Tuesday, May 19, 2015

MICROCHIP YOUR PET


Lost pets and their guardians deserve to be reunited.  Even though a person may be a responsible pet guardian, accidents do happen and pets escape yards.  Current estimates are that one out of every three pets becomes lost at least once in their life.  In addition, according to a study conducted by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, only about 22% of lost dogs and less than 2% of lost cats that entered shelters were reunited with their guardians.  However, the return-to-owner rate for microchipped dogs was over 52%, and for microchipped cats it was over 38%.  The odds of a pet being returned to its owner dramatically increase with microchipping.  

Even though there are other ways to identify your pet, such as name tags or licenses attached to collars, it is also possible that the collar can slide off, be removed, or the tags become difficult to read.  A microchip is one form of permanent identification.  The additional benefit is that a microchip has an average life expectancy of twenty-five years.

Microchipping is a relatively simple procedure done by a veterinarian or at your local shelter.  It is like giving an injection to your pet.  In a matter of seconds this small computer chip, no larger than a grain of rice, is injected just under your pets’ skin, between the shoulder blades.  There is no need to leave your pet at a clinic, you can be present during the injection, no anesthetic is required, and your pet will not experience any more distress than it would when getting its annual vaccinations.

After the injection, a test scan is done to ensure that the chip is functioning correctly.  A form is completed that records the microchip identification number, along with guardian contact information, pet name and description, and veterinarian or shelter contact information.  This form is then sent to the registry of the particular brand of chip.  Additionally, free of charge, you can register any brand or frequency of microchip, add pets, and update contact information online at Found Animals Microchip Registry (https://microchipregistry.foundanimals.org/).  Whenever a lost pet is located, Found Animals provides an alert system.  Whatever registry is utilized, it is important to remember to keep all contact information current.  There have been numerous instances of strays with microchips being brought into a shelter and, unfortunately, the owner cannot be located because the information provided is outdated.

Every microchip contains a 9, 10 or 15 digit identification number and the phone number of its registry.  A microchip does not store any personal information.  In addition, a microchip cannot function as a GPS since it does not contain a power source.  The chip will not do anything until a handheld scanner is passed over it.  At that time, the scanner reads the radio frequency of the implanted chip and displays the ID and registry phone number.  If your pet arrives at a shelter or vet clinic, they will immediately scan for a chip and contact the registry displayed to get your name and phone number to reunite your missing pet with you.

If you have not microchipped your pet because of cost, please reconsider.  The Tehama County Animal Care Center at 1830 Walnut St., Red Bluff will microchip for $15.00.  Additionally, in Tehama County, VIP Pet Care (1-800-427-7973) will microchip for $15.00 and are at Tractor Supply, 249 Main St., Red Bluff every Sunday from 3:45pm to 5:00 pm.  Vet clinics will also microchip and the fees will vary depending upon any additional services provided. 


Microchipping your pet will help give you peace of mind.  If your pet is lost, you know that your pet can be identified if found.  It also proves, without question, that you are the pet’s owner should the need arise.  Above all else, it works.  There are numerous stories of pets being reunited with their guardians after months of being missing.  The one item all had in common was that they were microchipped.

DOG BITE PREVENTION


The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), in 2013, published the most complete study of dog bite-related fatalities since the first study was conducted in the 1970s.  Based on the investigation completed, the researchers identified multiple controllable factors in these fatalities.  For many of us the situations are not surprising.

The following, according to the AVMA study, were contributing factors in dog bites.  An able-bodied person was not present to intervene in the situation.  The victim did not have a relationship with the dog.  The dog’s guardian failed to spay/neuter the animal.  The victim, because of age or physical condition, was not able to control the dog.  The dog’s guardian kept the animal as a “resident” rather than a family pet.  The guardian had previously mishandled the dog or had either abused or neglected the dog.

The National Canine Research Council (NCRC) defines “resident” dogs as those whose guardian isolates them from regular, positive human interaction.  This isolation results in behaviors that are different from a family dog.  Whereas, when a dog is actively included into the family, that dog is more likely to learn appropriate behavior through regular, positive interaction.

Dog bite-related fatalities are extremely rare.  To put it in perspective, in the United States, with a human population of over 318 million, and an owned canine population estimated at over 83 million, there were 41 confirmed cases in 2014.  However, again in the US, more than 4.7 million people were bitten by dogs.  While the majority did not result in an injury requiring treatment, approximately one-half of the bites that required medical attention involved children.  It is also essentail to note that the highest incidence of injuries occurred with children five to nine years of age. 

Knowing that children are the most common victims of dog bites, it is important not to leave a young child unsupervised with a dog.  Teaching children to be gentle, to respect the dog’s space and rest, and not to approach an unfamiliar dog can go far in preventing bites.

We also know that major contributors to bites are under socialization and improper training.  Have your dog become an integral part of the family.  Dogs are highly social and, when frequently left alone for long periods, they have a much greater chance of having behavior problems like aggression.  Begin early consistent reward-based training to effectively teach expectations and provide mental stimulation.  Gradually expose the dog to a variety of people and places so it can feel at ease.  Dogs who are distressed can become aggressive or fear-bite.  Therefore, allow the dog to work at its own speed and definitely do not force an uncomfortable situation upon it.

Be a responsible pet owner.  Be aware of your pet’s health.  Pain resulting from an illness or injury can affect behavior.  Spay or neuter your dog as soon as possible.  Multiple studies have shown that neutered dogs are less likely to bite.  Obey leash laws and do not allow your dog to roam the neighborhood.  If the dog is loose in a yard, be sure that the fencing and gates are secure.

Since dogs do not have the ability to talk, understanding their body language can help us know when something is amiss.  Dogs cannot talk to us and tell us when something is wrong.  When dogs are scared, their body and face will appear tense and rigid and they will try to look small, cowering close to the ground and tucking their tail between their legs.  They also might look slightly away, lick their lips, and yawn.  An aggressive dog will do the opposite.  They will try to look bigger.  Fur may stand up, especially along the spine.  Ears might also be erect and pushed forward.  In addition, it is important to realize a wagging tail does not necessarily mean the dog is feeling friendly. 

If interested in learning more about dog-bite prevention, both the American Veterinary Medical Association (https://www.avma.org/public/Pages/Dog-Bite-Prevention.aspx) and the ASPCA (https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/dog-bite-prevention ) websites provide helpful additional information.


Through education, the understanding of dog behavior, and the continued enforcement of anti-cruelty laws and prosecution of animal abusers the instances of dog bites can be lowered.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

★ What Happens To Your Pets If Something Happens To You? ★

 If something unexpected happens, be it severe illness or death, it is crucial to have arrangements in place to provide for your pets’ well-being.  The future is uncertain and, no matter what age we are, planning to ensure that our pets continue to receive the same care we give them is one of our duties as responsible pet guardians.

Many times when a guardian has an unexpected accident, illness or death, their pets may be unnoticed in the turmoil that ensues.  To insure that pets are not forgotten in the confusion, you can take a few simple advance measures.

First, identify those people who would be willing to be either temporary or permanent guardians should something untoward happen.  If you cannot find friends or relatives willing to take the responsibility, perhaps your veterinarian, an animal rescue group or another animal related business can provide information to assist in locating potential caregivers.  Once guardians are arranged, make sure that friends and relatives are aware of who they are and that they are also given the necessary contact information.  In addition, carry an “Alert Card” with you at all times.  The card will inform authorities that you have pet(s) at home and whom they need to contact to oversee their care.

Post “In Case of Emergency” signs on doors or windows which lists how many and what types of pets are in the home to alert any emergency personnel that arrive.  Be sure to keep the information current.  The ASPCA provides a free safety pack that includes window decal alerts (https://www.aspca.org/form/free-pet-safety-pack).  In addition, fasten in an easily seen location a listing of emergency contact names and numbers that responding personnel can notify should you be unable to care for your pets.

Create information sheets for each pet you have.  These documents will provide the necessary information that a guardian will require.  Even if you do not have a definitive future plan for your pets, the information will prove to be invaluable in helping find them a new home should the need arise.  If you would like a pet information sheet, please email petstehama@gmail.com and we will be happy to provide you with one.  If you would prefer to create your own, be sure to include: pet name, sex, date of birth, breed, spay/neuter status, microchip ID No., license issuer location and tag #, diet, special needs, medical conditions and medications given, behavior traits, veterinary information, daily routine, and any other pertinent information that will prove beneficial to a future caregiver.  These sheets should be readily accessible and should be distributed to anyone who might care for your pet(s).

There are many options when planning for the future of your pet.  The best way to be sure your wishes are fulfilled is to make arrangements that specifically cover the pets’ care.  It would be in the pets’ best interests that you consult an attorney to draw up a will, trust or other legal document that outlines your specific wants, including what funds will be allotted for the care of the pets.

It is especially important to develop a plan if you have more than one pet and want them to stay together.  One person may not be willing, or able, to take care of all your animals.  There are facilities that can house and care for multiple animals and provide long-term care.  However, understand that your pets are companion animals and have received your loving care and affection for some time, and may become distressed by being confined on a long-term basis.  Before making any decision, visit the facility to witness how the animals will be treated, and be sure to choose a reputable organization with an established record of care.

If you want to prevent your pets from becoming homeless, with the possibility of ending up in a shelter facing an unknown future, then now is the perfect time to formulate a plan in case something unexpected happens to you.



Tuesday, April 28, 2015

PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS - PART 1



Every day furry innocents are harmed in some reprehensible way.  It is done by humans, who are often credited to be the more evolved, therefore better, species.  Since the beginning of time man's inhumanity to the creatures of this earth has abounded.  The forms of abuse are many and the stories are legendary.  This month is “Prevention of Cruelty to Animals” month, a perfect time for each of us to stand tall and defend the defenseless.  We know that it is impossible for one person to right all the injustices done to all the abused creatures in this world.  Nevertheless, it is our duty to help put a stop to it.  If one voice can speak up, if one person can do one action and help one animal, imagine what a hundred voices can do, what a thousand actions can accomplish. 

There are many who are unaware that they are inflicting any harm.  Typically, the cruelty involves neglect and usually arises out of ignorance or indifference to the animals’ suffering.  A person who leaves an animal outside all day during extreme heat and forgets to fill the water bowl would be an example of this.  Hoarders are another type of “unintentional” abuser.  They have no real awareness of the extreme misery they are inflicting on the animals they claim to be helping.  Intentional abuse is another matter, entirely, and recognizing it is a “no-brainer”.  Some examples of these abusers are the ones who torture and maim for enjoyment, or the abusive spouse who harms the family pet to keep everyone in line.

The California penal code prohibits maliciously and intentionally maiming, mutilating, torturing, wounding, or killing an animal.  It also prohibits an animal from being deprived of proper food, drink, or shelter and protection from the weather, and riding, overworking, or using an animal when it is unfit for labor.  Another statute prohibits leaving an animal in an unattended car under conditions that endanger its health and well-being.  California law also prohibits additional conduct that qualifies as animal abuse.  Some of these specific laws address: poisoning animals, transporting animals in an inhumane manner, the conditions of animals sold in a pet stores and the confining of animals in such a manner that they become entangled or injured and/or have no access to food or water. 

In order to be proactive in abating cruelty, be aware of what it looks like.  Learn the numerous signs indicative of animal abuse.
Notice if an animal has a severely matted and filthy coat, and if its fur is infested with fleas or ticks.  Check if the animal has open sores, multiple healed or untreated wounds, limps, or is unable to stand and/or walk normally.  Observe if the animal’s overall health is poor and if it is grossly underweight with bones clearly noticeable.  Discern if there are untreated conditions that have caused rashes, large patches of lost hair and bumpy, scaly skin.

If an animal is consistently outside in all types of weather without an obvious source of food and/or water and protective shelter, and appears to be either aggressive or fearful, it may be abused.  Be aware that behavior, alone, may not be truly indicative of cruelty.  Animals may exhibit actions not considered normal for a variety of reasons other than abuse.  If the animal is kept in an area littered with feces and garbage, or housed in something too small for adequate movement, or the guardian is often seen physically hurting it, then the environmental factors reinforce the emotional indicators of abuse.

Animals abandoned in yards are unfortunately too common an occurrence.  If a neighbor has vacated a location leaving animals caged or tied without access to sufficient food, water, and/or shelter it is abandonment, another form of abuse.

