Lisa McCormick

Lisa McCormick is an award-winning investigative reporter whose stories have appeared in Dogs for Kids magazine, The Kansas City Star, and the national consumer news website, ConsumerAffairs.com; she has written 12 nonfiction children's books.

Wellness: Healthy Living
Beware of Lead and Toxic Dog Toys
Be proactive in monitoring what goes in your dog’s mouth
Dog in grass with tennis balls

Questions about the safety of pet toys continue to haunt Nancy Rogers. They’re questions the Illinois dog owner has tried to get answered since 2007, when she hired a laboratory to test the lead content in 24 of her Shelties’ chew toys. The tests revealed that one of her dogs’ tennis balls contained 335.7 parts per million (ppm) of lead, an amount that, at the time, fell far below the levels allowed in children’s toys. Today, however, that amount exceeds the 300 ppm federal standard for lead in children’s toys.

What amount of lead should be allowed in the toys dogs lick, chew, slobber on and even shred? Do toys with relatively high levels pose any harm to our best friends? These questions are at the heart of Rogers’ frustration. When she had her tests run three years ago, she learned there were no standards for lead or other toxins in pet toys. There still aren’t any today.

“We can test and measure all we want, but until we have standards, it’s hard to evaluate what those levels mean,” says Rogers, a nurse from Orland Park, Ill. “I want there to be a standard that says whether an amount is safe or not safe.”

Many in the pet industry agree there should be guidelines for lead and other worrisome chemicals in dog toys. They share Rogers’ safety concerns, which surfaced in the wake of the recall of melamine-tainted pet food and amid growing concerns about lead in children’s toys from China.

“All that made me think about what’s in my dogs’ toys,” recalls Rogers, who now has three Shelties. “It also didn’t seem right that I had lost two eightyear- old dogs and we didn’t know why. I was doing this [testing] personally for the safety of my dogs and only tested for lead because that’s what they were finding in the toys from China.”

But others in the pet industry downplay the need for chemical standards in these products, saying they aren’t aware of any studies linking lead in dog toys to canine-related health problems. They also say many companies that make pet toys now follow the federal standards for lead in children’s toys— or the European standards, which limit lead levels to 90 ppm.

“It may sound like standards make sense and they may make consumers more comfortable about buying a pet toy, but there are no indications that there is a real risk to pets [from lead and other toxins] in their toys,” says Ed Rod, vice president of government affairs for the American Pet Products Association (APPA). “We have 1,000 members and we’ve heard no reports of dogs or cats having any ill effects from playing with any pet toy because of the lead or the plastic in the toy.”

But recent tests of hundreds of pet toys, tennis balls, beds, collars and leashes reveal that many contain what researchers call “alarming levels” of lead and other harmful chemicals. The tests were run in September 2009 by the Michigan-based Ecology Center, a nonprofit environmental organization that analyzes toxins in children’s toys and other consumer goods; results are posted on the Ecology Center’s research-based website, HealthyStuff.org. While the site explains that the project’s screening technology “cannot identify the presence and concentration of every chemical of concern” (Bisphenol A, for example), some key findings are worth noting:
• From the more than 400 pet products tested, 45 percent had detectable levels of one or more hazardous toxins, including arsenic, chlorine and bromine. Studies have linked those chemicals to reproductive problems, developmental and learning disabilities, liver toxicity and cancer.

• Of the tennis balls tested, 48 percent contained detectable levels of lead. Researchers discovered that tennis balls made specifically for pets were more likely to contain lead than “sports” tennis balls. The lettering on one “pet” tennis ball, for example, contained 2,696 ppm of lead and 262 ppm of arsenic, a known human carcinogen. None of the “sports” tennis balls tested contained any lead.

• While one-quarter of all the products had detectable levels of lead, 7 percent of all pet products had lead levels higher than the 300 ppm allowed in children’s toys. Nearly half of the pet collars tested had detectable levels of lead; 27 percent had lead levels that exceeded 300 ppm.

“Pets are involuntary canaries in the coal mine in terms of chemical exposure,” says Jeff Gearhart, research director at the Ecology Center. “Pets, like children, have higher exposure to chemical hazards, and our data show that pet products are far more likely to have hazardous chemicals than children’s toys.”

Not all the dog toys tested, however, contained harmful chemicals. Researchers discovered more than a dozen “chemical-free” toys—including the Air Kong Squeaker, the Hartz Flexa-Foam Round About Elephant and the Nylabone Double Action Chew. Despite these “green” findings, Gearhart says his organization’s tests illustrate why chemical safety standards are needed for chew toys and other pet products. The standards would not only protect pets, he says, but also young children who might put dog toys in their mouths. “For lead, the standard that applies for children’s toys is appropriate for pets,” Gearhart says. “I’d say the standard for children’s products should at least be a starting point for those levels.”

A veterinary toxicologist with the ASPCA supports similar guidelines. “Dogs are part of the family,” says Dr. Safdar Kahn, director of Toxicology Research at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. “They are as important as our kids or other family member. And if we feel that way about them, then we should give them things that won’t affect their health.

