Dedication and Determination

Mary Lahay, president of Iowa Voters for Compassion Animals, is dedicated and determined to improve the lives of needy dogs. Mary shares her thoughts in this informative piece.

“It isn’t just the national political scene that seems turned upside down this year. Just as our efforts to improve the lives of Iowa’s puppy mill dogs allowed for light at the end of the tunnel, our own government decided to cloak this wretched industry in darkness again.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), responsible for oversight and enforcement of commercial animal care standards, pulled access to thousands of documents related to organizations and businesses regulated by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). This includes circuses, zoos, and . . . puppy mills. The result? Critical information about the welfare of dogs and puppies within Iowa’s 254 commercial dog breeding and dealing facilities – gone.

Inspection reports and court documents that allowed us to identify, monitor, and take action against animal abusers – gone. Documents that allowed you, us, and the general public to distinguish reputable dog breeders from the puppy mills – gone. The USDA unveiled a new database, with critical information including kennel, breeder, and dealer names, license numbers, addresses, and photographs — all blacked out.

And we know there are dogs suffering because of it!

Iowa Voters for Companion Animals has spent the past 5 years monitoring and analyzing breeder inspection reports which verify that 40-60% of Iowa’s 250+ USDA-licensed dog breeders are cited for significant violations each year. Many of these breeders keep more than 100 adult dogs, meaning that there are potentially thousands of dogs suffering in USDA breeding facilities right now! But we’re no longer given access to this information.

In 2010 the USDA revealed that no Iowa breeder had ever lost their license due to failure to comply to the regulations. That is simply not feasible. But since our organization has been holding the USDA accountable, at least 4 breeders have either had their license revoked or were “encouraged” to allow their license to lapse. Our work is not done.

The information is still there in USDA files, and it belongs to us, the American public whose taxes fund the work of the USDA, but now we have to fight — and pay — to get it.

The USDA can’t legally stonewall us or hide public records, so it defends the change by claiming that it will provide information through formal Freedom of Information Act requests. Sounds like a great system, right? But since March, we have submitted 465 FOIA requests, and the USDA’s response time for each one averages five months! What’s worse, more than 90% of inspection reports received are simply pages and pages of blacked-out information So, the bad breeders get protection, but there’s none for the dogs they abuse!

Adding insult to injury, many of our FOIA requests now also incur hefty fees, much higher than are required to cover the USDA’s routine administrative expenses. With our last filing for information on a single Iowa puppy mill, we got hit with a fee of $250! This obstacle doesn’t have to be an insurmountable one, but it means the dogs need help from each of us more than ever.

The ‘D’ in USDA should not and must not stand for ‘Darkness.’ We are fighting for daylight, working to educate the public about puppy mills, and we will continue to lobby for legislation in Iowa to ensure all dogs and puppies are protected. But that ‘WE’ has to include YOU. We must all be dedicated and determined!

Please contact Iowa congressional and legislative representatives today and ask them to tell the USDA that this data blackout is unacceptable. The information is critical to efforts to ensure animal abusers are held accountable and the dogs and puppies of Iowa are protected!

We’ll be hosting our annual Humane Lobby Day on Tuesday, February 20 in Des Moines. Please join us! At our pre-lobby luncheon we offer information and training on how to effectively lobby your legislator. Then we go to the State Capitol as a group to meet with state senators and representatives. We’ll hold your hand through the whole process, if you want. It is truly an amazing experience. You’ll go home feeling like you’ve done something very important for the dogs. ..because you have..

Please visit our website at www.iowavca.org/lobby-day-2018 for more information and to register. For the dogs.”

