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

Seized Pups Returned: Change on the Way?

Remember that story we talked about last week where a man was arrested for “illegally breeding Bulldogs” without a $25 license? Where instead of a clear explanation of the law followed by a warning or citation, eight beautiful (and completely healthy) puppies were snatched away from their rightful home?

Well, we are happy that we can say the puppies were all returned to their home yesterday!

In response to this fiasco, Alderman Harold Beadling suggested making changes to the breeding ordinance, saying “I think we can craft a much better ordinance than what we have,” and hey — we couldn’t agree more!


When it can take weeks to see official action taken on a shivering, short-haired dog, kept outside virtually 24/7 during a cold snap, yet you have people lining up from all around the country to help seize puppies that are in no imminent danger, you really do have to wonder where people’s heads are, if not their hearts.

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Jan 6, 2015 - Animals and Culture    No Comments

Research: Having Pets Improve Social Skills of Children with Autism

We knew that pets can help children develop a sense of empathy, teach responsibility, improve literacy, and a whole host of other neat things… but how about this:

Children with autism who live with pets may be more likely to develop assertiveness and other social skills, according to new research from the University of Missouri

That’s right: the unbridled, goofy joy a pet gets from playing with his human isn’t just fun but therapeutic! Well that’s a pleasant surprise — kinda like finding out there are health benefits to chocolate.

While dogs (in particular, small dogs) were the stars of the research, any type of pet was better than no pet at all — and in some cases more suitable for specific children due to sensitivities or energy level.

So, not that you needed another affirmation on the human animal bond, but it is always good to see another story reminding us of what a truly precious and amazing thing it is! Very cool indeed.

Children with Autism Who Live With Pets Are More Assertive from MU News Bureau on Vimeo.

Jan 5, 2015 - Animal Welfare    2 Comments

Animal Rescue & Shelter: NAIA Glossary Edition

With issues as complex and emotionally charged as animal welfare, simply having a meaningful conversation can be difficult at times. This is especially true in animal rescue and shelter issues, and it can be compounded when the words we use to discuss animal issues mean different things to different people.

So in the interest of clear communication, please take a few minutes to check out the NAIA Shelter Project website’s glossary — if there are ever any questions, it will let you know exactly what we mean when we say it!

Of course, there is more to the Shelter Project than the glossary! Dedicated to understanding shelter population trends, reducing euthanasia of adoptable pets, improving pet health and welfare, reducing infectious and zoonotic disease transmission, and fighting consumer fraud, it is the best source of animal shelter data around!

 

NAIA Shelter Project Glossary

 

Jan 2, 2015 - Shelter & Rescue    9 Comments

Starting 2015 with Long-Needed Conversations

NAIA President Patti Strand spoke on two extremely important animal welfare issues in recent NPR articles:

 

We strongly believe that having a serious, factual, and civil discussion about these issues will result in the improved welfare, health, and retention of pets everywhere. We are thrilled to kick off the new year with vital issues like these!

 

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Dec 30, 2014 - Animal Policy    6 Comments

(Puppy) Theft Under Color of Law

If what we are hearing is true, the family that had eight puppies confiscated after being arrested for “illegally breeding Bulldogs” will be getting them back. Reaction to this “theft-under-color-of-law” has ranged from incredulous to outraged, though many of us familiar with the politics of animal extremism were sadly unsurprised.

But at the end of the day, reason may indeed win in Waukegan.

The family at the center of this story is a young couple, who by all accounts were taking proper care of their puppies. There is no evidence of cruelty to animals or that they were deceiving their buyers. Their sin was not obtaining a $25 breeding license and offending the sensibilities of somebody who saw they had puppies for sale on the internet.

For the family, we are heartened, and hope for a happy ending to this ordeal. We are also delighted (and thankful) at the education, pressure, and shaming that has come forth from so many quarters of the responsible animal community (check out some of the comments here!). But at the same time, the setup of these dog owners and confiscation of their puppies shines a searing light on those whose zeal causes them to see any and all sorts of animal breeding as a sort of “puppy mill.”

