JoAnna Lou

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

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Breed Ban: Next Stop Airlines
United is next in line to discriminate against certain dogs

The United/Continental Airlines merger has been causing quite the stir lately. And because United is a federal contact carrier, any policy changes greatly affect military personnel.

Last month, the airline changed the way they transport pets, dramatically increasing fees flying into countries with certain regulations. United ended up making an exception for military families, but it ruffled a lot of feathers.

Now, United Airlines has jumped on the breed-ban bandwagon and singled out nine breeds they deem dangerous—Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Presa Canarios, Perro de Presa Canarios, Dogo Argentinos, Cane Corsos, Fila Brasileiros, Tosas, and Ca de Bous. Those dogs, and mixes that include those breeds, are not allowed to travel United after the age of six months or after they reach 20 pounds in weight.

After a public outcry, United removed the word “dangerous” to describe the breeds, but they made no change to the ban. This affects countless pet lovers, but also means that military families stationed away from home may not be able to fly back on United with their dogs.

I've said this before, but I wish more governments and companies would realize that a sweeping breed ban will not solve their problem. At a minimum I think they should make an exception for dogs who have demonstrated good manners, like earning the AKC Canine Good Citizen certification or passing a therapy dog test. It's unfair to let a bad reputation affect all dogs of a certain breed.

A petition to persuade United to reverse the ban has been started on Change.org. So far they have over 35,000 signatures.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Facebook Says No to Puppy Mills
ASPCA teams up with the social network to clean up their online classifieds

In some ways ridding the world of puppy mills seems easy. If people simply stopped buying animals from pet stores, the problem would be solved. But in reality, it sometimes feels like a battle that will never be won.

Anytime a friend is looking for their first dog, I try to educate them about puppy mills and point them in the direction of reputable breeders or shelters. But many times, I've been disappointed over the years when some of those friends give into instant gratification and turned to a pet store.

Unfortunately, the popularity of the Internet has only helped perpetuate puppy mills. Buying dogs online has become as common as buying from pet stores. This is particularly troubling because dogs sold on the Internet are exempt from the Animal Welfare Act license and inspection requirements of brick and mortar pet stores.

Now, puppy mills have one less place to advertise online. The ASPCA's No Pet Store Puppies campaign teamed up with Facebook and Oodle, the company behind the social network's Marketplace, to put new measures in place that ensures puppy mill dogs will no longer be sold in Facebook's online classifieds.

This is a small step in solving the problem of online puppy sales, but it's great to see key companies, such as Facebook, supporting the campaign. Puppy mills contribute to the overpopulation problem and
ignore the best interests of the dogs they exploit. Preventing these sales might be an uphill battle, but it's an critical one. I'm hopeful that one day we will be successful in making puppy mills a thing of the past.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Finding Adopters on Facebook
Is there a balance between exposure and spam?

I remember when Petfinder revolutionized the way adoptable animals found potential homes. A dog who might only be seen by a few visitors passing through the local shelter could now be seen online by hundreds of people.

Facebook has taken this exposure to a new level. Now homeless animals can be seen by people who aren't even looking for a new pet. Photos and descriptions are easily shared with thousands of people in a matter of seconds.

The City of Hartford Animal Shelter, one of Connecticut’s largest kill shelters, credits Facebook with saving countless pets each month. It's not uncommon for several months to go by without having to euthanize any dogs.

Last year, many rescue groups and shelters had their Facebook accounts suspended after being targeted by an automated anti-spam filter. Facebook has since reversed the glitch, but it highlighted the frequency and repetitive nature of these type of posts.

In addition to the shelters and rescue groups I follow, I have a lot of friends who post about dogs and other pets looking for homes. And there are certainly a lot. Even I admit that I sometimes glaze over the numerous postings on Facebook. However, I realize that this awareness is necessary for finding homes and I know many people who have found their new furry family members through these updates.

Are there too many adoption posts on Facebook? Do we just need to be more creative with how we use the social networking tool?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Awards for Promoting Animal Issues
The Genesis Awards honors media for raising public awareness

Some say that award shows are all about politics and popularity. But at least one show is about rewarding works that bring attention and compassion to those who need it. Since 1986, the Genesis Awards has honored television, film, print and radio media for raising public awareness about animal issues. One of my favorite films of all time, Finding Nemo, won Best Animated Feature Film in 2004.

