Category Archives: Shelter Pets

The Case For Breed Specific Legislation In Montreal

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The Case For Breed Specific Legislation In Montreal

In 2016 on the Toronto beaches, a woman and her pit bull/mastiff cross dog were attacked by a pit bull urged on by a man who wanted to see the two dogs fight. Technically both dogs should have been muzzled under the Dog Owners Liability Act in Ontario. The aggressor took off with his dog leaving the woman to deal with her injuries. (Photo Global News) http://globalnews.ca/news/2796014/toronto-dog-owner-randomly-attacked-by-pit-bull-at-woodbine-beach/

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

In the last two years,  nearly 20 people and animals were injured or killed by pit bull type dogs in the province of Quebec.  Pit bull type dogs have inflicted a disproportionate number of serious bites and maulings to people, pets and livestock.  Multiple sources – independent, retrospective and/or longitudinal studies available on National Institute of Health databases, opinions of reconstructive surgeons, epidemiologists, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, insurance companies, and trauma units all arrive at the same conclusions.

The debates occurring as a result of the BSL legislation passed in Montreal and Quebec might lead the casual observer to conclude that the ban (but apparently not the maulings) is the greatest social problem in the entirety of the province.  In reality, the requirements of the ban are not unreasonable; the Montreal and Quebec legislation still guarantees rights of current pit bull owners provided they adhere to the licensing, muzzling, neuter/spay, and leash regulations. Opponents to Montreal’s BSL regs usually cite the “Calgary Model” as the ideal success story of responsible dog ownership – a model they believe that Montreal councilors should have implemented instead.  Calgary may not have banned pit bulls outright, but the program is not a sweeping success. Even with a potential $10,000 fine, serious dog bites continued to increase in the city.

Rafah Bakour of Calgary in a family photo. She was attacked by a pit bull while walking. The attack is categorized as a Level 5, just below the most severe type — Level 6 — which results in death. Even if the dog owner receives a maximum fine of $10,000 under the Calgary system, that money will not go towards Bakour’s injuries and will not indemnify her.

Before his retirement, Head of Bylaw Services (which includes animal control) Bill Bruce became well known for Calgary’s pet management “success.”  Indeed, there were many positive aspects of the model and pet registration itself was phenomenally successfully relative to registration rates elsewhere.  Bruce however, maintained that in other jurisdictions breed bans did not reduce “the overall number of bites in the community.” If he were actually expecting to reduce bites, Bruce would have to ban all dogs, since all dogs of all sizes and breeds will bite and this fact is not in dispute.  Breed bans cannot stop all bites and are not designed to – the goal is to reduce the most statistically significant bites – maulings and fatalities, while balancing the rights of other people and animal owners for relative safety.

The late Dr. Sophia Yin is referenced in the Calgary SPCA Report in their 6 level bite system.

In 2004, the last full year before BSL was implemented in Ontario, there were 984 licensed pit bulls in the city and 168 reported bites. By comparison, in 2013 there were 501 pit bulls registered in Toronto, and just 13 bites. Yet in Calgary, the numbers show the real failure of the system – dog attacks in Calgary went from 58 in 2009 to 201 in 2014, a disproportionate number of them by pit bulls. Most concerning of all is that the severity of bites has increased – in Calgary in 2014, there were 244 dog bites of a Level 3 severity or higher. This is an increase over 2013, when 198 bites were reported at, or exceeding, Level 3.

Bill Bruce also had a serious conflict of interest while at Bylaw Services – he was an advisor to the National Canine Research Council (NCRC), an American lobby group that is funded by the Animal Farm Foundation, who promote the concept of a pit bull in every home, over and above any other breed of dog. The fact that Bruce was aligned with the NCRC means that pit bulls would very likely receive favourable and preferential treatment over people, other pets, and livestock while he was in charge.

 

Bruce’s successor, Ryan Jeslin, Calgary’s current director of Animal and Bylaw Services had a different view of the animal control model he inherited:

“I’m very concerned about pit bulls and Rottweilers. There’s a history, there’s a reason why places like the city of Toronto have banned them outright,”  After a series of attacks by pit bull type dogs in 2015,  Jeslin went on to say, “The evidence clearly here is about pit bulls. That specific breed has caused real damage over the last five days.”

Except for the focus on pit bull type dogs,  there are actually many commonalities between the Montreal/Quebec legislation and recommendations for safer communities proposed by SPCAs:

Key Points in the Montreal and Quebec  Bylaw/Bill

Montreal: By-Law 16-060

“Pit bull-type dog” is defined as being:

  • a dog belonging to the American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier or Staffordshire bull terrier race [breed];
  • a dog born of a crossbreeding between one of the races [breeds] mentioned in paragraph (1) and another dog;
  • a dog showing several morphological traits of the races [breeds] and types of crossbreeding listed in paragraphs (1) and (2)

Licenses will be issued for Pit bull-type dogs if the following conditions are met:

No it isn’t “dog racism.” This is a straw man argument. Dogs have historically been bred for different functions desired by man.
Despite the escalation of deaths and maulings, legislators are being bullied by advocacy groups into protecting the “breed” rights as opposed to public safety.
People discriminate against breeds all the time when choosing one type of dog over another.

  • the first application is filed before December 31, 2016
  • the applicant provides proof that the dog has been sterilized or a written opinion from a veterinary surgeon establishing that the animal cannot be sterilized;
  • the applicant provides proof that the dog has been vaccinated against rabies and  proof of follow-ups, as applicable, at the city’s request;
  • the applicant provides proof that the dog has a microchip;
  • the applicant provides a certificate of negative search of a criminal record or, in the case of a certificate of positive search of a criminal record, a certificate issued by the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal confirming that the applicant has not  been declared guilty, in the five years prior to the date of filing or renewal of the licence application, of an offence under a provision listed in schedule 1 of this by-law;
  • the applicant is 18 years of age or older;
  • the applicant provides a document indicating that:
    • at the date of coming into force of this by-law, the applicant was the owner of the dog referred to in this application;
    • the applicant is a resident of a city borough where, under the by-laws applicable up until the date of coming into force of this by-law, it was possible to obtain a licence to keep a Pit bull-type dog

When outside, the dog guardians must ensure that the dogs are:

  • Muzzled at all times
  • Kept on a leash no longer than 1.25m, except in an exercise area or in an area closed off by a fence at least 2 m high
  • Under the supervision of a person 18 years of age or older
  • Displaying the tag issued by the city with the special licence

Charges for offences range from $300 to $4000.

Quebec Bill 128 – An Act to Promote the Protection of Persons by Establishing a Framework with Regard to Dogs. 

The Bill makes it obligatory for veterinarians to report dog related injuries.Veterinary surgeons are also required to report, to the municipality concerned, any dog that they have reasonable cause to believe constitutes a risk for public health or safety. In cases where a dog has inflicted injury on a person, physicians are required to report the fact to the local municipality concerned without delay, and communicate the seriousness of the injury and, if known, the breed or type of dog that inflicted it. The local municipality may also declare a dog that has bitten or attacked a person or domestic animal and inflicted injury potentially dangerous

Dangerous dogs:

In the case of a dog that has bitten or attacked a person and caused death or serious injury, the local municipality must order the dog’s owner or custodian to have the dog euthanized.

Dogs that are deemed to be potentially dangerous:

(1) pit bulls, including American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers and Staffordshire bull terriers;

(2) Rottweilers;

(3) a crossbreed of a dog listed in paragraph 1 or 2 and another dog;

(4) hybrid dogs that are a cross between a dog and a canid other than a dog; and

(5) dogs trained to protect, guard, fight or attack

 

For more detail, please read:

 

Montreal BSL

 

 

Quebec Bill 128

 

 

With a few exceptions, BSL in Montreal satisfies these requirements.  The Quebec Bill 128 also makes it mandatory for veterinarians to report dog bites that are a concern for public safety. Doctors must also report appropriately. And if BSL is too expensive, why are these proposals, many of which require a level of government to administer, considered more cost-effective?

 

The catalyst for the Montreal and Quebec legislation seems to lie with Franklin Junior Frontal’s aptly named dog “Lucifer” – a dog he had owned since puppyhood – a dog who ultimately

Photo and caption from the “Muzzle-Up Project” on Facebook.
“Would you rather kill me than see me like this?
My mum had someone tell her they would rather put a bullet in their dog’s head than put a muzzle on them. That upset my mum a lot. Do I look unhappy? Do I look like I’m lacking anything in life? Wearing a muzzle allows me to experience more of life. It helps me feel more confident, it helps my mum feel less stressed, and allows people to pat and cuddle me without anyone worrying that I might bite them.
Wearing a muzzle doesn’t make a dog a bad dog. It might mean they’ve made a mistake, or they might make a mistake if others don’t listen and push them over their limits. Wearing a muzzle means they have a responsible owner who is committed to preventing accidents and worse case scenarios.
If only people were less ignorant, their dogs could live better lives.”

killed Montreal resident Christiane Vadnais in 2016.  According to his lawyer, Frontal had approached the SPCA in the past  for help in dealing with the dog’s aggression and behavior problems.  Pit bull activists have long questioned whether the dog that killed Vadnais was in fact a pit bull, because it had been registered as a boxer. Despite these claims, a veterinarian confirmed that the dog that attacked and killed the victim was indeed a pit bull and not a boxer.

Public health decisions are not always made on the basis of the number of people negatively impacted.  The population in question can be large as the inhabitants of several continents (as in the case of a pandemic) or as small as a few individuals.   For instance, over 2 million baby cribs were recalled in 2009 after “only” 4 infant deaths.  BSL demands a phase-out of breeding and importation, and the dogs must be on a short leash and muzzled when appearing in public. These are reasonable, logical and ethical measures and not entirely dissimilar from what the Montreal SPCA has proposed as an “alternative” to BSL.

People who care about dogs won’t care that they can’t import or breed more pit bulls.  They can go to the shelter, Petfinder, or many other rescues on Facebook and choose to help a dog that is sitting on death row, which is far more ethical than breeding or importing (and ultimately euthanizing) more prohibited dogs into the province.

Accused of second degree murder, this Hamilton, Ontario resident who is a self-acknowledged former dog fighter, is shown with a pit bull, a banned dog in Ontario. Under Montreal’s BSL by-law, anyone convicted of a criminal offence within the 5 year period preceeding the license application would not be granted a license for a pit bull type dog. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/news/hamilton-man-facing-murder-charge-held-in-custody-1.3510601
The accused was also quoted about pit bulls in this 2013 article – http://m.thespec.com/news-story/4026540-a-breed-apart-banned-pit-bulls-are-still-around

 

In 2017 – Speak Up For Those Who Have No Voice

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Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

The holiday season has never been kind to animals. Indeed, 2016 has been characterized by many high-profile court proceedings and political issues for animals, many of them quite unfavourable. While we’ve experienced numerous profound losses in 2016, no doubt animal advocates will continue to mobilize in 2017 to raise the status of animals and strive to improve standards all over the world.

