Found abandoned in a foxhole in a New Guinea jungle, a tiny four-pound, seven-inch tall Yorkshire terrier became a brave little warrior, surviving combat missions, air raids and adverse conditions of climate and terrain. Nothing got this valiant female soldier down.
How Smoky came to be in that foxhole was a mystery, as the little dog didn’t respond to either Japanese or English commands. She went through the hands of two soldiers before she was purchased for the price of a stake in a poker game and became the constant companion of Corporal William Wynne of Cleveland, Ohio. From then on Smoky slept in Wynne’s tent, fittingly on a blanket made from a green felt card table cover. Wynne shared his C-rations and the rare can of Spam with his new and dearest friend. As a child, Wynne had known abandonment. The devoted Smoky filled a need in Wynne to feel anchored to someone.
Smoky become an integral part of the 5th Air Force. She saw twelve combat missions and was awarded eight battle stars. She survived 150 air raids on New Guinea and made it through a typhoon at Okinawa. Smoky even had a parachute made expressly for her and parachuted 30 feet out of a tree. Her keen hearing saved Wynne and eight of his men from incoming shells on their transport ship.
Perhaps Smoky’s most memorable mission was at an airstrip on the Island of Luzon in the Philippines. With Cpl. Wynne’s guidance, she was able to pull a telegraph wire through a 70-foot pipe. Her action saved construction time and kept the army engineers safe from enemy fire. It was a very dangerous assignment with collapse always a danger. Smoky made it safely through with the wire. As Wynne said, “She did it because she was asked to.”
Like canine heroes Rags and Stubby of WWI, perhaps Smoky’s most life-sustaining actions were those that kept her comrades in arms in good spirits through the long days and nights of hardship and fear. Her toughness inspired them as her playful antics cheered them.
After the war, Smoky came home with Wynne, who married and eventually had nine children. Smoky was a valued member of his family. Wynne took Smoky to Hollywood for a time; he even traveled around the world with her, as she continued to entertain and cheer all who saw her. Smoky became a “service dog” for many veterans, helping them to heal both physically and emotionally.
Smoky was fully grown when she was found. Her age at her death, on February 21, 1957, was estimated to be 14-years-old. She is buried in the Cleveland Metroparks, Rocky River Reservation in Lakewood, Ohio, where a memorial to her now stands. William Wynne also memorialized her in a loving memoir, titled Yorkie Doodle Dandy.
As we hope every Veterans Day, if our stories of War Dogs move you, please adopt a rescue dog. There are dogs of all breeds waiting to find loving Forever Homes. It would be a fitting tribute to Smoky if other abandoned Yorkshire Terriers would be given love and shelter because of her. And Smoky is a great name. Please think about it and remember, “Adopt, don’t’ shop”.
On Veterans Day, we honor all Americans who serve or served in the military, past and present. On Memorial Day we remember all those who died in active military service. These are also days to remember the dogs of war. We must not forget their acts of duty and heroism. These are just five of the dogs who bravely served their country.
Chips, a Collie–German Shepherd–Siberian Husky mix, was the most decorated dog of World War II. This canine hero saw action in Germany, France, North Africa, and Sicily. Among his heroic exploits are his assault on an Italian machine-gun nest and his help in capturing 10 enemy Italian soldiers. For his actions, Chips was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Purple Heart, and the Silver Star. Sadly, the commendations were revoked due to military policy at the time that did not allow such recognition for an animal. This brave canine soldier returned to his home in Pleasantville, N.Y., in 1945.
Kaiser was a German Shepard who served in Vietnam with his handler Marine Lance Cpl. Alfredo Salazar. Kaiser and Salazar did more than 30 combat patrols and participated in 12 major operations together. Kaiser was killed in action in 1966, while on a search-and-destroy mission with “D” Company. They were on patrol and were ambushed by enemy forces. Kaiser was hit in the initial barrage and died while trying to lick Salazar’s hand. Kaiser was the first war dog to be killed in action during the Vietnam War.
On December 4, 1966, Nemo, a German Shepard, and Airman 2nd Class Bob Thorneburg were on patrol at a cemetery near the company’s airbase in Vietnam when the two came under enemy fire. Nemo took a round to his eye, and Throneburg was shot in the shoulder after killing two Viet Cong guerillas. Despite his wound, Nemo attacked the enemy, giving Throneburg the precious minutes he needed to call in reinforcements. After Throneburg fell unconscious, Nemo crawled on top of his fallen handler’s body to protect him from harm. The dog would not let anyone touch Airman Thorneburg. It took a veterinarian to remove Nemo. Both Nemo and Throneburg recovered from their battle wounds. Nemo was later given a permanent retirement kennel. He died in December 1972. He was 11-years-old.
Not all dogs of war are big or male. Smokey was a female Yorkshire Terrier who saw action in the Pacific during World War II. Smokey was initially found in February 1944, abandoned in a foxhole in the jungles of New Guinea. This little fighter was included in a dozen combat missions and survived more than 150 air raids. Like famous World War I veterans Rags and Stubby, Smoky used her sharp sense of hearing to warn of incoming artillery shells. One of Smokey’s most famous exploits was at a crucial airstrip on the Philippine Island of Luzon. Smokey bravely pulled a telegraph wire through a narrow 70-foot pipe. Her actions saved construction time and kept workers and engineers safe from enemy fire. When not in harm’s way, Smoky entertained the troops with a variety of tricks and antics. Smokey lived to be 14-years-old. She passed away on February 21, 1957. Smokey’s adoptive guardian, William A. Wynne, chronicled her life in a lovingly written biography of the tiny heroine, “Yorkie Doodle Dandy”.
Probably the most famous war dog, this American Pit Bull Terrier was the only dog to be given the rank of sergeant. Found as a stray on the Yale campus in 1917, Stubby was smuggled to France during World War I by his adoptive guardian, Cpl. John Robert Conroy. Stubby’s service record includes participating in 17 battles, four offenses, and improving troop morale. He also used his keen senses to warn his unit of poison-gas attacks, incoming artillery fire, and to locate downed soldiers on the battlefield; Stubby even captured a German spy lurking in the trenches. The Pit Bull-centric website, StubbyDog.org, is named after him, as is the Stubby Award for Canine Heroism. Stubby died in his guardian’s arms in 1926.
Rags, a small shaggy mixed-breed, was found on on the streets on Bastille Day of 1918 by Private James Donovan, a Signal Corps specialist with the American 1st Infantry. Private Donovan stumbled over what appeared to be a pile of rags, until the rags gave a sad whimper and a small bark. Within two weeks, both soldier and dog were sent off to the 2nd Battle of the Marne. Donovan's job was to string communications wire. When the wires were ripped and shellfire was still incoming, the only way to get messages through was by runner. But runners were frequently killed or wounded. Donovan realized that a little dog could do the job and survive. Rags soon learned to take messages towards the sound of the American guns. Near the end of the war, Donovan and Rags were in the Argonne Forest, bound in by a thick fog. Rags was sent back with a message. He had just set off when the Germans began firing mustard gas shells. Rags was mildly gassed and hit in the paw with a splinter from a concussion shell. His right ear was badly mangled by this same shell and a needle-like sliver of shell fragment was embedded under his right eye. An American infantryman found him dazed and confused and delivered both the wounded little dog and the message. Donovan had also been gassed, but far more severely. He was carried back to the rear and reunited with his dog. Rags had the shell splinters removed from his paw, but he would remain blind in his right eye and deaf in his right ear for the rest of his life. Donovan was not as fortunate. He died in 1919 from the lingering effects of the mustard gas. Rags was awarded a special ribbon recognizing his wartime service and achievements. His biography took its place among other official records of the Great War. Rags joined his beloved Private Donovan on March 22, 1936 at the remarkable age of twenty years old.
Animal activists are celebrating an historic victory as Florida voters approve Amendment 13 to end greyhound racing. Because of the decisions of millions of Florida voters, thousands of dogs will be spared the pain and suffering that is inherent in the greyhound racing industry.
Florida is home to 11 of the remaining 17 greyhound racing tracks in the country. Activists hope that passage of Amendment 13 sounds the death knell for an industry that is responsible for inflicting pain, suffering and death on thousands of gentle greyhound dogs.
Wanton cruelty is inflicted on thousands of dogs by the racing industry each year. Since 2008, nearly 1,000 racing greyhounds have died and 12,000 have suffered injuries - including broken legs, crushed skulls, broken necks, paralysis, seizures, and death by electrocution. And these are just the reported injuries and deaths. The vast majority of the 80,000 greyhounds born into dog racing can't even be accounted for.
Thirty-nine states had already made the humane decision to ban greyhound racing, but this cruel sport continued to exploit greyhounds despite public outcry and overwhelming financial losses from a dying industry.
Racing greyhounds are kept in warehouse-style kennel compounds, in rows of stacked cages for twenty or more hours each day. They are fed a diet based on cheap, diseased meat, and are routinely deprived of basic veterinary care. They are often dosed with dangerous, illegal drugs.
A recently released national report on greyhound racing in the United States chronicled thousands of greyhound injuries and hundreds of greyhound deaths in the seven states where greyhound tracks still operate. The 80-page report, compiled by GREY2K USA and the ASPCA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), presented official data and dozens of photographs from nearly 600 sources from 2008 to the present.
11,722 greyhound injuries were documented. Injuries included more than 3,000 dogs that suffered broken legs and other injuries such as crushed skulls, broken backs, paralysis and electrocutions.
909 racing greyhound deaths were reported. The true number of deaths is likely higher as there are no verifiable statistics on the ultimate fate of greyhounds who survive racing but are disposed of each year when injured or no longer competitive.
27 cases of greyhound cruelty and neglect were uncovered. This figure captures the number of dogs who were starved to death, denied veterinary care, or endured poor track kennel conditions. Additionally, sixteen racing greyhounds tested positive for cocaine.
2,200 state disciplinary rulings have been issued since 2008. Racing Commissions have a history of regulatory failures and industry attempts at self-regulating have proven to be ineffective.
Since 1991, forty-one dog tracks have closed or ended live racing, and the greyhound industry has seen a steady financial decline. Over the past decade, gambling on dog racing and greyhound breeding has declined by 66 percent and 57 percent, respectively. Government revenue from dog racing has dropped by 79 percent since 2001. As profits have declined, cost-cutting attempts - like feeding greyhounds inexpensive “4-D” meat from diseased animals - have resulted in poor track kennel conditions as well.
