Wednesday, April 30, 2014

PUPPYCIDE; Beloved Dogs Being Murdered by Police

I wasn’t going to write another post this week, but I’m so distraught I have to say something, I have to do something.   In my   11/12/13 post, Shih Tzu Happens and Pets Get Lost I talked about the importance of obeying leash laws, and that authorities have shot and even killed family dogs in public recreational areas because they felt threatened.  However, the stories that were reported in yesterday’s Good Evening Arizona’s news are something different.  I can understand police reacting if an off leash dog is barreling toward them in an open public area and the officer feels threatened and trapped.    These stories, however, are those of pure ignorance and callousness on the part of police officers.  Tears are streaming down my face as I write this.   As animal shelter and rescue workers we fight SO hard every day to save precious lives.  To see incidences where loving family dogs have been deliberately and callously snuffed out like they mean nothing is too much to bear.

My beautiful girl, Phoebe lounging by the pool
On last night’s Good Evening Arizona’s news broadcast, they reported on a number of "Puppycide" incidences where police have shot and killed beloved family dogs right in their own yards with no valid reason.   Several of the incidences were actually cases of mistaken identity or of police arriving at the WRONG house address!  I sometimes let my dogs play in the yard while I’m watching from the kitchen.  What would I do if police mistakenly arrived, entered our yard or home and murdered my precious baby girls!?  That thought kept me tossing and turning last night.  I realized that I would take a bullet for my dogs.  I rationalize that I would be given emergency care and would likely survive.  My precious dogs, my furbabies, wouldn’t be so lucky.  If someone murdered my dogs, it would be as if they killed me too. 

One story was of police responding to the wrong address, shooting the owners beloved dog in the back, killing him and devastating the family.   I remember a few years ago in Texas, a family and their dog stopped at a gas station.  The father mistakenly left his wallet on the car hood when they left the station and some money flew out.  There had been a robbery in the vicinity and somehow the police targeted this family as possible suspects simply due to the money flying off the roof.  They pursued the family, pulled them out of the car and made them get on the ground.  Their sweet little dog trotted towards the police.  One of the cops shot and killed this family’s beloved dog right in front of them.  I’m sure that family is still completely traumatized.

The Huffington Post also reported a story yesterday about an Officer that killed a friendly dog in Louisiana.  A witness stated that the Officer smirked, and appeared to be holding back a smile after shooting a man’s friendly dog right in front of him for no reason.  You can read that sickening story here http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/29/cop-smiles-after-shooting-dog_n_5235504.html.  A followup to the story was reported by KPLCTv this morning, which you can read here at; http://www.kplctv.com/story/25385577/reports-sulphur-police-officer-fatally-shoots-dog.

A friend of mine has a relative in Connecticut who owned a loving family dog, a friendly playful Pit Bull named Diesel who was their 3 year old son’s best friend in the world.  Somehow the dog escaped from their yard.  Diesel’s two sibling dogs were across the street playing with a neighbor’s dog.  He wanted to join them so he bounded over there to play too.  Unfortunately the neighbor’s relative, an off duty cop, was visiting that day.  He must have seen an unleashed Pit Bull and decided to shoot and kill this beautiful loving dog.  Bleeding to death, Diesel was able to drag himself across the street back to his home where he collapsed and died in their foyer, in his owner’s arms.

The web site Police State USA has reported a number of horrific instances where authorities have killed beloved family dogs with no valid reason.  You can view those stories at http://www.policestateusa.com/tag/puppycide/.  There is also a Facebook page that reports on dogs shot by police, https://www.facebook.com/DogsShotbyPolice.  Inside Edition reported yesterday that “It is estimated that every 98 minutes a dog is shot by law enforcement.”  That is a horrifying statistic!  My husband and I drive cross country several times a year.  It terrifies me that we could potentially be pulled over or approached by police for a minor traffic infraction or due to some mistaken identity, and end up mourning the loss of our beautiful loving girls because an Officer shot them in the car for no valid reason.  There are many Police Officers out there who “get it”.  They don’t become trigger happy just because a canine is in the vicinity, but there appear to be many who do, far too many.
 
Clearly, these killings are steeped in ignorance and total disregard for families and their beloved dogs.  These horrific stories are becoming more and more frequent.  Additional training should be mandatory for police to help them better understand how to deal with dogs during the course of their official business.  During the course of police business, the dog isn’t the suspect, the human is.  A dog shouldn’t be wasted like a worthless piece of garbage because his human is suspected of something, or is merely wanted for questioning.  Dogs are not criminals, they are innocent victims.  Shooting and killing a dog should never be an Officer’s automatic first course of action.  Officials need to understand how devastating it is to a family and a community when an Officer shoots and kills a dog that is a beloved family member.  

My baby girl Isis, smiling for the camera
Over the past few decades peoples’ perception of their pets has shifted.  Dogs no longer have to sleep outside and eat only table scraps.  They are considered members of the family.  We feed them like family, we love them like family, we take them along on vacation, we buy them their own toys.  We want them to be happy, healthy, and have the very best.   Officers need to weigh a situation carefully before snuffing out a dog’s life as though it means nothing and is of no consequence.    Authorities must realize that there will be public outcry and consequences for hateful, callous acts against beloved family pets.  I’ll be writing some strongly worded letters to police officials in areas where these killings have occurred this week.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Black Dog Syndrome at Shelters; Fact or Myth?

Unfortunately, black dogs, especially larger black dogs, are a staple at animal shelters. At any given time at most shelters you’ll find lots of black dogs whose intake dates have long since passed. Other dogs have come and gone while these sleek black animals with dark soulful eyes patiently wait for someone to notice them. Black Dog Syndrome, as it’s commonly called in the shelter world, is very real and very sad. It can be so frustrating to see these loving, deserving dogs continually passed over.

Why are black dogs so often overlooked in favor of lighter colored dogs?  I think there are two main reasons for this.

Shelters notoriously have poor lighting.  Because of this, very dark colored dogs are not as visible; they don’t catch your eye as much and are easy to miss.  I’ll admit there have actually been times when I’ve arrived at the shelter and I’m running around helping people, and I’ve missed a black dog or two sitting in the back of their poorly lit kennel.  I’ll do a double- take and think, wow where did that one come from?  I simply didn’t see him!   I feel so guilty when that happens.     Poor lighting also makes for a poor photograph, so when  people view photos of the shelter’s adoptable dogs online, the photos of black dogs are usually not good and don’t entice people to come see the dog.

Even in sunlight, it's hard to see Dusty's beautiful dark brindle coat
Another thing that contributes to Black Dog Syndrome is that some people think big black dogs look scary.  If they’d only look closer and give the big guy a chance, they would see a dark, gentle giant, one that would make a great best friend.

Recently, I vowed to do something to help combat Black Dog Syndrome at the shelter where I volunteer.  Now when I arrive at the shelter, I check every kennel to see if we have black dogs.  We always do.  If a smaller black dog is in the bottom row of kennels, I move them to an upper kennel or place them into a larger play area or a meet and greet room so they can get more visibility.  I’ll move a big black dog into a larger area as well to help him stand out more.  I also put a colorful bandana, sweater, harness, or collar on them, or place a brightly colored blanket in the kennel to help draw peoples’ attention as they pass by.  “Oh, look how cute that dog looks in her pink bandana!”  A black dog will really pop against orange, red or pink.   Bright multi colored patterns are even better, they have “movement” and really catch the eye.    
 
