Dogs are social animals, just as we are. In the wild, dogs live in packs and form bonds among themselves. But domesticated dogs were bred, over thousands of years, to form strong attachments to human family groups. Yet in the U.S alone more than 200,000 dogs (this number could be much higher) are chained, tethered or penned outside 24/7. This is inhumane treatment. It is solitary confinement in shackles.
Tied-up and isolated dogs become lonely, bored, depressed and anxious - the same feelings human prisoners in solitary confinement feel. Otherwise sweet and friendly dogs will often become neurotic and aggressive. Studies show that chained dogs are much more likely to bite than unchained dogs. And if you care at all about your dog, consider that a chained dog is at the mercy of predators like coyotes or those humans that would harm them. Tethered dogs have also harmed themselves by pulling at their chains. They develop neck problems at the least and, at the worst, can hang themselves trying to escape.
It is morally wrong and incredibly selfish for anyone to actually acquire a dog with the intent to keep it outside as protection for a home or property. This is not the role of dogs in our lives. If you have security fears, buy an alarm system that has no need of love, companionship, warmth or shelter. Dogs are also put outside because the people who have them could not, or would not, address bad behaviors such as soiling or nipping. It is the responsibility of everyone who has a dog to train the animal. If you are unable to train your dog, take the animal to obedience classes or bring in a trainer. If you don’t have enough money for this, then do the right, humane and kind thing. Find the dog a new home. Never surrender your dog to a pound or high kill shelter. This is the coward’s way out. Contact a no-kill shelter or rescue group in your area. Be honest about any behavioral problems. People devoted to rescue are willing to work with most animals.
Another all too common reason that dogs are chained or penned outside is because someone in the family, or even a regular visitor, has allergies. If you suspect that anyone in your household will not be able to tolerate the presence of a dog (or cat) inside your home, find the animal a new and loving home. If you choose to place the animal yourself, never advertise a dog or cat in a newspaper or online without charging a small purchase amount. Few people value what they get for free. Also, there are the horrible people known as “bunchers” who acquire “free to good home” animals and sell them to laboratories for experimentation. This is the worst fate possible for your animal. Place your animal with compassion and care and donate the purchase price to your local shelter or an animal welfare organization.
Not only do tethered and penned dogs suffer from isolation, but they also are very likely to have poor, if any, shelter, dry bedding or even clean water. As people learn that chaining or tethering dogs is animal cruelty, a growing number of anti-cruelty laws and ordinances have been passed in communities nationwide. These laws include "adequate care standards" that make it illegal to keep a dog outside in inclement weather or dangerous temperatures without proper shelter. “Dog House” ordinances, as some are called, also require the guardian of the dog to provide dry bedding and clean water. If you see a tethered dog that you believe is being exposed to extreme heat or cold, call animal control in your area. Even if the dog's guardian is not violating any laws, an animal control officer or cruelty investigator may be able to convince the dog guardian to take steps to improve the situation. However, the best outcome is always to persuade the individual to voluntarily give up the dog. No one that keeps a dog outside 24/7, chained or fenced in, should ever have an animal.
You can make a positive impact in your neighborhood by educating people about the cruelty of tethering and the needs of dogs that spend their lives outdoors.
If we can reach the heart of just one person who keeps his or her dog chained, and that dog’s life is made better, then we will have made a difference. For all those who love animals, spread the word. Please help chained dogs wherever you find them, and prevent more dogs from suffering this sad, solitary life.
The most widespread form of interspecies bonding occurs between humans and dogs. These intelligent, social, emotional and playful creatures have learned to communicate and interact with humans in a way no other species can.
The genius of dogs is that they use humans to get what they want. At one point in wolf evolution, a group of wolves decided to take advantage of humans. Dogs domesticated themselves through a natural process and have become a part of the human family.
No other species can read our gestures as well as dogs can. It allows them to be incredible social partners with humans. Their ability to interpret our gestures also helps them complete tasks they can’t complete on their own.
FASCINATING DOG FACTS
The largest breed of dog is the Irish Wolfhound. The St. Bernard is the heaviest.
The world’s smallest dog breed is the Chihuahua.
Dogs experience all the same emotions humans do, especially love.
While dogs are better at living in the moment than humans, it's a myth that dogs have no sense of time.
Dogs have their own complex language that includes vocal sounds, body postures, facial expressions and scent.
Feral dogs have figured out how to use subways to travel to the best food sources.
Dogs chase their tails for a variety of reasons: curiosity, exercise, play, anxiety, predatory instinct or fleas.
Different smells in a dog’s urine tells other canines whether the dog is female or male, old or young, sick or healthy, happy or angry.
Male dogs raise their legs while urinating to aim higher to leave a message that they are tall and intimidating.
Puppies have 28 teeth, while adult dogs have 42.
Dogs and humans have the same type of slow wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM) when sleeping. Twitching and paw movements are signs that a dog is dreaming.
Dogs can be trained to detect epileptic seizures and diseases.
Dogs’ eyes contain a special membrane that allows them to see in the dark.
Dogs can detect when storms are coming.
A dog’s normal temperature is between 101 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dogs only sweat through the pads of their feet.
Dog nose prints are as unique as human finger prints and can accurately identify them.
Dogs have three eyelids: an upper lid, a lower lid and a third lid which keeps the eyes moist and protected.
A dogs entire body, including the paws, is covered with touch-sensitive nerve endings.
Dog noses secrete a thin layer of mucous that helps them absorb scent. They lick their noses to sample the scent through their mouth.
Petting dogs is proven to lower human blood pressure.
A dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 – 100,000 times more acute than humans.
When dogs kick after defecating, they are using scent glands on their paws to further mark their territory.
Dogs can detect cancer too small to be detected by a doctor, and can detect lung cancer by sniffing a human's breath.
A LONG HISTORY OF COMPANIONSHIP
The keeping of dogs as companions has a long history. Dogs began from a single domestication thousands of years ago. They are not a descendant of the Gray wolf as previously believed. They were originally domesticated from a now extinct wolf.
Dogs were the first domesticated animals and have been widely kept as working, hunting and companion animals. Domestic dogs have been selectively bred for millennia for various behaviors, capabilities and attributes. There are currently up to one billion dogs around the world.
Domestic dogs inherited complex behaviors from their wolf ancestors which were pack hunters with complex body language. These sophisticated forms of social cognition and communication may account for their trainability, playfulness and ability to fit into human households and social situations.
Dogs still share some behaviors with their wild relatives. They defend their territories and mark them by urinating, serving notice to other animals that it is their territory. Many dogs also bury bones or toys for future use, just as wolves bury a kill to secure the meat for later.
Modern dog breeds show more variation in size, appearance and behavior than any other domestic animal. They are highly variable in height and weight. The smallest known adult dog was a Yorkshire Terrier that weighed only 4 oz. The largest known dog was an English Mastiff which weighed 343 lb. The tallest dog was a Great Dane that stood 42 inches at the shoulder.
Most dog breeds have good vision. Dogs do see in color, but not the same way that humans do. A dog's vision is similar to people with red/green color blindness, meaning they can see bluish and greenish shades but not reddish ones.
Dogs can detect sounds far better than humans, hearing sounds at four times the distance. They have ear mobility, allowing them to rapidly pinpoint the exact location of a sound. Eighteen or more muscles can tilt, rotate, raise or lower a dog's ear.
While the human brain is dominated by a large visual cortex, the dog brain is dominated by an olfactory cortex. The olfactory bulb in dogs is about forty times bigger than in humans, with 125 to 300 million smell-sensitive receptors. Their sense of smell is one hundred thousand to one million times more sensitive than a human's. Their wet nose is essential for determining the direction of the air current containing the smell. Cold receptors in the skin are sensitive to the cooling of the skin by evaporation of the moisture by air currents.
The average lifespan of dogs is 10 to 13 years, however, many live much longer. The world's oldest living dog lived 26 years, 9 months.
Dogs are omnivores and can adapt to a wide-ranging diet. They are not dependent on meat nor a very high level of protein as was once thought. Dogs will healthily digest a variety of foods, including vegetables and grains. Unlike wolves, dogs have adaptations in genes involved in starch digestion that contribute to an increased ability to thrive on a starch-rich diet.
PART OF THE FAMILY
Companion dog populations grew significantly after World War II as suburbanization increased. In the 1950s and 1960s, dogs were kept outside more often than they are today. From the 1980s, there have been changes in the role of the companion dog, such as the increased role of dogs in the emotional support of their human guardians. The broadening of the concept of the family, and a better understanding of dog intelligence and emotions, have led to dogs actively shaping the way a family and home are experienced.
Studies show dogs help to mediate family member interactions. Most dogs also have set tasks or routines undertaken as family members. Increasingly, humans are engaging in activities centered on the needs and interests of their dogs. An estimated 1 million dogs in the United States have been named the primary beneficiary in their guardian's will.
Dogs have the same response to voices and use the same parts of the brain as humans to do so. This gives dogs the ability to recognize emotional human sounds. They have over 100 known facial expressions, many of them made with their ears. They also communicate with a variety of vocal sounds. One of the primary functions of a dog's tail is to communicate their emotional state.
It is estimated there are 77.5 million people with dogs in the United States. Nearly 40% of American households have at least one dog. 67% have just one dog, 25% two dogs and nearly 9% more than two dogs.
Every year, between 6 and 8 million dogs and cats enter US animal shelters. Approximately 3 to 4 million of those dogs and cats are euthanized yearly in the United States. However, the percentage of dogs in animal shelters that are adopted has increased since the mid-1990s, from around 25% to 40% or more.
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.
6 million tropical marine fish imported into the United States each year for the pet trade have been exposed to cyanide poisoning.
The destructive practice of cyanide poisoning in places like the Philippines and Indonesia that supply the tropical aquarium-fish market in the United States has a dark and dangerous side that ruins coral reefs and devastates tropical fish populations.
To catch fish with cyanide, crushed cyanide tablets are placed in squirt bottles filled with seawater. The dissolved cyanide is then sprayed directly onto the reefs near the targeted fish to stun the fish and make it easier to scoop them up. In some cases, 55-gallon drums of cyanide have been dumped overboard to capture fish. As much as 50 percent of all nearby fish are killed on contact, as well as nearby corals. Most of the fish that survive are then shipped to the United States and sold for aquariums.
The extensive destruction to reefs and wildlife caused by the saltwater aquarium hobby has been devastating.
Animal advocate organizations have petitioned the government to prevent the import of tropical aquarium fish that are caught overseas using cyanide. Under the Lacey Act, it is illegal to import animals caught in violation of another country’s laws. The largest reef-fish-exporting countries — the Philippines, Indonesia and Sri Lanka — have banned cyanide fishing but do little to regulate the practice. The Lacey Act prohibits the import of these illegally caught fish into the United States, but enforcement is lacking. As many as 500 metric tons of cyanide are dumped annually on reefs in the Philippines alone.
Animal activists are demanding the National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service use their authority under the Lacey Act to halt these illegal imports.
About 4 million "excess" dogs and cats will be killed in shelters this year, while millions of homeless animals live short, hard, hungry lives on the streets, only to die miserably from disease, injury, or predation. About 1/3 of animals in shelters are purebreds, either intentionally or accidentally bred.
By being a responsible caregiver and sterilizing your companion animals, you avoid contributing to this terrible problem of pet overpopulation. Unsterilized (intact) dogs and cats usually find a way to get out and breed. Then, even if you could find good homes for the entire litter, each of your babies would displace another puppy or kitten that will then have to die.
Not all kittens and puppies taken to a shelter get adopted. If you take your litter to a typical, overcrowded shelter, it is likely that the entire litter of kittens or puppies will go straight from your hands to the killing room - they must be destroyed immediately, due to lack of cage space. (And don't think you can avoid the fatal consequences by taking them to a "no-kill" shelter - they may not have space. Even if they do accept your litter, that means other animals will be turned away, and taken to a shelter that may indeed kill them.)
WHY SPAY & NEUTER
Dogs and cats should be surgically sterilized to prevent unwanted pregnancies as well as undesirable mating-related characteristics and behaviors. In females, this operation is called "spaying" and involves removal of the ovaries and uterus through an abdominal incision. For males, "neutering" involves surgically removing the testicles. In most cases, your animal companion will be able to go home either the same day or the next day, and within a few days will be fully recovered. Young animals bounce back much quicker from these surgeries than older ones.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF SPAYING & NEUTERING
Neutered cats have a much lower risk of being infected by the deadly Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) (also called "Feline AIDS"), because they are much less likely to engage in fighting, which spreads this disease. Decreased roaming and territorial behavior in cats also lowers the risk of bite-wound abscesses. Neutering male cats stops spraying or urine marking in over 90% of cats, and solves this problems in female cats, who often will begin spraying when they go "into heat."
Spaying eliminates the "heat" cycle, which causes crying, pacing, and erratic behavior, especially in cats. Dogs in heat also produce a bloody vaginal discharge that can stain furniture and carpets. Cats and dogs in heat can attract persistent and often obnoxiously loud "suitors" from all over the neighborhood, even if they're kept indoors.
Spayed females are not susceptible to life-threatening uterine infections and reproductive tract cancers that can occur in breeding females, as well as mastitis, ovarian cysts, miscarriages and delivery complications. All these can be expensive to treat, and dangerous to your animal's health. Almost half of unspayed female dogs will develop breast cancer, while spaying before first heat reduces the incidence to almost zero. Even later spaying greatly reduces the risk. Spaying also decreases the risk of developing breast cancer in cats, for whom it is usually fatal.
Neutered male dogs are less apt to develop prostate cancer, and the risk of testicular cancers is eliminated. Up to 60% of older, intact dogs will get enlarged, painful prostates. Neutering male dogs greatly decreases the potential for aggressive behavior and biting, and tends to calm overactive dogs as well. It also decreases or eliminates "humping" behavior.
Some people think that their female dog or cat "should have at least one litter" before she is spayed, that it "settles" a dog or cat, or that she "needs" this experience to be a good household companion. This is completely untrue and there is no evidence, medical or factual, that supports this belief. Spayed and neutered dogs and cats are calmer, less frustrated, happier family members.
WHEN TO HAVE YOUR ANIMAL SPAYED OR NEUTERED
In the past, veterinarians recommended that a cat or dog be at least six months of age before they were sterilized. However, many cats and dogs reach sexual maturity before they are six months old, and many unplanned litters have resulted from this standard. Today, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends "early spay/neuter," which is the sterilization of puppies and kittens between 8 and 16 weeks of age. This has proven to be very safe, with rapid recovery. Many shelters now require adopted animals to be spayed or neutered before they can go home. This policy has begun to make a noticeable difference in the number of unwanted litters, but overpopulation is still a very serious problem.
CHILDREN & THE "MIRACLE OF BIRTH"
This is a completely unjustifiable excuse, as there are numerous videotapes available for children to watch if they are interested in seeing animals being born. There is no guarantee that the mother won't give birth in the middle of the night, or while the children are at school. To experience "the real thing," consider doing foster care for your local shelter. Foster homes willing to take pregnant or nursing animals are rare - they will be delighted to hear from you!
SPAYING & NEUTERING PROBLEMS
People often worry that sterilizing their dog or cat will cause obesity. It's true that spaying and neutering does change an animal's metabolism - more or less instantaneously - but it may take the animal several weeks to adjust its appetite "thermostat." A spayed or neutered animal requires fewer calories for maintenance than an intact one. Some experts recommend cutting the amount you feed by 1/4 to 1/3 for 4 to 6 weeks post-operatively. By doing this, chances are good that he or she will be able to self-regulate at that weight the rest of his or her life. Also, animals, just like people, need exercise and physical activity to maintain their ideal weight. We as caregivers are responsible for keeping our cats and dogs active. A companion animal's metabolism, just like that of humans, tends to slow down as we get older. Therefore, less food and more exercise may be appropriate for your cat or dog as he or she matures.
THE COST OF SURGERY
It is actually much cheaper in the long run to have your companion animal spayed or neutered. If your female does get pregnant, you would bear the cost of veterinary care, raising and placing the litter, and medical bills for the mother should pregnancy or delivery complications arise. For males especially, infections and fight wounds can take a bite out of your wallet. There are also all the other health risks for intact animals. In many communities, the law requires dogs and cats to be spayed or neutered unless a special license or breeder's permit is purchased. Annual license fees may also be significantly less if your animals are altered. Spaying and neutering are preventive measures that will save you money.
If the expense of the surgery is a problem for you, there are many low-cost spay and neuter clinics throughout the country, and many veterinarians offer discounts. Contact your local shelter or animal control agency for a referral.
Tails are usually docked on 2-10 day old puppies, without either general or local anesthesia. If the procedure is done by a veterinarian, the tail is clamped a short distance from the body, and the portion of the tail outside the clamp is cut or torn away. Many breeders dock their pups themselves using a method that has been proven to be far more painful - "banding," or tying off the tail. This stops the blood supply, which results in dry gangrene. The dead portion of the tail usually falls off about three days later. This can be likened to slamming your finger in a car door - and leaving it there.
Two cases involving home tail docking were recently reported by the Michigan Humane Society. One woman was tried and found guilty of cruelty for allowing rubber bands to become embedded in the tails of four puppies. In a similar abuse case, a four-week-old Rottweiler mix puppy's tail had been improperly rubber banded. His infected tail had to be amputated.
Puppies undergoing any method of tail-docking squeal and cry, yet advocates assert that the newborn's nervous system is unable to feel the pain. They point out that puppies immediately crawl to their mothers to nurse. But don't all hurt or frightened children immediately cry for their mommy? Moreover, research indicates that suckling causes the release of endorphins, the body's natural pain relievers, which may be a more realistic way to view the puppies' desire to nurse. Docking advocates ignore the fact that a newborn puppy simply is not capable of a wide range of responses. It is very difficult to accurately assess the degree of pain a newborn is experiencing. Just because a puppy is not actively vocalizing does not mean she isn't feeling any pain.
The pro-docking lobby claims that since puppies are less developed at birth (altricial) than, say, fawns or colts - which stand, walk and run within a very short time after birth (precocial) - their nervous systems are less sensitive, therefore tail docking is not painful. However, it is well documented in the human medical literature that newborn humans, who are also altricial, do feel pain - and neonatal pain management is taken seriously. "Clinicians believe that infants can experience pain much like adults, that [hospitalized] infants are exposed daily to painful procedures, and that pain protection should be provided, even very prematurely born infants respond to pain," states one report from the Department of Pediatrics at the Washington University School of Medicine.
Proponents of tail docking claim that their favorite breeds "often" have their tails damaged while hunting. No statistics or percentages of dogs so damaged are given. However, explicit photos of such injuries are prominently displayed in their literature and web sites. This vague potential risk for future tail injury theoretically justifies docking the tail of every single puppy of traditionally docked breeds. It does not matter whether any particular puppy will ever be used for hunting or any other activities that carry a significant risk of tail injury. One study of 12,000 canine cases over seven years found only 47 cases of tail injuries from any cause, or about 0.003% of dogs seen at that hospital. Another survey reviewed 2,000 canine emergency cases, and turned up only three tail injuries - all of them complications from docking.
One certainly wonders about the validity of the "tail injury" argument, when sporting breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Irish, English and Gordon Setters, Beagles, Foxhounds, and Pointers do not have their tails docked, while Vislas, Weimeraners, German Shorthaired Pointers, and Springer, Brittany and Cocker Spaniels do. Spaniels have long, heavy, furry ears that appear more hazardous in thorny, brushy terrain or water than a long tail. Spaniels are also notorious for severe, chronic ear infections. Does it make any sense that they are allowed to keep their pendulous ears, but not their tails?
