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Watch out for those pads!

posted March 28th, 2013 by
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Of my two dogs, I have one who is always managing to get into things he shouldn’t.

The other night, when I let Spock and Yoda inside from a romp in the yard, I noticed some bloody paw prints on the kitchen floor.

They were both running around, so it was hard to tell who was bleeding. After investigating all the paws, I found a pretty deep slice in the pad of Spock’s back right paw.

I managed to stop the bleeding, clean it out and did my best to keep him from licking it.

A scratch on the pad is no fun, but typically not a huge deal. But this was no scratch — it was deep and my gut was telling me to take him to the vet.

So the next morning we made our way to the vet.

After glancing over his file, the doctor asked me “Wasn’t he just here for stitches in his paw?” Like I said, this dog is always getting into stuff.

And again, he needed stitches. My gut was right.

He’ll be just fine, but who wants to make a trip to the vet for something like that?

So as it (hopefully!) starts to warm up in the next week or so, here is your friendly reminder from Spock and me to watch out for those pads.

As you begin your spring cleaning, make sure to do a once over on your backyard for any sharp objects that don’t belong.

- Lauren Cavagnolo, [email protected]

It’s almost time for baseball and hot dogs!

posted March 18th, 2013 by
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If your dogs have never had the pleasure of attending Bark in the Park at ONEOK Field, add it to your list of spring and summer activities.

Check out Yoda’s picture at Bark in the Park, have you ever seen a happier dog?

Presented by City Vet Hospital, Animal Aid of Tulsa and 94.1 The Sound, there are six Wednesday evening games on the schedule that your pooches can attend.

Make sure to have a copy of your vaccination records on hand. Dogs and their humans should enter through either the Oil Derrick or Arvest entrance.

View the complete schedule and get your tickets now at tulsadrillers.com.

Bark in the Park games

April 24

May 22

July 17

July 31

Aug. 7

Aug. 21

- Lauren Cavagnolo, [email protected]

I signed it, did you?

posted February 25th, 2013 by
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I know there are a lot of petitions floating around out there (Death Star, anyone?), but there is a new petition deserving of every Tulsan’s time, attention and signature.

The goal of the grassroots movement, led by Lloyd Benedict of the Benedict Law Firm, Marilyn King of TulsaPets Magazine, and Steve Kirkpatrick of TulsaPets Magazine/MyTulsaLive, is simply for the city to enforce the spay/neuter laws already in place.

Shocked that this isn’t already happening? You shouldn’t be.

In 2012, the city euthanized more than 7,000 animals of the almost 12,000 taken in. The most effective solution to this pet overpopulation problem is for pet owners to take a little responsibility and spay and neuter their pets, reducing the number of unwanted pets taken in by the city.

However, the numbers make it evident that there are plenty of irresponsible pet owners in Tulsa. Which is where enforcement of the current law is key.

Pet owners who refuse to have their animals fixed need to know that the city is serious about the law.

For more information on the current law and ordinances and a link to the petition, visit Spay / Neuter Tulsa on Facebook.

What better way to celebrate National Spay/Neuter Month than by signing the petition? Do it for the animals of Tulsa who need and deserve better.

-Lauren Cavagnolo, [email protected]

Animal Shelter Numbers Tell Only a Part of the Story

posted February 10th, 2013 by
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As it appeared in the 2/8/13 Huffington Post

by Ruth Steinberger

The problem of homelessness in America is cause for alarm — and for action. Most of us are aware of the distressing reality of homelessness faced every day by millions of our fellow citizens — war veterans, the mentally ill, children, families, the working poor. Far fewer are aware of another homeless population among us. Even the size of this neglected population is difficult to determine and it is entirely unable to advocate for itself.

The number of homeless dogs and cats in the U.S. cannot be established by merely tallying up the numbers at all the animal shelters. The fact is, many, perhaps most, surplus pets never enter the shelter system. Yet their lives may be at greater risk than those that do enter shelters. If we are to address the problem of homelessness among our country’s dog and cat population, and reduce the horrors that face this population (neglect, roadside abandonment, intentional cruelty, euthanasia), we must include the uncounted, the “invisible,” among them in the discussion.

In considering the issue of homeless pets, some may argue that if all pets were simply obtained from animal shelters, the number of homeless companion animals would gradually be reduced to the point that the euthanasia of healthy, loving dogs and cats would largely cease. However, that would not work because the math just doesn’t add up.

