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How Do Farmed Animals Fare in the Winter?

Monday December 18th, 2023

Shiver Me Timbers! How Do Farmed Animals Fare in the Winter?

By Jeffrey Richard, Jameson Humane Volunteer

Jameson Humane is known for its rescue and care of a wide range of animals that might otherwise face neglect or even premature euthanasia. (See, reviews posted https://greatnonprofits.org/reviews/jameson-humane/role:4.) Among many other species and breeds, Jameson’s dedicated staff and volunteers care for or have cared for numerous farmed animals such as horses, cows, sheep, goats, pigs and chickens.

In the upcoming colder months, we hope that everyone will be on the lookout for any animals (whether they be big or small) that might be in distress from the elements. Members of the public are always Jameson’s best connections and sources of information regarding animal welfare issues. The cold/rainy season brings with it potential hazards to animals that can be every bit as serious as those that arise during the hot/fire season.  Jameson needs you to be its eyes and ears and if you see something, say something!

Jameson is well-acquainted with ways in which animals naturally protect themselves to some degree from the cold.  It is important to take all appropriate precautions to assure the health and comfort of the animals during the colder months. 

Horses

          Dawn English, Equine Care Manager at Jameson, has observed the way in which horses have evolved to develop certain natural protections against the cold:

“For horses preparing for winter/colder weather, they grow their winter coat to help keep them warm. Their hair becomes thicker and fuzzier, which not only helps them stay warm but also repels moisture. Some of our horses also like to roll and coat themselves in mud to help stay warm. The coating of dried mud is another layer on their coat to help maintain their body heat.  A lot of times if you brush them clean, they immediately go roll in the mud again.”

English describes how Jameson provides additional protections for its horses during the cold weather:

“To keep our horses warm during the cold winter months, we make sure they are getting plenty of quality hay/feed to maintain their weight. It helps horses retain body fat to feed them a little extra during the colder months. They tend to lose weight burning calories trying to stay warm. For horses that are underweight or might not have a thick enough winter coat due to health or age, we will put a warm comfy horse blanket on them to stay warm and dry. We also provide shelters with bedding for the horses to get out of the wind and rain.”

Cows (and Other Ruminants)

Jared Henry is Jameson’s manager of Animal Healing and Development, Farmed Animal and Equine Specialty.  He’s a key player in Jameson’s care for farmed animals, including cows, sheep and goats that are known as ruminants (aka, “cud-chewers”) – those animals that regurgitate feed previously ingested and then chew and digest it further. Henry describes how ruminants cope with cold weather:

“Ruminants are incredibly cold hardy animals, with the exception of some breeds of goats. Cows and sheep, however, can be quite happy covered in snow in freezing temperatures. Cows, sheep and certain kinds of goats grow in a very thick insulating layer of fur/wool during the winter.  A cow can be perfectly comfortable literally covered in snow. In fact, when temperatures drop below freezing, cows are often better off when covered in snow than they are when directly exposed to the cold temperatures. Snow actually provides an insulating layer as it remains at around 32 degrees (F.) in most conditions. 

A trick of the trade I’ve learned with cows and less wooly sheep is to feel through their winter coats to their skin. Is the animal’s skin dry? Then they’re feeling fine. If they are wet, then we may have a problem.

Another cool thing about ruminants is that their digestion actually creates notable body heat. And their continuous eating, digestion, and re-digestion helps to generate heat that combats the cold.

However, young ruminants are more vulnerable to cold weather. The second most common cause of death in lambs is freezing to death. While blankets on adult ruminants can do more harm than good in the coldest of temperatures (because a blanket tends to flatten their coat and reduce its insulating effect), baby sheep, goats, and cows should be covered with jackets or blankets during even moderately cold weather. (By the way, such apparel makes for some darn cute photo ops!)"

It should be noted that cows need dry areas in which to lie down to assure proper digestion through rumination. Availability of comfortable stalls is critical to optimize the rumination process. But cold, wet weather can often make it difficult for cows to find dry places suitable to lie down. Care should be taken to provide dry, comfortable areas for cows. Bedding materials should be used to provide a barrier between the animal and muddy or frozen earth. https://extension.psu.edu

Pigs

Jameson’s Jared Henry observes how pigs adjust to colder temperatures:

“Pigs’ winter coats are different from those grown by horses or cows. In the hot weather, most domestic pig breeds lose almost all of their hair. But when the cold weather comes, they are totally covered in coarse hair. While the hair does help them some, pigs are not as cold hardy as ruminants. And in areas that receive snow, some pigs will even refuse to step outside their shelter or barn into the snow. 

Pigs seek the comfort and body heat of other pigs in cold weather. They prefer to cuddle with other pigs to fend off the cold rather than putting on a jacket or blanket.  It is virtually impossible to get a jacket on an uncooperative pig!”

Chickens

          Henry describes how chickens fare in cold weather:

“Chickens are very good at regulating their own temperature. When it’s cold out, chickens can be seen huddling like a football team during a timeout. Although they probably don’t know why they are doing it, huddling with other members of the clutch preserves their body heat.

Chickens also fend off the cold by altering their posture. In warm weather, they stand tall with their neck stretched. In the winter, they keep their head very close to their body, which keeps their feathers more tightly compacted and traps body heat. To help chickens fend off cold weather, we typically give them a secure shelter with four walls to protect them not only from predators but from the chill of winter weather too.”

