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Tag: animal welfare

Half of Kentucky’s county animal shelters called substandard — and nobody’s watching

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One day after basking in the nationwide attention the Kentucky Derby brings, Kentuckians woke up to the reality of how another species of animal is being treated by the state.

The Lexington Herald-Leader presented a package of stories addressing the often poor conditions in the state’s rarely monitored animal shelters.

In a state most famous for racing horses — and doing so in manner that almost appears civilized, what with the all the elegant outfits, mint juleps and whimsical hats — many dogs are living far less regal lives, stuck in county-run shelters that, under state law, receive almost no scrutiny from state agencies.

Unlike most states, Kentucky’s animal-shelter law does not include any inspection or enforcement provisions, which means any actions taken against them such shelters must from citizens.

Not until 2004 did state laws even get written to lay down minimum standards for county-run shelters. Those new measures required each county to have access to a shelter and animal-control officer, and set out standards that include protection from the weather; basic veterinary care or humane euthanasia for ill or injured animals; adequate heat in winter; clean and dry pens with adequate room for animal comfort; construction with materials that can be properly cleaned and disinfected; available clean water; uncontaminated food provided daily; and public access to the facility.

Those laws didn’t outline how, or specify who, was responsible for enforcing those standards.

A measure in the 2017 legislative session called for a study of ways to better fund animal shelters and cited the need for a “government entity” to enforce the state’s shelter rules, but it died without consideration.

That lack of enforcement is a large part of the reason the Animal Legal Defense Fund has ranked the state last in animal protection laws for 11 years in a row.

A study by the University of Kentucky, done in 2016, found that of 92 shelters covering Kentucky’s 120 counties – some of them regional facilities – conditions at 57 percent violated three or more provisions of Kentucky’s animal-shelter laws.

More than a fourth were considered “very substandard,” and only 12 percent were meeting all the rules the legislature put in place in 2004.

“Current laws do not appear to be fully satisfactory at accomplishing the goal of providing good shelter animal care across Kentucky,” said the study.

skaggsWhile county-run shelters operate with relative immunity, independent nonprofit sanctuaries and shelters get no such free ride, as was the case last week when the state Department of Agriculture seized 14 dogs from a no-kill sanctuary called Eden.

Randy J. Skaggs, who operates the sanctuary in Elliot County through his Trixie Foundation, faces 179 misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty in connection with poor health and living conditions.

Skaggs defenders say he has devoted his life to caring for animals because so many public shelters in the region were substandard.

Skaggs says he is housing animals no one else wants, and that shelters would end up euthanizing. He refuses to let anyone adopt dogs because believes their best chance to live a healthy and happy life is at his sanctuary.

Skaggs believes the criminal charges against him are retaliation over his efforts to bring attention to Kentucky’s failure to adopt adequate animal protection laws, his criticisms of county shelters and his efforts to push for improvements.

(Photos: Will Wright / Lexington Herald-Leader)

Thief snatches trailer New Mexico rescue group used for adoption events

The theft of a trailer loaded with pet supplies Saturday means some dogs will wait a little longer for homes, and that an Albuquerque rescue group called the People’s Anti-Cruelty Association is going to have to rebuild.

The trailer was parked at a street corner where the nonprofit volunteer group holds adoption events every Saturday.

Sometime during the night, thieves hauled it away, along with the paperwork, leashes, pet food and other supplies inside, KOB in Albuquerque reported.

“When they stole our trailer it has greatly, greatly hindered our ability to (help animals) because if we can’t find it and its contents, we’re going to have to start all over,” said Arnielle Fernandez, a volunteer with PACA. “And that is very pricey.”

“Everything that was in the trailer was like crates that we set up for our dogs, our collars, our leashes, some dog food. Puppy pens, blankets, you know, towels – everything we need to function,” Fernandez said. “Ordinarily we, throughout the years, we have found permanent loving homes for thousands of dogs and cats.”

The group is now asking the public to keep an eye out for the trailer, which is white and has paw print decals, along with the PACA logo.

“Ask them to bring it back. That would be wonderful. It would be like Christmas in May,” Fernandez said.

While the group works to plan another event this weekend, Fernandez said it will be more difficult to pull off.

“Anybody that is in such a horrible state, on a personal level, that would do something like that to a non-profit rescue organization – they’re of very, very little character,” she said.

USDA considers closer regulation of rescues


A Washington Post investigation that revealed 86 rescue and dog-advocacy groups and shelters nationwide have spent $2.68 million buying dogs from breeders at auctions has prompted the U.S. Agriculture Department to issue a bulletin stating that those groups may need to be licensed under the federal Animal Welfare Act.

