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Humane Society of Greater Rochester

Extremists in Animal Welfare

One of the most amazing things about working with animals is the passion people have for the cause. At Lollypop Farm, we believe working together with our community is essential to helping prevent cruelty, seek justice, and save lives. No one organization can do it alone, and a willing community is essential to creating a compassionate and just world for all animals. But when passion goes to extreme levels, it hurts our shared cause, our community, and the people who show up every day to help every animal to the best of their ability.

How do extremists hurt pets and our community?



Extremists operate based on feelings, not FACTS.

We understand that animal welfare is emotionally difficult. Every day, our Humane Law Enforcement Department and shelter are faced with the emaciated, the abandoned, and the abused. At times, we see the cruelest sides of humanity, and we admit how difficult it can be not to jump to conclusions and judgment. We understand how someone can see a too-skinny animal, make a snap judgment about the owner, and wish we would just whisk them away. This is why our staff have extensive training to deal with these emotionally tricky situations.

Because the truth is that feeling is not always based on facts. A too-skinny animal does not always mean that an animal is not loved. It could mean illness or hard times for the family. A story of abuse or neglect, whether it’s one we are told or one we tell ourselves, IS NOT a fact. And it’s critical in our society that every law enforcement agency works solely in fact. It builds stronger cases against those who have committed crimes and prevents those who are innocent from being punished unduly.


Extremists encourage flooding phone lines.

If you are on social media, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a post of an animal requesting that you flood your nearest SPCA with calls on that animal’s behalf. This leads to hundreds of well-intentioned community members flooding the shelter with phone calls, emails, and direct messages. This is harmful for a number of reasons, the most important being that it prevents other concerns from reaching dispatchers, preventing other animals from being helped.

Lollypop Farm is a non-profit organization that includes our Humane Law Enforcement Department. That means operating on a lean system so resources can go towards helping the animals who need us most. Flooding our phone lines, emails, and social media means taking people away from their work to answer calls about a single pet we’ve been already alerted to who may or may not need help. As a result, other reports end up waiting for available team members, which delays our ability to come to the aid of other pets in the five counties our law enforcement investigators cover.


Extremists encourage working outside the law and due process.
Often, animal welfare extremists do not fully understand the extent of animal cruelty laws or due process. And in the cases in which they do, they may not care that Lollypop Farm investigators need to work within the confines of these laws. Lollypop Farm investigators are required as peace officers to work with the laws of New York State.

This means requiring warrants issued by a judge before being able to enter a home. It means not being able to remove pets from homes where they are not in immediate danger. Animal cruelty laws are often subjective, requiring investigators to prove intent, often a difficult task to do beyond a reason of a doubt. And they are only able to charge when laws are broken, not just because an owner does not treat a pet the way we would. Learn more about animal cruelty laws in New York State.

While our investigators can make the charge of animal cruelty, they DO NOT have control over the outcomes in court. They aren’t able to ensure that the harshest punishments are enforced or that plea bargains are not made.

Extremists contribute to compassion fatigue.

Feeling justified by their passion, animal welfare extremists call yelling and making derogatory comments towards employees. They request that groups flood phone lines, making demands that are often not reasonable or within our ability to make. These groups often harass and bully employees and volunteers online. Not only are these not acceptable ways to act, but they also contribute to compassion fatigue among staff.

Studies have shown that animal caregivers experience high levels of compassion fatigue, a secondary traumatic stress syndrome. With thousands of animals coming into the shelter every year, many emaciated, abused, and traumatized, working in animal welfare is very emotionally tolling work. Leading traumatologist J. Eric Gentry, PhD, suggests people working in animal welfare have a strong identification with the helpless and are motivated to help those who cannot help themselves. And sadly, animal welfare workers are already faced with the inevitability that they will be unable to save every pet.

Compassion fatigue can lead to symptoms including depression, anxiety, feelings of helplessness, emotional numbness, substance abuse, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating, and increases in physical illness as well. Not only is it harmful to the people who dedicate their lives to helping animals, but to the animals as well. Since these employees work directly with the animals and community, their ability to work effectively can be hindered when experiencing high levels of compassion fatigue.

Why Can You Trust Lollypop Farm?



The organization that our community now knows as Lollypop Farm was first established in 1873. Since then, our staff and volunteers have worked to the best of their ability to work towards a just and compassionate world for all animals. Our procedures and practices have not always looked the same as we have grown and adapted over the last 150 years of serving the Rochester community. Today, we continue to remain a trusted resource for those seeking help and provide the highest quality care for the animals at our shelter.


Lollypop Farm has held a law enforcement designation (SPCA) since its inception. Our present officers are peace officers in NY State. Each of them has received police officer training that is high above the standard peace officer training required by New York State. Each of the officers is experienced in crime investigation, law interpretation, and criminal procedure. They respond to thousands of calls for service, seize hundreds of animals out of unsafe conditions, and provide community resources like food and supplies to disadvantaged communities. Lollypop Farm is also active in helping to advocate for stronger laws against animal cruelty.


Lollypop Farm was also recently awarded the Torch Award for Ethics by the Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York.  This award recognizes organizations whose leaders demonstrate a high level of personal character, ensure the company’s practices meet the highest standards of ethics and have gained the trust of their employees and the community.

What Can You Do to Help?



We understand the extreme measures often taken by these groups as a result of feeling helpless to come to the aid of every animal. But there are ways you can help: 


Report Animal Cruelty
Animals rely on people to be their voice. If you witnessed neglect or abuse contact the Lollypop Farm Humane Law Enforcement Department or call 9-1-1 in the case of an emergency. Also, please understand that while we are grateful for your report, it is often not possible to provide updates in an investigation to maintain the privacy and trust of our community.


Familiarize Yourself with Animal Protection Laws

The vast majority of laws protecting animals occur at the state level with some protections offered at the federal level. Knowing what the laws are and what extent of protection they provide is critical to understanding if a crime has been committed or if accusations are a perception of mistreatment.


Advocate for Stronger Laws 
Every voice makes a difference. You can help to improve laws in our state by researching and getting involved. Without the help of strict laws, Lollypop Farm and other organizations would not be able to prosecute those charged with animal cruelty. By advocating to local government officials, you can show your support for animals in need.

The New York State Animal Protection Federation is a great resource to begin your journey in animal rights advocacy.