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News: Guest Posts
Disrupting the Dog-Meat Trade
Animal rights groups target South Korea’s taste for canines.

In January, I wrote about a raid on China’s dog-meat trade. The rescue of 149 dogs from appalling conditions provided a chilling glimpse into the supply-side of this tradition. Now we’re hearing from South Korea, where eating dog is also a strong, albeit often low-profile, practice. The Korea Animal Rights Advocates (KARA) organization estimates that more than two million dogs are killed each year for meat in South Korea. Before they are slaughtered, they endure “horrible conditions—crammed in unsanitary cages, fed with human waste food.” In the end, many are often electrocuted, hanged, burned or beaten to death because of a belief that the animals’ suffering produces a better tasting meat and enhances virility in those who consume it.

United Dogs and Cats, a social network for dog and cat owners in Europe, has launched an international petition drive to bring attention to the issue and pressure the Korean government to enforce its own animal protection measures and to ban the entire dog meat industry. United Dogs seeks no less than one million signatures, which will be presented to Korean officials by KARA. Sometimes I wonder how effective petitions are at changing policymaker’s minds but I see enormous value to a million people learning about this issue.
 
With all this attention on South Korea, it’s important to recognize the situation in the North, where international public opinion holds no sway, may be even more dire. According to an Agence France-Presse story in July, North Korea has been actively promoting the virtues of dog meat, including hosting dog meat food contests in Pyongyang. According to the story, hot dog meat soup is touted for its power to prevent diseases from malnutrition and bolster stamina—making it a special summer favorite in North and South Korea.

News: Guest Posts
Dark Side of Dairy Farming
The organic milk–puppy mill connection.

This spring, Newsweek reporter Suzanne Smalley reported about Main Line Animal Rescue’s efforts to crackdown on Pennsylvania puppy mills. In that story, she revealed how organic dairy farming operations—in this case, one supplying Horizon Organics and Whole Foods—were sometimes also breeding puppies for profit in wretched conditions. In a July follow-up, Smalley wrote that when she alerted Horizon to her story, they sent an inspector who shut down the farm in question. In addition, Whole Foods issued a “stern request” to vendors that their operations not use farmers who “breed or raise dogs inhumanely.”

A barebones website calling itself PuppyMillK.com provides a slightly more expanded overview of the puppy mill-organic milk nexus (a surprise to me) and identifies Land O' Lakes as an another big name in the mix. While the Newsweek story had a direct and immediate impact, it’s important to keep up the pressure. The financial incentive for farmers to sell puppies on the side is a great temptation. We need to be sure that companies that have built their brands around a wholesome ideal live up to those promises.

News: JoAnna Lou
Tax Break for Pets
Rep. McCotter introduces HAPPY to encourage responsible pet care.

Earlier this month, Michigan Congressman Thaddeus McCotter introduced HR3501, a bill more commonly referred to as HAPPY, the Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years Act. The new bill proposes a change to U.S. Tax Code that would allow pet care up to $3,500 to be tax deductable.

Qualifying expenses include veterinary care, but won’t include the cost to acquire a new pet. The deduction is exclusive to legally owned, domestic animals. Animals used for research or owned in conjunction with a business do not qualify.

HAPPY was drafted to encourage responsible pet care and reduce the abandonment of pets by people struggling as a result of the economic downturn. The bill also mentions that 63 percent of U.S. households include a pet and that the human-animal bond has been shown to have positive effects upon people’s emotional and physical well being.

I don’t currently itemize my taxes, but if I could deduct pet care, it might become worth it for me to change the way I file. I’m not convinced that HAPPY will help reduce the number of abandoned dogs, but I do think it has the potential to encourage responsible pet care. It also legitimizes animals as a member of the family since we can currently deduct for human health care and education. However, if HAPPY passes, I would hope that no one would buy a pet because of the potential tax benefit (which isn't much compared to the cost of caring for an animal).

HAPPY is curently waiting to be reviewed by the House Committee on Ways and Means, so it will be interesting to see the outcome, although I'm not particularly optimistic it will pass. If you’re interested in supporting HAPPY, a petition has been set up on the Care 2 Petition Site. To view text from the actual bill, visit the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council's website.

What do you think about tax deductable pet care?

News: Guest Posts
Taco Bell’s Spokesdog Dies
Who's your favorite pitchpup?

Dogs are the perfect pitchpups. Consumers find them cute and compelling to watch, whether they’re hawking toilet paper or soda pop. Sadly, Taco Bell’s popular spokesdog, Gidget, recently passed away. The charming little Chihuahua was 15 years old. She starred in numerous print and television ads from 1997 to 2000 (beginning with her debut above.) Who's your favorite spokesdog?

News: Guest Posts
Spay/Neuter in Costa Rica
CSU students and veterinarians provide much-needed, free surgery.

The photos and the report are in from a January spay/neuter mission to Costa Rica. Early this year, 30 Colorado State University students helped spay and neuter more than 240 animals for free during a makeshift clinic in a school gymnasium in San Isidro.

 

“Students and veterinarians used baby cribs and school desks as surgery tables and soccer goalie boxes as IV carts. To reach the free clinic, residents who had few resources, carried cats in birdcages and cats and dogs in suitcases, coolers and boxes. Pet owners began lining up outside of the clinic at 4 a.m.

“‘One 14-year-old boy walked for two hours, starting at 5 a.m., with his three dogs,’ said Liz Georges, a CSU veterinary student who was on the trip. ‘When he reached the clinic and saw the line, he thought we wouldn’t be able to squeeze him in and began to cry. We got him in, and we made a difference to him, a big difference.’”



Read the full report and/or make a donation towards the next trip, contact the CSU student International Veterinary Medical Club at nokunaka@colostate.edu.

 

News: Guest Posts
Moms Reject Babies - Why?
A red panda and a Chihuahua refuse to nurse their own offspring.

A red panda (think raccoon) recently gave birth to two little cubs at a Chinese zoo. But while the crowd watched, it became clear to zoo staff that mama wasn't all that interested in being a mom. They managed to find a Chihuahua--a new mom herself--who was willing to nurse them. (Follow the link to see a photo of the surrogate dog.) Strangely, the Chihuahua has now rejected her own baby and the staff are hand feeding the pup. This situation practically begs the question: Why can't we leave nature alone? I mean, isn't it a little weird that we are intervening in what should be a natural process for two species, and yet, our "help" has caused both moms to reject their own babies? 

News: JoAnna Lou
A New Kind of Service Dog
Puppies Behind Bars trains canines for veterans with Port Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The Wall Street Journal isn’t exactly my go-to place for dog news, but while reading the financial newspaper this month, I discovered an amazing program.

Puppies Behind Bars has been working with prison inmates to raise guide dogs since 1997. Three years ago they launched Dog Tags, a program that provides service dogs to injured veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan. The trained dogs are provided free of charge, including transportation and hotel fees while the new handler attends the two-week team training at the Puppies Behind Bars headquarters.

Seeing eye dogs were first trained in Germany during World War I to aid blinded veterans. The Dog Tags program introduces a new generation of psychiatric-service dogs aimed at helping those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These canines can recognize changes in a person’s breathing, perspiration, and scent that precedes a panic attack. The dogs can create space in crowds, wake up handlers from nightmares, and help patients differentiate between hallucinations and reality by barking if a real person is nearby.

And the veterans aren’t the only ones that benefit from the program’s remarkable canines. Each puppy is raised by prison inmates who apply to be a part of Puppies Behind Bars. The inmates socialize the dogs, expose them to different environments, groom them, and teach them basic training. In return the inmates receive the unconditional love only an animal can give, plus the opportunity to learn a new vocation. 

To date, Puppies Behind Bars has matched eleven service dogs with veterans and plan to have 15 more available by the end of 2009. Watch a Wall Street Journal video about Luis Carlos Montalvan and his dog Tuesday.

News: Guest Posts
First Chomper
New York’s governor hires a trainer for his testy Maltese.

Why is it that when small dogs are aggressive and biting it’s treated as a joke? Take New York Governor David Paterson’s Maltese, Cheerio--a full-time tough guy with at least two bites to his credit. Imagine if those teeth belonged to a bigger dog with a tougher reputation living in the home someone with a lot less clout. I’m just glad the governor finally recognized that a pint-sized troublemaker is still a troublemaker and deserves a trainer. Good luck, Cheerio!
 

News: JoAnna Lou
First-Ever Animal Policy & Advocacy Degree
New Humane Society University to fosters understanding of our relationships with animals.

Dogs have lived alongside humans for ages, but in many ways we know little about them. For decades our understanding of animal-human relationships has been largely limited to anecdotal stories. Institutions such as Harvard’s Canine Cognition Lab and the American Humane Endowed Chair at the University of Denver would’ve been unthinkable until just a few years ago.

Recently, the possibilities for research in this field has expanded even further. The Humane Society of the United States’ newly licensed university has begun accepting student applications for matriculation in the fall, making it the first in the nation to offer bachelor degree programs in animal studies and the first in the world to offer a bachelor’s degree in animal policy and advocacy.

Applicants must complete 60 college credits, equivalent to at least two years of an average college degree program. Those who already have bachelor's degrees from other institutions can enroll in graduate certificate programs in animal studies, animal policy and advocacy, and humane leadership. The program is run out of their facility in Washington D.C., but also includes online study options.

I’m most excited about the studies in animal policy and advocacy. The graduates from this program are sure to have a significant impact on how animals are represented and understood in our society. Makes me want to go back to school!

News: Guest Posts
The Problem of Celebrity
Some veterinarians and behaviorists decry Merial’s partnership with Cesar Millan.

Earlier this month, the executive board of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) issued a statement that it was “deeply troubled” by the Merial’s decision to partner with Cesar Millan to promote their products. Merial is a huge animal-health company and the maker of Frontline and Heartgard. As part of the promotion, the company is offering veterinary clinics a free Cesar Millan DVD titled “Mastering Leadership!” for any client who purchases either Frontline or Heartgard this summer.

“Merial’s executives may not be aware of the fact that the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB), the AVSAB, and the Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians (SVBT) have uniformly spoken out against the coercive, ‘dominance’-based techniques employed by Mr. Millan on his television show ‘The Dog Whisperer.’”

The AVSAB statement continues, “At best, the show is entertaining but misleading to pet owners. At worst, Mr. Millan’s techniques and misinformation have contributed to increased aggression and anxiety or resulted in physical injury to the pet and/or pet owner. As practicing veterinarians, we all unfortunately have seen many cases of the latter. Merial claims to ‘enhance the health, well-being, and performance of animals.’ Asking veterinarians to recommend that their clients seek behavior information from Mr. Millan speaks otherwise.”
 
Bark columnist Patricia McConnell supports AVSAB’s criticism of Merial and offers her own seasoned and thoughtful perspective on the problem of The Dog Whisperer on her blog, The Other End of the Leash.

In general, I’m inclined against this promotion even without Millan. I’m skeptical about direct-to-the-consumer appeals by pharmaceutical companies. It’s not that I think doctors or veterinarians should be the only ones with information, but advertising and promotion (a free training video, for example?) is rarely about meaningful education. On top of that, there’s reasonable debate over Millan's approach. Do veterinarians—with our trust vested in them—really want to be seen as promoting his ideals?

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