Letters to the editor

Don’t blame the shelter — blame bad pet owners

In the past year, there has been more than considerable controversy over the Asheville Humane Society (formerly Friends for Animals) management of the Animal Shelter and Animal Control. There was so much at issue that the county commissioners appointed an advisory board and appointed Mike Bradley to be a liaison between the public and the organization. Clearly, everyone wanted answers, and through this process it became quite clear that everyone wanted to find the culprit.

After a recent visit to the shelter, it became quite clear to me why this situation exists. The shelter is full of animals that their previous owners could no longer bother with, animals that have been abandoned by the roadside, animals from families that are relocating, animals that were not trained to the owner’s desires. One of the most heart-wrenching ones was a 5-week-old Labrador puppy that was found by the side of the road.

In the past few years, has the Asheville Humane Society made mistakes? Sure it has. However, the organization has done some revamping, and the shelter is clearly now a clean establishment with caring, conscientious workers. Is it perfect now? No, and it probably never will be. Why? The shelter, like many others in the United States, is constantly trying to clean up the mess of irresponsible dog ownership. …

Often, we hear the argument that the parents want to breed Sally once so the kids can see the miracle of birth. Isn’t it important that children learn also the lesson that, if one is responsible for bringing something into this world, they are responsible to that living thing for its whole life? What kind of lesson is it when a litter of puppies gets to be too much work, and the pups are all dumped at the shelter or by the roadside? …

For folks with purebred dogs, we hear the argument: I just want to get back the money that I paid for Sally. Fine. If you want to breed, feel free. I would ask you these questions: Will you make sure to do all the breed-specific testing for any health problems your dog may have? Will you thoroughly explore the best possible stud dogs, so you will be breeding better and healthier dogs? Will you thoroughly screen puppy buyers to ensure that the people will be good and kind to the puppy? … And most of all, will you always be able to take the puppy back if the owners can no longer keep the puppy?

If you can honestly answer “yes” to those questions, fine. If you can’t answer “yes” emphatically, then visit the shelter and see the results of others’ mistakes and carelessness.

Is it up to the county commissioners, the advisory board, Mike Bradley or the Asheville Humane Society to solve this problem?

It is clearly not. In this county, we have an epidemic of unwanted animals. Thousands are euthanized yearly. Is this the fault of the animals? Of course not. It is the fault of every citizen of Buncombe County who allows their dogs to run at large and breed indiscriminately, who leaves their dogs unattended because they become a bother.

This county is an extraordinary area to live in. We are blessed with so much. But how can we truly be this wonderful place if our views on animals are so irresponsible that the county is forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to clean up the mess that irresponsible pet owners leave? …

I would ask you to talk to your veterinarian about the health risks of [not spaying or neutering] dogs. If you love your pet, spaying and neutering will help ensure a long and happy life.

We have all heard it said that “my dog needs to run free.” We have heard, as well, “I don’t need a fence. When I go to work, my dog does not leave the property.” To the first, I would just say that dogs like to be with their owners. They get more out of long walks with their special person than they would running unsupervised and at risk to automobiles. To the argument [that the dog] doesn’t leave the property: Well, I hope you left him with a deck of cards and a degree in property surveying. Dogs get bored, and left unattended, they go out to find something to do — which is usually trouble. The leading cause of death in America for dogs is automobiles.

Our goal should be to eliminate the need for the Asheville Humane Society. All good pet owners [should] unite and try to educate others as to the wonderful life one can have with their pet if they are indeed responsible. Whether people have loving companions, service dogs, show dogs, therapy dogs, mixed breeds or pure breeds, we all must work together to educate everyone in the values of being a good dog owner. If, through the day, each one of us helped someone else to make a good decision about an animal, think of the impact it would have.

