In hopes that potential adopters will find a “Chiratoodle” or a “golden Chinscher” more appealing than a plain old mutt or “Chihuahua mix,” an animal shelter in California has begun DNA testing some of its dogs to determine their breeds and market them under more exotic names.
The Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA in Burlingame, south of San Francisco, says initial results show the DNA tested dogs are getting adopted twice as fast.
Not too surprising in a world that prefers labels over mysteries — at least when it comes to what we bring into our homes.
DNA testing is not widely practiced by America’s animal shelters, mainly because of its expense. As a result, most people who adopt a dog from a shelter leave with a mystery mutt, or one whose heritage has been guessed at by shelter staff.
My dog Ace, for instance, when he was adopted nearly 10 years ago, was listed as a “hound mix” on his shelter paperwork, referred to as a “shepherd mix” by shelter staff and listed on Petfinder.com as a “Labrador mix.”
When DNA tests came on the market in 2007, I purchased one, swabbed his cheek and learned he was Rottweiler and Chow. In the next few years, as the tests became capable of identifying more than the original 38 breeds, I tested him two more times. The second test determined he was Rottweiler, Chow and Akita. The third test showed him to be all of those, and a little bit pit bull.
The tests allowed me to answer the question I was asked at least once a day: “What kind of dog is that?” It wasn’t so much that I had to know. All three tests were done mostly as research, for the purpose of writing about them. And once I learned the breeds he was made up of, I kind of missed the mystery.
I don’t think the information is all that vital, but I can understand how a purchaser, or adopter, of a dog might like to know what’s in his or her mix.
In California, the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA conducted the tests in an attempt to increase the adoptions of Chihuahua mixes, which make up nearly a quarter the dogs in its shelter.
The campaign, conducted under the slogan “Who’s Your Daddy?” is aimed at “finding great homes for dogs at risk of being overlooked,” said Scott Delucchi, the shelter’s senior vice president.
“People love mutts. Still, we’re betting shelter dogs with DNA results included, for free, will be quite fetching,” he says in a commercial for the campaign.
The shelter picks up the cost of the $50 tests, which they say can help owners identify what breed-specific traits the dogs might exhibit. The tests also allow the shelter to have some fun coming up with clever breed names — like “Chorgi” (Chiuahua-corgi), “golden Chinscher” (golden retriever-miniature pinscher-Chihuahua) and “Chiratoodle” (Chihuahua-rat terrier-poodle).
In February, the shelter conducted tests that determined the breed make up of 11 small dogs. All found homes within two weeks — twice as fast as any 11 untested small, brown dogs in the previous months, according to an Associated Press story.
Twelve more dogs have been tested since then and once they are all placed in homes the shelter plans to test 24 more.
Chihuahuas have replaced pit bulls as the most prevalent breed in the shelter, largely due to the “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” movies, and the breed’s popularity among celebrities.
While some visitors to the shelter are seeking Chihuahuas, others are looking for mutts — small dogs who, thanks to another breed being in the mix, might have a less nervous dispositions.
While shelter officials have proclaimed the new program a success, they note that it’s going to take more than a gimmick to reduce the “alarming” number of Chihuahua mixes coming in.
“Another part is making spay-neuter low-cost or free to the community,” Delucchi said. The shelter also exports some of its smaller dogs to shelters in Florida, New York and other states where they are in shorter supply.
(Photo: Lynn and Tony Mazzola, with Lily, their newly adopted ”Chorkie;” by Eric Risberg / AP)
Posted by John Woestendiek March 23rd, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adoptions, animals, breed tests, breeds, burlingame, california, chihuahuas, chiratoodle, dna, dogs, golden chinscher, mutts, mystery, peninsula humane society, pets, rescues, shelters, testing
Here’s an idea we love — an establishment where you can get your caffeine fix and your canine fix at the same time.
It’s a dog cafe — a cozy and comfortable place where, in addition to enjoying a nice cup of coffee or tea, you can meet, bond with and pet a few dogs, and maybe even take one home.
A woman in Los Angeles, putting a new twist on what up to now has been an Asian concept, is trying to start up America’s first dog cafe — called, appropriately enough, the Dog Cafe.
“The Dog Cafe’s mission is simple. We want to provide a second chance for shelter dogs that are often overlooked,” founder Sarah Wolfgang told LA Weekly. ”The Dog Cafe is going to put a spin on the way people adopt by totally reinventing the way we connect with homeless dogs.”
