News: Karen B. London
Post Office highlights shelter adoptions
On April 30, The United States Postal Service officially dedicates its social awareness stamps about adopting pets from shelters. As Lisa Wogan told us back in March (Stamps to the Rescue!), the post office has a history of creating stamps to highlight relevant social issues, including those concerning pets, and the most recent set of animal stamps features dogs and cats adopted from shelters. Be prepared to have an Awww moment because their faces are adorable. Involved in the event are high-ranking members of the United States Postal Service, the American Humane Association, Petfinder.com, the Humane Society of the United States, and Ellen DeGeneres, whose work as an animal advocate has included introducing these stamps to the public on her talk show. The official dedication of these stamps takes place at The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in North Hollywood, Calif.
News: Guest Posts
Using Greyhounds to kill coyotes
My head’s spinning a little after reading today’s New York Times story about the “sport” of coyote hunting with Greyhounds. It’s the first I’ve heard of it, although my home state of Washington, along with Colorado, outlawed the practice last year.What I learned is that this practice is not your traditional hunting with dogs. They aren’t retrieving birds shot by a hunter or even cornering live animals to be dispatched by a human (not that I’m saying I love these options either). No, this hunt is dog-on-dog killing. The human hunter drives the dogs to the coyotes and tends the dogs’ injuries (coyote bites, broken bones, barbwire cuts among them) after the fact—or, in some cases, reportedly leaves them for dead. As Miranda Wecker, the chairwoman of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, told The Times, “This was dogs ripping apart other dogs. Thinking about it that way, it became very close to dogfighting.” Once you read about the cruelty of the sport—for both hunter and hunted—it seems impossible that this is legal anywhere. I’m guessing it’s been a relatively under-the-radar practice in rural communities that frown on government intervention in many forms. But the high beams of The New York Times will hopefully change all that. Watch a video slideshow with an interview with John Hardzog, a cattle rancher who uses Greyhounds to hunt coyotes.
News: Karen B. London
One big grant makes a huge difference
American Humane’s Second Chance Fund has awarded a $20,000 grant to a shelter in Georgia. The Dublin-Laurens County Humane Society is caring for 71 animals that were among the 300 neglected dogs and cats seized from an inhumane situation in a neighboring state.A place calling itself an animal refuge in southern Mississippi had hundreds of animals confined in overcrowded crates lacking proper food, water or medical care and without protection from the elements. A new volunteer reported the conditions, which resulted in an investigation by the local sheriff’s department. The owner of the facility was charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty and the animals were taken to a local shelter. Some animals stayed at that shelter for treatment and to be adopted while others were transported to shelters in other states. Taking care of a large number of animals that have been removed from an inhumane, neglectful or abusive situation costs money. The love and caring of volunteers is invaluable, but it still costs money for food, medicine, medical care, and supplies of all kinds. Grants of this magnitude are not common, but for cases of large numbers of animals with high needs, thousands of dollars can make the difference between being able to give the animals proper care and not being able to do so.
News: Guest Posts
An Australian couple paid $300 for their puppy and $500,000 to save his life.
If you have dogs, people always ask "What kind of dogs do you have?" I often take this question as an invitation to blabber uncontrollably about my variety pack. "Oh, I have two Dalmatians who compete in agility, a Catahoula - are you familiar with that breed? They’re bred for herding and hunting. I also have a Pit Bull mix - she's super sweet - and a true Heinz 57. She looks like a hyena. Seriously, one of my neighbors asked me if she was one. She competes in Frisbee. Yeah, so I have five dogs. They range in age from 3 to 13 ... ."
Unfortunately for my audience, I can go on and on, but I'm usually interrupted the moment I mention my Pit Bull mix. Some people are surprised that I have one of those “vicious” dogs. If possible, I invite them to meet my belly-rub-lovin’ Shelby so they can cast off those horrible stereotypes.
It would never occur to me to lie about Shelby’s breed. Hiding what she is only adds to the ignorance. And yet, if I lived in Queensland, Australia, I would rethink being so open about her bully breed background. Gold Coast couple Kylie Chivers and John Mokomoko paid $300 for their American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) puppy Tango. They soon learned that APBTs are deemed dangerous dogs in Queensland and subsequently banned. Their only choice was to move to a different state or allow him to be euthanized.
