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There seem to be two very different schools of thought when it comes to declawing cats – those who see it as no big deal, and those who gasp in horror at the mere idea of someone even considering it. And where most controversial issues attract differing opinions due to personal beliefs or values, declawing is an issue that I think only has such a variance of reactions because one of the sides simply doesn’t know enough about declawing.

To some, declawing is nothing more than a logical step before bringing a kitten or cat into their home. Nobody wants their couches shredded to ribbons, so they quickly make a call to their vet and book a declawing appointment and that’s that. They never do any research into the surgery and maybe even the vet recommends it, or plays it down to be a ‘minor surgery’ – and why wouldn’t they; it’s a pricey surgery that no doubt keeps their clinic doing well. Declawing is now a $3 billion a year industry for the North American vet community. The fact is, there’s a reason that declawing has been illegal in England for several years. Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Wales, Finland and Brazil are among the many countries that either consider declawing illegal or inhumane, and only allow it under extreme circumstances.

It’s unfortunate that declawing is so popular across North America, and that so many people do it so blindly. Because when it comes down to it, declawing is nowhere near a minor surgery. It is actually a surgical amputation of the first joint of a cat’s toes. It has absolutely no positive impact on the cat, but is a surgery that’s only conducted for the convenience of humans – and there are so many humane solutions to the issue of furniture scratching that it just seems completely unnecessary.

The best way to think of declawing is as 10 amputations. And after the initial painful surgery, there can be pain for weeks and months afterward as the nerve endings heal. While the cat is experiencing this painful recovery, they are still forced to use their front paws frequently in order to use the litter box and to clean themselves, along with just moving around to eat and sleep. Dr. Nicholas Dodman describes the pain following surgery in his book The Cat Who Cried for Help: “Unlike routine recoveries, including recovery from neutering surgeries, which are fairly peaceful, declawing surgery results in cats bouncing off the walls of the recovery cage because of excruciating pain.”

There can be serious complications with declawing surgery, such as excruciating pain, damage to the radial nerve, hemorrhage, bone chips that prevent healing, painful regrowth of deformed claw inside of the paw which is not visible to the eye, and chronic back and joint pain as shoulder, leg and back muscles weaken. (Declawing.com) It’s also been observed that declawing can affect a cat’s temperament negatively, can cause litter box avoidance, and can even cause severe arthritis in older cats. (Pawsneedclaws.com)

Not to mention that declawing robs a cat of its chief weapon of defense – at the Lincoln County Humane Society, many cats are brought to the shelter as declawed strays. That means these cats were left to fend for themselves on the streets, with no mode of protection against potential predators. States the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, “Declawing of domestic cats should be considered only after attempts have been made to prevent the cat from using its claws destructively or when clawing presents a zoonotic risk for its owner(s).”

Now, many shelters won’t even adopt out to potential adoptees who reveal that they plan on declawing their cat. At the very least, most shelters will inform people or provide literature about what is actually involved in declawing, to allow them to make an educated decision. Unfortunately, I’ve recently discovered that at the Lincoln County Humane Society, they don’t do either, and in fact LCHS will even schedule the declawing appointments for adopted cats so that the surgery can be completed at the same time as a spay/neuter. (***Update: Effective today – Jan. 31, 2011, declawing will NOT be offered as an option to adopters at LCHS. Yay!***)

As I mentioned, there are several humane alternatives to declawing a cat. Here are a few of the most common:

  • Soft paws: Soft paws are vinyl nail caps that are placed over a cat’s claws and grow out with the natural growth of your cat’s claws. They last an average of 4-6 weeks and cost about $10-15.
  • Scratching posts: Give your cat something they can safely scratch instead of your furniture – sprinkle cat nip or treats on the posts to encourage your cat to scratch it.
  • Train your cat: For whatever reason, most people seem to think that the idea of training a cat is preposterous, but it’s been proven time and again that cats are highly trainable animals. They just may need to be trained a little differently than dogs, as they cannot be forced into doing something they don’t want to do. You can try clicker training for cats, or you could try gently spraying a small amount of water each time your cat attempts to scratch something you don’t want them to. The idea is to have them thinking that the water comes from the furniture they’re scratching, not from you, so that they make the association between scratching the furniture and the unpleasant squirt of water. Keep in mind this must be done when you catch your cat in the act of scratching your furniture – any correction afterward will not be useful.
  • Regular nail trimming: It’s difficult for cats to do any major damage to furniture with blunt nails. Nail trimming is a simple procedure that you can do on your own with your cat. It’s not always the easiest of tasks with certain cats, but you can trim in short sessions and choose to do so when your cat is sleepy and relaxed.
  • Double stick tape: If your cat insists on scratching certain items in your home, you can put double sided tape to discourage the scratching as cats dislike the sticky feeling on their paws.

Remember that scratching is a very natural and necessary behavior for cats – if you’re discouraging your cat from scratching any of your furniture, you should be providing a cat-friendly outlet for their scratching.

The bottom line with declawing is that it is a major surgery that many pet owners decide for their cats without really researching and weighing their alternatives. It’s an unnecessary evil that can easily be avoided with a little bit of effort on behalf of the owner. If cats could talk, I guarantee they’d plead with us humans to spare their claws.

Further reading:

- Post by Kristen (Rather Fetching Pet Sitting & Dogwalking | Serving Niagara)

I think part of the problem regarding people getting dogs from less than reputable sources (Kijiji, backyard breeders, etc and so forth) is that a lot of times people aren’t aware of just how many rescue dogs are available. Even if some people don’t like the idea of a traditional shelter (some people find it way too depressing and refuse to even set foot inside), there are still many other places to get rescue dogs from. There are breed specific rescues for almost every breed of dog, as well as more generally, small dogs or big dogs. In some cases it might be that people aren’t even sure where to go to start looking for that type of information, as it can often be overwhelming and it’s hard to tell whether a rescue is reputable.  Key things to look for in determining the quality of rescue you are working with are:

1) Find out if they are registered as a non profit organization and have a business account (i.e., the cheque you are writing for your animal isn’t made out to Joe Shmo or something).

2) Reasonable adoption fees (not free and not astronomical amounts of money).

3) The animals should come spayed or neutered.

4) All animals should be examined by a veterinarian and upon adoption you should receive all medical records.

5) You get thoroughly screened when wanting to adopt.

6) They allow you to view where the dog has been kept, whether that’s in a kennel or a foster home.

7) Should be able to provide some amount of background on the animal. Obviously, a thorough history is not always available, but knowing how the dog (or cat) came to be at a particular rescue can help.

8 ) You should be able to get references/information from volunteers, local vet offices, etc.

A listing of some breed specific rescues

Afghan Hound Club of Canada
They don’t always have Afghan Hounds in the rescue program, but if this is the breed you want, you can be placed on a list and notified when a rescue hound is in need of a home.

Airedale Rescue Network
The organization is based in BC but they have Airedales looking for homes from all over Canada.

Alaskan Malamute Help League
This group has tons of Malamute information in addition to dogs available for adoption

Aussie Rescue of Ontario

Basset Hound Rescue of Ontario

Border Collies

Boston Terrier Rescue Canada

Ontario Bouvier Rescue

Boxer Rescue Ontario
An affiliate of Boxer Rescue Canada, they have many rescue Boxers available for adoption.

Bull Mastiff Rescue of Ontario

Bullies in Need
This is a breed that is very close to our hearts, and right now they need all the help they can get. Due to the insanity that is Bill 132, these are often death row dogs that need fostering or adopting. Pit bulls that are grandfathered can remain within Ontario and be adopted. All others need to go out of province or face euthanasia.

Canadian Chihuahua Rescue and Transport
Seems like they have a lot of senior Chihuahuas for adoption, but there is the odd young one, depending what area you are looking in.

Canadian Dachshund Rescue

Collie Rescue Network

Canadian Dachshund Rescue

Dalmatian Adoption and Rescue

Danes in Distress

Doberman Pinscher Rescue Ontario

French Bulldog Rescue of Eastern Canada

German Shepherd Rescue of Toronto

Golden Rescue

Hound Rescue Ontario

Jack Russell Terrier Rescue Ontario

Leonberger Rescue Ontario

Niagara Greyhound Adoption Inc.
This group is always at tons of local events with their lovely dogs that are up for adoption, and often do meet and greets at local pet stores.

Greyhound Rescue

Lab Rescue
Being one of North America’s most popular breeds, there are many labs in need of new homes.

Miniature Schnauzer Rescue
While they don’t seem to have a website listing their available adoptables, they do have an email contact: walli@sympatico.ca

Monstars Mastiff Rescue

Newf Friends

Pug a Lug Rescue
Two of our favourite little pug clients happened to come from this rescue!

Rottweiler-Adopt a Rott

Southern Ontario Sheltie Rescue

Springer Spaniel Rescue

Westies in Need

Weimaraner Rescue and Assistance

All Breed Rescues

Happy Tails Rescue

HART: Highland Animal Relief Team

Hopeful Hearts Rescue

LOYAL Rescue Inc.

Precious Paws

Southern Ontario Animal Rescue

Speaking of Dogs

Ugly Mutts Dog Rescue

Small Breed Rescue

Kismutt Small Dog Rescue

Pomeranian and Small Breed Rescue

Tiny Paws Dog Rescue Canada

It should be noted that a lot of these rescues are run by volunteers only so it may take a couple of days for them to respond to emails or phone messages.

And this list is just scraping the surface when it comes to rescues!  Between local shelters, Petfinder.com, local vet offices, breed specific rescues, all breed rescues, rescue groups that do work in other countries, there is most certainly a rescue dog available for anybody that is looking. There is absolutely no need to purchase a dog from a pet store, Kijiji, etc.

Please make adoption your first option, and spread the word about rescue. Let’s work towards a world of No More Homeless Pets!

- Post by Megan (Rather Fetching Pet Sitting & Dogwalking | Serving Niagara)

“They might seem normal, but these aren’t normal dogs,” is one of the first things that Dr. Julia Murray told us about the dogs we were there to help socialize at Court Animal Hospital, recently rescued from a puppy mill in the Niagara Region.

There are four Shih Tzus and one Jack Russell Terrier, and though they may have been through a lot, they seem simply overjoyed to see people each time we show up to spend some time with them.

