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.



Apr 1, 2015 - Animal Policy    3 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.



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!


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…


Feb 27, 2015 - Animal Welfare    1 Comment

The Importance of Knowing Who You’re Getting Your Pet From

Disappointing news out of Arizona:

PetSmart has terminated their adoption partnership with a Valley animal rescue after an ABC15 Investigation uncovered troubling allegations about the group, called Woofs Wiggles n Wags.

According to the investigation, there were cramped cages, and dogs walking through their own waste, suffering from both physical and psychological neglect. Naturally, PetSmart terminated its adoption partnership with the animal rescue upon hearing the news report.

Whatever the reason for these conditions: understaffed and overwhelmed, forgetting or ignoring the needs of these animals due to out-of-balance priorities, or any of the other numerous reasons we see for sub-standard animal care, this serves as a reminder of the importance of getting to know the person or organization you get your pets from. Whatever breeder, rescue, business, or shelter you choose for your next pet, it is vital that you do your research, so can return home with your new companion confident you dealt with somebody who is competent and ethical. This is important for animals in general because you are supporting people who are doing it right — people who truly understand and care for animals; it is important for you and your pet specifically, because it increases your pet’s odds of a long, happy life with you and your family!

Owning a pet can be such a valuable, life-enriching experience; we talk so often about the importance of being a “responsible pet owner” because of the benefits this brings to your pet, to you, and to your community — but the focus is usually on the care and attention your pet receives after coming home. For potential pet owners and their communities, responsible pet ownership starts long before you get your pet!

Tribute for a Great Dog

Dare you to read this story without getting choked up:

New Jersey K-9 Judge given hero’s goodbye before he is euthanized

Judge, a 9-year-old Czech German shepherd with the West Deptford Police Department, was euthanized Friday as more than 90 police officers gathered to honor him one last time.

Judge’s excellent service is a testament to how much his people meant to him. Judge himself, and the tribute he received, serves as a testament to how much animals mean to us. And his euthanasia after a long struggle with Cushing’s Disease, is a reminder of how fleeting our time with the animals we work with and care for and love can be. What a great dog!


Dog Lovers Aren’t the Only Ones Who Can’t Wait for Westminster!

For many dog enthusiasts, the Westminster Dog Show is the most exciting and highly anticipated sporting event of the year. With a rich history dating back to 1877, top breeders and dog trainers from around the world work a lifetime for the opportunity to have their dogs recognized there.

Most of these breeders belong to AKC kennel clubs where they, along with other dog lovers, volunteer their time and work for the benefit of dogs, responsible dog ownership, and the preservation of their breeds.

They breed their dogs carefully, contribute to canine health by donating to scientific research and test their own dogs before breeding them… then test them again in the show ring.

In the world of dogs, to call Westminster a “big deal,” is a big understatement!

Of course, dog enthusiasts aren’t the only ones who eagerly await Westminster each year. Perhaps you have noticed that in the weeks leading up to Westminster each year animal rights organizations increase their attacks on AKC, purebred dogs, and dog shows exponentially — especially the larger, factory fundraising groups. This isn’t a coincidence: these guys love the Westminster Dog Show! Whether their appreciation comes in the form of carefully timed and targeted opinion pieces bashing the AKC, or more disruptive forms of attention-seeking, it is obvious that the animal rights crowd just can’t get enough Westminster!

And you know what? While we certainly don’t like it, we understand why they do it. Their fundraising and hence their very existence depend on exploiting (disparaging) the work of others. So even though they don’t produce any exciting, constructive, or entertaining events like the Westminster Dog Show themselves, they do know how to capitalize on its success; they’d be crazy not to grab on to the coattails of this, one of dogdom’s most important, venerable and visible events! After all, it is easier to get attention by inserting yourself into someone else’s picture than by doing something positive yourself.

Feb 11, 2015 - Animal Rights    No Comments

Just ‘Cause It’s Legal Doesn’t Mean It’s Ethical

Thank you to everybody who has signed our petition asking Outfront Media to pull PETA’s billboard! And if you haven’t done so already, please sign it today and share it with everybody you know who loves dogs and hates smear tactics (hint: that should mean a lot of people)!

Freedom of speech has few limitations in the United States — even the sensationalist, hateful speech practiced by PETA is protected by the first amendment. That’s why it is so important for companies to draw distinctions between business practices that are legally allowable and ones that are ethically sound.

PETA’s misleading advertisement is intended to hurt dog breeders (specifically, AKC breeders) right before a major dog show takes place.

Help us turn this around. Exercise your freedom of speech now by signing our petition. Doing so will help us save our dogs from destructive groups like PETA with agendas that serve no one but themselves.

Petition Link

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.