New animal rescue policy is sound judgment amid misdirected anger

June 22, 2014 • Editorial, Opinion

Roswell made national headlines recently when on June 11 a 9-year-old boy was attacked by three pit bull mixes that escaped from a local animal rescue that had adopted the animals from the city’s shelter.

Fortunately, the boy’s father, a Roswell police [auth] officer who was carrying his service firearm, shot and killed one of the dogs and stopped the attack. Though the boy spent a day in the hospital, it appears that he will successfully recover from the attack. In the next two days, fuel was added to the fire when the city’s mayor, Dennis Kintigh, decided to suspend adoptions by the city shelter to rescue shelters within the state of New Mexico until the dog mauling incident could be investigated and the city’s policy on pet adoptions could be revamped, if that action was needed.

An unfortunate fallout of the dog attack and the subsequent action by the mayor is how it has brought out the lunatic fringe on both sides of the issue. On one side, there were those posting on the newspaper’s Facebook page that pit bulls, as a breed, should be exterminated, while on the other side, there was a backlash to the mayor’s decision to temporarily suspend adoptions to third-party shelters until the city’s investigation was complete.

A television station in Denver on its website and broadcast had incorrectly stated the mayor had banned adoptions. The touchy-feely news segment featured volunteers from shelters in Colorado making the trip to Roswell to spare animals from the death sentences imposed from what was portrayed by the TV station as an uncaring city and its leader.

Further, there was a lot of misinformation disseminated on the newspaper’s Facebook page when one or two posters apparently got the date confused on when the boy was attacked. The attack occurred on Wednesday, June 11, but a few posters incorrectly stated that the boy was attacked on June 4, also a Wednesday, and that two days later, June 6, the newspaper had the audacity to publish an advertisement for Doggy Saviors, the shelter from which the three pit bulls escaped. The newspaper had also published a Facebook ad for the shelter. The newspaper was accused by one poster of “helping another child getting mauled by promoting a rescue that produces child maulers.” Another poster even used the words “baby killers.”

The newspaper staff regrets what happened to the boy as much as anybody else and our thoughts and prayers are with the child and his family. Newspapers make a large part of their revenue by publishing advertisements. Just about every newspaper in the country publishes ads from their local GM car dealership, but that doesn’t mean any of those newspapers contributed to the deaths of people killed by the faulty ignition switches that had prompted a massive recall. I had even responded to a couple posts, asking the writer where he or she got his or her information. Neither responded, which tells me these individuals were merely using the Internet to vent misdirected anger with complete disregard for accuracy or truth.

The responses from the other side, people claiming Kintigh had gone too far by restricting adoptions from the shelter, were equally as outrageous. One Facebook poster called everyone in Roswell “a bunch of rednecks and hicks.”

But the strangest response was a phone message left on my voicemail by a woman calling from Pennsylvania who claimed to be representing a group called Humanitarianism First.

She said she had tried contacting the mayor with three different phone numbers but none of them were good. She said citizens had a right to contact their mayor, as if there were those conspiring to post fake phone numbers on the Internet so no one could call the mayor.

I called City Hall myself, using the number posted for the mayor on the city website, and got through just fine. The woman from Humanitarianism First said she wanted to speak to not just the mayor, but the governor, and that she was calling from the “East Coast” and “East Coast” people were mad about the mayor’s decision. She sent a text message to the newspaper with a similar request, adding she also wanted to speak to state representatives.

First of all, a big part of the reason I moved out West, where there seems to be an underlying libertarian philosophy, was to get away from “East Coast” people who think they have the right to boss other people around. I’m sure most people in Roswell, whether natives or transplants like myself, feel the same.

Further, I don’t think the governor has the time to involve herself in every contentious issue in every municipality in the state, and even if she did, she probably doesn’t have the authority. But what surprised me most about this call was that an organization that calls itself Humanitarianism First, claiming that it is a human being’s duty to improve the lives of other people, would seem to be more concerned about dogs that could potentially kill or harm people than the life of a 9-year-old child.

I should confess that am writing this column Friday morning on my sister’s kitchen in Watertown, Tenn., a small town 40 miles east of Nashville. Despite the heat and humidity, it’s beautiful here in rural Tennessee.

By the time the City Council concludes its special meeting Friday to decide whether to approve the mayor’s proposed letter of agreement between the city and animal rescue groups, I will be touring downtown Nashville with my sister and brother-in-law, so I won’t be able to respond to the council’s decision in this column. On Monday last week, Kintigh outlined a plan that won’t allow a rescue organization to take animals from the shelter unless they can show proof of its 501c3 status and sign an agreement to allow the city to inspect their kennels.

City investigators found the conditions at Doggy Saviors, which was using the nonprofit status of another local animal welfare organization, to be “deplorable.” I am crossing my fingers that this policy, or another similar to it, will be adopted by the city.

I am an animal lover and wholly support pet adoptions and rescues, having adopted my own pet from the city shelter in Pampa, Texas.

Rescuing animals that would otherwise be put down is a worthy cause.

However, we must first protect human life and it is not unreasonable to expect rescue shelters to play by the city’s rules if they wish to rescue animals from our shelter.

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