Putting the Art in Heart

HeARTs Speak rallies artists to volunteer their talents to help animals
By Lisa Wogan, August 2011, Updated June 2021

If you need proof of the power of a good photograph to get a shelter dog noticed, just take a look at our cover. Beau, Paisley, Portia and Bella were foster puppies (bouncing back from malnutrition and parvo) when we were seduced by their portraits, submitted for our Smiling Dog contest by Jenny Froh. A professional pet and portrait photographer in Flower Mound, Texas, Froh was fostering Paisley and Portia when she photographed the four littermates for Life Is Better Rescue in Colorado. (As we went to press, they had been adopted.)

While not every well-photographed dog in need is going to end up on the cover of a magazine, many of the people who do rescue work know that a really good portrait goes a long way toward fi nding homes for companion animals in need.

“Just taking a nice photo of a dog in the grass wasn’t enough,” says Caitlin Quinn, communications and grants manager for the Animal Farm Foundation in Dutchess County, N.Y. “Photos need to engage adopters looking for a new family member, so having that creative eye capture more of the dog’s spirit makes a big difference in terms of making adopters stop and take notice.”

That can be especially important in the case of the Animal Farm Foundation, which rescues Pit Bulls. “My photographs help present these dogs as the truly amazing beings they are: funny, adorable, forgiving, kind, sensitive,” says Lisa Prince Fishler, a photographer in Hudson Valley, N.Y. Her volunteer work for the foundation inspired her to launch HeARTs Speak in early 2010. This nonprofit alliance encourages photographers and artists to offer their critical skills to shelters and rescues pro bono.

In addition to providing advice and encouragement to its growing network of members, which includes both aspiring pet photographers and seasoned pros like Froh, HeARTs Speak aims to make it easy for members by building a library of templates (such as letters offering their services to rescue groups and shelters) and creating educational webinars that focus on everything from photographic techniques to animal behavior. In the future, the group may also be able to provide stipends for photographers.

Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of several books including Dog Park Wisdom.