Jul 30, 2012 - Pet Care, Shelter & Rescue    3 Comments

The Trendiest Pet?

A recent  Arizona Republic opinion piece suggests that we should view rescued pets as the new “high-end option,” that:

Taking one home gives you bragging rights in addition to a friend for life.

And it’s trendy.

It’s amazing how fast trends change nowadays. A few short years ago, everyone had to get a doodle mix so they could be just as unique as the rest of their Generation Y friends. Then along came the dog-as-purse-accessory. Remember that? But we’re so over it — the next big push for trendiness is, apparently, rescue pets.

Trendy Dog, circa 2009: in return for pampering, Gazoo provides valuable mascara warming services.

It should go without saying that getting a pet because it is the “cool thing to do” is a pretty awful idea. Whether doodle, purse dog, that purebred you just saw in a movie, or even a rescue pet, becoming a pet owner at the urging of an emotional twinge or desire for status decreases the chance of a positive outcome for all parties. Let’s say it again together for good measure: bad idea.

A realistic assessment of your ability to properly care for a pet over a lifetime and the pet’s suitability to your lifestyle should be the first, and most important considerations. If you’re seeking out a furry (or scaled or feathered) friend for life because you want something to brag about, something to win you points with your friends — sorry, but you’re doing it wrong.

If there absolutely must be a “trendiest pet” to brag about, why can’t it be that joyous companion — friend, clown, jogging partner, bacon-beggar, protector — who is chosen with careful research and foresight, who is properly and lovingly cared for his entire life? Now that kind of lifelong commitment and bond is something to be proud of.

 

Probation for Animal Transport Cruelty

Just a few of the 141 dogs found crammed in the back of Sheehan’s U-Haul

Bonnie Sheehan of the Hearts for Hounds rescue pleaded guilty to 14 misdemeanor charges tied to her January arrest, where more than 100 dogs were found crammed inside a U-Haul truck moving from California to Virginia. She received two years probation, a fine, and will not be allowed custody of any animals while on probation. Sheehan took responsibility for the abuse and decision to move the animals; all charges against co-defendant Pamela King-McCracken, a longtime Hearts for Hounds volunteer, were dismissed.

Reaction among animal lovers has been sharply divided. While the cramped, filthy trek itself is viewed with universal horror and disgust, opinions on Sheehan herself range from “It is tragic that such a well-meaning woman would make this horrible decision.” to “Put her before the Hague.”

Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, it is something we can all agree is a tragedy — something that we never want to see happen again.

 

May 18, 2012 - Animal Policy, Animal Rights    5 Comments

Indiana Supreme Court Says State Overreached in Dog Seizure

Earlier today, the Indiana Supreme Court said in a 5-0 ruling that the state (with the assistance of HSUS) overreached in seizing and placing 240 dogs over unpaid taxes.

For some background:

On June 2, 2009, Virginia and Kristin Garwood each were ordered to pay $142,367.94 in allegedly unpaid taxes from the sale of puppies at their Mauckport, Ind., farm.

When the Garwoods were unable to pay, Indiana State Police and Humane Society volunteers seized 240 dogs from the farm, including the Garwoods’ pets. All the dogs were sold to the Humane Society the next day for $300.

That last sentence, the little thing about them selling the dogs for only $300 is revealing; the raid obviously wasn’t just about collecting taxes…

Stay tuned — this is an incredibly important ruling, and we’ll be able to release a lot more information on this story next week.

May 14, 2012 - Animal Policy    4 Comments

A Bipartisan Fight Against Breedism

The good news? Maryland’s atrocious court decision declaring pit bull and pit mixes “inherently dangerous” is already being challenged legislatively, and by a very unexpected team:

A court’s apparent sense of “breedism” has led to an extraordinarily rare legislative pairing.

As the fallout continues over a Maryland Court of Appeals ruling that calls pit bulls inherently dangerous, two state delegates on polar opposite sides of the political spectrum are co-sponsoring legislation that would overturn the court’s ruling.

This quick turnaround is  incredibly important; since last month’s decision, landlords are already telling their pit bull-owning tenants they can’t keep their dogs. This means the loss of beloved family pets, shelters and rescues being overrun with dogs, as well as a financial hit for a state that is already facing economic struggles. When it comes to this legislation, time is of the essence.

And this is where the bad news comes in:

It appears unlikely that the legislation will receive a serious look from the House of Delegates, however. House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, is not expected to put on the agenda anything more than the state’s fiscal 2013 budget.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t at least try. “Unlikely” and “unexpected” doesn’t mean “impossible,” and stranger things have happened. And if enough animal lovers speak up, legislators cannot help but hear.

Our sister group, the NAIA Trust, has released an alert on this issue. If you are a Maryland resident and a dog lover, here’s a chance to help make a difference. While the intent is simple and clear, the bill itself has not yet been officially released. However, a copy has been made available through scribd.com.

If you are able to make it, there is also a peaceful rally scheduled for tomorrow outside the capital in Annapolis from 2:30 to 4:30pm.

Help me grow up in a breed blind world!

