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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.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
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?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
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. 
 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Great Pet Rescue Rally
Online pet adoption fundraiser

The Great Pet Rescue Rally is a fundraising event that benefits ten organizations throughout Maricopa County in Arizona that rescue and adopt out pets. This collaboration of ten welfare organizations in the greater Metropolitan Phoenix area makes this group the second largest shelter system in the United States (after Los Angeles), representing 100,000 animals each year. The work by these groups is important for rescue, adoption, advocacy, and community outreach.

  Conducted completely online, the Great Pet Rescue Rally is eight months long, finishing May 31, 2010. There are 20 destinations in Arizona to “drive” to, with teams or individuals starting in Phoenix. Participants can go to the destinations in any order they choose and at any time of day or night. To “travel” you must raise money for gas. The more money you raise, the more places you can visit online.   Besides the opportunity to help dogs and cats who need homes, participants can win prizes, blog about their adventures on their own personal web page and see fantastic photos of the Grand Canyon State.  

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Relief Efforts in Haiti
The need is extraordinary

The suffering defies description in the aftermath of the biggest earthquake to hit Haiti in centuries, and worldwide efforts to help the people in need reveal the empathy of the international community towards those whose very lives depend on what emergency supplies and care reach them in the next hours, days, weeks and months. Groups involved in aid efforts include Partners in Health, the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF, the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, Oxfam, the Salvation Army, Save the Children, and many more.

  Animals, too, are suffering. Wildlife, zoo animals, livestock, companion animals, and the large population of stray dogs are all in dire need of assistance. The Animal Relief Coalition for Haiti (ARCH) combines the efforts of many groups, including the two heading it: The International Fund for Animal Welfare and the World Society for the Protection of Animals. Among those who are part of the coalition are the American Humane Association, Best Friends, the ASPCA, and Humane Society International.   There are many ways to contribute to relief efforts, including through the groups listed above, all of which are taking donations that will go directly towards helping those in Haiti whose lives depend on it. People are truly in desperate need of water, food and medical care, and the animal survivors of the quake are, too.

 

News: Guest Posts
Pedigree Dogs Inquiry Released
Recommends more breeder oversight, stronger welfare regulations

A year and a half after the BBC documentary “Pedigree Dogs Exposed” revealed high levels of disability, deformity and disease in pedigree dogs left the United Kingdom’s Kennel Club reeling, an independent review of breed standards has been released. (Complete downloadable report available here. Read Club's reaction.) Known as the Bateson inquiry, for its author, Cambridge University professor Sir Patrick Bateson, the report was commissioned by the Club and Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity. Among its recommendations:

•    Create an independent council to develop breeding strategies that address issues of inherited disease, extreme conformation and inbreeding.
•    Change the law to include requirements for the compulsory microchipping of all puppies and a duty of care on all breeders to have regard to the health and welfare of both the parents and the offspring of a mating. (It always boggles my mind that any breeder has to be required to "have regard" for the animals in his or her care.)
•    Pass new regulations to replace the outdated breeding and sales of dogs legislation, and much better enforcement of good welfare on licensed dog breeding premises.
•    Launch a publicity and education campaign, delivered by all key dog and welfare organizations working together, to encourage a major improvement in how the public go about buying dogs.

Not highlighted in the official press release is the recommendation that the Dangerous Dogs Act be amended to apply to all dogs shown to be dangerous, rather than to specified breeds, and to address the problem of dogs being bred and reared specifically as weapons for fighting. (I was surprised to see this in the mix.)

I'm still digesting the report. But my first reaction is what are we doing here? Where's our self-examination? What can we learn from England's example?

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