An army of animal advocates descended upon the Legislative Office Building for New York State’s 4th Annual Animal Advocacy Day on Wednesday, May 28. This free, bipartisan, and yearly event, hosted by Senator Greg Ball and Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, enables animal supporters to network, share information, and lobby legislators. This year, topics ranged from creating a registered list of NYS animal abusers to the prevention of horse slaughter.
While I attended as president of Dog House Adoptions, the dog rescue I co-founded in 2012, my humane interests have long revolved around all animals, domestic and wild. This was my impetus for co-founding the community based animal advocacy site Be the Change for Animals in 2010 (which will be resurrected on June 28th). The site highlights causes that advocate for humane treatment of circus elephants, captive exotics, mill dogs, migrating birds, whales of all types, and more.
John Hargrove of Blackfish
Thanks to that last hot topic, a significant highlight of my day was meeting John Hargrove, one of many former SeaWorld killer whale trainers featured in the documentary Blackfish. As the film’s website descibes:
Blackfish tells the story of Tilikum, a performing killer whale that killed several people while in captivity. Along the way, director-producer Gabriela Cowperthwaite compiles shocking footage and emotional interviews to explore the creature’s extraordinary nature, the species’ cruel treatment in captivity, the lives and losses of the trainers and the pressures brought to bear by the multi-billion dollar sea-park industry.
John is co-sponsoring the Orca Welfare and Safety Act in California and similar proposed legislation in New York, hoping to end the use of killer whales in captivity for entertainment. A petition in support of the New York legislation has received over 10,000 signatures. To sign the petition visit: http://www.nysenate.gov/webform/sign-petition-end-torture.
John is the [Photo] Bomb
Slated as a special guest speaker for Animal Advocacy Day, John was running a bit late. As the remainder of attendees filled the stairwell of the Legislative Office Building for a group photo, John slipped in under the wire and addressed us all. The most poignant point he made is that awareness is an evolutionary process.
We start as trainers because you love those whales. You want a life with those whales. And then, as you progress higher through the ranks, you start to see things from the corporate end of it, the corporate greed and exploitation that you don’t agree with. And, even as a high ranking trainer, you cannot stop those things from happening.
But John knows that you can stop it from the outside using pressure from the media. And he’s now taking every opportunity to do just that. He followed up with this note to me:
You were awesome and it was incredible for me to be around so many who care about animals just as much as I do- regardless if you’re experience is with killer whales, dogs, horses, or whatever/ we all have the same heart and [were there] for the same reasons. I had a great day- and we are winning this fight. It’s really happening.
Watch John’s Talk
Shooting video from a tripod during the final photo, and with my DSLR on me as I stood in the crowd, I felt lucky to have captured a distinctly moving talk from a man who spent 14 years so intimately working with captive whales, knowing their suffering and acting as their voice. Now you can experience that, too.
More on Blackfish
If you haven’t yet seen Blackfish, you can view it through iTunes, Netflix and on DVD.
For more about John’s thoughts on his career and the treatment of the whales, watch DP/30’s interview of John with Blackfish documentarian Gabriela Cowperthwaite.
How fun is this?! This screen grab is a picture I posted to my Facebook timeline, which John then made his profile picture…
Be the Change for Animals, the website that we’ve come to know, love, and utterly take for granted, needs a face lift and an attitude adjustment. It’s grown lazy, tired, and has no spark. I don’t like where we’ve ended up since our beautiful founding moment. So, as of right now, I’m 100% back.
LIFE SIGNS ARE AFLUTTER
Thankfully, BTC4A’s Facebook heart is beating strong. This comes thanks to the daily community nurturing of Kim Thomas. Her love for this project runs as deep as my own (maybe even deeper) and stretches all the way back to 2011.
But circulation to the blog extremities grew stagnant long before I stepped away to found Dog House Adoptions in 2012. (Wow. We’re four years old as of this week!) Focus was set on how to do less. Not more. Not New. Not different. And we need more. We need new. We need different. This lag is on us — on me, since I never fully left — for not delivering what you need, for not keeping up with what you want.
IT’S TIME TO REINVEST
Blog the Change asks us, among other things, to identify what we’re doing or planning to do for animals with the hope to inspire others. Here’s my list:
I’ve taken back the reigns at BTC4Animals.com.
I’ve begun to follow the 5000 people who connected with us on Twitter yet were neglected over the past year.
The website will be overhauled in time for our 4th birthday. (FOURTH? Really?)
The big reveal will be just prior to our July 15th Blog the Change event.
