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“Petworking” Pays Off With Petpav.com, Your Pet’s Best Social Network

posted February 13th, 2015 by
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Think of it as Facebook for the furry. Social media, a communications mainstay for humans, has now found a way to welcome the four-footed companions that are so integral to our lives, thanks to Petpav.com (short for Pet Pavilion).  It was only a matter of time that pets started networking too or rather, make that “petworking.”

On Petpav.com, pets aren’t just welcome, they’re the main attraction.  And there’s no danger of their profile being taken down by Facebook’s pet police. Founder Lisa Fimberg launched the site because she wanted to create a social network where people and pets could connect with one another. “Petpav is all about our pets,” Fimberg explains. “It’s a safe and friendly place to talk about your pet(s) and the pet owners love and embrace it.”

Petpav came into existence because Fimberg found that other sites didn’t provide the mix of information and coziness that she was looking for in her Internet quest. Fimberg was visiting websites to get advice on what to do about her cat’s unruly night-time habits. She found sites that answered her questions, but realized that people who love their pets don’t just want information, they want a “petwork”…one that is fun, user friendly and pet-centric. And that’s how Petpav.com started.

After signing onto petpav.com and filling out your pets’ profile, Sammy the site administrator, who also happens to be Fimberg’s cat, will welcome you. Sammy is an orange tabby with a bit of a sassy nature, but what else can you expect from the feline genius who’s responsible for the creation of petpav.com? You’ll navigate to the petworking wall and introduce your pet and meet other pets and the people they own. The site is populated by pet lovers who are passionate about their animals. No naysayers here!

You know that your pet is the smartest thing on four paws. Now you have a place where you can brag to others, and listen in return as they praise their pets and everyone gets it. The site also provides articles that give advice on pet health issues, local pet events, and news on pets. The pet forum answers questions on subjects as varied as feline leukemia, keeping pets healthy during the winter season, what you need to know before you adopt a guinea pig or a rabbit, and many other topics of interest.  They also have a resident veterinarian who can answer general questions.

Pet businesses can also become members, where they have the opportunity to become Pet Business of the Week. This includes being featured in PetPav.com’s weekly newsletter, as well as being promoted on social media sites Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  Pet businesses can check out Petpav for the advertising it provides with the opportunity to directly target pet owners.

A special feature of Petpav is the contests that run throughout the year where you can win prizes. There’s the friendliest pet contest, the most social pet contest, favorite pet celebrities, and other fun ways to share your pet’s star quality and win valuable items for your pet. The first contest of this year is the Petpav Popularity Contest. Pets that make the most friends and share the contest on social media will be eligible to win prizes. Learn more about the contest which will run until March 3rd, http://www.petpav.com/pet-events/773-petpav-s-popularity-contest-is-your-pet-popular

You know how much you love your pet. Isn’t it time you connected with other pet owners who feel the same way?

About Petpav
Petpav founder Lisa Fimberg established petpav.com so that pet lovers can have a social media site specifically designed for what she calls “petworking.” Members set up profiles for their pets, share news and information, and take part in contests and forums. The site also welcomes pet businesses who benefit from the direct connection to pet lovers. Learn more at www.petpav.com

Connect Socially:

Twitter https://twitter.com/PetPavPets

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/petpav

Media Contact:

Lisa Fimberg

[email protected]

424-244-1738

Tick 411 – Everything You Need To Know

posted February 12th, 2015 by
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Tick 411

Tick 411

 

Everything You Need To Know About Treatment, Symptoms And Prevention

 

By Christy VanCleave

 

 

Ticks, more than just a nuisance, can carry diseases dangerous to people and animals.

That’s why it’s important for Green Country folks to know about ticks most common to the area and the viral, bacterial diseases and toxins they carry, as well as tick bite symptoms in both humans and dogs and how to treat and prevent them.

Here is the tick low-down to keep you and your pets tick free and healthy this summer.

Tick-born illnesses are caused by infection from a variety of pathogens. Because ticks can carry more than one disease-causing agent, patients can be infected with more than one pathogen at the same time. Diagnosis can be difficult since symptoms overlap with many common illnesses.

Reactions to tick bites may not show up for two to six weeks after the tick has been removed. Patients could experience one of many symptoms of the disease, and symptoms could appear intermittently.

Common symptoms in humans include headache, flu-like symptoms, stiff neck, fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, muscle aches, joint pain, nerve problems, abdominal pain and vomiting. If left untreated, the diseases can become severe and lead to other complications, even death.

The two most common tick-related diseases are Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but they are also the easiest to diagnose due to the rash that usually accompanies them. Lyme has a very distinct bull’s eye rash and Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a wide-spread rash.

Doxycycline is the first line of treatment in both adults and children and is most effective if started right away—within five days of the first symptoms. (The disease can later be confirmed by specialized lab tests.)

Canine symptoms are a little different and may include recurrent lameness due to inflammation in the joints, lack of appetite, depression, kidney damage, a visible stiff walk with arched back, sensitivity to touch, difficulty breathing and fever.  A blood panel test and urinalysis can be performed for accurate diagnosis. Again, doxycycline is the first choice of treatment if caught early.

Should you find yourself or your dog with a tick, promptly remove it with tweezers and grip the tick as closely to the skin as possible. Never use a smoldering match, cigarette, nail polish or kerosene as they may irritate the tick and cause it to inject bodily fluids into the wound.

Do not squeeze, crush or puncture the body of the tick since fluids may contain infection-causing organisms. The “head” does not stay in the skin, but the mouth parts may break off under the skin. Leave the mouth parts alone; they will expel on their own.

After removal, tape the tick to a calendar in case treatment is needed.  You can show the doctor for identification should it be necessary. It is also helpful to know how long it was attached if it was engorged.

While flea prevention has come a long way over the past 10 years, tick prevention hasn’t. Topical applications of Front-line or Advantix help, but take 24 hours to kill the tick once attached to the host. Some flea and tick shampoos with a pyrethrin base have a residue that lasts up to four weeks after application.

With Oklahoma’s high tick population, sound advice is to look over yourself and your pets after each walk or run in wooded or tall grass areas. With prevention in mind, and some basic knowledge of treatment, your summer outings can be fun, safe and tick free.

 

 

American Dog Tick

The American Dog tick is the most commonly-identified species responsible for transmitting rickettsia, which causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) in humans. This tick can also transmit tularemia.

 

 

Brown Dog Tick

The Brown Dog tick has recently been identified as a reservoir of Rickettsia, causing Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Ehrlichia canis. It is also responsible for Hepatozoon canis and Babesiosis (zoonotic). Dogs are primarily the host for this type of tick.

 

Black-Legged Tick (Deer Tick)

Commonly-known as the deer tick, the black-legged tick can transmit the organisms responsible for anaplasmosis, babesiosis and Lyme disease.

 

 

Lone Star Tick

The Lone Star tick transmits Ehrlichia chaffeensis and Ehrlichia ewingii, causing human ehrlichiosis, tularemia, and Southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), as well as Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

 

 

Gulf Coast Tick

The Gulf Coast tick can transmit Rickettsia Parkeri rickettsiosis, a form of spotted fever. Adult ticks have been associated with transmission of R. parkeri to humans. It is also responsible for hepatozoonosis infection that comes in two forms, but this tick is only responsible for Hepatozoon Americanum.

Saving Nadia

posted February 5th, 2015 by
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Nadia

Saving Nadia

 

By Nancy Gallimore

 

Note:

Winner2This article was the 2015 Friends of Rescue Award winner of the Dog Writers Association of America.

 

I woke up this morning with a little black nose pressed into my neck. Nadia, my new foster puppy, apparently decided it would be a great idea to sleep in the human bed last night. I hug the puppy to my chest, and she sighs in contentment. With her sigh, the sweet, distinctive aroma of puppy breath fills the air around us, and I breathe it in, cherishing the scent that will turn into dog breath all too quickly.

 

It was only about a month ago that this happy, cuddly pup was just a small, dark shadow, standing lost in the middle of the road. The moment my Jeep made the turn toward home, the shadow darted away to hide in the bordering brush and trees. I barely saw the movement, but I knew—it was a dog.

I’ve seen it too many times—a dog or cat blindly bolting for cover because this unfamiliar situation into which it has been plunged seems to be filled with nothing but danger and fear. This road, the peaceful country road that takes me home, is apparently a favorite spot for people who want to abandon unwanted animals. It’s a quiet, somewhat hidden side road, but it has just enough homes along the way to pacify a guilty mind—to allow the “I found him a home in the country” lie to have a hope of validity.

