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JoAnna Lou

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

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Making Dog Theft a Felony
NY bill passed to strengthen punishment for pet thieves

Having a beloved pet stolen is one of my worst nightmares. In New York, pet thieves are typically only charged with a misdemeanor since dogs are considered property by law. The value of stolen property must exceed $1,000 to qualify as a felony larceny. Since it's hard to place a dollar value on an animal, most thefts are prosecuted as the lesser offense. Fortunately, it looks like this may be changing for the better.

Earlier this week, the New York State Senate passed a bill with a landslide 58-3 vote that would make it a class E felony to steal a cat or dog. If the bill becomes a law, stealing a pet could get you up to four years in jail. The State Assembly is expected to pass its version of the bill later this month.

Besides making pet theft a more serious crime, the law would also give police a greater incentive to look for missing pets. Since most cases are prosecuted as a misdemeanor, often police can only take limited action on reported thefts. This bill seeks to rectify these situations.

Similar legislature has had difficulty getting adequate support in the past, but judging from the overwhelmingly positive response in the Senate, I'm hopeful that this bill will be passed.

I consider my dogs to be family, so ultimately I wish the law would be changed so that pets would not be considered property. However, I think this bill is certainly a big step in the right direction.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Targeted Spay/Neuter
A first-of-its-kind program zeroes in on specific neighborhoods

Shelters and rescue groups have long offered low-cost spay/neuter surgeries in hopes of making a dent on the homeless pet population. It's hard to measure the effect of these programs, but a new focused initiative is hoping to increase the impact.

Last month the ASPCA launched a first-of-its-kind program that uses a geographic information system to focus on New York City neighborhoods with high abandonment rates. Residents in those areas are now being offered low- or no-cost spay/neuter surgeries. The current neighborhoods are Manhattan's Lower East Side and East Harlem.

To measure the effectiveness of the program, the ASPCA is collecting data to compare the number of abandoned pets in the targeted neighborhoods before and after the program. This study will also be one of the first to look at actual numbers instead of relying on anecdotal evidence.

It looks like there will be many more of these types of programs in the near future. PetSmart Charities is offering grants for focused spay/neuter programs and is currently accepting applications.

For all of those who live outside of targeted areas, there are many low cost programs available all over the country. The ASPCA maintains a database of programs on their website.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Panhandling Dogs
Cruelty suspected outside of NY baseball stadiums

Working in Manhattan, I see a number of homeless people sitting on the sidewalk asking for money. One man I see regularly uses a cat and a dog to encourage passing people to hand over their change. The animals are not on leash, but seem to be trained to sit in their assigned spots. However, every time I see them, I worry that the animals might get startled and dart into the busy city street.

Recently, a pandhandler has been setting up in front of the Met and Yankee baseball stadiums with a dog named Coffee. This dog sits for hours dressed up in team gear, wearing sunglasses and holding a pipe in her mouth. The worst part is Coffee wears a shock collar that concerned fans claim is used to keep the poor dog from lying down.

After receiving several calls, the ASPCA sent a team of agents from its Humane Law Enforcement department to Yankee Stadium last weekend during the popular rival Subway Series between the two New York teams. Unfortunately, Coffee wasn't present and the ASPCA doesn't have any evidence that any NYS animal cruelty laws have been violated. The ASPCA is continuing to monitor the situation and urges anyone who sees the dog to call their Humane Law Enforcement department at 212-876-7700, ext. 4450, or email enforcement@aspca.org.

Concerned baseball fans have created a Stop Abusing Coffee Facebook page.

Have you seen any panhandling dogs?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Canine Meals Straight From the Farm
NYC boasts the first CSA dog food

Chelsea Market is one of my favorite foodie places in Manhattan. New York City may seem like an unlikely place to get food fresh from the farm, but tourists and locals flock to Chelsea Market to find gourmet treats and wholesome food.

Now dogs can enjoy healthy food from Chelsea Market too.

Farm to Bowl is a collaboration between Stacy Alldredge, a certified canine nutritionist, and Jake Dick, owner of Dickson's Farmstand, a New York City butcher shop that works with small, sustainable farms that are committed to humane treatment of its animals.

As a canine nutrition consultant, Stacy has always advised her clients that preparing your own dog food is the best way to ensure a healthy diet made from good ingredients. Unfortunately, not everyone has the time to make their own food.

Farm to Bowl makes a wholesome, diet easy for everyone, although the price limits the customer base. Each package, which retails for $10, provides one meal for a 60-70 pound dog. So it would cost me approximately $300 to feed one of my dogs for a month. It's certainly more economical for the smaller dogs of Manhattan.

However, you certainly can't beat the convenience and fresh ingredients. Farm to Bowl is made each Saturday from locally sourced meat and seasonal fruits, and claims to be the first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) dog diet.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Biking with Dogs
Get some exercise with your pup in tow

As gas prices continue to rise, many more people are discovering the joys of riding a bike. It's a green form of transportation and great exercise. So it's only natural that people would want to include their dogs on rides.

This Sunday, New York City's Direct Action Environmental Organization Time's Up! is hosting their fourth annual Doggie Pedal Parade in Manhattan's Washington Square Park. The ride will highlight bicycles adapted to transport pets. There will be music, refreshments, and dogs for adoption.

On Thursday, they'll holding a free Pup Your Ride Workshop and Bike Decorating where Time's Up! volunteer mechanics will be on-hand to assist participants in attaching baskets and carriers.

I always feel guilty when I go for a bike ride and leave my dogs at home. Now that it's getting warmer, I'm planning on training Nemo to come along with me on short rides.

The ASPCA recommends that you train your dog not to pull when you're on the bike and to use a Springer, a coil spring designed to absorb and reduce the force of sudden tugs. Be sure to keep a close eye on your dog since it's easy for them to get over-exerted since they're running and you're on wheels.

Do you bike with your pups?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Summer School Gone to the Dogs
Learn new skills in the coming months

Next month, my puppy, Remy, and I are headed up to Susan Garrett's Say Yes! Dog Training for two camps, Advances in Dog Training and Critical Elements for Sport and Life (formerly know as Puppy Camp). I can't wait to spend four full days dedicated to honing my dog training skills and working with Remy.

This summer, use some of your vacation days to learn more about dog-related topics, sharpen your training skills, meet fellow pet lovers, and spend quality time with your furry crew. There are many upcoming opportunities to develop existing skills and learn new ones.

Activities For You and Your Pup

Dog Scouts Camp in St. Helen, Mich. - June 20-25 and July 11-16
Earn Dog Scout badges while introducing your pup to agility, dock diving, hiking, clicker training, freestyle and boating, just to name a few of the activities. There's even a class to teach your dog how to paint! Proceeds from the camp support the Dog Scouts of America's educational and charitable endeavors.

Splash for Joy in Trumbull, Conn. - July 1-3
If your dog loves water, they'll love this weekend dedicated to watersports. Your pups' confidence and focus will increase as they learn various skills and games. Plus you'll both get a great workout!

Canine Country Camp at Glen Highland Farm in Morris, N.Y. - July 16-21
Enjoy 175 acres of trails, meadows and swimming, while partaking in a multitude of activities including agility, tracking, water sports, herding, flyball and treibball. When the dogs are napping, you can attend lectures on animal communication, Tellington touch and canine massage. Proceeds from the camp benefit the work of Glen Highland Farm and Sweet Border Collie Rescue.

K9 Nose Work Training Camp in Poyntelle, Penn. - September 2-6
Learn more about this new sport at a 3.5 day sleepover camp taught by the K9 Nose Work founders. Dogs of all levels are welcome and will be introduced to box work, odor, and exterior and vehicle searches.

Activities For You

Taking Action for Animals Conference in Wash, D.C. - July 15-18
Discuss ideas and solutions to creating a better world for animals at this annual conference. Topics include protecting puppy mill dogs, building advocacy campaigns, addressing legal issues and developing grassroots campaigns. The conference also includes a Student Summit on Sunday for teens and young adults.

Chicken Camp in Sequim, Wash. - various dates
Sharpen your clicker skills by training a chicken at one of these camps, the brainchild of legendary animal trainers, Bob and Marian Bailey. The chicken's fast speed and low tolerance for bad training will challenge you to improve your coordination and timing.

Are you planning on attending any dog-related camps or workshops this summer? If you're stuck at home, Julia Kamysz Lane will be blogging about online canine courses in the coming weeks.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
K9 Massage Growing in Popularity
More and more pups benefit from massage therapy

Last year my Sheltie, Nemo, and I were running an agility course and he uncharacteristically ran around the last few jumps. He wasn't limping or showing any pain, but I knew he wasn't himself. So I brought him over to the massage therapist who had a stand set up alongside the other show vendors.

I had never gotten a massage for Nemo before, so I was skeptical if it was really going to do anything. But I quickly saw him relax and the the therapist showed me how to feel for the inflammation she found in his back thigh muscle, which is probably what was causing his reluctance to jump.

