By Romy Maimon - 2006
1. How did you learn about the stray/needy animal population and what made you want to help?
Well, when someone comes to you and says that the trash men are coming and there is a litter of newborns and their mother about to be dumped in the truck…how can you not help, even if you are not fully aware of what it is all about! How can you not help when you see ten strays standing on a corner waiting for handouts and little kittens huddled in the cold on a sidewalk. How can you not help when you drive by a dog lying on the side of a highway that had been hit by a car three days before and left to die. What kind of person would you have to be to think these things normal and acceptable? It only takes being involved once to understand that once is not enough! Since becoming involved in the world of rescue I cannot feed my own animals (or myself for that matter) without feeling guilty that they have so much and others have nothing and are suffering. It has become a double-edged sword that I knew nothing of before that day at work so long ago.
2. How long have you been rescuing and how many have you saved approximately?
I began my rescue journey about eight years ago and have not saved nearly as many as I would have liked. Most of my rescues have been cats, but one dog named “Cassie” was very special and the most work. After major surgery to repair her broken body and two months of cage rest and care. I found her a great home despite what people said about her. She’s a wonderful “Pit Bull” and proves wrong the old wives tale that certain breeds are just “bad.” I also saved a cow from dying a slow death in 2003 and other strange rescue tales, but that’s another book.
3. What personal and financial sacrifices have you made to help these animals?
Let’s just say that I would probably have substantially more savings than I do now if I had never began the rescue life. But, this is not something you think of when you know there is a life in need and you fully understand what that means. I have spent many hours cleaning, caring for and giving attention to those I have rescued and spending even more time worrying about those that I have not helped or don’t know about. And, that’s when I was not at work doing the same thing for other peoples’ animals at work or cleaning up after my own spoiled ones. It can be very hard physically, and definitely mentally, to be responsible for the many aspects of rescuing, helping and worrying about the many needy animals. From the actual rescue to the cleaning and playing and finally looking for the appropriate homes. This is why I wanted the world to know what it takes to “live the life” because I have not done nearly as much as the others who help the animals every single day.
4. Do you feel you have to be an “animal lover” to understand the moral scale of this problem?
When I came up with the questions for this book I knew this one was the most important one of all somehow. It is not a trick question, but one that shows the reality of the world through the different answers and views. I dare you to ask yourself this question and not find yourself thinking about life more than usual and in different terms. My answer is no, absolutely not. The millions of homeless animals are just one of the symbols of the human condition which I see as laziness, ignorance, greed and stupidity. I am sure that comes across hard and makes me seem like a bad person, but this is a book about views and reality and that is mine.
5. Why do you feel society as a whole is so unaffected by this problem?
I have found that many of my answers have already been given by the insightful people in this book, but I still must say that it is like many other “annoyances” the general public has become accustomed to. How many people do you see walk by a homeless person in need without a second glance! How often do you see people walk over trash on the sidewalk as if they don't actually see it. It’s the same for the homeless animal on the side of the road. If they don't acknowledge it it doesn't exist or matter, therefore they do not have to take responsibility for their actions…or lack of action. And, I guess I have to acknowledge that many people just think that the cat on the sidewalk is supposed to be outside and it is “normal” that they look so thin and scurry around. They can eat a mouse for dinner and be just fine, right? But, I just can't get myself to accept these people and this ignorance, so the result was this book.
6. What is your advice to people who care but do nothing, or don't know what to do?
Well, first figure out what you really care about or want to learn about and what you can realistically assist with. Then educate yourself with what animal organizations are locally available and contact them. Find out what they need and if there is anything you can and want to help with. Whether it is volunteering, fostering, community education, office work or anything else. Also, go online and look up animal rescue groups in your area and others across the country and see what help they may need and at the same time educate yourself on the cause so you can teach others as well. And, don't forget EVERYONE can help by donating old blankets, beds, towels, toys, food, bowls, old doghouses, hay, and many other things that we take for granted and discard without a second thought every day. You can request pamphlets, handouts and more from local and national rescue organizations and place them at your work, hand them out around your town or put them in your out-going mail. You can volunteer to let local rescues and shelters have adoption days at your store or shop. You can put bumper stickers on your car talking about spay/neuter, adoption and other important topics or you can use the spay/neuter stamps on your outgoing mail. You can start or be a part of the Feral Friends Network in your neighborhood or any of the other organizations and groups that involve community help. You can email your local news channels and ask them to do stories about your local animal shelters or groups to get the word out. You can sign up for email action alerts from rescues, shelters or organizations and forward them to others when you receive them. As well, you can begin events in your town such as asking your community to donate their old doghouses to the local shelters and needy families and include your local business in the event. (I came up with a “blueprint” for this kind of project if anyone is interested).
Most of all…if you see an animal, any animal, in need, hurt, lost, abused, chained or in distress…don't drive or walk by. Do something! Pick that animal up and get it help or report it to your local animal control right away. (Find out about their policies first if you can) Most times your call will be anonymous and will make a world of difference to that animal in the long run. There is so much you can do if you want to and it is never too late to start as you have learned from the people in this book. Just close your eyes and think about your own mortality and what you would want done if you were in their position and suffering, scared, lonely and then try ignoring the problem.
7. What do you think can be done on a broad scale?
The first is for the largest and most influential animal organization, the ASPCA, to use their money to educate society and help in a much more pertinent way than I think they do. For example: Make educational commercials for TV (since I'm sure 90% of the “average public” watch TV daily) that are aired every day on all national network channels. Put educational advertisements in each local and national newspapers and popular magazines such as People and Time every issue. Put more on other public viewing venues, such as the internet, buses, taxis on a continual basis. Work with state shelters to begin programs that help small local shelters and rescue groups work with their communities in every way. They can also use their money to begin a monthly national free spay/neuter program (perhaps fund a mobile spay/neuter clinic for stray/ferals in EACH county) that involves every veterinary hospital in the country, no matter how large or small. Or they can voluntarily use their money to fund the already existing programs to make them more available and professional. They can use their name, contacts and money to do so much more than what they do and have a responsibility to the animals and society that they have not fulfilled to this point, and may never without some push from the public. Most of all they can use the donations unsuspecting people send to them to actually help the animals they say they will and stop using it to send needless gifts and bribes! That goes for most all the other large organizations as well. There is no excuse for “big business” to get away with so much in this world while the defenseless suffer and the small organizations try to make the best with nothing. And, the biggest change and most sweeping change of all that would benefit the cause would be for the government to actually punish people accused of animal abuse and neglect (as well as much more strict laws pertaining to puppy-mills and pet stores) rather than just fine them or lessen their punishment for all to see and know that they can do the same without reprimand. It just sends the wrong message.