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Tag: improvements

Program works with Amish in southern Indiana to improve breeding conditions


While Amish breeders are notorious for running puppy mills, some of those in southern Indiana are working with Purdue University’s Center for Animal Welfare Science to improve their breeding practices and, in the process, their reputations.

“It was time that we as breeders recognize that there are professionals out there that can help us and we need to involve them in our businesses,” said Levi Graber, a member of Odon’s Amish community who helps several breeders in the area.

Though the Amish aren’t known for reaching out, or letting people in, Graber contacted the university a few years ago about improving Amish-run breeding operations in the region. That led to a pilot program in which the operations are reviewed, and suggestions are made on how to improve them.

Already, those behind the program say, they’ve found that improving conditions and practices at the kennels leads to happier, healthier, better behaved dogs.

Under the program, which is open to non-Amish breeders as well, a set of voluntary standards will be created for breeders to follow, according to the Lafayette Journal & Courier.

“Many folks hear about breeding and animal welfare and they don’t know what (breeders) actually do. They just want to put them out of business,” said Purdue’s Candace Croney, director of the animal welfare center.

Most dogs she and her team of researchers have observed have been in good physical health, Croney said, but some had room for improvement in their behavior. Some facilities’ dogs were loud and dogs became over-excited when they saw people, which Croney said indicated they weren’t used to seeing people often.

The research team advised those breeders to make sure something positive happens for the dogs, such as receiving a treat, every time someone comes into the kennel area. They also suggested letting the dogs out in the yard daily to exercise and socialize.

The changes made a big impact, Croney said. Over four months, the dogs in the kennel with the most behavioral issues became calmer when they saw people, and they physically looked better.

“We’ve seen a very positive impact on some of the things she recommends,” Graber said. “I’ve seen more contented, happy dogs.”

Once the trial program is complete, a third party will audit the breeders’ practices, Croney said.

Breeders who qualify will receive a certification that she said goes beyond the standards mandated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which cover areas such as housing, sanitation, food, water and protection against extreme weather and temperatures.

Graber said the community feels fortunate to work with Purdue and emphasized that the breeders don’t want to sell puppies that disappoint anyone.

Not all Amish-run breeding operations are like those that end up on the news, noted Dale Blier, who works for Blue Ribbon Vet & Supply in Odon and sells supplies to many breeders in town.

“The majority of dog breeders in Indiana treat their dogs the same way they treat making furniture: They want to be the best at it they can,” he said.

(Photo: A child sits with puppies at a breeding operation in Odon that’s working with Purdue’s Center for Animal Welfare Science program; by Levi Graber)

Changes vowed at Baltimore County shelter


Some long called for changes may be coming at Baltimore County’s animal shelter.

After more than a year of pressure by animal advocates for improvements, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced yesterday that  the shelter in Baldwin, Md., will be shifting from the “narrow view” of it being a place for dangerous animals and focusing more on caring for animals and getting them adopted.

That’s exactly the sort of change we called for in yesterday’s ohmidog! post — the one suggesting local governments ditch their use of the term “animal control” and become animal protection departments.

Baltimore County hasn’t announced any formal plans to do that (maybe it’s not too late to work that in), but the county executive did outline future steps to add more employees, expand low-cost spaying and neutering services, cooperate with a program aimed at neutering feral cats and increase the shelter’s focus on getting animals adopted.

Kevin KamenetzKamenetz said he’ll hire a volunteer coordinator and a foster care coordinator at the shelter – two areas animal advocates have been critical of. He also announced that  a new Facebook page will be set up devoted to promoting adoptable animals, and that the shelter will be receiving guidance from the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, commonly known as BARCS.

The changes will be included in his next budget for Animal Services — a division of the county health department — and would go into effect at the start of the next budget year on July 1, the Baltimore Sun reported.

“We think we’re moving in the proper direction in a deliberative manner,” Kamenetz said.

Animal advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland complained to the county last fall that shelter volunteers were banned from taking pictures, in violation of their First Amendment rights. The county has been working with the ACLU on training shelter employees on the rights of volunteers.

Earlier this month, the County Council passed a bill creating an animal services advisory commission to review the shelter’s operations. The 11-member commission has yet to be appointed.

In a statement released by the county executive’s office, Council Chairwoman Cathy Bevins praised the proposals as “bold steps to upgrade animal services in Baltimore County.”

The county already is building a new shelter on its current site,  scheduled to open in August.

Our hope would be — in accordance with the proposal we put forth yesterday, and in accordance with the new focus Kamenetz spoke of — that the sign in front of it reads Animal Protection, or Animal Services …  anything but Animal Control.

