Being Held Accountable

A reader writes (in part):

OK well, it sounds like you’re saying that individual people should never be accountable at all? For anything they do with the animals they don’t want? Is it EVER their fault when they act irresponsibly? Or is it always the shelter’s fault?

I’m glad for the opportunity to address this issue:  Yes, individuals should be accountable for their interactions with pets – everyone from the owner of a single cat to the rescuer of 50 cats to the shelter director responsible for hundreds of pets per day.  And while I believe the concept of the “irresponsible public” is greatly exaggerated, I absolutely acknowledge that there are indeed some pet owners who behave irresponsibly.  I’m not sure if we should include those who intentionally torture/maim/kill pets in that category but they exist too, albeit as a tiny portion of the general public.

But beyond dispelling the myth that the pet owning public is generally a bunch of scallywags, I want to understand why some owners behave in what appear to be irresponsible ways.  To my mind, addressing the reasons why a pet ends up abandoned is sometimes more important than finding out who did the abandoning so we can launch an online crusade to smear the person’s character and prevent him from ever getting another pet.  (By the way, you will never, ever prevent anyone from getting a pet.  You can circulate your DNA postings until your keyboard turns to dust but people who want pets will get them.)

If I had a shelter and I noticed the same woman coming in with a box full of puppies every six months, I’d ask myself – Do we offer low/no cost spay-neuter?  Have I made her aware of this service?  Do I know if she has any means of transporting her 90 pound mama dog to and from the clinic?  What can I do to make it possible for this owner to get her dog spayed?

Unfortunately some shelters would simply wag their fingers and guilt trip the owner, ultimately discouraging her from returning.  The result of which is a mama dog who still isn’t spayed and the next litter of puppies being taken somewhere probably far less desirable than a shelter.  I would much rather hold this person “accountable” by helping her achieve a solution.

Let’s look at a specific example.  Someone recently tied a Lab mix in the median of a busy street in Florence, SC in the middle of the night.  The dog’s neck was severely injured due to a collar that had become embedded over time.  Neighbors rescued the dog, took her to the vet for treatment, and are caring for her.  Police are looking for the person who abandoned the dog.

While I think we can all agree that allowing the collar to become embedded and abandoning the dog were both wrong, I know some people will immediately take it a step further and condemn the person responsible and perhaps even everyone in the south.  But if we pause for a moment, we must admit we know very little about this person.  We don’t know if the person who tied the dog in the median is the same person who allowed the collar to become embedded.  We don’t know if the person lives in Florence or even in SC.  Care to speculate?

Maybe the person who owned the dog was terribly cruel and intentionally allowed the collar to become embedded over time just to torture the dog.  Then, growing weary of the dog’s barking, decided to abandon her in a median where he hoped she’d be run over by a car or suffer some other horrible end.

Maybe.  But that doesn’t seem likely to me.  Most pet owners are not aberrant freaks.

Perhaps the owner became seriously ill after getting the puppy and was hospitalized for several months.  Maybe well meaning relatives who really weren’t “dog people” were bringing the dog food and water during this time in an effort to help.  It’s possible no one gave a thought to or even noticed that the collar was too small for the growing dog and becoming embedded in the skin.  By the time someone did notice, the injury was severe and the person panicked.  Knowing that the dog needed help, he decided to leave the dog somewhere he knew she’d be found – the median of a busy street in the city of Florence.

Not the best decision by any measure but one made under highly stressful circumstances and with the hope that the dog would receive the help she needed.

Other possible scenarios off the top of my head:

  • Someone found the dog with the collar embedded but was afraid to seek care for fear of being blamed for the dog’s condition and so left her in a public place.
  • The finder was financially incapable of getting treatment for the dog and feared taking her to his local animal control facility where he knew injured pets were gassed.  So he drove to a nearby city and left her in a highly visible area to be found.
  • The owner was horrified when he realized the collar had become embedded without him noticing.  He felt too ashamed to take the dog in to his local shelter for fear of being judged harshly and/or charged with a crime so he abandoned her in the median with the hope that someone would care for her.

None of these scenarios reflect good decisions and I’m not excusing the actions that led to this dog being tied in a median.  What I’m trying to do is understand how something like this might happen and how it could be prevented from happening to another pet in future.  To my mind, if we had a sheltering system in this country that was known for saving pets, we might avoid more cases like this.  A shelter should be a place people can feel good about bringing a pet they find who needs treatment.  Shelters should be continually reaching out to the public to send the message:  If you know of a pet who has no one to responsibly care for her, we are here.  We will take care of her.  She’ll be safe with us.

Instead, we have many shelters doing the opposite – making the public feel that they are irresponsible and unwelcome at the shelter.  We have shelters telling the local paper, “We kill our friend every day”.  Does that sound like a place you’d take a dog in need of care?

So, in answer to the original questions, I do want people to be held accountable for their interactions with pets.  But I want to reserve my outrage for those most egregious cases of willful neglect, apathy, and harm.  I want to remind myself to try to understand the reasons why good people sometimes end up making bad decisions for their pets. I’d like to work toward preventing things from heading down the wrong path in the first place.  To my mind, it’s a community effort and a community responsibility.

Public animal shelters are the institutions we pay for with our tax dollars to take care of our communities’ pets.  While individual owners might make bad choices, they are not being paid by the community to care for pets in need.  Many “bad” pet owners can be made into good owners simply by giving them a hand up.   The shelter must be held to a separate standard.  The shelter is the fall back, the fail safe if you will.  If they do not stand strong for the voiceless victims of homelessness, neglect and cruelty but instead kill the victims and blame those who pay their salaries, how can we expect things to improve?

