Saturday, August 29, 2009

Shelters overwhelmed by pet abandonement due to economic hardship

During my perusing of the Internet for relevant animal news to report on Pet Chat Radio and this blog, I stumbled across an article by a local Nebraska newspaper, called the Beatrice Sun that inspired today's final news story and personal comment. The article is titled, "Animal Shelter Sees Boost In Cute and Cuddly." This title refers to Summer being typically known as “cat season” at the Beatrice Animal Shelter, with this year seems to be especially busy. Not only are young kittens being brought in at a rate of as many as 17 a day, but owners are finding it necessary to give up their pets due to financial hardship, according to Beatrice Humane Society Executive Director Gina Grone. She says, “We’re able to adopt the kittens out, but its becoming harder for us to adopt the adults. People come in wanting an adult cat, and then they see the kittens, and decide on one of them.” In order to help the adult cats, the animal shelter is offering free adoptions through Monday for cats older than one year.

Grone adds, “We’ve had a lot of strays come in that we know are someone’s pets. They are declawed, spayed or neutered, they are just a lot healthier than what you would normally see in a stray or feral cat. But people just aren’t coming in to claim them. I think it has a lot to do with the economy. It’s getting to the point where we have to make some hard decisions.”

As a result, the shelter is operating over-capacity, not just in the number of animals, but in resources. The shelter is in need of everything from basic cleaning supplies, to pet food and more volunteers. The shelter is also looking for foster homes. A foster family’s basic function is to teach the animal to socialize. The shelter is currently looking for a family who will take in an Australian shepherd mix, which gave birth to nine puppies on Tuesday.

Under the foster care program, the shelter provides all food and veterinarian services.

Even though this is the state of affairs of one little shelter in an isolated small town in middle America, I chose to showcase this report because this is seemingly reflective of the state of animal welfare nationwide, with similar circumstances being reported in my home county's local shelters, as well as many anecdotal reports across the country. The truth is this: economic hardship is causing an increase in animal abandonment with these owners citing lack of financial resources to properly care to these pets. What compounds the problem hugely is that the strain on shelters has increased considerably, while donations are down with people's earning potential diminished, and local governments slashing budgets due to their own financial distress. It is not only an animal control problem, but one that is truly heartbreaking at the level of those animals abandoned. Imagine the canine or feline that was used to a life of being kept fed, sheltered, and loved, suddenly thrust into an overcrowded shelter, forced to live in a small cage, then possibly later euthanized if not adopted within a certain period of time.

My personal comment today is really a rallying call to all people who live with compassion and love of animals that still make a good living and have the means to give back. Remain conscious always that everyone can do their little part to help. Becoming a foster parent to a death row shelter animal would be wonderful, working with the shelter and other resources to place these animals, meanwhile providing a safe place for them to exist in the mean time. Even if this level of commitment is not for you, you can volunteer to help clean cages, donate cleaning supplies and pet food, donate money, buy candy from humane society candy machines, give to the Humane Society donation box at 7-11, and support local rescue groups - there are so many even in small cities such as the one I live, that so many unfortunately fail to notice. Ask veterinary clinics and local pet stores about these groups, contact them and offer your assistance, whatever small part you take, whether as foster, donation of money, food, supplies, or volunteer work, any little offering is one little part of the solution.

Indirectly, educate people about the plight of overcrowded shelters and the animals in them, steer them away from buying animals, instead opting to adopt and rescue from shelters. If not convinced, bring them down to a local shelter so that they can see for themselves the number of animals that are denied a home every time someone opts to buy a purposely bred animal for someone elses profit.

There are many ways that we can help to relieve this situation and do our part to turn this around. Those of us that care enough to sit around and complain about it need to put our money where our mouths are, get off our rear ends, and find out what we can do to help in whatever ways we are able and willing.

Roger Welton
Founder, Web-DVM

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Should Michael Vick have been allowed back into the NFL?

