PetRescue's "pound reform" model is to get someone else to do it

June 20, 2017

PetRescue has made an informal response to yesterday’s Saving Pets post which highlighted the fact that despite fundraising for “pound reform services" since 2015, this year zero new pounds had signed up on the website.

See article; Why can't we all just work together?

From the response;

"It would seem the previous PetRescue strategy (lead by you Shel) for 10 years didn’t quite work – this was to bash councils over the head on social media and then expect them to actually use PetRescue’s services.

Crazy logic and it would be even more CRAZY to continue with a model that failed, and was always doomed to fail."

(PetRescue spokesperson)

Which left me stunned.

Because this is the classic language of pound killing apologists, repeated almost verbatim.

When pounds fail and pets are killed, it is always the fault of animal advocate being too mean.

It's the first rule of Resistance. When advocates in the community come forward to speak out about atrocities, mistreatment and unnecessary killing in their local pound, they’re almost alway met with;

'You shouldn’t be so rude to them” (the people who kill pets)

And it’s nearly always, quite ironically, directed at animal advocates who for an extended period of years - sometimes decades - had been advocating in the way prescribed. 

Politely. Helpfully. Making friends. Building networks.

And quite often, the now angry animal advocate found that didn’t get them anywhere. They were utterly and completely ignored by the decision makers. And pets still continued to be killed en-masse.

My personal experience was mirrored in same. I founded and lead the building of a website which any pound could use - for free - to advertise their animals for adoption. Back then I, and my team were fun twenty-somethings, with the naive belief that 'if we built it, they would come'.

We shopped it around happy and fun and non-political for probably the best part of a decade. And the pound uptake could be described as abysmal.

It was only when I started to research the true reasons as to why pounds weren’t advertising their animals on PetRescue, that I realised that it wasn’t that they didn’t know about the tool....

... It’s that they didn’t care enough about the outcomes they were achieving for pets to use it

According to PetRescue's own figures, not even half the pets that need to be saved, are leaving the pounds via rescue and by extension, are finding their way onto the PetRescue website.

However, it’s not that - as is asserted by PetRescue - that the reason for this are that pounds aren’t using the site because they didn’t like the messaging coming out of the organisation. 

It’s not that they’re snubbing PetRescue out of some kind spite. 

It's that PetRescue is completely irrelevant to current pound operations.

It's that pounds literally can’t use the site to promote their adoption program, and the pets they have for adoption - because they have no adoption program. 

Any pet that isn't collected by a rescue group is destined for the incinerator or bulk waste bin. 

These pounds are the ones who we all should be challenging. Because if they wanted to change, if they were going to do so under their own steam, they would have become fully-fledged adoption centres by now. But they're not even opening that door.

PetRescue recruitment ≠ reform

Look, no one is arguing that PetRescue isn't a great portal for pounds to use to reach adopters. But despite their we're-irreplacable-bubble-view, they're not the only way for a pound to advertise their pets. I can think of probably thirty alternative promotion ideas off the top of my head - fifty if the council is willing to invest a couple of hundred dollars a month in advertising.

The change that we need is at a much deeper, procedural level. We need pounds who have staff given the responsibility to make lifesaving programs a reality. We need facilities which can be opened to the public. We need true reform - and that is what any useful pound reform program would focus on. It is what the Safe and Sound Pounds program should be focussed on.

Not recruitment. Not building PetRescue's PR and stats and standing in the welfare community. Something more meaningful. Real, actual positive change.

The issue isn't that pounds aren't using PetRescue. The real issue - the one we should all care about - is that pounds are killing pets they could be saving.

It is not “pound reform” to simply say yes, when an already proactive pound comes forward to apply for a PetRescue account. In every one of the instances where a pound becomes a PetRescue member someone else did the actual reforming. 

PetRescue knows this. Which is why they're advocating that someone else do the hard, unpopular work that they don't feel is in their best interests to do;

"That is not to say we don’t need members of the community or various advocacy groups taking this hard line approach.

We need members of the public to get antsy and jump up and down, contacting their councils, meeting with councillors and spending time on social media exposing council practices.

