Only 1 out of every 10 dogs born will find a permanent home. 25% of dogs that enter shelters are purebred. Estimates for homeless cats in the US range up to 70 million.
Every year, millions of cats and dogs are euthanized because shelters are too full and there are more pets than there are responsible homes for them. Until this issue is resolved, American Humane believes that all cats and dogs adopted from public or private animal care and control facilities should be spayed or neutered.
If you are adding a pet to your family, please make sure the pet comes from a legitimate shelter, nonprofit rescue group or a responsible, humane breeder.
Always spay and neuter your pets.
Consider all the responsibilities and consequences of pet ownership before deciding to get a pet and always make a lifetime commitment to your pet.
Educate your children, friends, family members and co-workers about pet overpopulation, adoption and the importance of spaying and neutering.
You can help stop generations of suffering. Have your female pet spayed and your male pet neutered. Don’t allow them to breed and add to the pet overpopulation problem. Many strays are lost pets that were not kept properly indoors or provided with identification.
In a Netherlands zoo, an elderly chimpanzee named Mama is weak and dying. Elderly biology professor Jan van Hooff, who has known the primate for four decades, enters Mama’s enclosure—something usually too dangerous to attempt, given the strength of chimpanzees and their capacity for violent attacks. In their final, poignant encounter, she grins and reaches for him, embraces him, and rhythmically pats the back of his head and neck in a comforting gesture that chimpanzees use to quiet a whimpering infant.
As one of the world’s most prominent primatologists, de Waal has been observing animals for four decades now, debunking myths around the differences between animals and humans. His latest book focuses on the emotional lives of animals—showing that humans and other animals may be more alike than we think.
Like de Waal’s other books, Mama’s Last Hug is full of stories, making it highly readable, informative, and emotionally resonant. In another story he recounts, a younger female in Mama’s colony, Kuif, couldn’t produce enough milk to keep her babies alive; so de Waal taught her how to feed an adopted infant with a bottle. Kuif turned out to be a caring and protective mother, learning on her own how to remove the bottle when the baby needed to burp. Afterward, each time de Waal approached Kuif, she showered him with affection and expressions that truly seemed like gratitude.
After Mama’s death, de Waal witnessed the other chimpanzees touching, washing, anointing, and grooming her body—gestures very similar to what humans do after a death. Given such observations of chimpanzees, de Waal asserts, “Their socio-emotional lives resemble ours to such a degree that it is unclear where to draw the line.”
Non-primate animals show emotions, too
While de Waal begins his observations with chimpanzees, he also presents fascinating glimpses of the emotional lives of other animals. For example, Asian elephants wrap their trunks around each other as an expression of consolation. Even rodents, once thought to be unaffected by emotions and devoid of facial expressions, have been found to “express anguish through narrowed eyes, flattened ears, and swollen cheeks.” They also have facial expressions for pleasure, and they recognize these states in other rats. As for horses, De Waal notes that their faces are “about as expressive as those of the primates.”
In dogs, a key facial expression—the “inner-brow pull”—makes their eyes appear larger. This gives them that sad, puppy-like look that pulls at the heartstrings of humans, sometimes leading to canine adoptions. De Waal also digs at an oft-asked question: Do dogs feel shame when they do something wrong? It reminded me of online videos where you see garbage overturned and a dog slouched down, staring at the floor in a way that viewers interpret as “guilt.”
“No one doubts that dogs know when they are in trouble,” writes de Waal, “but whether they actually feel guilty is a point of debate.” According to a study by Alexandra Horowitz, the canine guilty look—“lowered gaze, ears pressed back, slumped body, averted head, tail rapidly beating between the legs—is . . . not about what they have done but about how their owner reacts. If the owner scolds them, they act extremely guilty. If the owner doesn’t, everything is fine and dandy.”
De Waal draws a clear distinction between animal behaviors that connote emotions readable to outside observers and what animals actually feel.
“Anyone who claims to know what animals feel doesn’t have science on their side,” he writes. “Emotions and feelings, while often conflated, are not the same.” Emotions drive behavior and come with physical cues that allow them to be observed and described; feelings are internal subjective states known only to those who possess them.
