“Don’t say anything. It would hurt the animals if people knew.”
I’m fairly certain that every single animal welfare volunteer in history has heard some variation on that line over the years. The excuses are endless…
People won’t understand how shelters really work.
People don’t need to know that dog got put to sleep.
If we upset the powers that be, they might cut our funding.
That cat wouldn’t have survived anyway; why upset everyone?
If you talk, the bad publicity will reduce donations and adoptions.
Every excuse in the world amounts to the same thing: if YOU complain, it will be YOUR FAULT when animals die.
Friends, it’s time to put an end to that kind of emotional blackmail once and for all. Let me tell you the real truth.
If something is wrong, and you know it, and you say nothing, you are complicit in the wrongdoing.
If something is wrong, and you know it, you have a responsibility to speak out.
If they don’t listen the first time you speak out, speak again. Louder. More publicly.
If they tell you there’s no proof, get it. Take pictures. Document. Ask questions.
If the agency that should take action doesn’t, try another avenue.
Sometimes the debate centers on deciding exactly what is the right thing to do. Practicality equals mortality in animal shelters, especially when it’s driven by financial motives. Sick, injured, malnourished animals use up resources and take longer to become adoptable. That’s how many shelters justify killing them. Some shelters make their decisions based on attractiveness and popularity; a cute fuzzy puppy is going to be much more adoptable than the 20 nondescript black or brown mixed breeds that all look alike. So the ones who are less cute are correspondingly less likely to survive. Others take all emotion out of the equation and simply use a calendar; those who are in the shelter more than a set number of days don’t survive.
And sometimes animals die because of bad management and improper practices.
Some people are willing to set aside their dislike for immoral or cruel shelter managers or employees so that they can continue to save the few they can. I understand the motivation, but I believe it to be a dangerously wrong choice that simply enables the bad to continue.
I’d like for every single volunteer to make the choice right now to speak up when we see neglect, mistreatment, cruelty, laziness, wrong handling, or any other behavior that puts animals at risk. Think about it a minute. We do this because we want to save animals. So why would we make choices that perpetuate systems that harm them?
My heart breaks for those employees and volunteers who are afraid to speak. But it breaks more for the animals who pay for their silence.