From WAMU 88.5 and American University in Washington, it's "The Animal House," connecting you with everything that concerns the animal world. I'm Sam Litzinger. Later, a conversation with Ingrid Newkirk, president and co-founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and Dr. Gary Weitzman is here with answers to questions about pets and wildlife.
First, California's most canine friendly city is the scene of a new approach to fostering shelter dogs that is both groundbreaking and, to some, controversial, drawing praise from animal lovers and some criticism from a major animal rights organization. San Francisco's Animal Care and Control is one of two city agencies behind the effort, and it's director, Rebecca Katz joins us now to talk about this. Rebecca, glad to you have you with us in "The Animal House."
Thank you for inviting me, Sam.
So what's the WOOF program all about?
The idea behind the program is to partner with Community Housing Partnership which is a organization that works with formerly homeless people, gives them some job training and housing and to put some of the dogs that aren't passing behavior evaluation into a home setting where they can get some extra time, attention and training in order to become adoptable. That's the benefit to the animals. The benefit to the people, as we know, the strength of the human-animal bond.
We've seen peoples lives turned around by animals and, you know, really leading fuller more socially engaged lives. This is also potential job training for these folks and it seems like a naturally symbiotic relationship where they're going to be helping animals and animals are going to be helping them.
Who has a problem with this?
A number of people are concerned about, I think, in part because people read the headlines which have said, you know, puppies for panhandlers, and don't get much beyond that to understand what it really -- the program is about. PETA has spoken out against it, and it's -- I think if they understood what it is we're doing, they might be less critical.
Would you start out small with the program in hopes of expanding it later?
Yeah. We're starting out very small. We're starting with four to six dogs, two handlers per dog. So we think it'll probably be five dogs and 10 handlers. Ten handlers who've been thoroughly screened through various layers, ironically more so than any adopter is ever screened, and they're living in housing where they're already allowed pets. So some of them have pets without having gone through this type of screening. So this idea that we're giving dogs to people who are in dire straits is not quite accurate.
I'm very optimistic about this program and I think we're going to have success, so that's -- the proof's going to be there. But, you know, I also -- what troubles me more than anything is the way that the homeless people are being discussed and it's unfortunate because there's so much compassion for animals, except for when it comes to the two-legged animals. We're really not hearing that same kind of compassion and that makes me sad and disappointed.
How did this idea come about?
It came out of, you know, some discussions with Bevan Dufty who's now the mayor's point person on homelessness. He came up with this suggestion and it worked perfectly with what we were dealing with, so it all kind of came together. He sought partners for us to work with and Community Housing Partnership agreed to do it.
A fascinating program. We'll check back and see how it all works as we go along. Rebecca Katz is director of San Francisco's Animal Care and Control, talking about the WOOF program. Rebecca, thank you very much for being us in "The Animal House."
San Francisco's new approach to finding homes for shelter animals has drawn opposition from PETA, also known as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Joining us now with comments on that subject is PETA's co-founder and President, Ingrid Newkirk. Thank you very much for being with us in "The Animal House."
Oh, my pleasure, Sam.
What is San Francisco trying to do here and what is your problem with that?
Well, what they're trying to do is something that I think every single person who cares about the homelessness crisis for dogs and cats and even rabbits and parrots wants to do, and that is find more homes for animals who may otherwise be euthanized or stuck in a cage for many years. The problem as we see it is this is not the way to do that. This can cause all sorts of difficult situations.
The puppies and dogs, young dogs that they're giving to people who were homeless and are now in what they call supervised housing, many have psychiatric conditions, many are recovering addicts and have had problems with alcohol. They do not really have the ability to -- we shouldn't feel confident, I should say, that they have the ability to look after these animals who are disturbed. They are giving them problem animals, that's ones with some aggression issues or some emotional problems and here we have people who are trying to get on their own two feet. And the last thing they need, I think, is to be the primary caretakers for a dog with difficulties.
Let me make -- again, I'm sure you've heard some of the counterarguments here, but is it possible to consider that maybe having something like an animal in the life of someone who's recovering and trying to rejoin society might be a good thing in the sense this it focuses them and gives them something to care about?
Well, you know, they're offering cash money with these dogs which makes me nervous too, because you do get people who will take the money but haven't the interest in the animal. And I do believe that the human beings in this equation need to be given community care. They need to have the companionship of other people and if they should be absolutely surely on their feet and really back in society and then really care about an animal, that's one thing.
But I don't think throwing a puppy at someone who's just come off the street with all sorts of problems and saying, hey, might do them so good, is in the interest of either. And I'm afraid there's so much recidivism that one sees in this population, that it's going to end up very badly for many of those dogs.
So could the program be made to work with a significant revamp do you think, or do you think it's just not going to work under any circumstances?
I don't think it's a good match. I say, you know, Mrs. Getty actually was the one who came up with the initial $10,000 for this start-up program and PETA said we will put $10,000 into sterilization program for dogs and cats who belong to people who don't have financial resources. That will result in fewer homeless animals than this program, but please just don't put the dogs -- these problem dogs in with people who have problems.
Our guest is Ingrid Newkirk, President and co-founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. We'll continue our discussion later in the program.
For "The Animal House," I'm Michael Stein and this is BirdNote. The name sapsucker, while ludicrous to some is also misleading. Sapsuckers, a specialized group of woodpeckers don't actually suck sap. After pecking neat rows of small holes in trees to cause the sugary liquid to flow, the birds lick it up with tongues tipped with stiff hairs. You may rightly wonder with all the sap licking why a sapsuckers beak doesn't get stuck shut.
If you've ever gotten tree sap on your fingers, you know how sticky it is. Part of the answer may lie in the sapsuckers saliva. Scientists conjecture that the bird's saliva contains a substance that prevents sap from congealing, a sort of anticoagulant. When a sapsucker pecks holes in a trees bark, sap flows freely, but when researchers do the same, they can't get the sap to flow nearly as well.
Trees normally seal over, in short order, any wounds that cause their sap to flow. Sapsuckers have found a way around trees natural defenses and for the time being, they've got scientists baffled too. For BirdNote, I'm Michael Stein.
In few moments, Dr. Gary Weitzman will join us with answers to your questions about pets and we'll meet a paleontologist who discovered the fossilized remains of what's been called the largest flying creature that ever lived. First though, let's learn about our Animal of the Day. The similarly prehistoric Paraceratherium commonly known as Indricotherium, it was at least 18 feet tall and 33-feet long, native to Eurasia and Asia 37 million years ago. Indricotherium is considered the largest mammal ever to walk the earth. Do you know the name of the species that is its modern-day descendants? We'll have the answer just before the end of today's program. Next week in "The Animal House..."
Horses aren't a companion animal. There's actually a lot of work for us.
The horses are not something we raise for two years, do not get attached to.
If there are no other options available, we want slaughter to be a humane way to end a horse's life.
We don't eat horses in America.
The controversial decision to process horses for human consumption in the United States, next week in "The Animal House."
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