According to the Spay USA website, 70,000 pets are born in the U.S. each day, while according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 10,957.2 people are born each day (or 3,999,386 annually). So unless families pick up their seven dogs or cats each time there is an addition to the family, the number of surplus pets will continue to exceed the number of homes available to them.

By focusing our efforts on adoption instead of reducing births we may cycle different, but not fewer, pets through the shelter system. Only by reducing the number of unintended births among our dog and cat population can we hope to reduce euthanasia, neglect and cruelty.

According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA) the world’s leading pet products and manufacturers trade association, the largest source of household pets is not the local animal shelter, a breeder, or a pet store. A 2012 APPA poll revealed that while 21 percent of dogs are obtained from shelters and 26 percent from breeders, 39 percent are from the combined random sources of friend, family member or stray — sources that typically reflect impulse decisions, not planned adoptions. The number of cats obtained from a friend, family member or stray is reported to be 75 percent. And for both dogs and cats, the number obtained as a stray is greater than the number coming from pet stores. These figures represent the cycles of pets in poverty; pets obtained from these sources are at risk of producing even more unintended litters that are also likely to join the ranks of the invisible homeless.

An April, 2009, a Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) article revealed that household income is the greatest predictor of whether or not pets undergo a spay/neuter operation, with homes earning under $35,000 being almost half as likely to have pets altered than homes over $75,000. Ultimately, most unwanted litters originate in low-income communities and the pets are likely to be passed on to their new homes unaltered and with the mothers remaining at risk of producing more litters. Those concerned with shelter euthanasias and animal neglect should be alarmed that the animals most likely to suffer are the unplanned puppies and kittens that are passed between family members, friends and neighbors, or given away in parking lots or through newspaper ads and websites like Craigslist. According to Pet-Abuse.com, a national database on animal cruelty, dogs are the number-one animal victim targeted for cruelty. Pet-Abuse.com also notes that “free-to-good home” advertisements, a common method for placing unplanned litters in communities without shelters, increase the risk of an animal becoming a victim. Intact male dogs are victims in 80 percent of canine cruelty cases, followed by puppies.

Even if we were to count only the animals that enter the shelter system, the number of homeless is startling: According to Oxford Pets, roughly eight million surplus animals will enter shelters in the U.S. this year. Some will enter as part of a litter and others will enter as adults. Only 25 percent of the dogs and a very small percentage of cats will be purebred; 75 percent of dogs and nearly all of the cats will be mixed breed animals that originated in unplanned and largely unwanted litters. Most will originate in low-income communities and fewer than half will leave the shelters alive.

Although we may be drawn to complex socio-economic explanations to account for and address the problem of homelessness in people, in the case of homeless pets we need to begin with the simple fact that there are just too many dogs and cats for the number of homes available for them and that being part of this surplus leaves millions of dogs and cats out in the cold. Although affordable spay/neuter services exist in many urban areas of our nation, throughout vast areas of the U.S., spay/neuter services remain spotty and unavailable. Literally millions of surplus animals are born as a result of that void. Without increasing convenient access to spay/neuter programs and mandating their use, effecting change in many areas of the nation could still take decades.

With ad campaigns and other encouragements, we can, perhaps, increase the number of cats and dogs entering and leaving through the revolving door of our local animal shelters, but spay/neuter programs, not adoption, prevent the overwhelming number of excess pets from needing homes, entering shelters or becoming victims, no matter where on the timeline they are counted.

Nancy Atwater, executive director of Tulsa-based Spay Oklahoma, a high volume spay/neuter program founded in 2004 that currently provides over 12,000 spays or neuters to pets in low-income Tulsa City/County homes each year, says that much of this is a matter of common sense. According to Atwater, “The shelters in most large cities are diligent about spaying or neutering pets before release. So if most pets came from either shelters or breeders, urban spay/neuter programs would serve largely purebred dogs and cats. But that’s not what happens. Our clients mainly have mixed-breed animals that were obtained locally. And we see almost as many of these as the number of surplus pets that enter the local shelter every year.”

The number of pets entering shelters may be equaled by the number of surplus pets that are never counted. Our vision, and our solution, needs to encompass all that are at risk of hunger, cruelty and neglect.

Shifting our current practice from the collection and dispersal of homeless animals to preventing their births can stop the suffering and abate the need for building or expanding shelters. It can be done. It just means changing our strategy to spay/neuter, something that is cheaper, easier and more humane than building shelters to lock up unwanted pets. This should not take decades.

