News Archives

In memory of Jefferson Morrow, director and producer of Fins.

Fire at the Jacksonville Humane Society

Can dogs detect cancer?

National Veterinary Medical Services Act
By Barbara Bidell (with audio)

A Trace of Mold

By Barbara Bidell

Keepers of the Wild
By Barbara Bidell

The De-clawing Debate
By Barbara Bidell

Delighted Doggies Dig Daycare
By Jay Barnes

Reading with Rover

By Barbara Bidell

A Purr-fect Mother's Day!

Doggie Deli Dizzy With Dachsunds

By Jay Barnes

... And This Little Piggy Got Cloned
By Jay Barnes

Cracking Down on Cruelty

By Barbara Bidell
Back in the Saddle
By Barbara Bidell
The Orphaned Animals of 9/11
By Barbara Bidell
Horse Therapy
By Barbara Bidell
Ryerss Retirement
By Barbara Bidell (with audio)

Mission Quite Possible
By Barbara Bidell

The Horse
By John Abthony Davis

Indy's Temple of Hope
By Barbara Bidell (with audio)

Jack Ryan’s Animal Act
By Jay Barnes

A Costly Cat Rescue
By Barbara Bidell (with audio)

24 Carat Ferret
By Barbara Bidell (with audio)

Benefits of a Birthday
By Barbara Bidell

The Saving of a Sanctuary
By Barbara Bidell

Saving the Tiger
By Barbara Bidell

Rocky to the Rescue
By Barbara Bidell

The Early Life of a Guide Dog
By Barbara Bidell

Opinion & Editorial

Yours Cruelly
By Joe Kozlowski

Keepers of the Wild


                                 by Barbara Bidell, News Director

The killing of a six-year-old tiger in Loxahatchee, Florida in July has raised questions about the dangers of keeping large animals in captivity. It was in July that Bobo, a tiger belonging to Tarzan actor Steve Sipek, was shot and killed in Florida after he escaped from the actor’s five acre compound. Sipek told CBS’ "The Early Show" that Bobo was "let out by somebody who is interested in causing problems." Sipek called the shooting "murder" and said that the animal was not ferocious, but "helpless". Authorities reportedly killed the tiger after it lunged at workers who were trying to recapture it.

The incident brings attention to what one sanctuary founder calls a growing problem in the United States: a growing number of big cats in captivity. "There are 15,000 big cats in captivity in the U-S," says animal behaviorist Jonathan Kraft, who runs Keepers of the Wild, a no-kill, no-breed sanctuary outside Kingman, Arizona. "Only ten percent of those big cats are with zoos and sanctuaries." Kraft says the rest are owned by individuals, many of whom do not have a license to have the cats. Kraft says there is a high demand for the cats when they’re young, and breeders are meeting demand Kraft says breeding the large cats is a 15 billion dollar business, and a very dangerous business at that. "You cannot domesticate tigers," he told The Animal Channel in a phone interview. "They’re cute when they’re little, but when they get older they become a burden."

Kraft says he currently has 200 such animals on a waiting list to get into his sanctuary. He’s at capacity at 130. He says most people who buy these tigers do not know what they are getting into. Kraft finds the circumstances surrounding Bobo’s escape and death unnerving. "He should not have had a single gate on that property that could be opened," Kraft said of Sipek’s comment that someone had opened the gate. Kraft says the tiger should have had a perimeter fence as well. He also says the authorities could have better handled the situation.

"I doubt if the cat lunged at the officer, but I do believe they were afraid of it." Kraft says however, the authorities options were limited. He says most of the time tranquilizing a large cat in not an option.

"It can take 20 minutes for a cat to go down," he says. "In the meantime, you have a ticked off cat with a dart in its butt."

Kraft says those who take on the responsibility of keeping wild and exotic animals have got to take the responsibility seriously. Kraft has between 30 and 40 volunteers and twelve full time employees at Keepers of the Wild, six of them are "handlers", those who are trained to go into the cages. But they have to take precautions.

"I do not allow anyone in the cages without a back up," he says. "They (the handlers) serve as the eyes you should have in the back of your head."

The handlers are also aided by a three by six foot race used to separate the human handlers from the animal. Kraft cautions those who are thinking about entering the large animal trade from a buyer’s standpoint. He says not only is it dangerous to have a large cat on your property, it is expensive. He says it costs 15 dollars a day just to feed a tiger. He says if the cat has medical problems, the $450.00 a month could be just a drop in the bucket. Meanwhile, the demand has prompted Kraft to beef his capacity. Keepers of the Wild is in the middle of an eight million dollar expansion to try to keep up with what he sees as an insatiable demand. "It’s over the top, insanity," he says. For more information about Keepers of the Wild visit

National Veterinary Medical Services Act

                                 by Barbara Bidell, News Director

Listen to National Veterinary Medical Services Act

(Washington, D.C.) -- A new law provides veterinary students with a way out of debt, lures new vets to underserved areas and guards against agro-terrorism. At least that is the hope of supporters of the National Veterinary Medical Services Act. Mississippi Congressman Chip Pickering sponsored the bill after he was approached by the Dean of Mississippi State veterinary school, Dr. John Thomson. "Veterinary graduates leave school with an average of $80,000.00 in debt," cites Pickering. This measure would allow vets to serve in areas where they are desperately needed, and in return for their service, the government would pay back some or all of those students loans.

Pickering says the shortage is severe in some areas. "There is a crisis situation I many of our rural communities," says Pickering. Cattle farmers and ranches are having a difficult time finding veterinarians to care for their livestock."

Pickering says the veterinary shortage could have a wide-ranging effect on the country. He says it is often these private veterinarians who recognize disease outbreaks in livestock. Without the staff to diagnose such outbreaks, some diseases may go unnoticed or they may not be recognized until it has jeopardized animal health or even human health. Pickering says ranchers not only have to be concerned about diseases like bovine spongiform encephalopathy, better known as mad cow disease, but they have to be on guard for a deliberate attack against livestock.

Pickering says one of the major aims of the measure was to put in force a veterinarian "national guard" that would serve as the front line in defense against agro-terrorism. The program operates under the auspices of the Department of Agriculture. Students will enter into agreements with the Agriculture Secretary. Some of the graduates will be assigned to assist the U-S-D-A in addressing disease outbreaks, agro-terrorist threats or other such emergencies.

Pickering says he has already been deluged with calls about the program. Pickering says the program should be ready to take applicants by mid 2004.

A Trace of Mold


by Barbara Bidell, News Director


(Las Vegas, NV) -- Anyone with a dog knows how useful their best friend can be. Canines provide unconditional love, protection, help law enforcement officers nail criminals, lead the visually impaired, and improve the quality of life for hospitalized patients. You can add one more achievement to species’ list of successes -- dogs can be trained to detect mold.
      I recently met with Erik Lundgaard founder and CEO of Mold Sniffers, whose Jack Russell Terrier, Trace, is one of a group of 20 dogs across the country that are certified to detect mold. Although, it is a fairly recent phenomenon in the United States, dogs have been dutifully detecting mold in Europe for years. The practice originated in Sweden, where dogs were used to detect wood-destroying fungi that were feared to be looming in houses. And in Germany government authorities have found it more practical and less time consuming for a dog to detect mold than for a human expert. Lundgaard says he can also make that claim for Trace.
      “Trace can get to places faster than people, detect mold in places that people can’t reach and pinpoint areas that may have been missed by other kinds of searches,” says Lundgaard. And he says earlier detection means a less costly clean up. Traditionally, property owners were limited to two types of inspections: visual and air testing, which can be costly and inconclusive.
      Lundgaard explains that often mold can be lurking in places that are invisible -- behind walls, in floors or behind installations. He says many times he is called because residents or occupants of an office building display symptoms of mold infestation -- anything from watery eyes to fatigue and respiratory problems. Often, these symptoms are the only signs that something is wrong.
      Lundgaard says that’s where Trace comes in. The twelve pound slip of a dog spent 1,000 hours in training and can detect 18 different species of mold. In a typical inspection, Lundgaard insists that other animals are out of the house and that there is no cooking that might interfere with Trace’s search.
      “The dog’s actually picking up the smell of gases,” he explains, so interference is kept at a minimum.
      With Trace’s daily food allowance in a portable pouch Lundgaard leads her through a “sweep of the room” so she can “feel the environment”. If Trace finds something suspicious she engages in what Lundgaard calls a “passive alert”, that is she sits and stares the suspected mold site. Then she’s allowed to zero in. Lundgaard commands “show me” and Trace leads him to the exact point of the problem. Lundgaard then marks the point, gives Trace a kibble as a reward, and moves on. After the first sweep is completed, the team goes around a second time to make sure Trace hits the same spots twice. Lundgaard then takes samples of the suspected mold infested area and sends them to a lab in Oregon. Lundgaard then prepares a report for the homeowner.
      Lundgaard says Trace’s accuracy percentage tops the best of her human counterparts. Her accuracy rate hovers around 90 percent.
      Not every dog can be trained in mold detection. Like any animal trained for service, the dog must be of a certain temperament.
      “She’s (Trace) has a very good temperament for a J.R.. (Jack Russell),” he says. In fact, when Trace is not delving into baseboards and tiles to detect mold, she’s trouncing around the house with Lundgaard’s two other dogs.
      Once a dog is determined to be up for the task, he or she needs to go through hours of training, similar to that undergone by dogs trained to find bombs.
      Trace’s journey started at the Florida Humane Society where she was adopted and trained Bill Whitstine who runs MoldDog, a company based in the Sunshine State that has trained 19 other dogs across the country. There Trace was matched with Lundgaard and his wife Pamela, who were also trained by Whitstine. The Lundgaard’s took Trace to Las Vegas after investing a cool $12,500.00. However, Lundgaard has already made up the difference. His phones rings constantly -- with homeowners, building managers, and even new home builders requesting his services.
      One would think that the Mojave Desert, which records an average of four inches of rain a year, would be the most unlikely place for mold to grow. Not so, according to Lundgaard: the heat outside the home coupled with the artificially induced cool inside provides for an ideal environment for condensation in the walls of the home or building. The building’s materials just add to the mix for mold.
      “The material in the dry wall feeds the mold,” he says. “No place is immune.”







The De-clawing Debate

by Barbara Bidell, News Director

  (Sacramento, CA) -- When the California legislature opened in December, West Hollywood Assemblyman Paul Koretz was scheduled to re-introduce a controversial measure. Assembly Bill 395 will not eliminate the state’s budget woes -- but it might end the woes of one of America’s favorite pets. Assemblyman Koretz is working to ban de-clawing in the golden state, following the lead of the West Hollywood City Council that made the practice illegal last April. He introduced the measure in the state legislature last year, but it was voted down in committee. Koretz believes that the bill was more a victim of circumstance than anything.
      "It’s difficult to get a lot of legislators interested in animal issues when you have a 38 billion dollar budget shortfall," explains Koretz.
      Koretz says there is a lot of sympathy out there, especially when he explains the details surrounding the surgery.
      "Half of the value of the bill is getting the information out there," says Koretz. "Pet owners don’t realize that it is a partial amputation."
      Jennifer Conrad, a veterinarian who heads up the Santa Monica based Paw Project, agrees.
      "If people were educated, they wouldn’t want to do this to their pets."
      Conrad says during an onychectomy, the bone is "crushed" at the first joint. Conrad says no only is it painful, but many cats suffer long term effects. She says she worked for sanctuaries where she had about 40 cats who were all suffering from de-clawing. Conrad remembers one Bobcat that suffered tremendously from a botched surgery.
      "There was black puss and bone chards coming out of his feet," she remembers.
      She says the feline was in so much pain, it could barely walk. Conrad says this anecdote is relived in hundreds of cats. In fact, she spends much of her time surgically repairing damage done by declawing. She says most people don’t realize what they’re doing to their animals.
      "They think it’s a magical manicure," she says. "It’s actually an amputation of the bone."
      She says even surgeries that are performed correctly still impose tremendous suffering that amounts to animal cruelty. Conrad points out that the practice is already banned in many countries. In United Kingdom, de-clawing falls under the animal cruelty laws.
      However, Dr. Leslie Cooper, a veterinarian who specializes in animal behavior, says its hard to compare the treatment of domestic animals in the United States and Europe. She says in the U.K. for example, pet owners are strongly discouraged from keeping their cats inside all the time. In fact, she knows of one shelter that refused to allow a cat to go home with an owner who was not able to let the cat out.
      The chief opponent of the ban has been California Veterinary Medical Association. CVMA Executive Director Dick Schumacher says the problems associated with de-clawing have only been documented consistently in large cats. He says, furthermore, if de-clawing is banned, more domestic cats will be abandoned.
      "A lot more cats would be euthanized," he predicts.
      He says some cat owners who have weakened immune systems must have their cats de-clawed for health reasons.
      But Conrad says de-clawed cats develop other behavior problems. She says some resort to biting and others have a hard time using the litter box. In fact, Conrad says that many pet owners abandon their cats after de-clawing because of these changes in behavior.
      However, Dr. Cooper says these changes in behavior have not been substantiated. A recent article in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association seems to support Dr. Cooper’s skepticism. In that article, Dr. Gary Patronek, cites six studies on de-clawing, but comes to no solid conclusion: "The most that can be said about adverse behavioral sequelae to the onychectomy is that they remain as hard to dismiss as they are to quantify." Dr. Cooper agrees:
      "There simply needs to be more study," she says.
      In the meantime, what is a pet owner to do? All involved seem to agree on one thing: pet owners should do their own research before they make a decision. Conrad emphasizes there are plenty of alternatives out there. She says it might just be a matter of getting the right scratching pad, or simply covering the cats slaws with any of the various products that are on the market. She hopes that pet owners will spare their cats the surgery in hopes that she might avoid adding another heart-wrenching anecdote to her chronicle.



Delighted Doggies Dig Daycare


                    Rover by Jay Barnes

    Hey, dog owners!  Are you dogged by feelings of guilt when leaving Fido at home alone?  Does a day at work leave you blaming yourself  as your pooch sits solo in a fenced in yard or alone on the living room rug?  Residents of New York's Tompkins county and nearby areas have found a solution at Mountaintop Doggy Days, where many tail-waggers socialize and enjoy leisure accommodations provided by owner Joan Guest.
    "We're a recreational daycare facility for dogs," she says of her five-year-old business that cares for about thirty dogs a day. "We're the first one in Tompkins county."
    Although dogs are pack animals, at Mountaintop Doggy Days Joan bestows them with the up-close and personal attention that keeps their tails wagging happily.
    "It's very important to have an understanding of the dogs," Guest says.  "What they are and what they are not--and they are not robots.  They're living creatures that have their own personalities and their own personalities within a pack.  My opinion is it's best if the person who is taking the time to know all the dogs is doing so without just trying to be a money-maker."
    K-9 clients can entertain themselves with a variety of pleasurable options, from beating the heat with a pool, a cool-room where they can go and chill, to a sun-room where the Bowsers can soak up some rays.  There's also a wreck-room "...where the majority of the dogs like to go and wreck all the toys inside," Guest says with a laugh.
    For dogs that prefer to show off their athletic ability, Guest offers some agility toys that will help keep them in shape as they run through tunnels, jump through hoops and chase each other while playing and racing.  And if one pooch gets too competitive and has a bone to pick with another, Joan is there to curb the quandary before doggy temperaments become unleashed.
    "You have to be aware prior to a problem and call the dogs away from the problem," Guest tells The Animal Channel.  "Some dogs think that everything belongs to them and you have to tell them that it doesn't.  You just have to be aware and be doing your job all day long in rain, sleet and snow and not let all the dogs play outside alone."
    Daycare dog owners vary as much as the many breeds that frolic throughout the spacious stomping grounds.  Professors and students from nearby Cornell University and Ithaca College drop off their doggies at Mountaintop, as do business owners and many nine-to-five type employees, such as Susie Gosnell.  Her dog Hannah, a chocolate lab, has been a regular for more than two years.
    "It's a good stimulus for her," Gosnell says. "She likes to play and she's got a lot of energy.  I drop her off before I go to work and pick her up on the way home, just like a kid.  Then when we get there she's not bouncing of the walls and just sort of flops down to relax."
    Some of the other dog lovers just like to give their four-legged friends an occasional day out of the house to fraternize with other Fidos.
    "I have a couple of mommies who love their dogs and just want to have them do something special one day a week," Joan says.  "This just sort of takes any tension off their dogs and gives them something to look forward to because they really are social animals."
    Guest's love for animals is what allows Mountaintop Doggy Days to continue to flourish.  It's the kind of business she believes more dog loving entrepreneurs should be begging to get involved with.
    "I just think that there's room for more doggy daycare centers in any town," she suggests.  "It's a wonderful thing so everyone can have a dog and still work.  But I also know that dogs are pack animals and living a life of never seeing anyone for so many hours everyday is why there are a lot of dog problems in this world."

