Mar 9, 2015 - Animal Rights    14 Comments

What People Think of You Matters More Than the Facts

It doesn’t matter what is true, it only matters what people believe is true…. You are what the media define you to be

~Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd

Quick question. Say you work with animals and you:

  • have facts and expert opinion on your side demonstrating your commitment to animal welfare, and a high level of animal care.
  • have trainers who tirelessly advocate for and clearly love animals
  • put your money where your mouth is, creating an amazing animal care, conservation and health, and education center
  • manage to sustain the Western Hemisphere’s largest population of an endangered species

 

And say you go up against a movement that:

  • relentlessly attacks and smears your reputation morning noon and night while playing fast and loose with the facts and manufacturing scandal.
  • is not above using an “essentially paid plaintiff” against you in court
  • has its lead organizations pay millions of dollars (not toward animal care or conservation) to settle a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) case brought against them

 

In a world that made any sort of rational sense, you’d think victory would be a slam dunk. You’d think the public, the politicians, and the courts would join in a chorus and tell your opponents to take a hike — to actually do something useful with their time and donor money.

But that is not the world we live in; and the fact of the matter is that even when facts are on your side, if people are convinced you are cruel and greedy, you are going to lose. When politicians think supporting you is going to make them less popular — even though it is the right thing to do — you are going to lose.

Elephants in entertainment and Ringling Brothers in particular have been relentlessly attacked in the media by animal activists for decades. And as a result, if you were to take a poll of 100 people today, most would be aware of accusations against Ringling Bros., with a smaller percentage convinced they are the devil incarnate. Through constant repetition, it has saturated the public consciousness and simply become a part of how people think.

But of course precious few poll-takers would be aware of Ringling’s conservation efforts, or the groundless and unreasonable lawsuit against Feld Entertainment that led to the ASPCA, HSUS, and others to paying Feld tens of millions of dollars to settle a RICO case.

So should it be any surprise at all that after years of fighting, they finally just said “enough”?

This is a tragedy for everybody whose interest and passion for elephants — perhaps all animals — was sparked by the opportunity of seeing one of these magnificent creatures in real life, it is a tragedy for the Asian elephants themselves whose plight in the wild will now surely receive less effort and exposure, and it is a tragedy for the triumph of countless lies and smears from the animal rights lobby.

Let this be a warning to all of you who care about these issues, but tell yourself that facts, science, reason, and truth will prevail at the end of the day: because when it comes to your existence, if people don’t know or believe the facts, they do not matter. What matters is what the public thinks of you, how you are perceived, and what you are associated with. You are up against a relentless foe who does not care about reason or facts, one whose ultimate goal is your extinction. Science will not win against this onslaught, the only hope is to make sure people know who you are and taking charge of your own narrative. Whether you love purebred dogs or horse carriages, whether you are a farmer or a researcher or a hunter: when their campaign to destroy your animals, your hobbies, your livelihood comes to your doorstep, if everybody is already convinced you are beneath contempt because others were allowed to define you… it may be too late.

Support the groups who support you; if you don’t write your narrative, somebody else will!

Greatest Show on Earth

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…

 

Feb 27, 2015 - Animal Welfare    1 Comment

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!

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!

WEST DEPTFORD POLICE DEPARTMENT
WEST DEPTFORD POLICE DEPARTMENT

Dog Lovers Aren’t the Only Ones Who Can’t Wait for Westminster!

For many dog enthusiasts, the Westminster Dog Show is the most exciting and highly anticipated sporting event of the year. With a rich history dating back to 1877, top breeders and dog trainers from around the world work a lifetime for the opportunity to have their dogs recognized there.

Most of these breeders belong to AKC kennel clubs where they, along with other dog lovers, volunteer their time and work for the benefit of dogs, responsible dog ownership, and the preservation of their breeds.

They breed their dogs carefully, contribute to canine health by donating to scientific research and test their own dogs before breeding them… then test them again in the show ring.

In the world of dogs, to call Westminster a “big deal,” is a big understatement!

Of course, dog enthusiasts aren’t the only ones who eagerly await Westminster each year. Perhaps you have noticed that in the weeks leading up to Westminster each year animal rights organizations increase their attacks on AKC, purebred dogs, and dog shows exponentially — especially the larger, factory fundraising groups. This isn’t a coincidence: these guys love the Westminster Dog Show! Whether their appreciation comes in the form of carefully timed and targeted opinion pieces bashing the AKC, or more disruptive forms of attention-seeking, it is obvious that the animal rights crowd just can’t get enough Westminster!

And you know what? While we certainly don’t like it, we understand why they do it. Their fundraising and hence their very existence depend on exploiting (disparaging) the work of others. So even though they don’t produce any exciting, constructive, or entertaining events like the Westminster Dog Show themselves, they do know how to capitalize on its success; they’d be crazy not to grab on to the coattails of this, one of dogdom’s most important, venerable and visible events! After all, it is easier to get attention by inserting yourself into someone else’s picture than by doing something positive yourself.

Feb 11, 2015 - Animal Rights    No Comments

Just ‘Cause It’s Legal Doesn’t Mean It’s Ethical

Thank you to everybody who has signed our petition asking Outfront Media to pull PETA’s billboard! And if you haven’t done so already, please sign it today and share it with everybody you know who loves dogs and hates smear tactics (hint: that should mean a lot of people)!

Freedom of speech has few limitations in the United States — even the sensationalist, hateful speech practiced by PETA is protected by the first amendment. That’s why it is so important for companies to draw distinctions between business practices that are legally allowable and ones that are ethically sound.

PETA’s misleading advertisement is intended to hurt dog breeders (specifically, AKC breeders) right before a major dog show takes place.

Help us turn this around. Exercise your freedom of speech now by signing our petition. Doing so will help us save our dogs from destructive groups like PETA with agendas that serve no one but themselves.

Petition Link

Feb 5, 2015 - Education    No Comments

Compassion Fatigue: It Happens to the Best

Here’s a thoughtful article about compassion fatigue as an occupational hazard for veterinarians, its contributing factors, and suggestions for combating it.

Compassion fatigue is defined as:

fatigue, emotional distress, or apathy resulting from the constant demands of caring for others or from constant appeals from charities: “compassion fatigue experienced by doctors and nurses.”

It is most commonly applied to (human) healthcare practitioners and individuals who have gone past the point of saturation with pleas for and/or sensationalist tragedies, but it doesn’t take a leap to see how it could affect veterinarians as well. Long hours, stressed and occasionally abusive owners, not being able to save every animal — even a labor of love can be emotionally taxing.

When we published “Burnout: The Monster in the Rescue Closet” back in 2003, which dealt with the stress, anger, and guilt that can accumulate in those who devote their lives to rescue, it was amazing how many readers wrote us to say “That’s ME in that article!” and gratifying to hear how Vicki DeGruy’s suggestions helped people find balance in their life while still helping animals.

The existence of compassion fatigue (or more simply: “burnout”) has been known in the medical community for a long, long time (it was officially diagnosed way back in the 1950s), so it is doubtful there will be a flurry of epiphanies among veterinarians as there was among people in the rescue community 12 years ago. But the above article is important for spreading awareness to people outside the field. As an outsider, when you see somebody who is intelligent, capable, and lucky enough to be pursuing their life’s dream, it can easy to dismiss the emotional toll of their job.

VeterinaryCare

 

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!

 

ExeterBob

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

Death Threats for Bow Hunter: Can You Feel The Love?

How do animal rights activists show appreciation to an amazing person who teaches kids hunting and other outdoors skills?

Oh, by sending them death threats and vicious insults of course!

Because what could be worse than getting kids off the couch and off their phones to teach them responsible hunting, conservation, and sparking a lifelong respect of the outdoors? Yes, what a horrible, horrible woman indeed!

We kid, we kid! We think passing on these skills to the “next generation” — especially when so few have regular (or any) exposure to nature — is a pretty great thing!

For more: here’s a radio interview with Jen Cordaro, where she explains why she started #BringaKidHunting, the skills and values that are learned (the virtues of patience and delayed gratification especially!) and the importance of educating kids about hunting and weapons safety.

Hunting

Jan 30, 2015 - Animal Science    No Comments

Potential Seen in Late-Stage Rabies Treatment

We don’t hear a lot about rabies in the United States. Post-exposure treatment is the norm (which has close to 100% success rate if administered promptly — always before symptoms appear), and human deaths from the disease are extremely rare.

And that’s great. If you live in the United States.

But if you live in, say, India, rabies is a very serious and far-too-common disease, especially for the young and poor.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are more than 200 million stray dogs worldwide and that every year, 55,000 people die from rabies, while another 15 million receive post exposure treatment to avert the deadly disease. 95% of these cases occur in Asia and Africa, and 99% of the fatalities are caused by dogs.

And to make matters worse, once symptoms appear, it’s too late: the victim virtually always dies.

But what if you could treat rabies once symptoms appear? That’s what scientists at the University of Georgia are working on. Working with mice to develop new treatments, they have managed to save 50% of the mice beyond the “cutoff point” of neurological symptoms appearing, and they are just getting started:

“This is only the beginning of our work,” said co-author Biao He, a professor of infectious diseases at Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “While these preliminary results are very exciting, we are confident that we can combine this new vaccine with other therapies to boost survival rates even higher and rescue animals even when symptoms are severe.”

Again, here in the U.S. it might not seem like a huge deal, but in parts of the world where contact with rabid animals is commonplace, this could be a huge — think 55,000 huge — lifesaver. What amazing work these people are doing!

“There is an urgent need in many parts of the world for a better rabies treatment, and we think this technology may serve as an excellent platform,” said study author Zhen Fu, a professor of pathology at the college. “Ultimately, we just want to try to save more lives.”

Just how many lives can a mouse save?

Just how many lives can a mouse save?