Throughout history, social justice movements have always been a major vehicle for ordinary people’s participation in politics and the facilitation of reform.  To that end, there are many platforms upon which we can create awareness of the plight of all animals.  Before I started this exercise, I was only aware of some of the main recognition events around the world for animals and through a variety of resources, I gathered together every grassroots and branded event I could find that would allow every animal lover and advocate, without regard for nationality or politics, to find a way to generate awareness and progress.

This list features education and awareness events,  shelter pet adoption days, opportunities for fundraising, school events and workshops, spay/neuter days and peaceful protest marches to raise awareness of either specific animal welfare issues or to encourage governments to heighten animal protection legislation.

Let’s move forward into 2017 and beyond and create a world where animals are recognized as sentient beings and full regard is accorded to their welfare and rights.

 

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January

  • National Bird Day  (January 5)
  • Save the Eagles Day (January 10)
  • Appreciate a Dragon Day  (January 16)
  • Winnie the Pooh Day (January 18)
  • Penguin Awareness Day (January 20)
  • Squirrel Appreciation Day  (January 21)
  • Bald Eagle Appreciation Days (January 21-22)
  • International Hoof Care Week (January 24-27)

swallows

February

  • Adopt a Rescued Rabbit Month
  • International Hoof Care Month
  • National Wild Bird-Feeding Month
  • Responsible Animal Guardian Month
  • National Serpent Day (February 1)
  • World Wetlands Day (February 2)
  • Random Acts of Kindness Week (February 12-18)
  • National Nestbox Week (February 14-21)
  • National Hippo Day (February 15)
  • Great Backyard Bird Count  (February 17-20)
  • Homes for Birds Week (Second Week of February)
  • World Pangolin Day (February 18 – Third Saturday in February)
  • World Whale Day (February 18)
  • National Invasive Species Awareness Week (February 19-26)
  • National Justice for Animals Week (February 19-26)
  • National Love Your Pet Day (February 20)
  • National Dog Biscuit Day (February 23)
  • International Polar Bear Day (February 27)
  • Spay Day (February 28 – or last day in February)

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March

  • Adopt a Rescued Guinea Pig Month
  • Dolphin Awareness Month
  • National Horse Protection Day  (March 1)
  • National Pig Day (March 1)
  • World Wildlife Day (March 3)
  • International Festival of Owls (March 3-5)
  • National Aardvark Week (Second Week of March)
  • Termite Awareness  Week (March 12-18)
  • Learn About Butterflies Day (March 14)
  • National Wildlife Week (March 14-18)
  • Save a Spider Day  (March 14)
  • Buzzard Day  (March 15)
  • National Panda Day  (March 16)
  • National Animal Poison Prevention Week (March 19-25 – Third Full Week of March)
  • World Frog Day (March 20)
  • World Sparrow Day (March 20)
  • International Day of the Seal  (March 22)
  • National Puppy Day (March 23)
  • Manatee Appreciation Day  (March 29 -Last Wednesday in March)

 

bat-appreciation-day

April

  • National Frog Month
  • Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month
  • National Birding Day  (April 1 -First Saturday of April)
  • National Ferret Day  (April 2)
  • Bat Appreciation Week (April 2-8 – First Full Week of April)
  • World Rat Day  (April 4)
  • International Beaver Day  (April 7)
  • Draw a Picture of a Bird Day  (April 8)
  • Canadian Federation of Humane Societies National Animal Welfare Conference  (April 8-11)
  • Zoo Lovers Day  (April 8)
  • National Animal Control Appreciation Week (April 9-15)
  • National Farm Animals Day (April 10)
  • National Animal Control Officer Appreciation Week (April 10-16)
  • National Pet Day (April 11) 
  • National Dolphin Day  (April 14)
  • Animal Cruelty / Human Violence Awareness Week (April 16-22 -Third Week in April)
  • World Laboratory Animal Liberation Week (April 16-24 – Week that surrounds April 24th each year)
  • Save the Elephant Day (April 16)
  • Animal Cruelty/Human Violence Awareness Week (April 16-22)
  • National Pet ID Week (April 16-22)
  • International Bat Appreciation Day (April 17)
  • Earth Day (April 22)
  • National Lost Dogs Awareness Day (April 23)
  • World Day for Animals in Laboratories  (April 24)
  • World Penguin Day (April 25)
  • National Help a Horse Day  (April 26)
  • National Audubon Day (April 26)
  • National Kids and Pets Day (April 26)
  • National Hairball Awareness Day (April 28)
  • National Go Birding Day  (April 29 – Last Saturday of April)
  • Save the Frogs Day (April 29 – Last Saturday in April)
  • National Adopt A Shelter Pet Day (April 30)
  • National Pet Parents Day (Last Sunday in April)
  • National Animal Advocacy Day – April 30

farm-animal-day-2

May

  • International Respect for Chickens Month
  • Save the Rhino Day ( May 1)
  • Bird Day  (May 4)
  • International Respect for Chickens Day (May 4)
  • Be Kind to Animals Week (May 7-13 – First Full Week in May)
  • National Pet Week (May 7-13)
  • National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day  (May 8)
  • International Migratory Bird Day (May 10)
  • World Migratory Bird Day (May 12-13)
  • Frog Jumping Day  (May 13)
  • Dinosaur Day  (May 15)
  • International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day (May 15)
  • National Sea Monkey Day  (May 16)
  • National Endangered Species Day  (May 19 – Third Friday in May)
  • National Dog Bite Prevention Week (May 21-27)
  • National Heritage Breeds Week (May 21-27)
  • International Day for Biological Diversity (May 22)
  • World Turtle Day (May 23)
  • International Turtle Day (May 23)
  • Slugs Return to Capistrano Day  (May 28)
  • Whooping Crane Day  (May 28)
  • Pink Flamingo Day (May 29)
  • International Hug Your Cat Day  (May 30)

 

farm-animal-day

June

  • Zoo and Aquarium Month
  • National Adopt-A-Cat Month
  • National Animal Rights Day (NARD) (June 4)
  • Pet Appreciation Week (June 4-10)
  • World Environment Day (June 5)
  • World Oceans Day (June 8)
  • International Day of Action for Elephants in Zoos (June 8)
  • National Black Cow Day  (June 10)
  • World Sea Turtle Day (June 14)
  • Animal Rights Awareness Week (June 18-24)
  • Fish Are Friends Not Food Week (June 18-24)
  • American Eagle Day (June 20)
  • National Take Your Dog To Work Day (June 24)
  • National Catfish Day (June 25)

little pockets

July

  • Adopt a Rescued Rabbit Month
  • National Bison Month
  • Wild About Wildlife Month
  • American Zoo Day (July 1)
  • National Farriers Week (July 2-8)
  • National Farriers Week (July 9-15)
  • Don’t Step on a Bee Day  (July 10)
  • Cow Appreciation Day  (July 12)
  • Shark Awareness Day (July 15)
  • National I Love Horses Day (July 15)
  • National  Zookeeper Week (July 16-22)
  • World Snake Day  (July 16)
  • Coral Reef Awareness Week  (Third Week of July)
  • Monkey Day (July 21)
  • International Tiger Day (July 29)
  • National Mutt Day (July 31)

elephant-day

August

  • Animal Rights National Conference (August 3-6 Washington DC)
  • International Assistance Dog Week (August 6-12)
  • World Elephant Day   (August 12)
  • World Lizard Day (August 14)
  • International Homeless Animals Day (August 19)
  • World Humanitarian Day (August 19)
  • National Homeless Animals Day (August 19 – Third Saturday of August)
  • National Honey Bee Day (August 19 -Third Saturday of August)
  • World Orangutan Day (August 19)
  • National Dog Day (August 26)
  • International Whale Shark Day (August 30)

service-dog

September

  • Save the Koala Month
  • World Animal Remembrance Month
  • National Hummingbird Day  (September 2)
  • National Wildlife Day  (September 4)
  • International Day of Charity (September 5)
  • National Iguana Awareness Day  (September 8)
  • National Pet Memorial Day (Second Sunday in September)
  • National Hug Your Hound Day (Second Sunday in September)
  • Greenpeace Day (September 14)
  • Puppy Mill Awareness Day (September 16)
  • International Red Panda Day  (September 16 -Third Saturday of September)
  • National Farm Animals Awareness Week (September 16-23 -Third week of September)
  • National Farm and Ranch Safety and Health Week (September 17-23)
  • Elephant Appreciation Day  (September 22)
  • World Rhino Day  (September 22)
  • Responsible Dog Ownership Day (Third Saturday in September)
  • Fish Amnesty Day  (September 23 – Fourth Saturday in September)
  • International Rabbit Day  (September 23 – Fourth Saturday or Sunday in September)
  • National Bluebird of Happiness Day  (September 24)
  • National Dog Week (Sepember 24-30)
  • Deaf Dog Awareness Week (September 24-30)
  • Sea Otter Awareness Week  (September 24-30 -Last Week of September)
  • Shamu the Whale Day  (September 26)
  • Happy Goose Day  (September 29)
  • Save the Koala Day  (September 29 -Last Friday in September)

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October

  • Bat Appreciation Month
  • National Animal Safety and Protection Month
  • World Animal Month
  • Adopt A Shelter Dog Month
  • Cut-Out Dissection Month
  • Raptor Month
  • Squirrel Awareness Month
  • Vegetarian Month
  • World Vegetarian Day (October 1)
  • International Raccoon Appreciation Day (October 1)
  • Butterfly and Hummingbird Day (October 3)
  • World Animal Day (October 4)
  • Veterinary Technicians Week (October 8-14)
  • National Wolf Awareness Week (October 8-16 – Second Full Week of October)
  • International Migratory Bird Day (October 14 – Second Saturday in October)
  • Wishbones For Pets Month (October 15-November 30)
  • National Feral Cat Day (October 16)
  • International Sloth Day  (October 20)
  • Reptile Awareness Day (October 21)
  • National Mole Day (October 23)
  • Swallows Depart From San Juan Capistrano Day (October 23)
  • National Mule Day (October 26)
  • National Cat Day (October 29)

SeniorGranny

November

  • Manatee Awareness Month
  • Adopt A Senior Pet Month
  • National Pet Cancer Awareness Month
  • Vegan Month
  • World Vegan Day (November 1)
  • National Cook For Your Pets Day (November 1)
  • Jellyfish Day (November 3)
  • National Animal Shelter and Rescue Appreciation Week (November 5-11 -First Full Week of November)
  • National Canine Lymphoma Awareness Day (November 7)
  • World Kindness Week (November 12-18)
  • Turkey-Free Thanksgiving (November 24 – Fourth Thursday in November)

mule-day

 

December

  • Operation Santa Paws (December 1-24)
  • Faux Fur Friday (December 1 – First Friday in December)
  • National Mutt Day (December 2)
  • International Cheetah Day (December 4)
  • World Wildlife Conservation Day (December 4)
  • National Day of the Horse (December 13)
  • International Monkey Day (December 14)
  • Christmas Bird Count Week (December 14-January 5)
  • Cat Herders Day (December 15)
  • Visit the Zoo Day (December 27)
  • Universal Hour of Peace (December 31)

 

Sources – Track Maven and Holidays and Observance

 

Fact-Checking The Fact-Checkers On Breed Specific Legislation – How Snopes Left Out Crucial Information

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Fact-Checking The Fact-Checkers On Breed Specific Legislation – How Snopes Left Out Crucial Information

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

You might not be aware that Snopes is one of the oldest websites around, and one of the original ways skeptics would meet online and discuss their skepticism way before social media existed. It ran on Usenet, which was rather like a hybrid of email and a web forum. Snopes is usually pretty reliable in its debunking so long as the writers are not called upon to make a determination about a website that is beyond their expertise or is highly nuanced. But they don’t always nail their arguments and they don’t get a pass just because they’re Snopes – they are not immune to being critiqued.

