Intro (from admin): these are the personal experiences of one volunteer/staffer (thank you). They highlight the culture amongst some animal shelters of actively rejecting and shunning the opinions of volunteers and employees who seek to improve animal welfare. These people have the welfare of the animals at heart and are forced to speak out. Their honesty and integrity compels them to voice their opinions, which often badly affects their employment. It is an example of what happens as described by Elisa in her gagging contracts article, which has proved to be popular.
When I was 18, I started volunteering at my local animal shelter. My family didn’t have any pets & I loved dogs, so I wanted to be around them. As an 18 year old, I took great responsibility to be there every week on time, made sure the dogs were cared for & loved, and that the kennels were clean. As I grew more confident in my knowledge of the shelter and care of animals, I started to speak up against the policies they had in place. I wanted to see more people foster, I wanted to showcase the dogs that had been there for a year or more, I wanted to see the sick dogs being taken to the vet, I wanted to take one of the two “offices” and make it into a “quarantine” room for the sick animals. The more I spoke up, the more town meetings I went to, the less they liked me. Finally, someone came up with some reason to get me to quit. After two years, countless fundraising and hundreds of hours spent (and also adopting one of their senior dogs), they kicked me out.
A few years later, I got a job at a shelter in Chicago. It was a private place, run by a few women who had money. I was just “shelter staff” which meant I cleaned the kennels, walked the dogs, administered meds, etc. At first I thought it was the greatest place ever, but it wasn’t too long before I realized that politics and pride had too much to do at this place. One of the biggest pet peeves that I have is when adoption counselors judge people by their cover. So many times, at both rescues, did people come in and “seemed great!” so they just handed them a dog. The dog would come back a few weeks/months later because it wasn’t a good fit. Or we’d find the dog at animal control because the people didn’t have a yard and he’d roam. I hated that the dogs became statistics in my colleagues eyes. In a good and bad way, people became so overwhelmed with saving as many as they could that they would adopt out to almost anyone. To me, that is just as bad as not adopting the dog out right away.
I spoke my mind to my shelter manager, and I could tell she was getting angry. I was infuriated with the way she was running things, and everyone could tell. She wrote me up for stupid stuff, and finally, she told me that “volunteers were complaining that I was rude and that just can’t happen” so I was fired. The only time I was fired and it was at a dog rescue.