Friday, March 5, 2010
Sensless Suffering or Innocent Oversight?
Chevy (photos) and Tommy are both young adult GSPs. They were surrendered to a shelter by their families. Chevy for financial reasons, Tommy's family just didn't have time for him. When Chevy entered the shelter, he was a healthy 76 pounds. Tommy weighed 61 pounds. Local and regional rescues were busting at the seams with no open foster homes. So, we found willing fosters in the Mid-Atlantic region, and began making transport arrangements. We had seen photos of the dogs, taken after shelter intake, and had medical records on them. Tommy was able to fly to MD out of the local airport. Chevy was too tall (by one inch), so he did not meet the height regulation.
We were also working on ground transport arrangements for a female named MandyJo, from a different shelter approx 2 hours away. So, we arranged for Chevy to be transported to MandyJo's location, while ironing out transport details for the pair. Chevy arrived at his temporary foster last weekend. We received an SOS e-mail with photos. The temp foster was shocked by his skeletal frame. When we saw the photos, we were all speechless. Shocking just doesn't seem to be strong enough a word to describe the difference in this poor dog.
We immediately arranged for him to be taken to a vet hospital on Monday morning. We were even more dismayed to learn of his actual weight....47 lbs. He went from 76 pounds to 47 pounds in four weeks, while at the shelter. At this point, Tommy was already en route by air to his foster home in MD. We alerted the foster to the fact that Chevy was extremely thin, and we asked for a report from the foster as soon as he arrived. She stated that had she not been warned, and had not seen the photos of Chevy, she would have driven Tommy straight to the ER upon arrival. He was so thin, she was shaken. He has a vet appointment this weekend, so we don't have an actual weight on him, but his foster estimates he's somewhere in the 40's, down from 61 at intake at the shelter.
Monday morning, after learning of Chevy's weight, I immediately contacted the shelter rescue coordinator to report this news. (We hadn't seen Tommy yet, so couldn't report on his condition). She stated that she works from home, and doesn't "meet" the dogs in person, so she was unaware of their condition. She contacted the shelter director, and that day, they began weighing all of the other dogs in residence. Their protocol states that if a dog refuses food, they make attempts to mix in wet food or other things to encourage them to eat. There are no notes indicating that Chevy or Tommy refused food at any time during their stay. However, the shelter's "feeding chart" indicates a 4.5 cup/day feeding for dogs of that weight range. Anyone who knows GSPs (and other muscular, sporting breeds) will tell you that it is NOT ENOUGH food! This is especially true when a dog is stressed and/or pacing in a kennel, burning off calories galore. And, it is likely not the highest quality food to begin with.
So, if these boys were burning twice what they were being given, no wonder they have wasted away to virtually NOTHING during their time at the shelter. We would be remiss in not asking the shelter to consider a different feeding regimen for various breeds of dogs. They have put into place a weighing regimen, so the dogs will be weighed at various intervals during their stay at the shelter, not just at intake. But, that still leaves this GLARING question, "WHY DIDN'T ANYONE NOTICE THESE DOGS WERE WASTING AWAY?" Surely someone noticed while cleaning the kennel, feeding/watering, walking them, etc.? How could so many people interact with these dogs on a DAILY basis, and not report some concern about their declining weight?????
I am perplexed over this entire incident. I am not naming the shelter here, as this is not an attempt to tarnish their reputation. It is simply my hope that this shelter (and perhaps others) will put more stringent guidelines in place to prevent this from happening in the future. So far, they have been proactive in their response to our concerns. But the fact remains that these dogs were in THEIR care, and SOMEONE should have noticed SOMETHING had gone terribly wrong.
The good news is that Chevy (and MandyJo) will be transported this weekend to MD. It will be a long journey, but they will be in capable and caring hands. By Sunday morning, Chevy should be "home" to his foster parents, where he can begin to gain weight, receive tons of love and attention, and be well on his way to his happily ever after. Lord knows he's earned it.