Moral Progress

This past Tuesday, someone placed a tiny kitten, about three weeks old, in a box and placed the box in front of a business on Riverside Drive.  They had put food and water in the box, but she was too young to be able to eat that food.   When employees arrived at work that day, they discovered the kitten and called the police to come pick the kitten up.  She is now in a cage with a nursing mother cat and is doing better.  Perhaps the people heard the stories about animals abandoned at dumpsters and knew that they should not do that.  However, placing a small kitten in a box is a very dangerous thing to do.  Stray dogs, foxes, coyotes, and even a hawk could have killed the kitten. 

The week before she was found, fourteen puppies were found in a box at a dumpster.  They are all still alive, and are eating a mixture of canned food and puppy milk formula.

Several days before they were found, a young cat was picked up by the police late one night after witnesses saw a young man throw the cat in the air repeatedly.  He had a badly broken pelvis and an injury to his mouth.  He is still at the shelter, and will be put up for adoption when he has had more time to heal.  The veterinarian tells us that he may need to have surgery, or at the very least, he may have problems with his hips and legs as he gets older.  He is an extraordinarily sweet cat.  The police officer who picked the cat up is investigating, but knowing who did something and being able to prove it in court are two different things.

Unfortunately, these are not the only abuse and neglect cases we have had recently.  The pictures we have taken this summer will join the thousands of other pictures we have taken through the years.  The Juvenile and Domestic Courts in both Pittsylvania County and Danville each have a program that brings speakers to youths in an attempt to keep them out of jail and help them make better decisions.  We are invited to speak once each quarter in each of these programs.  We take many pictures with us, and speak about the animal protection laws.  I always ask questions of these young people, including “Would you want to marry the person who did this to an animal?”  “Would you want this woman to be the mother of your children?”  “Would you want the man who did this to help you make decisions about your life?”

Gandhi, a respected leader in India once said, “The moral progress and the greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated. “  The same can be said of an individual – the way a person treats an animal is a good indication of how that person will treat people.

Last week, a man, his wife, and daughter came to visit the shelter.  I happened to be standing in the parking lot as they were leaving, and I saw the man absolutely jerk the daughter (probably no more than 5 years old) out of the car and begin hitting her.  He yelled the entire time, until another man and I yelled at him to stop.  We got his attention, and it was only then that he stopped hitting his daughter.  I have made a mental note of what he and his wife look like in case they try to adopt an animal from us.  The answer will be a firm no, and I will be happy to tell them the reason.

Without a doubt, society has become coarser.  That means that the good, honorable people must stand up for what is right.  We appreciate the people who call us about animals being neglected, and we appreciate the fact that there are more decent, honorable people than mean, coarse people.  If the majority of people ever fail to be disturbed by reports on animal abuse and cruelty, our society will be in deep trouble.


Last week, we received a call from the emergency dispatch center in Danville about a turkey that had fallen from a truck while being transported a slaughterhouse.  You probably are familiar with those trucks; even people who eat meat usually do not like to look at the chickens, turkeys, or pigs that are crammed into small cages.  For us vegetarians, it is an awful experience to follow one of those trucks, knowing what an awful life those animals have lived and what an awful death they are about to suffer.

This time, the turkey had survived the fall from the truck.  There was a significant amount of blood on the side of the highway, and the turkey was in obvious distress.  Usually, the animals that come from large factory farms are so overweight, their legs cannot support their weight.  That was the case with this turkey.  April Hogan (the shelter manager) and I knew that we had to at least try to help the turkey, so with the help of the kindhearted police officer (she’s a fellow vegetarian), we picked up the turkey to take him to a veterinary clinic.  We hoped that his wounds, while severe, were treatable and we would be able to eventually place him in a sanctuary.

Sad news awaited us.  The veterinarian has a friend who used to work for a turkey producer, so we were told that the turkey was probably only about 20 weeks old and already weighed 40 pounds.  His liver would not be able to function for very much longer because of his weight, and his wounds from the accident were worse than we thought.  At this writing, he is being treated and, at last report, was eating and drinking.  If it is determined that euthanasia is the kind option, at least he will not have to suffer the same death that all the other turkeys in the truck would suffer.

Because we Americans are used to having other people do the dirty work that allows us to buy a wide variety of foods from a grocery store, we have a tendency to forget that the meat comes at a cost to the animals.

I became a vegetarian when I was in my late teens, over thirty years ago, but I had wanted to become one when I was eleven years old.  At that time, we were living in Baumholder, Germany, where my soldier father was stationed.  One night, Mother fixed veal for supper.  I looked at it and asked where veal came from.  Mother told me baby cows, which greatly upset me.  Then, when I was about to put my first bite in my mouth, my mother said, “Mama, mama” in a sweet little calf-type voice.  I refused to eat the veal, and have never had a mouthful of it.  That supper started me really thinking about where our meals came from, and my parents told me that when I was a little older, I could make the decision to stop eating meat if I still wanted to. They probably thought I would never think about it again.

