Thursday, May 28, 2009

SPCA of Texas seeks corporate sponsor

Take a peek at this video. It's a fairly innovative idea for fundraising for an animal shelter. I wish these folks the best of luck and hope to hear how it works out.

SPCA of Texas Seeks corporate sponsor.

Pet legislation moves forward

Plenty of proposed bills regarding pets and animal issues are before the California legislature these days, and movement on them seems to come in bunches.

SB318, a bill that allows property forfeitures that were acquired through dogfighting has passed out of committee by a unanimous vote. A second Senate hearing/vote is scheduled for this week.

The biggest bill for pet owners, SB 250, the Responsible Pet Owner's Act, sponsored by Senator Dean Florez, is up for a full Senate vote sometime between June 2 and June 5. Now is the time to get your letters of support in to the Senator's office, even if you've sent them before. Go to their web site for full details.

Let's make this the year that companion animals get a little respect.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A new way to dispose of lawn blossoms

I'm continually amazed at the things people will think of when it comes to products for making pet waste disposal easier. Curt Fournier and fiancée Victoria Januszewski created GreenDog LLC for their invention, the Powerloo.

The Powerloo is an outdoor device where dog owners can deposit their scooped poop, then flush it as one would a toilet. The device is designed to tap into sewer lines. You can read about it by clicking here.

While I wish them well in their venture, given the incredible water shortages that we are facing in the Central Valley I cannot imagine diverting any additional water for flushing dog dookey in its very own toilet.

For more information about the Powerloo click here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

AB 241 Passes CA Assembly

AB 241, The Responsible Breeder Act, passed the full Assembly by a vote of 60 to 14, a more than 4 to 1 margin. See the vote results by clicking here.

No thanks, of course, to the elected officials in my area, Assemblymembers Jean Fuller and Danny Gilmore, neither of whom voted in favor of the bill, which limits ownership of intact animals to 50.

The bill also allows peace officers to inspect places where animals are bred or maintained and to inspect the records of an individual or business.

Next up, the bill moves to Senate committees for consideration.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Nutro recalls dry cat food

The FDA has just announced a recall of some varieties of Nutro dry cat food products. The recall includes varieties of their Nutro Natural Choice Complete Care and Nutro Max brands of dry cat food with "best if used by dates" of May 12, 2010 and August 22, 2010.

The products are being recalled due to incorrect levels of zinc and potassium in the finished mix. The product was distributed throughout the Unites States.

For the full FDA recall announcement click here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Michael Vick’s being released…and I’m O.K. with it

I was as shocked as anyone when the story first broke about Michael Vick’s involvement with dog fighting. Of course, as the details came out, as they always do in the days of the Internet, my shock gave way to anger, then vengeance.

I was right there with the rest of the pet-dog-pittie-lovers out there who wanted nothing less than Vick’s nether-regions dangling as a chew toy for teething pups whilst fire ants chewed on his honeyed armpits. I was seething. Michael Vick wasn’t some poor, uneducated bumpkin trying to make a buck in a hard, cold world. He was a multimillionaire who held one of only 32 starting NFL quarterback positions in the country.

He had everything, and despite all that he still felt the need to get his kicks by watching (and betting) on dogs tearing each other apart. For his entertainment. And when they didn’t meet his needs, he killed them, sometimes in horrible ways.

At the time, I didn’t think what I felt for him would ever pass.

I sat, like so many other dog lovers, enraptured with all of the attention this particular case got. Dog fighting, as an issue, was suddenly everywhere --- on television, on the radio, most definitely on the Internet. People were holding anti-Michael Vick events, journalists were taking “inside” looks at the issue and for probably the first time in my memory people were talking about it from all angles. The ugly underbelly of one of our seedier pastimes was finally getting exposed to the light of day.

And pit bulls, a breed known for almost nothing but bad press for years, were finally being looked at in the media as victims, rather than perpetrators of crimes.

As a society, we came down on Vick with both feet. We took his job. We took his money. We took his reputation and any semblance of community standing he had. He became public enemy number one in the court of animal-lover opinion. Then we took his freedom, and although there are plenty of people who believe we didn’t take enough of that, we certainly took more from him than if he had been some guy on a street corner, or some backwoods good ol’ boy who claimed not to know any better.

Then came the repercussions of his arrest.

Now dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states. It wasn’t before Michael Vick came along that legislators decided to do what was right, no matter how many times various animal agencies tried to make it so.

Following Vick’s arrest there was a spate of other arrests for dog fighting across the country. Even here in the Central Valley, five people were arrested in Fresno in the months after Vick’s arrest. Authorities were finally getting the word that this crime was not something people wanted pushed to the back burner.

As groups like BADRAP and Best Friends took on the task of rehabilitating the Vick dogs that were initially seized, we watched as they did what was largely believed to be impossible, even by some of the largest animal agencies in the country --- they turned fighters into lovers. A number of the dogs have gone on to foster and adoptive homes. The people at Best Friends have turned them into media stars, as their progress is shown in episodes of Dogtown.

Though there are some minds that will never be changed, whether they be the minds of dog fighters or the minds of pit bull haters, there’s no doubt that Vick’s arrest and conviction got the issue out in front of more people than almost any other action could have. His arrest made people aware, it made them think and it made them act.

Now, having served his time, Vick is getting out. The mere fact of his release will provide another round of media coverage about dog fighting and its costs, to both dog and man.

What happens next is anyone’s guess. I’m not about to say that I’ve looked into his eyes and have seen his soul, and I know how truly sorry he is. Nor am I going to jump on the “he’s only sorry he got caught” bandwagon. I don’t know what’s in his heart any more than anyone else. Actions make the man, and we will all be able to witness the nature of his actions and decide for ourselves what this experience has done for him.

As for me, when all is said and done, I’m satisfied with the pound of flesh we got. Vick committed, in the eyes of animal lovers everywhere, a horrific act. He was caught, tried and punished --- and let’s be honest about this one thing at least --- punished far, far beyond what virtually anyone else would have been, had the evidence been the same.

Advances were made in legislation, education and rehabilitation of pitties, all in the name of showing Vick up. Although I’d like to think that would have happened without his crime, I surely don’t believe it would have happened so quickly. While I’m not planning to thank Michael Vick for getting caught, I do acknowledge that his arrest set things into motion that may have otherwise remained inert for a much longer period of time.

It’s time for all of us to take what we have learned and move on to the next chapter of this story. If the vast majority of the Vick dogs can move beyond the past, the least we can do is try and do the same.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Hot days are here...

It's time for the annual reminder that pets and parked cars don't mix during summer's heat. Period.

United Animal Nations has started a new website, My Dog is Cool to provide tips and tools to remind people how quickly pets can succumb to hot weather when left in a car, even for a few minutes. Give them a peek. They even have handy materials you can download to educate others.

An engineer's guide to cats

It's Sunday, and despite the stress of real life seeming to permeate every corner of my life, it's still a good time to post a little humor. Enjoy.

L.A. County Animal Shelter employees accused of animal creulty

According to this report and accompanying video from CBS 2 News in Los Angeles, some employees of the county's animal shelter are engaging in acts of animal cruelty. You can view the report and video yourself by clicking here.

Here's my question for the group. If there are video cameras all over the place, and people can see this activity happening, why does it take an investigation from a news station to get someone's attention? Why are these animal control officers not disciplined the first time they are seen using improper techniques? Is this behavior so routine that it takes an outsider to point out that it is not acceptable to the taxpayers who fund the shelter? I'm confused...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Clovis becomes latest California city to implement spay/neuter ordinance

Clovis recently updated an existing law to further enforce spay/neuter among pets in the city. The updated law is in response to the city's all but overwhelming pet overpopulation issues. Last year the city euthanized over 48,000 dogs and cats. According to a news report (see video here), the Central California SPCA is hoping that Fresno will adopt a similar ordinance.

