Rescue Me: From Animal Lover to Animal Activist

jenjames2Have you always been an animal lover? Did you have pets growing up?
I’ve had a connection with animals for as long as I can remember. We always had dogs and cats growing up. My mom let me keep any animal I brought home. I always brought home the ones that needed help. Even as a kid I loved nursing them back to health.

How did it turn into animal rescuing and activism?

I’m not even sure when or how it started. I think it was always in me. There’s nothing like seeing a once injured or sick dog who was once deemed “unadoptable” thrive in their new home. I always rescued independently up until about 6 years ago. I wanted to volunteer for a rescue that was in line with my personal idea of rescuing. So many rescues are in it to make money. I wanted to be involved with one that was in it for the animals; one who wasn’t selective about which dogs they saved. I wanted to help the senior dogs and the injured dogs who were dumped at the shelter; not just the puppies and the dogs who brought in high adoption fees. I was thrilled to meet Jodi & Debbie from All Things Pawssible.

How many animals would you say you have you fostered/adopted through the years?
Geez…I lost count a long time ago. We’ve fostered dozens of dogs. ATPAR has adopted hundreds of dogs over the years. While more is better, each life saved is a victory.

How many pets of your own do you currently have living with you?
Hold on to your hats…we currently have 12 dogs and 2 parrots. They don’t live with us; we live with them. They pretty much run the house and our lives. Most of them were “fosters” but, like I said, we take in less adoptable animals so they were hard to place. Once they’re with us for a while it’s too hard to let them go. They’re mostly small dogs (I’m a sucker for a mean Chihuahua.) A lot of our dogs are older so we won’t have this many dogs forever but, for now, we are committed to giving them the best possible life. I am certain that we give our dogs more attention than most people with just one dog.

Ever had any unusual animals come to you?
We get calls from people wanting to surrender all types of animals. Pigs, goats, chickens, ducks, sheep, etc. We try to find homes for as many animals as we can and spend hours online and on the phone.

Is your professional background working with animals?
I do not work in an animal related field. Myself and the others that I do rescue with all have full-time jobs, families and other responsibilities. Animal related jobs don’t typically pay very much. It’s our day jobs that allow us to have the money to rescue. I’m afraid if I worked in a shelter or any animal related organization that I would get burnt out. I think most people who do animal rescue already suffer from compassion fatigue… there’s more and more severe cases of it among rescuers. You see some pretty horrific things and they take a toll on your heart.

janjamesYou’ve acted as an activist for animal rights in several situations. One in particular is the treatment of circus animals. Can you talk about how that became such an important issue for you? And can you educate people as to why you continue to fight against the treatment and conditions those animals live in?
A long time ago, when I didn’t know better, I brought my kids to Ringling Bros. Circus. A woman approached us with some leaflets on the treatment of the animals at Ringling. I read them and did my own research and was horrified. Since then, I’ve been speaking out about it. I like to think that once people know the truth (and there is no denying it) they want to help or, at the very least, they won’t want to participate in it anymore. Sadly bargain ticket prices appeal draw people – even to places where animals are abused for entertainment like under the big top. Every ticket to the circus supports animal abuse. Even if you don’t “love” animals, why would you want to contribute to their torture? Animal circuses are already banned in many countries and even in some cities here in the US. One day, the USA will get on board and I would hope those parents who are thinking about taking their kids to the circus would want to be on the right side of history. All you have to do is Google “circus cruelty” and a million links and undercover videos pop up. If you know the truth and you still go, your next stop after the circus should be a cardiologist because you probably have something seriously wrong with your heart. Compassion and empathy are two of the best lessons parents can teach their kids. Telling them why you won’t take them to a circus is much more valuable than seeing an elephant trying to balance on a tiny pedestal will ever be. It reminds me of a really great quote: “Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar.”

Are there any organizations or causes that you feel  people reading need to know about?
All Things Pawssible Animal Rescue is the rescue I volunteer for: If anyone wants to get involved with demonstrations or to learn more, go to the Animal Activists of Philly site: Traveling Animal Protection Society is another group I’m involved in. You can find more information here:

People who want to get a pet, why should they consider adopting or rescuing a pet from a shelter or similar organization vs going and buying one from say a breeder or pet store?
This is an answer based on numbers. Every day tens of thousands of dogs are jenjames3killed at shelters across the country. If there are so many ‘extra’ dogs that they have to be murdered, why would anyone be in the business of creating more? It makes no sense. The misconception that shelter dogs are damaged or ill-tempered or somehow ‘not as good’ as a dog from a pet store or breeder just does not hold up. Some of the most famous animals- Eddie from the tv show Frasier was a shelter dog, for example. Morris the cat was from a pound. Americans are fixated on labels for everything from blue jeans to wine to sneakers –and in the last 30 years- designer dogs have been added to the list. Oddly enough Americans also are quick to get rid of things- spouses, cars, clothing, and animals- so why would anyone spend a fortune on something that they do not intend to keep? The number of purebred and designer dogs who end up in rescue or at the shelter is staggering. In the end, we all must realize that the planet has finite resources that we are using up. There is no need to add more creatures to an overpopulated environment that is struggling to sustain humans. Adopt a dog who is already here. Don’t support the careers of people who breed puppies for profit.

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