Canine divide between North and South


The plight of animals always pulls at the heartstrings, so it was little surprise to find so many people turn out for a statewide dog adoption day Sunday sponsored by Always Adopt and Inskip Motors.

Always Adopt’s founder Louise Anderson Nicolosi rallied 16 rescue organizations, including three from the south, to participate with about a dozen dog trainers, veterinarian technicians and two veterinarians who volunteered for the event. The rescue groups brought dogs with them, and more than 200 were adopted. The turnout and the number of dogs adopted were remarkable.

Just as remarkable is that this is needed.

While animal shelters always have a few dogs up for adoption, strays are relatively rare in these parts. Most shelter dogs are there because people faced with various problems, whether a death in the family, loss of a home or a job that takes them out of state, must give up their pet.

So, where did so many dogs for adoption come from?

The answer is that most of the dogs were not from Rhode Island. They were rescued from “kill shelters” in the south and brought here by the truckload.

John Turco, one of the two veterinarians at Sunday’s event, said the stream of southern dogs started after Hurricane Katrina and hasn’t stopped. The Internet has facilitated their adoption with rescue groups, which tend to be run by volunteers who tend to post photographs of the animals with tender descriptions of their dispositions.

Responsible rescue organizations ensure their dogs are well matched with a family and that the dog is healthy and spayed or neutered. This doesn’t come without a cost. Expect to pay up to $500 and more in some cases.

One would think they wouldn’t be left to roam or sold at garage sales for only a few bucks, as is apparently the case in the south. Bethany Hickey, the founder of Mutts 4 Rescue, said many dogs in the south are viewed as property, not family. Little thought is given to their care and, when more of a burden than an asset, they are disposed of.

That is not the culture here. Legislation restricts how long and under what conditions dogs can be left outside. Municipal laws also limit the number of dogs one can house and even if a dog can be left unattended in a motor vehicle.

Anderson Nicolosi believes one answer to the multitudes of dogs from the south is spay and neutering laws and education. It will take time and a change of heart in the south. Eventually, she would like to see passage of a “no kill” law for strays, but that’s a long ways off.

The fact that so many organizations and individuals have stepped forward to save the dogs is remarkable. There’s an eerie parallel here to the abolitionists who ran the underground railway to spirit slaves, another piece of property perversion once familiar in the south. Let’s hope we can reconcile these divides in cultures and attitudes and prevent the proliferation of unwanted dogs that face nothing but work-duty or death in certain parts of the country.

In the meantime, thank heavens for our four-legged companions and the people who recognize and respond to their real worth and their real need.


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment