900 and Counting
Just before I joined the SPCA for Monterey County, a wise mentor gave me two pieces of advice. First, he said, “You won’t know exactly what you have for a full two years.” This has been right-on. I’ve been here 17 months, I’m still learning and expect, to some extent, I will always be learning here.
Secondly, he said, “Do something big within your first six months.” I’m happy to say we made two big moves. First, we committed to a spay/neuter program targeting the Salinas community, where we have traditionally seen the most incoming, unwanted animals. By offering weekend surgery slots convenient for pet owners who work during the week and setting our price even lower than our already low rates, we found the magic formula. We’ve altered more than 400 pets from the highest need areas in Salinas since this past April; more important, comparing this year to last year when we had no special program, we’ve seen the numbers of unwanted pets and accidental litters coming from Salinas drop by 25%. These results strongly suggest a causal relationship.
Preventing animals from coming to us in the first place is priority one. Not far behind, is
In September, SPCA Humane Officers rescued Kona, a neglected senior Golden Retriever, from a property in King City. She was emaciated, had signs of having multiple litters, suffering from painful dental disease, and covered in sores, fleas, scabs, and dirt. She also had a large, untreated mammary mass. She didn’t have access to food or water.
Man Kills Cat with Sledgehammer. Raccoon Impaled with Pitchfork. Puppy Burned with Cigarette Lighter. Hawk Suffers Gunshot Wound.
These are the headlines that cross my desk. I gave an interview once holding the 10-pound barbell plate someone tied to a cat’s collar, before tossing the cat into the three-foot deep lagoon fronting the Oracle towers in Redwood Shores; the length of rope was about two-feet long, cut that length, I guessed, to maximize the cat’s struggling and suffering.
People learn about these kinds of stories and ask “How can you do this work?”
There are close to 8,000 humane societies, SPCAs, animal shelters and rescue groups in the United States. I can count on two paws those that handle dogs, cats and other domestics and operate a full-scale wildlife rehabilitation program. Your SPCA…the SPCA for Monterey County is one of them.
Here’s a thumbnail sketch: we care for wildlife in facilities located near the top of our property, far from the adoption center and main parking lot, barking dogs and public foot traffic. We take in 2,500 or so wild animals annually and, at peak times, house up to 130. These include mammals, hawks, owls, eagles, songbirds, and seabirds.
I’d make a lousy prison guard. I spent a few hours with the SPCA’s Ruff Start program which pairs shelter dogs with level-four inmates inside the Salinas Valley State Prison in Soledad. These are tatted, hard-looking men; central casting material for any movie with a prison yard scene. Upon meeting each one and seeing them interact with “their” dogs, I thought to myself, “He’s a really nice guy!”
Fortunately, I run the SPCA, not a prison.
The dogs our Animal Behavior Department selects for the Ruff Start program need intensive, focused work before they can transition into