Why, an 8 year old Jack Russell Terrier

There’s Why, the approximately 8 year old Jack Russell Terrier who somewhat resembles a cartoon character, he’s got such a friendly face. He’s absolutely hilarious to watch, as he scuttles around the vet office – between jumping several feet in the air in failed attempts to terrorize the caged cats up above (he is fixated with them and must not go to a home with cats), and trying to charm his way into the nearest treat jar. He loves attention and being petted, and is super playful and active. He needs a person who will never tire of his repetitive need for stimulation and will give him loads of exercise. He is full of character and has a personality which is “over the top”.

Then there’s Sally, the incredibly adorable 2 year old Shih Tzu that looks like she has little pigtails. She is a very happy little dog who has had puppies at some point in her life. She is quickly learning how to sit, and she likes to be petted as long as you approach her slowly and speak in a gentle tone. Dr. Murray has evaluated that Sally becomes instantly fearful around sudden moves, loud noises or an angry word. She will bite out of fear, and will require a patient , confident and secure home so that she can overcome her fears.

Sally, a 2 year old Shih Tzu

Sally’s closest friend is Bruce, the 1 year old Shih Tzu who looks like a tiny teddy bear. He’s got one of the sweetest faces you’ve ever seen, and he is very quiet and gentle. He listens very well and has already learned how to sit. Dr. Murray says that Sally seems to give Bruce courage, so it would be ideal if these two dogs could be adopted to a home together. If Bruce goes to a home on his own, he may become very introverted. He’ll also need a patient, confident and secure home to help overcome his fears.

Bronco, as he’s been named by Court, is a 5 year old Shih Tzu who will happily climb into your lap for pets, and he loves to play fetch. He adores toys and will collect and store them in his bed. He has a very easygoing personality and spends much of his time sleeping. He very much enjoys the company of people, but he is not as demanding as the other rescue dogs.

Bruce, a 1 year old Shih Tzu

Lastly there’s Beetlejuice, a gentle senior Shih Tzu who unfortunately won’t be able to be put up for adoption due to medical reasons.

Inside of Court Animal Hospital on a short visit, you’d almost never know that these dogs were once suffering and neglected, part of an inhumane breeding operation designed to churn out puppies for a profit. They seem so happy go lucky inside of their comfortable environment of the vet’s office – but it’s when you take them outside of their comfort zones that you see what Dr. Murray was referring to and why they will require special, dedicated homes.

These dogs will require patient and understanding homes, with people who realize that these are dogs who spent the better parts of their lives completely shut off from the outside world and any human affection or interaction. All of these dogs will require consistent help with their housetraining, as they have never before been in a home environment where they have been required to learn these skills. They also shouldn’t go to a homes with young children. Dr. Murray said: “They don’t sound easy but the first two that went to adoption are doing fine. Molly was the worst fear biter. Her new owners are very experienced with that type of behavior but both of them got bitten before they realized just how careful they need to be around her.”

If you are interested in providing a forever home for Why, Sally, Bruce or Bronco, please contact Dr. Julia Murray at courtanimalhospital@bellnet.ca.

Bruce

Bruce and Sally

Sally

Bronco, a 5 year old Shih Tzu

Bronco

Why, the cat enthusiast

Further reading:

Information about Puppy Mills and Pet Stores

What is a puppy mill?

Best Friend Animal Society’s Puppies Aren’t Products Campaign

The Internet: A puppy mill’s best friend

– Post by Kristen (Rather Fetching Pet Sitting & Dogwalking | Serving Niagara)

Being a volunteer dog walker, many people say things to me like, “I could never do that! I would wind up wanting to take them all home!” Well, that’s not always the case – no, I’d rather not welcome the unruly puppy who eats poop into my home. Though I love every dog that comes through the shelter, the ones that I actually would love to take home are a little more rare.

I’m sure every volunteer has their favourite, and the longer a dog is at the shelter, the more we grow attached to them. I can remember the names of favourite dogs from 5 years ago – there’s just some dogs that you bond with and they stay with you forever. But there’s one dog who’s just gone back up for adoption at LCHS, who I can safely say is the best dog ever. Okay, maybe I’m a little biased – he’s my all-time favourite dog I’ve seen pass through the shelter – and I’ve been volunteering at my local shelter (first Halifax SPCA, now LCHS) for just over seven years now.

His name’s Turner, and he’s pretty much the happiest, most loving dog I have ever met – you can watch a video I made of him here. Our trainer at LCHS describes him as a “rock star” – he just LOVES to be adored, and he truly thinks he is awesome (and I can’t disagree). It’s a very accurate description of Turner, as he’s nowhere near shy and will nuzzle his head and jump up in your face just demanding attention and affection. Some might find a dog like this obnoxious – I find him to be an immediate cheerer-upper, and I think he’ll make the greatest companion to the lucky person who brings him home one day.

A sad fact of dogs that remain behind kennel bars for a significant period of time is that they can develop behavioural issues that might not have surfaced otherwise. For Turner, who had been waiting for his home for nearly 6 months, being handled by such a wide range of dog walkers brought out some behaviours with certain volunteers that were less than desirable – jumping up and nipping at clothing, in hot pursuit of attention and entertainment. So Turner was moved over to our stray side so that he could be worked with before being put back up for adoption.

