Tag Archives: animal control

Tails: People Can Be Prisoners in Animal Shelters, Too

It has been a decade since I worked in our county animal control.  Ten full years and there are moments I remember like they were yesterday.  The beautiful moments where the most unadoptable dog finally finds the perfect home.  And, the very ugly moments where I was forced to assist with the decapitation of a Mastiff who bit a small child.  Those ugly moments don’t just haunt me when I least expect it, they force me to look in the mirror today and ask, “Why didn’t you say something?”

There’s no doubt that I have made an enormous amount of rescue friends in the last decade.  Between the puppy mill auctions and my book, I have had the amazing opportunity to surround myself with true warriors.  Not only do they each continue to teach me on a daily basis, but if I am ever struggling with any animal issue, I know I can count on them to get me through.  I didn’t have that support system 10 years ago.  I was new.  I was naive.

Yet, I was still me and I tend NOT to take things lying down, especially when they concern the well-being of animals.  Hell, the whole reason I was at animal control was to HELP animals.  It certainly wasn’t the pay or great benefits.

What is it about working or volunteering in a shelter that brainwashes so many to look past all of the problems and all of the wrong-doings.  So many, like me, choose silence over action as we watch horrible things take place.  I look back on my days at AC and feel like I lost my voice for a few years.  I mean literally feel mute when I re-imagine those years.

Why didn’t I contact the local paper or go above my superior?  Why didn’t I quit sooner?  Why didn’t I try harder?  Yes, I loved so many of my days at the shelter, but the ones I didn’t like, truly those were grounds for media coverage and terminations.  There were things done illegally, inhumanely.  Yet, I looked away.

I think many people rationalize their inability to speak out for different reasons.  Some people believe that if they left or got fired for speaking out, “Who would look after the animals then?”  Yet, in hindsight, “Who is looking after the animals now, when the people who do care aren’t speaking out?”

I think while my heart knew better, I didn’t feel like I knew enough to take a stand.  Many of the employees had been there a long time and had been doing the bad shit for years, who was I to question them?  (Looking back… my stomach turns because I KNOW, without hesitation, I should I have reported it all.)  There is something to be said about trusting your intuition.  I should have trusted mine.

I think there are some people who don’t leave or question things simply because they enjoy the “god” persona.  There is something powerful for them about deciding who lives and who dies each day.  God help them.

As I look back on that time in my life, I can’t help but feel like a prisoner.  A part of an institution that kept me from speaking out for reasons I wasn’t even conscious of.  Unknowingly brainwashed  to keep the status quo and just keep working.  Truthfully, I am ashamed of myself when I look back on those days.  Knowing what I know today, I could have done so much more.

I wrote this blog to encourage others who work in shelters to REALLY look around at their practices.  If your gut is telling you that something is off, it probably is.  If you are new, but question if the practices are ethical, reach out to someone outside of the shelter and ask them for their opinion – even if they aren’t in rescue.

There are laws to protect people from being fired or banned from volunteering simply because they speak out against the shelter’s practices.

I look back on my time at the shelter and remember it feeling like the shelter was its own microcosm.  As if our actions were judged amongst only ourselves and never upheld to the ethical standards outside our 4 concrete walls.  As if, in our world, it was okay to have different rules.  It shouldn’t be like that.  Animals deserve to be treated humanely in ALL shelters, regardless of demographics or financial standing.

It is easy to portray the dogs and cats in cages as prisoners in the shelters, but the real prisoners are the employees and volunteers who believe their only choice is to continue their day-to-day work in silence, praying that the illegal practices and inhumane treatment of the animals comes to an end.

Don’t be a prisoner, be a hero.  Speak out today and truly change things for the animals.  I promise there is an army of people ready to help you.


Tails: The Tide Has Turned

I have been driving a lot in the last week.  Driving allows me to get in my head and really concoct some twisted ideas.  Let me briefly describe varying incidents that contributed to my concoction.

One day, while not driving, I found myself tuned into an older TV show, “Judging Amy.”  Without going into unnecessary detail, a part of the show portrays the Department of Children and Family Services.  A day later, I found myself in the Walmart parking lot watching as a police officer was called to the scene to investigate a dog locked in a hot car.  The woman who called was frantic.  She was getting water and trying to get the owner of the dog to give it to him.  The officer was attempting to explain to the woman how unsafe it was to leave the dog in the car.

On my next 100 miles, I had a “Aha” moment.  If you will humor me for the next few minutes and let me share my moment with you, I would love to further spur my idea.  I believe the tide has turned and we, as a society, no longer need government agencies like Animal Control or the Department of Agriculture to protect us, as human beings, from domestic animals.  (I am not suggesting the Dept. of Ag should give-up inspecting meat sources or farming)

I think that we have emerged as a nation who seeks to protect animals from humans and not vice versa.  That said, organizations like Animal Control not only portray inconsistency with society’s goal, they have become a deterrent for accomplishing it.  The Department of Ag walks into mass breeding facilities with the mindset of food inspection and not the goal of humane treatment.  The two main animal governing agencies no longer support the ideals of the country.  I think we need to change things completely.

Let me insert a disclaimer here… I am not an expert on government agencies.  I know little about how they are funded or how they are managed from a federal/state perspective.  I think we can all estimate that they are a mess like the rest of this country, so we can assume that my ideas are just as feasible as what we have today.

This is how I picture things changing… On a federal level we create, The Department of Domestic Animal Protective Services (DDAPS)  On a federal level,  we determine basic laws and regulations and make any necessary changes to the Animal Welfare Act.  We take money from the Dept. of Ag budget to accomplish this.  Currently, puppy-mill inspections are conducted under the Dept. of Ag.  In my opinion, not only has it been ineffective, it is the wrong mindset. We are not trying to eat dogs, we are trying to protect them.  Any monies designated for these types of inspections would now be going towards DDAPS.

DDAPS would be the governing body of the state level DDAPS facilities.  ANY city, county, or town who managed a municipal shelter would now use that funding to run DDAPS.  There would NO longer be any animal controls.  They would all be replaced by DDAPS.

When I say replaced, I mean replaced because I, personally, I am really tired of random government employees becoming the directors of Animal Control facilities.  DDAPS would be run by leaders in the animal welfare community, not the ex-manager of streets and sanitation.  DDAPS employees and volunteers would be vetted in animal care.  They would be people who are passionate about no kill and ending puppy-mills and starting TNR programs.  They would NOT be people buying time to get government pensions.

Let’s talk about the day to day functions and responsibilities of DDAPS.  They would run no kill shelters.  These would be open access shelters who also provide low-cost spay/neuter, low cost microchips and low cost vaccinations.  They would offer adoptable animals to the public and work with local rescues on animals who require additional care or have specific needs.

I emphasize local rescues because I also believe we need to get a better handle on shipping animals to other states.  Yes, certain demographic areas have larger stray animal populations, but there are animals dying needlessly in almost every state in America.  Shipping the animals around is not the answer.  I believe, if run correctly, DDAPS would allow each state to better manage its own animal population.

Each DDAPS facility would be responsible for inspecting area rescues, shelters, and breeding facilities.  There have been way too many hoarding cases and neglect cases among rescues and shelters in the last few years.  I believe that no one is exempt from giving proper care to animals.  These facilities would train both staff and volunteers to do inspections, all with the mindset of “protecting the animals.”

DDAPS facilities would also be responsible for community outreach.  They would offer school programs to educate children on animal cruelty and how to properly care for pets.  They would offer under-served areas the opportunity to provide for their pets by supplying leashes, bowls, food, etc.  They would promote Return to Owner programs and provide resources to help lost dogs get home.  If needed, they would have the power to step in and get the dog to the proper owner.

In each DDAPS facility, there would be trained officers who would manage bite incidents.  Anything having to do with illegal activity would be handled by local police, while the animals involved would be under the care of DDAPS.  Rabid bats would go to the health department.

I don’t know what you are thinking, but I am rather excited.  I realize all of this comes with a price.  Money the government says they never have.  I disagree.  No, I don’t know the exact numbers, but here is what I do know:

DDAPS facilities would be managed and ran by both paid and unpaid staff.  I truly believe that there is a HUGE population of people who would love to volunteer at the type of organization I am describing.  I know I would.  I long for the day someone hands me a checklist and an address for a puppy-mill and tells me to come back with an inspection report.

I believe that there is a large population who would privately support organizations like this by donating towards specific programs such as community outreach or veterinary care.  I think there are veterinarians who would do work at facilities like this pro bono or for little cost.

People are tired of the way things are.  People want to see things change for animals.  People want to be involved in protecting them.  People are tired of the current government agencies getting in the way of doing these things.  The systems we have in place today are antiquated.  They speak to days when people threw animals to the curb, when people thought most dogs were rabid, and when people didn’t understand TNR cats.  Today we spend billions on our pets.  Most people sleep with them in their beds.  People fly with their pets, dine with their pets and treat them like companions.

The tide has turned and it is time we re-create laws and governing bodies that uphold what we believe as a society.

I am ready and 100% serious.  Let’s do this!

…and if you are presidential candidate reading this – make this the top of your agenda and you have my vote!