Aug 3, 2015 - Animal Science    No Comments

The Veterinary Profession Evolves: Sterilization Dogma Reconsidered

Arnold L. Goldman DVM, MPH

“Gonadectomy in Dogs,” in other words, the sterilization of dogs by removal of testes or ovaries was the subject of a recent roundtable webinar created collaboratively by a Florida multi-specialty veterinary hospital, Coral Gables Animal Hospital, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). It can be viewed here.

The creation and intent of the webinar is to acknowledge that recent research shows that the sterilization procedures discussed are “not as innocuous” as previously believed to be, that today we recognize sterilization “reduces the risk of some cancers and medical conditions, but increases the risk of others” and that veterinarian’s thinking on this subject is “evolving.” The description of the program states: “Honest and transparent conversations must take place within the profession as well as between veterinarians and pet owners.”

In the webinar several veterinary specialists and a generalist discuss and debate some of the new information on sterilization and the new questions raised relative to what veterinarians have long advocated, sterilization for most.

The discussion centers primarily on the medical aspects of sterilization surgery, and what is most notable is just how uncertain the doctors are that the long held dogma of “sterilize everything and early” is still the right thing to tell their clients. I interpret what they say and also what they do not say as indicating that the point-of-view of these veterinarians has shifted to one of a more open-minded, wait-and-see point of view regarding elective sterilization surgery. You can almost hear some of them struggling to avoid undermining what they may still believe will be vindicated in the long term, that sterilization is good for individual animals.

If it turns out that sterilization is not in the medical interests of most individual veterinary patients after all however, no veterinarian wants to be in a position of continuing to advocate for something that harms their patients. And that is the key point: that veterinarians in individual animal practice are first obligated to their own clients and patients, and only then to any broader societal goals. We must always place our individual patients first.

That point-of-view may pose an internal ideological conflict for a shelter-employed veterinarian, who may see their individual patients, pre-adoption, mainly as elements of a larger societal enterprise, one dedicated to reducing un-owned or unwanted animals, unintended reproduction, euthanasia of healthy animals and all the forms of human irresponsibility that leads to these things.

Still, once an animal is owned and that animal is brought to a veterinarian, regardless of the animal’s origins, for that veterinarian, that owner and that patient, the patient’s interests must come ahead of any broader goals of the organization or facility from which the animal came. That is what our Oath instructs and what the public expects of us.

Veterinarian’s Oath
Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.
I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.
I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.

Jul 31, 2015 - Human-Animal Bond    No Comments

A Great Pairing

Reading this NY Times article on pairing prison inmates up with bomb-sniffing dogs in training, it is hard not to be struck by the reciprocity. Everybody is getting something positive. The inmates give the dogs loads of attention and training, and show higher morale with a “virtually nonexistent” incident rate. The dogs show more maturity and greater endurance. Everybody gets something out of it, and not just on a practical level: inmates receive experience as responsible citizens, perhaps a sense of atonement, while, if you follow the M.R.I. results, the dogs perceive much of the experience — at least the learned odor portion — as one giant reward!

As inspiring as programs like this are, they are but one of the many ways humans and animals make each other stronger, happier — or just plain better every day. I know it’s the end of the week and brains are tired, but how many can you think of off the top of your head?

 

Jet

Project POOCH, founded in 1993, is the first program of its kind for youth offenders. Youth in corrections care for and train shelter dogs for adoption, positively transforming both in the process. This happy guy is Jet, who after months of love, attention, and hard work with his youth trainer is now a Canine Good Citizen, living in his forever home.

Jul 27, 2015 - Pet Care    No Comments

Raising Awareness of “Dog Flipping”

According to the AKC, pet theft is on the rise:

“More than 637 dogs across the country were stolen in 2014 – a 4.5 percent increase from the year before, according to AKC’s national pet theft database.

The number has drastically increased since the organization began recording the thefts in 2008, when 71 dogs were stolen.

Stealing somebody’s pet is like breaking up a family. Of particular interest is the practice of “dog flipping” (stealing somebody’s dog then reselling the dog for a profit), an uncommon but growing crime that is a devastating experience for dogs and their owners. Kudos to Tom Sharp and the AKC for raising awareness of this issue.

 

 

 

Jul 24, 2015 - Shelter & Rescue    3 Comments

Judge Orders Champion Sheltie Returned Home

Piper, a champion Sheltie co-owned by Veronica Covatch and Michelle Wilson, has been away from her family for far, far too long, but at least now she can stay with her original owner while the legal fight between Piper’s owners and an out of control rescue group heads toward a trial. An order from an irritated judge made it happen:

“Let me tell you something,” Brandt interrupted. “These people have been without their animal for over a year. OK? So they get their dog back today.”

Of course this tale is not over yet, and Covatch says she has already spent $100,000 in legal fees, but today’s news is great for Piper, Covatch, Wilson — and everybody who cares about the rights of pet owners and reuniting this dog with her family!

Piper

Jun 29, 2015 - Shelter & Rescue    1 Comment

Palm Beach Pet Importation Battle Continues

For more than a decade, NAIA has been writing on the issue of humane relocation/dog trafficking: see Humane or Insane to Disparage – Regulate – Prohibit – Monopolize, to Mission Creep. We are so pleased to see such an excellent article on this subject in a mainstream publication:

Puppy importing pits Palm Beach County versus rescue groups

Instead of bringing in “fluffy, white dogs,” rescue groups should do more for local dogs “that are really in need,” said Dianne Sauve, the county’s director of animal care and control.

“You are either dedicated to helping dogs in your community or you are dedicated to stocking your shelves with a product that sells quickly,” Sauve said.

It is great to see so-called humane relocation becoming a mainstream news story. Us “animal people” can talk about this until we are blue in the face, but until it becomes a mainstream issue that the media, lawmakers, and casual pet owners/animal lovers are aware of and concerned about, it is going to be so much more talk than action. Here is to greater awareness and change leading to smarter and more ethical practices and policies!

It is easy to sell smaller dogs and puppies shipped in from out of the area, but it does nothing to help local dogs find homes.

Selling cute, smaller dogs and puppies shipped in from out of the area is easy, but it does nothing to help local dogs find homes.

Jun 24, 2015 - Animal Rights    1 Comment

FOIA As a Tool of Lawfare

Arnold L. Goldman DVM, MPH

The National Association of Biomedical Research has released its “A Review of Animal Rights FOIA Requests FY14” report which documents animal rights efforts to gather intelligence about organizations, companies and institutions it targets for “lawfare.” Often biomedical research facilities are the target of these malicious efforts.

“FOIA” is the Freedom of Information Act, which provides the public the right to request access to records from any federal agency. It is often described as “the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government.” Federal agencies are required to disclose any information requested under the FOIA, unless it falls under one of nine exemptions which protect interests such as personal privacy, national security, and law enforcement.

“Lawfare” is the illegitimate use of laws with the intention of financially harming an ideological adversary, creating a public relations victory against an adversary, or wasting the adversary’s time in responding, so that their mission and purposes are not pursued or are pursued less successfully. The objective is not necessarily to win in court, but to use the legal process as punishment for pursuing lawful aims that the antagonist disagrees with on ideological grounds.

From the 2014 Report we learn that there were 215 instances of FOIA requests by animal rights organizations or individuals associated with them, and that more than 40% targeted biomedical research institutions.

As paraphrased from the report:

“Activists use FOIA to acquire information to facilitate their investigations, to make criminal complaints for allegations of animal cruelty and to ask for enforcement actions for alleged instances of regulatory noncompliance. A notable change in 2014 was the submission of single FOIA requests targeting multiple institutions. This change makes the number of requests appear little changed when in fact they have increased dramatically. This also serves to better hide the targeting of specific institutions from among a group of as many as 25 other named institutions.”

In addition to the intentional misuse of FOIA laws by activists, the costs incurred by the Federal government to provide this information continues to increase. In FY 2014 direct FOIA expenses approached $462 million. At APHIS and NIH, 44 full-time FOIA staff are employed at a cost exceeding $5 million. These funds are unavailable for fulfillment of the primary mission of the agencies and institutions affected.

Read the entire report here: http://www.nabr.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/FY2014-FOIA-Report.pdf

Jun 4, 2015 - Shelter & Rescue    No Comments

Mayor Issues Challenge to Rescue Groups: Stop Importing While Local Dogs Are Still Dying

Palm Beach County wants rescue groups to stop importing animals until the county shelter can find homes for at least 90% of the dogs and cats it receives. County Mayor Shelley Vana held a press conference Tuesday, challenging rescue groups (who have ignored the request to stop importing animals) with “uncomfortable truths.”

What happens when those well-meaning rescue groups or private shelters in our own community choose instead to import dogs and puppies to Palm Beach County? What message is being sent to would-be adopters? What happens when those at-risk at animal care and control are bypassed for animals that are flown in? The truth is often uncomfortable. Importing puppies and dogs into Palm Beach County while dogs in own shelter die, means that some groups are simply stocking their shelves with those dogs that are easily adoptable at a high fee. And while these importations generate lots of publicity and revenue for local shelters [and rescues], how does it benefit those dogs that are going to die here? I am challenging each rescue group that has signed onto Count Down to Zero to stop bringing dogs in from other regions, at least until we have reached a 90% save rate here in Palm Beach county.

