{Take Action Tuesday} Animal Welfare in School Curriculum

“Children are great imitators.  So give them something great to imitate.” – Anonymous

I have said, time and again, that the way to actually get to the root of the pet overpopulation problem is through education.  I firmly believe that every single life saved is invaluable and deserving, but for every one saved, there are countless ones currently suffering at the hands of abuse, living in shelters or on chains, and being euthanized.  Imagine a day when there was no need for rescue work at all?  A day that shelters merely existed to house dogs that got loose until their owners could be reunited with them?  A day when the saddest story we read was of a beloved pet that came down with an illness?  If we are ever going to get to that day, it will be through education.

Happy black lab

I truly believe that children are our future.  Which is what makes this petition SO exciting to me:

“The mission for Animal Welfare in the school curriculum is to educate and explore the history and meaning of our animal kinship and foster a life-long commitment to animals. Our mission is also to alleviate the suffering of all animals. A classroom presentation program should exist to give the students hands-on learning experience of rescued animals. This will encourage kindness and empathy for both human and nonhuman animals and promotes understanding of our many diverse habitats.                                                                              Field trips to an Animal Shelter and an Animal Rescue should also be a part of this program. It is a powerful experience. Sharing the love of animals also includes awareness of animal overpopulation and the reason for neutering and spaying. Most importantly, humane education strives to establish a sense of responsibility, making the world a better, more humane place. Our children ARE the future.  To end I would like to Thank all of you who sign and share this, and may God bless you all.”

Penny the cat

Imagine the implications of a program like this!  Children that ask their parents for a puppy specifically from the shelter.  Children that ask their parents why Fido has to live on the chain in the yard and can’t come inside.  Children that scold their older sibling when they see them throw rocks at a dog.  Children that become more aware of the world around them.  Rescues currently in existence could begin to focus their efforts on educating low-income areas.  Or helping concerned pet owners with behavioral issues learn how to train their dogs to keep them in their homes and out of shelters.  Government funded animal controls could begin spending their budget on low cost spay and neuter clinics instead.  The potential domino effect is as large as our imaginations allow it to be.

Apollo the cat

 To the handful of people that I know will say something like, “But children should not be exposed to suffering!”  I call bulh$#*t.  You need to toughen up, and so do your kids.  There is a big world out there and by sheltering children the way parents do these days, you are doing them exactly zero favors.  Just because a child plays a sport does not mean he should automatically win a medal.  Just because a child does not like his teacher does not mean you should swoop in and demand they be moved to a new classroom.  Just because a child might come home saddened because they learned that there are homeless pets does not mean you should deprive them of this life lesson.  By learning to lose, work through a tough situation, and that there is in fact suffering in the world children might just begin to work harder, embrace compromise, and best of all, gain empathy for those around them.  And imagine what a beautiful world that would lead to.

Maggie the rescue

If are in agreement, please click here to sign the petition.  The petition currently has less 1/5 of the necessary signatures.  I also ask that if you are in agreement with this message, you hit that “share” button as well and let’s get this out there for more people to see!  Thank you and Take Action!  

  

Zeutering: Good, Bad, or Ugly?

The “If-I-Had-Millions-of-Dollars” game is one that I frequently play with my friends (ok, fine, and with myself when I’m bored.)  There are a lot of things I would want to do with it, not shockingly I’m sure, all related to animal rescue and advocacy.  My favorite idea of all is to create a trust fund for the inventor of a 100% oral sterilization pill.  I won’t bore you with all the of the detailed ideas I have surrounding this miracle pill, but the reason I’m sharing it with you is I have recently learned of something similar that actually exists: Zeuterin!

Imagine my shock when I read the line “New Non-Surgical Neutering Option”.  Was this the miracle pill that I have quite literally dreamed of for years?  Well, not exactly, but in my opinion it is a step in the right direction.

Gracie came from a terrible background but now she lives every dog's dream.

What is Zeuterin?

Zeuterin is a solution, with zinc gluconate as the active ingredient, that is injected into the testicles of male dogs rendering them chemically, and permanently, sterilized.  The zinc gluconate immediately goes to work killing the sperm and within 30 days the dog is permanently altered.  Guys, I know you’re squirming over the thought of an injection straight to the testicles.  According to the manufacturer 97.5% the dogs studied “showed no outward evidence of pain during the procedure”.  Additionally they report that only 1.1% of dogs exhibited pain or an injection site reaction.  Currently it is only approved for dogs age 3-10 months but it is expected that the FDA will soon expand that to include all dogs over the age of 3 months in 2013.  The testicles remain intact (though they do report on occasion minimal “shrinkage”) and the dog is tattooed with a small “Z” to make it possible to visually identify if I dog has been altered or not.  Zeuterin only reduces testosterone production by around 50%.  And last, the average cost is only $5-$25 to sterilize a dog using Zeuterin!

Sweet Gracie is loving life in a home.

The Pro’s:

Zeuterin is cheap and easy.  Seriously, in my opinion those two things are of the utmost importance in tackling the pet overpopulation issue.  By offering Zeuterin as an option, veterinarians will be able to effectively sterilize dogs whose owners may not have previously been able to afford the procedure.  The speed and ease of administration also make it much more viable for shelters and animal control facilities that previously might not have been able to alter dogs before releasing them back out in to the public.  Also, because at most Zeuterin only minimally shrinks the size of the testicles, owners who could not get past the idea of “taking their dog’s balls” now don’t have that excuse.  The dog retains about 50% of his testosterone which has been proven to help reduce the risk of some forms of cancer.

You gotta love a pit bull's smile.

The Con’s:

The dog still retains 50% of his testosterone.  But wait, I just listed that as a “pro”?  Testosterone can lead to “unwanted” behaviors in males such as roaming (although in a perfect world all owners would not allow this to happen!), humping, and even aggression.  Also, the dog still appears to be intact.  I may be the only one that sees it this way, but to me, a clearly altered male sends a positive message: I am a responsible pet owner and care about the welfare of other animals and therefore actively choose not to be part of the problem.  Because a Zeutered dog still appears intact, you are potentially sending a message to strangers that your dog isn’t altered (yes, I know that it is, but a complete stranger can no longer know that at a glance) and possibly even encouraging others not to alter their dog.  Because Zeuterin has only been tested for two years there is also the unknown of true long-term effects.  Personally I am not a fan of chemicals in any shape and form, and it would make me uncomfortable to inject my dog with them.  Lastly, and this one is for you, men, I don’t like that the dog is awake for the procedure.  I acknowledge that they have studied this, but come on, those studies are by the people producing the drug…who want to profit from it after all.  Maybe it really is next to painless, but it still makes me cringe a little.

Gracie with her new mom.

The Verdict:

Personally, I think the pros outweigh the cons.  Do I think it is perfect?  No.  Do I love the fact that veterinarians and scientists are actively working on solutions to the pet overpopulation problem?  YES!  My hope would be that this drug becomes readily available to (trained!) shelter workers who could Zeuter all males dogs before their release back in to the public.  I would also hope that the manufacturers would continue working to perfect the drug and it could one day address some of concerns that exist in it’s current state.  Ultimately, I can’t ever see myself being against something that is working to solve the pet overpopulation issues, even if it isn’t perfect just yet.  What is your opinion?  I’d love to hear from some every day dog lovers like me!  Zeuterin: good, bad, or ugly?

Articles I took facts from (though I did read many more opinion pieces):

http://www.embracepetinsurance.com/hot-topics/zeutering-vs-neutering

http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/a-new-nonsurgical-way-to-neuter-male-dogs

http://www.vetstreet.com/dr-marty-becker/new-nonsurgical-neutering-option-makes-sterilization-simple

P.S. – doesn’t Gracie just look so happy with her family?  I just love it.  Makes my heart happy!

