Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Michigan resident steps up to get dog tethering law changed

flickr photo courtesy of tobyotter

Despite the fact that the general climate of dog ownership has evolved over the last 20 years or so, there are areas where many feel that the treatment of animals still needs to be improved. There is one specific practice that is a sticking point for one woman from Michigan — canine tethering.

We've all seen it: Dogs secured by a chain or other tether to a stationary object, alone.

For some animals, it's a way of life; little or no contact with other animals, or humans for that matter, for years. In some instances the canines are neglected, and chains or collars are embedded in their necks. Animals frequently get entangled in the tether and are unable to access water, food — or even shelter.

Dogs are not meant to live a solitary existence, and since by nature they are very social creatures, it's no wonder that these scenarios have been shown to be psychologically damaging to dogs, causing anxiety, aggression and other behavioral issues. Lack of socialization and proper training exacerbates this.

Annie Carlson, a substitute teacher from Swartz Creek, knows that there is a simple solution to avoiding these problems and creating an environment where all companion animals have an opportunity to flourish. She wants to see the canine tethering laws changed in the state of Michigan and is petitioning to do so.

The current state law indicates that a person in possession of an animal is to provide adequate care, and the tethering law is clarified:

An owner, possessor, or person having the charge or custody of an animal shall not tether a dog unless the tether is at least 3 times the length of the dog as measured from the tip of its nose to the base of its tail and is attached to a harness or nonchoke collar designed for tethering.

Starting at the grassroots level, Carlson has more than 2,000 signatures in total on a petition, and is still pressing on to change Michigan law regarding 24-hour tethering of dogs. Carlson is meeting in Lansing on Tuesday with State Representative Paul Scott, House District 51. The bill language has been established, and she is hopeful that he will sponsor the bill.

Carlson clarifies that there is a distinct difference between a dog being put out on a tether for a short period of time to perform a specific task — and a dog being chained to a doghouse or a tree for life. The latter is a problem for her, other individuals and organizations — including the Huron Valley Humane Society.

In fact, Tanya Hilgendorf, Executive Director of the Humane Society of Huron Valley notes that most of these dogs are neglected. And when they are neglected, she adds, "So many times people don’t even notice that there dogs are too skinny, may be sick or are just not getting enough calories and nutrition, especially to survive outside."

Hilgendorf adds that the Humane Society has Five Freedoms for animals and doesn't believe that tethering is in line with any of them. They are:
1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst — by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor.
2. Freedom from Discomfort — by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease — by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
4. Freedom to Express Normal Behavior — by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company.
5. Freedom from Fear and Distress — by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.
While some dog owners deem the practice acceptable, others note that they often say they can’t afford hay or a proper dog house.

The Humane Society's answer: If you can’t afford a dog house, you probably shouldn’t have a dog. And if that's that case, you probably aren't able to afford the rest of the care necessary a dog needs to live a halfway decent life.

Carlson's efforts started in January of last year after seeing a dog chained day in, day out, and not cared for. After contacting local law enforcement to come out and investigate, Carlson said, "Their response was, 'There's nothing that we can do. The owner is within their legal limits.' It was so disturbing."

As it turns out, there were several calls about this particular dog. She was dumbfounded and knew that if the law allowed for that, then it needed to be changed.

Carlson and the Humane Society would like to see any new Michigan legislation mirror the California law. They also hope it will include one very important clause addressing the adversely harsh weather that we experience here in Michigan and that tethered dogs are frequently forced to endure.

A resident of New Richmond, Ohio succeeded in changing the tethering laws there. Texas, as well as a grassroots effort in Nevada have either modified the tethering law or made it unlawful.
Carlson is happy with the present outcomes in other states and thinks that Michigan should be next, as does the Humane Society.

Anyone who wants to report improper tethering in Washtenaw County according to Michigan law can contact the Humane Society of Huron Valley's Animal Cruelty Investigation Dept. at 734-661-3512.

What's on your mind with regard to this issue? Participate in the poll and leave your comments.

Lorrie Shaw is a pet blogger and wrote "How does our perception of an animal's intelligence influence their treatment?" Contact her by e-mail and follow her pet adventures on Twitter as a professional dog walker and pet sitter in the Ann Arbor area.

Friday, February 18, 2011

So what breed is Dusty, the klepto-kitty?

Earlier this week, I posted a blog with video on AnnArbor.com's pet section of a cat with a habit that has gained a lot of attention: bringing home objects to his owners.

How many? Hundreds.

Not only did his antics get attention, but so did his appearance. From first glance, Dusty has the characteristics of a Siamese, but with a few variances.
Flickr photo courtesy of stevevoght

A couple of comments on the post indicated that others were as enamored by his appearance as I was.

After a little sleuthing and a good shove in the right direction by one of the readers, Dusty's breed was revealed: the very generous feline is a Showshoe, a breed that has been around for about 45 years.

Much like other unusual cat breeds, the Showshoe results from a genetic mutation. It was first seen after a breeder's Siamese gave birth to three kittens with the fur pattern.

They are rare, because of the challenge of reproducing the correct coat markings.

They share a lot of the same behavioral characteristics of Siamese cats, and are known for their intelligence and on occasion, even like to swim.

You can read more here on Showshoes, and click here to see Dusty in action.

Lorrie Shaw is a pet blogger and owner of Professional Pet Sitting in Dexter Twp, MI. Contact her via e-mail or by calling 734-904-7279.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

With Video: Cat "guards" dog's new food dish

Dogs and cats live together pretty well in a family unit, and our pets are no exception.

Gretchen (our 80 lb dog) and Silver (our 10 lb cat) pretty much grew up together, and after some kinks to work out initially, they get along quite well.

Ditto for our other family dog, Bruiser (who is also about 80 lbs) - who melded pretty well into a blended family. Co-existing with not only another dog - but a cat -  was something he was not accustomed to. Kudos to him!

We live in a relatively peaceful household, but one thing is clear: Silver rules the roost.

He's always had a strong personality.

The dogs don't mess with Silver at all, especially if he is standing in front of the water dish. He'll stand there, getting a leisurely drink and if the dogs want to get one, they will wait. Under no circumstances will they try to nudge him out of the way. They'll stand there, waiting behind, staring at him - until he saunters off when he feels like it.

It's funny how a normal sized cat can have all of that control over a large-breed dog (or two). It's pretty comical to watch after all of these years, but not as funny as the following video.

Spike the cat, guards the new doggy dish from Harley, the 90 lb dog. The power that the steadfast kitty has over his housemate is quite funny. Poor dog...

Lorrie Shaw is a pet blogger and owner of Professional Pet Sitting in the Chelsea, MI area. She can be contacted via e-mail, and you can live vicariously through her daily adventures on Twitter.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The relationship between horses and humans remains ineffable

Kathy Lundberg is a long-time horse owner and when I visited her facility located in Ann Arbor, Scio Church Stables on a cold morning a few weeks ago, I got a crash-course in equine care and day-to-day life.

Kathy is a real down-to-earth kind of individual, along with her daughter Annette, I really got a feel for what owning a horse and caring for them is all about: It's not for the faint of heart, to say the least. There's a lot of work involved, but the benefits are exponential, no question about it.

I also had a chance to meet Dee, SCS's Barn Manager. In talking with her, it was clear that not only does she have an innate sense of what the animals there need, but in order for a boarding stable and farm to be all that it should be, it takes commitment, a good relationship between owners, staff, horse owners and, yes, the animals themselves. Especially in the latter, no two are alike. Dee mused about her work at SCS and I was thrilled to be able to see the horses from her vantage point: She truly loves what she does and understands her works' profundity.

All of the horses personalities are different, and for lots of reasons. Breed, age, gender, over-all temperament, you name it.

flickr photo courtesy of goingslo
The relationship between horse and rider (or horse and the person handling them) is pretty intense.

I learned this a couple of years ago when horseback riding at Hell Creek Ranch in Hell, MI.

I was well-matched for my partner that day; I tend to have a quick, spirited personality and the horse was no exception. Although I was only riding for the day, and the horse that I was paired with was totally unfamiliar with me - I could sense that there was a lot of adjusting, compensating and tolerating due to my naivete by the animal that I was perched on.

I could feel this sort of energy flowing back and forth through the afternoon; and when I was feeling especially tense, my very capable horse almost seemed to project: "Just trust me. Chill out."

And so I did. The experience was much more enjoyable, too.

I can see why people love horses so much. There's a very special kind of rapport that the human and animal have. So much sweat, blood and care goes into the care of a horse, that it's no wonder why a real bond takes hold.

There's a thriving horse community here in Michigan, and a lot of people strive to educate about and maintain long-held traditions.

Will I ever own a horse? Probably not, but for the right reasons - and I have a real appreciation for them, and the people who share their lives with them.

 Lorrie Shaw is a pet blogger and owner of Professional Pet Sitting near Chelsea, MI. She can be found regularly as a contributor on AnnArbor.com's pet section. Follow her daily adventures on Twitter and contact her by email.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ohio State University launches new online resource for pet owners

Pet ownership has certainly increased in the past 20 years. Having said that, many breeds of pets have been introduced into areas that might be challenging for them to thrive in due to living situations that are less-than-ideal as far as the geographic area that they spend time in, the time that their owners spend at work, or perhaps the amount and type of exercise that is made available to them.

That, coupled with the way that our communities are changing so quickly, it's no wonder that most species of pets are finding it difficult to be fulfilled.

Some breeds of dogs really need outlets that allow their inherent abilities to be used - like Border Collies, for example. If they don't get to use their skills, things can get pretty dicey. Cats exhibit behavior problems, too, regardless of the breed, if physical and mental needs are not met.

A few months ago, I wrote a piece on the Indoor Initiative for Cats, facilitated online by The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine. The resource was great, because it gave cat owners a better understanding of cat behavior, and a realistic overview of  what their families can do to enhance their lives.

Flickr photo courtesy of PetteriO
Recently, though, I discovered that the website has been expanded to include canines as well and has been renamed The Indoor Pet Initiative.

The resource has been redesigned to address a range of topics related to health, emotional well-being, dog training and more. Practical tips, tools and ideas are available to help pet owners understand their pets better and to help them live the best life possible, from cradle to grave, so to speak.

Click here for more information.

Lorrie Shaw is a professional pet sitter and dog walker in Dexter Twp., MI and welcomes your contact via e-mail.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

English Bulldogs have little-known talents, like skateboarding

English Bulldogs are pretty unique dogs; they're ridiculously adorable and stubborn.

What you might not know is how athletically gifted they are. Bulldogs are very good at jumping on a trampoline, as well as exceptional at skateboarding.

This fella, Tyson, from Las Vegas, shows his skills on a skateboard. Check him out:

Lorrie Shaw is a pet blogger and owner of Professional Pet Sitting in Dexter Twp, MI. She welcomes your contact via e-mail and you can follow her daily adventures on Twitter.