Greyhound racing is now illegal in the vast majority of the country. It's time to put an end to it once and for all.
Targeting dogs by breed is ineffective in preventing tragic incidents. Laws and policies restricting certain breeds may break up families, but they won't make a community safer.
Tragic deaths caused by dog attacks often prompts much discussion about how municipalities can most effectively manage dogs to ensure community safety. But animal advocate organizations urge communities to reject ineffective, breed based measures.
There is no evidence that breed-specific laws reduce dog bites or attacks on people, and experts have found that no breed is more likely to bite than another. In fact, no jurisdiction has been able to prove that this kind of legislation has improved public safety.
It is very important to understand that no breed ban has ever effectively eliminated restricted dogs from the community. These laws fly in the face of the human-animal bond and citizens will risk law-breaking to keep their companion animals with them.
Breed bans and restrictions force dogs out of homes and into shelters, taking up kennel space and resources that could be used for animals who are truly homeless.
Many animal advocate organizations and veterinarians have clear position statements that do not support breed specific legislation. They urge municipalities to take an objective, fact-driven approach to preventing tragic incidents from happening.
Breed based laws are archaic and misinformed approaches to the issue of managing dogs and building safe communities. Breed-specific legislation only creates an illusion of safety. It distracts the public from the real issues at stake and diverts resources from more effective animal control and public safety initiatives. These laws are not founded in science or credible data, but on myths and misinformation surrounding different breeds. Their impact on dogs, families and animal shelters, however, is real.
The majority of medical schools in the United States have abolished dog labs from their curricula. Columbia, Harvard, Stanford and Yale all introduce physiology to their students with other, more applicable methods. A significant number of medical schools, however, continue using dog labs.
Some students and professors argue that dog labs provide first-year medical students with valuable hands-on surgical experience during a time when reading and lecture predominates their education. Yet many experts argue that dog labs are not only cruel, but are useless to a medical student's understanding of the human body. Two organizations in particular, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Americans for Responsible Medical Advancement, oppose dog labs, arguing that humane and more relevant alternatives to animal dissection exist and should be utilized by all medical schools.
In university dog labs, a large number of dogs are anaesthetized, typically before the students see them. Students inject the dogs with drugs, then vivisect them so that the reaction of the internal organs can be observed. At the end of the session, the dogs are killed.
The Harvard University Medical school no longer uses dog labs. Instead, students observe human surgery in an operating theatre. Students get to see patients being anaesthetized, an element missing from most dog labs. Observing human surgery also gives students a lesson in human anatomy that they could never learn from dissecting a dog. In addition, students have the solace of knowing that they are watching a life being saved, and not taking part in an animal's destruction.
According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, most medical schools have eliminated dog labs from their curricula. Yet several schools still continue the practice. Fortunately, increased publicity surrounding dog labs and resulting public pressure have forced many of these medical schools to allow students to opt out of dog labs for moral or religious reasons.
Other schools have placed moratoriums on dog labs or disbanded the practice altogether, because of concerns that disreputable sources supplied the dogs for those labs. "Class B" dealers often procure animals from questionable sources. Several instances of pet theft have been linked to these dealers. In turn, medical schools and research labs buy many animals from Class B dealers, and investigators believe that stolen dogs sometimes wind up on the operating tables of medical students.
Dog labs are obsolete and cruel. Humane and more applicable alternatives to dog labs exist; reason enough to eliminate dog labs, regardless of questions concerning the procurement of the animals.
While some wildlife groups may use media attention to speculate that cats are causing species loss, leading biologists, climate scientists, and environmental watchdogs all agree: endangered species’ fight for survival rests in our own hands.
Focusing on cats diverts attention from the far more dangerous impact of humans. Too many media stories sidestep these realities to focus on sensational issues like cats’ imagined impact on birds. But cats have been a natural part of the landscape for over 10,000 years—that has not changed. What has changed in that time is how we have re-shaped the environment to suit 21st century human needs—at a great cost to the other species that share our ecosystem. Our direct impact on our environment is without a doubt the number one cause of species loss.
Make no mistake—habitat loss is the most critical threat to birds. With this exponential human population growth comes massive use of natural resources and rampant development: industrial activity, logging, farming, suburbanization, mining, road building, and a host of other activities. The impact on species from habitat destruction, pollution, fragmentation, and modification is alarming. According to the World Watch Institute, “people have always modified natural landscapes in the course of finding food, obtaining shelter, and meeting other requirements of daily life. What makes present-day human alteration of habitat the number one problem for birds and other creatures is its unprecedented scale and intensity.”
Human activities are responsible for up to 1.2 billion bird deaths every year. Nearly 100 million birds die annually from collisions with windows; 80 million from collisions with automobiles; 70 million from exposure to pesticides. Millions of birds are intentionally killed by U.S. government-sponsored activities each year.
The human population continues to grow, threatening other species. Exponential population growth has left little land untouched by human development. In America alone, the population grew by 60 million people between 1990 and 2010, and experts predict we will add 23 million more people per decade in the next 30 years. That kind of growth—the equivalent of adding another California and another Texas to our already teeming population—is unprecedented in American history.
Killing cats will not save wildlife. Studies have shown cats to be mainly scavengers, not hunters, feeding mostly on garbage and scraps. When they do hunt, cats prefer rodents and other burrowing animals. Studies of samples from the diets of outdoor cats confirm that common mammals appear three times more often than birds. Additionally, scientists who study predation have shown in mathematical models that when cats, rats, and birds coexist, they find a balance. But when cats are removed, rat populations soar and wipe out the birds completely.
Some wildlife organizations and media outlets continue to quote scientific studies that have been proven inaccurate. A careful analysis of the science concludes there is no strong support for the viewpoint that cats are a serious threat to wildlife.
Although human civilization and domestic cats co-evolved side by side, the feral cat population was not created by humans. Cats have lived outdoors for a long time. In the thousands of years that cats have lived alongside people, indoor-only cats have only become common in the last 50 or 60 years—a negligible amount of time on an evolutionary scale. They are not new to the environment and they didn’t simply originate from lost pets or negligent animal guardians. Instead, they have a place in the natural landscape.
The majority of US states have banned dog fighting. This ban carries a felony punishment for violation in all but seven states. Illegal dog fighting, however, remains a pervasive if hidden practice in many cities.
Trainers prepare a dog to fight by imposing a cruel regimen on the dog from the beginning of its life. Trainers starve dogs to make them mean, hit dogs to make them tough, and force dogs to run on treadmills for long periods of time or endure other exhausting exercise.
In order to foster the viciousness of dogs, trainers bait them with puppies, cats, and other small animals. The trainer immobilizes the small animals by hanging them up. These dogs, having been beaten and deprived, then maul the small animals to death.
In dog fights themselves, dogs are forced to fight through severe injury, often until one or more dogs are dead. Spectators force dogs to keep fighting by prodding and hitting them with sharpened objects.
Trainers favor pit bulls over other dogs, because pit bulls have strong jaws. Well-treated and humanely raised pit bulls are affectionate and loyal dogs. To the surprise of many people, they are also good with children. Only pit bulls bred to fight become violent and dangerous animals.
Humans in the profession of dog fighting over-breed pit bulls, contributing to the large number of such dogs languishing in shelters throughout the country. Shelters euthanize many of these dogs because homes cannot be found for them.
What You Can Do
Cruelty to animals is a precursor to violence against humans. Please report any knowledge of dog fighting or other animal fighting to authorities.
Trap-neuter-return (TNR) is recommended only for colonies of feral cats who can be returned to supervised sites where long-term care can be assured. Stray, domestic cats need to be re-socialized and placed in homes. Spaying and neutering colonies of cats: stabilizes the population at manageable levels, eliminates "annoying" behaviors associated with mating (fighting, yowling, and "spraying toms"), helps make the animals easier to deal with over the long term (re: trapping for future veterinary treatment), is more effective and less costly than repeated attempts at eradication is humane to the animals and fosters compassion in the community.
The community, the caretakers and the property owner where the cats reside, should organize and carry out this plan. Money may be available from an established organization or may have to be raised by voluntary contributions. Local governments should be approached and asked to contribute to the fund, as TNR will save them money over time. The initial cost may seem high but the long-term costs are less than those spent on repeated eradication attempts. The major expenses are for equipment, veterinary services, and food.
Identify all those who feed the cats and all feeding sites. Make a list of all the cats, their state of health, and whether females are pregnant, or feeding kittens. Identify the cats who are only occasional visitors or who are friendly, as these may be companion animals. All neighbors should be notified of your procedures before trapping begins to prevent them from thinking you will harm the cats. The location should be evaluated as to whether or not it is an appropriate environment in which to keep the colony. Buildings scheduled for demolition or areas too close to major highways may not be suitable. For the most part, the area where the cats are living is the best place to keep them. If relocation is necessary, find a suitable new location. However, relocation should be the last option. The planning group may be very creative in finding a solution. Euthanasia is only recommended for very sick cats who cannot be treated.
Make arrangements for kittens and cats that may be tame enough to be domesticated after veterinary treatment. Rescuers and colony caretakers should sterilize all cats and kittens prior to adoption. They should charge an adoption fee which will help recover part of the cost. Early-age sterilization can be performed on kittens eight weeks old or two pounds in weight. Obtain humane traps and transfer cages, and learn how to properly use them. Make arrangements for transport, overnight stay, and delivery to and collection from the surgery.
Don’t leave the cat in an unprotected trap and never leave the cat where she might be threatened by other animals, people, or weather. Immediately cover the trap with a towel or blanket when the cat is caught in order to calm her down. When one cat has been trapped, it can be moved to the transfer cage so that the trap can be used for a second cat. Do not trap in inclement weather, especially during heat waves - traumatized cats are very susceptible to heat stroke. The use of "rabies poles" and tranquilizers are discouraged. Tranquilized cats may leave the area before the tranquilizer takes effect and can get into situations that could endanger their lives, such as wandering onto busy streets. Do not trap lactating mothers, if possible. If, however, a lactating mother is trapped you need to make a decision on whether to have her spayed - she could be hard to retrap. If you keep her, find her kittens as soon as possible.
