Jan 26, 2015 - Shelter & Rescue    1 Comment

Concerns About Dog Trafficking Go Mainstream: NAIA Rejoices

Midway through another report on a northeastern shelter importing nearly two thirds of their dogs to meet the public’s demand for pets, we came across this comment from a representative of the AVMA and rejoiced:

There are no federal laws regulating the state-to-state transport of animals for adoption and that has some animal welfare advocates worrying about pet trafficking and the spread of diseases. Dr. Martha Smith-Blackmore, Chair of the Animal Welfare Committee for the American Veterinary Medical Association and Vice President of animal welfare for the Animal Rescue League of Boston, says guidelines should be developed by veterinarians to ensure the welfare of transported animals.

“There are people who would take advantage of people’s desire for a puppy and so there are some organizations that are simply bringing up truck loads of puppies because they can be sold – even a mutt – can be sold for $400, $500, $600 hundred dollars,” said Dr. Martha Smith-Blackmore.

It is so great to hear somebody from the AVMA say this. Dog trafficking is a topic we have long been passionate about at NAIA, and for numerous serious reasons:

  • The emergence or reemergence of communicable diseases into new areas from sick dogs
  • Adoptable local dogs being displaced  — maybe not as small or cute as the dogs coming in, but they need homes too!
  • Unknown, non-communicable diseases in adopted dogs
  • Temperament issues
  • It sustains the myth of pet dog overpopulation, rather than the far more nuanced and regional population issues we face today.
  • A general lack of transparency
  • Transports that don’t (and don’t have to) follow the humane transport laws that govern others who ship large numbers of dogs
  • Ethical questions raised: are some transporters “profiting off the misery” of source areas with overcrowded shelters by moving a few “choice” (i.e. easily adoptable) dogs, while doing nothing to reduce or end the problem of unwanted adoptable dogs at its source?
  • There are also, coincidentally, a large number of pets stolen from source areas, a concern that is tied to “a general lack of transparency.”

We have been beating this drum for more than 15 years. In 2003, when NAIA was quoted in a front-page USA Today article on humane relocation, people called us crazy (and worse!), but concerns have gone mainstream as the public has become more educated and experienced negative consequences.

 For further reading:

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

Nonsurgical Pet Sterilization: With Great Power…

Another day, another story about nonsurgical pet sterilization.

This is always exciting news. A one-time injection would be so much simpler than surgical sterilization: non-invasive, painless, easier for both animals and the people who care for them.

The vast majority of owned pets in the United States are already spayed or neutered, but the majority of strays and animals taken in by rescues or shelters are not (think: feral cats) — and they need to be sterilized before being released (TNR) or adopted out. It is easy to do the math and see how this could make life easier for everybody.

Of course, if sterilization becomes as easy as administering a shot, it is just as easy to do the math and see how this could be a bad thing in the hands of an overzealous or immoral person.

As always, exciting news that should be tempered with an ounce of caution. As a great philosopher once said: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Cat Outdoors

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 9, 2015 - Animal Rights    5 Comments

Chock full of compassion… unless it’s for your own species

If you’ve ever read an article covering a contentious animal issue, you’ve seen them in the comments section: hateful slurs, accusations, even wishes for ruination or death. There are a whole lot of really nasty comments, the vast majority coming from self-proclaimed animal lovers — you know, the “compassionate ones” who are against hunting, animal research, breeding animals, eating meat, etc.

For example, it is probably normal to feel that a man injured by an animal he was hunting has received a bit of poetic justice. However you feel about hunting, it’s not an unusual reaction (you can bet the man’s friends are going to give him a hard time about this later). But when you take it further, and start celebrating the hunter’s misfortune, wishing the injuries to the man will prove painful and eventually fatal… well, that’s not exactly kind, is it?

Wisconsin columnist Heather Stanek, accustomed to seeing comments like this, used to think it was just coming from the Internet’s chorus of trolls, but…

But the more I read, though, led me to a terrible realization: None of these people were trolls. They were saying what they meant, what they felt. And clearly, they believed that it’s OK for a person to suffer and die.

Yes. And it is not uncommon. You really have to wonder how anybody claiming to feel so much compassion and sympathy for animals can go ice cold (or even feel disdain) when it comes to their own species.

Sika Deer, Cervus nippon

Seized Pups Returned: Change on the Way?

Remember that story we talked about last week where a man was arrested for “illegally breeding Bulldogs” without a $25 license? Where instead of a clear explanation of the law followed by a warning or citation, eight beautiful (and completely healthy) puppies were snatched away from their rightful home?

Well, we are happy that we can say the puppies were all returned to their home yesterday!

In response to this fiasco, Alderman Harold Beadling suggested making changes to the breeding ordinance, saying “I think we can craft a much better ordinance than what we have,” and hey — we couldn’t agree more!


When it can take weeks to see official action taken on a shivering, short-haired dog, kept outside virtually 24/7 during a cold snap, yet you have people lining up from all around the country to help seize puppies that are in no imminent danger, you really do have to wonder where people’s heads are, if not their hearts.

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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.

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

 

Jan 2, 2015 - Shelter & Rescue    9 Comments

Starting 2015 with Long-Needed Conversations

NAIA President Patti Strand spoke on two extremely important animal welfare issues in recent NPR articles:

 

We strongly believe that having a serious, factual, and civil discussion about these issues will result in the improved welfare, health, and retention of pets everywhere. We are thrilled to kick off the new year with vital issues like these!

 

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Dec 30, 2014 - Animal Policy    6 Comments

(Puppy) Theft Under Color of Law

If what we are hearing is true, the family that had eight puppies confiscated after being arrested for “illegally breeding Bulldogs” will be getting them back. Reaction to this “theft-under-color-of-law” has ranged from incredulous to outraged, though many of us familiar with the politics of animal extremism were sadly unsurprised.

But at the end of the day, reason may indeed win in Waukegan.

The family at the center of this story is a young couple, who by all accounts were taking proper care of their puppies. There is no evidence of cruelty to animals or that they were deceiving their buyers. Their sin was not obtaining a $25 breeding license and offending the sensibilities of somebody who saw they had puppies for sale on the internet.

For the family, we are heartened, and hope for a happy ending to this ordeal. We are also delighted (and thankful) at the education, pressure, and shaming that has come forth from so many quarters of the responsible animal community (check out some of the comments here!). But at the same time, the setup of these dog owners and confiscation of their puppies shines a searing light on those whose zeal causes them to see any and all sorts of animal breeding as a sort of “puppy mill.”

This is major story for anybody who keeps animals, who breeds animals, who cares about animals — or simply anybody with a lick of common sense and belief in the rights of their fellow citizens. We will keep you updated as the story develops!

 

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