All of us here at the Puppycide Database Project have a lot to be thankful for. This year, we want to make sure that we remind everyone who has contributed to PuppycideDB just how important they are.
Through the hard work of our volunteers, the Project has managed to bring the beginnings of transparency to the use of lethal force against animals by law enforcement. While we have a long road ahead of us before we can claim that our database contains a record for every pet shot in the US by law enforcement, we are getting ready to release our first research report. As the database continues to grow, the Project is approaching a point where we can begin to use statistical analysis to approximate the number of companion animals killed by police.
We are also very excited by the interest of a number of news organizations, who have begun to use our research to help write stories about puppycide. PuppycideDB has been interviewed, quoted or had our records embedded into stories in news organizations as varied as the Washington Post, the Daily Dot, the Daily Kos, Gannett and BBC America. None of us became involved with the Puppycide Database Project because we thought it would make us famous - but since the beginning we have wanted journalists to have access to hard facts and quality research when writing about cops shooting pets. It has been our hope that a better understanding of police deadly force could elevate the national conversation surrounding police reform and policy. It looks like that is starting to happen.
It hasn't been easy.
Up to this point the Puppycide Database Project has not accepted financial contributions. We worried that accepting money would distract us from the work. We worried that financial contributions could be used to identify and track our supporters. We worried that if we came to rely on tax exempt status, the threat of losing that status could be used to influence our editorial and publishing decisions. So our volunteers came up with ways to gather data and conduct research as efficiently as possible. Whenever we were presented the choice between hard work and luxury we chose hard work - only if funds were needed to complete a specific project would we readdress that policy.
Although we have not asked for money, we have asked our volunteers and readers for something much more precious.
We asked volunteers for their time. Time that, unlike money, can never be earned again once spent.
We asked our readers to think critically and objectively about issues and events that are emotionally charged in the most dramatic way.
It is natural to become angry when confronted with injustice - whether that injustice is seeing an innocent creature being killed or a police officer who was just doing his job falsely accused. We have asked our readers to set aside that anger and to follow us wherever the facts may take us.
It is natural to want to do something to solve the sorts of problems we deal with at PuppycideDB. Again we have asked that our readers set this aside for a moment to consider whether our proposed solutions will really solve our problems.
What we ask is among the most difficult things that we could ask - to consider that you might be wrong; to consider that the status quo is based on ignorance; that we don't know enough yet to solve this particular problem. Nearly 400 years ago, Oliver Cromwell asked a similar indulgence of the Church of Scotland:
"I beseech you [...] think it possible you may be mistaken."
There are many individuals who helped Puppycide Database Project in other ways. Although we have yet to calculate a precise number, we know that the amount of companion animals shot by police is large. We also know that the number of human beings who have been shot by police who were trying to shot animals is large. Both of those numbers are themselves dwarfed by the number of people who have been directly impacted by such a shooting - mothers, father, sons, daughters, friends and neighbors not to mention dog owners, cat owners, shelter workers and farmers. All of these people have proved to be invaluable to our research.
We cannot say enough about the bravery we have seen from individuals who have just lost a family member - whether a human being or a beloved adopted pet - through violence and were willing to answer our questions. Losing a loved one violently, whatever the circumstances, is the worst kind of emotional devastation. Yet, time and again, family members, friends and pet owners have taken the time to speak with us about what they have gone through. Whether the incident is a "puppycide" that has made national headlines, leading witnesses to be barraged with questions from reporters or the incident is, like the majority of animal shootings, largely ignored, it is never easy to provide the information that the Puppycide Database Project asks for.
Like our volunteers, the witnesses we interview are not paid for their time, and the reasons why witnesses help us are unique. We have frequently been told that family were frustrated by a one-sided account of shootings in the press; that news reports included lengthy quotes from police spokespeople but none from witnesses at the scene. Other times PuppycideDB's search engine, which includes summaries of incidents and often photos of the pets involved, serves as a kind of online memorial. Perhaps most often we are left with the impression that by telling their story witnesses, family and friends can prevent further violence. It is certainly a sentiment shared by all of us at Puppycide Database Project.
For all of these reasons, we thank you.
Together we have been able to accomplish some incredible things, and we hope to do even more in the coming year!