When I began writing this blog, I somehow did not envision it as a political instrument. I anticipated writing informative pieces about shelter and rescue animals. I thought I would write about veterinary issues, with “canine interest” pieces about my own animals interspersed.

I should have known better.

The more I learn about the realities of the animal welfare world, the more I realize how important the politics are. To me, animal welfare should NOT be a political issue, but instead a question of human decency. Unfortunately, my definition of human decency does not seem to be the norm.

I have learned that it is necessary to legislate humane treatment of animals, because many people will otherwise misuse them. I have learned that the law must carefully specify what constitutes minimum humane treatment, in order to have a basis upon which to prosecute those who abuse their animals. Common sense and morality are not a functional basis for legal action.

That, sadly, did not surprise me.

What does surprise me is how much conflict and bad behavior exists among those who supposedly have the best interests of the animals and of the community at heart.

Take the latest controversy in Harris County, for example. Dawn Blackmar, the director of HCPHES, is supposed to be the person who is ultimately responsible for ensuring humane treatment for the animals in her care. Yet Randy Wallace of Fox Houston has repeatedly exposed appalling violations of basic legislated standards of care. And still she is the director of the nonprofit associated with the shelter.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Another outrage to cross my personal radar is the case of Molly Reed. Some years ago, there was a cruelty seizure in Montgomery County. It was alleged that this woman was importing dogs from the hurricane-affected shelters in Louisiana, under the guise of running a rescue, and then dumping the same “rescued” animals at shelters in her area as strays. Shelters had anecdotal evidence that she delivered dozens and dozen of animals to be euthanized at local shelters. When the HSPCA was finally able to seize the animals in her custody, they were not in good condition – to put it mildly.

After lying low for several years, rumor has it that this woman is now trying to “rescue” animals from other out-of-state shelters that haven’t heard about her. If she is “back in business”, then it is only a matter of time before she falls back into her old patterns. Local shelters are already warning their staff to be on the lookout for her.

And legally, no one can prevent her from re-establishing herself as a rescuer until she breaks the law again.

SO many things wrong with this picture.

My latest pet peeve is the series of conflicts in the animal welfare community. Volunteers yelling at each other in real life and online, veterinarians trying to stop the operation of the low-cost clinic because they won’t listen to the facts, bad adopters returning animals in worse condition than they left in. Not to mention local and state government whose laws are inadequate and whose skimpy animal welfare budgets are an embarrassment.

I never intended to get involved in politics. Mostly, I don’t like the giant bureaucracy associated with politics, and I don’t like the way political maneuvering often forces people to compromise their beliefs and goals to keep their offices, in the name of serving the greater good. So often, a practical solution is right at hand…if the political machine will get out of the way and let us apply it.

Which is precisely what’s wrong with the political picture. 

  • What do you know about animal welfare laws and politics in your community and state?
  • Do you know what constitutes animal cruelty in your area? Or what the law can do about it?
  • Do you know what your rights and responsibilities as a pet owner are under the law?
  • What laws does your municipality have, need, and enforce? Are they well-written and appropriately enforced?
  • Do you know who the important political figures in animal welfare in your area are? Do you know what they stand for?
  • Are municipal and county shelters in your area keeping transparent records? Can any citizen access their statistics?

These are just a few basic questions that any animal welfare supporter should be able to answer…

I ended up taking an interest in AW politics because I live by the idea that “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Thus, if I don’t like what’s happening, I have an obligation to do something about it. And so, readers, do you.

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