I kept my eyes focused on the point where I had seen the little ghost dog leave the road. I slowed as I reached the right spot, and I scanned the brush for any sign of my new friend. The late afternoon sun slanted bright beams into the camouflage of tall grass, weeds and trees, and as I searched, I finally caught a glint of wide, terrified eyes.

She was crouched tensely against a tree trunk beneath some fallen branches, her little face and body tight with stress and panic. Her eyes were round with fear, and every muscle in her body was ready to bolt if I made one wrong move.

Her soft brindle-hued coat allowed her to easily melt into the wooded background and growing shadows. If she decided to move farther into the brush, I would quickly lose sight of her. Though I wanted to rush in to whisk her away to safety, any sudden movement would have closed the door of opportunity.

There is an art to helping frightened stray animals. A panicked dog or puppy seems to revert to a primal state where raw survival instinct replaces any previously known domestic inclinations and responses. This is the moment when the human has to abandon the notion of how to respond to a pet animal. All of the baby talk and promises of cookies bounce off of terrified ears and a numb heart.

So I parked my Jeep and walked a bit down the road from the puppy, keeping myself at an angle to her but always    keeping her in my peripheral vision. She,  still crouched and tense, did not take her eyes off of me, the potential predator.

I reached a spot about 5 feet down-road from the pup. Her hiding place was about 8 feet off the road, so I was far enough away that I wasn’t putting pressure on her. I sat down in the weeds and gravel because dog rescue never manages to take place in a comfortable location.  Again I kept my body at an angle to the puppy instead of facing toward her.

Well-meaning humans really tend to get it wrong when trying to approach a scared dog. We usually go straight at them, looking directly into their eyes. We immediately thrust a hand toward its face. We lean in and push our faces toward them, all the while babbling in a high-pitched, loud voice. Imagine yourself in a position that is about a foot or so off the ground and how that feels—not pleasant.

Then, we tend to ignore all of their “please don’t pressure me” signals. They glance away. They lick their lips. Their ears will be tense and generally pressed back. The whites of their eyes show. These are all signals that say, please, please back away, but most humans don’t know how to read them. This is how rescue opportunities are lost—or worse, how humans end up with a nasty bite.

So there I sat, glancing sideways at the puppy, talking to her in a low, soft voice, tossing bits of beef jerky near her hiding spot (well, sure, I always keep something enticing in the car!). After about five minutes, the grass rustled, and the young dog cautiously reached out to hungrily snap up a bite of jerky.

Ah, progress. Very, very slowly, I scooted a little bit closer to where the pup sat, watching. Then I just held steady again. I kept my body loose and relaxed. I stayed at an angle to the puppy. I did everything I could to communicate a message that said, “I mean no harm.”

I tossed more jerky, this time not quite so close to where she hid. She crept out to gobble a few bites and then watched me warily, very ready to bolt if I made one wrong move.

Cars passed behind me. Most ignored me completely; some slowed to see what I was up to. I just sat and prayed they would not stop to help. Any added pressure from the human world would send this puppy racing into the brush. I needed a “please ignore the crazy lady playing in the weeds” sign.

After about 20 minutes of slow progress toward the puppy with a non-stop shower of yummy jerky (I can’t lie… I had a few bites myself), I decided to take the pressure completely off. I scooted slowly away from her and then got up, still in slow-motion and walked back toward my car.

What I hoped would happen, did.

Trailing about 4 feet behind me, a young, thin, frightened puppy followed. She still wasn’t sure about me, but I was the best thing she had found in this big, scary world, and while she wasn’t ready to run into my arms, she sure wasn’t ready to let me go either.

As long as I stayed steady and didn’t move too quickly, I was about to see a puppy make a very difficult choice—the choice to trust this human.

I looked sideways at my little shadow and asked if she might like to come home with me. Her reply was to crawl underneath my Jeep and plop down. Oh, great. First, I got to scoot around in gravel and itchy weeds, now I would know the joy of lying on my belly on the asphalt and gravel under my car. No matter. She was well worth it.

So I stretched out on the road and scootched my way under the Jeep. I would like to say a public thank you to my very significant other, Jim, at this moment for putting a little lift kit on the Jeep. It sure made the scootching much easier. Scootch, by the way, is a technical term that anyone who rescues animals in the field knows all too well.

Now I’m lying on my belly, under my Jeep on a thankfully not busy stretch of road. I extended my fingertips to offer another little bit of jerky. She gently took it from me and swallowed it without even chewing. This was one hungry puppy.

Then I reached out to lightly tickle the side of her neck with my fingers. At this point, I would like to issue another public thank you for the combination of my mom and dad that gave me freakishly long arms. They come in darn handy.

While lightly petting her with my fingertips, I finally saw a change in the puppy’s posture. Her eyes softened. Her ears lowered and relaxed. She exhaled with a distinct, little sigh. This puppy was making a choice to trust me.

I will tell you that when I catch frightened little dogs like this, I do initially take hold of them by the scruff of their necks. That may sound rough to some, but I have one chance to get it right, and I can’t risk a struggle or a fear-inspired bite. It’s important to be very careful when approaching a stressed animal that may feel cornered or threatened. I have found that most small dogs, especially young puppies, will go very still when you take hold of the loose skin on the backs of their neck. Their own mothers know this. It is not painful, and I don’t use this little handle for long, but it can be effective for safely scooping up a scared puppy.

I rubbed the puppy’s neck, and then I gently took hold of her scruff. Together, we scootched out from under the Jeep, and I quickly hugged her close, promising her softly that everything was going to be OK now. The pup quickly decided that I was her port in the storm. She pressed into me without a struggle, completely surrendering her fate into my hands.

The once scared, starving, lost puppy quickly became happy, secure and very friendly. She now has dog friends that play with her. She has soft beds for snuggling. She has many arms that love to hug her. She has all of the food and treats she could ever hope for even though she still inhales every meal as if it might be her last. She has a name, Nadia, earned because she is very agile and loves to tumble.

Most importantly, she has a future.

Nadia is learning skills every day that will ensure she can be successfully placed with a loving family. She is a dear, gentle, smart little girl. Someone will be lucky to love her. I can’t wait to see that match happen.

In the meantime, I will continue to teach her where she should potty and where she shouldn’t. We’ll talk about Jim’s house shoes and why they really aren’t a chew toy. We’ll go for car rides and walks. We’ll approach new things and new situations together as she learns to be confident. We’ll have great fun together.

I will enjoy our snuggle time and her sweet puppy breath. And when she places in a new home? Well, I have whispered in her ear every single day since she arrived that even after she finds her perfect family, I will always, always be right here if she ever needs me.

And I will.

Author’s note: The methods I outline here work for me, but I have a great deal of experience handing animals and have been involved in animal rescue for decades. I encourage anyone approaching a frightened or injured animal to exercise great caution. If you are unsure, call the animal shelter or a rescue group for assistance.  No one needs a bite from a stray animal.

I am pleased to report that Nadia’s story does  have a “happily ever after.” She has been welcomed into a wonderful home where her life lessons continue. She is safe; she is loved, and she loves her new human. Here’s hoping the same for all of the Nadias out there.

Pet Protection

posted January 29th, 2015 by
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Pet Protection

Pet Protection

 

G.I. Wishes, a local nonprofit, coordinates disaster response plan for area animals.

 

by Megan Miers

 

In the aftermath of natural disasters, such as the devastating tornadoes that hit Moore and El Reno in May 2013, human beings weren’t the only ones who found themselves without a home. Often in situations such as these, pets can become lost or separated from their families, or are left to fend for themselves during a storm because owners are unable to evacuate them safely or bring them to a community shelter.

 

One Tulsa organization is working to change that. G.I.Wishes, a nonprofit group that matches military veterans with adoptable pets, is in the process of building a disaster response plan and team that will assist in evacuating, seeking veterinary treatment and finding temporary housing for pets in the event of a storm or other disaster.

“In Tulsa, we don’t have any provisions for animal rescue in the event of a disaster,” says J.R. Becker, operations director for GI Wishes. Because of public health concerns, other disaster-relief organizations have shied away from animal rescue services, but the G.I. Wishes plan aims to fill that void.

G.I. Wishes’ in-development disaster response plan, which has the backing of federal, state and local agencies, as well as the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture and several Tulsa-area rescue groups and veterinary clinics, is expected to be fully operational by January 2015.

They will operate in conjunction with the Tulsa Health Department and under the Oklahoma Medical Reserve Corps, a group of specially trained volunteers and health professionals. First responders with the G.I. Wishes disaster team do not self-deploy, Becker says. Instead, they wait to be notified after a disaster declaration is made by the mayor or governor’s office to ensure a coordinated and efficient response.

