News: Guest Posts
Tonight, two programs shed light on puppy mills—before and after.
Tonight, ABC’s Nightline is running the first major investigative report on puppy mills since Oprah’s exposé about one year ago. The story, which includes chilling footage from a hidden camera, also features a surprisingly cooperative Mennonite commercial breeder offering a tour of his operation. (This is probably a one-of-a-kind moment.) The program will be tough to watch, but it’s an essential part of getting the truth about large-scale commercial breeding operations into the public consciousness.
We plan to gather our courage, beforehand, with a new episode of DogTown. The National Geographic Channel’s reality show, set at Best Friends Animal Society in Utah, follows the lives of rescued dogs who have been abused, neglected or with urgent medical conditions. Two of the pups featured tonight—Mei Mei and Gertie—were rescued from a commercial breeding operation near Palmdale, Calif. To witness their amazing second acts gives one hope about dogs’ resilience and the potential of positive of human intervention.
Nightline puppy mill report: ABC, tonight (March 27) at 11:35 pm (Eastern Standard Time). Check listings for your time zone.
Dog Town: National Geographic Channel, Fridays, 10 p.m.
News: Guest Posts
Dogs in pickup trucks—it only looks cool.
Driving home from a snowshoe hike with our dogs yesterday (we got a major dump in the mountains outside Seattle), we came upon a truck with an open flatbed. What caught my eye was the enormous U.S. flag across the cab guard. Obviously, this driver wanted to send a message: He was a patriot, couldn’t we see from the flag?
If I sound snide, it’s because of what I saw next: In front of the flag, actually, flush up against it, was German Shepherd. He wasn’t tethered in any way, and if we hadn’t been driving 65-miles-per-hour down a crowded, four-lane interstate, we could have reached out and grabbed him. My husband snapped this photo with my camera phone. It’s not a great shot, but you get the idea. Here’s the other thing, as the truck pulled off an exit and we sped by, I saw that the cab was extended, i.e., there was a perfectly good—empty—backseat for his furry buddy.
And while I have my ire up about my sighting, I’ll reserve some for the Maryland Senate, which, in February, voted down a proposal against dogs in pickups.
News: Guest Posts
After two dogs freeze to death, is it time to rethink the Iditarod?
A few days before cancer-survivor Lance Mackey became the third person to win the Iditarod three years in a row, two dogs belonging to rookie racer Lou Packer died from exposure to high-winds and 50-below-zero temperatures. The story of Grasshopper and Dizzy’s demise is as harrowing as it is provocative. Already the questions are tumbling down. Was Packer a rookie who took unnecessary risks or is he to be admired for helping a fellow competitor earlier in the race and falling behind? Should race officials checked on him sooner?
Like a lot of people, I have mixed feelings about dogsled racing, and I generally don’t follow the big events. I know neglect and cruelty are often a byproduct of competitions involving animals. But I’ve also driven small recreational teams before—in Minnesota and Alaska—and it seemed clear the dogs relished the run. But I wonder is it right to celebrate competitions and provide cash incentives for events that can exact this price?
News: Guest Posts
Charlotte ad man applies a little creative thinking to the foreclosure crisis.
If simple necessity is the mother of invention, you gotta believe a crisis like our current sub-prime/banking/global market implosion is going to spark some pretty incredible results. (Think: Octuplets without the nuttiness.) One glimmer comes from Charlotte, N.C., where the proverbial light bulb flashed for Phil Jones, when he read an article about the rising number of pets abandoned to his local shelter due to foreclosures. As art director at Wray Ward, a Charlotte advertising agency, his job is to attract attention and motivate folks to take action. So he installed a large dog house at the shelter hung with a “Foreclosure” banner and a box filled not with listing sheets but dogs available for adoption. It sums up the problem in a glance and then offers a way to help.
On the subject of foreclosures, there’s a little good news mixed in with the climbing unemployment numbers and plunging Dow. According to Foreclosure.com, foreclosures slowed “dramatically” in January. Dropping more than 25 percent to the lowest number since April 2008. This is good news for everyone. Still, at more than 70,000 foreclosures per month, the numbers are very high. Remember, the Humane Society of the United States’ Foreclosure Pets Grant Fund, which supports local shelters and rescue groups working to expand their networks of foster homes, starting pet food pantries, or providing financial assistance for veterinary care.
News: Guest Posts
Paramount Pictures and Bark roll out the red carpet for the Dearborn Animal Shelter
Friends For the Dearborn Animal Shelter, a nonprofit shelter in Dearborn, Mich., has won our Hotel for Dogs contest. In partnership with Bark, Paramount Pictures will host a free private screening at a local movie theater for the shelter and its choice of employees, volunteers and supporters.
“I am absolutely thrilled and very proud to have won,” says Elaine Greene, executive director of Friends For the Dearborn Animal Shelter. “Our volunteers and supporters are the best around and they truly care about the shelter. I know many of our volunteers spend their free time at the shelter or Friends activities. This is such a wonderful way to honor their dedication. And what a great way to meet new friends and tell our story: Anytime we have a chance to promote the adoptable animals of the Friends For the Dearborn Animal Shelter, we are there.”
The shelter is located in Dearborn, west of Detroit, the hometown of Henry Ford. Formerly city-run with no adoption screening and cats and dogs sold for $5 each, the shelter has been stewarded by the private, nonprofit Friends since 1996. In little more than a decade, the shelter has instituted programs to find homes for 100 percent of adoptable animals and to vaccinate, spay/neuter and microchip every one. The shelter participates in dozens of community outreach programs every year including adoptions fairs, low-cost spay/neuter and a Recylc-a-Bullz program to help bully breed dogs.
The Hotel for Dogs screening comes during a tough time. “Shelter work can certainly be challenging on its own, but with the additional demands of an ailing economy, it can turn into more of a juggling act,” Greene says. “While the numbers of the homeless and strays have increased, the willingness of folks to adopt a new family member (cat or dog) has dwindled. And, as we rely on the generosity of our donors to support our work, we realize that they have felt the impact on their pocketbook, which has affected ours. At the same time, because the Friends are good stewards of our donated dollars and we will continue to provide good care and service to the animals, our supporters stay loyal to the cause.”
The priority of the shelter is finding forever-homes for “100 percent of our adoptable animals,” but the Friends also strive to provide the best temporary shelter using new and updated sheltering protocols, such as, community cat housing. The Friends are also in the middle of a capital campaign to build a new shelter that will better meet the needs of the animals and the community.
The Dearborn Animal Shelter received eight nominations, out of 143, from supporters such as MaryAnn, who wrote in her nomination: “They took in my Charlie dog when he was underfed and underloved. They made sure he got the best forever-home possible (with me)! They are the best. They also are specialists in rescuing pit bulls, a breed often thrown away as mean and vicious.” Catherine wrote: “My life has changed since I’ve volunteered there. I have adopted three beautiful animals … one poodle, Lebowski, and two cats, Marigold and Sylvia.”
Many worthy shelters, rescues and animal welfare organizations—78 in all—were entered into the contest by adoptive families, staff members and volunteers. Read the heart-felt nominations, and go direct to the source to learn more about each of these worthy organizations (listed below) and find out how you can help.
Adams County SPCA, Gettysburg, Penn.
News: Guest Posts
[Web exclusive] Can Washington State alter 70,000 more cats and dogs
It’s Spay Day, and all around the country, animal welfare organizations are offering discounted spay/neuter surgeries and spreading the word about the importance of altering pets to reduce unwanted litters, overpopulation, abandoned and neglected pets, crowded shelters and high euthanasia rates.
In Washington State, legislators are considering an unusual bill to increase funding for low-cost spay/neuter surgery. As proposed, Senate Bill 5329/House Bill 1406 will reimburse private and nonprofit veterinary clinics that perform the surgeries for the pets of low-income guardians, as well as feral and free-roaming cats, keeping the out-of-pocket cost (like a co-payment) to no more than $10 for cats and $20 for dogs.
While funding low-cost surgeries has long been an important tool in the spay/neuter effort, the Washington bill tackles the problem during tight financial times and relies on a unique funding mechanism—fees on pet food distribution.
Tomorrow, February 25, the Senate Committee on Agriculture & Rural Economic Development decides whether to vote the bill on to the Ways and Means Committee, and, eventually to the floor for a vote of the full senate. It’s an important hurdle for the legislation.
Helping to spearhead the bill is Andrea Logan, co-founder and president of the board of Pawsitive Alliance in North Bend, dedicated to ending the killing of adoptable dogs and cats in Washington. While Alliance efforts are most frequently focused on providing adoption events to help rural shelters, Logan says, “I’m a spay/neuter girl at heart; this is the only way to solve the problem.”
While she waits to hear the fate of the spay/neuter assisance program and drum up last minute support, she answered a few questions for TheBark.com.
TheBark.com: What makes you sure that reducing the cost of these surgeries will increase the number of animals spayed and neutered?
Andrea Logan: There are a lot of studies that cite cost as the reason most people give when they say their animal isn’t altered. We know that people want but just can’t afford the surgery. In the first few years after New Hampshire passed similar legislation, the state saw a significant decrease in shelter admissions [34 percent] and euthanasia rates [75 percent].
Bark: How likely is it that legislators will agree to additional spending when the State faces an $8 billion shortfall?
Logan: The good news we have gotten so much support from legislators. But it’s hard and very challenging. We’re offering a program that’s going to ultimately save money (for example, New Hampshire reported savings from animal impoundment costs due to its program), and we’re not taking money from the general fund. We’re saying here’s our best option, specifically pet owners helping other pet owners. It doesn’t take away from other people. We’ve given them a way to pay for it. We think that most pet owners would pay a small fee to save other dogs and cats.
Bark: Funding would come from an increase on the fee pet-food distributors pay for inspection of food distributed in Washington by 3 cents per pound (with distributors of less than one ton every six months exempt); won’t this be passed along to consumers, making pet food more expensive during a recession?
Logan: If the fee is passed along, which we expect, we think the impact would be pretty modest. We estimate that someone living with one cat and a medium-size dog is looking at an additional 9 dollars a year, less than 1 dollar each month.
Bark: Have other states used a fee like this to pay for spay/neuter?
Logan: Yes including Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Vermont. But other states rely on fees from sources like statewide licensing, which Washington does not have. Maine is the most similar with a fee on pet food registration.
Bark: According to your column in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the funding will help pay for at least 70,000 additional spay and neuter surgeries each year. If there are more than 1.66 million unaltered dogs and cats in the state, what difference will 70,000 make?
Logan: Basically, what we’re tying to do is strike a balance between the number of surgeries we could hope to accomplish and a fee that we could pass, based on the examples of the other states. Still it’s a large sum of money even with the modest fee. Importantly, the bill requires the Department of Agriculture to evaluate the program’s impact.
Bark: How can supporters, especially in Washington, help?
Logan: Contact your legislators and urge them to support the bill’s passage and spread the word to others.
Learn more about taking action and also about other Spay Day activities and activism in your neighborhood.
News: Guest Posts
Join the Animal Rescue Tweet Blast on February 28
In the January issue of Bark, we wrote about how Dogs Trust in the United Kingdom found a home for a shelter dog using only a brief message on Twitter, the social networking service. It was a first for Dogs Trust, and maybe a first-ever. Well, good news travels fast, especially via the Internet, and the folks at Animal Rescue Online plan to turn up the volume on shelter adoptions with a Tweet Blast--a whole lotta Twitter messages (no more than 140 characters each)--on Saturday, February 28, 2009.
It's actually pretty simple to participate. Visit Petfinder to find a homeless pet you think deserves a good home. Copy and past the URL from his or per profile page into a Twitter message. (The TinyURL tool will help you condense long URLs to tweet-able size.) I'm thinking of sending a shout-out for Cooger, an irresistible Australian Cattle Dog looking to spend his gravy years with a loving family.
News: Guest Posts
Should companion animals have rights?
Where on the spectrum of legal rights and protections do our companion animals fall? What about wild animals? Livestock? Associated Press writer Joseph B. Frazier provides a succinct digest of some of the current developments in animal law, including a recent Pennsylvania decision to restrict euthanasia to veterinarians after a kennel operator shot 70 dogs last year.
While some, such as the Animal Legal Defense Fund, spearhead animal law education and legal protection for animals (especially animal cruelty cases), others wonder where to draw the line. What about earthworms? asks Dr. Geordie Duckler, who heads the Animal Law Practice in Portland, Ore., and writes about the subject for Bark (including a story in March/April 2008 exploring the legal differences between a pediatrician and a veterinarian).
I think Princeton professor Peter Singer’s sums it up pretty well: “The right category for pets is closer to children, who can’t vote, can’t own property but you can’t inflict pain on them, either.”
News: Guest Posts
Can and should Smiley be saved?
A nonprofit shelter on Whidbey Island, Washington, has been sued by two former shelter donors over plans to euthanize a dog named Smiley. According to a story in The Everett Herald, the shelter has argued that Smiley, who was surrendered two years ago (!), is too aggressive to place out in the public. The donors, who failed to meet the standards for adopting the dog themselves, say Smiley’s time in the shelter accounts for his bad behavior and that he deserves a second chance.
News: Guest Posts
The AKC isn’t happy with Illinois animal advocates
In Illinois, a bill designed to reform the puppy mill industry is causing controversy. According to animal advocates such as the Southern Illinois Pet Society, Chloe’s Bill will improve standards of care for dogs in commercial kennels, limit breeders to 20 intact adult dogs, ban convicted animal abusers from aquiring a breeding license, and require Illinois pet stores and breeders to tell prospective dog buyers where their puppies came from. The American Kennel Club strongly disagrees. Do you think the Illinois legislature should pass Chloe's Bill this Tuesday, February 10? Why or why not?
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