Mokomoko’s job made it difficult for the entire family to move, so they opted to board Tango at a kennel out of state in New South Wales. They also initiated legal proceedings to change his breed from APBT to American Staffordshire Terrier (AST), which is not considered a dangerous dog in their region even though it can be argued that APBTs and ASTs are practically interchangeable. Take this quiz and see if you can find the Pit Bull. How did you do? (I thought I would ace it but was far from perfect!)
The couple have faithfully visited Tango for the past five years as they took their battle all the way to the Supreme Court. They spent $500,000 on this battle on behalf of Tango and other people determined to keep their dogs, regardless of what they’re called. You can read about the court’s findings here.
News: Guest Posts
SCOTUS rejects law banning animal cruelty videos
The Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday to strike down a law banning the sale of graphic animal cruelty videos has won the support of First Amendment advocates and the ire of animal protection groups.Supreme Court justices, by an 8-1 vote, ruled the federal law was “substantially overbroad, and therefore invalid under the First Amendment.” The head of an organization that defends the First Amendment applauded Tuesday’s ruling, saying, “Speech is protected whether it’s popular or unpopular, harmful or unharmful.” But the president of the Humane Society of the United States, who emphasized his organization is a “devoted defender of the First Amendment,” said no one should be able to profit from “malicious, illegal, and violent acts.” Tuesday’s high court ruling also threw out the conviction of a Virginia man sentenced to three years in prison under the law for selling dogfighting videos. Robert Stevens of Pittsville, Virginia, appealed his conviction, saying it violated his right of free speech. The U.S Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia tossed out Stevens’ conviction and ruled the 1999 law was unconstitutional. The Department of Justice later appealed that decision to the Supreme Court. The 11-year-old law at the center of this debate—the Depiction of Animal Cruelty Act—banned the interstate sale of videos depicting illegal and extreme acts of animal cruelty, including dog fighting and “crush videos.” Those are “sexual gratification” videos in which puppies, kittens, and other small animals are crushed, smothered, and pierced to death—often by women wearing high-heeled shoes.
Read the complete story in Consumer Affairs.
News: Guest Posts
An Okla. couple is creating a memorial to pets poisoned by melamine
[Editor’s note: It’s been two years since melamine-tainted pet food destroyed the lives of countless dogs and cats and their people. Yesterday, Bark contributor Lisa Wade McCormick reported for Consumer Affairs.com on how one Oklahoma couple has decided to remember the pets they lost.]A grieving pet owner is creating a memorial to honor the thousands of dogs and cats that died or became seriously ill during the 2007 melamine-tainted pet food recall. The Oklahoma woman and her husband, who lost six pets in the recall that “nuked” their lives, have donated five acres of land near Keystone Lake in Tulsa for the sanctuary they’ve named Vindication. The memorial is scheduled to open on June 12, 2010. “The animals that were lost or are still suffering need to be counted and acknowledged,” says the woman, who wants to remain anonymous. “I want people to feel like their animals did matter. This memorial is to honor the bond between animals and humans.” Creating the memorial is also the donor’s way of helping pet owners deal with heartbreaking loss of their beloved dogs and cats. Such a loss can shatter someone’s life, she says. It devastated hers. She and her husband lost two dogs and four cats because of melamine-tainted food. “By March 17, one day after Menu announced its recall, I had three dead animals and three who were dying slowly,” the woman says. “I have cleaned vomit and bloody urine and know what happens when pets die of catastrophic kidney failure. And I can’t tell you how it hurts me to open my door and walk into an empty house. “But this (memorial) isn’t about my loss,” she adds. “It’s about the thousands and thousands of pet owners out who are being stabbed in the backs. There is no justice or mercy for them or their pets. And there are no safer pet foods out there. I’m doing this as one grieving pet family to the rest of those out there. And I honestly feel this will help their hearts’ heal.” The donor plans to transform the five acres of Oklahoma’s ancient Cross Timbers -- covered with 500-year-old oak trees -- into a memorial garden that will feature cascading pathways lined with flowers, park benches, and handmade stones. Each stone will bear the name of a dog or cat that died or is still sick because of the contaminated pet food, the donor says. “I will make all the stones at no cost to pet owners,” she told ConsumerAffairs.com. “I expect I will be overwhelmed, but I felt compelled to do this for the pet people. It’s time somebody did something right for them.” Read Lisa Wade McCormick’s complete report for ConsumerAffairs.com.
News: JoAnna Lou
Euthanized pets hit an all-time low in the Big Apple
Today, New York City’s mayor Michael Bloomberg, announced some optimistic news for the area’s homeless pets. In 2009, the percentage of dogs and cats put to death in city shelters hit an all-time low -- 33 percent, down from 69 percent in just six years ago.
