Next to physical abuse of a pet, another thing that upsets me terribly is when I see a fat pet. In my eyes, that’s abuse too. Some people think it’s cute to watch a dog waddling as he walks or when a cat’s belly sways back and forth, almost hitting the ground. It’s cruel because pets are at our mercy; they don’t have the ability to understand that they are overeating or not getting enough exercise. When we overfeed our pets and allow them to get dangerously overweight, we are putting their health and comfort at risk.
I’ve met people who say that they love their pets so much that they want to give the pets whatever they want, as much food as the pet wants. Other people say that their dogs beg so much and the only way to stop the begging is to keep feeding the dog. I don’t agree with either of these excuses. Would you give your child anything he wanted because you love him so much, or overfeed the child because she wants to eat all the time? No, we shouldn’t but sadly some people do this anyway.
Overweight pets are more prone to diabetes, heart disease, joint issues and other health problems. Many overweight pets have disc problems in their backs and torn ligaments. All of these issues will end up costing the owner a lot of money in vet bills, and will most certainly shorten the pet’s life. And in some cases, when people cannot afford the vet bills, the pets will be surrendered to a shelter or euthanized.
A small amount of treats or human food can add up to a lot of weight gain for a small pet. Just an extra handful of food can mean unnecessary weight gain. I once worked with a client who had a very fat Pug. I asked her what she was feeding him and she was giving him the right amount of food at mealtime. However, every time the dog went outside, she gave him a treat for coming in. A large dog biscuit! He went out about 10 times a day. Wow, the calories from the biscuits were more than his meals! I suggested that she break up the treats into smaller bits, buy smaller treats, or better yet, use some of his food and not feed him as much at mealtime.
Some people don’t know how much to feed their pets, so they just fill their pets’ bowls and allow the pets to eat whatever they want. It’s so very important to read the food label and know how much is appropriate for your pet’s weight.
Exercise is another issue. We all live busy lives and probably don’t exercise enough to keep ourselves healthy. Again, pets are at our mercy to give them exercise. Every dog should have at least one walk a day, not just for physical health but also for mental health as well. Dogs love to explore other places! What fun it is to go out for a nice walk with your dog. And as for cats, get out the toys and play with them. Get them moving.
So it’s not just people who are having an obesity crisis in this country. Our pets are too. If we care about our own health, then we will care about our pets’ health.
This past week, the ARL has witnessed two incidences of anger either directed at an animal or resulting from an animal-related episode. These are the incidences that we know of. How many other animals are suffering at the hands of people who cannot control their anger? Each day, animals are the victims of abuse because someone cannot control their rage.
You may have seen the article on the WFMZ web site or read about it in The Reading Eagle. On Saturday, February 12, a man brought a dog into the ARL and wanted to see a veterinarian. When asked what was wrong with the dog, he said that the dog had lost the use of its back legs. It was paralyzed. Upon further questioning, the man admitted that he caused the dog’s paralysis. According to the man, the Miniature Pinscher/Chihuahua mix had urinated on the carpet and when the man tried to rub the dog’s nose in it, the dog snapped at him. (That’s not the way to train a dog!) The man got angry at the dog and threw it against the wall. The dog’s spine was fractured in several places and he needed to be euthanized. That man is now in jail.
In the other incident last week, a man came into the ARL. He was visibly angry, continually clenching his fists and speaking with agitation. He was upset because three years prior, he had been issued a citation for his dog not having a license and needing vaccinations. Three years ago! When asked why he was there after so long, he rattled on that he saw a relative’s dog being abused – last year. There was no obvious reason why this man had come into the ARL. All we know is that he was enraged at something and probably decided to take it out on someone. It was scary how angry he was for no apparent recent reason.
We all experience anger but healthy individuals know how to deal with it. We stop and consider the consequences of our actions. Those who cannot control their anger will react without regard for those consequences. Sadly, these people will take out their anger on someone or something that is weaker than themselves. Animals have little or no defense abilities, making them easy targets.
According to the American Psychological Association (www.apa.org), “People use a variety of both conscious and unconscious processes to deal with their angry feelings. The three main approaches are expressing, suppressing, and calming. Expressing your angry feelings in an assertive—not aggressive—manner is the healthiest way to express anger. To do this, you have to learn how to make clear what your needs are, and how to get them met, without hurting others. Being assertive doesn't mean being pushy or demanding; it means being respectful of yourself and others.” Unexpressed anger is unhealthy; however, expressing it in aggression is worse.
If you know of someone who has an anger issue, try to get help for them. You or someone you love could be in danger. And please ensure that if a pet is involved, see that the pet is protected.
