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Unregistered Shelters, Street Dogs, and the Healthy Dog Importation Act

The Tijuana Sun reports that Tijuana’s numerous unregistered animal shelters – many of which are shipping dogs north to U.S. consumers – are creating a nightmare for local animal control, animal welfare activists, and especially dogs. Cases of overcrowding, cruelty, filth, and illness abound, but unfortunately, very few of the city’s shelters are registered or even identified by officials. This makes it incredibly difficult to monitor and improve shelters so they meet health and welfare standards.

Exacerbating this already daunting task is the fact that there is a lot of money to be made by shipping street dogs north to well-intentioned U.S. homes. Even people who start out only wanting to “save lives” can get sucked in. When there is a near-limitless supply of street dogs to export, and each dog is being shipped out at $20 a tail, you will reach a point where you are running a business, rather than a shelter, whether you admit it or not. It’s inevitable. What incentive is there to stop, register your shelter, and solve the problem at its source?

It is estimated that there are 50,000 street dogs currently living in Tijuana. That’s a lot of dogs, but fortunately, there are two good steps going forward. The first step would be for the local government to allocate resources toward rescue, rehab, and sterilization programs and partnerships. A concerted effort would really help put a dent in this welfare, health, and safety dilemma. Of course, this is not something we can magically enact, and no matter how well and urgently Animal Lawyers of Mexico or other welfare groups state their case, they do not have magical powers either.

Export operation in Tijuana. 114 dogs, excrement-covered floors, closets containing dead dogs, and neighbors who wouldn’t open their windows due to the stench. Image: Municipal Animal Control.

The second step going forward is something we do have a say over, however: showing our support for the Healthy Dog Importation Act. Screening more of the dogs that come in for good health, appropriate age, and vaccination status disincentivizes the practice of willy-nilly shipping dogs into the United States, and, most urgently, protects the health of people, pets, and agriculture. Raising these standards for importation may also, less directly, lead to welfare and animal service improvements in places that had previously profited by shipping their “overflow” problems elsewhere.

(Translated) Shelters for homeless dogs in Tijuana, necessary, but irregular

★     NAIA: Healthy Dog Importation Act of 2023, June Update
★     Puppies being exploited at California port of entry, say animal rights’ advocates

Jul 7, 2023 - Animals and Culture    No Comments

A “Pest” by Any Other Name…

Animals like rodents, ants, or mosquitoes are viewed as pests – at least if they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. They get into our food, climb all over our counters, suck our blood, provide the occasional scare, and sometimes even spread nasty diseases. But this “pest” label evolves and changes over time, and is, frankly, more of a reflection of ourselves than the animals.

For example, it took a mere century for pigeons to go from adored avian friends – couriers, pets, providers of fertilizer and meat – to the current “rats with wings” status they hold with many people. And if you think the pigeon’s status in 1900 was lofty compared to today, it was still a far cry from the distant past, when some people viewed them as holy! What happened? Not much: all it took was for them to be rendered obsolete by modern tastes and technologies. Boom. Done. While there are still a few pigeon fanciers around today, in the eyes of many people, these birds are viewed as an overabundant, messy nuisance (albeit kinda cute). Can you believe that one of these winged rats received the Croix de guerre medal for saving the lives of 194 American soldiers in the First World War? How times change!

Pals or pests?

Another pest vs. prized example is whether we consider a species invasive or in need of protection. In Florida, the Burmese python is considered highly invasive, and regularly hunted down and hacked to bits. Meanwhile, there are people in Vietnam who devote themselves to protecting this snake, where it is not invasive, and its numbers have dropped precipitously in recent years.

But don’t get the idea that choosing to protect or eradicate a species is merely a game of numbers used by wildlife departments to maintain the illusion of “natural balance.” Consider the invasive honey bee, which was introduced to North America in the 17th century. You are far more likely to visit the emergency room – or even die – from a bee attack than you are from a Burmese python. In fact, the only recorded deaths from constrictors in the United States have been from captive snakes. Yet the idea of losing honey bees is utterly tragic and alarming to many of us! This is because honey bees, much like pigeons of old, provide us with a valuable service and are well-liked by many people. Invasive or not, these insects are viewed through the lens of our needs and beliefs. So, at least for now, honey bees are pals, not pests… and unlike numerous other invasive species, we strive to protect them!

Outside/Inbox: ‘What makes an animal a pest?’

★     Smithsonian National Museum of American History: Cher Ami
★     Are honey bees native to North America?

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

Congratulations Buddy Holly: Westminster Winner!

Another year, another unforgettable Westminster best in show winner! 2023’s champ is a Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen named Buddy Holly, the first of his kind to win the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. The Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen is a French scent hound known for hunting rabbits and for their vivacious personalities. Facing stiff competition from Rummie the Pekingese, Buddy raved on, told the judge “Look at me!” and would not be denied. Oh boy!

Awww! All we can say is: ooh-wee-hoo!

Big congratulations to a great dog! The success of events like Westminster and the National Dog Show are so great to see and a testament to the fact that people just love supporting dogs… even if their only way of doing so is through a screen many miles away. Here’s to many more great Westminster champs in the future (and don’t forget to check out your local dog shows and events, too)!

Buddy Holly, the petit basset griffon Vendéen, wins Westminster dog show 

★     Westminster Best in Show Winners 2008 to 2023
★     Dog Shows and Events in Your Area

Puppy Scam Costs Georgia Woman $3,646

One aspect of pet ownership that never fails to leave us in awe is how far some people will go to get the type of animal they love. Dogs, cats, fish, herps, birds – the breed or species of pet may be wildly different, but the impulse for care and companionship that drives people to keep pets is often quite similar. The human-animal bond is really kind of magic! Unfortunately, having big feelings can also open a person up to exploitation by criminals.

This is what happened to a Georgia woman who was scammed out of thousands of dollars by a man posing as an English Bulldog breeder. The man assumed the identity of an actual breeder, Lisa Dunn Miller, claiming photos of one of Miller’s puppies as his own. He listed the puppy at only $650 (a red flag in and of itself), though once he had the victim on the hook, he added an additional $200 for shipping. When that ploy worked, he upped the ante by $996 for a “shipping crate,” then, perhaps seeing just how far he could push the victim, another $1,800 for “COVID vaccines.” Yikes!

As tempting as a picture of pups might be, get to know your breeder first!

By the time the victim realized this was all a scam and reported it to the sheriff’s office, she had been fleeced to the tune of $3,646. It’s always bad when people take advantage of others like this, but it’s especially nasty when a victim’s “puppy love” is used as a weapon against them. On the bright side, scams like this are avoidable.

Remember how we mentioned that $650 for an English Bulldog puppy is a red flag? Well, it most definitely is. For a reputable breeder, $650 won’t come close to covering the cost of testing, breeding, worming and vaccines, and basic animal care that goes into rearing a purebred pup. Breeding dogs may be a labor of love, but it sure ain’t cheap! Another thing to remember is that reputable breeders will have references and be happy to communicate with you in person, or at the very least over video call. They will also have answers to your questions and be curious about you and your home, to help ensure that the puppy is going to live in a safe and loving environment. And while a good breeder costs more, the costs will be clear and upfront, and there will be a contract – no $996 “Crate Fees” sideswiping you out of nowhere!

Georgia woman loses over $3k when she tries to buy a puppy

★     “Bull” (from the actual breeder’s website)
★     AKC: How to Spot a Puppy Scam Online

Romans May Have Bred Frenchie (Like) Dogs Before It Was Cool

People have been breeding dogs to accentuate desirable traits for thousands of years. And not just “work-related” traits like herding, guarding, or pulling sleds, but also “cute and companionable” traits that make for better pets. Dogs have been around a looooong time.

The excavated Roman pets were similar to French Bulldogs and Pekingese.

Despite this long history, certain popular traits in pet dogs, such as flatter faces, are often viewed as a modern conceit. However, findings from the Roman empire suggest that flat-faced dogs resembling French Bulldogs were around over 2,000 years ago. Wear and tear indicates the dogs were pampered pets, and possibly an attempt to have a dog similar to the Pekingese, which was owned by Chinese imperial families at the time.

Snub-nosed dogs aren’t found in existing Roman art, which makes these findings a little surprising. However, the Romans are credited as the world’s first true dog breeders, having classes of dogs, as well as a keen understanding of physical and behavioral inheritance. Perhaps we should have expected these “proto-pug” findings!

★     Skull of a brachycephalic dog unearthed in the ancient city of Tralleis, Türkiye
★     The French Bulldog has been named America’s No.1 Most Popular DogRomans May Have Bred Frenchie (Like) Dogs Before It Was Cool

Dog Registration Drive Reaps Success and Curiosity from Neighbors

According to local officials, a recent licensing law, coupled with a registration and vaccination drive for dogs in Plantersville, Mississippi is already reaping benefits. They have seen a reduction in roaming dogs, more lost dogs returned to their owners rather than sent to the shelter, and, of course, we don’t have to explain the benefits of rabies shots. So far, it sounds like a win-win for everyone. And in light of this success, neighboring towns are reportedly curious about enacting similar policies themselves.