Discuss the plan with the veterinarian and a possible fee reduction for the whole colony. Confirm beforehand that the veterinarian and technicians are aware that these cats are feral and prepared to treat them. A squeeze-side cage is an option for the clinic to use. A moveable panel in this type of cage immobilizes the cat allowing her to be tranquilized before handling. It is much safer for the veterinarian to tranquilize the cat through the bars of the trap. To avoid the necessity of a second trapping, dissolvable sutures must be used. Males should be fostered overnight and females, if possible, should be kept for two to three nights before returning. All cats to be returned must be identified by clipping one quarter inch off the top of the left ear. If the ear is properly cauterized, this procedure is trouble-free. All cats should be treated for worms and earmites, inoculated with a three-year rabies vaccine and distemper vaccine, and given a long-term antibiotic injection. Remember to inform the vet. that the cats are to be returned to their colonies.
Taming & Domestication: Although some older feral cats can be domesticated, the best time to tame ferals is before they are eight weeks old. While it is possible to domesticate some older kittens and cats, if no homes are available and your local shelter is killing unwanted domestic kittens, a more humane and practical solution is to sterilize feral kittens from 12 weeks old, vaccinate, and return to colony.
When returning to the original site is not possible, relocate the cat to a different site, such as a farm, a riding stable, or even a back yard, as long as new caretakers are willing to take responsibility for consistent food and shelter. Relocating may take several weeks or months and must be undertaken with the utmost of care. “Dumping” of feral cats in rural areas is strongly discouraged as the cats will, in all probability, move off and be unable to a food source. They may starve to death. If you do not confine the cats properly for 2 to 3 weeks, they may not remain on the property. This can lead to a similar situation as mentioned above.
The long-term management of the colony should include arrangements for daily feeding, fresh water, and provision of insulated shelters as sleeping places with waterproof covers and straw. Dust bedding with flea powder to prevent infestations, and keep feeding areas clean and tidy. It may take several months to bring a large colony under control and achieve stable groups of contented and healthy cats. Any new cats attaching themselves permanently to the colony should be trapped and sterilized. Many of these may be tame, domestic strays. These should be resocialized and placed in homes. Feral cats can be re-trapped a few years later for booster rabies vaccinations, health check-ups, teeth cleaning etc. At this time, they will be more trusting of their caretaker and can be tricked into cages and traps. A plan should be worked out with the veterinarian where mild illnesses can be treated in the colony with antibiotics placed in moist food, to avoid re-trapping.
Lights and decorations. Costumes and masks. A constant parade of strangers at the door. Without question, Halloween can be a downright spooky experience for our companion animals. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) offers the following tips on what animal guardians can do to make Halloween safer for their furry friends:
Halloween means a lot of candy in the house and a lot of sharing of that candy. Although it might be a little tough to turn down those begging eyes, it’s best to refrain from feeding your animals Halloween candy, especially if it contains chocolate or xylitol (a common sugar substitute found in sugar-free candies and gum).
With so many people coming to the door, use your best judgment as to whether or not to allow your companion animal to tag alongside you when you answer it. On the one hand, if you have a cat that takes every opportunity to sneak out the door, you want to make sure the cat is in a safe room and can’t try to make a jail break when the doorbell rings and you’re handing out treats. On the other hand, if you have a dog that is friendly, greets people and is well-behaved, you can probably let them come to the door with you. Or, if your animal is wary of strangers or has a tendency to bite, put him or her in another room during trick-or-treating hours or provide him or her with a quiet, safe hiding place inside and away from activity. As a precaution, make sure your companion is properly identified (microchip, collar and ID tag) in case he or she escapes through the open door while you're distracted with trick-or-treaters.
Keep your animals inside. However, if you’re considering taking your companion with you when you go trick-or-treating, remember that it’s safety first. You don’t want to take your dog with you unless he or she well-behaved and has good leash manners because there is some risk of injury with many kids running around. You don’t want to stress out your dog either. Also, be mindful that a lot of times a piece of candy will drop on the sidewalk or on the grass. You want to make sure your dog is not going to scoop it up and eat it without you knowing, and you’re dealing with a sick dog later because you didn’t know what it ate.
It seems like Halloween is approaching Christmas on the scale of decorations people like to hang. Often times, these decorations are not pet friendly, or designed to be pet friendly, as there may be some pieces that can be chewed off and cause an obstruction in their stomach which can be life-threatening or require some surgery. It is best to keep lit candles, jack-o-lanterns, glow sticks, glow jewelry and other decorations out of animals’ reach.
Dressing up companion animals for Halloween is becoming a growing trend. A lot of people like to not only have their kids in costumes, but have their dogs and cats in costumes as well. If you plan to put a costume on your animal, make sure they will tolerate it, it fits properly and is comfortable, doesn't have any pieces that can easily be chewed off, and doesn't interfere with your companion's sight, hearing, breathing, opening his or her mouth or moving. There are a lot of costumes that are designed specifically for dogs or cats, and those are probably the safer route to go because the designers already thought of the little pieces that could fall off or be chewed off and create potential problems. Take time to get your animal accustomed to the costume before Halloween, and never leave your companion unsupervised while he or she is wearing a costume.
We hope that those we leave behind will care enough about us and what we would have wanted for our beloved companion animals to take them in and give them a loving home. Some families will do the right thing, but many others surrender their deceased family member's animals to high-kill shelters or even have them euthanized.
It is the responsibility of all animal guardians to provide for their animals in the event of their death or serious disability. But be aware that the law sees an animal as a piece of personal property. Therefore, a companion animal cannot inherit in a will. For the same reason, you cannot name an animal the direct beneficiary of your life insurance policy. Because of these restrictions, it is important that you make arrangements for the care of your companion before you die. If you have a trusted friend or family member that cares deeply about animals, you can name that person in your will, make them a beneficiary of your life insurance, or set aside monies in a payable-on-death savings account with the understanding that they are to use the funds for the care of your animal until its death. If you have considerable assets to set aside, a “pet trust” could be the better choice. The following questions and answers should help you decide if a trust is right for you and your animal.
What is a “pet trust”?
A pet trust is a legal technique that can be used to ensure that your companion animal receives proper care after you die or in the event of your disability.
How does a pet trust work?
You (the “settlor”) set aside enough money or other property to a trusted person or bank (the “trustee”) that is under a duty to make arrangements for the proper care of your companion animal, according to your advance instructions. The trustee will deliver the animal to your designated caregiver (the “beneficiary”) and then use the property you transferred to the trust to pay for your companion’s expenses.
There are two main types of pet trusts. The first is a “traditional pet trust,” and is effective in all states. You authorize the trustee to pay the beneficiary for the animal’s expenses, as long as the beneficiary takes proper care of your companion in accordance with your wishes.
The second type of pet trust is a “statutory pet trust” and is authorized in over 45 states. A statutory pet trust is a basic plan that does not require the animal guardian to make as many decisions regarding the terms of the trust. The state law “fills in the gaps”, making a simple provision in a will such as, “I leave $10,000 in trust for the care of my dog, Pip” effective.
Which type of pet trust is “better”?
Many animal guardians will prefer the traditional pet trust because it provides them more control over the animal’s care. For example, you specify who manages the property (the trustee), the animal’s caregiver (the beneficiary), what type of expenses relating to the animal the trustee will pay, the type of care the animal will receive, what happens if the beneficiary can no longer care for the animal, and what arrangements are to be made for the animal after the companion dies; i.e. burial or cremation, disposition of the body or ashes, memorials, etc.
What if my state does not have a special law authorizing pet trusts?
If your state does not have a pet trust statute, you may still create a traditional pet trust.
When is a pet trust created?
You may create a pet trust while you are still alive. This is called an “inter vivos” or “living” trust. Or, by including the trust provisions in your will, a “testamentary” trust will be created when you die.
Which is better – an inter vivos or testamentary pet trust?
Both options have their advantages and disadvantages.
An inter vivos trust takes effect immediately and thus will already be functioning when you die or become disabled. This avoids delay between your death and the property being made available for the animal’s care. However, an inter vivos trust can be costly. There are attorney fees when the trust is created and administration fees after that.
A testamentary trust is the less expensive option, because the trust does not take effect until you die and your will is probated (declared valid by a court). However, there may not be funds available to care for your animal during the gap between when you die and when your will is probated. Probate takes time. The estate cannot be closed and funds distributed until a sufficient time has passed to allow any creditors to apply to the estate for payment of debts. And be aware that a testamentary trust will not protect your companion if you become disabled and are unable to care for your animal. A testamentary trust will only take effect after you die.
What does it mean to “fund” your pet trust?
The trustee will not be able to provide for your companion animal without funding. Funding means to transfer money or other property into your trust for the care of your companion. If you choose a testamentary trust, it would be in the animal’s best interest to place enough money in a bank account that is payable on death to the chosen guardian, with the understanding that the money will only be used for the care of the animal until the estate is settled.
How much property do I need to fund my pet trust?
There are many factors to consider in deciding how much money or other property to transfer to your pet trust. These factors include the type of animal, the animal’s life expectancy (especially important in cases of long-lived animals such as parrots), the standard of living you wish to provide for the animal, the need for veterinary treatment, including any out-of-the-ordinary expenses for special-needs animals, and whether the trustee is to be paid for his or her services.
The size of your estate must also be considered. If your estate is relatively large, you could transfer sufficient property so the trustee could make payments primarily from the income and use the principal only for emergencies. On the other hand, if your estate is small, you may wish to transfer a lesser amount and anticipate that the trustee will supplement trust income with principal invasions as necessary.
You should avoid transferring a large amount of money or other property to your pet trust. Such a gift might provoke contention among your heirs and cause them to contest the trust. If the court considers the amount of property left to the trust to be unreasonable, the court can reduce the amount at its discretion.
When do I fund my pet trust?
If you create an inter vivos pet trust, that is, a trust that takes effect while you are alive, you need to fund the trust at the time it is created. You may add additional funds to the trust at a later time or use the techniques discussed below.
If you create a testamentary pet trust, that is, the trust is contained in your will and does not take effect until you die, then you need to fund the trust by a provision in your will or by using one of the techniques discussed below.
How do I fund my pet trust?
If you create your trust while you are alive, you need to transfer money or other property to the trustee. You need to be certain to document the transfer and follow the appropriate steps based on the type of property. For example, if you are transferring money, write a check which shows the payee as, “[name of trustee]”, trustee of the “[name of pet trust]”, “in trust” and then indicate on the memo line that the money is for “contribution to ‘[name of pet trust]’”. If you are transferring land, your attorney should prepare a deed naming the grantee with language such as “[name of trustee]”, in trust, under the terms of the “[name of pet trust]”.
