The Hidden Victim

By Amanda Spencer

WASHINGTON–For Caroline Jones, it’s sometimes hard to realize the impact her work as president and CEO of Doorways for Women and Families, a domestic violence shelter in Arlington, Va., has on the survivors. That is, until she is faced with it firsthand. Jones remembers one client in particular, a woman who came into the shelter with her pets. This woman and her pets shared something in common: they were attacked by the same abuser.

“She felt like it was her fault that her pet had suffered that and that her abusive partner routinely would make her watch while he injured her pets because he knew nothing got to her more,” Jones said. “She had such a bond with these pets, they were really like her children. The first week that she got there, she insisted on sleeping in the kennel with her pets. She was so so so traumatized that she just really needed that and we didn’t have a rulebook for that, we didn’t have a way to do that, but we figured it out.”

Jones and her staff were able to set up a makeshift bed for the woman so she could sleep with her pets for the first few days of her stay. Cases like the one described by Jones are common. According to the Animal Welfare Institute, around 86 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters reported that their abuser had abused or killed their pet. This connection between animal abuse and domestic violence is causing animal welfare and domestic violence advocates to come together to try to solve the issue by lobbying for Congress to pass the Pet and Women Safety Act, or PAWS Act. The PAWS Act would allocate funds to domestic violence shelters to build on-site housing for the pets of victims like the one who came to Doorways for Women and Families.

Before building the animal shelter, Jones and other workers started to notice a pattern in the calls coming in through their domestic violence hotline.

“What we were hearing is people were calling the hotline in incredible danger,” Jones said. “They, or they and their children, were in danger and we would say, ‘ok, it sounds like you really need to come in,’ and we would start making arrangements for them to come to their safe house, to find out later in the call that they had a pet and they would refuse to come if their pet couldn’t be with them.”

For domestic violence advocates, this trend is alarming. The American Humane Association notes that between 25 and 40 percent of abused women have not sought shelter from abusive relationships because they worried about what would happen to their pets. After further investigation, Jones discovered that the reasoning behind why victims wouldn’t leave their pets often times had to do with the pet being abused as well.

Graphic by Amanda Spencer

“We heard horror stories of people who if they said if they were going to leave the relationship, the pet would be harmed or maimed and if they did leave, they were incredibly fearful, and rightfully so, that the pet would be killed,” Jones said.

In order to fix the problem, shelters including Doorways for Women and Families partnered with local animal shelters that gave temporarily house the victim’s pets while the victims were getting their lives back on track. These animal shelters are known as safe havens. Currently there are 1,436 registered safe havens spread across the country that are known by the Animal Welfare Institute. Yet Jones and other organizations found that some clients still refused to temporarily give up their pets to safe havens.

“Having the pet go not with the family but to the Humane Society was really terrifying for these survivors,” Jones said. “It was one more trauma that we felt we could avoid and more and more research on understanding trauma and how human-beings respond to it, there’s so much therapeutic value in keeping families together and having pets, who are definitely family members, as part of the healing.”

Jones brings up a mission that those who work with domestic violence share: trying to make the process of leaving their abuser as easy as possible. That’s one of the reasons why Jessica Katz created the Safe Haven Network. The Safe Haven Network serves as a connection between domestic violence victims and the animal shelters that serve as safe heavens. Instead of the victim having to call around to different shelters to secure a safe location for their pet, a member of the Safe Haven Network will do it for them. This allows the victim to focus on other aspects of his or her safety plan.

“It’s one less thing to worry about,” Katz said. “She’s got so many things to worry about. Based on what I see, eight to nine times out of 10 if they need our service they have kids too. Imagine being young and being relocated and not knowing where your pet is going. Now imagine being that kid’s mother. Everything is up in the air, but at least they know that their pet is safe. It’s kind of an anchor.”

When Katz or another member of the group submits for an animal to stay in a shelter, they can usually secure a spot for the animal for about a month, with the possibility of a two-week extension. However, this time frame doesn’t match up with the average stay for a woman in a shelter, which is double that at 60 days. Moreover, according to the Domestic Abuse Shelter of the Florida Keys, on average a woman will leave her abuser seven times, yet some safe havens have a one-time only policy. While those numbers make Katz’s job harder, in her mind it doesn’t change anything.

“However many times she comes back that’s how many times we’re going to help her,” Katz said. Our slogan is pets are family. When you’re in that situation, when your family is running for your life, you shouldn’t have to pick and choose which members of your families get safe and which don’t. We make sure that every member of the family is safe.”

The discrepancy in the average stay for domestic violence victims and in how long safe havens can keep pets are two examples of why shelters like Doorways for Women and Families have decided to make their own shelter for animals. Nevertheless, this brings about new issues of how to best help all the victims, not just some of them.

“We need to make sure that this is a space that works for everybody,” Jones said. “And having pets in a communal setting [with] other clients who are with us who like pets is very easy and it’s very positive. But at times we have people from a wide range of cultures and a wide range of backgrounds and life experiences that maybe don’t have a positive relationship with pets. So there’s a constant balancing act of how to make sure that we’re inclusive of everybody’s needs.”

Additionally, another issue shelters face has to do with funding. At Doorways for Women and Families alone, there has been a 53 percent increase in calls to their hotline. Nearly every day of the year their safe house has been full and operating over capacity, which leads to a problem of having enough funding. Jenny Nahrwold, the clinic operation manager for PAWS Chicago, cites this as the main barrier to domestic violence shelters building on-site animal housing.

“Most domestic violence shelters are small non-profits without much funding,” Nahrwold said. “They don’t have the resources needed to provide to their victims, let alone pets. We encourage shelters to build places for animals but it’s hard. There are so many regulations.”

That’s where the PAWS Act comes in. If passed, the PAWS Act would allocate funding to domestic violence shelters to build on-site shelters. As a Huffington Post article said, as of right now, less than 5 percent of domestic violence shelters have a place for women to bring their pets. This bill would remove the barrier of victims not wanting to seek help for fear that their pet would be harmed by their abuser. Instead, their pet would be able to join them and be a part of the recovery process. Furthermore, the PAWS Act would protect pets in interstate stalking, protection order violations, and restitution federal laws while including pets under protection orders.

