Animal shelters and other animal protection organizations may gain
temporary custody of animals who have been rescued and evacuated from
the fires sweeping through California.
Shelters without the resources to house large numbers of animals can
adapt and use foster care forms developed by the Animal Legal Defense
Fund’s Criminal Justice Program as part of a foster care program to
establish temporary foster homes for the animals.
Instructions for using ALDF’s foster care agreement and application forms
Sample foster agreement
Sample foster care application
One day several years ago, a committed animal activist who I very
much respect proclaimed that all animal advocates should periodically
force themselves to watch videos depicting animal cruelty and
suffering, in order to remain inspired to help animals. With a mental
image of a scene from the film "A Clockwork Orange"
(in which the main character is forced to watch violent images as a
type of aversion therapy), I asked my friend if people who have already
seen these types of videos and have changed their lives accordingly
need to continue watching such footage. The answer was a firm,
At the time, I stayed silent, for fear of looking like a "bad animal activist." You see, I am someone who has a very difficult time viewing pictures of (or even reading about) abuse and cruelty. For quite some time after our discussion, I started feeling secretly ashamed when I would feel the need to avert my eyes, stop reading or click "stop" to take a break from particularly gruesome online footage. Unfortunately, I was feeling that guilt quite often, working at ALDF where photos, video and written accounts of horrific abuse are forwarded to our staff on a regular basis.
My guilt about finding it difficult to watch or read about such vicious acts continued until one day several years later, when I was on a break with some of my ALDF coworkers. Somehow the subject came up, and I was both surprised and relieved to discover that I am not the only animal advocate who has an especially hard time viewing such video or pictures, and I’m also not the only one who avoids exposing myself to such things during my "off" time, away from my ALDF job. I appear to be in very good company.
Certainly, there would be something terribly wrong with us if we enjoyed watching such graphic suffering. And if we were apathetic or desensitized to such violence, that would be a concern as well. But the question is, if we have a difficult time watching videos documenting monstrous acts of animal abuse, does that mean that we are "soft" on animal protection issues? Does it mean we are not committed animal activists? That we don’t care about the animals and what they experience? Are we (gulp) "wimps"?
To watch, or not to watch?
The coworkers I spoke to that day are committed activists and, like me, have seen (and continue to see) their fair share of videos containing animal cruelty, from vivisection to abuse of factory farm animals to dog fighting. Because they once viewed these videos, today they are 100% committed to ending the suffering of animals. Except when they need to view such footage to effectively do their jobs at ALDF, they remain committed without repeatedly and deliberately subjecting themselves to the visual horror that has already been burned into their minds forever. After all, are we truly effective advocates for the animals if we haven’t slept for days or weeks due to insomnia and nightmares? Do we really need to keep viewing animal cruelty over and over to remain committed?
On the other hand, my friend who made the original statement believes that one cannot stay motivated and committed to the cause without viewing such misery on a regular basis, and that if the animals have to suffer through such horrific pain, the least we can do is partially share in that horror by viewing it. If they have to go through something so atrocious – whether they’re being cut open and experimented on in a lab with no anesthesia, or torn limb from limb while still conscious in a slaughterhouse, or fought to the bloody death in a dog fighting pit – don’t we owe it to them to at least be a witness to their torment, to hear their cries of pain? Even though that particular animal in that particular footage may be free from pain (either rescued or now deceased), somewhere another one, or hundred, or million are suffering a similar fate, alone and voiceless. Shouldn’t we watch their suffering, to motivate ourselves to be their voice?
The late Gretchen Wyler summed it up quite eloquently: "We must not refuse to see with our eyes what they must endure with their bodies."
Ms. Wyler’s words have haunted me, and they have come to me with stabs of guilt when I have felt so sickened (and sometimes, almost panic-stricken) by what I am viewing, to the point of turning it off. But after many years of thought about this subject, and after talking with many different people who have made such strides for animals over the years, the conclusion I’ve come to is this: what deeply inspires one person can cause another to mentally, emotionally and even physically shut down. I’ve also learned that those of us who must watch such footage, or even see the results of animal cruelty first-hand - animal control officers, shelter workers, district attorneys, animal rights activists - may need to counteract such experiences with more positive motivators, away from the job.
A great example of an inspirational motivator is visiting a farm animal sanctuary. There we can see how good life is for the ones who escaped a fate worse than death, and how good life could be for others who are still suffering that terrible fate. Speaking from experience, when one leaves such a sanctuary, it is with positive mental images of those rescued animals, animals who now have actual names instead of being tagged and numbered in a feed lot, waiting for slaughter. Theirs are the names and faces that keep me going, after being pummeled with and sickened by the very worst that humans are capable of doing to animals.
There are a huge number of people who haven’t yet made significant changes in their lives to help animals. The animals desperately need them to see pictures depicting cruelty and abuse, to shock them out of their complacency. And I have the utmost respect and admiration for activists like my friend, who stay inspired to help animals by forcing themselves to view footage of inhumane acts toward animals, and then channel their anger into action. But for the rest of us, especially those who are all too familiar with the horror of animal cruelty, perhaps forcibly and repeatedly subjecting ourselves to such horror can be a one-way ticket to paralyzation if we don’t also experience any significant relief or uplifting experiences to counteract the effects of watching such brutality. The animals need each of us to be their witness, but what good will we be to them if we are so sleep-deprived, shell-shocked and depressed that we can’t get out of bed in the morning? The animals also need us to be strong, both physically and mentally, so we can continue to fight for their right to exist without being exploited, tortured and terrorized.
It may just be the Libra in me, but I think that maybe, as with most things in life, balance is the key.
months ago, my rescued German shepherd, Alec, suddenly suffered a
severe herniated disc that left him paralyzed. Two surgeries and
thousands of dollars later, he is still unable to walk. However, he
uses a doggie wheelchair and we do physical therapy everyday. He has
made so many improvements since the first darks days following those
emergency surgeries. I am amazed by him and will give him every chance
to recover. In the meantime he is in no discomfort and is enjoying life
despite his new limitations. I have blogged about our experiences and the following is a recent entry from my blog:
I love this dog so much.
It’s crazy to me to think that many people would have euthanized him either before surgery or after, when he could neither walk nor go to the bathroom on his own. Basically when he was at his lowest, and I was at my most frightened, wondering: how can I possibly manage his condition all by myself? Yet, I never considered not trying. That thought only would have crossed my mind if he were suffering, which he was not, despite his new limitations. There were countless challenges with taking care of him in those early days and weeks - sometimes when I think about it now it seems like a dream - and I'm not sure how I did it.
But it’s amazing to me how far he has come in just over three months. I know he will walk again someday. I will never give up on him! And even if he never walks again, so be it. He is not in pain and remains the same happy, playful, goofy, sweet Ali he always was.
Sure, there are things he can’t do anymore, but that’s true of people who are disabled too. And while dogs are not able to conceptualize or think about their disability the way people can, this actually seems to serve them quite well in terms of adjustment; dogs don’t dwell on their disability in the least. It’s the human caretakers who are most inconvenienced, of course: financially, physically, emotionally, socially…there are many lifestyle sacrifices that come along with taking care of a disabled dog. As far as I’m concerned this is what we all sign up for when we invite a helpless being into our lives with the tacit promise to take care of them (not to degrade Ali and his brethren by calling them helpless, but dogs have been [over]bred to be utterly dependent on humans and, in our anthropocentric society, they are, indeed, "helpless").
At the risk of sounding self-congratulatory, I really wish other people valued their companion animals half as much. Yes, I have worked in animal shelters and have seen firsthand just how easily people discard their pets. Even with the magnitude of his injury and the massive cost of treatment, it never crossed my mind not to do everything I could for Ali. So, I have to go into debt. People are in debt for way worse and far more frivolous reasons than saving a life or helping out a friend in need – regardless of species. It just kills me to think of the comment one of Courtney’s friends made when she told him what was going on when Ali was still in the hospital: "a bullet would be cheaper." All I can say is, I’m glad I don’t know that guy. Okay, end of random rumination. I have to go hug my amazing dog now.
To read more about Alec’s story, go to http://www.alec-story.blogspot.com.
Well, nearly a year has gone by since I wrote about the federal authorities
charging now-former NFL Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick with
conspiracy for his Virginia dogfighting ring operated under the name
Bad Newz Kennels. As you may recall, the federal authorities (feds)
had to step in and take over the investigation from Surry County
Virginia Commonwealth Attorney Gerald Poindexter, who could have taken
action much earlier against the dog fighting on a state level by
bringing charges of animal cruelty and fighting, but failed to do so.
