Thursday Thoughts – Reputation and Transparency

Posted on May 11, 2017

Thursday Thoughts – Reputation and Transparency

This week, on my personal Facebook page, I made a post asking individuals who are Facebook friends of mine to go on Yelp and leave a one star negative review of “Cure” restaurant in Philadelphia.  I’ve never been to Cure, but was sent an article in News of the Horse showing a menu from Cure that included Horse Tartar; minced raw horse meat.  I was and still am disgusted that this restaurant would find minced raw horse meat an upper class delicacy.  I stand by my request, and am glad that I let Cure hear my voice.  If in my life I ever stop raising my voice for the horses, then I will have given up.

I was shocked to have two individuals who are on my friends list make confrontational comments about my request.  How can I post scripture one day and ask for negative reviews of a restaurant the next?  That’s an easy answer; both are standing up for what is morally right.  Religion aside though, the comment continued; “what if someone went out asking for negative reviews of Safe Harbor?”  How would I feel about that?

Well, this may be a surprise, but it has happened before.  We’ve dealt with hate campaigns personally and organizationally.  We dealt with them not by confronting them, but by continuing to do exactly what we do and making those that would attack us look foolish; not intentionally but simply by continuing with our mission.

Reputations have a funny way of proving themselves.  By that, am I saying we’re flawless?  No!  We have had bad adoptions, bad foster homes and even mis-read an appropriate match between human and horse before.  We’ve had volunteers feel we aren’t the right organization for them, and I’m sure, though unintentionally we’ve offended more than one person as we’ve gone about our work.  Life is a work in progress.  Safe Harbor is a work in progress, but we’re always striving to grow.

Our stakes are high.  Let’s take Cinna for example.  Cinna came to Safe Harbor as one of our “wildlings”.  He worked with multiple trainers, and we were thrilled when his adoption came through.  He was spectacular.  He was featured on the Homes for Horses Coalition website and Facebook page!

This is what Cinna looked like when he went to his adoptive home (photo courtesy of Shea Hutsenpiller Photography):

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One year post adoption we followed up and all seemed well.  2 years into his adoption we found we had a bad placement. Cinna looked terrible.  We could hardly believe that this photo was our Cinna:

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We brought him back.  We actually paid $150 to a commercial transporter to have him picked up urgently as we weren’t going to let the sun set one more day with Cinna not being safely in our care.  These photos are supposed to happen in reverse order as a before and after.  We never want to see the skinny horse, but seeing him after he left us whole, healthy and trained?  It is devastating.

At the end of the day, no matter what happens, we will be there for our horses.  Does it make us angry?  Yes!  Does it hurt our hearts?  Yes!  Does it make us worry that our reputation will be destroyed?  No.

You see we’ve placed 586 animals and the adoptions that end up like this can be counted on one hand.  We interview, we have an application, we check references, we check our gut feeling.  But just like when you are hiring someone for an important job sometimes ALL of those verifications come back good, you think you’ve got the right person, but at the end of the day they result in a bad hire.  Sometimes the bad apples figure out how to filter in with the good.   Cinna, in case you are concerned, is doing great with his foster mom Brooke.  He’s been back a couple of weeks now, and his weight is already up, and he loves his beginning retraining sessions and his herd-mate.  There were some choice words shared with the adopter, but we won’t put those here.

Transparency will always be a part of who we are at Safe Harbor.  That means transparency when we do great, good, and bad.  We did badly on our choice for Cinna.  We are so relieved for our contract and that he is back where he belongs, and we are committed to making sure he is never failed by humans again.  If someone wants to use our transparency against us to try to damage our reputation we’ll just ignore it.  We will have moments where we mess up.  We will have moments where we don’t shine, but at the end of the day, we look at those times, reflect on them, re-write policies, add in new processes, and we move forward better.  Better people, better equipped to help the horses, and better prepared for the future that lies ahead.  We’ll also always raise our voices against soring, slaughter, premarin, neglect and abuse.  If you don’t agree with that, then you’re probably in the wrong band, and you’re free to exit stage left at any time.

Sariah Hopkins

Executive Director

Safe Harbor Sanctuary