66 thoughts on “Being Held Accountable

  1. I was thinking this yesterday and was going to mention it before my lunch ended, but you do seem to focus on the irresponsible behavior of shelters/shelter personnel while either minimizing the involvement of the public or dismissing it out of hand. I appreciate you taking a chance to explain yourself better.

    Personally, I think there are more irresponsible pet guardians in the world than there are poor shelter systems, but I can appreciate the argument that shelters are supposed to be good for pets, and thus probably shouldn’t be allowed to plead ignorance. I do think that a vast majority of the problems we see with guardians providing inadequate care are related to ignorance or lack of services. I don’t think just fixing the issues you mention with shelters (which are totally valid!) and providing more services will fix much of that. Until we challenge the underlying assumptions that lead to kill shelters and all the rest (that non-human animals are property and can be treated as such) will probably continue to plague us. Even then, there will always be people like my neighbor, who refused to let us take his cat in for vaccinations, flea/tick control and neutering (all of which we were offering to pay for) and refused our help setting up a way to keep his cat indoors.

    His cat was hit by a car a week later.

    1. Someone needs to focus on the irresponsible behavior of the shelter people. Too many times shelter people go on abusive raids, raids that are intentionally abusive, and their own places are crap. Then their crap doesn’t stink.

  2. WHEN oh when will there be mandatory HUMANE EDUCATION classes for kids K-12 in all schools? The only way to end the cycle of abuse and ignorance is to EDUCATE the future citizens and pet owners of this country!!!

    1. Most of us who love animals today never took a humane education course. I would rather see money directed towards saving animals directly – medical care, more housing, or education efforts to recruit foster homes – than spent on feel-good programs. The San Francisco SPCA has humane education programs. This is great; they have the money to do this. Who attends? Kids who already love animals.

      1. Technically, humane education is mandatory in California’s public school system.

  3. Great post! Thank you. I’m not sure mandatory humane education will fix the problem. Does sex education solve teen pregnancy? Kids learn from their families. Giving young people the opportunity to see different ways and different choices is good, but I don’t expect it to solve everything.
    As for non-human animals being property…in many respects, this has SAVED lives too! (It all depends on the owner, doesn’t it?!)
    Shelters, by definition, take those critters whose owners have relinquished responsibility. So they then become the owner and can choose the animal’s fate. Some choose better than others-IMO.

  4. I wouldn’t argue with any of this — I would argue that the people who work at/run shelters deserve the same individual benefit of the doubt that you would extend to the anonymous people you mention — the ones who allow collars to embed in puppy necks or who tie dogs out to streetposts in the middle of the night. I read Nathan Winograd’s book and his arguments and intention are solid — however just like everything/everyone else they have flaws. Not all people who abandon animals are intentionally cruel. Not all shelter administrators are intentionally callous. There are just as many reasons for each to fail to act in the best interests of any individual animal.

    All you have to do to see what’s going on in the pet world is check out a city’s Craigslist pet section. There you will find hundreds of ads every week, not only from rescues trying to place animals (mostly dogs) but other postings from volunteers warning about animals on death row in area pounds, and then last but not least, the perky giveaway ads — “Hi! We’re moving and can’t take our beloved 6 year old mastiff, Ollie. He’s a great watchdog and loves our toddler. He comes with a 50 pound bag of food and all his toys. We only have til Friday to find him a place, so call soon!”

    Just as every person might have their own compelling or unavoidable reasons for neglecting/abandoning animals, some municipalities/shelters might have heir own reasons for killing the animals they end up with. (Not that I favor that “solution.”) I would disagree with the sweeping statement that “shelters are being paid (with tax dollars) to care for the animals.” Many are not receiving much. The ones that are receiving the most money obviously kill the fewest animals. And, like San Francicso etc they all began their road to success by refusing to kill any healthy animals. I applaud that, but I don’t dismiss those who aren’t there yet. Just as you won’t dismiss the people on Craigslist. I’ll ad that if we were to compare the people we hold in contempt, I’d match you one for one on the shelter administrators who are truly lazy, careless and callous, not trying at all, or putting up walls and excuses for not doing anything differently. They belong lumped with the felony animal abusers, in my book.

    I’ll reiterate that, having worked in a very progressive no-kill shelter for three years, in a city that had great cooperation between animal control and the no-kill shelter, seemingly hundreds of other rescues, spay/neuter services, veterinary services for poor people, free weekly vaccinations clinics, foster programs, free cat adoptions, adoption hours all weekend and every weekday evening, training for shelter dogs, on and on…we still had to turn animals away on a weekly basis because we were always, always jam-packed full. Of course we were absorbing animals from not just our area, but the south and neighboring states where such great shelter services didn’t exist. And they weren’t the cream of the crop, either. Mange, parvo, ringworm, behavior problems — we had it all.

    Instead of merely trashing one side or the other (and I stand here guilty as charged), focusing on solutions is the only progressive approach. Yet I don’t hear that much — I hear a lot of sympathy for the pet-owning (and throwing away) public and not much tolerance for any shelters. I probably need to dig into this blog further and see if I can find the posts that praise shelters for some baby step life-saving effort. It’s obvious where my bias lies, but we all have them. Thanks for this blog.

    1. Liz said: “I would argue that the people who work at/run shelters deserve the same individual benefit of the doubt that you would extend to the anonymous people you mention.”

      Hmmm. Yes and no. I hear where you are coming from, but the bottom line is that shelter workers/managers are being PAID to do a job. And their failure is a bigger/deeper/more serious failure because they are the safety net for irresponsible people. These poor animals come out of the frying pan to fall into the fire!
      Shelter workers are suppose to know this stuff. Shelter workers are supposed to care. How many articles has this blog quoted where shelter management talks about how they MUST kill animals.
      The premise of the No Kill Movement is that this is simply not true! The fact that managers don’t want to believe it means that animals die needlessly.
      And I’ve seen/heard/experienced myriad cases of shelter staff using their position of power in terms of life and death of an animal as a tool to hurt, torment, or shun a caring volunteer. This is ego, and it’s evil. I’d like it to stop. (And I’m guilty of it myself…but at least I’m a volunteer and I don’t get paid to do it.)

