The needle of bureaucracy

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I'd like to think that we, as animal advocates, are all working for one common goal … to save the lives of abandoned and neglected animals.   

But sometimes it doesn't seem that way.

Bureaucracy at its finest: Case #1

On April 20, a story on Local 10 about a dog that was hit by both a car and a train on the same day introduced me to two of the finest animal advocates in Broward County. They also happen to be animal control officers.

You know the stereotype of the animal control officer taking the unsuspecting animal and carting him off to the pound to face a certain death?

These two blew that stereotype out of its cage.

I consider them to be one of the best assets that Broward County Animal Care and Adoption has to offer. And in my efforts to help gather support for the shelter, I thought an article highlighting the compassion shown by their employees would help offset the otherwise negative opinions people have of animal shelters in general.

Because animal control officers work for the county, I asked permission to interview them.

My request, however, was denied.

"I have spoken to our Director and she feels that while we don't often get stories as dramatic as this, all of our Field staff go the extra mile to save a dog or cat that they may encounter," wrote Lisa Mendheim, BCAC's Public Education Coordinator. "Additionally, saving Miracle the Dog was a team effort on behalf of all staff that tended to her during her time here. Given this, we prefer to keep the focus on adopting dogs and cats.  While all of our pets may not have a dramatic a story, they still come to us with a past and need the community's support to give them a bright future."

I get it dozens of other caring individuals work at the shelter. I get it that saving animals is a team effort. But I doubt that any of the staff members involved in helping Miracle the dog through her ordeal would have minded an article that used the person responsible for initially bringing her in as a springboard to the bigger story -- the hundreds of animals in the shelter that are looking for good homes.

I expressed my disappointment in an e-mail response:

"Using these officers as examples of the compassion of the staff at the shelter would have created a lot of community support, and gotten a lot of animals adopted.  My intent was not to single them out at the expense of others on the staff who work tirelessly 24/7. My article would have provided a fresh, new approach to rallying support from our community for our homeless pets – rather than sending the same old message of "don't forget the shelter if you're looking for a new pet."

Sadly, that article will never be written.

Bureaucracy at its finest: Case #2

"I am so frustrated right now I could scream," wrote Local 10 viewer Phyllis June Rinis Myers via a Facebook message after she'd tried to adopt two dogs -- one from a local shelter, another from a rescue group -- and had been getting the runaround.

"All these homeless dogs for adoption. I have great references, have pets that are well socialized, vetted, have their shots, etc. They are like my children, but the rescue group and shelter make it so difficult for you to open your home and heart," she said.

It's not the first time I've heard this complaint.

Animal shelters and rescue groups are doing the responsible thing by screening potential adoptive pet parents. The animals in rescue are an easy target for those who want to "adopt" them for less than compassionate reasons. In addition, many rescue organizations are run by volunteers who have full time jobs that don't allow them the luxury of answering every phone call the minute it comes in. So, what may have seemed like the runaround was simply the result of people trying to do the right thing.

But that's not always the case.

There's an undercurrent of snobbishness in some rescue organizations that troubles me.

I once called a rescue organization on behalf of a Local 10 viewer who was trying to adopt a cat from them. She had ask me to recommend a group from which she could adopt, and since they were not returning her calls, she thought I might be able to expedite the process.

After several days of e-mailing back and forth, trying to set a time for a phone call, I was finally able to speak to someone at the rescue group. They also informed me that they had an attorney on the line monitoring the phone call. Turns out, the delay in getting back to me was to accommodate the attorney's schedule.

I wonder how many cats were euthanized during the time it took that lawyer to find the time to talk to me. And why would a lawyer be necessary in the first place?

"Shame on those who gave me a hard time," Rinis Myers said.


Bureaucracy at its finest: Case #3

While I am a great supporter of animal groups and the people who run them, I sometimes find that instead of supporting one another, they get caught up in fighting over petty differences. Their passion for animals clouds their thinking and takes the focus off of where it should be -- on the animals they are trying to save.

I encourage everyone in our animal rescue community to find ways to work together, despite their differences.

Let's stop the needle of bureaucracy before it euthanizes any more of the very animals we are trying to save.