Many of you may have seen the article in the Reading Eagle about a 10-month-old Pit Bull who was doused with gasoline and set afire over the weekend. The young dog was brought here to the ARL by Nicole Van Art who was on call that day. I talked to Nicole about the dog’s condition. Nicole said that it appeared the gasoline was poured from above the dog onto her back and as the liquid dripped down the sides of her body, she was set on fire. There were no burns on her head or legs. But the burns on her back were through the skin that Nicole could see her muscles. The poor dog was conscious and every time she tried to sit down, she whimpered in pain. Someone must have used a fire extinguisher to put out the fire because Nicole’s hands were covered with white powder from handling the injured dog. Through all of this, the dog never tried to harm Nicole, living up to the fact the Pit Bulls by nature are loving and trusting dogs unless they fall into the wrong hands.
Personally, I’m sick of this mistreatment of animals for several reasons. First, and most obviously, why do the innocent animals have to suffer at the hands of people who feel they have no power in their own lives so they instead turn to abusing animals? Second, I can’t stand to watch what this situation does to the staff here and at other shelters who are constantly dealing with the after-effects of human depravity. Lastly, whoever did this horrific thing to this dog did more than harm the dog. The dog was loved by someone who will forever be haunted by the memory of her dog having to suffer and die senselessly.
Coincidentally, the teens who burned Phoenix, the Pit Bull, in Baltimore in May were indicted three weeks ago. (I wrote about this crime in my blog last June. She was brought up to Pennsylvania by Main Line Animal Rescue and treated then euthanized at Metropolitan Veterinary Hospital in Trooper.) The teens have been charged with five counts of animal abuse and cruelty and will be arraigned on December 9. Let’s hope that they get a stiff sentence which sends a clear message to all that animal cruelty will not be tolerated.
The staff and animals at the ARL extend a Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and their pets. Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude and being with those we love. I hope that your pets are included in your holiday celebration. Just as Thanksgiving can be loads of fun, it also may be hazardous for our pets. Undoubtedly, Thanksgiving is about food, and we want to share the love with our pets by giving them some of our special feasts. Here are a few reminders of things NOT to give to your pets:
Turkey: No dark meat, skin or bones. Although many pets are okay with white meat, some may not be able to handle it. My dog is one of them - he gets terrible diarrhea from just the tiniest piece - so it’s usually best to avoid all turkey if you’re not sure.
Onions: I love onions in stuffing, as do most people, so please be careful if you are tempted to give your pet this tasty treat. Onions can cause fatal anemia in dogs.
Chocolate: Theobromine in chocolate affects pets’ nervous systems and may lead to death. Dark chocolate contains higher levels of theobromine. Carob is a substitute for chocolate if you really want to give your pets a sweet treat.
Raisins/Grapes: Fruit should be healthy for pets because it’s healthy for us, right? Not true. Raisins and large quantities of grapes can kill dogs because they contain a chemical which harms the dogs’ kidneys. Some other fruits can harm pets - the seeds/pits of apples, cherries, apricots, plums and peaches contain a type of cyanide which can be harmful.
Fatty Foods (such as gravy): Dogs are susceptible to pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, which can occur from too much fat. Symptoms of pancreatitis are vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy.
Avoid too many table scraps: A change in your pet’s diet can also cause pancreatitis. So if you give your pet too much human food, it can upset their pancreas.
Some other tips to keep your pets safe:
Secure your garbage cans: Although you may be diligent with not giving your pets any of the above foods, the smells in our garbage cans entice the craftiest pet to explore and indulge.
Keep pets out of the kitchen if possible when cooking and serving: Hot foods could accidentally fall or spill on your pets, knives can be dropped, hot ovens and stoves are hazardous. Not to mention, pets can get in our way. Anyone ever tripped on your pet? How embarrassing to be serving that beautiful roast turkey and send it flying in the air because your dog or cat cut you off!
Train your guests: Some of your guests may love your pets as much as you do and want to share their food with them. Remind them of the above hazards and kindly request that they comply.
Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!
I was listening to a radio talk show on my drive to work this morning about people’s funniest Thanksgiving stories. One lady told a story of many years ago how she was thawing her turkey on her back porch in one of those old-style metal milk boxes (okay, I’m giving away my age - remember them?). On Thanksgiving morning, she opened the door to retrieve her bird to cook it and a very large and very hungry raccoon was dragging the turkey across her lawn! Duh! In those days, grocery stores were closed on the holidays so she realized that she could never get another turkey. She started chasing the raccoon to retrieve the 25-pound bird. Luckily, the raccoon dropped it and ran away. The woman said that the raccoon had left puncture marks on the bottom of the turkey, so in desperation, she cut away the areas that were chewed, cooked and served the turkey. Miraculously, no one got sick but they were incredibly lucky. If that raccoon had had rabies, they may have gotten sick. If this happens to you, forego the turkey and chose to have a vegetarian dinner!
I know that this kind of story doesn’t happen often (at least I hope not!) but it’s worth reminding everyone that raccoons and other wildlife carry rabies and other diseases. We’ve heard that the large majority of raccoons in our area are rabid.
