It has taken me several months to post this. Something awful happened. It happened when I first started working at the humane society. This was before I started asking myself “What would Hawkeye do?” Before I realized that some people take a job for a title, not passion. A transaction that a friend once teased me about us doing that we actually in fact do. I used to resist and say to my friend, “No, we don’t do things like that.” But after this happened it turns out he was right. We trade and swap animals for people. Like cars, or shoes, or any other material item.
Several months ago we had a Hispanic couple come in searching for a new dog. They went on a visit with a very nice dog by the name of Charlie. When they were done visiting they told me, “Okay we are ready to trade in our dog for this one.” Not batting an eye they just looked at me. I stared back thinking, “What the fuck?” But instead I said, “ You want to trade in the dog? Like a car?” Their response was, “Yes.”
What made the situation even worse was my manager’s response. Outraged instead of just lying to them and saying we don’t do that like I should of, I took the case to my boss. I showed him what these people wrote on their surrender form, “There is nothing wrong with our dog, we just like the other one better. We want to trade.” I asked if we could please make them wait a day or even a week. We have no policy that stops people from surrendering and adopting in the same day.
“No.” he said. “We have to put our emotions aside. This is the way those type of people think.”
First of all, besides the racism behind his comment even if this is how a culture views dogs it does not make it right. One cannot state, “Oh it is my culture.” And then continue to cock or dog fight. But being open admissions means we are open adoptions. It was at this response I truly stopped believing in the people I work for. It was sad, but true. I think after a certain point people who work here either stop feeling or they never came here for the right reasons in the first place. They came here to get that title: Executive Director, Director of Operations or Shelter Manager. They aren’t there for the animals. If they did come for the animals, after a year or so they become broken and cruelty washes over them like a wave.
Even though we are open admissions I don’t see why we can’t restrict adoptions. A simple application would do. But we don’t, because there are too many dogs and cats. It’s mind boggling to get 20 cats in on the same day and you have no open kennels. Some of my new coworkers just don’t get it when they first arrive. We get the call from someone saying I have 10 cats I want to surrender. A coworker will look at me and say, “But we have no open kennels. Can we start doubling up?” My eyes say it all. “No. No room means no life.” So my bosses believe that open adoptions is the answer. But I can’t help but see that it is part of the problem. Adopting out animals to people who aren’t going to take care of them is not a solution. It is a temporary fix to get animals out of the shelter. Years past and the animals that went to bad homes either die of neglect or are returned for whatever reasons. Is being put down better than a shitty owner? It is the one question I ask myself daily. On that day for that dog, I would of answered yes. Owning an animal is not a right it is a privilege. Unfortunately not everyone sees it that way. I went to talk to a friend yesterday who has worked there for a couple of years. He said to me quite profoundly “Don’t you every feel like we are the rats on the sinking ship who refused to jump. Every one else around us has jumped but we insist that we can make it. That we can save the ship. What does that say about us?”
I am not really sure what it said about me that I have continued to stay. I have no respect for my boss. Some day this will cause me to quit. Ever since this transaction it has caused me to fight a little harder, to break the rules a little more. I have no backing from my highest superior, so my coworkers and I have, when we can, make our own rules. I tried bringing it up with the executive director. They don’t want to see this change. Why they don’t change this I am not sure. My only guess is because they don’t see it. They don’t deal with it. They don’t know the dog or cat or guinea pig. They are just animals in some abstract form or number. How do you change policy you don’t like if your bosses don’t want to hear it? My answer. Don’t follow it. And try your best not get caught.