Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Monday, March 2, 2009

Squirreled Away in NYC Apartments

Meet Winston and Harry.  I'm not sure who's who, but I found these two young, adorable squirrels today, living it up in an undisclosed NYC doorman apartment.  Winston, who was found sick in Washington Square Park, and Harry, who was plucked from an East Village street with a broken arm, were strangers when they moved in together two months ago, but have since become fast friends. Their days are spent in full throttle, munching on nuts and berries perched from a hanging planter, and swinging from limbs, ropes and cardboard boxes in the three-story custom-made ferret cage that's wedged against a window in the studio apartment.

Despite squirrels being illegal in NYC apartments, Harry and Winston are legal residents (except the super doesn't know his building is their habitat). Their landlord is a licensed squirrel rehabilitator, who wishes to remain anonymous. She is among a handful of NYC squirrel rehabbers that provide food and shelter to young squirrels in peril. Many of the squirrels have fallen out of trees, were rejected by their mothers as babies, or have been attacked by a predator. Once the weather warms up the can be released slowly back into in the wild.   

Now that the duo is on the mend, Winston and Harry are poised to be moved to an undisclosed upstate New York location.  Hopefully they will live happily ever after.   But releasing them after nurturing the personality-laden squirrels isn't easy, says the rehabber.   "They're great company," she said.  "It's so easy to get attached and I'm so sad to see them go."

NYC Snow Day

It's a snowy day here in NYC, and a great time to play!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Two Reasons to Lose Sleep Tonight

The New York Times' Jennifer 8. Lee is reporting that a humpback whale is trapped in fishing gear off Sandy Hook, only eight miles outside of New York harbor.  A team from the Provincetown Center for Coast Studies in New England is expected to arrive on Thursday.   The whale, which is about 25 to 30 feet long, is above water and breathing but experts cannot predict if it will survive.   The image of this big, beautiful creature tangled up and waiting for help is heartbreaking.

The other reason I'm bothered is the Obama dog dilemma and today's announcement that the First Family is going to settle on a Portugese Water dog, a breed rarely found in the shelters.  I can't imagine that by now, any of the number of influential animal advocates, such as Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States, or Best Friends or the ASPCA haven't gotten the message through to the White House on why the Obama's should adopt, and not buy a dog.  The Obama family following through on it promise to adopt a shelter dog would not only be a great boom for shelter dogs everywhere, but it would set an example that the president will follow through on other promises, as well. 

Every year an estimated 10 million dogs - of every shape, color, size and temperament - land in the U.S. shelters, but only a fraction make it out alive.   There are too many dogs and cats and not enough people to adopt them.  

Chances are, if the Obama's buy a Portugese Water dog it will perpetuate the breeding of yet another "must have" dog.  Everyone will run out to buy one; some new owners will become disillusioned and relinquish it to a shelter.   Meanwhile, puppy mills will see it as a profit center and start churning the breed out in deplorable conditions, then selling them to pet stores, who sell them to the public for $3,000.
While someone may pull through for the First Family and find a Portugese Water dog in the shelter system, right now it seems there are only two available, and they are not puppies.  

Adopting a dog is inexpensive, it's rewarding to save something an animal that may otherwise not have a future, and imagine the great rags to riches story:  "Dog slated for euthanasia sleeping on the White House floor."

More, it's a great community service, which is what president Obama is all about.  He should adopt a mutt, just like him.  

If not, next year there will be plenty of Portugese Water dogs in the shelter system to choose from.

The Mystery of the First Dog May Soon Be Over

It seems the mystery surrounding the country's First Dog may be coming to an end. If so, animal advocates will be disappointed in the pending decision.

Michelle Obama told People magazine that her daughters Sasha and Malia will get their promised pooch in April, after spring break, and they are looking for a Portuguese Water Dog to adopt from a shelter.

"Temperamentally they're supposed to be pretty good," Obama says in the upcoming issue. "From the size perspective, they're sort of middle of the road -- it's not small, but it's not a huge dog. And the folks that we know who own them have raved about them. So that's where we're leaning."

The problem is that in general, Portugese Water dogs don't often end up in shelters. A quick search on, which is a database of over 12,000 rescue groups and lists over 200,000 animals available across the country, lists only two Portugese Water dogs, and both are adults. Still, I am hoping that an animal rescuer will help the family find locate one for adoption.

During the campaign, President Obama promised his girls Sasha and Malia a puppy, and were also considering a labradoodle, a cross between a labrador and a poodle.  Although the designer dogs aren't among the top breeds that lands in the shelters, they are possible to find.

That's because, unlike Portugese Water dogs, labradoodle's are so popular that many people purchase them on impulse, but then later abandon them at the shelters when they realize they can't handle the energetic puppies.

Michelle Obama also told People the family has been going back and forth on names, but she says it won't be "Frank" or "Moose."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Animal Lovers Say Keep Bideawee Open

The Board of Directors of Bideawee has decided to close their Wantagh adoption center effective March 8, 2009. A petition to reverse the decision has been created and posted online.

It reads, "We simply cannot allow this to happen and ask that you read and sign our petition to Bideawee's Board of Directors requesting that they reverse their decision. Time is of the essence, as the proposed closing date is less that 2 weeks away; therefore we need every who is concerned with local animal welfare not only to sign this petition, but to forward it to everyone you can think of."

To read the full petition click here.

NYC Announced a Kinder Cut. . .As In Free Spay/Neuter

New York City is about to undergo another round of crucial cuts, but this kind of gentle snip will help curb the city's animal overpopulation crisis.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced today a partnership between NY City Animal Care & Control Shelters and The Toby Project, to provide free spay/neuter services to those communities within the five boroughs that surrender the most animals to the shelter system.

"All New Yorkers can do their part by being responsible pet owners and having their animal spay or neutered," said Bloomberg, as he fed carrots to Toby, the Irish Wolfhound whose name was plastered on the mobile vet clinic behind them. Bloomberg said his daughter Georgina recently adopted a dog named Hugo from a shelter and that his own yellow labs, named Bonnie and Clyde, are both fixed.

AC&C will lease the van at $1 per year to The Toby Project, which will take over the operation and funding of the van as a mobile clinic. The goal is to reduce overpopulation in the shelters by increasing the number of New York City animals that are spayed or neutered.

The big-hearted vet behind the project is Dr. Andrew Kaplan of the Upper West Side's City Veterinary Care. Kaplan's started the nonprofit, which he named after his large Wolfhound mix Toby, which he adopted in 2001 from Animal Care & Control of NYC, on the day the healthy dog was to be euthanized.

"It's time to end the viscous cycle of unwanted births," said Kaplan, who gives a 75 % discount in his practice to over 50 animal rescue groups.

Its first mobile surgery van will be on location beginning February 15 in the Gun Hill section of the Bronx. Check here for location calendar for schedule updates.

AC&C is contracted by the city to care for its homeless animal population. It is the only shelter to be required by law to take in any stray or abandoned animal. Each year, an estimated 43,000 animals land in the shelter. Due to overcrowding, an estimated 23,000 are euthanized simply because there is no space.

