As the movement to end shelter killing has grown in size and sophistication, the networking made possible through the internet and social media has allowed animal lovers to connect the dots between individual cases of animal cruelty and neglect in shelters nationwide. These incidents reveal a distinct pattern. Animal abuse at local shelters is not an isolated anomaly caused by “a few bad apples.” The stunning number and severity of these cases nationwide lead to one disturbing and inescapable conclusion: our shelters are in crisis.

Frequently overseen by ineffective and incompetent directors who fail to hold their staff accountable to the most basic standards of humane care, animal shelters in this country are not the safe havens they should and can be. Instead, they are often poorly managed houses of horror, places where animals are denied basic medical care, food, water, socialization and are then killed, sometimes cruelly. The first time many companion animals experience neglect and abuse is when they enter the very place that is supposed to deliver them from it: the local animal shelter.

It is a tragic story true to cities and towns across this nation. And the large national animal protection organizations are as much to blame as the individual shelter directors themselves. For decades they have perpetuated the fiction that all is well in our nation’s shelters. They have assured us that they are overseeing these organizations, providing guidance and assistance to make sure they are run humanely and effectively: through their shelter assessments, their national conferences and their publications for sheltering professionals. In reality, they have ignored abuse, failed to create substantive standards by which to measure success and hold directors accountable and remained deafeningly silent regarding the cases of abuse occurring at shelters nationwide. In short, they have failed us. We trusted them, content to write them checks to do the job while we looked the other way because the “experts” were in charge, and in so doing, have allowed our shelters to remain virtually unsupervised and unregulated for decades, with devastating results. But not anymore.

As animal lovers nationwide turn their attention to their local shelters and uncover not only the needless killing of animals occurring there but frequently neglect and abuse as well, we are doing what the large, national groups have refused to: exposing to the American public how cruel and dysfunctional our animal shelters really are. As headlines in papers throughout the nation highlight this crisis and our cause, we are changing the climate of public opinion in which our large, national groups must operate. In the face of so much evidence of abuse and neglect, they can no longer pretend all is well. Kicking and screaming against their will, we are forcing these organizations to finally admit that problems exist.

But admitting to problems is not the same thing as working to fixing them. In fact, they continue to argue that the cause of this neglect, abuse and killing is the same one they have always blamed: the American public. And they continue to assert, along with other organizations such as Maddie’s Fund, that we can transform our nation’s shelters though friendly collaboration, even when shelter directors refuse, time and time again, to collaborate with us.

As the rest of us mount campaigns for reform through effective political advocacy, as we seek state and local laws to limit the unfettered discretion of shelter directors to kill, and as we work push the lifesaving envelope even further, what is the solution to shelter killing offered to us by multimillion dollar animal protection organizations? Their cutting edge solution to shelter abuse? Pastries. Show up at a shelter with baked goods, such as donuts and cupcakes, and then they will finally listen to what you have to say, they will implement your recommendations with integrity, and they will stop killing animals. According to these groups, it’s that simple.

The Hidden Meaning of Pastries

Imagine going to a shelter that kills 9 out of ten animals, one staffed by sadistic employees who puts animals of different species into the gas chamber so they can watch them fight before turning on the gas. Now imagine that when you arrive, you have accidentally brought a basket of cookies (meaning: “Thank you for killing”) when you should have shown up with a dozen donuts (meaning “Please stop killing.”) Make sure this never happens to you! Following is a handy guide that will prevent you from making a pastry faux pas when approaching the neglectful, abusive staff of your local shelter.

Pastry: Donut

Meaning: “Please stop killing animals”

Source: Maddie’s Fund

Does the shelter in your community kill healthy and treatable animals? When rescue groups call or email offering to help them save lives, do they ignore it, choosing to kill the very animals those groups offered to save? The solution? Take them donuts! According to an article posted on the Maddie’s Fund website,

“Email or call the animal control director and ask if you can come by for a short talk. He won’t answer your call or email? Stop by with a couple dozen donuts and see if you can catch him in his office. If you get to talk to him, great; if not, leave your business card with your cell phone number asking him to call you. Leave the donuts and spend some time talking to whoever you can, taking care not to get in the way of their work.”

Yes, be sure to not get in the way of their work. Bring treats, be brief, and then get the hell out of the way because they are busy killing animals.

Pastry: Cupcake

Meaning: “Can’t We All Just Get Along?”

Source: HSUS

In North Carolina, advocates expressed concern to HSUS that their local shelter was killing seven out of 10 animals and doing so in one of the most brutal ways possible: by shoving them into a chamber, filling it with carbon monoxide, and then watching animals slowly die while they threw themselves against the side, went into convulsions, or frantically scratched at the door to escape. HSUS’ response? Shelter staff have a right to neglect, abuse and kill animals because people are critical of them:

“We cannot treat our shelter staff badly and expect them to be their best and care for the animals. It’s not fair.”

According to FixNC, HSUS believes that “If your pound staff is callous, uncaring, negligent or even downright cruel to the animals that have been entrusted into their care by taxpayers, it’s because people aren’t nice to them. They have every right to take it out on the animals.” You need to get along!

According to HSUS,

“I can’t tell you just how far it goes to just stop at the shelter with some cupcakes or cookies if you have an issue and say ‘let’s just chat.’”

Please note: HSUS is wrong. Cupcakes might mean we should all get along, but cookies have an altogether different meaning (see below).

Pastry: Cookie

Meaning: “Thank you for killing”

Source: PETA

When Shelby County, Kentucky officials announced they would start killing again after four years as a No Kill shelter, PETA sent them vegan cookies, with a note thanking them for their decision: “Thank you for doing the right thing” wrote PETA. (Thankfully, the community ignored PETA’s intention and found homes for the animals instead, giving the cookies to adopters and rescuers who saved all the animals PETA wanted them to kill. They remain No Kill.) If you hate animals and want them to die as much as Ingrid Newkirk and PETA do, sending a gift basket of cookies means “Thank you for killing.”

Shelter Reform for Serious Advocates

This, of course, was meant to be sarcastic. Why? Because how can we possibly take these organizations seriously? Willfully ignoring the solid brick wall the majority of No Kill advocates run head-long into when they try to reform their local shelters, the large national groups offer neither constructive guidance nor assistance, but an invitation to join them in Neverland—a fantasy world where shelters are run by good-hearted people who care about animals and can be convinced to embrace lifesaving innovation if we just sweeten the deal with a few pastries.

If you find that reform by pastries fails to deliver the results you are seeking (and you will), the No Kill Advocacy Center, an organization which truly cares, has a No Kill Advocate’s Toolkit, the only proven way to give our nation’s shelter directors their just desserts.

Learn more by clicking here.

For further reading:

We all want the same thing – but some need dessert too.


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