Spay and Neuter: Stop Niagara

I should hope that it goes without saying that I feel like fostering is an amazing, wonderful thing, and I would like everyone out there to foster at least once in their life–it is why I started this blog after all.  But that said, it’s kind like sticking a band-aid on Niagara Falls… if Niagara Falls was the pet overpopulation problem.  Of course every life that is saved through fostering is beyond precious, and when you foster you really are saving multiple lives because you are opening up a space in the shelter, but still, getting to the root of the problem is ultimately of greater importance.

Homeless Mother

No one can resist a wiggly puppy butt, and taking a scared dog out of the shelter is a feeling that can probably only be trumped by winning the lottery, but the less glamorous job of promoting spaying and neutering, as well as responsible pet ownership, is crucial if we are going to win this war.  There is no immediate gratification.  No one gushes over the precious pictures you flood Facebook and Instagram with.  You don’t get to hold a scared dog and make his life better.  BUT by promoting these things what you are doing is saving countless future lives from ever having to experience the dirty floor of a shelter, an empty tummy, harsh words, or a kick in the ribs.  Sure, you can’t ever really know how many dogs you’ve saved from suffering, but isn’t knowing that you have gratification enough?

Puppy Butts

I know that our society today is consumed with the need for immediate, tangible gratification (thank you Facebook!) but this is something that will give you neither of those.  There.  I said it.  “But how many people will like my status?  How many followers will I get?  Will people like me?!”  You will have to do all of this without so much as a pat on your back.  No cheers, no “likes”, no gratification other than knowing you have in fact made a difference.  A difference you will only see in the decreasing number of dogs landing at shelters.  It will take time BUT we can do it.  And won’t seeing those numbers go down be the biggest victory of all?

Stray mother and puppies

Most of my friends have experienced once, or twice, or 57 times, “The Speech” when I see someone out in public with an obviously unaltered male (it’s basically impossible to tell if a female is altered or not, so I rarely approach the owners of females.)  Most people argue with me, roll their eyes, or mutter “b*tch” under their breath.  But sometimes, just every now and then, I actually get through to someone.  My favorite story is probably the time I was with Last Hope Rescue at Barkoween.  We had a booth there for our adoptable dogs and the booth next to us was for a free/low cost spay and neuter voucher program.  The event was open to the public and I had already given “The Speech” to a few victims when a young man walked by with his gigantic pit bull, who was rocking the biggest set of gonads I have ever seen.  I swiftly walked over to him and launched into “The Speech” while violently gently tugging him in the direction of the booth next to us.  After some back and forth about how “he doesn’t want to take away his masculinity”, he finally admitted that he didn’t really have the money.  “Not a problem my friend!”  And next thing I know the kid is filling out the form to receive a free neuter voucher.  So maybe it wasn’t cool, or glamorous, but I just prevented that dog from reproducing.  All it takes is for you to make the effort.  You don’t know the outcome until you try!

Homeless Puppies

Here is my challenge to you: do one thing today that forces you out of your comfort zone regarding spaying and neutering.  Send a link of my blog to someone you know doesn’t believe in it.  Post a link on Facebook to a site about spaying and neutering.  Take your dog on a walk and seek out someone to give “The Speech” to. (“The Speech” is something you have to come up with on your own.  If I tell you mine, it won’t flow right.  Say what comes natural to you.  All that matters is you have your facts straight and you do it!)  Call up your Uncle Larry who insists that, “I watch her closely when she’s in heat” and chat with him about why his female dog really does need to be spayed before there is an “accident” and he’s got a litter of puppies on his hands.

One mind changed = countless lives saved.

Stray momma dog.

The mom and her puppies featured throughout this post are currently being fostered by a friend of mine here in Jacksonville.  She pulled them yesterday from the shelter on her own so they wouldn’t all be euthanized but we are looking for a rescue to urgently help.  Feel free to hit that “share” button and help us spread the word!  Thanks!