Recently a friend shared the news that one of her dogs had tested positive for Lymes disease. She was completely devastated and felt awful that her dog had gotten it in the first place. I immediately felt the need to respond and reassure her. Why? Because one of my dogs had/has Lymes disease too.
Jasper was diagnosed with Lymes disease a few years ago. Although, I caught it fairly early, I was still devastated to know that he had gotten it in the first place. Had I missed a Frontline treatment>? Had I missed a day. I was pretty sure I had given all my dogs regular treatment, but somehow a tick had still gotten past it. Thankfully, Jasper was easily treated with antibiotics, but unfortunately it also left him with occasional flare ups. Something I still awful about.
When my friend shared her story, I expected to be the only one admitting that my dog also had also gotten Lymes. Instead, I was surprised to discover that not only was I not alone, but I was not even one among two or three friends. My jaw dropped open as friend after friend admitted that their dog(s) had also gotten Lymes.
To say I was shocked would be an understatement. It never occurred to me that so many people I knew would have dogs who at one time had had Lymes disease too. All this time I had kept my own sense of failure to myself, thinking I had somehow failed my dog, but as it turns out I was not even close to alone. The question is why? Are we all negligent owners? I find that hard to believe. Some people are more diligent than others in applying some sort of protection on their dogs. So, how is it possible that so many of us had dogs who had at one time had Lymes?
Maybe this story on a new study holds some answers: When Dogs Are Most Likely to Pick Up Ticks.
I encourage you to read the full story, but here is a brief synopsis of what was in the piece:
- Dogs are much more likely to pick up ticks when the temperatures rise.
- There are three species of ticks that are most common and each tends to flourish at different times of the year.
- Although the precise species of tick may vary with the seasons, dog owners need to pay attention to the possibility of ticks throughout the year, especially from March until November.
- Scientists discovered that the number of ticks per day on animals treated with an acaricide, either alone or together with a repellent, was not significantly lower than on untreated animals. Worryingly, the ticks were still capable of causing disease.
- Of the 90 dogs in the study, researcher Michael Leschnik was able to show that over half of them became infected with one or more of the pathogens during the study period. The chance of being infected did not seem to be reduced by the use of an acaricide.
- However, the researcher did mention that “the poor performance of the drugs in our study may relate to low owner compliance: many owners only applied the spot-on drugs after finding ticks and they did not use the drugs often enough. The efficiency is much higher under laboratory conditions, so we should try to raise the owners’ awareness of how to apply the products correctly.”
- Unlike on humans, where ticks tend to crawl to a warm and protected place and feed, on dogs ticks tended to largely confine themselves to a dog’s head, shoulder and chest, most likely latching on where they first arrived.
So is Jasper’s Lymes disease a result of my negligence? Or, were his chances of getting it just as likely as any other dog? I suppose I will never really know, but seeing this study, and knowing how many people I know with dogs who at one time had Lymes disease, makes me wonder. Maybe Frontline isn’t enough. Maybe checking each and every time we return from the park or from a walk is the only way to be certain. It certainly has me thinking.
Even though it may not feel like it here in Minnesota, spring is coming, and with it comes warmer temperatures. Many of us already know that leaving a dog in a hot car is dangerous. We have all seen the stories that usually accompany this time a year… “Two dogs dead after being left in hot car“, “Police sergeant rescues dog locked in hot car“, “Police Are Cracking Down on Dumb Dog Owners in Heatwave.”
But did you know that in several states it is illegal to leave your dog in a car? There are 14 states – Arizona, California, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia, that currently have statutes “that specifically prohibit leaving an animal in confined vehicle“.
The penalties range from monetary fines to being charged with a misdemeanor, and in some states, it even includes imprisonment. The Animal Legal and Historical Center website contains a list of the states with laws and what penalties apply. They even lay out what is allowed/not allowed in those states when it comes to rescuing an animal left in a car.
For instance, in Minnesota, the statute states:
“A peace officer, a humane agent, a dog warden, or a volunteer or professional member of a fire or rescue department may use reasonable force to enter a motor vehicle and remove a dog or cat which has been left in the vehicle in violation.
