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NASCAR driver helps establish N.C. shelter

bifflesFriends of the Animals, a non-profit group in North Carolina chaired by NASCAR driver Greg Biffle and his wife, plans to build a 1.5-acre no-kill animal and education center on the shore of Lake Norman in Iredell.

The center, which will include a low-cost spay and neuter clinic, will be in the planned $800 million Langtree at the Lake community off Interstate 77, according to Thatsracin.com.

Friends of the Animals hopes the center will open within two years.

The animal sanctuary will house 60 cats and 90 dogs that will be available for adoption.

The Langtree Group, a land development company, is allowing Friends of the Animals to use green space in the development for a community dog park and walking trails.

“Friends of the Animals searched for several years to find a location that would be easy for the public to access,” said Nicole Biffle, president of the Friends of the Animals’ board or directors. “ If the location is easy and friendly, we know it will increase adoptions and spay/ neuters for the animals.”

NASCAR driver Greg Biffle founded the Greg Biffle Foundation in 2005 to serve as an advocate to animals.

Maryland SPCA announces major expansion

A major expansion of the adoption center at the Maryland SPCA was announced last week.

“We need facilities to reflect the changes that have enabled us to adopt out every healthy pet in our adoption program for the last two-and-a-half years,” Mary-Ann Pinkard, board president, said at the March 11 reception where the announcement was made.

The expansion will include creation of the Morton Gorn Center for Animal Adoption, a new area for adoption interviews, a waiting area, office space and two “animal showcases” for dog and cat housing of “long-timers” to promote their adoption.

A new animal intake center, separate from the adoption area, is also planned, including spaces to  assess animal behavior and a dog exam room.

Construction is scheduled to begin this summer, and work is expected to be completed within six months.

Other projects announced will be an expanded cat room, fire safety improvements, and improved accessibility.

The new adoption center is being named in memory of Morton Gorn, a real estate developer who cherished his dogs and his horses. The gift to name the center in his memory was made by his widow, Arlene Gorn, who was introduced to the Maryland SPCA by her daughter, Karen Colvin.

“Mrs. Gorn and the Colvins motivated and inspired us to move forward with this project at a time when many people were pulling back because of the economy,” said Aileen Gabbey, SPCA executive director. “Their generosity was an important cornerstone to making this project happen.”

The project is estimated to cost $1.8 million.

Dogs better walking companions than humans

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Dogs are better walking companions than humans on almost all counts, a new study shows, with the possible exception of conversation (though I generally favor them in that category as well).

Research at the University of Missouri has found that people who walk dogs are more consistent about regular exercise, walk at a brisker (therefore more healthy) pace, and show more improvement in fitness than people who walk with a human companion, according to the New York Times health blog, “Well.”

In a 12-week study of 54 older adults at an assisted living home, 35 people were assigned to a 5-day-a-week walking program — 23 walking with a friend or spouse, 12 walking dogs at a local animal shelter.

The dog walkers showed a big improvement in fitness, while the human walkers began making excuses to skip the workout. Walking speed among the dog walkers increased by 28 percent, compared with just a 4 percent increase among the human walkers.

“The improvement in walking speed means their confidence in their walking ability had increased and their balance had increased. To have a 28 percent improvement in walking speed is mind boggling,” said Rebecca A. Johnson, a nursing professor and director of the Research Center for Human Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Johnson said the dog walkers were far more consistent in sticking with the program than those who were walking with humans: “In the human walking group, they were regularly discouraging each other from walking,” she said. “Missouri is a hot state. We would hear them saying: ‘It’s hot today. I don’t want to walk, do you?’ ”

The dog walkers, on the other hand, were nearly always up for the task:

“When the people came to the animal shelter, they bounced off the bus and said, ‘Where’s my dog?”’  Johnson said. “And the dogs never gave any discouragement from walking.”

The study, not yet published,  is continuing, and Johnson said she suspects differences will show up in other areas, like depression and anxiety.

Already, though, Johnson said, many people in the dog-walking group stopped using canes and walkers. “They would say, ‘Now I’m physically fit enough to take my dog for a walk,”’

Day care center also used for dogfighting

A children’s day care center in a Chicago suburb was also used for dogfighting — up until it was raided Tuesday, authorities said.

Three men were charged Wednesday, including the husband of the operator of the day care center, located in Maywood. Authorities were seeking two others, according to the Associated Press.

Nine battered dogs, four of them puppies, were rescued. Investigators found a blood spattered garage floor and wounded and malnourished dogs not far from where the children played.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said about 10 children were found in the day care center during the raid, but they were not in the immediate vicinity of the dogs.  The day care center was shut down Wednesday.

There’s no escaping the Dirty Two Dozen

Nobody has busted out of the Idaho Correctional Center in more than 20 years, and prison officials say the credit goes to the Dirty Two Dozen — a team of snarling guard dogs that patrol the perimeter.

Their names sound friendly enough —  Cookie, Bongo and Chi Chi among them — but the dogs, they say, are a mean lot, former death row inmates deemed too dangerous to be pets. Most would have been euthanized at the local pound if not for the prison duty that served as their reprieve.

The program began in 1986, when 24 dogs — German shepherds, Rottweilers and Belgian malinois, boxers and pit bulls — were placed in the space between the inner and outer chain-link fences that surround the prison.

The canines require no salary, don’t join unions and are more reliable during power outages than electrical security systems. They also seem to have a powerful deterrent effect.

“We’re basically giving them a second chance at a good, healthy life,” Corrections Officer Michael Amos, who heads the sentry dog program, told the Associated Press. “Those same instincts that make them a bad pet make them good sentries.”

“The average offender has no problem engaging in a fight with a correctional officer — they’re used to fighting with humans. But they don’t want to mess with a 100-pound rottweiler who has an attitude and who wants to bite the snot out of them for climbing that fence,” said James Closson, a dog trainer in Boise. He arranged the donation of some overaggressive dogs to the prison when the sentry program was new.

Over the years, the dogs have bitten handlers, badly mauling a staff member who in the late 1990s entered the kennel without first making sure all the animals were caged. But no inmates locked up at the prison have been bitten, authorities said.

Interestingly, the prison also has a program in which inmates train and care for shelter dogs, designed to give the dogs a better chance of getting adopted. But those dogs, though they may have behavioral issues, aren’t as hard core as those that guard the fence.

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Pits bulls banned from pay-to-play dog park

A brand new, a 50,000-square-foot indoor dog park has opened in Dallas — but the play area has been closed to pit bulls.

Unleashed, a multi-service dog center, complete with café and grooming services, says its insurance provider requested the ban on pit bulls.

“It’s not our call,” said co-owner Cody Acree. “I’d much rather take every animal and customer.”

Pit bulls were banned after a customer was bitten by his own dog during the park’s first day of operation, according to an article in the Dallas Morning News.

John Boeglin, 49, went to Unleashed with his three rescue dogs — including a pit bull mix. When his pit bull mix, Pinta, met another pit bull, the dogs began to fight and Boeglin was bit when he tried to separate them.

The incident has led to additional restrictions at the park. Dogs now have their temperament observed when they check in, and vaccination and veterinary record must be preented to verify breed.

“Its unfortunate, but we’d much rather the remaining customers have an experience that’s pleasant,” he said.

Acree said that pit bulls are still welcomed in the supply and grooming centers at the facility — just not the park area.