Yesterday morning, I read a news article on my local news website and it depressed me. In my town, there is an animal shelter that has been under the care of one woman (the owner) (and very few volunteers) for 29 years. The news article alleged that the owner of the shelter had been abusing the animals, and the sad part is, I can believe that is true. I also read a little bit of the Facebook page that discusses the incident, and there are a lot of mixed opinions floating around.
I volunteered at the shelter briefly in 2005 because I was working on a high school project. I met the shelter’s owner, and came away with mixed impressions. I’m not the best judge of people, and I don’t particularly like judging people because I am nearly always wrong in my estimations. It seemed to me that the shelter’s owner deeply cared for the animals and had their best interests at heart, but she was reluctant to accept much help from volunteers… or even let them inside the shelter. I know there are tons of good people in my town who would love to spend time at the shelter every day in order to feed, water, walk, socialize, and clean the animals.
The shelter owner seemed quite suspicious of volunteers or of those who want to adopt an animal; and yes, I can understand her reasons for suspicion: not everyone who wants to volunteer or adopt an animal is doing it for the good of animals. There are bad people out there. But suspicion crosses a line at a certain point: if the shelter owner is reluctant to let people volunteer or let them inside the shelter to visit and possibly adopt an animal, then that creates the illusion that maybe something isn’t right with the shelter.
I’ve been in there. It’s not the cleanest place in the world, and shelters, by their very nature, aren’t going to be. But I felt that if the shelter was adequately staffed with volunteers (and I firmly believe there would be no shortage of them in my town; people want to help, but they are put off by the owner’s demeanor and suspicions), it would run quite well and many animals would find homes. The shelter owner insists upon doing it all herself, and she is there day in and day out. She never takes a vacation. It’s OK to be protective of the animals, and to make sure they’re going into good hands, but when your protectiveness stops you from getting the help you need to run the place, there’s something wrong.
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. There’s no denying that the shelter owner has good intentions. Yes, it’s true that she cares for the animals and has given 29 years of her life to them. But there’s a difference between good intentions and actual harm that could be done. I’m not saying that the shelter owner is abusing the animals because I don’t know. Yes, I volunteered there, but all the facts were not laid out before me. It seemed that she creates an atmosphere where people could easily be led to believe that something is wrong… and it also seems to me, that, if she really had the best interests of the animals in mind, she would be a bit more willing to trust that other people had the best interests of the animals in mind, too.
In any event, the owner is retiring in June and the animals in the shelter will be sent off to other shelters around the area. Plus, there’s going to be a big adoption event. Perhaps in June, the truth (whether it be good or bad) will come out.