Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Go Animal Control!

When most people think about "Animal Control", they think about the stray dog-catcher or the licensing fees.  I'll be the first one to say, in my municipality, I almost feel that most of the license fees for my pet go to the county's coffers.  (I also live in a place where when you go the grocery store they charge you 5 cents per bag if you don't bring your own grocery bag).

Most of my interactions with dogs have involved them coming in to pick up stray dogs or putting pets on rabies quarantine.  I had one situation, not in my home county, where apparently they were understaffed and they wanted me to be in charge of a cat's quarantine.  I explained, "yes, I will vaccinate the cat, yes, I will explain quarantine to the owner and that she needs to keep the cat inside, but no, I will not go to her house and no, I will not get her to sign a contract."  Even though I have a pre-law background, I like to stay as far away from legal issues as possible in my profession.

I have met some awesome animal control workers and some people who have seen horrible things.  I think like many in law enforcement and medicine, most people are grateful to never see the damage of a severe dog attack, wrestle a rabid animal or see severe abuse.  These people are on the frontline and should be appreciated.

When I lived in Arizona, I would call Animal Control regularly to do welfare checks on pets.  These are pets where people admitted to me abuse or told me abuse that was going to happen.  People who were planning on injecting harmful substances into their pets, admitted that a member in their family abused an animal and even in one case, a person who made comments that made me think her child was also potentially at risk.  I knew that in that jurisdiction, I could not get sued and my tipping off animal control would only potentially have the consequence of getting someone mad at me or never bring their pet to me again.

There are sometimes "gray area" situations, where you are not sure if its just ignorance or lack of resources and you don't want to scare people off of getting medical treatment, these become judgement calls you have to live with at night.

Veterinarians can actually be one of the first lines of defense in domestic violence situations and the first to know of a potential sociopath developing.  There have been numerous studies in criminal justice that these types of offenders often abuse animals first.  Sometimes we are told stories that just don't make sense, "the cat broke his leg and got a black eye because it fell out of a window."  Okay, if it's a 5 story window- believable.  If it's a window on the first floor- totally not believable unless the cat has some type of neurologic disease.  We don't want to be put in these judgement positions, but it is a responsibility that we have to protect animals and other members of their family and society.

I had a fairly recent experience where I was worried about a young pet.  Oftentimes, puppies and kittens can be very sick and people can't afford to pay for care. (I will avoid the tangent of if you don't have money- don't get a pet).  People in the veterinary profession have hearts, this is how we often end up with our pets.  My dog and my parents' cat were animals that were surrendered so they didn't have to be euthanized or die a horrible death.  This is a selfless action of the previous owner.  If they don't want to do this, then euthanasia is a viable option if the animal is sick.  This is not a pleasant one and not one I want to do if I think I can save the pet.  Sometimes people don't choose those options and they elect to take the pet home "against medical advice".  I can't really go into the specifics of my recent situation, but lets just say that I am moved by how dedicated Animal Control was to look into the situation.  They also found out that what I was calling about (the pet had died, which was my fear) was the tip of the iceberg.  There was a whole lot more to the story.  I felt bad for the young pet, but that night I didn't feel so helpless.  I did not carry the weight I sometimes did because I knew that I did all that I could and that Animal Control was doing their job and hopefully, even with the death of the innocent pet (less than a pound in size), that pet may have not been saved but I hopefully helped to save others.  At the end of the day, you can't fix the world and you, "Can't fix stupid."  But you can hope that the world is a slightly better place and I salute Animal Control for that.

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