In addition to showcasing adoptable dogs in a warmer environment than most shelters offer, the cafe will allow Los Angeles residents who can’t have dogs to get a doggy fix — thereby soothing nerves frazzled by traffic jams and making workday stresses disappear.
(And maybe lowering their blood pressure at least as much as that cup of coffee is raising it.)
Allowing the petless to spend some time with pets was the idea behind pet cafes that popped up in Japan, Korea and other Asian countries. For the price of a coffee or tea, patrons — many of whom live in small crowded apartments and can’t have pets of their own — can sit in a restaurant and pet, cuddle, interact with and be surrounded by dogs, or cats.
Finding the animals homes wasn’t their purpose, but Wolfgang, who once worked at private animal shelters in Korea, saw the possibilities.
The Dog Cafe in Los Angeles will have adoption as its primary mission, but not its only one.
Working with rescue groups, the Dog Cafe will be stocked with dozens of adoptable dogs, who will roam the shop and hang out with customers.
The coffee will come from Santa Monica–based coffee roaster Grounds & Hounds Coffee Co., whose blends include Alpha Blend, Morning Walk Blend and Paper & Slippers Blend. The company donates 20 percent of its profit from each purchase to a local shelter.
Because of L.A. Health Department regulations, the cafe must be divided into two areas, keeping the drink service counter and “dog zone” separated.
She’s now raising funds — here’s her page on indiegogo – to help start the cafe.
“Our goal is to find forever homes for at least 104 dogs within the first year, though we are anticipating to reach a much higher number,” the page says. “Our project will reinvent the way people view adopting dogs and will give dogs that seemed ‘unadoptable,’ a chance at their very own forever home.”
The Dog Cafe would benefit both dogs and humans, she said — and not just those humans who adopt a pet.
“… Even if you’re not looking to adopt, you can still enjoy all of the sloppy kisses you’ve ever wanted.”
Posted by John Woestendiek January 23rd, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adoptable, adoptions, animals, coffee, dog, dog cafe, dog cafes, dogs, fundraising, los angeles, pet cafes, pets, rescues, sarah wolfgang, shelters
Anthony and Françoise Claessens thought they were buying a dog.
They took the little bichon frise home, named it Tresor II (after their recently deceased bichon) and only later in the day got around to taking a closer look at the paperwork from the pet store.
The contract they’d signed called for 27 monthly payments of $95.99, totaling $2,687, for the dog, which had a store price of $495.
And at the end of the 27 months, the contract said, they still wouldn’t own the dog — because what they had signed wasn’t for a loan. It was a lease.
The dog, unless the Claessens forked over yet more money at the end of the lease period, would have to be returned to Oceanside Puppy — the store they bought, check that, leased it from.
“I have never heard of leasing a dog in my life,” Anthony Claessens, 80, told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “We were under the understanding we were purchasing a dog … I feel that we were swindled.”
We can’t argue with that choice of words.
The store, with two branches in the San Diego area, and the finance company, WAGS Financing of Reno, Nev., say they’ve been offering financing and leases on dogs for more than a year, and that nobody is being swindled.
“I think that’s very unfair that they are saying we are being fraudulent,” said David Salinas, who owns the shop on Oceanside Boulevard.
“It is only a surprise to the customer if they are not reading their contract,” Salinas added. “As a courtesy, we explain it the best we can.”
According to the couple, no store employee mentioned that they were signing up for a lease.
Under the lease contract, lessors have the option of returning the dog at the end of the term or paying an additional charge to purchase the pet.
“Over the last 10 years, lease-to-own and rent-to-own is becoming a much more common way for people and consumers to purchase goods,” said Dusty Wunderlich, CEO of Bristlecone Holdings, WAGS’ parent company.
The Claessens returned their leased dog around the middle of November and the company agreed to cancel the contract.
Since then they’ve found another bichon frise, this one from a shelter.
(A litter of bichon frises, from galleryhip.com)
Posted by John Woestendiek December 1st, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, bichon frise, dog, dog sales, financing, lease, leasing, leasing a dog, oceanside puppies, pet stores, puppy sales, purchase, purebreds, reno, san diego, shelter, wags financing
When Randi Hileman came upon a trail of dead dogs and cats on the highway in North Carolina, she did what most folks do nowadays. She got out her phone and took some pictures.
She was distressed enough by the scene that, after moving the corpses to the side of the road, she posted the photos on Facebook and called the news media — all in search of some sort of explanation.
And when, earlier this month, the explanation came, she — and a lot of other people — got even angrier.
What little official response there was went something like this: Someone failed to properly latch the tailgate of a truck transporting dogs and cats that had been euthanized at the Davidson County Animal Shelter.
Rather than ending up at their destination, a landfill, their bodies were left strewn along U.S 64, near Interstate 85.
Judy Lanier, the shelter’s director, told inquiring reporters it was a non-story, and apparently convinced a lot of them of that.
Not too many accounts of what happened can be easily found on the Internet, other than this one in the Winston-Salem Journal.
“It was an internal employee mistake that’s been dealt with in less than 30 minutes,” Lanier told columnist Scott Sexton. “Basically it’s a nonstory. There is one thread on one Facebook page where you’ve got less than 10 people beating a dead horse.”
Between being one of only eight counties backwards enough to still use gas chambers to put down dogs, the public opposition to that, the county’s dismal adoptions figures (it reportedly euthanizes 6,000 dogs a year), Lanier’s defensive reaction and the vivid images of what her employee left, however briefly, on the highway, it’s not too surprising that some people are calling for the shelter director’s resignation.
Lanier, while she’s not granting many interviews with the media, is responding to what people are saying on Facebook.
“I never took it lightly,” she says in one comment. “I dealt with it a week ago in a professional expedient fashion … I take issue with this non story that was simply an error of equipment usage being used as another platform for attacking our shelter, our staff and our ethics … Not one cat was adopted due to this story being spread all over face book. Not one of these so called activists stepped through the door to help lessen the overcrowding that requires that truck to make that trip several times a week. Shame on those who criticize that which they don’t understand and those who don’t intend to put their words into action. Journalism when practiced honestly does not require ambushing and exploitation. That’s just his personnel (sic) self aggrandizement in print.
Lanier wrote that none of the animals found on the road had been put down in the gas chamber, and said the shelter uses lethal injection three times more often than it uses its gas chamber. Opponents of the gas chamber, she said, are using the dead animal spill to fuel their campaign against the use of gas.
“Those animals are the visual picture of what happens in a community that does not spay/nueter (sic), thinks of animals as disposable property and expects a small shelter to absorb their decisions and re home each one. That’s a fact not an excuse but reality.
In another comment, she gets in a shot at the reporter: ”Must be a slow day in the newspaper world when a columnist can only report week old news and quote a no comment voice mail to make a punch line … Mr. Sexton burnt a bridge he won’t ever cross again today.”
Lanier further states that she wishes people criticizing the shelter would spend that energy instead on volunteering at the shelter, helping get dogs adopted and educating the public on spaying and neutering.
Amid her comments, an apology can be found.
“The incident where animals were found on Highway 64 on Tuesday, August 8, 2014 was an unfortunate error caused by the tailgate on the animal shelter truck being inadequately secured. The animal shelter truck was in route to the county landfill at the time of the incident. The animal shelter staff acted as soon as possible to correct this error and the staff member involved was extremely sorry and devastated that this had occurred. The shelter staff member is an excellent employee who performs above and beyond every day at the shelter. Measures have been taken by the staff to make sure this never occurs again.
“The Davidson County Animal Shelter apologizes to the public who witnessed this incident. We are aware of the impact this has had on our citizens. The entire incident was due to human error and is regrettable.”
Probably she should have provided that statement to reporters and stopped there, rather than telling them they were “beating a dead horse.” And probably she should have held back on criticizing animal advocates who want to see the gas chamber dismantled.
Criticizing those who see the issues differently is bad for public relations. Badmouthing reporters is bad for public relations. The gas chamber is bad for public relations. Dead dogs on the highway is bad for public relations.
Davidson County officials have the power to do something about one or two of those, or perhaps all four.
(Photos from Randi Hileman’s Facebook page)
Posted by John Woestendiek August 25th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adoption rates, animals, bodies, carcasses, cats, davidson county, dead, director, dogs, euthanized, facebook, gas chamber, judy lanier, lethal injection, neuter, north carolina, pets, photos, put down, rescues, shelters, spay, spill, tailgate, truck
This public service announcement from the Shelter Pet Project totally captured the attention of my dog, Ace.
He was laying with his back to the television, watching me eat, when the jangling collar led him to turn his head a full 180 degrees to see what was going on.
Ace generally ignores television (I’ve yet to achieve that), so I was surprised when, about the time the dog knocks on the screen, Ace got up, walked over to the TV, sniffed a few times and then gave the dog’s image a big lick.
