Posts tagged advocacy against animal sales

Politics for Animals: Getting involved with politics for animals

lobby-day-2016-5by Christie Lagally

Originally published in City Living Seattle

Dec 2016

While many elections quickly fade from our thoughts, our recent election will be with us for decades to come.  Thought leaders around the country, from economists to human rights advocates, warned how electing a president who embodied extreme racism, sexism in its worst form, and a leader displaying pathological narcissism would be a massive step backwards for our country’s progress to pursue a just and humane world.   Likewise, the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF), a political action committee working for the advancement of animal protection, called the president-elect and his future administration “the greatest threat ever to federal policy-making and implementation of animal protection laws.”

While the presidential results were startling for both humans and animals, this election also came with a reminder that being involved in political action is one of the best ways to help animals.  For example, in this same election, Massachusetts voters approved a new law banning the extreme confinement of farm animals and the sale of products that are not cage-free or crate-free in the state, per HSLF. This momentous win helps millions of animals in one fell swoop by improving the conditions of millions of egg laying hens, pigs, and veal calves by preventing them from being crammed into cages or crates for their entire lives. And this ballot measure got 78% of the vote in Massachusetts!

Likewise, voters in Oklahoma rejected Question 777 by a 60% margin, which proposed a state constitution amendment to disallow any restrictions on agricultural practices, including efforts to end “puppy mills, horse slaughter, and raising gamefowl for cockfighting” according to HSLF. Thankfully voters spoke up to protect animals.

Finally, in Oregon, voters followed the lead of Washington voters in 2015, by passing Measure 100 which ends trafficking of wildlife, thereby adding a measure of protection for wild animals living under the threat of trophy hunting around the world.

These election results demonstrate the importance and the sweeping scope of participating in our political system.  After-all, despite the warnings, over 90 million registered voters in the United States didn’t vote in the last election, and hence played no part in preventing the outcome of the presidential race.

But it is never too late to get involved. Our voices are needed today to play an on-going role in our political system right here in Washington State to address cruelty issues such as illegal hunting of wildlife, chained dogs, and elephants in traveling circuses. This is our time to get involved and to keep up the momentum of progress for the protection of animals.

In support of that goal, the Humane Society of the United States will be hosting Humane Lobby Day on Wednesday, January 25th in Olympia.  This is our opportunity to collectively make our voices heard for animal protection issues.  At Humane Lobby Day, participants from all over Washington State gather in Olympia to advocate for new laws to protect animals.  Participants first learn about bills being proposed that effect animals, and then meet with their legislators to educate them on the importance of passing such bills or opposing bad bills.

Seattle resident, Sandy Smith, has attended Humane Lobby Day for the last six years and says that it is one of the most effective ways to help animals.

“We may think that we are just one person speaking up,” says Smith, “but ask any legislator, and he or she will tell you that a constituent who comes to Olympia to encourage the passage of a law makes a strong statement for the cause.”

Smith explains that every constituent is technically a lobbyist, and we are actually more influential than a lobbyist hired by an organization. Citizens elect the legislators to represent us, and therefore our voices matter.

“It’s important that people understand that if we don’t talk to our legislators about animal issues, those legislators will only hear from lobbyists who may work against the protection of animals,” explains Smith.

Knowing the power of citizen lobbying, Smith also co-founded a political action committee called the Humane Voters of Washington (HVW) to help citizens speak up for animals.  Smith frequently updates the HVW Facebook Page (facebook.com/humanevoterswa) with action alerts and information on events, including upcoming Humane Lobby Day.  You can start speaking up for animals by ‘liking’ the HVW page, and checking back regularly.

As Secretary Hillary Clinton recently said, “Our constitutional democracy demands our participation, not just every four years but all the time. So let’s do all we can to keep advancing the causes and values we all hold dear…”

This call to action includes our responsibility to speak up for the rights of all people and all animals, and to work toward a more just and humane society.  This is the time to ensure progress is made, not receded, because failure to move forward in a political world where so much is at stake is simply not an option.

For information on Humane Lobby Day, stay tuned to the HSUS Washington page at www.facebook.com/HSUSWashington.

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a writer and the editor of Living Humane, a news site providing articles, op-eds and podcasts on humane-conscious lifestyles at livinghumane.com.

