What to do when cats are difficult to adopt

We’re going to bounce around a little bit in this column so that we can give you a couple of reminders and updates. First, as the warm weather has FINALLY graced us with its presence, it has brought the ticks with it. The South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter staff is seeing more and more of these pests on dogs coming into the shelter. With the uptick (no pun intended!) in tick-borne diseases, it is imperative for the health of your dog that you have him or her on a good external parasite preventative. Most external parasite treatments handle both fleas as well as ticks, and the fleas won’t be far behind. You can purchase the preventative treatments at the shelter, pet supply stores, vet offices and online. We always suggest that you consult with your veterinarian before starting treatment.

If you’ve been outdoors enjoying this nice weather, you also may have noticed all of the insects seem to have emerged overnight. I saw mosquitoes in my garden last week, which means your dog may be at risk of contracting heartworm disease if not on the preventative medication. Heartworm disease is fatal if not treated, but it’s easily preventable. You must take your dog to a veterinarian to get this medication, as it is not available over the counter.

Our foster homes are still filled with kittens who are not old enough to be placed in their permanent homes yet, and we are receiving more every day. We are always looking to recruit new foster homes and hope that you will consider learning about the impact you can have in saving the lives of pets in need by providing temporary care. Fostering can involve dogs or cats – whichever you are comfortable with – and may include an individual animal or a litter, according to your abilities. To learn about fostering, email our foster coordinator at fosters@southjerseyregionalanimalshelter.org.

Finally, the shelter’s low-cost vaccine clinics begin on May 19 and will be held from 9 a.m. to noon on the third Saturday of every month from now through October. Dogs and cats are welcome at the clinics. Dogs must be on short leashes with secure collars or harnesses. Cats MUST be in secure carriers. Rabies, distemper and Bordetella vaccines are available. If you want a three-year rabies vaccine, you must bring proof of the prior vaccine. Flea and tick preventatives are available at the clinics. We carry Provecta for dogs, which contains four monthly doses for $30; and Catego for cats, which contains three monthly doses for $35. Cash or credit cards are accepted. Our low-cost spay/neuter clinic is available every week; appointments can be made at the shelter or online. You can find us online at southjerseyregionalanimalshelter.org.

Source: What to do when cats are difficult to adopt

Tick, tick, tick … Protect your pet from these pests

We’re going to bounce around a little bit in this column so that we can give you a couple of reminders and updates. First, as the warm weather has FINALLY graced us with its presence, it has brought the ticks with it. The South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter staff is seeing more and more of these pests on dogs coming into the shelter. With the uptick (no pun intended!) in tick-borne diseases, it is imperative for the health of your dog that you have him or her on a good external parasite preventative. Most external parasite treatments handle both fleas as well as ticks, and the fleas won’t be far behind. You can purchase the preventative treatments at the shelter, pet supply stores, vet offices and online. We always suggest that you consult with your veterinarian before starting treatment.

If you’ve been outdoors enjoying this nice weather, you also may have noticed all of the insects seem to have emerged overnight. I saw mosquitoes in my garden last week, which means your dog may be at risk of contracting heartworm disease if not on the preventative medication. Heartworm disease is fatal if not treated, but it’s easily preventable. You must take your dog to a veterinarian to get this medication, as it is not available over the counter.

Our foster homes are still filled with kittens who are not old enough to be placed in their permanent homes yet, and we are receiving more every day. We are always looking to recruit new foster homes and hope that you will consider learning about the impact you can have in saving the lives of pets in need by providing temporary care. Fostering can involve dogs or cats – whichever you are comfortable with – and may include an individual animal or a litter, according to your abilities. To learn about fostering, email our foster coordinator at fosters@southjerseyregionalanimalshelter.org.

Finally, the shelter’s low-cost vaccine clinics begin on May 19 and will be held from 9 a.m. to noon on the third Saturday of every month from now through October. Dogs and cats are welcome at the clinics. Dogs must be on short leashes with secure collars or harnesses. Cats MUST be in secure carriers. Rabies, distemper and Bordetella vaccines are available. If you want a three-year rabies vaccine, you must bring proof of the prior vaccine. Flea and tick preventatives are available at the clinics. We carry Provecta for dogs, which contains four monthly doses for $30; and Catego for cats, which contains three monthly doses for $35. Cash or credit cards are accepted. Our low-cost spay/neuter clinic is available every week; appointments can be made at the shelter or online. You can find us online at southjerseyregionalanimalshelter.org.

Source: Tick, tick, tick … Protect your pet from these pests

A dog determined to go home from the shelter

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder; love is blind … and often unexpected. Such was the case for the Fifth family when they came into the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter a few years back looking to adopt one of our big, beefy pit bulls. Mrs. Fifth is big into rescuing the breed, and the family already had a particular dog in mind when they visited. The new pet was to be a birthday gift for their daughter. What none of them expected was to leave the shelter with a half blind Chihuahua/terrier mix that was in pretty rough shape from his time on the streets of Vineland.

Although they had come to meet one of our female pits, you can’t walk into the adoption rooms and not take a look at everybody. Most people who come to the shelter with hopes of adopting like to walk through both the cat and dog rooms, even if they are looking for one specific thing. Curiosity is a wonderful thing and sometimes leads us down paths we hadn’t expected. In the Fifth family’s case, their find was the same species, just in a much smaller package.

As they toured the dog adoption room they came across Butterbean, a pint-sized, scruffy Chihuahua mix who decided this family was meant for him and he was going to get to them – even if he had to dig his way out of the concrete kennel! As they approached his kennel, he took one look at them and started to dig furiously at the floor as if to tunnel his way out to them. His attempts paid off, because he got their attention very quickly and the “love at first sight” thing seemed to go both ways.

Dobby, formerly known as Butterbean, has been a very happy addition to their household and a fixture on Mom’s lap. They are so enamored with him that they have entered him in the shelter’s Dog of the Year Contest. You can vote for Dobby or any of our 12 contestants online at southjerseyregionalanimalshelter.org.

It’s wonderful that we are able to have such immediate connections with animals, especially when it flies in the face of our preconceived notions. The key of course, is to be realistic about whether the pet you fall for fits into your lifestyle in a manner that suits you both. Dobby’s situation was good because small packages can fit into large spaces, but the opposite can be challenging. People often come in looking for small dogs but are attracted to a big dog or a puppy that will grow into a much larger animal than they had in mind. Serious thought needs to given before taking in a pet whose needs are not what you had planned for. My Old English Sheepdog is from a rescue that took her in when her original owners could no longer keep her. She had been purchased at 8 weeks old as a present for the man’s girlfriend. They lived in a small, third-floor condo. At 13 weeks, the pup had grown to 28 pounds and they figured out very quickly that she was not going to fit into their apartment-style living.

Both Dobby and my sheepdog had wonderful endings to their stories, but the shelter often receives dogs who have outgrown their owner’s ability, or desire, to care for them. We have pets of a wide range of size and age at the shelter. We’d love to have you come in and meet your perfect match.

Source: A dog determined to go home from the shelter

Difficult choice at shelter when pregnant cats arrive

While everybody else in the world was celebrating the beautiful burst of warm weather, at the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter we were bracing ourselves. Warm weather means kittens – and all the stress and urgency that come along with them. For weeks, we have looked at our empty cages and enjoyed every moment, knowing that the end was close. The sunshine and high temperatures brought on exactly what we expected, and in the past week we were introduced to over 35 homeless kittens who entered our shelter or were born there.

I feel like I must have written about kitten season dozens of times, but today I’m going to broach a topic that is one of the most difficult and thought-provoking of all issues brought up by kitten season.  However, before you continue reading, you must understand what kitten season looks like in an open-intake shelter. You must picture every cage filled with cats and kittens, and animal control arriving with yet another cage filled that need a place to stay.

So one must understand that kitten season is about making the best of your situation, properly caring for your animals, and working hard to save as many lives as possible. And while we have increased our lifesaving rates by thousands, and euthanasia is at its lowest rate ever, we are still constantly faced with difficult situations.

Billy Madison

What is the correct thing to do when a cat arrives pregnant? While my sentimental side shouts that every life is precious, the logical side of me knows that allowing a pregnant cat to deliver only causes more problems. We struggle already to find placement for mom cats with infant kittens. And when we do find placement, that home will be tied up for at least eight weeks caring for mom and kittens while they grow and wean. This puts kittens who have already been born at risk. If mom is spayed, not only can we focus our resources and efforts toward kittens who are already alive, but mom will be ready to be adopted in just a few short days, rather than weeks. The bottom line is that the reason kitten season is so devastating is because of the sheer volume of cats and kittens. While spaying pregnant cats can be difficult to accept, we have to take the responsible path by exercising population control, which ultimately allows us to save more lives.

We encourage everyone at this time to be proactive and do your part by getting cats spayed and neutered.

Now.

