On June 17, we had a wonderful Cat Symposium here at the Richmond SPCA. It was made possible by the Humane Society of the United States, which put together the entire event and all the speakers, and the generous support of PetSmart Charities. We had a great group of experienced, lively and well-informed speakers, including ones from many other parts of the country and Carly Sgueo, our own Senior Manager of Sheltering Operations. There was both a cat adoption track and a community cat track and much to learn of value from both. It was a huge success with more than 170 attendees from Virginia and nearby states.
This is the valuable sort of educational offering to benefit companion animals that is made possible by the HSUS. It helped people dedicated to cats, both feral and socialized, to have the knowledge to save more of their lives and to advocate effectively for progressive changes in approaches and laws to benefit them. So, I find the criticism that I see so often hurled at the HSUS to the effect that they do not engage in the sheltering of companion animals to be so wrong headed and truly insulting to everyone in our field of work. Animals of all sorts need help, protection and advocacy in a myriad of ways from those of us who love them deeply. Yes, the sheltering of companion animals is essential, but that endeavor alone will never be sufficient to do all that animals need from us, and it will never change things for the future. They need us to develop and share progressive new approaches. They need us to advocate for laws, both federal and state, that will protect them. They need for us to expose the miserable abuses of them that are occurring behind closed doors so that the caring public can know the truth. They need for us to lift our society’s valuation of their lives. They need for us to become constantly better informed so that we can do more for them and do it more effectively. The HSUS plays a crucial role in filling these needs. So does the ASPCA, Maddie’s Fund, Petco Foundation and PetsMart Charities and the other foundations that generously support animal welfare.
The HSUS is not alone in experiencing this kind of criticism. I have seen it said in public forums that the Richmond SPCA should not be advocating for animals other than dogs and cats (even though this organization was started in 1891 primarily to advocate for horses) and should limit itself to just sheltering. I see this criticism for what it is – an effort to shut us up because we are effective advocates for animals. The effort of the Center for Consumer Freedom (ugh, I despise having to use that misleading name) and others to relegate the HSUS and the rest of us to no role other than that of companion animal sheltering reflects their desire to marginalize animal welfare and its public voice and limit us to engaging in only reactive measures that we and our successors will be doing forever if we can never alter the paradigm. The suggestion that it is wrong for the HSUS, or any of the rest of us in animal welfare, to seek proactive change for companion animals or to work to help reduce suffering of other types of animals in agriculture, science, wildlife management, fashion, the wildlife trade, or any sector other than the sheltering of companion animals must be seen for the insult to us and to our mission that it is.
I am grateful for all that the HSUS does to proactively help companion animals, the cat symposium here in our humane center on June 17 being but one example. I look forward to speaking at the Taking Action for Animals Conference in Washington next weekend about our advocacy efforts. I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with the HSUS and with all of you to speak up for all kinds of animals who need us. Their lives and their suffering matter, and they depend on us to speak for them because we love and care about them all.
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.