President’s Message:

Gordon Willard Speaks Out

Gordon Willard

As we all know, working in a humane society is demanding and challenging, but ultimately rewarding. Recently, one of NYS’s most respected and tireless executive directors and former NYSHA board member, Gordon Willard, accepted a new position in South Carolina. Shortly before he left, Gordon wrote a compelling article for the Animal Protective Foundation newsletter. In yet another spring and summer of needless dog and cat breeding, when many shelters have limited admission policies, it seems fitting to publish some of his remarks.

It seems that more and more animal welfare organization are driving agendas to position themselves as more deserving of support than others because of their ideologies, rather than their accomplishments. While those of us with similar concerns for animals would generally be on the same page, some have vilified and berated others to such a degree that a “caste system” of sorts has been created.

At the bottom rung of this system is animal control. It is charged with carrying out public protection and law enforcement where animals are concerned, typically with vastly inadequate resources to do so. Yet it is scorned as it fulfills its thankless responsibilities. Many humane societies, so dependent on good will and positive perceptions for their survival, have tried to separate themselves from the responsibilities of government animal control. More specifically, they have distanced themselves from the issue of euthanasia by backing away from involvement with any circumstances that would necessitate it.

Higher in the pecking order are the “no-kill” shelters and rescue groups. For many of those involved, the concept of losing an animal because it is ill, old, or to make room for another animal is unacceptable. To make a commitment to care for a finite number of animals is commendable. But who then will care for the ones that are turned away? And the bigger question is – how can this ideology sustain the millions of other equally deserving animals for whom there are no homes? It is not our right to garner support by discrediting others. Nor is it right to reveal only the parts of our beliefs that show us in a positive light.

The truth is that the issue of abandonment, cruelty, neglect, and overpopulation persist. Nobody wants to be in the position of having to make heart wrenching decisions, but those who care deeply are truly the ones who should be making them. If we are concerned with … the fate of our community’s animals, then it is our responsibility to ask the hard questions. We must not be lulled into a false sense of security by slogans and promises that seem to be too good to be true – for they usually are.

—Gordon Willard

Best of luck, Gordon, and sincere thanks from the many animals you served, as well as the people you taught and inspired!

Laura-Ann Cammisa

New York State Humane Association Humane Review, Vol.XX, No.1, Spring 2005.