kinds of drugs and its side effects

Why BSL, Not Dogs, Should Be Banned

“Dog bites man” is not news — unless the dog belongs to a breed that has been declared dangerous, in which case the media is all over the story. In turn, the public response has often been to pass laws banning or restricting the breed.

But studies have shown that Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) is unscientific and ineffective. Worse, breed discriminatory laws serve as a distraction from the main deterrent to dog attacks: Education about responsible dog ownership.

Emily Mc Cobb, DVM, head of Shelter Medicine at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and a board member of the Tufts Center for Animals and Public Policy, says, “Owners need to learn about dog safety. The hype and the media storm that tend to surround dog bites keep us from getting at the root of the issue. Targeting a specific breed is not going to solve the problem.”

What are these laws — and how widespread are they?

BSL is a blanket term for a hodgepodge of laws relating to specific breeds, or breed categories, of dogs. They range from outright bans of these dogs to restrictions and conditions on ownership such as required registration with local animal control, or mandatory spay/neuter and microchip implants.

[stextbox id=”alert” caption=”Devil Dogs”]

Powerful dog breeds have been demonized throughout history. In the 19th century it was bloodhounds, believed to have been used to hunt down slaves in America and search for Jack the Ripper in London, that were feared and loathed. German shepherds and Doberman pinschers suffered for their association with the Gestapo during World War II, Rottweilers struck terror into moviegoers’ hearts in the 1990s after the debut of a horror film called “Man’s Best Friend…” The list goes on.

These days it’s the pit bull that gets a bad rap, largely because of its association with dog fighting rings. It wasn’t always so. Famous dogs that fall under the aegis of the pit bull label include World War I’s Sergeant Stubby, the most decorated dog in military history, and Petey on the original Little Rascals. RCA and Buster Brown shoes both used the breed in their commercials. Helen Keller and Teddy Roosevelt are among the many famous people who owned dogs identified as pit bulls.

The American Temperament Test Society determined that pit bulls were less aggressive in confrontational situations than many stereotypically friendly breeds, scoring 86% in overall ability to interact appropriately in public — versus the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (83%), the Miniature Poodle (78%) and the Old English Sheepdog (77%).


Owners may be required to purchase liability insurance, typically up to $300,000 for a single incident. In some cases, classes of individuals such as convicted felons are prohibited from owning designated breeds. Read More »

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Shelter Medicine: Veterinary Challenges & Solutions

I recently did a series about how the Shelter Pet Project is working to change the image of shelter pets. As discussed  in the final installment — see Shelter Pet Project Pt. 3: The Future —  that’s only one part of the equation: In order to promote adoption and end the killing of healthy animals, the shelters need to step up too. This post, adapted from an article I wrote for Your Dog, the newsletter for the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, discusses these issues from the veterinary perspective.


Increased public awareness of shelter dogs’ value is matched by a growing concern among veterinary schools, including Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, about the animals’ unique health issues from communicable diseases to behavior problems — both often exacerbated by their confinement.

Why Now?

“We’re moving away from the model of animal control where dogs were kept for seven to ten days and euthanized if they didn’t find a home,” says Annette Rauch, DVM, an interim director of the school’s Shelter Medicine Program. “And because many dogs are staying in shelters for a longer period of time — that is, until they’re adopted — we need veterinarians who can provide input on shelter policies, from basic things like how to design facilities, so that they’re not overly stressful to the animals to how to have the staff clean them so that pathogens are not transmitted.”

There should be no problem filling this need, according to Martha Smith, DVM, director of Veterinary Medical Services at the Animal Rescue League of Boston. Volunteering at shelters inspired many young people to decide on a veterinary career in the first place, Dr. Smith says.

In addition, like the dogs they treat, shelter veterinarians have gained a newfound respect. “Shelter medicine used to be a refuge for veterinarians without people skills,” she says. “Now shelter vets are in great demand and they’re very well regarded.”

While the recent spotlight reveals that shelter medicine is thriving, it also illuminates the fact that the discipline is still finding its way. “This is a very new field without established national guidelines,” says Miranda Spindel, DVM, former president of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians.

