Miami Seaquarium Earns Coveted American Humane Conservation Certification

American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization and the world’s largest certifier of animal welfare and well-being, announced the certification of Miami Seaquarium through the American Humane Conservation program. The facility passed rigorous, independent third-party audits to earn the certification.

The American Humane Conservation program is the first certification program solely devoted to helping verify the welfare, well-being and demonstrably humane treatment of animals living in zoos, aquariums, and conservation centers across the globe. The program enforces rigorous, science-based and comprehensive criteria for animal welfare, developed by an independent Scientific Advisory Committee comprised of world-renowned leaders in the fields of animal science, animal behavior, and animal ethics.

“The public is rightly demanding that animals in human care are receiving objectively and verifiably good treatment in conditions that meet scientifically based welfare criteria,” said Dr. Kwane Stewart, chief veterinary officer for the American Humane Conservation program. “We commend Miami Seaquarium for voluntarily opening their doors and undergoing exhaustive examinations including in-depth comprehensive assessments of actual welfare conditions and practices for nearly 1,000 animals and intensive on-site assessments by a team of independent auditors, including a marine mammal expert, a professor and animal psychology and development expert specializing in marine mammals, and a fish and life support systems expert.”

As a result of meeting the many outcomes-based welfare requirements involved by the program, the facility is joining a select group of fewer than two dozen leading zoos and aquariums in the United States and fewer than one-half of one percent of all zoological institutions in the world to have earned this certification.

“We are honored to receive this conservation certification from American Humane,” said Eric Eimstad, General Manager at Miami Seaquarium. “It is gratifying to receive the acknowledgment of such an esteemed organization as American Humane for the treatment and care provided to our animals by our team of animal care professionals and veterinarians.”

The American Humane Conservation program’s extensive criteria exhaustively verify the many dimensions of animal welfare and well-being, with areas of evaluation including: excellent health, positive social interactions within groups of animals, as well as between animals and handlers; safe environments, appropriate air and water quality, lighting, sound levels, thermoregulation, and evidence of thorough preparation and protocols established to prevent and manage medical or operational emergencies.

“We believe all animals, including those being cared for in zoological facilities and conservation parks, are entitled to humane treatment,” said Dr. Stewart. “This program helps ensure the welfare of amazing, threatened and disappearing species around the globe and we think that it is a good thing that more and more zoological institutions are allowing independent humane groups to scrutinize their operations and verify with objective measures the level of care their animals are provided. This is good for the public, necessary for the organization being audited so they can demonstrate their commitment to proper welfare or raise their standards if they fall short, and most of all, good for the remarkable and endangered creatures we all want to preserve.”

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American Humane rescuing animals in path of Hurricane Florence

As Hurricane Florence barrels toward the United States, bringing with it torrential rains, dangerous winds, and potential flooding, the famed American Humane Rescue team, which has been saving animals in disasters for more than 100 years, is rushing to evacuate shelter pets directly in the path of the deadly storm. American Humane Rescue team members are already beginning their work, preparing to remove and transport animals from coastal South Carolina shelters and taking them to safe haven inland.

With millions in the storm path, American Humane President and CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert, who had to evacuate with her own dog Daisy from her South Carolina home, is working to prepare the public to keep themselves and their pets safe. Dr. Ganzert offers this expert advice on what to do before, during and after the storm:

BEFORE THE STORM

• Microchip pets or put a tag on their collar with your name, address and cell phone number so they may be returned quickly in case you are separated from your pets. Be sure that any microchip information is up-to-date.
• Tie down or anchor outside objects that might fly about and injure someone.
• Know a safe place where your pets can go if you need to evacuate or seek shelter. Evacuation destinations may include a friend or family member’s home, going to a pet-friendly hotel, or temporarily housing your pet(s) at a boarding facility. Plan multiple routes to your safe destination. Review your evacuation plan and double-check emergency supplies – including bowls, water and food.
• Evacuate your family and pets as early as you can and remember to take your disaster preparedness kit for your pets (i.e. First Aid kit, leashes, and pets’ carrying cases, bowls, sanitation materials, chew toy, minimum 3 days, ideally 7-10 days of food, meds, water, your veterinarian’s contact information, a photo of your pet).
• Bring pets inside; bring outdoor animals inside with a carrier ready large enough to turn around and lie down comfortably.
• Have a carrier at the ready. The portable carriers(s) should be large enough for your pets to stand-up and turn around in ready to go at a moment’s notice. Practice loading cats and dogs in pet carriers before you have to.
• If your family must evacuate, take your pets with you.

