1. What was your first experience with animals that had an impact on you?
I do not think there is just one experience for me that had THE impact on me, just a series of events that led to being involved with C-SNIP at the level I am.
My parents had cats (all fixed) before they had children. We were raised with the cats and taught respect for animals from a very young age. It was natural for me to be at least somewhat aware of animals around me growing up. The summer after I graduated from high school I worked in a vet’s clinic as a receptionist. It was an experience for me to see all the animals and the owners’ care and concern for their pets. It put animal issues a bit more on my radar.
While I was living in Taiwan it really starting to hit home how hard lives could be for animals. Animals in Taiwan are either pampered pets or strays. There were many dogs and cats living on the streets and when I asked what could be done, I was basically told nothing—there was no real system in place for animal rescue. Most people did not even see the strays. A couple of years after I got home from Taiwan, I moved to South Texas, where unfortunately the attitude towards animals was not that different from Taiwan. There was a cat colony at the university where I was studying, and I would help feed them and donate to the one and only no kill shelter in the area. The one incidence that struck me the most was when a friend of mine had started to feed a stray because her son was fascinated with it. When I asked what kind of care she was going to get the cat she was very non- committal—she felt feeding it was enough. I finally talked her into getting the cat spayed by pointing out that if she did not, she would have a dozen cats in short order. I also talked her into getting the cat vaccinated by saying that the woman’s son could get ill from an unvaccinated cat (rare possibility I know, but you gotta do what you gotta do).
2. When, how, and why did you first get involved with the animal welfare/rights movement?
Prior to moving to West Michigan, most of my animal welfare work has been one shot type of deals, helping out where I could. That all changed when I moved here. I first got involved with C-SNIP shortly after I moved to West Michigan because a good friend of mine was on the board and asked me to help develop a survey for them. I had not been directly involved prior to that with animal causes but had been a financial supporter of the HSUS and other animal causes for a number of years. Until I got tenure here at GVSU, I mostly just volunteered for events and with marketing assistance. I had my intro to marketing class do a project for them, and some other small things. However, the moment I turned in my packet for tenure, I was on the board. (My friend knows how the system works). Since then I have been very active with C-SNIP and am currently the president of the board.
3. What are your favorite types of animal advocacy activities? Why? (i.e. lobbying, letter-writing, petitions, volunteering, protests, etc.)
I think because I am an educator by trade, I like education the best. I like to inform people about what the issues are so that they understand the true picture and can make choices based on fact not myth. I find that there is a lot of misconception about many animal issues. For example, a lot of people do not realize how many animals shelters are forced to euthanize every year, so they do not see the big deal of letting their pets have litters as long as they find good home for all of them. Also, I cannot tell you the number of people who told me that it was healthier for me to let my cat have a litter before getting her spayed. When I get the chance, I try and dispel these old wives tales.
4. What animal issues are you most passionate about?
If you have not guessed already, I am most passionate about spay and neuter. My dream would be to see animal shelters no longer have to euthanize. Or even better, go out of business.
5. What current animal-related issue or campaign has caught your attention, and why?
There is a campaign in Michigan right now to include pets in protection orders in situations of domestic violence. I would love to see this law pass. Often women do not leave their abusers because the abuser threatens the animal. If the pet could be protected as well, I think it would make it easier for women to start over.
6. How do you address animal issues within your career?
I am the advisor for HSGV. In addition, community service, and contributing my expertise to the community, is considered part of my job. So I guess that means that being on the board of C-SNIP would be considered part of my career.
7. What advice do you have for someone looking to become a more active animal advocate?
I think the best thing that one can do is educate yourself about the issue(s) that you are interested in and not just jump in uninformed. That way you can make the best impact possible. Once you know what you are talking about people are more like to listen and respond to you and your message.
8. What book, quote, photo, video, story, etc. have you found most inspiring/has inspired you?
“He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” –Immanuel Kant