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Tag: cats

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)

United’s new policy limits air travel for dogs who are short-snouted or “strong-jawed”

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United Airlines plans to resume shipping pets as cargo in July but will do so under a new, more cautious policy that will exclude short-snouted breeds from traveling in their cargo holds.

The new policy will prohibit 25 breeds from traveling as cargo including boxers, bulldogs and pugs.

The airline announced the changes Tuesday, and said its rules and guidelines will continue to be revised under recommendations from American Humane, the animal welfare agency it is working with to improve pet travel.

The changes announced Tuesday do not affect small pets traveling in carriers that fit under seats in the cabin.

United called a temporary halt to shipping pets in March after several dogs were put on wrong flights. A French bulldog died after a flight attendant told its owner to put its carrier in an overhead bin. In 2017, 18 animals died on United, three-fourths of all such deaths on U.S. airlines.

The new policy also bans transporting what the airline referred to as “strong-jawed” breeds, such as pit bulls and mastiffs.

“Transporting pets introduces a variety of risks, and when United approached us we knew we had to take on the challenge of helping improve and ensure the health, safety and comfort of so many animals,” said Robin Ganzert, president and chief executive of American Humane.

United also said it would stop transporting animals between May 1 and Sept. 30 for travel to and from Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Phoenix and Tuscon because of the extreme summer heat in those cities.

The airline is also limiting the number of connections a pet can be routed through on a trip.

None of the policy changes affect small dogs traveling with their owners in the cabin. The restrictions on short-snouted breeds won’t apply to dogs traveling in the cabin.

The new policy doesn’t address service animals and emotional support animals, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The airline said their increase in banned breeds — from six to 25 (the full list is below) — stems primarily from concerns about the health problems that pets with short or snub noses are more likely to have while traveling in cargo holds.

Other airlines also place restrictions on pet travel. Delta, for example, does not accept snub-nosed or pug-nosed pets as checked baggage under any circumstances.

United temporarily halted transporting pets after the death of a 10-month-old French bulldog on March 12 on a flight from Houston to New York. A flight attendant, worried that the dog’s carrier did not fit under the seat, instructed the owners to put the carrier in the overhead compartment, where the dog died during a flight of more than three hours.

United took more heat on its pet transport program the following day, when the airline accidentally shipped a dog to Japan instead of Kansas City, Mo. The animal was eventually reunited with its owner. A third dog was incorrectly placed on a flight to St. Louis, which prompted the airline to divert the flight to Akron, Ohio, the dog’s intended destination.

Here is the full list of the breeds United will ban from traveling as cargo, according to the airline’s website:

Affenpinscher
American Bully
American Pit Bull Terrier/Pit Bull
American Staffordshire Terrier/”Amstaff”
Belgian Malinois
Boston Terrier
Boxer
Brussels Griffon
Bulldog
American Bulldog
English Bulldog
French Bulldog
Old English Bulldogges
Shorty Bulldogs
Spanish Alano/Spanish Bulldog/Alano Espanol
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Chow Chow
English Toy Spaniel/Prince Charles Spaniel
Japanese Chin/Japanese Spaniel
Lhasa Apso
Mastiff
American Mastiff
Boerboel/South African Mastiff
Bullmastiff
Ca de Bou/Mallorquin Mastiff
Cane Corso/Italian Mastiff
Dogo Argentino/Argentinian Mastiff
Dogue de Bordeaux/French Mastiff
English Mastiff
Fila Brasileiro/Brazilian Mastiff/Cao de Fila
Indian Mastiff/Alangu
Kangal/Turkish Kangal
Neapolitan Mastiff/Mastino Napoletano
Pakastani Mastiff/Bully Kutta
Pyrenean Mastiff
Presa Canario/Perro de Presa Canario/Dogo Canario/Canary Mastiff
Spanish Mastiff / Mastin Espanol
Tibetan Mastiff
Tosa/Tosa Ken/Tosa Inu/Japanese Mastiff/Japanese Tosa
Pekingese
Pug
Dutch Pug
Japanese Pug
Shar-Pei/Chinese Shar-Pei
Shih-Tzu
Staffordshire Bull Terrier/”Staffys”
Tibetan Spaniel

How much is the dead doggy in the window?

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Everyone should know by now that there are certain things you just don’t procure online — not that oceanfront condo that looks so good in the pictures, not that Russian wife who looks so good in the pictures, and definitely not that adorable puppy whose photos you keep clicking on.

As effort-free as the online purchase has become — to the point that Amazon can now make items magically appear in the trunk of your car (try that, David Copperfield) — we may forget that we are living in the golden age of scamming, and that what’s too good to be true usually is, or may not even exist at all.

Perhaps nowhere is the scamming more rampant than in pet sales.

ABC7 (aka KGO-TV) in northern California took a look at some of those scams in a recent two-part report, interviewing both directly impacted victims and those on the periphery, such as the woman who saw her dead Corgi being offered for sale on two different websites.

(Find part one here, and part two here.)

“Tens of thousands of consumers, at least in the United States, have lost money to these online pet scams,” Rebecca Harpster of the Better Business Bureau told the station.

A BBB report says the scams are on the rise, and the FTC counted 37,000 reports of bogus online pet sellers over five years. The FTC estimates only about 10 percent of victims reported the crime, so the actual number of victims could be in the hundreds of thousands.

Not only do the scammers accept money for dogs that don’t exist, they then often string along the buyer with additional charges they claim are popping up in getting the dog delivered.

They’ll say they need to insure the dog for transport, or that a special crate needs to be purchased, ask for more money and say the dog can’t be delivered until they receive it.

The BBB recommends never buying a dog based on pictures or videos. Scammers use stock photos and videos, or obtain pictures of their own, and post them on the phony websites, claiming the dogs are for sale.

Wendy Hicks is one of many who say photos of her dog have gone on to be used as fake ads in seedy websites.

Her prized Corgi Abby appeared on Corgi Precious Puppies and Elegant Corgi Puppies — both of which have since been shut down. She suspects there might be more.

“It’s like whack-a-mole. You get them taken down here and they’re going to pop up somewhere else,” Hicks said.

PetScams.com has been tracking this kind of scheme for different dog websites around the world.

ABC7 interviewed the site’s administrator, Paul Brady, who says he gets complaints from people around the world who say they’ve lost money trying to buy all kinds of breeds from different online sites.

Pet Scams forwards any reports it receives about fraudulent pet websites to the company that registered the domain name.

(Image: A screenshot of the website Elegant Corgi puppies, which no longer exists)

Why does the drug we use to euthanize animals keep showing up in dog food?

Pentobarbital, part of the cocktail administered to dogs, cats and sometimes horses to euthanize them, continues to show up in dog food.

How that happens — and why it is allowed to — are questions raised in an investigative report last week by WJLA in Washington.

The station teamed up with Ellipse Analytics, a lab that specializes in testing food for contaminants,

gravytrainIn testing 62 samples of wet dog food, across more than two dozen brands, one brand came back positive for for the euthanasia drug pentobarbital. Nine of 15 cans of Gravy Train showed non-lethal levels of the drug.

Under federal law, no concentration of pentobarbital is permitted in pet food. WJLA reported the FDA didn’t initially seem too interested about its findings.

The agency declined requests for an on-camera interview, and referred the station to the Pet Food Institute — the trade organization that represents the pet food industry. Further requests for information from the FDA were met with the response that it will “investigate the matter and take appropriate enforcement action.”

It’s not the first time pentobarbital has been found in dog food.

About a year ago Evanger’s recalled some lots of its “Hunk of Beef” canned dog food after it was found to contain the sedative.

The company said at the time that the meat in question came from a cow rendered by a supplier, but, as WJLA reported, federal law does not allow use of the toxin to kill animals that are part of the food supply.

Gravy Train is made by Big Heart Pet Foods and owned by Smucker’s.

Big Heart Brands is also the maker of Meow Mix, Milk Bone, Kibbles’n Bits, 9 Lives, Natural Balance, Pup-Peroni, Gravy Train, Nature’s Recipe, Canine Carry Outs, Milo’s Kitchen, Alley Cat, Jerky Treats, Meaty Bone, Pounce and Snausages.

Dr. Nicholas Dodman, chief scientific officer for The Center for Canine Behavior Studies and former director of the Animal Behavior Program at Tufts University, said even non-lethal amounts of the drug should be a concern.

“Whether it’s doing something or nothing, what’s it doing there? Where did it come from? If they don’t like the explanation that it’s coming from animals that have been euthanized, what is their explanation as to how it gets in?” asked Dodman.

Smucker’s declined WJLA’s request for an on-camera interview, but issued a statement saying, “We launched and are conducting a thorough investigation, including working closely with our suppliers, to determine the accuracy of these results and the methodology used.”

Most believe pentobarbital, when it shows up in dog food, is a result of euthanized animals being blended into food by those who render the carcasses.

That, in itself is against federal laws that prohibits the use in both dog and human food of any animals that have not been slaughtered. Using euthanized animals is prohibited.

As Susan Thixton, a pet food consumer advocate told the station, “Billion dollar a year companies are making profit selling illegal adulterated products to unknowing consumers in the U.S. every day.”

She added, “The FDA tells industry ‘Yeah, it’s a violation of law, but go ahead, we’re not going to do anything,'” said Thixton.

When is it too cold to leave pets outside? Whenever it’s too cold for you to be outside

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Reports popped up across the country last week — both in the north and south — of dogs freezing to death after being left outside during a bitterly cold stretch of winter weather.

As single-digit temperatures gripped the eastern United States, local news outlets and animal welfare organizations were reminding people of what you would think any fool would know (but apparently they don’t) — that freezing temperatures can hurt and kill your dog.

The news reports made that much clear.

Police in Hartford, Conn., charged a woman with animal cruelty after a neighbor reported a dog frozen to death and still chained to a small shelter outside a home.

In Toledo, a dog was found frozen to death on a front porch last week, and three other frozen dogs were discovered last week in Franklin County, Ohio. In Butler County, Ohio, north of Cincinnati, a man was charged with cruelty after his dog was discovered frozen.

“The dog was found in an outside dog house with no insulation. The dog was frozen to death due to the severe cold weather …” read a Facebook post from Sheriff Richard K. Jones. “Freezing to death is a horrible way for an animal to die.”

In Michigan, Detroit Dog Rescue said a Pomeranian mix left outside its offices Monday night was found dead the next day. Another dog, found shivering in a barrel outdoors, was being treated for frostbite.

“Trying to escape the frigid temperatures he curled up and crouched down, but even his underbelly and penis began to freeze,” Detroit Dog Rescue said in a Facebook post. “His feet are so painful he doesn’t want to stand.”

In Aiken, S.C., a woman was cited after officers discovered a shivering dog chained outside in 15 degree temperatures, next to a puppy in a cage that appeared to have frozen to death.

In Knox County, Illinois, the owner of a black lab mix found eight newborn puppies frozen to death in the snow last week. According to WQAD, the owner claimed not to have known his dog, whom he kept outside despite below-freezing temperatures, was pregnant. A ninth puppy survived.

We could go on, but it’s just too maddening — the lack of common sense that can exist in some humans.

“Dogs, cats and horses depend on our care, especially during life-threatening cold snaps. Take the animals in, or somehow provide a safe environment for them,” Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement.

Dogs aren’t immune from the cold, no matter how thick their coat. Bigger, furrier dogs, like huskies, can fare better in the extreme cold than a Chihuahua might. But all dogs can perish if left in extreme enough weather for long enough periods, as the chart above indicates.

Consult it, if you feel the need to. Better yet, just keep in mind that if it’s too cold for you outside, it’s too cold for pets.

(Graphic: Petplan.com)

It’s (almost) official: Dogs are about twice as smart as cats


A scientific study has shown that cats have an average of 250 million neurons in their brains while dogs have about 500 million, making dogs about twice as intelligent.

Before you cat lovers start objecting, keep in mind that the study was performed by humans, who average about 16 billion neurons per brain.

Scientist’s brains, we can only assume, have even more than that.

The study is the work of a team of researchers from six different universities in the U.S., Brazil, Denmark, and South Africa. It is expected to be published soon in the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy.

The research wasn’t aimed at resolving the great national debate over which species is smarter, but was part of a larger effort to use neurons as one quantifiable measure of intelligence.

Previous research sought to quantify intelligence by measuring brain size and structural complexity. Counting neurons is generally accepted to be a more accurate measurement than those.

To accomplish that, study author Suzana Herculano-Houzel explained to National Geographic, “You take the brain and turn it into a soup.”

That leaves a number of nuclei suspended from neuron cells, allowing the researchers to estimate the number of neurons present. Neurons are a special type of nerve cell found in the brain that transmit messages.

The research team used only a part of the brain called the cerebral cortex, which drives decision-making and problem-solving.

“Neurons are the basic information processing units. The more units you find in the brain, the more cognitively capable the animal is,” said Herculano-Houzel, a neurologist and professor at Vanderbilt University who has been studying cognitive function in humans and animals for the past decade.

The team used three brains — one from a cat, one from a golden retriever and one from a small mixed-breed dog.

In the dogs’ brains, despite varying in size, researchers found about 500 million neurons, more than double the 250 million found in the cat’s brain.

By comparison, orangutans and gorillas have about eight to nine billion neurons, while chimpanzees have about six to seven billion, elephants have about 5.6 billion.

Herculano-Houzel says counting neurons is a more effective measurement of intelligence than the size of an animal, or the size of its brains.

“It’s not a larger body that explains the number of neurons you have,” she said. “You can have animals with similar-sized brains, and they have completely different numbers of neurons.”

California takes bold step: As of 2019, pet stores can only sell rescues and shelter dogs

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California has become the first state to require that pet stores cease selling pets provided by breeders and sell only cats and dogs from nonprofit rescues and shelters.

The law is expected to hit the pet industry like an earthquake when it goes into effect at the beginning of 2019.

The mere discussion of it, in recent months, has been sending tremors through the ranks of breeders, pet store owners and American Kennel Club officials.

Despite the contention of those groups that the law would strip Californians of their rights, it does not prohibit people from buying dogs and cats directly from breeders.

Instead it’s aimed a puppy mills and stemming the flow of dogs bred in unacceptable conditions to consumers through pet stores.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 485 on Friday.

“This is a big win for our four-legged friends, of course. But also for California taxpayers who spend more than $250 million annually to house and euthanize animals in our shelters,” Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, the author of the bill, said in a statement Friday.

An estimated 35 cities across California have enacted similar laws, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, but the passage of the Pet Rescue and Adoption Act marks the first time a state has adopted such protections.

Violators will face $500 in penalties.

“We are overjoyed that Governor Brown signed this historic piece of legislation into law,” said Judie Mancuso, president and founder of Social Compassion in Legislation.

(Photo: Pinterest)