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5 Tips for Caring for Pets and Reporting Mistreatment in Your Community

Properly caring for animals is a big responsibility. Unfortunately, a misunderstanding of the full responsibilities involved can lead to mistreatement; which is not a matter to be taken lightly.

This week, the local media reported on an investigation involving the unfortunate deaths of several animals in a Maryland home. The National Aquarium team is saddened by the loss of animal life and disappointed that an ex-employee may be involved. Though the Aquarium has no recent professional association with the individual, we are determined to keep our online community informed of this sad situation in our Maryland area.

We believe that there exists a human responsibility to care for and protect all creatures, great and small. The National Aquarium is committed to excellence in animal care and actively protecting species both at our venues and around the world. Our Marine Animal Rescue Program team has stepped forward to offer local authorities help to ensure the health and safety of any animals involved in this situation and in which it has the expertise to do so. That said, there are things that we can all do to help protect animals. Animal mistreatment is something that we can stop if we work together and do our part to care for animals properly.  

The following are some tips from our expert, Sue Hunter, director of Animal Programs, who has been working full time at the National Aquarium since 1987, on how to care for your pets and take action to help prevent animal mistreatment:

Tip 1: Only take in domestic animals.
Every animal has specific needs and keeping an animal is a big responsibility. If you have domestic animals such as dogs and cats, there are lots of veterinarians, trainers and stores that can help you with medical care, behavior and supplies/food for these animals. Domestic animals have been bred to interact with humans and we know a lot about them. Their care is not easier (they need all of the things mentioned above), but there are more resources for you to consult should you have questions or a problem. Exotic animals, on the other hand, have very specific needs, and there is not as big a support system to help you care for them. For example, parrots need constant attention, special food and warmth; reptiles need a specific temperature, humidity and food to thrive. In addition, some exotic animals are illegal to have. Check state and local ordinances to make sure that a pet is legal to own before taking it in.

Tip 2: Don’t take in too many pets.
Even well-meaning individuals can be quickly overwhelmed by taking in too many animals. Remember, each animal needs to be cleaned, fed, exercised, enriched and given attention every single day. By having a lot of animals, each individual animal inevitably gets less care as there are only so many hours in a day. This can leave animals confined in cages too long, not cleaned, without enough food or water or lonely and sad. Make sure that you have the time to provide all seven of the needs that animals have daily: clean quarters, food, water, attention, enrichment, exercise and proper housing (including temperature).

Tip 3: Make regular trips to a veterinarian.
Animals need to be seen by a veterinarian every year for a checkup and to receive necessary vaccinations. Also, if an animal displays lethargy, low appetite, low or high water intake, change in behavior or physical changes, this could be a sign of illness and requires an expert licensed veterinarian to diagnose the problem and provide treatment. If your animals show any of these signs, please get them to a veterinarian right away.

Tip 4: Educate yourself with animal cruelty information and keep an eye out for the mistreatment of animals in your community.
There are many signs to look for to identify animal abuse. Common physical signs of an animal that has been mistreated are open wounds, multiple healed wounds, emaciation, tick or flea infestation, extreme matted fur, eye or nose discharge, lethargy, confusion, drowsiness or bumpy, scaly skin rashes. Also look at the animal’s environment – are they kept outside in inclement weather with no shelter? Are they tied up alone outside without adequate food or water? Are they housed in kennels that are too small? Watching a person’s behavior around an animal is also important – does the person physically strike the animal or treat them very rough? Click here to see more tips on how to recognize cruelty.

People who keep large numbers of animals in their house or property in squalid conditions are commonly referred to as “collectors” or “hoarders.” Although many have good intentions, such as providing shelter to unwanted dogs and cats, often the inability to care for so many animals leads to abuse in the form of neglect. Authorities face the often-difficult task of confronting persons in complete denial of the conditions in which they and the animals live. As a further difficulty, authorities must conduct extensive follow-up work because each neglected animal must be examined, cared for and put up for adoption or, in some cases, put down. Click here to learn more about animal hoarding.

As with any criminal prosecution, animal cruelty must be reported and investigated with diligence and accuracy to ensure a conviction and help prevent future acts of cruelty by the offender or others. In most states, officers of the local Humane Society (humane officers) handle the investigation and gathering of information when a cruelty report occurs. Then an attorney employed by the state decides whether to prosecute the offender.

In Maryland, the Animal Services division of the local police department typically executes the investigation, citation and arrest of animal abusers. In addition, the Maryland statute deputizes officers of the Humane Society to perform arrests if they witness a misdemeanor act of animal cruelty, as per Section 10-609 of the Maryland Code. In Baltimore, the Maryland Code deputizes the Division of Animal Health of the Baltimore County Health Department instead of Humane Society officers. Source

Tip 5: Report potential animal cruelty to authorities.
Anyone can report animal cruelty. If you wish to report an act of animal cruelty, aid in the enforcement of anti-cruelty laws or simply have further questions about animal cruelty, do not hesitate to contact local law enforcement or your local office of the Humane Society, Animal Services or Animal Control. In an emergency, dial 911.

If you witness animal cruelty, call 911 immediately. Also report any cruelty or neglect to Animal Control at 311. Document what you have witnessed; a camera phone can help. If you suspect neglect, consider offering to help find a new home for the animal. If you are fearful of approaching the family, call the police or Animal Control. Baltimore-area resources, including animal control agencies, are listed below. Contact social services if you are concerned about other family members. In summary: Do something. There is a link between animal abuse and human abuse. Violence hurts everyone.

Here’s who to contact for more help on caring for your animals or reporting mistreatment:
Each county in Maryland has an animal control facility or local police. In an emergency, call 911. To report suspected abuse, call 311. Below are links to a few animal shelters and resources that can also help you:

To report abuse, individuals can call Baltimore County Animal Control at 410-887-5961.

Further resources:
Baltimore Humane Society 410-833-8848
BARCS Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter 410-396-4695

Central Maryland Animal Shelters:
Anne Arundel County Animal Control 410-222-8900 or fax 410-222-8915
Anne Arundel County SPCA 410-268-4388 or fax 410-268-8027
Baltimore City Animal Control 410-396-4694 or fax 410-396-7332
Baltimore County Animal Control 410-887-5961 or fax 410-817-4257
Baltimore County Humane Society 410-833-8848 or fax 410-833-9251
Carroll County Humane Society 410-848-4810 or fax 410-875-9736
Humane Society of Harford County 410-836-1090 or fax 410-877-3788
Howard County Animal Control 410-313-2780 or fax 410-313-2720
Howard County Animal Welfare 410-465-4350 or fax 410-480-4316

“The reason I work here and love the aquarium so much,” Sue added, “is due to the exemplary care that the animals receive. Animals come first here at the Aquarium. In fact, one of our values is excellence in animal care. Excellence means not only providing top-quality food, water and shelter, but also attending to their every need. We have a talented animal health staff with onsite veterinarians and technicians that ensure the health of the animals through regular physicals, as well as top-notch medical diagnosis and treatment. Animals also need lots of attention and their behavioral needs met, and for this, we have an extensive Biological Programs Department. Staff ensures that the animals have the ability to display natural behaviors, have lots of room to exercise in naturalistic habitats and are enriched in some way every single day. In my life at home, I strive to bring the Aquarium values to animals I care for by providing them with the best food, exercise, veterinary care, enrichment, training and attention every day! I hope that sharing these tips and values will inspire members of our community, too.”

We hope that this incident will serve as a reminder to our friends and neighbors to keep an eye out for mistreatment of animals and serve as advocates for animals whenever possible! We invite you to please post a comment below if you have any questions regarding animal care at home or here at the National Aquarium.


Thoughtful Thursdays: Trees are what everyone needs!

Our Choice Enjoy, Respect, Protect
The Aquarium’s Waterfront Park, floating island, and green roof are all planted with native species, providing habitat for animals in an urban environment.

Your Choice
Buy a potted or “balled” Christmas tree and replant it after the holidays. You’ll create a year-round habitat for local wildlife, and it’s a great gift that you, your family and your neighbors can enjoy for years to come! Check out, a great resource for finding local sellers and businesses offering living Christmas trees.

And truffula trees are what everyone needs! Plant a new truffula. Treat it with care. Give it clean water, and feed it fresh air. Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack. Then the Lorax, and all of his friends may… come back. ” The Lorax, Dr. Seuss (1971)

The National Aquarium’s Guest Diver Program rocks, just ask the members of Animal Collective

Fish, coral, and other marine life are abundant at the National Aquarium, Baltimore, but psych-rockers…that’s something we don’t see everyday at the Aquarium!

Brian Weitz of the band Animal Collective explores the Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit at the National Aquarium, Baltimore through our Guest Diver Program.

Geologist (Brian Weitz) and Deakin (Josh Dibbs), members of the band Animal Collective, recently came to the Aquarium via our Guest Diver Program. As Maryland natives, the members of Animal Collective grew up coming to the Aquarium—a couple of the band’s members even had their high school prom here in the mid-1990s!

Geologist and Deakin are both seasoned scuba divers and jumped at the chance to experience the Aquarium from the other side of the glass.

