The Best of Times… the Worst of Times?

Posted by Joyce Tischler, ALDF's Founder and General Counsel on January 12, 2009

This morning, the front page of the Los Angeles Times greeted me with the news that “jobs (are) disappearing in numbers not seen since the end of World War II…” The New York Times provided no rosier outlook: “a recession poised to become the worst since the 1930s.”  Born in 1953, I never expected to face the sort of economic crisis that befell my parent’s generation, and, like most people, I hope that it will not turn out to be as dire as the predictions indicate. But, it is a worrisome cloud over everyone’s head.

Nonprofit organizations, such as Animal Legal Defense Fund, are the proverbial candle in the wind. We rely on the kindness of a large number of people who care about animals. But, in economic “weather” such as this, we are all justifiably concerned.    

Of course, animal abuse and neglect do not decrease during a recession. Indeed, the opposite is likely to occur: we expect to see a rise in the number of starvation and neglect cases involving horses and other large animals. Humane societies and shelters are already reporting more animals being turned in by people going through foreclosures. A member of ours who owns a janitorial service told me that in the past few months, when his company has been called to clean out a vacated home, they have increasingly found dogs or cats abandoned in the house… simply left behind.

And yet, at the same time, we are witnessing enormous growth in animal law, our collaboration with Lewis & Clark Law School to create the Center for Animal Law Studies, more and more law schools offering animal law courses, more students studying animal law and going on to practice it, and a steady stream of lawsuits building toward greater legal protections for animals. I am awed at the impressive array of talent and brains that greets me as I enter the doors of ALDF each day and feel honored to be able to work with people of such high energy, enthusiasm and commitment to the animals.

I face 2009 with a feeling of hope and the expectation of new achievements, yet it is mixed with a sense of foreboding. The animals are going to need us now, more than ever. Will we be there for them, or will we be forced to cut back our efforts?  Perhaps, it will be the worst of times, probably not the best of times, most likely, a bit of both. Call me Pollyanna, but I hang on to the faith that we, as a nation and a people, will weather the storm and come out stronger because of it.

And, as I do each January, I recommit myself to finding answers to the most important question, the question that has been the centerpiece of my career: what can we do today, this week, this month… to rescue animals from a persistent state of suffering?

Wishing you a happy, healthy and humane New Year.


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