Very powerful statement! Huge kudos to Mayor Vana for recognizing this as a serious issue and being unafraid to speak out!

Jun 1, 2015 - Animal Science    No Comments

Man’s Best Friend Might Be Older Than We Thought…

Could dogs have been around a lot longer than we thought?

A group of researchers discovered an ancient wolf bone and say its DNA suggests dogs diverged from wolves 27,000 to 40,000 years ago — not 11,000 to 16,000 years ago, as previous research has suggested.

This is an interesting finding — not just because we love dogs and are fascinated by them (though that certainly helps), but the earlier date suggests dogs lived with humans during hunter-gatherer times, rather than after the advent of agriculture. Very cool read!

Cool Wolf

Did dogs diverge from wolves earlier than we thought?

 

Read the report here: Ancient Wolf Genome Reveals an Early Divergence of Domestic Dog Ancestors and Admixture into High-Latitude Breeds.

May 19, 2015 - Animals and Culture    No Comments

Dining with the Dogs

Big win for dog owners who want to dine with their furry (or not-so-furry) companions in New York recently:

By a 60-0 vote on Wednesday, the State senate approved a bill that lets food service establishments indulge four-legged guests, by allowing restaurants to welcome dogs (if accompanied by a diner) into their outdoor eating areas. The State Assembly is not reviewing its version of the same bill, and its sponsor is confident it will pass.

More and more dining establishments are becoming dog-friendly, and it is great seeing New York get on board this train. With the average American work week creeping back up to 47 hours, forcing people to spend more time away from their homes and their pets, dog-friendly dining establishments offer a welcome opportunity to go out and “have a life” without leaving Fido behind.

There are always concerns about dogs begging, getting into fights with each other, even jumping up on servers carrying heavy trays… but to that, we say: socializing and training your dog to be a polite companion is an investment of time and love every responsible pet owner will make. Furthermore, no responsible pet owner is going to foist an ill-mannered or aggressive dog on a restaurant (that wouldn’t exactly be responsible, now would it?). So when this bill passes, celebrate by going out and have a meal with your dog as an ambassador for the best in pet ownership!

Probably not what the restaurant meant when it said dogs were "welcome."

Probably not what the restaurant meant when it said “dogs are welcome.”

DogAtBrunch

This is more like it.

May 18, 2015 - Shelter & Rescue    2 Comments

A Humane Society Calls out the “Retail Rescuers”

Last week, we read some heavy straight-talk from Charlene Marchand and Ron Perez of the Columbia-Greene Humane Society/SPCA regarding the irresponsible and cynical importation of rescue animals, and the effect it has on the chances of local dogs. Given how often we report on this issue, it was tempting to leave this alone in favor of other stories, but we kept coming back to it. In the end, their story was too important for us not to share.

This zinger, illustrating the frustration when progress in animal welfare meets cynical opportunism, is worth the price of admission:

Didi Kline, founder of CGHS/SPCA, would have never dreamed that dogs 10 years or older would be finding second homes. And even the once loved, frequently ignored and often feared “pitbulls” (a loose term referring to bulldog and bull terrier types and mixes) were being adopted — and the owners found them to be incredible companions. Then, everything changed again when “rescues” in the northeast started importing dogs from the southeast, Puerto Rico, Mexico and even Russia! Why? There were still dogs here in the northeast that needed homes. The answer is: money! I once said that if there was money to be made in animal welfare, there’d be a shelter on every corner. Well, now there is.

First off, it takes guts to call it as you see it. It really does, especially when it comes to animal welfare and rescue issues, where even the slightest of disagreements can lead to a lifetime of name-calling and ostracism. This is an issue we have covered regularly for more than a decade, and we know all too well how some people perceive the criticism of certain bad practices as an indictment of all rescue — the responses can be downright vicious. Secondly: bravo! What a breath of fresh air. We share their frustration and couldn’t agree more with the sentiment.

What a great piece. The only thing we’d add is that when helping other regions of the US, efforts must also be made at the source of the population surplus: education and “changing the culture,” accessible low-cost spay/neuter options, enforceable roaming/leash laws, etc. Without those efforts — which have worked wonders in many parts of the country — animal rescuers are put in a position of perpetually exporting one region’s problems into another. As always, the end goal should be finding permanent, caring homes for every healthy and safe pet, until we reach a point where private rescues and shelters are no longer necessary.