      1. LynnO, I’ll have to agree with Liz on this one. If being PAID to do a job did what you present, then Lehman Bros., AIG and others wouldn’t have ruined our economy. That said, we’re generally speaking of very low pay and resources, with their actions primarily dictated by managers and government. As Winograd has said, it often takes just a very few good people in the right place. OTOH, without them you may go nowhere.

      2. George, Animal Control (where I live) has union workers–they are paid very well, they have an excellent benefits package. And yet I’ve heard these very people say:
        “let the volunteers do it.”
        Okay, I’m not much on financial stuff, I don’t understand the whole AIG/Lehman thing.
        I think the No Kill Movement needs cooperation and communication. I think BOTH animal owners and shelters need to be held accountable. I think the blame game only hurts the very creatures we are all theoretically trying to “save.”
        The amount of funding an animal control facility gets has NO concrete relationship to the number of animals that make it out alive. Critters can be saved on a shoe-string, and PeTA, who has millions, kills them all! Money is NOT the issue.

      3. LynnO, my financial reference was only that some people can’t be trusted or held accountable, even though they are paid to do a job.

        As I said in a later post, IMHO most blame stuff is out of frustration and happens when people are not held accountable. Unfortunately, we often have no way to hold them accountable, like in my reference to AIG. It’s a nice dream, but it won’t happen.

        On funding, I think it does have to have an effect. However, having both an ACO and his boss supporting No Kill would have the largest impact.

    2. Well said! I initially wondered if I was the only reader at this site that felt the writer was regularly and unfairly dumping on shelter operators while minimziing or ignoring the overwhelming evidence that the task faced by shelter operators is huge and daunting and the direct result of too many irresponsible members of the public.

      Thank you for pointing out that even a community with lots of support and modern approaches STILL can be overwhelmed by the flood of animals that don’t have homes.

  5. I think that the state of shelters both contributes to the “irresponsible pet guardian” problem and increases the bad consequences of the irresponsibility. Hear me out:

    Most people are generally responsible. Most people have lapses in judgement and responsibility on a somewhat regular basis. In most cases, the lapses in judgement pass without serious consequences. How many bad entrances onto freeway ramps do NOT result in deaths? For every stupid parent whose kid puts somebody’s eye out with fireworks, how many parents let their kids shoot off fireworks with no consequences?

    The situation in shelters escalates problems considerably. So, my friend’s 20-year-old cat slips out of the yard and is killed at the shelter within hours because the shelter decides he “looks sick and old.” Presumably she was responsible enough for 20 years to keep the cat alive. Her slip up killed the cat because of the shelter’s itchy hypodermic finger.

    And what does a person do who has a dog with a behavior problem? If he knows the shelter kills dogs with behavior problems, then “abandoning” the dog at a busy public place is giving the dog a shot at being found by someone who can help.

  6. I agree with you Liz, though it is hard not to trash the ignorant pet owners. We need to find ways to help them.
    A friend & I came across an old blk. lady that had 8 dogs in her yard,while we were talking to her,(mainly checking on the situation)we realized she loved her dogs and did have them all fixed, she had one big dog, with a very large tesical, acually hanging to his knees, and was bloody. She could not afford to have him fixed. I belong to a Mississippi grass roots coalition ( posted a picture of this dog on fb, and with in 2hrs. we were making plans for his surgery (thanks to some of our coalition members) No shelter around here could help.
    I have seen more action from our local kill shelter trying to find homes for their animals, but still not enough.
    I read some where once that our kill shelter gets grant money based on how many animals (come) to their shelter, not how many acually find homes. if this is true, that is a very wrong incenitive.
    I do agree that we need to be teaching the next generations, about compassion for animals. Their minds are more open to it. You know (plant the seed.)
    Here in MS. we had a “animal control” officer kill 100 dogs, dumped them in a river bed, instead of taking them to the shelter, was charged, found gilty. Took a plea, and actually got away with it. Our thoughts on this, is that the city knew it was going on..they didn’t want to pay the shelter fee. I didn’t know there was a fee, until this made the news.
    SPAY/Neuter has to be available more, and people who will help get the animals there.
    These people running these puppy mills need to held accountable also.
    I pray every night for a solution for these poor animals.

    1. Kathy, you sound like someone who gets out there and works hard to change things. Thanks for your observations, I for one appreciate them. The policies you write about are exactly at the far, dark end of the spectrum of “shelter” horror, and what everyone who reads this blog wants to stop.

  7. The words that inspired this blog posting came from a reply to a blog posting about someone who took some puppies to a shelter. His whole intent that morning was to take the puppies to a place of safety and food and water had been left there as if to say that puppies should be left there. He apparently didn’t realize that the bowls of food and water were bait or that he was on camera for a public shaming.

    Anyone who takes puppies to any shelter is essentially taking them a bundle of money. Shelters have no difficulty at all selling puppies.

    I reach a limit when it comes to caring for animals. I would be willing to open my own veins to feed an animal, personally. I won’t do things like that to another human being. I won’t actually do it to myself, either, because it’s a lot more sustainable to feed them from money that I would otherwise have spent eating out.

    With most of these activists it seems true that you’re not contributing unless you’re wearing sackcloth and living on a handful of rice a day. Not that they do it themselves. It’s over my limit when they want to hold someone “accountable” by killing them because a 16 year old dog dies of natural causes in an outdoor pen in the winter. The replies on this case are hideous and some of the writers are dangerously, murderously insane:

    Some people call me insane and hateful if I show evidence that I love humanity more than I do the animals and that I would defend humanity’s use of animals and the benefits that we receive from animals. Excuse me? A real person is loyal to his own first.

    I’ve known people to feel suicidal about mistakes that they have made in the care of their own animals decades ago and I’ve seen people do horrible things one year and a year or so later provide a wonderful home for an animal. People can’t be punished into changes for the better. No one can. There is loose talk about the idea of punishing someone to force them to make beneficial changes, but that talk comes from human parasites, psychopaths, and those who haven’t learned better.

    Some of us can’t get away from condemning others as “irresponsible.” Calling someone “irresponsible” is one more way of saying that the ends justify the means and my word is handed down by God. Mostly it’s just mean.

    1. And no one has “tough times” anymore, it’s always “abuse” when you’re too poor to take your animal to the vet. When the humaniacs go after one abusive breeder they go after all breeders and label them as potential criminals. I would find it perfectly justifiable to shut down a humane society that did that. They have committed a lot of crimes against people using “abuse” and “irresponsibility” as an excuse and “they” do not have a clue how to care for animals or humans.

    2. Thanks for your comments. It’s appalling to me to see the fury and violence spewed by some folks in the name of “protecting animals”. I find that someone who feels such a powerful drive to expressions of violence and hatred usually doesn’t love animals so much as they hate people, when it comes right down to it.
      Spitting venom over animal issues is as easy a crutch as “won’t someone think of the children?” When a certain type of folks needs a cause to define themselves, animals are frequently it.

      I have no “beef” against animal activists, per se–just the unreasonable, and unreasonably violent hate-fueled ones.

      1. Thank you, Mixie. I am an activist for the humane care of animals. Most of the violence and hateful words come from people who want to separate the human race from animals. I want every hand on deck to care for animals regardless of breed or species, and to solve the problem of extinction by using our own homes as habitats.

        I accomplish my activism by a “better fed than dead” approach, and advocating kindness and caring.

    1. I can’t believe I’m defending Tom…
      but, um, I too am scared by the comments on that post he cited.
      People with lots of compassion for animals tend to lose it when they are confronted with humans who don’t treat animals the way they would like.
      I’m not a fan of Michael Vick, but I think it’s scary the number of people who take that whole eye-for-an-eye thing literally and want to toss him in a pool with a plugged in toaster.
      Two wrongs don’t make a right!
      Tom, one person’s “tough times” is another person’s “abuse.”
      I’d like to petition ALL OF US to do the best we can. Take care of your own, help your neighbor, be kind to animals. Why is this so hard?

      1. Lynn,

        Most of us already take care of our own, help our neighbors, and are kind to animals. Yes, Lynn, I am kind to animals. There is a big difference between being kind to animals and being ready to beat a man to death using animals as an excuse to take out my lust for violence.

        What is “hard” is then being accused of being habitual animal abusers and torturers and watching the authorities treat those accusations as credible. Even worse, they confine people and steal and kill animals without a trial, on the “strength” of the words of an evil crackpot. This is a punishment for having the animals at all. It is a punishment for trying.

      2. I don’t think it’s because of compassion that they “lose it” either. I think it’s a way of feeding on other humans.

  8. Jennie writes:

    “I don’t think just fixing the issues you mention with shelters (which are totally valid!) and providing more services will fix much of that. Until we challenge the underlying assumptions that lead to kill shelters and all the rest (that non-human animals are property and can be treated as such) will probably continue to plague us. Even then, there will always be people like my neighbor, who refused to let us take his cat in for vaccinations, flea/tick control and neutering (all of which we were offering to pay for) and refused our help setting up a way to keep his cat indoors. ”

    That’s right, Jennie. There will always be people like your neighbor. There will always be people who blow their paychecks at the track and are deadbeat parents and go on embarrassing daytime talk shows and discuss things you should only tell your shrink.

    IT DOESN’T MATTER. We cannot wait for society to have a moral makeover to insist on better systems being developed to manage the pets in our communities who need help.

    We’ve been “educating” and “enlightening” for decades now. It’s not working. Let’s instead spend our time and resources giving direct care to animals, finding them homes, and helping people keep their pets, etc., and NOT KILLING THEM.

    Who knows? Maybe if some people see that we no longer KILL HOMELESS PETS FOR NO REASON AT ALL OTHER THAN OUR OWN FAILURE TO FIND ANOTHER SOLUTION, that itself will elevate the status of animals in our culture beyond any amount of rewriting the law to say “guardian” instead of “owner.”

    1. I agree. If we waited around for 100% of humanity to become responsible, we’d never get anything done.

      Sometimes shelters (made up of people with flaws, too) prefer to punish people at the expense of animals they could have helped. And then they go out and blame EVERYONE for the actions of a few. This isn’t education. It’s insulting and defeating.

    2. Christie Keith isn’t going to answer my question. She doesn’t even allow me to post on her blog. She doesn’t bother to tell anyone that they are blocked. Posts simply fail to appear. Anyway, the failure to find another solution is called “reality.”

      On her blog she has been an apologist for the HSUS even while acknowledging that the HSUS has caused a lot of damage. Which do I hate more, the HSUS or puppy mills? I have a third choice, but I definitely hate the HSUS more. The HSUS has made a mockery of the United States justice system over the issue of puppy mills. There is absolutely nothing about puppy mills that justifies corrupting local police, lying to judges, and using political power to harm people who are harmless. We’ve been swindled into acting as if this is justifiable and it isn’t.

      There is no way that I will ever condone allowing the HSUS to do anything to anyone for any reason. The United States is not a third world country. We hire law enforcement personnel and judges who are supposed to be professionals. We certainly pay them enough to at least make the attempt. They can also be reading up on constitutional law while they are sitting at speed traps.

