Zenfolio pro team member Amiee Stubbs sat down with us to chat about her adventures with Animal Rescue Corps. She discusses how she got involved with photographing shelter pets, and how it can saves animals’ lives.
What led you to get involved with pet rescue?
We had three dogs when I became a full-time professional photographer, so I’d already spent years photographing them just for myself. I went back to college for photography, and had to choose a subject for a semester-long project for one of my classes. I decided to follow a local dog rescue and document what they do to help the community’s animals, and get their pets adopted. Plus, I had always felt like I connected with animals, dogs especially. Understanding animal behavior is vital to photographing pets, for your safety and theirs. I had been doing rescue photography for two years when Animal Rescue Corps approached me; they asked if I could photograph a rescue operation in July 2012. I’ve been volunteering with them ever since.
Hurricane Isaac Response (natural disaster)
Macon County Horse Rescue (neglect/cruelty)
What do you do photography-wise for them?
Animal Rescue Corps is an international animal protection organization based out of Washington, DC. We work directly with law enforcement on large-scale rescue operations, such as natural disasters, puppy mills, dogfighting, and animal hoarding. I document the rescue operation and edit selected photos for real-time media updates, which are critical in engaging supporters and communicating needs for additional volunteers, supplies, and donations. After the rescue operation is over, we set up an emergency shelter, where I continue to document the animals as they improve. I also take official portraits of each animal once they’ve settled in, usually after their first grooming. I have a special gallery on my website that features all of these newly adoptable animals, and we share it with our placement partners across the country. Then those placement partners (rescue groups and shelters) bring the animals into their programs and find them forever homes. I also teach the photography portion of our animal rescue course that we offer around the country a few times each year.
Operation Broken Chain (dog fighting)
Tell us more about the organizations you’re in.
In addition to Animal Rescue Corps, I’m also a member of HeARTs Speak, a global network of artists & advocates that provide pro-bono services to animal welfare organizations. When area rescues or shelters need help, I volunteer to photograph their adoptable animals. Good photos help them get adopted more quickly.
Operation Liberty Dogs (puppy mill)
Operation New Day (hoarding)
What is your favorite part about working with these organizations?
The best part of my work with Animal Rescue Corps is watching the animals transform. I’ve seen some horrible things, such as dogs who were literally matted into rusty cages. We get to pull these dogs, cats, horses, donkeys, rabbits, chickens, parrots, etc. away from horrific conditions, and watch them make the journey into loving homes. To see a dog walk on grass for the first time—there’s nothing else like it.
With HeARTs Speak, artists come together for the worthy cause of getting more animals adopted from shelters/rescues. So many talented photographers are part of the HeARTs Speak team, and I’m honored to be included among them.
Left to right: Operation Midnight Run (hoarding), Operation Delta Dogs (dog fighting)
What’s the biggest misconception people have about animal rescue organizations?
A major misconception about rescue animals is that the animals are a less safe choice for adoption than buying a pet from a breeder; nothing could be further from the truth. With the limited gene pool of many sought-after breeds, physical and behavioral issues can be quite common in certain purebreds.
With regard to organizations, the biggest misconception is that all large animal rescue groups are extremists that attack those that do not agree with them. While certain organizations have earned a reputation for extreme behavior in pursuit of media attention, it’s not true of all of them, and certainly not the groups I choose to work with. It is impossible to effect meaningful change without being inclusive and open to discussion with people of differing views.
Operation Autumn Angels (puppy mill)
How does photography help animals get adopted?
Typically, shelters are overwhelmed with physical care of the animals, and pictures are frequently just taken with webcams when the animal first arrives, and it is usually terrified. When this is the only photo, it is difficult for a potential adopter to emotionally connect with that animal in the short time frame that many shelters have. Strong photos increase the odds of someone making this connection. You want people to look at the photo and immediately want to make that pet a part of their family. You want to capture the animal’s personality. To make the images more engaging, the photos need to be sharp, with the animal’s eyes in focus, and I recommend being at eye level, too. If you’re a photographer looking for a way to help animals, please reach out to a local rescue or shelter and offer your time. You’ll make a big difference, and you’ll help save lives.
CLICK HERE for examples of Amiee’s work in helping animals get adopted.
Operation Unbridled Spirit (puppy mill)
What are you most passionate about in terms of initiatives people are making for animals? What can we do better?
Spaying and neutering is an initiative that needs to continue to be emphasized. Pet overpopulation is the major driver of so many animals dying in shelters every day, as evidenced by the ASPCA statistics that approximately 7.6 million pets enter shelters and 2.7 million are euthanized.
One way we can do better is to increase the legal penalties associated with owners profiting from animal cruelty. Outside of a few exceptions, people profiting from cruelty to animals often receive punishments that are not harsh enough to curb the behavior. This has begun to be addressed by treating dog fighting as a felony at the state and federal levels, but we need to similarly address deplorable conditions in large-scale breeding operations. Legal definitions of cruelty should also be updated, as they are often insufficient to prevent long-term suffering.
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Amiee Stubbs specializes in contemporary pet portraits and commercial pet photography. She also photographs for several animal organizations. Amiee lives in Nashville with her husband and six dogs.