Direct Transfers: If you create the trust in your will, you should include a provision in the property distribution section of your will that directly transfers both your companion animal and the assets to care for your animal to the trust. For example, “I leave [description of animal] and [amount of money and/or description of property] to the trustee, in trust, under the terms of the [name of pet trust] created under Article [number] of this will.”
Pour Over: If you create your pet trust while you are alive, you may add property (a “pour over”) from your estate to the trust when you die.
Life Insurance: You may fund both inter vivos and testamentary pet trusts by naming the trustee of the trust, in trust, as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. This policy may be one you take out just to fund your pet trust or you may have a certain portion of an existing policy payable to your pet trust. This technique is particularly useful if you do not have or anticipate having sufficient property to transfer for your animal’s care. Life insurance “creates” property when you die which you may then use to fund your pet trust. Be sure to consult with your lawyer or life insurance agent about the correct way of naming the trustee of your pet trust as a beneficiary.
Payable On Death Accounts, Annuities, Retirement Plans, and Other Contracts: You may have money in the bank, an annuity, a retirement plan, or other contractual arrangement that permits you to name a person to receive the property after you die. You may use these assets to fund both inter vivos and testamentary trusts by naming the trustee of your pet trust as the recipient of a designated portion or amount of these assets. Consult with your lawyer, banker, or broker about the correct way of naming the trustee of your pet trust as the recipient of these funds.
How do I decide on the individual to name as my companion’s caregiver?
The selection of the caregiver for your animal is extremely important. Here are some of the key considerations:
Dedication to the rights and well-being of all animals.
Willingness to assume the responsibilities associated with caring for your companion.
Ability to provide a stable home for your companion.
Harmonious relationship between the caregiver’s family members and your animal.
Should I name alternate caregivers?
You should name at least one, preferably two or three, alternate caregivers in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to serve as your companion’s caregiver. To avoid having your animal end up without a home, consider naming a sanctuary or no-kill shelter as your last choice.
What types of instructions should I include in my pet trust regarding the care of my animal?
Here are some examples of the types instructions you may wish to provide:
Food and diet.
Medical care, including preferred veterinarian and whether or not you had pet insurance. If you did, provide all policy information.
Compensation, if any, for the caregiver.
Method the caregiver must use to document expenditures for reimbursement.
Whether the trust will pay for liability insurance in case the animal bites or otherwise injures someone.
How the trustee is to monitor caregiver’s services.
How to identify the animal (all nicknames and pet names).
Whether or not the animal should be euthanized if determined by a veterinarian to be suffering without hope of recovery and disposition of the companion’s remains, e.g., burial or cremation, memorials, and where the body or ashes are to be interred.
Who should be the trustee of my pet trust?
The trustee needs to be an individual or corporation that you trust to manage your property prudently and make sure the beneficiary is doing a good job taking care of your animal. A family member or friend may be willing to take on these responsibilities at little or no cost. However, it may be a better choice to select a professional trustee or corporation, which has experience in managing trusts even though a trustee fee will need to be paid.
Should I name alternate trustees?
You should name at least one, preferable two or three, alternate trustees in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to serve as a trustee.
Is it a good idea to check with the trustees before naming them in my pet trust?
Serving as a trustee can be a potentially burdensome position with many responsibilities associated with it. You want to be certain that the person and all alternates you name as your trustees will be willing to do the job when the time comes.
What happens to the property remaining in the trust when my companion animal dies?
You should name a “remainder beneficiary,” that is, someone who will receive any remaining trust property after your animal dies. Note that it is not a good idea to name the caregiver or trustee because then the person has less of an incentive to keep your companion alive. Many animal guardians elect to have any remaining property pass to a charitable organization that assists the same type of animal that was covered by the trust.
What happens if the trust runs out of property before my companion dies?
If no property remains in the trust, the trustee will not be able to pay for your animal’s care. Perhaps the caregiver will continue to do so with his or her own funds. In case the caregiver is unwilling or unable to do so and none of the alternates you named are willing to take the animal without compensation, you should indicate in your pet trust the shelter or sanctuary that you would want your animal to go to. However, try to choose a caregiver and alternates that would not even consider this last resort option.
How do I get a pet trust?
You should consult with an attorney who specializes in estate planning and, if possible, who also has experience with pet trusts. You may find it helpful to give your attorney a copy of this article.
Providing for a surviving companion is the last act of love that you can perform for him or her as part of the ongoing responsibility of companion animal guardianship. Making an informed choice will maximize your animal’s chances of living a long, healthy, happy life without you. Talk with your family to get a sense of how they feel about caring for your animal. Sometimes a friend is a better choice. Having the conversation can spare your companion trauma, abuse or even death. We are their protectors and their voice. Protect them and speak for them.
Few people can resist looking in the pet shop window to see what cute puppies and kittens might be inside. But a closer look into how pet shops obtain animals reveals a system in which the high price paid for "that doggie in the window" pales in comparison to the cost paid by the animals themselves. The vast majority of dogs sold in pet shops, up to half a million a year, are raised in "puppy mills," breeding kennels located mostly in the Midwest that are notorious for their cramped, crude, and filthy conditions and their continuous breeding of unhealthy and hard-to-socialize animals.
Puppy mill kennels usually consist of small wood and wire-mesh cages, or even empty crates or trailer cabs, all kept outdoors, where female dogs are bred continuously, with no rest between heat cycles. The mothers and their litters often suffer from malnutrition, exposure and lack of adequate veterinary care. Continuous breeding takes its toll on the females; they are killed at about age six or seven when their bodies give out, and they no longer can produce enough litters.
The puppies are taken from their mothers at the age of four to eight weeks and sold to brokers who pack them in crates for transport and resale to pet shops. Puppies being shipped from mill to broker to pet shop can cover hundreds of miles by pickup truck, tractor trailer and/or plane, often without adequate food, water, ventilation or shelter.
Between unsanitary conditions at puppy mills and poor treatment in transport, only half of the dogs bred at mills survive to make it to market. Those who do survive rarely get the kind of loving human contact necessary to make them suitable companions. By not spending money for proper food, housing, or veterinary care, the breeders, brokers, and pet shops ensure maximum profits. Cat breeding occurs on a smaller scale, but under similar conditions.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that 25 percent of the 3,500 federally licensed breeding kennels have substandard conditions. The USDA is supposed to monitor and inspect the kennels to make sure they are not violating the housing standards of the Animal Welfare Act, but kennel inspections take low priority at the USDA and the kennels are not regularly inspected. Even when violations are found, kennel operators are rarely fined, much less shut down. Persistent offenders often refuse the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) personnel access to their facilities to conduct inspections.
The American Kennel Club (AKC), while claiming to promote only reputable dealers, does not attempt to influence or reform puppy mill breeders, perhaps because it receives millions of dollars from breeders who pay the AKC registration fees for "purebred" dogs.
Puppy mills are rarely monitored by state governments.
Dogs from puppy mills are bred for quantity, not quality, causing unmonitored genetic defects and personality disorders to be passed on from generation to generation. The result is high veterinary bills for the people who buy such dogs, and the possibility that unsociable or maladjusted dogs will be disposed of when their guardians can't deal with their problems.
Dogs kept in small cages without exercise, love, or human contact develop undesirable behaviors and may become destructive or unsociable or bark excessively. Also, unlike humane societies and shelters, most pet shops do not inspect the future homes of the dogs they sell. They also dispose of unsold animals in whatever manner they see fit, and allegations of cruel killing methods abound. Poor enforcement of humane laws allows badly run pet shops to continue selling sick, unfit animals, although humane societies and police departments sometimes succeed in closing down pet shops where severe abuse is uncovered. WHAT YOU CAN DO
In today's society, where unwanted dogs and cats (including purebreds) are killed by the millions every year in animal shelters, there is simply no reason for animals to be bred and sold for the pet shop trade. Without pet shops, the financial incentive for puppy mills would disappear. People looking for companion animals should go to animal shelters or breed rescue clubs.
Although animals sold by local breeders escape many of the early miseries that dogs suffer at puppy mills, they are subject to the same physical problems caused by inbreeding that animals from pet stores often exhibit, and they also contribute to the overpopulation of companion animals with its attendant suffering. Only when people refuse to support pet shops, puppy mills and breeders will this chain of misery be broken.
A cat's claws are used to capture prey, for climbing, and in self-defense. Claws are an integral part of a cat's life, but their use can also be a problem for cats' human cohabitants. Declawing, however, is a painful and permanently crippling procedure that should not be practiced. There are effective and humane alternatives to declawing that can reduce or eliminate clawing damage.
WHY DO CATS CLAW OBJECTS?
Cats claw to maintain proper condition of the nails, for fun and exercise, and to mark territory visually as well as with scent. They stretch by digging their claws into something and pulling back against their own clawhold. A cat's natural instinct to scratch serves both physical and psychological needs. Before domestication, cats satisfied these needs by clawing tree trunks. Domesticated cats can be trained to satisfy their desire to claw without damaging valuable property.
Declawing involves 10 separate, painful amputations. It is a serious surgery, not just a manicure. The British Veterinary Associations calls declawing an "unnecessary mutilation." Indeed, it is illegal in many parts of Europe.
Declawing a cat involves general anesthesia and amputation of the last joint of each toe, including the bones, not just the nail. Possible complications of this surgery include reaction to anesthetic, hemorrhage, bone chips which prevent healing, recurrent infections and damage to the radial nerve, pain, and possible abnormal regrowth of the nails. The nails may grow back inside the paw, causing pain but remaining invisible to the eye. Declawed cats need regular X-rays to monitor this problem. Declawing results in a gradual weakening of leg, shoulder, and back muscles, and, because of impaired balance, declawed cats have to relearn to walk much as would a person who lost his or her toes. Without claws, cats are virtually defenseless, and this often leads to neurosis and even skin and bladder problems. Without claws to mark their territory, even house-trained cats will often urinate and defecate outside the litter box in a desperate attempt to ward off intruders.
Most animal protection groups, as well as many veterinarians, have spoken out against declawing. Many vets refuse to perform the surgery, calling the operation cruel, and in most cases, unnecessary.
