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The Comfort of Cats

posted April 15th, 2008 by
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Story by Camille Hulen

Pat was a single lady whose cats were her children.  

There was Morris, the oldest, a big orange Tabby every bit as handsome as his namesake in the cat food commercials.  Morris was now nine. Next there was Lucky, age six, a grey Tabby so named because he was lucky to survive when injured and lost his tail.  Then a friend had asked her to come see Sarah when she was a little kitten, and Pat couldn’t resist, adopting both Sarah and brother Sammy.  So now there were four cats living a happy life together.

When the war in Iraq began, an opportunity presented itself for Pat to serve her country, not as military, but as a civilian government employee in Iraq.  It was difficult, but Pat left her cats with a caretaker, promising to return in one year.  Email made life bearable, as she learned of their adjustment and their regular antics, along with the latest pictures.  Strangely enough, Lucky and Sarah had now become buddies, replacing the sibling relationship of Sammy and Sarah.  She made a visit home for Christmas, and saw that they were happy.

Then misfortune struck, when one day Pat detected a lump in her breast.  She was given a leave of absence to seek medical care, and the diagnosis was not good.  Her cancer from years past had returned.  Her foreign service curtailed, she returned to work in Tulsa.  As she underwent surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, the cats were there for her.  How many cats can fit in one recliner?  The answer is at least four, because the cats were always by her side.

As her illness progressed, Pat became concerned about the long-term welfare of her cats, and made arrangements for their adoptions, because she knew she would not always be there for them.  However, it was most important that they stay with her in this troubling time.  We have all heard the story of the nursing home cat who comforted patients in their last days.  Animals know when they are needed.

Only when Pat left Tulsa to receive final care with relatives, were the cats removed from her.  Still, she received regular phone calls to learn how adoption was proceeding.  She was most concerned about Morris, for some thought he might be “too old” for adoption.  Guess what?  He was first to find a home, displaying his gentle loving ways.  Then Sammy, who was a “talker,” found a home.  But what about Lucky and Sarah?  They had become fast friends while “mom” was overseas, always grooming each other and sleeping together.  They needed to go together, and it is not always easy to find a home for two cats.

As Pat grew weaker, she talked less and less during the phone calls, but she always asked about her cats.  Finally, the good news came!  Sarah and Lucky had been adopted together!  She could no longer speak, but her nurse said she was smiling.  The next day, Pat died.

House Bill 3192

posted April 15th, 2008 by
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Story by Ruth Steinberger

The bill died in committee on February 18 without even being heard by the Oklahoma House Ag Committee. Many Oklahomans question this outcome, which was immediately condemned by the Tulsa World. 


Puppy producers that sell wholesale, (through dog brokers, dog auctions, etc), are required to be licensed through the USDA, as either Class A or Class B dealers. Breeders that sell directly to the public, either through the internet, flea markets or local advertisements, are exempted from federal licensing and remain unregulated in Oklahoma.  

High volume dog breeders, along with substandard facilities often called ‘puppy mills,’ are rapidly on the rise in Oklahoma.  Confusion surrounds this often secretive industry, which has grown dramatically in the last five years here; Oklahoma now ranks second in the nation in the number of licensed high volume breeders, with an increase of over 70% since 2000.  

According to the USDA, Oklahoma has 12.3% of the total number of USDA licensed pet producing facilities nationwide, with over 600 breeders located here.  The number of unlicensed facilities in Oklahoma is estimated to be two to three times that number.

All other states with a large number of high volume dog producers have state regulations to cover facilities not regulated by the USDA. 

In fact, although a total of five states, Oklahoma, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa, produce over 65% of the nation’s mass produced puppies, 26 states actually govern the care and selling of producing dogs. In Oklahoma, unless federally licensed, pet producers operate under no regulations at all.

The term ‘puppy mills’ generally refers to substandard high volume puppy (or kitten) producers that turn out animals under very poor conditions, with no regard for animal welfare, the health of the puppies or the consumers who buy them.  While the USDA licensed high volume facilities are expected to meet minimum regulations, the picture for many dogs that are in unlicensed facilities is grim.  

The overwhelming numbers of animal neglect complaints regarding high volume breeders lodged with law enforcement, state agencies or humane societies in Oklahoma do not involve facilities that are USDA inspected. This means they are not compelled to follow any regulations. 

