A colleague sent me an article about an 81-year old veteran, dehydrated, malnourished, with ulcerated skin and broken ribs, who needed to be admitted to the local veterans hospital. After keeping him waiting for 9 hours, and despite the availability of beds and the recommendations to admit him by the medical staff, the hospital administrator denied him admission due to ratings and statistical concerns. Fewer patients, yield fewer bad outcomes, and result in an appearance of more favorable good outcome percentages. The colleague was wondering if this “business” sounded familiar to me in the animal welfare world.
Sadly, it is a familiar problem in the animal business. Does an empty cage mean that no animal needs shelter, or rather, that there is an organized effort to keep numbers down so percentages of adoptions appear higher and euthanasia numbers are lower? The constant susurrus of verbal directives to deliberately reduce intake of strays, to re-characterize stray cats as “community pets” thus leaving them in the streets, to drive through the night and dump animals brought to the shelter back into neighborhoods, and to not do the hard work to properly manage the husbandry and health of the animal population, all keeps pets away from essential care while creating the “optics” of success or lies politicians and administrators love to tell.
The above efforts are further augmented by schemes to alter zoning laws, redefine pet stores and increase personal pet limits, all designed to deny animals admission and abdicate the responsibility and public reliance of and in the shelters. The crown jewel of this process is the massaging and manipulation of statistics to create the appearance of success in dark contrast to the reality. Imagine the result if some of this energy were used to actually solve the problems and provide care where needed.
I have written before with disgust how poorly, we, society, treat our vulnerable residents. Whether the reasons are apathy, sadism, doctrinal (as in Ayn Rand capitalism) or ignorance, there is no shortage of suffering in the news. Veterans are ignored, children starve, the sick can’t get help, and injured stray pets die on the streets, while others crow about their statistical success rates and lie that the problems are solved. The common denominator between these industries, whether a government or private entity, is that the pressure to appear competent, to earn more funding, not only causes a distortion in reality, but actual harm. In other words, optics over achievement. An appearance of success that masks failure.
The focus on optics is nothing more than a premeditated and malevolent plan of opting out.
The danger here, is that when the common fiction is such that we believe the problem is solved, there isn’t a chance in hell that help will arrive. Be forewarned that this can backfire – why provide resources to solve a solved problem?
The door is slamming on all of us.