Browsing "Animals and Culture"
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.”


This is more like it.

Apr 24, 2015 - Animals and Culture    No Comments

If You Want to Improve Animal Care, Offering a Hand Is Better than Pointing Fingers

Upon seeing an animal that appears neglected or abused, the first impulse for many people — and frankly, a natural one — is to lash out at the owner. Pointing fingers and calling the owners horrible people, demanding that they be thrown in the stocks and their animals confiscated, or worse. I’m sure you have heard it all many times before.

But lashing out in anger, while cathartic, does nothing to address any underlying issues that may be affecting the owner. Very few people are truly cold-hearted or abusive when it comes to animals, especially the ones they personally know and care for. But there are lots of situations where life gets out of control… and when that happens, animal care is sadly one of the first areas to suffer.

Here is BC SPCA senior investigator Kent Kokoska explaining that issues of animal neglect and abuse can be a lot more complicated than they appear from the outside:

“It might a mental health issue, there might be a physical injury or compromise to the animal owner, or it might be a financial compromise,” Kokoska told Daybreak Kamloops’ Shelley Joyce.


“One or any combination of those can cause a situation to slide for an animal’s care.”

Kokoska said most of the complaints involve neglecting the animal — and sometimes education can make the difference in the animal’s welfare. Part of the education effort is marking Animal Abuse Prevention in B.C. on April 23 each year.

“A lot of people aren’t aware and bringing that awareness to people and some options, that’s the first step to making a positive change.”


Many animal owners take proper care of their animals, and there is an unfortunate (but thankfully small) percentage of people who simply shouldn’t be allowed around animals at all. For everybody else, working to gain an understanding of the situation, offering education, options for improvement, and a chance to be a good owner should always be the first step.


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!



Mar 2, 2015 - Animals and Culture    No Comments

A Cryin’ Shame: You Can’t Always Believe What You See

When you see an image of an animal suffering, it evokes an emotional response. You feel empathy and want to ease the animal’s pain. And if there is somebody in charge of caring for that animal who could have — and should have — prevented the animal’s suffering, it is natural for you to feel angry and frustrated with them. When somebody agrees to the responsibility of owning an animal, subjecting that animal to neglect or cruelty is a huge betrayal.

Advertisers and animal activists have known this since forever, and used our empathy to their advantage. Can’t blame them — it certainly adds to the impact and urgency of the message. The only problem is, sometimes the picture doesn’t tell the whole story.

Case in point from last week: Clarksville crying dog video, petition spur death threats.

Two dogs lying in the snow in a fenced-in area, crying out with no shelter. There might even be a third, possibly deceased dog in the frame! And the cruel owners are nowhere in sight. How could you not be enraged? Naturally, people signed the petition and expressed disgust — and some went way out of line and even threatened the dog owners.

But what was the reality?

CPD and Montgomery County Animal Control have both investigated and found that the video did not convey anything resembling the reality of the situation.

The dogs had heated shelters (out of sight of the video, which gave the impression there were none), and food and water were placed on elevated surfaces.

Additionally, the two dogs are Husky mixes, bred to withstand temperatures far below anything experienced in Clarksville this winter.

And the third, possibly dead “dog” was actually a piece of cardboard. The person who took the video had full sight of the property, and must have known they were not portraying reality. It is hard to believe this was not a willing deception. But the video of these “agonized” dogs was still posted, and a family terrorized and made into villains. Whatever the reason for posting this video — seeking attention, misanthropy, or an “ends justify the means” activist mentality, it did nothing to ease an animal’s suffering. It caused anger and sadness in viewers without reason, and brought misery to the dogs’ owners.

The adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” refers to the notion that a complex idea can be conveyed with just a single still image. It also aptly characterizes one of the main goals of visualization, namely making it possible to absorb large amounts of data quickly.

It’s true — a picture is worth a thousand words, but be careful before you round up the villagers, before you grab your pitchforks and torches: what you see may not tell the whole story.

Sad Cat

Is she sad? Starving? Mourning the loss of a companion? Getting ready to pounce on her favorite kitty toy? With images like this, with so little context available, the answer to this riddle depends on the story you are trying to tell…


Tribute for a Great Dog

Dare you to read this story without getting choked up:

New Jersey K-9 Judge given hero’s goodbye before he is euthanized

Judge, a 9-year-old Czech German shepherd with the West Deptford Police Department, was euthanized Friday as more than 90 police officers gathered to honor him one last time.

Judge’s excellent service is a testament to how much his people meant to him. Judge himself, and the tribute he received, serves as a testament to how much animals mean to us. And his euthanasia after a long struggle with Cushing’s Disease, is a reminder of how fleeting our time with the animals we work with and care for and love can be. What a great dog!


Imposter Service Dogs! Fiesty Comfort Animals! (It Only Takes a Few Bad Apples)

When somebody brings their untrained “comfort animal” to a place pets are not typically allowed and the inevitable disaster ensues, our first reaction is often a grin, because — lets’ face it — these stories can be pretty amusing. Unfortunately, tales of out-of-control comfort pets and fake  service animals also have a very real insidious effect: people start questioning the legitimacy of the service animals they come across.

This is especially troubling for the growing number of people without visible disabilities or injuries who receive assistance from service animals, or those with non-standard service animals (e.g. a Chihuahua), who are more likely to feel the “raised eyebrow” that questions their honor and legitimacy.

Service animals are quite simply, amazing, and the Americans With Disability Act recognizes and protects the essential role service animals play in our society:

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), privately owned businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities, are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires these businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed.

We follow animal trends at NAIA, and while we can safely say there is no epidemic of out-of-control comfort animals and imposter service animals, it is definitely a growing issue that we take seriously, and one we will work to find positive solutions for!



Exeter, a service dog trained by CCI, helps Bob cope with the physical and emotional symptoms of Huntington’s disease.

Jan 6, 2015 - Animals and Culture    No Comments

Research: Having Pets Improve Social Skills of Children with Autism

We knew that pets can help children develop a sense of empathy, teach responsibility, improve literacy, and a whole host of other neat things… but how about this:

Children with autism who live with pets may be more likely to develop assertiveness and other social skills, according to new research from the University of Missouri

That’s right: the unbridled, goofy joy a pet gets from playing with his human isn’t just fun but therapeutic! Well that’s a pleasant surprise — kinda like finding out there are health benefits to chocolate.

While dogs (in particular, small dogs) were the stars of the research, any type of pet was better than no pet at all — and in some cases more suitable for specific children due to sensitivities or energy level.

So, not that you needed another affirmation on the human animal bond, but it is always good to see another story reminding us of what a truly precious and amazing thing it is! Very cool indeed.

Children with Autism Who Live With Pets Are More Assertive from MU News Bureau on Vimeo.

Aug 1, 2014 - Animals and Culture    No Comments

Dog Attacks in a World Without Common Sense or Accountability

Recent dog attacks, one that left a jogger dead and a second that resulted in a child being mauled by three dogs highlight issues that we have been studying for a long time: enforcement of animal control laws, and rescue gone wild.

In the case of the jogger’s tragic death, one of the dogs involved had been in a prior attack, with the victim suing the owners, making one wonder how these dogs could still be running free. Could the jogger’s death have been averted by enforcing the law? According to our resident legal expert and NAIA board member, Julian Prager, “Based on the reported information, proper reporting and enforcement of existing Michigan law could have prevented more attacks.”

But as the woman who sued for being bitten in 2012 pointed out, the owners still have not even put up a fence around the yard, as was stipulated in her lawsuit. Had the owner been forced to comply with just that one small measure, we wouldn’t be talking about this story today.

As for the young boy, he was mauled by three vicious dogs that had escaped from a nearby rescue. Thankfully, he survived and is recovering. But disturbingly, his family states:

At least one of the dogs that attacked Colby had been surrendered to animal control by its owners, because of its “dangerous and vicious nature.”

If it is true that animal control knew the dog was vicious, but still released it to the rescue, we must take a moment to weep for the death of common sense. Do incidents like these need to become commonplace before something is actually done?


Jul 18, 2014 - Animals and Culture    No Comments

Whatever you do, don’t click on this link! (click)

Do you spend an inordinate amount of your online time clicking on pictures, videos, and stories about abused, homeless, ill, or injured animals? If you do, you may be suffering from an addiction to “grief porn!”

Emotionally manipulative (and unafraid!), you know you will be a wreck after you click on the tale of that brave, homeless kitty or a beloved pet’s last day on Earth, you know it is going to haunt you… but you click anyway, and are of course utterly destroyed by it (yet somehow, between sobs, you manage to share it with all your friends, too).

And if you’re like a lot of people, the next day, you repeat the cycle.

Not sad enough! We need more clicks!

Not sad enough! We need more clicks!

Being affected like this is nothing to be ashamed of. We have empathy; we are heartbroken and outraged when animals are mistreated (this is why so many animal rights campaigns are long on images and short on facts). There are also at least 101 variations on the “Don’t trust a man who doesn’t like dogs/animals” theme out there — caring for animals is part of being human, and if you don’t, you are suspect. So it makes sense — but animal “grief porn” seems to becoming more and more common. What does the growth mean? According to the author of the article:

I get a sense that our sharing of grief porn amps up in times when much of the world events and politics are betraying our basic human beliefs of kindness and how we should treat others.

And perhaps we are clicking and sharing sad stories about animals at a rapid rate, in order to prove that we’re still compassionate — even though we are struggling to prove it in any kind of practical, tangible or political way.

Do you buy this explanation? Could it be as simple as that?

Where do urban chickens go when they’re done laying eggs?

When an urban chicken’s egg-laying days are over, she might become dinner, she might live out her life as a pest-eating pet, or she might even be moved into a  “retirement home” for aging urban chickens.

A far-fetched idea in decades past, the poultry-retirement home’s existence serves as a reminder of the growing popularity of urban farming,* the need for animal owners to plan ahead for the lifetime of their animals, and a portrait of the “livestock-as-pet” phenomena that probably occurs more often than many farmers admit.

Do you keep chickens? And if so, what are your opinions on a “retirement home” service like this?

Stella the friendly urban chicken, one of NAIA’s regular subscribers.

* Portland, Oregon has more than 26 times the number of urban chicken permits today as it did twelve years ago.