Don’t see your state on the list? That doesn’t mean there are no laws in your state. Many local city and county governments have ordinances covering this issue. Owners may want to know this information, not only for their own benefit, but also for those situations in which they see another owner’s dog in distress and don’t know what to do. You can read more on this issue here.
Just as a reminder on how hot a car can get, I am sharing this blog post by my friend by Julie at The Daily Dog Blog. She has a cool infographic that you can print out and share with your friends. I’m thinking I just may make a few copies and keep them in my car so I can hand them out when I see a dog left in a car.
Besides the Minnesota Sheltie Rescue Reunion, there was one other event I was really looking forward to attending – the Dog Body Language seminar being presented by my friend Kate Anders. Unfortunately, I let the crappy Minnesota winter (I refuse to call this spring) get to me. It snowed most of the morning and rained the rest of the day. I thought it would be too icy to venture out at night. I was wrong. I should have gone. I love attending seminars like these because I learn so much. (I am so sorry Kate!)
With that on my mind today, it shouldn’t be surprising that this video would capture my attention Monday night. My friend Mary Haight over at Dancing Dog Blog shared it. I was immediately fascinated.
It is a great example of the dog body language of a threatening dog. Some people might find the video funny, but what I saw was all the signals the dog gave that signaled an attack was about to happen. Can you pick out the signs? The most obvious one is the growl (notice how it is almost a panting growl), but there are more signals there. Try listening with the sound off. What do you see?
Not sure? Let’s walk through the many of the signs I see.
First, notice the dog’s eyes. They are staring straight ahead at the dog in the mirror – this is seen as a threatening behavior by most dogs. Two dogs staring at one another (a direct stare) is a sign that trouble may be just ahead (unlike two dogs playing with one another who will look at one another but also look away.)
Also notice how hard the dog’s eyes are compared to say, your dog. They are not soft and liquid. They are hard and focused and most likely dilated. They are not blinking either.
Now look at the body posture. The dog is leaning forward and his body is stiff. These are more warning signs.
This dog also shows his teeth and his upper lip and nose are wrinkled. More danger signs.
Not surprisingly, he did attack… the dog in the mirror.
In most cases, another dog will back down when faced with these kinds of body signals, and offer appeasement signals while doing so, but when faced with a dog that does not back down then it can escalate.
Does this mean this dog is a danger? Not necessarily. But it does mean that when faced with another dog giving threatening signals (and ignoring appeasement signals), he is not likely to back down either.
Obviously, in this case, neither dog could back down since it was the same dog and his reflection. While it may also seem funny to most people, to me it is a great lesson in dog body language.
*****Just wanted to add a few things my friend Dee caught that I missed: “Interesting to see a dog exhibiting threatening behaviors (freezes in place, stares straight at the dog in the mirror, doesn’t blink), interspersed with discomfort/appeasement (lip licking, slow, side-to-side tail wagging, some crouching). When he doesn’t get clear signals the other dog doesn’t mean him harm, the appeasement reverts to threats.” Thanks Dee!
The first time I ever saw a Martingale collar was at the dog park. It was worn by a Greyhound that was new to the park.
I probably never even would have noticed the mechanics of the collar if I hadn’t noticed the beautiful coloring of it first. The collar was made of a bright and colorful fabric mixed with a swirl of blues and green and purple. It stood out.
I remember asking the dog’s mom where she had gotten it and her telling me all about the collar, where she had purchased it and why she had it. I was fascinated. Having a dog who regularly slipped her collar (Daisy), I loved the idea that I could purchase a collar that she couldn’t slip out of.
If you have never seen one before, a Martingale collar has two loops instead of one. Most dog collars you see these days are the simple ones that go around the dog’s neck (and hopefully, stay on them) and clip into a buckle. The Martingale collar is different. It is designed to prevent dogs from easily slipping out of their collars. The beauty of the design is that it does this without cutting off dog’s airflow, as those old choker chains did when I was a kid.
The Martingale is often seen on Greyhounds because a regular collar does not work on them. Why? Because, like Shelties, a Greyhound’s head is smaller than their neck, which means a regular collar can easily slip off their neck, over their head, and they can be off and running before you can catch them. A Martingale allows the collar to tighten around the dogs’ neck without hurting them. The idea here is to keep your dog safe and in your control.
