Want to Protect Animals? Care About People – Blog the Change for Animals

A homeless man and his dog.“I prefer my cat.”

“My dog is better than 90% of all humans.”

“I understand animals more than I do people.”

You’ve heard comments like this. You’ve said comments like this. I know I have.

But if we stay stuck in this mindset, we’re not helping animals.

Humans are Animals

Sure, we’ve risen to the top of the food chain. But humans are part of the animal kingdom. We have more in common with dogs, cows, and tigers than we do with plankton, gravel, and coconut palms.

What’s more, our welfare is linked to that of so-called lower animals.

Animals don’t thrive where people live in unsustainable and unhealthy ways. And people don’t thrive when animals don’t.

Want one example? Take a look at American factory farming.

Chickens, pigs, and cows in factory farms live terrible, although short, lives. And people become sick from the damage the farms do to the environment and other food crops. They’re bad for people. They’re bad for animals.

I picked a hard example on purpose.

Chickens from a factory farm.The treatment of livestock animals challenges animal lovers. But if it’s hard for you and me to choose food that doesn’t perpetrate cruel treatment of animals, how much harder will it be to convince someone to support welfare causes who doesn’t like animals? Or who only likes them as dinner?

If we want to convince non-animal lovers to stand with us to protect animals, we have to show that caring for animals also protects people.

Luckily, it’s getting easier to do that.

Protecting Pets to Stop Domestic Abuse

Judges have a new tool to help victims of household abuse break free from their abusers. For the past 7 years, they’ve been increasingly including pets in orders of protection. And laws passed in about 20 states have given judges specific powers to protect pets in a household with someone abusing their partner, spouse, or children.

The motivation in these laws is not primarily to protect animals. Rather, abusers use the animals in a home to keep control over their human victim.

New laws give judges more power to remove animals from dangerous situations. And human victims of abuse find it easier to escape a bad situation knowing that they’re not putting their beloved pet in more danger.

The new laws protect animals. And they protect people.

Link Your Cause to People

Send me a petition to outlaw puppy mills? I’ll sign it. Ask me to boycott companies who make shock collars? Of course.

But we need more than just crazy dog and cat people to change the way animals are treated in this country. And it will happen once we start showing people how protecting animals also benefits them.

It’s going to take some creativity. It’s going to take some research. And it’s going to make us look for ways to connect and empathize with people who don’t already line up beside us in caring for animals.

But it’s ultimately going to be the most successful method.

How to Capture That Last 50%

The move to ban puppy mills has been started by people who love animals. But they’ll be outlawed because puppy mills are bad capitalism and because they make things worse for people.

Recent research in economics and behavioral game theory has found that 20% of people are altruists. They’re the people running rescues, adopting mill breeding dogs, and going undercover in puppy mills.

The same research finds that 30% of people are selfish. They’re the ones running the puppy mills.

But 50% of people will act in positive ways if it’s easy and makes sense for them to do so. And it’s that 50% we need to convince to make big change for animals.

Child presenting a peace rose.And we can do it. If we treat them with as much compassion as we treat animals and try to understand what’s important to them.

Blog the Change for Animals 2013

Last year my theme for Blog the Change for Animals was to stop preaching to the choir.

This year, I’ll focus on finding the ways helping animals also helps people. I have three more posts to write this year. So I’ll ask you to challenge me.

Tell me in the comments what general animal cause (puppy mills, cat TNR, wild animal conservation, etc.) most touches your heart. And dare me to find all the ways people would benefit from animals being protected in that way.

If I choose your cause, I’ll write about it during one of the 2013 Blog the Change for Animals posts and give a shout out to you for the idea.

It’s a win win. I get an idea to write about. You get to promote an idea that’s important to you and you might even get a few new ideas for talking about it with people.

Looks like what’s good for the blogger is good for the reader. And good for animals too.

photo credit: Beverly & Pack, faul, and Pink Sherbet Photography via photopin cc. Click on the image to learn more about it and the photographer.

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  1. Fantastic post…you made some compelling points and got me to thinking. As for “Tell me in the comments what general animal cause (puppy mills, cat TNR, wild animal conservation, etc.) most touches your heart.” You picked my TOP 3…there is no way I can pick just one

  2. I couldn’t possibly choose, they all touch my heart equally. What a remarkable thing you are doing. I have my utmost respect.

  3. Great post! My passions include rescuing, fostering, and therapy dogs. I recently read an article that a group in Oregon is training rescues to be therapy dogs to help veterans with PTSD. The soldiers themselves are fostering the dogs during training to learn patience, tolerance, love, and other values. That is just one example of many how dogs and humans can help each other.

  4. Wow, this was great, Pamela. You’ve given us all a lot to think about too. There are so many causes…puppy mills is one I have been writing about. But today I will be writing about animal testing, and because I have and love my beagles, I think the testing going on on beagles is the cause closest to my heart. I will also be thinking about ways people can benefit from helping the beagles, but I hope you will have some ideas too!

  5. Great post. I’ve got to say, you’ve got me thinking, and it makes sense. While most everyone will agree with the atrocities of puppy mills, people are generally motivated to act if they will benefit directly. I’d love for you to tackle the puppy mill cause this year.
    Peggy Frezon
    Team BtC4A

  6. Wonderful post – and all great ideas for future BTC4A blog posts, too! Another we might add into the list is to encourage shelters for battered women to follow the initiative of the Rose Brooks Center in Kansas City. We’re so very proud that they now allow women to bring their beloved pets with them. So many women won’t leave an abusive situation if they have to leave a pet behind….

  7. totally AWESOME post if you ask me, and you are dead on with everything you wrote (although I do know a few people that have bit more in common with a tree than I care to admit)

    Puppy mills are horrific, yes. But I think we could end those if we could promote the wonderful adoptable animals at the shelters. You are so right that people want to do the right thing ‘if it is easy’. Showing people that the shelters are full of dogs that are loving and friendly and trained (and have their shots and are on heart worm preventative and have been altered already) and how they are actually cheaper than the dogs they buy (because of all the vet care they have gotten) should change some minds.

    Our local shelter has an annual ‘kitten shower’ to raise funds for the upcoming kitten season. I once did a cost comparison to a free cat vs one adopted at the shelter. Even with our $150 adoption fees at the time (they are back down to $99) the shelter was a BARGAIN! Not to mention the kitties are all right there for you to look at and put your hands on.. no shipping them from out of state..

    Cats and dogs are evaluated for temperament. Shelter staff (and foster homes if they were in one) provide direct hand knowledge of the pet’s likes and dislikes..

    But people don’t know this. They think shelters are cruel inhumane places that are just too sad to visit and the animals are sick or defective in one way or another and not good stock to be pets. Now I will admit, those places do exist in this world, but there are so many wonderful shelters that we really need to get the word out there.. tell people there are wonderful options to places that either are puppy mills, buy from puppy mills or back yard breeders who are barely better than puppy mills.

  8. We are lucky in that we live in a rural area. Many of the people who came here to live in the 60’s and 70’s came for a reason and have raised their children that way. In many cases, animals are working partners and are considered as beings and not just livestock. It is nice to get my eggs from a comercial farm where the chickens run free, where the grocery store food bank bin has lots of dog, cat and bird food in it, where people look out for each other’s animals and the women’s shelter does take pets. I feel in the cities, people become too disconnected from the world that we share with other beings.
    Nellie’s Mom

  9. What cause do I value? There are many. But one that I highly value at this time is strengthening laws to prosecute animal hoarding, including restrictions on owning animals and mandatory unannounced inspections. The recidivism rate for animal hoarding is very high, with some saying it’s 100%. These animals live in horrific conditions, and, sadly, many hoarders pretend to be rescuers and are financially supported by others to abuse animals. It is one of the dirty little secrets of the animal rescue community because we want a no-kill nation. But in my book, there are things worse than death.

  10. Absolutely one of my favorite blog posts I’ve ever read. Seriously. You hit my button square on. If we all lived practicing compassion for all living beings, the world would be a very different place.
    What cause do I value that I’d love to see you address? Dog fighting. We live in such a culture of violence today, how do we stop it?

  11. excellent post, as usual… keep up the great work !!! there is definitely a holier than thou superior attitude amongst some of us animal nuts/dog lovers that needs to change, attitude adjustment… and I understand the outrage with how people treat animals and say dumb stuff like “it’s just a dog”…

    how about Breed Specific Legislation, for your next topic… how people benefit by not discriminating against certain dog breeds.

    thanks !

  12. I have little to add in praise beyond what’s already been said…this is one of the most thought-provoking posts I’ve ever read and you’ve hit bullseyes on every points…Considering all the causes out there, I have to agree with Jen & Rumpy…Animal hoarding seems to be more prevalent than ever and current laws, at least in this area, favor the hoarders over the animals and the rescue groups trying to help them…Over 260 dogs were seized locally from horrible conditions about 2 1/2 years ago (the hoarders had styled themselves as a rescue which made it even worse) The seizure of those animals put unbearable stresses on the local animal control shelter. The animals could not be fostered or adopted out as the hoarders chose to contest the matter in court…As the court case dragged on hundreds of animals were put down due to lack of space as the seized animals remained…And after almost two years the judge in the court case returned those animals to the hoarders……Please tackle the issue of animal hoarding this year Pamela

  13. Great post and all great causes. Hard to pick a top single one. Would be interested to see what you write on any of them.

  14. Hi!

    If I had to pick a single cause that was important to me, it would be animals in domestic violence relationships. I did a bunch of stories about our local domestic violence shelter opening a kennel for the pets. At least 50 percent of victims stay in those relationships because they don’t want to leave their pets. But only 70 shelters in the country have provisions for pets.

    I want to work this year on helping to get more shelters to help pets. I hope you and other bloggers will help me with that.

    Great post!

    christie from lifewithbeagle.com

    • Christie,

      There are shelters that participate in programs that partner with domestic abuse shelters for just this very reason. I very recently took in a woman’s cats while she got back on her feet. I’ve seen the shelter foster cats dogs and even one amazingly awesome rabbit to help out. There are programs out there that work and do wonders.

  15. How many times do I have to tell you that you should be running the world?

    Here’s my challenge: veal production. Veal comes from calves that have been held in a tiny pen and force-fed through a tube until they are ready to explode. They cannot move, they cannot turn around, and of course the stuff they are fed isn’t even nutritiously sound. I haven’t eaten meat in 31 years, and this is one reason why.

    Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (z”l), one of the greatest American rabbis of the 20th century, ruled that veal produced from calves raised in such conditions is not kosher.

    And don’t get me started on BSE (mad cow disease)… who on earth decided to feed cows, dedicated herbivores, ground-up bits of other cows? And people wonder why I’m not even TEMPTED to eat meat.

  16. You wrote a great and thought-provoking post today, and I like your way of reasoning it out. You asked about animal causes near and dear to our hearts. I think the worst cruelty I know of is the fate of the Galgos in Spain. They are closely related to Greyhounds and used for hunting. Their fate after hunting is worse than anything I’ve ever heard of.

  17. Really great post Pamela. You are absolutely right. We do need to show the 50% why helping animals and treating them more humanely helps them. (A tip of the hat to you on linking in game theory.)

    As someone deeply involved in the puppy mill fight, I am fully aware that the real fight is not over the cruelty of puppy mills, but the costs to consumers (those who buy the sick puppies either online or from pet stores). It’s why I focused on that end so much last year.

    i think people are beginning to also see how poor food management and factory farms hurt them and their families and as a result are starting to re-examine their choices. This can only benefit the animals in these places.

    I commend you on taking on the challenge to address any one issue. I don’t have one to nominate, but I most certainly welcome your focus on linking it to people. This will be fascinating and motivating. As always, you do not disappoint Pamela. You inspire change.

  18. Great post Pamela! Everything is very well put and I would have to agree that animals and people are symbiotic. One topic that touches me is BSL. I have heard so many stories from all over the world of dogs dying for stupid reasons because of this. The amount of support these dogs get is just overwhelming and amazing, but many times it doesn’t matter for them.

