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Wednesday, November 9,2011

Surviving shelters

Shelters and rescues try to collaborate, and sometimes clash, on saving dogs

By Elizabeth Miller
by Elizabeth Miller

Sawyer is a one in a hundred dog. He’s sweet, loyal and smart, with a playful streak likely to mature into a watchful air. At 16 months old, 83 pounds and mostly legs, he has a puppy’s energy for bounding through the backyard, but is so eager to please that his foster guardian says her best disciplinary weapon is a spray bottle.

But a month ago, Sawyer, a purebred Akbash, was on the edge of becoming one of a couple hundred dogs the Humane Society of Boulder Valley euthanizes each year as untreatable or unhealthy. His condition was likely a food allergy that had him scratching and biting himself so hard that he was leaving bare patches of inflamed skin. Breed rescuers intervened on his behalf and after a month of baths and improved nutrition, he’s left with just a few, barely visible dark marks to indicate where he might have some scarring.

“I am so in awe of him. He’s so smart. He’s so intelligent,” says Julie Carmen, who is fostering Sawyer at her home in Lakewood with her husband Mark. “It takes an hour to bathe the dog and condition him, and what you get out of this is this brilliant dog. It’s totally worth it.”

Rescue volunteers rushed to get Sawyer out of Boulder Humane in a 24-hour period out of concern that if they left him there past a noon deadline, he would be euthanized because he was “unadoptable.” The matter was so urgent, those rescue volunteers believed, they couldn’t even wait 48 hours to finish processing the paperwork for Carmen, who had just applied to foster for the National Anatolian Shepherd Rescue.

The Humane Society of Boulder Valley releases 91 percent of animals brought to the humane society alive through adoptions, transfers and owner reclaims. In 2009, the national live release rate was 55 percent for the 461 shelters reporting to Maddie’s Fund, a nonprofit that monitors shelters. Their success rate depends in part on the development of behavior modification programs that retrain dogs with behavioral problems, as well as communication with breed rescue programs that can also foster and rehabilitate dogs. But the Humane Society of Boulder Valley has been communicating with rescues in a way that leads the rescue coordinators to believe that dogs they are interested in working with — potentially healthy, adoptable dogs — are being threatened with euthanization as unhealthy and unadoptable. In 2010, the Humane Society euthanized 239 dogs, or 4.5 percent of their dog intake that year, because they were deemed unhealthy and untreatable. Dogs that are actually treatable and adoptable, like Sawyer.

His isn’t the only story of a dog that rescue volunteers have swept in to pick up on short notice out of concern the animal would be destroyed if it wasn’t immediately relocated. The lives of dogs depend on the collaborative work of these shelters and rescues, which each bring various benefits to the table. But rescue volunteers are protesting the short deadlines they’re often given to work with and arguing that using the threat of euthanasia to spur them to fast action, which humane society staff admits to doing, is antagonistic and fails to acknowledge the limited resources rescues work within. While the Humane Society has a $5 million budget and a facility, rescues often operate out of homes and on spare time and the personal bank accounts of rescue coordinators who are rarely fully repaid by adoption fees or donations.

Janet Davis, who runs the Akbash Dog Rescue, a national rescue program based from her home in the San Francisco Bay area, was the first to respond to the email about Sawyer from Boulder Humane stating that isolating for a food allergy in a shelter was basically impossible and asking for a rescue to step forward with a plan, in writing, as to what they could provide for Sawyer.

“A lot of arranging and emails and phone calls go into getting a dog out of a shelter,” Davis says. “I’m the rescue coordinator for this breed of dog, Akbash. It’s only me. It’s all my own money. So now, I’m going, OK, I have to tell them by 5 o’clock what I’m going to do with this dog. I have no idea what I’m going to do with this dog. It’s 11 in the morning, and I’m already late for work.”

She called staff at Boulder Humane to discuss Sawyer’s situation and ask for a little more time. The staff she spoke with gave her until noon the next day.

“I said, ‘Does that mean if we don’t give you an answer about where Sawyer’s going to go by noon tomorrow, he’ll be euthanized?’ And she basically — she didn’t exactly say yes, but basically, yes, that’s the only option,” Davis says. “They’ve deemed him unadoptable. If they don’t get word from rescue and he’s not out of there by noon the next day, he would be euthanized. So her and I had a bit of a back and forth about that, and she said, ‘Well, if your agency can’t help me, I’ll find one that can.’ And I said, ‘Just so you understand, it’s not an agency. I’m one person in California in a townhouse, dealing with every Akbash in the United States that is sheltered.’ ... I’ve rarely had a deadline like that other than extremely highkill shelters.”

