Animal Advocacy

No Rescue Waggin’ for Tulsa

posted August 19th, 2010 by
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TulsaPets Magazine was saddened to learn that a great opportunity for homeless puppies and dogs in Tulsa was put on the back burner recently when Tulsa Animal Welfare suddenly declined the opportunity to become part of the PetSmart Charities Rescue Waggin’ transfer program.

PetSmart Charities Rescue Waggin’ was the first large scale “transfer program,” in the nation.   It was created to move homeless animals from areas of the country with too many homeless pets to areas where more rescue animals are able to get homes.  Rescue Waggin’ is the gold standard for such a program.  In this program, local volunteers and/or shelter staff are trained to assess the animals and all associated costs of transport are paid by PetSmart Charities, Inc.  The program picks the animals up at the releasing shelter on a scheduled basis.

Shelter staff reported that Tulsa Animal Welfare had indeed been accepted into this program which would have moved up to 50 dogs and puppies from the Tulsa animal shelter to the Denver area each month.  Shelter staff was scheduled to go to training in mid-June when the shelter suddenly declined the training, opting for possible entrance into the program later on.  Although the initial costs for travel to the training are laid out by the locality and are reimbursed by PetSmart Charities, Tulsa-based Oklahoma Alliance for Animals had agreed to lay out those costs for the city in order to support the cities’ decision to join the program.

At a time when austerity measures are scaling back resources for Tulsa, this boost would have helped hundreds of animals move into homes elsewhere and do so at a financial savings to the City of Tulsa and local funders.  TulsaPets Magazine genuinely hopes that creative solutions to help animals, which also save money, will be implemented so that our homeless pets and our city are the winners.

Flying Cargo? It’s Not Safe

posted August 9th, 2010 by
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Story by Kristi Eaton

With the recent news that seven puppies died after flying in the cargo hold aboard an American Airlines flight from Tulsa to Chicago, some travelers may be thinking twice about how to get their beloved pet from one destination to the next. 

The puppies aboard the Chicago-bound flight were half of 14 puppies that were initially put on board the flight that was delayed for an hour, as temperatures in Tulsa increased to 86 degrees Tuesday morning.

Coincidentally, just a few days before, Petfinder.com released its list of most pet-friendly airlines for the year. Pet Airways, the first ever pet airline, stands out among the rest, according to Petfinder, because “pawsengers,” as they are referred to as, fly in the climate-controlled pressurized main cabin and are checked on by pet attendants every 15 minutes during flight. Also, the plane will be diverted to the nearest airport if a pawsenger falls ill, so that the pet can be treated.

Unfortunately, Pet Airways does not have a presence in Tulsa. (It can found be in Atlanta, Baltimore/Washington, Chicago, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Hawthorne/Los Angeles, New York, Omaha and Phoenix.)

Because of its limited availability across the country, Petfinder looked at commercial airlines to find the best airlines for pets. JetBlue was commended for its refusal to permit pet transport in cargo, and is another important animal safety measure.

Evidence, like the recent incident aboard the American Airlines flight to Chicago, supports JetBlues policy: from May 2009 to May 2010, the only airlines with zero reported pet deaths were those that required pets to travel in-cabin.

“Pets are becoming more of an integral part of our families so it’s only natural that airlines are taking pet travel more seriously,” said Betsy Banks Saul, Petfinder’s co-founder, in the release announcing the most pet-friendly airlines. “This list will raise awareness on criteria that pet parents should take into consideration, such as the risks of traveling in cargo, so they can make well-informed decisions.”

– Kristi Eaton

Buckle ‘em Up

posted August 4th, 2010 by
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Backyard 2008 066B

Story by Kristi Eaton

Buckling up a friend or loved one is a no-brainer when going for a car ride. But some may forget the importance of strapping in the four-legged friend when getting behind the wheel. Forgetting, or merely skipping, to buckle your dog could have deadly consequences for both you and your pet. For example, when driving 35 mph, a 60-pound unrestrained dog can cause an impact of 2,700 pounds, slamming into a car seat, windshield or passenger, according to Bark Buckle UP, a national pet safety campaign.
The campaign travels around the country educating pet owners and first responders about the importance of properly restraining animals in vehicles. The campaign’s website, www.barkbuckleup.com, lists products that have been tested and found to be safe to use by your dog. Examples of products include a safety vest, a flotation vest, a first aid kit and an oxygen mask.
And to help every pet and owner remain safe, the Bark Buckle UP campaign offers free safety kits in case your pet is in an accident. First responders will locate the pet safety kit in your glove box and call your contacts to come get your pet, in addition to informing them you have been in an accident. The safety kit includes emergency contact information, shots and other records, and vet information, in addition to safety tips for traveling with your pet. To receive your own kit, fill out the information requested at http://www.barkbuckleup.com/Members/Registration.asp.

– Kristi Eaton

The Work Never Stops

posted July 19th, 2010 by
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Oklahoma City - State Capitol

Story by Ruth Steinberger

Even though it’s summer and you may be enjoying your vacation time…guess what?  It’s time to remind the legislature that those who care about animals are out there, we are all across Oklahoma and most of us vote!    Yep, the work never stops!

The legislative session is the time in which state senators and representatives are in the capitol four days a week to work on new laws for Oklahoma. The session begins on the first Monday in February and runs through the last week of May. However, don’t plan to wait until the session begins to enlist legislators to help the animals.  By the beginning of the session the final date for introducing a bill for the current session had passed in December, legislators are booked solid and it’s hard for legislators to give you an appointment time without the possibility of a last minute cancellation. If you’ve driven from the eastern part of the state, a last minute cancellation can be costly and disappointing. 

The ‘interim session,’ is the time between the legislative sessions, or right now.  Even though law makers do not go to the capitol every week during the interim session, the legislative process does not stop and the time to step up advocacy in your home community is right now.  Remember, those on the other side, high volume breeders and those dealing in exotic animals, etc., do not take a break.

Open a dialog with your legislator, even if it is only a handwritten note.

Few people realize the level of organization that went into last year’s passage of SB 1712. Oklahoma Humane Federation and other organizations rallied support through an extensive and far reaching animal friendly internet outreach campaign.  In the last week of the 2010 session, a state senator noted that he had been thanked over 1200 times.  Animal welfare advocates can be even more effective next year by building on the momentum that started during the 2010 session.

There are easy things that you can do along with others in your animal welfare organization.

Our “easy summer tips,” are…

  • Locate your state legislators at www.capitolconnect.com, type in your zip code to learn who your legislator is and get in contact with your legislators.  Whether it is by writing, phone or e-mails set your goal at five contacts by fall. Make an appointment to visit with your legislator at his or her home town office to discuss your animal welfare concerns. 

 

  • If you do only one thing, check out how your representative voted on SB 1712 and if they supported it, thank them. It’s never too late to say thank you. If you do not know how they voted, use the “Contact Us” page at www.TulsaPetsMagazine.com and your e-mail will be answered. 

 

  • To plan a visit with your legislator, e-mail [email protected] and ask for pdf download called Making Change for AnimalsIt’s a compilation of important tips on how to advocate in the capitol.  It’s a must-read for anyone who has never been in touch with a legislator before.

 

  • If your organization sends out newsletters, make sure one goes to each legislator who serves the area that you serve. Do not keep your wonderful service to animals a secret any longer…let them know you’re there.

 

  • If you have a special event, invite your legislator.  Fund raisers, fun events or educational events are a great way to let your legislator ‘see who you are.’ You can invite a legislator or police chief to your spay/neuter event or ask a commissioner to ride along to deliver pet food to seniors.  Include someone from the local Chamber of Commerce in your events. 

 

  • Invite a legislator to lunch or have a lunch or a breakfast for legislators in your area.

 

  • If a legislator or official does something you support, thank them and write a letter to the editor of your local paper to thank them.

 

Legislators make the rules that affect the work we do, and the lives of the animals we’re trying to help. We need them to recognize that we are not only compassionate people, but we are also voters!

THE PASSING OF SENATE BILL 1712

posted July 15th, 2010 by
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By Ruth Steinberger

On May 5, 2010 Governor Brad Henry signed SB 1712, the Commercial Pet Breeders Act, commonly called, ‘the Black Market Breeders Bill,’ into law. His signature marked a major milestone for animal welfare in Oklahoma. The bill establishes an eight-person board which includes veterinarians, breeders and an animal welfare advocate who will work together to develop regulations to eliminate the cruelty and consumer fraud in high volume dog kennels. The start-up will be privately funded and enforcement will start July 1, 2011.

Breeders that sell puppies to a broker to be resold in pet stores must obtain a dog dealers license under the USDA. However, those that sell directly to the public, either through local ads or over the internet, are not compelled to get a USDA license. In order to halt the abuses that occurred in unregulated high volume kennels, many states began licensing breeders that sell to the public. Until now, Oklahoma had no such regulations. Avoiding regulations, many substandard breeders moved to Oklahoma, bringing animal cruelty, consumer fraud and ongoing law enforcement nightmares with them.

Efforts to pass puppy mill regulations in Oklahoma started in 2007. That year a far weaker measure failed to even get out of the first committee. In 2010, an unprecedented level of citizen lobbying, grass roots activism and electronic networking resulted in the passage of the strictest high volume breeder bill ever introduced in our state. It bears understanding the significance of this effort; animal advocates overcame a well established underground, but vocal, puppy mill industry.

SB 1712 was designed to eliminate substandard facilities called, ‘puppy mills,’ while compelling puppy producers to act as businesses, keeping appropriate records for sales taxes, etc. It is estimated that Oklahoma has been losing sales tax revenue on over forty million dollars in puppy sales each year. While earlier bills set forth standards that would equal USDA regulations, the Commercial Pet Breeders Act enables the eight person board to develop stricter guidelines than the outdated USDA standards of care. The ability to upgrade the standards of care may be the greatest single component of the bill. An example of this benefit is that the USDA mandates that a cage be at least six inches longer than the dog when measured from base of tail to tip of nose, and owners are encouraged to provide exercise time for dogs.

Recognizing that under USDA regulations an average Chihuahua could spend its life in a two-foot wide by two-foot long cage, and that exercise time would be virtually impossible to enforce, the new law empowers the governing board to establish rules which increase cage size to make dogs more comfortable in their primary enclosure. SB 1712 was written to do more for dogs than any previous legislation that was submitted. So how did it pass when weaker bills failed? SB 1712 was written by Enid resident and citizen lobbyist Sue Ann Hamm, an attorney who believes that the puppy producing industry should not be allowed to bypass the most basic animal welfare considerations while managing to evade taxes year after year. Hamm researched legislation introduced in the past two years, perused effective laws from other states and added provisions to safeguard dogs in a way which will hopefully become a model for other states.

Many of those who worked for the passage of SB 1712 were men and women in the Oklahoma oil industry who want to see Oklahoma communities thrive. One by one many unlikely Oklahoma legislators came on board and even some former opponents became vocal supporters of the bill. The Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA) has actively supported puppy mill regulations since 2007, and early in the 2010 session the OVMA executive committee voiced their support.

SB 1712 was introduced by Senator Patrick Anderson (R-Enid) and was sponsored in the house by Representative Mike Jackson (R-Enid). Jackson said, “First I give credit to Representative Lee Denney (R-Cushing) who worked on this issue for two years prior to this session.” Jackson continued, “A group of citizens came to me about this issue. I liked the idea of addressing this and felt we could get through the process. We worked extremely hard and came up with something that was very good law…the language pointed right at the people we wanted to address.” Sue Ann Hamm said, “Legislators saw this was an unselfish bill. They knew the people working on it weren’t doing this for themselves.” Hamm explained, “The legislators saw that this was selfless; we worked together, we worked hard and we picked up a lot of heroes along the way.” Oklahoma animal welfare advocates across the state combined forces, creating an electronic network asking people to call representatives, senators and even local media.

Following an alert asking for thank you e-mails to legislators, one senator commented that he had been thanked over 1200 times. Oklahoma Alliance for Animals board members and donors individually purchased full-page newspaper ads and six electronic billboards.
Christy Counts, Executive Director of Oklahoma City based OK Humane, explained that two years ago she was approached by animal welfare advocates asking that she take a stand on the puppy mill issue. She said, “I was aware that a coordinated effort was underway but it needed help.” Counts rallied calls, letters and visits to legislators throughout the 2010 session. She said, “I’m proud to have had a small part in a huge thing which can have an impact on so many dogs.”

Noting the level of social media that moved messages across the state instantly, she said, “This was huge, so many organizations and individuals got involved. And no part of it was unnecessary.” Counts hopes the new regulations will become a template for other states to consider.

Animal advocates in rural Oklahoma indeed heeded the call as well. Rich Galyen is President of Clayton Animal Welfare, a Pushmataha County organization which sponsors mobile spay neuter clinics, assists local law enforcement and operates the local shelter in conjunction with the City of Clayton. Galyen placed ads for the bill in local newspapers, spoke at local meetings and organized a, ‘1712 party,’ an educational event which filled a room at Clayton City Hall. Referring to southeast Oklahoma, Galyen said, “We see the worst of these here. SB 1712 was absolutely vital…all of rural Oklahoma needed to step up to the plate and support this legislation.” And they did. Oklahoma Humane Federation board member Misti Stewart of neighboring Pittsburg County organized a grass roots legislative training session in McAlester.

Stewart said, “We had to work on this issue from every corner of Oklahoma.” Oklahoma Humane Federation President Anita Stepp said, “Oklahoma Humane Federation is very pleased the bill passed.” Responding to a last minute effort by J Paul Gumm to reconsider the passage of the bill, business owners in Bryan and Marshall Counties protested his actions at the state level and from as far as Madill, animal welfare advocates made their voices heard throughout the session.

Sue Hamm said, “I see this as a process. We worked as a team and there are so many people to thank…” Check out the text of the bill at www.okpuppymilltruth.org.

The Struggle for Information About Oklahoma

posted July 1st, 2010 by
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Rebel #3

Story by Ruth Steinberger

My effort to learn the number of dogs transacted by USDA Class B, or “random source” dog dealers in Oklahoma each year, specifically for the years 2007, 2008 and 2009, hit a dead end this week within the federal agency that monitors the Class B dealer licensees. The USDA’s system shields this information even from the agency itself, and it will likely, “take an act of congress,” to change it.

Oklahoma is one of the highest in the number of Class B dealers licensees in the nation (34 out of 969 active Class B licensees are located in OK) and this trade in dogs and other animals, which go to research, product testing, resale for pets and animals used in exhibits, may be even more hidden than in the puppy mill world.

The Class B underworld was exposed in undercover footage produced by Last Chance for Animals and shown in the 2003 HBO documentary Dealing Dogs.  That case involved the seizure of over 800 dogs from the Arkansas based USDA Class B dealer, CC Baird. Undercover videotapes gathered by Last Chance for Animals revealed that Baird and his associates were involved in purchasing large numbers of stolen pets for over two decades while he was licensed by USDA.  Ultimately Baird was charged by the State of Arkansas, but not by the USDA.

What I have learned is that information which reflects the number of dogs transferred by each dealer is actually collected from the dealer, but then is not forwarded to the USDA or tabulated or tracked in any way.  It is virtually impossible to find how many dogs are processed by a single dealer, much less how many are processed through a single state.  Despite the fact that wrongdoing has been exposed in the Class B system, and this wrongdoing has been exposed to congress, the system remains set up to prevent an elected official from determining numbers or seeking accountability. Some dog dealers have been tied to theft by deception, for example people called “bunchers” are known to respond to free-to-good-home advertisements posing as a prospective home and getting dogs for the dealer for a fee.

Despite a track record filled with wrongdoing, it would be virtually impossible for a law enforcement entity to use USDA transfer records if they suspect pet theft. And although a National Geographic expose’ revealed pet theft to be a problem nationwide, the numbers on the Class B dealers forms are still not tabulated.

Commenting on Class B dealers, Stephen Barthold, Director of the Center for Comparative Medicine at the University of California at Davis, was quoted in Feb 26, 2010 www.sciencemag.org as saying, “There is a minority of dealers that is totally legitimate and doing the job well.”

Class B dog dealers mainly get dogs from “random sources” to be resold.  Some supply research facilities, they also supply pet retailers, and some are exhibitors, (this includes exotic animal exhibitors).   “Random source” is supposed to mean that owners who have raised the pets actually sell the dog or cat to the dealer. However, it’s unlikely that most people would knowingly sell a dog to go to research; having no method of accountability invites, indeed almost condones, wrongdoing.

On my first attempt to find out how many Oklahoma dogs are processed by Class B dealers, I was told by USDA to submit a request through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which I did.  Two months later a letter came explaining that USDA does not collect that information.

This week I spoke with a man named Wayne at the USDA Colorado office who did not offer his last name.

Wayne said that each dealer uses a disposition form which records anywhere from one to several dogs which are transacted, and that the dealer keeps one copy, one copy goes with the dog or dogs, and a third copy is held for the inspector who, according to Wayne, picks up the forms when USDA performs their inspection. He said the inspection is “annually, bi-annually or tri-annually…”  According to him, no copy is submitted to a central USDA office, nor are any figures or basic information tabulated by the USDA. Each inspector collects and simply keeps these forms somewhere. The numbers are kept from the public by omission, continuing a lack of oversight of a system which has been wrought with fraud, theft and cruelty for decades.

Wayne explained that essentially the USDA inspectors who receive the forms do not have a mechanism for allowing the forms to provide oversight or public access, the figures on the forms are not tabulated within a database, and inspectors do not submit numbers from the disposition forms to the agency itself.    Random source dogs end up as randomly released dogs, and their fates and numbers still cannot be determined from the USDA record keeping.

As it stands now, there is no mechanism that keeps the infamous CC Baird tragedy from recurring.

Please ask your federal representatives to mandate that numbers which are already collected on USDA forms be added up and posted so that the number of dogs processed in a county, state or within our nation can no longer be hidden from the public.

– Ruth Steinberger

Photos courtesy Last Chance for Animals