 

Scandals, Secrets and Lies

A headline in a recent major newspaper read “Stories of scandals, secrets, and lies” which focuses on various scandals that make us cringe. The past week I have been almost obsessively researching scandals, lies, and especially secrecy concerning dogs being used in the testing industry. We have accepted the fact that rats and mice are routinely used in laboratories for experimentation and research, but it has been a maze of scandals, secrets, and lies as I researched the use of dogs in testing. According to the California based Beagle Freedom Project, approximately 70,000 dogs are used in research lab experiments every year. However, accusations abound about the statistics presented by the BFP, and it is difficult to separate fact from fiction, as this is a practice that is intentionally hidden from the public, with testing taking place behind closed doors. Research institutions often purchase animals from “Class A” Licensed animal breeders who produce animals for the purpose of selling them for experimentation. Some research institutions purchase dogs from Class B dealers, licensed dealers who sell “random source dogs” obtained from animal shelters, dog pounds, auctions, or individual people. The United States Department of Agriculture admits that tens of thousands of dogs area used for “research, testing, teaching, or experimentation” in the U.S. every year by research facilities.

The Humane Society International claims that a large percentage of dog used in lab experiments are beagles, because the breed’s trusting and loving nature makes them easier for lab technicians to handle. I have personal knowledge of a lab facility within an hour’s drive from my home that used beagles….I know because I am friends with the designer who built the windowless. Soundproof facility….but the public never knew about it. (I do not know if the practice still continues in this facility, since it is under new ownership, but I KNOW that took place there, and that the dogs were routinely euthanized at the end of experiments. )

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), dogs have been especially popular for use in toxicology tests, which determine safe levels of an unknown substance for humans, and to evaluate the hazards of ingredients in consumer products. It is now evident that tests on animals do not necessarily predict outcomes in humans, and many non-animal methods are available and continue to be developed.

I was shocked to learn that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires pharmaceutical companies to conduct archaic and painful tests, even in instances where reliable non-animal tests exist. The FDA has acknowledged that data produced from such tests are not reliable. During a recent meeting about funding for research, Dr. Elias Zerhouni, former National Institutes of Health director, told his colleagues that “The problem is that animal testing hasn’t worked, and it’s time we stopped dancing around the problem. We need to refocus and adapt new methodologies. There are modern alternatives, including in vitro testing, computer modeling, tissue engineering, and microdosing , that take less time and money and do not inflict pain on animals.” Thankfully almost all medical schools across the U.S. have completely replaced animal testing with simulators and systems like TraumaMan which are more effective in imparting lifesaving skills than courses that require students to experiment on dogs.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel as more people become aware of the practice of lab testing on animals. Be a hero for dogs and tell your friends and family to demand that Congress help end animal testing. Ask the FDA to stop requiring cruel, unreliable tests on animals, and to accept data from humane, non-animal methods instead. Make personal choices by refusing to buy products that are tested on animals. Contact your favorite brands to determine whether the company does any animal tests on their products, realizing that they may be less than truthful. Leapingbunny.org has an online shopping directory of companies that don’t test on animals, and the Beagle Freedom Project’s Cruelty-Cutter smartphone app. Allows you to simply scan an item in the store and you’ll get an immediate response about its animal testing status. Download it at cruelty-cutter.org

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

What we allow – will continue

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, but as we make plans to honor the person who loved and supported us throughout our lives, we pause to remember the thousands of mother dogs in puppy mills who live out their lives in these inhumane places. Puppy mills are everywhere, and the US Department of Agriculture estimates that there are over 2 MILLION puppies bred in mills each year, and as long as “we the people” allow this, it will continue.

Puppy mill dog breeding operations may be large or small, but they all put profit over the health and well-being of the dogs. Breeding dogs spend their lives in dirty, unsanitary confinement and it is common to see wire cages stacked on top of each other, often without any protection from heat, cold, or inclement weather . They receive little or no veterinary care, and the bottom line is all about profits.

The two primary sales outlets for puppies bred in mills are pet stores and the internet. Almost ALL puppies sold at pet stores come from puppy mills, and pet stores are a primary sales outlet for puppy mills, and they are shipped all over the country in conditions that often force the dogs to go up to 12 hours without food or water, and many puppies do not survive.