 

May 9, 2012 - Animal Policy    1 Comment

United Airlines Lifts Breed Ban: Chipping Away at Discrimination

In a victory for common sense, United Airlines has lifted its ban on transporting nine breeds of dogs. Previously, the following breeds and mixes were banned from flying the friendly skies:

 Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Presa Canario, Perro de Presa Canario, Dogo Argentino, Cane Corso, Fila Brasileiro, Tosa (or Tosa Ken) and Ca de Bou.

Pet loving customers spoke out — loudly — and a company listened. Just think how this could apply elsewhere! What a great accomplishment for pet owners and their dogs, and also in the larger effort of chipping away at breed discrimination. Way to go!

Bongo Jumps for Joy
“Looks like I don’t have to learn to fly, after all!”

 

Investigative Journalism: Humane Relocation Edition

We are so grateful for two recent news investigations describing the insidious underbelly of humane relocation.* While we have been writing about this issue for years,** it is infrequently covered in mainstream news, and rarely with as much detail as in these two investigative reports.

First, in Atlanta, a humane society imports animals for adoption from as far away as the Bahamas, while just down the road, an overflowing municipal shelter kills over 60% of the animals it receives. Granted, definitions of “adoptable pet” vary greatly from person to person, and we accept that, but it is hard to believe none of these animals are fit for adoption. Ironically, this is the exact kind of situation where importation makes perfect sense for a humane society: there are animals in desperate need only a few miles away — just think of all the gas (and more importantly, lives) they could save if they worked locally!

Adopt Me Too!
Hey guys, I’m from next door. Don’t I deserve a home, too?

It may be that the majority of local dogs are older and less attractive to adopters than the ones that can be found out of state, but seeking out the most placeable animals is what you would expect from a pet store, not a humane society. To do its job effectively and honestly, to live up to its mission statement, a humane society must focus on all animals. Even the ones that might not be adopted right away. Especially the ones that might not be adopted right away.

In the case of certain northern rescues that import dogs and cats because pet overpopulation isn’t a local issue, you can at least see the logic behind their behavior, even if it would be preferable that they focus on the root of the problem. But why import from out of state — even out of the country — when there is a crisis in your own back yard? Especially given the limited resources available and the stated goal of helping the most animals in the most efficient way possible?

And this doesn’t even begin to cover the issues of disease transmission, deception, and heartbreak that come with humane relocation. Fortunately, they were all covered brilliantly in that other expose we mentioned, so we don’t have to here.

Unfortunately, these aren’t the only tales of woe from the world of humane relocation. It has been a serious problem for more than a decade; this is why we worked in Massachusetts to help local residents regulate importing rescue groups in 2005, why we created our Shelter Import and Reporting Model Law in 2009, why we supported Connecticut’s rescue importation bill last year, and why we are simply thrilled to see this issue finally being tackled head-on in the mainstream press.

 


* “Humane Relocation” is a term describing the importation of dogs from out of state or country for adoption — a practice often referred to by its detractors as “dog trafficking.”

** A short list of previous NAIA articles on this topic:

 

Where do urban chickens go when they’re done laying eggs?

When an urban chicken’s egg-laying days are over, she might become dinner, she might live out her life as a pest-eating pet, or she might even be moved into a  “retirement home” for aging urban chickens.

A far-fetched idea in decades past, the poultry-retirement home’s existence serves as a reminder of the growing popularity of urban farming,* the need for animal owners to plan ahead for the lifetime of their animals, and a portrait of the “livestock-as-pet” phenomena that probably occurs more often than many farmers admit.

Do you keep chickens? And if so, what are your opinions on a “retirement home” service like this?

Stella the friendly urban chicken, one of NAIA’s regular subscribers.

* Portland, Oregon has more than 26 times the number of urban chicken permits today as it did twelve years ago.

Analyst Claims HSUS Gets Nothing From Egg Agreement. Say What?

In an analysis of the United Egg Producers (UEP)/Humane Society of the United State (HSUS) egg agreement, animal rights activist Bradley Miller claims UEP now has the upper hand:

“HSUS and UEP talk about a win-win. But UEP wins whether the federal bill passes or not,” Miller said. “UEP is far ahead of the game compared to where they started.”

Co-opting HSUS to “violate its own principles” and endorse larger cages that UEP has long sought was a shrewd move, in Miller’s view.

UEP has moved HSUS off its prior position opposing cages and if the bill fails, HSUS will look contradictory at best going back to attacking the larger cages it had supported, Miller said.

[...]

HSUS will be left with nothing, Miller said, other than a massive branding or publicity bonanza that put them in the limelight, made them look reasonable and helped HSUS President Wayne Pacelle market his book.

Sorry good sir, but we question your analysis.

Aside from the head-scratcher about HSUS having principles, there are several interesting points in this analysis. Whether or not you agree with UEP working with HSUS or vice-versa, it is undeniable that UEP is, at least for the time being, ahead of where they were a few years ago, when their constant companion was the threat of death by ballot measure.

