Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dogs with hypothyroidism are very treatable and adoptable


The Auburn University School of Pharmacy estimates 3 to 8 percent of the American human population have hypothyroidism, and the incidence increases with age. I was surprised by this number because when I conducted a poll among friends and acquaintances the percentage seemed higher. Everybody I asked seemed to be on thyroid medication. So I'm hoping the following story will be embraced by an empathetic audience.
Buddy is a 5-year-old male Chesapeake Bay retriever rescued by a Good Samaritan who came upon the original owner who was about to shoot and kill his dog. The Good Samaritan talked the trigger-happy owner into surrendering Buddy to him. He kept Buddy three months before realizing he couldn't provide Buddy the home he deserved.
So he brought Buddy to the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) on Dec. 3. From day one, Buddy has been a model resident. He comes out of his kennel without coaxing; is leash trained, allows all handling; is social but independent; has no food issues; has a high tail and approaches other dogs with confidence; is good with kids and cats; and is obedience trained.
Buddy is the most popular dog at YHS. Everybody who meets him wants to adopt him - until they learn he has hypothyroidism.
YHS diagnosed Buddy's hypothyroidism after noticing his lethargy and poor coat. Hypothyroidism is a common disease in dogs and occurs when the thyroid gland produces insufficient hormones to regulate the metabolism. This causes a variety of symptoms including weight gain or obesity, hair loss and skin problems. Most hypothyroid dogs respond readily to treatment.
Buddy has been on treatment (a pill placed in his food morning and night) for five weeks, and his desire to play and be more active is palpable. His coat has improved, too. Many dogs suffer from a low thyroid hormone level for years without treatment. If your dog has recurrent skin problems or unexplained weight gain, she may be suffering from hypothyroidism and you should talk with your veterinarian.
Although the onset of clinical signs is variable, hypothyroidism most commonly develops in middle-aged dogs between the ages of 4 to 10 years. The disorder usually affects mid to large size breeds, and is rare in toy and miniature breeds. Breeds that appear predisposed to the condition include the Golden Retriever, Doberman Pinscher, Irish Setter, Miniature Schnauzer, Dachshund, Cocker Spaniel and Airedale Terrier. German Shepherds and mixed breeds appear to be at a reduced risk of contracting the disease.
Hypothyroidism in dogs is easy to treat with an inexpensive daily dose of a synthetic thyroid hormone called thyroxine (levothyroxine). The dose and frequency varies depending on the severity of the disease and the response of the dog to the drug. A dog is usually placed on a standard dose for his weight and blood samples are drawn periodically to check his response and the dose is adjusted accordingly. Once therapy is started, the dog will need to be on treatment for the rest of his life. Usually after the treatment is started, the majority of the symptoms resolve.
Buddy's improvement is obvious and he is ready to be adopted into an understanding and loving home. If you are interested in Buddy, come by the Yavapai Humane Society at 1625 Sundog Ranch Road in Prescott, off the Prescott Parkway, to get acquainted. Buddy is a senior dog so adoption fees are waived for citizens 59 years of age.
In celebration of YHS's 40th anniversary the adoption fee in February and March is $40 for most dogs and you can pick your price for most cats.
Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society. He can be reached at or by calling 445-2666, ext. 21.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Pet etiquette an important part of being a good guardian

Pets are part of the family. We love them and want them with us as much as possible. We take them to the park, on vacation and with us as we run our daily errands. We in Prescott, Arizona are fortunate to live in such a pet-friendly community, with so many pet-friendly hotels, apartments, restaurants and businesses. Nowhere is Prescott's love of pets more evident than on our courthouse square, where pets and people mingle from dawn to dusk.

With so much human/animal interaction in our community, it's important we all practice pet etiquette. Etiquette, simply stated, is having good manners and behaving in a way that makes others feel comfortable. Pet etiquette is making sure others feel comfortable around our pets - and it's easy to do as we follow these basic rules:

License your dog. If you love your pet, license your pet. Licensing your dog is not just good pet etiquette, it's the law. Whatever community you live in, you are required to license your dog. The reason is simple, your dog's license could be his ticket home should he ever become lost. If you really love your pet, you will microchip him, too.

Obey the Leash Law. If you are a dog lover, you no doubt have encountered the retractable leash. These "leashes" allow dogs to wander 20 feet or more from their owner. I have seen people and dogs seriously injured because of these contraptions. People trip over the extended lines, and dogs get into fights with other dogs while the owner is preoccupied or unable to stop it. Not only are these devices dangerous, they are illegal on public property in most communities. Most city ordinances state something to the effect that, "It shall be unlawful for a dog to be at large ... A dog is not deemed at large provided said dog is restrained by a leash ... not more than 6 feet." The purpose of a leash is to control of your dog, something you cannot do with a retractable leash.

Don't leave pets in vehicles. It takes only minutes for a pet left in a vehicle on a warm day to succumb to heatstroke and suffocation. On a 78-degree day, the temperature in a car parked in the shade can exceed 90 degrees - and hit a scorching 160 degrees if parked in the sun.

In just 15 minutes, your pet's body temperature can climb from normal to deadly levels that will damage the nervous and cardiovascular systems, often leaving the animal comatose, dehydrated and at risk of permanent impairment or death.

Intentionally leaving an animal unattended or confined in a motor vehicle when physical injury or death is likely to result is a violation of Arizona State Statute 13-2910.7. The law permits authorities to use reasonable force to rescue your pet.

Don't transport pets in the back of pickup trucks. Sadly, there is no law against this practice, but there ought to be. Transporting a dog untethered or uncrated in the open bed of a pickup truck endangers both the dog and other motorists. All it takes to jettison a dog into traffic is one abrupt stop, quick turn or bump in the road, resulting in broken bones, bruising, road rash and quite possibly death.

Clean up after your pet. Need I say more?

If we can help monitor and educate each other regarding these common violations of pet etiquette, we can create a safer environment for our pets and each other.

If you would like to join the fun and become part of Prescott's pet-loving community, consider becoming a member of the Yavapai Humane Society.  You can also sign up for the Walk for the Animals at this website.  I hope to see you there!

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 16, 2012

12 Ways to Help Homeless Animals in our communtiy

As the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) celebrates its 40th anniversary many ask how they can help support our mission to protect the health, safety and welfare of our community's homeless pets. YHS appreciates the kindness and generosity of our community to help fund our life-saving programs and services. Here are some of the ways you can help:

1. Walk for the Animals: Gather your friends, neighbors, kids, pooches, and anybody who loves a howlin' good time and join the YHS first annual Walk for the Animals at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University on Saturday, April 21. You can register online as an individual or start a team to raise even more funds to help the over 4,000 homeless pets YHS rescues every year. Go to to join this fun event.

2. Become a YHS member. You can do this online or by sending a check to the Yavapai Humane Society, P.O. Box 12, Prescott, AZ, 86301. There are six levels of membership ($35, $65, $100, $250, $500, $1,000). Each level comes with special benefits described on our website - or call for more information (445-2666, ext.12).

3. Join P.A.W.S. (Planned Account Withdrawal System): Set an amount and give automatically each month and be a life-saver all year long.

4. Corporate sponsorship: Businesses of all sizes have sponsored YHS to help raise their profile in the community. Call YHS to learn how to sponsor YHS and have a presence at the Walk for the Animals and our Reigning Cats & Dogs Gala, and more!

5. Honorary and memorial gifts: You can honor someone special, or a special occasion such as Mother's Day, Father's Day, birthdays, and weddings. A memorial gift is a beautiful and compassionate tribute to a person or pet who has passed on.

6. Planned giving: This takes many forms and could provide additional income and/or reduce the amount of taxes you pay. Learn how to create a humane legacy to help YHS by contacting YHS Board director and financial adviser Dan Petz at 443-8712 for a free financial evaluation.

7. Pet guardianship: Many worry what will become of their pet should they die first. The YHS Pet Guardianship program ensures your pet(s) have a home if something happens to you.

8. Donate a vehicle: Donating a running or non-running car, truck or other vehicle is tax-deductible and a great way to help homeless animals.

