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News: Karen B. London
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.  

 

News: Karen B. London
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?

News: Guest Posts
Closed Tracks Displace Greyhounds
‘45-mph couch potatoes’ need homes

There’s good news for Greyhounds. The number of dog tracks in the U.S. has dropped from 50 in the 1990s to 23 in eight states today—thanks the economic pressures and the public’s increasing awareness of the inhumane treatment of racing Greyhounds. But the decrease in Greyhound racing has created a short-term challenge: a surge in the number of homeless dogs. Greyhound Friends of New Jersey recently mounted a major effort to find homes for a large influx of ex-racing dogs, in this case, displaced by Massachusetts’s 2008 ban on live-dog racing and two track closures. To learn about adoption and fostering opportunities or to support these efforts, visit www.greyhoundfriendsnj.org.

Elsewhere efforts to shut down racing continue, spearheaded, since 2001, by GREY2K USA. Recently, Humane Society Legislative Fund’s president, Michael Markarian, highlighted GREY2K’s work on this all-too-often low-priority issue, citing steps forward in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and backward in Rhode Island.

Are you living in a state that just doesn’t get it? States with active dog racing tracks include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Texas and West Virginia. Might be time to tell your representatives how you feel about this cruel “sport.”

News: Guest Posts
On Cloud Nine
A pilot, a plane and a mission

“I used to be deadly afraid of airplanes,” Ted DuPuis told us. That’s not all that surprising. Plenty of folks, including the person at the keyboard right now, harbor a healthy dread of flight. But DuPuis’s response to that fear probably sets him apart from most of us: He became a pilot.

On September 8, 2007, the 25-year-old Williamsport, Penn., resident took his first lesson and he has been learning to fly or flying pretty much nonstop since then. “I’ve been on an accelerated track,” he says with understatement.

Dovetailing with his new passion for the friendly skies has been an interest in using his expanding skill-set to help others. “I got the desire to do charitable flights fairly early on,” he says. In particular, he was intrigued by Angel Flight, an organization that arranges free air transportation for charitable and medical purposes. But as a young frequent flyer he hasn’t yet met all the requirements for Angel Flight pilots. In aiming toward that goal, he volunteered to assist with animal transport, in particular Animal Rescue Flights (ARF), which promotes, plans and performs the transportation of animals from overcrowded shelters to other parts of the country where qualified families are waiting to adopt them. (Pilots N Paws also facilitates volunteer air transports, which we wrote about in Oct. 2009.)

It’s a simple truth that a homeless dog in the South or the Midwest may have a better chance of finding a good adoptive home in the Northeast or cities in the West. For these dogs in overcrowded, under-funded shelters, a grassroots network of volunteer transportation can mean the difference between life and death.

DuPuis brought the same ambition to his new calling that he’d brought to mastering his fear of flying. But once he was initiated into the reality of pet overpopulation, crowded shelters and high rates of euthanasia, he wanted to do more.

“I wanted to start something that would address large-scale transport reliably,” DuPuis says. So he launched Cloud Nine Rescue Flights with one pilot (himself) and the 1969 Piper Aztec twin-engine he bought in January 2009. His designated niche? Transporting more animals, farther with each flight and with greater reliability.

It’s a slightly different approach than ARF and Pilots N Paws. In those groups, rescues and pilots connect via a website; pilots donate their time and the cost of a flight (more on that in a second); and they often transport only a few animals per flight. In some cases, several pilots are needed to fly linked legs to cover greater distance.

DuPuis’s 700-mile range means he can fly farther without stopping than many of the aircraft volunteered for other missions, which is less strenuous for the furry passengers. Also, it cuts down on the number of pilots needed for each mission, which improves the odds of success.

He also claims a weather advantage. When thunderstorms or snow keep many small planes in their hangars, DuPuis’s plane—equipped with weather radar and de-icing equipment—can fly. Since he began transporting animals, he says he only had to postpone two out of 20 missions, and then only for 24 hours.

Because he can easily fit 15 to 20 crated animals (he’s taken as many as 23), DuPuis seeks out bigger missions. “It has to be something that makes the best use of the plane,” he says. He smaller transports to ARF and Pilots N Paws.