If a person accumulates multiple animals, far beyond what is allowed in city/county limits, and fails to provide adequate care leading to dehydration, malnourishment, and/or death it could be indicative of animal hoarding. 


Albert Schweitzer stated, “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.”  Cruelty to animals not only erodes the fabric of society but also jeopardizes our own personal safety.  Recognizing animal abuse is an important first action.  Next week I will discuss what you can do to “Prevent Cruelty to Animals”.


PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS - PART 2


Daily I view horrific pictures of abused animals who were lucky enough to be rescued, on various web sites, blogs, Facebook pages, etc.  I also read the numerous appalling histories that accompany those images and daily my blood boils in rage.  However, being upset or outraged will not change anything unless action is borne.  Last week’s article covered recognizing animal abuse, the important first action for us to take.  This week will feature what other actions you can generate to help abused animals.

Once you notice signs of abuse or neglect, it is vital to the animal’s welfare that you report it immediately to the local authorities.  In the city limits of Red Bluff, call the Red Bluff Police Department (530-527-3131).  In the city limits of Corning, call the Corning Police Department (530-824-7000).  Anywhere in Tehama County other than the above locations, call the Tehama County Sheriff’s Office (530-529-7900 ext. 1).

Provide as much information as you possibly can when reporting abusive situations.  Any details provided can go a long way towards assisting investigating officers.  Be sure to write down a factual statement of what you witnessed, who was involved, the date(s) and time(s) of the incident(s), and where the abuse occurred.  Videos and photographs can also help.  If there are others who have also witnessed the incident(s), be sure to provide their names.  Please, do not be hesitant about standing up for those who cannot speak.  Abused animals have no chance for survival unless we do the right thing.

If you do not receive a response within a reasonable period, do not hesitate to contact a supervisor.  If you are still not getting an appropriate response, contact the Tehama County District Attorney’s office ((530) 527-3053), or your local government representative, or, if all else fails, the media.  Animal cruelty is a heinous crime.  In fact, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has classified animal cruelty (like arson, burglary, kidnapping, and homicide) a Group A felony.  If a crime is committed against an animal under the new classification, it will be considered a “crime against society”.  If we truly wish to create a safer community, it is imperative that our local law enforcement and prosecutors also take animal cruelty seriously.

Children are our hope for the future and it is through us that they learn how to treat animals with compassion and kindness.  By being strong role models, whether we are guardians, relatives, friends, or people of authority, children will mimic and practice the same acts of charity, care, and respect to animals that we display.  If we truly desire to lessen the cruelty inflicted upon animals, we must start with the children.

Advocate for improved anti-cruelty laws and legislation fostering kindness to animals on federal, state, and local levels.  Our laws must allow animal control officers, prosecutors, and judges to expediently and effectively pursue and prosecute cruelty and abuse issues.  If we are not satisfied that animals are designated as property, then work towards a change.  Legislatures and courts will only recognize their obligation to protect animals if society fervently demands that they do so.  Margaret Mead stated, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Become a concerned committed citizen.

Support local shelters and rescue organizations.  These are the people in the trenches, dealing with the aftermath of cruelty.  Most work with extremely limited finances and available resources.  Foster or adopt a homeless animal.  Volunteer your time and abilities.  There are many ways you can be of assistance.  Any one of these organizations would be happy to discuss their needs with you.  Donate supplies or money.  Both are often in short supply.  The bottom line is, the more resources these unsung heroes can acquire, the greater the assistance they can provide to the many casualties of abuse.


We may wonder if we, as individuals, have any power to stop animal abuse.  I say that we do.  Significant, effective changes will not occur overnight.  However, each day we see a bit of progress occurring.  Each positive small act taken in the right direction brings us closer to our goal of ensuring that every animal is treated with the kindness and compassion it deserves.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

FOSTERING SAVES LIVES



Fosters are kind people who open their hearts and homes to animals in need.  Fostering really does save lives.  When you foster a homeless animal, you are giving that animal a greater chance for survival.  Simply stated, a foster is someone who cares for an animal that would not do well in a shelter environment.  

