One act of kindness … everyday

One act of kindnessI know that you love animals, otherwise you probably would not be reading this blog! So I know that I’m preaching to the choir here. But I think my message today is something that all of us need to hear; not necessarily to change our daily behavior to do more to help animals, but maybe so that we encourage others. So what is that message?

One act of kindness … everyday! No exceptions.

Whenever I say this, I hear so many people (including people who LOVE animals) tell me But Allie, I’m so busy that I barely have enough time to eat lunch or I wish I had a lot of money/time to donate to help animals, but I just don’t!

I’m not asking you to unload your wallet (although feel free to do that at your local animal shelter, rescue group or animal sanctuary at any point while reading this); I’m not asking you to quit your job and spend your life volunteering to help animals in need (unless you are independently wealthy and want to do that, to which I say GO FOR IT!); and I’m not asking you to completely alter your lifestyle by not consuming/wearing animal products (although if you do that already, you are truly leading the pack!).

So what I am asking? I’m asking you and everyone you influence to do this one simple thing.

One act of kindness … everyday. That’s it.

So what would that look like, you ask? Here are 10 super simple examples of some of my daily kindness activities:

  • Each morning I pick up my kitties (Lucy, Jacob and Rudy), hug them, kiss them, tell them that I love them, and then tell them what my day looks like (am I going to the office, working from home, traveling, etc.). I treat them like a two-legged family member. And they totally understand.
  • When I brush my teeth, I smile (not just to get my pearly whites pearly white), but because my toothpaste (and all of the ingredients) are NOT tested on animals. I go to great lengths to make sure that all of my beauty and household products are certified on the Leaping Bunny site. Because of consumer pressure, there are now a huge amount of cruelty-free products to choose from that do not cost much more than products that are harmful to animals. So this one is an easy choice to make every day!
  • When I put creamer in my Creme Brulee decaf coffee, I use coconut creamer (delish!) and give Bessie the cow a break!
  • When I am driving to the office, I am not distracted by the radio, my schedule for the day, or heaven forbid my smart phone. Instead, I am focused on the road to make sure that no little creature runs into my path and perishes. And what I find are lovely birds, butterflies and even an eagle or two who grab my attention and brighten my day.
  • If someone is amenable to a discussion about how their turkey sandwich came to be, I’m happy to oblige (and not in a snarky way, but in an educational way about the life of farm animals and how a meat-based diet is controversial in the medical community these days). No need to turn off anyone’s listening ears by going wack-a-poodle on them. A rationale discussion goes a long way to change mindsets.
  • Spending even just a few minutes playing with, cuddling or walking a homeless shelter pet who is grieving the loss of her family. When I’m having a particularly stressful day, this is a fantastic way for me to instantly rebalance and is a beautiful gift to the shelter companion, too.
  • When I’m at a store that has a donation canister for an animal protection group, even just putting my spare change in the canister will add up and help out an animal.
  • I do not lecture people about eating meat; but if you do, consider having 1-3 days each week as meatless days. There are so many wonderful vegetarian and vegan recipes online these days that it is easy to fix up a great breakfast, lunch and dinner that is healthy.
  • DSCN5754When I hear someone discussing the possibility of “buying” an animal, I see that as an opportunity to educate about “adopting” from a shelter and saving a life!
  • And last, when I perusing social media at the end of a long day, I look for stories about animals to share. Stories of animals who need help and heart warming stories of amazing people who help animals. This only takes a few seconds to share these stories on your page and who knows … you may help a shelter animal find a new home!

Book coverYou don’t have to do all of these on the same day; just pick one each day and DO IT! When you do something to help an animal, you will feel good. And then you’ll want to do more, and you’ll feel even better! Next thing you know, you’ve quit your job, opened an animal sanctuary, authored an animal protection book, and transformed your life! Okay, you don’t have to go that far, but I know many people who took small steps and eventually took a big leap. You never know what one act of kindness everyday will take you. I’m one of them!

