For the Love of Companion Animals
My husband and I have always loved animals. In the late 1990’s we ran a cat rescue and fostered over 200 cats. When our children came along, there was no more time, or extra rooms for fostering. One day after my precious Akita-mix died, I was looking for a new companion at the Buddy Center in Castle Rock. I was shocked when a woman ahead of me brought in a small Yorkie that she said she had just purchased at the pet shop. She was turning it over to the shelter because, in her words, it was irreparably ill. I asked the shelter how often this happened. As it turns out, the shelter had been the regular dumping grounds of severely ill dogs ever since the new pet store had opened in Castle Rock.
I became informed. I met Kim Sill at Last Chance for Animals and I decided to protest the store for National Puppy mill Awareness day. I put out a press release and then assumed that no one would come. I and my husband would stand alone outside the store. We would look like idiots. Twenty people came. Cars honked for us, people stopped to shake out hands. People brought us drinks and tried to give us money for the cause. It was as if the whole town wanted an end to the pet store. When I returned home the calls began coming in. People had located me via the National Puppymill Awareness Day website, they had sick dogs and they wanted something to be done. I sent everyone to the police. The pet store owner was charged with 18 counts of knowingly selling a sick animal. She was out of business within three weeks.
Later my new animal-loving friends and I began tracing some of the dogs back to a puppy mill in a warehouse in Denver. Ironically, there is nothing illegal about having a puppy mill in a warehouse in Denver. By taking turns, going into the front of the warehouse that was set up as a store, my new found friends and I continued to call the health department, the whole place reeked of urine. Eventually we were able to get the puppy mill to close and we rescued 65 dogs. When I showed pictures of the animals to the Denver District Attorney, she asked me why the Department of Agriculture hadn’t closed down the puppy mill. That was a very frustrating question. In continuing to work to close other pet stores and other puppy mills in Colorado, it appeared that the Department of Agriculture often sided with the pet store owners and actively worked to promote the industry. Basically, they were acting in two completely contradictory roles. We, as activists, found that we had to work with local police enforcement to get stores and puppy mills closed.
In recent years, I have become more interested in the plight of animals used for dissection. This happened when my Italian exchange student was treated rudely by a teacher when she refused to dissect a cat. My girl scout troop and I worked together to gather information for leading professionals in gross anatomy, veterinary science, and the head of the National Science Teachers Association of America, all of whom felt that the dissection of cats in high schools was not only unnecessary, they felt it wasn’t really modern science. The president of the NSTAA told me that she had been trying for years to move biology teachers beyond dissection in favor of meaningful laboratory experiments that aren’t about such rote memorization. Colorado State University offered to reach out to the Douglas County high school involved and help them revolutionize their teaching methods in Human Anatomy courses. Douglas County replied with a resounding no.
Apparently there is much schizophrenia at the higher levels of administration at Douglas County, as I was told by one board member, “we allow them to dissect the cats so that they can get into veterinary school” but when speaking with members of the CSU and University of Wyoming veterinary professors they told me, “it’s a waste of a cat’s life.” If board members and teachers really want students to get into these universities, they might want to bring their teaching methods up to modern standards and ask the veterinary schools and human anatomy schools what they would like high school students to be doing to prepare for college level classes. When I asked this question several professors responded, “We would like them to be able to do math and write well. We would also like them to be able to reason.” Not one of the science professors said, “we would like to have dissected something.”
In regard to dissecting cats the leading gross anatomy professor for the state of Colorado summed it up well, writing, “I would rather throw away my research of 30 years, than dissect a cat.”
All of this fell on deaf ears at Douglas County, who, to this day, still dissects cats in the name of science.