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Costa Rica WSPA in Puerto Rico


By Peggy Ann Bliss

Animal rights visitors got an eyeful last week in Puerto Rico, and they returned to tell the world of the horrors they saw. They also met with local animal activists and encouraged their meager efforts at stemming the brutal tide of cruelty and indifference by government and citizens alike. A delegation from the Costa Rica-based World Society for the Protection of Animals, and a representative from the New York-based American Society for the Protection of Animals hit the island like a welcome tornado, and were effusively welcomed by protectors and teachers.

Jennifer Dragotta, Manager of National Programs for Humane Education, from the ASPCA, met in Luquillo City Hall with Department of Education elementary school teachers, who will soon be introducing their students to a new weekly course in the treatment of animals.

Maximiliano Brandt, and veterinarian Monica List, representatives of WSPA, met with animal advocates in Aguadilla, and San Juan.

List, now back in Costa Rica, sent The STAR an essay about one of the hardest days of her life, a visit to Dead Dog Beach in Yabucoa, where a group of animal protectors have rescued 42 dogs and eight cats, after dozens were killed and left to die there, usually by their owners.

Her poignant observations concluded: "The missing link: education. Dogs and cats will be dumped as long as responsible pet ownership culture is not instated. The rescuers agree, but for now, they continue to feed and care for the dogs and cats of Dead Dog Beach as long as their hearts – and their budgets – can take it."

Teaching animal love

In Luquillo, at a groundbreaking seminar, Dragotta said Puerto Rico's animal cruelty law is among the best in the United States, but it is not enforced.

Alfredo Figueroa, president of the Fajardo-based rescue program PARE Este, Inc., which co-sponsored the all-day activity, said Puerto Rico is "at least 60 years behind the states in cruelty cases, caused by indifference and social decomposition."

"There is an established connection between aggression and mistreatment of animals," said Dragotta, observing that Henry Bergh, who founded the ASPCA 140 years ago, also founded the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

"Humane education is about learning to care for the animals in our homes and communities, about kindness, respect and empathy for humans and nonhumans, and looking after the environment and its habitats," Dragotta said.

The workbooks she presented, "I Love Animals" and "Sharing the World with Animals", developed by the Intercultural Center for Research in Education in Massachusetts for kindergarten through third grade, and grades three through five, respectively, were published in 2000. Their Spanish counterparts "Yo quiero a los animales" and "Compartiendo el mundo con los animales,"were published in 2003. The activities, which can be incorporated in science, math and language arts classes, are designed to fulfill national standards.

One activity "Cats, Cats and More Cats!"(Gatos, gatos y más gatos!) allows children to do the math and conclude that one unsterilized kitten can be responsible for 74 cats in little over a year. PARE statistics indicate that a pair of dogs can produce 11,606,077 puppies in nine years, while a pair of cats can produce 13,958,290 kittens in the same period. PARE, whose goal is "a loving home for every animal," also notes that more than 100,000 healthy cats and dogs are euthanized in Puerto Rico shelters every year.

A bilingual book "How to Be a Helping Hand for Dogs and Cats" (Como darles una mano a los perros y los gatos) distributed by the Humane Society Press relates the needs of animals to the needs of children, such as food, cleanliness, play and exercise. It urges children to give animals shelter, to understand their need for love, and to tolerate their errors.

The book tells children how to protect their animals and to visit the veterinarian annually, check their collars as their pets grow, provide pet sitting when they go away, and care for them forever.

Most important, the book concludes. "Don't let your pets have babies. There are not enough homes for all of them!"

Jesús Velázquez, 47, administrator for the Jose Calzada Ferrer Segunda Unidad School in Canóvanas, whose school has a problem of animal cruelty, said fifth and sixth graders can learn from the lessons which Elizabeth Rivera will integrate into English and science classes.

Maggie Viera, a 5th and 6th grade teacher from Río Grande, told how children brought abandoned kittens to her class, providing her with what Dragotta called "a teachable moment."

Sally Tully Figueroa, vice president of PARE, said the course will begin in the Fajardo region, which includes Loíza, Canóvanas, Río Grande, Luquillo, Fajardo, Ceiba, Naguabo, Vieques and Culebra, and if successful, will be extended to the other seven island regions.

For more information on humane education in Puerto Rico, call PARE Este at (787) 801-6387, or (787) 863-8652, or visit their website at  Write them at PO Box 928, Fajardo P.R. 00738.

It's Halloween. Do you know where your cat is?

Black cats were once viewed as witches "familiars" a demon in disguise. People believed if you destroyed the cat, you would find eternal peace. Later, the destruction of a witch's cat's robbed the witch of her power. Sadly some people act as if they still believed that.

Protect your cat from costumed children knocking on the door, or a party at your house. Leave her in a remote room, with radio or television, food, water and a litter box until things quiet down. Chocolate is very toxic to cats, and watch out for those plastic bags, especially if you have kittens.

Dogs, too, must be watched for that poison chocolate and panic attacks, but they can join in the fun. However, if you take them trick or treating, make sure they don't bite anyone, or approach homes with strange dogs.

ITAL Peggy Ann Bliss is president of Fundación Valentina, which helps abandoned animals. She lives in a Santurce apartment with several rescued cats and a rescued dog. Her cybermag Pure Bliss can be visited at . Call her at 787-721-2782 or 787-810-0021. ITAL

[San Juan Star Column Saturday, Oct. 28, 2006]

Another article on this activity in Spanish -

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