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The high temperatures that we are currently experiencing are very dangerous for animals. In fact, warm temperatures can be more dangerous for most animals than colder temperatures.
A dog that is outside requires adequate shelter, but in the summer a doghouse quickly becomes a hot box. Shade is required so a dog can be out of direct sunlight. Cool water must be available at all times. This is the law. Cats and other companion animals must also have adequate protection from the sun, and they also must be provided a constant source of cool water.
On a warm day, the temperature in a parked car can reach 120 degrees in a matter of minutes, even with the windows partially open and even if the air conditioner has been on before the car was stopped. Dogs do not sweat; they cool their bodies by panting. If they pant in a parked car, hot air entering their lungs only compounds the heat problems. Brain damage, heatstroke, or suffocation can quickly result.
If you see an animal in a parked car exhibiting signs of heat stress, or if you see an animal with no shade or water, you may be the only hope they have of surviving. If you are in a store parking lot and see an animal in a closed car, get a description of the car and the license plate number. Ask the manager of the store if he can help the animal, and then call Animal Control (in Danville, call 799-5111 and in Pittsylvania County, call 432-7937) or the Humane Society at 799-5306.
If your pet has been exposed to high temperatures, look for signs of heat stress. The signs include heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, unsteadiness, staggering, vomiting, or a deep red or purple tongue.
You must lower your pet’s body temperature immediately. Move the animal into shade and apply cool, not cold, water all over the body to gradually lower the body temperature. Apply ice packs or cold towels to the head, neck, and chest, and let the animal drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes. Take the animal to a veterinarian.
Heat is a dangerous problem for animals, and it is the owner’s responsibility to keep their pets safe, healthy, and secure.
This past week, a large white rabbit was placed in our drop-off cage with a note that said that he had been found at a dumpster in the county. We assume that he was abandoned there, although he could have just wandered to the dumpster. Some people who purchase rabbits, ducks, guinea pigs, and other such animals grow tired of them and they wrongly believe that the animals will be able to survive on their own. So, they are abandoned in neighborhoods, parks and fields.
We will never know how the rabbit came to be at the dumpster, but we do know that when he was found, he had some problems. He was covered with fleas, seemed to be weak, and had lots of mats in his fur. He was taken to a veterinary clinic where they tried to save him. However, he had urine burns on his stomach and bottom (probably from where the fur was so matted) and had some kind of injury to his back legs. After being in the hospital for a couple of days, the only recourse was to euthanize him.
It always seems so sad to me that abandoned animals suffer and die, and we do not even know about them. That is why I included the story of the white rabbit in this column – so he will be known and remembered.
In the fall of 1992, after I had worked for the humane society for just a couple of months, an animal control officer brought in a dog that had been abandoned. His owners had moved away, and they had left him chained in the backyard. By the time neighbors called about him, he was emaciated and weak. I could not believe that anyone would do such a thing.
Unfortunately, I now believe that someone would abandon an animal, because we have seen it so much. Dogs are being left on chains in backyards, but frankly, those are the easier cases. The harder ones are when animals are left inside houses. We have had to rescue dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, parakeets, reptiles, and other species of companion animals. Animals are being left to die slow, lonely deaths where no one can see them. The fortunate ones are found by landlords. Others are helped when neighbors begin to hear noises in empty houses or apartments.
Some people simply take animals to isolated parts of the country and leave them. They may believe that the animals can survive on their own. They cannot.
Animals (mostly kittens) are placed in boxes, the boxes are taped, and the boxes placed in dumpsters.
A couple of years ago, the Virginia Legislature included companion animals under the litter laws. At first, this may seem offensive to group pets in with garbage, but it actually is a very good step.
Abandonment of an animal is a Class 3 misdemeanor. But, if the person is charged under the litter laws, the crime is a Class 1 misdemeanor. The law itself is very well-written: “It shall be unlawful for any person to dump or otherwise dispose of trash, garbage, refuse, litter, a companion animal for the purpose of disposal, or other unsightly matter, on public property, including a public highway, right-of-way, property adjacent to such highway or right-of-way, or on private property without the written consent of the owner thereof or his agent.”
Abandonment of animals in this area has become a serious problem. Each summer for the past several years, miniature pinschers have been abandoned on the Danville Expressway. A couple of years ago, ferrets were also abandoned by the side of the road in a cage
The problem goes on and on and on. We will pay a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest of anyone abandoning an animal in the City or in Pittsylvania County.
Under the Class 3 misdemeanor abandonment laws, a person can be fined not more than $500. Under the new Class 1 misdemeanor litter laws, a person can be confined in jail for not more than twelve months, and fined not more than $2,500, either or both.
If you know of anyone who has abandoned an animal, please call us. Abandonment is inhumane, cruel, and illegal.
We were very concerned to read the news report of the large African tortoise that was found in a backyard in Lynchburg. The tortoise is now missing, and experts say that the animal will not be able to survive on its own.
The Danville Area Humane Society is offering a reward of up to $750 for the tortoise being brought to our animal shelter in Danville. Lynchburg Animal Control Officer Louis Faust has indicated he will transport the animal to our facility. An out-of-state tortoise and turtle sanctuary and rescue group has been contacted and will take the animal.
Humane Society director Paulette Dean said, “Although we do not know the complete story, we do know that this tortoise is in need of human intervention, and we are happy to help.”
Board president Lynn Shelton agreed, and said, “Exotic animals like this should not be sold as pets. Unfortunately, pet stores do and the animals are the ones to suffer.”
If citizens of Lynchburg believe they have seen this tortoise, we urge them to call Lynchburg Animal Control at (434) 455-6105 or (434) 847-1602.
Cats are not having an easy time in this area. On May 19, we issued a news release about four very young kittens that had been abandoned at a dumpster. The top flaps of the box had been secured so no escape was possible; besides, the kittens were too young to have any hope of survival on their own. We offered a reward for information leading to the conviction of the person or persons responsible.
The day after the news report, we received anonymous telephone tips. What I found alarming was that callers told stories of friends who had a litter of newborn kittens and those friends were threatening to abandon the kittens or to drown them. Neither litter matched the description of the kittens we had received, nor matched the description of the kittens described by the other callers. That told us we had more unwanted litters that were in danger. I suppose we already knew that from past history, but it was still a matter of concern.
The next day, we received a little kitten from a walker at Dan Daniel Park. He saw the mother cat and another kitten, but could not catch them. We set a humane trap to capture them, but have not been successful. There are many hazards for stray cats along the Riverwalk and the park, so we worry about them.
That same day, a man brought in a little kitten that had been hiding under his mobile home. The mother cat and several kittens had been brought to the shelter the week before, so this little kitten was thin, dehydrated, and very scared.
The next day, we received an adoption questionnaire from a man who wanted to adopt a cat because his other cat had been “eaten by a coyote.”
As I parked in front of the shelter one morning, I noticed a van with the hood up. A woman and an employee were looking into the engine. The woman said that a kitten had crawled into the engine the day before. At first, we doubted if the kitten would still be in the engine, but a gray kitten did drop onto the parking lot. The poor thing must have been so hungry, because it took less than two minutes for him to go into a trap baited with food.
Next, I received a phone call from a man who said he needed to report that his cat had been shot by a BB gun. The cat, thankfully, will survive, but whoever did that probably still has the gun. Some people do not like cats who wander on to their property, but the law does not allow people to be cruel to them.
We received 75 cats during a four day period at the same time all of these events were happening. We are bracing for a beyond-busy summer.
Cats are prolific breeders, and that is why we have such an aggressive spay/neuter program for cats. We also require cats adopted from us to be kept inside because we are all too aware of the dangers that exist.
Cats are wonderful creatures, and offer a special companionship for the people who are willing to offer them the care they need.
The Danville Area Humane Society is offering a reward of up to $500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the abandonment of four small, unweaned kittens at the dumpster on Mount Cross Road.
A woman who was placing trash in the dumpster spotted a box that had the kittens, about four weeks old, in it. She brought the kittens still in the box to the Danville Area Humane Society animal shelter.
Abandonment of any animal is a misdemeanor in Virginia. Lynn Shelton, president of the humane society, said, “It is never the right thing to do to abandon any animal at a dumpster. These little kittens were put in a box with no food or water in it, the top of the box was fastened down, and those kittens were sentenced to suffer a slow, horrible death.”
In fact, one of the kittens did not survive. The surviving three were placed on kitten food and kitten formula. They are weak, but are eating and drinking.
