Jul 23, 2014 - Shelter & Rescue    No Comments

Supply, Demand, and Puppy Progress.

In Duluth, Minnesota, demand for puppies now outstrips the number available for adoption in rescues and shelters. This is great progress, accomplished though outreach and education, and mirrors patterns seen in many other American communities over the last two decades.

The celebration does not come without its share of frets, however:

Some worry, though, that without more adoptable puppies in the system, families inadvertently are being funneled into using puppy mills and other forms of unethical breeders.

Of course all animal lovers would like to see puppies come from only the most humane and ethical sources possible, so this concern may seem valid at first glance (indeed, in a perfect world, all puppies would come from conscientious breeders, live their entire lives with loving, responsible owners, and there would be no need for rescue at all), but if you think about the statement for a moment, it really begins to collapse in upon itself.

After all, if there were still enough adoptable puppies in the system to meet demand, that would be an indication that all the wonderful hard work that has gone into owner education, spay-neuter efforts, and making adoption a viable and appealing option for so many families had fallen short. Simply put: if you do have enough adoptable puppies to meet demand, there are still a lot of people in your community producing litters who shouldn’t be. This isn’t responsible, and it certainly isn’t good for the welfare of dogs. Unless the goal is to sell puppies, not having enough is a pretty darn good “problem” to have.

Perhaps hard to believe, but in some settings, too few puppies is actually a good thing...

It may be hard to believe… but in some settings, too few puppies is a very, very good thing!

 

There are countless reputable, responsible breeders, just as there are countless reputable, responsible rescues and shelters. Whether a potential owner chooses a breeder or a shelter as their source, our hope is that they do their homework and support the best option available.

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?

Jul 17, 2014 - NAIA Conference    No Comments

NAIA 2014 Conference ~ Early Bird Admission Still Available

Hi all!

It’s that time of year again, that special time when we start gearing up for our annual conference and reminding folks that there is less than one month remaining for early bird admission!

Times are changing, if you aren’t actively helping to shape the direction and philosophy of animal welfare, you will find yourself left behind. If animals are an important part of your life — whether you are a professional, hobbyist, or simply an animal lover — this is the event for you.

As always, our conference will be chock full of presentations from world-class scientists, trainers, and conservationists, as well as hands-on workshops to provide you with valuable tools you can use to take control and shape your future.

Actively shaping your future is vital: if you’re not at the table, you’re on the table!

Stay tuned for more details on speakers and workshops in the coming days.

Our conference is at the Doubletree by Hilton in Orlando, Florida, with early bird admission available through August 15th

Click the image below for flyer.

SaveTheDate2014Small

 

 

Jul 15, 2014 - Shelter & Rescue    No Comments

You Don’t Have to Be Perfect…

You’ve seen those cute “You Don’t Have to be Perfect to Be a Perfect Parent” PSAs from AdoptUSKids, right?

If you have, and if you are like us, you immediately re-imagined them from the angle of  pet adoption.

We are all fallible; there is no such thing as a “perfect pet owner,” but we do believe there are more than enough perfect matches out there, more than enough perfect homes available for all adoptable pets.

Coming from this belief, the question becomes: how can rescues and shelters screen potential owners to maximize chances of that “perfect match?” Where is that ideal middle ground between the extremes of insulting, arbitrary reasons not to allow adoptions, and shipping animals hundreds of miles, then simply handing them off to strangers in a parking lot?

Our hats are off to all who strive to find that balance, to all who understand that great homes come in many different varieties — or to steal a line from those PSAs, that understand “you don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect pet owner.”

Potential adopters have been turned down due to age, but there are now forward-thinking programs that match seniors with pets

Hopeful adopters have been turned down due to age, but there are now several forward-thinking programs that match seniors with pets

Jul 10, 2014 - Pet Care    No Comments

How Much Goes in to Teaching Our Pets?

In an opinion piece a few days ago, one of our favorite people, Ken Ramirez,* had some strong words for the importance of training pets:

“Saying you do not have time for teaching, is like saying you do not have time to feed an animal. One part of the cornerstone for humane and ethical care for animals falters if you do not include teaching.” 

Reading into Ramirez’s quote, one could infer that a person is starving their pet by not training them. Does this sound severe to you? Perhaps, but when it comes to a pet’s mental and emotional well-being, by denying them knowledge and tools they can use to function properly with their human owners, it inevitably lowers their quality of life and weakens their bond with us. Of course a pet cannot live without air, food, water, and shelter, while they may survive to old age without any training, but who wants their pets to simply survive?

An oddly familiar triangle.

 

Take failure to housebreak as one of the most basic of basic examples: it creates more work and health hazards in the home, while fostering resentment from the owner (even though housebreaking is their responsibility), and possible confusion and anxiety from the dog who senses the owner’s frustration.

Would quality of life be higher and the human-animal bond stronger if a routine were in place, and the pet understood the very simple concept of where not to go? Of course it would, and this is but one of the lowest benchmarks in a pet’s training: just consider how many more aspects of our lives are improved by training, by teaching our pets how to properly navigate and cooperate in the homes we share with them?

There are countless news pieces out there telling  us the billions of dollars Americans spend on their pets’ food, toys, beds, even spas and masseuses, and it is great that people care so much! What is harder to track is how much pet owners invest in training. If you are reading this, you are probably an “animal person,” understand its importance, and consider it a high priority — but for pet owners as a whole, what do you think the average investment in time, effort, and dollars is?

No, this is not a trick question.


 

* NAIA Conference attendees may remember him from his informative and spirited presentation in Denver a few years ago.

Jul 9, 2014 - Animal Policy    12 Comments

So we’re gonna outsource dog breeding too?

We have long known that when it comes to dogs, the term “pet overpopulation” is a misnomer, and that we’ll most likely be facing a shortage of dogs in the near future — more potential owners than there are dogs available.

For the millions of American households that won’t feel complete without the companionship of the “family dog,” this could be a serious problem. So how do we head off this impending shortage at the pass? Well, one blogger has an idea! Just import them from foreign puppy mills!

Yes, I’m serious. Of course, the author does suggest raising standards to make them humane and respectable:

[...] we should look at an alternative strategy, which was employed by the high-end coffee industry, where American interests (private and non-governmental organizations) work with foreign organizations and countries to institute basic humane standards for animal welfare as it applies to breeding of dogs. Rather than an import ban of questionable utility (given all of the ways that commercial breeders/distributors can sneak dogs over the border in large volumes), why not target four to five countries and provide them with tools to enforce meaningful animal welfare standards and best practices?

You can be sure that dogs imported into the United States for resale will not be flying first class.

You can be sure that dogs imported into the U.S. for resale will not be flying first class.

People love animals, and they are going to get pets from one source or another. Nobody is questioning that. So the challenge of meeting that demand with dogs from humane, responsible sources is very real.

But just think about what it means that somebody is suggesting — with a straight face (we assume?) — going into countries with virtually no animal welfare standards, instituting “basic humane standards for animal welfare as it applies to breeding of dogs,” then putting those puppies through the stress of being shipped into the United States, and calling that part of a solution. This might work for coffee beans…

NAIA opposes the importation of dogs into the United States for resale, and finds the notion of sourcing our dogs from foreign breeding operations to be ludicrous.

We have to ask if the author really believes that the breeding of pets domestically, raising standards where need be, and sourcing dogs locally is so taboo that mass importation from foreign, large-scale kennels actually sounds reasonable? Or is this the work of a provocateur — the author just softening us up with an assault on the senses so great that we’ll be receptive to something that makes sense in the next installment?

At least for the first question, let’s hope not.

To assure the future availability of healthy, humanely raised pets in the United States, we need to look closer to home. Contact us at NAIA for solutions!

Jul 2, 2014 - Pet Care    No Comments

Hot, hot, hot!

It’s already been a hot week, and in many U.S. cities the temperature is expected to go over 90 degrees Fahrenheit today. How are your pets holding up?

Are they staying hydrated? Do they have a safe, shady place to cool down? What about limiting exertion and keeping paws off of hot pavement (and for heaven’s sake, no “quick” trips to the store with the dog left in the car)? Are you staving off boredom with games and training/mental exercises for your pets?

When activity has to be limited due to heat, it can be an opportunity to engage your pet's mind with basic obedience commands, such as "sit," or "stay." Looks like she has the "stay" part down already.

Oh, so you got it covered? OK great… but where’s your habitat pool?*

There, now that should do the trick. Looks like the elephants at the zoo have the right idea.

 


* special note for science and progress enthusiasts: while these shots are cute, they pale in comparison to what is currently being built. Come back in 2015 for a much more impressive pool — state of the art, 50 feet wide, 10 deep, filtrating 160,000 gallons of water several times a day, that all 8 of the zoo’s elephants can enter at the same time!

Jul 1, 2014 - Animal Policy    1 Comment

Police, Dogs, and a Happy Ending (For Once)

Some activists claim that a police officer shoots a dog every 98 minutes, while people in law enforcement often call dog shootings a rarity, and lament the fact that there is never as much (if any) outcry when a person is shot. Where does the truth lie? There are currently no accurate nationwide statistics available for police officers shooting dogs, but we know  it does happen, and any time it is avoidable, it is too often. Last weekend, there was a protest in Salt Lake City, Utah over the shooting of a Weimaraner inside a fenced yard, and earlier this year in Filer, Idaho, things became heated enough to spur a recall effort (which failed), after a police officer shot a disabled man’s dog during a child’s birthday party.

Stories like this are far too common, but negative interactions between law enforcement and dogs are not the rule, and the stories that cause outrage get the most attention. While often late in coming — typically a reaction to pets being tragically killed — more and more and we are seeing police receive training in non-lethal methods of dealing with dogs, and just a few days ago we get this story

After responding to a residential burglar alarm Thursday morning, Sgt. Gary Carter and Officer Heather Gibson were flagged down by some residents walking in the 400 block of North East Street who reported that a dirt-covered, white pit bull was chasing them in an “aggressive” manner. “This dog is so vicious, please get him,” one woman reportedly yelled to the officers.

If you are the type who follows police/pet encounters in the news, you are probably holding your breath right now, given what is typically reported, but what happens next is, quite frankly, adorable:

Carter and Gibson coaxed the hungry and thirsty canine into a patrol car with a protein bar and some head scratches.

Getting some pets from the police

Had the officers been frightened by the dog’s dirty appearance or apparent breed type, this could have ended very differently. Certainly it helps that Sgt. Carter is a dog lover, but even if he nor Officer Gibson had a history with dogs, Arlington has safeguards in place:

The Arlington Police Department implemented mandatory training two years ago to help officers identify the difference between aggressive and nonaggressive animals and know how to respond in situations when a dog is inside a home or roaming freely in a neighborhood.

People in the neighborhood were scared and calling for help, saying the dog was “vicious” and “chasing” them. The officers, who had received the mandatory training recognized that the dog was in fact, merely dirty and hungry, and deescalated the situation in a humane, touching manner. Sometimes, it just takes a little bit of knowledge to save a life; we hope to hear more stories that end like this as more police officers receive training in how to properly deal with domestic animals.

The Dog Aid My Homework

Most kids love dogs, but not all kids love reading aloud. For some children, reading in front of adults or peers makes them extremely anxious or embarrassed, and can contribute to them falling behind in reading fluency — a very dangerous road to go down.

A student who can’t read on grade level by 3rd grade is four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does read proficiently by that time.

But again: most kids love dogs. So here’s where Ghost, a champion show dog and great listener comes into the story.  Ghost’s owner Dawn Eliot-Johnson brings him to Harrison Elementary School every two weeks, where third and fourth-grade students read to him as he dutifully listens (and often sleeps) while curled up beside them. Ghost, along with many other dogs across the country perform this duty for kids who could use a bit of help reading aloud, and it’s not just a fun break from classroom routine… it works!

Kids who were once too shy or embarrassed about their skill level to read out loud are blossoming. They know that Ghost just wants to listen to a good story — no criticism, no corrections. It doesn’t take long for fear and anxiety to go out the window.

The idea is simple: it’s a privilege to read to a dog. Instead of reading aloud while focused on avoiding mistakes, they’re reading to an adoring, completely non-judgmental audience. Reading becomes a positive, rather than nerve-wracking experience; they gain confidence and an enjoyment in reading, which in turn improves comprehension and fluency. The dogs love it, too: it takes a special, gentle dog who doesn’t just tolerate, but truly enjoys children to thrive in this setting. And as a side-benefit, it also serves as a great opportunity to teach children another life-skill: how to behave safely and respectfully around dogs. Win-win!

Dogs are great listeners!

Dogs often make the best listeners!

Having kids read to pets to avoid anxiety and fear of judgment by adults or peers is not a new tactic — groups like R.E.A.D. and Reading with Rover have been around for years, but in case there are still any doubters out there, research is now demonstrating an improvement in reading fluency, showing that they’ve had the right idea all along.

The world of animal welfare can be such a battlefield at times, it would be a shame not to look up from the trenches from time to time to celebrate great ideas like this!

Jun 27, 2014 - Animal Rights    No Comments

It Was Never About the Quality of Care

A recent story about a natural foods market’s run in with a local activist neatly illustrates the point that when it comes to the animal rights mentality: that it’s never really about the level of care, but ending animal use by humans altogether (and yes, this includes owning pets).

Of course many people don’t realize this, so when Local Grocer owner Heather Chase put together a class on how to ethically raise and process chickens (naturally, including information on how to slaughter them), and became the target of an animal rights campaign, it probably seemed odd to some onlookers. After all, aren’t the animal rights folks always campaigning against people who don’t ethically raise animals? Why on Earth target a “sustainable,”  “beyond organic” operation? Well, for the answer to that, simply refer back to paragraph one: because it’s not about the level of care; in there eyes there is no such thing as “ethical meat.”

Since becoming a target, animal rights activists have harassed the Local Grocer owner, given her store negative online ratings, and their ringleader has received a no-trespass order. All small potatoes in the scheme of things, but a clear and timely example that no matter how high your standards are, no matter how well you treat your animals, it is not enough.

“Why not do it the best way we possibly can?” said Chase.
But Slitt says she wants to challenge the idea that there can be “humane meat” and “sustainable animal agriculture.”

This is an important point to remember for everybody who lives with and works with animals: whether you farm, breed dogs, run a lab, or simply enjoy owning pets, the end goal for the animal rightist is not to improve you, but to stop you.

So keep treating your animals as well as you possibly can, take pride in the knowledge that you are ethical and caring and have given your all, and make sure you are operating on standards you agree with, standards set by people who actually work with animals, not those opposed to animal use altogether.

You just know that somehow, some way, somewhere, somebody is utterly convinced that this puppy is "suffering."

No matter how you frame it, somehow, some way, somewhere, somebody out there is utterly convinced that this puppy is “suffering.”

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