General Interest

High Aim Assistance Dogs

posted November 15th, 2011 by
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Dogs helping meet their master's challenges

By Sherri Goodall

When you look into Chris Borden’s steady, engaging, clear blue eyes, you would never guess that nine years ago his entire world had shrunk to the small confines of his bedroom. At 12 years old, Chris could no longer attend school, go to church, go out to dinner, play with other kids, or participate in any other social activities we all take for granted.
Chris has Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Dogs helping their masters meet their challengesBriefly, children with ASD show deficits in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, unusual sensory experiences and repetitive behaviors.

Sitting at Chris’s side is Morgan, a 10-year-old German Shepherd dog.
Her ears stand alert; her eyes focus steadily on Chris, reading his every emotion. She is Chris’s connection to the outside world. Morgan and Chris were partnered in 2003. Since then, Chris is now attending college, interacts with people with a direct gaze (often, people with autism do not make direct eye contact) and converses in an engaging manner. He even speaks to groups of several hundred people about autism with Morgan at his side.

Today is just another miracle, according to Chris’ mother, Janet Borden, as has been every day since Chris first met Morgan. Before Morgan, Janet tried numerous doctors, therapies and medications, but Chris’ condition only worsened. By the time he was 13, Chris was having multiple panic attacks a day and enduring cruel bullying by kids at school. Janet took Chris out of school and decided to home school him. Chris’s condition deteriorated.

It wasn’t until Janet heard about service dogs for children with autism-related disorders that Chris’ life began to change for the better. In 2003, Morgan came to Tulsa with a trainer from a nonprofit support group, which no longer exists. The Bordens made a $2,500 contribution to the support group in order to get Morgan and her trainer. The trainer actually lived with the Bordens for 10 days during which no one but Chris was allowed to interact with the dog. In one week’s time, the Bordens were going to restaurants, malls, church, and other activities outside the home.

Of course, Morgan was by Chris’s side. After the 10 days, Janet found K9 Manners & More and Mary Green. Mary was able to continue Morgan’s training with Chris. Training requirements for autism dogs are different from dogs that assist with physical disabilities. Autismtrained dogs must be solid around people and especially sensitive to their owner’s emotional health. They must sense trouble before it begins, and then be able to assist with or prevent panic and anxiety attacks.
As a result of Chris’ progress, High Aim Assistance Dogs was founded by Janet Borden, Mary Green and Kim Sykes. Lisa Bycroft came on board in 2010. Large numbers of children are diagnosed every year with ASD. Obviously, there is a great need for these specifically trained canines.

Currently, there are four dogs in training at High Aim, and 11 applicants waiting for them. Each dog costs $10,000 to train over a period of two years. The goal of High Aim is to provide each dog free of charge to its clients. High Aim thrives on gifts, donated items and fundraisers. The organization is always looking for volunteers, trainers and puppy sitters. Meet Tedward, a magnificent yellow lab in training for High Aim. He was very busy trying to wow Morgan, who politely ignored him. He rested his giant head on his trainer’s foot, another way of “checking in” with his person. Dr. Stacey Ludlow is Tedward’s trainer. They’ve been together for several months. Stacey is a pediatrician and on the High Aim board. Tedward is learning the basics of obedience, plus High Aim skills and tasks training. They go to classes twice a week. One day soon, he’ll be ready to meet his person/partner.Dogs helping their masters meet their challenges

How can a dog redirect someone’s life that is beset by social interactions that cause panic attacks? One of the first, and most important, tasks Morgan learned With this command, Morgan put her paws in Chris’s lap and leaned inward, putting comforting pressure on Chris until the panic attack subsided. In “Lap up,” the dog climbs completely onto the lap, covering the person with his weight, similar to a weighted vest which is used to allay panic or anxiety attacks in children.

Morgan can sense a panic attack before it occurs, and she will signal Chris by nose flipping his hand, lapping up, pacing around him and/or staring at him with a “hard” face. This alerts Chris to do a brain check. This “brain check” causes Chris to rethink his thought patterns to interrupt the anxiety/panic attack. Morgan has remediated many of Chris’s autistic behavior patterns over the years, so that many of her “tasks” are unnecessary now.

