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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How to Make Ocean-Friendly Choices for Your Saltwater Aquarium

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Nearly all fish living in saltwater aquarium tanks began their lives thousands of miles away on warm tropical reefs, according to For the Fishes (FTF), a nonprofit working to protect the future of reefs and wildlife. Many of these fragile fish die before reaching aquariums from poisoning, the stress of captivity or the inhumane practices used in handling and transport to the pet store.

“Most people have no idea that the saltwater fish they are buying for their aquarium were captured in the wild,” said Rene Umberger founder and executive director of FTF and a consultant to the HSUS and Humane Society International on coral reef wildlife issues. “Aquarium hobbyists automatically assume that they are buying fish that were bred in captivity.”


Image credit: Thinkstock

According to FTF, only 2 percent of fish species kept in saltwater tanks can be bred in captivity. The other 98 percent are among the most trafficked animals in the world. They are captured on reefs depleted and degraded from overfishing and cyanide use and exposed to ill treatment leading to prolonged suffering and premature death. On many tropical reefs, methods of wild capture include the illegal use of cyanide as a stunning agent, puncturing of organs, spine cutting and starvation prior to transport.

 “It’s almost impossible to breed saltwater fish, which is why there are fewer than 60 species that are commercially available out of the 2,500 marine fish species that the U.S. currently imports for the aquarium industry,” Umberger said.

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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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Why You Should Never Release Pets Into the Wild

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While it’s illegal to release non-native species into the wild, many pet owners who no longer want their pets will turn them loose. Releasing unwanted pets into the wild is both cruel and bad for the environment. Domestic rabbits, ferrets, rats and mice and aquarium fish have all been released to fend for themselves — often leading to either their death or disastrous environmental consequences.

The release of exotic pets in Florida is such a huge problem that the Department of Fish Game and Wildlife created an Exotic Pet Amnesty Day where pet owners can surrender unwanted pets without penalty.

Here’s a list of popular pets that people often consider releasing into the wild and why they shouldn’t: 

Ferrets

There’s a common misconception that domesticated ferrets are wild animals and can fend for themselves if turned loose. That’s not true. According to the American Ferret Association, Inc., ferrets were domesticated by humans as early as 63 BCE and shouldn’t be confused with the black-footed wild ferret. If a domesticated ferret is turned loose into the wild he or she will rarely survive more than a few days.

What to do instead: Reach out to a local shelter to see if it will accept and rehome your ferret. The Ferrets Rescue Shelter Directory provides a global list of shelters and rescues dedicated to finding new homes for ferrets.


Image credit: Thinkstock

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Why This Couple is so Passionate About Rescuing Donkeys

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Mark and Amy Meyers bought their first donkey, Izzy, as a companion for their horse. They were blown away by his loving personality and soon began rescuing abused and neglected donkeys in the community. In fact, thanks to Izzy’s charm the couple went on to establish Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue in 2000. To date, the Texas sanctuary has rescued more than 8,000 donkeys and burros.

While wild burros are equally protected under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses & Burros Act of 1971, the mustangs often seem to receive most of the public’s attention. As of March 2017 the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) estimates that there are 13,191 on-range burros on federal lands spread across 10 states. According to the HSUS some of these burros are descendants of donkeys brought to the Americas as work animals who either escaped or were released into the wild. As the burro populations grew, they clashed with ranchers because they were competing with livestock for grazing lands. In some cases, burros have been shot when they were considered bothersome.


Photo Credit: Peaceful Valley Donkey Sanctuary in Texas 

To help control the numbers in the wild, the BLM conducts annual roundups of wild burros transporting them to government holding facilities where they’re available for adoption. Meyers’ sanctuary rescued its first 500 burros in 2004 after an amendment to the 1971 act stated that animals who were more than 10 years of age or had failed adoption three times could be sold — usually for slaughter.


Burros grazing near Cold Creek, Nevada.              Image credit: Thinkstock

According to Meyers and other animal rights activists, more donkeys and burros are being sold for slaughter in the U.S. to supply the global market. Donkey sanctuaries worldwide are concerned about the growing demand for donkey skins in China where they are being used to make gelatin for a product called ejiao.

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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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Looking to Adopt a Fish? Here’s How to Find Fish in Need of Homes

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You adopted your dog and cat from a local animal shelter and now you would like to add an aquarium to your home. As an animal welfare advocate, you wonder if it’s possible to adopt a fish? The answer is yes but you may have to do a little more research to find fish in need of a home. You’ll also need to decide on the type of aquarium you want to keep.

“Adopting fish is a great idea,” said Ted Colletti, a member of the North Jersey Aquarium Society (NJAS) and author of The Tub Pond Handbook and Aquarium Care of Livebearers. “Fish are animals too. They may not be cuddly like dogs or cats, but they can still feel discomfort and suffer from neglect just like others pets.”

Experts say first-time aquarium hobbyists should focus on freshwater fish. Before rushing out to adopt your fish it’s important that you learn everything you can about the proper care and size and maintenance of tanks. Many clubs like the NJAS hold monthly meetings, welcome beginners and are eager to share their knowledge on fish keeping.

Where to find homeless fish

Petco’s “Think Adoption First” policy extends to fish with some stores offering fish for adoption on an “as available” basis. The fish are surrendered by owners who no longer want them and can be viewed in adoption tanks at the store. There isn’t a formal application process for adopting surrendered fish, instead, adopters are asked to fill out a standard animal care form and are educated on the care of the fish before taking them home.

Some shelters offer fish for adoption

Petfinder.org is a great place to being your search for shelter fish. Choose Scales, Fins & Others from the “Type” drop-down menu. If a specific location doesn’t show fish in need of homes, go to the advanced search box and choose “anywhere.” This will show you fish for adoption nationwide and you can search for shelters within driving distance. Some humane societies and rescue groups will ship fish to adopters.

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Saving the Wild Parrots of New Jersey

 

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Alison Evans-Fragale was dumbfounded when she got a call from Lonely Grey Rescue bird sanctuary to say that PSE&G had dropped off 27 baby parrots who had been living in nests removed from utility poles in Englewood, NJ. Six of the babies were dead.

For the past decade Evans-Fragale, a nurse practitioner and founder of the Edgewater Parrots Society, a group that works to protect the birds, has had an amicable relationship with the power company. She said that she was always alerted before a nest teardown either in her town or in neighboring communities so that she could be on site to monitor the removal and safe handling of any babies.

“I just don’t understand why I wasn’t called in to help this time,” Evans-Fragale said. “This was such a needless and violent death for these little birds and it breaks my heart.”

In a June 2 Facebook post PSE&G wrote  “The nests atop our transformers and wires were affecting power at Englewood Hospital. We took every precaution to carefully rescue as many of the birds and eggs as possible.”

Power Companies Seeking a Way to Co-Exist with Parrots

While most local residents enjoy having these exotic birds in their backyards, the parrots clash with the power company because they build their nests on utility poles. Utility companies say that the nests can cause fires and power outages and for years have sought ways to co-exist with the parrots. Some companies felt that euthanizing the birds was the best option but that led to outrage from animal welfare groups.

“In my view killing is the first response of a limited mind,” Evans-Fragale said. “There’s always a humane way to deal with a problem – it may not be the easiest or the cheapest –but it’s the right thing to do.”

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