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News: Guest Posts
Pondering Two Words
On the eve of the No Kill Conference 2010

I’m on my way to Washington DC, from Reno, Nevada, to attend the No Kill Conference 2010 and represent Nevada Humane Society, one of the largest no kill shelters in the country. I have been pondering two words – No Kill – and how much they have changed my life in the last seven years since I left corporate America.

I was like many middle-aged people who realized they want to do something different and more meaningful. I packed up my life in San Diego and moved to the tiny town of Kanab, Utah – in the middle of nowhere. I would work for Best Friends Animal Society for the next two and half years and this is where I first heard those two words. And it’s where I learned what they meant. I was devastated to know that millions of pets were needlessly dying every year in shelters across the country. (It is estimated that four million more cats and dogs will die this year.) And I was thrilled to be part of a movement that was dedicated to making sure this would cease to be.

So this conference is all about how to stop the unnecessary killing. It’s about creating programs with this one mission in mind. It’s about bringing like-minded people together so that the combined force is greater than any one individual. It’s about valuing life and making decisions based on saving lives, not killing.

This year’s conference sold out even earlier than in 2009, the inaugural year. This is a major testament of the passion for this cause and the dire need to learn how to put that passion into action. Representatives from 39 states and four countries will attend. The No Kill Advocacy Center is teaming up with the Animal Law program at George Washington University Law School, Maddie’s Fund, and Friends of Animals to bring together the nation’s most successful shelter directors and the nation’s top animal lawyers. Their mission? Help others create their own No Kill community.

The conference participants will learn from animal control/shelter directors who are now saving over 90 percent of all animals in their communities. They will learn from animal law experts who have successfully challenged the legal system to help animals. And they will learn from activists who are fighting to overcome traditional, entrenched shelters.

In the last decade, several progressive shelters have implemented lifesaving programs and services that have dramatically reduced the death rate in their communities. I am proud to say I have been a part of the rebirth of Nevada Humane Society and I join my colleagues in traveling to D.C. so that we can participate in a give-and-take – sharing our lessons learned and absorbing ways to become more effective.

In the end, the power to change is in our hands – a power that is mightier by working together.

News: Guest Posts
Animal Hoarding
An inside view, tonight

Tonight, Animal Planet promises to take “an unflinching, honest look at animal hoarding, the people and pets affected, and the challenges of confronting this psychological condition” in a six-part series titled “Confessions: Animal Hoarding” (9 p.m. est/pst). Each episode follows individuals struggling with the compulsive need to possess and control an unmanageable number of animals of a variety of species (cats, dogs, birds, farm animals, fish, etc.), as well as the interventions of family, friends, psychologists, animal welfare experts and veterinarians.

  Hoarding is also a topic on our minds at Bark. In a story for the September 2010 issue, Rebecca Wallick explores the condition through the lens of “rescue hoarding,” a particularly insidious incarnation of the compulsion, in which hoarders present themselves as rescues, shelters and no-kill sanctuaries.   We’ll be watching tonight with the hope the series sheds thoughtful (non-exploitive) light on a devastating compulsion that results in the starvation, illness and death of many animals, in addition to the destruction of human relationships and health. 
News: Guest Posts
Shelter Pet Project
Giving dogs- and cats-in-need a voice

We were thrilled to discover My Dog Tulip animator Paul Fierlinger (who is interviewed in the summer 2010 issue of Bark) has added his talents to an ambitious print/radio/TV/Internet/billboard campaign on behalf of shelter pets. The Shelter Pet Project is a joint initiative of The Humane Society of the United States, Maddie’s Fund and The Ad Council. Their goal: Give shelter animals a voice. The funny, moving public service announcements—which also include animated shorts by “Mutts” cartoonist Patrick McDonnell—work to dispel stereotypes about shelter animals as troubled, difficult throwaways. Many of the PSAs focus on the various reasons cats and dogs end up in shelters—reasons such as divorce, death, job transfer, abandonment, even imprisonment of the human—which have nothing to do with a dog or cat’s adoption worthiness. My favorite? “Ditched.” I like how the tough-talking terrier is anything but a victim. View the entire campaign, and tell us which is your favorite.

News: Guest Posts
Cave Canem, Redux
Finding homes for Pompeii’s strays

I had the good fortune to visit Italy in December 2008, and on a sunny, cool day toured the nearly deserted streets of Pompeii with a guide named “Big Nicky,” who is, in fact, rather on the small side. Among the ruins of the ancient Roman city, I was delighted to spy several healthy looking strays—apparently a few of the dozens on the premises. I learned from Big Nicky that the dogs are cared for by Pompeii staff.

  I was equally pleased to get a more complete and updated picture of Pompeii’s strays in recent New York Times story about the Italian government’s efforts to improve conditions at the important archaeological site. One facet of these efforts is an organization called (C)Ave Canem (a play on “Ave Canis,” which means Hail Dog), which has been helping find homes for the strays, who’ve been given names such as Plautus, Lucius and Polibia, over the course of one year. Twenty-two have been adopted so far.   Good for the dogs but maybe a loss for Pompeii. I felt like they gave the ghostly city a feeling of being inhabited again.

 

News: JoAnna Lou
Extreme Primping
Is competitive grooming embarrassing for the pups?

Last month I read about dogs in China dyed to resemble wild animals. It seemed so outrageous that I didn’t think it could possibly be true. After checking web sites like Snopes, It looked like it was indeed real.

As crazy as it sounds, the desire to transform dogs into wild animals is not limited to China. A new show called Extreme Poodles on TLC follows four groomers and their adventures in the world of competitive dog grooming. The pups are cut and styled to look like all sorts of things from a lion to a basket of flowers. The winner will get $5,000 and a cover story in Groomer to Groomer magazine.

I suppose the dogs aren’t being harmed, and if anything, they’re getting a lot of attention and are well taken care of, but it seems a little embarrassing for the dogs. None of the dogs that I saw looked particularly stressed out, although it was hard to see their faces under all of that primping, but I can’t imagine that they enjoy standing on the grooming table for that long!

What do you think? Are you a fan of competitive grooming?

News: Guest Posts
Law & Order: Canine Unit?
New DNA database to aid dog-fighting investigations

On the heels of Charles Siebert’s eye-opening examination of the links between animal cruelty and other types of violence (“The Animal-Cruelty Syndrome,” New York Times, 6/7/10), the University of California, Davis, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have announced the creation of the nation’s first criminal dog-fighting DNA database. Known as the Canine CODIS (Combined DNA Index System), the database is designed to support criminal investigations and prosecutions in dog-fighting cases. As Siebert pointed out, the conviction of Michael Vick on dog-fighting charges in 2007 and the growing awareness of links between dog fighting and domestic violence and other crimes has made dog fighting a higher law enforcement priority. I’m thrilled to see advanced technology and new energy brought to this terrible practice.

 

How will it work? The Canine CODIS contains DNA profiles from dogs seized during dog-fighting investigations and from unidentified samples collected at suspected dog-fighting venues. DNA analysis and matching will help law enforcement identify relationships between dogs and establish connections between breeders, trainers and dog-fight operators. Blood collected from dog fighting sites also will be searched against the Canine CODIS database to identify the source. Am I the only one seeing a new Law & Order franchise here?   The Humane Society of Missouri is also a partner in creating the database, supplying 400 original and initial samples of DNA collected from dogs seized in July 2009 during the nation’s largest dog-fighting raid, as well as the Louisiana SPCA. The database will be maintained at the University of California, Davis, Veterinary Genetics Laboratory.

 

News: Guest Posts
Ick, Ugh, Eeek!
Is it really fun to celebrate ugly dogs?

The World’s Ugliest Dog Contest (Dog Lover’s Festival, Sonoma-Marin Fair, Petaluma, Calif., June 25) brings out the buzz kill in me. Sweet, unsuspecting pups “celebrated” for tufted hair, bucked or missing teeth, disproportionate bodies, wrinkles and bumps, baldness and protruding tongues—many of these exaggerations introduced by breeders in the first place and sometimes creating very real health challenges. It just feels like stories of “pig parties” (where frat members compete to bring the ugliest date to a party) or the flipside of beauty contests, which I don’t much like either.

