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Tag: supply

Getting every last drop from greyhounds

As if racing their hearts out weren’t enough, some greyhounds are retired to dog blood banks where they live caged all day long, except for outings to get their blood drawn.

PETA last month exposed one such kennel, The Pet Blood Bank, Inc., in Cherokee, Texas, which houses about 150 retired greyhounds — solely for the purpose of extracting and selling their blood and blood products.

The products, PETA reported, are distributed by Patterson Veterinary Supply, Inc., which did about $3 billion worth of business in 2016.

After the the PETA expose and a story in The Washington Post, Patterson Veterinary Supply announced it would take steps to correct the horrible conditions they described.

bloodbankBut PETA says no steps have been taken, even after they had Paul McCartney send a plea to the company.

Patterson Veterinary Supply initially announced it would terminate business with the The Pet Blood Bank, Inc.

It also promised to support “efforts to ensure that the animals receive appropriate care.” Bu PETA says it has seen no evidence of any such efforts.

The whistle-blower was Bill Larsen, 60, a former employee of the blood bank who went back to work there and was horrified by how conditions had deteriorated.

Larsen, who took the incriminating photos, said he unsuccessfully sought help from local animal shelters and a state agency before contacting PETA. “I just like dogs,” he said, and “hate for any animal to get treated like that.”

The photos show kenneled dogs with open wounds, rotting teeth and toenails curling into their paw pads.

The blood bank was founded in 2004 by Austin entrepreneur Mark Ziller, who said he initially sought volunteers and used a bloodmobile. When that did not turn up enough dogs, the company began using retired greyhounds housed in a kennel on a private farm northwest of Austin, the Post reported.

Ziller said he sold the company in November 2015 to Shane Altizer, whose family owns the farm in Cherokee.

“The Pet Blood Bank had a noble mission: It provided blood for veterinarians to use in lifesaving transfusions,” Ziller tod the Post. After viewing the photos PETA obtained, he added, “To see the animals in that state is beyond depressing.”

Altizer did not deny that the images were taken there, but said they predated his 2015 purchase of the company or were “moment snapshots” unrepresentative of overall conditions now.

Blood banks help save thousands of animals a year, but they are also profit-driven and unregulated.

With more medical procedures being used by vets, transfusions are more often required, and animal blood banks struggle to meet the demand. Only one state, California, regulates such operations and requires annual inspections.

bloodbank2Greyhounds are considered especially desirable as donors because they typically have a universal blood type and have big neck veins that make drawing blood easy.

Veterinarian Anne Hale, former CEO of the nation’s first and largest commercial animal blood bank, said she visited the Pet Blood Bank this summer and was “pleasantly surprised” with conditions there. After viewing the PETA photos and video though, she said, “It appears that the facility was ‘cleaned up’ before our touring … I agree that this facility should be addressed. This certainly suggests that regional, state and/or federal regulation is warranted.”

Former Beatle McCartney, who wrote a letter on PETA’s behalf, wants to see all the dogs removed from the facility.

“I have had dogs since I was a boy and loved them all dearly, including Martha who was my companion for about 15 years and about whom I wrote the song ‘Martha, My Dear,'” McCartney wrote. “I join my friends at PETA in asking you to pay these greyhounds back, and to let them retire from the dirt-floored, barren conditions in which they are kept isolated and alone.”

(Photos and video from PETA)

Is America really running out of dogs?

fhsopening 065

America is going to run out of dogs.

That, stunningly, was the conclusion of a Mississippi State University study funded by (and this is the important part) an organization that represents the American Kennel Club, the American Pet Product Association, PetSmart, breeders and other pet industry leaders.

The study disputes oft-cited figures from the leading animal welfare organizations, which estimate between 1.9 million and 2.5 million dogs are euthanized by shelters every year.

Instead, the study says, fewer than 780,000 unwanted dogs are being euthanized a year, many of them dangerous or damaged, and America will soon not to be able to meet the demand for dogs through shelter dogs alone.

