Watch Tip: Shelter from the Storm

Posted on April 30th, 2010 by Anna Nirva

Weekly Watch Tip for week of May 2:

Watch and listen for stray pets after thunderstorms—they might be lost and frightened. In your neighborhood, do outside backyard pets have shelter from storms? A tree, shrub or overhanging eave is not a shelter. Owners are required by law to provide shelter nearly everywhere in America. Be a Good Samaritan and have a helpful conversation with the owners.

Spring brings violent storms

Many companion animals suffer from fear of loud noises, especially loud thunder. (This is usually not an indication of abuse.) Some will run in terror and become hopelessly lost, because the rain may obliterate scents and backtracking becomes difficult or impossible. Watch for unfamiliar dogs and cats in your neighborhood, especially after a storm. Help them. If they are wearing identification tags and they are friendly, their families will be so thankful to get your phone call.

What is adequate shelter?

For this poor dog, Bear, one of the “Topaz Creek” dogs rescued by Pet Adoption and Welfare Society (PAWS) in British Columbia, Canada in 2002, adequate shelter was nowhere to be found. He and his pack lived outdoors year around, tied to trees and stumps. Look at the pinched, worried expression and dropped ears, and you know that human visitors were not to be trusted. As events would prove, he and his pack were very hungry and many were sick or wounded, some incurably so. (Bear lived, was socialized and later was adopted into a loving home.)

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Product Review — Water-Less Pet Bath Towel

Posted on April 26th, 2010 by admin

Are you looking for a quick, painless way to clean your not-so-dirty dog or cat? Check out the Water-Less Pet Bath Towel! I brought one in today and the dogs are STILL trying to get me to give them another rubdown with it.

If you have a dog who just had a wrestling match with a skunk or took a medicinal mud bath in the back yard, the Water-Less Pet Bath Towel won’t do it for you. But if you’ve got a dog who’s a bit over do for a bath and you want to knock off some of the natural oils and dust, this relatively inexpensive set of two towels can do a nice job.

I tried it out on all three of my pack members and they are CRAZY for it! It must feel pretty good to them because none of them wanted to give up their space in front of me. I can see the Water-Less Pet Bath Towel rub down is going to be a regular event in our house.

Fresh Air Fund Looking for Host Families for City Kids

Posted on April 25th, 2010 by admin

Do you live in a rural area and want to share your love of animals and wide open spaces with city kids? If so, the Fresh Air Fund is looking for you! What a great way to teach an inner city kid why they should respect animals and how to interact with them.

The Fresh Air Fund is in need of host families for this summer.  Host families are volunteers who open their hearts and homes to children from the city to give a fresh air experience to disadvantaged children from the inner-city.

In 2009, The Fresh Air Fund‘s Volunteer Host Family program, called Friendly Town, gave close to 5,000 New York City boys and girls, ages six to 18, free summer experiences in the country and the suburbs. Volunteer host families shared their friendship and homes up to two weeks or more in 13 Northeastern states from Virginia to Maine and Canada.
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Watch Tip: Coyotes, Owls

Posted on April 24th, 2010 by Anna Nirva

wwtips_a2Watch out for wildlife that prey on pets, such as owls and coyotes—they are hunting constantly to feed their young during spring. Be protective. Small dogs, cats, puppies and kittens are particularly vulnerable.

Un-reported news: Coyotes and owls prey on pets throughout North America

How many missing family pets have fallen victim to predation? Owls and coyotes are found everywhere on the North American continent, and they hunt to feed their young during the spring months. Both species have now habituated to suburban and even urban environments such as parks and industrial areas. Owls have been known to kill “… a kitten, two ducks, two chickens and a 20 lb. goose” in just two weeks during spring of 2009 at one East Texas hobby farm. Great Horned Owls are enormous, and if the animal fights successfully to free itself, it could die from the deep talon wounds anyway.  These owls are nicknamed “tigers of the night” for their striped feathers as well as their exceptional hunting abilities.

2002 photo by Dennis Maxwell/Port of Portland/AP PhotoCoyotes have become common in suburbs and even cities. While they will eat trash and roadkill, they prefer fresh meat, so they are voracious, persistent killers of all kinds of small mammals. Once they learn that small dogs, cats and rabbits are plentiful fresh food sources, they thrive and reproduce in any suburban neighborhood (especially those with dry creek beds) more successfully than in the wild, growing larger and living longer. Coyotes have been known to wipe out entire colonies of feral, “community” or barnyard cats. Amazingly, they will also mate with dogs in southern regions. The “coydog” offspring are even more successful at predation and will attack livestock. (Another reason to spay/neuter your dogs!) Thank you to Dennis Maxwell/Port of Portland/AP Photo for this image.

Your dog or cat was never found?

If a owl or coyote catches your cat or dog, you likely won’t know their fate. Vet clinics only see those injured pets that were too large to be carried away. Your pet simply disappears, carried off to the nest or den where the hungry chicks or pups await. This predation is likely much higher than reported because of the lack of clear evidence, and predation should be considered a serious threat to neighborhood animals. Please be proactive with coyotes or owls in your neighborhood.

What should you do?

What can you do to keep your companion animals safe? Don’t let your dogs or cats out of the house unsupervised during dawn or dusk hours, when owls and coyotes are active. If you occasionally catch glimpses of owls or coyotes or hear them at night near your home, be especially wary. It is likely that you live within hunting range. Predators are smart, and if you inadvertently “feed” them once or twice, they will put you on their “route.”

Keep your trashcans tightly covered, your birdfeeders clean, and don’t leave kibble outside, to avoid attracting coyotes to your neighborhood. They can be attracted by the smell of food, just like your pets are, so keep your picnic and grill food covered. They will also feed on gardens and fruit. We had a daily coyote visitor during hackberry season for a few years.

If your region is suffering from drought or flooding, hungry wildlife become more aggressive, remember.  Always be protective of your fur family, and help your neighbors learn of threats to companion animals. If not you, “hoo-hoo?”

Watch Tip: Cars are Furnaces

Posted on April 17th, 2010 by Anna Nirva

Watch and listen for dogs trapped inside of vehicles on warm days; they could die of heat stroke. A sunny mild 72 degree day will produce 116.6 degrees in just 60 minutes, a 2005 Stamford University study proved. Opening the windows a crack produced only a slight reduction in temperature. Take action if you see dogs panting heavily. You might save a life.

It’s already happening: dog deaths due to heat stroke in hot cars

I had another tip prepared for this week, but after reading four news articles this week about dogs dying of heat stroke, I changed my plans. Spring is early this year. And as I learned, even the most dedicated animal rescue volunteers can lose track of time with deadly results.

Remember---72 outside? 116 inside a vehicle in 60 minutes. Heat stroke kills dogs. (This is a staged photo, and Austin, the dog, is just fine.)

Nine rescue dogs were waiting in the back of a closed truck without air conditioning while two animal rescue volunteers readied their adoption setup in a Georgia Petsmart on April 2, 2010. It was an unseasonably warm sunny day. When the volunteers returned to the truck to bring the dogs inside, they found unimaginable hell.

They found four dead puppies, one dead adult dog, one adult dog in extreme distress from heatstroke, and the three dogs suffering and deteriorating. They attempted to revive the dogs and then went the vet clinic, where the adult dog in extreme distress was euthanized. Three dogs lived. The volunteers and the rescue operator (who was not present) were devastated and suspended their rescue operations. The two volunteers are each charged with nine counts of animal cruelty. (Staged photo—no animal was harmed.)

Be prepared to take action to help save a dog from dying of heat stroke

What can you do if you see or hear an animal stuck in a hot vehicle? First, observe the situation carefully but quickly. Walk all around the vehicle, looking at all window openings, and notice if the motor is running with air conditioning on. Is there some shade? Is the dog or cat panting heavily and continuously? Or is the panting intermittent and related to the stress of your approach? Look for signs of drool or spittle around the mouth that might indicate prolonged panting.

If the animal doesn’t appear to be panting heavily and the air conditioning is running, leave, taking note of the time. Return in 15 minutes to check to ensure that the air is still running.

