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Tag: regulations

USDA considers closer regulation of rescues


A Washington Post investigation that revealed 86 rescue and dog-advocacy groups and shelters nationwide have spent $2.68 million buying dogs from breeders at auctions has prompted the U.S. Agriculture Department to issue a bulletin stating that those groups may need to be licensed under the federal Animal Welfare Act.

Traditionally, they are not, and thereby operate independently of any federal regulations — even though they are, in effect, buying and selling dogs all while characterizing that work as “rescuing” and finding dogs adoptive homes.

“Our job is to ensure the humane treatment of the animals we regulate,” Deputy Administrator Bernadette Juarez, who leads the department’s animal-care program, said in the bulletin, which cited “dog acquisitions from an auction for resale (including adoption) as pets” as a reason that individuals or groups may require federal regulation.

SONY DSCThe USDA announcement came just days after the Washington Post investigation was published, triggering a public response that the Post reported on yesterday.

The initial report cited cases of bidders aligned with rescue organizations paying more than $1,000 per dog, in one case $8,000.

Altogether, the 86 rescue and advocacy groups and shelters that have registered to participate in the two government-regulated auctions, both in Missouri, have spent $2.68 million buying 5,761 dogs and puppies from breeders since 2009.

Most rescuers then offered the dogs for adoption as “rescued” or “saved,” and charge “adoption fees” that range from $50 to $1,000.

National animal welfare groups reacted to the report with differing levels of concern.

The Humane Society of the United States — which in March sued the USDA, claiming it has failed to release breeding-kennel inspection reports in violation of open-records law — said the agency should instead do a better job of regulating breeders.

“BREAKING: the USDA is planning to scrutinize pet rescue groups and require many of them to become licensed — even as it fails to crack down on puppy mills and covers up their inspection reports,” the Humane Society posted on the Facebook page of its Puppy Mills Campaign.

“This is not rescue; this is enabling abuse,” wrote Julie Castle, chief development, marketing and communications officer for the Best Friends Animal Society. “Buying puppies from puppy mill breeders and selling them to the public is not rescue. It’s the pet trade and it needs to be exposed.”

PETA said some rescuers are “propping up the dog-breeding industry. Handing thousands of dollars to the very people who are exacerbating the animal-homelessness crisis allows them to keep profiting from animals’ suffering.”

Mike Bober, president of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, urged a USDA investigation of the practice: “Federal regulators should require all organizations that operate as pet dealers under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) be licensed as such.”

While some in the breeding community cheered the USDA’s bulletin and said regulation of rescuers by the USDA was long overdue, others voicing an opinion said the federal government should leave rescuers alone and instead focus on what they call “puppy mills.”

“I will never donate to a rescue that buys dogs from an auction,” said one. “That article was an eye opener. I have never heard of such a thing, but will definitely check out the rescue I support to see if they do this. The rescues who do this should be closed down. The money spent to buy the dogs was astronomical and insane.”

Other animal lovers say rescuers are well-intentioned and above reproach:

“Why you would go out of your way to bash people for trying to help innocent animals is disgusting and idiotic!”

The Post’s investigation detailed the little-known business practice in which some rescue groups — mostly those dedicated to rescuing certain purebred breeds — buy dogs from breeders at auctions, then charge “adoption fees” to place them in new homes.

The rescue groups say buying auction dogs is necessary to remove them from the commercial breeding industry, while others said the practice just feeds money to the very breeders that rescuers often decry as puppy mills.

Nathan Winograd, founder of the No Kill Advocacy Center, which pushes for shelter overhauls, urged all sides to step out of what he called their ‘ideological straitjackets’ and instead take a reasoned approach to considering the facts.

Wrote one commenter, “I’m an executive director of a fairly large humane society in the South. . . . The premise of this story is that people are buying dogs at auction from breeders in an effort to ‘rescue’ them. This highlights the emotional problems you see in the rescue community, that blinds them to rational thought, or good judgment. If you think you are ‘rescuing’ dogs by buying them, in any way shape or form, you are in complete denial.”