In October, Snopes author Brooke Binkowski disputed the effectiveness of Breed Specific Legislation in the US and Canada. Binkowski exhorted Snopes readers to accept that her “deep research” is the result of rational objective examination – something she vigorously defends on her professional Facebook page, yet it hardly begins with any sort of “null hypothesis” about BSL.  Her credibility in this particular piece of writing is called in question both by her use of source materials and her unfiltered admonishment of posters who disagree with her as “mentally ill” or “paranoid” on her Facebook page.  Ms. Binkowski relied heavily on the debunked pit bull propaganda mill, the National Canine Research Council and her conclusions are at odds with many other published studies.

Unpacking the Problems With the Snopes Article

1. The Use Of Questionable Sources Or Debunked Source Material

Ms. Binkowski didn’t expand her search or chose to ignore many other published studies in the US National Institute of Health database and elsewhere, and cited several source documents in her analysis that were later debunked.

Binkowski relied upon the work of the National Canine Research Council (NCRC), the same group referenced by the Ordre des médecins vétérinaire du Québec (OMVQ) when appealing Montreal’s BSL legislation earlier this year.

It was subsequently revealed by La Presse journalist Marie-Claude Malboeuf that five of the roughly 50 studies cited in the report by the OMVQ were financed by American pit bull lobbyists (the NCRC) and that the data they used was problematic. At the same time, the Order of Veterinarians listed four recent medical studies on the gravity of injuries suffered from dog attacks, but downplayed the role of pit bulls. La Presse reported that the OMVQ report also emphasized that shelters are concerned for “their structure and already precarious financial health” if the Montreal bylaw were to proceed. However, these concerns should never supercede those of public health.  Public policy is not always based solely on the frequency of an event.  For example, a recall of children’s car seats or faulty ignition switches in vehicles may be based in a small number of deaths over a years’ long period.

The 5-part La Presse investigation, now translated into English, also shows that the OMVQ report cited studies that gave the impression of being “scientific and objective” when in fact they had been funded by the not-at-all objective American pit bull lobby.  To get an expert opinion of the OVMQ report, Malboeuf gave it to McGill University professor emeritus Dr. Barry Pless, a professor of Paediatrics, Epidemiology, and Biostatistics, and the Director of the Injury Prevention Program at Montreal Children’s Hospital among other achievements.  Said Pless“doing studies that are primarily intended to prevent the adoption of laws, without declaring conflicts of interest, is the strategy employed by the gun lobby and the tobacco lobby.”

The Order’s President now says he recognizes those studies should have been excluded or properly nuanced.  The use of paid-for research by the OMVQ represents a lack of scientific rigeur and transparency on their part, and at worst, is a serious conflict of interest.

La Presse spells out the players of the American Pit Bull Lobby. They divide it into 5 levels and explain the often overlapping relationships:

Five Levels of the Pit Bull Lobby

  • Level 1: The financing source. Animal Farm Foundation (AFF), owned by Jane Berkey. The company’s motto is: “Securing equal treatment and opportunity for pit bull dogs.” AFF devotes itself entirely to fighting pit bull regulations. “After inheriting a fortune from her father, Jane Berkey, who also owns a literary agency, turned over at least $6 million to her group, $2.85 million in 2013, according to government records. She pays 9 employees (one of whom, the director, makes more than $100,000 a year) and finances numerous groups that share her philosophy,” La Presse reports.
  • Level 2: The researchers. “To produce studies, AFF bought a private research body in 2007. The acquisition was kept secret until the victims’ group Dogsbite discovered this during litigation. The National Canine Research Council (NCRC) was created by a veterinary technician, Karen Delise. Neither an academic researcher nor a veterinarian, she self proclaims as the ‘greatest national expert on deaths caused by dog bites,’” La Presse reports. NCRC co-authors and finances studies, like the ones cited by the OMVQ, which chiefly attempt to show pit bulls cannot be identified.
  • Level 3: Publication. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA). “The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) publishes NCRC studies in its journal. On its own website it proposes sample letters [for readers to write] contesting any law aimed at pit bulls. Moreover, its site has a link to AFF,” La Presse reports. The journalist even points out the AVMA’s notice on the embargoed 2000 fatal dog attack study, which falsely and fraudulently states: “In contrast to what has been reported in the news media, the data contained within this report CANNOT be used to infer any breed-specific risk for dog bite fatalities.”
  • Level 4: The political lobby. Best Friends Animal Society. Their senior legislative analyst, Ledy VanKavage, drafts state-level bills to eliminate local pit bull ordinances (state preemption laws) and is also a board member of AFF. VanKavage boasts on Best Friends’ corporate website that she commissioned an ex-economist from the tobacco industry, John Dunham, to create a fiscal calculator designed to advise governments on the cost of breed banning. Dunham’s sham BSL calculator, financed by the NCRC, over exaggerates these costs by nearly two orders of magnitude.
  • Level 5: The distributors. The animal care industry. “All the lobby studies are abundantly distributed by animal-based companies like shelters, breeders, trainers, etc. In Montreal, they are [distributed] by, amongst others, the SPCA, whose mission is to avoid euthanizing dogs and whose two most senior executives are themselves owners of pit bulls,” states La Presse. “On social media, pit bull owners deploy these studies relentlessly and accuse all their opponents of ignorance,” La Presse reports. More aggressive ones have even threatened the mayor of Québec City with death.

The methodology and conclusions behind the NCRC’s study “Preventable Factors Associated with Dog Bite-Related Fatalities” was also called into question by two members of the Department of Comparative Pathobiology at Purdue University, in a letter to the editor of the AVMA journals, published July 1, 2014:

“For instance, where the NCRC clearly knew what breeds were involved, they did not disclose same.  They also classified dogs as “resident” or “family” dogs without explaining what that meant.  They did not state how much time a dog had to be kept outside in order for it to be considered a “resident” dog. How was it possible for the researchers to determine, by any means, what the dog’s status was? The assumption is that when the NCRC knew what breeds were involved in fatalities they simply declined to disclose that information, and invented new characterizations (resident vs family dog) in an attempt to further confound the findings and minimize the number of fatalities caused by dogs that were actually determined to be “pit bulls.”

The NCRC reported that “Most DBRFs were characterized by coincident, preventable factors; breed was not one of these.”  Since their report provided no data to support the conclusion, the Purdue University professors questioned the findings of the NCRC report since it conflicted with other studies that showed a correlation between the passage of BSL and a reduction in dog bite injuries. The Purdue professors were also not fooled by the statement that “dog bite-fatalities are exceedingly rare” either.

At several points in the NCRC narrative it is reiterated that child safety education and practices were one of the key factors in preventing dog bites.  There is no doubt that this is an important consideration for parents, and there is really no downside to educational efforts. But a study in the Cochrane Report on the effect of the role of education in preventing dog bite injuries in children and adolescents concluded that, due to a lack of evidence, education should not be the only public health strategy to reduce dog bites and their dramatic consequences.  (The Cochrane Report articles combine the results of research papers, while pointing out weaknesses in experimental design or quality – very useful for contradicting the standard pseudoscience retort. The Cochrane Report gives weight to properly designed studies and less to weaker ones.)

The naming of the “National Canine Research Council” itself may also be an attempt to capitalize on the legitimacy of the National Research Council, an American non-profit NGO that shapes policies, informs public opinion, and advances the pursuit of science.  Capitalizing on the name association with other more established groups appears to be standard operating procedure for the NCRC,  who also  purchased (or had purchased on their behalf) the top-level domain “dogsbite.com” for $11,000 to try to capture some of the bandwidth of the legitimate group Dogsbite.org.   (Dogsbite.com redirects to the website of the NCRC and this “cybersquatting” resulted in a domain name dispute) Both DNASalePrice and NameBio confirm this spend.  Why would self-described professional “think tank” researchers have a need  to cybersquat on an established internet domain?  Can they not generate enough traffic to their website through the legitimacy of their own “research?”

 

2. Omission Of Studies That Support BSL And Implicate Pit Bull Phenotypes In Serious Dog Attacks

A review of the Pubmed database provides the following evidence-based studies that suggest that a majority of dog bite hospitalizations are attributed to pit bull phenotypes, often after analyses of decades worth of data.  Had Ms. Binkowski included these in her analysis, I believe she would have been compelled to revisit her conclusion in Snopes:

Effectiveness of breed-specific legislation in decreasing the incidence of dog-bite injury hospitalisations in people in the Canadian province of Manitoba

Ocular Trauma From Dog Bites: Characterization, Associations, and Treatment Patterns at a Regional Level I Trauma Center Over 11 Years

Morbidity of pediatric dog bites: A case series at a level one pediatric trauma center

Breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacks in the United States between 1979 and 1998

Fatal dog attacks, 1989-1994

Dog bite-related fatalities: a 15 year review of Kentucky Medical Examiner cases

Fatal dog attacks in Canada, 1990 – 2007  (Includes references to bite incidents that immediately preceded the implementation of BSL in Ontario)

Mortality,  Mauling,  and Maiming by Vicious Dogs

Dog Bites in Urban Children

Dog Bites of the Head and Neck

Effectiveness of breed-specific legislation in decreasing the incidence of dog bite injury

Periorbital trauma from pit bull terrier attacks

Characteristics of 1616 Consecutive Dog Bite Injuries at a Single Institution

I can’t explain why articles and studies that favoured pit bulls featured so predominantly in Ms. Binkowski’s research, but somehow she did not locate or decided not to include information freely available using  in-depth knowledge tools for reporters, such as Google Scholar, Microsoft Academic Search, the Pubmed open-access library, Social Science Research Network, or the Cochrane Report.  Unless of course she intended to come up with an hypothesis and then set to work proving it right.  But without confirmation bias, many theories would fall apart.

 

3.  Failure To Distinguish Between Dog Bites Vs. Maulings

Ms. Binkowski is not the first reporter/journalist to fail to make a distinction between a dog bite and a mauling. While a bite by the oft-mentioned scapegoat the chihuahua may require stitches, a bite from a pit bull type dog will more than likely require that, plus plastic reconstructive surgery or oral/maxillofacial surgery in order to make the victim “whole” again. Most dogs respect protocols in behaviour when they fight, which includes a lot of posturing and growling, and usually very little biting – if there is biting most dogs practice bite inhibition – they bite once and then release, possibly not even puncturing the skin, retreating to protect themselves. There is almost never a fight to the death between most breeds of dogs.

Reducing dog bites overall is not something that BSL or the Dog Owners Liability Act in Ontario has ever set out to accomplish, indeed, it would be impossible.  No law that seeks to protect the public can ever eliminate all risks.  The aims of the DOLA were to reduce serious maulings and fatalities by banning or muzzling the breeds statistically most likely to be responsible. But any law that is enforced will be effective and mandatory muzzling, required in Ontario for pit bull phenotypes, would have prevented the following recent attacks if only it were consistently observed and applied:

A dog was shot dead by police after it grabbed a child by the throat and inflicted several bites during an attack (May 2016)

Two dogs were shot and killed after they attacked a man and woman in Ottawa’s east end. “The dogs were going in, they were biting, they were shaking the person. The person on the ground was very bloodied…[The dogs] were just relentless,” (August 2016)

Toronto Police shot and killed a pit bull “when it attacked a shih tzu and held the small dog down with a “locked-jaw grip,” police said. The policeman was hitting the dog so hard with his baton that it flung out of his hands but the pit bull would not let go. Police shot the dog twice in the leg and when it still didn’t release the shih tzu, they shot it in the head.” (September 2014)

 

4. Accusations That BSL Is Really A Form Of Covert Racism

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Some of the most offensive and racially-derived posts come from pit bull aficionados themselves. Repeated references are often made to minorities as being comparable to dogs, as if the pit bull advocacy movement really believes their challenges are comparable to that of minority groups. At the same time, they often diminish or mock dog bite victims. Source 1 – https://heatherclemenceau.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/shana-expresses-her-disgust. and Source 2 – https://heatherclemenceau.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/jacqueline-tries-to-help.jpg

Binkowski mentions “racial parameters” in dogs when what she really means are morphological characteristics (because there are no races of dogs).  For a long time now, the pit bull advocacy movement has attempted to parlay BSL and discernment towards pit bull dogs as “canine racism” or overt racism.  With the Snopes article and a recent Washington Post article that echoed that theme, they’ve now carried that forward and attempted to show that BSL has been implemented to keep “undesireables” at bay. The cries of “racism” are further evidence that the pit bull advocacy movement are desperate to shift the blame for BSL on the cities or towns who express objections to bully breeds.  The goal is to further the cause of pit bulls as a social justice issue (while simultaneously ignoring victim issues).  Accusations of racism are intended to shame and squelch dissent and reasonable debate.

Looking into the data on breed bans turns up an interesting finding: each region that has enacted breed-specific legislation of some sort appears to have also experienced significant, if not dramatic demographic changes over a relatively short period of time.”  ~ Brooke Binkowski

The most recent available online Statscan report (2011) reveals that 6,264,800 people identified themselves as a member of a visible minority group in Canada. They represented 19.1% of the total

Fifth wave immigration since the 1970s has changed from the european demographic to that of visible minorities from the developing world. This was largely influenced in 1976 when the Immigration Act was revised and this continued to be official government policy. There was no sudden and singular immigration policy or event that triggered Ontario's 2005 Dog Owner's Liability Act as is suggested in the Snopes article.

Fifth wave immigration since the 1970s has changed from the European demographic to that of visible minorities from the developing world. This was largely influenced in 1976 when the Immigration Act was revised and this continued to be official government policy. There was no sudden and singular immigration policy or event that triggered Ontario’s 2005 Dog Owner’s Liability Act as is suggested in the Snopes article.

population. Of these visible minorities, 30.9% were born in Canada and 65.1% were born outside the country and came to live in Canada as immigrants. The vast majority of the foreign-born population lived in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, and Alberta.  Since the 1960s, our immigration has steadily increased, but there is no single event that can accurately be described as a “significant, if not dramatic demographic change.”  Creating BSL as a means to racially oppress 20% of the Canadian population, only some of whom might actually own a pit bull type dog, is just laughable. Binkowski no doubt assumed that the overt racism seen across mainstream America during the current electoral process could also be (mis)applied to Canada with broad strokes.

The real reason for implementing BSL in Ontario was due to a number of serious bites immediately preceding 2005 (the year it became effective). Dog attacks were also the reason the First Nations community of Membertou in Cape Breton implemented a pit bull ban immediately after a pit bull attacked an elder and her grandchild, which coincided with “several other instances of close calls.”

From the Ontario Dog Owners’ Liability Act:

In nonfatal aggressive incidents, the pit bull did rank highest in 2000 and 2001 (2.84 bite incidents per 100 licensed dogs of this breed type) in 1 Canadian municipality (Edmonton, Alberta). Other breeds that followed in this municipality included the rottweiler (1.60 bite incidents per 100 licensed), Akita (1.52), mastiff (1.47), Dalmatian (1.40), and Great Dane (1.21).”

In 2004, the last full year before the ban, there were 984 licensed pit bulls in Toronto and 168 reported bites. In 2013 there were 501 pit bulls registered in the city, and just 13 bites, according to a Toronto Star investigation.

The Ottawa Citizen has reported that:

“Most of the dogs Ottawa bylaw officers have sought to have destroyed as dangerous have been pit bulls, according to statistics released by the city. The city has initiated 10 prosecutions against owners who allegedly let their dogs bite another person or pet since the Ontario Dog Owners’ Liability Act was passed in 2005. Seven of the dogs were pit bull types.”

 

5. Snopes Conclusion At-Odds With Competing Debunkers

politifact-imageFinally, Binkowski’s conclusion about BSL is at odds with that of rival fact-checking website Politifact, who found the statement that pit bulls were inordinantly dangerous to be “mostly true.”

“The past studies and research we’ve reviewed shows pit bulls are among the most aggressive dogs. Some breeds, however, have been shown to be more aggressive in each report.  However, the widely held perception is that they are dangerous, which was Boyer’s over-arching point. An Associated Press poll done in October found of the dog owners who would support breed bans, 85 percent would outlaw pit bulls.”

6.  Snopes Conclusion Not Researched In Accordance With The International Fact-Checking Network Declaration It Signed

Snopes,  as a signatory, clearly did not use the same standard of care for this article as they normally do  for every other fact check. There is a built-in bias if the writer of the article does indeed own a pit bull as has been suggested on social media sites – is this Binkowski posting about pit bulls on Live Journal in 2012?  If so,  it’s very illustrative of a pre-existing bias. Snopes needs to follow the code and recall this article.

 

Summation

It’s very tiring to read of shady attempts to distort the facts. Common sense would tell you that bans on breed restrictions have everything to do with the safety of the public at large and nothing to do with the race, class and ethnicity of the people who own those dogs since the law is applied to everyone.   It is also morally bereft to claim that it’s OK to patch up people after-the-fact when an attack has a chance to be prevented in the first place. Making a person “whole” again after an attack isn’t nearly as positive as preventing the attack altogether. BSL cannot prevent all dog attacks but it is designed to prevent the worst sort of maulings by dogs with the greatest propensity to commit them.

Binkowski cites the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe, the American Bar Association, AVMA,  HSUS, the ASPCA, and the Toronto Humane Society, among other lesser known references and publications.  In addition to those aforementioned groups, Best Friends, the AKC, Bad Rap, Pit Bull Rescue Central, and various other Humane Societies are all lobbying partners of professional pit bull advocacy.

The American Veterinary Medical Association is a professional group; sometimes its journal publishes articles with scientific intent. Other times it publishes articles that are intended to protect financial interests of its members — and in those cases, its “peer review” is done by hand-picked “peers” who will reject anything that doesn’t support a purely political position the AVMA or other self-interested groups are protecting.  None of these groups or the NCRC/Animal Farm Foundation are qualified to comment on the effectiveness of BSL or the impact to society of dog bites, which are a public health issue and are the purview of epidemiologists and those holding Masters of Public Health degrees or similar educational achievements.

Perhaps non-science writers can be forgiven for not understanding what constitutes a scientific study or the “peer review” process and what a “peer-reviewed journal” is. There are plenty of impartial, scientific journals out there, whose peer review process is to guard scientific integrity. However, there are also as many journals founded and funded by an industry or a professional group, whose peer-review is intended to protect the interests of that industry or group.

 

Still, Snopes is pretty accurate and I’ll continue to rely on them for myths, email rumours, and urban legends.  Snopes’ accuracy is not a foregone conclusion with more complex issues such as the efficacy of BSL or vaccine conspiracies (they recently declared that Presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein was not an anti-vaxxer, but I believe that the truth is less obvious).  Journalists should examine the full scope of the available evidence, whether they agree with it or not.  Avoiding biases in journalism is an important component of rationalism.  Merely repeating the propaganda does not challenge views or compel people to face facts.

 

 

We All Matter – A Sermon About The Moral Value of Animals

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This is a sermon delivered by Earthsave Canada president David Steele at the Unitarian Church of Vancouver, July 31st, 2016.  It was originally published on Earthsave Canada`s website.

dreamstime_s_54024506Six years ago today, on July 31st 2010, one of the closest friends I’ve ever known died. Her name was Tasty. Tasty the Sky. She was a canine person. An Australian Shepherd.

Tasty was born in early September 1993 in a research facility at the University of Virginia. She was bred to be deaf. It turns out that a common mutation in Australian Shepherds is an analog to similar mutations in humans – these mutations are behind the most common genetic cause of deafness in our species.

Once the study of her deafness was done, she was sent to another lab where the nerves to her heart were cut. The idea was to mimic one of the effects of a heart transplant. Her heart rate from then on was very low. Didn’t interfere with her health overall, though.

But the next event planned for her very definitely would have. Because she was no longer of any use to the institution, she was slated to be killed. Fortunately for her – and, as it turned out, for me – a brave veterinary student named Jessica Levy couldn’t let that happened. She spirited Tasty out of that place. After a short chain of events, Tasty found her new home with me.

