News: Guest Posts
Diane Eldrup arrested for deaths of 20 dogs
A broken family. Foreclosed property. Twenty dead dogs. When I first read the story of Diane Eldrup and her suburban Chicago rescue, Muddy Paws, I cried. Her husband had finally received court permission to enter their property after a year-long absence only to find that his estranged wife and their 8-year-old son were living among decaying animal corpses and 5 to 10 tons of fecal matter. Jail is where Eldrup is likely headed, but it’s not what she needs.
Rescuing animals can be addictive. When I co-founded New Orleans German Shepherd Rescue in the early 2000s, my intentions were noble yet naive. Despite knowing next to nothing about dogs, much less humane work, I was going to save every single healthy German Shepherd Dog that came through the doors of the Louisiana SPCA. Soon, I was getting desperate calls and emails from shelters and volunteers throughout Louisiana, Mississippi and elsewhere. These dogs needed a hero; I could become that person.
Well-intentioned animal lovers and friends fueled the “high” I would get from helping each dog. They praised me, claiming that I was such a good person for doing this. They rewarded me with donations of food, toys and money. They said they could never do what I did. I was a hero in their eyes, too.
If you weren't with me, then I had no time for you. In fact, if you told me I couldn't save a particular dog, I worked even harder to prove you wrong. More phone calls, more emails, more adoption events, more transports, more of my own time and money. It was never enough.
Rescue became a way of life. My 9 to 5 job got in the way of my real, meaningful work. It wasn’t unusual for me to take extra time on my lunch hour and spend it at the shelter in my suit and heels. I took photos to post on the rescue website, introduced dogs to prospective adopters, and checked to see which dogs had limited time. These animals needed me. The shelter staff began to ask me to help them find homes for their favorites because I seemed to have a knack for it. I was addicted to feeling needed and the power of changing lives.
When I got into a heated argument with a friend about how rescue should be important to everyone, she told me I was “self-righteous.” It gave me pause, but at the moment, I was so emotionally wound up that I angrily stomped out of her house and didn’t talk to her for awhile. Why should I? She clearly was incapable of caring as much as I did.
Over the years, I became increasingly isolated from family and friends. My parents lived far away and I remember being on the phone with my mom and hearing her ask if everything was okay. No, everything is not okay! There are thousands of beautiful, loving animals dying needlessly in shelters every day!
She gently interrupted me and tried again. Are you okay? I abruptly changed the subject.
Finally, my husband said enough. We’re broke. We have our own zoo of four rescued dogs and three cats to care for. There is a constant merry-go-round of foster dogs in this tiny house on a city lot. You’re stressed out. You’re not happy. You’re never here. He said all of this in a diplomatic way that got through to me. He was—and still is—a strong, sensitive man who yes, loves animals, but loves me more.
The intervention worked. I quit the rescue group cold turkey. The shelter staff were dismayed but said they understood. One rescue volunteer sent me flowers at work, pleading with me to come back. Another rescuer called and left a sobbing message asking if I could help with just this one dog this one time.
For me, rescue is a drug. I can’t say no. I didn’t call her back.
To all the rescuers out there who are struggling on their own, there is no point in trying to save every single animal if you hurt yourself and the people you love in the process. Get the help you need before something tragic happens. Delegate to volunteers, see a counselor, learn to say no, spend money on something you need for a change. You have value as a person whether you rescue animals or not.
And to those unique individuals who are able to balance life, people and rescue, thank you. Perhaps one day, people will recognize that their irresponsibility toward animals doesn’t just lead to neglect, suffering, pet overpopulation, and euthanasia of healthy, young animals. It also hurts people and can destroy human lives.
News: Guest Posts
ASPCA study finds cops need more training
Earlier this year, Charles Siebert wrote a New York Times magazine story about the increased attention on animal cruelty in the United States. He cited a significant expansion of state animal-cruelty laws, investigative initiatives, and most importantly an overall appreciation for the links between animal cruelty and “non-animal” crimes “including illegal firearms possession, drug trafficking, gambling, spousal and child abuse, rape and homicide.” The story left me feeling that law enforcement would stop relegating crimes against pets to a lower priority—if only in the interest of protecting humans.So I was disheartened to read about a recent study by the ASPCA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) that found only 19 percent of law enforcement officers surveyed report they’ve received training in handling crimes against animals. Not just that, while nearly one-third of Americans say they’ve witnessed animal cruelty firsthand, police say they rarely see it. The study also revealed that while nearly all law enforcement officers feel they should play a role in enforcing animal cruelty law, only 41 percent say they know the relevant laws in their area and just 30 percent say they know the penalties. In short, awareness of animal cruelty is here but not the frontline know-how to stop it. With so much budget pressure on municipalities around the country, I’m pessimistic about these concerns rising to the top of priority lists. But I’m glad to see the ASPCA shed light on this gaping hole in the effort to fight animal cruelty.
News: JoAnna Lou
Shelters report higher adoption rates for December
Many shelters around the country are reporting higher adoption rates this holiday season. This is great news, although Christmas isn’t exactly the best time to bring home a new animal. I know many families want to surprise their kids with a puppy or kitten, but I can’t even imagine bringing home a new pet with all the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Nonetheless, I’m happy to see people adopt instead of visiting a pet store.
Some of these shelters have been running special “Home for the Holidays” promotions to encourage people to adopt. In California, the Sacramento SPCA, City of Sacramento Animal Care Services, Sacramento County Animal Care and Regulation and Happy Tails Pet Sanctuary teamed up to slash adoption fees in half with a goal of adopting out 1,000 pets by the end of the year. The Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals created greater awareness for homeless pets by sending had volunteers in Santa costumes walk around the streets of New York with dogs for adoption.
I’m glad to hear that adoptions are up at shelters, but hope next year families will think twice about adopting during the holiday season. Waiting sets a good example for the kids and they get to help pick out the new addition!
News: JoAnna Lou
Bill to limit tethering to three hours
In New York, it’s common to see dogs tied to parking meters and trees while their family runs errands in nearby stores. I’m always afraid the pups will get stolen or get too hot or cold, depending on the weather. But even worse are the pets that get left behind at home, chained to fences for hours on end. This is more common in the outer Boroughs of the city, like the Bronx and Brooklyn.
Earlier this month, New York City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., introduced a bill that would ban people from tethering dogs outdoors for longer than three hours. New York is behind the times as other major cities, like Los Angeles and San Francisco, have stricter regulations that ban chaining dogs completely.
Besides being subject to extreme weather conditions, tethering unattended dogs is a risky decision for many reasons. Chained pups are vulnerable to being attacked by other animals, injured by the tether, or even stolen. Tethering for long periods of time can also encourage behavioral problems to develop, like aggression.
If the bill is passed, unfortunately the New York City Health Department isn’t optimistic that the city will be able to enforce the law. Inspectors would have to witness the three-hour violation in order to issue a summons, which is logistically challenging. Even so, I hope that passing the bill will cause people to think twice about leaving their dogs tied outside.
News: Guest Posts
And provide shelter standards
Every day a veterinarian has a good chance of being a hero—extracting a painful tooth, diagnosing the source of a lump, helping a dog to a much-needed sleep. It should be enough that they take good care of patients each day, but lately vets have been articulating a larger vision that means good things for animals.In November, the American Veterinary Medical Association revised the veterinarian’s oath by adding a few words to signal the true scope of the veterinarian’s mission, vowing to protect not just animal health but also welfare and to aim for not just the relief but the prevention of suffering. Read revised oath here. And in December, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians released 51-pages worth of advice for the care of animals in shelters to help these organizations review their standards for animal care, identify areas that need improvement, allocate resources and implement solutions to optimize welfare, minimize euthanasia and prevent suffering. The guidelines are based on “five freedoms” developed in 1965 in the United Kingdom by a commission looking at welfare concerns in agricultural settings. Now recognized to have broader application across species, the freedoms include the right to freedom from hunger and thirst, discomfort, pain, injury or disease, fear or distress and the freedom to express normal behavior.
News: Guest Posts
Special ornaments send lucky dogs home
Our Christmas tree decorations are an eclectic mix that’s long on backstory and short on thematic unity and good taste. I like ornaments that show their age or are handmade by friends and family. Others have strong memories and associations with people and pets long gone. I’ve always had a rule that I would never buy an ornament, but this year I will make an exception to purchase one from the Shelby Humane Society’s Shelter Partners Program.It’s not just that these ornaments are adorable—featuring the portrait of a hopeful, sweet shelter pup destined for a forever home in the Northeast all framed with bows and glitter. It’s that the $50 cost covers the expense of getting that dog out of central Alabama, which is experiencing extreme animal overpopulation, to New Hampshire and Maine, where animal laws and spay and neuter initiatives have limited the number of pets available for adoption. The $50 goes toward gas and a hotel night or two for volunteer drivers, and also any vaccinations and spay/neuter surgery the dog needs to be ready for a new home. Since November 22, 2006, more than 3,600 Shelby Humane Society canines have found new homes with families through a partnership with New Hampshire Humane Society, New Hampshire SPCA, the Humane Society for Greater Nashua, Cocheco Valley Humane Society and Salem Rescue League in New Hampshire and Greater Androscoggin Humane Society in Lewiston, Maine. With rare exceptions, the dogs and puppies transferred are placed with adoptive families within a few days of becoming available for adoption. Read about the ornaments and purchase your very own.