The 86 rescue organizations named in the auction records reviewed by the Post are a tiny minority of the thousands of such organization in the U.S and Canada.

As one person commented on the Post article, “There are still a lot of dogs that need help, and a lot of good organizations trying to help them.”

NY council member calls for Wag probe

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Wag, an Uber-like app that pairs dogs with walkers, is getting more heat in New York, with city council members calling for an investigation into its dismal safety record.

Lawmakers and animal-rights advocates say Wag walkers have lost as least seven New York dogs since 2015 — four in the last two months.

“I have reached out to the Department of Consumer Affairs to investigate Wag immediately,” Councilman Justin Brannan (D-Brooklyn), a former animal-welfare advocate. “I feel absolutely terrible for these animal lovers and what they’ve been through. Clearly, Wag’s vetting process is a joke. Maybe this kind of thing flies in West Hollywood but it doesn’t fly here in New York City.”

According to the New York Post, dogs who escaped from Wag walkers in February included an Upper East Side Chihuahua named Norman, who slipped out of his harness and is still missing, and a goldendoodle named Simba who darted from his walker and was hit by a car.

New York City requires dogsitters to be licensed, but there are no rules governing walkers.

“There aren’t any regulations and there should be,” said Manhattan animal-rights lawyer Susan Chana Lask. “You can’t be the ‘Uber for Dogs’ without some kind of licensing — we already know what happened with Uber.”

Wag says its walkers must pass a background check, complete a rigorous online dog-safety and dog-knowledge test and attend an in-person orientation.

The Post reported that their are rumblings among state lawmakers as well that Wag might be worthy of some scrutiny.

“There’s a good possibility we may need some extra regulations and guidelines,” said state Sen. James Tedisco, who represents Schenectady.

(Photo: Teddy, a dog that went temporarily missing while under the care of Wag in December 2017; Facebook)

NC dog rescue group fighting to stay open

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Zoning laws often lack logic, but this one, in Davidson County, N.C., seems especially bone-headed.

A rescue organization in Thomasville that shelters dogs while trying to find them homes has been told that county ordinances allow kennels to have no more than 10 animals per five acres.

Exceptions to the rule are made for those who keep show dogs, those who keep hunting dogs, and those who keep or train guard dogs.

But for an organization like Ruff Love Rescue that saves dog’s lives and tries to find them adoptive homes? Sorry. Up to now, no exceptions have been made, and the county has threatened to shut them down.

ruffloveThe Winston-Salem Journal reported yesterday on the rescue, the problems it is facing, and how it is attempting to surmount them.

While the nonprofit rescue has been operating for nearly 20 years, the county issued it a zoning violation in 2015, saying, as a kennel, it is subject to rules limiting the number of animals to 10 for every five acres.

The notice followed an investigation that was prompted by a neighbor’s complaint.

The rescue’s owner, Sue Rogers, appeared before the county’s planning and zoning committee last week to again seek an exception. The committee voted in favor of allowing the rescue to have more than 10 animals as long as Rogers adds trees or other sound barriers.

That still requires approval from the Davidson County Commissioners. They are scheduled to discuss the proposal on April 11.

Rogers has argued that the rescue should receive the same exception that owners of household pets, and trainers of guard animals, show dogs and hunting dogs receive.

“So you can have 71 hunting dogs or 71 show dogs or 71 pets, but because we are a rescue, that’s a problem?” Rogers said. “What are those ‘exceptions’ doing for Davidson County? I’ll tell you what we’re doing, saving a heck of a lot of lives.”

She has a point. Shouldn’t a rescue get at least the same break that the county has granted to the owners of show dogs, guard dogs and hunting dogs? Since when is grooming dogs for beauty contests, or training them to hunt, or teaching them to get aggressive with intruders more important than saving their lives?

Given all the shortcomings over the years at the Davidson County Animal Shelter, shouldn’t the county be appreciating Rogers efforts, instead of punishing her?

The county shelter was one of the last in the state to stop euthanizing animals in a gas chamber. It has had traditionally low adoption numbers. Even after it’s operation was turned over to a nonprofit group, it had its license revoked in 2015 when investigators found, among other things, that sick and injured animals were going untreated.

