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How Did We Get Here?

How would it be if Joe Smith took 100 dogs a day to his local vet for killing?  I bet there would be questions, not the least of which would include the issue of why so many healthy/treatable pets should be killed.  Maybe he would explain that people kept bringing him dogs and cats – strays, pets no longer able to be cared for, litters of puppies and kittens, etc – and that he put a giant sign out by his mailbox saying “Pets Available Here” but that very few adopters came by relative to the number of pets dropped off.  He is just one person and can’t possibly care for all these pets and apparently no one else wants them either so what else is there to do but round them up each day and take them to the vet’s office for killing.

The vet might realize this is a community issue and it’s not right that this man should be expected to bear the burden alone.  The vet goes to the next meeting of county officials and explains what’s happening.  The county agrees this is a community matter and decides it would be appropriate to use county taxpayer money to help this guy out.  They figure with adequate funding, they could pay an on-site veterinarian and staff to support the man in caring for all these pets, build indoor/outdoor housing for the animals, and buy food, cleaning supplies, medicine and other necessities.

Since the county will be using taxpayer money to fund this effort, they know they’ll need to explain how it will benefit the community.  Otherwise, nobody is going to support it and without strong community support, the project is unlikely to succeed.  It is the public who will be relied upon to adopt, foster and network online to get all these pets into homes.

So the county explains to the public that their tax dollars are needed to prevent friendly pets from being needlessly killed.  They explain that Joe Smith can’t do it alone – nor should he be expected to.  No one wants healthy/treatable pets to die when there are enough homes for all of them – maybe not immediately, maybe not all in the county – but the homes are there and with the community’s support, all the pets can be cared for until a permanent home is found for each of them.  This will be their shelter.

The pet loving members of the community step up and begin to make donations, volunteer to help care for the pets, foster and network online.  Mr. Smith and his staff have been given enforcement duties as well in order to investigate claims of abuse.  Things seem to be going along smoothly.  The public has really embraced their shelter.  The future looks promising.  But everything is not as it seems.

At the next county meeting, a shelter volunteer speaks up.  He says the first thing Joe Smith did when he got the new facility and funding was to institutionalize the killing.  He hired a vet to kill the pets in-house which he said would save taxpayers money over him having to truck them out to a clinic every day for killing.  And he turns a blind eye to his staff abusing the pets in the shelter so long as they don’t leave any evidence behind.  The staff member whose job it was to vet and coordinate with rescues had her job eliminated after she addressed her concerns about the shelter to Mr. Smith.  He notified everyone of the “good news” in an e-mail titled “Additional savings in our budget”.  A volunteer offered to do the same work so that pets could get out to rescues but Mr. Smith refused and told that volunteer his services were no longer needed.

After hearing all this, the community is seriously concerned.  They begin demanding answers from county officials.  If these allegations are true, the people have been betrayed.  This is supposed to be their shelter.  The idea that the community’s pets are not only still being needlessly killed but also abused is outrageous.  And taxpayers are funding it all.

But the county sees things differently.  They reassure the public that Joe Smith and his staff will investigate the abuse claims being made against them.  They explain to people that the killing of pets is necessary because the public is irresponsible and uncaring and contributes to pet overpopulation.  People need to understand that pet killing is not an easy job and they should be grateful to Joe Smith and his staff for performing this unpleasant task.  Finally, they remind taxpayers of all the savings Joe Smith has managed to produce within his budget.

Some people are confused.  How could the shelter staff possibly investigate themselves for cruelty?  Does that even make sense?  Others feel bad for questioning the shelter staff’s motives when they hear how difficult it is for them to kill so many pets every day.  Still others are quite pleased to hear about the budget savings and figure Joe Smith must be a pretty good guy after all.

For the few who are still asking questions, the county explains that the results of the cruelty investigation must be kept private, and that surely everyone can appreciate that.  Additional concerns may be addressed to the county public information officer.

So here we are.  This is your shelter.

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