A training session was held this past week with the LCHS dog trainer Cat Cino, and it was the most well attended training session I have ever seen in all my years at LCHS. Turner’s a rock star who’s got lots of fans. All these dog walking volunteers showed up hoping for the opportunity to work with Turner so that he can find a home, and none of them could understand why he’d been moved to strays – out of the 40-something dog walking volunteers at LCHS, probably 90% think Turner’s a perfectly amazing dog.

Turner’s now back to the adoption side, being taken out three times per day only by the volunteers who have been trained on how to work with him if he displays his nipping behaviours. I was so happy to see his smiling face today, and I really hope that someone is willing to give this sweet boy a chance at a great home. With a routine and a confident handler, Turner will make a truly great best friend.

I sincerely hope that whoever adopts him keeps in touch with updates – and perhaps they’ll need some pet sitting services from Rather Fetching in the future… a girl can dream.

- Post by Kristen (Rather Fetching Pet Sitting & Dogwalking | Serving Niagara)

In comparison to dogs, cats are much more independent pets. You don’t need to brave frightful weather to make sure they get their exercise and bathroom break, you need not worry about whether they’re chewing your shoes to pieces while you’re at work, and you can feel confident leaving them on their own while you head out of town for the weekend.

Indoor cats don’t seem to demand too much from their owners, aside from wet food and a spot on your lap from time to time. In fact, it’s so simple to live with cats that it can often be forgotten that they too need enrichment to live full and happy lives – and your duty as a pet owner is to ensure that your furry companion is exercised both mentally and physically.

Dogs of course are ‘man’s best friend’ and social pack animals, while cats tend to get the rap of being more independent creatures and generally aloof to their caregivers. Now that I own cats myself, I have a much greater appreciation for their individual personalities and know that they’re very social creatures that, just like dogs, enjoy their playtime and affection. Sure, my cats might happily laze on my couch all night long were it not for the rustling of a treat bag or the sound of a can opener, but there are also many ways I can engage them to make their indoor lives just a little bit more enjoyable.

After we wrote a couple of blogs about enrichment for dogs, I started wondering about what sort of opportunities might be available in the way of enrichment for indoor cats. Many people think that indoor cats aren’t totally fulfilled, because they’re not able to enjoy the outdoors. I know that my heart pangs a little when my one cat Falkor meows longingly at the door while I’m putting on my jacket, as if asking to be let outside. Luckily, there are a number of ways you can improve the life of your indoor cat without having to risk their safety by letting them step outside to explore the neighbourhood.

Individual Play Toys

While you’re away from home, you can still enrich the life of your cat by providing toys that encourage them to play. A wall or door-mounted Cat Dancer, toys that suction cup to windows and so on, dangle and attract some cats to play with them on their own.

Just as there’s food puzzles for dogs, there are also food and treat dispensing toys for kitties. These sorts of toys motivate your cat to play by dispensing dry kibble or treats as the cat manipulates the toy. There are many variations available, such as roll-a-treat balls, Kitty Kongs, and the Deli Dome.

Interactive Toys

It’s important to make the time to play with your cat, as it’s very entertaining for your cat and helps to strengthen the bond between you and your pet. Try wand-type toys or laser pointers to engage your cat in a little play session each day. There’s also unique products like bubbles made specifically for cats that smell like cat nip and encourage your cat to jump up and catch the bubbles as you blow them.

Teach Your Cat Tricks

Cats come pre-wired with so many habits that we like that it can be easy to not bother with training them. Truth is, cats are highly trainable with the right tools. Since most cats can’t be forced into doing something they don’t want to do (good luck trying), clicker training with positive reinforcement is the best way to train. You can teach your cat to shake, sit, down, and much, much more. This strengthens the bond between you and your cat and challenges your cat’s mind.

Cat Nip, Cat Mint, Cat Grass

While it’s estimated that these items affect only 50% of cats, if you do have a cat who loves cat nip, you can sprinkle these products on a toy, spot in the house, or a scratching post, to encourage your cat to sniff, rub, roll alongside, and kick at where you’ve scented.

Make sure that your cat has access to look out various windows

Visual Entertainment

Just as humans enjoy watching television to entertain themselves, cats too appreciate something to look at aside from the pictures hanging on your living room wall. Make sure that your cat has access to look out from your residence’s windows – if a window is not reachable (think, a basement apartment), make it so by moving a shelf, cat tree or condo just below that they can jump up onto. If the window sill is not wide enough for your cat to sit and watch from, there are solutions like Cat Window Perches, or you could even build one yourself if you’re feeling crafty. If your window happens to face a boring scene, you could try putting a bird feeder right outside – any cat’s heaven.

There have also been a number of DVDs made specifically to entertain cats, such as “Kitty Show”. While they may not work on every cat, they’re worth a shot. If your cat seems to have a great time interacting with the DVD, you can hit play just as you’re heading out to work so that your cat’s left with some entertainment.

The great outdoors

Cats should never be left to roam the outdoors, as it’s extremely dangerous – there’s simply too great a risk – getting hit by a car, attacked by another animal, catching various illnesses or disease, and so on. You can, however, train your cat on a harness and leash so that you can both enjoy the outdoors safely together. You can let your cat explore your backyard while on a harness and leash, or you can walk them through your neighbourhood just like you would with a dog. Make sure to fit your cat properly so that they don’t escape their harness while outside, and be extra cautious of other animals in your neighbourhood. There are also options to build outdoor enclosures specially designed for your cat which are fantastic.