Not that it currently does, or ever has.

The Pet Leadership Council funded the study, then hired additional analysts to “interpret” (read, spin) the results.

As a result, the message they are putting forth is not that progress is being made in reducing the numbers of unwanted animals that end up euthanized (the reality), but that America is going to run out of dogs (the new myth).

In a press release, the PLC says it is “welcoming” the study’s findings — as opposed to saying they paid for it — and that those findings show a need for more “responsibly bred” dogs.

“Mississippi State’s study will also have a significant impact on the national conversation about responsible pet ownership,” said Mike Bober, President of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council and consultant to the PLC. “Without this concrete data as a starting point, it has been all but impossible to discuss solutions because we couldn’t agree on the scope of the problem. This data also provides valuable information for those contemplating legislation that impacts the availability of dogs in their communities.”

Here are the far from solid numbers the study came up with.

American shelters are taking in 5.5 million dogs a year, about half of which end up euthanized. America, based on census figures, ownership patterns and the life-span of dogs, needs about 8.1 million dogs a year to maintain current levels of ownership.

With only 2.6 million dogs being adopted out of shelters each year and far fewer transferred or euthanized, “that means millions more must come from other sources.”

Meaning breeders. Meaning large scale puppy mills and store bought dogs and all those other things that helped lead to the dog overpopulation problem in the first place and are better off gone.

“It’s a total myth for anybody to say or think that every American who wants a dog can go to a shelter and find one,” said Mark Cushing of the Animal Policy Group, the lobbying firm that “crunched the numbers.”

“Increasingly the ones we are euthanizing are very sick or dangerous,” he added.

So shelter dogs are going to run out, they’d like to have you believe, except maybe for the dangerous and sick ones you wouldn’t want in the first place.

That’s not only balderdash, it’s the kind of fear tactics that have become so common in the world of politics and persuasion — somehow even more loathsome when applied to the world of homeless dogs.

The study seems to assume that shelters are the only source of homeless dogs, when in fact rescue groups, formal and informal, have become an increasingly popular option and are finding homes for more and more dogs. Nor does it seem to address the number of non-professionally bred dogs being born, despite more spaying and neutering. Nor does it address the hundreds of millions of unwanted dogs in other countries in need of homes.

The Pet Leadership Council commissioned the study as a follow-up to a survey it previously commissioned on dog ownership rates and where people get their dogs. A lobbying group that advises the council then used the study to extrapolate that Americans wanted more than 8 million dogs in 2016 and will want more than 9.2 million by 2036, the Washington Post reported.

The study suggests that euthanasia estimates by the Humane Society of the United States and the No Kill Advocacy Center, both of which say about 2.5 million animals are killed in shelters each year, may be based in large part on animals other than dogs.

The research was funded by the Pet Leadership Council, which represents organizations including the American Kennel Club and the American Pet Products Association; PetSmart and other large retail stores; and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, which is the legislative and lobbying voice of the pet industry.

Mike Bober, the president and CEO of PIJAC, which regularly lobbies on behalf of commercial-scale dog breeders and pet stores at the legislative level, said the study shows dog breeding and retail sales must remain protected under state and federal laws.

“Adoption can’t be our only option when it comes to helping Americans find their ideal, lifelong companions,” Bober said. “Responsibly bred puppies are an essential part of the equation.”

The industry push comes at a time that “adopt, don’t shop” campaigns urging consumers to shun breeders and pet stores are showing some results.

According to the Humane Society, more than 200 localities have passed “puppy mill” laws in the past two years that sometimes make it illegal for pet stores to source dogs anywhere other than shelters and rescuers. A similar state-level law is under consideration in New Jersey.

Breeders and pet-store owners see such legislation as misguided, saying there are not enough dogs in U.S. shelters to fill annual consumer demand.

