Archive for June, 2011

Suffolk County (NY) has the makings of a better law for puppies

This quote made my day!  It’s from the North Shore News in Suffolk County NY.

“It’s time Suffolk County joins a national trend and bans these businesses that support the puppy mill industry.”

I’m sure glad to hear this called a ‘national trend’.   Suffolk County legislator Jon Cooper has proposed a law to ban the retail sale of dog in pet stores.  See article here.  The proposed law will take some time for consideration, and the public is asked to participate.   Here is a web comment from that same article inviting input.   Three cheers for Suffolk Co. and Jon Cooper!

Comment from Jon Cooper (reprinted):

Thank you for posting this story about yesterday’s public hearing on my “puppy mill” bill. If any of your readers would like to testify in support of this bill at the next public hearing, they can call my district office for full details at (631) 854-4500. They can also email me at jon.cooper@suffolkcountyny.gov. The hearing will take place at the next General Meeting of the County Legislature in Hauppauge and is scheduled for 6:30 PM on Tuesday, August 2nd.

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A legal review of Richmond’s puppy sale ban court decision

While reading the outcome of the BC Supreme Court’s decision on Richmond’s puppy sale ban (International Bio Research v. Richmond (City)), one might be tempted to skip a bit of the technical details.  Here is a review of that ruling from the Association of Corporate Counsel that gives some insight into the more community law issues of the matter.

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Am I on the fringe of society (I mean IRS tax code) for helping animals?

Feral cat from Richmond, BC farm

This week the  IRS was required to change its tune when it comes to some less than popular tax deductions.  A women in California claimed the expenses she incurred from assisting a 501(c) 3 animal rescue group to save feral cats from living on the streets in Oakland CA.  She defended her claims in court, and while her win — requiring the IRS to allow her deductions — really isn’t specific to those assisting animal rescue groups, it appears that the media saw it as such.

The Wall Street Journal, who essentially broke the story, reported the case as a legitimate redefinition of what could be considered as a tax deduction when a volunteer spends his or her own money on genuine expenses for a no:n-political, registered charity.  However, the fever of media stories that followed focused on the ‘crazy cat lady’ angle of the story.  See one example here: IRS can no longer discriminate against extreme cat lovers.

There is no doubt in my mind that Jan Van Dusen, the plaintiff in the case, loves cats.  But I don’t think this success should be touted as a singular victory for animal rescue volunteers as much as it is for all volunteers who spend their money for many different charities to fight domestic violence, prevent environmental pollution or assist in AIDS prevention.

Don’t get me wrong.  This is wonderful news, and it’s wonderful that this case was fought over tax deductions for a cat rescue group.  But would there be the scurry of news articles about this issue if the case hadn’t involved animal rescue?  There would be some, but I think mainstream society would view deductions taken by volunteers to help the (human) homeless to be much more palatable.  Would the IRS have questioned someone who claimed expenses for spending their own money to clean up a school yard or to prevent pollution  (under the direction of a 501(c)3 of course)?

My guess (and it’s just a guess right now) is probably not.  The IRS accused Van Dusen of trying to deduct personal expenses, even when those expenses resulted from fostering roughly 70 cats in her home through Fix Our Ferals — probably while they waited to be released or adopted.  Everything from paper towels to electricity are heavily used when you foster cats, and those are the deductions that Van Dusen claimed. Perhaps the IRS didn’t know what it takes to foster cats?

Animal rescue is no different a philanthropic endeavor than helping homeless people, feeding the hungry or saving the environment.  Yet for some reason it’s seen as the volunteer activity that is conducted by people on the fringes of society, and that spending money on the rescue of cats is a luxury, not a necessity brought on by a social problem.

Yes, there are fanatics who try to rescue every cat and bring them into their homes, but there are fanatics in every group of people.   What Van Dusen, and those volunteers like her are doing is filling a gap in society that is otherwise unmet.  We have a feral cat and animal overpopulation problem in the US and Canada.  Rescue workers are trying to alleviate this problem, and would love nothing more than to celebrate the day when every cat has a safe and loving home.    But these volunteers are not ‘crazy cat ladies’ for taking in 70 foster cats or spending their own money to fix (no pun intended) a feline overpopulation problem.

As an animal rescue volunteer, I’m not on the fringes of society — I am the society, and so are my fellow animal advocates who work to bring balance to an issue that is so out of balance.

A special thanks to Deborah Howard of the Companion Animal Protection Society for posting this story on Facebook. 

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Retail pet sale bans are spreading … to Los Angeles!

While the rise of puppy mills and retail pet sales in the decades after WWII was a set back for animal welfare progress, the tide has shifted in the last few years.  In general, puppy mills and pet stores selling animals have been unwilling to act ethically and humanely and to stop the ripple of problems and cruelty they cause by indiscriminately breeding and selling dogs, cats, rabbits and other pet store animals.

It’s very sad that cities, like Richmond, BC in Canada or West Hollywood in the US, must actually ban such blatantly cruel practices in order to stop the activities of Hunte Corporation and other such puppy mills and puppy distributors.  Meanwhile, you would think that people who work with dogs in these pet stores  would see the harm they are causing, and make changes to stop retail sales.  But change is not coming from within the pet stores or the animals mills.

