Litters of kittens are starting to show up in animal shelters all over the U.S., but it is not too late to help reduce the impact of kitten season this year. Here are a few ways you can help make a difference:
Take Action From Your Home:
- Spread the word about spay and neuter on social media. Become a fan of your local low/no cost spay and neuter clinic and FiXiT to share the word about spay and neuter to your friends and family.
- Volunteer at GetYourFix.org to help pet owners in need anywhere in the country. Volunteers are sent special email challenges to inspire new action for animals. Make a difference in as little as 5 minutes!
- Support spay and neuter efforts. Your donations provide the needed funds to allow low and no cost programs in your community and for animal charity FiXiT to provide the solution for animal overpopulation.
Take Action Locally:
- Volunteer at your shelter and get kittens adoption ready. This is a busy time of year at shelters and they need assistance in all types of ways to keep things running smoothly to promote kitten adoption. Keep the kittens healthy by helping keep cages and laundry clean. Socialize those that need more interaction with people. Or help get cats adopted to make room for more.
- Organize a kitten season food/goods drive to support the extra burden. Work with your shelter to create a wish list (e.g. milk replacer, bottles, food, and litter) then enlist the support of a local retailer and their clientele to donate much these needed supplies. Or create an Amazon wish list for easy at home shopping!
- Foster kittens until they are adoption age. Space and time is a premium at busy shelters and until these little guys can be adopted, you can provide them with the love and care they deserve. New to the fostering world? Check out this informative guide from San Francisco SPCA.
- Create a handout listing low cost spay and neuter options in your community and make them readily available to those that need help getting their female fixed. You can check out the GetYourFix.org clinic database to create a list. Then keep them handy and in large supply at the local shelter and distribute them to local pet food retailers.
Any other ideas about how to make a difference for kittens?
photo credit: Graela via photopin cc
The halls have been decked, ugly sweater parties are in full swing, and stockings have been hung by the chimney with care. This holiday season, the FiXit Blog would like to remind readers of a few holiday-related hazards for dogs—and how you can avoid them to share a happy and healthy holiday season with your furry friends.
- Decorations are fun and festive, but poinsettia, holly, and mistletoe can be poisonous to pets. Be sure to keep these plants, as well as any pine needles and tree water, out of your animals’ reach.
- Place shiny ornaments, tinsel, and garlands (especially those made from popcorn and cranberries) higher up on your tree, away from your pooch.
- Tape all wires down to floors and/or walls so that your animals cannot chew on them.
- Holiday feasts are abundant, but rich food scraps or sweets can make dogs ill. Bones from human food also pose hazards to dogs and can splinter in their stomach. As a safe alternative, give your dog a special treat—one that’s made specifically for dogs.
- A walk is a great way to spend time with your canine companion and provide both of you with exercise. In wintry weather, consider providing your pooch some extra protection from the cold with a coat or sweater, especially if your dog is short-haired. After walks, wipe your dog’s legs, stomach, and paws to clean off any salt, antifreeze, or chemicals that can he or she may ingest through licking himself. These chemicals, as well as ice, may also irritate paws.
The holidays are a great time to show your loved ones, especially furry ones, just how special they are. Keeping them safe and comfortable is an ideal way to do so, plus a present or two is always appreciated.
Wishing you a bright holiday season and happy new year!
After a big win for ending puppy mills in L.A. recently, this week Ohio’s Breeder Bill (Senate Bill 130) is heading to the full House for a vote, possibly today, after being approved in the Senate back in February. This bill has long been in development and has gone through several revisions even in the last year. What has resulted is an increase in regulation of “high-volume breeders,” defined as an establishment that keeps, houses, and maintains adult breeding dogs that produce at least nine litters of puppies in any given calendar year and, in return for a fee or other consideration, sells sixty or more adult dogs or puppies per calendar year.
This bill will hold puppy mill operators accountable by the Department of Agriculture in following several requirements:
(1) licenses for a period of 1, 3, or 5 years,
(2) limited background checks,
(3) record keeping,
(4) insurance with specified limits depending on the number of dogs,
(5) procedures for inspections,
(6) identification of breeders, retailers and prior owners that is to be provided to consumers, or alternatively, health certificates to be provided to purchasers, and
(7) inclusion of vendor numbers on ads for the sale of a dog.
