The ultimate goals of animal welfare-protecting the needy animals and elevating their status in our laws and culture-require greater and broader engagement than defenders and rescue groups can do on their own. But people from all corners of our society can and do make a difference, and they are as diverse in age, environment, and background as the animals we strive to serve.
This diversity has never been so well represented—at least in a single place and in a single moment -that it was last week at our 2016 ASPCA Humane Awards ceremony. In recognition of remarkable exploits of animals and people, the event showed how children and former judgments can be heroes for pets and pet owners, how leaders and whistleblowers can change public policy, and how animals themselves can save lives,
This year’s winners include:
U.S. Senator Bob Dole, who has devoted much of his 35 years in politics to animal welfare.
Rob Rosa and New Leash on Life USA, which brings together cage inmates and unsheltered pets to improve everyone’s lives. Rob himself was a former judgment who was passionate about the welfare of animals while serving his judgement.
Ruthie, a five-year-old golden retriever who provides emotional support to victims of body and emotional trauma at the scene of the disaster, including the Newtown School striking, the Orlando Pulse Disco striking and the Boston marathon bombing.
Kiah, a wounded and leaved pit bull who became the first police dog of his breed in the state of New York.
Dr. Jim Keen, who exposed vicious cruelty to farm animals at a federal research center.
Willow Phelps, a fourth grader with fierce dedication to helping animals in need.
Blake, a cat who-in everyday life-saves its owner from fatal strike.
Sutter, a Palomino stallion who represents the tragedies and sufferings that American horses so often experience.
Each of these individuals and animals brings a unique voice and situation to the important national dialogue on animal welfare, but—combined—they also show that everyone has the opportunity to make a difference, and that our size and diversity can indeed match the nature of the challenge that lies ahead.
The next step could be yours: to adopt or encourage a dog or cat in a shelter, to use social media to raise awareness of critical animal welfare issues and laws, to volunteer and contribute to a local shelter or rescue, to turn your next birthday or family reunion into a fundraiser, or
However, they choose to be a voice for animals in need, which makes a difference. And given the value that animals add to our lives, this is the least we can do in return.