This may be one of the hardest things you’ve ever had to read.

We understand that China has a different culture than us.

We understand that they have a real problem with over-population of both dogs and cats.

What we don’t understand is deception. Nor do we think it’s right. Give us the option to choose what we want to purchase!

What we are talking about today is the fur and leather industry. China is the one of the largest fur and leather suppliers in the world but, did you know that much of it is sourced from dogs and cats? That’s right. Dogs and cats. Even faux fur is sometimes real because it’s actually cheaper for them to provide real fur instead of manufacturing synthetic fur, yet they will still label it as “faux-fur.”

Watching these videos and reading these articles will be heart-breaking, but turning a blind eye is worse.

As a clinic, we recently sat down and watched some of these videos together. With tears running down our faces, we forced ourselves not to be naive to the torture these animals endure. It forced us all to go home and look at labels on everything from purses to wallets to the trim on our coats. It made us all stop and think about our future purchases. Many of us have come in to work commenting on how we now walk by certain stores when making a trip to the mall, how our stomachs get queasy just seeing leather gloves on a shelf… It’s made us Stop and Think. And that is all we are asking you to do.

Leather

Unfortunately when it comes to leather, there is no way to know what animal it is made from, especially in regards to products produced in China (and perhaps other countries as well).

Here are some articles showing graphic pictures, videos and horrifying statements concerning the Chinese fur and leather industry. Although there may be some honest manufacturers out there, there is no way to distinguish between the good and the bad. While these videos can be gruesome to watch, forcing yourself to do so will help you to fully understand the gravity of these occurrences.

The chinese fur industry

The chinese leather industry

P.E.T.A. has also posted some ways to help you identify real fur from faux fur.

  1. Separate the fur and look at the base. Genuine fur usually protrudes from skin or leather, while faux fur generally has a mesh or threaded backing. If the backing looks like skin (which just makes it doubly gross!), don’t buy it.
  2. Look at the tips of the hairs. Real animal hairs taper to a fine point unless they have been sheared or cut. Faux fur, on the other hand, typically does not taper at the ends. So if the ends of the hairs taper to a fine point, play it safe and leave it on the rack.
  3. Do a burn test (obviously, this one’s only for things you already own). Remove a few hairs and hold them with tweezers over a nonflammable surface. Light them with a match or a lighter and let the smell do the talking. Burning animal hair smells like burning human hair. Faux fur, which is commonly made from acrylic or polyester, smells like melting plastic when burned.

This blog may seem overly controversial for a vet clinic to write, but it comes from the heart and we felt it necessary to share. Everyone has different opinions on what they feel is right or wrong. We have not written this blog today to change your choices, but to make you aware that you have a choice.

Thank you.

The month of October was National Pit Bull Awareness Month.

What does that mean?

Just like any “Awareness Month” it is educating and helping people to become more knowledgeable of something important.  It could be Breast Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Diabetes, Leukemia, the list goes on and on. All of these things are important, BUT, if one has never experienced a family member or close friend battling one of these horrible diseases, we become oblivious to what goes on around us. We become focused on our own busy lives.

 Awareness Months bring forth the truth about what goes on around us. In hopes that we will participate and help with a worthy cause. It could be volunteering at a function, a 10km walk, support through donations or driving someone who needs treatments. Once gone the distance we no longer need to be reminded by a “month”. We have now incorporated that with our daily living. Never forgetting what that “Awareness” stands for and doing what we can to support a cause.

 I have been blessed by owning two wonderful Pit Bulls, Nikki New and Andy. Both my Pit Bulls were rescues.

Nikki New was found in a plastic garbage bag in a dumpster in the middle of February. She was a 7 week old puppy. Yes, disgusting!!! She was brought to Snelgrove Veterinary Services by one of our technicians. When I met Nikki New, she was surprisingly happy, healthy and adorable, of course. She was placed in a special area called Isolation, at the clinic, as we knew nothing about her and did not want to spread any disease. Isolation is just what it sounds like. All by yourself. I passed the doorway several times that day looking in at her. Her little face would pop up looking so cute at me from behind the bars.  I could hear her tail wagging as it hit the side of the cage wall. At closing time, I went in to say good night. Again that cute little face peering at me from behind the bars. She had been quiet all day not uttering a complaint. “Oh dear, such a long night for a little abandoned puppy to stay all alone” I whispered to her. I got a blanket, wrapped her up, jumped into my car, plopped her on my lap and drove home. I was greeted by my husband and my two-year old Border Collie cross named Alex. Before my husband could say anything I quickly said “no worries just fostering”.