My latest foster dog, Howdy.
A couple of weeks ago, we had a beautiful jet black pit bull puppy about 6 months old at the shelter.  He was in the bottom row of kennels and hardly anyone noticed he was even there.  I took him out, tied a colorful bandana on him, and placed him in a meet and greet room to make him more visible.  I also gave him a bright blue squeaky ball to play with.  As people entered the shelter and passed by the meet and greet room, they could see him clearly…. and hear him continually squeeking his ball.  Let me tell you, every person that came in noticed this little guy and he was quickly adopted.  I have since added colorful squeaky toys to my bag of tricks to help combat Black Dog Syndrome.  It’s such a small thing but it makes a huge difference.     If you want to help your local shelter combat Black Dog Syndrome, donate some brightly colored bandanas, dog clothing, collars or harnesses.  I find fabulous collars and harnesses at stores that sell stuff for a dollar.  I started buying bunches of them to donate to the shelter regularly. 
 
Check out photographer Fred Levy's gorgeous photos of black dogs, which he creatively photographed against a black backdrop in his Black Dogs Project at, www.fredlevyart.com
 
 


 

 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Adding a New Dog to Your Family? Will you SHOP or ADOPT?

Getting a new puppy or dog is so exciting!  You are adding a new member to your family, and you want it to be a wonderful experience for everyone involved.    Whether to get a puppy or older dog, what type of dog, how and where to get your new dog are all big decisions.   One of these decisions in particular has sparked a lot of heated discussion.  People often have strong opinions about where you should get your new puppy or dog.  The debate about whether to shop for a dog from a breeder or retail outlet, or adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue rages on.

 

The Adopt advocates stress that adopting a dog saves a life and helps reduce the problem of over-crowded shelters and high euthanasia numbers.   They are also strongly against purchasing a dog from a retail outlet as they feel most of these outlets obtain puppies from “puppy mills”, which are basically puppy factories where dogs and puppies are bred and housed in large numbers and in poor conditions.  They are also against “backyard breeders”, individuals who breed purebred dogs indiscriminately for profit without adherence to health screening or standards, breed standards, or state regulations for breeders. 

 The Shop advocates feel they have the right to select a puppy or dog of their choice from whichever source they choose, whether that be a registered AKC breeder, puppy store at the mall, neighbor, or someone they connect with online or through an ad in the newspaper.   They want to get exactly the dog and breed of their dreams.  They may also want to know the full history of the puppy or dog, and get the documentation that proves the dog’s lineage.   Although they may care about and support shelter pets, they don’t feel it’s the right option for them at the time and don’t feel guilty about not adopting when it comes to finding the exact type of dog they want for their family.

There are also those who will first try to adopt.  They’ll spend time searching for the exact dog they want to adopt at shelters and breed-specific rescue organizations, but if they don’t find what they’re looking for they will opt to shop for the dog of their dreams.  Just last week a couple came into the shelter looking for an English Bulldog.  We almost never get English Bulldogs in our shelter so I suggested checking out English Bulldog rescue organizations.  They had their heart set on a purebred English Bulldog, and indicated that if they didn’t find one soon at a shelter or rescue they would purchase one online.

Rather than voice my own opinion, which I usually do in my posts, I’d like to know what YOU think about the shop vs. adopt debate.  Is it ever OK to Shop for a dog, or do we all have a responsibility to Adopt rather than Shop?   Please voice your opinion by posting a Comment.

 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spring is Puppy, Kitten, and Parvovirus season. Be Prepared!

 At animal shelters across the nation the arrival of spring translates into an overwhelming number of puppies and kittens being born.   Yes, it’s puppy and kitten season every Spring through Summer at most shelters and rescues.  Unfortunately, it’s also Parvovirus season, as this potentially fatal illness is especially dangerous to puppies.  It can attack dogs of all ages, but puppies are even more vulnerable since their immune system is still developing, making them extremely susceptible to Parvovirus.   

Parvovirus (Parvo) is a highly contagious deadly virus that attacks primarily the intestines.  There’s another form of Parvo that attacks the heart as well.   Parvo can be transmitted by a person, animal or anything that comes in contact with an infected dog’s feces.  The virus can actually live for months on things like shoes that have stepped in infected feces, on food and water bowls,  even on the floors.  This is just one reason why it makes my blood boil when I see dog feces littered in the streets and in parks where children play.  Not cleaning up after one’s dog is not only disgusting and offensive, it can actually be dangerous if a dog happens to be infected with Parvovirus and someone steps in it’s feces, tracking the virus with them everywhere they go.  A dog owner that is irresponsible enough not to clean up after their dog is probably irresponsible enough not to vaccinate their dog.  Don’t let your dog sniff the feces of other dogs.  Dogs contract illnesses like Parvo by sniffing, inhaling the virus through their nostrils.

Symptoms of parvo include vomiting, bloody and/or very foul smelling diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite and weight loss.  There is some treatment available to address the symptoms of Parvo, but there is no way to kill the virus itself.  There is no “cure” for Parvo.  Treatment would be very expensive and lengthy, and an awful thing for your puppy to endure.  Parvovirus in dogs should not be confused with the human Parvovirus B19 illness, they are not the same thing.  We don’t get Parvovirus B19 from dogs, and they don’t get Parvovirus from us.  See the web site www.Mayoclinic.org to learn more about the human Parvovirus B19.

 Dogs of all ages should be regularly vaccinated against Parvovirus.  Puppies are usually vaccinated for Parvo and other core diseases and illnesses starting at 6 weeks old.  As your dog matures, she should receive Parvo vaccinations regularly during visits to your vet.  Most of the core combination vaccinations (4 in 1 or  5 in 1 vaccinations) will include Parvo, but ask your vet if you are not certain.  If you’ve adopted a puppy from a friend or a stranger online, get your puppy to the vet as soon as possible to ensure she’s healthy, and that she’s protected with the key vaccinations she needs at this critical stage of life.    Don’t take anyone’s word for it, if you’ve been told your new puppy has been vaccinated, get the documentation that proves it.

To see a video by PetMd that explains more about Parvovirus,  access this link:
http://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/infectious-parasitic/c_dg_canine_parvovirus_infection

If you’re thinking about adopting a puppy or dog this season, check out my post Adopting a New Dog? 8 Questions to Ask Before You Adopt posted on April 7th, 2014. 

Wishing you all a happy Spring, and healthy puppies everywhere!
 
 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Adopting a New Dog? 8 Questions to Ask Before You Adopt

I adopted my girl Phoebe from the shelter I volunteer at.  She had an extreme fear of all men, which we worked on for months - my husband has the patience of a Saint!  Now she loves him to pieces.
If you’ve decided to adopt a shelter or rescue dog, congratulations! You’ve made a decision that will save a life.  At the animal shelter where I volunteer, my main job is to provide adoption counseling.  I help people find the right dog to fit their lifestyle.  Most people mill around the shelter looking for the cutest dog that catches their eye, but different dogs will fit best with different people.  The goal is to find a forever home, a match that will last the rest of the dog’s lifetime.    To help determine which dog will be the right forever match for you and your family, ask these 8 questions when you’re at the shelter looking for your new best friend.

IS THE DOG FULL GROWN?  IF NOT, HOW BIG WILL HE GET?
Most dogs are full grown at around 18 months old.  You’ll want to know just how big of a dog you’re getting.  Do you want a large dog, a tiny dog, or something in between?   A large dog will have a lot of strength; young kids may not be able to walk a large dog.   If you live in an apartment or have a Home Owners Association check on any restrictions around size or breed of dogs allowed.   Tiny dogs may be intimidated by noisy crowded households.  They can also get underfoot, especially with little kids around.

WHAT BREED OR BREED MIX IS THE DOG?
Ask about the attributes of the breed(s) so you know what to expect.  Energy level and tendencies of the breed are import to know.  If you’re looking for a hiking or running companion then a high energy dog such as a Border Collie or Weimaraner might be just the right companion for you.  If you really want a lap dog to cuddle with, a Siberian Husky will drive you bonkers.    