The PAWS Act has attracted attention from animal welfare and domestic violence lobbyists alike, including the Animal Welfare Institute, a non-profit organization that works to end the suffering of animals at the hands of people. Nancy Blaney, the senior policy advisor, uses a variety of tactics to try to get legislation like the PAWS Act passed.

“It’s just a matter of really just working it, getting our members to contact their representatives and senators to cosponsor,” Blaney said. “Sponsoring briefings for staff so staff will go back and talk to their bosses. We talk about this at the prosecutors’ conferences. It’s just really a matter of talking to offices, getting those personal stories out there, getting other groups that sometimes have better entre than we do.”

When it comes down to it, Blaney sites cosponsors as one of the most important things needed to get a bill passed. Yet with 191 cosponsors in the House of Representatives and 27 in the Senate, a lack of cosponsors doesn’t seem to be the reason why the PAWS Act has yet to move out of committee. Instead, the problem might lie in the type of bill.

“Stand alone bills are having a hard time, because nothing’s getting done,” Blaney said. “It’s hard enough just to get the funding approved to keep the government operating. So, you have to find other ways.”

Even more important than cosponsors are the opinions of constituents themselves. For those who want to see animal welfare laws get passed, Blaney emphasizes the power of reaching out.

“Contact your congressman, contact your state legislators,” Blaney said. “When you get an email or something that says ‘we really need your voice,’ we really need your voice! When push comes to shove, it’s hearing from the constituents that really makes the difference.”

It can be challenging to get people on Capitol Hill to pay attention to animal welfare issues in comparison to issues that deal with people. Still, according to Blaney the climate on the Hill has improved dramatically.

“In Congressional offices when I first started out you would try to find somebody who was working on animal issues and it was like, ‘well let me see who’s doing that,’” Blaney said. “But now you have a person on the roster. Animal welfare always has somebody assigned to it. And that’s a big big difference….things have changed remarkably if you kind of take a long view. But on a day-to-day basis, you’re still kind of butting heads with a lot of obstacles.”

Currently, Jones acknowledges that not a lot of victims need the service the on-site animal shelter provides. However, those that do need it make it worth it.

“Maybe 10 to15 percent of clients come with their pets,” Jones said. “But that’s 10 to 15 percent of clients that we would be turning away each year if we didn’t have it. So I look at it that way. When it’s not occupied it’s very cost neutral so it’s something that is pretty easy to provide to make that path of help just a little bit wider.”

At the end of the day, there is a lot of work to be done relating to not only domestic violence and animal abuse, but all kinds of animal welfare issues. Anna Payton, the Executive Director of the Naperville Area Humane Society in Naperville, Ill., encourages people to take the time to think about what issues are prevalent in the community and then do something about it.

“I just would encourage other shelters, other organizations, to take a look at their community and see if there’s not a program in their area to help and partner with the family shelters or women’s shelters and see if you can fill a void where it’s really needed,” Payton said. “And, encourage people to keep having these conversations and realize that there is a connection between domestic violence and animal abuse or violence against humans and animal abuse, and take it seriously. That’s again where we’re going to see change, when people start to recognize and change their mindset and outlook on things. That’s where you’re going to see any type of social change.”

The Hidden Victim

By Amanda Spencer

WASHINGTON–For Caroline Jones, it’s sometimes hard to realize the impact her work as president and CEO of Doorways for Women and Families, a domestic violence shelter in Arlington, Va., has on the survivors. That is, until she is faced with it head-on. Jones remembers one client in particular, a woman who came into the shelter with her pets. This woman and her pets shared something in common: they were attacked by the same abuser.

“She felt like it was her fault that her pet had suffered that and that her abusive partner routinely would make her watch while he injured her pets because he knew nothing got to her more,” Jones said. “She had such a bond with these pets, they were really like her children. The first week that she got there, she insisted on sleeping in the kennel with her pets. She was so so so traumatized that she just really needed that and we didn’t have a rulebook for that, we didn’t have a way to do that, but we figured it out.”

Cases like the one described by Jones are common. Around 86 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters reported that their abuser had abused or killed their pet. This connection between animal abuse and domestic violence is causing animal welfare and domestic violence advocates to come together to try to solve the issue by lobbying for Congress to pass the Pet and Women Safety Act, or PAWS Act. The PAWS Act would allocate funds to domestic violence shelters to build on-site housing for the pets of victims like the one at Doorways for Women and Families.

Before building the animal shelter, Jones and other workers started to notice a pattern in the calls coming in through their domestic violence hotline.

“What we were hearing is people were calling the hotline in incredible danger,” Jones said. “They, or they and their children, were in danger and we would say, ‘ok, it sounds like you really need to come in,’ and we would start making arrangements for them to come to their safe house, to find out later in the call that they had a pet and they would refuse to come if their pet couldn’t be with them.”

For domestic violence advocates, this trend is alarming. Between 25 and 40 percent of abused women have not sought shelter from abusive relationships because they worried about what would happen to their pets. After further investigation, Jones discovered that the reasoning behind why victims wouldn’t leave their pets often times had to do with the pet being abused as well.

“We heard horror stories of people who if they said if they were going to leave the relationship, the pet would be harmed or maimed and if they did leave, they were incredibly fearful, and rightfully so, that the pet would be killed,” Jones said.

Graphic by Amanda Spencer

In order to fix the problem, shelters including Doorways for Women and Families partnered with local animal shelters that would temporarily house the victim’s pets while the victims were getting their lives back on track. These animal shelters are known as safe havens. Currently there are 1,436 registered safe havens spread across the country. Yet Jones and other organizations found that some clients still refused to temporarily give up their pets to safe havens.

“Having the pet go not with the family but to the Humane Society was really terrifying for these survivors,” Jones said. “It was one more trauma that we felt we could avoid and more and more research on understanding trauma and how human-beings respond to it, there’s so much therapeutic value in keeping families together and having pets, who are definitely family members, as part of the healing.”

For those that work with domestic violence, Jones presents a common theme: trying to make the process of leaving their abuser as easy as possible. That’s one of the reasons why Jessica Katz created the Safe Haven Network. The Safe Haven Network serves as a connection between domestic violence victims and the animal shelters that serve as safe heavens. Instead of the victim having to call around to different shelters to secure a safe location of their pet, a member of the Safe Haven Network will do it for them. This allows the victim to focus on other aspects of their safety plan.

“It’s one less thing to worry about,” Katz said. “She’s got so many things to worry about. Based on what I see, eight to nine times out of 10 if they need our service they have kids too. Imagine being young and being relocated and not knowing where your pet is going. Now imagine being that kids mother. Everything is up in the air but at least they know that their pet is safe. It’s kind of an anchor.”

When Katz or another member submits for an animal to stay in a shelter, they can usually secure a spot for the animal for about a month, with the possibility of a two-week extension. However, this time frame doesn’t match up with the average stay for a woman in a shelter, which is double that at 60 days. Moreover, on average a woman will leave her abuser seven times, yet some safe havens have a one-time only policy. While those numbers make Katz’s job harder, in her mind it doesn’t change anything.

“However many times she comes back that’s how many times we’re going to help her,” Katz said. Our slogan is pets are family. When you’re in that situation, when your family is running for your life, you shouldn’t have to pick and choose which members of your families get safe and which don’t. We make sure that every member of the family is safe.”

The discrepancy in the average stay for domestic violence victims and in how long safe havens can keep pets is one of a few reasons why shelters like Doorways for Women and Families decided to make their own shelter. Nevertheless, this brings about new issues of how to best help all the victims, not just some of them.

“We need to make sure that this is a space that works for everybody,” Jones said. “And having pets in a communal setting [with] other clients who are with us who like pets is very easy and it’s very positive. But at times we have people from a wide range of cultures and a wide range of backgrounds and life experiences that maybe don’t have a positive relationship with pets. So there’s a constant balancing act of how to make sure that we’re inclusive of everybody’s needs.”

Additionally, another issue shelters face has to do with funding. At Doorways for Women and Families alone, there has been a 53 percent increase in calls to their hotline. Nearly every day of the year their safe house has been full and operating over capacity. This begs the question of funding. Jenny Nahrwold, the clinic operation manager for PAWS Chicago, cites this as the main barrier to domestic violence shelters building on-site animal housing.

“Most domestic violence shelters are small non-profits without much funding,” Nahrwold said. “They don’t have the resources needed to provide to their victims, let alone pets. We encourage shelters to build places for animals but it’s hard. There are so many regulations.”

That’s where the PAWS Act comes in. If passed, the PAWS Act would allocate funding to domestic violence shelters build on-site shelters. As of right now, less than 5 percent of domestic violence shelters have a place for women to bring their pets. This bill would remove the barrier of victims not wanting to seek help for fear that their pet would be harmed by their abuser. Instead, their pet would be able to join them and be a part of the recovery process. Furthermore, the PAWS Act would protect pets in interstate stalking, protection order violations, and restitution federal laws while including pets under protection orders.

The PAWS Act has attracted attention from animal welfare and domestic violence lobbyists alike, including the Animal Welfare Institute, a non-profit organization that works to end the suffering of animals by people. Nancy Blaney, the senior policy advisor, uses a variety of tactics to try to get legislation like the PAWS Act passed.

“It’s just a matter of really just working it, getting our members to contact their representatives and senators to cosponsor,” Blaney said. “Sponsoring briefings for staff so staff will go back and talk to their bosses. We talk about this at the prosecutors’ conferences. It’s just really a matter of talking to offices, getting those personal stories out there, getting other groups that sometimes have better entre than we do.”

When it comes down to it, Blaney sites cosponsors as one of the most important things needed to get a bill passed. Yet with 191 cosponsors in the House of Representatives and 27 in the Senate, a lack of cosponsors doesn’t seem to be the reason why the PAWS Act has yet to move out of committee. Instead, the problem might lie in the type of bill.

“Stand alone bills are having a hard time, because nothing’s getting done,” Blaney said. “It’s hard enough just to get the funding approved to keep the government operating. So, you have to find other ways.”

Even more important than cosponsors are the opinions of constituents themselves. For those who want to see animal welfare laws get passed, Blaney emphasizes the power of reaching out.

“Contact your congressman, contact your state legislators,” Blaney said. “When you get an email or something that says ‘we really need your voice,’ we really need your voice! When push comes to shove, it’s hearing from the constituents that really makes the difference.”

It can be challenging to get people on Capitol Hill to pay attention to animal welfare issues in comparison to issues that deal with people. Still, according to Blaney the climate on the Hill has improved dramatically.

“In Congressional offices when I first started out you would try to find somebody who was working on animal issues and it was like, ‘well let me see who’s doing that,’” Blaney said. “But now you have a person on the roster. Animal welfare always has somebody assigned to it. And that’s a big big difference….things have changed remarkably if you kind of take a long view. But on a day-to-day basis, you’re still kind of butting heads with a lot of obstacles.”

Currently, Jones admits that not a lot of victims need the service the on-site animal shelter provides. However, those that do need it make it worth it.

“Maybe 10 to15 percent of clients come with their pets,” Jones said. “But that’s 10 to 15 percent of clients that we would be turning away each year if we didn’t have it. So I look at it that way. When it’s not occupied it’s very cost neutral so it’s something that is pretty easy to provide to make that path of help just a little bit wider.”

At the end of the day, there is a lot of work to be done relating to not only domestic violence and animal abuse, but all kinds of animal welfare issues. Anna Payton, the Executive Director of the Naperville Area Humane Society, encourages people to take the time to think about what issues are prevalent in the community and then do something about it.

“I just would encourage other shelters, other organizations, to take a look at their community and see if there’s not a program in their area to help and partner with the family shelters or women’s shelters and see if you can fill a void where it’s really needed,” Payton said. “And, encourage people to keep having these conversations and realize that there is a connection between domestic violence and animal abuse or violence against humans and animal abuse, and take it seriously. That’s again where we’re going to see change, when people start to recognize and change their mindset and outlook on things. That’s where you’re going to see any type of social change.”

