Tag Archives: washington post

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.”

Are dog rescue groups helping support big time breeders? It sure looks that way

auctionmichleashes1

Are animal rescue groups actually helping keep big-time dog breeders — both good ones and bad ones — in business?

That’s the question raised in this blockbuster report that appeared in The Washington Post this morning.

The newspaper’s investigation found that rescue operations, traditionally the nemesis of puppy mills, have been buying dogs from breeders at auction, using donations from their supporters to buy dogs in what it described as a “nationwide shadow market.”

The result is a river of rescue donations flowing from avowed dog saviors to the breeders, two groups that have long disparaged each other. The rescuers call many breeders heartless operators of inhumane “puppy mills” and work to ban the sale of their dogs in brick-and-mortar pet stores. The breeders call “retail rescuers” hypocritical dilettantes who hide behind nonprofit status while doing business as unregulated, online pet stores.

But for years, they have come together at dog auctions where no cameras are allowed, with rescuers enriching breeders and some breeders saying more puppies are being bred for sale to the rescuers.

Bidders affiliated with 86 rescue and advocacy groups and shelters throughout the United States and Canada have spent $2.68 million buying 5,761 dogs and puppies from breeders since 2009 at the nation’s two government-regulated dog auctions, both in Missouri, according to invoices, checks and other documents The Post obtained from an industry insider.

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

The article reports that it is likely the success of rescue groups in reducing the numbers of dogs needing adoption that has led to an increase in such organizations turning to buying dogs offered at auctions by commercial kennels: “As the number of commercial kennels has decreased, so has the number of shelter animals killed in the United States: A February 2017 estimate put the total for dogs alone at 780,000, a steep drop from estimates for all shelter animals that were as high as 20 million in the 1970s.”

One golden retriever rescue group turned to the auctions after seeing 40 percent fewer dogs coming in as of 2016. At the auctions, such rescuers describe buying purebreds and popular crossbreeds such as goldendoodles and maltipoos as “puppy mill rescue,” the article notes.

Some rescue organizations have paid more than $1,000 for a single dog.

Animal-welfare groups, including the ASPCA, HSUS, say rescuers are misguided in buying dogs at auction because the money they pay only encourages more breeding on a commercial scale.

While they may be keeping some individual dogs from being purchased by breeders for a life of breeding, they are also lining the pockets of breeders and helping to create a “a seller’s market.”

JoAnn Dimon, director of Big East Akita Rescue in New Jersey, says that buying breeding-age dogs at auctions makes it harder for commercial breeders to profit in the long run: “That breeder is going to make thousands of dollars off that [female dog] if he breeds her every cycle. I just bought her for $150. I just took money out of his pocket. I got the dog, and I stopped the cycle.”

The majority of the $2.68 million The Post documented was spent since 2013 at Southwest Auction Service, the biggest commercial dog auction in the country, with some additional spending at its smaller, only remaining competitor, Heartland Sales.

As the last remaining government-licensed auctions, they let buyers and sellers see hundreds of dogs at a time and are a legal part of the country’s puppy supply chain. They are regulated by the U.S. and Missouri Departments of Agriculture and open to the public.

“I’m not going to lie about this: Rescue generates about one-third, maybe even 40 percent of our income,” Bob Hughes, Southwest’s owner, told the Post. “It’s been big for 10 years.”

“I honestly think there are very good, responsible rescues that just love the dogs and want to get them out of the breeding industry,” he added. “And I think there are malicious, lying, cheating rescues that are in it for the money and the glory and the funding.”

Rescue groups generally are organized as nonprofit charities and raise money through fundraisers, adoption fees, grants and bequests. Shelters and rescue groups connected to the auction bidders have annual revenue that runs from $12,000 to $1.5 million.

Hughes told the Post that what happens at auctions shows that nobody has the moral high ground in America’s puppy wars.

“In their minds, the rescuers think they’re better,” he says. “The industry is all alike. We’re all supplying puppies and dogs to the general public in some form or fashion.”

(Photo: Dogs being sold at an auction in Michigan))

Returning from an exotic locale? Chances are you can bring someone home with you

wapo2We don’t expect Donald Trump to like this (so don’t anyone let him know) but if you’re returning from a trip to some exotic locale — Mexico, Thailand, South Korea, India, Turkey, Colombia, and the Carribean to name a few — you can bring someone back with you to live in the good old USA forever.

And you don’t even have to marry them — or even ever see them again.

Yes, we’re talking about dogs. (Aren’t we almost always?)

But we’re also talking about an easy-lifting way to accomplish a good deed and play a small role in making a dog and a family happy.

Our country’s incoming new leadership may no longer wants those tired, poor and hungry humans we once welcomed from other countries, but the door is still pretty open for dogs (my dog included) that have been saved from horrific conditions in other countries.