Additionally, during the last two years, over 600 dogs have been removed from facilities posing as rescues. Despite even having non-profit status, these facilities have allowed animals to starve or be used for breeding; an Oklahoma County individual that claimed to be rescuing Pit Bull dogs was actually tied to a dog fighting operation. This bill would have created minimum standards for private shelters and rescues, including regulations for cleanliness and record keeping. 

Many breeding dogs in substandard facilities languish in tiny cages, and in filth. To save money on the cost of housing dogs, puppy mill kennels can consist of anything from small cages made of wood and wire mesh, to tractor-trailer cabs or simple tethers attached to trees.  Cages stacked on top of each other mean that urine and feces run down from one cage onto the one below. It is not uncommon for dogs in these facilities to be blinded by the ammonia burns to their eyes. 

Deborah Howard, President of CAPS, a Massachusetts based organization dedicated to halting puppy mills, said, “Puppy mills operate like a business, except instead of car parts or shampoo, the “goods” are puppies to be sold to consumers.   Much like any other business, there are three basic operating principals; the increase of goods, the decrease of costs, and the maximization of profits.  In puppy mills dogs are bred for quantity, not quality.  As a direct result, breeders, brokers, and pet stores ensure maximum profits by not spending money for proper food, housing, or veterinary care.”

Normal veterinary care is often completely lacking; hiding the truth of their practices, some operators of these facilities have advised customers to avoid veterinarians.  Many substandard facilities perform their own C-sections on female dogs unable to give birth on their own.

When the dogs are no longer able to produce puppies, terrified dogs are sold at the growing number of auctions in our state, with an older dog barely bringing a dollar or two to a greedy seller who will not give the dog a humane end because it would cost money to euthanize the dog.  

Indeed, Oklahoma’s lack of regulations makes our state a haven for those who cannot pass regulations enacted elsewhere. As regulations have tightened in New York and Pennsylvania, estimates are that the number of unregulated breeders that have flocked to Oklahoma in recent years may make us number one in unlicensed facilities. The toll includes consumer issues, fraud, animal neglect and health issues involving untested and unvaccinated dogs. As a cash crop, Oklahoma loses out on the tax revenue in most cases. 

Tara Beres, Director of Safe Haven Center in Midwest City, has assisted in the rescue of puppy mill dogs for the past two years.  Referring to HB 3192, the Pet Quality Assurance Act, Beres noted, “There is no reason that this bill did not pass. The regulations were based on USDA regulations, and those are weaker than most Oklahomans would tolerate if they knew the truth. This bill gave an edge to those that were already licensed as they already meet the criteria, and were exempted from inspections. It’s hard to imagine what happened.” 

With no time to garner support for the bill, the 17 month effort to draft a comprehensive, effective and fair bill died a quiet death in the OK House Ag committee. Many Oklahomans wonder why. Two minor activities reveal that Oklahomans who support humane treatment of dogs and cats used for production need to become vocal now in order to be heard next year. 

The AKC (American Kennel Club) is required to inspect facilities housing AKC-registered dogs that produce seven or more litters in one year.  A January 23, 2008, e-mail from Oklahoma AKC inspector Stacy Mason alleged that USDA standards are too restrictive, and that following the regulations compromised breeders who already exceed the regulations.   Mason’s complaints included excessive fees. However, HB 3192 proposed a licensing fee of $25, while AKC facility inspections start at $250 per inspection. Her plea ended with a sample letter to send to legislators entitled, ‘Kill the bill.’  

The AKC communications office has not responded to calls about inspector Mason’s e-mails. 

Weeks before the legislative session the Humane Society of the United States was advised that a knee jerk reaction from certain legislators could negatively impact the bill and were asked to remain out of the issue as other national groups were doing. Within days of being advised that this legislation could not withstand being tied to their overall agenda, HSUS announced their legislative lobbying day, which was actually noted as impacting the bill by a committee member. Although the day was planned as a national event, HSUS refused the request to cancel the Oklahoma day when advised that it would likely backfire on legislation as has been alleged to have occurred elsewhere. 

Exactly what happened is unknown. The actions by the AKC representative and HSUS are minor but they make it clear that it will take a strong collective voice by Oklahomans about a substandard industry that is giving a black eye to our state and is costing us in the ways that any clandestine industry will do. 

Beres again said that the issue cannot be the wording of the bill but a fear of inspection at all. She referred to the USDA regulations, which stipulate that a dog must have space that equals its length from nose to base of tail, plus six inches, times the same amount of space, plus six inches of head room. This means that an average sized beagle may spend its life in a cage that is around 32” by 32”.  

