Category Archives: animal welfare

Desmond’s Law – and more coming

Desmond’s Law, in the US State of Connecticut, came into force in October 2016.

Desmond’s Law is a program that uses qualified pro-bono lawyers and volunteer law students to provide investigations to guide the court in animal abuse cases.

  • The program is discretionary and under the supervision of the Court
  • It allows volunteer advocates to access facts, records and other information regarding the animal, readily share information with each party (prosecutor, defense attorney), and make recommendations to the Court
  • It applies only to cases involving cats and dogs
  • The court-appointed advocate does not directly represent the animal, but rather the ‘interests of justice’

A Harvard Journal on Legislation article published last year discusses that the law, although groundbreaking, could be significantly stronger if it allowed the advocates to represent the animal – as is currently done in child abuse cases using a children’s advocate.  The rationale is that animals are sentient, as are children, and so they deserve stronger advocacy to represent their interests in the court system

Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island all have similar laws in the development and, hopefully, these laws will expand upon Desmond’s Law with even stronger advocacy for animals.

Desmond

Desmond’s body was found in a trash bag in the woods, emaciated, bruised, and starved. As punishment, his abuser was given Accelerated Rehabilitation, and the incident has been expunged from his record.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Who should Fido fear? Depends on relationship

As states around the country move to stiffen punishments for animal cruelty, Michigan State University researchers have found a correlation between the types of animal abuse committed and the perpetrator’s relationship to an animal and its owner.

For example, animal-neglect crimes (i.e. withholding food and water) tend to be perpetrated by the animal’s owner. On the other hand, with crimes that involve kicking or stabbing, the suspect is usually an owner’s family member or intimate partner, said Laura Reese, professor of urban and regional planning.

Laura Reese and Odie

Study leader Laura Reese and her dog, Odie Photo by Laura Reese

Reese and Cassie Richard, an MSU master’s of public policy student who now works for the Oregon Commission for the Blind, studied more than 300 animal cruelty police reports in Detroit between 2007 and 2015. They categorized abuse into eight types including dog fighting, shooting, poisoning, stabbing and neglect. The researchers coded the list of motivations for cruelty as listed by the perpetrators, who were then matched with the Detroit police crime feed to examine their other patterns of crime.

The researchers also found:

  • It’s usually owners – rather than anyone else – who engage their dogs in dog fighting as a form of abuse, often for the money. But owners are also less likely to commit more active forms of cruelty, possibly because of their role as guardians.
  • Most stabbings involve family members while poisonings are typically committed by neighbors.
  • Motivations differ. For intimate partners of pet owners, frustration with a relationship is often the cause of violence, whereas for neighbors, annoyance with an animal is often the impetus for cruelty.

“This isn’t just an animal problem – it’s a human problem,” Reese said. “For example, people who shoot other humans are more likely to shoot animals. At the same time, dog fighting is a public safety problem and dogs running loose biting people due to neglect is a public health problem. So, addressing human problems will help animal problems and vice versa, and we need to encourage public officials to think that way.”

However, most policymakers don’t, she said. Animal cruelty prevention needs to be a coordinated effort between law enforcement, public agencies and nonprofits. And because forms of animal cruelty vary, public policies and public health solutions should vary.

For example, dog fighting is related to gambling, drugs and weapon offenses. Thus, crackdowns on those issues would address that form of cruelty. Meanwhile, low-cost veterinary services and enforcement of existing ordinances, such as licensing requirements and leash laws, would target owner neglect.

“Simple education and informing people about proper nutrition, spaying and neutering could be done in schools,” Reese said. “Folks often want to do the right thing, but they may not have the resources. At the same time, cruelty is also tied up with domestic violence, which raises a separate and more complex set of concerns. That’s why we need our legislators and local officials to understand the complexities of animal cruelty and make solutions a priority.”

The study is published in the journal Anthrozoös.

The journal article can be read here:

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08927936.2019.1550282)

Source:  Michigan State University media release

Love is Blind – Health is Real

I’ve been practising for ten years now and, during this time, I’ve seen a fair number of the brachycephalic breeds including Pugs, French Bulldogs and English Bulldogs.  These breeds can have a lot of health problems.

In 2016, the Australian Veterinary Association and the RSPCA Australia joined forces to produce the Love is Blind campaign.  Watch this short 3 minute video:

The message is fairly clear – consumer preference is driving the breeding of these dogs.  So increase the understanding of the health implications consequences of that cute, squishy face, and change the breeding standards, too.

In the show ring, it’s suggested that you give the blue ribbon to the healthiest dog.  Not a bad idea.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

How many hounds needing a home?

Izzy of The Balanced Dog

All of the dogs I have had in my life have been adopted.

Our first family dog came from a no-kill shelter; our second from a supermarket notice board.  A local re-homing group, Dogwatch, facilitated my first adoption as an owner; my second dog, Daisy, came in a private adoption through word-of-mouth, and in 2014 Izzy, a greyhound adopted through the national adoption group Greyhounds as Pets, arrived on the scene.

Worldwide, there are more dogs that need homes than there are adoptive homes to care for them and this situation is no different for the greyhounds of New Zealand’s racing industry.

As of 2018, New Zealand is one of only eight territories in the world with a commercial greyhound racing industry.  The others in alphabetical order are Australia, Ireland, Macau, Mexico, United Kingdom, the United States (five states only), and Vietnam.

But many New Zealanders are unaware of the findings of  The Hansen Report, which was publicly released in the busy pre-Christmas period of December 2017.  Formally titled A Report to the NZ Racing Board on Welfare Issues Affecting Greyhound Racing New Zealand, the report was written by the Hon Rodney Hansen, QC.

I won’t go into all of the findings in this blog post (the report is 93 pages).  But the statistical analysis of the racing industry’s own data show that despite the efforts of all of the re-homing groups in the country combined, re-homing can’t deal with the influx of greyhounds leaving the industry.  The report deems this a ‘current structural imbalance’ and recommends that ‘re-homing alone cannot solve the problems created by excessive numbers of greyhounds entering the industry each year.’

The bottom line?  There’s still a lot to be done to look after the welfare of the greyhounds in the NZ racing industry.  In the four-year period between 2013/14 and 2016/17, the whereabouts of 1,271 dogs could not even be determined and another 1,447 hounds were officially euthanised.

Upon the report’s release, Racing Minister Winston Peters described the findings as both disturbing and disappointing.  While the racing industry has said it intends to act on all findings, those actions will take time.

And that is why I volunteer with Greyhounds as Pets and also offer my fundraising support.  Because there are so many hounds in need of an adoptive home.

As with children, dogs don’t ask to be born.  But it is our responsibility as a society to care for them once they are brought into the world.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Increased protections for animals

Earlier this month, I reviewed Run, Spot, Run by Jessica Pierce.  In that book, Pierce provides a list of incremental changes each of which would offer increased protections to animals.

I quote them here for sharing purposes because they are the most comprehensive list I have found thus far in terms of explaining the shortcomings we still have in animal care,  welfare, and protection.

Chester looking out window

  • licensing requirements for all pet owners
  • laws limiting or prohibiting the sale of live animals
  • laws regulating international and interstate shipping of live animals
  • a federal prohibition on the sale of crush films, in particular, and animal pornography in general
  • state laws making sexual assault of an animal punishable (not limited to sexual assaults that are fatal or cause severe injury)
  • better and more frequent inspections of breeding facilities
  • better and more frequent inspections of animal wholesale facilities
  • greater transparency in the pet industry, such as, perhaps, in identifying the sourcing of animals for sale
  • greater transparency in the shelter industry
  • state laws requiring at least eight hours of training for anyone performing euthanasia
  • free speech protections for those who expose corporate animal abuses
  • reporting requirements for veterinarians (e.g. abuse, sexual assault)
  • combined/coordinated reporting of animal abuse and domestic partner, child or elder abuse
  • a publicly accessible national registry of those convicted of animal cruelty or sexual assault
  • increased (and responsible) media reporting of crimes against animals
  • more community resources (e.g. tax money) dedicated to shelters, animal control facilities, and cruelty investigators
  • state-appointed lawyers to represent animals in court
  • required humane education in schools
  • laws making failure to provide timely veterinary care a legally enforceable welfare violation
  • laws allowing pet owners to collect damages for emotional pain and suffering resulting from the loss of a pet at the hands of another human
  • laws making “convenience euthanasia”an animal cruelty violation
  • greater regulation of the pet food industry, including more rigorous inspection of ingredients, greater transparency about sourcing and ingredients, and a well-coordinated method of alerting customers about recalls

Source:  Run, Spot, Run by Jessica Pierce, pages 211-212

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

2018 American Rescue Dog Show

Move over Westminster because rescue dogs have just been put into the spotlight with their very own show.

Premiering on the Hallmark Channel on Monday, 19th February 2018 – the American Rescue Dog Show!

I’m not sure we will ever get this in New Zealand (possibly through Netflix but it isn’t there yet)…but it is great to see Rescue Dogs being promoted to the public.

***For the record, rescue dogs may be mixed or pure breeds – a dog finds itself in need of rescue mostly because of human actions or inaction and not breeding***

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Scotland set to move on the use of shock and bark collars

The Scottish Government is currently consulting on the wording of guidance about the use of electronic shock and bark collars; and the move is being applauded by animal welfare advocates including members of The Pet Professional Guild.

I’m horrified that these devices are so readily available in New Zealand; the use of aversives in dog training is a dangerous practice because not only do these devices cause pain, but they suppress behaviours instead of dealing with the underlying causes of them.  This is a recipe for disaster and totally unnecessary if you use positive training techniques on a consistent basis.

 


The guidance is motivated by concerns of the misuse of electronic training collars (e-collars) and will be issued in accordance with Section 38 of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.

The Government page on the consultation states, “We will issue guidance, under that Act, to make it clear that training which includes unpleasant stimuli or physical punishment can cause pain, suffering and distress and that any such pain, suffering and distress caused by an inappropriate training method, including electronic collars, may constitute the offence of causing unnecessary suffering under that Act.

This guidance, once finalised, may be considered relevant in a future prosecution. Although the guidance is advisory, a court may take into account compliance or non-compliance with the guidance in establishing liability in a prosecution.

In due course this guidance may be incorporated into a revised Code of Practice or wider Guidance for the welfare of dogs, along with additional guidance on other topics of dog welfare not currently covered in detail in the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs.”

The proposed draft wording is:

“Training which includes unpleasant stimuli or physical punishment can cause pain, suffering and distress.

These techniques can compromise dog welfare, lead to aggressive responses and worsen the problems that they aim to address. Particular methods to avoid include: physical punishment, including the use of electronic collars to administer an electric shock; anti-bark collars, which may mask or aggravate underlying behavioural or health issues; and any device that squirts noxious oils or other chemicals that interfere with your dog’s acute sense of smell.

Causing unnecessary suffering is an offence under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006. This includes suffering caused by inappropriate training methods.”

We would welcome comments on this proposed guidance, particularly from those responsible for enforcing the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 who may be asked to consider whether or not such methods have been used in a manner that contravenes the Act and compromises animal welfare.

Source:  Scottish Government Policy on Electronic Training Collars

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand