Animal Advocacy

Making 2014 The Year of Advocacy For Animals

posted January 25th, 2014 by
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Advocacy

by Ruth Steinberger

On a miserably cold night last week, a plea for help came from a resident of a neighboring county.

Tulsa temperatures were expected to dip below 5 degrees that night. The desperate caller described a donkey that had been tethered to a tree for over a week and was about to spend another night braying out loud in apparent and severe discomfort.

I reached a frazzled sounding dispatcher who reluctantly reached a deputy for me. Thankfully, the deputy quickly got to the location, and according to anxious witnesses down the road, the donkey was immediately taken inside a barn. The owners obviously understood that the donkey was protected under the law, and a call history in the sheriff ’s logs now flags that location in case of future calls.

Animal cruelty is a crime, and law enforcement agencies are the ones who can step in to stop it. In his 2006 acceptance speech at the ASPCA Henry Bergh Award luncheon, former Chicago Police Officer Steve Brownstein noted that certain behaviors went from being treated as undesirable mischief to serious crimes in just a few decades due to public advocacy; he emphasized that animal cruelty was not one of the behaviors that was successfully challenged.

Brownstein pointed out that in 1960, intoxication was accepted as a “reason” for a fatal car crash, domestic violence was considered a private matter, child abuse was still two years away from being described for the first time in a mainstream medical publication, and animal cruelty was considered silliness.

Drunk driving, domestic violence and child abuse were catapulted to the forefront by advocates who demanded the offenses be criminalized and that a public infrastructure become available to care for the victims.

Animal cruelty still lags way behind other crimes in terms of response and prosecution; despite record levels of animal welfare awareness, many rural prosecutors have still never prosecuted a single cruelty case, dispatchers often do not know what to tell callers who are frantically trying to report cruelty, many cases that are reported are never investigated and organized animal cruelty, including dog fighting and the use of animals in pornography, are on the rise.

Throughout much of the Midwest, there are no shelters available to house an animal if a sheriff ’s office needs emergency placement for a cruelty victim. In fact, despite being a felony, an incident of animal cruelty or neglect that is reported, investigated and successfully prosecuted to the extent of the law is the exception, not the rule.

Brownstein’s point was that animal cruelty continues to be treated differently and therefore, less effectively, than other crimes. The problem is not a lack of compassion by officers, nor is it a lack of concern by the public; the problem is a quagmire of misinformation that inadvertently lets public agencies off the hook and leaves animals out in the cold.

A combination of understaffed law enforcement agencies and a seriously undereducated public leave animals suffering. Until public demand and emergency responders are all on the same page, it will remain that way.

We do not donate to private anti-crime organizations and, in turn, expect them to investigate murders. We report crimes to the police, and we expect them to act.

Animal cruelty became the purview of those who were socially opposed to it in the 1800s. Today, despite enormous public concern for animals in distress, the diversion away from municipal agencies continues.

Many people think they should report cruelty to a local humane society, a belief that is fostered by fundraising campaigns that promise to address cruelty by having viewers respond to pictures of injured pets by sending money across the nation.

Convicted dog fighter Michael Vick was jailed due to federal laws that were successfully lobbied by national animal advocacy organizations not long before his arrest. However, while national lobbying efforts indeed strengthen federal animal protection laws, stopping cruelty within our own community is absolutely a local affair that is driven by residents with the power to elect someone good to office or throw someone bad out.

Until local and state leaders view animal cruelty as a voters’ issue, the response to it will continue to be the luck of the draw. Make a 2014 commitment to speak for the animals with your vote, your voice, your purchasing power and your presence at the courthouse during a trial.

Create a letter writing tree to send a flurry of postcards to officials and letters to editors. Develop a phone tree to support animal welfare legislation during the 2014 legislative session. Ten cards or letters may be 10 more than an official has ever received.

Present an animal-friendly force at a council meeting. Every single time a candidate asks for your vote, ask for his or her sense of urgency about enforcement of animal welfare laws. If they do not care about animal cruelty, they do not deserve your vote. Shop cruelty free, especially boycotting products from China and Korea, where dogs, cats and other animals are horrifically tortured before being killed to be eaten.

