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News: Guest Posts
Watch Out, Poachers!
Detection dogs stop smugglers

If dogs can sniff out drugs or explosives, why not ivory or rhino horn? The South African Police Service is training detection dogs in an effort to thwart poachers and protect endangered animals such as elephants and rhinos. Thanks to a partnership with South African company Mechem, which created its Explosive and Drug Detection System, new technology will enable the police dogs to work more safely and efficiently. Watch contraband-detection dogs in action. 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Calling All Working Dogs
UPDATE! Dept. of Homeland Security looks to recruit 3,000 pups

Editor's update: JoAnna Lou gets her wish. The Department of Homeland Security has bowed to pressure and agreed to screen shelter dogs to work as canine federal agents. Many animal welfare advocates, including PETA, cried fowl when the department made the call for increased breeding to supply the “right” sort of dogs. It worked.

 

[Original post: 8/12/10] As the government gears up to protect the country against terrorists, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is looking to expand its canine workforce from 2,000 to 5,000 dogs in the next five years. These pups will also help other government groups such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Coast Guard and the Secret Service.

  This summer the Department alerted small breeders looking it’s looking for Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds and Belgian Malinois between the ages of 12 to 36 months that are “alert, active, outgoing, confident” and “extremely tolerant of people.”   The 150 percent increase may seem like a lot, but many believe that a dog’s skill can’t be replicated, even with modern technology. Although only four percent of the Border Patrol's agents were canine handlers, these teams were credited with 60 percent of drug arrests and 40 percent of all other apprehensions in 2007.   Clark Larson, who runs the Customs and Border Protections canine program, says “there is no technology that trumps the cold nose of a dog.” It’s amazing that in the computer-dependant world we live in, sometimes you just can’t beat nature.    It’s always good to see more working dogs. I only wish the department would consider shelter dogs for their canine program. In the past, almost all U.S. Customs dogs were originally from animal shelters. Imagine the impact the department could have on homeless pets if even a fraction of those 3,000 dogs were rescues.

 

News: Guest Posts
9/11 Memorial Video
Honoring the dogs who searched and comforted

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Finding Cell Phones
Dogs sniff out smuggled goods in prison

Dogs have been trained to detect cancer, bed bugs, and even illegal DVDs. There really is no limit to how our pups can help us. Now canines are being trained to search prisons for smuggled cell phones.

Prisons ban cell phones because inmates can use them to plot escape plans, harass victims or document security procedures. Jail officials have always searched prison cells for phones, but they’ve only recently begun to train dogs for this purpose. Sergeant Wayne Conrad, who leads the K-9 detection program in California, says his dogs can search jail cells in a fraction of the time it takes a human officer. 

Inmates, and even staff members, go to great lengths to smuggle cell phones inside prison walls, where they can be sold or rented for large sums of money. These attempts include hiding pieces of cell phones in radios or watches, transporting phones with the laundry delivery, and even putting phones inside the body. But it doesn’t matter if the phones are on, off, or broken into a million pieces--the dogs will find them. 

Cell phone sniffing dogs work in state prisons across America, including California, Florida, Texas, Virginia and Maryland. The program has increased in popularity in recent years because it’s effective, but also economical. All of the 14 dogs working in California’s 33 prisons are adopted from shelters or rescue groups and go through an eight-week training program.

As of May this year, California prison officials have already confiscated almost 5,000 cell phones thanks to their team of talented pups!

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Canine Lifeguards
Italian pups train to rescue humans in troubled waters

After vacationing abroad recently, I’ve been jealous of the abundance of parks and beaches in Europe that allow dogs. 

But in Italy, not all of the beach dogs are just lounging in the sun all day, some are also helping to keep the ocean safe. These working pups are graduates of the Italian School of Water Rescue Dogs in Civitavecchia. Currently 300 dogs have been certified through the three-year program. 

The canine lifeguards are trained to jump from helicopters and boats, carry a buoy or raft, and tow victims to shore. The dogs play an important role in rescuing the 3,000 people saved by the Italian Coast Guard each year. 

According to program coordinator, Roberto Gasbarri, canine lifeguards have an advantage over humans because they can easily jump into the water and reach victims quickly. One dog can single handedly pull a boat of 30 people to shore. The canine lifeguards can even help reduce fatigue in the human rescuers by towing handlers to victims for medical attention. 

Think your crew has what it takes? The school will train any breed, as long as they weigh at least 30 kilograms (66 pounds) and are confident in the water, though Labrador Retrievers and Newfoundlands are most common.  Each dog works with a volunteer handler, who also acts as the animal's trainer.

I don’t think my water phobic pups will be lifeguards anytime soon, but I’m thankful for the people and dogs who donate their time to keeping the beaches safe.

News: Guest Posts
National Dog Day
Celebrating canines, August 26

Thursday is National Dog Day, which was founded in 2004 to acknowledge all the dogs who “work selflessly each day to save lives, keep us safe and bring comfort.” Even if you’re naturally cranky like me and resent being told you need to show your appreciation on a particular day, it’s hard to argue with the fundamental idea that dogs give us a great deal and deserve our best in return.

