How to handle a massive humane seizure

June 10, 2010

I told you about the impressive response to the crisis in Polk County, Fla. over Memorial Day weekend. Suddenly, the county shelter had 748 dogs on its hands — in a facility designed to accommodate 375. Sheriff Grady Judd could have taken the easy way out and done away with some of the dogs. Did he? Nope. details what he did do:

On Thursday, Sheriff Judd put out a plea to rescue organizations. Rescue groups showed up from all over the state to take dogs, plus 18 went to a shelter in Broward County and another dozen to the Orange County SPCA. He temporarily dropped the adoption fee to $5 and extended the hours of operation. While the cruelty case dogs were getting all the attention, there were already dogs and cats who needed homes. The response was overwhelming. “It was like Black Friday the day after Thanksgiving,” said Sheriff Grady.

But what do you do about the 100 new animals who continue to enter the shelter each day? The numbers are still out of hand, right? Nope.

Sheriff Grady got creative there, too. In addition to the outpouring of volunteers from the community, he enlisted non-violent jail inmates to help out. The shelter already had a work program in place, which has saved the county an estimated $250,000 in labor each year. With more animals, they needed more help, and the inmates were willing volunteers. Cornelius Williams said, “I get away from the jail, you know, and I get to do something that I like to do anyway.”

Williams and the inmates get something else out of the deal, too. When they complete their sentence, they get to adopt an animal. Williams has already picked out a corgi named Watson. They’ll be released on the same day to start to their new life together.

On Friday, there were no adoptable animals left.  None. And through it all, no kill rules remained in effect. It’s this kind of creative thinking and energy that’s ended the killing of healthy and treatable shelter pets in several communities in the United States, and with responses like these, it looks like Polk County, Fla., is on its way to join them.

The thunderstorm is coming.  What do I do? As I’m sure you’ve noticed, thunderstorm season has started.  That means a lot of anxious animals. Some dogs do just fine. Others get mildly anxious. Still more completely freak out.  AAHA, the American Animal Hospital Association, has a great, readable fact sheet on thunderstorm phobia.   Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue has some good natural ideas, and our BFF Dr. Patty Khuly starts the discussion here on whether or not to sedate.

Cats obsess over Obsession: We all know that animals react to scent, right? Some they like, some they don’t. Our own Dr. Tony Johnson forwarded this Wall Street Journal article about how zookeepers at the Bronx Zoo keep the big cats occupied. Pat Thomas, the zoo’s general curator, decided to see what the cheetahs liked.

The results left barely a whiff of a doubt. Estée Lauder’s Beautiful occupied the cheetahs on average for just two seconds. Revlon’s Charlie managed 15.5 seconds. Nina Ricci’s L’Air du Temps took it up to 10.4 minutes. But the musky Obsession for Men triumphed: 11.1 minutes. That’s longer than the cats usually take to savor a meal.

“Oh, yeah, he loves that scent,” Mr. Thomas said as Sasha blissfully cuddled up to a tree sprayed with Obsession for Men. “Just look at him.”

Dear Dr. Tony: this still doesn’t mean you should bathe in the stuff, ok?

Serious strangeness in China: I admit that I don’t understand a lot of the trends I read about these days, but this one stopped me in my tracks. Some dog owners in China don’t want their dogs to look like dogs. If the Daily Mail‘s article didn’t come with pictures, I’d never have believed it. To be honest, I’ve seen the pictures and I still don’t believe it.

If this strange creature growled at you, you wouldn’t know whether to run from his sharp claws or pat him on the head and give him a biscuit. From a distance, its striped orange and black coat makes it look like a particularly odd tiger. But it’s actually a retriever, the victim of the latest craze among some dog owners in China to dye their pets to look like other animals. The Chinese are always quick to embrace bizarre trends, and it is not unusual for owners to take their dogs to grooming parlours where they are not only given a shampoo and trim, but a multi-coloured dye job as well.

