Throughout the pandemic, we heard countless news stories of people across the country adopting animals as a way to help them through the solitude and challenges of social distancing. But while millions of white families brought home pets, either adopting from a shelter or purchasing from a breeder, we heard different stories from pet lovers of color who were turned down for adoption of a homeless animal.
As an animal welfare nonprofit, Companions for Animals and Reform and Equity (CARE) is dedicated to identifying the organizational and personal biases within the animal welfare industry. It’s no easy task, with the industry being dominated by white women. CARE believes more diverse voices are needed to be brought to the table in this industry. The animal welfare cause preaches compassion and the humane treatment of animals, yet it does not apply those same standards to people of color.
CARE and Harvard University’s Project Implicit Study found that most animal welfare employees surveyed tended to be pro-white and pro-rich. Participants showed an implicit preference for whites versus Blacks, non-Hispanics over Hispanics and rich people over poor people. This was in contrast to self-reported preferences of Blacks over whites, Hispanics over non-Hispanics and poor people over rich people.
Many animal welfare groups as a whole try to protect animals up for adoption by requiring everything from a fenced yard for dogs, to ownership of a house, to meeting age requirements for adoption of a young puppy. At CARE, the excuses they have heard for adoption denial of an animal has led to more people of color going to breeders and pet stores to get a cat or a dog.
Whether we’re talking about a multi-million dollar animal welfare nonprofit or a small animal rescue group, the industry must change. While the industry’s people preach inclusiveness and compassion, it’s clear their actions are not the same as their words or social media posts. What makes this even more tragic is that in areas where there is still a problem with pet overpopulation, animals are being euthanized in shelters due to a lack of space and lack of loving homes.
By eliminating cultural biases when it comes to pet adoption, we believe we can save more homeless animals that are being euthanized every day for lack of space. It’s time to change and let everyone have the opportunity to love a pet.