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Shelter dog, once a victim of neglect

Finding it increasingly difficult to read DogTime and CatTime posts these days? Yeah, me too. And I’m the friggin’ editor.

Even though April is Prevention of Animal Cruelty Month, there’s been no shortage of accounts of just that: mindboggling cruelty. And we’ve been publishing these stories with greater frequency than usual. Our hope is that the additional postings will spur people to action, galvanize huge numbers of humans to act on behalf of non-human animals. But I realize the strategy could backfire and readers will stop coming to DogTime altogether. More on that in a sec…

I know that happiness sells. I’ve seen the photos of rescue pups dressed as Santa’s elves and I’ve watched the videos of shelter staff dancing to pop songs. I understand why that stuff goes viral: it makes you feel good. And we need the feel-goods (at least I do) to be reminded there are many folks out there working for a better life for all.

So why are we going so heavy on the hard stuff this month?

Because motivation isn’t one-size-fits-all. For me, knowing there’s still intense suffering and abuse — seeing the faces of those we didn’t get to in time — is more stirring, more likely to fuel my desire to act. And I think there must be others like me.

It wasn’t images of happy cows being allowed to nurse their young that led me to swear off dairy products. And it wasn’t footage of merry volunteers leading dogs and cats away from the euthanasia room and into the arms of grateful adopters that got me interested in shelter work. Don’t get me wrong — I love hearing about rescued cows and companion animals in loving homes. But that’s not what motivates me to continue.

I understand that there are plenty of people who aren’t like me — maybe you’re one of them. Maybe the heartbreak and the accounts of depravity only drive you away. I get that. (Believe me, I get that.) So I won’t ask you to read every gutwrenching story or click on every awful image. But I will ask of you this: Please don’t block these accounts from your consciousness because they’re too hard to think about or too painful to read. And please don’t turn away from volunteering because the environment makes you too sad.

If the county shelter is too depressing, make a difference in another way. Get involved in humane education in the elementary schools in your area. If there’s not a program, start one. Write to your legislators and let them know tougher animal cruelty laws are important to you. Foster an animal in need.

And know that for every horrifying news item we’ve posted this month, there are many we haven’t. My point? These aren’t isolated incidents. Animal cruelty is a major problem in our society, but at every level and in every community there’s an opportunity to help stop the cycle. April’s an ideal month to begin.

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