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Archive for December, 2009

Top Ten Animal Stories of the Closing Decade

December 30th, 2009 No comments
Greater Awareness of Puppy Mills and Laws Regulating Breeders

Greater Awareness of Puppy Mills and Laws Regulating Breeders

Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States has compiled a list of the top ten animal stories of the first decade of the new millennium.  Among the top ten animal stories of the past decade are:

  • Hurricane Katrina, which “resulted in the largest animal rescue operation in history.”  The disaster spawned an outpouring of donations to animal rescue organizations and influenced the passage in Congress of the Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS), as well as new legislation in a number of states that sets policies on responding to the needs of animals during a disaster.
  • Michael Vick’s arrest for dog fighting, which brought to light the horrors of forcing animals to fight for sport.  According to Pacelle, “The Vick case resulted in more than half of the states upgrading their laws and a doubling of arrests, as well as an upgrade of the federal law against animal fighting.”  Partly owing to the Michael Vick case, animal fighting is now illegal in all U.S. states.

    More Humane Treatment of Animals Used for Food Production

    More Humane Treatment of Animals Used for Food Production

  • Advances in the treatment of animals used for food production, including a federal ban on the mistreatment of “downer cows” (cattle too sick or injured to walk on their own), and state bans on the long-term confinement of animals on factory farms.
  • Oprah Winfrey’s series on puppy mills.  In 2008, Oprah Winfrey did a series of programs on her influential talk show exposing the horrific realities of puppy mills.  Since the broadcasts, HSUS has rescued thousands of animals from puppy mills, ten states have approved legislation imposing stricter standards on large-scale breeding operations, and public pressure has caused pet stores to either close altogether or to stop selling puppy mill dogs.

We hope that the coming decade brings about further advances in how we, as a society, treat the animals in our care and at our mercy.

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Categories: Dogs in the News

Make Pet Safety a Priority This Christmas

December 10th, 2009 3 comments

The Best Christmas Gift for Your Dog is a Safe Environment

The Best Christmas Gift for Your Dog is a Safe Environment

Give Your Dog the Gift of Safety for Christmas

Those of us who celebrate Christmas like to share the good times with all our loved ones, including our dogs.  But it is a good idea to keep in mind that some of our favorite Christmas traditions could potentially be dangerous for our pets if we are not careful.  Here are some things to keep in mind when celebrating Christmas in a household with dogs.

Christmas Ornaments

Christmas ornaments of any kind can pose a safety hazard for your dog.  Glass, plastic or beaded Christmas ornaments look beautiful hanging from the tree or decorating a table setting.  But these items could prove irresistible to your pooch.  If your dog plays with Christmas ornaments, serious injuries could result – from cuts to her paws and mouth to choking to intestinal blockage and bowel obstruction.

Therefore, it is best to make every effort to keep your dog away from Christmas ornaments and accessories entirely.  And while you are at it, keep the tinsel and the metal ornament hangers out of reach for the same reasons.

Christmas Lights

Christmas lights can give your holiday a warm glow.  But your dog will thank you for removing the temptation to chew on the electrical cords.  According to Dr. Foster, if a dog chews through the rubber coating on an electrical cord, it will receive a severe electrical shock when its teeth come into contact with the wires.  This can result in painful burns in and around the dog’s mouth, which can lead to redness, irritation and possibly infection.

In severe cases, the electrical current may travel through the dog’s body and cause damage to his lungs.  Dogs that have experienced damage to their lungs will show signs of difficulty in breathing as their lungs fill with fluid.  Left untreated, such damage can be deadly.

Keep Your Dog's Health and Safety in Mind This Christmas

Keep Your Dog's Health and Safety in Mind This Christmas

Christmas Tree and Other Holiday Plants

If you use a natural Christmas tree, you will need to place it in a tree stand filled with water.  And in order to keep the tree fresh and beautiful through Christmas Day, many people mix fertilizers and other solutions with the water in the tree stand.  If your pet drinks the water in the tree stand, she may end up with mouth and stomach irritation from the additives.  So consider investing in a tree stand that comes with a cover so your dog cannot drink the water.

Poinsettias are often cited as a dangerous holiday plant for pets.  It usually takes the ingestion of quite a large amount of the plant to cause a problem.  But if your dog has been nibbling at the poinsettia, look for signs of vomiting, loss of appetite and lethargy, and contact your veterinarian if they occur.