      Christie Keith says she gets her marching orders from Stephanie Shane of the HSUS, not in so many words but you can read the article and see for yourself:

      I fully and whole-heartedly support puppy mills. There is everything positive about a puppy and there is everything positive about a mill. I would have a problem with treating a dog as a commodity only if the negatives outweighed the positive. Did anyone consider using sane decision-making methods before picking a term to use to condemn people with?

      The positives include putting a lot of paws on the ground, ready to become dogs. They include supplying dogs to a wide geographical area, allowing them to reach many thousands of habitats. Their survival rate and health are a lot better than they are in the “wild” because they do get medical care. A lot of owners will spend their last dollar getting their dogs medical treatment. This is the best way to get the most animals to the most humane owners.

      The real thing against puppy mills is the desire of the HSUS and other groups to control the trade. Christie just waves a hand the direction she wants us to go, as if the demonic HSUS has the only viable solution and no one else has any. The price of mongrel dogs and “rescue” dogs keeps spiraling upwards in a crap economy. They already control small animal “sanctuaries” that will eventually reveal that they have been breeding animals and will sell to the “right” people for a lot of money each.

      The HSUS will become the worse exploiters of animals ever, reducing their numbers to less than ten percent of what they were, just to boost prices, just to grab part of the next flood of poorly monitored government billions that will be thrown at the environment during the next ten to twenty years. Christie Keith’s bio shows that she might have just a little familiarity with government money that disappeared when AIDS was a popular issue.

      This may be irrelevant but by now enough government money has disappeared, earmarked for Katrina victims, to buy each of them a new home and clean up the wreckage. I suppose that will be another “green jobs” program.

      Some of us care about what the future holds and we are often stymied by those who seem to have the power to flutter their fingers and dismiss the real issues to the wind.

      Here are some words from Christie Keith that I want to talk about: I don’t have a puppy mill breed myself, but I was at a friend’s house once who breeds and rescues Italian Greyhounds, and she put a little puppy mill rescued breeding dog in my lap, who had lived her whole life in a mill, and I looked into that dog’s eyes, and there was nothing there. She was dead inside. And that’s why it doesn’t matter to me how sanitary or well-lit or well-ventilated a high volume puppy farm is, or how many vets or vet techs work there, it will never be acceptable to me. It can never be okay.

      Well, Christie, this is a heartstrings story that is hard to prove one way or the other. Would you call me a liar if I tell you that I have known “puppy mill” dogs and they were a lot of fun. They’d just gather around and beg for pets and they were the happiest things I’ve ever seen. They came that way out of the box. That’s the way that they lived.

      I’m sick of the complaining about factory farms, too, by the way.

      Suzanne has the beginnings of a better idea. I think that education is what has worked all along.

      1. Tom,
        I don’t know in what universe you learned your netiquette but your idea to come here and bash someone who has banned you from her blog is inappropriate. I generally tend to err on the side of free speech but honestly, this bit from you has gotten you banned from this blog now too:
        Christie Keith’s bio shows that she might have just a little familiarity with government money that disappeared when AIDS was a popular issue.

      2. LOL, Tom, I have no idea who you are, other than a paranoid Internet conspiracy theorist, but I haven’t banned you from my blog. Are you talking about Pet Connection? I’m a blogger there. It’s not my blog. But if you ARE banned there, based on this post, I sure wouldn’t be surprised.

        And of course I found another way. It’s the No-Kill Equation.

    3. For the record: The HSUS wants this big push because it will make billions of dollars for the animal charities that it controls. There will be a large outpouring of poorly monitored government money.

      It has nothing to do with being too impatient to wait for the natural progression of things to lead to a “moral makeover.”

      This big push will reduce the numbers of many species to next to nothing, negating any and all benefits for the animals. This is their way of squeezing a lot of money out of the American government by exploiting the animals.

  9. ok, yes, you can not stop anyone from obtaining an animal, this much is true. However, if the animal is neglected, abused, roams, and wanders, perhaps let’s say into your yard. What is to prevent that animal from being kidnaped? no let’s call it, rescued, and found a forever home?
    NOTHING CAN PREVENT THIS. Drastic measures call for Drastic measures. Period, end of discussion.

  10. And as far a revenge, to the stupid people who do stupid things to animals, the best revenge is to simply take the animals away from them. They are stupid, can not be educated, and are not deserving of keeping animals. Period, end of discussion. Too much discussion prevents action. Get the show on the road. Be pro active.

    1. Susan, while I agree, the problem may be far greater than that. When I was at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary I had a good look at what happens in their backyard. The town of Kanab is a small one, with many people there going back generations. Something you could find in many other small towns.

      I found many people who love their pets, but who treat them the way their great-grandparents did. They believe dogs should be free to roam and (some) only keep them in due to city regulations. Many cats, however, roam at will. Neither get much in the way of training or vet care. Few are tethered or directly abused, but simply ignored. This is how they’ve always handled pets, and they see nothing wrong with it.

      Not all are like this (some are retirees who moved there), and it is (very) slowly changing. However, this is a change that will need generations to happen. I spent many hours grooming and cleaning neighborhood dogs, and had to build an insulated doghouse so that one of them at least had some place to get out of the cold, as he wasn’t allowed in his owner’s house, only in an open garage. Multiply this by the number of small towns, and see what you have. While not big horror stories, this issue seems widely spread.

      1. You do need to understand, Exfriender, that a lot of these people won’t see you as actually knowing anything about keeping dogs or other animals.

        Were you some of these characters who come on to someone’s property blustering and acting the bully, they would know that you were as ignorant as a rock. I’m not saying that you are. Some people are.

