Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What the Traditional Shelter Model Means for Dogs

Sunday I posted about what the new no-kill paradigm means for the dogs of St. Louis after their city shelter was taken over by a nonprofit...instead of killing 50% of all incoming dogs, the nonprofit has killed a grand total of 3 in the past six months. Instead of adopting out a measly 300 dogs in a year, the nonprofit has adopted out 120 dogs a month. I profiled a few of the dogs available for adoption who would not be alive under previous management.

This is not pie-in-the-sky naivete. The no-kill paradigm can be made a reality for nearly every single shelter in this country...if we want it to be.

As a contrast, here is what the traditional shelter model means to dogs. In Sacramento County, more than 60% of the dogs who enter the shelter don't come out alive. On a dog rescue listserv, a rescue group posts all the dogs who have come into the shelter in the hopes other rescue agencies will pull dogs. The list also includes dogs who don't make it...they are all given the "Unfortunately, this animal was euthanized." tag line, as if it the taking of another life is just unfortunate happenstance.

This is what the traditional shelter paradigm is doing to dogs. Warning, it's not pretty.

All dead.

Now maybe a few of these dogs have irremediable health problems. But my guess is most were the wrong breed with the "wrong" temperament and failed the most basic and pathetic of behavioral temperament tests. They were probably shy or food aggressive or maybe dog or cat reactive. Maybe they were outright aggressive. But none were given a chance at behavioral modification.

Sacramento County's shelter is far larger than St. Louis' city shelter. They take in around 15,000 animals a year, compared to around 2,000 in St. Louis' city shelter. They have been the recipient of exceedingly harsh budget cuts, but I imagine many shelters have been on the budgetary chopping block as well. They moved to a new 22-million dollar facility...I can't help but wonder if significant improvements could have been made to their previous one for half the price with the other 10 million going towards aggressive outreach/adoption events, aggressive volunteer and foster recruitment, aggressive ad/media campaigns increasing adoptions, etc. ad naseum. I love the new shelter, really I do, and it was desperately needed (when I used to volunteer there, the shelter housed 4-6 dogs in kennels made for 1-2 dogs...now they have space for up to a 1,000 dogs and cats), it's just hard to reconcile with the current economic situation.

But if Sacramento County (the shelter, the SPCA, the city shelter, the citizens, rescues, etc) really wanted to do what Stray Rescue is doing St. Louis, Sacramento County could do it. I don't think the success would be quite as instantaneous, for a variety of reasons, but I think it would be quicker than the current model.

Sac County is trying, but it's hard when you read articles like this, all about the killing of healthy, adoptable animals because of the erroneous claim there aren't enough homes. Animals are being killed for treatable problems, and that is not just or right.

So when you think about no-kill versus the traditional animal control model, think of those dogs above who, in two days, were snuffed from existence because all of us aren't rethinking the role of the animal shelter in the 21st century. There is no excuse for this, only impetus for change. I don't spotlight Sac County because I think they are bad or animal control officers are horrible. But I do think the mentality, as expressed in the above article, focuses too much on what the shelter "can't" or "isn't" doing rather than on uniting the animal welfare community and moving the shelter system into a more compassionate and sustainable future.

Where My Feathered Friends At?

I have two bird feeders out in my yard. There's not a lot of foliage in my yard, except for several tall silver maples and pine trees...they don't provide a lot of coverage for birds, though.

One feeder is hanging outside my window. There are several trees close by, and one small bush right under it for added hiding spots. The other is in a bad spot, hanging from a maple tree (these are 40-50' trees, so their leafy branches are up high), with no hiding spots.

How can I convince the birds to come visit? Are they just missing the feeders? What the heck am I doing wrong?

The feeders have been out for two weeks now, am I just being impatient?

Help, I need to have data for Project FeederWatch and cannot do so without some birds to watch!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What No Kill Means to the Dogs of St. Louis

It means they aren't dead!

There is an emerging trend, albeit not a new one, for non-profit agencies to take over control or contract with government run animal control agencies. Some take over completely, meaning they use donations/grants from the public and grantmakers to run an animal control agency in lieu of taxpayer dollars. Some take over adoptions or the running of a shelter while animal control officers are paid via tax-payers funds to enforce laws.  I have mixed feelings on this, but that's not what this post is about.

The city of St. Louis used to kill more than half of all dogs entering their shelter. Those are horrible odds. In 2009, that meant 1,033 dogs were unceremoniously killed. In July of this year, a nonprofit, Stray Rescue, took over adoptions at the shelter.

And since then, they've killed three dogs - two for medical reasons, one for extreme aggression.

Last year, the city adopted out a grand total of 300 dogs.

Since the nonprofit took over - they've adopted out 120 dogs a month.

Amazing what a bit of ingenuity, well-managed funds and tenacity can mean for dogs.

So what does that mean for the dogs?

This is Sam. He is 8-yrs-old which, for a large-breed dog, like a Rottweiler, is getting up in the years.

Can you believe if he'd arrived six months ago, he'd already be dead? Wrong!! Now he rocks a green bandana and is looking for a retirement home where he'll be given butt massages and also be told how awesomely uneven his ears are - perfection!

Carlos here is a 3-yr-old mush-head. He would have been killed because he's a Pit Bull mix with an ugly, painful ear cropping. Oh, and he was scared of the world. Being afraid is often a reason why dogs are killed.

Now he's looking for his permanent digs where he can wag his butt at you and opine on the state of the world, like why do cats watch birds on tv, are they stupid or something? Stuff like that.

Brinx is a 4-yr-old mixed breed who has taken the WOE IS ME look to a whole new level, maybe the zenith of woeness.

Brinx would have been killed because she was sick and skinny when she arrived and her two puppies probably would have been killed too.

Now she gets to manipulate bipeds the world over with her sad doe-eyes and unusually large ears.

For these three dogs, no kill means BEING ALIVE. Such a simple pleasure, this being alive business. Not only that, but these three dogs will never be snuffed out because of space or treatable illnesses or because they are a bit shy. They, like all dogs entering this new shelter, will be evaluated as individuals, treated when it is reasonable and feasible to do so, and trained to be functioning members of human society. Most of these dogs are in foster homes and those that aren't receive extensive attention in the form of volunteers and trainers.

We should let dogs decide if they can handle a kennel environment before we cry "u r being mean", before we take a dog's life. That's permanent shit and it should damn well be avoided until all hope is lost. We don't need to "warehouse" dogs to provide them long-term care, and we don't need to create fear when none need exist.

Because these three dogs are alive. ALIVE! Six months ago, they wouldn't have stood a chance, but now they do. And that's what no kill means to the dogs of St. Louis. What it can mean for all dogs.

Please Do Not Pick Up Snakes

On Pit Bulls and Parolees a parolee tried to grab a snake thinking he was a gopher snake. You never do this unless you know the snake is a gopher snake. Assume the snake is a rattler, until proven otherwise.

It is not hard to discern a rattlesnake from a gopher snake if you are familiar with both species. Most people are not. I've only had the privilege of learning the difference because I worked in a high-snake area for several years. We would catch and release between 15-30 rattlesnakes a year.

Gopher snakes are constrictors, that's how they kill their prey. I've personally experienced their strength when I was forced to hand-catch a 4' gopher stuck behind the chicken's hose. When I pulled him out, he wrapped himself snugly around my arm, requiring another staff member to prise him off so we could place him elsewhere. Not generally how I handle snakes (which is to say, I avoid it).

Gopher snakes act like rattlesnakes, though. This gets them killed. People are afraid of rattlesnakes and instead of respecting them as integral aspects of a healthy bio-system, they kill them. I find this unfortunate. Gopher snakes are killed because they coil up like a rattlesnake and rattle like them too. Some of the more aggressive gophers will strike. It's a good predator deterrent, except in the case of humans.

You can see the difference between gophers and rattlers here.

Gophers have very narrow heads, while rattlers have broad, triangular shaped heads. The safest way to tell them apart is to just leave them alone. :)

Rattlesnakes will avoid biting you for as long as they can. Most want nothing to do with you - it's us who seem hell-bent on wanting something to do with them. Like gophers, they have a key role to play in their environment. Yes, it is important to remove them from the vicinity of animals, for the safety of the snakes, you and your companion animals. Call a professional who does not kill the snakes or consider learning how to safely catch and release a snake from an expert.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Around the Intarwebz

This story will make you cry, if not, you are not human! Last year, a 15-yr-old boy died during a four-wheeling accident.The dog he rescued after a car accident three years prior is lost in grief, often visiting "her boy's" grave. Sad.

Whale sharks are MATHEMATICIANS

OMG, people are so stupid cruel - rabbits should not be abandoned in recycling bins out in snowy weather. Rabbit handling for the fail. Luckily, the rabbit was found by a family who was all RABBIT YOU ARE CUTE AND NOT RECYCLABLE, and saved her. The rabbit is currently in the lagamorph witness protection program.

Otters are going insane in Miami. Just kidding, they're just getting tired of idiots who think otters are ZOMG SO CUTE. Witness this child of dubious intelligence who decided to chase after an otter to film him, then screamed like a banshee when the otter got tired of swimming lazily in the pond, got out and bit the him.

Dogs have bigger brains because they are more AWESOME than cats. Or more social. Whatevs.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Turkey Day to the Turkeys

Margaret is a turkey with 'tude and who is grateful in her own avian way to be alive.

I'm celebrating Thanksgiving today with 20 friends and not one ounce of turkey or any other animal product at part of the meal. A vegan Thanksgiving FOR the turkeys!

I do hope your day is full of good company and gratitude.

Margaret Turkey is Cool

Monday, November 22, 2010

I Missed the First Snow

I grew up in the Bay Area which means the most snow I ever saw was the one time in college in which an 1/8th of an inch of the white stuff fell on the ground. We called it a Snow Day and didn't attend classes, that's how un-snow-like I am. I did go to Tahoe once when I was eight but we nearly plowed off a 5,000 ft cliff and I haven't been back since in the winter.

Now I live near the 3,000 ft level in the Sierra Foothills. It's not like we get a lot of snow, maybe a foot per year, but still that's a lot more than I'm used to.

This weekend, I was visiting my parents back down in the Bay Area.

And at home, the weekend storm dropped snow and tree branches in my yard.

For those of you living in colder climates, you don't get to make fun of me. At least not on my blog. ;)

This 30' branch from the adjacent maple tree decided to take out a part of the fence and land in my neighbor's yard. In fact, every single one of my maple trees revolted and each shed a branch - three of the seven even made it into my yard, the rest in my neighbor's. And yes, I will be cleaning it up.

This is all the snow left from the storm, on my roof.

I'm kind of glad to have missed the storm - it knocked over my bird feeder that still hasn't attracted any birds and cracked it. Damn you storm.

Still, I would have liked to been there for the first snow of the season. There will be more, which I will complain about in an epic manner, you have been warned.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Avoid Irrational Fear, Peoples

In Margaret Atwood's dystopic novel The Handmaid's Tale, a conservative extremist group creates a culture of fear that leads to a totalitarian state. When what seem like minor "rights" are removed, few complain. It's in the name of nationalism, of protecting a broken society. The stripping away of rights and privileges adds up, though, until no one is really free anymore.