“We ask for the same courtesy as we do with the [owner] reclaim, which is just let us know by the end of the following business day whether you think you can assist or not,” says Bridgette Chesne, director of shelter services at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley.

As to Sawyer just barely getting a stay of execution, Chesne says, “I think there may have been some confusion in that arena. I think that when the staff reaches out to a rescue group some of the staff that’s corresponding might not even know what that decision might be. ... And I think the way we’ve constructed the email, and which sometimes is true, is that if the rescue group cannot assist that, that animal may be euthanized.”

A decision had not yet been reached in Sawyer’s case, she says. She was still exploring his options.

“If the rescue group perceives that we have not made a euthanasia decision, they are less likely to assist us,” Chesne says. “We’re not really saying he is or isn’t — sometimes I think we are — but many times I think we’re still in that information gathering process and our decision is not always dependent on the rescue group’s ability to assist or not.”

Sawyer would likely have been rehomed with his medical condition noted, or might have moved into a humane society foster home.

If a rescue agrees to take a dog, Chesne says, the shelter would be willing to hold the dog for up to a week while foster care or boarding is arranged.

That wasn’t the understanding of Davis at the Akbash rescue, or Emily Wolf at Mountain Dog Rescue based in Gold Hill, who picked Sawyer up from Boulder’s humane society and helped transport him to Denkai Animal Sanctuary, near Greeley, where he was held until his foster family could pick him up.

“This dog’s healthy. Yes, granted, [he has] special needs.” Carmen says. Her vet says his condition is a treatable one and, particularly at his age, should be manageable. “With food and bathing and medication, it goes away eventually.”

• • • •

Rafa was tougher to handle. But getting a puppy while between residences, jobs and just before starting a Ph.D. program in North Carolina wasn’t Bradley and Emily Ferguson’s idea. Rafa was a gift. They were living in Boulder for a summer internship, and Emily was six months pregnant, when her mother gave them a Labrador retriever mix puppy.

“He was kind of hard to deal with,” Bradley says. “We took him to PetSmart to get some training to kind of control the biting, and they agreed that he bit a little bit more and he was a little more defiant than the average puppy. And we just didn’t have the means, the money and the time to discipline him and to teach him. If we did we would have definitely kept him. So we gave him to the [Boulder] humane society so he could find a home with someone that could give him the time and had the finances to take care of him.”

The owner surrender form at Boulder Humane includes a box to check if you’d like to be notified if your pet hasn’t been adopted or has demonstrated other issues and is in line to be euthanized. The Fergusons had checked the box. They were living in Utah when they got the call from Boulder Humane.

“They felt like he was too dangerous to rehome him, and so they gave us the option. They said either you can come reclaim him or we’ll have to put him down,” Bradley says. “I do believe them that Rafa was a little bit harder than the average puppy, but that being said, I still felt he was manageable.”

Wolf, the same person who stepped in to help transport Sawyer, spotted a Craiglist ad the Fergusons posted Aug. 5 looking for someone to adopt Rafa. The Fergusons gave Boulder Humane permission to release Rafa to her care.

“It was more sad than anything,” Bradley says. “It was especially hard on my wife because after we’d gone through the emotional ordeal of giving him up to somewhere where we thought he would be fine, it was really hard to go through that whole process again of trying to figure out what to do with him because obviously we wanted him to be happy.”

“We as an organization want to be transparent. We want people to have choices,” says Lisa Pedersen, chief executive officer of the Humane Society of Boulder Valley. “We do want them to understand when they sign over we are saying, ‘We are going to do an assessment and if we are looking at euthanasia, do you want to be contacted?’ We want to give them that power.”

It’s not that Boulder Humane couldn’t or wouldn’t — or even that they didn’t — work with Rafa. Their behavior modification program, piloted in 2007, has worked with more than 700 dogs on issues with food guarding, novel item guarding, fearfulness, dog/dog interactions and body handling sensitivities. Adult animals entering the shelter are tested for behavioral issues, and if they demonstrate any, they’re enrolled in the behavior modification program, where they’re worked with twice daily and training is supplemented with playgroups and time with shelter employees.