  19. Great post as always Pamela. I think you’re right that we as animal activists need to focus on that 50% who just need to know why saving animals is so important. I’ve heard people say “Why should I worry about saving animals when so many people need help?” But it’s not mutually exclusive – you don’t have to choose between saving animals and helping people. I think that including pets in PFA orders and allowing pets in women’s shelters is a perfect example of how helping animals can help people too. Thanks for sharing!

    Vicki Cook
    Team BTC

  20. Once again, you have aced it all perfectly. This post is precisely what blogging the change is all about and you have gotten all of us thinking over things in a new way.

    As you know, my personal mission is to help raise the value of cats in our society. I’ve been in numerous arguments in the last year trying to show people why they should care about the thousands of homeless cats in our community and why the answer isn’t just to euthanize them all. It didn’t solve the overpopulation of dogs that used to exist and it’s not going to solve the cat issues either. But until cats are urinating all over their door steps or damaging their properties, people don’t seem to think it is an issue worth supporting. Of course, as soon as those things happen they are raising hell at city hall, demanding somebody do something. I’ve made those arguments to people but it hasn’t really seemed to make a difference in their minds and it definitely doesn’t show cats at their best. I’d love to hear what you could come up with!

  21. I would like you to challenge readers that not every household should have a pet.
    Look at your kids, your work hours, your lifestyle, your energy level… some people view pets as an accessory to their lifestyle not a part of their home, and quite honestly don’t deserve the responsibility of a pet who must rely on them for everything.

  22. I have to say it ruffles my feathers whenever I hear those pro-animal/anti-human sentiments expressed — and I do regularly, being involved with a rescue.

    Fascinating stats you have here, I’m with you on showing the 50% how it can help them. One of my pet causes is pet stores and puppy mills, and I’m already working on a post to try and answer the questions store protesters often here about why someone should care where the puppies come from. Many people don’t know, and I’d bet the results seen at the stores would match your stats on who is selfish and who cares enough to change their thinking.

    This is a great change-your-focus idea that can truly make a difference. Congrats on the brilliant idea!

    Thank you for blogging the change for animals!
    Kim Thomas
    Team BtC4A

  23. Wonderful post! You have brought something up that I have not considered before. Thank you for getting the wheels turning.

  24. It’s hard not to become misanthropic when you sometimes see the worse side of people working with animals. I was that way for awhile, but I’ve gotten better because I realized people often just aren’t aware and are less likely to accept what you say when you have that attitude.

    I can’t wait to read your future posts. My suggestion is the shelter euthanasia of special needs pets. I have a soft spot for them having adopted 3 diabetic cats and an aggressive dog, but most shelters don’t feel there are adopters that want to take them on.

  25. Great post for “blog the change” (which I forgot about, again, unfortunately) and one that has been on my mind a lot as Nick and I decided that one of our New Year’s goals was to be more committed to eating meats that come from more humanely raised sources.

    We’ve of course found that it is not cheap, which means we are eating a lot less meat. Since the new year, we have enjoyed about fourteen vegetarian dinners, and only a handful of ones containing any meat.

    Of the meat we ate, about half of it was from “humane sources” (organic grass fed beef and wild caught fish) but two of our meals were just regular old meat at a restaurant. It’s a work in progress, but we’re trying.

    While I do know the dangers of factory farming and the benefits of eating properly raised food (that includes vegetation), once we get our own diets straight, it will be time to consider making changes to our animal’s diet as well. A very expensive and very daunting task that I am frightened to consider. Maybe you can post about that?

  26. A very thoughtful post, Pamela. If you get more than three suggestions that you want to cover, perhaps I’ll join your theme and post on some you won’t be able to cover. Reaching that 50% is exactly what we need to do and making it into an “everybody wins” situation is the best way to make change. I’m not saying that I don’t love the guilt trips, heart breaking commercials, bullying tactics …. oh wait, yes I am!

  27. Absolutely fantastic post for Blog the Change. I’m especially happy to see that you mentioned the link between animal abuse and domestic violence. Some victims of domestic violence refuse to leave the situation because they cannot bring their pets along to the shelter and worry what will happen to them. It benefits everyone to come up with solutions that address the human and animal aspects of these issues.

    Oh, and I second Amy – if you end up with a ton of suggestions, I’d be willing to join in too.

    Great post, as always. You rock.

    Team BtC4A