In an email to me, Nathan Winograd, America’s most knowledgeable person about animal rescue, included the following statement:
While closing one’s doors to animals in need may not undermine an animal’s right to live it ignores an animal’s right of rescue.Nathan Winograd
The right of an animal to be rescued is something I’d not heard before. It’s very interesting and very profound. Nathan doesn’t explain in his email where the right comes from but I will provide my opinion on it and also tell you about the context in which it was made.
An animal’s right of rescue
My opinion is that Nathan is correct as he always is! And he’s correct because I believe he is referring to domestic animals such as cats and dogs and with domestic animals humans have an ongoing obligation to keep them safe and to care for them properly throughout their lives. If that duty is broken and, for instance, a dog gets lost miles from home, the owner’s obligation continues. The owner may search for their dog without success and in a civilised human society they are offered help to find their dog through various agencies including the police or dog detective services (paid for by the owner).
It’s about a continuing obligation by humans in their society to rescue lost dogs and cats and rehome them or reunite them with their owner. It’s a continuation of the obligation to care for the companion animal. That’s where the right to be rescued comes from I believe.
Best Friends Animal Society and HASS
Nathan Winograd uses the phrase “an animal’s right of rescue” in the context of a story emerging from the City of El Paso in Texas, USA.
In that city, the administrators entered into an agreement with Best Friends Animal Society to assist them in running the city shelter.
Under the contract, it stated that Best Friends “will have direct oversight responsibilities over the management and employees of Agency in cooperation with the Agency’s Director. Agency will need to provide this Consultant with the true power and authority of a Consultant, including the ability to make program, policy and personnel decisions in partnership with the Agency.”
Best Friends describe their relationship with the city as a consultancy but it appears to be more than that as they have the ability to make programmes and policies. They have a direct administration role and can dictate policy but they deny this.
And the denial came about because Best Friends have a policy called “community sheltering”. Best Friends promotes Human Animal Support Services (HASS) created by Austin Pets Alive which is a policy in which the shelter turns away healthy animals and asks people to leave them where they are, in the urban environment, I guess, with the intention that they can make their way home.
The City of El Paso terminated their contract with Best Friends Animal Society because there were complaints from the public about animals abandoned on the streets caused by HASS.
The idea, as I see it, behind HASS is to relieve the shelter from being overburdened by too many dogs and cats coming into the shelter and according to Nathan Winograd it helps the shelter to “inflate placement rates”. In short, the policy makes shelters look better and more efficient.
But this policy looks entirely wrong to me and as Winograd states it is in breach of that absolute right to be rescued.
In respect of dogs, he says that the average distance away from their homes where dogs are found after being lost is roughly two miles. One shelter said that the average distance were dogs are found is about 3.2 miles. He adds that shelters can’t assume that lost animals will find their way home without human help.
And more than half the dogs are not reclaimed because they don’t have homes to go to. They may remain homeless. They need a shelter to rehome them. Under the Best Friends policy, they can’t enjoy that right.
And of course, lost animals are very vulnerable to risk of injury such as being hit by a car. They become anxious and make bad decisions. And under the HASS policy shelters treat all free-roaming dogs equally and leave them where they are.
The HASS policy is “an action at odds with a shelter’s mission”. And if a shelter is running Nathan Winograd’s No-Kill program they will be safe at the shelter with a very low likelihood of being euthanised.
I suppose, some poorly run shelters will say that if they rescue these dogs, they are going to be euthanised anyway so it’s better to leave them on the street where they have a chance to be reunited with their owners. But that concept, if I’m correct, doesn’t work if the shelter has a very low kill rate by running Winograd’s No-Kill program.
What do you think?
Have you heard of an animal’s right to be rescued before? What do you think about it? I would love to hear from you.
Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.