9. Third-party fundraising: Many organizations and businesses hold a pet supply drive, create a memorial fundraising page, or give a percentage of their business's sales. There are many fun ways to raise money for YHS through third-party fundraising. Consider helping YHS raise funds for an X-ray machine!

10. Donate items to and shop at the YHS Thrift Shop: The shop is always in need of quality new or gently used items to sell. The proceeds go directly to helping the animals we shelter. What a great reason to clean out your garage, closet, or just downsize!

11. Volunteering brings new energy and expertise to our organization and helps people better understand how YHS makes a difference in the lives of animals and people in Yavapai County.

12. Reigning Cats & Dogs: Save the date for the 40th Anniversary gala event on Sept. 8 at the Prescott Resort. Consider making a donation to the silent auction; art, timeshares, services and products help raise life-saving funds for the animals. Call 445-2666 ext 12 for event information.

Please visit our exciting new website at for answers to any questions you may have about helping YHS. Please contact us directly with your ideas. Your help is both needed and appreciated!

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

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tax court victory helps animal rescue volunteers deduct expenses

The Wall Street Journal reported last year on a U.S. Tax Court ruling that will affect millions of dollars in annual tax deductions by animal-rescue volunteers. The ruling brings some much-needed clarity to deducting unreimbursed expenses incurred by volunteers helping Internal Revenue Service-recognized charities like the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS).

The case involved Jan Van Dusen, who appeared before a U.S. Tax Court judge and a team of IRS lawyers more than a year ago regarding a tax deduction for taking care of 70 stray cats.

In June 2011, the Tax Court ruled Van Dusen could take $12,068 in charitable deductions for expenses incurred while taking care of the cats for an IRS-approved charity, Fix Our Ferals. The deductions were for cat food, veterinarian bills, kitty litter, a portion of her utility bills and other items such as paper towels and garbage bags.

The decision, in Van Dusen v. Commissioner, paves the way for volunteers to deduct unreimbursed expenses that further a rescue group's mission, such as fostering homeless animals.

It also clarifies rules for deducting unreimbursed charitable expenses of $250 or more, especially if they involve use of a home. It affects donors to charities and religious groups, but not political organizations.

Prior to this ruling, tax advisors often warned clients taking such deductions to be prepared for an IRS challenge. This ruling informs the taxpayer just how to successfully prepare for that challenge - with records of pertinent expenses and a letter from the charity acknowledging the gift.

Van Dusen, 59, is a former family law attorney living in Oakland, Calif. She lives alone in a 1,500-square-foot home in a modest neighborhood with seven cats of her own. As a volunteer for Fix Our Ferals, whose mission is to trap, neuter and care for stray cats, Van Dusen provided foster care for about 70 feral cats.

Van Dusen tried to take the deductions on her 2004 tax return, but the IRS considered them nondeductible personal expenses. In 2009, the case wound up in court. Van Dusen knew little about tax law before the trial, but represented herself because she couldn't afford a lawyer.

She said her pretrial encounters with IRS agents were "intimidating," and she felt that in court the IRS lawyers "tried to portray me as a crazy cat lady." However, Judge Richard Morrison demonstrated considerable patience: "He had to go through all (my) receipts from Costco and ask questions like, 'What were these paper towels used for?'"

In his 42-page decision, Judge Morrison agreed with many of her arguments. He allowed her to deduct most of some bills and half of others for care of the feral cats, ruling they were unreimbursed expenses incurred while helping a charitable group in its mission. He curtailed the total deduction somewhat because she didn't have a valid letter from Fix Our Ferals acknowledging her volunteer work for expenses of $250 or more.

There are an estimated 11 million volunteers nationwide who do volunteer work with local shelters and rescue groups, and many of these volunteers spend up to $2,000 of their own money a year to help animals in need, with some spending up to $15,000 a year.

This is the first time the court has addressed these types of expenses, and this ruling sets an important precedent for the many foster-care-giving volunteers in our community. Check with your tax advisor on the impact this ruling may have on your volunteer efforts.

