I’ve lost a friend and the planet has lost a truely compassionate animal lover

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I stepped away from blogging for a few days, as during that span I attended a memorial service and the then the funeral for Father Al Dash. The retired Catholic priest was 74 years old.

Father Dash conducted a blessing of the animals service every October in my hometown and rescued ex-racing greyhounds. We met him back in 2003 through a fellow animal-welfare advocate, who also rescued greyhounds and also advocated for an end to the cruel industry that is dog racing.

We had also rescued a greyhound named “Dash,” so there was a real connection there with Al. Dash passed away last summer and now Al is no longer with us, after an extended hospitalization. My wife and I really took the news hard.

Father Al Dash and Dash the greyhound

For several years, we met Al Dash for weekend breakfast meals at local eateries. When the weather was cool enough, he always requested that we bring along our Dash. After the meal, he’d give Dash a large dog biscuit. By the time the blessing of the animals serviced rolled around in 2010, our Dash was unable to attend due to his declining health. So Father Al blessed him from the back of our car one morning.

Last fall, Al had to say goodbye to what would be his last two greyhounds – Willow and Captain – who passed away about 10 days apart. They were older dogs and led a great post-racing life with their special guardian.

On both occasions at the local veterinary hospital, my wife and I shared hugs and so many tears with Al. We knew we needed to be there with him. It was such a sad time and the veterinarian and the staff members were all in tears as well.

But now, we take some comfort in knowing that Al Dash has been reunited with loved ones and with our Dash.

Father Al Dash conducting a Blessing of the Animals service in 2007

 

Pack Line Headlines: horse racing, greyhound racing, gestation crates

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Horse race at a greyhound track: One industry that exploits animals will meet another Saturday during the Preakness Stakes. The horse race will take place at the Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track in Florida.

The news out of both horse racing and greyhound racing paints the two industries as all too similar.

Unfortunately, a lot of people will be there Saturday. That does not happen during dog races these days.

Domino’s Pizza the focus of new petition against gestation crates for pigs: I received a press release this morning from Change.org, highlighting a new petition circling the web that is calling for Domino’s Pizza to stop purchasing pork from suppliers that use gestation crates.

In under a week’s time, the petition drive has collected more than 115,000 online signatures, covering 50 states. Long-time Domino’s customer Rina Khadivi started the petition.

Also from the release:

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“Domino’s should stop feeding customers meat from pigs kept in dirty, cramped pig prisons,” said Khadivi, who launched the campaign on Change.org. “If McDonald’s, Burger King, and Denny’s are willing to get rid of gestation crates, why can’t Domino’s?”

“I love to order in a good pizza after a crazy day,” she added. “But the last thing I want to do is eat something I know has contributed to animal cruelty.”

Denny’s is the latest company to commit to phasing out gestation crates from its supply chain. Denny’s Vice President Greg Linford recently said the company “will endeavor to purchase products from companies that provide gestation crate-free pork and are committed to influencing (its) suppliers to share in a gestation crate-free vision for the future.” At present, more than 115,000 people have signed Khadivi’s petition on Change.org asking Domino’s to make a similar commitment.

“What’s especially interesting about Rina’s campaign is that she’s a long-time fan of Domino’s, especially their double-pepperoni pizzas,” said Change.org Senior Campaigner Pulin Modi. “She clearly wants to work with Dominos to meet certain animal welfare standards. Rina’s an example of how consumers everywhere are using Change.org to deliver powerful feedback to the companies that matter to them.”

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Abuse uncovered in training of Tennessee Walking Horses

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A leading trainer of Tennessee Walking Horses – those who compete in high-stepping competitions – faces a federal grand jury indictment, as reported by ABC News.

Keith Dane of the Humane Society of the United States is quoted by ABC News as saying, “All too often, you have to cheat to win in this sport.” Far too often, we see this as being true when animals are used in a variety of competitive, so-called “sports” or contests.

Once again, the Humane Society of the United States has uncovered people abusing animals. Sadly, people who engage in cruel training practices like this probably brag about the success with their methods. In reality, what they know about animals would not fit on the tip of sewing needle.

