Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Problem

It's been a while since I have addressed the Hydra, Medusa--choose your metaphor--of dog overpopulation, irresponsible or naive dog owners, archaic laws, over burdened, underfunded agencies and burned out humane and rescue workers in San Diego County.

It is always the case that the most dependent in a society are the first to suffer the impact of any disruption or emergency. The financial difficulties which the entire country is experiencing are even more severe in California. People are still losing their jobs and homes. Basic veterinary care is a serious financial burden for too many pet owners. Naive or unscrupulous people decide to earn money by breeding "designer dogs." People acquire a darling puppy on impulse and discover that shots, neutering, flea and heartworm control cost more than they ever dreamed.

Public and private rescue organizations are filled to the max with animals who wait and wait and wait for homes, acquiring "issues" if they are not lucky enough to have been rescued by an organization with adequate facilities and care. The most unlucky are euthanized.

Too many people fail to educate themselves on the inbred characteristics of the breed of dog they choose. Chihuahuas are small dogs, but they are NOT eager to please their humans. Labs and Goldens become ideal family pets, IF they do not destroy the family home before they outgrow puppyhood. Some breeds are suitable as "first dogs." Bichons, Miniature Poodles, Pugs, for example. Some breeds are suitable only for people with "dog experience."

All of the dog training shows on television are riveting. BUT, few people have the time and patience to train their dogs to the high level of probability of obedience that television trainers receive from their students. "My dog always obeys me," are words that are not worth the breath it takes to say them.

Many people--many with dogs--have lifestyles that are essentially incompatible with responsible dog ownership.

Dog over-population, a broken system of dog law enforcement, crowded shelters, burned out professional and volunteer rescuers, lead to lives of pain and misery for too many of Man's Best Friends.

The sad, danger-filled lives of hundreds of thousands of dogs is a national disgrace. Localized factors represent unique variations of the problem.

San Diego is a large county, both in terms of people and square miles. It includes cities, towns, suburbs, ranch land, desert, mountains, beaches. It is home to the super rich, middle class, and poor. We have a mind-boggling number of nationalities and languages which represent widely differing cultures and customs.

San Diego County population tripled between 1960 and 2009.

But we still expect San Diego Animal Control to monitor dog/human laws and provide for the general welfare of the majority of domestic animals in the county.

In 2007, it became apparent in San Marcos that this system was not working, when the City Council decided to contract with Escondido Humane Society for services that San Diego County Animal Control had previously provided.

The reasons for this decision were understandable. Animal Control costs were skyrocketing. Quality of service was deteriorating. It seemed that any change would be an improvement.

It wasn't.

Systems theory predicts that a "solution" to a problem that does not address the salient causes of the problem, creates five new problems, each worse than the initial problem.

It has taken less than four years to see this prediction played out for dog law enforcement in San Marcos--indeed, in much of North San Diego County.

Costs of enforcement have continued to skyrocket. Enforcement has continued to deteriorate. And now, Escondido Humane Society--a non-profit, whose original purpose was to educate the public about domestic animals' needs, rescue unwanted and neglected animals and place them in loving homes--has become dependent upon contracts with cities and other jurisdictions for law enforcement: a task for which they are clearly unsuited. Furthermore, San Diego County Animal Control is so overwhelmed that San Marcos cannot look to it for any improvement in leash law enforcement.

Meanwhile, walking a dog on-leash in San Marcos is not an activity for the unwary or the faint at heart.

As an old friend of mine used to say when confronted with a mess, "Something has GOT to be DONE!"

To be continued.

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