So why am I extolling the virtues of a Martingale collar today? Because I want dog owners to be aware of what is available to them, especially if they have a fearful or skittish dog (or just a dog who regularly slips their collar). Is your dog frightened by loud noises and looks for a place to run and hide? Get a Martingale collar. Does your dog like to chase runners like Jasper does? Get a Martingale collar.
Over the past few months, I have seen WAY too many Lost Sheltie signs and I have seen WAY too many dogs lost because they slipped their collar or weren’t properly leashed. I know it’s selfish, but I am tired of crying over someone’s dog who died because they slipped their collar and got hit by a car. If you have a dog that slips their collar, please consider getting a Martingale (and a harness wouldn’t be a bad idea either). Let’s keep them safe and in our control. I don’t want to read about another dead dog. I’m sure you don’t either.
If you are looking for some great Martingale collars, check out Pink Puppy Designs. They are colorful and fun and safe.
The report comprehensively surveys animal protection laws for all U.S. states and territories and then ranks those states and territories based on their laws.
“…the RANKINGS REPORT assesses the strength of each jurisdiction’s animal protection laws by examining over 4,000 pages of statutes. Each jurisdiction receives a raw score based on fifteen different categories of animal protection…”
Of course, I was curious to find out what categories they included in their ranking, and I wanted to know where my state stood amongst the group (Minnesota ranked #14).
I was disappointed to see that the detailed information in the report, like what put each state at that ranking and what they could do better, was confined to only the 5 best and 5 worst states. However, I thought the information was interesting enough to share a summary of their findings. I suspect that if you live in one of these states you already know where they would fall, but it’s still worth sharing. I encourage you to review the full report yourself. It’s quite interesting.
There were 15 categories used to determine a state’s ranking. These covered laws in the following areas:
- General prohibitions
- Mental health evaluations & counseling
- Protective orders
- Cost mitigation & recovery
- Forfeiture and post‐conviction possession
- Non‐animal agency reporting of suspected animal cruelty
- Veterinarian reporting of suspected animal cruelty
- Law enforcement policies
- Sexual assault
- Offender registration
- “Ag gag” legislation (New this year, this ranking takes into account states where laws – propagated by the agriculture lobby – aim to conceal animal abuse, food safety risks, and illegal working conditions from consumers by making it illegal to video record or photograph at agricultural facilities.)
The Best 5 States for animals are:
The Worst 5 states for animals are:
- New Mexico (#46)
- South Dakota (#47)
- Iowa (#48)
- North Dakota (#49)*
- Kentucky (#50)
*I thought it was interesting (but not surprising) to see North Dakota on the “worst” list. I wrote about them late last year after their citizens voted down a law that would have made animal cruelty a felony. It’s kind of hard to see them making the best list with that kind of news isn’t it? By the way, South Dakota has chosen not to make animal cruelty a felony as well. I can’t help but wonder why. Surely the people in these states love animals too. Right?
What was also interesting were the states that improved their ranking by more than 50%:
District of Columbia: 64%
What made their ranking change so significantly? They changed, added laws or strengthened their existing animal protection laws.
Some of the areas in which they made this happen include:
- Expanding the range of protections for animals
- Providing stiffer penalties for offenders
- Strengthening standards of care for animals
- Reporting of animal cruelty cases by veterinarians and other professionals
- Mitigating and recovering costs associated with the care of mistreated animals
- Requiring mental health evaluations and counseling for offenders
- Banning ownership of animals following convictions
- Including animals in domestic violence protective orders
- Prohibiting convicted abusers from gaining employment involving animal contact
- Strengthening provisions on the sale and possession of exotic animals
- Expanding humane officers’ powers to be the same as other peace officers
So where did your state fall on the list? Were you surprised?
However, it’s not just the dog owner who needs to know what to do when a dog goes missing. Those who want to help in the search need to know what to do as well. Often the most well-meaning dog searcher can hinder a search by what they do and say. Some have even caused a dog to go missing longer because they were trying to “help” and inadvertently ended up hurting the search.