Many of them have gotten here thanks to Americans returning from vacations, who are willing to take a little extra time to serve as their official escorts.

How it all works was documented recently by The Washington Post, in a story by Andrea Sachs, who not only talked to people who have done it, but did it herself.

Sachs recently returned from a trip to Colombia with a dog named Max.

“To unknowing eyes, I was just a typical traveler with a strong pet attachment. But in truth I was a flight volunteer for Cartagena Paws, an animal-rescue center that, among myriad services, places Colombian street dogs with adoptive families in North America. My ultimate responsibility was to escort the 8-month-old puppy with the overactive tail to the District. I was headed north anyway, and, well, Max needed a lift.”

There are animal welfare groups around the world rescuing dogs who face bleak lives, or worse, and then finding themselves hard-pressed to find them homes.

One solution they’ve turned to is exporting rescued dogs to the U.S.

Often, though, they need a little help getting them from there to here.

“We use flight volunteers who are met at the airport by the adoptive parents,” said Lisa Anne Ramirez, executive director of the Humane Society of Cozumel Island in Mexico. Those meetings, she says are “usually very emotional and tearful.”

While most airlines will ship a dog traveling solo in their cargo holds, that’s the most expensive and least desirable method.

Dogs are generally permitted to travel as checked baggage, or as carry-ons in the cabin, but in those cases they must be traveling with someone.

The rescue organizations handle the paperwork, so, for the escort, it’s often just a matter of handing those papers over at customs.

Sasithorn “Sas” Moy of Harlem said little inconvenience was involved after she agreed to escort five dogs from Thailand to the U.S. when returning from a trip to visit family.

She contacted the Phuket-based Soi Dog Foundation, which sends at least 25 dogs to North America a month.

“I just showed up at the airport and they gave me the paperwork,” she explained after a nearly 20-hour flight to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. “I said goodbye to the dogs at the X-ray machine. It was painless… There was extra time on the front end and the back end, but it was worthwhile.”

wapo1Sachs advises in the article that travelers wishing to serve as flight volunteers contact the rescue center as soon as they secure their flights.

“I messaged Cartagena Paws two weeks before my departure and received a reply peppered with exclamation points: We would love to have some help! Yes please!”

She and Max flew from Cartagena to Atlanta to Washington — he making the trip next to her in a carrier in the cabin. In Washington, he was picked up for a trip to his new home in Texas.

Sachs also put together a list of international rescues seeking escorts for dogs coming into the United States. You can find more details and contact information at that link.

(Photos: Max arrives in Washington from Cartagena, Columbia, and waits to make the trip to his forever home in San Antonio; volunteers at Cartagena Paws say goodbye to Max at the airport in Cartagena; by Andrea Sachs /The Washington Post)

Some kind of miracle

Was it an Internet miracle, or a Christmas one? Or does that even matter now that Willis, a Clumber spaniel who went missing just before Christmas last year, is back home?

Willis belonged to Karen Martin, of Portsmouth, Va. Four days before Christmas last year, she went out to her back yard to find him gone. After a year of posting fliers and searching, she’d all but given up hope of finding him.

Little did she know, he was hundreds of miles from home, and had a date with death, metro columnist Courtland Milloy of the Washington Post reported last week.

Picked up by animal control officers in Charles County more than a month ago, Willis had been taken to the Tri County Animal Shelter in Hughesville, Md.  Shelter workers scanned Willis for an identification chip, but, though he had one, it was not detected. Shelter workers put a photograph of the  7-year-old dog on the facility’s “at-risk” list, meaning euthanasia was ahead.

The at-risk list, including a photo of each dog, is e-mailed to animal rescue groups and other dog lovers around the country in hopes that someone might be willing to adopt the animals listed before they are euthanized.

Terry Walker, an office manager for a veterinary hospital in Calvert County, was one of those who received it and recognized the dog pictured as a Clumber spaniel.

After an Internet search, Walker found an organization called Clumber Spaniel Rescue of America, and forwarded the dog’s photograph to the three contacts whose names were listed.

One of them ended up in the spam folder of Sally Day, of Washington Crossing, Pa. — a friend of Willis’ owner, Karen Martin.

She said she was deleting her spam when something told her to open this one.

“A voice said, ‘Open it,’ and the hair stood up on the back of my neck,” Day recalled. “The e-mail was from a stranger, and there was a photograph attached. I instantly thought I recognized the dog. I said, ‘Oh, my God, that’s Karen’s boy.’ ”

Martin called her friend Day, then e-mailed her the photo, and Willis is back home now — a bit the worse for wear from his journey of more than 200 miles. He had an injured eye, a respiratory infection and a skin allergy that had resulted in scratching off patches of hair.

