This is about the limits of idealism. And how the best intentions can wind up having the opposite effect.
In this blog post
Ellen Degeneres tells the sad tale of a shelter taking a dog away from children. Yes, strictly speaking, she broke the contract she signed when she originally adopted the dog, but when he didn't work out, she found him a good home.
And that's the point
. She did the responsible thing, the right thing.
I don't see too many places in this story where the shelter did the right thing. I'm sure they do good work, but maybe not in the best way.
First of all, seeing the dog and hearing the story on television, I discover that we are dealing with a couple with cats who adopt what looks like a terrier mix. I would never have let her adopt this dog in her circumstances. Terriers were bred to chase down and kill rats. So they are terrier terrors in a home with cats, seeing them, as they can't help but do, as prey. If someone is home all the time to enforce issues with the dog it can work. But she hired trainers and made a good faith attempt, and it obviously did not work.
Secondly, I know from experience how difficult it is to return a dog to the shelter when they don't work out. It would be the last thing I would think of under the circumstances. I would do what Ms. Degeneres did; try to find the dog a good home. She successfully did that.
Even so, there isn't any reason the shelter can't evaluate the dog's new home and not take the dog away unless there was a compelling reason to do so. Which they did not do. It was a brick wall; breach the contract, they take the dog.
This is the opposite of their ostensible mission; which is to get the poor dog a home. It's not doing him any good sticking him back in the shelter. Those are orphanages for dogs; necessary, but not anything more than a stopgap.
It appears they love their rules, their ideals
, more than they love dogs. It's supposed to be about the dogs, first.
That's the trap of idealism; it's great to have principles, but living things are not supposed to be ground between immovable objects. The point of principles is to provide a moral framework for the treatment of living things. If living things are being hurt for a principle, then the principle is at fault.
The worst story I ever hear about this came from a shelter who had adopted the position that pets were not slaves, and they should not go to homes where they would be put to work. I disagree with this position anyway; I love the Working Group. These dogs need jobs. There's nothing wrong with them contributing.
But this "pethood is slavery" position hit a decision point when they acquired a Komondor. This is the huge, dreadlocked, Hungarian flock guard dog. There's not too many people up for this kind of challenge, but someone stepped up; a farmer who wanted the dog as a livestock guard.
The shelter wouldn't let him go as a worker. So, when his time was up, they euthanized the Komondor.
This still gives me chills to think about. For an ostensibly humane organization to decide the dog, according to their ideals, isn't supposed to perform the job he has been painstakingly bred for. That's it's better to kill him than to let him get a home.
That's the kind of rigid, dogmatic, ultimately inhumane thinking the Degeneres story reminds me of. It's not about the dog, is it? It's about the shelter enforcing their rules, and forgetting what those rules were about.
They should be ashamed of themselves. But dogmatists, clinging to their rules, never consider that.
So just how humanitarian are they?