Archive for the ‘dogs’ Category

The barking begins every morning at around 6 a.m. in my cozy Louisville, Colorado neighborhood, alerting that dog owners are leaving for work. However, one voice is not heard: Duke, Dan Antaya’s Pit Bull mix. Because of a Louisville city ordinance passed in 2006, Duke was banished from Antaya’s home and is living with friends in a city where Pit Bulls are legal.

Duke’s speckled face

“The struggle to find housing where Duke, my other dog Tyler, and I could live together started about a year ago when I relocated to Colorado.  I was finally able to find something about 6 months ago, but even though the property owners had no issue,” the house was in Louisville, says Antaya, who owns K9 Consulting Services, a Longmont, Colorado dog training company. He also runs the Pit Bull Advocacy and Education program (more about that later).

“Now that the lease is up, I am  unable to find housing again, partially due to both dogs weighing more than 50 lbs. but very much related to the type of dog Duke is, and the amount of cities in Colorado enforcing breed bans, we may have to leave the state.”

Does Banning Pit Bulls Make Sense?

Breed Specific Legislation, or BSL, is well-known and controversial, as described in this For Pit’s Sake blog post.  We’ve all heard the pro and con arguments to allowing certain breeds into a city. And there are setbacks even in cities that allow the breed.

How Do Breed Bans Affect Individuals And Cities?

For Antaya, “BSL affects me in the sense that I must live apart from my dog due to the city ordinance, and also prevents me from taking him to other cities that ban the breed. I fear of having him seized just for passing through to get to another location.” Besides that, many great pit bull owners don’t have the opportunity to show what good citizens their dogs are in cities in which they are banned. Thus, people tend to shun those breeds.

Why? One reason, according to the National Canine Research Council:

“While serious attacks by dogs are very rare, the intense media coverage that may accompany such an incident can mislead the public and/or lawmakers into imagining that dogs pose a significant threat to the community.  Sensationalized publicity, combined with a lack of understanding of the infrequency of dog attacks, and of their causes, has resulted in reactive and uniformed policies directed against certain types of dogs.  In no other American city has this dynamic played itself out more tragically than in Denver” and other Colorado breed ban areas.

The problems often arise as with any other breed (which, by the way, have dog bite histories, according to the Canine Research Council) when an owner is irresponsible and lets their dogs run outside without supervision, and when they don’t train their dogs to be good citizens.

Duke’s Story

Antaya says that Duke’s story with him began when “one of the rescue organizations I was with in Arizona took Duke out of the county kill shelter.”

Duke playing in the snow

Duke could only go to a few shelters in Colorado because of the numerous Colorado breed bans. Duke landed in the Longmont Humane Society, where Antaya works as an adoption counselor. “Duke was considered a problem dog at 3 months. Because I was overwhelmed with my current fosters,  he had to wait for 2 months before I could work with him.”

After Antaya’s training, “not only did he become a model dog, he became a perfect ambassador for Bully Breeds.” Antaya adopted Duke after fostering him for only 4 days. “While I have formed a bond with the many fosters I had prior to him, he met all the criteria I had for a possible addition to the family. I realized his potential very early on.”

The Longmont Humane Society takes a majority of Pit Bull mixes in Colorado. “Due to the breed bans in Denver, Aurora and Louisville, we see a majority of the Pit Bulls or Pit Bull mixes in the area that are being surrendered or caught by Animal Control.  They, unfortunately, are the slowest to get adopted.  When I watch visitors walk past the kennels, they seem to migrate to the other breeds and barely glance in the run with a Pit Bull in it. Longmont Humane offers a training class just for Pit Bulls called P.I.T.S.T.O.P.  There is a lot of interest in that program from current Bully Breed owners.”

Pit Bull Advocacy and Education

Because of dogs such as Duke, Antaya started his Pit Bull Advocacy and Education program after walking a Pit Bull “and seeing someone cross the street when they saw us coming.” Antaya also saw so many pit bulls in shelters, and realized “people have so many misconceptions about the breed. If they were educated, perhaps the adoption rate of pit bulls would go up.”

Something needed to be done, he says. “My approach is much more from an educational standpoint.  I don’t preach to anyone from a soapbox.  I have found that most critics of this breed have never even had a personal experience with one. Once I introduce some people to Duke and other Pit Bulls, they start to realize that these dogs are not what they perceived them to be. In addition to participating in various dog-specific events, I consider everywhere I go to be an opportunity to educate people about the breed. Sometimes it is an indirect approach, such as teaching children general dog safety and care while using a pit bull in the demonstration. I am currently working on an anti dog-fighting campaign geared towards children in high risk areas as well as a few other educational programs.”

What’s The Future For Pit Bulls?

Tough one. Antaya thinks “we are a far cry from Pit Bulls being an accepted breed as long as the media and cities who enforce breed bans continue to drive negative and incorrect information into the minds of the general public.  For the states/cities who are enacting Dangerous Dog Ordinances instead of Breed Bans and the large groups of responsible owners, I have high praise for them. Hopefully this will be a growing trend and the Pit Bull will again become America’s dog.” You can find out more of Antaya’s thoughts on the Pit Bull Advocacy and Education Facebook page.

BAD RAP On Bark Out Loud!

BAD RAP, an organization that rehabilitated the Michael Vick dogs, is dedicated to training and rehabilitating pit bulls, particularly from federal abuse cases. The organization’s Tim Racer and Donna Reynolds joins Bark Out Loud to chat tonight, discussing these issues and what you can do to help overturn the myths about pit bulls. Listen to their insightful podcast here:


I’m thrilled that one of my favorite pet bloggers, Sharon Castellanos, agreed to post some of her wise observations here today! Sharon is a San Francisco-based freelance writer, editor and creator of Grouchy Puppy, a pet-centric online community sharing stories, photos and interviews that inspire, educate or just make you feel good.  Her work has been published on travel site Uptake and good-news site Tonic.  Sharon can be found capturing city images and story ideas on her iphone while out walking her very large rescue dog Cleo. You can follow all the adventure on Twitter @grouchypuppy, join the pack on Facebook and even see Sharon’s occasional travel story on her blog Everywhere Travel.

Why Dogs Can Provide the Perfect Counter Weight In Our Lives

Feng Shui is the ancient Chinese system of aesthetics believed to use the laws of both Heaven (astronomy) and Earth (geography) to help one improve life by receiving positive ch’i.  In San Francisco, we have many practitioners of Feng Shui and schools offering certifications.  I have tried applying a few basic techniques, like the orientation of our mirrors.

Hilary asked me to write a guest post about anything for Fang Shui Canines, as long as I was passionate about the subject.  I’m not terribly passionate about Feng Shui, but I am passionate about dogs and my belief that dogs can help improve our life because they offer us ch’i, or positive energy.

Cleo at her most Zen

If my husband or I are arguing, or one of us is just retelling a story we heard, and we are particularly zealous in our arm gestures, or our voices sound agitated, our dog Cleo will come over and take turns leaning against one of us.  She works to get us to calm our movements, and lower our voices to what she considers normal.  She pointedly tries to give us a dose of love, concern and affection until we accept it, and turn our focus on her.  If we are quietly sitting and reading the paper, she can be found in another room sleeping with her emotional radar set to autopilot.

Consider when you are out walking with your dog, and you both are surprised by a sudden sound or unexpected movement from someone turning the corner ahead of you.  Does your dog react immediately or do they pause, even for a millisecond, to see what you do first?  My dog does.  When there is a noise outside the front door that she cannot see or recognize, she will look at me for direction before she begins to bark.

What is the unconditional love that a dog offers but ch’i?  When you are feeling blue, does your dog do something unexpected to make you laugh or maybe they choose that day to hold your gaze longer than they normally do?  I believe dogs mirror our emotions and then do what they seem genetically wired to do, make us human.

