Posts Tagged ‘Missouri’

When Microchipping Matters Most

June 13, 2011

I just read a story about a dog named Hanah who was displaced from her family during the recent tornado that terrorized Joplin, Missouri. There have been a couple of post-tornado Hanah sightings, but to date, she’s yet to be reunited with her anxious and devastated family.   The Good Samaritan photos taken of Hanah show this adorable looking dog without a collar, and her owners report that she has not been microchipped.   My heart sank when I read this.  As far as I’m concerned, a microchip would have increased the likelihood of a happy ending to this story more than anything else.

Let this be a wake-up call to all of us about the importance of microchipping our pets.  Far and away a microchip is the best insurance policy possible for reuniting lost pets with their families.  Bear in mind that implanting the microchip is the easy part. The more difficult part is making sure that you and the professional who places the microchip get it registered properly.  What good is the microchip if its number is not associated with accurate owner contact information?  And when you move or change telephone numbers, remember to update the microchip registry.  As I reported in a previous blog, the microchip failure rate has everything to do with inadequate updating of registry information.

I hope you will read Hanah’s story and share it with all the dog lovers you know with hopes that she will be returned to the people who love her.   If I receive any Hanah updates I will certainly let you know.  If your pets are not microchipped, please call your veterinarian or local shelter right away to set up an appointment to do so. If your pet is microchipped, contact the registry to ensure that your contact information is up to date.  One never knows what life has in store for us and our pets!

Do you know of a story where a microchip saved the day?  If so, I’d love to hear it.

Best wishes for good health,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

 

Dog Auctions

January 12, 2011

I wish I were a fiction writer and the details within this blog were simply a product of my imagination.  Unfortunately dog auctions are a painful and despicable fact of life. As much as I dislike crafting blogs that are “downers” I’ve recognized the importance of educating as many people as I can about animal-related issues that undermine our humanity.  Dog auctions certainly fit the bill.  

 

In case you are unfamiliar with dog auctions let me fill you in.  Envision rooms filled floor to ceiling with crates and cages each housing dogs whose sole purpose in life is to make puppies.  Every dog in the room is identified by the number on the auction tag hanging round his or her neck. There are purebreds of multiple varieties although some might not be recognizable as such given their lack of health care and horrifically overgrown hair coats. And, of course, there are plenty of “designer hybrids” the mutts that are purposefully planned because they are “all the rage” and their litters will garner thousands of dollars.  One would think these rooms filled with dogs would be chaotic and noisy.  In fact the quiet is eerie; these are dogs with broken spirits- too scared to vocally protest and too disassociated from their miserable existences to invite attention from the humans peering into their cages. 

 

Six auctions are held every year in Farmerstown, Ohio.  In fact the next one is later this week on January 15th.  If you happen to live near Farmerstown, I encourage you to attend.  You will be surrounded by puppy mill proprietors who have come to socialize, discuss their trade, and buy and sell “livestock”. There will also be some representatives from breed rescue organizations, hoping to place some winning bids that will alter the dismal fate of as many dogs as is affordable.  Don’t take a camera with you- it will be confiscated.  You see, these are rather covert affairs- journalists and photographers are not allowed.  The photographic images accompanying this blog were obtained via an undercover operation.  At the upcoming Ohio auction 463 dogs are slated to be auctioned.  The dogs bringing the highest prices will be those with proven fertility records; already pregnant bitches are highly valued.  Details about each dog’s breeding behavior and previous litter sizes are provided, but information about basic temperament or breed-specific inherited diseases within the family tree will be   unavailable. 

  

 

 
If you attend an auction in Ohio, be sure to look for and meet Mary O’Connor-Shaver.  You will find her at the peaceful protest that is a visible presence on each and every auction day.  In my mind Mary is a hero, working tirelessly to convince Ohio legislators to ban dog auctions from her state.  I hope you will visit her website www.BanOhioDogAuctions.com.  Mary has been a huge source of information and inspiration for me.  

