Talking Back How to speak to friends and family about what you do

| AUGUST 2005
How to speak to friends and
family about what you do
A Lifesaving Program in India
Tips for Helping Chained Dogs
Advice from an Equine
Rescue Expert
20 A Little Give and Talk
How to speak about animal
protection work to your
friends and family
Animal protection work can be stressful, but
the daily routine is just the beginning. When
going home is no longer relaxing and social
events start to feel like emotional minefields,
you need to find effective ways to discuss your
work with the people you care about. Learn
how to find support, develop coping mechanisms, articulate why your job is important to
you, and even entice friends and family into
championing the cause.
What’s Happening
Shelter campaign promotes big dogs; studies investigate cat stress
and dog toy preferences; new program helps shelters measure
organizational health; and more.
101: A Step-by-Step Primer
Tips on helping chained dogs
Models & Mentors
A profile of a vaccination and sterilization program for stray dogs in India
An interview with Allan Schwartz, the cofounder of
Days End Farm Horse Rescue
A model volunteer application
Smooth Operations
A guide to getting legislation passed in your community
Off Leash
A Florida shelter gets the word out about its behavior helpline
Rear Surgery Suite & Cages
does it all”
Outside Viewing Glass
for Adoptions
Voices from The HSUS
o work in this industry,
some say, you’ve got to be
certifiable. Until recently,
though, there was never a way to
prove that. But thanks to the hard
work of the Society of Animal Welfare
Administrators (SAWA), dozens of
people in our field are now certified—not as psychiatric patients but
as professionals in their discipline.
Last November, SAWA administered the first Certified
Animal Welfare Administrator (CAWA) test at its training
conference in San Diego. To prepare for the challenging
exam, 75 shelter directors and managers studied books
and other resources from a recommended reading list.
Those who passed can’t rest on their laurels; to keep
their certification current, they must earn additional
training units on an ongoing basis.
SAWA officials and members have expended a considerable amount of time and resources in developing this groundbreaking program over the last several years, even procuring
the help of a California firm that specializes in certification
programs. Professional certification for executive directors
and other managers in this field is long overdue, and I commend SAWA for taking on such a formidable project.
A number of national animal welfare groups, including
The HSUS, have already tried to certify agencies instead
of individuals. But the success of such programs was limited because, as we all know, the viability of an animal welfare organization depends largely on the people who lead
Senior Vice President, Domestic
Animal Programs
Martha C. Armstrong
Senior Director, Companion Animals
John Snyder
Nancy Lawson
Director of Animal Sheltering Issues
Kate Pullen
Associate Editor
Carrie Allan
Program Manager, Animal Sheltering Issues
Cory Smith
Staff Writer/
Editorial Assistant
Katina Antoniades
Outreach Assistant, Animal Sheltering Issues
Pat McElroy
HSUS Board
of Directors
David O.Wiebers, MD
President and CEO, HSUS
Wayne Pacelle
Director of Communications,
Companion Animals
Betsy McFarland
Sheltering Communications Coordinator
Tracy Klein
Program Manager,
Animal Services Consultation
Kim Intino
Assistant Manager,
Animal Services Consultation
Krista Hughes
it; when a good director or manager moves on, the agency
he leaves behind can go from a hero to a zero. We cannot certify buildings, but SAWA can certify people who
make those buildings do what they were designed to do.
Yes, this is just the beginning, and surely the process
will continue to evolve. But we have to start somewhere, and
this program shows more promise than previous efforts.
The next step is to encourage all qualified animal welfare professionals to get moving and take the exam.
Certification has the potential to make those who obtain
it more valuable in the marketplace. When boards of directors and headhunting firms find out about the program,
your participation in it will give you an edge in competing
for employment. More importantly, however, becoming a
Certified Animal Welfare Administrator will carry a certain
weight in your community, showing how much you know
about services for animals and citizens. Getting certified also
means you care enough to stretch the limits of your potential, an attitude that will transcend to the creation of progressive programs for addressing the toughest problems
faced by the animal welfare community in the 21st century.
For complete details about the next test on November
6 in Denver, visit the SAWA website at www.sawanet and click on “certification.” Then hit the books and
take the test. It will benefit you as well as the people and
animals we serve.
John M. Snyder
Senior Director
Companion Animals, HSUS
Art Direction
Jessie Despard
Bussolati Associates
How to Place a “Marketplace”
Advertisement—Contact ReNae Vorgert,
Animal Sheltering’s Advertising Manager, at
701-572-9100 or [email protected]
About This Magazine—Animal Sheltering
(ISSN 0734-3078) is published bimonthly
by The Humane Society of the United States
(HSUS) for everyone interested in community
animal care, control, and protection.
How to Place a Job Ad—To post a free job
announcement on our website, visit
How to Subscribe—Individual subscriptions
are $15 ($20 for subscribers outside the
U.S.). Organizations ordering extra copies
for staff, board members, or volunteers can
receive special discounted rates: a 5-copy
subscription is $50 and a 10-copy subscription is $75. To order online, visit
Our Reprint Policy—Humane organizations
and animal care and control agencies are
encouraged to reprint articles published in
Animal Sheltering in whole or in part, without
prior permission, provided that the reprinting
serves educational purposes in keeping with
the magazine’s intent. All we ask is that you
credit the article’s author as well as Animal
Sheltering/HSUS, and send us a copy of the
publication containing the reprinted material.
How to Reach Us—We welcome comments,
article ideas, questions, and subscription
inquiries. Send them to:
Animal Sheltering Magazine
The Humane Society
of the United States
2100 L Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037
202-452-1100 (phone)
301-258-3081 (fax)
[email protected]
The Small Print—The HSUS does not
endorse or guarantee any products, services,
or vendors mentioned in Animal Sheltering,
nor can it be responsible for problems with
vendors or their products or services. Also,
The HSUS reserves the right to reject, at its
discretion, any Marketplace advertising.
Views expressed by non-HSUS authors are
not necessarily those of The HSUS.
© 2005 The Humane Society of the United States.
All rights reserved.
Does Size Matter?
Even in Texas, large dogs need an image boost
or some people, there is no such
thing as too much dog. More
dog means more slobbery wet
tongue, more foot-warming action,
and more belly to snuggle up to.
Not everyone has reached this
state of enlightenment, though. And
for those with a lingering predilection
for pint-sized pooches, a shelter in
Dallas has a Texas-sized message:
Big Dogs Rule.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong
with mini-mutts; a dog is a dog is a
dog, as far as most people in the animal protection field are concerned.
But in shelters across the country,
the smallest breeds are often the last
to arrive at the relinquishment counter and the first to head home with
new families.
Even in the Lone Star State, where
tradition has long had it that bigger
is better, placing big dogs takes the
SPCA of Texas five times longer than
placing their diminutive kin. And
that’s a lot of dog being overlooked
by prospective adopters, since 80
percent of the pooches in the organization’s three shelters weigh more
than 35 pounds.
Last year the SPCA took this muttly matter into its own hands and
launched a massive advertising campaign to promote supersized canines.
Through donated billboard space,
free TV and radio spots, discounted
newspaper ads, and assistance from
local Starbucks outlets, they splashed
the “Big Dogs Rule” message
throughout the community.
In each case, the message was
preceded by rhetorical questions that
helped people reconsider their longheld biases: “Whoever heard of a
seeing-eye Chihuahua?” read one of
the promos. “Ever seen a Yorkie
catch a Frisbee?” read another.
“Could you really run a 10K with a
toy poodle?” asked the third.
The community helped the shelter choose the catchy slogans from
a series of ads submitted by local
designers, who’d been lured into a
creative competition when the SPCA
put out a call for ideas on the Web
and in its e-newsletter. Produced by
a marketing firm called the Integer
Group, the “Big Dogs Rule” concept
was voted the winner by visitors to
the SPCA website.
For its radio spots, the SPCA
tapped into its connections to stardom: It just so happened that an
employee in the marketing department had been friends with singer
Edie Brickell and was able to call
upon her old buddy to sing a jingle
for the campaign.
Brickell responded with several
spots so light, sweet, and simple in
their delivery that they are impossible
to forget. If big shelter dogs could
sing, they might very well belt out
Brickell’s lyrics: “Adopt a dog, adopt
a big dog, and you will have a bigger
friend,” she sings in one of the jingles. An announcer who follows says,
“More dog means more fun! Big dogs
rule. Adopt yours at the SPCA of
Texas.” (To hear these odes to big
beasties, visit
Volunteers helped the SPCA take
its message directly to the people—
by showing up at several Starbucks
shops in the Dallas area with large
dogs in tow. Answering questions
about particular shelter animals or
Crossing the
Language Barrier
about big dogs in general, they also
distributed free t-shirts and dog neckerchiefs—and did their best to let
people know that “big dogs are great
companions,” says Anita Kelso
Edson, the SPCA’s director of media
As a result of the campaign, which
ran from August through December,
adoption of big dogs increased by 8
percent over the same period the previous year—from 891 in the fall of
2003 to 962 last fall, says Edson.
Those are impressive results for a
campaign that cost the shelter a total
of only $6,000. In-kind donations
from Clear Channel and other companies made the price of fame for big
dogs paltry by comparison to what it
would have been if the shelter had
¿Habla español?
Maybe not, but there’s a good chance
that many pet owners in your community
do. That’s why The HSUS has created “Su
bebé & su mascota,” a Spanish-language
version of the popular “Your baby & your
pet” brochure.
After explaining why pets might have
negative reactions to the arrival of a tiny
new person in the household, the brochure
outlines how pet owners can prepare their
furry companions and make proper introductions. The brochure also explains how
pregnant mothers can safely keep their cats
without fear of toxoplasmosis.
For a free sample of the Spanish or
English version of the brochure, contact
Nancy Peterson at [email protected] or
301-258-3129. To order bulk quantities,
call 202-452-1100 for pricing information.
been charged for the publicity.
The time might be ripe to launch
another push for large pooches, says
Edson. The SPCA is toying with the
idea of selecting another of last year’s
contest submissions as the basis for
a new campaign. “There were some
really, really clever entries; it was hard
to choose,” says Edson. “That’s why
we kind of put it out there for the public to vote.”
In one, a local college student
used an image of a brown dog shaking water off himself and added a
line at the top that read, “Large
Chocolate Shake.” The text below
the image read: “To go. The SPCA
has a large selection of large dark
dogs to choose from. Pick one out
today. Super Size it.”
from the HSUS
Humane Ed for the Wee Ones
f you’ve ever tried to explain your work
to a wiggly group of tiny tots, you know
it’s no easy task. Speaking effectively
to 3-year-olds requires looking at the world
with fresh eyes, as if seeing things for the
first time. And if you don’t learn to translate
into kidspeak, you risk losing the young
ones to daydreams of Elmo and Sponge
Bob SquarePants.
The National Association for Humane
and Environmental Education (NAHEE)
has done that translating for you—in the
form of an activity kit specially designed
for teaching the basics of kindness and
safety around animals to the preschool set.
Songs, puppets, games, and movement
activities in the “Let’s Be Kind to Animals!”
kit accommodate varied learning styles
and keep squirming little people interested from start to finish.
Recommended for kids ages 3 to 5, the
activities are ideal for small groups of up to
10 children but are easily adapted for large
groups or one-on-one instruction. The kit
also works well when teaching children of
early elementary school age.
The kit comes complete with lesson
plans and tips for working with preschoolers; bingo cards and flashcards; cat and
dog puppets; a Bow Wow “Ow!” Learning
To Be Safe With Dogs video; a dog safety
poster; multicolored felt, yarn, and felt
board pattern; and KIND Kid award certificates and stickers.
Additional components, including
extra stickers, certificates, and bingo
cards, can be purchased separately. Visit to order
the $45 kit and to learn more about
NAHEE’s new workshop on humane education for preschool children.
The Price of Municipal Contracts
Animals dropped off by ACOs may cost more to house, study suggests
dogs found by citizens. Cats brought in by
animal control spent 43 percent more days
in the shelter than cats relinquished by
owners and 11 percent more days than cats
found by citizens.
Dogs brought in by citizens who had
found them as strays had the highest proportion of adoptions.
probably higher than those who require the
handling skills of a professional.
While Notaro notes that his findings may
be limited to the experience of one humane
society in the Midwest, he stresses that the
data may be useful to other facilities with
similar patterns of disposition. If a shelter is
spending excess time and resources on
The results aren’t entirely surprising. As
Notaro notes, companion animals picked
up by ACOs may include a disproportionate
number of pets whom good Samaritans
have already tried but failed to catch
because of fearful or aggressive behaviors.
Animal control pickups may also include a
larger percentage of pets whose owners
allow them to roam without I.D., making a
reunion less likely. And many of the cats
brought to the shelter by officers may be
feral, semi-feral, or “in general, less adoptable,” Notaro writes.
By contrast, animals brought in by citizens usually have to be friendly enough to be
approached by the public and transported
to the shelter—meaning their adoptability is
animal-control dropoffs with behavior issues
and health problems that expose more
adoptable pets to diseases, the organization should be duly compensated, he says.
“Budgets awarded to humane societies should reflect the extra burden
assumed in providing shelter to these
companion animals and protect[ing] the
citizens of the area,” Notaro writes.
“Humane societies with boarding contracts for animal control services may
deserve to receive higher levels of compensation for handling these more difficult dogs and cats and the related issues
in dealing with the caregivers of impounded and lost animals.”
community-generated problem
requires a community-generated
solution—and to some people,
that means dipping further into municipal coffers to fund housing and field services provided by private organizations.
But since local governments rarely pay
as much as these services are actually
worth, the subject of municipal contracting has long generated heated debate
among animal protectionists. While some
believe that subsidizing government services is necessary to providing the most
humane care possible, others think taxpayers should accept more responsibility
for their role in the animal homelessness
A new study puts a fresh spin on the
topic by examining whether the animals
dropped off at a private humane society by
animal control officers actually cost more
to care for than pets relinquished by their
owners or strays found by citizens.
While previous discussions of the merits and pitfalls of contracting have focused
on the average cost to house each animal,
the new research suggests that this method
may be an oversimplification and recommends instead analyzing cost disparities.
In “Disposition of Shelter Companion
Animals From Animal Control Officers,
Citizen Finders, and Relinquished by
Owners” (Journal of Applied Animal Welfare
Science, Vol. 7, No. 3, 2004), author and
former shelter director Stephen Notaro
reports that, at the facility he studied, dogs
and cats brought to a private Midwestern
shelter by animal control officers were
adopted at a lower rate and euthanized at
a higher rate than those brought in by good
Samaritans or pet owners.
Specifically, dogs brought in by animal
control officers spent 64 percent more days
in the shelter than dogs surrendered by
owners and 16 percent more days than
Toy Story
When it comes to toys, Irish
dogs like the chew-chew
Chewable things: Good.
Squeaky things: Eh, could take ’em
or leave ’em.
Hard plastic things that are virtually indestructible: Well, what is that point of that?
Those were the verdicts of shelter dogs
in Northern Ireland who played with a series
of toys for five weeks under the watchful
eye of psychologist and animal behavior
expert Deborah Wells. Published in the
British journal Animal Welfare (Vol. 13,
2004), Wells’s latest study reveals that while
chewable plastic reigns supreme among
kenneled dogs in shelters, no toy seems to
hold their attention for long.
As the director of the Canine Behaviour
Centre at Queen’s University Belfast, Wells
has spent hundreds of hours observing
dogs in the shelter environment and measuring how they react to classical music,
toys, cage locations, and the presence of
visitors. In her most recent research, “The
influence of toys on the behaviour and welfare of kenneled dogs,” she gave each of
32 guests of the Dogs Trust Rehoming
Centre in Ballymena one toy a week over a
five-week period: a chewable plastic
squeaky ball, a chewable plastic nonsqueaky ball, a cotton tug rope, a flexible
plastic Nylabone chew, and a “virtually
indestructible impact-resistant pursuit toy”
called a Boomer ball.
After observing the behavior of each dog
every 10 minutes for four hours on days 1,
3, and 5 of each week, Wells discovered a
strong poochy preference for the Nylabone
over any other toy tested and an almost
complete indifference to the Boomer ball.
And the squeakiest ball of them all failed
to get the grease; its noisemaking abilities
didn’t give it much of an edge over the nonsqueaky ball, leading Wells to suggest that
“the type of noise a toy emits may be of less
value to dogs than the fact that the toy can
be chewed.”
Overall, dogs grew less interested in the
toys as the days passed. Frequency of playtime was highest on the first day of a new
toy’s introduction and waned considerably
by day 5.
“The introduction of a novel toy, however, generated renewed interest,” wrote Wells.
“Rotating toys, so that dogs are regularly
exposed to novel stimuli, may be one means
of reducing habituation to toys and of encouraging exploration in rescue shelter dogs.”
The dogs in the study were less interested in toys overall than dogs in laboratory settings, confirming the findings of previous research. The older age of shelter
dogs could be a factor in varying interest
levels, Wells posited, as could the environment itself. Shelters are highly stimulating places for animals, and the noise
combined with the presence of staff and
visitors might overpower the attraction of a
solitary, inanimate object.
Still, toys led to increased activity and
engaged the dogs in the study for at least a
little while, so their long-term effects, however indirect, can’t be overlooked, Wells
wrote. Previous studies by Wells and her
colleagues had found that potential
adopters preferred dogs with enrichment
items in their kennels—and that the presence of toys in kennels greatly increased
dogs’ chances of being adopted. Visitors
were also attracted to dogs who displayed
active behaviors—something the toys in
the latest study encouraged.
Results of such a study in the United
States may be slightly different for two reasons. First, Kongs or Kong-like toys were
not a part of the new toy study; Wells wanted to avoid food-filled items that would be
inappropriate for kennels shared by more
than one dog. And second, the dogs in the
study had been living at the site for six to
eight months and may have exhibited reactions different from those of short-term
guests in most U.S. shelters.
Still, some things are universal, and the
conclusion that dogs like chewing more
than noisemaking in the shelter may be
applicable in any setting. Rotation of toys
may also help sustain their interest,
decrease boredom, and provide canine
guests with a more comfortable stay in their
temporary homes.
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A new study conducted by Tufts University
researchers validates what many of our pet
cats in multi-animal households have long
been trying to tell us through high-pitched
yowls and mad dashes under the bed:
Man’s best friend stresses them out.
But the subjects of “Assessment of stress
levels among cats in four animal shelters”
(Journal of the American Veterinary Medical
Association, Vol. 226, No. 4, February 15,
2005) were less demonstrative about the
source of their woes than the typical house
cat, failing to reveal outward signs of dismay.
True to their stereotypical nature, the
cats were in fact so elusive that the only way
researchers could clearly identify what they
were feeling was to test their urine. In the
study designed to compare stress levels
among cats in traditional housing with those
of cats in enriched environments, veterinarian Emily C. McCobb and her fellow
researchers* used both behavioral observation and urine cortisol analyses to evaluate cats at Boston area facilities.
Unlike blood collection, the noninvasive
urine measurements are less likely to influence results because the cats don’t have to
be poked or prodded; samples are simply
collected from litter pans filled with nonabsorbing pellets. The method is a proven
tool that helps glean information a human
eye would not discern, since many cats feign
sleep under duress.
Though the researchers found no relationship between observation-based stress
scores of 120 cats and their proximity to
dogs, urine analyses from the 97 cats from
whom samples could be obtained showed
a significant connection between cat stress
and high dog-exposure levels. The connection was even stronger among cats displaying clinical signs of systemic disease.
Researchers studied cats in four facilities
run by two different organizations; each
organization had a modern facility with
stress-reduction elements as well as an older
facility with traditional steel bank caging. At
one of the modern sites, cats were in elevated cages with perching shelves near windows, and dogs were housed in a separate
wing. At the other modern site, cats were
in rooms with soundproof walls, natural light,
and cages arranged in a manner that kept
them from seeing one another.
The evaluations of cats in these shelters
confirmed the researchers’ original hypothesis that enriched environments are less
stress-inducing; the cats in the newer facilities had significantly lower stress levels than
those in the traditional ones.
“Our results indicate that implementing
environmental design strategies based on
behavioral theory can make a detectable
difference in a measurable parameter of
stress among cats in shelters and thus help
justify the redesign efforts,” wrote the
researchers. “Continued improvement in
housing and handling conditions for cats in
animal shelters is likely to have a major
impact on feline welfare.”
Among other findings:
• Despite careful monitoring and attention
from staff, almost 25 percent of the cats
in the study had signs of systemic illness.
More than 25 percent of the urine samples obtained indicated the presence of
blood, a symptom of feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC). Since past research has sug-
gested that FIC is a stress-related condition, “it is possible that this finding may
be further evidence of chronic stress
among shelter cats,” the researchers
• According to the results of the observational scoring system, stress levels among
cats were highest in the morning. But
the mean morning stress score of cats
in adoption areas was lower than that of
cats in holding areas, and more cats with
low-stress scores were present in the
adoption areas.
• Urine analysis data did not correlate with
the length of stay in the shelter for any
particular cat, a finding that may indicate
the cats were not adapting to the shelter
environment, the researchers wrote. (A
previous study found that cats in quarantine environments generally adapted
to their surroundings in about five weeks—
longer than most cats stay in shelters.)
• Cats who had come from multiple-cat
households were more stressed than
those from single-cat homes. All the cats
in the study were in single cages, causing the researchers to posit that separating cats from their housemates may
increase their stress and that colony
housing may benefit these animals.
• Noise was not identified as a stress factor by either the behavioral scoring system
or the urine analyses, but noise levels of
different areas had been subjectively classified by two of the researchers. More
objective measurements of decibel levels of ambient sound may yield different
results, the researchers wrote.
The researchers stress that the study is
not intended as guidance for assessing the
well-being of individual cats in the shelter,
but rather as validation of “the merits of
global changes in shelter design that are
being considered and implemented by animal welfare organizations.”
*Authors of the study are Emily McCobb,
DVM, MS; Gary Patronek, VMD, PhD; Amy
Marder, VMD; Julie Dinnage, DVM; and
Michael Stone, DVM, DACVIM.
olitical animal and veterinarian Sonny
Perdue gave government a good
name on March 10, when he visited
the Atlanta Humane Society to personally
neuter a nine-month-old Lab-rottie mix
named Nelson. The visit from the Georgia
governor kicked off the shelter’s Animal
Well Fair, a weekend-long celebration and
open house.
“I'm here today to help the Humane
Society call attention to the serious problem we have in Georgia with the overpopulation of cats and dogs,” said Perdue. “We
need to encourage pet owners to be responsible so that we don't have unwanted animals finding their way to shelters and having to be euthanized.”
In a press release, the statehouse staff
wrote that the governor had taken Nelson
off “his list of things to fix.”
Politicians in the Lone Star State also
entered the spay/neuter arena, when
Houston City Council members voted in
February to include non-surgical neutering in their animal control ordinance. The
move was seen as validation of the effectiveness of Neutersol, a chemical sterilant
that deactivates the reproductive abilities
of male dogs.
The Humane Society of Missouri, which
has been spaying and neutering thousands
of animals the old-fashioned way since
1976, recently reached the quarter-million
mark. The organization celebrated the milestone in February by offering 250 free
spay/neuters to the public, launching a
$250,000 fundraising campaign to expand
its low-cost spay/neuter services, and starting a humane education program that
incorporates spay/neuter information into
elementary school curricula.
The achievement was definitely cause
for celebration, especially when it’s viewed
in the context of the well-known estimate
that one female dog and her offspring can
produce 67,000 dogs in six years and one
female cat and her progeny can produce
420,000 cats in seven years. Do the math,
and the Humane Society of Missouri has
theoretically prevented the births of billions
of animals.
In its promotions to the public, of course,
the organization chose to promote a stricter
interpretation of its impact on pet population numbers. “As a direct result of the
spaying and neutering efforts, the Humane
Society of Missouri has seen a 26 percent
decline in the total numbers of dogs, puppies, cats and kittens brought into the shelter during the past five years,” wrote HSMO
officials on their website. “That equals a
59 percent decline in puppy intake, 26 percent decline in dog intake and 30 percent
decline in kitten intake.”
The Missouri organization also jumped
on the wristband wagon recently when it
started selling green bands that said “Fix
’em” for $5 each. It seems that animal people can’t get enough of these fashion-conscious consciousness raisers. On the heels
of the popular yellow “Live Strong” wristbands sold to benefit cancer patients and
survivors comes a blue wristband from Money from the sale of the
$1 “I Adopted a Pet” band will support the
Pets 911 Foundation and the shelters and
rescues that list their animals and information on the Pets 911 website. And the
$2 purple wristbands from Urban Decay
Cosmetics will also benefit animals, with an
anti-animal-testing message that asks,
“How could anyone?” Proceeds will benefit The HSUS, but shelters can also order
bracelets in bulk and resell them (e-mail
Rachel Rosenthal at [email protected] for details). We expect Paris
Hilton will be wearing animal-friendly
bracelets soon. But hopefully not too
soon—she’s so 2004.
Adoption wristbands were all the rage
last April in Atlanta, where nearly 1,400
animal people converged on the Georgia
capital for The HSUS’s Animal Care Expo.
Forty-three educational workshops and a
sold-out exhibit hall made the event the
most popular one ever. As the largest animal care and control conference in the
country, Expo is the place to be each spring.
From cruelty investigation workshops to
regional networking socials, the annual
event offers something for everyone. Animal
Care Expo 2006 in Anaheim, California,
promises to be even better than the last,
so save the dates: March 8-11.
Main Line Animal Rescue of Wayne,
Pennsylvania, recently signed up as soldiers in the puppy mill battlefront. Tired of
seeing shelters and other animal groups in
the area shoulder the burden of caring for
hapless dogs born at profit-motivated mass
breeding facilities, Main Line members
decided to invest some of their resources in
an unforgettable billboard near the
PETsMART Charities’
E mergency Relief
PETsMART Charities provides
emergency funding to qualified groups for:
Tired of seeing shelters and other animal groups
in the area shoulder the burden of caring for
hapless dogs born at profit-motivated mass
breeding facilities, Main Line members decided to
invest in an unforgettable billboard.
Lebanon/Lancaster exit of the Pennsylvania
Turnpike. “Welcome to Scenic Lancaster
County ... Home to hundreds of puppy mills,”
says the board. “Learn more about PA’s
notorious puppy mills.”
At a cost of only $500 a month, the
group is sending a highly visible message
to both unsuspecting neighbors and puppyseeking out-of-towners visiting Lancaster
County with the naive belief that they are
simply purchasing a dog bred by country
farmers. The billboard refers drivers to and to The
HSUS’s website on the topic, www.stop
Heartened by the overwhelming popularity of their drive-by campaign, Main Line
officials are now hoping to encourage animal welfare organizations in other states to
put up boards in their own communities.
Things are looking up slightly for avian
species, after PETCO Animal Supplies, Inc.
announced that its stores will stop selling
large birds. Under a recent agreement with
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals,
PETCO will also promote flight cages for all
pet birds. With PETA’s help, the retailer
intends to seek the assistance of “accredited bird rescue groups” in placing homeless birds of all sizes through in-store adoption programs. As part of the deal, PETA
has agreed to end its boycott and protests
of PETCO stores.
The SPCA Serving Erie County’s Teaching
Love and Compassion program, profiled in
the May/June 2005 issue of Animal
Sheltering, also caught the attention of an
award-winning TV documentary series
called The Visionaries. An episode in the
series’ 11th season featured the SPCA’s
TLC program, and in March, a special audience was treated to an advance screening
in Buffalo, New York. Several TLC kids and
their furry friends were able to attend. To
find out when Visionaries shows air in your
area, visit
Photo courtesy of Willie Cirone, Humane Society of the United States Disaster Animal Response Team
Natural disasters
Manmade emergencies
Large-scale pet rescues
Animal victims of violence
Find out more. Visit
or call 1-800-423-PETS
The Breed Report
Origin: developed between 1700 and
1900 in the border area between
England and Scotland
A.K.A. “The Border,” “Farm Collie,”
“Working Collie”
Average height: 18-22 inches
Average weight: 30-50 pounds
Average life span: 14 years
Appearance: Border collies are medium-sized dogs with an athletic build
and an alert expression. The most common coloring is black and white, but
they may also have red, tan, blue, or silver in their coats.
Genetic problems: Eye problems, hip
dysplasia, epilepsy/seizures
Border Collies
Our Expert
Donna Mlinek is an animal behavior education coordinator for the Dumb Friends
League in Denver. In her seven years with
DFL, she has also taught obedience classes, worked on the shelter’s behavior
helpline, and performed behavior evaluations. Mlinek has two border collies of her
own who compete in obedience and agility contests; she provided us with answers
on everything from preferred exercise levels to ideal adopters.
“Border collies come in two basic coat varieties: rough-coated, which is a mediumlength coat, and smooth-coated, which is a
short coat. Like all dogs, they should be
brushed at least weekly and bathed every
couple months or so, but their coats seem
to shed dirt easily, so they are pretty easy to
keep clean.”
Children: “Generally, border collies do fine
with children, though they have a tendency to herd them.”
Other animals: “In general, border collies do
well with other dogs. However, they may
want to chase and play with cats. It is
essential for an owner with cats to do proper introductions and establish some rules
concerning the cats. As I often say, ‘once a
chase toy, always a chase toy,’ so it is important that the dog never be allowed to chase
the cat. Dog-savvy cats can usually keep a
border collie in line, but less experienced
cats may be intimidated by the dog’s herding behaviors.”
General: “Border collies can be prone to
some shyness, so it is essential that puppies
get plenty of socialization.”
Exercise/Energy Level
“Border collies generally require at least a
couple hours of physical exercise every day.
Because they have active brains, it is also
important that they have at least 30 minutes of daily training to keep them mentally stimulated.
Border collies excel in just about any
performance sport. Agility, Frisbee, flyball,
freestyle (dancing), and competitive obedience are some activities that they may
enjoy. Herding, of course, comes natural-
“The Breed Report” is a new feature designed to help shelters and adoption groups learn more about the needs and characteristics of specific breeds and breed mixes. While every dog is unique, knowing that a border collie likes to herd and a toy poodle likes to lap-nap may
help caretakers provide a better temporary home—and locate the ideal permanent one. For our first installment, Adam Goldfarb, an outreach assistant for The HSUS’s Companion Animals section, interviewed a shelter professional with special expertise in border collies.
ly, but they can be quite good at tracking
and search and rescue as well.”
“Border collies are a joy to train. They
respond best to positive reinforcement, and
they will practically turn themselves inside
out for you! Sometimes it almost feels like
cheating to train a border collie.
They were also bred to work very closely with their handlers—taking direction and
obeying, even under highly stimulating and
distracting conditions.
Border collies are very sensitive dogs.
They don’t do well with harsh physical corrections and they often have noise sensitivities. While this makes them easy to train,
they may not do well in a household with
lots of raised voices or emotional upheaval.”
Surrender: “Most border collies in shelters
have been surrendered because of energy issues. They may escape regularly, be
destructive, bark, or just act generally hyper.
Of course these behaviors are not the dog’s
fault. The owner has underestimated the
dog’s needs and the dog has learned how
to entertain himself.”
Shelter Life: “Shelters can be hard on border collies because they need so much
mental and physical stimulation. Many shelters have established training programs for
their shelter dogs and these really help.
Daily exercise is great, but don’t forget down
time. Shelter life is near-constant stimulation for a dog, and because border collies
are so vigilant and aware of their surroundings, this can be exhausting for
them.Taking them out of the kennels for 30
minutes a day to a quiet place will help
lower their arousal levels and also meet
their need for some cuddle time.”
Adoption: “Adopters are attracted to border collies because they are affectionate
and people-focused. Unfortunately, if the
adopter is not committed to meeting these
dogs’ considerable physical and mental
needs, then the dog is likely to either be
returned or become a backyard dog. I
can’t imagine a worse fate (for any dog),
but especially for the people-loving border
PETsMART Charities’ Webinars
Bringing the Experts to You
• Free – save on travel expenses
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presenters share expert advice
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• Interactive – ask questions and
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• Archives – visit the online
webinar library anytime to view
past sessions
Find out more. Visit
or call 1-800-423-PETS
“At our shelter, I sometimes think we mix up
Australian shepherds and border collies.
They come in a lot of the same colors. I
teach people to think of Aussies as “squarer”; they are almost as tall as they are long.
Border collies are more rectangular—longer
than they are tall.”
What’s the Diagnosis?
New evaluation program aims to help shelters improve staff retention and morale
ost people in the animal
care, control, and sheltering
field know that euthanasia
and other workplace stressors lead
to high staff turnover. And effective
leaders recognize the conventional
wisdom that a workplace is only as
good as the people within it—and that
taking care of staff is therefore critical
to a functioning organization.
Learning to capitalize on people
power is what the Shelter Diagnostic
System (SDS) is all about. Created
through an ongoing partnership
between the University of North Carolina in Charlotte and The Humane
Designed with the busy shelter
environment in mind, the diagnostic
process starts with an initial phone
conversation to help determine the
suitability of SDS for a given organization. If the program appears to be
a good fit, employees will be asked to
complete brief surveys and send them
directly back to the university.
Researchers will use the survey
responses to determine what the
organization in question is doing well
and where improvements can be
made. The resulting report will prioritize action steps for areas identified
as most in need of attention. A feed-
have at least 10 part- or full-time
Participation in the Shelter Diagnostic System will not only benefit
individual organizations but also
enhance the pool of national data
being collected to further study shelter workplace issues. Eventually, SDS
participants will be able to use the
system to compare themselves to similar agencies.
The HSUS provided a grant to UNC
Charlotte researchers for design
and development of the SDS;
the grant will also subsidize and under-
Learning to capitalize on people power is what the
Shelter Diagnostic System (SDS) is all about.
Society of the United States, the SDS
is an assessment tool involving
employee surveys and results-based
recommendations for improving staff
morale and retention.
The SDS does not address logistical aspects of organizations such as
standard operating procedures or
policies; instead it’s designed to analyze employee attitudes, perceptions,
and opinions on key issues related to
organizational health and well-being.
Topics include communications effectiveness, supervisory style, teamwork,
peer support, euthanasia practices,
morale, trust, and the stress of handson work in a shelter environment.
The SDS was developed by a team
of professors who’ve been investigating shelter workplace issues since
2001. To create the system, they
relied on the results of their own
research as well as expertise from
both the sheltering and industrialorganizational psychology fields.
back guide, which will usually be
mailed within two or three months of
survey distribution, will help the
organization implement the prescribed action steps and will include
specific suggestions that other organizations have found effective.
But the SDS process doesn’t stop
with the written report. A trained professional from UNC Charlotte will be
available to answer questions about
results. In addition, the SDS can be
used more than once; ideally, the
process should be repeated every 12
to 18 months so shelters can monitor progress and identify potential
growth areas.
Confidentiality is assured. Participants and organizations do not see
one another’s data or results, and no
one outside the university research
team will see them either. And the
system is designed to protect the
anonymity of respondents by requiring that participating organizations
write the program for
shelters. A fee-based service, the SDS will generate just enough
revenue to cover expenses, fund future
research, and pay for continued development of the system.
The price tag for participating shelters is minimal; for example, expected costs for a shelter with about 25
employees could run from $350 to
$450. For an organization with 100
employees, the figure would increase
to $900 to $1,200. These prices are
a fraction of market value; private consulting companies charge $4,000 to
$8,000 for comparable services.
To learn more about the program
or to schedule an assessment for your
organization, contact UNC Charlotte
researchers Steven Rogelberg, PhD,
and Charlie Reeve, PhD, at 704-6874742 or [email protected] Or contact Kate Pullen, Director of Animal
Sheltering Issues for The HSUS, at
301-258-3122 or [email protected]
How to Help
a Chained Dog
hen a homeless dog arrives at the
doorstep of your home or shelter,
you know that his good treatment
is assured. A bath, medical treatment, some
hugs, food, refuge, and placement with a
loving family—you can help give him what
he needs. But what about the dogs who’ll
never make it that far, the ones you see
chained up in yards every day on your way
to work?
Whether they’ve been driven to obsessive
barking or just silent depression, dogs who
live out their days on the end of a chain are
in a sad gray zone of pethood. They may
be “owned” by someone, but that status is
merely a legal technicality; a dog left tethered has none of the sense of belonging
these natural pack animals treasure. And
while their lonely situations are often not
dire enough to warrant seizure, there are
other ways to help chained dogs come in
from the cold. Sometimes it just takes a little friendly persuasion.
1. Gather Information
When you talk to owners of chained dogs,
remember to check your assumptions at
the door so you can understand their real
motivations. In some cases, owners with
allergies may have concluded that the only
way to stop their noses from running and
their eyes from itching is to keep their dogs
outside. In other cases, dogs may have lived
inside for a while but then developed a
behavior problem that owners didn’t know
how to cope with. Or the owners may have
grown up in households where pets were
routinely kept outside; it may never have
occurred to them that they could treat their
pets differently.
None of these are excuses for keeping an
animal chained, but they can help you
understand people’s reasons for doing so.
Your mission—should you choose to accept
it—is to help pet owners see that their circumstances can be improved for both their
own good and the good of the dog. You’ll
be able to shape your approach best if you
listen to what people have to say.
2. Share Your Knowledge
Once you’ve heard an explanation of why
the owner keeps his dog outside, help him
understand why it’s not a good idea.
Whether he’s a compassionate person who
just doesn’t know better or someone who’ll
be persuaded only by fear of penalties,
the realities of chaining provide powerful
arguments that will challenge almost any
underlying motivation:
It’s cruel—and it’s not just humane
societies that think so. The USDA has
also found tethering to be inhumane, issuing a statement on the matter in 1996: A
tether significantly restricts a dog's movement. A tether can also become tangled
around or hooked on the dog's shelter
structure or other objects, further restricting the dog's movement and potentially
causing injury.
What’s more, dogs are naturally social
animals; for them, being left in the yard
for hours or days on end is the equivalent
of solitary confinement—and may have
similarly depressive psychological effects.
It’s dangerous for people and other
pets. Dogs who are chained tend to
become protective of the tiny space they
have access to. According to a 2000 study
in the Journal of the American Veterinary
Medical Association, nearly 20 percent
of the fatal dog attacks in the United States
between 1979 and 1998 occurred while
a dog was restrained on his owner’s property. An attack like this is tragic not just
for the victim but for the dog: The animal
might be ruled dangerous and be subject
to seizure. The owner might also be liable.
It’s dangerous for the dog. Not only can
the chain become tangled, but many times
it’s much too heavy for the dog to have
any freedom of movement. The dog also
won’t be able to get away from people or
other animals who may try to hurt him.
If you can provide these arguments in
the form of a brochure or information
packet, all the better. Owners may be nervous or defensive when you’re speaking to
them in person, but they’ll have information they can refer to once you’ve left.
Create a brochure of your own—or request
copies of the “Do Your Chain Your Dog?”
flyer from The HSUS.
have a behavior program or work with a
trainer in your community, provide that
information and suggest that the owner
attend a class with his dog. Ask if the animal is spayed or neutered; if he’s not,
suggest the surgery as a possible means
of curbing the animal’s desire to roam
the streets.
If the animal is an escape artist, suggest
ways to deal with his Houdini habits.
Diggers can be stymied by better fencing;
the owner can bury chicken wire to a depth
of one foot below where the fence meets
the ground (be sure to bend in the sharp
edges), or he can place large rocks at the
base of the fence. Jumpers can be stopped
by adding a 45-degree inward extension,
available at home improvement stores, to
the top of an existing fence.
If the owners have allergies, suggest
medication. Point out that it may not be the
animal they’re reacting to. Suggest regular
cleaning of drapes and upholstery, the
3. Provide Better Options
Once you’ve explained why chaining is a
problem, address the concerns that may
have led to it.
If the issue is behavioral, explain that
chaining will likely worsen existing behavior problems and create new ones. If you
The HSUS offers a free packet that includes sample anti-chaining ordinances from around
the country, a “Do You Chain Your Dog?” flyer that explains why chaining is ineffective,
and articles and studies related to the topic. To obtain a packet or a copy of doghousebuilding plans, call The HSUS’s Companion Animals staff at 202-452-1100. is a helpful website that includes advice on introducing local antichaining legislation. The site also offers downloadable brochures and information leaflets
that will help hone your approach to working with pet owners.
Operation Doghouse, started first in Bedford, Virginia, and later adapted by the Johnson
County Animal Protection League in North Carolina, is a great model for a doghouse distribution program. Donors can give funds, “dogloo”-style housing, or building materials.
They can even build doghouses using plans the League distributes. Check out for a description of the Johnston County program; for information about the
Bedford program, see
PETA sells posters and brochures with images of chained dogs and compelling messages
such as “Life Sentence, No Parole” and “A chained dog can only watch as life goes by …”
Fact sheets from the organization provide advice on helping dogs relegated to the backyard
and educate readers on the elements of acceptable doghouse structures. All the materials
are available in pdf format as well. To download or purchase the items, visit www.petaliter
biggest dander repositories. Suggest an air
purifier with a HEPA filter. (If you add these
to your shelter’s wish list, you can even
donate them to pet owners who seem willing to try bringing their animals indoors).
If the owners are just doing what they’ve
always done, be kind and nonjudgmental
in relaying the facts about the cruelty and
ineffectiveness of chaining. Explain that
you understand that animals have always
been kept outdoors in their family, and that
many people (perhaps even you) grew up
that way, too. Then point out that more information and better options are available
today. The owners can start a new family
tradition—one in which the dog is part of
the family.
4. Don’t Throw the Book at
Them—but Mention It
Having the law on your side is a powerful
tool that can sometimes turn a reluctant or
recalcitrant owner into the picture of willing cooperation. (If your community doesn’t already have an anti-chaining ordinance,
see “Resources” above for information on
sample legislation and other materials available from The HSUS.)
Working in an area that doesn’t have a
law specifically related to chaining puts you
in more tenuous territory. But the owner in
question may be in violation of some other
ordinance. If the animal is too skinny, if he
has an ingrown collar, if he barks all the
time and annoys the neighbors, if he has
no shelter from the elements, or if he is a
danger to passersby, you may have another way to approach the issue.
It’s difficult for a private citizen to
enforce a law, but if you are approaching owners as a concerned individual,
you needn’t threaten them. If your other
methods of persuasion don’t work, you
might simply let them know that a
chained dog law exists. Explain what it
says—or provide a copy of the ordinance
if possible. Let the owners read it and see
that they’re in violation.
Explain that you would far prefer to see
the dog brought inside and made comfortable than to see a fine issued or the animal
removed. Ask the owners how you can help
make that possible.
5. Make the Best of It
If the owner is unconvinced and you don’t
have a law to compel him to free the dog
from his chain, you may still be able to
improve the current situation in a way that
everyone—you, the owner, and the dog—
will be happy with.
If the chain is too short or heavy, suggest
or provide a lighter tether. Pulley systems
that allow the dog more room to roam are
a better, though imperfect, option.
Provide plans for building a doghouse,
so that the animal will at least have rudimentary shelter. Doghouses can be purchased at most pet supply outlets, but you
can also provide the owner with plans to
build one. (The HSUS has blueprints for
easy-to-build doghouses; see “Resources”
above to learn how to obtain a copy.)
Some organizations have started doghouse donation programs. By serving as
a clearinghouse for doghouses, shelters
and advocacy groups can provide pet owners who aren’t ready to bring their fourlegged family members all the way inside
with the next best alternative. ❂
Communicating your
work to friends and
family takes honesty,
diplomacy, and
It’s a Friday night
and you’re
out at a bar with old friends from high school. These
people were there when you threw up before tryouts
for the play senior year. They were there when you
and your first boyfriend had a huge fight in the middle of math class. They know about your problems
with your parents. And even though they now have
husbands, wives, kids, and lives of their own, in some
ways, they still know you better than anyone.
There’s someone else at the bar you wouldn’t mind
getting to know, too: a totally cute guy hanging out
with his friends, just like you’re hanging out with
yours. You get to talking with him, and it’s not long
before he asks you that dreaded question: “So, what do
you do?”
As you search for an answer, a thousand thoughts
run through your head: sometimes it seems like you
do everything, from helping people find the right lap
cat to teaching kids about proper dog care to cleaning up animals who come in dirty, matted, and scared.
And that’s just the simple, happy stuff. You’ve also
seen animals who’ve suffered terrible pain and neglect at the hands of cruel or ignorant people. That dog
who came in with maggots curling into the wound on
his neck from an ingrown collar comes to mind. And
there’s the euthanasia, of course. There’s always the
euthanasia, which, even when it’s necessary and done
well—the only way your shelter will allow it to be
done—still hurts, still haunts, still causes more than
the occasional twinge of grief and
You could say anything, and you
almost do. Just as you’re preparing
to open up—to take this stranger
at face value and let him see a little
bit of the joy and pain you get out
of this complicated and rewarding
and sad and amazing job—Neil,
one of your old buddies and a longtime wisecracker, blows a little
froth off the top of his beer, leans
down the bar and says in his best
indoor shout, “Oh, I can’t wait to
hear this one! Wait, no, buddy: Let
me tell you what this little cutie
you’re hitting on does for a living.
She kills dogs.”
Or maybe you’ve experienced
Turkey Trauma: The whole family’s
gathered around the table. You’ve
got your mom and your stepdad
and your stepbrother and your aunt
and your two little cousins and your
great uncle Ernie (his sciatic nerve
is acting up but otherwise he’s just
fine, thank you, my boy). Holiday
dinners are always loaded with the
potential for drama, between your
stepdad’s occasional overindulgence in wine and your aunt’s food
allergies, but this year it’s a little
more complicated: You stopped
eating meat six months ago, and so
you’re doing the side dishes thing
(even though that turkey smells so,
so good!).
But it’s going well: Thanksgiving’s
all about side dishes anyway, with
all the sweet potatoes and bean
casserole and corn bread, and you’ve
even brought a homemade cranberry-pecan tart. You’re feeling
warm, secure—the way your family can make you feel when everyone’s being kind. Your aunt asks you
about the dish you brought; she’s
eaten two helpings so you know
she’s not just being nice.
She mentions her allergy to
peanuts and asks why you decided to give up meat. You think, OK,
she brought it up, I guess I can talk
about it without seeming pushy or
preachy, and so—in a calm, friendly voice—you tell her your reasons:
your health, the impact of factory
farming on the environment, the
inhumane way many food animals
are raised and slaughtered.
She listens, nods, seems to absorb
what you’re saying, but when you
finish talking, she rolls her eyes and
says—at the exact moment the rest
of the table experiences one of
those momentary lulls in conversation—“Right, the poor animals.
Don’t carrots have feelings, too?
That is so stupid! Animals eat each
other in the wild all the time!”
The Job That Follows
You Home
Something like this has probably
happened to you. Maybe it wasn’t
so dramatic. But for many animal
people, the list of painful and frustrating social situations goes on: the
friend who tells you excitedly about
how she’s going to breed her poodle, the parent who keeps asking
when you’re going to stop wasting
your talents and get a real job, the
acquaintance who suggests you’re
silly to be helping animals when so
many humans are poor/hungry/sick.
And, of course, all those people who
tell you they love animals too much
to do what you do.
You know the best answer to that
one: You love animals too much to
not do it. But unless you’re a saint,
the best answer gently spoken isn’t
always the one that comes flying to
your lips. No, sometimes what you
want to say is, “Well, they’re sure
a lot easier to love than people,
aren’t they?”
Of course, you don’t say that. Not
usually, anyway. Not out loud.
But the negative or ignorant comments linger even when you’ve
heard them so often you think
you’re beyond being hurt by them.
The cumulative effect can be
painful, like ripping a bandage off
a scrape again and again, until it
seems like the wound will never
heal up. You live with it; you carry
it around carefully and are prepared
to defend it at the slightest provocation—because it seems like
whenever you relax and forget
about it, one of your nearest and
dearest opens that sucker up and
throws a little salt into it.
It’s the people you most depend
on and whose feelings you most
want to protect—your parents,
your siblings, your friends, your
partner, your children—who are
most able to hurt you. You want
them to understand your work
because it’s an important part of
your life, and if they don’t understand it, it feels like they don’t
understand you.
And since so much of your job is
about education, gaining empathy
from those closest to you can seem
critically important. As John Snyder
points out, “If I can’t get my own
family to understand what I do,
how will the general public ever
understand it?”
Now the senior director of
Companion Animals at The HSUS,
Snyder didn’t start out with a fancy
title at a national organization. He
began his career in animal protection as an animal control supervisor in Alachua County, Florida—
or, as the kids who used to tease
his children in school put it, as a
“Kids can be cruel, and my kids
would get teased about it—‘Oh,
your dad’s the dogcatcher. Your
dad’s the guy who stole our dog and
killed it.’ ”
Once when a neighbor’s dog got
picked up by some of Snyder’s animal control staff, it didn’t matter
that he himself hadn’t reported the
dog or called his fellow officers:
The neighbor told his children they
weren’t allowed to play with
Snyder’s kids anymore.
As a result of the teasing, Snyder’s
kids started trying to hide what he
did. When other children would
ask, they’d say their father worked
for the county. If pressed, they’d
say he worked for the public safety department. And if asked what
he did, they’d say he was a supervisor—anything to avoid admitting
that their father worked for animal
“I felt bad because my kids were
embarrassed about what I did,”
says Snyder.
Clashing with
Mainstream Culture
We live in a strange society, one in
which companion animals are
more babied and coddled than perhaps anywhere else on earth—and
yet millions are homeless and neglected. We purport to be a culture
of animal lovers, yet the abuses in
our factory farms continue on a
mind-numbing scale, even as other
modernized nations are legislating
some measure of humanity back
into their food production. We are
a nation that claims to value public service, and yet we often reward
those who do it with little more
than lip service.
When the work is done for ani-
mals, the people doing it—whether
they’re involved with shelters, animal control, fostering groups, feral
cat initiatives, or farm animal sanctuaries—are frequently underpaid,
overworked, stigmatized, disrespected, or viewed by the public
as part of a radical fringe. Providing
a voice for the voiceless—often at
minimum wage—is not a job many
parents envision for their children.
Gene Bauston, the head of Farm
Animal Sanctuary in Watkins Glen,
New York, was probably destined
for this profession from birth. As a
young child, he brought home
frogs from the park; in high school
he flirted with vegetarianism before
committing to it seriously years
later. But despite those early signs,
his family was still baffled when he
first started doing rescue work, he
says. As far as they were concerned,
the treatment of farm animals was
low on the list of societal problems.
“I was always encouraged to go
into business and to do what most
U.S. citizens do, which is try to
make a lucrative living,” says
Bauston. “I was encouraged to
become an engineer and this kind
of stuff, but it was just not something I was driven to do. … We
grow up in this country being
encouraged to pursue certain goals,
one of the primary ones being to
make money and make a lot of it.”
What other profession is like animal protection? Animal care work
is frequently compared to other
high-stress, high-emotion occupations like nursing, policing, and
emergency response; certainly
those jobs are difficult and emo-
tional. Other jobs may suffer from
stigmas and misunderstandings—
funeral directors and proctologists,
for example, have to deal with their
own set of forehead-slapping questions as ridiculous as those that get
posed to shelter folks.
But it’s hard to come up with a
job outside of animal protection
work that carries all these burdens:
emotional, physical, and psychological stresses in exchange for little pay and even less respect.
“We’re learning that people in animal care are as vulnerable or even
more vulnerable to stress-related
disorders [as firefighters and
police],” says Carol Brothers, a psychologist and shelter volunteer who
leads workshops for shelter professionals through her company,
Support Services for Animal Care
Professionals. “There are a lot of
factors—they don’t get the same
kind of recognition from the public, they’re isolated, and then there’s
[the difficulty of] what they see on
an everyday basis.”
Shouldering the Burden—
and the Blame
Shelter workers who’ve been in the
field for years still wrestle with their
feelings about euthanasia. Many
have the same hope Megan Clark
did when she took her first shelter
job and found out she’d be euthanizing animals. “It was hard to
imagine. I had taken a fair number
of biology classes in college and I
was thinking, I’ve dissected animals, I’ve seen the medical side, I
understand in my head why it’s
necessary,” says Clark, now the
director of education for the
Humane League of Lancaster
County in Pennsylvania. “You
know, I just had to think that it
would come to make sense.”
For many, it does come to make
a kind of logical, numerical sense:
They understand why it’s done and
why it is, for now, still necessary.
But most in the field agree that,
on an emotional and psychological and where-is-the-justice-in-theworld level, it never does and never
will. And that’s what causes some
shelter workers to have nightmares,
flashbacks, and feelings of guilt and
shame about the work they do.
treatment reserved for the mythical “sin-eater,” described long ago
in the context of animal shelter
work by euthanasia-stress management expert Bill Hurt Smith. A
sin-eater is characterized in some
religious traditions as an animal or
person who takes on the guilt of
another individual or an entire society. In rituals related to the concept
of the sin-eater, the symbolic object
receives the burden of guilt before
being thrown away, killed, or ostracized—a collective back-turning
on the very object or individual acting as a savior.
In one ritual related to the tradi-
ical truth—and in the case of shelter folks, the “sin-eaters” in our
society’s complex relationship with
companion animals, anger towards
the people who make their jobs
necessary can become a curse.
It’s hard not to be enraged by a
seemingly careless public, especially when you don’t have anyone
to turn to for understanding and
support. Being rejected by those
closest to you can create a terrible
sense of isolation and resentment.
Every year, many dedicated animal lovers quit the field because
they cannot handle the stress.
Those who keep doing the work
Many come to terms with the
stress and learn to live with the
seeming contradictions. Some have
a single-minded commitment to
animals that lets them tune out
their demons. Others find that support from colleagues helps them
ignore the petty societal voices that
criticize or trivialize their work.
Having taken on the burden of
caring for the animals our society
abandons, mistreats, or ignores,
humane workers are often abandoned, mistreated, and ignored by
a society that would be perfectly
content to forget that its own sins—
of carelessness, ignorance, cruelty,
and neglect—have created the
homeless animal problem in the
first place.
Those working within the animal
protection field often suffer the
tion, the family of someone who
had died would hire a sin-eater to
save the dead person from what he
had done wrong. A piece of bread
was passed over the deceased’s body
to the hired sin-eater. The superstition held that when the sin-eater
ate the bread, the sins the dead person had committed in life were lifted and he could pass safely into the
afterlife. Part of the tradition included a warning: A sin-eater who ate
the bread with a grudge in his heart
was unable to cast off the sins he
had consumed. A sin-eater attempting to save a sinner he was angry at
was, thereby, cursed.
Most of these old traditions have
fallen from us; we no longer practice or believe in them in the literal way that our ancestors did. But
they retain elements of psycholog-
often do so almost desperately, as
though it’s a joyless addiction.
They become depressed, bitter,
and increasingly lonely.
Finding Safe Ground
But there are better options. You
don’t have to give up the work to
feel happier and more connected
to your loved ones. You don’t have
to feel like a stranger in your own
life. Sometimes you just have to
come up with new ways of looking at that life, a process that will
help you learn to speak about it to
the people who matter most.
“What we say to the public about
euthanasia is true,” says Brothers.
“And that truth can be another
piece of coping with it: knowing
the truth about not being able to
take care of them all and not all of
them [being] adoptable.
“But you also need a safe place to
go home to, to say how much it
breaks your heart.”
When you get to that honest place
with friends and family, it can be a
huge source of emotional relief. “It’s
completely different when you’re
talking to a family member,” says
Clark. “When you’re talking to the
public, you always have your public persona. You have the official,
canned talk and you have to be
careful about what you say and be
supportive of whatever agency
you’re working for. … I would
never tell a member of the public
about the internal debate over
euthanizing a specific animal.”
But with her family, Clark has
reached a place where she’s able to
share her daily sorrows and frustrations and describe the debates
she has with staff and with herself.
It’s helpful to her not just emotionally and personally but professionally: Hearing family members’
perspectives on various issues helps
Clark keep in touch with the beliefs
and desires of the public.
Everyone in the field can use
more support like this, says
Brothers. But you have to be willing to open up, both to your own
needs and to the feelings others
express to you.
“What people in animal care need
to be willing to take on is their own
vulnerability,” Brothers says. “They
need to have exceptional means of
taking care of themselves, and they
need to be around safe people and
have people to play and share with.”
Those “safe people” should include
partners, spouses, friends, and family. Too often, though, the very people that animal professionals would
like to open up to are the ones who
seem most dangerous. Caring for
someone means you care what they
think. You’re invested in their beliefs
and opinions. Criticism from a trusted person can feel a bit like betrayal.
The next time you find yourself
in one of those emotionally dangerous conversations about your
work or your convictions, give
yourself a moment to consider why
it feels so threatening: You and the
person sitting next to you care for
each other. If you can remember
that reason and keep your voice and
your attitude open and friendly,
your sense of commitment and
peace will come through more
Talking to friends and family
brings out a whole complicated set
of emotions. You want to be accepted and understood; you are afraid
you will be rejected and judged. It
may help to realize that on some
level, the other party—whether
they admit it, whether they’re even
conscious of it—probably shares
your fears. Your decision to serve
animals and people, they often
worry, will lead you to judge them
for having made a different choice.
It’s a particularly hard fear for a
parent to confront, says Bauston.
Over the years, Bauston’s parents
have grown to understand his work
and his battle against factory farming. But it wasn’t always so easy for
them to comprehend, says Bauston.
Most people in animal protection
have gone against the grain of mainstream society. And, as he points
out, “There’s an implied rejection
of their way of living which is an
implied rejection of [their] values,
which is not an easy thing for a parent to accept sometimes.”
When a person takes a radically
different path than his parents did,
tension is usually inevitable. But
that tension is liable to be exacerbated if either treats the choice as
a personal criticism—something
Bauston says he’s been careful not
to do. In this way, he says, the
approach he’s taken with his friends
and family has been much like the
one he tries to take with the public: friendly, informative, kind.
“There’s more time when you’re
talking with family, but the
approach is the same,” he says. “It’s
not about being judgmental or putting anybody down.” Patience is
vital; much as you might like to
perform a Vulcan mind-meld with
another person, that technology
isn’t yet available on Planet Earth.
“When you’re so committed to a
cause, it’s really hard to understand
why any other rational person
wouldn’t have the same kind of
commitment,” says Leslie Irvine, a
sociologist and longtime shelter
volunteer in Boulder, Colorado.
But it’s important to try. After all,
wasn’t there a time when you knew
nothing about animal protection
yourself? Very few people were
born into it; many even grew up in
families that let their cats roam,
kept their dogs outside, and bought
their puppies from pet stores.
Remembering how little you knew
before you entered the field will
help you understand the intentions
of those asking questions or making uninformed decisions.
Making the (Non-)
Judgment Call
Think about it: There are plenty of
jobs out there that make good sense
to the people doing them but that
you’d never choose for yourself.
Do you understand all of your
friends’ and family members’
careers or the complex internal collision of psychology, personal history, interests, and necessity that
have led them to their fields?
You probably don’t. Even from the
inside, very few people could fully
explain all the circumstances that
led them to do what they do. No
matter how carefully we examine
our lives and motivations, there are
some things that remain hidden
from us. Sometimes we don’t know
why we did something until years
after the fact. Expecting others to
understand our web of motivations,
in all of their passionate and virtuous and selfish and altruistic and
pragmatic complexity, may be setting them up to fail.
When it comes to food choices,
people in the animal protection
movement fall all over the spectrum. Some love their burgers and
see pet overpopulation as an issue
completely unrelated to meat consumption. Some are comfortable
with hunting but less so with factory farming. Some don’t eat anything with a face but still love their
ice cream.
Wherever you stand, these days
it’s unlikely for anyone to stay in
the animal protection field without eventually having a debate—
even if it’s only an internal one—
about animals as food sources. It’s
an issue that tends to feel deeply
personal, and rightly so: We put
food into and pass it out of our own
bodies. Of the relationships we
have with other people, only our
parents, children, and lovers can
claim anywhere near the intimate
physical space that we share with
our food.
Some are comfortable talking
openly about the issue to family
and friends; others would be far
happier to discuss the intimate
details of their sex lives than get
mired in a discussion of the pros
and cons of soy milk. Suffice it to
say, if you’ve successfully negotiated a calm, friendly discussion about
food with someone who eats differently than you do, you’ve got a
gift that will serve you well in all
personal and professional interactions. You don’t need to be reading
this article; in fact, if you ever leave
animal protection, you could probably work for the UN.
If we participate in modern society, very little of what we do, buy,
or consume is completely pure.
Eating meat hurts animals, certainly, but so does driving a polluting car down roads that
and why a discussion of food sometimes results in either/or decisions:
your beliefs about food and your
desire to air them versus your
respect for other people and your
desire to protect and honor their
feelings and beliefs.
Herbivores and omnivores alike
can be hypersensitive about their
food. Meat-eaters: Talk to a Vocal
Veggie, and you’ll often get more
preaching than you would from
Jimmy Swaggart; once a new vegetarian has heard the gospel about
how their diet can help prevent
cancer, obesity, and cruelty, they
often want to go out and spread the
encroach on wildlife habitats.
Wearing fur and leather hurts animals, but so does wearing synthetics that are made of toxic chemical byproducts which degrade the
environment. And even when the
impact on animals is lessened, a
product may have an adverse effect
on some other exploited group.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t
do all we can to reduce our environmental footprint and avoid
using products manufactured
through exploitation of the weak
and disenfranchised. But reminding ourselves that few people can
claim to be pure helps us understand other points of view.
Discussing food always involves
weighing our own ethics against
those of others. That’s why it feels
so personal and uncomfortable,
word. Veggies: Talk to a Bellicose
Burger Lover, and you’ll often get
sarcastic remarks about tofu-eating lions, lectures about how the
shape of human canine teeth
proves people were meant to eat
meat, or inflated concerns that
you’ll drop dead any day from lack
of protein.
The outcome of these tête-à-têtes
often depends on pre-existing relationship dynamics. If the relationship is mature enough and the
other party is secure enough, you
may be able to express your beliefs,
relate some facts, and have an
open, friendly talk about why you
eat what you do. You may even
make some tiny inroads—and
even if you don’t, you can still feel
good about having expressed yourself honestly.
Getting Them Involved
Whether it’s food choices or the
more mainstream issues that shelter folks deal with, you should try
to be happy with baby steps, Irvine
says. Those people who come
around to our side usually have to
be brought there gently.
“You have to pick your battles,”
she says. “You might not change
[someone’s] mind today about
adopting a shelter animal, but
maybe next year or next week you
can change their mind if you stay
civil with them. Or maybe you
can’t convince them to get a shelter animal, but you can tell them
municate with family isn’t talking at
all. Talking can feel like lecturing—
to both the speaker and the audience. As writing teachers repeatedly tell students learning to craft
compelling stories, Show, don’t tell.
When possible, invite friends and
family to your workplace, and let
your actions and the animals do
the talking. A day at the shelter is
worth a thousand words.
Bring your kids and your partner
in, suggests Brothers, and show
them the more kid-friendly work
you do. Older kids may be able to
handle the more emotional stuff.
Let them see that, contrary to what
down a highway department truck.
The highway employees were excited about assisting Hanrahan in her
efforts to load the raccoon into the
car, and the ACO’s mother-in-law
started to catch a little of the excitement as they drove the animal to a
wildlife rehab center.
“After that incident, she now says
I’m crazy, but after being part of the
rescue, she has a better understanding of why I do what I do,”
Hanrahan says. “Sometimes, if you
can somehow involve your friends
and family in ‘the cause,’ they will
tend to understand better.”
As a behavior counselor at the
about rescue groups or about what
makes for a good responsible
breeder rather than getting a dog
from the paper. But if you alienate
them, you’ve knocked out all that
As a sociologist, Irvine has plenty
of good communication strategies
to help her cope with some of the
misconceptions people have about
animal work. But even she gets frustrated—as when her relatives
recently bought a Lab puppy from
a breeder. It was hard not to feel
slighted by that decision, she says.
“And these particular family
members are really committed to
other causes,” Irvine says. “So I
said, ‘It would be like if I came out
and said I was going to support this
cause you’re really opposed to.’ ”
Sometimes the best way to com-
they may hear from their friends,
there is real joy in the work. You
may be doing difficult things, but
you’re also creating happy endings.
Actual participation in an animal
rescue helped a family member better understand what Megan
Hanrahan does in her job as the
lone ACO and animal inspector for
the town of Hull, Massachusetts.
Hanrahan was driving with her
mother-in-law one day when she
spotted an injured raccoon by the
side of the road.
“I told her that he was hurt and
that he needed help,” Hanrahan
recalls. “She demanded I get back
in the car and I told her, ‘No, if you
don’t want to stay, then leave. I’ll
find another way back.’ ”
Hanrahan’s irritated passenger
stayed while Hanrahan flagged
Stafford Animal Shelter in Livingston,
Montana, Tiffani Zimmerman saw
her own shelter work and animalfriendly lifestyle make an impact
she’d never expected.
Zimmerman’s family had always
had pets, she says, but they weren’t
a huge priority. “My brother fed our
dog food that came in a 40-pound
bright yellow bag that said in big
black letters ‘DOG FOOD’ on the
side. I think it cost about $8.99,”
Zimmerman says wryly. “I think
they got him neutered when he was
around ten. My mom has a cat she
loves dearly but it never goes to the
vet. They love animals but they
don’t go to the extremes that some
people do.”
It’s a far cry from Zimmerman’s
approach to animal care. “My dog’s
going to have $900 surgery next
Tuesday,” she says. “They probably
wouldn’t do that.”
But a while ago, Zimmerman
received a visit from her brother,
who is now grown up and who
“always had his dogs down in the
basement. They never came up in
the house because he didn’t want
their nails to scratch the floor, and
hair all over.”
The poor guy never knew what
hit him during the six weeks he
hung out with Zimmerman. His
dogs slept in the guest room with
him, and he saw that his sister’s cats
actually jumped onto the countertops to eat their food.
“He just saw the way I lived,” she
says. “And I work at the shelter and
he came out and saw that. Now, he
will only ever get an animal at a
shelter, he takes his newest dog to
get vaccinated, he believes in
spay/neuter. He used to tie his dog
out in the yard, but now he calls
me and tells me—tells me—that his
friends’ dogs are mean because
they’re tied up in the yard all
the time and not socialized,”
Zimmerman says delightedly.
“It’s just amazing, what I’ve seen
in my brother, and it seems like he
respects me so much more, and I
feel like I’ve reached someone in
the world.”
Practicing Selective Venting
If you’re in this for the long haul,
time and patience are on your side,
especially when taking a gentle,
nonjudgmental approach that
involves leading by example. When
Clark started working at the shelter, her husband and mother-inlaw and others in her family had a
hard time imagining that she would
last in a job that involved performing euthanasia.
“I think it’s still hard for [my
mother-in-law] to understand,”
says Clark. “People have trouble
reconciling you being a nice, sen-
sitive person and euthanizing. ...
But after a while, they saw that I
was really doing it and that I was
still functioning and seemed to
have a good grasp on reality and
wasn’t rocking back and forth in a
fetal position all day—which I
think is really what they thought
would happen.”
Clark’s learned who she can talk
to about what. Some people have
a low tolerance for gross stuff; she
leaves stories of maggots and sickness out of her conversations with
them. Some people have a hard
time hearing about animals suffering or about euthanasia. “You learn
to compartmentalize who you talk
to,” she says. “Maybe I can’t tell
them about that stuff, but I can tell
them about the old dog we found
a home for last week.”
It’s not just a matter of what, but
of how much, she says. She’s able to
talk about almost anything with
her husband; he’s extremely supportive and will let her vent when
she needs to. But she has learned
to respect her captive audience by
setting him free when he needs it.
“He’ll get to a point where he says,
‘You know, I just can’t handle any
more shelter stories right now,’ ”
she says. “It’s hard for him sometimes, because he likes to try to fix
things, and he can’t fix it.”
Finding the balance where both
parties can be honest about their
needs is the trick, says Brothers.
You can tell your partner that
you’ve had a hard day and would
like to talk about it, but ask them
how much they’re willing to hear
or if they can hear it a little later.
You can also ask your partner to
check with you from time to time
and see how things are. In such
ways, honest space between people gets negotiated and both have
room for their feelings.
“It’s good to have that kind of
open communication, rather than
shelter people feeling like they’ve
had walls thrown up and have been
kind of rejected,” Brothers says.
For Clark’s part, she’s able to
understand her friends’ and family’s needs in part because of her
own history: Her mother was a
social worker who experienced
similar problems of needing to talk
and yet needing to withhold information for the sake of the people
involved and for the sake of her
own family’s sanity.
“She worked with abused kids.
And I think about talking to her
about work, particularly when we
were young. She just couldn’t tell
us,” says Clark. “She couldn’t say
the horrific things that she would
see, because we were kids. But she
had developed a way of coping,
and now that we’re older, she’ll tell
me things. And I know I have a
limit for how much I can hear of
her stories, so I know other people
have limits for how much they can
hear of mine.”
Deciding What
You’ve Got to Lose
While you can’t always expect complete understanding from others,
you should always be able to expect
civility and respect. It would be a
wonderful world if we all treated
each other as we want to be treated, but there are some people out
there who never learned that lesson.
Call them the bad apples, the poi-
son pills, the obnoxious jerks; call
them toxic or passive-aggressive or
just flat-out aggressive. Give them
the time of day; give them your
time and care; give them your honest and best self—and if they don’t
respond, give yourself a break.
Many of the people who seem to
enjoy—or at least to have made a
habit of—insulting and hurting
other people are suffering a great
deal themselves. Whether their
rude tendencies derive from unresolved childhood issues, psychological or chemical problems, or
some form of victimization, no
matter how much sympathy you
feel, at some point you have to set
limits and let them know which
behaviors are unacceptable.
If someone insists on making fun
of your beliefs or deriding what you
do, you need to confront that person about it—not by getting into
an angry, sarcastic back-and-forth
but by being frank about how their
behavior makes you feel, says
“Like with anyone we really care
about who gets hostile or abusive
with us, I think it’s really important
to be able to say, ‘That really hurts
my feelings,’ or ‘When you say that
kind of thing, it really makes me
feel bad,’ ” says Brothers. “We have
to have some ways to communicate
to a person that it’s not OK. It’s very
appropriate to set some boundaries
with a person and remind them that
you really love your work and you
really love animals, and that when
they say this, it makes you feel that
they don’t respect you and want to
hurt you, and that’s very hard on
the relationship.”
And if that kind of honesty doesn’t have the desired effect, you probably need to decide how much care
you want to give a person who never
seems to respond. “If there are people who are going to continue to be
negative, I would say you ought to
limit your time with those people,”
says Leiann Harker, PsyD, who’s
conducted stress workshops for
shelter workers in Orange County,
California. “Caring for yourself isn’t
selfish; it’s self-preservation.”
Overall, communicating and
relating to others about your work
will be easier if you keep in mind
what Shakespeare said, says
Harker: “To thine own self be true.”
“If this is what makes you happier and fulfilled, if that is what’s
important to you as a person, then
you have to realize, too, that there
are people who aren’t going to
agree,” she says. “Not everyone is
going to understand, so don’t
expect it.”
If you’ve had the same hurtful,
angry conversation repeatedly—
whether about feral cats, euthanasia, dog-breeding, meat-eating, or
any other contentious issue—then
you have to ask yourself some
important questions: Should I con-
tinue raising the topic and deal
with the tension it brings up
between us? Or is this a subject I
can avoid when I’m dealing with
this particular individual?
There’s no set answer to those
questions. Maybe the next time it
comes up you can say, “We’ve discussed this many times, and I’ve
told you what I believe, and you’ve
told me what you believe. We don’t
seem to be making any headway in
changing each other’s opinions, so
I think we should just agree to disagree. Let’s talk about something
else. For example, we both feel that
the mullet is a hairstyle that should
never have happened. How can we
work together to stop mullets from
happening in the future?”
Lighten the mood or at least provide a new subject. Let your friend
know you’d prefer to move on, and
hope he takes the hint.
Alternatively, you can bring it up
again or allow him to continue to
engage you on the subject. If you
choose to do this, you may eventually lose or at least distance yourself from a friend. That may be
okay with you; as we grow and
evolve, our relationships shift and
change. Some of them deepen, but
some of them end.
If you’re educated and aware, you
understand the choices you’re making in life. And if you want those
choices respected, you should be
prepared to extend the same
respect and neutrality towards the
choices of others—and recognize
that, as much as you may disagree
with them, those choices do not
reflect upon you. But commitment
to a belief can be lonely, and your
will to speak your truth may be
deeper and more important to you
than the relationship in question.
Just make sure you can live with
the potential consequences before
you insist to a friend or family
member that your choices are the
only possible correct ones.
Over the years that Bauston has
been involved in animal protection,
his group of close friends has
changed. “You kind of hang out with
people who you see things similarly with,” he says. “I don’t think I’d
say I’ve lost friendships, but I do
tend to spend more time with people who are more like-minded.”
Clark has had a similar experience. “I’ve never had a situation
where I’ve thought, ‘Oh, this is
someone I just can’t be friends with
because they don’t understand my
work,’ ” she says. “Most of the time
I think that I’m the one who chose
this difficult field, and I understand
how hard it is for me and for the
people who work here to come to
an understanding of what we do.”
Take Down the Defenses
If you can get to a point where you
not only say but truly believe that
your work is your choice, that you
do it well and ethically and kindly,
and that no one else has the right to
make you feel bad about it, then
you’ll feel less of a need to defend
yourself from the comments of people who are trying to push your
buttons—or who simply don’t
know any better. You’ll know that
their issues don’t need to affect your
feelings about yourself or the job.
You won’t be constantly trying to
protect your wound, because it will
begin to disappear.
“Try not to be as defensive. It’s
more personally healing,” advises
Brothers. “When we take it all on
and take it personally, it’s so devastating and painful. The more the
field can do to help people in animal care detach and feel safer and
have some skills to be able to
respond, the more resilient they
will be.”
Getting to that place will help you
respond with more acceptance and
appreciation when a family member
expresses real concern for your stress
levels and mood. When you’re on
the defensive, any comment that you
seem worried/tired/depressed can
feel like an accusation and can elicit
the urge to snap back and shut down.
But if you feel more comfortable
with your work and with your
friends’ and family members’ perceptions of it, you’ll be more able to
recognize the moments when their
worries for you are legitimate and
when you may need help. Like
other high-stress jobs, animal care
work can become an addiction,
says Brothers, and when friends
and family tell us they’re seeing a
problem, we need to be able to hear
that and examine our lives without
feeling attacked.
Keep in mind, too, that problems
aren’t necessarily coming from the
specifics of your work. “Some of
this dysfunctional relating comes
out of dysfunctional relationships
and has little to do with the fact
that they work in a shelter,” says
Brothers. Working too much, not
spending enough time with family
and friends, feeling guilty or angry
or ignored, having a hard time
expressing your fears and needs—
all of these are common problems
in relationships between regular
people who’ve never even set foot
in an animal shelter.
Even though the work is inherently emotional and stressful, the
painful feelings you experience in
relationships can often be caused
by problems that go back further,
run deeper, and are more universal and inherent to all human interactions; your communication and
intimacy issues may spring from
the simple stress of being alive as
a human being. Relationships
cause stress and pain for everyone, but there are ways to get at
those issues, whether it’s by taking a parenting class, going to couples’ therapy, or investigating
anger management therapy.
Being less defensive can help us
respond to the people who have
valuable, external perceptions
about our lives and behaviors; we
can open ourselves to those new
perspectives that will help us grow,
both personally and professionally.
“We need people who are nurturing and supportive in a kind
way,” says Harker, “but we also
need people who are willing to help
us look at something that we need
to work on.”
In a perfect world, a world where
we all express ourselves with kindness and honesty, when we experience conflict with intimate friends
about the jobs we do and the beliefs
we hold, we would be able to say
something like this: “This is what I
believe and this is what I do. I do it
because it is meaningful to me and
because I think it’s important work.
These are the things I like about my
job. These are the things I don’t like.
I would like you to understand my
work, and I would like you to support it. But if you can’t support it, I
hope that you can still support me
and recognize that even though we
have different opinions and don’t
understand everything about each
other’s choices, we can still care about
each other.”
That’s the ideal, of course, but
good luck trying to say all that
without feeling like a giant
Velveeta cheeseball.
Still, you can say as much in
smaller, less dramatic ways, as John
Snyder has done. Even while being
trampled underfoot for years at
Alachua County Animal Services,
he continued doing his job quietly, ethically, and well.
He dealt honestly and legally with
the friends who asked him to get
their dogs out of the shelter for free.
He learned to rely on the company of his colleagues, who, he says,
have become his closest friends—
and not just because they understand and support what he does,
but because “you can never get a
break from talking about your
work when you’re with people who
don’t do it,” he jokes. “It’s like the
party where there’s a doctor and
people keep asking him about the
ache in their elbow—I’ve been at
parties where people just ask me
dog questions. People who do this
job know you want a break.”
He earned the respect of county
commissioners and other departments, not to mention his staff; the
animal control facility in the county is now named after Snyder. He
helped get the funding to get it
built; it was the first building in the
county to be named after an
Now at The HSUS, he has a substitute set of kids in many of the
young, idealistic HSUS staffers who
see him as the wise and funny mentor they need as they grapple with
the complex and contradictory
realities of animal protection work.
Not only that, but his own real
kids—all grown up now, several
with families of their own—call
and tell him about what they do to
train and spoil their pets.
“I get the sense they look to me
for approval about that stuff now,”
he says.
Honesty and openness can go a
long way to making your life and
relationships easier and more
enjoyable. They are the best coping strategies we have for life and
for work. And we should look for
the signs that the techniques are
working, Brothers says, because
they don’t always make themselves
known. Her consulting partner
recently witnessed a scene that told
her someone had been doing a
good job communicating their
work to their family.
It was at a grocery store, where a
mother and little girl had parked
themselves next to a box and a sign
that read “FREE PUPPIES.”
“And this other child came running over, and my partner was
thinking, ‘This kid is going to be
like, Oh, I want a puppy!’ ”
Brothers recalls.
“And instead, the other child said
to the mother, ‘Don’t you know that
you shouldn’t be having all these
puppies? You should be spaying
and neutering!’ ”
It was a heartening experience,
she says, “and the reason it happened is because of people in this
field. And we need to hear that: As
many dead ends as we run into in
trying to share about this work,
there are so many openings.”
Carrie Allan is the associate editor of
Animal Sheltering—or, as her father
insists on calling it, Dog Pound News.
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Street Dogs and Sacred Cows
A vaccination and sterilization program for stray dogs
in one of the world’s poorest countries makes headway
stray dog scavenging for food
in a pile of garbage is a sight
most American animal control
officers have seen during the course
of their daily work. But few have witnessed people scavenging right
alongside the dogs, looking for food
or pieces of trash they might be able
to sell for the few pennies it will take
to survive another day on the streets.
Such scenes are tragically common for those who work for Help in
Suffering (HIS), an animal charity
located in Jaipur, the capital of the
state of Rajasthan in India. India is
home to more than a billion people,
a quarter of whom, according to
UNICEF and World Bank reports,
live below the poverty line. Infant
mortality rates are high, HIV/AIDS is
an increasing threat, and the average
annual income per person is less
than $600 a year.
Even in the most forgotten areas
of the United States, where animals
suffer due to human poverty or outdated utilitarian attitudes, the circumstances witnessed daily by HIS
volunteers would be unthinkable.
While many longstanding societal
problems in India have gradually dissipated, HIS staff members still have
their work cut out for them amid
grave challenges: abject poverty, attitudes towards animals that are
deeply ingrained in the caste system
which governs every aspect of Hindu
life, and nonexistent waste management resulting in the spread of
animal and human diseases.
In spite of the overwhelming odds
against it, the organization is making progress. HIS rescues and pro-
vides veterinary care for camels and
equines and elephants, but its
biggest success has come through
an aggressive sterilization and vaccination program for the city’s enormous number of stray dogs. Over
ten years, the program has not only
diminished birth rates of homeless
dogs in Jaipur but reduced the incidence of human rabies cases in the
city to zero.
Hope for Animals and
For many of Jaipur’s human residents, quality of life is not much better than that of the street dogs the
organization works to sterilize, vaccinate, and protect, says Jack
Reece, a British veterinarian who
helps administer the program. “It’s
very common to see young children
living on the street with these dogs,”
says Reece, who loves the people
and the work so much that he hasn’t been able to tear himself away
since he began volunteering in 1998.
The desire to play and bond with
baby animals is universal among
children, including those in Jaipur
who have friendly relationships with
neighborhood strays. But while cuddling with street puppies may bring
moments of joy to both species, love
of Jaipur’s street dogs doesn’t necessarily transcend to an ability to
care for, shelter, or feed the animals.
The street dogs are “not really pets,
not really feral,” says Reece.
Frequently the dogs picked up by
HIS have a piece of string tied
around their necks, often placed
WHAT IT IS: An aggressive sterilization and
vaccination program for stray dogs in Jaipur, India
WHY IT STARTED: To replace the traditional practice
of poisoning stray dogs as a means of rabies
prevention with a more humane approach
WHO LAUNCHED IT: Help in Suffering (HIS), an
organization founded in 1994 to rescue and care for
creatures large and small
POPULATIONS: 28 percent
there by a child as a kind of identifying collar—but the animals continue to roam freely, scavenging for
a living. Often when HIS finds a dog,
the piece of string has become
embedded in the animal’s neck.
Before HIS initiated its sterilization and vaccination program, an
even more serious consequence of
the stray dog problem in Jaipur was
rabies. Largely wiped out in the
United States, human rabies cases
still occur regularly in India. Fortyfive percent of the cases occur in
children under 15; puppies less than
a year old represent two-thirds of
Over the past
ten years, Help
in Suffering, an
animal charity in
Rajasthan, India,
has sterilized and
27,000 street
dogs like this
one. As a result,
the incidence of
human rabies
cases has
declined to zero.
rabid dogs. The universal kid-wish
to play with baby animals could end
up being the last wish kids in Jaipur
ever make.
Because of the serious risks stray
dogs pose to human health, the local
government’s method of dealing with
the animals has traditionally involved
poisoning them with strychnine. But
since 1994, HIS staff have been
rounding up street dogs, bringing
them in for surgery and rabies shots,
and then releasing them back to the
location they came from once they’ve
healed sufficiently.
The program has received funding from the World Society for the
Protection of Animals, a French animal charity called Animaux
Secours, and Humane Society
International, an arm of The
Humane Society of the United
States. Under the oversight of
Reece and fellow veterinarian Sunil
Chawla—who heads the animal
birth control program—veterinarians from all over India and other
parts of the world have spent time
at HIS, helping perform sterilizations and other medical procedures.
Since the program started, more
than 27,000 street dogs have been
sterilized, and the population of
neighborhood dogs has declined by
28 percent.
A Fine Balance
The numbers represent an amazing
achievement, especially given the
significant roadblocks. Beyond the
ever-present problem of insufficient
funding, HIS staff also cope with cultural attitudes that make their work
for animals even more challenging.
Religious beliefs in Jaipur, where
the Hindu faith is still practiced with
great adherence to tradition, have
occasionally caused the local population to be suspicious of HIS
Hindus believe in an unchangeable social hierarchy known as the
“caste” system; the caste people are
born into is fixed. This means that
the career paths people can choose
are also fixed. There is a powerful
religious stigma against handling
dead animals or animal waste; only
members of the lowest caste—
known as “untouchables” or, more
respectfully, Dalits—will do this kind
of work. HIS employs members of
this caste; the nature of the work
means few others will do it. But these
workers also end up performing
many tasks that are considered
above their station in life—assisting
with surgeries, for example.
That’s caused some problems on
occasion, says Reece. “I’ve had a
couple of visiting veterinarians
who’ve gotten a little bit of an attitude, not wanting to work alongside
my staff,” he says. “And I won’t have
that. My policy for people who come
here, to work or to help, is treat our
people well, or please leave.”
While staff have been prepared
to take on some of the cultural traditions of the area, not all of the problems have proved surmountable.
One of HIS staff’s big frustrations has
to do with cows. Considered sacred,
cows are allowed to wander freely
through the city. Though no one
would dream of harming them deliberately, they’re usually left to fend
for themselves. The result is a city
full of cows who are emaciated, cows
who get hit by cars and are left to die
naturally, cows who scavenge for
food and end up eating things that
are harmful to them. “We’ve taken
60 pounds of plastic bags out of a
cow’s stomach before,” Reese says,
explaining that the cows eat rotting
vegetables and end up consuming
the wrappers as well.
For many of these animals, the
most humane option would be
euthanasia—but it’s an option that
HIS staff can’t consider. Since cows
are holy animals, the punishment
for killing one—even humanely—is
seven years in prison. In a state to
the north of Rajasthan, several animal aid workers were recently killed
by members of a radical Hindu
group who suspected that the workers had killed a cow. Reece won’t
risk endangering his staff; although
HIS will provide medical treatment
to injured and starving cattle, they
can’t euthanize them.
It’s disheartening, but Reece has
learned to live with disappointment
in exchange for continuing the organization’s other good works. The
group’s animal birth control program
and other animal rescue and rehabilitation efforts have been so successful that many of the locals who
once regarded HIS with suspicion
now approach them for help with
their own animals. Reece attributes
the drop in rabies cases to the organization’s vaccination program as
well as to its visibility. Greater awareness of how rabies is spread has
helped people be more careful with
stray dogs.
The growing public appreciation
has been a mixed blessing for HIS,
which was recently approached for
assistance in lancing an abscess that
had formed on the back of the
largest elephant in Jaipur. It was a
difficult task, even before the elephant stood up mid-surgery, forcing
one of the staff to scramble onto his
back and finish the process nine feet
in the air.
But for a group that’s taking many
sacred cows by the horns, it was all
in a day’s work. ❂
Help for Horses:
Days End Farm Comes to Aid of Abused Equines
llan and Kathleen Schwartz founded Days End Farm Horse Rescue, Inc., in 1989, and
since then, the Maryland organization has been committed to rescuing, rehabilitating, and adopting out equines as well as educating professionals and the public. Allan
Schwartz is vice president of the farm, which works with animal control agencies to give shelter to abused horses and help prosecute offenders. In this excerpted interview, he spoke with
staff writer Katina Antoniades about the work of Days End and offered advice for others who
want to help horses.
Horses seem to have such a
unique status among animals—you can’t generalize
by saying they’re just companion animals, or just
farm animals, or just sport
animals. What kinds of
challenges does that create
for horse rescue?
AS: I think that some of the
public opinion is moving
more towards classifying
[horses as companion animals], but that’s
a perception. The reality is that horses are
still considered livestock. Until some of
that changes, it makes it a little bit difficult
to prosecute some of these cases. Whether
it’s being raised for production, or it’s a pet,
or just out in the field because you need
the tax break, we feel there should still be
proper care, proper feed, proper nutrition,
proper vet care, etc.
Can you describe your adoption
AS: We sometimes get accused of being a
little too strict. Let’s say you want to adopt a
horse from us. You would set up an
appointment with [farm manager] Brooke
[Vrany]; she would make sure that you get
along with the animal and the animal gets
along with you. We would require that you
come up at least a minimum of two more
times and work with the animal. If you’re
working with a trainer, we encourage you to
have the trainer do an evaluation. Although
the horse has been vetted by our vet, we
still encourage you to have
your vet do a vet check. We
have a [four-page] questionnaire. We do follow-ups with
your references. If all that
process goes through, we go
out and do a barn check.
We go out for three years
afterwards and do follow-up
visits, and we can show up
at pretty much any time.
Generally, what we’ll do is
give you a call in the morning and tell you
that we’re on our way out to check the animal—we don’t want to go and not have
somebody there. If at the end of three
years, there have never been any issues,
questions, problems, anything, you can
write to our board of directors and request
that we sign over title to the animal to you.
At any point in time, we’ll always take the
animal back. The horse is always welcome to come back here.
You said you’ve received criticism that
it’s too strict—have you ever thought of
making it more lenient?
AS: No. I don’t want this to sound wrong,
but we don’t care what people think. We
want them to think the best of us, but our
programs, our goals, our missions are all
set up for what’s in the animals’ best interest. And by doing that, we feel like we’re
going to match what’s in people’s best
interests. If people feel that they don’t want
to have us come out and do the follow-up
visits, etc., then it’s not our problem.
What about the horses who aren’t made
available for adoption?
AS: Pretty much all the horses that we
have are always made available, but we
keep up to six horses that we call permanent residents. They are what we call our
program horses. We do hands-on training
a couple times a year for animal control
officers, where we show them how to lead
a horse, how to halter a horse, how to do
body-condition scoring on a horse, and
various other things. We also keep those
horses for when we do our education for
the general public: a first-time horse owners’ clinic. All of the other horses that we
have, regardless of anything, are put up
for adoption. We have our regular adoptions, which is horses that we’ve rehabilitated, have been vetted, and generally
either have no issues or might need some
retraining. We also have a program that we
started ten years ago, our SOS program.
would be willing to work with them to go
out and help them do the investigations,
I think that might be one of the keys to
getting these cases prosecuted.
It’s called Save Our Seniors or medically
challenged horses. We’ll have a lot of horses here that might have medical problems, or because of past issues they’re not
rideable. But realizing that horses are herd
animals and they like to be around other
horses, we make those horses available
for adoption as companions.
What are the best ways animal control
officers or cruelty investigators can
educate themselves about horse cruelty
and its prevention?
AS: One of the best things is to educate
themselves on what constitutes proper
care. Maryland law states that the animals must have adequate food, shelter,
water, etc., but there was never any real
clarification of what that meant. We’d go
out and find somebody that might have a
bathtub that had some water in it that
was basically rainwater and had dead
bugs and scum floating on it, but you’d
go to court, and the judge would say,
“Was there water?” and you’d have to
say, “Yeah, there was water; it wasn’t
drinkable, but there was water.” We
worked together with a few other people
and the Maryland Horse Council and
came up with basic definitions of what
proper care meant. Like water, for
instance. We, through the horse council
and through the Maryland horse community, find that to mean clean, potable
water, free of contaminants, available for
all equines at all times—or as directed by
a veterinarian. So now when we go out
and find that it’s scummy water—now we
can say, this is not falling under what’s
considered minimal care standards in
the state of Maryland, and therefore
you’re in violation. So if animal control
officers learn to look for the whole scenario and then find veterinarians that
Is there anything that you didn’t know
when you first started that over the
years you’ve learned and want to pass
on to other people?
AS: There’s tons of stuff we didn’t know.
I mean, we had no clue what we were
doing when we first started. We had great
intentions. I guess the best thing that
happened is that we got really lucky. We
met some very phenomenal people along
the way who helped give us guidance. I
guess the best thing about us is that we
were willing and able to listen and learn
from them. Doing these cases is essentially a team effort—it’s all of us working
together, it’s no one person that does all
this. It’s animal control officers and Days
End Farm, and Days End Farm’s employees and volunteers and donors. It’s all of
us working together to make sure that
these animals get the best care. There are
classes out there—Code 3 Associates
puts on an equine investigators academy.
It’s a weeklong school for animal control
officers; it’s a “soup to nuts” sort of thing.
It goes over the cruelty investigations,
body-condition scoring; it teaches you
how to do the cardiac recovery index and
how to take heart rates and temperatures
and respiration. It’s a phenomenal class,
and for any animal control officers, if
they’re doing horse investigations, cruelty
investigations on any livestock, it’s a class
they shouldn’t be without.
What kinds of equipment or supplies
should ACOs have in their trucks in case
they run into a horse in danger? What
are the best, basic things?
AS: Some of the basic things are a lead
shank and a halter so they can help hold
the horse or contain it. A weight tape can
help them do a rudimentary sort of
weight on the horse to find out if it’s of
the proper weight for its size. A hoof
pick. But again, without knowing how to
use these tools, it’s sort of a moot point.
So they need to know what to look for;
they should also know the questions to
ask, like: Where’s your hay? Where’s
your grain? How much do you have? How
often do you deworm your horse? Do you
have shelter for it? Just knowing the
basic questions to ask will help you form
a picture of the generalized care that
that animal’s getting.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about horses or about horse rescue
that you’ve run into over the years?
AS: It’s a hot topic nowadays, and it
seems like horse rescues are popping up
everywhere. One of the things that people need to look at is, there’s different
terms of what horse rescue is. What we
look at is, is what you’re doing in the animals’ best welfare? We see a lot of these
places that will go around to auctions
and buy up these skinny horses and turn
around and place them in a home, without doing any rehab or doing anything
for them. A lot of times, these horses go
to people that have well-meaning intentions but … the horses continue to languish for months and months because
people don’t know how to re-feed a
starved horse. And again, this is sort of
just our opinion, but if you’re going to do
some of this work, we feel that maybe
before you adopt the horses out to somebody that you should at least be able to
give them a plan, an idea, or like we do,
fully rehabilitate the horse before it goes
out so that it is in good shape. It’s more
costly to do it that way, but again I think
looking out for the animals’ best welfare
is what you’re doing there. The other
push that we’re working on locally is
there’s no standards out there for horse
rescues; anybody can say they’re a
horse rescue. The AAEP—American
Association of Equine Practitioners—
came up with guidelines for horse rescues. I think there needs to be a standard of care for horse rescues as well as
for horse owners or the general public.
