Stop Assuming the Worst

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Written by Becky Monroe

We Need to Stop Assuming the Worst so We CAN Make the World Better for Animals

The other day I was scrolling Tik Tok and a video of a couple relinquishing their dog to a shelter popped up. I believe the point of the video was to show the heartfelt pain the woman experienced giving up her dog, but the comments that followed were anything but empathetic.

According to the brief description given, the woman had cancer and they just weren’t able to manage her illness and care for the dog. The woman also happened to have numerous tattoos which led to comments like, “If you can afford all of those, you can afford your dog.”

People also being snarky and saying how they beat cancer AND kept their dog

I didn’t read every comment, but I saw enough to know that the negativity was overwhelming and so very disappointing to me.

I don’t know the woman. I don’t know her story. Not a single person commenting knew her whole story. Yet, so many were willing to judge and throw stones instead of encourage and bless or even attempt to slightly understand her situation.

The photo above shares a similar story on Wisconsin Humane’s Facebook page. We commend how they handled this situation. 

I relinquished a dog once. We had adopted him from a Golden Retriever rescue and when I found myself getting divorced and going through a lot, we had to give him back to the rescue. It was what I had to do at that point in my life. I am not proud of it, especially as an animal welfare advocate, but I also think it made me more compassionate and understanding that not everything in life is black and white. Often, you have to make difficult choices you never thought you would.

In the last few years I have heard a lot of commentary about rescues – many suggesting how “judgy” they are.

Adoption procedures aside, I do think that animal welfare advocates can come off as judgmental. And I will be honest, I have found myself to be that way numerous times.

Let’s take an easy one… you are walking around the park and you see a dog owner with a retractable leash. Most of us will have that instant reaction, “Idiot.”

It is just something that has been engrained in our animal loving blood. Retractable leashes are awful. They are dangerous. “All the good dog owners know this.”

I think sometimes we are often so disgusted that we don’t even bother to try and educate the dog owner and explain in a nice way why they might want to consider a different leash.

I don’t know exactly what it is, but I venture to guess that when you spend not just years in the field of animal welfare, but you actually lose a part of your soul in it, it gets harder to empathize with people whom you have determined, in a generalized way, to all be assholes.

It is the truth. We have seen so many people let so many animals down or treat them cruelly that it is hard to have faith in genuine human kindness anymore.

I get that – 100%.

However, I strongly believe that if we don’t re-evaluate our approach, we will lose on so many opportunities to make things better for animals and people.

As much as our experience has shown us the selfish, greedy, mean behavior of people, the reality remains that they are not the majority and we shouldn’t assume the worst of individuals based on generalities.

I think no matter what your passion, education, specialty, occupation is you become entrenched by it. Over time you learn so much more about it than most other people ever will know. However, that knowledge and experience we gather often becomes our weakest attribute because it causes us to be less understanding, less tolerant, less willing to teach because we assume everyone else knows what we know and is purposely or selfishly doing “it” wrong.

How could they not know what we know?

Here is the thing – while we scroll social media and are inundated with reasons not to use a retractable leash, the rest of the population is NOT. They don’t see the memes that call out retractable leashes on a daily basis.

While we see in our feed hundreds of dogs a week being rescued from puppy mills and taken to safety, the rest of the population does not.

While we see a local shelter advertising adoption fees are waived because they are overcrowded, the rest of the population does not.

While we see numerous cases a day of families being taken advantage of at pet stores by buying sick, poorly bred puppies and then financing them for unspeakable interests rates, the rest of the population does not.

This means that all these things that rile us… that stir us to our core… are NOT something most people know anything about, but we often act like they should.

Instead of gently educating, our passion and our desire to protect the animals causes us to scream. I think we need to re-assess this.

There will always be bad people or ignorant people who don’t care, but we need to acknowledge them as a minority not the majority.

We need to look out at our communities with the hope that people want to do the right thing when given the facts and the opportunity.

If we really want to change the world for animals, we have to embrace this chance to teach and to share and to empathize with people and what they are going through. We have to trust that they want to do what is right and kind.

I say it often… people like us were given a heart that is both a blessing and a curse. We feel so much for animals that often empathizing with humans is difficult. But in order to ensure we create a kinder, gentler world for all animals, we need to embrace humans like we do the animals who come into our care. We need to be patient. We need to be compassionate. We need to fully realize that they are doing the best they can right now and as they know better, they will do better.

If we continue to assume the worst of people and choose to be disgusted instead of hopeful, we will fail the animals. This life is a journey for all of us with the intent of making each of us better humans and the world a better place. We are each here to make a difference. We can’t let the negativity get in our way of teaching others how to be humane and showing everyone the beauty in animals.