It is the start of a New Year and you might be thinking about what you can do to help animals in need this year. Sometimes, we put aside money to donate to good causes, and causes that help animals are close to my heart.
During the holidays, we see advertisements on television that tug at our heartstrings. We are bombarded with pictures of abused and neglected animals that need medical attention and quality care and a loving home. This is a sad reality. And then we are hit with appeals to send our money to organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Unfortunately, HSUS, and many other large national organizations do very little to help the animals in the situations they depict.
By now, most informed people know what PeTA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is about. Their leaders have publically declared that they don't believe that any animals should be kept as pets and that they believe in a world where humans and animals have no interaction whatsoever. They euthanize the vast majority of the animals that they do take in, and they do so willingly, believing that animals are better off dead than as pets.
What people often do not know is that over time, people with these types of beliefs have infiltrated other organizations - organizations that used to be legitimate animal welfare organizations. They have gotten their people on the Board of Directors of these organizations and eventually into leadership positions, turning these organizations from animal welfare organizations to animal rights organizations. This is what has happened to HSUS. Most of their funds are spent on lobbyists and lawyers, and very little money actually goes to any shelters. Ask your local shelter if they receive any money or assistance from HSUS. They will probably laugh.
You might think that having more laws "protecting" animals is a good thing, but the truth is that, in most cases, there are already laws protecting the animals - there is just not enough manpower to enforce them. Making laws that are stricter and harder to comply with doesn't help most of the animals, it just makes it harder for good honest people to keep their animals legally. Animal cruelty continues because people choose to break the law and don't fear getting caught. Adding more laws won't stop them. And this is the intention of the animal rights groups - to make it harder and harder to own/breed/rescue animals legally.
Sometimes the laws sound good on paper, but in practice, become overwhelming. For example, it might sound good to require a license for anyone to sell, trade, or give away an animal that was born in their home. However, what do you do if you purchased a pregnant rat and it gives birth and you need to rehome the babies, but you don't have a license? And situations often change once the law is created. The law can't change without going through the proper process, but the requirements for getting a license can often change without changing the law. So a license that might have once just required registration, may be changed later without any process, to require inspections and standards that one's personal home could never live up to. Often, laws don't specify the animals they apply to, and what is a good law for a dog might be a terrible law for a rat. For example, in Illinois, there is a law that a foster home can only keep a max of 4 animals at once. I am not sure if the law specifies a species, but if it does not, that makes it difficult to foster flock animals like a group of finches, and can make it hard to foster a litter of rats. There are a lot of ways a law can look good on the surface but ultimately have the effect of deterring pet ownership.
I am not writing this to get on a soap box and try to change your views. Those who support animal rights don't bother me. They believe in a cause and they fight for it and I believe in their right to do so. If you share those beliefs, I have no problem with you continuing to fight for them. I don't want to try to change your views any more than I want you to try to change mine. And you should continue to support organization like PeTA and HSUS who stand for your causes.
What I would like to do is make people aware of the agenda of organizations like HSUS. So many people donate in response to the ads they see on TV and think they are supporting one thing when in reality, they are often supporting an organization that is quietly fighting against their rights as animal owners. If what you want is to help the animals in need, donate directly to your local shelters and rescues who actually work hands on, every day, with those animals. You will do way more good for an animal in need if you go directly to the source.
Another thing to keep aware of is the use of "political correctness" when it comes to changing peoples perceptions on what is right and wrong. Animal rights groups try to introduce language into our vocabulary that ultimately intends to steer people toward their cause. For example, they try to get people to use the term guardian rather than owner. It sounds nice. I am the guardian of my rats and my dogs and my birds. I guard them. I protect them. They have their own rights and I am just looking after them. But I believe in animal ownership. There are good owners and there are bad owners, but ownership in general is not a bad thing. An owner also guards and protects, but an owner has something that a guardian doesn't have - ownership rights. That is not the right to hurt, abuse, or neglect an animal you own - these things are already illegal. Ownership grants me the legal right to continue to guard and protect my animals as long as I am not breaking any laws and am capable of continuing to do so. No one can take those animals away from me as long as I am keeping them legally in appropriate conditions. That right is important for the wellbeing of our animals. There are many cases where animals have been confiscated wrongly from their owners and euthanized before the owner could take action to get them back and defend themselves in court. Those rights are essential for protecting our ability to continue to keep pets in the future.
So, if you want to help animals that are homeless or ill and in need of medical attention and you don't want to jeopardize your right to own animals in the future, be sure to donate to your local shelters and rescues. I like to support rescues with 501-C3 status, as they must meet stringent guidelines to qualify. However, many private individuals do a lot of good work rescuing unwanted animals as well - but I would make sure I knew the people running the operation and was familiar with the work they do before I donate.