Dogs have served mankind for hundreds of years in extraordinary ways. Isn’t it about time we in this great country took responsibility and saved the dogs from the horrible fate of simply being a burden — unwanted or simply brought into this world for some whimsical reason? …

We all love animals, but sometimes it is better to look before we leap. The shelter has living examples of hasty, poor decisions. One wonders what the circumstances were that caused that poor little Labrador puppy to be left by the side of the road to fend for itself. Surely … we can all work together so that this does not happen again.

— Ellen Frost
Asheville

No old-growth persuasion needed in Yancey County

In reference to Margaret Williams’ article “Scouting the big ones” [Aug. 30], Rob Messick won’t have to be gifted at the art of old-growth persuasion to convince the U.S. Forest Service to refrain from logging the old-growth forests. The U.S. Forest Service has not sold a tract of timber, young or old, in Yancey County in three years.

— David Guggenheim
Asheville

Vote Republican for bigger state-employee paychecks

As a candidate for the State House of Representatives, I am appalled that the State Employees’ Association of North Carolina (SEANC) is endorsing Sen. Steve Metcalf again for State Senate. How can this be true, when Sen. Metcalf voted to cut in half the 6-percent pay increase for state employees? I cannot believe leadership in the association would ratify such a move.

Where and when did the vote take place for this endorsement? Surely SEANC leadership would not independently take it upon themselves to make such a recommendation without allowing the members to have any say in the decision.

Senate Democrats like Sen. Metcalf are depriving state employees of economic growth in a time when the rest of the economy is excelling at record proportions. Many state employees are having to work second and third jobs to stay abreast of an ever-expanding economy. In June of 2000, the Republican Caucus voted unanimously to support the House budget with a 5-percent pay increase for state employees. Leadership of the Democratic Party, including Sen. Metcalf, stuck with the 3-percent pay increase. Am I missing something here? This not only affects the 100,000 working state employees, but also affects the thousands of retired state employees who are senior citizens and depend on every annual pay increase as their only source of growth in prosperity for the remainder of their lives. My wife and mother-in-law are retired employees of the state, so I know how important this is to employees and retirees.

— Earl A. Cook
Morganton

Open adoption records could save lives

[A policy of open adoption records] should be placed into legislation because it may/will save a life. …

When placed for adoption, the adoptee loses his/her medical background — such as known diseases like heart problems, diabetes, osteoporosis, leukemia, etc. … The adoptee must have this right [to access their records] in order to maybe one day save his/her own life by preventive measures.

When you are born into your family, you grow up with the knowledge of what runs in your family. You know what to do, healthwise, to preserve your life, and what may or will be passed on to the next generation.

When you are adopted, you don’t know what your heredity foretells will be passed down the line until maybe it is too late. In some states, such as North Carolina, you have to go through petitioning the courts; then, sometimes, you may be granted the opening of your adoption records. …

— Angela Robinette
Conover, N.C.

These people shouldn’t be allowed to drive

Just the other day, my partner and I were driving to the grocery store, when — out of the blue — a car driven by an elderly man almost collided with our car, after having not stopped at a stop sign. The elderly man had initially begun to stop (after the hood of his enormous car was already quite obviously too far in the road), but his foot seemed to have slipped off the brakes, and he went flying, not only into our lane, but also into the lane going in the other direction. If he hadn’t gained control of his car shortly thereafter, he would have ended up in someone’s yard. Instead, he shrugged his shoulders at us, backed up a bit and turned onto the road in front of us — his car disappearing down the road rather quickly.

I am eight-and-a-half months pregnant. Although most people would have perhaps driven on with a dirty look and a sigh of relief, the experience terrified me and made me think about the safety of the child I will soon have. I had to pull over to cry and breathe. Looking back at the empty car seat, I thanked the universe that we had enough time to slow down (or rather slam on the brakes) before being hit. After sharing my story with a friend, she told me that — while renewing her driver’s license recently at the DMV — she watched as an elderly woman stumbled through her test, not being able to see the street signs before her or to decipher their meanings. The person at the counter gave her the answers and granted this woman a license anyhow, seemingly because he or she felt sorry for her.

