Your piece on the Humane Society of Missouri ("High Society," RFT, Feb. 23) hit nicely on a major shortcoming of that organization but left a number of questions unanswered. I would give the article, at best, a gentleman's C.
You neglected, for example, to explore the unholy and possibly corrupt relationship between the Humane Society and the Post-Dispatch. Why has nothing critical of that organization ever appeared in that paper? Why is the paper's pet-of-the-week feature devoted invariably to Humane Society adoptables when there are so many other agencies yearning desperately to find homes for their inmates?
How much money does the Humane Society have in the bank? My spies tell me the RFT secured a copy of the organization's 990, yet you tell us only that it has assets of $55 million , which presumably includes real estate and improvements. What proportion of its budget is spent on fundraising and publicity? What percentage actually goes for caring for and finding situations for the animals? That would have made interesting reading, don't you think?
You ran an interesting article a while back on Randy Grim, the selfless soul in Lafayette Square who rescues dogs and cares for them on a shoestring. Did you talk to him about the Humane Society? What did he have to say?
Though you did mention a certain tension between the Humane Society and the city shelter, you failed to note that the Humane Society and the rival Animal Protective Association are also barely on speaking terms, a fact one quickly discovers when one tries to communicate with them on the same matter. One consequence of this mutual hostility is that there is no central clearinghouse, no animal REJIS, for reports of lost and found pets. Has the Humane Society made any effort to open diplomatic relations with its institutional peers and to establish such a network, and if not, why not?
You mention that the follow-up procedure of the Humane Society when it puts an unspayed or uncastrated puppy or kitten out for adoption is limited to sending the adopters a single reminder. Is that the best it can do? Some animal-rescue organizations require adopters to sign a contractual agreement specifying the care of the animal in some detail and exacting a promise to return it if they find they cannot provide that care. Some check up on the adoptees and will repossess an animal if they discover it is not cared for as promised. Has the Humane Society ever considered such measures?
You report that the $600,000 columbarium will house "mementos of dead pets." That's a lot of money to store old chew toys and spent flea collars. Or did your writer use a word without a clear idea of what it meant, and if so, where were the RFT's editors?
Had the article appeared in the Post, it would have been pointless to write, but I expect better of the RFT.
Katharine McGowan's statement that "we're doing everything we can to make this a better world for animals" didn't extend to responding to a recent request for information on area "no-kill" facilities. The Open Door Animal Sanctuary of House Springs has offered rescue, adoption or lifetime care for their charges since 1975. They are currently seeking funds for a much-needed expansion. I know where my financial support is going.
Thank you for running Laura Higgins' article on pet overpopulation. I agree that the Humane Society of Missouri should increase efforts to reduce the number of unwanted pets, but I think the greater responsibility lies with St. Louis County Animal Control. After all, the Humane Society has almost a 50 percent adoption rate, while the two county animal shelters kill nearly every animal taken in. Despite collecting thousands of dollars in rabies-tag fees every year, St. Louis County has no formal low-cost spay/neuter program, no comprehensive educational program and no organized adoption campaign.
At the Seven Hills shelter in North County, dogs are piled into large cages that are posted with day-of-the-week signs. If the sign says "Monday," all of the dogs in that cage will be killed on Monday. Young dogs, old dogs, perfectly good dogs -- they're all lumped together, waiting to die. And while they wait, the county cleans their cages with a high-powered hose, never bothering to remove the animals first. Cats and kittens suffer the same inhumane treatment and face even greater odds of finding a home.
The atmosphere at the Seven Hills shelter is so depressing that only a handful of people actually go there to adopt a pet, and that's if they can find it. The shelter is hidden in an industrial area off Halls Ferry Road, and the county makes no effort to encourage visitors, Unlike the Humane Society and the Animal Protective Association, the Seven Hills shelter is open only on weekdays from 8-5, which makes it inaccessible to many prospective pet owners.
Changes obviously need to be made in local animal-control policy. I urge all citizens to visit one of the St. Louis County shelters and contact the Department of Animal Control with their concerns. I also encourage voters to ask their Missouri state representatives to support House Bill 1953. This bill, which is currently wavering in the House, would create a special license plate for the Pet Population Control Trust fund and, in turn, fund a low-cost spay/neuter program statewide. Several other states have adopted such a program, with impressive results, and it's about time that Missouri do the same.
I have the fullest respect for Ray Feick and the improvements and change his Pound Pals have encouraged over the years at the St. Louis Animal Regulation Center. He is to be commended. However, I had to disagree with his desire to purchase the former Humane Society of Missouri building. At the time, I was on the advisory board of the HSM and was aware of how much the building was allowed to deteriorate as money was needed for the new facility. I wrote a letter to Kent Robertson and asked that he decline the purchase because of (1) the physical condition of the building and the cost to repair it, (2) inefficient heating and cooling and (3) the high potential to affect health.
I raised the question, did the HSM in the future want to be accused of selling the city a lemon? Probably not. I still believe it was the right decision.
Honorary Board Member
Humane Society of Missouri
The hardest battles to fight are civil wars. Their purpose is to divide and conquer the familiar. Laura Higgins' biased article on the Humane Society of Missouri did provide the forum for a civil war, but, unfortunately, the casualties will be the animals.
What can ever be accomplished by pitting one animal organization against another? Whether it is a grassroots effort by caring individuals or the Greater St. Louis Veterinary Medical Association, we are all fighting for one goal -- the welfare of the animals in our community.
The Humane Society of Missouri did not create the pet-overpopulation problem in St. Louis, and it is ludicrous to think that we can solve it alone. As a not-for-profit organization that has relied on the financial support of concerned people and the generosity of their most precious commodity, their volunteer time, we know the answer. It takes an entire community, united, to battle the war on pet overpopulation. If this is our strategy, the animals will be the winners.
