An Uncomfortable Conversation

Note:  This post may be considered off topic by some and if you are interested only in how this post relates to the blog, skip to the final two paragraphs.


Access to healthcare is a right, not a privilege to my mind.  The U.S. is lagging shamefully behind such countries as Colombia, Iceland and Cuba when it comes to healthcare access.  To make matters worse, there is a social stigma associated with seeking mental healthcare in this country which reduces further the number of people who receive needed services.

The reason I bring this up is because there are likely many people in the animal welfare community, as there are in all walks of life, in need of mental healthcare.  And with severely diminished access due to governmental and societal failures, there are probably very few receiving the care they need.

I am not in any way qualified to diagnose the mental health status of individuals who target someone for harassment on social media outlets and create multiple fake profiles to “agree” with themselves.  But as a human being, I know it’s wrong.  And as a friend, I know that this tactic has caused serious pain to some individuals in the animal welfare community.

There is an expectation in social media venues that one must be willing to slough off the haters because no matter what, haters gonna hate, right?  I agree with that sentiment to an extent.  No one should expect that everyone is going to support all their viewpoints and speaking only for myself, I would not want that.  How else can I continue to grow and learn unless I am challenged to expand my worldview from time to time?  And I can certainly deal with the occasional odd duck.

But there is a difference between someone responding to an individual with a comment such as, “Have you ever considered X in addition to Y?” and someone making personal attacks and creating fake profiles to inflict greater hurt by posting additional personal attacks.  That difference is obvious to me as I suspect it is to many here.

What I am coming to is this:  I fear it is only a matter of time before someone in the animal welfare community commits suicide after being relentlessly targeted and harassed by these fake profile idiots.  That may sound extreme to some but on the other hand, how does anyone know it hasn’t already happened?  And if I don’t say it outright and plain, I’m just as guilty of stigmatizing mental health as those I blame for doing it.  So there it is.

The relevance to the blog is that I am going to start restricting comments from anyone I suspect of maintaining a fake profile for the purpose of harassing someone in the animal welfare community.  I don’t like limiting discussion but I don’t want my blog to be the place that someone who’s been victimized by these anonymous cowards comes only to find more of the same they are trying to escape elsewhere.  Differing opinions and disagreement is fine.  Targeting an individual for harassment, and especially using fake profiles to do it, is not.  There will be zero tolerance for this kind of thing from here on out – no warnings, no nothing.  If you engage in what I view as harassment, you are out of here.

And a personal note to anyone who has been targeted by these fake profile asshats – you are not alone.  There are more of us than there are of them – that’s why they have to make up fake names, yo.  If you need mental health care and have access to it, take care of yourself.  The animal welfare community needs you.  Don’t give up.

24 thoughts on “An Uncomfortable Conversation

  1. Well said. People who are being harassed should record the screen names of the harassers, I’d happily set up a spreadsheet to track them. If it’s e-mail harassment, it should be reported to their e-mail or service provider. Haters gotta hate, they never do anything of value; hence, they are without value. Give no regard or credence to the opinion of some anonymous, dysfunctional dolt.

  2. Thank you for posting on this very important topic. If I can jump off onto a tangent, I wonder how much of this type of behavior is due to compassion fatigue?
    Not that this excuses it and I do believe that those affected should seek help. And you are right on about the stigma of mental illness. It is certainly a problem.

  3. Good points .. Suicide has already happened in many places where people have been harassed by animal control, “humane societies’ and others who just plain attack I also feel that it will not be long ( and perhaps it has already happened) before someone who is “pushed to the wall” when threatened with removal of their pets or livestock will take up arms against those who hold the power and death will ensue. Either way it is a terrible thing

  4. As a nurse working fulltime in critical care for the past 30 years, I know that here in the US we not only provide the best healthcare in the world, but also access is superior to systems that funnel everyone through a government bureaucracy. Those of limited means in our country receive assistance through Medicaid, MediCal (in California) and other similar programs. Emergency care is provided to all without any barriers; roadblocks to care will get you sued and put you out of business pretty quickly, not to mention they are illegal due to federal laws such as EMTALA.
    I can’t speak to the harrassment that exists in social media, but pathological altruism is definitely a problem with many activists. ‘Nuff said.

    1. That’s a nice thought, but it’s not really true. Access to care is a major problem. We have the worst infant mortality rate in the developed world. Emergency care is for emergencies, is only intended and required to stabilize the patient, and provides no ongoing care for chronic conditions. It’s also not “free” no matter how poor you are. You get the care, but if there’s no insurance or charity fund, or it doesn’t cover the full cost, bankruptcy awaits.

      People in other developed countries find the concept of medically-caused bankruptcy is shocking and almost incomprehensible.

      1. I, too, work in critical care, though not for as long. What I hear pains me – “well, we’re just paying for this person…” The poor in healthcare are looked down upon, as they are everywhere. The shame is not giving a hand up, in private industry not stepping in, and in govt programs who expect those with very limited resources to be able to access those available (if there is public transportation, if someone even can get to a job on time…).

