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JoAnna Lou

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JoAnna Lou participates in agility, rally obedience and therapy work with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She supports her canine hobby with a career in professional training and development at a New York financial firm. JoAnna has a diverse background working with animals that includes researching birds at the Bronx Zoo and helping a friend run a rat rescue group (yes, rats!). Her writing has appeared in The Bark, DogSport, New York Tails and New York Resident.

Traveling by Sea with Dogs
Cunard cruise line's Queen Mary 2 gets a pet friendly renovation.

When Bark writer Michaele Fitzpatrick moved to Germany, she wrote about taking her pup Captain on an adventure aboard Cunard cruise line's Queen Mary 2. That ship, the only long-distance passenger vessel to carry pets, just became even more luxurious for traveling cats and dogs. The ship just underwent a $132 million renovation that includes new accommodations for the four-legged passengers.

The Queen Mary 2 doubled the onboard pet capacity to 24 kennels and created expanded play and walk areas. The canine and feline lodging is extremely popular and books months in advance at $800-1,000 per kennel. The first sailing on the newly renovated ship will be a seven-day trans-Atlantic crossing from New York City to Southampton, England.

Kennel master Oliver Cruz is in charge of caring for the pets onboard, walking, feeding, and playing with them. Their human families can visit, but can't take them back to their cabins. Oliver says that it's always hard to say goodbye to the pets on the last day because he gets very attached to them. When you're providing round-the-clock care, it's easy to form a bond in a short period of time!

Cunard ships have a history of welcoming pets, including dogs belonging to Elizabeth Taylor and the Duke of Windsor. With more people traveling with their furry family members, it's always nice to have more alternatives to flying with dogs that are too big to ride in an airplane cabin.

Pokemon Go to Help Pets
Shelter encourages people to borrow a homeless pup while they play the popular game.
By now you've probably heard of the Pokemon Go phenomenon, or are even playing the game yourself. This app is getting people walking around outside in record numbers, hunting for virtual Pokemon to "capture" with their smartphones. Many have been taking their pets along too, who are no doubt enjoying some extra active time, even if it may not be the best quality time. The dog walking while playing has inspired some viral Public Service Announcements about paying attention to where you're walking for the sake of you and your pups. But there is also a lot of good coming out of the app as well. One animal shelter in Indiana has taken advantage of the latest craze to help their dogs.

Muncie Animal Shelter Superintendent Phil Peckinpaugh noticed droves of people walking and playing Pokemon Go. He thought to himself how awesome it would be if they each had a dog. So the shelter started encouraging Pokemon gamers to visit and borrow a dog to take on their next walk. All you have to do is show up at the shelter, sign a waiver, and they'll match you up with a pup. So many people came during the first weekend that the shelter ran out of leashes. 

But if you don't live near Indiana, you can still help. Many people have been promoting the use of WoofTrax's Walk for a Dog or the ResQWalk fundraising apps during their quests. Both apps are free and allow you raise money for animal rescue organizations by logging your steps. This way you can run the apps while hatching eggs and searching for critters on Pokemon Go, earning money for homeless pets with little extra effort.

As long as people are careful and sensible with the dogs they're caring for, it seems like a win-win to me!

Four Military Dogs Honored
K9 Medals of Courage were awarded last week at Capitol Hill.

Last week four incredible dogs were honored at Capitol Hill for the K9 Medal of Courage, the nation's highest honor for military dogs. The award, given for extraordinary valor and service to America, were created by philanthropist and veterans advocate Lois Pope along with the American Humane Society.

“It is important to recognize and honor the remarkable accomplishments and valor of these courageous canines,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis, co-chair of the Congressional Humane Bond Caucus, which hosted the event. “By helping locate enemy positions, engage the enemy, and sniff out deadly IEDs and hidden weapons, military dogs have saved countless lives in the fight for freedom.”

These are the four pups that were honored, all of which are still playing valuable roles back home.

Matty
Retired Army Specialist Brent Grommet credits Matty with saving his life, and the lives of everyone in his unit, more than once. During his time in Afghanistan, the Czech German Shepherd uncovered countless hidden IEDs (improvised explosive devices), but his work didn't stop when he returned home. Brent and Matty suffered through many attacks together, one of which left Brent with a traumatic brain injury. Today, Matty helps Brent manage the debilitating symptoms of both the visible and invisible wounds of war, bringing him a sense of security, calmness, and comfort.

Fieldy
Fieldy served four combat tours in Afghanistan, saving many lives by tracking down deadly explosives. The Black Labrador had an especially life-changing impact on U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Nick Caceres. Nick says that Fieldy offered invaluable emotional support, providing steadfast companionship, affection, and a sense of normalcy, during a time of unimaginable stress. Today Nick and Fieldy live together in retirement.

Bond
Bond has worked more than 50 combat missions, and was deployed to Afghanistan three times as a Multi-Purpose dog in his Special Operations unit. This role requires keen senses, strength, and agility to apprehend enemies and detect explosives. The toll of combat affected the Belgian Malinois' and his handler, who are both struggling with anxiety and combat trauma. Bond will be reunited with his handler in a couple of months to help ease his transition back into civilian life.

Isky
Isky has worked not only as an explosive-detection dog in Afghanistan, but also with his handler, U.S. Army Sargent Wess Brown, to safeguard four-star American generals and political personnel, including the Secretary of State in Africa and the President of the United States in Berlin.

While on one combat patrol, Isky's right leg was injured in six places, leaving the German Shepherd with so much trauma and nerve damage that it had to be amputated. But even on three legs, Isky continues to serve alongside Wess. Isky is now Wess' PTSD service dog. Wess says that there isn't a moment when he doesn't feel safe with Isky by his side.

Hats off to these amazing pups!

A Statewide Ban of Doggies in the Window
New Jersey seeks to ban retail pet sales.

According to the ASPCA, every year approximately 3.9 million dogs enter animal shelters and 1.2 million are euthanized. Meanwhile, thousands of puppy mills sell pets to stores that encourage impulse buying, which too often results in these dogs ending up at the local shelter.

New Jersey Senator Raymond Lesniak has been looking to break that cycle by prohibiting new pet stores in his state from selling dogs and cats from breeders. Senator Raymond feels strongly about stopping puppy mills, which put profit ahead of the humane treatment of their animals, creating health and behavioral problems.

Last week, his bill was passed in the state Senate by a 27-8 vote and is now in the hands of the Assembly. If put into law, the restriction would apply to any pet store licensed after January 12. Existing stores would not be affected.

The pet industry of course opposes the bill, claiming the legislation would make it difficult for new pet stores to open and would weaken a pet protection law that has been a model for the rest of the country. The bill revises the New Jersey Pet Protection Act and includes other additions, such as prohibiting shelters from purchasing dogs or cats from breeders or brokers, and requiring rescue organizations to be licensed in the town in which they are located.

Other cities, such as Richmond, British Columbia, West Hollywood, California, and South Lake Tahoe, Nevada, have already banned pet store dog and cat sales, but if Senator Raymond's bill passes, it would be the first statewide mandate.

While the law would not stop all stores from selling dogs and cats, it's certainly a step in the right direction.

Fourth of July Aftermath
The annual fireworks tradition doesn't mix well with pets.

Fireworks are a favorite summer ritual, but for those of us with dogs, these light shows can result in traumatized pets. We just passed the peak time for fireworks, Fourth of July, but shelters around the country are still dealing with the aftermath. The week after the holiday is a busy time for animal shelters. San Diego area shelters alone reported 90 dogs that came into their shelters on Monday night, many of which are still waiting to be claimed.

It's our responsibility to make sure our dogs are safe, and that means making sure that they're secure if they might be afraid of loud noises. I was viewing a fireworks show last weekend and was surprised to see so many people who brought their dogs. As it turned out, one pup ended up panicking and ran very close to the area where the fireworks were being lit. It didn't look like the workers could see him, so they didn't stop. Fortunately the dog was not hurt, but it really underscores how dangerous this situation could be.