The video shows the lead trainer and others “beating horses with wooden sticks and using electric cattle prods.” This is not training. It is torture.

ABC News also reports painful chemicals and chains are used on the horses’ legs to force them to step higher. This is sick and the people involved in this sort of animal cruelty within any industry should be sentence to long spells behind bars.

WARNING: This video contains VERY disturbing images of horses being abused.

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The industry is claiming abuse is rare, but the article paints a far different picture –
“” But a random inspection by the agents of the Department of Agriculture at last year’s annual championship found that 52 of 52 horses tested positive for some sort of foreign substance around front hooves, either to cause pain or to hide it. “”

Skechers company in the negative news again

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The Skechers shoe company – the same outfit that promoted greyhound racing in an infamous Super Bowl TV ad – is in trouble with the Federal Trade Commission over claims made in TV ads.

The phrases “unfounded claims” and “deceptive claims” were used in a Bloomberg Businessweek article. People who purchased these shoes thinking they would magically transform their bodies, will be eligible for refunds.

From a company that brushed off reports of inhumane practices in greyhound racing, I’m not at all surprised by this news.

The curtain continues to come down that hides the horrors of greyhound racing

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An injured greyhound was found last week after falling out of transport vehicle taking a group of exploited dogs from Sarasota Kennel Club to the Ebro Greyhound Track. It is believed two dogs got into a fight and Petey D fell out when a door opening during the fray.

A kind person found Petey D and called an area greyhound rescue group. It seems some people are slamming the rescue for not immediately tracing the dog’s ear tattoos to find its racing “owner.” If I found a racing greyhound in the physical condition that this dog was found with, I would not have traced the ear tattoo either.

On a side note, it seems now the dog racing industry does not like the fact that organizations who take in the former racers are called “rescue groups.” I guess they think it’s bad press. There has been a direct correlation between the decline in greyhound racing and the level of facts about the industry reaching the public. So now in desperation, the industry doesn’t even what the groups who save the dogs to use the term “rescue”

Don’t let the puppy mill industry hear about this.

And over in New Zealand, the Scoop reports the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB) was set to receive a $100 donation from Greyhound Racing New Zealand for each winning dog wearing a red coat during races in the month of May.

Thankfully, the Greyhound Protection League of New Zealand and animal lovers in the general public contacted the RNZFB and informed the group about what a poor decision this was. And the RNZFB right away decided to end the relationship.

I’m still reading about well-known companies sponsoring greyhound racing. At this point in history – with that Internet thingy and its array of search engines – I can only guess these companies are either ill-informed or clueless.

Sadly, a California veterinary association supports puppy sales in stores

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As a freelance journalist, I really like to read very informative articles and columns. And to me, journalism is all about getting to the heart of a topic or issue and/or exposing something very important. And when a journalist can get someone to expose something important about themselves or a related organization, that is some piece of good work, in my view.

Erika I. Ritchie put all of this together in an article posted Sunday on the Orange County Register website. Several cities in the California county are banning the sales of puppies in stores. This sort of ban needs to go nationwide. People purchasing puppies and kittens need to be assured that the breeding facilities involved are engaging in humane practices. Way too often, this is not the case when animals are purchased in stores.

Amazingly, the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association has taken a stand AGAINST bans on the sale of puppies in stores. The SCVMA suggests great strides have been made, and current laws are requiring “healthy conditions.” Thankfully, article leads with a story about a sick puppy purchased from a California pet shop. And at least a couple of readers commented under the article about sick puppies purchased at stores.

The reality is far more needs to be done to shut down puppy mills and to improve conditions at far too many mass-breeding facilities in the US.

I feel compelled to put it this bluntly: The leadership of the SCVMA needs to educate itself in the reality of what is happening in puppy mills that supply to pet stores. They need to educate themselves to the practices of quality breeders and compare these practices to those of mass-production breeders where dogs are caged 24/7 or nearly 24/7.

Animals have both physical and emotional needs. The regulations need to catch up the emotional health concerns, along with the physical needs.

