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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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/.
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.
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.
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. . . .
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.
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:
- Trap: Humanely trap all the cats in a colony. A colony is a group of cats living outdoors together.
- 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).
- 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.
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.
Join Jameson Humane in Celebrating National Pet Dental Health Month
by Jeffrey Richard, Jameson Humane Volunteer
A key component of Jameson Humane’s mission is promotion of the health and well-being of all animals. Accordingly, Jameson asks our readers to take note and celebrate National Pet Dental Health month in February. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) website (https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/pet-owners/petcare/pet-dental-care) includes this advice:
“Don't turn your nose to your pet's bad breath! That odor might signify a serious health risk. Dental health is a critical part of your pet’s overall health, and dental problems can cause, or be caused by, other health problems. That's why the AVMA sponsors National Pet Dental Health Month every February. Take part by learning more about how you can improve the dental (and overall) health of your pets.”
During this year’s National Pet Dental Health month (and regularly thereafter), people should:
- Take pets for a regular veterinary check-up that will include examination of their mouth.
- Softly brush their pets’ teeth using a toothbrush and toothpaste made for the species. (See specific advice below on steps to take in order to ease into brushing your pets’ teeth at home. Note: only one percent of pet owners brush their pet’s teeth.)
- Follow a balanced diet for pets.
- Look for foods that are certified for Veterinary Oral Health Care (VOHC) on the packaging.
- Look for warning signs of dental problems such as bad breath, swollen gums, brownish tartar deposits along the gum line, and bleeding.
- Notice behavior such as pawing at their mouths or faces, which might indicate dental pain.
The AVMA website provides a step-by-step instructional video describing what you can do at home to help maintain pets’ dental health. https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/pet-owners/petcare/pet-dental-care In addition to having a veterinarian check the animal’s teeth and gums at least once a year, people should take the following steps to help maintain a pet’s dental health:
- Buy toothpaste and brushes designed for pets. Never use human toothpaste.
- Brush your pets’ teeth daily but first gradually introduce them to the process:
- Show them the pet the brush and paste and leave the items out for a week or so to let the pets get used to them.
- For at least several days up to two weeks, before actually brushing, rub a little bit of paste on their gums to get them used to it, and give praise and treats to help associate the toothpaste application process with good things.
- Introduce them to the brush, put some paste on the bristles and let them lick it off. Again, accompany this with lots of praise and some treats.
- Once they are used to the brush and the paste, then begin with a little slow brushing of the teeth and gumline in one area, again with lots of praise and rewards.
- Gradually work up to a complete brushing for about 30 seconds.
- Give pets those products that are helpful in reducing tartar and plaque such as water or food additives.
- Give pets treats that are specifically designed to reduce tartar and plaque. Rawhide may be okay but check with your vet first.
Veterinary services are necessary for more significant dental care, including regular cleaning and other steps such as tooth extraction. For those services, it is particularly important that pet owners understand the need for anesthesia. The AVMA explains in detail anesthesia and pre-anesthesia and post-anesthesia procedures and things to expect. https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/petcare/when-your-pet-needs-anesthesia The website provides a list of things people can do to prepare their pet for anesthesia and reduce the risk to their pets:
- Let your veterinarian know if your pet has ever had a reaction to sedation or anesthesia.
- Make sure your veterinarian is aware of all medications and supplements (including over-the-counter products) your pet is receiving.
- Keep your pet at a healthy weight.
- Follow your veterinarian's instructions before anesthesia, especially with regards to withholding food and/or water.
- Follow your veterinarian's instructions regarding any medications you should – or should not – give to your pet prior to anesthesia.
Join Jameson Humane in Celebrating and Experiencing “Veganuary”
by Jeffrey Richard, Jameson Humane Volunteer
Veganuary is a global campaign to spread awareness about our food system and to create a kinder, more compassionate world where animals are not bred for slaughter or for products that damage our environment and our health. Veganuary is a great chance to explore an alternative way of eating, and to experience first-hand how each of us can have a positive impact on the world around us simply by making small changes to the way we eat, what we wear, and our overall understanding and appreciation of animals as sentient beings.