Statistics about — and from — shelters are hard to come by. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates some 5,000 community animal shelters exist in the United States. And although the names of these diverse shelters may include terms such as “SPCA” or “Humane Society,” those are generic labels. They don’t indicate affiliation with either organization. No centralized agency sets guidelines for shelters or collects data about them.

Shelter medicine itself is not yet recognized as a board specialty. The Association of Shelter Veterinarians has been trying to change that since 2005, but it’s a long process, says Dr. Spindel. “We hope to have it accomplished in the next decade.”

In the meantime, the association is working to standardize the six residency programs in shelter medicine that are already established — at Purdue, UC Davis, Colorado State, Auburn, Cornell and the University of Florida. It’s also becoming actively involved in the less formal certificate programs. Luckily, given all that’s on the agenda, the association is growing. It has 19 student chapters at veterinary schools, with more than 750 individual members at last official count.

If some of its practices and methods of data gathering are still being established, the importance of shelter medicine itself is not under dispute. It’s not only the directly affected animals who benefit. A ripple effect can take place from the spaying and neutering programs at shelters affiliated with veterinary schools. Dogs who undergo the procedures become more adoptable because potential owners have one fewer expense — and one less dog-related chore — to worry about. Adopters can also feel good about being socially responsible.

The difference

Shelter medicine differs from other veterinary practices in several essential ways, including the unknown origins of most of its patients, the group environment where they’re forced to live and the need to overcome these circumstances to enhance adoptability. Among the key challenges shelter veterinarians face:

  •  Solving medical mysteries. The millions of dogs brought to shelters by animal control — about half of the total intake, according to the ASPCA’s 2005 survey — as well as the many others delivered with only sketchy information from their owners need to be thoroughly examined. With no medical histories and often spotty or nonexistent care, the shelter staff must estimate the dogs’ ages and evaluate their general health to make such pressing decisions as what vaccinations to administer and when.
  •  Crowd control. Instead of focusing on the health of individual dogs, shelter medicine deals with the prevention of infectious diseases such as kennel cough, distemper and intestinal parasites in groups of dogs with a wide variety of backgrounds. It’s the same type of problem that’s encountered with cattle — or humans — in confined spaces. “Any time you have animals, including humans, in a limited area, you have an increased risk of disease transmission,” Dr. Rauch says. “If one person comes on a cruise ship, say, with a norovirus [a virus transmitted by fecally contaminated food and water, and by person-to-person contact] which spreads like wildfire, you can get a third or half of the people on the ship sick for two or three days with vomiting or diarrhea. It’s happened many times.”
  • Environmental improvement. Dogs are social animals, and the shelter environment can create problems where none existed before. “If you stick a dog in a cage, and it just sits there month after month with no one talking to it, and no one walking it, it will become more and more isolated and depressed. Such dogs can develop behavior problems — and won’t end up making very good pets,” Dr. Rauch says. Dogs who might have entered a shelter housetrained but aren’t taken out to urinate or defecate as frequently as in the past might forget their training, and even the slightest tendency toward resource aggression can be exacerbated in a shelter setting.  Some dogs if housed improperly can also become more aggressive towards other dogs.  What’s more, the stress of being in a shelter makes dogs even more susceptible to disease.  Because of all these factors, it is critical for shelter veterinarians to implement programs both medical and behavioral- to keep shelter dogs healthy and ready for adoption.

Veterinarians and shelter staffs are only beginning to address these challenges on a large scale. But identifying them is the first step toward creating shelters that are healthier, more cheerful, and — building on the many spaying and neutering programs already in place — less densely populated.


Note: One of the programs that is helping shelters become more hospitable is Open Paw, discussed here.

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The Shelter Pet Project, Pt. 3: The Future

“Our goal is to end the euthanasia of dogs and cats in America that are healthy and treatable. To do that we have to place 2.7 million more dogs and cats this year than we did in the previous year: that means 4 more adoptions per week per animal organization in the United States. We think that’s a very doable challenge.” — Rich Avanzino, President of Maddie’s Fund

This is the third and final installment of the three-part series exploring the Shelter Pet Project, a joint effort of the Ad Council, Maddie’s Fund, and the Humane Society of the United States  to end the euthanasia of healthy animals.

In Part 1, I covered the first phase of the Shelter Pet Project, which produced and distributed a series of videos aimed at changing the perception of shelter pets as being inferior. The message: Human problems lead to pets being sent to shelters, not problems with the animals.

In Part 2, I discussed how the project came under the aegis of the Ad Council, and the importance — really, the awesomeness — of getting the Ad Council involved in this cause.

I conclude this series with the latest series of videos, and a discussion of the role that the shelters and the American public need to play in order for the campaign to succeed.

I thought it would be fitting to end on a day that a group of pet bloggers are highlighting other worthy campaigns and causes in the Blog the Change for Animals blog hop. Earlier this week, in the Pet Blogger Challenge, a number of them told us about their hopes for the future of their blogs. Here they talk about their hopes for the future of animals — and the inspirational things that many wonderful people and organizations are doing to bring that future to fruition.


The first series of ads how animals often end up in shelters; here you take a different tack, showing animals in homes observing humans. Could you explain the different messages?

The newest creations, like the first ones, are clever; they just shift perspective. We talk about the quirks in animal behavior,  but looking through the eyes of the dogs and cats out there, it’s clear we’re sort of odd ourselves. I think that when people see the newest commercials there’s going to be a smile on their face and maybe an awareness that this bond that provides us with such love and joy comes with the mutual understanding that we’re different species but that just makes things interesting.

My expectation is that over the years we will have a variety of different messages, because there’s no one size fits all, but all have the central theme that shelters and rescues are the best place to go, that these animals make wonderful companions, and that a person is the best thing in a shelter pet’s life. We want you to be that person and adopt. Read More »

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Shelter Pet Project, Pt. 2: A Pet Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

“A person is the best thing to happen to a shelter pet. Be that person. Adopt.” — slogan, the Shelter Pet Project

In a three-part series, I’m exploring the Shelter Pet Project,  a campaign dedicated to ending the killing of healthy, adoptable pets. These posts are based on my interview with Rich Avanzino, President of Maddie’s Fund, one of the campaign’s co-sponsors, along with the Humane Society of the United States and the Ad Council.

In Part 1, I covered the first phase of the Shelter Pet Project, which produced and distributed a series of videos and ads aimed at changing the perception of shelter pets as being inferior. I also discussed the inclusiveness of the project, its willingness to incorporate a lot of different views and methods to achieve its goals.

Here I continue my conversation with Rich with a discussion of how the project came under the aegis of the Ad Council, as well as the potential impact of getting the Ad Council involved in this cause.

But first…

An introduction to the Ad Council

Started in 1942, the Ad Council is a private non-profit with clout.  They wrangle the advertising and communications industries, the media, and the business and non-profit communities into donating their talents and their resources to spread the word about worthy projects of their choice.

You’re familiar with their work, whether you’re aware of it or not. Public service advertising didn’t really exist before the Ad Council created it during World War II with such campaigns as Rosie the Riveter — designed to get women into the workforce while the men were at war — and the security-oriented “Loose Lips Sink Ships.” Among their iconic slogans: Smokey Bear’s “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires,” “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk,” and  “A Mind is a Terrible Thing To Waste,” for the United Negro College Fund. Here’s a link to some of the Ad Council’s classic campaigns (time sink alert: these ads are timeless and fascinating).

When the Ad Council  chooses to puts its resources behind a cause, you can bet the public will be aware of it.


How did the Ad Council come to chose pet adoption as one of its causes?