All of Jameson's animals are preparing for the cold and rainy weather! Whether it is eating some extra calories to pack on a few more pounds, wearing a blanket for some of the senior horses who might need more warmth, or getting some added bedding to snuggle into overnight, they're all receiving the special care and attention needed during these cold and rainy days and nights. Be vigilant during the cold and rainy weather for your furry friends and please contact Jameson with any animal welfare concerns.

Grieving an Animal Companion

Monday October 16th, 2023

Grieving an Animal Companion

By Jeffrey Richard, Jameson Humane Volunteer

In last month’s blog entry, we explored the question of whether animals experience grief and go through a mourning process when a companion – whether animal or human – passes away. The clear conclusion was that animals certainly do feel grief and mourn the passing of their loved ones; and people need to provide understanding and assistance to our animal companions in finding closure through a grieving process. 

This month, we look at the other side of the coin and discuss how we humans should help each other when we mourn the death of our animal companions and other animals under our care.

The Depth of Our Grief for the Loss of a Beloved Animal Should Be Recognized as Natural, Legitimate, and Deserving of Society’s Support  

            Jameson Humane’s core mission – to promote a world view in which animals are respected and protected from exploitation, consumption, neglect, and mistreatment – recognizes the critical importance of animals to the lives of humans and to the world as a whole. This is demonstrated by looking at the number of animal companions in the United States alone. As of 2018, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA):

  • More than 48 million households in the U.S. had a total of nearly 77 million dogs
  • Nearly 32 million households had a total of more than 58 million cats
  • More than 1.5 million households had more than 2.2 million rabbits
  • Nearly 900,000 households cared for more than 1.9 million horses as companions
  • More than 3.5 million households had around 7.5 million birds.

And the COVID-19 pandemic substantially increased those numbers; by the end of 2020, more than 70 percent of all U.S. households included animal companions.

These statistics, no doubt, reflect the fact that we humans derive great emotional and psychological benefits from the love, comfort and companionship of animals. People enjoy a heightened sense of self-worth in caring for their animals and in turn are comforted when animals reciprocate with affection and support. Those of us who have developed bonds with animals know this to be true. Caring for animals fulfills our need to be needed. 

In fact, the bond between animals and their people can sometimes be stronger and certainly less complicated than the relationship with human family members and friends. In a study published in the scientific journal, Evolution and Human Behavior (“Why Do People Love Their Animals?” J. Archer, Dept. of Psychology, University of Central Lancashire, UK), John Archer explains:

“The precise mechanisms that enable animals to elicit caregiving from humans . . . can, in some circumstances, cause pet owners to derive more satisfaction from their pet relationship than those with humans, because they supply a type of unconditional relationship that is usually absent from those with other human beings.” 

But there are, of course, trade-offs. Our companion animals are a huge responsibility, requiring us to provide constant attention and care for their emotional, nutritional, and physical needs. And we must take our animals into consideration whenever we make plans – whether such plans entail a few hours away to see a movie or a few weeks to visit far-off lands. Animals can restrict our independence and flexibility in the way we live our lives. But we gladly accept such responsibility and inconvenience in exchange for the love and comfort that they provide. Nothing beats the joy we feel when our animal buddies rush to greet us when we come home to them. And we are immensely satisfied by fulfilling our responsibility to love and nurture our hairy or feathery friends.

However, because of the depth of our bond with our animals, we pay a huge emotional price when the time comes to cope with their deaths. The sad fact is that our animals pass away all too quickly – often only a few short years after they become part of our families. And for many, losing an animal companion is like losing a family member or close friend. See, “What You Can Do to Feel Better After Pet Loss,” PsychCentral.com.

It is often said, and justifiably so, that nothing in life is harder than losing a child. For many people, animals occupy a place in their lives that is the emotional and psychological equivalent to that occupied by children. Thus, the grief they experience in losing an animal that fills that spot in their heart is often beyond measure.

Furthermore, the grief experienced by the animal’s guardian is often accompanied and intensified by feelings of guilt and regret when the guardian was the one who had to make the decision to euthanize their animal companion.  Even when euthanasia is the right thing to do in order to put an end to pain and suffering, it is natural for the guardian to question the decision and to be haunted by pangs of guilt.

Unfortunately, society (and individual animal guardians) tend to downplay the seriousness or legitimacy of feelings of grief that arise when an animal dies. And this can make it hard for people to feel free to express their grief and many prolong their mourning.  In an article in Psychology Today by Adam Clark, LCSW, “The Cultural Stigma of Pet Loss and Grieving Their Death” (subtitled, “An overview as to why grieving the death of our animals can bring societal judgment), Mr. Clark observes:

“. . . [M]odern-day American culture just isn’t comfortable with the concept of death and dying, especially when it comes to the death of our animals, although that may be slowly changing.

“. . . If a culture naturally avoids the conversation and topic of death, experiencing the grief from someone who has lost a pet can be extra uncomfortable. . . .

“Pet owners who love their animals and consider them members of the family still express ‘I must be crazy for grieving so much’ or question their level of grief, wondering if it is normal to feel the way that they do. In fact, many people experience the death of their pet as more painful than an immediate family member in levels of intensity and duration.”

Where Can People Turn for Support in Mourning the Loss of Animals?

            When someone we know loses a family member or close friend, we do what we can to give them emotional support and comfort, and practical support such as food and assistance with arrangements and communications for funeral services and memorials. Hospice services and other health care and civic organizations offer grievance counseling and support groups. But most people don’t know where to turn for similar help with their grief over the death of a companion animal.

