Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Saying Thanks Where It's Often Not Heard

This holiday season, I want to ask you to remember some people who rarely get the appreciation that they deserve. Each county in the Atlanta metro area has an animal control shelter. Most of the shelters don't have the staff and resources they need, and operate instead on a shoestring budget. The staff who work at these shelters see the worst in our community - the people who bring in their pets because they are no longer cute or healthy, the stray and abandoned animals picked up off the streets, and the inhumane cruelty cases of pets seized by the county because their owners have abused them. These shelters can't turn anyone away, and in this tough economy, there is rarely any space for incoming pets.

At every shelter, there are at least a few people who really care about the pets and want to see them leave the shelter and head to new homes. At many shelters, the whole staff is committed to saving as many pets as possible, and maintaining as high a quality of life for the pets in the facility as possible. The rescue coordinators at these shelters spend their days, and many of their evenings and weekends, desperately trying to find ways for pets to leave the shelters alive.

I have found that the workers at these shelters are all lumped into a stereotype of the uncaring "dog catcher" with no compassion or respect for the pets in their care. I'll be honest, I know at some shelters in Atlanta, that stereotype rings true. Those shelters deserve our attention to change the way the shelters are staffed and administered. But I honestly think those types of shelter workers are the exception. In my experience, most of the shelter workers in Atlanta are hardworking, compassionate people who would do anything to save the animals facing euthanasia in their shelters.

During this holiday season, take a moment to remember and appreciate the people that work at your county shelter. Tell them that you understand and appreciate the life and death decisions that they are forced to make every day. Take them a box of holiday cookies, or even just a Christmas card to wish them happy holidays. And commit yourself to helping them in their mission by donating supplies, money or time. Their mission is the same as all of ours.

Click here for a list of county animal control shelters.

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