Three shelter dogs in New Zealand have been taught to drive a car by a local SPCA, and one of them will be demonstrating his skills behind the wheel on live television next week.
The SPCA in Auckland had the dogs trained in how to shift gears, brake and steer — all part of a marketing campaign aimed at demonstrating the intelligence of rescued dogs.
The SPCA hired animal trainer Mark Vette to teach driving to the dogs — Monty, an 18-month-old giant schnauzer whose owner was unable to control him; Ginny, a one-year-old whippet cross who was rescued from abusive owners; and Porter, a ten-month-old bearded collie cross who was found roaming the streets.
The dogs underwent five weeks of indoor training to encourage them to touch and move brakes, gear sticks and steering wheels, and received treats along the way, New Zealand’s TV3 reported. Once they mastered the basics, they were given a mock car to practice with.
“No animal has ever driven a car before so what we’re going to do is we’re going to do a straight and we’re going to head off, so we’ll start the car, get into position, brake on, gear in place, back onto the steering wheel, accelerator, take off and hoon along the straight and then stop.”
(Not speaking New Zealandese, we can’t tell you what “hoon along” means.)
“In this case we’ve got ten behaviors we’re all putting together, so each behavior is a trained behavior and then you put them into a sequence,” Vette said. “So it’s a lot to do, and for the dog to actually start to get an idea of what actually is happening takes quite a long time.”
On Monday, Monty the dog’s driving abilities will be tested on the television show Campbell live, shown nationally in New Zealand. (You can learn more about the project on its Facebook page.)
“I think sometimes people think because they’re getting an animal that’s been abandoned that somehow it’s a second-class animal, SPCA Auckland chief executive Christine Kalin to Newscom.AU. “This really shows with the right environment just how much potential all dogs from the SPCA have as family pets.”
(Photos: Auckland SPCA)
Posted by jwoestendiek December 6th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: abandoned, adoption, animals, auckland, bearded collie, brake, car, dog drives car, dogs, drive, driving, gear, giant, ginny, learn, mark vetter, mix, monty, mutts, new zealand, pets, porter, rescue, schnauzer, shelter, shift, spca, stray, taught, trainer, whippet
That was high praise for Mutts creator and artist Patrick McDonnell — Schulz, the creator of Peanuts, was his idol.
Now McDonnell is returning Schulz’s compliment with a week-long homage to the Peanuts legend.
All this week McDonnell is honoring his idol in his daily comic strip, which chronicles the adventures of Earl the dog and Mooch the cat. The series started off with this memorable Schulz quote: “A cartoonist is someone who has to draw the same thing day after day without repeating himself.”
The special Mutts series, distributed by King Features Syndicate, is running September 10-15 in over 700 newspapers worldwide as well as appearing online in more than 100 Comics Kingdom sites and on DailyINK.com.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 12th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, charles schulz, comic, comics, dogs, earl, mooch, mutts, patrick mcdonnell, peanuts, pets, snoopy, strips, tribute
While there’s an old one hanging on my wall, and while I served as a juror once, I have little to say these days about Pulitzer Prizes.
The Pawlitzer Prizes are another matter, though, and, since they don’t really exist, I hereby bestow one on the Toledo Blade.
The newspaper’s report Sunday, asking and answering the question of how many dogs are put down at the local shelter under the mistaken belief they are pit bulls, is the kind of probing, hard-hitting doggie journalism we need more of — as opposed to celebrity dogs, costumed dogs, ugly dogs and cute dogs.
(It’s also the kind of journalism we need more of, in these times of fading newspapers and diminishing depth.)
The story raises some serious questions about how many supposed pit bulls have been and are being euthanized at the Lucas County Animal Shelter, where the decision of who’s a pit bull — as at most shelters — is based on an educated guess, or often an uneducated one, reached solely on the basis of looks.
The story shows that looks can be deceiving.
Written by Tanya Irwin, it’s a piece that should be required reading at every animal shelter. It starts like this:
Lucas is lucky to be alive.
The dog, owned by Laurie and George Hughes of Rossford, was one of the first “pit bull” puppies spared by the Lucas County dog warden in January, 2010, after the county commissioners changed a long-standing policy under which all “pit bulls,” no matter their age or temperament, were automatically destroyed.
The irony is that Lucas, who was transferred to the Toledo Area Humane Society, isn’t a “pit bull.”