Now is the time – just last week, four cats on stray holds (we can’t spay them during their legal stray hold) have given birth at the shelter. We couldn’t even tell that one was pregnant! There’s no reason for pet cats not to be spayed or neutered, and we encourage citizens to help by making sure neighborhood cats are also spayed and neutered. There are many resources for getting community cats fixed; prices are often discounted and traps can be loaned. Appointments can be made at our clinic by stopping at shelter or visit our website. Aside from our clinic, there are other excellent, low-cost options at the People for Animals clinic in Gloucester County, Camden County Animal Shelter or Animal Welfare Association in Camden County, or the Atlantic County SPCA. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

As one can imagine, with the sudden arrival of so many kittens, we are in urgent need of supplies. We desperately need KMR (Kitten Milk Replacer) and also need Snuggle Safes (microwaveable heat pads). We also seek new families to help us save lives by fostering. Fill out our online foster application and contact Fosters@cumberlandcountyspca.org for more information.

Source: Difficult choice at shelter when pregnant cats arrive

What you need to know before getting a dog

Over the past several years, pet insurance has become more and more popular. There are now a dozen insurance companies in the U.S. that offer policies for cats, dogs and even some exotic pets. Like all insurances, I’d rather stick hot needles in my eyes than try to understand how and when they kick in, and how much should be invested in them. Unless you choose a purebred pet, such as an English Bulldog, that is almost guaranteed to need lifelong extensive veterinary care, it’s a gamble as to whether it will be worth it in the animal’s lifespan.

I mention English Bulldogs because they can be one of the most expensive breeds to own – a factor that should be seriously considered when choosing a pet. Bulldogs are bred to be brachycephalic, or extremely short-snouted, which can result in respiratory problems and skin issues in the folds around their mouth. Their common problems also include severe skin allergies, eczema, degenerative spine disease, cherry eye and hip dysplasia, just to name a few. People love their sad, pushed-in faces, their broad shoulders and short stubby legs, but these are the things that set them up for big problems.

His misfortune in being picked up by the dog catcher and ending up in the “pokey,” so to speak, turned out to be a stroke of luck for him. We’re working on finding the resources and advocates needed to get his medical issues addressed and to make sure that he’s monitored regularly. Whether that happens through his owner or through rescue has yet to be determined, but either way, he will receive the care that he needs.

English Bulldogs are one of the breeds whose medical challenges are extreme, but any time you are considering a specific breed it’s imperative that you understand as much as possible about the health issues that may be common to them. Being ill-prepared for such considerations often leaves pets suffering poor health, and gets owners in over their heads financially. For breeds who are predisposed to medical issues, pet insurance is a no-brainer and could be the difference between putting down a pet and being able to afford expensive veterinary services.

 Plans generally cost anywhere from $10 to $40 per month, according to what coverage you choose, but can be more expensive for some pure breed pets. There are plans covering only accidents/injuries, which are on the cheaper end; plans that cover illness and disease in the mid-range; and those that cover all conditions at the high end. Premiums also may be affected by gender and the cost of living in your area. Whether you choose to insure your pet or not, it’s always a good idea to set aside money for both regular veterinary care and the unexpected. Annual costs including office visits, vaccines and parasite treatments can run a few hundred dollars in and of themselves. There are good resources for comparing plans on the internet, and your vet’s office may be able to offer some advice as well.

Source: What you need to know before getting a dog

Here’s why you shouldn’t feed bread to ducks

The South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter often receives injured and infant wildlife, especially in the spring and early summer. These animals must be transferred out to licensed rehabilitators and rehab centers that are overseen by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. Once in the hands of rehabilitators, these animals are assessed for their ability to recover and be released back into the wild, or euthanized because their health is such that they cannot recover sufficiently to be reintroduced to their normal environment.

There are also some opportunities to house special-needs animals  at refuges, but these are few and far between. Infant animals, according to species and maturity, can often be saved. “Pinkies,” infants that don’t have fur yet, can be difficult because they require a huge time commitment for feeding and because they miss out on the natural antibodies that they normally would get from mother’s milk. Squirrel babies are generally very hearty and fare well; bunnies, on the other hand, are fragile and most often don’t survive.

If you find wildlife of any size that you feel requires assistance, you should check with your local animal control officer or a Fish & Wildlife officer for advice before you do anything. You are also welcome to call the shelter so that we can refer or facilitate some sort of help.

Amy

Last week, we sent one of our staff members to a seminar given by one of our local rehabilitators on safely transporting injured animals. Part of the discussions dealt with the nature of injuries commonly reported, one of which caught my attention but actually isn’t an injury at all.

