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.
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.