JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.
News: JoAnna Lou
The summer brings unique challenges to people and pups on the street.
August 19 2015
In the summer, I always have to be mindful about walking my pups over hot pavement. It can be easy to forget about their sensitive paw pads when you have the protection of shoes. Fortunately I have many grassy areas to bring my dogs, and can always quickly usher them back into our air conditioned house, but it never occurred to me that this can be an inescapable dilemma for homeless people and their pets.
This summer, Lisa Peterson noticed a homeless man in Glendale, Arizona struggling to carry his dog, Roger. After speaking to him, Lisa found out that the pavement was so hot, the man had resorted to carrying Roger around all day to save his paws. You can imagine how difficult this must be to maintain day in and day out. Arizona has an extremely hot summer!
So Lisa reached out to Helping Hands for Homeless Hounds, who deployed a volunteer to give the man food, water, and a canine stroller to more easily tote Roger around. The organization also plans on sponsoring veterinary care, neuter surgery, vaccinations, a microchip, and a dog license.
Sometimes we can take our ability to retreat from the heat for granted, so this was an important reminder that not everyone is so lucky. And that the summer temperatures can manifest in some unique challenges for homeless people and pets.
If you're interested in supporting the work that Helping Hands for Homeless Hounds is doing, visit their web site.
News: JoAnna Lou
An Indiana Facebook group has had a big impact on lost animals and the local shelter.
August 14 2015
When Melody Heintzelman created the Facebook group South Bend Lost and Found Pets, she simply wanted to help reunite people with their pups. But in the last three years, Melody's social media creation has become so much more than what she initially thought was possible. With over 4,500 members, there's always a network of people looking out for wayward animals in the north Indiana city.
Since Melody started the group, South Bend Animal Care and Control manager, Matt Harmon, has seen a decrease not only in the number of animals coming into the shelter, but an increase in return to owner rates and a decrease in euthanasia rates.
On the Facebook page, members post pictures of lost and found dogs, hoping someone else in the network can help. Melody also encourages people that find a stray pet to scan the animal's microchip in order to try and locate their family before automatically turning them into the shelter. On off-hours, like weekends, Melody and other group admins make themselves available on-call to scan microchips with the universal scanner they have.
In order to increase the number of places where lost pets can be scanned, Melody is now raising money to buy microchip scanners to provide to other businesses in the area.
With the impressive statistics the South Bend Animal Care and Control has seen over the last three years, I hope animal lovers in other parts of the country will consider setting up similar Facebook groups. This is a great example of how a small action can make a big difference when we come together through social media.
News: JoAnna Lou
Viral trend #DogBun is potentially harmful to canine ears.
August 11 2015
I've seen people use non-toxic coloring to dye their dogs' tails and paint their pups' nails, however the latest canine styling trend is not only slightly bizarre, but also harmful (albeit unintentionally). The dog bun involves styling fur and ears together on the top of a pup's head, typically using an elastic hair tie. The fur style has been growing in popularity with over 2,000 pictures on Instagram bearing the hashtag #DogBun so far, with more photos are being added each day.
While the style looks cute, Dr. Ann Hohenhaus at New York City's Animal Medical Center says that bands or clips should never be used to pull back dog ears. They could interrupt blood flow and cause serious damage, potentially leading to ear flap amputation. Additionally, I can't imagine that having your ears bunched up is comfortable or conducive to hearing.
People set on styling their pup should stick to ear-less buns, using elastic bands to gather only fur, while those with short haired dogs should skip the bun all together.
Do you style your dog's fur?
News: JoAnna Lou
Non-profit sends goodies and supplies to war pups and their handlers.
August 5 2015
According to the United States War Dog Association, over 1,000 military working dogs are on duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. When these pups are in action, explosive detection rate jumps to as high as 80 percent. General David H. Petraeus once said that military working dogs outperform any other asset in the Army's inventory. These brave and courageous pups are valued members of our country's military.
Recently I found out that you can support these dogs by sending care packages to war canines and their handlers via the United States War Dog Association. This non-profit organization has been sending goodies to military pups all over the world since 2003. There's a full list of needed items on their web site, but here are a few examples of commonly requested items:
News: JoAnna Lou
NYC apartment complex resorts to DNA testing.
July 31 2015
I'm always mystified as to why people refuse to clean up after their pets. We fight hard for dog friendly places, but in order to keep these privileges, we have to be courteous and respectful.
One Brooklyn Bridge Park, an apartment complex in New York City, is one of the most dog friendly buildings in the area. 175 dogs of different breeds and sizes live among the 440 units, and the ground floor is home to Wag Club, a canine grooming and training service.
