Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How Vick Can Show "Genuine Remorse"

I am a football fan. And I am a pit bull fan. And I am from Atlanta. So the Michael Vick "case" is personal to me.

Michael Vick admittedly and undeniably bankrolled, organized and participated in the abuse, torture and killing of countless dogs, many of whom are now rehabilitated and have left behind the years they spent under Vick's cruel thumb.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has conditionally reinstated Michael Vick to the league
. While I disagree with this decision, and had hoped that he would be banned for life from the NFL, the truth is that Vick brings a lot of publicity, and publicity makes money. He will play again in the NFL, despite our outrage and disappointment at the decision. The NFL rarely bans anyone for life, including those convicted of domestic violence, drunk driving, and battery. Vick won't be banned for hurting "just dogs," acts that he simply describes as "mistakes." (Read Peggy Drexler's thoughts on Vick's possible return to the NFL, too.)

So, how do we, as a community of animal welfare activists and pet lovers, respond? Part of Goodell's conditions insist that Vick must show "genuine remorse" for his actions. How exactly should he do that? Let's help Goodell with suggestions. The Animal Law Coalition has developed an extensive list of actions that Vick can take to attempt to show remorse. If you are angered and disappointed by Goodell's decision, turn that anger into action.

If the team in your city shows even the slightest interest in signing Michael Vick, let the team owners and managers know your opinion. The owners of the New York Giants, New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys have already said they have no interest in Vick. Send them a note of appreciation for their decisions.

Do something locally. Does your city have even one dogfighter? In Atlanta, we have more than our fair share of breeding and training for dog fights, and our city and surrounding areas boast a highly hospitable environment for fights. The HSUS offers a $5000 reward for tips that result in prosecution of dog fighters. Make the call.

Turn in people who are breeding and selling "game stock" pit bulls. In Georgia, it is illegal to breed and sell dogs without a license from the state Department of Agriculture. A quick perusal of Craig's List on any given day will give you contact information for several pit bull breeders (among others). Report them as unlicensed breeders to the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Don't assume that someone else will take action, so you don't need to. They won't. So, if you don't do it, probably no one will. Take 5 minutes each day to do something to make a difference. They depend on us for that. They depend on you.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Nip and Tigger at Camp Kitty

Check out what AARF kitties, Nip and Tigger, have been up to at Camp Kitty. These two wonderful cats have been patiently waiting for a forever home where they can be together. Let's get these two boys into their forever home!

To fill out an application for Nip and Tigger, just click their names.

Go the Extra Mile for Homeless Pets!

A $1 bill in your wallet may not go very far these days, but it can really go the distance for homeless pets. Help Atlanta Animal Rescue Friends raise a FULL mile of dollar bills, with all the proceeds going to support our Foster Program and Silver Paws Program by the end of2009!

We know in this current time, thousands of pets are the unseen and unheard victims of economic hardship. The number of pets in need is increasing every day, while the resources and spaces are dwindling.Look around your own streets and you’ll see the need. Visit a county shelter, and you will be overwhelmed by the desperate faces that plea for help behind the bars of the cages.

We need your help to save morelives! Since a $1 bill is approximately 6 inches long, we will need10,560 bills to raise a mile of money. You can help us save more lives,one step at a time ($4 per step). And you will have the opportunity toremember your pet or a loved one with every step along the way. We’lltrack the progress on our website, and every person who takes a stepwith us (with a minimum $4 donation) will be listed on the site. Thetop finisher who completes the most steps will be recognized when wereach our goal.

Ideas to donate:

1) Save your $1 bills for a month. Keep $1 from yourchange in restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, etc. At the end ofthe month, contact AARF to pick up your envelope of “steps.”

2) Keep ajar of change for a month, and at the end of the month, visit a coinprocessing machine at your local grocery store. You’ll be amazed howmany “steps” you can help us take with the coins in your pocket.

3)Transfer one “step” into a savings account with each paycheck. At theend of the year, you will have taken several “steps” toward the mile.

