According to Reuters, Pennsylvania's capital city Harrisburg is reconsidering their policy of having police officers shoot stray dogs.
As you probably already know, Harrisburg lacks the money to pay an animal shelter to take in strays, so its police department issued a memo last month giving officers the option of shooting dangerous dogs and roppping their carcasses at a state Department of Agriculture loading dock.
A December 5, 2011 police memo directed Harrisburg police officers to either offer the dogs for adoption to the person who called to report a stray, adopt the animals themselves, take them to an area where it would be safe to release them, or kill them. In spite of the fact that Pennsylvania state law requires stray dogs to be kept for 48 hours before any decision is made to euthanize them.
Though police have yet to take that extreme measure, controversy generated by dog lovers has led to the city re-thinking their policy.
Like many cities in our country, Harrisburg is in big financial trouble. The city attempted to declare bankruptcy, but that effort was struck down by a federal court last month. What made their situation big national news: their stray dog policy.
Dog lovers are outraged. And, in my opinion, rightly so. However, it does make me wonder about the stray dog policies and practices (they are not always the same thing) of the thousands of government entities in our country. I wonder about the laws on the books and I wonder about cruelty that will become, if it hasn't already, institutionalized.
For example, in the very rural county I currently live in, stray dogs have been shot by law enforcement. In fact, stray dogs have been tied to fences and then shot. Execution style.
The local humane society and animal shelter does receive some assistance from the city, however have never been successful at obtaining any from the county. In fact, some county commissioners have questioned the shelter's euthanasia procedures, suggesting a bullet would be more cost effective.
Of course, their official reason for not funding the animal shelter is lack of funds. Shrinking income and rising costs are cited. That must be why they are currently spending tens of thousands of dollars installing a new ground source heating system in a relatively new county government complex.
Animal welfare is not a priority where I live. Mohandas Gandhi said: The measure of a society can be how well its people treat its animals. If my home county were measured on such a scale, it would score about a 1.
With the very real affects of the economic downturn, it's not going to get better anytime soon.