Why Is Tazewell ARC So Confrontational With Pet Owners Who Make Bad Choices?

Nowhere is written—nor should it be—that animal welfare organizations are required on any level to rescue without judgment. A despicable act is a despicable act, and to regard it as anything else is a grave disservice to the animals harmed by it. The only permanent cure for this sort of thing is accountability. For many years animal welfare agencies have rescued in silence, fearful that a wrong word to an owner will result in a roadside dump. . .or worse. Has it worked? No. We’re only seeing change in parts of the country where communities hold abusers and irresponsible pet owners accountable both criminally and socially.

Fear that confrontation will result in more dumps and more animal deaths is a mentality that has prevailed in this area for years. It has accomplished absolutely nothing. Animals are still being set out by the hundreds. That is not the mentality embraced by major national organizations like the ASPCA or the No-Kill Coalition. It’s an outdated philosophy with a proven track record of failure. The only thing that has been proven to work is direct approach, education, and enforcement. And more often than not, those three things result in outrage and fits of self-righteous indignation from the people who get stung by the truth about their behavior.

There’s an old adage that states the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. If a subset of society (i.e. Tazewell County) has spent the last several decades quietly impounding and killing dogs and cats, saying nothing to taxpayers about kill rates and nothing to owners who glibly dump their animals at our local kill shelter, yet our stray and dumped animal rates are some of the highest in the nation, is the old method of strategic silence working?

Certainly, some animals will pay the price if their owners’ feet are held to the fire. But how many have already paid the price because silence and the lack of action by our community has implied acceptance of the practices that harm them? Over the long term, many, many more animals will pay a far worse price if society fails to define limits of acceptable behavior. And we do that how? Accountability, education, and enforcement.

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