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Expanding the Circle

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Expanding the Circle

By Erica Settino, This Dish is Veg
May 2013

It was while working at that shelter that I realized I would never stop working to save the lives of dogs and cats, but also that my work would include fighting to save the lives and promote the rights of animals of all species.

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Not all that long ago, I was working as a manager at a no-kill animal rescue and adoption center. Finally, I thought, my dream of helping animals had come true. And in some ways, it had. I spent my days surrounded by hundreds of dogs and cats who had been fortunate enough to escape any number of horrendous circumstances.

Many had been abused and neglected by the very people whose responsibility it had been to care for and love them. Lots were throwaways. Kicked to the curb when the novelty of a rambunctious puppy or kitten wore off. At least two dogs who arrived during my time there had been quite literally thrown away. Hope, a Beagle puppy was thrown from a speeding car. And Phoenix, a young Chihuahua, who is fast asleep on my lap as I type this, was thrown in a dumpster. Countless cats and kittens were left in boxes outside our gates. Some were surrendered when their guardians could no longer afford to feed them or pay their medical bills. Some arrived after losing everything in Hurricane Katrina, and never left. And some had the misfortune of being born into the shelter life. Knowing nothing of the potential happiness and love that might exist on the other side of the eight-foot high chain link fences they associated with home. In spite of it all, for the most part, they greeted me each morning with an exuberance and vigor for life that both humbled and inspired me.

And, to the best of my ability, using the limited resources that were available to me, I believe I did help them. We all did. Because we loved them. You’d have to in order to keep showing up despite the despair that settles into your bones. Knowing that day after day you would leave and never be able to take them with you. It is arduous and heartrending work at best. And just when you think you can’t do it for even one more minute, let alone an eight-hour day, something beautiful like an adoption of a hard to place animal goes through. Or a blood test comes back negative for cancer; or a check for one hundred dollars arrives from an anonymous donor in the mail, and you remember why you’re there.

For a time, that was enough for me. For a time, I was able to ignore the fact that while we were there working tirelessly to save the lives of those dogs and cats, billions of other animals were still being tortured, exploited, enslaved, and killed on a daily basis. And by the same people who claimed to love animals. By the same people I was working with. Good people who fought each day for dogs and cats, but were grilling up hamburgers and hotdogs in our parking lot at our biggest annual event. What exactly, I wondered, was the message we were trying to send? And if we were all so willing to fight, to give up our free time and our energy and passion for the dogs and cats we loved so much, why weren’t we all willing to do the same thing for animals of all species? This disconnection is prevalent and continues to grow each time any one of us claims to love one being, yet willingly harms another.

It was while working at that shelter that I realized I would never stop working to save the lives of dogs and cats, but also that my work would include fighting to save the lives and promote the rights of animals of all species.

So, through my organization, Karuna For Animals: Compassion In Action, Inc., I am proud to present the first Long Island Animal Rights & VegFest. Taking place on Saturday, July 13th. Please see our website for more information and to become involved. www.karunaforanimals.com 


Erica is the founder and executive director of the non-profit organization, Karuna For Animals: Compassion In Action, Inc. A long time vegetarian turned passionate vegan, she works tirelessly to educate others on the countless benefits of adopting a vegan diet. She currently holds a BS in Psychology with a concentration in Animal Behavior and an MFA in Creative Writing. Along with her work in animal advocacy, Erica works as an editorial assistant, freelance writer, certified and registered yoga instructor, nutritional counselor and health coach. She lives with her veg husband and their four rescued animal companions.