As professionals who deal with human indifference, cruelty and ignorance on a daily basis, it’s difficult to comprehend why some individuals involved in the rescue of companion animals feel the need to add even more stress to their daily routine by waging war with each other.
Not unlike some TV reality show wherein the audience patiently wades through the mundane everyday stuff while waiting for the participants to eventually turn on each other, there are those who cruise the pages of Facebook looking for an opportunity to initiate, or engage in a feud already taking place between different animal rescue groups.
Aside from the traditional vs. no-kill shelter management distinctions, perhaps the greatest issues of contention among rescue groups are the methods of animal acquisition and the quality of animal care. There are few standards and for the most part, each organization believes that their way is the best way. Some go to the extreme to declare that their protocols are the only way and don’t hesitate to berate anyone who disagrees as unbelievers and infidels! Subsequently, for those so inclined to argue the point, the internet provides an excellent battleground ready to host verbal conflagrations of Biblical proportions.
So, why engage in a war of words when clearly, there are no winners and the only losers are the animals and their potential adopters driven away by negative discourse?
No matter what type of animal rescue, the one universal truth found among all of them is that rescuing animals is highly stressful and certainly not an appropriate vocation for the thin skinned. On the other hand, the very nature of the work seems to attract some very special individuals.
Amy Haas Gray, director of the Hardin Eldora Animal Rescue Team, (H.E.A.R.T.), said, “I believe that rescue is dominated by very strong people who naturally tend to have very definite opinions about what they do and how they do it. Challenges aren’t taken lightly.”
Amazingly, the problem is so acute that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the National Federation of Humane Societies (NFHS) and the Society of Animal Welfare Administrators (SAWA), created The Pledge for Humane Discourse and Conduct within Animal Welfare in an effort to curb the flood of ‘verbal intimidation, defamation, harassment, personal attacks and threats of violence occurring within the animal welfare industry.’
Dose it work? Not really.
Apparently, signing the pledge and adhering to its principles are two different matters. There are no fines or sanctions for violating the tenets set forth in the pledge; and libel on the internet is often difficult to prove.Consequently, once the initial barrage of verbal barbs between different rescue factions starts , the time it takes to escalate into a full blown war on Facebook is minimal and the pledge is long forgotten. Perhaps there should be another social site called Feudbook where derogatory comments about others would be the rule and not the exception.
Humane Discourse is a great idea. Too bad those who need to practice it most don’t do so with the same degree of passion they profess to have for rescuing animals.