News: Guest Posts
It’s Raining Cats and Dogs in Michigan
At the groundbreaking symposium on animal welfare.

Today, the eyes of many in the world of animal care are focused on Michigan State University (home of non-animal mascot, Sparty the Spartan), where veterinarians and animal welfare experts are meeting for the first-of-its-kind Joint International Educational Symposium on Animal Welfare.

“We think that this symposium could have tremendous impact,” says Dr. Ron DeHaven, CEO of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), in a video promoting the event. “By bringing together animal welfare experts from around the globe, we hope to influence standards of care for animals of all kinds at the international, national and even local levels.”

Veterinary experts, animal scientists, political figures and leaders of humane and welfare organizations from around the world (including speakers from North America, South America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand) will attend the two-and-a-half-day symposium, which was developed and is being co-sponsored by the AVMA and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News: Guest Posts
Knoxville Shelter Expands
Despite tough times, some good news in the South.

These days, it’s rare to hear good news from an animal shelter. The recession has put a squeeze on donor dollars at the same time more and more families are forced to surrender animals due to foreclosure or other economic challenges. The Young-Williams Animal Center, the shelter for Knoxville and Knox County, Tenn., is a shining exception. Next March, the center will open a satellite facility with a high-visibility adoption center, a stand-alone spay/neuter clinic, and, if all goes well, a dog park.

The project is a unique public and private collaboration between The Friends of the Young-Williams Animal Center (with support from the Aslan Foundation) and Knoxville citizens Randy and Jenny Boyd. Randy Boyd is CEO of Radio Systems, which produces and markets PetSafe brand products and the Invisible Fence and operates PetSafe Village, a local daycare and kennel. The new facility will include space for Invisible Fence and a small PetSafe doggie daycare.

While it might seem unusual to couple a profit with a nonprofit venture, Tim Adams, executive director of the Young-Williams Animal Center, expects a synergy between visitors to the shelter and Boyd’s customers that will benefit everyone concerned.

For Boyd, partnering up on the new facility is just one of several pro-dog moves. He has also opened the PetSafe Village dog park to the public and contributed toward establishing two other public off-leash parks in the county. With each step, he moves toward his stated goal of making Knoxville the most pet-friendly city in America. This is a tall order for a state with a poor animal welfare ranking and a high euthanasia rate. But solutions require creative thinking, and I’m thrilled to see initiatives like Knoxville’s.

News: Guest Posts
Let the Fur Fly
Pilots volunteer time and energy to transport homeless pups to a better future.

When Bark editor Claudia Kawczynska adopted Kit and Holly from a rescue in Kentucky last Christmas, she learned the shelter had a program for sending dogs to new homes in the North but not out West where she lives. A little more digging to find a ride for the puppies revealed a formal and informal network of individuals and organizations working together—supported by countless Internet posters and email blasters—to get dogs to places where their future is brighter.

Inspired and intrigued by this grassroots cooperative effort, TheBark.com has been talking to the people who fuel this underdog railroad. Earlier this year, we met the women behind Colorado Animal Rescue Express (C.A.R.E.), an intrepid van transport group out of Denver, and Dawn Painter, an individual animal welfare advocate who uses email like a megaphone to spread the word for animals in need. Today, we look to the skies, where a bevy of general aviation pilots provide first class service to their pup passengers.

Founded in early 2008, Pilots N Paws is a 501c3 organization that brings together rescues (with homeless dogs and cats, rabbits, pigs and chicks) in need of transportation and pilots ready and willing to fly. Pilot N Paws cofounder Deborah Boies of Landrum, S.C., told TheBark.com how things took off.

Like most of these things, the story begins with a dog. Boies needed transportation from Florida to South Carolina for her own rescue Doberman. She posted a message to a van club chat group, thinking someone might drive him up. Fellow club member, friend and eventual Pilots N Paws co-founder, Jon Wehrenberg of Knoxville, Tenn., emailed her back.

What did he say?
He wrote, ‘Hey Deb, how about I just come over and pick up Bob [her husband], and we fly down to Tallahassee and pick up your rescue Doberman and bring him back to you.’ And I said, ‘excuse me?

He’s a pilot?
Jon’s been a private, general aviation pilot for 30 some years. He loves to fly. When he came back from the trip he asked, ‘Is there a need for this? Do people ask to have dogs transported?’ And I said, ‘Oh, you have no idea.’ [Boies had been active in Doberman Pincher rescue for sometime.] So, I sent him to some of the ground transport sites to see how we’ve been able to move animals from shelters to rescues and rescues to shelters. He came back to me and he was just floored and said, ‘Debbie, how does this ever get done?’

I said, ‘You know, Jon, I have scheduled a 1,500-mile ground transport with 16 legs for two Dobermans from Alabama to New Hampshire. It is horrific, and it’s hard on the animals and the drivers.’

He said, ‘We have to do something.’ I agreed.

‘You know there are 300,000 or more general aviation pilots in the country. They all have to fly and aside from that they love to fly, and they are looking for a good reason to fly.” [General aviation pilots are required to accumulate flight hours every year.]

Jon was even thinking that maybe he should sell his plane. He was tired of going for what they call the $100 hamburger. He said, ‘Let’s just see if we can work together with your rescue knowledge and my pilot knowledge and see what we can do.’

What did you do next?
I just wrote up a scenario of what we wanted—to create a place where rescues and shelters can connect with general aviation pilots and they can work together to get these animals where they need to go for adoption and save them from euthanasia because there are many, many adoptable animals that are euthanized every week in our shelters because they can’t get to places where they have adoptive homes waiting.

What we are is just an online forum where rescues and pilots can connect. We had no intentions when we started this to go any further than creating that connecting place. But when I sent a letter out to rescues, it went around the world. They were like: Where can we sign up? Where can we sign up? It’s been more challenging to get the word out to pilots. [Still, they have an impressive 500 volunteer pilots signed up to help.]

Where do your pilots fly?
Primarily we see the need a lot in the South, Southeast, mid-South, Alabama, Georgia, both the Carolinas and Tennessee. We try to get those animals up to the northern states. John flies routinely from Knoxville to New York, sometimes with 8 to 16 animals on board, almost all of them have pre-approved adopted homes waiting. We have actually had pilots who have adopted the rescue dogs.

How are transports arranged?
It’s totally up to the pilots. Rescues post their needs on the site. If a pilot sees that they can assist and want to be a part of the mission, then they reply and the parties work together. They work with the rescues directly. They take pictures. Sometimes they get news coverage.

NBC Nightly News and USA Today have covered your new organization—why so popular?
People like the story. They can’t believe that pilots would do this at no cost to rescues. The majority of our pilots who volunteer have rescue animals; they hold a special place in their hearts. They are the first group that I have found, outside of rescues, that have a heart as big as we do.

Do you ever join the rescue flights?
The interesting fact that I’ll share with you is, I’m afraid to fly. I do not stand in line to fly ever. But I have gone on two rescue flights. The dogs are calmer than I am.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Supporting Pets Through the DMV
Maine joins 25 states in offering pet related license plates.

Maine drivers can now support pets with their license plates. Last week the state started selling the new Support Animal Welfare specialty plate to benefit the Animal Welfare Auxiliary Fund and the Animal Sterilization Fund. 

The project has been a year in the making since Maine’s Animal Welfare Program, Planet Dog, Happy Tails, the Animal Refuge League, and the Animal Welfare Society teamed up to create the Maine Animal License Plate Team (MALT). For the proposal to be considered, the team had to pre-sell 2,000 plates, which they did in a record breaking 78 days, raising $50,000.

The license plate will support initiatives that investigate cruelty and neglect complaints, train animal control officers and inspect and license kennels, shelters, pet shops and research facilities. In the past, these programs were funded exclusively by dog- and facility-license and pet food registration fees, but money has been tight in the recent years. 

I appreciate that Maine has added an affordable and easy way for everyone to help the state’s worthy animal causes. The fee for a similar license plate in New York is more than double!

The plates can be purchased at the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles, at some town offices, or by mail. The fee is $20 in addition to the regular registration fee.  Each renewal is an additional $15.

News: Guest Posts
Sept. 13 Is Worldwide Vick Protest Day
Protesters plan peaceful march to give voice to victims of dogfighting.

This Sunday, Sept. 13, dog lovers are expected to gather outside stadiums throughout the country to protest Michael Vick's reinstatement in the NFL. Chicago area participants will meet at Soldier's Field Gate 14 at 12 p.m. Nicole Milligan of Long Road Home Pit Bull Rescue has organized a protest outside Panther's Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. Meet at 11 a.m. at the corner of Stonewall and Mint. Other cities include New York City, Des Moines and Philadelphia. Participants are asked to be polite and peaceful; no posters depicting vulgar or racist language are permitted. To find out if a protest will be held in your city or to help organize one, contact Dan Meagher at vickprotest@yahoo.com or Nicole Miligan at vickprotestclt@yahoo.com. 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
No Animals Were Harmed
Or were they?

Recently, several movies have shown unauthorized disclaimers at the end of the credits stating that no animals were harmed in the making of the film. Only the American Humane Association has the authority to grant this disclaimer to a film, and that’s after careful monitoring and inspection of the set and the animal actors involved in the film’s production. Some films have posted this disclaimer despite the fact that American Humane has not granted them permission. Their sets have not been checked to assure that the animals were not harmed.

When films post this disclaimer at the end of their film without proper authorization, they are violating the public’s trust. The well-being of animals, including dogs, who appear in films matters to audiences. When people cannot be confident that animals’ welfare has been looked after, it’s unfair to those animals and is also a slight to producers who do legitimately deserve to have the disclaimer appear at the end of their films.

News: Guest Posts
Call for Help in St. Louis
More volunteers needed for dogs rescued in huge raid.

The Humane Society of Missouri has been relying heavily on volunteers from animal welfare organizations over the past two months as it cares for nearly 500 animals rescued in an enormous federal dog-fighting raid on July 8. But more help is needed.
Hearings regarding the disposition of the dogs have not yet been schedule and the Humane Society expects to be caring for animals at least through the end of the month. According to volunteer manager Laura B. Renner, groups of volunteers are scheduled to assist at the temporary shelter through September 19, but are help is needed from September 20 through October 3. Specifically, volunteers will be asked to help with cleaning, feeding, watering and some socialization. The Humane Society of Missouri is able to reimburse for travel expenses as well as arrange and cover the cost of lodging.
Qualification Required to Volunteer: Volunteers must be currently employed by or volunteering with a rescue group or animal welfare agency, be at least 18-years-old, have animal-handling experience in a shelter/disaster situation, be able to perform tasks that can be physically demanding, and be available for 5 to 7 day deployments in St. Louis. Because this is a pending federal investigation, each volunteer will be issued an ID badge as well as be required to sign a confidentiality agreement.
Anyone who has these qualifications and is willing to help can contact Laura at lrenner@hsmo.org.

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

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


News: Guest Posts
Puppy Mill Bills Around the Country
California and North Carolina need a push.

Spurred by an unprecedented puppy mill bust north of Seattle in January (read Jan Rodak’s first-hand account in The Bark, May/June 2009), Washington state legislators passed Senate Bill 5651, which limits the number of intact dogs a breeder can maintain to 25 and establishes requirements for their care. While it’s not a complete victory, it is progress.

Right now, California’s Assembly looks poised to follow suit. The Responsible Breeder Act (AB 241), which limits the number of intact dogs and cats a seller can maintain to 50 (which still seems like an awful lot to me), has made it through committees and could come up for a senate vote at any time. There’s still time to contact your senator. Among the organizations supporting the legislation are the ASPCA, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Social Compassion in Legislation (SCIL). Not surprisingly the American Kennel Club is opposed to the legislation.

North Carolina is also looking good. Senate Bill 460 would classify a commercial breeder as anyone who has 15 or more female dogs and 30 or more puppies for the purpose of sale. Breeders would have to pay $50 to get licensed and follow standards of care. The bill has passed several committee votes so far and is currently with the senate finance committee.

Efforts to regulate dog breeding in other states have not faired as well this year. A Colorado law, establishing rules for breeders with 25 dogs like Washington, was tabled indefinitely in February. A bill setting standards for commercial breeders with 10 or more dogs in Florida died in committee this spring; as did another limiting breeders to 50 dogs in Maryland. Attempts to establish a licensing requirement or inspections foundered in Illinois and Iowa, respectively.


Visit the United Animal Nations website to find out what’s happening in your state and who's who behind the scenes. If you live in California or North Carolina, give your rep a howl.