April is Animal Cruelty Awareness Month!

With April being National Animal Cruelty Awareness Month, choosing to adopt a pet is more relevant than ever. It’s no secret that millions of helpless animals are faced with cruelty and abandonment every day; and without human awareness this tragedy will never improve. Since animals do not have a voice to tell their stories, it’s up to the individuals that care for them to speak up on their behalf.

Samantha Miller is one anti-cruelty advocate who is always willing to speak for animals. As a volunteer at the Champaign County Humane Society, she sees a lot of abused animals come through the doors. However, she rescued her own dog, Delilah, from the side of the interstate. “I definitely consider abandoning an animal to be a form of abuse. Dogs need human companionship and depriving them of that is cruel. The least you could do is drop them off at a shelter where they stand a chance,” she said. Though she had only rescued from shelters before, Miller said that Delilah needed to be rescued just as much as any shelter dog and couldn’t bear to let her go.

Another place to rescue a pet that’s often overlooked with the popularity of animal shelters is the pound. Pounds differ from shelters in that they are government funded and operated and therefore typically have short holding times. The short holding times are one thing that led Sue Westemeier to adopt from a pound.

“Initially I did choose to adopt from the pound because of the short holding times the dogs have until being euthanized, but I ended up choosing the dog I did because his behavior showed signs that he’d been abused. I wanted to give him a better life,” Westemeier said.

Too often, animals live their lives not knowing how it feels to be loved and cared for. They only know what it’s like to be beaten, neglected, abandoned and alone.  By no means can one person make a difference for all of the unfortunate animals in the world; but one person can make a difference some. Rescuing a pet is rewarding in so many ways, but one will never fully understand how rewarding it can be until they do it themselves.

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Annotated bibliographies relating to animal issues

Cook, G. (2010). Where should you go to find a good dog? Here’s what you need to know about breeders and shelters. Washingtonian, 136-143.

This article from the Washingtonian magazine discusses what one needs to know about buying from a breeder and also provides information on adopting from an animal shelter. I thought this was a good article for those who don’t really know much about either issue (breeding vs. rescuing) because it takes an unbiased approach to both sides of the spectrum.

When it comes to buying from a breeder, the author stresses the importance of doing a great deal of research, especially if one found the breeder via the internet, which is becoming a popular source for pet purchases. Many breeders that people find online are actually puppy mills. The breeder should be willing to provide referrals from past customers and should be inspected by the American Kennel Club. They should also have no problem letting you see the puppies’ mother or registration papers. The best breeders should also be able to give a customer a good idea of what they should expect with their new pet because they should have a history of the pet’s breeding lines. There are plenty of questions a prospective pet owner should ask a breeder, and a good breeder should have questions to ask in return. The breeder should be interested in the type of home the dog will be living in as they will want to make sure it will be a good fit.

Rescuing a pet from an animal shelter is an alternative to buying from a breeder. With home foreclosures often forcing people to get rid of their pets, animal shelters are acquiring record numbers of abandoned animals. Most people go to a breeder because they want a purebred animal; however those can be found at a shelter as well. About 25% of shelter dogs are purebred. But just because an animal is purebred doesn’t mean it is better than a mutt, in fact, the article says that a mix of a lot of genotypes can actually be healthier. Some people stay away from adopting from a shelter because they believe that a breeder will know more about the pet they are adopting. But this is not always the case. Most animal shelters spend a lot of time with the dogs and give the animal a report card which details their behavior, temperament and sociability.

The price difference between a dog from a breeder and a rescued dog are drastically different. Purebred dogs from breeders usually range from $500 to $2000. Animal shelters do have adoption fees, but they are much less than buying from a breeder and go toward paying for the costs of running the shelter and spaying/neutering the pet.

As mentioned, this article takes an unbiased approach to the issue, which is why I believe it is a useful and reliable source for my project. Even though the article didn’t tell me anything I don’t already know, it is good to see various points of view.

Markovits, A. S., & Queen, R. (2009). Women and the World of Dog Rescue: A Case Study of the State of Michigan. Society & Animals, 17(4), 325-342.

