Over the last ten years, the animal rights movement has become more and more mainstream. Celebrities are chiming in on the injustices that animals face on a daily basis, and awareness of such issues is becoming much more prevalent. Right here on campus, there is a club that has received a great deal of attention from many notable figures for its mission to raise awareness and educate people on animal cruelty.
The Animal Outreach Club was founded after the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The club sought to help animals that were displaced or injured by the storm and its aftermath.
“There was a national concern to help these animals, but no organized effort to help them,” said Dr. Valerie Lang Waldin, advisor of the Animal Outreach Club.
The level of concern and unrest among students led to the official formation of the club. The club promotes protection of more than just household pets. It also deals with a wide range of animal welfare issues both locally and globally.
“We are much more than just cats and dogs,” Waldin said. “We work to help animals in entertainment, puppy mills, factory farming, and even the dogs in Asia because they’re considered food there. We care about all of it.”
“There is a good quote by anthropologist Margaret Mead that goes, ‘Never doubt that a small, committed group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’ One animal at a time,” said Waldin.
“Animals deserve respect, but it’s not like we are trying to have animals running for office,” Waldin said. “It’s just that animals are sentient beings that feel pain and fear.”
The Animal Outreach Club has hosted many notable speakers, including Dr. Randall Lockwood, the Senior Vice President for the ASPCA, and Rebecca Huss, the lawyer who represented Michael Vick’s fighting dogs. The club has also hosted many veterinarians, police officers, and district attorneys.
The club continues to educate community members by holding events to raise money to assist organizations that support animal welfare. “We have helped support Soi Dog, the Rensselaer County Humane Society, the Berkshire Bird Paradise, and Animal Defenders International,” Waldin said.
But their support starts here on campus. Soon, club members will cover the campus in plastic bins marked “Empties for Animals.” The empty cans that students place in these bins will raise money for the club and its efforts to protect animals. The club helps run animal adoption events as well as spay-and-neuter clinics to help fight animal overpopulation.
For students who are interested in finding a job in animal advocacy, the club makes it well known that there are many options for passionate individuals.
“Years ago it was all about being a vet if you wanted to help animals, but now there are many different options. There are animal control jobs, law enforcement jobs, humane education–you can even be an animal lawyer now. When I was in law school, that was unheard of. You don’t just have to be a vet anymore,” said Waldin.
The first Animal Outreach Club meeting will be held on Monday, Sept. 14, at 2 p.m. in Brahan 108. At 6:30 p.m. that same evening, the club will be sponsoring the movie “Unity” at the Spectrum 8 Movie Theatres in Albany. All who are interested are welcome to attend.