BY MICHELLE SEROCKI, FREELANCE COLUMNIST

We’ve all heard the age-old adage, “the elephant in the room,” which refers to a problem or awkwardness that is huge, but everyone ignores it. I don’t know about you, but I have elephants all over the place. They’re certainly not contained to one room. One room and one elephant sounds blissfully ignorant to me.

I’ve got an elephant in my bedroom. He’s supposedly a foster dog that bears a striking resemblance to an adopted pet and takes up more then his share of my bed. He has all but spoke in tongues about the fact that he’s never leaving.

I’ve got an elephant wherever my teenager is, so I try incredibly hard to avoid that room… or teacher conference… or vehicle. That elephant is incredibly mobile.

I’ve got work elephants and coworker elephants. My co-worker’s elephants hang out with mine… if I wasn’t so incredibly pro-spay and neuter, I’d have some very serious suspicions about where all these elephants were coming from.

We all have elephants of different shapes and sizes in our lives. Life comes with problems that we don’t want to talk about. Sometimes the problems are so overwhelming or unfamiliar that we look the other way. And sometimes we have no knowledge of a problem even though it’s HUGE.

Today, while standing around the hydrant, we’re exposing some animal welfare elephants. Some big, big problems that aren’t getting the attention they deserve or being addressed on the enormous platforms they warrant.

I’ll ease you into the watering hole… did you know that there’s an amazing problem in the United States of pet overpopulation? I had NO idea about this for the first 35 years of my life even though I religiously watched The Price is Right with the same sign off for decades—“This is Bob Barker reminding you to help control the pet population—have your pets spayed or neutered.” Drew Carey still says it. Did you know what he’s trying to say is there are millions of pets at this very moment that have no home? Millions and millions. No joke. Homeless. Some in shelters. Some on the streets. But all without a home or a family. Often without food or water. WHY?!? Because they’re bred like crazy and no one knows about it! Because people are still buying pets from pet stores. Didn’t know that was a problem? Believe me, you don’t want to know where they’re coming from. Welcome to National Elephant #1.

Did you know that according to the Humane Society of the United States, 1 million of the planet’s 8 million species of animals are facing the threat of extinction? WHAT?!? First off, who knew there were 8 million species of animals?!? Secondly, WHY are all these animals possibly going extinct? And furthermore, WHAT is being done about it? It’s not all obscure types of animals either. It’s elephants and polar bears and rhinos and sharks and sea turtles to name just a few. This elephant is hovering all throughout our atmosphere begging someone to take notice. Not the next generation’s grandkids either. By then it will be too late. Say hello to Global Elephant #2.

I’ll wrap up our time at the hydrant with an elephant that’s plopped its big self down smack dab all over our great nation along with some other nations. This is one that our country works hard, hard, hard to make sure no one notices and no one talks about. It’s a tough one. Parents and grandparents alike flock to stores for Fisher-Price’s traditional farm full of smiling pigs, cows and chickens to give for a child’s first gift. Elementary teachers everywhere sing songs about Old MacDonald and his fantastic farm. Zoos across America celebrate the traditional farm and its happy-go-lucky inhabitants. But unfortunately, Walmart and all the other grocery giants can’t stock their stores with the amount that Old MacDonald’s Farm can produce. McDonald’s didn’t serve it’s first billion people with food from old-fashioned farms with happy, carefree animals. When we take a moment to consider the math, we know that it doesn’t add up. What supplies all that food? Cue elephant #3, Factory Farming.

The hydrant is a somber place today. It’s hard to navigate this life surrounded by elephants. The animals of the world rely on us humans to care of them and their environment. If you want to learn more about these and other animal welfare issues, global and national elephants, please Google the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Research pet overpopulation, wildlife extinction, and/or factory farming. Look an elephant in the eye, introduce yourself and give it a voice. The animals will absolutely appreciate you for taking the time to address the elephant in the room!