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.
Available for adoption:
ADOPTED - FINLEY - Louis Wallach (wallachphotography.com) visited the Morris home in Ridgefield after the family welcomed Finley, a Belgian shepherd mix, who A New Chance Animal Rescue (anewchancear.org) in Bedford Hills had rescued from the Humane Society in South Carolina. He had been pulled from a kill shelter this summer. Finley’s new brother Cooper, a four-year-old Great Pyrenees mix, came from a shelter in Tennessee. “Finley was very calm,” says Wallach while photographing him. “Of course, treats help.”
ADOPTED - BAGEL (Beagle) Photographed by Andrea Topalian (momentsbyandrea.com)
I call this portrait “My New Best Friend” because you can see what a great buddy Bagel would make. My daughter was totally smitten with him. There are so many beautiful, loving, and deserving animals that need homes–even purebreds like this beautiful beagle. We currently have six rescue animals in our home and love them all. I hope someone takes Bagel home.
(To adopt: roar-ridgefield.org)
ADOPTED - JANET (Australian Heeler) Photographed by Jane Beiles (janebeiles.com)
When Jane met Janet at the Roar Animal Shelter in Ridgefiedl she was captivated. “Eyes are the mirror to her soul. Janet has such beautiful eyes. I can just imagine her curling up with her new owner as the perfect loyal companion. This was a really fun and worthy project. My kids had a ball and it’s a miracle Janet didn’t come home with us! I know she’ll be a great addition to another family so I hope that someone decides to adopt this lovely girl.”
(To adopt: roar-ridgefield.org)
ADOPTED - EDWARD Photographed by Nina Pomeroy (ninapomeroy.com)
“I really loved young Edward. According to Katherine Reid, Director of Wilton’s Animals in Distress, Edward was abandoned by his owners and spent his first year living on the streets. He would be great in an active home where he would have lots of play time and snuggle time. This orange tabby has beautiful light green eyes and was friendly and affectionate. If I didn’t already have a cat at home I would definitely adopt him. He would make a wonderful companion.”
(To adopt: animalsindistress.org)