So, though de Waal views elephants as highly empathic, emotional beings—given how they will rush to comfort a fellow elephant in distress, and how they can recognize themselves in a mirror—he acknowledges that some scientists remain skeptical because we can’t ask elephants (or any animal) about their feelings. “The possibility that animals experience emotions the way we do makes many hard-nosed scientists feel queasy,” de Waal points out, “partly because animals never report any feelings, and partly because the existence of feelings presupposes a level of consciousness that these scientists are unwilling to grant to animals.”
“For me,” de Waal writes, “the question has never been whether animals have emotions, but how science could have overlooked them for so long.”
Just as de Waal’s book makes readers more attuned to the emotional life of animals, it gives us more than enough to ponder about our own human emotions.
As de Waal compares human behavior to our closest relatives’, he finds much to observe and report. The human smile, for instance, may be linked to the nervous grin found in other primates. “I seriously doubt that the smile is our species’s ‘happy’ face, as is often stated in books about human emotions,” he writes. “Its background is much richer, with meanings other than cheeriness.” Instead, a smile could mean nervousness, a desire to please, amusement, or attraction.
Additionally, we humans “often wear plastic smiles with no deep meaning whatsoever.” How do you tell which is which? Studies by 19th-century French neurologist Duchenne de Boulogne identified two kinds of human smiles: The genuine version, an expression of positive feelings and joy, is known as the “Duchenne smile” and involves not only lifting the mouth corners and pulling back the lips, but pulling back the muscles around the eyes, resulting in narrowed eyes and wrinkled surrounding skin. A “fake” smile involves the mouth area but not the eyes—a useful distinction to know!
In considering current events, the author identifies two driving forces behind human politics: leaders’ lust for power and followers’ longing for leadership. De Waal observes that hierarchical battles occur in groups of humans as well as in groups of apes, with bullying tactics used by “alpha males” in both. “Like most primates, we are a hierarchical species,” he concludes.
Yet humans shrink from admitting that about themselves, he points out, preferring to describe themselves in gentler, more rarified terms. De Waal writes, “This is why it is so refreshing to work with chimpanzees: They are the honest politicians we all long for.”
Instead of considering ourselves so refined and rational, he suggests, it’s time for us to squarely face the degree to which we—like other animals—are driven by emotions.
(From Humane Society of the United States) You’re driving your car when you see a dog or cat on the side of the road. With a sinking feeling, you realize they are alone. What should you do?
This is a wrenching scenario for all who care about animals. After all, what if your own pet were standing there? Use our guidelines for providing safe and effective help.
Don’t cause an accident
You can’t help an animal if you become injured in the process. Look in your rear-view mirror before braking, turn on your signal, pull your car completely off the road, turn off the ignition, set the parking brake, and put on the hazard lights. If you have emergency flares, prepare to use them.
Catch them safely
A strange, frightened, and possibly sick or injured animal can behave unpredictably. A sudden move on your part, even opening your car door, can spook them and cause them to bolt—possibly right onto the highway. If the animal looks or acts threatening, or if you feel uneasy about the situation, stay in your car.
If possible, restrain the animal. Create a barrier or use a carrier, leash, piece of cloth, or length of rope to keep the animal in the area. Signal approaching vehicles to slow down if you cannot confine the animal, or divert traffic around them if they appear to be injured and is still on the roadway.
Use caution when approaching the animal. Should you succeed in getting close enough to capture them, you stand a good chance of being scratched or bitten.
When moving toward the animal, speak calmly to reassure them. Make sure they can see you at all times as you approach, and perhaps entice them to come to you by offering a strong-smelling food such as canned tuna or dried liver.
Lure them into your car
If you are certain you can get help from animal control very soon, try to lure the animal into your car with food, close the door and wait for help. In most cases it isn’t a good idea to attempt to drive somewhere with a strange dog unrestrained in your car; they may become frantic or aggressive. Cats may do the same, as well as lodge themselves under the car seat, and it can be dangerous trying to extract them.
Call for backup
If you’re not able to safely restrain the animal, call the local animal control agency (in rural areas, call the police). Do so whether or not the animal is injured, and whether or not they are wearing an identification tag. Leave your phone number with the dispatcher, and try to get an estimate of how long it may take someone to respond. If possible, stay on the scene to keep an eye on the dog or cat until help arrives. Make sure you report to authorities precisely where the animal is by using road names, mile markers or landmarks.
If you’ve encountered a cat outdoors, you’ve probably wondered whom the cat belonged to or if they even had an owner. Outdoor cats are sometimes owned cats whose owner lets them out. Often, however, they are community cats—ferals or strays. You can help these cats in different ways.
Stray cats may be friendly and approach you for food or attention or they may be too scared to let you get close. But they will usually eat immediately if you put food down for them. Use caution, since you don’t know how these cats will react.
There are many ways you can help these cats:
If the cat has identification, try to contact the owner.
If you can get the cat into a carrier, take them to a veterinarian or animal shelter to be scanned for a microchip.
Contact animal shelters, veterinary offices and rescue groups to let them know about the cat you’ve found. Someone may have filed a lost cat report that is a match.
Ask neighbors and mail carriers if they’re familiar with the cat.
Post signs and place free ads in local newspapers.
It’s helpful if you can provide shelter for the cat while you search for their owner. If no owner is found, you can try to find a good home for them or adopt the cat yourself. If you take the cat home with you, have them examined by a veterinarian before introducing them to your other cats.
The cat you’re helping may be feral if they approach you when extremely hungry, but will only eat the food you’ve provided once you’ve walked away. A cat is probably feral if they’re still unapproachable and cannot be touched after several days of feeding. Don’t try to handle a feral cat. Most feral cats can’t be adopted because they’re too afraid of people.
One sign that a cat is a spayed or neutered feral is a tipped or notched ear (if the tip or section of an ear has been surgically removed). A stray cat who is spayed or neutered may also have a tipped or notched ear.
Stop overpopulation with TNR
Food and water are important parts of caring for community cats. But some people who are new to looking after these cats often don’t realize that if they don’t find a way to have the cats spayed or neutered, the number of hungry cats may soon become unmanageable as more and more kittens are born. Doing Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) will keep this from happening to you and the cats.
How to do TNR
If you’re already feeding community cats, you may soon find yourself overwhelmed by kittens, kittens and more kittens—unless you take quick action to get them spayed and neutered. Use our community cat resources to get these cats spayed and neutered while their numbers are still manageable.
Get help from an organization, agency or spay/neuter clinic that helps community cats.
Resolve conflicts with neighbors
Outdoor cats can often be the cause of complaints; from a cat who stalks birds at a neighbor’s bird feeder to a group of community cats (known as a colony) on a neighbor’s property. If you are helping people keep cats off their property or resolve nuisance complaints, we suggest the following resources:
If you’re really lucky, there is an organization or agency in your area that can help you TNR the feral cats you’re feeding. They may also be able to help find homes for friendly strays and kittens. If this help isn’t available in your community, you may still be able to find veterinarians who are willing to provide low-cost services for community cats.
Organizations and agencies that care for community cats need all the assistance they can get. Even if you’ve never seen a feral or stray cat, it’s likely that they are in your community. You can make a big difference by doing the following:
Spay or neuter your own cats before they can reproduce at four to five months of age.
Afrodith, a Greek rescue volunteer, moved to the coastal town of Loutraki in 2018. Passing by the large Loutraki landfill almost daily was a life-changing experience for her. She witnessed firsthand the horrendous conditions of the 130 or so dogs and puppies who live in the landfill. They had been abandoned by pet owners, generally unspayed/unneutered, and their numbers have increased. She found packs of dogs and puppies in terrible condition, with sores on their bodies, diseased, starving, thirsty, with broken bones, and, sadly, some dead. She felt compelled to try to take care of the dogs. Afrodith’s appeals to local authorities and the government yielded nothing, so she proceeded alone and has dedicated herself to helping these animals and finding a long-term solution to what is essentially an endless cemetery of animals at the landfill.