The annual budget to run three shelters in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island is a meager $8 million. Earlier this year, the budget was cut by $434,026, or about 5 percent, its first budget cut in more than six years. In January, AC&C faced an additional cut of $300,000, to take effect in 2011.

In New York City, several other organizations offer free or low-cost spay and neuter programs, including Maddie’s Fund, which provides low-cost surgeries for pets of qualified New York City residents. The ASPCA also offers free or low-cost spay and neuter services for up to 25 animals per day on a first-come, first-served basis.

Bloomberg closed the presser by turning the mike over to Toby. "Toby, say something," he orderded. Toby responded like any pup whose life was spared: "Arf, arf, arf."

Monday, February 23, 2009

NPR's Brian Lehrer Show on Caring for Pets During Recession

NPR's Brian Lehrer show is doing story now on how to care for pets during the recession. ASPCA's Steven Z. is the guest.

Here are some highlights:
  • Pet food can be found at food pantries. 
  • Free vet clinic. St. Clemens Church, 423 W. 46th St. 
  • Feral cat colony; population increased to 28. Newcomers well-cared for; people moving dropping cats off. Instead of dropping off; possibly work on the landlords to accept pets.
  • How much it costs to take care of pets; small dogs $500 to $600; larger dogs about $1200. After 9/11, ASPCA saw more people bringing pets into their households. If you have the means to take care of a pet they can be emotionally comforting.
  • Lehrer asking if some pets are easier to care for than other pets. For people who do have the need, contact 1 877 spay nyc.  ASPCA offers free spay neuter services for anyone on public assistance in NYC. Database of spay/neuter clinics 

Spay Day USA Photo Contest

Tuesday, February 15th marks the 15th annual Spay Day USA. Animal welfare groups around the country will be holding events to spay and neuter animals.  

Last year the city put down nearly 17,000 cats and dogs, many because there was no room in the overcrowded shelters.    Animal experts say the city will not be able to adopt its way out of the problem.  The ONLY solution is to spay and neuter our pets to help control animal overpopulation.

Still, it's pricey.  The surgery can cost upwards of $300, which is not always accessible, especially in these hard times.   Here is one reason to adopt, not buy an animal:  Animals shelters and rescue groups are required to spay and neuter an animal before it is adopted.   

Clinics such as the Humane Society offer low-cost spay/neuter.  The ASPCA runs a free spay/neuter mobile clinic for anyone in NYC on financial assistance.  The Mayor's Alliance also offers low-cost spay/neuter for anyone on financial assistance.  A full list of free/low-cost spay and neuter events can be found here.

The Mayor's Alliance and Rational Animal have developed three PSAs to help educate pet owners about the importance of spaying and neutering their pets.

Celebrity voices include: Joe Franklin, Nellie McKay, Paul Liberti, voice for Blues Clues Bernadette Peter's dog “Stella."  You can view the PSA's here.  

If you've already fixed your animals you can enter your pet in a photo contest sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States.

Prizes include shopping sprees at the HSUS online store and photos in the HSUS magazine and on their website. Photos can be submitted through Friday, February 27th. To submit a photo click here.

Rourke Walks Solo on the Red Carpet but Not in Spirit

Comeback actor Mickey Rourke walked solo on the red carpet last night but the Oscar nominee wasn't alone in spirit. A charm necklace draped around the "Wrestler" star's neck featured a photo of Loki, the 17 year-old chihuahua who died just one week ago in Rourke's arms. Dressed in a white tux, Rourke said he also had a tux made for Loki in case he made it the Oscars.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Bideawee To Close Wantaugh Shelter

Here's the latest bad news to hit the local animal sheltering system; Bideawee announced today it will close it's Wantaugh, LI, adoption center on March 8, after serving the area since 1915.

Despite tough financial times, the move is sure to outrage longtime supporters, volunteers and animal lovers in the community.

President and CEO Nancy Taylor said the decision was financial. In a press release, Bidewawee says it will continue its other programs, including animal behavior and training classes, pet therapy, Reading to Dogs, bereavement counseling groups and the public education programs. Its Pet Memorial Park in Wantagh, as well as the Pet Memorial Park in Westhampton, will continue to provide its full range of burial and cremation services.

The Wantagh Adoption Center currently shelters eighty 80 pets. After the closure the remaining animals will be safely relocated to Bideawee’s two other adoption Centers located in Westhampton and Manhattan, that will continue to operate unchanged.

But without the adoption facility, the shelter will leave yet another community without a safehaven for abandoned animals.

The recent closing of the Animal Haven shelter in Queens, reportedly for financial reasons, has prompted outrage by longtime supporters of the city's first "no-kill" shelter.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Valentine Piglets Arrive At Upstate Animal Sanctuary

These four cute little piglets are the newest additions to the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, in upstate NY. 

Nemo, Eva, Pinky and Wally were rescued from an upstate man who had bought four pigs from an Amish farmer to raise for slaughter.  Turns out one of the pigs was pregnant; the farmer woke up one morning to find a newborn litter of 12 piglets, of which eight died. An animal rehabilitator came to the rescue and nursed the four surviving piglets back to health. Rather than returning the quartet back to be sold for slaughter, however, they landed at the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, a 200-acre farm for abused and abandoned animals. Check out the video here. To sponsor one of the piglets to help pay for their care go to

California Pet Owners Avoid Vet Tax

The California State Legislature today passed a 17-month budget that did not include Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's earlier proposal to broaden the sales and use tax to include veterinary services.

“Requiring pet owners to pay a tax to care for their animals is bad public policy,” said William Grant, II, DVM, president of the California Veterinary Medical Association.

The budget proposal to extend the sales tax to veterinary services could have added up to 10 percent to the cost of caring for animals in California, according to the state Legislative Analyst’s office. This would endanger the health and well-being of animals kept as pets, raised on farms, or sheltered by humane agencies.

Humane Society of the United States chief economist Jennifer Fearing said the tax would have resulted in fewer animal receiving medical care and more animals landing in the shelters.

Too Wild to Live at Home?

This week's Chimpanzee tragedy has raised the question: Do wild animals make good pets?

According the The Association of Zoos and Aquariums there a many reasons why wild animals don't belong in our homes.

Exotic creatures like chimpanzees, pythons, kinkajous and scarlet macaws have captured the hearts of animal-lovers looking for companions; but keeping exotic animals as pets can come with hidden costs – both for people and animals. Wild animals have lived for thousands of years without the direct influence of humans. They are adapted for survival in complex, wild environments. They are not well adapted to living with humans or in a house.

Brooklyn-based animal rescuer Sean Casey knows first-hand. Casey, who runs Sean Casey Animal Rescue, is the go-to-guy for the city's snakes, boas, goats, and other exotic creatures, many that are abandoned after the owner realizes they can't handle them. Most of them are illegal to keep in NYC. When I first visited Casey in his Brooklyn home a few years ago, I was shocked to find dozens of cages housing reptiles, bird, ferrets and all sorts of wild critters. Tortoises confiscated from Chinatown - many with cracked shells - were roaming around his backyard. Casey works hard to adopt the animals out; if they're not legal in the NY he tries to find them homes in areas where they are legal to own.

What's wrong with having a wild animal as a pet? Besides having complex behavioral and social needs that we cannot provide them, taking from the wild can endanger the species. Parrots are a good example; they are most endangered family of birds due to the devastation from the international pet trade.

Keeping wild animals is also dangerous, and it is most likely illegal. Many state, county and city ordinances prohibit ownership of wild animals as pets.

In today's NY Daily News, writer Rosemary Black outlines what wild animals are legal in NYC and what animal make good pets.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pups seized from Tenn. Mill in NYC for Adoption

Adopting a purebred puppy in NYC isn't always easy. When they do land in the shelters or rescue groups, the once-pricey pet store pups are quickly scooped up.   But now 43 purebred puppies - including Shih-tzus, Chihuahuas, and Pekingese - rescued from a Tennessee puppy mill have been brought to New York City for eventual adoption.

ASPCA spokeswoman Emily Brand says the puppies are among 285 dogs seized last week in Sparta, Tenn. They were being bred for sale in pet stores and over the Internet.

The dogs that arrived in New York on Tuesday include tiny, 8-week-old puppies, their mothers and some adult males. They're being examined, groomed and socialized. They had been kept 5 or 6 per crate, and had never been walked on a leash.

Brand says some could be available for adoption as early as Friday. She says they'll need "extra TLC." The adoption hotline number is 212-876-7700, extension 4145.

Meanwhile, a coalition of animal welfare groups has formed to protest the court-order to kill all the 127 American Pit Bull Terriers—60 of them puppies—seized on Dec. 10, 2008, during a raid on Wildside Kennels in Wilkesboro, N.C.

Led by Best Friends Animals Society, the coalition includes BAD RAP (Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pit Bulls), Animal Farm Foundation, Villa Lobos Rescue Center, and Downtown Dog Rescue.

The Wilkesboro Superior Court order would put all of the dogs down after their owner, Ed Faron had been sentenced to jail for 8 to 10 months.

Best Friends attorney Ledy VanKavage says the coalition is urging North Carolina, and other states, to let go of old, discredited policies that assume all such dogs are inherently damaged or dangerous.

The groups point out that dogs raised for fighting shouldn’t be summarily doomed. For example, 22 of the Michael Vick dogs at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary , BADRAP, and other organizations have made great progress with dogs from the Vick fighting bust. Some of these dogs were condemned by other national humane organizations to be the most violent dogs in America. Now many have their Canine Good Citizenship and some are therapy dogs.

Best Friends is urging citizens to contact their state legislators to change North Carolina law and delete the clause in the law that makes it possible for dogs harbored for fighting to automatically be deemed “dangerous” dogs.

Mickey Rourke's Beloved Loki Dies

The Oscar nominee's Chihuahua, Loki, one of the dogs memorably thanked by Rourke in his Golden Globe acceptance speech, died in his arms Monday night.

I'd like to thank all my dogs, the ones who are here and the ones who aren't here anymore," The Wrestler star said when accepting his Best Actor prize last month.

A representative for Rourke, Judy Woloshen, said the actor's beloved dog died Monday night.

Says Rourke: "Loki is deeply missed but with me in spirit. I feel very blessed that she fell asleep peacefully in my arms."

Loki will leave behind a legacy. Just last month, the comeback actor and his favorite Chihuahua posed in a PETA ad touting spay/neuter, which read, "Have the Cojones to Fix Your Dog."

Loki was a constant companion to the actor, who called the pup the love of his life, at the Venice Film Festival in September.

"Sometimes, when a man is alone, that's all you got is your dog. And they've meant the world to me," he said.

In a pre-Oscar interview, Rourke told Barbara Walters that his dogs were the only ones there for him when his life was self-destructing, with both his marriage and career faltering.

His other pets include a pug and several rescue dogs saved from shelters.

Rourke credits Loki's father, a chihuahua called Beau Jack, with saving his life during a low point in his career. "One time things were so bad I didn't want to be here any more. Then I see Beau Jack looking at me as if to say, 'But we need you.'"

When Beau Jack died in 2002, Rourke attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation for 45 minutes then took his body to a nearby church to be blessed. According to a New York Times interviewer, Rourke has set up a room in his Greenwich Village home as a shrine to his late chihuahuas, with framed photographs surrounded by candles and rosary beads.

The End of Pet Store Puppy Sales?

2009 may mark the end of puppy sales in NYC pet stores.

Following the model of its successful and ongoing "Puppy-Store-Free LA" program in Los Angeles, Best Friends Animal Society, based in Kanub, Utah, will launch its NYC campaign to stop the sale of puppies in pets stores. This will be a local program driven by members and friends in the New York area. In Los Angeles, over the last year, seven pet stores have either changed to a humane model or ceased to do business at all.

Despite thousands of cats and dogs sitting in city shelters and rescue groups, 70% of the pure breed dogs in New York City shelters were born in a puppy mill and sold through the city's pet stores. The cutesy pet stores in the city are simply the happy face of a gruesome industry.

Last month, I attended the first meeting at the home of art collector Valerie Diker, who is helping raise money for the effort. Among the dozen or so attendees, was music promoter Ron Delsner, who advocates on behalf of retired racehorses, and Best Friends founder Francis Battista, who discussed the group's upcoming strategy.

This week's meeting is open to all but is targeted at those who are able to devote two hours/week to peaceful protests and public information to end the sale of puppy mill dogs in the New York area.

It will be held Friday, February 20, at 6:30, at the Animal Haven Adoption Center and Boutique, 251 Center St., (btwn Centre and Broome).

Chimp Owner, "I Did Everything I Could Do"

Travis the chimp's owner owner Sandra Herold is speaking out. Two days after her longtime companion was shot by police after mauling her friend, 55-year-old Charla Nash, Herold, who slept with 200-pound chimp, described trying to save her friend by stabbing him with a butcher knife, reports the Associated Press. "I stabbed someone that I raised as a son. I did what I can do," Herold, of Travis, who she considered her son. "He would comb my hair; everything I did in the house was for him."

Meanwhile, the ordeal has primate activists outraged. Connecticut law prohibits exotic animals over 50 lbs., but somehow the 200-pound chimp was grandfathered in. “Beer commercials, soda commercials, you know, people watch the Super Bowl and think it’s terribly amusing to see primates in commercials,” F said, in an interview with WTNH TV in Stamford, CT. Feral blames it on the pet trade industry, saying a chimpanzee like Travis can be very lucrative. As a baby, he would’ve sold for about $30,000 and brought in much more for the work. At one time, Travis did star in commercials for Old Navy and Coca-Cola. Read the interview here.

Caucus to Fight Animal Cruelty

The movement to crack down on animal cruelty just got a new ally. Humane Society Legislative Fund president Michael Markarian today announced on his blog the newly-formed Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, co-chaired by Reps. Jim Moran (D-VA) and Elton Gallegly (R-CA). The bi-partisan caucus will work to raise awareness of animal welfare issues in Congress, including cracking down on puppy mills and stopping the export of horses for slaughter.

