What is HELP FIDO?

Humane Education Leads to Progress
For Informed Dog Owners

Vision Statement: We envision a society free from discrimination, where responsibility, education, love and compassion allow humans to fully respect and understand man's best friend.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"Not fit for a dog" - Columbus Dispatch

This past Sunday, the Columbus Dispatch had an article entitled "Not fit for a dog" that was very critical of the management of the Franklin County Dog Shelter. While we here at HELP FIDO cannot speak to all of the issues raised in this article and are currently gathering more information through local networks, we feel it is important to highlight some of the issues. The following letter was submitted to the Dispatch editors. We are hopeful it will be published in the coming days.

As the chair of HELP FIDO, a voice for dogs in Central Ohio, I felt compelled to write in and address some points brought up in the recent Columbus Dispatch article “Not fit for a dog” about the Franklin County Dog Shelter.

Judging every dog as an individual (as the Shelter Director, Ms. Wahoff mentions) is an excellent goal. However, this should be guided with temperament testing, supported with behaviorists, education classes and socialization – not simply based upon what a dog looks like. The temperament testing at FCDS was discontinued due to lack of funding. Perhaps the money from the dog licensing fees which is currently being funneled to OSU for animal research, would be better spent on funding the temperament testing program.

FCDS is accused of knowingly adopting out "pit bulls" and "pit mixes" as "mixed breeds." This statement is inherently redundant as breed identification is purely subjective, and, short of the still developing field of DNA breed testing, is a guessing game, not a science. Determination of breed based solely on certain characteristics is inherently flawed, and leads to frequent misidentification in options for adoption, insurability, impoundment statistics, licensing statistics and bite statistics. The American Veterinary Medical Association, the National Dog Warden Association (U.K.) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals all have made statements that reject that physical characteristics or appearance as an effective way to determine an individual animal's temperament or breed. Furthermore, all of these organizations have rejected against the discriminatory nature of legislation that targets specific breeds or what a particular dog looks like.

While there is always room for improvement, the programs and policies that have been put in place by Ms. Wahoff have been highly beneficial to the dogs and residents of Franklin County. In 2007, FCDS provided care and shelter for over 13,000 animals. More than 2900 dogs were returned to their owners. 4,018 dogs were adopted or released to rescue. 3,930 spay/neuter surgeries were performed, with thousands more vaccinated for rabies and other transmissible diseases. Thousands of school children and adults have received education, teaching them how to be safe around dogs. Unlike other counties in Ohio, dogs are humanely euthanized at FCDS rather than being taken out back and shot or gassed to death. I challenge the FCDS detractors to compare the statistics of FCDS to other county funded shelters throughout the state.

An excellent model for FCDS and all animal shelters in the country is Calgary Animal Services in Canada. Earlier this month, we met with Bill Bruce, the director of Calgary Animal Services. Calgary has a 100% self–sustaining program, a 95% licensing compliance rate, 80% of stray dogs are returned to their owners – all done without useless breed specific laws, pet limits or mandatory spay/neuter laws. Mr. Bruce spoke at the recent Ohio Dog Wardens Conference here in Columbus. We are hopeful his ideas and successes in Calgary have inspired dog wardens in Central Ohio and throughout the State. I encourage the County Commissioners to review the Calgary model and consider implementing this type of program in Franklin County.

Brian Cluxton
A voice for dogs in Central Ohio
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress
can be judged by the way its animals are treated." - Gandhi

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