Life

Rude Letter Rallies People Around Surrendered Dog

An inconsiderate, rude email from an animal shelter has caused enough of a backlash to make a surrendered dog one of the most sought-after in the Lowcountry.

It began when the owners of Ozzy, a black Labrador Retriever, decided they couldn’t give the dog the attention they felt it needed after their fourth child was born. Ozzy, who the dad had adopted eight years earlier before meeting his wife and her three kids, wound up in the backyard. They made a decision to put the dog in a shelter, but before doing so, they sent an email to the Lowcountry Lab Rescue to alert them to the fact that the dog was being surrendered.

Someone the executive director of the group calls the “lead volunteer” wrote an email in response to the notification that so outraged the family that they took it to Charleston’s Post and Courier.

The email said, in part:

“The sad fact is that your dog will probably be euthanized and in the dumpster before you are out of the parking lot. … I doubt you had lots of sleepless nights pondering this decision. All you did was type in lab rescue in google and our name pops up first. I don’t see a lot of effort going into Ozzy’s future.” [Emphasis mine.]

Since then, more than 25 people have added their names to a list of potential adopters for Ozzy.

This story has a lot of moving parts: the dog reportedly has heartworms and other issues that must be addressed before he can be adopted. He will also need to be neutered, per shelter policy.  Someone claiming to represent the rescue group indicated on the P&C’s page that Ozzy’s family had been contemplating surrendering Ozzy for as much as a year, but waited until “the last minute” to let them know, rather than giving them the two weeks’ notice they request on their website.

But the bottom line, to me, is this: the only thing more appalling than this volunteer’s response to the family is the fact that the group’s executive director told the newspaper that he stands behind her and her message.

On the Post and Courier’s site, the person claiming to also be associated with the rescue group suggests that this volunteer works harder than a lot of the commenters, then suggests that “until until everyone on this page becomes part of the solution to the homeless animal epidemic by either volunteering at a shelter or, more directly, becoming a foster family, the comments made are opinions without basis in any personal experience.”

I volunteered for an animal shelter in Richmond when I lived there. It was the same shelter from which I adopted a shelter dog. So by this measure, I should be more than qualified to address the note.

And I can tell you that when I volunteered with a rescue group, we’d have never addressed a family this way, no matter how frustrated we might have gotten with people who we thought were regarding their dog as an afterthought. Common sense ought to dictate that there’s no way anyone but the family can know specifics about what led them to the decision and why they decided to act on the decision when they did. Common sense also dictates that no one but the family knows how they truly feel about the dog.

Yes, everyone who owns a dog is supposed to commit to caring for the dog for its entire life.  There’s no way around that.  But sometimes, it just doesn’t work that way.  That’s not a good thing, but it’s the reality of the situation.  Yes, an unimaginable number of dogs are euthanized because there just aren’t enough homes out there being offered by people who are willing to commit to a dog for its entire life.

But volunteers in rescue groups — particularly someone so hard-working and dedicated as this particular volunteer is being described — already know these sad facts.  And there’s a right way and a wrong way to deal with the public from a customer service standpoint. This wasn’t it.

If we are willing to assume for a moment that the owners really do love the dog, and were saddened by the decision they felt they had to make, the last thing they needed was this level of attitude heaped onto their grief.

But what I find most interesting is the double standard in play here from the rescue group’s response: if this family is as uncaring and uninterested in putting forth any effort in taking care of the dog as the volunteer accuses them of being, the rescue group should be thrilled that the dog is getting out of there. They should be doing everything they can to make sure the dog gets to what they’d likely call a “better” family.

I’m really disappointed that the executive director didn’t at least attempt a not-unreasonable explanation that there is so much pressure his volunteers are under because of the workload and limited resources, and that they love the dogs so much and hate to see even one sent to a shelter, that perhaps frustration got the best of the volunteer.

But to make no effort to correct — or even soften — the message?

I hope people don’t judge the work of other rescue groups by the behavior of the volunteer of this one. That would do a great disservice to some caring, compassionate people who are willing to treat animals and people with respect.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.