This week in Atlanta, Georgia, a man was charged with animal cruelty when a video surfaced online of him lighting fireworks close to his dog. Even if it wasn't intentional (which is still being debated), it's important to know where your pets and kids are if you choose to light fireworks.

These light shows will continue throughout the summer, so it's important to be careful and keep our dogs safe.

Why Were 24 Bomb Sniffing Dogs Killed?
Suspicion surrounds a company who euthanized highly trained working pups in Kuwait.
Earlier this month, 24 bomb-sniffing civilian working dogs (CWDs) were euthanized by Eastern Securities, an American-owned company that provides explosives detection services in Kuwait. No one knows exactly why these highly trained pups were killed. Some say they were sick, while others say it was done because of a cancelled contract, or even out of revenge.

A former employee believes it was a result of Kuwait National Petroleum Company terminating their contract with Eastern Securities, which was being paid about $9.900 per month for each dog to detect explosives at oil drilling sites. Allegedly the contract was cancelled because the dogs failed to pass explosives detection tests. Another former employee believes that the dog's abilities declined over time because they weren't cared for properly.

Eastern Securities claims this is all the result of a conspiracy against them, but at least one U.S. based bomb-sniffing dog company stopped doing business with Eastern States years ago because they were "so terrible."

Esmail Al Misri, a local lawyer and animal activist, has another theory. She believes that the dogs were killed to punish 29 handlers who filed complaints with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor because they hadn't received a paycheck from Eastern Securities since April. Esmail has asked local police to investigate the killings and press criminal charges. She's also concerned about the 90 bomb-sniffing dogs that are still at Eastern Securities.

Amy Swope, one of the former employees, has started a petition asking for the U.S. Embassy to step in and save these pups. She believes that signing the petition, getting media attention, and putting pressure on our government and the Kuwaiti government is the best way to get results.

No matter what the reason, dogs aren't tools you can just throw away when they're no longer useful. These animals gave their lives to serving people, and it is up to us to protect them.

Tennis Ball Bombs
Innocuous looking explosives increase around the Fourth of July.






















My Border Collie, Scuttle, is obsessed with tennis balls. So when I found out that people turn these fuzzy yellow toys into homemade firecrackers, I was horrified. Even worse, abandoned ball bombs have been found undetonated, ready to explode.

In 2000, a man in Portland, Oregon found one while walking his pup. Thinking it was a ball, he threw it and the ball ended up exploding in the dog's mouth. The injuries sustained were so serious, the pup had to be euthanized on the spot. And just last year an Everett, Washington man found one during a hiking in Silver Lake Park, so these balls are not confined to urban areas.

Most of the official reports seem to be on the west coast, but it's relatively easy for anyone to make one, so they could turn up anywhere. Police all over the country are issuing warnings to watch out for these explosives, which become even more prevalent around the Fourth of July holiday.

It's important to be vigilant and avoid touching any stray tennis ball. If you see one, warning signs include detectable seams where the ball has been cut open, something sticking out of the ball that could be used as a fuse, or a small hole where the fuse used to be.

It's unfortunate and scary that we have to worry about these things. Stay safe this holiday weekend!

Ravens Player Sets an Adoption Example
Football star, Ronnie Stanley, requested a "not-so-adoptable" pup at the shelter.
























Some lucky dogs, usually cute puppies, are adopted quickly from animal shelters, while others have to wait years to find a forever home. It's not fair, but sadly the pets that fall into this category are typically older, disabled, or just not as conventionally "cute" as the other pups. Also statistics show that dogs that look remotely like a Pit Bull, or are dark colored, have a harder time being adopted. Fortunately not everyone is willing to overlook these dogs.

Ronnie Stanley, a star player on the Baltimore Ravens football team, set a great example earlier this month when he and his girlfriend decided to add a dog to their family. Not only did they decide to adopt, when they arrived at BARCS animal shelter, Ronnie made a request that shelter workers don't hear that often. Ronnie said they were looking for a dog who had been at the shelter for a long time and was considered "not-so-adoptable." You can imagine the shelter workers were elated!

