Art From the Heart
A mission to empty pet shelters everywhere
Lisa Prince Fishler is an artist and self-described “animal person.” When she learned that a disproportionate number of pit bull dogs were being euthanized because they were perceived as dangerous, “it woke up the advocate” in her. “I wanted to do something on their behalf,” she says.
Prince Fishler volunteered at a pit bull rescue organization and found that she enjoyed taking adoption photos of the animals to be posted online. “I’d portray them the way I saw them–– not as vicious, but as loving, smart, funny dogs.” The photographs immediately brought about an uptick in adoptions. Prince Fishler then saw a heart-wrenching video about euthanizing in high-intake shelters. “Tears were streaming down my face and I thought, What can be done? I realized that if we could increase the number of people who bring a shelter animal into their home by 3 percent each year, the number of animals taken to shelters could be reduced to zero.”
And so HeARTs Speak was born. The organization registers and matches professional photographers with animal shelters in their area. The photographers regularly donate time to take portraits. Creative styling, having them play with a ball or a toy, or showing the animal engage with someone off camera, all work toward creating an evocative portrait which will help the animal find a home.
Currently HeARTs Speak has members in approximately 25% of the 13,300 shelters in the U.S.. The group provides an astounding 31,500 portraits each month. “But that only accounts for 25 percent of the shelters,” says Prince Fishler, downplaying her extraordinary accomplishment. “I want to help the other 75 percent, too.”
HeARTs Speak’s goal is to expand their Perfect Exposure Project (PEP) to shelters across the country. PEP offers financial support to shelters and teaches their staff techniques to help get their animals adopted through writing appealing bios, taking great photos, and marketing through social media.
When asked what’s most rewarding about what she does, Prince Fishler doesn’t hesitate. “Helping the shelter workers,” she replies. “They get compassion fatigue because they see so much sadness. Teaching the PEP workshops allows us to create the space for employees to get a much-needed break and have some fun.” She explains that by empowering shelter staff to make a tangible difference in the future of the animals they care for, they begin to feel happier and that they can really effect change. “After we leave, the difference is almost immediately evident: There’s more positivity in the language, the photos improve dramatically, and the adoption rates go way up.”
Take Perfect Pet Pictures
- Get On Their Level: Lie down on the floor to capture details you wouldn’t notice from higher up
- Surprise Them: Let your pet relax and play quietly, and then have someone call them. Click.
- Patience Is a Virtue: Allow them to relax, and soon you’ll capture the perfect picture
- Blur It: To put more focus on any critter, have them a few feet away from their background
- Candid Camera: Is your lazy cat yawning or your dog begging to play? That’s a great shot.
LEXUS - Kristin Burke Hynes (kristinburkephoto.com) braved a chaotic scene at a pet adoption event to get a nice shot of Lexus, a sweet-natured pooch with TLC Sweet Souls Rescue (tlcsweetsouls.rescueme.org) of Newtown. Lexus is a recent mama to another lovely gal named Tesla. According to co-founder of TLC, Laura Dorr, Lexus is a Min Pin/Rat Terrier mix who was rescued in the South. TLC is a foster-only group with many types of pets available for adoption.
ASPEN - Jeff McNamara (jeffmcnamara.com) zoomed in on Aspen, a three-month-old Australian Cattle Dog mix rescued from North Carolina, now residing at the CT Humane Society (cthumane.org) in Westport. There are at least eight dogs and eight cats at Westport’s location currently in need of homes, and Patrick Lynch, assistant district manager says many of those they receive from the South are from rescue groups that found them either abandoned or stray.
JESTER - Photographer Erin Smith of Fairfield tells us,“ I tried to capture Jester’s smile and his sweetness in this photo. He is a very loving, playful young dog who likes to be hugged and snuggled .” Jester, a Boxer mix, is with a foster home through Fairfield’s Little Black Dog Rescue (littleblackdogrescue.org). Amy Scarella, founder of LBD tells us that ebony-colored cats and dogs often suffer from “Black Dog Syndrome” and are frequently the last to be adopted and the first to be euthanized. LBD has several dogs in foster situations waiting for permanent homes.
BROOKLYN - Ty Foster of Ty Foster Photography (tyfoster.com) loved meeting and taking pictures of the charming five-year old “bully breed” Brooklyn who is with Bully Breed Rescue, of New Canaan (bullybreedrescueinc.org). “This guy has both looks and personality,” says Ty whose business is animal and pet photography. BBR’s goal is to rescue and place Pitbulls with responsible owners, in permanent homes. Sadly Pitbulls are a highly controversial breed, often maligned in the media, and one of the most commonly neglected and abused animals.