Animals typically fostered at the Tehama County Animal Care Center are dogs and cats.  They can be adults, orphans, or moms that are either pregnant or who are nursing their newborns.  In addition, the animals may be ill, injured, or just need a place to recover from a recent surgery.  Whatever the reason, and whether you only foster once or decide to do it frequently, you will know that because of your efforts, an animal was helped through a difficult period in its life.

When thinking about becoming a foster be aware that it is a commitment, not only to the organization for which you are fostering, but to the animal’s well-being.  Because the animal will be a part of your home, it is important that all family members are supportive.  Additionally, consider how much time you have available.  Depending upon circumstances, fostering may take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months.  If you already have pets at home, consider that you might have to keep them separated from the foster animal.  Also, be honest regarding skill level and experience.  Since the ultimate goal is to insure the animal’s health and well-being, the shelter/rescue will need to know abilities to correctly place the animal.  Be sure to ask what your financial responsibilities will be and what the shelter/rescue will cover and/or provide.  At the Animal Care Center they provide all food, supplies, veterinary care etc., so there is essentially no cost to a foster.

Basic requirements fosters are expected to provide are: a nurturing environment, appropriate nutrition, suitable shelter and adequate exercise.  In addition to providing the basics, fosters may be asked to transport the animals to veterinary appointments, adoption events, etc.  

Fosters are crucial in rehabilitation situations.  By assisting an animal in recovery, and providing it with a nurturing home venue, fostering helps increase the chance of a successful move into a permanent home.  With regard to orphans, fosters become the surrogate parent, providing the care necessary for those too young to function on their own.  By providing these babies nutrition, socialization, and basic training during their formative first eight weeks of life, fosters help to ensure the health and survival of the animal.

While fosters are needed for orphans under 8 weeks of age, pregnant or nursing moms, animals requiring either medical treatment or a place to recover from surgery, it does not mean you are required to be a foster in every situation.  The choice is yours.  For some, cats and kittens are easier to foster, because they do not need the space or time that dogs and puppies require.  For others, the preference might be small or older dogs. 

Unfortunately, finding enough fosters is often a difficult endeavor.  One of the reasons is that people are often fearful it will be difficult to let go once there is an emotional attachment.  While it is hard to bring a first foster back to the shelter, remember that he/she is now ready, because of your efforts, for that loving, permanent home.  (Some of us who have fostered decided to adopt the animal and are now affectionately called ‘failed fosters’.)  Each year, a large number of animals are born with no one to take care of them.  At the Tehama County Animal Care Center, the ability to take in these abandoned animals is directly dependent on the number of reliable fosters they have to help.  The more fosters available, the more lives that can be saved.  If you are interested in learning more about the Center’s foster program, please contact Christine McClintock, Manager at 530-527-3439.


Fosters are an amazing group of very caring people who do everything from bottle feeding underage orphans,  to working with adult animals in need of recuperation.  Fosters help ensure that these animals are ready for human and animal interaction.  They provide care, safety and most of all, love.  In addition to the benefits that both humans and pets receive from a foster situation, removing one animal from the shelter makes room for another.  For every animal that is living in a foster home another can be saved.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HEARTWORM


Spring is officially here and with it, mosquitoes have begun their emergence.  Besides being terribly annoying, mosquitoes can carry the nematode parasite known as Dirofilaria immitis, which causes that deadly disease known as heartworm.  In companion animals, heartworm is diagnosed mainly in dogs and less frequently in cats and ferrets.  However, heartworms also live in other wild animal hosts such as wolves, coyotes, foxes, California gray seals, sea lions, and raccoons.  Make no mistake, even though the disease is easily preventable, it is prevalent, and it is a killer.

Mosquitoes acquire the parasite while feeding on an infected host.  Once ingested by the mosquito, the parasite develops into mature infective larvae.  These larvae then migrate to the “mouthpart” of the mosquito so that when it bites, they move into the wound created and deposit themselves into the bloodstream where they will then begin the harmful portion of their life cycle.  Heartworm is only conveyed through the bite of an infected mosquito, therefore an infected dog cannot transmit the disease to either people or other pets. 

It will take these deposited larvae approximately 6 months to mature into adult heartworms.  If untreated, these adults will mate and produce progeny, thus increasing their numbers.  In addition, adult heartworms can live for 5 - 7 years in dogs, thus each mosquito season can potentially increase the number of worms in an already infected pet.

