Is your canine an URBAN good citizen?

Earlier this week, the American Kennel Club announced its new Urban Canine Good Citizen Test. This was announced without a ton of fanfare, so we will forgive you if you missed it, but it is definitely worth checking out! Like the original Canine Good Citizen program, the urban version recognizes responsible pet owners and their polite, well-trained dogs, with a focus on the challenges of an urban environment:

“City dogs require a very special set of skills, including waiting to cross a street, ignoring food tossed on a sidewalk, behaving in building lobbies and riding elevators,” said Mary Burch, Ph.D., Director of the Canine Good Citizen program.  [also: former NAIA board member and writer!] “Urban CGC reinforces practical, everyday skills for the millions of dogs living in urban areas today, creating safer, more responsible communities.”

Lifestyles and culture are always changing. 100 years ago, it was not uncommon for dogs to live outdoors most, if not all of their lives, and dog ownership was primarily for the very rural or the very wealthy. Today, those dogs are sleeping on their owner’s beds, and dogs being walked down a busy city street is a regular occurrence. What a great time for a program like the Urban Canine Good Citizen — and a great chance for dog owners to become ambassadors for responsible pet ownership!

You don’t need to be interested in having a “title” for your dog, you don’t even need to live in a big city. Simply having a well-behaved dog that is not frightened or distracted by their environment, that can safely and confidently walk past both human and dog on a busy sidewalk is a big win for everybody. For your dog, for you, and for your entire community!

There can be a lot of distractions and challenges for a little dog in a big city!

There can be a lot of distractions and challenges for a little dog in a big city!

 

 

Apr 16, 2015 - Shelter & Rescue    No Comments

Arson Threats for Putting Down a Dangerous Dog

In Wisconsin, police have stepped up patrols near the Elmbrook Humane Society, after it began receiving threats for euthanizing a dog.

The dog was a large, handsome fellow named Jim. Expressive eyes, gentle and well-behaved behind the camera, but he began exhibiting signs of aggression after being adopted out. He had several biting incidents, was declared a “vicious dog,” returned to the shelter and adopted out again, and eventually hurt somebody to the point stitches were required.

Now, should Jim have been adopted out in the first place? Or the second? Possibly not the first time, probably not the second, but that is a whole ‘nother blog, and we don’t have enough details for anything other than a general statement on that. But what we can say for sure is that in the end, the shelter was forced to make a hard, but responsible choice with Jim… for which they received threats.

jimPic

Jim (Photo: Elmbrook Humane Society on Facebook)

What is wrong with this picture? Nobody (with the possible exception of PeTAwants to euthanize animals. The Elmbrook Humane Society prides itself on its live release rate, and really went to the mat for Jim. When you have done your best for a dog that has bitten on multiple occasions — finally to the point where medical attention is required — you have to put the interest of future adopters, of the public first. As heartbreaking as it can be for an otherwise healthy dog to be put down, there are many, many other animals who can be safely and responsibly adopted out, who would just love a new forever home.

Yet instead of accepting that sometimes painful decisions need to be made, instead of inquiring about those other non-bitey animals, there are now people threatening to burn the shelter down. Whether or not the threats are credible, whether or not the shelter is actually in any danger, this is just nuts, folks.

Apr 15, 2015 - Animal Policy    1 Comment

Asian Canine Influenza Outbreak: A Reminder of the Importance of Responsible Animal Transport

An outbreak of canine influenza* in the Chicago area has killed six dogs and sickened 1,300. It comes from a strain of the virus that has previously only been seen in Korea and China.

We do not yet know the specific source or the scenario that led to this outbreak, but regardless, it is a painful reminder of the importance of responsible animal transport (especially in regards to importation), and why we support it so strongly at NAIA.

Of course there are no guarantees in life, no way to ensure that your pet will never come down with an illness, but employing responsibility and accountability when transporting animals — something that is, unfortunately, not always standard operating procedure — is a great way to improve those odds for everybody’s pets.

Our hearts go out to the families who lost pets due to this illness, and we wish a speedy recovery to all who were affected!

 

 

*while this is referred to as “Asian Dog Flu” it can affect cats too!

Apr 10, 2015 - Animal Policy    No Comments

Academic Study: NY Carriage Horses are Stress-Free

So did you read the news that an expert in equine medicine tested New York’s carriage horses, and discovered their stress levels are probably lower than yours or mine? That work doesn’t raise the stress or angst of these magnificent animals — that they are living pretty darn contented lives?

If not, hopefully you have now!

Of course this won’t affect the opinion of anybody in the anti-carriage horse brigade — their minds are made up and impervious to dissent (and when faced with irrefutable facts, they’ll just move the goalpost). This information won’t affect the opinion of anybody who supports carriage horses, either — it merely confirms something we have long known:

“Like many New Yorkers I could see that joy and vigor in their eyes. Now we have scientific proof as well.”

But for everybody else, studies like this are meaningful. Horses and humans have been partners for thousands of years, and most people can look at a carriage horse and just know on a general level that the animal is content. But without data to back up our perceptions, it can be written off as just that: a perception — a feeling. Well, here comes the back up!

Anti-carriage horse activists have been telling the public and legislators to “ignore your lyin’ eyes” for years — that we need to trust them when they insist these animals are miserable and unhealthy. And unfortunately, along the way, they have managed to convince some people that they are right. Data like this lets us respond with authority; it lets us say “Sorry guys, but our eyes were working just fine all along… these carriage horses are indeed happy, healthy animals!”

The carriage driver appears to have remarkably low stress levels as well.

The carriage driver appears to have remarkably low stress levels as well.

 

 

Bipartisan Agreement in Maine: Go Away, HSUS!

In Maine, even Democrats and Republicans can agree: “wildlife management laws should be determined by scientists and protected from emotional campaigns bankrolled by out-of-state interest groups” (read: HSUS).

Yes yes, we know: allowing scientists to determine wildlife management is crazy. Wouldn’t want pesky things like facts, expertise, and personal experience shaping our policies, now would we?

Just kidding. At NAIA, we want wildlife management policies shaped by experts rather than anti-hunting activists. We’re totally cool with that. It’s the anti-hunting activists who want this debate settled entirely through emotion and advertising dollars (remember when their coalition threw a hissy fit last November, and tried to prevent the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife from stating their opinion on the [failed] anti-hunting referendum?).

It is great to see sanity alive and well in Maine. We will be keeping a close on this story as it develops.

Apr 6, 2015 - Shelter & Rescue    No Comments

Are You Helping or Enabling? Know Who You are Supporting!

Several months ago, a Florida woman, realizing her wildlife rescue was “not sustainable,” began taking in domestic animals in an effort to appeal to donors… sadly, the end results were not pretty:

Faulseit and another woman were charged with animal cruelty. Officials found more than 60 cats, dogs, raccoons and an opossum living in their own filth, without food and water, at Faulseit’s St. Petersburg home.

She adopted many from the Hillsborough County shelter and was selling others at a local pet store, possibly for profit, but police say it’s hard to prove.

As we pointed out on Friday, social media can be a great tool for shelters and rescues to find homes and help animals. But there is always a flip side to consider: it is also a tool that enables people who are overwhelmed (and often unable to stop themselves) or unethical to grow and continue their operations.

It is awesome that you can take two minutes and make a few clicks from California to help an organization in Florida — we love that! But getting to know who you are working with through their history, references, or (best of all) visiting them yourself is a must if you want assurance your donations are making a positive difference for animals.

Apr 3, 2015 - Shelter & Rescue    No Comments

New Life for a Little Lost Dog: Someone’s Doing It the Right Way

We wanted to head into the weekend on a positive note, and as if in response, immediately came across this story about a little lost dog with a tumor on her face who was picked up by Waterford-East Lyme Animal Control in Connecticut: Tumor Removed from Dog Is Benign: Animal Control

Hey, “it’s benign” is some of the best news you can get (well, next to having no tumor at all, of course), but what we want to draw attention to is the process, the responsible, humane, and cooperative way this situation was handled:

  • A roaming dog (now named “Mookie”) is picked up by Animal Control, and nobody comes forward to claim her
  • Mookie has a tumor on her face; removing it cannot be paid for with funds given to the town or Animal Control, so a call for donations is made, with those funds going directly to a local animal hospital (Goodfriends Animal Clinic) that will perform the procedure
  • Animal lovers step up to the plate and cover Mookie’s medical expenses
  • Along with getting the tumor removed, she is spayed, has her teeth cleaned, gets her rabies shot, etc. — this girl really gets the “full treatment!”
  • Biopsy of the tumor comes back “benign,” with little chance of it growing back
  • Now, through cooperation between Animal Control, Goodfriends, and generous animal lovers, a little lost dog now has a shot at a great life!
beforeAndAfter

Before and After

The people who love animals, the ones who make a difference quietly doing the right thing day after day really don’t get enough credit — but we love outcomes like this, and are more than happy to point out their good work!

Have a great weekend!

Apr 2, 2015 - Animal Law    No Comments

“Fake Service Dog Bill” Advances

In Florida on Monday, a “Fake service dog bill” advanced in the senate.

Much of this bill is just a restatement of the Americans with Disabilities act, but it adds two criminal offenses:

The bill would make interfering with the disabled and their service animals a second-degree misdemeanor, carrying penalties of up to 60 days in jail, up to $500 in fines and 30 hours of community service for an organization that serves people with disabilities or another entity, at the discretion of a judge.

Under the bill, the same crime and penalties would apply to pet owners who lie about having a disability and falsely claim that their pet is a service animal.

While NAIA has not taken an official position on the bill, we do laud its goals.

With more service animals assisting people with invisible disabilities than ever before, and a growing number of pet owners who feel entitled to bring their companions anywhere and everywhere (and with easy access to vests, harnesses, and other paraphernalia that make their pets look like service animals), it is easy to see why there have been so many recent collisions at this intersection.