The tail injury argument also doesn't explain why Rottweilers, Dobermans, Poodles, Schnauzers and Old English Sheepdogs (as well as Australian Shepherds unfortunate enough to be born with tails instead of without), routinely have their tails docked. These working and non-sporting breeds aren't running around in the brush and woods. Old English and Aussie breeders might offer that a tail is a liability around livestock. But why isn't this so, then, for Border Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs, Australian Cattle Dogs, Great Pyrenees, or other herding breeds? The argument seems very thin when examined logically.
Breeds whose ears are naturally floppy, like Great Danes, Boston Terriers, Boxers, Schnauzers, and Manchester Terriers, have traditionally had their ears surgically cropped to stand up straight. This custom has existed in some breeds for hundreds of years. Initially, some of these breeds, such as Bull Terriers, were fighting dogs, and their ears were cut to reduce or eliminate an easy target. Since dogfighting is illegal in the U.S. today, this rationale is no longer applicable.
Ears are cropped at 8-10 weeks of age. The puppy is put under general anesthesia, the ears are cut, and the sore ears are stiffly taped in position to make them stand up straight. They will be taped and re-taped for weeks to months. Postoperative pain medication is not routinely given, even though the ears have an extensive blood and nerve supply. Even after all the torment, some dogs end up with floppy, bent, scarred, wrinkled, twisted, or otherwise disfigured ears. There is no reason to perform this painful, mutilating procedure, other than for looks (or more specifically, to conform with American Kennel Club (AKC) or breed club standards). There is no health benefit to the dog. Contrary to pro-cropping advocates' claims, there is no scientific evidence that cropping has any effect on the incidence of ear infections.
Many dog show judges now allow "natural" (uncropped, undocked) dogs of traditionally cropped and docked breeds in their classes, and sometimes even reward them with blue ribbons. Many breed standards accept either cropped or uncropped ears. In 1998, an uncropped Boxer won every show leading to his championship, and went on to claim an AKC Best in Show award. Animal advocates have for years pleaded with the AKC and similar organizations to make cropping optional in the more rigid breed standards. However, AKC's reaction was in the opposite direction - it amended the Boxer standard to specify that deviations from the "ideal" (cropped and docked) appearance must be penalized in the show ring.
AKC, breeders, and breed clubs do not want to see a resolution passed in San Francisco that might impinge on their demands for specific alterations of appearance in certain breeds. Cropping advocates theorize that their breeds will become unpopular and wither away, because no one will want dogs that do not conform to the standard. However, a recent article in Dog World speculated that people who previously avoided some of these breeds due to cropping requirements will now be more interested in them as companions. The appearance of many breeds has changed and evolved over time, including the Labrador Retriever - the most popular dog breed in the nation despite its "new look." The historic tradition of cropping and docking should be made as obsolete as the equally historic tradition of slavery.
While cosmetic tail docking and ear cropping are clearly of no benefit to the dog, the issues become a little fuzzier when it comes to debarking. After all, a noisy dog is liable to find herself sitting in a shelter awaiting death because the neighbors complained. There are few things as frustrating and even infuriating as a neighbor dog's incessant barking.
Many people initially acquire a dog for protection as well as companionship. A dog is supposed to bark when there is something amiss. It's his job to guard his home and family. Homes with dogs are far less likely to be targeted for burglary and other crimes. Even a small dog is a big deterrent to would-be robbers. Neighbors understand that a dog will bark at the meter reader, delivery person, or mail carrier for a minute or two. But they do not want to listen to 30 minutes of nonstop barking at every slight noise. It's only when barking is excessive that it becomes a problem. However, a problem barker is not the one at fault - we must look to the dog's guardians for the source of the behavior. Chronic or excessive barking arises because the dog is improperly socialized or trained, or because she is stressed, hypersensitive, lonely, fearful, or frustrated. Debarking a dog does not make her any less stressed, hypersensitive, lonely, fearful, or frustrated! It is important to deal with the problem at its source, rather than turn down the volume surgically. These dogs still bark, they just don't make much noise.
Debarking surgery is not difficult (although it does entail general anesthesia and surgical risks such as bleeding and infection), but the rate of postoperative complications is very high. Some practitioners estimate that 50% of dogs will develop problems arising from the debarking surgery. These range from merely annoying (the dog regains his ability to bark within two or three years) to life-threatening (scar tissue obstructs the dog's airway). Correcting these complications requires more surgery, more risks, and more money. Again, this puts the dog at risk for landing in the shelter. This burdens taxpayers with the expense of dealing with yet another dog made essentially unadoptable by her guardians.
There are at least two other serious consequences linked to debarking. San Francisco has already been faced with one: the ability to disguise a large number of dogs on a property by debarking all of them. The other is being considered right now in the State of Ohio, where there is legislation pending to prohibit debarking of "vicious" dogs. The bill's sponsors believe that attack-trained dogs who are made silent by debarking are "deadly weapons." Indeed, no law enforcement professional wants to come upon a large and menacing Rottweiler without warning or time to prepare.
There are simple, effective training steps that will deter excessive barking, which is really only a cry for help. For instance, when a dog barks and his guardian yells at him to stop, the dog actually perceives this as the guardian joining him in barking, which only encourages more barking. Rough play, or "hunting games" like fetch, heighten a dog's excitement level. When left alone, he is keyed up and may express his frustration by barking. Calm exercise such as a walk will satisfy him without stirring up his adrenaline. Dogs that can hear people walking but cannot see them may bark at every footstep. Creating one or two dog-level "spy-holes" in a solid fence allows the dog to see and assess the "danger."
There are also "anti-bark" collars that deliver either a mild shock or puff of citronella (an aversive odor) to the dog when he barks. With such collars, there is some concern that they will discourage the dog from barking to the point that she becomes useless as a guard dog. These collars may also make a dog fearful and neurotic. However, judicious and appropriate use can be effective.
Declawing in cats is a surgical procedure that involves amputating each front toe at the first joint. This is equivalent to you losing the entire tip of every finger at the first knuckle. It is an excruciating procedure that may result in chronic lameness, arthritis, and other long-term complications. It alters the way the cat moves and balances. This can cause strain and eventually arthritis in the upper leg joints as well as the feet. It is a barbaric and cruel procedure that is actually illegal in many countries. A respected 1990 veterinary text states that "The operative removal of the claws, as is sometimes practiced to protect furniture and curtains, is an act of abuse and should be forbidden by law in all, not just a few countries."
Declawed cats are reported to have a higher incidence of litterbox avoidance problems. Not many people would choose urine-soaked carpeting or mattresses to a a few claw marks, but unfortunately this is a common outcome. Declawed cats may also become biters. They must resort to using their teeth, because their primary means of defense has been taken away. Any of these unpleasant behaviors may ultimately kill the cat, because they are unacceptable at home, and also make the cat unadoptable if surrendered to a shelter.
Dr. Nicholas Dodman of Tufts University, who has written several books on canine and feline "psychology," says of declawing that it "fits the dictionary definition of mutilation to a tee. Words such as deform, disfigure, disjoint, and dismember all apply to this surgery. Partial digital amputation is so horrible that it has been employed for torture of prisoners of war, and in veterinary medicine, the clinical procedure serves as a model of severe pain for testing the efficacy of anesthetic drugs."
Cats waking from declaw surgery will thrash from wall to wall in the cage, howl, and shake their feet as if trying to fling them away. It is very distressing and heart-wrenching to see. Postoperative pain medication is available, but not always used. Complications include infections, abscesses, and abnormal regrowth of the claws. Any or all of these may occur, even many years after the surgery.
The latest trend is for this surgery to be done with lasers, which (in addition to a huge increase in cost) is said to make the immediate postoperative period much less painful for the cat. The long-term physical and behavioral consequences, however, remain unchanged.
The excuses people use for wanting to declaw a cat are usually trivial, and nearly always involve putting the well-being of their belongings above that of the cat. People who wish to own leather furniture need to understand that leather and cats cannot peacefully coexist in the same household.
Even declawing the front paws does not save leather furniture, since when a cat jumps down off a couch, she necessarily digs in her rear claws slightly. Declawing the back paws is even more painful than the front, and often results in litterbox avoidance problems. When a cat squats in the box, more weight and pressure are put on the rear paws, and cats often associate this pain with the box itself.
Cats of any age can be trained not to scratch furniture or other objects, including people, although it is obviously easier if the cat is trained as a kitten. Other than serious medical considerations, it is mostly the guardians' unwillingness or sheer laziness that results in cats being declawed.
There are many effective and inexpensive options now available, including soft plastic caps for the claws, clear sticky strips to apply to the furniture, and other deterrents, as well as a multitude of cat-attractive scratching posts, mats, door-hangers, and other distractions that will protect your possessions.
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.
Cats have long been valued by humans for companionship and are the most popular companion animal. There are over 500 million domestic cats throughout the world. Descended from African wildcats, they began to share homes with humans about 10,000 years ago.
Domestic cats are still similar in anatomy to wild cats, with strong, flexible bodies, quick reflexes, sharp retractable claws and teeth adapted to killing small prey. They have excellent hearing, sense of smell and night vision.
Cats are felids, which are mammals that include lions, tigers, cougars, jungle cats, wildcats, mountain cats, sand cats and other wild cats. They all share a common ancestor that lived around 6–7 million years ago in Asia. Domestic cats are not radically different from wildcats, so they can interbreed. Unlike dogs, cats have not undergone major changes during the domestication process. They are still capable of surviving in the wild.
Despite being solitary hunters, cats are social animals and communicate with a variety of vocalizations, as well as cat pheromones and body language. They are known for their love of play. They also engage in play fighting with each other, other species and humans.
FASCINATING CAT FACTS
A group of cats is referred to as a "clowder", a male cat is called a "tomcat", an unaltered female is called a "queen" and a baby cat is referred to as a "kitten".
Most cats weigh between 8.8 and 11 lb, though some, such as the Maine Coon, can weigh over 25 lb. Very small cats can weigh 4 lb or less. The largest cat on record weighed 47 lb. The smallest adult cat on record weighed 3 lb.
