Understanding how to help community animals
Special to the Tahoe Daily Tribune
Many want to help local or regional animals in need but are not clear on how to do that. Confusion comes from mixed media messages as well as from the evolution of a more complex animal welfare world. First, it’s critical to understand that local animals are helped by independent, unaffiliated local agencies. There is no national humane society, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals (S.P.C.A.), public or private agency to provide for local pets. Heart breaking national commercials requesting funds are misleading. For prospective adopter, donor or volunteer, here’s an overview of the humane movement and today’s animal welfare opportunities.
Humane Societies and Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (S.P.C.A.) are overseen as tax exempt nonprofits by the Internal Revenue Service, are privately funded, independent organizations with broad missions, including cruelty and violence prevention through advocacy and education. The concept originated in England in the 1820’s and about 30 years later was replicated in the United States. The first American animal welfare organization focused on legislation and law enforcement to protect working horses on the streets of New York City. Founder Henry Bergh espoused humane values promoted by philosophers through the ages to create a more harmonious society and presented public forums on the subject. At one point, Bergh was asked to plead the case of an abused child using arguments which had led to the first New York City laws against animal cruelty. The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children then was formed. Historically, the American Humane Association sheltered both orphan children and orphan animals. AHA no longer operates shelters but to this day is at the forefront of child and animal protection through research and education about the nature of violence. In other parts of the world, the term “humane” denotes human services. Perhaps because early groups promoted kind treatment of children as well as animals, only in the United States is the term is associated with animal welfare.
Animal Control, Animal Services and Animal Care and Control agencies are tax supported, public health and safety services created in the 1940s and 1950s to protect people from animals and animal diseases. As people moved from rural to urban environment, licensing became necessary to track dog bites, to prevent rabies outbreaks with mandatory vaccinations, and to enforce local ordinances regarding animal keeping. At that time, established local humane societies often were asked to take on this new role since they already had animal caretaking experience. Still today some private organizations operate in dual roles of a nonprofit animal welfare organization and a contracted local law enforcement agency
Companion Animal Sanctuaries evolved in the early 1990s. They are few and reputable ones have annual budgets in the tens of millions of dollars plus require tremendous person power to properly provide lifetime care for hundreds or thousands of often unadoptable companion animals.
Rescue Groups also are a recent development. Most of these groups are not regulated. Breed Specific Rescue Groups affiliated with a national breed association are devoted to protecting the best qualities of a specific type of dog or cat. Unaffiliated individuals may also take in homeless companion animals. Rescue groups are self-funded and foster rescued animals in private homes until they are adopted. Responsible rescues operate with strict ethics and guidelines. Only puppy mills or rescue scams offer animals directly over the internet.
Many abandoned animals are pets who became victims of the economy when their owners no longer could afford proper care. Now is the best time to adopt or donate to the organization of your choice. For help finding a pet or an organization, call 530-542-2857.
• Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help “Keep Tahoe Kind.” Dawn Armstrong is the executive director of the-Lake Tahoe Humane Society and SPCA.