This article looks at how the perception of pets, and dogs in particular, have changed over the past 20 years in the United States. Today, about 85% of dog owners in the U.S. consider their pet to be a part of their family. The article also focuses on how women are leading the dog rescue movement and are the leading force in the changing dynamics of the human-animal relationship. Some statistics provided include that 85% of the books written about dogs in 2005 had female authors, whereas in 1970, only 30% of these books had female authors. In 1972, only 9.4% of veterinarians were women, by 2002 71.5% were women. Thus, it is no surprise that animal rights activists and rescuers are disproportionately female.

While I have always thought the words “animal rescues” and “animal shelters” could be used interchangeably, this article says otherwise. Dog rescues didn’t really come about until the 1980s and 90s. Dog rescues differ from shelters and humane societies in that these animals are actually kept in a volunteer’s home as a foster dog rather than staying in a shelter’s kennel. This allows the dog to learn some house manners and receive the attention they deserve.  As mentioned the leaders of these rescue organizations tend to be female. The article found that of the 115 breed rescues in New England in 2005, only four had a male president or contact person.

Much of this article deals with a case study performed by the authors that looked at dog rescuers in Michigan and the how gender seems to play into the attitude one has about animals and dog rescuing. The study was conducted by both surveys and personal interviews. Some of the survey questions were: “Animals have the same basic rights as humans,” and “I would rather spend time with my dog than my spouse/significant other,” to which the women showed a higher level of agreement than men.

The study also looked at why the respondents thought women were more involved in dog rescuing than men. Most female respondents seemed to agree that it was because women are “more caring and nurturing, more interested in animal well-being, and more willing to deal with problems.” However, male respondents tended to think there were more women in the dog rescue world because they think women have more time on their hands and are less taxed with their work. Also examined in this case study were the education level, marital status, political and religious affiliations, income and type of employment those had that tend to be involved in dog rescuing.

This information seems reliable and objective as the researchers provided detailed information on exactly how the study was conducted. It is different from other sources I have read in that it focuses more on people and gender in particular, than on animals. It was interesting to think of animal rescuing in this perspective, though it does not really matter to me what gender is helping animals more, as long as people are helping them.

Mornement, K. M., Coleman, G. J., Toukhsati, S., & Bennett, P. C. (2010). A Review of Behavioral Assessment Protocols Used by Australian Animal Shelters to Determine the Adoption Suitability of Dogs. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 13(4), 314-329.

This journal article focuses on animal shelters in Australia and looks at how these shelters assess the suitability of an adoption. In Australia, like most developed countries today, dogs are popular companions. However, as with any country, many dogs are abandoned and end up in an animal shelter. The reasons for this vary, but the most common reason for dogs in Australia to end up in a shelter is for “behavioral problems.” These behavioral issues include “aggression toward people and other dogs, destructive behavior, inappropriate elimination, escaping, hyperactivity/boisterousness, and vocalization.”

A typical shelter will perform a behavioral assessment, or temperament test, on the dog before adoption takes place. Dogs who do not pass this assessment and show excessive aggressiveness are not cleared for adoption and are either rehabilitated, retained in permanent confinement or even euthanized.

The purpose of this particular study was to look at the behavioral assessment protocols used by the sample of Australian animal shelters. The researchers also aimed to discover how confident those who assess the dogs are in the protocols used and in their ability to assess a dog’s behavior. The study was conducted by interviewing people who work at Australian shelters and conduct these assessments and by observing and reviewing material about the assessment protocols. Throughout the study more than 50 assessments were observed during various visits to the 11 shelters that took part in the study.

The study found that the interpretation of the data collected through a behavior assessment tended to be very subjective. For example, some of the assessment protocols asked the assessor to rank certain aspects of the dogs behavior as “excellent,” “good,” “fair,” “unsuitable,” etc., but the different options were not defined, so it was up to the assessor’s discretion as to what to mark for the dog. Thus, the decisions about the fate of the dog were usually made subjectively and without proper reason.

Interviews with staff members that perform these assessments indicated that even with higher levels of experience, many were not confident conducting such assessments. Also, only two thirds of those in the study had actually received any training to conduct these assessments. Many staff members said that they were usually not given enough time to conduct an accurate assessment of each dog before making decisions.