It started in Chicago in 2007 with Howard Draft, a founder of Draftfcb, one of the world’s largest communications agency networks. A longtime animal lover, Draft was a great supporter of PAWS Chicago, the city’s largest No Kill humane organization, and wondered how he could help the No Kill movement could go national. He was on the board of directors of the Ad Council, and it was his idea to get them involved.  It was a little unusual; they had never taken on a project that wasn’t human focused before, but the rest of the board approved it. Read More »

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The Shelter Pet Project, Pt. 1: Changing Perceptions

“Our movement is dedicated to changing the status quo. We have 17 million people out there who are going to get an animal next year and they haven’t yet decided from where. If we can get 2.7 million of them to decide to get a pet from a rescue or a shelter, we can end the killing overnight. It can happen tomorrow.”– Rich Avanzino, President of Maddie’s Fund

Saving 2.7 million animals is an ambitious goal, but if any campaign has the ability — and the resources — to do it, it’s the Shelter Pet Project, a joint effort of Maddie’s Fund, the Humane Society of the United States, the Ad Council, and, as the Maddie’s Fund website puts it, “the entire animal welfare community.”

I’ve run several of the videos made for the Shelter Pet Project on this blog as part of my Pet Adoption Videos that Don’t Make Me Want to Kill Myself series, but didn’t really know anything about the campaign’s background, scope, or ultimate goal.  When a representative of the Ad Council contacted me recently about a new series of videos released in  November as part of the campaign, I decided I needed to learn more.

Rich Avanzino, the President of Maddie’s Fund, was generous enough with his time to spend an hour on the phone answering my questions. I’m going to share those answers — and the videos — in a three-part series.

I’ve already written about Maddie’s Fund in the context of another of the organization’s collaborative projects, to get Leona Helmsley’s trustees to honor her wish that her millions go to animal welfare organizations. And I’ll be explaining what the Ad Council does in more detail in Part 2 of this series. I think it’s okay to assume that most everyone is familiar with the Humane Society of the United States.


How do you propose to achieve the overall goal quoted at the top of this blog, i.e., eliminating the killing at shelters?

It’s a multi-pronged approach, but one of the key things we need to do is change the perception of shelter animals.

We want to reach out to the public and make them aware of the wonderful qualities of shelter pets, to make folks think of shelters as the first and best place to adopt pets. In doing that we need to overcome some myths, primary among them being that the animals in shelters are damaged goods, that they have diseases, disabilities, and that they aren’t going to be great companions, that this is why they get turned in or abandoned.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The animals in shelters are usually there because of a human disorder — there’s been a breakup in a relationship, foreclosure of a house, people have lost their jobs,  their new partner is allergic, etc., etc. The animals have had nothing to do with these dysfunctional situations but they end up in a shelter and they need another life. It’s the job of the rescue and shelter world to tell their stories. When people understand how wonderful they are they lead with the heart and they provide the homes and everyone comes out the winner. Read More »

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Real Men Love Dogs, NFL Edition: I ♥ Rodger Saffold

Let’s face it: When you see the words “National Football League” and “dogs” in the same sentence, the name that’s likely to come to mind is Michael Vick. And it’s not going to make you feel warm and fuzzy.

If you’re a football fan and an animal lover, here’s some good news: Together, we can change that association.

I got an email the other day from Becky Krueger, Director of Education & Public Relations for the Animal Protective Association of Missouri, who wanted to share a new pet adoption PSA called “Home Game” with me. It features St. Louis Rams star Rodger Saffold and an extremely cute dog named  Popeye:

It was intended for my Pet Adoption Videos That Don’t Make Me To Kill Myself series, and you can certainly consider it part of that. But it also occurred to me that, since it highlights a member of a major sports franchise, we in the pet community have an opportunity to do more: Celebrate big tough NFL guys who are manly enough not to hurt dogs.

So although I have zero interest in football, I researched Rodger Saffold. According to Wikipedia:

Saffold was drafted by the Rams in the second round, 33rd overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. On July 28, 2010, he signed a 4 year contract worth $6.3 million, that includes $3.9 million guaranteed. Saffold earned the starting left tackle position for the Rams in his rookie season and started in every game that season for the Rams. Saffold garnered rave reviews for his play and was named to multiple All Rookie teams, including Pro Football Weekly and the Sporting News.

