This morning I read an article about 157 starved and neglected dogs that were seized in Alaska. Our initial reaction, as those that love and protect animals, is to get the dogs to safety, give them food, water, and shelter. For an animal shelter, especially small rural shelters, in-taking 157 dogs at one time can be devastating. So what do we do?
As I speak on animal protection issues across the country, one common theme I hear is that many animal shelters are ill-equipped to handle large-scale cases, like dog fighting, hoarding, and puppy mill cases where hundreds of animals are involved. The shelter simply has no place to put these animals, does not have the funds or resources to properly care for them, which then leads people to question how to help these animals? This causes a ripple-effect where prosecutors are limited in issuing criminal charges because doing so may require the animals to be held at the shelter for a period of time (sometimes for 10 days, but sometimes until the case is resolved with a conviction, guilty plea, or dismissal). Knowing that the shelter may not have space for these animals and may dislocate other adoptable animals, some large-scale animal cruelty/neglect cases are simply not pursued.
In these situations, the best way to help animals and the shelter caring for them is to get the community involved, from collecting food, blankets, toys, to asking people to donate, even just a few dollars. If all of the animal supporters in a community come forward with one small donation, it will add up and remove a tremendous weight off of the shelter. It will also reinforce to shelter and law enforcement officials that they did the right thing. So I want to give special recognition to the Mat-Su Animal Shelter and the Alaska State Police for doing what is right, and having faith that the community would help. And sure enough, the community showed its support. In just a few short days, over $14,000 has been raised and food is being dropped off at the shelter. This is precisely the type of community mobilization that is needed to protect animals, especially those that need help in large numbers. So the next time you learn of a large-scale animal investigation in your community, or a nearby community, consider providing just a little help that combined with other supporters will make a difference in the lives of the animals.