|Woman busted for 69 dogs, 2 cats had good intentions but was overwhelmed
I’m sure you’ve all heard the news from last week about an Occidental home that was raided and found to have 69 dogs and two cats in filthy conditions.
The woman who owned the property, Nola Beecher, ran a rescue organization called “Wing and a Prayer.” Over the years, she rescued and rehomed or personally cared for close to 1,000 animals. She worked closely with other rescue groups and often served as their local representative to evaluate animals in the shelters. So what went wrong?
We all want happy endings. Can’t keep your pet (for whatever trivial reason)? People don’t want to hear shelters can’t guarantee adoption.
We’re all pushing for “No Kill,” so if we don’t promise to be able to find a home for your pet, we are monsters.
The public threatens to withdraw their support and donations (sure, less money is the answer – we are already struggling as is).
So, the public puts pressure on the shelters, and the shelters put pressure on the rescue groups to pull those animals that are old, have huge health or temperament issues so they don’t end up as a euthanasia statistic.
We can argue whether it’s the proper role for government agencies to provide lifetime sanctuary care for unadoptable animals, but Governments certainly don’t have the funding right now to do that kind of long-term care and rehabilitation.
Currently, that’s a role for private agencies or rescue groups.
So, what happens? These rescue groups get overwhelmed.
They are usually run by just one person or a small group of very sensitive, caring people. They are people who have a hard time saying “no” to one more sad story. “Please,” the shelters plead, “he’s just a small dog. He just needs (fill in the blank – a little more time, socializing, a surgery we can’t afford). Can’t you help him? He will die here!” And quickly they are full.
So these rescue groups struggle to maintain balance and are always teetering on the edge. All it takes is the main person getting sick, a partner quitting in frustration, a financial setback or one too many animals and the balance beam collapses.
We’ve seen and heard about it over and over again. A reputable rescue group or shelter doing great work gets busted, and many animals, in some instances hundreds, are found in unimaginable conditions. Just Google ‘animal rescues gone bad’ to read a few of the heartbreaking stories.
To Nola’s credit, while the place was dirty, keeping up with the poop and pee of 69 dogs was overwhelming for one person, all the animals were well fed and more or less healthy (many were hospice cases or animals with medical conditions in the first place). What is the difference between a rescuer and a hoarder? It’s amazing how quickly we want to distance ourselves from the real problem by writing off Nola as mentally ill.
Sure, hoarding is a mental illness, a type of OCD, but I’m not convinced that is what was going on with her. She was doing everything she could to find homes for these animals. But the competition is fierce, and the sad truth is there are not enough homes yet for all the animals.
There is a great article entitled “How I Failed as a Rescuer: Lessons from a Sanctuary” we put a link to it on our shelter’s Facebook page (facebook.com/rpanimalshelter).
I would encourage everyone to read it, as it really makes some thoughtful points and puts the responsibility where I think it belongs – back on the public, the people who are turning in the animals in the first place for all sorts of trivial reasons and want assurances of a happy ending. The bottom line is, if you want a happy ending, you’ve got to make it happen. Turning your animal over to another agency, no matter how good its reputation, and then getting mad when they can’t do the impossible (finding a home for a 14-year-old dog or one with chronic health conditions for example) just isn’t fair.
My heart goes out to Nola and to the 69 dogs found at her home. More than one came from our shelter, and I feel bad I was part of the pressure she felt to “help just one more.” The relief we felt when an unadoptable but sweet animal went out to rescue is nothing compared to the guilt we feel now. And so the debate goes on, but with one less player at the table.
Mutt Strut registration is now open for our dog walk fundraiser. Grab your friends and create a team. There will be prizes for the top fundraisers. Register online at animalshelterleaguerp.org and get a free personalized webpage for pledges. The event is Saturday, Sept. 29, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at the RP Community Center Courtyard. It’s fun for the whole family – including the dog.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at email@example.com.