How Do Cruelty Stories Fit into the Big Picture?

I wanted to address a recent comment that got me thinking about why I feel it’s important to share stories of animal cruelty.  The answer is long, so bear with me.  I would start with another of my main issues on the blog – shelters who blame the public for killing pets.  It’s important to distinguish a difference here:  I am not saying the entire population is blameless in the need for animal shelters, I’m saying it’s wrong to blame them for the killing done there.

There are irresponsible people in all walks of life and pet owners are no exception.  While I believe that most pet owners take good care of their pets, there is a minority who are at best, irresponsible and at worst, outright cruel.  Education and access to low/no cost spay-neuter can improve some of these situations and for that reason, it’s essential for shelters to maintain a strong community outreach program.

But for other situations, the circumstances simply will not be made better with education – whether that may be the fault of mental illness, stubborn ignorance or some other factor.  And it is precisely because of this relatively tiny portion of the pet owning public that we need animal control officers and shelters.  Otherwise, the voiceless victims of cruelty, neglect and willful ignorance will suffer in silence until they meet whatever tragic end awaits them.

To my mind, an animal control officer should be a knight riding in on a white horse, rescuing the pet in need and taking him to a safe place where he will be sheltered until a good home can be secured.  This is why, when I read about Henry Bergh’s philosophy in Nathan Winograd’s book Redemption,  it made such sense to me:  An organization dedicated to preventing cruelty to animals can not be in the business of killing them.  These are fundamentally opposed actions and yet, in shelters all over the country, they co-exist under the same roof.  Places with names such as “Humane Society” and “Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals” are dispatching officers on cruelty complaints and stray pet pickup while simultaneously killing pets in the back room.

The shelter should be a safe harbor for the community’s lost/homeless pets and those whose owners find the need to give up their pets.  Not all of those who surrender pets at shelters are irresponsible owners, as many shelter directors would have us believe.  Some are simply good people who have fallen on hard times and in the process of losing a home, suffering a grave illness or some other unforeseen mishap, find they are no longer able to care for their pets.  They are doing the responsible thing by bringing the pet to a shelter where they believe – or at least hope – the pet will be cared for until adopted.  They don’t want to turn the pet loose in a rural area or kill the animal – they want to do right, as best they can in their circumstances.  For these pets, and for those who have been abandoned, neglected or were born into homelessness, we need shelters – and we always will.

And so our shelters fill up with these pets in need and before long, shelters are desperate for adopters.  Where will these adopters come from and how will we get them into the shelter?  They will come from the public – that vast majority of regular folks who take good care of pets.  And we’ll get them into the shelter by promoting the available pets and reaching out to the community for help.  Remember, there are many more people looking for pets than there are pets in shelters so we only need to attract a small portion of the pet owning public.  It should be a readily achievable challenge.  And yet…

Instead of drawing the public in to local shelters, many shelters inexplicably drive people away.  They do this by killing healthy/treatable pets the public believes should be cared for and then blaming the public for that killing.  They do it by abusing the pets in their care through mistreatment, neglect and the spreading of disease thus devaluing the life of shelter animals until the public perceives that value to be nil.  In short, they are driving away the solution to what they say is their problem – too many homeless pets.

And so, why is it important to me to post stories of animal cruelty even though they are difficult to share?  Because the victims of animal cruelty need a helping hand.  That help is supposed to be coming from taxpayer funded animal control officers and shelters.  But too often, the very institutions we are paying to protect our communities’ pets from cruelty are in fact, inflicting cruelty themselves and even killing the victims they are intended to protect.  And in doing so, they then turn to the public – the very people who could help them – and jab a finger of shame and blame in their chest.  “You wanna take this outside?”  Actually, yes, I do.  Thus, this blog and the posts within, including those on cruelty.

15 thoughts on “How Do Cruelty Stories Fit into the Big Picture?

  1. I would like to share this balanced and intelligent post on my facebook page. Is there a way to do that.

  2. Thank you. I get it. This is why I volunteer for a no-kill shelter in my community. Animal Control here (the last cycle of management anyway) has declared the group I volunteer with “not a ‘REAL’ shelter” (specifically because—I think—we don’t kill the animals we take in!) Competition and marketing can be a good thing if it gets more animals out alive and into homes, but it also can be a bad thing when used in a silly power-struggle.
    And so the uninformed public that goes to Animal Control sometimes comes away with a negative perception of US. Taxpayer dollars are spent investigating those who don’t buy in to the power games at Animal Control, while true neglect and abuse goes unchecked because our government’s legal system has no teeth behind even the most meager of animal protection laws.
    Here in my neighborhood Animal Control doesn’t do either job completely. They don’t shelter the animals, and they don’t control the “bad” public either! (Well, okay, let’s be honest, they sorta try. And sometimes they do a fine job. But I seem to be “lucky” in my ability to get the short end of the stick in my dealings with them.)
    Your posts about cruelty and ignorance and the obvious shortcomings of Humane Societies, Pounds, and the general public are a good thing. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for volunteering! (And for reading.) I love the “not a real shelter” comment. Like a “real man” would shoot a deer and cut out the testicles and drape them around his neck for a commemorative photo.