All pet lovers know what that means. Lol.

Alex and Nikki New fell in love as soon as they met. Alex decided right away to be Nikki New’s mother. Alex and Nikki New were the best of friends. Playing together and sharing the bed. So that was that.

I now had two dogs.

Nikki New loved all people. But funny enough when visitors came over they would shy away from her. They would instinctively go to Alex. The funny thing was, Alex was the nervous one with new people and Alex was the one I would warn our visitors about. “Give Alex some time to adjust and she will come to you. Nikki New is the friendly one.” I would tell them. Our visitors would approach Nikki New with caution and you could see the tension on their faces. By the end of the visit Nikki New was always a hit. Everyone loved her. “What a wonderful dog” they would say. It was always mentioned it’s not the breed it’s the owner.

This was eighteen years ago!! Yup, see where I am going with this.

 Several years later I met Andy. This is a sadder story. Remember this is all about awareness so, of course, the start of the story is not very nice. I will warn you her pictures are graphic. Again awareness and education is the key.  My Andy was rescued from a terrible place that fought Pit Bulls. Yes, it is true and it really happens close to here. She was only a puppy, not even six months old. She was saved by wonderful, dedicated people who took risks to get her out of a place that would eventually be her demise.  Her face was torn apart. Her eyes swollen shut. Her ears were bitten and scarred. Her legs had punctures and large lacerations. The tip of her tail was raw and bleeding.

Andy was used as a bait dog!!

Ok, so, what is a bait dog you ask? Get your Kleenex ready. I found this definition from Gotta Love Dogs: What is a Bait Dog?  posted by N Gilbert.  If you have the stomach you should read the whole blog by N. Gilbert. A bait dog is basically a punching bag for game (fighting) dogs. Except we all know that dogs don’t punch, they bite and tear. Dog fighters use bait dogs to let their game dogs practice mutilating another dog, without being harmed in the process. To insure their dogs aren’t damaged, they will either use duct tape to tape the bait dog’s mouth shut, or break out their teeth so the bait dog can’t fight back. They tie them to a tree or pole or put them in a pit so they can’t get away from the game dogs. Yes plural because they general unleash several dogs on one bait dog. It makes the game dogs more aggressive.

 Andy went to a loving foster home to heal and recover. Her fosters were very special people and had a soft spot for Pitty’s and an even softer spot for Andy. With everything Andy had been through, she still loved people. Andy would give kisses and wag her poor mangled tail when she was spoken to. When they cleaned her wounds and applied medications, she would lie there, letting them care for her. Never a growl, never a raised lip. She met their other dogs and never once showed aggression. All she wanted to do was be loved and be your friend.

I met Andy ten years ago at the clinic when she was fully recovered. Andy was there to be spayed. I remember everything so clearly just like it was yesterday. I entered reception and there was Andy sitting on the bench with her foster parent. Our eyes met and I said in my girlish tone “Well hello there, look at you”. Andy broke into the biggest smile I had ever seen. She danced her front feet on the bench as if she were playing bongos. I couldn’t help but laugh. I will never forget that day. I was told Andy was looking for a home. Knowing I had a Pitty, they thought I would be the perfect mom. I declined the offer. Two dogs and now a third. I just wasn’t sure about that.

Andy was there all day. She had her surgery and was in the front cage. Yup, I could not miss her every time I went into the treatment room. As soon as I entered the room she would sit up and watch me. We watched each other all day. My goodness she was beautiful and so sweet. My heart was saying yes, my head was saying no. By the end of the day I sheepishly went to Dr. McQueen and said “I love her”. Dr. McQueen laughed the laugh we all know and love and said “take her home”. So I did.  Who,ever listens to their head anyways?