The average lifespan of a cat is 12.1 years, while some live much longer. The oldest cat on record lived 38 years.
Female cats tend to be right pawed, while male cats are more often left pawed.
Cats have the cognitive ability to sense human emotions and mood.
Cats can travel at a top speed of approximately 31 mph over short distances.
Cats greet one another by rubbing their noses together.
Cats usually only meow to communicate with humans, not other cats.
Cats sleep 70% of their lives.
Cats make over 100 different sounds.
Cat brains are 90% similar to human brains — more similar to human brains than dog brains.
Cats have survived falls from over 32 stories onto concrete, due to their “righting reflex.”
The ability of cats to find their way home is called “psi-traveling.” Cats either use the angle of sunlight, or magnetized cells in their brains, as compasses.
Most cats don't have eyelashes.
Cats dislike the water because their fur does not insulate well when wet.
Cat noses are ridged with a unique pattern, just like human fingerprints.
Cats rub against humans to be affectionate and to mark their territory with scent glands located around their faces, tail area and paws.
Adult cats have 30 teeth; kittens have 26 teeth.
Cats are extremely sensitive to vibrations and can detect earthquakes 15 minutes before humans.
Eating grass rids a cats' system of fur and aids digestion.
In one litter of kittens, there can be multiple fathers.
A cat's back paws aren’t as sharp as their front paws because the back claws don’t retract and thus get worn.
Cats have 1,000 times more data storage than an iPad.
Cats can change their meow to manipulate humans.
Cats can detect cancer.
Extra lumbar and thoracic vertebrae account for the cat's spinal mobility and flexibility. Unlike human arms, cat arms are attached to the shoulder by free-floating bones that allow them to fit through any space they can fit their heads. A cat's skull is unusual among mammals, having very large eye sockets and a powerful and specialized jaw. Within the jaw, cats have teeth adapted for killing prey and tearing meat.
Cats, like dogs, walk directly on their toes, with the bones of their feet making up the lower part of their leg. They are capable of walking very precisely by placing each back paw directly in the spot of the corresponding front paw, minimizing noise and tracks. This also provides sure footing when navigating rough terrain. Unlike most mammals, cats move the two legs on one side of the body before the legs on the other side. Camels and giraffes also walk this way. As their walk speeds into a trot, a cat's gait changes to that of most other mammals.
Cats have protractable and retractable front claws. In their normal position, the claws are retracted to keep them sharp by preventing wear. This allows the silent stalking of prey. Cats can voluntarily extend their claws on one or more paws for hunting, climbing, self-defense, kneading or for extra traction on certain surfaces.
Cats are able to tolerate quite high temperatures. They conserve heat by reducing the flow of blood to their skin and lose heat by evaporation through their mouths. They can only sweat a little, with sweat glands located primarily in their paw pads. They pant for heat relief only at very high temperatures. Their kidneys are so efficient they can survive on a diet of meat alone, with no additional water, and can even quench their thirst by drinking seawater.
Cats are carnivores and have difficulty digesting plants. About 20% of a cat's diet needs to be protein. They are dependent on a constant supply of the amino acid arginine and cannot produce taurine. They do eat grass occasionally. Since cats cannot fully close their lips around something to create suction, they lap with their tongues to draw liquid upwards into their mouths. Cats have relatively few taste buds compared to humans and cannot taste sweetness. Their taste buds instead respond to bitter tastes, acids and amino acids.
Cats have excellent night vision and can see at only one-sixth the light level humans require to see. Unlike some big wild cats, domestic cats have slit pupils. They see in color, but have limited ability to distinguish between red and green.
Cats have excellent hearing and can detect an extremely broad range of frequencies. They can hear higher-pitched sounds than either dogs or humans. They do not use this ability to hear ultrasound for communication, but it aids in hunting since many rodents make ultrasonic calls. Cat hearing is extremely sensitive and is among the best of any mammal. Their movable ears amplify sounds and help them sense the direction from which the sound is coming.
Cats also have an excellent sense of smell. They are very sensitive to pheromones which they use to communicate through urine spraying and marking with scent glands.
To aid with navigation and sensation, cats have dozens of movable whiskers on their bodies, especially on their faces. Their whiskers are highly sensitive to touch and provide information on the width of gaps and the location of objects in the dark. They work by touching objects directly and by sensing air currents. They also trigger protective blink reflexes to protect the cat's eyes from damage.
A DAY IN THE LIFE
Free ranging cats are active both day and night. A house cat's activity is quite flexible and varied, and often synchronizes with their human family. Cats allowed outdoors are known to establish territories from 17 to 69 acres in size.
Cats conserve energy by sleeping more than most animals, usually 13–14 hours per day. They dream often throughout the day.
Cats use many vocalizations for communication including purring, hissing, growling, snarling, trilling, grunting and many forms of meowing. Different body language, including position of ears and tail, relaxation of their body and kneading of paws, indicate their mood. No one knows how a cat purrs. Cats have no unique anatomical feature that is known for causing the sound.
Cats are known for their cleanliness, spending many hours licking their coats. The cat's tongue has backwards-facing spines which act like a hairbrush.
Cats hunt small prey, primarily birds and rodents. They use two hunting strategies, either stalking prey actively, or waiting in ambush until the animal comes close. Many present their prey to their human guardians. Some experts believe this is done because the cat is trying to teach its human to hunt, or is trying to feed their inept human.
Most cats have a fondness for perching in high places. In the wild, a higher place may serve as a concealed location to hunt from and gives the cat a better observation point. During a fall from a high place, a cat can reflexively twist its body and right itself using its acute sense of balance and flexibility.
Among domestic cats, males are more likely to fight than females. Cats arch their backs, raise their fur, turn sideways and hiss to appear more impressive and threatening. Often, the ears are pointed down and back to avoid damage and to listen for any changes behind them. They may also vocalize loudly and bare their teeth to further intimidate their opponent. Fights usually consist of grappling, slapping and biting. Serious damage is rare, as the fights usually don't last long.
Female cats are seasonally polyestrous, which means they may go into heat over and over during the course of a year. The mating season begins in spring and ends in late autumn. Heat periods occur about every two weeks and last around 4 to 7 days. Multiple males will be attracted to a female in heat. The males will fight over her and the victor wins the right to mate. Cats are superfecund; that is, a female may mate with more than one male when she is in heat, and different kittens in the litter may have different fathers.
The gestation period for cats is about 66 days. The size of a litter is usually three to five kittens. Babies are weaned between six and seven weeks old, and teens normally reach sexual maturity between 5–10 months. Females can have two to three litters per year, so they can produce up to 150 kittens by the time they reach ten years old. They can be spayed or neutered as early as 7 weeks to limit unwanted reproduction. This surgery also prevents undesirable sex-related behavior, such as aggression, marking (spraying urine) in males and yowling (calling) in females.
Feral cats are domestic cats that were born in, or have reverted to, a wild state. They are unfamiliar with and wary of humans and roam freely in urban and rural environments. There are 25 to 60 million feral cats just in the United States. They usually live in colonies, occupying a specific territory with a source of food. A grass roots effort to humanely reduce the feral cat population is called 'trap-neuter-return'. Cats are trapped, neutered, immunized and then released. Volunteers continue to feed and care for the cats throughout their lives. An established colony helps to prevent other feral cats from moving into an area.
Exotic animals - lions, tigers, wolves, bears, reptiles, non-human primates - belong in their natural habitat and not in the hands of private individuals as "pets." By their very nature, these animals are wild and potentially dangerous and, as such, do not adjust well to a captive environment.
Because the majority of states do not keep accurate records of exotic animals entering their state, it is impossible to determine exactly how many exotic animals are privately held as pets. The number is estimated to be quite high. Certainly 6,000 to 7,000 tigers are held by private individuals.
The American Veterinary Medical Association, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have all expressed opposition to the possession of certain exotic animals by individuals.
Exotic animals do not make good companions. They require special care, housing, diet, and maintenance that the average person cannot provide. When in the hands of private individuals the animals suffer due to poor care. They also pose safety and health risks to their possessors and any person coming into contact with them.
Individuals possessing exotic animals often attempt to change the nature of the animal rather than the nature of the care provided. Such tactics include confinement in small barren enclosures, chaining, beating "into submission," or even painful mutilations, such as declawing and tooth removal.
If and when the individual realizes he can no longer care for an exotic pet, he usually turns to zoos and other institutions such as sanctuaries to relieve him of the responsibility. However, all the zoos and accredited institutions could not possibly accommodate the number of unwanted exotic animals. Consequently, the majority of these animals are euthanized, abandoned, or doomed to live in deplorable conditions.
THE EXOTIC ANIMAL PET TRADE
Every year, a variety of sources provides millions of animals to the exotic pet trade. Animals are captured from their native habitat and transported to various countries to be sold as “pets”. Others are surplus animals from zoos or their offspring. Backyard breeders also supply exotic animals.
It is absurdly easy to obtain an exotic pet. Internet sites offer to sell and give care advice. The sellers of these animals, however, make no mention of the state or local laws regulating private possession of exotics, or of the dangers, difficulties, physical and physiological needs of the animals they peddle. The suffering of the animals in the hands of unqualified and hapless buyers appears to be of no concern in the lucrative exotic pet trade.
PUBLIC SAFETY RISK
Exotic animals are inherently dangerous to the individuals who possess them, to their neighbors, and to the community at large. Across the country, many incidents have been reported where exotic animals held in private hands attacked humans and other animals, and escaped from their enclosure and freely roamed the community. Children and adults have been mauled by tigers, bitten by monkeys and asphyxiated by snakes.
By their very nature, exotic animals are dangerous. Although most exotic animals are territorial and require group interactions, an exotic pet typically is isolated and spends the majority of her day in a small enclosure unable to roam and express natural behaviors freely. These animals are time bombs waiting to explode.
Monkeys are the most common non-human primates held by private individuals. At the age of two, monkeys begin to exhibit unpredictable behavior. Males tend to become aggressive, and both males and females bite to defend themselves and to establish dominance. Reported have been many monkey bites that resulted in serious injury to the individual who possessed the animal, to a neighbor, or to a stranger on the street.
