By Ali Schultz

Philosopher Immanuel Kant once said, “He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” Now, more than ever in my life, I see the true importance of exemplifying compassion toward animals.

From a young age, my parents made it their mission to instill in my brother and me the value of treating animals with unconditional kindness. My mom always said we have to speak up for animal rights and preach kindness for all animals alike because, unfortunately, they do not have a voice of their own.

After a recent volunteer session at the Nevada Humane Society, this lesson appeared more important to me than it ever has been. Walking by the kennels filled with pets that used to be family members or who have never felt companionship, I couldn’t help but question humanity. Why do people neglect pets with such ease? Or worst of all, treat animals maliciously?

It also occurred to me that people are very ignorant of where their pets come from. According to the SPCA, most of which are no-kill animal shelters, every day in the United States, approximately 2.7 million cats and dogs are euthanized. The main contributors to this are people who buy from puppy stores and breeders. Purchasing animals funds evils such as unregulated puppy mills and animal euthanasia. Not to get all Sarah McLachlan on you, but while people continue to buy animals, thousands of pets with unconditional love to give are dying in shelters.

Wonder where your four-legged friend you bought at a puppy store is coming from? Most all puppy stores in America receive their pets from puppy mills. Don’t know what a puppy mill is? A puppy mill is an unregulated, filth-engulfed hell for any animal who is subjected to live there. Here, both dogs and cats are used as breeding slaves until they die from exhaustion.

Animals live out their lives in cramped, feces-covered cages only to be shipped off to their next destination (most likely a puppy store). If people stopped funding breeders and pet stores and recognized the importance of doing deep research before purchasing a pet, or rescued an animal from the pound or a no-kill shelter, eventually these pet stores and breeders will go under.

Another issue that seems to be so problematic today is the negative stigma people associate with pit bulls. What people don’t understand is the nature of the pit bull is based off of its breeding origin and upbringing. It is morally wrong to fault pit bulls for acts of violence when they were brought up in a negative environment. We do not fault misbehaved children who grow up in a cruel household.

In fact, most people have undeniable empathy toward those children. My question is, why is the same pity not demonstrated toward pit bulls? Another common thing I hear all the time is, “But I know someone who has had a pit bull their whole life and one day it just snapped.” It is called inbreeding, people. That’s what it does to an animal. When dogs are bred with other animals from the same litter, you cannot expect them to be 100 percent mentally competent; it is no different than it is with people. Pit bulls have it in their nature to be loyal family dogs — dogs that love unconditionally and live to serve their owners. It is a damn shame that shelters these days are overrun with pits because they come from incompetent, heartless owners.

Another thing that really irks me is people who do not have an open heart for the feline community. It is an everyday thing to hear of people who claim to love animals, but conveniently leave out the fact that they “hate cats.” Coming from someone who has had cats their whole life, I can attest to cats being just as much of a companion as any dog can. My senior year in high school wasn’t the easiest in my life; however, through that small rough patch in life one thing that always remained a constant was the unconditional love my cat Skye gave me.

Everyday at 12:20 when I would get home from school Skye would be waiting patiently by the garage door to greet me. I rescued Skye from an awesome organization I used to volunteer for in Las Vegas known as P.A.W.S. For the next five years Skye would give me more unconditional love than I could’ve ever wished for. He grew to be my cuddle buddy and, most importantly, part of my family. Unfortunately, at the end of my freshman year in college, I was given the news that Skye was experiencing terminal kidney failure.

Despite Skye’s debilitating condition, when I went home for summer vacation, Skye was just as much a comrade to me as he ever was. Never failing to greet me when I came back from my ventures and never trailing far behind me when it was time to go to bed, Skye exemplified that cats can be just as much a companion as dogs can. It really is just a matter of people keeping an open heart and an open mind.

Animals do not pass judgment. They do not act with malicious intentions and they don’t ask for much other than a shot — chance to be a family member. In return for an occasional belly rub and regular care, they promise to shower you with unequivocal love and affection that embodies genuine intentions. Animals do not have a voice, so it is our duty to become knowledgeable about what we could do to better animal welfare and to get out there and volunteer our time.

Albert Schweitzer, a famous philosopher and advocate of peace once said, “We must fight against the spirit of unconscious cruelty with which we treat the animals. Animals suffer as much as we do. True humanity does not allow us to impose such sufferings on them. It is our duty to make the whole world recognize it. Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living things, humanity will not find peace.” It is up to us to educate ourselves and broaden the extent of our compassion and empathy to animals. Speak up for those who can’t speak.

Ali Schultz studies journalism. She can be reached at and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.