Aug 8, 2012 - Human-Animal Bond    1 Comment

Olympic Gold and Going (Home) to the Dogs

Over the last few weeks, Gabby Douglas has won two gold medals, been immortalized on cereal boxes everywhere, and endured two losses as well as grotesque criticism of her patriotism and hair (don’t you people have anything better to do?). Lots of highs, a few lows — it’s been an eventful period of her life, to say the least.

So when it’s all over and done, when she’s finally free, what does she look forward to most? Does she wanna go to Disneyland?

No, actually she’s looking forward to spending time with her dogs.

Good answer, Gabby!


When you deal with issues surrounding animal care and husbandry as often as we do, discussions about animals inevitably revolve around what we do for them. We look after their health and feed them the best food we can afford. We provide them with shelter and safety. We tend to their physical and emotional comfort and even come up with creative ways of keeping them entertained (“intellectually stimulated” if you prefer sounding like an android).

We argue about it a lot, too.

But it’s all about what we can and should be doing for them, about finding ways of doing it better. And that’s a good thing — but an unexpected reminder of how much animals do for us, the joy they bring and how deeply important they are to people… well, that’s an awfully good thing, too.


After conquering the world at age 16, what more could a young woman possibly look forward to? Why, quality time with the pooches, of course.

Aug 6, 2012 - Animal Rights    1 Comment

The world is petless! If you want it.

Gary Francione is something of an elder statesman for the modern animal rights movement. A legal scholar and one of the first abolitionists, he has taught animal rights theory since 1985 and written several books on the subject.

His abolitionist views place him at odds with the more incremental (and more successful) protectionist wing of the animal rights movement, but they also afford him the rare privilege of honesty when it comes to expressing his beliefs. You see, Francione doesn’t view animal rights as a series of goalposts where activists continuously pull on emotionally-charged, low-hanging fruit in order to gradually lull the public into adopting their code of behavior — a foie gras ban here, a ban of circus animals or guardian language there — and as such, there is no need for manipulation and obfuscation on his part. He’s not trying to trick anybody; he’ll let you know exactly where he is coming from, and what his goals are:

If, as a hypothetical matter, we changed the legal status of dogs and cats so that they were no longer property and they had a legal status closer to that of human children, would our continued production of dogs and cats (or other nonhumans) and our keeping of ‘pets’ be morally justified?”

My answer to this purely hypothetical question is “no.” We cannot justify the perpetuation of domestication for the purpose of keeping “pets.”

There it is in a nutshell. Of course, many animal rightists who are against the concept of pet ownership will assuage concerns by supporting the rescue of homeless animals, allowing adherents and uninformed supporters to fund and fuel the agenda while still keeping pets in all but name… but they almost inevitably leave out the part about what happens when all domestic animals are spayed and neutered, when all those homeless, needy pets finally find homes. Fortunately, Gary’s here to fill us in on the end game:

But if there were two dogs left in the universe and it were up to us as to whether they were allowed to breed so that we could continue to live with dogs, and even if we could guarantee that all dogs would have homes as loving as the one that we provide, we would not hesitate for a second to bring the whole institution of “pet” ownership to an end.

Nine out of ten humans agree: I make the world a better place.

Well, it’s definitely quoteworthy — and at least he’s honest! But it’s also not the most effective form of advertising, and case in point as to why the abolitionists have gained so little traction while the incrementalists have succeeded far beyond their earliest goals. After all, it is unusual to find somebody who doesn’t at least love the idea of sharing their home with a pet, even if the responsibilities are another story. To most people, a petless world would simply be inhuman.

Aug 1, 2012 - Animal Rights    8 Comments

The Wait and the Expectations: Feld Entertainment vs. ASPCA, HSUS, et al.

rack·et·eer

n. A person who commits crimes such as extortion, loansharking, bribery, and obstruction of justice in furtherance of illegal business activities.
 
intr.v. rack·et·eeredrack·et·eer·ingrack·et·eers
To carry on illegal business activities that involve crimes.

While it is not unheard of for bogus charges of animal abuse to be thrown out of court, last month’s ruling that Feld Entertainment can sue the ASPCA, HSUS, and other animal rights groups for racketeering was an overdue, and hopefully precedent-setting change.

Yes — apparently, it’s not OK to go to court with “essentially a paid plaintiff and fact witness” utterly lacking in credibility, and to raise funds with those misleading or false statements. A crazy notion, I know — who woulda thunk it? It’s kind of depressing that we need a reminder of these guidelines. Though considering the number of wild accusations and acts of character assassination we see from animal rights activists, it’s obvious this is a lesson that needs to be relearned.

The irony here, one that is often missed, is that Feld Entertainment spends more time and money on the protection and conservation of elephants than any animal rights group. If they win their suit, there’s a much better chance that the winnings will actually go toward helping animals.

 
Now, all there is left to do is wait. What are your thoughts and expectations for this trial?

Jul 30, 2012 - Pet Care, Shelter & Rescue    3 Comments

The Trendiest Pet?

A recent  Arizona Republic opinion piece suggests that we should view rescued pets as the new “high-end option,” that:

Taking one home gives you bragging rights in addition to a friend for life.

And it’s trendy.

It’s amazing how fast trends change nowadays. A few short years ago, everyone had to get a doodle mix so they could be just as unique as the rest of their Generation Y friends. Then along came the dog-as-purse-accessory. Remember that? But we’re so over it — the next big push for trendiness is, apparently, rescue pets.

Trendy Dog, circa 2009: in return for pampering, Gazoo provides valuable mascara warming services.

It should go without saying that getting a pet because it is the “cool thing to do” is a pretty awful idea. Whether doodle, purse dog, that purebred you just saw in a movie, or even a rescue pet, becoming a pet owner at the urging of an emotional twinge or desire for status decreases the chance of a positive outcome for all parties. Let’s say it again together for good measure: bad idea.

A realistic assessment of your ability to properly care for a pet over a lifetime and the pet’s suitability to your lifestyle should be the first, and most important considerations. If you’re seeking out a furry (or scaled or feathered) friend for life because you want something to brag about, something to win you points with your friends — sorry, but you’re doing it wrong.

If there absolutely must be a “trendiest pet” to brag about, why can’t it be that joyous companion — friend, clown, jogging partner, bacon-beggar, protector — who is chosen with careful research and foresight, who is properly and lovingly cared for his entire life? Now that kind of lifelong commitment and bond is something to be proud of.

 

Probation for Animal Transport Cruelty

Just a few of the 141 dogs found crammed in the back of Sheehan’s U-Haul

Bonnie Sheehan of the Hearts for Hounds rescue pleaded guilty to 14 misdemeanor charges tied to her January arrest, where more than 100 dogs were found crammed inside a U-Haul truck moving from California to Virginia. She received two years probation, a fine, and will not be allowed custody of any animals while on probation. Sheehan took responsibility for the abuse and decision to move the animals; all charges against co-defendant Pamela King-McCracken, a longtime Hearts for Hounds volunteer, were dismissed.

Reaction among animal lovers has been sharply divided. While the cramped, filthy trek itself is viewed with universal horror and disgust, opinions on Sheehan herself range from “It is tragic that such a well-meaning woman would make this horrible decision.” to “Put her before the Hague.”

Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, it is something we can all agree is a tragedy — something that we never want to see happen again.

 

May 18, 2012 - Animal Policy, Animal Rights    5 Comments

Indiana Supreme Court Says State Overreached in Dog Seizure

Earlier today, the Indiana Supreme Court said in a 5-0 ruling that the state (with the assistance of HSUS) overreached in seizing and placing 240 dogs over unpaid taxes.

For some background:

On June 2, 2009, Virginia and Kristin Garwood each were ordered to pay $142,367.94 in allegedly unpaid taxes from the sale of puppies at their Mauckport, Ind., farm.

When the Garwoods were unable to pay, Indiana State Police and Humane Society volunteers seized 240 dogs from the farm, including the Garwoods’ pets. All the dogs were sold to the Humane Society the next day for $300.

That last sentence, the little thing about them selling the dogs for only $300 is revealing; the raid obviously wasn’t just about collecting taxes…

Stay tuned — this is an incredibly important ruling, and we’ll be able to release a lot more information on this story next week.

May 14, 2012 - Animal Policy    4 Comments

A Bipartisan Fight Against Breedism

The good news? Maryland’s atrocious court decision declaring pit bull and pit mixes “inherently dangerous” is already being challenged legislatively, and by a very unexpected team:

A court’s apparent sense of “breedism” has led to an extraordinarily rare legislative pairing.

As the fallout continues over a Maryland Court of Appeals ruling that calls pit bulls inherently dangerous, two state delegates on polar opposite sides of the political spectrum are co-sponsoring legislation that would overturn the court’s ruling.

This quick turnaround is  incredibly important; since last month’s decision, landlords are already telling their pit bull-owning tenants they can’t keep their dogs. This means the loss of beloved family pets, shelters and rescues being overrun with dogs, as well as a financial hit for a state that is already facing economic struggles. When it comes to this legislation, time is of the essence.

And this is where the bad news comes in:

It appears unlikely that the legislation will receive a serious look from the House of Delegates, however. House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, is not expected to put on the agenda anything more than the state’s fiscal 2013 budget.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t at least try. ”Unlikely” and “unexpected” doesn’t mean “impossible,” and stranger things have happened. And if enough animal lovers speak up, legislators cannot help but hear.

Our sister group, the NAIA Trust, has released an alert on this issue. If you are a Maryland resident and a dog lover, here’s a chance to help make a difference. While the intent is simple and clear, the bill itself has not yet been officially released. However, a copy has been made available through scribd.com.

If you are able to make it, there is also a peaceful rally scheduled for tomorrow outside the capital in Annapolis from 2:30 to 4:30pm.

Help me grow up in a breed blind world!

 

May 9, 2012 - Animal Policy    1 Comment

United Airlines Lifts Breed Ban: Chipping Away at Discrimination

In a victory for common sense, United Airlines has lifted its ban on transporting nine breeds of dogs. Previously, the following breeds and mixes were banned from flying the friendly skies:

 Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Presa Canario, Perro de Presa Canario, Dogo Argentino, Cane Corso, Fila Brasileiro, Tosa (or Tosa Ken) and Ca de Bou.

Pet loving customers spoke out — loudly — and a company listened. Just think how this could apply elsewhere! What a great accomplishment for pet owners and their dogs, and also in the larger effort of chipping away at breed discrimination. Way to go!

Bongo Jumps for Joy
“Looks like I don’t have to learn to fly, after all!”

 

Investigative Journalism: Humane Relocation Edition

We are so grateful for two recent news investigations describing the insidious underbelly of humane relocation.* While we have been writing about this issue for years,** it is infrequently covered in mainstream news, and rarely with as much detail as in these two investigative reports.

First, in Atlanta, a humane society imports animals for adoption from as far away as the Bahamas, while just down the road, an overflowing municipal shelter kills over 60% of the animals it receives. Granted, definitions of “adoptable pet” vary greatly from person to person, and we accept that, but it is hard to believe none of these animals are fit for adoption. Ironically, this is the exact kind of situation where importation makes perfect sense for a humane society: there are animals in desperate need only a few miles away — just think of all the gas (and more importantly, lives) they could save if they worked locally!

Adopt Me Too!
Hey guys, I’m from next door. Don’t I deserve a home, too?

It may be that the majority of local dogs are older and less attractive to adopters than the ones that can be found out of state, but seeking out the most placeable animals is what you would expect from a pet store, not a humane society. To do its job effectively and honestly, to live up to its mission statement, a humane society must focus on all animals. Even the ones that might not be adopted right away. Especially the ones that might not be adopted right away.

In the case of certain northern rescues that import dogs and cats because pet overpopulation isn’t a local issue, you can at least see the logic behind their behavior, even if it would be preferable that they focus on the root of the problem. But why import from out of state — even out of the country — when there is a crisis in your own back yard? Especially given the limited resources available and the stated goal of helping the most animals in the most efficient way possible?

And this doesn’t even begin to cover the issues of disease transmission, deception, and heartbreak that come with humane relocation. Fortunately, they were all covered brilliantly in that other expose we mentioned, so we don’t have to here.

Unfortunately, these aren’t the only tales of woe from the world of humane relocation. It has been a serious problem for more than a decade; this is why we worked in Massachusetts to help local residents regulate importing rescue groups in 2005, why we created our Shelter Import and Reporting Model Law in 2009, why we supported Connecticut’s rescue importation bill last year, and why we are simply thrilled to see this issue finally being tackled head-on in the mainstream press.

 


* “Humane Relocation” is a term describing the importation of dogs from out of state or country for adoption — a practice often referred to by its detractors as “dog trafficking.”

** A short list of previous NAIA articles on this topic:

 

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.

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