Keep Fido and Fluffy Safe When the Weather Turns Cold

Published in Pawtucket Times, January 10, 2015

According to ABC 6 News, early New Years Day, Toni Liberatore, a Burrillville resident walking her dog in the extremely cold weather, called the Town’s animal control officer after she discovered an elderly Italian Greyhound lying almost unconscious under a truck parked near her home, freezing from the frigid weather.

During the news story, Liberatore  told reporter Samantha Lavien that the severely neglected dog was in bad shape.  She described the female Greyhound as being very thin, having extremely long nails, and diseased teeth.

An emotional distraught Liberatore described the condition of the dog after finding it under the truck.  “She was like holding an ice-cube to my body.  She was frozen.  She was pretty much in and out, said Liberatore. “She couldn’t hold her own head up she was extremely emaciated, I could feel every bone in her body,” she observed

ABC News exclusive story went viral, being placed on Facebook and tweeted throughout the internet, sending the story to all corners of the world.

Burrillville animal control officials moved quickly to save the elderly animal, in need of veterinary care, states Police Lt. John Connors, who oversees the town’s animal control division.  The small Greyhound, showing signs of hypothermia, was immediately transported to an emergency animal clinic for treatment. After emergency care, using heating pads and fluids to increase the animal’s body temperature, the dog, now dubbed Elsa, was than transferred to Northern Rhode Island Animal Hospital for further medical care.

After the first day of medical treatments, the dog’s temperature became normal, noted Lt. Connors.  Elsa was released two days ago.

No Intent of Abuse

Lt. Connors stated that the owner of the dog contacted his department after photos began appearing on Face book on New Years Day.  The dog had accidently escaped from his house on New Years Eve without his knowledge, the owner reported. After a through Burrillville Police investigation, with interviews of family members, friends, and neighbors, no “intent of abuse,” was found, says Lt. Connors. The veterinarian’s report did not indicate or substantiate a criminal charge for abuse or neglect, he says.  As a result, no charges were filed against the animal’s owner.

With latest blast of arctic air approaching Rhode Island, weather reporters noted that yesterday was to be the coldest day of the winter.  Throughout the day temperatures plunged to near zero, with gusts of wind lowering the thermometers to 15 degrees to 25 degrees below zero.

Neglect, abuse or mistakenly believing your pet is inside the  house, like what occurred to the elderly Greyhound in Burrillville, will put animals in severe danger if they are left out in extremely frigid weather.

Keeping Your Pet Safe

There is no excuse to leave animals outside when you go to work especially when the media gives you advanced notice that temperatures are going to plunge below zero, says John Holmes, Pawtucket’s animal control supervisor.

Holmes was prepared to handle dozens of medical emergencies resulting from the frigid weather at the Pawtucket Animal Shelter. “We were staffed, had adequate supplies and equipped to treat animals,” he says.

Although he was prepared, Holmes, a 40-year City employee who oversees two animal control officers, was relieved that only one call came in as the temperatures dropped below zero.  He attributes the lack of calls by the warning of media not to leave pets unattended outside.  “People seem to be paying attention,” he says.

Common sense will tell you when you should not leave your pet outside, says Holmes.  “Put on a warm coat.  Wear heavily gloves and a hat.  If you are cold, it is the same for your pet,” notes Holmes, stressing that people easily think that animals are not cold in frigid weather because of their thick coats of fur.

“This is just not true,” says Holmes.

Frigid Weather and Hypothermia

According to Holmes, frigid weather can result in hypothermia, when an animal’s body is no longer able to maintain normal temperature.  Severe hypothermia can result in coma and ultimately death.  Smaller breeds, very young animals, and older pets are more susceptible to rapid surface loss of body heat, putting them at a higher risk to get hypothermia.

Holmes notes that the symptoms of hypothermia depend on the severity.  These can include shivering, a slow shallow breathing, and weakness in mild cases. Muscle stiffness, low blood pressure, a blank stare, slow and shallow breathing are symptoms in the moderate state and fixed and dilated pupils, a heartbeat that’s hard to find, difficulty in breathing or coma are seen in severe cases of hypothermia.

If hypothermia occurs, Holmes recommends that the animal be wrapped in a warm blanket and quickly transported to a veterinary emergency clinic where treatment can be provided.

It is easy to protecting your pets from the cold weather, adds Holmes. Don’t take elderly, young or sick pets, especially small short haired breeds outdoors unprotected in below zero weather, for long periods of time. Just let them go out in the back yard for a few minutes if necessary. “A short walk around the block won’t hurt your animal,” he says.

Holmes asks that all concerned neighbors who notice dogs being left outside in inclement weather to call his office at the City of Pawtucket’s Animal Shelter.  We would rather be safe than sorry. . “Each and every call is taken very seriously and checked out,” he warns. After an investigation, if it is found that someone knowingly abused or neglected an animal, that person will be prosecuted and held accountable for their actions

Frigid weather is hazardous to your animal’s health. With winter’s temperatures now dipping into single digits, even below zero, make sure you keep your pet safe and warm in your home.  Be responsible.

To report a complaint about alleged animal cruelty: City of Pawtucket, contact John Holmes, Animal Control Supervisor, at 401 722-4243. Or write Animal Control Division, 121 Roosevelt Avenue, Pawtucket, RI 0286. Web site: http://www.pawtucketanimalshelter.org.  Or call 401-722-4243.

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer that covers medical, aging and health care issues. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

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Raimondo Rolls out Educational Initiative to Financially Empower Rhode Islanders

Published in the Pawtucket Times, August 2, 2013

Everybody has been hit hard over the years with the economic downturn in the Ocean State. The statistics are startling about the impact on Rhode Islander’s pocketbooks. According to the Office of the General Treasurer, two-thirds of Rhode Islanders reported some difficulty in covering their expenses and paying bills. Startling the average borrow in our state has $13,221 in credit card debt, the 5th highest amount in the nation. Almost 47% of the Ocean State’s homeowners are “cost burdened,” that is home ownership costs more than 30 percent of their income.

During her first term, overcoming strong opposition of union groups, Rhode Island General Treasurer Gina M. Raimondo, working with Governor Chafee and leadership in the General Assembly, successfully redesigned Rhode Island’s state-administered public employee pension system. Now the Smithfield native, and mother of two, who graduated from LaSalle Academy, Harvard University and Yale Law School, who became a Rhode Scholar at Oxford University, goes into full gear to financially empower the state’s residents to make informed disciplined choices to achieve their financial goals.

Raimondo’s interest in financial empowerment came from her memories of growing up in a modest-income family, and a house with three kids and her grandfather. “My family had to become very smart about saving and budgeting,” she noted. By financial juggling and hard work, she was able along with her two siblings to attend college. According to Raimndo, getting a good college education allowed her to climb up the career ladder and eventually run for General Treasurer.

Building a Prosperous Financial Future

Recognizing that everyone could use a little free help understanding and managing their finances, last October, Raimondo, in partnership with the Providence-based Capital Good Fund, kicked off their financial empowerment initiative to provide guidance, though the Rhode Island Financial Coaching Corps, to provide free financial help to Rhode Islanders balance their home budgets, managing debt, building up credit and plan for their retirement.

According to Raimondo, becoming financially secure and taking care of your family can become tricky with the huge number of financial products available today. One can become confused with the different types of mortgage and banking products available, especially the proliferation of pay day loans, credit cards and reverse mortgages, she says. “If people are not careful they can be hit hard by hidden fees or hidden risks by choosing the wrong product,” she says.

Recently, Raimondo took her Smart Money Tour out on the road visiting local libraries, farmers markets and senior centers, “right into the community,” she says, noting that it might become a permanent initiative if it proves to be successful. At these locations treasury staff, through an online computer data base, (treasury.ri.gov/unclaimed) also helps people locate their lost or abandoned property for free. Unclaimed property includes items such as long forgotten bank accounts, stocks and dividends and life insurance claims. During the last fiscal year, Treasury returned more than $8 million to over 8,000 Rhode Islanders.

Supporting Common Goals

According to Executive Director Andy Posner, of the Providence-based Capital Good Fund, he met Raimondo during her campaign for Treasurer and found a kindred soul. She had similar interests in bringing financial literacy to Rhode Islanders and a desire to fight predatory practices (pay day loans that have interest rates of 260 percent and rent-to-own centers where consumers ultimately pay more than the product is worth).

Capital Good Fund trains volunteers, for the Empower RI initiative, in financial coaching techniques and provides them with curricula to use either in one-to-one sessions with employees at companies who contract for the service or to those interested in getting help, learning about this assistance at community events or through newspaper coverage or social service agencies.

Since the inception of the program over 200 Rhode Islanders have been helped, says Posner. Currently, the Financial Service Corps, has 17 active volunteers, he added.

Joining the Financial Coaching Corps

Jerry Leveille, a Burrillville resident, jumped at being a volunteer with the Financial Coaching Corps after reading the mission of Empower RI, “Moving Rhode Island forward – one person at a time – through financial empowerment.” The 68-year old retired banker, who served as a senior vice president and lending officer, had worked for over 51 years at Warwick-based Greenwood Credit Union.

Filling out the application at the Capital Good Fund, he was accepted, trained and now has worked with two clients.

In one case, Leveille stated that 83-year-old widow learned the art of balancing her checkbook after the death of her husband, who had managed the family’s household account, paying the bills for over 58 years. The woman still coping with the recent death of her husband only needed a couple of sessions to learn this financial skill.

Meanwhile, Leveille says that a 62-year old woman who worked for a large Rhode Island company for over 30 years made a personal decision to retire. She would later learn that this financial decision would reduce her income by a whopping 40 percent. This was combined with mortgage problems. The single older woman owed more on her family homestead than its market value. She could not get her out of state mortgage company to lower the eight percent interest rate or allow her to extend payments.

Before coming to Leveille “her only choice was to walk away from the mortgage or continue to work,” he said, noting that if this occurred the lender would most likely suffer a $60,000 loss. “As a volunteer I was not going to talk her out of retirement, it was not my role to do this. Ultimately, the Financial Coaching Corps. volunteer would refer his client to Rhode Island Housing who is in the process of negotiating a lower interest rate on her behalf.

“We must be very nonjudgmental when we work with our clients,” says Leveille, noting that humans do make mistakes they regret when making bad financial decisions. “We are there to be helpful. It is what it is and we try to find the appropriate solution,” he says when counseling client.

Cumberland resident, Randy Sacilotto, who serves as Navigant’s vice president of business and community development, joined Raimondo’s effort to ratchet up the state’s financial literacy knowledge. Sacilotto, with 21 years working for the credit union, also brings to his clients the expertise he gained from training to become a certified financial counselor, accredited by the National Credit Union Foundation.

Sacilotto, 52, has met with two individuals and one couple, teaching them how a household budget works and another couple on tips on refinancing their home.

Working on budgeting, Sacilotto told his clients to track the spending of “every penny,” for two to four weeks. Write everything down, he says, because you will learn where your money is spent.

“We don’t always actually know what we spend on things,” he says, and if you track your results, cutting spending on things you don’t need can allow you to put your money into more important things, like saving for a house,” notes Sacilotto.

Finding Satisfaction in Financial Problem Solving

Emerson Gardner, a retired manager of the New York-based Bank of America’s International Banking Office, brought this experience and working in the City’s AARP Money Management Program, to the Ocean State in 2010. Two years later he would join Raimondo’s Financial Coaching Corps.

One of the original volunteers, Gardner is already working on his fifth client (their ages range from early 30s to their 50s). “Any time you help a person get their credit rating up or confront their debt problems it begins with creating a budget,” he says, noting that people need to learn how to live within their incomes.

While Gardner’s clients profit from his expertise gleaned from his banking days and a Masters of Business Administration received from Harvard University, he benefits, too. “I get satisfaction in helping clients solve their problems.” The retiree likes the flexibility of the program, allowing him to decide who to take and when to schedule the counseling session.

“For a person who has financial skills and the time to give because they are retiring, it is a great thing to do,” quips Gardner.

Those interested in volunteering for the Financial Coaching Corps, or meeting with a financial coach should visit http://www.fcCorpss.org.

Pawtucket’s Smart Money Tour is scheduled for August 30, 2013, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the City’s Leon Mathieu Senior Center, 420 Main Street, Pawtucket RI.

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-based write who covers health care, aging and medical issues. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com