“Research has confirmed that for most people, the loss of a dog is, in almost every way, comparable to the loss of a human loved one. Unfortunately, there’s little in our cultural playbook – no grief rituals, no obituary in the local newspaper, no religious service – to help us get through the loss of a pet, which can make us feel more than a bit embarrassed to show too much public grief over our dead dogs.”

(“Why Losing a Dog Can be Harder than Losing a Relative or Friend,”)

The good news is that there seems to be growing recognition that people who lose animals need (and deserve) the same degree of societal support, understanding, and sympathy provided to those who mourn the loss of human loved ones.  And there are now more places for us to turn to explore the grieving process, to express our own grief, to be comforted and to comfort others in mourning, and to seek a cathartic outlet. Here are just a few good examples:

Bubbling Well Pet Memorial Park in Napa Valley, California.  

In addition to providing a beautiful, serene place for animal burials and memorial ceremonies, Bubbling Well offers online materials and other services to help those who grieve the loss of an animal companion, including aftercare services and a pet compassion careline. Bubbling Well’s online support guide, “Coping with the Loss of a Companion Animal,” is a good source of information and suggestions for dealing with the grief that accompanies loss of companion animals.

  • The Pet Memorial Project of the Harmony Fund

The Harmony Fund is an international animal rescue charity. Their Pet Memorial Project maintains an online “Pet Loss Support Center”.  Those materials include numerous videos and articles that provide excellent guidance. The videos include “Coping with Pet Grief and Loss,” “I Miss You,” “You Are Forgiven,” and “It’s Okay to be Sad,” among others.  The written articles include “How to Deal With the Loss of a Pet,” “How to Bury a Pet,” and “6 Ways to Help a Friend Whose Pet Died.”

  • The California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA)

The CVMA has published on its website a lengthy list of support groups for pet-mourners throughout California. The site also includes the following referrals to additional resources, among others:

  • An individual grief counselor, Lois Mark, LCSW, loismark.com
  • Moderated chat rooms for pet loss and anticipatory grief, aplb.org
  • Virtual candle lighting ceremonies at 7 p.m. each Monday, petloss.com

Nikki Hospice Foundation for Animals’ help line, 707-557-8595

  • Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS)

BFAS is a “no-kill” animal sanctuary located in Utah, which was founded in 1984, and which has developed a nationwide network of similar sanctuaries and lifesaving centers. BFAS has put together an excellent set of resources to assist people in coping with the passing of their companion animals.  Among a variety of other helpful materials, the BFAS webpages include:

  • Articles regarding coping with the loss of an animal companion, mourning the loss during the holidays, and animal euthanasia
  • Links to hotlines, support groups, a network of veterinarians who help people copy with end-of-life care for their animals, and a platform for those in mourning to write and share letters expressing their grief
  • Videos to assist in the grieving process

Jameson Humane Is Here to Help and Invites Your Thoughts and Suggestions as to How Jameson Can Support People in Coping With the Loss of Animals Under Their Care 

Jameson Humane takes in many animals that might otherwise face premature euthanasia. But the decision to humanely euthanize is often the appropriate course for the sake of the animal. Animal guardians who face this sad step are invited to contact Jameson Humane for a list of veterinarians who make house calls for euthanasia to make the process as personal and comfortable for both the animal and the guardian as possible.  Please contact Monica Stevens at Monica@JamesonHumane.org.  Please visit our Grief Support Page for more resources.

Do Animals Experience Grief When a Human or Animal Companion Dies?

Tuesday September 12th, 2023

Do Animals Experience Grief When a Human or Animal Companion Dies?

by Jeffrey Richard, Jameson Humane Volunteer

A fundamental principle at the core of Jameson Humane’s mission is that animals are sentient beings who deserve dignity, respect, and empathy equivalent to human beings.  But do animals experience a full range of emotions on par with those felt by people? Do they experience sorrow and grief from the loss of an animal’s human and animal companions, pack/herd members and loved ones?

Veterinary literature and anecdotal evidence indicate that animals certainly do mourn the death of human and animal companions and loved ones. In an online publication of Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Karissa Bennett writes:

“People with companion animals or service animals will strongly argue that animals express numerous feelings such as fear, anger, shame, excitement, and grief. Historically, wild animals have been known to express grief by letting out a yelp, wandering aimlessly, and eventually reorganizing their pack.

“The human animal bond is a complex social bond which is mutual, affectionate and thrives around a family system. Animals view you as a member of their pack. This bond provides safety and security for the family members and their pets and stabilizes everyone’s wellbeing.

“When a family member, human or animal, is lost, becomes ill, or dies, it affects the whole family. Effectively supporting the grief process in the surviving pack members allows the pack to move forward.

“Animals display grief in a manner similar to humans. Aspects of their personality may change for a period time.”

https://vetmedbiosci.colostate.edu/vth/animal-health/how-animals-grieve

            Jameson Humane’s staff members have observed numerous examples of mourning behavior in both companion animals and farmed animals in Jameson’s care. Dawn English is Jameson’s Equine Care Lead. Dawn recalls many times when animals have displayed grief due to the loss of a companion, herd member or other loved one during her 12 years in the field of animal rescue:

“Sadly, I have seen a lot of animals pass and have observed how their herd mates, family and other animals housed near them reacted to the loss. On one occasion, a llama under our care reacted in an unexpectedly mournful way to the passing of a goat in our herd. I came in one morning and our sweet girl had passed away during the night. Our llama housed near the goat sniffed her body, rolled on the ground next to her several times, and lied down next to her for hours until the body was taken away.