(Photos: Protest sign from WJZ; Kamenetz from Baltimore Sun)

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.

Robert E. Lee Park will rise again

releemastoffBaltimore County plans to spend $6 million in local and state funds to begin the first phase of improvements to Robert E. Lee Park — one of which is to establish a dog park within the park’s 415 acres.

Long a popular, but unsanctioned spot for dogs to run off-leash, the park — owned by Baltimore City but located within the county — remains officially closed. The footbridge leading to it was condemned as unsafe and recently demolished. The county will soon sign a long-term lease and take over management of the park.

While there is pressure from some groups to declare parts of the park off limits to dogs, plans call for a fenced-in area where dogs can run unleashed, and have access to the water. In all other areas of the park, dogs will have to remain on leash — a rule that will be enforced by park rangers.DSC02802

Work on a new bridge, estimated to cost about $2.8 million, is to begin in March and take about six months to complete. Construction of a fenced dog park and trails will start in late spring, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Plans call for the park to include a nature center, hiking and biking trails, fountains, benches, restrooms and improved access to Lake Roland.DSC02811

I took these photos at the park last year, while it was still open, but a little down at the heels. I’m fairly certain dogs, leashed or unleashed, didn’t vandalize the signs — more likely unleashed humans.

Upgraded Robert E. Lee Park to have dog area

DSC02761Robert E. Lee Park — a perennial  favorite of Baltimore dogs — is scheduled to get an official dog park built within its boundaries, which may not necessarily be the good news it sounds like for dog owners who like to let their pets romp off leash.

Baltimore County will be taking over management of the park and spending $6 million to make repairs and improvements, including reconstructing and re-opening the pedestrian bridge, restoring the existing trails, installing parking and setting up a secure dog park, according to the Towson Times.

Bob Barrett, director of the county’s Department of Recreation and Parks, said the dog park will be the only part of the entire 453-acre property where dogs can be off leash.

The park, located in the county but owned by the city, has long served as an unofficial off-leash area — to the pleasure of dog owners, but to the chagrin of some nearby homeowners.

Barrett said the county plans to spend $2 million on the dog park and erosion control measures, nearly $3 million for bridge replacement and more than $1 million on parking. He said work will begin after the county signs a long- term lease with the city. It will take up to 16 months to complete the improvements, he said.

More than 41,000 people visit the park each year, which includes Lake Roland. The lake was created by the damming of Jones Falls in 1861 to produce one of the first municipal water supplies for the city. The city stopped using the lake for drinking water in 1915.

About $3 million of the $6 million for the restoration of the park came from the state, according to Barrett. The county matched the amount.

LA County looks at puppy mill law

The Los Angeles County supervisors have unanimously approved a motion to seek broader oversight over  “puppy mills,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

The motion calls on the county’s chief executive, county counsel and various county departments to report back in 45 days with proposals for legal changes that would improve the quality of care and ensure safe and responsible breeding at high volume kennels and breeding operations.

Supervisor Michael Antonovich said that during the last six months the county has had to seize or relocate hundreds of puppies and dogs from so-called puppy mills, increasing the burden on county animal shelters. “This is cruel for the animals and places a tremendous burden on county taxpayers,” Antonovich said.

oooooooohmidog! We’re six months old!

We thought we’d take this occasion — our 500th post — to bring you up to date on how ohmidog! is doing. We are, after all, turning six months old on Sunday.

Since we started in August, our readership — both in terms of visitors and page views — has been doubling about every month. In the last month alone, nearly 35,000 of you stopped by, visiting nearly 50,000 pages. We’ve hooked up with 10 sponsors, whose advertisements can be seen running down the rail to the left. We’ve become an official news organization, at least in the eyes of Google, which  now includes our posts in its “news” search.

We’ve (temporarily at least) reclaimed our banner space — used for advertising in most blogs — and instituted a “best of ohmidog!” feature that has proven popular. Our “Behave!” column kicked off last month, a monthly feature about dog training and behavioral issues. (You can find the link to its archives on the tabs on our right-side rail.)

We’ve done our best to keep up with local purveyors of dog goods and services, which we list for free in our “Doggie directory,” and tried as well to keep up with area dog-related events (see “Doggie Doings”) — also findable through the tabs on the right. We’ve done a bit of doggie do-gooding, taking part in BARCStoberfest as an official sponsor and raising money for BARCS Franky Fund for sick and injured animals.

We’ve held true to our mission — staying on top of dog news (and sometimes even having it first) and, while not proclaiming ourselves spokesman for dogs, watching out for their interests and well-being and making the public aware of any threats thereto.

We also have avoided using fancy words like “thereto,” at least up to now.

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