1. Letters to the Editor

Saturday's letters: Make a difference in a child's life and help prevent abuse

Losing a child is never easy, but losing a child at the hands of an abuser is all the more tragic. Yet the cycle of abuse continues in many families in the Tampa Bay area, Florida and the United States. It will take communities coming together, friends and family members to speak up, and local resources to get the support they need to combat this epidemic.

Abuse may come from a variety of sources, and is not always in the home. Youth and Family Alternatives CEO Mark Wickham suggests parents stay vigilant in checking their children's electronic devices, speak with their friends and keep involved in their day-to-day activities.

Residents who wish to make a difference in a child's life can volunteer at local agencies, become foster parents and contribute to the agencies who can help these children cope with the trauma they are facing. The easiest way to start getting involved is advocacy. Tell others about the prevalence of child abuse. It's not a happy discussion, but it's one that must be had in our communities. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, symbolized by blue pinwheels. In 2008, the pinwheel was chosen to represent the overcoming of obstacles and joy of childhood.

Agencies like YFA, Pasco Kids First, Eckerd Connects, Kids Central Inc., Sarasota YMCA, Heartland for Children and others fight for children who are victims or at risk of abuse every day. With the help of domestic violence shelters, local law enforcement and caring agencies, we can start to break the cycle and save our children. In honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month, we urge all readers to wear blue on Fridays as a show of solidarity for the children and those fighting for their safety.

Stefanie Pontlitz, New Port Richey

The writer is vice president of development for Youth and Family Alternatives Inc.

First 100 days

A congressman writes

It's hard to believe this week marks my first 100 days in Congress. The daily calls, e-mails and messages of encouragement, and critique, are a humbling reminder of why I'm here — to serve. Even after walking in and out of the Capitol and voting for three months, not a day passes that I take the responsibility lightly.

Yes, political theater occurs daily here in Washington, in an effort to send messages to the parties' respective bases and to "set the field" for the coming 2020 election cycle by placing key members in swing districts in difficult positions. Members do seek friendship and relationship across the aisle, and although we don't reach agreement on every issue, there are bridges by which important legislation has an opportunity to pass. That's what most Americans want.

I've also come to appreciate the close working relationships within Florida's congressional delegation. While we represent diverse districts, when it comes to representing Florida in Washington we stick together. We're all Floridians.

I'm privileged to serve on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and on the House Small Business Committee. These committees have given me the opportunity to take on issues important to the 15th District, such as planning for significant population growth and maintaining a healthy economic environment.

Finally, I've learned members can't do this alone. Supporting us are spouses, significant others, children and aging parents, all of whom sacrifice so we can serve. No one in Congress can be successful serving our communities without their unwavering support.

What the next 100 days hold is anyone's guess. America has reason for optimism, and I look forward to serving my constituents in the 116th Congress to meet the challenges we face together.

U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover

Dog bite prevention

Keep dogs and kids safe

Last year, nearly 1,300 Floridians filed insurance claims for dog bites — the second-most in the country, according to the Insurance Information Institute. While bites cause harm and injury to people, they often result in a pet losing its life — something no dog lover wants to happen. During National Dog Bite Prevention Week, it's important to remember how to reduce the likelihood of dog bites — saving both people and their canine counterparts.

While more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year in the United States, the instances where dogs are outright aggressive are few and far between. Dogs are often distressed or injured when they bite. People can recognize the signs of a bad situation and stop a catastrophe before it happens.

Owners need to know where their pets are at all times, and supervise interactions with new people — especially children. They are better attuned to their pets' signals and can sense if new people or places are distressing.

Children are more likely than adults to suffer a dog bite, so parents have a role to play in teaching kids how to act around dogs. Kids should never approach dogs that are unknown, without their owner, or injured. They should always ask permission from an owner before petting. Teach children that dogs often don't want to play, especially if they're eating, sleeping or nursing puppies. And while playing with dogs can get rough, children should never poke, hit, pull, punch or tease dogs. During this week, refreshing our knowledge on reducing the likelihood of a bite can save both people and animals.

Robin Ganzert, Palm Beach

The writer is the president and CEO of American Humane.

More Floridians opt out of vaccines | April 11

Who's the baby now?

In the early '50s when I was just a very small boy, we had to get vaccinations and my mother brought me to the place of delivery. I cried like a little baby and said, "Mommy, tell them I don't want it !" She just smiled and said, "Okay." She did tell "them" that I did not want the shots and winked at the nurse as she prepared me for the shots. It seems like today, it is more and more parents who are acting like the little babies.

Gary Washer, Tarpon Springs