As these heartworms move through the body they can cause extensive damage to many vital organs such as liver, lungs, kidneys, and heart.  They can cause inflammation of the blood vessels, and too many of them can cause heart failure, resulting in the pet’s death.  However, by giving a relatively inexpensive monthly oral medication, heartworm in dogs is preventable.  One may wish to give the dog the chewable pill only during the typical mosquito season.  However, because many of these preventatives also include a control for roundworms, whipworms, or tapeworms, it is best to give it throughout the year.  When initially choosing a method of prevention, discuss it with your veterinarian.  They can make recommendations based on your pet's requirements.

One of the first symptoms that the animal has heartworm is coughing.  Coughing up bloody mucous and chest pain follow.  Other symptoms are vomiting, weight loss, fatigue, and difficulty breathing.  Some dogs may not have any symptoms until the infection is in its late stages.  Even though they may have a large number of worms present, symptoms may not be observed in inactive dogs until a dramatic increase in activity causes symptoms to manifest.

The best way to treat heartworms is, initially, to have x-rays and blood tests done to establish how serious the infection is.  After this, a series of injections of drugs called adulticides is administered to the dog.  The two adulticides used most commonly are derivatives of arsenic.  Depending on whether all the pre-treatment tests are done, or just the treatment given, costs can range anywhere between a few hundred dollars to over a thousand.  However, if you opt instead to use the common monthly preventative in a dog with the disease, you can expect the dog to remain heartworm positive for about two years.  Unfortunately, while being treated the heartworms continue to cause permanent damage to the heart.  Nevertheless, if someone cannot afford the actual treatment, using the monthly preventative is certainly better than not doing anything.

It is also important to remember that during and after treatment, for several months the dog must remain quiet.  After the worms begin to die, they break into pieces that may cause blockage of vital blood vessels, which could also result in death.  Keeping the dog quiet allows his/her body time to absorb the dying worms.

If you are interested in learning more, The American Heartworm Society (https://www.heartwormsociety.org/pet-owner-resources) provides information and resources available for pet owners. 


Our pets depend on us to take care of them.  Heartworm prevention is one of the ways we can protect our faithful companions from disease and help insure that they will have long, active lives and healthy hearts.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Senior Pets For Senior Citizens

Last week’s focus was children’s interaction with animals and the resulting “brighter tomorrow” that was possible because of those relationships.  Children, however, are not the only ones within our community who can benefit from the companionship of a pet.  Many of our senior citizens can, as well.  This week I am extremely delighted to talk about a recent program instituted, through the collaboration of P.E.T.S. and the Tehama County Animal Care Center, that will not only help the senior animals at the Center, but hopefully also senior members of our fine community.

This new “A Senior for A Senior” adoption program is about seniors discovering the joys of having a companion animal in their lives.  The program is specifically designed to help senior citizens who are on a fixed income and are capable of caring for a pet, but are unable to afford the full adoption fees of a dog or cat at the Animal Care Center. 
  
Senior pets end up in shelters for a myriad of reasons.  Those reasons are often the same as for any other animal, such as neglect, abandonment, or simply because their owners no longer want the animal.  Unfortunately, for some, their previous owners may have passed away without providing instruction regarding what happens to their beloved pet.  Others may have moved to assisted living or an area where they are no longer able to provide proper care for their pet.  Family members may not be available, may also not be able to care for the animal, or simply may not want to.  Whatever the reason, the health of older animals is at higher risk in a shelter environment.  They usually do not adapt well and frequently will decline rapidly.  In addition, older animals are also often perceived by the public as being less desirable and therefore less adoptable then their younger counter-parts.  Thus, it is more difficult to find adopters and get seniors out of the shelter environment as quickly as those involved would wish.  These senior pets, like our senior citizens, deserve to spend the rest of their lives, no matter how long it may be, in the company of someone who cares.

Senior citizens who own pets are less likely to be depressed, are better able to tolerate social isolation and are more active than those who do not own pets, as shown by a study of adults aged 65 and older in the March, 1999 Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.  It states, "...the care-taking roll involved in pet ownership may provide older people with a sense of purpose and responsibility, and encourage them to be less apathetic and more active in day-to-day activities...elderly people who lacked strong social support (for example, friends and family) remained relatively healthy during life-crises compared with non-pet-owners placed in similar situations.” 