  This is not to say that many of the other events at the Dog Lover’s Festival—such as tips for adopting a dog from the Sonoma Humane Society, Paws for Reading’s kids reading to dogs, and a Nose Work demonstration (see our story on K9 Nose Work)—aren’t worthy offerings.

 

News: Guest Posts
Must Read
Connecting animal cruelty to other forms of violence

Bark contributor Charles Siebert explores how we are taking animal abuse more seriously than ever before—with tougher legislation, law enforcement, veterinary forensics and explorations into the neuroscience of empathy. “The Animal-Cruelty Syndrome” (New York Times Magazine, 6/13/10) is a tough read in parts, with graphic examples (be prepared), but hopefully signals a turning point in this previously underreported and inadequately addressed violence.

 

View the accompanying slideshow of abused and/or neglected Pit Bulls in New York shelters.

News: JoAnna Lou
Promoting Adoption
New group represents N.Y. dogs to find their forever home

Homeless pups in New York now have their own public relations representation thanks to Bruised Not Broken. The new organization, started by Brooke Slater and her husband, leverages technology and social media to promote bully breeds looking for their forever homes. 

The inspiration for Bruised Not Broken came from their own rescue dog, Luca, who Brooke and her husband adopted from a local shelter two years ago. Luca is an all white, deaf Pit Bull who opened their eyes to the potential of bully breed dogs and the fact that so many are not as lucky as Luca.

Brooke and her husband decided that they had to do something and quickly identified a need for better promotion for homeless dogs. For instance, the only representation a shelter pup might get is often a single low-resolution photo, usually taken at intake when they are most likely to look emaciated and scared. 

Bruised Not Broken gives dogs a proper media campaign that gives them a better shot at being adopted. High-resolution photo shoots and You Tube videos capture each dog's unique personality. These photos and videos are then shared with dog lovers on their website, Facebook page and on Twitter.

Bruised Not Broken works with multiple New York City rescue groups and foster homes, primarily working with Pit Bulls who, at one point or another, have been scheduled for euthanasia.

There are so many dogs, especially pit bulls, stuck in New York Shelters. Technology can help, but many shelters don't have the resources to take advantage of social media to its highest potential. Bruised Not Broken may be the first of its kind to focus exclusively on publicity and will hopefully be a trail blazer for how rescue pets are represented. 

If you're interested in helping out, visit the Bruised Not Broken website to donate money, fill out an adoption application, or to help spread the word.

News: JoAnna Lou
Sensationalizing
PSPCA sees dog fighting cases triple post-Vick

In a previous blog post, Lisa Wogan contemplated the effect of Michael Vick’s reality television show and the perception of his crime.

The show, which debuted in February, follows Vick’s comeback from his dog fighting conviction and subsequent 21 month prison sentence. While the show highlights the repercussions of dog fighting, and Vick comes across as genuinely remorseful, many wonder if the newfound attention may be having a negative effect. 

Despite the fact that Vick served almost 2 years in prison, lost endorsement deals and was forced to declare bankruptcy, he seems to have been rewarded with more attention and fame than ever before. Vick has since signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, landed a reality show and was even awarded the Ed Block Courage Award by his new teammates, given to players who “exemplify commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage.”

The SPCA of Pennsylvania’s director of law enforcement, George Bengal, worries that Vick may have made dog fighting “cool” and made Pit Bulls a status symbol. Since Vick joined the Eagles, his organization’s dog fighting cases have tripled. 

The spike could be a result of Vick’s addition to Philadelphia’s pro football team, but I certainly hope it’s actually a reflection of an increase in awareness and reporting of dog fighting. 

Vick’s reality show certainly doesn’t portray his crime in a positive light, but I can see how the attention could sensationalize dog fighting.

What’s your take?

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