Chances are, if you are involved in animal welfare in any capacity, you chose to do so because you love animals. People? Maybe not so much. From seeing animal abuse at its worst to owner surrenders on the daily to the hundreds of abandoned animals, it’s easy to feel like it’s ‘us against the world.’ However, the distrust and cynicism towards humans is an epidemic in this field that needs to be addressed, because, believe it or not, it’s not all about the animals.
I remember the day that I realized that animal welfare is not just about pets – it’s about pets and their people. We were receiving phone call after phone call from pet owners needing to surrender their pets. Since I work in the administration offices, I do not experience the daily face-to-face interactions with owner surrenders, but I hear the stories and I know the statistics of how many animals are surrendered to us every year.
This day, I was asking the front desk a question and noticed someone in our intake room talking to staff. They were very distraught and I became concerned. I asked my coworker if this person was okay and they informed me that this person was surrendering their pet. Without hesitation, my compassion turned to frustration, “Why is this person upset? How do you think your companion feels? How can people just give up their animals that have been so loyal to them?”
I didn’t even know the story behind the surrender, but had already formed one in my head. And the root was that it was the owner’s fault. As quickly as my concern turned to frustration, that frustration turned to embarrassment when I found out the full story. This person had found themself homeless after losing their job due to a reason beyond their control. All they had was a car to live in and their dog as a companion. They were doing everything they could to keep their dog, but the reality was they could no longer afford to take care of him and felt their only option was to surrender him to us.
Here I was forming a misguided opinion about this person going through something I could never imagine because my compassion was completely reserved for their pet. After a few years in animal welfare seeing and hearing the things I saw and heard, I had forgotten in that moment that our kindness should be extended to not only the animals, but the people doing their best to provide their companions with the life they deserve; because, most of us are just doing our best.
Whether you have no idea what TNR means or have dedicated all of your spare time to helping community cats. Whether you don’t know what enrichment is or spend every hour you can giving your dog a ‘job.’ Whether you own a purebred dog or a mixed breed. No matter where you are in your animal welfare journey, we all have things to learn from each other – all to benefit the animals.
As much as we are all here for the animals, animal welfare is nothing without the advocates (people). It’s nothing without adopters (people). It’s nothing without staff, volunteers and supporters (people). Plain and simple, the people behind animal welfare are just as much a part of the cause as the animals. It is our job to leave room in our big hearts to not only care for the animals, but also their owners.
We are here for your pets and YOU. We are dedicated to educating and helping to the best of our ability. It is our way to giving back to you, the people that make our organization and our mission possible:
The SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare’s mission is to improve the lives of companion animals by rehoming abused, abandoned, and neglected pets while fighting for their well-being through vigorous legislative efforts, humane education, and by offering affordable veterinary care for all.
An Aiken native and self-proclaimed cat lady, Claire Grimes is the SPCA Albrecht Center’s Development Director. She attended College of Charleston, where she graduated with a degree in Nonprofit Business and interned with Charleston Animal Society, the leader in No-Kill South Carolina. She is excited to now be working in animal welfare in her hometown and is proud of the community's robust efforts to better the lives of Aiken’s animals. Her family includes her husband, adopted black lab Ozzy, and two always-hungry kitties, Anakin and Luna (plus, in spirit, her late pup Sophie).