Many of us have seen the Human Society of the United States (HSUS) heart-wrenching commercial showing homeless and caged shelter animals, with the sad Sarah McGlachlan song playing in the background. Anyone who cares about the welfare of animals cannot helped but be moved by that commercial, to the extent that I have to quickly change the channel when it comes on, as it makes me that sad.
Of course, showing the plight of the animals and pulling our heart strings is the purpose of the commercial, because it drives us to donate. The sad part about HSUS and other organizations like it, however, is that the donated money by in large does not make it to those poor creatures they show on TV. Instead, most of that money goes to pay lobbyists and attorneys to push for legislation that you may or may not agree with; yet the actual HSUS shelters have canine and feline euthanasia rates that range from 50%-80%. Those are very sad statistics for an organization that raises so much money.
In contrast, many smaller, local rescue groups engage in much more transparent and judicious use of donation dollars, that actually effectively lowers euthanasia rates and save animal lives. A recent, wonderful example of this that I had the pleasure to encounter is Friends for Animal Sanctuary, located right here in the Florida Space Coast where I live and practice veterinary medicine.
Run by their selfless, passionate leader, Katherine Johnson, Friends for Animals Sanctuary raises money through a thrift shop staffed with local volunteers, as well as direct donations and a gala they throw once per year. Every dollar raised is accounted for on a white board in the thrift shop for all to see, as the transparent use of money raised is a high priority in the organization and mandated by their director. Through the help of volunteer foster families throughout Brevard County and veterinarians that offer discounted services, Friends for Animals Sanctuary rehabilitates sick, injured, abandoned animals and finds them homes.
I had the privilege of attending this year’s gala, as well as speaking with Katherine Johnson one-on-one, and learned of her organization’s ultimate goal of constructing a No Kill animal sanctuary for all manner of animals, from dogs and cats, to horses and livestock. They have gotten over a big hurdle by attaining land, 80% of its value, donated by a generous, animal-loving landowner who was moved by this organization.
Katherine shared with me, that she plans to let this shelter be the model for others to go up in other areas of the country, creating a national movement of compassion, places for abandoned innocents to go without the threat of euthanasia should they not get adopted in a certain period of time. She envisions school trips to these sanctuaries to educate children on proper care of their new ”best friends,” and the responsibility they have when they choose to adopt a pet.
Even if you do not call the Florida home, such movements must be successful locally before they can spread nationally. Saving innocents in one part of the country is no more valuable than saving them elsewhere. I implore you to visit the FFAS website to learn how you can help:
“The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne, FL, Chief Editor of the Veterinary Advice and Information Website, Web-DVM, and founder/CEO of Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care