Humane Communities

On Tuesday afternoons, my husband and I walk dogs at our local SPCA. Due to the SPCA’s long-standing efforts on spaying and neutering programs, as well as our community’s responsible dog ownership, there are often no dogs for us to walk. This is a very good problem to have!

Earlier this week, we attended a reception for SPCA volunteers. The guest speaker was Geoff Urton from our Regional SPCA Office. His topic was ‘Humane Communities.’ The broad goal of Humane Communities is to nurture empathy and compassion for both people and animals in community members of all ages. Often the word ‘people’ is left out of the above definition which is ironic as humanity lies at the center of this body of work and is key to its success. If we do not have understanding and compassion for humanity, how can we genuinely have empathy for other members of the animal kingdom? Renowned for their passionate work for animals, the SPCA has also adopted such people-centered programs as ‘Not Myself Today.’ This initiative aims to reduce the stigma of mental heath and foster safe and supportive environments. It is programs like these that help make the SPCA an incredibly well-rounded organization.

Being a long-time believer in the importance of animal welfare, I was excited to hear what our speaker had to say about the topic at hand. While the BC SPCA has been taking a number of steps to ensure Humane Communities (progressive animal control bylaws, farm certification, low-cost microchip programs, grant funding, wildlife preservation programs, animal shelter and services, etc., etc.), this was not the focus of Geoff’s address. Instead, he turned the microphone over to those of us sitting in the audience.

Many of us, including me, shifted uncomfortably. It became clear that the keynote’s message was that it is YOU and ME, not our local animal shelters or SPCA, who create and sustain Humane Communities. While government, animal organizations, law enforcement, veterinarians, schools, etc. all play a key role, the ultimate responsibility is for the citizens of communities to envision, aspire, speak up and create a better, more humane world.

Through his collaborative presentation, our speaker left us with two challenges. What kind of world do you want to live in? And, how are you going to make this happen? His first question was the easy part. The hard part is having the courage and the confidence to know that I can make a difference…and the gumption to jump in and make a start. For me, what is needed is the resolution to make the transition from a ‘long-time believer’ to a ‘passionate and committed’ one.

What about you? What is your vision of a Humane Community? What is one small thing that you could do that would help bring your surrounding environment closer to that vision?

You can read more about Human Communities here and here.

30 Replies to “Humane Communities”

  1. That’s wonderful! We have several no kill shelters locally that do wonderful work. The effort and determination of those leaders never fails to astonish me. Gracie was adopted from one of those and the place was spotless and didn’t smell. I don’t know how they do it but they have no paid people. All volunteers who are nuts about animals. They are my inspiration and I’m working to figure out what my place is other than donating and adopting.
    Kate recently posted…Sassy cats β€” Cats and matching carpetsMy Profile

    1. Hi, Kate – I believe that your place in Humane Communities is very clear. You don’t only donate and adopt cats that may be considered ‘special needs’ to some (but never to you). You also write about your experiences and thus role model for so many of us. I have been incredibly inspired by your words and by what you do.

        1. Hi, Kate – It is so true that it is what is on the inside of all us (human or animal) that counts most. As Elisabeth Kubler-Ross once said,
          “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. They have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

  2. Hi Donna,
    Thanks for this post. While I’m all in favour of humane communities and am trying to do my part in a couple of ways – Shylah, my rescue puppy from Mexico, and a forestry project that I will be writing about next week – something else caught me about your post.

    Time and again, Donna, you write about new explorations, new experiences you have had. You attend lectures, read books, try a new form of yoga….Essentially you put yourself out there even when, as you say, doing so makes you “shift uncomfortably.”

    I can’t imagine a better definition of a humane community than one where the humans in that community are open to learning, compassionate with themselves and others, and willing to share their experiences in order to enrich others’ lives, whether those others are humans, dogs, cats, or the natural world.

    You are an inspiration, Donna. Thank you for Retirement Reflections. I look forward to every new post and learn from all of them.

    1. Wow! Thanks so much for your kind words, Karen. I greatly appreciate them. I am intrigued about your forestry project and look forward to reading about it next Thursday!

    1. Thanks, Joanne – Good or bad, we are all accountable to the world around us. I know that it sounds idealistic, and that I’ve said it before, but if we all pull together we CAN tilt our world towards peace. That’s one (of many) thing(s) that I love about our blogging community…lots of like-minds here!

  3. This is an important issue, and I fully support the provision of humane environments and treatment of non-human animals. I do believe that the notion of a humane society is grounded, however, in our broader beliefs about all living creatures and our place in the global ecosystem. Less humane treatment of animals often seems to go hand in-hand with cruelty to other humans. The attitude that the earth and all upon the earth is here for the taking seems to spawn a related belief that we have the right to subjugate other humans and animals to our will and take “resources” without consequence. So I see it as a bigger issue than care of animals – such a big issue, in fact, that it is hard to know how to proceed and to make a difference.

    Dr Sock recently posted…A Sentimental JourneyMy Profile

    1. Hi, Jude- I agree with all of your points above. Humane Communities, and our desperate need for them, is a huge issue. I believe the key is for us, as individuals, to realize that we can make a difference…not just sit back and wait for the other guy to start, or not let ourselves get discouraged. I believe that it is a myriad of small things all added together that can make a positive change for the world.

  4. An important idea. I like Mr. Urton’s premise because while governments need to be active and involved to provide levels of humanity — i.e. clean water and safety standards are good examples — citizens also need to pick up the slack. You can only legislate so much, and I think that goes for animal welfare too. It takes coordinated and sometimes parallel efforts.

