Dog News

HeARTs Speak: Photographers Focus on Shelter Dogs


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Studies tell us that having a pet can help a person lead a happier, healthier, longer life. Pets can reduce stress and depression and improve our mood. But, for those who have found an animal companion (or have they found us?) who became our confidante/best friend/exercise buddy/shoulder to cry on/biggest champion, our family, we don’t need studies to prove what we already know: pets just make life better.

Unfortunately, while they may have a bark or a meow, a trill, a chirp, a thump or an oink, they need people to be their voice. HeARTs Speak is an organization that provides that voice, bringing together artists and animal rescues and shelters to increase the adoptability of animals. Amazingly, we only need to increase shelter adoptions by 3% to stop unnecessary killing of adoptable animals.

HeARTs Speak believes that, just like people, when animals are featured in their best light on a rescue website or pamphlet, people are much more likely to develop a connection that leads to them seeing that animal in person, which makes it much more likely that they will bring that pet into their family.

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HeARTs Speak works to dispel the idea that shelter animals are somehow inferior or damaged. All of these photographs and drawings are of pets just waiting/hoping for a permanent family. Some of the photos above are by professional photographers, but HeARTs Speak also works to start the education early: the paintings are by elementary and middle school children who want to get the word out that shelter animals need homes, too.

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HeARTs Speak believes that artists should be paid a living wage for their work and will provide grants for artists who spend time in shelters helping them to take photos or create art that features adoptable pets in their most flattering light.

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HeARTs Speak will also work with artists to help them educate animal shelters and rescues on how to take better photos. A first impression only takes a few seconds, and online, it probably takes even less. The picture on the left shows a seemingly scared, sad dog. But, the picture on the right features a pet that looks right at home in a magazine, or cuddling on the sofa with family or tagging along with the kids on an outdoor adventure. What a difference the right composition and pose and light makes! But, this is not just glamor – having the right photo might actually be the difference between an animal that becomes adopted and an animal that is unnecessarily euthanized.

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The HeARTs Speak adoption watermark, developed by Lori Fusaro, embodies what HeARTs Speak seeks to do: connect artists, shelters and animals in a way that is beneficial for all.

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HeARTs Speak is not limited to photographers. HeARTs Speak members include all kinds of artists (painters, sculptors) of all levels (professionals with years of experience, career changers who are now focusing on their passion, young artists, old artists, students, professors)…

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…and all types of animals! Rescues aren’t just limited to dogs and cats, and HeARTs Speak features all kinds of animals (ferrets, bunnies, hamsters, snakes, and birds included!).

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Artists are using their fullest creativity and passion, and their work proves that animals at animal shelters need not be relegated to the wayside. These animals (and their artist friends’ work) are as bold and beautiful as any animal from the pet store or breeder.

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They are also as cute!

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…and as needing and loving.

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The thing about HeARTs Speak is that the organization creates results. There are great success stories. Animals (some that might not have made it) are adopted, artists are provided a living wage for providing their time and work (and they get to develop their art), artists also get to connect with advice and skill-development in HeARTs Speak’s online community, rescues are given invaluable support on how to best position their animals for adoptability, and the greater community is educated on how wonderful rescues can be.

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But, the most important connection of all? That animal who was waiting so long in the shelter for his forever family is now the proud, goofy, loving new member of a very happy home.

by Sarah Tomolonius