIGRE® Adoption Drive™

There are really some powerful commericals out there right now promoting shelter dogs and rescue organizations.

But our all time favorite is the Pedigree 30 second spot called "Heroes".

It speaks not only to the heart, but from the heart of this organization as well. We're not fooled by the hidden message, "buy Pedigree", but there is no other food out there promoting shelter dogs and adoptions like Pedigree is at this time.

We are a part of this adoption drive. Here's how it works. You go to their website and "buy food" or "donate". They send us coupons for Pedigree. We cash them in (which when we do the food is free) and we add them to our "food bank" in our organization.

Our food goes to help others...those in need, to keep their pets in their home, rather than relinquishing them for lack of food and supplies.

A month's worth of collected change can feed a dog for a month. Think about the difference you can make! Take a moment, and join us...as we help keep animals OUT of shelters and into their homes!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Redemption: The Story Behind Animal Sheltering in the U.S.

Check this out! It's a wonderful insight to how our shelter and rescues are failing to solve the animal population problem, and how we can join together to make it right again.

Thousands upon thousands of individuals and small groups are saving companion lives and winning those battles everyday. But the production of these companions among breeders, both commercial and individual, along with irresponsible pet ownership and the encouragement by national organizations like the American Kennel Club to breed is creating more animals than the public can handle causing millions of inhumane deaths every year.

"Redemption is the story of animal sheltering in the United States, a movement that was born of compassion and then lost its way. It is the story of the “No Kill” movement, which says we can and must stop the killing. It is about heroes and villains, betrayal and redemption. And it is about a social movement as noble and just as those that have come before. But most of all, it is a story about believing in the community and trusting in the power of compassion."

Empower yourself with knowledge. Grab this book, read it, and then start making a difference. Join us, as we join the crusade to create a better world for companion animals.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Neglect: Intentional and Unintentional

People dedicated to saving the lives of animal companions often times deal with unthinkable neglect, cruelty and abuse situations that are so gruesome, most people have to look the other way. These type of situations are easy to get people rallied to join a cause or an effort to make change.

But more often then not, the neglect, cruelty and abuse come in much subtle forms and brings with it surmountable ignorance.

RVAS recently had a case where unintentional neglect could have cost a dog her life. But one good-hearted man, and one determined woman set out to save a life despite their lack of finances and knowledge of how to do it.

Read Molly's story, and how two people, came together one night, and forever changed each other's lives while saving a dog's life!