Work and Social Media

Social media has become one of the greatest ways to destroy work relationships.  People post everything that happens to them and what they are thinking on their social media page and then claim they were victimized by a coworker reading their posts.  Some people have not figured out that when you post on social media, anyone in the world can read it.

Work was so much easier when we didn’t know every secret thought of our coworkers.  We knew when to keep our mouths shut; so why have people become so open on a public forum?  I got so tired of people coming to me to complain about what someone else said about them on social media.  Just because a thought goes through your head, doesn’t mean that you need to speak it or post it.  Going on anyone’s social media page, you will discover crap.  We produce a lot of it.

I worked with a human resource director who believed that every social media post had the basis of being rooted in some fact.  She could not understand that many posts have no basis in fact.  If it appeared on her social media account, it must be taken care of.  Do you have any idea how much time is required to manage baseless nonsense?  Social media has proved that our first amendment right is one that we so often abuse.  People feel free to say anything that they want on social media; at least in the old days when you would talk person to person, we developed some skills of diplomacy.  Deplomacy is a skill that our society is quickly losing. 

Many people take advantage of the fact that government employees cannot sue for slander that occurs as a result of their work place.  We just have to accept that suffering lies is a job requirement.  Because we cannot sue,  there is no opportunity for people to learn any lessons for slandering.  Even organizations that have government contracts are in the same situation.  If you are feeding at the government trough, you are facing the same restrictions as other government workers.

Social media is becoming a mechanism in which people are leaving behind their civility.  It is becoming evident in our every day lives.  We see people acting out in public places over the smallest of issues because we are becoming a society that doesn’t teach how to control ourselves.

Online Petitions

We are a society that likes to complain about everything.  For those who complain, we have a way to make things right; even if nothing is wrong.  This post is triggered by a new petition on Change.org to redo the last season of Game of Thrones.  To be honest, I think this is the only petition on the site that has any merit.  As with social media, these sites attract mean people attempting to bully an organization.

I have been the subject of petitions and I have learned that to create a petition, you can invent any truth to serve your purpose.  People want their fifteen minutes of fame and they can gain it by fabricating some story that might strike a nerve is other people.

People go to the website and the site become like a black hole in which the intelligence of the readers are sucked out of them and they will sign their name to any or all of them.  Many of the petitions are scams, but if you get enough signatures, they take on reality.  It is this reality that we constantly face in animal welfare.  In stead of working to solve your community’s problems they decide to armchair quarterback from the comfort of their home computer.

You can do all of the good in the world, only to offend one person and have the entire “change community” shoved down your throat.  There is no forgiveness in our business.

What good will changing the final season of Game of Thrones do after that season has so firmly been burned into our heads?  I am a strong advocate for change, but let’s be active participants in stead of being those mean folks who become keyboard activists.  But if you cannot find yourself climbing up from you keyboard, then at least make sure your claims are righteous.  Find the truth, don’t invent it.

What is the Value of a Pet?

One of the most common issues that animal shelter workers face is pet owners relinquishing a pet due to the cost of ownership.  The most common practice is the surrendering of a pet due to medial costs.  Once a pet is surrendered, those costs now become the responsibility of the shelter.

When a shelter is faced with the cost of caring for an animal that has been abandoned by the owner, many factors enter in to the equations when determining the animal’s plight: resources, animal’s age, animal’s overall health condition, adoptability (breed, temperament, size) and story.

The ability to pay a major medial bill is the most frequent hurdle in making the decision to treat a pet; after all, it is the most common reason that the pet was surrendered to the shelter.  It is not uncommon that a pet owner will surrender their pet seeking free medical care and attempt to adopt the pet back after the care has been provided.  The decision to move forward on an animal is always a difficult one.  Many shelters opt to set a maximum allowance for each pet.  That maximum allowance is determined by the cost at hand and the frequency that pet owners in your community burden you with this problem.

Young animals will be given more weight that senior animals; although their life is no more valuable, we tend to want to offer a young animal a chance at a longer life than treating an animal that doesn’t have much longer to live anyway.