Non-domesticated felines, such as lion, tigers, leopards, and cougars, are commonly held as pets. These exotic animals are cute and cuddly when they are young but have the potential to kill or seriously injure people and other animals as they grow. Even a seemingly friendly and loving animal can attack unsuspecting individuals. Many large cats have escaped from their cages and terrorized communities. Several of these incidents have resulted in either serious injury to the persons who came in contact with the animal, or the death of the animal, or both.
Reptiles, including all types of snakes and lizards, pose safety risks to humans as well. Many incidents have been reported of escapes, strangulations, and bites from pet reptiles across the country. Snakes are the most common "pet" reptiles - about 3% of U.S. households possess 7.3 million pet reptiles - and have the potential to inflict serious injury through a bite or constriction. More than 7,000 venomous snake bites are reported annually in the United States (it is uncertain how many of these snakes are pets), 15 of which result in death.
HUMAN HEALTH RISK
Exotic animals pose serious health risks to humans. Many exotic animals are carriers of zoonotic diseases, such as Herpes B, Monkey Pox, and Salmonellosis, all of which are communicable to humans.
80 to 90 percent of all macaque monkeys are infected with Herpes B-virus or Simian B, a virus that is harmless to monkeys but often fatal in humans. Monkeys shed the virus intermittently in saliva or genital secretions, which generally occurs when the monkey is ill, under stress, or during breeding season. At any given time, about 2% of infected macaque monkeys are shedding the virus. A person who is bitten, scratched, sneezed or spit on while shedding occurs runs the risk of contracting the disease. Monkeys rarely show any signs or symptoms of shedding, making it nearly impossible to know when one is at risk. Monkeys have also been known to transmit the Ebola virus, monkey pox, and other deadly illnesses.
Bites from non-human primates can cause severe lacerations. Wounds may become infected, with the potential to reach the bone and cause permanent deformity.
Around 90% of all reptiles carry and shed salmonella in their feces. Iguanas, snakes, lizards and turtles are common carriers of the bacterium. Reptiles that carry salmonella do not show any symptoms, thus there is no simple way to tell which reptiles play host to the microbe and which do not, because even those that have it do not constantly shed the bacterium. Salmonellosis associated with exotic pets has been described as one of the most important public health diseases affecting more people and animals than any other single disease. Salmonella infection is caused when individuals eat after failing to wash their hands properly after handling a reptile or objects the reptile contaminated (this can be either indirect or direct contact with infected reptiles). Salmonella bacteria do not make the animal sick, but in people can cause serious cases of severe diarrhea (with or without blood), headache, malaise, nausea, fever, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and even death - especially in young children, the elderly, and those with immune-compromised systems. In addition, salmonella infection can result in sepsis and meningitis (particularly in children) as well as invade the intestinal mucosa and enter the bloodstream causing septicemia and death.
LAWS GOVERNING PRIVATE POSSESSION OF EXOTIC ANIMALS
The sale and possession of exotic animals is regulated by a patchwork of federal, state and local laws that generally vary by community and by animal. Individuals possessing exotic animals must be in compliance with all federal laws as well as any state, city and county laws.
Three federal laws regulate exotic animals - the Endangered Species Act, the Public Health Service Act, and the Lacey Act. However, these laws primarily regulate the importation of exotic animals into the United States and not private possession.
Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) it is illegal to possess, sell or buy an endangered species regardless to whether it's over the Internet or not. The ESA does not regulate private possession, it merely allows the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) to prosecute individuals who illegally possess endangered species. "Generic" tigers (subspecies that have been interbred) are not considered endangered and, as such, can be legally bred and possessed.
The Public Health Services Act prohibits the importation of non-human primates and their offspring into the United States after October 1975 for any use other than scientific, educational or exhibition purposes. However, unless it can be proved that the non-human primate in question or his ancestors entered the country after October 1975, the Act is unenforceable. Most individuals are unaware of their animal's heritage and it is next to impossible to trace the animal's origin.
The Lacey Act allows the U.S. government to prosecute persons in possession of an animal illegally obtained in a foreign country or another state. Again, this Act does not regulate private possession, it merely allows the USFWS to prosecute individuals who have illegally obtained exotic animals.
State governments possess the authority to regulate exotic animals privately held. Laws vary from state to state on the type of regulation imposed and the specific animals regulated. Some states ban private possession of exotic animals (i.e. they prohibit possession of at least large cats, wolves, bears, non-human primates, and dangerous reptiles); some have a partial ban (i.e. they prohibit possession of some exotic animals but not all); some require a license or permit to possess exotic animals; and while the remaining states neither prohibit nor require a license, they may require some information from the possessor (veterinarian certificate, certification that animal was legally acquired, etc.).
Many cities and counties have adopted ordinances that are more stringent than the state law. Generally, the city or county have determined that possession of certain exotic species poses a serious threat to the health, safety and welfare of the residents of the community as a result of a recent attack in the area, an escape, or by the virtue of the animals' physical attributes and natural behavior and, as such, adopts an ordinance regulating or banning private possession.
Some people often sidestep existing laws or bans by becoming licensed breeders or exhibitors under the USDA and/or by having their property rezoned. In addition, individuals often move out of city limits or to a new state once a restriction or ban is imposed.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
You can do several things to help stop private possession of exotic animals:
For the animals' sake and for your health and safety, do not buy exotic animals as "pets."
If you observe an exotic animal being abused, living in deplorable conditions, etc., report it to the appropriate animal control agency.
Educate others. Write a Letter to the Editor. Share information with friends and family.
Support legislation at all levels to prohibit private possession of exotic animals. Find out how your state, city and county regulates private possession of exotic animals. If your state, city or county does not prohibit private possession, contact your state senator and representative or your city and county council members and urge them to introduce legislation banning possession of exotic animals.
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year, distressed animal guardians across the country call the Pet Poison Helpline. In addition to dealing with the stress of an emergency situation, they are often forced to cope with feelings of regret in light of a mishap that, in most cases, could have been avoided. It takes only a few minutes to educate yourself on how to pet-proof appropriately and avoid the inevitable heartache that so often happens when a beloved animal is accidentally poisoned.
Awareness is the key to preventing poisoning emergencies. Most animal poisonings involve dogs – a testament to dogs’ curious nature and indifference to eating just about anything. Most of these poisonings involve ingesting human medications. It’s clearly wise to keep medications out of their reach, but there are many other common, household substances toxic to dogs and cats.
The items below are presented in order of frequency, with number one being the item that causes the most emergency calls to Pet Poison Helpline.
Dogs: Top 10 Toxins
Chocolate: Dark equals dangerous! Bakers and dark chocolate are the most toxic, and milk chocolate if ingested in large amounts.
Xylitol: This sweetener found in sugarless chewing gum and candy, medications and nasal sprays causes a rapid drop in blood sugar and liver failure only in dogs (not cats).
NSAIDs: Ibuprofen, naproxen, etc., found in products like Advil, Motrin, and Aleve. Dogs don’t metabolize these drugs well; ingestions result in stomach ulcers and kidney failure.
Over the counter cough, cold and allergy medications: Those that contain acetaminophen or decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine, are particularly toxic.
Rodenticides (mouse poison): These may cause internal bleeding (brodifacoum, bromadiolone, etc.) or brain swelling (bromethalin), even in small amounts.
Grapes and raisins: These harmless human foods cause kidney damage in dogs.
Insect bait stations: These rarely cause poisoning in dogs – the bigger risk is bowel obstruction when dogs swallow the plastic casing.
Prescription ADD/ADHD medications: These amphetamines such as Adderall, Concerta, Dexedrine, and Vyvanse can cause tremors, seizures, cardiac problems and death in companion animals.
Glucosamine joint supplements: Overdose of products typically only cause diarrhea; however, in rare cases, liver failure can develop.
Silica gel packets and oxygen absorbers: Silica gel packs, found in new shoes, purses or backpacks, is rarely a concern. The real threats are the iron-containing oxygen absorbers found in food packages like beef jerky or pet treats, which can cause iron poisoning.
Cats: Top 10 Toxins
Lilies: Plants in the Lilium species, such as Easter, Tiger, and Asiatic lilies, cause kidney failure in cats. All cat guardians must be aware of these highly toxic plants!
Household cleaners: Most general purpose cleaners (e.g., Windex, Formula 409) are fairly safe, but concentrated products like toilet bowl or drain cleaners can cause chemical burns.
Flea and tick spot-on products for dogs: Those that are pyrethroid based (e.g., Zodiac, K9 Advantix, Sergeant’s, etc.) cause tremors and seizures and can be deadly to cats.
Antidepressants: Cymbalta and Effexor top the antidepressant list. Cats seem strangely drawn to these medications. Beware – ingestion can cause severe neurologic and cardiac effects.
NSAIDs: Cats are even more sensitive than dogs to drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen. Even veterinary specific NSAIDs like Rimadyl and Meloxicam should be used with caution.
Prescription ADD/ADHD medications: These amphetamines such as Adderall, Concerta, Dexedrine, and Vyvanse can cause tremors, seizures, cardiac problems and death.
Over the counter cough, cold and allergy medications: Those that contain acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) are particularly toxic, as they damage red blood cells and cause liver failure.
Plants containing insoluble calcium oxalate crystals: Common houseplants like the peace lily, philodendron, and pothos can cause oral/upper GI irritation, foaming at the mouth, and inflammation when ingested, but severe symptoms are uncommon.
Household insecticides: Thankfully, most household sprays and powders are fairly safe, but it’s best to keep curious kitties away until the products have dried or settled.
Glow sticks and glow jewelry: These irresistible “toys” contain a chemical called dibutyl phthalate. When it contacts the mouth, pain and excessive foaming occurs, but the signs quickly resolve when the cat eats food or drinks water.
The best thing concerned animal guardians can do is get educated on the most common companion animal toxins, which are listed above, and then pet-proof their homes. However, accidents happen and if a companion may have ingested something toxic, Pet Poison Helpline recommends taking action immediately. Contact a veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680.
