Animal Shelter Closures Place Lost Pets at Risk

Cats are less likely than dogs to be returned to owners if lost.

Most lost cats are never returned to their owners.

Written by: Tamar Auber

The economic downtown has not spared our four legged friends. Several animal shelters throughout the United States shuttered their doors at the end of 2011 or are at risk of imminent closure, leaving many homeless and lost  pets literally out in the cold. The last hope for many cats and dogs, these non-profit animal organizations, such as the Kindred Spirit Animal Rescue in Ripley County, MO, cite the high cost of operations and lack of volunteers for the closings. As animal lovers, the news is disheartening. Less shelters mean that less deserving pets will be rescued or find homes in the coming year and many more may be left outside and vulnerable to being hit by cars or death by exposure. Yet as pet parents, another less obvious risk could ultimately harm our beloved pets. Without adequate shelters, what will happen to our furry friends if they are lost?

Animal shelters are often a first stop on the search when your cat or dog goes missing. Fortunately, most shelters regularly work hard reunite owners with their lost pets whenever possible. Shelter staff often rely on microchips or tattoos to reunify pets and owners. According to the ASPCA, animals with permanent markers are far more likely to be returned. However, once one local shelter has closed, remaining animal resources are bound to be overcrowded. This means fewer resources and less time will be available to care for and identify your pet and track you down if she is separated from you.

In fact, the lack of a well funded shelter for your lost pet can be downright deadly to your precious pooch or feline. At some overcrowded and under-funded animal shelters, such as California  facilities, owners are given only a few days to claim their pets before their pets risk being euthanized. A critical lack of staffing at some shelters also means that your pet may not easily be identified as owned by the shelter staff. Such is the case at the Miami-Dade Shelter which makes it clear that with its high volume of intake that the responsibility is on the owner, not the shelter to identify your lost pet. This trend will only continue as funding for animal care facilities decreases and shelters close, placing your pet at greater risk if she is ever lost.

As animal lovers and responsible pet owners, then, it is very important that we both support our local shelters and invest in micro-chipping or other ways to identify your pet, which is the fastes and easiest way to reunite owner with pet.

Many local shelters have an on-line wish list of items needed for their animal friends and donations of any form and any amount is welcome. If you cannot invest in pet care products or cash, consider volunteering at your local shelter. While you may end up cleaning cages or filing paperwork, your extra hands will allow the staff more time to care for homeless animals and help reunite lost pets.

Finally, if your pet is not micro-chipped or tattooed, ask your local ASPCA or veterinary service about the procedure. Micro-chipping is a safe, cost-effective way to help your pet find her way back home and ensure your lost pet does not end up in an overcrowded and understaffed animal shelter.

How Dogs Think: Canine Cognizance Relies on Complex Use of Senses

What do dogs think? Try thinking like a dog to find out.

I admit it. I am one of those dog owners. By those I mean, I talk to my dog, take him for rides, buy him ice cream, consider his feelings, and in short, treat him pretty much as you might a furry four-legged child. And of course, my child is brilliant.

But as my friend and housemate, and dog person himself reminds me, the average dog has a brain about the size of a golf ball. Fearing there was some dreadful mistake, I scurry to my computer, only to find that he was, in fact, right. But the area of a dog’s brain that is dedicated to olfactory processing is huge and much more complex than ours, he assured me. What’s that? Some kind of lame consolation prize?

Because for dog owners like me, their dogs’ ability to solve problems, understand their owners thoughts and response accordingly, and outwit any attempts to train them in a direction that they themselves do not want to go, is proof positive of the advanced thought processes that go on in their canine cranial cavity.

So do dogs think? And if they do, what do they think about? Maybe a better way to address these questions is to try and think like a dog. Dog-trainer/behaviorist William E. Campbell gives the following example: Dinner’s fast approaching and your dog, Ella, is gazing at you with limpid eyes. She’s wondering when her dinner’s going to be ready you think. What Campbell says is more likely is that all that tail wagging and rapt attention is designed to get you to do and say the things she knows will lead to the actual procurement of dinner. Like you asking her “you want your dinner too, don’t you?” She’s also probably practicing her shtick in the room she’s found to be the source of the magic repast – the kitchen.

So, if Ella’s brain isn’t saying “I want my dinner” – what is it doing? The second thing we need to do, says Campbell, is get rid of the idea of language being involved in a dog’s thoughts. For example, if you were suddenly thrust into the middle of Tokyo, you might understand a great deal about what’s going on around you without understanding one bit of the Japanese language. Eventually you might figure out what some of the words mean. But because dogs lack the vocal ability to speak our language, the limit of our dog’s language learning is the meaning of the sounds of certain words. Luckily, says Campbell, dogs are very quick to learn the sounds that are important to them.

Just as our minds are full of the images, smells and sounds we’ve heard throughout life, dogs process images in their mind through their senses. If the mention of elementary school transports you back to the smell of the chalkboard, the sound of the school bell, and the feel of the wool in your school uniform, you probably have some idea of how your dog experiences the world.

This doesn’t necessarily mean your dog spends his days replaying his favorite movies with a particular car ride earning a “four paws up” or that steak night is Oscar worthy. But some very convincing research suggests dogs do share our ability to form and experience in their minds certain images, odors and sounds. The first evidence of this was confirmed over three decades ago when a Russian scientist studying the electrophysiology of the brain wired several dogs with brain wave equipment and radio transmitters. During an unexpected weekend tour of the lab, he turned a dog named Lo’s equipment on and was amazed to find the dog’s brain wave pattern changed to a pattern that was nearly identical to that of his “working hours.”

