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JoAnna Lou

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Furry Alternative to the Super Bowl
The Puppy Bowl showcases pets for adoption

I’m not a big football fan, so instead of tracking touchdowns on Sunday, I’ll be tuning into Animal Planet to get my puppy fix. For nearly a decade, Animal Planet has been putting on an alternative to the Super Bowl for pet lovers.

Enlisting the help of Petfinder.com, the Puppy Bowl recruits young dogs from rescues and shelters all over the country to participate. The puppies must be between 8 and 16 weeks old, adoptable and adorable. This year’s competitors came from 32 shelters and rescue groups representing 20 states.

On Sunday, 58 puppies will be vying for the title of MVP (Most Valuable Puppy), determined by a poll on the Animal Planet website. The young pups will be joined by cheerleading pigs, a tweeting (as in Twitter) bird and performing cats, who are also up for adoption.

I love that the Puppy Bowl showcases the adorable pets available from rescue groups and shelters. In previous years, all of the participating pets found forever homes. Even better, visitors to Petfinder.com increased by 15 percent following the popular event, surely resulting in many more adoptions.

Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl VIII airs Sunday, February 5, 3-5 p.m. EST. Will you be watching?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Memorial Service for Survivor War Dog
Lucky honored after five tours of duty and three battles with cancer

The nation lost an amazing war dog last September. Lucky served in five tours of duty in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan. Even more incredible is the fact that the Belgian Malinois returned to work after successfully beating cancer not once, but twice. In 2010, Lucky received a Hometown Heroes award from the American Red Cross.

During Lucky’s fifth tour last summer, his handler discovered a new tumor on his rear left leg. The tumor grew quickly and, at age ten, Lucky finally succumbed to his third fight with cancer on September 30.

Earlier this month, the soldiers of the 92nd Security Forces Squadron gathered for a memorial service at Fairchild Air Force Base to honor Lucky.

According to squadron commander, Major Garon Shelton, Lucky had a reputation for being the hardest hitting dog at his station. He had a keen nose and kept cool under fire. Lucky was quick to identify explosives and take enemies down, saving countless service personnel over the years. He also provided protection for presidential visits.

Shelton noted that cancer was the “final and only battle he would lose.”

Hearing the members of the squadron talk about Lucky, you can tell that the soldiers have a special bond with their canine colleagues. Lucky was an inspirational dog with so much heart and courage. The other dogs based out of Fairchild will have some big shoes to fill!

Watch Lucky at work in a Spokesman-Review video from 2010:

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog Walks Raise Money for Cancer Research
The 2 Million Dogs Foundation supports comparative oncology efforts

It seems everyone I talk to has a friend, relative or pet affected by cancer. The disease has touched way too many loved ones, both human and canine. As it turns out, when it comes to cancer, we may have more in common with dogs than we think. For instance mammary tumors are the most common tumors in intact female dogs and breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. As more similarities are found, collaboration is becoming more common between veterinarians and doctors through comparative oncology.

Now there’s an organization dedicated to increasing awareness and funding for this growing field. Luke Robinson created the 2 Million Dogs Foundation while walking cross-country in honor of his Great Pyrenees who he lost to cancer in 2008. The organization aims to better understand the links between human and companion animal cancer, encourage more collaboration between institutions, develop new approaches to research, and fund translational cancer studies benefiting both pets and people.

Earlier this month the 2 Million Dogs Foundation presented a $50,000 check to Princeton University to help fund their Molecular Study of Canine Mammary Tumor Development and Progression research. The money came from a series of Puppy Up! Walks held all over the country last year.

Comparative oncology is a fascinating field and it’s great to see an organization that is dedicated to supporting research benefiting both humans and canines affected by this horrible disease.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog Inspires Shelter to Become Pet Friendly
A Kansas City women’s shelter will welcome pets this year

This year, the Rose Brooks Center women’s shelter in Kansas City will become the first in the area to welcome pets, thanks to a heroic Great Dane named J Matthew.

Last year, a woman arrived with J Matthew at Rose Brooks Center after her boyfriend tried to kill her with a hammer. The Great Dane protected the woman by lying over her body and taking most of the blows until the man finally threw them both out of a second story window.

J Matthew suffered multiple broken bones in the attack, but saved the woman’s life in the process.

At the time, like most other shelters, the Rose Brooks Center had a no pets policy. They initially turned J Matthew away, but the woman was adamant that she be allowed to keep him safe too. Inspired by their story, the shelter made an exception and later decided to change their policy and welcome all pets. 

Rose Brooks is now working on a $140,000 renovation that will create a pet-friendly wing with kennels, a play area and access to walking trails that will be ready later this year.

Women all over Kansas City have J Matthew to thank for this new resource. The brave Great Dane saved not only his favorite person, but will help countless others who turn to Rose Brooks with their pets. Twenty to 40 percent of battered women stay in abusive relationships to protect their pets. But women in the Kansas City area will no longer have to choose between their pets and leaving a bad situation.

Hopefully other shelters will be moved by J Matthew’s story as well.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Best and Worst States for Animals
ALDF and HSUS ranks protection laws

Each year the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) separately rank the animal protection laws of every state in the country. Their reports are a great way to measure progress and to identify areas of improvement.

The good news is, according to the ALDF, more than half of all states experienced a significant improvement in their animal protection laws in the last five years. These improvements included increasing penalties for abuse offenders, requiring veterinarians to report animal cruelty cases and including animals in domestic violence protective orders.

Mississippi showed the most progress, moving from 50th to 30th overall this year. The change reflects the state making repeated cruelty and neglect a felony and authorizing mental health evaluations and counseling for offenders.

As you’ll see below, the ALDF and HSUS rankings are slightly different. But there’s consistency at the bottom. The three states that don’t have felony penalties for animal abuse—Idaho, North Dakota, and South Dakota—are the worst offenders on both lists.

ALDF

Best: Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Oregon, California

Worst: South Dakota, Iowa, Idaho, North Dakota, Kentucky

HSUS

Best: California, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, Massachusetts

Worst: Mississippi, North Dakota, South Carolina, Idaho, South Dakota

The differences can be attributed to the measures that each organization uses to put together their rankings. The ALDF focuses on animal abuse with companion animals. The HSUS rankings incorporate a wide range of areas including laws regarding killing animals for fur, science research protocols, keeping exotic pets, hunting and the treatment of farm animals.

I like that the ALDF report has suggestions for areas of improvement, although they only provide them for the best and worst states. If the report provided this information for each state, it would make it easy for people to advocate for stronger animal protection laws in their area.

How does your state measure up?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
K9 Crossing Guard
N.Y. dog helps children safely get to school

Kids in Greenwich, N.Y. have something to look forward to each day. When the children approach Main Street, on the way to school, Sophy, a German Shepherd-black Labrador mix, is there to greet them, along with volunteer crossing guard Clifford Mealy. Sophy has her own dog-sized “Stop” sign and leads the way as kids cross the busy street.

It makes me a little nervous to see an off leash dog so close to traffic. Even the best trained dogs can get spooked.

However, there's no doubt that Sophy puts a lot of smiles on kids' faces every day and encourages them to use the crosswalk. I certainly wish there was a dog to greet me back in my grade school days!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
A Controversial Nose
U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on drug sniffing dog

In the Bark blog, we've written a lot about the amazing canine nose. Their olfactory skills make them invaluable partners. But how we use the canine nose has become a controversial topic. Is it legal for police dogs to search for drugs outside of a house without a warrant? Or does it violate the Fourth Amendment protection against illegal search and seizure?

This issue came to the forefront after Franky, a talented police dog, detected marijuana growing inside of a Miami-area house from the other side of a closed door.

Florida's highest state court ruled that it crossed the constitutional line, but the Florida attorney general wants the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse that ruling. The Supreme Court has approved drug dog sniffs in several other major cases, including drugs detected during routine traffic stops and airport luggage. But this case is more tricky because it involves a private residence.

