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.

Apr 3, 2015 - Shelter & Rescue    No Comments

New Life for a Little Lost Dog: Someone’s Doing It the Right Way

We wanted to head into the weekend on a positive note, and as if in response, immediately came across this story about a little lost dog with a tumor on her face who was picked up by Waterford-East Lyme Animal Control in Connecticut: Tumor Removed from Dog Is Benign: Animal Control

Hey, “it’s benign” is some of the best news you can get (well, next to having no tumor at all, of course), but what we want to draw attention to is the process, the responsible, humane, and cooperative way this situation was handled:

  • A roaming dog (now named “Mookie”) is picked up by Animal Control, and nobody comes forward to claim her
  • Mookie has a tumor on her face; removing it cannot be paid for with funds given to the town or Animal Control, so a call for donations is made, with those funds going directly to a local animal hospital (Goodfriends Animal Clinic) that will perform the procedure
  • Animal lovers step up to the plate and cover Mookie’s medical expenses
  • Along with getting the tumor removed, she is spayed, has her teeth cleaned, gets her rabies shot, etc. — this girl really gets the “full treatment!”
  • Biopsy of the tumor comes back “benign,” with little chance of it growing back
  • Now, through cooperation between Animal Control, Goodfriends, and generous animal lovers, a little lost dog now has a shot at a great life!
beforeAndAfter

Before and After

The people who love animals, the ones who make a difference quietly doing the right thing day after day really don’t get enough credit — but we love outcomes like this, and are more than happy to point out their good work!

Have a great weekend!

Apr 2, 2015 - Animal Law    No Comments

“Fake Service Dog Bill” Advances

In Florida on Monday, a “Fake service dog bill” advanced in the senate.

Much of this bill is just a restatement of the Americans with Disabilities act, but it adds two criminal offenses:

The bill would make interfering with the disabled and their service animals a second-degree misdemeanor, carrying penalties of up to 60 days in jail, up to $500 in fines and 30 hours of community service for an organization that serves people with disabilities or another entity, at the discretion of a judge.

Under the bill, the same crime and penalties would apply to pet owners who lie about having a disability and falsely claim that their pet is a service animal.

While NAIA has not taken an official position on the bill, we do laud its goals.

With more service animals assisting people with invisible disabilities than ever before, and a growing number of pet owners who feel entitled to bring their companions anywhere and everywhere (and with easy access to vests, harnesses, and other paraphernalia that make their pets look like service animals), it is easy to see why there have been so many recent collisions at this intersection.

But even if it is easy to understand, there is no good reason to harangue somebody with a service animal… just as there is no excuse for falsely declaring your pet a service animal. While people with fake service dogs aren’t acting out of malice, and may not think they are doing anything wrong, their actions hurt the very people who most need the calm, reliable assistance these amazing animals provide.

ExeterBob

 

Apr 1, 2015 - Animal Policy    2 Comments

Placing Dangerous Dogs Undermines Everybody

From an alarming article by the Albuquerque Journal:

In more than 100 cases last year, the Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department has allowed [aggressive] dogs to be adopted by families or returned to their owners even though they flunked nationally recognized standardized tests that showed the animals had dangerous tendencies.

One dog was so aggressive he couldn’t be tested, but was still adopted out. Some volatile dogs were even taken to the Lucky Paws adoption site in Coronado Center.

These are among the explosive allegations in a complaint filed with the city’s Office of Inspector General by the Animal Welfare Department’s second-in-command and its behavior specialist, who said Monday she has resigned out of frustration and alarm for the community.

Go ahead and read the entire article then come back. It’s important. We’ll still be here.

UnfriendlyPup

——-

We have written about mission creep in dog rescue and sheltering before, and its unintended consequences (disease, dog bites, how it actually enables irresponsible breeding practices, etc.), and this is as prime an example as any.

These allegations are simply stomach churning. When ideology trumps duty like this, it undermines everybody: the public, responsible rescues and shelters, behaviorists and others who work to rehabilitate dogs (done responsibly, many dogs with behavioral problems can be rehabilitated and placed with appropriate owners), and of course the dogs themselves. In the end, it always comes back to the dogs. If we had a dollar for every time good intentions untethered from knowledge (or basic reality) ended up hurting the dogs they were meant to save, we’d have more funding than HSUS…

So just how on earth is the public going to trust an Animal Welfare/Animal Services/Animal Control department if it has a record of adopting out vicious dogs that lunge after children or kill other pets? Dogs that were too aggressive to even take behavioral tests? Who, exactly, are they looking out for by allowing these dogs to be adopted? Certainly not the people whose communities they are being trusted with!

But they are also doing an incredible disservice to dogs and the rescue community, as well. Shelters and rescues have done a great job over the last few decades of marketing themselves as the place to get your next pet. Numbers from one of our recent surveys show that respondents believe the healthiest, best-tempered dogs come from rescues or shelters, and list them as first choice among people expecting to acquire dogs in the next 5 years. Do you think these people would be so quick to choose rescues and shelters as their top choice if the first thought that pops into their mind isn’t “saving the life of a great dog” but rather “will the dog we find be safe for the family?” Is it so hard to see how adopting out just a few aggressive dogs in order to “save them all,” or improve euthanasia numbers can hurt the prospects of all dogs in need of a home?

Anybody who adopts out an aggressive dog is abdicating their responsibility to public safety and undermining literally decades of hard work improving the image of and outcomes for shelter dogs.

Dog-Sporting Survey Tells Us What We Already Knew: Winning Isn’t Everything!

A recent survey of dog sport* competitors tells us that they are overwhelmingly female, married or cohabitating, between the ages of 45-74, college educated, and hail from a variety of urban and rural backgrounds.

To anybody who regularly participates in dog sporting events, the picture painted by this survey seems pretty accurate, even if the numbers themselves seem exaggerated. And even if you haven’t been there and done that, the results make sense: being a regular participant requires a certain investment of time and resources that are not as readily available to all demographics.**

But after demographics, we find information that may actually be surprising to readers, responses that go against popular stereotypes. You know that old football saying: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing“? Well, at least according to this survey, winning is definitely not the only thing for people who compete with their dogs — in fact, it’s not even near the top:

The reasons the participants gave included improving their connection to dogs (36 percent), the social aspects of participation (40 percent), enjoyment (31 percent), the opportunity for physical activity for both dogs (40 percent) and humans (52 percent), or that people simply got pleasure from the time spent with their dogs and satisfaction from the team aspect of participation (34 percent). In comparison, only 13 percent of the people surveyed highlighted that it was the competition and accomplishment which served as the reason why they participate.

What is this? People enjoy events that allow them to socialize and share challenges with the dogs they love? The world of dog sports is not comprised entirely of judgmental cliques and monomaniacally ruthless competitors? Who’d a thunk it? True, this was a small survey — perhaps the hardcore competitors were too busy gathering up ribbons to fill out the questionnaire — but we don’t think it is inaccurate. We think these attitudes speak directly to an important bond, the camaraderie between the humans and dogs in these sports. We think these attitudes are what make these events so appealing and valuable!

silhouette

Link to study

 

 

*conformation, obedience, rally, agility, and/or field trials
** Interestingly, our own recent observations at dog sporting events suggest that there are also a lot more individuals in the under-30 crowd compared to past years — a demographic you might think least likely to have the time or resources available for such pursuits.

Mar 9, 2015 - Animal Rights    14 Comments

What People Think of You Matters More Than the Facts

It doesn’t matter what is true, it only matters what people believe is true…. You are what the media define you to be

~Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd

Quick question. Say you work with animals and you:

  • have facts and expert opinion on your side demonstrating your commitment to animal welfare, and a high level of animal care.
  • have trainers who tirelessly advocate for and clearly love animals
  • put your money where your mouth is, creating an amazing animal care, conservation and health, and education center
  • manage to sustain the Western Hemisphere’s largest population of an endangered species

 

And say you go up against a movement that:

  • relentlessly attacks and smears your reputation morning noon and night while playing fast and loose with the facts and manufacturing scandal.
  • is not above using an “essentially paid plaintiff” against you in court
  • has its lead organizations pay millions of dollars (not toward animal care or conservation) to settle a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) case brought against them

 

In a world that made any sort of rational sense, you’d think victory would be a slam dunk. You’d think the public, the politicians, and the courts would join in a chorus and tell your opponents to take a hike — to actually do something useful with their time and donor money.

But that is not the world we live in; and the fact of the matter is that even when facts are on your side, if people are convinced you are cruel and greedy, you are going to lose. When politicians think supporting you is going to make them less popular — even though it is the right thing to do — you are going to lose.