News: Guest Posts
Earworm alert: Catchy tune with pawsitive message
Yesterday, my editor sent me the link to “It’s Cool to Adopt”—a down-home video (watch below) with a spot-on message, charming stars and, as I soon found out, a refrain that’s pretty tough to shake. It’s cool to adopt over eggs. It’s cool to adopt in the shower. It’s cool to adopt while walking the dogs. And on and on…The man to praise (or blame) for penning this earworm is Michael Raab, whose wife is the founder of Monty’s Home, which produced the video in partnership with New Hanover County Animal Control Services. In honor of her own beloved dog, Raab established the nonprofit Monty’s Home to provide support for people facing geriatric care and end-of-life issues for their dogs and humane education for children. More recently, Monty’s Home paired up with the Pender Correctional Facility in Burgaw, N.C., where inmates provide nine weeks of training for dogs awaiting adoption at the Pender County Animal Control. The aim of the training and socialization is to improve each dog’s odds for successful placement. "It's cool to adopt" is part of Monty’s Home’s Pet Ed 101, “which teaches children of all ages about pet responsibility, safety around dogs and pet overpopulation problems,” Barbara Raab says. “With the under 7 kids, we needed a way to teach them without talking about euthanasia and spay/neuter like we do with the older kids. Hence, the creation of the song to get them thinking in another direction about where to get a puppy or dog. It worked! Kids at summer camp loved it so we decided to hit a bigger audience with You Tube.” Everybody join me: It's cool to adopt! It's cool to adopt! It's cool...
News: Guest Posts
Seniors often share what little food they have with their pets
No one should have to choose between feeding herself and feeding her dog. Sadly, volunteers with the mobile food pantry Meals On Wheels discovered that many elderly and disabled clients were sharing their hot meals with their pets. Dog Scout Troop 208 of North Aurora, Ill., teamed up with its local Pet Supplies Plus to hold a "Meals for Seniors Pet Food Drive" from November 27-December 15. All food and monetary donations will go toward pre-filled gift bags, which will be distributed by Meals On Wheels to seniors with pets. To participate or start a pet food drive in your area, contact your local Meals On Wheels and/or Dog Scouts chapters.
News: Guest Posts
Bill awaits Obama’s signature
Animal rights advocates are urging President Obama to sign a recently approved bill that bans the sale and distribution of gruesome “crush videos,” which depict the intentional torture of puppies, kittens, and other live animals.
Congressional leaders in mid-November overwhelmingly passed the legislation—H.R. 5566, the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010—to halt what the head of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) calls “the most sickening cruelty” he has witnessed (this link includes a timeline at the end regarding debate over this issue). The bill targets a seedy industry that profits off the sale of grisly videos containing graphic images of screaming and bleeding puppies, kittens and other animals deliberately tortured for the sexual titillation of viewers. According to the HSUS, crush videos often feature scantily clad women in stiletto heels crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating and impaling helpless animals. The “unimaginable torture” inflected on the animals is often prolonged for minutes or even hours, the organization said. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill introduced the bi-partisan bill in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in April that overturned a similar, but “unconstitutionally overbroad,” 1999 law. The High Court ruled that law—the Depiction of Animal Cruelty Act—was too broad and “therefore invalid under the First Amendment.” The day after the court’s decision, federal legislators introduced a narrowly crafted bill designed to give law enforcement the tools needed to crack down on creation, sale, and distribution of crush videos. Sales of those macabre videos have mushroomed in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the HSUS said. One website, for example, had more than 700 crush video titles for sale, the organization said. “After federal judges struck down the law banning the sale of animal crush videos, this horrible and cruel industry stepped into the legal void and resumed its commercial creation and peddling of these videos,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the HSUS. He and other animal rights advocates applaud lawmakers’ efforts to shut down this abusive industry, which “all but disappeared” after Congress enacted the 1999 legislation. They hope history will repeat itself. “We need this law on the books to halt some of the most sickening cruelty I have ever witnessed in my life,” Pacelle said. “We urge President Obama to sign H.R. 5566 into law quickly.” The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) echoes those sentiments. “Crush videos depict an extreme form of animal cruelty,” Ann Church, senior director for the group’s Government Relations, said in a written statement. “The ASPCA is hopeful President Obama will voice his conclusive support for this important legislation.” Anyone convicted under this new bill faces up to five years in prison.
News: JoAnna Lou
November brings attention to homeless canine elders
This season, there are many things that I’m thankful for, one being the wonderful relationship I have with my dog, Nemo.
Someone once told me that cute puppy eyes are no match for the deep, loyal eyes of an older dog. Nemo is my first dog and, for the longest time, I didn’t understand. How could anyone resist a puppy? But now that Nemo is almost six years old, I finally know what they meant. When I look into his eyes, I can see how much trust he puts in me and the wonderful relationship that we have.
Puppies have to be cute because they’re so much work! Young dogs are usually the first to be adopted from animal shelters, even though they’re not always the right fit for many families. To bring attention to those older animals, who are often overlooked, November has been named Adopt a Senior Pet Month.
There are so many positives to adopting a senior dog. Older dogs are easier to housebreak, they’re typically more mellow, and their size and personality are more predictable, making it easier for shelters to match families to their perfect dog.
Check out the ASPCA’s Top Ten Reasons to Adopt an Older Dog and add the Petfinder senior pet widget to find your perfect match.
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