In nearly 20 years of listening to thousands of adults explain why they ‘had to’ dump their pets, it became so clear that most of them honestly didn’t have a clue as to how easy it would have been for them to have done the right thing in the first place. Instead, they end up assuming there are no options. They feel this is an acceptable solution.
But most horrifying is the fact they rarely feel true remorse. Many still think dog pounds will find their pets a new home. Many feel finding a good home for their pets is merely finding someone with a backyard and a smile promising to love it, with no background check or agreement at all. In as much as I’ve grown weary and disheartened with today’s adults,
The benefits derived from pet ownership have been researched extensively since the 1970s. There is no doubt that a close relationship with companion animals is of benefit to the emotional and psychological development of children, provides much needed companionship and support to the elderly, assists in the recovery rate of patients suffering from serious illness and decreases the rate of minor illness, and may substantially reduce the risk of heart disease. Pets-as-therapy programs around the world have highlighted the benefits of assistance dogs, horse riding for sufferers of cerebral palsy and other disabilities, and the use of companion animals with mentally disturbed children and adolescents. With such strong support for the benefits of pets it could be suggested that pet ownership should in fact be actively encouraged by governments and health authorities, and it is not inconceivable that pets may be prescribed for the sick or disturbed in the future.
Urban consolidation decreased size of private open space (backyards) and increasing competition for public open space (parks) places enormous pressures on dog owners in particular. Similarly for the non-pet owner, closer proximity and increased contact with other peoples' pets seems inevitable.
Urban planning, education programs for pet owners and non-pet owners alike, and the development of realistic and enforceable animal control laws are the key to maintaining the balance between the needs of the majority of our community i.e. the pet owners, and the welfare and rights of others
There has been a great deal of interest in the dog attack issue over the past two years. Unfortunately this has not been helped by the media and highly emotive claims from unsubstantiated sources. Clearly, education in many forms and on many levels is the only way to correct problems such as these.
In reality, "from 65 to 93% of dog attacks occurred in or near the dog owner's home" (Podberscek & Blackshaw 1990). Despite popular opinion, stray dogs are rarely aggressive towards humans (Beck 1979).
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Evaluation of Solutions
Children must obtain a basic grounding in the care and management of companion animals. They must be taught to respect all animals and to realize they have a responsibility to care for pets. In schools this can be effectively achieved through the Pet Pep program which should be in every Australian primary school by the end of 1993. Younger children however must also be targeted from as early as possible through their parents and preschool classes.
Adults - pet owners
The expectations of pet ownership and the associated responsibilities have changed rapidly. In the past two decades it has become unacceptable to allow a dog to roam the streets or defecate in public areas. Pet owners often ignore these attitudinal changes in the community. Educational material aimed at pet owners must aim at raising the awareness of these changes and assist them in being able to meet the more demanding expectations of a far more vocal non-pet owning group.
This education process can occur through:
- human interest/current affair programs
- regular stories in print.
Highly successful community seminars can be held at local venues with speakers like the local vets and the animal control officer (ACO). Incentive to attend such seminars can be generated by pre-publicity, free gift or bonus eg decreased dog registration fee for attendance.
iii. information booths
This popular concept can access the general public in shopping centers, local festivals and other community activities. The booths must be approachable and staffed by trained personnel who can answer queries.
There are a number of pet education videos available for all age groups. Local libraries could stock these as could veterinary
surgeries and council offices.
Clear posters and signs indicating acceptable behavior are essential e.g. a graphic depicting dog's droppings with a slash through it (AFIRAC 1986:65). This signage must be accompanied by supportive action by councils to provide for the disposal of faces.
Multilingual, easy to understand information brochures should be provided for dissemination at all possible venues. Letter-boxing such leaflets could be effective.
The status of pets in the community must be promoted. It should be unacceptable to denigrate the importance of the people/pet relationship or stipulate areas that are exempt to pet owners. The education of the community to accept pet ownership as an integral and important right of its members must be achieved in conjunction with raising the consciousness and concern of pet owners for others.
I stand firm in my belief that if they had knowledge of the resulting consequences of their actions, or been informed of just how simple and easy it is to do the right thing in the first place, almost all of them would have done the right thing. These ‘options’ not only save money, but they save lives. Ignorance and apathy, (the lack of understanding the entire picture) are undoubtedly the biggest part of the problems nowadays and are overwhelming in today’s adults. The good news is, both are easily correctable
Randy N. Warner uses his experiences of rescuing abandoned and abused dogs for the past 18 years to show students 'cause and affect' and to teach them compassionate means of avoiding the unnecessary continuation of these deadly acts Since his mission is to do whatever possible to see some form of humane education program in our nation's schools, it is difficult to walk away from meeting with Mr. Warner without feeling his undying passion to spread his universal message to the next generation. It is hoped that they will benefit from the love and compassion that all animals can offer us and stop the abuse and overpopulation.
The more people we can involve in and educate on these matters, the more that they will all understand the seriousness and magnitude of the atrocities being committed every day in this country and around the world. It can only be a good thing. It is proven that it does NOT take money to solve these problems! It takes the sharing of information and community involvement. Adult Americans are currently responsible for the sad legacy we leave to the younger generation in regards to the animals - their abuse, overpopulation and subsequent convenient and unnecessary euthanasia. So, it is only logical that if the general public is causing these problems, then we can't depend on THEM to teach their children how to correct the situation. They obviously don't know.
Nobody has a litter of puppies or kittens just so they can be abused or later put to sleep. Most of those directly involved simply do the things they do out of ignorance, over inflated ego and apathy. We adults simply never had an opportunity to be involved in a comprehensive or successful humane education program. We simply learned a lot of the things we did through talking to our family at the dinner table, etc. Now that our families are more pseudo-assembled than ever, the topic of how best to care for Spot and Muffy, is simply lost in the shuffle. These things simply need some explaining in order to correct them. What used to be very simple, still is. We just need to begin where we obviously left off - with the kids.
Randy has been given thousands of silly and unbelievable reasons why the 'owners' had to get rid of their beloved pets. "They no longer match the interior of my living room," or she gained too much weight and we don't want a fat dog, or it's not housebroken, it barks. All are the fault of the caregiver / guardian, or in this case the pet's 'owner'. In almost all cases, had the person or family adopting the pet had checked out the given breed's qualities or taken some time in properly caring for the pet, it would have become a wonderful addition to the family and it's lifestyle.
We provide information obtained from various national animal welfare groups and show proven means of avoiding he re-occurrences of these mistakes. They all provide good solid research with variety of solutions to all the big problems. We will discuss various ways in which they can become more active in their community by gaining knowledge and acting according to what is the best for all souls who surround them.
This program, and many others like it, could easily change the way most people today think about their pets as well as how they are cared for. Many people simply begin by adopting the wrong type pet for the family and lifestyle they have. People will spend more time researching a new automobile than looking into the type of living soul they wish to spend the next 15 years with. A large number of those will just as easily take a puppy over an adult dog because 'they want to train it to be like they want it to be" only to give up on it and take it to the pound.
Ignorantly, a lot of people seem to think that their pet will certainly find a good home. The reality is obviously quite different. Then there is the thought that only 'bad' dogs and cats are found at the pound; therefore they would rather not go there. In reality, the majority of the animals who are awaiting adoption at the local dog pound are only there due to an ignorant and impatient 'owner'. So, ignorance of the adults, in general will also be the main cause of these animals never having a fair shot at a second chance for life.
The most important focus of this program is to teach the younger generation that if they have a litter of puppies or kitties, then they immediately become the biggest problem we have in solving the situation of overpopulation. "But, I found good homes for my litter" is only an excuse for ignorance. If you are part of a company who makes widgets and you have an overstock of more than 8 million widgets that can't be sold and must be destroyed, the ONLY solution to preventing additional and costly losses is to stop manufacturing widgets.
When asked why so many normal, well-educated and loving families had a litter of puppies or kittens, two responses kept coming up. "Oh, we PLAN to have our pets spayed or neutered, but we wanted to have a couple litters first." In other words, they just missed the whole point of the spay and neuter campaign. The second one is "we just wanted to show the children the miracle of birth" Then the only fair thing to do in this situation is to take them to the local dog pound to volunteer for a couple days as well. After all, you've just become one of the biggest contributing factors to the problems we see at our animal facilities!!
Overcrowding. BACKYARD BREEDERS are not educated, they are not providing quality dogs and cats and they DON'T have you or your new pet's best interest at hand. See the page marked "Backyard Breeders".
One thing that is very upsetting is when the school administrators feel this is NOT a necessary or appropriate educational program for their students. It is very disheartening to hear a superintendent or principal downplay these programs that affect each and every student and faculty member in their reach. Excuses like "All of our students already have dogs or cats" to "we don't feel that we need an outsider into our schools to tell us we need to learn about how to be responsible for our pets and their needs'. We are aware that most of their students have or will have pets of their own. We just don't particularly wish for them to simply follow in the footsteps of those adults or caregivers they learn live with. After all, it's today's adults - all of us, to a certain extent - who are creating this problem.
THE EDUCATION PROGRAM OUR MAIN GOAL IS TO PREVENT THE UNNECESSARY KILLING OF INNOCENT, ADOPTABLE PETS DUE TO IGNORANCE AND IRRESPONSIBILITY BY HUMANs
What follows is an outline or an abbreviated version of the program that usually lasts about 45 minutes or more, depending on questions coming from the students and adults in attendance The discussion involving the possible formation of their local humane education club or helping them to launch a project to help their community would be following this short program and could last an hour or more.
. This could take place at another time and place with an adult advisor, so as not to prevent the students from missing additional class time.
TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION WITH THE STUDENTS:
1. The benefits of community involvement. Do not stand idly by and allow abuse, neglect or other ignorance by humans. Help the community to learn to better through information sharing.