Rogers started her independent rescue in her 5-acre backyard in the late 1990s. In 2015 she took in about 400 dogs. Last year, she took in 220 dogs, most of which were adopted.

The rescue regularly pulls dogs from the Davidson County shelter and other county shelters.

“I take the dogs that don’t have a chance because no one wants to invest the time and money to get them better,” Rogers said. “A lot of the dogs I take in have medical issues, like broken femurs or fractured pelvis, and would be euthanized otherwise.”

She estimates she has spent $50,000 on legal fees to keep the shelter open.

“It’s been a hard fight, but I’m not giving up,” she said. “This is my passion, this is my life, this is what I do.”

An online petition to keep the rescue open has received 1,400 signatures in a week.

(Photos: At top, Ruff Love Director Sue Rogers loads toys, treats and food donated at an adoption fair Saturday; lower photo, one of Ruff Love’s dogs is greeted at an adoption fair in Greensboro; by Allison Lee Isley, Winston-Salem Journal)

My half-ashed plans for the hereafter

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I try not to think about my own death too much, but I do have a general plan for the hereafter.

I want my cremated remains to spend eternity with my dog’s cremated remains — or at least those remains of him that remain after I, earlier this year, spread some of his ashes in his favorite ocean and some in his favorite creek.

I still have about half his ashes left (he was a big dog), and, if I revisit another place that was dear to us, I may spread a little more of him there.

But I’ll keep the rest so that they may join my own. As I see it, that should be my right as a dead man.

ashesbethania-047

But it’s not always — at least when it comes to the rules of individual cemeteries, and the many local, state and federal laws, rules and regulations that govern how we dispose of our remains and those of our pets.

In most cases, state laws prohibits burying pets in human cemeteries, even just their ashes, but they are unenforceable laws — to be honest, needless laws — and they’re generally overlooked by funeral directors.

Most funeral directors go along with it when the family of the deceased requests their pet’s ashes be placed with the deceased — even when it’s technically against the rules.

Sometimes cemetery rules prohibit it; often state laws do. In recent years, though, some states have reexamined those laws.

Virginia passed a law in 2014 permitting cemeteries to have clearly marked sections where pets and humans may be buried alongside one another — as long as the animal has its own casket.

In New York, Gov. Cuomo signed legislation last month making it legal for the cremated remains of pets to be interred with their owners at any of the approximately 1,900 not-for-profit cemeteries regulated by the state.

“For many New Yorkers, their pets are members of the family,” Cuomo said. “This legislation will roll back this unnecessary regulation and give cemeteries the option to honor the last wishes of pet lovers across New York.”

The new law does not apply to cemeteries owned or operated by religious associations or societies, and any cemetery still has the right to say no.

But it’s a step closer to reasonable, and better than an interim measure passed three years ago, when New York made it permissible to bury the cremated remains of humans and their dogs together — but only in pet cemeteries.

State lawmakers approved the new bill during the final days of the legislature’s session June, according to The New York Daily News

“For years now, New Yorkers have desired to have their pets interred in their grave, and cemeteries will now be able to offer this burial option as a result of this new law,” said Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer (R-Erie County), who sponsored the law in the Senate.

One of those New Yorkers was Leona Helmsley, the hotel magnate who died in 2007 and specified in her will that she wanted her dog, Trouble, interred with her in the family mausoleum in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Westchester County.

Trouble died and was cremated in 2011, but could not be buried with her owner because of the state law prohibiting it.

Call me crazy (just don’t call me as crazy as her), but I want my ashes with Ace’s ashes, and not just in adjacent airtight containers.

I want them mixed, or at least — should I opt for my own to be spread — spread in the same location.

That could violate a law or two — because there are thousands of them governing how and where dogs and humans can be buried, cremation procedures, after-death mingling of species and where ashes can be spread.

According to Time.com scattering human ashes at sea must be done from a boat or plane three nautical miles from shore. That’s an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule.

