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Commentary: It would be easier to do nothing

San Bernardino City Council
San Bernardino City Council
Sharon Gilbert

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” is one of many versions of a passage attributed to Edmund Burke. It’s a thought that has become passé in some politically correct circles where “getting along” is more important than doing the right thing. That fact was demonstrated over and over this past week in the situation with the San Bernardino City Animal Shelter.

I’ve received my share of hate mail over the articles I wrote about the series of incidents that led to the arrest and roughing up of Maria Sanchez by San Bernardino police officers. She went to bat for a dog named Sue who was left to die in her kennel with no medical care or even a clean kennel or dry bed.

Emails, private messages and blog comments sent to me by police supporters and shelter apologists, such as “did you bother to watch the videos before you wrote the stories” and “Maria brought it on herself because she didn’t obey the police,” were a common theme in my inbox. But I had it easy.

Some police and shelter supporters took to Facebook to take Sanchez to task for stirring up a hornet’s nest at the shelter. They told her she embarrassed the entire rescue community, that it was her fault that retaliatory killings took place and that she deserved to be arrested and roughed up. And some of the comments were even much worse.

But the ones who have suffered the most in all of this are the animals at the San Bernardino City Shelter. Every day shelter staff is allowed to continue with its policies of killing and torture is a day multiple animals suffer fates no living creature should have to suffer.

To those who asked me, yes, I did watch all of the videos multiple times. Perhaps the difference is that I know the videos represent a few minutes of a situation that has gone on for almost two years. In other words, the videos, by themselves, are out of context of the situation at hand, something most of Sanchez' supporters understand and apologists use to attack her.

Whether Sanchez was in violation of law or the victim of retaliation will be decided in a court of law many months from now. But for today, what she did in those few minutes resulted in the first real hope activists have had in years of fighting the shelter. Her actions and the resulting reactions brought activists together to address the city council, brought attention to the shelter from the citizens around the entire country and more than 80 foreign nations and will result in change to a very broken system.

Yes, she could have done nothing, or even simply complied with the requests of shelter personnel. It would have made the apologists and supporters a lot more comfortable for sure. But it would also result in continued untold suffering of innocent animals that now stand a chance to be helped.

As Animal Law attorney Marla Tauscher pointed out, shelter staff members are violating the law. As a matter of fact, likely we do not even know just how many laws staffers are violating but multiple felonies are quite possible, especially in the area of controlled substances. I suppose we should all shut up and let taxpayer money be used for God only knows what. It would be more comfortable for the apologists if we do nothing and no one ever finds out what is really going on.

The apologists see nothing wrong with a cop who did not do his job and take a report of a misdemeanor committed in his presence. Instead, he took it out on the person who reported the crime. It would be more comfortable for the apologists if we all just keep quiet about the injustice and do nothing to stir the pot.

The apologists say we should not take to protests, and especially civil disobedience, to get the point across. We should talk to and work with shelter employees. It’s been tried. It’s been tried for years. It hasn’t worked. Shelter management likes the status quo. They want to maintain their ability to kill and their ability to manipulate advocates with threats of death to animals if the beans are spilled. It would be more comfortable for the apologists if we all do nothing and we don't tell anyone.

Shelter management is like cancer. As with any cancer, or any corrupt regime, removing it is a process that is extreme, painful and extensive. It must be dealt with aggressively. Unless one is committed to excising it in its entirety, it will grow back. It will get back in power.

Unfortunately, it looks like the San Bernardino City Council is not interested in ridding itself of this cancer. That is a shame. It means the taxpayers of an already bankrupt and lawless city will foot the bill for the extended acrimony and litigation. San Bernardino will continue to be viewed by the nation and the world as a city that deals with its animals by killing them.

Thank goodness for the internet and social media. San Bernardino’s dirty little secret isn’t secret any longer. Thank you Maria for being brave and not doing nothing.

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