There are several misconceptions about declawing. It does not make cats more "mellow." Declawed cats may be morose, reclusive, and withdrawn, or they may be irritable, aggressive and unpredictable. Many people think declawing makes a cat safer around babies, but this is far from true, as the lack of claws turns many cats into biters. Declawed cats feel so insecure, lacking their first line of defense, that they tend to bite more often as a means of self-protection.
People who have their cats declawed simply do not understand how important claws are to a cat and do not know how else to deal with the problem. With a little effort and commitment to your cat's welfare, you can eliminate the excuse to declaw your cat and make him or her a better companion as well.
To train a kitten or to retrain an adult cat requires the following measures:
Regular nail trimmings. When the cat is relaxed and unafraid, gently press on the toes until the claws extend. Use a pair of animal nail trimmers and cut only the tip of the nail, taking care not to damage the vein or quick. The nail "hook" is what tears up upholstery, so when it is removed, damage is greatly reduced.
Buy or build two or more scratching posts. Such posts must be sturdy, tall enough to allow the cat to completely stretch (3 feet or taller), and properly placed. A bark-covered log, a post covered with sisal, or a tightly woven burlap-covered post works well. Soft, fluffy, carpeted scratching posts don't work - they are one of the greatest causes of declawing because cats often don't like the posts, and frustrated human companions resort to surgery. If you use carpet, secure it to the posts with the rough backing on the outside; soft carpeting will not satisfy a cat's need to claw. Place one scratching post where the cat is already clawing, and another close to where he or she normally sleeps (cats like to stretch and scratch when they first wake up). Another option is the cardboard or sisal "scratching box," which lies flat on the floor. These are inexpensive and small enough to scatter around the house, allowing your cat easy access to an "approved" scratching spot at all times. They do wear out fairly quickly, however, and will need to be replaced every few months - otherwise, cats may get frustrated and revert back to using furniture.
Give your cat specific instructions as to where to claw and where not to claw. Place your cat on the new scratching post and move his or her paws, or pretend to scratch it yourself. This will scent the posts and encourage exploratory clawing. Make the post a "fun" place to be. Play games with your cat on and around the post and attach hanging strings, balls and/or bouncy wire toys to it. Sprinkle catnip on the post, too. (A once-a-week or so "refresher" application will keep your cat interested.) When kitty uses the post, reinforce this behavior with praise, but be careful not to startle or frighten him or her. When the cat claws furniture, discourage this behavior with a firm voice or other loud noise, but never with physical force. Lukewarm water from a squirt gun directed at the back of the animal is often successful. During the training period, you may need to cover upholstery with plastic or other protection (cats don't like the slippery feel and will quickly learn to stay away).
Another option is nail caps for cats. Soft, vinyl nail caps are applied to cats' newly trimmed nails. The nail caps allow cats to scratch naturally, without harming furniture. Each application lasts about four to six weeks.
The fate of the world’s richest biodiversity of salamanders and newts is in the hands of “pet” collectors across North America. At issue is salamander chytrid disease, caused by a fungus that infects both salamanders and newts with near total lethality. The fungus, known as B.sal, infects the skin, causing wart-like lesions. As the disease progresses, the animal stops eating, becomes lethargic, loses control of its body movements and eventually dies.
Originally from Asia, the disease – spread by the pet trade – has completely wiped out wild populations where it has appeared in Europe and the U.K.
Experts are raising the alarm, urging immediate action. The threat is similar to invasive fungal disease that all but wiped out entire species of frogs in South and Central America, and white nose disease, which has killed entire colonies of bats – millions of animals – across North America.
Scientists are warning people who already keep salamanders or newts to make sure any water or cage wastes are properly disinfected before discarding them. Always seek appropriate veterinary care for sick salamanders and newts.
The fungus makes little zoospores that can even swim on their own a short distance. They can live in water and in mud and are easily spread.
Experts advise to never handle wild salamanders, and never, ever release pet animals into the wild.
With their shy nature, salamanders keep a low profile that belies their importance to the ecosystem, where they occupy a niche similar to that of frogs and toads. They eat insects and other aquatic invertebrates and are in turn eaten by fish, birds and small mammals.
Amphibians are key components within the food web. A decline or elimination of even one species will have some impact, a trickle-down effect on other species within that food web.
Many people appreciate the mystic and beauty of exotic animals such as reptiles, amphibians, birds or mammals of non-native species or individuals of native species that have been raised in captivity. They succumb to the temptation of purchasing critters, reptiles, amphibians and other exotic animals, often on impulse. Too often little thought is put into the care and commitment necessary to properly provide for these animals. Parents frequently purchase the animals as learning aids or entertainment for their children who are far too young to be responsible for an intelligent, emotional, living being.
If you have the time, resources and compassion to make a home for a critter, reptile, amphibian or exotic animal, adopt rather than supporting the inhumane pet trade industry. Like dogs and cats, millions of mice, rats, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, reptiles, exotic animals and "pocket" pets are available through humane societies, shelters and rescue groups each year.
The flea has been around for about 40 million years. It is such a tenacious pest because it reproduces explosively. One female flea can lay more than 800 eggs in her six-week lifetime. An egg can become an adult flea in less than three weeks, ready to reproduce. Within only 30 days, just 10 fleas can produce 250,000 children and grandchildren.
The flea's diet consists of blood - animal or human, the flea doesn't care. Each flea feeds about once every hour, so an animal with only 25 fleas could be bitten as much as 600 times in one day.
Besides disease - fleas and the rats they lived on transmitted the bubonic plague, or Black Death, to humans in the 14th century, wiping out a quarter of the European population. Fleas also carry other parasites, such as tapeworms.
As little as one adult flea on a dog or cat means a major infestation. Only 5% of the flea population is in the adult stage. The other 95% consists of pupae, larvae, and eggs - that "salt" in the salt and pepper residue visible in a companion animal's bedding or after combing. The "pepper" is flea excrement.
An excess of fleas can make your companion animal anemic. The constant scratching can cause hair loss. Allergies to fleas can cause hot spots. Animals can also develop large open, oozing wounds due to flea bites. All of which is dangerous to a companion animal's health and expensive to treat.
RIDDING A COMPANION ANIMAL OF FLEAS & TICKS
Fleas and ticks are at their worst in the summer. Fortunately, prevention and treatment is fairly simple. Companion animals should be checked at least once a week for ticks, fleas, or skin irritations that could lead to serious problems.
If a tick is discovered, don't twist it out with thumb and forefinger or the head will break off and stay under the skin to do further damage. To remove it, use a pair of tweezers as close to the skin as possible.
The fine teeth of a flea comb will pull most of the adults and eggs off a companion animal. Combing your animal regularly will quickly determine whether or not fleas are present (and incidentally it will help you and your companion animal form a stronger bond).
Flea shampoos are an effective means for killing fleas on a companion animal, but they are species specific. (Never use a shampoo meant for dogs on cats.) Follow the instructions carefully. For best results, start lathering at the neck and work back to the tail. Be sure to soap the tail, legs, and underbelly completely. When done, rinse your companion animal as thoroughly as possible and towel dry.
Flea shampoos are better than flea powders or sprays or dips, since when properly rinsed no flea toxins remain to make your companion animal ill.
A flea collar may help kill fleas, but it's little more than a poison strap worn by a companion animal. Also, its effectiveness against fleas deteriorates over time and it must be changed regularly.
After treatment, prevention is necessary. Even immediate killing of grown fleas is ineffective because flea eggs or pupae can stay "on hold" for months, growing to maturity when conditions for them "improve." You must get rid of them now, both inside and, if your animals are indoor/outdoor, outside as well.
FLEAS INSIDE THE HOUSE
Vacuum regularly. Because fleas thrive on the contents of the vacuum cleaner bag, sprinkle some flea powder on the floor or carpet and vacuum that up too. Dispose of the bag after vacuuming.
Flea bomb every room in the house. Use a flea bomb that contains an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR), which confuses flea larvae so they never grow to be adults. Look for the chemical name Precor. IGRs prevent flea larvae from reaching the pupae stage in your carpet for up to seven months, and are non-toxic to animals and humans. Follow the instructions on the can carefully.
Once the house and companion animals are clean, keep fleas away through preventative medicines available at your veterinarian's office. Some medicines offer a six-month regimen for your animal, of one pill or liquid supplement a month, that inhibits the growth of flea larvae into adults. Some can be applied directly to the skin on the back of the neck for cats, between the shoulder blades (and, for larger dogs, on the top of the rump) for dogs. In a day or so, it spreads over the whole body, then dries to form a matrix over the animal. It will kill 98% to 100% of the adult fleas within 24 hours.
FLEAS OUTSIDE THE HOUSE
Fleas and ticks love tall grass so mow and edge the yard well to eliminate this perfect breeding ground.
Recently, an all-natural outdoor flea control spray was developed that kills fleas within 24 hours and keeps working up to a month. The secret ingredient is beneficial nematodes, micro-organisms that prey on pre-adult fleas. They're so safe, children and companion animals can play in a yard that's just been sprayed with them. They exist only until they run out of prey. When all the fleas in the yard have been eliminated, the beneficial nematodes cease to work and biodegrade. It's important to spray with nematodes monthly, and be sure to keep them moist (not wet).
Another remedy is diatomaceous earth, a natural product consisting of fossilized one-celled plants called diatoms. While harmless to animals, this talc-like material scratches the waxy "skin" of insects, causing dehydration and death. Buy it from an organic gardening supply - do not get the diatomaceous earth that is sold for swimming pool filters - and apply as a dust all over your yard about once every couple of weeks. You can also use it inside the house.
If you spray your yard with chemicals, read the instructions carefully. What's heavily toxic to fleas will kill even beneficial insects, and may harm companion animals or family if exposed. Spray outside at dusk or later, to avoid killing bees and other beneficial insects. Keep the spray below knee-level, because fleas can jump only nine inches high. When you're through spraying, wash out your equipment thoroughly. Wash your hands and change your clothes if they have become wet in the process. Keep your companion animals off the lawn for about 24 hours or at least until it has dried. Take care in how you dispose of the leftover bottles and cartons.
STOPPING THE CYCLE
The above will only take care of the immediate problem. You must break the larval/flea cycle. To kill any dormant eggs or larvae, repeat the above steps in about two weeks. From then on, occasional maintenance should ensure a summer free of fleas for companion animals.