I guess that’s a paws up from him.
And I give the series of announcements, which feature former shelter dogs and are intended to encourage adoptions, a big thumbs up, too.
Jules — the dog in this one — was adopted by a family in 2010, and has since become a world traveler, going as far away as South Africa.
You can see the full series of announcements here.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 2nd, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: ace, adopt, adoption, ads, animals, awareness, dog, dogs, jules, marketing, pets, psa, public service announcement, rescue, screen, shelter, shelter pet project, shelters, television
Hank, the former stray dog who has become the unofficial mascot for the Milwaukee Brewers, has gotten his own house inside Miller Park.
The dog, adopted by the team after he wandered into their spring training camp in Arizona, will use the house for appearances, photo opps, and perhaps to get some rest — in between his duties – when he’s inside the stadium.
While Hank goes home at night with Marti Wronski, vice president and general counsel for the Brewers, the team considers him the fan’s dog. So he needed someplace cozy to stay during games — a home base, so to speak.
The “Hank House” is a one-bedroom, Cape Cod-style, with an attached yellow slide. It was built by the Brewers architect.
“It took about two weeks to construct, and I think people will have fun with it,” Brewers COO Rick Schlesinger told WISN. “People just love Hank (and we’re) trying to make it a more habitable environment for him at Miller Park. And I think he’s going to like his house very much.”
The doghouse will be moved during the season to various parts of the stadium, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Hank, who has been a huge hit with Brewers fans, will soon be starring in a video, and, along with all the Hank merchandise already available, a bobblehead version of him is expected to go on sale in September.
(Photo: Top, Hank’s new doghouse inside Milwaukee’s Miller Park / WISN; bottom, Hank in Arizona, by Morry Gash / Associated Press )
Posted by John Woestendiek April 23rd, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adopted, adoption, animals, architect, arizona, bobblehead, design, dog, doghouse, dogs, hank, hank aaron, mercandise, miller park, milwaukee brewers, pets, phoenix, rescue, spring training, stadium, stray
Ten more Sochi strays — saved from the streets by rescue groups in Russia — arrived in the U.S. last week.
The dogs were among those rounded up by rescue organizations before and during the Winter Olympics in an effort to save them from being poisoned and killed by authorities who considered them a menace, or at least an embarassment.
“These 10 are representative of some of the dogs that have been removed from the streets and are now up for adoption in Sochi,” said Kelly O’Meara, director of companion animals and engagement for Humane Society International. “They’re the sweetest, most interactive, very friendly dogs, very adoptable, that just happen to be unfortunate enough to be living on the street.”
The dogs landed at Dulles Airport Thursday. They were taken to the Washington Animal Rescue League, which will be responsible for finding them new homes.
More are expected to be arriving in coming days.
HSI worked with PovoDog Animal Shelter in Sochi and two other organizations to arrange vaccination, documentation and travel for the dogs, who spent two days in transit.
“We are excited to make the connection for homeless Sochi dogs with loving homes in the United States, with our focus on helping street dogs in Russia and around the world,” O’Meara said. “Our goal is to protect street dogs from cruel and unnecessary killing programs — like the one employed by Sochi officials to ‘clean up’ in advance of the Olympics — by working with governments to create humane and effective dog population management programs.”
HSI had urged the International Olympic Committee and Sochi authorities last year not to conduct a pre-Olympic “cull” of street dogs, and got some assurances that would be the case.
When it was exposed before the Olympics started that the program was underway, HSI petitioned President Vladimir Putin to put an end to it. The organization has offered its assistance in creating a humane program to control the population of street dogs.
HSI assisted American skier Gus Kenworthy, an Olympic silver medalist, in bringing home four strays.
It is also pushing the International Olympic Committee to mandate humane animal control standards when identifying a host country for future Olympics.
Each of the arriving dogs will get a medical evaluation, and they could be available for adoption within weeks, said Bob Ramin, CEO of the Washington Animal Rescue League.
“These animals are seeing a lot of new things and experiencing a lot of new things, so they’re kind of stressed out,” Ramin said. “We want to make sure they know they’re in a safe place so we’ve got our staff working with them one on one.”
Posted by John Woestendiek March 31st, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: adopt, adopt sochi dogs, adoption, animals, dogs, Gus Kenworthy, hsi, humane society international, olympics, pets, rescue, rescued, russia, Sochi, sochi strays, strays, street, washington animal rescue league, winter