Unfortunately, Deakin, while able to attend, was unable to dive, making Geologist’s dive a solo act. Watch a video of his dive:

Brian Weitz Scuba Dives at the Baltimore Aquarium from Dakota Fine on Vimeo.

We’d been trying to synchronize schedules with the band for a diving session for well over a year now&emdash;ever since we’d heard their 2009 masterpiece Merriweather Post Pavilion, named after the Frank Gehry-designed concert venue just down the road in Columbia, MD.

Geologist is not only an Aquarium enthusiast, but also an advocate for protecting our waterways. He spent years working on the Hill in Washington, D.C., doing ocean policy work, and the band recently collaborated with Keep to design a line of aquatic-themed shoes with all proceeds going to the Socorro Island Conservation Fund.

Listen to a sample of Animal Collective’s music »
Learn more about the National Aquarium’s Guest Diver Program »

Brian Weitz of the band Animal Collective with Calypso

Wounded Warriors dive in the Aquarium

This summer, the National Aquarium welcomed some very special guests for a very special evening. Nine wounded soldiers from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center were able to live a dream and scuba dive in the Aquarium as part of their rehabilitation programs.

Wounded Warriors Dive

These veterans, who participate in a program called Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba (SUDS), were taught the basics of Aquarium diving and safety procedures before plunging into the world of sting rays, sharks, and more than 50 species of fish. Each diver was accompanied in the water by dive professionals from the Aquarium.

Wounded Warriors Dive

The animals responded exceptionally well and greeted all of them. Calypso, our green sea turtle who also happens to be an amputee, was very curious and interactive. One of the double-amputee veterans was in the Wings in the Water exhibit and Calypso came over to look at his prosthetic legs and then just sat down in his lap. She was a huge hit with all of the veterans, and everyone had a great time!

Wounded Warriors Dive

The National Aquarium is honored to have worked with these heroes, and we look forward to doing this again soon!

Awesome adventures in Costa Rica!

From Laura Bankey, Director of Conservation

Checking in from beautiful Costa Rica! The Costa Rican Tourism Board have been wonderful hosts and have planned some pretty amazing excursions for our group, winners of the Get Going Costa Rica sweepstakes and representatives from National Aquarium and the Greater Los Angeles Zoo.

Our adventure started off with a trip to one of the central valley’s active volcanos. The Irazu volcano is more than 11,000 feet above sea level. We drove through some of Costa Rica’s richest agricultural lands with fields full of onions, potatoes, and mustard. On the way to the top, we passed through a cloud forest, home to a large variety of plants and animals especially adapted to the high altitude and high humidity. Once at the top, it was just a short hike to the active crater. Spectacular!!

We were standing on the rim, and could see the bright-green rainwater collected by the crater more than 1,000 feet down. The landscape is gray for as far as your eyes can see. The volcanic ash has covered just about everything in sight. The last time the volcano erupted was 1994, and some of the vegetation is just coming back. It’s a stark reminder of how our world is constantly changing.

Much of our afternoon was spent traveling down to the South Pacific coast to position us for a wonderful day spent at Corvocado National Park. The most popular way to get to the park is by boat. Our boat met us at our hotel in Sierpe on Tuesday morning. We traveled down the Sierpe River through acres and acres of mangrove forests. What a sight! Once we hit the mouth of the river, we headed out into the ocean along the coast of the Osa Peninsula toward the park headquarters.

Our main activity at the park was a three-hour hike through the rain forest. What an adventure!  We weren’t more than 50 feet inside the rain forest when we saw trogans, white-faced coati, a three-toed sloth, and howler monkeys.

As we traveled deeper and deeper, we saw frogs, tarantulas, and macaws.  It was awesome to discover just how closely the National Aquarium’s Upland Tropical Rain Forest compares to the real thing! During the boat trip back to Sierpe we also saw monkeys, a boa, and a humpback whale.

All in all, a very good day for wildlife viewing!

Fun fish jokes from the National Aquarium’s Facebook fans

Last week we asked our Facebook fans to help us come up with 30 funny fish jokes in honor of the National Aquarium’s 30th anniversary. The 30-plus jokes we received appear below. Like us on Facebook to add your own funny fish tales to the post!

Matthew Abbott of Washington, DC:
One fish says to the other, “You drink like a fish.”
The other fish responds, “So do you.”

Kimberly Rose Allred of Laurel, MD:
What did the sardine call the submarine?
A can of people.

What is the best way to communicate with a fish?
Drop it a line.

What fish is best to have in a boat?
A Sailfish.

Margie Bright Arndt:
What’s the difference between a piano and a fish?
You can tune a piano, but you can’t tunafish! (from my son Josh)

Sumintra Mohan Aumiller:
If fish lived on land, which country would they live in?