Traditionally, they are not, and thereby operate independently of any federal regulations — even though they are, in effect, buying and selling dogs all while characterizing that work as “rescuing” and finding dogs adoptive homes.

“Our job is to ensure the humane treatment of the animals we regulate,” Deputy Administrator Bernadette Juarez, who leads the department’s animal-care program, said in the bulletin, which cited “dog acquisitions from an auction for resale (including adoption) as pets” as a reason that individuals or groups may require federal regulation.

SONY DSCThe USDA announcement came just days after the Washington Post investigation was published, triggering a public response that the Post reported on yesterday.

The initial report cited cases of bidders aligned with rescue organizations paying more than $1,000 per dog, in one case $8,000.

Altogether, the 86 rescue and advocacy groups and shelters that have registered to participate in the two government-regulated auctions, both in Missouri, have spent $2.68 million buying 5,761 dogs and puppies from breeders since 2009.

Most rescuers then offered the dogs for adoption as “rescued” or “saved,” and charge “adoption fees” that range from $50 to $1,000.

National animal welfare groups reacted to the report with differing levels of concern.

The Humane Society of the United States — which in March sued the USDA, claiming it has failed to release breeding-kennel inspection reports in violation of open-records law — said the agency should instead do a better job of regulating breeders.

“BREAKING: the USDA is planning to scrutinize pet rescue groups and require many of them to become licensed — even as it fails to crack down on puppy mills and covers up their inspection reports,” the Humane Society posted on the Facebook page of its Puppy Mills Campaign.

“This is not rescue; this is enabling abuse,” wrote Julie Castle, chief development, marketing and communications officer for the Best Friends Animal Society. “Buying puppies from puppy mill breeders and selling them to the public is not rescue. It’s the pet trade and it needs to be exposed.”

PETA said some rescuers are “propping up the dog-breeding industry. Handing thousands of dollars to the very people who are exacerbating the animal-homelessness crisis allows them to keep profiting from animals’ suffering.”

Mike Bober, president of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, urged a USDA investigation of the practice: “Federal regulators should require all organizations that operate as pet dealers under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) be licensed as such.”

While some in the breeding community cheered the USDA’s bulletin and said regulation of rescuers by the USDA was long overdue, others voicing an opinion said the federal government should leave rescuers alone and instead focus on what they call “puppy mills.”

“I will never donate to a rescue that buys dogs from an auction,” said one. “That article was an eye opener. I have never heard of such a thing, but will definitely check out the rescue I support to see if they do this. The rescues who do this should be closed down. The money spent to buy the dogs was astronomical and insane.”

Other animal lovers say rescuers are well-intentioned and above reproach:

“Why you would go out of your way to bash people for trying to help innocent animals is disgusting and idiotic!”

The Post’s investigation detailed the little-known business practice in which some rescue groups — mostly those dedicated to rescuing certain purebred breeds — buy dogs from breeders at auctions, then charge “adoption fees” to place them in new homes.

The rescue groups say buying auction dogs is necessary to remove them from the commercial breeding industry, while others said the practice just feeds money to the very breeders that rescuers often decry as puppy mills.

Nathan Winograd, founder of the No Kill Advocacy Center, which pushes for shelter overhauls, urged all sides to step out of what he called their ‘ideological straitjackets’ and instead take a reasoned approach to considering the facts.

Wrote one commenter, “I’m an executive director of a fairly large humane society in the South. . . . The premise of this story is that people are buying dogs at auction from breeders in an effort to ‘rescue’ them. This highlights the emotional problems you see in the rescue community, that blinds them to rational thought, or good judgment. If you think you are ‘rescuing’ dogs by buying them, in any way shape or form, you are in complete denial.”

The 86 rescue organizations named in the auction records reviewed by the Post are a tiny minority of the thousands of such organization in the U.S and Canada.

As one person commented on the Post article, “There are still a lot of dogs that need help, and a lot of good organizations trying to help them.”

Concrete dogs in Barcelona send a message

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Twenty concrete dogs have been tethered to signs, lamposts, park benches and bicyle racks in Barcelona, Spain, as part of an effort to call attention to the problem of abandoned pets.

About 1,400 pets, including 760 dogs, were discarded on the streets of Barcelona last year — a 13 percent increase from 2016 — prompting the city council to launch the campaign.

Called “Dogs S.O.S.,” the campaign hopes to both raise awareness of the issue and help find homes for the 200 dogs awaiting adoption in city shelters.

The city contracted with the advertising firm Ogilvy Barcelona to place 20 life-sized concrete dog statues — cast from 3-D printed molds — around town, tethered to posts, poles and other urban structures.

