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Artist Memorializes 5,500 Dogs Killed in Shelters Every Day with 5,500 Paintings

Dog painting mural

Devastated by the death of his long-time four-legged companion, Santina, who passed away at 21 years of age, Mark Barone has set out to tackle an ambitious project to create 5,500 paintings of shelter dogs to represent the number euthanized every day in the United States.

The project began after Barone’s partner, Marina Dervan suggested he adopt another dog to help ease the pain of Santina’s passing. Barone felt it was still too soon to move on though, but that did not stop Dervan from looking for him. Her search for a new dog turned into a shocking research project about the inner-workings of kill shelters.

“I was horrified,” said Dervan. “I did my research and found all these awful facts and images, and I kept sending the information to Mark. He said he couldn’t look at it, but I told him we had to look at it. We had to figure out what we could do to help.”

Within two days of receiving this information, Barone had a vision for the project—to paint portraits of 5,500 real shelter dogs who had been euthanized across the country.

“I knew it had to be monumental to incite change, so I decided to put a face to that statistic,” said Barone.

Both Barone and Dervan have committed themselves to this project, called “An Act of a Dog,” full-time—seven days a week, 365 days a year—with the overall goal of constructing a memorial museum to raise awareness about the plight of shelter dogs in the U.S. They are looking to partner with a city or philanthropist to make this happen.

According to their project’s website, they hope to create a “forever fund” with the museum which will donate 100% of proceeds to support “shelter reform, rescues, fosters, rehabilitation centers, groups fighting BSL [Breed Specific Legislation], and all other organization who rise up with us to create a no-kill nation”

So far Barone has been working on the project for two years and has painted more than 3,500 portraits, reports Fast Company, including one of a special cat named Porkchop. Each dog’s shelter number has been replaced by a name given by Dervan. Their names, which serve as portrait titles, are paired with their death dates.

Most of the portraits are painted on 12” x 12” wood panels while some are displayed on 8’ x 8’ panels. These larger paintings are of dogs whose stories struck a special chord with Barone.

One of the 8’ x 8’ panels is dedicated to a dog named Oreo who survived being thrown from a six story building only to be euthanized by a shelter even though rescues were willing to take her, reports Mother Nature News. Oreo’s story inspired New York’s Oreo’s Law, which now makes it illegal for a shelter to euthanize an animal if a rescue group is willing to take him/her.

Once “An Act of a Dog” is completed, Baron says that it will be half the size of the Sistine Chapel.

“The Sistine Chapel is 11,000 square feet, and this will be 5,500 square feet. If you stack the paintings 10 feet tall, it’ll be two football fields long,” said Baron via the Daily Mail.

This massive project will hopefully help open our eyes to what’s happening behind shelter walls every day and inspire us to do what we can to stop it–from opting for adoption instead of a purchase, to supporting no-kill shelter initiatives.

Watch a short video about “An Act of a Dog” below, and check out Barone’s shelter dog portraits here.

AN ACT OF DOG from Sarah Haeberle on Vimeo.

Photo courtesy of: Act of a Dog

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