Suzanne K. Gassner
Director of Education
Humane Society of Missouri
Just who is Dr. Ed Migneco, and how is he an authority on the educational programs at the Humane Society of Missouri?
As a HSM docent for more than four years and docent chair for the past two, I have never had the pleasure of even seeing the doctor at the Society. Laura Higgins' reporting is suspect when the only source on education she uses "does not claim to be informed." Had she done the least bit of research, she would have learned:
1. The HSM has 44 dedicated, trained docents (volunteer teachers), who in the past year have provided over 2,000 hours of humane education.
2. Year-round, the docents present classes to all age groups from first through 12th grades, as well as to many adult groups, teaching kindness, compassion, respect, the responsibilities of pet ownership and the necessity of spaying and neutering to stop the tragedy of pet overpopulation.
3. In a single year we teach hundreds of classes, reaching thousands of children and adults.
4. For many of the city children, this is their first exposure to a companion animal, learning about the kind of unconditional love and devotion that a pet can provide. They are learning both to care and to take responsibility. One middle-school child sent us a picture with the caption "Abusement makes the dog fade away." We are changing attitudes. We are opening their hearts.
Working through the HSM Education Department, our docents can be proud that they are making a difference in the lives of our children and animals now, as well as planting the seeds for a better tomorrow. With all of the discussions about violence and apathy in our society, your paper should be congratulating the HSM for being in the forefront of humane education.
Laurie H. Livingston
Humane Society of Missouri
PUT THAT IN YOUR PIPE AND SMOKE IT
Can you hear what Marilyn Ruemmler is saying ("Pot Luck," RFT, Feb. 23)? Despite her oath of office to uphold the constitutions of the United States of America and the state of Missouri, she is willing to inflict cruel and unusual punishment on Jim Hammond.
Having played against McKinley Classical Junior Academy while they were in the CYC, I have firsthand experience of what the children and coaches are like ("They Got Game but Need a League," RFT, Feb. 23). Like any other team in the league, they were competitive and they wanted to win, but maybe a bit too much. In one of our games against McKinley, Jeff Cohen, then an assistant coach of the now-eighth-grade team, acted with little respect for our team or the referees. At one point during the game, he yelled out something to the extent of "Hit him" or "Knock him over," telling one of his players to do this to one of the players on my team. At that point in the fourth quarter, the officials decided to end the game on the spot because of the extremely bad sportsmanship on the part of Mr. Cohen and some of the players on his team.
When you have conduct like that from one of the coaches, why would you want a team like that in the league? While I am not talking about all the players on the team -- I still am friends with some of them -- the few that act badly give a bad name to the league and to the school they are representing. Needless to say, when it was decided that McKinley could no longer play in our league, we were very happy.
THEATER OF THE ABSURD
I read with disgust and amusement Chris Jackson's self-deluded attempt to defend his play South Beach and to pretend it was not a major factor in the closing of the St. Marcus Theater. In his letter this week, he compliments Eddie Silva on his "insightful, well-written, balanced and sympathetic" article on the topic (RFT, Feb. 16), but then goes on to complain about how Silva has unfairly maligned him and his plays. Which is it?
Jackson's claim that Corpus Christi was tamer than people thought is irrelevant. It was still a play that portrayed Jesus as gay, and after already offending the church and most of his audiences with his disgusting musical South Beach, he was an idiot to book Corpus Christi in a church basement during the Christmas holidays. He claims none of the detractors of South Beach actually saw it. But I did, and I agree with Judith Newmark -- it was the most disgusting thing I ever saw onstage, full of sexual violence, a sadistic oral-sex scene, bondage and other things, all portrayed with a simple-minded, juvenile leer. This play was not about anything; it was just a chance for Jackson to publicly get his rocks off. He should be as ashamed of it as the rest of us were repulsed by it.
As far as blaming New Line Theatre's play Party for the theater's troubles, Party was two years ago -- if it's to blame, why did the church do nothing about it for two years? Throwing the blame on the real artists who work in that theater is just a smokescreen. From everything I've read and seen, the situation is clear. There were no troubles until Jackson took over the theater and no threat to shut it down until South Beach and Corpus Christi. It's time for Jackson to be a man and stand up take responsibility for his actions.
STOP THE PRESSES
With the announcement recently that the News-Telegraph is ceasing publication ("Short Cuts," RFT, Feb. 16), the gay and lesbian community is losing an important voice and media outlet. It is our hope that The Riverfront Times can fill some of that void. Your paper has always championed liberal politics, respect for diversity, tolerance and the promotion of alternative voices and alternative communities. And you have covered alternative cultural events in your theater, movie and music reviews. The Riverfront Times has also always promoted sexual outlets for the gay and lesbian community through your personal ads and the many ads for telephone sex, not the best or healthiest aspects of the gay and lesbian community.
It is our hope that The Riverfront Times will also cover the many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender social, political and support organizations that promote a healthy and vibrant alternative community. While newspapers serve an important function in investigating public institutions to uncover bias, corruption, mismanagement and conflicts, there is also a responsibility for an alternative newspaper to promote alternative communities through features on the more positive aspects. Certainly the News-Telegraph served that function. Now we need your paper to spotlight, among many other groups, the Pride Festival, Growing American Youth, Frontrunners, Privacy Rights Education Project, Human Rights Campaign, the Metropolitan Community Church and the many religious congregations that are opening their doors to welcome gays and lesbians. This may be soft news, but it is the news that builds a community.
President, St. Louis Metro Chapter
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays