Newman: Poi Dog Pondering

I’ve never been very good at identifying breeds of dogs, but now I’ve worked at the Humane Society of Greater Dayton for over a year and I’ve had a lot of practice.

I’m still terrible.

I’m also not alone. It turns out working in the animal welfare field doesn’t necessarily mean you will be able to accurately identify the breed or breeds of a particular dog.

In one study, adoption agency personnel were asked to visually identify the breed or breeds of 40 different dogs. These guesses were then compared to the breeds identified through DNA analysis of the same 40 dogs.1

To reveal the results, they all went on The Maury Povich Show, where Maury exclaimed to the delight of the audience, “Congratulations, you are a Pit Bull!”

OK, the actual results were slightly less dramatic, but no less interesting. There is little correlation between the breeds that were identified visually and the breeds identified by DNA analysis. Basically, we stink at visually identifying a dog’s breed.

What are the potential consequences of these results? How can breed specific legislation, like the Pit Bull ban in Denver, be enforced if we’re unable to visually identify a breed? Are we doing damage by potentially mislabeling a dog at a shelter? Would you think differently of a dog labeled “Pit Bull” than a dog labeled “Lab”?

The results of this study answer a few questions, but probably pose a hundred more.

So, what is Newman, you ask? Drumroll, please…

According to the Wisdom Panel DNA analysis, Newman is half American Staffordshire Terrier and half poi dog, as they say in Hawaii. Basically, one parent was so mixed they could only give me the top 5 best breed matches for his other half.

  1. Cesky Terrier (6.23%)
  2. Bulldog (5.33%)
  3. Boxer (2.15%)
  4. Flat-Coated Retriever (0.62%)
  5. Miniature Bull Terrier (0.44%)

These 5 breeds still only make up about 15% of his other half, which means there is still about 35% of Newman that is unaccounted for. Whatever those breeds are, I’m sure they’re what make him want to eat my socks and sleep on my head. Or maybe these are just a couple of the things that make Newman, Newman.

Newman also jumps like an Olympian and cuddles like a champ. When his mouth is closed, it’s turned to a perpetual frown; when he’s panting it’s a wide, beautiful smile. Newman’s coat is so silky that my 7-year old neighbor has declared Newman the “fluffiest” dog he’s ever met. His large, webbed paws elicit comments from nearly everyone we meet.

Wherever these traits come from, they are likely the result of a complex mix of Newman’s genes and his environment – not a reflection of one particular breed. Newman is unique; a one of a kind. But then again, aren’t all dogs?

Newman

Newman

Resources

1http://nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/breed-identification-1/

And just for fun, would you be able to pick out the Pit Bull? Many of these dogs would likely be identified under the “Pit Bull” label, but only one is an American Pit Bull Terrier.

http://www.pitbullsontheweb.com/petbull/findpit.html

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Speak Up, Ma`am

When Roseline Odine was 14-years old she left her home in Cameroon, Africa for the United States with the promise of education and a better life. Instead, when she arrived, she was forced to work as a domestic servant with no pay. For over two years she endured emotional and physical abuse from her captors until she was finally able to run away.1

In school, we are often taught that slavery ended in the United States in 1865 with the thirteenth amendment. It is an unfortunate blemish on our past, but it ended long ago.

Right?

Roseline was manipulated into coming to the United States in 1997.

The title of this blog, Wake Up , Ma`am, has several meanings; one being how I feel when I come across a significant issue that was previously unknown to me – or possibly just ignored. For my summer semester, I am taking a course on Human Rights and learning about human trafficking and forced labor – basically, modern day slavery.

The statistics on how many people are enslaved in the world today vary and can range anywhere from 21 million2 to 27 million3. The numbers of people enslaved are understandably difficult to estimate! No matter what the number is, there is widespread agreement that slavery still exists. And I think anyone would agree, even just one person enslaved is one person too many.