4) Make a commitment to donate one step per week online.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Update on Casey

I want to say a huge, heartfelt thank you to all of you who have donated toward Casey's care. The past several weeks have been very scary for Casey's Silver Paws mom, Bette. As many of you remember, Casey's initial diagnosis suggested bladder cancer, and we were all very sad about the prognosis. Instead, Casey had a very bad infection that was producing gas in her abdomen, giving the appearance of a mass on the x-rays. Casey was also collapsing and having seizures, and having issues with regurgitating her food.

I am so happy to tell you that Bette reports that Casey is feeling so much better. The vets are fairly certain that the infection is gone, and her new anti-seizure medication and blood pressure
medication appear to be controlling the seizures. We know that she will have a daily regimen of medications for the rest of her life, but it seems that that life will be just as enjoyable as it has been for the past few years with Bette.

We could not have given Casey the chance for a proper diagnosis and recovery without your help. You are truly her heroes, and have literally saved her life. I am grateful to each and every one of you for your generous support of Casey and our Silver Paws Program. Feel free to email anytime for an update on Casey.

** Casey's monthly medications will cost approximately $100 a month, and she'll need follow-up visits to the vet. Please consider continued support for Casey by clicking the "Just Give" button on the right.**

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Veterinary Behaviorists Take a Stand Against Cesar Millan

Many of you may know by now from reading my blog and from reading the AARF weekly e-newsletters that I am an ardent supporter of positive training methods and completely against punishment-based, aversive training methods.

My views and perspectives are based on the most up-to-date science of dog behavior instincts and reinforcement. As we have learned that spanking a child is not a long-term solution for bad behavior, so too we have learned that choke collars, shock collars, remotes and other punishment methods are not only ineffective in the long-term, they are cruel and do often irreparable damage to the dog's physical and psychological well-being.

I learned recently that one of the most popular and successful dog training facilities in Atlanta now includes a shock collar as a standard part of basic training. I have heard of dog owners using the shock collar like a remote control for the television. Say "sit" and push the button. The dog gets shocked and sits. Imagine the horror and pain that the dog must learn to feel every time he or she hears the word "sit:. I am horrified and sickened to think of people who love their dogs pushing a button thinking they are "training" a dog to do a behavior, and each time they push they button, waves of electric shock pulse through the dog's body.

Unfortunately, this punishment-based method also has a large entertainment following through the shows of Cesar Millan. While I am usually careful to not directly criticize one particular person, group or organization, I have to be explicit in my absolute concern over the damage done to dogs by well-meaning and caring owners who try to replicate his "successes" at home. We often forget that his 1-hour shows are edited from hours of taping, and we are never going to be shown the entire process that the dog goes through in punishment-based training. Millan's methods are based on pack theories half a century old, theories that no longer hold any weight among certified, trained professionals.

The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior released a position paper - a condemning position paper - in February on the use of punishment for behavior modification. There is no doubt that this well-respected, professional organization and their members absolutely disagree with the use of force and punishment to train a pet.

Please, please, for the health, happiness and well-being of your dog, don't use punishment-based methods to train. Don't be fooled by training facilities that tell you they can make your dog 100% obedient and that they can do it in 2 weeks. They'll hurt your dog in the process. Effective, humane and long-lasting training takes patience, love and consistency.

If you are looking for a trainer in Atlanta, please talk to one of these following trainers. And if you have questions about a particular trainer, feel free to email me directly. I am more than willing to help you research your options for a trainer that will treat your dog like the loved member of the family that he or she is.

K9U Training & Behavior Modification
Paws-a-tive Results Dog Training
Canine PhD Dog Training

Monday, July 13, 2009

Saying Goodbye to a Life Worth Saving - Do we owe them all more than that?

In the same week that the biggest raid on pit bull fighting ever took place, AARF mourned the loss of one of our former AARF dogs, a beautiful and amazing little pit bull named Owen.