Some of Morgan’s (and other dogs in High Aim Assistant training) tasks include:

CHECKING IN Checking in is one of the dog’s most important tasks. Morgan does this often with Chris to check his thoughts. If she senses anxious thoughts or patterns of sensory overload, she’ll get Chris’s attention to get him to redirect his thoughts.

MAKE FRIENDS When Chris asks Morgan to “make friends,” she’ll hold out her paw to shake hands. This allows Chris to ease into social interaction with other people.

NO VISIT This is the opposite of “make friends.” It tells Morgan to ignore approaching people. There are times when it is inappropriate to interact with a service dog or its owner.

BOUNDARIES Chris uses subtle hand gestures to move Morgan into a body block that places her between him and the public. This allows Chris to maintain his personal space. Morgan often anticipates this task and moves herself between Chris and whoever is approaching him.

WIDEN PERSONAL SPACE Morgan is trained to walk slightly ahead of, and around, Chris in wide circles. This prevents sensory overload, so people don’t get too close unless invited. Personal space issues are critical to people like Chris. (When I first met Chris and Morgan, I asked if I could pet Morgan. I sensed that there was a “boundary” around Chris that I shouldn’t cross without permission.)

WHERE IS CHRIS OR WHERE ‘S ______?
This is Morgan’s command to go find Chris when she’s not with him, or to go find someone else upon Chris’s command.

REALI TY CHE CK/REFOCUS The dog is trained to sit or lie beside the handler and allow him to twirl or stroke fur to assist with anxiety, intrusive thoughts and distractibility. Repetitive behavior can be redirected with this task.

All of us that are pet owners know this other dimension of emotional sensitivity between our pets and ourselves. How often is it that we know they sense our discomfort, sadness or anxiety? They’ll come and lay down by our sides, or stick their noses into our hands. I’ve noticed my Westies staring at me with such intensity during stressful times, as if to say… “OK, snap out of it – now!” With such a meaningful and critical goal embraced by High Aim Assistance Dogs, hopefully the needs of so many kids with autism-related disorders will be met.

For more information, and to find out how you can help, visit www.HighAim.org.

Dogs helping their masters meet their challenges

The Special Ones

posted November 15th, 2011 by
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Overcoming Disabilities

By Camille Hulen

The first inspirat ion for this article came from ‘Lil Snout, whom I recently met. He was injured as a kitten and is both blind and brain damaged. This presents a special challenge for his owners, Jana and Steve, because Snout not only requires medicine twice a day, but he must be hand-fed and then facewashed twice daily as well. In spite of this, they have cherished the love of Snout for nine years when he purrs contentedly each time he is held. He climbs his way into bed with them, and even enjoys chasing his noisy ball down the hall.

Overcoming DisabilitiesThis article gives but a glimpse into the lives of Snout and other special needs kitties. However, I highly recommend a recent book, “Homer’s Odyssey,” which recounts in detail the life of Homer, another fearless blind kitty. Author Gwen Cooper not only tells Homer’s tale, but all of the lessons about love and life that she has learned from him.

Dale would agree. She has fostered numerous special needs cats with disabilities, ranging from diabetes to cardiomyopathy to kidney failure. With the prescribed medication and attention, she has been able to give these cats a good quality of life as they move into old age and beyond.

Although not professionally trained in medicine, she has learned much useful information through the Internet and diligent observation. However, Baby, a blind kitty, became her joy. Baby taught her to pick up after herself, to not leave anything in the middle of the room, to wear clunky shoes so he could hear to follow her, and to talk so that he knew where she was. Baby was even a winner in a recent pet photo contest! Wouldn’t you love to adopt the beautiful white kitten pictured here? But what if you learned that she was deaf, as many pure white cats are? Would you adopt her anyway? Tom and Brandy did not hesitate, and now Dafney has become an integral part of their family, along with several other pets.