Although the majority of these people are women and children in developing countries, slavery still exists in developed countries, too. It may have been made illegal in 1865, but tens of thousands of people are still enslaved in the United States.4 It turns out, slavery isn’t legal anywhere, but has been documented in every country except for Greenland and Iceland.5

No matter where the slaves come from, they are often targeted for the same reasons – they are vulnerable because they are impoverished and lack access to healthcare and education and other basic human needs. Poverty, education, and healthcare are so closely linked that solutions to REALLY ending slavery will need to be comprehensive and address all of these issues.

These issues can seem difficult to address for an individual. However, we can always take two relatively easy steps – we can educate ourselves (wake up!) and we can speak up. We can learn about and support the organizations that are already making a difference, we can write letters to our political representatives to encourage support of policies that address human rights (including the issues of poverty, education, and healthcare), and we can stop supporting systems and businesses that perpetuate slavery. Or better yet, we can support the ones that engage in fair business practices and strive for social responsibility – a BUYcott!

As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

We have to start somewhere!

Blog Resources:

1https://www.freetheslaves.net/SSLPage.aspx?pid=347

2http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/press-and-media-centre/news/WCMS_181961/lang–en/index.htm

3https://www.freetheslaves.net/SSLPage.aspx?pid=301

4http://www.freetheslaves.net/NETCOMMUNITY/Document.Doc?id=69

5http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUM2rCIUdeI&feature=related

Additional Resources:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUM2rCIUdeI&feature=related

Organizations making a difference:

http://www.kiva.org/

http://globalgiving.org/

http://www.freethechildren.com/

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A Vegetarian Walks Into a Pig Farm

The title of this blog entry isn’t actually the start of a joke – although, I think it could be a pretty funny one, so I’m accepting ideas for punch lines. A vegetarian walks into a pig farm – this was me a couple of weeks ago. As a part of an assignment for my Animal Protection class, I visited a farm to observe the conditions under which animals are typically kept in our culture. Setting up a visit wasn’t easy. It took several weeks of contacting various Ohio farm organizations and a lot of persistence.

When people visualize farms, we often think about rolling hills, animals grazing on pastures, and big, red barns – this is not without good reason. These are usually the pictures we see depicted on the packaging of products at grocery stores.

Although I’m sure a few of these farms still exist, they are few and far between. Now, factory farming accounts for over 99 percent of all farmed animals who are raised and slaughtered in the United States.1 Factory farms are either Animal Feeding Operations (AFO) or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO). An AFO is an agricultural operation where the farmed animals are raised in confined conditions and the feed is brought to the animals, rather than allowing them to graze on pastures or fields.2 A CAFO is both an AFO and also contributes significant pollutants to our surface water.3 Clear as mud? What a shame that we even have to have these definitions at all.

On the farm I visited, the pigs are kept inside barns and fed a diet of corn and soybeans fortified with vitamins and minerals to cause rapid growth in a short period of time. As they grow larger, there is less room to move around in the pens, causing the pigs to trample one another and fight for space. Although their tails are docked a few days after birth, the overcrowding still causes them to bite the ears and tail stubs of other pigs. There are about 2,000 pigs on the farm at any one time, and as you can imagine, that’s a lot of poop! There is a machine that spreads the manure underground – apparently that helps with the smell.

Although the conditions for the pigs were difficult for me to see, I did enjoy the time I spent on the farm. The farmer was welcoming, answered all of my questions, invited me to lunch – which I politely declined, and I even got to ride on a fancy GPS-enabled tractor.

Can’t we all just get along? Well, a vegetarian just spent an enjoyable morning with a pig farmer, so maybe that’s a good sign!

There are many types of farms – even within the factory farm definition – some better and some probably much worse than the one I visited. So how do we decide which farms to support and where to purchase the animal products we eat? How do we decide whether to eat animal products at all? I recently learned that several states are passing legislation that prohibits undercover photography or video of the farms that produce our food. What does it say about our farms if we aren’t allowed to see them? If we’re not allowed to see them, how can we make educated decisions about our food? In a New York Times Magazine article, Michael Pollen (2002) states, “Maybe all we need to do to redeem industrial animal agriculture in this country is to pass a law requiring that the steel and concrete walls of the CAFO’s and slaughterhouses be replaced with . . . glass. If there’s any new ‘right’ we need to establish, maybe it’s this one: the right to look.”4

While at Best Friends Animal Society, I had the chance to observe pigs in a completely different environment. They had access to the outside to root for food and cool off in the mud, were fed a diet of salads and dried fruit, and had the opportunity to socialize with people and other pigs. In other words, they lived like pigs.

You don’t have to call yourself a vegetarian or an animal rights advocate to be someone who cares about the conditions in which farmed animals are raised. Over 60 percent of people in the United States have companion animals5, and most of them probably would agree that our pets deserve our consideration and respect. I’m not advocating that we turn all pigs into pets, but what do we owe the animals who give their lives for our food? Anything? I would argue that we at least owe them our consideration and to educate ourselves about the conditions many of them are currently raised; and then we can choose to support the systems that sustain them or align our values with our choices and contribute to positive change.

Me giving Holly the pig a nice back scratch

A Best Friends pig enjoying a grooming session

Resources:
1http://www.farmforward.com/farming-forward/factory-farming
2http://www.epa.gov/region7/water/cafo/index.htm
3http://www.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/sector_table.pdf
4http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/10/magazine/an-animal-s-place.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm
5http://www.americanpetproducts.org/press_industrytrends.asp

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

It feels like only recently that I was packing my bags, driving across the country, and making stops at funny, Midwestern, side-of-the-road attractions on my way to start my internship at Best Friends Animal Society. Six weeks ago?  Surely it was only six days ago!

In my first blog entry, I commented about my high-speed train to change. I realize now, this is not the case. I did make a lot of decisions in a short amount of time, but it turns out, change is slow. At least for me, it is going to involve a challenging series of changes that will require me to stay outside of my comfort zone for longer than I might like. My time at Best Friends was an incredibly valuable experience, but the end of the internship is really only the beginning of my change.

Slow and steady wins the race

Now that I’m back, I’m left with a difficult feeling. Now what? How do I harness my experience and motivation to continue to make changes and not fall back into the comfort and security of a more stable and familiar life? Although my internship is over, I will continue my adventure and make progress toward my goal of a career in animal welfare and humane education. I hope that means I will continue to have things to blog about!

Thanks to everyone for all of your love and support, and I hope you will continue to follow my progress and my blog!

A bonus of my internship was the opportunity to meet some incredible people! These were the other interns in my group - Markus, Kaila, Nick, Leah, Katie, and Nini.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ignorance is Bliss

When I read about U.S. history, slavery, and the Civil Rights Movement, I often wonder how we could have been complacent for so long in our discrimination and the inhumane treatment of other human beings.  However, I recognize judgment is always easy when looking in from the outside!

I recently listened to an editorial on NPR that mentions Thomas Jefferson and his ability to value freedom yet own hundreds of slaves – seems hypocritical, yes? But how often do we do the same? I think most people would say they do not support slavery or animal cruelty, but how often are we willing to overlook information so that we are able to maintain more comfortable lives?

Since starting the Humane Education program, I realize there are many times that I have chosen to remain blissfully unaware so that I can maintain a lifestyle that is more fun and convenient for me. I have tried to make improvements, but it’s a slow process of change. I have educated myself about how animals are treated in factory farms and done my best to match my actions with my values. However, I have been slower to change some of my other habits.

I have a pretty insane sweet tooth. There is no chocolate too sweet or too rich! I think it’s genetic – so thanks, Mom and Dad. Almost half of the world’s cocoa supply comes from the Ivory Coast in West Africa. Unfortunately, the workers on the cocoa farms are frequently children who are sold into this trade at a young age. Although it is difficult to know which companies purchase chocolate that was produced using child labor or slavery, many of the major companies purchase chocolate from the Ivory Coast, so it is likely they are supporting these practices. We may not be supporting slavery in the U.S., but when we purchase this chocolate, we are unknowingly doing so in other countries.

In Utah, there is a proposed farm bill, HB 187, which would make it a misdemeanor to take pictures or video on a farmer’s property because it interferes with the operation of the agricultural industry. Don’t we have the right to know about the businesses we’re supporting with our money? Do we want to know how the animals are treated on farms before they end up on our plate? Maybe not – after all, ignorance is bliss and the agricultural industry relies on this to continue to make a profit.