So what will you do today? Drop me a comment about it! For even more ideas, check out my book Defending the Defenseless: A Guide to Protecting and Advocating for Pets!!

Me and Rudy

Allie and Rudy Allen Weasley

About Allie:

Allie Phillips is a nationally-recognized author, attorney and animal advocate. As a prosecuting attorney volunteering in her local animal control shelter, she exposed the barbaric practice of pound seizure and has gone on to eliminate the practice in numerous shelters. That started her path as a strong, effective and respected animal advocate. Allie has been a federal and state animal protection lobbyist and nationally trains criminal justice professionals on animal protection and prosecution issues. She has written the award-winning and only book on pound seizure: How Shelter Pets are Brokered for Experimentation: Understanding Pound Seizure and the go-to guide on getting involved to help animals: Defending the Defenseless: A Guide to Protecting and Advocating for Pets. 

Join in on the conversation!

 

 

How much is that kitty in the window? She better not be free.

Sierra 2

Sierra waits for her new home, but will not be free!

We all know that animal shelters are over crowded, especially at this time of the year. I’m a big believer in creative adoption programs that feature shelter companion animals and get them adopted into good homes. I’m currently in the process of putting together my cat orphanage’s annual What About Me® adoption campaign video that showcases our senior, shy and long-term cats. Creativity is definitely a bonus when rehoming shelter companion animals.

I do not support the concept of shelters waiving adoption fees or allowing other people to sponsor the adoption fee of a shelter companion animal (unless it’s a family member paying the adoption fee as a gift). I have spent far too much time in shelters and helping shelter companion animals that I quickly adopted the philosophy that if an adopter cannot afford a modest adoption fee, they cannot afford to properly care for the companion animal.

Taking care of a companion animal is a life time commitment, that includes a financial commitment. I understand the urgency that some shelters feel to get the companion animals out to homes and that can result in some poor practices. For years I volunteered in a shelter with a high euthanasia that also sold the companion animals to research. Talk about working in panic mode everyday!!!! But even with that, we did our best to properly screen adopters and rescue groups that helped us. What I have learned over the years is that you could be sending that companion animal into a dangerous situation or the animal could be returned because of a poor matching process. It is critically important to spend the time up front to match the person to the companion animal and insure that they can afford their new companion.

I completely understand those shelters that want to waive the adoption fee because their goal is to get the companion animal rehomed and out of the shelter. However, there are far worse things that can happen when you rehome a companion animal to someone who does not (or cannot) pay the adoption fee.

The Young Williams Animal Shelter in Knoxville, TN recently learned that 3 of their recent adoptees were being sold on Craig’s List. This is the story. As well intentioned as it is to waive adoption fees or let donors “sponsor” an adoption fee, there are far too many situations where this has happened. When a companion animal is placed on Craig’s List, the screening process for that animal is minimal or non existent. Craig’s list is not a safe place to sell anything that has a pulse. Harsh, but true. Without getting too graphic, I know of animals who have been used in research, for dog fighting bait, and kittens being fed to snakes. So for the Knoxville shelter, I doubt that they have any recourse to have those 3 animals returned. It’s not illegal to post animals for sale on Craig’s List, so those 3 animals may not be saved.

Craig’s List postings, free-to-“good”-home ads and waiving adoption fees are fraught with issues. Anyone who wishes to obtain an animal for ill-purposes (such as reselling to research, to a dog fighting enterprise, etc.) will not pay an adoption fee. Even charging $40 will greatly deter those people.

So please reconsider the “free adoption” programs. If you want to help an adopter, consider giving them a voucher for free pet food, or a free vet visit. The Knoxville shelter has decided to continue their free adoption program, but will not advertise it until after the have a signed contract. The bottom line is that we have to be safe when we are responsible for rehoming companion animals. Their life is literally in our hands.

I would love to hear from you on some creative adoption programs that help companion animals and avoid this issue. Please share!

