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If only the real “Bachelor” was this good

A New Mexico animal shelter has produced a pretty brilliant two-minute parody of “The Bachelor” with women vying for the attention of a handsome cur named Stewart.

“… With Valentine’s Day it just seemed like the perfect time to do that,” said Jamie Merideth, a former TV news videographer who went to work last year as a videographer for the Santa Fe Humane Society.

“We’re trying to find these animal forever homes and it just seemed like a good platform to do that,” she added.

The video’s message, of course, is that the love of your life may be waiting for adoption in an animal shelter.

But the video’s beauty also lies in its highly professional, and highly hilarious, execution.

Most of the “actresses” work at the humane society.

They play the roles of a hair stylist, an art therapist, a professional dog walker and an attorney — all oozing drama and reflecting the kind of cattiness the program is known for as they compete for Stewart’s affections.

Stewart, the ever so hunky bachelor, was a shelter dog in real life. His owner (who’s also in the video) adopted him from the Washington Humane Society before moving from Maryland to Santa Fe.

He represents the 100 or so dogs available for adoption at the Santa Fe shelter on any given day.

“He’s an amazing bachelor. He has the look, just very handsome,” Merideth told KRQE.

The video was posted Friday on the humane society’s Facebook page.

The Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society, located on a four-building campus on a 100-acre lot, has long been regarded as one of the most progressive in the country.

Now we know it’s packed with some pretty talented humans, too.

Is America really running out of dogs?

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America is going to run out of dogs.

That, stunningly, was the conclusion of a Mississippi State University study funded by (and this is the important part) an organization that represents the American Kennel Club, the American Pet Product Association, PetSmart, breeders and other pet industry leaders.

The study disputes oft-cited figures from the leading animal welfare organizations, which estimate between 1.9 million and 2.5 million dogs are euthanized by shelters every year.

Instead, the study says, fewer than 780,000 unwanted dogs are being euthanized a year, many of them dangerous or damaged, and America will soon not to be able to meet the demand for dogs through shelter dogs alone.

Not that it currently does, or ever has.

The Pet Leadership Council funded the study, then hired additional analysts to “interpret” (read, spin) the results.

As a result, the message they are putting forth is not that progress is being made in reducing the numbers of unwanted animals that end up euthanized (the reality), but that America is going to run out of dogs (the new myth).

In a press release, the PLC says it is “welcoming” the study’s findings — as opposed to saying they paid for it — and that those findings show a need for more “responsibly bred” dogs.

“Mississippi State’s study will also have a significant impact on the national conversation about responsible pet ownership,” said Mike Bober, President of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council and consultant to the PLC. “Without this concrete data as a starting point, it has been all but impossible to discuss solutions because we couldn’t agree on the scope of the problem. This data also provides valuable information for those contemplating legislation that impacts the availability of dogs in their communities.”

Here are the far from solid numbers the study came up with.

American shelters are taking in 5.5 million dogs a year, about half of which end up euthanized. America, based on census figures, ownership patterns and the life-span of dogs, needs about 8.1 million dogs a year to maintain current levels of ownership.

With only 2.6 million dogs being adopted out of shelters each year and far fewer transferred or euthanized, “that means millions more must come from other sources.”

Meaning breeders. Meaning large scale puppy mills and store bought dogs and all those other things that helped lead to the dog overpopulation problem in the first place and are better off gone.

“It’s a total myth for anybody to say or think that every American who wants a dog can go to a shelter and find one,” said Mark Cushing of the Animal Policy Group, the lobbying firm that “crunched the numbers.”

“Increasingly the ones we are euthanizing are very sick or dangerous,” he added.

So shelter dogs are going to run out, they’d like to have you believe, except maybe for the dangerous and sick ones you wouldn’t want in the first place.

That’s not only balderdash, it’s the kind of fear tactics that have become so common in the world of politics and persuasion — somehow even more loathsome when applied to the world of homeless dogs.

The study seems to assume that shelters are the only source of homeless dogs, when in fact rescue groups, formal and informal, have become an increasingly popular option and are finding homes for more and more dogs. Nor does it seem to address the number of non-professionally bred dogs being born, despite more spaying and neutering. Nor does it address the hundreds of millions of unwanted dogs in other countries in need of homes.

The Pet Leadership Council commissioned the study as a follow-up to a survey it previously commissioned on dog ownership rates and where people get their dogs. A lobbying group that advises the council then used the study to extrapolate that Americans wanted more than 8 million dogs in 2016 and will want more than 9.2 million by 2036, the Washington Post reported.

The study suggests that euthanasia estimates by the Humane Society of the United States and the No Kill Advocacy Center, both of which say about 2.5 million animals are killed in shelters each year, may be based in large part on animals other than dogs.

The research was funded by the Pet Leadership Council, which represents organizations including the American Kennel Club and the American Pet Products Association; PetSmart and other large retail stores; and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, which is the legislative and lobbying voice of the pet industry.

Mike Bober, the president and CEO of PIJAC, which regularly lobbies on behalf of commercial-scale dog breeders and pet stores at the legislative level, said the study shows dog breeding and retail sales must remain protected under state and federal laws.

“Adoption can’t be our only option when it comes to helping Americans find their ideal, lifelong companions,” Bober said. “Responsibly bred puppies are an essential part of the equation.”

The industry push comes at a time that “adopt, don’t shop” campaigns urging consumers to shun breeders and pet stores are showing some results.

According to the Humane Society, more than 200 localities have passed “puppy mill” laws in the past two years that sometimes make it illegal for pet stores to source dogs anywhere other than shelters and rescuers. A similar state-level law is under consideration in New Jersey.

Breeders and pet-store owners see such legislation as misguided, saying there are not enough dogs in U.S. shelters to fill annual consumer demand.

“Our concern was that so many very different estimates have been generated by a number of entities that have often led to conflicting conclusions,” said Bob Vetere, president and chief executive of the American Pet Products Association. “It is important to have a solid understanding of the facts before making decisions impacting the supply and availability of healthy dogs.”

The study’s findings were presented Tuesday at the North American Veterinary Community conference in Florida. While the Pet Leadership Council issued a press release about the study Wednesday, it has yet to be published in a scientific journal.

The study is based on a telephone survey of 413 shelters, out of an estimated 7,100 shelters nationwide.

Using data from the surveyed shelters, the researchers concluded that more than 5.5 million dogs enter shelters each year, about 2.6 million get adopted, and that fewer than 780,000 are euthanized. The remainder are returned to their owners, or transferred to other rescues or shelters, the study said.

Evanger’s recalls Hunk of Beef dog food

ct-evangers-pet-food-recall-0209-biz-20170208-001Evanger’s is recalling some lots of its “Hunk of Beef” canned dog food after it was found to contain a sedative used to euthanize animals.

Four dogs in Washington state became sick on New Year’s Eve after eating the food, and one died, the Wheeling, Illinois-based company said.

Tests on a deceased pug named Talula found the drug pentobarbital, a sedative, in the dog’s stomach. The owner’s other pugs were sick after consuming the food, but survived.

It’s the first recall in the company’s 82-year history.

Evanger’s has ended its relationship with a beef supplier and promised to guarantee the safety of its products in the future, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The pentobarbital was detected in one lot of Hunk of Beef Au Jus, and company officials are stumped on how it got there.

Pentobarbital can affect animals that ingest it by causing drowsiness, dizziness, excitement, loss of balance, nausea and death.

On the family-owned company’s website, a video has been posted in which members of the Sher family, which owns it, explain that pentobarbital can be found in other dry pet foods if they are made with euthanized cow meat.

“We were unaware of the problem of pentobarbital in the pet food industry because it is most pervasive in dry foods that source most of their ingredients from rendering plants, unlike Evanger’s, which mainly manufactures canned foods that would not have any rendered materials in its supply chain,” the owners said.

They added that once an animal has been euthanized there are no regulations requiring veterinarians to tag the meat as such, allowing the meat to find its way into the food chain.

Although only one lot was found to be affected, the company has recalled five lots, distributed to retail locations and sold online in Washington, California, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. They were manufactured the week of June 6 – June 13, 2016, and have an expiration date of June 2020.

The recall applies to lot numbers starting with 1816E03HB, 1816E04HB, 1816E06HB, 1816E07HB, and 1816E13HB, The second half of the barcode reads 20109, which can be found on the back of the product label.

Evanger’s says all of its meat suppliers are USDA approved, and that it is still investigating how the substance entered their raw material supply.

Consumers who still have cans with the lot numbers should return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-847-537-0102 between 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM Central Time, Monday – Friday.

Evanger’s has apologized on its website, promised transparency and posted several updates for customers.

“We are sorry we let you down, but we will make a better pet industry because of it,” Evanger’s owners wrote. “First and foremost we are pet parents,” they wrote.

The Sher family said they paid veterinary bills for the four pugs in Washington state and made a donation to a local animal shelter.

Protecting animals just got a lot harder

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For journalists, animal welfare activists and all Americans, accessing information that can help protect animals just got a lot harder.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday abruptly removed inspection reports and other information from its website that keeps tabs on the treatment of animals at research laboratories, zoos, dog breeding operations and other facilities.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said court rulings and privacy laws were responsible for the decision, though many suspect President Trump or members of his transition team are behind it.

APHIS said the removed documents, which included records of enforcement actions against violators of the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act, would now be accessible only through Freedom of Information Act requests.

Those can take up to a year or more to be approved.

The records that had been available were frequently used by animal welfare advocates to monitor government regulation of animal treatment at circuses, research laboratories, zoos and puppy mills.

lolitakillerwhaleAnimal welfare organizations say the removal of the information will allow animal abuse to go unchecked.

“The USDA action cloaks even the worst puppy mills in secrecy and allows abusers of Tennessee walking horses, zoo animals and lab animals to hide even the worst track records in animal welfare,” said John Goodwin, senior director of the Humane Society’s Stop Puppy Mills Campaign.

“This move makes it IMPOSSIBLE to find out where animals are located, their treatment and any violations, essentially giving carte blanche to anyone to hide animal violations, and violate animal welfare laws, among other things,” the Beagle Freedom Project said in a statement on Facebook.

The lack of immediately accessible inspection reports is expected to cause problems in seven states that currently require pet stores to source puppies from breeders with clean USDA inspection reports. No longer will they have a quick way to check on that.

In a statement, Kathy Guillermo, the senior vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, called it “a shameful attempt to keep the public from knowing when and which laws and regulations have been violated. Many federally registered and licensed facilities have long histories of violations that have caused terrible suffering.”

Whether President Trump is directly responsible for the website purging isn’t clear, but one member of his USDA transition team, Brian Klippenstein, has a long history of fighting animal welfare organizations.

Klippenstein is executive director of Protect the Harvest, a group that, among other things, has opposed legislation to regulate puppy mills. The group was started by Forrest Lucas, an oil magnate, cattle rancher and arch nemesis of the Humane Society of the United States.

The change came two days after U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert, a California Republican, introduced a bill calling for more transparency and a reduction in testing on animals at government research labs.

beagle-5The bill is backed by an advocacy group, the White Coat Waste Project, which has been using the USDA-APHIS database to gather much of its information on animal testing at hundreds of federal laboratories.

“There was already a troubling lack of transparency about what happens in government-funded labs,” said Justin Goodman, the group’s vice president for advocacy and policy. “This was a very important resource for us, and for every animal organization, in terms of tracking patterns of animal use and compliance, whether it’s in labs or other settings.”

The USDA web page where the information was located now brings up the announcement about its removal.

The Humane Society of the United States has threatened to sue the Agriculture Department if the decision to block Internet access to the database isn’t reversed.

“We intend to sue them unless they take remedial action here,” Humane Society President and CEO Wayne Pacelle told TIME. “The clock starts ticking immediately.”

monkeyThe searchable database allowed anyone to check government regulation of how animals are treated at about 9,000 zoos, circuses, research laboratories, dog breeding operations and other facilities.

Up until late last week, the site also allowed dog buyers to look up specific breeders by license number and see any possible violations under the breeder’s name before buying the animal.

