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Caught in a Hole, Best Friends Keeps Digging

Updated: Jun 7, 2019

Anyone who understands very much about animal shelters in the USA knows that the state or local mandated stray hold period is a crucial factor in determining how many pets live or die. It is a vital lifeline for pets that end up in shelters. A simple way to prove this to be true is to examine the difference between how most animal shelters handle stray pets compared with those that are surrendered by their owners. It is pretty enlightening.

Because mandatory holding periods do not generally apply to pets brought to shelters by their owners, it is not uncommon for those animals to be brought from the lobby of a shelter directly into the so-called "euthanasia" room. On the other hand, stray animals tend to get better treatment, because according to most state and local laws animal shelters must hold pets for a given period to provide their families opportunity to find and reclaim them.

As common sense and rational as that is, the stray hold period in many states is far too short, usually somewhere between three and seven days, which might not be sufficient, because lost pets don't always stay in one place. They move around. And, many communities have many animal impound centers. Making matters worse, many impound centers are not open evening or weekend hours, don't post photos of found pets online and generally do little or nothing to help reunite lost pets with their families. At these facilities, the minute a stray pet enters the shelter, a clock begins ticking - counting down until the mandatory stray hold period runs out. It is a bit like the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz with her terrible hourglass. As the story goes, when the hourglass ran out, Dorothy and Toto were going to be toast.

Given these realities, it is understandable that animal advocates would be wanting to add as much sand to the hourglass as possible for lost pets taken to shelters. But, there are many more reasons for wanting to do so than simply giving families time to find their pets.

For example: when pets end up at shelters, they are often confused, terrified and not behaving as they normally would. Making life or death decisions about them based on their behavior during this time is more than problematic. Longer stray hold periods give pets a chance to settle in before being assessed. They also provide rescue groups more time to work to accommodate the animals in their programs. Therefore, these waiting periods save lives several different ways.

No matter how you look at it, shortening stray hold periods state-wide costs animals their lives, because most shelters are not No Kill and many are not even doing a passable job of facilitating family reunions. Yet, you wouldn't know that from listening to Best Friends Animal Society talk about a proposed change to Wisconsin State Law that would, among other things, cut the stray hold period state-wide from seven to four days.

Best Friends didn't say there was concern about the proposed reduction in the holding period. They also didn't say that there were other positive things in the proposed changes that made the shortened hold period acceptable. Instead, they asked their supporters to support the unsupportable - that shortened hold periods would be a good thing for pets and save more lives.

In a letter to their members regarding this proposed change, they wrote:

Experience has taught us that reducing the time that animals languish in the shelter can significantly increase the chance that they’ll leave alive.

Almost immediately No Kill advocates began taking them to task. No Kill Learning said this change would shred the safety net for lost pets in Wisconsin. Advocates put out an action alert asking people to contact Best Friends to demand changes to the proposed bill. The No Kill Advocacy Center was a bit more direct, saying that Best Friend's statements about the proposed bill were not true. They went on to say:

Holding periods were passed by prior generations of animal activists to protect animals. Why? Because for many animals entering Wisconsin shelters, the holding period is the only thing standing between them and a lethal injection. Holding periods buy shelter animals the most precious of all commodities—time. Time for their families to reclaim them, time for them to be adopted, time for them to be saved by a rescue group.

In other words, No Kill advocates nation-wide are up in arms that Best Friends Animal Society is doing the equivalent of trying to take sand OUT of Dorothy and Toto's hourglass, to buy them LESS time before the Wicked Witch decides to snuff them out. But, what is going on in Wisconsin is not a movie, and the lives that are on the line are real.

Even still, Best Friends is not backing down. They recently posted a blog, which they then shared on Facebook, trying to defend their position, which is not playing well with their supporters. Here are a handful of the comments from the blog and Facebook post.

Honestly, the people posting comments are doing such a good job explaining to Best Friends how many things are wrong with their position, we thought we would share with you some of our favorites.

Best Friends Animal Society has found themselves in a hole they dug for themselves. So far, their response seems to have been to just keep digging.


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