Apr 24, 2015 - Animals and Culture    No Comments

If You Want to Improve Animal Care, Offering a Hand Is Better than Pointing Fingers

Upon seeing an animal that appears neglected or abused, the first impulse for many people — and frankly, a natural one — is to lash out at the owner. Pointing fingers and calling the owners horrible people, demanding that they be thrown in the stocks and their animals confiscated, or worse. I’m sure you have heard it all many times before.

But lashing out in anger, while cathartic, does nothing to address any underlying issues that may be affecting the owner. Very few people are truly cold-hearted or abusive when it comes to animals, especially the ones they personally know and care for. But there are lots of situations where life gets out of control… and when that happens, animal care is sadly one of the first areas to suffer.

Here is BC SPCA senior investigator Kent Kokoska explaining that issues of animal neglect and abuse can be a lot more complicated than they appear from the outside:

“It might a mental health issue, there might be a physical injury or compromise to the animal owner, or it might be a financial compromise,” Kokoska told Daybreak Kamloops’ Shelley Joyce.

[…]

“One or any combination of those can cause a situation to slide for an animal’s care.”

Kokoska said most of the complaints involve neglecting the animal — and sometimes education can make the difference in the animal’s welfare. Part of the education effort is marking Animal Abuse Prevention in B.C. on April 23 each year.

“A lot of people aren’t aware and bringing that awareness to people and some options, that’s the first step to making a positive change.”

 

Many animal owners take proper care of their animals, and there is an unfortunate (but thankfully small) percentage of people who simply shouldn’t be allowed around animals at all. For everybody else, working to gain an understanding of the situation, offering education, options for improvement, and a chance to be a good owner should always be the first step.

 

Apr 23, 2015 - Animal Policy    22 Comments

Irresponsible Dog Importation and Illness: an Expert Speaks Out

In the wake of the Midwest canine flu outbreak that has sickened more than 1,100 dogs, we are getting the straight talk we need about dog importation from a canine influenza expert:

“We have absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, proof that a foreign animal disease has been imported into the U.S.,” Dr. Ed Dubovi said. “I don’t think anyone can look at this situation and say we’re protecting our animal population the best we can.”

[…]

“My concern all along was that someday this virus might make its way here,” he said. “We don’t know how it happened, but it certainly could have come from a dog or a cat. There are multiple international groups who are rescuing dogs from the meat market in Korea and shipping them into the U.S., and we have sketchy quarantine requirements if any at all. Restrictions on the movements of companion animals across borders are somewhat nonexistent.”

Irresponsible importation is an issue we have been concerned about for years. For those who have dismissed or downplayed this threat, the statements from Dr. Dubovi should serve as a wake-up call.

Now the question is: how can these words translate into action?

Saving the lives of dogs is a noble goal, nobody will argue with that. But when good intentions lead to illness and even death, you’re doing it wrong. Try telling somebody who lost their beloved pet that “it’s the thought that counts.”

Humane rescue operation importing large numbers of dogs from the Middle East, 2006. Photo courtesy of Sheryl Shapiro, CDC New York Quarantine Station.

Humane rescue operation importing large numbers of dogs from the Middle East, 2006. Photo courtesy of Sheryl Shapiro, CDC New York Quarantine Station.

Apr 21, 2015 - Animal Law    No Comments

Uber accused of refusing to transport service animals

A federal judge told the ridesharing company Uber that it must defend against a discrimination lawsuit after its drivers were accused of refusing to transport service animals.

Some of the accusations paint an extremely troubling picture:

In one instance, the lawsuit states, two blind passengers with service animals were met with cursing and shouts of “no dogs” from an Uber driver who refused to admit them. Another time, a driver allegedly stashed a blind woman’s dog in the trunk then ignored her pleas to pull over once she’d realized what had happened.

Talk about callous disregard…  if allegations are proven true, it will take a long time to remove those stains from the company.

Uber has 14 days to respond. The Justice Department has already weighed in on this issue, and stated:

“The ADA applies to private entities that are primarily engaged in providing transportation services,” even if a company is not a public accommodation, said the filing by Justice Department lawyers and U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag’s office.

We strongly support service animals and the people who need them at NAIA, and will be keeping a close eye on this case.

Apr 20, 2015 - Animal Rights    5 Comments

When animal rightists speak… and remove all doubt

Animal rights activists co-opted Holocaust Remembrance Day last week, and it provided a window into the warped psyche of those who subscribe to the “rat is a pig is a dog is a boy” philosophy:

Co-opting Holocaust Remembrance Day in the name of animal rights is an offensive game of equivalency, and these moral comparisons have always been soundly — rightfully — rejected outside of the small circle of animal rights true believers (remember the reception to PETA’s “Holocaust On Your Plate” exhibit?).

But while the words and behavior are outrageous, hurtful, and anti-human, you have to admit: every time the animal rightists open their mouths and articulate what they really think, it serves as an important reminder of how twisted this seemingly warm and fuzzy movement truly is. It also brings to mind a helpful proverb of questionable attribution:

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.

So while we condemn the animal rights message, we also say “Please — do keep talking. Let the people know what you’re really about.”

 

Is your canine an URBAN good citizen?

Earlier this week, the American Kennel Club announced its new Urban Canine Good Citizen Test. This was announced without a ton of fanfare, so we will forgive you if you missed it, but it is definitely worth checking out! Like the original Canine Good Citizen program, the urban version recognizes responsible pet owners and their polite, well-trained dogs, with a focus on the challenges of an urban environment:

“City dogs require a very special set of skills, including waiting to cross a street, ignoring food tossed on a sidewalk, behaving in building lobbies and riding elevators,” said Mary Burch, Ph.D., Director of the Canine Good Citizen program.  [also: former NAIA board member and writer!] “Urban CGC reinforces practical, everyday skills for the millions of dogs living in urban areas today, creating safer, more responsible communities.”

Lifestyles and culture are always changing. 100 years ago, it was not uncommon for dogs to live outdoors most, if not all of their lives, and dog ownership was primarily for the very rural or the very wealthy. Today, those dogs are sleeping on their owner’s beds, and dogs being walked down a busy city street is a regular occurrence. What a great time for a program like the Urban Canine Good Citizen — and a great chance for dog owners to become ambassadors for responsible pet ownership!

You don’t need to be interested in having a “title” for your dog, you don’t even need to live in a big city. Simply having a well-behaved dog that is not frightened or distracted by their environment, that can safely and confidently walk past both human and dog on a busy sidewalk is a big win for everybody. For your dog, for you, and for your entire community!

There can be a lot of distractions and challenges for a little dog in a big city!

There can be a lot of distractions and challenges for a little dog in a big city!

 

 

Apr 16, 2015 - Shelter & Rescue    No Comments

Arson Threats for Putting Down a Dangerous Dog

In Wisconsin, police have stepped up patrols near the Elmbrook Humane Society, after it began receiving threats for euthanizing a dog.

The dog was a large, handsome fellow named Jim. Expressive eyes, gentle and well-behaved behind the camera, but he began exhibiting signs of aggression after being adopted out. He had several biting incidents, was declared a “vicious dog,” returned to the shelter and adopted out again, and eventually hurt somebody to the point stitches were required.

Now, should Jim have been adopted out in the first place? Or the second? Possibly not the first time, probably not the second, but that is a whole ‘nother blog, and we don’t have enough details for anything other than a general statement on that. But what we can say for sure is that in the end, the shelter was forced to make a hard, but responsible choice with Jim… for which they received threats.

jimPic

Jim (Photo: Elmbrook Humane Society on Facebook)

What is wrong with this picture? Nobody (with the possible exception of PeTAwants to euthanize animals. The Elmbrook Humane Society prides itself on its live release rate, and really went to the mat for Jim. When you have done your best for a dog that has bitten on multiple occasions — finally to the point where medical attention is required — you have to put the interest of future adopters, of the public first. As heartbreaking as it can be for an otherwise healthy dog to be put down, there are many, many other animals who can be safely and responsibly adopted out, who would just love a new forever home.

Yet instead of accepting that sometimes painful decisions need to be made, instead of inquiring about those other non-bitey animals, there are now people threatening to burn the shelter down. Whether or not the threats are credible, whether or not the shelter is actually in any danger, this is just nuts, folks.

