HOPE Award 2012: Second Place Essay
By Paris Beckett, Spanish student
“You must be the change you want to see in the world”
The department of foreign languages annually awards the HOPE Award to a student who writes an essay responding to a quotation meant to explore the relationship between community service, education, and leadership; particularly in the context of how these can improve the world. The essay can be written in English or any of the seven languages that are taught by the department. The first prize is $150 and publication of the winning essay in Lingua Franca.
The 2012 winner was Ashley Taylor who wrote in response to a quote by Mahatma Ghandi about her desire to educate the world about autism. Her essay was published in the last edition of Lingua Franca. The second place winner was Paris Beckett and runner up was Ryan Viglione. Below you will find Ms. Beckett’s second place essay.
Hope is something that thousands of souls do not have. Every day a large number of lives are lost. However, despite what many think, this is not because of hunger or disease or even war. These lives are lost because there is no room for them; every year an estimated three to four million shelter cats and dogs are euthanized according to the Humane Society. That’s millions of lives wasted only because there is no room in shelters. If people were substituted for animals in this case it would be considered genocide, but instead it is a reality, and every day thousands of these unfortunate souls are lost.
There is a prejudice against these animals; that they are unhealthy, or not good pets, or that there is something innately wrong with them. These are myths that people subscribe to willingly. The Humane Society does behavior tests on all of its animals, and these tests are also performed by smaller local shelters. Health-wise the “mutts” frequently come out on top because of genetic diversities that pure breeds and animal breeders cannot achieve.
But this prejudice is not only on the outside of shelters, it exists inside as well. Bully breeds of dogs are often immediately euthanized simply because they are considered a risk, or because they are too hard to place in proper homes. These dogs only require more time than other dogs; it has been proven that many dogs used in dog fights can be rehabilitated, with time. But they are not given the chance. Cats also are victims of discrimination; feral cats are considered too difficult to place and are also immediately euthanized. These cats only lack in human contact and it has been shown they too, with time, can also be rehabilitated into social animals.
If there is to be any hope people need to be made aware. People need to be shown that the mutt in the shelter is capable of as much love and devotion as any pure breed. A pure breed will always get a home. A shelter animal has a substantially lower chance of finding a loving home simply because people overlook the shelter as a result of their prejudices. People favor the pets in the pet store windows, where they can shop for companions in a familiar consumer environment. These puppies and kittens are from mills where consumer demand enables non-breeders to continuously force animals to reproduce in tiny cages, dirty environments, and with no regard for healthy blood lines or parents. The general public is ignorant, or is even willing to ignore, the deplorable conditions that these animals endure in their early lives because pet shops are “cute”, or simply because of apathy.
The action required is the promotion of awareness and the solution is exposure. People exposed to shelters cannot ignore their potential to save an animal’s life, as they could when simply driving by. If people go to shelters and see how many animals there really are then they can decide to spay and neuter their pets, which many shelters do automatically now, to stop the flow of abandoned pets. People need to be made aware of the reality about domesticated animals.
I have two rescued pets. One of them is a dog named Ruby—she is a mutt and has been my best friend for thirteen years and is still in good health. My other pet is a cat that was found on the street as an abandoned kitten and at two-years-old is the best TV companion a college student could ask for. Every time a person says they want a pet I point to a shelter, I combat the myths, and I provide facts. If compassion is not enough to sway an opinion, I opt for a more empirical argument. A shelter pet is cheaper than one from a breeder, for example. My dog was seventy five dollars with a collar and leash—a friend of mine just got a pure-bred puppy that was four thousand dollars. I will not say either dog is better, and I only hope that they both get homes, but one is guaranteed while the other is in limbo, and no life should be lost just because the pedigree wasn’t there, or because a prejudice denied them their freedom.