The Genesis Awards were founded by Broadway actress and animal advocate, Gretchen Wyler, to encourage members of the media to spotlight animal issues. In her honor, a special award is given each year to a celebrity who uses his or her fame to bring attention to animal issues.

This year's Gretchen Wyler Award will be given to actor Ian Somerhalder. The Vampire Diaries actor blogs, tweets and talks about animal issues, such as puppy mills and shark finning. He has also addressed Congress about endangered species.

The other Genesis Award winners will be revealed at the ceremony on Saturday, March 24 in Beverly Hills. The final results are decided by a committee selected based on their personal histories in working for animal causes.

Here are some of this year's Genesis Award nominees. The full list can be viewed on their website. Which are your favorites?

Feature Film

  • Dolphin Tale
  • Rio
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  • War Horse

Feature Documentary

  • Born to Be Wild 3D
  • Buck
  • One Lucky Elephant

Sid Caesar Comedy Award

  • The Cleveland Show, “Ain't Nothin' But Mutton Bustin'”
  • The Colbert Report, multiple issues
  • Melissa & Joey, “Toledo's Next Top Model”

Dramatic Series

  • The Glades, “Swamp Thing”
  • Hawaii Five-O, “Lapa'au”

National News

  • ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, “Egg Farm Cruelty”
  • CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, multiple issues
  • NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, multiple issues

Talk Show

  • The Ellen Degeneres Show, multiple issues
  • The Martha Stewart Show, “Vegan Cooking”
  • The Oprah Winfrey Show, “Vegan Challenge”

Reality Series

  • Animal Planet Investigates: Captive Hunting Exposed
  • Crimes Against Nature, “Blood Ivory” and “Making a Killing”
  • It's Me or the Dog, “Bone of Contention”
  • Vanguard, “Tiger Farms”


  • Mother Jones, "The Cruelest Show on Earth"
  • National Geographic, multiple articles
  • O, Oprah Magazine, multiple articles
  • Vanity Fair, “Agony and Ivory”
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
New Tick Prevention Developed
Fungus-derived pesticide promises to safely ward off ticks

Ticks drive me crazy. I love hiking with my dogs, but I hate the ticks that come with our fun outings. Fortunately, I don't have a problem in my backyard, but I have many friends who are forced to use chemicals to keep the pesky bugs away from their pets and kids.

So I was excited to learn that scientists in Connecticut have been developing a pesticide that uses a strain of fungus deadly to ticks. Best of all, this natural treatment promises to be safe for pets and beneficial critters, like bees and earthworms.

Synthetic pesticides, which have an 85 to 100 percent success rate, are still more effective than the fungus-based pesticide, which is about 74 percent effective. However, it's great to have an organic option that works well. The product will be commercially available in 2014 under the name Tick-Ex.

Apparently tick research is severely underfunded, so it's great to see safer prevention options developed and brought to market. I really hope that one day we'll have an effective organic alternative to topical tick prevention treatments.

What strategies to you use to keep the ticks from taking over your backyard?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
From Shelter Pup to Police Dog
N.Y. State trains homeless canines to join the police force

Recently, I was reading about a superstar police dog and discovered a really cool fact—about one-third of New York State's police dogs are rescues.

This particular German Shepherd, Sgt. Harry J. Wheeler, was found wandering the streets of Brooklyn eight years ago. Fortunately, he was taken in by Glen Wild Animal Rescue, which thought his keen perception and protective nature would make him a great police dog. Soon after Sgt. Wheeler was enrolled in a 20-week training course with the New York State Police canine division and now serves in Binghamton, N.Y.

During his years on the job, Sgt. Wheeler has helped find six bodies in police investigations, including locating the body of a missing boy that police had been unable to find for months. This find led to the murder suspect's conviction.

Training rescues to assist the police is a win for the homeless dogs, the police and the community. There's no question that Sgt. Wheeler is one talented pup, proving that shelter dogs really can do anything!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Guide Dog to Reach Hiking Record
Lab leads man up all New Hampshire's 4,000-foot mountains

Only 46 people have climbed all of New Hampshire’s 4,000-foot mountains, but this weekend Randy Pierce and his trusty Yellow Labrador, Quinn, will attempt to become the first blind person and guide dog to accomplish this formidable challenge. As if that wasn't already an incredible accomplishment, they will have finished this goal in a single winter.

