May 2009


Lucas at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Lucas at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

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A Nose for News has Moved!
(Please note that I have a new link and more blogs at
blog.caninekingdom.com/ )

Michael Vick, the disgraced Atlanta Falcon’s star quarterback, walked out of prison last week, serving some 17 months after having been convicted of gambling charges, and most notably, operating a major dog fighting operation hidden behind the walls of his exclusive Virginia estate.

Before his sentencing, as part of his plea agreement, Vick admitted to taking part in the murders of several fighting dogs that just weren’t ‘up to snuff.’ Vick’s Bad Newz Kennel had a policy of eliminating these ‘inferior’ dogs by hanging, electrocution or drowning. Those talented hands that brilliantly passed the pigskin on the gridiron, brutally killed his own dogs with equal determination and dexterity.

It was headline news for months in 2007. Now, it’s headline news again – at least in dog circles – and it shouldn’t be. As far as I’m concerned, he did his time, still has more coming – monitored work release and then probation, as with any other criminal. He owes more money than he has, his future with the Falcons is kaput – with the NFL it’s uncertain, and if he has a conscience, he has an awful lot to mull over. I really never wanted to think of this man again – but thanks to Wayne Pacelle, the president of the Human Society of the United States (HSUS), I must.

Pacelle had visited Vick at Fort Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary a few times. The self proclaimed savior of the Vick pit bulls is considering an alliance with Vick and the HSUS. Pacelle envisions a fund raising inner city country-wide tour with the so-called rehabilitated Michael Vick, center stage, speaking to impoverished youth about all that is bad about dog fighting. He returned with these thought that are posted on the HSUS web site.

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“I knew it would be controversial, but I decided it was the right thing to engage with Michael and give him a chance to participate in our anti-dogfighting efforts. We at the HSUS are about change, even the hard cases.”

Pacelle appears to be so forgiving, so willing to work with this man – Vick was a “hard case” but he deserves another chance. Let’s cut back to the year 2007 when Vick was first arrested and his stable of over 50 fighting dogs were seized. Virginia law enforcement officials parceled out the dogs to local shelters where they could be cared for until the courts decided upon their fate. Pacelle immediately hopped onto the media circus train and demanded that Vick have the book thrown at him. He also implored all animal lovers to open up their checkbooks and send the HSUS lots of money so that the Vick dogs would be properly cared for. Soon, the New York Times reported that HSUS was not, in fact, caring for the dogs. HSUS president Wayne Pacelle told the Times that HSUS is recommending that government officials “put down” (kill) the dogs rather than adopt them out to suitable homes. I suppose Pacelle and the HSUS did not think that those dogs were true “hard cases.”

Many people who donate to the Humane Society of the United States don’t realize – probably due to its slick ad campaigns – that it is not affiliated with any humane societies or shelters. In fact, according to an Atlanta WSBTV investigative report, less than 4 percent of its budget – is passed over to legitimate pet shelters in the form of grants. In 2007, the year of the Vick case, HSUS hauled in about $120 million through its appeals to the public. About $112 million of that money wound up in the hands of lobbyists, politicians, activist groups, ad and public relations agencies, and top ranking HSUS employees in the form of salaries, benefits and expenses. Pacelle has shifted over the group’s major emphasis from pets to pro-vegan, anti-meat, anti-dairy, breeder legislation and of course keeping up a high visibility profile whenever a major puppy mill is raided. What happens to all of those seized dogs is not the problem or concern of the HSUS. While the HSUS receives the glory of the bust through the media, the burden of care of the puppy mill victims is laid at the steps of local animal shelters, that are often already struggling to care for more animals than they can afford.

Does this constitute fraud? I really don’t know, I’m not a lawyer or a judge. But I can smell a rat. Seems like the State of Louisiana did too. In post Katrina days, officials wanted to know what happened to the $34 million that Pacelle raised to reunite all those poor lost pets with their displaced families. An investigation was launched and then suspended after Pacelle opened his HSUS wallet and started doling out some funds to the still struggling state of Louisiana.

Back to the Vick prison interviews as told by Pacelle in his blog and at the HSUS website.

“Sitting with Michael at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, I saw a man who, if he had the resolve, could do powerful and persuasive outreach to at-risk youth and steer them away from dogfighting. He told me he saw dogfighting when we he was a boy, and from there, he came to accept the activity and to get involved. Nobody was there to step in and pull him out of that morass, and he obviously didn’t have the strength to get away from it himself.”

Gosh, this sounds like the makings of a movie script – a tale of turmoil, success, a horrid downspin and redemption. Now I don’t know who is pulling whose tail here but this isn’t exactly how Vick’s life unfolded.

Vick did grow up in the projects of Newport News, Virginia. But he was one of the more fortunate kids. He seemed to blossom in a mud puddle. His Dad, who worked long hours at the Naval Base, found time to play with his kids and the game was football.