Celebrating Veganuary is one way Jameson Humane advocates for “Veganic Living” or “Veganics.” Veganics is a holistic, plant-based way of living — one which excludes the consumption of all animal products including food, cosmetics, and clothing. Jameson recognizes that the transition to Veganic Living may not be easy for many people. Jameson encourages people to make the transition at their own pace. But the benefits of a vegan diet for humans, animals, and the world itself are well-established in climatological, dietary, and sociological studies and can be joyfully and directly experienced through culinary exploration.
Veganic Living Makes Sense for the Sake of the World’s Future and Our Quality of Life
A strong case for veganism is presented by Jeannie Hudkins, a guest blogger on the Jameson Humane website, in her post of January 10, 2022, which you can find here: https://www.jamesonanimalrescueranch.org/news-events/blog/11
Ms. Hudkins makes many powerful arguments in favor of veganism, including:
- “Animal agriculture alone creates the most climate-harming emissions, surpassing even the combined emissions of all cars, planes, trucks, buses, and trains. The meat industry (Cargill, Tyson, JBS) now produces more greenhouse emissions than the fossil fuel industry (Exxon, Shell, BP). A whopping 51% of our nation’s heat-trapping emissions come from animal agriculture, including all processes from the gestation and birth of a food animal to its slaughter, processing, and packaging as meat and dairy products.”
- Animal waste disposed in the world’s streams finds its way to large rivers like the Mississippi and ultimately to the ocean. This has resulted in creation of dead zones in the oceans, in which neither aquatic animals nor plants can survive. Ms. Hudkins reports that there are now 150 such dead zones in the world.
- The water used to raise 11 billion farmed animals, including the water used to grow the crops that feed those animals, accounts for nearly one-third of fresh water usage in the world, seriously depleting aquifers around the world.
- Animal farming has a direct and catastrophic impact in deforestation of the world’s rainforests. The loss of nearly 70 percent of the world’s rainforests just in the past few decades has contributed to the disruption of the carbon dioxide balance in the world and has greatly accelerated climate change.
- Fish-farming is a huge source of methane gas production.
- A plant-based diet would avoid all of those harmful consequences. Ms. Hudkins makes the following plea: “If you ate plant-based foods for one month, you would reduce over 600 pounds of harmful carbon emissions, save over 900 square feet of rainforest, conserve 300,000 gallons of fresh water, and spare the lives of 30 animals. Switching to a plant-based diet, you will single-handedly contribute to cleansing our waters, clearing our air, renourishing our soils, restoring our forests, and rewilding our oceans.”
Such conclusions are supported by authorities and scientific studies around the world. Research by the University of Oxford (UK) concludes that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – while still providing enough food to feed the world. “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use,” said Joseph Poore who led the research. “It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car,” he said, as these only cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The World Animal Foundation echoes these findings: “Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution. It is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry. Factory farms are a primary driver of topsoil erosion, rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss and ocean dead zones. It takes 12 times as much land, 13 times more fuel and 15 times more water to make a pound of animal protein than to make a pound of plant protein.” (World Animal Foundation, https://www.worldanimalfoundation.com/wild-earth/save-the-earth/ )
Vegan Food is Delicious!!
People everywhere have discovered the pleasures and health benefits of vegan dining. Vegan and vegetarian restaurants and food options in our markets are flourishing. And even for those people who have been raised to enjoy the flavor and texture of meat, miraculous strides have been made in producing plant-based foods that satisfy their palates by mimicking those traits of a carnivorous diet.
The Jameson Humane team has been fully embracing the fun of trying out new recipes and products as well as myth-busting and learning all kinds of interesting and eye-opening facts about veganism. Click on the following link to sign up for Jameson's Veganuary, so that you will receive all the tips, recipes, and even special offers from vegan-based companies to get you started on your journey:
To see some of the fantastic vegan recipes, restaurant options, retail sources and delicious dishes Jameson Humane staff have found, as well as some fun facts and interesting myth-busting, explore the following posts:
Animal Companions Make Us Healthier
By Jeffrey Richard, Jameson Volunteer
The final weeks of each year bring occasions for thankfulness, celebration, expressions of love, and renewed hope as we look forward to the new year. Feelings of comfort and joy are particularly evident among those who are blessed by the presence of animals in their lives. Jameson Humane has initiated a new program called Animal Assisted Healing, which seeks to maximize the benefits we humans can receive by connecting with and helping care for Jameson’s rescued animals (see program description below).