Visit the Mountaintop Doggy Days website at     

(Top) Guest gets the rapt attention of her furry friends before a doggy dilemma can develop.


(Above) The tunnel is one of the dogs favorite agility toys.

(Below) Guest encourages one of her K-9 clients to hurdle through a hoop.


Order your own Doggie Day Care toy set! Rover



Jack Ryan’s Animal Act


      At times, it may seem like U.S. commercial development is growing out of control. Malls, condominiums and housing subdivisions are spreading further and further from the nucleus of many cities, pushing into natural settings and leaving wildlife with less acreage to forage for food, water and shelter. While searching for sustenance in their ever-shrinking environment, we will often find these animals grazing in our yards, investigating our garages, and, on occasion, even finding their way into areas of our homes.
      When there is a situation where wildlife creatures enter a domestic setting, becoming a nuisance to themselves and the residents, Jack Ryan is there to save the day. His Wildlife Nuisance Removal business provides a service to nature by safely capturing, removing and returning to nature animals that somehow manage to find themselves in a sticky situation. And if an out-of-its-element animal has somehow been injured or separated from its nurturer, Jack will also assume the role of rehabilitator.
      “I'm more of an animal person than a people person,” Jack says. “I’ve done nuisance wildlife since 1989 and I’ve been a rehabilitator since about 1982. Mostly taking care of raccoons, skunks, squirrels and woodchucks.”
      Jack’s desire to help animals developed in his teenage years while he was pondering career paths.
      “In high school I wanted to be a veterinarian, then I got interested in wildlife and found myself really attracted to it,” he recalls. “Since that time it was always something I wanted to do and now I get lots of calls. It’s usually individuals with a wildlife problem, but I also get calls from the 911 people, the sheriff’s office, the state police. The city police call me, too. At times I’ll even get calls from the SPCA.”
      While Jack’s work isn’t extremely dangerous, it does occasionally call for extreme caution, since an animal gone astray can be in a foul mood or out of sorts from rabies. But whatever the case, Jack handles it with the professional approach he’s acquired over 14 years of wildlife wrangling.
      “I do rescue a lot of rabid animals,” he says, “but I’ve never been bitten or scratched or anything because I’ve done it so much. But you do have to be careful. Mostly I use a snare-pull, which is a pole with a loop on the end that catches them. Other than that, I will use baits, safe traps and lures. I usually know how the animal will act in a situation and one of those ways will work.”
      Although Jack loves his work and finds it very fulfilling, he does have one regret.
      “That I didn’t get into this a lot sooner,” he laments. “I like what I do, because it’s not just a job it’s me. I take my work very personally and I’m somewhat of a perfectionist in the way I like to get it done. It’s more of a way of life than just a job.”
      Jack Ryan lives and works in Ithaca, New York.

Doggie Deli Dizzy With Dachsunds
by Jay Barnes

Nancy Huffman owns a deli
In Ithaca, New York
She’ll serve you up a sandwich
With ham or beef or pork

And though the food is really grand
It’s mainly the decor
That makes you take a second glance
At things you can’t ignore

For Nancy loves her dachsund
It’s name is Sadie D.
And that’s what Nancy calls
Her Ithaca deli

Sadie D.s will fetch your eye
With dachsunds everywhere!
They’re on the shelves and counters
There’s not a wall that’s bare!

You’ll see the dachsund holders
Of many different types
For pencils, coins and toothpicks
And even some for pipes

You say you want some coffee?
In a fancy dachsund cup?
Now stir in cream and sugar
With a spoon-shaped dachsund pup

And if you like nice blossoms
There’s a dachsy flower planter
Or how about a sip
From a dachsund wine decanter?

And on one shelf you’re sure to find
Some dachsund hats and bags
And Nancy keeps the deli clean
With dachsund cleaning rags

And if you take too big a bite
And dribble down your chin
You can dab it off real quick
With a weiner dog napkin

So it’s as clear as it can be
There are dachsunds everywhere
On banks and toys and picture books
And Nancy’s cookingware

So come on back to Sadie D.s
And each time you’ll see more
Dachsunds here and dachsunds there
In Nancy’s deli store.

Nancy has about 1,200 dachsund items in Sadie D.s, located in the Dewitt Mall in Ithaca, New York.

Reading with Rover

by Barbara Bidell                     Rover


(Las Vegas, NV) - It's Nevada Reading Week and a young student in Mrs. Souza's class of English Language Learners breezes through the Dr. Seuss classic "The Cat in the Hat" as a mild mannered seven-year-old listens attentively. However, Laser is a little different from her audience of second-grade piers: he's a Belgian Tervuren, a champion show dog - and a great listener. He is part of a team of therapy dogs that are wandering in and out of the classrooms at Roger Bryan Elementary School in Las Vegas this week - all part of a new program called "Reading with Rover".
      The partnership was established last year between K-9 Therapists of Las Vegas and a branch of the Las Vegas Clark County Library District in an effort to help students who were struggling with reading. Bonnie Giles, a staff member at Roger Bryan, whose greyhound Gracie is involved in the program, brought the dogs into the school for Nevada Reading Week this year. The program focuses on students who tend to be self-conscious about reading and need a non-judgmental second party to listen while they sharpened their read-aloud skills.
      "Some children are shy," says Roger Bryan Literacy Specialist Karen Barry. "It's intimidating to be around strangers," she says referring to circumstances that children come up against when they are forced to read in front of a tutor, their teachers or even their parents. "With a dog there is no intimidation. The dogs are just there for support."
      Because the dogs are trained therapy dogs, there is no danger to the children. Giles says for example, her dog Gracie has endured incidences where a child even pulled her lips open.
      "Gracie didn't snap or anything," says Giles. "We knew she would be a great therapy dog."
      That same temperament is displayed by all dogs in the program. After our visit with Laser, we followed a chocolate Labrador named Koko (short for Kokopelli) while she visited with two different classrooms. Eleven-year-old Koko started her life as a therapy dog when she went to visit "grandma" in a nursing home. Indeed, you can tell that Koko is a seasoned veteran. Second and third graders four and five at a time reach out to pet her. Koko's mom Joy Wilson says she loves interacting with people and misses the experience on the weeks when she doesn't make it to a therapy session. Koko is seen regularly at Sunrise Hospital visiting with children who are sick and often, disabled. She also lifts the spirits of children at Child Haven, a home for children who have been mistreated or abandoned by their caregivers. Koko loves her roll in "Reading with Rover" as do the other dogs in the program. There were nine altogether who teamed for this latest project at Roger Bryan: Lana, a white Toy Poodle; Onyx, a Labrador - Sharpei mix; Francoise, a black Standard Poodle; Dusty, a Golden Retriever; Nana, a terrier mix; and Pooh, a gray Snoodle (part Schnauzer - Poodle mix).
      Overall, the experience has been a good one for both the students and the dogs. Karen Barry says she would like to see the program expanded throughout the year. And judging by the vigorous wave of Koko's tail, it's bound to be a rewarding partnership.


(Above) Third Graders at Roger Bryan Elementary swarm Koko, an 11-year-old Chocolate Lab during Nevada Reading Week. (Below) Koko and her owner, Joy Wilson listen as a second grader reads. Her classmates, and her teacher, Mrs. Grafer looks on.



A Purr-fect Mother's Day!


(Jacksonville, FL) – “T.K.” is one lucky puppy. When he was brought to the Jacksonville Humane Society on April 13, his odds for survival seemed slim. The tiny pup was only two weeks old and had no mother to feed and care for him.

In a moment of desperate creative thinking, the JHS technical team decided to see if a mother cat, already nursing a litter of eight kittens, would be willing to take on one more hungry baby---even if that baby was a dog. Much to everyone’s surprise and delight, little “T.K.” was welcomed with “open paws” by Rose, the mama cat.

