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Richmond SPCA

Robins-Starr
Humane Center

2519 Hermitage Road
Richmond, VA 23220
804-521-1300

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Mon. - Fri. 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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ceo purrspective

March 2006

Dear Fellow Animal Lover:

Unless you have been living on Mars, you have heard a great deal about the tragic and needless deaths of the two beloved bears at Maymont. Yet again, the lives of innocent animals have been taken due to the stupid and selfish behavior of people. I am one of the many thousands of people who are heart sick over what was done to these magnificent creatures and who feel that, with a little more effort, a path could have been found that protected both the child’s health and the bears’ lives.

The coverage of this tragedy was accompanied by the news media’s predictable response – this time by Mark Holmberg in his weekly column – decrying the fact that people seem to be more distressed over the loss of the lives of these animals than they are over the people who are murdered with great regularity in Richmond. Mr. Holmberg cited the fact that many more letters were received by the Times Dispatch about the deaths of the Maymont bears than were received about the deaths of the Harvey family on New Years weekend. Then, to add insult to injury, he suggested that we should be consoled by the fact that the bears had now been “freed” from the captivity in which they had been held for so long. Oh, please, they are dead, not free!

I have become so tired of hearing this drivel that suggests that you do not care about human tragedy if you care about animal tragedy. There is no zero sum game going on here. One tragedy does not trump the other. We have the capacity to be distressed about, and want answers for, all of these dreadful events in our city.

I have no idea why people wrote more letters about the bears’ deaths than about the local murders, but I do know that it cannot validly be taken as an accurate reflection of the amount of caring people have about either tragedy. I believe that most people are deeply disturbed about both horrible events. They may feel that that they are less able to change the complex factors that cause human murders to occur than to correct the simple and obvious human stupidity that causes many animals to die. It may also be that they are shocked to realize that animal deaths often arise, not from people with criminal records and dysfunctional lives, but from the miserably poor decision making of people in positions of responsibility – people in whom the public has placed their trust.

And here is the real point. People are deeply distressed by animals being killed without adequate reason or adequate respect for the value of their lives. That caring, I believe, arises from the wonderful sense of compassion that most people have for animals. It also arises from a feeling that these animals are totally at our mercy and there is often little mercy given them. So, why do public officials who have been placed in positions of trust and responsibility continue to vastly underestimate the concern of the public for the well being of animals? It seems to me that, again and again, they choose the course of action that will result in an animal’s dying rather than taking the time and effort to find a non-lethal alternative. Then, they appear to be shocked when the public is deeply angry about what has been done. No one should be surprised any more. This should be fair notice to the Health Department, the Game and Inland Fisheries Department and all of the other departments that the people at whose pleasure they serve will not accept the unnecessary killing of the noble animals who share our earth.

Sincerely,



Robin Robertson Starr
Chief Executive Officer