Fun in high places

It’s no secret that cats like to jump and climb – and while you might not appreciate your cat bounding onto the dining room table while you’re eating dinner, you can encourage this behavior elsewhere by enriching their environment with strategically placed shelves as seen in some catteries. There are also many versions of cat trees and condos that invite your cat to climb, jump and scratch (and the bonus is that it’s not your couch). Cats also tend to appreciate the hideaway spots that many condos include, which gives your cat a safe spot where they can feel secure – this is especially beneficial in multi-cat households.

My cats Artax and Falkor - companion cats are a great idea for individual cat households in which a cat is left alone regularly.

Companion Cats

For individual cats that are left on their own for long periods each day, it’s a great idea to provide a feline companion for them. Before you make the decision to bring a new cat into your home, it is highly recommended to read up on the proper ways to introduce the new pet. Remember that there will likely be fighting in the beginning, but a slow and proper introduction should allow them to bond over time. A companion will give your cat a friend to play with throughout the day, and this added social interaction will ultimately enrich and improve their lives.

- Post by Kristen

I want to just preface this entire post with saying that we actually love puppies; puppies are one of the best things in the world, and any day can be infinitely improved if it involves cuddling a puppy at any point. I’m sure the majority of people feel the same way. But you know what the best kind of puppies are? Rescued ones.

My major issue with puppies is where people get them.  I understand the novelty of having a brand new puppy, I’ve been there. They are undeniably cute, you get stopped everywhere you go by people asking to cuddle your dog, and you get to start out with this animal from the very beginning of its life. These are all great things. However, I think there is a responsibility on our shoulders that some people just don’t realize. And it’s actually two fold. First, by getting a puppy from any source other than a shelter or rescue means that there is one less home for a shelter dog. And second, unless you are getting a puppy from a  reputable breeder (ie. not a pet store, not by responding to a random kijiji ad and not from a backyard breeder), you are supporting an industry that makes money off the suffering of animals.

Human beings are the reason we have a pet overpopulation crisis, and it’s irresponsible to continue to support the breeding of more animals while we have millions of homeless ones in need of saving.  So yes, if anybody ever tells me they got a new puppy be it from a breeder, a pet store or the internet, I find it truly disappointing, because I know that there are some awesome friends at the shelter waiting for a home. And there are thousands around the country that get euthanized every day. Some people are so blinded with the novelty of owning a new puppy, that any social responsibility is just ignored. And I’m aware that not everybody created the problem, but it’s so huge now, that everybody should play a part in solving it.

Plus, puppies are always available at shelters and rescues. If it is a puppy somebody is searching for, they could just as easily find a rescue. Sourcing out a puppy from a rescue or shelter might take a little more concentrated effort then simply walking into a pet store or emailing a response to a  kijiji ad, but most times you’ll be able to find what you are looking for. There are rescues for small breeds, large breeds, as well as breed specific rescues. Petfinder is a great place to start that search

The Puppy Mill Problem

I wasn’t always as aware of these issues as I am now. In fact, when I was younger, I was pretty much blinded to them. My whole family was. I don’t remember anybody ever talking about why it’s wrong to get a dog from a pet store, or answer an ad in the paper, so that is what we did. And looking back now, it’s clear, the two dogs I had during my life, one whom we got from a pet store and one whom we got by answering an ad in the paper, well, they were from puppy mills. It’s so obvious to me now, but hey, live and learn and try to do something about I guess!

Dogs from pet stores come from puppy mills. Regardless of what the sales people tell you, that’s the truth. No reputable breeder would ever give their dogs over to a pet store to be sold. They just wouldn’t. Dogs in pet stores get limited socialization at a very crucial time in their lives. Dogs from puppy mills, whether it’s a large scale breeding operation or the work of a backyard breeder, often come with major health issues, limited socialization skills, and genetic defects. Conditions in puppy mills are often deplorable, and the animals are not taken care of properly. At all. Case in point, my dog Dakota. Ten or eleven years ago,  we got him when he was 8 weeks old. When I visualize the place now, I can’t believe none of us thought to leave immediately.  The lady brought him out from a barn, and she wouldn’t let us go in to see the parents (warning!). I think this is where a lot of people get trapped, because all you want to do is take the dog away from the crazy lady and her barn, so in a sense you are “rescuing” the dog. Wrong, you are supporting an unethical industry. When we initially got Dakota home, he seemed fine. But then he started having seizures, and was diagnosed with epilepsy. Soon it was discovered that the cause of these seizures was in fact a brain tumor, which not only caused him to have almost constant seizures, but to go blind. We had to have him euthanized when he was not even a year old yet, because he had become practically comatose. So yeah, it was slightly horrifying.

My other dog, Shadow, who I picked out from a pet store when I was about 6 years old, was pretty much the best dog. But he didn’t live as long as he should have either. He died from a rare liver condition when he was 8 years old. Again, this was a dog that was purchased from a pet store. Sure, these things could happen to any dog, regardless of whether they come from a shelter, a pet store or a backyard breeder, but the majority of times, animals with issues such as these are from the latter two categories.