But in a shelter that manages almost 6,000 animals each year, efficiency has been key.

“Our goal is to make sure we can resolve the behavioral problem within an amount of time that doesn’t start to negatively impact the animal otherwise in a shelter environment. So our goal is always to attempt to resolve behavior problems in under 14 days,” says Lindsay Wood, director of animal training behavior at HSBV. “Anything over 14 days and up to three weeks, we’ll start to see a real deterioration in an animal’s behavior because this isn’t a low-stress home setting that they’re living in.”

The program has a 90 percent success rate, according to Wood. Overall, the average stay in the shelter is six days for a dog and 14 days for a cat.

“If we started to notice that this animal isn’t resolving within the 14 days what we would need to look at is the reasons why,” Wood says. “The more behavior problems or the higher the complexity of issues, the much less favorable the prognosis will be for a dog.”

Rafa had been enrolled in the behavior modification program to handle food guarding, rawhide guarding and novel item guarding, a complex series and a number of issues that would make training more difficult.

“Due to his age, we really wanted to attempt to resolve that,” Wood says. “We worked for, I would say three weeks … and during that period we were really having difficulty resolving any of those categories successfully and we had seen a variety of other behaviors surface.”

They reached out to breed rescues for help, and the rescues declined because of the complexity of Rafa’s issues and his aggression, Wood says.

“I don’t always know about every single animal these guys are working with, but I remember having the conversation because he was a puppy, and our training team was really dedicated and was really struggling because this was such a complex issue,” Pedersen says. “Euthanasia is not the decision that we want to make.”

Notes from Rafa’s file indicate that he was not likely to be euthanized because he was so young. But the impression of his former family and the rescues that rushed to move him was otherwise.

“We want to be really transparent.

Yes, euthanasia is one of the things on our list of choices that we are considering at this time,” Pedersen says. “We don’t want to sugar-coat or not be upfront about that this is a serious situation. This is an animal that doesn’t fit into our particular criteria. That doesn’t mean that animal couldn’t be assisted by another organization. ... And that’s one of the things that we really appreciate about those rescue groups, they do have different strategies.”

• • • •

Rafa didn’t go to rescue, though. He went to the Longmont Humane Society and was enrolled in their behavior treatment program. Longmont Humane runs a smaller shop, handling 1,885 dogs in 2010 (compared to Boulder’s 5,374) with a $3.1 million budget.

“We just don’t have the money, the budget to run the programs that we do without these volunteers,” says Kim Walje, the shelter’s executive director. “They’re definitely very well-trained. It’s not that we’re just letting them run haphazard, but we’ve made it into such a teaching program that they’re willing to jump through these hoops to get to that level and then they stay invested.”

Volunteers help provide grooming, veterinary care, and volunteers who want to work with dog training can pass through multiple levels of certifications, each of which can take six months to complete.

Outside the behavior program, dogs are rehomed in an average of 10 days. Dogs within the program are allowed to stay as long as trainers feel the dog is still making progress. They complete it in a range of time frames, Walje says: 25 percent in two weeks, 25 percent in a month, 25 percent in three months, and 25 percent take a year.

Dogs come from across the country, and Walje says there’s a waiting list to get in to the behavior program. Longmont trainers have taken on cases like a dog from Michael Vick’s fighting rings and sleddogs that had never eaten from a bowl before.

“We’re small enough that we can go a little further than a lot of the bigger shelters,” Walje says. “We aren’t as corporate as a lot of shelters are, and we should be. It’s not necessarily a great thing, but it’s a good thing in these situations. Rules are made to be broken, though, I think, especially for the right reasons.”

The behavior program has contributed to Longmont Humane increasing its live release rate from 70-some percent to 92 percent, according to Walje.

“For us, it works,” she says. “I think it’s fortunate that we’re small. It’s just workable. If it were much bigger, I think we couldn’t be able to pull off a program like that.”

When she goes to a rescue, she says, it’s more an exercise in diplomacy than in stringent deadlines.

After behavioral training work and time in foster care, Rafa was successfully adopted from the Longmont shelter.