What can you do to help eradicate dog auctions and put an end to puppy mills?  Here are some suggestions:

1. Boycott puppy mills.  This means never ever purchasing a puppy from a pet store or from an on line source (site and sight unseen).  Visit your local shelter (a surprising number of purebred dogs wind up there) and contact local breed-specific rescue organizations.  If you decide to purchase a puppy from a breeder please take the time to read my article titled “A Dozen Simple Ways To Be Certain You Are Working With a Reputable Breeder” (http://speakingforspot.com/blog/?p=749).
2. If you live in a state that sanctions dog auctions (Ohio, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Arkansas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri) write your legislators and appeal to them to stop this madness.  And if there are efforts within your state to create legislation banning dog auctions, please pitch in.  This might involve organizing rallies, writing letters, and gathering signatures of support.
3. If you don’t reside in a state that sanctions dog auctions, write letters to the governors and legislators of the eight states that do.  Let them know you will no longer support their state in terms of travel and commerce until their dog auctions cease to exist.
4. Let your veterinarian know how you feel about dog auctions and puppy mills, and encourage him or her to take a public stance against them.  Goodness knows, they see first hand the horrific health issues and accompanying heartbreak produced by puppy mills.
5. If you are a teacher, educate your students about puppy mills and dog auctions.  Teach them about responsible ways to adopt a dog.  I firmly believe that educating children about these issues is the key success.
6. Please share this blog with anyone and everyone you know who loves a dog, and encourage them to take action. 

My youngest child attends college in Athens, Ohio.  During a recent Parents Weekend visit my husband, daughter and I checked out Petland, the pet store in Athens. We found no fewer than three dozen utterly adorable purebred and designer hybrid puppies- undoubtedly puppy mill progeny.  There were plenty of customers in the store that day interacting with the pups and contemplating adoption. I chatted with the store manager about the Boxer pup on display and asked to see the paperwork documenting if Boxer cardiomyopathy existed in the pup’s family tree.  Boxer cardiomyopathy is an inherited heart condition that prematurely ends the lives of afflicted dogs.  She responded by saying, “No, we don’t have that paperwork but no problem because Petland guarantees full refunds on any dogs that develop symptoms caused by an inherited disease.” No problem for Petland that is…….. 

What are you willing to do to help stop this madness? 

Best wishes, 

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook  

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

My Puppy Mill Education

December 19, 2010

After the November election, I learned that Missouri voters passed legislation known as the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act (Proposition B).  As I began surfing the Internet to learn more, I anticipated reading about strict new regulations that would dramatically limit the number of dogs per “breeding factory” along with regulations that would enhance the physical and emotional well being of dogs unfortunate enough to wind up in puppy mills.  Here is what I read.  Proposition B stipulates that breeders may have up to 50 breeding dogs at any given time (no, the number 50 is not a typo). Additionally, this new legislation requires that dogs be provided with:

-Sufficient food that is provided at least once daily
-Access to water that is not frozen and is free of debris, feces, algae, and other contaminants
-Necessary veterinary care (an examination at least once yearly by a licensed veterinarian)
-Sufficient housing including protection from the elements
-Sufficient space to turn and stretch freely and fully extend limbs
-Adequate rest between breeding cycles (no more than two litters during an 18 month time period)

Fifty dogs at a time? Daily food and clean water required? Enough space to allow dogs to stand up and stretch their legs?  Was this really the best that puppy mill reform legislation could provide- nothing more than the bare basics to sustain a modicum of physical comfort for puppy mill “livestock”? How could this be? I addressed my surprise and disappointment by contacting and asking questions of Jennifer Fearing, the California senior state director for the Humane Society of the United States who was in Missouri prior to the election canvassing for votes for Proposition B. Her responses were informative and heartfelt, and she was so genuinely patient in responding to my lack of awareness.  Jennifer has graciously allowed me to share her comments with you:

“Under the old Missouri law, dogs can be kept in wire-floored cages just six inches longer than their bodies.  The cages can be stacked on top of each other.  A veterinarian must make an annual walk-through of a facility but there is no requirement that the dogs get actual exams or even treatment for any existing conditions or injuries.  Dogs are bred on every single heat cycle, leading to dogs so bred-out that we routinely see young dogs (three to four years old) whose teeth have all fallen out because their systems are so overtaxed and malnourished, and whose teats are dragging on the ground.  The old law does have a provision regarding extreme temperatures, but it says that dogs couldn’t face extreme temperatures for more than three consecutive hours, making enforcement impossible because no inspector is going to stand around with his thermometer in the air for three hours.  There is a vague requirement for an exercise plan, but that too is unenforceable and as a result we see dogs who have clearly lived their entire lives on wire floors and never set foot on solid ground.
 