There are many ethical, good breeders out there, who make sure they are producing puppies from healthy genetic lines, do in depth screening of new families, and make sure the puppies are socialized properly.If you are going to get a puppy from a breeder, it’s so important to seek these breeders out by doing the appropriate research.

When I look on a place like kijiji and see numerous ads for puppies, it’s so disheartening because I know that all those puppies are probably going to find homes before our shelter dogs. Some people don’t even think to go to a shelter, or still have the impression that shelter dogs are damaged in some way. Which is completely untrue. The large majority of the dogs in the shelter are there because of humans, whether it be through negligence, lack of money, lack of education about owning a pet or laziness.

So when I see a person with a puppy and they tell me they got it from anywhere but a shelter or rescue, I usually just get this feeling of sadness for the shelter dogs, especially ones who have been waiting so long for homes. They all started their lives as roly, poly little puppies, and yet they somehow still made it to the shelter. It makes me wonder how to break the cycle and just make people see the light already.

MILLIONS of dogs and puppies (and cats and kittens) are euthanized in North America every year. Yet people continue to get their pets from places other than rescues and shelters.  I’m not sure what it is. Are people just not aware of the problem, or do they just not care?  I’m stumped.

These little guys were rescued from a puppy mill in the Niagara Region and are now up for adoption. The contact person for these animals is Dr. Julia Murray and more info can be obtained from her at courtanimalhospital@bellnet.ca

Beetlejuice

Beetlejuice is up for adoption!

Beetlejuice is getting up there in age, and can’t hear and see as well as he used to. That doesn’t stop him from being a goofy, fun guy who loves his food and treats. He needs to go to a quiet, calm home.

Why

Why is up for adoption!

This adorable little man is about 6 1/2 years old, and loves just about everything…well, except cats. He loves people, other dogs and toys. He is super affectionate and just loves to be loved.

Brooser

Brooser is up for adoption!

And last, but certainly not least,  there is Brooser. His years in a puppy mill were tough on him, so he needs to go to a quiet home that will shower him with love. It may take a while for you to gain his trust, but once you’ve got it, he’s yours.

Here is some information puppy mills that might be useful/informative:

From No Puppy Mills website, Adopting a puppy mill survivor.

Best Friends Animal Society, Puppies Aren’t Products campaign.

- Post by Megan

There is nothing that makes me happier than seeing animals that have been long-term residents of the Lincoln County Humane Society finally find homes. And on the other end of the spectrum, there is nothing that infuriates me more than animals being sold on Kijiji. So when these two combine, it is especially heartbreaking.

This morning, an advertisement was spotted on Kijiji that was attempting to sell one of LCHS’s former adoptable dogs. Chubby had waited for his forever home for nearly 6 months, and was included in the “Home for the Holidays” promotion, where he acquired a stocking full of donated toys, treats and supplies that would accompany him to his new home.

Chubby’s ad said that he had to be re-homed due to the fact that he went after the family’s pet hamster and bunny. While I won’t bother getting into criticizing the reasons behind him being given away, the entire situation is incredibly disheartening because it’s just another example of how people are continuously not assuming responsibility for their own pets.

All too often, someone has an issue with their pet, and their first reaction is to post the animal on Kijiji, or surrender them to a humane society. A good majority of the reasons that animals are surrendered to LCHS seem like they could have been rather easily resolved with just a little effort on behalf of the owners.  This family had Chubby for less than two weeks before they made the decision to sell him on Kijiji, not to mention attempted to sell him for a profit.

Unfortunately, Chubby’s story is far from an anomaly. If people would do more research about the breeds they are adopting (although it’s important to remember that breed characteristics are generalizations, and every dog is an individual that may not be typical of their breed), spend more time thinking about whether they’re truly ready in every way to bring a new pet into their lives, and make a dedicated effort to work through any issues that may arise with their new pet(s), the shelters and Kijiji pages would surely be much less swamped with unwanted animals.

As a volunteer at a shelter, I know that I am especially harsh when it comes to hearing about people who “had” to give away their pets. There are few situations where I can genuinely understand why a pet has to be surrendered, and it’s truly difficult to sympathize with the owners when all I see are the dogs.

Now, when you adopt a dog from LCHS, you sign a contract that states that you must surrender the dog back to the humane society if you can no longer keep him/her. So Chubby has since been surrendered back to LCHS; and while it was sad to see Chubby bouncing up and down again in his kennel at LCHS this afternoon, here’s hoping that the perfect owner will fall in love with him and make a lifelong commitment to him this time.

You can watch Chubby’s adoption video here.

Here is a great check list written by AdoptaPet.com that all potential adopters should review before making the decision to bring a new pet into their home:

1. When you adopt, you need to make a real commitment to care for your pet for its entire life, no matter what that entails, just as you would with a child.

2. Be prepared for a pet to affect other parts of your life for as long as you have the pet (can be up to 15 years for a dog and 20 years for cat). Your pet’s well-being will have to be considered in all kinds of decisions, including travel, social life, relocating to a new home, adopting other pets, having children, etc.

3. Verify in advance that you’re allowed to keep a pet where you live, especially if you rent or belong to a homeowners’ association.

4. Make any necessary modifications to your yard and fence, if you have one, to provide for your pet’s safety and to prevent your pet from escaping.