I tell you about this because I think that it is through our pets that we often get insight into the internal lives of animals. We can learn from them how similar they often are to us – in their basic wants and desires; in their curiosity; in their problem solving, even.

Tasty would hug people she loved. She would remember how to navigate complex paths in places she once lived – years before – to find old friends or to get a treat that she expected would be at the end of the line. She was very bright. There’s no doubt about it. But really, she was unexceptional. The vast majority of creatures on this planet have amazing capabilities.

That’s in very large measure because, like you and me, they share a very basic and mysterious trait. They are conscious.

And wow is consciousness amazing!

To me, consciousness is the essence of what it is to be a person. It is awareness, the ability to experience. We all know we’ve got it, but we don’t really understand what it is. Physicians assess it by simple test, ranking humans’ consciousness on a scale ranging from full alertness and responsiveness, through states of delirium, and all the way to what they consider a complete lack of consciousness, defined by a complete lack of responsiveness to painful stimulation. Still, this is just a practical definition. It doesn’t get to what consciousness really is.

It’s a question that has eluded the greatest of minds for millennia. Philosophers have puzzled over it and scientists, too, haven’t been able to figure it out. Some claim consciousness is an illusion. The vast majority of us would disagree with that, I think – and with good reason. I include myself on that one. But still, try and tell me just what it is.

Some say that mind and body are separate; others say mind and body are the same. “Consciousness is a fundamental property of the universe”; “it’s a side-effect of how our brains are organized”; “it works like a machine”; “it works because of the spooky properties of quantum mechanics.” The list goes on and on. Put the theories together and what do you get? An unintelligible mess that still doesn’t explain what consciousness is.

Me, even though I don’t understand it, I think it’s physically based. We know that we can modify it by drugs – even eliminate it, e.g., for surgery, then bring it back at will. It disappears every night, too, as we sleep. That, to me, says that it arises as a property of our brains.

And again, looking around, as my experience with Tasty showed me so very well, we humans are obviously nothing like the only creatures on this planet who experience it.

Dogs and cats, cows and pigs, chickens and crows all clearly share the basic experience of life that we do. Fish, too, show clear signs of conscious awareness. Charles Darwin saw it even in the lowly earthworm. I’m not so sure that he was right about that, but I do know that they can be trained to solve very simple mazes. Fruit flies are much better at solving mazes, though; and they can even learn from each other.

We humans have our biases, so most of what we know about animal consciousness comes either from tests of animal intelligence or studies on a trait that is medically useful to humans: pain. We look into intelligence because we value that in others; we look into pain mostly because we want to use the understanding we get from pain in animals to figure out how to alleviate pain in us.

On intelligence, know, for example, that orangutans are relative geniuses. They have been known to steal canoes and paddle them away and even to put on humans’ clothing, if given the chance. Returning to dogs for a second, we have good evidence they can recognize the emotions in other dogs’ faces and in our faces, too.

That animals feel pain is obvious.

We use rats in experiments on pain because we know that they will react to it like we do and that drugs that blunt pain in them almost always do the same in us. They recognize pain in each other as well, and will try to help when they see another rat in distress. Lots of studies have shown this! We’ve even learned that fish feel pain and react similarly to us when confronted with it.

Some scientists claim that fish are not actually feeling pain; their brains are too different from ours, they say. That, to me, speaks of irrational arrogance. One doesn’t need a similar brain to have fundamentally the same experience and ability. Different structures may well take on different roles in different species. Just look at the intelligence of a crow or a parrot! Or even a chicken!

Birds’ brains are very different from those of humans and other mammals. They lack the neocortex that so many scientists tell us is necessary for intelligence. Yet, they are clearly intelligent. Crows make tools – both in the lab and in the wild. Just last week, scientists reported observing New Caledonian crows make long hooks so that they could carry more than one item away from a scene at once. Clearly ‘bird brain’ doesn’t mean what we once thought it did!

I speak of this not only because consciousness is such an amazing mystery, but also because of its moral dimension.

Beings with consciousness feel joy and pain; excitement and disappointment. They have wants and desires. What we call good can befall them; so can ill.

In short, animals – like us! – have moral value.

I am not saying that there are not differences in the ways the we and dogs and sharks and elephants experience consciousness. I’m not saying that the vast majority of other animals we share this earth with are anything like as aware as we are of their place in the world, or of the consequences of their actions.

What I am saying is that they are very much worthy of our moral consideration. That their experiences of life are sufficiently similar to our own that we should do our best to avoid causing harm to them.

We love our dogs and cats and do our very best to ensure that their lives are pleasant. Other animals are similarly deserving.

And those animals may be more aware of us and our abilities than you may think.

Many sure are aware that we are not beings to be trusted. We hunt them, pave over their habitats and otherwise disrupt their lives.

One study that I read about this week highlights this reality very well.

Scientists at the University of Western Ontario studied the fear responses of small predators. I confess that I haven’t read the study yet, so I don’t know the details. What I do know – reported in New Scientist Magazine – is that that badgers, foxes and raccoons evidently fear humans much more than they fear bears, wolves and dogs.

In one experiment, the scientists played badgers, in the wild, the sounds of bears, wolves, dogs and humans over hidden speakers. While hearing bears and dogs had some effect – reducing the likelihood that the badgers would feed, simply hearing the sound of people conversing or reading passages from books completely prevented the badgers from feeding.

A lot of animals, I would guess, if they think about it – think of we humans as terrible threats.

Clearly, from the animals’ points of view, we are perpetrators of horrors. We can’t say just how aware any specific animal is of the dangers we pose, but clearly they avoid us to the extent that they can.

There is one major way that we differ big time from at least the vast majority of the other animal species on earth.

We have highly developed abstract language. We can learn from others over great distances; we can learn from ancestors long dead.

What a huge advantage that is!

And with that advantage comes great opportunity for improvement – and in my view, great responsibility as well.

We have developed thoughtful, sophisticated theories of ethics and morality. We understand the world to a degree unimaginable in the rest of the animal kingdom. We know dreamstime_xs_7168047that others feel pain and fear when we do harm to them, just as we know that they can feel joy and belonging when we treat them well.

So let’s live according to the better angels of our nature. Let’s look objectively both at the good we do in the world and at the ill. Let’s strive to enhance the good and eliminate the bad.

To do that well at that, we need to look carefully at our own actions in our own lives. We need to consider their effects, even whether our actions are warranted at all.

I’m going to focus now on one part of the moral universe that we should be considering. It’s one of the easiest for us – in this rich Western world – to deal with. And it is one with among the greatest consequences.

For the last few minutes of this homily, I’m going to focus on animal agriculture.

From just a human point of view, this is an extremely important issue.

Animal agriculture is a huge contributor to global warming. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization pegs it as responsible for between 15 and 18% of global warming. That’s more than the 14% associated with all of the cars and planes and trains and ships in the world, combined.

Animal agriculture is responsible also for other egregious environmental effects.

The vast majority of corn and soy grown in North America is grown for animal feed. The corn, especially, requires enormous amounts of fertilizer. One result of the use of so much fertilizer is that it runs off into our waterways. This results in massive algal blooms and dead zones. One of the worst examples is the dead zone that forms at the mouth of the Mississippi every year. Every year, about 20,000 square kilometers of the Caribbean becomes an oxygen-depleted zone where all of the fish and lobsters and other sea life go belly up for lack of oxygen.

Animal agriculture is responsible for most of the ammonia pollution in North America. The majority of our fresh water goes into raising animals – mostly to grow the feed corn, soy and alfalfa.

It’s even a major contributor to the antibiotic crisis that the World Health Organization is now warning us about. Over 80% of the antibiotics we use in North America aren’t used to treat humans. No, they’re added to the feed of factory farmed animals. In such tight quarters, they’re necessary to prevent the rapid spread of disease and – to boot – they somehow speed up the growth of the animals.

And that’s not all.

Modern animal agriculture steals food from the poor.

As Vaclav Smil at the University of Manitoba has well documented, animal agriculture is outrageously inefficient. The way we raise animals today, it takes some 14 lbs of corn and soy, etc., to get back one pound of edible pork. Over 30 lbs of corn and soy and alfalfa go into a pound of beef that we actually eat.

In terms of protein, we are similarly careless. Whereas we could get all of the protein in the corn and soy if we just to eat the corn and soy itself, we instead throw most of it away, mostly in animal feces, urine and bones.

Again, referring to Vaclav Smil’s work, we throw away 60% of the plant protein we fed to the cows when we drink a glass of milk. We throw away three quarters of what we could have gotten when we eat chicken or eggs. And we throw away a whopping 87 to 95% of the protein we could have had when we eat pork or beef. It’s outrageous, really!

Throwing away that much corn and soy – and wasting the land on which other forage is grown – necessarily raises the price of grain. That wastage limits the supply of grains, often pricing them out of the reach of the world’s poor. These days biofuels, too, are contributing to that injustice.

Even more outrageous is the way we treat the animals we are so wastefully using.

When we think of farmed animals, we tend to think of animals in pasture; chicken coops; pigs wallowing in the mud. But that is not the reality for the vast majority of animals raised for food today.

Today, the vast majority of our animal foods come from factory farms. Some 98% of eggs come from hens packed 6 to 8 to a cage – each chicken with the equivalent of an 8 ½ x 11” sheet of paper to her – but it’s a wire mesh floor on which she lives. Her brothers, perhaps luckier than her, were ground up alive or suffocated in giant garbage bags on the day they hatched.

Broiler chickens live their 7 week lives on the floors of giant barns. Their badly manipulated bodies growing all out of proportion to the ability of their legs to support them.

60 years ago, it took broiler chickens almost twice as long to reach ‘market weight.’ And ‘market weight’ in those days was one quarter of what it is today. To satisfy our desire for white meat and to meet the financial demand for more meat per bird, the chickens have been bred to grow into near-Frankenstein monsters. They can’t be rescued. Their bodies will soon do them in.

Female pigs are confined to so-called gestation crates. They can stand up and lie down. That’s all. There is not enough room to turn around. Every few months they are forcibly impregnated.

Dairy cows, too, are forcibly impregnated. Like humans, cows give milk only after they give birth. So, they are are artificially impregnated once a year. Her calf will either become another dairy calf or, if male, either be immediately killed or raised for veal. Neither will be allowed to suckle from his or her mother. That milk is for us; the calf gets an artificial formula.

None of this is necessary. Humans do not need to eat meat and other animal products. In fact, there is lots of evidence that avoiding them does us good. Study after study finds dramatically lower rates of heart disease and type II diabetes in vegetarians and especially vegans. Rates of colon cancer and some other cancers are lower, too.

And it’s easier and easier to forgo the stuff. There are plant-based meat substitutes galore. One recently developed burger even has heme in it – evidently the secret ingredient for making beef taste like beef. Plant-based milks are easy to find, too.

We humans are conscious, just like the other animals around us. We have a huge advantage, though. We can learn from others via our abstract language. We can reflect on our actions with the benefit of knowledge no other species that we know of could even dream of – or even imagine exists.

Let’s use our amazing gift for good. We’ll be better off as individuals. We’ll improve our health. Poor people will eat better. Animals will not have to suffer so.

Three Concepts: The Five Freedoms (FF), Five Domains (FD) And Quality Of Life (QoL) As Tools For The Analysis Of Animal Welfare

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Three Concepts: The Five Freedoms (FF), Five Domains (FD) And Quality Of Life (QoL) As Tools For The Analysis Of Animal Welfare

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Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Most of our animal welfare audits and Codes of Practice developed for implementation on farms and in slaughterhouses arose from the core concept of “The Five Freedoms,” a set of internationally recognized animal welfare standards.  The Five Freedoms, or FF, came to be when the British public demanded that the government appoint a committee to look into the welfare of farm animals.  In 1965, the committee, chaired by Professor Roger Brambell presented the “Report of the Technical Committee to Enquire into the Welfare of Animals Kept under Intensive Livestock Husbandry Systems” which became known as “The Brambell Report.

While the FF utilized the problem-solving methods of that era and allowed us to measure welfare, they were still focused on the superiority of mankind, which provided the context. Anything was permitted except for what was expressly forbidden.

5 freedoms chart

In common with other scientific disciplines during the last 50 years, ideas in animal welfare science have evolved from these basic concepts.

 

Mennonite Percheron Horses

Percheron horses at the St. Jacob’s Market in Waterloo, Ontario. The welfare of these horses, used to pull this trolley around Mennonite farms, has improved slightly in that they now have a shaded structure under which to stand to avoid the hot summer sun.

We now understand that the Five Freedoms are insufficiently complex and therefore not tremendously helpful to animals since their focus was primarily concerned with the avoidance of negative experiences such as pain and hunger. Now, animal welfare is generally defined as the state of an animal in relation to its ability to cope with its own environment.

The knowledge that animals are conscious and capable of experiencing negative emotions is at the core of most people’s concern about them.  So as we progress in a linear fashion to an increasingly sophisticated understanding of animal welfare concepts, the focus of legislative instruments should follow with a shift from cruelty to welfare.

The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness was publicly proclaimed on July 7, 2012 at the University. The group of scientists wrote, “Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”

Dog Tales Rescue and Sanctuary

Photo Credit: Dog Tales Rescue and Horse Sanctuary

True animal welfare is now considered to result both from an absence of negative experiences and from the presence of positive experiences or sensations, so that animals’ mental states are now a legitimate focus, along with preferences and aversions. The welfare significance of positive experiences has been promoted in discussion of the value of providing animals with “lives worth living’ or “good lives,” as opposed to “lives worth avoiding.” Laws and codes of practice must evolve to acknowledge the strong neurobiological drives in animals that are necessary for QoL to exist, even if physical needs are met.

In his recent and comprehensive essay, “Updating Animal Welfare Thinking: Moving beyond the “Five Freedoms” towards “A Life Worth Living, Dr. David Mellor (Animal Welfare Science and Bioethics Centre – Massey University,  New Zealand) has presented the Five Domains as the successor model to the Five Freedoms, developed “in the light of new scientific knowledge and understanding of animal welfare.”  Like Temple Grandin,  Dr. Mellor is also an iconic animal welfarist who recognizes that animals have emotional lives, that they can suffer deeply, and that if we continue to use them for food and in research we need to recognize this well-supported fact and do as much as possible to alleviate their pain and suffering. Dr. Mellor also delivered the plenary at the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies annual conference on April 18, 2016.

Five Freedoms vs. Five Domains

“Both have utility. The Five Domains are clearly of use to animal behaviour and welfare scientists because they can embrace new knowledge and understanding, and provide pointers for new study. They can also be used for in-depth analysis of the impact of specific management practices (human actions) on animal welfare. For example, the FD approach has recently been used to evaluate the negative (adverse) welfare impacts of a range of procedures to which domestic horses may be subject, across a broad range of different contexts of equine care and training. This has been a valuable exercise. In the case of procedures that may be deemed necessary, such as castration, it encourages us to think carefully as to what constitutes both best practice and minimally acceptable practice. For other procedures, such as the use of the whip in horse racing, it addresses the question as to whether the alleged “benefits” can ever justify the cost. In this and many other examples, the FD approach provides a highly effective foundation for research and evidence-based conclusions as to the impact of the things we do on the mental state of the animals in our care.”

A Life Worth Living

“The concept of Quality of Life (QoL), recognises that animals have both positive and negative experiences and focuses on the balance between the two. 

2015_Five_Domains_Final_Poster_David_Mellor copy

The Five Domains of Potential Welfare. The first four Domains are predominantly physical/functional, and the last, mental state, represents the overall experience of the animal, i.e. its welfare status.

 

cows in pastureWhile the shift to QoL represents a much needed and long overdue transition from welfarism to a more compassionate moral framework, we can still do better.  Most veterinarians and influencers remain focused on FF. Food animals still cannot have a “life worth living” even though we may be improving housing conditions that supposedly are more humane and allow for more movement/natural behaviours/socialization.  It still fosters a paradigm in which billions of other animals are kept “comfortable and happy” after which we slaughter them for consumption.

 

FD and QoL initiatives are capable of lessening many of the priority welfare challenges for zoo and lab animals, pets and other companion animals:

 

  • Unresolved stress/pain behaviour and pain management
  • Inappropriate nutrition
  • Inappropriate stabling /turnout 
  • Delayed death (animals may be kept alive inappropriately, prolonging welfare problems)
  • Wild animals kept as pets or in poorly designed zoo enclosures
  • Adoption
  • Training
  • Enclosures in shelters and zoos – light, substrate flooring, drainage, heating, ventilation, air quality, cleaning and disinfection.
  • Drop boxes at shelters
  • Lessening the negative effects of No Kill while promoting population management
  • Methods of euthanasia
  • Vaccinations
  • Emergency medical care
  • Parasite control
  • Behaviour Modification
  • Anaesthesia and improved surgical techniques and recovery
  • Declawing of cats
  • Neutering and spaying
  • Improving lives for feral cats
  • Position statements from veterinary groups and advisory councils 
  • Transportation to slaughter
  • Shelter reference guides
  • Codes of practice
  • Lab animal QoL

 

 

Isn’t It Time To Stop Serving Meat At Animal Fundraisers And Humane Events?

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Animal Place found that 78 percent of the organizations “already have in place an animal-friendly policy or are receptive to creating one.” This finding mirrors other polls where 85 percent of participants felt “it is ethically inconsistent for an animal shelter that rescues dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, goats, and other animals to sell or serve animal products at the shelter-sponsored fundraising events."

Animal Place found that 78% of the shelters and humane organizations “already have in place an animal-friendly policy or are receptive to creating one.” This finding mirrors other polls where 85% of participants felt “it is ethically inconsistent for an animal shelter that rescues dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, goats, and other animals to sell or serve animal products at the shelter-sponsored fundraising events.”

 

Under what circumstances should a humane organization unnecessarily cause pain or death to an animal?

When it’s dinnertime?

When we feel that not to cause pain and death would be seen as radical?

 When we are willing to ignore our mission in order to serve?

…. or never?

~ Montreal SPCA Executive Director Nicholas Gilman

 

 

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

The dynamic of personal autonomy, office culture, serving an audience and serving the greater good is complicated. Twenty years ago it would seldom have been a consideration that perhaps serving meat at humane or fundraising events was ethically inconsistent with the goals of the animal protection community. But shelters, rescues and humane animal groups are now re-evaluating the food they serve at fundraisers, adoption events or even volunteer recognition luncheons.

Organizations that want to create or change a food policy are getting help from Animal Place, a California-based farmed animal sanctuary. Through its “Food For Thought” program, Animal Place is awarding $25,000 in grants to animal organizations that implement a vegan policy. The campaign currently has broad support – 200+ endorsers including HSUS, Animal Justice, Piebird Farm Sanctuary, Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary, Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals, and the Vancouver Humane Society.

Per Animal Place’s research, “29% of the humane societies and SPCAs (Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) had a vegetarian-only policy for their sponsored events.” Animal Place also found that when they also considered animal control and similar entities that “the percentage of vegan and vegetarian policy-holding organizations was 18% of the total surveyed.”

The Montreal SPCA’s “Best Practices” for holding successful all-vegan events means that they don’t lend their name to any

Saving animals is key to the our mission. Oh, and how would you like your burger cooked?

Saving animals is the key to our mission. Oh, and how would you like your burger cooked?

humane effort that serves meat.  They don’t allow meals to become the focus of any event – no sit-down dinners.  Instead they offer the best vegan food prepared by vegan chefs, served buffet-style, tapas, as hors d’euvres and amuse bouche.  Free booze helps too, says Executive Director Nicholas Gilman, who has overseen hundreds of  SPCA events that did not serve any meat.

Not only humane societies are adopting food policies.  As reported in The Washington Post, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a nonprofit office, decided to implement a new office policy stating that “only vegan food may be eaten in its office,” in an attempt to “practice what they preach.”

What are the advantages of a meatless food policy?

  • Align your menu with your mission
  • Be truly humane
  • Be an example for others
  • Operate sustainably
  • Offer healthier foods
  • Make all supporters feel welcome
  • Value animal sentience and intelligence
  • Increase awareness
  • Stand with other nonprofits
  • Reflects your values
  • No disconnect between the mission of protecting animals and eating lunch
  • No explaining to people why we’re eating one animal in order to raise money to save another
  • No one has to be vegan to eat a vegan meal
  • Even omnivores are beginning to expect their meals to be both healthy and humane

Implementing vegan or vegetarian food policies are not without risk or controversy either, and it can be difficult to answer tough questions about the meaning of humane and compassionate food choices.  There are still disconnects between food to fork across the board, and animal rescue workers aren’t immune; they are consumers, too.  How many people laughed at the Jack in the Box’s #Bork (beef and pork) and #Moink (moo and oink) SuperBowl commercial?

 

 

 

Commercials like the above demonstrate how challenging it can be to promote new animal-friendly consumer behaviours.  Perhaps that’s why only about 40% of SPCA’s have meat-free policies in place.  Groups also feel challenged to:

  • Address concerns about public perceptions of vegetarianism and veganism as being “extreme” and that your organization has become “radical”
  • Distinguish between institutional change and personal politics
  • Facilitate ideological confrontations between certified humane proponents and meat reduction proponents
  • Deal with the perception that non-meat based meals means a bowl of carrots and a few sticks of celery
You want to support your favorite shelter or rescue at its annual fundraiser. But the bill of fare for the evening is a carnivore's dream

You want to support your favourite shelter or rescue at its annual fundraiser. But the bill of fare for the evening is a carnivore’s dream

The British Columbia SPCA (who acknowledge that their leadership team are not even vegetarian) has not implemented a vegan food policy.  They have surveyed their community to determine what their current dietary choices are and have decided instead to instead encourage increased uptake of “humanely” raised farm animal products by British Columbian consumers through leadership in the BC SPCA’s own purchasing practices, which includes SPCA certified foods, certified organic,  free-range meat,  cage-free eggs, and pasture raised dairy products.

Whether “humane” or not, livestock production is a major contributor to land/soil degeneration, climate change, water consumption and other environmentally destructive activities. This is why in 2010, a report released by the United Nations Environment Program encouraged a global shift to a more plant-based diet in order to combat the environmental effects of consuming animal products. Animal rescue and humane organizations often play a pivotal role, and it’s time for every humane, health-oriented, and climate change advocacy group to adopt a food policy that fits their values and mission. We shouldn’t be lagging messengers for this.

 

Please take a moment to participate in this short survey (results will be published at a later date):

 

Bill Kit – C-246: The Modernizing Animal Protections Act

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BeynateWritten by:

Heather Clemenceau

By now,  many of us have read the details of Bill C-246 itself.  So what exactly is a “Bill Kit?”

The primary purpose of the Bill Kit is to inform other parliamentarians about the Bill in greater detail, and address some anticipated objections. This Bill Kit provides a detailed explanation of its actual effects, and includes data showing that across the country, Canadians support the three measures in the Bill – banning the importation of shark fins,  strengthening and modernizing the Criminal Code’s existing animal cruelty offences, and banning the sale of dog and cat fur in Canada.  There are several different versions of the kit; one for members of the Liberal caucus, one for opposition MPs, and one for the public,  which is presented here.

MP Erskine-Smith (@beynate) and his parliamentary assistants break the document into several sections:

  1. Background
  2. What the Bill Does Versus What the  Bill Doesn’t Do
  3. Political Support: Polls, Petitions, and Endorsements
  4. History of the Criminal Code Amendments

Canadians have been signing animal welfare petitions for decades now, demanding that the values of fairness and justice that we’re known for are applied to the protection of animals and to the punishment of animal abusers. Laws are essential to both codify and enforce positive changes for animals.  Our society is opposed to animal cruelty – our  laws need to be brought up to date to be made consistent with our shared values and this Bill will certainly accomplish that goal.  Please ask your MP to support this Bill!

Stuck On Stamps: Canada Post Issues Commemorative Stamps To Help Pets

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Pets deserve happiness, love and good health

Pets deserve happiness, love and good health

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

The Love Your Pet stamps were developed by Canada Post with the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, to celebrate the importance of pets in our lives and raise awareness of responsible pet guardianship. The proceeds of stamp sales support the work of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies for animal welfare.

The five keepsake stamps remind us of the importance of responsible pet care, including spaying and neutering, regular veterinary visits, play and exercise, identification, and keeping pets cool and hydrated in the summer heat – all serious topics showcased with a lighthearted and whimsical artistry. These inspiring stamps were illustrated by Genevieve Simms and designed by Lara Minja of Lime Design. They can be ordered through Canada Post (you need an ePost profile) or via the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (Derek deLouche at derekd@cfhs.ca)

 

CFHS works to:

Demand changes to Canada’s shamefully inadequate animal cruelty laws

 

Ensure the vigorous prosecution of animal abusers

 

Increase adoption, decrease euthanasia and support homeless cats

 

Secure increased animal welfare for Canadian farm animals

 

Shut down puppy mills and end the suffering of thousands of dogs

 

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Stop Being Spun By Outrageous, Fake, Click-Bait Petitions!

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Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

The internet has a long tradition of baiting and misleading the inattentive.  There are now so many fake petitions on the internet and Facebook that we can hardly debunk all of it.  So I’m rounding up the most recent and egregious examples of fake animal petitions with outright false info and misleading headlines that I hope you won’t share.  YouSignAnimals,  Petitionhub,  Kim’s Petitions, Signatures4Life,  and Best Animal Petitions (and  many others that have morphed into prominence) are probably all getting money  for clicks or money for valid email addresses.   At the very least, they often give the impression that there are no laws or animal activists fighting for the rights of animals in countries around the world.

Initially, I signed these as well, and although I can’t prove it, the recent influxes to my email account of Bank phishing spam and “lawyers” acting on behalf of wealthy Nigerian princes *may* be tied to the harvesting of my email.  Anyone have a similar observation? How to stop this endless circle-jerk?  I’ve also left Facebook groups where the majority of posts consist of circulating these bogus petitions.

Lies, Damn Lies, And Viral Content

YouSignAnimals internet domain was registered in August 2014, and they often brag about victories for animals that occurred BEFORE they even registered their domain name or had a presence on Facebook. They give animal advocates the false impression that these petitions serve any useful purpose.

Here are some examples of victories claimed by these groups and their counterparts.  In some cases it’s difficult to provide backup for the claims on the original petitions because they are removed from the internet within a few weeks after launch.

Example #1 – Reinstatement Of Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant

Recall the facts surrounding the suspension of Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant from British Columbia – he refused to kill two orphaned bear cubs.  YouSignAnimals claims that their petition was responsible for him being reinstated to his original job.  Unfortunately he did not get his initial job back; the latest news was that the conservation officer was transferred to another office, according to an article from August 28, 2015.   The ONLY petition quoted in the media which did make a difference, which may have afforded Mr. Casavant a paid suspension, was the one on Change.org  with over 300K signatures.  This is the petition with real targets that went straight in the mail boxes of officials in British Columbia.  How can YouSignAnimals, who seem to have removed all references to Mr. Casavant, show that their petition made any difference?

Example #2 – Cat Killer Michael Patrick Stackhouse

Cat killer Michael Patrick Stackhouse, admitted to stomping on a cat that he had thrown into the street, and killed it in front of children and neighbours. He rejected a plea deal that would have reduced his sentence if he plead guilty to a charge of animal cruelty causing death. He was sentenced in November 2014, three months after YouSignAnimals.org was registered as a domain.  Although there are a few articles in the media, none of them mention any petition which might have influenced the outcome. Most petitions targeting Police/Prosecutors/Judges are being written long after these cases are being deferred to justice and basically ask them to do what they are already doing based on the local laws. So there is no evidence that YouSignAnimals or its counterparts had any influence on the outcome here as they have claimed.

Example #3 – Rescue Of Raju The Abused Elephant

Raju is another example of a victory falsely claimed by YouSignAnimals.  For years, international organizations and foundations fought hard to achieve this victory.  Some 30 police officers became involved in the rescue, and along with a determined team from the Elephant Conservation and Care Center in Mathura (ECCC) they were finally able to free him.  Here is a petition from Change.org with almost 500,000 signatures.  The Care2 community was also responsible for over 75,000 signatures to free Raju. So let’s please give credit where credit is due.

Example #4 – Dog Fighting In MDAS Shelter

YouSignAnimals presented a petition claiming that the Miami-Dade Animal Shelter (MDAS) staff were willingly allowing dogs to fight each other, right inside the facility. The petition accused Director Alex Munoz and Chief of Operations Kathleen Labrada of fighting the dogs as well as poor medical care, and falsification of public records. This too was a blatant fraud, accusing innocent people of dog fighting. These graphic and shocking pictures are not even taken from MDAS, but are from the Hesperia Animal Shelter.  Once again there is a Change.org petition that relays the actual facts. Someone at YouSignAnimals has been scavenging pictures from all over the internet and using them to create fictitious stories to post to their advantage to get you to give up your email.

Example #5 – Pet Tattooing In New York

YouSignAnimals again credited itself with victory against dog tattooing and piercing in New York in 2015.  But success had already been declared in December 2014 and the story was widely covered in the media including the New York Post and Time.  “It’s simply cruel,” said Assembly member Linda Rosenthal in the New York Post. The Manhattan Democrat sponsored the legislation. It was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. A Care2 Petition with over 200,000 signatures had a live target and may have had some influence as well.

Example #6 – Brazilian Ban On Cosmetic Tests With Animals

YouSignAnimals claimed victory for the Brazil ban on cosmetic testing for animals. The only problem was that the Cruelty-Free Brazil campaign welcomed passage of Bill 6602/13 to ban testing – in June 2014 – two whole months before YouSignAnimals was even registered as a domain on the internet!

To perpetuate these petitions,  one person created all of these Facebook pages – he goes by the name of Nigel Cameron (most likely an alias).  Some of these sites don’t even contain petitions,  but readers are asked to “support these adoptions by adding your name to our list.”  Seriously?  Ask yourself how that is supposed to help animals – it helps Nigel Cameron,  or whoever he really is,  grab your email address!

Example #7 -Texas shelter EUTHANIZES all animals because they didn’t want to come in over the holidays!

Yousignanimals claimed that the Hamilton Texas animal shelter announced on their Facebook page that animals at the shelter had been euthanized because employees were unwilling to come and take care of them during the holidays.  Of course this is a flat-out lie too,  and a google search of the image used in the petition reveals that it is at least 5 years old and not representative of this shelter at all.  As a result,  people are spamming their Facebook page with negative comments!

Embassy Against Animal Abuse

Nigel Cameron Against Animal Abuse

Petition Hub

YouSign Petitions

Yousign.org

Online Shelter

Kim’s Petitions

Animal Rights Warriors

Best Animal Petitions

Stop Cruelty Towards Animals

Animals Petitions

247 Animal Petitions

Signatures 4 Life

DailyPetition

Sensational Stories Have A Tendency To Spread Faster Than The Truth…

While many of these petitions outline abuses that actually happened,  they are sometimes years old (ancient technology used to capture the videos is a clue).  In other cases,  the facts have been altered or there are fact-based petitions receiving wider circulation on the internet with live rather than obscure targets or no targets at all.  How can we expose these imposters once and for all?

In addition, all these sites are hosted on Godaddy, which is owned by a trophy hunter (Bob Parsons) who not only killed an elephant and bragged about it, but is a “valuable”member of Safari Club International.  I don’t definitively know what they are doing with our emails but I’m sure they wouldn’t go to all this trouble unless they were making money from the suffering of animals and the naiveté of people.  Consider that while animal advocates are wasting time signing and forwarding completely fictitious petitions,  real, active petitions are ignored.  Some animal pages on Facebook contain little else beyond these fake petitions and if the administrators of these pages are going to allow these petitions, then animal advocates should leave the groups and join more productive pages. Virtually all the complaints I’ve made about these petitions have fallen on deaf ears.