Another thing makes the fledgling nonprofit different than its predecessors, DuPuis aims to underwrite the estimated $2,000 per transport with individual donations, sponsorships and grants. In December 2009, the ASPCA granted the organization enough to fund at least two missions. And so far he’s been able to cover about 50 percent of his costs.

DuPuis hopes to expand with more planes some day. His short-term goal is one transport per weekend. His long-term goal is one transport a day.

Most Saturday mornings will find DuPuis at an airport in the Southeast bound for destinations up north. He loads the animals into crates on his plane. (He has his own crates, but can always use more.) “It’s like a jigsaw puzzle,” he says. On a window of his airplane is a “Dog Is My Co-Pilot” bumper sticker, and on a recent crowded flight, dog really was his co-pilot.

Even with the help of “tremendous” volunteers, Cloud 9 is like a second full-time job. When he comes home from his day job as an engineer for the company that made the engines in his airplane, DuPuis works on Cloud 9 business until he goes to bed. Actual transports take at least one of his weekend days. “Cloud Nine absorbs all my free time but it is the most rewarding thing I do,” DuPuis says.

Learn about Cloud Nine Rescue Flights online, where you can also make tax-deductible donation via Paypal or contact Ted DuPuis or make a donation the old fashioned way at Cloud Nine Rescue Flights, 259 Irion Dr., Montoursville, PA 17754; 812-243-2585.

News: Guest Posts
Why Rescue? Meet Stanley.
Sometimes, one dog just tugs at your heart

Please watch the video and share your feelings about Stanley, rescue and dogs in your life who have received second chances. For updates on Stanley's progress, please go to Respect-A-Bull and his Facebook page.

News: Guest Posts
Elderly Dog Survives Sidewalk Electrocution
Faulty wiring leads to near-tragedy

Princess' elderly owner had asked a neighbor to take her for a walk in their Brooklyn neighborhood. Both were surprised when the little senior mix started crying and shaking while on the sidewalk. Salt and water had conducted electricity to Princess' paws due to faulty wiring at a nearby apartment building. Fortunately, she survived and her veterinarian said she appears to be physically fine. All the more reason to make sure you clear your driveway and sidewalk of ice. If a neighbor is out of town or cannot shovel their property, offer to help so that everyone can be safe, including our pups.

News: JoAnna Lou
Relocating Homeless Pets
California's unwanted Chihuahuas move east

Blame it on movies like Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Legally Blonde, popular celebrities like Paris Hilton, commercials for Taco Bell, or on the economy, which has been increasing homeless pets across the board. 

Whatever the reason, California is seeing an overwhelming number of Chihuahuas filling their shelters.

In the past, the majority of unwanted dogs tended to be Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes. Now many shelters in the Golden State are finding themselves filled with Chihuahuas, some reporting 30 percent or more. In the last year, Los Angeles shelters alone have taken in 4,700 Chihuahuas.

Northeast shelters, on the other hand, continue to be dominated by larger dogs, mostly Pit Bulls in my area. Small dogs are usually adopted quickly. 

Now actress Katherine Heigl, Kinder4Rescue, Los Angeles  Animal Services, American Airlines and Virgin America are teaming up to help pups otherwise slated for euthanasia to relocate to states where the Chihuahua ratio is in their favor.

Through Project Flying Chihuahua, 25 dogs have already arrived at the Humane Society for Greater Nashua in New Hampshire, funded by Katherine Heigl’s animal welfare foundation and American Airlines. These pups already have homes lined up with a waiting list of 100 people.  Forty three more Chihuahuas will leave this coming week, just in time for the holidays.

Virgin America is also helping out the cause and will be flying a group of Chihuahuas from San Francisco to the ASPCA in New York City. The airline is also planning a week of half-price trips for passengers willing to bring an animal to the Big Apple.

Other Chihuahuas are being driven to closer states, such as Washington, Oregon and Arizona.

Certainly some people are forced to give up their pets due to unforeseen circumstances, but the root cause of this surplus comes down to irresponsible people. Many celebrities, like Katherine Heigl, do a lot to support animal welfare organizations, which is no doubt admirable. But imagine if they focused their efforts on education. 