“The maternal and nurturing instinct in mammals is quite strong, and most new mothers will accept babies of another species quite willingly,” said JHS Medical Director Dr. Pat Gionet.

In addition to milk from his “step mom”, “T.K.” (which stands for Tom Kitten) is also receiving supplemental feeding to ensure he gets all the nutrients he needs. Once he is weaned, he’ll be neutered, tattooed and receive his first round of vaccinations before being placed for adoption. But for now, “T.K.” thinks his feline family is absolutely purr-fect!




Cracking Down on Cruelty

by Barbara Bidell (Tallahassee, FL) - Those convicted of animal cruelty in Florida will pay heavily for their crime. Lawmakers voted this year to tighten the sentences for those who knowingly and intentionally torture or torment an animal. Florida lawmakers passed a measure that dictates punishment from anger management and $2,500.00 fine for first offenders to five years imprisonment and $10,000.00 for those convicted of a third offense.
        The latest law is the culmination of a lengthy fight by Florida State Senate Majority Leader Jack King. King was at a legislative convention in New York when he first thought about re-igniting a flame that had been doused years ago by state lawmakers. King had spearheaded a movement years ago to strengthen Florida's animal cruelty laws, but his efforts were thwarted by a slew of powerful lobbyists, from rodeo enthusiasts to pig farmers. The fierce challenges came even though as King put it: "The bill had nothing to do with the slaughter of beef and the caging of pigs and had everything to do with cruelty to animals." Nonetheless, the bill never made it to law - until King started again this year. It was at the legislative convention that his passion was re-kindled. There, lawmakers were introduced to new evidence linking animal cruelty to human cruelty. As if to add fuel to the fire, the conference was followed by what King calls a "rash of cruelty," including one incident where a 17-year-old allegedly shot a dog with several arrows. King says that was just the beginning. He says he read instances where cats were put in microwaves and blown up, dogs were doused with gasoline and set on fire.
        The convention, along with the onslaught of blatant cruelty motivated King to try again to stem the tide of brutality against animals. He started by teaming with state attorneys in a quest for solid numbers. Their collaborative research confirmed his suspicions: the numbers showed that animal cruelty was on the rise. Armed with his newfound research, he joined with State Representative Jeff Kottcamp in the House and mounted a successful campaign to strengthen Florida's animal cruelty laws. After months of lobby and a few adjustments, the bill is on Governor Bush's desk, awaiting his signature. Upon the governor's approval, those convicted of animal cruelty will have to undergo anger management classes and a minimum fine of up to $2,500.00. Those convicted a second time face a minimum fine of up to $5,000.00 and up to a year in jail. If convicted of a third offense, the cruelty would then be considered a third degree felony, which calls for a $10,000.00 fine and/or up to five years imprisonment.
        For more information on the measure, go to the Florida state website at

Back in the Saddle

by Barbara Bidell

(Blacksburg, VA) - One of the Mid-Atlantic's largest veterinary teaching hospitals is back in business after a six-month shut down. The Harry T. Peters Large Animal Hospital at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine was forced to close its "in-hospital" services and make some major renovations after battling salmonella contamination. Jeff Douglas, a spokesman for the teaching hospital says officials suspected something was wrong last June when two animals being treated at the facility apparently contracted the bacteria while at the facility, despite a rigorous cleaning practice.
      "We were basically hosing and scrubbing the facilities 24-7," said Douglas. "But what happens is moisture gets down in the [rubberized] surface, and salmonella thrives in a dark, moist environment."
      Douglas said the vulnerability of the structure forced them to close the facility in order to make some major improvements. Among the renovations was the installation of about 14,000 square feet of flooring: hospital officials believe that residual moisture from routine cleaning had penetrated the surface through cracks and was actually harboring the salmonella bacteria. The new granular floor solves the problem of leakage and provides better traction for the animals and hospital personnel. Some other renovations included replacement of existing wood casement and counter areas, which are also vulnerable to the salmonella bacteria, with stainless steel; new stall matting in many of the animal holding areas; and new electronic plumbing designed for greater biosecurity.
      Douglas said VMRCVM was still able to conduct field operations and outpatient services during the closure, however he knows the hiatus hurt.
      "I'm sure the shut down posed an inconvenience," Douglas noted, "But we did what we could to treat the animals on an outpatient basis." The Peters large Animal Hospital is one of 28 such teaching hospitals in the country, and certainly the largest in Virginia and Maryland, treating 1,100 animals per year.
      However, the temporary inconvenience was necessary and should hold the facility for years to come. According to Douglas, the faculty conducted extensive research and consulted with other campuses that had faced similar challenges with the stubborn salmonella bacteria. Six months and $275,000 later, officials with VMRCVM believe they have concurred microscopic menace, and can serve large animals in the region, unscathed, for years to come.  

The Orphaned Animals of 9/11

by Barbara Bidell

(New York, NY) --  As America’s largest city begins to recover from the heartache and the hardships brought on in 2001, the anxiety and upheaval yields to routine and reality.  This phenomenon is perhaps most evident within the lives of the animals who lost their caregivers and best friends in the horror of September 11.  Immediately following the tragedy, the  New York branch of the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals took in 25 orphaned animals.  It also exhausted its foster network to care for animals whose owners were injured in the incident or who were kept from their pets due to the instability of lower Manhattan.  Gail Buchwald, Director of  ASPCA Cares, a branch of the non-profit group, says all of the orphaned animals found homes.  She says many relatives who had lost loved ones, immediately stepped in to take care of their pets.

“We found that many next of kin took the animals,”  says Buchwald.  “Many felt like it was all they had left of that person.”  However, she says four months later, reality has set in.

“They’ve had a lot of problems, especially with the large, undisciplined dogs,” she says. Buchwald adds certain dogs, even certain breeds of dogs are having a tough time dealing with their loss.  She talks of one Dalmatian that continues to suffer from separation anxiety.

“He stands at the door and cries all night,” says Buchwald.  She says many of these animals are very sensitive, and not only are they feeling the absence of their owner, but they also feel the stress and sadness from other family members.

“A lot of times animals reflect what they are getting from their human companions.”  Buchwald says the ASPCA has a full time psychologist and social worker on board who are equipped to help family members and their pets cope; that is, if the families haven’t given up hope.

“Unfortunately, by the time they come to us, they are at their wit’s end,” admits Buchwald.  She encourages victim’s families who feel overly challenged by their new pet to give them a call before they become overwhelmed. Buchwald believes that families of such tragedies carry the burden of an undisciplined or challenging pet beyond their capabilities out of devotion for their loved one. However, Buchwald says there is no shame in asking for help.   

“This is not what they bargained for,” she says, “but they hang on because they think this is what their loved one would have wanted.” The service is free to those who have taken in pets whose owners perished in the World Trade Center disaster.  ASPCA has also paid for veterinary bills for acute medical conditions for those directly affected by the disaster. For those whose families and pets are still finding the relationships too challenging, they can call the ASPCA at 212-876-7700.  


Mission Quite Possible

by Barbara Bidell

(Jacksonville, FL) - If you saw a dog wandering around a hospital, you might expect to see him followed by looks of confusion and concern, but when Angus the Great Dane or one of his ten other canine colleagues walks into Wolfson Children's Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, each is greeted with smiles and expressions of excitement.

The eleven dogs are part of the Pet Therapy Program at the hospital: a program that has been enhancing hospital stays for Wolfson’s young patients for over six years. Dick Wallace has served as program chair for all but its first three months. Wallace says the program is extremely popular with the patients, but the children aren’t the only beneficiaries. 

“The target is the patients, but it’s a comfort to staff and the families of patients, too,” says Wallace.  

He says the dogs love it.   

“Each one of the dogs sees this as their mission,” he adds.  

Wallace says they never have a problem recruiting dogs. In fact, there is a waiting list for dogs and their owners who are interested in serving in the program. The dogs and their owners go through a rigorous screening process. Each dog is screened along with his or her owner. Five area veterinarians volunteer their time to screen the dogs. There is a re-screening every six months. The dogs must be in good health and temperament.

“They have to go through three physical and emotional screenings,” Wallace says of the dogs.

