In the perfect world there would be no animal shelters. Or shelters for victims of domestic violence, or prisons, or shelters for the homeless. There would only be love and light, but as we all know it is not a perfect world. In a perfect world everyone would be a responsible loving pet owner who keeps that beloved pet for that pet’s entire life. Spouses would not beat their wives and children, people would not commit crimes and everyone would have enough.
Animal shelters exist because people are not responsible pet owners. They do not spay/neuter their pets and therefore there needs to be a place to keep these unwanted animals so that they do not run loose in communities. They exist as a shelter for animals who are abused by humans. They exist as a warehouse for animals who bite or are deemed aggressive as a public safety measure.
It would be a safe bet to say that most shelters — whether for animals or humans — find themselves overwhelmed with the need, desperately lacking in space and money to care for all who come to them needing shelter and care.
Often it is the animal shelters’ staff who are blamed for the plight of the animals they house instead of irresponsible owners and abusers. Organizations that run compassionate caring facilities are more times than not underfunded, understaffed and overwhelmed. Most do the best job they can with what they have. It is generally the animal lovers in the community who give shelters the hardest time, particularly if they euthanize. Many animal lovers will not go into shelters, saying it makes them too sad. Yet they are the first to criticize the staff.
It is the staff and volunteers who see the worst people have to offer. Who see the animals who have been beaten, starved, frozen to the ground, burned and raped. It is these people who hold these animals, giving them comfort when there is no one else. It is the staff and volunteers who watch these animals shut down from the stress of shelter life; it is the staff and volunteers whose hearts are broken on a daily basis. It is the staff and volunteers who come early, stay late and never have a day off because they are trying to save an animal because we do not have the luxury of time. Because more animals will be brought to our shelter the next day and we are already full.
So if you want things to change for the animals in our community, stop blaming the shelters and demand better ordinances, better laws and better enforcement for crimes concerning animals. Stop turning your heads to animal abuse expecting someone else to deal with it. If you want shelter animals to have a better life, then help us. If you want to make a change, the option is not to blame shelters and to sit on the safety of the sidelines and criticize. Get in the trenches with us. Walk in our shoes. But know that you may not find the walk pleasant.
Maleah Stringer is the executive director of the Animal Protection League, 613 Dewey St. She can be reached at 356-0900 or at email@example.com.