I want to start today by dedicating this blog post and this week's Pet Chat Radio broadcast to our late beloved Devon Rex cat, Mariano, known affectionately by family and friends simply as Mo. Mo was just shy of two years of age when just last week, he became very ill with a disease that affected his liver, but whose cause could not be confirmed until after we lost him after several days of intensive care hospitalization. Ultimately, given failure to respond to aggressive treatment for other common diseases of the feline liver, combined with evidence found on post mortem examination, it is most likely that Mo fell victim to one of the most ambiguous, frustrating, yet imminently deadly viral disease in cats, Feline Infectious Peritonitis, most commonly called FIP.

The Devon Rex breed is perhaps the most tolerant, gentle, social, and intelligent breeds of feline I have had the pleasure to experience. Mo was special even for the breed, from his love of our many dogs, following them and cuddling with them as if he were just another member of the pack, to not only his tolerance of my toddler son, but actively seeking out his interaction. When not with the dogs, frolicking with my son, or playing in our pool's waterfall, the other place you could count on Mo being, was in one of our laps.

A prince among cats, a source of love, joy, and amusement in all the lives he touched - friends and family alike loved Mo - even those who were not cat people could not help but love Mo, the short time he spent this earth will forever leave an everlasting impression on the hearts of all that had the privilege to know him. We will always love you Mo, and we thank you for the joy you brought us.

Before getting to the main portion of the program, I wish to quickly remind you all of my appearance last week on the Win Without Competing talk show with Dr. Arlene Barro. I really enjoyed the experience, with Dr. Barro having asked me questions that took me way back to several experiences and circumstances that led me to where I am and what I am doing today. We tend to forget the path that drove us to our adult lives and careers once fully immersed, and the manner in which Dr. Barro led me to recall key points in my journey has been enlightening to both many of my readers and listeners, as well as myself. In case you missed it and are interested in checking it out, here is the link:

On to our feature topic and subject of my personal comment on Pet Chat Radio this week, Michael Vick having recently inked a deal to serve in a back up or utility quarterback role for the Philadelphia Eagles. Many people, some Eagles fans included, feel that this man has no business being back in the NFL after the horrific animal cruelty crimes associated with a dog fighting operation he both financed and provided facilities for, he was convicted of and recently finished serving out a sentence for.

The question is, was the NFL commissioner wrong in letting Vick be reinstated into the NFL? Is it not enough that he served out his punishment as dictated by our system of law, in so doing lost three years of prime playing years, lost his status as the Atlanta Falcons franchise quarterback and lucrative contract that came with that, and lost all of his lucrative endorsements? Do the gravity of his crimes also necessitate banning the man from the NFL for life, keeping him from the only means he has ever known to earn a living?

These are very difficult questions indeed. Michael Vick's crimes are indeed atrocious when considered by anyone with any sense of decency and compassion. The atrocities that occurred at his compound of cruelty with his consent and financial backing, as well as their aftermath, after all are very difficult to even consider forgiving, let alone give this man the opportunity to be cheered by fans and gain some semblance of being a role model for our children.

On the other hand, if you believe in our criminal justice system, one that is flawed but still in my opinion the fairest and most effective in the world, one that supports the notion of paying one's debt to society, rehabilitation, and reintegration back into a law abiding society, are we right to advocate that we deny Mr. Vick the right to make a living? While I know that many will disagree with me on this, perhaps even be appalled with me given the nature of my profession, I agree with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's decision to reinstate Michael Vick. I feel that the system dictates that we give the man that second chance.

Does this mean that I forgive and/or forget the horrible deeds that occurred at the hands of Michael Vick and his team of torturers? Absolutely not! I was one of the most vociferous bloggers attacking the man and his supporters back in 2006 when the news first broke. In fact, I do not know if there will ever be a day that I can look at the face of Michael Vick and not feel disgust and anger for the deeds he enabled, no matter what great acts he performs on and off the field in the coming years. I do believe, however, that the fact that our system levied the penalty it deemed appropriate, the time was served, and in the process Vick went bankrupt and became one of our nation's greatest pariahs, he earned the right to a second chance. Our system mandates this, as does the spirit of fairness of our nation.

Roger Welton, DVM
Founder, Web-DVM

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Win Without Competing!

Hey folks, I am not posting anything new this week, as I dedicated the early part of the week preparing for my interview on the Blog Talk Radio show, "Win Without Competing," with host and author, Dr. Arlene Barro. She asked me some really neat questions about my life's path that got me to where I am and what I am doing today.

