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Getting every last drop from greyhounds

As if racing their hearts out weren’t enough, some greyhounds are retired to dog blood banks where they live caged all day long, except for outings to get their blood drawn.

PETA last month exposed one such kennel, The Pet Blood Bank, Inc., in Cherokee, Texas, which houses about 150 retired greyhounds — solely for the purpose of extracting and selling their blood and blood products.

The products, PETA reported, are distributed by Patterson Veterinary Supply, Inc., which did about $3 billion worth of business in 2016.

After the the PETA expose and a story in The Washington Post, Patterson Veterinary Supply announced it would take steps to correct the horrible conditions they described.

bloodbankBut PETA says no steps have been taken, even after they had Paul McCartney send a plea to the company.

Patterson Veterinary Supply initially announced it would terminate business with the The Pet Blood Bank, Inc.

It also promised to support “efforts to ensure that the animals receive appropriate care.” Bu PETA says it has seen no evidence of any such efforts.

The whistle-blower was Bill Larsen, 60, a former employee of the blood bank who went back to work there and was horrified by how conditions had deteriorated.

Larsen, who took the incriminating photos, said he unsuccessfully sought help from local animal shelters and a state agency before contacting PETA. “I just like dogs,” he said, and “hate for any animal to get treated like that.”

The photos show kenneled dogs with open wounds, rotting teeth and toenails curling into their paw pads.

The blood bank was founded in 2004 by Austin entrepreneur Mark Ziller, who said he initially sought volunteers and used a bloodmobile. When that did not turn up enough dogs, the company began using retired greyhounds housed in a kennel on a private farm northwest of Austin, the Post reported.

Ziller said he sold the company in November 2015 to Shane Altizer, whose family owns the farm in Cherokee.

“The Pet Blood Bank had a noble mission: It provided blood for veterinarians to use in lifesaving transfusions,” Ziller tod the Post. After viewing the photos PETA obtained, he added, “To see the animals in that state is beyond depressing.”

Altizer did not deny that the images were taken there, but said they predated his 2015 purchase of the company or were “moment snapshots” unrepresentative of overall conditions now.

Blood banks help save thousands of animals a year, but they are also profit-driven and unregulated.

With more medical procedures being used by vets, transfusions are more often required, and animal blood banks struggle to meet the demand. Only one state, California, regulates such operations and requires annual inspections.

bloodbank2Greyhounds are considered especially desirable as donors because they typically have a universal blood type and have big neck veins that make drawing blood easy.

Veterinarian Anne Hale, former CEO of the nation’s first and largest commercial animal blood bank, said she visited the Pet Blood Bank this summer and was “pleasantly surprised” with conditions there. After viewing the PETA photos and video though, she said, “It appears that the facility was ‘cleaned up’ before our touring … I agree that this facility should be addressed. This certainly suggests that regional, state and/or federal regulation is warranted.”

Former Beatle McCartney, who wrote a letter on PETA’s behalf, wants to see all the dogs removed from the facility.

“I have had dogs since I was a boy and loved them all dearly, including Martha who was my companion for about 15 years and about whom I wrote the song ‘Martha, My Dear,'” McCartney wrote. “I join my friends at PETA in asking you to pay these greyhounds back, and to let them retire from the dirt-floored, barren conditions in which they are kept isolated and alone.”

(Photos and video from PETA)

Sony working on reincarnating Aibo, this time as a smart home assistant

aiboAibo is coming back, and he hopes to take a bite out of Alexa.

Sony is reportedly re-forming the team behind its discontinued robot dog Aibo, and plans are for him to come back in a form that will compete with Alexa, the artificially intelligent household assistant produced by Amazon.

Aibo made a splash when he was introduced back in 1999, but after a few years consumer interested waned.

In large part that was because, aside from the novelty, he was less than cuddly and really couldn’t do much other than sit and bark.

Nikkei Asian Review reports that Sony is preparing to compete with Amazon, Google and Apple by producing a smart, speaking, more helpful version of the robot dog.

After a 12-year hiatus from robotics, the company announced last year it was turning its attention back to robots. Aibo’s return would be the first of several products brought to the market.

He will engage in all the dog-like behavior the old one did, but this time will be equipped with artificial intelligence, Internet connectivity, and he will speak the human language.