The only problem with a deaf cat is that she won’t come when called. (Yes, contrary to popular belief, cats do come when called!) On a positive note, Dafney is not afraid of the vacuum cleaner. Of course, Brandy was protective when Dafney came to visit me, warning that she should not be left unattended with other cats. Guess what? The other cats scarcely noticed Dafney and did not harass her in any way. Through the years, I have observed that this is the case: animals are particularly understanding of those who are handicapped. When a somewhat feeble old cat strolls through the kennel, the younger ones respect his age; when a kitten gets overly rowdy, they all feel younger and join the game.Overcoming Disabilities

Now consider Oreo. Oreo’s rear leg had to be amputated after an injury sustained from climbing a fence. He required special care at first, but now he gets along just fine without it; Oreo just doesn’t climb fences anymore. Then, there is the tiny kitten who was hit by a car. The irresponsible owner seemed unconcerned about his fate, saying that she had several other kittens! However, the responsible driver, Bud, took him to his vet, where it was determined he had a broken pelvis. Over time, the injury healed, with careful attention to limiting the curious kitten’s activity. Now he lives happily with Bud and Marilyn’s other cats, and he truly earned his unique name: Pirelli, after the brand of tire that hit him! Another injured kitten was found in a pound, cowering at the back of her cage, because she was languishing in pain. Without hesitation over the expense, Gail took her to the vet, where x-rays revealed several leg and hip fractures. But this kitty had a will to live! As she recovered, the kitten found a strange bedfellow: a squirrel that Gail was also rehabilitating. As they overcame their handicaps, these animals from two different species became unlikely friends, running and playing together.

What about cats with chronic diseases? Consider Peaches, who was deemed unadoptable because she was diabetic. That did not matter to Samantha, who seized the opportunity to learn all that she could about diabetes, and has now been able to help many other cats with the disease. It takes dedication to assure that kitty gets her insulin on schedule twice daily, but most loving owners are willing to adjust their schedules to accommodate this. Although insulin injections are required for most diabetic cats, it has been found that many times feline diabetes can go into remission with the proper diet.

At this point, Peaches is still enjoying life at age 19! But what about those dread diseases of FIV and feline leukemia? While most humane groups will put these cats down, some organizations such as Best Friends in Utah, and loving owners like the ones mentioned above, have proven that they are adoptable. Although the immune systems of these cats are compromised, the educated owner will see them lead happy normal lives.

The only concern: care must be taken in their contact with other cats, since these diseases can be spread through cat bites.
There are many more special kitties out there. In fact, as cats age, they all inevitably require special care. The original title of this article was going to be “Special Needs Kitties,” but, as I wrote, I realized that the kitties are not the only ones who are special.
So, too, are their human caregivers, who appreciate the fact that all life is precious. Hats off to them!

Big Changes Coming To Tulsa Animal Welfare

posted November 15th, 2011 by
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Changes are coming to Tulsa

By Anna Holten-Dean

Changes are coming to TulsaEvery month, hundreds of cats, dogs and other animals are brought in to the Tulsa Animal Welfare Shelter. Ideally, they are adopted, rescued, fostered or returned to their owners. But reality – and the fate of the majority – is nowhere near ideal. In September, of the 656 dogs brought in, 418 were euthanized.

While the current circumstances are grim, the obvious need for a change (and a total revolution to the system) is not lost on animal welfare and city officials, as plans are in the works to change these monthly statistics and, most importantly, decrease euthanizations.
Tulsa Animal Welfare Shelter Manager Jean Letcher Jenkins tells TulsaPets Magazine the first step toward improvements came from the Mayor’s commissioning of KPMG, the national auditing, tax and advisory firm, to study all City operations. The Management Review Office was created in October 2010 to review and implement the KPMG Report suggestions. In July 2011, the MRO sent a Request for Information to 58 local and national animal welfare agencies to gather ideas on efficiency and effectiveness of Animal Welfare operations.

However, Jenkins says only three of the 58 organizations responded to the request, including Tulsa SPCA, Oklahoma Alliance for Animals (OAA), and the Humane Society of Tulsa (HST). “OAA’s suggestions expressed support for current programs and suggested other programs for increasing adoptions and encouraging spay/neuter,” she says.
“Tulsa SPCA made some suggestions, but said they have as much as they can handle with what they already have.

The Humane Society came back with a proposal of how they would like to help animals in the shelter. This kick started negotiations of a partnership/contract between the Humane Society and the Tulsa Animal Shelter.” The partnerships between Tulsa Animal Welfare and the Tulsa Humane Society is slated to transition over the next six months, and should save the lives of more animals as, hopefully, the new policy will be to hold all healthy and adoptable animals (no kill), unless sick. Jenkins says adoptions will be handled through the Humane Society, and she will continue to work toward implementing spay/ neuter laws, awareness of spay/neuter laws through classified ads, and an animal helpdesk.