“While I was with another rescue organization, I was in charge of caring for a herd of horses and got to know them very well. One pair was so bonded that they groomed each other all the time and even walked in sync. When one of them passed away, we took the other over to say goodbye. At first, he didn’t show much of a reaction but we gave him time alone with his companion while we waited for the truck to pick up the body. After a few minutes, we were quite moved when the survivor groomed the other horse from head to hoof.  He then stood in the corner of his paddock, looking away from his friend. He cried out when the truck took his friend away.”

            BBC Earth, in its online edition, addressed the question of whether animals (and which animals) experience grief and mourning from the loss of family/herd/pack members in the article entitled “The Truth About Animal Grief.”

“Because mourning is not limited to big-brained cetaceans (whales and dolphins) or primates – scientists have documented some form of ‘death response’ in seals, manatees, dingoes, horses, dogs, housecats, and more. Striking examples include 27 adult giraffes holding a vigil for one dead baby giraffe, elephants from five different families visiting the bones of one of the dead, a group of 15 dolphins slowing their speed to escort a mother dolphin carrying her dead calf, and a strange case of two ducks rescued from a foie gras farm who formed a friendship at their sanctuary home. When one duck died, the other lay with its head on the others neck for hours.

“Though charismatic mammals make headlines, responses to death can also be seen in non-mammals – such as birds, like the foie gras ducks, and wild scrub jays observed in the field.”

The article describes studies which confirmed “grief processing” in a variety of animals. Striking examples were found among primates and bottlenose dolphins who reacted in grief-stricken ways to the loss of infants.

https://www.bbcearth.com/news/the-truth-about-animal-grief

            How Can We Help Animals Mourn the Loss of a Loved One?

When we humans learn of a friend or family member who has suffered the loss of a loved one, we help them by providing, for example, emotional support and comfort, ready-to-eat meals, and assistance with arrangements and communications for funeral services and memorials. But when it comes to helping animals go through the grieving process, what can we do?

Dawn English stresses the need to let surviving animals obtain closure by visiting the remains of loved ones:

“It is my firm belief that animals should be allowed to visit the body of a deceased companion or herd/family member and be given a chance to say goodbye. I have seen heartbreaking behavior from animals who were denied the chance to have such closure. One example occurred when two bonded, inseparable horses were rescued from a fire. One of the horses grew ill and had to be rushed to U.C. Davis but never returned. The surviving horse would get worked up every time a trailer came on the property, running alongside of it and calling out.

“Even after a long separation between a deceased animal and a survivor, it is beneficial to try to allow the survivor to see the body of the deceased in order to gain some sense of closure.  On one occasion, a gelding and a mare who were in neighboring stalls developed a connection. But they were separated when the rescue moved to a new location. At least a year later, the mare had to be euthanized. We brought the gelding over to the mare’s stall to see her, thinking that it might provide some closure to him. It was clear that he remembered her. He sniffed every inch of her body and groomed her face.”

Jaime Vega, Jameson’s Companion Animal Manager, echoes the need to give surviving animals the closure that comes from visiting the remains of a deceased companion or loved one:

“With an animal in a herd passing, it is very beneficial for the survivors, especially those who were bonded with the deceased, to see the body and to be able to see that they are not coming back. This gives those animals some closure by knowing what’s going on.  The same thing holds true with the passing of an animal’s human guardian. As the fabled Hachiko tale in Japan shows, dogs are very loyal and loving companions. We don’t have any way to communicate directly with animals that their human companions aren’t coming back when they pass away.  As a result, unless they are given the chance to see a loved one’s remains, the surviving animals may spend the rest of their lives longing and yearning for their person or animal companion to come through the door. From an animal’s perspective, knowing that their guardian has passed and is no longer with them is still equally as heartbreaking, although it provides some comfort and closure in knowing and the possibility of the animal living a fulfilling life long after their guardian has passed.”

            The importance of closure, and the instinctual need of surviving herd/pack/family members to visit and pay respects to the remains of decedents were demonstrated in a recent documentary produced by National Geographic entitled “Secrets of the Elephants.” In the first episode of Season 1, the film focuses on elephants of the African Savanna and the closeness of the families comprising the herd.  One elder statesman of the herd, Tolstoy, was a “super-tusker” (one with gigantic tusks nearly dragging the ground), who was revered by the herd, especially by other bulls.  Upon his death, many elephants came from miles away in the Savanna and, one by one during the night, paid respects to Tolstoy by gently touching his body with their trunks. The narrator observes:

“There is a ritual to their grief.  Their actions speak to the depths of their bonds, bonds that endure beyond death.”

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/tv/shows/secrets-of-the-elephants

In addition to letting a surviving pet or other animal view a deceased companion’s body, what else can we do to ease the survivor’s grief and facilitate recovery?  The Colorado State University article cited above provides useful insight and recommends the following steps:

  • “If the eating habits change in the surviving animals . . . leave the deceased pet’s beds, water, and food bowls around for a few days after the death.”
  • “Most animals sleep in pairs; if this routine is changed, they may sleep in different areas and become restless where they once slept peacefully. Things you can do to support the change in sleeping habits is to make time for more exercise, walk, hike, and play more often. When there is an opportunity to go for a drive, be spontaneous. Creating new memories will help heal the grief and allow the pack to naturally reorganize.”
  • “Engage the surviving animals in activity. This may be a time of introducing a new leadership. Be sure to use positive reinforcements and gentleness to encourage these changing roles. Keep a regular schedule to best support the grief of the animals that express anxiety.”
  • “Spend extra time together; sometimes allowing our pets to take care of us is just what they need as well. They will get through their grief in their own time in their own unique way.”
  • “Comforting grief in pets is similar to comforting grief in humans. Various expressions of grief will fluctuate from day to day, and sometimes hour by hour. Remember, grief is not black or white. Grief can be gray. The important thing is to be patient with your animal and understand that although grief can feel like a roller coaster ride in the beginning, eventually the ride will smooth out.”

https://vetmedbiosci.colostate.edu/vth/animal-health/how-animals-grieve

Jameson Humane Can Help

If you have questions or are encountering a situation where your animal companions or herd members are suffering from the loss of a loved one or companion in ways that the suggestions above do not seem to be easing, please contact Jameson Humane by reaching out to our Founder, Monica Stevens, at 707-815-8153 or Monica@JamesonHumane.org

Next month, we will address the related topic of how our society views the sorrow and deep feeling of loss that we humans suffer when we lose an animal, and the resources available to help you go through your own grieving process.

LEAP for the Animals!

Friday June 30th, 2023

Leaders for Ethics, Animals, and the Planet “LEAP” Is a Groundbreaking and Compassionate Animal Care and Advocacy Program for Teens

by Jeffrey Richard, Jameson Humane Volunteer

In some respects, the aims of organizations such as 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) are worthy and commendable. Such agricultural programs are intended to give young people a sense of responsibility by teaching them to care for animals. But they also end up causing sorrow and feelings of guilt in the kids who raise the animals when it comes time to relinquish them to be slaughtered. 

“So many of us have seen them, those heart-wrenching photos posted to social media, showing kids bawling while standing next to a lamb or a cow or a goat. The animal has a ribbon pinned to them or a number spray-painted on their back. They’re standing in the middle of an auction ring, and the caption, written by the parent, describes how proud they are of their child, a participant in 4-H or [FFA], who has dutifully raised their animal for a year and now must sell them off to the highest bidder.

“The auction is a difficult and bittersweet moment for the child, which the parents often acknowledge, but more importantly, it is a valuable life lesson (and there may be some money to win). The lesson is that the early death awaiting the animal is all but inevitable. They were raised to be slaughtered. This is just part of life. There is no other option.”

https://sentientmedia.org/when-4-h-kids-choose-sanctuary-over-slaughter/

In the past few years, however, more and more students in the traditional programs have rejected the long-established notion that death is inevitable for the animals they care for, and have sought a happier ending for their charges. Many rescue organizations are helping by giving sanctuary to the animals raised through 4-H and FFA programs. Unfortunately, such sanctuaries are often overcrowded and underfunded. So, for most kids and their animals, sanctuary is not readily available. Sadly, the vast majority of the traditional ag program animals are slaughtered. 

But now, at long last, a sensible and viable alternative to 4-H and FFA exists!  Three northern California animal sanctuaries have joined forces to invent a new way of training students in all aspects of farmed animal care. In February 2022, Jameson Humane, Blackberry Creek, and Rancho Compasión launched Leaders for Ethics, Animals, and the Planet (LEAP). LEAP provides a compassionate alternative to the traditional agricultural programs – one that does not inflict upon students and their families the emotional trauma and financial cost that are part and parcel of the old programs.

LEAP provides training to high school students in three crucial areas: (1) how to care for rescued farm animals, (2) the ethical issues facing society in condoning the sacrifice of animals for commercial gain, and (3) demonstrating the science behind animal agriculture and climate change and to the rapid disappearance of wild animal habitats. In providing this training, LEAP bestows on students all of the positive benefits of the other programs (leadership training, hands-on animal care education, and a sense of accomplishment, responsibility, and self-reliance), but without sacrificing the lives of farmed animals in the process. LEAP empowers young people, teaching them that empathy for others (both humans and animals) is a strength, not a weakness, and instilling in them an appreciation for the fact that animals are sentient beings who should not be treated as commodities.

The LEAP Program Goes Well Beyond Mere Animal Care Training

LEAP provides education and training for high school students in the areas of:

  • hands-on, compassionate animal care
  • food and agricultural systems
  • leadership development
  • wildlife and habitat conservation
  • farmed animal welfare
  • human health supported by a vegan diet
  • the intersection of human and animal rights
  • climate change solutions
  • social emotional learning
  • ocean conservation
  • food deserts and food insecurity 
  • domestic animal care and community outreach

From September through May, for approximately 10 hours per month, students and their peers meet at a local animal sanctuary to care for rescued animals, assist with infrastructure projects, and participate in a humane education curriculum, all culminating in a community-based project related to the rescued animals.

Students attend hands-on workshops at local sanctuaries or other participating organizations to participate in activities such as animal care, rewilding projects, habitat clean-up, veterinary demonstrations, community gardening, and vegan cooking among other subjects.

Students also gather at their local LEAP chapter for monthly classroom lessons and learn from experts in various areas related to animal care and the environment. Topics include ethical issues of food, climate change, eco-anxiety, and farmed animal welfare. Students and their teachers discuss challenges and solutions related to these topics.

LEAPers participate in service hours each month ranging from assisting with sanctuary tours and events, helping with public outreach and education, serving at community wellness clinics, cleaning living spaces and caring for animals, assisting with local rewilding projects and wildlife habitat clean-up, gardening, and helping with other projects of interest to them at their local sanctuary or in their communities.

          At the end of the student’s completed year with LEAP, they are eligible to apply for competitive scholarships to go toward college or career training. LEAP offers these scholarships to encourage initiative, leadership, and hard work. The scholarships demonstrate to students that they can earn money for education by helping animals rather than exploiting them for money by selling them for slaughter.

The Origins of LEAP

LEAP Co-Founder Danielle Hanosh, who is Executive Director of Blackberry Creek Farm Animal Sanctuary, describes the origins of the program:

“The original student leadership program began at Blackberry Creek and was inspired by the bravery of an Orange County, California, high school freshman named Audori. As an elective at her school, she participated in an FFA class and cared for a pig named Sebastian. When Audori learned that the program intended to sell Sebastian for slaughter, she decided to take steps to ensure him the long, happy life he deserved. She raised the funds necessary to buy Sebastian from the program through a crowdfunding campaign. She then placed Sebastian in his safe, permanent home at Blackberry Creek.

Sebastian’s story turned into the catalyst that inspired other students to reach out, seeking not only sanctuary for the animals they had lovingly raised but the chance to continue to care for and learn about farmed animals while being directly involved in changing the way society views them. With the need evident for an opportunity that would encompass leadership, responsibility, sustainability, and compassion, the first iteration of the program was born.”

 

Monica Stevens, Co-Founder of Jameson Humane and LEAP:

“We regularly receive calls from students in other ag programs who have lovingly cared for pigs, cows, sheep, and goats and have come to the realization that they will be going to auction, to slaughter, and want to do what they can to save them. Jameson knows there is a more compassionate path for students who would like to work with and do better by the animals.”

Miyoko Schinner, Founder of Rancho Compasión and Miyoko’s Creamery, and Co-Founder of LEAP:

“Students who raise slaughter-bound animals are confronted with difficult and sometimes distressing experiences in order to complete these programs. Sometimes, other programs may shame students who do not wish to slaughter their animals, whereas LEAP teaches that there is always a compassionate option. LEAP provides the solution to these outdated models by teaching students about kind care systems for animals in a supportive social-emotional learning environment.”

What LEAP Graduates are Saying

“I learned about the workers in factory farms and how many of them are undocumented immigrants who work for low wages in harsh conditions. I also learned about the benefits eating plant-based can have on the environment and climate change and even one’s health. The animals are treated so cruelly within factory farms and they don’t have a voice. They need leaders to speak up for them, which is what leapers can learn from this program.” - 2023 LEAPer

“It was an amazing experience that both I and my family have learned so much from. It has definitely impacted our diets and outlook on farm animals. So happy for a chance to meet the animals!” – 2023 LEAPer

LEAP is Expanding Across the Country and Needs Your Help to Fulfill Its Potential

In just the first year, six sanctuaries joined the LEAP movement. LEAP is now entering its second phase by launching the program across the country with the goal of gaining the participation of 25 additional partner sanctuaries. But to achieve this goal and to make a nationwide impact, LEAP needs financial support.

LEAP’s expenses during the first five months of 2023 have been $40,250.  Projected expenses for the fiscal year 2023-2024 are $264,600, which includes planned scholarship funds. LEAP does not charge students for the program.  LEAP organizes and produces all materials necessary for the curriculum and provides students with a stipend for the vegan lunches served during the program. LEAP also offers students the opportunity to compete for scholarships through the completion of projects promoting animal welfare and/or climate change.

To gain the participation of animal rescue organizations across the county, it is vital that LEAP continue to offer its programs at no charge to participating sanctuaries and at no cost to students. To pay for the expenses of operating the LEAP program and to fund scholarships, LEAP needs to raise money through charitable donations.

LEAP has received a pledge from an anonymous donor to match up to $150,000 in other contributions. LEAP aims to achieve that goal by this summer in order to enlist the participation of sanctuaries across the country. If you are in a position to make a donation, your gift will be tax deductible and will be doubled by the anonymous donor.  In so doing, you will be making a real difference in the development of the ethical leaders of our future, in the protection of farmed animals, and in the preservation of the health of the planet. Please make a donation of any size by going to https://leapforanimals.org/.

 

 

 

 

Thursday March 16th, 2023

It's Kitten Season! The Critical Importance of Spay & Neuter

By Jeffrey Richard, Jameson Humane Volunteer

With the approach of Spring, we are again in the throes of “kitten season” among both feral cats and domesticated pets.  Melissa Bush, Companion Animal Program Manager for Jameson Humane, describes this yearly event,

“Kitten season typically occurs from early spring to late fall, but cats can't be bothered with seasonal restrictions. Female cats can give birth multiple times a year, year-round, having an average of 4-8 kittens per litter. If we didn't spay and neuter our resident and community cats, we could have a kitten explosion on our hands which is exactly what we saw through the pandemic when many low-cost and no-cost spay/neuter options were unavailable. Quite the CATastrophe! Spaying and neutering your pets not only helps to keep them healthy but it also helps to prevent overpopulation. It's also important to look after our community or "feral" cats which can be done through "Trap, Neuter, Return" (TNR) programs or TNR focused rescue groups in your area. Preventing over-population is possible and spay/neuter is the first step in the right direction."

As a result, it is time once more to discuss the critical need for spaying and neutering of pets and feral cats.  In Jameson Humane’s February 2022 Blog article, A Sensible, Humane Solution to the Over-Population of Community Cats – Trap, Neuter and Return, we described the benefits of Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) programs as the only humane and realistic way to control and, one would hope, ultimately reduce the population of feral “community” cats.  This article expands on that earlier coverage of the spay/neuter topic.

Spaying and Neutering Pets Benefits Both Them and Society

“Spaying” a cat or dog is the removal of a female’s ovaries, while “neutering” is the removal of a male’s testes. Both are relatively routine surgeries performed by a veterinarian while the animal is under anesthesia. Spayed females will no longer go into heat, become pregnant, or endure the discomfort and health risks of birthing and the drain on energy and physical demands of nursing and caring for kittens or puppies. Neutered males will no longer be able, or have the urge, to impregnate a female, will become more docile, and will be less prone to fight with other males. Studies have also shown that early spaying and neutering of cats and dogs will make them less susceptible to certain reproductive ills and diseases including cancer.

Spaying and neutering pets and community cats also benefits society in general by avoiding an additional huge burden on animal shelters and rescue organizations of unwanted or abandoned pets. Overcrowding at shelters also increases the number of animals that are euthanized when no one adopts them. The relatively simple step of spaying and neutering pets will avoid that awful consequence suffered by unwanted animals.

The Napa Humane website details the benefits of spaying and neutering cats and dogs:

In every community, in every state, there are homeless animals. In the U.S., there are an estimated 6-8 million homeless animals entering animal shelters every year.  The single most important thing that we can do to save cats and dogs from all the suffering and death that their overpopulation causes is to spay and neuter them.  Spaying and neutering reduces or eliminates:

  • The odds of breast cancer and dangerous uterine infections in females and prostate problems and testicular cancer in males.
  • Frustration in resisting the natural urge to mate. Your companion will be less distracted, more easily trained, and a more contented member of your family.
  • The animal’s need to roam in search of a mate, decreasing the chances that your pet will become lost, get into fights with other animals or be hit by a car.
  • Messy heat cycles in females and attracting unwanted males.
  • The tendency to bite. However, your pet will still be protective of his home and family even after being altered. Aggression is different from protectiveness.
  • Spraying, wailing, marking territory, or making inappropriate sexual approaches toward people or objects.

(Source:  https://napahumane.org/our-work/spayneuter-vaccinations-microchipping/why-spay-or-neuter/ .)

Unless Trap/Neuter Release Programs Are Expanded, It is Likely that the Community Cat Population Will Continue to Increase Exponentially

Although there is no way to know exactly how fast the community cat population is growing, there is no doubt that it is out of control and the unrestrained population growth is causing much suffering among community cats and especially kittens who fall victim to the 75 to 80 percent mortality rate that affects young ferals.

A number of animal support organizations have published alarming projections and graphic depictions of what reproduction by a single community cat can lead to in terms of population growth. An example is a poster pasted below published by the North Shore Animal League America, which suggests that in 12 years, a single unspayed female and her progeny will produce more than 2 million cats.  (It should be noted that this projection is likely too aggressive because it fails to account for the sad fact of the very high mortality rate of kittens who never reach the age of mating.  Even the poster itself notes: “This chart is based on theory and the actual numbers of the lives saved [by spaying and neutering feral cats] could be more or less.”) But the truth is that the community cat population is increasing exponentially, with devastating consequences not only for the community kittens who suffer and die of starvation and illness, but for the ecology and wildlife in their territories.  Dr. Fielding O’Niel, DMV, of the Tuckahoe Veterinary Hospital, analyses the mushrooming community cat population, the resulting negative impacts on wildlife, and TNR as a possible solution:

Current scientific data is sketchy, but most estimates place the number of wild or feral cats in America at 70 million and rising. This includes cats that were abandoned, lost and those born in the wild.

Females in this population have an average of 1.6 litters each year with an average of 5 kittens per litter. Males are responsible for an average of 7 pregnancies per year. Eighty percent of kittens born in the wild will die before 1 year of age from the same causes that afflict all wild life - starvation, disease and trauma. This magnitude of suffering is incomprehensible.

These cats are highly adaptive natural predators and survive at the expense of wildlife. Research estimates that each feral cat kills 7 birds a year. That is 500 million birds killed annually nationwide, many on the endangered species list. Birds are third on the menu behind reptiles and small mammals (mice, rabbits, chipmunks and squirrels). It is estimated that feral cats, trying to survive, destroy 2 billion birds, mammals and reptiles each year in America. 

The obvious solution to this problem is population control. All pets must be neutered and, in many areas, this is mandated by law. Controlling feral populations is more difficult. One program gaining favor is Trap, Neuter and Release (TNR). While this doesn't reduce existing populations, it does limit those of the future.

(Source: https://www.tuckahoevet.com/post/feral-cats-in-america#:~:text)

The Pandemic Has Drastically Reduced the Number of Community Cats and Pets Being Spayed and Neutered

The San Jose Mercury-News published an article on November 28, 2021 about the feral cat crisis and the lack of spay/neuter services, which is excerpted here: 

Stray and feral cats and the volunteer groups that try to help them are in the eye of a perfect storm, caught in the vortex of too few veterinarians and too little staff, COVID challenges and changes in the ways public shelters operate.

