Saturday, January 30, 2010

Technology helps lost pets find their way home

It was more than a year ago when Laura Hawk received the call from the Michigan Humane Society -- her beloved cat, Snowball, had been found in the Rochester Hills area.

He was pretty sick, having contracted pneumonia. But his condition -- alive -- was pretty remarkable considering the circumstances.

Hawk lives 1,197 miles away in Dunedin, Fla., near Tampa. Snowball had been missing for seven years.
"I just burst into tears, I was so excited," Hawk, 60, said. "I said, 'Oh my God. You found Snowball.' "

Snowball's saving grace was a microchip the size of a grain of rice implanted under the skin on the back of his neck.

Neither time nor distance could fool the chip, which operates on radio waves. When it's scanned, numbers and letters pop up on the scanner. From the sequence, a shelter official or vet can trace down the server storing the information and, subsequently, the owner.

From microchips to GPS-equipped iPhone applications, animal lovers are increasingly turning to technology to find wayward or stolen pets.

When a Maltese-mix puppy was stolen from a Novi pet store a few months ago, for example, store owners used a Web-based service to issue what amounts to an Amber Alert for dogs: a registry called Started five years ago and operating out of Wixom, the company has helped 25,000 people nationwide find their lost animals in the past two years, said Nick Acosta, a company co-founder.

Acosta was inspired to start the firm after losing his own pet, Tooga, a Newfoundland, when he was a kid.

"The same advice that was given when we were kids continued -- check the shelter and hang out posters," Acosta said.

"With the technology changes taking place around us, that seemed absolutely ludicrous."

The rise of social media and the advent of smart phones further expanded the repertoire of ways to find lost pets.
Social sites help the search

A new iPhone app, "Community Leash," allows users to send an alert to other users when pets go missing.

On the flip side, if you find a lost animal, you can check local postings and even take a photo with your iPhone's built-in camera and create a "sighting." Community Leash uses iPhone's GPS capability to keep people updated on lost pets in the area.

And for around $400, pet owners can get a GPS collar that allows them to track the movements of their pets via linked satellites.

No single agency tracks the thousands of lost or roaming animals who find their way to shelters and rescue organizations, so it's impossible to pinpoint just how many animals are reunited through technology.

The Michigan Humane Society shelters and cares for about 15,000 stray animals a year. Only about 16 percent of lost dogs and 3 percent of cats are reunited with their owners, said Jennifer Robertson, society spokeswoman.

That's because most of the animals lack any identification.
Microchipping begins

But that's changing. Since summer, the Humane Society has been microchipping all adoptable cats and kittens at its veterinary care centers in Detroit, Rochester Hills and Westland.

Microchipping costs around $48, but the Humane Society is doing it for the cats at no cost to those who adopt them.

"Microchipping offers a safe, permanent and unalterable form of identification," Robertson said. "And that can often be a lost pet's ticket home if he or she arrives at an animal care center. The cost is minimal compared to the heartbreak of losing a cherished four-legged family member."

Read Full Entry

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Unrestrained pets in cars a safety issue

Your pet dog could literally become a dangerous missile in a car crash if it’s left unrestrained. Police and the SPCA are urging people to restrain animals in cars while driving to prevent harm to both passengers and pets.

Serious crash unit sergeant Paul Latham says unrestrained animals become "projectiles" in crashes, whether they’re in the front seat or back.

"If your pet’s on your lap you are more likely to do more damage to the animal as it will hit the windscreen," he says.

"If it’s unrestrained in the back it becomes a real hazard to the driver.

"If the pet’s an alsatian or a labrador, that’s a lot of weight coming from the back and if you’re travelling at 50kmh that weight’s going to be heading towards you at that speed."

Mr Latham says it’s difficult to tell the extent to which unrestrained animals actually cause serious crashes.

"Particularly fatal crashes ... but we can see there’s an animal in the car and that the driver has lost control at some point. An animal distracts people. And distraction’s probably the most dangerous thing."

While there are no laws requiring people to restrain animals in cars the Road Code does stipulate that "holding a package, person or animal in your lap or arms when driving is dangerous".

"And anything on the back tray or shelf of a car is a weapon," Mr Latham says.

SPCA inspector Vicki Border puts her dog George in a dog restraint while she’s out investigating animal cruelty cases.

"It’s crazy to drive and have your dog on your knee. It’s very similar to having a baby on your lap – would you risk that?

"If you brake suddenly the dog will go through the windscreen.

"I’d love to see it be compulsory for dogs to be restrained to avoid injury to the dog or distraction to the driver."

Read Full Entry

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pygmy goats - the new it pet?

In addition to their popularity among enterprising grass-cutting and weed control operations like City Grazing and Goats R Us, more and more people are choosing to employ goats as family pets.

According to the New York Times, some Chicago residents have become particularly fond of Pygmies.

Valued for their milk and desirable compact size (they max out at around 17 inches tall)

These bitty billies have trotted into backyards (and hearts) throughout the Windy City and its burbs. Pygmies are also revered for their intelligence and good temper.

"Out in a yard, they easily pass as a dog," one goat enthusiast told the Times. As in Chicago, keeping a goat is also legal in San Francisco, you just can't sell the animal's milk or cheese. According to San Francisco health codes, donkeys, mules, cows, and goats (basically all "even-toed hooved animals") require a permit, although pot bellied pigs and Pygmy goats are typically defined as pets. Just be sure you know the local laws before picking up a Pygmy of your own to avoid any "5-4-7" grazing violations.

Read Full Entry

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Beloved pets haven’t lived this long in a dog’s age

Pets are living longer than ever, thanks to diligent owners and medical advances. “There’s no question that longevity is connected to quality of health care,” said Dr. Lisa Moses, head of the pain management service at MSPCA Angell Animal Medical Center in Jamaica Plain.

“It is true for humans and it is true for animals. When the patient can’t talk, you are dependent on the caretaker to tell you what is wrong and seek help. People used to bring their animals to the ER, where the diseases were really far advanced.

I think people are doing a better job of finding out when dogs are sick earlier.”Typically, the larger the dog the shorter the life expectancy. Big dogs like Great Danes are well into their twilight years by age 7, where toy-size dogs live an average of 12 to 14 years.

Felines are considered senior once they hit age 10. “I see a lot of animals where they are long into their teens. I have lots of dog patients who are above 16,” Moses said. While improvements in nutrition helps, Moses said genetics is the biggest contributor to long life.

Take Milo, a 19, yes, 19-year-old Labrador mix. Milo continues to amaze his owner, Teresa Hill of Cambridge. While most dogs of Milo’s size die at 13 or 14, this playful pup still enjoys mischief and mayhem. He rode in Hill’s sailboat until a few years ago. “He was the Houdini of dogs,” Hill said.

Now he prefers the comfort of his new dog bed in front of the fireplace, she said. Like any senior, he has some health issues - he’s deaf and has his share of pains - but Hill takes him to acupuncture and water therapy sessions to ease the aches.

“He’s infirm, but he’s perfectly cheerful and he’s completely there and he loves the snow. We built a ramp for him so he can go up and down the stairs. When he saw the snow he leaped the deck into the snow and landed flat,” Hill said.

Hill’s cat Buzz, Milo’s buddy, lived to be 21 years old.

Then there’s Brownie, a 34-year-old thoroughbred/quarter horse from Whitman.

“It is hard to believe that someday soon, hopefully later, he won’t be there. I can’t even fathom it. I’m going to need therapy ... I grew up with him. We did everything together,” said Brownie’s owner, Jennifer Kruzel.

Horses are considered senior once they pass the 20-year-old mark. But that didn’t stop Brownie - he was still dazzling judges in the show ring at age 30.What’s the secret?

Dr. Daniela Bedenice, a specialist in large animal medicine at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, said aging animals are not unlike aging humans.

“My personal opinion is the more active you keep your horse, keeping your horse physically and mentally active, will improve joint mobility,” Bedenice said.Brownie is now retired from showing, but is still used to help a child with special needs several times a week.“We tried to officially retire him, and he didn’t like not being involved,” said Kruzel.“Genes come into a part of it, but Brownie, never in his life, was hungry, or cold. He had never worked too hard when he wasn’t in shape for it,” Kruzel said.

Read Full Entry

Monday, January 25, 2010

The healing power of pets

For ages, pets were thought to have healing power. And now the results from clinical studies prove this point pets are good for humans.

From Australia to Japan, in the United Kingdom, and across the United States, findings demonstrated that pets reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides.

Thus lowering risk of heart disease. Dog owners benefit from the exercise of daily walks. Pet owners are less prone to loneliness, depression, anxiety and fear.

Dogs have been recruited into health care settings for their healing power. Trained therapy dogs helped cardiac patients lower their stress and anxiety and improve heart and lung health. Joint replacement patients who worked with therapy dogs needed less pain medication than patients without dogs.

Pets have helped to stimulate seniors with Alzheimer’s disease. In another study, children with autism became calmer around service dogs and had fewer outbursts.

Although Steamboat Springs does not have any therapy pets working with health care professionals where treatment goals are set and measured, we do have a popular pet visitation program. Lynette Weaver, executive director of Heeling Friends, said local pet partner teams can help patients relax and make them feel better.

“Patients welcome them with open arms,” Weaver said. “By the time the team leaves, the patients are smiling and in better shape than when they got there.”

Heeling Friends has been operating for more than 10 years, using the Delta Society’s Pet Partners program standards as its guide. Delta Society is a nonprofit organization “dedicated to improving human health through therapy and service animals.” Pet/owner teams first must undergo evaluation and training and then must make a minimum of two visits per month.

Currently, Heeling Friends has 28 active teams who participate in one of three visitation programs. Teams go to see patients at Yampa Valley Medical Center and/or residents at Doak Walker Care Center. They also participate in the Reading Education Assistance Dogs program with Steamboat Springs’ elementary students.

I had the opportunity to follow pet partners Dori, a schnauzer, and Terry Hinde during a recent visit to YVMC and the Doak Walker Care Center. One patient expressed that visits from Heeling Friends always are comforting and can be especially nice for patients who have pets at home who they cannot see while in the hospital.

Patients are not the only benefactors of the visits. Dori brought smiles to several employees. In an environment that often can be challenging, taking a moment to, as Weaver puts it, “paws to make you smile,” can heal the healers. The pets also bring comfort to families and friends who are visiting their loved ones.

At the Doak Walker Care Center, pets reside alongside residents. This helps the skilled nursing center feel more like a home and less like a medical facility.

“The neat thing about the animals, it gives you that homey feeling,” said Kathy Ulmer, recreation assistant at the Doak.

The Doak is home to two cats, Lola and Alex, along with several birds and a large fish aquarium. Ulmer said the birds and fish stimulate the residents. And Lola makes her way around nearly every resident room during the day.

Additionally, employees are encouraged to go through the Very Important Pets screening program to allow their pets to accompany them at work. Five employee-owned dogs currently are permitted to visit.

Everyone, not just the sick, can benefit from the healing power of pets. What you spend on pet care, you could save on health care. Giving your time to another is fulfilling in itself and can improve not only your health, but also your quality of life.

Read Full Entry

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Homeward bound - pet adoptions rise

Pluto is a 1-year-old, white and brown basset hound who has been living at the Humane Society of Greater Miami for the past six months. He's been adopted twice since his original owner surrendered him. But he keeps coming back to the shelter.

``I don't understand why people keep giving him back,'' said Jorge Leon, a supervisor at the shelter in North Miami Beach. ``He's the sweetest dog.'' And it is the same with surrendered cats like 9-year-old Anika, who even when she seemed to have found a new home, came back to the shelter five days later.

The reason: The new owner's job suddenly required extra travel, said Carol Kent, a kennel attendant at the shelter. Animal rescue organizations have reported an increase in abandoned animals as the economy took a dive -- including a spike in animals left behind in foreclosed or abandoned homes.

``We get a lot of calls from police to get dogs or cats at homes,'' said Dr. Sara Pizano, director of Miami-Dade's Animal Services Department.

But the downturn has an upside: Adoptions are on the rise.

Broward County Animal Care and Regulation reported an increase in adoptions in 2009: 3,267, up from 3,050 in 2008. Miami-Dade Animal Services alone made 768 adoptions in December -- a record, Pizano said.

``Many people can't afford pets,'' she said. ``But they can't afford buying, either, so they are adopting more, which is cheaper.''

One pet lover adding to those numbers is Ashley Gonzalez, 14. Ashley, who moved from Mexico seven months ago and lives with her family in Hialeah, was at the Miami-Dade Animal Services adoption center in Miami last week looking to adopt a new pet.

``I love the kitty, he's very pretty,'' she said in Spanish, while holding a 3-month-old blue Russian. ``I think it's beautiful to adopt a cat who's gone through a lot and give him a family who can love him.''

The Humane Societies of Miami-Dade and Broward also reported an increase in adoptions in 2009 but were unable to provide figures.

Lisa Mendheim, public education coordinator at Broward County Animal Care and Regulation, said it can be hard for shelter officials to determine whether the owners are telling the truth about why they are surrendering their pets.

``We don't always know why. They don't always admit it's because of foreclosure. They might say it's because they're moving or other financial circumstance,'' she said. ``They aren't always honest.''

But numbers indicate that in tough times, the number of people unwilling -- or unable -- to care for an animal has risen.

In a typical year, about 20 percent of the animals at Miami-Dade Animal Services are surrendered by their owners.

But in 2009, the number of surrendered pets increased by about 1,000 animals to 7,000.

Broward County Animal Care and Regulation has also seen an increase in the animals surrendered by their owners. In 2007-08, 2,429 animals were surrendered -- a number that jumped to 3,063 animals in 2008-09.

The Broward and Miami-Dade facilities, which can house up to 600 animals at a time, euthanize the animals that cannot be put up for adoption, either because they are sick or too aggressive.

The Humane Society of Broward County also euthanizes non-adoptable pets, while the Humane Society of Greater Miami is a no-kill shelter. When the shelter is full, owners are referred to other shelters.

All shelters said their budgets have decreased in the past year -- either through government cuts, in the case of the county facilities, or a drop in charitable donations at the nonprofits -- meaning they are having to do more with less money.

While most of the surrendered animals are dogs, shelters also reported a higher amount of cats being found on the streets, either as strays or abandoned by their owners.

According to The Cat Network, a nonprofit organization focused on educating the public on the importance of spaying and neutering all cats, a single cat can generate a family tree of 3,000 cats in a single year.

``Unless we encourage the spaying and neutering of all cats, we won't be able to control the cat population,'' said Patricia Murphy, a member of The Cat Network.

The organization does not run a shelter, but volunteers work to find homes for stray and abandoned cats.

They also urge cat owners who need to surrender their pets to join the network and participate in weekend adoption programs at PetSmart, Pet Supermarket or PETCO.

``We encourage them to join the program and get them spayed and neutered,'' said Murphy, who has taken in four kittens and four cats while trying to find them a permanent home.

Pet stores are a frequent site for owners to abandon their cats, with Murphy noting that number also seems to be on the rise.

Shelters such as the Humane Society of Greater Miami also reported this kind of abandonment, said Kent, who recently received Bella, a 4-year-old cat found outside a PetSmart.

``They think it's OK to just drop them off,'' she said.

Read Full Entry
Copyright © 2010 Pets Tabloid

Back to TOP