Friday, October 22, 2010

360 Rescue

The world of rescue is full of roads and like life full of choices.  One of the most challenging things for most rescues is making hard choices for very ill or injured animals.  For animals whose temperament or age make them unsafe and unhappy

The other hard choice can be to choose not to pull when the resources are not available.  The constant cry for money and fosters, volunteers and adopters gives the impression that rescues live in a constant crisis mode.  So often there is a strong need to save them all.  Too often this comes at a huge cost to the animals and the rescue.  It does not have to be this way.  There can be sustainable balance where animals can be saved, the rescue can provide care and there are adoptable animals finding a forever home!

As an example, a rescue which is oriented saving the next dog can forget about the dogs which are still needing their care and the fosters and adopters which still need their help and support.  Rescue needs to have a 360 view of the world around them, not just a small angle of focus.  If you look at it not as a pie chart but as a person who stands looking out the same small window, you may see what I mean.

That small window may only show dogs (for example) who need to be pulled from a kill shelter or it may show a sick animal suffering with no care but it doesn't show the whole picture.  It doesn't show the other important jobs of a full rescue.  It doesn't show that the animals still need you even after they are saved.  

A full 360 rescue not only pulls animals from harm (close to home or via long distance relay transport), they ensure that the animals are treated, assessed and made ready for foster homes and then they work with their fosters to get them ready for adoption.  Fosters and volunteers are what makes rescue work, and no one can afford to squander their life blood.

We need less crisis mode rescue and more 360 rescue where the animals are not just saved but also cared for until the end of their life.  No one can survive in crisis mode for long.

360 rescue  and those who see the whole rescue picture understand that you are not successful if you are only focussed on one area.  It has to be more than the pull, the dramatic save it has to be the day to day animals are being placed with the right people, the fosters and adopters have someone who is available to help them and they know they are not alone

All animals, not just special needs animals, should have the fosters and adopters staying in touch with each other for support and help.  Fosters need respite, they need breaks so they don't burn out.  Volunteers need to be heard and those who are adopters need to feel a sense of community.  As a rescue you need to be there for the easy animals  and those who are more challenging.  

When a foster or adopter calls to say they are lost and don't know what to do you need to be there for them and not be focussed on the next pull, next crisis, the next __________.  You made a choice to save that animal you need to keep helping that animal.

Fosters make it easier for animals to be adopted - build supports for fosters!

Adopters make a choice to adopt not shop - built supports for adopters!

Volunteers give of their time and resources - make every bit count!

Rescues make choices about the animals they save and the resources they use - they need to be accountable for each animal.  

From the time you pull to the time they have their last rest.  That may mean making hard choices in a time of crisis.  It may mean doing things differently or facing challenges in other areas.  That could mean choosing for the animal and not for the human self.

Animals only know quality of life not quantity of life.  People put the quantity on things, forgetting that there are times when quality counts more.  That may be hours, days, months or years.  All they know is now is good, or bad.  

Could you choose for the animal when that choice meant stopping their suffering? Or do you have to have the save?  Can you picture how many could be helped if you didn't need the save?  

Join the discussion about 360 Rescue here at Chore Time!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

NO Designer Dogs!

Manitoba Voice for Animals

This is an excellent wiki article about mixed breed dogs - there are times when we do deliberate crosses, there are times to keep the bloodlines pure bred but to bring in new genetic material to avoid inbreeding and there are many times where by accident or design a dog is mated for the sole purpose of puppies. These dogs are often labelled "Designer Dogs" when they are anything but!

When you purposefully mix dog breeds you are looking to maximize on the good traits of both parents (often purebred) so that you have a calm demeanor in a working animal (for example). What a responsible person does not do is combine animals who have traits that are not desirable and magnify them - mixing dog breeds who both have genetic tendencies towards breathing problems, for example. Or combining breeds that both have high drive without considering what their purpose, their job is going to be.

Mixing large and small breeds can lead to physical challenges such as a small framed animal with the gains of its larger breed counterpart. This is an animal with health issues from the start.

When petstores and online ads market "Designer Dogs" they are combining a cute mix of names from most often 'guessed' at breeds in the parent dogs. This 'chidoodloor' is a random breeding of two intact animals for the sole purpose of making money. With a high cost to the buyer, to the shelters and vets who end up caring for these animals when their health and temperament deteriorates.

