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Tag: international

Making air travel a lot more tolerable — at least for animals

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Imagine a brand new airport terminal that features a swimming pool, private suites with flat screen TV’s, around the clock medical care and a spa with massage services.

Sorry, it’s not for you. It’s for dogs, and other animals.

The $65 million terminal at New York’s Kennedy Airport is scheduled to open later this month, a 178,000-square-foot facility called the ARK that will help process animals arriving and departing on international flights — dogs, cats, birds, horses and even cattle.

That’s right, cattle could soon be receiving far more luxurious travel services while we humans continue to be treated more and more like cattle when we choose to travel by air.

The facility will hold newly arriving animals from outside the country, and those being quarantined and, for those in need of additional services, the premises will include a pet resort, veterinarians and groomers.

poolThe ARK sits on 14.5 acres of land in a cargo area near the runways. It replaces Vetport, a facility that opened in 1951 and had a less than pristine reputation.

The new facility is billed by developer Racebrook Capital as the “world’s only privately owned animal terminal and USDA-approved, full-service, 24-hour, airport quarantine facility for import and export of horses, pets, birds and livestock.”

Company owner John Cuticelli says he expects about 5,000 horses, 10,000 small pets like dogs and cats, and hundreds of thousands of birds to come through the facility each year.

The company has signed a 30-year lease with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, according to the New York Post, which was recently given a tour of the new facility.

The Ark features a large animal departure lounge offering stalls, food and water for horses, individual climate-controlled units for horses, equipped with bedding and natural light, a veterinary hospital offering general and emergency care, a Paradise 4 Paws pet resort featuring a bone-shaped dog pool and a jungle gym for cats, and grooming, training and massage therapy.

“Right now, animals can wait four or five hours on the tarmac or in the cargo facility because there is no other way to process them,” Cuticelli said. “The ARK will be focused on the safe and humane transportation of animals.”

Returning from an exotic locale? Chances are you can bring someone home with you

wapo2We don’t expect Donald Trump to like this (so don’t anyone let him know) but if you’re returning from a trip to some exotic locale — Mexico, Thailand, South Korea, India, Turkey, Colombia, and the Carribean to name a few — you can bring someone back with you to live in the good old USA forever.

And you don’t even have to marry them — or even ever see them again.

Yes, we’re talking about dogs. (Aren’t we almost always?)

But we’re also talking about an easy-lifting way to accomplish a good deed and play a small role in making a dog and a family happy.

Our country’s incoming new leadership may no longer wants those tired, poor and hungry humans we once welcomed from other countries, but the door is still pretty open for dogs (my dog included) that have been saved from horrific conditions in other countries.

Many of them have gotten here thanks to Americans returning from vacations, who are willing to take a little extra time to serve as their official escorts.

How it all works was documented recently by The Washington Post, in a story by Andrea Sachs, who not only talked to people who have done it, but did it herself.

Sachs recently returned from a trip to Colombia with a dog named Max.

“To unknowing eyes, I was just a typical traveler with a strong pet attachment. But in truth I was a flight volunteer for Cartagena Paws, an animal-rescue center that, among myriad services, places Colombian street dogs with adoptive families in North America. My ultimate responsibility was to escort the 8-month-old puppy with the overactive tail to the District. I was headed north anyway, and, well, Max needed a lift.”

There are animal welfare groups around the world rescuing dogs who face bleak lives, or worse, and then finding themselves hard-pressed to find them homes.

One solution they’ve turned to is exporting rescued dogs to the U.S.

Often, though, they need a little help getting them from there to here.

“We use flight volunteers who are met at the airport by the adoptive parents,” said Lisa Anne Ramirez, executive director of the Humane Society of Cozumel Island in Mexico. Those meetings, she says are “usually very emotional and tearful.”

While most airlines will ship a dog traveling solo in their cargo holds, that’s the most expensive and least desirable method.

Dogs are generally permitted to travel as checked baggage, or as carry-ons in the cabin, but in those cases they must be traveling with someone.

The rescue organizations handle the paperwork, so, for the escort, it’s often just a matter of handing those papers over at customs.

Sasithorn “Sas” Moy of Harlem said little inconvenience was involved after she agreed to escort five dogs from Thailand to the U.S. when returning from a trip to visit family.

She contacted the Phuket-based Soi Dog Foundation, which sends at least 25 dogs to North America a month.

“I just showed up at the airport and they gave me the paperwork,” she explained after a nearly 20-hour flight to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. “I said goodbye to the dogs at the X-ray machine. It was painless… There was extra time on the front end and the back end, but it was worthwhile.”

wapo1Sachs advises in the article that travelers wishing to serve as flight volunteers contact the rescue center as soon as they secure their flights.

“I messaged Cartagena Paws two weeks before my departure and received a reply peppered with exclamation points: We would love to have some help! Yes please!”

She and Max flew from Cartagena to Atlanta to Washington — he making the trip next to her in a carrier in the cabin. In Washington, he was picked up for a trip to his new home in Texas.

Sachs also put together a list of international rescues seeking escorts for dogs coming into the United States. You can find more details and contact information at that link.

(Photos: Max arrives in Washington from Cartagena, Columbia, and waits to make the trip to his forever home in San Antonio; volunteers at Cartagena Paws say goodbye to Max at the airport in Cartagena; by Andrea Sachs /The Washington Post)

Philadelphia airport dogs not up to snuff

All three bomb-sniffing dogs handled by the Transportation Security Administration at Philadelphia International Airport have lost their certification after having failed their last two tests.

And Fox News reports the problems may extend beyond that: Sources say about a dozen of the 700 TSA dogs at 85 airports have failed the tests as well.

A TSA spokesman said the three dogs in Philadelphia — after failing standard tests in November and December — are continuing intensive training to regain their certification, and are continuing to work at the airport as a “visual deterrent.” 

The dogs, trained in at Lackland Air Force base in Texas, completed the 10-week course all TSA dogs must successfully pass.

Ten other city police dogs assigned to Philadelphia’s airport passed the tests.

The TSA spokesman said the agency is working quickly to recertify the bomb sniffing dogs and assured the traveling public that security would not suffer.

Are dogs the answer to lax airport security?

Could dogs have prevented Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab from boarding a plane with explosives hidden in his underwear?

CNN asked the question yesterday — the answer to which is, with enough properly trained dogs, probably.

But explosives-detecting dogs, the report points out, aren’t generally trained to sniff out humans, and having them do so might raise some privacy concerns.

Still, those quoted in the report say, something as low-tech as dogs could be our best solution to the problem.

“The fact that this individual showed up with a one-way ticket, purchased with cash and no checked baggage — he should have been pulled aside,” said security expert Larry Berg, a consultant with Berg Associates. “And at that point, if inspected by a dog, he literally could have been detected.”

“A well-trained dog and a very good, well-trained handler can find explosives with little or no false alarms,” said trainer Patrick Beltz said. “And if they had been doing it, it might have deterred him from trying to get on the plane in the first place.”

About 700 bomb-sniffing dogs currently work at U.S. airports, and they are trained to detect up to a dozen different explosive compounds, including PETN, the compound that AbdulMutallab is alleged to have smuggled aboard Northwest flight 253 to Detroit on December 25.

The report also looks at research underway at Auburn University in Alabama, where dogs are being used to sniff not people, but the air they leave in their wake when they pass by. The Auburn trainers believe their dogs can detect very small traces of explosives and then follow the trail to the person carrying a bomb.

Did the poker game come after supper?

This doggie-style reworking of The Last Supper is an advertisement for OIPA, the Organizzazione Internazionale Protezione Animali (the International Organization for the Protection of Animals).

I’m no art critic, but I’d have to put it right up there with that classic, Dogs Playing Poker.

Only one human appears in the work —  Judas.

The copy, translated, reads: “One of you betrays us 150,000 times every year.”  

Apparently, it’s a reference to the number of dogs euthanized each year in Italy.