Determining what is wrong with an animal will make the decision much easier.  Are you dealing with a one time injury or is this an injury that is going to have ongoing need for treatment.  Is the illness or injury costly to treat?  How long will recovery be?  Keep in mind that cage space is an issue and recovering animals are a good excuse to create a foster program to deal with the long term care of an injured animal.

Is the dog a pitbull?  I hate to mention breed but the fact is pitbull dogs usually represent over 50% of the dog breeds in our shelters.  Due to rent agreements, they are one of the most likely dogs to never get adopted.  Do you want to throw hundreds of dollars into a dog that will eventually be euthanized?  I would suggest that if a dog has a history of aggression, there is no reason to consider the dog for adoption.  The last thing you need in your shelter is an aggressive dog that has no hope of a future outside your shelter.  Small dogs are the easiest to adoption, so they should be consider first to receive medical treatment.

And finally the animal’s story.  Many of the major animal welfare organizations live off of the donations they receive by posing a pitiful animal on national television.  If it works for them, it can work for you.  Anytime I use the media to ask for funds to help an animal, our intake of funds would always be more than the cost of treating the animal.  It is easier for a person to focus on a specific animal than to donate for a general cause.

Making life and death decisions is the hardest part of our profession.  I helps when you go in with a plan.

Cat Grooming

I was recently asked about muzzling a cat so as to get at the mats in the cat’s fur.  Anyone who has ever attempted to engage in a behavior that is disliked by the cat that you are holding, you know the speed of the cats ability to use its teeth and claws.  Any attempts to control the cat’s head will result in cat paw-like speeds approaching the speed of light.  Like the wind, you see what remains of your hands and arms without seeing the paws move.  These actions will quickly deplete the contents of your first aid kit.

The first rule of grooming a cat is to have someone else do it.  There are professionals who do this for a living and the costs associated with performing this function compensates themselves for engaging is a dangerous activity.  I have done some dangerous things in my profession, but few are more dangerous than grooming a cat.

I once thought that it would be a great idea to put claw covers on my cat’s nails.  This was at a time that I learned that no first aid kit is ever property stocked.  There is no greater feeling of success than to see the angry looks of the cat as each paw is showing a separate color.  Then after a few days, you begin to see each claw bead falling off one by one until it is time to approach the cat with a towel to attempt the process all over again.

I am constantly reminded about my misadventures in animal welfare each time I look at my first aid kit, that is now large enough to stock a small hospital.

Zoonotic Diseases

I saw in the news a report of a person getting Brucellosis from a dog.  As an animal welfare worker, you should already know that you live in a world of animal diseases and some of those diseases can be passed along to you; that is the definition of a zoonotic disease.

From time to time we need to refresh our memories as to this particular aspect of our profession; I was constantly reminded by the staff who loved to go from animal to animal getting doggie kisses.  We preach about fomites (the spread of disease through our hands and clothing) only to see employees spreading it through their mouths.  I get it, it hard to be in this profession and not surrender to a few kisses.  But like your hands, wash your face between kisses.

Animal Shelter staff and the public are the primary vector for spreading diseases within an animal shelter.  It is bad enough that we spread the diseases between animals, but we need to be sensitive to the diseases that we can give to ourselves.

I would like to share an article by Jill Seladi-Schulman, PhD on zoonosis.  We all should practice safe animal handling.

Screwing with Mother Nature

I recently wrote about Australia’s war on feral cats.  In today’s news, we find that the bounty on cats is not reaping sufficient cat deaths; the government has decided that the solution to kill millions of stray cats is by airdropping “poison sausages” according to Australia’s CBS News.

It has been my experience that our “well intended species” always makes things worse when we screw with Mother Nature.  We created the problem with the cats in the first place and now we feel the need to fix the problem by poisoning all of the cats so as to minimize the impact the threat of the cats on native wildlife populations.

I mentioned the problem of non-target species eating the bait.  As I see it, many native wildlife species eat the same food as cats and maybe even a few children.  The plan to poison all of the cats seems to not be very well thought out.

Australia is faced with a difficult problem. Since the introduction of cats by Europeans in 1700, 27 mammals species are now facing extinction.  Even here in the United States cats are blames for impacting wildlife populations.  Australia believes that their are estimated between 2 and 6 millions cats in their country.  Having been in houses hoarding cats, I know the difficulty in getting an accurate count.  Australia has set their goal of wanting to kill 2 million cats by 2020.

So, this is how I think it will unfold:  Australia will successfully kill a whole bunch of cats, but at the same time they will be killing a whole bunch of the species they are trying to save.  A couple children will come across the food and hopefully not eat enough to harm them.  And, all the while the cats will continue to breed and in a few years they will be back where they started.

War on Cats

I read an article this morning about Australia declaring war on feral cats.  The feral population has grown so large that their government is worried about the impact that the cats have on other species.  They have started putting a bounty on the cats. 

Australia is not alone with this problem.  In the United States, we have been fighting this problem for years.  At one time or another large communities have discussed methods to reduce the feral cat population.  Many community begin by trapping, neutering, and releasing the cats back where they were found.  TNR programs are considered a humane way to deal with the surplus problem.

The idea behind TNR is to create a community of infertile cats.  It is believed that every area has a maximum carrying capacity for a specific species and that by loading up an area with cats that cannot reproduce will eventually lead to reduction of the cat population.  In theory, it looks good on paper.

The problem is that people caused the problem of feral cats and humans continue to undermine the success of feral cat programs.  Although Mother Nature has a specific carrying capacity for any species, that does not keep us humans from messing it up by leaving food out for the cats and increasing the capacity for an neighborhood to support more cats.

In Jacksonville Florida, we had a problem in which groups of citizens took it upon their selves to set up shelters and feeding stations for feral cats throughout the city’s parks.  Some engaged in TNR, but many only had the funds to just buy food.  The Parks Department was not very happy with the increasing amount of feces deposited where children were playing.

One neighborhood in Jacksonville took on the challenge of removing all of their feral cats, only to discover that rats moved in.  Clearly the art of dealing with feral cats needs to be balanced.

Our government created food pellets that could vaccinate raccoons for rabies.  I had always wished that someone would create food pellets that would vaccinate and sterilize cats.  This sounds like such a simple solution to our feral cat problem, until you begin to worry about non-target species, for example: children picking up the pellets and eating them.  Kids do stupid things like that.

TNR is part of the solution, but we are still dealing with the pet owners who moves out of town abandoning their fertile cats.  Differential licensing fees work in many area where infertile pets are licensed are a ridiculously low fee and fertile pets are licensed at a much higher fee.  In Gainesville Florida, the owners of impounded fertile pets had a choice to pay a lower reclaim fee if they allowed us to sterilize their pet.  After all, animals that are running at large are the problem.

We have a lot of citizens who just refuse to do the right thing.  We create laws, in hopes of regulating their bad behavior.  Unfortunately, these folks don’t care very much about following rules or laws.  It is because of people like this, that Australia had to declare war on cats because people along the way failed to do the right thing of controlling or sterilizing their cats.  Australia is proof that many people do not have what it takes to be a responsible pet owner.

In Salt Lake City, we had an education program in which we went into all of the elementary schools to teach humane education to 3rd and 5th graders.  One of the favorite parts of my job was to listen to parents complain to me that their child came home from school and pointed out that they were bad pet owners.  It gave me an opportunity to remind them of their responsibility to set a good example for their children.  We hoped that this program would create a whole new change in pet ownership for the next generation.

Adequate Confinement

In the business of animal welfare we constantly butt heads with people lacking commonsense or reason.  We are partly to blame because we do not word our laws in such a way that applies to every specific circumstance.  If we served reasonable people, we could write our laws in a broad sense, but too many in our communities need someone to draw a picture.  Unfortunately, because many of our laws are written in a broad sense, we encounter reasonable complaints that provide us no measure to resolve.

It is not uncommon for one neighbor to complain about another neighbor’s dog that aggressively attacks the fence trying to get to passersby.  The fence is flimsy, but (so far) has contained the dog(s).  The dogs present a threat to the community, but you cannot determine if the it is an immediate threat.  Asking the dog owner to strengthen the fence usually falls on deaf ears.  The neighbors are upset believing that if (or when) the dog(s) escape their yard, only an attack on a small child will prove their point.

