News: Guest Posts
Hoarder Faces Seven Years
Book-signing/sales will benefit canine victims

A few weeks ago, I posted a short notice about a local animal hoarder named Marie Castaldo, who was finally arrested on a variety of charges including animal cruelty. She awaits trial in Riker’s Island and faces seven years in prison. Her trial begins next week.

You can read about her crimes here or here (beware sad pictures).    The gist of the story is: This woman, a notorious con artist (and a good one at that), would visit local and New York City shelters and present herself as a kind and loving founder of a charming little rescue group located in Hudson Valley. The shelters’ adoption coordinators, taken with this woman’s charm, would relinquish a dog or two, and the hoarder would be on her way—off to do unspeakable things to these poor dogs.   I don’t need to go on and on to you Bark readers about how absolutely horrible this is. Or how this woman deserves to go to jail. Or how those poor dogs need tender loving care NOW. I mean, there’s so much to say on the subject I don’t know where to begin.   So how about this: I think about those sweet shelter volunteers, whose primary goal in life is to make sure that needy dogs find loving homes. I think of how their kindness, trust and goodness has been betrayed. I think how the dogs have been betrayed. I think how God/dess and Mother Earth herself has been betrayed, because we humans were entrusted to be stewards of the animals, and what kind of stewardship are people like Marie Castaldo exhibiting?   So what can we do beyond crying, bemoaning, complaining and/or hating humans like this?    We can rescue dogs, of course, which is what most of us here at Bark have already done. If we can’t take in any more dogs at this particular moment, we can give: Give our time, our dollars, or even our prayers to all those who suffer or need food or love or are in pain. I expect even this hoarder-woman is in pain at some level too—how else could she behave as she does?   The only good thing to come of horrifying events like this is a reminder that for every animal abuser out there, there is at least one, and probably many, animal lovers/rescuers. This is one of those laws of the universe. So let’s remember this every time we hear some bad news. It reminds us that we have the power to help—in large and small ways. And therefore help make amends for all the wrong that has been done. To dogs. To earth. To all.   At the very least, we can send emails to our local shelters—thanking them for all the hard work they do. We can send a tiny packet of treats.   On Monday, August 23, I am giving a reading and book-signing of my memoir Rex and the City: A Memoir of a Woman, a Man and a Dysfunctional Dog to benefit the 40 dogs of the Ulster County SPCA.  If any of you live in the Hudson Valley, I encourage you to attend. We’re trying to arrange to have some of the dogs attend the event and find a new home. Unfortunately, few are well enough to walk yet.   Details: Inquiring Minds Book Store, Partition at Main Street, Saugerties N.Y., Monday August 23 at 7 p.m. Early birds get a free copy of Bark magazine!   If you can’t make the reading, please visit ucspca.org to donate or purchase a copy of Rex and the City through my website at www.rexandthecity.net. All proceeds from book sales now through Sept. 15 will be donated to this shelter. This memoir is about rescuing and rehabilitating an abused shelter dog, and it has a very happy ending.


News: Guest Posts
Google: “Shoot Dog”
What do you find in your neighborhood?

If you give up your dog, please don't be a coward and abandon him in the parking lot of a shelter. Give your dog the dignity of bringing him inside to the shelter staff so he gets food, water, a safe place to sleep, and hopefully, a chance at adoption. There are worse things than humane euthanasia.

Case in point: This past January, a dog was left outside Save-A-Pet, an animal shelter in Grayslake, Ill. While shelter manager Dana Deutsch attempted to coax him from a field to get him inside, she saw a man in a nearby house point a gun at the dog and shoot. The dog suffered before succumbing to his injuries later that day. Deutsch confronted the dog killer, Elvin Dooley, and contacted police. Her brave testimony lead to yesterday’s sentence: 20 months in jail for Dooley.  

While searching online for coverage of this incident, I came across many more stories about dogs being shot, from other unlucky strays to even family pets. Don't believe me? Go to your local daily's website, search the phrase "shoot dog," and tell me how many stories you find about people shooting either their own dogs or strays. In every story I read, a man pulled the trigger. Why do you think this is?

News: Guest Posts
Animal Shelter Wish Lists
Probably not what you expect

It sounds a little counterintuitive: Dog and cat food, litter and leashes aren’t at the top of most shelters’ wish lists, but paper, pens, phones, faxes are. At least, according to the 250 animal shelters and nonprofits to register their needs on TheGivingEffect.com.

  While cash contributions are usually preferred, not everyone is in a position to give. The benefit to in-kind donations (clothes, shoes, food, etc.) is that folks who want to help but are short on cash may have items in their homes that they no longer need (a replaced printer, for example) but which could help a local shelter. The Giving Effect, a free website that launched last month, connects donors with items to spare directly with the organizations in need. Win-win.   According to TheGivingEffect.com, animal shelters top five most requested items are:   1. Office supplies (computers, printers, fax machines, phones, paper, pens) 
 2. Cleaning supplies (bleach, laundry detergent, Fantastik, Windex) 
 3. Blankets, sheets and towels 
 4. Miscellaneous items that can be sold to raise money 
 5. Building supplies (to construct fences, crates, dog runs)   Since most shelters are 501c3 nonprofits, these contributions likely qualify as a tax write-off.


News: Guest Posts
Humane Network
No kill advocates launch new partnership

I’m sitting in an airport, waiting for my final flight home to Reno from our capital. Back to my life as it was last week – but not exactly. The No Kill Conference 2010 was revitalizing for me and inspirational for all, but I expected nothing less. The aftermath buzz is that this year was even more wonderful than last year.

  But the conference was about the future. Nathan Winograd, founder of the No Kill Advocacy Center who presented this conference, promised us that it is a bright future if only we make the commitment. “No kill is not a series of dogmas we cling to with religious fervor, but it is a philosophy that first and foremost values life,” he reminded us in his closing comments. “In all of its manifestation, irrespective of practical considerations, it does not fear change and it does not make excuses; it champions life.”   Going forward, I return to Nevada Humane Society where we will continue to improve the save rates. (July 31 marked the end of our most productive adoption month ever – 1,006 pet adoptions.) And how fitting that we’re launching a new venture – Humane Network – where fellow believers and industry experts are partnering together to provide practical tools and services to other organization and communities that have the commitment and just need the know-how. Although, I couldn’t be prouder of what’s been accomplished in Reno, it’s not enough to have a handful of no kill communities.   Nathan assured us that the bright future included a no kill nation in our lifetime – and we all believed him. The sponsors, hosts, speakers and attendees of this conference are a microcosm of what exists across the country. I know in my heart and soul that they can’t be stopped!   Our parting thoughts were inspired by the Fleetwood Mac song, “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.”   If you wake up and don’t want to smile, If it takes just a little while, Open your eyes and look at the day, You’ll see things in a different way.    Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow, Don’t stop it’ll soon be here, It’ll be better than before, Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone.   No kill nation, here we come!   Note: If organizations or communities want help in implementing a no kill mission, please contact Humane Network at humanenetworkinfo@gmail.com.


News: Guest Posts
Drawing a Line in the Sand
No Kill Conference 2010, day two

Today was the second and final day of the No Kill Conference 2010 in Washington D. C. This was not just a conference promoting ideals and strengthening passions – although it did an excellent job of this. It was about providing practical ideas and tools to create no kill shelters and communities. The ideals and passions give people the strength to make the commitment, but the ideas and tools give people the ability to create sustained change. It is this combination that has allowed for people to step up as leaders and draw the line in the sand – the line that stops the killing.

  Bonney Brown of Nevada Humane Society, Abigail Smith of SPCA of Tompkins County and Susanne Kogut of Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA are three such leaders – leaders who believe the ideals, have made the commitment and have implemented an infrastructure of programs and services to institutionalize the change. All three have led their organizations into unique membership of the 90 percent club – meaning that at least 90 percent of their animals are saved every year. In other words, all animal in these shelters are saved who are not too ill or injured, or are dogs that are too vicious, such that they have a poor prognosis of recovery or rehabilitation.   Eager minds listened to these leaders (and other experts) share their journeys and the many lessons learned along the way – information on reducing animal surrenders, designing innovative shelters, litigating no kill, raising funds, reforming animal control and effectively leading no kill organizations. They listened in reverence and admiration, absorbing everything like there was no tomorrow.   Susanne made a desperate plea in her afternoon session on effective leadership. “If you want to help the cause, please apply for a job as executive director in one of the many shelters across the country.” She realized the potential that lay waiting in that classroom – people like her who had the ideals and passion and now just needed to make the commitment. A commitment that would be supported by the groundwork laid before them.   Her audience contained the no kill leaders of the future. She challenged them through a quote by Warren Bennis: “A new leader has to be able to change an organization that is dreamless, soulless, and visionless . . . someone’s got to make a wakeup call.” Successful leaders create solutions and no excuses, lead by example, have relentless determination, and keep a positive attitude even when things get tough. She knew they could do it.   But there is a tomorrow. We, the attendees of this conference, are the future. And as Susanne said, “Until you take responsibility, you are a victim.” But the real victims are the homeless pets and they are counting on us to take responsibility and make the commitment!


News: Guest Posts
We Are the Future
No Kill Conference 2010, day one

Tired from a late night plane arrival and early morning wakeup call, I stumbled to the keynote address by No Kill Advocacy Center founder Nathan Winograd, kicking off the first day of the No Kill Conference 2010. Excitement was in the air—from the reunion of like-minded colleagues to awestruck newborns meeting the “rock stars” of the animal welfare world for the first time.

  In spite of running on fumes and having attended many of these types of conferences over the last eight years, I was still moved by the emotion and stirred to action—feeling a new sense of inspiration that our goal was more possible than ever before.   Nathan’s message is always clear and to the point—stop the needless killing of homeless pets. But this time, there was a new twist that added an extra spark of hope. He eloquently pointed out that cultural change traditionally comes about in our nation through legislative change. “We are a government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” Nathan said. “Our system of government was designed not only to solidify the ideal of the American Revolution, but to change with the changing times.”   But it is also traditionally fueled by passion and commitment to overcome social resistance. We are a people that love dogs and cats as is evidenced by how much money, time and love we invest in them. So it only makes sense that if we give these same people a chance to support laws that save these very animals, they will come out in droves. Social resistance is not a factor.   So this is why it’s so important that this conference is held in Washington D.C., in a law school (George Washington University Law School), and in a conference that combines animal sheltering and law. Today’s conference topics ranged from legislating no kill to shelter enrichment for dogs and cats to turbo-charging pet adoptions to using technology to save lives.   I found the last topic particularly interesting. Just as our national traditions bring the legal field to bear on this cause, modern society brings technology in the form of social media. “Social media works because users want to create social value through the use of media by elevating the consciousness of society,” said Mike Frey, executive director of Animal Ark, a no kill shelter in Minneapolis/St. Paul. It is a crime to not use this phenomenon and tool for the sake of the homeless animals.   How ironic that a century-old legal system and the current social media explosion can come together to change the future for our deserving homeless pets.   So I joined forces with several hundred other attendees in applauding Nathan’s mantra—“We are the future. No more excuses, no more compromises and no more killing.”


News: Guest Posts
Pondering Two Words
On the eve of the No Kill Conference 2010

I’m on my way to Washington DC, from Reno, Nevada, to attend the No Kill Conference 2010 and represent Nevada Humane Society, one of the largest no kill shelters in the country. I have been pondering two words – No Kill – and how much they have changed my life in the last seven years since I left corporate America.

I was like many middle-aged people who realized they want to do something different and more meaningful. I packed up my life in San Diego and moved to the tiny town of Kanab, Utah – in the middle of nowhere. I would work for Best Friends Animal Society for the next two and half years and this is where I first heard those two words. And it’s where I learned what they meant. I was devastated to know that millions of pets were needlessly dying every year in shelters across the country. (It is estimated that four million more cats and dogs will die this year.) And I was thrilled to be part of a movement that was dedicated to making sure this would cease to be.

So this conference is all about how to stop the unnecessary killing. It’s about creating programs with this one mission in mind. It’s about bringing like-minded people together so that the combined force is greater than any one individual. It’s about valuing life and making decisions based on saving lives, not killing.

