Dysfunction Junction Sign - Cold Spring, NY by Chris Gold
One thing common to all dedicated to the animal cause is that there is no financial gain from our efforts. With the exception of the ‘big four’, no one is making any money out of worrying about the welfare of animals. Even our moral highs are tempered, unlike when you volunteer at a children’s hospital and experience the happiness and gratitude of the child, the animals remain inert and unconscious to our herculean efforts. Thus the moral exhilaration is a solitary one, confined to our inner sanctum and being.
For the aforementioned reasons, one might conclude that the people that sacrifice for the welfare of the animals are the absolute best of humanity. Princes in the land of paupers. Yet, as many inside our bubble have realized, there is much internal hatred within the circle. Animal organizations generally dislike other such groups and loathe to work together, even if they are striving for the same endpoint. Why is that? There is no real money on the table so where does this animosity come from.
We can only guess at the underlying causes but this organization is well experienced in the dysfunction of the animal movement in toto. Some years back DogsInDanger formed a 501(c)4 in order to influence the way animals are treated through political action. Our major effort was to eliminate, by referendum, dog and cat killing in Colorado’s shelters. We had much success and were well on the way to have voter choice in the upcoming statewide election. As our efforts were publicized on local TV, other animal rights organizations got wind and guess what, they immediately started to denounce it! Sadly their efforts succeeded, crying that an out of state organization should not be interfering in Colorado politics, they were able to poison and sway our state lead, the entire effort crumbled. We were so distraught by being burned by an ally that we abandoned the effort and the 501©4 entirely. They are still killing dogs and cats in Colorado’s shelter.
What makes supposedly such kind hearted people do such horrible things to their kindred spirits? The answer, if there is one, is complex. Many of the people drawn to the animal cause are somewhat shall we say ‘atypical’ people that have had difficulty in assimilating within other more mainstream organizations. They generally tend to be less educated, full of unorthodox ideas and very aggressive. As the animal community is but a tiny fraction of the human based need charities, the attention and money raised is also but a fraction. With the traditional charities garnering the great majority of caring people, the leftover ‘unique’ amongst us have taken the reins here.
Everyone hates everyone. Everyone thinks the other is cheating, lying and most importantly conning people out of money. Everyone thinks their ideas are the best if only someone would listen. With no real leadership in place each person is free to form their own philosophy and try and carve out their own kingdom of nothing.
Ever wonder why the only US national law on the books regarding animals is the Animal Welfare Act, passed in 1966. Imagine that, over half a century with no new legal action! None of the major animal organizations (the big four) nor the thousands of minor ‘kingdoms’ can agree on priorities. If someone does try and take the lead they are denigrated by all the others immediately. Jealousy, pettiness and megalomania reign supreme. A sad state of affairs indeed.
Even with these fierce headwinds the animal movement has scored some dysfunctional coups. Death at the hands of shelters has dropped from about 13 million in the 1970s to around 2 million now. Disjointed and combative it may be but something good comes out of it anyway. Just imagine for a moment if all of us had the will and organizational competence of say The American Cancer Society! What a different world this would be, for we are the best of them, sadly mired in our own cocoons and webs of dysfunction.