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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What You Need to Know When Purchasing from Online Pet Pharmacies

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I’ve been purchasing supplements for my dogs online for many years now. These purchases have saved me quite a lot of money. While I’ve never purchased prescription medications online, I understand why many pet owners do. Every week, online pet pharmacies offer discounts and special deals on a wide variety of products.

But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine warns pet owners to exercise caution when filling prescriptions online. Some illegal online pet pharmacies may sell medicines that are counterfeit, outdated, mislabeled, incorrectly formulated, or improperly made or stored. These medicines may not contain the actual drug, may contain contaminants or the incorrect amount of drug, or may not work as well due to age or being stored in the wrong environment.

How to Determine if an Online Pharmacy is Reputable

Check the website for the seal indicating that it is a Vet-VIPPS (Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site) accredited pharmacy. This is a voluntary accreditation program of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy which requires rigid standards in the preparation and dispensing of medicines.

If the online pet pharmacy operates in the U.S., pet owners can check the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy website to see if the pharmacy is properly licensed.

The FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine advises pet owners to have a discussion with their veterinarians before using an online pet pharmacy. Ask for instance, if your veterinarian trusts the online pharmacy you plan to use. Ask if he or she has ever worked with the pharmacy or has clients who have used the site. Typically veterinarians will write prescriptions for clients to send to reputable online pet pharmacies, or fax permission to refill medications, as long as the hospital has an established and recent veterinary-client-patient relationship.

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Puppy Mill Survivors Serve as Comforters, Role Models and Ambassadors

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Pomegranate, was 9 years old and carrying nine dead pups when she was rescued from an Amish puppy mill by the Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge, Inc. (RBARI) in Oakland, NJ. The Pomeranian had just three teeth left, a heart condition caused from over breeding and feet splayed out with nails that grow up instead of out.

“She had lived her whole life outside in a rabbit cage with hundreds of other dogs,” said Frannie D’Annunzio, Volunteer Manager at RBARI, who adopted Pomegranate. “The cages were those typically found in puppy mills with wire bottoms so that the poop falls out and no one ever has to clean them. The food is thrown into the cages and the only time the doors are open is for breeding purposes or to take the pups away from their mothers.”

For two years when the other dogs in the household ran towards D’Annunzio, Pomegranate ran in the opposite direction. Today, she’s eager to jump in her “mom’s” lap and serves as a “therapy dog” for new rescues and sick dogs and helps socialize new puppy mill rescues at the shelter. Several RBARI adopters have reported that their rehabilitated puppy mill survivors serve as comforters and role models for newly-rescued mill dogs as they acclimate to life in their new homes.

“I foster hospice dogs and puppy mill rescues and Pomegranate is always the first to run up and comfort them when I bring them home,” D’Annunzio said. “Most recently I brought home a 19-year-old hospice Chihuahua, Cupcake, and Pomegranate immediately jumped into the bed beside her. It’s so heartwarming to see her in action.”

Pomegranate comforting cupcake, a hospice foster.
Image credit: Frannie D’Annunzio

Adopt Don’t Shop

According to the Puppy Mill Project, two million puppies are bred annually in an estimated 10,000 mills across the United States, and 1.2 million dogs are euthanized in shelters each year. Adult dogs who can no longer breed are typically discarded or killed after they have served their purpose.

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Why do Some Dogs Adjust to Babies While Others Get Stressed?

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While shelter and rescue groups too often see dogs abandoned by families just because a new baby comes into the house, there are absolutely times when a dog is so stressed that the best and safest solution is to find him a new home. Why do some dogs adjust to new babies while others feel stressed?

“We never know what is going on in the brain of any living being,” said Pia Silvani, director, behavioral rehabilitation for the ASPCA. “It’s not jealousy—dogs do not exhibit jealousy—that’s a human emotion.”

What has happened is that the dog’s immediate social group was once stable and now there is an intruder. Typically, Silvani said, dogs who have difficulty adjusting to babies have not been properly socialized with children and are now forced to live with them. Dogs do not understand the body language of a child and feel threatened. They are looking to their leader, the parent, for help but the parent is paying attention to the intruder and not giving the dog what it needs.