While it creates a commercial dog breeding oversight board to provide oversight and evaluation of the administration of the law, it as been accused of having minimal regulatory power and insufficient penalties for making an impact on puppy mills. It also does nothing to address smaller volume breeders, which at less than 9 litter per year is still significant, a category which many backyard breeders may fall into. Visit Animal Low Coalition’s critical review of the bill (from an anti-puppy mill perspective) for more details.
Is it progress? YES. Is it enough? Definitely not.
UPDATE 11/15/12: The bill passed through the House with a vote of 89-5.
“This is an industry that’s gone unchecked for too long in Ohio,” Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) said.
Now the bill has to go back to the Senate, after being revised in the House. After a post-Thanksgiving vote, we can hopefully put regulations for standard care and accountability in place in Ohio, one of the most popular locations for puppy mill operators.
photo credit: Brian Hathcock via photopin cc
At many animal shelters, black cats are off limits for adoption during October. This was the policy for one shelter where I volunteered in the past. I was told that people use them in satanic rituals or are commonly targeted and abused by young people, so best to keep them safe at the shelter. Looking back, I find it silly that I didn’t question this policy. I mean, we all know that silhouettes of black cats are a common addition to a spooky ambiance for Halloween and having a black cross your path is considered an omen of bad luck, but this superstitious thinking is preventing great cats from finding homes.
In a report by National Geographic back in 2007, the cautious actions of shelters that ban black cat adoptions were determined to be unwarranted. Satanic rituals are rare at best and targeting cats can happen at any time regardless of fur color by malicious individuals. Having these no adoption policies only perpetuates the myths that black cats are different than any other.
What is a real risk? Black cats (and dogs) not getting adopted. A sleek jaguar look may be great for a nocturnal hunter, but it does a homeless cat no favors. Potential adopters respond to stimulating colors, striking patterns, and facial expressions. Black cats, on the other hand, tend to look similar and are more common, which makes them harder to adopt.
Of course, FiXiT would prefer there to be fewer black cats that need homes. Help out the plight of the black cat – Sponsor the fix for one on GetYourFix.org and help a person in need while reducing the number of unwanted black kittens. Here are a few to choose from (another challenge for black cats is getting a good photo!):
4. Baby and family (Fix One Fix One Free candidates!)
As part of the Puppy Mill Awareness Month, we have learned that avoiding them is easier than ever with new tools and smart shopping. Unfortunately, some people have learned the hard way that supporting the puppy mill system is a no win situation.
Animal charity Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has been offering support and gathering information about what happens after an animal is removed from a puppy mill environment. They have recently released a report summarizing issues they hear about from puppy mill patrons on their puppy mill tip line and web complaint form. It paints a sad picture.
From 2007-2011, they have received 2479 complaints. At least one person a day steps up to describe what issues have plagued the animal they took into their homes to love and cherish. Many are looking for answers, such as where the puppy came from and how they can shut down the operation. Others just want to share their experience as a warning to other prospective purchasers.
Illness was the number one problem: 40% of all reports. Common issues include intestinal parasites, respiratory issues, infectious disease, ear issues, skin disorders, urinary problems, and hypoglycemia. Clearly, animals are not contained in a properly sanitized environment and not given the most basic health requirements.
Second to illness, congenital issues were the next most common complaint: 34% of calls. This points to irresponsible breeding, and not supporting a system to optimize genetic diversity within a breed. Problems were found in nervous, skeletal, sensory, cardiovascular, and digestive body systems. The effects of these issues appeared soon or long after purchase.
Most heartbreaking of all, for 15% of people, their puppy mill puppies died shortly after being brought home. The most common reasons were parvovirus, pneumonia, and congenital issues. Of course, this is a conservative estimate, as some of those suffering illness may have succumbed to the illness.
Of course, many hundreds of thousands of animals are purchased every year, and 2500 animals is only a small sample. But does this mean that it is insignificant? No way! There are several other means for puppy mill consumers to complain, and still the majority fails to complain at all. The report indicates that puppies are suffering all over the country.
You can read more about the other complaints and state to state differences. Read the full report.
I know I may be preaching to the choir, but use the lessons learned by thousands of others to be educated about the risks of purchasing a puppy from pet stores and irresponsible breeders. Spread the word about these risks to friends and families that fall for the cute puppy dog eyes looking at them in their local pet store. Support local legislation to challenge puppy mill activity and support transparency and accountability in dog and cat breeding.
photo credit: left-hand via photopin cc
At least once a week, I receive an email alert to a situation where tens or hundreds of animals are rescued from horrific conditions as part of a puppy mill bust. Just this week, 200 dogs were taken from a breeding operation in Edgefield County, South Carolina, after neighbors complained of loud barking and a rancid smell coming from the property.