Mistletoe berries, in contrast to poinsettia, can be highly toxic to dogs even in small amounts.  The ingestion of only one or two mistletoe berries can be fatal to your dog.  If you are hanging mistletoe around the house, be sure and keep the berries away from the dog.

Feeding Your Dog Unfamiliar Foods

Although we look forward every year to our big Christmas feasts, it is best to maintain your dog’s normal diet during the holidays.  Fatty table scraps can cause intestinal discomfort at best for your dog, and cooked turkey bones present a serious choking hazard because they can splinter and stick in your dog’s throat.  Chocolate, caffeine and alcohol can also create health risks if your dog ingests them.

Consider a Dog Safety Gate

An emergency trip to the veterinarian at Christmas could spoil your family’s holiday celebration.  So consider taking the following safety precautions to keep your dog safe this Christmas.  You may find that an investment in a dog safety gate could be your best friend’s best friend this holiday.

  • Separate your dog from Christmas decorations by putting up a dog safety gate.
  • Encase exposed electrical wires in PVC pipe to prevent your dog from chewing on them.
  • Make sure everyone in the household, including visitors, knows not to feed the dog any table scraps or other food item that might sicken the dog.

Additional Resources:  Tips for Avoiding Dangerous Dog Toys, Top Five Reasons Pets Visit the Veterinarian on Christmas Day

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Categories: Dog Health

Who Gets Custody of the Dog When the Owners Divorce?

December 4th, 2009 7 comments

Divorce Laws in the U.S Treat Family Pets as Personal Property

Divorce Laws in the U.S Treat Family Pets as Personal Property

Doggie Custody, Visitation and Support?

As more and more people tend to view companion animals as members of the family, questions often arise about what might happen to a beloved family pet if its owners get divorced.

The fact is that even though many pet owners choose to personify their pets, and many people view their pets almost as children, the law in virtually all U.S. states views animals as mere personal property to be treated as such in the event of a divorce.

This means that divorce courts will typically not make decisions concerning ongoing obligations of pet custody, visitation and support as they do with children.  And, with very few exceptions, divorce courts will not make property distribution decisions concerning family pets with considerations of the “best interest” of the animal in mind.

Why Do Divorce Laws Treat Pets as Personal Property?

With so many people treating their pets as members of the family these days, why are divorce courts reluctant to treat the family dog as anything more than a piece of property when the pet’s “parents” divorce?  The Florida case of Ronald and Kathryn Bennett provides a good lesson.

In that case, the couple agreed to virtually all the issues involved in their divorce.  The only thing they could not agree on was who should get Roddy, the dog.  The trial court decided that Mr. Bennett should have possession of Roddy, and awarded Mrs. Bennett visitation with Roddy every other weekend and every other Christmas.

And then the real trouble began.

Custody Battle Over the Family Pet?

Custody Battle Over the Family Pet?

Mr. Bennett filed a motion for rehearing in the trial court claiming that Roddy was a premarital asset (that is, that Mr. Bennett owned Roddy prior to marrying Mrs. Bennett).  Mrs. Bennett filed, among other things, a motion for contempt of court asking that the court transfer custody of Roddy to her because Mr. Bennett was refusing to comply with the visitation schedule.

After hearing arguments, the trial court decided to change the visitation schedule to enable Mrs. Bennett to have Roddy every other month.

Pets Are Not Children, and the Courts Are Busy Enough Enforcing Child Custody Matters

The Bennett case ultimately made its way to Florida’s First District Court of Appeal.  That court reiterated that, in spite of the fact that many people consider pets to be members of the family, under Florida law, animals are personal property and there is no basis in the law for granting custody or visitation for personal property.

Acknowledging that some states have recognized a “special status” for family pets in divorce proceedings, the court said:

Determinations as to custody and visitation lead to continuing enforcement and supervision problems (as evidenced by the proceedings in the instant case).  Our courts are overwhelmed with the supervision of custody, visitation, and support matters related to the protection of our children.  We cannot undertake the same responsibility as to animals.

And with that, the appeals court sent the case back to the trial court to make a decision about Roddy consistent with Roddy’s status as personal property.