Things get turned upside down and there’s lots of stress in the house, especially when it’s a first baby,” said Silvani, author of “Raising Puppies and Kids Together: A Parent’s Guide.” “Sadly there are times when a dog just doesn’t adjust to the new baby. My heart goes out to families in this situation. They love their dog but are petrified that their baby is going to be injured.”

That’s no way to live and is not a good quality of life for anyone—including the dog, the trainer said. Some families solve the problem by rehoming the dog with grandparents so she is still part of the family. Others are placed into new loving homes.

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Why Children Get Bitten by Dogs and How to Protect Them

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention every year more than four million people in the United Sates are bitten by dogs. Most people are bitten by their own dog or one they know and most of these victims are children under the age of 13.

The results of a study of dog bites in children published in the American Journal of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery found that dog bite injuries in the head and neck disproportionately affect children, and have been previously reported to account for 3-4 percent of all pediatric emergency visits, and up to 40 percent of all pediatric traumas. According to the study, these injuries can lead to disfiguring scars and lengthy treatments and the need for facial plastic and reconstructive surgery.

Why are so many children bitten by dogs?

“First of all children are not taught how to approach, handle or behave around dogs,” said Liz Gruen, a certified dog trainer and owner of Dog Training with Liz located in Palm Bay, FL. “And secondly, adults are not educated to the fact that even if they think their dog would never bite anyone, kids need to be supervised at all times when around dogs.” Even the friendliest dogs can be uncomfortable with a child’s quick movements and loud tone of voice, say Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) experts. Children tend to get excited around dogs and can approach them quickly, talk loudly and try to hug the animal. Any one of these actions can easily result in a bite.

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Is it Fair or Healthy to Carry Small Dogs All the Time?

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My friend Joy sent me a photo of her 7-pound mini dachshund, Rosalie, hanging out in a front dog carrier. Rosalie is usually running or playing in her yard with her doggie siblings or walking on the beach with mom. On this day she was in the carrier for her safety because the family was hanging out at the Purina Woofstock event in San Juan, PR, where they were surrounded by people and large dogs.

Trainers say there are definitely times when small dogs need to be picked up and carried for their protection. For example when around large crowds of people or dogs, at gatherings when there are lots of children who could unintentionally hurt the dog, on long hikes or walks when a little dog might not have the stamina to go the full distance and when visiting stores or malls that allow small dogs.

joyandrosalieMini Dachshund, Rosalie, safely tucked inside a carrier at the Purina Woofstock event in San Juan, PR. At home, Rosalie enjoys running and playing in the yard with her siblings.

Problems occur, according to trainers, when owners start treating their small dogs like babies and carry them everywhere.

“Dogs were given four legs for a reason, they are supposed to walk,” said Eileen Haley of Second Chance Dog Training Services, Inc. in Bergen County, NJ. “By carrying a small dog everywhere you are depriving them of the opportunity for mental and physical stimulation because they are not getting a chance to sniff and explore.”

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A Welcoming Smile and Supportive Environment can Save Pets Lives

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In the more than 20 years that I’ve been writing about pet and animal welfare issues, I’ve heard from numerous people who were disappointed with their experience at local animal shelters. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) also hears from potential adopters frustrated at being denied the opportunity to provide loving homes to animals in need. They complain about rude treatment by staff at their local shelters and frustration when calls and e-mails to shelters aren’t returned.

It’s true that shelter staff and volunteers see terrible abuse of animals and they are understandably concerned about placing these pets back into bad homes. However, leading animal welfare organizations say this concern can lead to being overprotective and going overboard when it comes to regulating, requiring and screening. This results in potential adopters turning to less humane options to find an animal companion. There’s a movement within the animal welfare community that’s finding a middle ground with the realization that “a home that’s good if not perfect will be better for pets than an animal shelter.”