Consider these simple ways dogs influence us positively:

Dogs get us to play and exercise often when we’re not expecting to, thus we burn calories while having a good time

  • Dogs can cause us to develop or reconnect with our own sense of wonderment about the world around us as adults
  • Dogs will more often offer us their love first, before we give them ours
  • Dogs can make us feel warm and protected when we need it the most
  • Dogs give of themselves as therapy, service and guardians to us humans while asking for little in return
  • Dogs can cause us to become energetic or calm with little effort

Ever since being around my first dog as five year old, I’ve felt an affinity towards dogs.  They are all different yet they bring a certain energy with them that is undeniable to me.

We call a dog a companion animal because they provide a balance or act as a companion to us.  I like to imagine they are heaven to my earth.


Who can resist puppies? Oh so cute! Cuddly! As a dog-savvy person, you’ve probably been successful at raising a pup. But, as they say, it takes a village.

When my friend Beth in Utah asked me if I had reading and other material that would help her choose and raise a young dog, I was all over it. Wow, do I have resources! I love my favorite, dog-eared pet behavior and training books–numbering over 200! Then there are the my favorite DVDs, blogs, articles, handbooks, and and and… But what to choose for this situation, without overwhelming a neophyte?

I have my ideas, but I’d love to hear yours, so I can give her the best information possible.

Here’s the deal: Beth and her husband have never had dogs before; only cats. They aren’t sure what kind of pup they should get for their lifestyle; they just knows they’d like a young, two-to-four month old that would grow to “medium-sized, one who loves being a laid-back companion, one who likes hiking, but doesn’t need too much fast-paced exercise stuff.” Beth’s husband works 12-hour shifts, often at night, while she herself works at home. And, she wants a rescue, especially since she lives right by Best Friends Animal Society. They’re open to positive, reward-based training.

If someone asked you to recommend your favorite resources for those parameters, what would they be? I’d love to hear what I need to add to my library, too!


This post is sharing a unique challenge and advocacy solution for Blog The Change for Animals.

Laboratory Beagles looking at grass for the first time!

Something special is happening in Hollywood on Sunday, July 24. Better than celebrity sightings. A rescue adoption day. But not just any rescue. This one is The Beagle Adoption Day.

Perhaps you remember the press and viral video of several scared Beagles, rescued from an animal laboratory by Beagle Freedom Project, walked on grass for the first time after being caged all their lives?

(The original video has been removed for legal purposes–the second rescue video is at the end of this post, which includes a set of new Beagles experiencing greenery for the first time ever.)

Sure, I’d heard horrific stories about animal testing for all sorts of products, from makeup to dog food, but seeing these debarked and muscle-atrophied Beagle cuties not have a clue as to what to do when confronted with space outside their cages, I had to do find out more.


And they’re out, loving the new smells!

Who’s making a change for animals?

Turns out, Shannon Keith, a Los Angeles Animal Rights Attorney and documentary filmmaker, got a call in December 2010 about nine Beagles who were being retired from a laboratory–and she had less than two days to pick them up. As the founder of the non-profit,  ARME (Animal Rescue, Media & Education), which rescues homeless animals and focuses on educational initiatives, Shannon decided to act–and brought the first of that lab’s Beagles to freedom.

Wanting to do more for throw-away dogs, she started Beagle Freedom Project. “Working directly with laboratories, the Beagle Freedom Project is able to remove the retired Beagles so they can be placed in loving homes. All rescues are done legally with the cooperation of the facility.” She adds that labs offer almost zero chance of freedom. “They decide whether to free the dogs at last minute and we have about 48 hours to get there.”