The goal? Simple, clean lines. Easy to read fonts. (Who picked that horrid text font anyway? Oh right.)
And, most importantly, useful content that I hope you’ll engage with, including a revitalization of Blog the Change events.
THE BIGGEST CHANGE OF ALL
We’ll set your inbox free while holding fast to our founding cornerstone, asking you to spend just a moment and never a cent to help animals in need.
A monthly post will feature a simple link list of timely causes. We’ll collect all the free and easy actions you can collectively cover in 15 minutes or less.
Now you can subscribe to just one blog. Ours. And you’ll still get the best content.
We’ll also host a directory of animal organizations you can visit from one central place.
LET’S MAKE THIS ABOUT YOU
Please answer these simple questions below.
Which organizations are your favorites to support? I’ll enter these first into our ever growing directory. You are still here and, because of that, your opinion totally rates with me.
Which day suits you best to receive a monthly post? The 1st? Every 2nd Monday? End of the month? Pick your favorite. Majority will win.
Will a monthly publication keep you interested? Would bi-weekly be better?
Can I get some volunteers to help manage Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and G+?
And can I get a HELL YEAH? (Oh good. You’re paying attention.)
THANKS FOR STICKING WITH US ALL THIS TIME
It’s time we do something new to stick by you, too. And I’m proud to say that my whole team is as re-energized as I am. Together, we’ll make this happen for as long as you come along for the ride.
You heard it here first.
Visit the other animal advocates on this list and leave a thoughtful comment. It’s time to coalesce this community spirit by investing in it from all sides.
Wild Elephants of Mole National Park, Ghana, July 27, 2008 – Photo: Kim Clune
One of my life’s most magical moments was watching a family of four wild African elephants emerge from Mole National Forest for a swim. Mole refuge spans 3000 square miles but, as large and mostly untouched by humans as this special place is, poaching elephants for ivory is still greatly feared. You Can Help These Elephants.
Humane Society International shared a startling fact last week.
Every single day, 100 African elephants are slaughtered for their tusks. If current poaching rates continue, this beloved animal will be gone forever in the next 20 years.
Being born a majestic elephant is an ill fate indeed. Whether captured for carnival cruelty, limited to life in a zoo, or shot dead to make souvenir trinkets, our human impact has made this world a deadly place for these magnificent and emotional beings.
We’re doing this to send a signal to the world that we need to crush the illegal trade in ivory and wildlife products in general.
Weeks later, China, the world’s largest market for elephant products, followed suit by publicly crushing six tons of confiscated ivory, an equivalent to 2,000 poached elephants. While there are plenty of issues still as stake, like China’s still legal ivory trade, this is an important first step.
Keep the Momentum Going in Hong Kong!
Join forces with Humane Society International. Urge the Hong Kong government to destroy the ivory it has confiscated.
It must join the U.S. and China in sending a message to poachers and traffickers that their days of profiting from killing are coming to an end.
Petition Text: African elephant poaching has reached critical levels. With 100 elephants being killed every single day and tons of illegally shipped ivory being seized on an almost monthly basis, urgent action is needed to put an end to this crisis.
Hong Kong needs to join other governments — including those of China, the Philippines, and the United States — in taking meaningful action to protect elephants by destroying its stockpile of confiscated ivory.
This important step would highlight the plight of the tens of thousands of elephants at risk of being wiped out by greed. I urge you to destroy the Hong Kong government’s stockpile to help save these majestic animals before it is too late.
Thank you for caring about wild elephants like the ones I met in Ghana.
Kim Clune with a Park Ranger and Wild Elephants of Mole National Park, Ghana, July 27, 2008
Be, Blog and Read the Change for Animals!
Join Team BtC quarterly by writing about your favorite animal-related cause, reading posts, leaving comments, and sharing on your favorite social networks! Learn more!
I had the pleasure of meeting with an inquisitive group of students taking Writing for New Media with Jennifer Marlow at The College of Saint Rose in February. Invited to guest lecture, I spoke with them about how building an online social network has helped to rescue dogs in our immediate area and how social media reaches beyond local boundaries in order to make a difference.
Anthony Acosta and Gidget
One student in particular, Anthony Acosta, asked me to be part of his journalism class project and, a month later, my blogging friends and I were being interviewed for his semester’s final piece.
While it feels a bit egotistical to post an article about myself here, I do so proudly. None of what I have achieved has been accomplished alone. This article celebrates all the people I’ve worked with to launch Be the Change for Animals, a national animal activism site asking you to “spend just a minute and never a cent” to help animals in need, and Dog House Adoptions, a dog rescue serving New York’s Capital region. I am beyond grateful for the dedication of every team member on both projects. The successes laid out below belong to us all.
