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Tag: shelters

Now open in L.A.: PetSpace, an adoption center that’s much, much more

All humane societies and SPCA’s see education as a large part of their mission, but few if any have taken that to the heights of PetSpace, a newly opened center in Los Angeles that is finding new homes for dogs and increasing our understanding of them at the same time.

Over a dozen dogs and cats were adopted during Saturday’s opening of PetSpace, the brainchild of Wallis Annenberg, the CEO and president of the Annenberg Foundation.

But, as the Los Angles Times reported over the weekend, PetSpace is about much more than rehoming dogs.

It’s part interactive science center, part children’s playground, part pet paradise, part research institute and part adoption center.

On top of facilitating adoptions, PetSpace will offer educational programming for the general public on how to care for pets, all while conducting its own scientific research focused on the human-animal bond.

To that end, it has established a Leadership Institute with 16 research fellows — experts in different academic fields — who will write a white paper on the science behind the human-animal bond.

“This whole notion of the human-animal bond goes so much deeper than how you choose a pet,” said Eric Strauss, a biology professor at Loyola Marymount University and the research paper’s lead author.

“We’re bonded emotionally through our pets. But we’re also bonded ecologically, medically and economically. I think that’s the real genesis of a new science here.”

Located in Silicon Beach in Playa Vista, the 30,000-square-foot facility houses more than 80 dogs, cats and rabbits from the Los Angeles County’s Department of Animal Care and Control shelters.

It has a staff of 30, assisted by more than 100 volunteers and will be open Wednesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with free admission.

Its creators see it as a destination in itself, a fun place that will inform and delight adults and children (and maybe make them even happier yet if they end up taking home a dog or cat).

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During Saturday’s opening, a large mechanical dog barked and wagged his tongue while perched on the second floor. On the ground level, visitors read animal adoption stories displayed on panels and explored an interactive touch screen wall announcing upcoming events.

The center, in addition to periodic seminars, will have a Sunday reading program where children can sit down with a book and an animal.

Meanwhile, in the various play areas, visitors snuggled with cats and dogs, while others met with dogs in their “suites.” Outside each is an interactive digital screen with information about the pets up for adoption.

The center will be making an intense effort to match the right dog to the right owner.

“What’s your lifestyle like? What time commitment do you have? We’ll have a pretty extensive conversation,” said J.J. Rawlinson, the center’s animal care manager and veterinarian. “We really take time to get to know the animals.”

The adoption fee is $80.

PetSpace has partnered with organizations across the city to develop its programming, which will also include higher education workshops on human-animal relationships.

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It will also provide medical resources, including aqua therapy, that are generally not available in shelters.

Part of the center’s mission will be to educate the public about spaying, neutering, grooming and other aspects of caring for a pet.

Wallis Annenberg is a billionaire philanthropist who has long made pets one of her pet projects.

“In my life, animals have been a profound gift — not just dear companions, but teachers and healers, showing how to live and love fully and in the moment. That’s why the opening of Annenberg PetSpace is so thrilling for me,” said Annenberg, the Annenberg Foundation’s chair and CEO.

The family foundation was founded by Walter H. Annenberg, whose company published, among others, TV Guide, Seventeen magazine and my old alma mater, the Philadelphia Inquirer. It also operated radio and TV stations nationwide. Annenberg died in 2002.

Wallis Annenberg, his daughter, described PetSpace as “a world-class space in which to study the joys and mysteries of life in all its forms. It will be an innovative and interactive place for families to engage with animals and animal lovers of all kinds.”

“And it will be a chance for me to pass on the kind of awe and affection and insight animals have provided me for all my years,” she told the San Diego News Daily.

The Annenberg team worked with Los Angeles area animal welfare organizations, including Los Angeles Animal Services, the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control, spcaLA and the Humane Association of California to design the center.

(Photos and video from the PetSpace website)

New TV series features talking dog

You regular readers may know already I am not a fan of the talking dog.

That’s partly because I feel we have no right to be putting words in their mouths, thereby further humanizing them, which, in my view, is not just a mistake, but an insult (to dogs). But mostly it’s just plain creepy.

So I’m going to refrain from predicting whether ABC’s “Downward Dog” will be the blockbuster hit of the season, or gotten rid of quicker than a used poop bag.

The New York Times called it “hard on the ears,” while USA Today described it a “delightfully amiable summer companion.”

Martin, the dog character, sometimes talks with a moving mouth, sometimes as a (far less creepy) voice-over, but he can only be heard by us viewers — not the other characters or dogs in the show.

Gimmicky as it sounds, the show does feature some talented creatures, beginning with Ned, who plays Martin. Ned was discovered at PAWS Chicago, a no kill shelter he was shipped to after becoming homeless in Mississippi.

Martin is the narrator of the show, offering wry philosophical comments on both being a dog and the behavior of his human, a “struggling millennial” named Nan, played by Emmy-nominated Allison Tolman of “Fargo.”

IMBD describes the plot as “a lonely dog navigates the complexity of 21st century relationships.” It started out as a web series of short videos. A year and a half ago, producers got clearance to make a pilot out of the concept and started looking for a dog to play the role of Martin, who is a rescued dog in the show.

They took one look at Ned’s photo from PAWS and hired him immediately, according to DNAinfo.

Upon arrival at PAWS (Pets Are Worth Saving) from Mississippi, Ned was an anxious, skittish dog — a bit under-socialized, said PAWS Director of Training Joan Harris. “He was seeking a lot of attention from people, but then he didn’t know how to receive it.”

nedHe was adopted, but later returned and ended up being fostered by Crystal Dollinger, a PAWS volunteer who cared for him for four months before he was chosen for the role and moved to Hollywood.

Ned belongs now to his trainer, Nicole Handley, who made a return visit to the shelter in Chicago with him last week — partly for his 4th birthday party, more so to promote the new show. It premieres tonight at 8:30 before switching to Tuesdays. The shelter will waive adoption fees today in his honor.

“Ned’s life is very different now than it was a year and a half ago,” Handley said. “Ned is definitely the diva on set. Pretty much whatever Ned needs, Ned gets.”

(Photo: Ned with Allison Tolman, who plays his owner on “Downward Dog,” trainer Nicole Handley and PAWS volunteer Crystal Dollinger, who fostered him for four months; by Ted Cox / DNAInfo)

Dumping their dogs when they depart Dubai

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The sort of people who go to live and work in Dubai are typically not seeking a forever home.

They’re generally not long-range planners; they’re more like get-rich-quick-ers and what’s in it for me-ers.

Given that, it’s not surprising that Dubai — a city where 90 percent of the population comes from somewhere else, and most of them move on after a few years, and many of them often leave their pets behind — there’s a growing homeless dog problem.

“I believe a lot of people just think, ‘I’m going to be in Dubai for three years so let’s get a dog for three years,'” Fiona Myers-Watson, a volunteer at the Stray Dogs Centre, told The Guardian.

“You see people coming here and buying into the lifestyle,” she added. “You get a nice villa that you’d never be able to afford at home, get a Porsche on credit because the bank will easily give you a loan, spend AED 600 on brunch every Friday, and get a cute little dog to go with it all.”

dubai2Despite the financial prosperity they’re enjoying, and the riches they may depart with, many of them don’t see fit to bring their dog along when they leave.

Some of these abandoned dogs end up in the Stray Dogs Centre, less than an hour’s drive from Dubai’s pristine gated communities.

The rudimentary shelter operates at maximum capacity, with 123 dogs, about a quarter of which are believed to be abandoned pets.

It’s not unusual, Myers-Watson said, for a dog to simply be left in the home being vacated, such as one left last year in a villa in Jumeriah Islands, where rentals cost about AED 250,000 a year.

As summer approaches, Dubai’s animal shelters brace for a seasonal surge in dumped pets.

“Summer is our worst period because there’s a mass exodus of expats,” said Alister Milne, manager of K9 Friends, the United Arab Emirate’s longest-established dog shelter. The rate of abandoned dogs doubles or even triples most summers.

Mahin Bahrami, founder of the Middle East Animal Foundation, estimates that at least 40 percent of Dubai’s dumped dogs, cats and small pets are the result of owners leaving the country.

“The expats here often don’t think or plan ahead,” she said. “It’s just about what they want right now: ‘I want a cat right now, and then we’ll see.'”

The Guardian reports that unwanted cats, dogs, rabbits and birds are often left to fend for themselves, locked in empty houses, dumped on the street, or driven out into the desert.

The Dubai government has taken steps to encourage expats to bring their pets with them or find them new homes when they relocate.

Dubai has effectively eradicated rabies, and pets can be exported to most countries, including the UK and the US without a lengthy quarantine.

(Photos by Hannah Bass / The Guardian)

Dog leasing: A deceptive and disgraceful practice that needs to come to an end

Historians debate whether P.T. Barnum ever really said there is a “sucker born every minute,” but never in history (I’d argue) has it been clearer than now how true that statement is.

Maybe that sucker birth rate has increased, and one is born every 10 seconds nowadays. Maybe, it’s the number of charlatans that has increased. Maybe it’s all the modern-day tools at the schemer’s disposal — Internet, infomercials, ever-slicker and more deceptive marketing techniques.

Maybe it’s our own increasing gullibility. Maybe, with our shortening attention spans, we more easily fall for double talk, and accept bald-faced lies as hard truths, and hear only what we want and have time to hear. Maybe it’s our own failure to investigate.

In any case, today, maybe more even than in Barnum’s day, you can sell anybody anything. And you can lease them even more — even a family member.

We’ve written about dog-leasing outfits several times before, going back to 2007 — when the unsavory concept first popped up.

They’ve been through many variations since then, some in the guise of do-gooders, some clearly sleazy, but all ugly at their core.

Why? Because they are all based on the concept that dogs are disposable, here to serve as many masters as we deem fit — not permanent family members, but beings to be passed around by us as need be and in the name of profit.

My earliest recollection of such a company was one called Flexpetz.

It was greeted in the media as a mostly cute idea when it debuted in 2007 — a way for people who weren’t in a position to own a dog to rent one for a few hours, a few days, or share one regularly with another client.

Making it more palatable was its claim to be hooking up dogs in need of humans with humans in need of dogs — albeit it on a temporary basis, and albeit it without much screening, of the dog or the human, or the environments they were headed into, or the reasons people needed to borrow a dog. And albeit for profit. Pretty big profits.

Flexpetz established offices in London, and had plans to open 120 locations in the U.S.

Fortunately, early on, some localities saw it for what it was — slave dogs on call to serve multiple masters. In 2008, after hearing Flexpetz planned to open a location in the city, the Boston City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting dog rentals.

Then the Massachusetts Senate passed a bill that would prevent companies like FlexPetz from setting up shop anywhere in the state.

Representative Paul Frost, a dog-owner who filed the bill, says the business model promoted the idea of “disposable pets .. I am not against business growth or the entrepreneurial spirit. But there is an ethical line you have to keep in mind.”

Flexpetz would go on to close in 2008, but the concept would live on, in numerous variations. And that ethical line Frost noticed seemed to become harder for people to see.

Hannah the Pet Society was founded in Oregon in 2010, and put a new twist on things. The society promised to match you up with a dog, and provide that dog with what it called “Total Lifetime Care” — from dog food to boarding, from veterinary care to funderal arrangements.

All for a start-up fee and “low” monthly payments.

But, contrary to what many thought, those signing up for dogs weren’t really becoming their new owners. Hannah retained ownership of all the dogs it placed, which meant that it could reclaim them, or reassign them, or even euthanize them, whenever it pleased.

In 2016, Seattle Dog Spot exposed some of the questionable practices at Hannah, and an investigation began into complaints against the company that included unnecessarily euthanizing three dogs.

Many of the shelters and rescues providing dogs to the outfit terminated their relationship with them, and the state Department of Justice began looking into the 10 complaints and two lawsuits filed against the company since 2012.

Hannah stopped sourcing and placing pets in 2016.

Today, the biggest name in dog leasing is Wags Lending, another company that’s been accused of not making it clear to customers that they were leasing dogs, and wouldn’t own them when the lease period expired.

As one customer complained, he and his wife signed up to make 27 monthly payments of $95.99 for their bichon frise — totaling $2,687 for the dog, whose store price was $495.

Upon closer inspection of the contract they’d signed, they also learned that, even then, they wouldn’t own the dog.

The dog, unless the San Diego couple forked over yet more money at the end of the lease period, would have to be returned to Oceanside Puppy — the store they leased it from.

Three years later, the horror stories keep coming. Bloomberg did an excellent piece on the seamy side of pet leasing earlier this year.

Here are two more from last week –one from WSB in Atlanta, one from WKMG in Orlando.

It has been well documented by now how Wags does business. But maybe enough repeated exposure will get the message across that this is bad business — not just for dogs, but for the customers who fall for it.

Much like dog cloning, dog leasing never took off in a big way, but it lingers, unfortunately, with new customers being duped, and dogs being placed, repossessed, reassigned and bounced around by a company that cares far more about financing than it does Fido.

No matter how respectable looking a front, or website, they put up, they are basically predators — loan sharks cloaking themselves in cute puppies.

And any pet store selling commercially bred dogs that promotes or refers customers to the service (as many do) is behaving in an equally scummy manner.

The problem is being scummy and doing something technically illegal are two different things.

If the laws aren’t there to drive these people out of business for good, or sue them for everything they are worth, then do what Boston and Massachusetts did nine years ago: Outlaw dog leasing.

Preferably now.

Music to their ears: Musician’s song for edgy dogs seems to near instantly soothe them

A musician who calls himself “gnash” researched, composed and recorded a song he hoped would calm his own rescue dog’s restlessness, and he says it’s working — not just for Daisy, but for entire rooms of shelter dogs.

Daisy — the dog Garrett Nash, or gnash, shares with his girlfriend — is prone to becoming “super snippy when she’s not medicated,” he says, and at those time she’s prone to nipping almost anyone within reach.

“I’m a dog lover and I make music, so I was trying to connect the two,” he explained. “I was just thinking maybe, since Daisy was hanging out with me every day in the studio, well then maybe there’s a way that I could make her calm down a little bit.”

He talked to an animal behaviorist, then contacted the team at Glasgow University who had done a study on music that calms shelter dogs — one that found reggae seemed to work best.

He learned what sounds most appealed to dogs, what tempos and tones and repetitions showed evidence of calming them.

gnashThen he headed to studio with friends and got to work, ending up with Daisy’s Song — a soothing, restrained and not too reggae-like number that incorporated what he’d learned and, more important, seemed to work on Daisy.

When they tested it out, with Daisy seated next to a friend she’s always seemed particularly prone to nipping at, it was nearly magical.

You can view the results in the video at the end of this post. Suffice to say, before the song ended, Daisy was relaxed and nuzzling up against the chest of that friend she seemed so fearful of minutes earlier.

Exactly what Daisy’s condition is I can’t say. In the video below, gnash seems to be saying the dog has “a thing in her brain called a shiner (?) that makes her super snippy when she’s not medicated”

I’m no vet, though, and I couldn’t find any references to a disorder known by that name. (Those with a better grasp or understanding are welcome to comment and fill me in.) The closest I could come was progressive retinal atrophy, which can cause a shining to appear in a dog’s eyes, can affect behavior and can lead to eventual blindness.

After the song seemed to work on Daisy, gnash took the track to the adoption center of No Kill LA, a shelter operated by Best Friends Animal Society.

There, too, the song seemed to have a calming presence. During a listening session, the dogs in the room grew less frantic, seemed more restful and content.

The song, and the video about its making, were posted last week on YouTube last week, where those leaving comments are reporting varying results:

“Both of my dogs were anxious-one about a storm, and one tearing up a toilet paper tube,” wrote one. “I played this, and both are now peaceful, laying down and sleeping. I am impressed. I’m thinking of a nap myself.”

“My boxer went from licking everything in site to snoring in 4 minutes,” wrote another.

“My dog is really hyper he never sits for too long on my lap, but this actually made him sit for 10 minutes and I could tell he was listening… Loved this.”

Some dog-less comment leavers reported it put them asleep, some said they loved it whether it works or not, and one said all his dog did was lick his privates.

But weed out all the goons and trolls, and the response seems mostly to affirm that gnash achieved what he was trying to do, and more.

I played it for my dog Jinjja. He was lying down when it started. He lifted his head, his ears perked up, and he started gazing around the room and ceiling. His breathing seemed to slow down. He came over to be petted, looked out the window and laid back down, his muzzle between his paws. He lay still for the next eight minutes of the song, eyes closed and his ears periodically flicking back and forth, then finally got up and exited the room at the 12-minute mark.

“Going into this, my hopes were that I was gonna make the song, play it for Daisy and a couple of other dogs and hopefully they would react in a way that would make them a little more chill,” gnash said.

Already, the results seem to be going beyond that, and raise hopes that it could serve to calm dogs in shelters, which only increases their chances of adoption.

“It’s cool because maybe like humans will be able to find this on YouTube and show it to their friends, and then maybe they’ll play the song for their dogs and then maybe humans will love it and pets will love it too and it will make everybody smile a little bit more and that’s all I care about.”

Go ahead, make Eastwood’s day

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A statewide Empty the Shelters event Saturday was a huge success, with more than 2,500 dogs and cats being adopted from 65 shelters and rescues across Michigan.

Nearly 20 shelters managed to find homes for all their residents, including the Little Traverse Bay Humane Society — almost.

There, the only one not celebrating was Eastwood.

The red Labrador retriever, who has some vision problems and congenital leg deformities, found himself the only dog left in the shelter.

eastwood2“Poor Eastwood is so lonely now that all of his pals have been adopted,” the humane society said in a Facebook post.

“Eastwood is the only dog left at the shelter after Empty the Shelters on Saturday, but we know the perfect home is out there somewhere. This amazing boy has a few health issues that need to be addressed (which is why we think he was abandoned initially, poor guy!), but this boy is so sweet, we know it will be well worth it.”

The shelter estimated the future surgeries Eastwood may need could be more than $4,000.

“Although we understand this is a lot to take on for most families, we are committed to finding the perfect fit for Eastwood.”

Saturday’s Empty the Shelters event was sponsored by the Bissell Pet Foundation in hopes of reducing the number of animals euthanized each year. During the event, the foundation covers the adoption fees, which run about $150 per dog on average.

The late-breaking good news? After Eastwood’s lonesome mug appeared in a Facebook post, more than 80 people applied to adopt him.

Humane society staff picked the one that appeared to be the best fit, and Eastwood will soon be moving to his new home.

It was a few days later than every other dog in the shelter got adopted, but, happily, somebody made Eastwood’s day.

(Photos courtesy of Little Traverse Bay Humane Society)

Online service offers to match you up with the right adoptable dog, not the cutest

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Borrowing from eHarmony, three women in New England have started an online service that matches those seeking dogs to adoptable dogs that will best fit their personalities and lifestyles.

How I Met My Dog features a detailed questionnaire for potential adopters that asks dozens of questions about a potential pet owner’s tastes and interests.

Those shelters and rescue taking part, meanwhile, provide specific information on the animal’s habits and behavior patterns.

Computer software does the rest.

The goal is to match up would-be dog owners with pets they won’t regret taking home — and will be less likely to return, according to the Boston Globe.

Jody Andersen and Mary Ann Zeman launched the company earlier this year in New England under the belief that adopting the right dog, as opposed to the cutest dog, can make a huge difference in the outcome of that adoption.

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Andersen, author of a 2002 book, “The Latchkey Dog,” is a believer in computer-assisted relationships, having met her husband online. She also used the developing software to find her current dog, a Weimaraner named Finn.

“We want you to fall in love at first sight, with a dog you can live with,” she said.

The service is free while in startup mode. Afterward, it will charge $49 to match would-be owners to available pets, and $75 to a current dog owner who wants to rehome their pet. Animal shelters can list their dogs at no charge.

Andersen lives in Long Island, N.Y., Zeman, lives in Connecticut, while Alana Mahoney, who manages the company’s relationships with pet shelters, serves on the board of the Massachusetts Animal Coalition and lives in Hopkinton, Mass.

Andersen said she has received inquiries from 400 animal shelters nationwide that are interested in trying out the new service.

“Every year there’s four million dogs surrendered to shelters,” Andersen said. “How I Met My Dog wants to find a home for every dog, where it will thrive.”

(Top photo: Jodi Andersen (left) and Mary Ann Zeman, cofounders of How I Met My Dog, in Boston, with Andersen’s dog Finn, a Weimaraner; by Jonathan Wiggs / Boston Globe)