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Woof in Advertising: Eukanuba makers agree to drop claims that food extends lifespans

Under pressure from the Federal Trade Commission, the makers of Eukanuba dog food have agreed to stop claiming their brand extends the lives of dogs.

In a settlement that resolves a false advertising complaint filed by the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, Mars Petcare will cease making the claim.

The FTC announced yesterday it had reached a settlement with Mars. Eukanuba began an advertising campaign last year claiming the brand could extend the expected lifespan of a dog by 30 percent or more.

woof in advertisingThe ads — like the longer version promotion shown above — featured aging black Labs, inspiring music and the bold claim that Eukanuba had been “scientifically proven” to extend the lives of dogs.

“Two-thirds of all Americans have pets at home, and they spend billions of dollars to ensure that their pets are healthy and well-fed,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Pet owners count on ads to be truthful and not to misrepresent health-related benefits. In this case, Mars Petcare simply did not have the evidence to back up the life-extending claims it made about its Eukanuba dog food.”

The order settling the FTC’s charges prohibits Mars Petcare from making any misleading or unsubstantiated claims that its Eukanuba-brand pet food or any other pet food will enable any dogs to extend their lifespan by 30 percent or more or live exceptionally long lives.

In May 2015, Eukanaba began the marketing and ad campaign on television, in print, and on the Internet.

“Ten years ago, we launched a long life study,” one ad said. “What we observed was astonishing. With Eukanuba and proper care, dogs in the study were able to live beyond their typical lifespan.”

The ad then showed a dog named Iowa who, at 17, had lived five years beyond than the typical Labrador lifespan.

eukanubaThe ads were based on a “10-year Long Life Study” purportedly carried out at the Eukanuba Pet Health and Nutrition Center. Dozens of Labrador retrievers were fed Eukanuba and given “proper care” over that span.

The study found 90% of the dogs lived beyond the typical lifespan of the breed, with 28% living longer than 15 years.

The study was begun while Eukanuba was still owned by Procter & Gamble Co. Last year, Eukanuba, along with Iams and other smaller brands, was acquired by Mars Petcare.

The FTC alleges that the longevity claims are false or unsubstantiated and that the claim that longevity was proven through scientific evidence is false.

“Among other things, the evidence relied on by [Mars] for its representations concerning the Eukanuba brand dog food consisted primarily of results from a single study, the results of which showed no significant difference in the median age at death of the dogs in the study relative to the typical age at death of dogs of the same breed,” reads the complaint. “Therefore, the representations… were, and are, false or misleading.”

The FTC decision does not penalize the pet food company financially, and under it Mars neither admits nor denies any wrongdoing.

(More of our “Woof in Advertising” posts can be found here.)

When an incoming dog becomes an outgoing dog a little too quickly

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In most big city animal control departments, dogs who are brought in often don’t come out alive.

But here’s a story with a different twist — of a dog in Philadelphia who was brought into animal control by a good Samaritan, but apparently given away by staff before he got much past the front counter.

If you need some idea before you continue of whether this is going to have a happy ending, be advised, yes, sort of. The pit bull mix who was given away before he was fully taken in is still alive, but slightly the worse for wear.

Most fingers are pointing at the front desk staff of the city’s Animal Care and Control Team, which apparently decided to make an exception to its 48-hour hold policy.

Chris Ferraro, 30, was walking his dog near his home in Manayunk when a pit bull mix wandered up. He played with Ferraro’s dog, but when no owner showed up, Ferraro took him to the city’s animal control office.

As columnist Stu Bykofsky explains in the Philadelphia Daily News, Ferraro was filling out the necessary paperwork to turn a dog in when another man approached the desk and asked if Jake was his dog.

When Ferraro said no, the other man asked if he could have him.

“No,” Ferraro replied. “He’s someone else’s dog.”

An ACCT kennel attendant interrupted the exchange, and told the man he could have the dog — after the owner had a chance to reclaim him.

By policy, the office holds dogs 48 hours before allowing them to be adopted.

But, as Ferraro watched, and protested, that policy was apparently violated. The second man’s information was taken by ACCT and Jake — who had no tags or microchip — was later allowed to leave with the man.