“Everybody who knew the story, they were really angry that this little puppy [Rafa] was going to be killed,” says Lorraine May, executive director of The Misha May Foundation. May opened the foundation specifically to work with dogs that would get lonely, fearful or stressed in a shelter and rehabilitates them before offering them for adoption. The collaboration is key to saving dogs’ lives, May says — a sentiment Pedersen has echoed on behalf of Boulder Humane.

“It’s great that we can offer what we can offer and they can offer what they can offer, and that combination is literrally saving lives,” Pedersen says.

“The way the system is now, it’s an impossible job,” May says of the shelter staff. “The system has to change, and that’s having directors come in and say, ‘We’re not going to euthanize.’” “We deserve more from Boulder Humane,” Wolf says. “You can’t just be good and not strive to be better.”

Pedersen told Boulder Weekly that shelter services has begun reviewing its communications protocol for those times they do reach out to rescues.

This past weekend, rescues were circulating an email about a puggle at risk at Boulder’s humane society. Trill, a 3-year-old male, bit a child who stuck its fingers through the bars of his cage.

“The bite did break skin, and Trill is now on a 10-day bite quarantine,” the Oct. 28 email read. “Due to this behavior, we are not able to rehome him through our facility. We feel that Trill could successfully transition into a new home through your rescue.”

It was Nov. 5 before the email was passed on to Wolf, who once again stepped forward to be the face of rescues and went the next day to pick him up from Boulder Humane, bought him a leash and collar, and took the squirmy, high-energy dog for a long walk.

Then, she loaded him back into the car and drove him to foster care.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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Great article, except the numbers on the dogs they killed in 2010 are WAY off.  In 2010 Boulder Humane received 1565 dogs from the boulder public and deemed 401 "untreatable and unmanageable" - perhaps a handful went to rescue, but most were euthanized. Check out their kill stats on their own website. http://www.boulderhumane.org/sites/default/files/AnimalStats2010.pdf


Elizabeth Miller, the reporter, just let me know that her number was lower because she subtracted owners bringing in their dogs to be euthanized. That makes sense to me. So her numbers were not incorrect. However, they did tell me when I asked for one more day on Sawyer that "we get our waggin tails transports in on Tuesday and Thursday, and tomorrow is Thursday so WE NEED HIS KENNEL - we cannot extend his deadline". I asked about foster options and they said he had none. They were not extending his deadline, and he was to be euthanized if I didn't get him by noon. I really pushed hard and their answer was crystal clear.


This article is absolutely disgusting and makes me sick. To shine such a horrible, poorly informed light on such an amazing, selfless, non-profit organization is unprofessional, immoral, and downright appalling. Boulder Valley Humane Society is an organization that devotes itself to saving the lives of unwanted animals that have nowhere else to go. They take in thousands of dogs, cats, and other homeless pets every year without question – not one is ever turned away. However, with this comes an obvious consequence – not all of these animals are guaranteed to be adopted. That is just a fact of life. When someone turns in an eight year old pit bull that they themselves raised and didn’t want, they expect BVHS to be able to get this dog adopted. Chances are, that’s not going to happen. And although in an ideal world, we could create some sort of beautiful safe haven where all of these unwanted dogs and cats could roam free and live out a happy life, that’s not reality. Reality is budgets, limited space, behavioral issues, health issues, etc. etc. We’re not living in la-la land, and not every animal – whether deemed unadoptable or not – is lucky enough to spend the rest of his days in the arms of a loving family. Boulder Humane Society tries its best to ensure that is the end result, but sometimes that is not the case. As a result of this, euthanasia has to be an option. If it were not, then these shelters would be overcrowded and understaffed, with the quality of life for the shelter animals decreasing significantly. To take two separate case studies of dogs that had the potential to be euthanized and make such accusations about BVHS as being akin to a high-kill shelter shows your irresponsible journalism and misinformed slander against such an amazing organization. I know individuals who work at BVHS and they are dedicated, devoted employees who put in 110% every single day and would do anything for these animals. I can’t even imagine how heartbreaking it has to be for them to read this article that attempts to invalidate the hard, back-breaking work they do every day – not for a nice salary or nice benefits, but for the sheer love of animals. As others have commented before, this article would have been much more effective and productive for all involved had you highlighted the hard work BVHS has put in to maintaining their 91% release rate, holding free and discounted adoption days, or other various efforts that are made to ensure the safety, well-being, and successful adoption of their animals. But no, you chose to create controversy and stir things up, like a typical reporter. As a result of this, and the fact that Boulder Weekly was willing to print and publish such a slanderous article, I no longer will read this newspaper and will suggest that my plethora of animal-loving, BVHS-supporting friends boycott it as well. Thanks Boulder Weekly, hope you’re happy.


