Why wont people speak up?

Last week, 2 things happened on the same day.

Firstly I got an email from a person with inside information on a situation in a certain Shelter in Australia. I was given a great deal of information, but was told that this must remain confidential and anonymous. Now, I don’t know how to help change things if people want to remain “anonymous”and not put their name to their claims.

It happens a lot and it’s very frustrating. We are sitting on this mass of information and can do nothing with it. It’s not a good feeling.

Then later that same day I was sent  a link to one of Nathan Winograd’s articles called  “Courage and cowardice in the fight for a no kill nation”. In this article, expressed better than I could, he says :

“I spend a fair part of my day on the telephone. And when I can help someone reform their local pound or when I can help a shelter manager improve their rate of lifesaving, I find it rewarding. But there is one type of telephone call (and e-mail) that fills me with dread. And that is the person who calls about inhumane treatment or other unethical behavior of a local “shelter” or animal welfare organization, but wants to remain anonymous.”

Read the rest of this excellent article here……..

There are many reasons why people want to remain anonymous. “John Smith” in a comment on one of our blog says ” We all wrote to the committee with our concerns for the cats welfare and incidences of malpractice and were met with threatening letters from their lawyers claiming that if we took the matter any further then legal action against of us would be pursued. None of us were in the financial position to go through this and so we all had to drop our complaints.”

Fear of legal action is a well used big stick, we are discovering. We have had a couple ourselves, so we know the feeling!

Sometimes people are fearful of physical retribution – “they know where I live” has been said to us on more than one occasion.

As hard as we try to change their minds, we have to respect their wishes, but, gee it makes it hard to get change going.

It doesn’t help when some of the press refuse to print a story without a real name – many stories are getting buried before they are born.

When we can influence people to speak up, as in the GAWS matter, then the ball gets rolling, other people climb in and campaigns can gather the  momentum they need.

Winograd’s article says it all …………. please read it and pass it around.

I’ll end with his words:

“The most majestic thing of all is the determined courage of individuals willing to suffer and sacrifice for the freedom and dignity of others. Especially when those others have no voice of their own.

Stand up. Speak out. Fight the power. Without you, the animals don’t stand a chance.”

Please let us know what you think about this subject. It’s not about making people who won’t go public “wrong”or “bad” – for them the fear is real.

We have to make it safe and support them. How can we do that? We need ideas and suggestions please! If you are one of these people, please write and tell us what is stopping you and how we can help you!

Let’s discuss this issue in a practical and unemotional way and come up with solutions.

5 thoughts on “Why wont people speak up?

  1. Geoff Birkbeck October 20, 2011 / 6:56 pm


    This from my perspective only and based on my experiances as a Ranger based in the Pilbara and Gasgoyne regions of WA, and as a freelance Authorised Officer in Perth metro.

    There are serveral reasons for remaining anonymous:

    * Fear of reprisal.

    This is more commonplace in regional towns and employment conditions. People know where you live, your car and your habits.

    * “I have to live here”

    By “dobbing in” your neighbours anonymously, you can wave at them on sight, the kids still can play with each other at school and still get the issue percieved dealt with.

    *Disgruntled employee

    Self explanatory. Getting somone else to do their dirty work, continuance-by-remote of the disgruntled employee’s anger. Revenge is a dish best served cold by a waitress……

    * Confidentiality agreements

    Government employees can be charged under various state and commonwealth Acts for breeching confidentaility. However, in WA it is an offence under the state legislation to have knowledge of an offence or practice and not report it as a public servant. The Crime and Corruption Commission will take a report from a state and local government employee and has wider powers to investigate such matters.

    *”But I’m telling you, it’s your job”

    No it isnt. The police can act on matters based on “information recieved” but most statuary authorites can not use that excuse. Yes, it is my job as a ranger to investigate a complaint made by another person under various acts, but if the informant is not willing to make a formal statement and or go to court on the matter, it is difficult to obtain evidence to support a complaint.

    *Lack of confidentiality

    There are various state and commonwealth acts in relation to information storage and privacy. Under the “Privacy Act” an investigating officer cannot disclose the informant. However, the informant’s identity becomes available through legal process.

    In regional towns, everyone knows everybody. The OMO Package mentality still lives.

    I have witnessed complaints discussed openly with persons not associated with the complaint but the third party has been associated with the offender.

    *Persons in dispute/ Malicious or vexacious complaints.

    There is a dispute unrelated between two or more parties so the “rounds” are being done to cause maximum damage to the party in dispute. An example of this i witnessed was a house that was subjected to a alledged home invasion where the dog was hit with an item. This caused the dog to bark in fear. This was explained to the informant who gave her name but not wanted to make a complaint in writing. One call was that the dog was out and causing nuisence. I took the call from my messagebank and was at the offending residence in under 3 mins. No dog or person was found at the residence. A check with the neighbour revealed that the residents were not there for a week, nor was the dog. The informant was invited to attend the shire office to make a statement to that fact, however she realised that I spoke to another person and wrote my own statement out (local police officer was friends with her and told her such) and declined to attend. Another person would complaint on various matters against other people she was fighting with but would not put the matter in writing.

    *The complaint is unfounded.

    This is done just to cause trouble . No name. No backlash

    *I dont want to be involved

    So why open your mouth in the first place?

