Tuesday, March 31, 2009

An Exercise in Critical Thinking

On Friday evening I was reading the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and found a very interesting column by Jim Stingl. It was entitled A Tough Break in Some Tough Times and was about a woman named Barbara Smith who adopted a dog from the Wisconsin Humane Society. A few months later the Pomeranian was accidentally dropped, resulting in both front legs being broken. The owner discovered it would cost thousands of dollars for veterinary care. Not being able to afford that she surrendered the dog back to the Wisconsin Humane Society.

A few weeks later Smith contacted the Wisconsin Humane Society and wanted the dog back. The Humane Society had spent $4,000 for veterinary care at that point, and told the woman that she would have to reimburse the cost of medical care already spent, and also be able to cover future medical expenses. Not being able to afford the full amount, the woman offered to pay in installments - which the Humane Society refused. Stingl writes at the end of the article; "It's unfair, Smith said, that someone else will be able to purchase the dog but won't have to pay for its medical bills."

As an animal shelter employee this was obviously a very interesting column for me to read. I knew immediately what my opinion was, but I also thought this could be a very good educational tool.

Yesterday I visited Saratoga Elementary School in Waukesha for my weekly Monday after-school program with a group of about 15 children between grades 3 and 6. I read the article to them out loud, and without giving them my opinion I posed the question to the children: "Should Barbara Smith be given her dog back without paying for the medical expenses?"

I fully expected that they would identify with the pain of losing a pet and would side with Barabara Smith. Therefore I was floored when the first response given by Lexus was "no". She said that not everyone can have vet care for free, and this woman shouldn't either.

The next child I called on was Savannah. She said that the woman should only have to pay for half the expenses because it was an accident.

Shaylynn's opinion was that if you can't pay for surgery, then you can't care for the dog properly and the dog would be in pain and so the dog was better off at the Humane Society.

Sara felt that if she can't pay for these medical expenses then how will she be able to pay for other expenses the dog will have?

Tiara and Alexis both agreed that it wouldn't be fair to other pet owners who have to pay for their pets veterinary care if this woman got it for free. However Alexis also felt sorry for her because she's a single mom and can't afford to pay for it.

I was very proud of these kids for a number of reasons. They felt compassion for both the dog and the previous owner -- teaching compassion and empathy is a big part of what HAWS educational program attempts to accomplish. However they also realize that having a pet is a huge responsibility and that if you can't meet the responsibility the pet may be better off with someone who can provide for it.

I would like to think that my weekly visits to Saratoga have had a positive impact on these kids.

1 comment:

Sharon said...

Judging by the answers they gave you I would say they have learned
alot from your visits with them.
Good job Khris!