The statistics surrounding homeless animals aren’t new to many of us. The issue of shelter overpopulation and the importance of adopting vs. buying is more widely talked about now than ever before. Still, while the statistics vary slightly, each year approximately 5 million stray and unwanted animals are taken in by impound facilities and shelters across the country each year. Sadly, about 3.5 million of these animals must be euthanized because good homes cannot be found for them. In fact, shelter euthanasia is the leading cause of death for both dogs and cats in the United States. Most people think there just are not enough homes for all the shelter animals but the reality is, not enough people are making the choice to adopt from a shelter or from a rescue group. Approximately 17 million Americans get a new pet each year, more than double the number of shelter animals but sadly only about 25% choose to adopt their new pet. The rest choose to buy their pets from a pet store or other free sources like internet ads or friends. And surprisingly, despite the increased awareness of these statistics about 35% of pet owners in the U.S. still choose not to spay or neuter their pets. Many choose to intentionally breed them either for profit or for a fun experience, others believe their pet won’t “accidentally” mate. Whatever the reason, pet overpopulation is a critical issue and our animal friends are paying the price for it.
Want to hear some good news? The awareness and education about adopting and spaying & neutering is making a difference. Over the last 40 years, the number of dogs and cats being euthanized in shelters has decreased from approximately 20 million to 3.5 million. None of us will be happy until there is no need for animal shelters, rescue groups and impound facilities but until then, we are thankful for the network of shelters and rescue organizations that work hard every day to save and find homes for as many animals as possible. One such rescue group is Second Chance Animal Rescue located in Minnesota.
Second Chance is a non-profit rescue organization that has a foster network giving safe and loving homes to animals until they find their forever homes. They pull dogs and cats from impound facilities when their holding time is up, they receive animals seized from puppy/kitten mills, they take in dogs and cats that have been abandoned and they help families who are unable to continue caring for their animals due to hardship. To date, they’ve saved 8,900 dogs and cats and the number of animals they foster at any given time varies between 70-90 depending on the number of active fosters they have. Rescue organizations like Second Chance are critical to making a big impact on reducing the number of animals killed in impound facilities that usually do not adopt out to the general public. The more animals that organizations like Second Chance can adopt out, the more animals they can continue to rescue. The more foster homes they have in their network, the more animals they can save.
All of this can seem overwhelming but there are ways that each of us can help and make a difference.
* Consider becoming a foster for Second Chance Animal Rescue or another reputable non-profit rescue group in your area. The more foster homes there are, the more animals that can be pulled from impound facilities or other situations.
* Always adopt. Check rescue groups like Second Chance in your city and check your local shelters. Remember when you adopt, you save two lives, the one you rescue and the one you just made room for. You can see Second Chance’s animals waiting for their forever home HERE
* Always spay or neuter your pet. With 5 million homeless animals languishing in shelters every year, let’s make sure they find their way into a loving home before we bring more dogs and cats into the world.
* Donate. These rescue organizations and many reputable shelters are non-profit groups that exist solely on donations and small adoption fees. Their costs are higher than you think. For example, the veterinarian expenses alone for Second Chance run approximately $90,000-$100,000 per year. Every donation helps, even the smallest of donations are greatly appreciated by these groups.
* Make sure you’re prepared for a long term commitment when you decide to add a pet to your family. Too many animals in shelters and rescue groups come from owner surrenders.
* Take any opportunity to educate others about the importance of adoption and spaying and neutering.
Are you interested in learning more about dog and cat breeder regulation legislation? Learn more about the bill here in Minnesota or about any bills in your area by simply doing an internet search for Breeder Bill Legislation or Puppy Mill Legislation.
Here in the United States, we have all heard about the overpopulation issue when it comes to domestic animals. The truths behind our farmed animal industry are being unveiled. Archaic animal rights laws are being challenged. But did you know that on a global basis, the situation is even more dire? Animal welfare laws and regulations are lax or non-existent in developing countries, opening the door for health hazards due to lack of infrastructure and resources when it comes to livestock, working animals and strays. Overpopulation is a major issue; it’s estimated that 75% of the worldwide dog population are strays and even higher for cats. This presents major issues not only from a human health perspective but also has implications on the welfare of the animal. Most developing countries do not have the resources for spaying and neutering their strays and address the issue using methods such as shooting, electrocution and most often, poisoning.
It’s hard to turn a blind eye to what’s happening on the global front once you learn more of the details or see it first-hand. And that’s exactly what happened when Cathy King, a veterinarian here in the USA (and now Founder & CEO of World Vets), was volunteering inMexico in 2002. As fate would have it, she arrived the day after a hurricane warning so instead of performing spay and neuter surgery all week, she was busy moving dogs back to the shelter from a warehouse they were in temporarily due to the storm. Most of those dogs were street dogs and Cathy began to learn how hundreds of thousands of these dogs (and cats) are poisoned every year to control theirpopulation and that spaying and neutering is not common in Mexico or other developing countries. That sparked an idea and when she returned home she shared her story with other vets, inspiring them to want to volunteer. When she began her own practice, her idea along with a donation jar on her clinic’s counter has turned into one of the largest veterinary aid organizations in the world…World Vets. In just six years, they now work in 36 countries on 6 continents and help tens of thousands of animals each year. Their focus began on spay/neuter but their programs now cover nearly every aspect of veterinary medicine and all of their services are free of charge.
World Vets provides programs such as:
- Field services such as spay/neuter procedures, veterinary medicine to equines and disease prevention in livestock.
- Disaster response in times of earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and other natural disasters.
- Annual humanitarian missions as the NGO represented on two US Navy aid missions to the South Pacific and Central/South America.
- Veterinary medicine clinics in Latin America to train veterinarians within the developing countries.
I asked Cathy what she thinks World Vets’ biggest accomplishment is, and while there are many to choose from, the fact that they have brought an end to poisoning street animals in several regions of the world is one that has ended so much animal suffering. They have established formal agreements with several government municipalities to end the poisoning and in return, World Vets implements large scale spay/neuter services through their field service program to address the overpopulation issue in a humane way. It was during one of these field service projects in Nicaragua when they met a two pound puppy near death with injuries, parasites and disease. He wasn’t expected to live but with their round the clock care, he showed improvement. They named him Chancho (Spanish for pig) because he looked like a little piglet with a white pot belly and a curly tail. He was a street dog without a home and the volunteers could not leave him behind. Luckily for Chancho, one of the vet students from Mississippi State University brought him back to the US. Coincidentally Cathy was scheduled to speak at MSU and, you guessed it, came home with a new dog. Cathy says “Chanco is the best little dog ever and he serves as a daily reminder to me of why we work so hard to help animals that wouldn’t otherwise have access to veterinary care. Just because they live on the street, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve care. They all deserve care and that’s a driving force behind World Vets.”
In staying true to our mission of giving animals a voice, I asked Cathy what she thinks the animals helped by World Vets would say if they could speak. She said “I guess they would say thank you and please come back again!” And World Vets does come back. They send a team almost every week of the year to countries all over the world to help animals live a better life.
How can you help?
Learn more about World Vets by visiting their website. Connect with them on Facebook and twitter and share with your friends .
All of their services are free but equipment and supplies are expensive. You can donate to help them continue their great work.
Volunteers are critical to their work. Check the volunteer opportunities and their project schedules if you’d like to volunteer your time.
to be out walking Sadie & Bella on a recent Saturday morning with my
required stop at Starbucks of course. As
I was leaving, I noticed a woman sitting on a bench wearing a T-shirt with what
looked like an image of a Beagle. I
stopped to ask her about her shirt and as it turned out, I was talking with the
Founder of Beagle Freedom Project. I am
aware of the testing industry and have been using cruelty free products but she
inspired me to learn more. Did you know
that consumer product testing is still being done using millions of animals
each year? In the year 2010, according to the USDA 1,134,693 animals were
tested on in the United States alone.
This number does not include mice, rats or birds as labs are not
required to disclose those numbers. Here
are some quick facts about the animal testing industry.
of these animals are supplied through either businesses that trade in animals
or dealers who source the animals from pounds, auctions and newspaper/online
research is conducted inside universities, medical schools, pharmaceutical
companies, farms, military establishments and commercial labs that provide
animal testing services to corporations.
wide variety of testing methods (both internal and external) used for toxicity
and irritation are conducted for products such as household chemicals, cosmetics
and medical research also uses animals for their tests.
species being used in
these tests which are included in the number mentioned above are: Guinea
Pigs, Hamsters, Marine Mammals, Nonhuman Primates, Pigs, Sheep, Other Farm
Animals, Rabbits, Cats and Dogs. Yes,
you read correctly, cats and dogs.
I’ve recently spoken with were unaware that animals we consider to be members of
our family are used for experiments.