Gerbils are small rodents, similar in many ways to hamsters and mice. They are naturally found in the sandy plains of the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Originally known as desert rats, they were commercially introduced to North America and bred as “pets”.
Gerbils have long tails that they are able to shed, allowing them to escape predators. Their tails also help them balance when standing on their hind legs.
They have sharp claws they use for burrowing into desert sand to escape predators by quickly disappearing under the sand. Gerbils build extensive networks of tunnels and rarely surface other than to find food and water.
Over 100 different species of gerbils live in the wild. Most “pet” gerbils are Mongolian gerbils, found in their natural habitat in the 1860s and first captive-bred in the 1930s. Most gerbils are diurnal (active during the daytime), though pet gerbils are often more nocturnal.
Because of their size, gerbils are mis-perceived as being “low maintenance” animal companions. Gerbils 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.
Gerbils do not like to be alone and live in families of up to 20 members in their natural habitat. If kept in a solitary environment, a captive gerbil will become depressed. If you’re planning to adopt gerbils, two males or two females from the same family will bond together.
Their dietary needs include 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.
A large wire-mesh cage with a solid base works best. Colorful plastic cages may be enticing, but they are difficult to clean, and gerbils 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.
Only use solid exercise wheels for gerbils, since their long tails can become entangled in wire wheels.
Do not let gerbils become too cold or they will go into hibernation.
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”.
Birds' instinctive yearning to fly is thwarted when they are confined to a cage. Even in a large aviary, it is virtually impossible to provide birds in captivity with a natural existence, since naturally changing temperatures, food, vegetation, and landscape cannot be recreated indoors, nor, of course, can the birds fly freely. As a result of the horrific travelling conditions they are forced to endure, many birds captured in the wild die long before arriving at their destination.
Because birds seem so very different from us, we can easily overlook their intelligence, abilities and emotions, as well as their sense of fun.
In fact, birds are highly intelligent. Crows use tools like twigs to pick up food. Some even make her own tools. Crows are known to use cars to crack open walnuts - the birds wait until cars stop at road junctions then place the nuts in the road, knowing that when the lights turn to green, the cars will roll over the nuts and crack them open. When the lights turn red again, the crows hop back into the road to eat the nuts.
Birds remember exactly where they've hidden thousands of seeds each autumn and find their way back to their stashes using the sun, stars, landmarks, and the magnetic pull of the earth to guide them.
Crows have about 300 different calls but not all crows understand each other. Just like us, they have different accents. Crows in the United States don't understand some calls that their British cousins make, and vice versa.
Birds make sounds that we don't usually hear, like the hushed chatter and whispering between two nesting crows. They take turns 'talking,' in the bird equivalent of a conversation.
Birds grieve and take care of one another. After a car killed the mate of a coucal (a member of the cuckoo family), he refused to leave her side or stop trying to revive her. A robin that crippled his rival in a fight was seen feeding him and keeping him alive. Another witness watched as a pair of terns helped lift an injured member of the flock by his wings and carry him to safety.
Birds dance, play 'hide-and-seek', and have even been seen sliding down snowy slopes then climbing back up to do it over and over again for the sheer joy of it - just as we do!
Yet thousands of birds are still taken away from their families and flocks every year, packed up as if they were plastic dolls, and sold at bird shows or through pet shops. Many don't survive the journey, and those who do are likely to be destined for a life of misery.
For people who have aviaries or who have the space for pairs or groups of birds to fly indoors, adoption from sanctuaries, rather than buying birds from shops or breeders, is recommended by animal campaigners.
Iguanas are native to the jungles of the Caribbean and central and South America. Green iguanas are forest lizards who live high in the South American rainforest tree canopy. Young iguanas live lower in the canopies, while older adults reside higher up in the tree tops. Iguanas bask in the sun, with little need to visit the forest floor below other than when female iguanas lay their eggs.
The green and brown scales of iguanas allow them to blend extremely effectively into the surrounding forest. Iguanas will remain extremely still, going unnoticed, until predators pass by. They often chose basking spots on tree limbs hanging over water so they can dive into the water to escape predators. Iguanas are excellent swimmers and go beneath the water surface to avoid predators.
Iguanas have excellent sight able to detect movement from incredibly long distances to seek out prey and detect approaching predators. They use visual signals to communicate with each other through a series of rapid eye movements. They are considered omnivores, but most iguanas in the wild tend to eat an herbivorous diet. They feed on ripened fruit and leafy green plants.
These large, docile lizards are often a popular choice as exotic “pets”.
Green iguanas are some of the most frequently abandoned companion animals, likely because people find out too late what is required to care for them. A properly cared for iguana can live for more than 20 years and grow to be more than 6 feet long. The enclosure for a full-grown iguana should be at least 18 feet long, humidified, and maintained at a particular temperature with specific timetables for darkness and ultraviolet light.
Common problems for captive iguanas are metabolic bone disease from calcium deficiency, mouth rot, respiratory disease, abscesses, and ulcers. Wild iguanas do not suffer from any of these illnesses. They’re also strict vegans, limited to a very specific range of greens and fruits.
Costs for food, an enclosure, lighting, and vet bills can total hundreds of dollars per year. It takes about a year of daily interaction to socialize an iguana, and even then, sexually mature males will be very aggressive six months out of the year if they see their own reflections or if confronted with other iguanas.
There is a health risk associated with keeping any reptile. Seventy thousand people in the U.S. contract salmonellosis from direct or indirect contact with reptiles and amphibians every year. Children, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems are particularly at risk of serious illness or death. If you or anyone close to you is in one of these categories, rethink bringing a reptile into your home—even healthy looking animals may be carrying the disease. Many reptiles are brought into the country with little or no inspection or quarantine.
Purchasing a reptile caught in his or her natural habitat encourages the removal of wildlife from delicate ecosystems. Buying captive-bred animals only encourages breeders to replenish their stock. If you must have a reptile as a companion animal, adopt from a local shelter or rescue group.
Turtles are reptiles with hard shells that protect them like a shield. Their upper shells are called a ‘carapace’. Their lower shells are called ‘plastron’. The shell is made up of 60 different bones all connected together. Many turtle species are able to hide their heads inside their shells when attacked by predators. Their hard shells enable them to live without fast reflexes and elaborate predator avoidance strategies.
Turtles are highly intelligent and social animals. They sometimes switch between monogamy and promiscuity in their sexual behavior. They enjoy playing. They have good eyesight, hearing and an excellent sense of smell. Their shells contain nerve endings, aiding in their sense of touch.
Some aquatic turtles can absorb oxygen through their skin so they can remain submerged underwater for extended periods of time. They can even hibernate underwater.
The largest turtle is the leatherback sea turtle, which can weigh over 2000 lb. Several species of turtles can live to be over a hundred years of age, including the American Box Turtle.
Some turtles lay eggs in the sand and leave them to hatch on their own. The baby turtles make their way to the top of the sand and scramble to the water while trying to avoid predators. In some species of turtle the temperature determines if the egg will develop into a male or female. Higher temperatures lead to females; lower temperatures lead to males.
Most of the North American species of turtles available in pet stores have been taken from their natural habitats. Other species are usually captive bred—most likely in Louisiana, which has dozens of turtle factory farms. Most states have laws either banning or restricting the sale of turtles, so it is likely that any you see at a pet store have suffered illegal capture or were raised in less than humane conditions. Since parasites, bacteria, and fungi prey on weak or stressed turtles, the health of a store-bought turtle is questionable.
Just like any other reptile, a turtle’s needs are very specific: thermostatically controlled temperatures, enough water to swim in, a large housing area, and a varied diet. The average lifespan of an aquatic turtle is 25 years, while a land tortoise could outlive you.
There is a health risk associated with keeping any reptile. Seventy thousand people in the U.S. contract salmonellosis from direct or indirect contact with reptiles and amphibians every year. Children, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems are particularly at risk of serious illness or death. If you or anyone close to you is in one of these categories, rethink bringing a reptile into your home—even healthy-looking animals may be carrying the disease. Many reptiles are brought into the country with little or no inspection or quarantine.
Welcoming a reptile into your home means a commitment of time, space and money. You’ll need to provide the right temperature and humidity and specific light/dark cycles that may not coincide with your own or be convenient to you. Backup power is necessary to keep a constant temperature in the event of a power failure. In all, costs for food, an enclosure, lighting, and vet bills can total hundreds of dollars per year.
Purchasing a reptile caught in his or her natural habitat encourages the removal of wildlife from delicate ecosystems. Buying captive-bred animals only encourages breeders to replenish their stock. If you must have a reptile as a companion animal, adopt from a local shelter or rescue group.
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.
Research proves that feral cats do not suffer harsh lives, pose a risk to other cats, or threaten public health. Feral cats live full, healthy lives outdoors. Claims that feral cats “suffer” outdoors are based on isolated incidents and are not supported by scientific evidence. Research of feral cats in high-volume spay/neuter clinics spanning nearly a decade found the need to euthanize for debilitating conditions was less than 1%. Anecdotal reports by caregivers bolster these findings.
Feral cats are just as healthy as “pet” cats—studies show they have the same low rates of disease. Despite recent media reports, there hasn’t been a confirmed case of cat-to-human rabies transmission in more than 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Rabies in cats is extremely rare; in 2010, less than 5% of all reported rabid animals cases were cats, according to statistics from the CDC. Rabies vaccination is part of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) protocol, making successful rabies prevention programs even more effective.
FIV and FeLV are also extremely rare in feral cats. Major scientific studies of hundreds of feral cats found rates of these diseases to be just as low as companion animal cats.
Science shows feral cat colonies pose no disease risk to humans. Rumors about the spread of infectious disease by cats to humans is based on myth and misunderstanding, not science. Infectious diseases from cats can spread to humans only via direct contact, and that’s extremely unlikely among feral cats, who avoid humans. In people, incidences of these diseases often have other causes. Toxoplasmosis, for example, is almost always caused by consuming undercooked foods.
Trap-Neuter-Return makes feral cats even healthier. Trap-Neuter-Return ends the breeding cycle, as well as the strains of mating and pregnancy, which improves the cats’ overall health. Studies of cats cared for through TNR show they have healthy body weights and fat distribution. One long-term study of a TNR program showed 83% of cats had lived in the colony for more than six years, indicating a healthy lifespan comparable to companion animal cats.
Some people enjoy taking their dogs along on errands, but leave them in the car. This can be deadly. A little heat outside the car can quickly make it very hot inside. On a summer's day of only 85 degrees, for example, even keeping the windows slightly open won't stop the inside temperature from climbing to 102 degrees in 10 minutes, to 120 degrees in 20 minutes. A dog whose body temperature rises to 107-108 degrees will, within a very short time, suffer irreparable brain damage - or even death. Never leave your dog alone in a car, even for a few minutes, in the summer months.
If you see a dog alone in a hot car, write down the car’s model, make, color and license plate number. Attempt to have the animal's guardian paged in the nearest buildings and call the police. Don’t leave the scene until the dog has been rescued.
Heatstroke symptoms to look for are thick saliva, heavy panting, lethargy, restlessness, dark tongue, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, lack of coordination, excessive thirst, lack of appetite, rapid heartbeat and fever.
Provide the dog with drinking water. Spray the dog with water, immerse him in a tub of cool (but not iced) water for a couple of minutes, or apply wet towels to the stomach, chest, paws and groin area. Do not use ice or cold water, and don’t overcool the dog.
If the dog shows any symptoms of heatstroke, get her to a veterinarian immediately.
How To Legally Help Dogs In Hot Cars
What can you do, within your legal rights, if you see an animal in distress in a locked car? The Animal Legal Defense Fund, a legal advocacy organization for animals, has some tips.
If you see an animal in distress, call 911. Most states allow a public safety officer to break into the car and rescue an animal if its life is threatened. Calling 911 is the first step to saving that animal’s life.
Know your state laws. More and more states are adopting “hot car” laws that prohibit leaving a companion animal unattended in a parked vehicle. Although 22 states have some form of “hot car” laws, the laws differ drastically from place to place. Only four states—Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio and Tennessee—have “Good Samaritan” laws that allow any person to break a car window to save an animal.
In 17 states, only public servants such as law enforcement and humane officers can legally break into a car to rescue an animal (Arizona, California. Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington.) In New Jersey and West Virginia, although it is illegal to confine an animal in a hot car, no one has the authority to break into a vehicle to save the animal, not even law enforcement.
Legislation is pending in California and New York to give any concerned bystander the legal right to help an animal in distress. Pending legislation in Pennsylvania would make it illegal to confine a dog or cat in a vehicle in conditions that would jeopardize its health and would empower a police officer, a volunteer or professional fireman, a humane officer, a security guard, or a first responder to rescue the animal.
Penalties for hot car deaths of companion animals are still limited. Most states limit penalties to misdemeanors or civil fines and infractions, even for repeat offenders. Maine and South Dakota’s laws don’t impose a penalty at all (although an animal guardian in Maine may regain custody of an animal removed from their vehicle only after they pay all charges that accrued for the maintenance, care, medical treatment and impoundment of the animal).
Let people know it’s not okay to leave their animal unattended in a car. When an animal dies in a hot car, most of their humans say they left them “just for a minute.” If you see someone leave their companion animal in a parked car, tell them that even if it’s a pleasant day outside, the temperature inside the car can skyrocket fast. Cracking a window doesn’t eliminate the risk of heatstroke or death.
A gecko for your terrarium? Or a tortoise? Or would you rather have a snake? Reptiles are exceedingly popular as “pets”. The illicit pet trade is booming. Between 2004 and 2014, official imports to the EU alone came to just under 21 million live specimens, more than six million of these ended up on the German market. These also include a large number of representatives of threatened species that can be sold at extremely high profits. Some collectors are quite willing to pay prices of several thousand euros for such rarities.
An international team of experts has now documented the implications of such transactions. The great demand from the European market is already endangering the survival of a great number of species all over the world is the warning issued by these researchers.
They are some of the rarest reptiles in the world. According to the latest surveys, there are not even 250 adult ploughshare tortoises left to crawl through the dry forests of north-west Madagascar. This means that the species, known by the scientific name of Astrochelys yniphora, is on the brink of extinction. The government of this island state created the Baly Bay National Park in 1997 especially to protect the remaining individuals of the species. The international trade with this species is completely forbidden, but this does not seem to deter trappers and smugglers. For example, 54 Madagascan ploughshare tortoises were confiscated at the airport in Bangkok in March 2013. Demand by reptile hobbyists in Asia, Europe and the US threatens to undo thirty years of conservation work.
This tortoise is not an isolated case. 37 scientists, conservationists and customs officials from 22 countries have compiled numerous other examples of species for which the pet market has become a serious problem, even though the Washington Convention (CITES Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is intended to prevent nature being sold off in such a way. This Convention, that to date has been signed by 182 states including the EU, regulates the international trade in threatened fauna and flora. Appendix I to the Convention lists particularly highly endangered species; imports or exports of these species for commercial purposes is no longer permitted. Appendix II contains a large number of other endangered species; a special permit is required for trading in these species.
More than 90 percent of reptile species are, however, not even covered by CITES. To date, biologists have described more than 10,000 reptile species worldwide. A mere 793 of these species are presently covered by trade regulations under CITES. Many other endangered reptiles that are included in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), on the other hand, have so far not made it into the Appendices of CITES. Orlov’s viper (Vipera orlovi), for example, is considered threatened with extinction; less than 250 adults are still crawling through a small region in the Caucasus. Yet the international trade in these snakes is not regulated, nor is the trade in various rare geckos from Madagascar and New Caledonia.
It is specifically such species that are in particular demand among collectors. Even though they enjoy rarity value, they can still be purchased legally and without any great degree of bureaucracy. So why does CITES not apply to all endangered animals and plants? In many cases the inclusion in the appendices fails only on account of economic interests or lack of political will.
Even if a species is listed by the Convention, it is, nevertheless, not necessarily out of danger. After all, the illegal trade in wild animals has become a crime that is just as lucrative as trafficking in drugs, weapons and human beings. There is a correspondingly strong incentive to circumvent the protective provisions. One possibility, for example, is to manipulate documents. This way, a CITES-listed species becomes an unregulated relative at the drop of a hat. Or an animal captured in the wild becomes one allegedly bred in captivity. A large number of monitor lizards from Indonesia or chameleons from Madagascar come onto the market using this strategy.
But time and time again, there are cases where smugglers do not bother with any paperwork. Interesting species are secretly taken across borders in suitcases or on the smuggler’s body, often by "hired tourists". There is an amazing level of ingenuity involved. One US citizen was arrested for smuggling three Fiji banded iguanas (Brachylophus bulabula) in his prosthetic leg.
The persons involved are very much aware which animals reach the highest prices: rarities are always in great demand. For this reason, it is not only protected species that are targeted but frequently also new discoveries by the scientific community, as are endemic species that only occur in a very small distribution area worldwide. It is therefore not surprising that Cnemaspis psychedelica, a gecko species that was unknown until 2010, quickly became popular. After all, this little reptile not only adorns itself with colors reminiscent of tripping on drugs but lives exclusively on Hon Khoai, a Vietnamese island of only eight square kilometers in size. They have been offered for sale in Europe on a regular basis since 2013 - one pair for 2500 to 3000 euros.
Regions that are home to a large number of such unique reptiles attract particular attention from smugglers. These include, for example, Mexico, Sri Lanka and Madagascar. In many of the countries affected, poverty, poorly equipped authorities and a lack of controls make illegal trade particularly easy. But even in the US, Australia and New Zealand, countries that have strict protective legislation and an efficient law enforcement system, unique fauna is not spared.
According to studies, reptile smuggling can have dramatic effects, particularly for species with small populations and extremely limited distribution areas. But even larger populations cannot cope with over-harvesting. For instance, tortoises and large lizards are very long-lived and have low reproduction rates. The ability of these populations to compensate for massive losses from trapping is therefore limited.
So what should be done to prevent a reptile clearance sale? On the one hand, stricter regulations are needed committing all CITES member states to better protection for their own incidences. On the other hand, main importers must adopt responsibility. An example is the highly sought-after Borneo earless monitor lizards (Lanthanotus borneensis) for which European reptile hobbyists are currently willing to pay up to some 3000 euros per pair. While this species is protected in their home country, it is to date not included in the CITES appendices. This means that smugglers only have to get such animals out of Borneo. They can then be offered for sale quite openly on the European market. In the US, in contrast, trade in species that are not included in the CITES appendices but are protected in their home countries is also forbidden.
Domestic animals suffer cruelty and abuse all too frequently. Often unreported, animal cruelty has many causes, ranging from ignorance to outright viciousness.
Public education is the primary means of preventing animal abuse. But when education fails, the legal process can be an effective tool. Many times the act of prosecuting an abusive individual will motivate them to adhere to humane principles they have previously ignored. Before this can be accomplished, however, animal advocates need to know what acts are illegal under current laws.
LOCAL ANIMAL LAWS
Three types of laws cover the treatment of domestic animals: city or county ordinances, state statutes, and federal statutes. State and federal statutes (also referred to as "code") are often implemented by regulations that spell out minimum standards of animal care and treatment under the law. Local ordinances usually address animal control services such as leash laws, handling of dangerous animals, treatment of stray animals, and rabies and other disease control. Licensing of companion animals as well as the setting of limits on the number and type of animals that may be kept by individuals are the authority of city or county animal control agencies. In smaller municipalities, the animal control function may be delegated to a local humane society. Animal cruelty and pet shops, if covered, usually fall under state statutes. Regulation of companion animal breeding may be addressed by either local ordinance or state law or both.
