The advertisement below was run in a number of the larger newspapers back in December of 2011. This prompted a veterinary colleague of ours in Pittsburg, CA, Dr. Robert Hallstrom, to share with me a newspaper column that he wrote a number of years ago. It had direct application to the current event. This is what he wrote…
A fine mist settled over the meadow as a small herd of deer fed at first light. One spotted fawn had finished nursing and cavorted near the trees at the edge of the meadow. The cougar was quick, efficient, and lethal as the fawn fulfilled her role in the food chain. This event passed without notice because no human was present.
A few miles distant, a puppy escaped from a backyard and began running and exploring along the edge of town. Upon seeing a cat bolt from a bush across the road, he made a beeline toward it, directly into the path of a truck. His demise also was quick, but his little carcass was still lying in the road when the suburban housewife drove by.
The sight of this little tragedy wrenched her from her usual complacency, turning a potentially lovely day into a depression. That afternoon, as she sifted through her mail, she came across a fund raising letter from an animal welfare organization. Slipping a check into the return envelope, she immediately felt better because now she thought she was helping.
The lives of billions of animals blink out each year around this old globe of ours. Like the little fawn, most of these animals pass to the other side without notice. However, when we become aware of some of these deaths, whether we witness them or are only told about them, we are saddened. Just the thought of an animal suffering is enough to bring many of us to tears.
Many people try to help animals, hoping to reduce their own pain by somehow protecting the animals. Often they become involved in proactive efforts in their community. Small local animal welfare and rescue groups comprise an eclectic group of people, compassionate and well intentioned, frequently self-sacrificing, and invariably highly dedicated. These small volunteer groups, who invest their own time and energy, fund their efforts with bake and rummage sales, and help out at their local animal shelters, are actually making a difference, even if it sometimes seems to be a small drop in a very large ocean.
In contrast to these efforts, several large organizations exist that claim to help animals, but merely defraud well meaning, but gullible people.
The fund raising letter our housewife opened was very professionally produced. Printed on heavy glossy paper, packed with photos depicting tiny, starved, and wet animals, this brochure was deliberately designed to evoke an emotional response. It was laced with vivid descriptions of animal abuse, example upon pathetic example packed into four short pages, enough to make strong people turn away sickened.
Then, a picture of a beautiful new animal shelter appeared on the last page, with a smiling family clutching their newly adopted puppy, which was wriggling and licking a face. A return envelope fell out of the brochure, complete with the little boxes to be checked to indicate the level of ‘support’ one can donate.
The check the woman mailed this day went into the massive coffers of an organization that has existed for many years. Taking in nearly forty million dollars a year in donations, it has a board of directors with more than twenty full time people, several making high six-figure salaries, yet the current annual budget of this organization does not provide for the donation of a single dollar to an animal shelter. It has fifty million dollars in the bank, massive overhead and fund-raising expenses, and spends an inordinate amount of time and money for stunts designed to garner publicity. It invests a token effort to educate and raise the public conscience, occasionally lobbies to change laws relating to animal welfare, but mostly just exists to fund itself.
Sport and movie stars have promoted several smaller, but similar, groups. Ostensibly formed to promote animal welfare, they have become much more proficient at collecting money, providing only token aid to the animals.
Jostling for media publicity along with these groups are the small, but dangerous terrorist bands that recklessly bomb and burn research laboratories, “for the good of the animals”. One media darling, PETA, spent nearly ten times as much money for the legal defense of a convicted arsonist (ALF) than it donated to shelters in a recent year.
So where should people turn if they want to help? It’s getting harder to tell the sheep from the wolves.
Start by accepting a simple reality; we cannot end all animal suffering, and any organization that claims we will is either hopelessly naïve or fraudulent. Keep your money local, with people you can check up on. And, by all means, volunteer if you can. The animals you help personally will thank you themselves.
We at the Cuyahoga Falls Veterinary Clinic wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Hallstrom. There are a number of worthwhile opportunities to serve and worthy organizations that help animals in need within Summit County, chief among them is Pawsibilities: The Humane Society of Greater Akron. They would be happy to hear from you.