Browsing "Animals and Culture"

Veterans Day and Equine Therapy

Have you ever wondered about the animals who work for our military veterans? No better time to ask this question than Veterans Day! There are, of course, dogs – therapy dogs and service dogs, most often – but there are also cats, birds, reptiles, and, in the case of this story, horses.

For some veterans suffering the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), spending time brushing, leading, and riding horses is a fantastic way to clear their heads while reducing anxiety and depression. A horse (like many domestic animals) can also help alleviate feelings of isolation. It is no exaggeration to say that for some people, this is the activity they most look forward to each week (the horses get treated pretty nicely, too). It was seeing reports of successful horse therapy programs throughout the country that inspired Virginia’s Copper Crest Farm to start a therapy program for veterans. And so far, it has been a tremendous help for those who have taken part in it.

The horse therapy program described in this article charges only a small fee, but its service is invaluable. It is also just one of many throughout the country – there may be one near you!

Resources
★     Equine therapy and other equine programs for military veterans & families
★     What Is Equine Therapy and Equine-Assisted Therapy?

Rescues and Humane Orgs Still Buying Dogs from Commercial Breeders

A few years ago, it seemed like we were standing at the precipice of a major scandal after the Washington Post revealed that rescues were buying and reselling dogs from their avowed mortal enemies: commercial breeders. Yikes, can you imagine that? But this practice had been going on for some time, and by 2018, the shadow market it created had become so large, some breeders claimed to be breeding more dogs specifically for the “rescue market!” For rescue, whose goal is (or at least was) to do such a great job of emptying the shelters that they put themselves out of business, buying puppies from commercial breeders is a curiously sustainable business model.

But here we are in 2022, and as you can see by this news story, not only did the above scandal cause little more than a ripple of public outrage, this practice has actually been normalized by large humane organizations, and is even celebrated as “lifesaving.”

Of course, no matter how noble and humane a veneer you place on it, rescues buying and reselling “overstock” (or even deliberately bred) dogs from breeders or importing unvetted street dogs from overseas are not engaged in the business of solving problems. Taking and rehoming individual pets brings good feelings and is great marketing, but relying on this model means that substandard breeding operations remain in operation (or even grow), and dogs and cats in foreign countries continue to reproduce unchecked. You can look at this from a compartmentalized perspective and celebrate the individual animal rehomed, as well as taking action for action’s sake (and many people do), but again, this simply allows the underlying issues to persist. Practices like these are short-sighted at best, and cynical at worst.

To quote our own peer-reviewed dog study on the outdated perceptions that shape today’s dog marketplace:  “As Rhode Island state veterinarian Dr. Scott Marshall put it, ‘…There’s some evidence that the rescue groups are a new model for the pet shop industry.'”


Resources
★     (2018) Dog Fight: Dog rescuers, flush with donations, buy animals from the breeders they scorn
★     (2018) USDA says individuals and groups may need license if buying dogs for rescue at auction
★     (2019) NAIA: How outdated perceptions have reshaped the dog marketplace

Shocker: Tweets on Elephant Issues are Generally Western-Centric, Narrow in Scope, and Lead to Resentment

A new study analyzing tweets about elephants reveals a disconnect between the conservation issues Twitter users care about versus the numerous threats these animals actually face. It also shows that 73% of the users voicing opinions on vital conservation issues don’t live in countries with elephant populations, and that Twitter users who live alongside elephants resent the way they are portrayed by western social media users.

African Forest Elephant

Some of the top threats to elephants are poaching, habitat loss, and human-elephant conflict. However, western Twitter users are concerned primarily with poaching, and show far less interest in the other key threats. Most troubling, some westerners demonstrate a callous, or even hostile view toward communities that live near elephants. Nobody wants to see these majestic creatures go extinct, but when more concern is shown over the life of an elephant than a dead farmer, it is understandable when bad blood arises.

