BOOKS: Animal Rescue: The Best Job There Is

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2000:

Animal Rescue: The Best Job There Is
by Susan E. Goodman
Simon & Schuster (1230 Avenue of the Americas,
New York, NY 10020), 2000. 48 pages, hardcover. $15.00

The generation who grew
up to form and lavishly fund the
animal rights movement first
encountered World Society for the
Protection of Animals international
programs director John Walsh in
1964, via L i f e magazine, the
Weekly Reader, and documentaries
shown in movie theatres between
the features. Animal lovers followed
the efforts of Walsh and a
handful of other intrepid rescuers as
they saved nearly 10,000 animals
who were stranded by rising water
behind a new dam in Suriname.
Many didn’t survive relocation,
biologists learned later.

And not all of the “rescuers” were
as well-meaning as Walsh. Stories
surfaced years later about wildlife
traffickers capturing disoriented and
hungry animals by the hundred for
sale to zoos and laboratories.
But it was a landmark
effort, a larger animal rescue than
even Noah had attempted, and the
boldest statement up to that point
that animal life has value.
It was so long ago that
theatre broadcasts were still a major
news medium, the U.S. Animal
Welfare Act was two years from
passage, the late Cleveland Amory
was four years from starting the
Fund for Animals, and the New
York City shelters were killing a
quarter of a million animals per
year, six times more than now,
without occasioning so much as a
faint growl of public protest.
It inspired young people––including
the editor and publisher
go out and save some animals when
they could, too.
These days, John Walsh
is often described as a real-life Dr.
Dolittle, but when Universal
Studios released the film D r .
D o l i t t l e in 1966, the Rex Harrison
character might have been described
as a fictional John Walsh, pushed a
century back.
Just now 60, Walsh is
still very much on the job, and the
job is more than ever controversial
within the humane community.
WSPCA critics, including
some other executives and board
members, question whether highprofile
rescue has enough longterm
influence in reducing animal suffering
to warrant the investment––
when much of the world lacks even
basic humane infrastructure, which
might be introduced with the same
amount of money.
But other critics commonly
argue that the biggest problem
with WSPA is that it only has one
John Walsh. Others have conducted
comparably daring rescues and
investigations, yet none have likewise
captured media notice and the
public imagination.
Susan E. Goodman’s
Animal Rescue: The Best Job There
I s describes the Suriname dam rescue
for another generation––plus
two of Walsh’s other memorable
missions, helping the Kuwait Zoo
animals after the 1990 Gulf War,
and retrieving a dog from the roof
of a crumbling building after the
1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan.
When John Walsh sent a
gift copy of the book to A N I M A L
PEOPLE child Wolf Clifton, 10,
Wolf read it at a sitting and pronounced
it “great!”
Most children will.

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