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Tag: sanctuary

A place for old dogs to die loved

A little peace, and quiet, and love, and attention — they’re all any of us really want in life.

And maybe even more so when death is on the way.

For humans, hospice care is now big business, but the opportunity for sick and elderly dogs to die in peace and dignity isn’t always there.

And often, their last days are less than peaceful — especially for those whose owners, hoping to avoid the expense of veterinary care, abandon them to shelters or worse.

Seeing that happening too often — seeing them get abandoned at the time they need someone the most — a northern Michigan woman started the Silver Muzzle Cottage, a rescue and hospice for homeless old dogs.

The Detroit Free Press on Sunday took an in-depth look at the organization and the woman behind it, Kim Skarritt.

Silver Muzzle Cottage takes in dogs left behind either by owner choice, or by circumstances, as when a dog’s owner suddenly dies and no one else can care for it.

In two years, she has cared for more than 70 of them. It remains the only such hospice in the state, and one of the few in the country.

1441360_668204089941476_771065216946594329_n“They don’t ask for much when they’re really old,” said the 56-year-old former auto engineer. “They want to be loved and cared for, they want food and they just need a warm place to lay their head at night.”

Five years ago, Skarritt opened a dog boarding and fitness center called Bowsers by the Bay. Through that work, she noticed the pattern of elderly dogs being abandoned in their final days. After calling animal shelters throughout the state, she estimated there were about 900 senior dogs within 500 miles of Elk Rapids needing a home.

Skarritt researched the issue, finding many area shelters were taking in old dogs whose owners had surrendered them, sometimes just leaving them tied outside the shelters at night.

“I kept seeing these 14-year-old dogs and 13-year-old dogs in shelters and needing homes, and I’m going, ‘What is that? Who does that?'”

So she bought an empty storage building next door to her business and opened Silver Muzzle Cottage as a nonprofit rescue just for elderly dogs, which she defines as age 10 or older, or terminally ill but not suffering so much they need to be euthanized.

The Free Press described the inside of the rescue as a “big living room with couches, throw pillows, a fake fireplace with decorations atop the mantle, end tables with vases and a coffee table with a thick photo book about dogs atop it. It looks like a normal house, except there’s a bunch of dogs lounging on the couches like they own the place.”

The dogs aren’t caged at night, which means someone has to be there at all times. Skarritt moved into a small bare bones room adjacent to the living room and sleeps there at night.

About 100 rotating volunteers visit the dogs, take them for walks and car rides and pet and play with them.

Despite their old age, many get adopted — both by volunteers and by those among whom Skarritt works to spread the word about both the plight old dogs face, and the joys of having them around.

If you ask me, the world could use more places like this — for dogs and humans; places that aren’t about being poked, and prodded and prolonged but about being treated with some love, dignity and compassion when the end is near.

Silver Muzzle Cottage is at 201 Industrial Park, Elk Rapids, Mich., 49629. For information, call 231-264-8408, or visit the Silver Muzzle Cottage Facebook page.

(Photo from Silver Muzzle’s Facebook page)

A stunning moment in nature goes viral, but it may not have been that natural

Video of a sled dog and a polar bear becoming buddies in northern Manitoba last weekend has gone viral, but it may not have been the stunning, pure and heartwarming moment in nature it was — and still is being — described as.

CBC reported yesterday that just days before the video, in a moment not captured on camera, a polar bear killed one of the rare sled dogs being raised on the same property.

And some officials are questioning whether the property owner, who runs a sled dog sanctuary on the land, might be illegally feeding the bears to lure them onto his property, which in turn draws tourists, which in turn supplement his income.

Initially, the videotaped moment was described as a warm and tender meeting between two species.

The video was shot and posted to YouTube by David De Meulles, a heavy-duty mechanic in Churchill, who moonlights as a tour guide for a friend, Brian Ladoon.