Elephants in entertainment and Ringling Brothers in particular have been relentlessly attacked in the media by animal activists for decades. And as a result, if you were to take a poll of 100 people today, most would be aware of accusations against Ringling Bros., with a smaller percentage convinced they are the devil incarnate. Through constant repetition, it has saturated the public consciousness and simply become a part of how people think.

But of course precious few poll-takers would be aware of Ringling’s conservation efforts, or the groundless and unreasonable lawsuit against Feld Entertainment that led to the ASPCA, HSUS, and others to paying Feld tens of millions of dollars to settle a RICO case.

So should it be any surprise at all that after years of fighting, they finally just said “enough”?

This is a tragedy for everybody whose interest and passion for elephants — perhaps all animals — was sparked by the opportunity of seeing one of these magnificent creatures in real life, it is a tragedy for the Asian elephants themselves whose plight in the wild will now surely receive less effort and exposure, and it is a tragedy for the triumph of countless lies and smears from the animal rights lobby.

Let this be a warning to all of you who care about these issues, but tell yourself that facts, science, reason, and truth will prevail at the end of the day: because when it comes to your existence, if people don’t know or believe the facts, they do not matter. What matters is what the public thinks of you, how you are perceived, and what you are associated with. You are up against a relentless foe who does not care about reason or facts, one whose ultimate goal is your extinction. Science will not win against this onslaught, the only hope is to make sure people know who you are and taking charge of your own narrative. Whether you love purebred dogs or horse carriages, whether you are a farmer or a researcher or a hunter: when their campaign to destroy your animals, your hobbies, your livelihood comes to your doorstep, if everybody is already convinced you are beneath contempt because others were allowed to define you… it may be too late.

Support the groups who support you; if you don’t write your narrative, somebody else will!

Greatest Show on Earth

Mar 2, 2015 - Animals and Culture    No Comments

A Cryin’ Shame: You Can’t Always Believe What You See

When you see an image of an animal suffering, it evokes an emotional response. You feel empathy and want to ease the animal’s pain. And if there is somebody in charge of caring for that animal who could have — and should have — prevented the animal’s suffering, it is natural for you to feel angry and frustrated with them. When somebody agrees to the responsibility of owning an animal, subjecting that animal to neglect or cruelty is a huge betrayal.

Advertisers and animal activists have known this since forever, and used our empathy to their advantage. Can’t blame them — it certainly adds to the impact and urgency of the message. The only problem is, sometimes the picture doesn’t tell the whole story.

Case in point from last week: Clarksville crying dog video, petition spur death threats.

Two dogs lying in the snow in a fenced-in area, crying out with no shelter. There might even be a third, possibly deceased dog in the frame! And the cruel owners are nowhere in sight. How could you not be enraged? Naturally, people signed the petition and expressed disgust — and some went way out of line and even threatened the dog owners.

But what was the reality?

CPD and Montgomery County Animal Control have both investigated and found that the video did not convey anything resembling the reality of the situation.

The dogs had heated shelters (out of sight of the video, which gave the impression there were none), and food and water were placed on elevated surfaces.

Additionally, the two dogs are Husky mixes, bred to withstand temperatures far below anything experienced in Clarksville this winter.

And the third, possibly dead “dog” was actually a piece of cardboard. The person who took the video had full sight of the property, and must have known they were not portraying reality. It is hard to believe this was not a willing deception. But the video of these “agonized” dogs was still posted, and a family terrorized and made into villains. Whatever the reason for posting this video — seeking attention, misanthropy, or an “ends justify the means” activist mentality, it did nothing to ease an animal’s suffering. It caused anger and sadness in viewers without reason, and brought misery to the dogs’ owners.

The adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” refers to the notion that a complex idea can be conveyed with just a single still image. It also aptly characterizes one of the main goals of visualization, namely making it possible to absorb large amounts of data quickly.

It’s true — a picture is worth a thousand words, but be careful before you round up the villagers, before you grab your pitchforks and torches: what you see may not tell the whole story.

Sad Cat

Is she sad? Starving? Mourning the loss of a companion? Getting ready to pounce on her favorite kitty toy? With images like this, with so little context available, the answer to this riddle depends on the story you are trying to tell…