If you are interested in YHS's Foster Care program or becoming a foster care giver, visit or contact YHS's foster placement coordinator at or 445-2666, ext. 16.

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 12, 2012

Scientists discover what pet lovers already know

From time to time, articles appear in the media reporting scientific findings that only confirm what anyone who has ever owned a pet knows instinctively. For instance, the New York Post recently reported that scientists now believe animals seek out pleasure for the sake of pleasure. For those of us who love animals, it is difficult to believe this is even a topic for debate.

How often do we observe our dogs flopping on their backs and displaying that unmistakable, non-verbal and slightly pathetic yearning for a belly rub - which has no benefit other than feeling really, really good.

The dispute over animals having feelings arose in earnest in 1823 when English philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, reacted to the overwhelming animal cruelty of his generation. His distress first appeared in the journal "Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation" (1823) as a footnote. Today, this is considered the most quoted footnote of all time: "The question is not, 'Can they reason?' nor, 'Can they talk?' but rather, 'Can they suffer?'" As strange as it may seem to us today, this was a disturbingly reflective question at the time.

Nonetheless, Bentham's question was not taken seriously by the scientific community for another half-century - not until 1872, when Charles Darwin first theorized that animals do indeed have feelings.

Sadly, those early awakenings were subsequently rejected by scientists following Ivan Pavlov's famous 1901 experiment, which proved that dogs are easily behaviorally conditioned. Pavlov's findings convinced scientists they could dismiss the idea that animals have feelings until the 1970s, when respected American scientist Donald Griffin began publishing a series of books and articles that convincingly argued against the notion that humans alone are capable of thought and emotion.

Since then, we have learned that elephants have their own funeral rites: holding weeklong wakes, shrouding the carcass with branches and dirt, returning to visit years later. Wolves feed and care for injured or vulnerable members of their own pack. In his famous 2000 essay "Consider the Lobster," the late David Foster Wallace explored the ethics of boiling alive an animal that was classified as a sea insect, but which has pain receptors "which make it sensitive to potentially damaging extremes of temperature."

Today, science and technology are routinely providing a more sophisticated and humane understanding of animals - conceding that crustaceans can suffer, elephants mourn and dogs can feel happy.

However, understanding animals as sentient beings seems to be news only to modern-day scientists. In the early 13th century, Saint Francis of Assisi taught that animals are our brothers and sisters. "Not to hurt our humble brethren (the animals) is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission: to be of service to them whenever they require it."

In the 15th century, Leonardo De Vinci opined, "The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men."

"Everything begins in mysticism and ends in politics," according to French poet Charles Peguy. Proof of this can be found in our laws against animal cruelty. The words of saints and mystics regarding the sacredness of animal life has resonated with greater and greater numbers of people in each succeeding generation until our generation finally enacted laws declaring individuals who inflict suffering on animals to be felons in 46 states. This would have been unheard of in any previous generation.

What will be the next generation's relationship to animals? Perhaps the future can be seen through a glass darkly in this prophetic observation made by Martin Luther King, Jr., "One day the absurdity of the almost universal human belief in the slavery of other animals will be palpable. We shall then have discovered our souls and become worthier of sharing this planet with them." This is the vision of the Yavapai Humane Society. Join us.

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

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Include your pets in your future planning

Emily Dickinson once said, "Life is so startling it leaves little time for anything else." That was certainly true for Amy Wesselhoft, who packed a whole lot of living into her all too short life.

Amy earned a B.S. in biology from Chaminade University in Honolulu, Hawaii, and was in nurse's training at Yavapai College and employed as a certified nurse's assistant at Good Samaritan at the time of her death. Although fighting a serious illness, her death was still unexpected. A quiet, gentle and loving soul, Amy deeply touched the people around her. Predeceased by her husband, best friend and soulmate, David, Amy is survived by three of her greatest loves: her Labrador retrievers Dinkens, Eme and Katy.

Another poet exclaimed, "Death may end a life, but it does not end a relationship." Amy acquired her three dogs as puppies 11, 9 and 7 years ago, respectively, and it is clear that they miss her. Fortunately, the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) found loving homes for each of them before they despaired from their loss.

