When I rolled out of bed this morning, I had lots of things on my mind: coffee, breakfast and making sure I had all of my electronic devices charged and ready to go!
So it was a harsh—and much-needed reminder—when I arrived at the Morning Keynote to listen to Mike Arms talk about the first thing he thinks about when he wakes up in the morning: the business of saving the lives of innocent animals.
Mike Arms is an animal welfare activist who is “the man who has saved more animals than any other person, living or dead, in animal welfare history.” He didn't set out in life to save animals - in fact, he says he came about it by “somebody else's design.” When working for the ASPCA as an accountant, he was asked to make an emergency run to pick up a small black and tan puppy who had been hit by the car. While he was picking the puppy up, who was shattered, bloody and broken, Arms was attacked by a few thugs who were enjoying watching the puppy die. The puppy managed to stay with Arms and lick his face, reviving him back to consciousness, and Arms decided then and there to make animal welfare his mission.
What stemmed from that became a quest to change the way the model works, looking at animal shelters and “dog pounds” through a different lens. While everything else has undergone a renovation, Arms says, like dump trucks being called “waste management,” many animal shelters are still living in the past, euthanizing millions of pets each year. Arms' center was also where the Hurricane Katrina pets we talked about last week were sent to when we flew them in from New Orleans.
From his Rancho Santa Fe Helen Woodward Animal Center, Arms has found innovative ways to market stray animals (calling them “blends” instead of “mixed breeds) and raise money (for example, hosting a summer camp to teach children to co-exist peacefully with animals. He also helps other animal shelters come into the 21st century by hosting free training seminars every other month. As Arms said, when it comes to animals, “Love is not enough…they have our hearts but it's our minds they need that's going to save their lives.”
Arms had the entire crowd in tears, particularly when he had Dr. V (who we had a Q&A with last week) from Pawcurious stand up and read an extremely moving letter from a shelter worker in North Carolina who was in charge of gassing pets every Friday (you can read the letter here but, fair warning, it is very hard to read). He implored everyone to work to be the future of these pets' lives. While it was difficult to listen to, it was important to remember that many of these bloggers have a higher purpose behind their blogs and why they're writing them. If it wasn't for many of these people, who would be helping these animals? If you are an animal shelter who would like to attend one of Arms' free “Animal Center Education Services”, you get in touch with them on their website.
One cool thing about this conference is that there are adoptable pets from PetFinder.com - onsite! I checked in with the kitties today and found not only several kittens but a very special friend named Snotface. I think his name should be Sweetface, as he is very friendly and even tried to climb into my bag and hide. Enjoy the video from our Facebook page below!