According to a 2020 article about the health benefits of animal companionship on the website of the senior-support organization, Barclay Friends: “In 2017, there were approximately 90 million dog and 96 million cat owners in the United States. Three years later, the pandemic has caused a surge in pet adoptions to the point where demand is outweighing supply.” (Seniors and Pets, A Pawsome Combination, https://bf.kendal.org/2020/09/21/seniors-and-pets-a-paw-some-combination)
Why have so many more people brought animals into their lives during these anxious and uncertain times? They seem to have an instinctive appreciation of the comfort that can come from caring for cats, dogs, and other animal companions. Whether those seeking animal companions know it or not, it is widely accepted that pets can improve our physical and mental health. The Barclay Friends article summarizes some of the impacts of having animal companions:
- Lowered cortisol, a stress hormone, and increased serotonin and dopamine, hormones associated with happiness and well-being
- Lowered blood pressure, heart rate and serum triglycerides
- Increased daily exercise in petting, lifting, grooming . . .
- Lowered risk of depression and stress-induced disease
The benefits we derive from having animal companions seem to transcend those things that can be measured. In The Power of Pets, Health Benefits of Human-Animal Interactions, the National Institutes of Health describe the tangible and intangible benefits of pets:
Nothing compares to the joy of coming home to a loyal companion. The unconditional love of a pet can do more than keep you company. Pets may also decrease stress, improve heart health, and even help children with their emotional and social skills.
. . . .
Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure. Other studies have found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood.
Dogs and cats (each in their own way) can help people who are struggling with anxiety or illness by helping them focus on the here and now – an ability or perspective commonly referred to as mindfulness. According to the NIH article:
“Dogs are very present. If someone is struggling with something, they know how to sit there and be loving,” says Dr. Ann Berger, a physician and researcher at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. “Their attention is focused on the person all the time.”
Berger works with people who have cancer and terminal illnesses. She teaches them about mindfulness to help decrease stress and manage pain.
“The foundations of mindfulness include attention, intention, compassion, and awareness,” Berger says. “All of those things are things that animals bring to the table. People kind of have to learn it. Animals do this innately.”
The Human-Animal Bond
People enjoy a heightened sense of self-worth in caring for their pets and other animals and in turn are comforted when animals reciprocate with affection and support. Those of us who have developed bonds with pets know this to be true. The physical and mental mechanisms at play are complex from a medical and psychological perspective. But we don’t need to understand the neurological details; we know intuitively (and from our experience) that caring for animals fulfills our need to be needed. Nothing beats the joy we feel when our pets 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.
The formation of a bond of comfort and love between a human and an animal is better described by a poem than by scientific data:
Fit to Be Tied (by Jeff Richard, Nov. 2022)
When we met
You shied away
No loving looks
No happy dog games to play
I knew time must
Pass to trust
For you to see
All the good in me
To love and to share
As a fit-for-purpose pair
Two souls who found
A tie to be bound
Jameson Humane’s Animal Assisted Healing Program
Jameson Humane has long known and been inspired by the positive impacts that relationships with animals have on humans; in fact, this is one of the factors that have motivated many staff members and volunteers to join the work of Jameson Humane. Due to the serious psychological challenges so many people have experienced these last few years and the increase in mental health symptoms in our communities, Jameson Humane was called on to start an Animal Assisted Healing Program. This program is centered around the healing benefits of the human-animal bond described above. The Director of Animal Assisted Healing, Mackenzie Lovie, explains:
“We believe that by allowing members of our community who are dealing with challenges of any kind to come and interact with our rescue animals they will have the opportunity to experience some of that healing power. Our mission for this new program is centered around the belief that our rescue animals can rescue humans with their powerful stories and unconditional love.”
The community thanks and applauds Jameson for the development of this new program and for all of the great work that Jameson does for the sake of animals and humans alike.