Saturday, February 19, 2011

Winter weather pet tips: If it's cold for you, it's cold for them!

I moved to beautiful Prescott, Arizona from sunny Los Angeles in June of last year. Being an outdoors enthusiast, I love the quality of life provided by my adopted community. However, being a Southern California boy, I was a bit unprepared for the dramatic drop in temperature. So I thought I would review for all our cold climate resident pet owners the cold weather dangers for our pets. Be aware of these cold weather safety tips for your pets:

• Remember: If it is cold for you, it is cold for your pets, too! A common mistake people make is to assume our pets are better equipped to handle cold weather just because they are animals. They are not just animals; they are pets. They are the result of thousands of years of genetic reengineering that has left most companion animals completely dependent on our common sense.

• Although YHS believes all pets should be kept indoors, if you must keep your dog outside for any period of time, provide a dry, draft free dog-house. It should be large enough for your dog to sit and lay down comfortably but small enough to hold his body heat. The floor should be off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. Turn the shelter away from the wind, and cover the door with a waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.

• Make sure all outside water sources don't freeze over. Pets can't burn the calories they need to stay warm without a fresh supply of water.

• Be aware of salt and other ice-melting chemicals on the streets and sidewalks. They are an irritant to your pet's paws and may cause injury if ingested. Use a warm, moist cloth to clean off any salt or chemical residues after a walk. Be the first on your block to provide your dog with a set of booties to protect his paws from these harsh and cold chemicals.

• Check your garage and driveway for antifreeze. Antifreeze tastes sweet to your pet and most brands are poisonous. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet has consumed antifreeze.

• Grooming is important; a matted coat will not protect your pet from the cold. Be watchful of ice or salt that may become entangled in long hair and remove it immediately.

• Don't let your pet venture onto frozen bodies of water. The ice may be too thin to support his weight and water rescues are both difficult and dangerous for the both of you.

• Be a good kitty Samaritan and slap the hood of your car before starting it. Cats often climb next to a warm engine during the night.

• Keep snowdrifts from piling up next to your fence, providing your pooch a way of escape. Make sure your dog is wearing a current dog license. In the event your dog does get away during this dangerous weather and YHS is able to rescue him, you will be assured of his return. If you love your pet, please license him or her.

• If you are flying with a pet, make sure the airline provides for your pet's safety and warmth. Some airlines restrict pets from flying when the temperature dips below a certain point. Call ahead to confirm.

Pets are part of the family; keep your family warm, and the winter months can be filled with wonderful memories. If you are looking for a pet to keep you warm this winter, come on by the Yavapai Humane Society and we'll help you select your next best friend.

Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society. He can be reached at or by calling 445-2666, ext. 21.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Buyer beware: Make sure you're not supporting puppy mills

An edition of "Oprah" last year focused national attention on the "puppy mill." Puppy mills provide an unending supply of often purebred puppies to a public with an insatiable appetite for them, an appetite that has created a situation ripe for abuse. Puppy mills force dogs to produce litter after litter just for profit. These dogs are often plagued with disease, malnutrition, and loneliness.

Oprah's intrepid investigative reporter found bitches who could barely walk after living a life of immobilized confinement. When people buy a puppy from a pet shop, newspaper ad or from the Internet, they are often supporting a cruel industry.

Puppy mills frequently house dogs in shockingly poor conditions, particularly the "breeding stock" who are caged and continually bred for years, without human companionship, and then killed, abandoned or sold to another "miller" after their fertility wanes.

These dogs are bred repeatedly without the prospect of ever becoming part of a family themselves. The result is hundreds of thousands of puppies churned out each year for sale at pet stores, over the Internet, and through newspaper ads. This practice will end only when people stop buying puppy mill puppies.

How do you separate fact from fiction?

1. Pet stores cater to impulsive buyers seeking convenient transactions. Unlike responsible rescuers and breeders, these stores don't interview prospective buyers to ensure responsible, lifelong homes for the pets they sell, and the stores may be staffed by employees with limited knowledge about pets and pet care.

2. Puppy mill puppies often have medical problems. These problems can lead to veterinary bills in the thousands of dollars. Pet retailers count on the bond between families and their new puppies being so strong that the puppies won't be returned. And guarantees are often so difficult to comply with that they are virtually useless. In addition, poor breeding and socialization practices can lead to behavioral problems throughout the puppies' lives.

3. A "USDA-inspected" breeder does not mean a "good" breeder. Be wary of claims that pet stores sell animals only from "USDA-inspected" breeders. The USDA enforces the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which regulates commercial breeding operations. But the act doesn't require all commercial breeders to be licensed, and the USDA enforces only minimum-care standards and its inspection team is chronically understaffed. Breeders are required to provide food, water, and shelter, but not love, socialization, or freedom from confining cages. Many USDA-licensed and inspected puppy mills operate under squalid conditions with known violations of the AWA. Federal law prevents state and local authorities from blocking the shipping and sale of these animals across state lines, placing the burden on the customer to educate themselves.