Seriously … why?

A rescue guy changes his tune on breeders: This is the most fascinating blog post I read this week.   John Sibley is a devoted champion of rescues who never had much use for dog breeders in general.  John’s a reasonable guy, though, and after careful thought (as well as paying close attention to my buddies Gina and Christie), he’s adjusted his thinking a bit.  Actually, a lot.

We’re not doing ourselves any favors by alienating good breeders. I’m talking about the ones who do extensive genetic screenings on dogs they breed, who raise them in their homes with love and care and attention, who follow their progress over their lifetimes and always take them back rather than ever letting them enter the shelter system. Many of these breeders also do rescue work (quietly, quietly!) for their chosen breed(s), applying their knowledge to help those animals who do end up in shelters. By vilifying breeders as a whole, we’re driving away these people who love animals and dogs and want to help them as much as anyone.

Bravo, John!

The divine life of animals: Ptolemy Tomkins has great name, but he’s also an author who’s just come out with a book called The Divine Life of Animals. In it, Mr. Tomkins ponders a simple question: do animals have souls? And if so, do they go to heaven? In this interview with Peggy Frezon, he takes the second question head on.

Ptolemy- Yeah they do, to my thinking. But we need to rethink what heaven is, because our conceptions of it are too simplistic. We need to conceive of a heaven big enough to accommodate the world in all its dimensions. Not just a little room with some harps and halos and a “no pets” sign at the door!

Needless to say, Mr. Tomkins’ book has been added to my Amazon wishlist.

I always like to hear from readers, especially if you have tips, and links for interesting stories.  Give me a shout in the comments, or better yet, send me an e-mail.

Photo credits: Shelter Dogs, FEMA photo library. DogCat thing, China Foto Press/Barcroft Medi.

Filed under: no-kill,pets, connected,worth a click — David S. Greene @ 5:17 am


  1. Your title, “How to Handle a Human Seizure” was quite a title!

    The story was in my mind the ultimate in feel-good news stories. Wow-y. After reading, listening, and hearing so many horror stories, it felt sooooo good to read this. Thanks for excellent presentation of this “human seizure”.

    Comment by Evelyn — June 10, 2010 @ 5:41 am

  2. Kudos to Polk County.

    My derailed life over the past year and half has convinced me of many things, and one of them is this —

    Shelters, law enforcement, and rescues all need to PREPLAN for massive seizures, the same way public safety agencies pre-plan for natural disasters.

    Because you cannot predict where, when, or whether something like this can happen. If you take a lot of time getting set up before you go in to seize, animals will die, and others will continue to suffer, and the hoarder or puppymiller can get wind of it and start hiding animals or killing them. If you swoop in without preparation, YOU will precipitate a fiasco and directly cause the suffering and death. So there has to be a general pre-plan.

    Polk County is lucky. The owners of the animals released them. That doesn’t always happen. If the alleged abuser fights prosecution, in most places the authorities must maintain the animals during what can become a long legal process. (And that is largely as it should be, to protect animals and owners from official wingnuttery, though I support laws that allow a fair and speedy court process to determine in each case whether the animals are fungible property, and can be adopted out if the authorities post a bond for their value.)

    Does the agency responsible for enforcing humane laws in your jurisdiction have a plan for maintaining hundreds of animals humanely and safely for, say, a year?

    Comment by H. Houlahan — June 10, 2010 @ 5:59 am

  3. Grady Judd at Polk County is a great example of positively focused, can-do reactions to crises. He didn’t sit and moan about the magnitude of the problem, he got up and, with help, solved it. Bravo for him! (Honestly, I think this is a HUGE means toward no-kill, or fewer homeless pets – the willingness of all to be action-oriented instead of “oh well, this is going to happen, we might as well resign ourselves.”

