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News : International : Caribbean News Last Updated: Mar 16, 2017 - 11:52:38 AM


US-Bahamas-Caribbean Effort Takes Pet Food Education to Regional Classrooms
By Diane Phillips & Associates
Mar 16, 2017 - 7:59:43 AM

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Students from Michael K Hall Community School play Pet Food Institute’s Not Safe! Game, learning about foods that are safe for humans but not for their pets. (Photography: Lyndon Bacchus Studios)

With more than half of all American households including a pet and that number believed to be even higher in parts of the Caribbean, Washington-based Pet Food Institute (PFI) is stepping up efforts to educate pet owners about the importance of proper pet nutrition. This week, that PFI campaign took Bahamian Sandra Kemp nearly 1500 miles to Scarborough, Tobago to meet with students, veterinarians, animal protection organizations, government officials and media.

“The reception was amazing,” said Kemp, representing the PFI. “The 6-8-year-olds at Michael K. Hall Community School in Carnee, Tobago, who played the Not Safe! game identifying which foods were unsafe for pets left knowing they should never give their dogs bones again, nor feed them grapes, raisins, chocolate or onions. Once you explain the reason why something is bad or dangerous, people are quick to amend their practices even if they have been lifelong habits.”

According to Mary Emma Young, Director of Communications for Washington-based PFI, education is key.

“We have increased our presence throughout the Caribbean and in four countries in particular, Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica,” said Young. “It is our hope that as more people become aware of how important proper pet nutrition is, we will see pet health and wellbeing continue to improve.”

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A Michael K Hall Community School student correctly identifies avocado as a food unsafe for dogs to eat. Pet Food Institute recently visited the Carnee school to share lessons on human foods that are toxic or dangerous for pets. (Photography: Lyndon Bacchus Studios)

That improper feeding, studies have shown, is in part an outgrowth of days when pet owners routinely fed pets leftover table scraps. Humans have learned more about pet nutrition and the possible dangers of feeding pets human food. PFI is available as a fact-based resource to help inform about pet food and pets’ unique nutritional needs.

Common food ingredients that are safe for most humans can be quite for cats and dogs. Some toxic ingredients include caffeine (such as coffee, coffee grounds or tea), chocolate-based products, grapes and raisins, and vegetables such as garlic and onions.

For Kemp and Dr. Paul Crooks, chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, sharing the lessons of what’s safe and what’s not with the kids at the Carnee school was critical. Ninety-five percent of the 35 students had pets at home and most had more than one -- but almost no one fully understood that some human foods, like cooked chicken bones that can splinter and cause internal bleeding, could harm their pet.

 

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