“I’m very concerned that there will be no incentive for breeders or research labs or any of these facilities to comply because the public won’t know,” said Elizabeth Oreck, national manager of puppy mill initiatives for Best Friends Animal Society.

“It’s going to impact every species of animals,” she added. “There shouldn’t be any reason to hide inspection reports for a dog breeding facility or a research lab. There shouldn’t be any need to keep from the public how many animals you have [in] your facility or whether or not you’re complying with care standards. That alone is a big red flag for everybody.”

“The posting of these documents has been an invaluable tool in rooting out some of the worst abuses that are occurring,” HSUS CEO Pacelle said. “Essentially, this is now going to give a bit of a get-out-of-jail card to horse soring, puppy mills, delinquent roadside zoos and animals research labs that are flouting the law.”

The Humane Society says the Agriculture Department is required to make its inspection records at animal research facilities public under a court order.

HSUS sued the government in 2005 over public access to the reports and won a settlement in 2009 that directed the Agriculture Department to post certain data on its website related to research on animals. That information, the Humane Society said, was among the data that was just purged from government website.

The USDA did not comment on the Humane Society’s threat of legal action.

In a statement explaining the change late last week, APHIS cited a year-long “comprehensive review” of public information on its website.

“Based on our commitment to being transparent, remaining responsive to our stakeholders’ informational needs, and maintaining the privacy rights of individuals, APHIS is implementing actions to remove documents it posts on APHIS’ website involving the Horse Protection Act and the Animal Welfare Act that contain personal information,” the statement said.

“Going forward, APHIS will remove from its website inspection reports, regulatory correspondence, research facility annual reports, and enforcement records that have not received final adjudication,” the statement added.

rabbitYesterday, the USDA released another statement, saying the change had nothing to do with the new administration:

“In 2016, well before the change of Administration, APHIS decided to make adjustments to the posting of regulatory records. In addition, APHIS is currently involved in litigation concerning, among other issues, information posted on the agency’s website. While the agency is vigorously defending against this litigation, in an abundance of caution, the agency is taking additional measures to protect individual privacy. These decisions are not final. Adjustments may be made regarding information appropriate for release and posting.”

Criticism of the change has not been limited to animal welfare activists.

Speaking of Research, an international organization that supports laboratory use of research animals, said in a blog post:

“When information is hidden … the public wonders what is being hidden and why, and researchers must devote even more resources to combating the public perception that they are not transparent.”

It’s my gun show and I’ll cry if I want to

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Let’s all join together in a giant boo-hoo for Thomas Allman, who says his health was put at risk when a service dog entered his gun show over the weekend.

Allman kicked out the dog — and the Bronze Star-winning veteran the dog accompanied (that’s them above) — saying the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) didn’t apply to them at his gun show. He explained his reasoning this way:

“It doesn’t apply because he’s not setting up at my gun show because we don’t allow dogs in my gun show,” he told Fox 14 News. (Click the link for video.)

The nerve of that veteran! Thinking he could just waltz into a gun show and put everyone else’s health at risk with a dog that helps him cope with injuries he received during his nearly 20 years of service in Iraq.

Did he give any thought that his actions could result in sneezes and stuffy noses among anyone who was allergic (like Allman) as they innocently shopped for new deadly weapons to add to their home arsenals?

Former U.S. Army Sergeant John Williams went to the Tri-State Gun Show at the armory in Evansville on Saturday as a vendor, but he was asked to leave because of his service dog, Winchester.

Williams, appropriately, raised a stink, and called the police, waiting outside for them to arrive and hear his complaint that his rights, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, were being violated.

Winchester was assigned to Williams by the Soldier Dogs for Independence group to help him with mobility.

The president of that group Michael Barrentine, was called to the gun show once he heard what was going on.

“There’s so much irony,” he said. “You have a 21 year veteran of the United States armed forces that’s disabled due to his military service that’s getting kicked out of the armory …”

Williams says he is still contemplating filing charges.

Thomas Allman stages several guns shows a year in Indiana (and whatever other two states comprise the “tri-state” area), allowing folks to show off, buy, sell and trade guns.

