I was deeply saddened by the unbalanced and grossly misleading article by Annys Shin, “Heel Thyself” (3/26). As an animal lover, I simply cannot understand why anyone would write a vicious article with the aim of undermining an organization that is trying to help those without a voice—the animals of the District of Columbia. The Washington Humane Society has always been run on a shoestring, held together by caring individuals who work for extremely low pay, facing a city with thousands of abused, neglected, and abandoned animals (but also, luckily, with caring individuals who adopt many animals into loving homes).
As a former volunteer, I have the greatest admiration for Humane Society employees, especially the humane officers, who frequently risk their own personal safety to save animals from abuse. This article will ultimately harm the animals, because people will be less likely to visit the shelter (which is always uplifting for me, because I know the dogs there are finally taken care of by people who care), and will harm fundraising efforts (which the Humane Society depends upon greatly).
As a former volunteer with the Washington Humane Society, I’ve seen the very best from animals and the very worst from the public. I’ve seen countless purebreds, puppies, and abused animals, and have watched the staff spend time with these animals, giving them affection and a gentle touch. Many staff members foster animals in their own homes, combining their job with volunteer work as foster caregivers. Staff members work long hours, for low pay, in less than satisfactory conditions, because they want to help animals. They have seen the worst of people—and for those who don’t care about animals: It’s proven that those who abuse animals also abuse people.
The former oversight officer in the article sounded as if she were more interested in obstructing animal welfare and turning the shelter into the outdated idea of the “dog catcher” or “pound” than the humane shelters that are the model and are becoming the norm in our country.
Every year, 17 million dogs and cats are killed in shelters across the United States. These animals are put to sleep because overpopulation is so great that shelters do not have the space to house them until they are adopted. The Washington Humane Society uses volunteer foster homes for as many dogs as they can. Until people stop overbreeding, “getting rid” of unwanted animals as they would a shirt or inanimate object, and abusing animals, the shelter will unfortunately not have enough space. Because, unlike no-kill shelters, the Humane Society’s takes in every animal, the organization has to humanely euthanize some. I know the kind, caring people who work at the shelter, and this is awful for them, but there is not a current alternative. (They do, of course, spay/neuter all adopted animals to cut down on overpopulation, and have education programs.)
What is wrong with cutting through a fence when one sees animals in wretched conditions? I think not acting would be unconscionable. What’s wrong with allowing the dogs to be blood donors for the Friendship Hospital for Animals? People donate blood. It would not harm the dogs, and it would help others.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, more than 70 percent of animals that enter shelters are euthanized every year to make room for new, daily arrivals.
I hope your article doesn’t make the work of the Washington Humane Society even harder. It is sad that the misleading sensationalism of the article may influence the fate of innocent animals and those who sacrifice so much to try to make things better for them.