April is Animal Cruelty Prevention Month and Today is National Pet Day!

April is Animal Cruelty Prevention Month and Today is National Pet Day! 

Coincidence? I think not!

So, I'm a big fan of the internet.  I literally spend my entire day sometimes on my computer--I run a virtual law office for Pete's sake.  I also have a very active involvement in the animal welfare community in Colorado.  (check out the instagram page for NLO here: https://www.instagram.com/justie4justice/ where I post pictures of #officedogs on an extremely regular basis).

I teach animal control officers, law students, graduate social work students, and Regis university students about animal crime and the LINK between animal abuse and physical violence towards people (specifically, child abuse, domestic violence, and elder abuse). (for more, see the coloradolinkproject.com). So, of course, when I see that today is National Pet Day AND that April is National Animal Cruelty Awareness Month, I sit up and take notice!


National Pet Day is today, April 11, 2016.  But did you know it is also:

  • National Barbershop Quartet Day
  • National Cheese Fondue Day
  • National Eight Track Day, and 
  • National Submarine Day
At least... according to the internet. AND tomorrow is: 
  • National Big Wind Day
  • National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day
  • National Licorice Day
  • National Equal Pay Day– Second Tuesday in April
  • National Library Workers Day – Tuesday of National Library Week
You may ask yourself, "What the heck is National Big Wind Day?" So, let me just say, that date is the day that commemorates the recording of the highest natural wind gust ever measured on the Earth's surface. Iiiiiinteresting. 

Also, April is one hell of a "National Month," too!  
  • National Child Abuse Awareness Month*
  • National Donate Life Awareness Month*
  • National Cannabis Awareness Month*
  • National Fair Housing Month *
  • International Guitar Month
  • Keep America Beautiful Month
  • Lawn and Garden Month
  • National Autism Awareness Month
  • National Couple Appreciation Month
  • National Decorating Month
  • National Fresh Celery Month
  • National Garden Month
  • National Humor Month
  • National Landscape Architecture Month
  • National Inventor’s Month
  • National Jazz Appreciation Month
  • National Soft Pretzel Month
  • National Soy Foods Month
  • National Straw Hat Month
  • National Poetry Month
  • National Pecan Month
  • National Welding Month
  • Records and Information Management Month
  • Scottish American Heritage Month
  • Sexual Assault Awareness Month
  • Stress Awareness Month
  • National Safe Digging Month
And did you know that there is apparently a distinction to be made between national days, international days, and awareness days? At least according to this site, which says that "Usually awareness days are health related, and help raise awareness of cancers and illnesses, and also around these days charities collect money... [The purpose of international days] is to raise awareness of important humanitarian, cultural, social and political issues around the world. [Lastly, National] days generally have a fun, or quirky side to them, and are, in some cases staged by commercial organisations to help promote their products and services. But, they often have a serious side too and any donations received as part of any events held on the national day are often given to associated charities by these companies."

So, does putting the word "National" before some day, week or month lead to more awareness? Studies say, "no." 

About a year ago, the Atlantic ran a story about raising awareness using online platforms.  
According to a commentary published this month in the American Journal of Public Health, the United States has almost 200 official “health awareness days.” (The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists all national health observances on its website.) And that’s not counting all the unofficial ones, sponsored by organizations.
The paper was an attempt to begin to investigate whether awareness days actually improve people’s health. Jonathan Purtle, an assistant professor at Drexel University’s School of Public Health, teamed up with Leah Roman, a public-health consultant, to see whether awareness could even be quantified. 
“We both kind of anecdotally observed that there seem to be more [awareness days] than ever,” Purtle says. “In public health, and in medicine, we’re putting more and more emphasis on evidence-based practices. Everything should be informed by science in some way. We asked ourselves, has anybody ever evaluated these things, do we know if they’re effective at all?” 
The answer: Not many people have, and we really don’t.
In the article, one statistic that surprised me is the trend toward trying to make these "unofficial" observance days more official.  Specifically, 145 bills including the words “awareness day” have been introduced in U.S. Congress since 2005 (keep in mind the article was written in April of 2015). That's an average of 14.5 bills per year for the last decade.

In making up all of these days--are we losing sight of what's important? Are we encouraging Congressional wastefulness?   

Congress, itself, recognized the rise of these types of legislation. In a piece for The Hill in 2012, Zach Bergson analyzed the trend from the inside by interviewing Congresspeople.  Bergson's analysis also went further, analyzing statistics from both the House and the Senate.  One thing I noted was that Congress had recognized these bills from their members seemed to distract from more important matters and were generally a waste of resources and time at one point in time, at least.
In the 99th Congress (1985-86), the height of commemorative proposals, lawmakers sponsored 275 of these resolutions — approximately 41 percent of public laws during that session.

By the 104th Congress (1995-96), lawmakers from both sides of the aisle — feeling that commemorations were distracting Congress from more important matters — decided to limit such legislation. According to the CRS report, the House banned legislation that commemorated “any remembrance, celebration or recognition for any purpose through the designation of a special period of time.”
You see, it's not a "holiday" just to put the word "National" in front of something. It takes a LOT to be considered a national or even a state holiday! In fact, in the last 100 years, only FOUR official federal holidays have been added to the calendar, despite thousands of people trying.  Budweiser even sponsored an effort to declare the MLB's Opening Day a federal holiday in an effort to get consumer's a free day off from work.  For more, read this.

So, if you don't get a day off for these holidays, why are the proposed laws so commonplace and popular with our Representatives and Senators?  Basically, the short answer is that these Congresspeople that are putting forward these bills find it to be a cheap way to buy their constituent's goodwill.  We, as Americans, can be bought. Shocking, I know.

But what about on a personal level; is it a bad thing to raise awareness for some cause important to you? No!

April's official holidays for the United States and the State of Colorado consistent of none, nit, nein (unless you consider April 1, April Fool's Day, an official holiday). Regardless, it's ok to raise awareness for these causes! Awareness isn't necessarily bad. BUT AWARENESS IS ONLY THE FIRST STEP!

"People might conflate being knowledgeable about an issue with taking action to address it." 


 So this is me... Raising awareness for animal cruelty and the LINK.  Here's why you should care about the cause that I care about: 


  • More homes have pets than have kids. 68% of households have pets; 86 million cats and 78 million dogs. 
  • In the context of Domestic Violence: 
    • 68% of battered women reported violence toward their animals, too.
    • 50-75% of battered women with pets reported their abuser threatened or harmed their companion animals (depends on the study you cite to)
    • 25% of battered women delayed leaving for fear their abuser would harm their animal(s).
  • In the context of Child Abuse: 
    • Animals are abused in 88% of cases where children are abused, if both are in the home. 
    • Children are abused in 83% of cases where animals are abused, if both are in the home. 
    • A child is more likely to grow up with a pet than a father. 
  • In general, Animal Abusers are: 
    • 5x more likely than non-abusers to commit violent criminal acts.
    • 4x more likely to commit property crimes. 
    • 3x more likely to have drug or disorderly conduct crimes.

What can you do to help?  Tell someone you know about why animals matter.  Follow and share an animal-related post from someone like DU's Institute for Human Animal Connection or CSU's Human Animal Interaction Research Hub. Educate yourselves so you can educate others.  Be careful where your donation dollars go, too! Donate directly, in person, to the shelter of your choice, or better yet, donate your time!