Alaska editorial: Kudos to Fairbanks for ending 'spring husky dump' euthanizations

Posted: Friday, May 18, 2007

This editorial appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

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Thanks to local musher cooperation and extraordinary volunteer efforts, what has been known annually as "the spring husky dump" in Fairbanks hasn't happened this year.

Each spring, apparently until this year, dogs that didn't make the competitive string over the winter caused a backlog as they were benched from the dog lot to make room for newcomers. That led to the euthanizing of dozens each spring as the shelter was forced, in turn, to make room.

After a well-timed public radio report early this season, some mushers called Matt Ruger, manager at Fairbanks North Star Borough Animal Control Shelter, to say they didn't realize the springtime arrivals of sled dogs at the shelter caused such a problem. Word spread through the mushing community, he said.

Communication between mushers, the shelter and volunteers with the Second Chance League, led to a situation where there was essentially no dump this spring, he said.

In the past, the shelter killed as many as five dogs a week. This year, from the first of March through last week, Ruger said five sled dogs total have been put down - and three of those were so ill as not to be "adoptable," he said. New homes have been found for more than 40 sled dogs in that time period.

He still expects to see plenty of sled dogs cycled through the animal shelter in the sled dog mushing capital of the world, but the pace should be more manageable and allow time to succeed with more adoptions. That means the spring "dump" should morph into a spring and summer flow. "They're dropping them off in ones and twos instead of a dozen at a time," Ruger said.

Volunteers with the Second Chance League go to extraordinary lengths, exercising and documenting the dogs' attributes. They help with adoptions by networking locally and sending e-mail descriptions to mushing enthusiasts across the country. There is a good argument to be made against the advent of this situation in the first place, but we have to accept the reality of it. For its part, the mushing community at large seems to be accepting some responsibility and taking steps to ease the problem.

The Second Chance League, especially, is a fantastic example that shows what can be accomplished when dedicated volunteers are allowed to work cooperatively with a government entity to not only stretch public dollars but make them more effective for our community as a whole.

With any luck the trend of this spring will continue and "the spring husky dump" will forever be a thing of the past.

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