Beres continued, “Just a few breeders came up with phantom problems with the bill that amounted to fabrications. The fact is that if these regulations scared you, there is something very wrong with the way you are doing things. At one point, they said they wanted to use education to reach people who are doing things wrong. How do you educate people that keeping a dog in filth, often in sheds with no lighting, inadequate diet and no veterinary care is not nice?”

She concluded, “One thing is for certain, very few Oklahomans who are not dog breeders approve of the industry the way it is, and even fewer of those who have purchased poor quality puppies want to see it remain unregulated.” 

Many people are asking why these facilities are leaving other states to come here, and even some breeders who have invested heavily to build kennels in Oklahoma would like to see the movement of substandard kennels to Oklahoma slowed, as it brings low-end competition into the mix.  

Charles Helwig, DVM, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Association said, “The Pet Quality Assurance Act, which is HB 3192, is an important step in regulating the commercial kennels in Oklahoma. Oklahoma is one of the largest producing states for puppies and kittens, yet does not have any state regulations. This legislation is a consumer protection bill that is needed to address consumer complaints and animal welfare.” Helwig encouraged citizens who are concerned about this issue to contact legislators to make their voices heard. 

www.caps-web.org
www.okpuppymill.truth.org  

We Know…

posted April 15th, 2008 by
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Story by Carolyn Arkison

It’s a cold winter’s day outside, snowing, wet and frigid. Inside the Tulsa Animal Welfare Shelter there’s an eerie silence. 

The quiet is very strange considering the kennels are at 90% capacity. We know, you know. We know that eight in ten of us will not survive much longer. It is a mixed blessing, this shelter. It’s so wonderful to come in out of the cold, to receive some food to eat, to be treated with a measure of respect. Yet it quickly becomes apparent that most of the inmates here have lost all hope. Thus, we sit, we stare, some sleep … we are numbed by the brutal reality we face.

I’m known as inmate number 7811 but I used to be called “Red.” An animal control officer picked me up last night during a sleet storm. My humans moved but left me behind, alone in the backyard. I hadn’t eaten in several days. I lay next to the foundation of the house for shelter. The cold was brutal. I was very afraid. When the officer approached me, I was so weak I didn’t offer the slightest resistance. I felt hope when I heard his voice.

The kennel right next door to mine contains inmate numbers 7672 and 7673. These guys are Dachshund mix pups. Their three litter mates found homes. They are said to have been quite cute as tiny puppies but now that they are a few months old, their family didn’t think them cute enough to keep … they brought them here. At least they have each other to offer a bit of comfort. The air hangs heavy with the prospect of euthanasia. 

The kennel next to them has inmate 4305. He’s a black, white and tan mix breed dog. Probably has some Jack Russell terrier in his background. He’s a small dog but very smart. He learns tricks easy. He’s one of the few that hasn’t completely lost hope. He greets visitors that approach his pen. His eyes are sad but he’s trying very hard to maintain the Shelter-inmate morale. 

Inmate 3511 on the end contains a beautiful Bull-Mastiff mix female. She is wearing a red nylon collar (which is usually a good sign that she has a human) but she has no tags. She’s very thin. She just sits there in the corner. She will not look at visitors, she always looks away. I think she’s completely resigned herself to being among the many who take the long walk to the injection room. She’s just waiting.

The other inmates here at the Shelter comprise all shapes, sizes and temperaments. Some are beautiful and some give “scrounge” a whole new meaning. Some have so much energy they literally bounce off the walls while others are lethargic as if they can hardly move. There really is someone for everyone here. Rescued pets, in particular, return the favor in ways intrinsic … there’s a depth and a gratitude beyond description.

The one thing we all have in common here at this Shelter is our heart’s desire to be granted the incredible privilege of loving a human being unconditionally. We made that pact with human beings several millennia back, to work in cooperation for the improved conditions of both species. Both the human population and the canine population have exploded since those early times. Humans don’t need our assistance as they did a mere century ago. We can’t keep pace with the humans’ rapidly expanding rate of evolution. We feel we’re being left behind.

We have so much to share with humans. We want to teach the simple lessons of appreciation and delight. We want to learn to cooperate with our given human partner, to perform the jobs of greeting your guests, loving your family and protecting your property. Yes, we will occasionally chew up your favorite slipper, tinkle on your tile and dig a hole in the yard. We want to lead you daily to that place where ordinary meets extraordinary and heaven touches earth. We remember the sacred pact of ages past.