Afrodith has captured, vaccinated, spayed/neutered and treated as many dogs as could be moved to the small plot of land she rents as a sanctuary for the animal’s care. At this point, she has no more space on her rented land for the dogs that remain at the landfill site. If a sick dog needs treatment today, she captures, crates, and arranges vet care for the dog, but because there is not alternative, the dog is released back to the landfill.
Her dream is to take all the dogs out of the landfill and give them the life they deserve. To do so will require a larger plot of land with shelter so she can give as many dogs as possible a chance of a happy and healthy life with treatment, love, and care, and opportunities for fostering/adoption. Afrodith now has the help of a few volunteers, but what she and they are providing is insufficient to meet the needs of all the dogs. The dogs must be captured and spayed/neutered, treated for diseases and skin conditions, and provided food, shelter and, it is hoped, homes. They are having difficulty making the larger-scale impact they dream of.
Afrodith created her Facebook page so that people can see her and the other volunteers’ efforts to help alleviate the suffering of the dogs. 100% of the donations go to animal care. Here is that page: https://www.facebook.com/ethelontesxwmaterisLoutrakiou (Volunteers for the Animals of Loutraki Landfill). Please click on the Facebook page and check out her work. Let’s help her if we can: with donations for food, medicine, and shelter. Please share her page on social media, which will help promote her work and support new foster/adoption opportunities.
If you would care to make a donation (any size of donation would be greatly appreciated) there are two options:
Greece attracts many tourists each year due to its natural beauty and archaeological sites. What many people do not know is that behind this beautiful facade, there is an estimated population of 3.5 million strays wandering in the streets, sick, starving, and thirsty. Many Greeks do not spay and neuter their animals. Local Greek volunteers try to their best to alleviate this suffering. Many people look the other way. If you can, please lend a hand. Thank you.
The spaying/neutering of dogs and cats is widely regarded as the single most effective means of controlling their population growth. The estimates of dogs and cats worldwide range from 950 million to 1.5 billion, the majority of which are un-owned, un-fixed, and struggle to survive. Spaying and neutering can contribute to reducing animal suffering.
For those who belief it’s not fair to deprive animals of their sexuality, consider this: animals have different consciousness from humans, and it is fairly safe to assume that they do not miss the ability to procreate. The suffering caused by overpopulation is a surety, however, and you can help to make a difference. Please consider spaying and neutering your animals and supporting organizations that do so. There are many organizations that offer low-cost or no-cost spaying and neutering. Check online with local, national, and international humane societies, animal welfare organizations, and local government.
If each of us did something about animal overpopulation, our impact could be vast.
Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way” – Author Unknown
And you thought we were the only creatures capable of language…
by Alex Daniel, BestLifeOnline
Everyone knows that cats meow, dogs bark, and cows moo. But you don’t need Old MacDonald to tell you that animal communication is infinitely more complex than that. In fact, if you do a dive deep on how, exactly, some creatures talk to each other, you’ll find secret languages that make the disparate languages of humanity—of which there are 6,900, according to the Linguistic Society of America—seem rudimentary by comparison.
1 White Rhinos Speak via Dung
White rhinos, who have terrible eyesight, use communal dung heaps (called “middens”) as a something of a community bulletin board where they can leave messages—that one rhino is sick or another is ready to mate, if a dominant male has recently wandered through—to the rest of the group.
2 Mantis Shrimp Flash Lights
This creature has some of the most impressively complex eyesight in the animal kingdom, with 16 color receptors (compared to our measly three), which come in very handy when trying to communicate with one another. They use their own bodies to communicate using polarized light that other animals cannot spot. Researchers have found that they bounce light off bleu spots on their appendages called maxillipeds, scattering and arranging light across the surface in ways that can covey information to other mantis shrimp—rather than merely reflecting it.
3 Sperm Whales Click
This species of whale uses clicking sounds known as “codas” to convey information to one another. Those in different areas of the ocean use different clicking patterns, sort of like regional dialects—so Caribbean sperm whales sound slightly different than those in another part of the ocean. Researchers have been particularly interested in a group near the Caribbean island of Dominica, which they’ve found may even have variations between different clans or individual whales.
4 Caterpillars Send Out Decoy Distress Calls to Ants
The caterpillar of the alcon blue butterfly scrapes its abdomen to create a kind of song. But unlike many other such critters, who use their communication techniques to contact others of their species, this is a message meant for a very different creature: red ants. The song imitates that of the red ant queen, so those soldier ants that hear it will guard the caterpillar, even killing their own kind in order to protect it.
5 African Elephants Vibrate to Each Other
Technically, elephants make very low sounds to one another. Thing is, they’re so low that it does not strike the human ear as a sound—or anything more than a rumbling vibration. Known as “infrasound” (sounds below 20 hertz, too low for humans to detect), this way of communicating may seem quiet to humans, but researchers estimate that one African elephant making an infrasound can be heard by another more than 175 miles away!
6 Tarsiers Screech
These tiny, big-eyed primates living in Southeast Asia communicate at the opposite range of elephants—ultrasound frequencies over 20,000 Hertz that are far too high-pitched for the human ear to detect. Scientists recorded them using similar devices as those used to record bats, capturing their vocalizations at 70,000 Hertz, which is believed to help them communicate over the jungle noise (and out of range of predators), making it ideal for avoiding or alerting one another of danger. By the way, tarsiers are one of the smallest animals in the world.
7 Ravens Have Sign Language
Just as humans use their hands to emphasize a point, ravens do their own kind of gesticulating, using their beaks and wings to show or offer items such as moss, stones or twigs (usually aimed at members of the opposite sex). They also interact by clasping their bills together or moving an item together, as a show of potential bonding.
8 Egyptian Fruit Bats Argue
You’re probably aware that bats use high-pitched squeals to connect and communicate with each other. But you probably didn’t know how specific such communications could get. Researchers at Tel Aviv University used a machine-learning algorithm to recognize bats’ intonations and the messages they may be trying to convey, “translating” 15,000 calls into several specific messages—more than 60 percent were arguments about four specific things: food, sleep positions, invasion of personal space, or unwanted advances.
9 Chimpanzees Scratch Each Other
Chimps love to groom and to be groomed. But just like your spouse or partner loves a backrub…but even more if you focus on that one spot right there, chimps can be particular about where they want to get scratched, using “referential gesturing” to draw the attention of another chimp to the specific area they’d like to have groomed.
10 Geckos “Seamless” Their Food
Day geckos, native to Madagascar, pioneered the idea of instant-order takeout long before Seamless (or even humans) came along. But rather than an app on their phones, they simply nod their heads at treehoppers—insects that digest sap an excrete it in a sugary liquid known as honeydew. When the gecko communicates to the treehoppers that it would like some of that honeydew, the insects oblige, excreting it right into the amphibian’s mouth.
11 Electric Fish Discharge Electricity
You’re probably familiar with electrically charged sea creatures such as the electric eel, but there is a particular species of electric fish that is able to use its voltage as a means of communicating. Known as “weakly electric fish,” these creatures, which, as their name implies, produce a mild electric discharge, use it to “chirp” out information, such as a male stating it’s attracted a female. When two of these fish meet, they are known to tweak their wavelengths in order to allow each other to produce similar levels of voltage.
12 African Demon Mole Rats Head-Bang
“African Demon Mole Rat” sounds like a pretty good name for a metal band. As it turns out, these critters communicate through a kind of head-banging. Spending their lives underground, they can communicate with one another by thumping their heads against the tops of their tunnels, in that way sending vibrations through the earth that travel much farther attempting to make a loud noise would be able to. The pace and intensity of the thumps indicate different meanings. Rock on.
13 Black-Footed Titis Squeak
When black-footed titis (a brown, rainforest-dwelling monkey), use high-pitched squeaks to let each other known not only what types of predator may be near but their general location. Researchers have found that the monkeys vary their calls in a number of ways, creating their own syntax and complex communication system.
14 Gorillas Hum
Sometimes, singing to oneself is a way to tell the world you are away in your own world and don’t really want to be bothered by all the craziness happening elsewhere (hence, singing in the shower). That’s true of silverback gorillas too, which researchers have found will hum or sing while chomping down on their favorite vegetation. It’s not just a way to indicate that they are enjoying their meal, but a way to convey that they would prefer not to be bothered while eating. When they go quiet, that’s a sign that they are willing to chat.
15 Dholes Whistle
Dholes, otherwise known as Asiatic wild dogs, are also sometimes called “whistling dogs“—and with good reason. These fox-like animals alert each other about the location of prey through whistle sounds. This allows them to make coordinated attacks on other animals much larger than them, communicating in packs to take down prey that’s more than 10 times their own body weight.
16 Prairie Dogs Call to Each Other
These creatures are known for their complex underground tunnel systems, but they also have complex ways of calling to one another, using slightly different intonations (reportedly of a “chee”-like sound) depending on the type of predator—coyote, hawk, human—nearby. In one study, they were found to seemingly identify the difference between a person wearing a blue shirt and one wearing a yellow shirt.
17 Tap-Dancing Blue-Capped Cordon Bleu
As if its name isn’t cool enough, the blue-capped cordon bleu also has some killer dance moves, using a kind of winged tap dance to attract a mate. Both male and female birds of this species court by holding a piece of nesting material in their beak, and then bob up and down while they sing, and make super-fast dance steps with their feet. Researchers believe the dance is meant to not only catch the attention of a mate, but to demonstrate health and fitness.
18 Bison Choose Leaders With Their Feet
European bison are large creatures, but they speak softly, letting their feet do the talking. When the herds of these impressive creatures seek to move on, they decide which way to go not through the guidance of a single leader, but a complex process in which one of the members of the herd (it can be anyone, male or female, young or old) would walk 20 or more steps in a particular direction without stopping to graze. If the others trust the decision, they take the cue and follow along—and that leading animal becomes the herd’s de facto leader (until the process restarts). Perhaps we could take a cue from the bison…
19 Apes Stomp, Clap, and Shake Heads
There are many, many other cool ways that great apes communicate with each other; researchers have isolated some 80 gestures at least. But what may be most interesting is that these significantly overlap with human toddlers; as Smithsonian puts it, “researchers found the human toddlers used 52 discrete gestures to communicate, including clapping, hugging, stomping, raising their arms and shaking their heads, often stringing the moves together to convey complex ideas. It turns out that the chimps also used 46 of the same gestures, meaning there’s a 90 percent overlap.”
20 Caribbean Reef Squid Changes Color
Using specialized cells containing pigments and light-reflecting molecules known as chromataphores, the Caribbean reef squid can change the color of their skin to convey a variety of messages: to court a potential mate, to warn others of a predator or a number of other messages—even conveying one message to a squid on their left side and a different one to a squid on their right.
21 Dancing Bees, Well, Dance
Research going back centuries has noted that bees use dance moves to alert fellow hive-dwellers of a honey source. A famous study found that, when a bee discovered a honey source, it would head to the hive, performing a dance while other bees touched its abdomen, allowing the others to then find the honey source without needing to be shown. The direction and speed of the dance indicated specific geolocation details that the others could follow.
22 Jackdaws Glare
Just as humans can stare people down with their eyes in order to express their anger or frustration, so too can jackdaws, a bird that’s part of the same family as crows, ravens, and jays. Researchers have found that one of these birds will use his conspicuous eyes to glare at a would-be competitor, deterring it from trying to take over his nest.
23 Coral Groupers Team Up For Hunts
When these predatory fish are outsmarted by prey that dives deep into the cracks of the coral reefs, it get some help from other predatory species: usually either the napoleon wrasse or moray eel. The grouper will point with its nose to the location of the fish, shaking its body, and the wrasse will smash against the coral to open it up or the eel will creep into the cracks itself. Thanks to this team work, at least one of the predators, if not both, usually end up with dinner.
24 Chimpanzee Footsie
You could spend a lifetime analyzing chimps’ gestures. There are so many, in fact, that you can review an entire Great Ape Dictionary. Chimps have striking similarities with humans, and one of the other ways that researchers have found they signal to one another is through extending their feet to alert another (usually young) chimp to climb on them to travel.
