I am trying to save the life of a pit bull named, Amber. She is being held, at the time of this writing, at the North Jersey Community Animal Shelter (NJCAS) in Bloomingdale, NJ. It serves as an adoption center as well as animal control for several towns in Passaic County. I am presently a volunteer at NJCAS, coming in on Sundays, and whenever I have free time. I love all animals, and I love all the dogs I have met at the shelter. But, Amber's case is outstanding, and I'd like the world to know her story.
Amber entered the shelter around June, 2012, ten months ago. And during that time, she has never bitten anyone---shelter staff or a prospective adopter. However, in an adoption event several weeks ago, she was reported to have lunged at a stranger and would have
bitten that stranger if not held back. The Animal Control Officers (ACO) at NJCAS do not deny that Amber has no aggression towards the shelter staff at all, even with an ever-changing crew, but is unwelcoming to newcomers, barking at them from the confines of her kennel. Our resident dog trainer spent some time trying to correct this "problem" but has had no success. This is where the Head Animal Control Officer, Lisa Perry, decided that Amber was a risk and must be put down. She's thinking lawsuit at this point and the reputation of NJCAS. She told me this herself. It was announced in an email to the volunteer community. The decision was, as always, expressed in the hackneyed manner so prevalent in shelters that kill-- as sad but inevitable, and a very difficult decision to arrive at. So be it.
But, I differed. I do not believe that Amber has reached the end of the line. I do not believe that Amber has earned a trip to the euthanasia room. Amber plays a little rough, muscular, and energetic. You can see that in the video. But, she isn't a rabidly angry dog. She does not have Red-Line anger problems. She barks, perhaps even growls, at strangers. But, that is not aberrant behaviour from an animal species known to bark and protect their territory.
In my opinion, not enough attention, expertise, and time have been exerted to correct the problem--- if indeed there was a problem. I have videos of Amber lunging at me while at play in our shelter backyard. You can see that tendency in the videos, towards the end
( Look at the 2:00 minute mark of the video above taken in the snow). Evidently, I am still here, writing to you-- unscathed.
In order to be constructive and solution-oriented, I proposed to the Head ACO that an independent dog trainer be brought in to assess Amber and work with her if a problem does exists. I proposed that I will pay all the expenses involved in this effort so that the municipality wouldn't be burdened. NJCAS is managed by the town. The facility is operated by ACOs who are municipal employees. NJCAS is not under an animal welfare group although it was until about a year ago under a different name. I think that an animal welfare group, a rescue group, would receive my proposal in a positive vein. I am talking about the management, not the volunteer community. In Amber's case, I make a clear distinction between management and the volunteer force. There are volunteers who have reached out to me. This is not a criticism of the volunteers although I wish they would step up and be counted.
So, my central question is, why has NJCAS not responded to my proposal at all? Was it so unreasonable as to not deserve a response? It was not meant to be divisive, but an invitation to work together to save a dog's life. I, as a volunteer, have come in for 6 years on Sundays to serve. And I don't deserve an answer? Are Lisa Perry and the other ACOs so hellbent on killing the dog, to eliminate liability in the future, that they are willing to ignore a perfectly reasonable alternative to death?
Yesterday, I wrote to the Mayor of Bloomingdale, NJ for some help. The letter is reprinted below. You will find in it very much the same points I have made here. I am writing this post in the same spirit--- that a friendly dog shouldn't be railroaded to death because it is convenient. If NJCAS is petrified by liability, then all the more we should pursue additional training and seek the opinion of other professional dog trainers. This is where the "sheltering" part comes in. Otherwise, the place functions as a processing plant with a discard bin for those who didn't make Grade A. Kill the problem, not the dog. They're not the same.
I ask of you, those who are pit bull lovers, animal lovers, animal welfare people, and anyone who believes in constructive solutions, to send a respectful letter to the Mayor of Bloomingdale, Jonathan Dunleavy ( email@example.com ), and to the Head ACo of NJCAS, Lisa Perry ( firstname.lastname@example.org ). Telephone number 973-850-6767.
Here is a short, proforma letter you can copy and paste:
" Dear Mayor Dunleavy & ACO Perry:
Amber's life has value. She deserves additional assessment and training if indeed she has a problem. She becomes a statistic in convenience killing if constructive, and life-respecting alternatives are ignored. Mr. Ted Teodoro has offered to pay all the expenses. What could you object to? Amber's story continues to circulate.Your refusal to accept constructive alternatives will make NJCAS a textbook case as to why the American sheltering experience is failing. Choose Life. Be Progressive. Kill the problem, not the dog. They're not the same.
My letter to Mayor Dunlevey:
Dear Mayor Dunleavy:
I am writing to you for assistance in regards to a pit bull
named, Amber, at NJCAS. She's been at the shelter since
approximately July, 2012, and is a dog in good esteemThey
with many, if not most, volunteers. I am one of them,
a volunteer from the days of BASS, racking up approximately
6 years of volunteer work at the shelter.
Amber has never bitten anyone, but she is slated for death.
Lisa Perry, the Head Animal Control Offer, announced it in
an email to all volunteers a week ago. The decision was framed,
as always, as sad but inevitable. Perry's decision to euthanize
is based on Amber's alleged tendency to lunge at newcomers and
thus she could/will bite in the future. I contest this conclusion
since I have videos of the dog lunging at me but all in an effort
to play. I also refer to the logic and safeguards of our present
judicial system. We do not arrest and execute people for crimes
they MAY commit. Again, Amber has not bitten anyone in spite
of the many changing crews at the shelter. A dog like her should
not be labeled a biter. It's simply wrong.
I have proposed that an outside and independent dog trainer be
brought in to assess Amber, and if she does in fact have a lunging
problem, to have this trainer work with her until it is resolved.
This is being proactive and caring towards our animals. Euthanasia
is not a solution but a convenient recourse, and we don't want NJCAS
to be known as a kill center. I have been discussing Amber's case
on Facebook, and already her story has touched people in different
states and countries. I am also writing an online petition for
thousands of people to sign, but I am approaching you first.
It should be a fairly easy decision to make by Ms. Perry to give
Amber a stay of execution because the assessment and the training
(if required) will be paid for by myself in full. This is what I
can do as a volunteer at our shelter, to seek a positive, life-leaning
solution to our dogs' predicaments. It's proactive, not destructive.
A friend from the Barry University School of Law and President of
the Barry Student Animal Defense Fund has also offered to share
the expenses. A fellow volunteer, Juan Flores, has also offered
to share the expenses with me. It will be a concerted, non-destructive
effort. It's acting responsibly. It will put NJCAS in a good light.
Amber, myself, fellow volunteers, and friends seek your assistance.
A rigidity of mind is a terrible thing.
Can you help us, Sir?
Labels: Adoption, Amber, Convenience Killing, Euthanasia, NJCAS, North Jersey Community Animal Shelter, Pit Bull