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Julia Kamysz Lane

Julia Kamysz Lane, owner of Spot On K9 Sports and contributing editor at The Bark, is the author of multiple New Orleans travel guides, including Frommer’s New Orleans Day by Day (3rd Edition). Her work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Poets and Writers and Publishers Weekly.

News: Guest Posts
Dangerous Dog Breed List Has No Bite
Daily Beast fearmongering should be muzzled

I don’t know how to break it to my family and friends, but there’s a Pit Bull mix and two Dalmatians in my house! According to the Daily Beast, I should be scared to death to live among the #1 and #11 most dangerous dog breeds, respectively.

Just because you don’t have one of the common banned breeds—Dobermans, Rottweilers, German Shepherds—you think you’re safe? Greyhounds, Border Collies, Labrador Retrievers, Old English Sheepdogs, Beagles, Golden Retrievers and Poodles all made the list of 39 dangerous dog breeds. Guess all of us dog lovers should run for our lives!

The irreverent online news digest (founded by former Vanity Fair and The New Yorker editor Tina Brown), attempts to persuade the reader at how much research went into creating its “39 Most Dangerous Dog Breeds” list.

Problem is, it relied on a faulty study—which had been discredited several years ago—as its main source. Not to mention, both the Centers for Disease Control and the American Veterinary Medical Association have stated that breed is not the primary indicator for a bite. As most dog lovers and professional dog trainers know, socialization, training and supervision are key to bite prevention.

When glancing through the photo gallery illustrating the 30 breeds, be sure to note the breed name as printed because the Daily Beast posted photos that do not match the breed listed. For example, the Bull Mastiff “pictured” is a Dogue de Bordeaux, and both the Australian Shepherd and the Collie feature photos of what appear to be Border Collies. Perhaps if the Daily Beast had focused more on finding accurate breed photos than digging up muzzled and mean dog pics, readers could take this pet project a little more seriously.

News: Guest Posts
AKC’s Mixed Message
Does it support all dogs or not?

Earlier this year, the American Kennel Club (AKC) invited mixed breeds to participate in select activities, such as agility, obedience and rally. But are mutts only welcome at AKC events if their owners pay for the privilege? That’s the message some mixed breed owners are receiving after the AKC said no to adoptable animals as part of its annual “Meet the Breed” event in New York City.

For seven years, the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) allowed the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals to bring homeless cats and kittens to its New York City Cat Show at Madison Square Garden. This generous partnership enabled the Mayor’s Alliance - a nonprofit coalition of 150 animal rescue groups and shelters – to find homes for hundreds of adoptable cats.

Last year, Madison Garden was unavailable, so CFA paired up with AKC’s “Meet the Breeds” event at the Javits Center.  CFA continued the tradition of inviting the Mayor’s Alliance to hold its Adopt A Cat program. However,  AKC said no adoptable dogs or puppies would be allowed.
 
On April 1, 2010, AKC officially opened some companion and performance programs to mixed breeds. A one-time $35 registration fee allows them to enter agility, obedience and rally trials. Each event requires additional entry fees. Apparently, the inclusion stops there. The nonprofit organization, whose mission statement includes “promote responsible dog ownership,” told the Mayor’s Alliance that no adoptable dogs or cats will be allowed at this year’s “Meet the Breeds” event.

In response, the Mayor’s Alliance and Best Friends Animal Society will present an adoption event  December 18-19 at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea. CFA will be participating.

News: Guest Posts
Stray Dog Caught After 3 Years
Community that cared for him glad he's safe

Rusty, aka Mr. Windyface, was the dog no one could catch. For three years, the Chow-Sheltie mix eluded animal control officers, police and the concerned  residents of Woodside Estates, the development in Oak Brook, Ill., that Rusty called home.

This implies that he was shy and rarely seen, but he was spotted nearly every day, often following people walking their own dogs through the neighborhood. In fact, he was rather social. One resident even videotaped Rusty playing with his dog.

Employees of nearby Follett Higher Education counted on regular Rusty sightings. My husband – who works for Follett at a different location - recalls seeing him two years ago when he stopped at the Oak Brook campus  one afternoon. He was worried about the loose dog in the parking lot, but his colleagues assured him, “Oh, that’s just Rusty.”

A few weeks ago, Rusty must’ve decided that he didn’t want to go through another Chicago winter on his own. He waited at the gate to play with his buddy, a rescued mix named Milo, and Milo’s owners let him in then quickly closed the gate. Finally, Rusty was caught and safe.

He is now at the Hinsdale Humane Society, where he is being treated for heartworms and growing more comfortable with people. Thankfully, there is no shortage of potential adopters and donations to his medical care fund.

For updates on Rusty’s health and home search, friend him on Faeebook where he goes by the name “Steve Arfenbarker.”

News: Guest Posts
Watch Out, Poachers!
Detection dogs stop smugglers

If dogs can sniff out drugs or explosives, why not ivory or rhino horn? The South African Police Service is training detection dogs in an effort to thwart poachers and protect endangered animals such as elephants and rhinos. Thanks to a partnership with South African company Mechem, which created its Explosive and Drug Detection System, new technology will enable the police dogs to work more safely and efficiently. Watch contraband-detection dogs in action. 