      2. I disagree that the poor are looked down upon in health care. You will always hear occasional unkind remarks from a few individuals; however, most who work in health care do so precisely because they DO care (it sure isn’t for the pay, the hours or the working conditions LOL). I’ve seen physicians who have taken care of the uninsured and people visiting from other countries…knowing that they would never be reimbursed….and many nurses donate their time after hours to health fairs, Relay for Life and other charitable causes. Our hospital has even set up a free clinic in the poorest section of the city.

      3. Infant mortality rates are misleading because 50% of those deaths occur in infants less than 32 weeks gestation; in the US we have a much higher rate or pre-term births than they have in Europe. We do, however, have a higher success rate wtih babies who are born pre-term. Smoking, poor nutrition and drug abuse play major roles in pre-term births. Also, the highest rates of pre-term births are in poor areas of the south. This is more a social problem than a medical one.
        By “access” you mean ” 100% free to the user”. On a grand scale, that is not a sustainable system. People in other developed countries are finding the concept of government bankruptcy to be a sad reality.

      4. No, annapurna, by “access” i do NOT mean “100% free to the user.” I mean “not prohibitively expensive for the patient.”

        There is no moral defense for people either being bankrupted by the cost of care, or being denied care because of prohibitive cost, not in the richest country on Earth.

  5. I know of those whose lives and careers have been destroyed by people saying terrible, often untrue things about them, and by unrelenting animal control hell-bent on taking animals away from someone because their views differed. I too have been attacked when my views have not perfectly aligned from “these people”, and I keep an eye out on a couple of people who do attack others. Please consider posting the false identities of these folks so we all know what we’re dealing with.

  6. I think you’re doing the right thing on this issue. Mental health help is very hard to get and constant hateful harassment is meant to push people over the edge. I think most people who care about animals have a lot of empathy and it is perhaps easier for bullies to hurt those who really care.

  7. There are certainly cases of owners who have been the target of seizures (justified or unjustified) who have taken their own lives, or have become so stressed, they have been subject to extreme health worries. It’s only a matter of time in the animal welfare community.

  8. As a frequent recipient of this type of behavior from two people with many fake profiles, I thank you for discussing the issue. Fortunately I’m secure enough to not take their hate filled posts to heart, but there may be others who aren’t.

  9. Important post Shirley. I think we all see the constant haters and feel the pain when we see it directed at some people over and over. I have called out some who are perpetrators of negative posts and have alias’ to do more of the same in my area. Sadly – you can’t stop it. What we can do is just what you posted here – BLOCK those who practice these tactics. We will never all agree but we have to have compassion and respect. There is too much danger in hate.

  10. When someone is accused of animal cruelty and the media picks it up, they instantly come under assault from attackers around the world. There have been half a dozen suicides that I’m aware of in the last 3 years or so. Those rarely make the news and more rarely is the connection that they have been accuse pointed out. When it is, the reaction from the same flame throwers ranges from “good”, “got what they deserved” to “that was too easy, they should have been tortured first”.
    Great topic but, sadly, the deaths are already stacking up.

  11. Interesting on several levels. I would remind anyone who is a target of on line harassment that those who are trained investigators or stable adults do not believe what we read without back up. So no matter what ANYONE says about you, half of us don’t care and another quarter don’t believe it. Those that do are really hard to talk to most of the time.

    1. That is supposed to make us feel comforted how? Or your version of … *if you aren’t guilty then you have nothing to worry about*. Yea, we’ve seen that one work time and again.

  12. I was targeted by a dog flipper in NYC area who gets purebred small dogs from all over the country and then tries to make people send the dogs to her on their dime. She lies and tries to get everyone in rescue to believe it. People in rescue are a . compassionate bunch and unfortunately, quick to believe in the bad (probably because they see so much of it). She told me I was getting arrested, had a warrant out for my arrest and even had a lawyer who had volunteer to fight me on it. She told everyone else I was a dog flipper and who knows where all these animals were going, perhaps they were bait dogs?

    Once I sent the entire conversation to everyone, where she lies constantly, the tables were turned and it backfired on her. Unfortunately, she was able to hurt a lot of people who were saving death row dogs and put many dogs in harms way because of her behavior. I spoke with 3 of her former victims when I decided she wasn’t getting the dogs.

    She is probably still doing it to others all over the South where we are killing highly adoptable animals that she make a pretty penny on in New York.

    A rescuer (pitbulls) I know recently had the same problem with a disgruntled foster/wanna-be adopter who was breeding pitbull mixes. She picked up the animal who wasn’t yet neutered and refused to give it back to the foster. The foster then started saying nasty things all over Facebook, so she (rescuer) published some of the conversation which shows this foster breeding her pittie mix and selling off the babies.

    There are some seriously scary people on Facebook.

    I’ve also seen targeted bullying of fosters who dogs have escaped. Unless they have a history of losing dogs, I try to be compassionate because I have had dogs that escaped. I was fortunate to catch them before I had to report an issue, and I take every precaution because I have an escape artist as a personal pet. I know stuff happens.

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