“It is the only industry in this whole world that asks people to destroy that which you love. Ask them to take the lives of that which they love. Did you ever think of what goes on inside these people?”
Making people cry at 8 in the morning just isn't fair. But that's exactly what Mike Arms, head of the Helen Woodward Animal Center (HWAC), did at BlogPaws West when he asked us to step into the shoes of an animal control worker for a few minutes. He made a roomful of animal-loving pet bloggers cry in sharing his journey of animal advocacy and what every animal lover can do to save lives of the creatures they love.
Mr. Arms started out as an accountant and ended up working for the ASPCA. He was so disheartened by what happened to the animals that after just seven months, he put in his two weeks’ notice. Soon after, before his last day, he got called to pick up a dog that had been hit by a car. There was nobody else available. When he got there, he found a dog that looked like Benji, back broken in half, body twisted backwards and shaking in pain. As he held the puppy, about to put him in the ambulance, Mr. Arms was beaten and stabbed from behind.
“That’s when I learned the compassion these animals have for us … that little one, that should not have been able to move by any stretch of the imagination, found a way to crawl to my side and he started to lick me back to consciousness. He would not give up on me until I opened my eyes again.”
After bringing Mr. Arms back to consciousness, the puppy looked into his eyes one last time and died. Since then, Mr. Arms has committed his life to saving animals. To date, he has saved 6 million lives.
And yet the killing continues. Far more animals are born than there are homes for. An example Mr. Arms gave was the Humane Society of Puerto Rico, which takes in an average of 120 animals a day. Only 3 of those 120 are put up for adoption; the rest are killed.
He had a letter from an anonymous animal control worker in North Carolina, whose job it is to kill animals that aren’t adopted. One of the BlogPaws attendees was asked to read the letter. She led the room in crying, both for the animals and for the worker who has to take the lives of what he loves.
Watching this part of the video to write this post was even harder than hearing it the first time. I had to pause the video, walk away from the keyboard and get down on the floor to hug Nala. She wagged her tail and licked the tears off my face as I cried – for the dogs that are killed, for the fate that could have belonged to my precious pound puppy.
We need to make adoption sexier. When he got a call about a 9-year-old Rottweiler that had just delivered a litter of puppies, Mr. Arms was not hopeless like many others would be. He and HWAC ran a story that grabbed attention: 63-year-old gives birth to sextuplets. “Within 30 minutes, I had 130 applications for Mom and a gazillion for the puppies!”
Why can’t each of us do the same thing? Why can’t we make a homeless dog such a compelling story that people can’t help but do something?
We can. But we have to do more than fall in love – like Mr. Arms says in the video, we have to use our heads as well as our hearts. Some things we can do:
• If you are looking for a new dog, adopt a homeless dog.
• If you have a dog from a rescue or shelter or pound, tell people. Brag about how great your rescue dogs are.
• Teach kids around you how to respect and live with animals, to prevent future animal abuse.
• Encourage your friends to adopt, rather than buy; remind them that it’s a lifelong commitment, not a toy that can be discarded after the Christmas excitement has worn off.
• Post this video and blog to your Facebook page. Get others engaged.
• Write on your own blog about how to help homeless animals.
If you want to watch the video (which I highly recommend you do – it’s incredibly moving and inspiring) fast-forward to the 10:45 mark where it actually starts. It’s 45 minutes long, so if you don’t want to watch the whole thing, please just watch two parts:
• Mr. Arms’ 5-minute story of how he became committed to this work, which runs from 18:30 to 23:35 and includes the quote highlighted above
• And the reading of the anonymous animal control worker’s letter, which is 8 minutes long and runs from 26:15 to 33:35.
“Well, my good friends through animals, if you’ll give us your intelligence over your heart so we can get this country and this world to change about our animals, they’ll have that chance that we want to give them. Thank you and God bless.”