I had my last piece of ham on August 24, 1972, and my last piece of steak on December 23, 1973.  I was the typical person who gives up red meat first, when the poultry industry is actually a lot crueler than the beef industry.

I claim the distinction, whether it’s true or not, of being the first person in this area to go to Burger King and order a Whopper with no meat.  I think that because of the reaction of the Burger King staff after I placed the order. 

In November of 1980, I was working at Brigham Young University and went to the credit union to withdraw money to buy a plane ticket home for Christmas.  The credit union had a nice Thanksgiving display, complete with a live turkey.  I stood in line by that turkey for 20 minutes, didn’t eat turkey the next day for Thanksgiving, and have not had a mouthful of poultry since.  Guess what happened when I bought an aquarium filled with goldfish?  That’s right, I gave up fish.

Vegetarian choices are so much easier now.  Most grocery stores carry soy milk, and meat substitutes.

There are many types of vegetarians.  Some eat dairy products and eggs, some do not, and some do not eat gelatin.  (I researched how gelatin is made, so I gave up Jell-O, marshmallows, etc.)

I share all this with you because people, from time to time, ask why I am a vegetarian.  Is it for health reasons, ethical reasons, or what?  Here’s my answer:

I believe that Heavenly Father created animals for our use and enjoyment, giving us dominion over them.  Dominion actually means stewardship, rather than giving us complete freedom to overuse, misuses, or abuse. Before I knew about the cruel factory farm methods of today, I knew that, deep down inside, I could never eat an animal without thinking about them as individual critters.  I do not judge anyone for eating meat, and I do not proselyte people to become vegetarians.  I choose to enjoy animals in other ways other than chewing them.  As I say sometimes, “I serve animals, just not on plates.”

(Critter Corner is co-sponsored by the Register & Bee and Danville Area Humane Society.  Questions or comments should be mailed to Critter Corner, P.O. Box 3352, Danville, VA 24543.)

Getting Along

April Hogan, the shelter manager, currently has four dogs she adopted from the shelter.  There is Opie the long-haired dachshund, Trixie the spitz, Peppy the Chihuahua, and Barney the dachshund.  All of her dogs play with each other and generally get along quite well.  They spend many days in the front office of the shelter when they come to work with April.

Opie is the one April has had the longest; I think he’s about eight years old now.  Barney is the most recent adoption.  As she has added to her little pack, the reaction of the other dogs has been the same.  April introduces the new dog, the others sniff the new arrival, and then they go about their business of playing and begging for food. Acceptance is usually immediate.

On Mondays and Thursdays, the four of them are joined in the office by Lu Lu, a Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix who was adopted by Joanie Schwarz, a volunteer who helped establish the humane society.  Lu Lu was adopted last year, and was also immediately accepted by April’s dogs.  In fact, Lu Lu has become best friends with all April’s dogs.

Joanie and April both say that their dogs get excited when they know they are coming to the shelter to play for the day, and they are exhausted by the time they leave the shelter.

The four shelter mascot cats wander in and out of the office, share lunch with the dogs, drink out of the same water bowl and, sometimes, look disdainfully at the playing dogs.

Thinking of the office animals reminds me of something that has been sent and re-sent via e-mail, usually after a tornado or hurricane.  Rescuers in the distressed area pick up a dog, then another one, and another one.  Finally, a cat is picked up and the final picture shows all the animals sleeping in a pile on the backseat of a car.  I don’t know if the pictures in this story are authentic, but I hope so.

That story and then the experience of April’s and Joanie’s dogs and the shelter cats makes me wish that we humans could learn the lessons of friendship and tolerance from them.

Just think how wonderful it would be to leave in a world where newcomers are greeted with curiosity and then accepted.  What a different world we would live in if friendships formed joyfully, with no thought of appearance or background.  The occasional squabble would happen, I am sure, but those would be quickly resolved and play time would resume.   The lessons we can learn from animals are just one of many, many reasons I consider my job a blessing.

Reward for Cruelty to Animals

The Danville Area Humane Society is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for cruelty to a cat.

About midnight last night, the police were called to the 700 block of North Main Street about several young men who were throwing a kitten high into the air and letting him fall to the ground.  The kitten, a black and white male about four months old, was thrown onto a porch and was picked up by a police officer and taken to the Danville Area Humane Society.

The kitten has a fractured pelvis and an injury to the mouth.  He is on antibiotics and pain medication. He will survive, but may have problems later in life due to the difficult fracture of the pelvis.

