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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Homeless Pups Find Help Behind Bars
Paws on Parole inmates and shelter dogs help each other out.

Prison inmates and shelter dogs both live behind bars in what is often a harsh and solitary environment. Now programs around the country are bringing the two together to foster responsibility and adoptability. 

Alachua County Animal Services’ Hilary Hynes was approached by the Florida Department of Corrections to start a prison dog program after hearing about the benefits of similar efforts in other areas. Three months ago Paws on Parole was born, matching inmates from the Gainesville CI Work Camp with dogs from the local animal shelter. The teams are supervised by dog trainers who teach the participants how to train their pups to pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen test. 

The dogs aren’t the only ones benefiting from Paws on Parole’s positive reinforcement. Similar programs have found that working with animals has led to a decrease in discipline problems. Hynes reports that Paws on Parole has changed the entire atmosphere of the work camp. “The confidence of the handlers is fantastic,” she says. “They’re eager to show off what they’ve taught their dogs and have asked for additional related reading material.”

I’m always amazed by the power of animals to inspire change and compassion. For inmates who often feel ostracized from the rest of society, programs such as Paws on Parole showcase the canine ability to love unconditionally. And what a great opportunity for the inmates to return that gratitude by helping the dogs.

If you’re in the North Central Florida area and are interested in adopting a Paws on Parole graduate, contact Hilary Hynes at Alachua County Animal Services, 352-264-6881. Visit this web site to locate a prison pups program near you.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Education Becomes More Humane
University of Cincinnati to stop using purpose-bred animals

The University of Cincinnati is a role model for other schools in choosing not to use purpose-bred animals for educational purposes. Dogs and cats, as well as other species of animals, have long been bred in horrendous conditions for profit. These animals have been used for surgeries and dissections to train each generation of veterinarians (as well as biologists and physicians), who go into the field, ironically enough, because of their great love for animals. Hopefully, many other institutions will follow UC’s example.

The use of animals bred in laboratories for students’ education has long been a controversial issue. One big issue is whether using such animals is morally acceptable. That question concerns whether or not there are equally good ways, such as videos or computer simulations, for students to learn the same information. This question is an interesting one because as much as I always hated dissections, there is no doubt that many students, including me, have learned a great deal from them—just not enough to make it worth it to me.

Another issue is whether other animals are available who were not bred for this purpose. For example, can veterinary students learn to spay and neuter shelter animals who require the procedure anyway?

As a high school student and as an undergraduate biology major, I participated in some really yucky dissections. By junior year, I realized that I wasn’t comfortable with the process. I made a big effort to avoid working on animals bred in labs and still complete my major. That is, I took plant physiology instead of animal physiology. I took a class on the biology of higher vascular plants instead of animal anatomy. And finally I took a class on marine algae instead of a class on neurology. All of these choices allowed me to avoid working with frogs, mice, sharks and cats either in dissection labs or in other ways, such as using internal electrodes to monitor these animals while alive.

If you have done dissections or surgeries as part of your education, was it worth it to you? Do you think students should be required to perform them, or should they have other options? Do you consider the source of the animals used in education to be important?
 

News: Editors
Holly and Kit Come Home
A cross-country rescue story

Sometimes, what drives us to make on-the-spot decisions, especially emotion-based decisions, is inexplicable. Take ours to adopt two pups from Kentucky, for example. We certainly weren’t looking for an addition to our two-dog household. Lola, our young German Wirehaired Pointer rescue, was progressing nicely in her training but still needed ongoing work, and our 16-year-old Terrier mix Lenny, while in good health, was starting to show and feel his age. Then, of course, there’s the magazine; publishing Bark keeps us pretty busy. But adopt two pups we did. This is how it happened.

The Adventure Begins
The email that started us on this journey arrived in my in-box on December 23, with the subject line: Black Wednesday of Death in Harrodsburg, KY—Please, Help! The message came from “James Painter,” who’s sent me numerous notices throughout the year. (I later learned that his daughter, Dawn, using her father’s email, is the energy behind what seems to be a one-person rescue effort focusing on Southern shelters.) How could I ignore that plea?

When I opened the email, I saw an out-of-focus photo of a pup’s face—a “baby” female Border Collie/Beagle who looked like a much smaller version of our dear departed Nell. Certainly I knew that this or any other pup wouldn’t be another Nell—she, like all dogs, had her own unique spirit and personality that made her irrefutably irreplaceable, and we never considered getting a substitute. But there was something about this pup’s face that struck my heart. I showed the photo and the plaintive appeal for quick action to Cameron, and we both knew that this little Kentucky girl would be ours.

I called the Mercer County Humane Society in Harrodsburg and learned from a very helpful shelter worker that the youngster wasn’t with them; he gave me the number for their rescue coordinator, Geri Sipe, and I phoned her the next day. By this time, it was Christmas Eve. Geri and I discussed my interest in possibly adopting Casey (as the puppy was called), and Geri said she would try to find out more about her. Turns out that not much more was known; even the pup’s breed mix was not all that clear. The mother was mostly Border Collie, but at 25 pounds, she was a small one—there was possibly some Terrier (Fox Terrier or JRT) in her mix—and the sire was probably a Beagle. Casey was being fostered by a very pregnant young woman who, among other things, had her hands full rescuing cats. Beyond that, solid facts were hard to pin down. But we had made the commitment, both to ourselves and to the humane society, that we would adopt her regardless of what we found out.

Even as I became more deeply involved in the process, I knew that this was far from an ideal—or even a “normal”—way to adopt a dog: We had little information about size or parentage, almost nothing about temperament and health, and no firsthand assessment at all. Offsetting this realization was my fortunate situation as the editor of Bark: I had access to compassionate experts whose assistance could be tapped into if the need arose. Bolstered by that, I felt I could handle whatever challenges the pup presented.

And, truth be told, I thought of sweet Nell, and how much she would have liked this “mini Nellie” pup! Shortly thereafter, Geri gave me the news that the five-and-a-half-month-old Casey was only six pounds and had a littermate sister who was a whopping seven pounds. They were so small—couldn’t I somehow bring them both to California? Please? How could I possibly refuse?

It Took a Village
Agreeing was easy. Getting them from Kentucky to California was another story. Though the shelter, like many others in the area, has active transport programs that take dogs north by the van-load to improve their adoption opportunities, it didn’t have direct experience in sending dogs west.

Geri is nothing if not resourceful, however. She suggested that I post on rescue message boards asking for truck drivers or pilots who could help ferry the girls, and told me about groups like Animal Rescue Flights and Pilots and Paws, fabulous organizations that fly adoptees to destinations around the country. I was amazed to learn about the many individuals and groups involved with transporting rescue dogs.

The problem was coordination—it takes a lot of it to get a dog across the country. Not only was our schedule tight, I was reluctant to use resources that others might need. Then I learned about the severe winter storm that was about to hit that area.

One of the things I had discovered was that the puppies were being housed outdoors, and storm or no storm, there was no chance they would be brought inside. And it was 15 degrees! Knowing that we had to act fast, I asked Geri to ask the fosterer to take the pups to a vet to be boarded, and told her that I would be responsible for the costs involved. There, they would not only be warm, but their health could also be evaluated and any issues addressed.

The girls spent 10 days at the Commonwealth Animal Hospital in Harrodsburg, where they were vaccinated, de-fleaed, wormed and spayed, but most importantly, kept safe, well-fed and warm thanks to the excellent care of Dr. Paul Bosse and his conscientious staff, who also took the first good photos of my girls.

In the meantime, I started making my own travel arrangements—I was going to bring the girls back myself. It was vital that the little dogs fly nonstop, and with January temperatures plunging, Atlanta seemed to be the best bet. After a lot of online research and calling around, I settled on Delta. Not only did the airline have nonstop flights between Atlanta and San Francisco, my dear friends Judy and Poul Jacobsen live in Atlanta and were more than willing to help out; they even offered to drive the seven hours north to Kentucky if need be. So that was one hurdle jumped.

A second hurdle was overcome when Geri put me in touch with her delightful pal Jeannie Oldham, an administrator at a local college, who has made numerous transporter trips as a volunteer with the humane society. In a flurry of emails, she and I made arrangements for her to drive the pups to Tennessee in her brand-new Subaru Outback, and I made a new friend. We settled on Saturday, January 24, with Knoxville as our rendezvous point; exactly where was another matter.

As luck would have it, Knoxville resident Gretchen Crawley had just submitted a winning photo of her dog Roxy to our smiling dog contest, so when I emailed her the good news about Roxy, I also asked if she had any ideas for a good meet-up place. She suggested I get in touch with Tim Adams, director of Knoxville’s Young-Williams Animal Center (the city and county’s animal care and control facility).

That turned out to be excellent advice. Not only was Tim more than willing to allow us to use the shelter, but he graciously offered to give me a tour of the new state-of-the-art facility, even though that Saturday would be a big and busy day for them as well. They were hosting an adoption fair sponsored by Hills and were expecting many potential adopters (indeed, the lines were forming as we drove up).

While we waited for Jeannie to arrive, Tim gave me the grand tour, and I quickly understood the magnitude of the challenges that he and his staff are confronted with in running a county shelter. It was both heartbreaking to see so many adoptable animals who would most likely not find a home even on that special day, and inspiring to see so many wonderful people devoted to helping them.

I was shown the operating room and top-of-the-line spay/neuter vans where vets were busy neutering animals. This was my first “behind the scenes” experience at a shelter, and it affected me deeply. I came away with heightened respect, bordering on awe, for shelter workers everywhere. How they can do it day in and day out, I don’t know. If you’re looking for everyday heroes, you’ll find them working in shelters across the country!

After the tour, it wasn’t long before Jeannie and her friend Lynne Cornish, who served as the “puppy love” copilot, pulled into the parking lot with the pups, whom we had renamed Holly and Kit, sitting quietly in a crate in the back of the car. No doubt stunned by the sudden turn of events in their young lives, they hadn’t made a peep (or even peed) during their first three-hour car ride. More travel awaited them—it would be another three hours before we got back to Atlanta to Judy and Poul’s house, and the next morning, it would be off to the airport for a very long flight to their new home.

Coming Home
I had never flown with animals before and felt a certain amount of trepidation. The trip home to California went smoothly enough, however. The Delta ground security and check-in crew were great; everyone gawked at the girls as we whizzed by with the sign on top of the crate alerting all to the very precious cargo within.

Because their combined weight was less than 20 pounds, they were able to travel in the same large crate in the pressurized cargo area. Thinking it was more likely to be on time, I had booked the first flight out, but a 45-minute delay almost sent me into a tizzy. A kind Delta representative paged me to assure me that all was well and that the pups were already loaded onto the plane (not out in the cold on the tarmac).

Once on board myself, I received further assurances and updates from the flight crew. When we were about to land, a flight attendant moved me up to first class, and as we taxied to the gate, she allowed me to go to the front of the plane. I was the first person out of the chute and performed what must have looked like a mad-woman sprint through the terminal to the arrival area.

Cameron was there to meet me, sporting a little “Puppies” sign like those of black-coated limo drivers. When we got to the baggage claim area, we were greatly relieved to see that the pups had been safely disembarked and were being watched over by a dog-loving Delta representative.

Holly and Kit seemed a little bleary-eyed but none the worse for their journey, which all told was more than eight hours long. I had been warned by friends with more experience in traveling with dogs that mishaps were likely during long trips, so I was prepared to clean them up, but the girls and their crate were sparkling clean.

Off we headed for another car ride. At the end of this one was their new home, complete with a welcoming committee of a big sister who was eager to introduce them to their new life and a grumpy old guy who wasn’t sure he needed new siblings.
*****
Stayed tuned for new chapters in this ongoing story. Here’s a quick one. It didn’t take long to realize that Holly and Kit were very timid and terribly undersocialized. We have been told by behaviorists with whom we’ve consulted, including Patricia McConnell, that their socialization process will probably take a long time. We hope that sharing what we learn can be of value to others—but more importantly, that the girls make the transition from shy pups to well-adjusted, confident dogs.
 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
American Idol Finalist Receives Guide Dog
Paula Abdul kicks off National Guide Dog Month by giving Scott MacIntyre an extraordinary gift.

Last week, Paula Abdul, Natural Balance, PetCo and other independent pet stores kicked off National Guide Dog Awareness Month by surprising visually-impaired American Idol finalist, Scott MacIntyre, with the gift of a guide dog. MacIntyre was told he was coming to the ceremony to sing, but instead Abdul informed him that after the upcoming American Idol tour, he will be matched with a guide dog and go through the 28-day training program.  

On the show, MacIntyre was often seen being helped onto the stage by friends and fellow contestants. With his new furry partner, he’ll have newfound independence. Many find fame after appearing on American Idol, but MacIntyre will receive the most loyal fan of all.

I’m also glad to see American Idol’s popularity being used to bring more attention to this worthy cause. It can take more than two years and $40,000 to train a guide dog. This year’s goal for National Guide Dog Awareness Month is to raise over two million dollars. Participating stores will ask customers to round up their total at the register (i.e., $5.55 to $6.00) to donate the difference and Natural Balance will contribute fifty cents for every specially-marked food bag sold.

For more information on what goes into the making of a successful guide dog, see Jane Brackman’s article, published in the Jan./Feb. issue of the magazine. Watch a video of MacIntyre singing "No Fear":

News: Guest Posts
Second Chance Railroad
Finding forever homes for death-row dogs can mean lots of travel.

When The Bark’s editor-in-chief Claudia Kawczynska agreed to adopt a pair of puppies slated for euthanasia from a Kentucky shelter, she imagined it would be a straightforward—if long-distance—operation. She quickly learned that transporting Kit and Holly from Kentucky to California in the middle of winter would be no easy feat. She ended up traveling to Tennessee to escort the pups home herself; the experience introduced her to the logistical challenges and committed volunteers behind pet transport.

Essentially, pet transport refers to a network of shelters, rescues and volunteers working together to relocate “doomed” dogs from overcrowded shelters, often in the South and Midwest, to regions where they should more easily find a home, often in the Northeast, and, less frequently, the West.

Some of these operations are fairly major. The “largest volume” pet transport effort is probably PetSmart Charities’ Rescue Waggin’, sponsored by Pedigree, which celebrated its fifth anniversary last week. By the end of the month, Rescue Waggin’ will have transported a total of 27,000 dogs, and expects to transport up to 10,000 dogs this year alone.

Transport has its critics. Some proponents suggest that dogs imported from other states make it harder on instate homeless dogs and that transport reduces the incentives for better spay/neuter in areas with overpopulation problems, according to a recent story in USA Today. Still, it’s likely that more dogs have a better chance—overall—with transport. I agree with JoAnne Yohannan of North Shore Animal League America in Port Washington, N.Y., who doesn’t think dogs should suffer for people’s inability to tackle overpopulation. She told USA Today, “If someone is drowning, you don’t just stand there and criticize their ability to swim.”

What do you think? I’d love to hear your stories of either helping dogs along the highways of America or a rescue dog’s epic journey to your front door. Look for more about pet transport in a future issue of The Bark.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Heroic Pups Up for HSUS Dogs of Valor Award
Your vote determines which courageous canine will win the People’s Hero award.

The Humane Society of the United States created the annual Dogs of Valor Awards last year to honor dogs who have performed an extraordinary act of courage to help a person in need. 

A panel of celebrity judges will choose the Valor Dog of the Year, but the finalist who receives the most online votes will be named the People’s Hero winner. The polls close on Friday, May 15th at 5 p.m. EST and the winners will be announced on May 17th.

Each story is amazing in its own way and it’s hard to vote for just one finalist. I was in awe of how persistent each dog was in his or her pursuit to help the humans in their story. In some cases, those individuals were people they had never met before.

The two stories I found most remarkable were D-Boy from Oklahoma City, Okla., who defended his family from a robber, despite being shot three times, and Jake from Omaha, Neb., who jumped in a river to save a downing child. These canines didn’t think twice before putting themselves directly in the line of danger.

If you know of a heroic pup, nominations are being accepted until January 2010 for next year’s Dogs of Valor Awards on the HSUS’ website.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Stopping Puppy Mills One Store at A Time
Best Friends’ Puppies Aren’t Products campaign comes to New York City.

While puppy mills have long been a hot topic within the dog community, the subject has only recently garnered mainstream attention with specials on Oprah and ABC’s Nightline. (See also “Busted” in The Bark, May 2009.) Even Cesar Millan is using his star power to do a puppy mill exposé that airs tonight (May 8) on National Geographic. While the increased exposure has certainly had an impact, millions of Americans still unknowingly support puppy mills.

Last year Utah-based Best Friends Animal Society decided to target pet stores, puppy mills’ main source of income. The animal advocate group launched Puppies Aren’t Products, a campaign that stages weekly peaceful protests in front of stores that sell puppy mill dogs, a tactic that hurts sales and educates the public. Best Friend’s efforts began in Los Angeles, Calif., a state where they estimate euthanized shelter pets have cost taxpayers over $250,000,000 to date.

Puppies Aren’t Products demonstrations have already resulted in the closing of Pet Love, a 15-year-old pet store in Beverly Hills, and the replacement of Pets of Bel Air with Woof Worx, a store that showcases rescue dogs for adoption. 

The success of the Los Angeles chapter has inspired campaigns in Las Vegas, Nev., and, most recently, New York City. Last week Best Friends volunteers began a new protest location in front of Manhattan’s American Kennels. Participants reported that many people were unaware that the pets inside were mass-produced in deplorable conditions.  

Puppy mills are hard to regulate through the government so I do believe that change must come through education. I admire the persistence of the Puppies Aren’t Products volunteers and am excited to see the impact they’ll have in the New York area and beyond.

News: Guest Posts
Dog Bowl Bailout
One-time offer aims to get free chow to dogs in need.

The folks at Dogswell, a pet food company in Los Angeles, are reaching out to Americans who’ve been stung by the economic downtown/collapse/crisis (take your pick) by offering a free bag of dry dog food to the first 10,000 eligible people to submit a Bow-Wow Bailout redemption form, through May 15, 2009. It’s about time dogs got a little piece of the recovery action. We love a marketing strategy that puts food in the bowls of dogs who need it.

Individuals and families with long-term challenges feeding their dogs may find food support at their local animal shelter or food bank. According to JoAnna Lou’s story in The Bark (March/April 2009), at least 68 organizations nationwide currently offer pet food assistance to those in need. Visit the Humane Society of the United States for more information about assistance in your area.

News: Guest Posts
“Busted” on the Radio
Bark writer talks to Ron Reagan about puppy mills, May 4.

When I read about a giant puppy mill bust just north of Seattle in January, I was surprised. I had the mistaken impression that my little corner of the country was immune; that puppy mills thrived in the Ozarks, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Now, the local papers were detailing how 600 Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus, Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers and other small breeds were being liberated from shocking conditions. The dogs, crammed into cages, were sick, covered in feces and urine, dehydrated and starving.
    
Former newspaper reporter and dog lover Jan Rodak, who lives in my same corner of the world and read the same reports, volunteered to help the survivors. In her story about the aftermath, "Busted" (The Bark, May 2009), she engages both her journalist brain and activist heart, which means good information with a distinct point of view. Fellow Seattle resident and Air America radio host, Ron Reagan will be talking to Jan about her story and puppy mills on The Ron Reagan Show, Monday at 7 p.m. eastern standard time.  I’m thrilled this important information will be reaching beyond the choir, and I’ll be tuning in. (You can also hear the interview via a live online stream or later as a podcast.)

Meanwhile, Jan intends to continue independent advocacy journalism. Inspired by our blog about fundable.com, a grass roots funding site that some guardians are using to pay for expensive veterinary bills in hard times, she’s asking for help with travel expenses, public records request fees and incidentals as she muckrakes her way through the puppy mills of America.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
New American Humane Endowed Professorship
Bridging the chasm between academics and real world problems.

The American Humane Association has created an endowed chair at the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Social Work to focus on research into the human-animal bond and animal-assisted therapies. The professor who will occupy the position is Dr. Frank Ascione, an international leader in researching the bond between people and animals, and also in preventing cruelty to humans and other animals.

I’m thrilled about the creation of this chair because it has the potential to help bridge the absurd chasm between academics and applied work with animals. There is tremendous need for a greater understanding of the relationships between people and animals, including the way that those relationships can benefit members of the species, but there are few opportunities for research and training in these areas in our colleges and universities. The creation of this position signals the growing trend towards greater respect for the value of work that aims to prevent cruelty and violence to both people and animals and work that involves animals in helping people.

I am equally pleased about the choice of Ascione. His 2005 book Children & Animals: Exploring the Roots of Kindness and Cruelty was great, and it is regrettable that while read by many academics, it did not make as big a splash in the larger world as I would have liked. He has studied the links between animal abuse, child abuse and domestic violence, and has even written guidelines for creating safe havens for pets of battered women.

Ascione is committed to improving the world for both animals and humans, and has long campaigned for a greater societal effort to halt cruelty to people and members of other species, too. An advocate of increased humane education for kids, he has long expressed the view that we need to actively teach kids HOW to treat animals kindly and to feel compassion towards them, in addition to education that simply addresses the importance of not being cruel. His new position is likely to increase the prominence of his work, to the benefit of our whole society.
 

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