    Comment by CatPrrson — June 10, 2010 @ 9:23 am

  4. Do only Christian pets go to “heaven”? However “broad” Mr. Tompkin’s definition is, it’s still very limited.

    Is the existence of an animal “soul”, however one chooses to define it, the particular province of the Judeo-Christian belief system?

    If you believe in Thor, does Fluffy go to Valhalla?

    If you believe in Zeus, does Fido go to Hades?

    If you are Buddhist, are they reincarnated?

    In Mongolia, I have met people who believe that human souls will reincarnate in a dog as kind of temporary “parking place”, because the right human incarnation wasn’t available. One man told me that that is what happened to his father when he died. He was very matter-of-fact about it. It’s one reason why Mongols are, in general, respectful of their fellow creatures.

    And, of course, Hindus have very specific beliefs about death and rebirth.

    I think our world and, indeed the universe, is a little more complex than the kind of cultural-centric thinking Mr. Tompkins engages in. He needs to get out more. I don’t think he’s even asking the right questions.

    Animals don’t need to meet some arbitrary standard of human-defined conditions to justify either their lives or to be treated humanely.

    Comment by Susan Fox — June 10, 2010 @ 10:09 am

  5. Susan, I think adherents of other faiths can do their own thinking and writing about the proper place of animals in their belief systems, and it’s neither necessary nor appropriate for Christians to insist on answering those questions for other belief systems.

    Comment by Lis — June 10, 2010 @ 10:44 am

  6. I agree, but it happens all the time, of course.

    The problem, in general, with monotheistic religions, is that they think that their beliefs are The Truth and that everything else is myth, legend or mis-guided or worse.

    Comment by Susan Fox — June 10, 2010 @ 10:46 am

  7. Susan, have you read Mr. Tomkins’ book? Or are you just making assumptions about it?

    Comment by Lis — June 10, 2010 @ 10:49 am

  8. Mr. Tomkins’ used to/might still be a writer for Guidepost,which is a Christian Magazine. I’m quite sure that he’s marketing his book almost specifically to other Christian pet lovers. (This is an assumption on my part.)

    I’d don’t think I’d expect a writer who writes for/about or studies any other specific creed to write about “heaven” in his or her book.

    Comment by Original Lori — June 10, 2010 @ 11:27 am

  9. I’m going by the quote above, which I assume was chosen as an accurate reflection of the contents. And I addressed my original comments to that quote specifically.

    Original Lori- I don’t see why not? The compartmentalization of religion feeds misunderstanding. I don’t believe that a little “compare and contrast” ever hurt anyone.

    Comment by Susan Fox — June 10, 2010 @ 11:33 am

  10. Susan- not saying they shouldn’t just saying I wouldn’t expect them to…anymore than I would expect NASCAR Illustrated to write about the NBA Finals. Their specific readership would not be interested.

    Comment by Original Lori — June 10, 2010 @ 11:40 am

  11. Comparative studies and knowledge of other belief systems is a Good Thing, Susan. That doesn’t mean that no one is ever allowed to write about their religious beliefs specifically, in a work aimed at and for a specific audience, without devoting lots of space to “alternative views.”

    This applies whether the writer is Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, whatever.

    Comment by Lis — June 10, 2010 @ 11:40 am

  12. Whenever I hear stories like these (Polk County) I think “Uh oh. Someone’s not telling the whole story. What happened to their pit bulls?” Blame it on my experience with SF.

    From a quote from Lt. Craig Burke, director of Polk County Animal Control in a recent news article.

    “We don’t adopt them (pit bulls) to the public because we don’t have the resources to conduct health and temperament tests,” Burke said. “It’s a business decision we made, not because the breed itself has a propensity to bite, but when they do it’s the significance of the bite. Because of their mass, it’s more severe and requires more medical attention.”

    Same article said, “The shelter will not let the public adopt impounded pit bulls or three other breeds – Akitas, Rottweilers and chows – and most are euthanized.”

    I’m just sayin.’

