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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.

 

News: JoAnna Lou
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?

News: Guest Posts
Tough Love
Simon Cowell has a heart…for animals

Sometimes it seems like Simon Cowell, the famed curmudgeon judge of American Idol, doesn’t have a kind word for anyone. Well, that’s not entirely the case. When it comes to animals—an old dog, in particular—he’s practically mushy. And he’s gone public (in a video released last night) about his lifelong love for animals to help the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) promote an international campaign for animal welfare. Check it out:

Like many of us, Cowell’s respect for animals came early, while growing up with pets. Drawing on these lessons, he has pledged his support for the WSPA’s Universal Declaration for Animal Welfare—an admirable initiative to persuade governments across the world to embrace international laws that protect animals with the hope of ending animal suffering and cruelty. It’s easy to cast join him.

WSPA is an alliance of more than 900 animal welfare organizations in 150 countries. The declaration calls for, among other goals, recognizing animals as sentient beings, capable of suffering and experiencing pain—an essential baseline for animal welfare progress.

Meanwhile for Cowell, this might be the leading edge of a larger life change. Last night on the Tonight Show, he revealed that he's engaged. Maybe he plans on opening his heart a little more for people now, too.

News: Guest Posts
Animal Abuser Registry
The state of California is considering it

What if there was a public registry of animal abusers just like sex offenders? State Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter) of California wants to create the nation's first statewide registry in hopes of preventing future crimes against animals. Written with the input of the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF)--which has campaigned for animal abuser registries in all 50 states--the bill would require a convicted animal abuser to register with the police and submit his address, place of employment and a current photo for an online registry. The specific crime would also be mentioned. Do you think a registry would help deter animal abuse in your community? If so, sign the Expose Animal Abusers petition and it will be forwarded to your state representatives.

News: JoAnna Lou
Breeder v. Shelter
Do you have to choose?

Earlier this week at Westminster, two PETA supporters crashed the Best in Show judging with “Mutts Rule” and “Breeders Kill Shelter Dogs’ Chances” signs, highlighting the breeder-shelter debate.  Yesterday, Sassafras Lowrey blogged about seeing both sides of Westminster, the glamour and the ethics. 

The breeder-shelter debate is a topic that I’ve been conflicted over for a long time.  My Sheltie, Nemo, came from a breeder.  Being my first dog, I opted to go this route for the predictability, both in personality and health.  While genetic testing and breed standards don’t guarantee the dog you get, it certainly increases the chances in your favor.

With millions of animals euthanized in shelters each year, this wasn’t an easy decision.  But, as a supporter of adoption, a shelter pup is not out of the question for the future.  I do believe that there is room for both purebreds and mutts in the canine world.

This week the New York Times debates this topic and has invited Mark Derr (author and The Bark’s own Science Editor), Ted Kerasote (author), Stanley Coren (psychology professor), and Francis Battista (co-founder of Best Friends Animal Society) to weigh in on the issue.

They raise some interesting view points supporting both sides.  Where do you fall in the debate?

News: Karen B. London
Have a Heart for Chained Dogs Week
Because dogs deserve better

The organization Dogs Deserve Better is a national group that advocates for and rescues chained dogs. Their goal is to stop the constant chaining of dogs. While they work towards this end all year long, the week around Valentine’s Day is one of their most prominent periods of activity.

  During this season, they send Valentines to continuously chained dogs. Each Valentine includes a brochure that explains why keeping a dog chained up all the time is a form of abuse and also a coupon for dog food or dog treats. Their goal is to educate people (rather than to accuse them of wrongdoing) so that they will either consider bringing their dog into the house or finding a better home for the dog. Their goal this year is to send Valentines to 15,000 chained dogs. There are many ways to participate in this program.   Some communities have legislation that prohibits chaining dogs constantly by setting limits on the amount of time or the situations in which dogs can be tethered. (For more information about such anti-tethering legislation, check out Alyce Miller’s article, Breaking the Chain, which appeared in The Bark.)

 

News: Guest Posts
Keeping Score
Do your senators and representatives care about animal welfare?