The EPA says scattering a pet’s ashes in the sea is prohibited.

Woops, I already violated that rule.

Before it’s all over, or, more accurately, once it’s all over, I might violate some more. Blame my rebellious streak.

My advice is to check your city, county, state and federal laws, and then break them — at least as much as you, being dead, can.

Burying an entire dog or human body is one thing, and there should, for public health reasons, be some rules regulating that.

glennBut ashes have no germs, no odor, no dangerous implications. What pet owners might have spread in rivers and streams over the centuries is non-toxic and only a drop in the bucket compared to, say, the coal ash Duke Energy unleashed in a day.

My plan to combine the ashes of myself and my dog still has some details in need of being worked out.

For one, I’ll need an accomplice to carry out my wishes and do the mixing, assuming the crematorium balks at my afterlife recipe — mix one part Ace with two parts John in a large Folgers Coffee can. Shake well.

After that it would be sent along to my designated spreader, to be named at a later date.

(I was joking about Folgers, any brand will do.)

When we leave the coffee can, we would like for it to be somewhere scenic and not too noisy.

Somewhere with a view of the sunset would be nice.

Someplace where I’m not in a neat row among other rows.

And somewhere free — in both meanings of the word.

Ace and I were thrifty in our travels, and our travels were all about feeling free and liberated as opposed to crated, coffined or cubicled.

I want our ashes to have that same freedom, together.

(Photos: Top and bottom, spreading Ace’s ashes in an unspecified ocean on the east coast, by Seth Effron and Glenn Edens; middle, more of Ace’s ashes being spread along a creek in Bethania, N.C., by Joe Woestendiek)

Depp and his wife apologize to Australia

Johnny Depp’s wife totally out-acted her more famous husband, or at least came across as more sincere, in this video apologizing to the Australian government for sneaking their two Yorkshire terriers into the country without declaring them.

In what more than a few think looks like a hostage video, the couple talks about the importance of Australia’s strict biosecurity laws — aimed at preserving the islands diverse plant and animal life.

“When you disrespect Australian law, they will tell you firmly,” Depp somberly — almost sleepily — intones.

“I am truly sorry that Pistol and Boo were not declared,” says his wife, Amber Heard.

Clearly, this recorded apology was part of a deal reached between the couple’s lawyers and the Australian government. Heard was initially charged with smuggling, conviction of which can carry a 10-year prison sentence, but she pleaded guilty yesterday only to knowingly producing a false or misleading document.

In exchange for that, and the apology, she got little more than a slap on the wrist. She received a one-month “good-behavior bond,” which means she would be fined ($1,000 Australian dollars) only if she broke that bond.

The apology was posted to Facebook by Australia Minister of Agriculture Barnaby Joyce, who, after the charges were first filed, suggested that the dogs, if they weren’t “buggered off back to the United States,” might otherwise face being euthanized.

After that, during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Depp called Joyce a “weird, sweaty-pated gut man who decided two five- or six-inch teacup terriers would harm the country in some way.”

Quite a contrast with the apology video, yes?

Depp and Heard failed to filed the proper paperwork when they arrived by private jet last year in Australia, where Depp was filming “Pirates of the Caribbean 5.” Normally, arriving dogs face a quarantine period.

After photos of Depp’s dogs going to a groomer in Australia went public, the government began an investigation into how they entered the country.

Joyce told ABC News that he hopes the recorded apology serves as a warning to future travelers to Australia.

“The more widely viewed it is the more we have people who might be unaware of our biosecurity requirements and, as they come into this nation, they say this is one thing that the Australians are red hot about, biosecurity.”

How many dogs can a dog walker walk?

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How many dogs should a dog walker walk at once?

After half a century as an amateur dog walker, and three months as a professional one, I’m prepared to give a qualified answer to that question.

It depends on the dogs. It depends on the dog walker. But three at a time should be plenty.

Many a dog walker might scoff at that — and view the idea of limiting the number of dogs a person can walk at one time as cutting into their profit margin.

It would be nice if dog walking was the one industry in the world not obsessed with upping its profits. But it’s not.

