We hope that those we leave behind will care enough about us and what we would have wanted for our beloved companion animals to take them in and give them a loving home. Some families will do the right thing, but many others surrender their deceased family member's animals to high-kill shelters or even have them euthanized.
It is the responsibility of all animal guardians to provide for their animals in the event of their death or serious disability. But be aware that the law sees an animal as a piece of personal property. Therefore, a companion animal cannot inherit in a will. For the same reason, you cannot name an animal the direct beneficiary of your life insurance policy. Because of these restrictions, it is important that you make arrangements for the care of your companion before you die. If you have a trusted friend or family member that cares deeply about animals, you can name that person in your will, make them a beneficiary of your life insurance, or set aside monies in a payable-on-death savings account with the understanding that they are to use the funds for the care of your animal until its death. If you have considerable assets to set aside, a “pet trust” could be the better choice. The following questions and answers should help you decide if a trust is right for you and your animal.
What is a “pet trust”?
A pet trust is a legal technique that can be used to ensure that your companion animal receives proper care after you die or in the event of your disability.
How does a pet trust work?
You (the “settlor”) set aside enough money or other property to a trusted person or bank (the “trustee”) that is under a duty to make arrangements for the proper care of your companion animal, according to your advance instructions. The trustee will deliver the animal to your designated caregiver (the “beneficiary”) and then use the property you transferred to the trust to pay for your companion’s expenses.
There are two main types of pet trusts. The first is a “traditional pet trust,” and is effective in all states. You authorize the trustee to pay the beneficiary for the animal’s expenses, as long as the beneficiary takes proper care of your companion in accordance with your wishes.
The second type of pet trust is a “statutory pet trust” and is authorized in over 45 states. A statutory pet trust is a basic plan that does not require the animal guardian to make as many decisions regarding the terms of the trust. The state law “fills in the gaps”, making a simple provision in a will such as, “I leave $10,000 in trust for the care of my dog, Pip” effective.
Which type of pet trust is “better”?
Many animal guardians will prefer the traditional pet trust because it provides them more control over the animal’s care. For example, you specify who manages the property (the trustee), the animal’s caregiver (the beneficiary), what type of expenses relating to the animal the trustee will pay, the type of care the animal will receive, what happens if the beneficiary can no longer care for the animal, and what arrangements are to be made for the animal after the companion dies; i.e. burial or cremation, disposition of the body or ashes, memorials, etc.
What if my state does not have a special law authorizing pet trusts?
If your state does not have a pet trust statute, you may still create a traditional pet trust.
When is a pet trust created?
You may create a pet trust while you are still alive. This is called an “inter vivos” or “living” trust. Or, by including the trust provisions in your will, a “testamentary” trust will be created when you die.
Which is better – an inter vivos or testamentary pet trust?
Both options have their advantages and disadvantages.
An inter vivos trust takes effect immediately and thus will already be functioning when you die or become disabled. This avoids delay between your death and the property being made available for the animal’s care. However, an inter vivos trust can be costly. There are attorney fees when the trust is created and administration fees after that.
A testamentary trust is the less expensive option, because the trust does not take effect until you die and your will is probated (declared valid by a court). However, there may not be funds available to care for your animal during the gap between when you die and when your will is probated. Probate takes time. The estate cannot be closed and funds distributed until a sufficient time has passed to allow any creditors to apply to the estate for payment of debts. And be aware that a testamentary trust will not protect your companion if you become disabled and are unable to care for your animal. A testamentary trust will only take effect after you die.
What does it mean to “fund” your pet trust?
The trustee will not be able to provide for your companion animal without funding. Funding means to transfer money or other property into your trust for the care of your companion. If you choose a testamentary trust, it would be in the animal’s best interest to place enough money in a bank account that is payable on death to the chosen guardian, with the understanding that the money will only be used for the care of the animal until the estate is settled.
How much property do I need to fund my pet trust?
There are many factors to consider in deciding how much money or other property to transfer to your pet trust. These factors include the type of animal, the animal’s life expectancy (especially important in cases of long-lived animals such as parrots), the standard of living you wish to provide for the animal, the need for veterinary treatment, including any out-of-the-ordinary expenses for special-needs animals, and whether the trustee is to be paid for his or her services.
The size of your estate must also be considered. If your estate is relatively large, you could transfer sufficient property so the trustee could make payments primarily from the income and use the principal only for emergencies. On the other hand, if your estate is small, you may wish to transfer a lesser amount and anticipate that the trustee will supplement trust income with principal invasions as necessary.
You should avoid transferring a large amount of money or other property to your pet trust. Such a gift might provoke contention among your heirs and cause them to contest the trust. If the court considers the amount of property left to the trust to be unreasonable, the court can reduce the amount at its discretion.
When do I fund my pet trust?
If you create an inter vivos pet trust, that is, a trust that takes effect while you are alive, you need to fund the trust at the time it is created. You may add additional funds to the trust at a later time or use the techniques discussed below.
If you create a testamentary pet trust, that is, the trust is contained in your will and does not take effect until you die, then you need to fund the trust by a provision in your will or by using one of the techniques discussed below.
How do I fund my pet trust?
If you create your trust while you are alive, you need to transfer money or other property to the trustee. You need to be certain to document the transfer and follow the appropriate steps based on the type of property. For example, if you are transferring money, write a check which shows the payee as, “[name of trustee]”, trustee of the “[name of pet trust]”, “in trust” and then indicate on the memo line that the money is for “contribution to ‘[name of pet trust]’”. If you are transferring land, your attorney should prepare a deed naming the grantee with language such as “[name of trustee]”, in trust, under the terms of the “[name of pet trust]”.
Direct Transfers: If you create the trust in your will, you should include a provision in the property distribution section of your will that directly transfers both your companion animal and the assets to care for your animal to the trust. For example, “I leave [description of animal] and [amount of money and/or description of property] to the trustee, in trust, under the terms of the [name of pet trust] created under Article [number] of this will.”
Pour Over: If you create your pet trust while you are alive, you may add property (a “pour over”) from your estate to the trust when you die.
Life Insurance: You may fund both inter vivos and testamentary pet trusts by naming the trustee of the trust, in trust, as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. This policy may be one you take out just to fund your pet trust or you may have a certain portion of an existing policy payable to your pet trust. This technique is particularly useful if you do not have or anticipate having sufficient property to transfer for your animal’s care. Life insurance “creates” property when you die which you may then use to fund your pet trust. Be sure to consult with your lawyer or life insurance agent about the correct way of naming the trustee of your pet trust as a beneficiary.
Payable On Death Accounts, Annuities, Retirement Plans, and Other Contracts: You may have money in the bank, an annuity, a retirement plan, or other contractual arrangement that permits you to name a person to receive the property after you die. You may use these assets to fund both inter vivos and testamentary trusts by naming the trustee of your pet trust as the recipient of a designated portion or amount of these assets. Consult with your lawyer, banker, or broker about the correct way of naming the trustee of your pet trust as the recipient of these funds.
How do I decide on the individual to name as my companion’s caregiver?
The selection of the caregiver for your animal is extremely important. Here are some of the key considerations:
Dedication to the rights and well-being of all animals.
Willingness to assume the responsibilities associated with caring for your companion.
Ability to provide a stable home for your companion.
Harmonious relationship between the caregiver’s family members and your animal.
Should I name alternate caregivers?
You should name at least one, preferably two or three, alternate caregivers in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to serve as your companion’s caregiver. To avoid having your animal end up without a home, consider naming a sanctuary or no-kill shelter as your last choice.
What types of instructions should I include in my pet trust regarding the care of my animal?
Here are some examples of the types instructions you may wish to provide:
Food and diet.
Medical care, including preferred veterinarian and whether or not you had pet insurance. If you did, provide all policy information.
Compensation, if any, for the caregiver.