Where do fish keep their money?
In the river bank.

Bre Brenner:
Why did the whale cross the street?
To get to the other tide.

Mother: Have you given the fish fresh water today?
Son: No, they still haven’t drunk yesterday’s.

Matt Colly of Bel Air, MD:
What does a fish say when he bangs his head on a wall?

Karen Chester Dieffenbach of Waldorf, MD:
A fish walks into a bar. The bartender says, “What can I get you?”
The fish replies (gasping), “Water!”

Mary Jo Demshock of Nuremberg, PA:
What happened to the fishing boat that sank in piranha-infested waters?
It came back with a skeleton crew.

Chuck Fuller of Baltimore, MD:
Two parrots are sitting on a perch…The first one says to the other, “Does something smell fishy?”

Jen Gatewood of Lansdale, PA:
Why are fish smarter than humans??
Have you ever seen a fish spend hundreds of dollars trying to hook a human…and still can’t?

Why are goldfish orange?
The water makes them rust!

What’s the difference between a fish and a piano?
You can’t tuna piano!

Michele Gomez of Baltimore, MD:
Why wouldn’t the little shrimp share his toys?
Because he was a little shellfish.

Leslie Jennings of Roanoke, VA & Dave Pittenger of Baltimore, MD:
What did the boy octopus say to the girl octopus?
I want to hold your hand hand hand hand hand hand hand hand.

Megan Ann King of Baltimore, MD:
This is from my 5 year old….
What kind of fish chases mice?
A catfish. 🙂

Kara Eichelman Leahy:
Where does seaweed look for a job?
In the ‘kelp-wanted’ ads!

Marco LeMonde, Citizen of the World:
What do you call a big fish that makes you an offer you can’t refuse?
The CODfather!

Lisa Ludwig of Salisbury, MD:
What do fish use to make telephone calls?
A shell phone.

Leah Hamlin:
Why are dolphins more clever than humans?
Within three hours they can train a man to stand at the side of a pool and feed them fish!

Leslie Jennings of Roanoke, VA:
What did one rock pool say to the other rock pool ? Show me your mussels! 🙂

Genevieve Liboiron of Baltimore, MD:
What do you call a dangerous fish who drinks too much? A beer-a-cuda!

Lisa Thompson Lovette of Portsmouth, VA:
Why are fish boots the warmest ones to wear?
Because they have electric ‘eels!

Maria May:
What kind of fish has two knees?
A “tunee fish.”

National Aquarium, Baltimore:
What day of the week do fish hate?

Jennifer Odom:
What do you call a scared fish? Chicken of the sea. That made my mom laugh when I was in second grade.

Adam Phelps of Cary, NC:
What’s the difference between a fish and a piano?
You can’t tuna fish.

Anne A. Province:
My daughter likes these…
What kind of fish goes great with peanut butter?
A jellyfish.

Where do you take a fish that’s ill?
To the Doc-topus!

Christiana Mercer Rigby of Washington, DC & Gene Taylor of Westminster, MD:
What do you call a fish with no eyes?
A FSH! (pronounced fsssssh) 🙂

Leslie Meadows Stretton:
What kind of fish is especially funny?
A clown fish!

Jason Stroble of Palm Bay, FL:
Sometimes I go fishing just for the halibut!

Thought of another …did I mention I love cheesy jokes?

Why did the Sheephead blush?
Because the sea-weed!

Jennifer McColery Trayer:
What’s the smartest animal?
A fish because they stay in schools!

Kristen Skvorak Vallieu of Pittsburgh, PA:
OK, here is the joke my dad has been telling us kids for the past 30 years (as far back as I can remember):
What do you call a fish with two knees?
A two knee fish! (groan… :D)

Lilly Pulitzer limited-edition signature National Aquarium scarf

We’re excited to announce that renowned designer Lilly Pulitzer has designed a signature scarf to celebrate the Aquarium’s 30th anniversary!

Lilly Pulitzer Aquarium Scarf

The silk and cashmere scarf, in Lilly’s playful hues of aqua blue and coral pink, features several of the Aquarium’s residents—the intelligent octopus, the endangered sea turtle, and the colorful sea stars—as well as a secret message hidden in the print!

Signature Design Print

The best part? Every scarf purchase makes a generous donation to the National Aquarium. Only 500 scarves were made, and are now available for purchase in the Aquarium’s gift shop, a few local Lilly shops, or via this order form, so get yours before they’re gone forever!

And make sure to check out the Lilly Pulitzer blog to see MARP’s Jenn Dittmar featured in Lilly’s Guest House!

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