Recently, I attended a meeting at which charitable giving was discussed and a person in the audience asked the question “Why would I choose to direct charitable support to an animal welfare organization when there are organizations helping people in need to which the funding could be directed?” I believe there are two equally valid and compelling answers to that question and those answers were not clearly provided at the time. The first of the two answers is below and the second will be a subsequent post.
We certainly don’t need to argue about the fact that there are many very deserving organizations that do great work for people in need. That is obvious. What, unfortunately, seems to be less obvious to some people in our community is that the Richmond SPCA, and other animal welfare organizations, are actually among those organizations doing great work for people. Yes, people. Pets are people’s best friends and most supportive companions in good times and bad. For example, the Richmond SPCA adopted a small shih tzu mix to the sister of a friend of mine. This lady had terminal cancer and that little dog, whom she treasured and adored, stayed on her bed with her and comforted her for many months right up to the end. Her family told me that the little dog was crucial to her mental strength and comfort in her final days.
It need not be that dramatic for pets to be important to people’s lives. We rely on our pets as our company when we are alone, our companions to get exercise, our substitutes when our children leave the nest, our partners during late night studying and the source of much of our laughter. They provide widows and widowers with a reason to get up in the morning. They provide children with a buddy whose friendship is unconditional and uncritical. They celebrate our happy times right along with us and, if we are honest, most of us have thrown our arms around our dog and cried without hesitation or embarrassment after serious loss or disappointment. People want, need and deserve to be able to have pets in their lives and I find myself at a loss to understand how this can be overlooked. It is not a frivolity but a necessity for most people’s happiness.
The Richmond SPCA does not just provide these much needed pets to people in a way that is ethical. Just as importantly, it provides the array of programs and services to our community that allows people of modest means to keep their beloved pets with them and keep those beloved pets healthy. Without us, having a pet would become to a considerable extent the prerogative of the affluent in this community. The immense value of our services is widely appreciated by people of all means and especially by those of modest means who count on us, but can seem to be minimized by large corporations and other types of institutional funders.
Most local large corporations tell us that the mission of the Richmond SPCA does not fall within their targeted giving areas because they “give to people.” Most foundations say that they allocate all their funding to “human causes.” Many corporate workplace giving campaigns do not even permit their employee participants to designate an animal welfare charity to receive the money that the participant is contributing to the campaign. And yet, almost all people will tell you that their pet is crucially important to the quality of their life and that a pet has, in their past, made an enormous positive difference in their coping with sadness and loss.
The mission of the Richmond SPCA is a human cause. In fact, our relationships with animals may reflect our most human of traits – the need to love and be loved. Our cause is not the only meritorious human cause by any means. But it is of real value and those folks who belittle it must have never seen a dying person lying in a bed holding her beloved dog in her arms during her last days on this earth. I have. She was my mother.
Robin Robertson Starr is the chief executive officer of the Richmond SPCA. To read her biography or that of our other bloggers, please click here. Before posting a comment, please review our comment guidelines. Please note that our comment policy requires both your first and last name to be used as your screen name.