Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fourteen former laboratory pups on way to good homes

This is an update about the laboratory beagle puppies that local animal-welfare advocates found out about recently. They were used to test some kind of pet drugs at Southwest Bio-Labs, Inc., a local laboratory. This lab tests pharmaceutical produts many of us use for our companion animals to fight parasites and the diseases they spread (drugs such as HeartGuard, etc.)

Luckily, this laboratory has agreed to release the puppies they no longer need for testing. The fourteen puppies, all about 3 to 4 months old, will be turned over to beagle/basset rescuer Bill Hart on Thursday, Oct. 1st.

The puppies are healthy, and Bill will adopt them out via his rescue. He is searching for the proper placement for the pups. They have had zero socialization and training, so they will need special attention and training from anyone who adopts them. They should not be adopted out of sympathy alone; only those who are seeking to adopt a beagle should take them. For more information of if you are interested in one of these puppies, please send me an e-mail, and I will get you in touch with Bill.

E-mail me at

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Magazine article explains "progressive" animal welfare

Don't take my word for it nor that of Nathan Winograd. I know I can rub people the wrong way, and I'm sure Winograd's tough love approach also loses part of his audience as well.

However, I am more hopeful than ever that the progressive drum is beating too loud for people to ignore and will only grow louder. My hope comes from seeing regressive hold-outs like the HSUS acknowledging that progressive approaches to animal welfare for animal control departments and animal shelters are inevitable. This recent article from HSUS's very own Animal Sheltering magazine talks about animal welfare's regressive history and its progressive future. I urge everyone who cares about animals to take the time to read this.

Out of Control, Into Compassion, by Carrie Allen

Dog experiments right under our noses

How would you feel if you were asked to be on a community oversight committee for facilities that test on animals, especially dogs and cats? What if you had to walk through these facilities to witness the fate of the animals within those cages and the sacrifices they make for the supposed human and animal good? Even our pet foods are tested on animals in inhumane conditions, and the companies that do this work are very good at hiding from the public.

I had looked into this at NMSU at one time but decided against it--to join a community oversight or watchdog group for the facilities that test on animals at our university. I knew that I could never be silent if I had to walk through such a facility and accept the fate of these animals or only look for cruelty that broke whatever laws are in place to supposedly protect the animals.

For me, being on a community oversight board for a regressive animal shelter is not that much different. Biting my tongue and trying to work from within the system to affect change is also not in my DNA.

That said, people are needed for these roles. An e-mail message I got today reminded me of this.

A man who rescues beagles and bassets wrote to tell me there is a lab here in Las Cruces that is currently testing on female beagles. This facility is looking to place any male beagles into homes that are born from the litters they are breeding. I had no idea a private research facility that tests on dogs and pigs existed here.

It's called Southwest Bio-Labs, Inc. Google it to try to find out more information, and you see that the company is hard to pin down. From the little I read tonight, it looks like they test drugs made for animals.

I urge anyone who is interested to contact NMSU's animal experimentation labs and this company to ask if there are citizen or community oversight committees you can join for these facilities. Someone needs to have access to ensure that animals are not suffering more than is absolutely necessary.

As for myself, I live for the day when experiments such as these are entirely unnecessary. I think most fit this description today, but many industries are hard to change and even more difficult to topple. In the case of "science", much that passes for legitimate reasons to test on animals seems absurd to the average person, but try to tell that to the scientists whose bread and butter rests in these experiments.

Animal sheltering is not the only industry that needs progressive approaches and needs to change to correctly reflect today's views about animals by the majority of the public. Only by having access to these industries can we know and understand the status quo so we can demand progressive changes that are long overdue.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Socialization and enrichment for sheltered animals

In many shelters across the nation, enrichment and socialization efforts and programs for both dogs and cats are showing that thinking outside of old-fashioned sheltering cages and kennels does a world of good for both animals and people. There is no doubt that landing in a shelter is a stressful situation for all animals, but a big part of this has to do with regressive shelters that do not offer enrichment for animals in their care. Animals suffer for the "this is the way we've always done it" mentality that befalls many an industry.

Historically, the sheltering situation has been worse for cats, who fall to illness and then subsequent death in greater numbers than dogs in shelters. Because cats hold a strange place in our society, where people less frequently reclaim them at shelters when lost, and because communities such as ours are very outdated in how we deal with homeless and free-roaming cats, our shelter's kill rate for cats is deplorable (more than 80%). So are the conditions in which our cats are housed.

Dogs do not fare too much better in our shelter. Even dogs lucky enough to make it to the adoptables section can languish in kennels and get out infrequently for walks or other escape from the confinement and stress. Blankets and toys and beds are not provided, and sometimes dogs and cats can remain in these conditions for many months (years for court-held animals).

One court document I read recounted how some dogs kept in kennels for years in our shelter had literally chewed on the concrete so much that their teeth were mere nubs when they were finally returned to their owner when the charges were dropped against this person. Needless to say, this owner was back in court charging the system with animal cruelty. This same circle of irony is one that happens often, though it's not something you'd read about in our newspapers!

At our shelter, supposedly to combat disease spread, cats are not allowed to be handled or socialized by volunteers at all. Only staff are allowed to touch the cats, but little in terms of enrichment is offered to cats in their cages by the staff. Cats are stressed, and because of this, they die in more numbers than are probably necessary.

Alternately, many shelters, even those overwhelmed with a large number of cats, are doing things differently and seeing fantastic results in both lowering disease and making better matches for cats and their adopters in the long run and making cats' stays in shelters more peaceful. It has to do with thinking outside of our traditional sheltering boxes.

Special volunteer teams that focus on cat enrichment alone are offering ideas and implementation of programs to help cats survive and thrive in the shelter setting. What shelter staff and volunteer groups need is the same training on properly handling cats to avoid disease spread, but once everyone follows these protocols, the next most important step in mitigating disease is to help cats feel less stress ... provide spots for cats to stretch and scratch and perch and hide, and provide plenty of human contact so cats do not become more and more aloof and nervous, which often causes them to be next on the dreaded kill list.

If you care about cats and want their level elevated to that of dogs in shelters, the thing you need to push for is a shelter enrichment program for our cats, whether this is lead by staff or volunteers. Even simply providing a cardboard box for cats to hide in and perch on in their cages can make a difference ... but why not shoot for better? Push for cat colony rooms to be developed. Do some research about what other shelters are doing, and do the best to emulate these efforts with the resources you have. At a shelter like ours, dogs need this type of advocacy as well.

Still, cats have it worse at our shelter. They still take more of a backseat in terms of staff and volunteer efforts made on their behalf. In response to this, many of us often lament the second place that cats take in both society and in our shelters; however, if you work or volunteer in the animal-welfare arena, you have to lead by example to show that cats deserve the same efforts as dogs. After all, how will the general public ever change their tune if we don't change ours first?

In our shelter, socialization and enrichment efforts and consistent programs are sorely needed for both dogs and cats. If the staff cannot find the time to do it or are not directed to do it, then volunteer teams have to be formed to take care of this important business. Now that the shelter has hired a new volunteer coordinator, the time could not be better to push for these efforts.

For further reading/research: