Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Animal Cruelty and Neglect - What do I do?

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I personally find it very sad that this post is even necessary. It breaks my heart to think about such things, and I often wonder if there will ever be an end to man's cruelty towards his fellow creatures.

Unfortunately, animal abuse and neglect is all around us. It happens in every neighborhood, be they rich or poor, urban or rural. We have all seen an animal that has been or is being mistreated or neglected. We feel sorry for them, we may even worry about them. We may try to sneak them food if they aren't being fed or give them water if they have none. Most of us really have no idea what to do when we encounter these situations.

So....what do we do when we see animal abuse or neglect? Who do we report it to, and how do we go about it? I found the following information on the ASPCA website. I thought I would share it with you here so that more people are aware of how to recognize and deal with these issues.

Recognizing Animal Cruelty

What constitutes animal cruelty?

Animal cruelty occurs when someone intentionally injures or harms an animal or when a person willfully deprives an animal of food, water or necessary medical care. Here are some signs that may indicate abuse or neglect:

  • Tick or flea infestations
  • Wounds on the body
  • Patches of missing hair
  • Extremely thin, starving animal
  • Limping
  • An owner striking or otherwise physically abusing an animal
  • Dogs who are repeatedly left alone without food and water, and often chained in a yard
  • Dogs who have been hit by cars—or are showing any of the signs listed here—and have not been taken to a veterinarian
  • Dogs who are kept outside without shelter in extreme weather conditions
  • Animals who cower in fear or act aggressively when approached by their owners
How to Report Animal Cruelty

The police department that covers your city, town or county is required to investigate criminal complaints, including complaints of animal cruelty and animal fighting. There may also be an animal control agency, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals (SPCA) or humane society that has authority to conduct these investigations.

If you encounter difficulty identifying the correct law enforcement agency with which to file a report of animal cruelty, you may wish to contact your local shelter or animal control agency for help finding this information.

What information should I have on hand when I make a report of animal cruelty?

Try to gather the following information before submitting a report of animal cruelty:
  • A concise, written, factual statement of what you observed—giving dates and approximate times whenever possible—to provide to law enforcement.
  • Photographs of the location, the animals in question and the surrounding area. However, please do not put yourself in danger! Do not enter another person’s property without permission, and exercise great caution around unfamiliar animals who may be frightened or in pain.
  • If you can, provide law enforcement with the names and contact information of other people who have firsthand information about the abusive situation.
Remember, never give away a document without making a copy for yourself!

Can I remain anonymous when I file a complaint about animal cruelty?

Yes, you can, and it is better to file an anonymous report than to do nothing—but please consider providing your information to the agency taking the complaint. These agencies have limited resources, and the case is more likely to be pursued when there are credible witnesses willing to stand behind the report and, if necessary, testify in court about what they may have witnessed.

If I report my suspicions that a neighbor is committing animal cruelty, and that person’s animal is taken away and put in a shelter, isn’t the animal worse off?

It’s important to understand that reporting cruelty is always the right thing to do. Because of the burden it places on the system, animal control officers do not want to remove an animal from a home unless absolutely necessary. If an animal is taken from his or her owner, there was a substantial problem. A seized animal will have the chance to get the necessary help, whether that help is nutritional, medical or behavioral. Also, if an intervention by law enforcement leads to a conviction, you may inadvertently have helped spare other animals from the same abuse: in many states, convicted animal abusers are barred from owning pets.

Is there anything specific I can say when I make a report of animal cruelty to persuade law enforcement to take it seriously?

Yes—let them know that you are taking the incident seriously. Make it clear that you are very interested in pursuing the case and that you are willing to lend assistance however you can. Although law enforcement agencies must pay attention to anonymous reports of serious crimes, including animal cruelty, they are more likely to follow up on cases where there are credible witnesses willing to stand behind the report and, if necessary, testify in court about what they may have witnessed.

Provide law enforcement with a concise, written statement of what you observed, giving dates and approximate times whenever possible. If you can do so without entering another person’s property without their permission, you may wish to photograph the location, the animals and the surrounding area. If you can, provide law enforcement with the names and contact information for other people who have firsthand information about the situation.

How should I follow up on my report of animal cruelty?

When you report animal cruelty, it’s a good idea to keep a careful record of exactly whom you contacted, the date of the contacts, copies of any documents you provided to law enforcement or animal control, and the content and outcome of your discussion. This will make following up much easier.

If you do not receive a response from the officer assigned to your case within a reasonable length of time, make a polite follow-up call to inquire about the progress of the investigation. As a last resort, and only if you are reasonably certain that no action has been taken on your complaint, you may wish to contact a supervisory officer or a local or state government official to request action.