They have to take stool and throat specimens. It’s a lengthy process: it can take three for four months to get in. Once they’ve made the cut, the visitors teams must follow some stringent rules: dogs cannot ride on the elevator; they cannot bark; they must be on a leash at all times; and owners must always have control of their dogs.

Wallace says the screening process has proven a success: Wolfson has just had its 40-thousandth room visitor “encounter”. . .all without a negative incident. That says something about the owners as well as the dogs. It’s the owner’s responsibility to determine whether the dogs are too fatigued to complete their two hour visit. That does happen. Wallace says there are clues that owners look for.

“Like in a big dog, their tail stops wagging.”

Most are big dogs. The average weight of the canines is 79 pounds, but there is one Poodle and one Chihuahua added to the mix lead by two German Shephards, a Saint Bernard and, of course, Angus, the Great Dane. With an average of 25 encounters each visit, Wallace says most of the dogs are quite worn out by the end of their visits.

“All go home and pretty much collapse,” says Wallace.

At the end of the day though, their energy expended can be seen in the happy faces of Wolfson’s young patients. Mission accomplished.


Horse Therapy

By Barbara Bidell

(North Las Vegas, NV) -  The Southern Nevada Therapeutic Riding Center is less than ten miles from the sensory-slamming Las Vegas Strip, but the surroundings of the center are so serene, one could be convinced that he was in the middle of the hills of Montana.  The Therapeutic Riding Center sits on donated land overlooking the mountains of Southern Nevada. The non-profit organization boasts of a dedicated team of volunteers consisting of a handful of young horse enthusiasts, led by Executive Director Dave Howe and Instructor Len Morris, and five “program horses” donated to the riding center. Together this team beats the sunrise to get ready for a day of riding that will take a handful of physically challenged individuals down the road to recovery. Riders are charged per lesson, but they are not turned away if they cannot pay.  The money collected goes for food and upkeep of the animals. 

By the time the center opens for business at 8 a.m., Len and Dave have been at the stables for two-and-a-half hours sweeping and getting the horses ready for the day. Dave, Len and the volunteer team treat the horses with a special diligence that is not wasted on those who patronize the facility.  A family member of one of the riders told a story of Dave and Len missing a Billy Ray Cyrus concert because they had to stay the night with one of the horses that had fallen ill.
 Melissa brushes Bro under the supervision of Instructor Len Morris.

“I’m very impressed with the way everything is handled,” says Paulette, the mother of 18-year-old Melissa, one of the patrons of the program who rides to offset the difficulties associated with her cerebral palsy.  “They’re nice to the animals—they’re really clean and well-cared for.”  That’s not the only thing that impresses Pauline and her daughter, Rebekah, Melissa’s older sister. Rebekah says she is very impressed with the instructor.

“Len is always thinking about the needs of the kids,” says Rebekah.

“Melissa once rode with another girl, and Len made sure they were both getting the same amount of attention.” 

Len and the crew are also sticklers for safety.  Safety rules are posted boldly next to the door of the facility.  Gates are securely closed with chains to make sure that the horses don’t get out.  Len, Dave and the volunteers also stay close to the horse and rider to make minimize risk to the rider, however, Melissa is experienced enough to guide herself, although Dave and another “sidewalker” are close by.

“She’s controlling the horse,” says sister Rebekah. “She’s the boss.”

Rebekah and mother Pauline say riding has given Melissa a great boost of self-esteem. “It gives her great spirit.”

Rebekah and Pauline didn’t realize how important riding was to Melissa until she had to miss some sessions. “She got very depressed,” says mom.

You would never know it to see Melissa’s beaming smile as she rides atop her new companion, Bro, a large, 32-year-old easy-going gelding. Not much phases Bro. His calm temperament is ideal for his roll as a therapy horse, says Len. Len and Dave spend a lot of time looking for horses that can handle the inherent strains of the job. “We look for older horses that will work well with the kids,” says Len. She says geldings generally have a better temperament for the work compared to mares. 

One such mare, Honey, has been a little “sour” lately. Len and Dave have recently lightened the workload for Honey, who has been working with R.J.

R.J. is a friendly, six-year-old boy who is living with Angelman’s Syndrome, a neurological disorder that is often misdiagnosed as autism or cerebral palsy. Therapeutic riding helps with R.J’s gait and balance. R.J.’s trip around the course is much more intense than Melissa’s because of his age and disability, but he seems to enjoy the ride as much as she.

With R.J. as the rider, Honey is guided by two leaders, while Len and R.J.'s’ physical therapist, Deb are on one side and Courtney, another volunteer is on the other.  R.J.’s mom Mary is never far behind.  The most challenging part of the ride is when R.J. turns on the horse. This can be trying for even an able-bodied rider, but for R.J. it proves to be a real challenge, but one that is necessary in his physical therapy.

The therapy seems to be a bit more challenging for Honey than it is for R.J. She is showing some slight irritation, so the session is cut a little short for safety’s sake. R.J. is taken over to the ramp to dismount, and Honey is given a treat for her efforts. 
R.J. gets acquainted with Sugar
Because of Honey’s latest reaction, the therapeutic team is considering teaming R.J. with Sugar, a small pony. At 12 hands, the crew feels it might be easier on them to help R.J. physically on the smaller animal. R.J. gets a chance to pet Sugar. She is very receptive and the future looks bright for the relationship.
R.J. is thrilled by the horse therapy. Flankers are physical therapist Deb and volunteer  Courtney. David  Howe and Jeremy serve as the leaders.
However, Honey is tired, and will not be asked to work any more today.  That is why Melissa has been paired with Bro for the second time in as many weeks. Even though Melissa hit it off well with Honey, she seems to have made a quick connection with Bro. Perhaps that’s because she’s such a good study. Part of the program is that the riders know the horses.
“The first day they sent paperwork home with her,” says Rebekah.  “She had to know the brushes and each part of the horse.”
As part of the program, Melissa must groom Bro and get him ready to ride.
She starts off brushing Bro, using no fewer than five grooming tools, citing the name of each one. As she moves from one side of the horse to the other, she is sure to keep one hand on the back of him—one of the main rules of safety taught at the riding center.

“That’s so the horse knows she’s behind him,” says Len.
Melissa doesn’t seem to mind the grooming work. In fact, her smile doesn’t wane during the 15 to 20 minutes it takes her to get Bro ready for the ride, which includes putting on the English saddle. She spends nearly an hour on the easy-going sway back, first doing balance and muscle strengthening exercises as Bro meanders through the workout, led gently by Dave Howe. Melissa then guides the horse herself through a relatively challenging course. 
The benefits of horseback riding are recognized by medical professionals as well as the family members at the riding center. Among those endorsing the therapeutic qualities of horseback riding are the American Physical Therapy Association and the American Occupational Therapy Association.  Those with physical challenges experience emotional and mental rewards as pointed out by Melissa’s family,  but they also benefit physically. 
“The rhythm of the horse moves the rider’s body in a way that’s similar to the human gait,” explains Len. “It also helps with balance, muscle strength and flexibility.”
At the end of the hour, Bro and Melissa look equally tired, but the two finish their routine—Melissa removes the saddle and the rest of the equipment that she herself put on the horse, and then feeds Bro a treat for his efforts.
The team, including the riders themselves,  walks away tired, but seems happy and satisfied to have played a roll in boosting the confidence, self-esteem and physical abilities of the riders living with physical challenges. A poem displayed on the SNTRC’s web site says it best:


The Horse

By John Anthony Davis

I saw a child who couldn’t walk,
Sit on a horse, laugh and talk,
Then ride it through a field of daisies.
And yet he could not walk unaided.
I saw a child no legs below,
Sit on a horse and make it go
Through woods of green and places he had never been
To sit and stare, except for a chair.
I saw a child who could only crawl,
mount a horse and sit up tall;
then put it through degree of paces
and laugh at the wonder in our faces.
I saw a child born into strife,
Take up and hold the reins of life
And that same child was heard to say,
“Thank God for showing me the way. . .”


Ryerss Retirement

By Barbara Bidell

Listen to Ryerss Retirement   (RealPlayer)

(Pottstown, PA) - It's either feast or famine for the Ryerss Farm for Aged Equines in Eastern Pennsylvania. Last year the horse sanctuary had to purchase hay from farmers in New York state because it was ravaged from the drought. It had to rely on nationwide donations to purchase the food.

