Archive from June, 2023

Discovery of 158 Dead Dogs Highlights Need to Inspect, License Rescues

A welfare check on Barbara Wible, a rescue co-founder, discovered the woman confused and laying on the floor of her home. Along with her were 36 dogs – 12 of them dead, and two in such bad shape they required euthanization. As if this weren’t a horrific enough discovery, the welfare check led to an animal cruelty investigation at another property owned by the woman, where an additional 146 dead dogs were found.

The 22 surviving dogs are being rehabilitated and will hopefully recover, but there is no silver lining to this story. To have a rescue that was once glowingly featured as a “hometown hero” fall so far shows how badly things can spiral out of control for people who care for animals… or perhaps, how easy it can be to deceive the public with kind platitudes.

This discovery also exposes a glaring need for rescues and shelters to be inspected and to meet the standards required of any other business that sells dogs. Just because an entity is a nonprofit doesn’t mean they aren’t a business, or that their kind-heartedness somehow magically makes up for deficiencies in animal care. It just means they are tax-exempt (and no, the IRS does not perform animal welfare inspections). If you really want to “save a life,” requiring rescues and shelters to live up to the same standards as anyone else who sells dogs is a good step forward.

There are too many recent examples of dogs needing rescue from their rescues.

It’s also important to remember that inspections and standards aren’t just for pets, they protect people, too. For consumers, they act as an additional layer of defense against health and behavioral problems; for people who sell dogs, they can serve as a means of education and course correction, before things spiral into chaos and horror.

We don’t know many of the finer details of this story yet. However, we know for sure that an Ohio rescue co-founder, who took in dogs from as far south as Tennessee with a promise of “saving” them, let 160 dogs die from neglect. We also know that conditions were bad enough last year for humane officers to remove some of the dogs in her care. And we know that if Wible’s at-home rescue (!) operation had been required to submit to inspections like any other operator who sells dogs, the problems would have been rooted out much sooner, saving (actually saving) the lives of numerous dogs.

One model worth looking at and emulating is Colorado’s Pet Animal Care and Facilities Act (PACFA), a licensing and inspection program to safeguard the care and conditions of pets kept in facilities (including homes) throughout the state. PAFCA covers breeders, rescues and shelters, trainers, transporters, doggie daycares – basically any business or nonprofit that transfers or cares for pets.

158 dogs found dead: Animal rescuer facing cruelty charge

★     Founder of Poodle Rescue Arrested on Charges of Animal Cruelty
★     (2012) Wilma Smith’s Hometown Hero
★     (Colorado) The Pet Animal Care and Facilities Act

USDA to Revise Guidelines for Labels Like “Free-Range” and “Grass-Fed”

On Wednesday, the USDA announced it was “implementing a multi-step effort” to help substantiate labeling claims on meat and poultry products regarding how the animals were raised.

The idea behind this is that labels used in marketing, such as “grass-fed” or “free-range,” which are currently voluntary, need to be verified by the Food Safety and Inspection Service so that consumers can have more trust in what they are buying – as well as in the USDA approval on the packaging. Cattle labeled as “raised without antibiotics” will be assessed to check for antibiotic residue, and whether verification is needed there, as well.

More clarity and trust is an important goal. Food labeling can be confusing. Sometimes it feels like you need a chemistry degree just to make sense of the ingredients listed on a bag of Doritos – and hardly anybody cares how a Dorito was raised. When it comes to health and animal welfare claims that are seen as making a product more desirable to consumers, avoiding confusion takes on more urgency. Allowing producers to slap on appealing, but befuddling and/or meaningless labels takes advantage of consumers’ good intentions, and undermines trust in the agencies we empower to enforce safety and fair play.

USDA to revise meat labeling guidelines for claims like ‘grass-fed’ or ‘free-range’

★     (Press Release) USDA Launches Effort to Strengthen Substantiation of Animal-Raising Claims
★     Food Ingredients of Public Health Concern (See Nitrate Language)

Survey: Social Support Network Strongest Factor in Dog Longevity

In a massive survey of over 21,000 dogs by the Dog Aging Project, owners revealed numerous factors in their living environments. To the surprise of no one, several of these factors correlated with their dogs’ health and longevity.

Many responses reinforced common sense assumptions and mirror the human experience. For example, dogs living with families suffering from financial and/or housing adversity generally reported poorer health. This finding is not only predictable, but a harsh reality that many people can relate to, as well.

Some of the other findings might raise an eyebrow at first blush, but can easily be explained by related factors. For example, dogs owned by higher-income people were more likely to be diagnosed with diseases. But that doesn’t necessarily mean these dogs are less healthy. Far more likely, these dogs are simply seeing their vet more often – and being diagnosed with various illnesses – than dogs owned by lower-income folks.

Another surprising negative correlation with dog health was with the number kids in the household. More kids equated with a lower level of health. But again, the first assumption shouldn’t be that kids are necessarily harming dogs (many kids count dogs as their “best friends” and surely vice-versa), so much as recognizing that each child in a household generally equates to less time spent on a dog.