And so it goes, on Tuesday, June 7th, the Los Angeles City Council voted to draft a bylaw to ban the sale of dogs, cats, rabbits and chickens.   Los Angeles’ department of animal services has been directed to draft the law, which would affect around 100 pet stores selling animals according to dvm350.com.  Councilman Paul Koretz proposed initiative, and the decision to draft the bylaw was unanimously voted in by his fellow council members.   Yippee!   I can’t wait to see the bylaw!!!  See one article here.

Back in October 2010, a reporter for CTV asked me (after the vote  for Richmond to ban the sale of dogs in pet stores), “Who are the winners from tonight’s vote?”   After a 3-hour of city council meeting, I simply answered that the dogs who were saved were the real winners.  But as I’ve thought about that question these last few months, I’ve come up with some very different answers.  The real winners from banning the sale of animals in retail outlets are the pet store owners and puppy mills themselves.  Because while most of us want to do ‘what’s right’, apparently for some people it’s easier to be blinded by greed  while staring directly at animal cruelty.    The real winners were the pet store owners and the puppy mills who, when being unwilling to make the ethical choice to stop their practices, are having that choice made for them — just like in Los Angeles, Richmond, BC, South Lake Tahoe, Albuquerque, Hermosa Beach, CA, Lake Worth, FL, and the list will get longer… thankfully.

Today we celebrate those people who are fighting the good fight to progress the state of animal welfare.  Thank you!

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City Living: Among the Animals – Sunday’s Furry 5K helps care for shelter animals

photo provided by the Seattle Animal Shelter

Printed in City Living, Seattle
June 8, 2011
Copyright Pacific Publishing Company

AMONG THE ANIMALS
By Christie Lagally

My husband and I had no idea what we had gotten ourselves into.

It wasn’t just that we’d never had a puppy before we adopted our dog, Toby, in 2008. The surprise came when we got DNA results that said our plain-looking, black-and-white shelter puppy was actually a Saluki (Persian greyhound) cross. Little did we know that Toby would make our lives all about running and figuring out how, where and when he could sprint his little heart out.

Toby is 3 years old now, and because of his unending desire to run long distances, we finally moved into a house with a big yard. For the first time, Toby is content — as every dog should be.

But helping pets get the exercise they need isn’t quite as easy for dogs awaiting homes at the Seattle Animal Shelter. Luckily, Seattle’s shelter canines have an army of volunteers to appease their exercise appétit.

The Get Fit with Fido volunteer running group at the Seattle Animal Shelter runs the rambunctious dogs three days a week. The experienced dog handlers wear sporty Get Fit with Fido jackets and typically run the dogs from Interbay, through the Olympic Sculpture Park and into Downtown Seattle. This partnership enables these experienced runners to get in some good athletic training, and of course, the dogs get exercise and socialization.

Velvet and Paul at the Seattle Animal Shelter

Velvet and Paul at the Seattle Animal Shelter

Fund-raising, education

About 12 years ago, the Get Fit with Fido volunteers decided to do more for the shelter animals and organized the Furry 5K, an annual fund-raising, run-and-walk event coming up this Sunday, June 12.

I caught up with Get Fit with Fido volunteer Paul Paladino upon his return from a weekly run with Velvet, a 3-year-old, blue-nosed pit bull available for adoption at the Seattle Animal Shelter. Velvet and Paul were happily grinning at each other in that tired, after-a-good-run kind of way. Paul was telling me how, at the upcoming Furry 5K, he’ll volunteer to help make the event a success.

The Furry 5K is at Seward Park and begins at 10 a. m. Runners, walkers and well-behaved dogs on leash are encouraged to come out and raise money for the Help the Animals Fund. While the city pays for the cost of basic operation of our animal shelter, the money to pay for veterinary and dental care for the shelter animals comes entirely from fund-raising and donations to the Help the Animals Fund.

You can pre-register for the Furry 5K on-line at www.furry5k.com for $25 per person. Raceday registration is $30 and takes place between 8:15 and 9:45 a. m. Runners and walkers receive a race shirt, but only while supplies last. Also, dog participants receive Furry 5K bandanas for their hard work.

Prizes will be handed out for the fastest runners and fastest dogs with a runner. (Note that winning dogs must be attached to a runner by leash at all times).

But Sunday’s fun doesn’t stop at the end of the 5K course. You and your dog can head next to the Animal Product Expo after the race.

In addition to product displays from local pet-related businesses and Animal Shelter supporters, the expo also features entertainment. Visitors will get to watch an agility dog team and the Ahimsa doggie drill team. This definitely constitutes entertainment geared toward both you and your dog.

Fluffy and Fido - shelter mascots

The Seattle Animal Shelter mascots, Fluffy and Fido, will greet visitors. The expo is open to race runners, walkers, well-behaved dogs and the general public, as well.

I can hardly wait for Sunday, and I’m geared up for running the race. Toby, on the other hand, has been ready for the Furry 5K his whole life.

And while he would no doubt either win, place or show in a dog-only race, it’s unlikely that the Toby-plus-Christie team will be in the first 1,000 to cross the finish line.

Christie Lagally is a freelance pet columnist who writes a blog on animal-welfare issues at christielagally. wordpress.com.

Copyright Pacific Publishing Company

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