Amy's story is a life lesson for all of us. When planning for the future, make sure your family is financially taken care of - and remember that your pets are part of the family.

When you review your living trust or will, consider including a gift to the Yavapai Humane Society. Called a charitable bequest, this type of gift offers these main benefits:

Simplicity: Just a few sentences in your will or trust are all that is needed. Share this sample bequest language with your estate planning attorney: "I, (name), of (city, state ZIP), give, devise and bequeath to the Yavapai Humane Society (written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property) for its unrestricted use and purpose."

Flexibility: Because you are not actually making a gift until after your lifetime, you can change your mind at any time.

Versatility: You can structure the bequest to leave a specific item or amount of money, make the gift contingent on certain events, or leave a percentage of your estate to YHS.

Tax Relief: If your estate is subject to estate tax, your gift is entitled to an estate tax charitable deduction for the gift's full value.

To make a charitable bequest, you need a current will or revocable living trust. Your gift can be made as a percentage of your estate, or you can make a specific bequest by giving a certain amount of cash, securities or property to the Yavapai Humane Society after your lifetime.

Contact Daniel Petz at 443-8712 or regarding any questions about naming the Yavapai Humane Society in your will or living trust. We're happy to help, without obligation.

Always see your estate-planning attorney about making or updating your will or living trust documents. If you would like to discuss the good your future gift could accomplish at the Yavapai Humane Society contact me at 445-2666, ext. 21, or by email at

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 09, 2012

Yavapai Humane Society hopes to celebrate 40th anniversary with life-saving X-ray machine

The Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) is celebrating its 40th anniversary, and we hope to further establish our "no-kill" ethic in 2012. Many still ask what no-kill means, while others ask if it is even possible.

No-kill is defined by YHS as the process of applying the same criteria for deciding an animal's fate that a loving pet owner or conscientious veterinarian would apply. That is, healthy and treatable animals are not killed simply because we lack the resources to care for them.

The no-kill ethic was embraced by the YHS Board of Directors and management team in July 2010. Since then we have achieved a 77 percent decrease in shelter killing and an ever-increasing live release rate.

The live release rate (LLR) refers to the number of animals who get out of a shelter alive. It includes adoptions, transfers to other rescue organizations and lost pets returned to their owners. YHS maintained a 90 percent LLR in 2011, and we've kicked off our 40th anniversary with a remarkable 97 percent LLR for dogs and a 100 percent LLR for cats!

If no-kill were an Olympic moment we would no doubt all be rejoicing for having "arrived." But sustaining no-kill is more analogous to a marathon - and we have only just begun.

YHS is the largest animal rescue organization in northern Arizona. We are becoming increasingly known for our many life-saving programs, which have made western Yavapai County the safest region for pets in all of Arizona.

So effective are our life-saving programs that today the animals most at risk of euthanasia or delayed care are those with medical issues we are challenged to diagnose because we lack X-ray equipment. Local veterinarians graciously provide X-ray services to YHS when we can afford it, but this dependency requires YHS staff or volunteers to spend precious time transporting critical care animals to and from the veterinarian. Many times an animal doesn't have the time it takes to transport it back and forth, and sometimes YHS just doesn't have the funds to pay for these life-saving X-rays - not to mention follow-up X-rays during rehabilitation.

Imagine losing your beloved pet, and learning later that s/he was hit by a car and taken to YHS. Historically, this news would have gone from bad to worse because YHS euthanized suffering animals when we were unable to determine the full extent of the injuries. If YHS had an X-ray machine, the likelihood of an injured pet's survival would increase exponentially.

To ensure every critically injured or severely ill animal that YHS rescues has a fighting chance at quality life requires X-ray equipment on-site. This vital tool will allow YHS to treat these critical needs animals efficiently and humanely - and it will save more lives.

The cost for this equipment is about $40,000. This is YHS' 40th anniversary. If 40 individuals could find it in their hearts to give $1,000, YHS could secure this equipment this year. What a birthday present for our 40th anniversary!