Paulette Dean said, “In the spring and summer, we see an increase in abandoned animals. We remind residents of Pittsylvania County and Danville that the humane society has an aggressive program to help with the spaying and neutering of dogs and cats to help prevent the birth of unwanted litters.”
Anyone with information is urged to call the Danville Area Humane Society at 799-5306. Callers may remain anonymous.
About a week ago, we received a call from a man who said that a woman had been given a little Chihuahua puppy, and she had wrapped it in a blanket and put it in a trash can in her backyard. That sounded odd, and within five minutes we had left the shelter to go see if we could find out what had really happened.
When we arrived at the house, a young woman told us that her mother had been given a little puppy by a co-worker, and they did not know what to do with it. They made the decision to wrap the puppy in a towel and put it in a trash can so it would not make a mess in the house. When we asked to see the puppy, we were shown a barely-weaned Chihuahua puppy who could not have weighed a pound. We gave a lesson about basic care of tiny puppies, and emphasized that the puppy absolutely, positively had to stay inside. Feeling very sad for this puppy, we left, with the thought we would visit the home again in a few days. We have actually seen tiny Chihuahuas, poodles, and Yorkshire terriers live their lives outside at the end of a chain, and we hope that this puppy does not have that same life.
The vast majority of animals with whom we come into contact through cruelty or neglect complaints have been acquired at little or no cost.
If you have given away animals, are you really sure that it is not your dog that is on the end of a short chain with the collar embedded in the neck? Are you sure your cat isn’t one of the thousands of cats forced to compete for food and shelter? Are you sure that the next owner will be willing to clean the ferret’s cage, or maybe it was your ferret that was abandoned in a local park. Are you sure your child’s guinea pig was not the one that was starved to death? With so much breeding and selling of all companion animals, they are all at risk now.
Some people prefer to give animals away instead of bringing them to the shelter. We can understand that feeling but, unfortunately, we have seen the consequences that many of those animals have had to face. The “free to good home” can turn out to be horrible for the animals.
We have seen older animals used to a wonderful life in a loving home having to face adjustment to another home when the owner dies, or life circumstances change. Unfortunately, the situations we know about have resulted in that animal being neglected to the point of near death.
We have also seen pets with medical conditions or injuries being given away because the owner cannot afford treatment. The new owner also chooses not to seek veterinary care, and the animal dies a long death. The lucky ones are the ones who receive help when caring people intervene and call us or the local authorities.
If you have unwanted pets, there are steps that can be taken to protect the animals:
- Always place a monetary value on the life of the animal. Most people with hidden motives will not pay even a small amount of money. Sadly, this throwaway society oftentimes values money more than life.
- Have a legal contract signed, stating that the people agree to humanely care for the animal. Include a provision in the contract that allows you the right to take possession of the animal again if the home is not suitable. From sad experience, we can tell you that not even this will guarantee the animal is given adequate care.
- Ask for (and check on) personal character references, including veterinarian references.
- Ask detailed questions about the type of life and care your animal will be given, and do not settle for anything less than detailed answers. Insist upon an in-home visit before giving the animal away. We urge you to do this; remember, we have seen many of the homes that these animals are going to be living in.
- Do not give an entire litter or several animals to the same person.
If you know of someone who is trying to give animals away, please share this column with them. It is better to be safe than sorry.
It is never a good idea to give animals away without attaching a value to the animal, and then very, very thoroughly checking out the home. Some would say that that is cynical and people should just trust people.
We say that the animals cannot speak for themselves, so they cannot pick up a telephone can call for help. We humans make heavy-duty decisions for the animals, so we need to make sure they are the correct decisions.
Bobo came to the shelter in 1994 as a four- week-old puppy. Her owner had found homes for all the other puppies. Bobo was covered with fleas and was weak. She was adopted by April, who had just started working as a kennel attendant a few weeks before. She had a tiny puppy body with huge, floppy ears and was the color of sand. I thought she was one of the cutest puppies I had ever seen. We never could find out exactly what breed of dog Bobo was. Many people asked if Bobo was my Katey’s puppy. Katey was a dachshund and Bobo looked like she could have been Chihuahua/dachshund. I always told April she looked exactly like a miniature Yellow Labrador.