Overall, the study found that while it is good that Australian shelters are trying to ensure that dogs do not end up in a home that is not a good fit or that someone does not adopt a dog with severe behavioral issues, the dogs are poorly assessed. The assessment protocols should take a more scientific approach and clearly define different aspects of the dog’s behavior that the assessor should be looking for. Also, these assessments should be standardized across all shelters and should provide more reliability, validity and feasibility than what is currently in place. In addition, staff assessing these behaviors should be trained.

This source is definitely useful to my research and seems reliable and objective. It would be interesting to see a study like this of American shelters though. It’s also made me more aware that even though shelters are helping animals, their practices are not always flawless.

Daffron, S. (2009). Funds to the rescue: 101 fundraising ideas for humane and animal rescue groups. Sandpoint, ID: Logical Expressions.

This book is written for those that work for non-profit animal organizations. Obviously, a very big and important issue for these organizations is making sure they have the funds to do everything that they want to do. Funds to the Rescue saves these organizations the time of researching their different options and provides much of the information needed to start new fundraisers.

The book starts out with a section called “The How’s and Why’s of Fundraising.” This section provides a lot of background information and gives some of the keys to successful fundraising. Also included in this section is information on some legal issues that could be faced when doing a fundraiser and how to avoid that. The following section looks at the marketing strategies of non-profit fundraising. One thing the organization should never lose focus of when doing their fundraising is its mission. The money donated is for an important cause and that should be emphasized throughout the fundraising campaign.

The book also looks at how to put a successful team together to work on the campaign. It’s important to get the right personalities together and when you’re only working with volunteers this can be difficult. Obviously another important step to fundraising is planning. This includes setting goals and objectives, having a fundraising calendar and deadline, offering several ways to donate, assigning roles, etc. Saying “thank you” and showing appreciation when people donate is something that should not be forgotten as well. The second section of the book focuses on fundraising ideas. This section provides 101 different ideas for fundraisers and tells you how to get them started.

The goal of this source is to help out non-profit rescue organizations with raising funds, so for those who do not or do not plan to be involved in non-profit animal organizations this book would not be of interest. I found it to be useful though as fundraising will always be an important part of animal rescuing. The information provided was reliable and helpful. Since my project deals with animal rescuing, this should be able to tie in.

Animal Rescue Links

Here are some great links I’ve come across that deal with animal issues. Check them out!

These links are for videos from the Pedigree YouTube channel. Pedigree does a lot of work to help shelter dogs, and they’ve made several videos advocating the importance of adopting from shelters. The first video is one of my favorites. Although it’s short, the message is one that will stick with you. The video it aims to break stereotypes about shelter dogs and encourages shelter adoption. The second link goes to a touching video that highlights a particular dog, Echo, who was adopted from a shelter. The Pedigree channel has several videos like this that feature different dogs who were adopted from shelters. The end of the video talks about the Pedigree adoption drive, a campaign Pedigree started a few years ago in which they help shelter dogs find homes. It’s good to see a large corporation like Pedigree taking notice of such an important issue and doing their part to help!

This link goes to a website for an international organization called Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). The website has a lot of interesting information and videos about what the organization has done to help animals in need all over the globe. Two of their main programs are the Shelter of the Week program and Operation Baghdad Pups. The Shelter of the Week program honors an animal shelter each week by featuring them on the website and providing the shelter with a cash grant. Operation Baghdad Pups provides veterinary care to the stray dogs US soldiers have befriended while fighting for our country. This program also helps out with getting the dogs to soldiers after they return to the states. This organization is not as big or well known as ASPCA or the Humane Society of the United States, but it does a lot of good work for the sake of animals.

This blog called, A Place to Bark, chronicles the life of dog and cat rescuer Bernie Berlin. She rescues dogs who have been abandoned, abused, confiscated from the police, or are scheduled to be euthanized at other shelters. A Place to Bark is a registered non-profit organization in Tennessee. The blog has a lot of posts about what the organization is accomplishing and features particular animals and tells their stories. This is a fairly new organization, and in just five years it has saved 2500 animals. However, due to the economy and lack of funding, A Place to Bark (along with many other shelters) are facing financial issues. In fact, this past July the organization was almost forced to close its doors, but thanks to a grant it was able to make ends meet. Nevertheless, costs of keeping up a place this is a constant struggle, and donations are always needed and appreciated.

This is a blog that focuses on providing tips to animal shelters. Their tips vary from fundraising ideas to getting more grants to finding volunteers and more. This is a great website for people who work or volunteer at an animal shelter to check out to get some ideas to better operate the shelter. For example, one blog posts emphasizes the importance of leaving politics out of animal shelters. Bringing politics into the animal shelter can create tension between workers or volunteers who disagree with your point of view. This also takes attention away from the real problem at hand: saving the animals.

The Animal Advocates website has tons of information about animal cruelty and advocating for animals. One of their campaigns is called “Unchain Your Friends” which sends an important message about how dog owners should not be able to leave their pets chained to a tree for its life. One heartbreaking video dealing with this issue on the website tells the story of a dog who spent 10 years on a chain with basically no companionship or attention. The neighbors of this dog had even seen its owners urinating on her from the porch. After years of phone calls to authorities, the dog was finally rescued by animal advocates and now lives with a family that loves and cares for her. The people behind this website do a lot of good for the sake of animals, including abused animal rescue, puppy mill rescue, advocacy for animals, pet store investigations, and more, all of which is chronicled on this website.

Photo Slideshow

This is a photo slideshow I created of photos I took at the Effingham County Humane Society.

Man on the Street Interviews

This is a compilation of interview questions I asked several people to find out what people know about animal rescuing.

Photograph analysis of iconic “Vulture Stalking a Child”

While searching for iconic photographs taken throughout history, the one that stuck out to me the most was the “Vulture Stalking a Child” photo taken by Kevin Carter. Carter started his photography career by working in sports, but soon after began photographing the political issues, anti-apartheid protests, violence and repression in South Africa. After several years of covering the South African beat, Carter felt he needed a change of scenery. Thus, he paid his own way to southern Sudan so he could capture images of the extreme hunger that was being overlooked by much of the world. This is what led Carter to the iconic scene he captured in March of 1993 (MacLeod).

Herman Cohen, a former assistant secretary for African affairs, called the issue in Sudan, “one of the world’s darkest humanitarian nightmares . . . a chaotic territory where civil war, disease, homelessness and hunger form a tapestry of tragedy for millions of Sudanese” (Struck 1993). A civil war was occurring between the government of the north, who wanted an Islamic country, and the non-Muslim rebels of the south. The fighting forced millions of people away from their homes, walking miles upon miles in lands of drought and disease with no cattle or crops. Death was commonplace (Struck 1993).

Upon Carter’s arrival to Sudan, near the village of Ayod, he witnessed villagers heading to a nearby feeding center. Though one cannot tell by the image, the little girl was not in a secluded desert as it appears. The starving toddler was struggling to keep up with the others and laid down to rest. Carter was prepared to photograph this heartbreaking scene when a vulture landed nearby and silently watching the emaciated child. Carter later stated that he waited about 20 minutes hoping to get a photograph of the bird spreading its wings, though this did not end up happening. He then positioned himself to get the best angle and snapped some photographs which would later land him a Pulitzer Prize and a great deal of controversy (MacLeod).

The photograph was published in The New York Times on March 26, 1993. Calls flooded in to the newspaper with people wanting to know what happened to the poor little girl. The photo sparked such a large reaction that the paper actually ran an editor’s note saying that the girl made it to the food station but apart from that her condition is unknown. The photo was reproduced in many other newspapers and quickly became the image of Africa’s devastating conditions (Cinders 2009).

Carter was heavily criticized for this photo as many thought he should have done something to help the girl. However, the journalists in this area were told not to touch the subjects as there was a fear of spreading disease. In later interviews, Carter estimated that about 20 people died per hour at the food station and that he regretted not helping the girl; though to be realistic, there is not much he could have done (Cinders 2009). After Carter took the
photo, it is reported that he chased the vulture away from the scene and then “sat under a tree, lit a cigarette, talked to God and cried” (MacLeod).

In April of 1994, Carter won a Pulitzer Prize for the photo. Unfortunately this was not enough to erase all the tragic events he had witnessed and photographed in his short life from his mind, and he took his own life that July (MacLeod). Pieces of his suicide letter read, “the pain of life overrides the joy to the point that joy does not exist … I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain … of starving or wounded children, of trigger happy madmen” (Cinders 2009).

