Photographer Lisa Prince Fishler started HeARTs Speak for one simple reason: every day, from one end of the country, countless adoptable animals are needlessly euthanized. More often than not, they haven’t landed in shelters because there’s something wrong with them; changes in their owners’ lives — be it a drop in income, a change in living arrangements, or the arrival of a child — or simple abandonment account for the lion’s share of shelter animals.
Just as simple economics sometimes works against pet owners, it’s not a shelter’s best friend, either. The average shelter runs on a shoestring, and providing funds to a photographer or painter means cutting back somewhere else. Artists, similarly, may find themselves in the unenviable position of wanting to help but being unable if volunteer work means cutting back on paid assignments. HeARTs Speak takes a two-pronged approach to these problems through donations of photographic equipment to shelters that are inaccessible to photographers, and via cash stipends to the photographers themselves. With simple photographs and paintings, HeARTs Speak and its contributing artists put a face on the problem, raising not only awareness, but also adoption rates in the process.
The good news is that increasing the number of adoptions by a mere three percent means the end of shelter animals being needlessly put to death. HeARTs Speak seeks “[t]o unite the individual efforts of animal artists & animal rescues into collective action for social change.” Their mission is “to provide the framework, tools & resources to support animal artists working to help animals in need; to disseminate messages that inspire a better understanding of the emotions of animals & ultimately an understanding of, and compassion towards them; to connect Rescues/Shelters with artists with the intention of breaking down the myth that animals from Rescues and Shelters are inferior in some way. Professional Photographs greatly improve adoptability and ultimately, will increase the number of animals adopted and reduce the numbers that are euthanized.”
Says Fishler, “I love what happens when people come together.” To that end, her outreach has included not just photographers and painters, but also other organizations. “HeARTs Speak is actually very excited to be joining forces with The Unexpected Pit Bull Calendar. They’ve been around since 2004, and donate 100% of their net proceeds to pit bull dog related advocacy and rescue groups. We had almost 40 submissions for the calendar, of which we chose 13 to grace its pages. It’s something new for us, and for TUPB, but what has resulted is pure magic.”
Animal rescue can seem like a daunting task, but Fishler seems to hew to the old adage that it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog: “We only need to increase the number of animals adopted each year by 3% in order to reduce the numbers euthanized to zero. The more people we have working together, the sooner we can make that happen.” If you’d like to join in the effort, whether as a donor or as a photographer (the organization is always looking for artists and photographers, of all skill levels), visit their website, http://heartsspeak.org/