Hamsters were found in Syria in 1839 and have been held captive as “pets” and test subjects since the 1940s. They are believed to have originated in the deserts of east Asia. They inhabit semi-desert regions around the globe where soft ground allows burrowing.
In the wild, these nocturnal animals spend most of their evening digging and foraging for food. During the heat of the day they live in underground burrows, consisting of numerous tunnels and chambers with separate eating and sleeping rooms. They are solitary animals. Some will fight to the death to defend their territory.
Hamsters eat nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, berries and grass. They use their large cheek pouches to store food until they return to their underground burrows.
Many hamster species are fast runners, capable of escaping most predators. They can easily retreat into their burrows because the size and shape of their hind feet allow them to run as quickly backwards as forwards.
More than 20 different species of hamster live in the wild. The Russian dwarf hamster is the smallest. The common Syrian hamster is the largest.
Because of their size, hamsters are mis-perceived as being “low maintenance” animal companions. But being solitary animals and nocturnal, bonding with humans can be a challenge. Hamsters often bite and do not make good companion animals for children.
Like all rodents, they can carry rabies and other diseases and, if released into the wild, pose a threat to established ecosystems.
If, after carefully considering these factors, you are sure you want to bring these delicate creatures into your home, avoid pet shops and adopt from a shelter or rescue agency.
Hamsters require proper housing, food, temperature, and exercise and prefer to be alone or with their own kind. A large wire-mesh cage with a solid base works best. More than one hamster in a small space often leads to deadly fighting. Colorful plastic cages may be enticing, but they are difficult to clean, and hamsters may chew their way out.
You’ll need a water bottle, nonwood-based bedding such as straw or shredded white paper, chew toys and an exercise wheel. Wooden ladders and toilet paper rolls also make great toys.
A hamster’s diet should consist of a variety of greens, fruits and seeds, some of which are available in packages formulated for hamsters or birds.
Their teeth never stop growing, so it is imperative that these animals be provided with hard, digestible items to chew.
Do not let hamsters become too cold or they will go into hibernation.
The domestic ferret is believed to be native to Europe, a subspecies of the polecat. They were domesticated about 2,500 years ago to help farmers hunt rabbits by crawling into rabbit burrows and scaring the rabbits out of their holes. In the wild, ferrets feed mainly on mice, small rabbits and small birds.
Most ferrets sleep 18 hours a day, about six hours at a time in between playing and eating for about an hour. They are often most active at dusk and dawn.
Pet stores typically purchase extremely young ferrets, who are as charming as all baby animals, in order to increase their sales. To meet this demand, ferret breeders often prematurely spay, neuter, and de-scent ferrets, which can result in medical problems and even premature death. During shipping, many ferrets die or become ill. In such cases, pet stores merely ask for replacements.
The novelty of having a ferret, often purchased on impulse, can quickly wear off. When ferrets become too difficult to handle, they are often abandoned outside or entrusted to overcrowded animal shelters.
If you are willing to open your home to a ferret, adopt from a shelter or rescue group rather than supporting the inhumane pet industry. Ask your local Wildlife Department, Fish and Game Department, humane society, or veterinarian about the legality of keeping a ferret where you live and whether you will need to obtain a permit if you adopt one.
If you have young children, be sure to monitor their interaction with the ferret as closely as you would with a dog. If more than one ferret will be living in your home, expect “dominance fighting” to take place in the beginning. Fortunately, ferrets can usually coexist peacefully, and even amicably, with cats and dogs. Of course, supervision is a must, for safety reasons. Ferrets aren’t typically compatible with birds, fish, rabbits, reptiles or rodents.
Even for a ferret with free range of the house, a cage is a smart thing to have on hand. A cage or other enclosure can help your ferret learn how to use a litter pan. Although ferrets generally don’t take to using litter as quickly as cats do, they can learn. Start your ferret out in a small area, such as the cage, and expand his or her space gradually as he or she learns. Train ferrets with praise and treats—never use punishment. Once your ferret has learned to use litter pans, place them throughout your home. Don’t use clumping litter, which can easily be inhaled and can also cause rectal blockages.
Ferrets must eat a high-protein cat food, but keep in mind that most ferrets dislike fish flavors. The food must contain at least 32 percent protein and 18 percent fat. Unless your ferret is overweight, make food available to him or her at all times. Vitamin supplements such as ferretone and linatone and small amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t strictly necessary, especially if you provide a high-quality cat food, but they can contribute to good health if they are supplied in the proper amounts. To help your ferret pass indigestible objects that he or she may ingest, such as rubber bands or Styrofoam, you may also want to give him or her small doses of a cat-hairball remedy regularly. Chocolate, licorice, onions, and dairy products are not recommended for ferrets. Ask your veterinarian for more information about food and supplements.
KEEPING YOUR FERRET HEALTHY
Spaying or neutering soon after your ferret turns 6 months old is a must. Neutering greatly decreases a male’s odor, preventing him from marking his territory in your home and making him less aggressive (males “in season” may kill other ferrets). An unspayed female who doesn’t breed while she is in heat may die of anemia. Do not let your ferret reproduce and add to the overpopulation crisis. De-scenting is not necessary and may be harmful.
Brush your ferret’s teeth twice a week with a small cat toothbrush and an enzymatic toothpaste to control plaque and tartar buildup. Nail-trimming is best left to a veterinarian, unless you are confident that you won’t nick a blood vessel. Do not declaw your ferret.
Ear-cleaning should be done once every month with a cotton swab dipped in sweet oil or an alcohol-based ear cleaner. Ear mites are common parasites. Your veterinarian can recommend treatments. Do not use dips or sprays to combat fleas. These products are very dangerous.
Maintaining a ferret-proof home can be even more arduous than baby or child proofing. Unlike children, ferrets don’t learn to avoid hazards as they grow older. Imagine having to baby-proof your home for 10 years—ferrets can live that long!
Exercise caution, especially with the following tempting, potential dangers in your home:
Cabinets and drawers, which ferrets can open
Heaters and furnace ducts
Recliners and sofa-beds (ferrets have been crushed in their levers and springs)
Anything spongy or springy, such as kitchen sponges, erasers, shoe insoles, foam earplugs, Silly Putty, foam rubber (including the foam rubber inside a cushion or mattress), Styrofoam, insulation, and rubber door stoppers—swallowing these items will often result in intestinal blockage
Human food—even ferret-safe human foods, including fruits and vegetables, are harmful in large quantities
Filled bathtubs, toilets, and water and paint buckets, in which ferrets can drown
Toilet paper and paper towel rolls, in which ferrets’ heads can easily become wedged, resulting in suffocation
Plastic bags—if you choose to let your ferret play with bags, cut off the handles and cut a slit in the bottom
Tiny holes behind refrigerators and other appliances with exposed wires, fans, and insulation
Your dishwasher, refrigerator, washer, and dryer
Common—and often poisonous—houseplants
Ferrets love to rip the cloth covering the underside of box springs and climb inside, where they may become trapped or crushed. Put a fitted sheet on the underside of the box springs and anchor it in place with small nails or brads, or attach wire mesh or a thin piece of wood to the underside of the box springs.
When you aren't home to supervise your ferret, you may decide to enclose him or her in a ferret-proof room or in a roomy, metal mesh cage—one that is at least 18 inches long, 18 inches deep, and 30 inches wide, though larger enclosures are preferable. Whatever you decide, your ferret will appreciate ramps, tunnels made from dryer hose or black drainage pipe, a “bedroom” made out of an upside-down box with a cut-out doorway, and hammocks made from old jeans or shirts. Line the cage bottom with linoleum squares, carpet samples, or cloth cage pads, and use old T-shirts and sweatshirts for bedding—never use cedar or pine shavings, which are toxic to small animals. Don’t let the temperature in their living quarters climb too high. Even at 80ºF, ferrets can get sick. They are more comfortable in temperatures around 60ºF.
Don’t forget that ferrets can go for walks on a leash attached to a harness.
Declawing increases the risk of long-term or persistent pain, manifesting as unwanted behaviors such as inappropriate elimination (soiling/urinating outside of the litter box) and aggression/biting.
Declaw surgery (onychectomy) is illegal in many countries but is still a surprisingly common practice in some. It is performed electively to stop cats from damaging furniture, or as a means of avoiding scratches. Side effects of the surgery include lameness, chewing of toes and infection. Long-term health effects can be even more devastating.
According to research published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, declawing increases the risk of long-term or persistent pain, manifesting as unwanted behaviors such as inappropriate elimination (soiling/urinating outside of the litter box) and aggression/biting. This is not only detrimental to the cat (pain is a major welfare issue and these behaviors are common reasons for relinquishment of cats to shelters), but also has health implications for their human companions as cat bites can be very serious.
Inappropriate toileting, biting, aggression and overgrooming occurs significantly more often in declawed cats than non-declawed cats. A declawed cat is also almost 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with back pain than a non-declawed cat (potentially due to shortening of the declawed limb and altered gait, and/or chronic pain at the site of the surgery causing compensatory weight shift to the pelvic limbs).
The surgical guideline for performing declawing, as recommended by Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, is to remove the entire third phalanx (P3), which is the most distal bone of the toe. Despite this, P3 fragments are found in 63% of declawed cats – reflecting poor or inappropriate surgical technique. While the occurrence of back pain and abnormal behaviors is increased in declawed cats, even optimal surgical technique does not eliminate the risks. The removal of the distal phalanges forces the cat to bear weight on the soft cartilaginous ends of the middle phalanges (P2) that were previously shielded within joint spaces. Pain in these declawed phalanges prompts cats to choose a soft surface, such as carpet, in preference to the gravel-type substrate in the litter box. Additionally, declawed cats may react to being touched by resorting to biting as they have few or no claws left to defend themselves.
Scientific evidence proves that declawing is more detrimental to our feline patients than originally thought. Veterinarians should reconsider declawing cats. The procedure is unethical and inhumane.
Imagine sitting in a yard, tethered in place, with nothing to do and no chance to go anywhere. Day after day. Alone. That's what chaining is like. Chaining means confining a dog with a tether attached to a dog house or a stake in the ground. It is one of the common forms of animal cruelty.
