Horse Racing is Not a Sport: It’s the Exploitation of Animals

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In “A Day at the Saratoga Race Course: 10 Ways to feel like an Insider” that published on NYup.com, readers are advised to take in at least one race at the finish line because “…not only can you try to spy celebrities in the clubhouse off to the right, it’s a great place to experience the race – the guy with the bugle, the roaring crowd, the straining jockeys, the thundering hooves of the horses.”

I agree that racegoers should pay close attention to the homestretch. Not to experience the excitement of the chase but to see how jockeys thank horses for running their hearts out by whipping them 15 to 20 times before they reach the finish line. As for those who enjoyed the races at Saratoga Springs this summer, I would like them to consider that 19 horses died. They included Angels Seven who was pulled up in the race due to an injury to the left front leg and was euthanized on the track; Brooklyn Major who collapsed and died after the finish of a race; and Fall Colors who fell at the second fence and died on the track. Horse racing is not a sport it’s the exploitation of animals for entertainment and profit.

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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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How to Keep the Peace Among Household Cats

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Anytime we’ve applied to adopt a dog, we’ve been asked to bring our current dog to the shelter to make sure that the two would get along. This type of introduction isn’t practical when it comes to adding a new cat to a multi-cat household. Instead, shelter and rescue group staff ask lots of questions about the temperament of the cats already in the home to help make a good match.

Because cats can be territorial, it’s impossible to predict how groups of cats will get along once living in the same home. And while cats with aggression problems might never be friends, with time and commitment from owners, problems between cats can be resolved according to experts at the Animal Welfare Association of New Jersey (AWANJ). Depending on the severity of the problems, families may need to seek the assistance of a veterinarian and/or animal behaviorist to restore peace to the household.

Lynn Cancro, founder and president of Caring About the Strays (C.A.T.S.) rescue group in New Jersey, believes that how well cats get along in a multi-cat household very much depends on the manner in which they were introduced to one another.

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The Benefits of Adopting a Pair of Kittens

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Reed and Rowan, 6-month-old purring machines, are the longest residents at the Clifton Animal Shelter in New Jersey. The siblings were brought to the shelter with their mom and two brothers who have all gone to forever homes.

Photo courtesy of Clifton Animal Shelter  

“We call them the dream team. They sleep on top of one another, and they purr while sleeping, eating and playing,” said Liz Taranda, vice president of the shelter and cat room manager. “They are lap cats who love to be held together while giving nose rubs to whoever is holding them.”

The brothers are bonded and will only be adopted into the same home. It’s not unusual for shelters and rescue groups to encourage potential adopters to adopt a pair of kittens rather than going home with one cat.

The Itty Bitty Orphan Kitty Rescue in San Jose, CA, requires that young kittens be adopted in pairs unless adopters have an existing kitten or young cat at home. According to the shelter, this policy is not based on a desire to increase adoptions but rather to ensure that kittens are adopted into homes that offer the best possible environment for their social development.

There are many benefits to adopting kittens in pairs

Besides saving two lives, there are many advantages to adopting kittens in pairs. Kittens tend to need more time and attention than adult cats and two together will keep each other company. The acclimation to a new home will go smoother, too, because a bonded pair of kittens won’t need separate transitional rooms. All they require is one litter box and two dishes (also true when adopting an older bonded pair of cats).

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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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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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