Man is an animal who more than any other can adapt himself
to all climates and circumstances.
—Henry David Thoreau
The Five Freedoms, adapted* for Companion Animals
· Freedom from hunger or thirst by constant access to clean, fresh water and a proper diet that maintains good health & breed-appropriate weight.
· Freedom from discomfort and hazard by providing a safe, appropriate environment including indoor shelter with a clean, comfortable resting area.
· Freedom from pain, injury, and disease by prevention (including appropriate vaccines, heartworm, flea/tick protection), timely diagnosis, and veterinary treatment.
· Freedom to express most* normal behavior by providing reasonable options, freedom of movement,* space, exercise, play, toys, and socializing with others of the animal’s own kind if s/he chooses.
· Freedom from fear and distress by refusing handling, treatment, training, environments, people, and other animals that cause or pose risk of causing physical or mental suffering to the animal.
*SSAS feels that closed-mouth muzzling or otherwise forcing a dog’s mouth shut, e.g., to control barking, is cruel as well as dangerous. SSAS also disagrees with the of use citronella collars, other anti-bark collars, and electronic collars.
*The word “most” appeared in the original version, probably for a different reason than ours as it was written with livestock foremost in mind. We leave it in because some normal behaviors are either not appropriate or not safe; for example, allowing companion animals to freely breed, roam, chase wildlife, etc. Another good wording is “Freedom to behave in ways that promote well-being.”
*The Five Freedoms is a group of principles mostly used by the animal welfare community and some animal professionals. This version is slightly revised in order to be helpful to individual guardians of companion animals.
BiBi, an 11 year old saluki, inspired the Happy at Home program. BiBi was surrendered to us as a result of ‘food aggression’ that had been described by his surrenderer as pinning another of the dogs in his home when that dog approached BiBi’s food bowl. With the sanctuary dogs, BiBi never exhibited the behavior reported. As a surrendered dog, he was observably unhappy–it was clear that he missed his home. BiBi was with us about 5 weeks, and every day was a mad rush to find him a good rest-of-his-life home, because he had, for his breed, so little time left–maybe a year, two at the most. But no one wanted this sweet boy, and his grief grew stronger day by day. Then his surrenderer contacted us and asked to readopted him–something normally not done here, but in this case, it seemed the right thing to do, as it seemed the thing for which BiBi was longing. To save him from his despair, we agreed, under the rigors of our own adoption contract. It was at once painfully and joyfully clear when I arrived to her home with BiBi, and he practically dragged me to the ground by his leash from the driveway, across the front yard and into the house, that this was exactly the right thing to do. BiBi lived his last few weeks of life in happiness and comfort, in his very own home, with his very own family, two and four legged.
Less than 3 weeks after BiBi returned happily home, his mom called from the vet’s office. BiBi had had a seizure, and tests revealed a very large tumor in his heart that had just burst. BiBi is gone.
We are glad he had his mom back, and his home back, before he left his life. But better would have been to not have lost his mom for those five weeks of sadness, wondering when he was going home. Our wish is that he never had to go through surrender–(it wasn’t his first, by the way; he had been given up by a previous owner as well)–and waste even a day of his precious time in despair. We have this same wish for all companion animals, and it is our hope that we will help some of them and their guardians avoid this kind of devastation and the terrible memories that come with it.
BiBi’s sweet face and sad eyes shall be the guiding conscience of this program. The BiBi Project’s initial offerings are outlined below:
Depending on your location and on our resources at the time, The BiBi Project services include the following, free to the public on an as-needed (yours) and as-funded (ours) basis. All requests will be considered. Cases are prioritized situationally, including consideration of financial need.
Companion Animal Care & Safety Information:
One of the first steps in ensuring that your companion animal is happy and well, and therefore more inclined to be the well-behaved animal you hope for, is to ensure the animal’s health and safety. This begins but does not end with veterinary and preventative medicine. There are many things inside and outside of your home, purse, pockets, etc., that may be dangerous to the health and safety of your companion animal. Some chewing gums, for example, contain xylitol, which is poisonous to dogs. Many peanut butters, toothpastes, and other common products also contain xylitol. Another facet of ensuring your companion’s happiness, which is more likely to create positive behavior, is to ensure proper care: Things like the correct amount and quality of food, constant, fresh water day and night, regular access to you, daily attention, affection, and exercise, soft, comfortable bedding and shelter (indoors preferred), protection from the elements (heat, cold, wind, rain, snow, sun, etc.), and protection from predators including predatory humans and/or any other cause of fear/distress, are crucial. Thought it is just a starting point, The Five Freedoms for Companion Animals is an important reference for all pet guardians. Email us for assistance or more information.
