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wags - The Rational Animal Guardian Ribbon

  By: Angelle Bergeron

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The Rational Animal Guardian Ribbon

By Angelle Bergeron

It is said that the most successful brand images are so strong that the shape and color evoke the same response from consumers as all the jingles, slogans and years of marketing strategies behind them. Think of the golden arches, the Nike checkmark, red and white Coca-Cola logo, yellow, rubber wristbands and now……the orange Animal Guardian ribbon. Susan Brandt and her New York-based, non-profit marketing firm, Rational Animal, are hoping their trademarked, orange, Animal Guardian ribbon will become a familiar reminder advocating animal guardianship across the nation.

The neon orange color was chosen because it matches the “Adopt Me” vests worn by homeless animals at public events and conveys the urgency of saving animals. Animal guardians (as opposed to owners) adopt from shelters and rescue organizations, spay and neuter their pets to reduce overpopulation and give love and care to all animals. “The purpose of the ribbon is to give people a symbol and conversation piece for their support of animals,” said Brandt, who introduced the concept in New York City in 2004. “The orange ribbon is the only ribbon registered for animals with the United States Patent Office.”

With the patent, Rational Animal plans to periodically introduce new versions of the orange ribbon to help shelters and rescues across the country raise awareness among a broader audience. The latest Animal Guardian ribbon is an orange pewter piece of jewelry designed by artist Nathan Janes, whose PopArf creations were featured in the last issue of Urban Dog.

“Someone called me and asked if I knew Nathan Janes,” said Brandt. “I said, why don’t you introduce us?”

The Animal Guardian ribbon campaign appealed to Janes because its messages about adoption, spaying and neutering and kindness to all creatures are the same messages he attempts to convey in all of his artistic creations. “I really wanted to make the connection, so I put the paw print in the top part of the ribbon design to give it a unique look,” Janes said. “Then, I agreed to do a piece of art work that would acknowledge the campaign, feature the ribbon and draw attention to it.”

Janes’ original work “Awaiting a Guardian” features a dog sporting an orange “Adopt Me” vest and an Animal Guardian ribbon attached to its collar. With one ear perked up and a look of eager anticipation, the dog has that “take me home” look that is all too familiar to animal lovers. “I donated the rights to the painting to use on postcards, posters, whatever they need to further the campaign,” Janes said. “If I sell the original, I will donate a portion back to the Animal Guardian ribbon campaign.”

Brandt really likes the PopArf creation because “it’s a real mutt kind of dog, which I love, because it’s not a human-controlled procreation but a more natural event,” she said. “We have a lot of puppy mills in the city and we are hoping to encourage people to go to shelters to adopt instead of adding more to the over-population.” Rational Animal is using the digital image to promote the ribbon campaign and on 3-by-5-inch cards (with information about caring for animals on the reverse side) that will be attached to the pewter pins. “Jewelry constantly regenerates interest,” Brandt said. About an inch high and a half inch wide, the pins are ideal for hats, lapels or your pet’s collar.

Rational Animal hopes to sell the pins (in bulk and at a reduced rate) to animal welfare organizations that, in turn, may use them for their own fundraising/awareness activities.
“For those wanting to order individual pins, donations of $10 or more per pin is appreciated,” Brandt said. “Mention you read about it in Urban Dog and we’ll give you a $2 discount.”

Rational Animal originally developed the Animal Guardian Ribbon concept as part of a campaign to increase public awareness about NYC’s homeless animals and help raise funds for the 68 NYC animal rescue organizations and shelters that comprise the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals. “I know the ribbons have contributed to positive change, but I don’t have specific information or data (like adoption figures) to support that,” said Steve Gruber, communications director at the Mayor’s Alliance for New York City’s animals. “They’re a great symbol and conversation piece for building public awareness.”

The ribbon campaign is one of numerous marketing/public awareness/ fundraising concepts created by Rational Animal since its inception in 2003. “Our mission is to create materials that are attractive to people and make them more aware,” Brandt said. Rational Animal’s creative professional teams, using only rescue animals, have created a series of television and radio public service announcements (PSAs) that provide high-quality, affordable materials for individual communities wanting to launch their own campaigns. “These are funny, high quality and may be customized to include your own shelter information,” Brandt said. “We’ve done radio spots (to promote dog licensing) that feature original music by New York City composer Murray Weinstock,” Brandt said. “He produced a whole CD from the dog’s point of view, as he puts it. We collaborated with him on a particular song, “dog tags” and modified it to use in PSAs.”

Rational Animal also created a series of maps, Trails to Tails, that detail the location of every rescue and shelter in New York City’s five Burroughs, Brandt said. “We have received interest from communities outside of New York City who want to use our icons and other components of the maps.” She is considering turning Trails to Tails into a package that would be readily adapted to other communities.

Although Rational Animal has generally focused on companion animal over population, the non-profit has also created informational pieces and organized events to benefit performing, working and some wild animals. The ASPCA recently awarded Rational Animal a $50,000 grant to support the third edition of Trails to Tails, and two of the organization’s local fundraisers. Brandt is hoping the new pin will attract a much broader audience, beyond New York. When the campaign was developed for the Mayor’s Alliance, it involved silk ribbons attached to bookmarks, not pewter pins attached to a copy of a PopArf creation.

Regardless of the incarnation in which it appears, the Animal Guardian ribbon’s neon orange color is definitely eye-catching, Brandt said. “It’s great. When people ask why my dog, Jackie, is wearing an orange ribbon, I say it is for all the other dogs, who don’t have homes,” she said. Brandt’s 12-year-old Jackie, a former shelter dog, is a good ambassador for the ribbon’s message. “She was one year old when we adopted her, which is very typical,” Brandt said. “Once a puppy is grown, and not trained, people find them inconvenient and give them away.” When Jackie first came to live with Brandt, she had all sorts of fears – fear of people holding hats, fear of people holding wine glasses, and fear of getting on the furniture. “She is a wonderful dog and got over all her phobias,” Brandt said. “Now she goes anywhere she wants, but it took her a while to get out of her shell because she had issues.”
To order your Animal Guardian Ribbon pewter pin, mail checks payable to: Rational Animal; 7 Cornelia St., #1E; New York, NY 10014. Find out more online at or

Photographs by Cami Johnson,