Tell your friends about ASI:
We Need Your Help Today to Make a Difference Tomorrow
Dear ASI Friends,

People across the nation and around the world are reaching out, stepping up, and doing what they can to help humans and animals as we fight COVID-19. Here at ASI, we are curating reliable COVID-19 animal-related information—highlighting the positive and
dispelling faulty information that has the potential to harm animals.

Now, as always, we want to ensure that both animals and people are staying safe. But I must tell you, right now our programs are in trouble. Donations are known to dwindle in times of uncertainty—and that is exactly what we are experiencing. This month alone we’ve seen a drop of 92% in the donations we rely on to continue our programs’ good results.

This COVID-19 donation downturn affects all of us concerned with advancing knowledge to improve animal lives and that’s why we’re turning to you for help.

ASI provides information, tools, and hands-on assistance to people working on the full spectrum of human-animal relationships. Our meaningful work includes everything from treating people who abuse animals to translating research on human-animal interaction into practice and policy.

We don’t receive government funding. We don’t have endowments. We rely solely on individual donations from people just like you—people who care about animals and our relationships with them—to maintain our operations, retain our staff, and continue the good results our programs foster.

I realize this is a stressful and uncertain time for us all, and there is a tendency to want to wait until it’s all over to act. Please know, the only way we can keep our programs thriving is with your help.

I’ve never before asked for your assistance with this sense of urgency. Please help us today so that we can continue to make a difference tomorrow.

Stay safe and healthy!
Executive Director
Human-Animal Relations &
COVID-19 Information

A Reflection by Dr. Gala Argent, HAS Program Director
First, I hope you and your loved ones are all healthy, safe, and weathering the pandemic situation as best as you can. Things are stressful and uncertain for us all, and we want to help with that.

It is important to hold in mind that the coronavirus is called “novel” for a reason. We have never experienced this virus, and we are scared—for ourselves, our loved ones, our communities, and the animals of the world. We crave information, and are anxious to share it with others. But the extent of our knowledge is changing daily. This means that what we think we know one day might change dramatically the next. Because social media is so powerful, it is crucial to take a measured approach to the exchange of information, in order to insure what we are passing along is both timely  and  accurate. 

Wild animals:
One instance of misinformation that arose this month were stories of wildlife bouncing back, running free and returning to places now sparsely inhabited by humans under lockdown. But while swans and dolphins returning to canals in Venice and elephants strolling through Asian villages might give us a moment of respite from our situation, in these instances  the stories weren’t true

Travel restrictions and social distancing efforts  are  keeping people home, but that is having  both positive and negative impacts on wild animals . Encouraging examples, for instance, show  critically endangered sea turtles in Brazil  and  in India  are now hatching at higher rates due to deserted beaches. However, travel restrictions and social distancing have  caused problems for street animals  worldwide who rely on humans for food, although  people are stepping up to help.

Companion animals:
News circulated this month of isolated cases of pet dogs and cats testing positive for COVID-9, spawning questions and concerns that pets might have the potential infect humans. 

According to three credible expert sources, there is no evidence that pets can spread the COVID-19 virus to people. Both the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  and the  Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine  see no evidence that companion animals can spread the novel coronavirus to people. And as of April 19, the   American Veterinary Medical Association   note that they have no information that suggests that pets might be a source of infection for people with the COVID-19 virus.

The issue here is more about keeping  pets  safe—if we are ill, we should be concerned with infecting our pets. Pet owners with COVID-19 should avoid contact with their animals as much as possible, including wearing a face covering while caring for them.

In other companion animal news, the Institute for Human-Animal Connection has compiled a  list of COVID-19 considerations for companion animals , and RedRover has published a  list of emergency resources for people and pets  that includes emergency funding for veterinary care, boarding, pet food, and educational resources, among others.

Social isolation:
Shelters continue to empty  as  adoptions spike . But this raises concerns about the lives of the animals adopted once quarantine efforts cease. Some  shelters fear that large numbers of pets will be returned . It’s also probable that if not directly abandoned, many  newly adopted pets will feel abandoned  once their adopters return to work.

Along these lines, the distressed, edgy and untethered feelings we have because of stay-at-home orders have fostered positive discussions aimed at sharing empathetic awareness  of the ways such isolation and confinement might similarly affect the animals in our care —including  companion animals , zoo animals, animals in laboratory research, and those raised as products under intensive livestock practices. All of these issues deserve more attention and discussion.

The issue of “wet markets”:
Finally, a great deal of attention has focused on identifying the possible origin(s) of the COVID-19 virus. Initial consensus seemed to be that the virus originated in Wuhan, China in a “wet market” at which live wild and farmed animals are sold for food. More recent research notes this is far from certain. As pointed out in  this article  analyzing the issue of the wet-market origin of the virus, “analysis of the first 41 Covid-19 patients in  medical journal the  Lancet  found that [only] 27 of them had direct exposure to the Wuhan market. But the same analysis found that  the first known case of the illness did n ot.”

While the question of the origin of the virus remains uncertain, it has most certainly spurred positive discussion about the human use of animals in these ways. At the same time,  wet markets “have been portrayed as emblems of Chinese otherness, ” with the outcome of a growing number of xenophobic attacks against Asians and the Chinese. This  thoughtful piece in Earth Island Journal  points out the complex concerns that are often lost with narrow, unidimensional calls to close these markets, and argues that rather than pushing for a closure of China’s wet markets we should focus instead on getting wild and exotic animals out of what are essentially the Eastern equivalent farmers' markets.

The closure of wet markets is certainly a red flag issue for animal advocates. (And indeed,  recent polls show that 97 percent of Chinese citizens are now strongly against wildlife consumption .) Given the unintended consequences some of these recent calls have caused, we might consider carefully if our advocacy could be used to promote culturally insensitive narratives that could be misconstrued to endorse xenophobic actions, and look instead for ways to stimulate positive outcomes for both animals and people.

Here at ASI, we recognize that COVID-19-related information is fluid and changes with each day. Our goal is to curate the most reliable COVID-19 animal-related information—highlighting the positive and dispelling inaccurate information that has the potential to harm animals and people. We will continue to follow scholarly and expert sources, unbiased media, and social commentary about how these issues affect both animals and people. Now, as always, we want to ensure that both animals and people are staying safe. 

New Grants to Support Domestic Violence Victims and their Animals

As recognition of the relationship between domestic violence and animal abuse continues to grow, we
are encouraged to see the U.S. Department of Justice supporting efforts to address this link. The Office
for Victims of Crime is seeking applications to support shelter and transitional housing services for victims of domestic violence and their companion animals. Organizations that serve both people (e.g.,
domestic violence and sexual assault victim service providers, domestic violence and sexual assault coalitions) and animals (e.g. an animal shelters, animal welfare organizations) are eligible to apply.

The program’s objectives are to: (1) increase the number of shelter beds and transitional housing options to meet the needs of victims of domestic violence who need shelter or housing for themselves
and their companion animals. (2) provide training on the link between domestic violence and the abuse and neglect of companion animals; the needs of victims of domestic violence; best practices for
providing support services to such victims; and best practices in designing and delivering services that protect victims’ confidentiality.

Five awards are anticipated totaling $2 million. The deadline to apply is May 29, 2020. To learn more, click here.
COVID-19 Consequences and Responses
A Reflection by Ken Shapiro ASI Board President
In response to the impressive gains in the production and sales of plant-based protein products, a debate over one of their claimed benefits --- whether their consumption has a human health benefit -- centers on understanding what the “process” in processed foods means in terms of health. While veggie burgers are processed so are most foods that we consume. While some processing involves removing healthy ingredients, some involves adding such, as well as other benefits such as reducing spoilage time. Eating plant-based “meat” has other many other health benefits compared to animal-based meat – more fiber, less saturated fat, less cholesterol, more complex carbohydrates, less pathogens, less danger of creating “superbugs” that resist antibiotics. (See a recent article produced by Good Food Institutes – “Plant-based Meat and Your Health”. The benefits of replacing intensive farming with vegan products has many other far-reaching consequences for wildlife and the environment.

Another consequence of the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic is the spotlight on so many of our practices and policies involving other animals. For example, the stay-at-home orders have led to a dramatic increase in domestic violence. We know from research on the relation of human violence to animal abuse that a significant percentage of those cases also will involve violence toward companion animals and the threat of that will often deter the human victims from leaving their home. In response to this situation about 70 House members requested that Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy add $4,000,000 to the next stimulus package to create a grant program “to help domestic violence shelters accommodate survivors with pets.” (For an analysis of the issue, click here.)

While some monies for this purpose were included by the incorporation of the Pets and Women Safety Act into the 2018 Farm Bill, it is argued that that amount is insufficient, given the uptick in domestic violence occasioned by our responses to the pandemic. 

Thanks in part to Maddie’s Fund® ASI recently partnered with My Dog is My Home to evaluate and identify best practices in “co-sheltering” of people and their companion animals. The lack of animal-friendly policies and practices in many shelters means people experiencing homelessness are often asked to choose between their companion animals and a warm, safe place to stay. The evaluation will inform development of animal-friendly policies and practices in homeless shelters nationwide, reducing the likelihood that animals will be relinquished simply because their caregivers are experiencing a period of homelessness. We believe this project has the potential to fundamentally transform the way homeless services are provided to people and the animals they love. Stay tuned as we will release our research report soon.
Greetings readers! I’m Daniel and I’ve been taking care of the administrative end of things here at ASI since 2012. Although I started as a humble assistant to the Managing Director my real first “job” with ASI was as a volunteer. 

Volunteering has been a big part of my life and for the past decade or so much of that volunteering happens at animal sanctuaries. Being able to help non-human animals directly by cleaning their stalls and pastures or feeding them really helps me to feel a deep connection between my ethics and my everyday life. Whether it is cleaning out water bowls and troughs or mucking out stalls, the physical activity combined with the proximity of the residents is probably the most relaxing thing I do all week. Of course with the animals right there is easy to extend a hand to scratch under a chin or rub a belly. It doesn’t take long to learn who likes what and sometimes they’ll even seek me out for attention.

Lately, however, I’ve been missing that connection since my regular shift at Barn Sanctuary is on hold while the staff there practices the social distancing they need to keep both them and the residents safe. Luckily, a new way to make that connection is available not just to me, but also to you, and you don’t have to live close to a sanctuary to enjoy it. Over the last year or so I have noticed something different when I go out to volunteer - a camera crew! The crew were there to get footage for what is now an hour long weekly show that airs every Saturday at 10:00 PM EDT on Animal Planet*. And if you watch closely you might just see me in the background, and probably out of focus. But that’s fine because the residents and the staff are the stars of the show and they don’t disappoint. Each of the first three episodes have been one of the highlights of my week. This week’s episode will be extra special for me as it features my friend Joey (the cow) who is pictured with me above. Joey had a bit of a rough start in life and needed several surgeries before he joined the rest of the animals at Barn Sanctuary. 

*In the U.S. the show can be found on the Animal Planet cable channel, the Animal Planet GO app, the Animal Planet website (full episodes available after they have aired), and a number of streaming services. Outside the U.S. you’ll need to check your local cable provider, streaming service, or the version of the Animal Planet website for your country to find out how to watch.