The new law, which goes into effect one year from passage:  Every dog must have a solid-floored enclosure that allows constant, unfettered access to a larger outdoor area.  Larger enclosure sizes are required with specific sizing requirements based on the size of the dog.  Each dog must receive an annual exam and any dog who is sick or suffering must receive veterinary treatment.  No dog may have more than 2 litters in any 18 month period, which essentially means every 3rd cycle is rested, giving them a chance to recuperate from the exhausting cycle of carrying and nursing pups.  The time limit mentioned above is removed so that dogs cannot be kept in temperatures below 45 degrees or above 85 degrees, period.
 
Just as importantly, these new requirements are simple and easy to enforce.  Currently in Missouri, if law enforcement gets a complaint call they must call in the experts from the Department of Agriculture to help interpret 30+ pages of vague, confusing and outdated regulations.  Because of backlogs and understaffing, it can take six months or longer for an Ag inspector to even show up.  But any Sheriff’s deputy can interpret these new requirements – anyone can see if a floor is solid or wire; if cages are stacked; if the dogs have access to an outdoor area; if there are more than 50 dogs; etc.  So instead of leaving the dogs to suffer for another six months, law enforcement can file criminal charges on the spot.
 
And the penalties may seem modest but any violation of the new Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act is a criminal offense, which leads to license forfeiture. And if conditions rise to the level of animal cruelty, the offender can be charged instead under the existing state animal cruelty law.
 
Missouri is only the fifth state to cap the number of dogs a commercial breeder can keep.  Since 2008, Oregon, Washington and Virginia have set the number at 50, and Virginia includes a provision allowing the state to allow more than 50 if certain conditions are met.  Louisiana has a cap of 75.  It’s important to remember that these bills are not intended to ban commercial breeding, they are simply designed to eliminate the worst abuses at puppy mills and create more humane living conditions for the dogs who live there.  And the data (from state and federal inspection reports) are clear that the largest facilities accumulate the most frequent and most severe violations.
 
I should mention too that the new law is in addition to, and not in lieu of, the existing regulations.  Those regulations still exist, this law is simply an overlay to correct the weak and vague areas of the regulations that allowed dogs to suffer.
 
Finally, the significance of this law passing in the epicenter of the puppy mill industry cannot be overemphasized.  It will lead to similar restrictions in other states and to vast improvement in the living conditions of dogs kept for the commercial pet trade.”

Jennifer’s explanations certainly changed my perspective about the benefits provided by Proposition B.  While this legislation will not create an existence for a puppy mill victim that in any way resembles my notion of what every dog deserves, no doubt its enforcement will make a positive difference in the current dismal quality of many lives.  I must admit that after reading Jennifer’s response my overriding feeling was, “Shame on me!” As a veterinarian I’m embarrassed by my naïveté about puppy mills.  To some degree, I think I’ve been floating along that river in Egypt (De Nial)- far more pleasant to be “out of touch” rather than “in touch” with the true horrors of what goes on in puppy mills. Sure, via my blog and in Speaking for Spot I’ve advocated against supporting puppy mills by avoiding purchasing puppies from pet stores or on line (sight and site unseen). I simply don’t think my efforts have been adequate.  While I’m certain that I need to do more to create puppy mill reform, I’m not yet sure what that “more” looks like yet. Stay tuned- I will keep you posted as I figure it out. Have you taken a stance against puppy mills?  If so what has been your strategy?

By the way, I debated whether or not to release a blog on such a serious topic while my readers are in the midst of the holiday hustle.  My hope is that the thoughts expressed will provide some inspiration- always a good thing during the holiday season.

Best wishes for a lovely holiday season.   

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller. 

Free holiday gift wrap with books purchased between now and December 25th (www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html).