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The ASPCA Rehabilitation Center that is changing the lives of damaged dogs

January 13, 2016 10 comments
Maggie gets this close for chicken. #sheltie #puppymilldog

Foster Maggie telling me it’s too much pressure to “touch” my finger when I am this close.

If you would have asked me what my dream job was five years ago, I would have said professional pet sitter. It was what I was doing at the time, and I loved it. I loved caring for other people’s pets and making them feel loved while their parents were away. I also loved being able to train and socialize the ones I walked each day. Puppies were the easiest, they were always so eager to learn, but what always got me excited was working with a shy or fearful dogs. I can’t explain it, but there is something so rewarding about being able to build their confidence and win their trust.

Even when I volunteered at our local shelter, it was the shy or fearful ones I was most drawn to each day. In the 8 1/2 years I was there, those were the dogs I woke with most. I think it’s in my DNA. It’s most certainly how I met my dogs Indy, Daisy and Jasper.

Several years ago, I heard about a small facility that was being set up as a pilot site to work with and better understand how best to help dogs coming from dog fighting rings, puppy mills and hoarding cases.

Operating out of St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison New Jersey, the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center rehabilitates dogs that are damaged and traumatized by abuse and neglect. Their goal? To give dogs, most likely to be euthanized at local and county shelters, a new leash on life.

Back when I first read about it, it was more of a proof of concept, an experiment designed to prove that these dogs could be rehabilitated. But, it was also a study into learning what worked and didn’t work when rehabbing these dogs.

Fortunately, it appears they are succeeding. Thanks to the ASPCA and the wonderful people working at the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center, dogs are successfully being rehabbed and placed into new loving homes.

And now, they are ready to graduate and take it to the next level. Recently, they announced that they will be moving to a brand new (and much larger) facility in Weatherville, North Carolina in 2017. This is HUGE news. For those of us who work with puppy mill dogs, it means we may soon learn more about how best to help these dogs recover from abuse, trauma and neglect, and that really excites me.

This is my dream job! Think they would be open to a Minnesota transplant with a silly Fargo-like accent? Would it work if I made up a sign “Will rehab dogs for food?”

A person can dream, can’t they?

If you want to learn more about the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center, there is a great piece on it in NJ.com: Meet the ‘miracle’ dogs: N.J. center rehabilitates animal cruelty victims

Kindness to animals

Introducing a new dog into your home when you already have a dog

November 11, 2014 8 comments

The girlsOver the past couple of months, I have had several friends adopt a new dog into their household. Given the fact that each already had a resident dog in their home, it is understandable that each one of them worried about how to introduce the new dog into their home. They also worried about how the new dog would make their current dog feel and whether they would get along.

I remember how nervous I was in bringing each one of my dogs into my home. (I think you would have to be a fool not to be a little nervous and anxious!) Every dog is different and every situation must be managed to ensure success.

When Cupcake first came into my home as a foster, it was a tough go. Not because she wasn’t an awesome and very sweet dog, but because she felt like she had to establish her place as top dog right away. She claimed the couch and snarked at Daisy and Jasper whenever they came close to her. Jasper and Daisy were intimidated by her behavior. Daisy started staying in her kennel to avoid her.I think it was at this point I seriously considered giving her back to the rescue.

But then, I remembered to use the skills and knowledge I had gained from so many other trainers. I took away Cupcake’s couch privileges to eliminate any snarking. Then, I started enticing Daisy back to the couch with treats and rewarding Cupcake with treats as well to show her that staying on the floor was a beneficial spot to be. Soon, the snarking had stopped and Daisy was feeling less stressed. We worked on other things too: waiting for dinner, not stealing other dogs’ food, sharing toys, etc.

Introducing a new dog into your home when you have another dog can be difficult. I’ve been offering my own advice and suggestions when asked (think baby gates, crates and slow introductions), but then I remembered that I had attended a webinar earlier this year put on by the ASPCA. The guest speaker was well-known author and animal behaviorist, Patricia McConnell (PhD, CAAB, Author). The topic? Multi-Dog Households: From First Date to After the Honeymoon (You can find more materials and information here as well).

It was a great seminar and discussion and one that I suspect would be beneficial to many an adoptive parent and/or rescue or shelter. I’ll definitely be sharing it with my friends. You can check out her presentation deck here

So how have you handled introducing a new dog into your home? What worked? What didn’t work?

Are some in the pet industry running scared?

August 25, 2014 7 comments

IMG_8860It appears that some in the pet industry may be running scared. Why? Because they just hired a big gun to lead their national lobby group.

Yesterday, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), a lobby group for pet stores, puppy millers and pet product makers, announced  they had hired the former head of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Ed Sayres to lead their group.

Shocking? Yes, but maybe not as much as we would like to think. After all, Ed left the ASPCA under less than positive circumstances. He and the board were in disagreement over several things, among them Ed’s half a million dollar salary and which legislative battles to pursue. And if one close to the situation is to be believed, there was also a battle going on over focusing more on animal welfare than fundraising. I’ll let you guess where Ed fell on this disagreement.