We also need organisations like PetRescue to find a positive way in and work with these councils. We want councils to use PetRescue so we need to work together for this to happen effectively."

Naww... wouldn’t it be nice to have 'someone else' to do your work for you?

PetRescue know that without other people in the community speaking out for pets, there is no pound reform. However, they’re also are now admitting they don't want to do any of this hard, useful advocacy themselves.

Instead, they want YOU to be the ones advocating for pound pets in your community.

They want YOU to visit councils and rally the media exposing terrible outcomes and horrible treatment.

They want YOU to take the heat on social media and get the threats to home and pets, from pissed off councils.

They want YOU to drive pounds to start using their website.

Not them - you.

And should your efforts be successful, they’ll be happy to take the accolades and the awards. They’ll count up the stats and pat themselves on the back. They'll take the photo opportunities of people smiling for their facebook posts. Isn’t 'pound reform' thrilling!

Arat pound has been a “No Kill” pound since around 2014. This is because of local animal advocates working with the staff in the pound to bring the processes to a place where the pound is safe. A short history of Arat Council can be found here

And they continue...

"There are many forms of advocacy, they don’t ALL need to come from an online bashing platform.
I am pleased to say PetRescue were invited by APA South Aust last month to be keynote speakers and address over 120 council delegates on how PetRescue and SA councils can work together to see more pound pets adopted.

The first invitation in years and a foot in the door........and yep, I for one am very happy to work with these councils and have a good relationship.

I hope the community keeps exposing councils on social media and I also hope PetRescue and other organisations continue their approach and work together to keep moving forward."

This is absolutely true - there are many forms of advocacy and there is often absolutely a need for there to be a 'good cop' working aside the louder agitators in any advocacy situation.

This theory just doesn't tend to work when the loudest voice, with the most resources, wants to get to play good cop - doing the fun stuff after the fact - leaving individuals and volunteer rescue groups to do the dirty work of playing 'bad cop'.

We know that many times rescue groups can't speak out about the pounds they work with, for fear of losing access to the pets they would like to be able to save. We know that rescue groups have basically zero time and resources to invest in advocacy.

That's where PetRescue could have supported the groups on the front line. Speaking out when rescues couldn't. Calling pounds to task for what they're failing to do on behalf of the rescues they claim to "support". 

PetRescue actually has very little to lose in this situation. So a pound gets butt-hurt - who cares. As long as pets in that facilty are made safe by their actions.

PetRescue isn't thinking further than what benefits themselves. And that should be heartbreaking for anyone who has ever supported them thinking they cared about pets.

You can't take the resources, if you aren't doing the work

It is completely unfair to fundraise on the platform of 'pound reform' while standing by and waiting for front-line rescuers (because frankly, who else is there?) who are already working themselves to an emotional death, to drag these pounds kicking and screaming into 2017. 

It is insulting to expect rescuers and other groups to do the kind of advocacy that you deem inappropriate for you.... but ok for everyone else.

I mean honestly.

"There is a lot going on behind the scenes in the pound reform area with a number of organisations collaborating ideas, working on various projects and research, meetings with legislative bodies. Just because it isn’t splayed all over social media doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. But hey, don’t let the facts get in the way of a ‘good’ story!"

‘Behind the scenes’ doesn’t - or at least shouldn't - mean totally, secretly unreportable and invisible in a tangible sense.

If you’re going to take funds from the public in the name of "pound reform", you should be able to demonstrate that those actions are both taking place and working.

As of yesterday morning there were zero new pounds on the site in 2017. To be fair, by COB one pound had signed up. So one new pound signed up in 2017.

Next year PetRescue will probably bank near on $2 million dollars. For what?

“Rescue” that doesn’t involve taking responsibility for a single animal.

“Pound reform” that doesn’t involve lifting a finger to help the groups on the front line fighting against councils who are killing pets, no matter how nicely groups ask to be allowed to save them.

Getting everyone else to do you work for you. You keep all the money.

It’s a sweet gig.

For PetRescue, but maybe not for the pet or the rescue.

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