    I’ve yet to find a FL pit bull rescue group that is working with Polk to help their overflow of banned dogs, but I’m still looking. If any pit bull people have the inside scoop, please share.

    Comment by Donna — June 10, 2010 @ 11:44 am

  13. Ptolemy Tomkins (seriously, is that not the best name?) does come from the Christian side of the theological swimming pool, but he’s explored notions of faith from different angles (this book looks intriguing), and I plan to read the latest book with a broader view. I’m fascinated that Ptolemy’s musing on animals and spirituality, given that the official position of the Vatican is that animals don’t have “rational souls” and therefore are ineligible to get to heaven (don’t ask how a nice Jewish boy knows this, I just do). I believe the deeper questions are more spiritual than religious. After all, I don’t know what Cami and Harry believe in — other than their doting parents, and although I haven’t read the book yet, I hope the discussion is more universal than “the Catholic Church reasons it this way”.

    Comment by David S. Greene — June 10, 2010 @ 1:18 pm

  14. What our parish priests–several, in a few different parishes as we moved from one end of the city to another–said was that dogs and cats don’t have immortal souls, and don’t get into heaven on their own, BUT,

    1.A pet who truly loves their owner, who lives and moves and has his or her being in the owner the way we do in God, will be in heaven with the owner because of that.

    2. Heaven is perfect, and contains all that is necessary for our perfect happiness, and if our pets are that important to us, they’ll be there.

    I’m happy with that. :)

    Comment by Lis — June 10, 2010 @ 1:38 pm

  15. Well, David, a nice Jewish woman would know (or thinks she knows) that if we have souls, so do the animals!

    The human race thinks they are so special (egocentric) that afterlife is only for them.

    I repeat–If we have souls, the animals have souls. Maybe I’d better order the book instead of getting into further discussion about a subject none of us can be sure about because we haven’t been there ourselves yet that we are aware of.

    Qualifier–Everyone has an opinion about this subject and I am fascinated by all I hear.

    Comment by Evelyn — June 10, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

  16. This is a site I often recommend for Christians who are looking for some gentle, humane insight from a Christian/Biblical perspective on the question of animals and heaven:

    I am not a Christian, FWIW.

    But Franciscans rock. Not quite as much fun to drink with as Jesuits, but not as argumentative, either.

    If there is a Heaven-ish afterlife, I expect, converse to what Lis’ priest has worked out, to get in only on Lilly’s coattails.

    But they are some coattails.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — June 10, 2010 @ 3:03 pm

  17. These are fascinating comments, and only increase my suspicion that my arguments in the book will end up irritating both Christian AND non-Christian readers to some degree. Susan, for what it’s worth, my step-brother is a Buddhist monk, and I spend a good portion of the book discussing the virtues of animism. Lis is right — don’t judge all Guideposts readers by their cover!

    Comment by Ptolemy — June 10, 2010 @ 8:49 pm

  18. David-it’s interesting to me that you seem to make the assumption that the Vatican’s position is the universal Christian position. And I assure you that you’ll find that to be more often incorrect on almost any issue, most notably the controversial ones.

    For me, I’ll stick to “If there are no animals in heaven, I don’t want to go there.”

    Comment by Original Lori — June 11, 2010 @ 5:57 am

  19. Oh I completely agree, Lori. I know that many Catholics (not to mention Christians) ignore the Vatican’s stance on lots of issues, I’m just saying that given Mr. Tomkins’ background, I was surprised that he was taking the stance he was.

    Comment by David S. Greene — June 11, 2010 @ 8:10 am

  20. I don’t think it’s really acceptable, in today’s world, to write a book on a spiritual topic that doesn’t acknowledge the genuine validity of different faiths.

    Comment by Ptolemy — June 11, 2010 @ 2:32 pm

  21. Your last statement, Ptolemy, makes me look forward even more to reading your book that I ordered.

    Comment by Evelyn — June 11, 2010 @ 3:08 pm

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