Create a “red T-shirt” anti-cruelty brigade, a group of animal advocates who attend court hearings. The red Tshirts tell the courtroom you are there, that you support the prosecutor and care about what happens.

By having a group of people who commit to being available, the responsibility doesn’t fall to the same few again and again. Follow the case all the way through; don’t have four or five red shirts at just the first hearing and then vanish. Empty benches tell the judge and prosecutor that we don’t care quite enough to stay on it.

The presence of those who care absolutely makes a difference. At the end of the case, publicly thank the agencies that worked hard to bring the case to court. As animal advocates, we are the family of the four-legged victim who was dragged behind a truck, ignited by gang members, starved in a cold garage or hoarded like trash. We are the family of the victim.

The story of the donkey that was moved inside a barn on that freezing night did not end there. It was followed up by a call to the sheriff of that county to thank him for the deputy’s response. A letter went to the local newspaper, thanking the sheriff publicly as well.

Local voters are the only ones who can make the point about animal cruelty to our local elected officials… we need to do so.

If we have to stand up for hours at a hearing or protest by sitting down on the courthouse steps, animal cruelty will be vigorously prosecuted—but only when we, as local voters, refuse to tolerate cruelty one minute more. 

OAA Offers Reward

posted December 19th, 2013 by
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The Oklahoma Alliance for Animals is issuing a $2,500 reward for anyone with information that leads to an arrest and conviction of this crime. We encourage others to match our reward and can contact us at 918-742-3700 or email us at [email protected] Tulsa County sheriff’s deputies are investigating an area in north Tulsa where several dogs were found dead. There are many indications of a possible dog fighting ring in the area of 56th Street North near Yale. Because this is in ongoing investigation, details cannot be released at this time. These types of animal cruelty should never be tolerated and OAA is offering the reward of $2,500.00 in hopes to bring justice to these dogs. If you have any information that can lead to the arrest and conviction of this case, please call the Tulsa County Sherriff’s office at 918-596-5601.
The OAA Cruelty Program provides extra incentive to help support convictions of animal cruelty cases. This is done by paying for rewards for information, informing the public of cruelty acts, through covering costs to ensure all evidence is provided for the courts. To help our efforts and increase the reward, please donate to the Cruelty Program on our website at www.animalallianceok.org.
About OAA: OAA’s mission: Oklahoma Alliance for Animals is dedicated to reducing pet overpopulation, encouraging responsible pet ownership and promoting the humane treatment of animals through community collaboration and education. OAA’s vision: To transform Oklahoma communities into places where all animals are treated humanely and no healthy, adoptable dog or cat is destroyed merely because it does not have a home.

OAA offers Reward

posted November 19th, 2013 by
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Oklahoma Alliance for Animals (OAA) is offering $2,500.00

for the arrest and conviction of animal cruelty for Spaz

Following news broke:

BLANCHARD, Okla. – Police are searching for whoever is responsible for targeting a one-year-old dog with a bow and arrow. Erin Dodson came home Monday afternoon to find her pit bull “Spaz” shot full of arrows, the target of animal cruelty. “He wasn’t crying, he wasn’t nothing.” Dodson said. “He just looked at me and he was so, such sad eyes.” Her children couldn’t believe someone would do that to their pets. “No, there’s no way nobody could be that cruel and shoot my dog with a bow and arrow.” Her 13-year-old son, Joey, said. Dodson called police then rushed Spaz to Animal Emergency Center for surgery. Dr. Joe Bills Reynolds pulled three arrows out of Spaz. He has treated many injuries where dogs were accidentally shot, but to see one deliberately targeted like this is disturbing. ‘This is someone’s pet, someone’s kid.” He said. “You know, they just don’t need to be doing that kind of thing. It’s really sad.” Reynolds says Spaz is an incredibly lucky dog. A few inches one way or the other and it would have killed him. “I’m very, very fortunate that these were practice arrows and not the arrows that are more razor-tipped. They would have caused a tremendous amount of more damage to the dog.” For now, Spaz is limping his way to recovery. Doctors say if all goes well, Spaz should be going home Wednesday. Police do not have any suspects so far. If you know anything, call police. The surgery to save Spaz’s life cost about $3000. If you want to help the family with their medical bills, call Animal Emergency Care at

(405)-361-7828 or Erin Dodson at (405)-246-5053.