He’ll be able to control home appliances, play music and query the Internet at the command of his owner’s voice. Equipping him with AI will allow consumers to use him the same way they use any other digital assistant, all while being a little more personable, a little more like family, than just a futuristic looking speaker.

Whether the smarter, reincarnated version will be named Aibo isn’t certain yet, but the company says it is a possibility.

Homeless Charlotte man fights to keep dog

lord1

Most homeless people push shopping carts. Alan Lord pushes a dog crate.

Inside that crate on wheels, more often than not, is Levi, his four year old Lab mix.

And that has led to some concerns among those who see them on the streets of Charlotte, and a controversy that the Charlotte Observer reports has pitted do-gooder against do-gooder.

Some dog lovers are urging the Mecklenburg County Animal Care and Control to take the dog, saying the dog spends too much time in the crate and that Lord has turned down most offers of help.

Lord, the animal control office and others say taking that action might be harsh and unfair, that Levi is virtually all Lord has since becoming homeless a year ago, and that while Lord probably could get into a homeless shelter, none in the city allow dogs.

lord2Lord, 43, is not willing to consider that last option.

He’s a former bank employee who lost his job, got divorced and lost his home — all recently — and separating from his 80 pound, 4-year-old dog is unacceptable to him.

“Levi – he’s all I have,” Lord told an Observer reporter last week as he sat in a Bojangles’ parking lot. “He’s my best friend and always will be.”

Ideally, he said, he’d like to move to Hawaii and live with his brother, but he hasn’t been able to pull that off. Lord admits his own back problems have limited the amount of tie Levi spends out of the crate.

Nevertheless, some dog advocates, several of whom have made efforts to help Lord, say the time has come to take his dog away.

“It’s an animal caught in the middle,” said Dina Castanas, who recently organized a community meeting where animal control officials heard from about 25 neighbors who want Levi out of the crate. “Levi has no voice and no choice in the matter.”

Terri McConnell and her husband estimate they have spent about $3,500 trying to help Lord and Levi — on hotel rooms, camping equipment and food.

“We didn’t mind. But then there comes a point where you’re like ‘We’re throwing good money after bad’ … He’s refusing help,” McConnell told the Observer. “The more paranoid he gets about someone trying to take that dog, the worse it’s getting.”

lord3Advocates for the homeless say Lord’s rights should be respected, that his refusal to separate from his dog isn’t unusual, and that — until a homeless shelter in Charlotte starts allowing pets — no one should be insisting that he go into one.

Josh Fisher, director of Animal Care and Control, says the dog is not being neglected or abused and doesn’t seem to be suffering — despite repeated complaints from citizens who say Levi is being kept too long in a too-small crate.

“Suffering is very much in the eyes of the beholder,” he said.

Fisher said his department’s officers have visited the dog almost daily in response to complaints. Levi is up-to-date on his vaccinations, in good health and has a good disposition, he said.

He said officials are working on a permanent housing solution that will allow Lord and Levi to stay together.

(Photos: Diedra Laird / Charlotte Observer)

Size matters: The dog Guinness says has the longest tongue in the world

A fluffy, mostly white St. Bernard named Mochi has licked and drooled her way into the Guinness Book of World Records for having the longest tongue of any living dog.

It’s 7.31 inches.

Mochi will be featured in the 2018 record book and in a new Guinness book, Amazing Animals.

Her owner, Carla Rickert, says the recognition is a huge honor: “It’s going to make all of the water and slobber we’ve cleaned up over the last six and a half years well worth it.”

She and her husband Craig adopted Mochi from a Colorado rescue organization called Big Dogs Huge Paws that rescues and rehomes dogs over 100 pounds.

The couple and Mochi live in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Mochi loves peanut butter, which was used to show just how far that licker can extend when a crew from Guinness filmed the video above last year.

brandyMochi doesn’t have the longest dog tongue ever recorded. That honor belongs to a boxer named Brandy who lived in Michigan and had a 17-inch tongue. That’s nearly as long as a giraffe’s. Brandy died in 2002.

The longest tongue of any mammal, in relation to its body size, is said to belong to the tube-lipped nectar bat. Its tongue is is 3.3 inches — 1.5 times longer than its body — and is so big it must be kept inside the animal’s rib cage when not in use.

The longest human tongue — no surprise here — belongs to a stand-up comic.

According to Guinness, Nick Stoeberl, of Monterey, Calif., has a 3.97-inch tongue — unimpressive by dog standards.

Guinness determines tongue length in dogs by measuring the distance from the tip of the tongue to the snout; a human tongue, meanwhile, is measured from the tip of the tongue to the middle of the top lip.

Stoeberl took the title in 2015, ending a 13-year reign by Stephen Taylor, a 50-year-old British man whose 3.86-inch tongue could, when extended, hold five donuts.

Stoeberl said long tongues — and showing them off — run in his family. His father used to do Gene Simmons imitations, and he and his brother frequently stuck their tongues out at each other. Stoeberl also uses his to paint, earning him the nickname, Lickasso:

What is it? What is it? What is it?

The video above is:

A. Retired Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps’ latest interspecies race challenger, Chewbacca, in training for their upcoming competition.

B. An advertisement for hair conditioner.

C. Cousin Itt, after falling into The Addams Family pool.

D. An Afhgan hound underwater.

“D” would seem the most obvious answer, given the camera eventually reveals a distinctive snout, but the mermaid-ish way the creature’s arms are stroking is not the least bit dog-like.

woof in advertisingIt’s actually an animation — one of a series of ads for Klarna, a Swedish e-commerce company that provides payment services for online storefronts. It’s intended to depict how “smoothly” their transactions take place.

Get it?

Chief Marketing Officer David Sandström said he and is team were trying to think of the smoothest things possible to feature in a video ad. They eventually landed on the idea of a creature with flowing tresses gliding underwater.

“The hair was a big, big part of it,” he told The Daily Dot.

The video floated around for a year on YouTube, receiving little attention.

But when Klarna shared it last month on Instagram, it quickly went viral as people tried to figure out what exactly the swimming creature was.

That — creating the mystery — was the whole idea behind the ad, Sandström said.

“We want to create a feeling of, ‘What the f–k is this?’ It’s important to us that people don’t understand what it is. The internet loves strange things. The internet loves weird.”

And even people who aren’t sure what it is want to know where they can order one, Sandström said.

“People have emailed us saying they want one and asking where they can get one.”

A swift victory for bar dogs in DC

apants

They say nothing gets done quickly in Washington, and at the federal level, “they” are generally right.

Look at the history of health care legislation, or that of immigration reform, or virtually any other issue.

So it’s refreshing to learn that when the DC Health Department decided to wage war on dogs in bars, the DC Council brought an end to it — and in a matter of weeks.

The council unanimously passed emergency legislation allowing businesses to choose whether they want to have pet-friendly patios — and in doing so sent a message to the health department that there are better things it could be doing with its time.

In mid-September, health inspectors, acting on complaints from uptight citizens, told owners of three dog-friendly bars — Midlands in Park View, Wonderland Ballroom in Columbia Heights, and Bardo Brewing — that they couldn’t permit dogs on their premises.

The laws have been around a while, but they are little known and seldom exercised.

Dog owners were quick to react to the crackdown.

Midlands owner Peyton Sherwood, whose bar dog AndyPants has a dog house at the beer garden, called on pet owners to contact their council members. He also hosted a “doggy sit-in and petition signing” to change the law.

A Twitter account, @PupsOnPatios, was created to advocate on behalf of the banished canines.

Other bars joined in the fight and their customers and dog owners inundated D.C. Council members with complaints, leading to emergency legislation to repeal the ban that was introduced and approved Tuesday.

The resolution, led by council members Brianne Nadeau and Vincent Gray, pointed out that the health department should be worrying about more important things, such as opioid abuse, mental health services and health care disparities, according to Washingtonian.com.

“The Department of Health’s limited time and resources are being marshaled to suddenly enforce an unknown and previously unenforced regulation about dogs being allowed in outdoor patio dining areas,” the resolution noted.

The legislation, which still needs the mayor’s approval, returns the decision on whether dogs should be permitted on bar and restaurant patios where it belongs — to bar and restaurant owners.

Under the resolution, businesses can choose whether to allow dogs, and can restrict types of dog based on breed, size, or temperament.

Establishments permitting dogs will be required to have signs clearly stating that dogs are permitted and provide a separate entrance to outdoor areas that do not open into indoor seating areas. Patrons will be required to keep their dogs on leashes.

(Photo: AndyPants, resident dog at Midlands Beer Garden, courtesy of Midlands)

Fraud runs rampant in online pet sales

yorkiepups2

If you’re planning to search online to buy a new dog, be warned: Up to 80 percent of the sponsored advertising links that will show up — like that one above for instance — may be fraudulent.