WILL THIS DOG SHED A LOT?
Some people hate shedding, although I'm not one of them.  Just because a dog has a smooth coat or very thin hair that does not mean she won’t shed.  In fact, many short haired dogs shed a ton.  Pugs are just one example.  Even short haired Chihuahuas can shed like crazy.  Dogs with a dense double undercoat usually shed a lot.  If you want a dog that sheds very little or not at all, check out breeds that have hair instead of fur.  The Poodle, Maltese, Havanese, Bichon Frise, and Lhasa Apso are just a few of the breeds that shed very little or not at all.  Phoebe is a Lhasa Apso/Havanese mix and she doesn’t shed one bit!  Of course my Siberian Husky, Isis, more than makes up for it.

IS THE DOG FRIENDLY WITH BOTH PEOPLE AND OTHER DOGS?
Sometimes shelter staff and volunteers won’t know for certain, but at many shelters and rescues they can tell fairly easily.  They do this by behavior assessing the dog upon intake and interacting with the dog on a daily basis.  If they have play groups for the dogs they’ll be able to tell if he’s friendly with other dogs or if he displays aggression.  If the dog has been fostered by a staff or volunteer ask if the foster parent left notes about the dog or if you can speak with the foster.  As a Foster Mama, I’m always happy to do whatever I can to advocate for my fosters and provide as much information as possible to a potential adopter.

I HAVE ANOTHER DOG AT HOME, WOULD YOU DO A MEET AND GREET?
Sometimes people who already have dogs at home worry about bringing another dog into the home and it prevents them from adopting another one.  Ask the shelter or rescue if they’ll arrange a meet and greet with your current dog and the one you want to adopt to see if they get along.  If they can’t accommodate, make sure you can bring the dog back if the adoption turns out to be a disaster when you introduce the dogs at home.

WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE ADOPTION FEE?
Know what’s included in the adoption fee and what additional costs you might incur.  Most shelters and many rescues will have the dog spayed/neutered and include that in the adoption fee.  Vaccinations required up to the dog’s current age, such as Rabies vaccination, may also be included.  If you’re adopting a young puppy, vaccinations and spay/neuter may need to be done at a later date and may be your responsibility.

DOES SHE HAVE ANY MEDICAL PROBLEMS THAT YOU KNOW OF?
Ask if the dog has been treated for any illness or injury while at the shelter, or if they are aware of any medical issues.  If there have been medical issues, ask about follow-up care, prognosis, and potential costs.  Ailments that can be present in a shelter environment include Kennel Cough and other respiratory illnesses, Parvo virus, Heartworm, and sometimes Mange.   Some shelters may send you home with necessary medications for minor ailments.   Ask if the dog's illness is contagious and what precautions may be needed.

WHERE DID THIS DOG COME FROM?
You can ask whether the dog was a stray picked up on the street, an owner surrender, puppy mill rescue, etc.  Most will probably be strays with little background information, but ask if there is any information on the dog’s history that might be helpful.
 
Asking these 8 questions will help you make the best decision about which dog is right for you, and you’ll know what to expect as you bring your new best friend home with you!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Spring Has Sprung, Hooray! Do You Know Which Spring Blooms Are Poisonous to Your Dog?

Phoebe encounters desert wildflowers and a Barrel cactus
Spring is a time of renewal and rebirth, and a time to GET OUTSIDE after a long, harsh Winter.  Spring is exciting for our dogs as well as for us.  All those newly sprung smells to sniff and tiny new stems to nibble on!   Ever notice how when you grab the shovel and start planting new garden plants, your dog wants to get in on the action?  She starts prancing around you excitedly and may join in and start digging herself.   That’s what my dogs do anyway.  Before you head outside to plant your Spring garden, consider carefully which plants you choose to include in your garden and where to place them.  Potentially toxic plants, shrubs and flowers abound and should be kept out of reach of your dogs, cats and even horses.   You might be surprised to find hazardous plants that are already lurking in your landscape.