Angel wing is a deformity suffered mostly by aquatic birds, such as geese and ducks, that are malnourished. What is surprising is that this is believed to be caused by an excessive intake of carbohydrates and proteins, often provided by humans in the form of bread. Although the small birds that we feed in our backyards are typically picky about what they eat, ducks and geese are not. In parks or other areas frequented by well-intended people bringing their bags of leftover bread, the birds will fill up themselves up on it, but the bread holds no nutritional value for them.  On any given day, a walk through Giampietro Park in Vineland will most probably reveal birds that have a wing sticking out at an odd angle rather than lying flat against their sides. Sadly, this often results in the bird being unable to fly and therefore unable to defend itself from predators, dodge vehicles or move with the flock.

Spring is the time of year that many people get themselves up off the sofa and out of the house for a nice walk, so let this serve as a reminder to leave the bread at home. Feeding wild birds is often prohibited. But, if there are areas that allow it, you can still enjoy doing so – just bring the right food. Raw seed, cracked corn and chopped-up fruit are just a few healthy foods that are easy to pack and that will be nutritionally valuable to the birds. And by the way, whether you feed the ducks or not, if you walk your dog in the park, keep him leashed and away from the birds; it’s not fair to the birds and it’s not safe for your dog, especially with geese and swans.

Source: Here’s why you shouldn’t feed bread to ducks

Spring is here – is your pet prepared?

Relocating to Florida is looking better every year. Although I might have to spend more money on grooming to keep the dogs shaved down, at least I would not have to shovel a path through the ice and snow for them to go outside. Snow is one thing, but that ice last week turned my yard into a hazard zone for the dogs and a whole lot of work for me. Their first attempt to race out the door, in hot pursuit of those thieving squirrels raiding the birdfeeders, turned into a scene out of the ice follies as paws hit the icy deck and the four-leggers went sprawling! I couldn’t let them outside unsupervised because branches and limbs were snapping like toothpicks, which eventually broke a gaping hole in the fence – the fence that I put up so that I would NOT have to stand out in the weather when I let the dogs out. I suppose I would have to worry about hurricanes in Florida, but at least I wouldn’t be cold and I wouldn’t have to shovel.

It seems odd to go from ranting about blizzard conditions to concerns about spring, but that was my intention this week. I wanted to remind you that these are your last few days to get your pets licensed. Most municipalities, including Vineland, give you through March 31 to get it done, so Thursday (Friday is a holiday) will be your last chance before late fees will apply. Also, remember that you should be prepared to pay cash for the license when you go to your municipal building.

The other thing I wanted to mention was parasite control for your pets. For those of you who stop your dog’s heartworm prevention medication over the winter, it’s time to start it back up again. Vets recommend that dogs be tested/retested before they will prescribe the meds. Although this spring seems to be having some difficulty kicking into any warming trend, heartworm disease is very serious and can cause damage to the heart tissue and even death; don’t take any chances by delaying prevention.

The ticks are already out and about, and the fleas will follow shortly, so you should also start whatever external parasite prevention treatment you use. There are seven major tickborne diseases that affect dogs, Lyme disease being the one that dogs in our area seem to suffer the most. These diseases can cause all sorts of symptoms including fever, pain, loss of appetite and vomiting. There are several options for external parasite control: over the counter vs. prescription; topical vs. oral; and treatments that last for one-, three- or six-month periods. For your pet’s safety, you should always consult with your veterinarian before starting any prevention, even if it’s over the counter, because they are all some type of pesticide. Never combine treatments or use them repeatedly before the recommended intervals, and watch for any allergic reactions when administering.

Finally, although warm weather has failed to make its appearance, new life has begun to emerge. As I stated last week, the KITTENS ARE COMING, so please do what you can to promote spay and neuter. We also received our first infant squirrel of the season; it had been rescued from a nest that was brought down in the storm last week. Wildlife in general will be on the move as they begin their mating season and the young come out of their dens and nests, so keep your eyes on the road and be vigilant when you’re out removing all those fallen trees and branches.

Source: Spring is here – is your pet prepared?

How to plan a road trip with your pet

One of last week’s most disturbing headlines was that of a young dog that died in the overhead compartment of a United Airlines plane. I cannot imagine what the flight attendant could have been thinking, or if in fact, the airline had instructed and endorsed such a policy. I can certainly understand that the airlines are struggling to keep up with the ever-increasing demands of customers wanting to fly with their pets, but putting a living creature in a closed compartment is beyond comprehension. I’m afraid that had I been in the shoes of the dog’s owner, I would have been dragged off the plane and arrested before it took off, or at least have made a scene worthy of an internet sensation.

