- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 31, 2001

I was shocked to read your March 21 front-page article attacking the Washington Humane Society, "Pets get short leash but rats get a life." The Washington Humane Society, which was chartered by Congress in 1870,is in grave need of more assistance from Washington residents and, in particular, the press.

When my husband, Roger, and I moved to Washington from New York some 40 years ago, Roger continued his efforts to raise funds for the National Cultural Center,which was designated the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Artsafter President Kennedy´s assassination.

At that time, a hostile man wearing a pearl-handled revolver on his hip was in charge at the dog pound. Conditions for the animals were primitive. I was invited to join the board of the Washington Humane Society, having served on the board of the Humane Society of Ann Arbor, Mich., which had constructed a fine new shelter, largely financed by a wealthy industrialist who wanted to see homeless animals treated humanely. At the time, no such individuals were assisting the Washington Humane Society, and the board members took a second-floor walk-up office on Wisconsin Avenue, doing the much-needed renovations ourselves. It took considerable effort, but the board finally was able to persuade the three commissioners who ran the District of Columbia (until Walter Washington was appointed mayor-commissioner in 1967)to transfer the duties of operating the pound to the Washington Humane Society. Under its able administration, the care and handling of the dogs greatly improved.

The Washington Humane Society´s anti-cruelty work, about which virtually nothing is said in your article, is its chief concern. The society has been able to ameliorate though not, by any means, bring to an end much neglect and abandonment of animals in the area. Every thinking person in the District should recognize the importance of encouraging and supporting the society´s work, both morally and financially.

Following the article´s ill-conceived criticisms of the society are a series of largely irrelevant paragraphs promoting Maddie´s Fund, a foundation dedicated to encouraging "no-kill" shelters. Regrettably, such "no-kill" establishments too often simply shift the killing to some other entity that may or may not euthanize humanely. The euthanasia performed by the Washington Humane Society is, indeed, humane. In addition, the percentage of animals euthanized, as quoted in your article, is not excessive for a large city, especially one in which it is common to find a dog chained in the back yard in the pouring rain, with no shelter.

The efforts of the Washington Humane Society must continue. The one-sided, negative portrayal of the society in your March 21 article, which has been repeated in a second article, threatens public support for the society´s good work. Activities such as the society´s low-cost spay and neuter program, carried out in cooperation with animal owners, are essential to a stable, well-treated pet population.

I trust that you are aware that the modest sum provided under contract by the District of Columbia has to be supplemented heavily by the Washington Humane Society´s charitable funds each year so the society can carry out this sad and difficult work with the compassion and efficiency for which the organization is widely known.


MRS. ROGER STEVENS

President

Animal Welfare Institute

Washington


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