Martin, who now lives in Williamsburg, said she expected this Christmas to be a lot more joyful than last year’s.

(Photo: By Jay Paul / from the Washington Post)

Galifianakis pays tribute to Zuzu

Nick Galifianakis the cartoonist — not to be confused with Nick Galifianakis, the congressman (his uncle); Zack Galifianakis, the comedian (his cousin); or Peter Galifianakis, the sculptor (his father) — paid a moving tribute to his dog Zuzu in Friday’s Washington Post:

“She was my best friend, my therapist, my tranquilizer, my daily affirmation that life is fundamentally good, and my muse,” he writes.

Zuzu, who was named after the character in “It’s A Wonderful Life” (George Bailey’s daughter), died last week. Galifianakis frequently used Zuzu — a pit bull — in his illustrations.

Galifianakis worked as an editorial cartoonist and illustrator for USA Today and US News & World Report, and as a free-lance editorial cartoonist. He still illustrates the columns written by his ex-wife, Carolyn Hax, in the Post’s Style section.

Among the cartoonist’s memories of his dog:

“How she’d be in a park full of people and dogs, and look for me … How she rested her big, cartoonish head on my thigh … How she let me rest my feet on her as she slept under my drawing board … Her expressive eyebrows, particularly delightful to her cartoonist companion … Her weight when I carried her up and down the stairs, after her knees wore out.

“When I realized it was time, I held her for hours until the vet arrived at my home,” Galifianakis writes. “People keep saying I should feel good about the great life I gave her, but I know I was the lucky one, because she so effortlessly filled my world and unleashed in me a bottomless supply of love. If you had asked me the day before what my last words to Zuzu would be, I would have said, ‘I love you.’

“But when the moment came, the words I said, before I knew I was saying them, were ‘Thank you.'”

Firefighters rescue yellow Lab from icy pond

rescue

Yesterday’s Washington Post had a great series of photos depicting the rescue of a yellow Lab who wandered into an icy pond in Potomac.

A neighbor spotted the dog — named Tully — out his kitchen window and called 911. Rescuers arrived within minutes, cut through a fence and plunged in after him as the dog’s family watched.

The four-year old dog was worn out by then and unable to hoist himself out, according to his owner, Bruce Stewart, whose 14-year-old son encouraged the dog from shore: “Hold on there, buddy! You’re a good boy!”

Rashad Surratt, a firefighter, entered the pond and Tully paddled toward him. The rescuer wrapped his arms and a harness around the dog, who seemed happy to get a hand. “He just gave up,” Surratt said Saturday. “He was really, really tired.”

Other firefighters were able to help pull Tully across the ice and get him to the shore. Tully was wrapped in coats and blankets, loaded onto a toboggan and pulled home by firefighters and residents. To see all the photos, visit the Post’s photo gallery.

Stewart, an executive at text-messaging company kgb, said Tully apparently walked right through his electronic fence, which had been disabled by the snow.

(Photo: Lea Thompson / Washington Post)

Dogs will dine when Vick is sacked

rescue_ad_300Main Line Animal Rescue placed an ad in today’s Washington Post, pledging five bags of dog food to Washington D.C. animal shelters for each time Michael Vick is sacked.

The rescue, located outside of Philadelphia, said the ad is aimed at bringing attention back to the needs of dogs.

Each time the Eagles new  backup quarterback is tackled during the Oct. 26 away game against the Washington Redskins, five bags of dog food will be donated to a D.C. animal shelter.

It also encourages people to volunteer at a shelter on game day.

Vick served 18 months in prison for funding a dog-fighting operation. The Eagles, in signing Vick to a two-year deal, said he’d served his time and deserved a second chance.

“I think we’re all getting tired of the ‘Does he deserve a second chance?’ kind of thing,” said Bill Smith, founder and CEO of the shelter, which is near Valley Forge. “… Maybe it’s about time that the million pit bulls euthanized every year got their second chance.”

“It’s such a misunderstood breed. … They’re great dogs,” Smith told the Philadelphia Inquirer, adding that the stigma pit bulls carry is “because of people like Michael Vick.”

The ad’s aim is to bring attention back to the needs of dogs, he said. “I think we just need to raise public awareness and this is a good way to do that.”

 The ad may run in other cities where the Eagles play, including San Diego, Chicago and New York, he said.

Smith said that if Vick had “any sense of humor at all,” and really wanted to help dogs, he could stand on the field before the Oct. 26 game and let players tackle him, so even more dogs will get fed.

Given Vicks public statements that he wants to help the dogs he once tortured and killed, “He should thank us” for the opportunity, Smith said.