Thursday, October 20, 2011

Change makers - first, they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you ...

Nathan Winograd has, again, offered a stunning insight into the ways of those in the "animal control industry" and most pounds (aka "shelters") in the US today.  In his blog entry about reform in Austin TX and the role (or obstacle) of the ASPCA you see the difficult path to making pounds work as true shelters.  You learn from this chronology just how hard a community has to work in order to create a No Kill Community, and just how spiteful the large, monied forces always behave, towards the real people's movement. 

Prince George's County citizens love their pets, as much as Austinites.  However, Prince George's County citizens do not enjoy the enlightened council that Austin does.  Our County Council has hardly a moment for issues of protection for animals unless it involves the Almighty Dollar.  In fact, when you check out the slightly informative monthly report archive on our animal control web page, you are struck right away by the line reading "Total Revenue" placed before you see any information whatsoever about the lives and welfare of even one animal.

We're changing this, though.  For a very long time, it is true, there have been attitudes of tolerance of whatever the county wanted as far as animals are concerned.  Funders from outside Prince George's County offered only small grants for any animal welfare programs launched by private efforts.  The business climate in the County has long worked against establishing a thriving pet products or care sector.  Further, county policies and laws have the effect of encouraging dissent and a scarcity mindset among any organizations that might dare to take animal welfare seriously. 

Ryan Clinton, one of the up-and-comers in No Kill, has written about how fearful rescue groups are about seeming to criticize a pound if they hope to save the lives of animals already impounded there.  This is nowhere clearer than in Prince George's County.  Not only are many pound animals a difficult sell because they are exposed to dirt and disease in the pound.  Rescues also must meet absurdly stringent "rules" which can change from hour to hour, to be "allowed" to rescue a dog or cat.  Rescue group leaders sometimes understand the horror of supporting the status quo but, like sufferers of the Stockholm Syndrome. they can't quite help themselves, and stay silent about what is wrong.  Rescue groups pay dearly trying to rescue the entire pet population of Prince George's County, because animal control continues to hunt neighborhood pets, impound them, then extort high fees and fines (in the name of that all-important Total Revenue) from owners trying to redeem them.

But the tide is turning.  Just like the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring, Prince George's County pet owners are no longer meekly submitting to the whims of the Commission FOR Animal Control.  The County Attorney's Office is now keeping quite busy with the next step -- fighting us.

You likely know someone in Prince George's County, who has appeared before that Commission.  If they have a story to tell, we'd like to hear it.  While the Commission seems blissfully ignorant of its own record, we're putting it ON the record and what we're seeing is not pretty.

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