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.)

Yard Sale – May 21

The Humane Society will be holding a Yard Sale on May 21, at 7 AM.  Come to the old Salvation Army Building on Riverside Drive and support the animals!

Productive Day

On Tuesday, April 19, 2011, we hired an off-duty police officer to spend the day with us to catch up on complaints of neglect and tethering violations.  The other humane investigator, Lynn Shelton, and I went with the officer to 22 locations.  We seized 13 dogs and several tickets for violations were written.  At the end of the day, we were exhausted but felt that the day had been a very productive one.

We seized one dog that had been on a chain for 11 years, although that was not the reason for the seizure.  The police officer noticed a tumor on his leg, as well as his difficulty breathing.  As it turns out, he has a very strong case of heartworms, and will not survive.

Two more pit bulls were seized for inadequate care.  The owner had already been charged with animal neglect, but had not made the appropriate and required changes.  A few months ago, we had spayed and neutered his dogs and had helped him acquire two dog lots.  However, we can only give so many warnings and notices.  At some point, the owner has to take responsibility for the care of his own animals.

Two younger dogs were seized from another address because of inadequate care.

An emaciated mother dog and seven puppies were seized due to lack of care.  The mother dog immediately began eating when offered food.

Appropriate legal action will be taken in each of these cases.    

It was an interesting day.  One woman was offered assistance with getting her female pit bull off the chain.  We offered to pay for the spay, as well as provide her a dog lot.  She said, though, that she is opposed to spaying any dog, so she does not qualify for one of our dog lots. 

Another woman is planning to breed her dogs (mixed breeds, might I add), so I had to withdraw our offer to supply her with a lot.  Another woman said her dog is happier on a chain, and people who do not have chained dogs should not promote laws against chaining because they do not know what they’re talking about.   In cases like these, all we can do is inform the owner of the details of the anti-tethering ordinance and hope they comply within a reasonable time.  If not, charges could be filed against them.

It is always very sad to see dogs chained with no shelter, and it always amazes us when the owners talk about how much they love their dogs.  It is also very upsetting to hear about the people who still believe it is okay to breed animals. 

We saw many stray cats, but could not catch them. In a matter of weeks, those numbers will multiply.  Citizens, animal control officers, and the humane society set traps for cats, but the numbers are astounding. 

At the end of the day, many animals had received help.  I just wish we could have solved all the problems for all the animals.

$1000 Reward!

The reward for Wildcat, the cat who escaped while being transported to a spay/neuter clinic last week, has been increased to up to $1,000.

A caller this morning said that her husband saw a cat matching Wildcat’s description in the Main Street area of Danville last Friday.  This is encouraging news. 

Wildcat may still be in the Main Street, West Main Street, or Memorial Drive area; however, he may have wandered into other areas.  He is a dark colored cat with a bobtail.  He was wearing a white paper collar when he escaped, and when he was spotted Friday night,  he was still wearing the collar. 

We ask that anyone with information about Wildcat call the Humane Society at 799-5306.

Easter 2011

It is the time of year that brings back such fond memories of days gone by of Easter baskets, Easter egg hunts, and lots and lots of candy.  Now, it also brings back memories of ducks abandoned in parks, rabbits stuffed into boxes at dumpsters, and additional animals received at the shelter. 

Each year, we remind everyone that chicks, ducklings, and baby bunnies generally should not be given to children as Easter surprises.

Too many parents make the mistake of believing that rabbits, chicks, and ducklings make appropriate Easter gifts.  Young children oftentimes do not understand how fragile these little creatures are.  In an attempt to play or give affection, children can injure or kill the delicate babies.  Also, many of these animals may carry parasites.  Salmonella is a real danger to children, and can be transmitted from chicken or ducks to humans.

Baby animals are often acquired on impulse at Easter, without consideration of a lifelong commitment.  Rabbits, chickens and ducks have an average lifespan of 8-10 years.  The longest recorded lifespan of a chicken was 34 years!

All of these animals very quickly grow up. They have specific physical and behavioral needs, which a caring, responsible owner would want to fulfill.  A special diet and a carefully controlled environment are necessary for the wellbeing of the Easter pet.

Pet bunnies are being bred in increasing numbers by “rabbit mills” and breeders for the lucrative pet industry.  They are marketed as easy, low-maintenance pets who will sit quietly on a child’s lap, when in reality they are complex animals with unique traits and needs.

The novelty of a pet can quickly wear off, when the cute fuzzy bunny becomes a full-grown rabbit. Many of these animals are merely dumped in the woods and parks where they are easy prey for other animals and cruel people.  In a world where ninety percent of wild rabbits do not live to be a year old, the discarded domesticated rabbit has very little chance of survival.

Ducks and chickens do not fare well either.  We have found grown-up ducks forced to live in small bathtubs, and many domestic ducks have been abandoned by the river bank. Each year, we receive many adult chickens and roosters who are left to fend for themselves, causing problems in neighborhoods.

Just a reminder – it is against Virginia law to sell, raffle, or offer for sale chicks, ducklings, or other fowl under two months old in quantities of less than six.  Baby chickens and ducklings cannot be sold as single Easter pets.

If a family is truly prepared for the responsibility of a pet rabbit and have the facilities to meet the needs of the pet, we wish them many years of happiness together.  For those who are not prepared for such a responsibility, we suggest a non-living alternative, such as a stuffed animal.  A stuffed toy animal makes a great gift for children and does not require the long term expense and commitment of a living animal.

(Critter Corner is co-sponsored by the Register & Bee and Danville Area Humane Society.  Questions or comments should be e-mailed to dahsinc@yahoo.com.)