The transition of introducing Andy went much smoother than expected. Nikki New’s nose was out of joint for a few days. She was the baby and it was time for her to move up in the pack. Not very long after that, the three of them were the best of buds. Alex was still the momma dog. Now she had two to care for.  Andy did not know how to play and needed a bit of house training.  She picked everything up so quickly and was learning how to be “just a dog”. The first time I put a leash on her to take her outside, she cowered. She stood frozen, terrified. I’m sure she was thinking I was taking her out to a bad place. I waited patiently until she felt safe and proceeded slowly. She eventually went out, did her business and rushed back to the safety of her home. It was weeks before Andy would go outside all in one motion. To the door, then straight outside without standing frozen in fear.

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Andy had nightmares!!!

She would start to scream. This was not a moan or muffled bark or those funny sounds our dogs make when they sleep. This was loud, blood curtailing screams. I had never heard anything like this before. She would be in such a deep sleep I had trouble waking her. I would call her name. Then yell her name. Then yell her name and shake her. She would wake, shove her head into my armpit trembling and makes sounds like she was sobbing. All I could do is hold her tight and rub her back. She would stay like that with me for the rest of the night. This happened weekly, then monthly, then barely at all. She still does it occasionally to this day.

 Andy has endured so much in her lifetime. On top of all of this, she has had knee surgery and back surgery. She has high blood pressure and Addison’s disease. She has liver and kidney issues. Andy takes an abundance of medication and makes frequent visits to the clinic for blood testing and monthly injections. Andy never complains. She is always happy to greet you. Eager to share a lick or two and that tail, always going at the speed of light. She is a happy dog and loves her life and her family. She is my shadow and I am never alone when Andy is there.

It saddens me to think I will never own a Pit Bull puppy again. It saddens me that Andy cannot go out in public without a muzzle. She will never experience going to the park and sniffing freely like other dogs. Never go into a pet store with me to shop. Never have a face free to sniff and touch and lick things. Never walk down my parents street when we visit. After all she has been through, I cannot muzzle her. Therefore, she does not go anywhere but her backyard and into homes of family.

I didn’t do anything wrong, yet I am punished. Andy was a victim of a horrendous crime, and she is punished.

 The ban against Pit Bulls was to protect people from people. Not dogs. Yet dogs pay the penalty.  The ban was a bandage or a quick fix to resolve a very serious problem that had gotten way out of hand. Instead of going after these monsters that are called humans. They created an image that our dogs are the monsters. In the big picture it’s all about greed. Greed and money. Dog fighting is illegal and will continue as it has a huge revenue. These poor dogs are beaten so badly it is better for them to fight and be rewarded, then to endure the horrifying abuse. People fight these dogs to the death. The dogs fight only to survive. Pit Bulls are used to protect drug dealers, their drugs, their drug labs, illegal weapons. All which in turn become available to our children. Something is very wrong with this picture don’t you think?

So when the Pit Bull becomes extinct and they will. (That is why the ban was placed). A new power breed will be selected to take its place. Then a new ban will be placed. All this does is create a  vicious circle. Crime, drugs and illegal activities continue. Our beautiful breeds will not. Justice needs to be enforced on these unspeakable crimes. Laws need to be changed with heavier life penalties on these people. Our dogs need to be saved. With all breeds it hold true. It’s not the dog it’s the owner. We keep saying that, but it does not go any further.

Yes, I am a Pit Bull Advocate. They do not have a voice. But we do.

Pit Bull awareness month is now at a close. I hope I have shed a little bit of light and awareness to all. We will try not to look away and stand in silence. Awareness needs to be shared and our animals need to be protected.

Andy has my greatest respect. When I look into her soft brown eyes and wonder, how has she ever survived all of this and still be the most loving and forgiving girl. She keeps her past to herself and only wishes to share kindness and laughter. She has a wonderful sense of humor and loves to make you smile. She cannot help but wag her tail, it never stops. She is truly a special gift. Every day I am so thankful that I was able to save not one but two of these incredible creatures. A very small gesture in the grand picture but I am proud that I could be there for them both.

 Andy is up to eleven years old now. With her multiple health problems it makes me sad to know time is ticking and every day with her now is a blessing. I hope one day I can again enjoy the pitter patter of pitty feet. But sadly I doubt that will ever happen.

If you ever have an opportunity to share and be a voice for those that cannot speak. Do so! I am sure you will have no regrets. The Pit Bulls of the world would be forever grateful.

In Andy’s lifetime she has experienced, lived and shared her life with four wonderful dogs. The first two Alex and NikkiNew who mothered her and taught her how to be a dog. After their passing we adopted Billie and Ralph and she became their leader. She taught them courage and strength. She showed them how to be proud and faithful. Andy has a never-ending compassion for life. Love and loyalty to her family.

She is my rock.

 Thank you so much for your time and reading my blog.

 Donna and Andy.

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How to Help Animals in Your Community, and Beyond (Part III)

The two previous segments of this multi-post blog have touched upon adoption and donation as possible methods to help animals in need. These are both fantastic ways to aid animals directly within the community, and are extremely fulfilling options as we are able to see the results of our efforts almost immediately. In the final posts of this series, we will begin to investigate how we can make a more widespread impact on the struggle to help our furry friends. We are going to delve a little deeper into some of the issues these animals in need are facing, and turn our attention toward animal rights and how we can help through animal advocacy.

To begin this discussion, it is important to understand exactly what an animal advocate is. In it’s simplest terms, an animal advocate is someone who supports the animal rights (or animal liberation) movement. The primary focus of the animal rights movement is that animals are currently viewed by many, especially in the eyes of the law, as property rather than living, breathing creatures. Animal advocates believe that animal lives should be afforded the same considerations as human lives – mainly the right to live without suffering.

I want to preface the posts to follow with a few warnings…

First, animal advocacy can be an extremely controversial topic. There are varying degrees of commitment: some people focus on the fight for basic animal welfare, while others may be a little more extreme and aim to eliminate all animal products from society in any way, shape or form. Period. The intention of this multi-post blog is not to direct anyone in what is the “correct” way to advocate on animals’ behalf, but rather to present the idea of advocacy as a whole and allow readers to make their own decisions. If we are to join the fight for animal rights, it needs to be in a way that we are comfortable doing so. Second, animal advocacy is not always pretty or glamourous. In fact, in researching for this post, I came across articles, pictures and documentaries that brought tears to my eyes (both of admiration and of horror), and some things even made me feel sick to my stomach and I had to take a break. There are a lot of emotions involved in advocacy, and while there are many highs, there are also many lows. Be prepared. Finally, my objective in writing this series is to raise awareness of something that is very near and dear to my heart. Everything discussed is meant to be informative and presented in a way that does not force any particular views on any of our readers. That being said, let’s get back to the focus of this blog…

The key to advocacy of any kind is education. In order to advocate for animals, there needs to be a clear understanding of the issues they are currently facing. As this is a many tiered topic, there will not be a chance to discuss all animal rights issues today. That is why self-education is so important in this struggle. As was mentioned previously in regards to choosing a charitable organization if one is interested in donation, so too should one research to find a branch of animal rights that speaks to them on a personal level. There are many different areas of animal rights that can be explored. A few examples are issues surrounding the companion animals that we accept into our homes, local or international wildlife and/or endangered species, farm animals raised for human consumption, or animals used for scientific research. The list is extensive, and within each of these categories are many sub-categories. For instance, in Part I we discussed adopting companion animals and touched on the business of puppy mills – which is just one of many concerns surrounding companion animals.

Animals in industry is another hot topic these days. In the media, there has been a recent focus on the treatment of elephants in zoos. Some stories have been successful (though not without their struggles), such as the relocation of three African elephants from the Toronto Zoo to the world-renowned Performing Animal Welfare Society’s (PAWS) ARK 2000 Sanctuary in California. Sadly, others have not been as successful, such as the story of Limba, Canada’s oldest elephant. Limba was euthanized at age 50 in December of 2013. Many critics claimed that her captivity was extremely cruel and demanded her retirement at a sanctuary, such as ARK 2000, after spending her years as a performance animal. Of course, there are always many sides to a story. Zoo officials maintained that she was happy, well taken care of and deeply loved. They insist that she was euthanized not due to her age or lack of ability to perform, but for humane reasons – there were large amounts of blood in her stool caused by tumors developing in her spleen and throughout her abdominal cavity. When I first came across Limba’s story, it was through an open letter of apology written to her and posted on C4P Animal Rescue. Intrigued, I began to look into the story further and came across archives of reports from well-known sources, such as the Toronto Star. No where in the letter of apology that I had read did the author discuss any of the health concerns that some of the articles I found indicated. However, in the same turn, the majority of the news articles and interviews that I read (which were primarily centered around the zoo officials) made no mention of the cruelty and humiliation that the author of the letter asserted were Limba’s reality.

