Guest post by Kate Larkin
While attending a humane legislative seminar in Austin, Carol Whatley proudly introduced herself to the attendees as a member of Van Zandt County Humane Society. “I heard a gasp”, said Carol. “Then someone loudly whispered, ‘She’s from that place in East Texas with the puppy mill flea market’.” Van Zandt County Humane Society’s (VZCHS) focus is on animal welfare and adoption, but the members of this all volunteer, nonprofit organization have discovered a new, unintended focus: overcoming Van Zandt County’s less than humane reputation. “It’s time to rebrand,” decided Carol.
“VZCHS needs a fresh approach to overcome the area’s bad publicity. It’s embarrassing when the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) specifically calls out your county.” Carol is referring to an HSUS article published in January of this year (To Market, To Market, To Buy a Sick Dog), detailing their investigation into Texas puppy sales. The article opens with a troubling description of Canton’s “Dog Town”.
Carol adds: “Of course it’s not just Van Zandt. The surrounding counties deal with similar issues of inhumane treatment toward animals.” This year in Gregg County a pet owner faced cruelty charges for leaving a dog chained outside in freezing temperatures, resulting in the animal’s death. The HSUS has conducted multiple raids on puppy mills in Kaufman County. The SPCA of East Texas responds to hundreds of animal abuse calls every year in Smith County. “But many cities and counties in East Texas don’t even have shelters or animal control officers. It’s up to the already overloaded police and sheriff’s departments to respond.”
Van Zandt County Humane Society initiatives are spay and neuter, rescue and adoption, humane education and responsible pet ownership. A new logo, new brochures, an updated website and Facebook page, and most importantly, a membership drive, are all part of the rebranding. “We want folks to know who were are, what we represent and how they can help.”