We can’t say this study’s findings come as a surprise (are you surprised?). However, shining an academic flashlight on these misunderstandings is vitally important when it comes to preserving elephants and the communities that live near them. Successful conservation efforts require both political will and a clear understanding of the problems at hand. Preserving elephants is a huge task. If resources are misallocated and resentment festers between the stakeholders (the sacrifices made for conservation by communities in Batswana which are rarely acknowledged on social media, for example), that task becomes even more difficult.


Resources
★     Shrinking spaces for the world’s largest land animal
★     ​Africa’s elephants more endangered by poaching, habitat loss

NAIA at NCSL

For more than a decade, we have maintained a presence at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). NAIA board members attend to the booth, conversations are had, connections are made, and perceptions are changed. This year, the event was held in Boston, Massachusetts.

From left: NAIA Board members Patte Klecan, Dr. Cindy Buckmaster, Nancy Fisk.

Why is this event important? Because the entire conversation surrounding human-animal interaction — policy positions, philosophical perspectives, even the language we use — has long been dominated by the ideology of the animal rights movement. Those of us who live, love, and work with animals who have hands-on experience and more mainstream positions on animal welfare and conservation issues are often drowned out. So this event gives us an opportunity to share our perspective and let legislators know that there are organizations out there who not only care deeply about animals, but also the human-animal bond, and positive outcomes that are driven by data. If you work with animals, we are here for you.

Even after all these years, it never ceases to amuse us how curious passersby will breathe a sigh of relief after a conversation or reading a brochure. “Oh, sorry. I was worried you were one of those groups.”

No. No we are not.


 

Oh, and speaking of making new friends…

 

Remember the Breeders!

In light of the ridiculous outrage over a shelter director *gasp* buying a Collie from a breeder, and the petitions and attacks from online activists (two of whom have now been cited for harassment, by the way), it is easy to get mired in that totalitarian absurdity, to respond with outrage of one’s own, to point out the contradictions and inevitable extinction (usually unintentional) of healthy, well-adjusted dogs that awaits us at the end of the activists’ road…

But do not stare too long into that abyss, move in the positive, hakuna matata (ok, maybe worry a little)… let us never forget that there are so many wonderful things good breeders have to offer! It may be stated regularly, but it can never be stated enough:

Our communities need reputable, responsible breeders. They work hard to screen their dogs for diseases, to eliminate health problems, to protect and preserve the breeds they serve, and they provide us with with healthy, well-tempered dogs. And no matter what the activists try to tell you, remember that these people do not contribute to the number of homeless dogs; a good breeder sells on a contract and will take back a dog from an owner who can not or will not provide proper care. A great many of them also work in breed rescue, which helps keep dogs out of shelters.

People want dogs. You could argue that people need dogs. So guess what? Without breeders, people are still going to sell dogs to one another — the only difference being that pet sales would be driven underground. No regulation, sales taking place in the shadows with no contracts, guarantees, or accountability — the prime concern being to simply “move the merchandise.” Isn’t this exactly what we don’t want?

And speaking of serving their communities, remember that breeders not only provide companions, but also service dogs that help our police, military, and fellow citizens with special needs.

We, too, are appalled by the intolerance of people who would deny a shelter director her choice of dog, but we will never forget to applaud all of the passionate breeders who provide us with loving, healthy pets.

Thank you!

naiaLogo

May 19, 2015 - Animals and Culture    No Comments

Dining with the Dogs

Big win for dog owners who want to dine with their furry (or not-so-furry) companions in New York recently:

By a 60-0 vote on Wednesday, the State senate approved a bill that lets food service establishments indulge four-legged guests, by allowing restaurants to welcome dogs (if accompanied by a diner) into their outdoor eating areas. The State Assembly is not reviewing its version of the same bill, and its sponsor is confident it will pass.

More and more dining establishments are becoming dog-friendly, and it is great seeing New York get on board this train. With the average American work week creeping back up to 47 hours, forcing people to spend more time away from their homes and their pets, dog-friendly dining establishments offer a welcome opportunity to go out and “have a life” without leaving Fido behind.