What’s happened in the meantime? Not much legally, and lots
To recap, in April 2007, police went to a home in Virginia owned by Vick with a search warrant related to a drug investigation involving Vick's cousin. While there, they found evidence of dog fighting and hauled away 66 pit bulls. In late May 2007, Poindexter refused to execute a dog fight search warrant prepared by local investigators based on the prior drug search, stating he didn’t like the wording of the warrant. He also refused to act on offers of assistance and entreaties to take action from ALDF’s Criminal Justice Program, HSUS, Virginia’s Animal Control Association President and dog fight expert Mark Kumpf, and others.
On June 6th and again in early July 2007, the feds conducted land and air searches of Vick’s estate under a federal search warrant, and on July 17th charged Vick and 3 others with conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce to aid in dog fighting. Also in July 2007 Robin Starr, the head of the Richmond Virginia SPCA, alleged in a guest column in the Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper that "The local prosecutor, Gerald Poindexter, may have dragged his feet on executing search warrants in an apparent effort to protect the county's local star, and has suggested that the interest of the federal authorities was in persecuting an African-American celebrity." He was quoted as saying that ‘this case, in terms of its priority, if it were not for the celebrity status of Vick, it wouldn't mean much to me.’ Poindexter continued to contradict himself in media interviews for the next several months, alternately stating that the evidence was insufficient, or that the feds were keeping evidence from him, despite having had the case for months before the feds stepped in.
In August 2007 the 4 men entered guilty pleas in federal court accompanied by detailed fact summaries of their criminal activities. Either shamed or goaded into taking action and perhaps realizing he had an election coming up, Poindexter finally announced in September that he had obtained a grand jury indictment of 1 count each of cruelty and fighting, both as felonies. Curiously, 8 other counts based on the federal court admissions to killing at least 8 dogs were rejected by the grand jury. Given that grand juries usually approve indictments presented by prosecutors, and those 8 counts were based on sworn written documents filed in federal court, one must wonder what the heck kind of case was presented by Poindexter to the grand jurors.
Incredibly, Surry County Sheriff Harold Brown, as well as Poindexter, were both re-elected in November 2007. Bill Brinkman, the case’s chief investigator at the sheriff’s office who assisted the feds and complained about Poindexter’s mishandling of the case and of his troubling statements concerning race, was "released from his position" in December after 9 years on the job. Brown admitted in a recent news report that part of the reason Brinkman was let go had to do with the Vick case. Brinkman stated that Brown told him a week into the investigation that Poindexter wanted him fired. Poindexter denies it.
Vick reported early to prison in November and was sentenced to 23 months in prison in December, but not before violating the terms of his pretrial release by using drugs and getting caught by the court. In January 2008 he was moved to a prison in Leavenworth Kansas known for having a drug treatment program that would greatly shorten his sentence, but neither Vick nor the prison ever confirmed he was in it.
So is it any surprise at all that last week Poindexter again moved to continue the defendants’ trials until some vague future date after which the defendants have been released from federal prison, stating that it would cost the state too much to round them up and transport them back for trial? After all, this isn’t the first continuance requested by Poindexter. Late last March he was in court requesting continuances of the trials then set for April. He was joined in that request by the defense, and Vick’s trial was pushed to June 27th. (Why that date? Was he secretly to be released by then due to the drug program and good behavior? If not, why wouldn’t Poindexter have asked then for the date to be set post-release, instead of waiting until now and having to apply again for a continuance?)
Of even more concern, however, is that in court last week, there was no mention that Vick had joined in the motion to push the trial to "a date uncertain" (in lawyer talk). Perhaps news reports simply omitted mentioning whether the defense agreed to the delay. If not, I’m just waiting for Vick to make his claim that his constitutional right to a speedy trial-- which would be waived if he agreed to the delay as he did in March—was violated. Then Poindexter would be off the hook from ever having to try this case; but at least by now his reelection campaign is long over. My guess is he’ll retire before he has to account for himself when his current 6-year term of office is over.
Kick off the weekend with a good laugh! Check out Dan Piraro's animal rights cartoons on Bizarro.com. It's hard to pick a favorite, but this one comes close.