Each year, I devote a column or two to animal welfare myths. There are plenty of them, so never a shortage of material. Can you guess which breed makes our animal control officers the most anxious? Chow Chows. Do you know what percentage of dogs adopted from shelters have been abused? I don’t, but I know it’s small. However, if you listen to talk around the dog park water cooler, you might have the impression that most shelter dogs have suffered abuse. What we see far more often is dogs who have been neglected in terms of socialization, exercise, training, grooming, general health and attention. We do our best to make up for that the moment they come into our care! The national groups like HSUS and ASPCA, which raise millions of dollars, must share some of that wealth with local shelters like PHS/SPCA. We haven’t received a penny from them! Many people assume our shelter animals have a set amount of time to be adopted. Not true. PHS/SPCA animals remain available for adoption as long as it takes us to find good homes. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, right? Of course you can. Adopters enroll “experienced” dogs in our classes all the time. And, our classes are rewards-based. The “rub the dog’s nose in his mess” approach is outdated and ineffective. Dogs do not learn well when teaching includes punishment. Fear-based learning does not make for a well-adjusted, happy dog. Since we handle all our area’s sick, injured and orphaned wildlife, I’ll toss in a wildlife myth. If you have an issue with urban wildlife in your yard, a trapper can fix it by hauling away the animal, right? Only if that trapper shows you how to get rid of whatever is attracting the wildlife. In almost every case, it’s a source of food, water or shelter you don’t realize you’re providing the wild animals.
Scott oversees PHS/SPCA’s Adoption, Behavior and Training, Education, Outreach, Field Services, Cruelty Investigation, Volunteer and Media/PR program areas and staff from the new Tom and Annette Lantos Center for Compassion.