“Dogland: A Journey to the Heart of America’s Dog Problem” by Jacki Skole, the term “Man’s Best Friend” takes on a whole new meaning. Skole uses her journalism background and her love of animals to shed light on a topic that hits home for just about anyone who has ever brought a dog into their lives. It is during her search to find out the history of her recent four legged family addition, her dog Galen, that Skole begins to uncover something unfortunate: the truth that many dogs face once they arrive at a shelter and the urgent need for change in the animal shelter system.
Skole conducted countless interviews with shelter directors, workers, veterinarians, and even rescue groups who all have the same goal, to help reduce the overcrowding situation of shelters across the country. She purposely spoke to those directly related to the very places classified as “high-kill” shelters, like Reggie Horton. Horton has been the administrator of the Gaston County shelter in North Carolina for almost twenty years and has had to deal with the “high-kill” label put upon his facility by the public. It is because of such labels that she is first met with some apprehension. She tells us that she is not at all surprised by their initial reaction; many times local shelters are scrutinized by the public for what is believed to be inhumane treatment of the animals while at these facilities. But it was during Skole’s interview with Horton, that she learned that the shelters euthanasia rate went from an astronomical 90 percent in the early 2000’s to dipping just below 50 percent in 2011. This was the first time in the shelter’s history, and it is due in part to rescue groups located outside the state stepping in to help.
Skole also spoke with many people who support the spay and neuter cause, and thus is able to report firsthand the way that animals are looked upon as property and not as family members, especially in the Southern parts of the country. She states that this way of thinking is undoubtedly a contributing factor to the lack of spayed and neutered dogs in these areas, a problem that directly feeds the overpopulation of animals in shelters.
This book is well researched, quoting many facts and figures that help support her belief for change, such as the development of the very first modern animal shelter in the U.S., which opened in Philadelphia in 1869. The founders Caroline White and Henry Bergh saw the need for a more humane way to deal with animal overcrowding and helped to create what was then considered a safer haven for animals. Or to the fact that an animals temperament changes the longer they are at the shelter, this in turn makes it much harder for them to become adopted. She also states that a study commissioned by Gaston County in 2002 found that the shelter overpopulation was indeed being driven by the accidental liters from the mating of “backyard dogs,” also known as “oops liters.” It is because of her journalism background that Skole was able to conduct these eye opening and honest interviews. It is not just her interviews, but also her use of shelter statistics, that help us have a better understanding of the countless number of people who are dedicating their lives to bringing an end to the overcrowding and senseless euthanizing of not only dogs, but animals in general.
Dogland will inspire its readers to want to bring about change in the shelter system, demand only no-kill facilities and present ideas to address the lack of spay & neuter clinics. As an animal lover I too was inspired by the drive and persistence she showed during her quest for the truth. Dogland is a truly compelling book that will have you driving to the nearest shelter to offer a hand or a paw in anyway you can.