A Dog Lady Walking the Thin Line of Crazy

Four years ago, my partner’s eldest nephew began calling me a “Crazy Dog Lady”. It wasn’t meant teasingly, but derisively, as a judgement… an insult. It was accompanied by the complaint that “all I ever talk about is dogs, and all I post about on social media is dogs”.

   You may ask yourself, How did I get here?

I am the author of five books about dogs. (see the margin at right). When you write a book, you don’t just write it and expect that people will discover it. You have to promote it. When you promote something, it involves building a certain reputation. I write a pet column for the Examiner and I have this blog, which is devoted to dogs, and I’ve written articles about animal welfare for animalsvote.org and pet pardons news. My yelodoggie artwork is all about funny dogs…and I founded the Lost & Found Ohio Pets service to help reunite lost pets with their families.

You may ask yourself, where does that highway lead to?

Sure, that means that among all the “normal” stuff on my Facebook feed, like comments about my day, or movies or what’s happening in the world, my feed is often peppered with links to my articles, or calls to action against animal abuse, or information about pet food recalls, or pet health issues, or just pictures of my dogs. This does not a “Crazy Dog Lady” make.

And anyway…isn’t my phone number the one he calls any time he has a pet care question?

Same as it ever was.

I was so offended by his comment that I took him off our Christmas card list. Why should we send him a copy of our annual hand-drawn card featuring our pets celebrating the holiday, when he clearly can’t appreciate it?

Letting the days go by…

dog house rules    I’ve been accused of treating my dogs like children, but I honestly see that as more of a badge of honor than a criticism. After all, the more science learns about dogs, the more apparent it is that they are like children. They are as bright as any toddler, and because they are completely dependent on us, it means they stay babies all their lives. That means it’s our responsibility as pet parents to make sure their physical (food, water, shelter, safety, hygiene, play, medical) and emotional (love, encouragement, comfort) needs are met. It means teaching them, and seeing that their lives are enriched and that they are intellectually stimulated.

If that means moving to a cabin in the woods so we’re not violating any quantity or noise ordinances…

You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack…

If it means driving a vehicle that’s larger than I prefer so there is room to cart all five dogs around…

You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile…

PICT1439      If it means keeping our oldest dog dressed in onesies – because she is ancient and thin and often shivering: in traction socks – because the bare floors have become a challenge in her old age: and in diapers – because I’m not always attentive to the frequent potty calls, and sometimes she can’t really remember where they are supposed to happen – then that’s what it means.

After the money’s gone…

If it means denying ourselves the extras, like new clothes or evenings out, so we can care for them properly – then that’s what it means. I’d do the same for a child, if I had one.

     You may ask yourself, “Am I right? Am I wrong?”

All of it qualifies me as Dog Mom, but I don’t think any of it qualifies me as “crazy”.   Just where is that line though?

Last weekend, our critical nephew came for a visit with his wife and toddlers. Dogs, wife, and toddlers all managed to interact and coexist. Indeed, the only one who had a problem, was the nephew.

At one point, I snapped leashes on two of our dogs to take them out, and the children began to follow me out the door. That’s when I turned, and without a second thought, held up my hand and told the kids to “STAY”.

You may say to yourself, “My God! What have I done?”crazy dog lady

That was when I saw my foot firmly planted over the line to “Crazy Dog Lady”. But is that really such a bad thing?

Once in a lifetime?

Lyrics to Once in a Lifetime: Writer(s): Mike Curb, Tina Weymouth, Phoebe Esprit, Jerry Harrison, Chris Frantz, Brian Eno, Jerry H. Styner, Guy Hemric, David Byrne
Copyright: Index Music Inc., E.G. Music Ltd., MCA Music Ltd., Warner-tamerlane Publishing Corp., WB Music Corp.

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A Cautionary Tale: When Caution Impedes the Mission

One night last year, my friend, Bobbie was sitting on her porch with her little Shih Tzu, Rosie. They were sitting quietly, enjoying the mild night when the neighbor’s dog came over. The much larger, stronger dog attacked Rosie. Bobbie shouted and struck at the attacking dog, and got his attention just long enough for Rosie to run off. Once the neighbor had his dog back under control, Bobbie enlisted the help of friends and went out looking for Rosie. They looked and called for her all around the neighborhood well into the early hours of the morning, but couldn’t find her. Dejected, Bobbie went home. After sunrise, Bobbie went out looking again, and found Rosie sitting on the back steps. Apparently, she had been so frightened by the attack that she had run off and hunkered down until daylight. Bobbie brought her in and Rosie drank some water and went to sleep. But she never woke up. She had suffered internal injuries in the attack, and although she looked all right, and was acting normal, she bled out in her sleep. Bobbie was devastated.

In rescue and advocacy, our message is "Adopt, Don't Shop".

In rescue and advocacy, our message is “Adopt, Don’t Shop”.

It took months before Bobbie felt emotionally ready to get another dog. When she started talking about the type she wanted, I made all the usual noises that animal advocates make: “Don’t buy from a pet store.” “Don’t buy from a backyard breeder.” “Rescues have all types of breeds, check the rescues in your area.” Bobbie listened, and today she has a beautiful little longhaired Chihuahua. I met him this past weekend. But he didn’t come from a rescue, and Bobbie was sure to tell me.

“I tried to adopt a dog from three different rescues and they all turned me down.”

I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt, that whichever those rescues were, they made a mistake. If any of them would’ve let Bobbie adopt one of their dogs, that dog would have been adored and very well taken care of. I asked why they had refused her, and she said that one said she couldn’t keep a dog safe, because of what had happened to Rosie. Another said that her disability would keep her from being able to run after the dog if it got loose (Bobbie has chronic pain and walks with a pronounced limp). Another said that she didn’t have a fenced in yard.

This brought back memories of when my partner and I wanted to adopt a dog from a local rescue. We’ve had dozens of animals and taken very good care of all of them. All but two have lived into the 16-20 year range. But our application was denied because when they had called our vet for a reference and asked about heartworm preventative, our vet said we didn’t buy it from them. So the rescue wanted to know where we got it. Well, we didn’t have our dogs on heartworm preventative, because they were 19 and 20 years old and we felt like the fewer chemicals they ingested at that age, the better. I assured the rescue that we would put the new dog on heartworm preventative, but the representative told me that “wouldn’t be fair to our other dogs”.

Any rescue can make up their own guidelines and requirements when adopting one of their dogs out, but more and more, I’m seeing cases where the caution they are exercising is impeding their mission. The whole point of rescue is to save a dog from death or abuse, and place the animal in a loving, permanent home. Yet too many potential adopters are discounted because the cautionary requirements of the rescue are too stringent.

Nobody, but nobody, is a perfect pet guardian. We all do the best we can do, and we all make mistakes, even those of us who work in advocacy and rescue. The search for a “perfect home” is a dubious quest at best.

How many other potential adopters have those rescues turned down? How many animals

But only if you jump through enough hoops and meet every requirement.

But only if you jump through enough hoops and meet every requirement.

could have been placed — leaving openings to rescue more pets in danger? What do these experiences do to the message we spread of how important it is to “adopt, not shop” from shelters and rescues?

Bobbie got another dog. She bought him from someone whose dog had a litter. Based on her experience, I doubt she’ll ever try to adopt a rescue dog again.

In rescue and advocacy, our actions and requirements shouldn’t be at odds with our message. It would serve most rescues well to regularly evaluate whether any of their adoption requirements are keeping their animals from loving homes.


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Rescue 1:1, Forget the Lip Service.

This post if probably going to be offensive to some people…but there’s something that’s been bothering me for a while now, when advocating for animals via social media.

It’s that person. The one that sees the photo of the dog just hours away from euthanization, or the photo of the dog that’s lost, or the photo of the dog that’s been so terribly abused that she needs medical help immediately– and writes in the comments “Praying for this baby”.

I’m not really sure what that means. Does it mean “praying” as in “hoping”? Or is the person really petitioning a spiritual deity to intercede on the dog’s behalf? Because, if it’s the first type of praying, that’s useless; and if it’s the second type of praying, it’s unnecessary.

The dogs who are in danger and in need of help don’t need a spiritual being to intercede on their behalf. They need PEOPLE to intercede on their behalf.

In less time than it takes to type “Praying for this baby”, that person could do something really useful and click the share button, or donate a few dollars to the rescue.

There are no divine miracles in rescue — just the practical miracles that result from hard work. People willing to do whatever they can do, no matter how big or how small. People who will step up and take action to achieve a goal.

So, a note to you pray-ers: If you want to pray, then pray. But praying doesn’t preclude taking practical action, does it? There’s more than one means to an end. Some of the most powerful stories in the bible are about people stepping outside of their comfort zone and taking action. The story of the Good Samaritan is one of them.

Luke 10:29

29  But wanting to prove himself righteous,+ the man said to Jesus: “Who really is my neighbor?” 30  In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jer′i·cho and fell victim to robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went off, leaving him half-dead. 31  Now by coincidence a priest was going down on that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. 32  Likewise, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the opposite side. 33  But a certain Sa·mar′i·tan+ traveling the road came upon him, and at seeing him, he was moved with pity. 34  So he approached him and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. Then he mounted him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35  The next day he took out two de·nar′i·i,* gave them to the innkeeper, and said: ‘Take care of him, and whatever you spend besides this, I will repay you when I return.’ 36  Who of these three seems to you to have made himself neighbor+ to the man who fell victim to the robbers?” 37  He said: “The one who acted mercifully toward him.”+ Jesus then said to him: “Go and do the same yourself.”+

I suppose it’s possible that the priest and the Levite both prayed for the unfortunate man, but the Samaritan took action.

So, forget the lip service and get those fingers clicking!


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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.



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/ 

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