Salt Lake City Activist Raises Flags and Awareness of Animal Shelter

Hearty kudos to Phylene Anderson and those who assisted her in this massive effort! This good news came from StandardNet.love and was passed on to...

Joy  |  Oct 20th 2006


Activist Wants To End Overpopulation

Animal shelter flag

Hearty kudos to Phylene Anderson and those who assisted her in this massive effort!

This good news came from StandardNet.love and was passed on to us by the ever-dedicated writer and animal rescuer Jim Willis. Thanks Jim!

Flagging attention to animals’ plight

By Sally H. N. Wright
Standard-Examiner correspondent

BRIGHAM CITY — Hundreds of people pass by Box Elder Animal Shelter every day without giving it a second glance.

Phylene Anderson, of Brigham City, hopes to change that.

To celebrate Utah’s Week for the Animals and raise awareness for the problem of pet overpopulation, Anderson has spearheaded an effort to decorate the shelter’s lawn with more than a thousand paper flags.

Each flag represents an animal that came to the shelter in the past year.

Now, drivers slow down to stare at the rows of flags.

Anderson, owner of Ellie’s Pet Hotel, a Brigham City grooming and boarding business, says she hopes people will stop for a closer look at the display, learn more about how to help companion animals and maybe even adopt a pet.

Some of the animals the flags represent were lucky; 235 were claimed by their owners and 132 were adopted.

The other 638 animals — mostly dogs and cats — were euthanized.

The numbers keep Anderson up at night, she says, because the problem is a simple one to solve.

“People have to spay and neuter their pets, or the shelter animals have no chance,” she said. “It’s something everyone can do. The shelter workers didn’t create this problem — they just have to clean it up.”

To make so many flags, Anderson collaborated with Brigham City schoolchildren and animal advocates around the world.

Students from Jill Vanderwood’s class at Box Elder Middle School and Debi Compton’s third-grade class at Bunderson Elementary in Brigham City decorated flags with drawings, photos, stories and poetry to illustrate their love for animals.

“We talked about how pets deserve the very best you can give them, and how if you’re going to have a pet, it’s for life. It’s not something to be taken lightly,” Anderson said.

Color-coded

The children’s work appears on red and yellow flags — what Anderson calls “the happy flags,” which represent the claimed and adopted animals. Many show pictures of the students’ own pets with little love poems around them.

The 638 white flags on the east side of the shelter represent the animals that were destroyed. The scene is reverent, similar to a cemetery, and photos of abandoned animals that were euthanized stare out of many of them.

Anderson took many photos at the Box Elder Shelter to illustrate the various flags, but she turned to contacts in the pet rescue community to help her make each flag meaningful. Shelter workers and animal advocates in Arizona, Idaho, Kansas and even Jerusalem sent her photos and stories of both happy endings and disappointments.

The project also caught the attention of several animal-loving authors, including Jim Willis, who wrote “Pieces of My Heart”; Stacey Mantle, author of “Conquering the Food Chain: Living Among Animals Without Becoming One”; and Ed Kostro, who wrote “Through Katrina’s Eyes: Poems From an Animal Rescuer’s Soul.”

They donated books to be given as prizes and granted permission for quotations from their work to be displayed.

Vickie Chidester, one of Brigham City’s two animal control officers who also double as shelter administrators, says her work is emotionally draining and physically taxing.

“I wish the public understood what I go through every week when I have to go through the agony of having to choose which ones live and which ones die,” she said.

“Maybe if they could experience that, having to make that choice, maybe they would be more responsible.”

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