Cheri Thompson, founder of Healing Species

Cheri Thompson–founder of Healing Species, a South Carolina-based program that plucks rescue dogs from shelters and places them in a school program designed to reduce aggression and bullying, while increasing empathy in those classrooms—discusses her formative years as an animal lover and being that kid who tended to sick or injured animals that turned up in the neighborhood.imageResize.ashxThompson recalls how, later, while in law school, a criminal law class noted that two common characteristics of violent criminal are that they were abused as children, and that they harmed animals then. This provoked the light bulb moment that launched Thompson on the path to, in 1999, create Healing Species—a preemptive strike against part of this pattern, by forging a positive relationship, if not bond, between animals and children (who are often at-risk children). Thompson explains the rationale behind not HealingSpecies9only focusing on rescue dogs for Healing Species, but ones that sometimes have a troubled past—and why they don’t provide these dogs obedience training. She outlines the lesson plan taught over the course of the 12-week curriculum, and observes the impact it commonly has on the students…including, in some cases, safely encouraging them to report abuse they’re experiencing. Thompson logo-300addresses an independent study that found, after a Healing Species 12-week course, classroom suspensions decreased 55%, acts of aggression decreased 62% and acts of empathy increased 42%. She notes that the Healing Species program has been implemented in a growing number of areas, including Austin, Texas, Madison, Wisconsin, San Diego, Buffalo County, Nebraska and Nelson, New Zealand. (

ALSO: I spoke briefly with Phil Fulton, who works for the Calgary Humane Society, which recently launched a campaign to spur adoption of older cats, with a tongue-in-check video, starring Fulton, likening those cats to used cars…calling them “pre-owned cats,” and so on. A very clever, very effective video:   (

COMEDY CORNER: Kevin Nealon’s “Cows On The Roof” (

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: The Tokens’ “The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Wimoweh)”


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About the author
Duncan Strauss is the producer-host of “Talking Animals,” which he launched at KUCI in California in 2003, combining his passions for animals, radio, journalism, music and comedy. The show has aired since late 2005 on Tampa’s WMNF. Strauss lives in Jupiter Farms, FL with his family, including four cats, two horses and one dog. He spends each day talking to those animals, and maintains they talk right back to him, an as yet unverified claim.

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