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It finally happend in LA: Dog, cat and rabbit sales banned at pet stores

Great! Fantastic! That’s amazing! Imagine all the animals saved! Those were the responses I’ve heard as I spread the word that LA  banned the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in retail outlets today (ref: Los Angeles Times).

And, naturally, I agree.

You don’t have to wait for election day to make progress, and that’s what they did in LA.  Now, only animals for adoption can be provided through retail outlets.  This is a move to start solving the pet homelessness problem at the source!

Overflow of kittens at a Pacific NW shelterLA is a huge market for pets stores who frequently sell dogs that are trending as popular, such as Chihuahuas after the release of Legally Blonde.   There are so many animals homeless in LA that rescue groups all over the country actually export dogs out of LA to find them homes elsewhere.

And the relief that shelter workers will get is just one more reason that banning the retail sale of animals is so important.  Imagine each day you are faced with hundreds and even thousands of homeless animals, many who will be euthanized. This is a quote from one LA newspaper article earlier this month:

“In the 2011-12 fiscal year, city animal shelters took in more than 57,000 animals — 35,405 dogs and 21,883 cats — and euthanized 25 percent of the dogs and 57 percent of cats.” — ref: Daily News LA

Congratulations to Councilman Paul Koretz, Los Angeles Department of Animal Services and all the animal advocates and organizations who pressed for this ban.

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My debate with the candidates

As the presidential, gubernatorial and legislative races scurry towards November, candidates and parties are attempting to address my concerns — assuming my concerns are already on their agenda.  As a woman, an aerospace worker and a member of the middle class, my vote is clearly valuable if you judge the campaign by the content of 30-second commercial debates.

But what if my actual concerns for the problems in our community are not on the political agenda of the candidates at all?   Do they ever get addressed or even heard?  Is my vote ever wooed in the direction of a candidate that I actually want in office?

I’ve always felt that rather than debate an opponent, candidates should debate a voter instead.   And with that format, the field is wide open on topics for discussion.

So my debate with the candidates would include issues of the Washington economy and access to affordable health care, but it would also include my long-term concern for the welfare of animals and support for the un-glorified government agencies and organizations that try to address these issues.

And I’m not alone.  Not only is Seattle an intensely dog-centric city, it is home to roughly 50 animal rescue, welfare and advocacy groups.  Additionally, these groups don’t even reflect a true estimate of the number of individuals who live without harming animals at all.  For example, if we use the density of vegan restaurants (around 20 or so thriving businesses in the City of Seattle) as a yardstick of the number of people interested in the welfare of animals, this unit of measure indicates that Seattleites not only care about animals and what happens to them, but they have created a community that reflects that ethos.

Furthermore, our population of vegetarians, feral cat rescuers, pet adopters, shelter volunteers, foster families, and conscientious people who are willing to take that extra step to house back-yard chickens and goats, buy free-range eggs and support humanely raised local meats should indicate to candidates that animals matter in our community.

So in my hypothetical debate with the candidates, here are a few issues I would like to discuss.

For the past few years, legislators in Olympia have passed over future consideration of the so-called spay/neuter bills.  HB 1226 and SB 5151 would essentially create a state-wide program to provide low-cost, accessible spay/neuter services to all areas of Washington State.   The goal is to help reduce the number of homeless animals that are euthanized in our shelters and to relieve local governments of the financial pressure of dealing with so many homeless pets.  The problem is that it costs money.  Not much money, and the proposal for the program includes a fee on pet food to avoid using general funds.  The opposition is simply from people who are tax-phobic – even when cities and counties in Washington have to pay many times the cost of the spay/neuter program to euthanize animals rather than fix them.

Second, I want to know that progress will be made to help end long-term chaining or tethering of dogs in Washington State. This is an issue that was considered in previous legislative sessions as HB1755 and SB5649. Advocates hope to reintroduce the bills in the 2013 legislative session. From my discussions with a handful of Washington candidates, opposition to this bill comes from legislators who don’t think you can tell people how to treat your dog.  So who will fight the good fight in Olympia?