Each statue includes an ID tag with a code that links to the City Council’s animal welfare site, where viewers can get information about dogs in need of homes.

Two shelter dogs — a 4-year-old mixed-breed named Neula and a 5-year-old American Staffordshire named Samó –served as models for the statues, ADWEEK reported.

“Neula and Samsó represent all the dogs that have been waiting a second chance,” said Jofre Banquells, creative director of Ogilvy Barcelona. “They both waited for at least a year at Barcelona’s animal shelter. Fortunately, Neula has been quickly adopted as soon as the campaign has been launched (on April 9).”

“Installing the dogs attached to lampposts, as if they were really abandoned, helps people visualize the situation,” Banquells said. “People don’t only see a dog, they see the problem. In addition, it gained media attention with no investment at all.”

The sculptures will stay on the streets another week, then be moved to other public spaces, such as libraries.

(Photo: Ogilvy Barcelona)

PETA disrupts best in show at Crufts

As a whippet named Tease was being crowned best in show at Crufts, protesters disrupted the prestigious UK dog show by running onto the field and unfurling a banner that read “Crufts: Canine Eugenics.”

The owner of Tease grabbed her dog, Crufts officials quickly secured the trophy even more protectively, and it was all over in less than a minute, after the two protesters were promptly tackled by security officers and whisked away, along with their banner.

The protest broke out just as Yvette Short of Edinburgh lifted her dog onto the podium as the event’s live feed broadcast across the globe.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) took responsibility for the incident.

“Crufts glorifies pedigree fetishists’ twisted pursuit of the ‘perfect’ dog,” Elisa Allen, PETA’s UK’s director, told the Independent on Sunday. “There’s nothing natural about breeding dogs with extreme and debilitating physical traits, and PETA urges everyone to stay away from this cruel beauty pageant.”

Many animal welfare groups take issue with the over-breeding of pedigree dogs to meet arbitrary physical standards and at the expense of health problems and physical ailments, but none with quite the zeal of PETA.

In 2008, the BBC stopped broadcasting Crufts after 40 years following public outcry over health concerns that were raised by a BBC One investigation called “Pedigree Dogs Exposed.”

The documentary focused on chronic health concerns that have resulted from breeders trying to attain physical standards The Kennel Club and breeders promulgate.

The Kennel Club, the organization behind Crufts, called the documentary “biased and selective,” but went on to revise some of the least healthy breeding standards it calls for.

Still, “canine eugenics” remains a pretty apt description of what dog shows are all about.

After Sunday’s demonstration, a Crufts spokesman said the protesters “scared the dogs and put the safety of both dogs and people at risk in a hugely irresponsible way.”

We’d suggest that the security response to the protesters looked far scarier than anything those two were doing, and that the Kennel Club, over its long history, has behaved more irresponsibly than a couple of PETA protesters ever could.

Barbara Streisand has cloned her dog twice

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Having literally written the book on the first customers of dog cloning, and having tried to keep you posted since then on developments in that morbid and exploitative business, I must report here on one of its newest customers.

Barbra Streisand.

In a far-ranging interview with Variety, the singer and show business legend revealed that her dogs Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett are both clones of her original Coton du Tulear, Samantha.

Samantha, who commonly accompanied Streisand to concerts and public appearances, and who had her own Instagram fans, died last fall at the age of 14.

In the Variety article, Streisand offered few specifics on how she made the decision to clone, or on the process itself, but either Samantha’s corpse, or cell samples from it, were sent to South Korea where they were cloned in a private lab operated by a once-disgraced scientist — the same one who was involved in the world’s first canine cloning.

Her two new pups were cloned at Sooam Biotech, using cells extracted from Samantha’s mouth and stomach.

In the process, the donor cells are merged with egg cells extracted from other dogs, zapped with an electrical current to spur splitting, then implanted in more dogs who serve as surrogates, carrying the embryos to pregnancy.

Often surplus clones result — those that don’t have the exact same markings. Through cloning’s development, death and deformities resulted as well. Animal welfare groups frown on the practice, because of the intrusive procedures the other dogs go through, and because it is generally quite easy to simply adopt a dog that looks like the one you just lost.

Streisand, from what I’ve read about her, seems to fit the common mold of dog cloning’s earliest customers — wealthy eccentrics unwilling to accept nature taking something away from them, who feel they have every right to get it back, no matter how much pain and suffering other dogs might go through for that to be achieved.

They weren’t all wealthy — including the very first customer — but they all were controlling sorts who often didn’t even recognize the utter selfishness of what they were doing.