Blogging has become increasingly popular. Through the democratization of the Web, ordinary everyday people can express their opinions on specified, yet infinite topics. Although personal diaries and other less-than-useful blog entries make up the majority of the blogosphere, Kim Clune has strategically harnessed the power of new media to enhance animal advocacy efforts both domestic and wild.
Clune has a strong online presence in the field of animal advocacy. As the founding member of multiple blogging sites, she promotes events, disseminates information and provides avenues that allow people to participate in these efforts. Recently, Clune has dedicated most of her time toward dog rescue, helping to launch Dog House Adoptions, Inc. in April, 2012. She jointly runs the organization with her husband Tim Clune, Lori Harris and Audra Bentley.
Lori Harris, Audra Bentley, Tim Clune and Kim Clune
“We crafted our mission to reach beyond simply rehoming local strays. It is our goal to demonstrate that these dogs are not throwaway items. They have tremendous value in our community,” said Clune. Approximately 3-4 million cats and dogs are euthanized in the United States each year. That’s about 10,000 cats and dogs executed daily. According to Clune, these are often perfectly healthy animals who were innocent victims of human negligence.
Sarah McLachlan is an avid, well-known supporter of the ASPCA. She produced the popular commercial featuring the song “Angel,” in attempt to muster involvement and monetary donations.
“McLachlan is a fantastic and effective voice fundraising for the ASPCA, but it pains people to watch her commercials. They react out of overwhelming sadness and then look away. The heart can only take so much,” said Clune.
Clune’s tactic for educating the public and making a difference in the community is to highlight the pros rather than the cons. She and her team have chosen a path of sustainability, celebrating their dog’s milestones and adoptions. She tackles the issues with a sense of humor instead of disseminating gory images and graphic storytelling. This has proven to be successful.
“By creating an environment that is hopeful more often than grueling, our long term goal is to keep our volunteers and ourselves energized for the long haul – this all happens by building a relationship with one dog at a time,” said Clune.
Clune wears many different hats in the development and maintenance of Dog House Adoptions, Inc. She is the media liaison, fundraising and event promoter, WordPress tech, theme designer, graphic artist, author, photographer and videographer. “I’m also a real-life community ambassador, dog chauffer and puppy cuddler.” Animals are Clune’s passion and she does everything she can to help them, devoting her life and career to ensure their well-being.
“Kim is truly impressive in everything she does. She’s also a warm, caring, funny and incredibly passionate woman – those very same qualities are what shine through in her blog, drawing so many people to it daily,” said Kim Thomas, one of Clune’s managing editors.
The pioneer of Dog House Adoptions, Inc., Bristol is a young black lab mix. She came to Dog House Adoptions pregnant and covered with scars from untreated bite marks. With time, money and compassion, Bristol was fostered for 8 weeks from puppy delivery to puppy rearing with help from Lisa Drury, a reputable Rensselaer County lab breeder.
Lisa Drury with Bristol/Chrystal
Drury helped transition four puppies from newborns to adolescents, working in conjunction with Dog House Adoptions to secure wonderful homes. Today, all four puppies are fully healthy, loved and recently celebrated their first birthday along with Dog House Adoptions, Inc. April 13, 2013.
Because of Bristol’s prominence in the local community, Drury, Kate O’Hara and O’Hara’s grandmother started a fund to raise money for Bristol’s recovery. After receiving $120, Bristol was spayed, nursed back to health and able to attend The Animal Hospital’s Pet Adoption Day in Slingerlands. There, Bristol met her new family who renamed her Chrystal for being the gem of their lives.
Kate O’Hara with the Friends of Bristol veterinary check.
Along with Dog House Adoptions, Inc. Clune also wears many hats in the creation and maintenance of other successful online organizations including This One Wild Life and Be the Change for Animals.
This One Wild Life & Be the Change for Animals
This One Wild Life is what spearheaded Clune’s success in media and animal advocacy. In 2009 it started out as her own personal blog discussing her experiences when connecting with domestic animals and encountering wildlife. After her readership blew up, she quickly realized how powerful blogging was in terms of spreading ideas toward social change.
This One Wild Life celebrates the joy humans experience while interacting with animals, whether domestic or wild, advocating for animal health and welfare in both the rescue and pet world. This One Wild Life produces a plethora of multi-media content regarding animal activism and stories regarding adoptive efforts and numerous events.
