Watch Tip Classic: Fireworks and Holidays

Posted on December 25th, 2011 by Anna Nirva

Watch and listen for stray pets who panic when holiday fireworks detonate—they may bolt through traffic or get lost. They might eat live or spent fireworks casings left on the ground. Be alert for violent cruelty to animals during this holiday in particular, when some troubled people become overexcited or aggressive!

Holidays are always high-risk for pets. Be vigilant.

What effects do all holidays have on your household? Holiday event schedules are busy and stressful. Your home might fill up with visitors and special dishes. Entrance doors and gates swing open and shut more often, and with so many distractions, tempting foods may be left out on counters. Spills occur and containers of cleaning supplies appear. New and unfamiliar people visit at odd hours. Interesting (sometimes fragrant) wrapped gifts and packages are sitting out.

Your dogs and cats are very attuned to these changes and they may become anxious or overexcited. They may be unsupervised in all of the hubbub and explore what they shouldn’t. It’s no wonder that accidents happen around holidays, and companion animals are so often involved.

Veterinarians will tell you that clinics are especially busy after any major holiday, and some of the stories are very sad—and almost always, the accidents preventable. Shelters and rescues will tell you that they get more calls to surrender dogs and cats around the holidays as well, often for behavior (lack of training) issues relating to holiday activities. This anxious adolescent puppy (pictured) was dumped on a SW Wisconsin county road just before a holiday. (She was adopted by a more responsible and loving family.)

Please be vigilant in your neighborhood and advocate for those who have no voice during any holiday. Be proactive in your home. If you expect visitors, crate your dogs and keep your cats in a safe room.

Remember, holidays are not celebrated for companion animals. They actually don’t mix well at all!

Watch Tip: Give to Local Animal Welfare Groups

Posted on December 17th, 2011 by Anna Nirva

Watch Tip LogoGive to your local, independent animal rescues and shelters today, if you want to support the daily work of re-homing abandoned and neglected animals. The big national organizations do not support daily operations in your area. They don’t buy kibble for your local strays. They just look like they do.


When you look into the sweet, earnest faces of a rescue cat or dog, imagine seeing a large choir of human faces surrounding them. Slow your thoughts and see these people come into focus. They are young and old; they are brown- and olive- and white-skinned; they are poor and prosperous; and they are passionate. They share the same goal: save this one you see in front of you right now.

Imagine the rescuer, the foster family, many transporters, walkers and cuddlers, caregivers, veterinary staff that discount for rescue animals. These are the volunteers and low-paid staffers who have already given of themselves to bring this cherished animal to this adoption web site or this event or facility. These unheralded local heroes are critically important to the life of this one furry face looking up at you. They saved this one. Can’t you see them?

You must understand that it has been a devastating couple of years for this choir of rescuers. The harsh economy caused millions more animals to be abandoned or neglected. Rescues and shelters are swelled over-full of hopeful animals; they are forced to say “no” to needy dogs and cats much more often—which is a painful moment each time. The economy caused potential adopters to hesitate and turn away. It caused caring donors to close their checkbooks with a whispered “I’m sorry, I can’t right now.” Some rescues and shelters talk about closing their doors and some have already closed.

The large national organizations did not open any overflow facilities during this economic downturn. They did not divert their substantial income streams to benefit the daily operations of openly-struggling local rescues and shelters. With eloquent fundraising letters, pretty calendars, and heart-rending pictures of sick or injured animals in cages, they talk about their work. Much of their work is extremely helpful—grants for spay-neuter efforts, special teams for rescuing animals in disasters, educational materials, influencing legislation to protect animals. But they never send any checks to your local groups to buy food or pay for routine vet care or support daily caregiver payrolls.

If your local group is named “humane society” or “SPCA” take note: these are just common names that everyone uses, like Kleenex. Some groups are actually changing their names, a big long-term project, because they believe donations will go up, no longer appearing to be supported by a wealthy national organization.

These are desperate times for local, independent animal welfare groups. Can you help your local groups this year? Will you?

Watch Tip Classic: Cold Snaps Down South

Posted on December 11th, 2011 by Trish Roman-Aquilino

Watch Tip LogoThis Watch tip was originally written and posted by Anna Nirva.

Urgent: Extreme cold kills outside tethered dogs and cats, especially those animals without heavy coats, the malnourished, the very young and the elderly. Tethered animals in southern regions are at higher risk for hypothermia because they have not grown heavier coats over time like they would have in cooler climates. Watch for animals that don’t have adequate shelter; speak with owners or call the authorities immediately.

Short-hair pets in the south need hay or straw bedding during cold snaps. Fur is not enough! While all dogs and cats have outer fur and inner fur, the quantity of outer hairs of the fur compared to the inner hairs of the fur (ratio) varies by breed and individual. The texture varies as well. Age matters: it takes six months on average for puppies to grow a complete fur covering of inner and outer fur, if they are healthy. Some breeds can tolerate extreme cold if individuals are healthy and shelter from freezing winds is available.

In addition to breed and health, environment matters too. Individual dogs and cats living outdoors in cooler northern climates will grow longer, fluffier inner fur as daylight shortens that will help hold body heat. But pets in the mid- and far south have not experienced wide swings of seasonal cooling. Their sparse, short inner fur is completely inadequate for sudden winter cold snaps, freezing winds, and snow storms. Short-hair dogs are very vulnerable to hypothermia.

In other words, during a cold snap in Mississippi, that bouncy little Boxer puppy down the street that is tied to a tree 24/7 could be found dead in the morning. Those skinny hunting hounds kept in tiny outdoor pens could suffer from hypothermia and frostbite and the old ones might die. And those skeletal, near-feral pit bulls tied to stakes that sleep in hard hollows dug in the earth? They have never known a kindness. They may be released from their long suffering.

Do you have access to bales of hay or straw? Can you give hay beds to short-hair outside dogs in your neighborhood when a cold snap is on the way? A simple bale of hay can mean the difference between life and death to a dog or cat down south when the cold winds blow. Owners probably will not object. Please help those outside animals.