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I met countless dogs and cats who had survived unimaginable cruelty: they were used to fight or used as ‘bait’ in fights, starved to shockingly skeletal states, set on fire. When I would visit the animals on my lunch hour, though, I would often see dogs wag their broken, bandaged tails when I walked into the kennel room, malnourished dogs who would look up from their bowls of food to play bow and lick my hand. Of course, dogs are not alone in their capacity for forgiveness. I will never forget the cat I saw who had been set on fire. When I walked into the room, he rubbed his raw skin against the bars of his cage just at the sight of me, a stranger to him, purring and eager to be touched.

What do we owe the neediest animals who arrive in our shelters looking for a second chance?

We owe them a safe harbor and time—time to abandon fear, to forget a haunted past, and most important of all, to learn that humans can be trusted after all. Indeed, with the right amount of love, kindness, compassion, positive conditioning, and, when necessary, veterinary intervention, psychologically wounded animals, like humans, have a remarkable capacity for resilience.

Download “What Shelters Owe Traumatized Animals,” the newest free guide from the No Kill Advocacy Center by clicking here.

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