You'd think this would foster a sense of community and responsibility among the residents, but for some time the building has been having a problem with people not picking up after their pets. In the winter, the issue was even worse, with residents letting their dogs relieve themselves in the stairwells and hallways during bad weather. In the month of December alone, they found 52 messes on almost every floor of the building, including all five elevators and three lobbies. Not only was it rude and unsanitary, but it was costing the building a lot of money to increase maintenance.
After trying to nudge behavior change with messages and signs, the board resorted to a new tactic. They decided that all dogs in the building must be registered and have their DNA tested so the offenders could be identified.
The new program was met with resistance, as some residents worried that DNA testing could open the gates to a whole host of other problems. One concern was around the potential for being framed. For instance, someone looking for revenge could easily take a poop bag out of the trash and plant faulty evidence.
Others thought the testing might be a precursor to a breed ban. While that wasn't the building's intention, it was a valid concern coming a few months after another New York City apartment building started DNA testing dogs to kick out certain breeds. And still others were opposed because they felt it was a violation of canine privacy since dogs are not capable of consent. But the program went on, with the board only agreeing to lower the registration fee from $75 to $35.
Since One Brooklyn started its DNA testing in May, seven matches have been made with fines of $250. Even better, it's acted as a good deterrent, significantly lowering the number of accidents left behind.
DNA testing may seem extreme, but it's a growing solution to this persistent problem. The company behind the DNA testing product that One Brooklyn is using, Poo Prints, is now being used by more than 1,000 apartment and condominium buildings around the country. And the problem isn't limited to the United States. Last year the city of Naples, Italy also started a genetic testing program to deal with dog waste.
What do you think about DNA testing?
News: JoAnna Lou
Canada institutes new penalties for killing a police dog or service animal.
July 30 2015
Last year a Canadian police dog named Quanto was killed while trying to apprehend a suspect fleeing from police. As a result, Joseph Vukmanich, who stabbed the German Shepherd multiple times, was sentenced to 26 months in prison for animal cruelty, among other charges.
In response to the tragedy, a new federal law called Quanto's Law was created to institute a maximum jail sentence of five years for anyone convicted of intentionally killing a police dog or service animal.
Last week Tim Uppal, the federal minister for multiculturalism, met with Edmonton police officers to officially mark the enactment of the new legislation. They hope the law will send a strong message to anyone that injures an animal in the line of duty. Tim put it succinctly when he said, "They're there to protect us and we should be protecting them."
In the United States we have the Federal Law Enforcement Animal Protection Act, which was introduced in 1999. It states that a conviction of assaulting, maiming, or killing a federal law enforcement animal will result in a fine of at least $1,000 and a maximum of ten years in prison. Since then many states have passed or are considering passing harsher protections. For example, in Georgia, legislation is being considered to make injuring a police canine punishable with ten to twenty years in prison.
What's cool about the Canadian law is that it protects service dogs as well. I hope that other countries and states will take note and expand their laws to include all working pups!
News: JoAnna Lou
Research finds that one in four dogs at the prestigious show are overweight.
July 27 2015
Obesity is a growing epidemic in pets, a condition that can lead to a myriad of health problems. Often when I talk to people about their dogs, they simply don't know how to gauge ideal weight.
Many people assume that show dogs are the healthiest and best representation of their breeds, but recent research found that one in four dogs competing in the prestigious Crufts is overweight. As the U.K.'s national canine show and the world's largest, these pups get a lot of visibility.
The study looked at over 1,000 images of dogs from a span of twelve years at Crufts. The canines were drawn from a pool of pups that placed between first and fifth in their class. After coding and anonymizing the images, a researcher graded the body condition of each dog.
Some breeds were far more likely than others to be assessed as overweight--80 percent of the Pug images, 68 percent of Basset Hounds, and 63 percent of Labradors. Standard Poodles, Border Terriers, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Hungarian Vizlas, and Dobermanns were the least likely breeds to be assessed as overweight.
Researchers acknowledged that the rate of obesity in the show dogs was still less than the general pet population, but the fact that a quarter were above the ideal weight is still a concern.
They hope that their work will draw attention to the obesity issue and encourage education of owners, breeders, and show judges on how to recognize ideal weight in dogs.
News: JoAnna Lou
Renting out dogs is a growing business.
July 24 2015
Who wouldn't want a group of cute puppies at their next party? Apparently renting dogs for soirees has become a growing business in the last few years. The companies behind this new trend have reported bringing the furry entertainers to birthdays, office events, and even bachelorette parties. But is hiring dogs for parties sending the wrong message?