If you are able to help in this life-saving effort, please mail your donation to the Yavapai Humane Society at 1625 Sundog Ranch Road, Prescott, AZ 86301; or call in your donation at 445-2666, ext. 21. If you prefer, check out our brand new website at and click Donations/X-ray.

If you can't afford $1,000, any gift toward this essential need will be greatly appreciated! Any monies above the $40,000 will go to YHS' STAR (Special Treatment And Recovery) program which provides critical medical care to sick and injured animals.

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

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

'Safety Net' program needs partners to alleviate suffering

A value of the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) is compassion. Compassion is a deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the desire to relieve it. More vigorous than sympathy or empathy, compassion gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another's suffering. Compassion is the key component in what manifests in the social context as altruism.

In ethical terms, the Golden Rule may best embody the principle of compassion: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Compassion does not simply mean caring deeply about someone else's suffering. Compassion causes you to get personally involved. Compassion manifests in the face of cruelty when you are moved to say out loud, "This is wrong" - and moves you to do something to end the suffering.

It is not uncommon for YHS to receive calls for help from victims of domestic violence. Domestic issues involving humans are not usually within the purview of an animal organization like YHS. However, recent calls for help are causing us to say out loud, "This is wrong." These calls involve women looking to escape their desperate situations - feeling like hostages in their own homes, unable to leave because their abusers threaten to harm the family pet(s) should they attempt to do so.

Finding a safe place for these pets is a prerequisite to these women getting the help they need. What can YHS do to help when our shelters are already overflowing with lost and homeless animals? By way of some rather circuitous routes, YHS has been able to help in some small ways - but we don't want to continue to be caught so flat-footed. We must be able to respond better and more quickly.

Domestic violence and partner abuse is not a YHS problem. Domestic violence is a community problem. Abuse comes in many forms, both verbal and physical. Verbal abuse and manipulative behavior can be as destructive to the soul as violence is to the body. Women, children and pets should never be victimized or cruelly treated regardless of the situation. To do so is wrong.

YHS is moved with compassion to do something about this wrong, but we are ill-equipped to do it alone. These types of complex problems need a community response that ensures victims of violence never go unheard.

YHS has a program called Safety Net designed to help pets stay with their families through difficult financial times, dislocations, hospitalizations, evictions, etc. Often families face crises that prompt abandonment of a beloved pet, even though the crisis is likely to be temporary.

When properly funded, the Safety Net program can help pet owners weather such storms by providing emergency foster placement, veterinary help, counseling and other remedies to help prevent a pet from losing its home and family because of a temporary crisis.

Sadly, we seldom have enough funds to assist people within this narrow mission. Clearly, our Safety Net program is not sufficient to meet the needs arising from domestic abuse. What is needed is a community-wide safety net - a program with financial sponsors and service and product partners. Partners able to provide human and/or pet boarding, pet grooming and supplies, veterinary services, social services and doctors are vital. We need partners who recognize that abuse and cruelty are wrong and are moved to do something to ease that suffering - rather than look the other way. Together we can create this community-wide safety net so no one has to stay in a terrible situation in order to protect a loved one.

If you are interested in creating a safety net program in our community to help alleviate human and animal suffering, contact me at or call 445-2666, ext. 21.

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

Monday, February 06, 2012

Soldier's Best Friend program pairs military vets with dogs

Dogs have long been considered man's best friend, but the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) is partnering with a remarkable organization dedicated to taking this concept a step further by declaring dogs the perfect companion for veteran soldiers.

Soldier's Best Friend is a nonprofit organization with a mission to help combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI). By partnering with the Yavapai Humane Society, the Soldier's Best Friend program also helps homeless pets find an honorable home.

The program was started by veterinarian John Burnham, who saw the need when a few of his patients' owners returned from deployment.

"I watched them getting ready for deployment, as they'd come in with their animals and I'd see them when they came back," Burnham said. "It was obvious the attachment that was there with the animals and the effect the animals had on them."