2. The need for everyone with a pet to have some form of access to proper training and guidance.
3. The importance of becoming the 'guardian' of the proper pet for you and your family and the lifestyle you live.
4. The absolute evils of having a litter of puppies or kittens along with the importance of timely spaying and neutering of said pet.
5. The importance of providing the appropriate needs for your pet, not necessarily what your ego decides is best for them.
6. How everyone can become involved on an individual basis by helping senior citizens and low income families by providing occasional vet trips or a few bags of dog food to prevent their pets from being relinquished to the animal facility unnecessarily.
7. The benefits of beginning with an adult dog from the dog pound as opposed to 'assuming' that they have the knowledge or understanding of how to properly train a new young puppy to meet their needs. (Having my five dogs in the classroom that are obviously very lovable and worthwhile, helps bring this point home with some foundation) Each one was an adult from the pound when I adopted him or her. The fact that one has kept a puppy, only means they were lucky, not necessarily a skilled or knowledgeable trainer. An adult dog from the pound is already spayed and neutered, vaccinated; past it's digging and chewing stage and will respond with love and affection as it has just come from a family who obviously didn't care.
8. The proven benefits for humans as well as their pets of providing 'indoor' sleeping arrangements for their pets. Reduced allergies for children, improved allergenic reactions for adults who already have them, as well as a longer and healthier life for the pets as well. After all, if a dog is to protect its most important family members, it can't do so from the back yard if it has no access to the inside areas. (Reference: Associated Press article by Justin Pritchard in San Francisco)
9. A 'guard dog' is one who has been properly trained for the job and understands its boundaries. It is NOT a dog someone throws into the back yard with no guidance or training. The latter will only prove to annoy your neighbors and cause your family undue troubles with barking, biting or destruction of property.
10. Why the perfect family should consider a second compatible dog or cat as a companion for the first one. (Too many deserving and loving animals will die if not, and dogs and cats are social animals and enjoy the company of other compatible dogs and cats) They play with and train each other and offer much needed exercise for each other.
11. The absolute necessity for having proper identification on your pet at ALL TIMES. (I.e. 4th of July, New Years Eve, tornadoes, earthquakes and various events that frighten your pet to where they will escape out of fear.)
12. To discuss the proven links between animal abuse and future criminal activity as adults. (Reference Houston Chronicle Story Nov 29, 2000 by Jo Ann Zuiga: "Animal Abuse May Be Warning Sign)
13. IF you are forced to part with your beloved pet, remember to never take it to the local pound, but to a local rescue org. and NEVER place a "FREE TO GOOD HOME" ad in the paper. The 'whys' and the options. Rethink your decision to relinquish the pet. It has already given everything it has to try and please you and would certainly give it's life to protect you if need be. Don't dump it off for silly self-centered reasons, which could be rectified through some training tips or a few sacrifices on your part.
SUGGESTED PROJECTS FOR THOSE INTERESTED
1. To hopefully prepare a program in which the members will visit other schools in and around the local area to share this information and hopefully help others to form these humane education clubs in their schools as well.
2. The first several meetings of this group can be enhanced through additional speakers from their local humane organizations, vets, dog trainers and animal control officers who will share their local problems with the students.
3. Offers to assist senior citizens and low income families with donated food and vet visits as well as training tips to improve the quality of the pets' lives as well as their own.
4. How to convince the public to obtain appropriate identification for all pets either through a simple engraved tag on the collar or micro-chipping.
5. To tackle the project of holding an OFF SITE adoption program for those pets who would otherwise face certain death at the local facility. After all, the public rarely goes to the pound, as it is a very sad and depressing place. They will, however attend an event at a local city park where each animal is leashed and accompanied by a volunteer with a card containing the autobiography of that given pet.
6. Try to tackle a project such as opening a local dog park where the dogs and their guardians come to socialize, run and play with each other in a securely fenced area.
7. Obtaining much needed coverage in their school newspaper to help other students to learn proper care-giving procedures and responsibilities for their pets. Not to mention the benefits to their org. as well as the local community of having nice coverage within their local papers and t. v. news.
8. Letter writing campaigns, neighborhood 'reach' programs and other means of truly helping the local population as well as local government officials to provide improved care for their pets.
9. The need to speak out and get involved in issues that surround your family and those you care about. To take action and vote on issues and for candidates who strongly support and stand by ideals that help your local area to grow and improve the quality of life for all souls who reside there. Do not sit idly by while a neighbor neglects or abuses an animal by tying it up to a post or allowing it to go without food or water. Do not sit idly by while an important initiative gets defeated in your local elections.
IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW, THINKS THEY WOULD LIKE TO GO TO SCHOOLS AND VOLUNTEER SOME TIME AND INFORMATION IN AN ATTEMPT TO HELP THE NEXT GENERATION BECOME MORE INFORMED AND COMPASSIONATE, PLEASE EMAIL OR CALL 21ST CENTURY CARES. YOU WILL BE PROVIDED WITH INFORMATION ON HOW TO APPROACH THE SCHOOLS, MATERIALS FOR VARIOUS GRADE LEVELS, PROJECT IDEAS AND MORE.