Meanwhile, Jake’s owners, Vickie and Mark Remolde, were working to find him. They’d checked with the Montgomery County SPCA, and put up fliers when he disappeared July 13.

On July 15, Mark went to ACCT, looked for Jake among the animals sheltered there and left some fliers.

As it turns out, that visit was within the 48-hour window for owners to reclaim their dogs. But Jake was long gone — given to that other man, who from the sound of it, was not too thoroughly vetted.

It wasn’t until a few days later that the Remoldes heard that Ferraro had turned a dog that looked like Jake into ACCT, made contact with him, and returned, twice, to the animal control office.

ACCT staff, this time, was able to locate the man who had Jake and, unable to reach him, went to the address he had provided.

He wasn’t there.

“I started crying,” said Vickie. “This guy took him for purposes that were not good, and how could you give my dog to a man in the lobby who was there to intercept dogs?”

Several days later, the man brought Jake in.

According to Vickie Remolde, “Jake is 10 to 15 pounds lighter; he had a red rash on his neck; and something was wrong with his tail … It was black, like charcoal.”

ACCT executive director Vincent Medley told the Daily News that Ferraro had left before completing the intake form. Ferraro denies that and says he was told he was no longer needed.

The new owner’s form was being processed when he left, Ferraro said.

Medley said that if Ferraro was uncomfortable with the proceedings, he should have asked for a supervisor.

Spoken like a true bureaucrat, right?

Rather than shift the blame and cover its butt, ACCT should be investigating that second man, and what happened to Jake, and why staff didn’t follow the agency’s own policy.

(Photo: Philly.com)

“Erect-tail dysfunction:” Losing the wag

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The university that cloned the first mammal is now investigating why some older dogs — especially those in colder climes — sometimes experience limp tails.

A study at Edinburgh University in Scotland says the phenomenon known as ‘limber tail,’ which causes a dog’s tail to become limp and difficult to move, tends to affect larger working breeds, and is more common among dogs who live in the north.

The study of dozens of dogs found that the chance of a dog developing the condition rose by 50 per cent for each additional degree of latitude further north he or she lived.

Working dogs, who spend more time outdoors, and those who enjoy swimming were also around five times more likely to develop “limber tail,” which is also known as “cold tail” or “swimmer’s tail.” More informally, the condition is sometimes referred to as a dog “losing their wag.”

Personally, we like the name a Telegraph headline writer gave the condition: Erect-tail dysfunction.

No, this is not The Onion you’re reading, and this is not a joke — at least not to the dogs who get it. Owners report that it can be very painful and distressing for the dogs.

“We were surprised by how many owners were reporting limber tail to us but it meant we had the chance to do a detailed investigation,” said Dr. Carys Pugh, of The Roslin Institute and Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies.

The Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies, commonly referred to as the Dick Vet, is no joke, either. It’s the veterinary school of the University of Edinburgh.

Dolly the sheep, the world’s first mammal clone, was born at the Roslin Institute in 1996, marking a new era of biological control. Nine years later the cloning of dog — the 18th species successfully cloned — was achieved by scientists in South Korea.

limptaillabIn the limber tail research, a team at the University of Edinburgh compared 38 cases of dogs with limber tail with 86 dogs that had no symptoms.

Those affected by limber tail were more likely to be working dogs, and more likely to regularly swim.

The condition, which was first reported in the scientific press in 1997, is thought to affect around 60,000 dogs in Britain, “but owners often struggle to find out what is wrong with their pets as there is little literature available,” the Telegraph reported.

It’s generally not a lifelong condition; rather, it resolves itself within a few days or weeks.

The researchers hope further studies will identify genes associated with the condition, which could one day help breeders to identify animals that are likely to be affected.

Caroline Kisko, Secretary of Kennel Club, which funded the research through its charitable trust, said owners should be careful not to over-expose their dogs to the cold.

“The condition is rare, but is it most often seen in working dogs such as Labrador retrievers, flat coated retrievers and pointers. Dogs usually recover their normal tail posture and function over a period of days or weeks, however it can be painful.”

Gudrun Ravetz, junior vice president of the British Veterinary Association warned owners not to become so worried about the cold that they stop exercising their pets.

“Limber tail is rarely seen in veterinary practices and the research indicates that most owners do not seek veterinary attention for this problem,” she said.

(Photos: Top, a young chocolate Lab with a perky and lively tail; bottom, an older chocolate Lab whose tail has gone limber)

Who doesn’t enjoy a good bedtime story?

Jenna Beardé made an exception to her “no dogs on the bed” rule when her son, River, said he wanted to read a story, before his nap, to one of their dogs.

Ronnie, a deaf pit bull, jumped up and made himself comfortable, which meant Macy, another family dog, had to get up there, too.

As they settled in, River started reading, and Jenna, who normally reads her two-year-old son a naptime story, sat back and watched.

By about the third book, both dogs — resting on their backs, legs splayed — appeared to be asleep, Jenna told the Kansas City Star, which reported on the video Jenna took after it went viral.

She posted the video to Facebook, and a week later it had been viewed 22 million times.

On top being atrociously cute, the video, in her view, gives some much needed positive attention to pit bulls, which are illegal in several municipalities around Kansas City.

Ronnie, the dog lying closest to River in the video, is a rescued pit bull. Macy, a black and white terrier mix and the first dog the family rescued, was often mistaken for one, prompting her and her husband Michael to move from Prairie Village, which banned the breed.

The couple — hairstylists who own Beardé Salon in Mission — relocated to Spring Hill to raise their family.

Ronnie, between his disability and his designation as a pit bull, had spent 500 days in a shelter, and been returned twice, when they adopted him.

Jenna has documented Ronnie’s life with the family on a Facebook page called Ronnie’s Life. That’s where she first posted the video of her son reading to him.

River also reads to his pet pig — and anyone else who will listen, according to his mother.

That dog poop app was a bunch of crapp

pooper-ui-device3Pooper, that new app that promised to send a human to scoop up your dog’s poop on demand — Uber-style — was, as we suspected, a bunch of crap.

Its originators have now confessed — to Newsweek and others — that it was a hoax, or, to put it nicely, “an art project that satirizes our app-obsessed world.”

While a good many media outlets presented the story with at least a little skepticism — skepticism being easier than getting to the bottom of the story — more than a few fell for it hook, line and sinker.

After its initial announcement, Pooper garnered media attention from around the world.

Even the Washington Post treated it as (mostly) legit.

“We’ve gotten hundreds of sign-ups,” Ben Becker told Newseek. Becker came up with a hoax with a friend, Elliot Glass. “People have been signing up to be both poopers and scoopers.”

Newsweek reported:

Becker, a creative director in the advertising world, and Glass, a designer and web developer in Los Angeles, hatched the idea this past winter during a discussion about navel-gazing startup culture.

“We wanted to begin a project that reflected the state of technology—specifically apps,” says Becker in a phone interview. “Taking the visual signifiers and language and the entire world and inhabiting it, inserting an absurd purpose for it. In this case, that would be dog poop.”

Throughout the spring, Becker and Glass spent weekends and late nights plotting “Pooper,” an inane but otherwise believable app that parodies Silicon Valley’s brand of innovation: It purports to solve a problem that doesn’t exist unless you are very rich and lazy.

Whether you see it as a satirical art project, social experiment, or scam, the whole thing did show how gullible we, as a species, are; how increasingly gullible (and lazy) much of the news media has become; and how all is not peachy with our economy.

It’s not like 99 percent of us signed up to clean up after the one percent’s dogs, but a lot more signed up to be scoopers than did those thinking they might want to use the service.

Becker and Glass used Uber as a model for the app and website, issued a press release and put together a demo video. They claimed the project was in the beta testing phase in a few major cities.

News organizations couldn’t resist the story.

As Newsweek reported, some publications “wrote about Pooper in a skeptical, this-is-maybe-fake-but-we’re-going-to-write-about-it-anyway voice, which is increasingly how bloggers write up hoaxy stories as a way of scooping up traffic without touching shit.”

(We’d agree, and that’s what we did. Then again, there’s not too many dog poop stories we ignore, and it was one of my websites that, tongue in cheek, promoted the idea of dog poop valets years ago.)

Ludicrous as it may sound, it, and the phony Pooper app, are not entirely outlandish ideas. There are some aging and afflicted folks who might need help with the task. And — apologies to all my very close professional dog walker friends — but is having one walk and clean up after one’s dog really that different?