And speaking of wildlife, the deer rut season is upon us. They are much more active during this time and frequently run into the roads, day or night. I’m seeing quite a few dead deer on the side of the roads. Be extra careful; stay safe for the holidays!
You may have seen or heard about the very small house in Reading where we removed over 40 animals a couple of weeks ago. I had never seen a house where animals were hoarded, so the staff here asked if I’d like to come along. Sure, I said! I hear them talk all the time about their cases and now was my chance to see something first-hand. They had already taken most of the animals out but we needed to go back to get a few cats who had been elusive. The outside appearance of the house was just a tiny preview of what was inside. The upstairs windows were boarded up; the wooden front porch was breaking apart and a small garden overflowed with the scraggly last vestiges of summer flowers. I was already filled with sadness and this was just the beginning.
We entered the foyer and were only able to walk into the house single file. Then the smell hit me. Oh boy. Yes, cats were living here! My eyes started to water from the ammonia odor. Just about every possible floor space was occupied, floor-to-ceiling. This person was more than just an animal hoarder. Dog and cat crates and bird cages were in every area of the first floor, stacked one on top of the other. The floor was covered with paper products – blow-ins from magazines, feces-covered newspapers in the kitchen. Parts of the ceiling were falling down with holes that you could almost see through to the upstairs. I could go on and on with the description of the scenes but what’s most important is how this can happen to someone. As we walked around, my sorrow overwhelmed me more than the odors. How could anyone live like this, and what was the tipping point that sent this person over the edge?
According to animalhoarding.com, “people who hoard animals may use them to fulfill emotional needs that had been previously met by human interaction.” It then turns to obsessive hoarding which consumes all available resources of time, money, and emotion. Most hoarders start out with the best intentions but then can be quickly overwhelmed.
The animals taken from the home in Reading were mostly well-cared for, up-to-date on their shots and not under-fed. Obviously, any money this person had was used for the animals and not for up-keep of the home. However, the animals were living in a prison. Physical health is one thing but mental health is equally important.
Hoarding is a sickness. If you know anyone who is showing signs of going over the edge, seek help for them please.
The Animal Rescue League is mourning the loss of a special friend. Jim McCauley, husband of ARL board member Liz McCauley, passed away on Saturday after a brief but courageous battle with cancer. He was only 46. I had the honor of working with Jim not soon after I began working here. Jim donated a great deal of his time to design the first ARL newsletter that I wrote, the Fall/Winter 2008 edition. Many of the designs you see in current versions of our newsletter still include his creativity. Jim was a patient man to work with. It was my first crack at writing and editing an entire print newsletter, and Jim helped me through it.
Jim’s wife, Liz, is an equally generous and giving person. Always smiling, Liz takes time from her busy schedule to attend board meetings and volunteer at ARL events. Our hearts go out to you, Liz, in your time of loss. We hope that your sweet Shiba Inus will bring you solace and love as only our animals can during this very difficult time.
It amazes me that we have lived with dogs for tens of thousands of years and many of us still don’t realize that dogs don’t think the same way as humans. I’ve recently heard stories of two-dog families where the dogs occasionally get into squabbles. Okay, squabble is too soft a word, the dogs fight! Dog fights can be dangerous for not only the dogs but for the person who tries to intervene. Unfortunately, our human brains tell us to yell at the dogs like they are children to stop fighting (or to stop a fight that’s about to occur). Or old-style dog trainers still recommend squirting water in the dog’s face if a dog growls at another dog. Both of these methods are counter-intuitive and counter-productive to rectify the situation.
Why? First, let’s discuss the yelling. When dogs growl at each other, it is a sign of anxiety for some reason or another. Anxiety is fueled by adrenaline rising in the dog’s body. To stop a dog fight, it is necessary to bring down the adrenaline and calm the anxiety. But the screamers that we humans are, here we come into the middle and add more adrenaline to the situation by yelling. Yelling and other out of control behaviors such as clapping can make matters worse. Yes, it may stop the dog fight from occurring temporarily in some cases. In most cases, it escalates the problem. But you haven’t done anything to prevent the dogs from fighting in the future by yelling at them. You’ve just caused the dogs to associate more unpleasantness when they are near each other. The same goes for the water bottle. The dog is thinking, “hmm, whenever I come near Fido, I get squirted in the face, so Fido must be bad.” Yes, this is the way dogs think. It’s all about association.
If you want your dogs to get along, the key is positive associations with each other. We want our dogs to think that “good things happen” when they are near each other. So instead of yelling and banging, and reinforcing your dogs’ opinion that whenever they are together they get screamed at, try working with the dogs in short training sessions using high value treats. Get some canned chicken or really good food that they normally don't have. Calmly and happily ask the dogs to sit and feed them the treats. With time and effort, the dogs should come to associate being together as a good thing!
And if your dogs have a habit of growling at one another, remain calm and quietly redirect one of the dogs to another behavior. As an example, pick up a toy and get the dog interested in that instead of the other dog. But by all means, keep the energy level down so that you aren’t fueling more adrenaline. If your dogs continue to have issues, seek help with a qualified behavior specialist.