I recently learned that the Washington Alliance for Humane Legislation (an advocacy group in Olympia) hopes to find sponsorship in the 2013 legislative session for a bill that would give animal control officers (ACO) in Washington the authority to enforce anti-cruelty and neglect laws (read more here).  I don’t need to see another news story about neglected, starving horses or a raided puppy mills to know this is a good idea, but I do need to know my representatives will support such a bill.

Finally, while I’m a fan of small businesses, I don’t feel that businesses that cost our government money, instead of adding to the economy, are appropriate.  This is the problem with retail pet stores found scattered across Washington State.  In the past few years, many city governments in Canada and the US have banned the retail sale of dogs, cats and rabbits to stop the flow of impulse-purchased pets into shelters and end support of puppy mills.  Austin, TX made an early move to ban the sale of dogs and cats and found an almost immediate reduction in the number of animal intakes at their local shelter.  The Los Angeles city council is poised to do the same this fall (ref: Spot).  LA council members in favor of the ban report that it will help reduce the nearly 20,000 animals euthanized in LA each year.

So why not in Washington State?  Why not in Seattle?  We have a lot of homeless pets in our city and our state, coupled with a network of private breeders who can provide purebred dogs to appropriate homes with the proper oversight.  We don’t need animals shipped from puppy and kitten mills in the Midwest and sold to any passers-by.  Furthermore, I’m tired of paying for the consequences of massive numbers of homeless pets shuffled through our animal control agencies statewide.  I want this to be an election issue, and I want to know where the candidates stand.

The propensity for candidates to stick to their issues has never been so well explained than by Anne Romney during her recent Iowa network interview.  When she was pressed to answer questions on birth control, she responded, “Again, you’re asking me questions that are not about what this election is going to be about.”

I’m fairly certain that an election is about what voters decide to speak up about.  And for me, this election agenda includes animal welfare and the financial pressures that failures to address these issues puts on our local and state governments.

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a freelance columnist who writes for City Living Seattle newspaper and the blog “Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions” at www.sniffingouthome.org.

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New Westminster council considering a ban on retail pet sales thanks to…

Kathy Powelson and the Paws for Hope Animal Foundation (ref: Royal City Record).

It’s amazing what can happen when we let our elected leaders know exactly what our communities need (especially when it doesn’t cost the city to make these changes).  With courage and tenacity, Powelson and her fellow advocates are speaking up for what many people believe is a good step to help end the euthanasia of 3-4 million cats and dogs that end up in North American animal shelters every year (ref:  HSUS, American Humane Association).

Whenever I have spoken to representatives or leaders of the cities where we live and suggest that we ban the sale of animals, the most common response I’ve gotten is “Well, I’ve never thought about it” or “No one has ever suggested it.”

So thank you Kathy for not only suggesting it, but advocating for significant change to help animals.

Check out Paws for Hope Animal Foundation at pawsforhope.org.

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Mississauga and the political fight to end puppy mills

Scruff at a Richmond, BC shelter

The city council of Mississauga, ON (a close neighbor to Toronto, ON) banned the retail sale of dogs and cats in order to fight against pet overpopulation and protect the public from buying unhealthy dogs shipped from puppy mills (Mississauga Star).  (Thanks to my friend Helen Savkovic for this link!)

But just like in Richmond, BC, it seems the biggest opposition to pet store bans and the fight against puppy mills is not the pet industry, puppy mills themselves or even pet store owners!  It’s the media’s strange lack of research on these issues before they go to press — a phenomenon so eloquently addressed by Jennifer Kaiser of Actions Speak Louder Calgary in her article entitled The Number Twenty.

It should also be noted the British Columbia Supreme Court made a ruling on the appropriateness or the degree to which it was reasonable for municipalities to ban the sale of dogs in pets stores (see International Bio Research v. Richmond (City)). The Honourable Mr. Justice Savage ruled in the following statement.

The decision to prohibit the sale of dogs in pet stores falls within a range of acceptable outcomes that are defensible with regard to the facts and law. There is rational connection between the Bylaw [Richmond retail puppy sale ban] and its objective. (ref)

Helen Savkovic also reminded me that road blocks to legislative bans, such as in Toronto, Richmond and now Mississauga, result from incomplete research by city staff as shown in this quote:

[Pet store owners] said all levels of government should go after the animal mills, not just store owners; that they only buy from reputable breeders; and that most mill animals are sold online, not at stores. No statistics are available to verify that, city staff said. (ref)

Considering the municipal oversight that cities have over homeless dogs and cats in their city, it’s amazing that more data isn’t mined by city staff on the source of animals in their city.  That may not be due to staff intent, but just lack of money to put towards addressing the issues at hand.