Seven years ago, a disease rendered Randy blind and unable to walk. Confined to a wheelchair, it took Quinn to inspire Randy to overcome his disability. Eventually. Randy was able to walk again and, with Quinn's help, he started to hike mountains.

Now Quinn is nearing retirement age for a seeing eye dog and Randy decided to hike all 48 mountains this winter as their final big goal together. He is sharing his story online to raise awareness for his nonprofit, 2020 VisionQuest, which inspires people to reach beyond adversity and achieve their highest goals.

Randy and Quinn place a lot of trust in each other, and Quinn is one amazing dog to be able to guide Randy through the difficult mountain terrain. I love that their special relationship has allowed them to overcome a challenge that many people would consider impossible.

The team expects to finish the last mountain on Saturday. You can wish them good luck via their blog.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Most Trendy Dog Names
Vetstreet identifies naming themes over the past 12 years

Pet names can tell you a lot about a person’s personality. Some people follow themes around favorite things. I love Pixar movies so I named all of my pups after characters from the movies. Others have a preference for sweet sounding names or tough sounding names. And as more people consider their pets a part of the family, more dogs are getting names traditionally set aside for humans.

In 2011, the most popular dog names were Max, Buddy, Bella, and Daisy. (Funny enough, I don’t know any dogs that go by those names!) Max, which has held the top spot for several years, may be the most popular, but apparently it’s not the most trendy.

Pet care website, Vetstreet, searched their records and determined the top 10 names that have been trending over the past 12 years. The names that came up include Lola, Stella, Bentley and Diesel.

In its research, Vetstreet found a resurgence in short, old-fashioned nicknames, like Lulu and Milo; endearing, cozy-sounding names, like Lulu and Zoey; traditional human names, like Stella and Cooper; and names from pop culture, like Marley from the book and movie Marley and Me and Nala, the female cub in The Lion King.  The website expects the name of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge’s new puppy, Lupo, will be very popular next year.

Vetstreet believes that these themes reflect the personal attachment that we have with our pets these days.  And I also think it shows how obsessed with are with pop culture!

Have you noticed any popular or trendy names in your neighborhood?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Helping Injured Pups Walk
Experimental drug could help dogs and humans with spiral cord injuries

I love when medical research benefits both canines and humans. This latest study aims to help dogs and people retain their ability to walk with a new medication.

The U.S. Department of Defense is funding research to explore an experimental drug that will help dogs and humans with spinal cord injuries. The collaboration between the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Texas A&M has already proved that the drug mitigates spinal cord damage in mice. The next step will be to see how the medication works in dogs. The study will specifically be looking at short-legged, long-torso breeds like Dachshunds, Beagles and Corgis. It's not uncommon for these breeds to spontaneously rupture a disc, damaging the spinal cord.

Most spinal cord injuries lead to chemical reactions that damage nearby cells and pathways, contributing to decreased hind limb function. The experimental drug may help stop this process and help dogs preserve the use of their legs.

Canine spinal cord injuries are similar to human spinal cord injuries, so scientists are hopeful that the research can help both dogs and people. A win-win for everyone!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
More Pet Airline Drama
United adopts Continental's PetSafe program amid controversy

Until dogs of all sizes can ride in the airplane cabin, air travel will always be a controversial topic among pet lovers. The latest dispute is over United Airlines' new pet policy.

Starting next month, United Airlines is adopting Continental's PetSafe program (the two companies merged in 2010). Now animals will be transported as cargo rather than checked luggage. Both options sound horrible to me, but according to United Airlines, cargo will offer a better experience for pets, with dedicated staff and temperature-controlled vans.

The PetSafe program is considered the best in the airline industry and has won an Award for Excellence from the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association.

For the most part, the fees for shipping pets in cargo versus baggage will be similar. The controversy stems from certain countries, including Japan, that require airlines to pay a third-party handler to ship cargo. This could cause the fees to jump from a couple of hundred dollars to a couple of thousand dollars to transport an animal.

The shipping change was to have the greatest impact on overseas military personnel, since United is a federal contract carrier. However, amid the uproar, United announced a special exception for military members on PCS orders.

Since the PetSafe program is held in high regard, it's unfortunate that the third party law will make the cost prohibitive for most families traveling or moving abroad. However, I think this issue once again highlights the need for more safe travel options for pets—options that don't include baggage or cargo!

What do you think about United Airline's policy change?