The disaster response team will serve animals primarily in Tulsa County but may extend into other nearby areas such as Rogers County should the need arise, Becker says. Dogs and cats will be the main focus of G.I. Wishes’ disaster response plan—the organization does not currently have the capacity to aid larger animals such as horses. The network of first responders should be able to handle between 300 and 500 animals in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.

The disaster response plan is just part of G.I. Wishes’ larger mission, which is to find loving homes for adoptable pets by matching them with military veterans. Since its inception in 2011, G.I. Wishes has adopted out about 30 pets, Becker says.

Public events, social media, information provided by area Veterans’ Affairs centers and veterans’ counselors have all helped spread the word about G.I. Wishes and its mission, according to Becker. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, he says.

Veterans seeking a companion animal through G.I. Wishes start by calling the organization and discussing what type of dog or cat they are looking for. Becker and other volunteers will then search area rescue groups for available pets that fit those descriptions.

Prospective owners then fill out an application and are asked to provide two personal references, as well as information for their family veterinarian. Factors such as the age and energy level of both the pet and the prospective owner are taken into consideration in order to ensure a good match.

If the veteran already has another pet at home, then G.I. Wishes will have him or her bring the pet to meet the new one at a neutral location to determine how well the animals get along with each other.

G.I. Wishes also has a separate application for veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. In those instances, G.I. Wishes will contact the veteran’s therapist and physician to help determine whether or not he or she is ready to take on the responsibility of a pet.

Becker, a Vietnam veteran, longtime animal rescue volunteer and proud owner of three Shelties and two cats, says pets adopted out through G.I. Wishes have brought about many positive changes in their new owners, especially those who are dealing with depression or conditions such as PTSD.

“The change in these veterans is a complete 180—they’ve gotten out of their depression, and it’s like a self-reward,” he says. “Veterans from my generation were told to suck it up and deal with it, but we’ll never allow that to happen to the younger guys.”

He says pets often are the first to notice when their owners are upset or worried and can help calm them just by being there.

“Animals are soothing, and they can pick up on stress—they will nudge you or put a paw on you to let you know everything’s OK,” he says.

Once a pet has been adopted through G.I. Wishes, the organization will help with coverage of that pet’s basic veterinary care for the first year. G.I. Wishes also helps find foster homes for pets of veterans who are deployed or hospitalized and regularly updates owners until they are able to return home to their four-legged friends.

In cases in which a veteran passes away or is no longer able to care for the pet due to other circumstances, G.I. Wishes will take the pet back and foster it until a new family is found.

“We will keep that pet with us until it’s adopted out,” Becker says. “We are a no-kill organization.”

Disaster Safety Tips for Pets

Planning ahead will help you keep your pet safe in the event of a disaster. To ensure your pet’s safety, follow these tips from the American Veterinary Medical Foundation and the Humane Society of the United States:

Make sure your pet is equipped with proper identification tags. Ask your pet’s vet about implanting a microchip for identification purposes.

Have a leash, collar and pet carrier ready for each pet. Familiarize your pet with evacuation procedures and pet carriers. Carriers should have room enough for two small bowls, a litter pan (cats) and for the pet to stand and turn around.

Label each carrier with your identification and contact information.

Assemble an animal evacuation kit containing essentials such as several days’ worth of dry and canned food; bottled water; medications; first aid supplies; proof of ownership; emergency contact numbers; and copies of your pet’s veterinary records.

In case you are away when a disaster occurs, place stickers on entrances to your home or property to notify neighbors and rescue personnel that animals are on your property and where to find evacuation supplies.

To facilitate evacuation of your pets, provide a list near your evacuation supplies of the number, type and location of your animals, including their favorite hiding spots.

Have leashes and muzzles where rescue personnel can easily access them. Keep in mind pets can become unpredictable when frightened.

Designate a willing neighbor or nearby friend to tend to your animals in the event a disaster occurs when you are not home. This person should have a key to your home and be familiar with your pets, as well as know where evacuation supplies are kept.

How You Can Help

For more information on G.I. Wishes’ disaster response plan, how to adopt an animal through G.I. Wishes or how to donate or volunteer, visit www.GIWishes.org, call (918) 477-7606 or send an e-mail to [email protected] More information also can be found on G.I. Wishes’ Facebook page.

