Our mom and dad were in New York City last weekend. On Saturday they spent their afternoon
speaking for the carriage horses. Their
goal was to help educate tourists and locals about the truth behind the horse
& carriage industry. Doing this only
10 feet away from the line of waiting carriages and their drivers was a bit
tense but it was a successful day and they got hundreds of signatures for a
petition backing a bill that would ban horse & carriages in NYC. Here’s a little insight about the life of the
over 200 NYC carriage horses.
Horse & carriage rides have always been portrayed as
quaint and romantic. Usually they take
you on a meandering ride through a park or through downtown streets. Your ride lasts about 30 minutes and costs
you a pretty penny. But have you ever
wondered about what happens in the days and hours before and after your ride
and what that horse’s life is really like?
“They charge so much money for this they must really take great care of
those horses”. “They probably live with
their driver in a great big old barn or in a pasture”. “I’m sure they don’t mind pulling a carriage
full of tourists all day, horses are meant to work and pull carts”. These are all things they said they heard
from both tourists and locals when advocating for the horses. Most of them were shocked and horrified when
they learned the truth. Here are some
facts about this industry and there is nothing romantic about it.
Many of the horses used to pull the carriages are not
traditional workhorses . They are
usually smaller breeds, retired from racing or given up by owners and are not
physically built for this type of labor. They work long days. A typical shift for an NYC carriage horse is
nine hours, seven days a week. Their 15
minute required breaks are not enforced and are often bypassed in favor of a waiting
fare. They spend their nine hours
confined with the rigging, wearing blinders and a metal bit in their mouth
which is so restricting they have virtually no freedom of movement. When they’re not physically pulling the
carriage, they stand in the hack line. There
are times when they stand there for hours on the asphalt in soaring heat,
during thunderstorms and snowstorms.
They are frequently caught working during weather emergencies even when
ordered to suspend service.
Horses as a
breed are very social and intelligent requiring mental and physical
stimulation. They are also prone to
being skittish, meaning they spook easily.
All traits that don’t go hand in hand with being a carriage horse, especially
in an urban setting. The loud noises of
a city (horns, sirens construction, loud engines, etc.) are perfect catalysts
for spooking a horse. Their hack lines
are often in high tourist areas, i.e. the most congested areas, which mean they
are walking alongside cars, tour buses, limos and pedestrians. They stand or pull carriages for hours with no
social interaction or unrestricted movement/exercise. All of this makes the industry ripe for
accidents. There have been 8 incidents in just in the last 12 months alone of horses getting spooked and
bolting through traffic, getting hit by cars and even one NYC carriage horse
named Charlie dropping dead on a busy NYC street. This has resulted in injured drivers,
passengers and horses.
live in one of five major stables that are located along the west side of
NYC. There are conflicting reports about
the conditions of these stables. They said they didn't get to see them so they refrained from passing judgment. However, horses are animals that need room to
run, get proper exercise, graze and interact socially with other horses. Whether the stables are acceptable or not,
the fact still remains that these horses are denied the basic needs of the
there are many major cities around the globe that have banned horse and
carriages for entertainment for these very reasons. Some of those cities include London, Oxford, Paris,
Toronto and Beijing. Numerous smaller
cities throughout the United States have also banned them due to safety and
humane concerns. The bottom line is,
horse & carriages are nice to haves (by some) and are not needed in our
modern day. Is their safety and their
suffering really worth a 30 minute ride through the park? As with all animals,
we must be their voice and continue to learn, educate and create change until
we can ensure they live better lives.
- When you’re
in a city that offers carriage rides opt not to ride. Instead, choose a pedi-cab which is a growing
industry all over the country or rent a bike and pedal through the park at your
leisure. Or there’s always the tried and
- Learn about
how you can be a voice for the carriage horses in some of our major cities by following
organizations that are currently working to help them and learning about any
pending legislation. Here are some places to start.
NYCLASS; Horses Without Carriages International; Coalition to Ban Horse Drawn Carriages; Equine Advocates
Petitions to ban Horse & Carriages:
NYC; Philadelphia; Chicago; Flagstaff; Victoria; Montreal; Melbourne; Care2 petitions
Pending NYC legislation:
Bill S5012; Bill A7748
- Do your own
investigation to see if your city has horse & carriages. What are the rules governing them? Is the industry following those rules? How many accidents have occurred? Where they being stabled and what are the
conditions? If you don’t like what you
uncover, start your own movement to educate tourists and locals about what you
Sadie & Bella
We’ve always admired our canine friends who are therapy dogs
and the joy they bring to the humans they visit. They come in all breeds,
genders, shapes and sizes and have been recognized for the ability to lower
blood pressure, improve feelings of loneliness, reduce depression and raise self-esteem.
However, their value extends far beyond comforting the sick
and bringing joy to the elderly. Did you
know that therapy dogs also assist children learning to read, sitting
attentively and patiently while children read to them, allowing them to improve
their skills and boost their self-esteem?
They have also been effectively used in rehabilitation facilities for
substance abuse, encouraging higher levels of patient participation resulting in a more
successful recovery. So it’s no surprise
that we’ve seen the number of registered therapy dogs soar. As of 2011, the organization Therapy Dogs
International alone had 24,000 therapy dogs registered.
Our mom told us the story of when our older sister Onyx was
a therapy dog and went to the neighborhood nursing home every week to visit the
residents. They would start in the common
room where it would be sing-around-the-piano time. Everyone would sing 'How Much Is That Doggie in
the Window' to her and then she would go to each person and give them special attention. There was one man in particular who suffered from Alzheimer’s who
had not communicated verbally or non-verbally with anyone for over a year. His daughter was always there with him and
showered Onyx with attention but the gentleman never acknowledged her. Then one day the man’s eyes lit up, he looked
right at her, smiled a big smile and started petting her. No one could believe it, his daughter and the
nurses were in tears. They sat with him
for over an hour as he continued to smile, pet and coo to her. Onyx brought the spark of life back in him even
if only for that short time. We’ll never
know what triggered it but it’s just another example of the special connection and bond
between human and canine.
We’ve been told that our personality isn’t conducive to being therapy
dogs. I guess we understand since we can
be a bit skittish around strangers which usually means we either strain to get
away or bark at them so they’ll leave. So instead we take pleasure in the occasions
we can put a smile on a little kid’s face when we let them pet us. I suppose that’s our version of “pet” therapy.
Sadie & Bella
Do you have a dog in your home
that would make a great therapy dog?
Have you ever thought about becoming a therapy dog handler? If you answered yes, then maybe it’s time to
look into it at little further. If you are
interested in learning more, the Therapy Dogs International website
is a great place to start!
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.
We understand what it means to be misunderstood. With the Karelian Bear Dog in us we like to
bark, it's an intimidating bark and that’s an understatement. Our
bark is the same whether we’re greeting our mom & dad at the door or we
bark at a stranger at the dog park. It
makes some people scared of us but we really don’t mean any harm. We know our Pit Bull friends must feel the
same way. Just because some have been conditioned to
show aggression and used in the horrific “sport” of dog fighting, the vast
majority have not and to assume the worst in them seems unfair.
But that’s exactly what is happening all over the country
and the most recent set back is in Maryland where this month, the legislature
deemed all Pit Bull-type dogs are “inherently dangerous”. It’s only a matter of time until we see the
result of this legislation. Landlords
won’t allow them, local insurance companies won’t cover people who own them
(many already don’t) and shelters won’t or will be reluctant to take them. That means an increase in euthanization and
stray Pit Bulls on the street which isn’t good for the community or those poor
dogs. All owners know that dogs, even litter mates like us,
have their own personality. But Pit Bull
breeds are being categorized as one size fits all. If a dog is chained up, abused
or trained to be aggressive is that really the dog’s fault or indicative of the entire breed?
But there’s a bright spot when we see the story on CNN.com about Lilly, a Pit Bull that was rescued from a shelter, who pulled her unconscious
owner off the train tracks (with a train barreling down on them mind you) with
no regard for her own safety. Lilly lost
one of her legs, has a fractured pelvis and many internal injuries. Her owner didn’t have a scratch on her. We need more stories like this to show that
Pit Bulls like any other breed are loyal, loving and affectionate. How many times have we seen Pit Bulls rescued
from dog fighting rings, who after being rehabilitated, make wonderful
companion dogs? It just goes to show, one size definitely does not fit all.
We know Pit Bull breeds may not be right for everyone, just like we know as quirky Karelians we are not the perfect fit for all families out there either. Everyone needs to give careful consideration when choosing a dog. We just hope that people won't automatically assume the worst and discount the fact that a Pit Bull could make a wonderful addition to the family.
Sadie & Bella
If you own a Pit Bull breed and want to learn about pending
legislation in your area or breed specific laws (BSL), click here.
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.
This is our first blog entry so we thought we’d start off by writing a little more about us, how our company came to be and what we hope to become.
First, let us introduce ourselves. We are Sadie and Bella, two Karelian Bear Dog mixes that live in Minnesota with our mom and dad. We were abandoned when we were born but luckily someone found us and brought us to the local shelter. We were too sick for them to care for us but luck was on our side because the wonderful folks at the Wisconsin Humane Society came all the way to Kentucky to take us back to stay with them for a while. They made sure we got better so we could find a good home. Since they are a no kill shelter, we knew we would be safe until someone came to choose us to be part of their family. That day finally came and we have been happy, healthy and loved ever since!
We felt such gratitude that we convinced our mom that it was time to give other animals the second chance we had, and so the idea for My VoiceTM began. We needed to find a way to give a voice to the animals and make it easy for you humans to help their voice be heard. We thought T-shirts would be a fun and easy way to do just that. So, you’ll notice that the messages on all of our shirts are from the perspective of the animal. It’s what they would say if they could speak for themselves. The best news of all is that we are committed to helping these animals by giving back half our profits to non-profit organizations that are helping to give them a better life.
We are just starting out, but we hope one day soon to be considered a champion in the realm of animal welfare. Not just for our donations but also in raising awareness and creating change. We need your help to do that so we hope that you’ll join the My VoiceTM family and support our mission by buying a shirt…or two, or three. The more of us that are speaking for the animals, the more good all of us can do to help them live happy lives.
We will blog regularly so make sure to check back soon. We will be covering topics like how people are making a difference, spotlighting wonderful non-profit organizations and of course informing people of opportunities where we can take action. Together, we can all make a difference!
Sadie & Bella