Carter was able to angle the photo in a way that it appeared as if the vulture was only a few feet from the child, when in actuality it was further. Also, the girl’s side is turned more toward the audience of the photo, allowing us to see how emaciated she really is. The vulture is diagonal from the girl, which also adds interest. It seems to me that both the vulture and the child’s head lie on a vertical third of the photograph, showing that Carter used the rule of thirds. What’s better is that the eye of the vulture and the child’s body are on the horizontal third line, making it even more appealing to the eye.

The photographer seems to have employed natural lighting in this photo. I do like how there is not much contrast in this image; the colors seem kind of dingy and drab, which works in this type of photo. The photo is a long shot as there is a positional relationship between the girl and the vulture and their setting. Also, their full figures are in the frame.

I think the purpose of this photograph is to pull at peoples heartstrings, to get them to comprehend and see with their own eyes the dire situation that Africans are facing. According to Sean Thomas Dougherty, the photo is also meant to get people to act. The fact that the photo incited so much controversy and anger means that the photo is doing what it should; and hopefully all that anger will get people to do something about the continuing problem (Dougherty 2006).

It also clearly speaks to the social and political issues of Sudan. The civil war is mainly what was causing the severe starvation in Sudan, which is portrayed in the photo, since it was driving people away from their homes, which is where their food sources were  (Struck 1993). This single photo of one child does an excellent job of summarizing the immense distress the entire country was enduring.

People have analyzed this iconic photograph in different ways. Some critics said that a photographer adjusting their lens to capture just the right image of the dying girl may just as well be the vulture. Others believed the starving child symbolized Africa’s anguish, while the vulture symbolized all those who just sit back and watch, waiting; not doing anything to help. Carter’s daughter even said that the suffering child represented her father, and the rest of the world was the vulture (Cinders 2009). This is referring to the criticism he faced and how all the terrors he had witnessed in the world haunted him so much so that he could not continue living. In my opinion though, the purpose of this photograph was to provide a shocking metaphor for what was going on in Sudan.

References

Cinders. (2009). Kevin Carter: The Consequences of Photojournalism. Fanpop. Retrieved February 21, 2012 from http://www.fanpop.com/spots/photography/articles/2845/title/kevin-carter-consequences-photojournalism

Dougherty, S. (2006). Killing the Messenger. Massachusetts Review, 47(4), 608-616. Retrieved February 21, 2012 from EBSCOhost database.

MacLeod, S. (n.d.). Wanting a Meal: The Ultimate in Unfair. Flatrock. Retrieved February 21, 2012 from http://flatrock.org.nz/topics/odds_and_oddities/ultimate_in_unfair.htm

Struck, D. (1993). A harvest of death: Famine stalks Sudan Civil war brings ‘nightmare’ for millions. The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved February 21, 2012 from http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1993-04-21/news/1993111111_1_southern-sudan-civil-war-happening-in-sudan

Annotated bibliographies

Greenebaum, J. (2009). “I’m Not an Activist!”: Animal Rights vs. Animal Welfare in the Purebred Dog Rescue Movement. Society & Animals. 17(4), 289-304.

This journal article looks at volunteer purebred dog rescuers who do not associate themselves with the animal welfare, rights or liberation movements. Some of these groups may be authentic, while others, like PETA (an animal rights organization) are considered too radical and extreme, which ultimately damages their cause. Greenebaum’s findings indicate that purebred rescuers mainly focus on rescuing and finding homes for abandoned dogs, educating their owners about how to care for a pet properly, the importance of spaying and neutering pets, and why they shouldn’t purchase animals from pet stores and breeders. Animal rights, welfare and liberation movements, however, focus more on philosophical issues relating to animals and fighting for legal change. Greenebaum’s study then goes on to look at the reactions of dog rescuers to the different animal movements in a more in depth way.

The information in this article is well researched. Greenebaum used information from 28 other sources and did his own study as well. His study included personal interviews with 26 dog rescuers in varying geographic locations. The goal of the article was determine what perceptions purebred dog rescuers have of different animal activist organizations and how the rescuers differ from these organizations.