4. Many disreputable breeders sell dogs directly to the public over the Internet and through newspaper ads. They often sell several breeds, but may advertise each breed separately and not in one large advertisement or website. These breeders are not inspected by any federal agency and, in many states, are not inspected by anyone at all.

5. Reputable breeders care where their puppies go and interview prospective adopters. They don't sell through pet stores or to families they haven't thoroughly checked out.

6. Purebred "papers" do not guarantee the quality of the breeder or the dog. Even the American Kennel Club (AKC) admits that it "cannot guarantee the quality or health of dogs in its registry."

When looking for a pet, do not buy from a pet store, and be wary of websites and newspaper ads. Don't buy a dog if you can't physically visit every area of the home or breeding facility where the seller keeps the dog.

Puppy mills will continue until people stop buying their dogs. Putting them out of business should be a goal of every dog lover. Instead, visit your local shelter or respectable rescue individual or organization where you will find a wide selection of healthy, well-socialized puppies and adult dogs - including purebreds - just waiting for that special home - yours.

Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society. He can be reached at or by calling 445-2666, ext. 21.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

No-Kill Ethic gives every dog a chance

There are moments on this job that make all the heartbreak and disappointment worthwhile. Recently Sandy Nelson, who had adopted one of our shelter animals a few months ago, called me to say, "Thank you for believing Xena (pronounced Zeena) deserved a chance to live." That was one of those moments.

When I first arrived at the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) in July, I found Xena on the euthanasia list. Alone in her kennel, surrounded by barking dogs and abandoned by her family, she was understandably frightened. She responded to her new surroundings the only way she knew how - by demonstrating a behavior known as "fear-based aggression," which is not uncommon in shelter dogs when they first arrive.

Although we knew she was acting out her fear, her behavior was so fearsome that our most experienced animal handlers were unable to handle her. One of them admitted that, in all his years at YHS, Xena was the only dog that actually scared him. By the time I arrived that first week in July, it had already been determined that there was no chance Xena would ever be adopted. She was marked for euthanasia.

Public safety is the primary focus when evaluating dogs for adoption. With nearly 30 years experience in animal control and welfare, I understand better than most that there are dogs who are dangerously aggressive - dogs who should never be adopted out. Was Xena such a dog?

Imagine what must go on in the mind of a dog abandoned by her guardian. You wake up as you do every morning at the foot of your master's bed - but tonight you inexplicably find yourself alone in a cold concrete cell surrounded by excited barking dogs and strange people. Wouldn't you lash out in fear to defend yourself?

How do you discern a truly dangerous dog from an estranged pet?

Fortunately for Xena, renowned Malibu-based dog trainer and behaviorist Robert Cabral came to the rescue. Waiving his $250 per hour fee and all the expenses he incurred from driving himself and his two dogs, Silly and Goofy, to Prescott, he came to help staff and volunteers learn his life-saving techniques.

Cabral is not your typical dog trainer. His focus is not training beloved pets how to sit and stay in your backyard. His expertise is rehabilitating behaviorally challenged shelter dogs. He has been called upon to rehabilitate dogs adjudicated as "vicious" by city magistrates - dogs most of us wouldn't want to be in the same town with, much less on the same leash.

Believing that even these dogs deserve a chance at life is the essence of the no-kill ethic. These dogs do not come by this behavior naturally; they are trained directly or through neglect to be aggressive. The no-kill ethic asserts that every shelter animal deserves a chance at life. That means YHS will strive to treat animals in need of medical care as well as animals in need of behavioral rehabilitation in the effort to find each animal a loving home.

It was this ethic that saved Xena. The no-kill ethic created a way for the Nelsons and Xena to meet and fall in love. Today, Xena is in dog obedience classes, she happily sits for treats and she devotedly follows the Nelsons around their beautiful ranch in Chino Valley.

Cabral has a slogan: "You can't save all the dogs in the world, but you can save one. Join the revolution." Xena is one of many dogs benefiting from Cabral's life-saving training. YHS staff applied what we learned and Xena responded. She overcame her fear, was removed from the euthanasia list and was adopted by the Nelsons in July.

Isn't it time you joined the life-saving revolution? Adopt a shelter animal today.

For more information on Robert Cabral or the many wonderful pets available for adoption at YHS, visit and click on the Black Belt Dog Training logo.

Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society. He can be reached at or by calling 445-2666, ext. 21.