Instead of a better prison … |

Instead of a better prison …

Dear Editor:I was just looking at a book called “Downsizing Prisons” about how mass incarceration of humans does not in fact reduce crime. The theme relates to a concern that I have, one that is perhaps blasphemous in the minds of many dedicated local animal lovers. As enormous sums of money are donated, by both city and county local governments, and additional enormous sums are donated by private donors, to create a new, very large Aspen/Pitkin Animal Shelter, I can’t help wondering: Is a bigger, better shelter the best way to help the animals? An animal shelter, no matter how elaborate, is just a prison for the animals, after all. Should we maximize our facilities for imprisoning them, or is there an alternative approach? I for one would like to see funding given to alternative or at least adjunctive solutions. How about free, and possibly mandatory, spay/neuter services, city- and countywide, a policy other enlightened communities are practicing in order to greatly reduce the number of abandoned animals? How about some “starting” money for vetted, qualified adopters of pound animals, to soften the impact of the initial outlay for expenses including vet bills, equipment (leashes, bowls, beds,) food and training classes? How about paying qualified dog trainers to transform shelter animals who have been given up by owners because of “bad” behavior into socially acceptable companions? Many “shelter” dogs have gotten where they are because they were “unmanageable.” Trained dogs are adoptable, and unlikely to be turned back again to the pound once adopted. In addition, publicly funded dog-training classes, available year-round in each community in the valley, would greatly reduce the need for owners to abandon their unruly dogs to the pound in the first place. None of these solutions will produce a visible, physical monument to our concern for our companion animals, such as the new pound would be, but they would greatly reduce the need for incarceration of animals. These animals do not long for an “Aspen Club” type of new pound in which to be imprisoned. They merely long to be released from jail, and to have, instead, a home and loving human companionship. And I can’t help imagining how effective these alternative solutions could be if they were given a try, by diverting to them some of the $3 million-plus being donated for the new pound. Or think: $3 million-plus invested in a fund, using only the proceeds of the investment every year …Katharine ThalbergAspen

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