THE STORY OF SEAN AND BOO WOO
It was May of 2005 and Sean had loved and cared for Boo Woo, a German Shepherd Rottweiler mix, for five years. But Sean was now in his mid twenties and about to enter a school and move in with his girlfriend, who'se apartment did not allow pets. He had to start school in September so he had started considering what to do about giving up Boo many months before, as he should, since finding a place for an animal to live is even harder than finding a living place for a human. He started calling around to animal shelters, rescue groups, and veterinarians to see if he could find anyone who would want a 5 year old, 70 lb, perfectly wonderful sensitive sweet dog. No, no, no is all he heard.
Desperate and now beginning to contemplate giving Boo to New York City's Animal Care and Control, where, given Boo's age and size, the sweet dog would probably be euthanized. That's when Sean was referred to the Safety Net Program. We explained to Sean that there was no “quick solution” to separating from one's pet animal. We offered to assist Sean find a new lifetime home for Boo but that Sean would have to cooperate and put in some personal effort as well. What kind of effort Sean asked? Well, since there is always no room available at any shelters he would have to find a way of keeping Boo until we found a lifetime home. "How long would that be?" asked Sean. Naturally, no one can predict the answer to that we told him but we assured him that eventually every animal gets adopted. So it is not a matter of “will a home be found” but rather “how long will it take?” After speaking with the Safety Net coordinator and listening to his options Sean decided that he was not going to be the reason for Boo's death, and if there was a chance that something could eventually work out he would try it. Sean and Safety Net came up with a plan. Sean would keep Boo at his mom's house, but because his mom was unwilling to care for Boo, Sean would go there every morning and every night to walk and water and feed Boo. Safety Net would take pictures of Boo and list him on rescue groups' websites. Sean would make up a flyer and continue to post it all over town, at subway and bus stops, dog runs, laundremats, the Home Depot, Wal Mart, anywhere people converged.
A month or so later Sean was getting disappointed that no one had even called to meet Boo. He called Safety Net and asked if there were any enquiries from the web listings. The answer was no, always no. Two months later, he called again, only to be more disappointed. But Safety Net kept assuring him that this is normal, not to get disappointed and just go on with his life, keeping up the daily routine of going to his mom's to care for Boo twice a day. Three months later finally there was a call or two. One family in Queens wanted to meet Boo. Sean's hopes were up. The family had a private house and 2 young children and Boo is great with kids. Safety Net and Sean took Boo to the prospective family for the introduction and the family loved Boo. How could anyone not love Boo? The answer was yes, so a few days later Boo was re-taken to the family for the adoption. Pictures were taken and everyone was happy, especially Sean.
One week later the family called Safety Net and said that their younger child was acting up since Boo came and that he was acting like a brat with fits of jealousy. They said Boo was a perfect dog but that their child was at fault and they had to give Boo back. Devestated, Sean went to the family's house again and took Boo back to his mom's. Safety Net tried to console Sean and assured him that this was not unusual. After all, some people even betray their pets just because they are having a baby and have their animal killed at the vet or at the pound ? Others get a puppy and after a few months of using it as a toy, come up with phony excuses such as it “grew too big,” or claim “allergies” to justify their usage of the animal as a toy to now be “gotten rid” of because “there is no room.” Sean agreed and patiently went back to his routine of caring for Boo from his mom's house. Two months later a retired couple wanted to meet Boo.
Sean was by now anything but optimistic. To his surprise the couple fell in love with Boo and after having waited five months, within a day or two Boo had a brand new loving family. The couple's grandchildren adored Boo every weekend. And Boo lived happily ever after. Sean still visits Boo a couple of times a year. In retrospect Sean had realized that, considering the fact that he was so close to taking away the only thing Boo had, his life, it was not that big of an inconvenience, as Spike Lee would say, to “do the right thing.”
THE STORIES OF THERESA & CABLE, DALIA & BABY "I'm moving and the new place does not allow pets"; "my child is allergic"; "the dog grew too big"; are some of the two dozen common "reasons" people surrender their pet to AC&C. At AC&C, we not only create happiness by bringing pets and people together, we create happiness by helping pets and people stay together through difficult times. The way we do this is through a program called Safety Net. The goal of Safety Net is to reduce the number of pets surrendered to AC&C by giving people the resources they need to help alleviate the pressure they may feel to surrender their pet. How is this done? Let me give you a couple of examples.
A pet owner feels he must relinquish his pet because he cannot afford to board the animal while he is in transition from one address to another. By referring him to a lowcost boarding facility the pet owner may be willing to board the animal for a few months until the new home is available. Another example involves a landlord who suddenly demands that a tenant get rid of her pet. The owner may not be aware that because she has had the pet for more than 90 days, she has the legal right to keep the pet without fear of retaliation. Free legal representation helps protect the rights of pet owners. Then there is the person who is concerned that the constant sneezing of his child is the result of an allergy to the family pet. What if a free allergy test could medically determine the pet was not the source of the allergy? Often owners bring an animal to AC&C because the pet is sick, and they feel they cannot afford veterinary care. What if there was a special fund to help such a person? Providing an emergency interest free loan that is repayable at a low $10 per month would get the animal the necessary treatment so it can stay with his owner.
This is exactly what happened to Theresa N. Theresa's dog, Cable, had stopped eating, and become lethargic and appeared sick, but Theresa was not working and simply could not afford to go to a veterinarian. So she brought Cable to AC&C. When Theresa learned about Safety Net she agreed to accept a loan that would let her take her pet to a veterinarian. That same day Theresa took Cable to one of AC&C's partnering veterinarians who, for a mere $82, treated an infection that had almost caused Cable's unnecessary surrender. Safety Net also saved AC&C an estimated $175, the cost to intake, care for, and euthanize or adopt an animal. A bad situation was suddenly turned into a winwin situation for everyone! That is how we create happiness! Dalia L. has a dog that she adores, but her dog's tendency to pull toward people while on a leash, combined with Dalia’s bad back, caused her to consider surrendering the dog. After giving Dalia a special $20 dog collar and a little training that gives her effortless control over her dog during walks she decided she could now keep him. Dalia did not have the $20 at the time, but she did repay Safety Net two weeks later.
These are just a handful of the hundreds of people and pets that have been helped by Safety Net. The life-saving, crisis- solving power of this program is amazing. Safety Net Program is another tool that is being integrated into the successful "model" animal control program of the 21st Century. Safety Net is already being replicated in other communities around the country. If you would like to help support Safety Net, please send your tax deductible donation to Safety Net Program, PO Box 656712, Fresh Meadows, NY 11365, 718-544-PETS.