After a full day of school, the ten-year-old, brown-haired girl filled the two dog dishes with kibble and sprinkled water to coat and soften the food and gave a head scratch to each pup as they began to eat. Next, she went to the three rabbit hutches, and refilled food pans and water bottles as needed. She also scooped the cat box every other day and refilled her calico furry friend’s dishes. This was her job – caring for the small animals on the 14-acre Iowa farm.
That girl was me. From age seven, when the cat followed me home and I begged my parents to keep her, the care for the family pets became mine (overseen by the adults, of course). At a young age, I learned pet ownership responsibility – and kindness toward animals. Dogs were part of my growing up years, but, like many young children, I also had turtles and goldfish. Although my parents took care of the dogs at first, my mother modeled caring for the turtles and goldfish until I learned to feed them by myself. As I grew older, and especially after the blessing of the calico cat whom I named Precious, the pet care shifted to me.
The is Be Kind to Animals Week. Kindness is a learned, modeled trait. There are numerous people, including children, who are NOT kind to animals and NOT kind toward other human beings. Animal cruelty exists in many forms, from neglect and abuse to dog fighting and torture. The national organization, American Humane, began during the early 1900s; they started Be Kind to Animals Week, geared toward children and families. The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals started even before American Humane in response to horses used to pull carriages almost to the point of death. Together, these organizations, along with the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society International, promote kindness toward animals, putting a stop to animal cruelty, and pet ownership responsibility.
We can all show greater kindness, and we can all do something to educate others about kindness, not only toward animals but toward one another. Education is the key. If you’re an animal lover, speak out about cruelty and abuse. If you’re a parent or grandparent, model kindness to your kids and grandkids and teach them pet ownership responsibility. Kids mimic what they see and hear – show them that kindness makes a difference in the lives of pets and other animals, as well as in the lives of people.
The late Glen Campbell had a music hit called “Try a Little Kindness.” This world needs more kindness. Let’s start together, in light of this special week. Volunteer or donate at your local rescue mission, animal shelter, women’s shelter, daycare center, or pet rescue organization. Take the kids with you and make it a family endeavor. Ask the kids to help care for your pets at home, take Fido for a walk or to the dog park, spend time petting and playing with the cat. There are many ways to show and model kindness – let’s all be a little kinder this week, even more the week after that and the week after that. Kindness shown is kindness appreciated – and often kindness shared. Animals and people are the same this way – they need kindness in their lives. Let’s be the ones to give it, teach it, and pass it on.
The 5-month-old puppy came into the care of Black Dog Animal Rescue, located in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in March 2017. The signs of abuse were apparent: more than 20 broken bones, a large, fluid-filled mass on the dog’s neck and shoulders, and her timidity around people. Months of medical and emotional care transpired, and her story took flight thanks to local media and animal advocates on social media. The pit-mix was named Angel; she became the “spokesdog” for advancing stiffer cruelty laws in Wyoming. Angel recovered from all her physical injuries and eventually the happy, friendly puppy-self emerged. She was adopted by one of BDAR’s board members and renamed Stitch. Read her entire journey and see photos and X-rays of her injuries here: http://www.bdar.org/angel/
Although no strong statistics are available on the number of animal abuse cases, which can and often does include the international trade of dog meat and the national issue of horse slaughter, hoarding, dog and cock fighting, and puppy and kitten mills, the issue of animal cruelty exists everywhere. The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) documented 29 incidences last year in which they were called in to assist. More than 47,000 animals were rescued or helped in some way last year, and more than 300 criminal charges were filed, according to the organization. Just last week, the organization announced it was helping New Mexico law enforcement with a critical case involving more than 100 animals, many living without shelter and in need of medical care at a supposed animal sanctuary.
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month
April is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month. What can you do to help? Here are five suggestions:
Forms of Abuse
Animal cruelty takes on many forms, from lack of food, water and shelter and violence against an animal (as in Angel’s case) to dog fighting and puppy mills. The dog my husband and I adopted last fall, Jeremiah, is a puppy mill survivor. He and many other dogs were rescued by Hearts United for Animals (HUA), a sanctuary in southeastern Nebraska which, for the past 30+ years, has rescued animals throughout the Midwest. That portion of the country seems plagued with puppy mills, with Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa involved in this industry in high numbers. But, according to the Humane Society of the United States’ 2017 report on puppy mills, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Texas also have a big issue. That’s why organizations like HUA, which recently helped rescue several German shepherd dogs, and National Mill Dog Rescue (NMDR), exist – to provide a sanctuary where these animals can heal physically and emotionally and hopefully find these creatures new, loving homes. Which we’ve provided for our Jeremiah.
Cruelty to animals is not something to be taken lightly. These animals suffer, physically and emotionally, such as children and other people do. Let’s hold abusers accountable and not tolerate the harm they inflict.
Resources on animal cruelty:
February is known for two main things: Valentine’s Day and Hallmark Movie love-stories.
Love is a Hallmark movie… well, not for everyone, and certainly not for every companion animal. Pets are called companion animals for a reason – to provide companionship to people, to be devoted, loving, faithful… and they would be, if only we let them. Instead, many cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, even turtles and lizards are mistreated, neglected, and abused. Where is their Hallmark Valentine hero/heroine?