DURING THE STORM…IF YOU CANNOT EVACUATE

• Choose a safe room for riding out the storm—an interior room without windows – and take your entire family there, including your pets.
• Stay with pets. If crated, they depend on you for food and water. Don’t leave pets in vehicles.
• Keep your emergency kit in that room with you (food, water, litter, meds, etc).
• Know your pet’s hiding places. That’s where they may run; keep them with you.
• Secure exits and cat doors so pets can’t escape into the storm.
• Do not tranquilize your pets. They’ll need their survival instincts should the storm require that.

AFTER THE STORM

• Make sure the storm has fully passed before going outside and assess damages before allowing children or animals out.
• Keep dogs on a leash and cats in a carrier, and children close at hand. Displaced objects and fallen trees can disorient pets and sharp debris could harm them.
• Give pets time to become re-oriented. Familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and cause a pet to become confused or lost.
• Keep animals away from downed power lines and water that may be contaminated.
• Uncertainty and change in the environment affect animals, too, presenting new stresses and dangers. Your pet’s behavior may change after a crisis, becoming more aggressive or self-protective. Be sensitive to these changes and keep more room between them, other animals, children or strangers. Animals need comforting, too. Comfort your pet with kind words and lots of pats or hugs. If possible, provide a safe and quiet environment, even if it is not their own home.

To make a donation towards our disaster relief efforts, please visit http://www.AmericanHumane.org.

About the American Humane Rescue program
American Humane is the country’s first national humane organization, founded in 1877. The American Humane Rescue program has been involved in nearly every major relief effort over the past 100 years, including World War I when we rescued wounded horses on the battlefields of Europe, the Great Ohio Flood of 1937, Pearl Harbor, Hurricane Katrina, the terror attacks on 9/11, the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, Superstorm Sandy, the killer tornadoes in Joplin and Oklahoma, the Louisiana and West Virginia floods, the Tennessee wildfires, and most recently, Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida.

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Literacy: Right or Privilege?

By Qin Sun Stubis

The ability to express ourselves and talk to one another is essential to most species’ survival. That’s why dogs bark, cats meow and dolphins whistle. Humans have taken communication a step further: We have created ways to speak in written forms to exchange and preserve ideas and culture across time and space.

Whether through words, numbers, or music symbols, whether carved on stones, inked on tree bark, or appearing on computer screens, language has empowered us to become the world’s most dominant species for the last five thousand years. Through written symbols, we share and store knowledge, and educate ourselves about anything and everything.

These days, education is essential to the quality of our existence. It shapes who we are, affecting the kind of jobs we get and how much money we can earn when we grow up. In more advanced countries, school is synonymous with childhood, while in others, many have to fight for their right to learning and literacy. Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl, got shot for doing just that.

Unfortunately, literacy, the ability to read and write, isn’t inborn. Rather, it is something we have to achieve – and not everybody is interested. Even here, where public education may be taken for granted, for some, going to school is neither a right nor a privilege. It’s a chore, like doing laundry or cleaning your room. They get tired of sitting in a classroom every day and daydream, not realizing the importance of learning and the impact it will have on them for the rest of their lives.

In spite of free public education for all, some fifty per cent of American adults cannot read at an eighth-grade level and about one in seven is illiterate.

In less developed countries, education is not a birthright. Some will never have the luxury of sitting in a classroom or an opportunity to read a book, and others will take on any challenge for a chance to get an education. Children in one mountainous region of China, for instance, climb dangerous high cliffs, a path meant more for mountain goats, in order to get to school. They have to risk their lives to learn to read and write.

This fall, millions of children will start another new school year, whether or not they are motivated to learn. It will also mark another International Literacy Day, created by the United Nations to emphasize the importance of learning. As you put a backpack on your child or wait for the school bus to arrive, don’t forget to tell them how lucky they are to have the right to read and write.

You can always reach me at qstubis@gmail.com

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Tons of Love Delivered to Animals in Need

American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization, and Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food today delivered six and a half tons (13,000 pounds) of caring and love in the form of much-needed nutritious food to local animals served by the Pet Food Pantry of Oklahoma. This is the latest donation in an ambitious national campaign called “Fill-a-Bowl… Feed-a-Soul™” to help care for shelter pets waiting for their forever homes.

Together, American Humane and Chicken Soup for the Soul are distributing more than million meals annually of super premium, all-natural Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food to U.S. shelters and pet food distribution centers, which house, feed and care for millions of animals each year.

“The Pet Food Pantry of Oklahoma is tremendously grateful to American Humane and Chicken Soup for the Soul for this generous donation,” said Kim Pempin, founder and executive director of the Oklahoma City nonprofit. “This donated pet food will help many animals throughout our community.”

American Humane has a long history of helping animals in Oklahoma. The organization’s renowned rescue team, which has been working to save animals in disasters for more than 100 years, deployed to rescue and shelter lost pets following the disastrous tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma, and recently, working with the Oklahoma City-based Kirkpatrick Foundation, stationed a giant 50-foot American Humane Rescue vehicle in the area to provide rapid response capabilities in the event of disasters and major cruelty cases. This delivery of critically needed food is the latest effort to benefit the animals of Oklahoma.