I thought I would put together a list DO’s and DON’Ts for both owners and those who want to help them. Please feel free to share.
Owner of a Lost Dog
- Tell everyone you know that your dog is missing. Call all local shelters, animal control facilities, vet clinics and local police to let them know.
- Make a flyer with the most pertinent information – dog’s picture, coloring and weight, where lost, contact information (i.e., phone number). If you have a shy dog, make sure you also add DO NOT CHASE to the flyer.
- Place flyers at all local vet clinics, animal shelters, stores and local businesses. Also, start canvasing the area your dog was lost and handing the flyers out to people walking their dogs.
- Leave a flyer in each residence’s newspaper box (It is illegal to place in mailboxes.) or inside their screen door.
- Place an ad on Craigslist.
- Ask for help from friends and family. Ask them to help spread the word or pass out flyers.
- Share information on Facebook and Twitter – If you have a Lost Dogs Facebook group for your state, share there. There are quite a few that have been created, including ones in Wisconsin, New Jersey, Texas, Minnesota and Illinois.
- Create signs that you can place in strategic locations so drivers can see them as they drive past. Keep the sign simple (e.g., Lost Sheltie and a phone number) so people can read it quickly.
- Pay attention to where your dog is sighted. Generally, a dog will establish a pattern of places they visit or hang out. Once you have a pattern, set up feeding stations so he/she stays in the area. When you are certain that they have gotten used to feeding at these stations, set up a trap or traps at those locations and move the food inside the trap.
- Consider utilizing one of the many services out there to help spread the word – Pet Amber Alert, FindToto.com, etc.
- Send positive thoughts to your dog. Tell them to go into the trap or to seek out a person for help. It may seem silly, but it does work.
- Place an article of your clothing or your dog’s bedding in a crate or trap near the location they were lost so they are drawn in by the scent. If your dog went missing from your home, place it in your backyard or in an area they could enter it.
- Carry smelly treats with you that you can toss to your dog if sighted. Make sure you sit down facing away from your dog or sideways to them and sit quietly with your head down. Don’t speak right away. Just toss the treats towards your dog. (Cupcake was lost for 12 days and by the time I found her she was in survival mode. She didn’t recognize me by sight or sound. It was only when I sat down and allowed her to safely approach me that she was able to smell me. That is when she recognized me.)
- Give up hope. Dogs and cats are much more resilient than we think. They can and do find food and shelter. Princessa’s Story is good example of how dogs can survive the cold of winter.
- Assume your dog will run right up to you. Chances are they won’t. I wrote about this a couple of months ago – Why your lost dog may not run back to you.
- Share trap locations with more than a couple of people you trust. The more people who know about the trap locations, the more the risk you will have too many people monitoring the traps and this could scare your dog away. Make a plan for who will know the trap locations and who will check them and when.
- Drive around assuming you will see your lost dog somewhere. Utilize flyers and get more eyes looking for your dog immediately.
Lost Dog Searchers
- Offer to hand out flyers and spread the word. (It was a stranger who offered to hand out flyers that led to me getting Cupcake back. Flyers really do work.)
- Offer encouragement and hope to the owner of the lost pet. One of the reasons a lost pet is not found is because the owner gives up hope. Help to keep that hope going.
- Share the lost dog’s story and information on Facebook and Twitter. Most people don’t share because they assume that people don’t live in the area and don’t care, but this is not the case. (When my Cupcake was missing people shared across the globe. One of the people to see her story lived in New York. His parents just happened to live a few blocks from me. They became instrumental in my search for Cupcake and her eventual capture. People know people who live near where the dog was lost. Never assume they don’t. It can make all the difference.)
- Call in sightings to the owner ASAP.
- If you see the lost dog, sit down facing away from them or sideways to them and bow your head and toss tasty treats their way. Don’t talk to them, but do call the owner immediately. The objective is to keep them there until the owner can come to get them.
- Send positive thoughts to the missing dog and encourage them to enter the trap or seek help from a human. Negative thoughts do not help the dog or owner.
- Add to a lost pet owner’s fears by talking about the chance their dog could be killed by coyotes or cars or cold weather. They already know this and your sharing this information is not helpful.
- Try to catch the lost dog yourself. Most dogs go into survival mode and will run away from all people, including their owner, because they are afraid. I wrote about this a couple of months ago. Please read it – Why your lost dog may not run back to you.
- Chase the lost dog. You only risk scaring them further away from the location. We want them to STAY in the area.
- Ask the owner to call you when the dog is found. (I had many a well-meaning person contact me to find out if Cupcake had been found. When informed she had not, most of them asked that I call them back after she was found. I am sorry, but the last thing on a lost pet owner’s mind is keeping you informed on the status of the missing dog. They are too busy looking for their lost dog.)
- Assume that the owner hasn’t tried everything to get their lost dog back or make derogatory remarks about how they lost their dog. Under the right circumstances, every single one of us could face this situation with our own dogs. To assume your dog could never get lost goes against all the statistics that say otherwise.
- Assume that you will be the one to find the lost dog. Offer to help where you can, but realize that what really finds lost dogs is not someone chasing the dog down. What works is getting flyers and signs out there so more eyes are watching for the dog and an call the owner as soon as there is a sighting.
- Go looking for the traps after they have been placed. The owner’s scent should be the one that is near the trap not yours. You could inadvertently scare a dog away from the trap by hanging out near it or traipsing around in the area surrounding it and end up leaving your scent behind instead of the owner’s.
Losing a dog is such a heartbreaking and terrifying experience, but knowing what to do can make all the difference. Those who help them need to know what to do too. I hope this helps.
I am writing to you to express my deep disappointment in your company and, in my opinion, it’s clear lack of responsibility and concern for its customers and their pets.
On November 18th, I entered one of your stores with the sole purpose of purchasing some cat food and cat litter for my cat.
As I entered the store, I immediately noticed a colorful display featuring Christmas colors and decorations featuring chicken jerky treats made by Nestle-Purina. The bin containing the treats was huge (approximately 4′ x 4′ x4′) and had large signs posted all over it announcing a sale on the large bags of treats. It was conveniently located right behind the cash registers where people were bound to see it.
I am guessing that many an unsuspecting dog owner has been waiting in line and seen that conveniently placed large bin of treats and made a last-minute purchase for their pet, thinking it would be a nice “special’ treat to give them. Little did they know that in doing so they could be placing their pet’s life in danger. But, you did know, didn’t you?
I am embarrassed to say that I went ahead and got my cat supplies, instead of leaving immediately, and stood in line at the cash register, continuously looking at that bin of chicken jerky treats with disgust and disappointment.
I was so upset I even mentioned it to the cashier, telling her how disappointed I was that Petsmart was promoting a product that had been linked to so many dog illnesses and deaths. What she told me next was either a bald-faced lie or something she made up on her own. She said that the dogs who had gotten sick had only gotten sick because people were feeding them to their pets as meals and not treats. Seriously? Are you kidding me?
I was furious. I told her that she was wrong and that what she said wasn’t true. She didn’t respond any further, but I left your store absolutely fuming. What the hell???
I was so mad that I then posted this on my Facebook page:
“Wow Petsmart. Is that what you’re telling people now? The dogs that died from Chicken Jerky treats died because the owners were feeding them as meals. Really? Nice that you have them in a big sales display by the registers too. On sale. Ugh!!!!!”
I expected to have some of my dog blogging friends to comment on my post, but imagine my surprise when one of my friends mentioned she had been told the very same thing about a month before by another Petsmart employee in another state!
Kind of a strange coincidence don’t you think Petsmart? It makes me wonder… Are you purposely lying to your customers so they will spend money in your store regardless of the danger these treats pose to their pets? Or, are you selling these treats because you have some sort of contract with their maker that you must fulfill? Neither answer is a very good one for your customers is it? If they lose their pet, you still make money. If they lose their pet, the company making the treats still makes money too. But, is it worth losing a customer and their money?
Because you just lost me. You may choose to sell these products for the almighty dollar, but you will never see my dollars gracing your store again. You can choose to be honest with your customers and tell them the truth AND stop selling these treats, OR you can choose to put money before the pets you so actively claim to care about, but you can’t do both. I won’t support a company that tells its customers that the only dogs impacted by these treats were the ones who were fed it as “a meal.” You know it’s not true and so do I.