So might that particular photo of a particularly cute puppy, those purebred “papers” that the seller promises to send along, that pastoral setting in which a breeder’s kennel is supposedly located. And the dog being advertised? It might not even exist at all.

The Better Business Bureau last week issued a report warning that online pet sales scams are “victimizing Americans at an alarming rate.”

A growing demand for dogs and an increase in shopping online have combined to give scammers an unprecedented opportunity to promise to sell you a dog, and leave you much poorer and petless.

The BBB advises extreme caution — and never buying a dog from a breeder without visiting that breeder. Don’t let yourself fall in love with a photo and, as with online dating, be careful of getting your heart broken.

Fake pet sales have become so common that the attorneys general of three states — Ohio, Arizona and Virginia — have issued warnings to residents in the past year, the Washington Post reported last week.

The BBB report says many of the suspected fraudulent websites offering dogs are based in the West African nation of Cameroon, and that Cameroonians residing in the U.S. are being used to collect the money from victims through Western Union and MoneyGram outlets.

Several recent cases prosecuted in the United States involve links to Cameroon, including three Pennsylvania university students accused in May of peddling nonexistent boxer puppies online.

The BBB says a high number of victims of online pet marketing schemes are in their late teens or 20s

Such schemes are usually dependent on bogus, often sophisticated, advertisements to hook unsuspecting consumers.

“In the current digital age, it is no surprise that the first step in many people’s search for a new pet begins with the internet. Alas, even the most careful online search is likely to put a consumer in contact with a potential thief. Reports show there are thousands of people around the country, and the world, who have become victims of puppy scams, and many of these typically begin with a fake web site and stolen photos, often taken from a legitimate site,” the report said.

Greedy “sellers” rarely are satisfied with collecting a deposit; most will demand additional payments until the buyer finally becomes suspicious or runs out of funds.

The scammers often hit the prospective “buyers” with additional charges before any dog is even shipped.
While avoiding any in-person meeting with a potential buyer, they ask victims to send money to a supposed third party who will take over responsibility for transporting the animal. In addition to creating phony websites to advertise the animals, the thieves will develop bogus websites that appear to be legitimate transport companies.

Those who pay for pet shipping often are asked to buy or rent a special crate for the pet and requests for special insurance or shots for the animals. At times, the thieves may claim the pet is stuck at an airport in transit and additional money is needed for food and water.

If a customer balks, the fraudsters might inform them that, unless more money is forthcoming, the potential buyer could be charged with “animal abandonment.”

In one typical case a customer named Yahong Zheng of Omaha, Neb., ordered two huskies from the website huskieshaven.com. He forked over $1,200 and was asked for additional money before realizing it might be a scam.

Kanetria Hutcherson found a teacup Yorkie on the website usa.globalfree-classified-ads.com and wired the company a $195 shipping fee to transport the animal. Soon after wiring the $195 fee through MoneyGram, Hutcherson received an email appearing to be from Delta Air Cargo, claiming the animal needed a special crate before it could be put on the plane. She wired an additional $240.

After that she was told the dog had been transported as far as Oklahoma City, and she was instructed to purchase health insurance for the dog at an additional cost of $980. Later she received another email from Delta Air Cargo that asked for another $200; one instructing her to pay $150 for food and water for the animal; and another informing her the dog neeed to be quarantined at a cost of $1,900.

Not until she called the real Delta Air Cargo was she certain she was being duped.

Delta Air Lines last week filed a lawsuit against what it called a “bogus” site that dupes people into believing it provides pet transport services on Delta jets. The site is called DeltaPetTransit.com.

By then she’d paid nearly $1,000 for a dog originally advertised as free. While the dog was said to belong to a family in Baltimore, the same photo, it turns out, was used to advertise a puppy for sale in Florida, Texas, the U.K., New York, and Hungary.

The BBB Study suggests the actual numbers of pet fraud may be even higher than reported, because many victims either choose not to file complaints or do not know where to turn for help. BBB ScamTracker contains 907 reports on this type of fraud, which represents 12.5% of all their complaints involving online purchase fraud.

The Federal Trade Commission in 2015 found 37,000 complaints involving pets, and the vast majority of those are believed to be pet sales scams.

More information about pet sales scammers can be found at the website petscams.com, which tracks scamming reports victims and lists websites that have been linked to scammers.