Companion Animal Behavioral / Training Assistance:
Probably the most common reason people have for giving up a companion animal is behavioral complaints. We are raised to believe we are part of a society of true animal lovers. Yet when we can no longer handle our own pets, many of us have also been taught to believe our beloved companion animals go “to a farm” or to some angelic person who will love and keep them, and not be bothered by their urinating on the carpet, cowering at attempts to pet them, growling at other animals, fighting over food, guarding toys, howling when left home alone, chewing shoes, and so on. Even if there are a few such farms and/or angels, there are many more homeless pets than could possibly be kept by such heavenly places, especially if the pets are so behaviorally challenged. Many shelters are not allowed to adopt out “behavior” cases such as dogs deemed aggressive, and some euthanize these pets instead. (There are even a few who sell these surrendered pets to labs for experimenting on, after which they are killed.) Whether you ultimately decide to keep your companion animal or not, we want to help you help change the future of that animal who relies on you. We do this by providing behavioral modification / training assistance in a way that does not intimidate, coerce, force, punish, or harm the animal–the initial goal being to resolve the concern that brought you to the place of wanting to give up your companion animal. Even if you still decide to surrender the animal, at least s/he will have a better chance of being given a new home once the problem behavior is resolved.
Members Only Support Group:
Every person who is approved, signs up with, and completes Phase I of the program with The BiBi Project becomes a member of its private, online support group. This group is designed to help members stick with whatever plans and goals they’ve set for themselves and their companion animals, and to help The BiBi Project stay in touch with members and their progress. Each member, by joining, agrees to keep the confidentiality of all other members and discussions in the group.
Pet Matching Assistance:
Responsible selection of companion animals is an important part of avoiding future surrender situations. Selecting a pet based on looks alone can result in disastrous consequences. When you are seeking a pet, contact The BiBi Project for assistance in considering your lifestyle and personality when deciding which pet would best suit you, and be happy and well with you.
Advocacy (when/where available):
Assistance or referrals to help with concerns such as tenants’ rights, abuse (always first and immediately call 911 if you see or think abuse of a person or animal is in progress), threats of abuse, or potential abuse, and other issues putting companion animals at risk, such as Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy wherein a pet/animal is the victim.
Rescue if necessary:
While the goal of The BiBi Project is to help people keep and provide safe, happy lives for their pets and themselves, together, we understand that there will be some cases where this will not be possible. In such cases, when possible, we will try to assist in finding a reputable, anti-aversives rescue organization for the animal being surrendered. If the animal is a sighthound or sighthound mix, Sighthound Sanctuary & Animal Services will be the first place of consideration for intake, if space and funding are available.
Happy at Home: The BiBi Project was funded by a grant from Maddie’s Fund, #ThanksToMaddie, and by individual donors, through 2018. The BiBi Project for 2018 has ended. A re-designed version of the project that we feel will be able to save many more lives, and avoid more heartbreak, is currently seeking funding, for implementation as early as 2020 and continuing indefinitely.
We can all do more to improve the situation, not only for animals and guardians in need now, but for future animals and their guardians. First, as members of an ever-evolving society, we can recognize and act on ways to improve a habituated mindset regarding how we think about, care for, and protect companion animals. You can help effect this change; email us to find out how. As animal lovers, we can take preventative measures by learning R+ training for ourselves and our own companion animals, and by offering R+ pet training referrals to friends, family, and colleagues who have pets. Email us for a list of qualified trainers near you.
The BiBi Project and Sighthound Sanctuary & Animal Services are interested in public policy related to animal welfare. Opinions, essays, and articles produced may be published from time to time. Like-minded organizations are welcome to contact us to discuss potential alliances, partnerships, or single projects.