        There may be a “problem” but when does it become appropriate to treat other people with contempt? It is a natural state of things that so many activists treat as corruption. It’s a no-win situation for owners when even when they do comply someone comes and nitpicks and destroys their setup and steals their stuff.

        The people who take issue with problems such as you describe, I would rather see them run out of town on a rail, tarred and feathered. This seems never to lead to anything but someone being ripped off and legitimate businesses run out of town by deliberately abusive raids and people being denied their pets that were doing perfectly well before the carpetbaggers came along.

      2. Tom, by acting the bully as you mentioned, or by being calm and reasonable, it would not matter in this case. The result would be the same.

        The contempt I see in some postings here and elsewhere, it seems to me is due almost entirely to frustration. True, some people do like to bluster and yell, but IMHO most are just frustrated with the situation.

        As for
        “…I would rather see them run out of town on a rail, tarred and feathered.”
        I agree with you that abusive raids and denial is a poor approach. Instead you need education and a cultural shift that will take many years to happen.

      3. Then, Ex, it would be a good idea to lead by example and by service. You absolutely have to respect individual humans and individual rights. They have no reason to trust you even when you are “helping” them.

        The big push is a power and money grab. It will set social change back, revert it to the 17th century.

      4. Tom, in the situation I described I was able to so something. Not much, but something. That I did gently and without confrontation, for that would not have helped the situation.

        With what you read here from others’ comments, they are responding to distant situations where they are are powerless, other than their words in venting their frustration.

        We all do this, in varying degrees. If you look at what is said in
        that all started with several years of what you called “example” and “service”, attempting to slowly gain trust and work with others. It was only when I and others were completely cut off that those articles began. For, at that point, there was nothing else that could be done.

      5. Exfriender, some of the people that so many shelter workers are frustrated with are people who are in trouble, out of time and money, and desperate to do the right thing, but they refuse to put their families in danger of starvation or homelessness. This refusal is their right. Sometimes people simply aren’t able to continue to “take responsibility” and they have to dispose of animals. Then at one of the worst times of their lives, they run into an attitude.

      6. Tom, what you just described does happen, and I agree with your opinion on that particular case which, unfortunately, is happening more often now.

        The situation I last described, however, is far from that. When that dog I mentioned died, they had the money to adopt 3 small dogs of one breed (probably from a breeder, not a shelter) and build a fenced area for them behind the house and they are allowed in the house. Rather a different situation.

  11. Thank you for this article. Like most people, I would like to see positive changes in my community too. I’ve been learning about the issues and possible solutions that are being used elsewhere. One statement I read, “the curse of knowledge” reminds me that when we approach others, we have to try to remember what it was like to be unaware that there might be improved ways to do or to look at something.

    I want to learn more about changing people’s attitudes, so today I got a copy of “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard” (The statement above might have been from the first chapter I read online).

    “For individuals’ to change, you’ve got to influence not only their environment but their hearts and minds. The problem is this: Often the heart and mind disagree. Fervently.”

  12. Dear Speciesist Bloggers,

    NOBODY is ‘disposable’, you ignorant, arrogant, intellectually devoid fools.

  13. Tom,

    You must have thought that the bag that said “Paint chips”, actually said “Potato chips”, as a child. My condolences.Some things never change….you’re still clueless.

    Regardless, Thomas, my boy let me enlighten you with a fact of reality…a fact that no amount of paint chip induced, delusionary, incorrect comments on your or anyone else’s part can alter:

    Animals, like us human animals (Yes we humans are animals too. Classified as Primates. Isnt learning fun?)….. like us human animals, our fellow animals are individual persons who are living, breathing, thinking, feeling, loving, soul-filled, Children of God, equally as much as we are.

    Oh, the lead in the paint chips, or in the cases of others, diseases known as ignorance, technical term:Headupthebuttitis, and arrogance, technical term:Delusionsofgrandeuritis, may make you forget these facts at times. But forget you musnt, because Tom, an ignoramus with an incorrect thought that they erroneously believe is true, is a dangerous, even deadly ignoramus.

  14. Tom,

    P.S. If an alien from Pluto incorrectly thought of himself as being ‘superior’ to you, as you incorrectly think of yourself as being ‘superior’ to your fellow animals, I would stick up for YOU, and enlighten the Pluto native with his head planted in Uranus.

    So dont give ME any of that “If you love four legged animals, you must hate two legged animals” nonsense. That goes for the other insecure human animals here.

    I value every living soul, 4 legged or 2 legged. No favorites. No ‘superior’ nonsense. No ‘inferior’ nonsense. That junk is simply self serving delusions to make one feel better about one’s self.

    We are all one. One life. One race. One religion. One heart. One Soul. We are all equal living souls trying to live, love, be loved, and enjoy life, without any ignorant, arrogant losers preaching speciesist, sexist,or racist lies to us.

  15. Whew…methinks Thomas has been ingesting something more potent than paint chips. Not just dulling the intellect, but inducing psychosis.

    As an animal lover and a lawyer, I want to see shelters and animal control run in an ethical, legal, responsible fashion, and I personally think that every shelter should be pursuing the goal of No Kill. Will success be immediate? No. But improvement is an achievement, too.

    And to those who wrote of “humane education,” perhaps I would not use that term, but I am appalled by the ignorance of pet owners regarding the animals in their lives. (And don’t talk to me about Cesar Millan). Cats and dogs are really quite fascinating, and learning about them really enhances the relationship you can have with them. Since they are all around us, whether we own one or not, it would be a good idea to offer a course – or even a mini-course – on animal behavior to kids in school, so they know how to respond to a strange dog, so they understand how to care for a pet, the basics. It would be more useful than some of the other crap I remember having to sit through.

  16. Late to the party, I know…

    As a vet tech, I both agree and disagree with the post. I’ve seen some pretty terrible things that most people would call abuse. But I’ve also seen plenty of benign neglect. Animals that died from treatable conditions because their owners made bad choices.

