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A Stinky Situation
CNN correspondent leads effort to evict a big dog from his $3 million dollar coop

The New York Post is all over CNN correspondent Soledad O’Brien’s efforts to evict a Neapolitan Mastiff from her posh coop in the Chelsea neighborhood. Along with fellow residents, O’Brien wants the 150-pound Ugo O-U-T not because he is ferocious, noisy or threatening but because he’s “smelly,” slobbers and has gas.

 

From the Post story, it sounds like the anti-Ugo faction in the coop is behaving atrociously (holding their noses in the elevator, even when the dog isn’t present), probably because they figured no one would find out. Even worse, the coop board has, reportedly, been unmoved by owners’ efforts to mitigate the impact, which include a tri-monthly grooming schedule, spritzing with organic odor-eater, and an offer to ride in the freight elevator, which was denied. (Some modifications to diet might help as well.)

 

You have to wonder what O’Brien’s distinctly lower-profile colleague, Jane Velez-Mitchell, thinks about all this. On December 25, Velez-Mitchell hosted "Special Investigation: Animal Issues" looking, in part, at the desperate conditions of puppy mills and dogs in shelters--both causes near to her heart. (Transcript available.) Maybe she’ll wander down the hall to encourage a little more compassion in her network star.

News: Guest Posts
Making Space for Pets in Cemeteries
If it's good enough for Pharaohs...

Inspired by his love of cats, including a 23-pound cat named Sam, Washington State Sentor Ken Jacobsen has sponsored a bill overturning a ban on burying cats and dogs in cemeteries set aside for humans. Who new it was illegal to take your best friends with you? A hearing is scheduled for January 19. Track that bill.

News: Guest Posts
Do You Watch Westminster?
PETA wants to end TV coverage for Westminster

The BBC decided not to broadcast the famous Crufts dog show in 2009, which stunned the international dog fancy and delighted its critics. A recent BBC documentary, "Pedigree Dogs Exposed," demonstrated the serious health problems in some breeds due to breeding for subjective looks in the conformation ring instead of sound structure, temperament and long-term health. In response, the Kennel Club released "Healthy New Years Resolutions" for purebred dogs. Changes include revisions to breed standards, banning inbreeding, and requiring identification such as tattoos or microchips in order to participate in KC-sponsored health clearances.

PETA is now actively campaigning to cancel coverage of Westminster, the American version of Crufts. Will this encourage the AKC to follow in the pawprints of the KC? Should changes be made?

News: Guest Posts
Kennel Club Gets Real
In the face of criticism, the old guard adopts new standards for breeders

The United Kingdom's Kennel Club has announced a series of health reforms to breed standards. New standards "will not include anything that could in any way be interpreted as encouraging features that might prevent a dog from breathing, walking and seeing freely." Despite the proactive tone of the announcement, the Kennel Club was essentially forced into making these concessions after last year's BBC documentary, "Pedigree Dogs Exposed," revealed some of the devastating health consequences of breeding for the show ring. 

News: Guest Posts
Obama’s Dog Dilemma
Does it really matter if he adopts or buys?

Watching President-elect Barack Obama on This Week, I suffered a minor cardiac arrest. When he reported that Sasha and Malia had narrowed their choice for first pup to either a Portuguese Water Dog or a Labradoodle, visions of cranked-up breeding operations swarmed in my head. But before I could say, “pass the defibrillator,” Obama told George Stephanopoulos they’d be watching shelters to find their new best friend. That was a close one.

 

Now, that I’ve spilled my cards all over the table, I wonder what you think. Does it really matter if he adopts or buys? Is this a tempest in a dog run? What will it mean for the future of Portuguese Water Dogs and/or Labradoodles? Would a true mutt have been the best choice of all?

News: Guest Posts
FlexPetz
Rent a dog, save a life? Not likely, according to animal advocates

On the surface, FlexPetz founder Marlena Cervantes came up with a smart idea. There are plenty of people who enjoy dogs, but cannot have one of their own. Why not let them borrow a dog for a walk in the park or a weekend excursion? FlexPetz matches one of its dogs to the client’s needs and everybody’s happy, right?

Well, not exactly. “I am concerned that these ‘rent-a-pet’ enterprises devalue the worth of companion animals,” says Jeff Dorson, executive director of the Humane Society of Louisiana. “One can now rent them for a few hours and return them as if they were disposable. That is not a message that I would like to send to children.”

Cervantes told a reporter she prefers to use the term “dog time-share,” as though our canine companions are on par with a condo. Such semantics might make for good marketing, but it does not change the fact that these dogs are treated like books checked out from the library. (Cervantes did not return calls or emails requesting an interview for this article.)

“The concept really sickens me,” says Amy Wukotich, a professional dog trainer and director of Illinois Doberman Rescue Plus. “I spend much of my time explaining to clients and adopters how important it is to build a healthy relationship with your dog. This [business] tells the public that relationships don't matter, that a dog is just like any other trendy toy. Use it while it’s convenient, then dump it and move on. The dog’s quality of life isn’t even considered in this arrangement.”

Being shuttled between multiple homes over the course of a week’s time could be confusing or possibly even harmful, depending on the dog’s temperament and health. What does that constant change do to the dog, both mentally and physically?