The breeders of 'designer dogs' can be puppy mills and backyard breeders who do not take proper care of the health of the animals, they do not provide proper socialization, remove puppies too early from their dams, they do not give adequate attention to the physical needs of exercise, healthy food and clean water and proper shelter for these animals. They breed indiscriminately, they breed many times and when they no longer can do this they are dumped, killed or left to die.

Stores who can bring in 'designer dogs' are deliberately feeding the market of ignorance and providing the unsuspecting public who has a tendency to trust pet stores with animals that wont' be what they want or pay for.

I have seen ads for 'designer dogs' that go from $900 and down...!

By educating people we can stop this trend. Just because it has a 'designer' name doesn't mean it was a well thought out or good idea. Most often, if you look at the runways of Paris and New York, you see things that are strange, unwearable and quite dangerous. The same holds for so-called 'designer dogs' - they are strange, they are often not able to be a long term, healthy family pet and sometimes their health and temperament can create dangerous situations for the families, the vets and the shelters where they eventually get dumped.

Do your part, next time you hear someone talking about 'designer dogs' educate them, when you see ads for them, report it to the site owner and post educational information. If you know a store which sells these dogs ask them to stop, put them in contact with a reputable rescue to learn where their dogs go and give them an option to actually help dogs instead of adding to the problem.

If you know someone personally who is breeding 'designer dogs' or is a backayard breeder contact us and we'll give you some resources to help educate them. If you know of a puppy mill report it, and if you know where they sell to, share that with us.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

How Many Stand Silent?

How Many Stand Silent? 

How many stand silent,
Watching as you quietly die?

How many stand silent,
Watching as you are abused?

One, a dozen, the whole world.
What if no one spoke for any of us?

Would you speak if the hand raised,
was raised against you and yours?

How many stand silent,
Knowing who deals death
Just beyond their door?

How many stand slient,
Knowing cruelty lives and thrives
Just beyond their door?

One, a dozen, the whole world.
What if no one looked at any of us?

Would you cry out or would you cower away,
if the cruelty was coming through your door?

How many stand silent,
Waiting for someone to speak?

How many stand silent,
Believing the lies, "I've changed"?

One, a dozen, the whole world.
What if we stopped believing them?

How many stand silent...
How many stand silent waiting for...
Just one person to say, "Stop! Enough!"?

How many stand silent...
How many stand silent waiting for...
Someone else to make the world change?

copyright Shanyn Silinski 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

Messages we give kids

*disclaimer: Luke and Anna are playing...he knows how to get out of the crate,
 indeed he was the one that put them both in there with water, snacks and a bed...

Messages, we get them daily. We send them daily.  We either get them or we don't.  Do we actually think about them?  I mean really think about the message, the intent and the actual outcome?

Two stories come to mind today that really bring this home, and I mean right where you live home.

1: Ad posted on-line: please come get our mama cat and her two day old kittens or my boyfriend will kill them.

Follow up: a good, dear friend who is also an animal rescue friend, went to get them.  A child, around 10, told her, "Thank you for taking our kitties, I was so sad that they were going to get killed.  I'm happy they get to live and have a good home."

Questions: what sort of lesson is this young girl learning about why things get killed (someone doesn't want or value them anymore) and about caring for those around us (kill it if you cannot give it away).  what sort of lesson is she learning about being responsible for not only herself but for those animals?  What sort of value does her mother's boyfriend have for her?  Is she as expendable as a mama cat and kittens?  

2.  Woman at a dog park with her children, they are playing rough with their dogs, but the woman is 'proud' that her kids can kick the dog, pull its tail and poke it in the eye.  "See it doesn't even mind if you throw it down!" she states proudly.

Follow up: a friend, who works with dogs and other animals, is concerned. She asks why this woman is proud of her children's bad behaviour. Then she asks what happens if the dog finally has 'enough' and snaps?  Of course the dog will be gone because it broke the biggest rule of all - do not do unto others.  The dog will die, they will get another, and the cycle will start all over again.

Questions: what sort of lessons about respect, caring for others and physical safety are those kids learning?  Are they learning that dogs CHOOSE not to bite us?  Are they learning they are responsible for their animals?  Are they learning that causing hurt is wrong?  Are they being taught to treat others as they would like to be treated?

3.  A neighborhood watches as yet another dog dies of neglect in a yard. The neighbors are not unaware of what is going on, they talk about it, they know who is doing this and it isn't the first dog.  Won't be the last.  No one is sure what to do, so they say nothing, hoping that someone comes up with a miracle, life saving plan.

Follow up: the owner gets pressured to take the dog to the vet, refuses help and no one knows what happened to the dog.  No one knows when the next dog will come to that yard.  Everyone knows what will happen to it.  The families who talk about it, know about it and stay quiet are teaching their children not to get involved. They are teaching their children to be silent in the face of abuse.

Questions: Would they be silent if it was a child being abused? What about an elderly person?  Would they stay silent if they knew they were teaching their children to be quiet in the face of abuse?  What if it was them being abused, would they want someone to speak up for them?

Three tough situations - varying degrees of lessons being taught.  What would you do?  What would you say? Would you speak up or remain silent?

What lessons are you teaching your children? What lessons do you see being taught that you remain silent about?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Empty Collars

Up on a hill, surrounded by rolling grassy slopes and wild flowers, watered by a spring of sweet water, stands a great old tree.  The branches are gnarled and twisted with age, the leaves grow in rich shades of green.  The trunk is wide and offers many roots for climbing, sitting and shade.

This is no ordinary tree, it is a memory tree.  Each branch is hung, not with fruit, but with collars and tags. There are old ones made of rope, some braided twine, others of fine leather or other material. The tags are shiny, they are old and worn, some metal, some plastic, some twinkle and some are empty rings.  Each one holds the memories of a dog that has cross The Rainbow Bridge

Their people come here, to hang the collars, to leave their memories with the tree.  Of little puppy teeth chewing, of old grey muzzles snoring softy, of a working dog's first successful job, of a service dog's last task.  The memories hang from the tree, with each push of the wind the collars shift and softly sound.  With each movement the wind brings memories to the people left behind

We remember a cold nose, soft ears, toe nails ticking on hard floors, puppy barks and old dog mumbles.  

We remember wagging tails, first confident steps, tripping over toys and soggy chewies.
We remember first glances filled with love, we remember puddles and poopsciles.

We remember our dogs, those who wore the collars that hang from the tree, and we love them still.

The memories they leave in our minds also leave paw prints upon our hearts.  

We never forget their first moment with us, nor do we ever forget their last.  That last breath, that last heartbeat, that last living look.  Those who lived long lives or those who were barely here - if they were with us long enough to touch our hearts we can rest knowing we also had them long enough to show them our love.

I never forget: Whiskey, KK, Kahula, Jessie, Voodoo, Andy, Sparkie.  See you at The Bridge!

(this post is dedicated to the memory of the dogs I've loved and those I love still...feel free to change dog for cat, collar for halter, and remember your animal friends who have crossed The Bridge.  The love is the same, no matter who we loved, how or when.)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Caring for Fosters

We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.
- Mother Theresa

Rescue Community,

Perk up your ears.  Give me a tail thump on the floor if you can hear me.  I'm talking to you.  How are you taking care of your fosters?  Not your animals but those people who actually foster animals for you.  What is your plan for caring for them?  If they gave you a grade would you be an A+ or slipping below the D mark?  What color ribbon would you be given at the end of the day?

Give me a woof if you've checked in with a foster, had a foster orientation, perhaps done a foster respite where your fosters get a break (without guilt), how about a foster appreciation day?  Stars on a chart for how many days/dogs/cats/months/years they've fostered?\

Give me a roll over and a 'shake-a-paw' if you've calculated how much your fosters really are worth to your shelter, rescue or group.

Chewies and squeak toys for everyone who has called, visited and stopped by to say 'hey thanks' with something special for a foster.  Seriously, I'll mail them out if you send me proof.  I'll even get the cute animal ones and organic chewies.

Or are you like so many others rushing from pull to pull, dog to dog, always calling for fosters and always needing more?  Instead of saying thanks or do you need a break, are you always looking to your fosters for the next dog?  Do you offer support, respite and training for fosters?  Do you have a plan to help your long term fosters take a holiday or a break by caring for their dogs, which really are your dogs?

What would happen to your rescue, shelter, organization if your fosters were not available?  What if the reason they were no longer available was something you could have prevented?  If hind sight is 20/20 then I'm giving you a long view as someone who has and is a foster - we do it because we want to help, because we care and we are giving people.  We are doing it for you because we chose you or continue to choose you.

Every organization who relies on volunteers takes care of them, or they soon find they have none.  Rescue must operate the same way - you need someone who is responsible from your rescue, shelter, organization for the well being of your fosters.  It is a must - there are so many good and worthy causes for our time - making and keeping us with yours is critical to YOU.

Every organization that relies on volunteers knows their value because they wouldn't be in business if they had to PAY for the work their volunteers do, they would no be able to function.  Especially non-profits and charities, especially those who work in challenging areas with children, the elderly or animals.  

