Animal welfare is a serious issue in Hernando County as this past year's turmoil has demonstrated. Unfortunately, as in the past it is not an animal problem, it is a people problem.
The first problem is the message that has been ignored for years — spay or neuter pets. Adopting a pet is a lifetime commitment for that animal. Adopt from a rescue rather than buying a pet. It really is that simple.
The second problem is much more damaging to animal welfare. Well-meaning and caring people are turning animal welfare into a war zone. This is dividing the very people who should be working together for animals. Name-calling, false accusations and down-right belligerence has taken over such a worthy endeavor. It is turning people away from animal rescue and reinforcing the stereotype of "crazy animal people."
Knowledge of care and professionalism in our actions will garner the support from the community that we so desperately need to accomplish our goals for animal treatment.
We require kindness, compassion and respect for our animal friends. Why do humans deserve any less? There are various philosophies and strategies to save animals. There is a rescue group to fit everyone's beliefs. Find it and support it. Volunteer, donate and adopt. It is not acceptable behavior to abuse those who follow a different path. Most of us agree that educating our children in humane behavior is the best hope for the future of animals. My question is: What is this poor behavior teaching our children?
A great deal of time and energy has been wasted on human personality problems and personal attacks. No wonder people prefer their pets. They behave better than their human owners.
The public's attention has been diverted from the real issues of animal welfare and what they can each do to make a difference. People are now afraid to volunteer or foster a pet as they too may become a target. Anyone who helps an animal deserves to be respected. You do not have to like everyone, but respect the effort.
People have a choice. They can play together nicely in the sandbox to help the animals who need us so desperately or they can chose to play in the litter box. No one ever comes out of there smelling good.
Joanne Schoch is executive director of the Humane Society of the Nature Coast, Inc.