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Friday, February 3, 2017

Let it Be

Bow reads about the animal shelters closing
When I moved to this county, there was no animal shelter. Stray dogs wandered freely in the neighborhood. Every once in a while someone adopted a stray. Every once in a while a pack of stray dogs attacked livestock or somebody's pet, and the leader of said pack was summarily shot. It was a wild west kind of world, as far as dogs were concerned. But by and large, we all managed to live in peace. Our first dog, Teyman, was a stray who found us on October 3, 2001.

Teyman and Sword in 2002

Of course, by the same token, somebody's stray cattle could always turn up on our land unannounced, like this  calf that showed up on November 2, 2002. You just have to expect this, living out here in the country.

You could not always tell, either, which dog wandering on your property was a stray and which was a dog owned by one of the neighbors.  Often, they did not wear a collar, either way. So you needed to exercise common sense when reacting to the presence of a new dog. It would not do to be trigger happy and shoot every stray who showed up. Most of the time, tolerance reigned.

Negev was a stray who adopted us -- but was later killed by a pack of wild dogs
(I modeled the hound in In Case There's a Fox after him.)
When we adopted a stray, there was no middleman. When we enforced justice, there was also no middleman. People paid for their own decisions about what went on on their own property. Sometimes things did not turn out as well as we might like, because there is a price to freedom. We lost Negev, pictured above, to the pack of wild dogs that killed him. After that, we built the fence. Before there was a fence, Teyman and Negev roamed freely. After we built the fence, whatever dogs we had stayed put..

Brownie was a stray who adopted us after Sword's gymnastics class in Houston
(By the time we got him, we had a fence.)

And then in 2006 the animal shelter in our county opened. They solicited donations and were a non-profit organization. They took in strays. They encouraged adoption. They showed pictures of dogs on social media. We got used to the idea that they would always be there. And this past week, they closed their doors for good, half a million dollars in debt. How do you go half a million dollars in debt? Who even has half a million dollars to lend?

TASTC financial struggles
Image source

I mention this, because I am constantly being  badgered  by well-meaning people about how I should send Bow off to live in a sanctuary. Sanctuaries are nonprofits, They have seemingly unlimited resources. They could provide Bow with so much more than I can -- wide open spaces (not!), plenty of mates and the best food an ape could hope to eat. Don't I care about Bow? Don't I want him to have all these things? Why not just send him to a sanctuary and free myself from my twelve hour days, seven days a week, always with Bow in the pens -- unless I can pay a sitter sixteen dollars an hour for every hour I'm away. It's a win-win, right? Better life for Bow, better life for me.

But do you really believe that any sanctuary could afford to replace me? If we forget housing, utilities and food, it would still cost at least $70,000.00 a year to give Bow the full time babysitting that I give him for free. If you take into account the almost fifteen years that I have been sitting for Bow, twelve hours a day, seven days a week -- or paying for someone else to do so -- that would come down to a million dollars. Just for the care of one chimpanzee.

The world cannot afford that! No sanctuary could possibly afford that for every chimpanzee they took in. And some of the people that work for them will require more than sixteen dollars per hour to put their lives at risk to interact with chimpanzees. Even though many of the sanctuaries will prevent any humans from ever going in with their chimpanzee inmates, still the cost in human employment fees will be high. Think about the benefits that each employee will have to be given -- health insurance and retirement benefits, FICA and FUTA -- all things that I did without. Think about the operating costs. And when the economy takes a downturn and there are no more donations and the current administration stops pumping money into "liberal causes", what will happen to all those chimpanzees trapped in sanctuaries? Who will feed them? Where will they go when the nonprofit goes belly up?

Nothing works quite as well as laissez faire. And while all these nonprofits are pretending to be private charities, they really are not. They are operating with impunity, because when they go under, none of the people responsible for the bad decisions ever have to pay for their mistakes personally.

Building a shelter and having people work there is always going to create expenses that eventually will harm the dogs who are meant to be helped.  There is another shelter that is closing in this area, mentioned in the article. It is called Diana's Grove Dog Shelter. They, too, have fallen on bad times. And they are trying to charge people $100.00 a dog for "adoption fees." Do you think that if I had had to pay $100.00 a dog for Teyman, Negev and Brownie, that I would have adopted them? These shelters are not helping stray mutts find owners. They are pricing homeless dogs right out of ever getting adopted. Nobody can afford that for a dog with no papers. If they wanted to pay that kind of price, they would go to a breeder and get a puppy with a pedigree and no history.

The free market and stray dog anarchy work a lot better than these do-gooder charities. If there is a dog that nobody else wants, and somebody chooses to adopt him, the natural purchase price is zero.That's the market price, and that is the going rate. Without the intervention of anyone, dogs place themselves.  Sure, down the road there will be vet fees and food costs, but each person will decide for himself how much to spend on those things. Meanwhile, without the middleman, more dogs can find a home, because more people can afford them.

And what if they don't find a home? Some will hunt for a living and some will beg, and a few will be shot. But isn't that better than spending half a million dollars in public funds on a shelter that has to close in just a little over a decade?



  1. Even though some of these sancutaries are non-profit, I think they do make a profit via selling shirts, stickers, and whatnot. That is fine if they do, but then I see them shame others who might just have an animal, and put them on a calendar. That is kind of odd.

  2. By the way, I have never seen the original picture of Sword and the dog before, but I really think your got the expression of the dog down in the painting.

    1. Thanks, Julia. I always felt my version of him looked a little unfinished. But now I realize I can put it down to my expressive style of painting!