This also brings to mind a dear friend of mine who refuses to stop driving, despite having had three car accidents in two months, going on disability, and being seriously advised by his doctor that — if he continues to drive, despite his multiple sclerosis — he could hurt or even kill himself or someone else.

I am relaying this story because I am getting fed up and frightened with the allowances that certain drivers are given in this town.

Now, I have nothing against old people or people with debilitating illnesses, but I do take it very personally when I see them swaying from lane to lane at 25 mph down I-240, or when their foot slides off a brake pedal due to poor muscle tone or failing reflexes, only to ram into another car (or almost, in my case), or when they cannot see the stop sign a few yards in front of them. I am not only terrified for the elderly and friends I love who shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a car — for their own safety and that of their families — but I am also terrified for the people who are simply at the wrong place at the wrong time and fall victim to these drivers.

My plea to everyone who reads this? Please don’t let your loved ones who are clearly a risk to themselves and others [drive]. No, we cannot control other people’s actions, but we can and should love and honor them enough to do what we can to keep them and ourselves safe. Not only can we encourage the creation and enforcement of laws that may keep potentially hazardous drivers off the roads, but we can also take responsibility within our own families. You better believe that I will be having a talk with my friend the next time he mentions taking his children for a ride in his pickup. And if it were my grandmother out there, I’d be reminding her of the empty car seat that sits in my car and of the innocent spirit that will be joining us any day now.

— Lisa Rough
Asheville

An arts-and-science center for the Sayles site?

My family and I have been following the proposed Wal-Mart expansion plans with some interest. Thanks for giving it all the coverage that you have.

I heard recently, or read somewhere, about a new plan for the old Sayles Bleachery site on Swannanoa River Road. Apparently, someone on City Council was considering starting a joint public/private project to redevelop the building into an arts-and-science center. This would be amazing! Imagine the possibilities in such a multi-use facility — classrooms, gallery space, design workshops and museum rooms in the beautifully renovated building.

I am 100-percent behind such an idea, and I hope it takes hold. Bravo.

— Richard Poore

Oteen

[Editor’s note: See accompanying photo — taken Sept. 5 and sent by Richard Poore — of the bridge to the old Sayles Bleachery. The banner was signed “Four Warriors.”]

Asheville Sister Cities responds to criticism

I am writing in response to Eamon Martin’s misinformed letter of Aug. 30 regarding Asheville Sister Cities Inc. Mr. Martin is not, nor has he ever been, a member of ASCI, and his lack of a factual grasp of our projects may be one of the reasons for his animated letter.

The actual record of ASCI projects with groups in San Cristobal includes the following, which have taken place within the past 10 months:

1. In the fall of 1999, we responded to a call for help to get two wheelchairs for a new basketball team in San Cristobal, and we met with Asheville’s Wheelchair-Tennis Team (our city has no wheelchair-basketball team) — who wrote a letter of greeting to their fellow athletes in San Cristobal. We gained insight into the world of athletes with disabilities, meeting with their co-captains and watching Asheville’s national-tournament winners play.

2. We raised money in the fall of 1999 for six wheelchairs for San Cristobal’s new basketball team, which was composed of low-income men from the city and nearby indigenous communities. We traveled to San Cristobal to present the wheelchairs, meet their team members, and delivered the letter from Asheville’s Wheelchair Tennis Team.

3. We financed the trip of their basketball-team captain to a Latin American conference on wheelchair maintenance (a leading problem for athletes with disabilities), which was held in Guatemala City in December 1999.

5. In three visits to San Cristobal from May 1999 to June 2000, a total of 14 ASCI delegates visited San Cristobal to discuss long-term projects with Na Bolom, the Center for Preservation of Maya Culture; Pronatura, the leading ecology organization in Mexico; and Al Sol, a nongovernmental organization that makes small bank loans to indigenous women, enabling them to become economically independent. (This is a Grameen-style bank loan project that originated in Bangladesh and has spread successfully throughout poor countries of the world.)