A Mavis Pearl Update

posted January 12th, 2015 by
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Mavis

A Mavis Pearl Update

By Anna Holton-Dean

 

Thanks to continued support and generosity, Mavis Pearl has her very own replica stuffed Bulldogs that are ‘distinctly Mavis.’

 

We recently brought you the story of Lisa Bain, founder of the nonprofit Joy In The Cause, and her 3-year-old Bulldog Mavis Pearl, whose schedule is probably as packed as yours.

As a registered therapy dog, Mavis Pearl frequents schools, hospitals, nursing homes and hospice centers throughout the Tulsa area. She is a part of Therapy Dogs, Inc., and Caring Canines, participates in the READ program and attends Champs classes for special needs teens and adults at K9 Manners & More. If that’s not enough, she also makes house calls on request.

And she does it all in her beloved pink tutu—really, she loves it. Lisa says, “If she doesn’t have something to do, she meets me at the door with her tutu in her mouth. To get her out of that tutu is like an act of God.”

She always wears it while visiting patients, serving in her role as ambassador of Joy In The Cause.

Quite the visible trademark, patients get their own Mavis Pearl stuffed dog—complete with pink tutu—thanks to generous sponsors and volunteers.

It all began when Lisa was asked to visit a little girl who was sick. “I wanted to take something,” she says. “Someone had given me some little stuffed bulldogs, and I just put a tutu on it and a bandana that made it look like Mavis. I wanted to make this little girl’s last days happy. You would have thought I had given her solid gold or a Disney Cruise or something.

“She was elated; that little dog meant the world to her. I realized how much these little dogs meant, and it just grew from there.”

A true labor of love, volunteers come together for Make-a-Mavis parties. The stuffed dogs are dressed in handmade clothes, prayed over and blessed before being handed out to patients.

Until recently, the stuffed dogs did not all originate from the same place. One Bulldog may not look exactly like the next.

But thanks to continued support and generosity, a company is now making stuffed Mavis Pearls that look exactly like her, with her markings and everything that makes them “distinctly Mavis.”

“They will be tagged with her tag and Joy In The Cause,” Lisa says. “They are being made as I speak. These dogs will go with us on our visits to chemo units, hospitals, etc. Each patient gets one made just for him or her.

However, the details like handmade clothing are still unique. If a patient has a request, “we make it,” Lisa says. “Today, we had a lung cancer patient who wanted a clown Mavis, and one for a bride and groom who are battling cancer.”

Since becoming a nonprofit last fall, Joy In The Cause has given out 3,800 stuffed Mavis dogs.

And Lisa gives the credit to the individuals, groups and businesses that make it possible for every single patient to have a free Mavis dog, from financial gifts to time making the clothing to the prayers and blessings.

“For instance, Ark Wrecking sponsored a month’s worth of dogs for Tulsa Cancer Institute. Rich and Cartmill sponsored dogs for every child at Little Lighthouse. A doctor at TCI is sponsoring a month and wants the colors in teal for ovarian cancer,” Lisa says. “The possibilities are endless, and we love getting the sponsors involved in the process. We send them pictures of where the dogs go; they even come out sometimes to help deliver the dogs.”

While on the surface, they may seem like a simple stuffed animal, Lisa has witnessed them turn into miracle stories that get people through the toughest of times, affecting everyone involved.

“It truly takes a village,” she says, “and we have a precious village of angels who lovingly make these dogs and send them out with a prayer and a blessing. They are like little prayer dogs that just encourage each recipient, as well as the person who made them. It goes full circle!

“We have even sent stuffed Mavis dogs to troops overseas in Poland, France, etc., and we’ve received pictures of them hanging out of soldiers’ backpacks. They have even traveled the globe to those going through illness… They love them.

“When I walk in and see them tied to an IV pole, snuggled under a child’s arm during a blood draw or as they sleep, or see an elderly patient taking the dog everywhere through treatment, even one on the mammogram machine to get a gal through her first mammogram… there are just no words.

“The E.R. unit even has a bucket of Mavis dogs and call ‘code Mavis’ when a child in trauma needs one. Oh, the stories there, they blow my mind. I’m just amazed by it all, and we are so grateful.”

For more information or to get involved with sponsorship, visit joyinthecause.org and click the sponsorship page.

It’s Raining Cats and Dogs In Rural Oklahoma

posted January 5th, 2015 by
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It's Raining ...

It’s Raining Cats and Dogs In Rural Oklahoma

By Ruth Steinberger
Unwanted, stray and abandoned dogs and cats are found all across Oklahoma. Many people who care about animals want to know why. A generous Kirkpatrick Foundation grant was awarded to SpayFIRST to do exactly that—examine shelter practices and access to spay/neuter in order to provide a better understanding of where unwanted animals come from and what we can do about it.
The SpayFIRST survey assessed at-risk companion animals in Oklahoma through household demographics (including household incomes and access to affordable spay/neuter services) along 15 major highway corridors, combined with a detailed survey of shelters that fall within those corridors. (The SpayFIRST survey in its entirety is available on the TulsaPets Magazine website.)
In addition to the collection of the data, our conversations with shelter workers revealed that many cities have a part-time worker who cares for animals in the morning and then works at a different position thereafter. Those officers get no training in best practices in animal control, and the shelters do not operate at hours which encourage owners to look for their pets.
Many rural shelters are unheated, unventilated and have no budget for veterinary care. It was often hard to figure out who to speak with; many shelters had no phones, and city management didn’t know the answers to our questions, meaning there were no written protocols or supervision. Some city administration offices were even unsure of where to direct our calls.
Last year the Holdenville, Okla., shelter was reported for failing to feed animals when a citizen looking for a missing pet entered the shelter and alleged that carcasses were present, and dogs and cats were clearly not being fed or watered. A lack of oversight that could allow that to happen in one city occurs all across Oklahoma. A small number of shelter workers noted the shooting of dogs; others circumvented the discussion of euthanasia by claiming that all animals are adopted or rescued.
The survey included data from census.org, the Department of Justice, and contact with each city that operates a shelter. City agencies were asked nine questions aimed at learning the number of animals handled, numbers euthanized, and methods of euthanasia and carcass disposal. Shelters were asked for information such as if animals were spayed or neutered before release or under a contract, and if under contract, is the contract enforced by the city or is compliance left up to the owner.
When refused sheltering, animals often face abandonment. Shelter access is the first line of defense against abandonment, and, in rural areas with chronic poverty, affordable spay/neuter services are the only line of defense against unwanted litters. Much of Oklahoma has neither.
For the survey, shelters were asked to provide either actual or estimated numbers because Oklahoma does not mandate that animal shelters keep accurate records. There are 136 municipal shelters or cities with contract arrangements for unwanted animals in Oklahoma. Twenty-eight shelters did not provide data; eight of those informed our team that they would not provide information, and the remainder simply did not return calls.
Three attempts were made to reach a shelter before determining they were non-respondent. Only 33 of the 136 shelters comply in full with the 1986 Oklahoma Dog and Cat Sterilization Act, a law mandating that shelter animals be altered before leaving a shelter or within 30 days of adoption. Fortunately, the largest shelters are all included in the 33 with compliant release procedures.
However, rural areas with the least access to spay/neuter clinics and the least access to sheltering are also the ones in which intact animals are most likely to be released from the existing shelters with no follow-up to ensure they were altered. Additionally, while the largest shelters engage best practices regarding sterilization of shelter animals, all are surrounded by shelters that do not, adding an undue burden to those that do comply.
Affordable spay/neuter access was defined as the ability to get a pet spayed or neutered for under 90 percent of a full day’s minimum wage net earnings (at around $48), within 40 miles of driving distance and within 30 days of the request for an appointment. For the purpose of this survey, we did not include access to the very important OVMA Pet Overpopulation Fund as despite good veterinary participation in the program, the fund often lacks money to approve surgeries in a timely manner.
Oklahoma has limited access to shelters. A little known state statute (Title 4, Ch.3, sec. 43) mandates that only counties with populations exceeding 200,000 people may “erect needful pens” and create animal control ordinances. Out of 77 counties, only three, Oklahoma, Tulsa and Cleveland Counties, exceed that population; however, despite being able to operate a county-wide shelter, none of the three do. The Oklahoma City shelter accepts animals from county residents for a small fee; however, some residents of Tulsa County, and roughly one-third of homes in Cleveland County, have no access to a shelter.
According to this statute, the municipalities within a county may operate a shelter, while the county itself may not (unless they meet the population mandate). Over 40 percent of Oklahoma households have no access to an animal shelter. Sadly, animals do not get into crisis only where it is convenient and, essentially, an unwanted animal on one side of a street may enter a shelter, while across the road, outside of city limits, the dog’s fate is luck of the draw; many are abandoned to starve.