“We object strongly to any options that would leave pets in limbo, bouncing from home to home for the sheer enjoyment of humans looking for entertainment,” says Gail Buchwald, senior vice president of the ASPCA Adoption Center & Mobile Clinic Outreach Program. “From scientific studies and data collected over several decades, we know that dogs are social animals that form long-lasting bonds to each other and to people. A stable bond is necessary for the well-being of an animal, much like you’d imagine for a child with the caretakers in a family.”

FlexPetz also spins its service as a way to save shelter dogs and prevent other dogs from ending up there. If the dog’s history is unknown, is it wise to press this dog into such service? Even the best-trained, physically healthy and temperamentally sound dog might be stressed under these circumstances. Perhaps more to the point, doesn’t this rent-a-dog concept encourage the disposability of dogs, which is how many of them ended up in the shelter in the first place?

Buchwald says there are many options for a doggie fix that are in the dog’s best interest, too. For example, volunteers are always welcome at shelters where they can help socialize and exercise dogs until they find a permanent home. For those who are uncomfortable in a shelter environment, volunteering with a breed rescue, whose adoptable dogs are already safe in foster homes, is another viable alternative. Family, friends and neighbors with dogs would also appreciate help exercising their dog or pet-sitting while they’re on vacation.

“Many elderly people have to give up their pets because they’re physically challenged and can’t take care of them,” says Buchwald. “Helping elderly people care for their dogs is a great way to get interaction with a dog if you can’t manage full-time ownership.”

Read a Newsweek update here.

News: Guest Posts
Smile, You’ve Been Rescued
Is Sheriff Joe really an animal-rights hero?

From what I can tell, you either love him or hate him. I’m talking about Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio, the controversial enforcer of Maricopa County in Arizona. You can see him in action tonight (Monday, January 12) in the new Fox Reality Channel program called “Smile…You’re Under Arrest,” usually described as a hybrid of “Punk’d” and “Cops.”

Beloved in Phoenix, the no-nonsense, get-the-job-done Sheriff Joe has a complicated history that includes many civil rights run-ins over tent city jails, an inordinately high percentage of prison-condition lawsuits, questionable immigration sweeps of Hispanic neighborhoods, and more.

So why mention him here? Weirdly this same guy is being hailed—mostly on blogs and through emails—as a model for the animal shelter community. As with so many things, there’s good news mixed in with the bad.

According to Snopes, the sheriff’s office hasn’t taken over the county’s shelter system nor trimmed $15 million from the animal control budget, as is often claimed. He has helped to create and oversees a M.A.S.H. Unit to “care for animals that have been abused or neglected by their caretakers and rescued by the Animal Cruelty Investigative Unit,” as well as the companion animals of those who have checked into domestic violence shelters. The MASH shelter is housed in a refurbished, air-conditioned jail no longer suitable for inmates, and is staffed by inmates and Arpaio's officers.

In a piece for the Phoenix New Times, Niki D’Andrea portrays the shelter is part of the Sheriff’s “effort to paint himself as an animal-rights hero,” while dogged by cruelty claims.

It’s disappointing to me that an initiative like MASH that has inmates working with animals is weighed down by the sheriff’s baggage. Last year, I visited the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor. Here in the Prison Pet Partnership Program (for Bark, May/June 2008), a handful of inmates learn grooming and kennel management, and, in some cases, help transform shelter dogs in future service dogs. The women gained self-esteem and confidence. The dogs earned a second change. Bringing together these two populations in need—under the right controls and supervision—benefits everyone.
 

News: Guest Posts
Alert! Help Montcalm’s shelter cats and dogs
NEW DATE! January 26, the County decides whether to stop CO2 gassing and sale for research

The Montcalm County Animal Shelter in Stanton, Michigan, is at a crossroads and needs serious public encouragement (outcry will work as well) to follow the right path. On January 12, the County must reject renewing a contract with R&R Research. For years, the USDA Class B dealer has had a lucrative contract to “dispose” of shelter dogs and cats. Essentially, they either euthanize the animals by placing them in barrels with carbon-dioxide gas or selling them to research facilities.

You can read the terrible details thanks to a thorough investigation by the Poocini Special Report. The problems don’t end at Montcalm’s border. The story reveals a larger web of contracts between other Class B dealers and other shelters in Michigan.

To learn more or take action, visit Concerned Citizens Coalition, which has petition on its site, and stay informed through Michigan Animal News.

News: Guest Posts
Dogfighting Makes A Comeback in Afghanistan
“Even if people are starving, they’ll still keep dogfighting.”

The headline says it all. Violence loves a vacuum. It's interesting that the participants are too poor and the dogs are too expensive to allow fighting to the death--but it doesn't make it less terrible.

News: Guest Posts
Good News Out of Bad Newz
Sports Illustrated trades swimsuits for collars with a story on Vick pit bull rescue.

I was thrilled to see the heart-stopping mug of a velvety pit bull named Jasmine on the cover of the latest Sports Illustrated. Beats the heck out of girls in bikinis. In the story, Jim Gorant checks in on the fate of a few of the 47—out of 51—ill-starred dogs rescued from Michael Vick’s dog-fighting compound. (Check out Bark's earlier story on the rescued pups.) Here’s a thought from Donna Reynolds, the executive director and cofounder of Bad Rap, to take from this bad experience into the new year. “Vick showed the worst of us, our bloodlust, but this rescue showed the best.”
 

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