Apr 15, 2015 - Animal Policy    2 Comments

Asian Canine Influenza Outbreak: A Reminder of the Importance of Responsible Animal Transport

An outbreak of canine influenza* in the Chicago area has killed six dogs and sickened 1,300. It comes from a strain of the virus that has previously only been seen in Korea and China.

We do not yet know the specific source or the scenario that led to this outbreak, but regardless, it is a painful reminder of the importance of responsible animal transport (especially in regards to importation), and why we support it so strongly at NAIA.

Of course there are no guarantees in life, no way to ensure that your pet will never come down with an illness, but employing responsibility and accountability when transporting animals — something that is, unfortunately, not always standard operating procedure — is a great way to improve those odds for everybody’s pets.

Our hearts go out to the families who lost pets due to this illness, and we wish a speedy recovery to all who were affected!

 

 

*while this is referred to as “Asian Dog Flu” it can affect cats too!

Apr 10, 2015 - Animal Policy    No Comments

Academic Study: NY Carriage Horses are Stress-Free

So did you read the news that an expert in equine medicine tested New York’s carriage horses, and discovered their stress levels are probably lower than yours or mine? That work doesn’t raise the stress or angst of these magnificent animals — that they are living pretty darn contented lives?

If not, hopefully you have now!

Of course this won’t affect the opinion of anybody in the anti-carriage horse brigade — their minds are made up and impervious to dissent (and when faced with irrefutable facts, they’ll just move the goalpost). This information won’t affect the opinion of anybody who supports carriage horses, either — it merely confirms something we have long known:

“Like many New Yorkers I could see that joy and vigor in their eyes. Now we have scientific proof as well.”

But for everybody else, studies like this are meaningful. Horses and humans have been partners for thousands of years, and most people can look at a carriage horse and just know on a general level that the animal is content. But without data to back up our perceptions, it can be written off as just that: a perception — a feeling. Well, here comes the back up!

Anti-carriage horse activists have been telling the public and legislators to “ignore your lyin’ eyes” for years — that we need to trust them when they insist these animals are miserable and unhealthy. And unfortunately, along the way, they have managed to convince some people that they are right. Data like this lets us respond with authority; it lets us say “Sorry guys, but our eyes were working just fine all along… these carriage horses are indeed happy, healthy animals!”

The carriage driver appears to have remarkably low stress levels as well.

The carriage driver appears to have remarkably low stress levels as well.

 

 

Bipartisan Agreement in Maine: Go Away, HSUS!

In Maine, even Democrats and Republicans can agree: “wildlife management laws should be determined by scientists and protected from emotional campaigns bankrolled by out-of-state interest groups” (read: HSUS).

Yes yes, we know: allowing scientists to determine wildlife management is crazy. Wouldn’t want pesky things like facts, expertise, and personal experience shaping our policies, now would we?

Just kidding. At NAIA, we want wildlife management policies shaped by experts rather than anti-hunting activists. We’re totally cool with that. It’s the anti-hunting activists who want this debate settled entirely through emotion and advertising dollars (remember when their coalition threw a hissy fit last November, and tried to prevent the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife from stating their opinion on the [failed] anti-hunting referendum?).

It is great to see sanity alive and well in Maine. We will be keeping a close on this story as it develops.

Apr 6, 2015 - Shelter & Rescue    No Comments

Are You Helping or Enabling? Know Who You are Supporting!

Several months ago, a Florida woman, realizing her wildlife rescue was “not sustainable,” began taking in domestic animals in an effort to appeal to donors… sadly, the end results were not pretty:

Faulseit and another woman were charged with animal cruelty. Officials found more than 60 cats, dogs, raccoons and an opossum living in their own filth, without food and water, at Faulseit’s St. Petersburg home.

She adopted many from the Hillsborough County shelter and was selling others at a local pet store, possibly for profit, but police say it’s hard to prove.

As we pointed out on Friday, social media can be a great tool for shelters and rescues to find homes and help animals. But there is always a flip side to consider: it is also a tool that enables people who are overwhelmed (and often unable to stop themselves) or unethical to grow and continue their operations.

It is awesome that you can take two minutes and make a few clicks from California to help an organization in Florida — we love that! But getting to know who you are working with through their history, references, or (best of all) visiting them yourself is a must if you want assurance your donations are making a positive difference for animals.