Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Research Dogs in Need - Raleigh, NC

UPDATE, May 28: The News & Observer is reporting that the future looks bright for the research dogs:
...arrangements have been made for three of them already. And enough people have called in that the other six will be placed in homes, too...
Thank you BB for the tip.

Original Post:

Dogster is reporting that nine research dogs are in immediate need of adoption at the Vet school in Raleigh. Full details, including photos of the dogs, are on the Dogster blog.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

SC Works Toward Helping and Banning Pit Bulls Simultaneously

From the Columbia Star:

Chance, an eight-month male pit bull, and Carmella, a one- year female pit bull graduated from obedience school, the second phase of the rehabilitation in the Humane Society's program to get them ready for a new life with a permanent family.

Chance and Carmella were put on the fast track of the "recycle- a- bull" project (a program of the HSPCA that takes pit bulls from abusive- /neglectful situations and rehabilitates them to become adoptable companion pets). From there, they were fostered in homes to become socialized, a crucial step to acclimate their comfort level with humans and other dogs. Eight weeks of obedience training followed.

Their graduation falls on the heels of a new bill, 5010, introduced by Rep. Jeffery Duncan, that specifically names pit bulls as dangerous animals and leaves interpretation of any other "dangerous" breeds up to local government to ban or put further regulations on. These proposed changes to section 47- 3- 710 of the South Carolina Code of Laws places the blame and burden of responsibility on the breed, not the irresponsible owner.

Full story here.

The full text of SC House Bill 5010 can be found here. The line about a dangerous animal can not be determined "solely by virtue of its breed" has been stricken. If you want to contact Rep. Duncan regarding this piece of proposed legislation, his contact info is below. Here is what the HSPCA wrote to Rep. Duncan.

Representative Jeffrey D. Duncan
District 15 - Laurens & Newberry Cos.
327B Blatt Bldg.
Columbia, SC 29201


e-mail: DuncanJ@schouse.org

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Pet Food Ingredient Breakdown - #1

In my never ending quest to find a great dog food, I recently looked at a premium (AAFCO approved) brand of so-called "natural" kibble which advertised that it contained no ground corn. I know this is an important issue for some pet owners as they don't want to feed corn due to potential allergies and/or the possibility of aflatoxin contamination. So I looked at the first three ingredients on the bag since the food would contain more of these (by weight) than any of the other ingredients listed. They were: Lamb, brewers rice, corn gluten meal.

1. Lamb - I could not find a direct AAFCO definition but presumably, it's lamb meat (with or without bones?), which would be largely water. After cooking/processing, the amount of lamb meat remaining ("lamb meal") is greatly reduced and would most likely not be the first listed ingredient in the food. I consider this a way to fool consumers into thinking they are purchasing a meat based food when in fact they are not. Note: The label indicated the lamb meat originated in two foreign countries but I don't know whether it was inspected by any human food agencies since that information was not provided.

2. Brewer's Rice - AAFCO's definition states "the dried extracted residue of rice resulting from the manufacture of wort (liquid portion of malted grain) or beer and may contain pulverized dried spent hops in an amount not to exceed 3 percent." My version: Alcohol industry waste product which if not bought by pet food companies, would otherwise end up in the trash bin. Note: Spent hops, when ingested by dogs, can be fatal.

3. Corn Gluten Meal - AAFCO defines as "the dried residue from corn after the removal of the larger part of the starch and germ, and the separation of the bran by the process employed in the wet milling manufacture of corn starch or syrup, or by enzymatic treatment of the endosperm." My version: Waste product from facilities manufacturing corn syrup. Note: this dog food is not sounding so good for pet owners trying to avoid feeding corn after all.

A more in-depth explanation of corn gluten meal:

Corn gluten meal (CGM) is a co-product from corn wet milling, the process responsible for production of corn sweeteners and corn syrup. In the wet milling process, corn is cleaned and then steeped in a water/sulfur dioxide mixture at 50°C. This acidic stew activates the inherent lactobacillus organisms, which begin to break down the corn seed.

The water and germ are then separated from the flint and protein by a water cyclone and the resulting material is ground. Hulls are removed by screening and the protein is separated from the starch by centrifugation. The protein (gluten) mash is then dried and sized. Corn gluten consists of four major classes of protein: Albumins, globulins, glutelins and zein (prolimines). While corn gluten doesn't have the same level of functionality as wheat gluten for bread production, it does retain some functional proteins that are beneficial in extrusion.

Extrusion of course, is how most kibble is made.

Overall product ingredients review: Truth in advertising? Hmm, not so much - particularly with respect to the "no ground corn" claim which the company knows, or should know, will attract consumers looking for a food free of corn and corn products, which this food isn't. 2 out of 3 main ingredients are waste products from other food industries and the primary ingredient ("lamb") is mainly water. I'm not inclined to look favorably on the product.

My quest will continue.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Purina - Got Aflatoxin?

I tried to get answers to my previously posted questions regarding the aflatoxin contaminated mystery ingredient in livestock feeds recalled by Purina Mills. Specifically, I asked Purina:

1. Which ingredient it is they are talking about
2. Who the supplier is
3. What other companies might be facing the same problem (as indicated in Purina's own statement)
4. Was any of this ingredient used in other feeds, such as dog food.

The first response I received said basically that Ralston Purina (makers of dog and cat foods) sold the part of the company that makes livestock feeds to Purina Mills and we don't know nuffing about their recall. I was not satisfied with this response. (Shocking, I know.) So I wrote again, this time asking:

Do Ralston Purina (makers of dog and cat foods) and Purina Mills (makers of livestock feeds) share any ingredients, processing equipment, suppliers or storage facilities?

Clearly, this would be vital information with respect to trying to figure out if Purina's dog and cat foods are 100% safe from the aflatoxin mystery ingredient in the Purina livestock feeds. And in the absence of any official response from the company stating that in fact, the dog and cat foods are safe, I'm trying the long way around to find my answers. Alas, the response I received to that query was the old We-can't-tell-you-that's-proprietary-information line we all became so fond of hearing during the 2007 pet food recalls.

So while I hoped to report that yes, Purina is answering questions and reassuring consumers their dog and cat foods are safe from the aflatoxin ingredient, I can not do so. I can only hope that just because Purina appears to be dodging the issue and engaging in the kind of deceptive non-responses consumers got so tired of last year, the pet foods really are safe.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Hello Purina? Anyone Minding the Store?

When Purina declined to go public with their aflatoxin contaminated livestock feed recall in March, they figured out (by May) that didn't look so good. So they tossed up a fancy worded statement on their website. Well Purina, the fact that your company is not answering queries or providing information to reassure dog and cat owners that Purina pet food is safe also doesn't look so good. Is it too much to ask to at least put up a response on your website stating that pet owners don't have to worry because the aflatoxin contaminated mystery ingredient in your livestock feeds did NOT make it into your dog and cat foods? How about naming the supplier of the mystery ingredient so people who feed other brands can ask those companies if they buy from that supplier? (Especially given that it was your own statement which cast doubt on the safety of products made by other companies who bought from your supplier.) Or even naming the ingredient so pet owners can choose to buy food without that ingredient in it if they want? Anything?

Pet owners may recall that Purina dog foods have been called into question regarding aflatoxin contamination as recently as last year.

Referencing Land O'Lakes spokesperson Lydia Botham, this article at thehorse.com states:
"Botham said the aflatoxin was discovered through routine product testing performed by a state regulatory agency, with results confirmed by company testing." So if the state agency hadn't caught the aflatoxin, the company may never have "confirmed" it? (Note: Purina's updated statement on their site says, "In mid-February our own incoming ingredient testing and routine state regulatory testing simultaneously indicated aflatoxin above FDA action levels in certain feeds..." which sounds rather different from Botham's earlier statement.) If in fact the state agency caught it first, then this bit: "Botham said there have not been any confirmed health complaints due to aflatoxins related to the current recall of feed." is a horse of a different color, wouldn't you say? Maybe a state agency hasn't forced Purina to be in a position to confirm any health complaints - yet. I don't know. I'm speculating. Because right now, that's about all I can do unless Purina decides to speak up.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Don't Touch That Pet Food

Purina's recall of aflatoxin contaminated animal feed earlier this month has been widely reported to the public - not by Purina, who chose to contact their dealers directly - but by bloggers, including Petsit USA. From Purina's recall (which they call a "retrieval") statement: "Our investigation and product testing identified one ingredient of concern, which originated from a single supplier. We have discontinued purchasing from this supplier. Other feed companies that purchased from this supplier are facing a similar situation." (emphasis mine)

1. I don't know which ingredient it is they are talking about
2. I don't know who the supplier is
3. I don't know what other companies are facing the same problem because none of them have "retrieved" their products to my knowledge
4. I don't know if any of this "ingredient" was used in other feeds, such as dog food.

Highlights from this article on the Purina aflatoxin recall echo some of my own concerns:

  • Land O’Lakes Purina Feed LLC announced a recall of several varieties of horse, goat and pig feed...
  • Purina’s statement said the ingredient of concern came from one supplier, but the company declined to identify either the ingredient or the supplier...
  • Purina has not identified whether the supplier in question in the recall is a domestic or overseas company.

