Being Kind to Animals All Year Long
May 1, 2013

May in New England is a fabulous time! Winter is hopefully a distant memory, and we are brave enough to believe that summer is within reach. JsuJsu and I are excited to be walking or hiking just about every day. Doesn’t get much better than that! And, May also brings into focus “Be Kind to Animals Week” --- an idea that I embrace as a reminder to be kind to animals every day, all year long.

When we think of being kind to animals, the word “humane” is often used. What exactly is being humane? Webster’s dictionary defines humane as one “marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration for humans or animals”.  When a friend or family member, or even someone we don’t know all that well, needs help, or is sad, or is in need of the connection of another person, we try to reach out to them to support them in whatever way we can. For example, if a little girl falls off a swing in front of you at the playground, you might go up and ask if she is alright and if you can help her find the person she came with. That is being humane. If your family donates food to a homeless shelter—that, too, is being humane. You are using your compassion to help make the world a better place.

Animals look to us to act humanely towards them, with thoughtfulness and kindness. This is easy to do. If you have pets at home, like dogs, cats, rabbits, or horses, make sure they are properly cared for each day. Fresh water is one of my biggies---all animals should have plenty of water that is refreshed frequently. Make sure pets eat healthy foods, maintain a normal weight, and get to the veterinarian for regular check-ups or if they are not feeling well. Daily exercise is a must to keep them physically AND mentally healthy. Bored pets are unhappy pets. Look for ways to keep them busy and well socialized---whether it be a walk or trot to the park, reading and talking to them, or teaching them a new trick. Providing collars with ID tags as well as micro-chipping your pets will help them find their way back to you in the event that they get lost. And keep them safe by having them leashed, fenced in and away from cars and out of harm’s way. Lastly, always use your big heart and consider giving an animal a second chance by adopting from a shelter!

Kindness to animals extends beyond our own homes. Animals often need our help by supporting legislation that offers them humane protection. Farm animals who are raised for food and clothing rely on the kindness and compassion of people to make sure that the lives they live are filled with basic necessities and ensure a quality existence. Cows, sheep, pigs, goats, and chickens are examples of animals used for food and/or clothing production. All of these animals are sentient creatures; that is, they are animals who think and have feelings. If you eat meat, dairy, or use any animal products choose those that come from animals who have been humanely raised and treated well during their lives.

Wildlife also rely on the humanity of people to help them in today’s world. They need us to protect their open spaces and lands which they inhabit. We can start in our own backyards and small towns by demanding more protection for our wildlife. We need to find ways to stop pollution that affects their air and water. We also need to stop hunting them and to allow species’ to interact naturally and to thrive. Whales once hunted to the brink of extinction have made tremendous comebacks. Bird species almost killed off by chemical pesticides can now thrive. But we have a lot of work still to do.

So, I invite you all to think of May’s “Be Kind to Animals” theme as a reminder to use your hearts, minds, and humanity for animals every day of the year. Incorporate kindness, empathy, and compassion for animals into your life, as it is the way to live your life and be the person you want to be. Respecting animals and other people is the humane way to live alongside one another.

3 THINGS YOU CAN DO:

1.    READ AND EDUCATE. Learn more about animals and their care at home and in the wild. Your local library, the Internet, and your teachers have tremendous information on a great variety of subjects related to animal care and welfare. Use reputable sources and educate others by sharing what you’ve learned.

2.    USE YOUR MIND. Brainstorm ways YOU can help. There are limitless opportunities in your own backyard such as grooming your own pet, walking a neighbor’s dog, putting out wild birdseed in winter, having a bake sale to benefit your local animal shelter, and writing letters to elected officials about creating or strengthening laws related to animal welfare. Think and act!

3.    USE YOUR HEART. I know if you are reading this, you have a HUGE heart! Changing the world starts within each one of us. Use your compassion and kindness to make the world a better place for animals and people.