While there seems to be hope on the horizon for the future of many Tulsa animals, Jenkins and all those at the Animal Shelter are already doing everything within their power to reduce euthanasia rates and the production of homeless pets, based on the results of a 2007 audit under Mayor Kathy Taylor’s administration. Taylor also put together a taskforce to look at the recommendations and prioritize them. Jenkins was hired to implement the recommendations, although it is a difficult, daunting task – comparable to extinguishing a forest fire with only a water gun.

Changes are coming to Tulsa“The audit of the shelter in 2007 recommended all kinds of things,” Jenkins says, “from ways of conducting euthanasia to redoing the floors. We implemented everything in the study that we could afford. Looking at our budget of 1.8 million per year, it is down from 2.2 million when I started. We would love to do more fostering than we do, but to do it right is a full time job. We mostly foster very young puppies and kittens. We don’t participate in a lot of events. The animals have to be in the shelter to be reclaimed. You can’t take them home in a foster situation and still have them shown for adoption. It is better for puppies to be fostered than dogs waiting to be reclaimed. Again not all recommendations have happened because we can’t afford it. We have an $8 million facility in the long-term (5 year) plan. It consists of renovation and expansion of the existing facility as we are always full.” While the partnership is not finalized, Jenkins remains focused on the task at hand of reducing shelter – and ultimately, euthanization – numbers. She is currently working on implementing two programs, the first of which is for feral cats. She is pursuing a trap, neuter release program, along with a feral cat database. The second program will be a targeted spay/ neuter program for Pit Bulls, who make up 30 to 40 percent of shelter animals.

The result of the contract between Tulsa Animal Welfare and the Tulsa Humane Society remains to be seen.
The logistics are also not concrete, but hopes are high among those who have a stake in animal welfare that the number of euthanizations will decrease, while those rescued will increase, as that is the ultimate purpose – to save lives.

However, only time will tell what truly comes of the partnership, and TulsaPets Magazine will be covering the progress and updating all of you, the readers, who are concerned about the fate of Tulsa’s homeless animal population.

Protect your Pets

posted November 15th, 2011 by
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Chloramine now in Tulsa water

We know your pets’ safety is always a top priority, so it’s important that fish owners are knowledgeable about an upcoming change to Tulsa’s water. While the conversion will further protect Tulsans’ health, it will also change the way you care for your fish, amphibians and reptiles.

Chloramine now in Tulsa waterBeginning in February 2012, the City of Tulsa and the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority (TMUA) will begin adding chloramine to the City’s water instead of chlorine for disinfection in the distribution system. Chloramine, a chemical combination of chlorine and ammonia, provides longer-lasting protection against naturally occurring bacteria in the pipes bringing the water from the treatment plant to your tap.
Chloraminated water has been used safely in water treatment systems in the United States for more than 90 years, including nearby cities such as Oklahoma City, Sand Springs, Lawton, Norman and Dallas.

For the protection of your aquatic pets, chloramine, like chlorine, must be removed from the water before it is added to your fish tank or pond.
“Chlorine removal treatments that are commonly used include letting water sit for 24 hours until the chlorine dissipates, boiling the water or using a chlorine removal tablet, but these treatments will no longer protect your fish,” said Joan Arthur, project manager for the City of Tulsa. “Chloramine must be removed from the water using water conditioners or filters specifically designed for treatment of chloramine.”

Treating your wat er Local pet stores and suppliers carry low-cost chloramine water conditioners for pet owners. These water conditioners contain a combination of ingredients used to neutralize the chemicals in your tap water that may be harmful to fish. To keep your fish safe, be sure to choose a water conditioner that removes – not just neutralizes – both chlorine and ammonia.