I think most people would say they care about children and that they would prefer the animals they eat are treated humanely and with respect.  I hope that when it comes to many of these issues we will stop overlooking information and start aligning our actions with our values.

As Michel Martin asks in her NPR editorial, I will start asking myself, “To what am I enslaved? And what or whom is it my duty to set free?”

References and more information:
“What Enslaves Us That We Won’t Give Up?”
American University Trade and Environment Database
Directory of Ethical Chocolate Companies

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Free-Roaming Felines: Not So Funny Meow, Is It?

There isn’t really anything funny about community cats, but I just couldn’t resist a Super Troopers reference in a blog entry about cats!

Community cats are also sometimes called feral cats or colony cats – they’re essentially cats who live outside, are unsocialized, and fearful of human interaction. Unfortunately, most feral cats are not considered adoptable and will never be able to live inside. They’re also often considered to be a nuisance – they can spray and mark territory, fight, and have noisy mating encounters.

Historically, the solution has been to trap these cats and euthanize them, but many animal welfare groups are moving away from this method because it is inhumane and ineffective. Community cats typically reside in a location because there is a food source and some kind of shelter. Even if you remove the cats and euthanize them, the food source and shelter remain for new cats to move in. Those cats reproduce and it turns out you haven’t really done anything to reduce the number of feral cats.

Many animal groups, including Best Friends, have moved toward a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) method. TNR involves catching cats in humane traps, neutering and vaccinating them, and returning them to the community where they were trapped. While under anesthesia, the cats are also ear-tipped as a way to mark them and prevent future trappings. TNR helps to stabilize the cat colonies because it prevents future reproduction, reduces the nuisance behaviors, decreases the number of cats euthanized in shelters, and improves their overall health.

TNR is now being practiced in hundreds of communities and it has proven to be a more effective – and humane – method of controlling cat overpopulation.

Alley Cat Allies is a partner of Best Friends and a great resource for more information on community cats and TNR.

These cats are definitely not feral and are up for adoption at Best Friends!


Bob


Black Jack


Moses

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Everyone Loves an Underdog

Why do we cheer for the underdog? Underdog stories about people tend to be relatable. The underdogs come across as genuine and unpretentious; they succeed with hard work and dedication. They inspire us and give us hope. And underdog stories make great movies! I never get tired of cheering for the small-town Indiana basketball team that wins the state championship in Hoosiers, and I still get chills when Rudy finally gets to play in a Notre Dame football game.

For me, rooting for the underdog also extends to animals. Before Slaw came into my life, I had no knowledge about pit bulls or their unwarranted reputation. The more I learn about discriminatory laws and policies and read sensationalized media stories that demonize pit bulls, the more I want to advocate for them. I’ve always considered them the underdogs of the dogs!

Since my time at Best Friends, I have discovered another underdog – the seniors. At Best Friends, many of the “mature” dogs have their own area called Old Friends. A few of these dogs have been here most of their lives, while others were in homes for many years. Some of these dogs are blind or have difficulty walking, while others are perfectly healthy. Each dog has their own unique story and individual personality, but I have fallen in love with every single one. I am inspired and hopeful – I want to find them all homes!

Older dogs have their advantages. Many of them already have some training and house manners, it’s easy to determine their temperament, and they often need less activity and exercise – they’re just looking for a good couch companion! Life is valuable at any age, and these dogs deserve families and homes to live in during their final years.

These are a few of the wonderful dogs at Old Friends who stole my heart.


Best Friends currently has many beagles rescued from a research laboratory. Eli is a sweet, older guy who reminds me of my first dog, Sadie.


Drummer is 11 years old and partially blind, but still enjoys play time in the park and leisurely strolls.


Marnie is a sweet and mellow 10-year old. She is partially blind, but her health is good. She’s great with kids and other dogs, so she hangs out outside of a kennel and is a part of the official Old Friends welcome wagon!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment