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JoAnna Lou

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

News: JoAnna Lou
Transporting Dogs from Overpopulated States
Shelters fill empty kennels with Southern pups

For years, local shelters in the Northeast have been bringing homeless dogs up from the South for a shot at adoption. When I first found out about these rescue missions, it seemed like a waste of resources when there are so many homeless pets right here in New York.

But, as it turns out, many Northeastern shelters and rescue groups have a hard time keeping up with demand for certain dogs. So it has become common to transport dogs that will be adopted quickly, like small breeds. Overpopulation is a big problem in the South because spay/neuter rates are much lower there.

New Jersey-based PetResQ is one of those rescue groups that transport Southern dogs. After learning about animal control officers accused of shooting 22 dogs to death last year in North Carolina, they decided to organize a transport targeting dogs slated for euthanasia in that region.

Their plans came to fruition two weeks ago when 50 volunteer pilots successfully transported more than 100 dogs from South Carolina to PetResQ.

I know that many dogs are euthanized every day in New York, so it still feels wrong to bring more animals into the picture. However, in reality most homeless dogs in my area are Pit Bulls and most people want to adopt a Retriever or Beagle. If bringing dogs from the South fills that need, it seems like a win-win for both sides.

What do you think about the transport effort from the South?

News: JoAnna Lou
Should Vets Promote ID Tags?
Vets and shelters have a positive influence on tag usage

My dogs have microchips and identification tags, but I often take their collars off when they're in the house. I had one of my dogs' collars get caught on a piece of furniture, so I do it as a safety precaution. However, this could be a problem if one of my dogs escaped from my house.

The Journal of the American Veterinary Association reports that fewer than half of lost dogs were wearing tags at the time they went missing. Microchips are great because they're permanent, but an identification tag lets people know instantly how to get your dog back home.

Eighty percent of pet lovers believe it's important that dogs and cats wear identification, but only 33 percent put tags on their pets all the time. Many of those pets don't wear ID tags at all. A study published this month found that veterinarians and animal shelters can have a positive influence on this number.

Dr. Emily Weiss, vice president of shelter research and development for the ASPCA, and her team tracked 109 people and their pets who had been fitted with collars and tags during a vet visit or at the animal shelter. Before the study, only 14 percent of the animals studied had been wearing an ID tag, but two months later, 84 percent were still wearing the tags.

Given the success of Dr. Weiss's study, do you think that veterinarians should be responsible for making sure pets have identification? My dogs have microchips and identification tags, but they also have a rabies tag from the veterinarian that lists when they got their vaccine and the veterinarian’s contact information.

News: JoAnna Lou
Best X-Rays of 2011
Vets submit their most surprising x-ray finds

One of my dogs is a master thief. Despite my best efforts to keep the house eternally “puppy proofed,” every now and then I'll find Nemo shredding a sock or sponge--or I'll find out later when it comes out the other end.

Fortunately nothing has ever gotten stuck, but it's something that's always in the back of my mind. Now, Veterinary Practice News' X-ray Contest has me thinking that there could be something in there that I don't know about!

The magazine asked veterinarians to submit their best x-ray finds of the year. The winning submission was taken by Dr. Vanessa Hawkins at Bayshore Animal Hospital in Oregon when she was examining a dog with a lame hind leg. To her surprise, Dr. Hawksin found nine handballs inside of the dog's stomach! It was an incidental finding that she would've never discovered had he not been x-rayed for the lameness.

What is the strangest thing that your dog has ingested?

News: JoAnna Lou
Joss Stone Fosters Dog
Soul singer invites a shelter pup into her NYC recording studio

I love when celebrities use their star power to help a good cause, especially when it involves animals.

For the past week, Joss Stone has been fostering a dog while recording her next album in New York. Stone is a huge dog lover and missed her four pups back home in England. When she inquired about fostering, Animal Haven matched her up with Oprah, a six-year-old Bull Mastiff/Pit Bull mix. Oprah's sweet, laid back personality was perfect for hanging out in the recording studio.

Stone has been posting video blog updates on her YouTube page to encourage people to give Oprah a forever home.

So far the match has been a win-win for everyone. Stone gets her canine fix and Oprah gets quality time outside of the shelter and exposure to potential adopters around the world. Stone promotes the all-important act of fostering. Plus, Oprah's loving personality is giving Pit Bull mixes some great publicity!

Anyone interested in adopting Oprah should visit Animal Haven's website or call 212.274.8511 for more information.

News: JoAnna Lou
Saying Thanks
Who are the important people in your dog's life?

From political platforms to airing grievances, award show acceptance speeches give celebrities 30 seconds to fill the air with whatever is most important to them. Game of Thrones actor and winner of the Best Supporting Actor Emmy Award on Sunday night, Peter Dinklage, showed how much he loves his pup, Kevin, when he thanked his dog sitter in his acceptance speech, perhaps a first in the show's history.

Someone once told me that it takes a lot of work to raise a dog in today's complicated world and I completely agree. Dinklage's acceptance speech made me think about all of the people I would thank for making a big difference in my dogs' lives.

First would be my parents, who take care of my dogs when I'm at work and on vacation. Then my training instructors, who have taught me the skills to teach my dogs good manners and how to have fun together in sports like agility. And last, but not least, my training buddies, who help me work through training challenges and support me through hard times.

Who would you thank on behalf of your dogs?

News: JoAnna Lou
Uptick in N.Y. Dog Theft
Even well identified pets are at risk

The recent increase in pet theft has hit close to home as there have been several dog kidnappings in my area this summer.

Some are straightforward, like Matsu, the Yorkshire Terrier who was stolen when he was tied outside of a deli. Others are a little more complicated.

A few weeks ago, Kumiko Masaoka and Michael Reinhardt were at a Brooklyn park with their West Highland Terrier, Winston, when the pup was spooked and ran off. They did all the right things--searched the area, contacted animal shelters and veterinarians, posted flyers, and informed the microchip company.

The next day the couple was put in contact with a girl who found Winston and handed him over to a police officer. Unfortunately, the police officer ended up giving the dog to another family (it's still in dispute whether the family tried to claim Winston or if the police offered him to the family).

Thankfully Winston has since been returned, but this story just goes to show that even a dog with proper identification can easily end up in the wrong hands.

When we lose a pet, our natural inclination is to contact animal shelters and veterinarian offices, but “non-pet people” may not think to go to these places. For many, the police seems like a natural fist resource, as in Winston's case. But police don't typically deal with lost animals, so they may not know the proper protocol, such as checking for a microchip or verifying the identify of someone claiming a pet.

As dog theft increases, it's important for key members of the community, like the police, to get training on how to handle lost and stolen pets. Additionally, it's probably a good idea to check with your local precinct if you're looking for a lost dog.

News: JoAnna Lou
Eavesdropping on Humans
Study: Dogs behave based on observations of people

My dogs always seem to be watching what I'm doing. I'd like to think they care about my well being, but I think they're more interested in any clues that I might drop food or that it might be dinner time.

A recent study led by Sarah Marshall-Pescini at the University of Milan looks at the information dogs get from watching us and the decisions they make based on that data. Her research focused on what's called interspecies evesdropping, one species (in this case a dog) watching the interactions between two members of another species (in this case two humans).

In the study, the researchers had dogs observe food-sharing between humans. One person, designated the “beggar,” approached two people sitting on separate chairs, both holding a bowl of sausages. When the beggar asked for a piece, one person said no and moved one hand in a dismissive gesture, and the other said “have it” and gave a piece to the beggar. The beggar then left the room and the dog was set free to make a choice.

The study found that the dogs were five times more likely to approach the person who shared a piece of sausage than the person who chose not to share.

My dogs, particularly my food-greedy Shelties, are particularly clever at figuring out who is most likely to give them food. In my house, we like to call it “identifying the weak one.” While the study didn't exactly surprise me, it's interesting that eavesdropping on third-party interactions is a quality that we share with our dogs. The information gained from eavesdropping is considered an important input for decision-making in many other animals, including humans.

