Aug 15, 2014 - Animal Policy    No Comments

New USDA regulation: a boon to public health and safety

The USDA’s new health requirements for dogs properly limits dogs from being imported into the US from foreign countries and territories for resale. These dogs, which are often sold from the back of vans in parking lots and adopted from rescue groups often come from parts of the world where humane standards are non existent, and where diseases and parasites eliminated in this country long ago are still prevalent. Many dog traffickers will figure out a way around this law (thousands are being smuggled across the Mexican border into the US each year) but at minimum it will serve as a warning to the people who now peddle these dogs to an unwitting public.

This is big news and we are thrilled at NAIA. Imported dogs pose serious health threats to US animals and people, and we have long supported reasonable import regulations and enforcement as part of a solution.

 


Note: this will not affect the ability of individuals to import dogs for their own use; this affects only dogs brought into the United States for resale.

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Aug 11, 2014 - Animal Policy    No Comments

Summer 2014 Animal Policy Review

The Summer 2014 Animal Policy Review is now live, and can be found on naiaonline.org here:

NAIA Animal Policy Review, Summer 2014

This edition’s top stories:

  • Dog rescues and animal shelters risk public health and safety
  • Charity watchdog dings HSUS after $15 million settlement
  • Circus $25 million, animal activists zero in fraud and racketeering case
  • NAIA conference information: Those who aren’t at the table are on the table!
  • Carriage horses and drivers face extinction in NYC

 
Animal Policy Review Summer 2014

Aug 1, 2014 - Animals and Culture    No Comments

Dog Attacks in a World Without Common Sense or Accountability

Recent dog attacks, one that left a jogger dead and a second that resulted in a child being mauled by three dogs highlight issues that we have been studying for a long time: enforcement of animal control laws, and rescue gone wild.

In the case of the jogger’s tragic death, one of the dogs involved had been in a prior attack, with the victim suing the owners, making one wonder how these dogs could still be running free. Could the jogger’s death have been averted by enforcing the law? According to our resident legal expert and NAIA board member, Julian Prager, “Based on the reported information, proper reporting and enforcement of existing Michigan law could have prevented more attacks.”

But as the woman who sued for being bitten in 2012 pointed out, the owners still have not even put up a fence around the yard, as was stipulated in her lawsuit. Had the owner been forced to comply with just that one small measure, we wouldn’t be talking about this story today.

As for the young boy, he was mauled by three vicious dogs that had escaped from a nearby rescue. Thankfully, he survived and is recovering. But disturbingly, his family states:

At least one of the dogs that attacked Colby had been surrendered to animal control by its owners, because of its “dangerous and vicious nature.”

If it is true that animal control knew the dog was vicious, but still released it to the rescue, we must take a moment to weep for the death of common sense. Do incidents like these need to become commonplace before something is actually done?

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Bolstering the Black Market in Dogs

A raid of a very disturbing breeding operation recently took place in Jacksonville, Florida.

Not only were the breeders selling people sick pets, they were deceptively operating under five different business names, operating without a license, illegally importing dogs from South America, and forging documents. A quick online search reveals numerous complaints from people who had bought sick puppies from them, as well. Dishonest, inhumane, the type of operation that sickens and enrages decent people everywhere.

Every time a breeding operation like this is raided, there are calls for new regulations to “put these awful people out of business.” The fact is, virtually all of the recent raids we have tracked at NAIA are of breeders who are operating like this: illegally without a license (when required) or inspections, or with lapsed license and serious prior violations (where were the follow up inspections?). If current laws aren’t being followed or enforced, what makes anyone think newer, stricter regulations will affect anybody other those who are already complying: licensed, transparent, inspected breeders?

We have taken our share of flack at NAIA for taking a “Why not enforce existing laws first, before passing new laws?” position. Some people confuse this with an opposition to all regulations. Without enforcement, you’ll never get rid of the bad guys (who couldn’t care less about animal care regulations), while knee-jerk legislative responses simply place additional burdens on those who are already complying with the law. Taken to its logical conclusion: in the end all you’ll have left is the black market.

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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!

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