So far,  the snowballing viral effect of fake petitions seems to be sufficient to crush debunking voices. Please consider whether there is a legitimate petition already available with more power and credibility next time you see a YouSignAnimals or PetitionHub/Kim’s Petitions (who is Kim anyway?)  Even if there are no other active petitions available, in many cases the facts are completely wrong or the case is years old and already resolved (but resuscitated for email harvesting).

I’m sure there are dozens if not hundreds more examples where Nigel Cameron has claimed responsibility for victories for animals.  It is unacceptable for these sites to crown themselves with victories achieved with so much hard work by major international, national and local organizations, associations, foundations, grassroots rescuers, etc, which they do not even have the decency to mention.

 

“Me And My Fake Service Dog…..”

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Is there anyone who doesn't suffer from some kind of stress or anxiety? But that doesn’t mean we should feel entitled about taking our dog, snake, or llama to places where only service animals should go.

Is there anyone alive who doesn’t suffer from some kind of stress or anxiety? But that doesn’t mean we should feel entitled about taking our dog, snake, or llama to places where only service animals should go.

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

…..was the title of a recent (but hastily deleted) article by New York City dog trainer Anna Jane Grossman. With equal parts delusion, narcissism, and fakery, Ms. Grossman set about describing the deceptive tactics she uses to take her Yorkipoo Amos, who is certainly cute but is not a service dog, to places generally accessible only by service animals.

Grossman, whose food of life appears to be attention, suggests that her motivation lies in requests by her clients at the “School For The Dogs,” who asked how they could bring their dogs to visit in hospitals, or restaurants, and travel on planes. She asserts that this might be the beginning of a movement to “stop segregating dogs based on their owner’s disabilities, and instead look at the dog’s abilities.”

Ms. Grossman also acknowledged having a friend create a fake service dog ID, and she went on to use that fake ID when questioned by shop owners about Amos’ status as a service dog. In a dispute with a tax driver, Grossman was further emboldened by the fact that she was able to get the police to side with her.  (I hope she thinks long and hard about the fact that she called the police out on a frivolous complaint against an innocent person in order to perpetuate her falsity).

“It’s a good thing the cop knew that the Americans With Disabilities Act precluded him from asking what my disability was. That’s because I don’t have one.”

 

 

Boom! But the karma train pulled rather quickly into the station, and there was an astounding backlash against Grossman for her deception. In a move that was the opposite of shocking, she issued a stirring non-apology and quickly deleted the post from Medium.com. For a few days the Google cache remained available, and then it too was gone. However, an astute individual made a YouTube video of the post.

The US Department of Justice to crack down on the sale of fake service dog products.  If the fake service dog scam continues to escalate, real service dogs, and the privileges and respect they are entitled to, will be in jeopardy.

There needs to be a crack down on the sale of fake service dog products. If the fake service dog scam continues to escalate, real service dogs, and the privileges and respect they are entitled to, will be in jeopardy.

Grossman certainly isn’t the only unrepentant person to have created an online shit-storm by confessing to using a pretend service animal. Outrage followed the story of New Yorkers Brett David and Kate Vlasovskaya, who were featured in the New York Post. Both David and Vlasovskaya boasted about using fake ID cards and service vests to gain admittance into movie theaters, restaurants, nightclubs, Whole Foods, Starbucks, etc. They merely explained it away as something that’s “becoming more popular now.”

I know that some people reading this are wondering aloud now, what can be wrong with this “crime?” Where do we actually draw the line of pushing our dogs into no-access spaces? After all, most people doing this sort of thing just want to spend more time with their dogs, or they want to avoid having to check them as “baggage” on a plane (an issue I can definitely relate to, knowing that pets kept in the hold of a plane have gone long periods without water, gotten lost, arrived dead, or escaped on the runway). While the sentiment to allow our dogs in more public spaces is not unreasonable, the method Grossman and others have used is ethically challenged. I also believe that there’s something profoundly disturbing about professionals who counsel their clients to become practiced liars at the expense of others.

Fake service dogs set up the real ones for failure, because people then assume all dogs will act up.  When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.

Fake service dogs set up the real ones for failure, because people then assume all dogs will act up. When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.

An increasing number of fakers have embraced the bogus service dog movement, which essentially requires one to pretend to have a disability. People with no disabilities or serious psychiatric disorders are buying fake service or therapy dog tags and vests online. While all dogs provide emotional support to us in one way or another, the designation of emotional support dog is only applicable to animals who have been “prescribed” by a licensed mental health professional. If you have the money, it’s not difficult to obtain a letter from an online mental health professional stating that one needs their pet as an “emotional support animal,” even though the professional has never treated the “patient” personally. Airlines such as Air Canada have taken to discouraging such one-time diagnoses, by requiring the person with the ESA to present a letter dated within the last six months, from a mental health practitioner who is currently treating the patient, and who has diagnosed them with a condition present in the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association) and restricting access to dogs only.

Not only is it bad form to use a fake assistance animal, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, it’s a federal crime to take advantage of privileges reserved for those who genuinely need the assistance of such animals. In the United States, the ADA defines a person with a disability as “…a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. This includes people who have a record of such an impairment, even if they do not currently have a disability. It also includes individuals who do not have a disability but are regarded as having a disability. The ADA also makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person based on that person’s association with a person with a disability.”

Please don’t participate in service dog fakery.  There are too many ethical ramifications for this behaviour. Service dogs have no price tag.

Please don’t participate in service dog fakery. There are too many ethical ramifications for this behaviour. Service dogs have no price tag.

 

In Canada, the Human Rights Code of Ontario (where I live) defines a disability as “…any degree of physical disability, infirmity,malformation or disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, a brain injury, any degree of paralysis, amputation, lack of physical co-ordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a guide dog or other animal or on a wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device.”

The reality is that the entire service animal community suffers as this trend increases, because business owners, gatekeepers, and the general public are growing increasingly skeptical of assistance animals, and are likely to hold human/animal teams to a lower standard of behaviour if they simply act like any other pet. The act of misrepresenting a pet as a service animal is one of the primary factors that are responsible for the prevalence of access challenges to the disabled. Those with service dogs should never be put in the position of arguing with a gatekeeper in order to gain access to buildings and services.

Advocates of both pets and the disabled are divided as to how to police those who abuse service animal privileges, and some are calling for government to better regulate and enforce service animal rules around the country. Groups and individuals who train service or therapy animals do not want their efforts to be meaningless, nor do they need the general public to make assumptions that helper animals are poorly behaved. There seems to be a general consensus that certified animals should be required to be trained by an accredited facility. Or, at the very least, what is needed is a single-source visible identification for service/therapy animals, which is clear to business owners, transit staff, and landlords that the animal is actually certified (along with serious penalties for those who ignore the absolute rights of the disabled).

An emotional-support card merely means that one’s pet is registered in a database of animals whose owners have paid money to one of several organizations,  which in all probability aren't recognized anywhere.  If you want to turn your pet into a certified E.S.A., all you need is a therapist type who will vouch for your mental un-health. Don’t have one? Enter “emotional-support animal” into Google and take your pick among hundreds of willing professionals.

If you want to turn your pet into a certified E.S.A., all you need is a therapist type who will vouch for your mental un-health. Don’t have one? Enter “emotional-support animal” into Google and take your pick among hundreds of willing “professionals.”

Guide and service dogs are lifelines for their owners – in order to have a bona-fide service dog, one must be disabled within the definition of the law. Service dogs are not pets. They:

  • Are individually trained to perform work for a disabled person, and their skill relates directly to the nature of the individual’s disability
  • May alert people who are deaf, having a seizure, reminding people to take medications, calming people with PTSD or anxiety attacks, or other duties.
  • Receive many hours of socialization and temperament testing.
  • Are assessed for 18 to 24 months to see if they have the right temperament and abilities to be placed with a person in need.
  • Are typically breeds that are naturally well-mannered and even-tempered. Breeds classified as livestock guardians or fighting dogs can have aggression-related breed traits that can be problematic
  • Receive learning appropriate behaviour in a wide variety of public environments.
  • Are usually raised for the role of a service dog since puppyhood.

    Carry a baby down the aisle of an airplane and passengers look at you as if you were toting a machine gun. Imagine, then, what it’s like travelling with a pig.  A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (1) the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it or (2) the dog is not housebroken. The individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.  But this poor pig was not ready for air travel,  since he/she pooped in the aisle and he and his owner were removed from the plane.   Animals get stressed in strange situations too.  If you can’t go on a plane without an emotional support animal,  think how the animal probably feels.

    A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (1) the animal is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it or (2) the animal is not housebroken. The individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls. But this poor pig was not ready for air travel, since he/she pooped in the aisle and he and his owner were removed from the plane.
    Animals get stressed in strange situations too. If you can’t go on a plane without an emotional support animal, think how the animal probably feels.

The worst case scenario of an access challenge, despite its illegality, is one that is not resolved quickly and to the benefit of the disabled person. The Walt Disney Company felt compelled to change its disabled guest policy at theme parks in 2013 partly due to “abuse of the system.” The announcement came after reports surfaced that wealthy guests were paying wheelchair-riding tour guides top dollar so that the group could use the line-skipping privileges granted to the disabled at Disney theme parks. The Toronto Star recently reported on a shocking situation where two blind women were utterly humiliated and threatened with handcuffing by the police when they declined to muzzle their guide dogs on a Jet Airways flight out of Toronto.

We live in a generation of  scammers who flash fake I.D.s, able-bodied adults who use handicapped placards on their vehicles, and grocery customers who try to slip too many items into the express lane. Running fake service dog ID websites might also classify you as a grifter.  Certifications have become less meaningful too – even the Long Island Medium, who pretends to talk to dead people, has been a “certified” medium for over 10 years!  Proof that you can certify anything…..

While more understanding of accessibility legislation overall is needed,  we still must have integrity in the system and make an effort to ensure the right accesses for individuals with their certified dogs, while safeguarding the public with high training standards.

Canine Companions for Independence has introduced a pledge to protect the rights of people who legitimately need service dogs – please consider signing!

 

Dogs really are the best, but with that said, my dog could never pass as any sort of service animal, not even if I bribed her with a Costco-sized bag of Beggin’ Strips.  She’s mostly blind and afflicted with kidney disease, so she really needs her own guide dog.  But if I have about $35 for a card and another $55 for a photo ID (meaningless vest from $48) I can have a service dog.

Dogs really are the best, but with that said, my dog could never pass as any sort of service animal, not even if I bribed her with a Costco-sized bag of Beggin’ Strips. She’s mostly blind, completely toothless,  hard-of-smelling,  sleeps 20 hours a day, and is afflicted with kidney disease and therefore on meds, so she really needs her own guide dog. But if I have about $35 for a card and another $55 for a photo ID (meaningless vest from $48) I too can have a service dog.