Pet legislation update: AB 241 marches forward

AB 241, Assemblymember Nava’s bill to restrict the number of intact animals a breeder can maintain to 50, has passed out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee and is being scheduled for a full Assembly vote.

AB 241 was written to address the issue of puppy mills. The intent of the legislation is to reduce the number of potential breeding animals allowed to be kept at a single location.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

How about a few less moms next year

On Mother's Day, I think it's only to fitting to make a wish for fewer moms next year.

A wish for a smaller number of people who think it's important for Fluffy to have "at least" one litter. Or believe that their pet is so much more special than all of the animals currently waiting at the shelter to be adopted that of course they need to breed her, because people are always telling them how much they'd like to have one "just like her".

I wait for the day that there is no longer any profit to be made in housing moms in crates stacked one on top of the other, small, dirty and dark, and asking them to be moms again and again and again, because there are no pet stores interested in selling their offspring, and people have figured out that Internet sites can have photos on them that bear no relation to a pet's true history and reject the photos for real, live pets waiting at the shelter for a chance to have a forever home.

Yes, I'd like fewer mothers next year. Fewer animals that are bred until they are bred out, only to be dumped at the nearest pound (or worse) never knowing the comfort and love of people. Fewer moms who are dropped on the side of the road because their owners didn't want any more kittens, but couldn't manage to get her spayed before she became pregnant, again.

What a great Mother's Day gift that would be.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Be Kind to Animals Week

That my birthday falls during national “Be Kind to Animals Week” is a coincidence that I find amusing each and every year. Were I one to put a lot of stock into karma or predestination, the correlation of these two events could lead one to believe that my passion for animals was scarcely a choice I made, but rather a path on which I was fated to walk.

This year there are a myriad of things going on in the world to give one pause, if they stop to think about it all, yet I have to say that I am about as hopeful as I’ve ever been on behalf of my furry friends.

In California, Prop 2, the bill requiring changes in the confinement of farm animals, passed by a 2 to 1 margin. In a state so heavily invested in agriculture, that’s an amazing victory, but its passage also gives hope to those in other states hoping to change the nature of agribusiness.

Though there still isn’t a comprehensive statewide measure to do more to reduce the homeless pet population, more and more legislators are introducing bills that reflect the changing nature of animal welfare. Right now I’m busy tracking seven different state bills that deal with animal issues as diverse as the docking of cow’s tails, to dog fighting, to spay and neuter reform. Seeing multiple legislators willing to bring these items to our state government lets me know that even if we don’t win every victory, there are more and more people willing to fight the good fight.

I am heartened when, in recent years, I’ve read the lists of best-selling books and see works such as The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. These books ask serious questions about animals (factory farm animals, in this case) and our treatment of them. That they were widely enough read as to appear on best-seller lists for months on end speaks volumes about the progress we made.

I’ve watched as the chant for adoption over purchasing pets has grown stronger and stronger. As pet stores use space to allow homeless pets another chance, rather than peddling puppy mill puppies. Are we all the way there? No, not yet, but we’re a darned sight closer than we were even a decade ago.

Zoo animals, particularly elephants, have drawn wide-spread attention over the conditions of their lives, sparking discussions across the nation about what is best for them. Several elephants have been relocated from solitary, difficult conditions to sanctuaries where they can roam and be with others in a pack, as is their nature. What was once a completely accepted practice, that of keeping animals in concrete displays for the entertainment of people, has become a quest to provide the best environment possible for captive species, even if the best environment means removing them from public view. Just the fact that people are thinking about their needs over our desires signals progress.

People are open and proud about being a vegetarian or even a (gasp) vegan and find far greater acceptance than they did twenty years ago. It’s a rare restaurant I go to that does not offer a vegetarian option on their menu. You can go to a standard grocery store and find vegetarian products stocked on store shelves. And whether you do it for health, for ethical reasons or for food safety concerns, there’s a greater level of understanding and acceptance of the path you tread.

Cruelty-free products are becoming available in more mainstream retail locations every year, as people become more aware that our cosmetic and cleaning product needs don’t have to be met by sacrificing our fellow earthlings. Compassion can be demonstrated not only with our voices, but with our wallets as we restock our make-up case or our furniture polish. As our numbers grow so, too, do the number of companies willing to accommodate us.

Yes, there are still miles to go, and sometimes the road seems all but impassable. The homeless pets keep coming in to the shelters, people continue to ill-use animals and some folks will plain, flat-out never get it.

But this week, this National Be Kind to Animals Week, the European Union voted to ban imports of all seal products to try and force an end to Canada’s annual hunt. And the needle moved yet again.

I’ll take that cosmic birthday gift. Can’t wait to see what I’ll get next year.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Play time at the dog wash

It was time. Actually, it was far, far past time. My shoulder affliction which began earlier in the year has successfully kept Darby from seeing the inside of a bathtub for a while now, but if we waited much longer he might start to draw flies.

Not that Darby appeared altogether opposed to that option. The mere smell of the shampoo, as I the pull bottle out of the bathroom cabinet, is enough to make him run for the furthest corner of the house and cower, as if this will be the magic time that I won’t notice his 35 pounds of stinky furriness. It’s always the same thing, and neither of us enjoys it.

Not to mention that when one bathes an unwilling dog, not only do you have to clean their funky little body, afterwards you end up cleaning the entire bathroom. Maybe not you --- you may have one of those “special” dogs I’ve heard of, the ones who don’t shake shampoo and hair halfway up the walls of the bathroom. Me? I’m not that lucky.

But this time would be different. We were headed to the Self Serve Pet Spa, a dog wash located in the northwest, just behind the Promenade at 2816 Calloway Dr., where you bring your pooch and they supply everything you need for bath-time fun; the tub, shampoo, conditioner, ear cleaner, eye drops, after-bath perfume, breath spray, towels and a professional-capacity dryer. They even have those cool clip-on restraints, so once in the tub, your furry friend can’t hop back out again until you’re finished.

Darby knew as soon as his little bum hit the waist-high tub that bath time as he knew it was over. The sprayer quickly got him wet, all the way down to his skin, which can be tough to do with longer-haired breeds. Having both hands free to work made shampooing him a breeze. My usual grunts and less-than-family-friendly utterances were replaced by soothing words about how good he was being, and how lovely he was going to look. The woman in the stall next to mine and I started joking that this was not what our dogs expected when they saw the leash that morning. We began to have fun.

The combination of the posture-friendly bathtub, the surge of water from the sprayer, and having two free hands meant Darby set a new time record for finishing his bath. Rather than sigh as he shook out his fur, I could sit back and laugh, even urge him on. My clothes were protected by the plastic apron Self Serve Pet Spa provided, and I didn’t have to calculate how many more towels I was going to need to clean the walls.

As for Darby? He was…happy. At least as happy as I’ve ever seen him on the inside of a bathtub. The professional dryer worked its magic as well, getting his coat drier than I ever did at home. We skipped the perfume and breath spray, since I figure those items are more for my benefit than his, and out of the building we went, Darby’s tail flying high and my spirits considerably lifted by having a travel-worthy dog.

If you’ve never tried the Self Serve Pet Spa, give it a shot. You may never go back to your old way of bathing your dog again. I know we won’t.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Miami International Airport showcases animal causes

What a perfectly fabulous idea! At Miami International Airport there is a photo gallery featuring their Animal Services division. The displays speak to issues about pet overpopulation, the number of animals brought to the shelter and the importance of adoption. Imagine what might be possible if all airports featured similar images.

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