Wednesday, February 08, 2012

'Safety Net' program needs partners to alleviate suffering

A value of the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) is compassion. Compassion is a deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the desire to relieve it. More vigorous than sympathy or empathy, compassion gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another's suffering. Compassion is the key component in what manifests in the social context as altruism.

In ethical terms, the Golden Rule may best embody the principle of compassion: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Compassion does not simply mean caring deeply about someone else's suffering. Compassion causes you to get personally involved. Compassion manifests in the face of cruelty when you are moved to say out loud, "This is wrong" - and moves you to do something to end the suffering.

It is not uncommon for YHS to receive calls for help from victims of domestic violence. Domestic issues involving humans are not usually within the purview of an animal organization like YHS. However, recent calls for help are causing us to say out loud, "This is wrong." These calls involve women looking to escape their desperate situations - feeling like hostages in their own homes, unable to leave because their abusers threaten to harm the family pet(s) should they attempt to do so.

Finding a safe place for these pets is a prerequisite to these women getting the help they need. What can YHS do to help when our shelters are already overflowing with lost and homeless animals? By way of some rather circuitous routes, YHS has been able to help in some small ways - but we don't want to continue to be caught so flat-footed. We must be able to respond better and more quickly.

Domestic violence and partner abuse is not a YHS problem. Domestic violence is a community problem. Abuse comes in many forms, both verbal and physical. Verbal abuse and manipulative behavior can be as destructive to the soul as violence is to the body. Women, children and pets should never be victimized or cruelly treated regardless of the situation. To do so is wrong.

YHS is moved with compassion to do something about this wrong, but we are ill-equipped to do it alone. These types of complex problems need a community response that ensures victims of violence never go unheard.

YHS has a program called Safety Net designed to help pets stay with their families through difficult financial times, dislocations, hospitalizations, evictions, etc. Often families face crises that prompt abandonment of a beloved pet, even though the crisis is likely to be temporary.

When properly funded, the Safety Net program can help pet owners weather such storms by providing emergency foster placement, veterinary help, counseling and other remedies to help prevent a pet from losing its home and family because of a temporary crisis.

Sadly, we seldom have enough funds to assist people within this narrow mission. Clearly, our Safety Net program is not sufficient to meet the needs arising from domestic abuse. What is needed is a community-wide safety net - a program with financial sponsors and service and product partners. Partners able to provide human and/or pet boarding, pet grooming and supplies, veterinary services, social services and doctors are vital. We need partners who recognize that abuse and cruelty are wrong and are moved to do something to ease that suffering - rather than look the other way. Together we can create this community-wide safety net so no one has to stay in a terrible situation in order to protect a loved one.

If you are interested in creating a safety net program in our community to help alleviate human and animal suffering, contact me at or call 445-2666, ext. 21.

Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society. He can be reached at or by calling 445-2666, ext. 21.