When April was promoted from part-time to full-time, then as assistant manager, and now shelter manager, Bobo was a vital part of the work of the humane society. She was the dog I took to school programs because I knew that I could trust her with any child. April has a large collection of thank-you letters written by schoolchildren. My personal favorite letter is actually a crayon drawing, titled “Bobo Goes to School.” A small, brown Bobo is drawn behind a woman dressed in a purple dress. I wore a purple dress for that program, and Bobo did spend a great deal of the time hiding behind my skirt.
One year, a private elementary school raised money for the humane society by selling personalized ornaments on a school tree. The children who did not have a pet of their own were given the option of having Bobo’s name put on their ornament.
Bobo created quite a little flurry of activity one day at a middle school. She, of course, was on a leash, but was able to break away from me and went running down a freshly waxed hall. Lots of students and teachers ran after Bobo, but she finally did come back to me on her own.
When potential adopters wanted to know if the shelter dog they were thinking about adopting got along with other dogs, we would use Bobo as the test dog. We could trust her with most animals, but we did hesitate to test Rottweilers and pit bulls with Bobo. We did not think they would attack Bobo; we thought Bobo would attack them.
Bobo and my Katey spent many years as friends. They loved to run in the backyard of the shelter, especially when there was a huge sand and dirt pile that was to be used by Public Works. We threw tennis balls up the hill, and laughed as they raced to see who could get to the ball first.
Bobo and Katey loved to go on walks in Dan Daniel Park. They probably were not the best behaved dogs there, but they certainly were the dogs who had the most fun. These two friends were naturally obedient, but April and I decided about 15 years ago that we would take them to an obedience class sponsored by the humane society. Katey was a shy dog, so we used Bobo to help her feel more secure. They did not understand that they were there to learn, not to play, so they dropped out after one class.
Bobo loved riding in her daddy’s tow trucks. We have a picture of her sitting in the front seat of the tow truck during the Christmas parade as the J.J. Hogan truck pulled the humane society float. Bobo was quite the social butterfly; she loved to party. Many Saturday afternoons during the hot summers would find Bobo at Smith Mountain Lake, enjoying boat rides.
Five years ago, when I had to have Katey euthanized, Bobo grieved for her friend. For a few weeks, Bobo would not leave my side at work. We grieved together.
Bobo had always had a slight problem with seizures, but they seemed to take more of a toll on her as she got older. Her eyesight dimmed, and she spent more time sleeping in the shelter office. For the past couple of years, we knew that time with our friend, Bobo, was growing short.
April and her husband, Tony Hogan, knew that a difficult decision had to be made. With heavy hearts, they decided on a day to say good-bye to the dog who had been with them longer than they have been married.
And so it was that week before last, Bobo’s friends and family members said good-bye. Some of us went to the veterinary clinic to be with her as she left this world to go to a place where time does not slip away.
April and I take comfort in the thought that Bobo and Katey are playing together again. The cute little puppy who came to the shelter in 1994 grew up to be a dog with a heart of gold and a personality so large it is a wonder it fit into her little body.
Good-bye, Bobo. You are missed.
A few weeks ago, we went with an animal control officer to a house in response to a call from concerned family members. Due to circumstances of life, a relative was no longer able to take care of her dog, and no one wanted to take responsibility. We were asked to pick the dog up.
The dog, a large, unsocialized dog, had lived in a small, dirty lot for many, many years. There was no easy access into the lot because wooden boards had been nailed around the lot. The mud, dirt, and feces had combined to create a smelly environment from which the dog had no relief. The ramshackle dog house did provide some protection, and the dog was not thin at all, so we knew his basic needs had been taken care of.
However, it was quite apparent that the dog had spent most of his life pacing in the lot. If we had been able to ask the owner, she probably would have said that she loved her dog. She probably felt safer, knowing she had a dog who would bark if someone came into the yard. Other people who love dogs and understand that they need more than food, water, and shelter to thrive and be happy will feel pity for the dog and the solitary life he led.
I knew that I was going to write about this dog when I witnessed his reaction to his release from that lot. Although he was scared, he did not resist being led through the yard. From my vantage point behind the Animal Control truck, I could see his eyes looking out of the cage. I commented to Lynn, the board president and volunteer, that the dog seemed to have so much wonder and awe in his eyes. This was probably the first time in years that he had seen anything other than the same lot, the same tree, and the same yard. He looked around with a lot of curiosity and amazement.
Sadly, he was too damaged emotionally for people to want to adopt him.
About the same time, we received a call from a woman who wanted us to help with her cat. She said he had been gone for several days, and now he was acting strangely and she thought he had rabies. We picked up the cat, and she released ownership to us. When the cat arrived at the shelter, we noticed that his neck had an injury, so we took him to a veterinary clinic. The injury was caused by a badly embedded collar, and he required a lot of medical treatment.
His owner told us how much she loved her cat. She did not believe us when we told her about how badly injured the cat was. He did not have any vaccinations, including a rabies vaccination, and he was not neutered. He was allowed to roam freely throughout the neighborhood, which was on a busy thoroughfare.
These two stories are joined by a common thread – both animals had homes that claimed to love them. However, both animals were neglected, and even cruelly treated. These stories join hundreds of others each year in this area. There is a reason that shelters and rescue groups must screen homes in order to ensure they are not placing animals in homes where they will be at risk for neglect and ill treatment.
(Please donate gently-used household items, clothes, book, children’s items, etc. for our yard sale, which is scheduled for May 23. We have storage space!)
Although dogs are generally more high-maintenance than cats, there does seem to be a time when dogs are much easier. That time comes at least once a year for most cats, and more often for others – the dreaded trip to the veterinarian, and then any possible results from that trip (e.g. having to give medicine).
I have no idea how much my 13 year-old cat, Billy, knows when he is going for a check-up. I try to whisper if I tell anyone on the phone about his appointment. I try to make the morning as normal as possible. Nevertheless, he knows, and he hides. I have learned that while he is eating his breakfast, I have to shut the bedroom door so he will not be able to hide under the bed. He is instantly on high alert, so I have to pretend to go in the spare room to find something, when in actuality, I am closing that door also.
April, the shelter manager, has to come to my house to help me put him in his carrier. Getting him out of the crate onto the exam table is interesting and usually involves at least four people since he anchors himself in the crate using all four legs. After his examination, he is more than willing to go back into the crate.
Yes, Billy is a smart one. My other cat, a six-year-old sweetheart named Becky, has not put the pieces of the puzzle together and arrives at the conclusion that it is Veterinary Examination Time. That is a good thing, considering the last couple of weeks.
I noticed several weeks ago that Becky was licking her stomach excessively. I could not tell what the matter was, but fur was missing from a large circle and there appeared to be some irritation in the middle. An appointment was made.
Becky did not know that getting out the carrier meant anything, but she did pick up on Billy’s high alert status. Under the bed she went. Acting oh so normally and shaking a bag of treats, I did coax her out, and she did not know anything was amiss when I shut the bedroom and the spare room doors. April was called at the last minute for help, since my 14- pound sweet cat turned into a strong 85- pound lion cub that would not be put into the carrier.
Her veterinarian felt a round of antibiotics was needed. A very amusing piece entitled “How to Give a Cat a Pill,” has been circulating for years, and it is based completely and utterly on facts. Lynn, the board president, helped give her the antibiotics. That went very well, especially after his finger stopped bleeding. He is not going to lose that fingernail, thank heavens.
A week later, the entire door-shutting, treat-giving, acting casual and calling on April routine was repeated. Becky, was again, was fooled. This time, it was determined that Becky needed to have simple surgery to remove an amount of scar tissue that was causing discomfort.
After the surgery, Becky had to have antibiotics. This time, Lynn’s arm was the victim, not his finger. We did get the antibiotics down her. That night, Becky and I spent a sleepless night because she had to wear one of the E-collars to prevent her from licking. She was miserable, so I was miserable. A sedative pill was prescribed. Again, Lynn, I’ll pay for any medical bills from the pill incident. It worked, though, and Becky slept through the night.
I decided that crushing the pill and hiding it in her canned food would be the best option, since Lynn was running out of arms, fingers, and possibly blood. Dog owners know that hiding any size pill in a small piece of hot dog fools the dogs each time. Cat owners know that does not work for cats.
Before I went to church last Sunday morning, I crushed the pill and hid the powder in Becky’s food. I was anxious to get home (hours later) to see if Becky had fallen for this trick.
As I went into the house, I saw that Becky was in the middle of the floor, licking her surgical wound, the food bowl was empty, and Billy was fast asleep on the couch. He slept for hours.
Maybe April, Lynn, their spouses, the shelter employees, and I can formulate a plan to get Becky back to the veterinary clinic for her post-surgical re-check and follow-up care. If we can somehow get Billy on our side, it will be much easier.