Something less than full scrutiny, apparently, is applied to those buying them: “They’ll ask them if they’re a felon or not and all we can do is take their word that they’re not,” Allman once said in a TV interview.

Allman is all for nurturing an environment in which guns can be freely sold and exchanged — something he says is necessary in today’s world.

“What would you do if ISIS came to your door today and you didn’t have any way of protecting yourself? They will come here. They’re coming folks so you better be prepared for them.”

So feel free to bring your guns to the show (unloaded please, he asks). Just don’t bring a dog.

Allman says dogs haven’t been allowed to sit at booths at his shows for the last 20 years. Apparently, he considers it OK for paid guests to bring service dogs, but not vendors (who pay a $50 registration fee).

“You want to come in the gun show and sell your guns, or walk around and look and trade guns with your service dog, we have no problem with that,” Allman said.

Under the ADA, “Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals.”

Allman is allergic to dogs — “I can’t stand to be sick and be put in the hospital” — and apparently gets a little anxious when they are around, as he also does amid talk of laws restricting gun sales.

ftwaynegunshow“Just cause they don’t want one, what’s the right to take anybody else’s away from them?” Allman said in a 2015 interview. “That’s my problem with it and I can’t handle that… This is what we do for a living and have a hobby of doing it and love doing it. It’s freedom. We’re in the United States. It’s freedom.”

Apparently, as he sees it, he’s the one who gets to define freedom. So his shows don’t allow cameras or news media past the entrance, don’t allow service dogs, and insist you don’t enter with a loaded weapon.

(That didn’t stop a visitor, and a drunken one at that, from loading up his .45 caliber handgun after he entered, firing it and injuring a a 72-year-old man and 16-year-old boy during the 2011 show in Evansville.)

We’d suggest that if Allman can’t handle service dogs, he stop holding public gun shows, or hire a representative to oversee them, or take a Zyrtec, or conduct his arms dealing online.

(Photos: At top, Williams and his dog, Winchester, WFIE; at bottom a photo taken at a gun show in Ft. Wayne)

AHA concludes no animals were harmed in the making of “A Dog’s Purpose”

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As expected, the American Humane Association announced that an investigation into the treatment of a dog on the set of “A Dog’s Purpose” confirmed that — like their seal of approval says — no animals were harmed during the making of the movie.

The AHA said the investigation was conducted by a “respected animal cruelty expert,” who concluded that an edited video given to the website TMZ “mischaracterized” the events on the set.

“The decisions by the individual or individuals who captured and deliberately edited the footage, and then waited longer than 15 months to release the manipulated video only days before the movie’s premiere, raise serious questions about their motives and ethics,” the AHA said in a statement.

hercThe AHA (almost as an aside) did admit that Hercules, the German shepherd performing the stunt in question, showed signs of stress that should have been recognized earlier, and efforts to get the dog into the water should have been “gentler.”

Apparently it has no plans to further pursue that piece of the controversy — the one that initially led one actor and the executive producer to say the dog did not appear to have been handled correctly.

The video that aired on TMZ was actually two videos, shot on different days and spliced together in editing — the result of which was misleading, the AHA says, because it makes it appear the dog, after resisting going in the water and becoming stressed, was made to go back into the water.

“The first video scene was stopped after the dog showed signs of stress. The dog was not forced to swim in the water at any time,” the organization said.

While acknowledging attempts to get the dog in the water might have gone on too long, and been a little heavy handed, the investigation didn’t deem that “harmful” to the dog.

The dog resisted going into the pool after the location where he was to enter it had changed.

As for the second part of the video — showing the dog going under the churning water before someone on the set yells “cut it” — the AHA said:

“Handlers immediately assisted the dog out of the water, at which point he was placed in a warming tent and received an examination that found no signs of stress. Eyewitnesses report that the dog wanted to go back in the water. Still, out of an abundance of caution, American Humane stopped filming of any more scenes with the dog.”

The findings of the investigation come as no surprise, given AHA CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert said last week, in a piece she wrote for Variety, that the video was “misleading” and “edited” and reflected no wrongdoing on anyone’s part.