At the same time, the city’s adoption rates increased to 66 percent, up from 26 percent in 2003.
The mayor also announced a $1 million grant from the ASPCA to the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, a coalition of more than 160 local rescue groups and shelters. The organization, founded in 2002, has a goal of a “no-kill” New York by 2015. The alliance makes it clear that this doesn’t mean euthanasia will be completely eliminated, but that putting animals to sleep will not be used as a measure for population control.
The economic downturn has led to a decrease in adoptions for many shelters, but the alliance believes turbulent times may have had the opposite effect in New York City. Increased adoption rates suggest that, in stressful times, people are turning to the unconditional love of a pet. Additionally, some New Yorkers may have been more inclined to forget expensive breeders and pet stores for shelters’ affordable adoption fees.
I’ve always liked the idea of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals and they’ve made incredible progress. In a time when many shelters and rescue groups are struggling, I think they’re a great example of what you can do when you pool resources towards a common goal.
News: Guest Posts
By allowing more dogs and cats per home
We all know animal control agencies, shelters and rescue organizations around the country are trying to do more with less. And I’m intrigued by new strategies that could make a considerable difference without further taxing resources, such as the idea under consideration in Lafayette, Ind. That city’s animal control commission is crafting legislation that will increase the number of pets allowed in private homes to encourage fostering and help overburdened rescues and shelters. The increase would be from six animals (three dogs and three cats) to nine (either six dogs and three cats or three dogs and six cats). Residents would pay $100 for a multi-pet license to cover the cost of a pre-approval home inspection by an animal control officer.
I was a little surprised by the fact that residents can already keep six animals. Based on my experience with two dogs in a modest home that sounds like a lot. But I know folks who manage more creatures beautifully. Ultimately, setting a limit that applies to all circumstances is too restrictive in some cases and too lenient others. But there are two things I like about this legislation. One, it allows for a pre-approval visit by an animal control officer, which is an opportunity for educating people who might be taking on more than they can handle. And two, it might actually lead to more foster homes, which is almost always better than a shelter.
What’s the limit in your hometown? Are any other municipalities considering a more-dogs-per-home approach? I’d love a report on this idea in action.
News: Guest Posts
Think before you buy that cute puppy
Here are 45 reasons why you should never buy a puppy from a pet shop or backyard breeder: Alabama puppy miller Nannie Johnson was charged with 43 counts of cruelty to animals after police discovered 43 dead dogs on her property, 42 of whom were in her freezer. That's right, in her freezer. Authorities confiscated 28 emaciated dogs, but sadly, two dogs died after being rescued.
That makes for a total of 45 dead dogs. Think about that for a minute. This is just one woman running a puppy mill. How many more backyard breeders are out there abusing and using dogs just to make a quick buck? And clearly, Johnson needs counseling and/or psychiatric care. More than one person knew about her operation. Why didn't they come forward sooner, or try to get her some help?
There are responsible breeders out there, but it requires research and patience on the part of the potential puppy buyer. Too many people just impulsively fall for that cute puppy in the window without taking the time to think about where he came from. We live in a world of instant gratification; at what cost?
News: JoAnna Lou
ALDF ranks animal protection laws in the U.S.
Two weeks ago I wrote about the efforts to strengthen animal cruelty laws in New York.
In my research, I discovered that each year, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) ranks the animal protection laws of every state in the United States.
The ALDF's most recent report compares fourteen categories of animal protection laws, ranking states into a top, middle and bottom tier and highlighting the best and worst five states.
Best Five: Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Oregon, California
Worst Five: Kentucky, North Dakota, Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi
Top Tier: California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Vermont, Virginia
Middle Tier: Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Utah, Virgin Islands
Bottom Tier: Alabama, Alaska, American Samoa, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, South Dakota, Texas, Wyoming
Some of the characteristics that separated the best from the worst were felony penalties for cruelty, neglect and abandonment, mandatory reporting of cruelty by veterinarians, and giving humane agents some law enforcement authority.
I’m glad that the Animal Legal Defense Fund is compiling this information as it brings awareness to the varying laws between states. Hopefully this report will encourage animal lovers to write to their respective politicians to improve their states’ ranking. Arkansas, which made an appearance on the worst five list in 2008, made the jump to 25th overall in the country this year.
Even for the top tier, there is always room to be better. For each of the best five states, the Animal Legal Defense Fund has outlined possible improvements.
Let’s hope that one day every state will make it to the top tier.
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