Soldier's Best Friend was started in March of this year in Glendale. Dr. Burnham is now bringing the program to Yavapai County. He is pairing local veterans with a dog adopted from YHS or working with one they already own. The program is offered at no cost to veterans and includes adoption, training, feeding and medical care during the training period.

All U.S. military veterans and active military members suffering from PTSD or TBI qualify to participate in the program. Soldier's Best Friend is an organization made up of military members, combat veterans with PTSD, professional dog trainers, a veterinarian and PTSD therapists along with many other fine volunteers.

Depending on the individual need of the applicant, Soldier's Best Friend will train veterans with one of two types of dogs: a certified service dog or a therapeutic companion dog. A certified service dog is allowed by law to enter public places such as the veteran's place of employment, restaurants, buses and stores. These are rights established in the American Disability Act (ADA). A therapeutic companion dog is not allowed to enter most public venues, but the dog is fully obedience-trained including one or two special needs tasks.

Accepted applicants attend training classes two days a week for up to 30 weeks until both the veteran and his or her dog graduate from the program. The training is conducted at the American Legion Post 40 in Chino Valley.

Studies show that a service or therapeutic companion dog can help veterans recover and adjust back into civilian life easier when they are experiencing panic attacks, anxiety, depression, nightmares, flashbacks, uneasiness in crowded places, irritability, suicidal thoughts and/or reclusive behavior. Some studies show 80 percent of the veterans participating in this type of program experience improvement in their symptoms and a reduction or elimination in their use of medication.

Prescott residents Christopher Snodgrass, 28, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq; Andrew Polach, 52, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Beirut and Grenada; and Aaron Ragan, 24, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq have already enrolled in the program. All three veterans are in training with dogs adopted from YHS specifically for this program.

Dr. Burnham is hoping to enlist local veterinarians to help provide no- or low-cost veterinary services to veteran and dog program graduates. If you are a local veterinarian and you are interested in participating in Soldier's Best Friend, contact Dr. Burnham for more information.

All veterans with PTSD or TBI can apply for admission to this program by contacting John Burnham, DVM, President of Soldier's Best Friend, at 480-269-1738 or by emailing Letters of interest can also be sent to P.O. Box 6242, Glendale AZ 85312. More information on this program can be found at

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

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Pet rabies vaccination a matter of life and death

Recently, an animal control officer from the Sheriff's Office impounded an Australian cattle dog. This may seem unremarkable until you learn this dog was minding his own business in his own yard. You might ask why in the world an animal control officer would impound a dog who was not violating the leash law, had not bitten anyone, but was simply playing in his own yard.

The dog's name was Blue. Blue's transgression was that he was exposed to a skunk. According to state law, dogs and cats without current rabies vaccination exposed to a rabies suspect (wildlife) must be quarantined for 180 days.

Blue was alone in his yard when he encountered the skunk. It could have been a bat; it could have been a fox or a bobcat. It just happened to be a skunk. It is not known to what extent Blue was exposed - there were no obvious wounds - but he was close enough to get sprayed.

Rabies is an unforgiving disease, and there is no room for error. Sadly, Blue had never been vaccinated against rabies.

If the skunk had been captured, it could have been tested for rabies. However, the skunk left the area before the animal control officer arrived. The animal control officer was compelled by state statute to impound the dog for a 180-day quarantine at the owner's expense. Unfortunately, the owner could not afford to board his dog for that length of time. As a result, the Sheriff's Office ordered Blue euthanized and decapitated, and his head sent to the State Lab for rabies analysis. Horrific as this sounds it is the only known method for determining rabies outside of a costly quarantine.

This tragic end to a wonderful dog could have easily been avoided. If only Blue had been vaccinated against rabies, he would be playing in his yard today. Don't let Blue's tragic experience happen to your pet.

Rabies is a preventable viral disease most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system, causing encephalitis. It is always fatal once symptoms appear. Rabies can be prevented in people who have come into contact or have been bitten by wild animals through prompt administration of anti-rabies vaccine and rabies immune globulin. Hundreds of rabies post exposure prophylactic treatments are initiated annually in Arizona to prevent rabies from developing after exposure. Sadly, there is no such remedy for exposed dogs and cats.

