This past week in preparation for finals week my friend Franceska decided to do something to bring a smile to everyone’s faces: she adopted a dog. His name is Zeus (previously Angel, previously Angel). He’s the sweetest boy who loves when you scratch his ears and his back and will sit down and hold out his paw to give you a handshake. When you think of adopting a new dog you picture a fresh faced puppy coming out to his first family to explore the world. This, however, was not the case for Zeus. He’s a five-year-old Stafford who was in the shelter for six months prior to Franceska meeting him. He had been with a family as a puppy but had been living on the streets for some time before the shelter took him in. Zeus’ ear has a tear through it and marks on his body from what they presumed to be dog fighting. While he’s beat up on the outside, he is still the most loveable young-spirited dog on the inside. There is no ounce of aggression or distrust in his personality and he will wag his tale for any human who comes his way.
Despite the shocking parts of Zeus’s story, none of that was what struck me most when Franceska told me the story of his adoption. When she went to the shelter and told them she was interested in adopting a dog they told her all about their new puppies, their young dogs waiting for shots and looking for a loving home and didn’t put much details into talking about their older dogs available for adoption. It was only after she asked for more information and to play with Zeus that they told her that they were planning to euthanize Zeus after the upcoming weekend if he didn’t get adopted. That solidified Franceska’s decision, she couldn’t let a sweet boy like him be put down.
This was so shocking to me because they did not even make an effort to save this dog initially, they did not advertise the dogs at the highest risk of being euthanized. They advertise the “cute” small puppies with a low risk of getting put down, while leaving older dogs like Zeus to be lost and forgotten in the maze of the kennels. In the Houser reading from the beginning of the semester he confronts with the way humans and organizations such as the ASPCA advertise “miracle” and “wonder” stories to make people think they are really making a difference and to tug on the heart strings, or give the donors a feeling like they are accomplishing something. Houser noted that the ASPCA seeks to alleviate “unnecessary” suffering from animals, but this vision is clearly only true if it aligns with the public appeal and most fiscally rewarding result. By trying to alleviate suffering you would try to save the lives of those animals at the highest risk. While still giving the viewers what they want (which is often to look at an adorable baby puppy), you can also try to advertise the animals who may not get another chance at like as equally as you advertise those low risk animals.
We as humans enjoy the instant gratification and soul replenishment of the idea of saving an animals life but these soul affirming efforts are only used if they align with our perfect construct of getting a new dog, a “perfect” preferably pure bred dog with no prior trauma or incidents. We want to “save” those who carry the least burden and the largest uplift to our own esteem.
Houser, Marie A. “Grace For A Cure: Poisoned Ethics and Disabled-Nonhuman Images” Journal for Critical Animal Studies. May 2014. Print.