Category: Our Blog by Just-Do-Something.org

Guest Blogger, Melissa Norbeck – Faculty Advisor of Animal Advocates

Before you Comment, take a moment to review our guidelines!

 

The Animal Advocates club of Gloucester County College began in September of 2010. Gloucester County College is located in Sewell which is South Jersey. As an instructor at the college, I started Animal Advocates because there wasn’t already an animal rights club on campus. I figured there had to be students who’d be interested in this type of club. So far, I’ve had a good amount of interest and positive feedback!

However, we’re always looking for new members and new ideas!

The club’s mission is to raise awareness about animal cruelty and to promote animal kindness. The Animal Advocates club members have done this in various ways which include organizing or attending events, holding collection drives for animal shelters, raising & donating money, protesting at animal cruelty events (Ringling Bros. Circus and No-fur), adopting wild animals to help with legislations, signing & sharing petitions, blogging, showing ways to help or get involved, sharing information, and by giving away free materials.

Animal Advocates of GCC uses Facebook as a way to spread awareness about many varieties of animal cruelty and to promote animal kindness. We post and share information, petitions, and facts; give ways to help; share vegan/vegetarian recipes; and much more. You can find and “Like” our Facebook page: Gloucester County College Animal Advocates Club.

We also have a blog that can be found at: gccanimaladvocates.blogspot.com. We encourage people to share our blog with others and to comment on the posts. The only way things will really change is if people know about the atrocities that occur and tell others. Progress is made every day, so there is hope yet!

An Advocacy & Earth Day event is planned for Thursday, April 24th p.m. in the College Center on campus. We’re expecting several organizations to join us in raising awareness about alternatives to some of the cruel methods that are currently being used. There will also be information about pet adoption, the environment, and more! We are inviting people to stop by the college to get some free stuff, talk, learn, and have some fun.

Animals depend on us for many things, and as human beings, we are obligated to protect and take care of them. When we stop the suffering and killing of animals, we can then begin to restore humanity.

Melissa Norbeck
Faculty Advisor of Animal Advocates

Thank you to our Guest Blogger

 

Continue Reading

25 Ways to Help an Animal Caregiver

Before you Comment, take a moment to review our guidelines!

Does this sound familiar: your friend or loved one is caring for an ill animal. Your heart breaks for them and you really want to be helpful, but you don’t know how?

girl hugging dog

Usually, even the most heartfelt, “Let me know if there is anything I can do to help” falls on deaf ears. Already overwhelmed with care-taking, your loved one can’t figure out what they need or how you fit into the puzzle.

Instead of a general offer, you can help your loved one much more by suggesting something concrete that you can do, something perhaps they wouldn’t have even considered. Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Spend time with them, even if you don’t know what to say or do.

2. Send a quick note to let them know you are thinking of them.

3. Lend an ear. Almost everyone in crisis needs a sympathetic friend to listen.

4. A check in regularly. After the initial crisis is over, the wave of support may dry up leaving your friend feeling very alone. Let him or her know you are there for the long term.

5. Raise funds for veterinary and other care expenses (www.giveforward.com) is an excellent site for this).

6. Organize meals for the family using www.TakeThemAMeal.com or www.MealTrain.com.

7. Use www.SimpleVoiceBox.com to create meaningful memories. You and other loved ones can record what they love about the animal, then you can download the finished product and send it to your friend.

8. Loan a baby monitor.

9. Offer to care of their other pets – walk the other dog, clean litter boxes, etc.

10. Give or arrange for home massage, acupuncture or Reiki session for the caregiver or the pet.

11. Offer to watch the animal while they take a nap.

12. Offer to grocery shop or run errands.

13. Prepare meals for the pet (such as stew or boiled rice and chicken).

14. Bring flowers.

15. If the animal is in the hospital and your friend is spending a lot of time there, bring a care basket to the hospital with drinks, snacks, magazines, puzzle books, a cell phone charger.