In Arizona, the principal rabies hosts are bats, skunks and foxes. These animals carry their own distinct rabies virus variants or "strains." When rabies within these animal populations increases it can "spillover" into other mammal species, such as bobcats, coyotes, javelina, cats, dogs, horses, cows, etc. Every year, approximately 30 people are exposed to rabid animals in Arizona. People who are exposed must receive vaccine and anti-rabies serum treatment to prevent infection and death.

In Arizona, bats present the most common source of rabies exposures to humans because rabid bats often fall to the ground where they are easily accessible to people and pets. Bats are generally not aggressive. Exposure to rabid bats usually occurs when people pick up or handle a sick or dead bat. Other rabies exposures occur when people try to approach or feed wild animals, or in some cases, are attacked by rabid animals such as foxes, bobcats and skunks. Most rabies exposures can be avoided by simply leaving bats and other wild animals alone. The last documented human rabies death in Arizona was in 1981.

Other than avoiding wildlife, the best way to protect your family from rabies exposure is to vaccinate your pets before they encounter a wild animal and bring the disease into your home - where it can incubate for up to a year.

Don't gamble - vaccinate your pets today!

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 02, 2012

Animal abuser registries would protect all of us

Sex offender registration is a system designed to allow authorities to track the residence and activities of sex offenders. Information in the registry is made available to the public via a website or other means. In many jurisdictions registered sex offenders are subject to restrictions including housing, being in the presence of minors, and living in proximity to a school or day care center.

Efforts are now underway to expand this concept to include animal abusers. Initiatives are gaining support and legislation has been introduced in at least five states, including Arizona.

The Arizona Animal Cruelty Registry Law (HB 2310) would require people convicted of animal torture, mutilation, intentional killings and animal fighting to register with the police and provide an array of personal information along with a current photograph, much like sexual predators. The information, along with the registrants' specific offense, would be posted on the Internet.

Animal welfare activists hope laws like this will inspire governments nationwide in the same way Megan's Law registries for child molesters have proliferated in the past decade.

In Florida, State Senator Mike Fasano proposed Dexter's law, named after a kitten beaten to death in his state. His proposal would require convicted animal abusers to register with authorities. Their names, home addresses and photographs would be posted online, and they would pay $50 a year to maintain the registry.

Registries have also been proposed in Colorado, Maryland and New York and similar proposals are expected in other states.

Suffolk County on Long Island moved to create a registry in 2010, and has since been followed by two other New York counties. No names appear on the Suffolk County registry yet, because it was only recently set up. Convicted abusers will appear on the registry for five years. Those failing to register are subject to a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.

The New York counties require pet stores and animal shelters to check the names of anyone seeking to adopt or buy an animal against the registry.

Maryland State Senator Ronald Young said he plans to introduce legislation in the wake of two incidents in his state. In one, a Yorkshire terrier was thrown off a 23-foot-high balcony; the dog, Louie, survived. In the other, a golden retriever puppy named Heidi was shot to death.

A bill to create a registry in California, introduced in 2010, didn't make it through the Legislature, partly because of concerns about its cost.

Liberty Watch Colorado, an advocacy organization committed to holding elected officials accountable, says such legislation is "an unnecessary expansion of government." 

However, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, an animal rights law organization based in California, outlines some taxpayer benefits. For instance, well-managed registries can reduce the number of abused animals and the animal control costs associated with caring for and treating abused animals. They also serve as an early warning system for potentially violent criminals like Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz and Jeffrey Dahmer all of whom tortured and killed animals during their childhoods.

"Researchers as well as FBI and other law enforcement agencies nationwide have linked animal cruelty to domestic violence, child abuse, serial killings and the recent rash of killings by school age children," says Dr. Randall Lockwood, vice president of training for the Humane Society of the United States.

Albert Schweitzer said it best when he warned that "Anyone who has accustomed himself to regard the life of any living creature as worthless is in danger of arriving also at the idea of worthless human lives." Registering felony animal abusers not only helps protect innocent animals, it helps protect our families, friends and neighborhoods.

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