Dogs are considered man’s best friend, but who is a dog’s best friend? When it comes to advocacy and rescue, that honor goes to women. They’ve been at the forefront of the animal rescue movement since its beginning and have remained some of the most dedicated animal advocates over the years.
In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating awesome women in history who have helped pups, as well as featuring current female trailblazers in canine welfare – and the dogs that inspired them.
Mary Tealby: Founder of the First Animal Shelter
In the early 1800s, dogs lived vastly different lives from the ones pampered pooches enjoy today. Fear of disease left stray dogs victim to brutal treatment by the public, while healthy dogs faced the risk of being put to work pulling carts or forced into fights against other dogs. But in the mid-19th century, public opinion started to change. As ethics evolved to value kindness to animals and stories featuring hero dogs became popular, people began to see them as more than just street vermin.
Although more dogs became treasured members of families, stray and lost dogs were still suffering on the streets, with no one looking out for them. Spurred by the death of a dog she tried to nurse back to health, a London woman named Mary Tealby started a canine asylum housed in a stable in 1860.
Called the Temporary Home for Lost and Starving Dogs (later the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home), Tealby promised to care for them until they could be returned to their homes or find new owners. While the press mocked the notion of a home for down-and-out dogs as “ridiculous sentimentalism,” the support of literary greats like Charles Dickens helped shift public opinion towards Tealby’s work in a positive light.
Caroline Earle-White: founder of the Women’s SPCA
Across the Atlantic, Caroline Earle-White founded the Women’s Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (also known as the Women’s Humane Society) in 1869. The WPSPCA tackled a range of animal issues in Philadelphia, ranging from animal homelessness to humane education.
In addition to starting their own shelter, the WPSPCA raised enough money to employ three full-time cruelty officers and took on blood sports like dogfighting. Other dedicated animal lovers, especially women, imitated her successful model across the country to establish their own shelters and advocacy organizations.
Over the next few decades, the animal protection movement was one of the only places where women could be heard and make an impact on society. While they had few rights themselves, women took on the role of speaking for those who truly had no voice, linking women’s issues with animal-related causes throughout the years. While many women focused their attention on advocacy against vivisection through the 20th century, their role in animal rescue and protection remained essential its growth.
Today, one of the only fields where women hold a higher percentage of executive roles than men and dominate by sheer numbers is in animal welfare. Female legislators are also more likely to hold a perfect score in supporting animal protection legislation, making women true allies of dogs on every front.
While thousands of women are heroes for dogs every day, these three women are names in canine welfare you should know!
Theresa Strader & Lily: National Mill Dog Rescue
If you’ve heard of puppy mills, the cruel places where most pet store puppies come from, then you’ve probably heard of Theresa Strader. She founded National Mill Dog Rescue after attending a dog auction in Missouri with the intention of rescuing just a few discarded breeding dogs – and came home with thirteen instead.
One of those dogs was a fearful seven year-old Italian Greyhound named Lily, with tumors and a rotting jaw who became a part of her family. Seeing how years of substandard care left these poor dogs in terrible condition, Strader took up the cause of ending the cruelty of commercial dog breeding and making the public aware of the truth about where that puppy in the window comes from.
Animal rescue has always been a part of the Strader’s life, which she devoted most of her time to when she wasn’t working as a pediatric nurse. Over the past nine years, NMDR has rescued over 10,000 dogs, finding them homes where they will experience love and companionship for the first times in their lives. Strader spoke about their work at TEDx in Colorado Springs, and while she holds many roles within NMDR, her favorite is still foster mom.
Rebecca Corry & Angel: Stand Up for Pits
BarkPost readers are no strangers to Pit Bull advocate Rebecca Corry, leader of the One Million Pibble March on Washington and founder of Stand Up for Pits. Like Strader, the impetus behind Corry’s activism was her experience with her own rescued dog, Angel.
Found on the streets of Los Angeles with cropped ears and chemical burns, Angel barely made it out of the South Central LA shelter alive and spent 18 months in foster before she Corry found each other. In fact, one of the first benefits Corry hosted for the pibble cause was to cover the cost of one of Angel’s many surgeries.
Dedicated to raising awareness about the discrimination against Pit Bulls, Corry snapped a photo of Angel posed in front of the White House with a sign, asking the President to be a voice for the oft-maligned dogs.
The positive reaction to the image online inspired her to turn her call for action into an organized event: a march on Washington with thousands of other Pit Bull advocates called the One Million Pibble March. On March 3, 2014, over 4,000 people united as one voice against the abuse and discrimination that pit bulls are subjected to regularly.
Since the March on Washington, Corry continues to use her comedic prowess to tour the country in support of this paws cause, selling out shows and spreading the Pibble gospel in a way they would wholeheartedly approve of: using laughter.
Deirdre Franklin & Carla Lou: Pinups for Pitbulls
Tired of seeing perfectly healthy and adoptable dogs being put to sleep simply for their appearance, Deirdre “Little Darling” Franklin aimed to use her background in modeling and fine arts to change the way Pit Bulls were viewed, creating a calendar starring Pits and the ladies who love them.
She created Pinups for Pitbulls in 2005 to educate the public about the truth about Pit Bulls and combat breed-specific legislation. Each year, they issue a new calendar featuring Pit Bulls with human models in retro-style outfits and scenes, tying the aesthetic to a time when Pit Bulls were respected as protectors and family dogs.
The calendar’s human models, along with hundreds of other volunteers, advocate at events around the country that range from tattoo conventions to pop-up shops. Franklin’s educational background in public policy informs their fact-based approach to advocacy – she even wrote her thesis on breed-discrimination laws.
Do you know an amazing woman who should be on this list? Let us know in the comments below!