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Culture Corner

Scribblings and Screenings for the Animal Set

A Class in Animal Cruelty Issues

Those with their heads down in the kennels, helping the animals who come in skinny or hurt; those out in the field managing the reality of the streets where many strays eke out a living—you already know the difficult realities of animal cruelty. You’ve seen it with your own eyes, and felt its effects on the animals you care for every day. But there’s something to be said for seeking the larger picture, and—while its subject matter is often unpleasant—Animal Cruelty: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Understanding provides an in-depth academic treatment of the subject that shelter and rescue folks know firsthand. Edited by Mary P. Brewster and Cassandra L. Reyes, the anthology draws together academic works on subjects ranging from the history of animal cruelty laws to the connection of animal cruelty to other types of violence. A final section on current controversies looks at issues such as the depictions of animal cruelty (and animal control responders) on reality television shows such as Animal Cops. Those aiming to rise in their jobs and develop a more comprehensive understanding of how their daily work connects to larger animal welfare themes will be rewarded, but be prepared: This anthology is not for the casual reader.

A Prayer for the Winged

An early scene in Parrot Confidential shows Lavanya Mitchell cleaning her home wearing gun range-grade headphones. She doesn’t live next to a construction site—she lives with a Moluccan cockatoo whose shrieks are ear-piercing. Several times a week, she takes the bird to board at a local sanctuary just so she can get a little quiet time. Mitchell is a caring, responsible owner, yet she clearly struggles to care for an animal best suited to life in a jungle canopy—and thousands of pet birds aren’t as fortunate in their situations. Parrot Confidential provides a moving and occasionally heartbreaking picture of parrots in the pet trade, documenting poachers in Central America, international conservation efforts, and why some former bird breeders eventually stop and become rescuers. Former breeder and sanctuary owner Jamie McLeod describes the unrealistic expectations that drive the trade in parrots and cause so many of them, eventually, to suffer due to inadequate care. People want “a bird who talks, but is quiet, and doesn’t bite,” McLeod says. “And that species has not yet been discovered.”


Anyone who’s ever had a pet disappear—whether for an hour or a lifetime—knows the nauseating swirl of panic, despair, and hope that accompanies suddenly losing a beloved companion. Heart-rending stories of pet loss abound—from dogs who run off in pursuit of a squirrel to those who are abducted. Some remarkable dogs manage to fight the odds and find their way home. Four-Legged Miracles: Heartwarming Tales of Lost Dogs’ Journeys Home by Brad Steiger and Sherry Hansen Steiger is packed with awe-inspiring stories of canines who overcame remarkable circumstances to be reunited with their owners. There was Sasha, who disappeared over a cliff while chasing a mountain goat. There were Bobbie, the collie, and Nick, the Alsatian, who braved 3,000- and 2,000-mile solo treks home, respectively, after going missing during family trips. Accounts of those who helped Bobbie along the way revealed that the resourceful dog’s seven-month trek was like a canine version of The Odyssey. The combination of spirit and unwavering loyalty displayed by these incredible dogs will send readers reaching for the tissue box, and remind shelters and rescues that many strays have loving owners who may be searching for them.

Happiness is a Thing Called Bob

As a young guy with a guitar, James Bowen dreamed of becoming a rock star. But by 2007, when he was in his late 20s, those dreams were in shambles—along with the rest of his life. Estranged from his family, Bowen was a recovering heroin addict, eking out a hand-to-mouth existence by busking on London street corners. One chilly March evening as he returned to his flat, Bowen spotted a stray ginger tomcat sleeping in the hallway. Dubbed Bob, the cat became his companion and ultimately his savior—a tale Bowen recounts in A Street Cat Named Bob. Bowen is wowed by Bob’s intelligence and energy, and a sense of trust develops between man and cat. Cat ownership instills a sense of responsibility in Bowen that ultimately helps him turn his life around. Bob causes people to view James in a different light: “Seeing me with my cat softened me in their eyes. … I had been a non-person; I was becoming a person again.” A Street Cat Named Bob is not only a heartwarming tale of the bond between humans and animals, but a great reminder to shelter and rescue folks that people who are less affluent may be stellar pet owners. And Bowen’s dreams of stardom weren’t so crazy: His book was an international best-seller, and he and Bob are now social media sensations.

Read the rest of this issue from Animal Sheltering magazine

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