On March 18, 2010 I wrote the following article for the Huffington Post, Christmas Only Comes to Lucky Dogs. Now almost twelve years after that day I thought it wise to look over the animal landscape and assess our role in it. On that fateful day almost 12 years go, the U.S. was killing around 4 million dogs a year (as stated in the article). Today this number is presumed to be closer to 1 million. How is this possible? A 75% reduction in the killing of our best pals?
The answer is "The Internet stupid!" The Internet has of course changed all of our lives and in the case of companion animals it has given them life. It would be a mistake to attribute this success to the growth of compassion and conscience in the American citizenry. Even though it brings such a hopeful ring on Christmas day, it's not close to the truth. People always wanted to adopt, almost 60% of homes have a pet. So how did the Internet accomplish this miracle of morals? It was, rescues that played the critical role in the puzzle.
We always knew there were thousands of people (mostly women) willing to give of their lives in order to save a given dog from being killed. But it was very cumbersome back then to deal with the shelters and then to find an adopter for the rescued dogs. Imagine a small rescue in rural Oklahoma, takes in a dog, with a volunteer agreeing to foster the dog until it gets adopted. How did they find an adopter before the internet? No money for advertising, no television interviews, no social media. How is the word going to get out there that this dog needs a home? The internet completely transformed the landscape. Dedicated people built their networks and communicated to hundreds of thousands with just a few clicks of their mouse and for no cost.
DogsInDanger was at the forefront of this revolution. We knew before just about anyone that an internet listing of dogs would work, it would result in adoptions. We went to work in 2007 and shocked the country with photos of dogs pleading for their lives.
Where is the animal landscape heading today? The power of the internet has not subsided. All the trends are still at force albeit with less forcefulness. The next evolution in the arena is on the legislative front. This is where the lives of animals will take on greater value than medium rare steak. The internet again will play a central role, however, sadly the throngs of kindhearted women that drove the rescue revolution don't seem to be interested much in implementing systemic change. They are mostly content saving one dog or cat at a time. We will need again an army of the compassionate, the unselfish, that will make our legislators do the right thing. Don't expect them to do it on their own, that will never happen!
When it comes to advancing the rights and interests of all animals, climate change may be the most powerful catalyst yet. 30% of all toxic gasses that are emitted into the atmosphere are a direct result of animal farming. But again, don't expect the farm lobby to help. They would rather see the earth in ashes than be a part of the solution. Once again legislative change is the only possible path, and once again an army of caring individuals will have to come to the rescue. In this case there is more hope as survival cuts through all ideologies. It's not just for animal lovers.
Yet whether due to conscience or self survival, those essential armies have not yet come into existence. At least not as of the date of this writing. On this Christmas Day we can at least take solace of the last decade's great accomplishments and for DogsInDanger in particular, be proud of the small role we played in this evolution of caring. The road ahead is long and winding indeed. We will traverse it knowing fully that the well being of animals is a metric for the well being of the human race. For when we care for the weakest in the chain of life, we evolve, we become masters of our destiny rather than mere tools of our primal instincts.
If the day ever arrives when humans treat animals with respect as sentient beings, we will finally have seen a glorious day without war, hatred, ignorance and prejudice. If that sounds too good to be true, you may well be right, but as a human being hope shines ever eternal in my soul.