It’s best to consult your pet supplier to see what product will work best for your fish, but commercially available dechloramination products and specialized carbon filters with highquality granular activation carbon are typically most successful in removing chloramine from the water. Most commonly, chloramine conditioners chemically change the chloramine to a compound that is not harmful to fish.
Pond owners will also need to change the way they treat the tap water they add to their ponds. Slow replacement, adding small amounts of tap water to your pond, is a common chlorine treatment option for fish in a pond setting, such as koi. Since chloramine does not decrease its concentration nearly as quickly as chlorine when exposed to air, the chloramine should be removed from the water before adding significant amounts of tap water to your pond.

Chloramine can be removed by adding the recommended amount of either a pond conditioner that is formulated to remove chloramine or by adding sodium thiosulfate. “If you use sodium thiosulfate to remove chloramine, you will need to monitor the ammonia concentration and be sure you have a healthy bio converter to reduce ammonia to safe levels,” Arthur said. “Typically, you want your pond’s ammonia level to be zero.” Sodium thiosulfate is an easy-tomake pretreatment stock solution. One gallon will treat up to 60,000 gallons of water. Make a solution consisting of four ounces sodium thiosulfate crystals, which are available at pet stores, pool supply stores or online, and dissolve in one gallon of distilled or de-ionized water.

You can test your pond for ammonia using a Nessler kit or salicylate-based test kit, which are available at pet supply stores.
With pond conditioners, it’s important to follow manufacturers’ instructions to maintain your fishes’ health.

Why is chloramine harmful to my fish?
When people and other animals, such as dogs and cats, drink water it is neutralized by the digestive system before it reaches the blood. Fish and other water life don’t just drink water, they breathe it. When the water contains chlorine, ammonia, or chloramine, these substances enter the blood stream through the gills and chemically bind to the iron in the red blood cells, which makes it difficult for those cells to carry oxygen. Eventually, the fish is in danger from a lack of oxygen. Using a chloramine water conditioner easily removes chloramine from your tank or pond and will maintain your fishes’ health.

Is chloramine harmful to fish, reptiles and amphibians living in our rivers and lakes? The water in our lakes and rivers is from a variety of water sources – run-off water, storm water and water we’ve used in our homes and businesses. By the time chloramine travels through our water system to the lakes and rivers, its presence is so minimal that it has no effect on the natural life cycle of fish and water animals.

Why the change?
The City’s change to chloramine disinfection will benefit water customers by reducing the levels of disinfection byproducts (DBPs) in our water system, while still providing protection from waterborne disease. In addition, it allows the City of Tulsa to meet stricter government-regulated requirements for water, which go into effect in 2012. Chloramine provides longer-lasting protection, as it does not break down as quickly in the pipes.

History of chloramine use
Chloraminated water has been used safely in cities in the United States, Canada and Great Britain for more than 90 years. Cities in our region that use chloramine disinfection – and have for decades – include Oklahoma City, Sand Springs, Lawton, Norman, Denver, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and St.Louis.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approves the use of chloramine as a disinfectant in our drinking water. With new EPA regulations going into effect in 2012, it’s expected that even more cities will convert to chloramine use like Tulsa.

Look for these products
There are many quality water conditioners sold at local pet stores and suppliers. Brands such as AmQuel, Ammo-Lock or AquaCleanse will remove chloramine from the water. Refer to your pet store and water conditioner labels to select a product that’s best for your pet.
In general, a good water conditioner will remove chlorine, chloramine, ammonia and other various chemicals.

For more information about how to protect your water pets, visit your local pet store or visit www.tulsawater.com. You may also contact the City of Tulsa Customer Care line which is 918-596-2100

Animal Rescue Transports Give Hope One Leg At A Time

posted November 15th, 2011 by
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By Anna Holton-Dean

In 2010, over 11,000 animals were processed through the Tulsa Animal Welfare Shelter. Of those animals, 2,222 were adopted, and 1,205 went to rescue groups. With just one shelter’s sobering numbers in mind – let alone national statistics – it’s obvious to see why volunteers like Tanya Kittrell and Neil Golden are willing to dedicate countless hours of their time, coordinating pet rescue transports.

Freedomtraintransports.com best describes the process of pet rescue transports: free, volunteer based transportation designed to rescue animals from high-kill shelters and abusive/neglectful situations. Animals (usually dogs and cats, but possibly other pets) are transported to screened and approved rescues or forever homes.
The transportation is provided by a large network of volunteers, donating their time, money and hearts in order to see the animals survive and thrive.

