Book Review: “Little Boy Blue”

Posted on August 12th, 2012 by Anna Nirva

Little Boy Blue cover imageMemorize this book cover. I want every dog-lover in America to read this book and pass it along to a friend. I want every dog-lover living in a county served by a taxpayer-funded animal shelter to call their local health department and ask for live-outcome statistics; if refused, I want that dog-lover to file “Freedom of Information” forms to get access. I want every dog-lover that discovers their local “shelter” is actually killing the majority of dogs to join with others and raise their voices high, hard, and long to demand change in leadership. If those dog-lovers knew what horrors their tax dollars funded in those animal control facilities (don’t call them shelters), things would change.

Now maybe they will. Author Kim Kavin’s book “Little Boy Blue” exposes the hideous truth about dog-killing facilities operating in many municipalities of our dog-loving nation: killing owner-surrendered dogs within hours, killing dogs with minor treatable ailments such as ringworm, killing dogs slowly in gas boxes while they scream and claw at the hatch to escape, tossing their bagged bodies in the dump, all the while lulling the public with happy stories of adoption in the local paper. 

Happily, things have changed for some homeless dogs because of the rise of the rescue movement: the many thousands of dog-lovers running rescues, foster networks, sponsored spay-neuter and other vet services, and transports to save healthy or treatable dogs (and cats, which are not addressed in the book). Kavin, a dog-loving professional journalist, recounts the compelling story of her Blue, a sweet mutt puppy with ringworm pulled from a North Carolina animal control facility within 2 days of his scheduled death. She examines each step of his journey into her home and heart, aided by a long chain of dog-loving volunteers, some of whom are highlighted in Kavin’s clear-eyed style, flaws and all. This courageous book celebrates his new life and those who helped to save him.

I don’t believe that taxpayer-funded dog pound staffers are evil-doers determined to murder dogs and apparently neither does Kavin. She shares the backstory of Blue’s facility and the sincere animal-loving man who manages it. With a sure hand, she explains the system that encourages and supports his continued failures by calling them successes. His failure is a leadership failure of those who make decisions about public health and safety. Those managing that system can’t imagine that 90% of the dogs might live if they changed policies in their municipality. His failure is a failure of compassion by state legislators who are funded by “Big Ag” interests; they fought back a strong effort to banish the use of gas chambers in South Carolina using “slippery slope” arguments.

This manager’s failure is also the result of a rural cultural acceptance of letting intact dogs run loose, resulting in boxes of puppies being “donated” to the pound every 6 months by the same families “to get adopted.” Many rationalize that adoptions help pay for facility operation. If these families knew the majority of puppies would live for just 3 days longer and the facility would lose money on them, I believe most would fix their dogs (or maybe fence their yards). So the sincere animal-loving manager’s failure, and a failure of so many in his position and their superiors, is finally a failure of open communication with the regional dog-loving public.

Blue was one of four puppies in a box and he was one of the 5% that escaped his fate: he lived. Now Kavin’s exposé will reach a wide audience. The time is right and the book is a compelling and well-researched read. An ambitious public relations schedule is planned and I expect the book and the message will make waves. I hope to  hear what happens in Person County, North Carolina, where Blue came from! Will the live-outcome rate increase from 5% to 90%? Dare to dream it. Think about a story Kavin recounts about one Ohio county sheriff who showed up one morning at his local animal control facility with a badge and a backhoe to remove the gas chamber, taking control and ending the reign of death in that facility. Wow.

I want everyone reading this book to pledge to write one letter to a local newspaper and one letter to one of their legislators. If you are served by a no-kill or low-kill facility, sing their praises and promote adoption. If you are served by a facility like Blue’s, agitate for change in your letters. Do it now; do it for Blue’s 3 litter-mates who most likely left the facility in a black plastic bag to hide the shame.

One Response to “Book Review: “Little Boy Blue””

  1. Jill Sicheneder says:

    I want to read this book and I don’t want to read it! But it sounds very compelling and necessary for anyone involved in saving animals. Thanks for bring it to my attention.