Animal services leadership needs activists pushing them to do better. It’s part of the process. It may not always feel comfortable, but I always reminded myself when I was a director that necessity is the mother of all invention and innovation. I would ask myself, “Will this push back and questioning from activists result in more lives saved?” If the answer was yes, then I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. If the answer was no, I politely listened to suggestions and moved on.
What makes lifesaving animal services unique and successful is that it is a community ethic and when done successfully, it’s always a partnership between municipalities, non-profits and the community.
I came into my last executive role after an audit was done by the city’s auditor’s office. Without any context or knowledge of animal services, the city auditor’s office issued a report on areas of deficiencies. It wasn’t exceptionally critical and only touched on three points, but some people wishing to discredit no-kill animal sheltering, latched on to and lifted out certain snippets of the audit using it out of context in their presentations.
Clobber verses. That’s what it’s called when people lift biblical verses out of context to support their personal opinions on issues, societal norms, beliefs or judgments.
Taking potshots at no kill animal sheltering from the safety of a podium by misusing statistics and omitting context is unprofessional and arguably unethical. The professionals working hard to improve and evolve have no time to waste on confusing hidden agendas.
It’s possible to be knowledgeable on certain parts of modern lifesaving animal sheltering, but putting the entire lifesaving puzzle together takes the ability to learn quickly, challenge the norm and tap into your intestinal fortitude. Can you work under pressure with different internal and external stakeholders, can you shelf your ego and gather your courage as the criticism becomes public? Juggling personnel, budget, operational and other complex issues while also having political acumen is not for the faint of heart.
The critic’s omission of context can wreak havoc on a community, organization and reputation. Putting pressure on the wrong people for things that do nothing to stop the killing of pets is not helpful.
At one point in my career I had tremendous pressure put on me to spend our emergency donation funds to hire dog walkers. We had an intake of 16,000 and under 400 pets were losing their lives annually and only when all options had been exhausted. No pet was killed for lack of resources or space.
We were at capacity routinely so my primary focus was helping people keep their pets and getting pets into homes or rescues. Our live release was 98%. Our enrichment program was robust with staff, volunteers and the public walking dogs and we had instituted the first ever playgroups two months after my arrival. We were far from perfect, but I would not spend our emergency funds on dog walking. The critics will omit the context and tell the story that they want to tell.
If a community is saving more lives in their shelters every day, get behind those leaders. Cheer them on. Gather others to help you support the efforts. Roll your sleeves up and help. The clock is ticking, and time is of the essence for the voiceless that depend on us to get it right.