Practicing "Watch me"

Former puppy mill breeding dog, Maggie, is learning that life outside of a cage can be good.

The decision to hire an industry insider who may have the ASPCA playbook is no accident. The puppy mill industry is running scared. They know that the tide has been turning, and not in their favor.  Cities, towns and counties are taking action where national and state legislators have failed. They are banning the sale of cats and dogs and requiring pet stores to follow the rules, move or close down. If the puppy mill industry hopes to have any chance of turning things around they have to act now. Their hope is that Ed Sayres will be their savior.

The question is… can they turn back the tide?  Can they stop social media from continuing to educate the average consumer about pet stores and puppy mills? Can they stop local grassroots organizations from working with their city, county and other local officials to stop the sale of puppy mill dogs in their towns and cities?  Can they ever encourage the average consumer to buy a puppy mill dog once they have seen what a puppy mill parent goes through? Can they get people to un-see what they have already seen or forget what they already know?

Original Daisy 2

Former puppy mill breeder dog, Daisy, now lives a life filled with love and kindness.

It will be some time before we know if Ed will be the savior PIJAC hopes he will be, but my bet is on you, the average consumers and pet lover.

You and I, we care about our pets. We care where they came from and the conditions they were raised in. We want to make a difference. We believe in fighting for those who have no voice. We also believe puppy mills need to go.  We may not win every legislative battle, but if we change people’s minds, and their spending habits, then we still win.  Ed or no Ed. 

 

Want to learn more about this story? 

How many Pine River Puppy Mill Raids will it take to change laws? That’s up to you.

November 11, 2013 9 comments

Puppy mill kennelsOn July 16th of this year, a Minnesota puppy mill was raided and 130 dogs were rescued from horrific conditions. For months, these dogs and their puppies (many born after they were rescued) were kept in limbo as the court case against the puppy mill owner wound its way through the Minnesota court system.

Deborah Beatrice Rowell, was charged with seven misdemeanors and two petty misdemeanors for animal cruelty (misdemeanor charges carry a 90 days in jail and or a $1,000 fine). In the end, she got a plea deal and pled guilty to one count of failure to provide dogs with adequate shade. She was ordered to pay a $135 fine and is now back in business. Unbelievable isn’t it?

Meanwhile the Animal Humane Society (AHS) spent $200,000 caring for the animals and giving them long overdue vet care and vaccinations. A grant from the ASPCA made the raid possible and helped to give these dogs a chance at a new home and a new life. The puppy mill owner responsible for the conditions of these dogs? $135 fine.

If you find yourself saying any of the following right now…

“She should be in jail!”

“How can they let her off with $135 fine? That’s horrible!”

“The laws have got to change. She shouldn’t be able to get away with this.”

“How can they let her be back in business? That’s not right!”

You’re right.

She should be in jail.

She shouldn’t have been let off with $135 fine and allowed to be back in business again.

The laws have got to change.

And you know how that happens?

Through YOU.

It takes you to…

  • Get involved and call a legislator when the puppy mill bill comes up again.
  • Write a quick note to committee members and ask them to support the bill.
  • Share the information with your friends and family and ask them to take action.
  • Join the rally at the capital.
  • Speak up.
  • GET INVOLVED.

Laws don’t change unless someone cares enough to speak up. Elected officials are swayed by their constituents, but only if they speak up.

Words left unspoken fall on deaf ears.

Need motivation? Watch the video AHS put together of the Pine River raid and the dogs they helped.

If care about dogs like Blue #9, then take action. Help us change the laws so this doesn’t have to happen again.

We don’t need another puppy miller getting off with just a $135 fine.

 

The ASPCA opens a new center to help fearful dogs

March 14, 2013 17 comments

Various 2008 018Yesterday, I saw a story announcing the opening of a new center dedicated to helping fearful dogs. The center, located in New Jersey, is a project being led by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Now dogs who have lived their whole lives in puppy mills or have come from a hoarding situation or were victims of animal cruelty will have the chance to get help meant just for them.

If you have ever had a fearful dog, one who has had little exposure to the world or has been abused, then you know that rehabilitation takes time. Unfortunately, time is not always an option for them. Many are euthanized because the amount of time and dedication (and money) it takes to work with a fearful or traumatized dog is more than most shelters can give.

This center is a source of hope for these dogs and the people who rescue them. The Behavioral Rehabilitation Center at St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, N.J. will take dogs from shelters across the country as well as those that come  those animal seizures involving the ASPCA. Their first guests, Malamutes, are coming in from Montana in the next few days. These were the dogs who were seized from a breeder charged with animal cruelty (I wrote about them a couple of months ago).

Dogs who come to the center will stay on average about 6-8 weeks, but they are not putting a strict time limit on their stay. As anyone who has worked with a puppy mill dog knows, sometimes it can takes a year or more before a fearful dog can really function in their new environment. Knowing there is a center, and people, focused on helping these dogs is really encouraging. I hope that what they learn can be used to help more dogs in the future. I suspect Debbie Jacobs from FearfulDogs.com could tell them a lot, but I am hoping that more will be learned from their work that can be used by rescuers across the country to help dogs like these, like Daisy and Cupcake.

