Thursday, December 18, 2014

Only Have To Sign Your Name, Don't Even Have to Read It.

I went to a protest. Despite all my talk, I've never actually participated in a physical protest. Probably because I'm very uncomfortable with confrontation. Can't we all just get along? Can't everyone just realize that my opinions are the right ones?

For me, the most surprising thing about the protest was what I was protesting. Was I  protesting the human slave trade? No. Unequal pay of women? No. The marketing of baby formula to disadvantaged mothers? No. Slaughter houses? Nope.

I was protesting a pet store.

A while back I met a women named Mary. Mary loves dogs. Mary is one of those people that loves dogs more than people. Mary is part of a group that is actively working to ban the practice of Puppy Mills.

Never heard of Puppy Mills? Google it. Right now. Educate yourself. "Google Puppy Mills" is the slogan plastered all over Mary's car. She's all about education, and I love that by telling people to Google it for themselves, she isn't trying to teach them biased hyperbole; she wants them to get the facts for themselves. I'm all about that!

The solution to Puppy Mills is simple: Don't buy pets, adopt them. Pets from your local animal shelters need homes and only cost adoption fees (for shots, spaying and so forth). If people stop paying money for dogs, they will no longer be a commodity. No demand, no mass-producing. There will be no more puppy mills, but everyone can still have a pet if they wish. Everyone wins.

Mary got me into all of this. Her group protests in front of different pet store. They have a protest every Saturday and Sunday. This last year they were a huge part of passing a law that bans the sale of puppy mill puppies in a neighboring city. It was a major victory for them, and they want all the cities in our area to pass a similar law.

Mary asked if Ash and I would come protest on a weekday with her. She thought that having a five-year-old with us would really get people's attention. Ash really wanted to go, so they finally convinced me. We headed down to the mall.

The pet store was conveniently located right across hall from the mall's playplace, so Alexa and I settled down there so I could watch Mary do her thing. She held up a sign (telling people to Goggle puppy mills) and asked people if they would sign her petition to pass a the aforementioned law in this city. After a few minutes, I felt I had gotten the gist of what she was doing, so I stepped in and took the petition from her so she could hold her sign.

My goal was not to make the pet store shut down. I wanted the people to know that, so I came up with my own approach. It was a weekday evening in December in a popular mall, so there was plenty of foot traffic. I would ask people if they wanted to sign a petition to help protect dogs. Well, this is Sunland. EVERYONE here has a dog. Everyone loves dog. Many cities have their own Halloween parties just for dogs. Dogs are a big thing here. Of course the people at the mall wanted to protect puppies. They would stop and say something along the lines of "How?"  or "What's the catch?" or "What are you trying to do?" And I would launch into my speech:

We are trying to get this store and others like in this city to do what big chain pet stores like PetsMart have already done: Stop selling puppies that have been bred to sell and instead partner with local shelters to adopt pets out. This would save the dogs and cats, but it would also make getting a dog from this store more affordable for you. Instead of paying upwards of $2,000, you'd just have to pay the adoption fees, which are usually under $100.  Will you sign our petition to ban the sale of puppy mill puppies in this city?

One of the first guys I talked to was very defensive. He demanded to know what i was doing, he made little sniping comments, he seemed very condescending of my ideas, but he kept asking questions and I kept answering them, explaining about animal shelters and puppy mills. In the end, not only did he sign the petition, but he went and got his brother so I could explain the whole thing to him to he could sign. I was amazed. Did I just win an argument? Does that even happen in real life? I swayed someone over to my side with an even tone and facts? AMAZING!

Of course, the vast majority of people I talked to not only knew all about puppy mills, but a bunch of them had rescued puppy mill mothers. They had horror stories about the condition of the dog when they were rescued. They had some astonishing stories.

Near the end, out of the corner of my eye I saw the mall manager, assistant manager, and a few security guards heading toward us. I was talking to someone, so I just kept talking. They approached Mary, asked her what we were doing, then after she explained, they asked her if she was with the group that protested on the weekends. She said yes and they handed both her and me a stack of papers outlining the rules we needed to follow while protesting in their mall. They also told us we were supposed to fill out a form asking for a permit to protest and that the form needed to be turned in 24 hours prior to the protest. By this time, they were talking directly to me. I calmly answered that I was unaware, but thanked them for the information and I would be sure to follow all their procedures in the future. The manager then looked at Mary and said "Your group has never once filled out a permit request."

Mary opened her mouth, then closed it again, unsure how to answer.

"Because if they had, we can really do a lot." The manager continued. "We can have tables set up for you guys, chairs, even. We can have areas where you can hang your signs and banners. In another mall I own, a few years ago, I helped a group like yours organize an adoption day with the local shelter, so that instead of buying a puppy form the store, people could adopt one from the protesters."

At this point both Mary's and my mouth was open. "Uh...what?"

"I mean, I'm not here on weekends, so I've never seen your group, but I heard it was kind of provocative, but here you guys are and I see that you are just trying to help. You're being polite and not causing any trouble and you just really want to spread the word for these dogs. You are the kind of people I want to work with. I love dogs. I have two rescue dogs, myself. I'd really like to help you and your group."

And that was that. We exchanged phone numbers, told a few stories, shared a few laughs, and then they left. Mary and I stayed for a few more minutes fore heading home. We had over three pages names on our petition (Mary said that is more than they usually get over a weekend) and it was getting late. Mary called the group leader, who was thrilled, and they've already started planning an adoption day at the mall!

Not only was it my first protest, it was a hugely successful protest!

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