Dog's Life: Lifestyle
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
‘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
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.
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