Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A tragedy for the Richmond SPCA

I received an email today from the SPCA in Richmond, VA - my hometown. I have always supported the RSPCA because they do wonderful work. Robin Starr was able to revitalize the animal rights groups in Richmond and create a new space for the SPCA, a no-kill shelter, a place where pets are adopted out, receive medical treatment and pet parents are educated.

This year United Animal Nations, a national animal advocacy group started a campaign to inform the public about the dangers of keeping a dog in a car even for a few moments in the warm months (or even in spring or fall). A car is a death trap to a pet, even with the windows cracked. Try it yourself on a 70 degree day. See how long you last as the greenhouse effect starts and the car rises to 100 degrees in just a few minutes. Crack the window and see if it makes a difference. It doesn't.

From the UAN press release:

A Stanford University test found that when it is 72 degrees outside, a car’s internal temperature can rocket to 116 degrees within an hour, even with windows cracked. When it is 85 degrees outside, the temperature inside a car can soar to 102 degrees in 10 minutes and 120 degrees in 30 minutes. A dog can only withstand a high body temperature for a short time before suffering nerve damage, heart problems, liver damage, brain damage or even death.

So when Robin Starr and her husband miscommunicated last week and accidentally left their 16 year old dog in the back of Robin's car for 4 hours, his fate was unfortunately written in stone. He died later that night of kidney failure even after the Starr family tried every possible medical option at a local emergency vet in Carytown.

I know that clinic. They have great facilities and they care about their patients. I know the SPCA in Richmond, they do fantastic work for animals in and around the community. Their facilities are excellent and everyone there, Robin included, work for the betterment of the lives of our companion animals.

So the fact that the CEO of the Richmond SPCA accidentally killed her dog is an even greater tragedy than if it happened to J.Q. Public. It's a greater tragedy because she should have known better and I have no doubt that she cared greatly about Louie.

If it were me I would step down. Not because the critics call for it but because I failed. It's difficult enough to protect animals that are not our own but it is our obligation to protect those under our care. There are other avenues that Robin Starr can take to help the animals in Richmond. She doesn't need the title of CEO to make a real difference. All she had to do was check the back of her car every morning to make a difference to Louie.

I don't say this to be hurtful but if we can't protect those who are closest to us, how are we to protect the rest?


  1. You can't 'copy out of' or 'paste into' the comment box here. That's really annoying. I typed up a comment, it failed to post. So I thought, "Maybe it's too long. I'll post it in chunks."

    Then I discovered I couldn't copy anything I had written. I re-typed it in gmail.

    Then I tried to paste a piece into the comment box to post it....but I can't paste! Since I have no idea how long my comment is allowed to be, I have no idea how much I can fit. Without being able to paste, this is a hard thing to do. So, I might just email my comment to you. heh.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. *edited to change 'commentator' to 'commenter'. I couldn't let it go. thwpptt.*

    Now the paste works. Let's try this again.

    I've been thinking about this for the past few days; I even went to some news sites to read their write-ups and view the comments.

    It's interesting to see those comments. There are people who are pointing out that Robin was a strong opponent of Michael Vick and comparing this event to his transgressions. I expected these, but I was hoping they would be from a more intelligent angle; unfortunately, they were mostly written by ignorant idiots. Although she and her hubby did place Louie in danger and left him there, they didn't do it willingly, knowingly, and gainfully (and with open disregard for his health). There is, however, a touch of irony there and there are some things to point out. It just wasn't done well.

    After that, there are two other main types of commenter. Type A say that this was a terrible accident that could have happened to anyone. They feel it is out of line to point fingers at Robin or her husband for something that is, to them, just a matter of missed communication and unfortunate circumstance. Type B commenter are of the opinion that this tragic event could have, and should have, been avoided.

    Here's where my surprise was. All of the type B comments seemed to be from pet owners.

    I thought that all of the blameless sympathy would come from those with pets; those who are usually viewed and soft-hearted and loving of all others in their pet-owning club. In reality, they are the hardest critics.

    In thinking it over, of course it makes sense. You (as a type B) know what it's like to have pets and care for them. You know the changes that need to be made in daily life and how they should become habit. You know that everything is supposed to be checked and double checked. You know how accidents can be avoided by taking the responsibility for the well-being of your pet.

    I can't prove that the type A comments were mostly from those who are pet-less, but it would make sense. We understand the responsibility in cases with a human child but we forget that the responsibility is just as large with an animal.

    I love your insight. I'm pretty surer my first reaction would have been a type A reaction, but after reading your insightful take on the story (well worded, thank goodness), I see that you're absolutely right. This type of accident shouldn't happen. It was not purposeful, but there *is* blame and the responsibility should be shouldered by those who failed in their responsibilities.