The “Adopters Welcome” manual and webinar series produced by the HSUS were designed to help shelters maximize adoptions by embracing members of the community and encouraging them to adopt while helping them succeed as pet owners. In addition, the ASPCA’s “Smile! You’re Saving Lives” webinar focuses on providing a positive service to clients in the interest of building great relationships and saving more lives. A growing body of research is suggesting that “open adoptions” done with less intrusive methods of pet adopter matchmaking are just as effective as, and in some cases even more successful than, those requiring potential adopters to jump through a lot of hoops.

So, what does an open adoption policy look like?

Open adoptions provide shelters with the opportunity to educate rather than judge potential adopters. The focus is on building partnerships and lifelong relationships, following up on adoptions and being a resource for families who adopt. When the Dakin Humane Society, with shelters in Springfield and Leverett, MA, launched its Open Adoption policy more than six years ago, it created a “culture of understanding and respect” for the human customers, coworkers and volunteers who come to the shelter. At Dakin communication with potential adopters is congenial and collaborative rather than bureaucratic and rule-bound.

Dakin Humane Society adapted an Open Adoption policy more than six years ago. 

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Shelter Dogs and Special Needs Kids: A Match Made in Heaven

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Brook, a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, was sitting in a high-kill shelter in Arizona with just two days to live when she was rescued by Janice Wolfe, founder, and CEO of Merlin’s Kids. The nonprofit organization rescues, rehabilitates, and trains shelter dogs to work as service dogs for children with autism and special needs, as well as to assist disabled veterans. After extensive training Brook returned Wolfe’s kindness by transforming the life of Julie, 21, who is developmentally delayed due to a premature birth.

Wolfe describes Brook as a “rock star,” a calm sweet dog with the perfect temperament for working as an emotional support service dog. Julie’s mom, Ellen, couldn’t agree more.

“Brook has given Julie a greater sense of confidence,” Ellen said. “They are always together and Brook definitely knows that it’s her responsibility to take care of Julie.”

Before being paired with Brook, Julie was afraid to go outside the house on her own. Now she and Brook take walks down the block or sit together in the yard. Julie has become more outgoing and enjoys speaking or singing in front of people.

“Brook has become an emotional support for all of us,” Ellen said. “I can’t believe that they almost put her to sleep. She is the love of our lives!”

Julie takes a selfie with Brook as he smothers her with kisses.

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What Experts Have to Say About Invisible Fences for Dogs

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When walking around suburban neighborhoods in upstate, NY, I am struck at just how many dogs are confined by invisible fences.

There are many reasons dog owners choose to install electronic fences. For some it’s a financial decision—electronic fences tend to be a cheaper option. In other cases, homeowners associations or neighbors prohibit the installation of physical fencing. Whatever the reasons, dog owners install the fencing because they want their dogs to have the freedom to run and play in their yards.

Since positive motivation training and behavioral experts say it’s impossible to predict how any dog will react to electronic confinement, I wonder why so many families are willing to take a chance on their dog’s wellbeing. Positive Motivation Trainer Jenn Michaelis, the owner of SassyT Canine Academy in Westchester County, NY, believes that there is not enough information available about the negative impacts of electronic fencing on dogs. She discourages her clients from using electronic fencing and is happy to discuss alternatives with them. Sara Reusche, who is also a positive motivation trainer, and owner of Paws Abilities Dog Training, LLC in Rochester County, MN, also steers her clients away from invisible fencing.

Both trainers above help rehabilitate dogs who have been negatively impacted by electronic fences. In fact, Reusche said that “…sadly these cases make up a sizable chunk of her business.” And in most instances, the owners never connect their dogs’ out-of-the-ordinary behavioral problems with the recently-installed electronic fences. Some of these behavioral issues include dogs who have accidents in the house because they are terrified to go outside for fear of being shocked; dogs who are afraid to wear collars; previously friendly dogs who become aggressive toward people and other dogs; dogs who are afraid to go for walks and dogs who are afraid of any sound that resembles the warning beep on the shock collar. For example the beep from the microwave or the ping on a cell phone.

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