Several years ago, Golden became co-moderator for On the Road Again (OTRA) transport, which was founded in 2004, and is one of the many transport groups within Yahoo! Groups. Transport groups like OTRA provide a forum for communicating transport needs and connecting people who want to help. Each coordinator can post requests for drivers to fill relay legs along a particular route. Today, OTRA has over 2,000 members across the country.

Rescue transports, like those provided by OTRA, are necessary for two primary reasons. First, shelters and rescue organizations do not have the money budgeted for transportation, so transporters fill in the gap, Golden says. Secondly, Kittrell, an independent volunteer, adds there is an estimated 80 percent of transports coming from the South and going to rescues and homes in the North and Northeast. “Because of the sheer number of puppy mills, the local Southern rescues simply don’t have the room to accommodate the need,” she says. “With the economy the way it is, many have had to close their doors.

The Northern rescues are these animals’ only hope, and it takes an organized transport to get them there. “Some rescue/adopters opt for a paid transport to escape the extra work involved with volunteer transports, but most rescues can’t afford to pay $100 to $150 per animal. These volunteer transports are their only option. There is a tremendous need for responsible coordinators, and I felt this was the best way I could give,” she says. Golden also saw the tremendous benefit of rescue transports after his initial run. A lifelong rescuer always looking for a way to help, he quickly discovered transporting would become a permanent part of his life.

“Several years ago, I received an e-mail from a young lady in Texas who was coordinating a transport for some homeless Pit Bull dogs to Minneapolis,” he says. “The dogs were otherwise going to be destroyed, but they had a rescue offer in an area of the country where they would be easily adopted. I volunteered to drive a relay leg from Perry, Okla., to Wichita, Kan., and afterward was hooked on the idea of saving the lives of innocent animals simply by changing their geographic locations.” Golden reiterates Kittrell’s sentiments that many animals can be rescued by finding homes in the Northern states.

Transports in which he coordinates/ volunteers usually originate in Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina with destination points in New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming.

For coordinators, like Golden and Kittrell, there is significant commitment involved. Kittrell says first the coordinator must gather all necessary information from both the sending and receiving parties, map out the route and calculate each leg (an average of 75 to 80 miles in length) from point A to point B, input all of the information in a self-formatted “run sheet,” e-mail the sheet to all various contacts and networking media (Yahoo! Groups, Facebook, etc.) in order to recruit volunteer drivers for each leg (including overnight legs). And that’s only the beginning.

Next, she gathers all the volunteers’ information (name, e-mail, phone number, vehicle description) and inputs it into a separate working copy of the run sheet that will be sent only to the involved parties once all legs are filled. Then, she must monitor the transport once it is in progress. Each driver calls in after hand-off to the next driver.

“Most transports take place on the weekends, so many a Friday night ends up sleepless and spent begging for people to volunteer,” Kittrell says. “On rare occasions, I may have to make some phone calls to find a volunteer for one pesky leg that’s holding up the entire transport.

When it comes down to it, there are really only two kinds of coordinators – those who are responsible and do it right and those who do not. After some hard lessons, I’m proud to say that I am one of the responsible ones.” Despite the time commitment and responsibility of coordinating runs, Kittrell says she felt the need to fill the role which is greatly lacking in volunteers compared to the number willing to serve as drivers. “I seemed to fall into the role pretty naturally,” she says, “and I was good at it so I kept at it, slowly improving with each new transport. The problem is there’s an overwhelming number of rescued animals in need of transport yet very few coordinators to assist.”

For those interested in volunteering as a coordinator, there is much to consider, and Kittrell cautions it isn’t for the faint of heart. “Other than the reward of knowing the animals made it safely to their destination and will live much better lives, there are few positives,” she says. “It’s extremely time consuming, highly stressful and intense, and it’s very easy to become overwhelmed with the load because of the high demand. Burn out is very common, especially if they consistently take on too many runs each weekend. I eventually had to limit myself to two.

