The bond between dogs and their humans is undeniable. They’re our faithful companions who help us through difficult times and make each day a bit brighter. For dogs that have had a rough start in life or have never known compassion, humans can help play a special role in teaching them to trust again. Sometimes it’s humans who have experienced difficult times, and it’s through the non-judgmental bond with an animal that they too, can begin to heal.
Safe Humane Chicago is using animal welfare education and community-building programs to help establish these bonds, recognizing that humane education is an integral part of creating a safer community. They also understand the correlation between animal cruelty and violence against humans, something that has been talked about by advocates and psychologists for decades, and has been recognized the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), who reclassified and began tracking animal-related crimes in 2016.
With the help of the community members and volunteers, they have launched a unique organization that offers a variety of programs aimed at making the world a better place for both humans and animals.
Giving Dogs a Second Chance
It was a dog named Francis that inspired Cynthia Bathurst, co-founder and Executive Director of Safe Humane Chicago, to start a program aimed at helping the “forgotten” dogs. Francis had spent years in a cage at an animal control facility while his guardian awaited trial. All of that time in confinement had caused irreversible psychological damage, leaving no other option but to humanely euthanize him. “Never again,” said Bathurst, as she described that day in a video produced by the organization. “We’ve got to have a program that helps these animals.”
Safe Humane Chicago’s programs use reward-based training to help socialize dogs and prepare them for adoption. The dogs come from area shelters as well as their Court Case Dogs Program, which helps dogs who have been confiscated from neglect or abuse situations, and whose abusers have a court case involving abuse of the animal. Because court cases can drag on for months, and even years, dogs are often stuck in impound facilities the entire time, facing euthanasia after the case is resolved. But this program is working to change that by providing obedience training and working with their rescue partners to help the dogs find loving homes.
Since 2010, over 974 dogs have been helped through the court case dogs program, increasing the percentage of “evidence” dogs saved from 2 percent in 2010 up to 75 percent in 2016. They are making a difference in the lives of these wonderful dogs by giving them a second chance. And this second chance is possible because of the amazing people who participate in their programs.
Changing Lives Through Programs and Education
Through Safe Humane’s Youth Leaders program, teenagers in Chicago’s public school system are learning about animal welfare, pet safety and the humane treatment of animals. Once they complete their training, they visit elementary schools with an adult representative from the organization to give presentations to children about animal abuse and the importance of treating animals humanely. The program teaches compassion and helps teenagers feel like a part of their community by contributing to the greater good and serving as a role model for younger generations.
Human and animal lives are also changed through their Lifetime Bonds program, which pairs at-risk dogs with at-risk young and adult men, who help prepare the dogs for adoption through a reward-based training program that includes basic obedience skills, agility, and canine massage. When you pair people and animals together, you help establish strong bonds that benefit animals and humans, and it’s through fostering these relationships that a community can be strengthened as well.
Building Stronger Communities
Safe Humane Chicago is inspiring people of all ages to become more involved in their community and work together to prevent crimes against humans and animals. Through education, training, programs and resources, they teach community members about animal care and help them develop skills that build confidence and can prepare them for a job working with animals if they decide to choose that path. The organization also collaborates with law enforcement agencies nationwide to provide training on what to do when they encounter animal crimes, including how to handle investigations.
By helping animals in need and giving members of the community the opportunity to participate in their life-changing — and life-saving— programs, they are reducing animal and human violence in their communities and saving the lives of dogs who otherwise might not have had a chance.
To learn more about Safe Humane Chicago’s programs, to donate, or sign up as a volunteer, visit their website.
All images source: Safe Humane Chicago/Facebook