Violet DeFeo visits cat fosterer Ali Lowell

Keeping Your Pets Safe


By Violet DeFeo


Although about 66 percent of American households have a pet, surprisingly 80 percent do not care for their pets correctly. It may seem odd to think that so many people accidentally or even purposely mistreat their animals. Many pet owners try their best to properly care for their fur babies and may not know that some of their habits can be harmful. Luckily, there are people like Ali Lowell and Jenny Scacca who help animals in need and help teach pet owners to care for their pets the right way. 


With her background in nursing, Winchester resident Ali Lowell has been helping animals for about ten years. She helps all types of pets but is particularly good with cats. In her career, she has helped “bazillions” of animals and fostered 199 cats. Ali has always loved animals and now commits most of her time to caring for sick animals in need. With all of her experience, she has picked up a thing or two about appropriately caring for your pet. 


Before even adopting or purchasing a pet, Ali recommends that one should research and really consider everything. “The elderly should not really adopt kittens,” Ali explain—kittens are too energetic and quick so one wrong move and they could be stepped on or out the door. Also, if an owner-to-be is changing homes frequently or does not have a steady income, picking up a pet would not be the best idea.


Many pets are high maintenance so the owner’s attention is key along with a proper pet diet. For example, Ali recommends cat owners try to stay away from dry food and focus on wet or raw food instead. She also strongly suggests that “[People] should have a solid plan,” because without one, getting a pet could be a horrible experience for animals and their people. Owners and even pet vendors are responsible for an animal's life.


On the other hand, Jenny Scacca, a Melrose resident who helps find missing animals via the Winchester Residents Facebook page, is more dog-centered but still has lots of experience. She is a licensed practical nurse and has been pet-sitting for nearly seven years. But she also volunteers at Missing Dogs Massachusetts where she reunites missing dogs with their owners. She helped many animals and even hunted down a missing pit bull that traveled from South Lawrence all the way to Quincy. Even though Jenny is a dog person, she has similar advice for adequately caring for pets.


When somebody receives a new dog, it will not come with loyalty or trust; it has to be earned. Therefore, a dog will not realize its new humans are there to help, not hurt. This causes them to want to bolt out the door whenever it opens. And if they do escape, getting them back will be even harder than a familiar pet since it is not accustomed to its new owner yet, or its new home. To keep dogs safe, Jenny recommends that dog owners be aware when they open their doors, and it’s best to newly adopted dogs away from any outside doors. Also, she suggests to keep dogs inside during the night. Ali explained that leaving your cat inside is the best option, too, so it will not get lost or harmed, especially now that Winchester has a larger coyote population.

Even if someone does everything they can to keep a pet, they may have to give it away. With these circumstances, dumping dogs is never a safe option. Jenny explains “A lot of people are dumping dogs lately because they can’t afford them.” Dumping dogs can be unsafe for the dog and even nearby humans. If an owner really cannot care for their pet anymore, there are many shelters and rescues that accept all types of pets. Places like Medfield Animal Shelter take in unwanted or abandoned animals and so can other no-kill rescues.


Ali, Jenny, and lots of shelters do everything they can to help and save pets. But some situations are difficult for even them to handle. Winchester does not have a full-time animal officer so helping all pets can be a struggle. If Winchester could have more paid officers, many more animals could be saved. Donations and help are always appreciated, too, particularly to Ali Lowell who pays for a lot of cat food out of her own funds.  If the people of Winchester can learn to care for their pets in a more effective way, they could end up saving the lives of many precious pets.


Violet DeFeo is a Winchester High School junior and is the first Winchester News student journalist.