16. Give hugs. Lots and lots of hugs.

17. Be silly and make jokes; laughter is healing.

18. Bring pictures and talk about your favorite memories.

19. Offer to drive.

20. Help with the kids.

21. Do the laundry.

22. Give your frequent flier miles so family can come visit.

23. Send loving messages.

24. Arrange for an artist to draw or paint a picture of the animal. You can find talented artists in many places – you may even know one! Try www.Fiverr.com for a quick and inexpensive option.

25. Let them cry – without trying to cheer them up. Some things can’t be fixed and truly are sad. Crying is therapeutic. Be a safe place where they can express their real feelings.

“You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”
~ John Wooden

“New England Pet Hospice & Home Care supports those caring for ill, elderly and special needs animals at home following the human hospice and palliative care models of interdisciplinary care. Learn more and get your FREE subscription to Wag & Purr: Your Guide to Comfort Care for Pets at www.NEPetHospice.com.

JDS Small Block

 

Continue Reading

Guest Blogger, Denise Fleck – sunnydogink.com

Before you Comment, take a moment to review our guidelines!

DON’T BE AN APRIL FOOL…

Take Part in National Pet First-Aid Awareness Month

By Denise Fleck, www.sunnydogink.com

Although Sunny had been adopted into a loving home, her time as a stray left her with a compulsion to never pass up a free meal.  One morning her “mom” (that’s me) awoke to find the 80-pound Labrador with all four paws on the kitchen countertop and her snout in a no-longer-covered bowl of chocolate kisses.  Luckily this pet parent’s timing saved the day and only a few chocolate morsels were consumed by the mischievous canine.  The dog suffered only a disappointed look, but a much smaller dog might have experienced rapid heart beat, vomiting, seizures and even death.

Each year, thousands of pets needlessly suffer and many die from ingesting common household foods as well as from injuries and sudden illness.  Knowing what to do during those first few moments can truly make a difference between life and death for your pet.  According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), one out of four additional pets could be saved if just one Pet First-Aid technique was applied prior to getting veterinary help.

Pet First-Aid is the FIRST step (and often the most critical) in a line of treatments before complete medical attention can be administered.  The most accomplished Veterinarian will not be able to bring your dog or cat back to life once they have died, but by knowing Pet CPR, YOU can keep their heart and lungs working until professional medical help is available.  If you know how to treat your pet for Heat Stroke, you can prevent brain damage and death.  If you learn how to bandage a Wound, you can stop bleeding and prevent infection.  If you learn how to alleviate Choking, you can prevent your pet from losing consciousness, and…if you learn how to properly induce vomiting, you can expel poison and save your pet’s life!  Fortunately Sunny didn’t need such drastic measures due to the chocolate that day, but the incident made me want to be prepared in case Sunny, or any of the six canines who have since crossed our threshold, needed help, so I studied, practiced and keep on learning but developed the curriculum I have been teaching since 1999.

April is National Pet First-Aid Awareness Month, and although it is a topic pet parents should have on their minds year-round, this is a great time to make sure you get trained in these life-saving skills. Without warning, tragedy can strike your cat or dog.  Should this happen, YOU must know what to do.  Has your dog’s tail ever been accidentally closed in a door, or have you discovered ticks on your gorgeous long-haired cat?  Have you found a dog left in a parked car?  Learning to treat heat stroke is First-Aid 101.  Have you ever feared your cat would chase a Rattlesnake or been stung by a bee?  Has your puppy been given too many scraps under the dinner table and suffered an upset stomach, diarrhea or vomiting?    How about when you take your pet along for a car ride?  Although children are usually strapped safely into car seats, do your pets get the same attention?  When brakes are applied, an unrestrained cat or dog can become a projectile.  Pets too should be in seat belts or crates/carriers that are secured in the back – never the front passenger seat where a deployed air bag could prove deadly.