“A good coordinator needs to be organized, somewhat anal retentive with perhaps a touch of OCD, driven, and have the ability to take charge and make quick decisions. If they’ve ever been labeled a control freak, they’d likely make an excellent coordinator.” Also, Kittrell says potential coordinators, after knowing the pros and cons, would need to be mentored for several weeks before being released to coordinate runs. Once the coordinator has been trained, one small, motivating factor he or she can look forward to is earning the respect and trust of those who volunteer for transports. “Once you have that and word spreads, volunteers seem to come out of the woodwork,” she says.

Because there are those with impure motives, rather than the animals’ best interest, most transport groups screen and check references of all potential members before allowing them to join.
If someone is not able to assist homeless pets in other ways, such as fostering, donating money or coordinating, then driving transport legs is a good option, requiring a typical time commitment of three hours during a given weekend.

The only expense involved is gas money. “The nice thing about it is that it’s selfregulating, and you have the pleasure of meeting a lot of like-minded volunteers and all different kinds of dogs, ” Kittrell says. “It’s highly rewarding because without them, these transports would not be possible and more shelter animals would lose their lives.” The first step toward volunteering is getting connected to a Yahoo! Internet Group, such as OTRA (groups.yahoo.
com/group/OnTheRoadAgain/). Golden encourages animal lovers and potential volunteers to get involved for one simple reason – the animals. “When humans domesticated animals thousands of years ago, we made a deal with them,” he says. “We wanted them to be a part of our lives as companions and servants.

Animals have kept their promise, but for the most part, people have not lived up to their responsibility. Assisting animals in need is a way for me to make good on the human side of the deal.”

How to Help Prevent Homeless Pets

posted November 15th, 2011 by
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By Kiley Roberson

Everyone loves a puppy or kitten. They’re cute, cuddly and absolutely adorable. Born in litters of five to 10, that just means more fluff and more fun, right? Unfortunately, for millions of homeless dogs and cats, that’s not the case. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that there are 375 million homeless dogs worldwide.

That’s approximately 75 percent of all dogs born. The number of homeless felines is very high as well, but one Oklahoma group says these sad statistics can be a thing of the past. “It’s math; it’s common sense,” says Ruth Steinberger. “We can spay our way out of these problems.” Steinberger is the founder of Oklahoma’s Spay FIRST!, an organization aimed at education and prevention of pet overpopulation. She says the answer is simple; it’s all about getting the information out there. “We’ve seen the commercials about drinking and driving, even about animal abuse,” she explains. “Those things are terrible, but the issue of unwanted litters is far less dramatic, so it often gets passed over as unimportant.

That has to change.” Spay FIRST! hopes to be that change agent. In September, the organization launched its brand new website, designed to offer ideas and information on how to start or expand spay neuter programs in your community.

Rural and poverty stricken areas are often the hardest hit with homeless pets. Conditions for dogs and cats are reflective of the communities in which they live. Where people are suffering, so are the animals. In Oklahoma, more than a third of the state is considered rural. That typically means no animal clinics or shelters. When you compound that with a lack of basic prevention services and spay neuter education, the result is a giant crack for dogs and cats to fall through.

It’s up to the communities to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“When people think of helping homeless pets, they think about adoption, which is great,” Steinberger says. “But what they don’t realize is that you don’t have to rescue what you prevent; you don’t have to shelter what you prevent. You’ve already prevented it.” Spay FIRST! is all about prevention in Oklahoma and nationwide. It focuses on helping people create or improve first-time animal welfare efforts. Many have little or no money, no animal shelter and simply don’t know where to start. The Spay FIRST! website offers information on several different ways spay neuter programs can be launched including:
organized transport to spay neuter clinics, private practice partnerships and even mobile spay neuter programs.

The website is still growing and will eventually include videos detailing each program. Within the site, there is a sharing space where organizations and individuals can share tips on programs, outreach, ideas, education and more.

Also, Spay FIRST! has a social media presence on Twitter and Facebook, so followers and fans can find out the latest information and post their own spay neuter success stories in their communities.
Steinberger says she sees Spay FIRST! as more than an organization. She calls it a movement – a movement to end pet overpopulation with prevention being key. “Animals do not have to have the heartbreaking experience of being unwanted,” she says. “Spay neuter is simple, cost effective, and, most of all, it is humane. It is a path that’s easier and cheaper to walk than building shelters and addressing the tragedies one by one.

” For more information on Spay FIRST!, visit www.SpayFirst.org