6. Representatives from these groups in San Cristobal identified efforts that Ashevilleans could most effectively make in improving the everyday life of the population without getting tangled up in their local partisan politics. These efforts included: (a) contributing to key environmental projects; specifically, halting clear-cutting of their forests and organizing soil- and water-conservation programs; (b) publicizing the gorgeous handmade products of the Maya, with the aim of opening our markets to them — a top priority named among many groups of indigenous people in the San Cristobal area; and (c) promoting tourism from WNC to San Cristobal — which was the purpose of our two commentaries, to which Mr. Martin objected. Many people in WNC would find San Cristobal a fascinating place to visit, aside from their political agendas. San Cristobal, like Asheville, depends on tourism as its top industry, and many Europeans visit there. To promote these three types of efforts named above, ASCI members have taken concrete steps to form sustained partnerships to quietly develop specific projects that address these needs.

7. Indigenous leaders in the San Cristobal area were eager to meet Cherokees from our region, and our delegation in June 2000 included three representatives from the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation. Our friends in Cherokee will assist ASCI in hosting delegates from San Cristobal, who are eager to study the waste and water facilities of the Cherokee community.

8. To introduce the backstrap-loom ancient method of weaving, ASCI is co-sponsoring — with the Asheville Area Arts Council — a grassroots project in which Mayan weavers will visit local art classes to compare their weaving tradition with those of local weavers in WNC. The “Weaving Across Borders” project will underscore the importance of weaving as one of humanity’s most ancient art forms, and thereby be an artistic bond among women weavers from our two different cultures.

As an affiliate of Sister Cities International, we are prohibited from getting involved in partisan politics of other countries. ASCI members have found many effective ways to build bridges to people in San Cristobal. Asheville Sister Cities Inc. does not define itself in terms of vitriolic attacks on other organizations that might have an international focus — nor do we feel a need to do so.

— Mary Lasher
Asheville

DuPont State Forest lands better off under private ownership

Bill Thomas of Friends of the Falls exemplifies the typical environmental-activist position by refusing to support the generous offer of the owner of the land surrounded by the DuPont State Forest.

Jim Anthony has proposed to place the 238 acres of the land that encompasses the waterfalls under a conservation easement that would be overseen by a trust. According to the Asheville Citizen-Times, “Anthony said his company would build hiking trails, picnic areas and observation platforms to aid public viewing of Bridal Veil Falls, Triple Falls and High Falls. The trails and viewing areas would be open to the public seven days a week.” He also pledged to invest $100,000 over the next four years to improve the water quality of the Little River Watershed, which feeds waterways on his property.

But Thomas and his group want to put the entire 2,223 acres, which Anthony outbid the state to obtain, into the hands of the state government, saying “the development remains incompatible with the state forest land surrounding it.” Most wilderness and park land is already incompatible with the land surrounding it. That’s why it was separated out to be a park and, thus, different. What could be more incompatible than the AGFA plant, sewage-disposal ponds and other aspects of civilization already next to the forest? Leaving 80 percent in its natural state seems to go a long way toward making the developed areas fairly compatible with the accessible areas. Most developments don’t accomplish that, and most certainly never allow the public on any portion of the development.

Thomas and other environmental activists continue to operate under the outdated myth that only the government can properly own and manage natural lands open to the public. There are many, many acres of land owned by private land trusts and private individuals managing land quite well for the public benefit. In fact, the land may be better off under private ownership. I’m glad the state doesn’t own and operate the Biltmore Estate.

I suspect that the majority of North Carolinians who will never set foot on this land, and even those who will hike it frequently, will appreciate the fact that their tax dollars didn’t go to pay for something that the private landowner himself has so generously provided. Let’s hope the Council of State decides to let the ownership stand, rather than having the state condemn the land.

— Julian Price
Asheville

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