Animal Welfare for the Non-Cuddly
September 4, 2017 9:50 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for an animal welfare group which helps reptiles and/or fish, and many of the big names seem less than helpful.

I'm interested in animal welfare/animal rights groups, and have been thinking about joining one. I'm especially concerned about the welfare of animals who don't receive much mainstream concern about mistreatment. However, the biggest ones I know of seem to have serious issues.

My current impression of PETA, the biggest group I know about, is that they're sort of the Autism Speaks of animal rights/welfare - they have a loud megaphone, a lot of money, and the potential to do good, but they spend most of their resources on publicity stunts and making noise, have questionable connections, do shady/hypocritical things, and are a liability to the cause as a whole. For example, while I think that overfishing is a serious problem, fish intelligence is worth studying, and a lot of pet store fish are kept in hideous conditions, the "sea kittens" thing hurt the discussion more than it helped and turned the whole issue into a punchline.

I considered joining HSUS, since I thought they were less extreme than PETA, but it seems like they have baggage of their own. Apparently many reptile owners (especially snake keepers) and pit bull owners dislike them, largely because HSUS, along with PETA, has been involved in lobbying for statewide bans of certain snake species and dog breeds. I'm not sure why they would do this, since it seems like a strange issue for an animal rights group to get involved in. I don't have enough information from both sides of the debate to really take a side, and have little understanding of why the animal rights groups took that stance, but as someone interested in reptile keeping in the future it makes me uneasy.

What would be a better group to join that legitimately helps animals, especially bettering conditions for "non-cute" animals like reptiles and fish?
posted by thedarksideofprocyon to Pets & Animals (5 answers total)
Cuteness is a pretty relative quality, and the impact is less PETA-level national campaigning and more direct local work, but I've heard very good things about the Marine Mammal Center in Northern California.
posted by KatlaDragon at 10:21 PM on September 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It's not clear to me if you're looking for a local group to support, or if you'd prefer supporting a higher-visibility cause with bigger-picture goals than simply finding a home for someone's pet snake. If it's the former, than I suggest calling your local rescues, humane societies, animal controls, wildlife rehabbers, etc., and ask for ideas.

Most rescue groups deal with cats and dogs and maybe rabbits or the occasional bird. When they encounter more exotic or non-cuddly creatures in need, they'll have one or two go-to groups that they'll call.

But a lot depends on a group's financial resources, physical facilities, and the willingness/ability of volunteers to handle the non-cuddly. A humane society local-ish to me takes in reptiles, rodents and birds. I have known them to have snakes, hedgehogs, hamsters, rats, lizards, ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs, and parrots (not sure about fish). Another HS I know of pretty much only has the space and ability to handle cats and dogs.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:53 AM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Xerces Society focuses on insects!
posted by Alioth at 6:47 AM on September 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: This is a reptile rescue organization in my state- there might be one or more near you. It helps to be pretty specific in your search terms! You could also possibly support a bigger org that's concerned with the living space of all animals, like the Sierra Club.

Also, please consider going ahead and researching the standpoints of the HSUS and ASPCA. One reason they advocate snake bans is because stupid people in Florida, for example, have released them into the wild and there is now a dangerous unchecked population of constrictors there. Outside. Eating EVERYTHING. So, personally, I'm all for a ban there, and this is coming from a former python owner. Thanks for your willingness to think about this, though- the scalies are often forgotten, aren't they?
posted by JulesER at 7:01 AM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank all of you for the links -all of those groups look like good ones to support. I'm interested in both bigger groups and smaller, more localized ones I could help.

I was aware of the invasive python issue being behind the bans, but it seems like a complicated problem and I find it hard to find a neutral source on the size and scope of the python debate between ban advocates and defensive python keepers, who are both biased.

The various arguments I've heard online from snake owners are that:

1) Hurricane Andrew is more responsible for the breeding population in Florida than snake owners are, and there was a snake facility that broke and released the majority of the problem animals into the wild. Also, pythons would not be able to form a stable population in states north of Florida due to winter.

2) Many of them believe that the media exaggerates the Everglades python issue and the size of the invasive population (the common talking point I've heard in the herp community is that feral cats do more damage than the pythons with less of the bad press) and demonizes the animals and snake keepers.

3) How much good banning the snakes would actually do now that it's too late to prevent the issue.
posted by thedarksideofprocyon at 7:48 AM on September 5, 2017

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