Many dog walkers balked when San Francisco — one of very few cities that regulates professional dog walkers — suggested limiting them to walking no more than eight dogs at once.

I can’t imagine doing that.

I can’t even imagine walking all three of the small dogs I walk for residents of at an assisted living facility all at once.

bgdogs 042Their leashes would get tangled, I’d trip and fall, and, given a couple of them tend to snarf up anything that resembles food — including Punkin, the handsome Boston Terrier to your left — I wouldn’t be able to monitor all three at once.

So — even though it takes three times as long — I opt for walking them one at a time. Bean counters and efficiency experts would say that’s stupid of me.

But then again, I’m 60, and not as agile and speedy, maybe, as once I was.

Here’s a news item that came out of Mill Valley, just up the road from San Francisco, this week:

A 71-year-old dog walker who fell more than 200 feet down a ravine in California was found by rescuers — with all six dogs she was walking huddled around her.

Carol Anderson fell into the ravine near a remote fire road during a storm Tuesday in Mill Valley, KTVU reported.

It’s not clear from news reports whether all six dogs fell with her, but she did manage to hold on to her cell phone during the tumble, and use it to contact one of her dog walking clients.

A Mill Valley Fire Department official said Anderson told the client, “I fell down, I don’t know where I’m at. I have the dogs. I’m dizzy. I’m nauseous, come help me.”

Authorities were able to track her down through her cell phone signals. The first rescuers to arrive found all six dogs curled up around her, which authorities said probably protected her from the cold. Firefighters climbed into the ravine and hoisted Anderson back up.

Anderson was hospitalized in fair condition. All the dogs were returned safely to their owners

It wasn’t the first time the dog walker has run into some bad luck.

In 2007, three of seven dogs Anderson had been walking — all at once — all got sick and died, just hours later, from what turned out to be strychnine poisoning intended to exterminate gophers.

After a morning walk on the Alta Trail above Marin City, the three dogs experienced high fevers and seizures. Two died at an area pet hospital, and a third was dead on arrival.

Walking six, seven, eight or more dogs at once strikes me as asking for trouble — no matter how well behaved the dogs are, or how experienced and physically fit the dog walker is.

I don’t think the rest of the country needs to go all San Francisco and regulate the industry. Dog owners can do that themselves, simply by asking, or insisting if necessary, that their dog not be walked in a group the size of a baseball team, or jury.

The dog walker who refuses to comply with such a request is probably more of a money seeker than a dog lover and may be better off avoided anyway.

(Top photo, a dog walker in San Francisco, by Mike Koozmin/ San Francisco Examiner; bottom photo by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)

Gov. McCrory shows his soft side

While he’s not viewed as particularly warm and cuddly by Democrats — at least when it comes to helping humans in need — N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory says he wants the public to adopt abandoned and mistreated dogs, and he and the first lady are opening up the governor’s mansion (or at least its yard) for an adoption event tomorrow.

McCrory is shown in this News & Observer video petting a pomeranian, seized in a recent puppy mill bust in Pender County.

Lexi will be among as many as 30 dogs — some coming from as far away as Greensboro and Charlotte to attend — who will be available for adoption at the event, which runs from 10:30 a.m.to 12:30 p.m. Saturday

While it seems odd protocol for an adoption event, anyone wishing to attend is asked to RSVP by today — by emailing eventrsvp@nc.gov.

The governor and first lady Ann McCrory are also promoting a bill to set minimum standards for breeding operations.

While the proposal isn’t too tough, relative to measures passed in other states, it sets standards ensuring that dogs have daily exercise, fresh food and water, shelter and veterinary care at breeding operations with at least 10 females.

The measure passed the House but didn’t get heard in the Senate before it recessed. The General Assembly reconvenes in May.

“I’m not going to give up on the bill,” the governor said at the press conference announcing the adoption event Wednesday. “This dog issue is not a Democratic or Republican issue — it’s an independent issue for every one of us.”

The McCrorys have one dog, Moe, who lives at their Charlotte residence.