How can these places get away with such horrific treatment of animals?
This month is dedicated to puppy mill awareness. First, what is a puppy mill? It is not just a term animal advocates use to scare potential buyers. Puppy mills are “large-scale breeding operations that produces large numbers of puppies for profit.” To optimize profit margins, mill operators may break minimum federal standards (set by the Animal Welfare Act) and state cruelty laws. This situation often displays itself as unsanitary and overcrowded conditions, poorly socialized animals, and overbred females.
It is now easier than every to avoid supporting these factory breeders that are acting irresponsibly and failing to give animals the most basic of necessities. Here are some tips:
1. Animal charity ASPCA has just launched a new searchable database of stores that offer dogs. They distinguish retailers as “stores that sell puppies” to avoid and “stores that offer adopts.” Essentially, avoid pet stores with puppies.
2. Beware of buying puppies online or sight unseen. If you use Google, Craigslist.com, PuppyFind.com, etc. to find a puppy, recent proposed improvements in the Animal Welfare Act made by the USDA would insure proper care for these animals, but until this is enacted, online sales of animals are NOT regulated. Therefore, there is no guarantee that the animal you are purchasing comes from a healthy environment.
3. Of course, choose adoption! Petfinder.com and Petango.com are two among many online resources to find not only shelter animals, but the wide assortment of breed rescue groups. For almost every breed, there is a group (or more likely many) that supports their rehoming.
And as for the South Carolina mill operator, she has been arrested on 7 counts of ill treatment to animals with more charges likely to follow.
photo credit: Ollie-G via photo pin cc
This week I sent out a quiz to our Causes supporters – join if you haven’t already. The question was “What is the top reason why pet owners haven’t fixed their cats and dogs?” Targeting these reasons is how FiXiT believes we can end overpopulation for good, but the number one reason may surprise you.
[SPOILER ALERT: Go take the quiz now if you want to assess your knowledge of pet owner behavior.]
The answer is “Animal is too Young.” Now that I am managing the mobile spay/neuter van on St. Croix, I am again regularly fielding calls and answering questions from pet owners. The common question: How early can I get my kitten or puppy fixed? Clearly, there are some assumptions being made by people who have accidentally bred their dog or cat about when their litters can be fixed. And many use that excuse for not fixing the adorable furry products of those accidents.
So what is the answer? What is the minimum age for a safe spay/neuter procedure?
Pediatric spay/neuter (prepubertal gonadectomy) generally takes place between ages 8-16 weeks, but can be performed as early as 6 weeks. This is commonly recommended in a setting where population control is a high priority, such as an animal shelter. There are known health advantages for getting fixed at this age, including reducing the incidence of mammary tumors (the most common type of tumor) in females and behavioral problems. The surgeries are also quicker, easier, less expensive, and result in fewer post-operative complications than for older patients. Recovery and healing are also faster.
So why have private vets traditionally recommend clients to wait as late as 6-8 months before fixing cats and dogs? There has historically been some concern for long-term physiological consequences from pediatric spay/neuter, including:
- Stunted growth
- Cranial cruciate ligament rupture
- Hip dysplasia
- Behavioral problems
- Lower urinary tract disease
- Secondary sex characteristics
- Urinary incontinence
- Infectious disease
- Diabetes mellitus
- Neoplasia (cancer)
Some of these we have discussed as issues generally associated with spay/neuter; however, there is now a growing body of long-term studies that indicate that most of these concerns are not supported. Pediatric spay is now promoted by the top animal welfare and veterinary organizations.
In fact, studies by Dr. Lisa Howe at the Texas A&M Veterinary College (2000, 2001) concluded that there was not a significant increase in long-term physical or behavioral problems for either dogs or cats. Dr. Vic Spain at Cornell University (2004) published a study that concluded that early neuter provided more benefits than risks in male dogs, but waiting until 12 weeks benefitted female dogs by reducing the risk of urinary incontinence. However, the risk of urinary incontinence was not see in the Howe studies and actually was found to be less likely than a post-puberty spay in a third study.