"This year we have too much rain," says Joe Donahue, President of the Board of the non-profit agency. "We were late bringing the hay in - there was not enough dry weather."

Donahue says nutrition falls a little short if the hay is not harvested on time, but he says the horses won't suffer, he'll just have to add supplemental feed to the daily compliment. Donahue has his hands full, caring for 95 horses as of mid-July, 2000. Ryerss Farm has been caring for horses that have been mistreated or abandoned since 1888. Back then, the horse haven was known as Ryerss Infirmary for Dumb Animals. Pressure from animal activists influenced the group to change its name in 1991 to Ryerss Farm for Aged Equines. No matter what the name is, the farms mission remains:

"It's a retirement home for aged horses," explains Donahue.

The horses are received from a number of sources, like the Large Animal Protection Society. The rescue agencies often look to Ryerss to provide a permanent home for the abused horses.

"Once a horse arrives, it never leaves," says Donahue.

Of course there are always exceptions to the rule. For example, nine carriage horses from nearby Philadelphia were rescued, and then sent to farms in New Jersey, West Virginia and elsewhere in Pennsylvania. Also, every year Ryerss buys foals from farmers associated with the hormone replacement industry. The industry "farms out" urine from pregnant mares, that is sold to pharmaceutical companies to produce the hormone replacement. The foals born as a result of the hormone replacement trade are often auctioned off to be used in experimental labs or meat packers. Ryerrs buys the horses for about $650.00 a piece before they can go to auction. It then finds homes for the 25 to 35 horses bought from the hormone replacement farmer.

"We've been criticized by animal rights activists who say that every dollar given to the rancher keep them in business," says Donahue.

However, Donahue says the farmer actually makes more on the horse if it goes to auction. He says this way, Ryerss is certain that the horse will be protected, and he won't be outbid. He says he has no problem finding good homes for the foals.

"We get about 75 to 100 applicants for the foals," Donahue says.

However, he says quite a few of those requests come from farms out West.


Indy's Temple of Hope

By Barbara Bidell

Listen to Indy's Temple of Hope   (RealPlayer)

(Las Vegas, NV) -- Las Vegans are dipping deep into their pockets for a very charming three-month-old puppy who has been through some trying times.

"Indy", named after the silver screen folk hero Indiana Jones, suffered injuries that would make his namesake squirm. When he was brought into the Mountain Vista Animal Hospital in Las Vegas last week: he was suffering from several fractures in his ribs, elbow and leg that officials with Clark County animal control believe were caused by abuse. The elbow fracture was serious enough to warrant surgery. Dr. Bill Taylor, the man who operated on Indy, says the puppy is recovering nicely.

"He is walking better and better each day," says Taylor.

Despite the trauma Indy doesn't seem any worse for the experience.

"He was abused, but you couldn't tell from his personality," says Taylor. "He's very outgoing and very happy."

Indy's charm has touched the hearts of Las Vegas area residents. Thousands of dollars has been pouring in to cover Indy's medical bills. In fact, the funds will more than cover the cost of the surgery and follow-up. What's left over will be used to open a fund for abused animals at the Animal Emergency Center.

As Indy heads home with his new family, he leaves behind a legacy: a foundation of hope for other abused animals.


...And This Little Piggy Got Cloned

By Jay Barnes

First we heard the "Baaaaa Baaaa" of Dolly the cloned sheep. Now, thanks to the same researchers, we can hear the "Oink, oink" of little piggies. This is the tale of five cloned piglets, conceived and created for the purpose of xenotransplantation---using animal organs and cells for human transplants. The little piggies; Alexis, Carrel, Dotcom, Millie, and Christa, delivered at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, are a landmark in cloning, since pigs are recognized as the animal-of-choice for xenotransplants. While the vet school provided only clinical services for the piglets, the research was instituted and funded by PPLTherapeutics in Edinburgh, Scotland.

"The goal is to try and deliver an unlimited supply of organs to overcome the worldwide organ shortage crisis," said David Ayares, vice-president of research at PPL's U.S. based subsidiary in Blacksburg, Virginia. "But we need to genetically modify these pigs first, so that when their organs are transplanted into humans they're not rejected by the immune system."

One modification yet to be accomplished is overcoming a major human immune system stumbling block: hyper-acute rejection, which occurs in the first few minutes.

"There's an enzyme that puts alpha 1-3 gal (sugar) on the surface of all pig cells," Ayares said. "That sugar says 'I'm a pig,' and when you transplant it into a human it will be immediately rejected. Using a process called "gene targeting" we can knock out the alpha 1-3 gal transferase gene, the enzyme that produces the sugar."

After removing a cell from a pig, researchers neutralize the alpha 1-3 gal transferase gene by altering the nucleus. After the original nucleus is removed from another egg cell, it is replaced by the neutralized gene. In a few days, the egg divides and transforms into an embryo. Many of the embryos are implanted into a surrogate mother and carried to term.

"Then we've created a pig whose organs and cells, because we're also looking at cell-based therapy, can be used for a heart; a kidney; contribute pancreatic cells for treatment of diabetes; and donate neurons for treatment of Parkinson's disease," said Ayares. "So you can get multiple tissue types out of each animal, but we're focusing on heart and kidneys. As far as size and biology, the heart and the kidneys are very well matched with the human."

Researchers hope the xenotransplantation with the pig organs and cells starts in about four years, after the pigs have grown and more research has taken place. But there are others who hope such scientific advancements never come to pass, and would like to see xenotransplantation permanently terminated.

"It's shameful and it's reckless," according to Lisa Lange, the Director of Policy and Communications for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) based in Norfolk. "Basically, it's being undertaken by PPL and other organizations for profit. What they're failing to do is even touch on the issue of the ethics involved."

Lange is also concerned about the possibility of xenotransplants spreading viruses that have yet to be introduced to the human population.

"What they're interested in doing is touting this as some type of a cure for an organ shortage--and that is not what this is," said Lange. "This is a way to make a select few people an awful lot of money, but it overlooks the potential public safety hazard and the fact that they are dealing in organs that belong to the animals that were born with them." A yares says PPL's work with pig cloning is a more than legitimate practice, especially when compared with other sow resources.

"We have been using pigs for agricultural and for food sources for thousands of years. We use, in this country, more than two million pigs a year for that purpose. And I'm talking about using 50 to 100,000 pigs generating organs for saving lives."


A Costly Cat Rescue

By Barbara Bidell

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(Pryor, OK) - Dan Judd hates to be called a hero. However, there is a mound of evidence against him. His story has all the makings of the consummate, if not classic, hero. Allow me to explain.

Two years ago Dan Judd suffered the tragedy of watching his business go up in flames. In a panic, he ran into the burning building, not to grab his business documents or work equipment, but to rescue a stray cat and her six kittens. 

" I couldn' t see 'em," he said, "so I just started grabbing fuzzy stuff and I came up with seven." Thanks to Judd, the mother and her babies have another eight lives.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Judd's business, Electronic Product Development, Inc. Judd has been out of work since the fire due to a squabble with the insurance company and the manufacturer of the water cooler that is believed to have started the fire.

Judd said an insurance company representative told him that he made the decision to rescue the cats instead of the company files and equipment. 

"He told me, 'unfortunately, we don't insure cats .' Just to think that somebody could use that as an excuse ." Judd said the company' s argument was that if he had time to rescue the cats, he could have rescued his contents of his business instead.

The statement enraged Judd to the point of taking his plight to the Internet. He has solicited several hundred web sites to link with his cause, and that has apparently angered the insurance company and the water cooler manufacturer. Judd is now being sued for libel and related offenses to the tune of over $700 million. To add insult to injury, the lawsuit has been filed in a federal court in Ohio, where the company is located. 

" I can barely afford a lawyer in Ohio. I can' t afford go there," said Judd.

Judd has received a lot of support through the Internet. He has even received donations and offers for donations from people and groups, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund. However, he is not accepting them.

" I'd rather they take the $25 and spay or neuter a cat," he said.  "That is how I got into this mess in the first place." Judd "adopted" the mother cat after he found it pregnant and abandoned.

  He is directing those who truly want to donate to the cause to give the money directly to his attorney for legal bills. He never turns down moral support either, and tries to keep up with the volumes of e-mail he receives to this date. If you would like to reach Dan Judd, you can e-mail him at:

Pat him on the back, wish him luck, or just make your opinion known, but just don't call him a hero, even though all evidence points to the contrary.