Owen was rescued in the inner-city of south west Atlanta. He had clearly been used as a bait dog and was covered in infected bite wounds. He was emaciated, and was starving both literally and psychologically. He had never felt the touch of a kind hand or a soft bed, and it's an amazing wonder he actually survived through the first year of his life.

When he joined the AARF program, he went into a foster home with our current foster director and long-term foster, Starr. Within a matter of weeks, Starr knew that she couldn't let Owen go, and this decision was cemented when, while she was on vacation and Owen was in boarding, he stopped eating and became so depressed that we weren't actually sure he would make it until she returned home. From that moment on, there was no doubt that Owen was in his forever home. He accompanied Starr to law school, on vacation, everywhere. He truly became an ambassador for pit bulls everywhere, and was one of the absolutely sweetest dogs I have ever met.

On July 6, 2009, Owen passed away in his sleep, next to his mom and best friend Starr. We mourn his passing with

Two days later, on July 8, the ASPCA, federal and state law officials completed the largest dog fighting bust in history, spanning 8 states. Almost 400 dogs were seized, with a mix of fighting, breeding and bait dogs in the seizure. The question now arises - what will happen to these dogs? What do we, as a community, owe them? Is it enough to save them from their lives of fighting, forced breeding and suffering as practice dogs, only to them "humanely" euthanize them? Or do we owe them more than that?

Below is a statement from the No Kill Advocacy Center regarding this seizure. I think, as a community of self-proclaimed pet lovers and advocates, we must sincerely and seriously question our community's response to this seizure, and to our attitudes toward pit bulls in

general. How, and why, have we allowed such an American icon to become so demonized? Could Helen Keller's beloved companion Sir Thomas and the goofy and gentle Petey from the Little Rascals really be vicious killers at heart?

We have allowed an entire breed of dog, once a symbol of loyalty, faithfulness and gentleness, to be hijacked and represented as vicious killers. It is time we save the pit bull from their undeserved and unfair image that we have given them.

Helen Keller and Sir Thomas

For more information about the history of the pit bull, visit Animal Farm Foundation.

We owe them more than a "humane" death
No Kill Advocacy Center

Authorities in Missouri seized almost 400 Pit Bull-type dogs as part of a multi-state raid designed to break up dog fighting rings across the country. It was the single largest effort of its kind in the history of humane law enforcement. But while the dogs were “rescued,” they are not yet “saved.” At issue is whether the dogs will live or will be killed by the shelters if and when they ultimately are awarded custody of the dogs by the Courts.

Unfortunately, some statements that are coming out of the agencies involved in the decision-making process are ominous. According to Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, most of the dogs will likely be killed: “I think it’s pretty certain that a lot of those dogs will not pass a behavioral test.” Meanwhile, the Humane Society of Missouri, which is housing these dogs, isn’t talking except to say that in a recent case, they killed half of all Pit Bull-type dogs they seized. Is that a bellwether of things to come?

Some see a modicum of hope. Randall Lockwood, who was part of the ASPCA team that evaluated and passed the vast majority of the dog victims of Michael Vick, the 2007 case of the then-Atlanta Falcons Quarterback that took the issue of dog fighting to national prominence, is on the scene in St. Louis. In that case, the vast majority of victims were saved. Unfortunately, Lockwood himself made statements to the media about this case that the Vick outcome may not be “replicated.” He also made statements that we should not focus on our differing opinions about what to do with the dogs, but focus on blaming the dog fighters.

No one questions the need to rescue these dogs from the abuse they faced. And the articles appearing on blogs across the country such as one that was aptly titled “scumbags,” adequately convey what we think about the perpetrators. But Lockwood is wrong. The case is in the hands of the U.S. Attorney. So there is nothing more to do on that score. The only choice now is whether, when granted custody of the dogs, the Humane Society of Missouri will kill them or whether the Humane Society of Missouri will not kill them. In fact, that is all we should focus on.
If the Vick tragedy taught us anything, it is that our most basic assumptions about dogs, pit bull-type dogs, and dog aggression, were wrong. In short, it showed we can save virtually all the dogs, even when they were raised for dog fighting and horrifically abused.