“This campaign helps animals when they need help most,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane. “On behalf of all the beloved pets across the country, a big thank-you to our friends at Chicken Soup for the Soul!”

Chicken Soup for the Soul’s publisher and editor-in-chief Amy Newmark said, “We’re pleased that we can provide assistance to animals in need and we are glad to be working with American Humane on this vital campaign.”

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Dolphins and Humans: Two Species, One World

By Qin Sun Stubis

Their world is the water, whether green or blue, calm or swift, fresh or salty. Their habitats range from North America to the western coast of New Zealand. They are smart, curious and majestic. They are friendly, outgoing, and social. They are dolphins.

Dolphins have been around for about fifteen million years – far longer than people – and they evolved into remarkable, intelligent creatures eons before the cradle of human civilization emerged on dry land. For most of the time since then, we managed to coexist, living largely separate lives, for the world was vast, and oceans seemed limitless. When people and dolphins did meet, the results often seemed to show a deep mutual connection. Early sailors whose ships sank reported being saved by dolphins. And, dolphins were revered enough to be used as royal symbols in parts of Europe.

More recently, that connection has become strained. Human ingenuity has allowed us to claim not just Earth’s land but its oceans and seas. Fishing nets, oil drilling, plastics, and industry have raised our standard of living and allowed us to pamper ourselves in air-conditioned homes and holiday resorts, while dolphins and other sea creatures struggle to survive, entrapped, choking on plastic, and dodging toxic debris. Their world has never been more hazardous with hundreds of thousands of dolphins dying each year in the wild.

These beautiful creatures cannot, and should not cope with their perils alone. We are the cause and we should be there to help. The key is knowing enough – and caring enough – to do something about it. We all respond to their cute, intelligent faces and the thrilling sight of their signature arched bodies leaping in the waves. But, unless we live along the coastline, we only see dolphins on television or in picture books. These few short minutes of “interaction” may give us a few tidbits of knowledge but no real emotional connection.

For me, getting to know two bottlenose dolphins this June helped make that connection and the mission to help them very personal. Regina and Estrella are 24- and 28- years-old, curious and playful, and yet strong and wise enough to be the matriarchs of a group of dolphins under the care of marine biologists and scientists at Dolphin Discovery in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico, which happens to be one of fewer than one-half of one percent of zoological institutions in the world that are Humane Certified by the United States’ first national humane organization, American Humane. They live in a beautiful ocean habitat free from pollution and harm, where they playfully assume the serious responsibility of educating local school children and international visitors about marine mammals.I was one of the lucky few to be introduced that morning. We first gathered for an informative lecture before we waded into the clear, green water on a raised platform. Regina and Estrella swam eagerly to us, their curious, engaging eyes only inches away, sizing us up and down, very much like human children meeting their houseguests.

They were the perfect ambassadors, representing millions of their brothers and sisters out in the open seas. We got to hold their fins, touch their backs (the remarkable texture of which I had never felt before), swim and physically interact with them – an amazing experience. Even without a common language, we understood that we were related and that our presence was welcome.

Meeting Estrella and Regina brought out feelings of tenderness and protectiveness toward these beautiful creatures. They made me laugh and cry, a reaction that was shared by everyone in my group – a grinning, elderly English husband with a missing front tooth and his silver-haired wife, a pair of newly-weds on their honeymoon, and my family.

I came to my own dolphin experience with curiosity and walked away with a newly minted friendship that I will always treasure.

As Robin Ganzert, the president of American Humane has said: “We will only protect what we love, and we can’t love what we don’t know.” Dolphin Discovery has given me an opportunity to know these magnificent marine mammals and love Estrella and Regina. Now I’m determined to protect them and their wild cousins in any way I can.

Facts About Dolphins:

• Did you know that there are over 40 species of dolphins in the world? Their sizes vary from four to thirty feet. They live in social groups for comfort and protection against predators.

• Did you know that like us, dolphins have strong family ties and can recognize someone they haven’t seen for years?

• Though they don’t talk the way we do, they converse quite a bit. Instead of voices, they are born with whistles, each unique and expressive, and with which they chat, pass on messages, and alert others to danger.

You can always reach her at qstubis@gmail.com

(originally published in the Santa Monica Star)

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American Humane Earns Highest Rating from Charity Navigator

Charity Navigator, the nation’s largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities, awarded a coveted fourth star – its highest rating – to American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization. Charity Navigator’s ratings show donors how efficiently they believe a charity will use their support, how well it has sustained its programs and services over time, and their level of commitment to good governance, best practices and openness.