But even if it is easy to understand, there is no good reason to harangue somebody with a service animal… just as there is no excuse for falsely declaring your pet a service animal. While people with fake service dogs aren’t acting out of malice, and may not think they are doing anything wrong, their actions hurt the very people who most need the calm, reliable assistance these amazing animals provide.

ExeterBob

 

Apr 1, 2015 - Animal Policy    2 Comments

Placing Dangerous Dogs Undermines Everybody

From an alarming article by the Albuquerque Journal:

In more than 100 cases last year, the Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department has allowed [aggressive] dogs to be adopted by families or returned to their owners even though they flunked nationally recognized standardized tests that showed the animals had dangerous tendencies.

One dog was so aggressive he couldn’t be tested, but was still adopted out. Some volatile dogs were even taken to the Lucky Paws adoption site in Coronado Center.

These are among the explosive allegations in a complaint filed with the city’s Office of Inspector General by the Animal Welfare Department’s second-in-command and its behavior specialist, who said Monday she has resigned out of frustration and alarm for the community.

Go ahead and read the entire article then come back. It’s important. We’ll still be here.

UnfriendlyPup

——-

We have written about mission creep in dog rescue and sheltering before, and its unintended consequences (disease, dog bites, how it actually enables irresponsible breeding practices, etc.), and this is as prime an example as any.

These allegations are simply stomach churning. When ideology trumps duty like this, it undermines everybody: the public, responsible rescues and shelters, behaviorists and others who work to rehabilitate dogs (done responsibly, many dogs with behavioral problems can be rehabilitated and placed with appropriate owners), and of course the dogs themselves. In the end, it always comes back to the dogs. If we had a dollar for every time good intentions untethered from knowledge (or basic reality) ended up hurting the dogs they were meant to save, we’d have more funding than HSUS…

So just how on earth is the public going to trust an Animal Welfare/Animal Services/Animal Control department if it has a record of adopting out vicious dogs that lunge after children or kill other pets? Dogs that were too aggressive to even take behavioral tests? Who, exactly, are they looking out for by allowing these dogs to be adopted? Certainly not the people whose communities they are being trusted with!

But they are also doing an incredible disservice to dogs and the rescue community, as well. Shelters and rescues have done a great job over the last few decades of marketing themselves as the place to get your next pet. Numbers from one of our recent surveys show that respondents believe the healthiest, best-tempered dogs come from rescues or shelters, and list them as first choice among people expecting to acquire dogs in the next 5 years. Do you think these people would be so quick to choose rescues and shelters as their top choice if the first thought that pops into their mind isn’t “saving the life of a great dog” but rather “will the dog we find be safe for the family?” Is it so hard to see how adopting out just a few aggressive dogs in order to “save them all,” or improve euthanasia numbers can hurt the prospects of all dogs in need of a home?

Anybody who adopts out an aggressive dog is abdicating their responsibility to public safety and undermining literally decades of hard work improving the image of and outcomes for shelter dogs.

Dog-Sporting Survey Tells Us What We Already Knew: Winning Isn’t Everything!

A recent survey of dog sport* competitors tells us that they are overwhelmingly female, married or cohabitating, between the ages of 45-74, college educated, and hail from a variety of urban and rural backgrounds.

To anybody who regularly participates in dog sporting events, the picture painted by this survey seems pretty accurate, even if the numbers themselves seem exaggerated. And even if you haven’t been there and done that, the results make sense: being a regular participant requires a certain investment of time and resources that are not as readily available to all demographics.**

But after demographics, we find information that may actually be surprising to readers, responses that go against popular stereotypes. You know that old football saying: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing“? Well, at least according to this survey, winning is definitely not the only thing for people who compete with their dogs — in fact, it’s not even near the top:

The reasons the participants gave included improving their connection to dogs (36 percent), the social aspects of participation (40 percent), enjoyment (31 percent), the opportunity for physical activity for both dogs (40 percent) and humans (52 percent), or that people simply got pleasure from the time spent with their dogs and satisfaction from the team aspect of participation (34 percent). In comparison, only 13 percent of the people surveyed highlighted that it was the competition and accomplishment which served as the reason why they participate.

What is this? People enjoy events that allow them to socialize and share challenges with the dogs they love? The world of dog sports is not comprised entirely of judgmental cliques and monomaniacally ruthless competitors? Who’d a thunk it? True, this was a small survey — perhaps the hardcore competitors were too busy gathering up ribbons to fill out the questionnaire — but we don’t think it is inaccurate. We think these attitudes speak directly to an important bond, the camaraderie between the humans and dogs in these sports. We think these attitudes are what make these events so appealing and valuable!

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Link to study

 

 

*conformation, obedience, rally, agility, and/or field trials
** Interestingly, our own recent observations at dog sporting events suggest that there are also a lot more individuals in the under-30 crowd compared to past years — a demographic you might think least likely to have the time or resources available for such pursuits.