I have read the 66-page court filing for SouthBARKâ€™s litigation against Mobile County Commissioners which asks for in part "a preliminary injunction enjoining defendants from euthanizing any non-sick, non-injured, non-dangerous animals housed in its facility,â€ť compensatory damages in the amount of $500,000 or more, unspecified punitive damages and payment of their attorneyâ€™s fees.
Those of us in animal rescue are a passionate group with a first priority which should always be to make things better for the unfortunate dogs and cats who have found themselves without homes through no fault of their own. As a former supporter of SouthBARK, I am sad to say that I believe their lawsuit defeats that mission and will in fact be detrimental to not only Mobile County Animal Shelter but the animals they are trying to help.
Because SouthBARK has been so extremely vocal, while at the same time Mobile County Animal Shelter has been relatively close-mouthed, Iâ€™m afraid that the general public has a skewed impression of what happened between the two. With limited space and no desire to antagonize any of my fellow rescuers I will refrain from editorializing about MCASâ€™s eventual decision to terminate their relationship with SouthBARK and instead focus on the lawsuit and the good that I believe Mobile County is doing for our homeless animal population.
I am a 13-year volunteer with the Mobile SPCA and an active volunteer with two other rescue groups. Two of the rescues with which I volunteer are part of the fairly extensive group of Placement Partners who work with Mobile County Animal Shelter with one goal â€” to home as many adoptable animals as possible. During the period of time when tensions were high between MCAS and SouthBARK, these placement partners continued to do the job that they were asked to do â€” work for the animals.
I doubt that there have never been issues or disagreements between the placement partners and MCAS. But I do question why all the other groups outwardly appeared to have a smooth, respectful working relationship while SouthBARKâ€™s relationship continued to deteriorate. If an organization can work successfully with other groups but not with one group, where does the blame likely lie?
After MCAS decided that SouthBARKâ€™s behavior with their staff and critical posts on Facebook would no longer be tolerated and that their relationship should be terminated, SouthBARK reached out to other local shelters instead. But what we saw was that other shelters were not willing to work with them. I suspect that local shelters, aware of the public animosity that SouthBARK had heaped upon MCAS were loathe to subject themselves to that same hostility, forcing SouthBARK to throw their rescue nets outside Mobile to find shelters to work with.
And so we see a rescue group that is neither wanted as a partner by any local shelter nor able to work harmoniously within a shelter that successfully partners with other rescue groups. So who then is likely to blame? The shelter ... or the rescue group?
No one would like to see MCAS become no-kill more than me. I do believe they can do better, as all shelters can, and they are working toward that goal. Unfortunately I donâ€™t think most people recognize their recent efforts. For example, just last week, because they had well over 200 pets that needed to be adopted, MCAS extended their hours to allow people to come visit after work and hopefully take home a dog or cat. Almost daily â€” and sometimes several times a day â€” emails are sent to MCASâ€™s Placement Partners of the most-critical animals in the hope that one or more of them can be pulled to safety. MCAS implemented their mandatory spay/neuter program whereby all adopted animals are spayed or neutered before going home with adopters thereby cutting down the number of intakes and reducing euthanasia. Photos are taken to help facilitate adoptions. They have not only off-site adoptions but special events at the shelter to showcase their adoptable animals. A veterinarian makes rounds daily. MCAS is participating in the ASPCA/Rachel Ray Shelter Challenge and even if they donâ€™t win it will help save more lives in the next few months and the months to come. MCAS was selected by the University of Floridaâ€™s Maddieâ€™s Fund for an on-site evaluation which should start in July with a visit to the shelter in October and will result in ways to improve the shelter. And there are even more great things to come on the horizon that have not yet been announced.
SouthBARKâ€™s lawsuit seeks elimination of the euthanization of healthy adoptable animals at MCAS. In my opinion, this is nothing more than a happy fantasy considering the fact that MCAS is an open-door animal control facility with a staggering number of animals coming in each day because of one reason and one reason only: irresponsible pet owners and breeders in Mobile. I think I can safely say that even if every single rescue group in our area agreed to do everything they could to pull and foster MCAS dogs and cats, mathematically it simply cannot happen until the people of Mobile change. For those who insist on placing blame for the shameful treatment of our companion animals, just look in the mirror. Donâ€™t point your finger at an animal shelter that tries to do their best at a job that most people would not have for any amount of money.
And for anyone who is not upset about the plight of animals, there is reason enough to be unhappy with this lawsuit because of the money, time and effort that will require Mobile County Animal Shelter to divert the focus from their primary mission (which is of course to help homeless pets) toward a financial and time-consuming defense against SouthBARK.
When I was a SouthBARK supporter, I purchased one of their T-shirts. On the front it said "Stay Calm and Rescue On.â€ť Definitely sound advice. I wish SouthBARK would remember why they began doing what they do, regain their focus of saving animals in our area, and give up the idea of seeking retaliation money from those who they feel have wronged them.