Method the caregiver must use to document expenditures for reimbursement.
Whether the trust will pay for liability insurance in case the animal bites or otherwise injures someone.
How the trustee is to monitor caregiver’s services.
How to identify the animal (all nicknames and pet names).
Whether or not the animal should be euthanized if determined by a veterinarian to be suffering without hope of recovery and disposition of the companion’s remains, e.g., burial or cremation, memorials, and where the body or ashes are to be interred.
Who should be the trustee of my pet trust?
The trustee needs to be an individual or corporation that you trust to manage your property prudently and make sure the beneficiary is doing a good job taking care of your animal. A family member or friend may be willing to take on these responsibilities at little or no cost. However, it may be a better choice to select a professional trustee or corporation, which has experience in managing trusts even though a trustee fee will need to be paid.
Should I name alternate trustees?
You should name at least one, preferable two or three, alternate trustees in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to serve as a trustee.
Is it a good idea to check with the trustees before naming them in my pet trust?
Serving as a trustee can be a potentially burdensome position with many responsibilities associated with it. You want to be certain that the person and all alternates you name as your trustees will be willing to do the job when the time comes.
What happens to the property remaining in the trust when my companion animal dies?
You should name a “remainder beneficiary,” that is, someone who will receive any remaining trust property after your animal dies. Note that it is not a good idea to name the caregiver or trustee because then the person has less of an incentive to keep your companion alive. Many animal guardians elect to have any remaining property pass to a charitable organization that assists the same type of animal that was covered by the trust.
What happens if the trust runs out of property before my companion dies?
If no property remains in the trust, the trustee will not be able to pay for your animal’s care. Perhaps the caregiver will continue to do so with his or her own funds. In case the caregiver is unwilling or unable to do so and none of the alternates you named are willing to take the animal without compensation, you should indicate in your pet trust the shelter or sanctuary that you would want your animal to go to. However, try to choose a caregiver and alternates that would not even consider this last resort option.
How do I get a pet trust?
You should consult with an attorney who specializes in estate planning and, if possible, who also has experience with pet trusts. You may find it helpful to give your attorney a copy of this article.
Providing for a surviving companion is the last act of love that you can perform for him or her as part of the ongoing responsibility of companion animal guardianship. Making an informed choice will maximize your animal’s chances of living a long, healthy, happy life without you. Talk with your family to get a sense of how they feel about caring for your animal. Sometimes a friend is a better choice. Having the conversation can spare your companion trauma, abuse or even death. We are their protectors and their voice. Protect them and speak for them.
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.
Imagine sitting in a yard, tethered in place, with nothing to do and no chance to go anywhere. Day after day. Alone. That's what chaining is like. Chaining means confining a dog with a tether attached to a dog house or a stake in the ground. It is one of the common forms of animal cruelty.
Chaining is a widespread practice and - as with many historical injustices - this may cause people to assume it is acceptable. In fact, it is an improper way to confine a dog, with negative effects on the dog's health, temperament and training. A chained dog's life is a lonely, frustrating, miserable existence, without opportunities for even the most basic dog behaviors of running and sniffing in their own fenced yard. Dogs chained for even a few weeks begin to show problems.
Virtually every dog that spends most of the day on the end of a chain will show temperament problems - no surprise to those who understand canine behavior. Chaining, by definition, keeps a dog in solitary confinement, continually thwarting its pack instinct to be with other animals or with its human "pack." The dog is usually chained away from the house and has human contact only at feeding time. Those dogs lucky enough to be brought inside at night are usually deposited in the basement or other areas away from the family living quarters. These dogs are so desperate for human contact that when they are finally released from their chains, they behave in such an unruly manner that they are disciplined and quickly dispatched to another isolated area. Some of the saddest situations are those where the family children run and play in the yard just outside the reach of a chained dog. The dog is desperate to play with the children, but their only exposure to the dog is to be jumped on, so they carefully stay just out of reach - only increasing the dog's frustration.
The most common problem resulting from chaining is hyperactivity, particularly in young dogs. The chained dog is continually frustrated by having their movements restricted. The dog runs to the end of the tether and soon learns that he will be jerked back to the perimeter allowed by the chain. When the dog is finally released, he runs away, jumps on or over anything in his way, and is unresponsive to verbal commands. His behavior frustrates the guardian, who puts the dog back on the chain because the dog doesn't know how to behave! The cycle of suffering continues with the dog becoming even more uncontrollable and the human less willing to deal with the hyperactive behavior.
Fear biting and aggression are other common behaviors of chained dogs. The dog seems to know that he cannot escape danger, so he resorts to displaying aggressive behavior. And such dogs have good reason to be aggressive. Chained dogs in urban backyards often serve as targets for gun-toting, rock-throwing individuals who pass through the alleys. It is not surprising that chained dogs are so quick to bite while also displaying timid, fearful behavior when handled.
A dog that has been chained all day or all week has little interest in learning to come when her guardian calls. The dog is interested in running as fast as she can away from her human and confinement. This hyperactive behavior causes the uneducated person to believe he has a "dumb" dog. The guardian then may give up on even limited interaction with the dog, and either leave the dog tied up in permanent misery or get rid of her. People tend to train and care for dogs in the way they saw their parents perform this task. As a result, many people chain dogs because that's what they've been taught, passing on this cruel practice without any real understanding of canine behavior.
People’s explanations for chaining their dog often include: "I'm keeping him chained until he learns not to run away," or "I'm keeping him chained until he's housebroken," or "I'm keeping him chained until he calms down." In fact, chaining is going to make all of these positive dog behaviors extremely difficult to obtain. Chaining a young dog, for example, forces her to become accustomed to urinating and defecating where she sleeps, conflicting with her natural instinct to eliminate away from her living area. This makes housebreaking very difficult.
When you see a dog house with a circle of dirt around it, you know you are looking at the "home" of a chained dog. The area where the dog can move about becomes hard-packed dirt that carries the stench of animal waste even if the dog’s guardian frequently picks up the fecal matter. The odor of waste draws flies, which bite the dog's ears, often causing serious bloody wounds. Dogs that have been chained for several years often lose portions of their ears, as more tissue is lost each summer from fly bites. Control of internal parasites is more difficult because the chained dog is always close to his own fecal matter and can re-infest himself by stepping in or sniffing his own waste. Also, the dog is forced to have almost continual contact with the ground in the chaining area, which may have a high concentration of parasite larvae.
The final word is that chaining doesn't work - except to serve as a form of confinement that is easy for the human but cruel for the animal. Chained dogs are miserable, and their guardians are often frustrated. Chaining is not an acceptable practice. It's a long-overlooked form of cruelty that must be stopped.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If you have a chained dog, bring your dog inside. Dogs get bored and lonely sitting on the same patch of dirt day after day, year after year. Dogs want to be inside the house with their "pack": you!
Get to know the dog’s guardian if you are concerned about someone else’s chained dog.
Call your local animal control office, humane society, or sheriff’s department if you see a dog who is: consistently without food, water or shelter; sick or infested with parasites; too skinny. A city/county official or humane society investigator is required to investigate the situation if the dog guardian is breaking your community’s animal cruelty law. In most communities, it is considered cruel to leave a dog without food, water or shelter; to not provide medical care to a sick dog; and to keep a dog undernourished. Even if your city's ordinance doesn’t have an animal cruelty section, your state law will have a section that addresses animal cruelty. Your state laws are online: do a keyword search for "Your State Code" or "Your State Statutes." Once you report the situation, don’t be afraid to follow up! Keep calling the authorities until the situation is resolved. If animal control doesn't respond, write a letter describing the situation to your mayor. The dog is counting on you to be his voice.
Offer to buy the chained dog from the family. Just say something like, "I saw your dog and have always wanted a red chow. Would you sell him to me for $50?" You can then place the dog into a good home. Although some chained dogs are aggressive and difficult to approach, many are very friendly and adoptable. Don't offer to buy the dog if you think that the guardian will just go right back out and get another dog.
If you insist on keeping your dog outside, put up a fence. Fences give dogs freedom and make it easier for humans to approach their dogs, since they won't be jumping at the end of a chain. Fences don’t have to cost much if you do some work yourself. You can attach mesh fencing to wooden or metal posts for the cheapest fence. Chain link is easy to install, too. Put up a trolley if you can't put up a fence. A trolley system is cheap and will give the dog more freedom than a chain.
Spaying and neutering will help the dog calm down and stay closer to home. A sterilized dog won’t try to escape to find a mate! Sterilization is healthy for your dog: it reduces his or her risk of getting certain types of cancer. Sterilization won't change your dog's personality. Sterilized dogs still make great guard dogs.
Replace old collars with a new nylon collar. You should be able to easily fit two fingers between the dog's neck and the collar. If you need to add a hole to a collar, hammer a thick nail through it, or heat a pick and poke it through.
Provide food and fresh water every day. Every time you eat, your dog needs to eat. Put a water bowl in a tire or hole in the ground to keep it from tipping. You can attach a water bucket to a wooden doghouse or fence. Stretch wire, a small chain, bungee cord or twine across the bucket and secure on either side.
Provide good shelter. The best shelter is your home. If you feel you must keep your dog outside, you can buy dog igloos pretty cheaply from discount stores, farm supply stores and hardware stores. If you can’t afford to buy a doghouse, you can make one. Doghouses should be large enough for the dog to stand up and turn around in, but small enough to retain body heat. Wooden doghouses should be raised a few inches off of the ground to prevent rotting and keep out rain. Flat, concrete blocks are an easy way to raise a doghouse.
Give toys and rawhides. Dogs like to play, just like kids do. A big rawhide, which you can get at the grocery, will give your dog several hours of fun. Even a knotted towel or ball can be fun for your dog!
Go on walks! Your dog will be so happy to get out of the yard, see new things, and smell new smells! Walking is great exercise for both of you. If your dog is very strong or large, use a harness to make walking easier. If the dog belongs to someone else, offer to walk the dog yourself.
Go to school! Obedience classes can help your dog learn to be a good “inside” dog.
Protect from fleas and worms. Biting fleas make a dog’s life miserable. You can buy flea treatment at grocery, discount and pet supply stores. Most farm supply stores sell wormers and vaccinations at much cheaper prices than vets.
Protect from winter cold. Dogs get cold in the winter just like we do. If it's too cold for you to sleep outside, your dog is going to be cold outside, too. It is inhumane to keep an animal outside during frigid temperatures. If you feel you can’t bring your dog in, fill doghouses with hay or cedar chips to help retain heat. (Cedar chips are better because they are less likely to rot and don't contain mites.) You can get cedar shavings and hay at farm supply, hardware, discount, and home improvement stories. If you use hay and it gets wet and soggy, spread it in the sun to dry. To keep cold air out, the door should be covered with a plastic flap. You can use a car mat, a piece of plastic carpet runner, or even a piece of carpet. Dogs need more food in winter, as keeping warm consumes calories. Check your dog's water bowl several times daily to be sure it isn't frozen.
Provide shade and a kiddie pool in the summer. A doghouse isn’t the same thing as shade. Doghouses get very hot in summer! Bring your dog in during heat waves. Plant trees or create shade by stretching a tarp between two trees. Dogs enjoy cooling off in a pool as much as we do.
Educate people about chaining! Keep educational brochures and flyers in your car.
If you can't find solutions to make your outside dog an inside dog, find your dog a new home. Tethering a dog is inhumane. Do the right thing: bring your dog inside, or find another family that will.
Each year, in the United States, 27 million cats and dogs are born. Around 4 million of these animals are euthanized because homes are unable to be found for them. It is a tragic end to these healthy young lives.
Overpopulation is a problem that results in thousands of animals being killed each month. There are many reasons for this; all are preventable. The answer to this huge problem is simple: reduce the number of animals coming into this world. Through the routine procedure of spaying and neutering dogs and cats, there would be fewer unwanted animals, thus reducing or eliminating the heartbreaking process of euthanizing innocent animals left in our overcrowded shelters.
One group of people cannot personally take the blame for this overpopulation epidemic since there are many contributors to the problem. The responsibility is shared by irresponsible guardians, pet shops, puppy mills and professional and "backyard" breeders. Just one litter of puppies or kittens can be responsible for reproducing thousands more in just a few years.
While there are many breeders and pet shops, the greatest cause of the overpopulation tragedy is individual caretakers who refuse or are afraid to get their companion spayed or neutered. Sometimes parents want their children to experience "the miracle of birth"; other times people let their non-spayed/neutered animals wander, and their companion animals end up mating with other companion animals. There are also people who are genuinely uncomfortable having their companions neutered, "taking away their masculinity," which often results in accidental mating. All of these factors add up to many innocent lives that need to find homes.
PROFESSIONAL & BACKYARD BREEDERS
Another obvious contributor to the overpopulation problem are professional and "backyard" breeders. These people are contributors to a market driven by the same American ideals of buying brand name products because of the associations that go along with them; many purebred animals are bought for the same identification purposes. There is also a tendency for inbreeding in purebred animals because of certain desirable characteristics. This has led to problems, such as deafness, hip dysplasia and epilepsy.
Mixed-breed animals are not the only ones who end up in shelters. A surprising fact is that purebred dogs make up 20 percent to 25 percent of shelter populations. Sometimes a family that just wanted to breed one litter cannot find homes for all the puppies, or the pet store is unable to sell the animal. The bottom line is, each animal that is purchased from a pet store or breeder potentially takes up a home for an animal that could have been adopted from a shelter.
PET STORES & PUPPY MILLS
Puppy mills are facilities that mass breed dogs in almost assembly-line conditions, where dogs are considered nothing more than products. Puppy mills are able to survive because of the demand for purebred animals. The animals are usually kept in squalid conditions, with just enough subsistence to keep them alive until they can be sold at wholesale prices to pet stores. Many of these animals are prone to disease because of the horrid conditions they are raised in and the stress of being shipped over great distances at a very young age.
THE SIMPLE SOLUTION
Spaying and neutering are important steps toward ending companion animal overpopulation. They are simple surgical procedures that are done on the reproductive organs of female and male animals. The procedure eliminates the ability of the animal to reproduce and, in the long term, can prevent many difficulties, such as tumors or bacterial infections that can occur in older animals.
Animals should never be purchased from puppy mills, backyard breeders and pet shops. Adopt - never shop.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Adopt animals from local animal care facilities, rescue groups and shelters instead of purchasing them from breeders or pet stores.
Have your companions spayed or neutered.
Educate your community, friends and family about companion-animal overpopulation.
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.
Declawing increases the risk of long-term or persistent pain, manifesting as unwanted behaviors such as inappropriate elimination (soiling/urinating outside of the litter box) and aggression/biting.
Declaw surgery (onychectomy) is illegal in many countries but is still a surprisingly common practice in some. It is performed electively to stop cats from damaging furniture, or as a means of avoiding scratches. Side effects of the surgery include lameness, chewing of toes and infection. Long-term health effects can be even more devastating.
According to research published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, declawing increases the risk of long-term or persistent pain, manifesting as unwanted behaviors such as inappropriate elimination (soiling/urinating outside of the litter box) and aggression/biting. This is not only detrimental to the cat (pain is a major welfare issue and these behaviors are common reasons for relinquishment of cats to shelters), but also has health implications for their human companions as cat bites can be very serious.
Inappropriate toileting, biting, aggression and overgrooming occurs significantly more often in declawed cats than non-declawed cats. A declawed cat is also almost 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with back pain than a non-declawed cat (potentially due to shortening of the declawed limb and altered gait, and/or chronic pain at the site of the surgery causing compensatory weight shift to the pelvic limbs).
