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JoAnna Lou

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

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. 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
National Train Your Dog Month
The APDT is celebrating with free events for January

Now that the new year has started, it's time to reflect on this past year and set resolutions. Naturally some of my goals are always dog-related.

I've started hiking with my dogs, and plan on taking up snowshoeing for the winter, so one of my goals in 2012 is to strengthen my crew's recall. I'm also hoping that my puppy, Remy, will be ready to compete in his first agility trial by the end of next year.

For those with a similar mindset, January happens to be National Train Your Dog Month. The Association of Pet Dog Trainers started the event in 2010 to promote the importance and benefits of socializing and training dogs. January was selected because of the many pets adopted during the winter holidays. So many dogs are abandoned because of behavioral problems that could have been prevented with socialization and positive training.

To help new pet parents start off on the right foot, throughout January, the APDT is offering free webinars and Facebook chats with pet training and behavior professionals. Topics include Adopting a Dog, Breed Discrimination Laws, Housetraining, and Dog Safety for Kids. A full schedule is available on the event's web site.

In honor of National Train Your Dog Month, do you have any training related resolutions for 2012?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Understanding Pet Lovers in the Internet Age
Hunch.com uses member data to learn about dog and cat people

Social media companies hold a lot of data about people and are privy to a lot of correlations and insights that could be really interesting. Recently I was wondering if anyone had put together data related to animals.

It turns out that Hunch.com has published two pet-related reports that draw on responses from its 700,000 users. The first looks at dog people versus non-dog people and the second looks at the differences between dog and cat people.

Some of the findings are not surprising. The report found that dog people are more likely to be extroverts, have a greater affinity for sports and the outdoors, and are more likely to live in a suburban or rural area.

Hunch.com also found that females tend to favor dogs with long hair and smaller breeds and males tend to favor hounds and retrievers.

Some correlations were more bizarre and random. Apparently dog people are more likely than cat people to be iPhone users or to enjoy slapstick humor and impressions. And on the more specific side, Chihuahua fans tend to be frequent doodlers and German Shepherd lovers tend to rely more on intuition than common sense.

Of course you can't extrapolate the reports' findings to all people, but it's fun to read about the correlations that Hunch.com discovered.

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