News: JoAnna Lou
Technology for Lost Dogs
ID tags with QR codes bring pets home

Little black and white squares have been popping up everywhere—on advertisements, business cards and magazines. These Quick Response (QR) codes are barcodes that are designed to be read by smartphones. People can take a photo of the square and retrieve text, contact information or open a webpage on their phone.

Now these QR codes can help bring your dog home. A new company, PetHub, engraves QR codes on identification tags. When the square is scanned, it takes the user to the PetHub web site where the pets' information is stored.

The idea for PetHub was born when founder, Tom Arnold, was on vacation. The former Microsoft employee was worried about his dog at home and thought that technology could help keep his pup safe.

QR codes certainly look cool hanging from dog collars, but I wouldn't use it as a sole form of identification. Not everyone has a smartphone and even for those who do, the code creates one additional step to getting the information needed.

However, QR codes do have their advantages. Information can be updated instantly through the PetHub web site, which is useful if you go on vacation. You can store more data, like medical information, which wouldn't fit on a traditional identification tag.

Would you get a QR identification tag?

News: JoAnna Lou
Remembering 9/11 SAR Teams
September events honor human and canine rescue teams

As we approach the tenth anniversary of 9/11, there are many victims to remember and many heroes to honor. Among those to pay tribute to are the hundreds of search and rescue (SAR) dogs who worked alongside police, firefighters, and other rescue workers at the World Trade Center. Like many others involved in the rescue efforts, canine SAR teams are mostly made up of volunteers who willingly put themselves at risk to help others.

SAR dog advocacy group, Finding One Another, is teaming up with the Tails of Hope Foundation, an organization dedicated to advancing veterinary and human medicine, to honor SAR teams through a series of commemorative and educational programs.

The following are three highlights from their September calendar. The Finding One Another website has details on additional events.

Recognition Ceremony at Liberty State Park (September 11 at 1 p.m. in Jersey City, N.J.)
This ceremony will honor the canine SAR teams, veterinarians, Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams (VMATs) and other working dogs and handlers that played an instrumental part in the 9/11 rescue efforts. The event will start with a processional march led by teams who served at the World Trade Center and end with SAR dog demos. Thousands of SAR teams are expected to participate in the event.

Penn Vet Working Dog Center 2011 International Conference (September 7-9 in Pearl River, N.Y.)
The theme of the conference is “Defining, Developing, and Documenting Success in Working Dogs.” Participants will discuss advancements that benefit working dogs and increasing public awareness about SAR dogs and the risks that they face on the job.

The conference is chaired by Cynthia M. Otto, DVM, PhD, DACVECC, Co-Chair of the 9/11 Tenth Anniversary SAR Tribute and Associate Professor of Critical Care at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. Participants are expected to attend from all over the world.

SAR Photography & Artifact Exhibit (through September 2011 in West Nyack, N.Y.)
This exhibit at the Palisades Center Mall will feature photographs, large banners, and artifacts that depict the SAR community’s work at the 9/11 sites and elsewhere. A kickoff event will be held on September 9 and will include artistic performances and demonstrations. Portions of the exhibit will be donated to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

We owe so much to the dogs and handlers who worked alongside rescue workers on September 11th. It's important to advocate for them so that we never forget the risk they took, and still take, every time they come to the aid of people in need.

News: JoAnna Lou
Adopting the Doggie in the Window
N.Y. store changes the concept of the mall pet shop

Mall pet stores always make me sad, partly because I know the dogs came from puppy mills and partly because I know these stores encourage visitors to buy pets on impulse.

So I was excited to find out that a new pet store is opening at the Palisades Mall in West Nyack, N.Y. that does not sell any pets. Even better, the USA Dog & Pet Shop features animals for adoption from the Hi-Tor Animal Care Center. Currently the shelter is over capacity and is hoping that the partnership with the unique store will boost adoption numbers. Applications will be available at the pet store, but all adoptions must be completed at the shelter.

The USA Dog & Pet Shop will also be exclusively selling products made in the United States. This is a good resource considering the toxicity problems we've seen in imported products in recent years.

I hope that more mall pet stores will adopt this admirable business model. It's a great way to promote adoption and responsible pet ownership in a high traffic area.

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