Cheri Brown Thompson graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law and passed the bar exam in 1999. In law school, Cheri became so moved by what she learned about the link between violence toward animals and violent crime in society, that in 2000, she gave up practicing law to write the first ever animal-assisted violence-prevention curriculum to be endorsed by a state board of education. Since that time, the program has seen remarkable results and won numerous awards.
Through her years of legal research and personally conducting interviews with convicted violent offenders, Cheri discovered that not only did all of the violent offenders that she personally interviewed, but also all of those that she encountered through extensive literature reviews have two things in common: 1) they were abused or severely neglected as children and 2) they first acted out that abuse on the only victim more vulnerable than they, an animal. This realization led to the founding principles of the Healing Species, a program dedicated to ending the cycle of returning “violence for violence”.
Since beginning the program, founder Cheri Brown Thompson’s successes have been recognized in local and national media highlighting the groundbreaking work of the organization. Thompson won Traditional Home Magazine’s national award for Women Changing the World. [read the article] You can view the our program Video, Awards and Recognitions, Articles and Announcements in the News section of this site.
In addition to the legal research Cheri conducted, another experience contributed to the inception of Healing Species:
This is Gravey. She is happy today, but things weren’t always so good for Gravey. Gravey now has a heated, air conditioned dog house with a human-sized door and has free run of 50 acres. She has a family that loves her and takes good care of her. She has not always been this happy. When Healing Species founder Cheri Thompson first found Gravey,she looked like this…
She was covered with mange, had lost her fur and her whole body was like a giant scab and skeleton. Cheri had to pull over on the road to cry, promising, “I’ll help you, Gravey.”Cheri named her Gravey because she was barely alive. She looked as if she had one foot in the grave. Gravey did not trust Cheri to pick her up and rescue her, so Cheri came back with food and water every day for the next 30 days. As the days wore on, Gravey would eat the food and drink the water and let Cheri get closer. One day, when Cheri was feeding Gravey, a car drove up from behind. The people inside it pointed and said “Look, that’s the lady who’s been feeding that dog.” You see, Gravey lived in somebody’s neighborhood. It was then that Cheri realized that the people responsible for Gravey could see Gravey with their eyes, but they couldn’t see her with their hearts.
Cheri got permission to take Gravey home to get her medical care. Gravey inspired Cheri to write the Healing Species curriculum. She never wanted anyone else to lose a piece of their heart by being unable to “see” with their heart, as well as eyes. She wanted to teach children to always keep their heart. Gravey helped Cheri teach the Healing Species lessons in South Carolina schools for a few years, but now Gravey is retired so she can run, play and enjoy the rest of her life.
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