Animal Shelter Offers Relief for Domestic Violence Victims

 

By Amanda Spencer

NAPERVILLE–The sound of barking dogs serves as a steady backdrop against the sounds of volunteers entering and leaving the building, stopping to talk to one another as they walk. Sitting in a back room by a wall of leashes and collars in every size and color, Anna Payton, the executive director of the Naperville Area Humane Society, lists off all the programs offered at the shelter before talking about a program for domestic violence victims, Safe Pets.

In this area we don’t have shelters that people can bring their animals to and a lot of times they won’t leave those situations because they’re concerned about the welfare of the animal,” Payton said. “Unfortunately often times the abuser will use that as a pawn to make the person stay or try and force the person to stay. We will provide temporary housing for dogs and cats for those people while they get someplace safe, until they can have the animal.”

Safe Pets has been offered at the Naperville Area Humane Society for 15 years. The shelter averages one to two animals per month as part of the program, or 10 to 15 a year. Right now the shelter is housing three animals, two because of domestic violence and one because of homelessness. As a smaller shelter with a capacity to hold 18 dogs and 40 cats, Payton says one of the challenges is having space available for the animals when needed.

“Because we’re a smaller sized shelter we need to make sure we have space available,” Payton said. “There might be times where we can’t assist people right away, which is really challenging for us. If it’s a domestic violence situation we do figure out a way to help them immediately, but if it’s another financial hardship or something sometimes people have to wait a week before we’re able to take the animal in.”

Part of why Payton is so passionate about the Safe Pets program is because it gives the shelter a chance to not only help animals, but also people.

“[The Safe Pets program] incorporates our mission which is we really help animals by serving people,” Payton said. “Domestic violence is a terrible situation for anybody to be in and if they feel like one of the hurdles leaving that situation is that they are concerned about leaving their pets we want to alleviate that barrier so that they can get out and be safe.”

The reasoning behind the Safe Pets program is the connection between domestic abuse and animal abuse. According to the Humane Society of the United States, 71 percent of domestic violence victims reported that their abuser also abused their pet

“The reality is, again, abusers will use the animals, they may be outright abusing the animals as well as the human victims in the home, or they may again just be using them as a pawn to control the people in the home,” Payton said. “Whatever the case we want to make sure that the person is safe as well as the animal.”

Over the last 20 years there have been multiple studies that have shown the correlation between domestic violence and animal abuse. According to Payton, the Federal Bureau of Investigation now considers animal abuse to be an identifier when looking at behavior patterns to predict violent tendencies in the future.

Although the connection between domestic and animal abuse is an important aspect of why the Safe Pets program exists, Payton says that being able to rely on their animals during a challenging time is also important.

“A lot of times the animal is that constant that they really need in their life,” Payton said. “Animals don’t care how much money we make, what you’re wearing, what stores you’re shopping at, if you’re buying name-brand clothes or food or whatever it is; they don’t care. And they’re providing that unconditional love which can be such a huge sense of support for somebody no matter what trying thing you’re going through.”

To demonstrate her point, Payton recounted the story of an owner and her cat that is currently at the shelter as part of the Safe Pets program.

“We have one cat where her owner comes in every week to visit and the cat is just so happy to see her,” Payton said. “The cat actually gives hugs, will literally put the paws up on your shoulder and give hugs. It’s just amazing to see.”

Payton explained that having this emotional support from her cat has helped this victim, and countless others, get through their difficult situation.

When it comes to animal welfare in a general sense, Payton cites a lack of knowledge about animal welfare as being one of the biggest problems animals face today.

“Even though my title isn’t teacher, I encourage staff all the time that any time we have an interaction with someone that’s a chance to educate them, no matter the reason why they’re coming in,” Payton said. “So I think that’s really important. Because that might be their only one chance or one opportunity for us to educate them about whatever it is, whether it’s spay/neuter, whether it’s encouraging them to adopt versus going to a pet store and buying, that’s your opportunity you better take advantage of it.”

Growing up in Illinois, Payton was always interested in working with animals. As an undergraduate at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Payton studied animal science with the intent to become a vet. However, her junior year Payton took a class on animal shelter aid and the history of humane education. After taking the class and interning with DuPage County animal control, Payton decided to switch tracks to humane education.

“I thought there are enough smart, motivated people that are going to be veterinarians,” Payton said. “There’s not enough smart, motivated people in this field and I wanted to make a difference. And that’s why I wanted to be a vet, was make a difference for the animals.”

Upon graduation, Payton took a job as a DuPage animal control officer before becoming a humane educator. Before coming to the Naperville Area Humane Society, Payton taught at her alma mater and served as the Director of the Kendall County Illinois Animal Control in Yorkville.

Payton’s mother is a teacher. Payton believes she got her compassion and empathy from her, something that comes in handy dealing with what she calls the most challenging part of her job: the people. Instead of judging those who surrender their animals, Payton does her best to try to understand them.

When remembering the moments in her career that she’s proud of, Payton recalls when she changed the policy of a shelter she used to work at to not impose a time limit on an animal’s stay before euthanizing them. Another success story Payton looks back fondly of is a dog that came into the shelter in bad condition that went on to be a part of the sea life training program at the Shedd Aquarium.

“Sometimes people say, ‘I don’t know how you could do that job and see the terrible things that you’ve seen and how people treat animals,’” Payton said. “Yeah, I’ve seen some not wonderful things but moments like [finding out about the dog who works at the aquarium] make it all worth it because you get to see the happy endings.”

Yet there’s still more work to be done. According to the Human Society of the United States’ website there are only seven safe haven programs in Illinois, including the Naperville Area Humane Society. Safe haven programs are still not available in every state.

“I just would encourage other shelters, other organizations, to take a look at their community and see if there’s not a program in their area to help and partner with the family shelters or women’s shelters and see if you can fill a void where it’s really needed in order to help benefit the people in their area,” Payton said. “And, encourage people to keep having these conversations and realize that there is a connection between domestic violence and animal abuse or violence against humans and animal abuse, and take it seriously. That’s again where we’re going to see change, when people start to recognize and change their mindset and outlook on things. That’s where you’re going to see any type of social change.”

