Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Educational Struggle

Education is an important yet delicate thing. We value education in our society, yet many people are resistant to it. Whether they are aware of this or not, is not always clear; what is clear is that their minds are closed shut to new, and many times correct, information.
Anyone in the animal welfare business will tell you that educating the public on the many important issues is more than difficult.
People tend to resist change, it's human nature, so when a new and different idea is offered, it is many times ignored or even repelled.
I find this confusing because many times, these people have come to us because of our 'expertise' in the field. But when they don't like what they hear suddenly they know better.
Let me tell you now dear readers, just because your parents did it that way and their parents and theirs, does not make something RIGHT. I know I know, this can be difficult to swallow. So I'll give you a moment.....

(Duke (left) is a handsome young male Pit Bull/Lab mix, available for adoption from the SPCA of Central FL)

OK, so if you're still reading...good for you! You've passed the first hurdle in accepting that there may still be things out there in this world for you to learn. I myself love learning, and try to learn something new every day. This of course gets harder and harder with age.

Young people have the advantage of minds that are not yet chock full of useless information. That is why humane education focuses on school aged children so heavily. Young people are still forming their opinions and ideas about the world and are, at this stage, more than happy to contradict their parents. Giving a class to a group of young people can be so fulfilling because you can almost see them drinking in the new information. With adults, you can sometimes actually see them blocking it. It's not our fault though, you see we simply cannot over ride our formed schema's.
If you are asking..."Uh, Diane, What's a schema?" don't worry, I'll tell you!
I like to think of schema's as little labeled boxes in our brains. (Think about your attic, basement or back room/closet). We only have so many boxes, so we have to assimilate some things....every time we learn something new, we try our best to cram it into a box full of things we already know and are comfortable with. (Are you following me?)
So, when we come across a large oddly shaped object (or piece of different and challenging information) we just can't fit it in any of our boxes, so we throw it out, or reject it.

OK enough with the psychology lessons....the problem is much simpler than that: How to get people to open their minds and perhaps more importantly their hearts?

Some people respond to hard numbers and facts. So here goes....For every human born there are 13 dogs and 65 cats. That means for every pet to have a home EACH person would have to have 13 dogs and 65 cats. Not just every household or family but every individual. One pair of cats and their offspring can create up to 420,000 kittens in just 7 years. Millions of adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized every year in this country alone, while puppy mills and stores make millions of dollars make MORE dogs.

Some people learn through fear: Neutering your male dog will save him from testicular/prostate cancer later in life. A spayed female cannot get ovarian cancer. (Did I mention that cancer is the number ONE killer of dogs?) Spaying and neutering cuts down on aggression. Neutered males seldom mark their territories and spayed females wont bleed all over your rug.

Then there are the folks out there who respond to passion. I see good dogs die every day. Dogs who've never done anything wrong in their lives, dogs that some one at one time had promised to take care of, dogs with love, fear and uncertainty in their eyes. Dogs that willingly walk back to the euthanasia room, happy to be out of their kennel, not knowing these are their final moments on earth. How anyone could justify purchasing a dog, or breeding a dog when these wonderful companions are killed every day, is just beyond me. It just doesn't fit in any of my boxes or in my heart.
Perhaps I am too passionate about my work, and maybe I overwhelm people with my fervor.
Or it may be that people build a wall of guilt, telling themselves that the one litter they let their cat have really didn't take the homes of 7 shelter pets, who were then put to death when their time was up.
Whatever it is, guilt, indifference or plain old seems one simply cannot teach compassion.

Diane AKA The Dog Diva

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