Re-printed with permission by Paw4Change
I genuinely do not seek out conflict. I am not one of those people who thrives on crisis and seeks to create drama. I know that my belief system causes me to be in conflict with others. I understand that is unavoidable. You cannot be vocal about your beliefs in the midst of people who do not agree and expect that we will all just get along without a degree of friction.
I’ve been in conflict with volunteers at high kill animal shelters for a very long time. A lot of people think I’m intolerant and I’m perfectly fine with that because I am intolerant when it comes to having my tax dollars and donations used to kill healthy and treatable animals. Although people from outside animal welfare circles may presume that we all stand for the same thing, that we all champion the cause of saving lives, that is not always the case. As was said by one of my mentors during a radio interview last November. No. We cannot hug it out and just all get along. We are two separate factions of people and we often share little in common in terms of what we value.
If you are a volunteer at an animal shelter that routinely and systematically destroys healthy and treatable pets, I will applaud you for your efforts to help animals based on a few conditions. I want you to educate yourself on programs being used across the country to save shelter pets. I want you to question why it is that the shelter in which you volunteer destroys animals when other places across the country are saving animals. I want you to voice your protests over the destruction of animals which could and should be saved. I want you to speak loudly and with a sense of urgency when you know that animals in the shelter have veterinary care delayed or denied, get sick due to lack of vaccinations and proper cleaning protocols or are allowed to kill each other because they were not properly housed or supervised. I consider those acts to be criminal in nature because they amount to neglect and cruelty even if they take place inside a public building. If you think you can do good from working inside the shelter, by all means continue to do so.
If you are a volunteer at an animal shelter that routinely and systematically destroys healthy and treatable pets and you remain silent, go along to get along or, worse yet, you defend the killing of healthy and treatable animals, you are an enabler. You are helping to perpetuate the destruction of the very animals you say you want to help. You may tell yourself that you are doing good because you are helping to care for animals in their last hours, as if their death is some foregone conclusion. That may be the case for animals which are suffering or which are so sick that they simply cannot be saved. But do not sugar coat your volunteerism and make it seem like you are rendering compassion and love to a healthy and treatable animal which is about to be destroyed for no good reason at all. And believe me, there is no good reason for that animal to be destroyed in spite of what you may have been told.
I have heard volunteers say that people who advocate for animals outside of the shelter are not “in the trenches,” do not see what they see and are part of the problem as opposed to part of the solution. But, here’s the thing. I am working to save the lives of animals by resolving systemic issues. I would no more set foot in a high kill shelter than I would help hunt coyotes or work in a stockyard. I do not need to be in the shelter to know that what takes place there is wrong. I know I cannot be there because then I, too, would be complicit in the killing.
And to those volunteers who think it is appropriate to defend killing savable shelter pets, I say this: you are not only part of the problem but you are actively working to prevent the solution.
It has been said that some in the sheltering industry have “drunk the Kool-Aid.” That they are so close to the destruction of animals that they simply cannot see any other way to think or function. That they believe that animals simply must die and that they are performing some morbid public service. If you volunteer in a shelter, please. Focus on helping animals and advocating for them from inside the system.
Just don’t serve the Kool-Aid.
Read more on this topic here: Can’t We All Get Along, by Nathan Winograd
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