How to Report Animal Cruelty

In April 2017, Crime Stoppers of Houston, working with Harris County Precinct 5 Constable Ted Heap, formed a city-wide Anti-Animal Cruelty Partner Council to bring key partners and agencies together to collaborate on finding solutions to improve how crimes against animals are reported and responded to in Harris County and the City of Houston.

With over 50 law enforcement agencies in Harris County, citizens often do not know where to report this type of abuse. The council's goal was to make it easy for citizens to report animal cruelty and neglect to the correct agency, thereby helping animals in need as quickly as possible. This also would free up resources that were incorrectly getting the calls.

Following Hurricane Harvey, the Harris County Animal Cruelty Taskforce was formed with the primary goal of streamlining the process of where and how animal cruelty can be reported in the Greater Houston Area. The taskforce acquired 832-927-PAWS as their phone number in order to further streamline the reporting process, speed up response times and minimize duplication of efforts across the county.

Partner agencies of the Taskforce include:

 

  • Harris County Constable Precinct 5

  • Harris County District Attorney’s Office

  • Harris County Sheriff’s Office

  • Houston Police Department

  • City of Houston Animal Control

  • BARC

  • Crime Stoppers of Houston

  • Harris County Public Health Veterinary Public Health

  • Houston Humane Society

  • Houston PetSet

  • Animal ER of Northwest Houston

  • drumBEAT Marketing

 

Additionally, the Taskforce secured a partnership with drumBEAT Marketing and their website, www.Best4Pets.org drumBEAT Marketing is donating the time and services to create the one-stop website for citizens in Harris County and the Greater Houston Metropolitan area to report animal cruelty and get information on all issues pertaining to animal welfare.

Harris County Sheriff's Office has also added an additional Deputy to animal cruelty investigations.

Through education, awareness and continued collaboration, the Harris County Animal Cruelty Taskforce hopes to make a larger impact in the lives of abused and neglected animals.

Weatherman’s Dog Crashes Forecast, Becomes Internet’s New Quarantine Hero

Meet Brody, the Tampa Bay weather dog winning hearts across social media.

It may not be raining cats and dogs in Tampa right now, but there’s at least one pooch in the forecast. 

Fox 13 Tampa Bay meteorologist Paul Dellegatto was delivering a live forecast from home due to shelter-in-place limitations ― with a cameraman filming him from outside the window ― when the segment was interrupted.

His dog, Brody, had knocked into the computer and entered the frame:

“Everything about the video is so golden retriever,” Dellegatto told the Creative Loafing Tampa website. “Hitting my computer screen, yawning, jumping on the window looking for Craig. They are a great breed!” 

Brody’s videobomb was shared plenty on Twitter, but one message in particular got Dellegatto’s attention: 

Although the footage was from April 16, it went viral on social media this week after Fox 13 posted it online as a “throwback” to when Dellegatto was broadcasting from home. 

He’s now back in the studio. 

How One Woman Is Helping Veterans Create Life-Saving Super Bonds

Clarissa Black, founder of Pets for Vets, knows first-hand how animal companions can help heal.

As an anthrozoologist, Clarissa Black understands the relationships between people and their animal companions and how those relationships can promote healing. While zoologists study animals, anthrozoologists study the relationships between animals and humans. And Black’s experience of those benefits goes well beyond the clinical: Her dog, “Bear,” gave Black a new lease on life when he helped her learn to cope with her symptoms from PTSD.

Despite her consummate love for animals and her professional background, the bond that Black experienced with her husky — a “Super Bond,” as she calls it — took her by surprise. Black felt that Bear could actually intuit what she needed, and she realized this might be something that other people could benefit from, if they could only experience it for themselves.

When Black took Bear to visit a local Veteran’s Association, she finally understood the potential of what she could offer. If veterans, 11 to 20% of whom suffer from PTSD, could experience the same bond with a rescued animal companion, then Black theorized that she could save shelter animals while providing real value to a population in need. The idea for Pets for Vets, an organization that matches companion animals with veterans, was conceived. “I really felt that ‘Eureka!’ moment with Bear, where I thought, ‘Oh, this is what I can do. This is how I can say thank you.’”

Fostering A Relationship

Black always loved animals. In fact, her very first word was “cat.” At a very young age, she achieved the impossible task of training her cat, and begged her parents for every kind of pet that they would allow. Thinking that she wanted to pursue veterinary medicine, she tried to distinguish her résumé by participating in relevant internships and working with animals.

It was through those internships, one with an elephant sanctuary in Arkansas and another with dolphins in Hawaii, that she realized what she truly enjoyed was the relationship that she developed with animals. “I realized that I didn’t want to be a vet, where I was inside and only seeing animals once a year,” says Black. “I wanted to do something that would enhance that relationship.”

Following graduation, Black returned to Hawaii, where she became a dolphin trainer and eventually decided that she needed a dog of her own. As soon as Bear came into Black’s life, she knew that their bond was something special and, following a traumatic personal experience that left Black with PTSD, Bear became her lifeline.

Homemade Dog Treat Recipes, Because Your Pet Deserves Some Thanks

Your canine companion probably has no doubt helped you endure the coronavirus-inspired quarantine. Here's how to return the favor.

If you’ve made it this far through the coronavirus pandemic with your mental health more or less intact, there’s a good chance it’s partly because of your dog. They’re participating in Zoom calls. They’re giving us new ways to be creative with our talents. They’re still our confidantes, our best listeners and our preferred snuggle partners.

So how about you step it up a bit and bake something for the canine in your life? The following recipes are easy to make and guaranteed to satisfy a pooch who might be extra peckish after all those extra walks you’ve been taking.

Please remember that, just like their human companions, dogs can have a wide range of food sensitivities and allergies. Be sure to talk to your vet about how any of these treats might fit into your pet’s diet.

Sweet Potato Chews

Jen Costello, the blogger behind My Brown Newfies, is the owner of a Newfoundland named Odin and a Corgi named Finn. After buying bags of sweet potato chews for them, she had a revelation: “It’s just sweet potatoes, so it’s a single ingredient treat,” she told HuffPost. “Why was I buying these and not making them?”

Here’s her recipe for a chew that’s similar to the packaged version, at a fraction of the cost.

Two-Ingredient, 30-Minute Dog Treats

Kiki Kane’s actual title is “dog chef,” and she blogs frequently at Rover.com about creating everything from hearty canine bone broths to doggie birthday cakes. One of her favorite recipes is this two-ingredient wonder, which can be mixed-and-matched with ingredients you have on hand. “I love this recipe because of its extreme flexibility,” she told HuffPost.

“With so many of us at home and unable to shop regularly, it’s fantastic to have this simple recipe up your sleeve,” she said. “You can use any dog-friendly fruit or veggie you have on hand, including baby food, frozen fruit or applesauce. You and your family can get creative rolling out fun shapes and finding tasty mix-ins like shredded cheese or diced leftover meat. You’ll have a tasty treat for your dog in under 30 minutes.”

The effects of PTSD made Black want to lock herself in her house and refrain from seeing people, but Bear provided purpose, comfort and love. “It was really my dog Bear that I could lean on,” Black says. “Having him there every day and being able to go out to take him on walks and to reintegrate — just knowing that I had that support and that comfort and that I could feel safe because he was there.”

A Way Of Giving Back

When Black and some colleagues were asked to visit a local Veteran’s Association to review the service dog program, Bear went, too. Black felt passionately about helping veterans: Her father had served in the Army and her uncle had served in the Air Force — both in Vietnam — and her great-aunt (the one who had actually taught her the word “cat,”) had enlisted in SPARS in WWII. “Working with animals and helping people [was my way] to be able to give back,” Black says, “since people in my family gave back in another way.”

While Black expected Bear to have a positive effect on the veterans that they visited, Bear exceeded her expectations. If a veteran was mostly immobile, Bear would sit close enough to be stroked. If another veteran was working on physical therapy, Bear would put his paws up in solidarity. “He had such a way that I would see everybody’s eyes light up,” Black says.

Vet’s Favorite Peanut Butter Dog Recipe

Jennifer Coates is a Colorado-based veterinarian and author of “Dictionary of Veterinary Terms: Vet-speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian.” She’s also on the advisory board for Pet Life Today, for which she created a simple peanut butter dog biscuit recipe.

By the end of their visit, many veterans were asking if they could take Bear home with them.

At that point, the available canine programs for veterans were for service dogs, which many veterans didn’t qualify for and, even if they did, service dogs were expensive. When Black saw the overwhelmingly positive effect that Bear was having on the veterans, she remembers thinking, “This Super Bond, this amazing thing that I have with Bear, this is something that I would love to give veterans to help them.”

Creating Super Bonds

How is a “Super Bond” different from any other bond between humans and their pets? “The Super Bond is something that I characterize as that undeniable, emotional, chemical connection,” Black says. “It’s that moment at first sight, or when you just feel so in tuned with your animal. For the Pets for Vets program, our animals start to actually intuit what their veterans need, and offer that to their veterans.”

