You don’t have to be an activist or community leader to to make small, impactful choices every day. We can make decisions that have a cumulative effect on the overall treatment, and experience of others, and influence outcomes for those who are vulnerable. Here are just a few:
The Bully Project defines and upstander: “When an upstander sees or hears about someone being bullied, they speak up. Being an upstander is being a hero: we are standing up for what is right and doing our best to help support and protect someone who is being hurt. In many ways, this is another word for being socially responsible.”
Support nonprofits in your community and conduct research about their organization. Guidestar and Charity Navigator are two resources that can help you learn more about local programs. Newer programs can be just as worthy of support as organizations that have been around longer. Look for the amount of information provided about their operation, see if there’s a conflict of interest policy, read the mission statement and see if their programs support the mission statement, see if any salaries are listed and compare them to the salaries of others in similar positions. Remember that organizations need money to serve their mission, so to truly support an organization of your choice, don’t forget they have expenses just like any other business. Ask questions and find a way to become involved.
Remember, the pet industry is completely unregulated, with the exception of veterinarians. People looking after your pet can make any claim they want, but your pet’s safety and wellness are at risk if you are uninformed. Choose pet services that reflect best practices and a science-based approach. The Pet Professional Guild has a wonderful member search tool to help you find a trainer, behavior consultant, or pet care provider.
Ask trainers specific questions about their training approach and philosophy. What will happen when your dog gets it right? What will happen when your dog gets it wrong? Do they use pain, fear, or intimidation when working with dogs? Look through their website for language like ‘pack leader,’ ‘alpha,’ dominance-based language that might indicate a trainer who is not current in their field. Many bootcamp style training involves aversive techniques. Make sure you drop in unannounced during training, and ask a lot of questions about what takes place. Even dominance-based trainers will use terms like ‘positive reinforcement’ so ask for specific examples. Ask what, if any, equipment might be used by a trainer or pet care provider.
Participate in a Project-Trade program and trade your prong/choke/e-collar for force free pet equipment.
Ask your local shelter or rescue what kind of trainers are used with their dogs prior to adoption, who they partner with, and if they have any specific policies regarding training and evaluation. Support organizations that use best practices and let those that don’t know why you’ve chosen to support someone else.
Report animal abuse to the local authorities, contact a humane organization if necessary.
If you suspect someone is experiencing abuse, whether it’s a coworker, friend, or family member, let them know you are concerned. Don’t ask questions such as ‘why don’t you leave,’ instead let them know they don’t deserve to be abused. Or, ask if they feel safe. Isolation is one of the hardest obstacles to overcome, so helping someone increase their network can go along way in being ready to seek help, but don’t feel defeated if someone isn’t receptive. Just showing concern is helpful. Reach out to your local domestic violence program for specific suggestions and support. Providing guidance to helpers is another way for abuse prevention programs to help targets of abuse.
Is someone in your family, or a neighbor, elderly and perhaps lonely? Con artists target the elderly relentlessly. In addition to lacking the critical thinking abilities they once had, the elderly can often be lonely, thus more willing to speak with people who call or visit. The more a con artist speaks with someone, the more they can learn about them, including financial information. If you know someone who is elderly, check in on them, visit once in awhile, see if they are at risk for telephone or other types of scams. Suggest a senior center, and take notice if someone has suddenly entered their lives.
Do your kids have playdates? Do you know if there’s a gun in the home? It may not change whether or not you continue to have playdates, but it can’t hurt to find out whether or not the homeowner has guns, and if so, how they are kept.
Do your local schools have programs to address topics such as bullying, or dating violence? Is there a way for adults to become involved or to mentor students? See if any of the school organizations would be interested in partnering with a local organization for a particular campaign or community effort. Local nonprofits are often interested in becoming involved with children and teens to promote safety in one way or another. Schools can be reluctant to add new programs, but it can be a great way to build community and provide education.
Check in with your local police department to see what kind of community programs exist and who can participate.
Have another idea? Contact us, we’d love to hear it!