In the last few days alone, a pet chimpanzee critically mauled a Connecticut woman, 300 dogs were rescued from a North Carolina puppy mill, and Saks and Bloomies were among the NYC department stores exposed for mislabeling fur garments.

The Humane Society of the United States president Wayne Pacelle says the caucus comes at a time when Americans are increasingly united in a belief that all animals deserve humane treatment. “The newly constituted Congressional Animal Protection Caucus will help better align our federal policies with public opinion, and we are excited to work closely with its leaders and with the entire Congress to combat cruelty and abuse," he said.

Pet Industry Dogs the Recession

When it comes to spending hard-earned cash these days, people are still willing to spend more on their pets than on themselves.

Last week's Global Pet Expo, in Orlando, FL, was proof that the booming pet industry is managing to swim in a sinking economy.  American Pet Product Manufacturers Association president Bob Vetere announced that industry spending in 2008 hit $43 billion, as projected. And in 2009, he predicted, it would grow by another few billion dollars.

Author Michael Schaeffer of the Daily Beast was on the expo floor where hand-stitched parrot clothes, glow-in-the-dark mice and the ubiquitous gourmet freeze-dried bison treats were among the thousands of products making their debut. He says while chew toys are selling, people are spending less on vet care and grooming, but services like dog-walking are up. Read his story here.

I've never been one to scrimp on my animals; a box of freeze-dried treats, a cat nip banana and a fleece squeaky toy often end up in my bag with the kitty litter.   But these days, cutting back is definitely in order.  I'm still more likely  to buy them a pricey treat than replace a lost glove but have taken some steps to cut back without feeling guilty or compromising their health.   I've switched brands of cat food; Trader Joes is the best deal in town charging only 59 cents for a can of food that doesn't list any by-products.  Home-cooked meals of meatloaf, and roasted chicken and vegetable dinners for my dog Ruby turns out to be cheaper than buying canned food - and despite what most vets say, much healthier.  And it only takes a few minutes.  I always grab a few bags of the free kibble samples at my local holistic pet store. Toys are more creative too; a paper bag for the cats; Ruby has taken to chasing a knotted sock, or a Trader Joe's brand dental bone in lieu of the high-priced Greenie.

Consider the following cost-saving tips:
  • Compare prices using online resources, such as, or
  • Buy pet food in bulk. If you don't have a car, find a store that offers a delivery service, to avoid buying from the closest store out of convenience.
  • Shop around for pet insurance. Many policies will discount if you pay in full for a year. If you don't want to invest in a plan, consider PetAssure, which offers a 25% discount on all care from participating veterinarians.
  • Use low-cost spay/neuter services at the Humane Society of New York (, which charges $75, or the ASPCA's free spay/neuter mobile van, available to eligible participants (
  • Don't be shy: Ask around for discounts and specials. For example, Biscuits and Bath's offers free Monday night playgroups for small and large dogs (
  • Adopt, don't buy a pet from a breeder or pet store. 

Monday, February 16, 2009

Upscale NYC Stores Caught for Mislabeling Fur Garments

Just in time for NYC's biggest week in fashion comes news that several upscale NYC retailers have been caught on camera selling unlabeled fur garments, which is in violation of the law. See the story by Bevin Cass-Campbell and undercover footage by the Humane Society of the United States at

Animal Law Becoming Hot Legal Topic

Here is an interesting story written this weekend by Joseph B. Frazier of the Associated Press outlining the increasing changes in animal law.

Some things shouldn't happen even to a dog. But they do.

In Pennsylvania last year, a warden ordered two kennel operators to examine some of their charges for fleas. Instead, Elmer Zimmerman of Kutztown shot 70 dogs; his brother Ammon, who had a kennel next door, shot 10.

Horrible, yes, said Jessie Smith, the state's special deputy secretary for dog law enforcement, when the killings were reported. "But it's legal."

No more. Partly because of outrage over the shootings, dogs in Pennsylvania kennels now can be euthanized only by a veterinarian, and the state keeps a tighter leash on the "puppy mills."

Changes in animal law have come, and not just to Pennsylvania. Other incidents of abuse and a shifting national consciousness have made this one of the fastest-growing fields in the legal profession. In 1993, just seven states had felony animal cruelty laws; today, all but four do.

"Animal law is where environmental law was 20 years ago. It's in its infancy but growing," said Pamela Frasch, who heads the National Center for Animal Law at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland.

Lewis & Clark opened the first Animal Legal Defense Fund chapter in 1992. Today, it has branches at more than 115 law schools in the United States and Canada.

In 2000, nine law schools had animal law studies. Today, about 100 do.

"The reason it is getting taught is student demand," said Professor David Favre, who teaches animal law at Michigan State University College of Law. "It's not because tenured professors wanted to teach it, it's that students want to take it."

Favre said most animal law cases in private practice deal with issues such as dangerous dogs, divorce settlements, purchases or other property-related activities.

But it is the animal rights cases that draw attention. And while there have been advances in recent years, some issues remain unsettled. Should pets have more rights than livestock or wild animals? Are some species more deserving of protection?

In George Orwell's words, are some animals more equal than others?

State laws vary widely.

For example: At a Montana campsite, Gunner, a chocolate lab, was killed by a camper who cut off the dog's head with a chain saw and threw it at the owners.

Russell Howald, 30, was sentenced to the maximum -- two years.

But in Iowa, undercover video shot by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals shows farm workers hitting sows with metal rods, slamming piglets on a concrete floor and bragging about jamming rods into sows' hindquarters.

"I hate them. These [expletives] deserve to be hurt. Hurt, I say!" the employee yells as he hits a sow with a metal rod.

Scott Heiser of Portland, who is the criminal justice program director for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said Iowa's animal cruelty law exempts livestock from protection. If charges were brought, they most likely would be misdemeanors.

Animal law, Frasch said, is a mix of incongruities.

"In the past, if someone did something bad to your animal, there wasn't much you could do," Frasch said. "But if your animal was stolen and well-treated, it could be a felony. It was out of balance.

"A mouse as a pet has protection. A mouse as a pest can be killed at will. Research mice have no protection. It is the same animal, but it is a matter of context."

Heiser said political pressure to require aggressive investigations and prosecutions began building about 15 years ago. Before that, some prosecutors were giving away cases "for a song at the plea level," he said.

Pockets of resistance remain, he said. Some prosecutors tell him "it's just a dog" or "I've got real crime to prosecute. I'm too busy."

But new laws in many states, he said, put animal abuse on par with drunken driving cases where prosecutors are prohibited from "dealing," or plea-bargaining, down to a lesser offense.

He said the law students he has met who are devoted to animal law "are very skilled and talented young men and women.

"Of course the empathy is there, but most have faith in the legal system to effect change," unlike some animal rights activists who resort to violence.

Few areas of the law inspire greater emotional response -- or more contradictions.