Our reality is very bleak, our days are fading fast. We need only receive your gift of love and acceptance to lead you to that place where extraordinary life-experience is camouflaged within the mundane processes of day-to-day living. Many priceless gifts await us both there … but we cannot travel the path alone. We each need the other.

This earth-plane existence is all about encounter. Every second of every day contains lessons that can only be acquired in the living of the moments, both magical and ordinary. As we work to understand the other, we each gain so much …
we discover the tapestry of Divine woven within the fabric of everyday existence. It’s all right there in front of us! 

Won’t you extend your heart so that together we may tread the path of priceless memories, share the joy of learning inter-species communication, and savor the blessed moments of life’s great secret? The best things in life cannot be seen and cannot be purchased they can only be felt and experienced from the heart. We need each other. We have much to learn, much to teach and more to share.

We know that we can try your patience. We know that we can charm your heart. We know that we can amaze you and we know that we can love you like no one else can. We know, you know, that we cannot survive without you … we know.

Publisher Letter

posted April 15th, 2008 by
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Story by Marilyn King

Greetings, greater-Tulsa-area pet lovers, and I hope you enjoy this Spring issue. Even though I’m a “winter” person, I’ve never before been as thankful to see a spring!  

First off I want to say thanks to all who helped make possible this issue. My advertisers, the talented contributing writers, and the people at Langdon Publishing – thank you! Without any of these people there would not be a TulsaPets Magazine.   

What a sad disappointment that the proposed state bill to strengthen licensing regulations for puppy mills and improve the living conditions of these animals was shot down. Please take time to read Ruth Steinberger’s article, and visit www.okpuppymilltruth.org, to read what’s really going on with puppy mills in our state.  At the website, it’s an easy click to contact your representative in protest. Why should we even allow the creation of masses of puppies in an already critically exploding situation, and simultaneously ignore the truly inhumane conditions these poor things suffer. So please, visit and click!      

On a happier note, a grass roots committee has been formed to brainstorm ideas and possibilities for a Tulsa dog park. It will be a slow process, but a process is forming. Hopefully by the July issue there will be some significant updates to report, as well as a “task force report” on recommended improvements to the Tulsa City Shelter

So you ask – who is the dog on the cover? My friends have been telling me it’s time for a good lookin’ dog to grace the cover, and I thought, hmmm, I just happen to have a nice picture handy. This is Samuel Augustus, one of my three rescued labs. (Since TulsaPets Magazine is primarily a family operation, Sam decided to help out!)   He was a stray walking down our midtown street that no one claimed, and I’m convinced someone drove into the neighborhood expressly to rid themselves of him  He’s been a blessing, and it scares me to think he very well could have ended up an inmate like the others in the article We Know on page 6.

Stay tuned to good things coming in July, and spread the word on the importance of spaying and neutering.  And when your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, or others are thinking about adding to their furry family, do encourage them to go to one of shelters or rescue groups to save the life of a homeless pet.  The pet overpopulation problem isn’t their fault, it’s a human fix.  It’s all up to us. 

Spamela Anderson – a PIG who hit the jackpot

posted April 4th, 2008 by
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Nancy expected to fall in love with a four-legged, black and white spotted canine who usually sits on fire trucks. Instead, it was love at first sight for a five-pound, four-legged creature with a wiggly snout, perky ears, grey spots on her rump, soft brown eyes, and a curly pink tail and hooves.
Pink ears? Hooves? Grey spots? Doesn’t sound like a Dalmatian to me. Meet Spamela Anderson, a pig who hit the jackpot that day, six years ago.

Spamela was found wandering around with two adult hogs. She weighed five pounds and was just a few weeks old…way too young and fragile to stay at a shelter. Nancy took her home, under the illusion that she would just foster her for a couple of weeks. Little did she know, she would fall in love with the tiny piglet. Nancy has used the adjective “beautiful” to describe her pig. It seems contrary, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Nancy did her homework and got help from the local pig rescue group (yes, there is such an organization), www.hamalot.org. 

As for her name, Nancy’s friend Jim, just popped out with “Spamela Anderson,” an ideal moniker for a beautiful, pink babe!