 
 
 

 

Follow Ruth Steinberger on Twitter: www.twitter.com/spayfirstorg

Spay/neuter Ordinances Should Be Adopted Nationwide

posted February 10th, 2013 by
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As it appeared in the 12/31/12 Huffington Post

by Ruth Steinberger

The hidden costs of pet overpopulation make the expansion of affordable spay/neuter services into an ethical and financial imperative. Sadly it is still lagging throughout much of the U.S.

In poverty, people and the companion animals around them suffer together. It’s a tragedy intertwined between dogs and cats and the people they depend on for their basic care. The lack of resources in poor communities is easily ignored, yet like other issues facing low-income communities, overlooking the impact of pet overpopulation has social, ethical and financial implications.

In the U.S. animal control costs are estimated at $2 billion a year or around $6 per person. The majority of animals entering shelters, especially litters, come from low-income communities. Additionally, poor pet care habits are tied to an excessive number of dog bites, a phenomenon that disproportionately affects low-income communities as well, adding another estimated billion dollars each year (in 2011, insurance companies paid $479 million for dog bite claims) or roughly another $3 per person. Nine dollars per person is spent annually to address largely preventable problems.

It’s complicated and sad; neither the animals nor the taxpayers come out ahead. Although statistics point overwhelmingly to the need to expand spay/neuter programs and mandate their use, public dollars for prevention based spay/neuter programs do not equal even 50 cents per person and mandatory spay/neuter remains controversial.

Addressing the issue of too many dogs and cats in poor communities is not simple; overall access to convenient, affordable spay/neuter services is disparate with some states having only a very few accessible, affordable programs to serve the state, and some statewide programs that do exist lack the funds to operate effectively. Additionally shelters that respond to homeless animals are generally operated by municipalities at taxpayer expense; spay/neuter programs that prevent unwanted litters usually are not; these services are opened by nonprofit organizations one at a time, and due to local costs (rent, etc.), some must charge rates that are out of range for many low-income homes to pay.

A 2009 study noted that annual family income was the strongest predictor of whether cats in the home were neutered. The household income that delineated the difference in pet care habits was $35,000 per year. The fact that poverty affects the animals in the home is also a matter of common sense.

“Affordable and accessible” means different things to different people. In the absence of a program to ensure affordability, those who live at minimum wage struggle to have a pet spayed or neutered.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour; this is roughly $15,000 per year, or around $53 per day after taxes. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that in 2011 roughly 2.2 million hourly workers earned below the minimum wage. Almost 25 percent of U.S. households earn under $25,000 per year, with close to 40 percent under $35,000 per year. Additionally, according to the Social Security Administration the average person on disability receives a benefitof $710 per month. In November 2012, 8,241,018 individuals received disability payments at an average of $518.80 per person.

Spending over a days’ earnings to spay the pet, driving hours to get to a spay/neuter program or waiting weeks to use an intermittent program places responsible pet care out of reach for low-income homes.

Stray, mangy dogs turning over trash cans to find food are a rarity in wealthy communities in the U.S.; they exist in communities in which the very fiber of people’s lives are also at risk. As a local resident of the low-income community, the financially at-risk person is often the one who reaches out to assist the at-risk pet. Indeed intake forms from thousands of surgeries performed at low-income spay/neuter programs in different parts of the U.S. reveal that over half of low-income homes “obtained” their pet by feeding or caring for a stray. Everyone’s life was fragile when the partnership started and without being able to take the first basic step in responsible pet care, it is unlikely that the newfound friendship will be a stable one. For a female dog or cat, the ability to be spayed may provide the only possibility for remaining in the home.

Not being neutered and remaining on a chain are tied to aggression and territorial behavior in male animals. Guarding litters is one of the top reasons for bites from female dogs. The failure to have pets spayed or neutered, combined with confining pets by a chain, statistically increase the likelihood of the pet facing neglect (including social neglect), producing an unwanted litter, or being involved in a dog bite incident.

Neglect, unwanted litters and dog bites are inextricably tied to an inability to access basic services that include spay/neuter. These issues are tragic, they overwhelmingly affect low-income communities and in large part, they are preventable through good pet care habits. These habits don’t just come about, they require adjusting our thinking and embracing a prevention based model.

An estimated 4.7 million dog bites occur in the U.S. each year. Of these around 800,000 Americans seek medical attention; around 386,000 of those require treatment in an emergency room at an average of about $5,000 each; approximately 16 bite victims will die each year. Intact male dogs are involved in 76 percent of cases and importantly, 25 percent of cases involve dogs that are kept on chains. While a complex set of circumstances are involved when a person is killed by dogs, approximately 92 percent of fatal dog attacks involve male dogs, 94 percent of which are not neutered at the time of the attack. Chaining as a means of confinement is significantly overrepresented in fatal attacks as well.

Remaining intact and chained to a dog house or tree (and not socialized) is a very poor life for a dog. It’s a lifestyle that often deteriorates into chronic neglect that also creates a danger for the community. This entire picture is over represented in low-income communities. The habits can be addressed through minimal resources; the outcomes are, to a large degree, preventable, and indeed worth preventing.

Getting to the heart of an overpopulation issue that exploded in the news when a fatality occurred, in January 2006, San Francisco passed a mandatory pit bull sterilization ordinance. At the time pit bulls filled three quarters of the shelter. Eighteen months after the passage of the ordinance, pit bull impoundments declined by 21 percent; shelter occupancy rates fell and pit bulls euthanized dropped by 24 percent. A 2010 report noted that bites had significantly decreased as well. A spay/neuter ordinance accomplished what adoption efforts had not. Former Animal Care and Control Director Carl Friedman said, “Fewer pit bulls are being abandoned to the pound because fewer are being born, thanks to the spay and neuter requirement.” At the time he added, “I wouldn’t bet the house it’s all because of the ordinance, but nothing else has really changed.”

In 2007 the City of Lawton, Okla., passed an ordinance mandating that pets be spayed or neutered, or that the owner purchase a breeders permit. The ordinance also outlaws tethering. City of Lawton Animal Welfare Superintendent Rose Wilson lobbied heavily for the ordinance which has saved thousands of lives. Wilson said, “If you want to breed animals you must buy a permit and treat it as a business.” She acknowledged that a bit of money is saved by reducing the numbers, but the biggest outcome is in the lives that are spared. The city has gone from euthanizing 1283 of adoptable pets in 2006, to 49 in 2012. The city shelter receives unwanted animals that are turned in by individuals from surrounding towns that are not covered under the ordinance, and Wilson would like to see Fort Sill Military Base mandate responsible pet care since many animals are abandoned when residents of the base move on. When she was 12 years old, Lawson found a dog that was huddled in tall grass in a field near her home. It was snowing out and she brought the dog home. She said, “Then I grew up and realized that dog is everywhere. The problem remains the numbers that are born.” She said, “Limiting intakes to certain localities, or closing our doors to the pets to make numbers look like they’re going down, is the wrong thing to do. If we can save endangered species through action that is across international borders, we can stop the number of pets being born right here.”

Considering the costs of responding to the failure to have dogs and cats spayed and neutered, and the fact that these programs are effective when reaching the homes that produce the majority of unwanted litters, it is time to start the discussion of publicly operated and/or supported programs that make spay/neuter services affordable and accessible for low-income homes to use. Many effective and financially self-sustaining models, including partnerships with private practitioners, exist. It is humane and it is cost-effective.

Mandatory spay/neuter and anti-tethering ordinances support humane initiatives while supporting public health and safety. Most homes pay a portion of the cost of spaying their pet; it is arguably one of the few times in which an at-risk animal is not a taxpayer burden. It is time to prevent tragedies instead of reacting to them.

 
 
 

 

Follow Ruth Steinberger on Twitter: www.twitter.com/spayfirstorg

Super Bowl 2013 commercials: Where were the dogs??

posted February 4th, 2013 by
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The Super Bowl is something I look forward to every year. I like football. And I love funny commercials. Especially the ads that star animals or children. Bonus points if both are included.

So after sitting through this year’s game, blackout and all, I was left feeling a little disappointed. The game wasn’t that great and neither were the commercials.

Though there were a few ads with animals, I only noticed one that included dogs — Kia’s “Space Babies” — and they didn’t even have a starring role. Bummer.

Each year, I usually recap my favorite ads starring animals and most of the top five include dogs. This year, it’s hard to even come up with three.

Doritos has had some great spots the past couple of years, and this year was no different. I loved their Dorito-chomping goat. He definitely takes the top spot for me this year.

Also notable was Budweiser’s The Clydesdale’s “Brotherhood.” Very sweet, but funny is what gets me every time.

Next year, however, I am seriously considering saving myself the time and just watching the Puppy Bowl instead. What about you?

-Lauren Cavagnolo, [email protected]