This is major story for anybody who keeps animals, who breeds animals, who cares about animals — or simply anybody with a lick of common sense and belief in the rights of their fellow citizens. We will keep you updated as the story develops!

 

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Horse Carriage Ban: The Human Cost and Animal Welfare Misinformation

Two New York state senators, Democrats Diane Savino and Jose Peralta, have come out strongly against New York City mayor Bill de Blasio’s push to ban horse carriages. In a letter, they illustrate how the horse carriage industry provides great, unionized work for hundreds of people, that it is a major tourist attraction, and that it is safe and highly regulated — all very good things.

Bravo to Savino and Peralta for standing up and publicly recognizing the human cost of banning horse carriages!

But while this is an important message to get out, the anti-carriage horse activists will not be swayed by talk of jobs and tourism lost; their argument has always been that the horses are being treated cruelly.

This is a serious charge — we all love horses and want to see them treated well. So do these claims of abuse stand up to scrutiny? Not according to the experts who love and heal animals. In a letter to Mayor de Blasio from the New York State Veterinary Medical Society, they state emphatically that opponents of horse-drawn carriages are misinformed about the “inhumane” working conditions for horses, and that:

Carriage horses generally live a long life during which they are ensured regular examinations and treatment by equine veterinarians, live in structurally sound and safe stables, have adequate supply of food and water, and ample opportunities for socialization with others of their species. Existing New York City Regulations offer extensive guidelines that require ample rest periods, moderate driving paces, and protections from extreme weather conditions.

The equine practitioner members of the NYSVMS, both within the City of New York and elsewhere, have familiarized themselves with the conditions under which these animals live and work and find they are healthy, happy, well-fed and sheltered. They are the recipients of the best level of health care possible.

The American Veterinary Medical Association and American Association of Equine Practitioners have weighed in as well, and their accounts of clean stables with healthy, well-fed, and mentally sound horses are also very positive — a far cry from what the anti-carriage horse activists are claiming.

It is telling that people who take the time to visit the horses in their stables confidently declare them “happy and well-cared-for,” while people who have never visited the stables remain convinced that the horses are abused and suffering. Apparently, facts do not matter when you have already made up your mind.

Fortunately, most people do allow reason to shape their opinions. While jobs are obviously very important, it is also important we combat the misinformation about carriage horses that persists despite expert opinion and the facts!

Carriage Horse Central Park

Nov 19, 2014 - Animal Welfare    No Comments

The winner? The carriage horse, of course!

This may be last month’s news, but still worth a look:

Central Park horse carriage rated as better ride than electric car in Car and Driver magazine

As any city carriage driver could have told him, the buggies are surprisingly compact, light and make tight turns. When they’re pulled by one of the placid, experienced horses the drivers barely have to lift a finger to direct them. The hefty horses are adept at speeding up and slowing down their buggies, while the cumbersome electronic car couldn’t quite cut it in the city’s fast-moving traffic.

[…]

The aura of faded gentility, however, is part of what gave the horse carriage experience the most points: authenticity.

The e-vehicles lacked soul and history, Huffman said, and there’s no replacing that no matter how many bells and whistles a vehicle designer adds on.

Aside from the impressive tight turns, the environmental angle, the sense of authenticity and history, there’s something deeper to consider: the connection between horse and driver, the wonder of these incredibly strong and healthy animals doing what they love to do, and of course — the fun (which was ultimately the main reason the Car and Driver reviewer preferred carriage ride). You just can’t replace a good horse.

Definitely a fun little read — our only quibble is that it would have been nice for the review to cover the welfare of the carriage horses as well; the drivers are people who clearly adore their horses and treat them very well, and no matter how many experts speak to the excellent care and treatment these majestic animals receive, it always helps to have another voice countering the anti-horse carriage propaganda machine!

CarriageHorse