I found this source helpful to my research topic as it directly relates to what I am focusing on. It was interesting to see how the animal rights, welfare and liberation movements are all actually different, because I think most people tend to group them all up into the same category. This article helps shape my argument because it shows that most animal rescuers are radical or extreme, which often intimidates people away from the movement.

 

Sacks, P. (2000). Puppy Mills: Misery For Sale. Animals, 133(5), 10-17.

This article mainly discusses what goes on in a typical puppy mill. The horrible conditions of a puppy mill, the treatment of the animals at the mill, the health problems (often leading to death) the animal faces after leaving the puppy mill and the legislation regarding puppy mills in the United States are major focuses of the article. The main point is to inform the audience about what actually goes on at these puppy mills; and that buying that cute little puppy from a pet store only helps fund the atrocious practices of these “dog farmers.”

As mentioned, the goal of this article is to raise awareness about what really happens at puppy mills. There is no reference list at the end of the article, but the author indicates where the information was from within the text. The author is clearly against puppy mills, but I think anyone researching the topic would find themselves against it. The article was published in 2001 though, so there may be new laws that have come about regarding puppy mills since publication.

This source is definitely useful to my research. One of the main things I am focusing on is why one should avoid buying pets that come from puppy mills and this article provides sound reasoning to support that argument. It also helps confirm my beliefs about the commercial dog breeding industry. However, I would need to find a more recent source with information about the current legislation in place for puppy mills.

Donating locally

Today in class I came across this blog post about donating to local animal shelters rather than the national organizations, like the Humane Society of the United States (which does NOT fund local humane societies). The author provides a lot of startling statistics about where the money actually goes that is donated to these national organizations. The Humane Society of the United States does not actually house any animals, so much of their money just goes toward the costs of advertising and direct mailing solicitations. Plus some of their employees are paid well over 100k/year, which is all funded by donations. I do think advertising is important because it helps raise awareness about the cause, but the majority of their money should go toward physically helping the animals that they are advocating. Local animal shelters need the donations a lot more and typically actually use the money they get for its intended purpose — to care for animals.

Welcome to my blog!

For my cross platform project, I am planning on focusing on the benefits of rescuing pets from shelters or pounds rather than buying them from a breeder or puppy mill. My goal is to change people’s attitudes on this issue and hopefully persuade them to consider rescuing their next pet. If nothing else, I just want to make people more aware of all of their options when it comes to owning a pet. I have always been an animal lover and currently have two rescued dogs so this topic is very important to me.

There are several overarching messages I would like to convey through my blog. For one, I would like to discuss why some people tend to think that rescue pets are not for them and then hopefully refute those reasons. For example, some people are under the impression that pets end up in shelters because they have behavioral issues. This is usually not the case at all as pet owners often get rid of their four legged friend for reasons like lack of time to take care of the pet or moving somewhere that doesn’t allow pets.

I’d also like to talk about pet overpopulation and the importance of spaying or neutering your pet. So many pets have to be put to sleep each day because they cannot find a home. In addition, I will look at the negative aspects of puppy mills (which is where most pet stores get their animals) and why you shouldn’t purchase pets from them. Similarly I want to talk about how pet breeders are also just contributing to the overpopulation of pets, making it impossible for millions of pets to find a home.

There are several animal shelters in the area that I would like to spotlight. I will talk about what they do and the costs of adopting a pet from these shelters. If possible, I would also like to find out some interesting stories about the pets they’ve rescued and how they’ve changed the life of the animal. Perhaps I will even have a couple blog posts dedicated to telling the story of a particular animal.

I would also like to cover similar animal issues like cruelty, abuse and neglect, and laws and legislation regarding the treatment of animals.

Visuals will be an important aspect of my message as imagery of abandoned pets is sure to help convey the urgency and significance of the issue. Showing how innocent and helpless these animals are will reinforce how much they need someone to give them a better life. Providing visuals will help people realize that these animals are more than just words on a page. They are real and they need help.

While searching for other blogs already on the internet that focus on animal rescuing, I came across one that really interested me. The Lucky Dog Rescue Blog is written by a girl who is the founder of Lucky Dog Rescue, an animal shelter in Mississippi. In this blog she chronicles her experiences as a dog rescuer and shares the frustrations and triumphs that she encounters in her work. I may use this blog as a reference point for some of my future blog posts.