My very first job for a newspaper was in advertising sales in a tiny little town in northern Alberta. There were three staff - an editor/reporter, a typesetter/secretary and myself. We published a weekly paper that was absolutely horrible, not worthy of lining a birdcage. Back before the days of desktop publishing; everything was typed, sight unseen into a huge blue machine that I have since forgotten the name of. There were many typos and factual errors, the pictures were blurry, and the stories were poorly written.
But I beat the streets day after day, defending the newspaper and trying to convince the local businesses to advertise. We needed the advertising revenue to keep our jobs and keep the doors open. I had no control over the content of the paper (I was the newbie on staff) and I was embarrassed by the whole thing. But you do what you gotta do to put food on the table.
Luckily, after about six months, I relocated to another town and got a job at an award-winning weekly newspaper that I was extremely proud to work for.
Now that I've become involved with animal welfare, I often see staff at shelters defending bad practices. I honestly think these staff took a job in animal sheltering because they love animals. They probably started the job with enthusiasm, thinking they were going to be able to make a difference, saving the lives of homeless animals.
But then something went wrong. All of a sudden those enthusiastic employees begin to see the cracks in the system. Instead of saving lives, the shelter is cutting corners or killing healthy animals or making costly mistakes. It becomes an embarrassment to work there. But you gotta do what you gotta do. Staff need their jobs and they need for the shelter to keep it's doors open. So instead of speaking up for the animals they love, they defend the shelter's bad practices. Even when the shelter is killing pets when better life-saving methods are available.
Somebody has to bear the blame. So it's much easier for the staff and management to point the finger at the "irresponsible public" than to criticize shelter management, potentially losing their job. It's much easier to blame lack of donations, or lack of public support, or the No Kill advocates that are rallying for change. It's much easier to try to discredit the better methods than to embrace change and learn new things. It's much easier to call the advocates "bashers and trouble makers" and reject their good ideas. Because it's hard to not defend your employer. Until one day, you realize that killing healthy or treatable animals is just plain wrong.
I know. I was there. Defending something that I didn't believe in. But killing healthy or treatable animals is wrong. Just plain wrong. And it's indefensible.
Leadership that makes a difference includes a personal willingness to do the right thing. It makes tough choices - moral choices, spiritual choices, ethical choices, right choices.
- Stan Toler