Volunteer, donate, adopt

How to help animal shelters save more lives

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PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. - Thank you to everyone who responded to my column about what happened when I asked for a tour of the Broward County Animal Shelter during a recent visit to renew my dog's license.

The column did what it was meant to do -- bring awareness to the challenges that animal shelters all across the U.S. face on a daily basis.

It also generated a lot of passionate reactions and comments.

For starters, kudos to the directors at Broward Animal Care for quickly responding to my concerns.

Here's what they wrote in response:

"The staff at Broward County Animal Care is very much committed to our animals as well as our customers.  All visitors to our Adoption Centers -- people and pets alike -- are respected and appreciated and we take all feedback to heart.
We acknowledge the fact that you felt sad and we regret that.  This is not how we want you, or anyone else to feel about our agency and for this we extend a sincere apology.
Part of our level of service includes the safety of all visitors.  Sanitation is critical in a shelter environment and we do spend quality time cleaning our kennel areas.   Bleaching and washing is part of this process to ensure a sanitary environment and prevent the spread of disease.  Therefore, we are cautious about tours during this part of our day so that no one trips or falls since all areas and public pathways in the kennels are thoroughly scrubbed.
We welcome everyone to take a tour, adopt a pet and make a difference.  Our homeless dogs and cats need the entire support of our community.  There are no "head honchos" here, just a team of dedicated staff who are committed to the pets.  Therefore, we hope you will stop back by and see all the wonderful things we do to help save lives. 
Your experience and feedback is invaluable and we will use it as a training/learning experience to further enhance our customer service.  In addition, we acknowledge the great work and support that you and your Local 10 family do on behalf of our pets in need.  Without your efforts, many would go without a second chance!"

The column also received reactions from people who volunteer at the shelter.

"As a Volunteer, I have always been greatful for all of your help in promoting those homeless babies there at the shelter. I hope you will come back and give them a second chance," wrote Katia Medina.

"I also am a volunteer and was very disappointed to hear this. I know that the shelter is working so hard to over come the negative image that they have had for so long. Katia, along with others, are volunteeering to save the lives of those so desperate of homes. It is hard to read this news for a myriad of reasons. Please do give BCAC another chance. They are working hard to try and become a no-kill shelter and probably regret their decision," Michele Lazarow responded via Facebook.

"I volunteer at Broward County Animal Care and just read your story," wrote Patty DaSilva. "I wish they had let you in so you could see where the lucky animals who aren't murdered get to live. But I mostly just wanted to thank you for all that you do for the animals. The impact that the media brings is second to none, the pet section on local10's site is great."

I also received some negative reactions, which I welcomed because they serve to further the discussion. And in my book, any time something generates a healthy discussion, it serves the greater good.

"You could have returned or simply stuck around to give the animals that most welcome unexpected visit. Instead you've elected to create another opportunity for nutjobs to call those "thankless job" workers heartless animal murderers. As though hoarding animals healthy and diseased, basically piling them up on top of one another, is more humane… Geeze don't get me started on that breed of idiot," wrote Jaime Roman.

"I would like to thank the author of this article for shredding all the hard work that BCAC staff put into trying to remove the stigma of adopting shelter pets. Just because your part of the media, that does not make you any different then the public. Just because you work for local 10, that doesn't make you any different from anyone else that comes through those doors. I'm not saying BCAC is perfect but they try there hardest for these animals. For anyone that reads this please do not take this womens article to heart and visit the shelter yourself to make your own opinions. Don't believe everything you read." wrote Micaela Williams wrote on Local10's Facebook wall.

Suki Will, also posting via Facebook, suggested that BCAC should "call Barb's supervisor and complain."

For the record, my supervisor reads and approves all my columns before they are posted.

The fact that the article generated such a passionate variety of responses, indicates that people in our community truly care about the homeless and abandoned animals in our shelters. And it's only by challenging shelters to be the best they can be -- despite the challenges they face -- that we will ever get a handle on the homeless pet population in South Florida.

Articles such as the one I wrote also serve to educate the public on the bigger problem -- people buying pets from pet stores or abandoning pets in shelters because they have no idea that there are alternatives.

And so, I leave you with this to further today's discussion.

The only way we are going to solve the homeless pet population problem in South Florida is by doing three simple things:

  • Volunteer
  • Donate
  • Educate

And perhaps the most important thing of all ... Adopt a shelter animal and encourage everyone you know who is looking for a furry friend to do the same.

Pass it along.

P.S. I accept Broward County Animal Care's invitation to visit again. I will be there soon.

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