The surgical guideline for performing declawing, as recommended by Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, is to remove the entire third phalanx (P3), which is the most distal bone of the toe. Despite this, P3 fragments are found in 63% of declawed cats – reflecting poor or inappropriate surgical technique. While the occurrence of back pain and abnormal behaviors is increased in declawed cats, even optimal surgical technique does not eliminate the risks. The removal of the distal phalanges forces the cat to bear weight on the soft cartilaginous ends of the middle phalanges (P2) that were previously shielded within joint spaces. Pain in these declawed phalanges prompts cats to choose a soft surface, such as carpet, in preference to the gravel-type substrate in the litter box. Additionally, declawed cats may react to being touched by resorting to biting as they have few or no claws left to defend themselves.
Scientific evidence proves that declawing is more detrimental to our feline patients than originally thought. Veterinarians should reconsider declawing cats. The procedure is unethical and inhumane.
On Veterans Day, we remember all Americans who serve in the military, past and present. It is also a day to remember the dogs of war. We must not forget their acts of duty and heroism. These are just five of the dogs who bravely served their country.
Chips, a Collie–German Shepherd–Siberian Husky mix, was the most decorated dog of World War II. This canine hero saw action in Germany, France, North Africa, and Sicily. Among his heroic exploits are his assault on an Italian machine-gun nest and his help in capturing 10 enemy Italian soldiers. For his actions, Chips was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Purple Heart, and the Silver Star. Sadly, the commendations were revoked due to military policy at the time that did not allow such recognition for an animal. This brave canine soldier returned to his home in Pleasantville, N.Y., in 1945.
Kaiser was a German Shepard who served in Vietnam with his handler Marine Lance Cpl. Alfredo Salazar. Kaiser and Salazar did more than 30 combat patrols and participated in 12 major operations together. Kaiser was killed in action in 1966, while on a search-and-destroy mission with “D” Company. They were on patrol and were ambushed by enemy forces. Kaiser was hit in the initial barrage and died while trying to lick Salazar’s hand. Kaiser was the first war dog to be killed in action during the Vietnam War.
On December 4, 1966, Nemo, a German Shepard, and Airman 2nd Class Bob Thorneburg were on patrol at a cemetery near the company’s airbase in Vietnam when the two came under enemy fire. Nemo took a round to his eye, and Throneburg was shot in the shoulder after killing two Viet Cong guerillas. Despite his wound, Nemo attacked the enemy, giving Throneburg the precious minutes he needed to call in reinforcements. After Throneburg fell unconscious, Nemo crawled on top of his fallen handler’s body to protect him from harm. The dog would not let anyone touch Airman Thorneburg. It took a veterinarian to remove Nemo. Both Nemo and Throneburg recovered from their battle wounds. Nemo was later given a permanent retirement kennel. He died in December 1972. He was 11-years-old.
Not all dogs of war are big or male. Smokey was a female Yorkshire Terrier who saw action in the Pacific during World War II. Smokey was initially found in February 1944, abandoned in a foxhole in the jungles of New Guinea. This little fighter was included in a dozen combat missions and survived more than 150 air raids. Like famous World War I veterans Rags and Stubby, Smoky used her sharp sense of hearing to warn of incoming artillery shells. One of Smokey’s most famous exploits was at a crucial airstrip on the Philippine Island of Luzon. Smokey bravely pulled a telegraph wire through a narrow 70-foot pipe. Her actions saved construction time and kept workers and engineers safe from enemy fire. When not in harm’s way, Smoky entertained the troops with a variety of tricks and antics. Smokey lived to be 14-years-old. She passed away on February 21, 1957. Smokey’s adoptive guardian, William A. Wynne, chronicled her life in a lovingly written biography of the tiny heroine, “Yorkie Doodle Dandy”.
Probably the most famous war dog, this American Pit Bull Terrier was the only dog to be given the rank of sergeant. Found as a stray on the Yale campus in 1917, Stubby was smuggled to France during World War I by his adoptive guardian, Cpl. John Robert Conroy. Stubby’s service record includes participating in 17 battles, four offenses, and improving troop morale. He also used his keen senses to warn his unit of poison-gas attacks, incoming artillery fire, and to locate downed soldiers on the battlefield; Stubby even captured a German spy lurking in the trenches. The Pit Bull-centric website, StubbyDog.org, is named after him, as is the Stubby Award for Canine Heroism. Stubby died in his guardian’s arms in 1926.
Rags, a small shaggy mixed-breed, was found on on the streets on Bastille Day of 1918 by Private James Donovan, a Signal Corps specialist with the American 1st Infantry. Private Donovan stumbled over what appeared to be a pile of rags, until the rags gave a sad whimper and a small bark. Within two weeks, both soldier and dog were sent off to the 2nd Battle of the Marne. Donovan's job was to string communications wire. When the wires were ripped and shellfire was still incoming, the only way to get messages through was by runner. But runners were frequently killed or wounded. Donovan realized that a little dog could do the job and survive. Rags soon learned to take messages towards the sound of the American guns. Near the end of the war, Donovan and Rags were in the Argonne Forest, bound in by a thick fog. Rags was sent back with a message. He had just set off when the Germans began firing mustard gas shells. Rags was mildly gassed and hit in the paw with a splinter from a concussion shell. His right ear was badly mangled by this same shell and a needle-like sliver of shell fragment was embedded under his right eye. An American infantryman found him dazed and confused and delivered both the wounded little dog and the message. Donovan had also been gassed, but far more severely. He was carried back to the rear and reunited with his dog. Rags had the shell splinters removed from his paw, but he would remain blind in his right eye and deaf in his right ear for the rest of his life. Donovan was not as fortunate. He died in 1919 from the lingering effects of the mustard gas. Rags was awarded a special ribbon recognizing his wartime service and achievements. His biography took its place among other official records of the Great War. Rags joined his beloved Private Donovan on March 22, 1936 at the remarkable age of twenty years old.
Fragile tropical fish, born to dwell in the majestic seas and forage among brilliantly colored coral reefs, suffer miserably when forced to spend their lives enclosed in glass aquariums. Robbed of their natural habitat, denied the space to roam, they must swim and reswim the same empty cubic inches.
The popularity of keeping tropical fish has created a virtually unregulated industry based on catching and breeding as many fish as possible, with little regard for the fish themselves.
In the Philippines, the source of most saltwater fish sold in the U.S., many fish divers collect their prey by squirting cyanide or other poisons into the coral reefs where fish live. Meant to stun them so that they will drift out of the reef for easy collection, the cyanide kills as many as half of the fish on the spot. Many others die from cyanide residue after being purchased. The poison also kills the live coral where the fish live, which can take thousands of years to grow back.
Most of the freshwater fish sold in the U.S. are easier to breed than their saltwater cousins and are bred on "fish farms." These breeding centers, seeking new market niches, create fish breeds that would never occur in nature. Treating fish as ornaments instead of as live animals, some fish breeders "paint" fish by injecting fluorescent dye into their bodies to make them more attractive to buyers.
Fish are wonderful creatures with individual personalities and attributes that most people know little about. They communicate with each other, form bonds, and grieve when their companions die. Fish communicate with one another through a range of low-frequency sounds from buzzes and clicks to yelps and sobs. The sounds, audible to humans only with special instruments, communicate emotional states such as courtship, alarm, or submission. Sadly, the pumps and filters necessary in many home aquariums can interfere with this communication. "At the least, we're disrupting their communication; at the worst, we're driving them bonkers," says ichthyologist Phillip Lobel.
Most fish enjoy companionship and develop special relationships with each other. One South African publication documented the relationship between Blackie, a goldfish with a deformity that made it nearly impossible for him to swim, and Big Red, the larger fish who shared his tank. Big Red daily put Blackie on his back to swim him around, and when they were fed, Big Red swam Blackie to the surface, where they ate together.
Fish enjoy tactile stimulation in their relationships and often gently rub against each other. Divers tell of gaining the friendship of fish by lightly scratching their foreheads they've found that the fish then recognize and regularly approach them.
Don't support the pet fish trade by purchasing fish. If you must have fish, adopt - never shop.
If You Already Have a Fish
If you already have fish, biologists say there is no safe way to return them to their natural environment because of the difficulty in locating such a habitat (often in a far-off country) and the possibility of introducing disease to the other fish there. However, you can make their lives easier by duplicating their natural environment as closely as possible. While no confined fish can live a natural life, the following tips will help make them as happy as possible.
The more space that fish have, the happier and healthier they will be. Allow a minimum of 12 square inches of water surface per inch of fish.
Treat tap water properly before putting it in the aquarium. Even trace amounts of chlorine can cause breathing difficulties, nervous spasms, or even death. The type of chemicals you should use depends on your area's water; consult with a local tropical fish supply store to determine the proper treatment.
Before putting the fish into the aquarium, let the filter and pump run for two weeks to allow bacterial cycling and other environmental adjustments.
Different types of fish require different pH levels. Check the pH level daily for the first month and weekly thereafter.
A filter is necessary to remove waste particles and noxious chemicals from the water. An air pump will provide oxygen.
Fish need a constant temperature, usually 68 to 74 degrees. A 74-degree temperature is right for most fish, but you should check with a fish supply store for information specific to your fish. An automatic aquarium heater will monitor the water temperature and turn the heater on or off as needed. Attaching a small thermometer to the tank will tell you if the heater is functioning properly.
Clean the tank regularly, about two to three times a week. The natural waste of fish emits ammonia, which can accumulate to toxic levels. Also be sure to clean the glass well with a pad or a brush so that algae don't grow there.
Never empty the tank all at once; fish are most comfortable with water they are used to, even if it is dirty. When cleaning the tank, change only 10 to 25 percent of the water at a time.
Plants provide oxygen, shelter, and hiding places, and fish enjoy snacking on them as well. Provide live plants, not plastic ones.
Create places for your fish to hide and explore. Ceramic objects, natural rock, and plants all work well. Make sure that all objects are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before putting them in the tank. Do not use metal objects, as they will rust.
Be aware of the environment outside the aquarium. Suddenly switching on a bright light in a dark room can startle fish, and vibrations from a television or a stereo can alarm and stress them. One study found that fish repeatedly exposed to loud music can develop fatal liver injury.
Keep all harmful chemicals away from the aquarium's vicinity. Cigarette smoke, paint fumes, and aerosol sprays can be toxic if they are absorbed into the aquarium water.
Place the aquarium in a spot where temperature and light are constant and controllable. Tropical fish supply stores may be able to advise you on the best degree of light for your fish to live in. Remember that direct sunlight and drafts from nearby doors or windows may change the water temperature, and fumes from a nearby kitchen or workshop may injure your fish.
Don't overfeed; uneaten food and waste material are broken down into ammonia and nitrites, which are toxic. One expert recommends sprinkling in only as much food as your fish can eat in 30 seconds.
If your fish seems sick or lethargic, take him or her to a vet. Fish can be medicated, anesthetized, given shots, and operated on, just like other animals. Bring along a separate sample of the tank water when you go.
Most fish enjoy companionship. If you have a single fish, check with friends and neighbors to find another loner whom you may be able to adopt (but don't support the fish trade by going to a dealer).
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.
Your dog loves to go for walks. He stops at every tree, shrub and weed to “read the news” of his neighborhood. But these happy times can be dangerous to your friend. Sadly, chemically treated lawns are a reality of suburban life and many animal guardians do not realize how toxic a treated lawn can be. Every time your dog sets foot on a treated lawn, whether freshly sprayed or dry, he or she is being exposed to environmental toxins like pesticides and herbicides.
Most dogs love a carpet of thick green grass. They smell it, run around on it, roll on it and dig at it. We launder our clothes and bathe regularly, but dogs don’t shower every morning or change their fur and footpads every day. So, whatever collects on their feet or coat stays there until the next time you give them a bath. Every time your dog licks his paws or stomach - anywhere that touched a treated lawn - he is ingesting chemical residue. As he smelled the lawn, he inhaled it and as the chemicals settled in his fur, they were absorbed through his skin. When your dog comes inside, the chemicals are deposited on multiple surfaces in your home, including carpeting, rugs, furniture and your dog’s bedding. When your dog's outdoor environment has been doused in potentially toxic chemicals, it is easy to see how normal canine behavior can turn to deadly risk.
It is also clear that there is chemical drift. Toxic chemicals are commonly detected in grass residue from untreated lawns. This means that even if you don't use lawn care products or a service, your dog could still be at risk from chemicals that blow into your yard from a nearby property.
If you think your dog has rolled on chemically treated grass, bathe her as soon as possible. If you've walked your dog in a suspect grassy area, giving her a foot soak as soon as you get home should flush away any chemical residue that may be clinging to her feet and lower legs. If your dog is low to the ground, wash her belly, chest and tail too.
Contrary to what lawn care companies would like you to believe, herbicides (weed killers) and other pesticides are not "magic bullets" or programmed drones that kill only targeted species. Herbicides and pesticides are broad-spectrum biocides that by their very nature can harm all organisms, including homeowners, their families, neighbors, animals, both wild and domestic, and all other forms of life. The pesticide industry downplays this by claiming their chemicals are heavily diluted, but doesn't mention that the toxins are still extremely dangerous, even in small amounts. The industry is also unwilling to mention all of the chemicals in their mixtures. Many components are classified as "inert", but inert does not mean inactive. These components are more than just fillers or solvents, but companies are not required to list inert components on product labels, thus leaving the public unaware of them. Some, such as benzene and xylene, are more toxic than the chemicals actually listed.
Active ingredients in lawn care products can be nerve-gas type insecticides and artificial hormones, some of which the federal government has even prohibited from use on its own properties. Also among the listed active chemicals are the components of defoliants like Agent Orange. This now infamous defoliant was used during the Vietnam War to destroy forest cover for the enemy and also their food crops. Agent Orange has since been revealed to cause a wide range of serious health issues, including rashes, psychological problems, birth defects and cancer. During WWII, a pesticide was developed known as 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, or "2,4-D. This chemical was one of two active ingredients in Agent Orange. Yet, 2,4-D is still used on athletic fields, golf courses, landscaping, timberland, right-of-ways and various crops. Despite decades of scientific studies associating 2,4-D with cancer in humans and animals, the chemical continues to be one of the top-three pesticides sold in the U.S. More recent studies have linked the chemical to hormone disruption that increases the risk of birth defects and neurologic damage in children.
Many pesticides are not safe even when dry. The water in lawn care solutions may evaporate, but most pesticides remain and continue to release often odorless and invisible toxic vapors. In areas where lawn spraying is common, these vapors accumulate as toxic smog throughout the entire season. Exposure to pesticides is widespread. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a study of 9,282 people nationwide, found pesticides in 100% of the people who had both blood and urine tested. The average person carried 13 of 23 pesticides tested. We do not have similar data for companion animals, but it is easy to imagine a similar result.
Common groups of lawn pesticides and their effects on animal health include:
Organophosphates: Organophosphate compounds include some of the most toxic chemicals used in agriculture. Fat-soluble and easily transmitted throughout the body, this group of pesticides is defined by their inhibition of the enzyme cholinesterase. Examples of this class of chemicals are Chloryprifos and Diazinon. Poisoning symptoms in animals include excessive salivation, "wet" respiratory sounds (because of increased bronchial secretions), vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, slow heart rates and miosis (pinpoint pupils). In serious cases, respiratory failure and death can occur.
