By Joseph Pastore  H.E.A.R.T. org in New York City


If you are thinking it’s about time to begin solving these problems, you must first realize just what brought us into this situation.……

Simply put, we are failing to effectively reach the mainstream on animal issues.  This is why it is imperative for us to reach the next generation and for them to help spread the word throughout their social circles as well.  Every time I hear of somebody abusing or neglecting their pet and an adult or young person tell me “Oh, that is just not my place to say that to him or her” I want to scream.  They’ve just opened the door for yet another animal to be harmed or killed.  The person who has custody of the pet in question knows this, too.  NOBODY WILL DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT.  Here are some ideas for the club to focus on.

 Unawareness: As we know, the general public not only has little perspective on what the issues are, but also an appalling ignorance of the magnitude and depths of the problems associated with trying to help animals and save the environment as well as extremely poor knowledge on such issues as basic care for companion animals. Raising awareness is always the critical first step for improvements to be made.

 Denial: Humans typically either consciously suppress or unconsciously repress painful things that they're made aware of that they either find too painful to deal with or don't want to bother with (especially facing their own failures).  Like an ostrich keeping it’s head buried in the sand for protection.

 Apathy: If and when they fully face them, have they been sufficiently motivated to really care, especially about animals and the environment? Way too often people convince themselves that the problem is too huge and that they, as an individual, can do nothing of any value.  NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH.  The fact is, our biggest problem is apathy, because millions of people just don’t realize that they CAN make a difference by becoming aware of the situation, the general causes, possible solutions and to share this with any and all people they know.

 Abuse:  Every community has it’s percentages, but for the most part, everyone would be overwhelmed by the statistics and stories given by their local animal control and police department they see every day in their line of work.   Again, the majority of these acts are born of ignorance and spewed forth by anger.  This is a tragic situation for the animals that have no means of defending themselves or reporting the actions.  Then, so many of the humans who did witness it or know of it, simply keep quiet so as not to upset the human.  

 Irresponsibility: The average John and Jane Q Public feel they already have sufficient knowledge to train their new pet.  Yet the largest single problems people list when relinquishing a pet to the local animal control facilities around the nation is their lack of training skills.  If, offered guidance on how to possibly improve the pets’ behavior prior to this decision, they likely would have snuffed at it, and admittedly never did ask for help from someone trained to do just that. It is NOT a degrading attribute to ask a professional for advice in any situation, but in the pet world, it seems to be black listed and carry a negative stigma.  If sufficiently motivated to care, would they then get lazy about meeting their responsibilities? (Fresh water daily for companion animals, walking them regularly and always on a leash, never leaving them unattended in a public place or in a hot car, trying to step in and help an injured stray animal, learning more about local area animal-related laws, taking an interest in animal first-aid, taking personal responsibility to avoid polluting the environment and reporting environmental dangers to authorities, etc). In many cases, law can mandate responsibility, but even then vigilance is needed to remind people not to ignore or break the law.

 Pomposity: This frankly is the "anti-animal" and environmentally unconcerned crowd that does not yet relate to or fully accept the fact that this takes Everyone’s efforts and involvement through knowledge of the depths of the problems that brought us to this point.  EXAMPLE #1:  “It’s my right to have a litter if I want to.”  This is just pompous, ignorant and selfish remark from those who simply don’t know how to work as a team and feel that everything is ‘owed” to them.  EXAMPLE #2:  “Oh, I’m only going to have one litter and then we’ll have her spayed.  We’ll find them really good homes.”  Problem is, about 3 million OTHER folks in the US are thinking the same thing this year.  3,000,000 litters this year X 5 per litter = 15,000,000 MORE pets into a society that already has 8,000,000 per year that we have to put to sleep for lack of homes.  This will only work as an EDUCATED society working together.  We must educate these people however we can.

 Greed: The amount of money made on the exploitation of animals is incalculable. The profits are so sickening that they make one want to resign from the human race in the same way that overwhelmingly depressing heinous crimes against animals and the environment, inhumane euthanasia, using them for sport that results in certain injury or death, and society's long-standing practice of killing surplus companion animals do. If the first five barriers were successfully overcome, this would be far and away the toughest (thus the never-ending need for more and more effective legislation).

 Property Status: Here is where I wholeheartedly agree with Professor Gary Francione of Rutgers University. As he says, "we're only talking about one right concerning animals, the right not to be viewed and classified as property; if we could achieve that, everything else would fall into place." Also as he says, "every civilized country in the world has eliminated slavery." But, for animals, this last bastion of the ultimate intrinsically evil shame of the human race still exists. Of course the greed factor works hand-in-hand with our greatest hopes of ending the property status of animals.

Definition of OWNER:  One who has or takes possession of a piece of property or item.  With usual right to alter or care for it in whatever manner the new owner sees fit.

Definition of GUARDIAN:  One who adopts a child or pet in order to provide appropriate care in the form of guidance, loving, food, water, shelter and all necessary nurturing required by said child or pet.

 There are, of course, animal and environmental horrors that are not discussed here, such as "animal adoption pretenders and imposters" who pretend to offer good homes for companion animals and do otherwise, (Many responders to the FREE TO GOOD HOME ads are now eager to collect healthy pets and then sell them for hundreds of dollars to a dog fighting club or to a research lab) and the whole gamut of "insufficient animal protective legislation at all levels", "lax animal cruelty law enforcement", "lax prosecution, conviction and sentencing of animal cruelty offenders", and many others to be sure), but we can conceptualize many of the listed issues given as research assignments to students who can quantify many of them and produce eye-opening results for their classes.  Some of them have general titles ("sport hunting and fishing", "dog and cat overpopulation", "animals in entertainment", etc.) with some representative examples of each ("fox hunting and hare coursing", "puppy mills and backyard breeders", "circus & rodeo animals", etc). In addition to "substandard animal shelters & pounds", included is "deprived animal shelter living" to emphasize that even shelters meeting or exceeding recommended requirements still represent a deprived life for animals. Hopefully, such an emphasis might help to discourage some people from surrendering their companion animals to any shelter.

I hope you will read the research work done by Professor Stephen Kellert of Yale University entitled "A Study of American Attitudes Toward Animals" where he describes seven distinct views of animals consisting of a "moralistic attitude", a "humanistic attitude", an ecologistic attitude", a "naturalistic attitude", an "aesthetic attitude", a "scientistic attitude", and a "dominionistic attitude", in that order from the center out, with the most empathetic and animal-concerned being closest to "Animal Protection Consciousness").

The visual impact of seeing these issues diagrammed in this manner seems to be having a profound impact on those that view it. It seems to help bring the much-needed perspective to the many issues we deal with in a simplified format that communicates a lot of information in a one-page overview. We are receiving remarkably positive responses from the initial people we've been sending it to as we invite input and feedback. Professor Kathleen Squadrito of Indiana State University plans to use it next year in her course on "ethics and animals".