These Beagles were lucky. The lab had completed testing (for cosmetic, household and pharmaceutical compounds) and agreed to

Shannon (l) & volunteer Jill Ryther taking rescued Beagles for a ride in another first for the dogs

release the animals to Shannon rather than euthanize them. In general, however, when labs are done with the dogs, they’re killed. Plain and simple. The American Association For Laboratory Animal Science says that the animals “must be euthanized to obtain tissue for pathological evaluation and for use in in-vitro testing. Most often, they’re killed because they’re of no use to the laboratories.”

Shannon says that the Beagle Freedom Project is  building relationships with different facilities. It has proven extremely difficult, as most of these place do not want us to rescue the dogs–it’s easier to kill them. However, we are not giving up! We plan to save as many as we can.”


Testing lab’s dirty little secrets

Let’s back up a bit. Why are dogs in laboratories in the first place? They’re often used in biomedical research, testing, and education. You may have used common products, such as toothpaste, shampoo, soap, dog chow–you name it–that were tested on dogs. The Humane Society of the United States claims dogs are also commonly used as models for human diseases in cardiology, endocrinology, bone and joint studies, drugs, poisons, and other research that tends to be highly invasive. Beagles are mostly used because they’re considered gentle and easy to handle. And, these Beagles are “purpose-bred” in the U.S., which means class A breeders are licensed by the USDA to sell animals for research purposes–often at $800 per dog.

According to a recent article and U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, 70,000 dogs are being used in approximately 1,260 USDA-registered laboratory facilities annually, with appropriations for these laboratories somewhere in the $22,000,000 range.

But why don’t we know these facts? Shannon offers this explanation. “Companies that test keep it a secret. The facilities that test keep it as secret as they can, even though you are paying for it with your taxes. QUESTION where your money goes and what you buy and educate yourself before you buy something. Boycott products tested on animals. Write to those companies and tell them you will not purchase their products anymore until they stop the testing. The FDA does not require companies to test cosmetics or products on animals, but companies still do it to create a legal shield and because they are lazy.”


Cruelty-free living guides

Furthermore, Shannon says, “we are working on our own cruelty-free living guide to give to people so they can make informed choices, instead of purchasing products that might be tested on animals. We are making a comprehensive one that will be updated monthly online.” (In the meantime, here is a good guide of corporations that do test their products on animals, and those that don’t.) “This is part of a larger campaign for us. Of course, we love saving the individual dogs, yet this is about education and awareness and getting people to know and understand who their purchases impact, and to make a different choice. These companies thrive on sales. If people stop buying, then we will see fewer animals being abused.”

One of Shannon’s favorite things is getting responses from people “who hear about us, who did not know animal testing existed and throw away all of their animal-tested products.”

Are you in? That’s what I’m going to do for today’s “Be the Change”–making sure my household is entirely cruelty-free.


The importance of July 24th’s freedom adoption day

One of the many adoptable Beagles

Adoptions! Please come–or at least take a look at the adoptable Beagles from Beagle Freedom Project
When: Sunday, July 24th from 11am-3pm
Where: Healthy Spot in West Hollywood, 8525 Santa Monica Blvd. West Hollywood, CA 90069

Shannon indicates that it’s important that these dogs be seen by the general public so we can learn from them. “It’s one thing to tell people about the horrors of animal testing, but when they see their faces, they cannot help but listen and take it in. We also want to find perfect homes for these dogs.”

And yet, even though there are multiple applications for each dog, Beagle Freedom Project has to be “extremely careful about where we place them,” Shannon emphasizes. “These dogs are not like any other. They need special attention, they need constant companionship from another dog or dogs, so that they can learn how to be dogs, and they also need constant human companionship to learn about love and trust.”

Some common post-adoption issues  in the dogs include possible housetraining setbacks, cautiousness in new environments, separation anxiety, car sickness, and the often seasonal or environmental allergies, depending on the tests to which they were subjected in the labs.