I'm not saying that is exactly what's happening in the United States. I don't think we'll see women  unable to open bank accounts or "handmaids" raped trying to populate a dwindling population.

But every time we accept the stripping of rights as a "necessary protection" against terrorism or some other irrational (or unavoidable) fear, we move ourselves closer to that dystopia. When we do it without protest or voicing our opinions, we enable those in charge to keep going like its normal and okay.

Which is why I support the elimination of full body scans at airports and the cessation of "enhanced pat downs", which in any other circumstance, would be considered aggravated assault.

The Business Travel Coalition has this to say:
"The deployment of full-body scanners without a formal public comment process and sufficient medical and scientific vetting is one of the worst TSA abuses of authority since its creation," stated BTC Chairman Kevin Mitchell.
"The overly aggressive pat-downs represent citizen-mistreatment in the extreme, especially if used as 'punishment' when passengers opt out of full-body scans," he added.
Safety is important, no one is arguing against being safe. Are nearly pornographic body scans and physical assaults the way to improve it? While it's certainly my opinion that they are not, the TSA didn't even bother to ask, skipping out on public comments and input from professionals and experts.

If you want more information on the national opt-out day, check out Wewontfly.com

And the problems with scanners, pat downs and opting out?
TSA pat-down leaves man covered in urine when agents "accidentally" rips out the seal on his urostomy bag; Breast cancer survivor and flight attendant forced to remove prosthetic breast; A portend for things to come, a 2002 case strikingly similar to the current horror stories emerging;  Rape survivor devastated during public enhanced pat down; Woman not told the details of the enhanced pat down, traumatized when TSA agent touches her breasts and vagina; Woman inappropriately groped twice at airport because of "billowy" skirt; Boston Globe columnist's superb piece on his groping experience that left him traumatized; Another woman is groped because of her skirt; A young boy is strip-searched; A man recently recovering from invasive surgery is left feeling further traumatized after three invasive enhanced pat downs...the list goes on. 

This is not freedom. This is not creating a safer America. This is criminalizing us, law-abiding citizens for daring to pay money, take off shoes, wait in line and eat crappy food. Thanks a lot, government. I'm sure the 80-yr-old with the fudge is a serious threat to national security.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Around the Intarwebz

A little dog with giant bat ears pressed a medic-alert button multiple times, which saved his owner from dying of an asthma attack.

A combat veteran suffering from crippling depression is now getting his dog back, the therapy a doctor prescribed for his depression. The dog was accused of nipping the guardian's neighbor and was going to be killed because the veteran couldn't afford it. But donations poured in and now the man has his dog back.

Nearly 40 dogs confiscated from a property in which a young boy was killed by a chained dog were killed by their rescuers, even though they did not participate in the attack and many were friendly. Authorities killed the dogs after 72 hours because some of them - get this - had ear mites.

A woman is fighting for her son's right to have a seizure-alert dog present at his school. The child suffers from epilepsy and also has autism. His service dog helps calm him and can alert when a seizure is about to happen. Apparently the Collier County School District hates seizure-alert dogs.

Seven Pit Bulls were rescued from a Baltimore dog fighting operation and are now recovering at the humane society. The shelter is hoping some will be redeemed and adopted out once custody is granted to the shelter.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Coat for a Cow

Sadie is an older bovine at the sanctuary. She is arthritic, especially in her back left leg, which was damaged when UC Davis students loaded her improperly into a chute. Her stifle fractured and we were unsure if she'd ever be able to recover - she was already 5-7 years old, and a leg injury is far more devastating for a 1,200 lb animals than even a 100 lb one. But she  recovered, and although she walks with a permanent limp, she keeps up with the rest of the cattle.

As she gets closer to 13, the wear and tear of that damaged leg has taken its toll. A lot of her energy reserves go toward accommodating that awkward leg and gait. She is much more slender than any of the other cattle, including other former dairy cows. While she'll never be as robust as Howie, the charolais, or Tommy, the angus, she is more underweight than we like to see. So she gets a large daily ration of sweet grain, and she's already foraging on rich clover and other grasses.

But she didn't develop the nice thick coat cows grow for winter. She is a little fuzzier but not more more so than her summer sheen. She has no fat pads to speak of, unlike the rest of the herd. And where we are, it's getting down into the 30s in the evening and will probably be colder as winter progresses.

So we got her a coat. A blanket made for horses. It's not heavyweight, we don't want to overheat her rumen or her, but it's waterproof and provides enough warmth for a skinny cow.

Sadie is not a social cow. She hasn't ever really gotten over her treatment on the dairy farm - she was tail-docked without anesthesia at a year of age (imagine putting a rubber band on the tail of a 2-yr-old dog) and she suffered from untreated mastitis, a painful udder infection. It's taken her time to adjust to us, but slowly she's come to the point where one or two of us can go out and pet her, give her massages.

I wasn't sure how she'd react to the coat, so I started slow. Every time animal care staff went out to give her grain, I'd tag along with the large blanket. I let her sniff her and then just started massaging her wounded leg and hip, something she loves for us to do. After a few days, I started rubbing the blanket against her. And a couple days ago, I draped it over her body. For her, this blanket came with food and probably felt warm and comfortable. She didn't balk or freak out over the blanket. Today, she is wearing it like a pro. She will be monitored, of course, to make sure her range of motion is not limited with the straps - cattle and horses are not built the same and what may accommodate the movement of a horse may not with a cow.

Plus, she just looks adorable

Sadie Showing off her New Coat

Horse Coats Not Just For Horses!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

RCMP: Oops, But We're Not Sorry

You're out running errands and decide to return home with your bag of legally purchased loot. Upon arrival, you notice a bunch of dudes in your backyard looking all official like. You wonder to yourself, self, what is going on in my backyard? So you approach the backyard that is owned by you and suddenly find yourself flat on the ground with a dog dangling off your shoulder. Ouch, right? You're like, what did I steal that pack of peppered tofurky deli slices? Was my soy milk actually not on sale? WHAT THE HECK, RCMP?

No, you were just in your backyard and accused of a crime that didn't occur. Heck, you're one of FOUR people wrongly arrested for a crime that never happened.

And if you are Jared Shram, you don't even get an apology. Your mauling by an aggressive police dog, even though you had complied with officers' requests to lay on the ground, that was just "regrettable".

This isn't a story about a police dog "wrongly attacking" someone. It's about an entire police force wrongly arresting four innocent individuals for a magically disappearing crime and not saying DUDES, WE ARE SORRY. Is that hard to do, apologize?

Shram is filing a complaint. We can only hope the RCMP get their act together and issue a formal apology to the four wrongly arrested people. Which won't help with the damage done by the errant police dog or the loss of faith in the justice system (WAS THERE FAITH?) but it would be something.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Either This Picture Is Wrong of Someone Needs a Lesson on Breed ID

The caption of this article indicates these are two dogs responsible for attacks.

They are labeled as a Rottweiler and a Bull-mastiff. I do not believe anyone familiar with Rottweilers and Bull Mastiffs would label either dog as such.

But perhaps the picture caption is wrong and these are just a pair of unknown dogs.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Heroic War Dog 'Accidentally' Killed at Arizona Shelter

In July of this year, seven dogs made their way from Afghanistan to the United States. Target and Rufus were two of three dogs who stopped a suicide bomber from completing his mission at an American base in Afghanistan. The third dog, Sasha, perished in the bombing but saved the lives of countless humans and other dogs.

Target survived a war, a suicide bomber, and a long airplane ride to the states. She survived a pregnancy and  even survived Oprah!

But she couldn't survive our animal shelter system.

Monday, November 15, 2010

She Picked Me!

Every evening after work, Celeste and I traipse through 600-acres owned by the sanctuary where I work. Life is bigger here in the Sierra Foothills. Trees are 50-100' tall, not the tallest, but no small saplings. Coyotes weigh up to 50 lbs, highly unusual. Mountain lions are fat and healthy, and the black bear are too. Deer are big with a lot of healthy, older males. Even the turkeys are larger than the wild turkey I'm used to seeing.

Celeste believes this is paradise. Watching her on our walks and jogs reminds me she is a predator. She spends the entire time pouncing and leaping, trying her best to "hunt". Channeling her inner wolf or, as I call it, her inner dingo, Celeste lets loose completely off-leash and free. I love watching her. Love.

She has chased a couple deer. While I don't mind keeping the protective fear alive in the deer, I am cognizant of the very real threat Celeste poses to the deer and the deer to her. When she notices I'm not partaking of the cave-dog chase, Celeste pounds back to me, a deranged and happy grin on her face. It's as if she wants to ask why am I not helping her out?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My Neighbor's Dogs Are More Annoying Than Mine

My neighbor has two Jack Russell Terriers who LOVE to fence-fight. They're absolutely serious about it too.

Celeste barks a bit but is really more confused with their behavior than anything.

Mina is a terrier too, so she is pretty firm in her belief that fence-fighting is a dog-given right.

But she has met her match with these two dogs. They are dedicated, obnoxious, and serious. Mina isn't really serious. If the two dogs made their way to my yard, the worst thing that would happen is Mina would paw them. She generally doesn't eat invading dogs. I can't say the same for these two terriers. I'm pretty sure they want to rip Mina's throat out.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Rosie Shot Multiple Times By Des Moines, WA Cops

On November 7th, Rosie - a 2-yr-old Newfoundland - got out of her backyard. While she was microchipped, she was not wearing a collar. Someone saw her running loose and called authorities. They probably regret bothering with police.

When police arrived, everything they did was a message of "fear me" to Rosie. They chased her - she ran away. When they wouldn't leave her alone, she barked. That was the extent of her aggression. When they tried to snare her with a catch-pole, she escaped and ran again. When they tasered her, she probably yelped and ran away yet again. At no point did she charge at officers. At no point did she try to bite or attack officers. She ran away and barked.

Police cornered her in a backyard. Any reasonable person might suggest backing off and closing the gate. The dog is safely confined, she no longer poses the HORRIFIC threat of being barked at to death. Explain the situation to the home-owner. Give the dog some time, try to see if her behavior changes with time to calm. Net her, catch pole her if you have to. The world will not end if police give this dog a few minutes to calm down.

Instead, they shot her four times and killed her. Remember, the only two behaviors Rosie expressed were to run away and bark. (And as an aside, clearly the officers made Rosie A LOT bigger than she actually was by labeling her a 200 lb behemoth, even though she only weighed 120 lbs).

There will be a vigil tomorrow in her memory.

The Seattle Humane Society is condemning the shooting and encouraging Des Moines authorities to fully investigate it and also modify the way they handle loose, non-aggressive dogs.