But as advocates in Richmond, BC, we did address the issue of online sales through the website Kijiji to determine if our ban on the sale of dogs in pet stores would pale in comparison to online sales — as so many nay-sayers suggested.  It turned out that in Richmond, which was the only domain we could address, Kijiji was simply an advertising avenue to direct people to pet stores.  Here is my testimony to city council addressing online pet sales in Richmond.

Nov. 8, 2010

Dear Honorable Councillors and Mayor Brodie:
I am grateful that you have taken such humane and responsible steps to improve the lives of our animals in our city.
In the past year and especially the past month, we have heard many arguments against banning the sale of dogs in pet stores. While we are all aware that banning the sale of dogs in pet stores will not totally solve the puppy mill problem in Canada, it will help to alleviate the issue of homeless animals here in Richmond, BC. Nevertheless, I would like to address two recurring issues regarding this ban.
The first issue tabled several times is the suggestion that this ban is unfair because it does not influence the online sale of dogs, specifically on the Kijiji website, which allows dog sales. While there are hundreds of people selling dogs in British Columbia on Kijiji, a search limited to Richmond revealed just six  advertisements. Four of the Kijiji ads were for dogs at the Pets Wonderland [retail] store and one was for a dog purchased at Pet Habitat in Richmond Centre that someone was trying to sell off. The last ad was for a single puppy being re-homed. It doesn’t appear that Richmond puppy mills are using Kijiji to advertise their dogs. However, pet stores are.
Second, there has been the outstanding question, both in Council’s discussions as well as in the media, that banning or regulating the sale of dogs in pet stores should not be dealt with on the municipal level, and that regulation should come from the Province. I would argue that this issue was, in fact, appropriate to be dealt with at the municipal level because it is the responsibility of the city to allocate money for our local animal shelter and to regulate pet stores via the business licensing bylaws.

In the future, I am hopeful that the Province of British Columbia will take action to regulate the breeding and sale of all animals, but currently the municipal government has the power to improve the state of animal welfare in Richmond through modification of business practices.
Furthermore, the Humane Society International has formally recommended that city councils take this same bold step at the local level. Your actions here today are a perfect example of the adage, “Think globally, act  locally”, and I thank you for that.
Your careful and thoughtful administration of this proposal and amendment to ban the sale of dogs in pet stores has resonated around the world. Thank you again.
With my respect,

Christie D. Lagally
Animal Welfare Advocacy Coalition (AWAC)

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AMONG THE ANIMALS: No bunnies for Easter

Originally published in City Living Seattle

March 12, 2012

Copyright City Living

Did you know that bunny rabbits, the kind we keep as pets, are a separate species from wild rabbits? The domesticated rabbit, oryctolagus cuniculus, is an animal descended from European cousins.

This fact may seem like trivia, but it is an important point in the world of animal welfare because domestic animals are those that require human care to survive and thrive.

As Easter approaches, bunny rescue workers shudder. While baby bunnies are available for purchase at pet stores all year, the urge to “get a bunny for the kids” at Easter suddenly seems stronger.

Sue and a special care bunny

Sue Brennan knows this story too well. She runs Rabbit Haven, a sanctuary outside Gig Harbor, and sees the sad endings for a lot of “Easter bunnies.”

As a child, I had an Easter bunny as well, and his story scarred my soul. The baby bunny came into our lives as an inexpensive pet for a low-income family.

The poor rabbit, like so many Easter bunnies, suffered terribly from the elements, being locked in an outdoor cage most of his life, sometimes with no food or water and scared to death by our dogs.

He spent only a matter of days out of his cage for years before we got him a pen. He was finally killed by a neighbor’s dog.

It’s a decade of tragedy that I wished I could have changed as a child, and I still wish that today.

Bonded rabbits having a nap

Brennan said this is the fate of many Easter bunnies when people or families don’t realize that bunnies need warmth, companionship, love and care for eight to 10 years. They are as big of a commitment as a dog or cat.

