The “Safe Animals Safe Kids” mural is ready for its debut!

"Safe Animals Safe Kids" mural by BZTAT

The “Safe Animals Safe Kids” mural, created through the support of 85 Kickstarter backers, is complete!

The mural consists of three 4′ W x 8′ H wood panels (making a 12′ W x 8’H mural) and a sign that explains the project as a part of the Okey’s Promise mission. The mural will be hung on an exterior wall of the Imperial Room, a restaurant/lounge in the Canton Ohio Arts District at 420 Court Ave. NW, on Monday, August 1,2011.

The mural will be dedicated with much fanfare during the Canton First Friday festivities on Friday, August 5 at 7:30 pm. The Critter Parade, a tradition of First Fridays, will end its route at the mural, and at that point, we will share some fun and inspiration with words from ArtsinStark President and C.E.O. Robb Hankins, Stacey Giammarco of the Domestic Violence Partnership, Inc., and myself.

As is tradition with my animal themed murals, local animal rescue groups with adoptable animals will be part of the dedication. You just might meet your new best friend there!

If you can make it to Canton, OH I hope that you will join in the celebration! If not, we will have a live broadcast on UStream so you can attend from anywhere in the world. Stay tuned for details!

What: Dedication of the “Safe Animals Safe Kids” mural by artist BZTAT

Where: 420 Court Ave. NW, Canton, OH

When: Friday, August 5 at 7:30 pm


Children who abuse animals: It’s not something to ignore.

I recently traveled to Las Vegas for a trade show and conference. During my trip, I rode in a taxi and chatted a bit with the cab driver. No matter where I am or what I am doing, my conversations generally come to a place of talking about animals, and this conversation was no different.

“I have a little dog,” the driver proclaimed proudly. Then she got serious. “I was walking down the street in my neighborhood one day, and these three boys were beating the crap out of this little puppy with sticks. I demanded that the boys tell me who their parents were, but they wouldn’t tell me. Then they threw the puppy at me and told me to keep it. I never saw the boys again, but the puppy is now my best friend.”

I am so glad that puppy found a friend. But what about those boys? What led them to act so viciously towards a defenseless creature?

I will never know. I will also never know the real story about what happened to Okey, my own rescue cat who inspired this website. I do know, though, that many youngsters like those boys have been abused themselves, and harming animals is a negative means for coping with their own trauma.

Young people who harm animals are in need of help. Without it, they may grow into serious abusers as adults or develop other serious emotional problems.

Have you witnessed children abusing animals in your community? Do you know what to do if you do witness such acts? Are you willing to get involved to help the children and the animals?

I encourage you to do a little research to find out what resources are available in your community for youth in these situations. Contact your local law enforcement officials, children services organization, domestic violence shelter, Humane Society, etc., if you know of children who purposefully harm animals with malice. Ignoring the problem makes it worse, not better.

Taking action is for the children’s sake as much as it is for the animal’s sake.

(Contact the National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD® and the  National Domestic Violence Hotline 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) to get information on resources in your area.)


Oregon passes law to protect animals in domestic violence situations

The safety of a family’s pets is often a consideration for victims of domestic violence as they contemplate leaving an abuser. That is why it is extremely important for courts to have legal recourse in dealing with animals in homes affected by domestic violence.

Oregon just passed Senate Bill 616 that “authorizes courts to include order providing for safety and welfare of parties’ animals in restraining order under Family Abuse Prevention Act.” The law allows judges to include family pets in protection orders afforded to human family members, thereby providing an extra layer of safety for the entire family.

Right or wrong, some women stay in abusive situations when they cannot provide safety for their pets. Many abusers also manipulate their victims through threats or actual acts of violence towards pets. By allowing this extra layer of legal protection for pets, the State of Oregon is making it more possible for families to seek safety effectively.

I applaud Oregon’s efforts as it becomes the 17th state to enact such protections for animals and families. Let’s hope the momentum continues and spreads to other states as well.

Animals Teach Kids about Empathy

Written by Vicki Stringfellow Cook

It has been established that animal cruelty, child abuse, and domestic violence are related.  But what can we do to address these connections? Teaching empathy to children is one strategy that is gaining support among experts.

Research has clearly shown that when animal abuse occurs, women and/or children are also frequently at risk.  According to FBI profilers, psychiatric professionals, law-enforcement officials, and child advocacy organizations, people who hurt animals may eventually direct violence toward humans.

Evidence has also shown that a child’s attitude toward animals can predict future behavior.  Reports about several highly publicized school shootings indicate that the young killers had abused or killed animals before turning on their classmates.

Cruelty to animals is considered one of three symptoms that predict the development of a psychopath, and it is included as a criterion for conduct disorder by the American Psychiatric Association.

People who are capable of such acts have a severely underdeveloped sense of empathy – they lack the ability to comprehend or care about the distress or agony that they are causing.  Without empathy, it is easy to think of others as unfeeling machines.

Teaching kindness and respect for animals is the first step in teaching children empathy.

Many animal welfare organizations promote the concept of teaching children empathy.  In 2007, the Doris Day Animal Foundation published a report entitled The Empathy Connection, which states that empathy is a basic skill that every child deserves and needs to learn.

Other organizations that promote educating children about empathy and compassion toward animals include the American Humane Association, the ASPCA, and the Humane Society of the United States.

Empathy training is also becoming more common in schools throughout the country.  One program initiated in Boulder, Colorado by Ellen Mackey is modeled after Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots program.  The concept of the Roots and Shoots program is that every individual can make a difference and all people need to work together to foster respect and appreciation for animals, people, and the environment.

Another program offered by the Humane Society of Arizona uses the Six Pillars of Character from the Character Counts program to teach kids about having empathy and compassion for animals – and for each other.  Dr. Kris Haley, Manager of Humane Education, believes teaching children kindness and compassion toward animals leads to a greater understanding of their relationships with others, and he feels that understanding this connection can be used by schools to address the problem of bullying.

Programs such as these proactively address the issue of violence toward animals and people, and they are an important component in an overall strategy toward reducing the number of future incidents by helping our youth build their capacity for empathy and compassion.

Public art to make our world a better place for all creatures great and small.