Claudia Kawczynska is The Bark's co-founder and Editor-in-Chief.
Dog's Life: Home & Garden
August 25 2018
It’s springtime, the warm weather and longer days give us time to see how our gardens and yards can be made more dog-friendly. One way is to make sure they’re free of plants that might make them sick; another is to add a few small amenities they’ll enjoy more than digging up the flower bed. Here are some ideas from Maureen Gilmer, landscape designer, horticulturalist and dog lover. More can be found online at moplants.com, where you can also download The Dog-Scaped Yard: Creating a Backyard Retreat for You and Your Dog, the eBook from which these were adapted.
Warm Weather Flop Spot
A Disguised Seasonal Dipping Pool
Al Fresco Nibbles
Wheat and oat grass dog patch. Fresh wheat grass juice is a popular drink for humans. Wheat and oat grass are also good for dogs, in moderation. They will naturally graze on it when they need the nutrients it contains, rather than browsing through your flowers. If you have a dog in a small city yard, consider planting wheat grass in an outdoor patch. It grows great in low, wide troughs. Most pet suppliers sell the seeds in small quantities. For a sizeable dog patch, save money by purchasing your oat and wheat seed in quantity at a health food store. It’s free of chemicals and ideal for large plantings.
Keep Your Yard Foxtail Free
National Park Service overrules restrictive dog policy
October 19 2017
We just got the great news that affects not only dog lovers in the SF Bay Area but those who might be planning dog-friendly trips here. After a long drawn out battle with the National Park Service that we have covered in detail, the NPS has decided to drop their onerous and ill-conceived “rulemaking process” for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and go back to their 1979 pet policy, one that is a much more welcoming to us and our dogs.
What the GGNRA and some of their supporters were trying to do was nothing short of turning a national recreation area into a more restrictive national park. They aren’t the same thing. The GGNRA is surely a national treasure but it is also parkland that serves the citizens of the Bay Area long before it became the GGNRA. Created by Congress in 1972, back then it was made up of a mix of land in San Francisco and Marin Counties, to “concentrate on serving the outdoor recreation needs of the people of the metropolitan area.” It was part of a Nixon administration’s farsighted campaign to “bring parks to the people” and increase outdoor recreation in urban areas. San Francisco also gave Ocean Beach to the National Park Service (NPS) for inclusion in the GGNRA. What is important to note, is that when they did that, they required that the NPS promise to protect and preserve the land’s traditional recreational uses, inclouding off-leash dog walking.
The 1979 rules allowed people to walk dogs, including off-leash dogs, at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, Fort Funston, Marin’s Muir and Rodeo Beaches, and on miles of trails in the Marin Headlands—somewhat less than 1 percent of the total holdings. Those were the rules that the “rulemaking” process were attempting to abrogate. But it took a long, concerted, multiyear effort from thousands of dog lovers, their attorneys, many elected officials (including notably, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, whose district includes a portion of the GGNRA) and many others to stop this takeover.
So we all are celebrating here. We often go to Crissy Field with our three dogs, where all of us, humans and dogs alike marvel at the long expanse of pristine beach with its vistas of the Golden Gate and how well all the users get along. Dogs fetch, fisherpeople fish, joggers run, couples stroll, SUPers row, tots dig, recreation at its finest. Why try to change that?
Below is the release from the NPS:
National Park Service News Release
Date: October 19, 2017
National Park Service ends effort to update regulations on dogs at Golden Gate National Recreation Area
WASHINGTON - Today, the National Park Service (NPS) announced it has permanently ended a planning and rulemaking process intended to establish new regulations related to dog management at Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) in California. The decision follows the completion of an independent review of the dog rule planning and rulemaking process.
In its report, the independent review team concluded that the use of personal email by NPS employees to conduct official business was inappropriate, but the emails the team reviewed ultimately did not influence the outcome of the planning and rulemaking process. However, NPS officials, with the support of the Department of the Interior leadership, concluded that it is no longer appropriate to proceed with the rulemaking process.
"We can do better and in the interest of upholding the highest standard of transparency and trust with our Bay Area neighbors, we have determined that it is no longer appropriate to continue with the current dog management rulemaking process at Golden Gate National Recreation Area," said NPS acting Director Michael Reynolds.
In January, the National Park Service asked an independent group of experts in government planning efforts to review the use of personal email accounts for official communications related to the Dog Management Plan planning and rulemaking process. Additionally, the NPS took several steps to educate staff about the importance of conducting official business using official email accounts. In May, a memo from Acting Director Reynolds was sent to every agency employee to highlight the importance of ethical behavior and appropriate use of email.
GGNRA will continue to enforce existing pet regulations detailed in a 1979 pet policy and the Superintendent's Compendium. The current regulations allow visitors to walk managed dogs under voice or leash control in specific areas of the park. The nationwide National Park Service regulation requiring dogs to be on-leash will apply to areas not covered by the 1979 policy. The NPS has also adopted two special regulations that modify the 1979 policy for parts of Crissy Field and Ocean Beach. For the time being, the interim permit requirement for commercial dog walkers will remain in effect.
In 2002, the park began enforcing the National Park Service's nationwide pet regulation, but a 2005 federal district court decision found that the park could not rescind its 1979 pet policy without first completing a rulemaking process. The park's subsequent decision to examine alternatives to the 1979 pet policy triggered the Dog Management Plan environmental review and the associated rulemaking process. A final rule was anticipated in early 2017 but was placed on hold in January, pending completion of the NPS initiated independent review to determine whether the use of personal email by park employees affected the planning and rulemaking processes.
The report and the information that the review team considered are available to the public here. GGNRA's existing pet regulations are available here.
October 16 2017
California became the first state to ban the sale of commercially bred dogs, cats and rabbits from pet stores. This law, introduced in February by Assemblyperson Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach), was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on Friday, Oct. 13 and celebrated by animal protection organizations and animal lovers throughout the nation.
California Assembly Bill 485 amends the state’s Food and Agricultural Code and Health and Safety Code relating to public health. Beginning on January 1, 2019, pet store operators will be prohibited from selling any live dog, cat or rabbit in a pet store unless the animal was obtained from a public animal control agency or shelter, society for the prevention of cruelty to animal’s shelter, humane society shelter, or rescue group. Pet stores will be required to maintain records that document the source of each animal it sells for at least one year, and to post on the cage or enclosure of each animal, a sign that lists the name of the entity from which each animal was obtained. Public animal control agencies and shelters will be authorized to periodically review those records. Pet store operators who violate the bill’s provisions will be subject to a civil penalty of $500.
When O’Donnell introduced the bill he explained that the bill’s main intent “is to promote adoption.” And noted that he already saved a couple of puppies. “Two members of my family, a German Shepherd and a Shih Tzu, were adopted from shelters and rescue groups.” It was his belief that the law in prohibiting stores from selling puppies from puppy/kitten mills and encouraging them to only sell pets obtained from shelters and rescue groups, would also promote partnerships advocating for the adoption of homeless pets.
Best Friends for Animals , noted in their press release, that California, as a state, now joins more than 230 cities, towns and counties across that country that have passed pet store ordinances to take a stand against allowing cruelly-bred animals to be sold in their communities. Those animals are generally kept in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions without adequate veterinary care, food, water or socialization. AB 485 should help break the supply chain so that “mill” operations are unable to profit from their abusive practices.
Chris DeRose, president and founder of Last Chance for Animals (LCA), one of a large coalition of humane organizations supporting this bill’s passage, noted that, “the California legislature’s passage of Assembly Bill 485 is a landmark victory and one that we have championed for decades. We are elated that our home state is leading the way on this important issue. Requiring pet stores to sell only rescue and shelter animals is a bold venture— but one that will help rehome some of the six million unwanted animals that enter shelters each year.”
Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, President of the San Francisco SPCA, said that “Right here in California, each year we have thousands of animals who are in need of new homes. By signing this important legislation, Governor Brown can help stop pet mill cruelty, while giving rescued animals the second chance they deserve.”
Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the ASPCA added that, “This landmark law breaks the puppy mill supply chain that pushes puppies into California pet stores and has allowed unscrupulous breeders to profit from abusive practices. We thank the California legislature and Governor Brown for sending the clear message that industries supporting animal cruelty will not be tolerated in our society.”
The opponents to the bill was spearheaded by the American Kennel Club (AKC), and variety of industry trade organizations, like Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), breeders and retailer groups. They put up a concerted campaign claiming that this bill would “block all of California’s pet lovers from having access to professional, licensed, and ethical breeders,” as was promulgated by Sheila Goffe, vice president of government relations for the AKC. Obviously this bill does no such thing, it only covers the sale of animals at pet stores, and does not in any way affect responsible breeders from selling their dogs face-to-face to the public. As long as puppy mills can sell their puppies with AKC-sanctioned papers—that provide financial incentives to that organization—the AKC will stand behind them and take on anyone who opposes puppy mills. Some breeders had posted petitions on change.org that used “fake news” arguments and scare tactics such as that this bill “would requires pet stores to sell unwanted strays, not only from Mexico, but some from more distant countries like Egypt and Korea, where dreaded diseases and parasites are commonplace.”
Luckily for California, the legislators saw beyond those specious arguments and enacted a law that has two straightforward goals: to cut down on financial support of large-scale breeding facilities and to promote the adoption of homeless pets. That definitely is something to cheer about!
And Other Adventures in Animal Neuroscience
October 9 2017
We were pleased that Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist who uses functional MRIs to measure canine (and human) brain activity, and author of the 2013 bestseller, How Dogs Love Us, is back with new work. In What It’s Like to Be a Dog, Berns brings us up-to-date on recent discoveries coming out of his Dog Project at Emory University. His team, which includes 30 volunteers and their amazing co-pilots, takes on subjects like selfcontrol (dogs have been found to have varying capacities for this attribute), understanding of human language and differing value systems. And—no surprise for Bark readers—the finding that dogs are happiest being around their humans, preferring us to other dogs. We are the apples of their eyes.
It is important to note that, unlike other laboratories that use dogs in functional MRI research, Berns is very careful about the way the project’s dogs are handled. Even though MRI machines require subjects to remain perfectly still in a tight space while being subjected to loud thumping sounds, Berns’ subject dogs are never restrained and never sedated. To achieve this admirable state, Berns partnered with a fabulous trainer, Mark Spivak, at the project’s inception in 2011. Spivak uses positive reinforcement and clicker training to shape the dogs’ behavior so that they freely and voluntarily maintain the required position. Steps are provided for them to walk into and out of the scanner, and they can leave whenever they want, giving them what Berns calls “the right of selfdetermination.” In constructing this study, Berns was guided by a concern for ethics; as he notes, “We would never force people to participate in research, so why would it be okay to force animals?”
This book, while focusing on dogs, also explores the inner lives of wild animals, from dolphins and sea lions to the extinct Tasmanian tiger. No, these animals weren’t studied via the MRI; instead, they used diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), which is an MRI-based form of imaging that “takes advantage of the fact that movement of water molecules around the brain is biased.” Brains of sea lions who died as a result of environmental problems were obtained from the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, Calif., and for the extinct tiger, they used brains that had been preserved as part of museum collections. The process is a tad too complicated to explain here, but trust me, it’s given Berns and his team a comparative brainmapping tool that has resulted in some very compelling findings. My favorite involves a talented sea lion named Ronan, part of a study at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Berns observes that Ronan’s ability to find and keep a musical beat could change how people think about the evolution of language. (To see more of this pinniped star in action, go to YouTube and enter Ronan + sea lion in the search box.)
In setting out to explore what differentiates humans from other animals, Berns is demonstrating that the divide really isn’t that wide. This truly fascinating book shows a profound respect for animals, and one that is broadening our understanding of what it’s like to be a dog.
September 11 2017
So many hopeful stories of goodwill and humanitarianism are emanating from the tragic circumstances caused by Hurricane Harvey and Irma—good people lending a helping hand in difficult circumstances. We were pleased to find out that our neighbors, the Berkeley Humane Society, have stepped up to assist a Florida shelter prepare for the anticipated disaster heading their way with the arrival of category 4 Hurricane Irma.
Yesterday we visited the Berkeley Humane Society that has just returned from the airport where they picked up 50 dog and cat evacuees from the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale. A number of humane organizations outside of Florida are coming to the aid of shelters helping to “clear” the decks in anticipation of Hurricane Irma. We are proud that our neighbor, who is just down the road from our offices, more than doubled their population with these new arrivals. We visited the shelter shortly after the dogs and cats arrived, and the animal care volunteers were busy taking tallies, and making sure that their new guests have their needs met and have settled in. We were shown around the shelter facility by executive director Jeffrey Zerwekh and Tom Atherr, director of development & communications who generously give us time to tell us about their work and introduce us to the new arrivals.
This Ft Lauderdale-to-Bay Area mission was organized by Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) in nearby Walnut Creek, that also took in a large number of the animal evacuees, along with the East Bay SPCA and the Berkeley Humane Society. The remarkable organization Wings of Rescue provided the airplanes, piloted by volunteer pilots with GreaterGood.org, Freekibble.com and the Rescue Bank helping to pay for the flight. All told, more than 175 cats and dogs were evacuated. Ric Browde with Wings of Rescue noted that, “we wanted to be proactive before the storm and get as many of the animals as we had at the shelter out of the facility.” Christopher Agostino, President and CEO of the Humane Society of Broward County added, “This is a tremendous undertaking and we are grateful for all our partners making this possible. We want to be prepared as much as possible for after the storm and to be able to help our community.”
The rescue flight, with a stopover for refueling, took 10 long hours, with most of the dogs taking it in stride. During our visit, many of the dogs came up to the front of their enclosures to sniff and greet us. The BHS has a full veterinary facility on premise which helps make it an ideal partner in this evacuation project. The shelter medical staff was on hand to review medical records and make sure that everything was in order. The shelter will be arranging foster homes for many of these southern transplants, recognizing that dogs do much better with foster families paving the transition to forever homes. BHS will be waiving the adoption fees in order to help expedite the adoptions of these animals, said Altherr, but welcomes donations, be it online or in person, to help cover the shelter’s costs. “Berkeley Humane is grateful that we are in a position to help animals that were at risk and are now safe. Doubling our animal population with only a few hours notice is difficult and a significant drain on our resources, but we know what we have to do and we are confident our community of volunteers, adopters, and donors will participate in these efforts,” added Zerwekh.
Zerwekh explained that the Broward County people were extremely well-organized and were making evacuation plans, and lining up out-of-state shelters, in anticipation of Irma. Being able to clear their shelters means that the Broward people, in turn, can open their doors to the animals that will be needing assistance during and after the upcoming storm. The Florida shelter evacuation follows another recent transfer of animals from Texas shelters to nearby Oakland. Fifty dogs and 20 cats arrived in the Bay Area via a private jet, thanks to efforts by the San Francisco SPCA, Mad Dog Rescue, Muttville Senior Dog Rescue and the Milo Foundation. The animals were flown in and slated for adoption in order make room for the many pets that got lost during Hurricane Harvey.
It seems that so many lessons, on the humane front, were imparted during Katrina and recent disaster relief efforts. It is wonderful to see that the nation’s humane network, stretching across state and regional boundaries, coming together to assist this long-distance rescue and evacuation collaboration.
September 7 2017
The AVMA has created a Pet Evacuation Kit for pet owners to assemble, and have ready, in case of an emergency, such as natural disasters like hurricanes. The kit provides a checklist for the items and the tasks to be done before an evacuation.
The kit should be assembled well in advance of any emergency and store in an easy-to-carry, waterproof container close to an exit.
Food and Medicine
*These items must be rotated and replaced to ensure they don’t expire
First Aid Kit
September 6 2017
Earlier this year we reported on Mars’ plans to acquire VCA, for $9.1 billion that would mean that the world's largest pet food company would also own the most vet clinics in the US. It is interesting to see that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is charging that this purchase would violate antitrust laws. So Mars had to agree to divest 12 vet clinics, especially those with specialty and emergency services.
The FTC complaint goes on to detail its concerns about how this purchase would affect competition:
According to the FTC’s complaint, if the acquisition takes place as proposed, it may substantially lessen competition for certain specialty and emergency veterinary services in 10 U.S. localities by eliminating head-to-head competition between Mars specialists in the area and those of VCA.
According to the complaint, without a remedy, the acquisition would likely lead to higher prices for pet owners and lower quality in the specialty and emergency veterinary services they receive. These effects are unlikely to be mitigated through timely new entry, as opening a specialty or emergency services veterinary clinic presents some unique challenges, including the need to recruit specialist veterinarians with considerably greater training than general practice veterinarians.
One clinic each in the Kansas City, New York, and Phoenix areas will be divested to National Veterinary Associates. One clinic each in Chicago, Corpus Christi and San Antonio, and two clinics in Seattle, will be divested to Pathway. Two clinics serving the Portland area and two clinics in the greater Washington, DC area will be divested to PetVet.”
These are the veterinary clinics to be divested and their buyers, according to the FTC:
> One clinic each in the Kansas City, New York and Phoenix areas will be divested to National Veterinary Associates.
> One clinic each in Chicago, Corpus Christi and San Antonio, and two clinics in Seattle will be divested to Pathway.
> Two clinics serving the Portland area and two clinics in the greater Washington, D.C., area will be divested to PetVet.
Mars is also prohibited from entering into contracts with any specialty or emergency veterinarian affiliated with a divested clinic for a year after the order takes effect, the release states. Mars is also required for 10 years to notify the FTC if it plans to acquire any additional specialty or emergency veterinary clinics in certain geographic areas.
More information about the divestiture and consent agreement can be found here. Good to know that the FTC is, in this case, looking out for the interest of pet owners. The commission’s vote to issue the complaint was unanimous. The FTC will publish the consent agreement package in the Federal Register shortly.