Over 85,000 cats and dogs live in wire cages and are subjected to horrifically
cruel experiments each year. The most
commonly used breed of dog is the Beagle, most likely because they are small,
friendly and docile. Often their vocal
chords are removed so the lab workers aren’t bothered by their cries. Many of these animals either die during
testing or are euthanized when they are no longer valuable to the
researchers. However, there are times
when these testing facilities are willing to release the animals that are still
healthy when their testing is complete.
This is when organizations like Beagle Freedom Project (BFP) step
in. I had the chance to speak at greater
length with Shannon Keith, the founder of this wonderful organization to learn
more about them and the work they do to rescue and re-home Beagles used in animal
BFP began in
December of 2010 when Shannon received a call from a friend about a lab closing
for the holidays and their plan to kill all of the animals so they would not
have to take care of them during the shutdown.
Shannon stepped in and rescued the dogs and took them home with her
until she found them permanent homes.
Less than two years later, BFP is now rescuing Beagles from testing
facilities all over the world. Their
mission is to rescue Beagles used for experimentation that are being given a
chance at freedom, foster them until they are ready to be adopted into their
forever home and educate others about animal testing. To be clear, this group is not illegally
setting lab animals free. They work
directly with the testing facilities to legally remove the dogs once they no
longer need them. It takes time and
patience with dogs rescued from experimentation. Many have never stepped on grass, seen the
light of day, known affection or had human interaction beyond being “handled”
as if they were equipment. Once they’ve
spent time adjusting to freedom in their BFP foster home, a special forever
family will be chosen. That family in
turn becomes an advocate against animal testing.
Often, a Facebook page is created for their rescue dog to tell his or
her story and to educate others about the facts of animal testing.
experimentation, no matter how cruel the test or how much it tortures the
animal or how intelligent the species, is 100% legal. Are there alternative testing methods that do
not use animals? YES! However, due to the up-front expense to
switch testing methods, labs are not adopting the alternatives. That’s why legislation asking for larger
cages, asking to modify some of the cruel testing used or asking to ban the use
of specific species simply will not make a difference. Animal testing is cruel, inhumane, and unnecessary with the alternatives that our science and technology
provide. That’s why organizations such as ARME (the nonprofit that runs BFP) is
diligently working to abolish animal testing in the United States altogether
through legislation. But until
legislation is passed, how can you make a difference right now? There are several ways!
* You can pledge to
only buy cruelty free products.
* You can make the
effort to educate yourself about the truth behind animal testing and the impact
it has on the lives of animals.
* You can help
speak for these animals by telling others what you learn.
* You can donate to
organizations that help animals that are used in experiments.
* You can become a
foster for these animals. When lab animals are rescued, it usually means many
are being taken in by these groups all at once.
A strong foster network is critical to their success.
As I always
do, I asked Shannon what she thinks the Beagles used for experiments would say
if they could speak. Her response; “I
didn’t choose to be here”. I can’t
imagine anyone would disagree. Thank goodness for people like Shannon and
groups like Beagle Freedom Project who give them the chance to finally live the
life they would choose…with a family, being loved, and living in freedom.
Click to learn more about Beagle Freedom Project or ARME.
about the many cruelty free products available visit leapingbunny.org
There is an abundance of information on the
web about the animal testing industry but this is a good place to start for an
overview and links to other sources.
To keep up
to date about the species and number of animals used on an annual basis visit the
USDA for their annual report.
One of the
most misunderstood K-9 breeds we have today is the “pit bull”. Pit bull is an umbrella term which includes
many breeds, some of which include Pit Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Bull
Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers.
For most of our history America’s nickname for pit bulls was the “nanny
dog”, a trusted caretaker to watch over children. But over the last several years, pit bulls
have been vilified. Before pit bulls it
was the Rottweiler, before the Rottweiler it was the Doberman, before the
Doberman it was the German Shepherd. The
fact of the matter is, that whichever breed is currently being targeted as “bad
dogs” their homeless rates rise, they are overrepresented in shelters and their
euthanization rates go through the roof.