I want to hear from you - good, bad and ugly - what is your BEST foster story, what is your WORST.  What is the BEST thing someone did to say thanks, what was the WORST thing someone did that made you question why you were supporting them with your home, your time and your love.

Fosters are more than a house, a 'free board' for your animals - they offer a chance for animals to become adoptable, they offer many times training and rehabilitiation for those dogs and cats and other animals that wouldn't have chance otherwise.  They give you space to work with those animals who cannot be fostered, those who need special care and aren't ready to get on the adoptable road.  

Fosters are more than people who take care of your animals for you, they are the reason your animals can and do become adoptable . They are the reason successful shelters and rescues have animals get adopted.  Fosters are key to your success, whether you have a few select or you cast the net for anyone who has a spare spot for a crate.

So folks, who is going to be cashing in on the chewies and squeak toys?  Who is going to be re-examining their policy and treatment of fosters, and who is confident that they won't see a foster of 'theirs' commenting with anything other than love and glowing praises?  

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Someone Knows

It almost breaks my heart to see and hear the stories of animals that are abused, neglected, mutilated, left to die and abandoned on a daily basis.  It seems no one is immune to the cruelty whether they are committing the crime or remaining silent about their knowledge.

It is proven, and known that many violent offenders learn their craft on animals.  What is not so well known but equally valid is many who abuse and neglect animals will do the same to people.  Starve them, beat them, torture them, send them to the plant ill or injured, leave them to die the list can literally go on and on.  This is horrible, unconscionable and obscene.

There is one other person or persons that need to be called out to answer for their choices. and those are the ones who know something is wrong, and remain silent.  Every jurisdiction in Canada and the US offers anonymous tip lines, you don't even have to reveal how you know.  You just need to say something!

Someone always knows, they know the kid down the road or in their church is not someone they would trust their children to.  They know that when 'Billy' is home the pets seem to be having more accidents. They know that a family is retreating in to a bruised silence.  They know that no one called, drove or broke down a gate to check on their own animals.  They know someone has quit living or started becoming more violent, addicted or depressed.

These are the people who are never surprised when the person gets caught or the act is revealed, why?  Because deep down in their conscience they knew, and they choose to remain silent.  They made the choice to shut up and hope that it would magically 'go away'.

People who abuse animals never just 'go away', they stop for reasons such as: death, incarceration or they move on to people.  They don't suddenly start, except in rare psychological cases, and they don't just as suddenly stop.

On Facebook, on the news and on the blogs people are cursing the abusers, the violence against those with no voice, and they are right to be outraged and angry.  I am saddened deeply by these stories and photos and videos.  But they don't tell the whole story, they don't get to the deepest, rottenest core of it all - someone always knows and they rarely do anything about it.  They don't call, they don't get help, they don't consider it their responsibility as a member of a community.

What about you?  Are you a 'stay silent' type who doesn't know or want to know?  Are you a 'speak out' who does their best and tries to stay the course?  Do you know why you are the way you are?  Were you abused? Did you witness abuse?  Do you know deep down in your heart that if you were in the place of those animals or an abused person that you would want someone to speak up for you?  Would you want it to be someone like you?

In Manitoba you can call the police, any local detachment or 9-1-1.  You can contact the Provincial Welfare Vet at 945-8000.  Every province has a similar number, each province has municipal, city and RCMP who can be reached.  The sooner you speak up, the sooner the animals can be helped and the sooner a tragedy can be averted.

You can make a difference, can you choose for that? Don't be the silent someone who always knows but never speaks...I cannot abide by that.  If you are at risk, call anonymously, pass a note in the store, reach out to someone who can get you to safety and tell your story.  No one, not anyone, should be abused.  There is no 'degree' of abuse, there is no 'less' or 'more'.

Abuse is abuse, violence is violence, silence is silence.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Why Ohio Won't Go Away

You have seen the video, or have seen the story.  You may have chosen NOT to view the video, that to me is a wise choice if you are already aware of what they are talking about.  I personally didn't need a visual reminder, my mind can drill down and drag up all sorts of images without the help of YouTube.

If you don't know what I am talking about here are some links that discuss the story from a couple of sides:

One worker has been charged but this wasn't the work of one person, this is a system of abuse that shows a blatant disregard for animal well being, worker well being and welfare.  The news stories may quote this as a isolated incident or as something out of the norm.  And industry really wants to believe this, but how can we be sure?  How can we, as an industry, stand up and say we are doing our best when videos and stories like these come out?  How many 'exceptions' can there be?