I am a very big advocate of traveling with dogs, and it is getting easier as it becomes more acceptable. But whether you’re flying or driving, it does require some planning and preparation. First and foremost of concerns is the safety of your pet and that of people or other animals with whom he may come in contact. That includes, of course, how he is being transported. I have never flown any of my pets, but personally, I would not transport my animals in any way that involved them being out of my immediate control. Unless your pet fits in a proper carrier that is stowed under the seat in front of you, I would have serious reservations about flying them on commercial airlines. There are small companies that specialize in transporting animals by air, which is probably a safer bet if the necessity arises. 

Alberta

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re planning a trip with your pups:

  • There are many hotel chains that now allow pets, but most are limited to one pet and/or have weight limits. If you’re stuck, Motel 6, although not fancy by any stretch, is generally welcoming to you and your pets of all sizes.
  • It also helps to plan your route around at least one good exercise stop. The rest areas on the interstates, like 95, are generally small and crowded. It’s also a good idea to leash your pets before you open your car doors when you’re in situations like that; an escapee at a highway rest stop is very dangerous.
  • Generally there are state and community parks readily accessible if you take the time to look them up; remember those things called maps? You know, you get them from places like AAA; we used to use them before navigation systems and Siri guided us to our destinations.
  • Aside from safety, make sure you have your pet’s vaccine records and a “go bag: with food, water and medications readily available.
  • Beyond that, you simply have to give a little more thought to what your activities are going to be and how having the dog with you will affect them. If the weather is good, as soon as you get out of New Jersey there are many restaurants that allow dogs in outdoor dining areas. You may need to make some kennel arrangements if you have any special non-pet-friendly events planned, but even Disney makes that available now.

It’s been a long winter but it’s time to start breaking out of that cabin fever. Don’t use the dog as an excuse to stay in that rut – pack your bags and take him with you!

Source: How to plan a road trip with your pet

The most important step in finding a lost pet

The South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter’s adoption fees for all animals include microchips.

This weekend, my foster cat escaped – her first attempt at door darting. She leaped into the front yard and froze. We looked at each other and I prayed that she wouldn’t make a run for it as I leaped toward her. Fortunately, she seemed sufficiently overwhelmed by the great outdoors and allowed me to grab her and haul her back inside. As she ran back upstairs, I flopped down and thought about what could have happened. A great chase – but if a cat doesn’t want to be caught, it’s not going to be. Then posters, phone calls, humane traps, panic and fear …

The most proactive thing any family can do is to microchip their pet. I read several articles about cats and dogs being reunited with their families after being lost for years, and the common denominator in each story was that the pet was microchipped. A microchip is permanent proof that your pet belongs to you. All incoming animals at the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter are required to be scanned for a microchip. If a pet is chipped, we immediately contact the company, which provides us with the family’s information that was registered to the chip. This is why it is so important to make sure you fill out, send in and update the paperwork that goes along with your pet’s chip. We have had way too many microchipped animals unable to be reunited with their families because phone numbers changed or the chip was never registered.

When pets get lost, there are many things a family can do to increase their chances of finding them and bringing them home. Some family members should resume searching for the pet, while another quickly contacts your local police department, animal control officer, local animal shelters and veterinarians. If your pet is chipped, the chip company will help you with this when you report them lost. There is a form that can be filled out on our website at any time for lost or found pets. Go to www.southjerseyregionalanimalshelter.org and select “services” and the “lost or found.” This form goes to our front office, who enter it into our shelter management computer program. Our new software automatically scans incoming pets with lost reports, comparing ZIP codes, animal description and dates.

Arista

Social media offers new ways to look for and find your lost pet. The South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter has a volunteer-run page called “Stray and Lost Pets at SJRAS/CCSPCA.” We do not guarantee that we can post all animals that arrive at the shelter as strays, but we do our best. Photos, identification numbers, locations and dates of stray animals are posted at least weekly. The page is a helping hand for lost pet owners. If you see a pet that could be your own, you must immediately contact the shelter by calling 856-691-1500. We guarantee that strays are held for the state’s required seven-day stray hold, but after that time is up they can be immediately transferred, adopted or (if there are behavioral or medical concerns we cannot address in the shelter) euthanized.