. . .  At the crux of the storm is a lack of veterinarians and trained staff to perform necessary spay/neuter surgeries on so-called community cats. Groups that once offered free or low-cost operations closed their doors during the pandemic or drastically cut back on the number of procedures they can safely perform.

This isn’t just a localized problem, either, although each area has its unique challenges. Every rescue group in the Bay Area that does TNR — trap, neuter, return — is having problems finding appointments to have the cats neutered.

. . . The staffing problem is widespread. Some 87 percent of U.S. shelters are understaffed, according to an August survey by the Best Friends Animal Society. . . .

. . . TNR groups worry that without adequate neutering efforts, the feral cat population, estimated at 70 million across the U.S., will continue to grow. . . .

(Source: https://www.mercurynews.com/2021/11/28/rescue-groups-running-into-problems-trying-to-stop-cat-over-population/)

Unfortunately, as of late 2022, the impact of the pandemic and the ongoing shortage of veterinarians across the country had not improved. According to an article published by the University of Florida in September 2022:

New research finds that there are almost 3 million missing neuter/spay surgeries in the U.S. due to the pandemic, which, combined with veterinarian and staff shortages, is contributing to widespread overcrowding at pet shelters.

. . . All the impacts of the pandemic combined have the potential to undermine progress made in controlling pet populations and euthanasia in shelters . . .  Currently, shelters are in crisis mode, with overcrowding and lagging adoptions . . .  Pet overpopulation seems to be increasing, leading to increased shelter euthanasia for the first time in many years.

(Source: https://sheltermedicine.vetmed.ufl.edu/2022/09/13/impact-on-spay-neuter-surgeries-due-to-covid-19-pandemic-threatens-pet-overpopulation/ .)

Jameson Humane’s Role

In next month’s article, we will discuss the great support being provided by Jameson Humane’s Mobile Vet Unit to pets and their owners. And as we described last February, Jameson is helping to carry out the community’s responsibility to care for community cats.  When alerted to the presence of community cats, Jameson staff observes the cats and provides essential support, including nourishment and medical care when needed. Jameson staff evaluates the overall appearance and behavior of each cat:  Does it have clear eyes?  Is its coat clean?  Does it seem to be in good health?  If so, then the cat is likely thriving in its colony.  If not, it might be lost or abandoned and living on its own as a stray.  Jameson Humane staff tries to determine whether the cat should remain in the wild or whether it is a candidate for potential socialization and adoption.

Jameson will check each cat to determine whether it has been spayed or neutered.  Initially, they check the cat’s ears.  If one of the ears is clipped or “tipped,” this indicates that the cat has been spayed or neutered and is likely living in a cat colony.  If a cat does not have a tipped ear, no sign of a tag, and seems timid around people, it should be trapped to determine the whether it needs to be spayed or neutered.

Spay/Neuter Guidance and Resources

Those in the community who see feral or abandoned cats and are interested in initiating the TNR process can use those same indicators described above to determine whether the cat has already been spayed or neutered.

Alley Cat Allies (ACA) has published detailed instructions and advice for those who find community cats and want to pursue TNR.  They summarize their ideal view of the basic steps as follows:

  1. Trap: Humanely trap all the cats in a colony. A colony is a group of cats living outdoors together.
  2. Neuter (or spay): Take the cats in their traps to a veterinarian or clinic to be neutered, vaccinated, and eartipped (the universal symbol of a neutered and vaccinated cat. Learn more at alleycat.org/Eartip).
  3. Return: After the cats recover, return them to their outdoor home where they were trapped.

Watch videos of cats being returned and how to do Trap-Neuter-Return at youtube.com/AlleyCatAllies.

(Source: https://www.alleycat.org/resources/how-to-help-community-cats-a-step-by-step-guide-to-trap-neuter-return/ .)

Alley Cat Allies has also created a spay-neuter resource that it calls the “Feral Friends Network.” The Network includes veterinarians with community cat experience and others who provide low-cost spay and neuter services. Use the following link for a form to use to request a list of Network members in your area:  https://www.alleycat.org/our-work/feral-friends-network/feral-friends-network-connect/ 

From a local perspective, as we described last February, the County of Napa through its Animal Shelter offers rental of traps to members of the public for TNR purposes and provides vouchers for presentation to the clinic to defray the cost of spaying and neutering.  The Animal Shelter’s rental of traps is free of charge except for a $50 deposit that is refunded if the traps are brought back in good condition and in a timely manner.  And the County’s voucher program to defray the cost of spaying or neutering any animal is described on the website as follows:

Spaying and neutering is the best defense against unwanted litters, which then prevents additional animals from entering the shelter system. Spaying and neutering can also eliminate mating related nuisance behaviors such as roaming, vocalizing and even aggression. Medical conditions such as pyometra (infection of the uterus) and many reproductive cancers are non-existent when animals are sterilized. However, due to the rising costs of veterinary care, finding affordable spay/neuter for your pet can be challenging. Thankfully, the Napa County Animal Shelter and Adoption Center offers spay/neuter vouchers for Napa County residents. The vouchers cover the cost of any dog, cat, rabbit and feral cat spay/neuter done at the Napa Humane Spay/Neuter Clinic (707-252-7442) located at 3265 California Blvd. in Napa, 94558.

(Source: https://www.countyofnapa.org/3163/SpayNeuter-Voucher-Program )

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