New White House dogs
Much has been written about dogs returning to the White House courtesy of the Bidens and their two German Shepherds, Champ and Major. A cat is also rumored to be joining the Biden menagerie. Many will again applaud the sight of pets roaming the presidential residence and grounds, not just because of the adorable photo ops, but mostly because of the positive impact their presence will have on the public.
Major, the younger of the two dogs, will be the first protection dog to call the White House home. This is an important milestone, said Stephanie Shain, chief operating officer of the regional protection organization Humane Rescue Alliance, who believes having a protection dog in the White House is “an incredible thing”.
“Why not a rescue? Why not an animal shelter? There is still a lot of misunderstanding about animals in shelters today, and the biggest hurdle for animals in shelters is getting people in front of them, ”Shain said.
The Bidens’ older dog, Champ, was acquired by a breeder a decade ago. At the time, animal advocates expressed their disappointment that the then Vice President and his wife decided to buy a pedigree dog rather than adopt one from a shelter. However, the message “adopt, don’t buy” apparently got through. In early 2018, Biden’s daughter Ashley saw a Facebook post from the nearby Delaware Humane Association about a litter of six German Shepherd puppies who were exposed to toxins and required significant grooming. The Bidens decided to foster one of the pups and eventually adopted him in March 2018, naming him Major. (Major wasn’t quite a “foster mistake” as the Bidens had considered adding another dog to their family.) The importance of such high-profile sponsorship and adoption has put many in the human world about the potential for heightened awareness they bring , excited.
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Patrick Carroll, executive director of DHA, hopes that visiting a guard dog at the White House will encourage more people to adopt their pets.
“Sometimes people think shelters only have broken animals,” Carroll said. “The cool thing is, we can say that if a dog is good enough for the White House, he’s certainly good enough for your house.”
DHA quickly took advantage of the increased visibility and kicked off the presidential inauguration week with an event on January 17 that they referred to as “indoguration.” This FDOTUS celebration included a call for candidates for the “Cabinet” of Dogs and a performance by singer Josh Groban. Groban ended the celebrations with his rewrite of (How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window by Patti Page and changed the text to “I’m adopting that doggie in the window”. The event raised more than $ 100,000 for the DHA’s no-kill pet care and adoption center.
“In this crazy, crazy, divided world, we need animals to bring us together,” said Groban, congratulating Major and his owner.
The humane community gathered around the unexpected attention. Many speak of their support, perhaps best expressed by Lindsay Hamrick, Director of Protection and Civic Affairs for the Humane Society of the United States: “This representation not only normalizes adoption but celebrates it because the Public can see this, this is a really beautiful Shepherd joining the White House. There are so many animals waiting for homes in shelters. To see one of them at the White House, surrounded by tons of people and living a really amazing life, it sends a message that you can show your local shelter and find a healthy, happy dog to take away. “
Hamrick noted that over the past decade she has seen a long-term trend in which more people are realizing that the perception of guard dogs with some sort of “problem” is largely a myth. “The vast majority of dogs and cats that end up in shelters end up there because people lose their jobs or cannot find pet-friendly accommodation,” she said.
All of this attention couldn’t be more timely as animal shelters and rescue services are very concerned about long-smoldering developments from 2021, including an increase in pet abandonment and renunciation as health and economic forces make it difficult to care for a pet. As eviction moratoriums lapse and the emergence of coronavirus cases leads to a second or third wave of lockdowns to curb the spread, more companies could close or lay off employees, adding further stress to livestock owners.
Katy Hansen, director of communications at ACC, said she had watched the number of owners handing their pets over to the ACC protection system begin to increase in recent months. “People are panicking about the job losses and the financial impact of Covid-19, and there has been no further stimulus check,” she said. “Or a lot of people move in with their friends and family and the animals are not welcome, or the house already has a pet. So it’s hard. “
According to Hamrick, the HSUS estimates that 10 to 11 million pets could be evicted by early 2021. This number is based on the number of tenants expected to be evicted after the moratorium is lifted. In addition, some government-run animal rescue organizations have had their budgets cut last year. The NYC Animal Care Centers budget was cut by $ 3 million, according to Hansen (the executive team cut salaries to avoid layoffs). Hansen says that “the competition for donations is intense.”
There is also much to be done in terms of legislation and politics. In a hopeful stance, the ASPCA has endorsed a list of animal positive and humane issues for the new government to address, starting with this message:
President-elect Biden and Vice-President-elect Harris have both been strong advocates of animals as members of Congress (Harris is a major sponsor of the HEART Act), and we hope they will make animal welfare a priority under their administration.
Hopes for political support include:
• Improving the treatment of dogs and cats raised commercially as pets.
• Requirement of animal facilities to plan emergencies.
• Improve the treatment of animals raised for food and start moving away from industrial animal husbandry.
• Protection of horses from abuse.
• Building on significant advances in protecting wild horses and burros for generations to come.
As the world waits for the presidency to change, animal lovers are welcoming the Biden dogs (and maybe soon a cat) to the White House, who once again advocate human issues and goodwill for homeless pets.