Statistics show that accidents are the leading cause of death among non-senior dogs and cats, and according to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), one out of four additional pets could be saved if just one Pet First-Aid technique is applied.  Even if you have taken a human First-Aid & CPR course, realize that humans, canines & felines do not share anatomies, and although the concept is the same, the technique differs as does our ability to communicate with each other.  We can’t ask our cat, “Where does it hurt?” or our dog, “What did you eat?”  Therefore, pet-specific training is essential to being a responsible and caring pet mom, pet dad or animal care worker.  I think one student summed it up best when she said, “The last thing you want is to wish you HAD taken a Pet First-Aid & CPR Class.”

Don’t think it won’t happen to your furry best friend!  Until you can get yourself to a Pet First Aid & CPR Class, take your responsibilities as your dog or cat’s protector seriously, and follow these tips:

1).  Learn the shortest route to your nearest 24-hour Emergency Center.  Putting the address on the refrigerator isn’t good enough.  Actually drive there so that when you need them, you know where they are located.  If you frequently take your pet hiking or to a park, you should also learn where the nearest emergency center is to that location.  We can’t predict that our dog won’t be bitten by a snake, sprain or break a leg on treacherous terrain or encounter an aggressive animal.  Just in case…YOU must know what to do!

2).  ID your pet.  In addition to tags, it is important to get your pet micro-chipped (and keep the information up-to-date) so that he can be quickly identified in case tags are lost.  As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” so carry one of your dog or cat with you at all times so that you’ll be prepared to make a flyer or show a photo of your precious pet.

3).  Observe your pet.  Knowing what is normal for your dog or cat will help you identify something abnormal.  Be aware of how many times a day you fill water bowls and let pets outside.  If suddenly your pet is asking you to perform these tasks more or less frequently than usual, they may need a check-up.  Notice how your pet sits and stands.  Are they suddenly leaning on one hip or seeming to labor getting up off the ground?  Periodically feel for lumps and bumps (a woman in class located cancerous tumors after going home from one of my classes and saved her dog’s life by doing so), and always check for fleas, ticks and foxtails when your animals come in from the yard or a hike.

4).  Always keep dogs on leash or in a fenced yard so that you can keep them safe from traffic (the #1 most preventable injury to animals), other animals, pesticides that might be on your neighbors lawn, poisons in garbage cans and more.

5).  Establish a good relationship with your veterinarian and take your pets for annual check-ups and special tests for seniors.  Brush their teeth regularly with toothpaste designed for pets (never human toothpaste which contains detergents) and check for “bubble-gum” pink gums, white teeth and no odor which are signs of good health.  Also have your pet’s teeth cleaned professionally twice annually.  If you are concerned about anesthesia, there are great anesthesia-free clinics – no excuses!

4 Paws Up for Pet Safety,
Denise Fleck, Instructor / Author
SUNNY-DOG INK: Pet First-Aid & CPCR Kits & Classes
AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR:  Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover
ANIMAL CARE ROP Instructor / Burbank Unified School District
THE EMMA ZEN FOUNDATION / Safety Council, Team Pet 1st Aid
WOMEN IN THE PET INDUSTRY (WIPIN) / Solopreneur Finalist
Continue Reading

Let’s Talk Doggy Daycare!

Before you Comment, take a moment to review our guidelines!

 

This past winter has been an extreme one.  Because of this, despite asking around, we were not able to set up many winter doggie play-dates for our lovable rescue mutt, Jessie.   This meant that for the past few months, Jessie was not around too many other dogs on a routine basis, which resulted in her becoming very excitable on our walks when she did meet another four-legged someone.

Now that Spring is coming, we anticipate more routine play dates.  We want to make sure that Jessie remembers her manners, and be able to check her high level of excitement at seeing another dog.

So that’s where doggy daycare came in.  Yesterday was Jessie’s first Evaluation Day at a new doggie day care center.  Despite being a very nervous Mommy, we dropped her off and we all survived.

Are you looking into a doggy day care?