In truth, humans and animals share this one thing in common: rejection. The person you love and trusted abandons you, mistreats you, breaks your heart and spirit. Yet, many people and pets have another thing in common: resiliency. We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, as they say, and carry on. That perseverance may take months, even years, but when we dig deep inside ourselves and we let others help and encourage us, we discover that fortitude and we move ahead to a brighter future.
For animals as well as us, that brighter future involves compassionate, kind people. When you watch a Hallmark movie, friends surround the broken-hearted, hurt individual, encouraging them to be open to love again. And, surprise, surprise, s/he comes along! That can be true for pets as well. Rescues, SPCAs, Humane Societies, and others step forward to lift pets’ spirits, saving their lives from abuse and neglect, and then prepare them for adoption. But, there needs to be more adopters, more heroes and heroines to help the light shine more deeply into the spirits of those animals cast-away, those treated not just poorly, but many times cruelly.
Can you be an animal’s Hallmark Valentine this year?
Five years ago, my husband and I adopted a springer/cocker mix named Mary. She wasn’t abused or neglected; in fact, she was deeply cared for by her previous owner. Sadly, that person died, and Mary needed a new loving family. Greg and I answered the call, and we have been her Valentine ever since! She is devoted to us and she has also impacted others, serving sometimes as a library read-to-the-dog companion, nestled among a group of children and giving them affection as well as courage. Her stories which I’ve written take kids on adventures and teach them lessons like kindness, friendship, and joy. I love sharing Mary with others and teaching them the value of adoption.
Then, there’s Jeremiah, whom we adopted last fall. He came from a puppy mill, serving as a stud for three years. He lost 28 teeth due to poor nutrition and came to us from a rescue still timid and uncertain about living in a house. Now, five months later, he realizes kindness and compassion can come from human beings, and he’s settled in well, with Mary as his best friend. He walks proudly on a leash, dashes through our fenced-in backyard with joy, and cuddles next to me on the couch with thankfulness on his face. His Valentine’s Day gift this year is a warm home and caring people (plus a canine BFF!)
Even if we, as a man or woman, have been rejected by human love, there’s a way to share our love. Numerous animals – dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, and others – are waiting for their special Valentine. Nearly 1.5 million dogs and cats die in kill-shelters every year, and more than 10,000 animal mill facilities confine creatures (especially dogs and cats) simply for the act of breeding. They lack socialization and medical care. Several rescues, such as National Mill Dog Rescue and Hearts United for Animals, take in these animals and care for them while searching for loving, permanent homes for them to call their own, i.e., for their special Valentine.
Find your four-footed Valentine this month, knowing that creature will be devoted to you for its life, and then make some popcorn and sit on the couch together while enjoying some Hallmark movies!
NOTE: The Hallmark Channel features several films in which animals play important roles. Check out titles such as Like Cats and Dogs; Love at First Bark; Walking the Dog; and Eat, Play, Love -- some of these are scheduled this month and others in March. Enjoy, and especially enjoy your furry Valentine!
The pictures we saw appalled and enraged many. Photos of a dog’s mouth wrapped in electrical tape circulated the internet in 2015. A dog named Diamond was found by her previous owner with physical and emotional injuries, and the abuse led authorities to the dog’s then-owner. Charges were filed and the case was soon to come to court. However, according to a recent article by The Doggington Post, the man, 43-year-old William Leonard Dodson was sentence to 15 years in prison on unrelated charges. He may still receive additional time for the abuse afflicted on Caitlyn, who continues to recover in a foster home. Read the full article here: http://www.dogingtonpost.com/caitlyn-the-dogs-abuser-sentenced-to-15-years-prison-on-unrelated-charges/
April is just around the corner, and with it, in addition to the rain showers that can bring May flowers, is the month to bring greater awareness to animal abuse. Known as Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, many animal shelters and humane organizations use this month to educate and inform people that animal abuse is, sadly, still alive and well. Many such cases remind us of that sad fact.
For example, the dog fighting operations led by football great Michael Vick made significant headlines and shown a light on this dark, disgusting trade; a small terrier mix, later named Hazel Grace by her rescuers, was burned with a blow torch – the miracle survivor often acts as a poster child for abuse cases in the Midwest; in Utah, family’s beloved pet cat was tortured to death; and in my state of Wyoming, a dog with broken toes and other injuries was rescued by and received veterinary care by a Cheyenne animal welfare organization.
Experts contend that animal abuse often escalates to violence against people, including domestic violence, homicide, and mass murder.
According to the ASPCA, every 60 seconds an animal is abused. What can you do to help fight animal cruelty? Here are a few ways:
Read more about helping prevent cruelty to animals by visiting this website: https://www.americanhumane.org/fact-sheet/animal-abuse/
Many people stood up for and continue to stand up for Caitlyn. See the inspiring video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTvC1ntqCpI
Be a voice for the voiceless and be a hero to animals like Caitlyn. The more heroes and concerned citizens there are, the more we’ll stop such torture.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.