For a break down of specific studies for each of these concerns, I recommend reading articles by ASPCApro
Keep in mind that some of these issues are more likely in some breeds
than others, and you should consider your companion animal specifically when choosing the exact timing. However, it is better to be safe than sorry and reducing the number of homeless animals entering shelters can be done with early spay/neuter.
Nearly one year ago, Irene was pushing its way across the Atlantic and up the eastern seaboard. Now I am getting prepared for Isaac to come through the Virgin Islands tomorrow. It will likely remain a tropical storm for me, but is set to develop shortly after — just like Irene. We have to face it. It is officially that time of year — hurricane season.
Since our blogger, Shelly, did such a great job last year of summarizing some critical information for natural disaster preparedness for keeping our companion animals safe, here is a repost of her article “Come on Irene…“:
This week Mother Nature did her very best to let us East-Coasters know who’s really in charge. An historic 5.8 earthquake—in the middle of Virginia, of all places—followed up with the approaching Level 3 Hurricane Irene, has made for an impressive one-two punch. And, while I realize I’ve blogged previously about natural disaster preparedness, it’s such a vital part of living with companion animals that I chose to reiterate its importance again this week as we all hit the stores for supplies. So be sure to add the following to your lists of batteries, flashlights, bottled water and dry goods:
Keep vaccination, microchip records and an up-to-date list of hotel and motels in your targeted evacuation area that allow pets with the “people papers” you would grab on your way out the door. Many hotels, motels and temporary shelters require these if you need them to accommodate Fluffy during evacuations.
Carriers and leashes:
Have them both accessible and always bring them when you evacuate. Even if it’s not Fido’s favorite place to be, most evacuation sites that allow animals will require that animals be in carriers.
Food and water:
Keep a travel pack of food and water that you can grab on your way out the door. If supplies get low at local stores before and during a disaster, you won’t be stuck with a hungry kitty.
Your animal should have a collar and ID tag on at all times anyway, but this is particularly important during evacuation situations. Too, be sure that the tag contains a cell phone number, if you have one, so that you can be reached while away from your home should you and your companions be separated for any reason.
Don’t ever leave your animals behind:
Don’t ever leave your animals behind. If you are without transportation and would, therefore, have to rely on others to help you evacuate, including city owned transportation systems, be sure to call before a disaster occurs to inquire about their “people-with-pets” evacuation regulations. Be sure to get their policy in writing, and keep it with your other important papers.
Don’t ever leave your animal once you have evacuated:
Sadly, “dog-nappers” and “bunchers” (slime balls who steal animals to sell to testing facilities) don’t take time off during disasters, so don’t leave your animal even for a minute.
Designate a particular day each year—ours is the first day of summer—as the day to update all of the above information and to check for the required supplies you need to ensure a safe evacuation for your animals.
It is estimated that nearly 12,000 animals died in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, 2000-3000 of those in the New Orleans area alone. Having a well-organized disaster plan that includes your companion animals can prevent your companion from becoming one of these statistics. Too, being prepared will make a potentially frightening situation run more smoothly for you and your family members, even those with four legs.
HSUS is one animal charity that has devoted resources to help support natural disaster preparedness and change the laws protecting animals in cases of natural disasters. Visit their site for more information.
Facebook photo credit: eschulz via photo pin cc
Our latest offer for our Final Fix Project is a free ice cream cone for every spay or neuter (good only on St. Croix, VI!). While searching around for pictures of a dog eating ice cream for our marketing, I came across an article that stating that this combo is a big no no. I know a lot of us cave in to our little beggars and give a bite here and there and I have been seeing lots of recipes that include frozen yoghurt as summer dog treats, so I thought I would share the ASPCA’s list of problematic treats.
If you suspect your pet has eaten any of the following foods, please note the amount ingested and contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.
Chocolate, Coffee, Caffeine
These products all contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds, the fruit of the plant used to make coffee and in the nuts of an extract used in some sodas. When ingested by pets, methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death. Note that darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines, while baking chocolate contains the highest.
Alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death.
The leaves, fruit, seeds and bark of avocados contain Persin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. Birds and rodents are especially sensitive to avocado poisoning, and can develop congestion, difficulty breathing and fluid accumulation around the heart. Some ingestions may even be fatal.
Macadamia nuts are commonly used in many cookies and candies. However, they can cause problems for your canine companion. These nuts have caused weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and last approximately 12 to 48 hours.
Grapes & Raisins
Although the toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown, these fruits can cause kidney failure. In pets who already have certain health problems, signs may be more dramatic.
Yeast dough can rise and cause gas to accumulate in your pet’s digestive system. This can be painful and can cause the stomach or intestines to rupture. Because the risk diminishes after the dough is cooked and the yeast has fully risen, pets can have small bits of bread as treats. However, these treats should not constitute more than 5 percent to 10 percent of your pet’s daily caloric intake.
Raw/Undercooked Meat, Eggs and Bones
Raw meat and raw eggs can contain bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli that can be harmful to pets. In addition, raw eggs contain an enzyme called avidin that decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin), which can lead to skin and coat problems. Feeding your pet raw bones may seem like a natural and healthy option that might occur if your pet lived in the wild. However, this can be very dangerous for a domestic pet, who might choke on bones, or sustain a grave injury should the bone splinter and become lodged in or puncture your pet’s digestive tract.
Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste. It can cause insulin release in most species, which can lead to liver failure. The increase in insulin leads to hypoglycemia (lowered sugar levels). Initial signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy and loss of coordination. Signs can progress to recumbancy and seizures. Elevated liver enzymes and liver failure can be seen within a few days.
Onions, Garlic, Chives
These vegetables and herbs can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage. Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed. Toxicity is normally diagnosed through history, clinical signs and microscopic confirmation of Heinz bodies. An occasional low dose, such as what might be found in pet foods or treats, likely will not cause a problem, but we recommend that you do NOT give your pets large quantities of these foods.
Because pets do not possess significant amounts of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk), milk and other milk-based products cause them diarrhea or other digestive upset.
Large amounts of salt can produce excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium ion poisoning in pets. Signs that your pet may have eaten too many salty foods include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death. In other words, keep those salty chips to yourself!
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/seatbelt67/490207356/”>Brian Hillegas</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photo pin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>
Summer time is heating up and you are finalizing your vacation plans. You ask yourself, “What should I do with the dog?” Should he stay or should he go? You are thinking about how safe will he be, how happy will he be, how convenient will it by for you, and of course, the cost.
In general, travel with animals is easier than ever. In fact, 60% of pet owners made the choice to travel with their pets in 2010 and this number has increased 300% since 2005. There are many hotels and getaway rentals that permit and even specialize in animal guests, and there are many resources that you can use to plan for doggy-friendly activities wherever you go. Here are a few that I found useful and interesting:
Most of you that have decided to bring your dog are going for a car ride, 76% of you, in fact. Only 6% of travelers will take their pets to the skies. So before taking off on that adventure, here are a few car travel tips to make it a safe and pleasant experience for everyone.
- Make a list and check it twice. Before a vacation with the pup, make a packing checklist for your dog. A prepared vacation is a happy one. This includes not only basic necessities, such as food and water, but also supplies in case of emergencies: unplanned bathroom breaks, escapes, and medical situations.
- Clean bill of health. Many dogs and cats do not travel well in a car. Consider speaking with your vet about sedatives. Also, consider potential treatments for travel-sickness, anxiety, diarrhea, bug bites and stings, and don’t forget flea and tick protection. Be sure to get recommended dosages from your vet before giving your pet any medications.
- Riding in the car can be a hazard. A car becomes both a dog and human hazard, if Fido is left unrestrained. A sudden stop, or even an accident can send your pet flying. A 2011 survey by AAA and Kurgo dog products revealed that giving the dog free will in the car is a MAJOR distraction, increasing the risk of an accident. More than 80% of people acknowledged unrestrained dogs in moving vehicles were dangerous, yet only 16% use a pet restraint and 39% never considered a restraint. To remedy this problem, pick up a special seatbelt-like harnesses, safety barriers, crates or carriers to keep you and your dog safe.
- Don’t leave Fido in the car. You know that half the fun of a road trip is getting out to eat and take in the sights. Remember that leaving the dog in the car is risky business, as the temperatures rise quickly and leave your dog at risk of heat stroke or dehydration. Take a look at our blogs, “Dangers of Dog Days of Summer” and “Keep Your Dog Cool with These Life-Saving Tips”, for details on the dangers and solutions for the problem.
Some simple preparation could make a big difference for your dog-filled vacation. If taking your dog on the road is in your plans, tell us about it! What tips or lessons can you share? Would you do it again?