Did you know that the pit bull euthanization rate in shelters is on
average 93% which means only 7% will find their forever home? Because of this, rescue groups have been forming
all over the nation focused on giving these dogs a second chance. A Rotta Love Plus (ARLP) is one of those
groups that works tirelessly to help Rottweiler and pit bull breeds. I was able to sit down and talk with Sara
Nick, Communication Director for ARLP to learn a bit more about their
her dog Josie from ARLP who was one of 500 dogs rescued from a Missouri dog
fighting bust and has been a volunteer for them the last three years. In fact, ARLP is an all-volunteer advocacy
organization which is based in Minnesota that addresses issues faced by
Rottweilers and pit bulls. As Sara put
it, they use a “nose-to-tail” approach which includes public outreach,
community enrichment and education, spay/neuter initiatives, owner education
and training and foster-based rescue and rehoming.
foster network, which takes a quality over quantity approach, allows them to
rehome approximately 35-50 dogs each year and they provide ongoing support to
ensure their success.
their Rott n’ Pit Ed program they serve approximately 60 dogs/year and growing,
outfitting owners with the tools needed to ensure the right approach is taken
for each dog.
Get Your Fix! Program provides free vaccinations, low cost microchips and free
spay/neutering to an estimated 300 pit bulls and Rottweilers per year in the
communities that need it most to decrease overpopulation thus reducing
euthanasia in shelters.
PRIORITY Paws (Pit bull and Rottweiler Interactive OutReach, Instruction and
Therapy for Youth) program spends over 400 hours per year conducting free
dog-therapy groups with youth in crisis which helps them to work through their
crises using the lessons and skills that the dogs teach them.
Dog Safety/Humane Education program reached over 3,000 individuals over the
last three years by using a hands-on learning experience to educate youth,
adults and organizations about humane treatment of animals and dog safety.
breeds face their own overpopulation challenges and have wonderful breed
specific rescues to help them, the “bad breed” dogs face an uphill battle due
to the stereotypes which hinder them from being given a fair chance at finding
a forever home. That’s why we found ARLP
to be such a great organization, not focusing solely on rehoming but also working
hard to fix the issues at the source through their many programs that benefit
the dogs and the community.
approach sure helped Josie during the adjustment to her new environment when
Sara adopted her. Proudly, Josie is now
a registered Therapy Dog and touches the lives of so many youth during the
outreach programs in which she participates.
And since we always try to give animals a voice, we couldn’t end without
asking Sara what she thought Josie would say if she could speak. Sara thought she would say "My ARLP
friends and I are living proof of all the good stuff that can happen when you
give pit bulls a chance. Now please give
me a hot dog, I'm starving!"
If you would
like to learn more about ARLP, Josie’s story or donate to them directly please
visit www.arottalove.org or find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/arottaloveplus
thinking about adopting a pit bull breed, click for tips and information to consider first on the ASPCA website.
If you are interested in fostering or adopting a dog from ARLP CLICK HERE to see their available dogs.
K-9s are members of many different agencies dedicated to
serving and protecting us. They are regularly used for such things as search and
rescue, detection of explosives and narcotics and apprehension of suspects. A
typical day for a working K-9 can involve navigating rugged terrain,
jumping fences, chasing down a suspect, searching through
rubble, all of which takes a toll on their bodies and their health. Average working time for these dogs is only 5
to 8 years because of that stress. So what
happens to them when they retire? I
asked Cameron Beall, President of Retired K-9 Heroes, that very question.
In most cases, the handlers bring their trusted K-9 partner
home to live with them. However, unlike
their human counterparts, these K-9s enter retirement with absolutely no
benefits! In many agencies, K-9s are
categorized as equipment and therefore do not qualify for any sort of
retirement benefits. Needless to say, their
retirement years can be fraught with chronic back and joint problems, dental
issues and a premature decline in overall health due to the physicality of
their work. After speaking with Cameron
I started to understand just what a financial burden this could mean for an
officer that gives a home to a retired K-9.
That’s where Retired K-9 Heroes steps in to help.
Cameron, being a police officer himself adopted his partner
of 5 years when she retired. She is an
11 year old Belgian Malinois who is now a part of his family. After speaking with other handlers from around
the country and based on his own experience, he saw the need for an
organization that could lend a helping hand.
Retired K-9 Heroes does just that.
Through donations, they are able to assist with vet bills, food and supplies
making retirement more comfortable for the K-9s and less of a financial burden
for the handler.
These dogs risk their lives every day during their working
years to keep us safe. I hope that we
can all agree they deserve to retire with dignity and should never suffer due
to lack of retirement benefits or financial constraints. Luckily, organizations like Retired K-9
Heroes are working very hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.
If you would like to learn more about Retired K-9 Heroes or
donated directly to them please click here visit their website.