“Our concern was that so many very different estimates have been generated by a number of entities that have often led to conflicting conclusions,” said Bob Vetere, president and chief executive of the American Pet Products Association. “It is important to have a solid understanding of the facts before making decisions impacting the supply and availability of healthy dogs.”

The study’s findings were presented Tuesday at the North American Veterinary Community conference in Florida. While the Pet Leadership Council issued a press release about the study Wednesday, it has yet to be published in a scientific journal.

The study is based on a telephone survey of 413 shelters, out of an estimated 7,100 shelters nationwide.

Using data from the surveyed shelters, the researchers concluded that more than 5.5 million dogs enter shelters each year, about 2.6 million get adopted, and that fewer than 780,000 are euthanized. The remainder are returned to their owners, or transferred to other rescues or shelters, the study said.

NC shelter may offer dead dogs for sale

Bladen County Commissioners will consider a proposal tonight to start selling the carcasses of dogs euthanized in the North Carolina shelter to a biological supply company.

According to a proposed contract, the company wants to pay $4 each for dead dogs weighing between 25 and 45 pounds, assuming the carcasses are in “reasonably good condition.”

The company would pick up the dogs weekly, preserve the bodies with chemicals and then offer them for sale to “facilities and/or laboratories designed for scientific research and biological educational classrooms” — at prices of $100 or more each.

WECT identified the company as Southeastern Biological Supply.

The county has sold dead cats for $4 each to the company since 2009 — as have Brunswick, Columbus and Pender Counties in southeastern North Carolina. New Hanover County donates cat carcasses to veterinary schools.

Pender County made $1,604 selling dead cats last year, and Brunswick County raked in $4,788, WECT reported.

It all sounds like a pretty questionable and nasty business — this marketing of carcasses — and historically it has been. But those who defend the practice say it contributes to science, specifically the teaching thereof, and is no less dignified than the traditional means of disposal: taking dead dogs to the landfill.

The Humane Society of the United States, while it doesn’t oppose the transfer of euthanized animals to educational and research institutions, says shelters should not be making money from such exchanges.

“So-called ‘surplus’ dogs and cats are a result of the tragic pet overpopulation and millions of dogs and cats are euthanized yearly in U.S. shelters. When money can be made in dealing in their carcasses, it can give the perception that there may be less incentive for addressing overpopulation or that the shelter would rather gain from this tragedy than spend the money necessary to solve it,” the HSUS says.

The organization also believes the owners of any pet euthanized by a shelter should, when possible, be notified when a carcass is being transferred for scientific research, and it advises shelters to be transparent when it comes to what they do with the carcasses of animals they euthanize.

“Full public awareness of any animal transfer policy is vital to maintaining public trust in animal shelters,” it says.

When it comes to what becomes of the bodies of euthanized pets, I think we are pretty far from full public awareness. Even when the information is made available, it’s a topic most of us prefer not to delve too deeply into.

Still, it manages to rise to the surface once in a while.

Back in the 1980s, it grew into a full blown scandal when it was discovered that employees at Winnebago County Animal Control in Illinois were receiving payments and gift credits in exchange for providing carcasses to a Wisconsin biological supply company.

An investigation by Rockford-area authorities into missing funds in the animal control division of the county Health Department turned up evidence that, between 1982 and 1988, the division was receiving $2.25 per cat and $6 per dog from Nasco International Inc.

The animal-control unit built up a line of credit with Nasco and periodically spent that credit to purchase items from Nasco`s various equipment and gift catalogs, the Chicago Tribune reported in 1988.

A county public health administrator at the time said he thought selling the dog carcasses to a biological supply company was a better idea than the county’s previous arrangement — paying a rendering firm to dispose of dead dogs and cats, which then ended up in products such as lipstick, mouthwash, rubber and even pet food.

In Bladen County, N.C., where dog carcasses are now taken to the landfill, Health and Human Services Director Cris Harrelson insisted getting paid for dead dogs wouldn’t motivate the shelter to kill more.

“We euthanize them only as necessary,” he said. “As long we have room in the shelter, they stay alive.”

Harrelson said the county had the fourth lowest euthanasia rate in the state in 2012.

I checked on the Internet to learn more about Southeastern Biological Supply, but, if it exists, it doesn’t have any online presence.

I did find Carolina Biological Supply, whose website boasts “bigger pigs at same low prices …”

The company offers both dog and cat specimens to educational and research institutes — all preserved in its exclusive “Carolina’s Perfect Solution.”

“Including the dissection of preserved dogs in your AP Biology lesson plans will give students a hands on experience with anatomy that surpasses print or pictures,” the website states.

That’s one of the things that troubles me most about these grisly exchanges. Today, with computer graphics and 3d models and imaging, we have the technology needed to avoid having students chop up animal carcasses in biology class.

But biological supply companies — accustomed to their near obscene profits — aren’t likely to admit that. And leaders of research and educational institutions, for whatever reasons, aren’t either.

So the demand continues, and the companies, seeking ways to meet it, turn to animal shelters.

I’d like to think animal shelters — whether county run or private — would steer clear of it all, for appearances sake if nothing else.

But when it comes to which ones do, and which ones don’t, we don’t really know.

And then there were two: Class B dog dealers are all but gone, HSUS says

From 2/25/2013 to 5/24/2013, an HSUS investigator worked as a Husbandry Technician at Georgia Regents University (GRU). During her time at GRU, the HSUS investigator cared for rodents, primates and dogs. She also documented violations of: the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). NIH's Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. The dogs were used in a dental implant experiment: at the end of the experiment the dogs were killed. The primates were being used in various experiments. Some of the primates exhibited stereotypical behaviors (i.e. pacing, doing "flips" in their cages, pulling out and eating their hair, etc. One primate drank his urine from his penis). The dogs came from Kenneth Schroeder (Wells, MN), a Class B Dealer currently (8/28/2013) under investigation by the USDA. Keywords: dog, end animal testing, ARI, animal research issues, Class B

The largest of the country’s three remaining Class B dog dealers — those often unscrupulous sorts who scrounge up dogs and sell them to laboratories for use in experiments — is going out of business.

The Humane Society of the United States reported yesterday that Ohio-based dealer Robert Perry has cancelled his license with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

That means only two licensed “random source” dealers remain. Class B, or random source, dealers round up dogs from flea markets, shelters, auctions, Craigslist and other sources and sell them to research institutions.

“These merchants of cruelty are on their last gasps, and this announcement gets us one big step closer to the complete demise of this sordid trade,” Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States,  writes on the HSUS blog, A Humane Nation.

Perry has been supplying dogs for years to a number of institutions, including Ohio State University. Between October 2013 and October 2014, OSU purchased nearly 50 dogs from Perry, making him the biggest random source supplier of dogs used in research nationwide.

Of the two remaining Class B dealers, one had only four dogs in its most recent inventory and the other is facing formal enforcement action from the USDA, according to HSUS.

At one time there were more than 200 licensed Class B dealers in the United States. By 2013, as a result of a decline in the use of dogs in laboratories and opposition from groups like HSUS, Last Chance for Animals, the Doris Day Animal League, and the Animal Welfare Institute, that number was down to six

Last year’s announcement from the National Institutes of Health that it would no longer fund research that used random source dogs served as a final nail in the coffin for Class B dog dealing.

The NIH decision stemmed from a report issued by the National Academy of Sciences that found random source dealers could not guarantee that people’s pets would not end up in laboratories.

Those dogs who are bred for laboratory research — commonly beagles — weren’t directly affected by that decision, but, as Pacelle notes, they are being used less often by laboratories, too.

“The continuing and rapid decline of these random source Class B dealers means the chances of pets ending up in laboratories are now very low,” Pacelle said.” And we’re perhaps closer to the day when fewer dogs of any kind are used in testing and research.”

