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From 12 June 2005 Issue

Pet-Friendly Hurricane Shelters Not Forthcoming
By Michelle Rivera - MichelleRivera1@aol.com

You know that Serenity Prayer? Oh, you know the one, it goes like this: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference." It's known as the "alcoholic's prayer," but many attribute it to St. Francis of Assisi, a monk and philosopher from the early twelve hundreds whom the Catholics often refer to as the Patron Saint of Animals. I bring it up now because it is certainly one of my favorite prayers. I mean, as animal-rights activists, we need to accept certain things and accept that those things may never be changed, at least in our lifetime. We need courage to continue to write those letters, attend those demos and work those phone trees even when we know that our triumphs are few and far between. And last, we need the wisdom to know which battles to fight and which ones to let slide for the time being.

This battles' time is here and now.

After four hurricanes devastated parts of Florida last year, the state is taking a fresh new look at some things we have learned to do differently. Tragically, because some people were forced to evacuate their homes, they had to turn their companion animals in to the county shelter where they were promptly euthanized. These were beloved, family members who had good homes and loving families. Their families were faced with a devastating decision. Forced to leave their homes, they brought their animals in for a certain death to avoid a possible death. Over eighty animals were killed in one day, the day before the hurricane, despite pleas from county animal control officials for folks to keep their animals at home or find another solution.

So now, the director at Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control is begging the county commission to find a solution. Looking to other Florida counties, they decided to follow the lead of many of them and ask the School Board if they can designate at least one school as a pet-friendly shelter. The School Board is being stubborn and unreasonable and refusing to even consider this request. School board member Deborah Robinson is quoted as saying that animals are "nowhere near my priority list." It never fails to intrigue me how people who say they want to help people in times of need won't look a little beyond the box and see that by helping their animals, they are helping people too! The other counties that Palm Beach County have approached for advice and sharing of information all state that the pet-friendly shelters were left CLEANER than were the shelters that did not accept pets. Fewer arguments broke out among shelter-dwellers and the pets were well behaved, confined in crates, and cared for by their families. People were not in such a hurry to return to hurricane-ravaged neighborhoods, risking injury, because they had their animals with them safe and sound.

Why the school board is so adamantly opposed to even discussing the possibility is a mystery, but maybe a few letters from Animal Writes readers would give them the impetus to open their hearts and minds just a little and stop being so adamant about something so important.

While Debra Robinson (whose picture appears with the others on this site) was quoted in the paper, all the members seem to be in sync with this position.

The board accepts e-mail at http://www.palmbeach.k12.fl.us/publicaffairs/board.htm 

Please help us get this shelter for the animals so people don't have to kill their animals again this year.

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