2012 Goals

My New Year’s Eve celebrations usually come to an end long before midnight. I enjoy time with family members, and then spend time thinking about the year past and the year future. I have usually chosen my theme for the New Year a couple of weeks in advance, so I think about how the theme can positively impact my life during the coming year.
This New Year’s Eve, though, I may stay up until midnight, not necessarily to usher in 2012, but to make sure 2011 leaves us. It has been a hard year.
However, the Danville Area Humane Society is facing an exciting 2012:

1. Very soon, we will officially open the new “no-kill” adoption center. This will not solve all the overpopulation problems in Danville and Pittsylvania County, but will provide us more space to hold the adoptable animals. We will still be an open-admission shelter, which means we will not turn away animals. Once an animal comes into the shelter, and they become our property through state law, they will be evaluated for behavioral and health issues. As space permits, they will be accepted into the adoption center, and will be held until they are adopted or transferred to another group (as long as they remain healthy and non-aggressive). We are thrilled to be able to build this center, through the generosity of many donors and supporters, as well as the E. Stuart James Grant Charitable Trust, and give it as a gift to the City of Danville.

2. We will continue to help residents of Danville and Pittsylvania County pay for the spay/neuter surgery. Frankly, larger shelters with the combination of more adoptions cannot solve all the problems of overpopulation and abuse. Only spaying and neutering to reduce the number of unwanted animals can solve the problem. Since 1993, we have helped 20,000 dogs and cats in Danville and Pittsylvania County, spending about $500,000, again mostly through the generosity of the E. Stuart James Grant Charitable Trust.

3. We will expand our volunteer programs. We have a large group of dedicated people who enjoy serving the animals. People can serve on our fundraising committee, or they can serve as shelter volunteers. Shelter employees stay busy taking care of the basic needs of shelter animals, and we love for volunteers to help exercise the animals. With our adoption center opening, we will rely on volunteers more than ever. In fact, we hope some people will be able to help us clean the cages!

4. We will continue our 24 hours a day, 365 days a year work of helping the animals. We conduct neglect and cruelty investigations and help rescue animals.

We hope that 2012 will be a kinder one for all animals, and we look forwarding to serving all the wonderful creatures with whom we share this earth.

Earthquakes and Hurricanes

In a one-week period we experienced both an earthquake and a hurricane.  Thankfully the effects of both of these natural disasters passed us by relatively unscathed.  However, wishing on luck to avoid the inevitable is a dangerous proposition that may eventually leave us in a precarious position.

This weekend I was able to travel to some of the coastal areas that were affected by Hurricane Irene to assist with debris cleanup.  I spent about eight hours at Harker’s Island helping to clean out flooded homes, clear debris and fallen trees, and help in any way that I could.  As I worked with the residents of this small community I asked about their pets.  Most of them were evacuated with their humans; although I was saddened by the Lost posters that decorated the community playground where we ate lunch.

In talking to the people we helped I learned some things about disaster preparation that I’d like to pass along.

Some natural disasters, such as a hurricane, allow time for a limited amount of planning.  Others, such as a tornado, an ice storm that limits power, or a damaging earthquake, provide no advance warning.  Thankfully, the same advanced planning will work for most scenarios.

One thing to remember is that emergency shelters may only accept service animals.  For those of you that think you’ll simply pack up Molly in your small dog carrier and take her with you, this might prove to be more of a problem than you might anticipate.  Will your options be more or less limited if you show up at the shelter with Molly than if you took alternate actions before you arrived?  Remember, it may be too late to return home or difficult to locate your neighbor who could have watched Molly at her cousins house 100 miles away.

Obviously boarding your animals might not be a great idea either.  If you board them too close to the event, such as a hurricane, you may run the risk of a shelter full of animals but unattended by people.  Some boarding facilities may fill up quickly or stop accepting new animals as landfall draws close.

There is no perfect way to answer these questions.  Furthermore, these questions become compounded as you factor in multiple pets.  There are; however, some simple things that you can do to ease the burden for you and your animal loved ones.

Whenever possible, make plans to take pets to animal-friendly loved ones.  For example, my wonderful wife loves and cares for our two house cats.  Although she is capable of dealing with a canine overnighter, her welcome would surely wane after several days.  My mother; however, would welcome Pekingese visitors every day of the week.

Know the location and phone numbers of pet-friendly hotels.  This requires a little time up front, but in the event of an emergency this knowledge will make your evacuation a little less stressful.

I’m a big believer in 72-hour emergency kits for humans, and believe this practice should be extended to our pets as well.  Your pet kits should include a three day supply of food and water (don’t forget the can opener if you pack cans instead of a dry mix), bowls, collars and leashes , litter boxes, photographs  of you with your pet, and a week’s supply of medications that your pet may be taking, including instructions (in case you and your pet are separated), and copies of your pet’s latest vaccinations in case you need to board them.

With a little advanced preparation, you can lower the stress of taking care of your pet during a natural disaster or local emergency.  You can also rest a little easier before one ever occurs with the knowledge that you have already done something to prepare.

