Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Credibility (or Lack Thereof) and How it Hurts our Ability to Save Lives

A few weeks ago there were  a couple of tragic dog attack stories along with the negative "spin" that goes with them. The KC Dog Blog did a great job of explaining how this has escalated in recent years since Internet news has made deadlines virtually obsolete. These reports lack credibility and hopefully one day we'll be able to hold news agencies more accountable for what and how they report.

But we'd better take the stick out of our own eye also. Animal welfare advocates are probably some of the worst offenders in the credibility arena. I spend several hours each week answering emails regarding figures pertaining to shelter deaths.  I don't think animal welfare supporters see the harm in spewing out the incorrect figures. (perhaps they think they'll get more donations if the problem seems worse than it is?)

But it makes animal welfare as a whole, look foolish and unprofessional.  If we don't understand our own industry - how can we expect to solve it's problems?

It kind of reminds me of when McDonalds used to put how many hamburgers they had served under the golden arches. First it was part of a permanent display, then they tried all sorts of methods of having interchangeable numbers. Then they finally gave up. The numbers never matched up - one location would say "over 6 million served" and just down the block the next one would say 8 million. It just looked foolish. Besides, it's a LOT of hamburgers.

Christie Keith wrote a great piece this morning, Damn lies and cat statistics refuting the preposterous claim that one unspayed cat could produce 420,000 offspring in just seven years. It just doesn't add up. And does someone think this is actually helping cats? Hardly.  This blog also touched on the study that rears it's ugly head at least once a week in my Google Alerts for "feral cats Wisconsin" that incorrectly reported on the number of songbird deaths by cats. I wish someone would send that report to cyberspace - never to be seen again.

A recent post on a yahoo group I belong to quoted a figure that made me reach for my calculator. It just didn't SOUND right. It said that a dog was killed in a shelter every two seconds in the U.S. With the punch of a few buttons, I realized that according to this Internet blast, we were killing 63 million DOGS in the U.S. each year. Never mind the cats.

When I asked for the source - well, it couldn't be found. I think it's sort of like the old game we used to play as kids, whisper something in someone's ear and pass it down the line and then end up in fits of giggles over what the last person has interpreted as the message.

One more Wisconsin myth - after the closing of Dairyland Greyhound Park in late December 2009 - an email circulated like wildfire that 600 (or was it 900?) greyhounds would be "euthanized". I never quite saw the point of starting this rumor,  and as far as I know, all of the greyhounds have either been returned to their owners, placed in adoptive or foster homes, or transferred to other tracks. There was no mass slaughter of racing greyhounds.

Rescues and shelters, please research the correct figures and educate your staff and volunteers so they can speak intelligently and credibly on the subject. Presenting a well-informed image to the public, the lawmakers and the opposition will make us look professional and not like a bunch of bleeding heart fanatics.


  1. Bravo for keeping everyones head on straight. Too many people are reading headlines and taking it for the gospel truth. Common sense has gone to the way side like McDonalds signs.

  2. Are you referring to "Animal Welfare" or "Animal Control system", in your statements above?

  3. Amen. I got a newsletter recently that had a little "factoid" from the HSUS that only 1 in 5 puppies and kittens stay in their original home for life, the remaining 4 are abandoned to the streets or end up in shelters. I googled the info and it has been posted to gobs of websites as fact. HELLO, that would mean ZERO are adopted or sold from their orignal home to their new permanent home. I haven't found the statement on the HSUS website, maybe it's in a brochure or something?