"Companion animals are especially caught up in this," Heiser said. "There are people who would risk their lives to save their dog or cat. But they still eat meat." AP

Adopt a Senior Stump-Look-Alike

This week's" Critters" story in the NY Daily News featured Luke, an 8-year-old Cocker spaniel and Stump look-a-like who is available for adoption right here in NYC through Posh Pets Rescue. Stump's win at Westminster was a great boom for senior cats and dogs. Thousands of senior cats and dogs are in need of homes across the U.S. and animal experts hope Stump's win will spark a flurry of interest in adopting an older animal. Read story here. To adopt a senior dog go to www.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

New Saliva Test Can Detect Rabies on Live Animal

A new test for rabies can help save a dog's life. Until now, the way to test for rabies in an animal who is suspected of having the disease was to kill him and wait up to two weeks for the results of testing on brain tissue samples. But now a saliva test can be performed on a live animal.

Dyne Immune, LLC announced their new, portable Rabies RAPID™ (Rapid Antibody Portable Immunodetection) Screen, which can detect the presence of rabies in an animal saliva sample within 30 minutes, providing vital information much sooner than traditional testing methods. The screen allows veterinarians, animal control officers and other professionals to check for rabies in animals that are still alive, eliminating the long wait (10 to 14 days) and hefty price tag associated with typical post-mortem rabies testing.

“This test can reduce the number of animals destroyed and save doctors and animal control organizations from the costs associated with traditional testing,” said Dyne Immune CEO, Dr. V. James DeFranco, MD. “Most importantly, though, it enables them to screen for rabies and get an answer quickly — and that’s essential when it comes to preventing the infection from spreading.”

This is going to save a lot of animal lives, and prevent the unnecessary treatment of potentially exposed humans while waiting for test results. You can read the press release here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Senior Dog Takes Westminster

I love that an adult dog has won Westminster's Best in Show. Hopefully, the popularity of 10-year-old Sussex Spaniel, named Stump, will be a boom to adoption of senior pets. Evidently, the breed pool of the Sussex Spaniel is very small and it remains rare, with few landing in animal shelters. A quick search on came up with only three Sussex Spaniels in the U.S. However, there are thousands of other spaniel breeds in shelters and rescue groups across the country. Some are purebred, some are mixed. But who needs a purebred when you can get a great mutt. A little spaniel, a little poodle, maybe mixed with a little pit. What's the advantage of a senior dog? Most come house-trained and are already vetted and spayed and neutered, they are calmer than puppies and just want to spend time hanging by your side. Above is Luke, an 8-year-old Cocker spaniel available from Posh Pets, a NYC rescue group that takes in many senior dogs. Check out for great senior dogs.

Hundreds of Dogs Rescued from Tennessee Puppy Mill

More than 250 dogs were seized Wednesday morning in a raid at a puppy mill in Sparta, Tennessee.

The dogs are small breeds under 20 pounds and include Boston and Jack Russell terriers, Pomeranians, Shih Tzus, Chihuahuas, poodles, miniature Pinschers and Schnauzers, reports the ASPCA.

The dogs were housed in a residence and multiple buildings on the property.
Animals in critical condition were examined immediately on the scene. Animals needing emergency care are being transferred to local veterinarians who lent their services.

Many of the dogs are suffering from a general lack of care, such as little to no food or water, lack of proper ventilation in enclosed areas, and feces encrusted pens. Conditions such as matting, sores, mange, poor teeth, abscesses, and a host of other medical conditions are prevalent.

The investigation was set into motion last September, when a consumer who had visited the property to purchase a dog alerted the White County Humane Society reporting horrible conditions. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which had also received complaints, alerted the sheriff’s department, and a formal investigation began. The sheriff’s department then enlisted the ASPCA’s support for the operational phase of the case.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Backstage at the Dog Show

My favorite part of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog show is backstage. After all, the most fascinating scene takes place behind the vinyl curtains that separates the show ring from the mayhem.

Despite being a fan of underdog and lover of mutts with no discernable lineage, I do enjoy going backstage at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Last night, while the 7-year-old Scottish deerhound named Tiger Woods was busy taking top dog in the hound group, hundreds of dogs that showed in the morning were waiting to make their way out out of Madison Square Garden. 

Pampered show dogs that had spent hours being primped for their moment in the spotlight were found eating popcorn, rolling on their backs in sawdust and sprawled out on the dirty floor.

Being a "bench" show means the dogs are required to remain in their designated spots - a small slot about two-feet wide within rows of benches painted yellow and purple - from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. when the evening group is ready to go into the show ring.

After a grueling day, the dogs are dead tired; by 7 p.m. most are sleeping in, or on top of, their tiny crates, with fans buzzing to keep them cool, and many are fast asleep on the floor. My favorite girl of the evening was the dreadlocked white Puli named Andy who kept her demeanor despite the long, cramped line to exit the Garden.

Tonight only a handful of the 2,552 dogs of 170 breeds that prepared for the show will vie for top dog. I am betting that Andy the Puli is happy he's home in his comfy bed rooting Tiger, who will compete at approximately 10:30 p.m. tonight against six other dogs for the title of Best in Show.

Laughter for the Farm Animals

Comic Janeane Garofalo, "Bizarro" cartoonist Dan Piraro and HBO veteran Louis CK will trade laughs for donations on Wednesday night at the "Komedy for Karma" show at Gotham Comedy Club to benefit the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. Among the dozens of NYC animals have landed at the 200-acre sanctuary, located in Willow, NY, near Woodstock, are chickens, goats and sheep that were rescued from live poultry markets or left for dead in NYC parking lots. The show at Gotham Comedy Club will start at 8 p.m. For info go to

Monday, February 9, 2009

Economy Takes A Bite Out of Westminster

NEW YORK (AP) -- Chelsea Conway came to America's No. 1 dog show in style last year. She brought her husband, and they enjoyed the Broadway show ''Mamma Mia!'' and a fancy dinner.

This time, no show and a trip to the deli. Oh, and her husband stayed home in Murietta, Calif.

''It's all changed,'' she said, petting her big Dogue de Bordeaux in a hotel lobby.

For sure: The nation's sagging economy has taken a bite out of the Westminster Kennel Club event.

The show did not fill up its usual allotment of 2,500 entries in a single day, as usual. There were 2,486 (at $75 per dog) going into the start of judging Monday.

Tickets (from $40 to $155 for a single day) were moving a bit more slowly, too. Last February, Madison Square Garden was packed when a precocious beagle called Uno was picked as best in show.

It's a trend that's been felt by sports all over. The Super Bowl was missing a lot of its usual buzz, and recent college football bowl games also felt the brunt of economic woes.

While some top owners might spend way more than $100,000 a year to fly their dogs first class, there are lots of mom-and-pop operations and people showing up on a budget.

Conway said she planned to take her sweet dog Rolex to about 15 shows. In the past, she might've entered 30 or 40 events in a year. Her husband is remaining back in Southern California to care for their other dogs.

''You have to watch your money,'' she said.

Her Dogue de Bordeaux, also known as a French mastiff, is the new contender among the 170 breeds and varieties at Westminster. Best in show judge Sari Tietjen will point to the champion Tuesday night -- she often prefers little toy dogs, by the way.

Mark Grossnickle and teenage daughter Alyssa were in town from Greeley, Colo., for the junior showmanship competition. In tow was their smiling golden retriever, Tazo.

This is their third trip to Westminster, a visit that usually included a nice dog-related banquet. But those tickets can cost $250, so Saturday night this time meant a change in plans.