The way I am interpreting the 2010 Asilomar #s for Longmont is that it doesn't include their cats.... which are at about 66%...taking their total # down to 81%. Boulders 2010 #s include their cats for the 91% and without their cats, the dogs are at a 94%. Why aren't we comparing apples to apples, i mean dogs to dogs. where is all the kitty love? Boulder Weekly will be taken out of my stores tomorrow.


Elizabeth Miller is a one in three reporter. She’s biased, angry and misinformed. Boulder Weekly should be ashamed of this ‘story’. At whatever age she is now, she appears to have an obvious vendetta against the Humane Society of Boulder Valley, one of the (if not THE) most highly recognized, credentialed, honest, and yes transparent organizations in the country. And, they save lives. I am amazed that Boulder weekly would allow for such a disgusting betrayal of one of the finest and most honorable institutions in our community. I will never pick up a boulder weekly rag again. I don't know where ms. Miller got her 2010 numbers for longmont humane society, all I could find were the 2009 numbers that show a 26% euthanasia percent when they killed almost 1000 dogs out of the 3400 they processed with 600 unaccounted for....hmmm. Although none of the animals were killed in the article, Ms miller's editor, who should remain nameless and be fired, allowed for a defamation cover calling out those that support Hsbv’s valiant efforts and results. This is not a story, but a blog. The quality of the writing with its lack of segues and obvious lack of fact checking is a true disappointment and gave me a headache... The average national live release rate is closer to 50% and not the high 80s and 90s that Hsbv has proven over the last 5years. Longmont humane warehouses their animals. Look at the #s...2009 they received 3400 and euthanized over 900. It's a good thing they made a change to protocol to raise their numbers to processing fewer animals by 50 % to the 1500 that is mentioned in the article. I cannot trust the information from boulder weekly any more. Take it with a grain of salt believe half of what you read, right? I would love to see some investigative reporting that follows up on the actual rehousing success of ms millers favorite humane society - how many re-homed animals have harmed their new guardians or guests. This pseudo-guerrilla journalism is slanderous and only harms all of the great work that is done to do the best they can in an industry that strives to rehabilitate and re-home the animals we love while saving as many as they can with the help of other like minded companies. Saving more lives is the goal, there will always be casualties, but boulder humane minimizes the lost causes and re-homes more than anyone else in the area. As a nationally recognized and award winning program program for these accomplishments, they will continue to have have my support, and should have yours, too. They invest in the top talent around and have the most credentialed staff to bring you the most humane positive training and adoption services available to the most advanced of our species. I used to work for LHS for a few years a few years ago, and what's past is past, I don't want to sling any more mud than I am, but one thing is for sure, I am beyond support for boulder weekly and vow to boycott the ragazine, too. Great idea Ms. Editor, isolate your readership. Your advertisers will appreciate that. there is such a thing as bad press and you have redefined it. Just because people have a reaction to this, it doesn’t mean that they will renew their ad contracts with you. bad move - emote that. How are you going to redeem yourself? there is little time left do so - and should happen next week. did you even see how Ms miller referred to the child that was bitten by putting “its” fingers through the bars. Who’s working over there, really? http://www.boulderhumane.org/sites/default/files/100K_Winner_Press_Release_12-1-10_FINAL.pdf


A good investigative journalism piece does exactly what this article does. An evaluation of whether the hype, or message, equates with reality. Other shelters with a 50% euthanasia rate are irrelevant to this topic. They are mostly municipal or city shelters, they exist ONLY to clear the streets of stray animals, or prevent the streets from containing stray animals, according to the laws of this country. In many countries dogs and cats roam the streets in huge numbers. Here our laws prevent this. We have devised a system of approx 6000 shelters to house them temorarily to keep them off the streets. High kill shelters do not advertise and collect millions of donor dollars on the premise of caring for, and rehabbing animals. Those organizations that do so deserve and need scrutiny. Deeming dogs unadoptable for minor health and behavior issues is not living up to the mission. In addition if small rescue groups and shelters are capable of saving dogs and cats with even large health and behavior issues, then well funded shelters can do so also.


