Hounded by the Pound
Editor's note: Wendy Grossman's November 7 feature "In the Doghouse" generated far more reader responses than the Press has room to print. Excerpts from some of the letters are below.
Horrified: I am disgusted, disturbed and sickened. Thank you for drawing attention to the cruelty that goes on. I wish there were something we could do to stop this.
I am horrified beyond belief.
Accountability: To say that it was a disturbing article is an understatement. What really needs to be addressed is this: What can I do as a concerned human being to correct the injustice being done?
This is inexcusable, and the city must be held accountable for allowing these people to remain employed.
Eating away at him: While I could not help but be touched by the article, I would like to propose a still more humane approach to the problem of strays. Someone said we could eliminate world hunger by merely distributing the food that we now give to our pets. For this reason, I feel it would be wiser for Houstonians to mail their pet food to poor families abroad as a token of their sympathy.
Because the pets would then have no food, they should be sent to the city pound, where the cats could be fed to the dogs and the dogs exported to Asia as food for the starving. Exempt, of course, would be animals that work for a living such as farm, police and guide dogs.
Some will argue that it is more humane to feed the animals, but this attitude is more properly described as "animalistic" than "humane."
John D. Griffith, M.D.
County's pride: How about coming out to Harris County Rabies/Animal Control for the flip side (www.countypets.com)? Since the public always confuses the two organizations, we get griped at whenever the city gets bad press. Come see what we've been up to -- maybe the Runt Rescue Team, our Mobile Adoption Program or the two-for-one cat adoption sale.
Higher authorities: I have contacted our state representatives and sent a letter to President Bush to put a stop to this kind of cruelty. I am also sending a link to the ASPCA. I have decided to start some type of petition to have better, more qualified caretakers for these animals. Even though things have gotten better, until it is significantly better, I will not stop writing.
Thanks. If I hadn't read your article, I never would have known.
Disgraceful: This is a disgrace to the city of Houston. This city is big enough to be able to take care of all its abandoned and unwanted animals. How these people at the animal shelter can go to sleep at night is beyond me. May God have mercy on their souls, if they have them!
Not the facility: Do they really think that a new facility is going to improve the way those animals are being treated? It isn't the facility, it's the employees who run it! I think they need a lesson in what is humane and what isn't.
Animals cannot control the situations they're in, but we can. The way that those animals die is wrong, and I'm glad this has been brought to the public's attention.
Good shelters: Your story is a heart-wrenching tale, but not all animal shelters operate in this manner. At the Bay Area SPCA (www.BayAreaSPCA.org), we do not have a lot of funds, but in contrast to the Houston shelter, we operate a heart-warming facility. I worry that your article may cause people to look unfavorably on animal shelters even though there are many good ones.
Cathy L. Tway
Enlightening: Great story! It's a sad story. I work with a rescue group, and we take dogs out of BARC when we can. I'm glad you had the courage to write the story. So many people don't know or don't want to know what happens to these animals.
I rescue huskies, but as your story points out, we can't help them all. I wish we could.
More to do: With your portrayal at the ending of the story describing the dogs' last minutes before they are put to death, I could actually see it happening. It seems that some things are getting better, but there is still so much more that the city has to do to improve conditions for the animals, from the staff to the methods they use.
Bad example: What an outstanding article. I could feel my blood pressure rising while reading it. It's just another example of how badly this city is run. I love animals more than people, and I wonder what it's going to take to make this situation better.
A second chance: I am sitting here in tears, appalled after finishing your article. I hope your story will help raise public awareness of the importance of pet ownership responsibilities and accountability -- and perhaps to help loosen the purse strings of those who can financially assist the city pound. It doesn't have to be a slaughterhouse; it can be a place to help educate people and give healthy, unwanted animals a second chance.
Tribute to Oliver
Spellman's efforts: Oliver Spellman is a great leader and a remarkable person [The Insider, by Tim Fleck, November 7]. He provides opportunities for employees and encourages training to serve the citizens of Houston more efficiently. Oliver gives 100-plus percent every day and expects his team to do the same.
Oliver Spellman Jr. will be remembered not as the man who failed a random drug test but as the reliable, thoughtful, hardworking man he really is.
Wrapping It Up
Flooded again: Great story ["The Long Goodbye," by Richard Connelly, October 24]. I read part of the article, but I didn't get to finish it. I had to use the paper to wrap my dishes. We flooded, for the third time in four years, on October 28.
Here's what my neighbors and I are going through as we prayerfully await news of our buyout applications: strokes, broken marriages, kids with separation anxiety disorders, a boatload of stress-related illnesses, misplaced paperwork from the constant packing and unpacking, trying to live among boxes and stacked furniture and nasty odors, and physical injuries.
Once upon a time, we were a nice, normal neighborhood. Maybe just like yours. Now we really don't know how much more we can take. People shouldn't complain about dull, boring lives. My neighbors and I would just about kill for that routine.
The holidays are going to be far different for the kids this year. Some of them can't even stay with their parents. For their safety, they've been farmed out to friends and relatives during our third reconstruction.
Please don't forget about us.
Dark side: Wow, I really admire the way the author expressed himself. I completely agree with all his opinions, and I myself see that there is a dark side to this tragedy, a dark side that no one might know about. May God bless you and your loved ones.
Help the kids: My students and I just completed an honors English I unit on prejudice and discrimination, in which we discussed the fact that there are many types of prejudice in this world, and even in the United States today. The students are eager to learn firsthand from people about types of discrimination that exist and that people have faced courageously.
We hope these responses and letters will be turned into a book to be used to teach others about prejudice. In order for this to happen before the students leave my class, I ask that we receive responses before January 30.
Ferial Pearson, English teacher
Omaha South High School
4519 South 24th Street
Omaha, Nebraska 68107
Student plea: I am a ninth-grader at Omaha South High School, and we're studying prejudice of all kinds in our honors English class. We're asking the public to send us personal stories of prejudice. We're asking this to try to understand all forms of prejudice, so please take time to respond. We're going to make this into a book.
Please respond by January 30 to South Omaha High School, 4519 South 24th Street, Omaha NE 68107. Thank you for your cooperation.
Setting It Straight
Been there, done that: Any number of Houstonians can tell you that fine art on billboards was first done in this town more than 30 years ago ["Art of the Deal," by Brandon Cullum, October 24]. In 1971, the advertising agency where I worked created "The Larger Canvas" for an enlightened client. We commissioned paintings by six Houston artists, and these were displayed on freeways with no sponsor mention whatsoever. (A favorite was M. Duchamp Lives by Jack Boynton.)
The program won a national Business in the Arts award in 1971. Research proved the public's recall of "Canvas" was so positive that we brought it back eight years later, this time featuring artists from Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Dallas. "The Larger Canvas" was inducted into the Houston Advertising Federation's Hall of Fame in 1996.
But congratulations to the Watershed Art Collective for keeping the concept alive.
Praise from the project: Thanks for writing such a nice article about WPAP. I didn't know about the New York billboard project. I will check it out.
Houston rising: As a native Houstonian, Rice University graduate and the older, much older, writer-producer brother of Catherine Burnside, Catherine the Great, I was amused by your column on my sister [The Nightfly, by Craig D. Lindsey, October 17]. It is surprising that after so many years of being the most unhip city in the South, Houston is rising from the ashes.
Catherine, by the way, like many Texans, needs the right vehicle and access to the global powers that be. She also is into metaphysics and is capable of great change. The violin is no doubt just a beginning. She has more to offer and really isn't the bitch you portray -- it's more bluff. But she is determined to change a boring, dated status quo. Who wouldn't be, after the likes of Kenny Boy, Jeff Skilling and W. coming out of Texas? We need to laugh and dance a bit at all the craziness.
New York City
Poor-ing It On
Music for the masses: Houston's problem (as of late): Preppy white boys want suburban country bands to be the voice of Houston, but bands from privileged or even middle-class backgrounds rarely work as voices for a movement.
The dirt-poor make (or write) better music (I will not go into why this is). Look at New Orleans, the punk bands from L.A. (early '80s), New York punk, East St. Louis, Memphis, the list goes on -- even Manchester, for chrissakes.
The lower class defined the music scene. They called it Delta Blues because they were dirt-fucking-poor, not because their Lexus was in the shop. Now what sells is Orlando suburbia heartache, North Dallas strip-mall love torture.
A hundred dollars says the next "scene" will come from Denver or Des Moines or Phoenix or some other culturally bankrupt city.
Houston, fortunately, cannot compete with this.
TMAC stuff: Representative Mike Thompson of Orem, Utah, is proud of himself for his part in getting holding therapy banned in Utah. Thompson used Wendy Grossman's article ["Holding On," September 19] to assist him in getting his bill passed. What a sad day in Utah for people who might benefit from an ethical practitioner of holding therapy.
Grossman's article only states that the Texas legislature's Treatment Methods Advisory Committee (TMAC) did not endorse or recommend rage-reduction therapy, a type of holding therapy. Such selective editing misleadingly implies that TMAC recommended banning holding therapy.
A more complete presentation of the 1994 TMAC position statement reads:
"TMAC does not endorse or recommend these [rage-reduction] therapies; neither does it recommend that these therapies be banned...TMAC believes that aversive interventions during the practice of these therapies should be distinguished from verbal or physical abuse. The TMAC recommends that when aversive techniques are employed in these therapies, these methods must be clinically monitored, practiced within professionally accepted guidelines, and with clear informed consent. TMAC strongly recommends that professional associations develop training and certification guidelines for the practice of these therapies. TMAC recognizes the need for further study of outcomes."
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The intent was to keep judgments about treatment methodologies out of the legislative process -- where laypeople predominate, and who usually are not competent to make such judgments -- and instead to empower licensing boards and professional associations to police their memberships appropriately.
That harm can befall children and adults in poorly applied therapy was never a question. The question was, who should do what about that harm when it occurs? Legislating bans on therapies will not prevent people from being harmed by therapies, at least not until all therapies are banned out of existence. The TMAC members concluded that such issues are better dealt with in professional regulatory bodies rather than in legislatures.
Any parents who seek information about holding therapy would do well to initiate their inquiries through the Association for Treatment and Training in the Attachment of Children. Undoubtedly many readers of the Houston Press were dissuaded from seeking further information about holding therapy after reading Grossman's article. Many who otherwise might have looked into the value of holding therapy may yet benefit from those ethical practitioners who really are helping children with this exceptionally difficult disorder.
Mark J. Wernick, TMAC member, 1994-95