Friday, August 5, 2011

Our Pets Are What They Eat!

The commercial slowly fades in as the dog runs through the wheat field. The "healthy" ingredients rain from the sky - chunks of meat, vegetables, grains.

But look closely at the actual bag of food. What are the real ingredients? Poultry by-products, corn gluten meal, animal fat? This certainly isn't what the commercial might suggest.

Pet care goal for the day - read the ingredients on the bag or can of food you are feeding your pets.

Quality Foods Should Contain:

  • Superior sources of protein, either whole fresh meats or single source meat meal (e.g., chicken meal rather than poultry meal).
  • A whole-meat source as one of the first two ingredients.
  • Whole, unprocessed grains and vegetables for dogs.
  • No grains or limited complex grains for cats.

Quality Foods Should NOT Contain:

  • Food fragments, which are lower-cost by-products of another food manufacturing process, such as wheat bran.
  • Meat by-products.
  • Proteins named generically (e.g., poultry fat instead of chicken)
  • Animal fats, which are often blended from a variety of rendered products, including restaurant grease. These fats are sprayed directly onto extruded kibbles and pellets to make an otherwise bland or distasteful product palatable.
  • Artificial preservatives such as BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, propyl gallate, and propylene glycol (a substance related to ethylene glycol, also known as antifreeze). Propylene glycol is often added to "chewy" foods to keep them moist.
  • Processed grain products. Two of the top three ingredients in pet foods, particularly dry foods, are almost always some form of grain products. Why? Grains (corn in particular) are much cheaper fillers than meat!
  • Artificial colors, sweeteners, or any other additives made to enhance the appeal of a pet food.

Want more information on picking a quality dry, canned or raw food? Visit the links below or come in to AARF Pet Central and we'll help you find a good food for your pets.

How to Choose the Right Dog Food
Dog Food Advisor
Feeding Your Cat: Know the Basics of Feline Nutrition
Raw Fed Cats

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ban Bad Owners, Not Dogs

The city of College Park recently passed a new ordinance targeting "potentially dangerous dogs." All dogs who are predominantly one of six breeds (American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Rottweiler, Doberman and German Shephard) must register the dog, pay a registration fee, have the dog microchipped and prove they have insurance to cover any damages.

There is no doubt about the following statement: THERE IS NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE THAT BREED-SPECIFIC LEGISLATION IS EFFECTIVE AT MAKING COMMUNITIES SAFER. In many issues, I can often see the other side of the argument. Not this one.

Breed-specific legislation (BSL) is not based in real data, but instead, based in media sensationalism and fear.

  • All of the dogs on the "potentially dangerous dogs" list scored higher in the 2010-2011 American Temperament Test Society tests than Shih Tzus, Chihuahuas, Akitas, Bloodhounds, Miniature Poodles, Miniature Schnauzers, and the Presidential dog, Portuguese Water Dogs, Why aren't any of these dogs on the list?
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) & American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) have released statements against BSL.
  • BSL is expensive. The state of Georgia will spend over $12 million to enforce breed-specific legislation. How much will your state or county spend? Learn how much here.

There is so much evidence proving that BSL doesn't work. Yet. our communities continue to focus on banning the dogs instead of the owners. We can create much safer, humane communities by enacting and enforcing tougher leash laws, anti-chaining laws, animal cruelty laws and spay/neuter laws.

Learn how to combat BSL in your neighborhood, city, county and state here.

On a personal note: Three times I have required medical attention for a dog bite. Not one of the three was a dog on the "potentially dangerous dogs" list.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dogs and Cats May Make Allergies Better, Not Worse!

cat and baby

One of the most common reasons that people give for surrendering a pet is a child's allergy, or even potential allergy. Often, parents want to give up a pet when they are expecting a child or have just given birth.

But dogs and cats may be good for a baby in an unexpected way - exposure to pets during the first year of life not only reduces the risk of allergies to pets later in life, but also to other common allergens, such as ragweed and dust mites!

In a recent study, hospital researchers followed 566 children from birth to 18 years, measuring exposure to pets and development of allergies. Exposure to pets reduced allergies up to 50%! A 2002 study concluded that not only does exposure to pets in the first year reduce allergies to pets later, but also reduces reactions to other common allergens. Researchers suspect that exposure to pets strengthens the immune system, preparing children for exposure to all sorts of allergens as they grow.

So, before someone you know decides to give up a dog or cat because the baby sneezed, please share these resources. Not only will the life of the pet be saved, but the child may actually end up being healthier!


Really? The Claim: Pets Can Raise a Child's Risk of Developing Allergies

Exposure to dogs and cats in the first year of life and risk of allergic sensitization at 6 to 7 years of age

Living with pets may protect infants from allergies

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Celebrate "Be Kind to Animals" Week

Be Kind to Animals Week

be kind to animals button

May 1-7, 2011 is national Be Kind to Animal Week. Since 1915, the American Humane Association has dedicated one week every year to celebrate the ways that animals benefit our lives, and to promote our kindness to them in return.

Every year that this week rolls around, I wonder why we need a Be Kind to Animals Week. Is the week meant to be a celebration of our successes in protecting animals? Or is it meant to be a reminder that we need to consider our actions toward other living creatures? Maybe it also serves as a reminder to be kind to people, too.

As we remember our furry, feathered and even scaly friends for the first week of May, I encourage all of us to do one new thing to show kindness to animals. Maybe we decide to volunteer in a new way. Maybe we decide to contact a legislator about animal protection laws. Maybe we take a stand against animal cruelty, dog fighting or inhumane farming. Or maybe we decide to look at our relationship with our own pets and make our homes more compassionate.

I invite all of you to share your ideas for improving kindness toward animals on our AARF Facebook page. Together, we can make a world where every pet matters!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Children and Pets CAN Live Together!

Pets and Children CAN Live Together!

One of the top three reasons that people give up their pets involves children. We receive several calls and emails every week from people who claim to love their pets, but just can't keep their pets in the home because of the children. Many rescue groups won't adopt to young couples, or even to young, single adults, because chances are, when a child comes along, the pet will be returned.

Some people decide to give up their pets as soon as they learn they are expecting a child. They don't even try to keep their 4-legged family members as they anticipate the addition of their new 2-legged member.

Some people give up their pets when their baby starts crawling,

girl hugging dog
Can you recognize how this dog is feeling about the hug? If not, you may be surprised by a bite that might come next.

walking, falling and grabbing. A pet who may have tolerated the new screaming, smelly addition to the home suddenly seems to have little patience for the newly mobile creature. Rather than training their pet and monitoring their child, parents instead decide that their formerly good dog or cat has suddenly gone "bad."

The truth is - dogs and cats almost never just turn bad. Instead, pets tolerate the stress of unwelcome hugs, stolen toys and grabby hands for as long as they can. Dog trainer Casey Lomonaco describes a dog bite as a losing game of Tetris. Stress builds up in a dog much like the screen on a Tetris game. When the dog's stress board is full, the game is over and a bite happens. But, a pet's owner has missed several opportunities along the way to recognize and reduce stress.

boy hugging cat
Cat body language may be more subtle, but learning to read the signs can prevent a scratch or bite.

If you are a parent, it's up to you to make sure that your pets and your children can co-exist. If you just hope that everything works out, and it doesn't, it will be your responsibility, not your pet's or your child's responsibility.

If you know someone struggling with pets and children, it is your

responsibility to provide resources to

the parents to save both the pet and the child from irreparable damage.

If you are considering adding a pet to a home with children, or adding a child to a home with pets, please prepare your home for our new family member.

And finally, if your home has both pets and children, and you are creating a safe, healthy and happy environment for everyone, we want to hear your story! Log on to our Facebook page and post your family's story. We want to celebrate you for making it work!

Additional Resources:

Why Dogs Bite and How They Warn Us

How Are Dog Bites Like Tetris?