''We'll probably go grab a burger,'' he said.

To Mike Arias, traveling up from Miami with his Akita named Raiden called for a decision. He was invited to the elite Eukanuba show in Long Beach, Calif., but passed.

''After this, I don't think I'll be showing out of state,'' he said.

''This is an expendable luxury sport for a lot of people,'' he said. ''I can only imagine the economy is having an effect. I'll be interested to see how many people and dogs actually show up once we start.''

NYSE Closing Bell Kicks Off I Love NYC Pets Month

Today, the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals president Jane Hoffman and Maddie, the mascot, rang the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange to kick off the I Love NYC Pets Month, a cityside adoption celebration that takes place in February throughout the five boroughs.

The bell ringing was telecast live on the jumbo screen on the W Hotel in Times Square.

The weakened economy, along with foreclosures and layoffs has been hard on the city's animal population. Many beautiful cats and dogs are in shelters and rescue groups around the city that need your help. If you can't adopt, think about fostering an animal until it finds a home. Or donate an item on your favorite shelter or rescue group's wish list, which can usually be found on its web site. Or, consider sponsoring an animal, or even volunteering to walk dogs and care for cats.

Visit for a list of adoption events or for more information.

Shepard Fairey "ADOPT" Posters Sold Out in 90 Minutes

Despite the sluggish economy, artist Shepard Fairey's "ADOPT" posters were a hot ticket item yesterday, selling out only 90 minutes after going on sale at the Web site Sale of the 400 posters signed by the designer raised $30,000 for animal shelters.

Fairey is the artist who made Barack Obama's face an icon through his stickers and posters. He has now made an icon out of the American mutt, proving that every mutt is truly original.

The "ADOPT" poster aimed at promoting dog adoption throughout the country and the launch of a new website, It looks like they will do another round of printing. In the meantime, you can order other items that bear the "ADOPT" logo.

Fairey said he created the image on the poster after his childhood mutt, Honey.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

They're He-e-e-r -e

With just two days to showtime, the most pampered dogs in the country continue to roll into the New York before for their moment in the spotlight. This year, 2,552 dogs from 170 breeds will vie for top dog at the Westminster Kennel Club Show, which kicks off Monday night at the Garden.

At the Hotel Pennsylvania, across from the Garden, two giant mastiffs were among the dozens of four-legged guests seen checking in to their digs last night, where doggie concierge Jerry Gromyck makes sure everyone is cared for.   Since most of these pampered showdogs don't dare do their business out on the street, many were seen making their way to the downstairs "lounge" to relieve themselves on fake fire hydrants and saw dust before bedtime.

Meanwhile, up on the 18th fl., Dr. Ruth Westheimer joined hundreds of folks who came out for a pre-show fashion show put on by Skybark. The LA-based company hosts parties in venues where people can bring their dogs. There were plenty of chihuahuas and maltese on hand dressed to the nines.

Doggie seamstress extraordinaire Ada Nieves hand-stitched dozens of costumes worn by a lineup local New York Celebupus, including her own four chihuahuas. Karen Biehl and her chihuahua Eli, and Jorge Bendersky from Bravo series "Groomer Has It, were among the crew that strutted down the red carpet to benefit the Animal Haven Shelter.

Nieves, who organized the event, took us backstage to check out her rack of costumes. Whether or not you you enjoy dressing your pooch, she really does a fabulous job and puts a lot of love into each one of her creations, ranging from tiny tuxedos to a floor-length wedding gown.

The party was doggie mayhem but everyone was pretty well-behaved.  As far as Skybark goes, the spread wasn't so impressive; pretzels and cheese scattered about with a cash bar on top of the $65 ticket price.  One just hope it all goes to a good cause.

The person I found most intriguing was the photographer who could be heard barking, meowing, chirping and making all sort of wild noises in an effort to get the dog to smile on red carpet.

The next few days promises to be colorful. If you can't make it to the show, check out the Hotel Pennsylvania, across from the garden. It gives you a peek into a world that really is just like "Best in Show."

Thursday, February 5, 2009

After Shooting 2 Dogs, Kansas Mayor Surrenders

This just in from the Associated Press.  The mayor of McCune, a small southeast Kansas town turned himself in on Wednesday after a warrant was issued for his arrest in the shooting of two dogs on Sunday.

Mayor Don Call is charged with two felony counts of cruelty to animals and one misdemeanor count of criminal discharge of a firearm. He was released after posing $3,000 bond.

Call says he was just protecting his community when he shot the dogs, which apparently had been chasing some children. But the Crawford County Sheriff's Office saw it a little differently.

Call admits that he killed the animals on Sunday after warning a local dog owner a month ago that he was going to do it.

"I told him that if he did not want to take care of the dogs, that I was going to shoot them the next time," Call said. "I said that I was through playing this game and he was going to take care of them and that was back in January."

He said the city had called the Sheriff's Department several times about dogs owned by Duane Wahl, but the complaints continued. The shootings on Sunday came after the mayor received a call from a couple who said their children were being chased by the dogs.

Sheriff Sandy Horton said his department wasn't told of the chasing report.

According to the sheriff's report, Call shot the dogs with a rifle while sitting in his vehicle. The mayor then left and picked up a trailer, came back and loaded the dogs up to take to his home for disposal.

Call said he tried to call the city superintendent to dispose of the dead animals but he was unable to reach him.

Sheriff's records show the department received four calls since June 2008 complaining about Wahl's dogs being aggressive and running loose through town. Call said the city has sent Wahl letters about the dogs.

In January, Wahl told the Sheriff's Department that he was getting rid of the animals. Wahl said the dogs that Call shot on Sunday were not his.

McCune's dog ordinance, passed in 2006, says dogs running at large are subject to impoundment, and that no dogs can be "disposed of until after a minimum of three full business days of custody."

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Actress and animal advocate Bernadette Peters lent her star-power last night to help raise money for the city's needy animals. The passionate animal advocate, who described her rescued pit bull Stella and mutt Kramer as her "rocks," was among the packed crowd of big-hearted supporters who came out to support Friends of Animal Rescue. The fledgling non-profit group, founded by Betsy Goldman, a former television producer who works in PR, raises money to help local animal rescue groups pay for medical and other costs needed to help find homes for adoptable animals.  Unlike other fundraising groups, FOAR pay the bills for a specific animal directly to the vendor - vet, kennel, etc. - so donors know exactly where their money is going. NYC Mayor's Alliance president Jane Hoffman was also among the overflowing crowd at STIR, an Upper East side lounge, along with this beautiful dog named Caymen, who is available for adoption at NYC Animal Care & Control.  If interested in Caymen contact Jennifer Panton at United Action for Animals.

Rachel Ray's Dog Food Helps Feeds the Needy

Celebrity chef Rachel Ray is now into dog food. The dog lover, who cooks for her pit bull Isaboo, has launched the Nutrish brand of "healthy" dog food and treats. The cool thing about her company is that through her non-profit Rachel's Rescue, Ray will donate 100 percent of the proceeds to animal rescue. Yesterday, at a PR lunch held in midtown, the company presented a check for $10,000 to the ASCPA. Ray's own veterinary consultant Dr. Ernie Ward was on hand to tout the benefits of Nutrish, which he says is all natural, based on a chicken and beef diet with no by-products or fillers, but is affordable and will be sold on the grocery store shelves. My dog Ruby scarfed down the Bacony Burger flavored chewy treats, which look like little hamburgers, and are supposedly low in calories. (While the first ingredient is beef - soy flour, corn flour and high-fructose corn syrup are the next ingredients so decide for yourself). The food is manufactured through Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, a privately-owned company and not part of the big conglomerate Menu Foods, which made most of the pet foods involved in last year's pet food recall.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

The 15-day Chinese New Year begins today, ushering in the Year of the Ox.

The Chinese calendar has a 12-year cycle and each year is named after an animal. People born in the Year of the Ox are said to be dependable, patient, methodical and calm, hardworking, materialistic, and ambitious. They are also honest, reliable and logical, that is why people go to them for advice. People born in this year are also said to be stubborn, narrow minded, and with low public relations skills.

President Obama is an Ox, born in the year 1961. The characteristics seem to suit him, although so far his public relations skills seem stellar. I am also an Ox (though I won't say which year), and initially thought that meant this would be MY year. But according to some Chinese predictions, it may not be so.

Here's today's gloomy report from the Associated Press:

If the global economy fails to recover in 2009, the housing bubble or credit crunch may not be to blame. It could be a lack of fire. Chinese fortunetellers say fire — one of the five elements mystics believe form the basis of the universe — is essential to financial well-being. And fire is nowhere to be found in the mythology of this coming Year of the Ox, the Chinese lunar year that begins Monday.

"Fire is the driving force behind economic growth. Without it, the market lacks momentum," said Raymond Lo, a Hong Kong master of feng shui, the ancient Chinese practice of trying to achieve health, harmony and prosperity through building design, the placement of objects and auspicious dates and numbers.

Chinese soothsayers see a deepening recession, millions more losing their jobs, and stocks and home prices continuing to fall. That's more or less in line with what some economists are predicting, but some fortunetellers are throwing in other dire predictions — massive earthquakes, rising U.S.-Russian tensions and trouble for President Barack Obama.

Obama, born in the Year of the Ox, is taking office in a particularly bad year for his Chinese astrological sign. The ox sign is in direct conflict this year with a traditional Chinese divinity called the "God of Year," considered a bad omen. Obama also is the 44th president, a number the Chinese deem extremely unlucky, because "four" is pronounced the same as "death" in Chinese.

"The new U.S. president is not having good luck this year. His honeymoon will only be short-lived," said fortuneteller Alion Yeo, predicting Obama may even face impeachment in his first year in office. "The Year of the Ox looks slightly better and less dire than last year, but it will still be bumpy."

Yeo also predicted that the U.S. mortgage crisis would worsen and the stock market would plunge to new lows.
But Malaysian numerologist Weng Shi Ming suggested Obama's birth year would offset his bad luck. Weng said the symmetry of 1961 is "the perfect mix of ying and yang," rendering Obama "immune to the effects of 44."

The ox, one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, symbolizes calm, hard work, resolve and tenacity. According to legend, the ox allowed the cunning rat to ride on its head in a race to determine the animals' order. Shortly before the ox crossed the finish line, the rat leaped off to claim victory. The Year of the Rat was marked in 2008.
Among the world's luminaries born in the Year of the Ox: former U.S. President Richard Nixon (1913), former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (1925), Princess Diana (1961), and Hollywood actors George Clooney (1961) and Richard Gere (1949).

The lunar new year is the biggest annual festival for ethnic Chinese, who make up about one-fifth of the world's population. It is a time of lavish spending, when loved ones exchange "hong bao," or red envelopes stuffed with money. But this year's festivities will likely be more subdued amid the economic slump.

"What's important is that the family has a good time. There's no need to overspend," said Ooi Lee Mui, a Malaysian housewife shopping in Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown, where the season's gold lanterns and bright-hued flowers bedecked streets and stores.

Joey Yap, a feng shui expert in Malaysia, saw no economic recovery before 2010.

"It will be a daunting year. We haven't really reached the peak of the problems yet," Yap said. "We haven't tasted the main dish, and will most likely experience it during the second half of the year."

But feng shui master Lo saw a glimmer of hope. The combination of two elements changes every lunar year, and this time it's two earths, the element that represents harmony and peace. Not since 1949, when the world order was settling down after World War II, has an Ox Year seen two earth signs.
"It is a year for healing ... from the turbulent time the world has experienced," Lo said.

According to one Chinese prediction, a male Ox can look forward to new romances. Sadly, the female Ox may not be as lucky in love. The good news is the Ox will progress and developments will be recognized and achieved.

But the unlucky stars are also shining upon the Ox, could cause poor interpersonal relationships, financial disputes and blackmailing. These unlucky stars can cause turbulence to the Ox’s otherwise beautiful career path for the Year of the Ox 2009. It is advised that he should work on and improved his interpersonal relationships skill, as this is his weakest department, and the area he is likely to go wrong.

Despite the less than rosy outlook, I am hoping the Year of the Ox is a prosperous and happy one for all.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

PetSmart Voluntarily Recalls Dog Biscuits

The peanut butter recall has gone to the dogs.

PetSmart Inc. is voluntarily recalling seven of its Grreat Choice-brand dog biscuit products that contain peanut paste made by the Peanut Corp. of America. That company is the focus of a FDA investigation into potential salmonella contamination of peanut butter and paste made at its Blakely, Ga., plant.

The recalled Grreat Choice dog biscuits were sold between Aug. 21 and Jan. 19. If you have the biscuits, you can return them to PetSmart for a full refund.

A list of treats involved in the recall can be found here.

While healthy adult dogs are fairly resistant to illness from Salmonella bacteria, pets with health issues, young puppies and elderly or pregnant dogs that may have compromised immune systems may be at greater risk for becoming ill. And it can pass between pets and humans, so wash your hands good!

Dr. Louise Murray, Director of Medicine of the ASPCA, says adult cats are relatively resistant and most dogs infected with the bacterium appear normal, but can pass Salmonella through their feces.

Dogs who do become ill from Salmonella may exhibit symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, fever, lethargy, and drooling or panting—an indication of nausea. In severe cases, the bacterium may spread throughout the body resulting in death. Cats may develop high fever with vague non-specific clinical signs. If you suspect that your pet may have ingested a contaminated recalled product, please contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435.

For a complete list of affected brands and more information on the recall, please visit FDA's recall page at As recall information can change rapidly, it is important to check information often.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Rescued Goldendoodle for First Dog?

Now that President Obama (doesn't that sound sweet!) has been sworn in, it's time to settle one of the top orders of business . . . finding.the peftect First Dog. A rescued "golden doodle" might just be the answer to the doggie dilemma, says the Best Friends Animal Society.

Two golden doodle puppies from Missouri fit the Obama Family’s criteria, one that would be easy on allergies, and a pooch from a shelter. Described as having a “ridiculous amount of adorable,” the standard poodle, golden retriever mixes, who were rescued from a puppy mill, are patiently waiting at their foster home in Colorado Springs for a call from The White House.