Matthew Clark is a guest contributor and has volunteered as the Danville Area Humane Society’s webmaster for the last 10 years. Matthew is a Danville native currently living in Fayetteville NC. He can be reached at www.theITcareer.com

Abandoned Rat Terrier – Reward!

The Danville Area Humane Society now must also offer a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who tied a young, male rat terrier mix in an abandoned house, and then failed to provide adequate care.

The Inspections Department called the Police Department to remove a young, emaciated male rat terrier mix from an abandoned house on Worsham Street in Danville this afternoon.  The dog had been tied in the house, and is severely malnourished and dehydrated.  He is expected to survive.  We expect that he will be ready to be adopted in 12 days.

Anyone with information is urged to call the Danville Area Humane Society at 799-5306.  Callers may remain anonymous.  Abandonment of animals is an ongoing problem, but we are alarmed by the number of animals being abandoned and mistreated this summer.

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Reward! Comcast Kittens

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 who placed six newborn kittens in a plastic box, latched it, and placed it in the back of a Comcast service truck.

At 2:00 this afternoon, a Comcast serviceman brought the kittens to the shelter.  He was on Withers Road when he heard a small noise on the back of his truck.  He investigated, and saw a plastic box that was latched closed, with six newborn kittens in the box.  Since the box was   tightly latched, a mother cat could not have put the kittens in the box.

The serviceman said he had been in the vicinity of North Hills Court earlier in the day before going to Withers Road. 

The kittens have been cleaned by shelter employees, and fleas have been removed.  The kittens were wet and weak when received, but two nursing cats at the shelter have begun to feed them.  We do not know if they will survive.

If anyone has information about this case, they are strongly urged to call the Danville Area Humane Society at 799-5306.  Callers may remain anonymous.

Euthanasia

One of my favorite books is The Hiding Place, a true story by Corrie ten Boom.  Corrie and her sister were older single women who, along with their elderly father, helped shelter Jews from the horrific atrocities in World War II Germany.  They were eventually imprisoned and both the sister and the father died in a concentration camp.

Years ago when I first read the book, I was so sad to read the account of an elderly Jewish man who had two dogs he faithfully walked every morning.  As it become apparent he was eventually going to be sent to a concentration camp, he started stockpiling some medicine that, when used in small doses, was fine, but when used in large doses, could cause a heart to stop.  He told Corrie that he was afraid of what would happen to his dogs after he was arrested.  Doing the dark days of that war, homeless pets did not survive. One evening he gave them a huge amount of the medication, and then held them until they quietly slipped into heaven. 

What a heartbreaking decision that was for him, but it was the last act of kindness he could do for his dogs.

The decision to euthanize a companion animal is a difficult one.  Perhaps it is easier when the injuries are severe or the illness painful and terminal.  Then, the owner can love unselfishly and make the determination that a quiet, dignified death is a kinder option.

But, what happens when the animal is merely old with expensive medical concerns the owner can no longer afford?  Or, what happens when the problem is a behavioral one, such as a cat that has started to bite or a dog that is terrified and cannot adjust to people?   In some cases, all possible avenues have been explored to change the behavior, aggression or phobias, and the animal has not changed.

Many years ago, a distraught woman called to report what she thought was an act of cruelty.  An elderly woman had died, and the family made the decision to immediately euthanize the woman’s elderly dog.  The caller insisted that the family be charged with cruelty.  Unknown to this woman, the family made the only humane decision.  The veterinarian had recommended euthanasia for many months, but the elderly woman could not stand the thought of life without her beloved companion. 

I have learned that the decision to euthanize a pet who is a family member is not an easy one.  In mid-1996, my father looked at my 16 year-old cat and told me how weak and old she had become.  He said I needed to think about euthanizing her.  Well, Daddy was dying and maybe I just could not stand the thought I was going to lose my Dusty  as well as my Daddy.  I waited until February of 1997.  By then, Dusty had lost 10 of her 16 pounds.  I realize now that it would have been kinder to let her leave me several months before, although I  hope she still had happiness and some quality of life for those final months.

When, in 2005, I found out my dog, Katey, had congestive heart and kidney failure, the decision had to come quickly, so it was not a long, drawn-out process.  Still, the grief was there.

There are many circumstances and many factors in making the decision to end a pet’s life.  It is a deeply-personal decision.  The first person who can help make a decision is the veterinarian who has cared for your animal, hopefully for many years.  Family members and friends can lend support, hopefully in a non-judgmental way.

We are called upon many, many times to euthanize beloved family pets.  Sometimes, an elderly cat is wrapped in a blanket, sometimes a hamster is on top of a soft pile of tissues in a box, and sometimes a badly injured dog is carried in the owner’s arms.  Some shelters refuse to offer this service, because it affects the percentage of animals received and euthanized.  We believe numbers are not important, when compared to the weightier matter of grieving hearts and helping to relieve an animal’s suffering.

Most of us will have to decide whether or not to euthanize a pet.  I believe that, like that poor Jewish man who helped his own dogs leave this earth, it is a decision that must be guided by unselfish love.

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.

Turkey

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.

Turtle

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!