Whichever way the Court rules, one thing is certain. Franky, the Chocolate Labrador at the center of the controversy, is an amazing dog. In Franky's seven-year career with the police department, the eight-year-old dog is responsible for the seizure of more than 2.5 tons of marijuana and $4.9 million in drug-contaminated money.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Saving Dog Fighting Victims
New program rescues seized pups in Chicago

Michael Vick's dogs got a lot of national media attention during his infamous court case. Most of them were fortunate to be placed in rescue, where they were rehabilitated and adopted out to loving families. But not all dogs from fighting cases get a second chance. Sadly, these canine victims are often euthanized.

The Court Case Dog Program aims to change that in Chicago. The program was established not long after 37 dogs landed in Animal Care and Control as part of the largest dog-fighting seizure in Illinois history. Most of the dogs were saved thanks to Project Safe Humane who happened to be at Animal Care and Control that day.

Inspired by how well the dogs were doing in their new homes, the Chicago Animal Care and Control, D.A.W.G. Court Advocacy, Best Friends, and Safe Humane Chicago teamed up to start the Court Case Dog Program.

Even better, the program pairs dogs with boys from Safe Humane's Lifetime Bonds detention center program. The boys learn how to interact with, care for, socialize, and train the dogs with positive reinforcement methods. The dogs transform into well behaved pets and the boys gain life lessons about compassion and caring for others.

So far the Court Case Program has found forever homes for eight dogs and has 17 more pups in training. Hopefully more communities around the nation will be inspired by this successful program.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Seeing the World for the First Time
Beagle Freedom Project rescues dogs from laboratories

You may have seen the You Tube video of rescued beagles experiencing grass and sun for the first time (check it out below if you haven't seen it yet). It's amazing to see the dogs tentatively come out and experience the things we take for granted. I was so inspired by the video that I wanted to find out more about the efforts to rescue these dogs.

The Beagles in the You Tube video were rescued by Animal Rescue Media Education (ARME) as part of their Beagle Freedom Project. ARME works directly with laboratories who choose to release dogs that are no longer wanted for research purposes.The Beagle's friendly and forgiving personality that makes them wonderful pets also makes them ideal for living in a laboratory atmosphere, unfortunately.

Many companies are avoiding animal testing these days, but there are many products out there that still test on animals. It's important to know that the cruelty-free label can be misleading. Some companies claim that their product is cruelty-free because the final product wasn't tested on animals. However, the individual ingredients may have been tested on animals.

If you want to find true cruelty-free products, the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics' Leaping Bunny Program is a good starting point. The program maintains a standard for 100 percent cruelty-free products.

It's hard to avoid all companies that test on animals, but for products where there are alternatives, there's no question which option I would choose.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Exception Granted in Service Pit Bull Case
An Iowa breed ban was found to be in violation of the ADA

I'm not a fan of breed bans. They make a sweeping generalization about a whole group of dogs, while trying to solve a problem without getting to the root of the problem—irresponsible pet ownership. There are so many great dogs that get hurt by this type of legislation.

Snickers is a great example of how a breed ban unfairly discriminates against responsible dog lovers. James Sak, a disabled retired police officer, has relied on his Pit Bull mix, Snickers, since a stroke confined him to a wheelchair in 2008. The University of Illinois Medical Center paired the two together to help Sak walk, balance, and call for help in an emergency.

In November, Sak moved to Aurelia, Iowa to help care for his wife's elderly mother. Within a few days, Sak was ordered to re-home Snickers due to an ordinance that bans Pit Bulls in Aurelia.

Sak claimed that the ban violated the Americans With Disabilities Act and last week a federal judge agreed. Thankfully, an injunction was filed so that Snickers could live with James.

You can't judge a whole group of dogs based on a few exceptions. Hopefully Snickers' story will help show that there are many great Pit Bulls in the world. 

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