“Our two Golden Doodle Girls—Stella and Susie—are only four months old and waiting for a loving home—and The White House would be just fine with them,” said Theresa Strader of National Mill Dog Rescue. “They were not in very good shape when we got them; they had various infections including pneumonia, which is common with dogs rescued from puppy mills. But now they are in perfect health and are ready to get on with the rest of their lives.

National Mill Dog Rescue often partners with Best Friends helping to find homes for dogs—usually purebred animals—rescued from puppy mills, large scale commercial mass breeding operations that supply pet shops across the United States.

“Puppy mills are out-of-sight, out-of-mind with the general public,” says Julie Castle, director of community programs for Best Friends Animal Society. “If the Obamas were to adopt Stella or Susie, it would go a long way toward educating Americans about the conditions in puppy mills, which will decrease the demand for these dogs in pet shops.”

Best Friends’ national campaign against puppy mills made the headlines recently when the management of the upscale mall, The Beverly Center, announced it was terminating the lease of “Pet Love,” a store that sold puppy mill dogs for thousands of dollars. This followed months of peaceful, informational protests by Best Friends and other animal welfare groups.

The adoption of Stella and/or Susie would go a long way toward sending a strong message to current and future pet owners: Adoption, coupled with effective spay-neuter programs, enables abused, abandoned dogs to obtain a new lease on life and helps control pet overpopulation.

Strader said, “After helping Stella and Susie to become healthy, their foster family here in Colorado Springs has taught them so many new things. They are both really smart, in just one week they have already learned the basic commands; come, sit, lie down and stay.”

Stella and Susie are housetrained (which should put White House housekeepers at ease). “Stella is more laid back with a very sweet and outgoing temperament but happy to have several naps a day,” Strader added. “Susie is a bit more of a wild child - very energetic and a bit nosy, but also very loving and sweet.”

“We truly believe that adopting either of these darling girls would be a great choice for the First Family,” Strader added. “They definitely had a very difficult beginning but are perfect models for what can be achieved when tender, loving care is given to animals in need.”

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Strap on some Cojones and Fix Your Dog

He may be tough as nails (or a staple gun) but actor Mickey Rourke is a softee when it comes to his animals. The once down-and-out screen star thanked his dogs for when accepting his Golden Globe award. "Sometimes when a man is alone, that's all you’ve got is your dog," he said. "They meant the world to me." Now he's putting his Hollywood comeback in "The Wrestler" to help combat animal overpopulation in a new spay neuter ad for PETA. Cradling his Chihuahua, Jaws, Rourke urges people to "have the cojones to fix your dog. When dogs get knocked up, puppies get put down because there aren't enough homes for them."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Stop the Army from Using Animal Cruelty in Training

Farm Sanctuary, in upstate NY, is reporting that the US Army plans to stab, shoot, and break the legs of pigs and goats this week as part of a training program at Fort Dix. The idea is to create combat injuries so that medics-in-training can fix them. Instead, animal advocates say it is an exercise in cruelty.

Better methods exist to ensure wounded soldiers get medical care. In fact, the Department of Defense has an animal welfare regulation that requires the use of non-animal methods when such methods are available. The training starts today and runs through Friday, so there is no time to waste. Farm Sanctuary is urging the public to write letters to Colonel Thaxton, the Installation Commander at Fort Dix immediately. Click here ">here to send a letter now.


The recall in China of an imported pet food that has reportedly sickened and killed dozens of dogs is raising many questions about the unregulated pet food industry.

Dozens of dogs are believed to have died due to aflatoxin poisoning after eating a U.S. brand pet food, Optima Puppy Lamb and Rice Dry Dog Food.   Unlike the 2007 massive pet food recall, which was blamed on melamine imported from China, this pet food recall is being blamed on quality control.

The "US-made" food was reportedly sitting in an overheated warehouse past its time limit due to logistics and restrictions during the Beijing Olympics.

CNN reported this week that Natural Pet Corporation, which is the distributor for Optima dog food from Australia, has ordered a recall.

A local Chinese paper reported that the food wasn't authorized to be imported from Australia.

Import records show the food came from Australian-based Doane International Pet Products. The food is made by U.S-based Doane Pet Care, in Nashville, TN.  Its web site doesn't mention the recall. Doane Pet Care is owned by Mars, Inc,, which makes the Sheba, Cesar, Pedigree brands, among others. In Novmeber, 2008, Mars recalled pet food that was tainted with Salmonella. Mars makes no mention of the Chinese recall, either.  

Sound familiar?  The largely unregulated pet food industry was responsible in 2007, for the recall of over 150 brands of foods after sickening an killing thousands of dogs and cats.   Pet owners and veterinarians alike were surprised to find that so many foods - from gourmet to grocery brands - were made by the same manufacturer, Menu Foods, in Canada.

Whether the recalls are blamed on quality control or tainted products, isn't this a big wake up call to feed our pets foods made with locally grown products? 

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Cinci Freedom, a cow that escaped from a Cincinnati meatpacking plant in 2002 and ran free in a city park for 10 days, lived out the second half of her life in bucolic splendor at the Farm Sanctuary, in upstate New York, reports the Associated Press.

Cinci was euthanized Dec. 29 after losing one of her hind legs from spinal cancer.

Although she never lost her intense fear of humans, the 13-year-old Charolais put on as much as 800 pounds and found plenty of room for frolicking on a 175-acre animal sanctuary with a herd of feisty soul mates rescued from factory farms, stockyards and slaughterhouses.

Cinci, which had slimmed down to 1,200 pounds after years of breeding, jumped a 6-foot fence to elude slaughter in February 2002. In tracking her down, authorities searched a 57-acre park by foot, Jeep and helicopter, left out hay and even brought in other cows to lure the runaway.

She was eventually tranquilized and captured by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. On April 1 that year, she was presented with a key to the city. But she was kept out of a parade for the start of the baseball season when she became too balky and had to be tranquilized a second time.

In the meantime, animal-welfare activists stepped forward to guarantee her a new home. Artist Peter Max took custody after offering paintings to help in the expansion of the Cincinnati-area animal society.

"She arrived at the shelter with abscesses on her face," Coston said. "She was pretty thin and dirty and just didn't look healthy."

But she hadn't lost any of her high spirits.

"We usually quarantine animals for three to six weeks," Coston said. "She actually got out of the barn, smashed a gate and then another gate, and put herself in the herd within the first week. After being here for a year, she was close to 2,000 pounds, her coat was really clean and white and she was very muscled.

"She was always very aware of people present but she didn't have that constant fear because she was a part of a herd and that's the structure they live in" out on the pasture.

While dairy cattle can often live to 30 years, the age span for large breeds such as Charolais is typically 15 years to 20 years, Coston said.

As Cinci lay dying in a snowy field, the herd of 55 gathered around and some stepped forward to lick her face and back.
Her death was "sad and emotional" for those who cared for her, Coston said, but also a triumph for "anyone who feels that all beings should have the right to be free and to live out their lives in peace."