Pets provide friendship for lonely individuals.  Seniors may miss the companionship a spouse or close friends who may have died, or of family, if they are distant or uninvolved.  The presence of a pet provides company and assists seniors to recognize that they are not alone.   

Pets rely on us for multiple needs.  Every responsible pet guardian is also aware that fulfilling those needs keeps us quite active.  Again, multiple studies have shown that seniors benefit from the increased responsibility, activity, and focus associated with taking care of a pet.

In another study conducted by the Mayo Clinic, it was determined that seniors with pets have 21% fewer physician visits.  Additionally, documented sources convey that opening our homes to pets can help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, thus reducing risk for heart disease and stroke.

Overall, the impact of the elderly having a pet can be tremendously positive.  Pets can provide us with a sense of responsibility, increased alertness and sense of security, along with unending love and affection.  Therefore, they can assist in alleviating some of the overwhelming issues senior citizens might face.


 If interested in learning more regarding the health benefits of animals for seniors, the following site has multiple resources for review (http://www.petpartners.org/page.aspx?pid=334 ).  In addition, if interested in learning more about the “A Senior for A Senior” adoption program at the Tehama County Animal Care Center, or arranging a visit with a wonderful senior animal, please call 530-527-3439.  The Center is located at 1830 Walnut St., Red Bluff, CA.


Monday, March 2, 2015

UNCHAIN THAT DOG


We recently celebrated Valentine’s Day.  Some of us included the dogs in our home in this festivity of love and commitment.  Unfortunately, for a large number of canines life is lived without the warmth of the human bond.  So this month, also known as “ Unchain a Dog Month”, is dedicated to bringing awareness about those animals forced to live alone, chained outside without the love, care, and companionship they crave.

Dogs are social beings.  Put a dog on a chain and leave him/her alone in one area for days, months, or even years and he/she will suffer both physically and psychologically.  These dogs endure unbelievable hardships.  They suffer from erratic feedings, overturned water bowls, and have no, or limited access to, adequate medical care.  Often a chained dog becomes starved, dehydrated and ill because it entangles in its chain and becomes unable to access food or water.  They suffer from variations in weather.  During extreme cold there is no warmth.  Rarely is there adequate shelter during heavy rain or snow.  When temperatures soar to triple digits, they often do not have protection from the sun or sufficient, clean water to quench their thirst.  Moreover, because they are in a very confined area,  not only do they sleep, defecate and eat all in one place, but often it is nothing but a patch of hardened dirt or mud that is rarely, if ever, cleaned.

In many cases, the ropes or collars encircling their necks become embedded, the result of years of neglect and constantly straining to escape their bond of confinement.  Chained dogs do not receive affection simply because their owners can easily ignore them.  Because they have no socialization, approaching them becomes difficult.  If one takes a friendly dog and keeps it continuously chained, the animal often becomes aggressive.  Unable to distinguish between friend and foe, when confronted with a perceived threat and unable to take flight, they feel forced to fight, attacking anything unfamiliar entering its territory. 

In addition, they are vulnerable to other animals and cruel people (other than their owners).  Some are shot, others set on fire, poisoned or tortured beyond endurance.  They are targets for thieves looking to sell them or use them for dog fighting.  As a final indignity, the dog’s chain, easily tangled, can slowly strangle him to death. 
 
Under California Health and Safety Code, it is illegal to tether, fasten, chain, tie, or restrain a dog to a doghouse, tree, fence, or any other stationary object.  It is further prohibited to tether a dog to a running line, trolley, or pulley with a choke or pinch collar.  It is legal to tether a dog for any activity, provided the restraining of the dog is necessary for completion of a task, is temporary, and lasts for no more than three hours in a 24-hour period.  Depending on circumstances, violation of the dog-tethering laws in California is either an infraction, punishable by a fine of up to $250 per illegally tethered dog or a misdemeanor, with a possible penalty of up to $1,000 in fines per dog, six months in county jail, or both. 

Call local animal control if you see a dog that is chained to a stationary object day in and day out.  An official is required to investigate the situation if the dog’s guardian is breaking the law.  In addition, raise community awareness of the problem.  Help educate the dogs’ owners, with the hope they will learn to treat their pets better.  You may not be able to convince the owner to unchain or even relinquish the dog.  Nor may you be able to convince them to make any changes themselves to improve the dog’s life.  Nevertheless, you can try to be sure water and food is easily reached and available, that there is some modicum of adequate shelter and always be relentless in bringing the situation before the authorities.  That dog is counting on you to be the voice he does not have. 

Chaining is a terribly cruel fate for the animals we consider to be “Man’s best friend” and it is up to us to improve their lives.



Responsible Pet Owners


We talk about being a “Responsible Pet Owner”.  Even though there is not a definitive explanation of what it means, we are certain of one thing.  When we have a pet, we have assumed total responsibility for its care. 

Personally, I feel that caring for a pet is not unlike nurturing a small child.  I am the guardian of its well-being, entrusted to care for all its needs whether physical or emotional.  It is a responsibility one should never undertake impulsively, and without due consideration of the many factors involved in having a pet.  Not being prepared can, ultimately, be disastrous for the animal.  By answering a few questions before obtaining any pet, a great deal of angst and heartache can be avoided.

Do I know what kind of pet is right for me?  By being honest with regard to the lifestyle both you and your family have, it will help determine the type, breed, size, etc. of an animal that will fit perfectly in it.  Review your current living conditions and determine if the animal is appropriate in size and energy.  If you rent, many landlords will not allow pets.  Be sure to check out any restrictions before adopting.  If you have, or are expecting, a baby consider whether or not you will have enough time available to attend to all the pet’s needs, too.  If there is already a pet present, determine if it will share its home with another animal.

Am I ready to make a long-term commitment?  Depending on the animal desired, a 10 to 20 year commitment may not be an unusual length of time required to care for it.  If circumstances change, such as moving, consider if you will still be able to care for your pet.

Can I afford to care for my pet?  Caring for a dog, depending on its size, is estimated to cost about $340 to $635 per year for food, toys, vaccinations, and an annual visit to the vet.  Cats and small mammals are estimated to cost less.  If the animal gets sick or injured, has special dietary needs or takes medication those costs can increase drastically.  In addition, while pet insurance assists with unforeseen medical issues and emergencies, it adds to the yearly costs.  Long-haired, difficult to groom animals may require frequent trips to a grooming facility. 

Will I be able to spend quality time with my pet?  Dogs thrive on exercise and companionship.  Cats are healthiest and happiest when treated to play sessions with their human guardians.  Both, when constantly unattended, can develop behavioral problems.  If work demands frequent travel, or if on most days and evenings you are not home due to other commitments, consider a pet that requires little human interaction.

Am I willing to train my pet?  One of the most common reasons that people return pets to shelters is that they are experiencing behavior difficulties.  Training not only strengthens the bond between pet and guardian, but also helps avoid many of those behavior problems.  Learning basic commands like ‘sit’, ‘stay’, and ‘come’ can potentially save a dog’s life.  There is an abundance of materials available to read with regard to training both cats and dogs.  In addition, shelters, veterinary offices, and rescues usually have a list of trainers who can assist in the process.  Having a pet requires time and commitment to teach it to become an enjoyable member of the family and community.

Am I willing to provide for my pets safety?  Whether it is keeping a pet away from toxic foods, plants and substances, or ensuring that outside spaces are secure, you need to be certain that the home environment is safe for the animal.  It is also imperative for the pet’s safety that they have some form of identification such as a collar and tags, tattoo or microchip, to assist in identifying them in case they become lost or stolen.  In inclement weather, adequate protection from the elements guarantees no harm comes to the animal.  Regular vet visits and vaccinations safeguard a pet against disease and illness. 

Your pet is not a possession, but a living, breathing entity.  By obtaining a pet, you have tacitly agreed to provide adequate nutrition, mental and physical exercise, medical care, shelter, and companionship, to ensure its safety and well-being.  If you are prepared to become a “Responsible Pet Owner”, then the life shared with your pet will be a richly rewarding one for everyone!