Love, Kindness, and Creativity = Shelter Solutions


All too often my newsfeed is heavy with stories of animal abuse from around the world. But last week, in amongst the sadness and horror, was a ray of sunshine. The following photos were shared to me on Facebook. The surprising text that accompanied it, was “Nebraska Humane Society”.

Reading to shelter dogs at Camp Kindness

Reading to shelter dogs at Camp Kindness

I am very familiar with therapy reading programs. The publisher I work with, Barking Planet Productions, promotes such programs on their blog. Up until now, every therapy reading program I’ve heard about has been at a library or school. This is the first program that I have ever heard of that is happening at an animal control facility.

I called NEHS to find out more. Pam Wiese, the shelter representative that I spoke to today, was quick to tell me that there is at least one other shelter that has a therapy reading program, but I was unable to find them through Google. The program that NEHS has in place should be a model for change for other shelters around the country.

NEHS is contracted by the city of Omaha to perform their animal control. The city funds AC through the usual avenues: dog registrations and city budgeting, and then NEHS receives those funds to pick up strays, spay/neuter, and provide adoptable animals to the public. Approximately 18,000 animals are funneled through NEHS every year. In addition to performing AC for the Omaha metropolitan area, NEHS is an open entry shelter. “Open-entry” means they also accept owner-surrendered companion animals, quarantine animals who are aggressive or who have bitten, and provide a safe place for victims of cruelty and neglect. They also offer low cost spay and neuter, Animeals (helping elderly residents by delivering free pet food once a month to any senior with a licensed companion animal, who qualifies for Meals on Wheels), and free temporary shelter for animals in domestic abuse situations when women or children are housed in safe shelters. These programs cost money, and in addition to general fundraising, NEHS has found a unique way to offset costs.   It’s called “Camp Kindness”, and it’s part of their education program.

Camp Kindness is a summer camp for kids ages 6-12. (junior campers, ages 6-9, and senior campers, ages 10-12) Each session is one week long: participants choose a “kennel buddy” from the adoptable animals at the shelter and as part of their camp experience, they create posters to help their buddy find a forever home. The children also have multiple educational opportunities about pet care and learning to be kind to animals. Camp Kindness was started at NEHS about ten years ago, but just this past year they have added the therapy reading program, where the children can read to their kennel buddy or other dogs in the shelter. The photos tell the story. The program is not just helpful to improving the skills of young readers, but to the animals who find themselves in this loud and strange environment. A camper’s story helps them feel calm, noticed, and less lonely; giving them some loving companionship. Wiese says that any shelter can offer therapy reading to their animals for next to nothing. All that is needed are some 5 gallon buckets (turned upside-down for seats) and a box of books. Children don’t need to come into physical contact with the animals, (and therefore avoid any potential risks) but can sit outside the kennel cages, still providing focus and comfort to the animals.

The program has also offered a small boost to adoptions. About 500 children pass through the program each year, which runs June and July. At $160 per camper (less than the cost of a week of childcare), the shelter could gain as much as  $80,000 per summer to put toward their programs. It’s a win/win for everyone.

It takes a love of animals, creativity, and fortitude to run a shelter like NEHS, which truly serves their community. The attitude and resolution to put plans into action is what makes all the difference between a shelter that works, and a shelter that doesn’t.

 

 

 

Here’s what parents are saying about Camp Kindness:

Jennie Wright Our son is doing this and he is loving it! He loves animals but dislikes reading! Best way to get him to read! Thank you for offering this program!

Shari Stone OMGOSH! My daughter gets to do Camp Kindness next week and she is going to SO love this! Can’t wait…now I want to come to Camp Kindness…can I be a kid again? PLEASE!?

Carrie Jean What I like about this program is if you have a child that has a difficult time reading, dogs are the best listeners and don’t judge! Programs like this really help both the dog and child … The dogs have company and get to hear a great story and the child is becoming a stronger reader, helping a dog and being shown how to be gentle with animals! GREAT PROGRAM….keep up the good work

Karen Kappert What a wonderful way to get the kids to read during the summer, entertain the animals, and teach the value of volunteering.