It seemed an unusual statement for the head of the watchdog group to be making, especially before the investigation was completed. While the video’s release was clearly timed to hurt the movie — or at least bring those who provided it to TMZ a maximum payoff — Ganzert’s piece was clearly timed to help the movie.

Ganzert’s piece focused more on the leaking of the video — 15 months after it was shot and in the week before the movie’s release — than on what it showed. She focused primarily on PETA, which called for a boycott of the film based on the video.

In its statement on the results of the investigation, AHA again spends at least as much time bashing PETA as it does on the handler’s questionable efforts to get the dog into the pool, as shown in the video, or whether the monitors they assigned to the film stopped those efforts soon enough.

“It is disappointing that the public was misled by a manufactured controversy promoted by a radical organization like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals with a mission to remove animals from films and other parts of our lives,” Dr. Kwane Stewart, the veterinarian who heads American Humane’s ‘No Animals Were Harmed’ program is quoted as saying in the statement.

“We are the first to address and fight cruelty and abuse, and no such things happened on the set of ‘A Dog Purpose,'” he added.

PETA didn’t leak the video, but it did call for a boycott of the movie after it aired on TMZ, which has not said how much they paid for it, or who provided it.

In a report on the investigation’s findings, TMZ said that the AHA statement “virtually ignores criticism from the movie’s Exec Producer that they were asleep at the wheel.”

Producer Gavin Polone, while bad-mouthing PETA as well, said shortly after the video’s release that its first scene clearly showed an over-stressed dog, and that the AHA monitor on set should have stopped the stunt immediately.

Actor Josh Gad, who supplies the voice of the dogs featured in the movie, also said the video was disturbing and the scene should have been stopped as soon as the dog showed resistance to getting in the water.

(Our earlier reports on “A Dog’s Purpose” can be found here.)

How Trump’s tweets are benefiting dogs

cnbcIt didn’t take long for someone to figure out that having a president who tweets — and tweets from the hip — can lead to some fluctuations in the stock market.

And, this being America, it didn’t take long for someone — in this case a Texas-based digital marketing firm called The Think Tank (T3) — to see that there was some money to be made in that.

But, before you label them greedy profiteers, consider this: The profits they make by short-selling the stock of companies Trump has negatively tweeted about are going to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The ASPCA confirmed to the Washington Post that it has received donations from T3.

“We appreciate their support,” said a spokeswoman, who didn’t comment on what those donations have amounted to.

The company won’t say how much their program, called “Trump and Dump,” has made, either, but described the amount as “YUUUUUUUGE.”

The idea came from a staffer in the company’s New York office.

boeingtweetIt led to the creation by T3 staff of a Twitter bot and algorithm that follows @realDonaldTrump, reviewing each of the many and varied tweets he sends.

When a publicly traded company is mentioned, the bot triggers a “sentiment analysis,” determining if the tweet is going to have a positive or negative effect.

If it leans negative, the algorithm tells a connected E-Trade account to short-sell the stock, which nets T3 a profit.

Short selling means placing a market bet on a share price going down rather than up. (To achieve a better understanding of how exactly short sales work, go somewhere else. This is a dog website, after all.)

lockheed tweetThis week, Trump referred in a tweet to computer problems at Delta Air Lines. T3 made a trade before the stock dropped, and saw a 4.47 percent return. “The Trump & Dump bot was all over it,” said T3 President Ben Gaddis.

lockheedtweet2Stocks dipped for Boeing when Trump, as president-elect, tweeted about the cost of building Air Force One, and they took a dive for Lockheed Martin when he called the expenses of its F-35 jet “out of control.”

Similar stock drops affected automakers Toyota Motor Corp., General Motors and Ford after Trump mentioned them in a tweet about building vehicles in Mexico.

T3 isn’t the first company to capitalize on Trump’s tweets, but it is the first to choose animals as its beneficiaries.

gaddisGaddis said they wanted to fund a cause that would generate minimal controversy, so puppies were an obvious choice.

“We didn’t want to pick an organization that was really political,” Gaddis said, “and who doesn’t love dogs and cats?”

Based in Austin, T3 calls itself an “innovation agency,” working with companies to enhance their digital marketing, mobile applications and website development.