When CSU philosophy professor Bernard Rollin was 6 years old, his mother took him to an animal shelter. It was there, looking at the dogs, when he asked a shelter employee, â€œWhat happens to them?â€
The employeeâ€™s answer was simple: Most of the animals are killed.
â€œI didnâ€™t understand it,â€ Rollin said in a brusque voice. â€œI still donâ€™t.â€
On Tuesday evening, almost 30 people gathered in the CSU Bookstore to hear Rollin tell stories and read excerpts from his new book, â€œPutting the Horse Before Descartes,â€ which chronicles his 41 years at CSU.
It was here, after 10 years of teaching philosophy, that Rollin met a veterinary pathologist who suggested he teach an animal ethics class.
â€œIf I believed in God, Iâ€™d say that the hand of God intervened,â€ Rollin said.
In 1978, during the first animal ethics class at CSU, several senior veterinary students came in to speak to Rollinâ€™s class about what to expect in a surgical course, which included having to perform nine successive surgeries on the same dog over the course of a weekbefore killing the animal on the last day of operations.
â€œThis actually became a tipping point in my life,â€ Rollin said of the beginnings of his career as an animal advocate.
Soon 58 of Rollinâ€™s 138 sophomore veterinary students had signed a petition refusing to operate on an animal more than once. Eventually Rollin helped create a committee that ensured students would only perform single survival surgeries.
Students began to be graded on the quality of the animals after care instead of just the success of the surgery.
Rollin also wrote a law, which passed in 1986, requiring the use of painkillers in lab animal experiments.
â€œI asked myself why we didnâ€™t have moral obligations to animals, and itâ€™s because they donâ€™t have language,â€ Rollin said. â€œSo what? What if they canâ€™t do geometry or canâ€™t write poetry?â€
That thought served as the basis for more than 15 of Rollinâ€™s books and several articles he has written.
Auria Tellechea, a Fort Collins resident who hopes to study humane animal husbandry one day, found the progress in animal treatment to be not only inspiring, but she also said she enjoyed Rollinâ€™s conversational tone and meaningful yet humorous stories.
â€œHe was hilarious,â€ Tellechea said, â€œjust a great storyteller.â€
Rollin told the crowd story after story about his adventures in Colorado, all pertaining to a beloved family pet that he said proved how much more emotionally developed animals are than previously thought.
â€œMorality is not a single shot shotgun,â€ Rollin said. â€œThey (animals) are certainly more nice to us as we are to them.â€
Senior Reporter Erin Udell can be reached at email@example.com.