As the story points out, recent changes in local and state law mean dogs designated as pit bulls will no longer get an automatic death sentence when they arrive at a county shelter. In practice, though, and somewhat less automatically, they still are often euthanized, due to factors like an overabundance of their kind at shelters.
The newspaper conducted DNA tests on six dogs that were originally labeled as pit bulls by the Lucas County dog warden. Using the Mars Veterinary Wisdom Panel Insights DNA test, it determined only one was predominantly American Staffordshire terrier and Staffordshire bull terrier. Two had some “pit,” and three of the dogs had no “pit bull” breed in them at all
“We really don’t care what breed he is, he’s a good dog and we love him,” said Hughes. “I think it’s awful what people say about ‘pit bulls’ or dogs that look like ‘pit bulls.’ It’s like racism, except against dogs.”
Two other dogs, despite their labels, were pit-free: Carly, who turned out to be an American bulldog -American Eskimo mix, and Bandit, whose breeds were boxer, Scottish terrier, Chinook, Doberman pinscher, black Russian terrier, Irish setter, Glen of Imaal terrier, and dogue de Bordeaux.
Based on factors like a large head or broad chest, dogs are being mislabeled as pit bulls – a subjective judgment that, in the case of Toledo and Lucas County, and many other jurisdictions, can determine whether a dog lives or dies. It often also determines, in communities across America, whether you can rent, the cost of your insurance, and even whether you’re allowed into town in the first place.
Then you have the “pit bull mix,” an equally dangerous designation, also used to unfairly ban, restrict or single out dogs. Is it based on having a majority of pit bull blood, a small percentage (as my dog does, according to our own experiences with DNA testing), or any at all? No. It’s also most often a guess, based on looks, that allows even more dogs to be discriminated against.
Former Lucas County Dog Warden Tom Skeldon, who departed the office amid complaints over its high kill rate and his insistence that all dogs he deemed pit bulls must be killed, said he never considered the DNA tests to be reliable, and therefore made no use of them.
Dr. Angela Hughes, a veterinarian and the veterinary genetics research manager at Mars Veterinary, told the newspaper that the reliability of the tests has increased over the past four years, and now stands at about 80 to 85 percent in the case of the cheek-swab tests.
That’s a far better record than many an animal shelter probably has. At most of them, classifying a dog’s breed is a guessing game. Dogs shouldn’t be put to death based on a guess. In Lucas County, the article notes, thousands may have been.
“It’s impossible to know how many dogs Mr. Skeldon killed claiming they were pit bulls when they weren’t, but based on the kill rate during his more than 20 years as warden, the fact that close to half the dogs at the pound traditionally have been labeled pit bulls, and the DNA tests The Blade performed, easily thousands of dogs could have been killed because they were mislabeled pit bull.”
The Lucas County dog warden’s office continues to euthanize perceived pit bulls because it is “at capacity for ‘pit bull-type’ dogs.” Dog Warden Julie Lyle told the newspaper that — despite Ohio having recently revamped a law that labeled all pit bulls dangerous – the shelter has yet to begin adopting out pit bulls.
The state’s new dangerous dog law, which brings an end to pit bulls being automatically designated as dangerous, goes into effect May 21. But even then, pit bulls, due to their numbers, will likely remain the type of dog most often euthanized.
Dr. Amy Marder, director for the Center for Shelter Dogs, has proposed that dogs adopted from shelters in the United States simply be identified as “American shelter dogs.”
The North Shore Animal League in New York has done away with the pit bull label, in part because it’s not actually a breed, anyway. Instead the league refers to dogs who have “the look” as terrier mixes.
Lucas County dog warden Lyle thinks that approach is deceptive.
“When people think of terriers, they think of small, cuddly dogs, not large dogs,” Lyle said.
She said that, unless a breed is mentioned by people surrendering a dog, she and her deputies designate what breed a dog is. Currently about 40 percent of the dogs the pound takes in are designated as pit bulls.
Lyle said she was not surprised that there were cases they had gotten wrong. Overall, she said, she thinks she and her staff have done a good job deciding who is a pit bull and who is not. She said she doesn’t see any reason for the pound to change how it identifies a dog’s breed.
I can think of three: Lucas, Carly and Bandit.
(Graphic from the Toledo Blade; photo by Lori King / Toledo Blade)
Posted by jwoestendiek March 20th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: american shelter dogs, american staffordshire terrier, animals, appearance, breed testing, breeds, bully, dangerous, dna, dna testing, dog, dog warden, dogs, euthanasia, euthanized, guessing, investigation, killed, labeled, looks, lucas county, mislabeled, mixes, mutts, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, shelter dogs, shelters, staffordshire bull terrier, terriers, testing, toledo, toledo blade, warden, wrongly
Here’s an ad we doubt would have flown during the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. In fact, it never saw the light of day anywhere (except online), having been banned from appearing during the 2006 Super Bowl.