“People need to be willing to put in 100% and to deal with issues they may never have expected from a dog… They are just learning how to WALK. Their muscles are atrophied. They do not know the different between right and wrong. They cannot communicate

Pick me!

vocally because they have been de-barked.” (Many lab dogs are debarked so they won’t bother the technicians or other animals at night.)

The dogs don’t go home on adoption day. The potential adopters, after filling out an application, is rigorously screened. If all works out, the adopter signs not only pays an adoption fee and signs a tight contract, they must sign a supplement to be an ambassador for the cause.

That means adopters “must tell everyone they meet about their newly adopted Beagle, where he/she came from, and why it is so important to boycott certain products.”

Are you that special person?

The promised video!

Here’s the video I promised earlier. Get out your hankies!

Beagles running free–and look who’s up for adoption

Follow the Beagle Freedom Project

Twitter: @BeagleFreedom


Facebook causes page:

Shannon Keith lives with three dogs and one cat. Chula, her 9-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, was skin and bones and about to “pop a litter” when Shannon brought her home–the next day, Chula had 11 puppies. Amazingly, Keith found them all homes. Her Doxie/Chihuahua mix Samantha is also a pound puppy. Oliver, an American Staffordshire Terrier, had been left in a box with his umbilical cord. Grampa, the most recent rescue of the pack, is an 18-year-old black cat from a hoarding situation.

Note: In March 2011, I blogged about Lacey, a beautiful tri-colored 2-year-old Border Collie from Western Border Collie Rescue when Petfinder ran their Adopt the Internet Day campaign. See the original post here, then read below for the rest of the story!


1 year 6 months, 2 weeks and 4 days.


It took that long for Lacey to find her forever home. Just yesterday, right after I got back from a Western Border Collie reunion, I got this message on Facebook from Lacey’s foster mom, Jessica Cumpsten:

“I just wanted to let you know that Little Miss Lacey got adopted!

Was that amazing news, or what? I couldn’t believe it–I had actually thought Jessica was going to have Lacey for the long haul. And the story got even more interesting.

“A very sweet and kind lady with three kids adopted Jobie [A more confident Border Collie who Jessica also fostered] in April. They have an older Border Collie and just lost their Golden, so they wanted to get a companion for their older girl. Jobie was their man! When they came to meet him, Lacey tugged at their heart strings. At that time, they spent half  their time (and half their treats) getting Lacey to come up to them.”















It was hard for the family to leave Lacey behind, knowing that she had a tough time coping in the world without Jobie. But Jessica gave them sage advice.

“I suggested they really focus on Jobie, getting him settled and see how he and their older dog bond before adding a 3rd dog to the mix. My fear was that Jobie would not bond as well to their older dog if he had Lacey distracting him all the time as, Jobie and Lacey were very good romping and wrestling buds.”


Lacey and Jobie Romping On Their Meeting Day




Jessica continues the story:

“The adopter said that Jobie and her Border Collie get along very well, but when she set up a play date with a friend’s dog, she realized that Jobie was missing the wrestling and romping  factor he had with Lacey, so they asked if they could take her for the day and see how things went. One day turned into three, and three has now turned into forever. The  family is very in tune to Lacey’s needs, and Lacey is surprising us all–she is actually going up to the kids for attention and even wants to sleep in the kids rooms at night!”

Timing is Everything

It was good timing, too. According to Jessica, Lacey had just started making leaps in sociability within the last three months. As if she knew that she and Jobie would reunite only if she made the valiant effort (although I don’t tend to believe that dogs know these things, it sure sounds about right in this case). For example, at the dog park about a week before the family decided to finally adopt her, she was randomly walking up to people for attention. Talk about leaps–amazing, considering her history.

Good Fostering Pays Off

Jessica deserves huge accolades in working with fearful Lacey for so long, making her more confident and skilled so that she could get adopted! How many of you would hold onto a foster that long, without either giving up or adopting her yourself?

Lacey was Jessica’s 18th foster–number 19 is coming next week. I have only good feelings about Lacey and any dog that Jessica fosters.


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