How Technology Can Spur Voluntary Conservation

By Amanda Spencer

WASHINGTON–The sage-grouse was in trouble. Identified as a potential species listing under the Endangered Species Act, it seemed as though the large bird was past the point of saving. However, the National Resources Conservation service, an agency under the Department of Agriculture that works to provide farmers and ranchers with the technical and financial resources necessary to put voluntary conservation systems into place, stepped in and managed to save the sage-grouse. This voluntary conservation success story presented to the Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry is one Jason Weller, Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, is passionate about.

“It’s something that I hope they’ll be writing textbooks about,” Weller said. “I know it feels like this is past, but this is something that is so historical and something that I am incredibly proud of.”

In order to save the sage-grouse, the Natural Resources Conservation Service launched an initiative that resulted in 1,000 organizations coming forward to volunteer their services to the effort. Using Google Earth technology the Natural Resources Conservation Service was able to zoom into sage-grouse habitats across the western United States to see what was happening with both the habitat and the birds. The Natural Resources Conservation Service was then able to figure out that sage-grouses do not like trees. It takes only four percent tree coverage for sage-grouses to relocate. After a farmer cleared his land to make it more appealing to sage-grouses, the Natural Resources Conservation Service was able to track a sage-grouse in the area and see that it stayed to the area cleared of trees, confirming the findings.

FullSizeRender (9)
Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry Hearing on voluntary conservation. Photo by Amanda Spencer.

“If you take this kind of success story and you multiply it by 1,000 it’s an example of how ranchers really deliver unprecedented solutions of this landscape on a voluntary basis,” Weller said. “It’s the viewpoint for me, and my colleagues at the NRCS, that it’s not in spite of ranchers, it’s because of ranchers, that we did not list the sage-grouse in September of 2013.”

The sage-grouse isn’t the only animal the Natural Resources Conservation Service was able to save. In his testimony before the Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry on March 1, 2016 at 2:00 pm, Weller cited other stories of voluntary conservation saving animals. For instance, the Oregon chub fish was the first fish to ever be taken off the endangered species list while the New England cottontail rabbit was never listed because of the volunteer acts of private landowners. Finally, the Louisiana black bear was down to less than 200 bears due to populations being unable to find each other to mate. However, according to Weller, once the Natural Resources Conservation Service helped reconnect populations through “highways of love,” the bears were able to mate and have since been proposed to be taken off the endangered species list.

For Subcommittee Chairman Glenn Thompson (R-PA), the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s work with endangered species is why local landowners and outside organizations should be taken seriously when is comes to voluntary conservation.

“We know that voluntary conservation programs work,” Thompson said. “However it has becoming increasingly clear that some government agencies and environmental activist organizations, which are sometimes one and the same, don’t recognize the commitment our farmers, ranchers, and foresters make to environmental stewardship. Our farmers and ranchers through assistance and census provided by farm bill conservation programs, have voluntarily reduced soil erosion, increased wetlands, improved water quality, and preserved farmland and wildlife habitat.”

Through science, tools, and partnerships, the Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry is trying to help organizations share technology to better understand what is happening in real-world environments. The Regional Conservation Partnership Program has been responsible for such projects. Through a Conservation Innovation Grant, the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association was able to develop an online tool to aid the irrigation system that monitors conditions in real-time. This advancement helped save 280,000 gallons per acre per growing season.

In order to gain further insight on how voluntary conservation effects different areas of agriculture, the subcommittee heard testimonies from Weller; Rachel Dawson, Senior Manager of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which provides grants to support wildlife conservation; Frank Price, owner of Frank and Sims Price Ranch in Sterling City, Texas; Rich Bowman, Director of Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy, an international organization that works to protect the world’s land and water; and Kent Rodelius, Vice President of the Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition, which educates those who use water drainage systems on the latest technologies.

Yet while voluntary conservation is done at all levels, members of the Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry continually stressed the importance of farmers and ranchers to conservation.

“Farmers and ranchers are the backbone of conservation in America,” ranking member Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) said. “They depend on the land for their livelihoods and seek to leave it better than they found it. I don’t believe that anyone cares more about the land then the farmers and ranchers.”

Perhaps part of the reasoning behind the subcommittee’s focus on farmers and ranchers is due to the fact that cattle ranchers manage more land (666.4 million acres) than any other industry. In his testimony before the subcommittee Price discussed the relationship between ranchers and voluntary conservation.

“The livestock industry is threatened daily by urban encroachment, natural disasters, and government overreach,” Price said in a written statement submitted to the subcommittee in addition to his oral testimony. “Since our livelihood is made on the land, through the utilization of our natural resources, being good stewards of the land not only makes good environmental sense; it is fundamental for our industry to remain strong.”

Price cited two examples of how conservation helped his ranch. In 2011 and 2012 Texas faced a drought brought on by 100 consecutive days of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher temperatures. By working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Price was able to install above-ground water storage systems among other water-saving techniques that enabled his ranch to survive the drought. The Natural Resources Conservation Service along with the National Grazing Lands Coalition, an organization that helps privately owned grazing land owners with technical assistance, also helped Price’s ranch develop innovative grazing technologies that he said have helped increase perennial grasses, improve ground cover, and reduce soil erosion. Yet Price stressed in his testimony that conservation, as good as it may seem, should not be forced.

“The biggest point I’d like to make is that the voluntary part of the conservation programs is what really makes it work for ranchers,” Price said. “We’ve had excellent success using these programs, but just because these practices work for my family does not mean it’s right for every body. It’s important that we keep these programs funded to safeguard their continued success, and above all else, these programs must stay voluntary.”

Animal Shelter Offers Safe Haven Program

By Amanda Spencer

NAPERVILLE–The sound of barking dogs serves as a steady backdrop against the sounds of volunteers entering and leaving the building, stopping to talk to one another as they walk. Sitting in a back room by a wall of leashes and collars in every size and color of the rainbow, Anna Payton, the Executive Director of the Naperville Area Humane Society, lists off all the programs offered at the shelter. After rattling off countless humane education programs, Payton moves on to a program for victims of domestic violence.

“Another program that we have which is really wonderful is Safe Pets,” Payton said. “That is for primarily victims of domestic violence. In this area we don’t have shelters that people can bring their animals to and a lot of times they won’t leave those situations because they’re concerned about the welfare of the animal. Unfortunately often times the abuser will use that as a pawn to make the person stay or try and force the person to stay. We will provide temporary housing for dogs and cats for those people while they get someplace safe, until they can have the animal.”