“We the people” are the key to stopping this cycle of cruelty, and wringing our hands and moaning that “we feel so bad” about the situation, is not enough to stop these inhumane atrocities.

Until we initiate serious intervention, the situation will continue. Pledge to end this cycle of cruelty by choosing to not buy a pet from any pet store or internet site, refusing to buy supplies from any store or site that sells puppies, and supporting federal and local laws to stop the operation of puppy mills.

“The Life Of A Puppy Mill Dog” is not pleasant reading, but it presents an accurate account of what we allow to continue in those despicable places.

“Some humans in this world have decided with the worst selfishness and greed, that my fate shall forever be in a cage, and to just stay alive, I must breed. I will never be a pet, only a breeding machine. “Please release me from this prison,” I bark in vain, but the miller does not care that we live out each day in desperate pain. The truth is that I am the miller’s property…I never get to play or become a pet, and when I am sick or injured, the miller doesn’t bother to call a vet. Again and again the miller comes to collect my pups, so tiny and sickly with eyes and nose runny. I bark, “It’s too early …they need a mother’s care, but he ignores me, knowing that younger pups bring more money. My feet are always bleeding, cut by the wire floor, and my legs are crippled from never being allowed to run. In the winter I shiver; left out in the snow and rain. In the summer, the hot rays beat down from the sun. I am missing many teeth, the rest cracked and broken. My matted fur is falling out in clumps from a terrible rash, and the world is getting dark because an untreated infection that is making me blind, but the miller does not care as I can still bring in cash. As time goes by, I feel my body grow weaker each day. Ragged and worn, I look like I’m twelve though I’m only five. My uterus is swollen and infected from too many litters, and to breed lots of puppies is the sole reason I am kept alive. I can no longer make a product for him to see, so I am now a burden and waste of money to feed. I await my fate in silence….I’ve seen it all before. Now he is yanking me by the rope he uses as a lead. He drags me, as my legs are useless, to the weeds behind the mill and ties me to a tree with a rusty old chain. He walks away without a backward glance, leaving me to face death which will offer release from a lifetime of pain. There are thousands of mill dogs out there with lives as sad as mine. Please stop the puppy mill business. You do have an option; Don’t support mills by buying puppies from pet shops or bad breeders. Instead, go to a shelter or rescue and apply for adoption.” –by Petshub.com forum

It is our choices that reveal what we truly are: what we allow, is what will continue.

Love Changes Everything

There is power in love! Angie Karen asserts, “Love conquers all…life without love is nothing.” This is true in the animal world, as well as the human arena. Sadly, for one excuse or another, there are thousands of dogs that experience little love.

Puppy mills house thousands of dogs where they are held captive in appalling conditions, and love is seldom shown. The worst part of this is that puppy mills are legal; this needs to change, and that means that laws must change, but getting a law changed isn’t easy, especially one that provides better protection for companion animals. The agribusiness lobby is afraid that any animal welfare laws will trickle down and cause problems for the livestock industry. Iowa has tried repeatedly, and failed. Other Midwestern states face the same opposition, but the public outcry is getting louder, and hopefully legislators will eventually listen!

Puppy mills aren’t the only places where there is little love shown to companion animals. Often a puppy is an impulse purchase and when the newness wears off, the result is neglect. There are neglected dogs everywhere. Look around and you will find them in your own neighborhood…once loved, then almost forgotten.

“I wish someone would tell me what it is I have done wrong, and why I must be chained outside and left alone for so long. They seemed so glad to have me when I came here as a pup. There were so many things we’d do while I was growing up. My humans said they’d train me as a companion and a friend, and that I would never be alone again. The children said they’d feed me, and brush me every day; they’d play with me and walk me if I would only stay. But now, no one has time. They complain I shed and am not even allowed inside the house to be fed. The children never walk me; they always say, “Not now.” I do wish I could please them – can someone tell me how? All I had, you see, was love. I wish someone would explain just whey they said they wanted mine and then left me on a chain.”

