THE ANIMAL SHELTER
...provided steel "trash" bins in blazing sun where people dump animals when the shelter is closed. This 1998 article went mainstream, ended dumping bins and it launched TheDogPlace.org
DUMPING BINS - THE CATALYST
Barbara J. Andrews Publisher, Photographer,Bill Andrews
I'll never forget that newspaper clipping. A reader sent it for my ShowSight magazine column but sickened, I laid it aside. The AP story was about a Tennessee humane shelter and the photo was deeply disturbing.
Went on with my day. But the photo haunted me. A father holding his little boy over a steel dumpster so the child could drop in a little brown puppy he dangled by one leg. I kept seeing the puppy struggling upside down, his soft baby ligaments tearing, his big brown eyes wide with terror as he heard the other dogs wailing. I could imagine the puppy's gasp as he was released to tumble down into the melee of agony below.
The father's face kept popping into my thoughts. He was grinning! The little boy was braced against his dad's thigh but held tightly around the waist so that he could lean way out over the steel bin to drop the puppy down the chute into the black hole.
Was there an opening in the brick wall so that the animals dropped into oven-dumpster could get "shelter" inside the block building? Or was the dumpster a cheap death chamber? This was a sizzling August. When the father lifted the steel lid it must have been like grabbing a hot iron.
Thankfully, the child's face was not visible. Didn't matter. What I saw was a child learning the rules of a society wallowing in self-centered indulgence, violence, and animal cruelty.
Thoughts tumbled like demons. Sure, we're a throw-away society. So why not throw away a puppy? And, stupid me, isn't it perfectly logical that we would dump garbage in a dumpster? To that man, the unwanted puppy was nothing but garbage.
How long could a dog survive in that steel bin? Hopefully the puppy's little heart would have failed from fright as he landed among the frantic, heat-crazed dogs inside that black bin. The photo showed a gap of about an inch around the bottom of the dumping bin. I stared at it again, wondering how much air could come in through that slot, then realized what the air temperature would be as it radiated off the black asphalt, super-heated by temperatures in the high nineties, bouncing off the red brick wall of the "humane society" building.
Surely the dogs (and cats?) thrown in there would die quickly. That must be the point! Death in the dumping bin saves money - no gas chamber, injection or whatever else they might use at that "animal shelter." Thinking... lower payroll and less care because a rendering plant could just come and pick up the bodies after the sun had done its work. Surely that's why this dumpster was hidden out of sight behind the "humane society"?
My husband found me crying. He made it worse by telling me he had seen something almost as bad in the next county. A dumping bin right here in North Carolina? Yes. He hadn't told me. Didn't want me to know, nothing we could do, the animal shelter was a good customer for our plumbing company...
To hell with it! Bill drove to the Rutherford County Animal Shelter and took photos. Look closely, see the signs? The throwaway dog or cat is shoved through the opening to drop from a height of six feet! Well OK, credit to Rutherford County, they put signs up so you know not drop a litter of kittens down into the dog cage. Sure. No kid would think of doing that on a dare or just because he wanted see the fun…
How many pets survive hitting the pavement and the mauling that's sure to follow. Bill said if a dog is too big to lift or shove through the hole, they are simply left tied to the fence.
I called and spoke with Officer Reeves because the Animal Shelter is operated by the Sheriff's Department. He assured me pets are "taken inside within a matter of hours, even on the weekends when the shelter is closed." I didn't ask him how working people could adopt if they are closed when people are off work, out and about... Didn't want to interrupt him as he said the "shelter vet comes three times a week but if the dog or cat is injured bad enough, the staff is trained and can go ahead and put it to sleep by lethal injection."
The deputy sounded like a regular guy. A family man. Protector of the community. Said "That part of my job makes me sick." I asked him how many pets are dumped at the shelter? He said over 5,000 pets per year. The Rutherford county population is only 56,918 people! That's a 10% pet abandonment rate!
A week of mental torment ended when out of the blue, I was given the best possible means to fight this. Politicians, budget managers, idiots; they only listen when their jobs are in jeopardy! It takes a big voice to get the ear of a corrupt law-maker. It takes a lot of voters to get an ego-driven politician to stop stumping long enough to actually do something for the people whose vote he seeks.
So now you know how TheDogPlace.org came to be. It is 1998 and I know nothing about computers but there is something called internet! TheDogPlace will be the voice of the people and it is the sound of OUTRAGE. It is your enlightened voice that will serve the dogs and the people who love them.
If ever there could be a shred of good out of something so horrible, then we owe a debt of thanks to callous father and the depraved officials of that Tennessee town.
My sanity came back because I found a way to deal with the horror. I hope you find a way too. Ignoring monsters doesn't make them go away..
Soon after this was published, Rutherford County Animal Shelter did away with the dumping area and when this article was picked up by mainstream media, dumping bins were done away with. We think... If you find something similar in your area, TAKE PHOTOS and report it to Editor@TheDogPlace.org.
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