Safe Pets has been offered at the Naperville Area Humane Society for 15 years. The shelter averages one to two animals per month as part of the program, or 10 to 15 a year. Right now the shelter is housing three animals, two because of domestic violence and one because of homelessness, a new add-on to the Safe Pets program. As a smaller shelter with a capacity to hold 18 dogs and 40 cats, Payton, 34, says one of the challenges is having space available for the animals when needed. In cases of homelessness, if space isn’t available, the shelter sometimes is not able to assist right away. However, if an animal needs to be brought in due to domestic violence the shelter will figure out a way to help immediately.

“Obviously it’s important because it incorporates our mission which is we really help animals by serving people,” Payton said. “Domestic violence is a terrible situation for anybody to be in and if they feel like one of the hurdles leaving that situation is that they are concerned about leaving their pets we want to alleviate that barrier so that they can get out and be safe. I think it’s just really important to have because the reality is, again, abusers will use the animals, they may be outright abusing the animals as well as the human victims in the home, or they may again just be using them as a pawn to control the people in the home. Whatever the case we want to make sure that the person is safe as well as the animal.”

Over the last 20 years there have been multiple studies that have shown the correlation between domestic violence and animal abuse. According to Payton, the Federal Bureau of Investigation now considers animal abuse to be an identifier when looking at behavior patterns to predict violent tendencies in the future.

While the connection between domestic and animal abuse is an important aspect of why the Safe Pets program exists, Payton believes that being able to rely on their animals during a challenging time is also important.

“A lot of times the animal is that constant that they really need in their life,” Payton said. “Again animals don’t care how much money we make, what you’re wearing, what stores you’re shopping at, if you’re buying name brand clothes or food or whatever it is, they don’t care. And they’re providing that unconditional love which can be such a huge sense of support for somebody no matter what trying thing you’re going through.”

To demonstrate her point, Payton recounted the story of an owner and her cat that is currently at the shelter as part of the Safe Pets program. The owner comes into the shelter and visits the cat every week. The cat is so excited to see the owner that she gives her “cat hugs,” where she’ll put her paws up on her owner’s shoulders. Payton explains that having this emotional support from her cat has helped this victim, and countless others, get through their difficult situation.

When it comes to animal welfare, Payton cites a lack of knowledge as being one of the biggest problems animals face today.

“Even though my title isn’t teacher, I encourage staff all the time that any time we have an interaction with someone that’s a chance to educate them, no matter the reason why they’re coming in,” Payton said. “So I think that’s really important. Because that might be their only one chance or one opportunity for us to educate them about whatever it is, whether it’s spay/neuter, whether it’s encouraging them to adopt versus going to a pet store and buying, that’s your opportunity you better take advantage of it.”

Growing up, Payton was always interested in working with animals. As an undergraduate at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Payton studied Animal Science on the pre-vet track. However, her junior year Payton took a class on animal shelter aid and the history of humane education. After taking the class and interning with DuPage County animal control, Payton decided to switch tracks to humane education.

“I thought there are enough smart, motivated people that are going to be veterinarians,” Payton said. “There’s not enough smart, motivated people in this field and I wanted to make a difference. And that’s why I wanted to be a vet, was make a difference for the animals.”

Upon graduation, Payton took a job as a DuPage animal control officer before becoming a humane educator. Before coming to the Naperville Area Humane Society, Payton taught at her alma mater and served as the Director of the Kendall County Illinois Animal Control in Yorkville.

Even though no one else in her family is involved with animals, Payton’s mother is a teacher. Payton believes she got her compassion and empathy from her, something that comes in handy dealing with what she calls the most challenging part of her job: the people. Instead of judging those who surrender their animals, Payton does her best to try to understand them.

Even though her job has its difficulties, Payton likes remembering the moments in her career that she’s proud of, like when she changed the policy of a shelter she used to work at to not impose a time limit on an animal’s stay before euthanizing them. Another success story Payton looks back fondly of is a dog that came into the shelter in bad condition that went on to be a part of the sea life training program at the Shedd Aquarium.

“The positives outweigh the negatives,” Payton said. “Sometimes people say, ‘I don’t know how you could do that job and see the terrible things that you’ve seen and how people treat animals’. Yeah, I’ve seen some not wonderful things but moments like that make it all worth it because you get to see the happy endings.”

Yet there’s still more work to be done. According to the Human Society of the United States’ website there are only seven safe haven programs in Illinois, including the Naperville Area Humane Society. Worse yet, safe haven programs are not available in every state.

“I just would encourage other shelters, other organizations, to take a look at their community and see if there’s not a program in their area to help and partner with the family shelters or women’s shelters and see if you can fill a void where it’s really needed in order to help benefit the people in their area,” Payton said. “And, encourage people to keep having these conversations and realize that there is a connection between domestic violence and animal abuse or violence against humans and animal abuse, and take it seriously. That’s again where we’re going to see change, when people start to recognize and change their mindset and outlook on things. That’s where you’re going to see any type of social change.”

Hearing on Utilizing Innovation and Technology for Voluntary Conservation

By Amanda Spencer

WASHINGTON–The Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry is worked with conservationists to determine ways voluntary conservation can utilize technology and innovation to help the environment in a hearing. Groups such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service have been able to help endangered animals through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

“One of the historic, ultimate partnership examples and is something that I hope they’ll be writing textbooks about,” Jason Weller, Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, said. “This is really about how producers came forward and did something about the potential listing of the sage-grouse.”

When the sage-grouse was identified as a potential species listing under the Endangered Species Act, the Natural Resources Conservation Service launched an initiative to try and save the large bird. Over 1,000 organizations came forward to volunteer their services in the conservation effort. Using Google Earth technology the Natural Resources Conservation Service was able to zoom into sage-rouse habitats to see what was happening with both the habitat and the birds. The Natural Resources Conservation Service was then able to figure out that sage-grouses do not like trees. It takes only four percent tree coverage for sage-grouses to relocate. After a farmer cleared his land to make it more appealing to sage-grouses, the Natural Resources Conservation Service was able to track a sage-grouse in the area and see that it stayed to the area cleared of trees, confirming the findings.