In the ad, for Bud Light, an upscale dog owner, sweater draped over his shoulders, is showing off his purebred border collie. Then he asks the mutt owner he is talking to, “What can your dog do?”
To see the painful answer, watch the video.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 22nd, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: 2006, ad, advertisement, animals, banned, beer, border collie, bud light, commercial, dogs, dogs in advertising, marketing, mutts, pedigree, pets, purebreds, super bowl, tricks, westminster dog show, woof in advertising
Wonder why you’re not seeing any ads for Pedigree dog food during the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show?
Apparently, mutts like Roscoe (above) — especially homeless ones — aren’t viewed by the club as sending the right message, so they’ve cut their ties to long-time sponsor (as in 24 years) Pedigree dog foods.
Apparently, some of Pedigree’s ads — the ones promoting dog adoption, the ones featuring sad-eyed mixed breeds as opposed to well-coiffed, prancing purebreds – were just too hard-hitting and depressing for the kennel club’s tastes.
“We want people to think of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show as a celebration of the dogs in our lives,” David Frei, the club’s director of communications and the host of the show for over two decades, told the Associated Press.
“Our show is a celebration of dogs. We’re not promoting purebreds at the expense of non-purebreds. We celebrate all dogs. When we’re seeing puppies behind bars, it takes away from that. Not just because it’s sad, but it’s not our message … Show me an ad with a dog with a smile; don’t try to shame me.”
Pedigree’s ads, club honchos agreed, were getting too heavy-handed.
Frei said the kennel club had expressed those concerns to Pedigree: “We told them that, and they ignored us.”
Taking a look at the newest series of ads that are part of Pedigree’s continuing efforts to encourage dog adoptions — you can see them here — I don’t see much sadness. They seem more an expression of pride. They come right out and say don’t feel sorry for me. They seem to say the shelter mutt is just as valuable, and will make just as good a pet (and we’d argue maybe even better) than a purebred.
Maybe that’s the kennel club’s problem. Maybe they want television coverage of Westminster — the big show began yesterday at Madison Square Garden — to keep the focus strictly on purebreds, which are, for it, the money makers.
Granted, some of Pedigree’s earlier adoption-oriented ads were pretty bleak in tone; and everybody (attention ASPCA and Humane Society) is getting tired of those ads that, while cool for the first two viewings, continue to tug so blatantly and repeatedly at our heartstrings we now switch the channels instantly when they come on.
Granted, too, the Westminster Dog Show is free to choose any advertisers it wants, and the American Kennel Club does fund research and offer programs that benefit all dogs, purebred or not. And, to keep things in context, it’s not necessarily dissing mutts with this particular action; it’s dissing downer, guilt-inducing adoption ads.
But it all comes across a little like snobbery; a little like denial, when it comes to the millions of dogs euthanized each year; a little like let’s stay here in our private fantasy world — not open to the unwashed masses, or those who might be of mixed breeds, even though every purebred, except the wolf, is in fact a result of mixing.
Pedigree has been replaced with Nestlé Purina PetCare, whose ads of peppy, happy dogs are more to the kennel club’s liking. The new partnership was announced last spring.
“They’ve shared with us, when we parted ways, that they felt that our advertising was focused too much on the cause of adoption and that wasn’t really a shared vision,” said Melissa Martellotti, a brand communications manager for Mars Petcare US, which makes the Pedigree brands. The kennel club, she said, is “focused on the purebred mission.”
Martellotti said the partnership had been a boon to Pedigree’s adoption initiatives. In 2007, $500,000 in pledges were received after its ads were broadcast over the show’s two days.
Nearly 3.5 million people watched last year’s show, broadcast on the USA Network and CNBC.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 14th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adoption, ads, advertising, animals, campaign, celebrate, company, david frei, dog food, dog show, dogs, dogs in advertising, dropped, euthanized, kennel club, message, mutts, pedigree, pets, purebred, sad, shelters, sponsor, westminster, woof in advertising
A pit bull who helped show Baltimore the breed’s good side, inspired a blog and turned a young couple’s life around passed away at the end of last week.
Knox, only about 3, died from complications associated with a blood parasite for which he recently tested positive.