Many dogs must necessarily be left alone during the work day, and when the humans return home, it is easy to overlook the dog’s needs. So little time, so many things to do, but a dog is a social creature, and just a human’s presence in the home is not the same as actively engaging in interaction with your dog. Perplexed caregivers often don’t understand why their dogs could be bored when they are with them several hours every day. Just being there is not the same as “being there” for them, and doesn’t mean they are getting the necessary mental and physical stimulation they need. The more time you spend “being there FOR THEM”, the more you will appreciate and love them. Enjoy their unconditional love:

When a dog offers you his heart, accept it with a smile

For his love will last a lifetime, which is such a little while.

When a dog offers you her heart, take it gladly and with pride

For she will be a faithful friend, ever by your side.

When you’re sad, he’ll comfort you and kiss away each tear;

He may even wake you in the morning with a cold nose in your ear.

No matter what you ever do, he will always love you.

When a dog offers you her heart, accept it with a smile

For her love will last a lifetime which is such a little while. 

“Love changes everything; how you live and how you die.

Love can make the summer fly, or a night seem like a lifetime….

Love will turn your world around, and that world will last forever.

Nothing in the world will ever be the same”

(From Aspects of Love: Andrew Lloyd Weber)

Just One Litter!

We have a dog overpopulation crisis! Too many dogs for too few homes. There are many reasons for this sad fact, including accidental mating, purposeful breeding by those hoping to sell the puppies, and personal reasons such as “I want my children to experience the miracle of birth” and “I just don’t think it is natural to fix my dog.”

Simple arithmetic illustrates how “just one litter” contributes to our surplus of dogs. Two dogs mate: six puppies are born. The six offspring reproduce in a year, and are responsible for six more puppies each – a litter of six becomes 36. In ten years, just one unaltered dog can be responsible for more than 4,000 births.

Pet shops and puppy mills are major causes of dog overpopulation. Thousands of puppy mills are still operating, with Iowa rated as the second worst in the entire nation. Most of the puppies in these assembly line mills are housed in cramped, make-shift cages, often outdoors in freezing winter and blistering summer heat. They receive inadequate care in these horrendous places, and are shipped all over the country to pet stores that claim the pups come from home environments of responsible breeders. Not true! Statistics repeatedly confirm that almost all pet store dogs are products of puppy mills, and purchasing a purebred dog registered with the American Kennel Club does not guarantee a high quality animal. In fact, many AKC registered dogs are from puppy mills. (If you are unfamiliar with the horrors of puppy mills, please google “puppy mills.” You will be appalled at what you find!)

There is only one way to solve the overpopulation: we must not allow so many animals to be born. To do this, we must educate the public as to the value of altering our pets, and enforce leash laws, mandatory licensing, and other ordinances relating to animal caregivers. Until our legislators take action to clean up our puppy mill mess, our companion animals will suffer.

Just a few of the myths that we need to dispel:

  • It is a myth that it is cruel to alter an animal…the discomfort suffered from the surgery is small compared to the suffering and deaths caused by uncurbed breeding. Altering a pet also lessens the risk of diseases such as mammary and testicular cancer.
  • It is a myth that a female dog should have at least one litter before being spayed, or that spaying (or neutering a male dog) will “ruin a good dog.”
  • It is a myth that dogs show negative behavioral problems and “get fat” after sterilization. Dogs, just like humans, get fat because they eat too much or get too little exercise.
  • It is a myth that since males don’t give birth, they don’t need to be neutered. “It takes two to tango” and while a female has only one litter at a time, males can impregnate many females each day.
  • It is a myth that spaying or neutering is expensive. While the initial cost of the surgery may seem high, it’s a real bargain compared with the cost of raising a litter of puppies.

