"Did Someone Say Diversity?" August 05 2014, 0 Comments
“Diversity” has become a pretty popular buzzword. Universities seek it; companies that have it, flaunt it; and lots of people purport to want to be surrounded by it. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life, right? Well if that’s true, then the “it” spot to be under the waves is definitely a coral reef. Often called “underwater rainforests” because of the immense biodiversity found in and around them, coral reefs are the most diverse of all marine eco-systems. They support not only about a quarter of all ocean life, but also the economies of many island nations and seaside communities. Given their importance, it’s probably worth our while to pay attention when coral reefs start showing vulnerabilities. And unfortunately, it’s (past) time for us to start paying attention.
During last month, the third week of July marked the yearly “Coral Reef Awareness Week,” which is intended to shine the spotlight on both the uniqueness and the plight of our coral reefs. These reefs are actually made up of animals (corals), vegetables (algae) and minerals, and they can grow to be quite large. The world’s most famous coral reef system, The Great Barrier Reef, measures over 1,400 miles long and is made up of over 2,900 interwoven reefs. Located off the coast of Queensland, Australia, it is one of the seven wonders of the natural world and is the only living thing on earth that can be seen from space. Other, smaller reef systems can be found in warm, shallow, tropical waters around the world, including in the coastal waters of Florida. They tend to be incredibly nutrient-rich and to provide excellent cover for small fish, eels, sea snakes, and other marine life. This combination proves irresistible, both for a wide variety of sea creatures and for the humans who’d like to see them: in some countries (like among the Caribbean Islands, for instance) it is estimated that coral reef-related industries (tourism, fishing, diving, etc.) account for nearly 50% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
The fact that coral reefs are so important both to aquatic life and to several global economies makes their health a major concern. Unfortunately, coral reefs have been negatively impacted by global climate change and other human influences such as pollution and overfishing. Several ecologists, marine biologists and other scientists have surmised that coral reefs represent the first of the world’s ecosystems to face extinction due to human activity. Some predictions say reefs as we know them will disappear by 2050; others place the date closer to the end of the twenty-first century. Either way, the situation is dire. Roughly a third of the reef-building coral on the planet is severely threatened. Polluted runoff, overfishing, impact from humans swimming and diving near reefs – all of these are problematic. But the bigger threat is rising sea temperatures, which can lead to what is known as “coral bleaching.” When the water is too warm, coral expels the algae that lives within its tissues. This algae produces most of the food the coral ingests – without it, most corals begin to starve and subsequently lose their coloration (thus looking “bleached”) as they die. Unfortunately, water temperatures in our oceans are expected to continue to rise; consequently, corals are considered among the most threatened species on the planet.
However, there are scientists, governments and other agencies that are trying to solve the coral reef problem. And as usual, all of us are needed to pitch in and help. If you’re a fan of diversity and want to continue to enjoy oceans that are teeming with it, pledge to reduce your impact on our reefs. To learn more about coral reef conservation, please visit the Coral Reef Alliance and/or The Nature Conservancy.
"Help Your Pet Beat the Heat" August 01 2014, 0 Comments
Its August, which means yes, the dog days of summer are upon us. For many of us, this is one of the most fun times of year – there are concerts to attend, beaches to surf, trails to explore and other outdoor adventures to discover. However, with the warmer temperatures comes not only fun and frolicking, but also some increased challenges, especially for our furry family members. This summer, make sure you’re keeping your pets out of harms way. Here are a few tips to help you keep them cool, safe and healthy:
1) Avoid leaving a pet in a car, even with the windows cracked. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that on a relatively “mild” 83° degree day, the temperature inside a car can reach 115° within 15 minutes – even with the windows of the car slightly rolled down. Each year, several hundred dogs die in the United States of heat stroke when left in a hot car. Don’t let your pet become a statistic: if you are going somewhere where you can’t take your pet inside with you, leave him or her at home.
2) It’s about water as much as high temperatures. Make sure your pets have constant access to cool, fresh water. Check water bowls more often in warmer months: as temperatures rise, water intake often increases as well. Always fill bowls before leaving your house.
3) Help your pet cool itself. If your pet has access to the outdoors during the day, make sure your yard provides shaded areas, and areas where your pet can lay and stand on something other than hot concrete. If your yard has grass and/or dirt, great – if not, be sure to provide dog beds, blankets, or other materials that do not absorb heat the way concrete and many types of stone do.
4) Don’t forget your pets’ insides, either. Summer is prime time for fleas, ticks, heartworms and other parasites. At the least, fleas and ticks are annoying and have the potential to make your pet and your household miserable. But at their worst, ticks, heartworms and other types of worms can cause serious illnesses in your pet, so be proactive: consult with your veterinarian for recommendations on preventatives for these pests. And keep in mind, that while many medicines do NOT require a prescription from your vet (heartworm preventative being an exception), it is nevertheless important to start a treatment regimen and be consistent.
5) Party time can be poison time. Alcohol, lighter fluid, grapes, guacamole and salt are all just a few of the items that you might be happy to have a party or backyard barbeque that can be toxic to your pet. So when the celebrating starts, be mindful of where your pets are and don’t forget to clean up quickly afterward. To learn more about potential hazards found in household items and human food, see this "common household dangers list" and this "poisonous to pets" page, both provided by the Humane Society of the United States.
6) You’re not the only one who might benefit from a summer ‘do. One other strategy that might make all the difference for your pet this summer – especially if you have a longhaired, or thick-coated dog, is to shave or cut that pet’s hair. You may want to ask your vet or a local groomer for recommendations regarding your specific dog, but a shorter, lighter ‘do might be just what the doctor ordered to help your best furry friend more comfortable this summer.
With just a little forethought and care, you can help your pet enjoy this summer even more than you do. For more information on keeping your pet safe and cool, please see the ASPCA's Hot Weather Tips.
“Politicking for a Greater Good” July 22 2014, 0 Comments
Kudos to dog lovers and animal rights advocates in South Dakota for figuring out that successful politicking often comes down to something known in sociological and communication circles as framing theory. Picture a glass half-filled with water. Now picture “Jada” looking at the glass while being told that only a few ounces of water can keep a person alive for several days. Meanwhile, “Michael” is looking at the same glass, but being told that without enough water, a person can die within as few as 72 hours. Because of how it was framed to each of them, Jada and Michael see the exact same glass completely differently: Jada views it as half full, and therefore as potentially life-saving, while Michael sees it as half empty, and therefore as an impediment to survival. Politicking works very much the same way: issues, including controversial ones such as Breed Specific Legislation (BSL), often get decided based not so much on the facts on each respective side, but actually more so on how the issue itself is framed to constituents.
Fortunately, the wise and committed animal lovers of South Dakota were tuned into this when they decided to embark on implementing a statewide ban on BSL. The journey officially began early this year when, in January, State Senator Dan Lederman introduced State Bill 75, which states the following:
No local government may enact, maintain, or enforce any ordinance, policy, resolution, or other enactment that is specific as to the breed or perceived breed of a dog. This section does not impair the right of any local government unit to enact, maintain, or enforce any form of regulation that applies to all dogs.
Senator Lederman is of the mindset that BSL is a knee jerk, “feel-good” reaction that doesn’t force law makers or communities to address the real causes of problems when it comes to human-dog interactions: irresponsible, neglectful and/or abusive dog owners. Of course, he’s right. And he, and a handful of other state legislators, sponsored SB75 as a means of encouraging municipalities to refrain from misplacing the blame onto a breed (or a handful of breeds) and instead, to direct their attentions toward strategies that actually do create safer, and more just, communities for humans and dogs alike.
When SB 75 was sent to the Senate Local Government Committee on January 23rd is when the framing of the issue gets interesting. At least three cities in South Dakota – Marion, Mobridge and Sturgis – had BSL (targeting pit bulls, primarily) in effect at the time. And supporters of these bans appealed to the independence ethos of their fellow South Dakotans: they attempted to make this an issue of not letting Goliath (the state) come in and steamroll David (the city government). It was a fairly effective tactic, one that’s been used in this debate in other states as well. Consequently, as the state legislature took up the bill, many South Dakotans who weren’t necessarily convinced that certain dog breeds were “vicious” by nature, still resisted SB 75 because they saw it as yet another attempt by state officials to tell local municipalities how they should run their towns and cities – and that was a pretty unpopular thought.
However, instead of responding by again making the case that pit bulls and other dogs deemed inherently dangerous actually make great companions the vast majority of the time, and instead of pointing out, again, all the inaccurate media hype about pit bulls and dog bites, etc., proponents of SB 75 beat their opponents at their own game: they framed the issue as one about individual rights. That is, they correctly pointed out that BSL eliminates a law-abiding taxpayer’s ability to choose a pet for herself – even when neither she nor the dog has done anything wrong. So instead of allowing SB 75 to be understood as an example of the state overstepping its bounds in dictating to local governments, proponents pitched it as protecting individual rights from being trampled by local governments. AND IT WORKED! On March 13, 2014, Governor Dennis Daugaard signed SB 75 into law and it took effect at the beginning of this month. Justice for dogs and animals lovers in South Dakota = 1; BSL = 0.
Thank you State Senator Lederman, Governor Daugaard and all the justice-loving people in and around South Dakota who applied some smart politicking to score a victory in the fight against unjust and ineffective BSL!
"Happy National Hug a Shark Day!" July 17 2014, 0 Comments
Sharks by and large are tremendous predators, but don’t believe the hype: they aren’t simply the mindless killing machines you may have been led to believe. And they are certainly worth more to us and to the animal kingdom alive than they are in a soup bowl. The truth is, sharks are not only cool, but are also absolutely essential for having healthy oceans and marine ecosystems. So even if you’re not ready to try to hug one, show ‘em a little love: please visit the Defenders of Wildlife's shark page and learn why they deserve your respect much more than your fear.
"Don't Be Afraid to Think Small" July 11 2014, 0 Comments
These days in our society, there seems to be a lot of emphasis on going BIG: bigger houses and SUVs are considered status symbols, “super-sized” and “jumbo” offerings are considered better buys, and the bigger the diamond ring, the more love it allegedly conveys. That’s all fine and good, but when it comes to pets, a love of largess may lead you to miss the friend of a lifetime.
If you haven’t already considered going small in your next pet search, now is the time to do so. As summer heats up, many shelters that deal with small animals fill up – mostly with rabbits and baby bunnies. If these rabbits are lucky, they get adopted quickly or they end up in a rescue until forever homes can be found. Unfortunately, not all are that lucky and each year, thousands of healthy rabbits in shelters are euthanized while awaiting adoption. But that need not be the case; you can help make a difference. If you’re looking for a pet, but have trouble picturing yourself with a dog, cat or parakeet, see if some of these fine qualities fit the bill:
1) Rabbits don’t need a lot of room. If you’re a city dweller or otherwise short on space, a bunny won’t mind at all.
2) Rabbits are crepuscular. Wondering what the heck that means? Well, it turns out that rabbits are most active at dawn and dusk – meaning their schedules naturally align with when their humans are starting their day and coming home from work. Perfect times for a little bunny play!
3) Rabbits help us with our vocabulary. See #2 above.
4) A pet bunny will improve your diet. Rabbits are vegetarians and if you stuff your fridge full of the good stuff for them, chances are you’ll share in the healthy bounty as well.
5) They aren’t terribly demanding. We’re all for you getting your daily exercise – it’s important! – but if you worry that you don’t have time for hour-long dog walks every day, a rabbit might make a good choice. They won’t hold it against you if you don’t get out for a stroll; in fact, they’d probably prefer to simply play, cuddle with you and be their entertaining selves all within close proximity of your family room couch.
6) Got allergies? Maybe not. Many people who suffer from allergies to dogs and cats are not allergic to rabbits at all.
Are you starting to see a theme here? Rabbits are pretty cool. And there are plenty needing homes right now in shelters and with rescues, including with our rescue partner, the San Diego House Rabbit Society. This summer, or whenever it is you might be looking to add a furry family member, just remember: great things often DO come in small packages.
"Saying Goodbye to Satao" July 08 2014, 3 Comments
A couple of weeks back a sobering truth was confirmed: the large male elephant that had been killed by poachers on May 30 in Kenya’s Tsavo National Park had been proven to be Satao, one of the country’s most beloved wild animals. Any time an elephant is lost to poachers, it’s a sad and sordid event. But the feelings of disgust and mournfulness are even more pronounced in this case. Satao was known worldwide, a sort of emblematic figure that came to symbolize the fight to end poaching and protect Africa’s increasingly rare wild creatures. He’d earned global recognition and admiration: he was strong, massive in stature and savvy in his attempts to avoid hunters. But the one thing that became his trademark amongst conservationists and animal lovers is also what made him utterly irresistible to poachers: Satao was a “tusker.” That is, in his 45 years on the planet, his tusks had grown so long they just about touched the ground. And for that, he died.
Despite the global alarm that has been sounded regarding the very real possibility that elephants will be extinct in the wild before long, and despite the efforts of local and national governments, conservation groups and animal rights advocates to protect them, ivory culled from elephants tusks remains in EXTREMELY high demand in some parts of the world. According to CNN, the illegal ivory trade has doubled worldwide in just the past seven years, resulting in the poaching deaths of over 30,000 African elephants annually. Keep in mind that an international ban on the ivory trade has been in effect for 25 years, and yet, demand continues to grow. Unfortunately, between the pressure of poachers and the loss of habitat, elephant populations across both Africa and Asia have plummeted. Worse, there is no end in sight: the value of ivory has now surpassed that of gold in some markets. Consequently, several organizations and news media outlets have reported that elephants could be extinct in the wild by 2023.
The death of the great Satao is tragic on multiple levels. He was butchered, having basically his face and part of his head hacked off, all in the name of human greed. That propensity for being so unfeeling, so inhumane and so short-sighted doesn’t bode well for the future of either the elephant species or the human one. And though each animal that dies in the name of “sport” hunting or for material gain is absurd and tragic, this one is especially troubling. Why? Because of the couple hundred thousand elephants that once roamed in Kenya, fewer than 35,000 remain. But of those, only a couple dozen, at most, are “tuskers.” Wild elephants never live long enough to grow tusks that long anymore, and if they do, they are highly likely to meet a fate similar to Satao’s, despite profound efforts to protect them. Tsavo National Park and Kenyan government officials had taken to tracking Satao on ground and from the air in efforts to provide guards and keep him safe from poachers. It still wasn’t enough. Apparently, there’s good reason to consider ‘greed’ one of the seven deadly sins.
It’s been said that you never miss something you never had and you can’t really miss someone you never knew. I never once saw him with my own eyes, but I miss Satao. Maybe more accurately, I miss the possibility of a Satao... of living in a world where maybe I would get to see a tusker of his magnificence in the wild… a world that would value the life of such an animal more than it values the money its ivory tusks can bring at market. I hope it’s not too late. I hope we can change the ending for the wild elephants that remain. If you’d like to learn more about the passing of a remarkable animal, please click here. And if you’d like to honor Satao’s memory by taking action to protect other elephants, please sign this petition to President Kenyatta of Kenya and visit the Save the Elephants web site.
"Of Fear and Fireworks" July 05 2014, 0 Comments
Happy 4th of July Weekend! While we hope you have a fantastic few days celebrating the US of A’s birthday, we also want to make you aware of a fairly well-kept secret: this is maybe the most dreaded holiday in the rescue world. Why? Because more dogs (and even a few cats) end up in harms way in the 10 days surrounding the 4th than during any other stretch of the year. And though this flies under the radar for most of the general public, the sad truth is this: once the fireworks and revelry begin, the lives of far too many pets end – either by “accident,” or by virtue of having the misfortune of landing at an over-crowded kill shelter.
Though many of us humans find the 4th of July cause to celebrate, many animals find it both confusing and terrifying. Often, there are loud noises, bright lights, strange faces and many other unusual sights, sounds and smells around. At best, this is stressful for pets; at worst, it’s cause for absolute panic. As you head into the holiday weekend, there are a number of steps you can take to help keep your pets safe. Here are just a few:
1) Make sure your pet has accurate identification. Tags on collars and microchips can only help stray pets if the contact information they contain is up-to-date.
2) Attending a fireworks display? Leave your dog at home. Fireworks are often traumatic for animals; they don’t understand anything other than a sudden, unexplained, flash of light and loud noise – or series of flashes and loud noises – is occurring, and it’s best to get as far away from all of that as possible. If you want to help keep your dog’s anxiety, and desire to run away, at minimum, let her take in the holiday from the safety of her own home.
3) In fact, just leave ‘em indoors. It doesn’t have to be a big fireworks show to be frightening to your dog; even the smaller versions you can purchase at a roadside stand can be frightening for a dog with hearing more than four times better yours. And don’t forget your feline friends, which actually have more acute hearing than dogs. Do yourself a favor: NEVER let your pets anywhere near fireworks, whether you are lighting them or they are just sitting around -- curious pets may bite or even swallow these items, which are made with toxic chemicals. (Same goes for lighter fluid and matches.)
4) Keep the pets away from the alcohol and appetizers. When it’s party or barbeque time, remember that some of your favorites can be highly toxic to your pets. Alcohol – even beer – can be poisonous, so be wary of leaving your drink unattended in any areas where your pets may be milling around. Some appetizers and snacks are also potentially dangerous – for a list of such foods, please click here.
5) Don’t forget: if you’re missing, part of the pack is missing. If you’re traveling for the holiday, realize that your pets will be dealing with potential pandemonium without their pack/family leader around. They may love the dog-sitter you’ve arranged, but still, when the fireworks start and they are surrounded by not-quite-as-familiar faces, stress is bound to ensue. Be sure to leave crates, favorite toys and other items they gravitate toward around for them. If they can stay in their own home, even better. Remember, the goal is to keep them from spooking and going on the run – where speeding cars, shelter visits and other potential hazards await.
6) Lastly, remember the 4th is not just the 4th. The fireworks, events and parties may start a day or two before the big day and last for up to a week afterward, so be prepared to be on holiday vigilance for awhile. As scary as this time of year can be for your pet, it'll be even more scary for you if they go missing. Please don’t let your beloved family member become a tragic statistic this 4th of July.
"The Problem with (Time's) Poor Journalism" June 28 2014, 0 Comments
Last Friday, June 20th, when the rest of the world (pit bull owners included, by the way) was busy celebrating the benefits of having dogs around via “Take Your Dog to Work Day,” Time Magazine was… how shall we say… taking a different tack. In an article entitled, “The Problem with Pit Bulls,” Time Lifestyle, Crime and “Breaking News” reporter Charlotte Alter demonized an entire breed (and by extension, the breeds often mistaken for pits) based on inaccurate and incomplete information, one sensational and apparently FALSE story, and a few assertions so spurious, we’re still struggling to figure out where in the world they would have come from. This complete mess of an article leaves the conscientious and critical thinking amongst us in a quandary: do we ignore inappropriate behavior & thus not call attention to this poor excuse for “journalism”? Or do we risk increasing the visibility of Alter’s article in an attempt to illuminate the many, MANY problems with Time publishing such an ill-informed piece?
We’re choosing the latter route. Because ignorance is anything but bliss; it is, rather, the source of bias and misunderstanding. It lends itself to the exact opposite of problem solving. Whether it’s unfairly demonizing a breed (or group of breeds) of dog, reifying racist or sexist notions, misreporting what is happening around the world, or ignoring what is really happening around the block, bad journalism needs to be called out – every time. It’s bad journalism, not pit bulls, that presents a very real and consistent danger to our communities. And what Time published last Friday is the exemplar of poor journalistic practice. The problems with this article are so numerous and egregious, we don’t have the time or space to address and correct them all here. Please refer to HuffPost Editor Arin Greenwood’s much better researched and written retort, and/or this official response from the American Pit Bull Foundation, The Problem With People, Not Pit Bulls, and/or Swaylove.org's point-by-point analysis of Alter's assumptions and errors for an injection of sanity into the conversation. Fortunately, these are just a few of the many, MANY informed sources that have taken Time to task since the Alter piece was published.
And we’re happy to join that chorus, though perhaps in a slightly different way. Of course, if you know anything about Rescued Cards, you know we’re big “pibble” fans, and that we recognize the truth of these oft-maligned dogs is reflected in the loving souls of dogs like Rebecca Corry’s Angel, who is the official spokesdog for the Stand Up for Pits Foundation, and our very own Trinity, the Rescued Cards official mascot. Consequently, we could write A LOT about the facts that Alter either ignored or didn’t care to learn; facts, for instance about studies that suggest a significant number of bites attributed to “pit bulls” are actually cases of misidentification. Or facts about how pit bulls routinely score extremely high in temperament tests, or facts about how they were bred as nanny dogs long before they started to be bred as fighting dogs or to bait bulls, or facts about pit bull populations and the EXTREME rarity of bites by these dogs that completely dispute Alter’s inane assertions about an “attack-boom” that was somehow caused by Hurricane Katrina. But most of those bases are covered. Instead of simply coming to the defense of pit bulls, we’re also going to implore each and every person who reads this blog to go on the offense – against poor journalism. Look, one of three things happened with the Alter piece: there is so much demonstrably wrong with that article and so much that is, at the very least, highly debatable, that she either didn’t do her homework, chose to ignore facts that contradicted her perspective, or both. At best, it’s lazy journalism; at worst, it’s the sort of ill-informed, biased screed the writer believes (perhaps correctly) that her magazine wants to publish. Worse… Time was perfectly content to run with a story that is clearly well beneath the standard that we’re supposed to be able to expect from a “premiere” news magazine. Of course, this is the same magazine that twenty years ago this month intentionally (and notoriously) darkened O.J. Simpson’s mug shot on its cover to make it easier to see him as “menacing” and as a “potential killer.” (Regardless of whether you believe he was ultimately guilty of murder, just think about the racist implications of that way of thinking for a moment… now, are you surprised about the unfair demonization of a dog breed?)
It’s not pit bulls that are the problem. And it’s not just people who mistreat and mis-handle pit bulls that are the problem, though they certainly are the root. It’s also bad journalism, the kind that propagates misinformation and fear mongering – and then profits from it. Time has now printed the official statement from the American Pit Bull Association (APBA) in response to the Alter piece. However, Time is well aware that responses and retractions in print journalism often enjoy only a small percentage of the readership that the original story garnered. Let’s all make the APBA response the exception to the rule. Let’s all make sure Time knows that if they want our readership, they have to earn it… by doing their job, instead of producing articles that first-year journalism students would know better than to turn in. You can join Rescued Cards in voicing your disgust over Alter’s piece at email@example.com.
"If You Give Them a Great 1, They Don't Need 9" June 24 2014, 0 Comments
June is, depending on who you ask, either “Adopt-A-Cat Month” (American Humane Society), or “Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat Month” (ASPCA), or maybe both. Regardless of which label you prefer, the message is the same: this is the ideal time to give a homeless cat a home. With kitten season in full swing, shelters and rescues are full of cats of all ages hoping for a second chance. Can’t decide whether you really want to add a feline to your family or whether now is a good time to do so? Here are a few facts – some irreverent, others anything but – to consider as you weigh your options. See why cats, in general, are beyond cool, and why shelter and rescue cats, in particular, deserve your consideration and your support:
1) As of 2008, there were 73 million cats compared to 63 million dogs in North American, making cats the most popular pets on the continent. It’s believed about one-in-three North American households has a cat.
2) Though dogs’ ears get all the hype, a cat’s hearing is actually better than a dog’s.
3) A cat named “Andy” holds the world record for the longest non-fatal fall: he plummeted from the 16th floor of a Florida apartment building, surviving a fall of approximately 200 feet.
4) It’s not unusual for domestic cats to live as long as 20 years, and at least one – “Crème Puff” of Austin, Texas – was documented to have lived for 38.
5) While humans have six muscles that control their outer ears, cats have 32. These muscles allow cats to rotate their ears 180 degrees.
6) Speaking of degrees, cats can put up with a lot of them. Given that they have access to adequate water, cats can survive in temperatures up to 133 degrees (Fahrenheit).
7) Ever wonder why shelters and rescues insist on spaying and neutering cats? It’s because over a seven-year span, a single mating pair and its offspring could produce over 400,000 kittens!
8) Here’s a little known, but favorite little tidbit illustrating the complete awesomeness of cats: cat purrs produce vibrations within a range of 20-140 Hz. That range is known to have medically therapeutic effects for many human conditions and illnesses. And a 2008 study found cat owners suffered heart attacks and heart disease at a much lower rate than those who do not share their lives with cats. It turns out, our feline friends are good for physical and not just emotional health!
9) Despite increased awareness about the importance of spaying and neutering cats, there are approximately 60 million feral cats in the U.S. alone.
10) Less than 5% of cats that end up in animal shelters are ever reunited with their families. Unfortunately, millions are euthanized each year before they have a chance to be adopted.
Mythology tells us that cats have nine lives. Maybe. But if so, that’s a form of reincarnation that has yet to be documented anywhere. More likely they, like us humans, get one crack at this existence that we’ll ever know about. BUT… if you open your home and your heart to a feline friend and make this one life great, there’ll be no need to worry about the other eight. Help your local animal shelter or cat rescue celebrate Adopt-A-Cat and/or Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat Month. Bring a new friend (or two!) home, or look into becoming a foster or making a donation to support the cause. For more information, please visit the web sites of the American Humane Association and/or the ASPCA.
"A Healthy Summer Fling" June 18 2014, 0 Comments
Summer jobs. Summer camps. Summer flings. Summer road trips. Summer ‘tis the season for fun times and new experiences. Consequently, there is no time like the present to give that plant-based diet you’ve been pondering a try. For many people, the thought of permanently switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet is overwhelming. But rising temperatures beg to be met with fresher and lighter foods – like the fruits and vegetables now making their way to your local stores and farmers’ markets. So why not get into the spirit of the season and pledge to eat a plant-based diet, at least for the summer? Healthy, animal-friendly and easy on the planet, these diets are also easier to transition into than you may think. Here are five resources to help you get started:
1) The Vegetarian Resource Group
Have questions? The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) has answers – and lots of them. The VRG web site is incredibly comprehensive, providing information on everything from recipes, to vegetarian business and events, to nutritional information for health news to the ethical virtues of a plant-based diet. The VRG site is one-stop shopping for those looking to learn more about the how’s and why’s of vegetarianism.
2) Vegetarian Times Magazine
This magazine is for vegetarians of every stage. Whether you’re just getting started, you’ve eaten a plant-based diet for years, or you’re what Vegetarian Times refers to as a “flexitarian,” you’ll find tips, recipes, motivation and advice on healthier and “greener” living. Vegetarian Times is available by subscription and at various grocery and health foods stores, including Sprouts. An online version can be found at www.vegetariantimes.com.
3) The 30-Day Vegan Challenge
For those of us who love the warm weather and sunshine, summer lasts just three short months. For those considering a change in diet for the season, though, three months may not seem all that short. If you fall into that camp, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (aka “The Compassionate Cook”) has a book for you: The 30-Day Vegan Challenge. This book details step-by-step instructions on making a quick and smooth transition to a fully vegan diet. It includes tips on stocking your kitchen, reading food labels, getting enough protein, plant-based milks, eating vegan when eating out, and much more. Patrick-Goudreau is known for her ability to simplify vegan cooking and demystify vegan living – those abilities shine through in this book. And if you want additional recipes and insights, you can learn more from Patrick-Goudreau online, at www.compassionatecook.com.
VegNews.com is an online magazine that features the latest in food, nutrition, travel, environmental, political and entertainment news – from a vegan perspective. New recipes appear daily, as do other ideas for incorporating more planet-friendly and animal-friendly practices into your daily routine. A nice aspect for summer: the travel section provides lots of information on destinations and restaurants to visit that are vegetarian friendly.
5) Vegan Steven
Why yes, there is an app for that! Looking for restaurants or stores that feature plant-based menus and products? Look no further than your iPhone – “Vegan Steven” is an app that will point you to vegan hotspots in your area. And it’s not the only one – vegan and vegetarian apps are growing in popularity across multiple platforms. As you’re on the go this summer, you need not leave your vegetarian plans at home. For more vegetarian and vegan apps, see this list from VegNews.
Summer officially starts on June 21st – why not enjoy a healthy summer fling this year? Give a plant-based diet a try; summer’s the season for fresh foods as well as fresh starts!
"7 Questions To Ask Yourself TODAY" June 10 2014, 0 Comments
June is “National Pet Preparedness” Month. As hurricane season begins in the southeastern United States, and thunderstorm, tornado and wildfire seasons get in full swing for most of the rest of the country, there is no better time to make sure you have emergency plans in place that protect all the members of your family – including the animals. Not sure where or how to start? Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers at hand yet… just asking yourself a few questions can you start you in the right direction:
1) What kind of emergency am I likely to encounter?
While everyone should prepare for possible evacuation, depending on where you live, you may have other considerations as well. If you’re in tornado country, for example, you may want to keep a pet crate or two in the basement. This can provide a safe “den” for your pet or provide you a way to keep two pets that don’t always get along that well separated during a time of high anxiety. In earthquake country, knowing how to turn off the gas at your house (or installing an earthquake shut off valve) may become important.
2) In the case of evacuation, how long should I prepare for?
Most emergency response organizations recommend preparing for 3 -7 days away from your home.
3) What items, minimum, will I need to bring to care for my pet?
Food, water, bowl(s), collar and leash/harness, medications, pet carrier/crate, poop bags or kitty litter, etc. Remember, you should pack a minimum of three-days-worth of each of these items.
4) When is the last time I updated my pet’s identity information?
Have you gotten a new cell phone number since you had your pet microchipped or had her ID tag made? Every year, as a result of disasters, thousands of pets get separated from their families. During an emergency is not the time you want to find out your pet’s ID information is outdated. If you have a pet that can wear a collar, make sure that collar is on and has a tag with current information on it attached. Also, make sure dogs and cats are microchipped and that you keep your contact information up-to-date with the microchip company as well as your vet.
5) What documents, if any, will I need to bring with me?
Vaccination records, prescriptions, microchip records, phone numbers for your veterinarian, microchip company and potential “safe havens” for you and your pet (not all disaster shelters accept pets) and current photos. Make sure these are easily and readily available. As you may need to grab these in a hurry, make copies of these items and keep them in an emergency kit or other designated place.
6) In the event of an emergency, how long will I have to get my pet and family evacuated?
The technically correct answer? “There is no way to know this for sure.” The more practical answer? “Less than you think… and much less than you want.” Prepare with that in mind. You may only have minutes to get your family and animals out of your home and to safety. So whatever can be set aside and organized ahead of time, do it. The chances are slim that you will have the time and presence of mind to grab everything you need when an emergency is developing around.
7) Am I forgetting anything? Where can I turn to for more help?
Fortunately, there are numerous resources to help you make the most of this National Pet Preparedness Month. Please refer to these tips from the ASPCA and these suggestions from the American Red Cross for additional information. Also, many chapters of the Red Cross offer training in pet CPR – a worthwhile investment even if you never find yourself in the midst of a large-scale disaster. It’s been said that success is what results when preparation meets opportunity. Take this opportunity to ensure a successful response to a disaster for your entire family by preparing ahead of time.
"The Kids are Alright" June 04 2014, 0 Comments
Kids these days. Nothin’ but trouble, right? Some of them are so glued to their smart phones they’ve started sleep-texting. Others you can’t get off the couch… or get them off of Facebook… or get them off their own high horses. But… just when you want to write off the whole lot of ‘em as lazy, self-absorbed degenerates, you learn about the likes of Mason Smith and “Ken from the Philippines.”
Mason is a 10-year-old fourth-grader in Huntsville, Texas. When his birthday rolled around earlier this year, he did an unusual thing with his gift list… he made it about someone else. Actually, he made it about a lot of someone elses… all of the animals at the Rita B. Huff Animal Shelter, to be exact. It turns out that despite his young age, Mason is already a huge animal lover. And he figured he’d been pretty fortunate in the gift department last Christmas – he didn’t really need anything more. So he decided he’d use his birthday to benefit an animal shelter. His grandmother had recently adopted a Catahoula named Katie from Rita B. Huff and suggested he give his donations to that shelter. Mason thought it was a great idea – and told any friends and family who wanted to celebrate his birthday with a gift, to please give him pet food or money to help the shelter. A few weeks later, he had raised over $200 and collected dozens of bags of food and treats for both cats and dogs. Best of all, Rita B. Huff Animal Shelter has a program to help low income families adopt pets – Mason’s birthday money is going directly to help at least four animals find forever homes through that program. And Mason thinks, all in all, that’s not a bad birthday present.
Halfway around the world, a 9-year-old boy named Ken (his last name has not been reported yet and does not appear on his web site) has also been pro-active in his efforts to help homeless animals. Ken has been helping and feeding stray dogs around his home in the Philippines for quite some time, but when a photo of him with three strays made the rounds on the internet a few months back, Ken’s plans to make more of a difference went into high gear. He says that for as long as he can remember, he’s wanted to open a no-kill animal shelter to save dogs from being euthanized at other shelters. He started, with the help of his dad and his dad’s friends who did the renovating, by turning their garage into a small kennel to house a few strays. Then the picture of him feeding three street dogs went viral, his story started to be shared, and donations started arriving. On May 1st, 2014, Ken and his dad leased a 10,000 sq. ft lot to house more dogs. Ken calls his new rescue the “Happy Animals Club” and he’s currently working on turning the space into a shelter facility, learning more about medical care for dogs and learning the ropes of funding and budgeting for such an operation. It’s admittedly a lot, but based on what we’ve seen of Ken so far, our money’s on him!
So the next time you find yourself, or someone you know, starting to harp on “What’s wrong with kids these days?” remember Mason and Ken. And remember that sometimes, it makes all the sense in the world to follow the lead of the kids. If you’d like to learn more about Rita B. Huff Animal Shelter and how you can help low income families adopt and care for pets, please click here. To support Ken’s efforts to save dogs in the Philippines, please visit the Happy Animals Club web site. Kudos to Mason and Ken and the thousands of other kids who’ve decided that making a difference isn’t only for grown-ups!
"200 Million Years... But How Many More?" May 30 2014, 0 Comments
Last Friday, May 23rd was the 14th annual "World Turtle Day!" It was founded by the American Tortoise Rescue (ATR) to encourage people to celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises and their rapidly disappearing habitats. According to ATR, 41% of the earth’s roughly 300 turtle species are in need of protection, threatened by habitat loss, poaching, the demands of a cruel pet industry, toxins in their environment, and human consumption; in many cultures, turtle meat is considered a delicacy and/or to possess medicinal benefits. These pressures have begun to take a toll: despite the fact that scientists believe turtles have been on earth for over 200 million years, some are now predicting we could possibly see them become extinct in the wild within the next five decades.
A common perception amongst those who work in turtle conservation and rescue is that turtles and tortoises suffer from an image problem: they aren’t “warm and fuzzy,” so drumming up empathy for their plight can be challenging. But the more one learns about these cool creatures, the more invested one becomes in keeping them around. A few quick facts:
- Sea turtles spend most of their lives in the water, where not a lot of information has been gathered on their behavior. However, we do know that sea turtles will migrate as far as 1,400 miles and some, like green sea turtles, are capable of staying under water up to five hours in a single dive.
- Desert tortoises spend up to 98% of their time underground (allowing them to escape extreme heat in summer and very cold temps in winter) and can survive more than a year without access to water.
- Turtles vary WILDLY in size, from the 4-inch Bog turtle up to the 7-foot, 1,500-pound Leatherback.
- Turtles are considered one of the most ancient species on earth. They evolved before mammals, birds, alligators and even lizards.
- Though kill rates have declined since 1990, 4,600 sea turtles still die as a result of fishing in the U.S. coastal waters each year.
The biggest threat facing most turtle and tortoise populations is the commercial development of their habitat. This is especially true for sea turtles; the seaside resorts we humans covet often spell doom for sea turtles. Not only do they displace safe havens in which sea turtles lay their eggs, but they also bring more humans to nesting grounds. The (often) illegal trade sea turtle egg has skyrocketed in the past decade: in some parts of Mexico, for instance, eggs sell for 60 pesos each in the same market where many workers make less than that for a full day’s work. The incentive is high & getting higher as the turtles that produce these eggs become rarer and rarer.
However, if World Turtle Day has taught us anything it’s that there is reason for hope. Raised awareness and collective efforts are starting to make a positive difference. Mexico, the United States, Malaysia and several other countries have increased efforts to reduce the number of turtles killed as a result of fishing, protect tortoise and turtle habitat and crack down on illegal hunting and raids of nesting areas. And organizations are working in collaboration with individuals and with governments to educate the public on ways we can all help, from boycotting restaurants that serve turtle soup to reducing usage of plastic bags, which often find their ways into rivers and oceans where they’ve been known to strangle or suffocate turtles. Of course, there’s still much more that needs to be done. To learn how you can help, please visit the Sea Turtle Conservancy or American Tortoise Rescue's World Turtle Day page. Remember, they’ve been on the planet for over 200 million years; it’s up to all of us to make sure that incredible run doesn’t end any time soon.
