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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.”

A Cat Tale – ‘Purr’sonalities

posted December 28th, 2014 by
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Cat Tale

A Cat Tale

Purr’sonalities

 

by Camille Hulen

 

“Are all redheads short-tempered? Are all blondes dumb?” (Please don’t answer with a blond joke!)

I ask this question because people searching for a new cat to replace a recently departed one frequently see a picture and say, “That looks just like Fluffy; I want her!” Sorry, folks, you will probably be disappointed. Although two cats may look alike, they can be very different. Every cat is unique.

True purebred cats do have some distinguishing characteristics.  Siamese are usually more vocal; Ragdolls are probably more laid back; Sphinx are more active, and Tortoise… well, maybe bipolar. However, these are stereotypes and are not always accurate. Besides, I prefer to think that most of us deal with the rescue of mixed breeds.

Let us consider some examples. Don’t the cats in this picture look alike? They are my own cats: Duncan and Mister. I say that Duncan chose Mister from a litter of kittens because he looked like him!  Although they are both gray and white, they are very different. Duncan is a real lover and lap cat. He is ever-present, both with us and visitors. Mister is a loner who would prefer to be outside. Duncan favors my husband and cuddles with him every night, while Mister comes to me for love. Duncan is compliant; Mister is defiant.

Consider my black cats. KatMandu is an “in your face” kind of guy with a mind of his own.  He confronts most every cat who crosses his path. Needless to say, it was KatMandu who trained my puppies to respect all cats. On the other hand, Darth is a loner, much like Mister, but as he ages, demands more and more attention. Pooh is a sweet, gentle girl who asks for little and gets along with everyone. All are black and have been raised in the same home environment, yet they are very different.

Even kittens from the same litter are unique and exhibit special traits at an early age. Although I could scarcely tell two identical kittens apart while I bottle-fed them, Sherpa was so-named because he was an adventurer who climbed every mountain, beginning with the stairs. His sister Pearl was quiet and timid. They still look so much alike that their adoptive parents refer to them as “the twins,” and they are still most distinguishable by their behavior.

Another example is from a different litter. One orange Tabby was so gentle he is called “Mel,” short for “Mellow Yellow,” while his white brother immediately showed no fear of my 90-pound dog and loved to be nuzzled by him. Yes, you might say that most orange Tabbies are mellow, but don’t tell Sugar Ray (a survivor who fought for his life) that!

Not only do cats have distinct “purrsonalities,” but they react to different people differently. I have seen the shyest of cats that usually run and hide from strangers nuzzle up to others and beg for attention. And, just as humans do, cats react to situations differently. I’m sure that you have seen your own loving, little pussycat turn into a real tiger when she visits the vet.

The purpose of this article is to ask you to be open-minded in seeking your new fuzzy companion. Don’t “judge a book by its cover;” that is, don’t look at just the cat’s picture. Perhaps the best advice is to let the cat choose you. Then love and cherish its idiosyncrasies.

Ferguson Subaru & GDB Partnering for Share the Love

posted December 6th, 2014 by
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Share the LoveFerguson Subaru

Subaru of America has helped support nearly 300 animal shelters, grant more than 600 wishes, fund over one million meal deliveries to seniors, and support over 70 national parks through the “Share the Love” event. The Subaru “Share the Love” Event is held every year between November and January. For each new Subaru purchased during the “Share the Love” event, Subaru donates $250 to a charity of the new Subaru owner’s choice. New Subaru owners can choose between 4 national charities or 1 local charity . Subaru encourages each Subaru dealership across the country to partner with one local charity. This year Ferguson Subaru is partnering with Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB).

Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc.

Guide Dogs for the Blind empowers lives through exceptional partnerships between people, dogs and communities. Guide Dogs for the Blind envisions a world with greater inclusion, opportunity and independence, by optimizing the unique capabilities of people and dogs. Guide Dogs and K9 Buddy Dogs for visually impaired youngsters are provided at no cost to those requesting them, through support from people like you. Lone Star Guide Dog Raisers is a group of volunteers who raise puppies in their homes to become future service dogs. Right now there are 33 graduates who have a guide dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind who live in Oklahoma!

Share the Love 3

Petunia Pet Records App

posted November 13th, 2014 by
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PetuniaLouisville, Colo., USA (5 November 2014)—We are proud to announce the release of Petunia, the app that helps keep your pets safe, and their records close when it matters most.

Petunia is a freemium iPad app that saves your pet’s health history and personality quirks and makes it easy to share that information with your pet sitters and veterinarians. Want to make sure the pet sitter remembers that Fluffy likes her food warmed 12 seconds in the microwave? Petunia’s got that. Need to note when Fido did not eat his dinner? Don’t write it down on a napkin. Note it in Petunia where Fido’s information is backed-up and organized. Information is critical in the health-care equation. Make sure that your pet sitters know when to give Sparky his medications, and that your new vet knows the manufacturer of Sparky’s vaccinations.

The app is great for single pet households and multiple pet households. Pet owners can update each pet’s unique profile anytime and simply email or print it for a sitter or the vet. No need to fill out pet forms over and over again. Get it at http://www.GetPetunia.com

Petunia helps you with:
• Pet sitting: Minimize stress and reduce the risk of missing important health-information when leaving pets in someone else’s care. Petunia lets you share critical pet care details with pet sitters.
• Symptom tracking: Record when your cat threw up, or when Fido needs his heartworm pill. You’ll see trends that can keep your pets healthy and never forget details.
• Changing vets: When traveling, keep your pets’ medical records close and share them with new vets any time, even in emergencies.

Petunia’s free features:
• Record profiles, vet visits, and home care for all of your pets
• Share information about one pet, using email, within a single page PDF
• Automatically add dates, e.g., vet appointments, into calendar
• Graph weight history of pets
• Customize your pet’s photos on his or her profile page

Petunia’s paid features:
• Share information about all your pets in text format or multi-page PDF’s through email, Dropbox, and Google Drive. US$0.99/year, or US$4.99 for permanent use.
• Advertising removal. US$0.99/year, or US$4.99 permanently.

Petunia was developed by pet-loving folks at Spastic Muffin, LLC, a software development company in Louisville, Colorado, USA. Our pets inspired the idea for Petunia and helped with the testing.