I received this letter yesterday from no kill advocate Brie Kavanaugh in Alabama regarding a Kuranda bed drive offered to Huntsville Animal Services. I edited the letter for space and clarity:
The shelter dogs are on concrete floors with some towels and blankets. The public is asked to help with laundry, leading to what must be incredibly high utility bills. The shelter has a 2 million dollar annual budget with a line item for “food and care of animals” which is less than 3 percent of the overall budget. The shelter was recently offered donated dog beds by my no kill advocacy group through the Kuranda Shelter Bed Program. This is a public service program sponsored by Kuranda to help private citizens and welfare groups facilitate donations of beds to shelters at a reduced cost. A web page is set up on the Kuranda site and people are directed to that page to buy a bed which is then shipped directly to the shelter. The beds in the program are considered the gold standard for shelters nationally.
In our case, the shelter need do nothing at all for the drive other than to assemble donated beds once they arrive, perhaps hosting a “slumber party” event to bring people to the shelter to help put beds together. Media was told about our plans in hopes of getting some positive news coverage. A local business leader said that not only will she buy some beds, she’ll go to the shelter to help assemble them. A flyer was readied, the public was primed on social media and we waited for the “okay” to launch the drive.
Common sense would dictate that upon being offered free beds, to be purchased by private citizens, the shelter director would enthusiastically say, “Yes! Please.” She did not. She first said she wanted plastic beds made by a company in Italy. She then said she wanted mesh beds because “the dogs like them better.” Never mind that a mesh bed is incredibly difficult to clean, will quickly be destroyed by dogs in a shelter environment and simply will not last. Because in the end, it is apparently more important to be in control and act like you care about the dogs than it is to be gracious about support from the community you serve and get the dogs up off of the floor.
The representative at Kuranda told me she had seen this type of resistance only once from a shelter in Arizona and even that shelter was honest enough to simply say, “The dogs don’t need beds.” Kuranda went above and beyond here, spending hours on phone calls and in email messages, ultimately unable to persuade the shelter to simply accept donated and durable beds.
Shame on Dr. Karen Hill Sheppard, the shelter director. Shame on Karen Buchan, the Animal Care Supervisor. Shame on city officials in Huntsville, Alabama, who have been alerted to this situation and have done nothing to intervene, while applauding the shelter director for doing such a wonderful job with taxpayer dollars.
Who refuses free, donated dog beds which are considered the gold standard for animal shelters? People who just don’t give a damn.
We have since turned our attention to another shelter which, when the offer of free beds was made said, “Yes! Please!”
While it’s sad to know that the Huntsville shelter dogs are still needlessly languishing on concrete, Brie says that the group’s drive to benefit The Ark has been very successful – meeting its goal to get a bed for every dog kennel in the first week. Any additional donated beds will now be used in the shelter’s outside dog areas. Awesome.