Come on now. One expired vaccine is an honest mistake. Five expired vaccines could be an honest mistake. I might even accept that twenty could be an honest mistake. But giving 600 expired rabies vaccines is not an honest mistake. The whistle blower, a Countryside staff member who alerted the press, was fired.
But I digress and you can read my two blog entries and the links to the news articles on this subject here and here.
I was furious that day. Furious at Countryside Humane Society, but even more furious that NOBODY in the animal welfare community stood up to make a public statement that what Countryside did was wrong. The animal welfare community was gossiping about it behind closed doors but too spineless to speak out in public. One brave Racine City alderman and some of the public spoke out and attended a meeting. But not one shelter director, that I am aware of, put out a public statement saying that what Countryside did was unacceptable and that the director and the board members should be held accountable. NOBODY. Circling the wagons, at it's finest.
So I sat down and typed my first blog. It was late that night - I didn't have any clue how to use Google Blogger and my first attempt at putting a picture on was hilarious. By about midnight, I'd figured out the picture thing and I was happy with the words I'd written.
I realized that I hadn't given my blog a name. Wisconsin Watchdog was the only thing that popped into my head at that time of night. I'm a morning person. I get up before the crack of dawn and by 8 p.m., I'm done for. So creativity at midnight is not going to happen.
So, Wisconsin Watchdog it was. Like I said, I was furious. Sleepy, but furious. If nobody else was going to watch what was going on in the animal welfare scene in Wisconsin, and be brave enough to tell it to the public, well then I would.
So that's my story. And what a year it has been. My inbox overflows daily with insights, tips and complaints. I go through them and sort out the credible, from the not-so-credible.
Three amazing groups of people have gotten the courage to go public about the wrong-doings at their own Wisconsin shelters (more on this to come) and I am ever so grateful. Because they are paving the way for the many more who are getting ready to do it.
It's easy to take a stand against the bad guys - the puppy millers, the dog fighters, the animal abusers. Not so easy to stand up and say what's wrong in the animal welfare system. Shelter board members and directors are often considered leaders in the community. They have been put on a pedestal. Sort of like TV evangelists. We're supposed to donate blindly, but never question how they spend the money. Just like the gig is up for a lot of TV evangelists, the gig is up for the poorly performing shelters.
Shelter killing is the number one cause of death of companion animals in this country. Not cancer, nor puppy mills, nor dogfighting, nor animal abuse. Animal shelters kill, at best estimate, (because transparency is a huge problem), about four million animals a year in America. We can rescue the dogs from puppy mills or dog fighting busts or animal abusers. But it won't do one lick of good if they end up getting killed in the shelter.
What will the next year bring? Progress. I am certain of it. More and more shelter volunteers and staff will swallow their butterflies and have the courage to speak out. We have a support system in place, both locally and nationally. We have at least six Wisconsin residents attending the No Kill conference in Washington D.C. in July. Another nine that are attending the No More Homeless Pets conference in Las Vegas in October. And three that are attending the one day No Kill seminar in Ohio as well. Are there any Wisconsin shelter directors attending? Not that I know of, but it sure would be nice to see them. Don't worry - we No Kill Advocates are actually really nice people and we all want the same thing, right? To end the killing of healthy, treatable pets in America's shelters.
So, to those Wisconsin shelter directors and board members who are still not actively seeking methods to reduce shelter killing in their community, be forewarned. We're watching. And that's not a threat, it's a promise.
To know what is right and not do it is the worst cowardice. ~Confucius