We are grateful for the work of the Danville police officer, Officer Frankie Hudgins, who rescued the kitten.

Cruelty to animals is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia, and is punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and twelve months in jail, either or both.

Anyone with information about this cruel act is urged to call the Danville Area Humane Society at 799-5306.  Callers may remain confidential.


A local eatery business was recently given a turtle by one of their customers for their beautiful water display in the lobby.  Thankfully, it did not take long for this to come to our attention; a young boy was very disturbed when he saw the turtle hiding in the shell, and he began to wonder if the turtle was being taken care of.

Since turtles carry salmonella, we were also concerned about customers routinely touching this turtle and then eating.  We wondered, in addition, if this turtle was native to Virginia.  If so, it was not legal to keep it captive.  Our main concern, of course, was the turtle.

When April, our shelter manager and her husband, Tony, went to the restaurant the night we received the complaint, he said that the turtle was a native land turtle and should not be kept in water.  Again, the turtle was hiding in his shell.

April and I went the next day to the business.  There, in the beautiful water feature in the lobby was a turtle, in water and hiding in the shell. At first, I had a hard time seeing him because he looked like one of the rocks in the water. We identified ourselves and told the manager the complaint we had received about the turtle.  He was very nice and apologetic; thankfully, he said that we could remove the turtle.

April leaned over and picked up the turtle.  What happened next is something April and I will not forget.  The second she lifted him out of the water, out from the shell came his head and all four legs.  When April carried him outside, his head stretched out even further toward the sun and the warmth. 

My sister, who, along with her husband, routinely puts a vegetable and fruit smorgasbord out for the many turtles who live in their yard, had said we could release the turtle in her yard.  When April got into the car with the turtle, he still did not put his head or legs back into his shell.  Call us over-the-edge or ridiculous animal people, but both April and I knew that turtle was happy and relieved to be out of that water.  Sometimes, what an animal is feeling is so apparent that it cannot be denied.

When he was put down in the yard, near the woods, my sister decided to put some cantaloupe down for him.   However, he did not wait for lunch, but walked into the woods to live his life as a turtle should.

There are lessons to learn from this.  First, there are reasons why laws are strict about trying to keep wild animals as pets–The animals are not happy.  Second, animals have needs specific to their species.  Third, animals do have emotions.  They may not be as complicated or deep as the emotions we humans have, but they do have them.  And fourth, one person can make a difference for the animals.  The young man who was originally so upset about the turtle chose to speak up.  Good job!

Groundbreaking of the E. Stuart James Grant Adoption Center

The Danville Area Humane Society is thrilled to invite you to the groundbreaking of the new E. Stuart James Grant Adoption Center on Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 4:00 p.m. at the animal shelter.

This adoption center will provide us with another tool to reduce the euthanasia of healthy, adoptable animals,  while not turning away any animal. 

Funding for the adoption center is made possible by the E. Stuart James Grant Charitable Trust and individual supporters and donors.

Kitten in a Storm Drain

The way I look at storm drains has significantly changed over the past several years.  More cats and dogs than we ever wanted to know about use these storm drains to safely go from place to place, and to get a little bit of perceived security.  We have no idea how many animals die in the storm drains.  During rainstorms, we always worry about newborn babies drowning.

During the spring and summer, the calls about kittens meowing in these drains increase.  It could be a combination of more kittens being more and more people walking in the nice weather.

A couple of weeks ago, a woman who was walking her dog along Franklin Turnpike called to say she had heard a small kitten meowing in one of the drains.  The shelter manager, April, and I left to see if we could find the kitten, and we called Lynn, the board president, to meet us there.

When we got to the approximate address we had been given, the cell phone rang, so I stayed in the car for a few minutes to answer some questions.  Lynn had not arrived yet, so April walked over the sidewalk by herself.  She got down on her stomach so she could listen to any sounds coming from the storm drain.  She not only heard, but saw a four week-old kitten beyond arm’s reach.  About the same time that Lynn arrived, I walked over to the storm drain.  Lynn threw a little bit of canned food down into the drain to coax the kitten to completely come out of the pipe.  She, a little calico kitten, gobbled down the food, and then retreated back into the pipe.  April put a catchpole down into the drain, and Lynn threw some more canned food down.  Again, the kitten ran over to the food, but the catchpole slipped off her.  This time, she ran back into the pipe and did not come out again for a few minutes.

 By this time, nice people came out of their homes to see what was happening.  A deputy in the Danville sheriff’s department stopped to help us as he was on his way home.  He saw April lying on her stomach, and thought she needed medical attention.  Drivers slowed down, and asked if we needed some help.

