The Rock and the Hard Place: When those who love animals harm them

For those of us who work in animal protection, every day is filled with news stories, social media posts and pleas to help homeless, soon-to-be-homeless and shelter animals find a place where they can be safe and have a home. Knowing that over 4 million shelter pets and countless abandoned pets lose their lives each year in the U.S., it’s no wonder that the No-Kill Movement was born. If you love animals, you don’t want to see them die simply because of over population and lack of space. That’s the Rock.

Then there are the growing number of situations where animal advocates start animal protection organizations and open up animal sanctuaries to help house those pets who have been tossed away by society through hoarding situations, puppy mills, animal fighting enterprises, and even rescuing pets from municipal shelters who have so little funds and help that they cannot keep these dear souls for more than the minimum hold period. Rescuers, as we like to call ourselves, work every day to provide a safe place for as many adoptable animals as possible. Some places even open their doors and hearts to those less-adoptable pets that may have been traumatized by cruelty and neglect. Anyone who knows me understands that I am a huge advocate for saving lives of animals; yet I am concerned that we are putting too much pressure on these organizations to take in more than they can handle and not giving them the support that they need. Hence, the Hard Place.

Today, I read yet another article about a sanctuary that allegedly turned into a death camp. I am not pointing fingers or placing blame on anyone. But I see everyday how we put so much pressure on ourselves to save “just one more” to the point where our safe places are beyond capacity and some even turn to the point of cruelty and neglect … the exact situations that these well-intentioned people wanted the animals to avoid. In my volunteer work with King Street Cats, a cat orphanage that does not euthanize, I see how many people are turned away (especially this time of year at the height of kitten season) or put on a waiting list because we are over capacity. Luckily, we have a team of people to keep things in check so that the cats and kittens receive the highest medical care along with a clean and healthy living space. But other groups may not have the support system in place and, therefore, fall victim to the savior mentality. It is an impossible situation when faced with taking in an animal (and allowing it to live) or saying no (which may be certain death for the animal). It can cause sleepless nights and I’ve been there.

The solution is to get more people involved in helping all of the organizations and shelters so that more lives can be saved and the animals are housed in safe and healthy environments. It is heart-breaking to know that people who loves animals and want to give them a good life end up placing those same animals in a situation that is far worse than a humane death. Starving to death in the face of overwhelming neglect is animal cruelty. Period. So my plea to you today is to help out in a small way or a big way. Just help! Here are a few ideas:

  • Volunteer at a shelter, sanctuary or with a rescue group to keep the pets calm and happy, which will make them more adoptable; help with adoptions; photograph the pets for placement on Petfinder or a website; run a social media page to help advertise adoptable pets;
  • If you see a situation that is unhealthy for the animals, do not be afraid to speak out;
  • Donate comfort items to shelter pets;
  • Donate money to help the shelters and rescue groups provide the best care possible;
  • Get a copy of Defending the Defenseless: A Guide to Protecting and Advocating for Pets which is filled with hundreds of ideas of how you can help.

It’s easy to become upset with anyone who harms an animal, either intentionally or unintentionally. Instead of getting upset, roll up your sleeves and help out. That’s the only way we can truly make change and keep an eye on situations to make sure that those that love animals do not become those who harm them.

All my best,

 

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