What Happens in Vegas…

Today is the day of the meeting between Wayne Pacelle and Pit Bull advocates in Las Vegas, ostensibly designed to avoid a repeat of the Wilkes County Massacre. We are all watching to see who will continue to give voice to our values and aspirations, and who will prove themselves irrelevant as we continue our march toward a No Kill nation.

Sadly, it is hard to believe that anything substantive and lasting will come out of the meeting that will actually save Pit Bulls from HSUS, given Pacelle’s two-faced approach to the massacre through spin and misinformation. Indeed, the release of the court transcripts showed that HSUS responded to the court’s serious question (‘why is it humane to kill dogs?’) with a dismissive Orwellian retort (‘for their own good’) and with statements that, in my opinion, came very close to perjury (‘nursing puppies are a threat to public safety’).

Nonetheless, the meeting should go on and we continue to hope that HSUS will ultimately change in deed, as well as word. While it is my hope that something positive that actually saves dogs comes out of it, caution should rule the day. In the past, No Kill advocates stopped the pressure on HSUS in similar campaigns and celebrated victory, only to have discovered they had been hoodwinked by carefully crafted statements and Pacelle’s penchance for meaningless pretty words.

Nor is it enough, as some groups have suggested, for HSUS to only agree that dogs will get individual consideration going forward. We don’t need an agreement that takes the pressure off HSUS to change in earnest, when the end result of such an approach is going to be more killing. And that is exactly what would occur if this was what came out of the meeting. In the Michael Vick dog fighting case, Pacelle told us that the dogs were individually assessed and were some of the most aggressive HSUS had ever seen—a bald faced lie.

In the end, what matters is whether savable dogs live or die. Not whether they have been temperament tested with a pre-determined conclusion and killed anyway. Not whether they are evaluated and pass, but then are killed because HSUS hides behind the myth of pet overpopulation. Not whether the dogs are held hostage by HSUS which refuses to assist in their adoption and simply says that unless rescue groups can take them, they will be killed. This would not be victory.

I tried to meet with Pacelle to discuss these and other concerns, but he refused my request. So I presented what I believe are minimum recommendations for any agreement on this issue through others:

  • All dogs have the right of individual evaluation (not merely a recommendation as HSUS has suggested). Dogs shall not be deemed dangerous without an independent evaluation.
  • No Kill shelters and rescue groups have a right to conduct independent evaluations of the dogs, rather than rely on the results of others.
  • Puppies will not be killed.
  • Rescue groups and No Kill shelters have the right of access to save the animals, and it shall not be permitted for a dog to be killed if a rescue group or No Kill shelter is willing to accept the dog into their sanctuary or adoption program.
  • Shelters shall make non-aggressive dogs available for adoption.
  • HSUS shall assist in the adoption of dogs, through finances, boarding the dogs when necessary to avoid killing them “for space,” and utilizing its vast media and donor resources.
  • Legislation that will give all of these principles the force of law shall be pursued. It should be illegal for a shelter to kill a dog if a rescue group is willing to save him (as it is in California).

I am sure others will have more. And so, before the agreement is signed, it should be adopted as a draft and then widely circulated to the larger humane and pit bull community for comment. After those comments are received, a final policy which addresses those concerns can be agreed upon, with the rationale for excluding recommendations fully explained.

In short, the agreement must reflect the desires of those in the grassroots. This is our country, these are our shelters, these are our values, and this is our will. And we will no longer allow HSUS to pursue policies and promote practices which are contrary to our mandate for a No Kill nation.