Monday, November 24, 2008

Less talk, more action ... starting with ME

When all of us in animal welfare start talking too much, and I am guilty of this as well, we sometimes end up down a path of negativity, defeatism, and face empasses with each other that get in the way of the work we could be doing. I have seen us get stuck on words and ideas, and I truly think we play out too many scripts in our minds and hold onto too many myths and sometimes have elitist views about "others" that are not in tune with reality. Instead of arguing endlessly about what "no kill" is or isn't, let's just do some good work to save lives ... I'm sure we can all agree that the more lives that are saved and enriched, the better.

I for one am tired of the talking and philosophizing and hitting brick walls. I am also sick and tired of letting the way our animal shelter does or does not operate be the main focus of my own thoughts and actions and what I write about. I honestly and truly believe that saving more lives is something the entire community can achieve, with or without the shelter's leadership or help.

I guess I am realizing the error of my own ways these days and the need for me to prove my worth with more action as well, which I know can lead to bigger things (good, hard work usually begets rewards). Any non-profit organization doing good work now started somewhere, usually doing small things, doing them well, and growing from there. On the other hand, there is nothing more disappointing than endless cycles that lead to more of the same--especially when that is failure. I know I can do better than that, and I know that our community can do better, too.

Another challenge I pose to myself and others is to be able to work toward goals and the good of animals/people right alongside those you may not personally care for or have past bad experiences with. After all, we are not seeking each other's hand in marriage--just a working partnership for the good of others. In other words, I see that our own egos sometimes lead us to make poor decisons or to refusals to work with one another, and we often do not genuinely put what is best for animals before our own selfish feelings.

So, where do we start?

Thinking about everything that has to be done in our community to seriously make a dent in how many animals we put to death is overwhelming, and there is no way one person or one group can get it all done alone. I think if we break things up into manageable bits that individuals/existing groups/new groups can take on and dedicate time and effort to reach success in--one area at a time--we'll even surprise ourselves. Some of the best private sanctuaries and shelters started off as small groups reaching small goals. Wouldn't it be nice to prove to ourselves that we can do more and better as a community?

Here's some places to start ... by addressing needs that our community has AT THIS MOMENT.

Pet Help Line Needs Help

Pet retention efforts in our community are needed desperately, and I was trying to find the time to lead these efforts myself, but I have not been able to dedicate enough time to it. I envision area trainers and behaviorists stepping up and joining together to lead a pet help line, which will take inquiries by phone and e-mail. I am willing to volunteer some of my time to this as well as some materials to help start it off, and I can answer some calls from those who only speak Spanish.

I last posed this project to the Humane Society of Southern New Mexico, who approved it. All they need is a group of volunteers and a leader to run the program. If you are interested in helping, please contact HSSNM; you can find out how to get ahold of them by visting their website at

Networks for Saving Lives

Another dire need in our community is temporary help taking care of animals that are homeless for whatever reason and re-homing them. For example, we need a foster network independent of the shelter that can simply care for animals that have been left behind by owners that have passed on--a group concentrating on just this issue would be pretty busy and would make a huge impact on animals that end up at the shelter, not to mention ensuring that these once pampered pets don't end up in a stressful situation. Many of these pets are seniors themselves and could be matched up with new senior owners.

I know that HSSNM and Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary get many of these calls. They also get many of the calls a pet help line would best serve, such as someone at their wit's end with an animal behavior issue that may soon lead to a relinquishment. One group could help with re-homing efforts alone for anyone who is willing to hold onto a pet long enough for that new, better-matched home to come along, or anoher group of foster homes could be formed to help mitigate many owner turn-ins at the shelter as well.

Look for a new, action-oriented coalition we are forming in January that is going to be all aboout action we can take now to save more lives. We'll call a meeting for this soon to start the year off on a positive foot.

I have realized that writing yet another report about the good others in our nation are doing in animal work is a waste of time at the moment. I've been there and done that. I wrote a Shelter Reform White Paper for our leaders that went ignored, which I turned in before they hired a new director. You can view it online at the HSSNM website on their News page, if you are interested in that blast from the past!

Why I thought another, more detailed report would do wonders is beyond me. I have tried to communicate with our leaders enough times to know that no one will read it or even respond to it. I also know we'll just hear the same mantra about why "that would not work in our community because ..."

I want help proving these assumptions wrong! Yet, I also don't want the research and answers we have gotten in the no kill study group to go to waste, so look for excerpts on this blog. We can also use some of the examples from other areas to help us build successful programs and services.


Anonymous said...

Unless you do something about the existing---Opressive laws on pet ownership in this area. all your nice ideas are a waste of time.

People's hearts are open to having pets, but with restrictions on how many...on having to have kennel licencing when it's your own home should you have more than 2 pets....Which may I add people do not want strangers prowling their homes yearly to issue these bogus licenses. They who want to comply with the law just won't take in the extras discarded by others.

So unless the laws change nothing will ever change here.

Anonymous said...

You need to start a coalition to change the amount of Apartments in this area who doesn't allow pets.

This one problem causes thousands of pets to be killed or turned loose.

A good start is to publicize a NON PET FRIENDLY list of these business' who discriminate against pets. Then to approach the actual owners as well as the managers of the places to get them to rethink their policies.

A little public pressure via the press does wonders in these cases.