After the arrest of former national football league quarterback Michael Vick and the seizure of almost 60 pit bull-type dogs raised for fighting, many animal protection organizations called for the dogs to be killed, arguing that these dogs were vicious and beyond our ability to help them. None made this argument after evaluating the dogs, but based on assumptions about pit bull-type dogs, dog aggression, and dog fighting. After deceptively fundraising off of the dogs, for example, the Humane Society of the United States lobbied to have them killed. Because they believe all Pit Bulls who enter shelters should be slaughtered, it was no surprise that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) also asked the court to put them to death.

In 2008, the court thankfully said “No.” Only one dog was actually killed for aggression after evaluation, and the remaining dogs were placed in either sanctuaries or in loving new homes. Two of the dogs are now even therapy animals, providing comfort to cancer patients. The results forced even dog lovers-but more importantly the humane movement-to question their most basic assumptions about dogs, pit bull-type dogs, and dog aggression. In short, it showed we can save virtually all dogs in shelters.

Secondly, it showed that there is a real, practical, and potentially widespread “third door” between adoption and killing-the network of foster homes, sanctuaries and long term care facilities to provide for animals who may not necessarily be immediate adoption candidates, but can enjoy a good quality of life which would make their killing neither merciful nor ethical.
As a result, we should no longer assume the dogs can’t be adopted or for the ones who are traumatized, rehabilitated first because the vast majority can. In addition, some of the dogs were “bait” dogs because they were not aggressive, or others were used as “breeder” dogs, so have no history of fighting. Moreover, those that were are often very friendly to people. Finally, we do have the ability and skill as a movement to rehabilitate those who are traumatized. As a result, we should assume the opposite: they are savable unless a rigorous, fair, and comprehensive evaluation proves otherwise, which it might—but only for a small number of the dogs. And we should no longer assume there isn’t a sanctuary or even homes for these dogs, since HSUS and the ASPCA have the public relations power, financial wherewithal and global reach which easily prove otherwise.

Given this, we must stop talking about how these are “often broken dogs” or how there might be difficulty finding “available homes.” We need to stop speaking the language of defeatism, the language which frames the debate in a negative light, that condemns some of the dogs without all the facts, that assumes killing may be inevitable, and thus may actually help pave the way for their eventual slaughter.

In other words, we need to put aside unfounded biases and consider the victims of these cruelty cases the way we talk about the animals in other cruelty situations—with regret and condemnation for what they have suffered and with the expectation that whatever agency now has power over them will give these dogs what they deserve. We must assume—as the facts in the Michael Vick case proved—that condemning them as vicious simply because a dog fighter possessed them is guilt by association and unfair. That they were abused doesn’t make the dogs abusive. That they were subjected to violence doesn’t make them violent. That they were unloved doesn’t make them unloving.

In short, we must not echo the unfounded biases which plague our movement and have harmed animals for far too long, with no evidence to support such claims. Instead, we must adopt a language that is optimistic about the dogs and uncompromising in defense of their lives. We must put the ASPCA and the Humane Society of Missouri on notice that we expect them to save these dogs. Because anything short of that clears a path for those who appear bent on destroying them.
Instead, we must start demanding outcomes—outcomes that include rescuing, rehabilitating, and ultimately saving these dogs. A fair, rigorous evaluation will lead to lifesaving for the vast majority of these dogs and given HSUS and ASPCA wealth, media power, membership in the tens of millions, America’s dog loving culture, and the vast number of available homes, these are not barriers. Even the slide show of photographs from the law enforcement raid shows the
rescuers handling the dogs with little restraint, fear, or concern for their own safety
. Because, at the end of the day, while rescuing the dogs was crucial and for which we are all grateful, we must also demand a commitment to saving them. After all they have been through, the dogs deserve nothing less.