It was amazing to feel so connected to Nemo and his well being. I've been wanting to take a pet massage class every since and it seems that I'm not alone.

The New York Times writes that pet massage workshops have grown in popularity in recent years. The International Association of Animal Massage and Bodywork's membership has more than doubled in the last four years. Instructors all over the country are reporting that they can barely keep up with demand for classes.

Although there are no studies that prove the benefits, it's thought that pet massage therapy can aid in increased circulation, improved digestion, strengthened immunity, stress relief, muscle relaxation, and relief from conditions such as arthritis.

The verdict varies among veterinarians. Some recommend massage to aid in recovery, while others are concerned that done incorrectly, massages could aggregate a medical condition or prevent people from bringing their pets to the veterinarian.

I know many people who have seen the benefits firsthand, but proven or not, I see nothing to loose in spending quality time with your pup.

Has your dog gotten a massage before?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Sniffing Out Endangered Species
Dogs trained to find elusive flowers and butterflies

Earlier this year I wrote about dogs trained to find animal droppings for environmental research. More and more canines are being used to help scientists study endangered species and habitat loss. The role of the dog in this type of research is incredible.

The preservation of two species in Oregon can thank a Belgian Sheepdog named Rogue and his highly sensitive nose. Rogue is trained to seek out a rare plant called the Kincaid's lupine. Not only is this plant endangered, but it happens to be the one place where the elusive Fender's blue butterfly lays its eggs.

The one-inch wide butterfly lays one egg at a time, on the back of a Kincaid's lupine leaf. Each egg is no larger than the head of a pin. On top of that, the Kincaid's lupine's peak flowering period is only two weeks long. So as you can imagine, they're near impossible to find.

When Greg Fitzpatrick, Corvallis Land Steward for the Nature Conservatory in Oregon, read about using dogs to track rare turtles, he knew the working canines could be the key to helping the Kincaid's lupine and the Fender's blue butterfly. Fitzpatrick approached Dave Vesely, the executive director of the Oregon Wildlife Institute, and Debbie Smith of the Working Dogs for Conservation Foundation with his idea.

They soon discovered that dogs were incredible at the job. While some humans can detect the odor of lupine when they are flowering, canines can find the plants with or without flowers, and can cover an impressive area of land in a little amount of time.

Vesely plans to submit details of their work to a journal of conservation biology to share the program's success.

 

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog Involved in Bin Laden Mission
A trained canine assisted the Navy Seals last Sunday

The U.S. Navy Seals and the elite Team Six have gotten a lot of attention lately for their heroic efforts in the Osama Bin Laden mission. However, I just found out that a special canine was also among the 79 commandos that day. The explosive-sniffing dog was strapped to one of the Navy Seals and descended from the helicopters with the rest of the team.

As it turns out, these trained pups, typically German Shepherds, are routinely used by the top-secret Navy Seal unit. The dogs wear ballistic body armor that protects against knives, shrapnel, and gunfire and carry infrared night cameras that provide troops with critical real-time information.

These pups are trained to jump from aircraft at an incredible 25,000 feet (wearing an air mask of course) and attack anyone carrying a weapon. These talented dogs can also crawl into tunnels and rooms unnoticed.

What an incredible bunch of working pups!

 

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Crumple Zones and Car Safety
Keeping dogs safe in the car can be problematic

Like many others, my dogs ride in the back of my SUV, secure in their crates. I've always been under the impression that my pups were safe in their plastic kennels, although after being rear ended, I wondered if the cargo area of my car wasn't the best place for the dogs. I've since moved one crate to the back seat, but unless I buy a bigger car, I don't have the option of moving all my dogs out of the cargo area.

 


Recently, I discovered that the cargo area may be even more dangerous that I previously thought. A safety feature called the crumple zone, introduced to cars in the 50s, is designed to absorb the impact in a crash and protect passengers. The crumple zones are often likened to crushing a soda can, sacrificing everything in its path.

The most popular crumple zone locations are in the front and the rear of the car. For anyone who puts their dogs in the back, this is absolutely terrifying.

Next time I buy a car, I will certainly ask the dealer where the crumple zones are in prospective models. In the meantime, I looked online to find out where the crumple zones are in my Honda CR-V, and they are indeed at the front and back of the car.

I know that the hard, plastic kennels are very strong, but in a serious accident they're unlikely to stand up to the crumple zone. It's possible I could put my dogs in seat belts in the back seat, but that industry isn't regulated and most seat belts do not undergo any crash testing. So it's still a dilemma for me.

How do you protect your dogs in the car?

 

 

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