This year’s conference sold out even earlier than in 2009, the inaugural year. This is a major testament of the passion for this cause and the dire need to learn how to put that passion into action. Representatives from 39 states and four countries will attend. The No Kill Advocacy Center is teaming up with the Animal Law program at George Washington University Law School, Maddie’s Fund, and Friends of Animals to bring together the nation’s most successful shelter directors and the nation’s top animal lawyers. Their mission? Help others create their own No Kill community.

The conference participants will learn from animal control/shelter directors who are now saving over 90 percent of all animals in their communities. They will learn from animal law experts who have successfully challenged the legal system to help animals. And they will learn from activists who are fighting to overcome traditional, entrenched shelters.

In the last decade, several progressive shelters have implemented lifesaving programs and services that have dramatically reduced the death rate in their communities. I am proud to say I have been a part of the rebirth of Nevada Humane Society and I join my colleagues in traveling to D.C. so that we can participate in a give-and-take – sharing our lessons learned and absorbing ways to become more effective.

In the end, the power to change is in our hands – a power that is mightier by working together.

News: Guest Posts
Animal Hoarding
An inside view, tonight

Tonight, Animal Planet promises to take “an unflinching, honest look at animal hoarding, the people and pets affected, and the challenges of confronting this psychological condition” in a six-part series titled “Confessions: Animal Hoarding” (9 p.m. est/pst). Each episode follows individuals struggling with the compulsive need to possess and control an unmanageable number of animals of a variety of species (cats, dogs, birds, farm animals, fish, etc.), as well as the interventions of family, friends, psychologists, animal welfare experts and veterinarians.

  Hoarding is also a topic on our minds at Bark. In a story for the September 2010 issue, Rebecca Wallick explores the condition through the lens of “rescue hoarding,” a particularly insidious incarnation of the compulsion, in which hoarders present themselves as rescues, shelters and no-kill sanctuaries.   We’ll be watching tonight with the hope the series sheds thoughtful (non-exploitive) light on a devastating compulsion that results in the starvation, illness and death of many animals, in addition to the destruction of human relationships and health. 
News: Guest Posts
Shelter Pet Project
Giving dogs- and cats-in-need a voice

We were thrilled to discover My Dog Tulip animator Paul Fierlinger (who is interviewed in the summer 2010 issue of Bark) has added his talents to an ambitious print/radio/TV/Internet/billboard campaign on behalf of shelter pets. The Shelter Pet Project is a joint initiative of The Humane Society of the United States, Maddie’s Fund and The Ad Council. Their goal: Give shelter animals a voice. The funny, moving public service announcements—which also include animated shorts by “Mutts” cartoonist Patrick McDonnell—work to dispel stereotypes about shelter animals as troubled, difficult throwaways. Many of the PSAs focus on the various reasons cats and dogs end up in shelters—reasons such as divorce, death, job transfer, abandonment, even imprisonment of the human—which have nothing to do with a dog or cat’s adoption worthiness. My favorite? “Ditched.” I like how the tough-talking terrier is anything but a victim. View the entire campaign, and tell us which is your favorite.

News: Guest Posts
Cave Canem, Redux
Finding homes for Pompeii’s strays

I had the good fortune to visit Italy in December 2008, and on a sunny, cool day toured the nearly deserted streets of Pompeii with a guide named “Big Nicky,” who is, in fact, rather on the small side. Among the ruins of the ancient Roman city, I was delighted to spy several healthy looking strays—apparently a few of the dozens on the premises. I learned from Big Nicky that the dogs are cared for by Pompeii staff.

  I was equally pleased to get a more complete and updated picture of Pompeii’s strays in recent New York Times story about the Italian government’s efforts to improve conditions at the important archaeological site. One facet of these efforts is an organization called (C)Ave Canem (a play on “Ave Canis,” which means Hail Dog), which has been helping find homes for the strays, who’ve been given names such as Plautus, Lucius and Polibia, over the course of one year. Twenty-two have been adopted so far.   Good for the dogs but maybe a loss for Pompeii. I felt like they gave the ghostly city a feeling of being inhabited again.