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Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry hearing on voluntary conservation. Photo by Amanda Spencer

“If you take this kind of success story and you multiply it by 1,000 it’s an example of how ranchers really deliver unprecedented solutions of this landscape on a voluntary basis,” Weller said. “It’s the viewpoint for me, and my colleagues at the NRCS, that it’s not in spite of ranchers, it’s because of ranchers, that we did not list the sage-grouse in September of 2013.”

The sage-grouse isn’t the only animal the Natural Resources Conservation Service was able to save. In his testimony before the Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry on March 1, 2016 at 2:00 pm, he cited other stories of voluntary conservation saving animals. For instance, the Oregon chub fish was the first fish to ever be taken off the endangered species list while the New England cottontail rabbit was never listed because of the volunteer acts of private landowners. Finally, the Louisiana black bear was down to less than 200 bears due to populations being unable to connect. However, according to Weller, once the Natural Resources Conservation Service helped reconnect populations through “highways of love,” the bears were able to mate and have since been proposed to be taken off the endangered species list.

For Subcommittee Chairman Glenn Thompson (PA-5), the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s work with endangered species is why local landowners and outside organizations should be taken seriously when is comes to voluntary conservation.

“We know that voluntary conservation programs work,” Thompson said. “However it has becoming increasingly clear that some government agencies and environmental activist organizations, which are sometimes one and the same, don’t recognize the commitment our farmers, ranchers, and foresters make to environmental stewardship. Our farmers and ranchers through assistance and census provided by farm bill conservation programs, have voluntarily reduced soil erosion, increased wetlands, improved water quality, and preserved farmland and wildlife habitat.”

Through science, tools, and partnerships, the Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry is trying to help organizations share technology to better understand what is happening in real-world environments. The Regional Conservation Partnership Program has been responsible for such projects. Through a Conservation Innovation Grant, the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association was able to develop an online tool to aid the irrigation system that monitors conditions in real-time. This advancement helped save 280,000 gallons per acre per growing season.

In order to gain further insight on how voluntary conservation effects different areas of agriculture, the subcommittee heard testimonies from Weller; Rachel Dawson, Senior Manager of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; Frank Price, owner of Frank and Sims Price Ranch; Rich Bowman, Director of Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy; and Kent Rodelius, Vice President of the Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition.

Yet while voluntary conservation is done at all levels, members of the Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry continually stressed the importance of farmers and ranchers to conservation.

“Farmers and ranchers are the backbone of conservation in America,” ranking member Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-1) said. “They depend on the land for their livelihoods and seek to leave it better than they found it. I don’t believe that anyone cares more about the land then the farmers and ranchers.”

Perhaps part of the reasoning behind the subcommittee’s focus on farmers and ranchers is due to the fact that cattle ranchers manage more land (666.4 million acres) than any other industry. In his testimony before the subcommittee Price discussed the relationship between ranchers and voluntary conservation.

“The livestock industry is threatened daily by urban encroachment, natural disasters, and government overreach,” Price said in a written statement submitted to the subcommittee in addition to his oral testimony. “Since our livelihood is made on the land, through the utilization of our natural resources, being good stewards of the land not only makes good environmental sense; it is fundamental for our industry to remain strong.”

Price cited two examples of how conservation helped his ranch. In 2011 and 2012 Texas faced a drought brought on by 100 consecutive days of 100 degree or higher temperatures. By working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Price was able to install above ground water storage systems among other water-saving techniques that enabled his ranch to survive the drought. The Natural Resources Conservation Service along with the National Grazing Lands Coalition also helped Price’s ranch develop innovative grazing technologies that have helped increase perennial grasses, improve ground cover, and reduce soil erosion. Yet Price stressed in his testimony that conservation, as good as it may seem, should not be forced.

“The biggest point I’d like to make is that the voluntary part of the conservation programs is what really makes it work for ranchers,” Price said. “We’ve had excellent success using these programs, but just because these practices work for my family does not mean it’s right for every body. It’s important that we keep these programs funded to safeguard their continued success, and above all else, these programs must stay voluntary.”

Brother of Unabomber talks new Book and Politics

By Amanda Spencer

 

WASHINGTON–David Kaczynski looked around the bookstore, maintaining a steady and even tone as he discussed the turmoil he felt when having to choose between potentially saving innocent lives and his love for his brother. At this point Kaczynski rightfully suspected that his brother, Ted Kaczynski, was responsible for the deaths of multiple people. At this point, he suspected that his brother was the Unabomber.

“Any choice we made could lead to somebody dying,” Kaczynski said. “If we chose to do nothing, that itself was a choice and the consequence of that choice could be that some other person could pick up a bomb. We might eventually learn that Ted was the person responsible, and in that case we’d have to go the rest of our lives with the blood of this innocent person, and they died because we refused to act. How do you live with yourself? It seemed unthinkable. On the other hand, the other horn of this dilemma was the realization that if I turn in my brother and he’s guilty. I mean, this is the most wanted man in America, he’s killed three people, he’s got an IQ of 165. They’re probably going to execute him. What would it be like to go through the rest of my life with my brother’s blood on my hands?”

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David Kaczynski speaking at Politics and Prose. Photo by Amanda Spencer.

Between 1978 and 1995 Ted, dubbed the “Unabomber,” mailed bombs to various people, killing three and injuring 23. Before he was arrested, Ted was one of the most wanted men in America. After his brother’s manifesto was published, Kaczynski recognized the style of writing to be his brother’s and ultimately helped turn him into the authorities. In his first public appearance discussing his new book, “Every Last Tie: The Story of the Unabomber and his Family” Kaczynski focused mainly on his family and the struggle they had coming to terms with discovering that Ted was the Unabomber.

However, while speaking to the crowd gathered at Politics and Prose on Jan. 31 at 6 p.m., Kaczynski often related his experience back to the death penalty, an issue he’s had first-hand experience with.