  I’m willing to set aside my fundamental belief that dogs—just like mothers, fathers, grandparents, lovers, etc.—should enjoy special treats and praise daily to get behind the National Dog Day mission: supporting shelters and rescues, promoting adoption and saying no breed bans.   Among the celebration suggestions on the official National Dog Day website are parties, treats, a day lazing on a new bed (ugh!), and dressing up in patriotic attire (huh?). I think we can do better than that. How about committing ourselves to mastering some new tricks? Kicking off a more active regime? Volunteering for an animal welfare organization or making a donation? Launching a new strategy for helping animals? Reading a book about canine massage? Signing up for an organized activity, such as agility or Nose Work? With the right attitude, we can keep this from being another Valentine’s Day. Improving the health of our own dogs and reaching out to help dogs-in-need is a better investment than a box of chocolates or cut flowers (not that I’d refuse either).   Do you have plans for National Dog Day? Look for our National Dog Day poll this week on Bark’s Facebook page.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Service Dog Diversity
Pomeranian helps hearing-impaired woman

Pookee the Pomeranian helps Julianna Rigby by alerting her to sounds she can’t detect such as visitors at the door or the telephone ringing. Since the image many people have of service dogs is confined to German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers, Rigby sometimes receives dirty looks or requests to take the dog outside when she takes her with her to the grocery store or other places where dogs are usually not allowed.

  I’ve met service dogs from a variety of breeds beyond the two standards mentioned above: Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, a French Mastiff, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Tibetan Terriers and Flat-coated Retrievers are just a few of them. Do you know of a service dog from a breed that is not typically thought of in that role? Tell us about the dog and what he or she does.  

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Therapy Dog Gives Great Gift
A wife’s last smile.

 

There are a zillion stories about the amazing effects of therapy dogs on people, but this one moved me even more than usual. A husband was with his dying wife in a Florida hospital when Pogo, a Shetland sheepdog came to visit. The wife began to pet the dog, wrapped her arms around him, and smiled. It had been a long time since she had smiled, and it was to be her last one. She died the next day.   Pogo’s guardian got a letter from the husband soon after thanking her for letting him see his wife smile one more time. I’m actually dripping tears on my keyboard just thinking about how meaningful that single smile was to this man. I mean, seriously, have you ever written or received a letter because of a smile?  

 

News: Guest Posts
Dogs Only
Federal government narrows service animal definition

If you have a disability and want to bring your helper parrot, monkey or snake with you in public, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. Revisions to the Department of Justice’s ADA regulations were signed by Attorney General Eric Holder last Friday, and they exclude exotic animals as service animals.

  Monkeys, rodents, and reptiles, among others, will no longer be permitted to accompany individuals with disabilities into places of public accommodation. The only animals who will qualify as service animals are … dogs.   DOJ regulations (implementing Title III of the ADA) used to define a service animal as “any guide dog, signal dog or other animal individually trained to provide assistance for the benefit of an individual with a disability.”   The revised regulations define a service animal as “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.” Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this new definition.   These regulations will take effect six months after the date they are published in the Federal Register, and at risk of being labeled a species-ist, I must confess I look forward to the changes. I use a trained service dog who adheres to high behavioral standards. When you travel around with a dog like this you get an earful of stories about other service animals: Helper parrots pecking at shoppers in stores; comfort pigs going crazy in airplanes; a therapeutic rat that quells anxiety in his owner but ends up causing anxiety to others instead.     Seeing Eye pioneers worked long and hard to open the doors and give our dogs public access. Opening ADA legislation to even more animals who may not truly be qualified could possibly ruin the good name our Seeing Eye pioneers have worked so hard to build over the years. My hope is that limiting the number of allowable species will stop erosion of the public’s  trust in our well-behaved, helpful—and absolutely necessary—service animals.   

 

News: Guest Posts
A New Job for Pearl
Second graders illustrate book about Haiti SAR dog

Allyn Lee has volunteered for 16 years, teaching second graders about animals and the environment. In January, she was teaching Connie Forslind’s second grade class at Rancho Romero School in Alamo, Calif., about wolves—a subject, she says, always segues to dogs—when Haiti was hit by the devastating earthquake. Lee followed the coverage, in particular stories about the canine search teams, including California Task-Force 2 (CA-TF2), trained by the Search Dog Foundation. CA-TF2 saved 11 lives in Haiti and learned a great deal about saving more lives in future disasters. Lee decided she wanted to write the true story of a Pearl and her handler, Fire Captain Ron Horetski.

  When she told her students they became enthusiastic supporters and illustrators. They studied photos of Horetski and Pearl and watched Search Dog Foundation videos. Every student provided at least one image for A New Job for Pearl: A Homeless Dog Becomes A Hero, and they participate in book sales events nearby. “They are fully involved and determined to sponsor a search dog!” Lee says.    Lee and her students hope to sell 1,000 copies at $10 each to raise the $10,000 needed to sponsor the training of a search dog. To support the kids, SDF and/or to learn Pearl’s wonderful story, visit ANewJobforPearl.org.

 

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