The little piglet came with assorted issues. One was pig lice, which, fortunately, have an affinity for

pigs only. She also was a rather picky eater. Nancy discovered that Spamela had a yen for Cheerios and strawberries, a perfectly good breakfast. Soon, Spamela outgrew her indoor digs and movedoutside to a pen and then into the barn. In addition to rescuing and training Dalmatians, Nancy and Jim also care for horses, donkeys, sheep and llamas. Spamela became a regular in the Dalmatian’s playgroup, even finding a best friend, Monte. It took a while for Spamela to realize she was a pig, and not a Dalmatian.

In fact, Spamela is a blue-butt Yorkshire cross.

Nancy trains dogs professionally. She knew pigs were smart, so she decided to clicker train Spamela. (This method involves using a clicker to mark and reward desired animal behavior.)  Spamela picked it up immediately. As a youngster, she would sit, lie down, do weave poles (as in agility training), recall, play “touch stick” and bump a soccer ball…all by command. Spamela still has to sit for her dinner and come when she’s called.

As a 500-pound adult, Spamela has become a bit porky to fit between the weave poles. She is about three feet tall at the back and around 5’9” from nose to tail. She does let Nancy ride her.

She now knows she’s a pig and is no longer fussy about her food. Whatever Nancy serves, it is a gourmet delight for Spamela.

The love affair is mutual, by the way. Spamela has a special little grunt for Nancy. One of her favorite tricks is planting a muddy nose print on your backside. No designer jeans, please.

Indeed, Spamela Anderson hit the jackpot. She lives a very nice life, roaming the acreage with the couple’s other four-legged animals. She sleeps in a straw bed in the barn. In the summer, she wallows happily in the cool mud. She also loves to have Nancy scratch her belly.

As a pet, Spamela fits all the specifications: she’s friendly, affectionate, loyal, and funny.

However, Nancy doesn’t recommend pigs/hogs as pets for just anyone. She has plenty of room for Spamela to roam and enough space between neighbors that Spamela’s enthusiastic hollering when it’s dinner time doesn’t disturb anyone.

Nancy chose May 1 (May Day) as Spamela’s birthday, so come May 1st, wish Spamela a Happy Sixth Birthday…and many more!

Story by Sherri Goodall

Publisher Letter

posted January 15th, 2008 by
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Story by Marilyn King

Cheers to all you pet lovers, and Happy New Year 2008!

Welcome to Volume II, Issue Number 1 of TulsaPets Magazine! We’re kicking off our second year with some great editorial – read about the introduction in Oklahoma of the national Five Saves Lives campaign, and see the beauty and the wonder of the Macaws!    (I hate to use a very trite and trendy word, but they truly are AWESOME!)   Also, the story of the wonderful rescue of the little Convention Center dog is sure to warm many hearts!

As you may be aware, the Humane Society of the United States was commissioned by the City of Tulsa to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the practices at the Tulsa Animal Shelter. This on-site inspection/ evaluation was done in April of 2007 and took several months to complete. The task force reviewed virtually every section, practice, and condition at the shelter, from a visitor’s impression of the entryway to euthanasia and animal disposal. It’s quite chilling to read, and parts of it made me cry. Let us hope that steps will be taken to follow the recommendations in the report. It’s bad enough to be homeless and possibly injured, let alone be impounded at a shelter. That stay should provide the most comfort possible considering the conditions. Anyone wishing to read the HSUS report in its entirety can find it on our website, tulsapetsmagazine.com.

As I stated in my last letter, one of my goals was to get my magazine in some of the local libraries’ distribution centers, and that goal has been accomplished. Since there are 25 libraries in the greater Tulsa area, I was limited to the biggest five, but TulsaPets Magazine can now be found at the Central Library downtown, and the Hardesty, Martin, Rudsill, and Zarrow Regional Libraries.    

I took my boy Sam to the Lab-A-Poolooza event last September, and he had an absolute ball playing with all the other dogs! They were in a secure fenced environment, and it was amazing how they all got along so well! It hit home of how much we need a dog park (or two) in Tulsa.  (Coincidentally, I tried to establish one about ten years ago, and the then-Mayor Susan Savage put me on a committee with about seven others with the same interest. Unfortunately, nothing ever materialized, but the idea is not dead.   I’ve had several recent calls and emails from people with the same interest.) I’m noodling on ways that interested Tulsans could help make a dog park happen, so stay tuned to my website tulsapetsmagazine.com for developments!

I do hope you enjoy this issue as much as I’ve enjoyed working on it — a huge thanks to my advertisers and to all who contributed!   I also want to say a special thank you to Lauren and Joe at Langdon Publishing for making the magazine happen, and to all you passionate pet lovers out there!

Until April,

Marilyn & Sam