Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Your Neighbors at Kindness Court

Hello there!

Lots of good news this week, firstly for the Southern dogs who made the long journey to Vermont from Aiken, South Carolina three weeks ago. What a journey it was! After a 20-hour drive in a horse trailer, these 11 dogs were met in New Hampshire by Canine Supervisor Robyn Lane and dog trainer Holly Godfrey.  Robyn and Holly helped load the tuckered pooches into a big cargo van, and completed the four-hour homestretch to HSCC.

Seeing as the shelter in Aiken places only 5% of their dogs each year (to put things in perspective, they take in 5,000-6,000 dogs a year, compared to our 800 or so), we knew the dogs they sent would be highly adoptable. And they're proving just that! In fact, five of the dogs were adopted in one week: Blanche, Rose (both Terrier puppies), Carolina, Georgia (large-breed mix puppies) and Champ (Dachshund) stole hearts last week. And a sixth dog, Girl (Collie-Shepherd mix?), stole my own … formal adoption soon to come!   Lastly, we musn't forget Abby (Brittany Spaniel), a Vermont pooch who also found a loving home last week after a month's stay here.

Seven dogs out the door! Can the cats compete? Indeed they can … eight cats went home last week! Congrats to Nick, Luna, Brandy & Ginny, Riley, Goody (a stray found by his owner!), and … drum roll please: Thelma & Lightning! These two senior ladies were relinquished way back in September. Though wonderfully affectionate within their cages, they became intensely anxious when brought into a new space--which didn't show well to potential adopters. Add to that their senior status, the fact that they're black kitties (least likely to be adopted), and required special diets for urinary health … and you get lovely cats who sit in cages for five months. But, that's all over now! A totally smitten couple who'd spotted them on the web drove all the way from Cornwall to adopt them together. Thelma and Lightning reminded this couple of their previous kitty, and they just had to bring the girls home. That was a happy day for us.  

The featured animals this week must remain unnamed, because they belong to a highly confidential program that we offer here at the shelter. I want to make reference to them, however, because we just had a wonderfully positive, successful example of this program at work.

Many of you may not have heard of our Good Neighbor Program. The "GNP" was established as a resource for those in crisis situations: we provide temporary housing for pets while their people get back on their feet. We've boarded cats for a family whose house burned down. We'll take in pets while an owner recovers from illness or injury. Folks who are working with COTS (the Committee for Temporary Shelter) to actively amend a situation of homelessness can entrust their animals to us for the time being.

One of the most sensitive circumstances the program is designed for is domestic abuse. Many women (to generalize) will not leave abusive situations for fear the abuser will turn on the pets in their absence. Sadly, statistics show that this fear is credible. The American Humane Association reports that:
  • 71% of pet-owning women entering women’s shelters reported that their batterer had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control victims; 32% reported their children had hurt or killed animals. 
  • 68% of battered women reported violence towards their animals. 87% of these incidents occurred in the presence of the women, and 75% in the presence of the children, to psychologically control and coerce them.
We work with Women Helping Battered Women to spread awareness about our Good Neighbor Program: we'll safeguard the pets while the human victim gets out of the house.

In a case of truly progressive legislation, the Vermont Protection Order 15 V.S.A. § 1103 ("Any family or household member may seek relief from abuse by another family or household member on behalf of him or herself or his or her children by filing a complaint under this chapter … ") was amended "to allow a court to include an order relating to the possession, care and control of any animal owned, possessed, leased, kept, or held as a pet by either party or a minor child residing in the household in a domestic violence situation." One more step towards acknowledging animals as sentient individuals with an inborn right to well-being ...

We offer a two-week boarding period for GNP animals, after which the owner will hopefully be in a position to take them back--or may decide to relinquish them to us. While the animals are here, we treat them just as we would any of our animals: bring them up to date on vaccinations; give them appropriate medical attention as we see fit; spay or neuter them if they're intact. The latter is a non-negotiable condition of the animals' stay here. But we cover all costs. The animals stay free of charge.

As mentioned previously, we just witnessed the GNP working effectively for a family in crisis. It's gratifying to watch our shelter take on a deeper function in cases like these: we offer a sort of emotional shelter, as well, for those who are struggling. You can imagine what a relief it would be just to know that the animals are okay.

The family is okay now, too, and all are reunited. We just love happy endings!

That's the good news this week. See you again in March!


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