By the way…
That same day, another friend who also happens to be a pet sitter told me about a dog client who almost died after her client fed them to her dog. Luckily, my friend was aware of the dangers of these treats and alerted her client immediately. The dog spent a week in the care of university veterinarians and almost didn’t make it.
A week later, a friend contacted me because both her dogs were ill. They were throwing up, had diarrhea and were lethargic. My first thought was to ask her if she had given them any of these treats. She had. Imagine her horror at discovering the treats could have killed her cherished companions? Fortunately for her, her dogs recovered, but so many have not.
Your former customer
For Pet Owners:
Canadian Video Exposes the Dangers of Chinese Chicken Jerky Treats (Dog Food Advisor)
FDA Reports 360 Dogs, 1 Cat Dead After Eating Chicken Jerky Treats (NBCBayArea.com)
Dogs Still Dying of Chinese Made Jerky Treats, Enough is Enough (Steve Dale, ChicagoNow)
FDA warns about US-made chicken jerky pet treats (NBCNews.com)
I was reminded once again this past weekend how much we dog owners don’t know about missing pets. That’s not a judgement in any way, just an observation. So few of us really know or understand what happens to a pet when they become lost.
This past weekend someone asked me why any lost dog would not just go to their owner once they saw them. It’s a good question. I think most of us just assume that our own dogs would come running to us as soon as they saw us. After all, we’ve cared for them, fed them, cuddled with them and loved them. But, sadly that is not the case for every lost dog – even your lost dog.
I first read this story (“Dog Lost for Four Months Recognizes Family by Whistle“) on Life With Dogs back in October. It’s a good example of how a lost dog can become confused and disoriented when they are lost for several days or months. Luna, the dog in the story, was missing for four months. When her family finally found her again, she didn’t recognize them, and even walked away from them when they arrived to be reunited with her. It took two days, six visits and a distinctive whistle by the owner, for her to realize it was them. What had been a puzzling circumstance finally resulted in a happy reunion for all.
As many of us already know, not all dogs are created equal (if they were our lives would be pretty boring!). Some dogs are happy-go-lucky, love people and other dogs, while others are much more wary and unsure. Puppy mill dogs are especially wary of strangers. They’re also more skittish. They are less likely to stick around and see if the human approaching them is “their” human or someone intending to harm them. As a result, they are much harder to catch and usually have to be trapped.
But a dog does not have to be a puppy mill dog to react this way. Many lost dogs tend to go into “survival mode”. They are frightened, unsure, hungry, tired (exhausted) and on constant alert. In many cases, they are fending for their lives. The longer they live in this state the less likely they are to recognize their owner on sight – and in fact, they are less likely to stick around and wait to see if it if the person approaching them is their owner.
A year ago this week, my foster dog, Cupcake, was missing. As a lost dog and owner, Cupcake and I had a lot going against us finding one another again – she was a puppy mill dog, had only been with me a little over a month, and was frightened of strangers. She was dodging traffic, coyotes and people in the twelve days she was missing. Talk about being in survival mode – she was definitely in it.
When we finally were able to see each other again it was at a warehouse loading dock. Even as people blocked all her avenues of escape, she continued to run back and forth, trying to find a way out. I was standing right there and she didn’t even recognize me. I called her name and she kept running. I asked if she wanted to go home to see Daisy and Jasper (my other two dogs) and she stopped for a second, then kept running – she was in survival mode, searching for a way out.
It wasn’t until I sat down with my body turned sideways from her, with my head bowed down and avoided eye contact with her, that she came close enough to smell me. I still remember the moment she started to realize it was me. She lifted her nose to the air and sniffed me. Then she moved closer and sniffed again. When she finally got close enough to really sniff me, and to hear my voice, she sighed. It was at that very moment she realized it was me. She leaned into me. She finally knew she was safe.
All lost dogs act differently. As owners, we need to know that before our pet goes missing.
We need to know that chasing a lost dog is one of the worst things we can do. It only reaffirms to the dog that people should be avoided.