5. Never give a pet as a gift.

6. Choose a pet appropriate to your living situation and lifestyle. Figure out what size, age, and energy-level pet is most appropriate for you.

7. Never adopt a pet on a whim or because you feel it’s love-at-first-sight. Do your research and carefully consider all the aspects and implications of adopting before you make a decision.

8. If you’re adopting a pet for your kids, understand that the responsibility is yours. Kids, by their nature, often tire of things that were once new and exciting, and this includes their pets. You will most likely end up being the one who provides most of the pet’s care.

9. Plan for a several-week adjustment period during which there will be challenges.

10. Provide sufficient exercise and stimulation. (Walk dogs according to individual need, provide playtime and appropriate toys for both dogs and cats, spend time just petting and talking to your pet, include pet in family activities.)

- Post by Kristen

Working in a pet store, the number one question I get asked is always regarding food…what’s a good food, what should be in the food, what food would be good for my animal that has (insert random condition).  I’ve made it somewhat of a quest to learn as much as I can about pet food, because staring at someone blankly when they ask me a question is in no way helpful. Before I started working at Pet Valu, I really had no earthly idea about pet foods, and what either made them good or bad. So it’s been an eye opener to say the least, and I am nowhere near being an expert yet. Pet food is a complicated subject.

A really good example was the other night when a lady came in and was looking for IAMS food. Because it’s all been recalled, we didn’t have any (and really, we don’t keep it in stock anyway), and obviously upon finding out that information she was slightly horrified, and was like, “why would no one at another store ever mention that before?” Which, really, valid question, why wouldn’t they? Then I was like, “and IAMS does some pretty horrible animal testing”, and she became even more horrified, and said, “oh, I kind of wish you hadn’t told me that”. But really, isn’t it better to know, a) not only what is in the pet food you are feeding your pet, but b) where it came from? The problem with alerting people to these type of things is that after they find out, they either have to do something about it by not supporting that company, or choose to keep buying it like they never found out anything. But the latter is hard to do, because there is always going to be a nagging feeling in the back of your mind every time you scoop up some IAMS.

Anyway, that could be an entirely different post, but the point is, I think most people want to know what’s in the food they are feeding their pet right? And even though companies like IAMS, Eukanuba, Beneful, Science Diet (ie, commercial dog food brands),  try to convince you otherwise with commercials featuring happy romping puppies in a field or something, the truth is, feeding an animal that kind of stuff  is like feeding them fast food every day, to make an apt comparison.

And although higher quality foods indeed cost more, your dog or cat will consume less of it, because higher quality foods are more filling, and don’t contain nasty fillers.  Just like humans, dogs and cats need healthy food so that their body can function to its full capacity, so they don’t get sick or develop health issues, etc. Higher quality foods are more digestible, therefore the animal meets more of their nutritional requirements from a smaller serving of higher quality food.

So, how do you find a food that’s not horrible? One quick test, is that if it is available in a grocery store, or a place like Walmart, chances are, it’s not the greatest food.

Reading a Label

In pet foods, the ingredients are listed in the order of weight, but you need to read it carefully. Some manufacturers take undesirable ingredients like rice and divide it into something like: brewer’s rice, rice gluten and rice bran, so that “rice” can appear lower down on the list of ingredients. Also, the ingredients are measured before manufacturing, so this is slightly misleading as well, as it will include the water content (which is removed in manufacturing process).  In other words, ingredient lists can be used to make a product look healthier than it actually is.  You also have to be careful with “meals”, as “chicken meal” is a lot better than say, “beef and bone meal”.

In a good food, a couple protein sources should be listed within the first three ingredients. You don’t want “meat by-products”. You want to have lots of meat, vegetables, whole grains, and other real food ingredients on the label. Ideally, three out of the first five or so ingredients on the list are some sort of protein source, preferably fish or meat.

Sources of protein: fish and meat, plus vegetables and grain.
Sources of carbohydrates:  rice, wheat, corn (which is indigestible to dogs, so not a desirable ingredient)
Sources of fat: animal fats and vegetable oils
Natural preservatives: Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Rosemary extract
Added preservatives: mixed tocopherols (Vitamin E), BHA (fat preservative), Ethoxyquin (prevents spoilage)

Every pet food label also has a “guaranteed analysis” section, which is a listing of the overall concentration of nutrients in the food, and gives the quantities in a percentage:

Crude protein: is the energy source, and the source of amino acids, protein helps to restore cells.
Crude fat: is a concentrated source of energy and source of essential fatty acids.
Crude fiber :prevents constipation and helps clean the digestive system.
Moisture:basically measures the amount of water in the food. The more moisture there is, the less nutritional the food is.
Ash : a certain amount of ash is necessary. It refers to the inorganic portion of food sample that remains after the sample is burned at 600 degrees for two hours. (ie., the mineral deposit that is left after the animal processes the food)

A quick note about the word “crude”. “Crude” means the content regardless of quality or digestibility, leaving you without any means to determine the true quality of the product from this analysis, which is why the actual ingredients need to be looked at carefully. Crude protein could mean a) actual meat, or b) something undesirable like ground up feathers. Same goes with crude fat, it could mean a) actual animal fat, or b) a vat of rancid restaurant grease. I don’t want to completely disgust people, however at the same time, I think it’s helpful to know. There is so much disgusting stuff in some pet foods that it actually boggles my mind that companies are allowed to get away with it. One horrifying test done on several commercial pet foods found traces of sodium pentobarital in the foods, the drug that is used to euthanize animals. So yes, some pet food companies use animals euthanized at pounds and shelters for food rendering.

