There are thousands of nonprofit animal shelters across our country which are managed by individuals and governed by boards of directors. Those people are beholden only to the donors, fosters and adopters who support them, as well as being required to comply with both state and federal laws and regulations regarding nonprofit organizations. They are also required to comply with state and federal laws regarding animal care and welfare. For the most part, the folks who run non-profit shelters can decide how to house and care for their animals for the benefit of their organizations.
People who are paid with public funds, whether they are elected officials, public servants or are performing public functions, are - by the nature of their jobs - open to criticism and comment. The reason for this is that they work for us. Of the people, by the people, for the people. When it comes to some forms of public office or public service, we have no problems voicing our opinions about how our money is spent. People complain about pot holes in the road. About the timing of traffic signals. About garbage pick-up. About law enforcement activities. About parks and recreation services. When it comes to these functions of local governments, people normally don't hesitate to make their grievances known and they expect results when they do complain.
So why are things any different when it comes to animal shelters and the animal sheltering industry?
I realize that the topic of animal sheltering in America is an emotional one. Most of us care deeply about companion animals and we want the best for them. Polls have shown that the vast majority of Americans think it should be illegal for animal shelters to destroy animals who are not suffering or who do not present a genuine public safety risk. As time goes on, we see more and more places across the country embrace proven programs to treat animals in our shelters as individuals and save them from being needlessly destroyed. Although there are naysayers who claim it is not possible to save healthy and treatable shelter animals either because it costs too much or is just too difficult, those arguments fail when we simply look at the growing number of places where animals are saved and where the word "euthanasia" has been restored to the original meaning, as opposed to being used to sugarcoat the process of killing animals who either were, or could have been, someone's beloved pet.
During the years that followed as No Kill Huntsville took our vision and our No Kill message public, the opposition to our philosophies was constant and hostile. We were taunted and vilified both publicly and on social media. We were told we did not have a right to complain about the shelter operation unless we volunteered at the shelter X number of hours per month, had personally fostered Y number of pets or had adopted Z number of animals. The argument was that we had to be worthy of having the right to exercise our First Amendment free speech rights regarding how our tax dollars were being spent. No, no and no. All of us who pay taxes are not only entitled to comment about how money is spent. We are entitled to ask for better. There is no such thing as a Golden Ticket of Worthiness required to express opinions and even provide constructive criticism when it comes to the manner in which local governments function and how public servants spend our money.
If you live in an area where healthy and treatable animals are being destroyed using your tax dollars and you want them saved instead, say something. Speak out.
And if you live in an area where healthy and treatable animals are being destroyed using your tax dollars and you are either defending that behavior or you remain willfully silent about it, please ask yourself why.
Surely the lives of companion animals in need are as important to you as a pot hole in the road or whether or not you sat at a red light for more than 3 minutes.