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News: Guest Posts
Another Recall
Pig ears and beef hooves recalled for salmonella.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a health alert, last week, warning consumers not to use pig ears or beef hooves pet treats manufactured by Pet Carousel because they may be contaminated with salmonella. It sounds like these treats could be for sale just about anywhere—they were distributed nationwide and to chain stores. Brands to look out for include Doggie Delight and Pet Carousel for ears and hooves, plus Choo Hooves and Dentley’s for hooves only.

According the FDA no illness has been associated with the products. The presence of salmonella was detected during routine testing by the agency in September 2009. Read more about the recall, handling and symptoms in humans and pets.

According to the PETCO Scoop, that company has removed all Pet Carousel hooves from its shelves and has issued a statement that it does not carry pigs ears from the company. As of yesterday, PetSmart has voluntarily pulled 14 hoof products off its shelves.

News: Guest Posts
Big Sky Humanitarians
Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary honored by ASPCA.

I’m incredibly excited to share that Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary in Ovando, Mont., has received the ASPCA’s 2009 Henry Bergh Award. It’s one of seven humanitarian awards given annually by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and represents a huge shout-out for a couple who devote every day of their lives and all their energy to providing sanctuary to around 70 disabled dogs, cats and horses—half of them blind.

I first profiled the sanctuary and Steve Smith and Alayne Marker, the husband/wife team who created and operate Rolling Dog Ranch, in the Nov/Dec 2006 issue of Bark. Since then, I’ve been privileged to visit the sanctuary several times. I can attest to the couple’s amazing compassion and dedication to disabled animals, their drive to achieve their mission of providing a full, happy life for the challenged animals that most would consider useless and unlovable. Steve and Alayne would be the first to point out that the unconditional love returned by the animals they care for repays them a thousandfold. When I’m there, working hard to help out anyway I can, I’m blissfully happy, whether cleaning horse stalls or playing with the dogs. It’s truly a special place.

“This is wonderful exposure for the animals, a way to strengthen the voice for all disabled animals,” Alayne said, when I called to congratulate her. “They have that right to a good life. To those individuals who nominated us, and decided to recognize us in this way, we’re very grateful.”

When the ASPCA's phone call came last week, “it was a total surprise, which makes it more fun and stupendous because we had no idea we were even being considered,” Alayne said.  “It’s a great honor, very humbling.”

Alayne will travel to New York City to receive the award at a luncheon on Oct. 29. Steve will remain behind, feeding the animals and cleaning up all the poop.

In the meantime, Rolling Dog Ranch is currently in first place in a vote-in contest on TheAnimalRescueSite.com Shelter Challenge. Visit the Rolling Dog Ranch blog to see how your vote can make a big difference. And while you’re there, delight in reading the heartwarming and inspiring stories of the animals on the ranch. Maybe you’ll even be inspired to make a donation.

News: Guest Posts
Cheap, Easy Alternative to Spay/Neuter Surgery
One man is funding the search for an answer.

Last October, I posted a blog about billionaire orthopedic surgeon Gary Michelson’s bid to drive research into finding an efficient, inexpensive and nonsurgical alternative to spay/neuter. His nonprofit foundation, Found Animals, put up $75 million to fund promising research and commercial development of what many consider to be the key to fighting pet overpopulation and, in turn, euthanasia--especially in places with large feral dog populations, such as India and China.

Well, Michelson’s stimulus project appears to be working. Science Magazine took the event of the first approved Michelson Grants to look into the state of the current research, which appears to be humming thanks to the promise of backing. Still, it's not all good news: The challenge is staggering and all early efforts to “contracept” dogs on a large scale have failed. But the promise of real money and the growing urgency of the problem might tip the scales in our the animals' favor, at last.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
An Issue of Breed or Responsible Ownership?
NYC Housing Authority Tightens Restriction to include Dobermans, Pit Bulls, and Rotties.

Earlier this year, the New York City Housing Authority tightened their pet restriction, making it one of the strictest for any public housing authority in the country. The new policy bans all dogs over 25 pounds and specifically prohibits all purebred and mixed breed Doberman Pinchers, Pit Bulls and Rottweilers.

Since the new rules were published in an April, the Animal Care and Control of New York City has received 113 surrendered dogs due to the ban, according to a front page story in The New York Times. More than 40 percent have been euthanized because of illness, behavior or lack of space. 

The Mayor’s Alliance and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have asked the Housing Authority to stop enforcing the ban. City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez of Manhattan, the chairwoman of the Council’s Subcommittee on Public Housing, has also called for a re-examination of the policy after she discovered one resident with a 28-pound poodle planned to starve the dog until it was under the 25-pound limit.

I understand that keeping track of pets in 178,000 apartments isn’t easy, particularly for an overworked government agency. But setting an arbitrary weight limit and targeting specific breeds doesn’t solve the root of the problem, eliminating dangerous dogs. Wouldn’t a measure of responsible ownership, like the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen test, be a better gauge of well-behaved pets? I realize it’s probably unrealistic, but a dog lover can dream.

News: Guest Posts
Waste Not, Want Not
What to do about poo?

The fate of dog waste is something that’s never very far from my thoughts, especially as I bend over to collect my dogs’ precious gems about four times a day. I sometimes imagine the towers of plastic-wrapped dog waste piled high in landfills around the country. I recently read a true-crime story that involved the detectives combing by hand through a landfill in search of a body. Am I the only reader who wondered how much dog waste they encountered? So, I make a sort of hobby out of reading stories that provide the latest innovation or challenge on the pet waste front. (Remember when San Franciso was set to turn poop into biofuel? Did that go anywhere?) Two recent pieces caught my eye.

From Canada comes a first-person review of Toronto’s new dog waste pilot program, which diverts dog waste from landfills to be processed at a water treatment plant. For this to work, people must scoop the poop in paper bags with cardboard scoops and deposit them in special bins. Writer Debbie Pacheco was not amused or even satisfied by the hassles of the substandard scooper. I like the ambition of the project, but I get Pacheco’s concerns about convenience. If it’s a hassle, people won’t make the right choice and the solution won’t have a chance.

In Thurston County, Wash., cities and counties are trying to reduce water pollution from dog waste. I was—as always when I read these stories—astonished by the numbers. An estimated 50,000 dogs in the county produce about 12 tons of untreated waste per day! (That’s the equivalent of 12 Volkswagen Beetles.) Plus, a gram of dog waste has twice the fecal coliform of human waste. The goal in Thurston County is a little more basic—get the waste off the ground so it won’t wash into and contaminate rivers and lakes. But that doesn't mean putting it in the toilet. The regional sewer utility recommends against flushing dog poop because canine bacteria and pathogens are more difficult and expensive to process in plants designed for human waste.

Anyone witnessing any brilliant dog waste disposal ideas?

News: Guest Posts
Good News Out of Pennsylvania
Governor Rendell signs new animal welfare law.

A Golden Retriever named Maggie celebrated with her co-pilot, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, when he signed House Bill 39 last Thursday. The new law sets expanded guidelines for the care of dogs, specifying certain procedures must be performed by a veterinarian. This is especially good news for puppy mill dogs, who will now be spared the pain of things like ear-cropping and Caesarean births without anesthesia.

 

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.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
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?

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