This is part of our Saturday Editorial Series. Normally, we let the dogs do all of the talking on our daily dog blog. Catch us every weekday at www.2travelingdogs.com and on our podcast on iTunes and Stitcher.
I learned a very hard lesson the past month. I wanted to think that I did not care what others thought of my stand for animals and animal rescue. I wanted to think that those with different opinions on the issue mutually respected my views as well. But the lesson I learned was that there is much room for improvement. If we don’t work on this, I think it will have dire consequences for not only those who are animal rescue advocates, but breeders as well.
So here’s the deal. About a month ago, an article that I wrote, “Why It Hurts Me When A Friend Buys A Pet” went viral. The article was being shared on many social media channels, and at first, I was excited. I was happy that others would maybe think about another take on the effects of what we do and how it affects even our closest family and friends. You see, I am not naive to the fact that this blog and our audience give us a platform to get our views out there, and I take it seriously. As strong as I feel about animal rescue, and as hard as I feel that we have worked to promote it the past two years, I also feel strongly that others have a right to their opinion. Although, I will tell you right now. I will never agree with it. No, not even a little.
But what surprised me the most about people who read this article was the fact that they felt so strongly about their “side” that they felt it necessary to send me a hateful email, or to leave such hateful comments on the article that we had to remove them. I hate removing comments, because I feel everyone who takes the time to voice their view deserves to be heard. But you cannot be heard if you are bullying or threatening. However, the hateful comments did not just come from the breeding supporters, but from the animal rescue advocates as well. I have always realized that animal rescue is a very emotional subject. It also is very personal. Maybe we have a pet that came from bad circumstances that we had to work very hard at helping. Maybe some of us work in shelters or at rescues who see the plight of animals on a daily basis. Yes, your emotions are very attached to this issue. Mine are as well. Giving up everything in my life to travel the country for two years visiting shelters and rescues was hard. Seeing the effects that my Digby Pancake still deals with, having been bred a hunting dog is hard. So yeah, my emotions as well as yours may be very deeply invested. But then. What is the other side?
For many “reputable” breeders, they believe that their favorite breed needs to be protected for future generations, or that a “well-bred” dog is perhaps better suited to be a service dog. I will leave my personal feelings aside on this, but I will mention that a very close friend of mine is a breeder. She is one of the only people in the world that I trust enough to care for Brickle and Digby on those rare occasions we have to leave them. And although our views on breeding could not be more different, we mutually do not invalidate the other’s stand. I see her point of view, although I cannot agree with it. And she also contributes to the rescue community by networking her favorite breed she finds in shelters to potential adopters. We have had conversations on the issue, and both of us feel very intimately invested in our “side”. I know that I will probably never change her opinion, and she certainly won’t change mine. But do I believe that she is a bad person? Absolutely not. Does she believe I am a bad person because I don’t agree with her view? I certainly don’t believe so. But as strongly as we feel, we have never had a heated argument or threatened each other. So why is this acceptable to do online? I certainly won’t allow any place for it on our media platforms. I have worked too hard to promote rescue in a fun way to let it go down a path of negativity. So this will be the one and only time I address this. I have work to do.
One thing that both sides will probably agree on is that fact that we want all dogs and animals to have a wonderful life and a home. Where I think that agreement starts to divide is what causes the animals in our shelter system to be there in the first place. If we have animals that need homes, why are we producing more? I have to question what each of us holds valuable. Our own wants (a specific breed or trait or age of an animal) or truly the best “big picture” for millions of animals.
Do I recognize that the shelter systems in place and the rescues have to improve on their way of doing things in an efficient and productive manner? Of course. I have spoken on this topic before. I see people that are denied adoptions for trivial reasons. I see policies put into place that do not make sense for the animals or the community they are trying to serve. I see animal rescuers experiencing burn out and stress. I see well intentioned rescuers hoard animals, or get in over their heads. So yes, I see the need. The need for improvement on all sides. But we have to agree on this. Until there is a joining together, rationally and effectively, the problems that exist will never improve. Can they improve? I have to tell you. Honestly, I have my doubts. I wish I didn’t. But I won’t stop trying.
What I do know that can be changed, starting today, right now, is the way we talk to each other on this issue. Respect that someone else may have a different opinion than your own, but also don’t give up for what you believe is right. Speak with an educated reason as to why you feel the way that you do. Give examples, be kind and expect that someone may disagree with you. That is ok. But never think that you have the right, even if you get as angry as I do sometimes when I see the mistreatment of animals, to demean or bully. Likely, the person you are talking to did not cause that mistreatment directly. Remember that.
As a close family member of mine adopted some rescue animals recently, I went to visit them.
I was a little surprised though. They had purchased a specific breed of donkeys as well. I found myself being judgmental right away. And I did take it a little bit personal. That was wrong. I admit it. But I knew it was not the donkey’s fault. And it didn’t change the way I loved my family. I had to realize there were other animals that needed me to fight and advocate for them. These donkeys deserved love and a home. They knew nothing about “animal rescue.”
We cannot win every battle. We cannot change the world by ourselves. And I cannot judge. Positivity and example says more than any words you could utter.
Hatred has no place in animal rescue. The more time we waste arguing and bullying, the less time there is to spend with our dogs. Or donkeys. Enough said.
-Rachael Johnson, Owner and Girl Person of 2 Traveling Dogs and Your Dog’s Diner
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