Thirty-nine senators and 54 representatives scored big fat zeros for their “efforts” to protect animals in 2009, according to the latest Humane Scorecard. Every year, the folks at the Humane Society Legislative Fund provide a neat and tidy breakdown of the action on animal welfare measures in the U.S. Congress, which in 2009 included (but wasn’t limited to) lifting the ban on loaded firearms in national parks, phasing out chimpanzees for use in research, and species-labeling for fur. There was no federal legislation relating directly to dogs specifically or companion animals, in general, other than HR 80, which prohibits interstate and foreign commerce in non-human primates for the pet trade—which passed the house last February and was moving through senate committee last summer.

The scorecard is an excellent opportunity to bone up on animal welfare issues at the federal level and to gauge the efforts of your legislators before 36 senators and 435 representatives ask for your vote this fall.
 

News: Guest Posts
Amazing Dog Rescuers
Sadly, not everyone thinks these dogs should've been saved.

It’s not unusual to hear about good Samaritans helping out a dog, but lately, people are risking their lives to save a stray. Check out the nail-biting video of firefighters rescuing a German Shepherd mix from the flooded waters of the Los Angeles River.  The lucky dog – now named Vernon for where he was found – is still looking for his rightful owner. If no one claims him, there’s a lengthy list of potential adopters.

Across the globe, another Shepherd mix found himself in trouble. The poor dog got stuck on an ice floe and floated down Poland’s Vistula River and out to the Baltic Sea. He was first spotted on Monday, shivering and scared, and had traveled 75 miles before he was rescued on Thursday by research  scientists aboard the Baltica. Four people have since claimed the now famous “Baltic.”

Not to be outdone, 25-year-old Alvin Clark decided to do whatever it took to find his beloved 7-month-old American Staffordshire Terriers,  Magu and Chulo. Two weeks ago, the pups snuck through a hole in the fence of his suburban Chicago backyard to follow a public works employee. As the man attempted to lead them home, two teenagers pulled up in a truck and picked up the dogs. Devastated, Clark initially offered a $1,000 award without any luck. Thanks to the assistance of two police departments and Clark’s own determined detective work despite some scary scenarios, he got his dogs back.

In all three cases, critics argue that such valuable resources shouldn't be wasted on a dog.  What do you think?

 

News: Guest Posts
The Fur Is Flying!
Some folks don't think mutts should mix with AKC

At agility class last week, I bumped into an old friend. While catching up, I mentioned how excited I was that my mixed breed, Ginger Peach, could soon compete in AKC agility.

I swear his head nearly spun completely around and he grew red in the face before blurting, "Allowing mixed breeds is an insult to the breeders who spend so much time, energy and money on their breeding programs!"

He then reminded me that a lot of AKC agility shows already fill and it’s hard to get into them now much less when mixed breeds will be allowed, too. I pointed out that clubs have the option to allow mixed breeds at their shows. If their shows already fill, then they likely would not invite the mutts. So far, my tally of 2010 Midwest agility trials allowing mixed breeds was a grand total of four. Not exactly a threat considering there’s an AKC agility trial nearly every weekend year round.

As smoke steamed out of his ears, I glanced around at my instructor and her students. All of the dogs here in class were purebred. Most were from breeders, although there were some rescues, like my two Dalmatians. No mixed breeds. Clearly, I had forgotten the company I was keeping. Did they all feel this way? I felt like a spy, a mixed breed secret agent.

Thankfully, we recognized that this was a hot topic that we were unlikely to agree upon and moved on to a less controversial subject. Even so, I felt uneasy. It was reminiscent of some AKC fanciers’ email list claims that AKC was “slumming” by allowing mixed breeds.  But I know of dogs purchased from pet stores that have AKC registration. How is allowing dogs from puppy mills any different from allowing mixed breeds? In my opinion, the former is morally wrong if you value humane care of animals.

As an AKC agility competitor, animal rescuer, Dalmatian Club of America member, and dedicated lover of rescues and mutts, I feel like I am straddling two very different worlds. Is it possible to reconcile them?

Read this spirited opinion by Heather Houlahan and let me know what you think. 
 

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