(Tulsa, OK, November 14, 2013) — Anyone who has information on this crime needs to call the McClain County Sheriff’s office at 405-527-2141. OAA has set up a reward of $2,500.00 for the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator who committed this crime. This reward is funded by generous donors of OAA. If you would like to add to our cruelty fund you can donate at www.animalallianceok.org

The OAA animal anti-Cruelty program provides extra incentive to help support convictions of animal cruelty cases across the state of Oklahoma. This is done by putting up reward money for information that leads to an arrest and conviction of the perpetrator (s), keeping the public informed on court dates of current animal cruelty cases and by providing law enforcement with necropsies and resources, if needed to build a case.

About OAA: OAA’s mission: Oklahoma Alliance for Animals is dedicated to reducing pet overpopulation, encouraging responsible pet ownership and promoting the humane treatment of animals through community collaboration and education. OAA’s vision: To transform Oklahoma communities into places where all animals are treated humanely and no healthy, adoptable dog or cat is destroyed merely because it does not have a home.

Parrots Make Great Pets

posted November 18th, 2013 by
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The PBS Documentary Parrot Confidential Gets it Wrong

Parrots Make Great Pets

Read Allison Argo’s web page titled Speaking. She is not shy about admitting she produces films to motivate change. And while she has the personal right to create such works, members of the American Federation of Aviculture wonder why PBS stations around the country would air a decidedly one‐sided piece.

In 1976, scholar Calvin Pryluck struggled with the ethics of documentary film‐making in an article titled: Ultimately, We Are All Outsiders: The Ethics of Documentary Filmmaking.” Given the technological advances on the horizon, said Pryluck, smaller cameras, lighter equipment, and easy access to subjects, “The acrimony surrounding a controversial film may be good for the box office; it is sometimes questionable for the value for art.”

People have lived with parrots and other avian companions for thousands of years. Martha Washington lived with parrots, as did President Teddy Roosevelt. Whether or not parrots are good pets has more to do with human beings than with parrots. Just as every person is not cut out to be a parent, not every person is destined to own a parrot. There are certain qualities which make good parents or good parrot owners.

The documentary claims the rise of domestic parrot breeding began after the airing of the television show Barretta which ran from 1975 to 1978. That series featured a cockatoo named Fred. The increase of domestic breeding coincided with the U.S. government’s adoption of the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) agreement in 1974. This global initiative ‐‐ signed by 178 countries, with Angola agreeing to join by the end of the year – monitors parrot populations worldwide. The wild bird conservation act of 1992 (WBCA) prevents US citizens from commercially importing parrots; this act has stopped the legal importation of wild‐caught parrots destined for the U.S. since late 1991.

Unfortunately, parrots are still poached in some countries for the pet trade. However, U.S. domestic breeding has curtailed the importation of poached parrots to this country.

Note any parrot older than forty years most likely is a wild‐caught parrot and not a domestically bred parrot. And while people can debate what constitutes domestication, parrots bred and hand‐raised know no other life. These parrots thrive on human companionship and could not survive in the wild. Unlike their wild counterparts, parrot companions live in warm homes, get plenty of food and don’t need to worry about predators.

Domestic parrot breeders also do more than breed and sell parrots. These breeders share their unique knowledge and experiences with field biologists, zoos and other organizations monitoring parrots in the wild. Breeders are working to save endangered parrot species.

 

The American Federation of Aviculture does its part to help people become better stewards of their companion parrots through education and outreach in various communities where members live. On the national level, AFA offers a two‐part course titled The Fundamentals of Aviculture. This course helps parrot owners and potential owners understand the rich history of aviculture in the United States. The course also helps people understand the complex, personal relationships one can develop with a companion parrot.

Should people be prevented from living with domestically bred parrots?