Please keep in mind that most law enforcement agencies operate with limited personnel and resources. Most of these agencies are doing their best to conduct timely and efficient investigations. Being respectful of the challenges they face. Giving them the benefit of the doubt when appropriate will likely get you much further than premature complaints to their superiors.

Someone in my neighborhood is threatening to harm my pet, but they haven’t done anything yet. What can I do to protect my pet from this person?

If you feel that your pet is in danger, do whatever you can to shield him or her from harm—for instance, bring your outdoor cat inside and always accompany your dog outside, keeping him on a leash at all times.

You should also file a complaint with your local police; depending on the law where you live, verbal or written threats may constitute criminal harassment. Be sure to keep any tangible evidence of threats against your pets and yourself. If the threats are serious enough, you may be able to get a restraining order against the person making them. If this is the route you wish to go, enlist the aid of a lawyer. Above all, please be careful.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

BARF - The Dark Side

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Last time we took a look at the BARF (Bones And Raw Food) diet, what it consists of, and what some say are the advantages of feeding this way. In this article, we will examine the "cons" of the BARF diet and look at the criticisms and problems that some believe it can create.

As an owner you may have heard a lot or arguments for or against feeding the diet in a raw, fresh, uncooked state. Many owners feel that feeding a raw diet is the only way to offer a truly healthy diet, and that cooking somehow destroys many of the nutrients in the diet. In this diet, the pet is fed raw bones, raw meat, raw vegetables, eggs, limited grains, and supplements.

Dog food experts loudly disagree on the risks and benefits of a dog raw food diet. Opponents of the BARF diet include the American Veterinary Medical Association, British Veterinary Association, and Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. These organizations point out that there is no scientific evidence to show that raw food is better for your pet than commercial pet food. Those who support commercial pet food say that it is generally healthy and safe and that it meets pets' nutritional needs.

Although feeding dogs and cats raw meat to mimic the food of their ancestors may make sense on the surface, BARF opponents point out that dogs are not wolves and cats are not lions. Furthermore, they note that these animals have been domesticated for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, during which time they have eaten what humans ate, which is cooked - not raw - food.

Let's take a look at some of the specific points and potential problems stated by the "anti-BARF" side.

While it is true that the wild ancestors eat raw, freshly killed foods, our pets are not wild animals but rather domestic relatives of wild animals. Many veterinarians feel the risks outweigh the supposed benefits of the BARF diet. Some of the risks associated with a raw meat diet include parasites and bacteria, bone hazards, and nutritional deficiencies. Let's look at these in more detail.

(information taken from the SPCA website article on raw feeding)

Parasites and Bacteria

One of the biggest concerns about feeding dogs raw bones and meat is the risk of contamination (of both dog food and human food surfaces) with bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli. While raw meat may carry these kind of bacteria, they have also been found in commercial kibble and other foods, and a more wholesome diet may equip the body better to deal with the inevitable infections and parasites by boosting the immune system.

Bacteria and parasites may be picked up any number of other places – such as sniffing or licking other dogs at the park, or walking over ground where another animal has defecated and later licking paws clean. Every animal will be exposed to parasites in bacteria – but for the sake of minimizing risks, some owners prefer to avoid the raw meat BARF diet.

Some veterinarians claim there is an increased risk of seizures and other bacteria-related illness in dogs who are fed raw; other vets claim to have seen no BARF-related bacteria or parasitic infections and even recommend BARF

Many raw food proponents theorize that freezing meat will kill bacteria. Not so. Laboratories preserve bacteria and viruses by freezing them. Cooking meat is the best way to eliminate the potential for illness.

Proponents also theorize that bacteria is destroyed by stomach acid. But Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, DVM, from the National Animal Poison Control Center, disagrees. "Pathogens such as salmonella, E. coli, clostridium and campylobacter have evolved 'coats' that protect them in their transit through the stomach, and this allows them to take hold in the intestines," she says. This could be the cause of the severe diarrhea some raw food people attribute to "detoxing."

Humans who feed their pets raw meat may come in contact with harmful parasites or bacteria such as salmonella. These can be contracted by handling the raw meat, your pet's food bowls, or even your pet itself, which could spread salmonella by licking their fur or you.

Bone Splinters

Eating whole bones can fracture teeth, poses a possible choking hazard, and could also cause internal tearing and bleeding.

Fans of the BARF plan are insistent that raw bones do not splinter and are safe for dogs to chew and ingest. Raw bones are also said to be an ideal source of calcium, amino acids (protein), minerals, and other nutrients. Most pets eating raw bones do not die, develop impactions of the digestive tract, fracture teeth, or develop any other problems. Still some do, as most veterinarians will attest.