Around the Intarwebs

Ontario's stupid BSL law strikes again! A dog is on death row for an attack she did not start. She was attacked, while muzzled AND leashed, by another unleashed dog. The dog attacked so hard that s/he ripped off the muzzle. As both owners were separating the dogs, the attacking dog's owner was bitten by one of the dogs. Now the leashed, muzzled, didn't start it dog is on death row because she is a Pit Bull. Lame! Calgary is offering to take Ginger, because Calgary is not made of the stupid.

A few Pit Bulls rescued from a "drug bust" are learning how to be pets in Pittsburgh, including one chunky boy named Ferdinand the Bull.

Spay/neuter clinic celebrates its 20,000th spay!

Panic ensues when a dog runs around! This is news because the dog is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. It is such epic news that more than 400 words are dedicated to the story. Nothing happened, by the way. The dog literally just ran around. No biting, no scratching (he did jump enthusiastically on some kids). Yes, frightening experience for kids unfamiliar or scared of dogs but not news.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Please Show Common Sense

I'm in the parking lot of a grocery store with Mina in the front seat, window rolled down a smidgen. I'm not going in the store but picking up an order from a natural foods distributor. A guy approaches and notifies me that Mina wants to drive. This is a lifelong dream of hers. He then proceeds to stick his hand in the car. I'm like, woah there buddy. To which he replies, is she friendly? Well dude, ask that before you go sticking your fingers in her face. I feel progress has yet to be made re sensible thinking with dogs. DO NOT STICK YOUR HAND IN A WINDOW WITH AN UNKNOWN DOG!

Mina doesn't eat hands, so far as I know (if she does, she keeps it a secret), so she was super stoked to get a head-rubbing. But geeze, what if she was a man-eating she-beast from the depths of slor?

Then he asks if Mina is six months old. Mina is impressed with this and nods her head in agreement. But I ruin it by telling the truth about her 12-dom status. He is duly impressed. Mina is horrified.

Anyways, always ask before petting someone else's dog. Probably avoid petting dogs in cars, they are sometimes jerks in their vehicle (due to the fact that NO ONE lets them drive EVAR and they have now developed a complex). Dogs who head bump you as you exit your vehicle may be excepted if they are stupid and friendly, as happened to me yesterday in the parking lot.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dog Bite Research - Unsupervised Children At Highest Risk of Bite

You can read the press release from the University of Colorado, Denver here.

First, it should be duly noted that the research occurred at the Children's Hospital on the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colorado. It also services Denver. The college is one of the best medical and teaching hospitals in the nation, so I imagine they get in cases from across the state and country.

Aurora and Denver both have Pit Bull bans. Denver has the highest rate of dog bite hospitalizations in the state. This could be a reason you do not see Pit Bull bites in the study, but I do not believe this to be the case. Denver still kills 800-1,000 Pit Bulls a year so they certainly still exist and are still being owned by people.

The study covered 537 facial bites to children between 2003-2008. This is not an all-inclusive dog-bite study, to be sure. Nearly 70% of the victims were under the age of 5. The dogs were mostly known entities, that is they were not victims of stray or loose dog attacks. I'm not sure I agree with the assertion that 50% of all people will get bitten and 80% will be in the facial region - I'd like to see the reasoning for this statistic.

Sensational News Reporting

POLICE had to shoot dead two dogs after a teenager was bitten in a vicious attack in Melton South.

Vicious implies severe or significant trauma. The attack involved five dogs. Immediately following the first sentence is the next statement:

Advanced life support paramedics were called to Melton railway station to treat the 17-year-old, who suffered minor leg wounds and bruises in the attack about 1pm last Wednesday.

I am 100% glad the young man is mostly unharmed and that he suffered minor injuries. Even one dog could cause significant damage, let alone multiple dogs.

But the opening of this article is just...weird and pretty darn sensational.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Another Failure of the Dangerous Dog Act

What makes a public safety law good is how well it can be enforced and how good it is at improving public welfare.

In 1991, the UK implemented what can now be considered the most ineffective dangerous dog law ever recorded in a "first-world" nation. The Dangerous Dog Act banned four breeds of dogs, among other things. Besides the flaw of BSL, another fatal flaw of the law is that it allowed attacks on private property to go unpunished. That is, if you walk on my front lawn and my dog rips open your neck, even if the dog has a history of aggression towards people and I've never done anything about it, so sad, too bad.

Dog bite hospitalizations are at their highest in the UK, and Pit Bulls still exist and some still bite.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mina!

Mina turns twelve! At least that is my best guess. She could be as young as 11 and as old as 13. For the past nine years of her existence, I have hopefully made up for the not-so-happy first 2-3 years of her life.

She's such an enriching, integral part of my life. I love her. She loves me, in her canine way. I hope to spend another nine years together.

Mina pretending nobleness


I'm trying to sleep here


Monday, November 8, 2010

Las Cruces Animal Control - Some Suggestions For You

Las Cruces animal control have been doing sweeps of a mobile home park and certain neighborhoods, issuing warnings and giving folks a week to comply with licensing and vaccine requirements.

Going door to door can be a highly effective means of community building, increasing awareness and targeting problem areas with viable solutions.

Calgary, for example, which is held up as a bastion of an animal control program with integrity utilizes door-door tactics. Kern County has dramatically increased licensing rates with a similar door-door program as well (they have a new director, so we'll see if the program stays).

Las Cruces can take a page from Calgary and Kern County with just how they implement their neighborhood sweeps. Going door-door issuing citations or warnings is only a good way to alienate and criminalize who might otherwise be law-abiding citizens. Further, it creates an aura of fear and distrust toward animal control.

Here are some tried and true suggestions to improve licensing compliance while improving community support:
* Coordinate neighborhood sweeps with low-cost spay/neuter and vaccine clinics WITHIN walking distance of the area.
* Do not issue warnings or citations. Instead, issue pamphlets with a license application and nearby vaccine clinics. Let them know re-checks will occur within 2-3 weeks and THEN warnings will be issued (followed by actual citations).
* Make licensing a dog or cat easy with online applications. Work with pet stores and grocery stores to have licensing applications and informational pamphlets on pertinent animal control issues (loose animals, licensing, vaccinations, disease management, castration, behavioral training, etc).

I think neighborhood "sweeps", when done right, can be a great tool for animal control AND for the public. When done wrong, though, you have stories like out of Las Cruces in which the citizens who pay for animal control services are further alienated and unnecessarily criminalized. We can be better than this.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

New Blog

I'm going to be posting a lot more animal photography at my new photoblog - Sanctuary Photos. The blog will focus exclusively on photos of the animals at the sanctuary where I work. Each photo will be accompanied by a poem, because I miss poetry and why not combine something I love (photography) with something I used to enjoy (poetry).

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pigs and Chickens Like Pumpkins

In case you were wondering what to do with extra pumpkins after Halloween.

This is Ben. He has blue eyes and a winning disposition. He also chews with his mouth open. You can't be perfect.

Benjamin Pumpkin Head

I am so over the whole "roosters will fight forever and ever" crap. Roosters like pumpkins too. The one in front left might be a hen, but anyways lots of roosters showing that sharing is caring when it comes to pumpkin seeds. There are 50 roosters in this enclosure. They have group dust-baths. It is beyond adorable.
Roosters like pumpkins

Friday, November 5, 2010

Boulder Shelter Kills Dog While Owners On Vacation

A Labrador Retriever is dead, a victim of the Boulder Valley Humane Society.

The dog named Floyd was being cared for by a friend while his family was on vacation. Floyd was wearing an identification collar with at least one phone number (the shelter called a home number and cell).

Humane Society officials called the numbers several times but didn't get a response. It is unclear if the family friend tried finding the dog, I am curious about this aspect of the story.

After five days, even though Floyd had a collar with TWO phone numbers on it, Humane Society officials took "custody" of Floyd, deemed him too aggressive and killed him.

Does the shelter feel bad? Maybe, but instead of issuing a heartfelt apology filled with horror at killing a family's pet, they used this opportunity as a PSA:
It says it should serve as a reminder to make sure your pets have additional contact information with them, especially if they're staying with a family friend.
Like what? Your GPS coordinates? I'm sure Floyd is absolutely overjoyed that his death, the snuffing out of his life, could serve as a reminder. You can't be serious, Boulder Valley. Floyd isn't a reminder. He is a dog who had a loving family. A family who was responsible enough to collar their dog and have not one, but two, phone numbers etched on his id tag. A family who was nice enough to ensure Floyd stayed with a friend instead of a kennel.

Perhaps it is unfair of me, but I have higher expectations of a shelter that has a 90% adoption rate and a team of behavioral experts to deal with problem dogs. They are obviously doing a shitload right and, for that, I am 100% grateful. I am certain it was difficult dealing with Floyd. He was clearly ill-prepared for kennel or shelter life and reacted appropriately for him, inappropriately for our human society. But he had tags. He clearly had owners/guardians. He was well-fed and well-groomed. He had a collar, for cripes sake. This wasn't a dog left abandoned in obscurity.

Floyd isn't a reminder, except perhaps to the shelter that when a dog comes in with an id tag, they damn well better be sure the dog's family isn't on vacation. He was a family companion. And I am so sorry he is dead.

Clint McCance, Douchebag, and Former School District Board Member

Clint McCance, an Arkansas Midland School District Board Member, wasn't fired but resigned in wake of his comments encouraging LGBT kids to just go die already. His bigotry and homophobia is a pus-filled, raw open sore for the modern civil rights movement.
When asked what he would do if his kids did one day turn out to be gay, he could only stumble through saying, “Well, you know, I don’t know what I would do yet. I’m — uh, time will tell.”
My best guess? He will either tell them the same thing he told other peoples' children (just kill yourself) or he will disown them. I do not believe he understands the concepts of empathy or of true, unconditional love. Or that it's just plain wrong to wish death upon another human being over who they love.

I'll wrap this up with two things. One is a quote from a Miami Herald writer, the other is a youtube video:

We will pass lightly over the fact that people this rabidly homophobic are frequently revealed to be gay as all get out.
We will pass with equal lightness over the irony that an education official who derides other people for being stupid has no command of the basic rules of capitalization and punctuation and believes “thereselves” to be a word.
But can you imagine if you were a kid, lonely, alienated, struggling with your nascent sexual identity, daily tormented by classmates who think it’s funny to call you a fag or dunk your face in the toilet, and you go to a school administrator for help and this guy is who you get?
Perhaps you are familiar with the It Gets Better Project ( www.itgetsbetterproject.com). It’s a website of videos posted by everyday folk and by luminaries such as President Obama to remind gay and lesbian kids that high school is not forever, that somebody does care, that the future comes quicker than you think. That it gets better.
Let that be the take-away for kids who bear the excruciating pain of being different and alone. And this, too:
Life is funny sometimes. That which means to harm you can ultimately work to your benefit. That was the lesson of Bull Connor. Maybe it will also be the lesson of Clint McCance. Maybe the raw hatred evinced by this educator against five dead kids will force fair-minded people to finally see.
Read more: http://www.kansascity.com/2010/11/01/2380207/with-anti-gay-rants-arkansas-school.html#ixzz14QPuXqun

Around the Intarwebz


This story of a potbellied pig in new York City will not be so cute in 3-5 years when the pig reaches full-size - that's not a "miniature" pig, and he will grow to be between 100-200 lbs. Also, super bad idea to bring a potbellied pig to the freaking dog park.