Generally these organizations work hand in hand to share important information to maximize their impression on the community. Be the Change for Animals provides an avenue for people to help animals in a pace that doesn’t overwhelm. They highlight one cause every week and provide information on how readers can help. Clune’s organizations don’t just ask for donations, calls to action typically involve the signing of petitions, Facebook “like” campaigns or participating in letter-writing campaigns for the protection of voiceless animals.
“We invite the community to share their favorite causes during Blog the Change. During these events, we link participating posts together to build community-driven relationships and promote sharing,” said Clune.
Amy Burkert, Peggy Frezon, and Kim Clune from BTC4animals.com
Peggy Frezon, an editor for Be the Change for Animals, is working on a project to spread awareness for National Volunteer Month. “We’re blogging about people who volunteer to help animals and encouraging others to blog,” said Frezon. She has also recently created posts about spaying pets, puppy mills, and the illegal ivory trade. “I hope by spreading awareness and compelling writers, we can get others to care enough to act.”
How to strengthen your blog
Back in February, 2013 Clune visited The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY – where Clune received a bachelor’s degree in English literature – as a guest speaker teaching students how to maximize their blogging potential. Below is a set of tactics used by Kim Clune and other established bloggers.
1.) Interest: Write about something you are passionate about, because maintaining a blog will consume hours of your time. While writing allow yourself to feel something and convey that emotion.
2.) Simplicity: Don’t try to use fancy words and phrases. Write simple, as if you were talking to your friends. Be concise, people tend to read less online, no one wants to read pages of content.
3.) Know your audience: What makes them tick? What turns them off? Keep an eye on which posts get the most traffic, likes and comments.
4.) Multi-media: Written content is important, but providing photos, videos and other visual media will increase your traffic tenfold.
5.) Socialize: Use all types of social media platforms and connect them to one-another. This way you don’t limit yourself to the people using a single network. Offering multiple ways a reader can receive content is a great way to enhance your impression.
6.) Cross-posting: Whenever you create new content on your blog, post a status or send out a tweet. Advertise your writing through your social networks.
7.) Build relationships: Do some research and find people who are interested in the same topic. Have a conversation with them in their own space to lure them into your space.
8.) Share: After a relationship is established, see if the other blog/online-organization will integrate with your own. That way when you post, it will automatically appear on their page as well.
9.) Interact: Respond to every comment left on your blog, this engagement sets you apart from your competition. Depending on the magnitude of your readership this might be hard to keep up with, but it’s worth the effort.
Thank you, Anthony, for sharing our story and for taking such an interest in our work being done on behalf of animals in need.
Students of the New Media class, using what they’ve learned, have created their own civic projects. Give them your support with a click and a comment…
For every tweet and blog post featuring the #BTC4A hashtag (short for Be the Change for Animals) from October 22-27, Petco will donate $1 for rescue pets – up to $5000 – at BarkWorld!
This is one of those topics that gets me right here. Pictured above is Trex. He’s one of our adoptable dogs at Dog House Adoptions, one of roughly 30 who we’ve offered shelter from the streets in Rensselaer County, NY since our founding 6 months ago.
I know, first hand, how much small, local rescue does on-the-ground in communities like yours and mine. I also understand that general donations are the most helpful means of spaying, neutering, giving vaccinations, heartworm testing, and treating injuries or illness. Yes, I had a hand in creating this fundraiser based on this very knowledge. Why not make these goals as easily attainable as possible?
Trex was neutered last month, and he’s ready for his new home. His story can be the story of many other rescued pets with your help. It’s so easy!
Tweet this now through Saturday, October 27th at 11 AM (EST) :
Rescue pets receive $1 from @Petco at @BarkWorldExpo for each #BTC4A tweet from Oct 22-27! Learn more: http://ht.ly/eEls7
Blog about what rescue means to you, now through Saturday, October 27th at 11 AM (EST). Add #BTC4A to your post title. Add your post link (not just your domain) to the blog hop list below to be counted. Bonus: Each time your post is tweeted, you’ll earn more money for rescue pets!
Nominate your favorite no-kill 501(c)3 rescue or shelter at the Petco booth through Friday, October 26th! (BarkWorld Attendees only.)
Why It Matters
Animal organizations need funds for food, vaccinations, spays, neuters, treatment of injuries and illness – expenses that adoption fees don’t fully cover. General donations allow an organization to address their most pressing needs. Together, we can raise $5000 to assist local, no-kill rescues and shelters!
We animal lovers at Be the Change for Animals, BarkWorld, Petco, and Two Little Cavaliers believe that helping rescue pets is important. We know you do too. Make the difference. Be, Blog and Tweet the Change for Animals!