Do Dogs Bite Out of the Blue?

Teach Kids to Play With - and Care For - Kitty

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lesson of the Starfish

The Lesson of the Starfish

One day a man was taking a sunrise walk along a beach.starfish on beach In the distance he caught sight of a young woman who seemed to be dancing along the waves. As he got closer he saw that the young woman was actually not dancing, but picking up starfish from the sand and tossing them gently back into the ocean.

"What are you doing?" the man asked.

"The sun is coming up and the tide is going out; if I don't throw them in, they'll die."

"But young woman, there are miles and miles of beach with starfish all along it--you can't possibly make a difference."

The young woman bent down, picked up another starfish, and placed it lovingly back into the ocean, past the breaking waves.

"It made a difference for that one," she replied.

I understand the feeling of the man at the overwhelming number of starfish dying on the beaches. I feel the same way when I see the rows and rows of kennels at the shelters and the dogs and cats I see on the streets and chained in backyards. How will we ever really make a difference?

But I also understand the dedication and the hope in the young woman. Every life is worth saving, even in the midst of others that aren't saved. For every pet we can save, we make a difference in for that one, and for the people who share that life.

I must be honest. Lately, I have been overwhelmed by the number of lives we need to save here in Atlanta. But I hold on tight to the hope that we are making a difference. I have to believe that with every life we save, we make our community a kinder place, a place where every pet matters.

I share this story with you today for my own reminder as much as for you. I invite you to join me on this sometimes difficult and painful, yet always meaningful, walk along the beach. We may have many miles of beaches to walk, but there are starfish to save with every step.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Recognizing Animal Cruelty and Neglect in Our Community

Will 2011 be remembered as a cruel year? So far, it seems to be. We have had more emails and phone calls about animal cruelty and neglect than we have ever had.

Unfortunately, this increase is not unexpected. We are trying to emerge from one of the worst economic times we have ever seen. We continue to be mired in two wars. We see constant reports of violence and cruelty in the news and entertainment. We live in a culture where stress is high and violence is often tolerated, and sometimes even glorified.

It is not surprising that more animals are being abused and neglected. They are literally the voiceless victims. For people who need to feel important and powerful, pets in their homes and on the streets are easy targets.

There is absolutely no excuse for animal cruelty and neglect. And we should not tolerate it in our community. Recently, a group of neighbors rallied to fight for justice for a stray cat who was a victim of cruelty by a man who followed his act by publicly bragging about his act. (See the original news story about the case here.) The actions of the citizens who care about this single cat are standing up and demanding that animal cruelty not be tolerated.

Do you know the signs of animal cruelty and neglect? Do you know what to do when you witness cruelty? Learn more about recognizing and reporting animal cruelty here. Visit our Facebook page and share your own ideas on preventing and stopping animal cruelty and neglect in your own community.

You are their voice. Speak loudly.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How Will Our Greatness Be Judged?

Mahatma Gandhi, one of the greatest leaders of modern times and the inspiration for many non-violent movements across the globe, cared about all of his fellow living beings. One of his most often used quotes in animal welfare ties a nation's treatment of the animals in their midst to their measurement of greatness and progress:

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

It seems to be such a simple statement, yet is so profound in its meaning. How do we treat the living creatures that share the space within our borders? And what do we learn about ourselves by what we do, or do not do, in defense of those that rely on us?

At the recent Golden Globe awards, a movie about animal welfare pioneer Temple Grandin won more awards. From a woman who many would avoid in their daily lives comes some of the most influential changes in how farm animals are treated.

But you don't have to have a PhD to make a difference in the lives of the animals around you. You can make a difference right where you are. If you are in Georgia, the state legislature is back in session. Become informed on pending legislation, and let your state representative or senator know that how animals are treated matters to you. If you live in another state, become involved in your own local and state government to advocate for those that have no voice of their own.

You can define how our greatness is judged, by the presence, or absence, of your actions.