These are just a few examples of what may go on in the average dog’s head. But as any true dog lover will tell you, my dog is far from average.

Dogs Love Meat for Good Reason

The world is confusing in dog food land. Marketing magic rules the day, manufacturers tend to favor the bottom line over reliable pet health, and government regulation…actually, there isn’t much government regulation in the $15 billion dog food industry. This allows pretty much a free-for-all in terms of what ingredients manufacturers pack into their products. People tend to trust that the pet food industry has our pets’ best interests – and health – at heart, but this is often not the case at all. According to pet food consumer rights groups and informed veterinarians, the main culprit is corn.

Meat: It's a Dog's Life

“Complete and Balanced” does not necessarily mean complete and balanced. Dogs are essentially carnivores — descendents of wolves — and while they can and will eat vegetables (and an abundance of other fare they shouldn’t eat, as they don’t inherently “know” what is bad for them) the character of their teeth structure and the understanding of their heritage points to meat as their Number One dietary requirement. Therefore, meat is essential as the primary ingredient in dog food, and more often than not, it is corn, as in corn gluten meal, ground yellow corn, corn syrup, as well as other grains such as wheat.  Veterinarians note that the shiniest of coats, the lack of hot spots and itchy skin, and the absence of digestive tract ailments were indicative of dogs with high-meat-content diets. Diets rich in animal proteins do not cause kidney damage in healthy dogs and cats as once believed; they thrive on those animal proteins in every positive way.

One regulatory requirement of dog food (and cat food), is that the ingredients on the packaging must be listed in order of weight. If corn is listed first, you will know it is the most predominant component. When meat is listed first — chicken, lamb, or beef — then you know you have a winner.

Check those ingredient listings. Nutritional awareness is the best tactic for ensuring the health and vitality of our furry loved ones.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry Caps a Coyote, and Saves His Dog

The Gov. of Texas is frightened of snakes

Republican Rick Perry may be running for a third full term against Democratic Bill White, but he won’t ever run from danger. The Texas Governor told the press that he won a confrontation with a coyote on Tuesday, thanks to his laser-sighted pistol. He admitted that he always carries his .380 Ruger – fully loaded with hollow-point bullets – out for jogs on the trails around his home, and that this time it came in handy when he needed to protect his dog‘s life.

The coyote yawned, and startled the governor

He said it’s because of his fear of snakes, but everyone knows that rocks are as effective as hollow-point bullets when it comes to killing a reptile. But, according to Texas state law, citizens are entitled to shoot at coyotes if they feel that the creature is threatening their livestock or domestic pets. And so, when Perry was confronted by the coyote, who did not heed the governor’s vocal warnings, he had no choice but to send it to coyote heaven.

Perry admitted that the coyote went down immediately following the gunshot wound, and that it probably didn’t feel any pain. He acted with the intentions of saving the young retriever from harm, and protect it he did. The young family dog wasn’t harmed, though the coyote was left to rot in the middle of the dusty road.

As for the gun blast, no report was required, since – according to the Department of Public Safety Spokeswoman, Tela Mange – people are constantly shooting coyotes and snakes, and none of the cases are ever reported.

The University of Findlay Professor Studies Dogs like Their Human

Michael Edelbrock Ph.D.

Michael Edelbrock, Ph.D., associate professor of biology at The University of Findlay, asked students to help him study canine cells using a process that Alexander Vaglenov – M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences – perfected in order to study human cells – not dogs’.

It may seem odd, but, according to Edelbrock, studying how a dog responds to toxic exposure is a great indicator for assessing how a human would react to the very same toxin. As it stands, exposure to environmental pollutants could affect the human genome, resulting in mutations that could potentially lead to serious diseases like cancer. Edelbrock is looking to study the canine population in a controlled geographical environment, to assess how humans would survive in an identical setting.

Edelbrock studies dogs because they resemble humans: genetically speaking.

If these tests discover consistent patterns within the dog’s cells, than eventually they could be employed to analyze the overall environmental quality of a given location; for instance, would a dog be able to live a single day, breathing in the L.A. air?”

Such research like this is currently conducted in $450,000 cutting-edge scientific laboratories, completed prior to the 2007-2008 academic year, and attended by the students and faculty members of the University, as they dig further into the essence of discovery, uncovering the hidden truths of knowledge, and polishing the magnificent facts of biological life.

Inventor of the Labradoodle Regrets Inspiring the Designer-Dog Trend

The Labradoodle in action

When Wally Conrad – now 81 – first coined the name for his canine-concoction, he didn’t realize that he was making the mistake of a lifetime. It was the year 1988, he was the manager of the puppy program at the Royal Institute of the Blind, and he’d just received a letter from a woman in Hawaii who was in desperate need of a seeing-eye dog that wouldn’t trouble her husband’s allergies; in return, Conrad invented the first designer dog he loving described as a labradoodle.

The family lives in a shed out back

Today, the labradoodle is close to becoming a recognized breed by the Australian National Kennel Council. Not only is it the first animal of the new designer dog trend that is sweeping the nation, but it’s now out-selling pedigree pups as some fetch a whopping $1000 each. Some pet shops have even reported the mutts outselling three to one.

However, despite the fame and notoriety, Conrad himself, when asked if he was responsible for the first labradoodle, now answers, “yes, but I’m not at all proud of my involvement in it.” Despite of the creator’s neglect, breeders across America are scrambling to fit the demand, as more and more people jump at the chance to hang a dog from a hangar in their closets.

Don’t blame yourself, Conrad – you did good; you just can’t change the fact that people are stupid.