Many advocates lead campaigns by showing off their work and with memorable, catchy slogans. For you and me, we can go on Twitter and click on a link or graphic that may tell us light, superficial information. There are numerous social issues cropping up on our feeds that it can be hard to understand where these come from, or why they are a major issue that you should donate to or dedicate your time to. This guide can help you get started on researching dog-related issues found in advocate groups. Hopefully, you can use your well-researched ideas to join a cause that you believe in!
What do I start researching?
What piqued your interest in social issues? That is what you can start researching. Passion is really the reason that one fights for a certain cause, so make sure you have some understanding of “why” you are researching. Even if your research stems from curiosity, don’t be afraid to jump down the rabbit hole and find new avenues of research with each source you read. One could start researching “Adopt, Don’t Shop” and end up as the marketing director of a dog rescue (yes, that was me) so open-mindedness and time are key to being a successful researcher.
"The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for ensuring that businesses that use animals—such as roadside zoos, research labs and commercial dog breeders (a.k.a. puppy mills)—meet certain standards of care under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). However, the USDA is failing animals across the country by ignoring its already-weak inspection policies and giving licenses to puppy mills". The ASPCA further details that"This abandonment of inspection protocol is surely leading to increased suffering for dogs in puppy mills, who typically are kept in cramped cages and filthy conditions for the sake of maximizing profit." -ASPCA
Where do I find sources?
You can start by typing one of those catchy slogans or a repeated phrase like “rescue dog” into any web browser. With this kind of research, be wary of buzz sites heavy with opinions or emotion-evoking statements. You are looking for facts, so look for places where the author is credible and the author presents information and personal experience to describe the issue. Many slogans are directly linked to a foundation, nonprofit, or grass-roots organization with a website so you can easily learn more about the group or its work. For example, if you type “Spay it Forward” into the search bar, you will find an adoption center, a spay clinic, and a nonprofit pop up as the top three sources. You may also find blogs, humane societies, Facebook groups, county websites, or dog rescue groups.
Social sites are also helpful to use in your research, such as Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Hashtags especially are helpful to pursue in your research. For example, if you type in #fosteringsaveslives, you will find that there are posts related to fostering animals in rescue groups or with shelters. There will also be informative posts detailing facts on the experience of fostering an animal and the benefits for both the fosterer and the fostered. Start your research off broad before you narrow it down to a single source of origin. It helps to have an understanding of the community value behind the movement and what work is currently being done.
How do I know if a source is credible?
Is this source current? Is it relevant to my topic? Is this source accurate? Who is the author of the source? What is the purpose of this source?
Not everything on Google or social media is credible—there are trolls, satirical accounts, and individuals who are motivated by some agenda (or company) to mislead readers. Reliable sources undergo peer review by people in the same field, so these can be trusted to provide facts and personal experiences that are considered legitimate in the field.
Reliable sources include the following characteristics:
The source was published or updated recently/regularly
The source is relevant to your research question and adds something new to your knowledge
The source is accurate, based on facts, and includes citations or personal experience
The author, publisher, source, or sponsor of the source is known and credible in the field
The purpose of the source is clear, there is an appropriate level of emotion, and it presents more than one point of view
How do I use sources in my research?
Use sources to inform further research. You won’t learn about the social issue in one setting or from a series of TikTok videos (though, there are some cool accounts!). Open yourself to hearing from many voices for a thorough understanding of the issue, movement, popular organizations, and the people that lead it. Pet Expos or book readings are great ways to hear your research in person and engage in meaningful conversations with people that have firsthand experience with dog-related issues. Use the sources you have found online to craft questions for key figures so that you may continue learning about the topic. Online sources can be a gateway for entering into conversations with authors or key figures (slide into those DMs!) so that you can learn more through personal dialogue. Research can also inform your own experience in helping a dog. Personally, learning information opened my eyes to the problems going on in my community and motivated me to take a more active role in dog rescue. Working with animals is its own form of research because the dogs’ situations are often unique, and it can be uncharted territory for many people without a previous understanding of dog rescue or animal abuse.
Most advocacy work is grounded in educating yourself and others, so it is helpful to have an understanding of why animal rights are an issue in the first place and how it affects the surrounding community. Puppy mills are a billion-dollar industry, yet they are able to fly under the radar with good advertising and the ignorance of many. This is what makes firsthand experience “research” because your work contributes to the developing understanding of the growing need for social and political reform.
Where can I find more information?
Humane Society: This site is an animal welfare site that primarily focuses on ending animal abuse. They focus on atrocities seen in puppy mills, trophy hunting, cosmetics animal testing, fur sales, and industrial farming.
ASPCA: This site is a nonprofit animal welfare site that aims to end animal cruelty. They focus on animal rights reform laws, ending puppy mills, protecting farm animals, and improving laws that affect horses.
Best Friends Animal Society: This site is a nonprofit organization that works with shelters, animal rescues, and animal advocates to promote pet adoption (rather than buying from breeders) and no-kill animal practices. They also raise awareness of spaying or neutering your dog.