There are always concerns about dogs begging, getting into fights with each other, even jumping up on servers carrying heavy trays… but to that, we say: socializing and training your dog to be a polite companion is an investment of time and love every responsible pet owner will make. Furthermore, no responsible pet owner is going to foist an ill-mannered or aggressive dog on a restaurant (that wouldn’t exactly be responsible, now would it?). So when this bill passes, celebrate by going out and have a meal with your dog as an ambassador for the best in pet ownership!

Probably not what the restaurant meant when it said dogs were "welcome."

Probably not what the restaurant meant when it said “dogs are welcome.”

DogAtBrunch

This is more like it.

Apr 24, 2015 - Animals and Culture    No Comments

If You Want to Improve Animal Care, Offering a Hand Is Better than Pointing Fingers

Upon seeing an animal that appears neglected or abused, the first impulse for many people — and frankly, a natural one — is to lash out at the owner. Pointing fingers and calling the owners horrible people, demanding that they be thrown in the stocks and their animals confiscated, or worse. I’m sure you have heard it all many times before.

But lashing out in anger, while cathartic, does nothing to address any underlying issues that may be affecting the owner. Very few people are truly cold-hearted or abusive when it comes to animals, especially the ones they personally know and care for. But there are lots of situations where life gets out of control… and when that happens, animal care is sadly one of the first areas to suffer.

Here is BC SPCA senior investigator Kent Kokoska explaining that issues of animal neglect and abuse can be a lot more complicated than they appear from the outside:

“It might a mental health issue, there might be a physical injury or compromise to the animal owner, or it might be a financial compromise,” Kokoska told Daybreak Kamloops’ Shelley Joyce.

[…]

“One or any combination of those can cause a situation to slide for an animal’s care.”

Kokoska said most of the complaints involve neglecting the animal — and sometimes education can make the difference in the animal’s welfare. Part of the education effort is marking Animal Abuse Prevention in B.C. on April 23 each year.

“A lot of people aren’t aware and bringing that awareness to people and some options, that’s the first step to making a positive change.”

 

Many animal owners take proper care of their animals, and there is an unfortunate (but thankfully small) percentage of people who simply shouldn’t be allowed around animals at all. For everybody else, working to gain an understanding of the situation, offering education, options for improvement, and a chance to be a good owner should always be the first step.

 

Is your canine an URBAN good citizen?

Earlier this week, the American Kennel Club announced its new Urban Canine Good Citizen Test. This was announced without a ton of fanfare, so we will forgive you if you missed it, but it is definitely worth checking out! Like the original Canine Good Citizen program, the urban version recognizes responsible pet owners and their polite, well-trained dogs, with a focus on the challenges of an urban environment:

“City dogs require a very special set of skills, including waiting to cross a street, ignoring food tossed on a sidewalk, behaving in building lobbies and riding elevators,” said Mary Burch, Ph.D., Director of the Canine Good Citizen program.  [also: former NAIA board member and writer!] “Urban CGC reinforces practical, everyday skills for the millions of dogs living in urban areas today, creating safer, more responsible communities.”

Lifestyles and culture are always changing. 100 years ago, it was not uncommon for dogs to live outdoors most, if not all of their lives, and dog ownership was primarily for the very rural or the very wealthy. Today, those dogs are sleeping on their owner’s beds, and dogs being walked down a busy city street is a regular occurrence. What a great time for a program like the Urban Canine Good Citizen — and a great chance for dog owners to become ambassadors for responsible pet ownership!

You don’t need to be interested in having a “title” for your dog, you don’t even need to live in a big city. Simply having a well-behaved dog that is not frightened or distracted by their environment, that can safely and confidently walk past both human and dog on a busy sidewalk is a big win for everybody. For your dog, for you, and for your entire community!

There can be a lot of distractions and challenges for a little dog in a big city!

There can be a lot of distractions and challenges for a little dog in a big city!

 

 

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…

 

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!

WEST DEPTFORD POLICE DEPARTMENT
WEST DEPTFORD POLICE DEPARTMENT

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