One positive correlation that did stand out – dramatically – is that money isn’t everything. While an owner’s economic status does factor into dog health, the effects of companionship and social support (like living with other dogs) were five times stronger. This makes sense, obviously; dogs are social animals with famous loyalty and love toward their families. This heartwarming correlation also serves as a reminder that socialization isn’t just something dogs enjoy, but truly need for their health.

In case you need an excuse to get your dog a buddy…

Of course, we have to be careful not to draw too many conclusions from self-reported data, especially when it plays so strongly into our preconceived biases. But regardless, this survey is impressive in its scope, an interesting read, and it will also likely serve as a fantastic jumping off point for research into increasing our furry pals’ longevity and quality of life!

New Study Reveals Surprising Factors in Dog Longevity

★     Social determinants of health and disease in companion dogs: A cohort study from the Dog Aging Projecte
★     7 Factors That Affect a Dog or Cat’s Lifespan

Two Facts to Remember in the Pet Store Celeb and PeTA Puppy Row

We’re sure you’ve seen this movie before. A celebrity wears the wrong clothes, serves the wrong meal, goes hunting, or *gasp* buys a pet, rather than adopting, and before you can blink, PeTA has inserted themselves into the conversation, loudly denigrating the celeb’s choices with the organization’s distinctive brand of shaming and snark. It’s a fairly well-worn routine now, and a great way for PeTA, who are proud, self-described “press sluts,” to stay in the headlines.

The most recent row involves comedian Pete Davidson, who was so inflamed at being publicly shamed and (metaphorically) flogged by PeTA for purchasing a Cavapoo from a pet store, he sent them an angry, expletive-filled voicemail, much to the delight of PeTA, TMZ, and everyone else who makes a living off this kind of drama.

For what it’s worth, Davidson has stated that he regrets his choice of words and seems to have moved on. PeTA has milked just about everything out of this story that they can, too, so it’s likely just about out of the news cycle. Unfortunately, we, as an organization that cares about keeping facts straight and matching people with pets that are the right fit, we can’t be done with this quite yet. Because amidst the finger-waggling, there were two statements made by the organization regarding dogs and shelters that really should be addressed.

Cavapoo, which is a mix between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Poodle.

First, in response to Davidson saying he needed a hypoallergenic dog, they said that there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog. And second, they repeated the debunked claim that at least a quarter of dogs in shelters are purebreds.

The first statement – that there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog – is factual, but it is also unhelpful and misleading to blithely wave someone off and leave it at that. Especially to an allergy sufferer who is seeking out a dog. While there are no 100% hypoallergenic dogs, there are numerous less-allergenic dog breeds that may be a great fit for some allergy sufferers. For these people (as much as 20% of the population in western countries!), sticking to known, less-allergenic breeds is their best, and possibly only option for giving a dog a loving, permanent home.

The second statement, about 25% of dogs in shelters being purebreds is one of those claims that has been repeated so many times, a lot of people believe it as fact. However, anyone working in a shelter or non-breed specific rescue knows that this is an exaggeration. In fact, our shelter study, subsequently  showed the number to be much lower – 5%!

Why Is PETA Beefing With Pete Davidson?

★     Does a Completely Hypoallergenic Dog Exist?
★     NAIA: Survey of Shelter Dog Composition: Mutts vs. Purebreds

Shelter Volunteer Awarded $6.8 Million After Mauling

A Los Angeles Animal Services volunteer was awarded $6.8 million on Tuesday after suffering through a gruesome dog attack. She spent more than a month in intensive care, endured multiple surgeries and skin grafts, and was expected to lose her hand. Fortunately, her hand was saved, though she is not expected to regain full use of it.

The city was found guilty of gross negligence, and it’s easy to see why. The unfortunate volunteer was left alone with a 100-pound dog that had known aggression issues. It had attacked its previous owner and was described as a “threat.” Meanwhile, staff chose to use the euphemism “grumpy” to describe its temperament, and remarkably, had tasked the volunteer with bringing this dog to meet a family of prospective adopters. Despite all of this, the dog wasn’t euthanized until months after the attack. Sadly, this incident isn’t shocking; it was inevitable. The dog may have been kept in the shelter for ideological reasons, concerns over live release numbers, disbelief of previous owner statements, or simply due to lack of knowledge and/or staffing, but if you keep a vicious dog – especially a large one – on site and available for adoption, it’s only a matter of time before something really awful happens.

Many shelters and rescues are having a hard time securing veterinarian services, retaining staff, and finding volunteers right now, and incidents like this really don’t help on the volunteer front. Hopefully, the suffering endured by this animal-loving volunteer – and the award she received – causes shelters to rethink their policies regarding dangerous animals.

Volunteer awarded $6.8 million after being mauled at animal shelter run by troubled L.A. agency 

★     Bass’ budget proposal for Animal Services is far less than what department requested
★     Exclusive: Shelter dog caged for weeks without walks bites volunteer