Except for the money and rave reviews part, this means next to nothing to me. But when I took my research to the Rams’ website, I found a terrific video on the creation of Rodger’s PSA called “That’s My Dog.” I can’t embed it, but I urge you to watch it. It’s clear that Rodger is a really nice guy and thus more deserving of all that money than most sports figures. And how cool is it that a major football team’s site features a video that promotes animal welfare?

I’m sorry to report that no one — except me, now! — has Liked, Tweeted, or +1’ed the video. Since sharing is caring, why don’t you start by doing that?

One more digression, because I cannot get enough of either Popeye or Rodger.  Here’s a blooper video from the filming of “Home Game”:

It’s not all head rubs and bacon, though.  On November 18, Rodger was placed on the injured reserve list because of a torn pectoral muscle incurred while he was lifting weights.

So here’s what I want you to do, in no particular order. Go over to the Rams’ Facebook page and Like it. Then post on their wall that you really like Rodger Saffold and tell them why. Send people to the video on the Rams’ site that I linked to, above.  Tell Rodger you hope he feels better. And thank him for all he does for animals. Share this post, spread the word.

Go Rodger. Go Rams. Go pet community. Let’s make it okay for animal lovers to get excited about the NFL again, even if you couldn’t care less about football.

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Pet Adoption Videos That Don’t Make Me Want to Kill Myself: Outtakes

In my quest to find upbeat pet adoption videos, I’ve come across some that have been sitting in my “Drafts” file because I’m just not sure about them. But maybe I’m being too critical. What do you think?

From the Arizona Humane Society:

I like the idea,  but wish there were more pets, fewer people. It’s a little too earnest for my tastes, too.

Created for the Humane Educational Society of  Chattanooga, Tennessee:

It’s the choppy — arty? — production, not the sentiments, that made me hesitate about this PSA.

From the Michigan Humane Society:

I might have gone for this one if I wasn’t aware of a much funnier Canadian version, with far more cats.

Speaking of cats…I’m going to leave you with a sure-fire laugh from an oldie but goodie ad. It’s not a pet adoption video, but it does convey the message of one that I’ve featured, that real men love cats:


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Spay & Neuter with a Smile: Kathryn Heigl Hates Balls

My alert Facebook pal Karen Lifshey-Shapiro called this public service announcement to my attention. It reminded me a lot of my first foray into spay and neuter territory, a video I worried might be offensive to men.

Compared to this, that one was tame!

So… have I offended yet? Guys?

Today passed me by and I almost decided to post this tomorrow and then it occurred to me that this might be best for weekend viewing for the majority of folks who can’t watch it in the privacy of their home office.

Wearing pajamas.

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Spay & Neuter with a Smile, Celebrity Edition

I don’t usually have anything good to say about PeTA, but I have to give credit where it’s due for these two public service announcements. The first one is especially clever.

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A Clean, Well-Lighted Shelter: Open Paw Programs

There are a lot of important pieces in the pet adoption puzzle. Getting people to see shelter pets as desirable is a primary one. It’s the impetus behind my Pet Adoption Videos that Don’t Make You Want to Kill Yourself series.

Getting shelter pets to actually be desirable is even more crucial.

Dogs barking, jumping, stepping in their own excrement… When people are trying to envision a pet  in their home, that’s not what they want to see, hear, or smell.   And — let’s face it — a lot of people don’t want to stay in that shelter environment long enough to try to interact with potential adoptees.

Enter Open Paw,  a program that looks at these problems from a trainer’s perspective. It’s been around for nearly a dozen years, and it’s been spreading around the world. In this week’s Animal Cafe podcast, Mary Haight talks with Kelly Dunbar, Open Paw’s President and co-founder and — full disclosure — one of Animal Cafe’s four regular correspondents.

Open Paw’s Premise: Mental Health Counts too

Shelters tend to focus on the physical health of the animals, on preventing infectious diseases like parvovirus. There’s no question that this is important. But there’s nothing more unhealthy than being killed — and that’s what happens too often to animals that have mental health problems, problems created by the shelter environment. Read More »

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