In an article published in September 2000, while his son Michael was at Virginia Tech, Michael Boddie, Vick’s dad, told the university’s Collegiate Times: “Ever since he learned to throw a football, he’s always liked throwing a ball…It’s just in his blood.” He added that his son had never gotten into trouble or … involved with drugs, adding: “I like the way he has developed, not only as a player but as a person.”

Vick himself has said that sports saved him from the undesirable elements of the project. He told Sporting News magazine in an interview published April 9, 2001: “Sports kept me off the streets…. It kept me from getting into what was going on, the bad stuff. Lots of guys I knew have had bad problems.”

Actually, there were no reports of dog fighting activities in those projects during Vick’s formative years. It appears that Vick’s dog fighting activities began after he joined the NFL in 2001. He should have been old enough at that point to have known right from wrong. He overcame those projects as a kid and chose to revisit them as a successful adult.

Despite incredible talent on the field, and his own personal mettle, which catapulted him to football star status, in a few short years, his private world spiraled downward. His wealth and renown grew as the number of bad choices he made off-field became glaringly apparent to friends, team mates, coaches and endorsement companies.

So, who’s kidding whom here? Don’t really know.

Here’s what I can surmise though. Vick has a public relations problem to tackle. What he wants more than anything else now is to receive the blessings and vindication of the NFL. He wants to get back in the game. If it means returning to the ghettos and speaking with kids in the projects about the horrors of dog fighting he’ll do it – whatever it takes. Is he really repentant? I don’t know. I just want him to go away.

What’s Pacelle want out of the ‘Michael Vick Ghetto Tour?’ That’s an easy question. He wants money to pour into the HSUS – whatever it takes. I’d like Pacelle and the HSUS to go away too.

Against all odds, thanks to real animal shelters, who stepped forward, the Vick dogs have been rehabilitated and now live in homes. They are called the Vicktory Dogs.

Kudos to the real people and organizations that made it possible – who believed these dogs deserved a second chance and prove to shelters throughout the country that pit bulls can be rehabilitated despite their past abuse:

Bad Rap – a California pit bull rescue group – the first group to some forward and petition the courts to allow for professional evaluation of the seized Vick fighting dogs – Bad Rap refused to agree with PETA, which called the Vick dogs ‘ticking time bombs’ urging for prompt euthanasia, and the HSUS which also called for their disposal. Bad Rap was also responsible for the rehabilitation of many of the Vick pit bulls

ASPCA – coordinated the evaluation of the Vick dogs bringing together renowned dog experts and behaviorists.

The American Justice system and the court appointed guardians of the Vick dogs who heeded the advice of the team of evaluators and allowed for the rehabilitation of the Vick dogs.

Best Friends – a Utah rescue group that took part in the rehabilitation of some of the Vick dogs

All of the un-named volunteers who spent hours with these dogs – to all the volunteers who opened their homes to the Vick dogs – providing foster homes and a ‘normal’ environment.

Please visit http://www.BadRap.org and http://www.BestFriends.org to see some of those happy pit bull faces and meet the true animal advocates who were down in the ditches with these dogs helping them make the transition into a sane world where people love dogs.

I am sure there were many more involved in this rehabilitation project. Forgive me for any omissions. Please leave a comment below and I will be sure to add you to the list of hero volunteers – the ones who make a difference every day to unfortunate canines.

Do you have an abused dog tale to tell? Have you seen the power of recuperation through love, respect and care? I’d like to hear from you.

Semper Fido,
Marilyn

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The Environmental Protection Agency has compiled and released a new list of flea and tick products that are under investigation due to a sharp increase last year in adverse reactions. The following information is from the EPA website.
List of Registered Products
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EPA has provided a listing of EPA-registered spot-on flea and tick products at http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/flea-tick-control.html. Since the chart previously located on this page reflected only a portion of the numerous pet spot-on products available, EPA felt that pet owners and consumers might be led to believe that only those products listed were the focus of concern. In fact, EPA is intensifying its evaluation of all spot-on products and is providing a more comprehensive list of these products.
EPA is not initiating a product recall of these products nor is the Agency suggesting that the products not be used. EPA recognizes the importance of the products in effective flea and tick control. EPA’s objective at this stage is simply to advise consumers and pet owners to exercise caution when using the products and to monitor pet behavior following their use, as some animals have experienced adverse reactions following treatment.

c369d7a4c356949cb5f8f98c1bc3239cApril 16, 2009 – EPA Increases scrutiny of ‘spot on’ type flea and tick insecticides – a list of product brand names printed on the EPA website

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Within the next few days, the ‘LIST” of product brands disappears! The EPA – on their website – promises to reprint that list when all data has been compiled. A Nose for News – an exclusive blog production of the CanineKingdom.com – has published the ‘LIST’ for those interested in products that have caused up to 44,000 adverse reactions, including 1,300 major or fatal reactions. Please visit A Nose for News blog – April 28.

EPA announces that officials of the EPA and representatives of flea and tick product manufacturers will meet throughout the week of May 4, 2009. I asked if they could let me know about the proceedings and received this answer.

“Thank you for your inquiry. EPA expects to meet with manufacturers of spot-on flea and tick products the week of May 4, 2009. This is not a public meeting; however, it is standard practice to prepare a summary of the meeting and place it and meeting materials in the docket for the public to view. This meeting is to discuss the registrants’ product licenses and what measures might be necessary to better protect pets. EPA is committed to keeping the public informed as this evaluation proceeds. The FOIA Web site is available at http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/foia/”

So, as a journalist, I am all too familiar with what this means. To find out what happened at these meetings I must file an inquiry via the Freedom of Information Act. I will, but in some cases it can take years to gather needed information. Dog parents do not have years – flea and tick season is upon us now!

I truly doubt that the EPA will re-print that ‘LIST’. I do think that a settlement was met with the manufacturers who were no doubt asked to increase the label precautions, instructions for use, maybe use larger print, and of course the … ‘do consult with your veterinarian’ caveat.

I did find this ‘warning’ on the EPA website recently:

Safety tips for pet owners:
Consult your veterinarian: Before use on weak, aged, medicated, sick, pregnant, or nursing pets, or on pets that have previously shown signs of sensitivity to pesticide products; and If your pet experiences an adverse effect.
If you use a spot-on product or any other pesticide on your pet, carefully read and follow the product label.
Use flea and tick control products only on the animal specified by the product label ─ for example, dog products for dogs only and cat products for cats only.
Follow any label prohibitions against use on weak, aged, medicated, sick, pregnant, or nursing pets, or on pets that have previously shown sensitivity to pesticide products.
Apply only the amount indicated for the size of the animal being treated.
Do not apply to kittens or puppies unless the product label specifically allows this treatment. Pay attention to the age restrictions for puppies and kittens on the label.
Monitor your pet for side effects or signs of sensitivity after applying the product, particularly when using the product on your pet for the first time. Do not apply spot-ons to pets known to be sensitive to pesticide products.
If your pet experiences an adverse reaction, immediately bathe the pet with mild soap and rinse with large amounts of water.
Keep the package with the product container (such as individual applicator tubes). Also keep the package after treatment in case adverse effects occur. You will want to have the instructions at hand, as well as contact information for the manufacturer.

Fleas, ticks and mosquitoes are a serious health concern. Fleas can cause horrid allergic reactions and can be difficult to control if they infest your home and yard. Ticks may carry many different pathogens which can be fatal to humans and pets alike. Mosquitoes can spread heartworm to your pets and are know to be a vector for diseases like West Nile and malaria.

This all begs the question, how do I protect my pets without harming them?

There are numerous ‘recipes’ for so-called ‘natural’ insect repellants. But just because a preparation is dubbed ‘natural,’ does not necessarily mean that it is safe. Nightshade is a ‘natural’ plant but it can be deadly. Ingested garlic preparations are often touted to be a ‘natural’ flea and tick repellant. It is doubtful that a casual sprinkle of garlic powder added once in a while to a dog’s food would cause harm, but large amounts can cause a specific form of anemia. Essential oils are gaining in popularity as alternative treatments, however, they are unregulated and some may be toxic, particularly to felines. You may not use a ‘recipe’ on your cat but be aware that your cat may passively be ‘treated’ if your cat decides to lie on your recently treated dog’s bed. There could be deadly consequences of inadvertent ‘treatment.’

Lemon Lotion – A Natural Alternative

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Here is a paraphrased version of Juliette De Bairacli Levy’s lemon lotion for fleas, lice and ticks, from her 1955 book – The Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog & Cat.

1) Pop lemon (or lime, key lime, or grapefruit) halves into a container — glass or ceramic preferably. For a gallon jar, you will need at least 24 lemon halves and enough water to fill the container. It’s not necessary to use whole `new’ lemons: you can save used lemon skins.

2) Cover the jar with a porous paper – I use a coffee filter. Place the jar with lemons and water in the sun or, alternatively, place the lemons in the container, then pour hot water over them. This is similar to ‘sun tea’ preparation.

3) Wait… until the lemons turn black and moldy. At that point, squeeze the moldy lemons out into the container and discard. Strain the Lemon Lotion into a spray bottle. Place fresh lemons into the jar with the remaining liquid, cover with water to replenish your supply of Lemon Lotion. Repeat the waiting period.

5) For a stronger lotion, you can add the juice from two fresh lemons per quart of liquid.

6) Spray your dog each morning. I use a cotton work glove – allocated for this purpose only and stored in a baggy – to reach the underbelly, and to rub into facial areas and ears. Don’t forget to treat the toes and under the tail.

The author also advises rubbing a few drops of spirit of eucalyptus into the coats of dogs that spend more time outdoors, on the top of the head, under the brisket and above the paws and on the lower legs. This is NOT advisable for homes with cats.

No repellant is 100% effective, including harsh insecticides like DEET. Lemon Lotion advocates have reported the occasional presence of ticks on their dogs – but no more than when they used the topical chemical ‘spot-on’ products.