Absolutely not.

Should people act in responsible ways when it comes to electing to live with parrots?

Absolutely.

Note: The American Federation of Aviculture (AFA) is a nonprofit national organization established in 1974, whose purpose is to represent all aspects of aviculture and to educate the public about keeping and breeding birds in captivity.
AFA has a membership consisting of bird breeders, pet bird owners, avian veterinarians, pet/bird store owners, bird product manufacturers, and other people interested in the future of aviculture.

See: www.afabirds.org

Tripod Jude

posted November 16th, 2013 by
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by Anna Holton – Dean

“HEY JUDE, don’t make it bad. Take a sad song and make it better. Remember to let her into your heart. Then you can start to make it better.” …No words could be more fitting for Rottweiler mix Jude.

Two years ago, he was at Stillwater Animal Welfare awaiting surgery to amputate his twisted leg and shattered shoulder when his smiling face appeared on Kathleen Hughes’ Facebook news feed.

“His name was Caesar then. He just looked so happy despite being so underweight and in pain,” Kathleen says. “My friend is in vet school at OSU and works out of there quite a bit. She said he had an exceptional temperament and was a really positive dog.”

Although she was told he would need extra post-surgery care and attention until he got his strength up, Kathleen drove to pick up the newly-tripod Jude that weekend.

“He was so pitiful,” she says. “He would just sigh and lay his head on my lap. He was about 35 pounds, and the area where his leg used to be was all shaved and bloodied. But he was happy just being touched.”

The exact cause of Jude’s extensive injuries is still unknown, but it was strongly suggested to Kathleen that the previous owner abused him.

“He has since doubled his weight and he was taken away from his owner, so if he wasn’t being abused, at the very least he was being horribly neglected,” she says.

That may be why he also didn’t respond well to his name Caesar. “On the way back from Stillwater, ‘Hey Jude’ came on the radio, and I was singing along, and he stopped whining. So it stuck!” Kathleen says.

Jude had a long road of healing ahead. He wouldn’t go inside Kathleen’s house for the first two weeks but chose to lie in his outdoor doggie bed, basking in the sun.

“He just laid there healing and gaining weight even though he had a very nice bed inside and a doggie door too,” she says. “He would lay his head on my lap, whining, and I just kept feeding him doggie Tylenol and brushing him since huge clumps were coming out of his fur.

“Now he looks like he was born this way. Stillwater Animal Welfare did a beautiful job [on his amputation]. And when people say, ‘Oh, he only has three legs!’ we say, ‘Shh, he doesn’t know!’”

With the help of his forever mom Kathleen, Jude has adjusted to life with three legs—probably happier than he ever was with four legs in his former situation. “Jude can shake and hug. He also has some bad habits you wouldn’t expect from a three legged dog; he digs and jumps on us when he’s excited. We live in a three-story loft, and he beats me up the stairs every time. He can even outrun my parents’ Lab, and he wrestles with the best of them at the dog park,” she says.

“His favorite activity is playing in my parents’ pool. The shallow end goes up to his chest, and he jumps around and has a blast. Every time I think, ‘Oh, he probably can’t…’ He has already done it before I finish my thought.”

What Kathleen wants others to learn from Jude’s story is that pets with missing legs—tripods— can have wonderful, quality lives. “A woman at the dog park came up to me, visibly upset,” she says. “She had euthanized her dog because she was told he had cancer, and she thought he would live a ‘less than’ life with three legs. She got teary-eyed, saying she saw Jude and realized she had made a mistake.

“I just want people to know that if their dogs are injured, born a little different, or get a disease, they can still live completely normal lives with only three legs. Jude is literally the happiest dog I have ever met; he just stares at me with adoring eyes, begging to be petted.

“He’s never met a person he didn’t like. At the dog park, he just hops from person to person, leaning against them, pleading for love.”

Jude is an example—a reminder of the resiliency of our four- or even three-legged friends. “Even when he was starving and injured, coming out of major surgery, he just emitted this positive energy of ‘I’m just happy to be here!’” Kathleen remembers.

In the words of the Beatles, Jude and Kathleen certainly took a sad song and made it better.

Are You Ready to Adopt?

posted November 16th, 2013 by
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by Kiley Roberson

Adopting a pet is a major commitment.

Unfortunately, people often put more time and effort into researching what kind of car to get than the type of pet that would best fit their lifestyles. Caring for a companion animal goes far beyond providing food, water and shelter. It takes research and careful planning to bring the right pet into your home, and to make sure your lifestyle is the right one for your new pet.

Professionals—like Nancy Gallimore Werhane and Jean Letcher—say deciding to adopt a pet is a monumental decision. Nancy is a certified professional dog trainer and co-owner of Tulsa’s Pooches, a doggie daycare, training, grooming and boarding facility. Nancy says that adopting a pet as opposed to purchasing one from a breeder is an obvious choice, as “one walk through the Tulsa Animal Welfare Shelter answers that question.”

Jean, manager of Tulsa Animal Welfare, further explains why adoption is the best option. “It allows us to find homes for animals that are already alive rather than going to a breeder and saying, ‘I’d like one from your next litter.’ These animals have already been born. They are looking for homes. It benefits both the home and the animal,” she says.

While adoption is important, knowing the responsibility that comes with a pet is paramount.

“Most companion animals end up in shelters or in rescue programs because humans failed them, not because of something they did,” explains Nancy. “When you adopt a pet from a shelter or rescue group, you not only save that animal, but you save another who can then step into the spot vacated by your new pet. Adoption saves lives, pure and simple. But you have to be ready for the responsibility.”

Our resident experts recommend asking yourself a few big questions before bringing home Fluffy or Fido. Why do you really want a pet?

The most important question to ask yourself, Nancy says, is, “Why do you really want a pet?”

“Everyone should ask themselves why they really want to adopt a particular pet before taking the plunge. Answer that question honestly. You should first want a particular pet because you and all of your family members want a companion and are ready to provide the love and care that animal needs and deserves.”

If you’re interested in adopting a pet, and your answer to the above question is the same as Nancy’s, it might be time to open your home to a new furry friend. But before you do, we’ve comprised a few additional questions to help make sure you’re ready for the fun and commitment a pet requires. What’s your five- or even 10-year plan?

A dog or cat can live 15 or more years, so envisioning how pet-friendly your life will be in the future is important. Think about any major life changes you might go through—things like getting married, having children, moving or changing careers. And keep in mind that as pets age, their needs change as well. Will you be adopting the pet by yourself or with someone?

If there are other people in your family, everyone needs to be on board with the idea of adding a pet to your home. If you have a roommate or spouse, make sure that he or she is totally committed to a new pet. And even if everyone is on board with the idea of getting a pet, it’s important for people in the household to express concerns ahead of time. Do you have time for a pet?

“Dogs and cats not only require food and water, but they need attention, affection, and exercise—both mental and physical,” says Nancy. “If you work long hours or have a very busy schedule, you may need to decide if you have time to devote to the proper care of a pet. Proper care also includes trips to the veterinarian, daily exercise, and training classes for dogs.”

Though dogs generally require more time and attention than cats, you should be able to give any pet your undivided attention. Dogs and cats who don’t receive daily interaction have a greater risk of developing behavioral problems, anxiety and obesity.

As Jean explains, having a pet is like having a child. You can’t have a child then decide you don’t have time for it. “You don’t have the option of putting a child on a chain in a backyard if you’re too busy to spend time with him or her. Likewise an animal can feel pain and loneliness. You need to determine up front that you have time to care for the animal,” she says. Can you afford a pet?

The cost of a pet goes well beyond the adoption fee. According to the ASPCA, dog owners should expect to spend about $1,500 on a dog during the first year of ownership; cat owners should set aside at least $1,000 for that crucial first year.

“Financial commitment also varies from pet to pet,” Nancy explains. “Obviously, it’s going to cost more to care for a Mastiff than it is to feed a Chihuahua.” One thing you can count on is that all pets need a healthy, premium diet and routine veterinary care. Monthly care such as heartworm pills and flea and tick prevention also add up. And, of course, you always have to be prepared for emergencies.

