Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Healing by Franc Dog Shelter Plan

The plan for the dog shelter if Healing by Franc got it.

 Obviously we would have a No Kill Policy and in addition wardens’ duties would have a pet retention role as well in the community. This would be the first approach to stopping the stream of dogs to the shelter as strays and surrenders.

The shelter, which is on the Old Dublin Road, near Paulstown, Co. Kilkenny if people do not already know, would become a community orientated operation. The fence would be fixed at the bottom, so that the whole garden could be used as a run. Individual runs would fenced, within the current main run, so that not just the occupants of one kennel can be out at a time.  When staff are there, all the dogs could be out most of the time.

18 new kennels would be built on the plot of land behind the dog shelter site. That also belongs to the Kilkenny County Council. We would use the techniques of micro-building to create warm, low cost kennels and have them up and functional within 3 months. Like Offaly Dog Pound, the dogs would move from the main kennels to the new kennels when their five days are up. The first five days would be to allow previous owners to come forwards after which the dog becomes the property of the shelter by law. This is relevant as we would off set the cost of preparing the dogs for rehoming. If people offer a dog a home in an emergency – such as the shelter being full or the dog needs special care or just within two weeks of its arrival, it would be the nominal fee to buy the dog. If we have spayed/neutered the dog and spent a lot on veterinary costs for to restore the dog, the cost of the dog would reflect that.

Before the kennels are built we would be relying heavily on shelters to take dogs after the five days. Our rehoming focus would be strongly on their dogs during this period. The plan would be that, for example, PAWS’ beautifully rehabilitated, spayed/neutered, microchipped and relaxed dogs would be found homes and this would free up 20 or so of their kennels for our emergency cases to go and receive the same time and treatment. We would also direct some of our budget to these shelters for veterinary costs.

We would use plant-based dog food so that the waste can be composted and eventually grow and produce our own food in our organic farms. Very little of the grain that cows eat is even organic and those glysophates (from chemical sprays) are in so many foods now.

The staffing cannot yet meet the 12 hours maximum absence rule for dogs so we would increase the kennel assistants’ hours to meet those basic requirements. One of the staff is already a veterinary nurse and so her role can be expanded to treat dogs in our care.  We will minimize the use of external veterinary care and any money that is spent on a visiting vet will be to address their needs and save animals.

It is the farmers and the vets that are anaesthetized to the aspect of putting animals down. We would retain control over the management of dogs, both picked up and those that arrive at the shelter by any means. We believe that animals that chase sheep or stray or have even been used for fighting deserve a chance at life in a new appropriate home. One of the staff already is a dog trainer with integrity and well able to roll out a programme of new owner/dog training. This will be part of the community education role of the shelter. We would hold open days, training days, rehoming days (basically every day but also designated days) One of the great kennel assistants that I am coming to know also grooms dogs and that will be part of the public relations aspect to re-homing. Currently the pound relies on a people responding to the emergency of too many dogs, a full shelter and the imminent risk of having too many to keep. It relies on pity too. Our vision would be to present dogs as the arrival of hope, friendship, loyalty and playfulness to a home. People will be reminded that a dog offers as well a definite reason to get out in nature and get fit, on walks. Parents will be encouraged to rehome once reminded of the importance of teaching the next generation the life skills of taking responsibility and caring for another living thing.

One staff addition would be a director. That would be me, if Healing by Franc got the tender. The director would be dedicated to re-homing on a daily basis. Furthermore, he/she would get into every school in Carlow and Kilkenny and educate the young in these life skills, including care, physiology, training, benefits and legislation. Attitudes and values would surface and be addressed in these classes. Attendees could be assessed and gain a certificate in responsible pet ownership. This course could become mandatory for dog owners, in order to gain a license perhaps. We would aim to keep the costs down for people willing to rehome a dog and raise the cost for those surrendering dogs, with poor reason. We would endeavor to accommodate surrenders from people who are themselves losing their homes. So we would try and address the more common surrenders of dogs by farmers, on the grounds that the dog is ‘no good’. This is tenuous reasoning but shelter staff are regularly faced with it. The person often adds, if you won’t take the dog, I’ll have to shoot it.  Emotional blackmail and the current low cost of surrendering are realities we will change gradually.  In principle, those surrendering are putting an increased financial burden on the pound and those re-homing are alleviating a financial burden so that should be reflected in who pays what! Longer term, we intend to add to the perceived value of having a dog. This will give leaverage to more funding and contributions. Ie. when our society comes to recognize a mixed breed dog, with quirky markings and a meanly mainly removed wagging tail as a loving and welcome part of the household and be eternally grateful for their presence, then our shelter can ask people for more towards the animals’ care and treatments.

