A lifetime of working with animals

Thu, 10/24/2019 - 5:30pm

Jane Deming was holding a bearded dragon, a small reptile from Australia. She said the cold-blooded animal needed to be kept warm, and when she said that it was about 12 years old and nearing the end of its lifespan, her audience of Block Island School science students had a strong reaction.

“His liver is failing,” Deming said, and the students groaned in sympathy.

Deming was at the Block Island School to instill the idea into the students that the closer people are to nature, the better human beings will understand it. She was also promoting the idea that there are job opportunities working with animals.

She provided some information about the dragon — it changes color when it is angry, and that its tail is a food storage unit — and added that, when working with animals, “part of your job is taking care of the planet. There sure are many species in trouble.”

Deming said she backed into a career working with animals. A background in finance led her to a job at the Roger Williams Zoo more than 45 years ago. She had a particular message for the young women in her audience. Deming said her father had a more traditional way of thinking about women’s roles in society, urging her to become a housewife or a hairdresser.

“What he thought was how many people thought at the time,” she said. To the women she said, “Think seriously about science!”

Today, Deming is a recognized authority on animal rehabilitation and runs J. G. Deming and Associates, a business that promotes animal welfare. She was a past Director of Education for both the American Humane Association and the Providence Animal Rescue League.

In her talk with the students on Monday, Oct. 21, Deming touched on such topics as pet responsibility and pet overpopulation, and the damage that pollution is doing to marine wildlife.

“We need wildlife management today more than we ever did,” said Deming. She added that “climate change and the ocean are two of the biggest issues we’re facing today.”

In terms of employment, she noted that many students in the room were interested in law enforcement, with those agencies using more animals all the time.

“There are loads of opportunities out there,” she said. She also stressed education. “If you want to work with animals, you’ll need an education,” she said, while pointing out that working with living things is not always glamorous. “No matter how great your job,” she said. “You have to deal with death and poop.”