24 Carat Ferret

By Barbara Bidell

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(Las Vegas, NV) - 24 Carat Ferret, "where ferrets are treated like gold." Thus reads the inscription on C.J. Jones' business card. The message is also posted in full view at ground zero of her ferret rescue headquarters, her home in Southwest Las Vegas. As of mid-February, C.J. has 30 ferrets in her custody, and all are treated as part of the family. She has had up to 60 in the three-and-a-half years that she has operated the shelter. And, although she works full-time and is mother to a 14-year-old son, she makes sure she finds the time to spend with all the animals that she's rescued. She has foregone movies, dinners out and vacations in order to keep the shelter going.

"It's definitely a sacrifice," she says with a smile. "I can't go away for a weekend because I can't leave them."

She has rescued over 400 ferrets. Thanks to recent publicity and word of mouth, she has adopted out most of them. However, she does not leave the care of the ferrets to just anyone. There is a screening process. C.J. expects a similar commitment from those who adopt one of her exotic animals.

Even though C.J. is a big fan of the ferret, she says they are not for everyone; their care can get expensive, and they need a lot of attention. Unfortunately, she says it takes some people months, or even years in some cases, before they realize that they are not equipped to be ferret owners. She calls February and March the "return season", when those who purchased ferrets as Christmas gifts for their mates realize that the commitment is too great for a lasting relationship.

C.J. admits that even as much as she loves the animals, they can try your patience. She tells of one ferret by the name of Bam-Bam.

"He ate the buttons off my phone," she says. The phone still has the evidence to prove it. "I have to guess the numbers."

"They are smart", she says. "Just try to keep them out of the something,"

She says even a five pound sack of potatoes is fair game for a curious ferret.

"I have no bottom drawers," she says, showing me a lower drawer full of cozy ferret blankets and comforters. "They commandeer everything."

Ferrets can be pressing on the pocketbook as well as the patience. Not too long ago, when she was taking care of 50 ferrets, she was spending $60 to $80 a week on litter, $100 on food and $1,000 to $2,500 dollars on vet bills.

Adrenal problems are among the most common ailments of ferrets.

"The adrenal gland is supposed to be the size of the head of a match," she instructs. However, one ferret that she rescued had a gland extracted that was the size of a typical ferret's head, and she has the gland in her medicine cabinet to prove it. She keeps the glands along with a stethoscope, and several vials of medicine--all reminders of how fragile these tiny creatures really are compared to other animals.

"If my cat throws up, it's not that big a deal", she says. "If my ferret throws up, I'm going to take him to the vet."

C.J. says it is often hard to tell when ferrets are sick.

"They don't whine," she says. Therefore, ferrets owners have to be especially perceptive.

"Ferrets have a very high metabolism,"she says. "They eat every four hours."

A finicky ferret could mean a blocked intestine, or some other life-threatening problem.

"I had friends who found some lumps [on their ferret]," she recalls. "A week later it died [of cancer]."

Illness and death is not foreign to C.J. and her household. She has seen a number of her rescued animals die. She has preserved their memories in a small shrine in her living room. Ferrets and other animals have been cremated and their ashes are stored in decorative cases on a mantle. Each "urn" bears an inscription of the departed member of the family.

The cremation service is donated. C.J. relies on a number of donations to get by. She sells products and solicits donations to keep the shelter operating. She admits, it gets exhausting sometimes, but she continues. Indeed, animal rescue has been a significant part of her life since she was a child.

"I grew up on a farm, and I used to take in stray animals," she reminisces. "I used take in cats, go up to wild dogs. I don't know how I didn't get my face ripped off."

Her rescue efforts for cats and dogs continue, and she even hosts the exotic Sugar Gliders in the bedroom with--you guessed it--more ferrets. Most of the animals interact fairly well. And each has a distinctive "personality". There's "Purple", a small and very energetic ferret who likes to taunt and tease. One of Purple's main targets is Romeo, a two-and-a half pound "baby", who, at eight months, looks bigger than most of the old timers. Among the veterans is Geezer, a nine-year-old ferret who has defied Mother Nature and lived well beyond the seven-year life expectancy. Geezer even has a girlfriend in his twilight years. He's taken a liking to Robin, probably the most famous of the furry family. Robin was rescued after a call from boxer Mike Tyson's estate. C.J. says she gets a lot of calls inquiring about Robin, but she is hesitant to let her go.

"I get calls from people who just want to know about the Tyson ferret," she says.

That single-mindedness raises a red flag. C.J. takes a lot into consideration when she matches a ferret with a family.

"If they have kids, we wouldn't give them a 'nipper'," she says. Most ferrets are very playful, and most use their mouths when recreating. However, some bite more often and harder than others. She takes that into consideration as well. For example, she has had a request from a facility that houses Alzheimer's patients to bring over some ferrets as companions for some of the residents. She has chosen two of the older, more docile ferrets for that task.

She wants to make sure the ferrets don't wind up abandoned or at shelter that euthanize the animals. C.J. is committed to keeping the animals alive and healthy. She is often the final stop on the Ferret Underground Railroad (FURR), a California-based company that transports the exotic animals out of that state. California forbids ferrets to be kept as domestic animals, and state law calls for the euthanizing of the animals if they remain. C.J. right now is focusing on the rescue of the ferrets and is leaving the technicalities of the crusade to legalize ferrets in California to her associates. Meanwhile, C.J.'s shelter in Silver State must serve as a haven for California's ferrets, until the Golden State extends its motto to these precious gems.

Those who are interested in adopting a ferret in the Las Vegas area can contact C.J. Jones at 24-Carat Ferret Rescue and Shelter by phone (876-8224), or e-mail at


Benefits of a Birthday

By Barbara Bidell

(Tulsa, OK) - Talk of a 50th birthday party usually conjures up images of black balloons sporting messages like "over the hill." This year, Jennifer Farris decided to deny the novelty stores their profits in exchange for the support of a worthy cause.

"Well, I didn't want anybody to bring me more stuff," she said.

So instead of collecting "stuff", she collected donations for an animal charity rather than prank gifts, and her party guests got to show their stuff
on the golf course. In lieu of a party, Jennifer lured her golf-loving friends to the fairway from sun up to sundown for 50. . .that's right 50 holes of golf.

"After 28 holes I wondered 'what in the world was I thinking,'" she
said reminiscing about the November event. "I had one friend who made it with me."

Her other 24 guests proved that their hearts were greater than their stamina. Guests donated from $10 to $200. In all, Jennifer collected around $900 that was turned over to Animal Aid. The charity picks up injured animals, treats them, and attempts to find homes for them. Jennifer said the charity is very much needed in the Tulsa area. Jennifer notes a lot of people
abandon their domestic animals, and they just cannot survive in the wild.

Jennifer has seen the worst of it. She lived in the country for 20 years before moving into town in May. At one time she had taken in 18 animals, most of them domestic animals abandoned by their owners. She said
the dogs really had a hard time.

"Cats seem to do better than dogs," she explained. "Cats can survive on mice and birds." She says domestic cats seem to keep most of their survival instincts, while dogs do not.

The plight of these animals hit an open wound with Jennifer whose
terrier had just died two months earlier. In fact, it was her veterinarian, a
board member of Animal Aid, who sparked her interest in the group.

Apparently, the enthusiasm is contagious. She's had friends and even friends
of friends ask her about her party, and how they would go about doing something similar. Jennifer promises to keep us up to date. The benefits of this birthday have yet to be seen. Who knows, maybe in the new millennium, charity boxes will replace black balloons as the common staple for noting the half-century mark.


The Saving of a Sanctuary

By Barbara Bidell

( Las Vegas, NV) - Out in the barren desert of Southern Nevada just south of Las Vegas' McCarran Airport lies a sanctuary where hundreds of abandoned cats and kittens call home. The nonprofit group F.L.O.C.K. (For Love of Cats and Kittens) runs the sanctuary, and Executive Director Sylvia Renee Lyss and a handful of dedicated volunteers manage to feed, house, spay and neuter, and medically treat the animals on their shoe string budget.