“So yes, there should be standards for [chemicals] in pet toys,” Kahn adds. “Just like there are guidelines for children’s toys, there should be guidelines for [toxins] in the toys being sold for pets.” Dr. Kahn isn’t aware of any confirmed cases of lead poisoning in dogs caused by a pet toy, but he warns that long-term, excessive exposure to the heavy metal could cause health problems in our four-legged friends.

“Dogs like to chew on things, lick things, carry toys in their mouths, and if there are excessive amounts of lead in a toy, then they can get overexposed to lead,” he says. “And lead can do a number of things to dogs, depending on how much they’re exposed to and for how long.” Some health problems associated with canine lead toxicity include vomiting, weight loss, anemia, seizures and permanent neurological damage.

“Depending on how much exposure there is, and the duration, it can affect multiple organ systems,” Kahn says, adding that dogs who chew or ingest such products as fishing sinkers, curtain weights and old paint can develop lead toxicity.

Remember the “pet” tennis ball that contained more than 2,000 ppm of lead and more than 200 ppm of arsenic? “They are considered higher than the maximum tolerable dietary levels in dogs,” says Kahn.

But the levels of other toxins found in the pet toys tested by the Ecology Center—including traces of chromium, antimony and up to 166 ppm of the flame-retardant bromine—do not alarm Kahn. “Those are not expected to be a concern at these levels,” he says.

Years before concerns of harmful chemicals in pet toys became a hot topic, the Maine company Planet Dog started making nontoxic toys and other products for dogs. Since it opened its doors 12 years ago, Planet Dog has embraced strict hazardous material standards. Many are self-imposed, including the company’s decision to follow the lower European standards for lead in children’s toys of 90 ppm.

“We want to make sure everything we are producing is completely safe,” says Jeff Cloutier, Planet Dog’s manager of sourcing, quality assistance and product development. “All our molded toys are 100 percent safe. We also do our own third-party testing to ensure all the products we make and sell meet our standards.” Cloutier would still like to see national standards for lead and other chemicals in chew toys and pet products. There’s just one caveat: Those standards must be fair.

“The problem is there are so many different standards and tests out there for kids’ toys and clothes, but there is nothing for pets,” Cloutier says. “There needs to be something. This is a huge industry, and who knows what some companies are making.”

PetSmart says dog owners don’t need to worry about the safety of the pet toys and other products on its store shelves. The nationwide retailer claims all its products meet strict federal and other regulatory guidelines. “We use the same standards established for human safety,” says spokeswoman Jennifer Ericsson, “and we continue to receive successful test results on our products, and believe there is no cause for concern related to the products we sell.”

The company routinely tests samples of its imported pet products, Ericsson says. “We also hire an independent company to conduct a variety of quality- assurance tests on representative batches of [pet] toys, including tests for arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury and selenium,” she says. “We take the safety of our products very seriously.”

The American Pet Products Association (APPA) says its members are just as vigilant about the safety of dog toys and other pet products. The trade group says many of its members have adopted their own chemical standards, using the European lead levels or the 300 ppm in the United States as baselines. “There is a kind of informal standard going on now,” says the association’s Ed Rod. “Some of our members have also found that large retailers impose their own standards. But some members have run into difficulties because those standards are not always the same. Retailers set their own standards. One company may have one standard and another retailer may have another one.”

Do APPA members agree that national standards for toxins in pet toys should be adopted? “There is discussion in the industry about whether some sort of voluntary standards are appropriate,” Rod says. “We’ve met with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) about getting some standards. But the CPSC has no jurisdiction over pet toys, and they are underfunded and overworked. They have no interest or inclination unique to pet toys. They’re looking at children’s toys. So going to the CPSC and getting some standards for pet toys is not an option.”

Rod says members of his organization understand dog owners’ concerns and frustrations about toxins in their pets’ toys. “People saw Mattel recall toys for lead and heard about the lead problems with the Thomas the Tank Engine toys,” he says. “The next connection was, understandably, ‘What’s in my pet’s toy?’”

But there isn’t a consensus among APPA members that chemical safety standards are needed, Rod says. “I’m sure there are two points of view. It’s convenient to say that there are standards for children’s toys and if those are good enough for kids, they should be good enough for dogs.

“On the other hand, it’s hard to establish a baseline. And there is no science showing any ill effects from the lead or plastic content in a chew toy for animals. Therefore, we have no basis for evaluating any lead or plastic content standards unique to pet toys.”

At least one worried dog owner says she’d consider APPA members “heroes” if they’d spearhead a campaign to establish standards for toxins in pet toys. “We need standards and we need to know what levels are okay to expose our pets to,” Nancy Rogers says. “I still think the Pet Products Association should lead that effort. This issue matters because pets are part of our families.”

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Risky Business
Car travel with an unrestrained dog is unsafe for everyone

Christina Selter cringes when she sees a dog hanging his head out of the window of a moving car or sitting on a driver’s lap. She has the same reaction when she sees someone’s canine companion jumping between the front and back seats. The nationally recognized pet-safety expert is all too familiar with the dangers and distractions posed by dogs who aren’t buckled up when they’re riding in a vehicle.

“Unrestrained pets can cause accidents,” says Selter, founder of the California-based educational group Bark Buckle UP (barkbuckleup.com). “I can think of two accidents in the past year that were caused by [unrestrained] dogs in the front seat. In one, the owner looked over at her dog and, in a split second, hit a driver in another lane.”

The margin for error is indeed very very small. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety, drivers who take their eyes off the road for just two seconds double their risk of becoming involved in an accident.

Georgia coroner Vernon Collins can’t shake the images of a 2010 headon collision that claimed the lives of two women and a dog. Collins says that one of the drivers, who was apparently distracted by the Chihuahua-mix on her lap, swerved and crashed into a car in the other lane.

A 2011 survey by AAA and Kurgo products reveals that dog owners nationwide are often distracted by their four-legged co-pilots. One in five reported taking his or her hands off the steering wheel to prevent a canine companion from climbing into the front seat. This survey of 1,000 dog owners also uncovered other behaviors that increase a driver’s risk of crashing, including:

• petting a dog (52 percent);

• holding a dog while applying the brakes (23 percent);

• reaching into the back seat to play with a dog (18 percent);

• allowing a dog to sit in their lap (17 percent);

• giving a dog food or treats (13 percent); and

• taking a picture of their dog while driving (3 percent).

Nearly all the dog owners surveyed in the AAA study — a whopping 83 percent — acknowledged that unrestrained dogs in moving vehicles are dangerous. However, only 16 percent said they use a pet restraint.

That statistic worries Katherine Miller, director of applied science and research for the ASPCA. “A large percentage of dogs are traveling unrestrained in cars,” she observes. “Unrestrained pets are hugely distracting, particularly if they’re in the front seat. They can hit the dashboard or the windshield in an accident; if the air bag deploys, a dog in the front seat can be crushed.”

And the risks don’t stop there. “An unrestrained dog can become a projectile during an accident,” says Jim Amormino, public information officer for the Orange County, Calif., Sheriff’s Department. “Let’s say you have a dog [unrestrained] in the back seat and you slam on your brakes. The dog is thrown forward into the driver or the windshield. That could cause serious injury to the driver or cause the driver to [lose control and] collide with another car. It’s just dangerous not to buckle up dogs in vehicles.” According to Selter, an unrestrained 60-pound dog is transformed into a 2,700-pound rocket during a 35-mph collision.

Dogs are also at risk in other ways. Captain Linda D’Orsi with the Chula Vista, Calif., Fire Department has seen dogs involved in auto accidents bolt into traffic and be hit by other cars. “A dog handler was in a freeway accident, and she and her dog survived. But the dog was not crated and got out of the car. And he was killed.”

D’Orsi, who is also FEMA-certified as a handler for urban search-andrescue dogs, warns that unrestrained dogs have been known to flee from an accident scene and disappear forever. “A woman got in a traffic accident and was going to be taken away in an ambulance,” she says. “She had [an unrestrained] dog in the car with her, and the dog got out and was running in the road. He was spooked and we could not coax him back.”

Law enforcement officials report that dogs may try to prevent paramedics from treating an injured driver or passengers. “For many dogs, their first duty is to protect their owner,” Amormino says. “If you’re trying to rescue a sick or injured person and the dog is trying to protect [that person], emergency response and treatment can be delayed.”

The key to preventing these problems is to get dogs off drivers’ laps and out of the front seat. Ideally, they should be in the back seat in a safely secured crate or restrained by a seat belt, tether or harness. As Selter notes “We buckle up our kids, we buckle up ourselves and even our groceries. Why are we not buckling up our pets?”

Law Review

Currently, no federal or state law requires pets to be restrained inside a vehicle, and of the 50 states, only Hawaii prohibits motorists from driving with pets on their laps. At the local government level, Troy, Michigan, passed a “no dogs on drivers’ laps” ordinance that took effect on January 1, 2011.


Safety Tips

• Keep dogs in the back seat and make it a habit to restrain them with a pet harness or tether, or in a crate; if using a harness, choose one that’s easy to put on the dog.

• Tether crates to be sure they’re secure, since crates themselves can also become projectiles.

• Make sure the pet restraint you select has been crash-tested in the United States. (Some are tested outside the U.S., so different standards may apply.)


Fast Facts

• Pet travel has increased 300 percent since 2005.

• Eighty-four percent of dog owners surveyed in a recent AAA study said they do not restrain their pets in their vehicles, 39 percent said they’d never considered using a restraint and 29 percent said they only take their dogs on short trips.

• In 2009, distracted drivers, including those interacting with their pets, caused accidents that killed 5,474 people and injured 448,000, according to police and government statistics.

News: Guest Posts
Indiana Gets Tough on Dogfight Attendees

A bill that would make it a felony to attend a dog or other animal fighting contest in Indiana is gaining support with lawmakers in the Hoosier State.

The measure, introduced last November by State Senator Brent Steele, increases the penalty for “spectators” at animal fights from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class D felony. It also carries a punishment of up to three years in prison.

Steele’s bill passed the Senate Committee on Corrections, Criminal, and Civil Matters on January 10 by a 5-4 vote. The full senate is expected to vote on the measure next week.

“This legislation is intended to cut off spectatorship for animal fights in our state.” Steele said in a written statement after the bill made it out of committee. “We need to toughen our laws to deter those who will often not only watch but also pay to watch this illegal and shameful activity.

“Animal fighting is not a victimless crime,” the Republican lawmaker added. “Dogs and other pets are often killed.”

The bill still has to win approval in the state’s House of Representatives and garner the governor’s signature before it becomes law.

Animal rights advocates hail the measure and are cautiously optimistic it will be approved.

“We absolutely support this measure,” said Anne Sterling, Indiana’s state director for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). “We’ve been working on this issue for a long time. This is the fifth time this bill has been introduced in our state, and this is the first time it’s gotten this far.”

Animal fighting is a serious issue in Indiana, Sterling said. In the past two years, Indiana HSUS officials have assisted in raids that shut down two dogfighting and one cockfighting contests. “We helped recover more than 400 animals, including 190 cockfighting birds” Sterling said.

Last July, HSUS officials assisted with a dogfighting raid in Gary, Indiana, that led to four arrests and the seizure of 20 dogs.

“This (proposed) bill is something that’s really important to the folks who are trying to stop animal fighting in our state,” said Sterling, who has a Pit Bull that was rescued during a 2009 dogfighting raid.

According to the HSUS, 25 other states have similar laws that make it a felony to be a spectator at a dogfighting contest. In other states, it’s a misdemeanor to attend those “barbaric” brawls.

Why target the spectators at these fights?

They’re the ones who gamble on this bloody sport, Sterling said. “These fights make money for organizers; that’s why they continue. There are also a lot of people attending these fights who are waiting to go on next.”

The HSUS said dogfighting is a class D felony in every state. The animal rights group also ranked the dogfighting laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

New Jersey has the toughest dogfighting laws, the HSUS said. Montana has the weakest. It’s still legal to be a spectator at a dogfighting contest in Montana, the HSUS said.

More information about Indiana’s proposed animal fighting legislation is available on the state’s General Assembly web site:  http://www.in.gov/apps/lsa/session/billwatch/billinfo?year=2012&session=1&request=getBill&docno=0011&doctype=SB

News: Guest Posts
From Rescued Pup to Hero Dog in Six Hours
Underweight and injured St. Bernard chases down burglar

A Saint Bernard rescued from an Ohio animal shelter turned into a crime-fighting hero less than six hours after he arrived at his new home.

The 114-pound Hercules—still recovering from injuries he received in a coyote attack—stopped a burglar trying to break into the home of his rescuers, Lee and Elizabeth Littler of Hillsboro, Ohio.

The crime-fighting canine sprang into action around 11:45 pm on November 9.

“My husband was letting Hercules out the back door when he heard him start to growl,” Elizabeth Littler told The Bark. “He had not done that before. Hercules then jumped through the screen door and leaped across our porch. That’s when my husband saw a guy’s head coming up our back stairwell.”

Hercules chased the burglar across the couple’s backyard and to their four-foot fence. “He got a bite out of the guy’s leg,” Elizabeth said of the burglar, who had already cut the phone and cable line to their house. “He ripped his pants and tried to tug him down. But the guy got away.”

Hillsboro Police Chief Nicholas Thompson applauded Hercules and his heroic efforts. “I think it’s great for him to take ownership of that home so quickly,” he said. “He’d only been with the family about six hours.”

The Littler’s originally planned to keep Hercules until he recovered from his injuries. “He was attacked by coyotes and some hunters found him in the woods,” Elizabeth said. “They thought he was dead until he lifted up his head. They took him to a vet, who patched him up. He then went to the Humane Society.”

Littler’s husband found Hercules by accident. “We had a friend who lost a Terrier and my husband went to the pound to look for him,” she said. “He saw Hercules there and learned he didn’t have much longer to live; he was days from being euthanized. My husband said we have to help him.

“Our original plan was to nurse him back to health and then give him to a rescue group or find him a good home,” she said of Hercules, who is still about 100-pounds underweight. “But now, he’s found a permanent home.”

Her husband echoed those sentiments in an interview with ABC news. “To have adopted a dog six hours before the incident and have him already defending you with that resolve, It’s amazing. If you show care and affection to your animals, they will return it.”

To return the favor to Hercules—and help save other dogs—the young couple now plans to start their own animal rescue group.

“All our other pets (dogs, cats, and an iguana) are rescues,” Elizabeth said. “We’re all for encouraging people to adopt.”

They’ve already set up a Facebook page about Hercules and said more information about their rescue group will be posted in the next few days.

Meanwhile, Hillsboro police continue to search for the burglar that Hercules chased away.  Chief Thompson, however, said they have no new leads in the case.

“I only wish that he (Hercules) would have been able to hold on to the guy long enough for my officers to arrive,” he said. “We’ve had several other calls in that neighborhood of prowlers in the late evening hours. There’s no doubt in my mind that was the same guy doing some of the other prowling.”

News: Guest Posts
One in Four Dogs Will Develop Cancer
Early detection is key

Here’s some sobering news: One in four dogs will develop some type of cancerous tumor. The news can wreak havoc on a pet owners’ emotions. The cost to diagnose and treat cancer-related diseases can also take a huge bite out their bank account.

“It’s not uncommon to have a $2,000 to $3,000 veterinary bill,” said Dr. Carol McConnell, vice-president and chief veterinary medical officer for Veterinary Pet Insurance Company (VPI).

The California-based provider of pet insurance recently released its 2010 cancer statistics to educate pet owners about this malady—the number one disease-related killer in dogs and cats—and the costs associated with the illness.

VPI said it received nearly 40,000 claims last year for cancer diagnosis and treatment in pets. Eighty-five percent of the company’s policies are written for dogs, 14 percent for cats, and the remaining one percent for avian and exotic pocket pets, Dr. McConnell said.

The ten most common cancer-related claims VPI received were for:

  • Lymphosarcoma
  • Mast cell tumor
  • Cancer of the spleen
  • Cancer of the eyelid
  • Liver cancer
  • Bone cancer
  • Cancer of the thorax
  • Cancer of the bladder;
  • Cancer of the brain or spinal cord
  • Oral cancer
  • Dr. McConnell wasn’t surprised that lymphosarcoma—cancer of the lymphatic system—topped the list as the most common cancer-related claim filed.

    “Lymphosarcoma is consistently the number one [cancer-related] claim we receive,” she said. “I went back and checked the lists for 2005 and 2006 to see how the different cancers compared to 2010. Lymphosarcoma was number one in 2005 and 2006. And it’s number one again in 2010—by a lot. We received nearly 9,000 claims for Lymphosarcoma in 2010.”

    The good news about this type of cancer is that it responds well to chemotherapy, Dr. McConnell said. “Lymphosarcoma is one of the most responsive cancers,” she said. “There are other types of cancers that are death knells.”

    The company’s 2010 data revealed that mast cell tumors were the second most common cancer-related claims it received, Dr. McConnell said.

     “We see about 5,000 claims a year for this type of cancer,” she said, adding the company receives approximately 1.1 million claims a year for all pets.

    VPI’s statistics also uncovered another trend: the number of claims for bone cancer dropped from recent years.

    But the decline is nothing to bark about—yet.

    “Bone cancer was number three and now it’s number six,” Dr. McConnell said. “But I have actuaries who keep telling me not to over-interpret the data. It’s not a statistically significant difference and it’s not an indicator that the rates of bone cancer have dropped.”

    She added: “Bone cancer is one of those diseases that by the time it’s diagnosed, the disease is pretty far along. Dogs are stoic. They put up with a lot and by the time the dog is limping and you go in for an x-ray, the disease is pretty advanced.”

    Asked about cancer of the eyelids, Dr. McConnell said: “These are like skin masses on the linings of the eyes and they (masses) can cause an abrasive type of effect on the eyes. Whether they’re malignant or benign, these masses need to be removed. They can cause ulcers on the eyes.”

    Treating cancer in dogs and cat is expensive.

    VPI’s policyholders spent $12.8 million last year on pet with these top 10 cancer-related illnesses. Cancer of the brain or spinal cord was the most expensive to diagnose and treat, the company said. Policyholders spent an average of $752 to diagnose and non-surgically treat those cancers. Pet owners who pursued surgical treatments spent an average of $2,410, VPI said.

    Dr. McConnell said it’s vital for pet owners to learn the signs and symptoms of cancer in their dogs and cats, Dr. McConnell said. “They are the front lines of defense.”

    Symptoms pet owners need to watch include:

    • Growing lumps or sores that don’t heal;
    • Drastic changes in a pet’s appetite or weight;
    • Offensive odors;
    • Bleeding or discharge from any opening in the body;
    • Difficulty chewing or swallowing;
    • Unwillingness to exercise;
    • Persistent lameness or stiffness
    • Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating

    In the battle against pet-related cancers, Dr. McConnell said it’s also important for dogs, cats, and other animals to receive regular veterinary exams. Early detection and treatment are keys to a pet’s chance for survival, she said.

    Pet owners also need to be financially prepared in case their four-legged or winged companions are diagnosed with cancer or other illness, Dr. McConnell said. “Financial preparation is key.”

    VPI created a special website to give pet owners an idea about how much it will cost to treat the most common health problems in dogs and cats. The “Cost of Care Planner” breaks down those prices according to specific breeds.

    VPI said cancer-related diseases were the fourth most common medical claim it received in 2010. Ear infections, skin allergies and skin infections/hot spots were the top three diseases in pets last year, the company said.

    More information about cancer and other pet-related diseases is available on VPI’s website.

    News: Guest Posts
    AKC Recognizes Three New Breeds
    A Coonhound, Lapphund and Terrier make the cut

    The American Kennel Club (AKC) added what it calls “three new lovable breeds” to its registry this month—a move that brings the total number of breeds recognized by the organization to 173.

    The three news breeds are the American English Coonhound, the Finnish Lapphund and the Cesky Terrier.

    The AKC describes American English Coonhounds as “well-conditioned athletes.” These lively and affectionate dogs are avid hunters with great speed and loud voices. They were used to hunt fox in the day and raccoons by night during Colonial times. “Today, they still need regular daily exercise to stay in shape,” according the AKC press release, making them good companions for active owners.

    The Finnish Lapphund is the newest member of the herding group. These alert and agile dogs were originally bred to herd reindeer near the Arctic Circle. They still have thick double coats. They were also helper dogs of the Sami—semi-nomadic people in Finland, Sweden, and part of Russia called Lapland. “They are intelligent, eager to learn, and are calm and friendly with people,” according to the AKC. “They make loving and devoted family pets that do well with children and other dogs.”

    In welcoming the Cesky Terriers, the AKC describes them as smart and active dogs. These eager-to-please canines were bred to hunt such animals as badgers and fox. “Cesky Terriers are loyal to their families, patient, gentle, and get along well with people of all ages, making them a wonderful family pet,” the AKC said, adding the breed needs daily exercise. These terriers also need daily grooming as puppies—and brushing twice a week as adults—because of their coats.

    Ever wonder how breeds become recognized by the AKC? The organization said there has to be a certain number of dogs “geographically distributed throughout the U.S.” and an established breed club has to watch over those canines.

    More information about the new breeds is available on the AKC’s Web site: www.akc.org.

    News: Guest Posts
    Missouri Continues to Battle Over Puppy Mill Reforms
    Will 11th hour compromise save key provisions?

    Agriculture and animal rights groups in Missouri may have a reached a compromise in the heated debate over a measure voters approved last November to stop the inhumane treatment of dogs in puppy mills.

    But the clock is ticking on lawmakers’ approval of this brokered deal and not all parties support the proposed agreement.   “We have concerns about what is being proposed,” Barbara Schmitz, Missouri state director for The Humane Society of the United States, told Bark today. “We think what is being proposed falls short and does not meet the will of the voters to protect dogs. We’re disappointed.”   At the heart of this dispute is Proposition B, a voter-approved initiative that required large-scale breeding operations to provide dogs in their care with basic food and clean water, adequate shelter from the elements, necessary veterinary care, enough space to turn around and stretch, and regular exercise.   The measure pitted animal rights groups against many in the state’s agricultural communities.   Missouri lawmakers fueled the fiery debate last week when they approved a bill that animal rights groups say “gutted” Proposition B and ignored the will of the voters. Supporters of SB 113, however, said the new measure strengthened requirements and inspections of licensed dog breeders in Missouri and cracked down on the estimated 1,500 unlicensed breeders in the state.   The bill reached Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s desk on Monday—giving him 15 days to either veto the measure or sign it into law.   Proposition B supporters urged Nixon to veto the bill; agricultural groups and other Proposition B opponents called on the governor to sign the measure.   As the controversy continued to swirl, parties on both sides of the debate announced late Monday they had reached a compromise. Representatives from six agriculture and animal rights groups hammered out a new bill, which they say protects dogs and the state’s agriculture interests.   The so-called “Missouri Solution” includes provisions from Proposition B and SB 113. For example, it keeps the provision that dogs must, at a minimum, be examined at least once a year by a licensed veterinarian. But it changes the requirement that dogs must receive prompt treatment of “any illness or injury.” The new measure states dogs must receive prompt treatment of any “serious illness or injury.” The compromise bill also removed a key provision in Proposition B that limited breeders to no more than 50 breeding dogs.   The groups supporting this new measure—including the Humane Society of Missouri and the Missouri Federation of Animal Owners—sent a letter on Monday about the agreement and the proposed legislation to Gov. Nixon and the state’s General Assembly.   “Today, we are pleased to submit for your consideration legislation that upholds the intent of Missouri voters concerning the treatment of dogs and incorporates legislative revisions necessary to ensure proper implementation,” the letter stated. “The agreement we have reached strengthens requirements for the care and treatment of dogs and protects Missouri agriculture.”   Specifically, the groups said the proposed measure will strengthen:
    • Standards for veterinary care that must be provided to dogs in breeding facilities;
    • Standards concerning the living conditions for dogs in breeding facilities, including access to sufficient food and clean water;
    • Standards regarding the amount of space that must be provided for each dog. It also gives the industry sufficient time to meet these new standards;
    • State enforcement.
    “Missouri voters clearly stated that they want stronger protections for dogs, and this agreement upholds that intent,” said Kathy Warnick, president of the Humane Society of Missouri. “Our agreement also allows responsible, professional breeders to continue to operate in Missouri. This agreement is a significant step forward.”   Gov. Nixon, who helped broker the deal, also applauded the compromise.   “Over the past week, my administration has been working closely with folks on every side of this issue to reach an agreement that respects the will of the voters, protects dogs and allows responsible breeders to earn a living in our state,” Nixon said in a prepared statement. “People with good minds and good will have come together to develop a Missouri solution to this Missouri issue, and together, we have made significant progress.”   Missouri lawmakers, however, will have to move quickly to pass the compromise measure. The legislative session ends on May 13.   “That’s a pretty tall order to get this done by the end of the session,” said Senator Mike Parson, who sponsored SB 113. “It’s a huge mountain to climb to fast-track something through the system. We still have the budget, redistricting and a lot of other issues to address.”   What if the legislature doesn’t approve this latest measure?   “We’ve still got SB 113 to deal with,” Parson told Bark. “If the governor vetoes that bill and the other (compromise) language doesn’t get through, then we’re back to Proposition B. And if that happens, we’ll end up in court. I’m sure there will be constitutional challenges to Proposition B.”   Another issue complicating the debate is the 15-day clock that is ticking on SB 113. Gov. Nixon now has until May 3—10 days before the Missouri legislature convenes—to sign or veto the bill.   “The governor has not indicated what he will do in regard to SB 113,” spokesman Scott Holste said today. “He is focused on getting this agreement through the legislature. We’re encouraged by that fact that these groups came together and worked out their differences to arrive at this agreement. And we hope that the legislature moves forward quickly. There is a short amount of time for things to happen.”      Animal advocates or others concerned about SB 113 or Proposition B can contact Gov. Nixon through his website or at (573) 751-3222.   More information about the compromised agreement can be found on the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s website. A copy of SB 113 is available on  the Missouri Senate’s website.
    News: Guest Posts
    Dachshund Survives for Weeks Inside Burned Down House
    Miracle pup Lola is on the mend

    The miracle dog of Boston who survived for nearly a month inside the charred ruins of her owner’s burned down home is expected to make a full recovery.

      Terisa Acevedo found Lola, her one-year-old longhaired dachshund, on Monday when she returned to her fire-ravaged duplex to silence the alarm on a Ford Explorer she’d left parked in the driveway.   “I was standing on the porch and I heard Lola scratching on the door,” Acevedo told Bark. “My boyfriend was with me and he pried the wood off the front door. When I saw her, I fell to my knees and started screaming and crying. I was so happy.”   Acevedo wasn’t home when the February 23 blaze engulfed her duplex, which is located in Boston’s Hyde Park neighborhood. When she arrived, the 24-year-old emergency medical technician (EMT) asked firefighters if they’d seen her dog. They hadn’t.   “A couple days after the fire, police officers took sniffing dogs through the house and they didn’t pick up (the scent of) any remains of animals,” Acevedo said. “I thought Lola had run away. I made flyers and gave them to all the vets in the area and posted them all over Hyde Park.”   Acevedo also went back to the duplex several times, but never found any signs of the tiny dachshund.   “I cried for her every day,” Acevedo said. “I was so devastated. But I never gave up hope.”   Acevedo’s tears of sadness turned to joy on Monday when she discovered the much thinner Lola trapped inside the remains of her fire-damaged home. “I couldn’t believe it,” she said.   Veterinarians at Boston’s Angell Animal Medical Center, who treated the malnourished and dehydrated dachshund, released the “incredibly lucky” pooch on Thursday afternoon.   “She’d lost a tremendous amount of weight when she came here on Monday,” spokesman Brian Adams said. “She might not have survived much longer. But she’s a trooper, a true survivor. And her story of survival is simply amazing.”   Lola, however, still has one more health issue to overcome. Veterinarians discovered she had a condition called refeeding syndrome.   “If she was fed too quickly or improperly she could face life-threatening results,” Adams said. “She was given her first bit of food on Wednesday and will remain on a restricted diet at home. She will receive 16 grams of wet food, which is the equivalent to one teaspoon, every six hours as her body once again becomes accustomed to nourishment.”   Acevedo is confident that her best friend will make a complete recovery. “She’ll be okay,” she said. “She’s playful like always. She’s still Lola.”   But how did the little dog survive this ordeal? What did she do for food and water? “The police investigators said there was a refrigerator on the other side of the duplex that tipped over during the fire,” Acevedo said. “They think maybe she ran over there looking for food. They saw some chicken by that refrigerator. She might have eaten some cat food, too.”   What about water? “It might have come from the firemen who were trying to put out the fire,” Acevedo said. “The house was soaked.”   Acevedo hopes Lola’s story of survival will inspire others who’ve lost a pet. “Don’t give up hope when times are rough or when you’re down,” she said. “You just never know what will happen.   “I’m just so happy and excited that’s she’s here…next to me. And now I don’t plan to let her out of my sight.”


    News: Guest Posts
    Congress Bans Crush Videos
    Bill awaits Obama’s signature

    Animal rights advocates are urging President Obama to sign a recently approved bill that bans the sale and distribution of gruesome “crush videos,” which depict the intentional torture of puppies, kittens, and other live animals.


    Congressional leaders in mid-November overwhelmingly passed the legislation—H.R. 5566, the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010—to halt what the head of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) calls “the most sickening cruelty” he has witnessed (this link includes a timeline at the end regarding debate over this issue).   The bill targets a seedy industry that profits off the sale of grisly videos containing graphic images of screaming and bleeding puppies, kittens and other animals deliberately tortured for the sexual titillation of viewers. According to the HSUS, crush videos often feature scantily clad women in stiletto heels crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating and impaling helpless animals. The “unimaginable torture” inflected on the animals is often prolonged for minutes or even hours, the organization said.   Lawmakers on Capitol Hill introduced the bi-partisan bill in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in April that overturned a similar, but “unconstitutionally overbroad,” 1999 law. The High Court ruled that law—the Depiction of Animal Cruelty Act—was too broad and “therefore invalid under the First Amendment.”   The day after the court’s decision, federal legislators introduced a narrowly crafted bill designed to give law enforcement the tools needed to crack down on creation, sale, and distribution of crush videos.   Sales of those macabre videos have mushroomed in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the HSUS said. One website, for example, had more than 700 crush video titles for sale, the organization said.   “After federal judges struck down the law banning the sale of animal crush videos, this horrible and cruel industry stepped into the legal void and resumed its commercial creation and peddling of these videos,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the HSUS.   He and other animal rights advocates applaud lawmakers’ efforts to shut down this abusive industry, which “all but disappeared” after Congress enacted the 1999 legislation.   They hope history will repeat itself.   “We need this law on the books to halt some of the most sickening cruelty I have ever witnessed in my life,” Pacelle said. “We urge President Obama to sign H.R. 5566 into law quickly.”   The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) echoes those sentiments.   “Crush videos depict an extreme form of animal cruelty,” Ann Church, senior director for the group’s Government Relations, said in a written statement. “The ASPCA is hopeful President Obama will voice his conclusive support for this important legislation.”   Anyone convicted under this new bill faces up to five years in prison.


    News: Guest Posts
    A Ban on “Crush” Videos?
    Proposed bill seeks to counter Supreme Court’s animal torture decision

    A bill to counter the Supreme Court’s recent decision that overturned a ban on the sale of gruesome animal “crush” videos is gaining bipartisan support in the U.S. House of Representatives.


    Supreme Court justices on April 20 ruled that a federal law prohibiting the sale of these graphic animal cruelty videos was “substantially overbroad, and therefore invalid under the First Amendment.”   Free speech advocates hailed the High Court’s 8-1 ruling; animal protection groups expressed outrage and disappointment.   The day after the court’s decision, Representatives Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), James Moran (D-Va.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced a new and narrowly-crafted bill to stop the sale of these videos, which depict the intentional crushing, burning, drowning and impaling of puppies, kittens and other animals. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) said crush videos, which often feature women wearing high heel stiletto shoes, are made for the “sexual titillation” of viewers.   “The Supreme Court made it clear that if we structured a bill that targeted crush videos it would probably pass their muster,” Tom Pfeifer, press secretary for Representative Gallegly, told ConsumerAffairs.com this week. “This bill specifically states we’re targeting animal crush videos and defines them. This is a much more narrowly-focused bill and it makes it clear what we’re targeting.”   Pfeifer said the bill had 109 co-sponsors as of Wednesday. “The Congressman is working hard to increase that number and working with the judiciary Committee to schedule a hearing.”   Representative Gallegly, who introduced the 1999 “Depiction of Animal Cruelty Act” that is at the heart of the court’s decision, emphasized this issue isn’t about First Amendments rights.   “It is a law enforcement issue,” he said. “Ted Bundy and Ted Kaczynski tortured or killed animals before killing people. The FBI, U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice consider animal cruelty to be one of the early warning signs of potential violence by youths.   “This law is one step toward ending this cycle of violence,” he added.   Co-sponsors of the new bill said the measure is designed to prevent anyone from profiting off the sale of videos that depict heinous acts of animal cruelty.   “Animal cruelty is not something to celebrate and circulate online,” said Representative Blumenauer, an original co-sponsor of the 1999 bill and Animal Protection Caucus member. “On the heels of (the) Supreme Court decision, we’re taking immediate and bipartisan action to protect animals without infringing on the right to free speech. The bottom line is that we need to protect animals from being tortured or killed in a manner that is criminal or morally reprehensible. No one should be allowed to profit from so-called crush videos or other images of animal cruelty.”   Representative Moran called the Supreme Court’s decision a “blow” to efforts to stop animal cruelty and a victory for those whose bank accounts are padded from the sale of videos that glorify the killing of defenseless animals.   “I refuse to stand by while people profit from the mutilation and torture of helpless puppies, kittens and other animals,” he said. “For 10 years, federal law had worked to dramatically reduce the proliferation of these videos. Now, Congress must act to restore these commonsense protections against animal cruelty.”   Pet owners who’d like to see the new measure passed should contact their Congressional representatives and urge them to co-sponsor the bill, Pfeifer said.   EDITOR'S NOTE: This report is excerpted, with permission, from “Support Builds for Bill to Counter Supreme Court’s Animal Torture Decision” for Consumer Affairs.com. Click the link to read the complete story.