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Tag: animal shelters

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.

One state’s toll — 118,365 euthanized dogs

Michigan’s animal shelters euthanized 118,365 dogs last year — some of them in outdated gas chambers which take as long as five minutes to accomplish the ugly job. 

“In a gas chamber, the larger dogs survive for four to five minutes — terrified and choking,” said Joe Sowerby, one of many animal advocates upset by revisions to a bill that would have prohibited the gassing of dogs.

A bill to require euthanasia be administered through more humane lethal injection was proposed in the Michigan legislature, but now it appears it will be watered down, allowing the process to continue in some counties, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Dogs injected with sodium pentobarbital lose consciousness in seconds and die within minutes. The method has also been shown to be less costly.

Despite that, Assistant State Veterinarian Dr. Nancy Frank said she wouldn’t favor limiting shelters’ options because not all facilities have the training for injections.

State legislators, including two from metro Detroit, say they plan to revise — and essentially weaken — bills that, in their original versions, would have outlawed the use of gas chambers in animal shelters.

“We’ll say whenever possible you should do injections because that’s the most humane,” state Rep. Fred Miller said last week. “But if you have the training and you’ve invested in the equipment to use gas properly, that’s allowed.”

Poison gas is no longer used at animal shelters in most of Michigan, including metro Detroit. But at least 10 counties in north and west Michigan still use it, according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture.

State officials said Michigan shelters euthanized 53% of the animals brought in last year, but figures aren’t available on how many were gassed.

Cats are free in Baltimore in June

Baltimore area animal shelters have come together to make a life-saving offer.

Throughout the month of March, adoption fees on cats and kittens are being waived — at the Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter, the Maryland SPCA and the Baltimore Humane Society.

Like shelters across the country that are feeling the effects of a choppy economy, Baltimore’s are inundated, especially at this time of year with cats.

Every day, they’re dropped off by the boxload. At BARCS alone, 696 cats arrived at the shelter in May.

The Maryland SPCA, which put together this video, is swamped with cats as well.

The joint effort by the Baltimore Animal Welfare Alliance is being called “Baltimore 500: A Race to Save Lives” — an attempt to find families for 500 cats.  And if free isn’t cheap enough, consider this: Each cat comes with a free medical exam. Six local veterinary clinics are offering free exams to cats adopted from the shelters in June.

“We need everyone’s help in the community in order to save lives. This is the best time to adopt,” Jennifer Mead-Brause, Executive Director at BARCS said.  “You will get a loving companion who has been spayed or neutered, vaccinated for rabies and bordatella, de-wormed, Felv tested, and provided with a flea preventative, a general examination, a food sample, and even a month of free health insurance.”

Brother, can you spare a bone?

Call it a two-sided sign of the times, one that reflects the increasing regard in which we hold our dogs, and the increasingly hard times the economy is creating for us: food pantries for dogs.

Part of a movement to keep pets with their families, and out of overloaded animal shelters, pet food pantries are popping up across the country, according to ZooToo Pet News

“There are so many things that pet owners have to consider, like spay/neuter, boarding, and other types of vet care, but we are seeing that food is the primary concern,” said Ellen Gillmore, Best Friends Animal Society campaign coordinator. “There is such an immediate need for it that it jumps to the top of our list.”

Best Friend’s new program, First Home, Forever Home, which is aimed at helping families keep their pets, recently gave 1,215 bags of dog food and snacks to two food banks in the Atlanta area.

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