News: Guest Posts
Five Year Katrina Anniversary
Today, we remember and reflect

When my husband and I evacuated our New Orleans home the day before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, we assumed that this would be an unexpected, albeit nice visit with my parents in the Chicago area. Surely, we’d head back in a week or so. On August 29, 2005, we learned our fate; there was no going home.

In shock, I took comfort in the fact that our beloved pets – four dogs and two cats – were safe with us. It soon became clear that many other people were not so fortunate and thousands of dogs and cats were in danger of dying due to starvation, heat or worse. Animal lovers from around the country poured into New Orleans and Mississippi, selflessly sacrificing their time and money to save as many pets as they could.

I admired their efforts and yet, I felt for those owners who were unable to bring their pets with them and desperately tried to track them down. In some cases, the pet was found only to have the new owner refuse to reunite them, claiming that the animal had been abandoned, or neglected prior to the storm.

When I interviewed people frantically looking for their animals, I started to have nightmares. The most vivid opened with me sitting in a beautiful old theater and spotting my pets near a woman a few rows away. I called out to her, “Those are my dogs and cats! I need to take them home!” The woman turned toward me and said, “You can’t. You have no home.”

The first time I needed to take one of my dogs to a vet in Illinois, I was asked about his breed and where he was from. I said Louisiana and the tech said, “Oh, a Katrina dog!” No, I corrected her. He is from Louisiana and so am I.

Five years later, and having relocated to the Chicago area, I still occasionally hear people refer to their Katrina dog or cat. Though I am glad that these animals survived, honestly, the label makes me wince. Had we not been able to transport our pets with us, would someone else be calling my 13-year-old Catahoula, Desoto, their “Katrina” dog? Would he have a different name? Would all four dogs, even our Pit Bull mix, Shelby, have been saved? Our cats, Cricket and Bruiser Bear, are siblings. Would they have been separated?

Of course, the alternative would’ve been far worse. In the weeks and months after the biggest man-made disaster in U.S. history, I heard from friends and neighbors what happened to people and pets who were not rescued in time. I saw graphic images on websites and in the news. They are impossible to forget, and they shouldn’t be forgotten.

Fortunately, the lessons gleaned from this tragedy should prevent any animal from being left behind again. Thanks to the PETS Act, people are allowed to bring their pets with them to an emergency shelter. The Louisiana SPCA has since rebuilt, giving safe haven to homeless and unwanted pets in a beautiful, modern shelter. Plus, its volunteer and adoption programs are stronger than ever.

Civic activism became a new, necessary way of life. Local animal lovers and the LA/SPCA persuaded the city council to pass the Intact Dog Ordinance earlier this year, a major victory in the cause against pet overpopulation.

Challenges remain, but as a Katrina survivor once said, New Orleans will always be between storms. The difference is now we are prepared to ride them out.

News: Guest Posts
Google: “Shoot Dog”
What do you find in your neighborhood?

If you give up your dog, please don't be a coward and abandon him in the parking lot of a shelter. Give your dog the dignity of bringing him inside to the shelter staff so he gets food, water, a safe place to sleep, and hopefully, a chance at adoption. There are worse things than humane euthanasia.

Case in point: This past January, a dog was left outside Save-A-Pet, an animal shelter in Grayslake, Ill. While shelter manager Dana Deutsch attempted to coax him from a field to get him inside, she saw a man in a nearby house point a gun at the dog and shoot. The dog suffered before succumbing to his injuries later that day. Deutsch confronted the dog killer, Elvin Dooley, and contacted police. Her brave testimony lead to yesterday’s sentence: 20 months in jail for Dooley.  

While searching online for coverage of this incident, I came across many more stories about dogs being shot, from other unlucky strays to even family pets. Don't believe me? Go to your local daily's website, search the phrase "shoot dog," and tell me how many stories you find about people shooting either their own dogs or strays. In every story I read, a man pulled the trigger. Why do you think this is?
 

News: Guest Posts
Pit Bulls Save Chihuahua From Coyote
The lucky little dog has good neighbors

The town of Littleton, Co., is on edge this summer due to coyote attacks on a young boy and pet dogs. Early Saturday morning, Buster the Chihuahua mix was grabbed by a coyote while he and his owner were outside their home. The neighbor's Pit Bulls chased after the coyote who then dropped Buster. The little dog crawled under a bush and the Pit Bulls guarded him until the coyote was gone and Buster's owner could rescue him. Buster will undergo surgery today for various injuries sustained during the attack. Hopefully, he will make a full and quick recovery. What struck me most about this incident was how the owner did not view the coyotes as "bad," nor did she see the Pit Bulls as completely "good." What are your thoughts on this unique dog-saves-dog story?

News: Guest Posts
Shelter Dog Plays Trick on Staff
Locks are no match for Red the Greyhound

The staff at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home in England had a mystery on their hands: Who let the dogs out? Enjoy!

News: Guest Posts
Are You Afraid of Coyotes?
Humane fence roller keeps pets in, wild animals out

Having lived in New Orleans for most of my adult life, it was a shock to see my first coyote in our semi-rural neighborhood in northern Illinois a few years back. One look at their confident gait and hard yellow eyes and there is no mistaking them for a dog. Some of my friends told me horror stories about coyotes snatching pets, but I still found them to be exotic, a curiosity.

This summer, new road and bridge construction about a mile away from our house is pushing hungry, homeless wildlife into our area, including a coyote pack. While walking three of my dogs one afternoon, I saw a coyote hunting mice in a neighbor's pasture. He looked up and saw us, but didn't budge. My Catahoula started baying, eager to chase him, which set off the other two dogs. I managed to hold onto their leashes and turn around to go back the way we came. Even though my dogs were not afraid, I was surprised to find my heart thumping out of my chest and feeling fearful.

With five large dogs and the removal of a tempting chicken coop, I don’t expect to see coyotes leaping our six-foot wooden privacy fence anytime soon. But that incident along with concerns over our occasionally outdoor cats climbing the fence and becoming a coyote meal lead me to check out the Coyote Roller.

This new product is installed atop any fencing, chain link, wooden or iron. The roller prevents an animal – even large birds like crows – from getting traction. There is no electrical shock; the animal simply rolls off. Seems like a win-win situation to me, assuming you can afford it. (See video demo below.)

Personally, I can do without the scaremongering of the company’s “Top 10 Reasons Why You Need the Coyote Roller.” As suburban sprawl aggressively swallows wide, open spaces, it’s important to remember that we’re the invading species, not coyotes, raccoons, skunks or other animals that are conveniently labeled as pests.

Do you live among coyotes? If so, how do you keep your dogs safe? What would you do if you saw a coyote in your neighborhood?
 

News: Guest Posts
Dog Parks: Love ’Em or Hate ’Em?
Forget the dog fights, it’s the people to watch out for

I love the idea of dog parks in theory. Who wouldn't want to see their dogs bounding across fields of grass with new canine buddies? Years ago, when we lived in New Orleans, we took our dogs to a model airplane field that was surrounded by woods and required something akin to a secret password to find. Consequently, very few people went there and we all became a tight-knit group. Everyone looked out for each other's dogs and made sure their dogs played nicely with others. It was wonderful and I looked forward to it nearly every night after work.

Fast forward a few years and our relocation to the Chicago suburbs. The closest dog park I could find required a $150 annual permit since we lived out of the county. It cost $25 for each additional dog after that. Down South, our dog park romps were free! But the shock of the sticker price was nothing compared to the behavior I witnessed on behalf of both dogs and their owners.

Early on, I was warned to keep an eye out for the woman who had two Belgian Sheepdogs who had a tendency to nip at the heels of other dogs, and that had caused some dog fights when the nippees didn’t appreciate being herded. I asked why she was still allowed to bring her dogs to the park and all I got were shrugs and a description of her vehicle make and color so I knew not to enter the park if she was there.

Another time, I took my 10-year-old Catahoula to that same dog park and he was having a great time trotting along the trails with a pack of other dogs. At one point, a large mixed breed started chest bumping him in an attempt to play. Desoto wasn’t in the mood, so I asked the mix’s owner to call her dog away from him. She was so busy blabbering to other people that I had to ask four times before she actually heard me. Her response? “Oh, he’s only playing!” Yeah, and my dog doesn’t want to play! So when does a solicitation to play become bullying? I finally left the park in a huff because the lady didn’t seem to care about the other dogs there, only her own.

The last straw was when one of my Dalmatians, Jolie, was standing--not running, not chasing, not moving--in a field when a big Chow raced up to her and bit her on the leg. As the Chow ran away and my poor girl yipped and ran to me, the Chow’s owners merely said, “Huh, that’s weird. They’ve been fine together before.” No apology, no inquiry as to whether she was okay, and certainly no offer to pay for her trip to the vet to get stitches and meds. Plus, I had to scratch her from two agility shows, losing nearly $150 in entry fees. The worst part of it was her behavior when she saw other dogs running toward her. She barked loudly and growled. Jolie had always been friendly with all dogs; now this bite incident had traumatized her and I would have to work hard to build up her trust in other dogs again.
 
Professional dog trainers, such as Eric Goebelbecker in his recent blog post, often warn their clients about dog parks. There were times when I just wanted to scream at people to keep a closer eye on their dogs or recognize that their dog was not appropriate for the park environment.  For some folks, they were more interested in socializing with the people than supervising their dog’s interactions. That left the more responsible dog owners policing all the dogs and being put in the awkward position of disciplining dogs who were not their own, which led to more people fights than dog fights.

In talking with other dog training professionals, I am not alone in my concern over dog park safety. But I dislike telling my clients not to take their dogs to them period.

What are your thoughts on dog parks? Do you and your dog enjoy going to them? Why or why not?

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