A captive Jaguar used by National Geographic film-makers escaped captivity and attacked a dog and a human. The jaguar was then captured and killed.

New research shows alcohol is the "most harmful" drug, even above heroin and crack.

Ontario is all, "ZOMG JUNIOR U R SO SKEERY" and thus Cesar Millan couldn't bring him into the province. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Should I Take This Dog To The Shelter? Yes!

This is the response we all should have about the animal shelter. We should proudly declare that our shelter, the one we fund with our money, is so damn good, you can bring your dog or cat - for whatever reason - and expect a good chance at placement.

No, I am not talking about this as a meaningful solution. Nor am I suggesting irresponsible behavior be ignored. We need to address all of the reasons why people feel compelled to drop animals off at shelters.

But when I was faced with a young woman and her friend's 4-mos-old puppy, the result of backyard breeding (literally), I didn't feel the fate of this puppy was anything but good if he went to the local animal shelter. I suggested she let her friend know about some local agencies that do low cost spay-neuter, and why it's important to castrate a companion animal if you can't keep them away from other intact animals.

The thing is, though, my local animal shelter? It has a 98% adoption rate for both dogs and cats. Ninety-eight percent! For every ten animals who enter my local shelter, 9.8 make it out alive! That is freaking awesome.

This is what every shelter should be like. No one should fear bringing their animal to the shelter. No shelter should fear a person bringing an animal to the shelter. Shelters should deter folks with education as well as behavioral modification opportunities to PREVENT people from dropping animals off. But if that doesn't work, if all else fails, dogs and cats should be safe when they enter the shelter system. Done and done.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fundraising For Charity Gone Bad

I'm looking over at a calendar we use to raise money for the sanctuary. For December, Gilbert the goat gazes back curiously at me. I find it more endearing than the above picture, which is allegedly the December month for a calendar that will - get this - be raising money for seeing eye dogs in the Czech Republic. You'd have to be a little on the creepy side to want to put that up in the office. There's a few other pictures from the December shoot here. In other months, you can see chickens being choked and lambs being killed.

The shoot occurred in the Czech Republic. According to the scantily clad model, the animals in question aren't real, they're just realistic models. Which begs the question, how does that make it okay?

There are many things wrong with this entire debacle.

Blue Buffalo - You Are Doing It Wrong

Some companies get recalls right, some don't. When products can possibly harm you or your companion animals, it's important the companies who do it wrong get called on it and hopefully change their policy.

Blue Buffalo issued a recall on some of their dog foods over concern with excess Vitamin D. Not a significant health risk, except for a small percentage of the canine population, but definitely an error in production that needs rectifying (you can't sell a product with "x" amount of ingredient listed but with an actual amount of "y").

Pet Food Express pulled the products and then, per their policy, contacted Blue Buffalo and requested they provide pertinent testing data that ensures their product is safe according to both Blue Buffalo and Pet Food Express standards.

Pet Food Express is unique amongst pet supply stores. They don't sell animals, which is amazing. Too many small animals and fish die en route, are mistreated in pet stores, and are sold without much regard to their welfare or the experience level of the purchasers. You can read why they don't sell animals here.

Now, if you are a business that relies on retailers to sell product, one would think you would go that extra step to ensure your clients (i.e. Pet Food Express) are happy. When Pet Food Express asked Blue Buffalo to provide that important safety data, Blue Buffalo claimed the information was proprietary and private. In all fairness, it might be true, but I am certain Blue Buffalo could find a way to provide the data without revealing any trade secrets. Every other manufacturer that sells to Pet Food Express and has had recalls has willingly provided similar information, so it can be done without the pet food world going to hell in a handbasket.

I can get past the private and proprietary, because there are ways to work around that. What I cannot get past is what the service representative said afterwards, " “If the information I have already provided does not meet your requirements, I suggest you pull the products permanently from your stores.”

Way to shoot yourself in the foot. Pet Food Express kindly asked and Blue Buffalo has received - Pet Food Express will no longer be selling Blue Buffalo until information requested is provided.

Pet Food Express - Doing It Right.
Blue Buffalo - Doing It Wrong. They can make it right, though, by simply providing answers to reasonable questions. Do it, Blue Buffalo, business is business, right?

Celeste Is the Most Sensitive Dog I Know

Celeste is so shiny awesome
First, Celeste and Mina are majorly disappointed that Californians are such cheapskates they refused to vote for a $18/year surcharge on vehicle fees in order to preserve our state parks. Do none of these naysayers have dogs? Dogs like state parks, when they're allowed to enjoy them.

Next is Celeste and her sensitivity. I knew she was a softie pie, prone to random outbursts of squeaking if you touch her ears the wrong way, but yesterday I learned how sensitive she is.

I was out jogging with my friend and her dogs. Celeste is okay off leash with other dogs, but is still not 100% comfortable. The other two dogs are quite dog social, with one being a little dog inept (as in he loves other dogs but doesn't always get when they're telling him no).

At some point during our jog, Wendal (the inept but utterly adorable canine) ran into Celeste. He weighs a little more than 50 lbs, while Celeste weighs about 38. So sure, Wendal running into you is a bummer, maybe even a little painful.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Blame Game - How Has It Helped You Today?

