Baby Boomers fondly will recall famous four-legged celebrities of our youth, like “Nipper,” the dog with one ear cocked to better hear “His Master’s Voice” on the old-fashioned phonograph, who became the mascot of audio and TV maker RCA. Or what about good ol’ “Petey,” with the distinctive “black eye,” who was best friend to Spanky and “The Little Rascals”?
They were adorable, friendly canines that fairly could be called “America’s dogs,” as Liz Peterson puts it.
Those Staffordshire Terriers are better known to most of us as pit bulls. They are banned in towns, like Denver, that have laws against owning a certain type of dog based on what it looks like rather than on any undesirable behavior it has exhibited.
Liz Peterson points out that pit bulls are wrongly “persecuted” as an innately mean or evil dog, which she says is not true, adding that the unfair reputation attached to them is the fault of abusive owners who breed them to fight as a sadistic sport. “Pit bull” is in fact a nickname, not a proper name like Schnauzer or German Shepherd. The actual breed is American Staffordshire Terrier.
When it comes to animal rights, Liz Peterson is the go-to expert in our area. “I can tell you about virtually every animal issue in the world,” she says proudly.
The Cortlandt Manor resident is founder and president of Dancing for Animals, which she describes as “a fundraising vehicle that gives grants to animal-loving organizations, educates people about animal welfare issues and inspires them to get involved.” Her knowledge extends to all kinds of animals, but Dancing for Animals concerns itself strictly with domestic animals.
Ms. Peterson takes a decidedly holistic view of the relationship between homo sapiens and non-homo sapiens: “I don’t believe as a human that I am superior to other species,” she says. “To treat them lesser because they are different speaks to the way humans treat other humans who are different. A large percent of human advancements are inspired by the skills of other species. We wouldn’t have airplanes without birds or sonar without whales or bats.”
The founder of Dancing for Animals is a professional dancer and dance instructor who raises money for her not-for-profit organization through dance-related activities. She uses some of the funds for her charity’s operating expenses, but disburses a lot of the monies to animal rights groups in the form of grants that average $250-$500. The money typically is used “to alleviate medical and food costs for the rescued animals,” explains Ms. Peterson.
A significant initiative Liz is particularly passionate about is the best practice of “Trap-Neuter-Return”—or TNR—for community cats. She describes it as a “humane way to stem the population of cats and take care of feral or community cats.”
A cat owner who decides to get rid of the pet callously may decide to abandon it outdoors, called “dumping.” The animals form colonies and breed.
With TNR, a mark is put on their ears (“ear-tipping”) to indicate they are not able to breed and are okay to leave in the colony. In some cases, animal control agencies (as in New York City) try to return ear-tipped cats to documented, managed colonies, says Ms. Peterson, but most city shelters in the U.S. do not have TNR programs yet in place. A high-percentage of community cats are feral and unadoptable because they are not socialized. Taking them to a shelter, she says, typically is a “death sentence.”
Liz says TNR stops breeding, prevents disease and curbs “nuisance behavior” by cats, such as fighting and spraying. It also saves municipalities money, because it is more cost-efficient than the outright killing of cats. She says that towns with TNR policies have lower euthanasia rates, adding, “It costs less to do the humane thing.”
Liz Peterson is constantly looking for ways to broaden her work and support system. “I’m hoping my organization will grow and I’ll be able to give out larger grants in the future. It’s one day at a time, but the grassroots organizations to which I give grants, small as they may be, it really does help.”
Dancing for Animals is registered as a 501(c)(3) charity with the Internal Revenue Service, which makes it tax-exempt. To be eligible for one of its grants, Liz Petersen requires that her beneficiaries also be certified by the IRS as 501(c)(3), which helps validate that the money she donates is being used as intended.
She is available to advise families, individuals and community groups about sponsoring fundraisers from which at least a portion of the proceeds are donated to Dancing for Animals or another 501(c)(3) charity with a comparable mission and credentials.
For more information, contact Liz Peterson, firstname.lastname@example.org; DancingForAnimals.org.
Bruce Apar is Chief Content Officer of Google Partner Agency, Pinpoint Marketing & Design, as well as an actor and a regular contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce the Blog on social media. Reach him at email@example.com or 914-275-6887.