Me and Jacob 090212-sm

Allie and Jacob

About Allie:

Allie Phillips is a nationally-recognized author, attorney and animal advocate. As a prosecuting attorney volunteering in her local animal control shelter, she exposed the barbaric practice of pound seizure and has gone on to eliminate the practice in numerous shelters. That started her path as a strong, effective and respected animal advocate. Allie has been a federal and state animal protection lobbyist and nationally trains criminal justice professionals on animal protection and prosecution issues. She has written the award-winning and only book on pound seizure: How Shelter Pets are Brokered for Experimentation: Understanding Pound Seizure and the go-to guide on getting involved to help animals: Defending the Defenseless: A Guide to Protecting and Advocating for Pets. 

Join in on our conversations!

 

 

June is for Kitties!!!!

I love June! The weather gets nicer (which means that people should get a little nicer), vacations are on the horizon, and it’s ADOPT A SHELTER CAT MONTH!  Woo Hoo … let the party begin!

There are just far far far too many cats in U.S. shelters all year-round. But in the Spring/Summer/Fall months when kitten season is abound, it is not a party for cats. The euthanasia rates of shelter cats and kittens is enormous and cats are a majority of the 3-4 million euthanized annually. I won’t go off on a tangent about “who gives a human being the right to end the life of a shelter animal?” That’s a blog for a different day. We all know that number is just terrible and it’s not right … but what are you doing to help?

If everyone who loved cats did just one thing to help a shelter cat this month, we would rehome every single cat. No lie! I want to focus on getting cats adopted this month! So this blog is filled with some ideas for everyone, so read on!

1. If you are interested in having the pitter patter of feline paws in your home, please please please ADOPT from a shelter. Even though kittens are very cute (I’ve had one for the past 5 months methodically breaking many trinkets that he feels I don’t need anymore), there are shelters filled with middle aged and senior cats who are depressed and longing for a warm bed and a cuddle. Where I volunteer, we have two 15-year-old brothers (Alesiter & Orson at King Street Cats) right now. So think about your lifestyle and the set up of your home and choose wisely. If you like your trinkets to stay out and remain unbroken, an older cat may suit you best. Whereas if you have a playful dog or children, a younger cat may be better. Think of adopting as a matchmaking service … you are choosing for life!

Jacob & Rudy 040613-1

Rudy & Jacob

2. If you are not in the market to adopt, find ways to support your local shelter(s). Many people only want to support the “no kill” shelters where all animals find a home. And that is fantastic because it allows those shelters to remain open. But do not forget other shelters that may be municipal shelters. When donors deny those shelters of money, supplies, volunteer time and even adoptions (because I just can’t go in to the shelter and walk away without adopting them all), simply because those shelters have the terrible task of euthanizing beautiful and wonderful animals, all it does it impact the animals in their care. You can truly save a life and change how a shelter helps animals simply by doing something. So clean out your linen closet and donate clean items for the cats to lay on, donate any money that you can, host a casual Friday day at work and ask everyone to pay $3-5 for the privilege and then donate that to your local shelter, drop off food or other supplies (call to find out what they need), offer to transport shelter cats to adoption events or the veterinary clinic, offer to help with adoptions or fundraisers or even to sit with the shelter cats and give them love, open your home to provide foster care … the ideas are endless. Cats are more stressed in a shelter environment than other pets so they more likely to appear angry or frightened, all of which impacts their adoptability. Anything that you can do to help a shelter cat feel better will really help.

3. If you want a more “hands-off” approach, considering blogging or posting on social media every day this month about ways for people in your community to help shelter cats find homes. Even sharing postings by shelters of the cats that are available for adoption will help them find homes.

And if you want more ideas, check out my book Defending the Defenseless: A Guide to Protecting and Advocating for PetsIt is chock full of ideas for everyone to get involved and make a difference. And that’s what Adopt A Shelter Cat Month is all about … for us to make a difference in the life of a cat.

So from me and my 3 shelter adoptees Lucy, Jacob & Rudy, we hope that you will do even just one thing this month to help a shelter cat find a home. Please post a comment to let me know what you’re doing because it will encourage others to get involved, too!

Happy Cat Month!

Me and Lucy - Aug 09-cropped

Allie and Lucy

About Allie:

Allie Phillips is a nationally-recognized author, attorney and animal advocate. As a prosecuting attorney volunteering in her local animal control shelter, she exposed the barbaric practice of pound seizure and has gone on to eliminate the practice in numerous shelters. That started her path as a strong, effective and respected animal advocate. Allie has been a federal and state animal protection lobbyist and nationally trains criminal justice professionals on animal protection and prosecution issues. She has written the award-winning and only book on pound seizure: How Shelter Pets are Brokered for Experimentation: Understanding Pound Seizure and the go-to guide on getting involved to help animals: Defending the Defenseless: A Guide to Protecting and Advocating for Pets. 

About Lucy:

Lucy Ling was adopted on March 5, 1999 at the age of 7 months from a mid-Michigan shelter that practiced pound seizure and had a high euthanasia rate. She will be 15 years old in August. She is a beautiful Bombay who loves to talk and give nose smears!  She cackles at the birds through her sunny window and is always by her mom’s side (except when her cootie-ridden brothers Jacob and Rudy are around).

About Jacob:

Jacob was cast outdoors when his family in West Virginia lost their home. He was found by some caring people and taken in to the Potomac Highland Animal Rescue group. He was transferred to King Street Cats in Alexandria, VA to find a home. He was quickly adopted, but then returned because the family was moving. He was adopted again, and then returned because the family was having a baby. After suffering from depression and getting sick, Allie fostered him back to health but then could not let him go. After fostering over 150 cats and kittens, Jacob was the first one to stay. He loves to romp and sleep with Rudy and when he runs he hops like a bunny rabbit. He will be 8-years-old this month.

About Rudy:

Rudy was found at the age of 4 weeks under a bush on the island of St. Croix. The St. Croix Animal Welfare Center cared for him for 5 months until he could fly to Virginia to find a new home. Allie fostered Rudy and “tried” to adopt him through King Street Cats. But he was meant to be in her home. She adopted him on January 23, 2013 and will turn one-year old on July 13, 2013! He loves to jump out and surprise his sister (to her annoyance) and to romp with his brother. He follows Allie around the house like a dog, sounds like he’s saying “hey” when he meows, and is ignoring all attempts to learn the word “no.”

Join in on our conversations!

 

 

 

 

Book coverWinner of the Cat Writer’s Association Muse Medallion and Certificate of Excellence in 2011
Book coverWinner of the Cat Writer’s Association Certificate of Excellence in 2012

Is that really a stray cat?

For the past 6 months, I’ve had a super sweet brown tabby male cat come to my door for affection, a little conversation through the screen with my interested cats, and some treats. I have learned that his name is Eddie and rumor had it that he belonged to a family a few doors down. So I left them a few notes asking them to please keep their kitty indoors because there is a feral cat in the neighborhood who has staked his claim (which I support) and he attacks Eddie over territory disputes. I also noticed a month ago that we have foxes taking up residency in the woods behind my house. So I am afraid for Eddie’s safety.

My notes did not receive a response. So in speaking with a few neighbors, they told me that Eddie appears to be living outside 24/7 and that at least one of the family members from Eddie’s “home” has spoken negatively about Eddie and could care less about his safety. So it was unclear whether Eddie was “owned” or abandoned. So earlier this week, when Eddie was on my porch again begging for some love, I decided to help him. After all, he was an outdoor cat without a collar or any identification and, legally speaking, appeared to be an abandoned stray cat. Or was he?

I took him to a veterinary clinic that my cat orphanage goes to and I asked them to first scan Eddie for a microchip. I crossed my fingers in hopes that he did not have one because then my cat orphanage would hold him for the required time period and then rehome him. I was heart broken when a microchip was located. Being an attorney, I followed the law and I called the microchip company and then called the owner. When 24 hours went by without a return phone call, I was hopeful that they had decided they did not want Eddie. But then I received a fateful call that they wanted him back.