If the animal isn’t panting heavily, and the windows are generously open or the vehicle is in shade, leave, taking note of the time. Return every so often to check that the panting has not increased.

If the animal is already laying down, panting heavily and unable to rise, you must spring into action immediately. Act like a rescuer would, because heat stroke will kill this beloved pet in a few minutes. Enlist a passersby to witness your actions and quickly break a window with your elbow or a heavy object. Ask the witness to dial 911, and ask another one to RUN to the store service desk to insist on an immediate public address to the owner (describe the car and animal). Remove the suffering animal from the vehicle to a shady spot on nearby grass if you can do it safely, and fan the air overhead with anything handy. Ask if anyone has a water bottle; if so, dribble water into the animal’s mouth, and wet his ears and neck to speed cooling. Wait for the authorities and owners to arrive. Ignore any theft alarm; you are not a thief. You are a rescuer saving the life of someone’s pet.

If the animal is standing or sitting upright and panting heavily, you have more time. Write down the vehicle make and model, color, and license plates. Enlist a passerby to go to the service desk to request a public address to the owner. Stay with the dog or cat until the owner returns. If the owner doesn’t return in 10 minutes, and the animal is panting more heavily, call 911.

What are the laws that relate to this crime in your state?

The Animal Legal & Historical Center publishes a “Table of State Laws that Protect Animals Left in Parked Vehicles” that is updated yearly. See what the laws are in your state. (The web page will open in a new window.)

Why is heat so deadly to dogs?

They can’t perspire to exhaust body heat like we humans can. The only way they can rid their bodies of excess heat is through panting and limited perspiration through their paw pads. Heat stroke is quick to kill, and very young or old, obese, or unhealthy animals are more susceptible. What are the symptoms outside of heavy panting and drooling? Look for signs of restlessness (laying down and rising again and again), lethargy, dark tongue, lack of coordination, and even vomiting.

If you see dogs playing sports or running with their owners on hot days, be sure to say something! Veterinarians will tell stories of how quickly a happy dog can become overcome with heat stroke and die on a hot day. They will play or run until they drop. Vet clinics see them rushed into care by distraught owners, but only some can be saved.

Watch Tip: Dogs Riding Dangerously

Posted on April 10th, 2010 by Anna Nirva

Weekly Watch Tip for week of Apr. 11:

Watch for dogs riding dangerously in vehicles—loose in pickup truck beds or hanging out of open car windows. They can be injured by flying insects or road debris thrown up by opposing traffic, or they can be flung out of the vehicle during sudden accident avoidance measures with potentially catastrophic results. Talk with owners or drivers whenever you can.

Pickup bed riding is dangerous for dogs and motorists too

Photo courtesy of

Is this a common sight in your neck of the woods? Take a good look. This dog is just one pothole away from an emergency vet clinic–or worse, he might not survive the fall.

And what about the driver following this accident-waiting-to-happen? Imagine being that driver. Maybe the airborne dog could land right on your car hood or windshield, causing you to have the accident while the driver continues on, unknowing of the havoc he or she caused. Maybe the poor dog would land on the road right in front of you! How could you avoid running the dog over? You couldn’t. Does this picture upset you now? I wonder if this dog is alive today to enjoy the sunshine. I wouldn’t place a bet on it. (Thank you to Cove Mountain Kennels, Idaho,, for the use of this photo.)

How about using restraints?

Should these drivers tie a leash to something in the bed? No, this is dangerous too. If thrown from the pickup bed by a bump or a swerve, the dog can be dragged behind the truck if the leash is long. If the leash is short, the dog could hang to his death, legs dragging. The driver might not even notice right away, especially if listening to loud music or talking on the phone.

What about flying insects or road debris kicked up by opposing traffic? Is this dangerous? You know it is. Eyes and ears are especially vulnerable. If the dog has a pre-existing eye condition, even the wind can cause problems.