They also have bought enough time to implement their new enriched cage facilities, which allow for many of the best features of traditional barren cages and cage-free living: clean, effective facilities that raise animal welfare standards and are very hard for activists to stir outrage and raise funds off of.

But will HSUS really be left with nothing in the end? It’s not like their position has changed; they still campaign daily for cage-free (and eventually animal free) agriculture — they’re just putting a stronger focus on other forms of animal production now. And when HSUS is criticized as an “animal rights organization in animal welfare clothing,” their supporters can now use the UEP/HSUS ceasefire as cover, as proof of HSUS’ “moderate” positions.

And what of the work that went into developing the new enriched colony housing? Should it matter that years of toil and millions of dollars went into developing and implementing these facilities while HSUS did nothing but attack them?  HSUS contributed nothing,  but now they get get to raise their credibility in the eyes of the public by playing policy-maker, and take credit for industry changes they actively fought against for years!* Despicable, but you have to admit there is a certain genius to it.

No Bradley, I’m afraid this agreement leaves HSUS with quite a lot. UEP may have found a way to survive, but HSUS found a way to make themselves stronger.


* By the way, HSUS still hasn’t entirely scrubbed its website of pages that disparage enriched cages.

Apr 26, 2012 - Animal Policy    2 Comments

Cats on leashes – WWTD?

Tonight,* the citizens of Concord, Massachusetts vote on whether or not troublemaking cats — cats who relieve themselves, eat birds, etc. while off-property — must be confined indoors or allowed outside only on-leash. It’s pretty mild as far as animal laws go: basically, if a neighbor doesn’t mind an owner’s cat on his or her property, no problem — but if they do create a nuisance and a neighbor complains and no solution is found, the owner would be required to keep them indoors or walk them on a leash outside.

Pretty simple, really. The idea of a cat on a leash raises eyebrows for a lot of people, but a harness or leash on a cat isn’t really that uncommon. And even if the idea seems silly to you, a measure that seeks to address complaints without placing the burden on responsible pet owners most certainly is not.

I'm. Going. To. Kill. You.

Plus, and here’s the best part: supporters and detractors alike are convinced Thoreau would be on their side of the argument…

“I really feel confident that Thoreau would not want the cats on a leash,’’ [Barbara Lynn-Davis] said. “It seems to inhibit their freedom to roam and discover. She’s asking the cats to be curtailed to maintain this artificial environment that she created to give her pleasure, but the birds don’t need that.’’

But Lodynsky, who has owned felines in the past, said that it’s folly to consider a cat part of the natural world.

“They were brought here and domesticated; they aren’t part of the natural food chain,’’ she said. “Boldly, I would say Thoreau would support me because he respected natural species and biodiversity. When people say, ‘Leave nature alone,’ I say nature hasn’t been left alone since we moved here. My stand is that I’m trying to help these birds survive us.’’

Forget, for a moment, the debate over ever-more intrusive animal regulations, the debate over  indoor vs. outdoor cats, and ask yourself: what would Thoreau do?


* The vote was scheduled for Wednesday night, but there was not enough time to vote on the cat measure.

HuMaine Relocation

An interesting piece on humane relocation was posted on the Bangor Daily News website last night. Apparently, Hancock County’s SPCA shelter is importing puppies from Guam to be adopted at $500 a head.

This, in and of itself isn’t that newsworthy; the importation of puppies from out of state into northeastern shelters has been going on for years. In fact, it’s something we’ve documented for more than a decade, and an issue we have actively worked on (and are working on) at the policy level. But the language used here to describe this operation is definitely worthy of note (emphasis NAIA):

The four puppies arrived by commercial airplane late Monday, the first of 12 bound from Guam to Maine this week as part of a program that is literally pushing the boundaries of what is already a thriving “dog rescue” industry in this state.

[...]

Every year, hundreds of dogs are “rescued” from overcrowded shelters in other states and brought to Maine for adoption. More than 50 organizations are licensed by the Maine Department of Agriculture to import dogs, the vast majority of which come from southern states with less aggressive spay/neutering programs and where unadopted pets face euthanasia.

But Guam? After all, the only county in the continental U.S. that juts farther east into the Atlantic than Hancock is its neighbor, Washington County. And some dogs in Maine shelters will ultimately be euthanized because they could not find homes.

Well bless you, Kevin Miller! The scare quotes used when describing this sort of “rescue” and calling it an industry certainly represent a welcome change in tone.

For its part, the shelter seems keenly aware of how the importation may be perceived, and has gone to great lengths to bring up how carefully they are following vaccination and quarantine procedures. They have also attempted to address the issue of enabling* — but the “part of the adoption proceeds go toward spaying and neutering in Guam” falls apart once you contemplate the volume necessary to make any meaningful improvements for animals. It’s great marketing, to be sure, but does it do enough to justify this irresponsible practice? Not unless they begin importing puppies by the score — which, of course, may be their ultimate goal.

 


* Enabling: the argument that importation does nothing to solve the population and policy issues plaguing the dog’s place of origin, that it is simply trades the life of one dog for another while enabling business as usual to continue.
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