25 Warbling Antbirds Sing Off-Time
Female Peruvian warbling antbirds will not tolerate other females making moves on their male mate and convey that message clearly to any would-be competitor who invades their territory. The mates generally sing together in a kind of charming harmony, but at the sight of an interloper, the female will shift to an arrhythmic singing that messes up the sound and creates an unpleasant cacophony, ensuring the other woman is not allured by the usual pleasant singing that might otherwise attract her. And for more on all things animal, check out these 50 Amazing Animal Facts
Atlanta resident Sterling Davis was on a break from a rap tour when he applied for a job at the county shelter scooping kitty litter. He just wanted to stay busy and make a little money. Plus, he’s always loved animals, like his cat at the time, Rick James.
“I did horrible in the interview because they had cats in the room and I was playing with all the cats, kissing all the cats,” he told Today.
Even though he didn’t really answer any of the questions because he was distracted by the friendly felines, he got the job because, as the person who hired him said, “We’re not seeing people like you with cats.”
Davis, 40, started helping shelter employees with trap-neuter-return cases. The team would trap community cats (formerly called “feral”), bring them to the shelter to be vaccinated and spayed or neutered, and then return them to their outdoor realm.
While Davis learned about TNR, he came to another realization.
“At the county shelter, there were no men and no Black people that worked in the cat department,” he said. “When I would go out and do TNR with all my friends, it would be all women — that’s who trained me. I finally asked the difficult question: ‘Where are all the guys and where are all the Black people?’’
The answer: There’s just you.
Davis realized he had a new calling. He let his band know he would not be coming back on tour. Instead, he was going to devote all his time to cat rescue as the TrapKing.
His bold goal: to change stereotypes of men in cat rescue and bridge the communication gap between Black communities and predominately white animal welfare organizations.
“I’ve seen rescue be something that’s looked at as hard, tedious, sad,” he said. “If people can see me and I make this look like this is a rock-star type life, this is fun — you can do it.”
When his music money dried up, Davis sold everything he owned and bought a conversion van to live in to help pay for cat surgeries and support his nonprofit. He plastered the van with TrapKing logos and people started noticing. He hosted contests for kids, who would watch his humane traps. Whoever texted him first about a cat in a trap won $20, second place got $15 and so on.
“I started going into neighborhoods and kids would see me like the ice cream truck,” he said with a chuckle. “I would pull into apartment complexes and see young boys running up to the van trying to give me cats. ‘Hey Trap, look — I got a cat. Do I get some money?’”
As the TrapKing became better known, opportunities arose. The Atlanta Humane Society offered to spay and neuter cats he brought for free, which was a huge help since he wasn’t charging anyone for his services.
Davis, who enlisted in the Navy right out of high school and served for two years as an operations specialist manning the ship’s radar, said he believes his experiences have helped him connect with people from all walks of life as the TrapKing.
“I think being in the military, being around different people, different cultures and being in entertainment is what actually helped me better communicate with all types of people and better communicate this mission,” he said. “I’ve literally been pushing to make TNR community cat care as common as recycling and get more people engaged in so many fun ways.”
It hasn’t always been easy. Early on when Davis was returning cats to a predominately Black neighborhood, a group of men walked up and told him: “White people put tracking devices and diseases in these cats to hurt the Black community and you’re helping that. You’re bringing them into the neighborhood.”
“I was like, ‘Wow, that’s so wrong.’ It was really difficult to explain it because all the Black community could see was this is a white person’s thing,” he said.
Over time, perceptions have changed. When protests erupted across America in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, Davis launched a T-shirt campaign called “Allies in Rescue, Allies in Life.” He announced he would donate all of the funds to the nonprofit Campaign Zero, which promotes policy changes to end police violence. Support from rescue advocates and organizations was overwhelming.
“I got a lot of feedback from the Black community on that, like, ‘So you got all of these animal people to donate to issues other than just cats or dogs?’” he recalled. “I’m like, ‘Yeah — we’re allies in rescue and allies in life.’ So that really turned a lot of things around.”