Another risk: dog thieves

If the driver stops for a burger and leaves his dog in the back? That’s an invitation to dog thieves. This happened in 2008  in Viroqua, Wisconsin. A family watched from inside McDonalds as their golden Labrador Retriever was lifted out of the pickup truck bed by a big man. They ran out, jumped back in the pickup and chased the thief for miles but lost him. This family notified authorities regionally about their missing dog and lodged a complaint with police, all to no avail. Luckily, the thief dumped the dog in a town 20 miles away two weeks later and the dog was picked up by animal control. The family was extremely grateful to have their beloved dog back safely, and vowed not to transport him so carelessly again.

Use solid crates designed for transporting animals

The only safe way to transport a dog in the back of a pickup truck is inside a correctly-sized (for the dog) solid-wall crate that is securely fastened to the floor of the bed, so that it can’t slide around or bounce out. Ventilation holes and view ports should be faced away from the wind to minimize risk from flying debris and insects. Use of a crate also helps to discourage would-be dog thieves because access isn’t as quick and easy.

If you have opportunities to talk with people who transport dogs loose in the back of a pickup, please say something. You could save a life or prevent an accident.

Watch Tip: Spring’s Litters

Posted on April 3rd, 2010 by Anna Nirva

Weekly Watch Tip for week of April 4:

Watch and listen for litters of stray puppies and kittens—the spring birth season is here. Call the authorities, or best in some regions, bring them into care and help them find good homes. Finally, spread the “spay-neuter” message at every opportunity. Pet overpopulation results in over 4 million deaths every year in animal shelters.

The crux of the animal welfare problem is overpopulation

You already understand the true heart of animal abuse and neglect: overabundance. Overabundance of cats and dogs leads to lower status, lower financial value, lower standards of care. If cats and dogs were difficult to reproduce, they would be expensive and highly valued. Actually some breeds are rare, expensive, and considered precious. They are lucky.

4,000,000+ cats and dogs are killed every year in pounds and shelters in our animal-loving country. Break that down for better understanding: 11,000 cats and dogs are killed every day. Well, let’s say, probably less on Sundays and we know many shelters kill on Fridays in anticipation of Saturdays when families bring in their cats and dogs “to find a new home.” I quote that because in a majority of shelters that REALLY means “to be euthanized in a few days or even less in the spring, when entire litters are brought in with the mothers too.” Surrendered pets are euthanized before the strays; no one would be looking for them.

Thursday night burger feasts

Did you know that some shelter workers who do the soul-killing job of euthanizing healthy dogs and cats have a Thursday night ritual? They buy fast-food burgers and give them to those dogs and cats who will be killed in the morning. Why do they do that? To give those poor animals a few minutes of happiness, the last happiness they will ever know.

Do not say they buy burgers out of guilt. The guilty are those who cause the animals to be unwanted and undervalued in the first place. Those who “don’t have enough time” to take care of a pet these days. Those who turn their fur children out when a new fur-less child is born instead of training and managing their family. Those who don’t train their young puppies and kittens properly and give up on them. Those who don’t bother to search for or reclaim their missing hunting dogs. The list goes on.

Should the shelter be responsible for killing so many? Some ambitious cities are working to become “no-kill;” very wonderful work. Save lives in in your community by promoting shelter adoptions and working to change shelter policy and community laws.

The guilty are everywhere

Those who don’t spay or neuter their pets and let them roam freely outdoors … they are the biggest cause of overpopulation. The burden of guilt lies in their open doorways and careless habits and self-serving rationalizations such as “my children need to see the miracle of birth” and “I might be able to get $50 bucks a puppy if I work at it; the mother is a ___ even if she is unregistered.” We have all heard this talk. Remember: 11,000 a day.

What can you do?

Promote the spay-neuter message everywhere, of course. But if you live in a high-kill region and you find an abandoned litter in a box by the highway or in a parking lot or under a bridge, do the brave big-hearted thing. Take them home, enlist the help of a vet, raise money on Chip-in, and get them ready for new homes, and then find the homes. Does it sound like a lot of work? Yes, but others do it and so can you. Those sweet little furry faces will live out lives of love given and received. Families enriched and blessed. All because of you.