June 11, 2008

Puppy airlift: Caribbean strays find homes in North America

It's a worthy, if somewhat controversial cause: according to an article in today's L.A. Times, "nearly 400 dogs have been relocated [to North America, where they're adopted or placed with rescue groups] in the last two years from the Turks and Caicos Islands alone."
In the Turks and Caicos, a popular celebrity playground east of Cuba, the airlift program evolved because stray dogs were jeopardizing the tiny nation's burgeoning tourism industry -- they were running in packs, fighting over scraps of food and frightening visitors. Many of the dogs were shot, and others were poisoned; few lived beyond the age of 3.
Rescuers call the strays "potcakes," and the pups are adorable — as you can see from the photo above from the Potcake Place website.

"Shelters don't have puppies. Or they only have pit bulls or mixed pit bull breeds."

To those who say the U.S. has enough strays without adding potcakes, [Potcake Place director Jane] Parker-Rauw replies that her group doesn't want to deny homes to American dogs: "We think all puppies deserve a home, including potcakes."

And, though shelters are crowded in many parts of the country, including Southern California, puppies are sometimes hard to find, experts say.

"It can be a win-win situation for puppies and for shelters in the U.S.," said Dena Fitzgerald, director of animal services for the American Humane Assn. in Denver. "Puppies are in great demand, and some spay/neuter programs here have been so successful that the shelters don't have puppies. Or they only have pit bulls or mixed pit bull breeds. People who visit the shelter with good intentions planning to adopt go away disappointed and never come back."
C'mon, people -- thug life is fun! [Ms. Fitzgerald can't be talking about Denver shelters, can she? Because everyone knows there are no pit bulls in Denver.]

I agree that all puppies deserve a home, and I don't much care whether you adopt a dog from a Central Valley shelter or a Caribbean island, as long as you love and care for him. Heck, if you're a Los Gatos venture capitalist, flying to the Caribbean might actually be less of a hassle than driving to the Kings County Shelter. [There are great dogs at that shelter, by the way. I pulled a wonderful little red Aussie from Kings Co. last year.] But I hope you'll check local pounds and shelters before jetting off to Turks and Caicos for your next pup. Every time I visit Today's Arthur, I see photos of SoCal shelter dogs I'd grab in a minute, if only I had the room...


Donna said...

> Or they only have pit bulls or mixed pit bull breeds.

But of course! Why put up with riff-raff when international adoptions are so chic!

I'm embarrassed for the couple in that video. They need to have a baby.

Anonymous said...

no, it's more like: "oh Ms Fitzgerald: it's true there are plenty of pit bulls and pit bull mixes (and other dogs identified as pit bulls that aren't any such thing), but you'd have to go to DEATH ROW in the Denver municipal shelter to find them"

Anonymous said...

Kind of puts the lie to the whole 'pet overpopulation/too many puppies' thing, doesn't it?

I don't like this importation idea, largely because of health concerns. A group out west brought in a bunch of dogs from overseas and introduced a parasite that doesn't occur in N. America - but survives here.

Maybe if media and airhead officials hadn't been running a propaganda campaign, our shelters wouldn't be full of 'pit bulls', whatever they may be.

Those Caribbean pariahs are cute, I used to hang with a pack for awhile every day when I was in Trinidad in the early 80s.

Anonymous said...

Ah, now we see the root of the dog population problem. People want specific breeds/looks or avoid certain breeds/looks. Why put effort into fixing that problem when we can import foreign dogs (not even from other states)!

At least these people are finding unwanted puppies. Its a good deal better than recommending dog lovers go to breeders, only puppy mills can keep up with the current demand!

Luisa said...

And yet -- see this post over at Spotted Dog Farm :~(

The dogs we love come from many sources -- and no one loves her pound pups more than I do -- but I don't believe anything is better than getting a healthy, stable, well-socialized pup from a responsible breeder. "As good," maybe ;~)

Anonymous said...

You missed the point. Breeders claiming to be responsible might be common, but actually responsible breeders are not. The current demand for dogs of specific breeds or combinations far exceeds what responsible breeders can responsibly produce. Puppy mills cannot stay in business unless they are fulfilling SOME market demand.

Anonymous said...

I read the comments at Spotted Dog Farm.

The mantra, common among shelter workers, that there are too many pups being born is false.

There are few young pups available at shelters - most of them are 8 - 10-month old medium to large males.

Novices get a 'shepherd' mix, as an example, do nothing to train and socialize the dog. Then when he's entering that adolescent stage and is out of control, still doing the 'cute' things he did when he was tiny, he's either 'too big' or he's 'knocking the kids over' or whatever - and it's off to the shelter.

As with many areas of life these days, the impulsive, infantile attitude and the urge to needlessly replace things that aren't providing instant gratification is pervasive.

However, most people are pretty good overall and the tiny minority of callous individuals should not colour the whole picture.

Puppy mills could be very easily put out of business through education. If people stop buying pups at pet shops and over the intertubes, that would cut out a huge chunk of revenue for these people.

We need more 'in your face' educational initiatives explaining what dog ownership really means - in terms of finances, housing requirements and most of all, time commitments.

Responsible breeders are, in my experience, not about keeping up with demand. They are about wanting the best for their dogs, producing beautiful, healthy dogs who have been handled properly from day one and placing the non-breeding quality ones with suitable homes. Most of them well up with tears when a pup or older dog leaves their home.

Cats are another story - too many people fail to look after them well and make sure that litters of unwanted kittens are not being produced. That's why TNR is such a great idea, climate permitting.

Anonymous said...

Oh man, now I'm gonna hafta adopt or foster a pibble just so I can be a thug (pouting)

Heather Houlahan said...

Here's a modest proposal --

For every imported chic foreign streetdog puppy a nonprofit sells, they have to place two "undesirable" large-breed adolescents *and keep them in those homes for at least a year of follow-up.*

That would mean putting significant resources into effective training, adopter education, and meaningful follow-up. IOW, hard work and the application of real animal expertise. Are they capable of either?

When the same "rescues" that are importing cute Third-World street dogs are banging the drums for state-forced sterilization, or breed bans, or automatic slaughter of pibbles that end up in shelters, I tend to get a bit snarky.

I have no way of verifying that canny people in The Republic of West Malaria aren't specifically breeding pariah-type pups for these American "rescues." Supply for demand, babee ...

spotted dog farm said...

i get twitchy with talk of animal transport. folks around here ship pups and small dogs to the northeast. but they are still euthanizing plenty of shelter dogs up there too. somehow it seems better to solve our own issues locally.

still, it makes sense to move animals around to suit the needs/wants of various people. isn't that what everyone in rescue tries to do on a small scale? isn't that just what maximizing all available resources means?

i get that pet overpopulation isn't really a numbers problem - but it's a crisis of space and time. in managing animal populations, the right matches have to fall together in a myriad of ways, daily. but then, i'm just a lazy, lying shelter worker, and a thug, too.

Luisa said...

You're my kind of people, sdf. [sends sdf a 'terrorist fist bump' from SoCal]