We've had Chino with downer cows, we've had Death on a Factory Farm for hogs and now we have Ohio with dairy calves and cows on farm.  These stories are not going to go away, especially Ohio because not only were they abusing animals, but they abusing calves. Blunt force trauma may 'do the job' but that doesn't mean it is the right way or the best way.

The physical welfare of the animals is compromised, the welfare of the workers is devalued as they are taking on tasks that they are untrained or unprepared for, or worse, becoming desensitized to.  There is a devaluing of life that is going to be pushing citizens (consumers and producers) into legislative changes which may or may not be in the long term best interests of the animals or the agriculture industry.

When we consider the numbers of calves born daily to dairy operations and the numbers of calves which are put down (I do not consider blunt force trauma to a calf euthanasia - argue with me if you will but I just don't see it as a 'good death') because there is a shrinking veal industry and no finishing market for dairy steers there is a lot of room for devaluing life, for cruelty and for abuse.

When you consider how some animals, any species, are treated you can see how the welfare for animals can be compromised because their well being has NO CASH VALUE. The missing factor here is perception.

If you have read my blogs before you know that my belief is that perception becomes reality.  What people believe about us comes from what they see - do they see you doing your job well?  Then even if you goof it up they will believe you are doing a good job and that you care.  If you do a great job and you are not seeing as caring then your work won't have the same impact.  This holds true in policing, politics and farming.

Face it folks, are your farm practices up to the scrutiny of YouTube?  Can you honestly say you feel comfortable showing your practices to the world because you KNOW you are doing the best you can for the animals and for your farm.  I believe that any sector on any given day can be one video away from the sort negative attention that can only hurt agriculture.

If we are doing a good job why aren't we saying so?  If we, as an industry or sector, are confident that we can stand up for what we do - why aren't we?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Spring Farm Safety: Children

Welcome to our first of a series of Farm Safety Blogs by guest blogger Glen Blahey, CRSP, Provincial Farm Safety Coordinator. Thanks Glen!

The sun is out and so are the children.  With more vigour then last year and a curiosity that has grown by 10 times.  So what should we be doing to protect them?  The gut reaction is to say they were here last year and they know.  But the question is; are they really able to recognize all the risks that exist on your farm and are they able to understand cause and effect?

Most child development professionals will tell you that young children have relatively short attention spans and they can not perceive consequences such as a critical injury.  So we should be doing a few things to help our children grow and thrive.

Firstly, boundaries need to be established – no wandering around the farm yard, workshop, barns, sheds and so on unsupervised.  The best solution is a safe play area – an enclosed space that keeps the toddlers from wandering off.  They need a space where they can play and be safe.  The Manitoba Government has a grant program for farm families to help offset the cost of building such areas –

Secondly, children should only accompany adults to work areas when there is someone to continually supervise that child.  If the supervisor is busy working who is watching the child as they explore – and perhaps disappear from sight behind a wheel, into a pen or to the edge of the lagoon?

Thirdly, we all want to share with our children what we do, and they are like gigantic sponges that soak up the mechanical things we do like turn the key in the ignition, unlatch a gate or flip a switch. But before we get too carried away showing 4 year old Johnny how to start the tractor and shift it into gear, we need to remember that it is not a toy, Johnny will remember what we show him, but he will not understand what to do if he wanders over to that tractor when no one is watching and starts it and shifts it into gear.

Our children are our most precious ‘crop’ – protect it. 

The superior man, when resting in safety, does not forget that danger may come. When in a state of security he does not forget the possibility of ruin. When all is orderly, he does not forget that disorder may come. Thus his person is not endangered, and his states and all their clans are preserved.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Protecting Our Comfort Zone

Do you have these signs up around your industry, your cause, your work?  I'm sure you do!  We all do, some are small and only in certain areas (personal or private information, places where we are just ourselves).  Others are industry or cause wide. They stop us from doing important work because they limit our audience, our scope, our very reach to do our work.

You say, "Not us!" or "Not here!" but yes it is you, and yes it is here.

This is what I have learned, from the inside to the outside, from the outside in.  There comes a time when we run out of converts in our own church (horse industry, pork industry, beef, dairy, sheep, goat, GMO seeds, pick yours).

There comes a time when you have to choose between meeting the outside world and speaking out for what you stand for, believe in and work at.  Or choose to say inside your comfort zone, put up the yellow and black tape and hide away - hoping that the big bad media, activists, consumers, competition just magically get smart or go away.

