Change begins with chocolate

Rescue Chocolate, a US-based kosher chocolate company, donates all of its profits to animal rescue organizations.

Rescue Chocolate’s Sarah Gross 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Rescue Chocolate’s Sarah Gross 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It’s common knowledge that chocolate is bad for dogs, but one New York business is turning that notion on its head. The kosher company Rescue Chocolate, which bills itself as the “sweetest way to save a life,” donates 100% of its profits to animal rescue organizations, and last month the Jerusalem Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA) reaped the benefits.
The chocolate company, whose all-vegan products include such treats as “Fosteriffic Peppermint,” “Pick Me Pepper,” and “Peanut Butter Pit Bull,” hopes it can shed some light on the importance of the worldwide prevention of cruelty to animals.
Sarah Gross, the owner and founder of Rescue Chocolate, says she combined her two greatest loves in life – chocolate and animals – to form the company.
“My love for animals came first. I started volunteering at my local animal shelter when I was still in middle school in Louisiana. My family has always included rescued dogs. It just wouldn’t seem like a home without at least one four-footed individual. My addiction to chocolate came a little later, after I went vegan,” she says. “I founded Rescue Chocolate so that I could simultaneously be involved in two things that I am passionate about.”
While the company primarily sponsors organizations in the US, Gross says she chose JSPCA as its June beneficiary because “animals tend to be the forgotten constituency all over the world.” She hopes the publicity generated in the States and in Israel by Rescue Chocolate’s donation will inspire others to prioritize animal rights. Says Gross, “Every little bit helps. If even one person is moved to go and adopt a homeless animal from JSPCA, then we should claim a success. If another person decides to neuter his or her pet, that’s another huge step in the right direction.”
JSPCA, which operates the only animal shelter in Jerusalem, is older than the State of Israel itself. It serves not only the city, but also areas without their own shelters, like Hebron, Gush Etzion and Beit Shemesh. Sharon Granot, the secretary of JSPCA, is a jack-of-all-trades for the society, doing everything from picking up wounded animals to training some of the more difficult dogs. Granot says the JSPCA plans to use Rescue Chocolate’s donation to ensure the animals have proper feeding and veterinary care. In addition to meeting those needs, the shelter also uses its funds to educate the public on responsible pet care, spay and neuter cats and dogs in the city, and find good homes for animals in need of adoption.
The critters that call the shelter home come from all walks (and hops) of life. The JSPCA takes in dogs, cats, rabbits and other animals in need; the shelter houses up to 300 dogs and 100 cats at any given time. Granot says, “We don’t choose who to save and who not to save. We also take wounded animals. We don’t turn them away.”
But Jerusalem has a huge population of homeless animals, as evidenced by the countless feral cats that roam the streets.
“The only way to make a difference without killing all the animals is to spay and neuter them,” says Granot. “In Israel, more than 100,000 healthy dogs are put to sleep every year. People let their dogs get pregnant and have puppies, but then they don’t want them.”
As for the cats, Granot says, “we capture them from the street, spay or neuter them, vaccinate them and then return them to the streets where we found them. Their quality of life is much better if they have been neutered. In a few years, if we continue, you will see fewer kittens coming to the shelter.”
That, says Granot, is where education comes in. Volunteers from the JSPCA visit local high schools to teach students about the importance of animal rights. “We tell them about the situation in our country, about people who abuse or neglect animals.
We teach them about the importance of spaying and neutering their pets. We’re trying to teach them to be kind to animals, to put out water for cats and dogs in the summer. Most importantly, we teach them to love animals and to change the problem that we humans have created.”
Rescue Chocolate’s focus is on the problems within the US, but Gross’s prescription for a brighter future for animals can be applied in Israel and other countries, she says. “My particular focus is on the dogs and cats that wind up in animal shelters. In America, about 4 million of them are killed every year because adoptive homes cannot be found for them. The numbers are just as horrendous in other countries. But this is such a fixable problem.
Using such methods as spaying or neutering, fostering, outlawing breed-specific legislation, and lobbying for other positive changes, we could bring that number down to zero.”
Both Rescue Chocolate and the JSPCA stress the importance of adopting shelter pets rather than purebred dogs and cats. Granot of the JSPCA says, “It’s my belief that when you buy a puppy or a purebred, you are killing another dog from another shelter. You are letting breeders know that it’s fine, keep on doing it. When you buy from a breeder, then you support them. When you refuse to buy, but go to a shelter and adopt, you are saving a life. It’s as simple as that.”
Adoption, she continues, provides the best possible life for a pet. “We make life in the shelter as good as we can, but it’s not a life in a home. It never can be; it will never have children and a garden where the pet can play.”
Gross agrees with the JSPCA’s stance on the importance of education and adopting shelter pets.
“I support animal rights because we’re all part of the same precious web of life. I take the talmudic dictum – when you save a life, it is as if you have saved the whole world – to apply to animal life as well,” she says.