The issues that exotic cats are facing here in the United States may be relatively unknown but they are critical nonetheless. Did you know that reportedly there are more tigers in backyards in both the state of Texas and Florida than there are left in the wild in India? I didn’t either until I visited Big Cat Rescue (BCR) in Tampa, FL and learned just how big this problem really is. I was able to spend an afternoon with Jeff Kremer, Director of Donor Appreciation at BCR to understand more about the reality of what’s happening to exotic cats, meet some of the cats living at their sanctuary and learn what they’re doing to educate people so eventually, we can reduce or completely eliminate the need for exotic cat sanctuaries.
BCR is a non-profit charity that gives sanctuary to unwanted and abused exotic cats. They sit on 55 acres in Tampa, FL and house over 100 cats representing 14 species. They come to live here for several reasons. They are retired from circuses, roadside zoos and other performing acts, saved from being slaughtered for their fur or rescued from people’s backyards when they realize a grown tiger doesn’t make such a good pet after all. Unfortunately in approximately half of our states breeding and selling exotic cats is perfectly legal and in most cases they end up abused or are unable to be properly cared for. That’s when BCR steps in.
The sanctuary is quite impressive. The grounds are beautiful and lush. The enclosures are species specific which allows each cat to live and play a bit more like they would in the wild. They have room to roam, they are able to interact with other cats (when it's deemed safe for them to do so), they have "toys" to play with and can swim in the lake on the property. Yet, as impressive as BCR is, as Jeff and I walked the sanctuary my emotions were mixed. I felt grateful and sad at the same time. It seems unfair that animals as beautiful and majestic as these should live anywhere other than free in their native habitat. But because of their circumstances, being released into the wild is not an option and I felt grateful that BCR exists to give these animals a safe and loving home for the rest of their days. They were born into a life of captivity and as Jeff said "we give them the best life we can making the best out of a bad situation".
Sanctuaries, while wonderful and serving a purpose, are merely a band aid for a larger problem. So what can we do to make a difference? How can we fix the issue at the source so cats like this will never have to live in someone’s back yard or never be exploited by roadside zoos and pay to play gimmicks? I asked Jeff that very question and he gave three suggestions.
It’s time we all know what happens behind the scenes at animal performing acts. It’s time we understand why buying a cute little tiger cub as a pet isn’t offering a good life to that animal no matter how good our intentions may be. It’s time we know what legislation is pending and how our collective voices can make a difference.
Life is an evolution and as we continuously learn, we have the ability to change our behavior. The more we know the more good we can do. The key is we have to WANT to learn. It would be great if we could take a step back and understand the impact our decisions have on others, and that includes animals.
Speak with our wallet.
If we choose not to support organizations and breeders that exploit animals, demand will be reduced and supply will have nowhere to go but down. That means fewer exotic cats being bred into captivity, being abused, being abandoned and being exploited.
Jeff and I walked and talked so long, we were the last two people left at the end of the day. As we were getting up to leave I had to ask him one last question. My Voice’s mission is to be a voice for the animals so I wanted to know what he thought their cats would say if they could speak. Without skipping a beat he answered “I think they would say thank you”. After spending time with these animals and hearing their stories, I would have to agree.
If you would
like to learn more about Big Cat Rescue or donate directly to them, click here
to visit their website.
Want to see
videos of their cats? Click
here for BCR You Tube videos.
If you would
like to learn more about pending legislation in your area and how your voice
can be heard visit www.catlaws.com
If you would
like to learn more about the business of animal captivity, the book A Zoo
Story: Life in the Garden of Captives by Thomas French is a recommended
read. Click here to find the book on
The Amazon is home to millions of species. It is home to many birds, tree-dwelling species and is one of the the last places in the world to find jaguars, harpy eagles and pink dolphins. Sadly, rapid deforestation due to unsustainable expansion of agriculture, construction projects and illegal logging threatens the Amazon. At current rates, 55% of the Amazon’s rainforests could be gone by 2030, which would be a disaster for the region’s animals.
Trafficking of the Amazon’s wild animals is also a rising threat with birds being the prime target. Some are sold live while others are killed to supply feathers, skins and other body parts. Of all mammal species from the Americas that are traded, 95% are found in Brazil.
Thankfully, WWF® has been working in the Amazon for 40 years and is at the forefront of conservation efforts. They engage local communities and partner with governments to identify solutions that bridge the needs of economic development and conservation.
Protecting and conserving the Amazon is a big job. My VoiceTM and Sambazon® are proud to work together by offering this limited edition shirt focused on the issue of deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. Half the profits of each shirt will be donated directly to WWF® to aid in their ongoing conservation work. By purchasing this shirt, you too can help the animals of the rainforest by supporting work to preserve their habitat.