Browsing "Animal Welfare"
Feb 27, 2015 - Animal Welfare    No Comments

The Importance of Knowing Who You’re Getting Your Pet From

Disappointing news out of Arizona:

PetSmart has terminated their adoption partnership with a Valley animal rescue after an ABC15 Investigation uncovered troubling allegations about the group, called Woofs Wiggles n Wags.

According to the investigation, there were cramped cages, and dogs walking through their own waste, suffering from both physical and psychological neglect. Naturally, PetSmart terminated its adoption partnership with the animal rescue upon hearing the news report.

Whatever the reason for these conditions: understaffed and overwhelmed, forgetting or ignoring the needs of these animals due to out-of-balance priorities, or any of the other numerous reasons we see for sub-standard animal care, this serves as a reminder of the importance of getting to know the person or organization you get your pets from. Whatever breeder, rescue, business, or shelter you choose for your next pet, it is vital that you do your research, so can return home with your new companion confident you dealt with somebody who is competent and ethical. This is important for animals in general because you are supporting people who are doing it right — people who truly understand and care for animals; it is important for you and your pet specifically, because it increases your pet’s odds of a long, happy life with you and your family!

Owning a pet can be such a valuable, life-enriching experience; we talk so often about the importance of being a “responsible pet owner” because of the benefits this brings to your pet, to you, and to your community — but the focus is usually on the care and attention your pet receives after coming home. For potential pet owners and their communities, responsible pet ownership starts long before you get your pet!

Jan 23, 2015 - Animal Welfare    No Comments

Horse Rescue: No Fish Story

It’s always cool when somebody saves an animal from peril. And when that animal is a 1,200 pound horse trapped in the swimming pool, and it requires hours and the cooperation of firefighters, firefighters, a large animal rescue, and emergency management personnel… well, it’s not only cool, it’s the kind of story you can bug your children (and your children’s children) with for years to come.

Horse Rescued From Woodford County Pool

It’s great seeing so many people come together to help an animal like this. The cooperation, making sure both human and horse are safe, and in the end: success!

Definitely a nice way to ride out into the weekend.
Horse Riding

Jan 12, 2015 - Animal Welfare    5 Comments

Getting Help for Pet Owners Can Be the Most Humane Place to Start

Some unusual language and questions popped up in a recent article regarding the seizure of 71 dogs:

  • “Often when people get into trouble, animals get into trouble”
  • According to an obituary, Shirley Aguiar’s mother died in 2013, and, according to a customer of the couple, Ed Aguiar lost his job not long before that. But without hearing from the Aguiars directly, it’s impossible to say whether either of these events might have led to mistreatment of their dogs.
  • “I walked in and I said, ‘Shirley?'” Diane said. “It was so dirty, I didn’t even recognize her. It was like something happened and I don’t know if it was just a lack of money, but it was just unkempt.”
  • She said the puppy for the other customer was “covered in poo” and had to be washed. The difference between her two experiences with Aguiar, Diane said, was “so shocking.”

 

Oftentimes in animal seizures, the tone is sensationalist, focusing almost entirely on the treatment and conditions of the animals, painting the animal owner as some kind of heartless monster. Given the kind of clicks you can generate through heartbreak and outrage, it is easy to understand why so many news sources rely on that angle.

But the truth is often a lot more complicated. While there are people in the world who are simply cruel or careless toward animals, so often when you dig deeper into a case of animal abuse you find human beings who are in way over their heads: economic disaster, forced loss of or change in property, the onset of physical or mental illness, becoming caretakers to other family members, etc., etc.

When somebody who has always taken good care of their animals starts to slip up, it is easy to point fingers, to call them evil or greedy or incompetent. Taking the time to find out what has gone wrong, offering help and realistic solutions, and holding an intervention if necessary is more difficult, but can be the key to keeping animals happy, healthy, and in homes with the people they have bonded with.

It is so true that “when people get into trouble, animals get into trouble.” If somebody with a history of being a great caretaker for their animals is in trouble and you are concerned for their pets, seeing if you can get them help (as counter-intuitive as this may seem) should be the first step.

In some cases, getting help for the owners can be the most humane place to start.

 

Jan 5, 2015 - Animal Welfare    2 Comments

Animal Rescue & Shelter: NAIA Glossary Edition

With issues as complex and emotionally charged as animal welfare, simply having a meaningful conversation can be difficult at times. This is especially true in animal rescue and shelter issues, and it can be compounded when the words we use to discuss animal issues mean different things to different people.

So in the interest of clear communication, please take a few minutes to check out the NAIA Shelter Project website’s glossary — if there are ever any questions, it will let you know exactly what we mean when we say it!

Of course, there is more to the Shelter Project than the glossary! Dedicated to understanding shelter population trends, reducing euthanasia of adoptable pets, improving pet health and welfare, reducing infectious and zoonotic disease transmission, and fighting consumer fraud, it is the best source of animal shelter data around!

 

NAIA Shelter Project Glossary

 

Horse Carriage Ban: The Human Cost and Animal Welfare Misinformation

Two New York state senators, Democrats Diane Savino and Jose Peralta, have come out strongly against New York City mayor Bill de Blasio’s push to ban horse carriages. In a letter, they illustrate how the horse carriage industry provides great, unionized work for hundreds of people, that it is a major tourist attraction, and that it is safe and highly regulated — all very good things.

Bravo to Savino and Peralta for standing up and publicly recognizing the human cost of banning horse carriages!

But while this is an important message to get out, the anti-carriage horse activists will not be swayed by talk of jobs and tourism lost; their argument has always been that the horses are being treated cruelly.

This is a serious charge — we all love horses and want to see them treated well. So do these claims of abuse stand up to scrutiny? Not according to the experts who love and heal animals. In a letter to Mayor de Blasio from the New York State Veterinary Medical Society, they state emphatically that opponents of horse-drawn carriages are misinformed about the “inhumane” working conditions for horses, and that:

Carriage horses generally live a long life during which they are ensured regular examinations and treatment by equine veterinarians, live in structurally sound and safe stables, have adequate supply of food and water, and ample opportunities for socialization with others of their species. Existing New York City Regulations offer extensive guidelines that require ample rest periods, moderate driving paces, and protections from extreme weather conditions.

The equine practitioner members of the NYSVMS, both within the City of New York and elsewhere, have familiarized themselves with the conditions under which these animals live and work and find they are healthy, happy, well-fed and sheltered. They are the recipients of the best level of health care possible.

The American Veterinary Medical Association and American Association of Equine Practitioners have weighed in as well, and their accounts of clean stables with healthy, well-fed, and mentally sound horses are also very positive — a far cry from what the anti-carriage horse activists are claiming.

It is telling that people who take the time to visit the horses in their stables confidently declare them “happy and well-cared-for,” while people who have never visited the stables remain convinced that the horses are abused and suffering. Apparently, facts do not matter when you have already made up your mind.

Fortunately, most people do allow reason to shape their opinions. While jobs are obviously very important, it is also important we combat the misinformation about carriage horses that persists despite expert opinion and the facts!

Carriage Horse Central Park

Nov 19, 2014 - Animal Welfare    No Comments

The winner? The carriage horse, of course!

This may be last month’s news, but still worth a look:

Central Park horse carriage rated as better ride than electric car in Car and Driver magazine

As any city carriage driver could have told him, the buggies are surprisingly compact, light and make tight turns. When they’re pulled by one of the placid, experienced horses the drivers barely have to lift a finger to direct them. The hefty horses are adept at speeding up and slowing down their buggies, while the cumbersome electronic car couldn’t quite cut it in the city’s fast-moving traffic.

[…]

The aura of faded gentility, however, is part of what gave the horse carriage experience the most points: authenticity.

The e-vehicles lacked soul and history, Huffman said, and there’s no replacing that no matter how many bells and whistles a vehicle designer adds on.

Aside from the impressive tight turns, the environmental angle, the sense of authenticity and history, there’s something deeper to consider: the connection between horse and driver, the wonder of these incredibly strong and healthy animals doing what they love to do, and of course — the fun (which was ultimately the main reason the Car and Driver reviewer preferred carriage ride). You just can’t replace a good horse.

Definitely a fun little read — our only quibble is that it would have been nice for the review to cover the welfare of the carriage horses as well; the drivers are people who clearly adore their horses and treat them very well, and no matter how many experts speak to the excellent care and treatment these majestic animals receive, it always helps to have another voice countering the anti-horse carriage propaganda machine!

CarriageHorse

Aug 21, 2014 - Animal Welfare    No Comments

Animal Welfare is not Appeasement

“In a perfect world, we would not keep animals for our benefit, including pets,”

Animal rights proponent Tom Regan, emeritus professor of philosophy at NC State University and author of Empty Cages – March 3, 2004


When trying to understand the animal rights mindset, and why they are never satisfied with improvement in animal care and welfare, it is important to remember the above quote.

Because it has never been about humans taking better care of the animals they keep, it is about humans not keeping animals for any reason whatsoever.

So of course it comes as no surprise that SeaWorld’s Larger Killer Whale Habitats Fail To Appease Animal Rights Advocates

SeaWorldBelieveBlog

But the idea that they are trying to appease animal rights advocates misses the point. Animal welfare is not about appeasing ideologues and extremists who will never be happy with you. If that is what you make it about, you’re doing it wrong: the only form of appeasement that works with them is not to keep any animals at all.

Animal welfare is about making sure the animals you care for are not hungry, thirsty, or afraid. It is about providing comfort and preventing pain and injury. And (as in this case) it is about providing an ever-improving environment for them. Animal welfare is for people who actually care about animals.

These are the kind of things normal people care about, and these are the standards being addressed by SeaWorld.

Bolstering the Black Market in Dogs

A raid of a very disturbing breeding operation recently took place in Jacksonville, Florida.

Not only were the breeders selling people sick pets, they were deceptively operating under five different business names, operating without a license, illegally importing dogs from South America, and forging documents. A quick online search reveals numerous complaints from people who had bought sick puppies from them, as well. Dishonest, inhumane, the type of operation that sickens and enrages decent people everywhere.

Every time a breeding operation like this is raided, there are calls for new regulations to “put these awful people out of business.” The fact is, virtually all of the recent raids we have tracked at NAIA are of breeders who are operating like this: illegally without a license (when required) or inspections, or with lapsed license and serious prior violations (where were the follow up inspections?). If current laws aren’t being followed or enforced, what makes anyone think newer, stricter regulations will affect anybody other those who are already complying: licensed, transparent, inspected breeders?

We have taken our share of flack at NAIA for taking a “Why not enforce existing laws first, before passing new laws?” position. Some people confuse this with an opposition to all regulations. Without enforcement, you’ll never get rid of the bad guys (who couldn’t care less about animal care regulations), while knee-jerk legislative responses simply place additional burdens on those who are already complying with the law. Taken to its logical conclusion: in the end all you’ll have left is the black market.

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APHIS: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Real life makes for great movies.

Just in the last 5 years, moviegoers have been enthralled with Social Network, Secretariat, Black Hawk Down, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, all films based on real events. It’s tempting to conjecture that if the travails of the dog fancy over the last twenty years were ever made into a film adaptation, surely the movie would fall within the genre of a “spaghetti western.” Why? Because the line between heroes and villains is blurred, morality is flexible, and the remaking of an American tradition is happening before our eyes.

SpaghettiCowboy

With “spaghetti westerns,” Italian filmmakers repackaged the classic American western and influenced the way an entire generation looked at traditional stereotypes. In much in the same way, the animal rights movement challenged the public’s perception of all dog breeders by painting ethical ones with the same broad brush used to color substandard breeders. To hear radical groups say it these days, all breeders (good, bad or ugly) are responsible for pet overpopulation, the deaths of millions of shelter dogs, poorly bred dogs living in agony, and climate change.

SadDogFor years, images of caged and sad-eyed shelter dogs have beamed nightly into our bedrooms through our television sets, and the public responded with donations that have made at least one humane society very rich, indeed.

Entrusted to oversee the welfare of animals in the United States, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the Department of Agriculture received complaints from a public concerned about the humane treatment of pets bred in commercial facilities and sold in pet shops, especially those sold over the Internet, a venue never imagined when the Animal Welfare Act was written over forty years ago.

To handle these complaints and be compliant with the Animal Welfare Act’s original intent, APHIS responded in May 2012 with a proposed rule to narrow the definition of a “retail pet store,” and license and regulate internet-based breeders and sellers who acted as dealers. The agency invited comments for 90 days during which time it received 75,584 individual comments, 134,420 signed form letters, and 213,000 signatures on petitions submitted by groups supporting or opposing the proposed rule.

Ethical breeders, already battle weary from poorly written legislation affecting them, cringed at yet another regulation intended to target substandard breeders, but one that would probably impact them, as well. Nevertheless, they wrote letters, participated in conference calls, and were among the individuals who provided 70,000 signatures to a petition submitted by the AKC expressing concern over the future of responsibly bred dogs and small/hobby breeders.

And then they nervously waited.

When the final rule was announced during a USDA-hosted conference call on September 10th, the fancy felt its greatest fears realized. Despite a Herculean effort to inform USDA about the unintended consequences of a regulation aimed at commercial breeders, the final rule was virtually unchanged from the original language.

Hobby breeders were incredulous. How could this happen to them? They were law abiding. They spent countless hours reviewing genotypes and phenotypes before selecting a suitable breeding pair. They sacrificed to run health tests, slept in their dogs’ whelping boxes, carefully screened potential homes, and cried their eyes out when saying goodbye to a puppy they had raised.
As verbiage of the final document “sank in,” hobby breeders read it and found themselves mostly confused. How could they meet standards worded for breeders with different realities?

To the detriment of the hobby breeder, a last minute document posted by the USDA has gone largely unnoticed, and consequently, it’s done little to dispel the depression and outrage felt by the dog community. This document must be regarded by dog fanciers before they’re ready to “chuck it all in.”

In the finest tradition of a particularly popular “Spaghetti Western,” let’s review “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” of this new regulation, and the document which followed it, the Retail Pet Store docket.

The Good:
NAIA legislative director, Julian Prager, JD, reviewed the Retail Pet Store docket, a 91 page document intended to help clarify the USDA’s position of the new rule, and interprets it as evidence that hobby and residential breeders are exempt from its worst fears of regulation.

Of particular interest to hobby breeders is that while all dealers must be licensed by APHIS, not every breeder is a dealer. Key in determining whether one is a “dealer” or a hobby breeder is the purpose of the sale of a dog or a puppy.

  • If a breeding is done to maintain bloodlines or produce working dogs, a license is not required;
  • Shipping semen, a bitch, or an animal for breeding purposes does not require licensing.
  • Any number of breeding females may be owned as long as the sale of a dog or puppy takes place face-to-face, and the buyer, seller and dog are in the same place at the same time at the time of the sale or delivery of the dog, and the location of the transaction can be anywhere;
  •  The person who takes possession of the dog at the time of sale or delivery is the buyer even if they’re not the ultimate owner. This is important to know if the ultimate owner is sick, elderly or disabled and needs someone to act on their behalf;
  • The rule won’t limit the number of dogs one can own/co-own, breed or sell. It’s designed to regulate under the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) those who sell dogs as pets over the Internet or “sight-unseen.” Remember, this only applies to the dogs on one’s premises.

The reasoning for this language is one responsible dog breeders can get behind: When the Office of Inspector General audit found that over 80 percent of sampled breeders weren’t licensed under the Animal Welfare Act because they sold pets over the Internet (thereby claiming “retail pet store” status), the Department of Agriculture realized that this involved a lot of dogs. Tightening up regulations on Internet sales impacts the kind of breeders who hurt the ethical ones. Revising the definition of “retail pet store” brings dogs purchased through “sight unseen” transactions under the protection of regulation so that they receive basic standards of care. The buyer also benefits by personally seeing a dog before purchasing it and ensuring that it is healthy.

The Bad:
The ambiguity of the regulation on certain issues requires greater clarification:

  • The rule seems to indicate that if a dog is sold as a breeding prospect, to maintain bloodlines, or as a working dog (hunting, herding, or security, for example) a breeder is exempt from requiring licensure. If a dog is sold as a pet, however, a breeder isn’t exempt. It’s significantly important, therefore, that a breeder is able to demonstrate their purpose in selling a puppy, but how is this done, and what kind of “evidence” will be indicative of compliance?
  • Of concern is that this regulation might encourage a bit of  “creative” truth telling. If a breeder determines that a puppy isn’t a breeding prospect, they have the option of putting a limited registration on the dog to preserve the gene pool – but at the same time, they’ve now invited APHIS to investigate their sale because they’ve designated the puppy as “pet quality” and the new regulation stipulates that only “dealers” can market or sell or a puppy sold “as a pet;”
  • Further explanation is needed on the issue of puppies received in lieu of a stud fee or for the receipt of a puppy back from the sale of a female on a breeder’s terms. Although these don’t qualify for the exemption based on owning four or fewer breeding females and selling puppies born and raised on a breeder’s premises, APHIS might find their sale exempt under other provisions of the AWA regulations;
  • What about the sale of dogs whelped or born by C-section at a veterinary practice? As long as the dogs are sold in face-to-face transactions, this is, one supposes, a moot point – but who decides?
  • Leaving to an APHIS inspector the determination of what a “breeding female” is is entirely too subjective. Ideal breeding ages vary from breed to breed, and former show dogs are sometimes left intact by breeders who feel it’s the best interest of their dog to avoid surgery;
  • Breeders are now hamstrung from selling puppies to “repeat customers” living out-of-state, buyers with whom they’ve had a relationship because they previously owned a dog bred by the breeder and demonstrated themselves as ideal homes; Conversely, if an out-of-state buyer wishes to purchase a puppy from a breeder they’ve come to trust, their puppy will cost a lot more when additional travel and hotel expenses are factored in;
  • If one must open their home to an APHIS inspection, the regulation requires that the breeder be at home five days a week during business hours. This is problematic for the person who works or attends dog shows.

 

SpyFace
The Ugly:

  • The new rules expand the influence of USDA/APHIS at a time when the public is reeling from revelations of privacy leeks and admissions of government scrutiny of the private sector;
  • APHIS estimates that between 2,600 and 4,640 dog breeders will be affected by the new rule. It’s likely that more than a few will have to become licensed breeders in order to comply with the new regulation which is sure to generate additional income for APHIS. APHIS has suggested that even at the highest end of the cost of a license (an estimated $760 for a breeder with gross revenues in excess of $200,000), they point out that it’s still less than the price of many purebred dogs. Using their own figures and logic, however, that means that if one were to multiply the “high end” of the range of affected breeders (4,640) by $760, this is an additional income of $3,526,400.00 for the Department of Agriculture, hardly chump change even for a government agency. In that light, a cynical person might be tempted to think of another “Spaghetti Western:” A Fistful of Dollars;
  • During the USDA conference call, the answer to many questions posed was that APHIS officials would “determine [them] on a case-by-case basis.” Given human nature, this kind of ambiguity invites charges of potential shenanigans – preferential treatment, cronyism, maybe even potential pay-offs; It is an ugly thing to think, but there will be some who will think it;
  • APHIS has indicated that it will use various methods to access publicly available information to identify breeders they determine may need an AWA commercial breeding license. These methods include “reviewing” the marketing and promotional materials of breeders and Internet retailers. If breeders become fearful of non-compliance, if not government intrusion in their lives, what financial impact will this have on the sites of national breed clubs, the AKC or even pet-finder sites?
  • Given that there are former animal rights activists now in the employ of the USDA, law-abiding, ethical breeders feel vulnerable to the anti-breeder bias of people in high places, and with vague rules and a lack of specific guidelines in certain situation, there is real concern about discrimination;

As Don Miguel Rojo said in A Fistful of Dollars, “A man’s life in these parts often depends on a mere scrap of information.” There are dozens of nuances in this regulation that need to be clarified, and the NAIA will be reviewing them more in depth in the coming weeks.

~ Susi Szeremy, 10/11/13


A writer and editor by profession, Susi is also the creator of KnobNots pet safety signs, as well as the dog blog, DogKnobit. An owner/breeder/handler of Pulik since 1978, she is active in the dog fancy where she is a co-chair of Judges Education for the Puli Club of America.

Science explains why we can’t have a serious discussion about animal welfare…

How many topics of discussion can you think of where disagreements are as likely to become personal and vicious as animal welfare? One? Two? None? And have you ever wondered why, despite our ever-growing knowledge of animals and animal care, somebody changing their mind on an animal welfare issue — even when presented with concrete facts to the contrary — is such a rare occurrence? Well, wait no further — science may have just uncovered the answer…

It’s the insults, stupid:

In other words, it appeared that pushing people’s emotional buttons, through derogatory comments, made them double down on their pre-existing beliefs.

[…]

The emotions come faster than the “rational” thoughts—and also shape the retrieval of those thoughts from memory. Therefore, if reading insults activates one’s emotions, the “thinking” process may be more likely to be defensive in nature, and focused on preserving one’s identity and pre-existing beliefs.

This is why we can't have nice things.

Why we can’t have nice things.

Don’t believe the findings? Then how about next time you’re having a discussion online about animal welfare issues, you take a step back when the trolls arrive (this usually occurs within 2-3 minutes) and observe for yourself what happens once the fur and the slurs start flying. Do these attacks actually convince anybody of anything (“While I initially disagreed with your position on, I find your ad hominems oddly compelling…”), or do they only serve to “rally the troops,” put opponents on the defensive, and ultimately prevent any real discussion from occurring?

Ah, if only the well-reasoned and researched discussion of complicated issues were as simple and instantly gratifying as trench warfare with the trolls. Unfortunately, pummeling isn’t nearly so effective as persuasion. Science says so.

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