Hello and welcome to a new blog! I’ve been the executive director of the Wisconsin Humane Society for just over three years, and I’m excited to share stories and reports of our work here.
I’ve learned so much since I entered this work, but perhaps the main thing I’ve learned is this: animal welfare work is different from what I thought it would be, and from what most people think it is.
Most people have an idea of what they think it’s like to work at an animal shelter. It might be based on the "pound" in their hometown, or on images from stories and movies. I call it the "Lady and the Tramp" vision of an animal shelter.
When my daughter was young, we had that Disney movie on tape, and one of its most memorable images – after the scene of Lady and Tramp falling in love while eating the same piece of spaghetti, one from each end – is the scene of a dark, depressing, unstaffed "pound" from which, we assume, animals rarely emerge alive.
It’s not like that. It’s actually pretty amazing. Contrary to what I thought, and what most people think, this work is:
- Happy. When you’re finding homes for almost 10,000 animals every year, that’s a lot of great stories, great people and great animals. As I type this, I’m looking out my office door at our "whiteboard wall" with the names of all the animals who went home from our Milwaukee Campus in January. It’s colorful and joyful.
- Challenging. Keeping animals healthy, making adoption easy while at the same time making sure animals are going to safe homes, launching new programs (like our new program to help animals of families entering domestic violence shelters), and raising the donations that make our work possible – these are big jobs for all of us, and challenging ones. I’m sometimes asked whether I get to spend more time with my family now that I work at a nonprofit – definitely not!
- Changing. This is an exciting time of change and progress in animal welfare. Challenges that once seemed insurmountable (like finding homes for most types of healthy, social dogs and kittens) are now being met every day at progressive shelters and rescues. With that success, we are able to turn to the work of today – to continue helping those animals while also helping more of those who are harder to find homes for: adult cats, animals with difficult illnesses and behavior, and the dogs most people refer to as "pit bulls." Luckily, many organizations in the field are providing research and funding to find new and better ways to help more animals.
I hope to use this space to share stories and learnings from this happy, challenging, changing work. Thanks for reading!
P.S. Speaking of dogs who need extra time to find their families, the beautiful girl in the picture, Shaka, is available for adoption at our Milwaukee Campus. We all hope her day will come soon!
1 comment about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Anne Reed
My family is fostering a shelter kitten named Teddy. Talk about a win-win.
I worked in a Downtown office building for many years. Times would come - I never kept track of the time of year - when we would find beautiful little birds dead on the sidewalk every day for a few weeks. I always wondered what was happening, but kept forgetting to look it up. What were those birds?
"I'd like to have an animal, but I don't want to be sad when it dies." I hear this more often than you might imagine. When they talk to me, people often start sentences with, "I'd love to have an animal, but ..." I listen closely to what comes next. To save a lot of homeless animals' lives, we need to inspire a lot of people to have animals. Every time I hear, "I travel," "I'm allergic," "My cat wouldn't like it," and so on, it helps us plan better ways to find families who can make a place for a homeless animal.
Ever heard of Wisconsin's Conservation Congress? If not, you're not alone. But you can make a difference for dogs if you attend a Conservation Congress meeting tonight, April 8, in your county.
Puppies. They sure are cute. But one major reason people get a puppy is completely mistaken. I said it once. You might have said it. You have friends who have said it. "I want a puppy so I can raise it to be exactly the dog I want."
Some dogs are fine when people and other dogs walk, or run, up to them. Some dogs are fine ... as long as they're left alone. The "Yellow Dog Project" is an effort to help those dogs.
Sometimes new ideas spread quickly. Sometimes they take forever. Here's one I'd like to speed up. For decades, the accepted approach to training dogs was "dominance theory." But negative training doesn't work for most people; it always makes dogs sad and often makes behavior worse; and it ruins the friendship that was the reason you got a dog in the first place.
"Boy, I hate people." I hear that all the time from people who work in animal welfare. I disagree. I understand why they feel that way. When you do this work, you hear stories all the time that make you angry. Abuse and neglect. Domestic violence. Well-meaning stupidity. Even the simple failure to stick with commitments: "I'm moving out of town, so I need to surrender my 12-year-old dog." These stories would make anyone mad, let alone someone who cares enough about animals to have chosen shelter work over other, almost certainly better-paying, options.
In animal sheltering work, it's easy to think of each adoption as a "happy ending" to that animal's story. That's one way to think about it - but it's just as true to think of it as a "happy beginning." The love that begins between a person and an animal when they leave our shelter often lasts for many years. It doesn't just save the animal's life; it shapes the person's life, forever.