They were also, early on, misled by the dog cloning companies that formed after the successful cloning of Snuppy in South Korea in 2005. Not only would the clone be an exact physical replica, but it would have the same endearing traits and personality of the original, they were told by the emerging dog cloning companies.

That part was bunk, and the companies later toned down their claims. As the process became more efficient, they dropped their prices too, from $150,000, to under $100,000, with some companies now offering a price as low as $25,000.

In the Variety article, Streisand’s two clones were mentioned as an aside, much like her husband, actor James Brolin, often is.

Along with her husband of 20 years, James Brolin, there’s no one she enjoys sharing her residence with more than her three Coton de Tulear dogs. Perhaps her biggest reveal: Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett were cloned from cells taken from the mouth and stomach of her beloved 14-year-old dog Samantha, who died in 2017. Miss Fanny is a distant cousin.

“They have different personalities,” Streisand says. “I’m waiting for them to get older so I can see if they have her brown eyes and her seriousness.”

Streisand, the article said, even suggested a cutline for the magazine to use with the photo they took of her and her dogs — Send in the Clones.

Streisand said that when the clones first arrived, she dressed one in red and one in lavender, so she could tell them apart. That’s what led to their names — Miss Scarlett and Miss Violet.

I don’t suspect Streisand looks at her new clones and sees in them the reincarnated soul of her original dog, as some early customers did.

I do suspect that original dog created memories she wanted to hold on to, at any cost.

Like the song she once sang, “The Way We Were,” asked:

Can it be that it was all so simple then?
Or has time re-written every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me, would we? Could we?

The answer is — if you have more money than you know what to do with, if you have little regard for animals other than your own, if you have a selfish streak and an ability to delude yourself — yes!

(Photo: Streisand holding Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett, along with Miss Fanny (from left), who is distantly related and given to Streisand while was waiting for the clones; by Russell James / Variety)

South Korean university announces that Snuppy has been recloned

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The world’s first canine clone — an Afghan hound named Snuppy who died in 2015 — has been recloned, scientists at Seoul National University in Korea have announced.

It’s no big surprise, and it’s no huge achievement, but the scientists say they created the three clones of Snuppy to “immortalize” the “milestone” Snuppy represented — and that the clones will allow them to further study the lifespan of cloned dogs.

Snuppy, who spent most of his life in a laboratory, died at age 10 in April 2015.

“Three healthy reclones of Snuppy are alive, and as with Snuppy we do not anticipate that the reclones will go through an accelerated rate of aging or will be more prone to develop diseases than naturally bred animals,” the team wrote in Scientific Reports, a journal from the publishers of Nature.

To create the new clones, the scientists used fat-derived stem cells taken from Snuppy when he was five years old.

The stem cells were taken from his belly fat and frozen. Years later, they were thawed, grown in culture and then injected into enucleated eggs taken from female donors. The reconstituted eggs were then zapped with an electrical shock to fuse the membranes of the egg and stem cells. Ninety-four of them were transferred to surrogate female dogs.

Four resulted in births, but one of the pups died four days after it was born from severe diarrhea, the scientists reported.

The three remaining dogs will also live their lives in the lab, being monitored and undergoing tests the scientist say they suspect will dispel the notion that cloned animals die early deaths.

They say the second generation of Snuppy clones will contribute to a “new era” in the study of the health and longevity of cloned animals, and that they might contribute to cures being found for human diseases.

But with dog cloning having become big business — and having been initially researched with profits in mind — it’s no surprise that the latest research, funded in part by the Korean government, aims to dispel the thinking that clones live abbreviated lives.

Snuppy’s birth came eight years after Dolly the sheep became the first cloned mammal in 1997. Dolly died prematurely, at age six.

Snuppy

Snuppy

When Snuppy was born in 2005, Time magazine named him one of the most amazing inventions of the year. What wasn’t reported much, at least not initially, were the intrusive procedures involved, the birth defects that resulted, the surplus dogs that resulted, and the long list of animal welfare concerns about the process.

In the article written in Scientific Reports, by the researchers involved, those concerns also get short shrift.

“Animal cloning has gained popularity as a method to produce genetically identical animals or superior animals for research or industrial uses,” they write.

“There is lots of pet cloning going on right now. Owners are concerned whether their clones will live (a normal lifespan) or if they will experience accelerated aging and die early. So, there is some business concern,” said said co-author of the study CheMyong Jay Ko, of the University of Illinois.

The clones of Snuppy might also provide insights into the development of cancer and other diseases, Ko said.

(Top photo from the National Post; bottom of photo by John Woestendiek)

To read more about the birth of dog cloning and how it became a big business, read John Woestendiek’s book, “Dog, Inc.