“Animals can get sick or injured, just like humans can,” says Nancy. “You have to be prepared for the expense of providing care outside of normal shots and routine check-ups.”

Nancy points out that you may also have to pay for boarding or a dog walker or pet sitter when you’re out of town. And then there are ongoing expenses for supplies like pet beds, collars, leashes, treats, kitty litter for cats, etc. Pets are a commitment of time and money. Can you provide a proper home for the type of pet you hope to adopt?

It’s important to pick the right pet for your home and lifestyle. Every potential adopter should take an honest look at these two things to make sure that adding a pet to the mix really makes sense. “Some dogs require a home with a securely fenced yard while others can adapt well to apartment life with leashwalking for exercise,” explains Nancy. “If you live in a tiny apartment, a Great Dane doesn’t make much sense, but a house cat would likely do just fine.” With that in mind, Jean says the energy level of the breed should be just as much a consideration as the size.

Choosing the right pet for your home, family and resources is vital. If you rent your home, be 100 percent sure that your landlord will allow you to have a pet and check to see what pet deposits might apply before you decide to adopt. “The welfare of the animal, not the whim of the person, needs to take priority,” Nancy says. Are you willing to train your animal companion?

Lack of training is one of the most common reasons that adopters return pets to shelters—are you willing to solve behavior problems? Basic training helps dogs and their owners communicate better, strengthening the relationship overall. And taking the time to understand why your cat does what she does, especially when it involves her litter box and scratching habits, will help you avoid potential problems. If you already have a pet, is that animal likely to accept a new housemate?

The good news is that most pets, even the most spoiled cats, crave companionship. Of course, it may take some time for an existing pet to accept a new addition. The ASPCA suggests introducing animals to each other before adoption. It gives you a chance to watch them interact and see if they’ll be good, compatible housemates. Do you have small children?

Contrary to popular belief, there is no species or breed that comes ready to live with kids. If your kids are still toddlers, you might consider waiting a few years before adopting. If you have children, it’s important to teach them the rules of safe pet conduct: no teasing, pulling, pushing or climbing on animals. You’ll also want to spend extra time meeting different animals, so you can observe tolerance levels and the ability to bounce back from jarring incidents. Are you prepared to pet-proof your home?

Whether it’s tightly sealing your garbage cans or paying attention to dangerous decorations during the holidays, you’ll need to make your home safe before adopting. That includes keeping toxic foods, petunfriendly plants and dangerous household items out of paw’s reach. Are you sure?

The final question to ask yourself before adopting a new pet is if you’re sure you can handle it. Have you thought everything through carefully, and are you ready for this giant commitment? If your answer is tied to emotions, that might be a problem. One of the biggest issues, especially during the holidays, is people giving pets as gifts.

“The proverbial puppy wearing a bow under the Christmas tree can sure backfire,” says Nancy. “Giving a pet for Christmas is often a last minute emotional decision that is not well thought out. Holidays are generally busy, crazy and a bit on the hectic side. I can’t think of a worse time to introduce a new puppy or kitten into a family.”

Nancy says that if you have planned responsibly to add a pet to your family and want it to be a Christmas surprise, it’s a better idea to wrap pet supplies to place under the tree, and then go pick up your new family member after the holiday hustle and bustle calms down. Bring your new pet home when your household is sane and ready to focus on helping the pet properly acclimate.

Now that you’re ready to adopt a new companion, here are some tips to find your perfect pet:

Visit with the employees at your local animal shelter. They can often tell you a lot about a specific animal that catches your eye.

Talk with your veterinarian. He or she can offer great advice and tips for caring for a particular pet.

If you are attracted to a specific breed of animal, seek out people who own that type of pet and ask questions about care requirements, personality traits, etc.

Take your time. Don’t let anyone rush you. Do not be locked into a specific breed. Make eye contact with all the available animals in the shelter, and oftentimes, the pet will pick you, Jean says.

Adopting a new pet is a big responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly, but the joy and unconditional love you receive from your new furry friend definitely makes it worthwhile.