We need to be held to an accountable
standard, which to this point has never
really been there—and that’s evidenced
by the fact that there’s been a lot of rescues that have been investigated by animal control and found to be deficient in
their care for the horses that they’re
allegedly rescuing. I think the biggest
thing the public needs to do is educate
themselves about who they’re dealing
with; just don’t blindly send money to
somebody because they say they do all
these wonderful things. Check them out.
Basic Guidelines for Operating an Equine Rescue or Retirement Facility
AAEP Care Guidelines for Equine Rescue and Retirement Facilities
Code 3 Associates’ Equine Investigations Academy
“Investigating Equine Cruelty,” Animal Sheltering, May-June 2000
Can you talk a little bit about some of
your major goals for Days End?
AS: I’d say the biggest tool that we have to
help prevent abuse is the education programs. We hope to set up a model facility
where we might be able to have internships, not only for vet students but for
people that might be interested in starting
a horse rescue. We could have training
courses here for animal control officers,
humane society officers. We hope to be
able to set up a course where we can
teach [large animal rescue] to not only
animal control officers but fire and rescue, disaster personnel—working with
HSUS’s DART [Disaster Animal Rescue
Team] members and other organizations.
And what we’d envision is that other people could set them up in various places
around the country. A lot of people look at
what we do and think rescues are competition. We sort of approach it from the fact
that if you’re doing everything for the animals’ best interests, we have no competition; we’re all working for the same goal.
So there should be no worries about egos,
there should be no worries about, gee,
this person’s doing something and I
should be doing it. Take our ideas and run
with them—if you do something better
than us, tell us. We can all better ourselves at any given time. What I like to tell
people is every day you wake up, you
have an opportunity to learn something
new, so avail yourself of that opportunity.
Just because we’ve done something for
20 years doesn’t mean we’ve done it right
for 20 years; if somebody can show us a
better way, by all means, do it. ❂
Training today’s animal advocates for tomorrow
care and control community with the skills necessary
to maximize their ability to help animals.
HSU offers a variety of educational opportunities:
A Bachelor of Science in Humane Leadership and
a Graduate Certificate in Organizational Leadership
from Duquesne University:
Noncredit online courses on
a variety of topics at our virtual
For more information on these
and other programs, please
e-mail [email protected] or
call 301-548-7731
A program of
to see how HSU can help you
build your skills and advance
your career.
Adult Volunteer Application
Too often, potential volunteers show up one day with the best of intentions, only to leave feeling unwelcome, unneeded, and
unwilling to return. While this problem isn’t exclusive to animal welfare organizations, it may be most damaging to nonprofits
struggling on a shoestring budget. This volunteer application from Wayside Waifs in Kansas City, Missouri, was created with the
goal of retention in mind.
By using a form like this to glean information about interests, skills, and experience levels, organizations can match potential
volunteers with the jobs that best suit them. (For more volunteer management information and templates, visit to order a copy of Volunteer Management for Animal Care Organizations, or send a check or money order
for $15.95, plus $3 for shipping and handling, to The Humane Society of the United States, 2100 L St., Washington, DC
Adult Volunteer Application
There Ought to Be a Law . . .
so here’s how to get one passed
ou appear in front of the county council to beg for help in curbing the large
influx of puppies and kittens at your
shelter. A differential licensing law, you
explain, would establish higher fees for
unneutered animals and go a long way
toward encouraging citizens to get their
pets fixed.
You assume it’s a given that everyone
will understand your point of view. How
could they not? It just makes sense!
But you’ve barely finished your prepared
speech before your less-than-impressed
audience begins to pepper you with questions about where else such legislation has
been proposed and whether you have any
evidence of its effectiveness in other locales.
When a local breeder stands up to complain that this will discriminate against
responsible business owners, and other citizens start to chime in with worries of their
own that you can’t easily refute, you fear
you may have lost the case—and regret
your lack of preparation for this onslaught.
If this scenario sounds familiar, you’re
not alone. Most people learn the hard way
that you can’t approach a government
body and expect a positive
response to pleas for assistance unless you’ve done
your homework. And in the
case of animal-related
issues, that means doing
even more homework than
the average person; ultraprofessionalism and superthoroughness will help counteract society’s tendency to
relegate animals to a lowly status and to
stereotype their advocates as either cute
or crazy.
What follows is a primer on how to get
your community leaders to pay attention
when you need them most. Adapted from
The HSUS’s Guide to Cat Law, these tips
include specifics on how to argue in favor
of cat registration or sterilization ordinances;
however, it’s easy to extrapolate the information for the passage of any kind of ordinance your organization might lobby for.
Documenting the Problems
Before presenting your case for an ordinance, you should document the related
issues and problems that set you on this
path toward legislation-lobbying. Here are
suggested steps for researching the issue
of cat identification; they can be adapted
to topics such as dangerous dog controls
or restraint laws as well.
1. Compile these statistics from your
community’s shelters:
• How many cats enter the shelters each
• How many of those cats are stray, and
how many have been surrendered?
• How many stray cats entering the shelters are reclaimed by their owners?
• How many cats are adopted?
• How many cats are euthanized?
This information can support your case
for the necessity of legislation. As an
example, with few exceptions, the
percentage of stray cats
returned to their owners is
abysmally low. Yet cats
make up a high percentage
of the animals entering
shelters, and that percentage has been increasing
steadily in some communities. One explanation is that
unlike dogs, few cats wear any form
of identification. A law requiring that cats
be registered like their canine counterparts
can increase the number of reunions
among lost cats and owners.
2. Track the number and kinds of complaints that public and private shelters
receive about cats. These can include gen-
eral nuisance calls and reports of attacks on
wildlife, destruction of property, and cats
roaming at large. Registration laws will make
it possible to hold cat owners accountable
for problems caused by their cats.
3. Document all cases of neglect, cruelty, and injuries (including incidents involving cats being injured or killed by cars).
These can be found in court and police
records as well as in animal control files.
Besides the obvious tragedy for the animal,
there are public safety concerns regarding
cats injured or killed by motor vehicles.
4. Document public health problems that
relate to cats. Include diseases that are
spread from cat to cat as well as those
spread between cats and other animals. In
the United States, there are more incidences of rabies in cats than in dogs. Cats
allowed to roam freely are more likely to
come in contact with rabid wildlife; making rabies vaccination a prerequisite for
registration will help prevent the spread of
Legislative Tips
Once you’ve gathered statistics and documented the problem, follow these tips to
improve your odds of success:
Form a coalition. Legislators most often
defer to veterinarians on animal-related
issues, so make your case to local vets first.
Seek endorsement from anyone else who
will be better off if your ordinance passes;
cat identification efforts should include cat
welfare groups, cat breeders, wildlife advocates, law enforcement officials, chambers
of commerce, civic associations, public
health officials, and student groups. If you
don’t already work with (or for) the agency
that provides animal care and control services to your municipality, enlist its help as
well. Those charged with enforcement
power not only wield considerable influence with local council members but also
are key to the long-term effectiveness of
the law.
Neutralize potential opposition. If the bill
may negatively affect a specific group, or
even if someone just thinks the bill will have
harmful ramifications, try to work out your
differences early in the process. The more
opposition you can defuse, the better your
chances. If your powers of persuasion fail
to change the minds of all your detractors,
however, don’t wait until council members
are taken by surprise. Preempt the opposition and prepare elected officials by presenting your counterarguments in
Get help in drafting your
ordinance. Although your
objectives are probably
very clear in your own
mind, the language of
the actual ordinance
should be drafted by
professionals. Enlist the
expertise of a board member who is a lawyer or is
associated with a law firm; the
attorney who works for the city or
county council might also provide assistance.
Pro bono help from a local law firm is another possibility. Remember, too, that organizations like The HSUS serve as clearinghouses for sample ordinances from
municipalities around the country and may
be able to share model language with you.
Define your terms and cover your costs.
A good ordinance includes definitions of
unclear terms. Even the word “animal” can
have many different meanings depending
on how an ordinance defines it. And what
exactly is meant by “animal shelter”—all
public and private facilities? What is “proper restraint”? Assign meaning to vague language. Also, remember that costly initiatives too often fail before they ever get
started, so try to create a program that covers its own expenses. In the case of cat
licensing, it’s best if only cat owners foot
the bill; funding generated in this way is
referred to as a “user’s fee.”
Make exceptions if necessary. Consider
whether you should exempt certain animals from your proposed legislation or
make special exceptions for extenuating
circumstances. A mandatory sterilization
ordinance may reasonably exclude those
cats who, in the opinion of a veterinarian,
should not be neutered because of health
issues. And a law requiring mandatory registration of cats could include special provisions for feral cat caretakers, either waiving their fees or allowing them to register
an entire colony for one low price.
Find a sponsor. Approach animal-friendly council members who have sponsored
similar ordinances in the past. If the bill
must be heard by a committee, try to get
someone on that committee to
sponsor your bill. Get to know
key elected officials and their
aides, who can be influential and can provide you
with important insight.
Don’t expect the ordinance to move on its own.
As the legislative wheels
turn, you will probably be
called upon to provide additional information, lobby certain
council members, alert supporters,
and talk with the press. Contact newspapers and other media to explain why your
proposed ordinance is important; write letters to the editor confirming your position to
the community. Don’t assume reporters
and editors will get good, fair information
if you don’t supply it to them.
Choose a strong voice. If hearings are
held, select a competent spokesperson to
represent your cause. Relevant human
interest stories are helpful, but testimony
should be kept short. Make four or five clear
points so listeners with short attention spans
don’t drift off. Pack the room with your supporters; they can wear badges or carry signs
of support. Avoid emotional appeals in favor
of a fact-based presentation that outlines
the benefits for all concerned.
Be polite and honest. The need to follow
etiquette may go without saying, but sometimes people who feel strongly about an
issue think that municipal bodies exist to
be yelled at. You will set yourself apart from
the crowd if you’re polite and honest. Don’t
overwhelm elected officials with material;
just provide them with the information they
need. If you don’t know the answer to a
question that a legislator or staff member
asks, just say so and promise to follow up
with the correct information as soon as possible. When council members view you as
a reasonable person, they may be more
willing to work with you in the future on
another issue—whether they support you
on this one or not.
Know when to compromise. Rarely does
an ordinance become law without being
amended. Sometimes you can include provisions knowing that they will be compromised away at a later date. Don’t be surprised if you can’t get all the provisions you
want, but be prepared to make hard choices. In general, if the amended ordinance
will still help animals without decreasing
existing protections, it’s better to pass the
lesser ordinance than to accomplish nothing at all. You can try again later to achieve
your full agenda.
Consider a “sunset” provision. If you
don’t think your ordinance will pass, make
it more palatable to the movers and shakers by adding a provision that would limit its
effect to a two-, three-, or five-year period.
At the point of expiration, if the program
has not been successful, it may be eliminated. If it has been successful, the city or
county council may reauthorize it.
Draft a grandfather clause. In certain situations, grandfather clauses may be beneficial to your lobbying efforts, protecting
your proposed ordinance from attacks by
irate citizens. If you’re aiming to limit the
number of animals per household to four,
for example, be prepared to watch the fur
fly unless you promise not to penalize people who already have three cats and two
dogs. A grandfather clause allows these pet
owners—and anyone else whose fourlegged family exceeds the specified limit—
to keep their pets indefinitely, as long as
they are registered. Over time, the numbers of animals per household will shrink
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Small Postcards,
Big Results
wenty-five percent more cats scratching the furniture. Twenty-five percent
more dogs chewing anything they
can get their teeth on. Many things might
explain the recent jump in calls to the
behavior helpline at the SPCA of Pinellas
County in Florida.
While it’s possible that local pets have
lately become more “bad to the bone,” the
more likely explanation for the 25-percent
increase is the SPCA’s promotional postcards, which the shelter distributed last
November. The idea was born when marketing director Nora Hawkins searched for
a way to remind local pet owners that the
SPCA’s hotline is there to help.
A donated CD-ROM supplied the amusing pet-and-guardian photos for the cards,
and public relations coordinator Marissa
Weeks came up with several attentiongetting phrases to complement the
images. In one postcard, a positively devilish-looking kitty accompanies the question, “Are Behavior Problems Becoming
a Cat-astrophe?”
The SPCA has enjoyed “an amazing
response” to the cards, says Weeks. “A
lot of people—because of how it looks—
enjoy displaying it, and we’ve gotten a lot
of calls.”
The project’s printing, design, and distribution were funded by a grant the SPCA
received from the Robert S. and Mildred
M. Baynard Trust. A local graphic designer produced six designs in all, which the
SPCA distributed through vet clinics, pet
sitters, pet groomers, and other pet-oriented businesses, says Weeks. The shelter initially printed 6,000 of each of the six
cards, and demand was high. “Many of the
veterinarians’ offices where we distributed
the postcards called us for more cards
when they ran out,” says Weeks.
While the front of each card is eye-catching, the back explains how to use the
behavior helpline. The promo pieces are
the perfect size for sticking on the fridge—
just the right place for easy access the next
time Rover steals toast off the kitchen
–Katina Antoniades
Other shelters may use the SPCA’s
postcards as inspiration, but the
SPCA is asking those who copy the
idea to provide credit—for example,
“Concept created by the SPCA of
Pinellas County.” The photos are
copyrighted and cannot be reproduced, but interested shelters will
surely find aspiring models in their
own kennels and cat rooms.
The Humane Society of the United States
2100 L Street NW
Washington, DC 20037