Now that Friends of Portia is well past its second anniversary, I have been considering how this blog has clarified my understanding of the relationship between my two most important concerns about canine welfare:
1.) Safety for dogs on leash and their human walkers
2.) The plight of hundreds of thousands of homeless dogs
The initial focus of Friends of Portia was on the first concern: being able to walk dogs on-leash without fearing an attack by an unleashed dog. Indeed, that was the motivation for this blog, since we had just lost Beautiful Portia because of an attack by a loose dog.
However, as Friends of Portia evolved, the other basic fact of Portia's biography became an even more frequent focus. She was a rescued dog. Had Greyhound Adoption Center, one of a number of Greyhound Rescues, not picked up Portia from the Caliente Racetrack in Tijuana when she broke her ankle, Portia would have been killed. Ooops, should I put that less starkly? She would have been "put down." Probably shot. If one really wants to speak honestly about the fate of homeless, unwanted, abandoned dogs, the facts are inevitably stark.
It is a cliche to say that the plight of dogs in the United States is a national disgrace. Too many dogs. Too few forever homes. Most Dog People have the maximum number of dogs that they can afford. I know of many people who devote a significant proportion of their discretionary spending to the maintenance of their canine companions.
Meanwhile, puppy mills, backyard breeders, and negligent owners who refuse to spay or neuter dogs that will never see the inside of a show ring, flood an already saturated "market" with puppies who will live lives of misery until they are "humanely euthanized" by a burned out, heartbroken animal control employee in a facility that we call a "shelter."
I believe we could do a much, much better job of looking after the welfare of our canine companions. And I don't think if would take more money than is currently being spent. It would only take re-thinking laws that apply to human/canine interaction and the enforcement of those laws.
It seems to me that leash laws should be enforced much the way traffic laws are enforced, with DUI enforcement as the model for serious leash law offenders.
Every driver is familiar with the Point System. Why not institute a similar system for Animal Control? If you are cited for having a dog off leash, or your dog is found wandering the neighborhood, you receive a point on your record which can be removed only by attendance at a class on responsible dog ownership, a class for which you will be required to pay a fee that not only covers the costs of instruction, but also contributes to the Animal Control budget.
Classes would include not only the basics of dog training and care, but they would also address aspects of typical behavior of breeds and groups of dogs. An option of caring for shelter dogs could be given--particularly for repeat offenders.
The ultimate penalty for habitual infractions would be loss of the privilege of having a canine companion.
Animal control points would lead to higher liability insurance for the home owner or the landlord--who would pass the added expense on to the renter.
During my years as a California resident, I have seen harsher consequences for Driving Under the Influence significantly reduce drunken driving in our state.
I think it's time that we tackle canine welfare more seriously.