Davis now runs TrapKing Humane Cat Solutions from an RV, which he shares with his cats Bowie, Damita Jo and Alanis Mewissette. He hopes to travel across the country soon promoting TNR and fundraising for animal shelters. He’s also pushing for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to start offering a TNR badge.
Through it all, he’s continuing his outreach to communities and modeling his motto, “You don’t lose cool points for compassion.”
“I’ve had a lot of parents reach out to me and say that their son gets made fun of because he likes cats,” he said. “I just want it to be known that you cannot lose cool points for compassion. If you are doing something compassionate, you gain cool points.”
The TrapKing would love to see the rescue community find ways to put aside any differences and work together toward the common goal of saving the lives of pets.
“I think something as selfless as rescue could be an example to the world of unity and working together,” he said. “So I want to put that out there.”
Sam Wilson is a volunteer at https://www.facebook.com/GeorgeShelterCrete/ She is a former police inspector with Nottinghamshire, England police. She served on the force for 30 years and retired in September 2020. A week later, she flew to Crete, Greece to volunteer with George Orfanidis and his George Stray Dogs organization. Sam’s plan was volunteer for four weeks, improve her Greek language skills, and then return home. The return-home part of her plan became complicated. Her time there inspired her to book three additional flights to Crete over the following two months, with more planned in the future. Sam now has a very long commute to work and works side by side with George.
George Stray Dogs was founded by George Orfanidis, who has devoted more than 20 years to rescuing and caring for dogs and bringing about positive change for animals by changing people’s minds and hearts through education. George houses 100 dogs at his shelters, which lack electricity and water supply. Every day, without fail, he drives the 70 km round trip bringing water and food to the dogs.
Animal welfare is not a priority in Greece. There are estimated to be 8 million stray dogs and cats in the country. They are routinely abandoned in the rubbish, in the mountains, and on the street. Some dogs are chained to barrels for the length of their lives, with little food and fresh water, and riddled with ticks, fleas, and worms.
George has been reliant on his fellow Greeks for donations for food for veterinary medicine, but Greece has been in recession for a long time. Many of the people who care about animal welfare have little money to give. The struggle for funding was somewhat alleviated when Australian animal activist Stella Savvas set up the organization’s Facebook page. George has also received various volunteer assistance from his brother Nikos Orfandis, and volunteers Katerina and Debra. The organization also received a boost when George’s friend, well-known Greek rescuer Takis Proestakis, mentioned him on his FB page.
The access to a wider audience has allowed George to build infrastructure at one of the shelters, which will allow all of the dogs to be housed at one site. Fencing, kennels, and easy access to water will make the rescue work easier. George, Sam, and other volunteers are currently working to complete the site work before winter sets in.
Some of George Stray Dogs rescue success stories – Before and After:
Tommy – George found Tommy in the filth of an abandoned house. The sight of Tommy reduced George to tears. Tommy had little fur and wounds all over his face and body from the effects of leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease which afflicts many dogs in the southern Mediterranean. After months of care, love, and treatment, Tommy was transformed into a beautiful dog. Tommy and George are now inseparable.
Hara – Hara was abandoned in the rubbish five years ago. George was caring for her as a stray on the streets. One day, he was alerted that some men had her on a chain and were ready to hang her. George went to the location and fought with the men to save her life. (He has been attacked more than one occasion for his work.) The men damaged George’s car and bruised him, but Hara was saved and she now lives at the shelter. Hara is a contented dog with a sweet and gentle nature. The deformed leg with which she was born causes her no issues.
Dias – Dias is known as the Gentle Giant. He is a 60kg Greek Shepherd found on the highway with shattered legs, unable to move. With two surgeries and care from George he is thriving. The puppies particularly adore him. He’s the alpha dog in his pen but calm and even natured with others.
The transformation of dogs from when they arrive at the shelter in heart-breaking condition to health, balance, and friendly dispositions. They form close bonds with each other and adore George. George has a huge heart, dedication, and deep compassion for the neglected, abused, abandoned, tortured animals on Crete, Greece.
If you would like to make a donation to George Stray Dogs, their Paypal account is
George Stray Dogs also have a Go Fund Me to raise money for a 4×4 car to provide consistently reliable transport to the shelter in winter.