Julie Churchill, DVM, a specialist in nutrition, states, "Bones, even raw and ground bones, can perforate the gastrointestinal tract. This call lead to peritonitis, severe infections or emergency surgery, and dogs die from this each year." You also have to consider the damage to teeth by chewing on raw, meaty bones. A good many veterinary dentists are opposed to this practice.
They say that they see pets with "sparkling white teeth with crown fractures and endodontic disease."

Nutritional Deficiencies: Research Against the BARF Raw Food Diet

Ensuring that a homemade raw diet is nutritionally balanced can be tricky. (On the other hand, traditional commercial pet food is required to meet nutrition requirements.) Each pet is different, and each pet has his own nutritional needs in times of health as well as times of illness.

A recent study found some raw food diets unbalanced in vitamins and minerals. There is also some question regarding the bioavailability of essential vitamins and minerals.

Another study done in 2001 and published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association pointed out a number of problems with raw diets, including low phosphorus and potassium levels, calcium-to-phosphorus ratios of 0.15 and high concentrations of zinc--all of which are areas of concern with growing puppies.

After reading all the arguments against the BARF diet, it no longer sounds like the wonder, "cure-all" feeding method that proponents present. Where does all of that leave us?

Basically, it comes down to this. In the final analysis the choice will be left up to the owner. Do your research. Make yourself an "expert" on pet nutrition. Study all the arguments both for and against and weigh them for yourself. Make sure you have a clear understand not only of the purported benefits of the BARF diet, but all the risks and potential problems that can arise as well.

As I usually tell people, the most important thing is to educated yourselves. If you choose to try a raw diet, find a good holistic vet who can help you make sure that is balanced and healthy.

My own personal opinion is that I am not comfortable with this diet. I continue to feed my guys a high-end premium kibble, supplemented with dehydrated raw food mixes and my own homemade---cooked---stew. My pups are healthy and happy and I have never had the first problem with feeding the way I do.

Again, this is only my opinion. Study and decide for yourself.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

BARF - The Pro Side

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In keeping with the spirit of my blog title, “You’re feeding me WHAT?”, I find the topic and title of this entry slightly amusing. I am talking about the complete opposite of the commercial pet food diet. What is this alternative diet called?


Yep, you heard me. BARF. Sounds yummy, huh? Ugh.

Okay, seriously…What is the BARF diet? BARF is an acronym for Bones And Raw Food, or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. Not quite as gross as it sounded!

What does the BARF diet consist of? Why is it different? I will present a very much condensed crash course in the pros and cons of the BARF diet. There are many staunch supporters of this diet, but there are just as many the vehemently oppose it. I will try to show both sides here. This article will address the PRO side of BARF.

First of all, what is wrong with commercial pet food? Well, if you’ve been reading my blog from the beginning (if not, I recommend that you do) you know there is a LOT wrong with most commercial foods. Most grocery store brands and even a lot of the so-called premium brands of kibble are full of ingredients I would never feed my pet. Keep in mind that the claim of “nutritionally balanced and complete” only means that the food will sustain life. Period. Beyond that, it means pretty much nothing.

Many commercial pet foods contain a lot of grains such as corn, wheat or rice (things that cats and dogs do not eat in the wild). They may also contain additives and preservatives that are not at all healthy, or necessary, for pets. Digestion should start in the mouth when saliva mixes with chewed-up food, but most kibble is small and some pets end up swallowing it whole.

The BARF diet aims to replicate a diet similar to what a wolf would eat in the wild. This diet is not typically accepted by many veterinarians, and there are few scientific studies on it, at least that I am aware of. Supporters of raw feeding believe that the natural diet of an animal in the wild is what it is most adapted to. They try to duplicate this diet for their pet, with the belief that a balanced raw diet has the benefits of giving the animal a healthier coat, cleaner teeth and breath, reduced stool volume and odor, and better overall health.

Let’s take a look at exactly what the BARF diet includes. (..more)

A typical BARF diet is made up of 60-80% of raw meaty bones (RMB), that is bones with about 50% meat, (e.g. chicken neck, back and wings) and 20-40% of fruits and vegetables, offal, meat, eggs, or dairy foods. A sample BARF meal may include things like raw chicken necks or backs, raw chicken wings, organ meats (a few times a week), ground raw veggies and fruits, ground meat, and whole eggs (including shells). The food is supplemented with flax or fish oil, probiotics, and any sort of supplement that includes vitamins and trace minerals.

Are raw meats safe for my pet? Most pet owners and holistic veterinarians report no obvious health problems in pets fed raw meat. Many owners and doctors report healthier looking coats and skin, less itching, less arthritis, and general overall health improvement once pets are slowly switched from processed food and fed raw homemade diets. There are health concerns with feeding raw meat, including parasites and bacterial contamination, which we will take a look in the next section.