Thousands of homeless dogs offer this prayer:

“Dear God,

Please send us someone who will care. We’re tired of running; and sick with despair. Our bodies ache, so racked with pain, and nobody cares. We are outcasts, and with bodies aching, and rack with pain, we run from place to place. There are so many of us, and most of us are sick: wormy and ridden with fleas, tired and cold, afraid that we will never grow old. We often go days without food or even water. People chase us with sticks and hit us with stones. We are not bad dogs; we have become “victims of man.” Why were we born if no one wanted us? All we want is a human to love, so please ,God, if you find homes for us, we would try our best to please. We would be faithful and true to the last beat of our hearts. Don’t we deserve a chance at a good life?”

Bless the animals: they have no voice; they have no choice. It is humans’ responsibility to do what is best for our innocent four-legged friends.

Don’t do what is easy, do what is right!

Iowans Have Had Enough

Animal rescue organizations have been working tirelessly to improve conditions in the horrendous puppy mills thriving throughout the country. This shameful animal welfare problem has been allowed to fester for decades, and as we begin a new year, we implore people to initiate positive action. We are honored to have this week’s Paw Prints column authored by Mary LaHay, President of an Iowa grass roots organization whose sole purpose is to better protect our helpless animals. Please read the piece carefully, and then take appropriate action, whether in Iowa or another state.

“Our organizations, Iowa Friends of Companion Animals (IFCA) and Iowa Voters for Companion Animals (IVCA) have been working hard to get better state level laws to protect the more than 15,000 adult dogs in these USDA-licensed kennels, but to no avail. We’ve backed up our calls for action with reams of date—USDA data showing that way too many dogs are suffering and dying: dogs fighting to the death with incompatible cage mates, dogs suffering from illness or injury with no veterinary treatment. The list goes on and on. We have records from the USDA’s own inspections that 26 incidences of “direct” violations like these have occurred in 2016. Our analysis of USDA data show that, year after year, upwards of 50% of Iowa breeders are cited for violations to the federal Animal Welfare Act, but these citations seldom result in penalties. And when they do, a breeder only need ignore it and eventually it’ll be swept under a rug. (DM Register: 11/13/2016—Why won’t the USDA shut down these serial animal abusers?)

What we also provide is information about the huge consumer protection issue in this industry. People all across the country end up with sick and dying puppies exported from Iowa. They end up costing many an unwitting customer tens of thousands of dollars in veterinary bills, often ending up with broken hearts and broken bank accounts. One unfortunate New York state family suffered the first-ever confirmed transmission of a terrible zoonotic disease from an Iowa bred-puppy. Their three year old child was hospitalized and diagnosed with canine brucellosis as a result.

In the Iowa Capitol we’re stymied by the industry’s professional organization—Iowa Pet Breeders Association, but upon closer examination, the name is misleading. In fact, only half of the approximate 150 members of the association are breeders. The remaining members represent other ancillary special interest groups that stand to benefit from the status quo: pet stores such as Petland, puppy distribution companies such as Hunte Corporation, dog transport companies, kennel supply companies, veterinary supply companies and clinics – the majority of them don’t even reside in Iowa.

We, on the other hand, have 8300+Iowans who are members of our organization, Iowans who want to see increased oversight of this industry. Hundreds of these members have contacted Iowa legislators lobbying in support of better oversight. Hundreds have taken time out of their busy lives to join us on our annual Lobby Day for Dogs. (iowavca.org/lobby-day-2017) to speak with their legislators face-to-face to ask for better oversight. While many legislators “get it”, the unreasonable fears of Iowa’s agriculture result in the majority of them digging in their heels and saying NO to protecting the dogs, fearing it is all a ruse with the end in sight of affecting agriculture.

This is no ruse. It is a shameful fact. And those of us who care have had enough. We’ve had enough of being accused of fabricating data. We’ve had enough of being dismissed as “animal rights zealots”; we’ve had enough of legislators who work to oppose us in their effort to protect family members who participate in and benefit from this despicable industry.