    *Fear of legal action

    I once had a person not wanting to make a statement because of his actions in helping in a dangerous situation: he thought he “would get in trouble”. His crime? He belted an attacking dog with a shovel to get it off another dog. The offending dog was a pit bull cross. The person ran over to help after seeing a childs stroller on its side, persons screaming and a dog attacking another dog. He thought it was a child in danger. He though he would be charged.

    Another fear is obtaining evidence by illegal means or manufacturing evidence that may have constututed an offence. by letting a third party take over the cruesade they are distancing themselves from the matter whilst still being able to observe the proceeds.

    *Faceless on Facebook

    By saying thier piece on a social media in thier eyes is reporting it, mostly without facts and full of verbal emotion.

    In conslusion, people do not want to be involved or expect a swift result of an issue, and do not want to identify themselves.

    They expect someone else to do it.

  2. Emily Keating October 21, 2011 / 10:00 am


    I’ve just recently discovered your website and its blogs. I hope that when the John Smith’s of this world make complaints to Deathrow Pets, that you do your own proper investigations before coming to a conclusion. There are two sides to every story (I’m not saying that John’s is untruthful but I’d have to hear the other side’s story first before I could judge). I used to be on a committee for a large animal welfare organisation for many years and dealt with staffing issues regularly. We used to have staff who resigned because they didn’t get their own way and then tell people they were sacked. Or if they were dismissed, there were always legitimate reasons – do you really think that good, ethical, loyal staff would be let go? We all know good staff are hard to come by.

    The committee I was on every now and then received letters of complaint from disgruntled employees/ex-employees about malpractice etc. For the record we investigated their claims and let me know tell you, more often than not the complaining person was in the wrong. Every so often we brought in pro-bono lawyers to prevent untruthful, defamatory, damaging misinformation being put out in public forums by people that felt “hard done by”. We didn’t bring lawyers in to protect ourselves, we brought them in to protect the animals – bad press can slow down donations and support of an organisation. It’s the animals that suffer the most. I used to meet regularly with other shelters and so many of them dealt with exactly the same issues. Animal welfare is very emotional and at times opinionated and brings out some passionate vigilantes who at times do more damage than good.

    People need to be careful about making derogatory comments about voluntary committee members without knowing full facts –legitimate, registered not for profit organisations cannot exist without them and yes, while I agree there are difficult and egotistical committee members out there, most are there because they care about animals and believe they have something to offer an help save lives. A lot of shelters struggle to find committee members – its not easy – its like politics – dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t. Remember that committee members are giving up their personal time, and don’t get paid – sometimes its just not worth being on a committee (but as I mentioned earlier, organisations can get shut down if they don’t have a committee under the constitution registered at the various government agencies). Whilst the odd shelter and/or committee may behave unethically, most don’t. The majority of shelters work hard to do the best they can with limited funding and lack of government support.

    Paul, I think Deathrow Pets is a group critical to animal welfare, however I do hope you have an open mind and get yourself fully informed before judging any welfare group. It’s a very different view being on the management side of an animal welfare organisation – maybe you’ve already been there, or are there now. With respect to your comments about speaking up – claims about an organisation must be FULLY factual, objective and not a one sided opinion because making false or misleading allegations will do more damage than good. You don’t want to be responsible for the demise of an organisation that makes a difference to many an animal’s life.

  3. Saving Pets October 21, 2011 / 3:15 pm

    I think it’s because any one who does speak up, gets it from all sides.

    Not only is there threats of legal action from the group in question, you’re often bringing to the public domain information about ‘beloved’ animal organisations – expect a barrage of “so will YOU take all the pets” from supporters who believe quite incorrectly that everyone who works in the pound system is a proactive animal lover who go to the end of the earth to save pets and that even high volumes of killing is completely necessary.

    Anyone who comes forward with a challenge to the status quo can also expect a beating from fellow animal advocates – prepare to be told your approach is ‘making the problem worse’, that ‘more pets will die because of you’ and that ‘your approach is alienating those in power’ or turning off adopters. Even if your effort sees significant change or a new dialogue, you’ll be remembered for antagonising, rather than collaborating… killing is seen as a mature, professional act – to suggest otherwise means you’re simply unrealistic and idealistic.

    Finally, there is a pack mentality of kill apologists that can make it nearly impossible for No Kill advocates to get a fair hearing in the public domain. No Kill is in its infant stages here in Australia, and already many are backing away from the ‘controversy’ of suggesting healthy, treatable pets shouldn’t be killed, not wanting to be ostracised or excluded from the ‘in crowd’. Standing up for the rights of animals in an industry which discourages it is tough – guts without glory – no friends for you.

    But it is so, so vital. Don’t be too quick to cut down those who speak out; we need them to take a stand.

  4. James November 10, 2011 / 6:04 pm

    It is amazing how much money the major shelters will go to retain the status quo. Imagine if that money went into saving lives

    Those that speak up should be supported

  5. Facepalm July 26, 2013 / 3:22 pm

    I’ve only just seen this now – but whilst you sit nice and snug behind your computer saving the world and feeling exasperated that people wish to remain anonymous, let me tell you this:
    The person who risked all to blow the roof off the situation you are referring to did real jail time. With real jail criminals. With real social reprisal. With real effect to the rest of their lives.

    Think of that next time you get your panties in a twist over someone wishing to remain anon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s