Meanwhile, the CDC has confirmed that the human Salmonella outbreak in 2006 was attributable to dry dog food. Both the CDC and the FDA recommend that people use precautions before and after touching pet food and treats to minimize the risk of transferring possible bacteria in the food. But um, I guess it's still fine for our pets to actually eat this stuff (and in fact only this stuff, since "table scraps" are discouraged)?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Homeless Pets Languish Due to Lack of Animal Control in Rural South

We often hear about the high kill rates of animal shelters in the South. The Columbia Animal Shelter in South Carolina for example has an approximate 80% kill rate (the 20% save rate includes owner redemptions). State or locally funded shelters in North Carolina averaged an approximate 77% kill rate for the years 2001 - 2006.

But homeless pets in the South face another problem as well: many rural areas lack animal control officers and facilities. In McCormick County, SC stray animals rely upon the kindness of volunteers to tend to them at an outdoor kennel. If donated food runs out, volunteers sometimes dip into their own wallets to feed homeless pets.

Burke County, Georgia is another such area - no animal control or shelter to help the many stray pets who are living and dying in the community. Some residents are upset by the situation and want a shelter for their area but county leaders say there isn't enough tax money. "One county commissioner says an animal shelter could cost about as much as it does to keep deputies on the road there." This attitude, if embraced by all who have a say, will surely spell defeat for the idea. The implication being that the residents must choose - police helping people or animal control helping pets. But of course it's not that dire. There are alternative methods to funding a shelter which the community can pitch in and work toward. The money does not have to come out of the allowance for deputies. A referendum will appear on the ballot in July in order for Burke County voters to decide what direction to move regarding animal control.

If you are a resident of an area with no or insufficient animal control services, please visit the No Kill Advocacy Center to learn about transforming your community into one which saves pets' lives.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Whistleblowers on Cruelty at South Carolina Shelter

Two volunteers from the Cherokee County Animal Shelter told the County Council last month that animal control officers have been killing shelter pets using an illegal method - intracardial injections on animals which have not been sedated. SC state law outlines the accepted methods of euthanasia and injections into the heart of a fully conscious animal is not one of them.

Further, "Department of Health and Environmental Control agents met with animal control officers and county officials Tuesday because the shelter isn't licensed to have sodium pentobarbital, a federally controlled substance, on site." Also in violation of SC law, the volunteers report that animals given the intracardial injections are disposed of without having their vital signs checked.

The two volunteers "asked council to contract with a licensed veterinarian to perform necessary euthanasias, to hire a shelter manager and to improve conditions at the shelter, which is supported by city and county funds." The Council responded by saying they will shop around to area Vets for prices and take steps to bring the shelter into compliance with the law. No mention is made regarding efforts to improving shelter conditions.

Read the full article here.

Follow up:

This week, the County Council announced they will develop a manual for animal control officers to follow, although they couldn't say when it would be ready - maybe months.

The shelter had a 42% kill rate for 2007 with 48% of its pets being transported out to other areas for adoption and only .01% (not a typo, that's 1/100th of a percent) being adopted out by the shelter. They actually had more animals listed as "unaccounted for" than "adopted" last year. The 2007 figures represent a slight improvement over the 2006 stats: 68% kill rate, almost 24% transported out to other areas for adoption and .02% adopted directly from the shelter. (Note: I'm all for transporting animals out to areas where they might be adopted but the reality is that not all those animals are adopted. We don't know where they went but if it was anywhere in the South, the kill rate of the accepting shelter may be high. So it's an iffy number to wrestle with.)

The Cherokee County Animal Shelter continues to operate without a manager and the two animal control officers who allegedly violated state and federal laws regarding euthanasia and the procurement of euthanasia drugs remain on full time duty and have not been reprimanded.

Read the complete follow up article here.

My take - If you're going to "lose" more pets than you adopt out, and make killing the main business in your shelter, can you at least do it humanely and in compliance with the law? Do you need a manual to tell you that? Better yet: How about improving shelter conditions, hiring a manager and working toward a goal of actually saving pets as your main function, reserving euthanasia only for the hopelessly ill and injured?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Animal Rights Lunacy in Switzerland

Attention 8 year old kid attempting to cuddle that Guinea Pig:
This is the police. We have you surrounded. Come out with your hands up!