Carbamates: Carbamates cause a reaction similar to organophosphates because they inhibit the same enzyme pathway. This group includes the commonly used insecticide carbamyl. Exposure causes convulsions, dizziness, labored breathing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, unconsciousness, muscle cramps, and excessive salivation. Toxicity of these chemicals depends on the path of exposure.
Phenoxy: Phenoxy and benzoic acid herbicides like 2,4 D, MCPP, and MCPA affect the central nervous system. Poisoning symptoms include involuntary twitching, loss of sensation, vomiting, stomach pains, diarrhea, weakness, fatigue, dermatitis, and aching muscles. Dogs and cats that don’t excrete acids as efficiently are especially sensitive to this chemical. An EPA-funded study found that 2,4-D is easily tracked indoors, exposing children and animals at levels ten times higher than pre-application levels. Another study showed that exposure to phenoxy-treated lawns and gardens appeared to dramatically increase the risk of bladder cancer in Scottish Terriers.
Pyrethroids: Pyrethroids are listed as possible carcinogens by the US EPA and affect the central and peripheral nervous systems. Commonly used chemicals like Permethrin and Resmethrin are in this group. Poisoning symptoms include muscle tremors, hyperexcitability, depression, ataxia, vomiting, seizures, anorexia, and death. Exposure to Resmethrin caused increased thyroid and liver weight in adult dogs, and exposure to these chemicals is linked to harm in neurological development.
Protecting Your Animal from Toxic Pesticides
Don't apply pesticides to your yard, and if you use a lawn care service, don't allow them to use pesticides. Weed killers are herbicides and no herbicides are safe. Also avoid lawn care and other gardening products that contain insect growth regulators (IGRs).
If you live in a townhouse or community that applies chemicals to common areas, detox a patch of grass in your backyard by watering the chemicals down into the soil. If you can’t keep your animal on a leash (and on the sidewalk) when walking, then bathe, bathe, bathe.
Freshly treated lawns are the most toxic. Twenty-one states have adopted laws requiring notification of lawn, turf and ornamental pesticide applications by hired applicators. They must post signs on treated lawns to let neighbors and passersby know that chemicals have recently been used.
There are alternatives. You can still have a beautiful lawn without the use of dangerous chemicals. Optimize growing conditions in your lawn by following lawn care practices that will establish a healthy, dense lawn, one that will be naturally resistant to weeds, insects and diseases.
Improve the Soil
Test - The first step is to test the soil's pH. It should read between 6.5 and 7.0, which is slightly acidic. Soil that is too acidic will need a sprinkling of lime. Sulfur can be added to soil that is not acidic enough. You can buy a pH tester for $40 - $60 or have your soil tested. Call your extension office. They will often provide soil testing as a free service.
Aerate - Lawns grow best in loamy soils that have a mix of clay, silt and sand. Too much clay in the soil mix can compact the soil and prevent air and nutrient flow. Compacted soil may need aeration, a process of lifting small plugs of turf to create air spaces. For best results, rent an aerator or hire a lawn service to do the job. Aeration is best done before top dressing and fertilizing.
Add organic matter - Organic matter, such as compost and grass clippings, will benefit any type of soil. It lightens soil heavy in clay and builds humus in sandy soils to help retain water and nutrients. Use a mulching lawn mower that chops the grass clippings and disperses them as you mow. Grass clippings are high in nitrogen.
Choose a locally adapted grass - Grasses vary by the type of climate they prefer, the amount of water and nutrients they require, their shade tolerance and the degree of wear they can withstand. Ask your local garden center to recommend the grass best adapted to your area.
Mow often, but do not cut too short - Giving your lawn a "Marine cut" is not doing it a favor. Surface roots become exposed, the soil dries out faster and surface aeration is reduced. As a general rule, don't cut off more than one-third of the grass at any one time. Most turf grass species are healthiest when kept between 2.5” and 3.5" tall. When the lawn is finished growing for the season, cut it a bit shorter to about 2". This will minimize the risk of mold buildup during winter.
Water deeply but not too often - Thorough watering encourages your lawn to develop a deep root system that makes it hardier and more drought-resistant. Let your lawn dry out before watering. As a rule of thumb, the color should dull and footprints should stay compressed for more than a few seconds. When watering, put a cup in the sprinkler zone. The cup should collect at least one inch (2.5cm) of water. Most healthy lawns require only 1" of water per week. The best time to water is early morning, when less water will be lost to evaporation. Ideally, it is better to water the first half-inch or so, then wait for an hour or two before watering the second half-inch.
Control thatch build-up - Thatch is the accumulation of above-soil runners, propagated by the grass. This layer should be about 1/2" (1.25cm) on a healthy lawn, and kept in balance by natural decomposition, earthworms and microorganisms. Too much thatch prevents water and nutrients from reaching the grass roots. However, before resorting to renting a dethatcher, effort should be made to improve aeration. Aeration brings microorganisms to the surface that will then eat most of the thatch. If you don't aerate, the roots stay near the surface, contributing to thatch buildup. When you aerate once a year, it breaks down the thatch, allowing the roots to grow deeper in the soil. This leads to thicker grass, which naturally smothers weeds. While a dethatcher will reduce thatch buildup, be careful not to strip and thin the grass so much that it reduces competition between the grass and weeds, allowing the weeds easier germination. You can also reduce thatch with a steel rake.
The dangers outside your door are not always obvious. Stay informed and share this information with friends and family. Being an animal advocate can be as simple as spreading the word about an issue like lawn care toxicity. You are your companion’s guardian. Protect them and use your voice to help protect them all.
While some wildlife organizations continue to claim that feral cats threaten wildlife species, they fail to take into account that cats are a part of our natural landscape. Science shows that attempts to remove cats could mean dire consequences for the rest of the ecosystem.
There have been feral cats since the dawn of civilization—and that is unlikely ever to change. Cats continue to be a natural part of our environment. They began their unique relationship with humans 10,000 to 12,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, and followed Europeans to the Americas. But it wasn’t until 60 years ago, with the growing availability of canned pet foods, spay/neuter techniques, and commercial cat litters, that keeping cats indoors was even considered possible—or desirable.
Cats play a complex role in local ecosystems; removing them is a major risk. Maintaining ecological balance is much more complicated than predator vs. prey. Although opponents of Trap-Neuter-Return claim that removing cats would “save” other species, this has never borne out in the instances where cats have been removed. These extermination programs result in the cruel, extreme, and prolonged targeting of cats.
A cat eradication effort on Amsterdam Island in the Indian Ocean found that killing all the cats resulted in a spike in the rat and mouse population, which then preyed on the bird population. Another cat eradication effort on Macquarie Island in the Pacific Ocean saw the rabbit population spike wildly once the cats were gone. Without cats to keep the rabbits in check, local vegetation was devastated by a rabbit feeding frenzy, and other animal species were then threatened by the loss of food and habitat.
Killing cats will not save wildlife. Studies have shown cats to be mainly scavengers, not hunters, feeding mostly on garbage and scraps. When they do hunt, cats prefer rodents and other burrowing animals. Studies of samples from the diets of outdoor cats confirm that common mammals appear three times more often than birds. Additionally, scientists who study predation have shown in mathematical models that when cats, rats, and birds coexist, they find a balance. But when cats are removed, rat populations soar and wipe out the birds completely.
Some wildlife organizations and media outlets continue to quote scientific studies that have been proven inaccurate. A careful analysis of the science concludes there is no strong support for the viewpoint that cats are a serious threat to wildlife.
Although human civilization and domestic cats co-evolved side by side, the feral cat population was not created by humans. Cats have lived outdoors for a long time. In the thousands of years that cats have lived alongside people, indoor-only cats have only become common in the last 50 or 60 years—a negligible amount of time on an evolutionary scale. They are not new to the environment and they didn’t simply originate from lost companion animals or negligent animal guardians. Instead, they have a place in the natural landscape.