We would have a focus on teaching people to value animals more and keep them safe rather than a focus on penalizing abusers and neglecters. Having said that, I would hope that the pound would become such a flagship enterprise and respected that we would have some weight in exposing the perpetrators of the violence many of the dogs experience before they arrive at the pound. We would be happy to speak for or against individuals or groups in court so that justice can be done. Sometimes it will be important to get a bit of legislation reviewed (for example, get the dog control act and the animal welfare bill aligned for the good of dogs) or make sure that someone is banned from ever keeping animals again etc. This aspect of the process, which is exposing the real failures of animal welfare, is a bit of a speciality of Healing by Franc’s, it turns out. Our getting a tender in, in the first place, was quite a bit mission. Also the sharing of our tendering experience, with those that care about dogs and animals in general, has been successful already.  No one would have found out that the council were giving the contract to an animal collection service. It would just have happened.

Our over all vision is to turn that list of 11,000 plus people who signed the petition into a contact list. This is what is really needed, even more than to talk or write to councilors who might be on the ‘how should we run the dog pound’ committee that is being set up. We know that councilors have a mixture of priorities. We know that some of the council still crave invisibility and unaccountability because the animal welfare person who has been asked to join the committee is based in a county in the West of Ireland.  The staff I spoke to didn’t know her name but guessed that she had been hand picked as remote as possible in contrast to any of the obvious welfare people nearer by. So please, petition signers, think about what sort of dog you would love. Old, young, small or big, playful or timid and then send your numbers to PAWS so we can start a rehoming register. PAWS have a hundred beautiful, recuperated, spayed/neutered and microchipped dogs absolutely ready to share their love and gladness to be alive and make your house even more of a home. Once the bottle neck is freed up, there will be kennels again available for the dogs to come from the pound to there.

I can also match people to dogs very well and foresee some synergy or happiness to come, if you’re unsure which one is for you. It might also be me who comes to do the home-checks and offer a free healing for both dog and new owners. But the first step is for people to get their numbers on to a list for re-homing. At the moment there are handfuls of dedicated people looking after 7,8 or even 12 dogs, sometimes even in Kennels that they have to pay for. We would hope that all the great people like this no longer be overwhelmed than more than they can manage. The ideal is that every homeowner come and decide on one dog and offer it a forever home. It has been brilliant to meet and even just hear about so many thousands of people coming forwards to make a statement that they care what happens. Now we just have to get all the dogs into their hands. Please send your name and number and optimum sort of dog to PAWS facebook page via private message or to me and I will send it on. I really don’t want to miss this opportunity to use all the help we have and people power to change the fate of all dogs in Ireland.

I have sent this plan already to all the councilors that I thought might be on the committee. I shared it in budget form rather than this spelling out of the actual physical plan. I gather that Kilkenny and Carlow councils have €248,000 for the running of the shelter (not the 450,000-650,000 that was stated on the original public tender website) Therefore I combined describing our priorities for the shelter with proof that it could be achieved within the confines of the money available. So yes, new kennels, increased care, full education and adoption programmes etc all can be offered within the 248. I hoped that the plan would simultaneously demonstrate that a ‘for profit’ group like Four Seasons Promotions could not make these changes happen, only a dedicated director could. There are oceans of people with more experience and contacts than our group, so I am not determined that we would be the best choice. Either way, I am enrolled in a class myself, leading to a serious Training and Development qualification, in six  weeks’ time. It is providing a platform for me to devise and refine the responsible pet ownership and improved pet retention course. This involves a commitment on our part to addressing the ignorance and unkindness in society via education, whether or not we get the contract. We will also continue to share pictures of dogs who need homes. I was put on the admin of our Pound Page on Facebook for just half a day so wasn’t able to really add anything there, although the service is great anyway. I am maybe still on the admin of the protecting pound dogs page. Thanks everyone for doing their part in insisting that the shelter go to an animal welfare concern. That has been done brilliantly, effectively and conscientiously and we all just hope to God that the council are respecting the change process and not just hoping that we will all go away. If we get a flow of the mistreated dogs out of shelters and into homes via a register of people delighted to adopt one, we will free up the whole system for a much more positive future.

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