Limba’s story is one with many points of view. That is why it is such a powerful example of the controversy that can arise when discussing issues of animal rights. It is sometimes hard to know what to believe, but it is essential to do your homework and look at multiple resources, not just one. Form your own opinions. Ask questions. Always keep in mind that well-known Latin aphorism that knowledge is power. In order to achieve what you are hoping for, make sure you are well-educated on a topic before you begin to act.

Of course, choosing a cause can be difficult, even overwhelming, as there are so many facets to animal rights. Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to approach this, as long as you are acting from the heart. Be sure that you understand every angle of what you are advocating for, if not for a better insight personally, than at least for a clearer understanding of the opposition that you may be facing.

 

On behalf of the staff at Snelgrove Veterinary Services,

Thank you for reading,

Kait.

How to Help Animals in Your Community, and Beyond (Part II)

Audrey, Rennik and Dakota

Audrey, Rennik and Dakota – Puppy Play Date

In the first segment of this multi-post blog, we covered how to help animals in need through adoption. The best places to adopt from are shelters, rescues and reputable breeders. However, not everyone has the ability to provide a forever home for an animal, which is completely understandable. Today, we will continue our discussion on helping animals by exploring some alternative options.

Beyond adoption, another fulfilling opportunity to aid animals in your community is through donation. The most common form of donation is monetary, and most registered charities will provide tax credits for money received. There are many deserving organizations out there, so if this is the route you are interested in, do some research to find a group that speaks to you on a personal level. One example of a commendable charity that we here at Snelgrove Vet Services lend our support to is the Brampton Animal Service’s HOPE Fund. Click here to read about the history of the fund and stories of some of the hundreds of animals it has helped.

While monetary donations to a worthy cause are always appreciated, there are a variety of other things that can be donated and appreciated just as well. Used blankets, bowls, leashes, brushes, etc. are all examples of excellent resources that can be given to shelters or rescues. If you are unsure of what items would be appropriate to donate, you can always call the shelter or rescue in question and ask if they are in need of anything in particular.

If you are unable to donate supplies, there is one thing that all of us have that costs nothing to give: our time! There is no greater feeling than knowing that you’ve given your time to help an animal on their road to recovery. Volunteers can do many things at shelters and rescues; from walking the dogs to playing with the cats, providing transportation to or from veterinary clinics or rehab facilities, helping out with fundraising or awareness events… The list can go on and on! In addition to making a difference and helping an animal in need, a lot can be gained through the volunteer experience. Not only will you feel wonderful afterwards, but you can also gain a whole new set of skills. And who wouldn’t love spending an afternoon with a new furry friend?

If you find that spending time with animals is rewarding, you could always take it one step further and foster an animal while they are being rehabilitated or waiting for their forever home! Many shelters and rescues are overrun with animals in need, so they are always looking for volunteers willing to accept them short-term into their homes. Foster experiences can last anywhere from just a few short days, to a few weeks or even months if you are so inclined. Some worthwhile organizations that are always looking for foster homes are the Toronto Cat Rescue (TRC) and Brampton Animal Services. If you are feeling particularly ambitious, you could even look into a training apprenticeship for the Lions Foundation of Canada Guide Dogs or the Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind (CGDB), which can last up to over a year and a half! These are just a few examples of potential foster options, but there are many more available.

No matter what level of commitment you are able to provide, there is an opportunity right for you. Whether you are able to contribute money or supplies to a deserving cause, or donate your time, any and all gifts are very much appreciated. Support within our community is so important, and helping animals in need is certainly worth the effort. But what about beyond our community? Stay tuned to learn about how to make a provincial, national or even global impact in the ongoing fight for our furry friends!