The broadcast aired live earlier this evening, but you can catch the archived version at this link, any time after 10:00 PM Eastern Standard Time tonight at this address:

Hope you enjoy it. I will be back next week with a new broadcast and blog post!

Roge Welton, DVM

Friday, August 7, 2009

Infant kidnapped by family dog home and in stable condition

A very relieving happy ending for the Smith family of Kentucky seems imminent, with the release of their infant son, injured after having been carried off into the woods by the family dog. But before expanding on this story and topic of my personal comment on this week's Pet Chat Radio, a quick reminder of my upcoming appearance on Dr. Arlene Barro's talk radio show, Win Without Competing, my role will have changed, as I will be the one being interviewed live by host, Dr. Barro. The live broadcast will be Wednesday, August 12, 2009, and you can listen to it at:

Moving along to my personal comment this week, which is related to the infant kidnapping by the family dog in Kentucky, using the same terminology that most media outlets are using in reference to this story. If you are not familiar with this story, you may access my original report on this story from the Archived Broadcast section of Pet Chat Radio's home page, and select the July 24, 2009 broadcast.

The truth is, this was not a kidnapping, but a dog simply acting in a manner of instinct, which was to carry her “pup” off to a place to care for it. With a human infant not being a puppy of course, she inadvertently caused this infant great harm. Now that we know that the infant is home and expected to make a full recovery, I feel more comfortable about commenting on the situation.

Let me begin by stating that my thoughts and prayers go out to the Smith family, that their baby does in fact make a full recovery and goes on to live a happy, care free life, and that the family can pull together to put this traumatic ordeal to rest. As a parent of a toddler, I know the love one feels for a child, and know the fear and stress one feels when a child is sick or injured.

Moving forward, while I am certain that the Smiths learned a painful yet valuable lesson here, we should all take away some lessons as well. First and foremost, is that, no matter how people like and part of the family our pets may be, instinct sometimes takes over, and that instinct can be dangerous to small children. As such, infants, toddlers, and small children should never be left unsupervised with a family pet, even for a second. No pet should ever have free access to a small child when a parent is not around to control and supervise the situation.

When my wife and I brought our little baby Austin home 14 months ago, when he spent his first 5 months sleeping in the bassinet attached to the side of our bed, no pets were allowed in the bedroom, for fear that a curious dog may jostle the bassinet, or a curious cat may get in bed with the boy. Once he moved to his nursery, he slept and continues to sleep with the door closed, and with a child safety device on the door handle so a a cat cannot turn the handle and let himself in – yes, our Devon Rex, Mo taught himself how to let himself into any room in the house by jumping up and pulling down the handle with his paw – very funny, amusing, and frankly, quite impressive on the part of our cat, but not allowed or acceptable when it comes to him potentially jumping into the crib with our little boy.

Play between Austin and the dogs is always closely supervised so that we may quickly step in, in the event that a pet acts inappropriately toward the toddler, or if the toddler starts to get too rough or grabby with the pets. When we cannot actively monitor the situation, the baby either plays in his play pen, or the dogs are locked out of the living room with baby gates.

These are precautions every household with pets and small children that interact should take. One lapse of judgment or attention, can lead to dangerous, even tragic circumstances, I don’t care how perfectly gentle your think you dog is.

The other lesson I think we should take from this incident, is that wolves and wolf hybrids should not be allowed to be kept as pets, and certainly should not ever be purposefully bred. Let me be clear that while the domestic dog was descended from the wolf, wolves are NOT dogs, as much as they may seem to be. They have a deeply ingrained wild instinct, making them difficult to train, ready engage in testing with dominance behavior, unpredictable, and often acting on strong instinct, as was the case with Dakota the family dog, herself a wolf hybrid. For these reasons keeping wolves and wolf hybrids as pets is illegal in many states, and for good reason.

That said, it is not the fault of these animals that they were born as they and with us now, and these animals deserve guardianship. However, potential homes for these dogs should be carefully scrutinized, with potential guardians interested in rescuing one of these dogs well versed in canine behavior, and live in a home with no young children, which is the type of home that Dakota will end up in.

Roger Welton, DVM
Founder, Web-DVM