Empathy for Every Soul

A display of the radical impact of a unique approach to animal care

Every now and then you see, hear, or maybe get to experience something that is both powerful and wholeheartedly pure at the same time. Something where you can’t help but take your eyes off yourself and see that there are parts to life far beyond just you. Something that grabs hold of you, even if it’s just for a moment, and changes you. This is what happened to me when I came across Humane Tomorrow. Humane Tomorrow is not an animal shelter, or a spay/neuter service, or an adoption center. Though those are all aspects, it is doing things for our community, both local and national, through such a profound and unique mission. I got the opportunity to interview Executive Director Stacy Smith on some of the ways Humane Tomorrow is caring for our animals, their owners and our neighbors as a whole.

One of the unique and impactful programs of Humane Tomorrow is the Character Education Program. It's designed to educate children on empathy, tolerance, compassion, the effects of bullying, respect and responsibility through interacting with animals in an intentional way. Animals are a huge part of children’s development through, toys, books, games and more. This program utilizes them in a way that they receive love while kids learn emotional expression and regulation. 

With bullying and emotional regulation being things that are very prevalent in our kids lives, what positive impacts have you seen from the Character Education Program?

“This program has gone into schools, worked with women’s shelters, and hosted groups of children at The Glenn and Shirley Hulcher Family Animal Care Center. We also worked with a social worker to facilitate visits with kids in foster care, who could so easily relate to animals who were also in foster care. I remember one little boy who met a dog that had been adopted after being in a foster home, and how it gave him hope seeing how happy the dog was.”

Another program bringing hope to our pets is Humane Tomorrow’s Flower’s Fund. This program serves as means for pet owners and veterinarians who find themselves in hopeless situations trying to provide unforeseen expensive care that cannot be afforded. This program also provides spaying/neutering programs, adoption opportunities, and animal welfare education to the public. The Flower Fund averages in 30-40 cases per year, providing around $1500 per case.

What kind of positive impacts have you seen the Flower’s Fund make?

“There are few things worse than facing the possibility of losing your beloved pet because you can’t afford emergency medical care or a pet deposit. This program keeps animals in the loving homes they have, which is beneficial to the animals, the families, and the shelters who don’t end up with them.”

Love on Wheels is another inspiring program of Humane Tomorrow, having saved thousands of dogs from euthanasia. They are able to do this by transporting dogs to areas where the demand for adoptable dogs can’t be met. This area is DeWitt New York. When I learned this I was just speechless honestly

How did you come up with the idea for Love on Wheels and what positive impacts have you seen it make?

“We had been thinking about it for years, but we attended a conference where transport programs were a topic and it got us motivated to actually do it. Love on Wheels was the first successful ground transport program in DFW. This program has changed so many lives! We have rescued around 3500 dogs, built deep and lasting friendships both among the fosters and with our partners in New York, and opened space for thousands more dogs in shelters in Texas to give them more time to find homes.”

Out of a heartbreaking situation grew one of Humane Tomorrow’s most beautiful programs, the Mercy Fund.

Can you tell me a bit more about The Mercy Fund’s beginning story?  

 “In 1998, we took on dogs that had been seized from a hoarder. They were in terrible condition and needed significantly more medical care (and therefore expense) than an adoption fee could ever cover. We started the Mercy Fund to help defray those costs. Since then it has helped us treat everything from parvo to distemper to broken bones to manage, and everything in between. Our adoption fee is $250; it sometimes takes as much as $5000 or more to save an animal; the only way for us to do that is through the Mercy Fund. “

What positive impacts have you seen the Mercy Fund make?

“The Mercy Fund helps the animals directly, of course, but perhaps just as important is what it does for the morale of people. Shelters who have little or no funding for medical care are overjoyed when they call us and we can take an animal that’s been hit by a car or is suffering in some other way, so they do not have to euthanize it. Our volunteers benefit as well when we are able to provide medical or behavioral help to their foster animals. And often, the Mercy Fund animals provide us with an opportunity to educate the public about an issue like puppy mills, spay/neuter, etc.”

The Animal Adventurer’s Club is not currently operating because it is in need of a coordinator, and the organization is looking for a person and or team who would like to take on this awesome mission! The club hosts different events for various age groups that include presentations, outings, and craft projects, all created to teach kids more about animals. Though they are currently seeking a program coordinator, Stacy says, “The club is intended to provide activities and field trips for kids to have fun while learning more about animals. For example:

We’ve had kids decorate the bags that go with Love on Wheels dogs. Kids can spend time writing letters to legislators or the author of their favorite book about animals. We love to have kids read to dogs when we have a group being housed at our facility. We plan to host a dog safety class to teach kids how to greet a dog, some basic dog body language, and how to react if a dog is acting aggressively. We would like to have a master naturalist take them on a walk through our property to identify plants and animals that live there and talk about how we can better live in harmony with native species like coyotes and snakes.”

Here is a story of Executive Director Stay Smith's personal experience of walking the path that loves and guides our animals, and in turn loves and guides us too:

“I fostered a collie who was rescued from a puppy mill several years ago. She had not been socialized at all and had only been used for breeding, so she was very fearful and obviously never going to be a “normal” dog. She was sweet in her own way, but she was definitely going to take a lot of work and I feared she would never find a home. A family with a special needs son took an interest in her and after talking with them, we decided to let them give her a try. A few weeks later, they called to tell me that she was doing great and they wanted to keep her. They said that their experience raising their son had shown them the importance of accepting people – and dogs – as the individuals they are. I think that is a sentiment that we can use every day in our own lives and when we are out there interacting with animals as well.”

“When children learn empathy from animals it grows to include people.”

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