City Hounds

Just sniffin' around…

Book Review: Lost and Found by Elizabeth Hess

It started out well.   I enjoyed some of the adoption stories and was suitably outraged by the cruelty cases, as Hess probably intends.  The book tells the story of Hess’s experiences volunteering at the Columbia-Greene Humane Society in New York state.  She answers phones, helps with adoptions, goes on cruelty investigations with the officers and even helps out with a puppy mill raid.  She mixes together feel good stories of happily-ever-after adoptions with tragic stories of animals surrendered, abuse cases and animals returned to the shelter. 

The bad does seem to outweigh the good, giving the book a somewhat sad feeling, but it’s probably fairly accurate in its portayal of shelter operations.  In the final chapter, however, all my sympathy for these people when right out the window.  In “The Last Resort,”  Hess discusses the shelter’s euthanasia practices.  She spouts assumptions about the no-kill movement, about pet owners, the public about shelter employees.  She offers no data or statistics to back up her statements & no list of sources at the end of the book, but instead says things like “It’s as if there are two worlds of animal owners.  There are those who obsessively pamper their their pets and those who torture theirs. ”  (205) Really?  There’s no in between?  Because I think there’s a dog or two in every house on my block that would disagree.  They’re living pretty happy lives with owners who don’t buy them diamond collars or a new toy every week, but are pretty happy just being dogs and being part of the family.

But Hess herself isn’t the only one who says things that blew me away.  She quotes one rescuer as saying she doesn’t “adopt out pit bulls.  The would just get abused.”  (199) Huh.  There’s a pretty active pit bull rescue community (and bloggers here, here, here and here!) who might take issue with that perception.  Perhaps this rescuer really does think it’s better that she keeps 32 pit bulls herself, but to me it sounds like the justification of an animal hoarder (those are just the pit bulls; she has a unspecified number of other dogs and 140 cats.  Yet she turns potential adopters away “if she doesn’t like the message on the potential adopter’s answering machine.”).

I do realize that shelter staff often see the worst side of people and their animals.  The bad must surpass the good on many days.  But in order to continue sucessfully in that line of work, I think it’s imperitive that shelter workers remember that they see the worst of the worst, and that it’s only a small portion of what happens between humans and animals.  There are millions of people they never see who love and care for their animals and treat them as part of the family.    Even so, I have to wonder about Columbia-Greene Humane Society’s then director Laura-Ann Cammisa, professed animal lover, who (according to Hess) “is pushing to make (euthanasia) decisions earlier rather than later after the staff has become attached to the animals.  There is nothing more depressing for kennel workers than feeding and caring for animals and then losing them.”  (195) Gee, think how the animals must feel.

If you’re going to read this one, at least read Nathan Winograd’s Redemption as well, to get the other side of the story.

Please note: this book was published in 1998, and the employees and policies of the Columbia-Greene Humane Society  may have changed significantly in intervening years.  Their current website states they “do not euthanize animals for space constraints,” but does not elaborate on why they do euthanize.


November 7, 2011 - Posted by | Book Reviews

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