(Photo: A “random source” dog that was used in dental experiments at Georgia Regents University that were the subject of an HSUS investigation; courtesy of HSUS)

Canine pipeline: Dogs who run out of luck in Las Vegas are ending up in Canada

pono

Most people involved in animal rescue know that homeless dogs in America are routinely shipped from southern shelters to northern ones to improve their chances of adoption.

But here’s a canine pipeline I hadn’t heard of — dogs from Las Vegas, like Pono (above), are being flown to Canada to find new adoptive homes. He was the 1,000th dog to make the trip.

Pono, a 3-year-old male Pomeranian, left a Las Vegas animal shelter in September and ended up either for sale or up for adoption (depending on your point of view) at Petcetera, a large pet store chain in Canada.

He made the trip through a program called Foreclosed Upon Pets Inc., which has been operating since 2008.  The non-profit organization began shipping Las Vegas shelter dogs to Vancouver two and a half years ago, and now ships eight to 16 every week.

In Canada, they they are adopted out — for a $500 fee — through Petcetera’s 18 stores, according to a story initially reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and picked up by ABC News.

Both stories describe what’s happening — troubling as it is on some levels — as a simple matter of supply and demand: The U.S. has millions of surplus dogs; Canada, with its stricter regulations on spaying and neutering, has what some might call a shortage, especially when it comes to smaller breeds.

“For whatever reason, we have a shortage of small dogs here, and to be quite honest, we were shocked at the size of the problem in Las Vegas,” said Richard Kaga, the executive vice president of Petcetera, which operates big box pet stores from Alberta to British Columbia to Nova Scotia.

“Over here in the United States, we’re just one big puppy mill,” said Everett Croxson, FUPI executive director. “Las Vegas included … Let’s face it. People are breeding for money in their backyards, and the concept of spaying and neutering never enters their heads, even if the laws exist. Even if there are such laws on the books.”

Every week, Croxson picks up dogs from the Lied Animal Shelter in Las Vegas and takes them to the airport. After a layover in Seattle, they arrive in Vancouver. Since the program started in 2010, Croxson said he has exported as many as 1,100 small dogs, nearly three-fourths of them Chihuahuas. Croxson calls Las Vegas “the Chihuahua capital of the world.”

He started the organization to find homes for dogs that had been abandoned due to foreclosures, most of which ended up at Lied Animal Shelter,  a very high volume regional shelter that takes in more than 100 dogs and cats each day. In 2012, nearly 43,000 unwanted animals — nearly 23,000 dogs and 18,000 cats — came in, and many never left. An estimated 65 dogs and cats are put to sleep there every day.

Given that ugly alternative, it’s hard to find any fault with a program that’s bringing dogs happy endings in another country.

But what’s happening seems to make a pretty sad statement about our own country: “No, we can’t take care of our own.” “True, we tend to shirk responsibilities.” “Yes — cough, cough — our economy is a little unhealthy right now.” America in 2013 is producing refugees — albeit canine ones — who must be airlifted out of the country to stay alive.

Kaga, the Petcetera official, says there are no puppy mills in Canada and that Canadian pet owners  “would not think of having a pet” without spaying and neutering it.  Some might argue with that, but clearly Canada is a step ahead — or at least enough ahead that, when it comes to canines, it’s accepting our tired, poor, homeless and hungry.

Noble as it appears, the adoption program isn’t hurting business at Petcetera stores.

Kaga says the $500 fee the store is paid for each adopted pet covers the cost of the animals’ transportation, spaying or neutering, shots, health certificate, and their care and boarding at Petcetera.

But each dog adopted is going to need some food, and toys, and treats, perhaps a dog bed, and maybe a nice warm sweater.

“Like people, dogs have to have toys and food,” he says. “When we adopt a dog out, we hope the customer will come back to us for all that dog’s needs for the rest of its life. It’s worked out really well for all concerned — especially the dogs.”

(Photo: Foreclosed Upon Pets, Inc.)