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.
The flea has been around for about 40 million years. It is such a tenacious pest because it reproduces explosively. One female flea can lay more than 800 eggs in her six-week lifetime. An egg can become an adult flea in less than three weeks, ready to reproduce. Within only 30 days, just 10 fleas can produce 250,000 children and grandchildren.
The flea's diet consists of blood - animal or human, the flea doesn't care. Each flea feeds about once every hour, so an animal with only 25 fleas could be bitten as much as 600 times in one day.
Besides disease - fleas and the rats they lived on transmitted the bubonic plague, or Black Death, to humans in the 14th century, wiping out a quarter of the European population. Fleas also carry other parasites, such as tapeworms.
As little as one adult flea on a dog or cat means a major infestation. Only 5% of the flea population is in the adult stage. The other 95% consists of pupae, larvae, and eggs - that "salt" in the salt and pepper residue visible in a companion animal's bedding or after combing. The "pepper" is flea excrement.
An excess of fleas can make your companion animal anemic. The constant scratching can cause hair loss. Allergies to fleas can cause hot spots. Animals can also develop large open, oozing wounds due to flea bites. All of which is dangerous to a companion animal's health and expensive to treat.
RIDDING A COMPANION ANIMAL OF FLEAS & TICKS
Fleas and ticks are at their worst in the summer. Fortunately, prevention and treatment is fairly simple. Companion animals should be checked at least once a week for ticks, fleas, or skin irritations that could lead to serious problems.
If a tick is discovered, don't twist it out with thumb and forefinger or the head will break off and stay under the skin to do further damage. To remove it, use a pair of tweezers as close to the skin as possible.
The fine teeth of a flea comb will pull most of the adults and eggs off a companion animal. Combing your animal regularly will quickly determine whether or not fleas are present (and incidentally it will help you and your companion animal form a stronger bond).
Flea shampoos are an effective means for killing fleas on a companion animal, but they are species specific. (Never use a shampoo meant for dogs on cats.) Follow the instructions carefully. For best results, start lathering at the neck and work back to the tail. Be sure to soap the tail, legs, and underbelly completely. When done, rinse your companion animal as thoroughly as possible and towel dry.
Flea shampoos are better than flea powders or sprays or dips, since when properly rinsed no flea toxins remain to make your companion animal ill.
A flea collar may help kill fleas, but it's little more than a poison strap worn by a companion animal. Also, its effectiveness against fleas deteriorates over time and it must be changed regularly.
After treatment, prevention is necessary. Even immediate killing of grown fleas is ineffective because flea eggs or pupae can stay "on hold" for months, growing to maturity when conditions for them "improve." You must get rid of them now, both inside and, if your animals are indoor/outdoor, outside as well.
FLEAS INSIDE THE HOUSE
Vacuum regularly. Because fleas thrive on the contents of the vacuum cleaner bag, sprinkle some flea powder on the floor or carpet and vacuum that up too. Dispose of the bag after vacuuming.
Flea bomb every room in the house. Use a flea bomb that contains an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR), which confuses flea larvae so they never grow to be adults. Look for the chemical name Precor. IGRs prevent flea larvae from reaching the pupae stage in your carpet for up to seven months, and are non-toxic to animals and humans. Follow the instructions on the can carefully.
Once the house and companion animals are clean, keep fleas away through preventative medicines available at your veterinarian's office. Some medicines offer a six-month regimen for your animal, of one pill or liquid supplement a month, that inhibits the growth of flea larvae into adults. Some can be applied directly to the skin on the back of the neck for cats, between the shoulder blades (and, for larger dogs, on the top of the rump) for dogs. In a day or so, it spreads over the whole body, then dries to form a matrix over the animal. It will kill 98% to 100% of the adult fleas within 24 hours.
FLEAS OUTSIDE THE HOUSE
Fleas and ticks love tall grass so mow and edge the yard well to eliminate this perfect breeding ground.
Recently, an all-natural outdoor flea control spray was developed that kills fleas within 24 hours and keeps working up to a month. The secret ingredient is beneficial nematodes, micro-organisms that prey on pre-adult fleas. They're so safe, children and companion animals can play in a yard that's just been sprayed with them. They exist only until they run out of prey. When all the fleas in the yard have been eliminated, the beneficial nematodes cease to work and biodegrade. It's important to spray with nematodes monthly, and be sure to keep them moist (not wet).
Another remedy is diatomaceous earth, a natural product consisting of fossilized one-celled plants called diatoms. While harmless to animals, this talc-like material scratches the waxy "skin" of insects, causing dehydration and death. Buy it from an organic gardening supply - do not get the diatomaceous earth that is sold for swimming pool filters - and apply as a dust all over your yard about once every couple of weeks. You can also use it inside the house.
If you spray your yard with chemicals, read the instructions carefully. What's heavily toxic to fleas will kill even beneficial insects, and may harm companion animals or family if exposed. Spray outside at dusk or later, to avoid killing bees and other beneficial insects. Keep the spray below knee-level, because fleas can jump only nine inches high. When you're through spraying, wash out your equipment thoroughly. Wash your hands and change your clothes if they have become wet in the process. Keep your companion animals off the lawn for about 24 hours or at least until it has dried. Take care in how you dispose of the leftover bottles and cartons.
STOPPING THE CYCLE
The above will only take care of the immediate problem. You must break the larval/flea cycle. To kill any dormant eggs or larvae, repeat the above steps in about two weeks. From then on, occasional maintenance should ensure a summer free of fleas for companion animals.
It is estimated that two million dogs and cats are killed each year in the fur trade. Dog and cat breeders operate primarily in China and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Breeders sell cat and dog furs to companies in Europe, who incorporate the fur and skin of the animals into clothing and products such as cat toys or stuffed animals. Products consisting partially or wholly of cat and dog fur are then sold to buyers in Europe, America and elsewhere in the world.
Businesses keep small or large groups of cats and dogs in breeding farms. Several such breeding farms are located in Northern China, where the fur of the animals grows thicker in the cold weather. These facilities hold up to 70 cats, or 5 to 300 dogs. Often, breeders are not businesses as such, but a family that keeps a few dogs and cats. They keep these animals outside, so that their coat grows thicker. At the beginning of the winter, they slaughter the animals and sell the pelts to fur traders. Breeders value short-haired cats and German shepherd dogs in particular.
As with other animals in the fur industry, dogs and cats are bred in dank facilities with inadequate food and water, under conditions that optimize the thickness and length of their fur, but weaken and sicken them in time for slaughter.
To kill a dog, the butcher ties a metal wire around its neck, then stabs the dog in the groin area. The butcher then skins the dog, sometimes while the dog still lives. Butchers hang cats to kill them. Sometimes, they hang the cats, then pour water into their open mouths until the cats drown.
Often, cats and dogs are sold in open air markets. Breeders sell dog flesh to restaurants or food operations. Locals then use the cat and dog fur themselves, or sell to dealers in Europe. There, middlemen sell fur in auction houses, or incorporate cat and dog fur into European products. European dealers also use cat and dog skin.
What You Can Do:
Unsuspecting consumers in the United States may well purchase fur items consisting of cat and dog fur. Often, pseudonyms will be used to describe cat and dog fur in products. In addition, cat and dog fur is difficult to discern from other types of fur, making it difficult for the customer to select a product that does not consist of fur from either of these animals.
Cat and dogs are beloved animals in the United States, and the chance that fur products may consist of cat and dog fur should be reason enough to dissuade people from purchasing any and all fur or fur-trimmed products.
Please write your Congressional Representative.
The conditions that cats and dogs in the fur trade endure, however, differ little from those suffered by millions of other animals. Minks, raccoons, foxes, and other species live in horrible conditions when bred for their fur. Though these animals are not companion animals like dogs and cats, the humiliation they bear is the same, and their lives should be equally valued.
Americans and others can better understand the terrible conditions endured by all animals in the fur trade by acknowledging the humiliation sustained by cats and dogs. Refrain from purchasing fur products or animal based products of any kind.
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.
Wanton cruelty is inflicted on thousands of dogs by the racing industry each year. Since 2008, nearly 1,000 racing greyhounds have died and 12,000 have suffered injuries - including broken legs, crushed skulls, broken necks, paralysis, seizures, and death by electrocution. And these are just the reported injuries and deaths. The vast majority of the 80,000 greyhounds born into dog racing can't even be accounted for.
Thirty-nine states have already made the humane decision to ban greyhound racing, but this cruel sport continues to exploit greyhounds despite public outcry and overwhelming financial losses from a dying industry.
Racing greyhounds are kept in warehouse-style kennel compounds, in rows of stacked cages for twenty or more hours each day. They are fed a diet based on cheap, diseased meat, and are routinely deprived of basic veterinary care. They are often dosed with dangerous, illegal drugs.
A recently released national report on greyhound racing in the United States chronicled thousands of greyhound injuries and hundreds of greyhound deaths in the seven states where greyhound tracks still operate. The 80-page report, compiled by GREY2K USA and the ASPCA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), presented official data and dozens of photographs from nearly 600 sources from 2008 to the present.
11,722 greyhound injuries were documented. Injuries included more than 3,000 dogs that suffered broken legs and other injuries such as crushed skulls, broken backs, paralysis and electrocutions.
909 racing greyhound deaths were reported. The true number of deaths is likely higher as there are no verifiable statistics on the ultimate fate of greyhounds who survive racing but are disposed of each year when injured or no longer competitive.
27 cases of greyhound cruelty and neglect were uncovered. This figure captures the number of dogs who were starved to death, denied veterinary care, or endured poor track kennel conditions. Additionally, sixteen racing greyhounds tested positive for cocaine.
2,200 state disciplinary rulings have been issued since 2008. Racing Commissions have a history of regulatory failures and industry attempts at self-regulating have proven to be ineffective.
Since 1991, forty-one dog tracks have closed or ended live racing, and the greyhound industry has seen a steady financial decline. Over the past decade, gambling on dog racing and greyhound breeding has declined by 66 percent and 57 percent, respectively. Government revenue from dog racing has dropped by 79 percent since 2001. As profits have declined, cost-cutting attempts - like feeding greyhounds inexpensive “4-D” meat from diseased animals - have resulted in poor track kennel conditions as well.
Greyhound tracks now operate in only seven states, but some of these states have laws that are propping up this dying industry by requiring gambling facilities to also operate greyhound tracks. This forced union continues to subsidize a cruel industry that drains millions of dollars from state governments.
Greyhound racing is illegal in the vast majority of the country. It's time to put an end to it once and for all.
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.
Rats are found naturally throughout the world. They originated in Asia and migrated around the globe as accidental passengers on human voyages. They are one of the most widely spread and adaptable animals on the planet.
The two most common species are the black rat and the brown rat. They are generally much larger than mice. Rats usually live in small, dark places. They are scavenger animals and omnivores, feeding on plant and animal matter.
Rats are often viewed as pests in both urban and rural areas, but they are an important part of the ecosystem, including a source of food for many birds, reptiles and mammals.
Rats can carry and spread diseases, though they rarely spread diseases to humans. When they do, it is usually caused by infected fleas living on the rats.
Rats are fast breeders and give birth to large litters. They are able to reproduce at only 5 weeks of age. Mother rats give birth to 6 and 10 babies after a gestation period of 22 days.
Rats were first bred as “pets” in the 1800s. Just like dogs, rats are supplied to pet stores by mass breeders, who aggravate the problem of these species’ overpopulation and the resulting abandonment and abuse. Shipped to distributors in small, cramped containers that are breeding grounds for parasites and viral and bacterial infections, rats often reach the pet store ill, malnourished, and/or pregnant. Small animals represent a small profit for pet stores, and their deaths represent a minor loss. Their living conditions in pet stores generally reflect this.
Prospective guardians of rats should keep in mind that they may require veterinary treatment and that this can be as expensive for them as it is for cats or dogs. Further, most domestic rats carry Mycoplasma pulmonis, which can develop into active respiratory illness and pneumonia if it is triggered by stress or illness.
Rats are social but territorial animals. A lone, caged rat will languish, but two or more crowded together without adequate space may fight. A 15-gallon aquarium or a wire enclosure of equivalent size is a minimum requirement for two animals, and you should never mix males and females or different species.
If you are determined to have rats, adopt – don't buy. Adoption is a far better choice than supporting a pet store. Like all other companion animals, rats are often abandoned to local humane societies and animal shelters.
You will need to provide rats with a habitat with the following specifications:
Bedding material at least 1-inch thick but no cedar or pine shavings, as these are toxic to small animals
No direct sunlight or drafts
Fresh food and water, but no cheese, milk, or other animal products—clean the feed dish daily and the water bottle before each refill
A mineral block, for honing teeth
An exercise wheel
Paper towel rolls, shelves, tree branches, old socks, etc. for toys and chewing
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.
Lights and decorations. Costumes and masks. A constant parade of strangers at the door. Without question, Halloween can be a downright spooky experience for our companion animals. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) offers the following tips on what animal guardians can do to make Halloween safer for their furry friends:
Halloween means a lot of candy in the house and a lot of sharing of that candy. Although it might be a little tough to turn down those begging eyes, it’s best to refrain from feeding your animals Halloween candy, especially if it contains chocolate or xylitol (a common sugar substitute found in sugar-free candies and gum).
With so many people coming to the door, use your best judgment as to whether or not to allow your companion animal to tag alongside you when you answer it. On the one hand, if you have a cat that takes every opportunity to sneak out the door, you want to make sure the cat is in a safe room and can’t try to make a jail break when the doorbell rings and you’re handing out treats. On the other hand, if you have a dog that is friendly, greets people and is well-behaved, you can probably let them come to the door with you. Or, if your animal is wary of strangers or has a tendency to bite, put him or her in another room during trick-or-treating hours or provide him or her with a quiet, safe hiding place inside and away from activity. As a precaution, make sure your companion is properly identified (microchip, collar and ID tag) in case he or she escapes through the open door while you're distracted with trick-or-treaters.
Keep your animals inside. However, if you’re considering taking your companion with you when you go trick-or-treating, remember that it’s safety first. You don’t want to take your dog with you unless he or she well-behaved and has good leash manners because there is some risk of injury with many kids running around. You don’t want to stress out your dog either. Also, be mindful that a lot of times a piece of candy will drop on the sidewalk or on the grass. You want to make sure your dog is not going to scoop it up and eat it without you knowing, and you’re dealing with a sick dog later because you didn’t know what it ate.
It seems like Halloween is approaching Christmas on the scale of decorations people like to hang. Often times, these decorations are not pet friendly, or designed to be pet friendly, as there may be some pieces that can be chewed off and cause an obstruction in their stomach which can be life-threatening or require some surgery. It is best to keep lit candles, jack-o-lanterns, glow sticks, glow jewelry and other decorations out of animals’ reach.
Dressing up companion animals for Halloween is becoming a growing trend. A lot of people like to not only have their kids in costumes, but have their dogs and cats in costumes as well. If you plan to put a costume on your animal, make sure they will tolerate it, it fits properly and is comfortable, doesn't have any pieces that can easily be chewed off, and doesn't interfere with your companion's sight, hearing, breathing, opening his or her mouth or moving. There are a lot of costumes that are designed specifically for dogs or cats, and those are probably the safer route to go because the designers already thought of the little pieces that could fall off or be chewed off and create potential problems. Take time to get your animal accustomed to the costume before Halloween, and never leave your companion unsupervised while he or she is wearing a costume.