The biggest event of the doggie year begins tonight. Even more glamorous than the Oscars and the Emmys, its participants are preened and primped for their red carpet walk. Yes, it’s the Westminster Dog Show, where all American Kennel Club dog breeds get to strut their stuff and compete for Best in Show. To some people, getting to this show is like winning an Oscar or an Emmy. Other people may view the show as an antiquated tradition that parallels human beauty contests and needs to go away. Why the disparate viewpoints? After all, what animal lover doesn’t enjoy watching the country’s most beautiful dogs?
Serious dog breeders aspire to take their dogs to Westminster. It proves that their dogs have the finest qualities that meet the standards of a pure bred dog. (You won’t see puppy mill breeders at this show. As we know, they don’t care about the quality of their dogs.) These are the breeders that we want to see; we want them to excel with promoting a well –bred dog. These breeders are in the show and breeding dogs because they love it, they love the dogs. Typically, they aren’t making lots of money from it either. Only the dogs who achieve Best in Breed, Best in Group and Best in Show can command top dollar for breeding privileges. The other breeders have bragging rights that their dogs went to Westminster but that usually doesn’t translate into really big bucks. These quality breeders are not making anywhere near what puppy mill breeders pull in.
As a requirement of being a show dog, the dogs cannot be spayed or neutered. They must be intact because one of the benefits of winning in a dog show is the propagation of the good qualities of the breed. While this fact flies in the face of animal welfare advocates pronouncing that all dogs need to be spayed and neutered, we can make a case for allowing these show dogs to continue breeding. We definitely want to be sure that the best qualities of the breeds will be reproduced and preserved. After all, we really don’t want to see the sub-standard qualities that come out of puppy mills become the new breed standards. After so many years of working with dogs who have come out of puppy mills, it always astounds me to watch dog shows and see what the breeds truly should look like. The dogs from puppy mills often don’t even come close to looking like their breed standards.
Those are the reasons to make the case for Westminster and other dog shows to continue the tradition. So then, why should dog shows be discouraged? Two simple reasons: 1) People will watch Westminster and see a dog that they like – they like the looks of the dog. 2) The show is strictly about looks and does not address behavior. Why is this a problem? Because people see a breed that they like and will want to get a puppy of that breed. Sales of puppies always go up immediately after Westminster. The “adopt, don’t buy” movement suffers a setback. And the other reason why dog shows are a problem is that the dogs’ behaviors are not part of the show. As anyone who knows dogs will tell you, each breed was bred for a purpose. That purpose is generally not discussed at Westminster. You’ll see a beautiful Collie, for example, and think that you want that kind of dog. But at no time during Westminster will you see the energy and herding instinct that a Collie exhibits when not being restrained on a show floor. Herding dogs require experienced owners, as do many of the working breeds.
When people see a dog that they like during the showing of Westminster, they may set out to find a puppy of that breed. When they experience difficulty locating a good breeder, they may turn to a puppy mill or a pet store (whether they know it or not). For many people, the determination for finding “just that dog” overrides any consideration of where and how the pup was bred. Sadly, dogs are still an emotional, impulse purchase and watching Westminster only fuels that impulsiveness.
Actress Jane Lynch, star of Glee, is promoting that the USA network run a PETA ad during Westminster that discourages buying dogs: Jane Lynch Wants Dog Ad. What are your feelings about the effects of Westminster on the public’s inclination to buy or adopt a dog?
The word “rescue” can be used to mean many things. As a verb, it means to be saved from danger or to be set free from bondage or to be found after being lost. In the animal world, it’s most commonly used as a noun to define a group of individuals or an organization with the intention of saving animals. But just what does that mean? When does the noun become a verb?
If the pet was in physical danger where it was living, i.e., on the streets or in an abusive, neglectful home, and it is removed from that situation to go to a shelter or a safe home then it has been rescued. The suffering has been diminished or eliminated. But if the pet is going from one bad situation to another bad situation, then that is not rescue.
Hoarders may start out with the best intentions of saving pets in peril and the animals end up in as bad or worse situations. Also, some well-meaning people who take in survivors from puppy mills or from shelters can quickly get overwhelmed. We see these cases in the news very frequently. Are the animals really rescued if they are living in conditions that are not much better than where they came from?
Just because a pet is pulled from a shelter when it was in danger of being euthanized does not always mean it has been rescued. Are the conditions of the new living quarters adequate? Is it getting the physical and emotional attention it needs? I’ve heard of people who pull pets from shelters, thinking that they are “rescuing” them, only to not be able to afford the proper veterinary care for the pet or they have so many pets that they cannot possibly give them all the attention they deserve. That’s not rescue.
The Animal Rescue League frequently brings in pets from less than optimal situations. We work with quite a few rescue organizations to get pets out of the shelter and into good homes. We also have our own foster program that finds homes for older pets or those who have physical issues. We have selected only those rescue organizations with the best credentials and success with placing pets in good homes. For the pets who remain in the shelter, we do our utmost to ensure that the pets go to the best homes possible.
A pet is not truly rescued unless it finds that good, forever home.