Three pals, two leashes. No roamin’ – just good times.

Now, the idea that you pass a law affecting pet owners, and suddenly the number of roaming dogs and intakes goes down might seem simple and self-evident to some people. But the truth is, there are a lot of instances where you don’t see such an obvious cause-and-effect with animal laws. Many aren’t effective at all, in fact. What happened here, is that a clear and reasonable set of rules were laid out for pet owners, accompanied with encouragement and engagement. There is nothing that felt arbitrary or punitive – just an ordinance that pet owners – the vast majority of whom are law-abiding, humane, and want the best for their animals and communities – would view as a net-positive and be happy to support. Now that is a formula for success!

★     NAIA: Constructing Successful, Pet-Friendly Ordinances
★     NAIA Model Law: Dog Purchaser Protection Act

Horrific Dog Attack; Common Sense and Responsibility as Pet Owners

Ever know someone with a reactive or aggressive dog who makes their pet everyone else’s problem? Who are we kidding? Of course this is something you’ve seen or experienced before. Sometimes, the owner denies or minimizes their dog’s behavior (“Don’t be afraid. He’s just playing!”); they may also make excuses for their dog (“He’s being triggered by past traumatic experiences!”), or, in some instances, the owner may even blame the victim(s) (“Why did you let your dog aggravate him!”). The lack of accountability and excuses are all too familiar.

Probably not “just playing.”

Pets are part of the family, and our protectiveness and desire to paint them in the best possible light comes from a good place. That’s completely understandable. It is also true that our pets may act differently around us than with unfamiliar people, pets, and places. But regardless, the behavior of our pets is our responsibility. At a bare minimum, we have a duty to make sure our pets are under control when dealing with the public and strangers. And not to let smaller pets off the hook (which is a topic for another article), but this responsibility is doubly important when we’re talking about large dogs that can more easily cause grievous injuries to other pets and people.

Hammering home this point is the story of a five-year-old girl in Florida, who endured five hours of surgery after a dog owner allegedly invited the girl to pet her 60lb, recently rescued dog that was “very good with kids.” Yeesh. The dog proceeded to maul the girl twice, as the girl’s mother wrestled with the attacking dog. The owner (who, in at least one recounting of this story, just stood there as the attacks transpired) and dog disappeared as the girl was rushed to the hospital by her mother, but have since been identified. It’s a pretty horrific tale. The images serve as a graphic reminder (consider this your warning) of the harm that occurs when people fail to meet their most basic common sense and responsibility requirements as pet owners.

★     (Canada) 3 Dogs Attacked A 9-Year-Old Girl In Manitoba & Left Her With ‘Significant Injuries’
★     NAIA: Constructing successful pet friendly ordinances

Arrest Made in Dallas Zoo Crime Spree

The string of bizarre crimes at the Dallas Zoo has finally come to an end. After the Dallas Zoo issued a photo of the suspect from security footage, it caught the eye of churchgoers who recognized him from frequenting a church-owned property. An arrest was made last week after the suspect, Davion Irvin, visited the Dallas World Aquarium (DWA), and asked keepers about the animals’ management and routines. A keeper was immediately tipped off by his behavior and also recognized him from the wanted photo. DWA also houses Emperor tamarins among many other rainforest animals, including hundreds of free flighted birds.

Upon questioning, Mr. Irvin admitted he entered the Dallas zoo after hours to cut the fence and take the tamarins, then used the commuter train to travel back to Lancaster with the monkeys in tow. It is a short distance from the tamarin exhibit to the zoo perimeter, and then a short walk to the train station, which has a zoo stop across the street from the front entrance. Mr. Irvin also admitted to the attempted catnapping of the clouded leopard Nova, as well as cutting the langur fencing. It has not yet been determined if he has any connection with the intentional killing of the lappet-faced vulture, Pin. Mr. Irvin did make it clear, however, that he would continue to seek out animals to take upon release, as he is a self-proclaimed animal lover. He has now been charged with six counts of animal cruelty and two counts of burglary.

This string of incidents has rippled across the country. Several similar events have occurred within the same time frame, only adding to the mystery: 12 squirrel monkeys were stolen from a zoo in Louisiana, a Eurasian Eagle Owl got out of a vandalized exhibit at the Central Park Zoo in NYC, a pelican exhibit was vandalized at the Houston Zoo, and an Andean bear got out of its enclosure through a corner of fencing at the Saint Louis Zoo.

★     Owl who escaped NYC zoo after someone cut enclosure becomes local celebrity
★     A man was arrested in the theft of 12 squirrel monkeys from a Louisiana zoo, but the animals have yet to be found, chief says