As Western Washington University juniors Robin Fransen and Lexie Baslington walk through the doors of Hohl Garden and Pet in downtown Bellingham in April 2013, they have no idea that they will meet a new best friend. That same day they adopted their shared gray and white pet rabbit, Gus Gus. Drawn to him by his instant friendliness, the two felt a strong connection with him the moment they saw him.
Fransen and Baslington have always been animal rights supporters, and believe all animals deserve a good life. They were inspired to start a club along with their friend and fellow animal lover junior Mat Pellinger, to reach out to other like-minded people, Fransen said.
On Monday, Oct. 14, the Associated Students officially recognized the Animal Rights Club along with six other clubs for the 2013-2014 school year. Western previously had a similar club in association with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals called Animal Rights Network, which was strictly vegan, Fransen said.
The three friends wanted to collaborate with other students who share similar passions, so they combined their love for animals into a club to inform and educate students and the community about animal rights. Animal rights awareness means looking out for creatures that cannot look out for themselves, Pellinger said. Not only do the three own a variety of animals, but they also volunteer at animal shelters and follow current animal rights issues.
“Each of us is very passionate about animals,” Fransen said. The three co-presidents plan to gather students who are interested in animal rights to debate and work on community service projects, Fransen said. They also plan to volunteer and fundraise for the Whatcom Humane Society.
“[We want to] bring awareness to different animal issues going on — even simple things such as teaching people how to properly take care of their pets,” Baslington said. “In college a lot of people get pets so we thought this was a good opportunity.”
Pellinger is looking forward to debating topics such as animal captivity and the ethics of Sea World, he said. He wants to have open-minded discussions to introduce members to opinions that they have never considered before, he said.
“I'd like to see some debates,” Pellinger said. “Some communication between two opposing sides — get people talking about conflicts dealing with animal rights," he said.
In addition to holding debates during meetings, the club plans to make cat beds for local animal shelters and will host a cat care day to teach students where to adopt a cat and how to care for it, Baslington said.
“We’ll be doing a lot of activities that anyone can join,” Fransen said. “Anyone who likes animals can come watch a movie about animal rights or make cat beds. [The club] is very open to everyone."
Movies they plan on watching include “The Cove," “Blackfish” and various documentaries about sustainable livestock farming, she said.
Fransen and Baslington volunteered at the Seattle Aquarium over the summer so they have experience working with animals and public speaking, Fransen said. They have all adopted multiple cats and dogs from shelters. Among the three of them they currently have one shared rabbit, one cat, two dogs and one fish.
While there are no events planned yet, they estimate there are 10-15 interested members, she said.
Currently they are smoothing over the details of the club — where and when they will meet. They should know within the next few weeks, Fransen said. Anyone who likes animals, has an open mind and is vocal about their opinion is urged to join the club, she said.