“Children can be just as happy with a chocolate or wind-up toy bunny at Easter, and no one suffers,” Brennan said.

Finding perfect homes

The Seattle Animal Shelter (SAS) reports a significant spike in rabbit surrenders about one month after Easter, usually doubling their intake of rabbits to about 15 per month.

“People don’t realize that rabbits are considered an exotic pet, and may require more expensive veterinary care than people can afford. As a result, some rabbits that we get in can be in bad shape when they arrive at our shelter,” reported Seattle Animal Shelter (SAS) spokesperson Kara Main-Hester.

Main-Hester said this is the reason that SAS provides high-quality veterinary care and special “rehab” time in foster homes for bunnies that need some extra TLC upon arrival.

She said that rabbits should live indoors and be “part of the family.”

There are currently 19 bunnies awaiting adoption at SAS. All rabbits are spayed or neutered.

Rabbit Haven also finds perfect homes for each of its 50 or so adoptable bunnies. Many Rabbit Haven “buns” come from animal-rescue and shelter groups who found the animals as strays or in hording situations.

A safe feral rabbit colony at Rabbit Haven

An unintended consequence of pet-rabbit abandonment is the rise of feral-rabbit colonies in many parks and campuses along the Pacific coast. A section of Rabbit Haven has been made into a permanent home for some 80 feral rabbits rescued from the University of Victoria campus in British Columbia when the school administration was threatening a campus-wide cull on the abandoned pets.

“It is illegal to dump any domestic animal in the wild, including parks and neighborhoods. Rabbits are domestic animals and fall under this regulation,” Brennan explained.

Rabbit Haven volunteers also offer temporary shelter for rabbits owned by servicemen and -women while they are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, knowing they will one day get to reunite bunny and family. Brennan tells the story of one soldier returning from his tour in Iraq whose bunny was so happy to see him that the rabbit literally jumped into the soldier’s arms.

Respected rabbits

The Rabbit Haven barn

When you walk into the Rabbit Haven barn, one gets the impression of a comfy, mountain cabin right in the middle of the woods. A cute, red, wood-burning stove heats the recently constructed building, and the marble floor feels solid under your feet in the entryway. This place is not an animal shelter; it is a temporary home for bunny rabbits, and it feels like that, too.

“These are all recycled or reclaimed materials,” explained Sue Brennan. “Someone was just throwing out the wood stove, and the marble is excess from a construction site.”

The rabbit pens inside the barn

Brennan, a contractor by trade, has a practical sense of what makes up a good bunny barn. Each of the roomy rabbit pens houses two or three rabbits, and the walls are lined with shiny aluminum for easy cleaning.

“I got it from the Boeing surplus yard,” Brennan said. “It’s aircraft-grade aluminum.”

Rabbits painted on the barn walls

Yet, with the added touch of industrial materials, the Rabbit Haven barn is anything but stark. The aluminum-lined walls have been elegantly painted with bunny portraits.

Brennan hopes that Rabbit Haven will serve as a reminder that bunnies need to be treated with care and respect, just like dogs, cats and horses. Pet bunnies are not to be left outside in the elements or abandoned when no longer wanted. Pet bunny rabbits are domesticated to be with humans, share in bunny companionship and live indoors.

To learn more about Rabbit Haven, to donate or to adopt, visit rabbithaven.org.

If you currently have a rabbit that needs appropriate care, visit the House Rabbit Society website at www.rabbit.org.

Seattle Animal Shelter holds a special adoption day for rabbits and critters called Cool City Pets on the third Saturday of every month. Find out more at www.seattle.gov/animalshelter/adoption-events.htm.

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a freelance pet columnist who manages the website “Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions” at http://www.sniffingouthome.org.

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AMONG THE ANIMALS: Volunteers save animals from breeding mills, ‘death row’

Brooke, Michelle and their dog BonnieBy Christie Lagally

Oct. 12, 2011

Originally published in City Living Seattle by the Pacific Publishing Company

In the last few years, a growing number of cities have taken a proactive measure against animal homelessness by banning the retail sale of dogs and cats. South Lake Tahoe led the way with its city council unanimously voting in a ban, followed by Albuquerque, N. M. West Hollywood, Calif.; Austin, Texas; Fort Worth, Fla.; and Glendale, Calif., have most recently followed suit. The city council for the largest city in Canada — Toronto — unanimously voted to ban the retail sale of dogs and cats just recently.