    An old friend of mine in Michigan, unhappy with the level of governmental support they were getting to replace an aging animal shelter, rounded up like-minded people and they eventually created their own to replace it. It was a lot of hard work and took two years. Eventually community leaders recognized them, and their shelter became both de-facto and de-jure in their little town. I like to think this might be what Mr. Urton perhaps was hinting at.

    And kudos to you and your husband for doing those walks, Donna. My wife visits the local Humane Society to pet and play with the cats in order to keep them happy. I think they make *her* more happy, but hopefully both are benefiting.

    1. Hi, Marty – I’m not sure what it is about you and my spam folder…but there you were hiding again (this time without Janis)! I really am not sure what is causing this – as it is usually only you in there. My settings do block any comment with more than two links, but I don’t see that in your comment. And you’ve had 19 approved comments on my site–so you’d think that my spam control would have learned by now. Hopefully, 20 times lucky?
      You’ve hit the nail on the head about the core of Geoff Urton’s message. The example of your friend in Michigan is an excellent one!
      That’s cool that your wife works with the cats at your local SPCA. I agree with her that the pets often give us more than we can possibly give them.

  5. What an interesting link to a lot of what we teach in school for making the world a better place. I enjoyed the point of view that your blog posting gave!

    1. Hi, Fran – Thanks so much for stopping by. The links do share many things that are also taught in schools. Teachers have a strong voice and students have much power in their hands. I loved Geoff Urton’s point of view that we cannot sit back and leave our passions and visions to others. I loved his message that our actions and voice, no matter how small, can make the difference. Although this is not entirely new information, my brain has been in overdrive ever since.

  6. What a thought-provoking post. It is so easy to complain and “suggest ” ways that others could do better, but we often don’t think about what we can do ourselves. Maybe because we feel that we’d have a too small impact, or maybe because the odds appear so great. This was a good reminder that we can make a difference. The first step is to make an effort.

    Hopefully this time I won’t end up in your spam jail with Marty. πŸ˜€
    Janis recently posted…U.S. National Parks on Sale!My Profile

    1. Good news! No spam for you today! (Although Marty was still hiding in there.)
      I believe that the reasons you list, for leaving important change to others, are the exact deal breakers for most of us. Your simple advice of starting by making a sincere, thoughtful effort is something that we can all do, each in our own ways. And if we truly did…the results would be very powerful!

  7. It all starts with being kind to each other. I say “hi” to everyone I meet on hiking paths or trails and I try to say “hi” to people I meet on the street as well. Except when I am in a really bad mood for some reason.

    As for pets. We always, always, always would adopt one or rescue one off the streets if we are traveling again and ready for an new pup. I also encourage people to adopt and not shop. There are enough wonderful animals out there in these shelters. Not only will you find a forever friend needing a home (and not getting euthanized), but if everyone starts adopting, the unnecessary breeding might stop. It’s all supply and demand, right?
    Liesbet recently posted…Weekend Fun – A Letter from LolaMy Profile

    1. You are so right, Liesbet! The solutions do not need to be complicated and are often easier than we think. It is all about open and honest connection with others. Greeting people that you meet is a perfect start–and is something that we can all do! I also love your advice to ‘adopt not shop.’ And for those who wish to connect with animals, but are not ready or able to have a full-time pet in their home, there are many organizations, like the SPCA, that offer this opportunity. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi, Tom – Thanks for stopping by and commenting…and for your kind words. Yes, there are some very frightening practices in terms of animal care out there. I admire the work on individuals and organizations who have been relentless in addressing these issues and making change happen.

  8. I think Americans have this down in terms of doing good in our communities. Of course we can always do better and perhaps do more. As for humane treatment of dogs, don’t ever go to Mexico, in particular, the Wild West of Baja. Dogs are chained up to guard, beaten, abandoned, you name it. Many US and Canadians adopt these Baja dogs and also help the businesses (resorts, etc) support these causes. I know my hubby and I could help in some way down there, but until people can be educated, survival is all they know, and dogs are tools for that. Beautiful post, Donna!

    1. Hi, Terry – I just finished reading a post about the widespread, severely inhumane treatment of dogs in Mexico. It was truly horrifying. The silver lining was that individuals were standing up to make changes (both big and small). That part was very encouraging. It is the recurring piece that I need to grasp to remind myself that one person CAN make a difference! Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Hi, Stephanie – Pets do seem to have a certain magic to help pull people together. Hopefully we can all continue to learn from that. Thanks for stopping by! I greatly appreciate it.

  9. Donna, I’ve been on a road trip and just got a chance to catch up. Loved reading about your Florida experience and so glad that it worked out well for you. Loved it even more when I found out that it was somewhat “spur of the moment” …the best kind of trip. Stay warm up there. We’re thawing out here.

    1. Hi, Joe – Thanks so much for connecting. I was just over at your site. Your recent trip sounds fantastic! Sounds like you had some amazing adventures and some great luck on your side as well. I am looking forward to reading more about your trip details soon!

  10. You ask a wonderful, tough, challenging question, Donna. I applaud you for your work with the SPCA, and with sharing these ideas about a Humane Community. And no, I never feel that I do enough. That I AM enough. But I truly believe that giving and receiving kindness to all – human and animal – leads to a Humane Community. I join a community of peaceful beings in my yoga and dance classes, where we breathe in peace, and as our yoga teacher suggests, then we breathe that out to all people we connect with. I can only hope he’s right. And through my writing, I hope to share my vision of a Humane, Loving, Giving Community.

    1. Thanks, Pam – I totally agree with you that ‘giving and receiving kindness to all – human and animal’ is the core of Humane Communities. Just imagine what our world could be like if we all truly embraced this principle. Thanks for stopping by and sharing these thoughts.

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