BARF does take a commitment to understanding basic canine nutrition. The main drawback to preparing diets at home is that unless following properly formulated recipes, it is easy to create nutrient deficiencies or excesses that could cause illness in your pet.

The idea behind the homemade diets is that the owner will use fresh, minimally processed ingredients. By offering fresh food, there are more nutrients in the diet that would otherwise be removed as a result of processing. Homemade diets seek to emphasize freshness and wholesomeness of ingredients. The diets avoid the harmful chemical preservatives, additives, and artificial colorings and flavors that may occur in some commercially prepared diets. Homemade diets are designed to address common concerns owners may express concerning commercial pet foods.

Pet owners have often been told, "don't feed your pet people food," but this advice is erroneous for two reasons. First, processed dog food and cat food is nothing more than "people food" processed into pellets and put in a bag for pets (although many manufacturers use ingredients not fit for human consumption.) Second, prior to the origin of processed foods in the early 1900's, our pets ate nothing but people food (unless the dog or cat hunted its own meals.) Many holistic veterinarians think that the diseases we now see (diseases such as immune disorders, allergies, and arthritis that were rare in past years) are a direct result of processed pet foods.

Some of the main points made by proponents of the BARF diet are:

  • Fresh foods prepared at home with minimal processing provide phytonutrients (nutrients found in plants) such as bioflavonoids and many nutrients not yet discovered in the plants.
  • The homemade diets use higher quality protein and carbohydrate sources and do not require heating to extremely high temperatures and extruding into pellets under high pressure like processed pet foods. This heating and pressurizing of food destroys most of the nutrients (enzymes, healthy bacteria (probiotics), and vitamins and minerals) that your pet requires, forcing pet food manufacturers to add extra vitamins and minerals to the food after extensive processing of the food (most manufacturers do not add back probiotics or enzymes; supplementation with these ingredients is still necessary to achieve levels found in homemade diets.
  • Dogs and cats are mainly carnivorous and should be fed mainly meat-based diets when possible, although many commercial foods base their diets on cereal grains and vegetables.
  • For owners who desire to feed a more natural, chemical-free diet, preparing diets at home is easy and cost-effective. You can select the freshest ingredients available; ideally the vegetables and meats should be organic (from plants and animals raised without chemicals, hormones, or pesticides.)
  • Many commercial pet foods contain materials, including cereal grains, that pets are not designed to eat. Additionally, the quality of the ingredients, unless they are human quality ingredients, is low. In some processed foods (especially soft-moist "burgers,") sugars are used as the carbohydrate source. This may contribute to diabetes; excess sugar is not digested and can cause diarrhea. Propylene glycol, a preservative in soft-moist diets, can cause anemia, especially in cats.
Sounds like a pretty great diet for your pet, huh? Not so fast. There are a lot of concerns over the BARF diet as well. We will explore those in my next article.

For now, that’s all the “food for thought” until next time.

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Top 10 Pet Safety Tips

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Top 10 Pet Safety Tips

You never know when a natural disaster or a more common everyday emergency might occur. Don't be caught off-guard without a plan for you and your pets. The tips below are essential to emergency preparedness.

  1. Make sure that your pet wears a well-fitting collar with an ID tag that has up-to-date contact information.

  2. Train your dog. A well-trained, obedient dog is safer, more responsive and happier.

  3. Always keep your pet on a leash when outside the house or yard.

  4. In order to make traveling with your pet more manageable, be sure that your pet is comfortable in a crate or carrier, even if you don't use one on a regular basis.

  5. Know basic pet first aid such as how to stop bleeding and treat lacerations. Always approach a sick, injured or scared animal slowly and cautiously. Even your own pet can be aggressive when in pain or frightened. More pet first aid info at

  6. Purchase or assemble a basic pet first aid kit that includes gauze pads, gauze roll/ bandages, thermometer, tweezers, hydrogen peroxide, antibiotic ointment, Q-tips, instant cold pack and rags or rubber tubing for a tourniquet.

  7. Make sure that you have a pet emergency supply kit that includes an ample supply of food and water, blankets, a spare leash and collar, food bowls, garbage bags and any needed medication and a recent photo of your pet. See full pet emergency supply kit checklist

  8. Remain as calm as possible during stressful or emergency situations - your pet is easily influenced by your behavior and will mirror your stress or panic.

  9. Be aware of the dangers of common household items - from poisons and pesticides to chocolate and certain houseplants - and keep them away from your pet.

  10. Be aware that extreme temperatures have drastic effects on pets. Heat exhaustion is often caused by leaving pets in parked cars or over-exercising pets during hot weather. To cool off an overheated pet, offer plenty of water, wet his or her body and paws with cool water, then fan.
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