It is a new year and, often, people contemplate getting more involved with a charitable organization or, perhaps, donating to one. I thought this would be a great time to share MY OPINION on those issues concerning animal welfare organizations.
My first words are, “GIVE LOCALLY!” It is easy to be enamored by the large groups such as The Humane Society of the United States, ASPCA, and Best Friends Animal Society. Beyond the calendars and free address labels they send out, their brand is everywhere. How many of us have cried at the Sarah McLachlan commercial? They are big and glorious and appear to be saving all the animals.
(Just a quick FYI… PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is BEYOND controversial in the animal welfare world. In my world, NO ONE believes they do good for domestic animals. In fact, most reports show them killing homeless animals as a way to “save” them from the horrors of people.)
I have a lot of friends who seek out my advice when it comes to giving money to animal groups. I used to tell them this, “Give locally if you want your money to actually go towards saving a dog or cat. If you don’t mind your money being used for legislative lobbying, give to the big guns.”
I would say that still rings true, however, in the last few weeks, I have seen the big guns, HSUS and Best Friends, lobby for legislation that I, and many others, including The No Kill Nation do NOT find to be in the best interests of the animals or their families.
In Wisconsin, HSUS and Best Friends are both lobbying to shorten the stray hold for dogs from 7 to 4 days. Meaning that if your dog gets lost, you have 4 days to find him in a shelter before he is adopted out, transferred or killed.
Shelters tend to want shorter stray holds because they can turn dogs over faster, instead of allowing dogs to take up cage space. However, if your dog gets lost, he could easily travel out of your initial search area and end up in a shelter counties away, and it could be days before you even think to call a shelter so far away. If you wait more than 4 days, your dog could be dead.
Best Friends and HSUS swear that they are out to save the most animals possible. I argue that they have lost touch with the day-to-day reality of rescue. If they really want a shortened stray hold then they should ALSO be lobbying for better return to owner programs. Most stray dogs don’t fall from the sky! Most stray dogs aren’t stray at all – they are simply lost.
Lost dogs are the most overlooked issue in the shelter and rescue system. Instead of focusing on getting dogs BACK home, we focus on getting them into homes. Return to Owner (RTO) rates in most shelters are heartbreaking. Until recently, there were few laws to even require shelters to scan for microchips!
There are ALL-volunteer groups popping up across the states called Lost Dogs WI, Lost Dogs IL, Lost Dogs FL, etc… They are all part of a group called Lost Dogs America. They are 100% committed to helping people reunite with their dogs. They are assisting with THOUSANDS of reunions every month. They are proving every single day that RTO matters.
When groups like HSUS and Best Friends barge in with their expensive data and fancy calculations and not one ounce of day-to-day experience reuniting dogs and families, I, and others, have a hard time believing they have any real understanding of what is going to save “all the animals.” Not to mention having any respect or compassion for the human-animal bond. They are completely overlooking the desperate family longing to find their lost pet.
So, I digressed a bit and picked a particular subject that is getting press right now. Let me venture away from one specific and generalize. If you want to get involved or if you want to donate money to save animals, I highly advise you to look locally and think small.
There are thousands of rescues and local, independent shelters throughout the United States. And, while they might not be saving THOUSANDS of animals each, each one of them is saving lives. Those are the places you want to research. If you do your homework, you will see that it is the smaller rescues and shelters who are giving 100% of YOUR money to the animals. No overhead, no free address labels – just dedicated volunteers saving 4 legged lives.
I am not naive, in fact, we are battling a rescue in my area right now because she is a scam artist. She is bringing up dogs by the truckloads and turning them over in the name of rescue to make money. Her pups are sick and dying. She is running from the law as we speak. So, it is important to do your research. I wish I could say ALL rescues were run well, but that is sadly, not the case. If you are reading this blog and have questions, feel free to post or contact me. I would be happy to help guide you to the “good ones.”
Beyond the local rescues and shelters are the local individuals who are forever fighting for the cause. Between the fight we have going with the bad local rescue and the recent Winona County, MN protests against the approved Amish puppy mills, I have seen every day citizens stand up and fight with fury. During these battles, I contacted the big guys like HSUS and Best Friends. Their canned answers were nowhere near as passionate as the people I have met spending sleepless days and nights rallying to make a difference.
Organizations tend to get too big, lose their focus, and forget about the day-to-day struggles. As an animal advocate, I have lost faith in the big organizations. My time and money goes to the rescues and organizations I see working hard on a daily basis. The groups who are in the trenches treating sick dogs, organizing thousand mile transports, and physically holding protest signs.
Take the time to decide what issue matters the most to YOU and what YOU think will improve animal welfare. Look hard at organizations and dig deep to find what their stance on issues are. You might be surprised at their beliefs and values.
I would encourage you to take an hour and research where you want to spend your time and who you want to spend your money. Personally, I would rather see my $50 go directly towards the treatment of an injured dog, than 100 free calendars given to strangers.