His final days, and his short but joyous life — at least since being adopted — are recounted on the blog Pittieful Love: Adventures in Fostering and Loving America’s Dog.
Knox was adopted by a young couple named Brian and Jess DeLeon in May 2010 from BARCS (Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter), the same shelter Ace came from.
Upon his arrival at BARCS, he’d been given the name Oil Change, because he (and his brother, dubbed Dipstick) came to the shelter from a gas station, where they apparently were leading pretty neglected lives.
His adoption would turn that around, as well as life for Brian and Jess.
“We went from young 20-somethings who wanted to rescue a dog, to two completely devoted owners who also are now completely devoted to this breed (which we didn’t know jack about before) … We brought home a “Baltimore Mutt” (aka a pit-mix) and had no idea how much of an influence he would have on us, on the world he lives in, the streets he walks, and the people he’d meet. Not to mention the people whom he’d introduce us to.”
Knox was a regular participant in Pit Bulls on Parade, a series of weekend walks sponsored by B-more Dog, aimed at correcting public misconceptions about pit bulls. He was a friend and guide to the other fosters Brian and Jess took in, and a blood donor, as well. And he’d inspire the couple to fight for pit bulls city-wide, through their connections with B-More Dog, Mid-Atlantic Bully Buddies and BARCS.
Just before Christmas, Knox was diagnosed with the blood disorder, and, as Jess blogged, became a different dog — no longer as lively, or as willing to place his 68 pounds, at least half of that seemingly head, on your lap.
In her blog, Jess astutely reflects that, after the long fight, sometimes it’s best to let nature take its course — especially when the heroic efforts you’re making are, at their core, not for your dog but for yourself.
“It may sound horrible, but I refuse to string him along for no reason, not to mention waste thousands of dollars to keep him alive for my own personal benefit … Keeping him alive, barely…who is that serving? Certainly we love him too much to be that selfish … We love him way too much.
We extend our condolences to Jess and Brian, and encourage them to keep focusing not on the loss, or the void, but on the substantial contribution Knox made, and the joys — big and little – he provided, both to them and others.
Judging from yesterday’s Pittieful Love blog post, that’s exactly what they’re doing:
“You, sneaky boy, were wild. WILD. But you loved us right away, and we loved you. We met you at first in an escort room. Small, tight space, but we weren’t intimidated by your jumping, your tail, your huge head and that awesome smile. We wanted to take you outside to the run. You were in HEAVEN. And you loved to run! But you kept coming right back to us, and sitting on our feet. The fresh air, the open space, you loved it! But you loved us too. And that was a good sign to us. We couldn’t stop smiling.”
(Photo courtesy of Pittieful Love)
Posted by jwoestendiek February 7th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adoption, ambassador, animals, b-more dog, baltimore animal rescue & care, barcs, blood, breeds, brian deleon, death, disorder, dogs, dying, foster, goodwill, grief, jess deleon, knox, loss, memories, misconceptions, misperceptions, mutts, oil change, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, pit bulls on parade, pitbull, pitbulls, pits, pittieful love, rescue, shelter, stereotyping
The Shelter Pet Project has unveiled a new series of public service ads, all featuring pets talking about their owner’s quirks.
As a follow up to its “Mutts” ads – a stylish series of animations by Patrick McDonnell, creator of the “Mutts” comics — the Shelter Pet Project campaign shifts from portraying the heartwarming benefits of adopting animals to looking at humans through pets eyes.
In the one above, two dogs comment on the flirtatious behavior of their humans. Below, a dog wonders if his human truly understands the game of hide and seek.
The ads end with the tagline: “A person is the best thing to happen to a shelter pet. Be that person.”
The Shelter Pet Project is a public service ad campaign sponsored by The Humane Society of the United States and Maddie’s Fund in partnership with the Ad Council.
You can see all the new ads here.
(All of our “Woof in Advertising” selections can be found archived here.)
Posted by jwoestendiek December 4th, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: ad council, ads, advertising, behavior, campaign, commercials, dogs, dogs in advertising, hsus, humane society of the united states, humans, maddie's fund, marketing, mutts, new, psa, quirky, shelter pet project, woof in advertising
A company whose candy you’ll probably be handing out next week announced the introduction today of a genetic diversity test, aimed at allowing dog breeders to lessen the chances of bringing unhealthy pups into the world.
