People who advocate for animals have a lot to despair about—the introduction of ag-gag laws, dogs dying in hot cars, and police shooting family pets.
But if you don’t see things are getting better for animals, you need a history lesson.
Yeah, I know some of you are saying, “I hated taking history in school.” But that’s because the history you studied didn’t have puppies.
Once you look back a few decades, you’ll be saying with me, “You’ve Come a Long Way, Puppy.”
Here are a few landmarks in animal treatment.
Animal Cruelty Laws – 1822 to the present
England passed the first law protecting cattle from inhumane treatment in 1822. Thirteen years later, protections were extended to domestic animals and cock-fighting and bear-baiting were outlawed.
By the way, England ventured into animal welfare legislation before protecting the rights of human children.
Animal-free Circuses – 1978 to the present
Circus Oz in Australia was the first circus to create acts involving no animals. Cirque de Soleil has become an industry to be reckoned with since then. And now, even the Shriner’s Circus is animal free as of 2014.
The American With Disabilities Act passed July 26, 1990
Okay, you’re right. The ADA exists to protect the rights of disabled humans. But I love it as an example of a law that recognizes dogs who bring independence and support to their human partners.
And I believe animals in general benefit when people see them doing their jobs in public places.
The No-Kill Movement – the mid 1990s to the present
In the mid 1990s, San Francisco began popularizing the idea of shelters finding homes for all adoptable animals. In 2001, my home shelter, the Tompkins County SPCA, transitioned to being a no-kill shelter and has achieved a euthanasia rate of less than 90% (the standard of the movement; usually doing much better than that) every year since then.
In 2009, Kentucky created its first no-kill community in Shelby County. Kentucky, people!
Although critics ask valid questions about no-kill shelters that accept only the most adoptable dogs to begin with, there’s no arguing with millions of pets who have found homes and the blossoming of spay and neuter and other programs to reduce unwanted pets.
States Include Pets in Protective Orders for Domestic Violence Victims – 2006 to present
Half the states in the U.S. allow judges to include pets in protective orders in domestic violence cases. Batterers have one less way to control their victims when they can go to jail for going near a pet included in a protective order.
Both humans and non-human animals benefit from this expansion of protection.
Cities Ban Pet Shops From Selling Puppy Mill Dogs – 2012 to the present
First Los Angeles, now Chicago. More communities are legislating against the sales of puppy mill pups in private stores. Yes, mill owners are turning to the internet to sell their dogs. But hopefully the lessons learned in early victories will help advocates make puppy mills obsolete.
Don’t forget, mass breeders argue that capitalism means they have the right to give people what they want. With continuing education, someday no one will want what they’re selling.
When you push for change, you’re going to feel bad. How could you not since you focus your attention on a situation you passionately feel must improve?
But sometimes you need to take a deep breath. Look back to see how much progress you’ve made so far. And move forward in hope that change is coming.
It’s the Blog the Change For Animals blog hop. Feel encouraged when you read about all the wonderful things people are doing to help animals by clicking on the BTC4A badge.
photo credits: (Protest) gigijin via photopin cc, (Acrobats) hbp_pix via photopin cc, (Guide Dog) Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious via photopin cc, (Pet Store) Nomadic Lass via photopin cc. Click on the images to learn more about the photographers.
Your Turn: What do you find as the most encouraging sign of progress for animal welfare?