Category Archives: animal welfare

Now Paw-tucket can live up to its name

The city of Pawtucket, Rhode Island had a 10-year old ordinance banning the ownership of pit bulls until earlier this week.  A judge ruled that a 2013 state law banning breed-specific legislation meant that the city’s law was now illegal.

This is a win for the fight against breed specific laws and restrictions.

Pit bull owners in Pawtucket celebrated on Sunday with a parade.  There was also a free dog training class offered afterwards.  A local group, Pit Bulls for PTSD, also participated in the parade.  The group trains pit bulls to become service dogs for autistic children and veterans suffering from PTSD.

Please remember:  punish the deed and not the breed!

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Sheltering people and pets from domestic violence

In the late 1990s, Dr Frank Ascione from Utah State University published some scary statistics:  48 percent of domestic violence victims will stay in an abusive situation because they fear leaving their pets behind.

In New York City in 2013, the Urban Resource Institute teamed up with sponsorship from Purina to launch a pilot program:  People and Animals Living Safely (PALS).  PALS is a co-sheltering program that allows pets to escape domestic violence and remain with their owners in pet-friendly apartments.  A first for New York City, it’s been remarkably successful.  The apartments are always full.

So this year, the program was expanded to include a dog park and play area for the sheltered animals.  Aptly called the Purina Play Haven and Dog Park, this park, full of enrichment activities, was designed by a professional architect.

In these videos on YouTube, have a look at the dog park and hear about how this program fills a need for those unfortunate enough to have become the victims of domestic violence.

Sometimes ‘big corporate’ money can be used for a higher purpose!

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Life lessons from the Vicktory dogs

I do not support breed specific legislation.  One of the agencies leading the way in changing the perception of pit bulls, and breed specific legislation more generally, is Best Friends Animal Society.

In this TEDx talk filmed in Salt Lake City, Julie Castle, the Chief Marketing and Development Officer for Best Friends Animal Society, talks about the 22 pit bulls rescued from Michael Vick’s fighting kennels that were sent to the Best Friends sanctuary.  Alongside their journey of recovery, Castle discusses how Best Friends built a coalition to change perceptions about pit bulls and to advocate for saving rather than killing pit bull dogs.

I hope you find this story as inspirational as I do.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

The dogs that conquered space -The Guardian

Space walkies … a postcard of Belka and Strelka in their rocket. Photograph: Fuel Publishing

Space walkies … a postcard of Belka and Strelka in their rocket. Photograph: Fuel Publishing

In the Soviet era, space travel was a major goal and stray dogs collected from the streets were the first explorers in the space program.  This article, by Oliver Wainwright, provides some insight into the propaganda behind the program and how they matched with reality.

It is a rather sad tale of how dogs were exploited in the name of progress, but such exploitation still occurs today in the name of science (arguably, with varying degrees of success, with more standards and controls in place).  Read the story by clicking on this link:  The dogs that conquered space | Art and design | The Guardian.

I have previously blogged about Laika the space dog; so be sure to check out that column for more information on Laika.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Hapless huskies, dumped dalmatians: let’s stop treating pets as disposable

I like this opinion piece which discusses puppy mills, exotic pets and even the link between popular culture (movies, etc.) and the demand for certain breeds of dog.

Mr Barkham (no pun intended) talks about the need to strengthen requirements to underpin a culture that expects responsible pet ownership.  My favourite quote “Buying a big pet should be like obtaining a mortgage – an agonising process with loads of ludicrous red tape that ensures we really want the burden of an animal in our lives for a decade or more.

Click on the link to read more:

Hapless huskies, dumped dalmatians: let’s stop treating pets as disposable | Patrick Barkham | Comment is free | theguardian.com.

'The Blue Cross has seen a 700% increase in husky-type dogs being given up or abandoned over the past five years, with 78 taken in last year.' Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

‘The Blue Cross has seen a 700% increase in husky-type dogs being given up or abandoned over the past five years, with 78 taken in last year.’ Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

 

Is your dog an optimist or a pessimist?

Dogs can have either an optimistic or a pessimistic view of the world, new research shows.  The approach used in the research will have uses in assessing animal welfare generally, but also in assessing suitability of dogs for various working roles.

“This research is exciting because it measures positive and negative emotional states in dogs objectively and non-invasively (important for those concerned about animal welfare in research),” said Dr Melissa Starling, from the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Veterinary Science.

Dr Starling has been working with Assistance Dogs Australia to investigate whether measuring optimism would assist in selecting dogs for training.

Dogs were taught to associate two different sounds (two octaves apart) with whether they would get the preferred reward of milk or instead get the same amount of water. Once the dogs learned the discrimination task, they were presented with ‘ambiguous’ tones.

If dogs responded after ambiguous tones, it showed that they expect good things will happen to them, and they are called ‘optimistic.’ They can show how optimistic they are by which tones they respond to. A very optimistic dog may even respond to tones that sound more like those played before water was offered.

“Of the dogs we tested we found more were optimistic than pessimistic but it is too early to say if that is true of the general dog population,” said Dr Starling.

“This research could help working dog trainers select dogs best suited to working roles. If we knew how optimistic or pessimistic the best candidates for a working role are, we could test dogs’ optimism early and identify good candidates for training for that role. A pessimistic dog that avoids risks would be better as a guide dog while an optimistic, persistent dog would be more suited to detecting drugs or explosives.”

Dr Starling talks more about her research in this video:

Source:  University of Sydney media release

Is that dog a pit bull?

A recently published Open Access article “Is That Dog a Pit Bull? A Cross-Country Comparison of Perceptions of Shelter Workers Regarding Breed Identification” asserts that shelter workers operating in areas restricted by breed-specific legislation (BSL) are more likely to consciously mislabel a dog’s breed if they felt it were to increase the dog’s chances of being adopted and/or avoid being euthanized.

The study, published in Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, compares the breed identification process between workers in the United States and the United Kingdom, noting that often the process relies on the individual worker’s intuition and prior experiences with other dogs. A survey with photos of the same twenty dogs were sent to shelters in the US and UK. American shelter workers were more likely to consider a dog a pit bull than their counterparts in the UK.

These are the photos that the research subjects were shown:

Pit bull identification photos

The pit bull terrier is banned or restricted by BSL in parts of the United States and throughout the United Kingdom. Shelters in both countries are often tasked with accepting unwanted animals and finding new homes for them; many of these animals are pit bulls or other bull breeds. BSL restrictions may include a total breed ban, or some lesser rules such as (but not limited to): higher licensing fees, registering the dog as dangerous with local governments, liability insurance coverage, mandatory sterilization, muzzling on public property, placement of warning signage on private property, and standardized caging requirements.

Shelter workers in areas affected by BSL know that a dog’s identification can influence micro-level trends such as adoption rates, but also macro-level trends such as breed perception nationally and even globally. The study highlights the fact that there exists a lack of consensus on what exactly a pit bull is, and calls to question the validity of determining breeds based on visual assessment.

Source:  Taylor & Francis media release