Monday, September 28, 2015

A note to the person who attacked my animal shelter (and my reputation)

Surprised kitty at Willamette Humane Society
See how absolutely gobsmacked kitty Harvey Dent looks in this photo I took earlier this year at Willamette Humane Society? That's how I looked last night when I checked my Facebook feed. Mouth open, frozen in place--I was this guy's twinsie.

Someone that I met during my volunteer time at Willamette Humane used an innocent photo of an adoptable dog as a springboard for something really disgusting. And let me tell you something: I'm fighting mad.

The post, which I will NOT link to here, as I don't want to give this person any kind of traffic whatsoever, contains two photos of dogs. In one photo, the dog is in a kennel smeared with blood. In the other, the dog is in a kennel with more than a few logs of poo. Underneath the photos, this person suggests that these are snaps of a day in the life for animals at the shelter.

She suggests that animals are routinely neglected, abused and/or ignored by staffers who have no passion for the work that they do. At the moment, her post has been shared upwards of 179 times, so this is a message that's gaining traction.

And I'm absolutely, 100 percent baffled by that.

As the administrators of the Willamette Humane Society page (which I will happily link to here) have pointed out, both of these photos were taken out of context. The blood? It happened in the evening, after the shelter had closed up for the night. The poop? Same deal.

Both dogs had serious medical conditions that caused them to deteriorate overnight. They weren't neglected. They were ill.

And it wasn't routine. These were one-time, horrific examples of poor health in old dogs taken to an open shelter late in the day.

But as it turns out, the truth doesn't resonate. The explanation for the photos has only been shared 32 times. That means many people in my community think that I volunteer in a place that stands for animal abuse. That breaks my heart. And it also makes me feel a little like this.

Angry cat at Willamette Humane Society

Yep, I'm a little angry. And here's what I'd like to say.

I understand how a difficult job, such as one you might do at an animal shelter, might make you feel disgruntled about rescue work as a whole. I can see how you'd be so broken and upset at the end of a shift that you might just want to snap up all sorts of photos to shake things up and change the world.

But you know what you could do? You could actually--you know--do the damn work. Clean the kennel. Offer to take the sick dog home for monitoring. Go into the shelter late at night to sit with the sick dog. Or take photos of the dogs and ask for donations or added volunteers or knitted comfort blankets.

What you did instead? You're taking money and resources away from that organization. You're making the work harder. And shame on you: That little tantrum will cost animals their lives.

That goes double for everyone "sharing" this story without researching the facts. Ask questions. Donate. Sign up to volunteer. Knit your own damn blankets. If you want to do something, do something. Don't snap up a lie and spread it around.

I do the work, and I stand with Willamette Humane Society. And for those of you who believe pictures more than words, see the cats in this blog entry.

Harvey Dent at the top of this post was 10+, and he was adopted. Lucky mid-way down was also 10+, and he was adopted. Both of these cats went from less-than-ideal situations to beloved home lives, all because of Willamette Humane Society.

Is that abuse? Are you freaking kidding me?

It's time to redefine the word.

14 comments:

  1. I am so sorry this happened. I pray that you can overcome this smear campaign against the shelter. It is a hard enough job to run a shelter without having one person set out to ruin your reputation. Good luck with setting this straight.

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    1. Thanks. The team over there is great, and they're doing an excellent job. I trust this will blow over, in time.

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  2. hooray for you and how you said it!
    LeeAnna and Cole

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    1. Thanks. I usually steer clear of controversy, but this hit a little close to home.

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  3. This post is one of the reasons this situation makes my heart so sore. Dedicated, exceptional volunteers and staff are taking time out ot their lives, to respond, to defend, to try to balance the view that has gone out because someone didn't believe that we would respond to concerns, who didn't believe that we care, that we meet, as staff and volunteers, to discuss EVERY animal in our care once a week around a table, and all through the week in email and one on one conversations, to make sure every animal gets every chance possible to find their happy outcome. This is wasting our time, precious, precious time that we need. We need time to feed our souls, to detox our experience, to step away from the shelter, so that we can come back strong and ready to do the good and important work we do, every day, one litter box, one life at a time.
    This is wasting public perception, eroding a hard won and positive reputation that we need to build our foster programs, to recruit more volunteers to work with shy cats and unruly dogs, to generate support for saving more lives--the ones who need more work, more medical care, more time in foster homes. This is such a heartbreaking waste of resources...

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    1. I think it's important to address the issue, so we can keep on with the work. But you're absolutely right: There's a fine line between addressing and amplifying or (worse yet) internalizing. I'll think hard about what you've said here.

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  4. I am so sorry that your shelter is going through this drama. It totally sucks that the person did that. Anyone who works with animals knows that occasionally these sorts of things happen. It sucks but you clean up the mess and go on. Dogs get sick sometimes and it happens. :(

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    1. Rescue is tough work (and it's often darn messy!).

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  5. That's terrible!! Stupid internet trolls. :-( Some shelters I know don't take good care of the animals in them, but many others try really hard! And with limited resources, I wish we could help more. If i'm ever a millionaire i'd love to give it to some awesome shelters.

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    1. Trolling drives me bonkers. The web can be a tool used to spread joy, but so often, it's a tool people use to incite misery. Makes me sad. And I'm with you on the donation part!

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  6. it sucks that one person can have so much negative impact. and without realizing that they hurt EVERY rescue out there. rescues and shelters have enough negative suppositions about them in the public without people posting things out of context (or at all)

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    1. That's such a good point. Stories like this cast a pall on every single rescue out there, despite the good work that they might be doing. It's so important to research and get the facts.

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  7. for years I have been fighting against people who say that no kill shelters are awesome and 'kill shelters' shouldn't be supported.. it is amazing how much people simply do not understand. There was recently a break in at a shelter and a couple of dogs were killed by the criminals that broke in, and the comments were so out of touch with reality - blaming the shelter for not having someone on staff 24/7 or cameras, etc - that it simply broke my heart.

    Too many people think that standing up on a trumped up soap box is being helpful.. they really have no clue just exactly what they are really doing.

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    1. What a sad story! And you're so right. Just "sharing" something that is inflammatory or just wrong doesn't help anyone. It's sad that so many people think it does.

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