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It's All For the Animals

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It's All For the Animals

Dr. Marty Becker comes to Sandpoint in a benefit for two local animal shelters

    Abandoned, beaten, shot at, poisoned, starved, left without water. No medical treatment, no shelter and worst of all, no loving hands. This is the fate of abandoned animals.
    Luckily for Bonner County, two groups of committed people are working to provide an alternative – the Panhandle Animal Shelter and the Lifetime Friends Animal Sanctuary. Both groups are the recipients of a benefit dinner and show to be held this Saturday, April 13th in Sandpoint at 7:00 pm. April is Prevention of Animal Cruelty Month.
    Dr. Marty Becker, a veterinarian who lives in Bonners Ferry, is the Master of Ceremonies and the featured guest of both the dinner and the show. Becker, known as the co-author of “Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul,” is a popular veterinary contributor to ABC TV’s Good Morning America and is the author of a weekly newspaper column, The Bond, syndicated through Knight Ridder Tribune Services. He is also a contributing editor to both Dog World and Cat Fancy magazines, and is the Chief Veterinary Correspondent for Amazon.com. Becker’s newest book is The Healing Power of Pets
    “Frequently, it is the companionship of pets that gets us through,” writes Becker in his book, which explores the relationship between pets and the healing of illness in their human companions.

“It is a precious gift to be alive,” wrote local psychologist Eric Ridgeway in a recent letter to the editor. Ridgeway is President of the Board for Panhandle Animal Shelter. “All of us, human and non-human, are brothers and sisters on this planet we call Earth. All of us want to live a quality life and yet we sometimes don't seem to be very sensitive to how our actions impact the quality of life for other living beings. This was painfully illustrated by the Daily Bee article on March 14, 2002 about the dog, Roscoe, being shot and left to die, and fortunately being saved by caring humans.
    Numerous studies in psychology, sociology and criminology have confirmed that animal cruelty frequently occurs in families where there is also domestic violence, and/or child or elder abuse. Domestic violence victims often delay leaving their abusive homes because they fear for their pets' safety. This fear is unfortunately well founded. Often batterers will abuse and kill family pets as a way to threaten their victims and to keep them from leaving the home. Many of these studies also confirm that violent offenders were cruel to animals in their childhood, teen or adult years.”
    According to a recent report by the Humane Society of the United States, 21% of intentional animal cruelty cases also involve family violence.
    “How we are willing to treat vulnerable animals is not too much different from how we are willing to treat vulnerable children. In fact, in the United States the first child abuse case that was successfully tried in a court of law was forced to use the statutes mandated for the "protection from cruelty to animals" to protect a child who had been abused repeatedly by his parents,” Ridgeway continued. “Animal cruelty is still, unfortunately, happening all too regularly in our community: puppies thrown into
dumpsters, dogs and cats abandoned out on country roads, kicking and hitting of animals with sticks, shooting of birds or squirrels or other small animals for "fun" or "sport", or simply leaving a pet outside and giving it little time or comfort or socialization. For domestic animals, which have long, since lost their wild instincts, and are totally dependent on humans, this neglect is particularly damaging.”

Pets, or ‘companion animals’ as the current terminology goes, are still enormously important to the American family. Currently, over half of all American homes can be classified as pet owners. The American pet industry, including food, supplies, specialty books and magazines, even clothing, accounted for over $1 billion in sales in 1999. This number does not represent the dollar amount paid for the pets themselves.

    Lifetime Friends, an animal sanctuary with a “no-kill” philosophy, was begun just last year as the culmination of a dream for Michael and Judy Sowders. Michael thought, “I can do something good for these animals,” and he and Judy opened their home. They were joined by Katie Heffley and Jodie Jones, and all three families provide space in their homes for over 100 animals, mostly cats, in their homes. Apart from donations, all expenses are paid out of their own pockets.
    The group, now formed as an official, 5013c organization, is looking to purchase land and build a complex that will provide permanent housing for cats, dogs, horses and any other animal critter that finds itself without a home to live in. “Animals are not throwaway objects,” Sowders stated simply.
    The Sanctuary works in conjunction with the program established by Panhandle Animal Shelter years ago. Prior to the shelter, unwanted animals in the area were either killed, or left to roam and become feral nuisances to homes and livestock. Thousands of animals have passed through the Shelter’s walls, many to find caring and loving homes with those who understand there “aren’t enough homes for them all,” and head to the Shelter when looking for a new companion animal.
    Both groups could not exist without the on-going support of local veterinarians, who not only provide discounted services to both programs but also participate in low-cost spay and neuter clinics available to area residents.
    At Saturday’s event, ticket-holders will be treated to a talk by Becker, who will be available to sign his newest book, The Healing Power of Pets. They will also be able to meet the staff and volunteers of PAS and Lifetime Friends, and possibly get to know other animal supporters throughout the area. “This is definitely a collaborative event,” said Ridgeway, who explained that invitations have gone out to other local shelters and rescue societies from Boundary, Kootenai and Sanders Counties. “We’re all working to help animals.”
    For a $50 ticket, those interested can have dinner with Dr. Becker at Ivano’s prior to the show. Seating is limited, however, so reserve your ticket early by calling the shelter at 208-265-7297 or the Sanctuary at 208-265-5053.
    Tickets for the show at the Panida are $8 for regular admission, $5 for members of PAS or LFAS, and $4 for seniors and students. Tickets may be purchased at area veterinarians, PAS, Java Adagio, Eve’s Leaves, Selkirk Press, The Daily Bee and Monarch Mountain Coffee.   

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Landon Otis

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pets, events, Dr. Marty Becker, Panhandle Animal Shelter, Lifetime Friends Animal Sanctuary

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