Divorce Settlement Agreements

Of course, divorcing couples may always reach their own agreements concerning how they will deal with the family pet.  A couple getting a divorce may seek the advice of divorce lawyers to draw up formal settlement agreements that specifically address issues of pet custody, visitation and support.

Whether and to what extent a court would step in to enforce those provisions in the event of future disagreements will depend upon whether the courts in the particular state view pets strictly as personal property.

Sources:  Bennett v. Bennett, 655 So. 2d 109 (Fla. 1st DCA 1995); T. Christopher Wharton, Fighting Like Cats and Dogs: The Rising Number of Custody Battles Over the Family Pet, 10 J.L. Fam. Stud. 433 (2008).

Additional Resources:  Filing for Divorce in Florida; Contested Divorce in Florida; How to Hire an Attorney

Disclaimer: This article is in no way intended as legal advice. For answers to questions related to specific legal issues, one should contact an attorney in one’s local area.

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Categories: Dogs and the Law

Tips for Avoiding Dangerous Dog Toys

December 3rd, 2009 4 comments

Some Dog Toys Are Can Be Hazardous to Your Dog’s Health

Although it is important to provide your dog with adequate exercise and stimulation through play, there are some popular types of dog toys that you should either supervise very closely or avoid altogether.

Tennis Balls Do Not Make Good Dog Toys

Tennis Balls Do Not Make Good Dog Toys

Tennis Balls Do Not Make Good Dog Toys

Dogs love tennis balls.  They bounce.  They are somewhat chewy.  They can be catchable.  But tennis balls are bad news for dogs.  Smaller tennis balls, like any small toy or ball, can be a choking hazard for big dogs.

Additionally, some veterinarians say that the nylon fuzz on tennis balls is too abrasive for dog’s teeth and can wear down the tooth enamel leading to potentially painful and expensive dental problems down the road.

Moreover, tennis balls can be chewed apart and the pieces swallowed, creating a risk of choking or intestinal blockage, either of which could be deadly.

Any Dog Toy That Is Too Small for the Dog or That Has Small Pieces

Small toys that can fit entirely into the dog’s mouth can create a choking hazard for your dog.  That may seem like a no-brainer, but if you have several dogs of different sizes–say a Chihuahua and a Boxer in the same household–you need to think about keeping toys around that are safe for all the dogs.  If you keep tiny toys around for your tiny dog, be very careful to keep the small toys away from the bigger dogs in the household.

Prior to purchase, it is important to inspect any dog toys for small parts that could fall off or be chewed off and swallowed.  If a dog toy poses a choking hazard for children under the age of three, it is also not safe for your dog.

Stuffed Squeaky Dog Toys May Be Hazardous

Squeaky Dog Toys Can Be Fun, But They Require Diligent Supervision

Squeaky Dog Toys Can Be Fun, But They Require Diligent Supervision

Stuffed toys with a squeaky mechanism inside are very popular, and dogs do love to bite them and make them squeal.  But stuffed toys are easily chewed apart by rambunctious dogs.  Once the toy has developed a hole or two, the stuffing can end up all over the place and both the stuffing and the squeaky mechanism can be pose choking hazards.  If swallowed, they can cause potentially deadly intestinal blockage.  Any play with stuffed squeaky dog toys should be closely monitored at all times.  It can take only a moment for a determined dog to rip up the toy and swallow the insides.

Rawhide Chews

Rawhide chews for dogs are very popular, but they present a couple of potential dangers to your dog’s health.  First, if larger pieces break off during chewing, the dog could try to swallow them whole.  Large pieces of rawhide pose a real threat of choking or intestinal blockage if swallowed.  Carefully supervise your dog as she enjoys her rawhide chew, and be ready to retrieve pieces that break off.  When the chew gets small enough to be swallowed whole, take it away from the dog to prevent swallowing.

Second, rawhide chews manufactured in some countries outside the United States may not be safe for your dog at all.  As this dog owner’s experience demonstrates, rawhides manufactured outside the U.S. may contain salmonella bacteria, arsenic, lead and pesticides.  Health problems from rawhide chews may include sore throat, choking, intestinal blockage and acute pancreatitis.  So, if you are going to use rawhide chews, make sure you purchase them from a trusted manufacturer.

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Categories: Dog Health