I’ll be watching to see what they learn. How about you?

Why is my dog afraid of new things?

December 3, 2012 10 comments
Jasper hangs back in the hallway while I put up the Christmas tree. This is not new behavior. It happens every year.

Jasper hangs back in the hallway while I put up the Christmas tree. This is not new behavior. It happens every year.

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by animal behavior. When I was a child I would sit for hours observing the Canadian geese that lived in the pond across from my house. I even took an animal behavior class in high school. Dog behavior is just one more area in which I am often fascinated. I love watching my dogs figure things out or adjust their behavior to a new circumstance or puzzle.

When my friend Debbie over at FearfulDogs.com shared this piece on Neophobia (fear of new things) in dogs, I immediately went to check it out. Not just because it was about dog behavior, but because it was one more piece to the puzzle in understanding my own dog’s behavior.

When Jasper was about a year old (I adopted him at 9 months), I took him to training class at the shelter where I volunteered. During our weekly training sessions, it soon became clear Jasper was frightened by everything new that was introduced into his environment. He refused to go near a dish full of food because he had never seen it before. He refused to go near any of the dividers or other equipment because they were something new he had not seen before. He was easily startled if something new was brought into class and would often freeze in fear or back up or look for an escape route to get away from it.

Unlike most puppies, Jasper was not curious about new things. In fact, he was outright fearful of all of them and would shut down as soon as they appeared. I remember our instructor, a friend of mine, mentioning that maybe he suffered from something called “brittle dog syndrom,” or neophobia, as a result of not being exposed to a lot of new things when he was a puppy. I had never heard of such a thing, but I now know she was right on.

So what is Neophobia?

It is a fear or avoidance of new things. Dogs with neophobia show fearful behavior in new environments or around unfamiliar objects or animals they’ve never seen.

Some of the behaviors dogs display when they are confronted with something new in their environment are:

  • trembling
  • panting
  • whining
  • avoidance or attempts at escape when around new things (In Jasper’s case, he avoids and barks what I call his “chicken little bark.” The sky is falling! The sky is falling! Alarm! Alarm!)

Many dogs who display neophobic behaviors were not socialized as puppies. In Jasper’s case, he spent the majority of his early life in a puppy mill, and then in a pet shop store window. He was “rescued” from that environment at around 8 1/2 months. Before coming to our shelter and then to me, he had very little opportunity to be exposed to many new things, except people, which he has no fear of at all.

Some neophobic dogs can also be so as a result of genetics or breed disposition (i.e., some breeds appear to display it more than others). Although I have no expertise in this area, I would not be surprised to discover that Shelties are a breed who falls into this category. One only has to look at the number of lost Shelties who were lost, after they bolted in fear, to suspect this to be the case.

Since Jasper is a Sheltie and had little socialization as a puppy, he has two strikes against him. However, I have been able to manage his fear of new things by removing him from the object he fears and/or rewarding him with treats when he examines it with curiosity. It takes work, time and patience, but a neophobic dog can learn to live a fairly normal life, depending on how bad the fear is and how well you manage it.

If you have a dog you think may suffer from Neophobia, check out the great article on the ASPCA site. It’s definitely worth the read. My thanks to Debbie Jacobs for sharing it.

78% of Americans are Ignorant About Pet Stores & Puppy Mills?

August 17, 2011 42 comments

Daisy

USA Today’s Pet Talk column has been on my mind all day today. According to the ASPCA, who commissioned a survey of 800 U.S. adults from across the country, the “vast majority of people surveyed — 78% of them — told interviewers they believe that puppies sold in pet stores come from such places as shelters, or private owners whose pets had litters, or that they really have no idea where the animals come from.”

I kept thinking… How is it possible that 78% of Americans still don’t have a clue that pet store puppies come from puppy mills? How?

Maybe I’m a bit more sensitive to this topic because I have a former puppy mill breeding dog. I KNOW what she was like when I adopted her and what it took to rehab her. I know she suffered at the hands of some idiot who viewed her as a money-making-puppy-machine, not as a living being that was deserving of kindness. I have heard her cry in her sleep many, many times. Maybe that’s why I get so angry about this. It is so beyond me that people could have such a hard time making the connection between puppy mills and pets stores. Seriously?

People! Where the HELL do you think all those puppy mill puppies are going anyways? The zoo?

I know the ASPCA is starting a campaign to educate people about the connection between pet stores and puppy mills (nopetstorepuppies.com) and I hope it works, but maybe people need to see the reality of what happens to the “burned out bitches” once they are no longer the puppy-producing-money-makers for their “owners”.

Next week, HBO will be airing a documentary called “Madonna of the Mills.” It’s about one woman’s crusade to save the breeding dogs used in puppy mills. It is a powerful documentary and worth seeing if only to educate people about what really happens to the mothers of those pet store puppies you keep buying. I am asking you to please spread the word about this show. I’m even including a link to when it will air on HBO. Please share with your friends and then tell them where puppy mill puppies come from.

It’s about time Americans stop being ignorant of the truth and get educated.

Madonna of the Mills Trailer from Umbrella Girl Media on Vimeo.

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