Posted in Animal Advocacy, Random Woofs, The Woof on Animal Resources | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Major Developments in Chicken Jerky Treat Debacle


[ History: This is the Fourteenth installment in an ongoing report - you can catch up on the story with the links in my previous blog post. This article first appeared on AnimalsVote.org on June 4, 2014. My commentary on these developments follows at the bottom. For those of you who have already read the article, you may just want to skip down. ]

There have been three recent major developments regarding the ongoing investigation of Chicken Jerky Treats made in China, including FDA updates, retailer news, and a settlement agreement from Nestle Purina.

  1. The FDA updated their website with additional information, including updated statistics about the victims: 5,600 dogs sickened… 1,000 dogs have died… 24 cats and 3 people have all become sick from chicken jerky treats. Approximately 1,800 cases have been reported in just the past 6 months.
  2. Big box retailers Petco and PetSmart have both announced that they will no longer sell pet treats made in China. Petco is making this policy effective by the end of the year, but PetSmart will not make the change until March of 2015 probably due to contractual obligations.
  3. The lawsuit consumers brought against Nestle Purina was settled on May 30.

From early on, pet advocates have been petitioning the FDA for a better system for warning consumers about possible dangers in pet foods or treats. When the FDA failed to require a mandatory recall, advocates took matters into their own hands and stickered store shelves and products with warning labels. They spoke to store managers and corporate offices, trying to get stores to pull the products off of shelves to protect the pets of people who were still unaware of the dangers. Their pleas fell on deaf ears. But, the numbers don’t lie. Nestle Purina and Del Monte may have voluntarily recalled China made Chicken Jerky 14 months ago, but the number of new cases reported by the FDA in just the past 6 months indicate that some pet owners are still unaware of the danger lurking in those bags. Clearly, there is a communication failure between the FDA and consumers.

Petco and PetSmart finally decided to take a proactive stand and stop selling treats made in China, but it’s curious that 1,000 pets had to die, and three human cases had to be reported before that decision was reached. Although their new resolve is in the right direction, it remains somewhat incomplete, as it does not include products whose ingredients are sourced in China.

The settlement between the defendants (Nestle Purina PetCare) and consumers was reached just two weeks after the FDA released their updated files. The settlement creates a fund of $6.5 million dollars, and establishes procedures that would permit consumers to submit claims for monetary relief. The agreement also requires Nestle Purina to undertake enhanced quality assurance measures and modify certain language on its packaging. The settlement is now waiting for the judge’s approval.

In light of the number of reported cases, 6.5 million doesn’t seem sufficient to compensate consumers, but the case has never been about the money, but about keeping other pets safe. The things that consumers fought for, they have won: there was an investigation, a recall, changes made in the manufacturing process and packaging of the treats, and there is legislation pending that will change the way the FDA notifies consumers when a product poses a health risk.

The group ‘Animal Parents Against Pet Treats Made in China’ showed just how much a group of like-minded individuals can accomplish via social networking, and is responsible for these hard-won victories.

APAPTMIC has just drafted an open letter to the CEOs of Petco and PetSmart, issuing a challenge to take their resolve one step further. You can view the letter HERE.

CALL TO ACTION: The FDA has an open comment period regarding implementing the Food and Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Section 211, which outlines new procedures for notifying consumers of products that pose a health risk. Section 211 requires that consumers be notified, at a POINT OF SALE level, if a product they are buying is under FDA alert, warning or recall. Please take a moment to comment on the importance of warnings being visible at the point of sale.

PLEASE WEIGH IN BEFORE THE JUNE 9 DEADLINE.

 

arielSo here’s my take on that…

I’ve been following and reporting on this story for a long time. I’ve had articles appear in examiner.com, on Pet Pardons news, here Up on the Woof, and most recently, on AnimalsVote.org. I’ve walked up to complete strangers in the grocery store aisles and taken CJT’s out of their hands and told them of the danger. I’ve left printed warnings on store shelves and I’ve stickered store product with warnings. I have no stake in this case, except that I wanted what APAPTMIC wanted: to get the word out — to warn other pet owners and prevent more dogs from dying. But what we were doing, the FDA should have been doing.

APAPTMIC has fought long and hard, and it’s true that the lawsuit was never about the money. For one thing, the folks who brought this case were too smart for that. The law sees pets as property, and nobody had any illusions that the law would assign more value to their pets than a lawn mower. What the lawsuit sought to do, it has done via two avenues: this settlement, and section 211 of the FSMA. Because these pet parents made the noise they did, Nestle Purina and Del Monte (though Del Monte’s lawsuit is separate and not a part of this settlement) have both changed things in the manufacturing process of CJT. For one thing, they have both gone to a single meat supplier in China, which should afford them better control of quality. Both companies have also released treats that they say are made in the USA. If the meat for these USA made treats is sourced in China, I’m fairly certain that the settlement requires them to change the packaging to reflect that.

If section 211 of the FSMA passes, warnings about products under investigation will be posted publicly at point of sale, not buried in the back pages of the FDA website.

But, I am still conflicted about the settlement. I understand why it was accepted by those involved…and when you consider the paltry sum of 6.5M, it’s clear that the most important part of the settlement is in the stipulations, not the payout. But what isn’t mentioned in this article is that Nestle Purina does not take any blame. The wording regarding this in the settlement is:

“WHEREAS, Defendants deny any wrongdoing or liability, or that Plaintiffs’ claims have merit, but have concluded that they will enter into this Agreement, among other reasons, in order to avoid the further expense, inconvenience, burden, distractions, uncertainty, and risk of litigation and any other present or future litigation arising out of the facts that gave rise to the litigation in the Actions;”,

no guilt…And…. that doesn’t sit well with me. Logically, a corporation the size of Nestle Purina is not deterred by lengthy lawsuits. They have a team of lawyers and they certainly have the budget for it. The pet parents who brought the suit against them have far more to fear from a drawn out process than they do. That NP is willing to settle suggests that they *know* they are to blame, but they fall short of announcing that publicly, and I think that stinks. It feels like ‘shut-up-and-go-away-now’ money to me. NP wants this over with, so they can get on with the business of making money.

As for Petco and Petsmart, kudos to them, even if it’s going to take them into 2015 before they are able to rid their shelves of all the treats made in China. Some people are huffing and puffing that it’s not happening immediately, but you have to remember that they have contractual agreements with the companies who supply them, and it could very well take them a little longer than we’d like in order to do things legally.

But they are only 2 stores…and we’ve got to get rid of this garbage everywhere…so I don’t expect any of the advocates who have been involved thus far are going to sit on their laurels. This train still has a lot of stops until we reach that destination: Walmart, Costco, BJs, Sam’s Club, Giant Eagle, Pet Supplies Plus…

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the FDA’s reveal of the 3 human cases and the Petco announcement and the settlement all came on each other’s heels. I had to chuckle though, when I read there were human cases, because I have often tasted my dogs’ “all natural” treats when they claim to be all that and a bag of chips. Apparently, I am not alone.

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New Lab Results Bolster Claims of Pet Poisonings


[ History: This article first appeared on the AnimalsVote.org News website March 2, 2014. This is the Thirteenth installment in an ongoing report - you can catch up on the story with the earlier posts linked below ]

This month, a year after the samples were submitted, the lab began mailing out the results of those tests. So far, every sample sent in for independent testing has come back positive for more than one of the six sulfon-amide-containing illegal antibiotics the FDA identified last February (Enrofloxacin, Sulfaclozine, Sulfamethoxazole, Sulfquinoxaline, Tilmicosin, and Trimethoprim), after scores of tests that looked at everything from melamine to gelatin. The FDA discovery of the illegal antibiotics prompted a voluntary recall of the treats by manufacturers.

Sarge is one of the dogs who lost his life after eating Waggin Train treats. TN

Sarge is one of the dogs who lost his life after eating Waggin Train treats. TN

None of the pet owners are surprised by the results,because they’ve known right along that whatever killed their pets would turn up in the samples…once scientists knew what they were looking for.

The sulfa drugs are thought to have contaminated the meat during farming, when they were included in chicken feed. Trimethoprim, tilmicosin, enrofloxacin, sulfaclozine, and sulfamethoxazole are not allowed in chicken at any level but the FDA had found them in levels as high as 2800 ng/g (ppb). Sulfaquinoxaline was found in chicken jerky treats as high as 800 ng/g, which is well above the U.S.FDA tolerance of 100 ng/g.

So far, the independently tested dog treats have all tested positive for varying amounts of Sulfaclozine, Sulfaquinoxaline, Enrofloxacin, Sulfamethoxazole, Trimethoprim: the independently tested cat treats have tested positive for Enrofloxacin and Tilmicosin. The results bear out the veracity of pet owner’s claims.

Although the FDA still has fallen short of stating that these illegal antibiotics are what sickened thousands of pets, it has become increasingly hard to ignore the facts:

  1. The Chicken Jerky Treats (CJT) were recalled because they were proven to be tainted by illegal antibiotics.
  2. The levels were reported as trace (therefore not harmful) but the levels were much higher than reported, as evidenced in the FOIA request.
  3. CJT are “linked” (per the FDA wording) to Fanconi-like illness and death in dogs.
  4. Dogs with a sulfa antibiotic sensitivity react to high levels with Fanconi-like symptoms.
  5. The adulterant antibiotics are those fed in farming, so the drugs were in the chickens– not a result of the processing. Therefore, each individual piece would have varying levels, accounting for the inconsistencies in testing and the differences in the way pets were affected.
  6. Sulfa-drugs are illegal in animal feed in the US because of the high instance of hyper sensitivity, but all of the questionable chicken jerky had been produced in China. After the B-lactams antibiotics, (penicillins and cephalosporins), sulfon-amide-containing antibiotics are among the most frequent causes of drug reactions.
Sampson lost his life after eating Waggin Train treats. OH

Sampson lost his life after eating Waggin Train treats. OH

Pet safety has been compromised long enough, reliant on the actions of pet treat manufacturers who are concerned only with profits. Instead of considering consumer complaints might be an indication of something gone wrong, they have continued to deny culpability and were excruciatingly slow to recall. Because no warnings were posted in stores while the FDA investigated, many more pets died because owners were uninformed.

There are still pet owners every day finding out the hard way, as their pets fall ill.

Dr. Harr is the vet behind the AMVA resolution asking that the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) adopt the following position on Jerky Pet Treats:

Jerky pet treats are not necessary for adequate nutrition. Adulterants have been found in jerky pet treats, and to mitigate the risk that the pet may become sick and potentially die from ingesting them, the AVMA discourages the feeding of jerky pet treats until further information on their safety is available. Veterinarians are encouraged to report suspected jerky pet treat-related illnesses to the FDA, and to prominently utilize a display and notification summary similar to the requirements reflected in Section 211 of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.

Ginger continues to receive treatment after becoming ill from eating Waggin Train/Beefeater treats. NY

Ginger continues to receive treatment after becoming ill from eating Waggin Train/Beefeater treats. NY

CALL TO ACTION: Please share the following link with your vet and ask your vet to sign the AVMA resolution. https://www.facebook.com/groups/342467355771185/permalink/730576086960308/ 

Posted in Animal Advocacy, SPECIAL WOOF REPORTS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chicken Jerky Makes a Comeback – What Does That Mean for Your Pet?


[ This is the Twelfth installment in an ongoing report - click here for the earlier articles: part 1, part 2part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8 , part 9, part 10, part 11  ]

It’s official. Del Monte and Nestle Purina have both announced that they will have their chicken jerky treats back on store shelves in March.  It’s been a year since they ‘voluntarily’ recalled the tainted treats after the FDA found illegal antibiotics in them.
(See part 9 above.)

Neither manufacturer has admitted any wrongdoing, and they aren’t likely to, since multiple lawsuits have been brought against them by consumers. Any admission of guilt could cost them millions.

As for the FDA, although they discovered the drugs in the chicken jerky, they’ve stopped short of blaming the antibiotics for the deaths and illnesses of thousands of dogs. But just because they don’t say it, doesn’t mean it isn’t so.  The FDA maintains that although it appears there is a link between the chicken jerky imported from China and the illnesses and deaths of pets, they have not been able to name a culprit.

Blah blah blah.

Unable to name a specific cause, the FDA is unable (or unwilling) to keep the treats off of store shelves, and Nestle and Del Monte have been planning a huge rollout.

So, what have the two treat manufacturers been up to, and what are they saying about the treats?  Del Monte (makers of Milo’s Kitchen Chicken Jerky and Chicken Grillers) says they will be sourcing all of their meat for their chicken grillers in the U.S.

This information is telling. It suggests, at least on the surface, that Del Monte knows (or suspects) that there is a problem with producing the treats overseas, and that the problem is in the meat supply chain.

(And here’s a warm and fuzzy thought: the USDA has recently OK’d the sale of chicken imported from China for human consumption. You might want to rethink keeping chicken as part of your diet!)

Nestle Purina (makers of Waggin’ Train Chicken Jerky) Pet Care officials say they will be reintroducing chicken jerky treats sourced entirely in the U.S. and other jerky treats sourced and made from a single supplier in China. But guess who the supplier in China is? Simmons Foods – the parent company of Simmons Pet Foods (remember all the pets that died in 2007 as a result of melamine poisoning by Menu foods? Guess who owns them?)!

newtreatsDon’t be fooled by the new packaging!  Purina’s Waggin Train treats are being re-imaged. They will be Smoky Jerky Snacks, Jerky Duos and Chicken Jerky Tenders. The new packages also indicate pet size, with none of them recommended for dogs under 5 lbs, and the jerky tenders not recommended for dogs under 11 pounds. Are you wondering why that disclaimer is significant? Because although thousands of pets got sick from the treats, most of the fatalities were small dogs.

Meanwhile, with major brands off the shelves, pet parents have been turning to brands they can trust, and instead of giving their dogs Purina and Milo’s jerky, they’ve been making their own, or feeding trusted brands like Zukes, who source ingredients and manufacture in the U.S.

But while the world slept…Nestle acquired Zukes!  I guess it makes good business sense; when a competitor is selling product and you are not; when the competitor is trusted and  you are not; when the competitor is small and you are not;  buy them out.

While Zukes maintains that their treats will be the same superior quality, consumers are wary. Zukes’s Facebook page is full of comments calling them ‘sell-outs’ and making it clear that the buyout is creating distrust in the product because the foxes are watching the hen house….and not so much metaphorically.

So, what does the reappearance of Waggin Train and Milo’s Kitchen mean to your pets?  Veterinarians, pet parents, and pet food safety advocates warn us not to be duped into a false sense of security. The FDA hasn’t come to a definitive conclusion, and without that, and without any admission of guilt, Chicken Jerky manufacturers are only guessing as they make changes to their process. How sure do you think they are that their products are safe,  if they are including weight disclaimers on their new packages?

There are still too many unanswered questions to make feeding the treats to your pet anything less than a crap shoot.

Your pet’s safety is in your hands. Be wary, be safe, be sure. Be smart.

 

 

 

Posted in Animal Advocacy, SPECIAL WOOF REPORTS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lammy Lamb and Lana Tumor


When I woke up last Sunday, there was so much blood in our living room that it looked like a crime scene. My Jack Russell Terrier stood on her furbrother’s bed, the white fur of her back legs stained red.  She looked up at me, and I could see that she had been trying to clean herself up; the blood around her mouth made her look like she’d just killed something.  It was day 7 of a health issue that had reached a point of crisis. This was no week at the Waldorf.

lammyI’d kept Lammy Lamb in the closet for two years.  Not an actual closet — that would be cruel. It’s metaphorical. She was “in the closet” about a health issue that I’d been keeping close to the vest.

Lammy Lamb had a tumor.

Her vets had assured me early on that it was benign. It began as a fleshy lump that appeared one day under her tail. Because of her age (15), the vets recommended that we leave it alone and just keep an eye on it.

So we did.

We kept our eye on it while it grew to the size of an egg. Then the vets studied it and its positioning again, and worried that even if she could withstand anesthesia, removing the tumor would leave her fecally incontinent. At 15 she was not a good candidate for surgery, and unless the tumor began to cause her problems, the recommendation was still to leave it alone.

So we watched it some more.

It wasn’t ugly, as tumors go; it was soft and mostly smooth, but it didn’t belong on her. She showed it no concern at all. She didn’t mind it being handled or washed, and she didn’t bother with it or act like it was even there.

More time passed. Lammy Lamb turned 16  and the tumor grew to the size of a small avocado. It wasn’t hurting her or making her ill, but I was ashamed that she was carrying it around. How many tumor laden pound dogs had I seen in my Facebook feed whose photos had drawn the ire of animal rescuers with cries of neglect? I knew that if anyone saw the monstrosity they would have pointed fingers without ever bothering to ask if the situation had been assessed. They would just condemn. It dangled ridiculously under her tail, and swung side to side when she ran. Dark purple veins snaked through it feeding it; like some sort of parasitic creature. I needed to call it something, and so it became Lana Tumor.

Lana began to have a life of her own.

Lammy Lamb went about her daily business, but Lana Tumor trapped all her poop between the underside of the growth and the Jack’s curly butt. I was bathing her bottom three times a day.

As Lana grew heavier, Lammy Lamb began to do a lot of pacing and squatting, as though the pull of it made her feel like she needed to poop. But any time I mentioned  possible surgery, I was met with opposition from both my partner and Lammy’s vets.

“She is sixteen, too old. Too risky.” My partner chastised me for worrying what others might say or think. Nobody came out and said so, but I think everyone was thinking that she was already so old she wouldn’t be likely to live long enough for removal to become necessary. After all, the normal life span for a JRT is about 13 years…and their deaths are often the result of the crazy, fearless things they do… because that’s how they roll. Lammy Lamb was already three years beyond the normal lifespan. PICT1125

I put her in diapers, cute ones with Clifford the Big Red Dog on them, and bought two pairs of nylon dog pants to secure them: Lammy Pants. The idea was to relieve the pressure by lifting the tumor and supporting it, but it also had the added advantage of making it less visible to any terminally critical finger pointers. We were in the closet.

Lammy Lamb adapted well to the pants, but I was still cleaning her up 3 times a day. In my imagination, I designed net-style tumor slings to lift it and stop its crazy swinging, but I didn’t attempt to make one. I just watched Lana, and washed Lana, and dusted Lana with powder so there would be no chafing, and I didn’t talk about Lana, because the tumor, like a Hollywood starlet, had become extremely high maintenance and embarrassing in public. Lana Tumor was eclipsing Lammy Lamb. It was the bad and the beautiful.

Then the other dogs started to give her a hard time. The puperazzi sniffed it, they barked angrily at her, they bullied her. She learned to give the biggest of them a wide berth and keep a low profile.

Then, one day, with no warning, Lammy Lamb blew one of Lana’s veins. Maybe she was straining to poop. Maybe she jabbed it on something…but all of a sudden it was bleeding with all the ferocity of a head wound. And while I tried to staunch the flow of blood while holding her still with one hand and putting pressure on the vein with the other, all of that blood tipped the balance and made my choices crystal clear: we were going to have to risk the surgery, or we were going to have to put down a sweet, intelligent little dog still full of love and life.

What an awful dilemma. What would you do?

I scheduled an appointment with her vet and dealt with four more bleeding crises before we got in to consult with her and reach a consensus. I call them “crises”, because even though Lammy Lamb wasn’t in mortal danger, it is scary when your dog is bleeding so profusely. Blood = life, and watching it pour out of one of your precious dogs is scary as hell. Lana had become an unrelenting sadistic bitch, and Lammy Lamb was deflated and depressed. The vet agreed; the situation was only going to get worse, and neither Lammy Lamb nor I could go on like this.

To everyone’s surprise, the surgery went amazingly well. When her vet told me “She’s doing better than you think. She’s doing better than *I* thought!”  I was reminded of how tough Jack Russells are, and how they can never be underestimated. lamb butt

Lana Tumor has been sent packing, and Lammy Lamb’s tiny butt is back to its adorable self. I hadn’t realized how badly I’d been missing her cute bottom.

To all of Lammy Lamb’s fans who lent their moral or  financial support to her surgery, we thank you. She is doing great. She is free again.

 

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The Bumpy Road to a No-Kill Nation


I’ve been writing for the AnimalsVote.org website for almost a year now. Recently, I was asked to be part of a team to help the organization launch No Kill Mondays. (#NoKillMondays).  Essentially, it’s an initiative wherein AnimalsVote.org contacted 2,500 animal shelters across the U.S., and asked them to take a pledge to stop killing animals on Mondays.  AnimalsVote is working toward making our nation a no-kill nation, and this is just one step.

The sad thing is that out of the 2,500 shelters contacted, so far only 629 have given an answer one way or the other. Only 41 of them took the pledge to stop killing on Mondays. Not a single Ohio shelter took the pledge. You can view the list of shelters, which is organized by state, on the AnimalsVote website. But sadder even than this dismal response by shelters, are the negative responses from other animal advocates about the initiative.

nkmI sincerely can’t believe all the negativity from people involved in the rescue community. Everybody has an opinion about the best way to solve our nation’s shelter problem, and the attitude that their solution is the only solution. But I don’t see why one opinion has to trump or cancel another. There are lots of things wrong, and it will take lots of solutions to fix it.

I’ve written about the failings of our shelter system before. The problem is multi-faceted and complex. It’s not just about there being too many animals in the system. It’s  also about killing for space (before space is even needed); killing for convenience (like the day before holidays, so no one has to come in to clean kennels); botched killing (like the debacle at the Fairfield Ohio animal shelter last year); the mentality of shelter directors and untrained workers (anybody remember Akron animal control ten years ago?); not enough low cost spay and neuter programs; not enough serious effort put into adoption programs; secrecy (like the way shelters report or don’t report their kill stats); lies; lack of funding; not enough effort expended on recovery; depressing atmosphere; making sure dogs don’t become warehoused; and the list goes on.

I think everyone can agree that in a perfect world, animal shelters wouldn’t kill animals at all, unless it was medically indicated. So why all this negativity to No Kill Mondays? Honestly, what is the harm in shelters stopping the killing for one day?

Some nay sayers have said that it will create a double-kill Tuesday. I don’t believe that would happen (after all, there are only so many hours in a day). Would the animals slated to be killed on Monday be killed on Tuesday?  Maybe. But that’s not the point. The point is that giving them an extra day gives them 24 more hours to be adopted or to be found by their families. According to AnimalsVote.org, giving them that one extra day gives them an additional 8.3% chance of living. Aren’t they worth that?

Some nay sayers have assumed that because the initiative is called No Kill Mondays, that it is somehow related to Nathan Winograd’s No Kill Equation. Among some advocates that initiates a knee jerk reaction to oppose it, because Winograd’s belief that there ‘is no pet overpopulation problem’ is troubling. But AnimalsVote.org is not connected to Winograd or his movement. They have their own no kill solution, which founder Alex Aliksanyan puts forth in 3 laws that if enacted could change the playing field.

I think Winograd has some good points. I think Alex has good points. I don’t think that either plan by itself is going to solve our nation’s shelter issues, and I sure don’t agree that there’s no overpopulation problem. You can crunch the numbers any way you want – if supply exceeds demand (not just in numbers, but in attitude – people not willing to go to shelters to adopt), there’s overpopulation. I don’t have the answers, but I can see what the problems are and what needs to be addressed. Maybe, if all of us work on whichever of these issues is the most important to each of us, we will someday achieve a no kill nation together. It’s not a matter of one thing being the main thing, or the most important thing. All of the problems need to be addressed. One group can’t do it on their own – it takes constant effort on every front.

Here are some of the suggestions of areas to address in order to bring about a no kill nation:

  1. Low cost and free spay and neuter clinics, or mandatory spay/neuter.
  2. Stricter regulation of breeders through legislation.
  3. Eliminate the sales of dogs and cats in pet stores – except those animals placed there for adoption by registered 501C3 organization.
  4. More aggressive adoption programs.
  5. Creating visitor friendly shelters. (many people won’t adopt from a shelter because it’s too depressing to go there and look at the animals)
  6. Enforcement of pet licensing.
  7. Low cost and free microchipping programs.
  8. More effort put into locating the owners of pets picked up as strays. (many shelter animals are peoples’ displaced pets!)
  9. Mandatory training of humane officers

Can you think of more shelter problems that need to be addressed? Let’s discuss it in the comments section.

Meanwhile, won’t you support #NoKillMondays? Won’t you support giving shelter animals one more small chance to be saved? Wouldn’t it be great if every shelter animal could #TGIM?

Posted in Animal Advocacy, Random Woofs, The Woof on Animal Welfare Legislation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Best Christmas Gift for Your Dog This Year


(edited  12/7)

Here we go again.

I just heard through the grapevine that Waggin Train Chicken Jerky Treats could be back on store shelves in time for Christmas 2013. Purina began importing the treats again in October, suggesting (though unconfirmed) that they are satisfied they have “fixed the problem” that caused the deaths of more than 580 dogs and sickened 3,000 more since 2007.  Except, the shipments of treats since October are still coming from China, and as we’ve been taught by experience, “fixed the problem” and “coming from China” are contradictions.

I’m not buying it, and I’m not buying the treats, and I hope for your pet’s sake you will not buy them either. The best gift you can give your dog for Christmas this year is his life.

Several manufacturers of Chicken Jerky treats made in China voluntarily recalled their products in February of this year. They made the decision based on FDA findings of trace residue of illegal antibiotics in the treats. The FDA told the public that the antibiotics were nothing to be concerned about, and they issued a statement that they didn’t think that the residue was responsible for pet sickness or death, but they weren’t ruling it out. The manufacturers said that they were just pulling the treats as a precaution.

But…the devil is in the details.

I’ve been covering this story since a family in Cleveland went to the media about their dog who they claimed died after eating Waggin Train treats. As the story got out, more and more pet owners came forward who had sick or dead pets and who all had one thing in common: Chicken Jerky from China.

It’s been a long, sordid ordeal. I’m not going to recap it all here, but you can catch up on how the story progressed if you read my series of posts in the Special Woof Reports section. I’m not trying to vilify Purina or any other pet treat manufacturer, but they really need to get off the Chinese bandwagon if they have any hope of staying solvent. Pet owners did not take the Chicken Jerky Debacle lying down, and they are not through fighting. There was a time when I really trusted Purina — but then they were bought out by Nestle, a company that has a dubious reputation when it comes to caring about the health and well-being of consumers.

Susan Thixton, author of “The Truth About Pet Food”, just uncovered a troubling discrepancy in the FDA findings about the chicken jerky treats. The ‘trace’ amounts of antibiotic residue that they reported in February don’t match the findings as reported by the New York laboratory that did the actual testing. The discrepancy looks like this:

discrepencyThe FDA told the public that the NY lab had found Sulfaquinoxaline below the legal tolerance…but the NY lab reported that they found several treats which had exceeded the Sulfaquinoxaline legal tolerance…and the same proved true of the other drugs.

Now, before you get stuck on the words “several treats”, you need to understand exactly what the laboratory was testing. They were not testing a gajillion treats as they came into the country. They were testing the leftover treats that pet owners had provided them after their pets had become sick or had died.

The Sufaquinoxaline results were just one of 6 antibiotics found. The antibiotics in the treats are the types used in farm animals such as chickens and pigs to ward off certain diseases. There are thousands of chicken suppliers in China, yet Purina would have us believe that they have ‘fixed’ the problem with the Chinese suppliers. Wouldn’t that mean that the farmers would have to stop or change the antibiotics? Where’s the proof that’s happened? If you are thinking that the FDA is overseeing that, you’re mistaken.

Remember where I mentioned above how the FDA said they didn’t think the antibiotics and the sicknesses/deaths were related?  Let’s go over a few of the facts again:

  • Some pet owners reported that they fed their dog one treat and the dog died.
  • Some pet owners reported that their pets had eaten several treats from a bag and suffered no symptoms, then suddenly fell ill or died.
  • Some pet owners reported that they had more than one pet sharing a bag of treats, and one pet became ill or died, and the other was fine.
  • Some pet owners reported that multiple pets had become ill while sharing a bag of treats.
  • Many of the pets who died (opposed to those who were just sickened) were small.

Not related? Then why does the following statement from Robert Sheridan, Chemist for New York State Department of Agriculture appear to completely substantiate pet owners’ accounts of what happened?

“In all we found six antibiotics including Sulfaclozine, Sulfaquinoxaline, Sulfamethoxazole, Tilmicosin, Trimethoprim and Enrofloxacin.  The concentrations of these drugs ranged from 1.0 to 2000 ng/g (ppb).  Not every jerky treat contained one of these drugs and many contained more than one.  Almost every bag had several pieces that contained at least one of the six drugs.  (Sulfaquinoxaline is approved by FDA to be used in chickens bound for consumption as long as residues in chicken meat are below a set level.  Several jerky treats with that antibiotic exceeded the FDA maximum allowable level.  The other drugs are not allowed by FDA at any concentration in chicken.)”

Robert Sheridan, Chemist for New York State Department of Agriculture …(bold added)

That would be some kind of crazy coincidence.

And then there’s this little snippet of information from several health sites about Fanconi Syndrome, the consistent diagnosis of the pets who became sick or died from eating Chicken Jerky: ingesting certain expired antibiotics can cause acquired Fanconi Syndrome.

More than 4.5 million pounds of jerky treats are on their way from China to U.S. pet stores — maybe in time for holiday gift giving. Don’t make this your pet’s last Christmas — there are plenty of other safe treats on the market. roulette

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