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The Focus on Animal Rescue as an Impediment to the Fight For Meaningful Reform

Dog rescue, canine adoption, and the horrors dealt with by our animal shelters are a staple of the popular media that feature the written word, while television offers several shows about rescuing and rehabilitating doomed or abused dogs - Pit bulls and parolees, Animal Cops, and Rescue Ink being prominent among those being aired at the time of this publication.

Then there are the endless TV commercials where various canine rescue groups use heartbreaking footage of neglected and mistreated dogs as a backdrop from which to decry animal abuse in dire tones as they plead for donations. They really would prefer that you send a new check every month - like clockwork - to accommodate the ceaseless parade of canines in peril, which like the commercials themselves, just seem to go on forever and ever and ever.

These days the feverish effort to address the deteriorating plight of the canine species is very much in the consciousness of every human who is closely linked to the mainstream media. As well it should be, since millions of dogs are put to death every year in the United States alone - tens of millions worldwide - and the poor quality of life and the suffering endured by many of that species is unspeakable. All this frenzied rushing about to save doomed dogs quite correctly projects the disturbing visage of a catastrophe in the unfolding.

Yet for all the talk about helping individual dogs, there is never any discussion about getting down to the root cause of this heartrending disaster so the slaughter can stop, the crisis can be brought to an end, and all of this endless rescuing will no longer be necessary. Does that seem odd to you?

By not talking about the real cause of the canine crisis and by never discussing the obvious solution, television, newspapers, and the other media give the impression that as a society either we don't know how to stem the slaughter and suffering of the canine species, or worse yet, they leave the recipient with the impression that there is no way to stop the slaughter and there is no way to stem the suffering. Or just as bad, they leave us with the impression that everything to do with the plight of the canine species is so complex that we can't begin to understand it, and can't ever hope to address it, so we might as well just content ourselves with rescuing what few we dogs we can as the massacre rolls on unabated.

However, the root cause of our canine crisis is actually easy to understand. Better yet, there is a viable solution to that crisis just waiting to be implemented, that would yield spectacular results, and yet be less expensive than what we have now and simple to put into practice - one that would be immediate in its effect.

The fact is that with rare exception, there is only one reason why any dog ever needs to be rescued - it really is that simple. If you take a minute to think about it, you will realize that it is true that with rare exception, the only reason that any dog ever needs to be rescued is because at some point, the animal was acquired by someone who was not fit to keep him.

Given the way our current animal control system is set up, it is easy enough to understand how a dog can fall into the wrong hands. The fact is that the current system was intentionally set up to ensure that even the most cruel, uncaring, and unqualified among us would be permitted to acquire a dog. It is not an accident. It is not a fluke. It is not some kind of bizarre coincidence that all these dogs are dying and countless others are enduring lives of horrific suffering. It is happening because as a society, our approach to managing our canine population absolutely guarantees that things will happen that way.

To be sure, all this death and suffering is not taking place in spite of our animal control system. Rather they are a slam dunk reality because of it.

That is because the people who designed our animal control system wanted anybody to be able to get a dog, no matter how ignorant they were, no matter how cruel they might be, and no matter how irresponsible they were. Regardless of whether or not those people knew how to care for the dog and regardless of whether or not they had any interest in doing so - regardless of whether or not the person applying for a dog license could properly provide food and medical care for the animal, they still set it up so he could get the dog with no questions asked. Even if the dog owner-to-be came right out and in no uncertain terms made it clear that he intended to keep the dog in a manner that would destroy his neighbor's health, home values, and quality of life - even if they came right out and said that they had no intention whatsoever of obeying any of the laws that pertain to the keeping a canine in a residential area. Around the globe, the statutes are still set up to let that person acquire a dog without question and without delay.

The truth be told, that is what is killing the dogs of this planet by the tens of millions. They are not dying for lack of tenderhearted people willing to take them in so much as they are meeting death and misery in places they should not have been because a dearth of effective regulation allowed them to fall into the hands of those who should not have had them.

Every government run animal control regime now in existence allows anyone to get a dog without any screening, training, or follow-up to ensure proper conduct, and that is what perpetuates the slaughter. To be sure, few dogs ever needed to be rescued who were not first acquired by someone who should never have had possession of them in the first place.

Rescuing a dog from a terrible fate is most certainly a noble undertaking. However, in the long run we are going to be able to save a hell of a lot more dogs for an awful lot less money by changing the system that is chewing them up and spitting them out by the tens of millions than we are by trying to rescue individual dogs after that system has already allowed their lives to be devastated.

Indeed, you can never stop dog abuse and you can never hope to bring a halt to the rampant neglect of the canine species through animal rescue. That is because there can be no real hope for the security of the canine species until we first change the system that allows them to be acquired by those who lack the ability, the resources, the knowledge, the disposition, the commitment, and/or the degree of human decency necessary to care for them properly.

Obviously, the current canine rescue movement is saving some dogs, and that is laudable. However, one has to wonder if that movement may be doing more harm than good, because along with the fine deeds they do, they are at the same time, siphoning-off the cash, the focus, and the energy that should instead be going into changing the animal control system that is setting all these dogs up to be killed and/or abused in the first place.

To be sure, there are a great many people who care passionately about the canine species. Those people are prepared to work and sacrifice and do what it takes to see to it that our canine cousins are well treated.

The problem is that when those people arrive on the scene all wide-eyed and eager, with checkbook in hand, hoping to strike a blow against animal cruelty, they are diverted to the Humane Society or one of the other animal welfare groups, where their donated dollar and their volunteered time is channeled into "rescue" efforts.

However, as I've pointed out, rescue only helps some lucky dogs after those dogs have already been devastated by the current system. Rescue work does nothing to change the system, nor does it in any way protect other dogs from being devastated in the same way in the future.

Thus, the volunteer who shows up eager to "end animal abuse" finds his volunteer hours, along with his charitable contribution, channeled instead into "rescue" efforts, which in reality, serve only to perpetuate the current system and maintain the status quo without actually doing anything to make the system and the world around us any less abusive to animals than what it was before.

Hence, the dog rescue movement creates the illusion of a reform movement where none exists.

That, then, is the great harm done by the rescue movement in general and by the televised fund raising of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Humane Society of the United States in particular. They divert energy, attention, and funding away from true, well thought out reform efforts, and instead, they keep people thinking about rescuing only some individual dogs, and even then, only after the system has allowed them to be devastated, as opposed to working to focus the public's attention on changing the structure of the system that is responsible for all these tens of millions of dogs being badly treated in the first place.

For more on the relationship of animal rescue efforts to the fight against cruelty to canines, please be sure to read our page on the animal welfare agency as an institutional impostor as well as the introductory page to the Dog Science Network.

This page is part of the More Information section of New Animal Control.Org