The Big Dogs Are Ready to Rock N’ Roll.

A story we hear again and again from rescue organizations. The cost for one dog, from rescue to adoption, can range from $400 to $1000.

Remember the recent news item reported previously on The New Barker Facebook page about Great Danes at a Walton County breeding facility? The owner abandoned the facility due to health problems. A family member called Alaqua Animal Refuge in Freeport for help. The Refuge is currently caring for 73 dogs rescued from the breeding facility. Volunteers with Northwest Florida Great Dane Rescue are caring for another 27 dogs. The dogs range in age from about eight months to eight years.

Michelle Cramer, president of Northwest Florida Great Dane Rescue said, “We’re stretched thin here and the cost is significant for us. Every donated dollar helps.”

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Clancy is available for adoption through Northwest Florida Great Dane Rescue.

Over the next few days, the adoptable dogs will be added to the organization’s website. In the meantime, the group is in need of food (preferably Victor Maintenance and Victor Performance brands), new or gently used bedding and towels. And, of course, money for medical bills. About a dozen of the dogs have serious medical problems. They will all be spayed or neutered and microchipped.

Do you love Great Danes? For information on adopting or becoming a foster parent, you can message the group on Facebook or email NWFLGDR@gmail.com. Please be patient in waiting for a response. Their primary focus right now is caring for the dogs.

Breed information: A gentle giant, the Great Dane is also called the Apollos of Dogs. Apollo is the Greek god of the sun – the brightest fixture in the sky. While the Great Dane may look imposing, in reality, this dog is one of the best-natured dogs around: Sweet, affectionate; loves to play and is gentle with children. The Great Dane’s height and weight place him among the largest breeds. Only the Irish Wolfhound is taller. A few Mastiffs may outweigh the Great Dane, but not by much. Great Danes are flatulent, according to Vetstreet.com. But, you’ll always have someone to blame on your own emissions.

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The Occupational Hazard Of Working With Animals.

Society is disrespectful toward not only the animals, but shelter workers as well. Most often, animal caregivers leave shelter work, beaten down and disillusioned. The ones who stay, grow the proverbial “thick skin” in order to deal with the negativity they face, day in and day out.

Anna Cooke, Editor, The New Barker Dog magazine.

Compassion fatigue is also known as “secondary-traumatic stress disorder (STSD).” The symptoms of STSD are similar to those of PTSD. As with PTSD, compassion fatigue can lead to depression and thoughts of suicide. “Animal care professionals are some of the most pain-saturated people I have ever worked with,” said Psychotherapist J. Eric Gentry. “The very thing that makes them great at their work, their empathy and dedication and love for animals, makes them vulnerable.”

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Siberian Husky Rescue of Florida. 2010 Get Rescued In Gulfport. The New Barker.

Most animal caregivers go into the work, either professionally or as a volunteer, carrying a true love for animals in their hearts. They certainly don’t choose the work because of the extraordinary benefits or high salaries. Patricia Smith, founder of the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project believes that those who work in animal welfare face different challenges than those in other areas of care (i.e. – nurses, social workers, EMTs).

“I found in my work as training and development manager at a shelter that people enter this field very idealistic, really hoping to make a difference in the way animals are cared for and treated,” said Smith. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for that bubble to burst.”

In other helping professions such as health care, teaching or firefighting, the workers are respected and even idealized. This is not the case with shelter workers. Most people believe shelter workers are part of the problem especially at shelters where the dogs and cats are euthanized.

“Society is disrespectful toward not only the animals, but shelter workers as well,” said Smith. “Most often, animal caregivers leave shelter work, beaten down and disillusioned. The ones who stay grow the proverbial “thick skin” in order to deal with the negativity they face, day in and day out.”

When the majority of workers/volunteers in an organization suffer the symptoms of compassion fatigue, the organization itself takes on the symptoms of organizational compassion fatigue. The result is high Worker’s Comp claims, absenteeism, inability of staff and management to collaborate, inability of staff to follow rules and regulations and lack of flexibility and adaptability among workers. Rescue groups experience a high turnover rate with volunteers.

Eventually, this all affects the bottom line and lack of funds creates another layer of challenges: paying decent wages and benefits, lack of quality care the animals receive, inability to retain talented workers. The list is endless.

“Turning around a shelter environment that is plagued with compassion-fatigued workers is the job of management,” said Smith.