Based on some of the decisions thus far, it appears the new administration won’t be empathetic to this issue. We won’t see a kinder and gentler USDA any time soon, so the urgency to address this on a state level is more important than ever. If this mistreatment of helpless animals matters to you, if you think Iowa can do better, please reach out to your state legislators, and governor and lieutenant governor, and tell them so. The dogs need each of us to reach out to all these leaders: FOR THE DOGS.”

Only by working together is it possible to change laws, and stop the incredibly cruel and inhumane conditions that flourish in puppy mills. To receive more information, or receive regular e-mail alerts, sign up at www.iowavca.org or contact Mary LaHay at mlahay@iowavca.org or by phone at 515-556-5949. If you still are not convinced, I challenge you to google, “Puppy Mill Photos.”

Remember that what you allow, is what will continue: BE A VOICE FOR THE VOICELESS

Don’t Let Your Dog Cook!

Temperatures have soared the past few weeks, with sweltering heat that can be dangerous for pets, and leaving your pet in a vehicle can quickly have hazardous consequences. Children and pets should never be left alone in parked cars because sunlight can spike car interiors to lethal temperatures in just a few minutes, even if the weather is relatively mild. Catherine McLaren, at Stanford University, conducted research on car heating, and concluded that regardless of outside air temps, the car heated up at a similar rate—gaining 80% of its final temperature within 30 minutes, and cars that started out at comfortable 71 degrees spiked to over 115 degrees …and cracking the windows open made very little difference. In one study begun at 7:45 a.m., a car was left on the shaded side of a building with two windows open. The outside temperature was 75 degrees, and at 9;30 the temp inside the car was 130 degrees while the outside temperature was not yet 90 degrees. Other studies have shown that the temperature inside a car can reach 200 degrees if parked in direct sunlight.

A dog left in a hot car will struggle to get out, and the more he struggles, the faster his temperature will rise, and it doesn’t take long for him to begin suffering irreparable brain damage or death. Every year many dogs die agonizing deaths in parked cars… Don’t let this happen to your dog. Be kind, and leave him home!

If you see a dog that needs immediate help, remember it is illegal to break the window; it is property damage and anyone can be held liable for damages, but it is important to act quickly. Write down the car’s make, model, and license-plate number, and if there are businesses nearby, notify the manager or security guard, asking them to make an announcement to find the car’s owner. If you feel the dog is in immediate danger, or no owner responds within a few minutes, call the local police or animal control, and wait for them to arrive.

I have already seen several dogs at risk this summer, and I would guess you have too, so it is important to be prepared to call for help: have the phone numbers of both your animal control agency and the police department, and keep these numbers in your purse or programmed into your phone. Every minute counts!

Get involved by asking local store managers, restaurants, and other businesses to post signs asking customers to not leave their pets in their cars while shopping or dining , and if your town doesn’t have a law prohibiting leaving pets in parked cars, contact your local council or area representatives. It is never cool to cook your dog!

 

Compassion & Kindness are Never Wasted

Today’s world seems filled with turmoil and violence. We have mass media and expert propaganda continually spreading suspicion and fear, resulting in millions of folks who become negative and suspicious, or simply hardened with indifference, which is almost worse. A truly compassionate attitude toward others does not change; even if they behave negatively or hurt us, and we must not let those who have taken advantage of us stop us from being generous. Compassion and kindness sometime ask us to go where we are uncomfortable, and challenge us to speak up for those suffering, whether human or canine. With one kind gesture, we can change a life…one at a time, we can change attitudes; together we can make a difference.

Compassion and kindness toward companion animals is a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong, something the best people have always done, as emphasized by Harriett Beecher Stowe:

“We are the voice of the voiceless; only through us they can speak

‘Til the deaf world’s ears be made to hear the wrongs of the wordless weak.

We are our animals’ keepers and must fight their fight,

And spread compassion and kindness until the world shall set things right.”

