Jul 292012
 

cavalier king charles spaniel puppy abstract by BZTAT

As the major media outlets have been focused on the Olympics, the latest political news, and the traumatic shooting in Aurora, CO, a tragedy in upstate New York seemed to slip by us virtually unnoticed this past week.

According to the New York Daily News, one of the few news sites that did notice the tragedy, an 11-year old girl was arrested for senselessly beating her foster parent’s Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy to death.

According to the news report, the girl’s actions were surprisingly callous and provoked simply by being told “no” by her foster parent. The implication was that the child’s superficial needs being thwarted prompted the attack.

We know virtually nothing about the girl, other than the fact that she was in foster care, and that her placement in the home where the tragedy took place was temporary.

Knowing that the girl was in foster care, we can surmise that she had encountered some sort of turbulence in her young life, but we can only speculate on what experiences may have led up to her horrible actions against an innocent creature.

We do know this, however. Children are not born with malice. It is put in them.

When children harm animals, it is likely that they have been harmed themselves. Their actions are typically the only way they know how to release the pain and psychological torment that has interrupted their experience of childhood.

Although the girl’s actions resulted from a seemingly superficial disappointment, I feel confident in guessing that there was much more to it than that.

The tragedy here is that many lives have been deeply hurt by the girl’s actions. The puppy lost its life, and the foster parent’s family lost a treasured pet. The girl now is not only a likely victim herself, she is a perpetrator, leaving her with legal consequences and deeper psychological trauma.

“One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it.” -Anthropologist Margaret Mead

We cannot, and should not let this girl escape consequences for her actions. Yet consequences alone will not be sufficient treatment for her. She needs a combination of specialized trauma therapy, close supervision and monitoring, education regarding effective problem-solving, and unconditional support.

Will she get it?

I have my doubts. Our system of care for troubled youth is underfunded and not well-designed. Sadly, it often fails. Even if this girl does get the right mix of services, there are so many others who need it and will not get it.

That is why it is so important to watch for signs of trouble before it reaches this level of tragic outcome. We need to be aware that children in troubled situations need help, and they often show signs of their distress well before it gets this bad.

What can you do?

  1. Report known or suspected incidents of child abuse to authorities IMMEDIATELY. Failing to report because you do not want to get involved is a tragedy in and of itself.
  2. Be alert to the behaviors of children and adolescents with whom you are regularly in contact, and report incidents of aggressive behavior towards animals to caregivers or authorities.
  3. Combine efforts to rescue animals with advocacy for children. If you have rescued an animal from a bad situation, see if any children may be in that same bad situation.
  4. Volunteer as a mentor for children with Big Brother’s Big Sisters or other mentoring groups and involve youth in compassionate programming for animals.
  5. Check out our Resource Page to learn more.
  6. Spread the message of Okey’s Promise so that others will be aware to watch for signs of animals and children in need.

Actual intervention and involvement with children is so needed in our communities. Combining that intervention and involvement with animal causes is a win-win on many levels.

Advocacy is important too. We can all spread the word.

Will you help us do that?

BZTAT

Learn about how you can get involved with the latest Okey’s Promise: Art for a Cause project!

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Jul 242012
 
Okey White Cat drawing by BZTAT

I am still working on the “Okey’s Promise: Celebrating the Human – Animal Bond” project, and plan to finish in October. After that project is completed, I want to be ready to start immediately on the next project!

In order to do that, I need to start the fund raising for the project now. So, drum roll…

The new project is now launched!

With this project, I plan to focus on the needs of homeless pets who often fall victim to abuse and neglect in our communities. Rather than focus on the ugliness of abuse and neglect, however, the art, as is my style, will focus on hopeful outcomes.

This is my 3rd Okey’s Promise Project (see the other 2 projects here), and it promises to be the most creative yet! I plan to creatively transform the facade of a building with images of cats and dogs, and possibly some other companion animals.

I intend to take a nondescript building in the hub of a town in Ohio (to be revealed later) and turn it into a creative masterpiece that opens eyes, hearts and minds.

I will create murals on wood that will be attached to the exterior of the building.  A business owner has agreed to allow me to use her building as a canvas, and she is very excited to have the next Okey’s Promise project grace her property!

The exact location of the property will be revealed after all the logistics and official schtuff that is required is complete. It is in the business district of a city in Ohio. The property owner is a very committed arts and animal enthusiast and will be a very solid partner for the project.

Funding for the project is needed to assist with the purchase of art materials, studio rent, costs of hanging the mural, and creative time spent painting the mural. The goal may seem large, but it is very costly to create public art.

All money raised will go towards supplies for the project, studio rent, utilities and other expenses, and a small salary to compensate me as the artist for my work. This will be my “job” during the time I work on the project, and I will need to be compensated so that my needs and my pets’ needs are not neglected.

Would you like to participate in the Okey’s Promise: Art for a Cause movement? Would you like to be one of Okey’s Promise Keepers?

Previous projects have all been crowd-funded with some grant assistance. We hope that you will join this project and be a part of the movement. You can contribute here or you can go to the fund raising page.

Thanks for your support!

BZTAT

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Jul 112012
 

Two stories about human society’s interaction with domestic pets have become viral news sensations of late. Both stories illustrate how fear and irrational belief can turn a few facts into propaganda with disastrous consequences.

Gray Maine Coon Cat in window

Digital art by BZTAT

One of these stories recently led on all major news outlets. The “Crazy Cat Lady Suicide” story reinforced the myth that women who love cats are nuts, and it unnecessarily promoted fear about having cats as pets. The story over sensationalized a few facts about Toxoplasma gondii infection, a serious but rare illness. Stories about recent research were thinly sourced and poorly examined, as this excellent Catster article by JaneA Kelley explains.

The impact is a clear, but false message: Cats kill you and make you crazy.

Never mind all that research validating that pets, including cats, have numerous benefits for enhancing human mental health.

Lab Pit Bull Mix dog art by BZTAT

Digital art by BZTAT

The other story is more tragic. It is the story of Lennox, the dog who was taken from his family simply because he looked like a breed of dog banned in his city of Belfast, Ireland.

Lennox never harmed or even threatened to harm anyone. He was loving family pet. His breed was never determined. Yet his appearance suggested that he was a pit bull terrier mix, a banned breed. He was removed from his family needlessly by authorities driven by irrational fears.

After a lengthy legal battle and worldwide campaign to save him, Lennox was euthanized this morning. His family and supporters around the globe are beset by needless grief.

Vicious dogs and pet-to-human transmission of diseases are serious concerns. They require rational consideration and sensible responses by our human society, not the crazed sensationalism that these two stories represent.

Irrational fears fueled by propaganda make us a fearful and fearsome society. We are to be feared more than the innocent animals to whom we ascribe blame for the dangers to humanity.

Breed specific legislation (BSL) such as that in Belfast is an ineffective over-reaction to a serious problem. Sensationalizing the story of toxoplasmosis is irresponsible journalism that takes away from responsibly educating the public about a rare but serious disease.

Our response to legitimate concerns are tragically taking us further away from effectively managing the problems we created by domesticating animals in the first place.

When will we ever learn?

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

BZTAT

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