WARL’s director on Worcester’s proposed pitbull muzzling ordinance

By Allie Simone, Acting Director, Worcester Animal Rescue League

The Worcester Animal Rescue League has received considerable feedback from the public in response to Monday’s T&G article regarding the proposed muzzling ordinance. Clients, volunteers, WARL supporters and county residents are deeply concerned about the negative impact such an ordinance will have. Should this ordinance come to pass, we are certain that many dogs will be abandoned and consequently seized in record numbers.

And, where will they go? There is no official, city-financed “dog pound” in Worcester. The only facility in the city capable of accepting lost or abandoned animals is the Worcester Animal Rescue League. The Worcester Animal Rescue League is a private, non-profit, limited intake animal shelter, accepting pets only when space is available; Adoptable pets are not euthanized because of time or space constraints. This is our firm policy, and we have worked hard to make this a positive reality for the homeless animals of Worcester County. The Worcester Animal Rescue League currently has only 96 kennels for dogs and 41 cages for cats, plus a very limited number of foster home caregivers. On average, the WARL receives over 2,600 homeless animals each year. And, in the current economy, adoption rates have dropped while surrender rates have climbed.

We are very concerned that the City Council has not thought through the ramifications of the passing of this ordinance. Animal control officers were not consulted. County shelter administrators were not conferred with. What will happen to the numerous pit bulls, pit bull crosses and others mistakenly identified as pit bulls, all of which the city finds itself newly in possession of?

The Worcester Animal Rescue League values the long standing relationship it has built with the City of Worcester. However, it is not currently held by a contract to accept impounded dogs found in Worcester. If this ordinance passes, the Worcester Animal Rescue League will no longer accept dogs from Worcester. The dedicated staff and supporters have worked too hard and advanced the organization too far in the quality of care given to its animals to suddenly reverse our no-kill, limited intake policies. This ordinance would be asking us to take a giant step backwards, becoming once again a kill shelter. We wish to be very clear: The Worcester Animal Rescue League will have no part in euthanizing dogs or any other animal due to breed discrimination.

We all know that each animal is an individual. The staff and volunteers at the Worcester Animal Rescue League care for thousands of animals each year (including many wonderful pit bulls, which happily find forever homes throughout the county and beyond) and do not believe in discriminating against a specific breed of animal. What’s more, most animal behaviorists agree that humans are the cause of the vast majority of behavior issues.

Alternatively to the City Council’s proposed plan, the Worcester Animal Rescue League believes establishing a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance for pit bulls would be a much more effective program. We are convinced that a muzzling ordinance in Worcester will ultimately fail. Why? Muzzling does not prohibit breeding; what it does do is make a dog look more intimidating, which only satisfies the social/cultural needs of irresponsible owners who use the dogs as a status symbol.

According to the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association), 75% of dog bites are caused by intact (that is, unneutered) male dogs. It is no wonder than that a proactive bite prevention program begins with a stricter enforcement of spay/neuter practices. This is simply common sense.

The Worcester Animal Rescue League has nearly 100 years of experience in such matters, and it welcomes members of our community and the Worcester City Council to tour the shelter, meet the staff and new director, and visit with all the great pets waiting for a home. Additionally, The Worcester Animal Rescue League hopes to work collaboratively with the City of Worcester in developing practical pet ordinances that serve all residents (both two and four-legged) of our community.

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