  3. The shelter I applied to manage was a low kill shelter (no killing for space), but they also had a REAL issue with their staff perceiving the general public as ‘not worthy’ of adopting any of their pets.

    About 2% of all applicants were ultimately approved, and they were issuing a lot of literature about how horrible it was that no one wanted to adopt all their needy animals.

    I came in with an overhaul plan, the lynch pin of which was “stop assuming every applicant is an asshat, and start cutting them some slack”. This didn’t go over well. Ultimately, they didn’t hire me because the board couldn’t reconcile my being one of the ‘enemy’ (a breeder), and yet also capable of telling them how to run a shelter.

    A lot of the in place old guard are going to have to go, before any of this changes.

      1. No, sorry – it’s not. They had three dogs who had been sitting there, waiting for homes, for almost TWO YEARS. It’s not that they hadn’t had applications, it’s that they had turned ALL of them down. For example: they turned down a couple who had previous giant breed experience, a well fenced yard, and great references for being “too old” (they were in their sixties). The dog, a dane mix, had been in the shelter for sixteen months.

  4. should be “you wanna take this INSIDE”.. into the “shelter” itself.. usually places where animals have a “hold period” before they are killed.. where “rescue groups” cherry pick the small fluffy animals and leave the “pit bulls” and big black dogs to die.. who can blame them? most media have people so afraid of dogs that any pup that weighs over 10 pounds is a threat.. and a pit bull is not even really a dog but is a “dangerous animal”..
    Here is my thought.. when you hear about a “raid’ where the animals are living in “deplorable conditions.. unsanitary ( dogs need ultimate sanitary conditions dontcha know) and yet the article continues on to say.. no problem except “parasites” ( worms.. fleas) and long toe nails.. and maybe some “dental..then they are cleaned up and sold for hundreds of dollars in just a few days.. most of the time the owners do not want to give up the dogs.. but are threatened with all sorts of legal and criminal charges.. take the Murder Hollow bassets.. there was no reason to take those dogs.. the rest of the basset people could have come there.. repaired what needed to be repaired .. cleaned up the grounds and treated the dogs for the minor aliments found… ACO’s could have had a “check back” schedule ” to make sure everything was ok.. BUT NO it is much more expedient.. and NEWSWORTHY to trash the owner.. make her seem crazy.. show pictures of a dog with a cherry eye ( not always needing repair) and get .. TATA DONATIONS..
    It is much easier and more lucrative to show most humans as evil.. greedy and cruel ..instead of kind and generous toward animals.. Most people I know want to do the right thing..but that “right thing” window is becoming more narrow everyday..

  5. The cruelty cases are hard to read but they need to be told – I find comfort with them coming from posts here because I know everyone cares so much.

    And the comments are like a form of comradery – I am grateful you all are here –

  6. It is so important to get the word out that there are more people looking for pets than there are pets available because it goes against the idea that most people have.

    Shelters must be the only businesses ever that destroy their products rather than market them or look for customers. It is only pubic pressure that can turn this around.

  7. Pro-active law enforcement always has to find someone to attack and as long as this is an adversarial system we will have these problems. There is a big difference between fighting a social problem and solving it or making it better. When fighting a social problem all kinds of thieves come out of the woodwork, go charging in on their high horses, and ride away with beloved and well cared for pets that can be sold for good money.

    Spaying and neutering has tremendously increased the price of “shelter pets”. The profit motive has increased the need for the ability to shut down both competition and political opposition.

  8. Alice in LALA land indeed (well yes!) says the basset hound folks would have rode in to take care of the Murder Hollow dogs. Really? In fact, the pack supporters disappeared, the kennels were left in a shambles and remained unrepaired resulting in more violations being written up. Now a new letter has gone out to raise money for …. the lawyer (who works for NAIA but it apparently NOT pro bono for some reason).

    Talk is cheap, dogs are expensive, and there’s been a LOT of time for folks to poney up money … and they have not.

  9. I’m very glad that you go ahead and share these cases. Even though I may be far away, I can spread the word and help let everybody know that it’s unacceptable for cruelty to be happening, and the more people that join in, the more likely change is to come about.

    I’ve just started reading Redemption, and so far, I really like it, and it makes me think. I do see that people are starting to come around in various places, and the more the word gets out that animals can be saved instead of killed, the more change is likely to happen.

  10. Kuddos, Shirley. Really without people like you willing to put the word out about the failing sheltering system and the sad cruelty cases (many of which go unpublicized as well as not investigated) – we would still be sitting here in the old way thinking that we should feel bad because the shelter directors say it is “our” fault that they have to exist. Instead, you are willing to tackle the problem and tell it like it is.

    Those who have issue with what you are doing…in my opinion – are no better than the shelter directors that blame the general public for the killings.

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