People do not require a PhD to help doggies. I deal with animals who become homeless, due to their owner being unable to pay the rent or mortgage. I try to find ways that their owners can become re-housed so they can keep their companions. Right now I want to move to CO., before my birthday Dec 3. This, Maine Poverty Advocate wants to live in CS. Seeks help with the cost of the rent of a truck. The Non profit part of the cost is about $550. Send to Hospitality House Inc. PO Box 416 Fairfield ME 04937. Help us fight the astronomical rate of CO poverty. With $500,000 we can effectively spread the word on ending poverty.Our goal is to make known the solution to human lack. In CO., with your help, we can accomplish that. This means less pet owners will become homeless. We move basically for two reasons. One personal to near to the the rockies with a friend, paying just heat, electric, and other personal costs no rent. Second: Near 62 years of age, I want to end poverty for all,NOW. CO. has more foundations than ME.


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Wow, this writer is quite slanted, huh?

"While the Humane Society has a $5 million budget and a facility, rescues often operate out of homes and on spare time and the personal bank accounts of rescue coordinators who are rarely fully repaid by adoption fees or donations."

The Humane Society is open admission. They never turn any animal away. They assist thousands and thousands of animals each year. Rescues turn the vast majority of animals away... have you every tried to get a rescue to take your dog? THEY ALL SAY NO. The difference in number of animals served is huge, and it's irresponsible for Elizabeth Miller to compare the two types of organizations in this way.

The Humane Society of Boulder Valley is amazing at what they do. We tend to forget in this community- they are still an animal shelter, doing the best they can to save as many lives as possible. While healthy, happy, non-biting dogs are dying at other shelters, HSBV takes thousands of those dogs every year. They are far more innovative than most shelters, and their staff truly care about the animals. I can't imagine how hurtful this story is to those working at HSBV, making them seem like villians who don't care about animals. It's just disgusting.

Rescues and shelters are ultimately trying to accomplish the same goal. Let's focus the negative energy on the peope giving dogs as gifts and giving up their animals. Stop creating conflict where it isn't necessary.


Boulder Humane is open admission because they have the contract for Boulder County. Municipalities have to, by law, do something with their animal population. Usually taxpayer dollars pay for the contract. Their agreement with the county requires them to take all animals from Boulder County. The reason rescue groups do not take "owner surrenders" very often is that in any given year millions of people are giving up their pets. With few resources and usually no facility to house them, rescues must save their limited resources for those that will be euthanized in shelters....the most urgent cases. An owners pet that they just want to "find a better home for" is not urgent like a dog or cat about to be euthanized that day. If we used our precious resources and foster homes for every pet that currently had a home, we would not be able to get them out of the shelters. Hardly met an owner yet that offers a rescue the money to care for and rehome their pet. Any group would take an owner rehome if the proper donation was offered I am sure. People dump their pets for free at shelters and taxpayer dollars pick up the tab, or rescues eventually when they get them from the shelters. The rescue network has allowed the euthanasia rate to go down markedly in this country by taking dog and cats about to be euthanized directly from the shelters.


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What a hatchet job and a poor job of reporting in a fair and balanced manner.  Very disappointing.

Boulder Humane releases 91% of the animals they take in, it's documented and verifiable; the article even touches on that.  They also take in EVERY animal brought to them and they regularly take transfers from other agencies throughout the country.

They're an animal welfare organization, they're not breed specific and they don't advertise as a no kill shelter.  Breed specific rescues are filled with 'animal people', not people who are prepared to make the hard decisions that not every animal surrendered or picked up is adoptable.  The fact is, not EVERY animal is adoptable and a 91% live release rate is amazing given the fact they don't turn anybody away and take so many animals from other shelters around the country.

What I found most important and I feel was glossed over is the fact that Boulder Humane actively exhausts all options before considering euthanizing an animal.  They take the animal in, they evaluate, they train if necessary, THEY CONTACT RESCUES, not the other way around, and if every option is exhausted, then they consider euthanization.  Hell, they give away free cats on Fridays!

How about you focus on the good things the shelter does.  The way they responded to the animal welfare needs when there were fires in Boulder County last year?  How about you focus on their humane no-pinch collar training technics?  How about the fact they have one of the most highly acclaimed animal behaviorist in the nation making evaluations for them?  How about you focus on their being awarded the top shelter for live adoptions by the ASPCA in the country last year?

