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East Bay SPCA Home
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Welcome to Shelter Life at the East Bay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

We began as the Oakland SPCA in 1874. Today, the East Bay SPCA includes two animal shelters and three clinics in our community.

This is our day.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Rules are meant to be broken aren't they?

I'm the "rule" queen around here. I think rules, procedures, and policies are critical to ensuring consistent quality of care for our animals, our employees, our clients and our volunteers. Having procedures seems bureaucratic to some, but it also provides a level of professionalism and consistency that eliminates a lot of confusion, frustration and questions. New employees often get overwhelmed by the number of procedures we have and wonder why we have so many. But after a while, they understand that they are all there for a reason to prevent some misunderstanding or problem.

Our dogs are fed at 4pm.
Our poop buckets are kept in the same place each day.
Our cats get towels after spay neuter surgery, but cats in isolation do not.
Our volunteers wear aprons to keep them clean and identify them.
Our employees wear shirts with our logo on them.

You get the point.

But today, I made two pretty big exceptions to rules that I, myself, created.

We got two different emails in our info@ address account. We get about 10-20 per day and two us respond to each one personally within hours, but usually within minutes.

The first one was from someone that adopted a dog from us 14 years ago. Her now 15 year old dog was having a hard time lately. Couldn't move. Losing weight. Not doing well. This person couldn't afford, due to many reasons including divorce, job loss, etc to take him to a vet to get euthanized. She also didn't have a car and had no way to bring him to us. So tomorrow, we'll be going to her house to pick up her poor boy and bring him back to our shelter for a humane euthanasia. We could barely hear her "thank you's" through her sobs.

The second one was from someone that adopted a dog from a rescue. The dog wasn't aggressive, she said, but it was nipping at people. The rescue wouldn't take the dog back and another trainer recommended euthanasia. I listened (ie read) her story and told her that we couldn't place a dog with that history up for adoption either. We could set her up with a trainer if she was interested in working with the dog. She responded that she knew what she had to do, but her family and friends were telling her that she should keep the dog and she wanted someone else to tell her it was "Ok" to put the dog to sleep for safety reasons. We don't offer these kind of evaluations as a service, but I told her to come on in and we'd evaluate the dog. She did and we did and although I'm not sure what she is going to do now, I think she left with a lot more information and knowledge than when she came in.

So, we don't do house calls and we don't offer behavior evaluations like this one, but today we did and two clients and their dogs are the better off for it.

Rules are meant to be broken aren't they?

I sure hope the lady with the nipping dog isn't going to throw his life away. Nipping isn't an aggression issue, it's simply a behavioral/training one. One week with a good trainer and the dog would most likely never have another problem.

I agree with her friends, and disagree with the trainer she mentioned. As a trainer myself, I dislike seeing trainers advise euthanasia so effortlessly.


Two very good exception to the rules. The Humane Shelter business has to be flexiable. We're not dealing with cans of soup...our "inventory" is living, breathing beings, and you have to be able to make exceptions. Good work!


I find words like "nipping" and "aggression", when used by clients, can mean a cornicopia of different things. A client once described his dog who jumped up on people, mouth open, tongue lolling out, tail wagging in big windmill circles, as "aggressive". Another client thought that when her dog growled and snapped at the air as he stood over his toys he was "acting nippy". Neither of these instances match my own definitons for "aggressive" and "nippy". It's very important to get the specific details of each situation before advising any plan of action, be it basic training, behavior modification, or euthanasia. When dog mouths go towards skin or clothes, most clients don't exactly know what they're seeing or how to describe it. It's our job as trainers to figure it out.


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