Folks, I am here to tell you that when you end up with no one but the converted to talk to, it is time to stop talking and start communicating outside the comfort zone.

Horse industry - are you for or against horse slaughter?  Are you for or against welfare?  Are you for or against eventing, rodeo, trail riding, pony rides at fairs?  Are you willing to stand up outside your comfort zone and say that?  Are you for or against owners of horses who do not belong to an organized horse group? What is your stand on spade bits, tie downs and quirts?  Do you have a breed preference that is blinding you to horse industry wide issues?

That gasp you heard, the one that sucked all the dust off of everyone's key boards is the collective gasp of someone being told to get the lead out.  Suck it up, you won't be popular for speaking out.  Suck it up, you won't even be able to convince everyone your point of view has value.  Speaking up isn't about popular nor is it about consensus.  It is about sharing what you know, the information you have with those who do not know it, have it and need it.  It is not about you.

Speaking out is about  sharing information, providing resources, telling another side to an issue, advocating for your industry to someone other than your industry.

Pork producers telling other pork producers they are doing a great job means nothing - nothing to anyone who isn't a pork producer!  Prove to me, a consumer, that your world is changing to meet the needs of your animals, your customers.

The beef industry telling other beef producers that they are making a difference means nothing to me.  The auto industry telling its own members how good they are doing things for the consumer means nothing.  The messenger cannot spend all their time speaking to other messengers.  

Talk to ME.  On my own grounds, in my own media, in my own language about why what you are doing matters, why what you are doing should count in my score keeping, why what you are saying should be weighed any differently than anything else that is said by sources I have come to trust.

"We are concerned but really it isn't our job to do anything, it's _______'s job.  We are here to support an industry that ________ of _________.  It means jobs, it means money.  It wouldn't be an industry if no one supported it." No one wants this type of media friendly, teflon covered, wiggle word double speak.  Your media relations people LIED.

That isn't communication. That isn't a message I care to hear.  It tells me nothing except where you've taped up your "comfort zone" signs.  Tell me how I can make a difference where  I am not where you are.  

I read the news, I see the cruelty that is done.  What I don't see is proactive steps for change.  I don't see you on Facebook, I don't see you blogging, I don't see you reaching any new audiences.  We matter.  We can choose.  We can read and research and make decisions.  Go to a social networking site and do a search - how many groups, fans and discussions are going on? Hundreds? Thousands? More?  Where are you? Where is your voice?

What you need to understand is that  if you don't do your job we will assume you either cannot do it or are uninterested in doing it outside your comfort zone.  Which one is it?  You cannot speak out for horses, you cannot share resources and reach the people who are outside the easy bounds of your comfort zone?  Or don't you care enough to try?  Is the disinterest an indication of your lack of regard for the audience or an indication of your fear?

You tell me.  Really, please do.  Tell me why social networking, blogging, advocating, speaking out, reaching past the comfort zone is so threatening, dangerous and hard to do?  I'm inviting you agriculture industry to tell me.  Please show me where is your fight.  Please show me where is your passion.  Please come out of the comfort zone into the world with the rest of us.

I'm mean you animal agriculture groups, I mean you commodity groups, I mean you welfare alliances, I mean you lobby groups, I mean you....

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

“It’s disgusting that people would do this,” she said. “It’s sick. This is one of the worst cases (of neglect) I’ve ever seen.”

The bad and the ugly is taking an older dog, such as Tribe, not letting her walk enough to wear down her own nails, leave her starving on the side of the road.  The ugly is her being hit not once, but twice by cars.  The bad is her condition.  The really bad is that Tribe is not alone, there are many dogs, cats, horses and other animals experiencing abuse, neglect, outright abandonment and cruelty this very moment!

The good is Animal Control Officers like Bonnie, the good is people like Sally Hull of Hull's Haven Border Collie Rescue, Darcy of D'arcy's Arc in Winnipeg, the people who have joined forces to have a single voice for small shelters and all rescues in Manitoba.  Manitoba Voice for Animals has been working to find Tribe a foster to care for her and help her golden years be her best.

The comments you see expressed on social networking sites, blogs and in emails express our outrage (entirely justifiable), our horror (completely understandable) and our disgust (if you aren't then stop reading right now).  They show our displeasure and strong feelings about this dog and all animals who have been treated like her with no love, no respect and no care.

The old saying, "The more I get to know people, the more I love my dog (cat, horse, fish, ferret, etc)!" can be no truer than when you hear the voices of animal lovers united in outrage.  I would love to be able to harness that sense of outrage and channel it in a slightly different direction.