People often always ask me what I would feed my own pets, and what I wouldn’t. But it should be noted, getting recommendations from somebody, whether it be a vet, a friend or an employee at a pet store is no substitute for researching foods yourself, because you know what is best for your pet.

So,that being said,  here is my list of what I would and wouldn’t feed my pet, and this includes brands for both cats and dogs.

I wouldn’t feed my animal:  IAMS, Eukanuba, Ol’Roy, Purina (Beneful, ProPlan), Science Diet, Royal Canin, Friskies, Kibbles and Bits, Pedigree.

I would feed my animal: Taste of the Wild, Chicken Soup for the Soul Food*, Weruva, Wellness, Performatrin, Go! Natural, Blue, Wellness, Canidae, Merrick.

*I was leery about this food at first because you know, the whole Chicken Soup franchise is kind of at an overkill point for me, but the food is actually really, really good.

Honestly, the prices between some of these foods don’t vary all that much. You can get a bag of Science Diet or Royal Canin for the same price as you can get Taste of the Wild or Chicken Soup.

And a little note about cats, which I’m sure PETA would disagree with: cats are obligate carnivores, they need meat to live. Their meals should be made up primarily of meats. Cats need a high protein source, kittens even more so.

So what’s the best pet food on the market? There is no one best food, it all depends on your animal.  Plus, people’s opinions will always vary. Some dogs need higher fat and protein than others; some prefer canned over dry. Feed what is appropriate for your pet: dogs need dog food, and puppies need puppy food (same with kittens). Try not to switch brands every month, but do not be afraid to switch brands and find one that your pet does well on. Use the guaranteed analysis, ingredients listings and feeding guidelines to help guide your decision.

The fact is, pet food labels are not easy to read and understand, and are often quite ambiguous. The labeling is not really consumer friendly in any way, and it takes a lot of research to know what exactly is in the food you are feeding your animal.

There is a lot of information to take in about pet food, and it’s quite the learning curve. I’m sure there is a part two of this post coming up at some point in the future. But I think the bottom line is, it’s better to know than not know, because it’s all about having the healthiest pet possible!

- Post by Megan

Georgia is one of the dogs rescued from the Michael Vick fighting ring, and she now resides at Best Friends Animal Santuary in Utah.

The fact that this is even being called into question completely appalls me – when I saw this article, I could hardly believe that any person who calls themselves a dog advocate would root for Michael Vick owning another dog in his lifetime, let alone a rep of a humane society.

Then, reading the quotes from Vick infuriated me even more – “I think it would be a big step for me in the rehabilitation process. I think just to have a pet in my household and to show people that I genuinely care, and my love, and my passion for animals.”

I do believe that people can change, to an extent. But I don’t think they can become entirely different people – I don’t think any person can go from guiltlessly electrocuting, hanging, beating, killing, neglecting, and fighting dogs, to having a “love and passion” for animals, genuinely caring for dogs and having them curled up beside them on the couch as their loyal companions. Plus, I think it’s ridiculous to say that it would “aid in his rehabilitation” – if he’s really so desperate to show that he’s willing to help animals and thinks that being around dogs the key to him totally reforming, why not look into volunteering at a shelter? But to place a dog under Vick’s care and ownership ever again would be completely absurd.

Not to mention the opening line of the article: “Michael Vick says he has a hard time explaining to his little girls why they can’t have a dog.” I literally laughed out loud – oh yeah, Michael Vick, you’re having a hard time? My heart goes out to you buddy. Definitely, you should be able to get a dog to save yourself that awkward conversation with your daughter.

I think it is fantastic that Vick has been touring to schools across the country, educating children about how awful dogfighting is, and I really think that it’s great to reform and try to do some good after being convicted of something so horrendous. But to grant Michael Vick the rights to have ownership of another dog, would be wrong on so many levels. Aside from the fact that there’s always a major inkling that Vick would not be a good owner to a dog based on his history, it would also be a step in the wrong direction for animal rights. PETA’s Lisa Lange sums it up best.

The Lost Dogs by Jim Gorant is a great story about the Vick dogs' tale of rescue and redemption.

“Just as convicted pedophiles aren’t allowed free access to children, anyone who is responsible for hanging, electrocuting, or shooting dogs and who causes them to suffer in other unimaginable ways should never again be allowed access to dogs,” Lisa Lange, vice president of the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, told the AJC. “All things considered, it is a very small price to pay, especially compared to the suffering endured by the dogs who were abused and killed in the Bad Newz Kennels.”

The bottom line is that no one who loves dogs would have EVER done anything close to what Vick did. I wholeheartedly believe that he does not deserve the unconditional love of a dog. The fact that he is now trying to prop himself up as a passionate animal lover is ridiculous to say the least, but letting Vick have another dog would also be a huge slap in the face to the many dogs that suffered and died under his fighting ring leadership. Other reasons aside, Vick should not be allowed to ever own another dog as a simple honour to the dogs he killed and/or made suffer. It is the very least he can do.

- Post by Kristen

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