Comments can be filed electronically here or in paper form by following the instructions in the “Supplementary Information” section of the Federal Register notice once it’s published.
August 25 2017
National Dog Day is upon us, not exactly sure what that means but if gives us an excuse to celebrate our love for our dogs, it’s a good thing. You know what your dog likes best, right? So just do more of that, but here’s some of our ideas too:
Hugs and Kisses. A long leisurely petting session and deep body massage with stretching exercises. You can also sneak in a quick body scan looking to see that everything is in order, don’t forget to peak inside their ears and check between their toes.
Treats. Stuffing an extra special Kong—perhaps using liver, cheese, yogurt, peanut butter—freeze it and then serve it up. Prep some frozen yogurt cubes, add blueberries, bananas, strawberries, or use chicken broth or other delicious cool licks.
Walks and Hiking. A nice long back-to-nature walk, letting your dog do what they do best, sniff around and discover a fresh scent.
Engagement. Every dog loves learning especially with you, so today teach them a new trick, or practice an old one. Our three dogs each have different talents: one loves to crawl, one prefers to jump up onto rocks, one likes to leap over just about anything. They all love hide-and-seek or finding little pieces of pasta hidden around the house.
Dining Delights. Top off their meals, there’s so many ways to “beef” up a kibble-based diet. Great time to think of trying your hand at making dog meals (but remember to start off gradually, just adding a little to your dog’s usual food).
Let us know what you are planning to do with your dog to celebrate National Dog Day.
August 20 2017
Monday is the big solar eclipse day. If you are wondering if you need to do anything special to protect your dog’s eyes, luckily most experts say there is little need to worry.
“On a normal day, your pets don’t try to look at the sun, and therefore don’t damage their eyes. And on this day, they’re not going to do it, either,” Angela Speck, director of astronomy and a professor of astrophysics at the University of Missouri, said at a news conference with NASA on June 21 in Washington, D.C.
Pet safety expert, Melanie Monteiro also agrees. She teaches online pet first-aid classes and is the author of “The Safe-Dog Handbook: A Complete Guide to Protecting Your Pooch, Indoors and Out,” and she says animals shouldn’t need the same eye protection.
“There’s really no reason to be concerned about that,” she told TODAY. “Dogs and cats don’t normally look up into the sun, so you don’t need to get any special eye protection for your pets.”
But if you are taking your dog out while watching the eclipse, Monteiro said putting them on a leash is important. And make sure if you are looking up at the eclipse (with special eclipse glasses, of course), make sure your dog doesn’t take your cue if you get overly excited and “look” at what is making you freak out.
"Animals are actually quite a bit smarter than we are when it comes to looking directly at the sun," says Michelle Thaller, deputy director of science for communications at NASA, which is including the Life Responds project as part of its citizen science outreach in conjunction with the eclipse.
Some of said though that dogs might appear upset or frightened, and perhaps howl, run away, seek cover—similar reactions associated with fireworks.
Vox, has a great piece on everything to know about eclipses, and posed that question to Bill Kramer, from eclipse-chasers.com, he told them that:
“Some dogs bark at the eclipse,” he says. “Some dogs detect the emotion of the moment, or anxiety beforehand, and react accordingly. Never heard of one reacting like some do to fireworks or gunshots. The eclipse is a silent thing, except for the ambient sounds and cheers. ... Cats, on the other hand, are cats.”
Best bet is to keep your dogs inside, but let us know if you catch your dog doing anything out of the ordinary.
August 4 2017
Susan Thixton of Truthaboutpetfood.com has a very interesting post today about the increase in complaints stemming from the popular Taste of the Wild dog food. She reports that many of the complaints can be found on ConsumerAffairs.com, and 27 complaints were posted in July alone. She also notes that many consumers also went to the parent company’s Facebook page to post their complaints on Diamond Pet Food. The company (that has been involved in a few recalls in the past) denied that the food had any negative affect on the animals. Wisely, Thixton explains that the best strategy for reporting concerns about a pet food that might be the cause of an illness, is the following:
1. File a report with the FDA.
2. File a report with your state’s Department of Agriculture. You can find info for your state's animal feed authorities here.
3. Call/write the pet food manufacturer.
Make sure you save all the information from the pet food packaging, including the labels. Save the rest of the food (if there is any left) in an airtight container, store in the freezer. Thixton also cautions that filling out forms might be a little time consuming, but it is definitely worth the effort. This is the only way that the food can be investigated, so others won’t eat it.
Copyright © 1997-2017 The Bark, Inc. Dog Is My Co-Pilot® is a registered trademark of The Bark, Inc