So what should you do when you encounter a lost dog or your own lost dog?
- Sit down.
- Turn your body so your back or side is to the dog.
- Keep your eyes averted and bow your head so as to look non-threatening.
- Toss tasty treats (hot dogs, chicken, smelly cheese, etc.) behind you or to the side of you.
- Don’t talk.
- Wait patiently for the dog to approach you. Don’t make any sudden movements, but continue to toss treats.
- Don’t grab the dog when they get close, but wait patiently and build trust.
- Speak softly, but if they back away, stop talking and just continue to toss treats until they trust you enough to come closer.
As a dog owner, it pays to know what to do if your dog becomes lost. Below are some sites with some great tips on what to do. I really encourage you to check them out.
Lost Dog Tips
Update: By an overwhelming majority of voters, North Dakotans chose not to make animal cruelty a felony. One can only hope they will not become the only state to think setting a cat on fire is only worth a misdemeanor, but as of right now they remain one of two states who do – the other is South Dakota.
Yes. Election politics is definitely in the air. It’s hard to miss it these days.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait until Wednesday when all the political ads will go silent for another two years. (At least I hope they do, otherwise, we will have entered a new level of hell.)
I think I am pretty well-versed on the political issues up for a vote in Minnesota on Tuesday, but recently I started to wonder what political issues might be pending that had to do with animals and animal welfare. Thanks to my friend Paul, I discovered there was one. In North Dakota.
Unlike Minnesota and Montana, neighboring states, North Dakota does not currently make animal abuse a felony. In fact, the most an animal abuser in North Dakota can be charged with is a misdemeanor, even in the most extreme cases.
This year, North Dakotans will have the opportunity to vote on Measure 5, which will make it a felony to maliciously and intentionally harm a dog, cat or horse. The question is, will they?
They currently regard all kinds of animal fighting, not just dog fighting, as a felony. Why not malicious and intentional animal abuse?
The answer may lie with state and national agribusiness groups. They are fighting like mad to make sure it doesn’t pass and it appears they may be succeeding:
About three weeks ago the Valley News Live Mason-Dixon poll found that 66% of people surveyed said yes to Measure 5. Which would make it a class c felony for extreme cases of animal cruelty. The most recent poll found a substantial drop, 44% supported the measure with 49% saying no.
So what are state and national agribusiness groups opposed to? Most likely, the involvement of the Humane Society of the United States. HSUS has poured a good amount of money into this fight, and for many North Dakotans, this rankles their fiercely independent nature.
But is there more to be concerned about?
Opponents of the bill list these two items as problematic:
- The language doesn’t cover the type of neglect or abuse most commonly seen in North Dakota – everyday abuse, neglect, and abandonment (Although, it appears they are covered by other state laws.)
- It doesn’t cover all animals, just cats, dogs, and horses (The bill was specifically designed to exclude hunting, trapping, fishing, agriculture, animal research, and protecting personal property or safety – something I would think most North Dakotans would approve.)
I assume that most abused animals are dogs, cats and horses, but maybe the opponents feel other animals should be included? Farm animals? Wild animals? It seems kind of odd that the special interest groups excluded from the measure (hunters, trappers, fishermen and farmers) would argue the bill is too limited and should include other animals, but what do I know? Maybe that really is what they want. Huh. Who’d have thunk it?
One thing I know for certain, there are a great number of strong proponents and opponents on both sides of this issue. The list of those opposed to the measure includes – Ag, Cattle, Deer and Elk Coalitions, farm groups, and veterinarians. The list of those who support Measure 5 includes many animal welfare and rescue groups, veterinarians and law enforcement officials.
So will Measure 5 pass on Tuesday? Will North Dakota voters support making an animal abuse a felony? I don’t know, but we will certainly know by Wednesday, November 7th.
- For more information on Measure 5 go to: Yes! In Measure 5 and Vote “No” on Measure 5
- Measure 5 spending tops $1 million
- Pending legislation on animal rights and wildlife issues (by state) can be found at VoteSmart.org
- 5 worst states to be an animal: Abuse laws lax (Please note: This report was done in 2010, since that time Idaho has made animal abuse a felony.)