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Tag: animal shelters

Another N.C. shelter accused of cruelty

stokesshelter

Another North Carolina animal shelter has come under fire from the state Department of Agriculture — this time the county-operated shelter in Stokes County, where an investigation found dogs were being inhumanely euthanized.

The Veterinary Division of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture released documents Friday showing inspectors found credible evidence that shelter director Phillip Handy and employee Darryl Sheppard “performed, participated in and/or witnessed the inhumane euthanasia of multiple animals that involved improper euthanasia administration.”

The allegations, now being investigated by the state Bureau of Investigation, include putting down one dog by gunshot, failing to confirm the death of an animal, and improper disposal of an animal. The report also accuses the two men of putting dogs down prior to the 72-hour holding period.

The shelter (pictured above) is located in a cinder block building in Germanton.

The division revoked both Handy and Sheppard’s certifications to perform euthanasia, and both have been relieved from duty, according to Stokes County Manager Rick Morris.

This summer has also seen the Department of Agriculture revoke the licenses of animal shelters in Guilford County and Davidson County, citing a “systemic failure to care for animals.” Both were run by the United Animal Coalition under contracts with the counties.

And last week, news surfaced of a dog at the Forsyth County Animal Shelter being mistakenly euthanized.

The Stokes County shelter was closed for two weeks in July, for what county officials said was state-ordered maintenance and repairs.

County Manager Morris assured the public then that animals housed there at the time would not be euthanized.

The revocation notice from the state — instructing the shelter to cease all euthanizations — was issued two days before the temporary closure.

Animal advocates in Stokes County have been working to improve the shelter and are raising funds to open a new no-kill shelter, with around $180,000 raised so far.

(Photo: By Jennifer Rotenizer / Winston-Salem Journal)

Forsyth shelter puts down wrong dog

A Forsyth Couny woman went to the animal shelter to pick up her dog — only to learn that, due to mix-up, the five-year-old border collie-Lab mix had been put down.

Maximus, after a second biting incident, was being held for an 8-day quarantine at the Forsyth County Animal Shelter.

When Ashley Burton went to pick him up, shelter staff brought out the wrong dog — and it only got worse after that, Fox 8 reports.

Burton says she went to the shelter July 2 to pick Maximus up after he completed the mandatory quarantine period when a second biting offense occurs.

A staff member pulled up the dog’s file, which included a photo of Maximus, and told Burton the dog would be right out.

But the dog that was brought out wasn’t Maximus. It was a pit bull mix named Spike.

After a 30-minute wait, Burton was taken to the shelter manager’s office, where she was told they could not find her dog.

Burton was then told there was nothing else she could do, and to go home while the shelter investigated.

Back home, her phone rang.

“The manager at the shelter, he said, ‘what was supposed to happen to Spike’, the dog that they actually brought me, ‘is what actually happened to Maximus,’” Burton said. “I said, ‘so you mean Maximus was euthanized,’ and he said, ‘yes, he was euthanized and we are so sorry for your loss.’”

“At some point, either the identifying kennel cards were switched, or the dogs themselves might have been switched,” said Tim Jennings, Director of Forsyth County Animal Control.

He said less than clear photos of the dogs, taken at the shelter and placed in their files, may have contributed to the mix-up.

“The photograph is to be the definitive security issue, and in this case we could have done a better job there,” he said.

Jennings said a similar incident happened at the shelter in 2014. Burton, he said, has been given a new dog.

NC shelter may offer dead dogs for sale

Bladen County Commissioners will consider a proposal tonight to start selling the carcasses of dogs euthanized in the North Carolina shelter to a biological supply company.

According to a proposed contract, the company wants to pay $4 each for dead dogs weighing between 25 and 45 pounds, assuming the carcasses are in “reasonably good condition.”

The company would pick up the dogs weekly, preserve the bodies with chemicals and then offer them for sale to “facilities and/or laboratories designed for scientific research and biological educational classrooms” — at prices of $100 or more each.

WECT identified the company as Southeastern Biological Supply.

The county has sold dead cats for $4 each to the company since 2009 — as have Brunswick, Columbus and Pender Counties in southeastern North Carolina. New Hanover County donates cat carcasses to veterinary schools.

Pender County made $1,604 selling dead cats last year, and Brunswick County raked in $4,788, WECT reported.

It all sounds like a pretty questionable and nasty business — this marketing of carcasses — and historically it has been. But those who defend the practice say it contributes to science, specifically the teaching thereof, and is no less dignified than the traditional means of disposal: taking dead dogs to the landfill.

The Humane Society of the United States, while it doesn’t oppose the transfer of euthanized animals to educational and research institutions, says shelters should not be making money from such exchanges.

“So-called ‘surplus’ dogs and cats are a result of the tragic pet overpopulation and millions of dogs and cats are euthanized yearly in U.S. shelters. When money can be made in dealing in their carcasses, it can give the perception that there may be less incentive for addressing overpopulation or that the shelter would rather gain from this tragedy than spend the money necessary to solve it,” the HSUS says.

The organization also believes the owners of any pet euthanized by a shelter should, when possible, be notified when a carcass is being transferred for scientific research, and it advises shelters to be transparent when it comes to what they do with the carcasses of animals they euthanize.

“Full public awareness of any animal transfer policy is vital to maintaining public trust in animal shelters,” it says.

When it comes to what becomes of the bodies of euthanized pets, I think we are pretty far from full public awareness. Even when the information is made available, it’s a topic most of us prefer not to delve too deeply into.

Still, it manages to rise to the surface once in a while.

Back in the 1980s, it grew into a full blown scandal when it was discovered that employees at Winnebago County Animal Control in Illinois were receiving payments and gift credits in exchange for providing carcasses to a Wisconsin biological supply company.

An investigation by Rockford-area authorities into missing funds in the animal control division of the county Health Department turned up evidence that, between 1982 and 1988, the division was receiving $2.25 per cat and $6 per dog from Nasco International Inc.

The animal-control unit built up a line of credit with Nasco and periodically spent that credit to purchase items from Nasco`s various equipment and gift catalogs, the Chicago Tribune reported in 1988.

A county public health administrator at the time said he thought selling the dog carcasses to a biological supply company was a better idea than the county’s previous arrangement — paying a rendering firm to dispose of dead dogs and cats, which then ended up in products such as lipstick, mouthwash, rubber and even pet food.

In Bladen County, N.C., where dog carcasses are now taken to the landfill, Health and Human Services Director Cris Harrelson insisted getting paid for dead dogs wouldn’t motivate the shelter to kill more.

“We euthanize them only as necessary,” he said. “As long we have room in the shelter, they stay alive.”

Harrelson said the county had the fourth lowest euthanasia rate in the state in 2012.

I checked on the Internet to learn more about Southeastern Biological Supply, but, if it exists, it doesn’t have any online presence.

I did find Carolina Biological Supply, whose website boasts “bigger pigs at same low prices …”

The company offers both dog and cat specimens to educational and research institutes — all preserved in its exclusive “Carolina’s Perfect Solution.”

“Including the dissection of preserved dogs in your AP Biology lesson plans will give students a hands on experience with anatomy that surpasses print or pictures,” the website states.

That’s one of the things that troubles me most about these grisly exchanges. Today, with computer graphics and 3d models and imaging, we have the technology needed to avoid having students chop up animal carcasses in biology class.

But biological supply companies — accustomed to their near obscene profits — aren’t likely to admit that. And leaders of research and educational institutions, for whatever reasons, aren’t either.

So the demand continues, and the companies, seeking ways to meet it, turn to animal shelters.

I’d like to think animal shelters — whether county run or private — would steer clear of it all, for appearances sake if nothing else.

But when it comes to which ones do, and which ones don’t, we don’t really know.

Consider yourselves gagged, N.C. citizens

appoultry

For those businesses in North Carolina that have something to hide, hiding it became much easier this week.

Both the state House and Senate voted Wednesday to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of a bill that muzzles whistleblowers who call public attention to anything from agricultural atrocities to elder abuse.

Dubbed an “ag-gag” measure by its critics, the bill gives businesses the right to sue employees who expose trade secrets or take pictures of their workplaces.

Animal rights groups say the measure is aimed at curbing the kind of undercover investigations that have exposed brutal and abusive practices in factory farms and slaughterhouses.

But House Bill 405 (click on the link to see its final version) could curb far more than that.

Nursing home employees might be discouraged from reporting possible abuse cases. Animal shelter staff could be dissuaded from reporting horrid conditions or cruelty to dogs and cats. Even journalists could be hauled into court for simply doing their jobs.

Only government agencies would be safe to shed light on criminal corporate behavior — whether it’s stomping on chickens at poultry farms or mistreating veterans in need of medical care.

Concerns that the bill reaches too far were behind Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of the bill.

The governor said he agreed with curbing the practice of people who get hired merely so they can film undercover or gather corporate documents, but he said the bill doesn’t protect those “honest employees who uncover criminal activity.”

The House voted 79-36 to override his veto, and the Senate quickly followed suit, voting 33-15 to override.

Among those against the bill were animal rights groups, journalism organizations, the Wounded Warrior Project and the AARP, which said the law could have a chilling effect on those who might come forward with evidence of elder abuse.

“To give one relevant example, allegations surfaced last year that employees at Veterans Affairs facilities in North Carolina had been retaliated against for whistleblowing,” wrote Steven Nardizzi, chief executive of the Wounded Warrior Project. “As an organization dedicated to honoring and empowering injured service members, we are concerned that this legislation might cause wrongdoing at hospitals and institutions to go unchecked.”

The sponsors of the house bill said critics were wrongly characterizing it, WRAL reported.

“It doesn’t stop good employees from reporting illegal activities to other authorities,” said Rep. John Szoka, R-Cumberland.

That much is true. All the bill does is make it easy for large companies and their lawyers to go after those honest employees and ensure that, when they open their mouths, they’ll be stomped on too.

Republican backers of the measure said it was important to protect businesses from bad actors.

As for who’s supposed to protect us from bad-acting businesses engaged in harmful practices, well, that’s not covered in the bill.

“Not only will this ag-gag law perpetuate animal abuse, it endangers workers’ rights, consumer health and safety, and the freedom of journalists, employees, and the public at large to share information about something as fundamental as our food supply, said Nathan Runkle, president of Mercy For Animals. “This law is bad for consumers, who want more, not less, transparency in food production.”

(Photo: Inside a North Carolina poultry plant; by Bethany Hahn / Associated Press)

Directive bans use of gas chambers in N.C.

franklincounty

A simple directive has accomplished what North Carolina’s legislature, despite repeated efforts, couldn’t — and, as of the middle of February 2015, animal shelters in the state will be all but banned from killing unwanted dogs and cats in gas chambers.

For those who waged battles to do way with gas chambers in their home counties, and those who worked to pass statewide legislation ending their use, it’s a cause for celebration.

But it’s also a little confusing. If all it took to change things was a directive from the state Department of Agriculture — basically, a memo — why all the years of bickering, grandstanding and politics (both clean and dirty)?

If only the stroke of an administrator’s pen was needed to end such a cruel and callous process, why did it take so long?

The memo issued this month by the N.C. Department of Agriculture’s veterinary division gives shelters until Feb. 15 to switch to lethal injections. Gas chambers, which kill animals with carbon monoxide — sometimes one at a time, sometimes in groups — will only be permitted for “unusual and rare circumstances, such as natural disasters and large-scale disease outbreaks.”

Patricia Norris, the Agriculture Department’s new animal welfare director, said the directive was based on guidelines from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which in 2013 finally recommended against the use of gas chambers for “routine euthanasia.”

(We’d disagree with both of the words in that phrase. Ending the life of a dog simply because he’s unwanted or because a facility is overcrowded isn’t a mercy killing; it’s a money-saving killing. And common as the practice is, we hate seeing it called “routine” — which it certainly isn’t for the dog.)

While animal welfare organizations, including the ASPCA, Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Humane Society of the United States, have been saying the practice is inhumane for years, it wasn’t until the AVMA adjusted its stance that the state decided to take action.

The Humane Society of the United States hailed the change. “It’s going to lift that stigma that was associated with North Carolina animal shelters,” said Kim Alboum, the HSUS’s state director is quoted as saying in the Raleigh News & Observer. “The pound is gone, and I think that’s something to celebrate.”

Only four of North Carolina’s 197 approved shelters still use gas chambers.

According to the HSUS, North Carolina becomes the 25th state with a formal ban in place. (Many states yet to ban gas chambers are no longer using them.)

chambersmap

“To put an animal inside a gas chamber, their final moments are alone in a dark box,” Alboum said. “Sometimes they don’t die right away. If we have to euthanize animals, at least the animal is touched, at least the animal has some dignity and some human contact.”

Among those to recently cease the practice are Johnston County, which earlier this turned its gassing equipment into a work of art, designed to look like the tree of life. In Cleveland County, a fundraiser was held that allowed donors to “whack the chamber” with a sledgehammer.

Shutting down the gas chambers is a long overdue step in the right direction. Then again, lethal injection isn’t really something to celebrate. What is? The day we stop killing dogs. Period.

(Photo of the gas chamber in Franklin County, NC, by Takaaki Iwabu, from the Raleigh News & Observer; graphic courtesy of Humane Society of the United States)

Does Bentley really have a wish list?

bentleycrate


As America’s first quarantined dog of an Ebola patient, Bentley’s fame may be spreading as fast as the deadly virus he may or may not have.

So much so that we suspect the Cavalier King Charles spaniel is receiving more attention, donations and expressions of support — at least online — than his sick human, Dallas nurse Nina Pham, who contracted the disease while caring for the first Ebola victim to be diagnosed in America.

This being America, a dog-crazy land, that wouldn’t be too surprising.

That funds are being raised in his name isn’t too surprising either.

That he already has a “wish list” set up on Amazon? That’s a little surprising.

bentleyxAs soon as Bentley was moved Monday to the undisclosed (at least initially) location he’s being quarantined and monitored in, the campaigns to raise money in his name began — ostensibly to help pay for his care, in reality for much more.

“Poor Bentley the Dog Needs You to Buy 67 Items From His Amazon Wish List,” reads the headline on a Dallas Observer blog post.

We’re sure Bentley — being a dog, as opposed to a human — isn’t as selfish and greedy as his alleged wish list makes it appear.

We’re sure he doesn’t truly need a $239 Lawn Boy lawnmower; or a Hamilton Beach Smooth Touch Can Opener, in black and chrome; or a thermal label printer; or a $299 microchip reader; or a Bluetooth portable GPS navigator.

But between the news media delighting in tugging our heartstrings, and some savvy sorts at Dallas Animal Services who know a fundraising opportunity when they see one, that’s the way the story is coming across.

It started where all things start, or at least end up — on Facebook.

bentleyphamDallas Animal Services posted a picture (left)) wih a list of ways people could help support Bentley while he is in quarantine. The post pointed out that any extra donations — of paper towels, pee pads, toys and rawhide chews — would go to other dogs awaiting adoption.

It’s a pretty common practice among animal shelters — seizing upon the case of one sympathy-inducing dog to raise funds for more than just that one dog. It’s not an evil practice. It’s well-intentioned. While it may be a tad deceptive, it’s effective.

And given the total lack of foresight, knowledge and protocol when it comes to Ebola victims and their pets (we’ll talk more about this Monday), such fundraising techniques could prove highly necessary in the months and years ahead.

Bentley has served as a wake-up call — as, in a way, did Excalibur, the dog of Spain’s first Ebola patient. Excalibur was quickly destroyed, even though there’s no proof dogs can get Ebola or pass it on to humans.

While Dallas Animal Services is overseeing the care of Bentley — now sequestered at a decommissioned Naval air base nearby — the Dallas Fire Department’s Hazmat Response Team is doing the hands-on (and gloves on, and hazmat suits on) work, feeding and cleaning up after the dog.

Dallas Animal Services is continuing to keep the public posted on Bentley, mostly through its Facebook page, but its campaign to seek donations in his name apparently was toned down, if not halted, at least temporarily.

CBS in Dallas, which reported on the campaign, later reported that Dallas Animal Services has suspended its request for donations and pulled the Facebook post. Whether that’s because someone deemed it deceptive or exploitative isn’t known. No reason is given.

As for that Amazon “wish list,” it’s still up, but, just to be clear, those are items Dallas Animal Services need — not exclusively for the care of Bentley.

At the end of last week, a more formal funnel for donations helping the dogs of Ebola victims was set up. The city teamed up with Dallas Companion Animal Project, a nonprofit organization, which has created the Dallas Pet Emergency Transition Services fund to help pay for the care of pets affected by emergency events, including Ebola exposure.

(Photos: Dallas Animal Services)

“G-Force” could lead to surge in guinea pigs

gforce

 
Animal shelters, already swamped with dogs and cats, are bracing for an onslaught of guinea pigs as a result of the new Disney movie “G-Force.”

The movie depicts a squad of specially trained, guinea pig spies coming to the world’s rescue. But, says the Associated Press, it may end up being real-life guinea pigs who need rescuing.

Some guinea pig rescue groups, fearing a surge in guinea pig surrenders, already have posted pleas to the public to think twice before buying a guinea pig on the spur of the moment.

“I can tell you, every single rescue in the United States and abroad took a look at that movie trailer and said, ‘Oh, God, here we go,’ ” said Whitney Potsus, vice president of the Critter Connection in Durham, Conn.

The fears are based on past experience — from ”101 Dalmatians” sending thousands rushing to buy black-and-white spotted pups to surges in Chihuahua popularity after the moves “Legally Blonde” and “Beverly Hills Chihuahua.”

“We can only hope … parents will all do their research before bringing any critters home. Otherwise, when the novelty wears off, rescues everywhere are going to have their hands full with surrenders,” Potsus said.

Activists say there are several waves of worry ahead: during the movie’s run in theaters, when it comes out on DVD and when the novelty wears off.

About 795,000 homes have guinea pigs as pets, according to the American Pet Products Association.

Disney is aware of the power of the movies and works to promote a strong pet responsibility message, a studio spokeswoman said. For “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” Disney made sure most of the animals in the movie came from shelters and each was adopted when the movie was over.

For “G-Force,” a statement is posted on the movie’s website and on other promotional materials, advising viewers to  research any pet “to make sure that it is suitable for your particular situation” and consider adopting from a shelter.