Aug 17, 2015 - Shelter & Rescue    1 Comment

NAIA Perspective on No-Kill Philosophy in the News

In a Garden Island article on euthanasia and the no-kill philosophy last weekend, NAIA president Patti Strand weighed in on the consequences of focusing on numbers over real solutions:

If [the Kauai Humane Society] were pressured to “have better numbers,” Strand said it would be impossible to do so without ample funding and effort to fix the symptoms. And that’s something she said can’t be done overnight.

“What happens is the value of saving the life of the dog is valued more highly than the value of protecting an adoptive family from a dangerous dog,” Strand said. “It’s this idea that, ‘’Gee whiz, I’d like to save this dog and he’s only nipped someone once,’ that can have real consequences.”

One of the best examples comes out of New Mexico, where the Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department last year permitted more than 100 dangerous dogs to be adopted by families or returned to them after they failed nationally recognized behavioral tests.

The result was tragic: Dozens of these dogs killed or injured other pets, bit children, attacked their owners or displayed otherwise aggressive behavior.
“All across the country, dangerous dogs that should not be adopted out to the public today and wouldn’t have been adopted out 10 years ago are being adopted out,” Strand said. “The reason is this idea that there are numbers every shelter should be hitting, and it’s not that black and white. Not every community is ready to be no-kill. It’s not a switch that can just be flipped.

“I’m absolutely in favor of the wholesome goal that’s attached to the no-kill label, but you have to look below the surface to see how it’s being applied.”

As always, the focus should be striving for the best possible standards of care — in home and in shelters — on cooperation, public education, and outreach; improvements in “the numbers” will flow naturally from those goals and improvements.

There are now many communities in the United States with open-admission shelters that do not kill for lack of space — this was considered “impossible” 40 years ago, and speaks to the tireless efforts of education and outreach, changing culture, and improved standards of care

Obedience Event Added to Next Year’s Westminster Dog Show

Next year’s Westminster Dog Show will be adding an obedience event, and we think this is pretty cool!  Obedience training is a great experience for dogs and their owners — and not just for the sake of competition and titles; obedience training is a fantastic positive experience for dogs and their people that brings with it lifelong benefits.

A well-trained dog is the kind of dog that other people will be as delighted to see as you are. And dogs so often live to please — all that positive energy a “good doggie” receives means so much to them! Furthermore, training provides your dog with positive activities that stimulate them mentally and physically. Dogs have a need to interact with their people and to be entertained. Like people, they can get bored. What better way to improve the bond between you and your dog than activities that will improve both of your lives!

While an obedience title takes a lot more time and effort than many owners are able to commit to (which is fine!), it’s still fun to be a spectator at obedience events, and we love that this display of such a valuable — and at its most basic level, highly practical — skillset will now be part of the highest-profile dog show in the U.S.!



Aug 11, 2015 - Animal Science    No Comments

Cat Eyes, Sheep Eyes, Measures and Countermeasures

If you’ve ever wondered why cat’s eyes look so cool, check out this explanation that covers both predator and prey:

We found animals with vertically elongated pupils are very likely to be ambush predators which hide until they strike their prey from relatively close distance. They also tend to have eyes on the front of their heads. […]

In contrast, horizontally elongated pupils are nearly always found in grazing animals, which have eyes on the sides of their head. They are also very likely to be prey animals such as sheep and goats.

Why is this? Essentially, modeling shows that vertically elongated pupils allow a predator the ability to judge distances without moving its head, thus giving prey fewer opportunities to notice its approach. At the same time, prey with elongated horizontal pupils and eyes on the sides of their head are able to see nearly the entire area around their bodies, providing them with a keen early warning system against predators.

Pretty neat stuff — definitely worth reading about!

Vertical elongated pupils assist predators in ambushing... horizontal elongated pupils assist prey in spotting  (and hopefully escaping) ambushes!

Measures and Countermeasures



Aug 3, 2015 - Animal Science    2 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    1 Comment

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?



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!


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: