“Ball Dogs” Steal Limelight at Tennis Open

The U.S. Tennis Open is officially underway in Flushing Meadows, New York! Players like Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, and Serena Williams are all competing for the coveted grand slam title. But at a recent tournament, these tennis pros weren’t the only ones chasing balls…

A team of four shelter dogs served as “ball dogs” at the 2016 Brazil Open. Rescued from the streets of Sao Paulo, the dogs (Frida, Costela, Mel and Isabelle) “dutifully retrieved the balls” during an exhibition match between Roberto Baena of Spain and Gastao Elias of Portugal. They then surrendered the balls to the players and trainers, although sometimes “reluctantly”.

The initiative was no cost saving measure. According to organizer Marli Scaramella, president of the local ABEAC shelter, the event aimed to “educate people about the charity and raise awareness about all the dogs…looking for a home”. As an added bonus, it “show[ed] people that a well-fed and well-treated animal can be very happy”.

Andrea Beckert, who trained the dogs over several months, confirmed the goal. She explained, “These are dogs that were mistreated. We want[ed] to show that abandoned dogs can be adopted and trained”.

Of course, training the pups was no walk in the park. The dogs were often distracted as they learned their commands (“pick the ball,” “let it go,” “stay” and “come”). Also, because they were abused, they scared easily. “We had to make them adapt, feel the environment, the court, the noise of the balls, and the noise of the people”.

But, in the end, the dogs delivered! In fact, they “got more attention than the players themselves”, sparking frequent claps and cheers. Now, the dogs “just need to work on dropping the ball a bit quicker”…

If you would like to adopt a dog, please consider one of our partners: Animal House Shelter, the Austin Humane Society, City Dog Rescue, Lucky Dog Animal Rescue, the New Hampshire SPCA, and PAWS New England.

Justice for Juno! Court Rules that Pets aren’t “Property”

Dogs across Oregon are wagging their tags after a landmark ruling last month. The state’s Supreme Court found that dogs are not mere property, but rather “sentient beings capable of experiencing pain, stress, and fear”. As such, they can be examined and treated for medical purposes without a warrant.

It all started with a dog named Juno. In 2010, the Oregon Humane Society (OHS) received a call alleging that Juno was abused, starving, and locked up for hours a day. OHS immediately sent an officer, who found Juno “in a bad state, with no fat on his body”. He was dry-heaving and attempting to eat “random things” in the yard.

The officer seized Juno and delivered him to an OHS veterinarian. Dr. Hedge could immediately discern from the visible ribs and vertebrae that Juno was malnourished. In fact, on a scale of 1 – 9, she rated Juno as 1.5 (emaciated). Less obvious, however, was the cause of Juno’s condition. Was it a parasite, disease, or simply neglect by his owner?

To determine, Dr. Hedge drew a blood sample for laboratory testing. The test “revealed nothing medically wrong with Juno that would have caused him to be thin”. Instead, the blame rested with Juno’s owner, Amanda Newcomb. Newcombe was subsequently charged by with second-degree animal neglect.

Justice served! Well, not yet…Newcombe maintained that Juno was a pet and pets are property. Thus, the drawing of Juno’s blood without a warrant violated her 4th amendment right (against unreasonable searches of her property). In response, the prosecution argued that Juno has a right to medical care and freedom from neglect. Moreover, if it is legal to examine a child for abuse, it should be legal for Juno too.

The trial court sided with the prosecutor and convicted Newcombe. But in 2014, the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed the decision, despite the howls of animal activists. It wasn’t until June 2016 that the Oregon Supreme Court reinstated the original trial court ruling. Victory!

Of course, the court did limit the ruling’s scope. Specifically, the court stated that it applies only to animals that have been seized lawfully on suspicion of abuse or neglect. Furthermore, it only permits “medically appropriate procedures” to diagnose and treat an animal in ill-health.

Regardless, this is a “significant ruling“. It adds “nuanced contours” to humans’ “dominion” over animals and associated privacy rights. At the same time, the ruling “has very practical implications”. According to Lora Dunn of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, it enables seized animals to be examined and treated much more quickly than before, as securing a warrant “can take hours”. The Oregon Humane Society agrees, stating that “This ruling removes what could have been a major roadblock to cruelty investigations”.

Want to learn more or adopt your own little Juno? Contact the Oregon Humane Society, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, or our partners, Animal House Shelter, Caldwell Animal Rescue, Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary, and PAWS New England.

 

 

Sin City does Good Deed for Dogs

Las Vegas, Nevada, is known for its vices. But on January 6, the Las Vegas City County took a virtuous step for local pets. It approved an ordinance that forbids pet stores from selling dogs from so-called “puppy mills”. Rather, pet stores are only permitted to sell animals from shelters, rescues, or non-profit humane societies (effective 2018).

The news has cast a bright light on puppy mills in America. In general, puppy mills are “high-volume, substandard dog-breeding operations, which sell purebred or mixed breed dogs, directly or indirectly to unsuspecting buyers”. They often force dogs to live in small, stacked cages, among filth and excrement. They deny dogs proper care, treatment, and interaction. Moreover, they compel female dogs to breed “at every opportunity, with little to no recovery time between litters”. In other words, puppy mills place profit above the well-being of animals.

The effect on dogs is truly deplorable. To begin, many puppy mill dogs suffer from serious physical health issues. Congenital conditions like epilepsy, heart disease and respiratory disorders are common, as “puppies are bred without proper genetic consideration”. Viruses and parasites spread due to the unsanitary conditions and close living quarters. And breeding females are often “physically depleted to the point that they no longer can reproduce”.

The mental health effects are also enough to make any dog whimper. The separation of puppies from their mothers and siblings—often at just 6 weeks old—deprives the puppies of critical socialization opportunities. As a result, the puppies often develop problem like fear, anxiety, shyness, aggression, and other behavioral issues.

Sadly, those are the “lucky dogs”. After all, puppy mills produce a huge supply of puppies. This supply exceeds the number of loving homes or shelter spots. Thus, every year in the United States, approximately 1.2 million dogs are euthanized.

But, on a positive note, what happens in Vegas…doesn’t always stay in Vegas! At least 110 other cities have passed a similar ban on the sale of puppy mill pets. This includes Los Angeles, Austin, Albuquerque, Phoenix, Chicago, and Miami Beach. Furthermore, over half of US states have “chosen to legislate higher standards of care for commercially bred animals beyond the bare minimums” required by the federal Animal Welfare Act.

As an individual, you can also help “man’s best friend”. Next time you pass a pet store, don’t ask “How much is that doggie in the window?” Rather, opt to adopt from a local shelter or rescue!

To learn more, or to view adoptable pets, please visit: Animal House Shelter, Austin Pets Alive, City Dog Rescue, Eden Animal Haven, the New Hampshire SPCA, and Pet Project Rescue.

Pets as Presents: Wise or Risky?

9356With less than two weeks until Christmas, many are scrambling to find that perfect holiday gift. Certainly, puppies and kittens have much to offer: loyalty, companionship, unconditional love. But should pets really be on holiday gift lists?

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) thinks so. According to the non-profit, the holidays are an ideal time to adopt a pet as “many of us have time off, and we are around and focused on home and family”. Furthermore, studies indicate that 86% of gifted pets remain with the family until their passing – the same rate as for other pets. Finally, as the ASPCA learned in previous years, prohibiting pet adoptions during the Christmas season leads to overcrowding and sickness at shelters.

But not all humane societies agree. In fact, many strongly discourage the practice of giving pets as gifts. A veterinary surgeon at the PDSA explains, “The recipient may not be prepared for how much time, money or responsibility being a pet owner involves”. Research reveals that 92% of owners “drastically underestimate the lifetime cost of owning a dog”. The British Columbia SPCA adds that the pet may not match the owners’ lifestyle and personality, leaving it vulnerable to abandonment.

Gifting pets at Christmas time is even more problematic. All the noise and excitement of the holiday can distress new pets, who require at least 48 hours of “peace and quiet to settle in”. Owners may be too distracted to properly bond with their animal. The “abundance of holiday food” and candy can pose a dietary or choking hazard. And the arrival and departure of guests creates opportunities for escape.

Moreover, gifting pets to children sends the message that animals are “playthings”. Yet, “Unlike with other holiday presents, owners cannot just pop in a fresh battery or put the pet in the closet after the novelty wears off”.Lastly, but importantly, buying pets at Christmas time can give rise to puppy mills. In the words of the Dalmatian Club of America, “You need only look in the classified ads to see the flood of people trying to turn the family pet into the Christmas Money Maker”.

So what can you give the animal lover on your list? The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Los Angeles suggests a gift certificate to a shelter, so the person or family can select their pet when the timing is right. Givers could also pair the certificate with a basket of pet supplies, such as toys, collars, leashes, treats, bedding etc. But perhaps the best gift for animal lovers is educational material (e.g. books, videos, animal magazines) to help inform their decision.

To learn more, please contact one of our non-profit partners: Animal House Shelter, the Austin Humane Society, City Dog Rescue, the Harmony House for Cats, Lucky Dog Animal Rescue, or PAWS Humane Society.

Flickr photo credit: Don Graham