On a previous post about a shelter making improvements (after pressure) that would reduce the kill rate and improve adoptions, I received an interesting comment:
Don't like them being killed at all? Exactly what the hell are they supposed to do with all those dogs and cats, most of which are dropped off by irresponsible pet owners who don't give a damn what happens to them and just want to put the responsibility on someone else? How bout you take em?
Ignore the specious logic.
Ralph being all sad
At the root of my problem with this comment is the blame game. Where has it gotten us? I volunteered at two different shelters for nearly seven years. I am not one to argue against irresponsible behavior being behind most of the reasons people drop off animals at shelters. Moving. Not castrating animals (who get loose frequently). Cat sprays. Modifiable behavioral problems. Too old. Too young. Not the right color.

I admit after my time at a hi-kill county shelter, I became angry with people. It was difficult seeing more than half of the dogs exit the shelter dead and more than 70% of the cats. I've been in the kill room, and yeah I harbored a lot of ill will towards who I felt was ultimately responsible - the public.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy World Go Vegan Day!

November 1 is World Go Vegan day and, as a vegan, I'm here to represent!

As a vegan, I exclude from my life animal products, including meat, dairy, eggs, honey, leather, wool, silk  to the best of my abilities. I am not perfect. I am not here to judge your personal decisions.

I am vegan because when given a choice between causing unnecessary suffering and making a compassionate decision, I believe it is a moral imperative to choose the latter. I believe not taking the life of another living being or taking their by-products, like milk or eggs, when I don't need to is the kindest decision to make. And I get enough B-12, thanks very much!

A cow like Sadie and a calf like Murphy inspired me to go vegan. Sadie and Murphy are alive at the sanctuary where I work - the cow and calf who inspired me are dead. I am forever making up for their deaths. So if you can reduce or eliminate some or all animal products in your life, good on you! In the United States, at least, including in less vegan-friendly places like northern California, it is not overwhelmingly difficult to be vegan. And if you have a Pit Bull, well, then you're already used to the snarktastic responses, you're thick-skinned enough to handle the pitiful and silly vegan jokes! Truth!
Sadie, Murphy, Freedom

Vulture Hocks and Elitist Chicken Fanciers

Elitist chicken fanciers, I know, right? And vulture hocks? What the freak?

Chickens have a hock joint, it's right below their thigh. Most chickens have "clean legs", free of feathers. No self-respecting chicken would want to have feathers on their legs, it collects dirt, mud, and makes taking off difficult. Sometimes, a chicken would throw a mutation, feathers on the feet or coming off the hock.

People like the fluffy, lose feathering, as seen on Cochins or Brahmas. For some reason, though, chicken fanciers hate vulture hocks*. These are stiff, almost like flight feathers, protruding from the hock of the chicken.

An example is below, a picture I took of a rooster rescued from a neglect situation. He was one of 140 chickens brought in, with 50 roosters now living beautifully together.
Lord Byron Stands Proud

And another in which the hock feathers look more like handsome tuxedo coattails than some freakishly unattractive mutation:
Lord Tennyson is Super Handsome

Today, vulture hock is a disqualifying feature in most breeds, with a few exceptions like the Sultan. In fact, some breeders - much like with white Boxers - encourage the culling of birds exhibiting vulture hocks. Unlike the possibility of deafness with white Boxers, vulture hocks in no way medically or behaviorally harm the bird. It's a recessive autosomal (not sex-linked) genetic mutation that purebred chicken fanciers just don't like.

They haven't liked it since it appeared in the early 1800s, for reasons I cannot quite divine. If you peruse old issues of the Journal of Horticulture and Practical Gardening online, you'll find that vulture hock debates often spiraled into insults and verbal vomit. Just google "journal of horticulture and practical gardening vulture hocks" and see for yourself.

You can still find discussion of the trait in modern backyard chicken forums.

While vulture hocks is a recessive trait, its presence is thought to be tied to the feathering on other parts of the legs and feet. And since fanciers want some breeds to have feathering on the hock, it is difficult to eliminate vulture hocks without breeding for birds who have clean legs or ptilopody without shank feathers.

It turns out that it doesn't matter the fancy, so-called purists will always argue over phenotypes that are absolutely and completely useless to the animal in question, like vulture hocks.

I like vulture hocks but don't care whether a bird has them or not. When trying to place the birds pictured above, it's been interesting hearing from chicken fanciers who see no reason for these rescued chickens to exist. They're mutts. Most people unfamiliar with chicken breeds would find these birds pretty, with their feathered feet and different colors and feather variation. I certainly do, but I love them more for their different personalities and quirks than how they look. And that is probably the key difference between me and a diehard breed purist.

-Marji B.

*Soft feathers can come from the hock joint and technically vulture hocks are just a "stiffer" version of the preferred hock feathers, but the common connotation of "vulture hock" is stiff feathers, not the softer, shorter and preferred versions.

Gaston County Animal Control Makes It Easier to Adopt Animals

Or How Being Annoying Saves Animal Lives.

Gaston County Animal Control in North Carolina hasn't been very popular with animal welfarists. The shelter has killed animals people wanted to adopt, gassed animals to death, and massacres 75% of the animals who comes through its door.

So activists persisted. They pushed and prodded, showing up at hearings and demanding change. Civics 101! And behold, change has cometh.

The good: If you sign a liability waiver, you - John & Jane Q Public - can adopt a dog who might have treatable medical or behavioral problems. Normally, dogs with health problems or modifiable behavioral woes were summarily executed.

The bad: Animals won't be gassed to death anymore, now they will be injected with euthanasia solution. I say this is bad not because I think euthasol is a gentler death for most animals but because there's nothing good about killing animals.

So props to all the activists who made this change possible. Your persistence, your annoying demands of fair treatment...victory is yours. Keep up the work -you are saving lives.