These cities acted on a local level to tackle a regional problem: industrialized breeding of kittens and puppies (a. k. a. puppy mills) and pet overpopulation, leading to mass euthanasia in city pounds and shelters. Pet overpopulation is a municipal problem that costs cities and communities hundreds of thousands of dollars in shelter costs, cruelty investigations and euthanasia.

Momo is for adoption through Ginger's Pet Rescue

‘Death-row dogs’

Puppy and kitten mills are found almost anywhere in Washington state and elsewhere in the United States. And while retailers can make considerable profit selling animals, the reality is that breeding dogs and cats is not profitable under humane conditions. Hence, we have seen the rise of puppy and kitten mills, where breeding parents live in small, unsanitary cages, usually outdoors, with no exercise or veterinary care. The conditions are deplorable, and many breeding parents die before they are rescued.

City councils have discovered that by banning retail sales of dogs and cats, they can curb the economic demand for this type of breeding operation and save thousands of animals and thousands of dollars.

Like many surrounding cities, Seattle has no such ban, and backyard puppy mills and crowded shelters are common on the West Coast. Luckily, Seattle is blessed with many rescue groups that tackle pet homelessness.

But one such group, Ginger’s Pet Rescue, is dedicated to specifically saving those “death-row dogs” that are about to be euthanized in shelters from Washington state to Los Angeles and rescuing dogs directly from puppy mills.

Billy Jean, rat terrier mix available for adoption through Ginger's Pet Rescue

Foster care

Ginger’s Pet Rescue was started by Ginger Luke, who owns the Rickshaw Chinese Restaurant in Greenwood. The rescue group receives dogs from high-kill animal shelters and negotiates the release of breeding dogs from puppy mills to end the breeding operation.

If this sounds like an intensive operation, that’s because it is. Rescue dogs must be flown in from other cities or transported via car by volunteers. Each dog is given the care they need through a partnership with Greenwood Animal Hospital, but veterinary costs are high to treat so many dogs, and donations are desperately needed.

Without a centralized shelter, all the dogs are in foster care with more than 100 volunteers working with Ginger’s Pet Rescue. Volunteers provide care, love and reassurance for the dogs, and currently more foster families are urgently needed here in Seattle.

Dedicated volunteers of Ginger's Pet Rescue

While there are a lot of things that make Ginger’s Pet Rescue unique, a conversation with the volunteers reveals a very special group of people. Rescuing dogs from all over the West Coast takes organization and commitment, and a genuine feeling of teamwork was obvious during an interview with Ginger’s volunteers.

Brooke Stanton and her partner, Michelle Smith, are foster “mothers” providing care to two dogs through Ginger’s Rescue. Stanton was originally an adopter from the Rescue when she brought Clyde, as Australian shepherd, into her home. Stanton soon found that she had room for a few more souls in the house.

When Smith decided she was ready to adopt as well, the couple fostered several dogs before they met Bonnie. Now with Bonnie and Clyde at the helm, the family of four continues to give its time and love to help foster more dogs through the Rescue. Thanks to Brooke and Michelle’s foster care, Momo and Billy Jean, both female rat-terrier mixes, are available for adoption through Ginger’s Pet Rescue.

More volunteers needed

Dedicated foster volunteers make the difference between life and death for dogs in crowded, high-kill shelters or confined at puppy mills. And while municipal laws to mitigate both these problems may not yet have come to cities in Washington state, Ginger’s Pet Rescue is putting a dent in pet homelessness and preventing euthanasia by saving one dog at a time.

Currently, foster homes are needed for about 20 “death-row dogs” received by the Rescue every other weekend.

If you cannot foster, Ginger’s Pet Rescue also needs transporters, volunteers and people who can help fund-raise. Currently, the rescue owes around $28,000 in veterinary bills for care for special-needs dogs who are deaf, blind, have only three legs have been hit by cars or need cancer treatment.

For more information or to find dogs to adopt, check out Ginger’s Pet Rescue online at www.gingerspetrescue.org.

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a freelance pet columnist who manages the website “Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions” at www.sniffingouthome.org.

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