Ritchie does a good job of giving both sides a voice in her article. The animal-welfare take is expressed in this sentence: “” Pet stores selling puppies and kittens that harbor birth defects due to bad breeding, behavioral problems due to early life in a cage and diseases from the stress of commercial breeders transporting them throughout the country. “”

And I would add the fact that separating puppies from their moms and siblings too soon is setting them up for behavioral problems. Too often, this means these dogs will die in shelter somewhere.

Ritchie reports Dr. Peter Weinstein and Dr. Peter Vogel of the SCVMA recently wrote letter to the Laguna Beach City Council before its vote on a pet store puppy sales ban.  The pair seemed to focus on consumer demand ‘for 8 million puppies and kittens in America each year.’

So that makes it okay to sell through puppy mills? – Really? And this quote is included from the letter: “Consumers do not look to rescue or shelter adoption for puppy and kitten acquisition.”

Informed “consumers” do adopt from rescues and shelters and the numbers are growing. And informed consumers do NOT consider adopting a pet to be an “acquisition.” The statements made by the SCVMA representatives heavily lean to protecting stores and breeders, as opposed to protecting animals.

Veterinary medical associations should not be out to promote or protect businesses. Veterinary medical associations should be focused on protecting the health and welfare of animals. I was VERY pleased with the American Veterinary Medical Association’s recent move to modify its official proclamation to include an affirmation of its support for animal welfare.

The veterinarians on front lines see the problems, face to face. As is the case with this information from the article –

Dr. Michael Ontiveros, who owns Estrella Veterinary Hospital in San Clemente, said he sees a host of problems from pets purchased at the puppy mill furnished stores.

“To me it’s about the pets,” he said. “Why don’t we educate the pet stores about the problem with the puppy mills? They need to make good choices. I don’t like puppy mills. I don’t like what I see coming from there.”

And the vet who treated the case reported in the lead of the article was reportedly saddened by the stand of the SCVMA.

It’s not about what is best for consumers. It should not be about what is best for mass-production breeders. It should be about the welfare of the animals and it should be about compassion.

The evidence mounts against horse racing

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Another huge story has hit the web, highlighting the ills of horse racing. Anytime you put animals in the path of gambling or corporate profit, the animals are at risk to get steamrolled by dollar bills.

The New York Times reports the trainer of Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another has a history of violations. Doug O’Neill has “more than a dozen violations for giving his horses improper drugs” – according to the Times article.

The cases were spread over four states over 14 years. The NY Times also analyzed his horses’ tendencies to break down and reported “the horses he trains break down or show signs of injury at more than twice the rate of the national average.”

And then there is this troubling sentence from the story – “” The racing industry has come to realize that lax regulation and the absence of meaningful punishment have fostered a culture where top trainers with multiple drug violations are more the rule than the exception. “”

Translation: The industry has looked the other way while these violations have gone on.

So are we to believe that suddenly, after years of negative information coming out of horse racing – about the drugging of horses and horses being raced at too young an age and race horses being routinely sent off to slaughter after they are of no more value to the industry – that now the powers that have suddenly seen the light?

The problem is it’s too tempting. The money is a carrot on a stick – a very big, pricey carrot on a stick. Gotta find a way to reach the big money. Gotta get an edge.

It’s time to shut it down. Let everybody gamble on the cards and dice and other table games. Cards, dice and slot machines can’t suffer. Cards, dice and slot machines are not sent off to slaughter; to suffer in horrible fear, through the pain of a bolt through the skull or a gun blast.

It’s time to shut it down – dog and horse racing.

Hero pet and hero person

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I just found two great stories that once again reaffirm our connection with our animals.

The winner of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles’ 30th National Hero Dog Award has been announced and it’s Bear, a 100-pound Shiloh German shepherd rescued from a Texas animal shelter three years ago.

Bear’s guardian had a seizure last May and lost consciousness when she fell hit her head. The Associated Press reports Bear raced from house to house, scratching on doors for help. A county animal control officer saw him and followed him to home.

The dog then jumped into the ambulance to accompany his guardian to the hospital.

And a woman in Massachusetts saved her 9-year-old golden retriever  from a bear attack, using a toy sword.  She waved the toy at the bear and banged it on a stone wall and screamed until bear had enough, stopped its attack on her dog left the yard.

That’s some kind of brave stuff there.