“We criticize people the same way we used to criticize pit bulls,” Upstate animal facilities vow to make changes


GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – Many moral changes are happening in our communities in the Upstate and around the nation.

Some of these changes involve asking people to have more empathy for others, such as wearing masks to protect vulnerable people during the pandemic or understanding those who are enduring hardships associated with systemic racism.

The need for empathy isn’t exclusive to only improve the lives of humans, but also the lives of animals.

On Tuesday afternoon animal welfare advocates and leaders, who are participating in the HASS program, held a meeting to discuss the future of the animal care industry during and after the pandemic.

Greenville County Animal Care is one of 12 other organizations in the country to pilot the program, which is aimed to empower community members, promote diversity and inclusion, and strengthen the bond between humans and animals.

“It’s not just time to be kind to animals, but to be kind to people and animals,” Shelly Simmons said.

Simmons emphasized the importance of showing empathy to others especially during the pandemic.

Leaders are striving to help those who are facing financial barriers keep their pets.

Instead of pet owners having to give their furry family members away forever as a result of temporary financial troubles, the program guides shelters to strive to house the pet for the owner with the intent to return it back once they’re in a better position to care for it.

Simmons explained the importance of having tolerance for those wanting to adopt and have unique lifestyles, and accepting that people love differently, which includes how they love their pets.

“Increase your empathy for people, the same empathy we have for animals,” Simmons said.

Simmons said that years ago people used to treat pit bulls poorly based on stereotypes and at one point shelters had them banned. Now pit bulls are not banned since they’re becoming more accepted and understood, and if we can do that for animals, she says we can certainly remove any stigma and stereotypes surrounding humans.

The program will guide animal care centers to establish systems that cater to humans and animals. Some of those initiatives include:

  • Offering programs to help assist people with covering residential pet fees or pet rent for apartments and homes.
  • Keeping highly adoptable pets in the community instead of transporting them to shelters in other counties or states
  • Assisting those who want to adopt bigger dogs, such as pit bulls, with food and additional helpP
  • Providing pet food to those who are struggling to feed their pet
  • Making an effort to be inclusive of people of color who want to adopt or get involved with shelters

To learn more about HASS, and Greenville County Animal Care please click the links.

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