When we feed the negative, when we build comment upon comment we do get our feelings out. No doubt about it.  We also don't get a chance to use that energy to say, "Hey someone cares!" or "Hey, someone is looking out for animals, let's help!"  It doesn't give us a chance to say good things about rescue, about animal control officers who truly put welfare first, about shelters working hard to have a no-kill world.

As loud as our voices can be in outrage, the do NO GOOD!  We only add to the UGLY, we only remind ourselves and others of the BAD.  We don't get the chance to speak out, and be heard, about the choices people have.  About the resources available to them that the side of the road is not acceptable and here's why...fill in your reasons...

We don't get to use our voices to shout out about rescues needing fosters, shelters needing loving forever homes, we don't get to speak up for the animals.  When we spend out time on the outrage too long it passes and our voices are lost in the noise of the day.  No one is left with an idea, a clue, that there are better choicesbetter options and we lose a chance to gain a friend, a foster, an adopter.

When we get past the first few chances to speak with outrage we have a small window where people pause to get their breath - a moment that the media and the public share - where we can fill it with good information.  We can use that small window to paste a link, post a blog, write a comment, volunteer our selves and our voices for the greater cause of caring for our animals!

Responsible pet owners do not do this to their animals.  This act of cruelty is going to be a rally point for people.  We as people care enough to share our resources, our knowledge, our passion and fill that window with something other people and the media can use.  Links to rescues, links to vets, links to Facebook groups and fan pages where the questions of "What can I do?"  and "How can I help?" meet face to face with the people who can properly answer them.

We can choose to turn the outrage into something that can bring good, we can choose to use our space of time to be heard in a way that gives people tools, choices and resources.  Options for something better for themselves and animals.  

Be outraged!  Be angry!  Be offended! Be careful...the hateful words you say today could drown out the information you would wish to share tomorrow.  The unfocused anger could leave us with no energy left to speak out and advocate for change.

It's okay to say this is terrible but it is even better to follow it with but together we can do something to change it!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Guest Blog: Rescue Work Can Be Bad For Your Health

Rescue Work Can be Bad for Your Health
by Sheila Webster Boneham, Ph.D.
Author of Rescue Matters! How to Find, Foster, and Rehome Companion Animals (Alpine, 2009).

Rescue work can be bad for your health. I know, that seems an odd thing for me to say, since much of my writing career for the past 14 years has promoted companion animal rescue and responsible pet care in one way or another. But the longer I work with rescuers and write about responsible human-animal relationships, the more concerned I become about what rescue does to some people. Whether we call the results “burnout” or “compassion fatigue” or something else, the signs and results can be significant.

But first, how do you know if you, or someone you know, is burning out? Signs of burnout vary because we all process stress differently. In addition, we all bump into rescue situations that make us furious and sad. If we can feel those emotions and then move on to productive action, we can maintain personal equilibrium and, hopefully, continue to have a positive effect. But sometimes the emotions that we experience overwhelm us. Typically, a person who is burning out experiences one or more of the following feelings or behaviors:

  • chronic physical exhaustion
  • depression
  • a sense of hopelessness
  • chronic anger
  • impatience with pet owners, other rescuers, or potential adopters
  • lack of compassion for people 

When those feelings overshadow more positive aspects of life , including the positive aspects of rescue work, it’s time to take a step back and reassess. Why? Several reasons. First, feeling overwhelmed makes a person less effective at his or her job (whether paid or volunteer). Not only does that feeling make it difficult to accomplish necessary tasks effectively, but it diminishes our ability to interact effectively with other people - and that clearly is an essential part of rescue. Eventually chronic stress will affect a person’s physical health as well, potentially leading to serious illness.

So what to do if you (or someone you know) seems to be burned out? And what can you do to prevent burnout from happening in the first place? Here are some suggestions:

  • Be realistic. If you don’t have the time, space, or energy to foster animals, then find another way to help. Do what you can do, but don’t beat yourself up for what you can’t do. 
  • Trust your colleagues to do their jobs – don’t try to micro manage everyone else. 
  • When you have enough on your plate, learn to say no. Don’t feel you must explain or make excuses; just say, “Thank you for thinking of me, but at this time I have to say no.” 
  • Maintain some balance in your life, and have some fun. Rescued animals are important, but so are your own pets, your family, your friends, your job, and your health. Make rescue part of your life, not your whole life. 
  • Take part in or spectate at other sorts of animal-oriented activities, and get to know responsible breeders, fanciers, and trainers. Listen with an open mind to what they have to say about animal-related issues. 
  • Be as kind to people as you are to animals, be slow to judge, and avoid gossip. Focus on positive action. Educate the people who will learn, realize that some won’t, and move on. 
  • Ask for help when you need it. 
  • Take breaks from rescue when you need to, for a week, a month, a year. You can always come back to rescue work later if you want to, or you may find other ways to contribute to society. 
Think of this self-care as a preventive healthcare program for rescuers. After all, if you ignore the niggling signs that something is wrong, you may burn out completely. Stay healthy and happy, and you can continue to help animals indefinitely!

Thanks Sheila for the guest blog spot, be sure to look for Sheila and the Rescue Matters! Fan page on Facebook as well as check out her website.  When work in rescue, like so many other areas, we need to care for ourselves so that we can care for others. SJS

Friday, March 12, 2010

Here comes the spring...

It’s starting to feel like spring – rain instead of snow, melting white stuff and mud everywhere.  In Manitoba we start thinking about our annual spring arrival – flooding!  How prepared are you on your farm, in your home and in your family?  There are many guides, links and resources to help people prepare for flooding, evacuation and cleaning up as you return home.  But how many people have used them?  Feeling pretty confident that, as a Manitoban, you have flood planning under control and you are ready? Okay, one more question: what is your plan to care for your animals?

There are three basic options when you are faced with a flood situation: stay put, evacuate with animals or evacuate and have ‘care-in-place’ for your animals.  Let’s talk a bit about each, with a focus on animals.
Stay Put: when you are behind a dyke or in an area where it is safe for you to stay in your home or on your farm there are things you should do in preparation for that stay, especially if you could be isolated there for a time during the height of the flood. 
  • ·         Ensure you have enough food and fresh water for your animals
  • ·         Make sure you have medications/prescriptions filled for any animals who are on medications
  • ·         Have a first aid kit for animals handy
  • ·         Make sure you have an evacuation kit for each animal in case you do have to evacuate (detailed below)
  • ·         Have a container for collecting poop from your animals (if you have animals in a confined area or yard) to keep their outdoors area clean for you and them
  • ·         Have a list of your animals, with their names, chip or tag numbers, ages and a photo of each attached with contact numbers should you and your animals become separated at some point during the flood

Evacuate with Animals:  there will be times you have to leave with your animals, and there are some special steps to take to ensure a smooth evacuation.
  • ·         If you animals have special food (critical for sensitive animals such as those having treatment, or specialty breeds)
  • ·         Be sure each animal has their own crate with name and contact number on it
  • ·         Be sure each animal has a collar, tags, leash or other way of identification on them when possible
  • ·         Take your list of animals with you when you leave
  • ·         If you have an ‘Animals In Home’ sign in your window, take it down so rescuers know there are no animals inside
  • ·         Double check that the evacuation centre you are going to will let you bring your animals, if it does not contact the Provincial Welfare Vet or a local rescue to find where your animals can go during the evacuation
  • ·         Leave early! If you are in an area that is under evacuation notice, move your animals out early so they can be safely cared for with less stress
  • ·         Ask for help! If you cannot transport the animals you have, ask for help and ask early!

Care-In-Place: there will be times that individuals and communities leave their animals behind to have ‘care-in-place’ provided for them.  This situation relies on volunteers to check on animals left behind after the people are evacuated.  Make their job easier using some of these steps:
  • ·         Put up your “Animal In House” sign so they know it is a house with animals (these are a free download here and here)
  • ·         Leave a list of animals, names and any special needs they may have
  • ·         Ensure that they have adequate food
  • ·         Do not leave any animals behind that are: pregnant, with very small newborns, having recently had surgery or otherwise need constant care as this is not the job of care-in–place volunteers. Make arrangements for them in advance and evacuate them early.
  • ·         Animals which are dangerous, aggressive or threaten caregivers may be removed by animal control for everyone’s safety, be sure to notify caregivers if any animals have issues that can be dealt with before an issue arises

If you feel any animals are in danger, have been left behind without care or have other welfare concerns or questions about flood preparations please call the Provincial Welfare Vet at 945-8000, Animal CARE Line.  If you are outside of Manitoba, call your local ALERT or CARE line for assistance.  Link up with your Rescue groups on Facebook, in Manitoba we have the Manitoba Emergency Response For Animals (MERA) which is looking for volunteers but also will be helping with animals during the flood.