There also are several location-specific lost and found pages in our area. These pages are a great way to get the word out about a lost pet and to find people to help you. Many of the people who run these pages have lots of experience with finding and reuniting lost pets with their owners and can be a wealth of information. However, if you have questions about the legality of a situation (especially what to do with a pet you found), you should contact your local animal control officer or the shelter. There are many laws that govern lost and found pets, and you don’t want your good deed to wind up getting you on the wrong side of the law.

You can also decrease the chance of losing a pet by making sure fences are properly secured, using tie-outs, and (like I learned) being aware of pets by the door and opening and closing doors quickly. Teach children about the importance of closing gates and doors, and make sure your pet is always on a leash when not in a securely fenced yard. While seeing the reunion between a lost pet and an owner is a heartwarming part of shelter work, we would prefer for lost pets to stay home where they belong.

Source: The most important step in finding a lost pet

Along came a spider, and an important lesson

Last week we found a spider in my daughter’s room. She was picking out a book to read for her bedtime story, and there it was – a medium-sized, dark black spider, creepily illuminated by her glowing nightlight. She screamed and ran to me: “Mommy, that spider is scary! Can we please kill it?”

Now, in my house, the only victims of death threats and murder are flies and mosquitoes (because disease). Everything else, spiders included, get a free pass. They are typically left to their spin their webs, crawl on the floor or accomplish whatever it is that bugs need to accomplish, which almost never bothers us. If they are just too freaky in appearance or become a bother, they are carefully removed and placed outside.

I’m not sure why, but I can’t bear to kill or cause suffering to another being for no reason. Sure, this causes some inconvenience … instead of washing an intimidating spider down the drain, after discovering him crawling on my shower curtain, uncomfortably close while I’m in a vulnerable state – I have a conversation with him about respecting personal space. Also difficult is walking anywhere after rain … can’t move 10 feet without having to complete 10 worm rescues. People watching must think I’m nuts, but I would rather be this way than not.

Back to the storytime spider. I immediately see this as a teachable moment. “You think you are scared of the spider? Look how little he is, and look how big you are!” She thinks about this. Then I pull out one of my favorite books from my own childhood, “Sophie’s Masterpiece” by Eileen Spinelli. This beautifully illustrated story tells the story of an arachnid named Sophie who, despite creating beautiful works of webs, was kicked out of home after home by humans who are scared of her, only to find herself sharing an apartment with a tolerant young woman as her life nears its end. Sophie’s final work of art is a beautiful blanket for a newly arrived baby, in which she weaves snowflakes, wisps of lullabies and finally her own heart.

After reading the story, my daughter reconsidered her death sentence. I could see that she was able to look at this creature in a different way and consider not just how does this make ME feel, but how do I make this other living being feel? That’s a powerful way to think. Imagine if all children learned to think about how their actions affected not just themselves, not just other people – but all living things?

At a time when anger and violence seem to be escalating, it is especially important that we teach empathy to our youth. It is so very important to teach children how to care for each other, and what better way than to start with the creatures who share our world? And when that empathy is absent, we need to be concerned.

A University of Washington study by Eric Madfis and Arnold Arluke revealed that 43% of school shooters had reports of animal cruelty in their histories. And specifically, types of cruelty that require hands-on violence and prolonged suffering – acts that turn my stomach to even consider. Animal cruelty should never be brushed aside or considered “normal.” It is important to report and to address not only because animals do not deserve to be hurt and need justice when they are, but also because if someone is willing to hurt an animal, how far are they from being willing to hurt a person?

Schools and shelters are doing their best to provide humane education and develop curriculum that incorporates social skills. But as parents and neighbors and citizens, we lead the way by modeling empathy regularly and confidently. And while today the recipient of my daughter’s empathy is a spider who now has a permanent home by the nightlight, she is acquiring the tools needed to allow her to make a real difference – for the better – in the life of a lonely or suffering or scared animal or person. Every small act of kindness has the potential to make a world of change.

Amy

If you are looking for a place to start, consider a book. These are just a sampling of the many works of literature that can help teach important life lessons:

  • “Not a Used Dog, At All” by Carol Erickson
  • “A Boy and a Jaguar” by Alan Rabinowitz
  • “The Story of Ferdinand” by Munro Leaf
  • “Hey, Little Ant” by Phillip and Hannah Hoose
  • “One Duck” by Hazel Hutchins
  • “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstien
  • “Because of Winn-Dixie” by Kate KiCamillo
  • “Black Beauty” by Anna Sewell

Source: Along came a spider, and an important lesson