Just about everyone has a lonely dog (or two or three…or more) in the neighborhood, often tied out at the end of a chain or in a pen “out back.” Mixing tact with kindness and compassion, without being judgmental, explain to the caregivers that you understand that they are busy, and as a dog lover, you would be available (at no cost) to help with his care. Perhaps they have never even realized that dogs are social creatures who long for companionship..…Maybe you could offer to walk the dog once a week. You probably have a few old blankets that he would enjoy…or a few safe toys to decrease his boredom. Little things can mean a lot to an isolated back-yard dog!

Keep working to raise awareness of the inhumane conditions in puppy mills, and keep supporting laws to improve the plight of these helpless animals. Legislators need to be reminded that animal advocates are not radical activists, and their motivation is fueled by the fact that compassion and kindness are NOT shown to the animals in these filthy, horrendous places. If you are not aware of the scourge of puppy mills, or are indifferent to this issue, please spend some time doing research and you will be motivated to get involved.

Teaching children to have compassion and kindness toward their furry friends is vital for preventing cruelty to animals. According to the national PTA Congress, “Children trained to extend, kindness, justice, and compassion to animals become more just, kind and considerate in their relationships with each other. Character training along these lines will result in men and women who are more humane, more law-abiding, in every respect more valuable citizens. Live and teach the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” According to FBI profilers, professionals, law-enforcement officials, and child advocacy organizations, people who hurt animals may eventually direct violence toward humans. Teaching kindness and compassion toward animals is the foundation stone to teaching empathy to the human world.

Your inner voice encourages compassion and kindness. As Shel Silverstein says, “ There is a voice inside of you that whispers all day long, ‘I feel this is right for me; I know this is wrong.’ No teacher, preacher, parent, friend or wise man can decide what’s right for you…just listen to the voice that speaks inside “

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted 😉

We are Their Voice

Did you know that April is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month? According to the American Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, an animal is abused or beaten every ten seconds, and while no one enjoys hearing stories about the horrid lives some beautiful animals endure, there are plenty of things we can all do without needing tissues.

Get to know and look out for the animals in your own neighborhood. By being aware, you are more likely to notice possible indicators of neglect. If you suspect neglect or abuse, contact your local animal control agency or the police department. Without phone calls from concerned citizens, busy law enforcement may be unaware of problems . Provide as much information as possible…it helps to write down the type of cruelty you witnessed, who was involved, the date, and place.

Set a good example for others. If you have companion animals, consistently show them the love and good care they deserve. Dogs are pack animals and need more than just food, water, and adequate shelter. Make them part of your family… socialization and companionship are important. Be sure to have your own animals spayed or neutered, and raise awareness to the problem of overpopulation, caused primarily by accidental breeding.

Talk to your kids about the importance of treating animals with respect and kindness. Children should understand that animals are not toys, but living creatures with the ability to feel pain, hunger and fear. Respecting animals needs to start young because violence toward animals often escalates to violence toward people later in life.

Support your local shelter or animal rescue organization. Supplies and monetary donations are always welcomed, but there are many other forms of volunteering, including office work, cleaning, socializing, and walking dogs. If you volunteer just one hour each week for an entire year to walk dogs, you’ve spent 52 hours enhancing the lives of needy dogs.

Puppy mills are a horrible reality of the pet industry. Refuse to buy pets or supplies from any store or website that sells animals. While you may think buying a puppy mill pet is saving an animal, it is only encouraging those mills to stay in business by keeping the demand for their business.. Adopt only from shelters or buy from reputable breeders and encourage your friends to do the same.

