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To the Rescue

C.A.R.E. Is Amplifying BIPOC Voices to Keep People and Pets Together

“We don’t consider what we are doing animal welfare work. We are taking a holistic approach to well-being for animals and humans.” 

by Tim Barribeau
April 14, 2022
Black woman smiling and holding a Siamese cat which is looking into the camera
Courtesy of CARE

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When you think about animal movies, what pops into your head — Beethoven? Best in Show? Turner & Hooch? Now think about the people whose stories these films tell, and an unsettling trend starts to emerge: almost everyone in them is white

From entertainment and advertising to rescues and groomers, there’s a stark lack of diversity looming over the world of pets. And that’s something the BIPOC-led CARE (or, Companions and Animals for Reform and Equity) is determined to change.

According to one study, the animal-welfare world is 84% white, while less than one percent of its leadership is Black. This not only means millions of people don’t see themselves reflected in these organizations — it also means the biases in those groups never get addressed. A Harvard Project implicit-bias study underscores the negative associations, attitudes, or stereotypes directed towards Black Americans, in particular. So as arduous as the adoption process can seem, it can be downright impossible for BIPOC, who’re often outright denied animal adoptions.

“We don’t consider what we are doing animal welfare work,” says Johnny Jenkins, CARE’s Chief of Staff and Research & Development. “We are doing human and animal well-being work. We are looking at the entire household, taking a holistic approach to well-being for animals and humans.” 

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CARE’s activism is disruptive in all the right ways. A dedicated research division documents and quantifies social injustices, while its narrative team connects those stats to the real-life animal lovers experiencing these biases. In Minneapolis’ Little Earth Indigenous community, for instance, CARE’s research team worked with locals to better understand the needs of the community, and actually make sure they were involved in data-gathering at every step of the way. 

That’s the real secret to CARE’s growing power: working with local activists to become leaders in the animal welfare world. According to Jenkins, 95% of these “proximate” leaders have limited exposure to animal welfare groups, so CARE, in turn, gives small grants, helps them network, and provides priceless legal assistance.

CARE is also finding creative ways to amplify BIPOC voices and reach new audiences to promote adoption, such as collaborating with up-and-coming rapper Dapper Dan Midas on a music video for the song “That’s My Dog.”

Also, they put money where their mouths are, thanks in part to donations from companies such as Maddie’s Fund, Petsmart Charities, and Tito’s Vodka. The organization’s CARE Center division has become an environmental-justice force in the making, pivotal in serving the underprivileged, especially those bearing the brunt of climate change. They have aided people in need of pet food, cat litter (including workshops on making your own cat litter hosted by activist Sterling “TrapKing” Davis), and spay-and-neuter clinics. According to the group, their goal is to “remove financial and transportation barriers and help ensure that people and their most treasured companions can stay together” — most recently in Kentucky, where several tornadoes devastated small towns. 

In February, for Black History Month, CARE recently launched the Dr. Jodie G. Blackwell Scholarship Fund to raise funds for African American veterinary students, noting that African Americans only represent two percent of the veterinary field. “There’s a lot of exciting opportunities to connect animal well-being to human well-being,” Jenkins notes, “and improve the quality of life across the country.”

So, what can you do? A lot! You can start by applying for CARE’s Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (REDI) certification. You can also sign up for CARE’s action arm, the Care Giver’s Circle. Or you can just donate directly to support their important work, even specifying which of their divisions you prefer your funds to support.

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tim barribeau

Tim Barribeau

Tim Barribeau is a freelance writer, editor, cat dad, and “help your boyfriend buy a suit that actually fits for once” consultant. He was previously the Style and Pets editor at Wirecutter, and has bylines at a bunch of publications that don't exist anymore (and a couple that still do).