After meeting several potential pups, Ronnie and his girlfriend decided on Winter, a pup first discovered dehydrated and scared on a vacant property on a hot summer day. Winter has a low hanging belly, most likely from overbreeding, a condition that caused her to be overlooked by most shelter visitors. Ronnie was more interested in getting kisses from his new canine pal.

Ronnie wasn't the only Ravins player at the shelter that day. He also brought along his teammate, Alex Lewis, who ended up helping shelter workers carry heavy bags of pet food while Ronnie was taking his adoption class. Alex has two of his own rescue dogs at home.

I hope others will be inspired by Ronnie and Winter to take a second look at those "not-so-adoptable" pups at the shelter.

 

Dangerous Water Hemlock
Watch out this summer for a common, but deadly plant.
Now that summer is here, and everyone is hanging out by the water, I wanted to share information about a common, but extremely lethal, plant called the water hemlock. It's scary because it's found all over North America and can kill so quickly.

I recently read about a three year old Border Collie who died within one hour of ingesting the toxic plant. The pup was playing at Horsetooth Reservoir in Colorado when she chewed on water hemlock. Shortly after she lost all motor function and succumbed on the way to the veterinarian.

Just a few leaves of the plant can kill a dog within hours, making it one of the most lethal plants on this continent. Some animals have even been poisoned from drinking water that has been contaminated with trampled water hemlock roots! The plant grows near bodies of water, like rivers and lakes, and also where water collects, like ditches.

Water hemlock is a a tall, branching plant that can grow three to six feet. It blooms white flowers in June and July with narrow, serrated leaves. Cow and water parsnip are often confused with water hemlock. All parts of the plant are poisonous, with the roots being the most toxic.

If water hemlock is consumed, symptoms begin within a matter of minutes and include drooling, muscle twitching, seizures, and dilated pupils. This quickly turns into respiratory paralysis and then death. If a non-lethal dose is consumed, there is a chance at recovery, but there may be temporary or permanent damage to the heart or skeletal muscle.

If you see your dog eating water hemlock, try to induce vomiting and get to a veterinarian immediately. However, since the toxin acts so quickly, prevention is really the key. Learn to identify water hemlock and don't let you dog dig and chew wild plants.

Protecting Dogs in Hot Cars
More states add protections to those aiming to rescue.
























Now that summer is here, the dogs in hot cars problem is cropping up again. Just last week a Texas police officer was charged with cruelty to animals for leaving his Belgian Malinois to die in a hot vehicle. It's a story that is sadly becoming all too common. On the flip side, I've also seen a photo of a sign on a car window asking people not to break in to rescue their pup because the air conditioner and music was on. The good thing is, as awareness has grown, more people are looking out for distressed dogs, and more states are creating protections for these situations.

20 states have laws that permit rescuing pets from parked cars, but all but three limit the protection to specific types of people, such as law enforcement or animal control.

California is currently one of those states that authorizes peace officers, humane officers, and animal control officers to remove an animal in danger from a car. But a new proposed law will extend that protection to all people who rescue pets in this predicament.

The Right to Rescue Act has some stipulations before individuals can just break into anyone's windows without remorse. Rescuers will be required to check whether the car is locked first and have a "good faith belief" that the animal is in danger if they aren't removed immediately. Then they must contact police or animal control before entering the vehicle, and stay until the animal can be surrendered to law enforcement.

Temperatures don't even have to rise that high for cars to become dangerous. When outside temperatures are 70 degrees, the interior of a car can reach 89 degrees in 10 minutes and 99 degrees in 20 minutes.

In preparation for the warmer months, familiarize yourself with your state's laws and with the signs of heat stroke in dogs. It could come in handy when you come across a hot pup! For more information on individual state laws, check out Michigan State University Animal Legal & Historical Center's web site.