Before you add flowers, plants, shrubs or evergreens to your home or landscape make sure they are safe for pets to be around.  If not, place them well out of reach or don’t include them at all.  WedMD (www.webmd.com), an online health information organization, reported that in 2012 more than 100,000 cases of pet poisoning were reported in the U.S., some of which included poisoning due to ingesting plants that are harmful to pets.  The below list of pet-hazardous plants may seem lengthy, but it’s actually a short list of common garden and house plants that can pose a danger to your dog.   There are many hundreds of plants that are known to be dangerous to dogs.

If your dog ingests all or part of a poisonous plant it can cause adverse reactions such as; vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, change in urine color, oral irritation or burning, excessive drooling, difficulty swallowing, and even liver failure or death in more serious cases. 
 
Below is a partial list of common plants, shrubs, and flowers that are hazardous to dogs.  Some of them may already be lurking in your own backyard.

PARTIAL LIST OF PLANTS KNOWN TO BE HAZARDOUS TO DOGS:
Crocus
Cyclamen
Daffodils, Narcissus, Paperwhites            
Hyacinth
Tulips
Iris
Primrose
Dahlia
Azalea and Rhododendron
Peony
Kalanchoe
Hosta
Hydrangea
Lantana
Oleander
Larkspur
Begonia
Sweet Potato Vine
Tomato plants
Geranium
Wisteria
Yarrow
Portulaca
Gladiolus
Hibiscus
Rose of Sharon
Foxglove (the heart medicine Digitalis is made from this plant!)
Spring Tulips emerging in my garden
 
 

Morning Glory
Vinca
Several varieties of Daisy and Chrysanthemum
Boxwood and Privet Hedge
Buttercups
Gardenia
Various types of Carnations
Chamomile
Aloe Vera
Elephant’s Ear (Alocasia, Caladium)
Dieffenbachia
Dumbcane
Eucalyptus
Jade plant
Amaryllis
Ambrosia Mexicana (a.k.a. Jerusalem Oak)
Bittersweet
Several varieties of Holly
Several varieties of Yew
Several types of Lily’s, including Calla Lily and Peace Lily
Baby’s Breath
Several types of Bird of Paradise
Several varieties of Ivy
Sago Palms
Yucca
Various types of Onion plants (Onion in general is toxic to dogs)
Stems, leaves, and seeds of several common fruit trees can also be toxic to pets. 
(Sources: American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), The Humane Society of the United States, WebMD)

 
 I realize it may be impossible to keep all of these plants out of your home or landscape, and your dog may encounter them on walks or during visits to other homes or park areas.  Keep an eye out for hazardous plants and carry something with you to help deter your dog from ingesting any part of a hazardous plant.  I try to have only pet safe plants in my yard but it’s not always possible, especially since we moved into two houses with existing landscapes in the last 7 years.   Ripping out all the landscape just isn’t feasible.  To help prevent my dogs from nibbling on my garden plants I spray the plants lightly with Bitter Apple or other bitter spray.   Some people spritz distilled white vinegar on or around plants as a pet deterrent as well.    Spray plants 2-3 times a week for a week or two and dogs will quickly learn that the plants are unpleasant to sniff or taste, and the plants will soon lose their appeal.
 
Rather than letting your dog randomly chew sticks or leaves he finds around the yard or while out on walks, it’s safer to always have a ready supply of really appealing chew toys from the pet store on hand.  My dogs love Kong or Nylabone chew toys, especially the ones that are flavored with chicken.  They usually last a long time too.  If you are uncertain about a particular plant’s potential danger to pets, ask your Veterinarian or check out the ASPCA or Humane Society of the U.S. web sites:
 The ASPCA’s list of some of the many plants that have been known to be harmful to dogs, as well as a list of plants that are NOT harmful to dogs, can be found at:
 
You can download a .pdf of the Humane Society’s list of plants that can be poisonous to pets at:

If you think your pet has ingested a flower or plant that is poisonous, contact your local veterinarian or emergency animal hospital immediately.  You can also contact the ASPCA’s 24-hour emergency poison hotline at 1-888-426-4435.
Enjoy the beauty of Spring with your dogs safely!