Deputy LeAna Cudzilo is honored for her selfless rescue
Back in August, a Coonhound mix named Fern was startled by the new invisible electric fence installed in her yard. The surprise shock caused her to run through the "barrier" and fall off of a nearby boat dock. The scared pup ended up in the ocean late at night, howling for help.
Fortunately Deputy LeAna arrived on the scene and quickly took control of the rescue. She asked the dog's family to get in a boat and help her get Fern back to shore. However, Fern was scared of the boat's motor, making it difficult to pull her to safety. LeAna also noticed people shark fishing on the pier, meaning the situation was worse than she originally thought. By now Fern was also starting to struggle to stay afloat as exhaustion set in. LeAna knew she had to take action fast. Ignoring the threat of sharks and fishing hooks in the dark ocean, LeAna removed her belt and vest and jumped into the 25 feet deep water and guided Fern back to safety.
According to Sheriff Brad Steube, the Department decided to honor LeAna for going beyond the call of duty and averting the tragic loss of a pet.
With so many negative incidents involving law enforcement and dogs recently, it's always great to hear a positive story. I'm also glad that Fern was reunited with her family and hope they will reconsider the invisible fence.
There are many reasons I don't like electric fences--the electric shock itself, the possibility of trapping pets in an area that other dangerous animals can enter, the fact that some dogs can run through the shock, etc. Fern's plight highlights how easily the product's flaws can end up in a tragic situation.
A judge to decide the fate of a pup caught up in a divorce
Shannon Louise Travis and Trisha Bridget Murray are getting a divorce, but there's only one thing they really care about--their Dachshund, Joey. The former couple is about to go to court over who gets to keep the 2-year old pup--New York's first matrimonial pet custody case.
Shannon and Trisha's ordeal is becoming more common as pets shfit in our culture to being true members of the family. New York City Justice Matthew Cooper summed up the predicament saying, "People who love their dogs almost always love them forever. But with divorce rates at record highs, the same cannot always be said for those who marry."
According to Judge Cooper, New York lags behind other states in the legal standing of pets. In a city with canine concierges and dedicated pet taxis, it's surprising that this hasn't come up before (there have been non-divorce custody cases). But Joey will not be treated like property. In the hearing, Judge Cooper will be looking to see who was responsible for Joey's needs and will ask questions similar to those used in child custody cases.
Judge Cooper will have a difficult decision to make as the outcome of this case will certainly influence future pet custody cases. But it sounds like they have the right person for the job.
Judge Cooper said, "If judicial resources can be devoted to such matters as which party gets to use the Escalade as opposed to the Ferrari, or who gets to stay in the Hamptons house instead of the Aspen chalet, there is certainly room to give real consideration to a case involving a treasured pet."
Judge Cooper is a dog lover himself and his 12-year old rescue, Peaches, gives him a special interest in making sure this case gets the attention it deserves.
United tries to cover up a dog with heat stroke
When Janet Sinclair moved from San Diego to Boston with her Greyhound, Sedona, and her cat, Alika, she chose United Airlines' PetSafe program because of their amenities and good track record. PetSafe advertises that four-legged passengers will receive personal handling in climate-controlled vehicles, a necessity for travel in July. Janet also paid extra for a comfort stop at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport, a layover almost killed her pets.
According to Janet, as she sat in her window seat looking out onto the tarmac, she saw a cargo employee kick Sedona's crate six times to shove it under the shade of the plane's wing. According to the National Weather Service, the high in Houston that day was 94 degrees and her pets were left outside, without the temperature-controlled vehicle that was promised. Urged by a fellow passenger, Janet began videoing the events on her cell phone.
By the time they got to Boston, Sedona was barely alive. The poor pup required three days in intensive care for heat stroke, a urinary tract infection, and liver problems.The vet believes that the medical conditions were due to hyperthermia suffered during the flight and not due to underlying disease. This is contrary to United Airlines' claim that Sedona had a pre-existing health condition, despite the fact that both of Janet's pets received a clean bill of health from their vet in San Diego prior to their departure.
United Airlines agreed to reimburse Janet's vet fees, but only if she remained silent and signed a nondisclosure agreement. Janet refused and has since been on a mission to spread the word about the ordeal through the Facebook page, United Airlines Almost Killed My Greyhound.
By law airlines must report when a pet is hurt, gets lost, or dies on a trip within 45 days of the incident. As of November, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has no record of Sedona's injuries.
When NBC Bay Area's Investigative Unit looked into the case, they uncovered more than 300 pets that have died, been injured, or been lost in the care of airlines over the last year. This number is significantly less than what has been reported by the DOT.
This means that airlines are covering up incidents affecting our pets. Having used this data to identify the "safer" airlines, it's horrifying and unacceptable that the data is inaccurate. Under reporting will also affect future regulations if politicians can't see the full picture.
I think we owe it to all of the pets missing from the DOT statistics to spread the word and hopefully one day improve flight conditions for our pups.
Dogs gather in D.C. to support the Pets on Trains Act
Last week dozens of dogs joined politicians at Washington D.C.'s Union Station to support the Pets on Trains Act, which is currently being debated in the House of Representatives. The canine crew was joined by Rep. Steve Cohen's (D-Tenn.) French Bulldog, Lily, and Rep. Michael Grimm's (R-N.Y.) Yorkie, Sebastian.
Currently Amtrak only allows service animals on board. This limitation means that dogs must travel long distances by plane if their families aren't up for the road trip by car. Rep. Cohen has a personal investment in the Pets on Trains Act as Lily travels regularly with him between Tennessee and California, currently by plane.
The bi-partisan bill, sponsored by Rep. Steve Cohen, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), and Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.), would require Amtrak to submit a proposal for at least one "pet car" per passenger train, where dogs and cats could ride in kennels with the carry-on luggage, and a cargo option for larger pets. A companion bill, S.B. 1710, has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).
Given the risks of flying with dogs, particularly large pups who have to ride in cargo, I would love to see Amtrak become pet friendly. I'd also hope that for the big guys, train cargo would be safer than airline cargo. If you'd like to see the bill pass, now is the time to contact your representative to let them know you support the legislation.
Dogs raised in the program have a higher success rate
After writing about the challenges seeing eye dog organizations are facing, I was happy to see that Leader Dogs for the Blind recently received an award for establishing a program that helps inmates while increasing success rates for their puppies.
The Michigan based group was awarded one of Mutual of America's Community Partnership Awards for their Prison Puppy Raiser program. The initiative pairs inmates in state prisons with a puppy to work on everything from socialization to teaching basic behaviors.
The program's benefits have been two fold. Not only are inmates more successful in staying out of trouble once released, the dogs in this program have a higher success rate compared to pups raised in private homes.
The Prison Puppy Raiser program was launched in 2002 by Leader Dogs for the Blind and the North Central Correctional Facility in Calhoun County, Iowa. Seeing the program's success, other prisons started joining and local Lions Clubs and schools began sponsoring puppies. Volunteers also visit the prisons to distribute supplies and provide guidance to the new puppy raisers.
The program now places nearly 100 puppies each year at six minimum-security prisons across four states. There was stiff competition from many nonprofits for the award, but Mutual of America chose the Prison Puppy Raiser program because of the number of partnerships that came together to make this endeavor a success.
Founder of a Colo. rescue is awarded $10,000 for her dedication
Last week HomeAgain Pet Recovery Service named Theresa Strader, founder of the Colorado-based National Mill Dog Rescue (NMDR), as the winner of its Hero of the Year Award. Since starting the group in 2007, Theresa has rescued nearly 8,000 dogs from puppy mills across the country.
Besides rehabilitating former mill dogs, Theresa is also dedicated to attacking the root cause, using social media, speaking engagements, and other educational programs to create awareness around the commercial dog breeding industry. Theresa started NMDR after rescuing an Italian Greyhound named Lily from a dog auction in Missouri. Prior to meeting Theresa, Lily spent the first seven years of her life as a commercial breeding dog. Given little to no veterinary care, the roof of Lily's mouth and lower jaw had rotted away, her chest was full of mammary tumors, and she was terrified of people.
Determined that Lily's years of living in misery would not be in vain, Theresa started NMDR to give a voice to puppy mill dogs across the country. The organization is run almost entirely by volunteers with over 1,300 people around the country pitching in.
NMDR takes in dogs that puppy mills are "throwing away," usually because they can no longer breed. These dogs would probably otherwise be euthanized.
Theresa was one of five finalists, chosen as the winner by a public vote. As part of the honor, NMDR will receive a $10,000 donation from HomeAgain. The four remaining finalists will have a donation of $1,000 made in their name to one of the following animal organizations: Petfinder Foundation, Winn Feline Foundation, Assistance Dogs International, or Morris Animal Foundation.
The Hero of the Year award was well deserved for Theresa's work saving individual animals, as well as her mission to educate people on puppy mills. I know NMDR will put the donation to good use!
Study looks at monitoring pet behavior to uncover problems with their people
We develop close relationships with our dogs, so I think most animal lovers would agree that our pets pick up on our moods. When I'm having a bad day, I can see the effect on my dogs, whether it be a transfer of emotions or, something more tangible, like feeling restless because I've skipped their daily walk. But can my dog's behavior predict my own state of mind and health?
Researchers at Newcastle University are exploring the possibility. The team is using movement sensors to track canine behavior in and out of the home. A high tech waterproof collar monitors 17 activities, including barking, chewing, drinking, laying, shivering, and sniffing.
Led by Dr. Cas Ladha, the study mapped what they consider baseline, or the normal behavior of a healthy, happy dog. They can then use this as a benchmark to compare other animals against. Any change in behavior might be an indication of illness or boredom.
The really unique part is the next stage of the research. Now Dr. Ladha's team is hoping to use canine behavior as an early warning for elderly family members in trouble. Their goal is to develop a system that can reassure family and caretakers than an older relative is well, without intruding on their privacy. If canine behavior and the well being of their humans is linked, tracking a person's health through their dog could be an ingenious way to discreetly support an elderly family member. A pet's behavior could also pick up on subtle changes that could uncover problems before they become serious.
This research seems to have some really cool possibilities for how we can help aging friends and family. I can't wait to find out more as the Newcastle team explores the next step.
Service dog organizations face challenges fundraising in a sea of nonprofits
Seeing eye dogs give people freedom and confidence, all while amazing us with their dedication and abilities. It would seem to be an easy case for fundraising, but the cost for raising these dogs is expensive and coming up with the money to run these programs has become more and more challenging.
Even with dedicated volunteers, a guide dog can cost approximately $45,000 to $60,000 for the two years of care and extensive training. Service dog organizations must compete against other nonprofits, which each have their own compelling mission. The Urban Institute estimates that 1.6 million such groups operate in America today, a 25 percent increase in the last decade.
Many people choose to give their money elsewhere citing the high failure rate (which organizations are addressing by training dogs that don't pass the test to work as PTSD or police pups) and the fact that guide dogs can only work for eight to 10 years before they retire. That means a blind person could need six to seven dogs in their lifetime. Also, while no one will argue the impact of these pups, the guide dog organizations help hundreds of people each year while other organizations, like initiatives to feed the homeless, have the ability to touch thousands or even millions.
Donor profiles are also changing, forcing organizations to change their fundraising strategies. The Seeing Eye, a guide dog organization based out of New Jersey, currently receives three-quarters of its support from bequests and estate gifts, two areas that are decreasing as younger donors seek to give while they are living.
The Seeing Eye and Guide Dogs for the Blind in California are lucky to currently have large endowments, but most other service dog organizations rely on individual donors and fundraising events like walk-a-thons and dinners.
Still, despite the barriers, giving to a guide dog foundation may reflect a person's interests and passions. And each dollar donated means the world to the people who are enjoying newfound independence thanks to their service pups.
How to help without adopting
In celebration of National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week, I just found out that the Karen Pryor Clicker Training store is offering free shipping to any domestic shelter with the code SHELTERTHANKS. What a cool and easy way to send much needed supplies to animals in need!
The Clicker Training store's promotion got me thinking about other ways to help homeless animals this week.
Of course it would be great to provide a home for a shelter animal this week, but for most of us it's not possible. Hopefully this has given you some ideas on how to celebrate National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week in your own way.
Training pups to protect children
Imagine going to school, a place that's supposed to be safe, only to be welcomed by a metal detector and security guards. That's unfortunately the reality at many schools these days, including the elementary school that I attended as a kid.
I strongly believe that violence breeds more violence, so I've always thought there must be a better way to prevent gun tragedies in schools. Dogs are great at assisting police as well as creating goodwill in the community, so why not use them in schools?
Two new companies, American Success Dog Training and K9s4KIDs, are setting out to explore the possibility of using specially trained dogs as an alternative way to protect schools. Their pups can be trained to detect weapons and can even learn to disengage a person with a gun, just like police dogs. They can also be used in lessons to teach compassion.
After the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Mark Gomer decided to start American Success Dog Training and use his experience training dogs to help protect school children.
Mark's first full-time safety dog, a one year-old Dutch Shepherd named Atticus, reported to duty this September at Oak Hills High School in Green Township, Ohio, at a cost of $10,000. Atticus trained during the summer, learning to perform his duties among distractions like marching bands, school bells, and locker door slamming. Atticus spends the day with two security guards and goes home with Principal John Stoddard at night. The kids love him and many parents have expressed comfort in knowing Atticus is at their school.
For districts who can't afford such a hefty price tag, Kristi Schiller began her non-profit, K9s4KIDs, after law enforcement agencies applying for trained dogs through her K9s4COPs program suggested she expand to academia. If a school applies for and is chosen to receive a dog, K9s4KIDS provides the training, but it's up to school officials to decide who will be the handler, who the dog will live with, and what specific tasks will be taught.
There's a lot of potential for school safety dogs to prevent tragedy by helping with security and providing education and comfort. I'm looking forward to seeing more schools take advantage of these talented pups.
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