One such company in Los Angeles, Calif., which has been selling dogs for decades (already a red flag for the welfare of these animals), started offering puppy parties in the 1990s. Business has picked up recently and they expect to do 800 parties this year. The company has around 70 dogs and puppies at any given time, which are rented at $200 an hour for up to ten puppies.
Most of their business is in children's parties, where the puppies and kids sit in a playpen after being taught proper petting technique. I'm glad they have workers supervising and advising on handling, but the scale of this business makes me nervous that the dogs' best interest is not the first priority.
In a different set-up, Provo, Utah's Puppies for Rent has the ultimate goal of getting customers to adopt puppies. Jenna Miller founded the company three years ago after missing her dog while studying at Bringham Young University. Now with three locations near college campuses, Jenna takes unwanted pups (from rescue organizations and owner surrenders), puts them in foster homes, and then rents them out to students by the hour. Afterwards, renters can apply for permanent adoption. Most puppies have gone to forever homes within two months. This model seems better since the interaction is one-on-one and encourages long term adoption.
I'm a bit conflicted on the whole puppy party idea. It can certainly be a way to socialize young pets, while teaching kids how to to safely interact with dogs, but I worry that turning this into a business model can lead to overworked and overwhelmed puppies. Allowing people to rent dogs can also support the idea that caring for a pet isn't a long term commitment.
This concept would be cool if it could be adapted for animal shelters and rescue organizations. Instead of renting a playpen of puppies, parents could have someone from the local shelter come with a dog or two in exchange for a donation. It would be a great opportunity to not only teach kids about the proper way to approach dogs, but to also educate on homeless pets and canine behavior.
What do you think about puppies for hire?
News: JoAnna Lou
ResQWalk allows users to track their exercise while benefiting homeless pets.
July 22 2015
When I started training for a half marathon last year, I used a fitness app to track my runs. It was encouraging to see the progress I made, increasing my mileage from one to ten miles over a few months. But what if I could keep tabs on my exercise and benefit rescue pets, with minimal additional effort on my part? Seems like a no brainer!
ResQWalk, launched last year by Bailey Schroeder, combines the popularity of fitness apps with the opportunity to help animals, even for those who might not have a lot of time or money to donate. The app is a fun way to tap into what people are already doing.
Inspired by her rescue pup, Charlie, Bailey wanted to create an easy way for people to donate to the animal welfare organizations of their choice. Other apps link donations to walking, but ResQWalk has a lot of additional functionality that make the app more interactive.
Each week ResQWalk announces a donation pool, typically around $2,500, which is funded from an Indiegogo campaign. Users choose a rescue or shelter to walk for before they head out. The distance is recorded in user profiles and is added to each organization's weekly sum. At the end of the week donations are paid out to the rescue and shelters proportionally to the total distance walked.
Similar to fitness apps, users can view their walk history, including time and distance traveled, and the rescues they've supported. The app also has a leaderboard to see which rescues and shelters are racking up the most miles over each week. I hope that they include some runner-specific functions in the future, like recording your average pace. There are a lot of aspiring marathoners that would love to use this app!
Bailey and her team vet each organization that apply to be sure that their mission aligns with theirs. Bailey's next step for ResQWalk is to enlist corporate sponsors to pick up when the Indiegogo funds are done.
This is such a cool way to raise money for shelters!
News: JoAnna Lou
NFL player sits in a hot vehicle to raise awareness.
July 17 2015
There's been a lot of news lately about dogs being left to suffer or die in hot cars. Recently Arizona Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu took a challenge to sit in a hot car in 90-degree weather to see how long he could handle it. As a dog lover, Tyrann wanted to participate in the test to raise awareness for not leaving pets in cars, no matter how quick the stop.
In the video it's obvious that Tyrann was distressed as the car's temperature reached 120 degrees. He only lasted eight minutes, saying "I couldn't imagine leaving my dog in a car like this."
Tyrann urges people to be responsible when taking pets on trips where they'll have to stay behind in the car--even if the windows are rolled down or if it's a cloudy day.
I hope that this video makes people think twice about leaving dogs in the car, but also wish Tyrann highlighted the danger of hot vehicles even when the temperature isn't excessively high. Many people won't leave pets in the car when it's 90 degrees and sunny, but it's not as obvious that a 70 degree day can heat a vehicle to over 100 degrees in 30 minutes. However, I'm still happy to see Tyrann create some awareness around this topic!
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