A photograph of a queue of people outside a Texas animal shelter, BARC, published on Facebook went viral. On 27th June 2017, an organisation, Special Needs Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation (SNARR), said that it showed a line of people surrendering their pets and that the all animals would be put down. The description was graphic and no doubt intended to highlight the unacceptable level of pet surrenders at animal rescue shelters.
“I want you all to take a good look at this photo. And then share the hell out of it.
This is the line at the Houston, Texas city shelter today [27 June 2017] to surrender animals. These dogs and cats are about to be DUMPED the face a death sentence…..”
Subsequently, a couple of large websites, snopes.com and onegreenplanet.com became involved to discover the truth behind the photograph. Snopes.com actually tracked down one of the people in the queue and asked questions. After some excellent research they concluded that statistically around 14% of the animals in the photograph were likely to be euthanised. This is in stark contrast to the allegations made by SNARR.
One aspect of the story is that the events unfolded on 27 June 2017, not long before fourth of July celebrations. On the one hand, we had people effectively killing their pets and on the other hand we have people about to enjoy themselves in the sun during celebrations. On the face of it, it presented a harsh criticism of the human race.
SNARR it would seem exaggerated things to make a point but the truth isn’t that good either.
Snopes.com came to the conclusion that 52 out of 211 animals (a quarter of the animals) were brought to the shelter on that day by their owners to be surrendered. Twice as many were actually strays or lost dogs.
However, what struck me as surprising is that Snopes.com impliedly defends these pet owners in the queue despite the fact that a quarter of them are surrendering their pets. I would have thought that one quarter is a very high percentage indeed. I don’t think it is a statistic which should be brushed aside and by implication to be seen as acceptable. There is a case to criticise pet owners in this photo. That point needs to be made because it is said that such a queue can be seen across America in very many shelters. If that is the case then there as far as I am concerned there is a very high level of animal surrenders.
This viral photograph also tells us that animal advocates must be particularly cautious when making their point. They cannot exaggerate and they cannot mislead the public no matter how passionate they are about animal rights and animal advocacy. Eventually they will be found out and it will undermine their argument.