Defender Pioneers Animal Rights Advocacy at Goucher

Defender Pioneers Animal Rights Advocacy at Goucher

TOWSON, Md. — At first glance, it would appear that the amount of dedication Thomas Rakes (Roanoke, Va./Patrick Henry) puts into Goucher's athletic department would prevent him from having time to work on anything else.

He has long been a key leader for the men's lacrosse program, and his commitment to the department's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee led to his elevation to the role of co-president for the organization this fall.

Despite these time constraints, however, the senior lacrosse defenseman continues to make room for another project: the ongoing development of Goucher's Animal Rights Club, a group which he founded last winter and which has continued to expand over the last year.

"I formed the club last fall," Rakes said. "And initially it was just me, Owen Demmerly (Medford, N.J./Shawnee), Andrew Foster (Ashland, Ohio/Western Reserve Academy) and Anna Carmichael (Colorado Springs, Colo./William J. Palmer), and we basically did everything ourselves. But this year, we have 15 core members and it's been a lot easier to get stuff done."

Rakes started the club after realizing that Goucher did not have anything previously set up to address the issue of animal advocacy. Aided by support from the Goucher Student Government, the idea of forming a club quickly became a reality.

"I'm a general animal lover," Rakes said. "And I think animal rights are an important topic that was kind of underrepresented here at Goucher. We try to support ethical treatment of all animals across the board, whether they're farm animals, pets or out in the wild."

Knowledge of the club has grown across campus after several successful fundraisers last year, all of which benefit the Maryland SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). The group has organized bake sales to raise money and awareness, and they also held a volunteer day at the local SPCA in the spring.

The most popular of the fundraisers, though, has been during Goucher's exam weeks. The club works in conjunction with CHILLAX, an event created by the Student Health and Counseling Center, to provide relief for stressed out students as they prepare for their tests.

"We bring therapy dogs on campus and let people hang out with them on reading days," Rakes said. "Last spring alone we raised over $1,200 in a week, and all of that was donated to the Hampden SPCA. We're planning to do this every semester going forward."

The club currently meets once a week to plan future fundraising opportunities. A key component of last year's efforts was establishing a network of local connections which share the same goal of promoting animal rights. Now that this groundwork has been laid, Rakes hopes that the club will remain active long after he graduates.

"I really want the club to keep going here at Goucher after I'm gone," he said. "We're going to try to make sure that the leadership gets passed on every year. All of the connections that we've made in the area with people at shelters and rescues, I'm going to make sure that information is delivered to the new leadership."

As for Rakes, he does not yet know what the future holds once he leaves Goucher. Animal advocacy, however, is something which he believes will remain a part of his life no matter where he ends up.

"I've always been a big advocate of supporting animal shelters and rescues," Rakes said. "That's just a daily part of what I do."