Feb 5, 2015 - Education    No Comments

Compassion Fatigue: It Happens to the Best

Here’s a thoughtful article about compassion fatigue as an occupational hazard for veterinarians, its contributing factors, and suggestions for combating it.

Compassion fatigue is defined as:

fatigue, emotional distress, or apathy resulting from the constant demands of caring for others or from constant appeals from charities: “compassion fatigue experienced by doctors and nurses.”

It is most commonly applied to (human) healthcare practitioners and individuals who have gone past the point of saturation with pleas for and/or sensationalist tragedies, but it doesn’t take a leap to see how it could affect veterinarians as well. Long hours, stressed and occasionally abusive owners, not being able to save every animal — even a labor of love can be emotionally taxing.

When we published “Burnout: The Monster in the Rescue Closet” back in 2003, which dealt with the stress, anger, and guilt that can accumulate in those who devote their lives to rescue, it was amazing how many readers wrote us to say “That’s ME in that article!” and gratifying to hear how Vicki DeGruy’s suggestions helped people find balance in their life while still helping animals.

The existence of compassion fatigue (or more simply: “burnout”) has been known in the medical community for a long, long time (it was officially diagnosed way back in the 1950s), so it is doubtful there will be a flurry of epiphanies among veterinarians as there was among people in the rescue community 12 years ago. But the above article is important for spreading awareness to people outside the field. As an outsider, when you see somebody who is intelligent, capable, and lucky enough to be pursuing their life’s dream, it can easy to dismiss the emotional toll of their job.

VeterinaryCare

 

Imposter Service Dogs! Fiesty Comfort Animals! (It Only Takes a Few Bad Apples)

When somebody brings their untrained “comfort animal” to a place pets are not typically allowed and the inevitable disaster ensues, our first reaction is often a grin, because — lets’ face it — these stories can be pretty amusing. Unfortunately, tales of out-of-control comfort pets and fake  service animals also have a very real insidious effect: people start questioning the legitimacy of the service animals they come across.

This is especially troubling for the growing number of people without visible disabilities or injuries who receive assistance from service animals, or those with non-standard service animals (e.g. a Chihuahua), who are more likely to feel the “raised eyebrow” that questions their honor and legitimacy.

Service animals are quite simply, amazing, and the Americans With Disability Act recognizes and protects the essential role service animals play in our society:

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), privately owned businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities, are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires these businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed.

We follow animal trends at NAIA, and while we can safely say there is no epidemic of out-of-control comfort animals and imposter service animals, it is definitely a growing issue that we take seriously, and one we will work to find positive solutions for!

 

ExeterBob

Exeter, a service dog trained by CCI, helps Bob cope with the physical and emotional symptoms of Huntington’s disease.

Death Threats for Bow Hunter: Can You Feel The Love?

How do animal rights activists show appreciation to an amazing person who teaches kids hunting and other outdoors skills?

Oh, by sending them death threats and vicious insults of course!

Because what could be worse than getting kids off the couch and off their phones to teach them responsible hunting, conservation, and sparking a lifelong respect of the outdoors? Yes, what a horrible, horrible woman indeed!

We kid, we kid! We think passing on these skills to the “next generation” — especially when so few have regular (or any) exposure to nature — is a pretty great thing!

For more: here’s a radio interview with Jen Cordaro, where she explains why she started #BringaKidHunting, the skills and values that are learned (the virtues of patience and delayed gratification especially!) and the importance of educating kids about hunting and weapons safety.

Hunting

Jan 30, 2015 - Animal Science    No Comments

Potential Seen in Late-Stage Rabies Treatment

We don’t hear a lot about rabies in the United States. Post-exposure treatment is the norm (which has close to 100% success rate if administered promptly — always before symptoms appear), and human deaths from the disease are extremely rare.

And that’s great. If you live in the United States.

But if you live in, say, India, rabies is a very serious and far-too-common disease, especially for the young and poor.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are more than 200 million stray dogs worldwide and that every year, 55,000 people die from rabies, while another 15 million receive post exposure treatment to avert the deadly disease. 95% of these cases occur in Asia and Africa, and 99% of the fatalities are caused by dogs.

And to make matters worse, once symptoms appear, it’s too late: the victim virtually always dies.

But what if you could treat rabies once symptoms appear? That’s what scientists at the University of Georgia are working on. Working with mice to develop new treatments, they have managed to save 50% of the mice beyond the “cutoff point” of neurological symptoms appearing, and they are just getting started:

“This is only the beginning of our work,” said co-author Biao He, a professor of infectious diseases at Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “While these preliminary results are very exciting, we are confident that we can combine this new vaccine with other therapies to boost survival rates even higher and rescue animals even when symptoms are severe.”

Again, here in the U.S. it might not seem like a huge deal, but in parts of the world where contact with rabid animals is commonplace, this could be a huge — think 55,000 huge — lifesaver. What amazing work these people are doing!

“There is an urgent need in many parts of the world for a better rabies treatment, and we think this technology may serve as an excellent platform,” said study author Zhen Fu, a professor of pathology at the college. “Ultimately, we just want to try to save more lives.”

Just how many lives can a mouse save?

Just how many lives can a mouse save?

Jan 29, 2015 - Shelter & Rescue    11 Comments

Hypocrisy on Parade: Another Call for Breeding Dogs in Shelters

Hypocrisy on parade in The Coming Shelter Dog Shortage, complete with ideas on how shelters can retain their “market share” in dogs:

The ideal thing would be for No Kill to find some way to co-opt the industry – to make sure there is a big enough supply of shelter dogs for community No Kill shelters to be able to maximize their market share. The most obvious way to do this would be to start importing homeless dogs from overseas.

[…]

Another way to tackle the problem would be for volunteers to breed litters which would then be donated to their local shelter for placement.

What? What… What?!?

On one hand, the author talks about dogs not being widgets… on the other, about shelters keeping or growing their market share. The argument for shelters breeding and placing puppies is one long advertising pitch!

Here’s a novel idea: if there is a shortage of dogs in shelters, rejoice! Then refocus on cats and other pets… and when that problem is solved, be thankful for all the amazing hard work you, big-hearted pet-owners, breeders, and lawmakers have put into creating a world where pets are no longer euthanized for space — and put a “closed” sign on the front door.

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