STATE ANIMAL LAWS
Since Massachusetts passed the first animal cruelty law in 1835, every state has passed laws to protect animals from abuse. Every state also has its own humane groups and organizations, both local and national in scope, which help propose new and amended legislation to improve existing laws. As might be expected, each state also varies in the wording of those laws and the extent to which they protect animals from harm. All states now have laws with felony provisions for some form of cruelty.
Fines can range from $100 (a mere slap on the wrist) all the way up to $20,000. Imprisonment can range from none to five years. About a third of the states have no other penalties, while some can order offenders to receive psychological counseling, forfeit the animal, and/or pay for the care of the animal. Some states increase penalties for repeated offenses.
Unfortunately, many states exempt farm animals to varying degrees from their cruelty statutes. Other states, however, have passed laws that regulate the transportation and handling of animals used for food.
To obtain a copy of the laws in your state, contact your nearest humane society or SPCA, animal control agency, law enforcement office (sheriff or police), or your local librarian for assistance. If these agencies in your area can only offer limited or no help, try your District Attorney, State Attorney, or a comparable law enforcement official in your area.
FEDERAL ANIMAL LAWS
Federal laws intended to protect domestic animals include the Humane Slaughter Act, the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Horse Protection Act, and the Animal Welfare Act.
The Humane Slaughter Act, passed in 1958, requires packing companies that sell meat to the federal government to use "humane slaughter methods". The Act defines these methods as those which render an animal insensible to pain by mechanical, electrical, chemical or other means. These methods must be utilized rapidly and effectively before the animal is hoisted, shackled, thrown, cast or cut. The Act exempts kosher killing methods, where the animal is slaughtered while conscious for religious reasons. Federal law, however, does not include poultry, so it is up to each state to cover chickens and turkeys under state statute.
In 1978, the Humane Slaughter Act was amended to include the Federal Meat Inspection Act, which requires that all livestock slaughtered for meat imported into the United States be "humanely" slaughtered. This means foreign packers importing to the U.S. must meet the same guidelines required of U.S. packers. This Act also empowered federal meat inspectors to shut down U.S. slaughtering lines immediately if any cruelty is observed. Slaughtering can only resume after the observed deficiencies are corrected.
Most facilities in the United States are covered by the Humane Slaughter Act, although some packing houses (which don't participate in the federal meat inspection program) are subject only to state legislation. Although laws exist in some states to protect animals in these facilities, more legislation is needed.
The Horse Protection Act of 1970 bans the use of devices or methods known as "soring" to affect the gait of horses such as the Tennessee Walking Horse. The forefeet of these horses are deliberately made sore by blistering agents, burns, cuts, lacerations and chains to produce an elongated smooth running walk that is considered desirable in the showing of the breed. In 1976 the law was strengthened by an amendment that made soring a felony offense punishable by imprisonment up to three years and fines up to $5,000. The amendment also broadened the definition of "sore" by including any horse that demonstrated unusual sensitivity in both forelegs and expanded protection to other horses often drugged to hide the effects of soring while performing. Many states have also passed legislation against similar cruel acts to horses.
Congress passed the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) in 1966, and amended it in 1970, 1976, 1985, 1990, and 1991. Originally called the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act, the legislation now extends protection to certain warm-blooded animals maintained by animal dealers, transporters, exhibitors and research facilities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the AWA through its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The AWA mandates minimum standards of care with regard to housing, handling, sanitation, nutrition, water, veterinary services and protections from extreme weather. The 1985 amendment also requires that dogs be exercised and that facilities provide for the psychological well-being of primates.
The AWA protects dogs, cats, non-human primates, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, farm animals used in research or exhibition, and horses used in nonagricultural research. The regulations do not extend to the majority of research animals - rats, mice, fish, and birds. Animal protection organizations continue to work for inclusion of these animals within AWA guidelines.
Animal dealers, animal transporters, animal exhibitors and research facilities must all comply with the licensing and regulatory requirements of the AWA. The original Laboratory Animal Welfare Act actually came about as a result of animal dealers who engaged in cruel and illegal activities. Class A dealers operate as breeding services for research animals, but Class B dealers sell animals received from "random sources." Those sources include auctions, pounds, "Free to Good Home" ads and "pet theft". APHIS agents conduct annual, unannounced inspections of animal dealer facilities in an effort to ensure the animals are properly housed and fed. They also look for complete documentation as to the source and destination of the animals. However, pet theft, abuse and inhumane conditions continue to dominate the animal market. Eliminating Class B dealers altogether remains a major goal of the animal movement. The AWA does not currently classify retail pet stores, hobby breeders, public pounds, private shelters or boarding kennels as animal dealers.
Animal exhibitors operate animal acts, carnivals, circuses, public zoos, "roadside zoos" and marine mammal displays. Rodeos, animal preserves, hunting events and private collections of animals are not regulated by the AWA. Most of the animals exhibited are species not native to the United States, but exhibited animals may also include domestic farm animals and wild animals native to this country. Licensed exhibitors under the AWA either obtain or dispose of animals in commerce or exhibit them for compensation. Since these regulated businesses make money from the display of their animals, the public can play a major role in enforcing the law by reporting violations to APHIS.
Research facilities include institutions using regulated animals for research, diagnostic laboratory tests, quality control testing and college instruction. The AWA covers both private and state-owned facilities, as well as drug firms and diagnostic laboratories. Federal facilities, school laboratories, agricultural research stations and institutions using only biologic (dead) specimens or non-regulated animals are exempt from the law.
Experimentation on animals continues to generate large amounts of money for universities and pharmaceutical companies, and much of the public continues to support it out of fear of preventing the next "cure." Minimal regulations are therefore imposed on animal research. Although the AWA requires that the pain inflicted on laboratory animals be curbed by medication, no relief need be given if the experiment itself involves pain monitoring. Although the AWA theoretically forbids the unnecessary duplication of a specific experiment using regulated animals, it does not permit APHIS to interfere with research procedures. In short, the regulation of laboratory animals mandates only basic care, not any type of humane treatment.
The regulations that implement the most recent amendment to the AWA are also disturbing, particularly with regard to laboratory animals. Although Congress required the Secretary of Agriculture to draft comprehensive standards to define such terms as "humane" and "primate psychological well-being," he did not. Instead, the Secretary drafted regulations that allowed individual research facilities to document their own definitions of these terms. As a result, research facilities do not have to answer to any authority interested in the care of animals.
Local and state laws are enforced by police departments. In some states agents of a local humane society have the authority to issue citations under the animal cruelty statute.
The federal laws are administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA inspectors are stationed at federal slaughterhouses to check for compliance with the Humane Slaughter Act and Federal Meat Inspection Act. Unfortunately, very few violations are cited and investigations have revealed that U.S. humane slaughter laws are being routinely ignored as meat plants grow larger. Former USDA employees report that live cattle are routinely skinned, squealing pigs immersed in scalding water, and still-conscious animals abused in other ways to keep production lines moving quickly.
The USDA is also responsible for administering the Horse Protection Act and the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Care division of APHIS enforces the AWA through licensing commercial animal breeders, dealers, brokers, transportation companies, exhibitors and research facilities. The agency also searches for unlicensed individuals or facilities and investigates complaints from the public. APHIS inspectors are required to make unannounced inspections at least once annually. If an inspection reveals deficiencies in meeting the AWA standards and regulations, the inspector instructs the facility to correct the problems within a given time frame. Uncorrected deficiencies are documented and possible legal action is considered. Legal actions include Official Notices of Warning or agency stipulation letters that set civil penalties for infractions. Civil penalties include cease-and-desist orders, fines and license suspensions or revocations.
Although the AWA requires that inspections be conducted annually, not all facilities are reviewed that frequently. Only approximately 70 field inspectors are employed by APHIS to perform compliance inspections at more than 10,000 regulated sites per year. This number includes 4,200 dealer, 2,200 research, 2,700 exhibitor and 1,300 carrier sites.
Many deficiencies are noted among these facilities each year but less than 1% are cited for violations, and an even smaller number have their license suspended or revoked.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
For farm animals and any inhumane treatment such as lack of food, water, shelter or necessary medical attention, report directly to your local humane organization or animal control agency. In areas not served by such an agency, contact the local law enforcement office and the nearest humane agency that may be able to offer assistance.
If you observe a violation of a county or city ordinance (dog/cat licensing, leash law, animal bite, etc.), contact the appropriate animal control agency. In some areas that function may be under the jurisdiction of the humane society, animal control, dog warden, police department or even the health department.
When reporting a complaint, obtain all available information concerning the alleged cruelty, such as the actual street address with directions to the site, and names if known. Law enforcement officials are more cooperative when you can offer solid evidence such as photographs, video and statements from witnesses with their name, address, telephone number and description of what they witnessed.
What to Do About AWA Violations:
The Animal Welfare Act is administered by the Animal Care division of the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The main area where APHIS receives information from the public is in the care and treatment of animals used in entertainment. If you witness an animal at an exhibition (roadside zoo, circus, carnival, marine mammal show, zoological park, etc.) with inadequate food, water, space, or veterinary care, report the incident to APHIS. You can call or write a letter giving details of the incident, and the agency will send an investigator to the site. Contact the office nearest to you.
(Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Virgin Islands, West Virginia, Wisconsin)
920 Main Campus Drive, Suite 200
Raleigh, NC 27606-5210
(Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas)
APHIS's website, www.aphis.usda.gov, includes information about routine and complaint inspections of all individuals and facilities licensed under the Animal Welfare Act.
APHIS has the authority to take custody of animals whose safety is in imminent danger. Even if agents feel that the situation does not merit such serious action, they will set deadlines for correcting the mistreatment. If the exhibitor does not improve conditions by the deadline, penalties can be assessed and licenses revoked. Given the alarming number of animals displayed for profit, citizens must participate in enforcing the laws for abusers to be disciplined.
Remember that animals and facilities not covered under the AWA may be covered by your state anti-cruelty or wildlife statutes; in many cases, the animals may be covered by both. Your local librarian, or law library if you have access to one, can help you obtain information about or copies of federal or state laws.