Letter to the Editor

Published the week of March 8

 PET PEEVES

Your piece on the Humane Society of Missouri ("High Society," RFT, Feb. 23) hit nicely on a major shortcoming of that organization but left a number of questions unanswered. I would give the article, at best, a gentleman's C.

You neglected, for example, to explore the unholy and possibly corrupt relationship between the Humane Society and the Post-Dispatch. Why has nothing critical of that organization ever appeared in that paper? Why is the paper's pet-of-the-week feature devoted invariably to Humane Society adoptables when there are so many other agencies yearning desperately to find homes for their inmates?

How much money does the Humane Society have in the bank? My spies tell me the RFT secured a copy of the organization's 990, yet you tell us only that it has assets of $55 million , which presumably includes real estate and improvements. What proportion of its budget is spent on fundraising and publicity? What percentage actually goes for caring for and finding situations for the animals? That would have made interesting reading, don't you think?

You ran an interesting article a while back on Randy Grim, the selfless soul in Lafayette Square who rescues dogs and cares for them on a shoestring. Did you talk to him about the Humane Society? What did he have to say?

Though you did mention a certain tension between the Humane Society and the city shelter, you failed to note that the Humane Society and the rival Animal Protective Association are also barely on speaking terms, a fact one quickly discovers when one tries to communicate with them on the same matter. One consequence of this mutual hostility is that there is no central clearinghouse, no animal REJIS, for reports of lost and found pets. Has the Humane Society made any effort to open diplomatic relations with its institutional peers and to establish such a network, and if not, why not?

You mention that the follow-up procedure of the Humane Society when it puts an unspayed or uncastrated puppy or kitten out for adoption is limited to sending the adopters a single reminder. Is that the best it can do? Some animal-rescue organizations require adopters to sign a contractual agreement specifying the care of the animal in some detail and exacting a promise to return it if they find they cannot provide that care. Some check up on the adoptees and will repossess an animal if they discover it is not cared for as promised. Has the Humane Society ever considered such measures?

You report that the $600,000 columbarium will house "mementos of dead pets." That's a lot of money to store old chew toys and spent flea collars. Or did your writer use a word without a clear idea of what it meant, and if so, where were the RFT's editors?

Had the article appeared in the Post, it would have been pointless to write, but I expect better of the RFT.

E.F. Porter

Katharine McGowan's statement that "we're doing everything we can to make this a better world for animals" didn't extend to responding to a recent request for information on area "no-kill" facilities. The Open Door Animal Sanctuary of House Springs has offered rescue, adoption or lifetime care for their charges since 1975. They are currently seeking funds for a much-needed expansion. I know where my financial support is going.

Rosemary Froechtenigt

Thank you for running Laura Higgins' article on pet overpopulation. I agree that the Humane Society of Missouri should increase efforts to reduce the number of unwanted pets, but I think the greater responsibility lies with St. Louis County Animal Control. After all, the Humane Society has almost a 50 percent adoption rate, while the two county animal shelters kill nearly every animal taken in. Despite collecting thousands of dollars in rabies-tag fees every year, St. Louis County has no formal low-cost spay/neuter program, no comprehensive educational program and no organized adoption campaign.

At the Seven Hills shelter in North County, dogs are piled into large cages that are posted with day-of-the-week signs. If the sign says "Monday," all of the dogs in that cage will be killed on Monday. Young dogs, old dogs, perfectly good dogs -- they're all lumped together, waiting to die. And while they wait, the county cleans their cages with a high-powered hose, never bothering to remove the animals first. Cats and kittens suffer the same inhumane treatment and face even greater odds of finding a home.

The atmosphere at the Seven Hills shelter is so depressing that only a handful of people actually go there to adopt a pet, and that's if they can find it. The shelter is hidden in an industrial area off Halls Ferry Road, and the county makes no effort to encourage visitors, Unlike the Humane Society and the Animal Protective Association, the Seven Hills shelter is open only on weekdays from 8-5, which makes it inaccessible to many prospective pet owners.

Changes obviously need to be made in local animal-control policy. I urge all citizens to visit one of the St. Louis County shelters and contact the Department of Animal Control with their concerns. I also encourage voters to ask their Missouri state representatives to support House Bill 1953. This bill, which is currently wavering in the House, would create a special license plate for the Pet Population Control Trust fund and, in turn, fund a low-cost spay/neuter program statewide. Several other states have adopted such a program, with impressive results, and it's about time that Missouri do the same.

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