As a caregiver, whether as a professional or as a volunteer, self-care is the only answer to healthy caregiving, especially in animal welfare. It takes hard work to become “self directed” Smith explained. “Self direction means that we have personal boundaries, we are able to say “no” without feeling guilty. We know our limitations and we honor them. We practice self-care daily. We need to heal our deep hurts and not allow ourselves to be re-traumitzied by the work we choose to do,” she added.

Compassion Fatigue is not the same as burnout, but they can co-exist. Burnout can happen to anyone in any profession. It’s a cumulative process marked by emotional exhaustion and withdrawal associated with increased workload and institutional stress. It is not trauma-related. Compassion Fatigue is specific to those who are working with a traumatized or suffering population.

“Stress is too much: too much work, too much pressure, too many deadlines. Burnout is not enough: not enough time, not enough resources, not enough energy.  When you add compassion fatigue to that mixture, you have a crippled individual in body, mind and spirit.” –Patricia Smith, founder of the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project.

“I truly believe the number one thing we can do to reduce stress and avoid burnout is to be self aware. What causes our stress? What are the triggers? How do we manage our stress? Self awareness begins with education. Not only learning about stress, burnout and compassion fatigue, but learning about ourselves,” said Smith. “Create a Personal Mission statement (what is my promise to myself?) and follow up with a Self-Care plan (start with one goal and make yourself accountable). We can begin the path to healing that will make it possible to continue to make a difference in the lives of animals.”

 

This Thursday, October 27, the Tampa location of The Pet Loss Center is hosting a Compassion Fatigue Seminar. It is free and open to all who are in animal care: veterinarians, vet techs, shelter employees and volunteers, rescue organization volunteers. The doors will open a 6p with refreshments served. The seminar is from 6:30p – 7:30p followed by networking. Pets are welcome.The Pet Loss Center will donate $5 for every attendee that comes to the Open House+Seminar on behalf of a local shelter or rescue organization. The rescue whose organization has the most attendees represented during the Open House will receive a $500 donation from The Pet Loss Center.

The Pet Loss Center, Tampa: 6091 Johns Road, Suite 5 33634. 813.999.4040.

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A Roar For The Big Cats.

by Heather Schulman for The New Barker Dog Magazine. This feature story on Tampa’s Big Cat Rescue was first published in The New Barker Dog Magazine, Winter 2015. We are posting the story in The New Barker blog in light of recent reports to the USDA of abuse at another Florida facility, Wild Things in Dade City.

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Ginger, the Serval. Photograph, courtesy of Big Cat Rescue.

About a year ago, friends suggested that a visit to Dade City Wild Things might be enlightening. My fiancé and I had never heard of it, but based on their feedback, we decided to go. Let’s just say that viewing large, beautiful animals in incredibly small cages, and watching people pay to handle and be photographed with tiger cubs, was not my idea of fun. After that visit, I wanted to know more about the rules and regulations governing ownership of big cats, prompting a visit to Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida. It was here that I learned of the issues facing these beautiful cats. A special thank you to Carole Baskin, CEO and Howard Baskin, Advisory Board Chairman at Big Cat Rescue. –Heather Schulman.

Big Cat Rescue, situated on 67 acres in the Citrus Park area, is one of the world’s largest accredited sanctuaries for exotic cats. It is the home to about 80 lions, tigers, lynx, leopards, bobcats, cougars, servals and other species. They are there for a variety of reasons. Some were abandoned by owners who wrongly thought they would make good pets. Some were abused by owners in order to force them to perform. Others have retired from performing acts, saved from being slaughtered to make fur coats. Still others were rescued as babies after hunters killed their mothers. The sanctuary began rescuing exotic cats on November 4, 1992 and continues to be a leading advocate in ending the abuse of captive big cats and saving wild cats from extinction. Big Cat Rescue is a non-profit 501(c)(3) sanctuary, accredited by the Global Federation of Sanctuaries and certified by Independent Charities of America as a “Best in America Charity.”

Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission regulations allow two tigers to spend their entire lives in a 10 by 20-foot cage (200 square feet). That is smaller than the typical parallel parking spot (nine by 24 feet). The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires that exotic cats have “sufficient space to allow each animal to make normal postural and social adjustments with adequate freedom of movement.” Federal rules refer to the ability to stand and turn around, not the actual amount of space, and lists factors an inspector should consider in making a judgment. The bottom line is, the minimum standards of care as established, are inhumane. The cats at Big Cat Rescue have “adequate freedom of movement” including the ability to exercise and access to plenty of water. Although the cats have far more space per cat than most facilities, the sanctuary decided to build a two and a half acre Vacation Rotation enclosure. Each of their lions and tigers can rotate enjoying a two-week vacation in an open air space that has a pond, fountain, dens, tunnels, platforms and trees.

Currently, dozens of traveling zoos and roadside exhibitors profit from charging the public a fee to have a one-on-one encounter with a tiger cub. The fees often range from $10 to $500, allowing the public to pet, feed, train, pose, play and even swim with wild and exotic animals. To facilitate these public handlings, tiger cubs are pulled from their protective mothers shortly after birth. This is an inhumane and unhealthy practice that can be very traumatic for both the mother and her offspring. It often leads to lifelong physical and psychological problems for the tiger cub. The USDA bans contact with cubs under eight weeks old while their immune systems are still developing, coupled with a court-affirmed prohibition on contact with cubs over 12 weeks old because they are dangerous to the public.

“The only creature on earth whose natural habitat is a zoo, is the zookeeper.” Robert Brault, writer.

The current system creates an incentive for the endless cycle of tiger cub births, which can result in intensive breeding operations. The cubs are bred just to exploit the four-week window, and then discarded or disposed of after they’ve outgrown their profitable age. The discarded animals end up warehoused at poorly run roadside zoos and pseudo-sanctuaries or in the hands of unqualified people with private menageries. Many other tiger cubs fall victim to the illegal wildlife trade. The important thing to remember is that true rescuers and sanctuaries do not breed big cats. Facilities that breed or subject the animals to the stress of being carted around to exhibit, by definition, are not sanctuaries. Big Cat Rescue does not breed any of the rescued animals that come to the sanctuary. They are neutered or spayed. (Continued on following page)

What can we do to save big cats from abuse? First, never pay to touch or have your photo taken with tiger cubs. Second, do not attend circuses, fairs or attractions that feature a wild animal show. Lastly, please join forces with Big Cat Rescue to end the private possession of big cats. Privately owning exotic animals is currently permitted in a handful of states with essentially no restrictions. You must have a license to own a dog, but you are free to purchase a lion and keep it as a pet. Can you believe more exotic animals live in American homes than are cared for in American zoos?

Big Cat Rescue along with The Humane Society of the United States, World Wildlife Fund, International Fund for Animal Welfare, The Fund for Animals, Born Free USA and the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, filed a legal petition — The Big Cat Public Safety Act. It asked the USDA, under the Animal Welfare Act, to prohibit public contact and close encounters with big cats, bears and primates, regardless of the age of the animals.

Let your Congressman know that you would support any piece of legislation that would keep exotic animals from living in America’s backyards, garages and living rooms. Further, you will support allowing people who currently possess these wild animals, to keep them until they die of old age, but not allow them to buy or breed moving forward.

Please make a quick call to your legislators asking them to support the Big Cat Public Safety Act, and send them an e-mail. The only way to stop the abuse of big cats in captivity is to ban private ownership. Trying to “regulate” the conditions under which the cats are kept by private owners is simply impossible. At press time, there were 21 co-sponsors of the bill in the House of Representatives. David Jolly (R-FL) and Kathy Castor (D-FL) are two Bay Area Representatives who support the bill.

Each cat at Big Cat Rescue has its own beautiful story. I noticed that the cats were all very relaxed and calm (not pacing back and forth) unlike the cats I witnessed at Dade City Wild Things. The cats that are nervous around the public are placed away from people touring the sanctuary. In 2014, Big Cat Rescue saved more than 170 kittens; partnering with the Humane Society of Tampa Bay to make certain each was fixed and adopted. If you are looking for something unique and fun to do in Tampa Bay, take a tour of Big Cat Rescue (day tours available everyday at 3 p.m. with the exception of Thursday).

Big Cat Rescue – 12802 Easy Street, Tampa 813.920.4130 – BigCatRescue.org

To read the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act (H.R.1998) go to www.Congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/1998

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Cameron the Lion and Zabu the Tiger.Photograph, courtesy of Big Cat Rescue.