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News: Guest Posts
Grieving Together
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.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
No-Kill NYC by 2015
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
Expanding the Foster Universe
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
Dead Dogs Found in Breeder’s Freezer
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?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Best and Worst States for Pets
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.

News: Guest Posts
Q&A with Maren Bussey
Young author follows shelter dogs in a new book

With more than 100 books to her credit, four adopted dogs in her home and a canine-behaviorist mother, it was probably only a matter of time before Maren Bussey wrote a book about shelter dogs. Tackling the project like a journalist, the cub reporter followed dozens of dogs surrendered to Maricopa County Animal Care and Control (MCACC) in her hometown of Phoenix, Ariz., and then profiled 15 in Forgotten Friends—Stories from an Animal Shelter. Bussey’s tales of lucky—and a few not-so-lucky—pups, along with daunting shelter facts and advice on how to help, make a compelling case for adoption aimed at young folks by one of their own. (The book is published on demand through booksbymaren.com, ten percent of the $20 cover price goes to MCACC.)

  TheBark.com: Why did you write Forgotten Friends? Maren Bussey: A lot of books for kids talk about getting pets from pet stores or “buying” pets. I thought it was important to teach kids about adopting and showing them that shelters are full of good dogs.   Do you have a favorite dog among those profiled in your story? I really like Toby and Rocket. They both have intriguing stories; Toby kept getting passed by, almost didn’t find a home and then found the perfect one. Rocket was also overlooked and then someone who worked at the shelter realized how great he was so adopted him herself!   Was it hard to write about the dogs who weren’t adopted? And why is it important to include them in your book? It was sad when I heard that two of my dogs didn’t get adopted. But I thought it was important to have their stories in my book to show that there are a lot of great dogs who don’t get adopted; not everyone will find a home. This, again, shows how important it is to adopt.   Why do you think so many people still don’t choose to adopt from a shelter or rescue? And what would you tell them to change their minds? I think a lot of people think shelters are full of dogs that are there because they are “bad” or have “issues.” Also, a lot of people think that purebred dogs are better than mutts. I would tell them that shelters have great dogs; many are there because something happened to their families and they couldn’t keep their dog anymore. One of the dogs in my book had to go to the shelter because her family’s house burned down and they couldn’t keep the dog. I would also tell them that mixed breeds are often healthier than purebreds and can be just as great, too!   You knew a lot about animal welfare issues before Forgotten Friends, did you learn anything new during the project? I was surprised to learn how many dogs and cats actually do not get adopted. I thought more people adopted, than actually do.   I read that you’ve written more than 100 books, any other dog books among them? What else do you like to write about? I wrote a book about one of my dogs and how we adopted him. I also like to write fantasy and science fiction.   What’s your next book? My next book is also about one of my dogs and all the funny stuff he does. That is all I can tell you right now… but it will also benefit a rescue organization.   Do you have a favorite book or story about a dog or dogs written by someone else? I liked Nobody’s Pets by Deborah White, a fiction book about dogs and cats living in shelters. Right now I’m reading Out of Harm’s Way by Terri Crisp. She has devoted her life to rescuing animals from disasters—she rescues everything from Great Danes to little frogs named Kermit!   Do you think you might be a writer or maybe a veterinarian when you grow up? Actually, I think I want to be a detective but I’ll probably keep writing just for fun.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
In Memory of Oreo
Cruelty sparks a movement for justice

Last week, the unimaginable happened to a member of the dog agility community. Michelle witnessed her beloved dog get run over by an angry neighbor who showed no remorse. Now, animal lovers are rallying to support Michelle and find justice for Oreo, which is likely to be a long road.

Laws have long been inadequate when it comes to penalizing animal abuse. In many states, animal cruelty is a mere misdemeanor.

In New York, Buster’s Law was created following the murder of a cat in 1997. The 18-month old tabby had been doused with kerosene and burned to death by a teenager. Buster’s Law made “aggravated cruelty to animals” a felony punishable by up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

New York State Assemblyman, James Tedisco, is currently working to strengthen Buster’s Law. The connection between harming animals and people has been proven.  Infamous serial killers, Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer had a history of abusing animals. The teenager who murdered Buster has since been imprisoned for various crimes, including attempted rape and sexual abuse.

Oreo was an accomplished agility and obedience competitor, a certified therapy dog, and had a paying job working with autistic children. But above all, Oreo was a beloved family pet who is sorely missed. While nothing can be done to bring Oreo back, hopefully the dog community can come together to change the legal percussions for committing such a horrible crime.

For more information on this topic, the ASPCA has online resources to help prevent animal abuse and maintains a database of state animal cruelty laws. To support the Justice for Oreo cause, visit their web site for the latest news and information.

News: Guest Posts
Stamps to the Rescue!
New postage stamp aims to help shelter animals

According to today’s announcement by U.S. Postmaster General John E. Potter, pretty soon we’ll be able to not only seal our letters with a kiss, but stamp them with a dog or cat. OK, he didn’t say anything about kisses but the other part is true. The United States Postal Service (USPS) has created a series of stamps featuring the adorable mugs of five cats and five dogs, all of whom were rescued from a shelter in New Milford, Conn.

  “These stamps continue a Postal Service tradition of bringing attention to serious social issues of the day … one letter at a time,” Potter said. “This campaign will increase public awareness about sheltered pets and our hope is that it will encourage pet adoption and promote humane and responsible pet care.”   For you stamp collectors and trivia lovers, cats and dogs have been featured on other U.S. postage stamps, according to USPS public relations folks. A 13-cent stamp of a kitten and puppy playing in the snow was issued in 1982 for use on holiday postcards, in 1998, images of a cat and a dog were included in the “Bright Eyes” set of five pets, and most recently, in 2002, photographs of a kitten and puppy were featured on the “Neuter or Spay” stamps.   Animal Rescue stamps go on sale at post offices nationwide on April 30, but they can be pre-ordered beginning today at usps.com/shop, stampstotherescue.com, or by calling 1.800.STAMP.24 (1.800.782.6724).

 

News: Guest Posts
Fighting Dog Meat in China
Progress in the battle

Last January, I blogged about a rare government raid on a dog trader (for consumption) in Sichuan Province, which resulted in the rescue of 149 dogs from appalling conditions. Although that particular trader had violated the law dog meat is not only legal in China, it’s quite popular. But things may be changing. A year later it sounds like efforts to ban the practice of eating dogs and cats in China (and the attendant cruelty) are gaining ground, according to a recent story on CNN.com.

  If you want to be a part of this effort, learn more about out Animals in Asia’s campaign to ban dog meat, and the cruelty associated with the practice. Also, Korea Animal Rights Advocates is campaigning to end the practice of eating dogs in South Korea.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
An Unrealistic Ideal?
Two “no-kill” shelters are shut down due to crowding and neglect.

In an ideal world, no-kill shelters are safe havens where homeless animals stay as long as it takes to find their forever homes. In reality, these places are often strained for resources, forcing many to turn away animals that may be hard to place.

Last year, Julia Kamysz Lane wrote about the difficult dilemma of no-kill shelters. Recently, organizations that resist euthanasia have been in the news due to overpopulation and neglect. 

In January, the Clarksdale-Coahoma County Animal Shelter in Mississippi was shut down after 400 animals were discovered in a facility built to hold 60 dogs. The organization’s numbers quickly grew unmanageable since they did not turn away or euthanize any of the animals brought to the shelter. 

Last November, the Toronto Humane Society was raided by police and the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA), resulting in five managers being led away in handcuffs. An affidavit documents a pattern of alleged abuses.

For years the Toronto Humane Society used its low 6 percent euthanasia rate as a marketing tool, easily outnumbering other big-city shelters that regularly put down 50 percent or more of the animals they accept.

Julie Morris, senior vice president of Community Outreach for the ASPCA, notes that shelter management usually has good intentions, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed. She also says that some shelters can become so fixated on low euthanasia rates that they begin to overlook suffering.

I understand that with proper management, no-kill shelters play an important role in the community, taking dogs off the street and educating potential adopters. But until every person in the world truly understands the responsibility of pet ownership, we will continue to have more dogs than potential homes. With limited resources, particularly in recent economic times, euthanasia seems like a necessary evil. 

Is the concept of no-kill unrealistic?

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