Chaining is a widespread practice and - as with many historical injustices - this may cause people to assume it is acceptable. In fact, it is an improper way to confine a dog, with negative effects on the dog's health, temperament and training. A chained dog's life is a lonely, frustrating, miserable existence, without opportunities for even the most basic dog behaviors of running and sniffing in their own fenced yard. Dogs chained for even a few weeks begin to show problems.
Virtually every dog that spends most of the day on the end of a chain will show temperament problems - no surprise to those who understand canine behavior. Chaining, by definition, keeps a dog in solitary confinement, continually thwarting its pack instinct to be with other animals or with its human "pack." The dog is usually chained away from the house and has human contact only at feeding time. Those dogs lucky enough to be brought inside at night are usually deposited in the basement or other areas away from the family living quarters. These dogs are so desperate for human contact that when they are finally released from their chains, they behave in such an unruly manner that they are disciplined and quickly dispatched to another isolated area. Some of the saddest situations are those where the family children run and play in the yard just outside the reach of a chained dog. The dog is desperate to play with the children, but their only exposure to the dog is to be jumped on, so they carefully stay just out of reach - only increasing the dog's frustration.
The most common problem resulting from chaining is hyperactivity, particularly in young dogs. The chained dog is continually frustrated by having their movements restricted. The dog runs to the end of the tether and soon learns that he will be jerked back to the perimeter allowed by the chain. When the dog is finally released, he runs away, jumps on or over anything in his way, and is unresponsive to verbal commands. His behavior frustrates the guardian, who puts the dog back on the chain because the dog doesn't know how to behave! The cycle of suffering continues with the dog becoming even more uncontrollable and the human less willing to deal with the hyperactive behavior.
Fear biting and aggression are other common behaviors of chained dogs. The dog seems to know that he cannot escape danger, so he resorts to displaying aggressive behavior. And such dogs have good reason to be aggressive. Chained dogs in urban backyards often serve as targets for gun-toting, rock-throwing individuals who pass through the alleys. It is not surprising that chained dogs are so quick to bite while also displaying timid, fearful behavior when handled.
A dog that has been chained all day or all week has little interest in learning to come when her guardian calls. The dog is interested in running as fast as she can away from her human and confinement. This hyperactive behavior causes the uneducated person to believe he has a "dumb" dog. The guardian then may give up on even limited interaction with the dog, and either leave the dog tied up in permanent misery or get rid of her. People tend to train and care for dogs in the way they saw their parents perform this task. As a result, many people chain dogs because that's what they've been taught, passing on this cruel practice without any real understanding of canine behavior.
People’s explanations for chaining their dog often include: "I'm keeping him chained until he learns not to run away," or "I'm keeping him chained until he's housebroken," or "I'm keeping him chained until he calms down." In fact, chaining is going to make all of these positive dog behaviors extremely difficult to obtain. Chaining a young dog, for example, forces her to become accustomed to urinating and defecating where she sleeps, conflicting with her natural instinct to eliminate away from her living area. This makes housebreaking very difficult.
When you see a dog house with a circle of dirt around it, you know you are looking at the "home" of a chained dog. The area where the dog can move about becomes hard-packed dirt that carries the stench of animal waste even if the dog’s guardian frequently picks up the fecal matter. The odor of waste draws flies, which bite the dog's ears, often causing serious bloody wounds. Dogs that have been chained for several years often lose portions of their ears, as more tissue is lost each summer from fly bites. Control of internal parasites is more difficult because the chained dog is always close to his own fecal matter and can re-infest himself by stepping in or sniffing his own waste. Also, the dog is forced to have almost continual contact with the ground in the chaining area, which may have a high concentration of parasite larvae.
The final word is that chaining doesn't work - except to serve as a form of confinement that is easy for the human but cruel for the animal. Chained dogs are miserable, and their guardians are often frustrated. Chaining is not an acceptable practice. It's a long-overlooked form of cruelty that must be stopped.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If you have a chained dog, bring your dog inside. Dogs get bored and lonely sitting on the same patch of dirt day after day, year after year. Dogs want to be inside the house with their "pack": you!
Get to know the dog’s guardian if you are concerned about someone else’s chained dog.
Call your local animal control office, humane society, or sheriff’s department if you see a dog who is: consistently without food, water or shelter; sick or infested with parasites; too skinny. A city/county official or humane society investigator is required to investigate the situation if the dog guardian is breaking your community’s animal cruelty law. In most communities, it is considered cruel to leave a dog without food, water or shelter; to not provide medical care to a sick dog; and to keep a dog undernourished. Even if your city's ordinance doesn’t have an animal cruelty section, your state law will have a section that addresses animal cruelty. Your state laws are online: do a keyword search for "Your State Code" or "Your State Statutes." Once you report the situation, don’t be afraid to follow up! Keep calling the authorities until the situation is resolved. If animal control doesn't respond, write a letter describing the situation to your mayor. The dog is counting on you to be his voice.
Offer to buy the chained dog from the family. Just say something like, "I saw your dog and have always wanted a red chow. Would you sell him to me for $50?" You can then place the dog into a good home. Although some chained dogs are aggressive and difficult to approach, many are very friendly and adoptable. Don't offer to buy the dog if you think that the guardian will just go right back out and get another dog.
If you insist on keeping your dog outside, put up a fence. Fences give dogs freedom and make it easier for humans to approach their dogs, since they won't be jumping at the end of a chain. Fences don’t have to cost much if you do some work yourself. You can attach mesh fencing to wooden or metal posts for the cheapest fence. Chain link is easy to install, too. Put up a trolley if you can't put up a fence. A trolley system is cheap and will give the dog more freedom than a chain.
Spaying and neutering will help the dog calm down and stay closer to home. A sterilized dog won’t try to escape to find a mate! Sterilization is healthy for your dog: it reduces his or her risk of getting certain types of cancer. Sterilization won't change your dog's personality. Sterilized dogs still make great guard dogs.
Replace old collars with a new nylon collar. You should be able to easily fit two fingers between the dog's neck and the collar. If you need to add a hole to a collar, hammer a thick nail through it, or heat a pick and poke it through.
Provide food and fresh water every day. Every time you eat, your dog needs to eat. Put a water bowl in a tire or hole in the ground to keep it from tipping. You can attach a water bucket to a wooden doghouse or fence. Stretch wire, a small chain, bungee cord or twine across the bucket and secure on either side.
Provide good shelter. The best shelter is your home. If you feel you must keep your dog outside, you can buy dog igloos pretty cheaply from discount stores, farm supply stores and hardware stores. If you can’t afford to buy a doghouse, you can make one. Doghouses should be large enough for the dog to stand up and turn around in, but small enough to retain body heat. Wooden doghouses should be raised a few inches off of the ground to prevent rotting and keep out rain. Flat, concrete blocks are an easy way to raise a doghouse.
Give toys and rawhides. Dogs like to play, just like kids do. A big rawhide, which you can get at the grocery, will give your dog several hours of fun. Even a knotted towel or ball can be fun for your dog!
Go on walks! Your dog will be so happy to get out of the yard, see new things, and smell new smells! Walking is great exercise for both of you. If your dog is very strong or large, use a harness to make walking easier. If the dog belongs to someone else, offer to walk the dog yourself.
Go to school! Obedience classes can help your dog learn to be a good “inside” dog.
Protect from fleas and worms. Biting fleas make a dog’s life miserable. You can buy flea treatment at grocery, discount and pet supply stores. Most farm supply stores sell wormers and vaccinations at much cheaper prices than vets.
Protect from winter cold. Dogs get cold in the winter just like we do. If it's too cold for you to sleep outside, your dog is going to be cold outside, too. It is inhumane to keep an animal outside during frigid temperatures. If you feel you can’t bring your dog in, fill doghouses with hay or cedar chips to help retain heat. (Cedar chips are better because they are less likely to rot and don't contain mites.) You can get cedar shavings and hay at farm supply, hardware, discount, and home improvement stories. If you use hay and it gets wet and soggy, spread it in the sun to dry. To keep cold air out, the door should be covered with a plastic flap. You can use a car mat, a piece of plastic carpet runner, or even a piece of carpet. Dogs need more food in winter, as keeping warm consumes calories. Check your dog's water bowl several times daily to be sure it isn't frozen.
Provide shade and a kiddie pool in the summer. A doghouse isn’t the same thing as shade. Doghouses get very hot in summer! Bring your dog in during heat waves. Plant trees or create shade by stretching a tarp between two trees. Dogs enjoy cooling off in a pool as much as we do.
Educate people about chaining! Keep educational brochures and flyers in your car.
If you can't find solutions to make your outside dog an inside dog, find your dog a new home. Tethering a dog is inhumane. Do the right thing: bring your dog inside, or find another family that will.
While some wildlife organizations continue to claim that feral cats threaten wildlife species, they fail to take into account that cats are a part of our natural landscape. Science shows that attempts to remove cats could mean dire consequences for the rest of the ecosystem.
There have been feral cats since the dawn of civilization—and that is unlikely ever to change. Cats continue to be a natural part of our environment. They began their unique relationship with humans 10,000 to 12,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, and followed Europeans to the Americas. But it wasn’t until 60 years ago, with the growing availability of canned pet foods, spay/neuter techniques, and commercial cat litters, that keeping cats indoors was even considered possible—or desirable.
Cats play a complex role in local ecosystems; removing them is a major risk. Maintaining ecological balance is much more complicated than predator vs. prey. Although opponents of Trap-Neuter-Return claim that removing cats would “save” other species, this has never borne out in the instances where cats have been removed. These extermination programs result in the cruel, extreme, and prolonged targeting of cats.
A cat eradication effort on Amsterdam Island in the Indian Ocean found that killing all the cats resulted in a spike in the rat and mouse population, which then preyed on the bird population. Another cat eradication effort on Macquarie Island in the Pacific Ocean saw the rabbit population spike wildly once the cats were gone. Without cats to keep the rabbits in check, local vegetation was devastated by a rabbit feeding frenzy, and other animal species were then threatened by the loss of food and habitat.
Killing cats will not save wildlife. Studies have shown cats to be mainly scavengers, not hunters, feeding mostly on garbage and scraps. When they do hunt, cats prefer rodents and other burrowing animals. Studies of samples from the diets of outdoor cats confirm that common mammals appear three times more often than birds. Additionally, scientists who study predation have shown in mathematical models that when cats, rats, and birds coexist, they find a balance. But when cats are removed, rat populations soar and wipe out the birds completely.
Some wildlife organizations and media outlets continue to quote scientific studies that have been proven inaccurate. A careful analysis of the science concludes there is no strong support for the viewpoint that cats are a serious threat to wildlife.
Although human civilization and domestic cats co-evolved side by side, the feral cat population was not created by humans. Cats have lived outdoors for a long time. In the thousands of years that cats have lived alongside people, indoor-only cats have only become common in the last 50 or 60 years—a negligible amount of time on an evolutionary scale. They are not new to the environment and they didn’t simply originate from lost companion animals or negligent animal guardians. Instead, they have a place in the natural landscape.
Your dog loves to go for walks. He stops at every tree, shrub and weed to “read the news” of his neighborhood. But these happy times can be dangerous to your friend. Sadly, chemically treated lawns are a reality of suburban life and many animal guardians do not realize how toxic a treated lawn can be. Every time your dog sets foot on a treated lawn, whether freshly sprayed or dry, he or she is being exposed to environmental toxins like pesticides and herbicides.
Most dogs love a carpet of thick green grass. They smell it, run around on it, roll on it and dig at it. We launder our clothes and bathe regularly, but dogs don’t shower every morning or change their fur and footpads every day. So, whatever collects on their feet or coat stays there until the next time you give them a bath. Every time your dog licks his paws or stomach - anywhere that touched a treated lawn - he is ingesting chemical residue. As he smelled the lawn, he inhaled it and as the chemicals settled in his fur, they were absorbed through his skin. When your dog comes inside, the chemicals are deposited on multiple surfaces in your home, including carpeting, rugs, furniture and your dog’s bedding. When your dog's outdoor environment has been doused in potentially toxic chemicals, it is easy to see how normal canine behavior can turn to deadly risk.
It is also clear that there is chemical drift. Toxic chemicals are commonly detected in grass residue from untreated lawns. This means that even if you don't use lawn care products or a service, your dog could still be at risk from chemicals that blow into your yard from a nearby property.
If you think your dog has rolled on chemically treated grass, bathe her as soon as possible. If you've walked your dog in a suspect grassy area, giving her a foot soak as soon as you get home should flush away any chemical residue that may be clinging to her feet and lower legs. If your dog is low to the ground, wash her belly, chest and tail too.
Contrary to what lawn care companies would like you to believe, herbicides (weed killers) and other pesticides are not "magic bullets" or programmed drones that kill only targeted species. Herbicides and pesticides are broad-spectrum biocides that by their very nature can harm all organisms, including homeowners, their families, neighbors, animals, both wild and domestic, and all other forms of life. The pesticide industry downplays this by claiming their chemicals are heavily diluted, but doesn't mention that the toxins are still extremely dangerous, even in small amounts. The industry is also unwilling to mention all of the chemicals in their mixtures. Many components are classified as "inert", but inert does not mean inactive. These components are more than just fillers or solvents, but companies are not required to list inert components on product labels, thus leaving the public unaware of them. Some, such as benzene and xylene, are more toxic than the chemicals actually listed.
Active ingredients in lawn care products can be nerve-gas type insecticides and artificial hormones, some of which the federal government has even prohibited from use on its own properties. Also among the listed active chemicals are the components of defoliants like Agent Orange. This now infamous defoliant was used during the Vietnam War to destroy forest cover for the enemy and also their food crops. Agent Orange has since been revealed to cause a wide range of serious health issues, including rashes, psychological problems, birth defects and cancer. During WWII, a pesticide was developed known as 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, or "2,4-D. This chemical was one of two active ingredients in Agent Orange. Yet, 2,4-D is still used on athletic fields, golf courses, landscaping, timberland, right-of-ways and various crops. Despite decades of scientific studies associating 2,4-D with cancer in humans and animals, the chemical continues to be one of the top-three pesticides sold in the U.S. More recent studies have linked the chemical to hormone disruption that increases the risk of birth defects and neurologic damage in children.
Many pesticides are not safe even when dry. The water in lawn care solutions may evaporate, but most pesticides remain and continue to release often odorless and invisible toxic vapors. In areas where lawn spraying is common, these vapors accumulate as toxic smog throughout the entire season. Exposure to pesticides is widespread. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a study of 9,282 people nationwide, found pesticides in 100% of the people who had both blood and urine tested. The average person carried 13 of 23 pesticides tested. We do not have similar data for companion animals, but it is easy to imagine a similar result.
Common groups of lawn pesticides and their effects on animal health include:
Organophosphates: Organophosphate compounds include some of the most toxic chemicals used in agriculture. Fat-soluble and easily transmitted throughout the body, this group of pesticides is defined by their inhibition of the enzyme cholinesterase. Examples of this class of chemicals are Chloryprifos and Diazinon. Poisoning symptoms in animals include excessive salivation, "wet" respiratory sounds (because of increased bronchial secretions), vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, slow heart rates and miosis (pinpoint pupils). In serious cases, respiratory failure and death can occur.
Carbamates: Carbamates cause a reaction similar to organophosphates because they inhibit the same enzyme pathway. This group includes the commonly used insecticide carbamyl. Exposure causes convulsions, dizziness, labored breathing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, unconsciousness, muscle cramps, and excessive salivation. Toxicity of these chemicals depends on the path of exposure.
Phenoxy: Phenoxy and benzoic acid herbicides like 2,4 D, MCPP, and MCPA affect the central nervous system. Poisoning symptoms include involuntary twitching, loss of sensation, vomiting, stomach pains, diarrhea, weakness, fatigue, dermatitis, and aching muscles. Dogs and cats that don’t excrete acids as efficiently are especially sensitive to this chemical. An EPA-funded study found that 2,4-D is easily tracked indoors, exposing children and animals at levels ten times higher than pre-application levels. Another study showed that exposure to phenoxy-treated lawns and gardens appeared to dramatically increase the risk of bladder cancer in Scottish Terriers.
Pyrethroids: Pyrethroids are listed as possible carcinogens by the US EPA and affect the central and peripheral nervous systems. Commonly used chemicals like Permethrin and Resmethrin are in this group. Poisoning symptoms include muscle tremors, hyperexcitability, depression, ataxia, vomiting, seizures, anorexia, and death. Exposure to Resmethrin caused increased thyroid and liver weight in adult dogs, and exposure to these chemicals is linked to harm in neurological development.
Protecting Your Animal from Toxic Pesticides
Don't apply pesticides to your yard, and if you use a lawn care service, don't allow them to use pesticides. Weed killers are herbicides and no herbicides are safe. Also avoid lawn care and other gardening products that contain insect growth regulators (IGRs).
If you live in a townhouse or community that applies chemicals to common areas, detox a patch of grass in your backyard by watering the chemicals down into the soil. If you can’t keep your animal on a leash (and on the sidewalk) when walking, then bathe, bathe, bathe.
Freshly treated lawns are the most toxic. Twenty-one states have adopted laws requiring notification of lawn, turf and ornamental pesticide applications by hired applicators. They must post signs on treated lawns to let neighbors and passersby know that chemicals have recently been used.
There are alternatives. You can still have a beautiful lawn without the use of dangerous chemicals. Optimize growing conditions in your lawn by following lawn care practices that will establish a healthy, dense lawn, one that will be naturally resistant to weeds, insects and diseases.
Improve the Soil
Test - The first step is to test the soil's pH. It should read between 6.5 and 7.0, which is slightly acidic. Soil that is too acidic will need a sprinkling of lime. Sulfur can be added to soil that is not acidic enough. You can buy a pH tester for $40 - $60 or have your soil tested. Call your extension office. They will often provide soil testing as a free service.
Aerate - Lawns grow best in loamy soils that have a mix of clay, silt and sand. Too much clay in the soil mix can compact the soil and prevent air and nutrient flow. Compacted soil may need aeration, a process of lifting small plugs of turf to create air spaces. For best results, rent an aerator or hire a lawn service to do the job. Aeration is best done before top dressing and fertilizing.
Add organic matter - Organic matter, such as compost and grass clippings, will benefit any type of soil. It lightens soil heavy in clay and builds humus in sandy soils to help retain water and nutrients. Use a mulching lawn mower that chops the grass clippings and disperses them as you mow. Grass clippings are high in nitrogen.
Choose a locally adapted grass - Grasses vary by the type of climate they prefer, the amount of water and nutrients they require, their shade tolerance and the degree of wear they can withstand. Ask your local garden center to recommend the grass best adapted to your area.
Mow often, but do not cut too short - Giving your lawn a "Marine cut" is not doing it a favor. Surface roots become exposed, the soil dries out faster and surface aeration is reduced. As a general rule, don't cut off more than one-third of the grass at any one time. Most turf grass species are healthiest when kept between 2.5” and 3.5" tall. When the lawn is finished growing for the season, cut it a bit shorter to about 2". This will minimize the risk of mold buildup during winter.
Water deeply but not too often - Thorough watering encourages your lawn to develop a deep root system that makes it hardier and more drought-resistant. Let your lawn dry out before watering. As a rule of thumb, the color should dull and footprints should stay compressed for more than a few seconds. When watering, put a cup in the sprinkler zone. The cup should collect at least one inch (2.5cm) of water. Most healthy lawns require only 1" of water per week. The best time to water is early morning, when less water will be lost to evaporation. Ideally, it is better to water the first half-inch or so, then wait for an hour or two before watering the second half-inch.
Control thatch build-up - Thatch is the accumulation of above-soil runners, propagated by the grass. This layer should be about 1/2" (1.25cm) on a healthy lawn, and kept in balance by natural decomposition, earthworms and microorganisms. Too much thatch prevents water and nutrients from reaching the grass roots. However, before resorting to renting a dethatcher, effort should be made to improve aeration. Aeration brings microorganisms to the surface that will then eat most of the thatch. If you don't aerate, the roots stay near the surface, contributing to thatch buildup. When you aerate once a year, it breaks down the thatch, allowing the roots to grow deeper in the soil. This leads to thicker grass, which naturally smothers weeds. While a dethatcher will reduce thatch buildup, be careful not to strip and thin the grass so much that it reduces competition between the grass and weeds, allowing the weeds easier germination. You can also reduce thatch with a steel rake.
The dangers outside your door are not always obvious. Stay informed and share this information with friends and family. Being an animal advocate can be as simple as spreading the word about an issue like lawn care toxicity. You are your companion’s guardian. Protect them and use your voice to help protect them all.