Read the full article here.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

More on Eight Belles and... The Big Picture

The tragic death of Eight Belles at Saturday's Kentucky Derby is being reported by some as an unfortunate reality that is part of horse racing. Wrong. While any athlete can suffer a life ending injury during competition, that's a risk they choose to take for themselves - if they're human. And you can bet that risk is probably low. If they're horses, well the humans decide what risks are acceptable. In fact, the humans decide everything from conception onward in the lives of racehorses - which horses get (in)bred, what they get fed, what drugs they receive, what age they begin training, etc. So if a thoroughbred is brought into this world at the hand of humans, and every decision regarding that horse's well being is made by humans - guess who is responsible when that animal dies from an injury on the racetrack? We are. Let's not comfort ourselves by saying it's so sad but that's just part of the sport. It shouldn't be. We shouldn't allow it to be.

These horses are pushed too hard, too fast all to satisfy our American need for immediate gratification. This isn't a phenomenon isolated to thoroughbred racing. We have many Sporting dogs who are "Futurity Nominated" as puppies and showcased in "Sweepstakes" events on a national level. As a breeder, I've always appreciated these events as they tell me what dogs to AVOID in the future. Sporting dogs should mature slowly - they should not look like small adults as adolescents. They should look - well, ugly. They need time for their physical and mental selves to develop naturally and bloom fully. Any young animal which looks breathtaking as a youngster is the wrong kind of dog for me. He will go coarse in his adulthood and may produce more like himself. At a dog show, the place to look for breeding stock is the Veterans classes. How do these dogs move at age 8 or 10? That's the dog for me. A dog who has proven he isn't going to drop dead from cancer at age 4, who isn't going to be lame or blind by age 7 and who is still full of the joy of life in his Autumn years - give me that dog any day. The rest of you are welcome to the (often times inbred) 2 year olds who look pretty and have a piece of paper from a registry body that says they're healthy at 24 months of age. Good luck with that.

Yes, I realize it costs - financially and emotionally - to invest in a prospect without knowing if there will ever be any return. But if you think it doesn't cost to try and cheat Mother Nature and hurry animals along in competition - you are fooling yourself. And you are part of the problem.

As a society, we like to fall back on certain blame shifting beliefs regarding the killing of animals which help us to sleep at night:

Killing pets in shelters is necessary because there aren't enough homes for all of them.

Killing Eight Belles on the track was the humane thing to do.

I'm sure PETA enjoys no end of delight every time we utter these ridiculous words. WE are responsible for bringing pets into this world and for the reasons they end up at shelters. WE need to accept responsibility for them and work towards No Kill communities. WE are responsible for pushing immature thoroughbreds to such extremes that they literally kill themselves for our entertainment. WE need to accept responsibility for the humane care and training of these horses. Killing them once they've broken themselves under our direction is not the humane thing to do. Standing up and saying NO MORE to the old ways is.

More reading: Pet Connection

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Raced to Death - Eight Belles' Avoidable Tragedy

Eight Belles, a beautiful filly, finished second in today's Kentucky's Derby and then broke both her front ankles causing her to be euthanized on the track.

Maybe you're like me and just don't get the appeal of horse racing. It makes no sense to me why anyone would want to push physically immature animals to physical extremes when injuries may well equal death for the horse. And those fatal injuries seem to be a tragic tradition. I don't follow horse racing but like many people, I followed Barbaro's fight for life after his 2006 racetrack injury which ultimately resulted in his death in early 2007.

This August 2007 article taught me a few things I didn't know about horse racing. One being that there is no national governing body.

After Barbaro's breakdown in the Preakness, Bowen and others in the industry realized that they were at a loss to answer a simple question ---- How frequently are horses injured? ---- which only exacerbated the public outcry over the incident. As a result, the summit participants proposed an injury reporting system that would standardize the process by eliminating inconsistencies from track to track.

Well, that's one good thing I guess. At least we may get some more reliable numbers on a broader scale than what we've seen in the past. And maybe those numbers will help effect change in the racing world. Sadly, there is one more to add to the tally today.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Local Interest: Adopt-A-Thon in Columbia

Just received this in my inbox:

Don’t miss the Project Pet Adopt-A-Thon this weekend at the Harbison PetSmart in Columbia!

Over 100 animals will be present…..dogs and cats, puppies and kittens of all shapes and sizes are ready to find their forever homes! If you’ve been thinking about a new addition to your family you won’t want to miss this event!!

Friday May 2nd 5pm-8pm

Saturday May 3rd 10am-6pm

Sunday May 4th 1:30pm-5:30pm

Over 19,000 dogs and cats are euthanized in Richland and Lexington Counties every year. Project Pet works with municipal shelters to rescue and re-home pets so that many may be spared the fate of euthanasia.

All pets adopted through Project Pet are spayed or neutered, have all vaccinations appropriate for their age, are de-wormed and have a microchip.

For more information about Project Pet, visit our website at www.projectpet.com.