Doggy daycare has been compared to pre-school for children.  In this setting, they meet new friends of all personalities and sizes, and learn social skills that are invaluable to their development throughout life that can only be taught by other dogs.

jnoleash

 

 

 

 

It’s a great way to encourage independence, in a new setting, that’s safe.   Doggy daycare can be utilized in many ways:  as a baby-sitter, a boredom alleviator, and an exercise outlet.  Did you know that many doggy daycares also board dogs?

There are many great articles giving tips on how to find a great doggy day care.   I’ve taken some of the best advice from a few different articles for a quick summary:

  • Ask your trainer or veterinarian for a recommendation.
  • Select a few doggy daycares and go visit them.
    • Are all areas clean and fresh smelling?  Is your dog sensitive to cleaners?  Ask what they use.
    • Are trained staff always present in all dog play areas? They should be.
    • Do the dogs have access to water all the time? They should.
    • Is there an indoor and outdoor area?  Some dogs may not tolerate gravel or pebble foundations.  Found out what their outdoor area has for ground covering.
    • How often are dogs allowed outside?  Some dogs won’t void inside.
    • How does the staff interact with all the dogs?  You don’t want someone watching over your dog who does not interact /pay attention.
    • Does your dog need to eat during the day?  Talk about your dog’s special needs.
    • What are their emergency procedures for injuries, sickness and/or severe weather?  Ask about their safety plans.
    • What is their process for handling aggression?
    • Is there a nap time?  Where do the dogs get to lie down?
    • What are their requirements?  You will need to provide proof of requested vaccinations, etc.
  • A responsible daycare will want to evaluate your dog at their facility to ensure that s/he is a good fit.
  • Many doggy daycares offer webcam access so you can keep your eye on how s/he is doing.

Don’t be discouraged if it seems like the first few visits look like they are not going well!  It may take some time before your dog begins to feel comfortable and confident in a doggy daycare setting.  You can rely on staff feedback, webcam watching, and your dog’s reactions after coming home to determine if doggy daycare is the right choice for you.

What if doggy daycare isn’t for your dog?  Try these suggestions to provide a well-rounded lifestyle:

  • Formal training classes
  • Play-groups
  • Dog walker services
  • Dog parks

Remember, your pet depends on you for a balanced, healthy lifestyle!

JDS Small Block

Continue Reading

Guest Blogger, Diedra Kirk – Verona Street Animal Society

Before you Comment, take a moment to review our guidelines!

 

The Many Ways to Help Animals in Need

RAS Header

 

 

 

 

We often see posts and hear comments about how badly people feel about animals in unfortunate situations so we wanted to post some ideas of how you can get involved even with little time or money.

  1. Volunteer at the Shelter – Shelters always need extra hands to keep their temporary residents happy and healthy.  Consider volunteering even a couple hours per week to help with tasks around the shelter.  For example, you can volunteer to walk dogs, socialize cats, help out at an event, provide customer service or data entry, or even assist in the clinic.
  2. Fundraise – You can sign up to volunteer at an event already scheduled or create your own fundraiser and donate the proceeds.  Bake sales, garage sales, lemonade stands, can and bottle drives, and fitness challenges are all great ways to raise money that you can donate as a tax deductible gift.  You could also choose to have friends and family donate money to your fundraiser instead of birthday or anniversary gifts.
  3. Donate Goods – You can always give money; however, shelters usually have a wish list of items that are in short supply or not covered by operating budgets. They can be very inexpensive things that you may have in your home or can easily buy while doing your weekly errands.  While you are out shopping for your pet, you could pick up an extra box of milk bones, a Kong or even some laundry soap.
  4. Foster Pets – It is preferable to get a pet into a home as quickly as possible even if it is not going to be their forever home.  In a foster home, animals are more relaxed, less stressed and often benefit from the socialization and training a family can provide.  This extra care results in a more well behaved pet that will present better for potential adopters.
  5. Buy from Retailers that Support Shelters – There are stores and websites that will give a portion of your purchase to the shelter in the form of a donation.
  6. Follow us on Facebook & Twitter and share the posts with your friends and family. They may not be looking for a new pet but someone they know might be. It also helps spread the word for fundraising events like The Fast & The Furriest® Race & Pet Fest!

If you are interested in getting involved with a shelter in Rochester, please contact us:

Verona Street Animal Society
P.O. Box 22874, Rochester, NY 14692
(585) 727-2533 

VSASinc@gmail.com

Twitter

Facebook Instagram

 

About Verona Street Animal Society

The Verona Street Animal Society, Inc. (VSAS) is dedicated to providing the resources necessary to enable Rochester Animal Services to more effectively serve the public’s animal care and control, pet sterilization, and pet adoption interests and, in cooperation with the City of Rochester, to support the mission of Rochester Animal Services.

Rochester Animal Services (RAS) is a municipal animal care and control agency dedicated to improving the quality of life and safety for city residents and their animals, the promotion of responsible pet ownership, and the reduction of animal overpopulation to reduce animal suffering and euthanasia. RAS enforces all New York State and City of Rochester ordinances pertaining to animal control. RAS operates an animal shelter for stray, injured, and disowned animals that serves both as an adoption center and as a site for locating lost pets. RAS strives to provide the best possible care for every animal in its charge.

Diedra Kirk is a Board Member at Verona Street Animal Society and Volunteer at Rochester Animal Services. She graduated with a B.S. Degree from Cornell University and a MBA from Rochester Institute of Technology and has had a career in product and service marketing, social media and e-business.

image

 

 

 

 

Thank you to our Guest Blogger

Continue Reading

25 Creative Ways to Help Animal Shelters

 Before you Comment, take a moment to review our guidelines!

 

Many of us would love to help dogs, cats and other rescued animals living at the local shelter, but let’s face it — it can be hard. There often aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish our own tasks, let alone volunteer for the many tasks a shelter has on the to-do list. Donating money would be easier, but maybe you’re on a budget and don’t have much to spare. That’s okay! There are lots of ways to help local animal shelters without investing a ton of time, money or energy.

Here are smart ways that you can make a big difference.

The first step is to learn about the local shelters in your area and their needs. Some might be doing fine on donations but need help caring for the animals waiting for a forever home, while others might be struggling to make ends meet and could use a push in the donation sector. Figure out your skill set and where you’re needed most. The next step is to check out this list of creative ways you can help. Then decide on one (or a few) small things you can do to make a huge difference.

Spread the word ~

Hang up fliers for upcoming adoption events or adoptable animals in pet stores, vet offices, parks and other places where potential adopters will find their perfect companion. Distributing fliers and other marketing materials is an easy and important way to get the word out about adoptable pets.

Share adoption profiles on social media: Your Facebook timeline, Twitter stream, Pinterest board, Tumbler page and other social media accounts are all perfect ways to help advertise pets that are in need of a home. Simply sharing the profiles of adoptable animals to your followers takes hardly any time or effort yet could play a part in creating the perfect match for an animal in need of a forever family.

Transport animals: Have a car? Then a shelter might need you. Some shelters have a hard time arranging to get animals from the shelter to vet appointments, or from shelters to rescue facilities. Donating a little of your time and your driving skills will help animals get the care they need when they need it, and frees up time for other shelter volunteers to get more work done.

Walk dogs: Many times shelters are short on staff to help exercise and socialize their animals. If you’re good with dogs, take an hour once a week (or more!) to drop by and take a dog for a walk. Play time has huge psychological and physical benefits for waiting animals.

Pet cats: Cats need socialization too. If you’re a cat lover, take an hour once a week (or more!) to hang out with cats — petting, playing and interacting with them to get them ready for a new home.

walking dogs

Gathering supplies ~

Donate wish list items: Every shelter has a wish list of items, whether it’s food, toys, bedding, litter, crates or cleaning supplies. Pick up a couple items next time you’re shopping to drop off at the shelter.

Scan Craig’s List, Freecycle, eBay, and other resources for items being sold or given away, and collect them to donate to a shelter.

Call local hotels to see if they have any unusable bedding, towels or cleaning supplies that they will donate to a local shelter.

Call office supply stores to see if there are items they are willing to donate, such as printer paper, ink, envelopes and other items that shelters need.

Bust out your special talents~

Crafty folks: Create homemade toys and bedding using old T-shirts, jeans or blankets. Or sew up “Adopt Me” vests and bandanas for adoptable animals to wear while they’re out for walks or at events. A quick search for “How to make [insert dog bed, dog toys, cat toys, etc.]” will bring up loads of patterns and ideas.

Carpenters and DIY whizzes: Help out with carpentry or other skills needed to repair and improve shelters. Anything from renovating parts of a facility to building a new cat tree will be hugely appreciated.

Lawyers: Shelters need lawyers too. Lend your knowledge and skills to help shelters stay on top of legal forms, contracts, copyright on videos or brochures made for advertising, and so on.

Accountants: Shelters definitely need to stay on top of accounting paperwork. You can help shelters keep organized about fees paid by adopters, donations and grants, as well as balancing expenses for caring for the animals.

dog trainer

Dog trainers (or trainers in training!): Take a dog to obedience class. Often dogs need some training before they’re ready to be adopted. You can help shelters by volunteering your skills as a trainer and working with the dogs. Or if you’re a novice, take a dog to obedience classes where you both can learn. Basic commands like sit, stay, lie down, and loose leash walking all make a dog more adoptable.

If you have experience with dog or cat behavior, volunteer to do behavior evaluations for new arrivals, and help the shelter determine each animal’s personality, social skill level, find any triggers for behavior problems, and other important information that’s needed for determining how adoptable an animal is or what kind of home they need to thrive.

Website designers: Shelters need to constantly update their websites as animals are adopted or are made available for adoption. Everything from maintaining upcoming events information, calls for donations, blog updates, designing a professional look and other aspects of a great website are things you could help out with.

Writers: Shelters do a lot of writing. They need adoption profiles for each pet put up for adoption, newsletters must be written and sent, ads for events and fundraisers must be crafted, grant applications must be written, and so on. Your skills as a writer could make all the difference for a shelter’s success.

Social media experts: Social media is a must for getting the word out on adoptable pets. Shelters need to post updates constantly on who is looking for a new home, who was adopted out successfully (everyone loves hearing success stories!), requests for much needed supplies or donations, and other news. Someone skilled with the etiquette and best practices for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other platforms, including skills for writing and scheduling updates, can mean a big uptick in successful adoptions.

Photographers: High-quality photos for adoption profiles make an enormous difference in how quickly animals get adopted. Volunteer your skills with a camera to photograph animals, showing off their personality and making them look their best so potential adopters will click on their profile and, with luck, visit to meet and adopt them. Check out HeartsSpeak, an organization that helps photographers partner up with shelters.

dog photographer

 Fun fundraising ideas~

Your birthday: Birthdays are the perfect way to gather donations for a shelter. Everyone wants to be nice to you on your birthday, right? You could set up a fundraising website, using something like gofundme.com or indiegogo.com, to raise money throughout the month of your birthday, or you can ask anyone attending your birthday party to bring a gift for the shelter instead of for you. You could even host your birthday party at a shelter or dog park for extra fun and inspiration.

Your wedding: It’s getting more popular to have a no-gifts wedding registry, with the happy couple asking for donations to favorite charities. Your wedding registry could revolve around charities that help rescued animals in need. You can set up a registry page with monetary donations going straight to the rescue or shelter of your choice, or you can ask guests to bring something to donate that you can drop off later. Or both!

Your party: Throwing a party? Add a special request for folks to bring something to donate to a shelter, or set up a jar for raising money next to the snack platter (or better yet, the drinks station). It’s an easy add-on to an event you’re already hosting.

At work: Put up a glass jar with a sign on your desk or counter-top, and send out an email to coworkers asking for donations for a week. Or take it a step further by organizing a supplies donation drive, bake sale, raffle or other fundraising drive for a week or more.