This latest recognition is the latest in a long list of top honors for American Humane, which for 141 years has been dedicated to the protection of animals. The organization is among the less than one-tenth of one percent of charities currently operating in the United States to be included on the Better Business Bureau’s highly select list of “Wise Giving Alliance Accredited Charities.” To make the list, organizations meet all 20 of the Better Business Bureau’s standards for charity accountability, including rigorous protocols on governance and oversight, effectiveness, accuracy of solicitation and fund-raising materials, and finances, mandating that charities spend at least 65 percent of their total expenses on program activities. At American Humane, 91 cents of every dollar now spent goes directly to programs.

In addition, American Humane has been named a “Top-Rated Charity” with an “A” rating by the American Institute of Philanthropy’s CharityWatch, was deemed a “Top-Rated Charity” by Great Nonprofits, and earned the gold level seal from GuideStar USA for demonstrating its deep commitment to nonprofit transparency and accountability. American Humane was named the “Outstanding Animal Welfare Organization of the Year” by the Pet Philanthropy Circle, and has also earned the Independent Charities Seal of Excellence. The seal is awarded to the members of Independent Charities of America and Local Independent Charities of America that have, upon rigorous independent review, been able to certify, document, and demonstrate on an annual basis that they meet the highest standards of public accountability, program effectiveness, and cost effectiveness. These standards include those required by the U.S. Government for inclusion in the Combined Federal Campaign, probably the most exclusive fund drive in the world. Of all the charities operating in the United States today, it is estimated that fewer than five percent meet or exceed these standards. Fewer than 2,000 have been awarded this seal.

“We are extremely gratified to earn Charity Navigator’s prestigious four-star rating,” said American Humane President and CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert. “Today’s donors are increasingly demanding efficiency, transparency and accountability to ensure that nonprofit organizations are providing vital, lifesaving services and serving as good stewards of valuable philanthropic dollars.”

Since 1877, American Humane has been first to serve in the protection of the nation’s most vulnerable, creating landmark programs that help ensure the humane treatment of some 1 billion animals each year. American Humane rescues thousands of animals caught in disasters and large-scale cruelty cases, and oversees the welfare of animals on farm and ranches, in film and television productions, and in the world’s zoos and aquariums. In addition, American Humane works to bring home and reunite military dogs with their handlers and unleash the power of animal therapy to help veterans, as well as the families of children with cancer.

For more information about Charity Navigator’s methodology and to see all their nonprofit ratings, please visit http://www.charitynavigator.org.

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Feelings: Feast or Famine?

By Qin Sun Stubis

I was brought up in Communist China during the ‘60s when giant political waves took the nation for a disastrous ride. The Revolution controlled our lives in every way, and families were no more than grassroots communal groups in which meals were shared and bricks were hand-pressed in wooden molds for air-raid shelters.

Growing up, I never saw my parents being close as a couple, holding hands or kissing. I never heard them expressing their feelings for each other. As a matter of fact, no one ever used the word “love,” not even to us children. We were taught at a very young age that emotions were only indulged in by bourgeois societies where people were weak.

At the age of six, I encountered the word “love” for the first time in political slogans such as, “We love our motherland” and “We love the Communist Party of China.” I was led to believe that love was patriotic, not personal. I was asked to pledge loyalty to the country and taught to have compassion only for working-class people.

Sadly, I never felt the missed hugs and kisses because I didn’t know life could be otherwise. I lived in a society at a time when human affection was a taboo and my parents could only transmit their feelings to me through a gentle pat on my shoulder, a pair of smiling eyes cast my way, or an offer of the last morsel of my favorite food from a meager family meal….

Whether I am compensating for what I didn’t get while growing up, or merely becoming acclimated to the lifestyle here in America, I greatly enjoy my freedom to express my affection these days. Every time I give a hug or a kiss, or say “I love you,” I’m making up for lost time.

Now, in America, a land known for its bounty, some worry about a kind of excess I never thought could exist: Too much parental devotion and attention, popularly known as “helicopter parenting.” They believe that, like sugar and diabetes, excessive attention, whether prompted by love or pathological protectiveness, can cause children to suffer from unhappiness, disobedience and misbehavior.

Can endless hugs, kisses and affections really hurt people? Can love erode discipline and happiness? Are we confusing love with indulgence? To me, love will always be sacred and a necessity of life, like soil to plants. But like soil, it alone is not enough to produce a bumper harvest of happy and successful lives.

Love is not always like a red, red rose. It can be manifested in constructive criticism, a warm cup of tea or taking away a child’s electronic device for the night, all for the well-being and ultimate happiness of a person you truly love and care for.

As a parent, love will always be that positive energy I use to propel the healthy growth of my children and to induce their awakening sense of responsibility. To me, there is no such thing as too much love.

You can reach Qin at qstubis@gmail.com

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