The kitten started meowing again, so April and Lynn put the catchpole into place in the drain, threw down some more food, and waited.  We did not have to wait long; once again, the kitten was coaxed out of hiding by the smell of food.  This time, the catchpole did not slip off her body, and she was lifted to safety.  She was hungry and thirsty, but is fine and is now available for adoption.

When April and I were driving away, we noticed a Pittsylvania County sheriff’s department car with the lights on going slowly down Franklin Turnpike.  We had the same thought at the same time – someone called in a report of a woman lying on her stomach on Franklin Turnpike.  I called the emergency dispatch center and was told that, yes, the officers were looking for a woman who was lying on her stomach.  I told the dispatcher what had happened, and that all had ended well.

And – it really had ended well.  April and Lynn saved the kitten’s life, and, once again, it was proven that we live in an area that has a lot of nice people, including the woman who originally called in the complaint, all the people who asked if they could help, and then the people who thought they were calling for help for a woman who was in trouble.

Puppy in Dumpster

Tragically, we must report that there has been another abandonment case in Danville.  The police were called to the Purdum Woods complex late Tuesday night about a puppy that was found in a dumpster.

A $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for this cruel act is being offered by the Danville Area Humane Society.

The female puppy is approximately four months old.  She is traumatized, but is eating and drinking well.

Again, we must issue a reminder that abandonment of an animal is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by a jail sentence of up to 12 months, and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

Callers with information may remain anonymous.  Please call 799-5306 if you believe you have information about this case.

Kittens in a Bag

The Danville Area Humane Society is offering a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who put three four-week old gray tabby kittens in a paper bag, then twisted the top shut, and left the bag on the side of the road in the Bryant Avenue area of Danville.  Fortunately, a local citizen found them and brought them to the shelter.

The kittens were weak and scared, but are expected to recover.

During the spring and summer months, we see a marked increase in animals being abandoned in Danville and Pittsylvania County.  We remind everyone that abandoning an animal on public roads or property is a Class 1 misdemeanor, and is punishable by confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.

Any citizen who has any information about these kittens is urged to call the Danville Area Humane Society at 799-5306.  Callers may remain anonymous.

Mother’s Day 2011

Today, we celebrate Mother’s Day.  The very word “mother” brings to mind safety, warmth, care, and love.  There are bad mothers, to be sure, but the vast majority offer unconditional love.  In fact, all nature values mothers.  There is a reason our planet is called Mother Earth. 

I have never had the blessing of being a mother, but my sister has seven children (all grown now) and it has been a tremendous blessing to be able to share their lives with them.  I have learned a lot about motherhood by watching my mother and sister, and now my nieces, raise their children.  The same traits that I see in human mothers can also be seen in animal mothers.

Puppies and kittens adjust easily and quickly to shelter life if they come in with their mother.  As long as they have her, all is right with their world.  It is always heartbreaking to see little kittens and puppies come to the shelter without their mother.  When put into a cage with another nursing mother to see if they will be accepted by that mother, they immediately try to nurse, and then quickly cuddle with her.  Most animals in nature crave their mother.

Occasionally throughout the years, a mother cat or dog has been brought to the shelter first, and then the babies have been found and brought to us a couple of days later.  It is heartwarming to see the joy of that reunion.  Sometimes, the babies are captured first, and then the mother.  The reunion is just as joyous. 

The situation that we hate to see the most is to have a nursing animal put in our drop-off cage; we always worry about where the babies are.  If we have been told the general area where the mother has been caught, we have been able, in some cases, to put a leash on the mother dog, take her to that area, and let her lead us to her babies.

People know to exercise caution approaching a mother animal who has her babies with her.  Even some very trusting dogs and cats become nervous when a human picks up their young. 

In the wild, most fights with a female are caused by a protective mother.  Wild animal poachers and collectors know that in order to capture a baby or a young animal, the mother first has to be killed.

There are many documented stories about the care animal mothers give.  In 1988, several female elephants brought one of their babies to a park ranger’s office for help.  When the baby was hurt, they walked two miles to the ranger’s office, where the baby would be safe from other animals.

Cows are very maternal.  One witness saw a newborn calf sliding down a slope.  Six cows answered the mother’s cry for help, and stood in line to keep the calf from sliding.  They even stayed to lick the calf clean.

Mother chickens can recognize their chicks’ peeps, and sheep and goat mothers make sure their offspring play with others in their own age group.

Even some species of insects are raised by their mothers! 

How grateful the earth and its creatures should be for the institution of motherhood.  I know I am grateful for my mother.

(We still need items for our yard sale – May 21st in the old Salvation Army building on Riverside Drive.  You are welcome to bring your items to donate to the shelter; we have storage space.)