At school: What better place to learn about animals in need than at school? Enlisting the help of teachers and classrooms full of students could mean major donations to a local shelter. Talk to the faculty and staff at a school about ideas, from donation drives to raffles. The shelter you’re helping could bring in a couple adoptable pets to the school to show kids how (and who) they’re helping. It’s the perfect opportunity not only to raise funds and goods for the shelter, but also to raise awareness at an early age about caring for pets.

fundraising

 Two more things ~

Say “thank you”: Shelter workers give their whole hearts to their jobs, and are usually buried under never-ending to-do lists and urgent tasks. They usually are overstressed and under-paid. So little things like someone showing how much they appreciate what they’re doing goes a long, long way in restoring the energy and drive they need to continue to help animals. You can do something simple like sending in a thank you card or a bouquet of flowers. Or maybe deliver cupcakes or cookies, or order pizza or sandwiches for the whole crew one day. Anything that shows just how much their efforts are appreciated will make a big difference. When the staff are encouraged and energized, all the animals in the shelter benefit from that positive energy.

Foster an animal: Being in a shelter can be extremely stressful for many animals, and not a place they can thrive. Plus, shelters fill up fast. Finding temporary homes while animals are waiting to be adopted frees up space to help newly rescued animals. Fostering doesn’t necessarily fall under the “easy” category for how to volunteer to help, but it does fall under the category of most important things you can do. Most shelters pay for food and vet bills, so fostering is not a burden on the wallet. Opening your home to an animal in need and providing the food, shelter, love and training it needs while waiting for a forever home is one of the best things you can do to help. It can also be one of the most fulfilling.

JUST DO SOMETHING.

JDS Small Block

Continue Reading

Guest Blogger: Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.

 Before you Comment, take a moment to review our guidelines!

Religion: Friend or Foe of Animal Activism
By Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D. and Rabbi Dovid Sears

Many animal activists regard organized religion as an ideological opponent. Concerning Judaism, this negative presumption is largely due to the misunderstanding of two important biblical verses that, when properly conceived; actually endorse the struggle to improve conditions for animals.

The first misunderstanding is that the biblical teaching that humans are granted dominion over animals gives us a warrant to treat them in whatever way we may wish. However, Jewish tradition interprets “dominion” as guardianship, or stewardship: we are called upon to be co-workers with God in improving the world. This biblical mandate does not mean that people have the right to wantonly exploit animals, and it certainly does not permit us to breed animals and then treat them as machines designed solely to meet human needs. In “A Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace,” Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, Chief Rabbi of pre-state Israel and a leading 20th century Jewish thinker, states: “There can be no doubt in the mind of any intelligent person that [the Divine empowerment of humanity to derive benefit from nature] does not mean the domination of a harsh ruler, who afflicts his people and servants merely to satisfy his whim and desire, according to the crookedness of his heart. It is unthinkable that the Divine Law would impose such a decree of servitude, sealed for all eternity, upon the world of God, Who is ‘good to all, and His mercy is upon all his works’ (Psalms 145:9), and Who declared, ‘The world shall be built with kindness’ (ibid. 89:33).”

This view is reinforced by the fact that immediately after God gave humankind dominion over animals (Genesis 1:28), He prescribed vegetarian foods as the diet best suited to humans (Genesis 1:29). This mandate is almost immediately followed by God’s declaration that all of Creation was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Adam and Eve’s original vegetarian diet was consistent with the stewardship that God entrusted to them and to all humankind.

That dominion means responsible stewardship is reinforced by a statement in the next chapter of Genesis (2:15) that indicates that humans are to work the land, but also to guard it. We are to be coworkers with God in protecting the environment.

The second error of some animal activists is the presumption that the biblical teaching that only people are created in God’s image means that God places little or no value on animals. While the Torah states that only human beings are created “in the Divine Image” (Genesis1:27, 5:1), animals are also God’s creatures, possessing sensitivity and the capacity for feeling pain. God is concerned that they are protected and treated with compassion and justice. In fact, the Jewish sages state that to be “created in the Divine Image,” means that people have the capacity to emulate the Divine compassion for all creatures. “As God is compassionate,” they teach, “so you should be compassionate.”

In his classic work Ahavat Chesed (“The Love of Kindness”), the revered Chafetz Chayim (Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan of Radin) writes that whoever emulates the Divine love and compassion to all creatures “will bear the stamp of God on his person.” Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, a leading 19th century Jewish thinker, also discusses this concept, that human beings were created to “serve and safeguard the earth” (Genesis 2:15), Rabbi Hirsch states that this actually limits our rights over other living things. He writes: “The earth was not created as a gift to you. You have been given to the earth, to treat it with respectful consideration, as God’s earth, and everything on it as God’s creation, as your fellow creatures – to be respected, loved, and helped to attain their purpose according to God’s will… To this end, your heartstrings vibrate sympathetically with any cry of distress sounding anywhere in Creation, and with any glad sound uttered by a joyful creature.”

In summary, as the Lord is our shepherd, we are to be shepherds of voiceless creatures. As God is kind and compassionate to us, we must be considerate of the needs and feelings of animals. In addition, religious vegetarians of diverse faiths believe that by showing compassion to animals through a vegetarian diet, we help fulfill the commandment to imitate God’s ways.

Critics of religion in the animal rights community may argue, with some justification, that the various religious communities are not doing enough to end the many horrible abuses of animals today, especially in the meat industry. However, this failure should not lead animal activists to scorn and repudiate religion altogether, but as much as possible to enlist the religious world in the common cause of eliminating the cruel misuses of animals.

Judaism clearly forbids any gratuitous display of cruelty toward animals. In Hebrew, this is called tza’ar ba’alei chayim, the biblical mandate not to cause “pain to any living creature.” This is, in fact, a category for a significant group of laws in the Shulchan Arukh (Code of Jewish Law) and the responsa literature.

By contrast, Psalms 104 and 148 bespeak the worthiness of the animals of the field, creatures of the sea, and birds of the air before their Creator. Psalm 104 depicts God as “giving drink to every beast of the field,” and “causing grass to spring up for the cattle.” Perhaps the Jewish attitude toward animals is best summarized by Proverbs 12:10: “The righteous person regards the life of his or her animal.” In his explanation of this verse, the Malbim, a 19th century biblical commentator, explained that the righteous person understands the nature of the animal, and hence provides food at the proper time, and according to the amount needed. He is also careful not to overwork the animal. Rather, the tzaddik (righteous person) acts according to the laws of justice. Not only does he act according to these laws with human beings, but also with animals.

It would be a major mistake for animal activists to dismiss the various religious communities as unconcerned with the plight of animals. Rather, while respectfully challenging religious adherents to live up to their religion’s compassionate teachings about animals, we all should seek ways to transcend our philosophical and theological differences, and find a common ground on which we may stand together for the benefit of animals and humankind.

Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, College of Staten Island
Author of Judaism and Vegetarianism, Judaism and Global Survival, Mathematics and Global Survival, and Who Stole My Religion? Revitalizing Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperiled Planet, and 200 articles at JewishVeg.com/schwartz
President Emeritus, Jewish Vegetarians of North America (www.JewishVeg.com); President, Society Of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians (SERV):
Associate producer of A SACRED DUTY (www.aSacredDuty.com);
“Like” JVNA on Facebook at www.facebook.com/JewishVeg
Thank you to our Guest Blogger
Continue Reading

Our First Blog Post

 Before you Comment, take a moment to review our guidelines!

 

What better way to have a blog geared towards animal support and advocacy, than to ask other advocates and supporters to submit a blog of their own to post on this site.

We think “blog sharing” is a great way to broaden awareness across location boundaries, show that it is possible to be united together for animal welfare issues despite the distance between us, and spread the word about great people doing great things – all in the name of animal support and advocacy.

Please check back soon.

jlb signature

Continue Reading
Translate »