6 Common Myths About Shelter Animals (and the Truth About Them)

Adopting a dog doesn’t mean you’re inheriting someone else’s problem. Learn the truth and some common myths about shelter animals.

It’s a sad fact that each year approximately 670,000 dogs are euthanized in animal shelters across the United States. It happens because too many dogs enter the shelter and too few people consider adoption when it comes to getting a new pet. Many buy into one of the most common myths that when you adopt a dog from a shelter you are inheriting someone else’s problem.

The truth is that shelters and rescues are brimming with happy, healthy pets just waiting for someone to take them home. Most shelter pets are surrendered because of a human problem like a move or a divorce, not because the animals did anything wrong. Many are already housetrained and used to living with families.

“When you adopt a shelter dog you are most likely bringing home a dog who has good manners, is leash trained and knows some commands,” said Ellen Ribitzki, kennel manager for the Bloomingdale Regional Animal Shelter Society (B.A.S.S.) in New Jersey.  “In addition, shelter dogs are temperament tested so adopters will have an idea of a pet’s personality―whether he/she gets along with other dogs or with cats and young children.”

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How You Can Help Reform the Horse-Drawn Carriage Industry in New York

 

The first time I visited New York City I was horrified to see horses pulling carriages full of tourists on the busy city streets. I worked with horses for more than twenty years, and I wondered how anyone who cares about the well being of these sensitive animals could force them to work in this environment.

Every day carriage horses are forced to dodge traffic and potholes while being subjected to screeching brakes, car horns, sirens, jackhammers and the multitude of other sounds that can be heard in one of the most congested cities in the world. All so that tourists can enjoy the wonderful sites of New York City.

Those who support the horse-drawn carriage industry in cities say that it’s a long-held tradition that should be preserved. That argument no longer stood up in Guadalajara, Mexico, when earlier this year the municipal government followed up on a commitment to put a stop to animal abuse.

The traditional horse-drawn carriages are being replaced with electric-powered replicas. According to a report that published in the Mexico News Daily, the first 10 will arrive in Mexico’s second largest city this year. A second batch of 22 carriages is expected to arrive in the first half of 2018, and the third and last batch of 23 in one year’s time.

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From Shelter to Service: Search Dogs Help Save Lives

 

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While hundreds of pets were being removed from flood zones in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, search dogs were entering those very same areas to find people who might have opted to stay behind and were now trapped by rising flood waters. The search dogs also quickly combed debris piles that were washed downstream to be sure no one was buried beneath them.

September is National Service Dog Month and a great time to honor the wonderful dogs trained by the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF). The nonprofit organization located in Santa Paula, CA recruits and trains shelter dogs and partners them with firefighters and other first responders to find people trapped or buried alive in the wreckage of disasters. Most recently twelve SDF-trained search teams were deployed to help in the wake of the earthquake in Mexico City and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

What types of dogs excel in the SDF Program?

“Our trainers look for extremely driven, toy-obsessed dogs that don’t just want the toy, they need to possess the toy,” said Denise Sanders, SDF Communications and Development Officer. “This drive is what carries them through the process of learning to bark when they smell the scent of a live human—that toy is their reward and they will do anything to get it!”

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Why You Shouldn’t Feel Sorry for Deaf Dogs

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When members of the Deaf Dogs Network were asked what they would like the general public to know about their dogs, the most common response was: “Please don’t feel sorry for my deaf dog.” Deaf dogs don’t know they are deaf or different and with the proper training and care, they are as happy and content as hearing dogs. Just take a look at the dogs in the main image playing together in the Deaf Dogs Rock dog park in Salem, VA if you need proof that these terrific dogs can live happy and healthy lives.

Feeling sorry for deaf dogs doesn’t help them, says Christina Lee, founder of Deaf Dogs Rock, a nonprofit that promotes the care and well being of deaf dogs and assists in finding homes for deaf dogs surrendered to shelters and rescues. In fact, owners who feel sorry for their deaf dogs and deprive them of their independence can unintentionally cause the dogs to develop severe separation anxiety.

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Does Adding a Younger Dog to the Family Revitalize a Senior Dog?

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Our Rottweiler mix, Lucy, was 15 when she passed away. In the weeks that followed we watched Jason, our 8-year-old border collie mix, get more and more depressed. He spent a lot of time laying on Lucy’s bed with his face turned towards the wall. We felt sure that what he needed was a new companion. The problem was making a good match. Jason had only been 6-months-old when we adopted him as a companion for Lucy, and his puppy antics gave her renewed energy.

With that in mind, we adopted American foxhound Bella, a skinny 1-year-old, who had been rescued from a kill shelter in Virginia. She was used to living with a pack of hounds and always wanted to lay beside or on top of Jason. He wasn’t impressed but soon got used to her neediness. The problems started when Bella gained strength and we got to see her crazy playing style. She was too rough for our senior and didn’t respond well to his signals to back off. We had to constantly supervise playtime to make sure things didn’t get out of control.

jasonandbella

We’ve all heard that an older dog becomes revitalized if you bring a younger dog into the family. Is that true? It very much depends on the dog and the family say experts at the Senior Dogs Project, a nonprofit that promotes the adoption of older dogs and provides information on the special care of seniors. In some cases, a puppy will “energize” an older dog, who will become more playful and begin to behave like a puppy herself again. However, some older dog simply won’t tolerate the changes made by another dog in her home.

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Tips for House Hunting as a Pet Owner

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I will never forget how nervous I was the day Solas, my late German shepherd mix, and I headed out to meet the landlord of a studio apartment that I was hoping to rent. The apartment was at the back of the landlord’s home and he and his wife were hesitant to rent to a tenant with a dog. I convinced them to meet my dog before turning us down.

Solas had been bathed and was wearing a cute bandana when we walked up to the landlord’s door. I also brought along her Canine Good Citizen certificate and references from my veterinarian. She made a great impression and we got the apartment. In fact, Solas and the landlord’s granddaughter became great buddies.

Not all tenants with pets fare so well. In an American Humane survey of 93 shelters, “landlord won’t allow pets” was the fourth most common reason pets were surrendered to shelters. And according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), finding and keeping rental housing lead to the surrender of half a million pets to shelters each year. While the rental housing industry claims to be pet-friendly, HSUS representatives say that it is discriminating about the types of pets allowed. Often there are weight limits or breed restrictions when it comes to renting with dogs.

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DNA Testing can Help with Training and Behavior Modification in Dogs

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What breed is your dog? It’s a question those of us lucky enough to share our lives with mixed breed dogs get asked a lot. And, it was one of the reasons that Cathie Giglio from Orange County, NY, decided to have a DNA test done for Happy, the dog her family adopted from Pets Alive Animal Sanctuary in Middletown, NY. Happy was the only pup to survive when her mom gave birth to a litter after being rescued from the streets in Puerto Rico. The shelter believed that Happy’s mom was part Australian shepherd.

“Since we only knew her mom we were curious about who her dad might have been,” Giglio said. “We also wondered how her breed makeup influenced her behavior and personality.”

Happyandmom

Happy (left) and her mom meet again years after being adopted into separate homes. Staff at Pets Alive Animal Sanctuary believed Happy’s mom was part Australian shepherd. Image credit: Cathie Giglio

According to a research study supported by the National Canine Research Foundation Maddie’s Fund, and Merial, visual breed identification is only accurate about 27 percent of the time, even by professionals. And while DNA test results aren’t one hundred percent accurate, they do provide insight into the breed makeup of mixed breed dogs.

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Is Crate Training Cruel? Here’s What Some Experts Have to Say

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One of my dog walking clients recently adopted a 3-year-old Italian greyhound who wasn’t housebroken. He peed and pooped all over her house, and the rescue group where she adopted him suggested that she use crate training to housebreak her newest family member. Because my client works full time she called me in to walk the greyhound during the day. We had fun on our long walks and he willingly returned to his crate with a favorite treat and toy to settle down and relax until his “mom” returned home.

