My first experience with animals that had an impact on me was adopting my dog. I was ten years old and I thought that we would go see a bunch of happy perfect puppies in a box like you see on TV. Instead, we went to one of the foster homes of the Wyandotte Humane Society and found two dogs that were covered in scars. Both had been rescued from a badly abusive home. We took one home with us immediately and to this day he is my best friend. This experience helped me realize the conditions shelter animals are rescued from, and that’s when I knew I wanted to help species that can’t speak out against the violence and terror that has been inflicted upon them.
2. When, how, and why did you first get involved with the animal welfare/rights movement?
I’ve always been interested in animal welfare/rights. Ever since I was a little kid, I’d play “veterinary hospital” and take care of my stuffed elephants and pandas. But I didn’t get seriously involved until I started working with the Humane Society of the United States in college. Before I hadn’t realized what a real difference we can make in animal welfare. I didn’t know that we could go lobby and that I could have an effect on actual laws to protect animals. Once I realized the power behind letter writing and lobbying, I took off with it.
3. What are your favorite types of animal advocacy activities? Why? (i.e. lobbying, letter-writing, petitions, volunteering, protests, etc.)
Volunteering puts you right there with the animals. You are physically and emotionally helping animals. That’s what I love about working with the dogs at the Michigan Humane Society. The scared ones, I can comfort. The anxious ones, I can help calm. I actually get to see the results of my efforts in the dog’s demeanor. I’m able to connect with them. I also know the importance of lobbying, petitions, and letter writing. So many laws could save animals from brutality and terror. Our government won’t pass these laws (or deny laws that allow harm to animals) unless we speak up. We give our government representatives the facts, we appeal to them on different facets, and we fight and fight and fight on a large scale for changes to be made. Changing the life of one dog is important. But bettering brutal conditions, banning cruel killings and fighting for animal rights on a large, governmental scale can make major changes, so I feel that every aspect of working with animals and working for animal rights is important.
4. What animal issues are you most passionate about?
There are two animal issues that have always been so close to my heart: puppy mills and factory farming. Puppy mills are still a huge problem in this country. The conditions of a puppy mill are stomach churning. These dogs are living in their own feces, their nails growing around wire cages, and they are unable to move or see sunlight for weeks at a time. The breeding dogs are seen only as puppy making machines and often die from malnutrition. We need to work with the government to get puppy mills illegal in all states and shut them down immediately. Factory farming is also one of an animal advocate’s constant upward battles. What we do to animals for the sake of human consumption is shameful, and most people want to turn a blind eye to it. It can be summed up in one John Lennon quote, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we would all be vegetarians.”
5. What current animal-related issue or campaign has caught your attention, and why?
The most recent animal abuse issue that has come to my attention is bear bile farming. These bears are not just kept in horrible conditions. They are not just killed brutally. They are having metal poles shoved into their stomachs daily, without anesthesia, to collect their bile. It’s a form of animal cruelty that needs more attention. The constant suffering of these animals does not justify the means of gathering their bile. I feel that this is a highly unpublicized issue because it is done in foreign countries, but the horror that the animals go through is not one that should be muted. For more information on the issue, please visit: http://www.animalsasia.org/index.php?UID=2J0NIOGTVCWA.
6. How do you address animal issues within your career?
The company I work for is focused on large scale event rental and I work in the marketing department, and therefore choose who we market to. Working with co-workers and supervisors, my company has decided not to rent to or support circuses that use and abuse animals. We also offer rental donations to local humane societies and animal-centered events.
7. What advice do you have for someone looking to become a more active animal advocate?
Read up. Find your issues. Find what really sparks your interest and your rage. And then do something about it. If your school or community has a club, bring your cause to that club. If you don’t have club to go to, start one. Write letters to your congress representatives and senators. Call them. Go see them. Never feel defeated. Never lose that initial spark. Everything you do for the sake of animals makes a difference on any scale. But the only way you can make a difference is by putting yourself out there and doing something.
8. What book, quote, photo, video, story, etc. have you found most inspiring/has inspired you?
The book Thanking the Monkey by Karen Dawn gives a very realistic, sometimes funny, and sometimes heartbreaking look at various forms of animal cruelty. It definitely opened my eyes to new thoughts and ideas. It helped shed light on different causes and really emphasized the importance of fighting the upward battle of animal advocacy.
Also, the Humane Society of the United States’ website gives constant updates on causes, legislation, and frequent reminders of how people can get involved in the causes that they care most about.