So what do you do in that instance? Do you bite your tongue and politely return a cat that they treat like a toss away piece of garbage? Do you tell them what you really think about the situation? Do you educate? Do you put the cat in a witness protection program and not return their calls?

My approach was to be polite and educate. I explained to the lady in the household that neighbors love Eddie because he’s so friendly, but we are greatly worried about his safety. I shared with her that I had broken up two fights between Eddie and the resident feral cat in the past week and that it was only a matter of time before Eddie had an unpleasant encounter with the foxes. I explained that it’s not safe (in this area) for Eddie to be roaming outside. Initially she was pleasant and sounded as if she really loved Eddie. But when I asked her why she let him roam (in violation of our neighborhood bylaws), she became abrupt and said “he loves to go outside.” I really wanted to reply back “well, some people love to smoke cigarettes, but it doesn’t mean that it’s safe.” But I held my tongue and shared with her that we are concerned about Eddie and it would be best if she kept him indoors. I explained that most people would not follow the law, would ignore the microchip, and would either take him to a shelter where he could be euthanized, or would keep him. I also offered for my cat orphanage to take Eddie should she not want him.

And that was the end of the call after I gave her instructions on how to retrieve Eddie at the veterinary clinic. It’s been 3 days and I have not seen Eddie outside, so I hope my message was received. Even though I am an attorney, the animal protectionist in me wanted to not return Eddie and keep him safe. But then it reminded me of a situation a year ago where one of my beloved St. Croix rescue kitties escaped her home and was found by a volunteer of another cat rescue group (a group that hates my cat orphanage and would go to great lengths to harm us). And sure enough, they refused to return the cat named Smiley despite intervention by our local animal control. So my anger and sadness over Smiley brought me back to not wanting anyone else to go through that situation. If this happened to one of my cats (who are microchipped), I would hope that someone would follow the law and contact me. Legally, Eddie had a family and it is not for me to judge how they care for him so long as they are following the law.

So I hope that Eddie stays safe. I would love to hear from you as to what you would do in this instance. Would you follow law or would you ignore the microchip rehome the cat?

Me and Rudy 012413-1

Allie and Rudy

About Allie:

Allie Phillips is a nationally-recognized author, attorney and animal advocate. As a prosecuting attorney volunteering in her local animal control shelter, she exposed the barbaric practice of pound seizure and has gone on to eliminate the practice in numerous shelters. That started her path as a strong, effective and respected animal advocate. Allie has been a federal and state animal protection lobbyist and nationally trains criminal justice professionals on animal protection and prosecution issues. She has written the award-winning and only book on pound seizure: How Shelter Pets are Brokered for Experimentation: Understanding Pound Seizure and the go-to guide on getting involved to help animals: Defending the Defenseless: A Guide to Protecting and Advocating for Pets. 

Join in on our conversations!

 

 

 

When did compassion become crazy?

Welcome guest blogger, Julie Germany, a friend and fellow feline adopter! I asked Julie to write a blog after she adopted 2 brothers this week in the wake of one of her cat’s passing away. She and her husband now have 4 cats and it caused some frustration for me to see people calling her a “crazy cat lady” on her Facebook page. To me, this causes three concerns: (1) it denigrates and perpetuates an inaccurate stereotype of any female wanting to adopt a cat out of fear of being called a “crazy cat lady”, thus reducing the number of shelter cats that can be re-homed, (2) it continues a negative perception towards cats (because you really don’t hear anyone being called “crazy ferret lady”) and (3) it makes light of the very serious and tragic situation where people do hoard and harm animals. And by hoarding, I don’t mean 4 cats … I mean hundreds of animals (and not just cats) to where they do not receive veterinary care or individualized attention/socialization.

So while some people may think it’s funny to call a female a “crazy cat lady”, I say “shame on you” for making anyone feel badly for having the compassion to open her home to four cats who are very well cared-for. Especially for the two recent adoptees who came from a cat orphanage where they resided for over 13 months, were adopted, then returned, and resided another 18 months (and were also friends with her two other cats, who came from the same cat orphanage). Shame on you for not saying, “Congratulations on opening your home to two more cats who are the luckiest cats in the world.”

