I’m trying to get back into writing here first, instead of just posting randomly on Facebook. It’s very easy for me to put writing off to do other things, but writing gives me clarity.
Yesterday was quite the clusterf*uck of random crap, but for the sake of brevity (and the point of this post) I had to drop and zoom my butt over to the animal welfare clinic to get a dog I’m watching for a family a health certificate so she can fly out on today’s rescue flight to Miami to get her closer to her forever home in South Carolina (holy crap that was a long sentence!). One of my favorite people at the clinic is a vet tech that I have been acquainted with for years and the best way I can describe her is that her soul makes me smile. Don’t get me wrong, she has a shit job. But she cares and she tries, and that’s all anyone could ever want. Yesterday she looked wilted and when she saw me she reached for a hug. Not a, “hey, hi, nice to see you” hug, but a “help, I hurt” hug. A little while later she told me the story and while my initial feeling was more HULK SMASH MEAN LADY WHO MADE GOOD PERSON SAD, my brain overrode the impulse.
There has to be a better way to communicate to the general public that the clinic is open 6 days a week and every day that they are open 11+ animals are dropped off. There are not 60+ homes per week looking to adopt pets. The math sucks. Let me tell you all, these people FIGHT to not have to euthanize any animals. Today a flight full of adoptable animals is heading to Miami and then the animals will be heading on to various partner (no kill) shelters throughout the states. Unfortunately, just a few days after that, the shelter will again be over capacity.
I reached out to the master of risk communication, Peter Sandman (via email), in the hopes that maybe he will have suggestions of an effective way to communicate to the people who bring in litters of puppies again and again that everyone does their best to help them find homes, but PLEASE let us spay/neuter your pets. Here’s what I wrote:
For lack of a better introduction, I’m a long time listener, first time caller. 😉 I have been studying your excellent risk communication trainings in my career as an industrial hygienist and I find the field of risk communication fascinating.
In addition to IH work, I volunteer with the local St. Croix Virgin Islands local animal shelter and I have noticed there doesn’t seem to be a good way for workers to explain to people that are surrendering animals (over 11 animals are relinquished daily) that the shelter will provide veterinary care and will do their very best to re-home healthy animals, however as a last resort, some animals will end up euthanized.
No one that works there ever wants to euthanize healthy animals but because of shelter size constraints and the never ending influx of animals, there is occasionally no choice.
The spaying and neutering of pets would be a good step towards a reduction of surrendered animals, unfortunately there seems to be a cultural trend against spaying and neutering here in the Virgin Islands.
Would you be able to suggest any communication guidelines I could share with the shelter staff to help increase public awareness and understanding of the importance of spaying and neutering?
Or a better way to inform people that are bringing in yet another litter of puppies or kittens that they are adorable, but that finding homes is an ongoing and exhausting struggle and that there just aren’t 60+ homes looking for pets every week.
Thank you so much for your time and consideration!
All the best,
So, to the mean lady who called one of my favorite people a puppy killer which made her hurt, please remember that people do not work at an animal shelter to become rich and famous (because glamorous it is not); they work there to try to help make a positive difference in the lives of animals and while slogging through both literal and metaphorical crap every. single. day., they also need to be treated kindly.
All my love,
(I’ll update this post if I hear back from Peter Sandman!)