    In my experience, most people don’t want to be responsible. Most people don’t even have a clear concept of what responsibility actually means. I’m not just speaking of their attitudes toward their pets, but the way they go through life in general. People don’t take responsibility for themselves and their own actions, even the ones that directly impact their lives. They go into debt because they aren’t managing their money, make excuses for not accomplishing the goals they set for themselves,stay in destructive relationships, and otherwise make it “someone else’s fault”.

    Responsibility is in reality a very hard thing to maintain. If everyone was simply fully responsible for the animals in their care, there would be no more “overpopulation” of pets. The circumstances in which an animal would be given up would be rare because they would be extraordinary, just as most of the time it takes an extraordinary circumstance for parents to give up a child.

    But that’s not the case, as one glance at Craig’s list can tell you. So I’m not convinced that the vast majority of pet owners deeply desire to take on full responsibility. They want to own a pet…and that means different things to different people. A member of my family owns a collie in liver failure that she refuses to get tested or treated because the dog is older. She tells me that “most reasonable people won’t spend more than a hundred dollars on an old dog”. The thing is though that she does love her dog. If the money wouldn’t impact anything else in her life, she probably would spring for medical testing (and understand that she does have money, she would just prefer to use it for other things).

    Love is what people want to give their pets, but love alone is meaningless. Your dog doesn’t benefit from love, it benefits from taking responsible action. But the easier we can make it for people to feel like they are loving their pets, though low cost spay/neuter, pet insurance, etc., the more likely the pet is to stay in the home. And since many pet owners aren’t responsible enough to seek out such resources, the resources have to come to them to be effective.

    I do agree that blaming pet owners for their failures doesn’t help anything. Again, we have to make it easy, and it isn’t easy to have your own faults exposed. And I do agree that the shelter system has to be examined…but again, we need to make it easy for shelters to change. The more blame you pass around, the more likely people are to dig in their heels and get defensive. The problem is that shelters are more or less insinuations in their towns, and if the management refuses to even investigate what they can do differently, you end up with very few options. At that point action on the internet won’t help because the community has to take responsibility for itself.

    I think there is blame enough for both sides. I don’t have any sympathy for someone who lets a dog end up with an embedded collar. Not a bit, and if I had my choice they wouldn’t own an animal again. They failed in their responsibility, and all their good intentions doesn’t change that. The dog could care less what their excuses were. Just as a shelter manager’s good intentions don’t change anything if animals are dying under their care when other options exist. But both sides are just people, and most people react the same way to guilt by insisting they did nothing wrong.

    1. “In my experience, most people don’t want to be responsible. Most people don’t even have a clear concept of what responsibility actually means.”

      That’s two different things you just described. Knowing what’s right and not doing it is very different from not knowing what IS responsible in the first place.

      Shelters should be there for BOTH types of people, and giving the benefit of the doubt to the public instead of assuming the worst every time would help educate people instead of scare them away.

    2. As for ‘blame’. You speak in generalities. Yesbiscuit is usually very specific about improvements that individuals and individual shelters can take. It’s a lot more useful.

    3. parallel, I’ve seen enough of what you describe to sympathize. However, everybody is not painted with the same brush. What you related is close to what I said in a previous comment on certain people. How large a percentage this applies to I don’t know, but we do apparently have enough responsible people to support the No Kill movement and maybe keep this country going for awhile…

  17. In my experience, most people don’t want to be responsible. Most people don’t even have a clear concept of what responsibility actually means.


    I do sincerely hope that you live many, many states away from me. Ideally, on another continent.

  18. You must be one heck of a gymnast! The way you can bend over backward and go thru so many convulted twists and turns to try and avoid placing blame on members of the public and always end up pointing fingers at shelters as being ultimately responsible is truly amazing! It’s like you’re so married to the idea that shelter operators are evil animal killers who continuously BLAME the public for the problems that lead to shelters havig to put down animals that you’ve got a HUGE BLIND SPOT when it comes to recognizing that SOME members of the general public are very irresposible with animals. But you wouldn’t admit it if your life depended on it.

      1. Back around 1919 the U.S. passed the prohibition laws which made liquor sales illegal. Backers wanted to believe that by outlawing liquor sales this country could rid itself of the many evils caused by drinking. Unfortunately, the law did not people from drinking and because of he unanticipated consequences of Prohibition the law was eventually repealed.

        For the past 35+ years this county has been waging a very well funded, “War on Drugs” in this country, but, like prohbition, the public’s huge appetite for drugs has made it a war that cannot be won.

        My point is, the best intentioned solutions often run up against the cold heart reality. “No Kill” is a noble philosophy but the shelter operators are the ones who have to deal with the cold, hard reality of too many unwanted animals and not enough resources. But when they make public statements recognizing this reality, you always accuse them of playing “the blame game”. That’s like criticizing a prohibition cop for admitting that the demand for booze is far greater than the resources that law enforcement has to stop the flow of booze.

      2. It’s unfashionable to say so, but in fact Prohibition was a thumping success.

        When Prohibition was passed, Americans were drinking beer at breakfast, then going off to work in factories with machinery far more dangerous than allowed now, then having more beer at lunchtime…the pervasiveness tipsiness amongst people who were not out-of-control drunkards would be astonishing to people today, ad was a major problem then.

        Prohibition drastically cut the level of alcohol consumption. Even after repeal, the absolute quantity of alcohol consumed annually in the US did not return to pre-Prohibition levels until the 1970s. The per capita consumption of alcohol in America, has never again approached what it was pre-Prohibition.

        Yes, Prohibition had bad effects also, in fueling the growth of organized crime. But it’s simply factually wrong to say that it “didn’t work.”

