April 9, 2013
Safe Humane’s mission is to create safe and humane communities by inspiring positive relationships between people and animals. They recognize the connections between animal abuse and interpersonal violence and the benefits of the human-animal bond. Their programs focus on education, advocacy and second chances and we had the amazing opportunity to interview their Executive Director, Cynthia Bathurst.
Q. What was your motivation behind starting Safe Humane Chicago?
A. Safe Humane Chicago (SHC) was started out of the need and desire to create safer, more humane communities and to bring together all those who want them. Human-welfare advocates and companion-animal advocates share a common goal: we all care about safe neighborhoods. And we can’t have a safe neighborhood if it is not humane. So SHC was started to change the way people interact with, care for, and think about animals in communities, neighborhood by neighborhood, person by person – and to engage a much broader audience than animal welfare activists or human-welfare activists alone could engage.
SHC grew out of another organization – the Dog Advisory Work Group – in 2008 in order to implement programming piloted in 2007 to address the need for education, advocacy and second chances for people and animals. We wanted an organizational name that would inspire human and animal organizations as well as individuals to work together to improve their communities. The name was created out of the community policing effort called Project Safe Neighborhoods and the recognition that a humane community is safer. We wanted programming to increase the number of lives saved and improve quality of life – for people and animals alike.
Q. How is the organization addressing animal and human violence in our communities through its programming?
A. The fundamental idea that led to SHC is that community safety and the humane treatment of animals are closely related. Violence towards animals in a community is highly correlated with violence towards people. We recognized that a campaign to reduce the violence against children and companion animals could make a community safer for everyone. We also understood that the development of empathy in humans is often enhanced in children by positive relationships with animals and that a proactive and positive approach to combating violence would be to promote compassion and caring for people and animals. What we needed was an alliance of non-traditional partners that recognize the connections between animal abuse and interpersonal violence and the benefits of the human-animal bond.
Through education, advocacy, and direct work with animals, we seek to inspire positive relationships between people and animals, starting with our youth. By working together with diverse, non-traditional community partners who share our mission to reduce violence and nurture compassion, we can reach our goal of creating safer, more humane communities for both animals and people.
So we focus on at-risk youth and at-risk animals in disadvantaged communities – communities challenged by violent crime and lack for resources for healthy, productive lives. We strive to empower individuals and groups within those communities with the education and access to resources that will lead them to build safer, more humane communities themselves.
We have five main programs: Youth Leaders who spread Safe Humane messages to younger children, Lifetime Bonds for at-risk youth and at-risk dogs in disadvantaged communities, D.A.W.G. Court Advocacy and Court Case Animals (the last two of which are part of a Collaborative Justice effort that includes training for law enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges), and Community Outreach. Check out www.safehumanechicago.org/programs to learn more.
Q. SHC has a number of relationships, both civic and governmental, that are integral to programming. Whichpartnerships are you most proud to have made, and how does the organization really benefit from it?
A. I am most proud of the existence of the partnerships – all of them – the number, the diversity and the possibility for many more. We work closely with, and are trusted by, the Chicago Police Department, Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Park District and Chicago Animal Care and Control; Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice and Illinois Youth Centers; and the U.S. Department of Justice COPS Office, to name a few.
We partner with businesses in our celebrations and for both fundraising and volunteer events. Businesses provide funding to support our mission and programs; donate products and services for projects and events; leverage their brand to spread Safe Humane messages; and provide volunteers to supplement programming. Foundations and granting organizations also provide needed programming funds.
Other nonprofits and government agencies provide messaging, facilities and sometimes staffing and volunteers. And our animal rescue partners provide safety nets and adoptive homes for the animals in our programs. In short, our partners help us create safer, more humane communities through grants; donated services, products, facilities and funds; and volunteers. In turn, we provide a targeted market, exposure to a reliable base of compassionate, active volunteers, donors and event attendees and the opportunity to leverage brand or mission while working for safer, more humane communities.
Perhaps the program that has benefited the most from our partnerships is the Court Case Animals Program, which depends on police, animal control, prosecutors, judges, community court advocates, animal rescues, media, adopters and the many volunteers and staff along the way. And it is the program that provides a focus for the organizations and people of all ages who are involved in the other programs – an opportunity to help the animals who have been abused or neglected – who “have done the time but not the crime” – but who depend on us for their quality of life, if not life itself.
Q. What opportunities are available for individuals to get more involved with SHC? How can businesses partner with SHC to help make their communities safer and more humane for all?
A. SHC has a volunteer role to fit your interests! We need program facilitators who are interested in, or have experience, working with youth or animals or both; dog handlers; dog guardians and their dogs; community members to go to court as Court Advocates for the voiceless and their families; attorneys willing to lend their expertise or training to legal issues arising in our programming or for organizational advice; people experienced in communications and marketing, event and party planning, and administration; community outreach specialists.
As noted in #3 above, businesses can provide funding to support our mission and programs; donate products and services for projects and events; leverage their brand to spread Safe Humane messages; and provide volunteers to supplement programming. We could really use some sponsors for our annual celebration and fundraiser coming up on October 3, 2013: Diamonds in the Ruff.
Whether you are an individual or a business, just email firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved with building safer, more humane communities.
A very grateful thank you to Andrea Juracek for creating this wonderful connection and for writing on behalf of Rover-Time.