Helping Animals Find Their Voice

By Amanda Spencer

WASHINGTON — Katherine Lawlor, 19, stood at the front of the room, her light blue eyes brightening a bit more each time a new student entered the room. Today was the first meeting of the Animal Ethics Dialogue Group, a group Lawlor started as a way to spread awareness and engage students on animal rights issues at American University.

“Our school does a really great job about creating dialogue groups and talks and conferences and stuff about identity, about racial issues, about other social issues, but not for animals,” said Lawlor. “We also do a lot for environmental preservation, which is great, and ties into animals, but not specifically for animals.”

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Photo by Amanda Spencer

Only a sophomore, Lawlor started the Animal Ethics Dialogue Group in the fall semester of 2015. While Lawlor’s short-term goal is to increase membership, she eventually hopes to bring in prominent animal rights activists to speak to the group.

Lawlor’s love of animals started early. While her father served in the Air Force, Lawlor’s mother and older sisters were both vet techs, and passed along their love of animals to Lawlor. In fact, one of Lawlor’s most rewarding moments involved working with her family to help stray cats and dogs while her father was stationed in Amman, Jordan. While she loved Amman, Lawlor was upset by the city’s large stay cat population.

“You know how we see a lot of squirrels around here? That’s like cats in Jordan times five,” said Lawlor.

Lawlor and her family worked to keep the cats safe, building cat houses and putting out food and water. They also brought in animals to the only veterinary clinic in the city. Here the cats and occasional dog would be vaccinated and spayed or neutered. While they took in a lot of animals themselves, they also worked to find homes for others.

Considering her whole life has involved animals in some way, it’s no surprise that Lawlor, an environmental science major, plans on continuing her work long term. Lawlor hopes one day to work as a leader in environmental preservation, helping the plant and all creatures that inhabit it.

“It’s always been a childhood dream of mine after I have this long successful career that’s corporate or whatever, I would then have amassed enough money to retire and open my own animal sanctuary or animal rescue center,” said Lawlor. “That’s always been a goal of mine, to get to a point where I can live out the rest of my life knowing that I created something that is actively taking in animals and caring for them and producing a better world for it.”

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