We can use language like:  “The confinement structure must be of sufficient strength by which a reasonable person might believe that the structure will confine the animal.”  I am not sure that with all of our laws that use the measure of a “reasonable person” has ever found such person.  And then the question comes in to play, as to whether that person could be brought into the courtroom to confirm your suspicions about the fence.

I once had a company ask me to indorse invisible fences as a physical barrier to as to satisfy a portion of law that I had written about animal confinement.  Even if the batteries are fully charged on an invisible fence system, those fences are CLEARLY not a physical barrier. I could not believe that I was asked to indorse the system for the confinement of an aggressive dog; proof that this distributor didn’t have the sense to understand the weakness in his own system.

Maybe these incidents should be handled like zoning code violations, where a group neighbors sign a complain agreeing that the fence is inadequate and can make their case to the zoning board.  Then you just have to wait for your meeting with the board and hope that the dog doesn’t escape the yard and attack someone in the mean time. 

I spoke to a group neighbors that were so sure that their neighbor’s dogs were going to escape that they began carrying guns to protect themselves for that day.  It is a sorry day when the ignorance of a single dog owner causes us to have to relive the wild west.  Anytime you are revising your laws on animal confinement,  write this portion of the code very slowly, because this is the portion of the code that frequently brings us the most grief.

When Fools Dive In

I was browsing the news feed for Google when I saw a headline: “Saving a dog from the dogcatcher.”  The feed was from reddit where people owning a laundry posted a sign (I am printing it as it reads): “NOTICE ‘STRAY DOG’ INSIDE THIS LAUDRY SHOP.  We are currently saving this innocent dog from the dog catcher since they will be put to SLEEP/KILL if they’ve been caught.  We understand that you will feel uncomfortable with this situation and you are welcome to go to another laundry.  Thank you!”

This bothers me on several fronts.  The store owner is making several assumptions: the owner of the dog will just happen to go inside this laundry and identify his dog, and of course the obvious, the animal shelter should be the first place a person goes to find their lost dog.  I am not even going to address the idea that all stray dogs are put to sleep, I don’t know where this is; but it is unlikely.

I’ve always hated the terms “dogcatcher,” and “pound” until I moved to places that have it formally written into their code.  The words commutate meaning that may and may not exist.  At some point we just have to get over it.

I would have felt better about the posting if the dog’s finder had done more that post a sign (with commentary) on their door.  We have other ways to communicate: call the animal shelter, post a found ad in the newspaper, and even post on Facebook (I know, it is a shock that I would suggest that, but we are trying to get a dog home), and you can post flyers in the neighborhood.

Anytime something like this happens, I also post the negligence of the owner who has no exterior identification showing.  Let’s face it, most people are not smart enough to take a dog to a veterinarian or the shelter to have it checked for a microchip.  I always have called microchips the worst secondary form of identification.  They are better than nothing, but just barely. 

Just as there are responsibilities of pet owners to keep their pet from getting lost, there are responsibilities of people finding pets.  It is not enough to take in a dog and make little or no effort to find the dog’s owner.

Postal Carriers at Risk

Locally, our media is reporting an increase in dog bites to Mail Carriers.  In addition to delivering bills, something else is going on when a carrier comes to your door and it deals with the psychology or your dog.

When you are not home, your dog sees his job as protecting your home.  His job is to frighten away any possible intruders.  When the carrier comes to your house, your dog barks at the carrier and the carrier leaves.  Job done.  The dog’s aggression toward the carrier as saved the day.

When this event occurs day after day, your dog begins to think of him/herself  as invincible.  Every time he/she barks at the carrier, the carrier flees.  In every incident the dog wins.  Given the opportunity to take this up a notch, if the dog has an opportunity to bite the carrier the dog, the dog is more likely to do so.

Mail carriers are bitten because they are doing their jobs.  Mail carriers are bitten because dog owners are not doing their jobs.  This has become such an issue that the Postal Service encourages communities to participate in Dog Bite Prevention Week.  As I always say, “Pet owners should treat their dog as if it could bite.”