It is imperative that our politicians support animal protection legislation. The state of Iowa has the second largest number of licensed commercial dog-breeders in the entire country, and according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Iowa ranks 49th out of 50 states regarding the quality of laws aimed at preventing animal neglect and abuse, or punishing those who commit violent acts against animals. Better laws are needed to protect Iowa’s companion animals. Other states have enacted changes that improve the quality of life for the thousands of animals who continue to suffer needlessly. New Jersey governor, Chris Christie toughened penalties for animal cruelty in 2013. “Patrick’s Law” was named after an emaciated pit bull found after it had been thrown down a trash chute. Almost all states have passed legislation with punishment for failing to provide an animal with basic necessities, and fines for animal abuse were increased. We all feel bad about Iowa’s puppy mill dogs…and want to help, right? Iowa Voters for Companion Animals, a grassroots, Iowa based, and Iowa focused, all volunteer organization, is working hard to get basic, NON-radical protections for dogs in Iowa’s commercial breeding kennels, and because a bill is being considered during this legislative session, they encourage everyone to write to their current representatives and ask them to support this bill. IVCA sends out periodic progress reports and “Calls to Action” emails with specific and easy-to- understood information. PLEASE signup to join Iowa’s grassroots efforts…Just click on http://www.iowavca.org and become a voice for the voiceless dogs who have no choice. WE have voices and WE have the power to make life better for Iowa dogs. Together we can make a difference!

Too Many Dogs Left Out In the Cold

Temperatures have plummeted in many parts of the country, affecting all of us, and despite having fur coats, dogs are no more resistant to the cold than humans are. Even though we wear multiple layers, we still get cold, and so do our dogs. While some breeds can handle colder temperatures longer than others, the truth is that no dog should stay outside for extended periods during extreme cold. We discourage caregivers from keeping dogs outside all the time during any weather, but the risk is certainly worse when the temperatures drop below the freezing mark…and actual temperature is not the only factor to consider: wind chill can make conditions even more dangerous .. it is inhumane to leave dogs out in this weather.

If for some reason, it is not possible to keep your dog in the main part of your home, surely there is a heated porch, an entryway, even a corner in the garage that could be transformed into a warm, cozy retreat. Caring for a companion animal includes providing a warm, comfortable hideaway from inclement weather. If he has behavioral problems, the solution is not to banish him to the back yard, but to spend the time needed to train him. Good manners don’t just happen; it is the humans’ responsibility to help him learn good behavior and house manners. Dogs are eager to comply to house rules IF they understand what the rules are.

The VERY BEST place for your dog is inside your house: outdoors they can freeze, become lost or stolen, or be injured. Here are few tips to keep your pets safe during cold weather:

  • Clip the fur between the toe pads to reduce the amount of snow that collects between her toes, and to help protect sensitive paws, try coating them with a bit of aloe or petroleum jelly.
  • Dogs were not meant to wear clothes for “dress up”, but jackets , and sweaters can help keep your dog warm, IF you are selective in your choice. Most of them, are ill-fitting and leave the dog’s underside exposed, and are basically worthless. An excellent choice is the Thundershirt/sweater….a little pricey, but well worth the cost….check them out at www.thundershirt.com Another excellent choice is Fido Fleece dog coats, available from various venders on the internet..
  • Be aware of your pet’s tolerance, and shorten your walks in very cold weather to protect you both from weather-associated health risks. Upon returning home, wipe snow and ice off your dog’s feet, to remove any salt, antifreeze or other harmful chemicals that she could ingest by licking her paws. (Many de-icing and ice-melting products are toxic.)
  • Do not let dogs off leash in snow or ice. Canines can easily lose their scent in cold weather, and can also panic in snow storms and run away. (Be sure your dog always wears proper identification…just in case.)
  • Be prepared in case of a blizzard or power outage, by assembling a disaster/emergency kit , and include your dog in your plans. Have enough food, water, and any medications on hand to get through at least 5 days.
  • It doesn’t take long for companion animals to suffer and fall victim to severe winter weather. Frostbite occurs when the fluids in tissues freeze, frequently on the tips of the ears, paws or pads, belly and flanks. Hypothermia, which can lead to death, occurs when the animal’s body temperature drops significantly below normal, causing the body systems to shut down. If you see a dog shivering out in the cold, his very life may be at risk. He needs an advocate! Perhaps just quietly explaining the dangers to the pet’s owner may remedy a miserable existence for the animal, but if that fails, report it to law enforcement. You may be a freezing dog’s only hope for survival.