For further reading:
No Kill Advocate Special Pit Bull Issue (2008)
Temperament Testing in the Age of No Kill
Failing Pit Bulls

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Rescuer's Answering Machine


Hello: You have reached Atlanta Animal Rescue Friends. Due to the high volume of calls we have been receiving, please listen closely to the following options and choose the one that best describes you or your situation:

Press 1 if you have a 10-year-old dog and your 15-year-old son has suddenly become allergic and you need to find the dog a new home right away.

Press 2 if you are moving today and need to immediately place your 150 pound, 8-year-old dog.

Press 3 if you have three dogs, had a baby and want to get rid of your dogs because you are the only person in the world to have a baby and dogs at the same time.

Press 4 if you just got a brand new puppy and your old dog is having problems adjusting so you want to get rid of the old one right away.

Press 5 if your little puppy has grown up and is no longer small and cute and you want to trade it in for a new model.

Press 6 if you want an unpaid volunteer to come to your home TODAY and pick up the dog you no longer want.

Press 7 if you have been feeding and caring for a "stray" for the last three years, are moving and suddenly determine it's not your dog.

Press 8 if your dog is sick and needs a vet but you need the money for your vacation.

Press 9 if you are elderly and want to adopt a cute puppy who is not active and is not going to outlive you.

Press 10 if your relative has died and you don't want to care for their elderly cat because it doesn't fit your lifestyle.

Press 14 if you are calling at 6 a.m. to make sure you wake me up before I have to go to work so you can drop a dog off on your way to work.

Press 15 to leave us an anonymous garbled message, letting us know you have left a dog in our yard in the middle of January, which is in fact, better than just leaving the dog with no message.

Press 16 if you are going to get angry because we are not going to take your cat that you have had for fifteen years, because it is not our responsibility.

Press 17 if you are going to threaten to take your ten year old dog to be euthanized because I won't take it.

Press 18 if you're going to get angry because the volunteers had the audacity to go on vacation and leave the dogs in care of a trusted volunteer who is not authorized to take your personal pet.

Press 19 if you want one of our PERFECTLY trained, housebroken, kid and cat friendly purebred dogs that we have an abundance of.

Press 20 if you want us to take your dog that has a slight aggression problem, i.e. has only bitten a few people and killed your neighbor's cats.

Press 21 if you have already called once and been told we don't take personal surrenders but thought you would get a different person this time with a different answer.

Press 22 if you want us to use space that would go to a stray to board your personal dog while you are on vacation, free of charge, of course.

Press 23 if it is Christmas Eve or Easter morning and you want me to deliver an eight week old kitten to your house by 6:30 am before your kids wake up.

Press 24 if you have bought your children a duckling, chick or baby bunny for Easter and it is now Christmas and no longer cute.

Press 25 if you want us to take your female dog who has already had ten litters, but we can't spay her because she is pregnant again and it is against your religion.

Press 26 if you're lying to make one of our younger volunteers feel bad and take your personal pet off your hands.

Press 27 if your cat is biting and not using the litter box because it is declawed, but you are not willing to accept the responsibility that the cat's behavior is altered because of your nice furniture.

Press 28 if your two year old male dog is marking all over your house but you just haven't gotten around to having him neutered.

Press 29 if you previously had an outdoor only dog and are calling because she is suddenly pregnant.

Press 30 if you have done "everything" to housebreak your dog and have had no success but you don't want to crate the dog because it is cruel.

Press 31 if you didn't listen to the message asking for an evening phone number and you left your work number when all volunteers are also working and you are angry because no one called you back.

Press 32 if you need a puppy immediately and cannot wait because today is your daughter's birthday and you forgot when she was born.

Press 33 if your dog's coat doesn't match your new furniture and you need a different color or breed.

Press 34 if your new love doesn't like your cat and you are too stupid to get rid of the new friend (who will dump you in the next month anyway) instead of the cat.

Press 35 if you went through all these 'options' and didn't hear enough. This press will connect you to the sounds of tears being shed by a shelter volunteer who is holding a discarded old dog while the vet mercifully frees him from the grief of missing his family.

~Author Unknown, but much appreciated