"One Year and Counting" May 27 2014, 0 Comments
It’s hard to believe that it’s already been one year since the Rescued Cards launch party last May. One whole year since we announced our new cards, our new people, our new goals and our new blog! Over the past twelve months, we’ve grown, learned and been involved with some amazing causes. There’s been much to celebrate, and reminders that when it comes to animal rescue and animal rights, there’s still SO much work to do. Here are just a few of the moments we’ve had and insights we’ve gained that have stayed with us:
1) To borrow from Margaret Mead, we were reminded again and again of the ability of a small group of impassioned, passionate people to change the world. In the past year, such groups have successfully lobbied the city of San Diego to ban the sale of cats, dogs and rabbits at pet stores, have gotten several states to reconsider how their amusement parks treat orcas and other marine mammals, convinced U.S. officials to reconsider, and delay, the reopening of horse slaughter houses, prodded Minnesota to step up on behalf of research animals, and flown hundreds of pets from high kill shelters to shelters where they’ll have a better chance at being adopted. And that’s just to name a few of the inspiring, pro-animal accomplishments that caught our eye this past year.
2) Speaking of small groups and amazing pro-animal feats, we’ve been happy to be there, step-by-step with Rebecca Corry and her Stand Up for Pits Foundation. They’ve kept the conversation about ending breed specific legislation going, have helped raise awareness of, and money for, pit bull causes, and pulled off the historic Million Pibble March on Washington, D.C. in early May. Approximately 5,000 people attended and many more donated and otherwise showed support. The unfair and inaccurate demonization of bully breeds is starting to change – and groups like Stand Up for Pits are spearheading the shift.
3) Unfortunately, not every issue we worked on and/or wrote about left us with positive news to report. In fact, some stats left us devastated: a healthy, adoptable pet is euthanized about every 11 seconds in the United States; experts believe chances are high that, without significant intervention, elephants will be extinct in the wild within 10 years (with prospects even worse for black rhinos); puppy mills are still a huge industry, with approximately 2,000,000 puppies from such facilities being sold each year in the U.S. alone; Florida panther numbers continue to dwindle, with only 100-160 left in the wild; thousands of dogs were killed in preparation for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi; and despite increasing international opposition, we learned that bullfighting still results in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of bulls annually. The numbers are daunting, but we remain resolved to make a difference.
4) Some of our favorite moments came at events we participated in, or even hosted. Our launch party last May, The Barking Lot’s 2nd Annual Dog Wash-a-thon in August, the Stand Up for Pits show in November… we’ve met and worked with so many wonderful people and continue to be inspired by all of them.
It’s been a big year… an enlightening year, and now we’re looking forward to what comes next. Keep an eye out – soon you’ll find Rescued Cards on Petco.com. And that’s just the beginning! So thanks to all of you who have supported us, and engaged us via Facebook, Twitter and this blog – we continue to learn countless things from our astute readers! We look forward to making even more waves in the coming year, and hope you’ll all join us for the ride!
"This Memorial Day, Don't Forget Animal Heroes" May 20 2014, 0 Comments
As we prepare to honor all those U.S. military personnel who have lost their lives in service to their country this weekend, let’s be sure to commemorate ALL those who fall into that category – including animals. Though many people don’t realize it, animals have served in militaries around the globe throughout history. From Hannibal’s famous elephant army that crossed the Alps and led his attack of the Romans, to the current deployment of explosive-seeking dolphins by the navies of several different countries, animals have often been called upon to assist with military operations. While their sacrifices have been just as great as their human counterparts’, their recognition has paled in comparison.
That is slowly beginning to change, however. There are several reasons for this shift. First, the mass media have caught on: in the past decade or so, several books and movies have told the stories of animal heroes, both fictional and true. For the readers among you, a few recommendations: Silent Heroes: The Bravery & Devotion of Animals in War (by Evelyn le Chene), Sergeant Rex: The Unbreakable Bond Between a Marine and His Military Working Dog (by Mike Dowling and Damien Lewis) and the uniquely written None Came Home: The War Dogs of Vietnam (by Sgt. Jon E. O’Donnell). Some great stories have reached the screen as well: Steven Spielberg’s fictional epic War Horse (based on the Tony Award-winning play) is visually stunning and was a favorite among moviegoers a few years ago. My personal favorite – though it is perhaps the most pressing tearjerker in the bunch – is War Dogs: America’s Forgotten Heroes. This is a little bit older film (released in 2000) and may not be that easy to find (I saw it on The Discovery Channel), but it’s worth your time to track it down. If you do, I guarantee it will stay with you, and probably change how you view soldiers, the human-dog bond and the Vietnam War in the process.
In addition to appearing on bookstore shelves and on Netflix, the stories of these heroes have also become more common thanks to the advocacy of several organizations – both on behalf of “war animals” specifically, and on behalf of animal rights in general. The humaneness of employing animals (who can’t give their consent) in military operations that may cost them their lives, or, like “live tissue trauma training” cause them incredible pain, has started to be seen as the controversial topic it is – with groups like PETA and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine leading the way. For those animals who are serving, or have served, several organizations are working to ensure they are remembered, and that those that can come home get a chance at a great life after their military commitment ends. Internationally, several countries, including England, Australia and Scotland, have memorials commemorating the sacrifices of war animals. In the U.S., the country’s first national monument honoring dogs in combat was dedicated at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, last year. Even more encouraging, thanks to organizations such as Puppy Rescue Mission the United States War Dogs Association, more and more of the dogs that have kept soldiers safe are finding homes post-service, often with the soldiers who were their handlers overseas.
It’s not perfect, of course – perfection will be reached when no animals are compelled to sacrifice their lives in the name of military service. But the fact that we are starting to recognize these sacrifices means we are getting better. As is often said about the brave souls who have served especially during wartime, “All gave some. Some gave all.” This Memorial Day, remember that soldiers who have given all come in all shapes and sizes.
"Finding the Way Home" May 15 2014, 0 Comments
First, the staggering facts:
- One-in-three pets goes missing at some point in its lifetime.
- According to the American Humane Association, over 10 million pets are lost or stolen in the United States each year.
- Only 10% of unidentified pets that get lost are ever reunited with their guardians.
- Collars and tags are important and work – when they stay on the pet. Collars can break or fall off of pets. Guardians searching for lost pets often report that the pet was wearing tags, yet many of the animals that end up in shelters were found without collars.
- Only 2% of un-microchipped cats that get lost are ever reunited with their guardians.
And that’s just the beginning. These are just a few of the reasons that May has been designated National “Chip Your Pet Month.” “Microchipping,” as it’s known, is a process in which a small chip embedded with an identification number is placed under the skin of an animal. That number is unique to that animal and links it to its guardian’s contact information, which is kept in a computer database the microchip service maintains. If a chipped pet is brought to a shelter, rescue, vet or animal control, its chip will be scanned, and the guardian will be contacted.
Microchips are just a little bigger than a grain of rice.
Microchipping has been around for several years, but many pet owners do not take advantage of this important tool. Why? Primarily because four stubborn, untrue myths about this technology persist. Let’s set the record straight:
- No, getting a pet microchipped is NOT expensive. Costs generally average $25-$45 across the United States for a pet to be chipped by a vet, but many counties offer a low-cost alternative. For example, San Diego County charges $10 for a microchip. And most animal rescues and shelters will include microchipping in the adoption fee. But even if you pay at the upper end of the scale -- $45 – you’re still getting a deal: microchips, unlike collars and tags, last the lifetime of your pet. So if you have your pet for 15 years, you will have paid $3 per year to provide him or her with the best chance of making it back home safe and sound – definitely a worthwhile investment.
- No, a microchip is NOT harmful to your pet. Microchips are about the size of a small grain of rice and sterile. They are inserted under the skin via a needle, much like a vaccination. Many pets do not feel the “shot;” for others, it’s a quick sting and then it’s over. Microchipping is considered both safe and prudent by the vast majority of veterinarians and animal welfare advocates.
- No, a pet microchip is NOT surveillance tool for 'Big Brother." Some people mistakenly believe that microchips are transmitters of some sort, allowing their pet to be tracked, perhaps by government agencies. Everything about that myth is incorrect. First, microchips are produced, sold and monitored by private companies. Neither your information, nor your pet's, become accessible to government agencies due to microchip registration. Also, microchips utilize a simple radio frequency technology. They do NOT transmit a signal like a GPS device. GPS and other tracking technologies require a power source (battery), which microchips do not possess. It is the chip scanner itself, when it's waved over the embedded chip, that provides enough power for the ID number on the chip to register on the scanner.
- No, a collar and a tag do NOT render a microchip “unnecessary.” As discussed earlier, collars and tags do fall off. Microchips, on the other hand, are permanent. They also allow for you to provide MUCH more contact information for your pet than a traditional tag does. On a tag, you may list two phone numbers, but the microchip company’s database can store multiple phone numbers for you, personally, as well as for an alternate contact you designate, and contact information for your pet’s veterinarian. This is very important – it can literally save your pet’s life! By law, animal shelters only have to give guardians a few days to come looking for their lost pet before that pet can be euthanized. Updated & accurate identification ALWAYS buys the pet more time. But being out of town or forgetting to update your new cell phone number on your pet’s tag can spell trouble, especially if your pet gets lost. However, if your pet is chipped and the chip is scanned, multiple contacts will be alerted to your pet’s plight, and the shelter will quickly know to hang on to that pet until one of you gets there to retrieve it. Plus, should there be confusion over who legally has rights to a pet that’s been found, microchip registration comes in handy.
If you haven’t chipped your pet, now is the time! Accidents and emergencies happen -- just think about the flooding and fires we've already seen in the U.S. this year, and how easy it would be, in such conditions, for you to get separated from your pets. Please contact your vet or your county animal services TODAY for assistance. Your best bet for a happy ending to a “my pet’s gone missing story” is to use a collar, tag AND microchip.
"Putting an End to Puppy Mills" May 13 2014, 0 Comments
Hope everyone had a wonderful time celebrating Mom this past weekend! Before we file this Mother's Day away completely, how about we pause to remember some moms that are largely invisible and often ignored… the birthing dogs at puppy mills. See, while this is the time of year we routinely celebrate Mother’s Day, it is also the tail end of Puppy Mill Action Week (which began last Wednesday). Sponsored by Humane Society International (HSI), Puppy Mill Action week aims to shine a spotlight on a mostly hidden, incredibly brutal and thoroughly disgusting industry. HSI hopes that as the public learns more about how that puppy actually came to be in that pet store window (or, these days, offered in that internet ad), people will be moved to take action.
Puppy mills are commercial dog-breeding facilities that focus on producing as many puppies as possible, to be sold via pet stores, “brokers,” flea markets or directly to the public through the internet. Many are very large – over 1000 breeding animals being housed, and most, if not all, share the common philosophy of “profit over care.” Unfortunately, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) reports there are roughly 10,000 puppy mills in the U.S. alone, producing well over 1,000,000 puppies per year. While there are almost as many reasons to despise puppy mills as there are puppy mills in existence, here are just a few to paint a picture of this inhumane industry:
- Of the 10,000 puppy mills in the U.S., roughly 3,000 are licensed by the U.S.D.A., meaning the vast majority is unregulated. According to 2014 statistics cited by the HSUS, in the 3,000 that are legally licensed, an estimated 167,388 dogs are kept solely for breeding purposes. These animals spend the majority of their lives in a small cage or wooden box, with little or no exercise or play time, and next to no human contact.
- Over 2,000,000 puppies that originated in a puppy mill are sold annually in the United States, while an estimated 3-4 million healthy dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters.
- Breeding females are often bred twice a year and are killed or abandoned when they can no longer produce litters. Many mother dogs and litters suffer from malnutrition, dehydration and lack of veterinary care. This is why the HSUS has a process in place for people to report when they have purchased a puppy that turned out to have medical problems – because with puppy mill puppies, this happens all the time.
- When a “bust” occurs of a puppy mill operating in violation of the law, it is not uncommon to find dead dogs among the live ones, two or three dogs kept in a cage or pen meant for one, dogs that are blind or have other ailments due to malnutrition, and dogs that struggle to (or are unable to) walk, due to muscle atrophy from never being out of their cages. The abuses and neglect endured by these dogs are routinely severe. In one recent case, a July 2013 operation to rescue 170 dogs from a puppy mill in North Dakota resulted in a vet bill of $114,900. For a glimpse of what is often found in a puppy mill, watch this HSUS video of a puppy mill bust in Texas.
That we allow puppy mills to exist at all is depressing; the fact that only 26 states have laws on the books regulating commercial breeding is even more so. But, this is Puppy Mill ACTION week… so let’s talk about what we can do. First and foremost, of course, is to pledge to always adopt, never buy a pet. Over 90% of all puppies in pet stores originate from puppy mills, as do the majority of dogs for sale online and at flea markets. Second, support HSI's efforts and the HSUS drive to end puppy mills. Lastly, make your voice heard with your state legislators. Connecticut residents did, and just this week the Connecticut Legislature passed a bill to crack down on Puppy Mills. Bravo, Connecticut!
Let’s all be proactive so even dogs – especially mama dogs – can enjoy future Mother’s Days that are free of abuse and neglect.
"They Did It!" May 06 2014, 0 Comments
A GREAT, BIG SHOUT OUT goes to our friends, Rebecca Corry and spokesdog extraordinaire Angel, for pulling together the first ever One Million Pibble March on Washington, D.C. this past weekend! For months, we’ve cheered as the event grew from an idea into a full-fledged mission. Corry raised money and awareness online, and pit bull lovers across the country, which of course includes us at Rescued Cards, answered the call. Now, we’re happy to report, that last Saturday’s march was an unmitigated success!
Though precise numbers are tough to come by, published estimates place the number in attendance at over 4,500. In addition to Corry, speakers included Kelly Steinhorn, a police officer who adopted a pibble named “Pretzel” after she was found with several stab wounds and her throat slashed, Roo Yori, who adopted Hector, one of the rehabilitated Michael Vick fighting dogs, and Jamie Buehrle, wife of Toronto Blue Jay Mark Buehrle, who explained how, due to Toronto’s Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) banning pit bulls, she and her husband have decided to live apart during the baseball season. Jamie, their kids, three Vizlas and Slater, the Staffordshire terrier/bulldog mix they rescued from being euthanized at a shelter in 2011, are staying in St. Louis while Mark resides not far from the Blue Jays’ stadium in Toronto. The couple consider Slater a member of the family, and just as they wouldn’t send one of the kids to live with someone else during the roughly 8 months of the baseball season, they refused to do that to Slater.
These and other speakers, plus actor Chris Williams who emceed the event, inspired and educated those in attendance, and ultimately called upon Congress and others in leadership positions to work to end BSL. Several municipalities across the U.S. (and around the world) have turned to BSL to handle a perceived pit bull problem, despite the fact that bites resulting from pit bulls remain extremely, EXTREMELY rare. Corry, whose pibble Angel was badly abused before coming into Corry’s life and who became the inspiration for Corry’s advocacy, is using events like the One Million Pibble March to shift the conversation: instead of thinking of a single breed (or a few breeds) as being inherently vicious and dangerous, it’s better to focus on the conditions that produce the few dogs that act out. And overwhelmingly, those conditions result from irresponsible owners and humans who fight and/or otherwise abuse these dogs. These are issues we should all be concerned about, whether we have dogs or live near pit bulls or not. Because statistics suggest that a large percentage of those ultimately convicted of crimes against humans have also abused animals. The way to safer communities for people and animals alike is through addressing these issues, which BSL clearly doesn’t do.
One highlight of the march actually began happening a few days prior to the day itself. Photos of several entertainment and sports celebrities wearing One Million Pibble March gear, including Cesar Milan of “The Dog Whisperer” fame and former Philadelphia Flyer All-Star left winger Riley Cote, started appearing online. Cesar Milan even posted a video in support of the march. Especially poignant: several members of the Philadelphia Eagles – Michael Vick’s old team – came out publicly in support of pibbles and the march, donning One Million Pibble March shirts and hoodies. Eagles players and their families, including cornerback Brandon Boykin and his fiancé Tess, offensive lineman Todd Herremans and his Fiance Elizabeth, and long snapper Jon Dorenbus and his wife Julie, all snapped photos holding or wearing official One Million Pibble gear, providing a terrific contrast to Vick in terms of compassion toward, and appreciation of, pibbles.
While the event was no doubt amazing and successful (just check out some of the comments pouring in), rejoicing can only take us so far. We have to keep the momentum going! See this page to petition Congress to end BSL, and for information on Rebecca Corry’s Stand Up for Pits Foundation, please click here. Please continue to be the voice for pibbles!
"Different Abilities, Just as Much Love" May 01 2014, 0 Comments
Did you catch the piece about Elsa, the partially paralyzed pit bull in British Columbia that is winning hearts and helping patients as a therapy dog? Elsa’s story went viral last week, which is perfect timing, given that National Specially-Abled Pets Day is this Saturday, May 3rd. If you missed Elsa’s inspiring story, check it out and see why she’s a great example of why we should set aside a day to recognize specially-abled pets.
Formerly “Disabled Pets Day,” National Specially-Abled Pets Day was founded in 2006 by animal behaviorist Colleen Paige. Paige ultimately decided to adopt the new name because she felt the term “disabled” held too negative a connotation. She explains, “… because these pets are very able! Pets that become challenged due to disease, birth flaws or injuries, tend to develop greater senses than your average pet. Most of the time it's as if they never had to readjust to life... and we need to keep up with them!" National Specially-Abled Pets Day was created to provide support for animals with special needs. Specifically, efforts focus on finding homes for these pets, and on educating the public on caring for specially-abled animals. Since its inception, National Specially-Abled Day has grown each year, now being celebrated by individuals and animal welfare organizations across the U.S. and in several countries.
Unfortunately, even with growing awareness, many people are too quick to focus on a potential pet’s “disability,” instead of the often-amazing abilities they do have. Shelters and rescues report that specially-abled pets generally take much longer to place in forever homes than pets not perceived as having special needs. Consequently, in shelters that euthanize and have a housing crunch, specially-abled animals are often the first to be killed in order to make space for more adoptable pets. The tragedy in this is that very often, specially-abled animals adapt in amazing ways and lead full and active lives. And of course they are every bit as loving – and appreciative of being loved – as their “normally-abled” counterparts. They just need a chance… or more precisely for homeless animals, they need a second-chance.
Ruthie may be blind, but she is far from "disabled." She plays, cuddles, walks on a leash and LOVES meeting new dogs at dog beach! Best of all, this sweet girl is available for adoption at The Barking Lot.
As Elsa’s story reveals, there’s no keeping a good animal down! If you haven’t spent any time with a blind or deaf pet, or one that needs assistance walking, for instance, you are missing out. To some humans, they may seem like “less than,” but to the animals themselves, they don’t dwell in any perceived deficit they may have. They just get on with the business of living… and often, their joy in being out-and-about is infectious. So if you’ve ever considered bringing a specially-abled pet home, or if you’ve ever seen an animal at a shelter or rescue that you were interested in, but became nervous once you learned it had special needs, know that adding such a pet to your family can be every bit as rewarding as having a normally-abled pet. It may be different, but EVERY pet is different – your experience will be unique no matter what type of pet your bring home. If you open your heart and your home to a specially-abled pet, chances are good your lasting impression will be this: specially-abled animals are, first, last and most importantly, special.
For resources to assist you in finding or caring for a special needs pet, please click here. If you’d like to meet a few of these triumphant animals and learn their stories of strength and resilience, visit the National Specially-Abled Day Facebook page. Get inspired and support special needs pets!
"The Good, the Bad & the Ugly" April 29 2014, 3 Comments
A story made the rounds last week in both the mass media and the rescue community that sounded more like the plot of an engaging novella than a news report. There were elements that made you smile, some that made your eyes tear up, and still others that made you wonder about the meaning of it all. What was the story? That a pilot was going to fly one hundred dogs from the Animal Control shelters of San Bernardino (CA) to “low kill” shelters in other states so they’d have a better chance of being adopted.
On the one hand, this is a wonderful story. The pilot, Yehuda Netanel, is the founder of Wings of Rescue, an organization that works to transport animals from “high kill” shelters to facilities where they will get a second chance. According to the Wings of Rescue website, they have helped save over 6500 dogs and cats in only 3 ½ years of existence. The difference this organization has made for those animals, the shelters that need to free up space, and the families who ultimately adopt these animals is astounding! Based outside of Los Angeles, Wings of Rescue has worked with several overcrowded California shelters… on April 20th, Netanel’s group came to the assistance of the city of San Bernardino.
On the other hand, this story is, in many ways, a tragedy. First, there is the fact that despite the efforts of Wings of Rescue and other organizations that help relocate animals from shelters where they will most likely be euthanized to other facilities where they have a much better chance to be adopted, countless shelters across California and the rest of the U.S. remain at, or over capacity. The Humane Society of the United States estimates a healthy, otherwise-adoptable pet is euthanized about every 11 seconds in this country, with overcrowding being the reason most often cited. Second, there are the concerns over the San Bernardino shelter system itself. Accusations of mismanagement and being too quick to euthanize have plagued San Bernardino for years. Though adoption rates have gotten better recently and the city is promising further improvements, animals that enter this shelter system still face long odds: a few years ago, San Bernardino killed 74% of animals that came through its doors; last year, the euthanasia rate was reported to have dropped to 45%. Almost half of all the animals that come in never make it back out. And things aren’t just ugly for the animals: the City of San Bernardino has reported that tensions have gotten so high that some of its shelter workers have received death threats.
As alluded to earlier, there’s a lot going on with this story. Good. Bad. And ugly. And just when you feel it’s safe to at least rejoice over dozens of animals being flown to new beginnings by Yehuda Netanel and Wings of Rescue, comes accusations that San Bernardino officials inexplicably euthanized as many as nine dogs that same day, despite clearly having room at the facility. All of this makes it difficult to know just how to respond to this saga – is it a feel-good story of rescues and second chances? Or more of an indictment of a troubled shelter system that needs rescuing itself? Either way, the one response that has been inescapable for many of us is this: we can’t stop asking, “What’s it going to take?” What is it going to take for people to start taking spaying and neutering seriously? If an overcrowded shelter with a previous kill rate of 74% doesn’t do it, and the fact that an animal is euthanized in a shelter every 11 seconds for lack of space doesn’t do it, and a story of an organization that exists solely to fly animals to other states because otherwise those animals probably won’t live to see the next week doesn’t do it… what WILL do it?! What will make people care? Every day, thousands of healthy animals die in gas chambers or are killed by lethal injection. Sometimes they are beloved family pets that didn’t get reclaimed in time; sometimes they are puppies or kittens or bunnies that are but a few weeks old and never had a chance at life. None of them, regardless of age or whether they have someone looking for them, deserve their fate. What they deserve is for us to care enough to do what we can to prevent other animals from meeting a similar one.
If you do, then please do your part: please spay and neuter your pets, support low-cost spay and neuter programs in your area, and encourage everyone you know not to BUY a pet from a pet store or breeder when there are literally millions waiting in shelters and rescues to be ADOPTED. This is one ongoing tragedy that we can make go away.
"Like Peanut Butter and Jelly" April 25 2014, 0 Comments
Saturday, April 26th, is National Kids and Pets Day! Most of us think that kids and pets go together like peanut butter and jelly, which is generally true, but that doesn’t mean this pairing is trouble-proof. In fact, without proper supervision and guidance, kids and pets can cause a lot of grief for each other and their families. Founded by animal behaviorist and Editor-in-Chief of Pet Home Magazine, Colleen Paige, National Kids and Pets Day aims to draw people’s attention to the need for care when introducing children to animals, or when raising kids and pets together. Troubling statistics suggest such awareness is much needed. For instance, the American Humane Association reports that during 2002, 82% of those treated for dog bites in U.S. emergency rooms were children, and that bite rates during that same year were dramatically higher among children ages 5-9 (a trend that continues to this day). In addition, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), over 400,000 children in the United States sought medical attention for a dog bites in 2012. The vast majority of these injuries are not considered critical or life threatening, but still: a little care and guidance can go a long way toward preventing many of these hospital visits.
Many animal welfare organizations, as well as the CDC, vet clinics and other agencies provide suggestions for keeping the calm between kids and pets. Even practicing just the few tips that follow can greatly reduce the likelihood of a problematic incident:
1) Teach your children never to approach an unfamiliar dog, or one that is barking, growling, snarling or acting fearful.
2) NEVER leave a small child (age 5 or younger) unattended with a dog, cat or other pet that can do some sort of bodily harm. Do not take for granted your loveable, friendly, trustworthy pet will react gently in EVERY single situation. Very often, a negative interaction occurs between a trusted family pet and an unsupervised young child because the child does something that communicates something unintended – and troubling – to the animal. It only takes a few seconds for this to occur and even completely non-aggressive animals can be spooked, triggered, etc. to the point of lashing out.
3) Teach children not to poke or startle animals, even in play, and not to pull pets’ ears, tails or whiskers.
4) Keep your children from taking a treat or toy from a pet, and do not let your children get near a pet’s bowl while the animal is eating. Animals will often guard food and toys and if the child doesn’t respect the warning signs, a potentially dangerous situation could evolve.
5) Socialize your pets to be as comfortable as possible around a variety of people. (For tips on socializing a dog, see professional trainer Karen Pryor's advice on the topic.
These suggestions may seem like common sense, but that’s probably part of the problem: it can be easy to overlook emphasizing taking measures such as these. But if your goal is harmony in your home and your neighborhood, it is essential to make these steps, and others, part of your family’s approach to life with pets. For even more suggestions on how to keep kids and animals safe and happy together, please review these pages from the North Shore Animal League and Wellness Pet Food. Let’s all make the most of National Kids and Pets Day and do our part to make sure our children and our animals keep going together like peanut butter and jelly!
“6 Things You Didn’t Know About Earth Day” April 22 2014, 0 Comments
Happy Earth Day, everyone! April 22nd is the day we set aside each year to celebrate our glorious planet, and to raise awareness about the need to protect the environment. (If you’re thinking, “Shouldn’t we be doing this EVERY day?” yes, we should, but in the meantime, one day is better than zero.) As environmental concerns have grabbed more and more headlines in recent years, Earth Day has moved from a day observed by a relative few to a worldwide movement. Still, though you’ve probably heard about Earth Day for years, what do you really know about the day beyond the concerts and the pledges to recycle more? Here are six intriguing facts that you may not know about the day each year when millions of people pause to honor Mother Earth:
1) It is one of the very few things (almost) the entire world agrees upon. Currently, 192 of the 196 countries around the world celebrate Earth Day. That is more countries than competed in the 2014 Winter Olympics (88), officially recognize Christmas (roughly 160), or celebrate New Years on January 1st (approximately 190).
2) The first Earth Day was not on April 22nd, 1970. It actually came about one month earlier, on March 21st. This original Earth Day celebration was the brainchild of newspaper publisher John McConnell and the date was chosen to coincide with the vernal (spring in the Northern hemisphere) equinox. McConnell posed the idea of a global holiday to encourage collaboration by people around the world to conserve and protect the earth’s precious resources. Though the April 22nd date has eclipsed it in terms of popularity, the vernal equinox Earth Day was favored by famed anthropologist Margaret Mead and is still observed by many, including the United Nations (which also celebrates the April 22nd Earth Day).
3) The FBI investigated early Earth Days for evidence of a communist plot. U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin proposed a separate Earth Day from the one in March that McConnell had begun. Unlike the other Earth Day, this one was conceived as a U.S.-oriented event to be celebrated on April 22nd. Unbeknownst, apparently, to Senator Nelson, April 22, 1970 was the 100th anniversary of the birth of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin. The fact that this was the same date Nelson had chosen for his first Earth Day celebration caught the attention of then FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who ordered surveillance of early Earth Day events and those involved with them. But the real reason Nelson chose April 22nd likely has nothing to do with Lenin or the Soviets: Nelson originally envisioned Earth Day observances entailing environmental “teach-ins” on college campuses and simply chose a date he felt wouldn’t conflict with any religious holidays or colleges’ spring breaks.
4) Earth Day has its own anthem. Or maybe two. Sort of. While there is no official Earth Day anthem, there are several songs that are regularly played as part of annual celebrations – and at least two are recognized as “unofficial” anthems. The first is a song in which Earth Day-related lyrics have been set to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” The second is an original creation of Poet-diplomat Abhay K. entitled “Earth Anthem,” the most recent version of which was launched last June.
5) An actual burning river was a tipping point. Sensitivities to the environment were on the upswing in the United States during the 1960s, in large part because Rachel Carson’s extremely influential book, Silent Spring (1962) had become both a bestseller and a rallying point for environmentalists. But it was the horror of the extremely polluted Cuyahoga River catching fire (again!) in June, 1969 – a story that went national and appeared on the cover of Time Magazine – that helped galvanize a national conversation on the need to step up environmental protections. The following year, BOTH initial Earth Days premiered.
6) This year, we might want to call it “Universe Day.” The cosmos have something special in store for Earth Day this year: the Lyrid meteor shower is expected to peak in the early morning hours of April 22nd, and remain visible through April 25th (in the Northern Hemisphere). If it’s a little too hazy in your area to see the shooting stars clearly, let that be motivation to start applying Earth Day principles to each and every day of the year!
For more information on Earth Day, and/or to learn how to turn EVERY DAY into an Earth Day, please visit the Earth Day Network.
"Speak Up for Animals and Humans" April 18 2014, 0 Comments
No doubt fervent animal lovers need little additional motivation to work to stop and, when possible, prevent animal cruelty. For some of us, the thought of animals tortured at the hands of humans is literally gut wrenching. However, even if you don’t find yourself driven to fiercely protect animals, day in, day out, on moral or empathetic grounds, there is at least one compelling reason for you to care about animal cruelty: A LOT of science seems to suggest there is a very close association between animal abuse and violence towards humans.
April 17-23, 2014 is “Animal Cruelty/Human Violence Awareness Week.” The brainchild of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), this campaign started back in the 1990’s and is meant to raise awareness and encourage people to act. Since that time, more and more research has provided evidence that violence towards animals is often a precursor to (or indicator of) violence towards humans. In fact, the statistics are staggering. A three-year-long study by the Chicago Police Department in the early 2000s found that 65% of people arrested for animal crimes had also been arrested for battery of another person. Another study found that animal abuse had been documented in 88% of families under supervision for physical abuse of children. Somewhere between 73%-81% of women entering domestic abuse shelters report their partners had also abused or killed family pets. And, according to a 2013 article in Psychology Today by Dr. Gail Melson, “When counselors at several federal penitentiaries evaluated inmates for levels of aggression, 70% of the most violent prisoners had serious and repeated animal abuse in their childhood histories, as compared to 6% of nonaggressive prisoners in the same facilities.”
While some in the scientific community caution against reading statistics such as the ones stated above as proof of correlation between harming animals and harming humans, there is little debate amongst law enforcement and legislators. According to the HSUS, at least 13 states have laws allowing pets to be included in protection orders such as temporary restraining orders, and at least 28 states include psychological counseling provisions in their laws regarding people arrested for animal cruelty. Some municipalities, such as San Diego, California, are now also requiring social workers who develop suspicions of animal abuse in the families they are evaluating to report those suspicions to animal control agencies for further investigation.
Animal cruelty in and of itself is beyond bad enough; its close association with violence toward humans should put it on the radar screen for each and every one of us. What can you do? First, be vigilant and vow to report animal abuse as soon as you suspect it. The quicker you respond, the more likely you are to help prevent further acts of aggression. Also, as a society, we must all lose the “boys will be boys” attitude when it comes to children being mean to, or hurting animals. Child development experts are in agreement on this fact: animal cruelty is NOT a “normal” part of children’s -- even boys' -- growth. Pranks that involve harming family pets or other animals aren’t pranks – they are crimes, and often accompany other types of aggression. Take steps to report, and otherwise stop, such behavior immediately – you may be disrupting a larger cycle of violence without even knowing it. Supporting legislation that cracks down on animal cruelty is also important; be aware and informed about steps your community is taking or needs to be taking to protect animals. Remember, your efforts to save an animal may ultimately also save a human from pain, abuse or worse.
For more information on this important issue, please visit the HSUS's page on Animal Cruelty and Human Violence.
"What You've Heard, it's All True" April 15 2014, 0 Comments
You may have heard that elephants have incredible memories, sometimes remembering routes to distant water sources during times of drought that they haven’t used in over in over two decades. Or maybe you’ve heard that elephants can grow to be 13 feet at the shoulder, weigh over six tons, and live up to 80 years in the wild. Or maybe you’ve heard that during birth, the other female members of a herd will gather around the birthing mother, trumpeting and hopping excitedly, as if dancing in celebration as the newborn enters the world. All of this is true. Know what else is true about these amazing creatures? In the hour that many of you will take for lunch today, three more will be illegally killed for the ivory in their tusks.
According to Defenders of Wildlife, World Wildlife Fund and other reputable sources, it is believed that 3-5 million African elephants once roamed the African plains (& deserts). However, primarily due to habitat loss and a resurgence in the popularity of ivory, only about 500,000-600,000 remain. Asian elephant populations have also plummeted, from roughly 100,000 in 1900 to somewhere between 35,000-40,000 in the wild today. Threats to the space and vegetation they need to survive have plagued elephants on both continents as human development has historically taken precedence over the needs of wildlife. While conversations regarding “managing resources” and “conservation” have increased in areas where humans are encroaching upon elephant territory quite a bit, so, unfortunately has the quest for ivory – especially in Africa. Despite an extensive (but not exhaustive) international ban on the sale of ivory that dates back to 1989, ivory has remained highly sought after around the globe, and especially in China. And while taking down an elephant can be difficult and dangerous, the reward for poachers is significant: a single, adult African elephant tusk is worth $2,000-$3,000 (U.S.) in today’s highly unregulated ivory market.
Why is ivory coveted so much that people are willing to drive the animal that produces it into extinction just so they can own some? There are several reasons, none of which justify the slaughter. As trade routes were being forged across Africa and Asia by colonial powers, ivory was often presented to kings, emperors and other leaders as a treasured gift, being that the hunter had presumably risked his life to get it. It was seen as rare and exotic, and hundreds upon hundreds of years later, ivory is still associated with the “wealth of kings,” and therefore is sought after as a status symbol. It’s used in sacred religious objects in some cultures and is understood to symbolize great honor when given as a gift in others. Ivory carvings and jewelry are prized for their artistry, with some from certain cultures viewed as authentic emblems of what is known as “native” or “primitive” art, and ivory that has been ground down to a powder form is believed by many who practice Chinese medicine to have healing properties. Though the hunting of elephants is now illegal across much of their remaining ranges, the demand for ivory fuels an unbearably high rate of poaching: an estimated 33,000 – 40,000 elephants worldwide are poached annually, meaning 3-4 elephants per hour, per day, EVERY DAY, die in the pursuit of ivory. Consequently, according to a recent report in The Independent (UK), unless a drastic decrease in the demand occurs, and/or significant gains are made in the war on poaching, elephants will be extinct in the wild within 10 years.
There is some cause for hope: more countries are beginning to clamp down on the importation and sale of illegally harvested ivory. Countries where poaching is prevalent, such as Kenya and Tanzania, are developing economic alternatives for peoples that have traditionally hunted elephants for income. And technological advancements are assisting in improving and intensifying anti-poaching efforts: Kenya, for example will soon employ drones to search for poachers and for vulnerable herds that need protection. However, like many things, technology giveth (optimism) and taketh away: poachers are now armed with GPS tracking equipment and night vision goggles to help them hunt under the stealth of darkness, and the internet makes a global marketplace for ivory possible. Humane Society International reported just last month that Chinese online retailer Rakuten has over 28,000 ads for ivory products on its network of websites alone.
Elephants are amazing, majestic, unique creatures, and if you’re like us here at Rescued Cards, you don’t want to live in a world without them. Please join the fight to protect elephant habitat and to end the illegal and inhumane practice of poaching. Start by vowing NEVER TO BUY IVORY FROM ANY SOURCE! (An older family heirloom may be legal to trade in, but many ivory pieces that are less than 100 years old are actually illegal to sell or import in the U.S.). What all you’ve heard about how dire the situation is for elephants… it’s all true. Please visit Save the Elephants and Defenders of Wildlife to learn what more you can do to help.
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