Attempts to eliminate the population restriction have historically been thwarted by the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma, an organization that lobbies based on cost, not compassion. Currently, all 77 Oklahoma counties are members of that organization; citizens can request the cost of their counties’ involvement in that organization.
What happens to most of the dogs and cats outside of these jurisdictions is anyone’s guess. Rescue organizations throughout the state take in strays and get ‘round the clock calls regarding animals that have been abandoned or “dumped.” Some receive animals at the request of law enforcement when an emergency arises, and others partner with cities on a regular basis. Virtually all comment that the lack of infrastructure is an obvious roadblock to addressing the state’s needs.
In a 2008 bond referendum, Pittsburg County (county seat, McAlister), population 45,048, bypassed the state statute and opened a county-wide animal shelter. It remains the sole publicly funded county-wide animal shelter in Oklahoma. Two other counties, Washington and Carter, have private, non-profit animal shelters that provide contract services to the cities of Bartlesville and Ardmore respectively; both provide open access sheltering to residents of the counties they are located in. Neither receives county funds for that service. The city of Lawton Animal Shelter, a municipal facility, turns no county animal away from its doors, making them the only city shelter in Oklahoma with that policy. The Lawton shelter receives no county support.
The inefficiency is glaring. In Creek County, (population 70,651) the cities of Sapulpa, Drumright, Bristow and Oilton operate animal shelters for residents of those cities, yet only 40 percent of Creek County households have access to a shelter.
Spay/neuter access is disparate, and increased access is needed in rural areas. Standing high-volume, low-cost clinics operate 10 to 16 days per month in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Lawton and Durant. While heavily populated areas have access to affordable spay/neuter services, many rural counties, especially in the Western half of Oklahoma, do not. The counties with the least access to affordable spay/neuter services are also the counties with the least access to shelters, and most shelters that do exist in rural counties continue to release intact.
Determining predictors of best practices is impossible, but policies appear to be driven, at least in part, by individuals who are intent on making the right choices. The relative wealth of the city did not foretell whether or not the city would engage best practices. For example, Oklahoma’s five highest population cities are Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Norman, Broken Arrow and Lawton. Broken Arrow, a suburb of Tulsa, with an average income 31 percent greater than the state average, and a poverty level less than half of the state average, is the only one of the five continuing to release intact kittens and puppies, was the only one of the five to refuse to disclose the numbers of animals handled and was the last of the five to euthanize companion animals in a gas chamber.
Tulsa used a gas chamber until 2008, and the others had earlier converted to humane injections. Conversely, the city of Lawton, with an average income below the state average and a poverty level above the state average, has had in-house spay/neuter for all animals for four years, was the first city in Oklahoma to ban the chaining of dogs and has the most stringent spay/neuter ordinance in our state, an ordinance that is rigorously enforced.
Rose Wilson, Animal Welfare supervisor for the City of Lawton for 25 years, said that shelter policies, or a lack of them, affects the most at-risk animals in addition to placing a huge burden on the communities and rescue organizations.
“Releasing intact animals, whether it is to reduce euthanasia or just not wanting the headache of getting animals to clinics, makes the people who are working so hard to rescue animals spin their wheels,” Wilson said.
Referring to the 1986 Oklahoma Dog and Cat Sterilization Act, Wilson also said, “The state statute on the need to spay or neuter shelter animals was passed for an important reason, but most of the small shelters get away with ignoring it, and they are adding to the problems. In the small cities, many officials don’t educate themselves about the laws or the reason the laws are there. Some don’t care, but they need to. They really need to start to care.”
As an entity that does care about the issue, Louisa McCune Elmore, executive director of the Kirkpatrick Foundation, explained the mission behind a larger statewide assessment that is being conducted by the foundation: “The SpayFirst survey is part of a multifaceted baseline study by Kirkpatrick Foundation to assess the status and condition of animals in Oklahoma’s geographic boundaries, from wildlife and pets to livestock.
“Animal well-being touches every part of society, even if those connections aren’t automatically or abundantly clear. Child wellness, healthy families, domestic violence, food systems, human health, prison reform, PTSD and returning veterans, environmental conservation, edu-cation, quality cities and communities, housing and tenancy, homelessness issues—you name it, we can always draw a direct line to the importance of animal well-being in our communities. I firmly believe that where animals fare well, children, individuals and families fare well. And conversely, where animals are suffering, so too are people.”