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Looking to the future of animal rescue

Posted: June 26, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 26, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Chicago Safe Humane youth leaders Ally Almore, left, and Anisha Bhat, right, meet Kara, during a stop in Chicago.

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Whitney Houston once sang, “I believe that children are our future. … Teach them well, and let them lead the way.”
That’s exactly what Safe Humane Chicago is doing.

The nonprofit organization, dedicated to reducing violence by showing people how kindness and compassion towards animals makes our communities safer and more humane, enlists the help of youth leaders, such as Anisha Bhat and Ally Almore to help spread the message.

Anisha and Ally speak at schools as part of “Kids, Animals and Kindness” to children in grades three through six to impart the importance of proper pet ownership, how to approach stray or strange dogs and what to do when confronted with dog fighting, abuse or neglect.

“When I found out the connection in our communities with domestic violence and animal abuse, it just made sense to me,” Anisha, a high school senior, said. “We talk a lot about pit bulls in our presentations, that people are often terrified of pit bulls for no reason whatsoever.”

“I’ve loved it from day one,” Ally, a high school junior, said. “There’s a lot of violence towards animals in Chicago. I’ve even talked to my neighbors and tell them not to leave their dogs in the backyard on cold days.”

Led by longtime animal advocate Cynthia Bathurst, Safe Humane Chicago has been making inroads into the community for more than a decade.

“This isn’t education in the traditional sense. You don’t need to go into big classrooms, you need to engage the whole community. How do you get everyone concerned about these issues? You start with the kids,” Bathurst said.

Kara and I met Bathurst, Ally and Anisha, as well as sergeant Cindy Schuman, at a Chicago police station.

Not surprisingly, Kara was an instant hit with the group, lapping up the attention everyone bestowed on her, standing up on her stumpy legs to deliver her endearing trademark hugs and big, sloppy kisses.

Bathurst, originally from Alabama, still retains a charming Southern drawl, also gave me a big hug, which was most welcome.

I had seen her speak at the Best Friends No More Homeless Pets Conference in 2008, and she had left an impression on me. But I was new to rescue and the issues of animal welfare, so much of what she said was a little over my head at the time.

I’d had my hands full with the Brittany Foundation, cleaning kennels and walking dogs, trying to enlist more volunteers and creating fundraising events that would help us keep our doors open. Every fall, I was thrust into action for the annual Bow-Wows & Meows Pet Fair, a non-profit organization of which I’m a board member.

We invite six L.A. county shelters to participate and in five hours on that wonderful October day, adopt out between 150-175 homeless dogs and cats.

The subjects of dog fighting, backyard breeding, animal abuse and neglect and how they connected to humanity at large were not on my radar just yet, at least not in the nuanced fashion that Bathurst had presented. Now I get it.

It’s the difference, in a sense, of giving a man a fish or teaching a man to fish. I love rescue, fostering and adoption, the sweet victory of saving one dog or cat at a time, and will always be involved on that end.

But I also want to focus on how to make the biggest impact in the smallest amount of time for these animals over the long run. Besides spay and neuter and increased animal-protective legislation, I believe it’s education. The younger the audience, the better.

“Kids relate to our youth leaders and look up to them, much more than another middle-aged woman telling them to do something,” Bathurst said.

Kara, Bathurst, Anisha, Ally and I made our way to Bucktown, a hip area in the city for a book signing at Kriser’s All Natural Pet Foods, stopping first for a quick dinner at the Sultan’s Buffet, an awesome middle Eastern restaurant with delicious falafel sandwiches and perfectly buttery, flaky baklava.

Being a Monday, the signing was a bit slow, so Kim Boggs, a Safe Humane Chicago volunteer who had joined us, played fetch with Kara in the store. There is nothing Kara loves more than a game of fetch, inside a hotel room or out on the largest lawn, it doesn’t matter. She’s quite good at it, too, for a shortie, often catching the ball or Frisbee in midair.

Too soon it was time to head West, and back to the Santa Clarita Valley.

Michelle Sathe and Kara a rescue pit bull-mix have traveled cross country and back visiting various shelters and rescue organizations along the way. For more information on Sathe and Kara’s journey visit For information on the book “Pit Stops” visit /


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