Watching the new video “That’s My Dog” by Baltimore rapper Dapper Dan Midas — or DDm for short — is a joyful experience.
While DDm cradles an adorable Chihuahua to lyrics like “He’s always eating good, ‘cause I treat him like a king,” an audience of mostly Black animal lovers sings and dances along to celebrate the bond they share with their pups.
“I’m a pet owner, I’m very sensitive and very much an advocate for pet care and pet wellness and just pet owners all around,” DDm told TODAY. “But I didn’t want to make a song about pet ownership that was corny and sad and depressing…I wanted to make something that was a little bit more positive, especially in these times, and uplifting for people who are champions of pet advocacy and ownership.
"Maybe they’ll sing it to their dog — who knows?”
While the video is a ton of fun, it serves a higher purpose: working to dispel stereotypes about Black pet owners and combating the bias and discrimination that can plague the predominantly white animal welfare industry.
During the racial justice protests in 2020, African American, Hispanic, Native American and mixed-race staff members of Best Friends Animal Society shared their experiences with racism in animal welfare. For instance, Black people trying to adopt pets can face extra scrutiny and might find their adoption applications rejected if they live in an underserved community. Even people simply hoping to volunteer can face distrust.
To help combat this, DDm teamed up with the nonprofit Companions and Animals for Reform and Equity, or CARE, to create the video for “That’s My Dog.”
DDm said he hopes the video sparks an uptick in people adopting pets and makes animal lovers proud of giving pets the best possible care they can.
“I also hope it shows that Black people and people of color care about their pets. We’re not out here dogfighting and all of those stigmas that kind of get thrown around,” he said. “I hope it shows that Black people take care of their pets, and they love their pets just like everybody else.”
When producing the “That’s My Dog” video, CARE prioritized hiring and paying people of color, from the makeup artist to the extras, according to the nonprofit’s founder and CEO, James Evans.
“Almost everyone in that video had an animal at home, and some of them had animals on the scene,” he told TODAY. “I don’t think I’ve had that much fun at work ever. That whole video process was amazing.”
At one point, the camera flashes to a shirt emblazoned with the logo for TrapKing Humane, a nonprofit founded by rapper turned cat rescuer Sterling “TrapKing” Davis. Davis not only dances in the video but previously received funding from CARE to purchase a new trap-neuter-return vehicle to continue his work with stray cats in Atlanta.
Evans said that’s because CARE works to expand and diversify animal welfare — which he prefers to call the “human and animal well-being field” — not only by encouraging mostly white organizations to make real change but to help bring in new groups run by people of color and support existing ones through its CARE Centers.
CARE, which Evans started in 2020 just before the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S., partnered with the BlackDVM Network and other organizations to create the Dr. Jodie G. Blackwell Scholarship Fund for African American veterinary students.
The fund raised and awarded over $87,000 in 2021.
Working to diversify a variety of animal-related industries and celebrating Black pet ownership is both a professional and personal goal, Evans said. Recently, he and his family tried to adopt a furry companion for their rescue dog, Guapo, but were denied 12 times.
It wasn’t until a colleague at the Humane Society of the United States connected him with Rocky, an Akita puppy rescued from a puppy mill raid, that they could finally welcome a new pet into their family.
“It’s a really frustrating thing to be steeped in how it feels to be casually rejected for no reason, or not be called back at all,” he said. “We have a research division doing a longitudinal study on animal control records and also on adoption across the country to try to figure out what exactly are the pain points for people of color dealing with adoption and dealing with animal control.”
In the meantime, Evans hopes animal advocates, shelters and rescue organizations will share the video for “That’s My Dog” on social media to help promote animal adoption and change misconceptions about people who have pets.
“I want people to think of pet ownership as being as diverse and complex as pets themselves,” he said. “There is a pet out there for everyone. … What we want to focus on is love."