Instead your article focused on the 'sky is falling' stories of a few 'animal people' who are committed to their specific breed.  I've had a couple of dogs from breed rescue and I recognized the breathless innuendo I've experienced first hand the minute I read the quotes in the article.  They believe no animals should be euthanized.  They believe every situation is urgent and requires immediate action before the animal is put down.

The reality is far from that.  While it appears there can be an improvement on the communication front, it's also clear that Boulder Humane actively promotes these rescues as another way to save lives.  It's also clear than communication goes both ways.  Fact is, no animal is going to be euthanized if a rescue says they can take it.

Really disappointed that your article sought to pit people who are doing good work against each other.  The fact is, they all do good work and Boulder Humane in particular has been recognized nationally for that work.






Scott, I spoke with Elizabeth Miller extensively for this article. Her intention is not to bash HSBV, but to present the facts. I think she did a very fair and accurate job. I personally picked up each of the three dogs in her article from HSBV, and none of them were 'untreatable or unmanageable". Trill, the cute but hyper little puggle, is a total sweetie pie who just needs basic training and an outlet for his energy. He is doing great in foster care. Sawyer, I could barely find the hairloss on him, and in no place did he have bloody, raw skin - it was minor hairloss in very limited areas. And Raja, the 12 week old puppy - I renamed Marley immediately... he was high energy, cute as a button and friendly with everyone he met. The first thing we did was take him for long walks and let him wrestle with an older dog for hours. We saw very few behaviors because he was getting his energy out. At Longmont he went straight into a foster home because the shelter environment didn't get out the energy he had, and his lack of exercise manifested in negative behaviors. Marley is now adopted and thriving in his new home. No one is arguing that HSBV isn't a wonderful shelter compared to our horrible shelter system in this country. But I think, as a progressive and enlightened community, that contracts with HSBV as our county shelter, that we have the right and moral duty to investigate the 9% who are killed there. I know for sure that Raja, Sawyer and Trill did not deserve to die - and I am sure that many others who were killed in 2010 could have made excellent companion animals in the right home had they been given longer than 14 days. HSBV kills close to a dog a day. To me that isn't acceptable. Mostly it is hush, hush - behind closed doors while Camp Muddy Paws is teaching children to respect and love animals. That doesn't ring true for me, so I personally want to push HSBV to do a better job, be more transparent, expand their foster program and their communication with rescues - and use their $5 million dollar budget and supportive commmunity to help ALL the animals that come through their doors. Euthanasia should be the absolutely last option, used only after tremendous consideration, utilization of foster homes and rescues has been done, etc. For example, the Rifle Shelter just med-evaced a female Akbash to CSU for surgery when she became ill at their shelter. If Rifle can go to these lengths, so can HSBV. I personally just adopted a cat from HSBV yesterday. It is a really good shelter, but it can be better. Why is progress feared? We are Boulder, where you don't own your dog, you are its guardian. So please, we need to be a model for the rest of the country. If you look at the comparison of asilomar scores on the Maddie's Fund website, numerous other shelters in Colorado do much better than HSBV. So let's all put our energy towards increasing HSBV's live release rate to 97% or better yet 99% -with only extremely aggressive dogs and medically untreatable dogs being euthanized. That is what the animals, taxpayers and donors deserve from HSBV and as a community I know we can achieve this.



So let me make sure I’ve got your facts about HSBV straight….

They have a very high live release rate of 91%, with an average of 55% at other shelters

They use behavior modification training techniques to assist animals with issues

They contact rescues and reclaims before making any euthanasia decision

They transfer in thousands of dogs each year from overcrowded facilities


Look at how most shelters are, and try convincing me again that HSBV is bad. This is ridiculous. You’ve taken all of their positive traits and slanted them. It's irresponsible journalism.



This article is clearly biased and lacks a fundamental understanding of how shelters work. Further, Miller has very little understanding of the implications of what such a biased article can do. Are you really trying to help dogs, or simply create conflict that takes away from this mission? Perhaps if you moved away from self-aggrandizing case studies of one dog and looked at some real trends and made some -gasp- generalizations, you would get the real story. This clear lazy jounalism.