The AKC and the ASPCA do a lot in this area, but celebrities have a unique influence and a broader audience. If more famous people spread the word about responsible ownership, maybe we could get to the root of the problem and prevent homeless pets for good.

Dog's Life: Humane
Dogs On Board
Operation Roger: Truckers hauling rescue dogs home

When Marty discovered Jackson (bottom, left), shunned by a pack of wild dogs in a Louisiana swamp, he rescued the Beagle-mix, assuming he was another Hurricane Katrina victim. After some time, Marty became ill and could no longer care for his dog. Eventually, poor Jackson ended up in a shelter—homeless again. When a rescue organization in Lakeside, Calif., offered to take Jackson it seemed a mixed blessing. After all, the rescue was nearly 2,000 miles away near San Diego, which was besieged by wildfires.

A trucker named Nancy learned about Jackson through a volunteer transport organization called Operation Roger. In late December, she loaded the dog into her rig in LaPlace, La., for a long drive west. During much of the trip, Jackson sat on Nancy’s armrest with his head on her shoulder and watched the scenery pass by. He was not alone. For many shelter and rescue animals, transportation provided by volunteers means the difference between life and death.

When Bark editor Claudia Kawczynska adopted Kit and Holly from a rescue in Kentucky last year, she was initiated into the formal and informal network of individuals and organizations with planes, trucks and automobiles that get dogs-in-need to places where their future is brighter.

Inspired and intrigued by this grassroots cooperative effort, TheBark.com has been talking to the people who make these daily efforts a reality. Earlier this year, we met the women behind Colorado Animal Rescue Express (C.A.R.E.), a van transport group out of Denver; Dawn Painter, an individual animal welfare advocate who uses email to spread the word for animals in need; and Pilots ‘N Paws, a collection of general aviation pilots who volunteer planes for speedy transfers.

In this our final installment on the underdog railway, we talk to Sue Wiese, founder of Operation Roger, a non-profit organization comprised of regional and long-haul truckers who volunteer their time to transport needy pets at the same time they do their job delivering freight around the country. Wiese (pronounced We-cee) is a trucker and animal lover who knows how to get the most out of her telephone headset. She talked to us by phone from her home in the “tiny town” of Joshua, Tex., south of Fort Worth, where she lives with two dogs—Buddy, an American Bulldog, and a Dachshund named Huck, short for Huckleberry.

The Bark: How did Operation Roger get started?
Sue Wiese: Remember how you felt after Katrina? All the animals’ and the people’s anguish and not leaving, you know the whole thing. Well, I was driving at the time, and I just going down the road praying. I said, ‘Lord, what can I do, I’m just a truck driver?’ And I heard one word and that was ‘transport.’ I was like, ‘Huh? What do you mean transport? How am I supposed to transport?”

I had heard about PetFinder.com, so when I was able to stop, I went online. I found out that the transport of pets was an everyday thing, not just disaster-related. I called a friend of mine, and then my daughters and … they immediately could see the big picture.

They talked me into going on a truck [call-in] show on XM radio. My hands were shaking; I was scared to talk on live radio. So I typed out what I needed to say. When the guy finally got to me he said, ‘What can I do for Classy Lady?’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘I’d like to know if there are any drivers interested in an operation to move needy pets across the country.’

There was absolute silence. You don’t have silence on radio. From the left temple to the right temple was this thought: “Oh no, I’ve laid an egg now.” He and his wife finally got over the shock. The talk was about 15 minutes long, and I had about 12 calls to return by the time we ended.

Why were they so surprised?
Generally, callers say, ‘Hi Bill, I’d like to hear this song’ or ‘What do you think about the new regulations?’ So this took them completely off guard.

Of the 12 calls, how many were truckers interested in driving?
All of them, and many of them are still with me.

Once you had drivers who were willing, how did you connect with dogs and cats needing transportation?
I went onto PetFinder.com, into their transport area, and put our name out there. We had decided on the name Operation Roger by that time because I’d used the word “operation” in the statement I made. And I’d had a little dog named Roger, so in memory of him we just put the two together. [Operation Roger now has its own website with a pet board listing of transports needed.]

Are drivers taking legs and connecting with other drivers or do they frequently drive from point A to the destination?
We prefer the latter, obviously. Sometimes they have to meet and transfer. For when that can’t happen, we are trying to build a nationwide network of what we call “layover homes” and also shuttle drivers.

Are those people who keep the animals overnight if necessary during a transfer or shuttle dogs from one truck transport to another when a leg isn’t covered?
Right. We had one dog at a layover home for a month, before we could get a driver through there. They know there’s that possibility. But we try to keep it short. We just had a new layover home come onboard for us. Yesterday, we called. He drove 70 miles to Fargo, North Dakota, picked up a Boxer from a driver who lost her job. He’s keeping it at his place up in Minnesota until another driver can get there.

That’s a terrible reason to need a layover home, isn’t it?
It is. We’ve had layover homes because of car wrecks, anything you can imagine.

Are you transferring the dogs from a rescue or shelter to another rescue or shelter?
Generally, it’s from a rescue or shelter to an adoptive home. That’s the most usual. Then it may be to a foster or it could be to another shelter that has more room in another part of the country. And also we do it for individuals. Maybe you’ve moved and you couldn’t take your animal with you at the time, now you’re able to have him. We’ve transported some lost during a move. We have one on the board that got stolen, and they found it and now we’re trying to get it home.

How many drivers do you have right now?
Between 30 and 35, and we’re needing three times that many.

You just celebrated your fourth anniversary in September, how many animals have you transported in this time?
401.
    
Does that include dogs and cats?
Mostly dogs. But we have dogs and cats. I think there have been four ferrets, four ratties, and a hamster.

You were a trucker? Are you retired?
Reluctantly retired. I was injured almost two years ago. I’m trying to get back out onto the road.

Tell me about the operation’s namesake, Roger?
I adopted Roger from a shelter in Grand Prairie. He’d been a stray. I had him on board for a little over two years, when he suddenly passed away.

What’s it like to have a dog companion in your truck?
It is actually safer. It’s wonderful. You have someone to talk to, someone to care for. I say someone, because they really become a person to you. They know you just as well as anybody can. They make you get out and walk them. Even those with cats on board enjoy companionship. We have one team that has two cats onboard, when they’re stressed, they can just sit there and stroke them. That purr is relaxing.

Now if we can just convince more of the trucking companies, it would be great.

Are there companies that prohibit dogs on board?
Many of them. One of our major companies, which we had quite a few drivers from, suddenly [told drivers they had] 30 days get rid of all their dogs. You talk about drivers quitting right and left and raising holy Cain.

So trucking companies are not seeing the advantages of dogs onboard?
You know, it’s like the proverbial bad apple in the barrel. You can have a bad owner who will let the dog just tear up a truck, and that’s quite expensive. Plus there are places you go that don’t allow pets on the property.

What do shippers have to supply?
We request the shipper provide at least 10 days of food that the animal is used to eating. That keeps down digestive problems. Plus, blankets, harness, leashes and collars. For dogs that are 30 pounds or less, we ask for a crate. That’s kind of the largest crate that we can comfortably fit in the cab. Many dogs lay their heads on our knees to get stroked.

That’s got to be so great on a long haul.
It really is. The trucking industry, the companies and the general public too, all they see is this big 70-foot monster. They don’t see the human being behind the wheel and realize that that human being is a human being, has a family. We're hoping Operation Roger shows we have hearts too. The biggest comment made by our drivers has been that they feel like they’re giving back to the community, which they can’t do it at home, because they’re not there.

News: Guest Posts
Wisconsin Passes Puppy Mill Law
Tireless advocate dies soon after signing

Mark Markarian’s posted a happy story with a sad ending on his blog, Animals & Politics, today. Last week, soon after Wisconsin became the 10th state to adopt legislation cracking down on puppy mills (“requiring licensing, inspection and basic standards of humane care at large-scale dog breeding operations”), one of the prime movers behind the law died. A tireless voice for animal rights and puppy mill crusader, Joyce Kitsemble, attended the signing ceremony at the capitol and fell ill. She was taken to the hospital where she died. As Markarian points out, the law is a tribute to Kitsemble’s inspiring effort, and hopefully will bring some consolation to the many loved ones and admirers she leaves behind.

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