      3. It’s interesting to see the common thread of the negative comments. No-kill is ‘noble’ but those of us who espouse it don’t understand ‘reality’. Also, pointing out specific examples where individuals or shelters could improve is apparently doing nothing but ‘blaming’.

    1. The fact is that shelter directors have a long tradition of blaming the public for the killing that they do in shelters. What happens in a shelter is under the control of the shelter director and is the result of their choices. It is worth repeating that the buck stops at the shelter director’s desk. Back in 1974, large animal welfare groups, the AVMA and the AKC met in Chicago and decided on a policy of blaming the public for shelter killing. They published this policy and distributed it to shelters around the country. It set up the public as the enemy, not the solution. That is one of the fundamental things that the No kill movement seeks to change.

      Now that people are becoming more aware of this, hardly a day goes by without another story of an animal being killed in a shelter despite some member of the public wanting to adopt or foster or rescue that animal. This reveals the “blame the public” policy to be not only destructive and counterproductive and self-serving, but also a total lie.

      There will always be irresponsible people, both willfully irresponsible and irresponsible out of ignorance. Chalk it up to human nature if you want to. Shelters exist in part to mitigate the effects of human irresponsibility and to prevent it by setting a good example, or at least they should.

      The important thing is to keep irresponsible people off the shelter’s payroll.

      1. Valerie, the most important thing is not to keep irresponsible people off the shelter’s payroll. It is more important for members of the public to advocate that shelters get the funding they need in order to do the best they can for the animals. It is more important to put pressure on elected officials to make animal shelter funding a priority.

        Because if we don’t fund our shelters adequately, it wouldn’t matter if Jesus Christ and Mother Teresa were running them, they would STILL need to kill animals.

        You’re wrong about the buck stopping at the shelter operator’s desk. If he/she is not given the facilities and financial resources needed, they can’t be held solely responsible as you imply with the simplistic “buck stops here” statement.

      2. stratobill, you’re accusing others of claiming a single item as the entire story (which they are not), and you claim that money alone will solve it, which it will not.

        Many of the issues raised in this blog do not appear to be about money, but only responsible behavior and honesty.

        Yes, more money is needed, as is more public education and more enforcement of cruelty laws and many other items. To fixate on any single item is nothing more than your fixation.

        Also, one part of the No Kill approach is improving efficiency and reducing cost, and they have examples to support this. Have you any examples of more money alone solving the problems?

  19. You appear to be a bit uninformed about the realities of creating No Kill communities. Tompkins County, NY was the first to accomplish this feat, and did so by hiring a director who believed that the buck stopped on his desk, not by throwing money at the shelter while leaving irresponsible people on the payroll. Simple, but not simplistic.–one-volunteers-view-of-a-shelters-transition-to-No-Kill

    The No Kill Advocacy Centers Leadership study shows that save rate is not correlated with funding, but with leadership:

  20. I really appreciate all of the comments and discussion here, I’ve found it very helpful! Thanks to you all. I guess the moral for me personally is that I need to stop judging others and stop trying to decide who to blame for what, and take a good hard look in the mirror and hold MYSELF accountable for everything in my life.
    If each and every person did that, we’d have no problems!
    But each of us gets busy looking at the other guy and deciding what is and is not acceptable. Laws suck. Yea, sure, we probably need them, but we spend/waste a lot of money enforcement, and I’m not sure it really fixes the problem!
    I know from first-hand experience that a caring and willing member of the public can make a difference in their community (It happens everywhere, all the time! YEA!!!) But Animal Control or “shelter” management has ten-times the impact and can magnify or negate an individual’s power. I think Barbara Saunders said it best: “the state of shelters both contributes to the “irresponsible pet guardian” problem and increases the bad consequences of the irresponsibility.”

    1. Thinking of the comments that shelter workers should be held more accountable because they are paid…

      It seems to me that when money is involved, animal care often goes down. That said, in shelters where animals are being killed without good cause, the employees are doing the job they were hired for. They’d been told by their bosses or decided for themselves that killing is the way to do that job. In their minds, they are actually being responsible and doing their duty. Some have even signed contracts that hold them responsible for killing x number of animals each week, or keeping x number of cages empty.

      I would maintain that a pet owner actually has a greater responsibility to the pet, because they made that choice to take on that one particular animal. Most shelter workers, especially in management, see themselves as responsible to the shelter itself, not each individual animal in it.

      I wonder if I’m making any sense at all with this? It comes down to a difference in viewpoint, and to improve the shelter you have to switch the viewpoint, so that each individual animal is the shelter itself. That’s basically what Winograd did when he said a litter of puppies didn’t mean other animals should die to make room. Each loss has to take on that much importance. The employees have to know when they sign on that there’s where the responsibility lies, not in quotas or making the shelter look good for paper. So there has to be a fundamental shift on that highest level.

      On a side note, looking at another post where a large number of dogs were pulled from a rescue because 10% were emaciated…

      Would that post have read differently if it had been a shelter? Would the undertone that the shelter was just overwhelmed still be there? Or would it be seen as a failure of the shelter? When 10% of the animals in your care are suffering, enough so that one of them dies, you’re doing things wrong, and again my sympathy lies fully with the animals. I do know that AC often oversteps reasonable bounds and I despair watching shows like Animal Cops where they “rescue” animals from hoarders only to immediately kill them, but just because the shelter fails doesn’t mean the hoarder didn’t also.

    2. I was not targeting that other reply at you LynnO, but I did want to say to you that what you said is exactly what I mean about being responsible. All it means is being accountable for the things that you do, and if everyone tried it out it would make a huge difference in the world! I’m not saying I don’t ever do dumb things or make mistakes, but I try very hard not to make excuses for why it happened and make sure I don’t repeat them. Look at yourself first, than others. :)

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