Becker and Glass told Newsweek they are at work on other undisclosed schemes — even though they’ve already proven that their high tech hijinks are not to be trusted.

That’s kind of their point.

“We’d like people to question what they’re reading in the news, question what they’re looking at online and question what their own relationship is to technology,” Becker said.

Without some diversity, English bulldogs could become a breed of the past

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Due to centuries of selective breeding, and the efforts of breeders to keep the breed “pure,” the English bulldog has become so inbred it cannot be returned to health without an infusion of new bloodlines, a genetic study says.

The study, appearing in the journal Canine Genetics and Epidemiology, reached the stark conclusion that health issues created by human manipulation of the breed could lead to its doom.

“We tried not to be judgmental in our paper. We just said there’s a problem here, and if you are going to decide to do something about it, this is what you’ve got to work with, said co-author Niels Pedersen of the University of California, Davis.

“If you want to re-build the breed, these are the building blocks you have, but they’re very few. So if you’re using the same old bricks, you’re not going to be able to build a new house.” told the BBC.

Pedersen and colleagues from the Center for Companion Animal Health at UC Davis examined the DNA of 102 registered English Bulldogs and found an alarmingly low level of diversity.

That, they say, is the result of a small initial pool of founding dogs, and “bottlenecks” caused by breeding for “desirable” traits like a big head and a short snout.

Those traits have led to many of the breed’s health problems — difficulty breathing, poor mobility and reproductive issues among them.

The researchers say efforts to return the breed to health by using existing bloodlines alone are “questionable.”

Introducing new bloodlines, from outside the breed, are likely the only solution, but many breeders are resistant to that idea.

“The fastest way to get genetic diversity is to outcross to a breed that looks similar but is genetically distinct… Trying to manipulate diversity from within a breed if it doesn’t have much anyway is really very difficult,” Pedersen said. “If all your dogs are highly related to one another, which ones are you going to pick?”

One possibility suggested by the researchers is the Olde English Bulldogge, a 1970s attempt by an American breeder to recreate the healthier working bulldog that existed in England during the early 1800s.

“The English bulldog has reached the point where popularity can no longer excuse the health problems that the average bulldog endures,” Pedersen said in a statement.

The features of today’s English bulldog are the result of hundreds of years of breeding, but changes to the breed’s traits — flatter face, shorter nose, stubbier legs, more skin folds — have become particularly rapid in recent decades, Pedersen said.

Prisoners welcome canine wildfire evacuees

sandfire

Nearly 50 deaf dogs evacuated from a shelter threatened by a raging wildfire north of Los Angeles have gotten a warm welcome at a state prison.

The owners of Deaf Dog Rescue of America decided to evacuate the animals from their Santa Clarita kennel Sunday night as the Sand fire started moving closer to the property.

“We knew if we had an issue in the middle of the night, we would be here alone with 45 dogs to load up,” Lisa Tipton posted on the rescue’s Facebook page.

Deaf Dog Rescue takes in deaf dogs from across the country, trains them and places them in new homes. It also provides assistance to new deaf dog owners who need training advice.

The rescue was debating where it might take the dogs when the state prison in Lancaster — where Lisa’s husband, Mark, operates a dog training program called Karma Rescue — offered all 50 of them shelter.

“We arrived to find the man-cages ready for the dogs,” Lisa Tipton said, with “food, water, beds, and igloos.”

The hospitality didn’t end there, NBC 4 in Los Angeles reported.

sandfire2When the couple returned to the prison Monday morning to feed the dogs, they found all that had been taken care of.

“The inmates had handled breakfast beautifully. They were getting the dogs out for exercise and cleaning their runs…

“I have never, ever seen anyone clean up dog poop with such glee.”

Even the dogs that aren’t always comfortable around strangers were coping well, Lisa Tipton added.

“To see incarcerated men of all races working so beautifully together to help others is a really amazing experience,” she said. “If they had turned us away, with 97 degree [heat], we would’ve had dead dogs in the trailer.”

She said the dogs will probably remain in the prison through the end of the week as efforts to contain the fire continue.

(Photos: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)