Many of us have heard the Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi quote that reads, “you must be the change you wish to see in the world.” This phrase no doubt means different things to many people. For many of us, it means that we must live our values through our actions. None of us as individuals have the power to change our society as a whole, but when we strive to “be the change” we wish to see through our decisions and our actions, there is strength in numbers. The values of any society are rarely thrust upon the people; they come from the people. So. How can you be the change you wish to see in the world as it relates to companion animals? You do so through your choices and your actions. They reflect your values.
ADOPT or RESCUE your next companion animal. Although many people have come to believe that shelter and rescue animals are somehow "damaged," that is rarely the case. The truth is that most of them are simply homeless and are victims of our poor choices. If you have your heart set on a particular breed for some reason, there’s nothing wrong with that. Seek out a breed specific rescue group or just a specific breed of animal using petfinder.com or a comparable web site. There are countless reputable breeders across our country, many of which breed animals for the sheer love of the breed and to perpetuate breed standards. If you’re considering buying an animal, however, ask yourself this: do I really need to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a companion animal when I can save a life instead?
SPAY and NEUTER your pets. Many people are surprised to learn the health benefits of having companion animals fixed, not the least of which is an extended life span. If you’ve ever lost a beloved companion animal to age or disease, you know the heartbreak of that loss. Given the choice, would you add years to your pet’s life if you could and keep them healthier? You can through spay and neuter.
SPEAK OUT about issues which relate to companion animals in your community and your state. If you oppose Breed Specific Legislation, let those in positions of authority know how you feel. If you believe the best way to reduce the population of feral cats is through Trap-Neuter-Return programs, support those programs in your own neighborhoods. If you believe that the animal shelters in your community which operate using your tax dollars and donations are not doing all they can to save lives, speak up. Only when you make it clear that you value the lives of homeless animals will those lives become a priority. Life saving doesn’t mean spending more money in a community and it often saves taxpayer dollars.
SUPPORT local rescue groups and national animal advocacy groups the focus of which are saving lives. There are many multimillion dollar organizations in our society which engage in very visible marketing. If you look at their funding or how they operate, you may find that your donations are used primarily to fund salaries, lobbying and marketing while very little (or none) of your money is actually used to rescue or save animals. If you want to help the cause by making a tax deductible donation, you can do so right where you live or to any nonprofit across the country which is actively involved in being the change such as National Mill Dog Rescue, Dogs Deserve Better, Alley Cat Allies or the No Kill Advocacy Center, among many others. If you cannot donate money, you can always donate your time by volunteering at a local no kill shelter or with a local rescue group. You can also donate common items you may have in your home which you no longer use such as old towels, old blankets, newspaper, used dog or cat beds, etc.