Everything was going according to plan except for one problem—my client wasn’t happy. Crating filled her with guilt as she thought it would traumatize her dog.

So, is crating cruel or is it an effective training tool?

The use of a crate as a training tool is controversial. Many leading animal welfare groups such as the HSUS and the ASPCA believe that when used properly crating is an effective and humane training tool. Behavioral experts at the HSUS recommend crating dogs until they can be trusted not to destroy the house, and after that leaving the crates around as a place where dogs can go voluntarily. Other groups such as PETA believe that crating is cruel and has become a popular “convenience practice” that is often used on adult dogs.

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Rescued Greyhounds Give Sense of Purpose to Prison Inmates

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In addition to writing about pets, I have the pleasure of working as a dog walker and pet sitter. Among my clients is Spring, who was adopted from Greyhound Friends of New Jersey (GFNJ), and is a graduate of the group’s Prison Foster Program. This wonderful program that is located at the Mountainside Youth Correctional Facility in Annandale, NJ, celebrated its 15th year anniversary in May 2017 and to date has graduated approximately 822 greyhounds.


Photo courtesy of Greyhound Friends of New Jersey 

In 2011, GFNJ was inducted into the New Jersey Animal Hall of Fame for the positive impact the Prison Foster Program has had on the retired racing greyhounds and the participating inmates.

“It’s a great program that’s a win-win for the dogs and the inmates,” said Susan Smith, a retired corrections sergeant, who has volunteered as the coordinator of the prison foster program for almost 10 years. “It allows us to take more dogs and it provides the inmates with an opportunity to care for the dogs and develop new skills.”

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Do Our Pets Really Benefit from Supplements? Here’s What the Experts Have to Say

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Our late Rottweiler mix, Lucy, was diagnosed with chronic hip dysplasia when she was only 4 years old. After researching ways to help her I learned that joint supplements containing the ingredients chondroitin and glucosamine seem to help some dogs with joint issues. Following a discussion with my veterinarian, I started Lucy on two pills a day. I don’t know if they helped her, but she joined us on walks and hikes until we finally lost her at age 15.


Joint supplements containing the ingredients chondroitin and glucosamine seem to help Lucy who had chronic hip dysplasia. 

Now we think that our 10-year-old border collie mix, Jason, is showing signs of arthritis. Once the vet confirms this, we’ll ask if we should put him on the same supplements we used for Lucy? We’re not alone in considering the use of pet supplements. According to market researcher Packaged Facts, projected retail sales for pet supplements and nutraceutical treats in the U.S. are expected to grow through 2017, to an estimated $1.6 billion.

The National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) describes pet supplements as products that are intended to complement the diet and help support and maintain a normal biological function. Products range from multivitamins for overall health to targeted formulas that claim to alleviate joint problems or canine cognitive dysfunction.

Do Our Pets Really Benefit From the Addition of Supplements in Their Diets?

The most commonly used pet supplements are multivitamins, joint supplements and fatty acids. Veterinary experts agree that glucosamine/chondroitin supplements if they are of good quality, may have modest benefits in some animals with arthritis. And fish oil supplements may be beneficial for pets with certain medical conditions, such as heart disease, kidney disease and cancer. However, even these common supplements have potential side effects and are not right for every dog and cat with these conditions. As for multivitamin supplements, veterinary experts say that pets do not need these unless they are on a nutritionally unbalanced diet.

“A healthy dog and cat on a well-regulated commercial pet food that has been carefully designed by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist will be getting all the vitamins and minerals they need,” said Laura Eirmann, a veterinary nutritionist at Oradell Animal Hospital. Complete and balanced pet foods are made to give pets the right amount of nutrients and adding more could be harmful to your pet Eirmann said. For example, giving too much calcium to a large breed puppy can lead to skeletal diseases.

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