What makes Pets for Vets so unique is that it centers around finding the right match for each veteran, almost like a dating service. Veteran applicants answer a series of questions and undergo interviews in order to determine what kind of companion they might need. The animals, who are primarily rescue dogs (although Black has placed cats and even a rabbit), are also evaluated.

The goal of this match-making process is to assess what both veteran and canine need — Black says that the type of companion an applicant might think they want could differ from what would benefit them most.

Black recalls an example of a veteran who was having serious challenges readjusting to life after the military. “What he told me, specifically,” Black says, “was that what he lost in Iraq was his heart and his soul.”

This veteran was experiencing anger and had significant challenges relating with other people. When he approached Pets for Vets, he told Black that he wanted a really big dog, like a German Shepherd. But Black thought that an intimidating animal might only serve to further alienate other people. Instead, she matched the veteran with a rescued Jindo, a very smart and friendly dog breed known for their loyalty.

“He told me that what he learned from his dog was seeing how his dog navigated the world and seeing how he responded to people — seeing how he loved the world and loved people,” Black says. “His dog started to open up that window to his soul. It was a few years later that he got engaged and married.”

Sociability, confidence and relief from loneliness are just some of the benefits that can come from a companion-dog relationship. But some symptoms of PTSD are more challenging to address. Black describes a veteran who, by the time he contacted the organization, had not slept a full night in almost three years because he was haunted by nightmares. Before Pets for Vets placed the dog — a pitbull/labrador mix — with the sleepless veteran, they gave the animal nightmare training. The dog would recognize wrestling and mumbling as a cue to poke the veteran with her nose to wake him from the nightmares.

As time passed, Black says, the veteran had fewer nightmares. “He started to get a good night’s sleep because of his bond and his connection with his dog.”

Evolving The Relationship

Pets for Vets has made over 500 companion matches in the 11 years since its foundation. During that time, they have arguably saved the lives of both the animals and their veterans. One applicant told Black when he first approached Pets for Vets that “he was either going to get a dog or a gun. Fortunately,” Black says, “he reached out to us.”

As the program matures, Black and her team are navigating new challenges: Recently, the canine companion of one of their very first matches passed away. Black feels committed to helping throughout this challenging part of the relationship. And she keenly understands the challenge, having lost her beloved companion, Bear, in January 2020.

Kol’s Easy Cheesy Dog Treats

Kolchak is a puggle (pug beagle mix) owned by Jodi Chick of the Kol’s Notes blog. “I would be a wreck without him here to share my days with right now,” she told HuffPost. “He’s pretty much convinced that my sole purpose at home is to be making him snacks.”

Chick described the recipe as “super forgiving,” and added, “I’ve tested it with several kinds of oil, countless types of cheese and both regular and gluten-free flour. Every time they come out great. No matter how often I make these, Kolchak always sits at the oven and waits — and then harasses me while they cool. It’s both obnoxious and endearing.”

Turkey Power Bars

Carmen Velasquez, a blogger from The Honest Kitchen, is more appreciative than ever of her senior dog, Abba. “She spent the last 10 years going in to work each day, but she adapted to working from home sooner than I did,” Velasquez told HuffPost. “I’m so grateful to her for being equally calming and hilarious.”

This doggie version of power bars accommodates creativity and substitutions. “If you don’t have quinoa flour, any flour will do,” she told HuffPost. “You can cut the bars into smaller pieces to use as training treats or as a food topper.”

Get Carmen Velasquez’s recipe for Turkey Power Bars

 

Homemade Dog Treats

Atlanta-based Winona Rogers, who blogs at Life Family & Fun, is the owner of a Shichon puppy named Teddy and a Shitzu named Buddy. “I plead guilty to the fact that we love to spoil our dogs,” she told HuffPost. These five-ingredient treats are made with ingredients you probably already have on hand. Refrigerate them in an airtight container or freeze.

But Bear’s legacy of love is rekindled with every new match that he inspires through Pets for Vets. The program can only provide services in the 19 states and the District of Columbia where they have chapters, due to the nature of the pairing process. Black would love to be able to help veterans in all 50 states.

“When I started, it was just something that I thought I would do on my own, as my own way to say thank you, my own way to give back. I figured I’d just do a few matches out of my own pocket, with local veterans. What has surprised me is how everybody has really taken to the program,” Black says. “I mean, for everybody: You either love dogs or you love veterans — or you love both.”

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