Balance

The greatest challenge facing animal shelters is the balance that must be made to protect people and to protect pets. Animal shelters must face the decision to put people first or to put pets first. In 95 percent of the time, it isn’t an issue. But in those remaining 5 percent, it becomes the battleground that creates the most media carnage for animal shelter personnel.
Should animal shelters release potentially dangerous dogs back into their community? On the surface this seems pretty simple, until you begin to fight the battle as to what determines a dangerous our an aggressive dog. Dog held for long periods of time can become aggressive as a result of their long confinement. Where along that process does a dog move from being adoptable to being unadoptable?
Is it worth euthanizing one “potentially” aggressive dog to prevent a future worry of the dog injuring a child? This is the constant worry that all animal shelters face. Many shelter personnel take the easy road and don’t question the adoptability of an animal: if the animal has a potential home, then let it leave the shelter. Many shelters that have taken this road become faced with the lawsuits of their careless actions.
Many dogs that have displayed aggression in the shelter eventually reassimulate into society to become perfect pets. We cannot look into the eyes of these animals and determine their behavior in the environment that we are sending them. Every adoption is based on a gradient from low risk to high risk.
The community that we serve seems to see only in black or white. Many people claim that we should give EVERY animal a chance and many believe that NONE of the high risk breeds should ever be released to the public. Although animal shelters conduct behavior tests, the tests run the failure of the bias of the evaluator. But the biggest hazard is the adopter.
No matter how much adoption staff empathizes the need for responsible pet ownership, the greatest failing point is the pet’s owner. It is amazing the number of new pet owners who call to report that their new pet ran away during the period of the car and the house because the owner didn’t think the dog should be on leash. One of the most common phases from dog owners prior to a dog bite is, “Don’t worry he won’t bite.”
When pet owners fail to act responsibly, it furthers the risk of a failed adoption. When an animal gets into trouble as the result of a bad pet owner, it is usually the animal shelter that gets into trouble for failing to have the foresight in seeing a bad combination of a questionable dog and a bad adopter.
Many shelters have taken a beating in the media as a result of not being physic. Every adoption presents a risk. The shelter is forced to decide if they will weigh the balance toward protecting people or saving a pet. Wherever you find that balance, you can be sure that someone will be under constant pressure to move that line one way or the other.

Petition Sites

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.

The basic premise of a petition website in the animal welfare arena  is that it is a place where people can throw tempter tantrums  and have an audience that will enable your tantrum.  People all over the world have nothing better to do that to sign your petition.  As a result, petition websites are the worst aspect of social media.

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.

Two things that petition sites prove is that some people will believe anything and that they will want to sign their names to it.

Although Petition Sites have no requirement for the poster to be factual, erroneous information follows the “postee” throughout their career.   Many jurisdictions will want “clean” applicants for leadership positions and would prefer to have someone without any experience, than to deal with an experienced person who has incurred damaging social media exposure.

If you are doing your job correctly in protecting the public, you will always have this threat hanging over your head because the most common use of petition sites is to attack animal shelter employees for euthanizing aggressive dogs.

Pitbulls

The first pitbull arrived in my city in the mid 1980’s. The owner wanted to have a breed with a reputation; this dog did not live up to that reputation’ it was a very friendly dog. The original desire to own a pitbull was for owners to claim that their dog was the meanest on the block. For that reason, breeders began breeding dangerous characteristics into the breed. Clearly, the breed was attracted to the worst pet owners.

Since bad pet owners do not believe in sterilizing their pets, pitbulls have become the most dominant breed in animal shelters. This has created a difficult time for shelters trying to become no-kill; to maintain their adoption numbers with their shelter intakes being 50% pitbulls.

Pitbulls are not necessarily a bad breed, they just require an unusually responsible pet owner. As pet owners have become increasingly lazy, finding a good owner for a pitbull is problematic. It is not a breed that you can just take to the dog park and turn loose; as with any powerful breed they require constant oversight.

Incidents of dog bites is proof of poor pet ownership. Foolish pet owners fail to realize the bite potential of their pet.  There is a growing group that will try  to tell unsuspecting potential adopters that the pitbull is no different than any other breed.  This is a false narrative.  Although pitbulls are one of the most loyal breeds, the breed has genetic traits towards aggression.  The aggressive traits can be controlled, but require a watchful pet owner.  Most acts of aggression by pitbulls are the result of the owner being too lazy to accept their responsibility for keeping the breed.

Social Media – Aggressive Dogs, A Bad Mix!

I am so grateful that most of my career was prior to social media. Social media has created such a mean spirited group of people online. It is most frequently used to bully others. In the animal welfare arena, social media is used to bully shelter staff into making questionable animals available for adoption. The no-kill movement used this bullying tactic to facilitate high adoption numbers.

In recently years, I discovered that shelter staff has become more concerned about having a positive social media presence, than to do their job to protect the community. The constant pressure that is placed on shelter staff is forcing extremely foolish decisions.

Adoption councilors are becoming more and more like used car salesman, asking potential pet owners to purchase an animal without looking under the hood. We are entering an era in which shelters are being sued for misrepresenting the aggressive backgrounds of dogs in their care; just so that animal shelter staff can be praised on social media.

Why?

In a few days, I will celebrate one year of retirement.  The past year has allowed me to settle down and reflect on animal welfare as a profession.  I witnessed the era before pitbulls and social media.  This profession is much more challenging today for those who wish to make a career in this profession.  The purpose of this blog is to prepare a person for the world of animal welfare.