 

On behalf of the staff at Snelgrove Veterinary Services,

Thank you for reading,

Kait.

How to Help Animals in Your Community, and Beyond (Part I)

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There is nothing more heartbreaking than opening up a newspaper, reading an online article, or watching a newscast detailing the latest case of animal cruelty or neglect. Oftentimes, we read or watch these reports, feel sympathy for all involved, then move on to the next story. But what if we replaced our sympathy with true empathy? Rather than simply extending our compassion towards others, what if we really took the time to sit back, imagine ourselves in a similar situation and understand the pain involved? To quote Stephen M.R. Covey:

“We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviour.”

What would happen if we instead judged ourselves based purely on our actions? Would we be as good of a person as our neglected intentions would lead us to believe we are? It is so easy to have the best intentions, but it is entirely different to execute them. While this concept can be extended to many facets of our lives, the focus of this multi-part blog will be how we can put these good intentions to use in order to help animals in need. Here, we will outline some ways that you can make an impact within your community, and even globally. Making a difference is easier than you think!

The first (and most obvious) way to help an animal in need is through adoption. Undoubtedly, the best place to adopt an animal would be from a shelter or rescue. These types of organizations work tirelessly to help and home stray, abandoned, surrendered or seized animals. By providing proper medical care and living conditions, shelters and rescues allow these animals a second chance at life, in hopes that they will be adopted into a loving home. The Brampton Animal Shelter is one of many examples.

If you are looking for a certain breed of dog or cat, there are also many breed-specific rescues that extend a wide network, so do a little investigative work. Of course, if you want the true “puppy or kitten experience,” that’s fine too. Just make sure you are adopting your future family member from a reputable breeder. The Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) provides excellent information on how to find such a breeder, just click here to check out their “Golden Rules.”

It is best to avoid adopting from any source other than a shelter, rescue or reputable breeder. Issues begin to arise when pets are adopted from alternative sources, namely pet stores and “backyard breeders.” Please, make sure you do your homework if this is the avenue you are planning to take. In 2010, the public was shocked by the HBO documentary, “Madonna of the Mills,” which chronicles a young woman’s struggle to save dogs from puppy mills. It is not a film for the faint of heart, and exposes a previously unconsidered world of puppy mills. The documentary was later followed up by a Forbes magazine article in 2012 called “Where Not to Buy a Dog: The Pet Store Connection to the Business of Puppy Mills,” which uses an interview with the documentary’s director to elaborate on the puppy mill industry and the goal to raise awareness through public education. While these examples are based in America, the puppy mill industry thrives in Canada as well. According to the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS):

“Over the past decade the puppy mill industry has increased in Canada. Before 1995 most puppies in Canadian pet stores were imported from the United States, but in 1995 new legislation was implemented by Agriculture Canada to regulate the import of puppies from the United States. The […] new law was successful in reducing the number of puppies being shipped to Canada. Unfortunately, the decrease in imported puppies from the U.S. created a demand that was met by an increase in Canadian mills.”

Unfortunately, puppy mills exist because a demand for cheap and easily accessible puppies exists. While recent Ontario legislation has prohibited pet stores from selling puppies, the puppy mill business is supported by a public that continues to purchase puppies online, from newspaper ads, or through puppy “brokers.” Until there is an end to the economic support of puppy mills, they will remain prevalent within our society. Only after the profitability of this market is gone, will we start to see a decline in the puppy mill industry. This, however, is a topic that will be explored in future blog posts – the focus of this blog is aiding animals through adoption.

Of course, not everyone is in the position to adopt a needy animal into their home. However, those people could always consider a symbolic adoption. The concept here is that you give a small, one-time donation to “adopt” an at-risk species of your choice, and that money goes towards supporting the conservation efforts of the organization from which you are adopting. A few examples of organizations that offer this type of program are the Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), but there are many others.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure that it is within your means. Some people may not be able to provide adequate space, attention or care to an animal in need, and that’s okay. It just means that those people can take their good intentions and put them to work elsewhere. Stay tuned for the next segment in this multi-part blog to read about other avenues that can be employed in the ongoing struggle to help our furry friends.

 

On behalf of the staff at Snelgrove Veterinary Services,

Thank you for reading,

Kait.