Read on as Julie so aptly puts this situation in perspective! Folks, let’s keep the focus on praising those who adopt from shelters and provide wonderful homes, and differentiate them from those who truly collect and harm animals due to a mental illness. Bring it on Julie!

Bert and Ernie - for calendar

Meet Bert & Ernie

By Julie Germany

If I had four horses, would you call me crazy or weird? Or would you just call me a horse lover?

What about four kids? If I had four kids, would you call me crazy? Or would I just be a mom?

Let’s say I’m a man with four dogs? Would you call me crazy then?

This week my husband and I brought home our third and fourth cats, two brothers who simply could not live apart and who had been at the cat shelter for over three years. Most of my friends and family were happy for us and understood the role that our pets have in our lives.

They knew that we live in a large, four story house with lots of room for the cats to play and that we invest a lot of time, love, and occasionally money in making sure our pets are well fed, cared for, healthy, and happy. They also knew that we recently lost a pet, and that the experience left us heartbroken.

But then there were the others who thought that four cats perhaps represented some type of imbalance or dislikable impulse. I have become a “crazy cat lady” — sometimes said unknowingly with love, sometimes said with judgement. And that makes me angry.

Why is having compassion for animals something crazy, compulsive, and strange?

Compassion and care for those who cannot speak for or fight for themselves — animals, children, the poor, the injured, the impaired, and often throughout history, women — are qualities that reflect the best possible parts of being human. Those have helped lead humanity forward and expand our universe have felt similarly.

Albert Einstein said, “Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”

Or consider Arthur Schopenhauer, who wrote “The assumption that animals are without rights, and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance, is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.”

St. Francis of Assisi, who is depicted surrounded by animals, said, “If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.

All of these quotes are from men.

The sad news is that women caring for animals has held a stigma for quite some time. That’s what irritates me the most about being called a “crazy cat lady.”

It’s shameful to be a woman, especially an old, unmarried woman, who cares for animals. We’re all hoarders, imbalanced, crazy and are somehow separate from the rest of “civilized” society. These same women throughout the centuries have been taunted and beaten, swindled from and pounded with garbage when they ventured into the streets. They were called witches, were tormented, beaten, and often persecuted and killed.

That is not compassion, morality, or love. It reflects centuries of the worst in human nature.

Let’s change that.

“Crazy cat lady” connotes so much barbarity . In 2013, we don’t use phrases like “fag” or “retard” in conversation because of the amount of violence, fear, and ignorance their use connotes. People who say those words now sound like idiots. Most of the change in vocabulary came from social pressure, from people who have spoken up and said, “that’s not cool.”

So, it’s not cool to call me a crazy cat lady. I care about animals and by caring about animals, I’m learning to be a better person.

How about you?  

About Julie:

Madrid headshot

Julie Barko Germany is the Vice President of Digital Strategy at DCI Group. She previously served as the director of the Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet. She co-founded the mCitizen Summit in 2011 and is the conference director for the CampaignTech conference. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia, where she and her husband spend their free time herding their four cats: Patches, Jasmine, Bert, and Ernie.  

Me and Lucy - Aug 09-cropped

Allie and Lucy

About Allie:

Allie Phillips is a nationally-recognized author, attorney and animal advocate. As a prosecuting attorney volunteering in her local animal control shelter, she exposed the barbaric pound seizure and has gone on to eliminate the practice in numerous shelters. That started her path as a strong, effective and respected animal advocate. Allie has been a federal and state animal protection lobbyist and nationally trains professionals on animal protection and prosecution issues. She has written the award-winning and only book on pound seizure: How Shelter Pets are Brokered for Experimentation: Understanding Pound Seizure and the go-to guide on getting involved to help animals: Defending the Defenseless: A Guide to Protecting and Advocating for Pets. 

Join in on our conversations!

 

 

 

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Pound seizure continues to be America's dirty little secret. This book is a must-read for anyone who loves animals.

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