Ladoon operates the Mile 5 Dog Sanctuary in Churchill, where he cares for a rare breed of sled dog and supplements his income by allowing tours of the property, mostly by tourists interested in spotting polar bears.

On Saturday, De Meulles drove two clients out to Ladoon’s property in hopes of seeing some polar bears, and they watched as the polar bear approached the dog.

“I had no idea what was going to happen, and then sure enough he (the polar bear) started petting that dog, acted like he was a friend,” David De Meulles said. “I just so happened to catch a video of a lifetime.”

“I’ve known the bears to have somewhat friendly behavior with the dogs, but for a bear to pet like a human would pet a dog is just mind-blowing,” De Meulles initially told CBC.

“It was a beautiful sight to see, and I just can’t believe an animal that big would show that kind of heart toward another animal.”

But a few days later, CBC reported that a Manitoba Sustainable Development spokesperson confirmed that three polar bears had to be removed from Ladoon’s property the previous week after one of them killed a sled dog.

“Conservation officers had to immobilize a bear in that area last week and move it to the holding facility because it killed one of his dogs,” the spokesperson told CBC. “A mother and cub were also removed because there were allegations the bears were being fed and the females’ behavior was becoming a concern.”

Under Manitoba’s Endangered Species and Ecosystem Act, “No person shall kill, injure, possess, disturb or interfere with an endangered species, a threatened species, or an extirpated species that has been reintroduced.”

“The protection of polar bears is of utmost importance and interfering with their natural behavior will not be tolerated,” the spokesman added.

Other critics of Ladoon’s operation expressed concern about the dog in the video being chained — making it bait for a polar bear.

“The dog was chained up and they’re totally vulnerable,” said Ian Stirling, an adjunct professor at the University of Alberta. “Inuit (hunters) over the years in the high Arctic have told me that if you want a dog to act as a guard dog, you have to leave it off a chain. Because if it’s on a chain it knows it’s vulnerable and it won’t bark.”

The practice of feeding the bears also places the bears in danger, he added.

“Any situation that brings bears in to feed in an unnatural situation in association with human beings, I think, should not take place at all,” he said. It could lead the bears to equate the presence of humans and dogs with the availability of food and lead them to enter more populated areas.

“It’s basically a death sentence for the bears,” he said.

Ladoon, meanwhile, admits to caring for both the dogs and the bears, and indicated that whatever happens on his land is “nature’s will.”

Leon lives! Turkey finds sanctuary

Maybe it was some kind of turkey sixth sense that led Leon to leave wherever he was and hit the streets of Ventura County, California, when November rolled around.

Because we all know — and possibly turkeys do too — what day is coming up.

Leon was found wandering the streets earlier this month and taken to the local animal shelter. A Stockton-based rescue, Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary, pulled him from there, wanting to make sure he didn’t end up on someone’s Thanksgiving dinner table.

Sanctuary manager Christine Morrissey said it quickly became apparent that Leon expected something more than a turkey’s life. He loves to be picked up and carried, petted and kissed, and have his belly rubbed.

leon2“He just took to people immediately,” she told THV11.

Morrissey said she doesn’t know if Leon escaped from a farm where he was being raised for slaughter, or if he was someone’s pet.

But, she noted, “He certainly is the age of a turkey that would be slaughtered for Thanksgiving dinner.”

Turkeys have more complex emotions than most people think, she said, but Leon seems one of a kind.

“For an animal to immediately trust us and want companionship, that is, definitely I would say, an unusual trait,” she said.

Morrissey is working on teaching him some tricks, trying to figure out how to get a leash or harness on him, and even contemplating whether he has the potential to become a therapy turkey.

Likely, he will end up alongside some cranberries on Thanksgiving — but not as an entree. They seem to be his favorite treat.

(Photo from Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary Facebook page)

300 dogs seized from N.C. shelter to be available for adoption this weekend

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Many of those 650 dogs and cats removed six weeks ago from an unlicensed shelter in Hoke County, North Carolina, will be available for adoption, starting this Friday.

In what sounds like it could be the mother of all adoption events, the ASPCA will make the dogs and cats available through the weekend at the temporary shelter in which the animals have been living in Sanford.

Adoption fees will be waived during the event, and each animal will have been micro-chipped, and spayed or neutered.

Adoption counselors, as well as behavioral and veterinary experts, will be staffing the event, and adoptions will take place between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday at 2215 Nash St. in Sanford.

Those wanting to adopt a dog or cat should bring identification, proof of address and an appropriate-size carrier for the animal they adopt.

The ASPCA and Hoke County authorities seized nearly 700 dogs, cats, birds and horses in January from The Haven – Friends for Life shelter.

Its operators, Linden Spear and her husband, Stephen, were charged with four counts of animal cruelty and three counts of possession of a controlled substance, stemming from an animal medication not authorized on the property.

The Haven failed state inspections for more than a decade but was never shut down.

During the seizure, dozens of animals were found buried on the property. One dog and one cat had to be euthanized because of health problems.

Numerous animals were treated for emaciation, open wounds, ringworm, respiratory illnesses and other issues.

ASPCA officials said the raid at The Haven was the largest companion-animal raid they’ve conducted nationwide in the last 20 years.

(Photo: Courtesy of ASPCA)

Owners surrender dog at Florida shelter, then take her wheelchair home with them

angieWhen I hear about someone surrendering their dog at an animal shelter, I do my best — though it’s not always easy — to withhold judgment.

Maybe that person or family is facing some hard economic times. Maybe the dog has become ill and getting him or her health care is beyond their means. Maybe they themselves have become unable to care for the dog.

I try, especially when details of the situation are scant, to give those humans the benefit of the doubt.

But I’m having an especially hard time withholding judgment on the Florida dog owners who surrendered their paralyzed 2-year-old cocker spaniel Sunday to Miami-Dade Animal Services, because — before leaving the shelter — they asked for the dog’s wheelchair back.

The owners said the dog, named Angie, had lost the use of her hind legs about two weeks earlier. They took her to a veterinarian, who prescribed oral medication and recommended further diagnostic procedures for the dog.

The owners said they were unable to afford the tests and decided to surrender Angie.

Then — for reasons I can only guess at — they said that, while they were leaving their dog there, they wanted Angie’s wheelchair back.

Perhaps it was a rental. Perhaps they had another dog back home that needed it. Perhaps some agency had provided it to them on a temporary basis.

I hope one of those is true, and that they aren’t trying to sell the device on eBay. That — dropping off their dog but taking home that dog’s only means of getting around, in hopes of making some profit — would lead me lose a bit of faith in my fellow man.

On a happier note, Angie’s plight quickly became a cause on social media, and she was scheduled to be sent from the shelter to a sanctuary yesterday.

As a new resident of Lovey Loaves, an animal sanctuary in Orlando, Angie will receive a new set of wheels and be whisked to Chickasaw Trail Animal Hospital, where her condition will be reviewed.

“We have had luck with past rescues in our care improving some or completely reversing paralysis using acupuncture, laser therapy, hydrotherapy, HBOT, etc… but it just depends on many factors, so we’ll have to see,” Lovey Loaves posted on its Facebook page.

“Even if she will not recover from her paralysis we know that she can still lead an extraordinary quality of life,” the post continued. “Were surrounded by wheelie dogs everyday (four in our own home!) We’ll get her a new set of wheels (we like Eddie’s Wheels for Pets) custom fit to her precise needs and measurements, and then she’ll roll with the best of them. Many many MANY folks offered to buy her a new set of wheels.”

The organization reported that it has already received enough donations to get the wheels, but contributions can still be made for Angie’s care.

When is a hoarder not a hoarder?

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If you were to pick up Jung Myoung Sook, her 200 dogs and her ramshackle hillside compound and plop them down in rural America, she’d be consider a hoarder for sure.

But in South Korea, where the dogs she’s caring for might well have otherwise ended up as meals in homes and restaurants, she’s really more of a saint.

Her neighbors don’t always feel that way, but I do.

Jung, who was featured on NBC Nightly News last week, has had to pack up and relocate seven times in the more than 25 years she has been rescuing dogs, due to complaints from those living nearby.

Jung picks ups strays living on the street, and she has also bought dogs that were headed to be sold for their meat.

The AP article said all the dogs in the compound appeared to be healthy.

While a small minority of South Koreans eat dog meat, dogs are raised on farms for that purpose, and can be bought, slaughtered and butchered at open-air markets.

While it has been six years since I visited one there, while researching “DOG, INC.,” my book on dog cloning, I haven’t been able to get those images out of my head since.

Seeing Jung’s smiling face, and reading of her work, helps some.

“My babies aren’t hungry. They can play and live freely here,” said Jung, 61. “Some people talk about me, saying, ‘Why is that beggar-like middle-aged woman smiling all the time,’ but I just focus on feeding my babies. I’m happy and healthy.”

600 animals seized from The Haven in N.C.

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Authorities in Hoke County, N.C., yesterday unearthed the remains of 15 dogs on the grounds of a “no-kill” animal shelter from which 600 animals were seized this week.

A day after Hoke County deputies and the ASPCA raided The Haven — Friends for Life shelter near Raeford, authorities on Thursday dug up the remains of 15 dogs that had been buried on the property.

stephenspearmsspearShelters owners Stephen and Linden Spears were released on bond after appearing in court on charges of neglect and possession of a controlled substance, but authorities says more charges against them are possible.

They’ve been banned from returning to the shelter.

Representatives of the ASPCA continued to remove some of the more than 600 neglected animals from the shelter yesterday, taking them to a warehouse near Raleigh where they could be checked by veterinarians and cared for.

ASPCA officials called the raid the largest companion-animal raid they’ve conducted nationwide in the last 20 years.

More than 300 dogs, 250 cats, 40 horses and numerous farm animals were living at the 122-acre shelter in Raeford, the ASPCA said in a press release.

hoke2“What we found today at this facility — self-described as ‘North Carolina’s most successful no-kill shelter’ — is unacceptable,” said Tim Rickey, senior vice president of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response.

“This is one of the largest animal seizures the ASPCA has ever conducted in our 150 years as an organization,” he added. “We have a team of nearly 140 responders on the ground to remove and care for these hundreds of neglected animals who have clearly not been receiving adequate care. Our goal is to help them become healthy and ultimately find them homes.”

The ASPCA’s assistance was requested by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and the Hoke County Sheriff’s Office, which began an investigation into the shelter after receiving complaints about sick animals and unsanitary conditions.

The Haven was operating without a license for about a decade, according to the ASPCA, and past inspections by the state Department of Agriculture had deemed the facility “inadequate.”

The population at the facility has fluctuated over the years, reaching more than 1,000 animals.

According to the shelter’s Facebook page, it was often seeking donations to improve the shelter, and had recently launched a GoFundMe drive to build roofs over the outdoor pens where dogs were kept.

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The seized dogs, cats and other animals will be held at an undisclosed location, and the ASPCA will continue to care for them until custody is determined by the court,

“The condition of these animals is pressing and required immediate attention,” said Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin. “In addition to protecting Hoke County citizens, law enforcement has an obligation to ensure the safety and well being of Hoke County animals at all times. We cannot and will not allow this type of mistreatment to continue any longer. All persons involved will be held accountable.”

No deceased animals were found on the property Wednesday, but yesterday investigators found at least 15 dead dogs and “dozens” of animals buried on the property, according to WRAL in Raleigh.

(Photos of shelter courtesy of ASPCA; photos of Spears family courtesy of Hoke sheriff’s department)