Generally, in animal welfare we get to pick on the bad guys. It's kind of like the wild west - the good guys against the bad guys. We are waging war against the puppy millers, the dog fighters, the people who are horrendously cruel to animals. That's a pretty easy role to take. Last week though, one of those strange things happened in Wisconsin that makes me squirm in my seat - I have to pick on what should be the good guys - a humane society.
Humane societies have all kinds of different policies and procedures - contrary to popular belief, there is NOT a governing body. They do not receive funding or guidance in any way from the Humane Society of the United States or any other national organization. They are free to do as they choose as long as they don't break the law. They make mistakes and get off track, but in general - their mission is to save animals' lives and promote adoptions - and they do a good job of it. But recently one local humane society made a major mistake that may cost animals their lives and they need to be held accountable for it.
I'm going to start by saying - I don't know both sides of this story. I have no inside scoop. I am only commenting on the news stories that I have been following in the paper and with the major local news outlets. So far, the facts have not been disputed.
Countryside Humane Society in Racine, Wisconsin mistakenly gave approximately 600 animals expired rabies vaccines starting back in December 2009. It was brought to the attention of the executive director by a staff member who has since been fired.
Now those 600 animals and their owners have to be located, notified and brought back in to be re-vaccinated. The expired vaccines were probably still good, that's not the point. Because it's a state law to have a current rabies vaccine this must be done. So, now these animals run the health risks of being over vaccinated and/or getting the side effects that go along with a rabies vaccine to begin with.
Plus, this is a shameful use of donors' money. People trustingly donate to humane societies assuming that it is being used wisely to help animals. What a waste of their money. All because of an oversight, more supplies and manpower is needed to rectify the problem. This is money that should be saving lives, spaying and neutering animals, especially during this very busy time of year - kitten season. When the staff should be busy doing their life saving mission - they will be distracted by having to do all of this re-vaccination legwork.
Who is responsible? Head right to the top. Management and the board of directors. People that sit on the boards of animal shelters seem to know very little about what goes on behind closed doors - yet that is their job. They are supposed to be asking the tough questions, making sure that the management is leading the organization in its mission. It's not just to put a warm, fuzzy feeling in their heart and a feather in their cap and on their resume.
So, how can this be fixed? Somebody needs to speak out. Somebody should be standing up and saying - "Here is the money that has been wasted. Out of my own pocket." That is the only way there will be some trust built back in the community. In the meantime, don't be surprised if the donors shut their wallets and the animals of southeastern Wisconsin will suffer because of it.