Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Building Humane Communities: Facing the Facts

Let’s face it – until our culture undergoes a radical change in attitudes towards our relationship with animals:

  • There will never be enough homes for all the unwanted animals discarded by human society.
  • Communities will remain full of people who consider dogs, cats, and other animals, to be chattel not worth the consideration given to a worn out bicycle and not even close to the value of an automobile.
  • Power struggles over who’s right and who’s wrong will always veer to the side of those who have something financial or political to gain – never with those purely fighting for mercy, compassion, or morality.

This list could go on, but – you get the point. The point is that the welfare of the animals in our midst is not simply going to happen on its own.The desperately high rates of stray animals, abused animals, neglected animals, homeless animals, and euthanasia will not decline on its own. No matter how many no-kill rescues there are, there will still be far too many homeless and ill-tended animals as long as our societal attitudes about animals remains as it is.

Legally, animals are property.  In the Virginia 2011 legislative session, animals gained slight protection from an owner’s abusive partner only by their inclusion as “property” akin to a piece of furniture or equipment (HB 1716).  This is a troublesome, though currently necessary, reality.  The more we understand and grapple with this fact, the better able we will be to work with it effectively.

Legislatively, animal laws are far too weak and too vague to provide significant protection for animals at the mercy of an “owner” or retailer who is too uneducated, too lazy, too greedy, too ill-tempered, or simply too un-caring to provide proper care for the animal.  The better we understand the current laws, why they exist and how they are used,the better we’ll be able to help shape and build these laws to make them truly effective.

Administratively, counties and cities have high-priority concerns and financial needs that precede those of animal welfare such that little to nothing is left when it comes to animal issues and animal law enforcement – UNLESS the community residents demand it.   The animals have no defense but in us.  They depend on us to demand that our administrations enforce the laws that protect them. And the well-being of our communities depends on us to demand enforcement of animal laws that protect residents from stray, feral, dangerous, and unvaccinated animals.  In order to do this, we must first learn how our administrations address animal management – both sheltering and law enforcement; what laws they follow (or do not follow), what resources are available to help them, and who are the responsible and accountable players.

Morally – well, communities have a tough time with moral issues and responsibilities.  And sadly, communities of faith often seem to lose site of the fact that animals are God’s creatures too and find it easier to leave such challenging issues as animal welfare unchallenged.  Each of us can bring our knowledge and faith in the value and worth of God’s non-human creatures into focus in our own religious and spiritual communities and thus, help to spread our awareness of the importance of including our respect for animals in our moral and spiritual development.

Without your voice and your active, ongoing involvement and support -- dogs will continue to die in hot cars while the owners that locked them there go un-punished; cats will continue to over-populate in feral colonies and suffer from disease and hunger;  puppies and kittens will continue to be born to worn out, emaciated , sickly mothers;  millions of animals will die slow, premature deaths of neglect while languishing on a chain or under a shed in someone’s backyard – unseen, unheard, unloved. 

With your voice, this sad reality can be transformed.  As you and others like you become actively involved in learning about animal management practices in your neighborhood and community and learning to speak out amongst your friends, family, church congregation, and community about your concerns for the welfare of animals in your community, problems will find solutions, hearts will open up, people who care will step up to support each other, lives will be saved, tragedies averted, misery turned into joy, mountains will be moved.  Thus is the process of building humane communities. 

I hope this blog may help provide windows to the relevant issues of local animal welfare, and reveal opportunities available to those in Central Virginia willing and ready to learn about animal care and animal advocacy. Please share this information freely!

To find out how we can help or how you can become involved in our programs, call us at 540-967-0999, visit our web site at,  or email us at

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