“Optimal Selection,” despite its somewhat eugenic-sounding name, is a first-of-its-kind tool that actually seeks to broaden the gene pool of various breeds, and thereby avoid the kind of purebred health problems that have become too common as a result of inbreeding closely related dogs.
With the new test from Mars Veterinary, a division of Mars Inc., breeders will be able to select the physical and behavioral traits that are important to them, then, through a DNA test on the blood of potential mates, compare chromosomal similarities and differences.
Based on those results, Mars said in a press release, “the breeder is given the opportunity to diversify the genetic makeup of their puppies and reduce the risk of recessive medical conditions.”
A story (written by me) on those risks and problems, and how, as an issue, they’ve never seemed to reach a tipping point in the American public consciousness, appears in the current issue of The Bark.
Pet products and tests are not new ground for Mars. In addition to pet foods (Pedigree, Whiskas, Sheba, Cesar and Royal Canin), Mars Veterinary was one of the pioneers in doggie DNA testing, coming out with a test to determine what breeds are in a dog, and later with tests to verify the heritage of purebreds and designer dogs.
For mutts, Mars Veterinary offers both a swab-based mixed breed test, called Wisdom Panel Insights, and a blood based test, Wisdom Panel Professional. The company says those tests can help predict a dog’s future health problems, based upon the breeds that are in him.
With the Optimal Selection test, though, Mars seems to have stepped beyond appeasing dog owner curiosity to actually addressing the kind of health problems that inbreeding has led to — from bulldogs with heads too big to be born naturally to spaniels whose brains outgrow their skulls.
“For centuries, dedicated breeders have worked to improve the temperament, conformation, and health of their purebred dogs,” their press release says. “However, this can cause a decrease in genetic diversity leaving the breeding community to contend with concerns such as smaller litter size, puppy mortality, and other health issues, in addition to a negative consumer perception around breeding practices.”
The analysis provided by Optimal Selection ($95) uses a scoring system based on the compatibility of the chromosomes of potential mates.
“We have leveraged our extensive knowledge of the genetic structures across breeds to closely examine the DNA of dogs within each breed and help owners take their breeding programs to the next level,” said Dr. Angela Hughes, Veterinary Genetics Research Manager at Mars Veterinary.
“Optimal Selection has the potential to transform dog breeding so that the genetic diversity within a breed or family line can be protected and maximized,” she added.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 24th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, breeders, canine, chromosomes, designer dogs, diseases, diversity, dna, dogs, genetic, health, health problems, hybrids, inbreeding, linebreeding, mars, mars veterinary, mates, mating, maximize, mixed breeds, mutts, optimal selection, pets, practices, product, purebred, test, wisdom panel
It’s time for DogFest, the Baltimore Humane Society’s annual day-long celebration of dogs.
It’s this Saturday, Oct. 15 (with a rain date of Oct. 22) at the Baltimore Humane Society, 1601 Nicodemus Road in Reisterstown.
Gates open at 9 a.m., and activities continue until 6 p.m., with a full schedule of games, contests and events, and plenty of vendors, prizes, experts, food and adoptable pets
The entrance fee is $10, and parking is free.
As usual, the Humane Society requests no retractable leashes.
Keep reading for the full schedule. Read more »
Posted by jwoestendiek October 13th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adoptions, agility, animals, baltimore, baltimore humane society, big, canine, canine agility, contests, costumes, dancing dogs, dog, dogfest, dogs, events, experts, fundraiser, games, kissing dogs, lookalikes, mutts, pets, shelter, singing dogs, small, tricks, vendors
The Shelter Pet Project was launched about two years ago, and quickly teamed up with Patrick McDonnell, creator of Mutts comics.
The series of animated ads they’ve produced are aimed at encouraging pet adoptions, and reducing the 3 million deaths of cats in shelters each year.
In the one above — and they are all equal parts sweet and funny – an old dog finds a home.
In another, a Boston Terrier watches while his owner gets arrested for insider trading. “He’s going to jail and I’m going to a shelter. And no, they’re not the same thing.”
The Shelter Pet Project marks the first Ad Council campaign to focus on pets.
In addition to the animated “Mutts” ads, the campaign has produced some pretty memorable non-animated ads as well. Here’s one, called “Ditched.”
(All of our “Woof in Advertising” selections can be found archived here.)
Posted by jwoestendiek October 1st, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: adopt, ads, advertising, animal welfare, animals, animation, ditched, dogs, dogs in advertising, marketing, mutts, old dogs, patrick mcdonnell, pets, psa, rescue, shelter, shelter pet project, woof in advertising