“In the immediate aftermath of my brother’s arrest I became very very focused on trying to make some good come out of this horrible thing and kind of engaged in sort of process of meaning-making,” Kaczynski said. “And for me the one thing that I knew clearly to be before I turned in my brother, but certainly through the course of his trial and its outcome and things I learned along the way about our criminal justice system, was that I’m viscerally opposed to the death penalty.”

Kaczynski’s views were reinforced by his experience with Bill Babbitt, another man who turned in his brother after he committed murder. Standing behind a podium at the back of the bookstore, Kaczynski recounted how his connection with Babbitt cemented his own fears that his brother would be sentenced to the death penalty. While Babbitt’s brother only killed one person, Kaczynski’s brother killed three people and injured over 20 others.

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Photo by Amanda Spencer

“How can we count for this disparity in our criminal justice system?” Kaczynski said. “My wife, Linda, and I went out to California and spent some time with Bill and his wife and at that point it was, oh my gosh, it was just unbelievable to see the wheels of justice turn mechanically and kill this human being who never, never should have been put to death even under the system with its protections as we have it today.”

Kaczynski’s views were so strong that beginning in 2001 he served as the executive director of the New Yorker’s Against the Death Penalty for more than 10 years. The death penalty was abolished in New York in 2007.

Towards the end of his hour and a half talk, Kaczynski moved away from the death penalty to discuss mental health. Kaczynski’s brother suffered from schizophrenia, and Kaczynski believes the mental health system failed his brother.

“We have a mental-health system that’s universally almost described as broken,” Kaczynski said. “Its treatment is not accessible for people who even want treatment, it’s not affordable for many people who want treatment, there are all these sort of bureaucratic barriers we have to jump over for someone to get treatment.”

It was not until after his brother was arrested that Kaczynski learned Ted had tried to seek treatment. While isolated in the woods, Ted sent a letter to a facility asking if he could undergo therapy through the mail. The treatment center responded to him, saying that he would have to come in to receive therapy. While Kaczynski said that he understands why that response was given, he believes that for patients who are extremely paranoid, being forced to come in is a huge barrier. Instead, Kaczynski is more in favor of a model that engages people in a non-confrontational setting.

Although he used his speech to discuss the death penalty and the mental health care system, Kaczynski’s book focuses more on his family and the love he has for them. Kaczynski described the book as, in a way, being a memorial to the people he loves.

“I hope the love part shines through,” Kaczynski said.

Brother of Unabomber talks new Book and Politics

WASHINGTON — David Kaczynski, brother of Unabomber Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski spoke on Jan. 31 at 6 p.m. at Politics and Prose about his new book, “Every Last Tie: The Story of the Unabomber and his Family.”

In his first public appearance discussing the book, Kaczynski focused mainly on his family and the struggle they had coming to terms with discovering Ted was the Unabomber. However, Kaczynski often related his experience back to the death penalty, an issue he’s passionate about.

IMG_6157
David Kaczynski speaking at Politics and Prose           Photo by Amanda Spencer

“In the immediate aftermath of my brother’s arrest I became very very focused on trying to make some good come out of this horrible thing and kind of engaged in sort of process of meaning-making,” Kaczynski said. “And for me the one thing that I knew clearly to be before I turned in my brother, but certainly through the course of his trial and its outcome and things I learned along the way about our criminal justice system, was that I’m viscerally opposed to the death penalty.”

Kaczynski’s views were reinforced by his experience with Bill Babbitt, another man who turned in his brother after he committed murder. Standing behind a podium at the back of the bookstore, Kaczynski recounted how his connection with Babbitt cemented his own fears that his brother would be sentenced to the death penalty. While Babbitt’s brother only killed one person, Kaczynski’s brother killed three people and injured over 20 others.

“How can we count for this disparity in our criminal justice system?” Kaczynski said. “My wife Linda and I we went out to California and spent some time with Bill and his wife and at that point it was, oh my gosh, it was just unbelievable to see the wheels of justice turn mechanically and kill this human being who never, never should have been put to death even under the system with its protections as we have it today.”

Kaczynski’s views were so strong that beginning in 2001 he served as the Executive Director of the New Yorker’s Against the Death Penalty for over 10 years. The death penalty was abolished in New York in 2007.

A common theme throughout Kaczynski’s talk was his love for his family and how difficult of a decision it was to ultimately decide to turn in his brother. Maintaining a steady and even tone Kaczynski discussed the turmoil he felt when having to choose between potentially saving innocent lives and his love for his brother.

IMG_6156
Photo by Amanda Spencer

“Any choice we made could lead to somebody dying,” Kaczynski said. “If we chose to do nothing, that itself was a choice and the consequence of that choice could be that some other person could pick up a bomb. We might eventually learn that Ted was the person responsible, and in that case we’d have to go the rest of our lives with the blood of this innocent person, and they died because we refused to act. How do you live with yourself? It seemed unthinkable. On the other hand, the other horn of this dilemma was the realization that if I turn in my brother and he’s guilty. I mean, this is the most wanted man in America, he’s killed three people, he’s got an IQ of 165. They’re probably going to execute him. What would it be like to go through the rest of my life with my brother’s blood on my hands?”

Towards the end of his hour and a half talk, Kaczynski moved away from the death penalty to discuss mental health. Kaczynski’s brother suffered from schizophrenia, and Kaczynski believes the mental health system failed his brother.

“We have a mental health system that’s universally almost described as broken,” Kaczynski said. “Its treatment is not accessible for people who even want treatment, it’s not affordable for many people who want treatment, there are all these sort of bureaucratic barriers we have to jump over for someone to get treatment.”

It was not until after he was arrested that Kaczynski learned his brother had tried to seek treatment. While isolated in the woods, Ted sent a letter to a facility asking if he could undergo therapy through the mail. The treatment center responded to him, saying that he would have to come in to receive therapy. While Kaczynski understands why that response was given, he that for patients who are extremely paranoid, being forced to come in is a huge barrier. Instead, Kaczynski is more in favor of a model that engages people in a non-confrontational setting.

Although he used his speech to discuss the death penalty and the mental health care system, Kaczynski’s book focuses more on his family and the love he has for them. Kaczynski described the book as, in a way, being a memorial to the people he loves.

“I hope the love part shines through,” Kaczynski said.

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.”