When I went to visit the sanctuary in the early fall, I was surprised by the magnitude and warmth of the feline domicile. The cats are housed in large trailers equipped with heaters, swamp coolers, clean blankets and plenty of food and water. The trailers are surrounded by beautiful landscaping and a new fence. The director told me that they are beholden to a crop of generous volunteers like Grant Greene who owns the property and allows the cats to board free of charge. However, Lyss says that despite the generosity, the sanctuary has all it can do to get from one month to the next.

The facility is still smarting from the remnants of the 100 year flood that swamped Las Vegas in July. Dozens of the cats were swept away in the storm, and the fence that protected the animals from predators was virtually destroyed. Lyss and her group of volunteers are still trying to catch up.

"We need to know that we can always pay our food bill," says Lyss. However, the food bill is just a portion of the problem. Even more costly are the vet bills. Even though F.L.O.C.K. has recruited the services of a veterinarian (Sam) who provides low cost medical services, the group is still looking at 600 dollars in medical fees. On that, Lyss says, they cannot skimp. "There are no 'unspayed' or 'unneutered' cats," she says. "We cannot allow them to give birth here." In fact, Lyss says the Las Vegas area is suffering from a population explosion. Lyss says there are hundreds of thousands of stray cats in Las Vegas, and yet some pet owners insist on fostering a litter.

Lyss says she can't tell me how many owners she's talked to who say, "I want my cat to have one litter before I have her spayed." Lyss says that one cat in seven years can yield 8,000! Therefore, Lyss encourages owners to get their cats spayed and neutered when they are about two months old. She says vets have found that it is safe for cats to undergo the surgery at eight weeks.

F.L.O.C.K is the only facility that traps and houses feral cats in the area. That poses an added burden in the sanctuary's efforts to stem the growing population. Furthermore, F.L.O.C.K. will not put a healthy animal to sleep. However, Lyss says there are plenty of people out there who believe otherwise. "There is a lot of hostility," she says.

She tells me of one dog owner who encouraged his canine to kill kittens. Even more appalling was a story about a motel owner who seven years ago boarded up the inn on the Strip, knowing that there were two nursing mothers with seven or eight kittens inside that would starve to death. "I begged them to cut a kitty door," says Lyss. "They told me to get off the property." She did manage to feed the cats despite the owner's attitude.

She is quick to mention the motel is under new management now, and the owner is very cooperative. However, the latter owner is a rarity. She says the struggle with the managers and owners of hotels is often more of an obstacle than trapping the stray cats.

In spite of the hardships, Lyss and her volunteers go out nightly to trap cats and bring them into the fold. Lyss says the daily task is overwhelming, but she does it for the love of the animals. She hopes to inspire others to hop on the bandwagon. "We need more volunteers," says Ann Smith, my other host at the sanctuary. "We really need an office staff to answer phone, appeal for donations and receive donations."

Right now, volunteers like Ann Smith, operate out of their homes. Anyone interested in volunteering or donating to the nonprofit group is encouraged to call F.L.O.C.K. at (702) 615-4198. The
number is the same for those who want to adopt one of the many playful cats or kittens at the facility. Each of the cats is spayed or neutered and have the appropriate inoculations. They are also tested for the common life-threatening feline diseases.


Saving the Tiger

By Barbara Bidell

(Las Vegas, NV) - It's late summer here in Las Vegas and I am amidst about thirty fun-loving locals gathered around a back yard swimming pool for a pre-Labor Day party. Among the guests, are about five children, including one that weighs about 450 pounds.

Three-year-old Mustapha is a young, playful Bengal tiger. He is the guest of honor and the subject of intrigue at what you have probably guessed is not your typical neighborhood backyard barbecue. This friendly get-together is actually known as a "Big Cat Encounter." The phenomenon is a means by which Mustapha's owner, Karl Mitchell teaches the public about the Bengal tiger. The lessons are conducted in a creative and fun manner, but the message is serious and straight forward.

"The Bengal tiger will be extinct in the wild in the next 20 years," Mitchell told me during our first phone encounter. "There were about 28,000 Bengal tigers in the wild 30 years ago. Today, there are 7,000."

To stave off the dwindling numbers, Mitchell is dedicating much of his time to Big Cat Encounters, a nonprofit group dedicated to repopulating the Bengal tiger.

Mitchell's ultimate goal is to establish a reserve in the Bengal tiger's native land of India. Mitchell has already lined up a four-thousand acre sight in the Northwest province of Rajasthan for the project. He's in the process of trying to round up $2.5 million to set up and run the reserve. The funding will have to include money to provide rangers around the clock to protect the habitat. Mitchell hopes to inseminate Sheba, who is already the mother of three, to start the line of Bengal tigers at the reserve. Mitchell hopes to have the reserve up and running by 2003.

In the meantime, he will continue to do what he can to educate the world about the importance of preserving the Bengal tiger. He does that by making the tigers available to the public. Through Big Cat Encounters, people interested in a hands on experience with a tiger can either come to Mitchell's ranch in Parhump, Nevada or have Mitchell and a member of his team of tiger ambassadors come to them.

Mitchell has traveled as far away as New York City to get his message across. He only had to travel about 30 minutes for his Las Vegas encounter. It took another 30 minutes or so before Mustapha was comfortable enough to interact with the guests. It is a lengthy, but rewarding process.

Mitchell usually starts by getting the tiger into a comfort zone. For Mustapha, that means in the water. After a few minutes in the spa, Mitchell managed to move Mustapha into the main pool. From there, Mustapha is fastened to a table that sits on the bottom of the pool. Mitchell holds the chain that keeps him there and doesn't let Mustapha wander too far from his grip. He is allowed to move freely in about a ten foot radius. The young tiger is then allowed to "scope out his environment," and is given some time to "be a cat," Mitchell explains. At several times during the encounter, Mustapha jumps up on Mitchell, pulling his trainer's hat down over his eyes, and at times using his owner's head as a footstool for resting his declawed front paws.

Mitchell allows Mustapha quite a bit of leeway while the two are playing together, but when guests enter the pool for their encounter with the tiger, the tune changes. During the course of the encounter, seven daring party goers enter the water with Mustapha, and after a bit of coaching from Mitchell, are able to pet him. After an hour of direct interaction with Mustapha, the guest of honor is led from the water and back into the portable that brought him to the City of Entertainment.

The routine is familiar to Mustapha. He and his family are some of the most sought after animals in the entertainment world. The eldest resident at Mitchell's ranch, Raja, now 14, was once a regular for photo shoots in magazines such as Elle and Vogue. At the time of our encounter, Mitchell and his feline crew were preparing for a shoot for an upcoming television series. Mitchell says although the work is fun, it is done more out of necessity than recreation. After all, it takes a lot of money to feed and maintain 11 tigers.

"They eat $900.00 worth of meat in a week," he notes. Raising tigers in the dry heat of Nevada presents an added challenge.
"I don't believe in keeping them on concrete," he says. So, Mitchell spends some extra time and money making sure that the tigers are comfortable at home. He uses sod and bedding that has to be changed frequently. He relies on about ten volunteers, some of whom are at work at 7 a.m., to beat the Southern Nevada heat. The extra pampering seems to be paying off. In his entire 25 year history of working with animals professionally, Mitchell has not suffered a single injury.

"It's a testimony to the technique," he says. Mitchell has thrown aside the traditional training methods that in the past have been based on fear and submission. You will find NO sticks and whips around Mitchell's animals. His training is based on love and reinforcement, a technique he learned from one of the masters. Mitchell served as an apprentice for trainer Ray Berwick. Berwick trained the birds that were featured in the Alfred Hitchcock film "The Birds." Mitchell worked with Berwick at Universal Studios. The two also trained animals for several T.V. series including "Baretta" and "Emergency". Mitchell has been using the same training technique ever since to raise and train his animals.

Though most of his time is spent with the Bengal tigers, Mitchell does house other animals. Among the creatures sharing his ranch are two so-called "ligers". The "two girls,"as he calls them, were a result of an act of nature during a circus act. The dominant lion bred with a submissive female tiger and the result were the two female tigers. Mitchell says the two ligers are bi-lingual. He explains that tigers communicate by chuffing, blowing air out through their noses. However, lions make a different sound. The two female offspring have no problem communicating through both methods.

Meanwhile, Mitchell hopes to continue trying to communicate his message to the world's dominant species. He hopes direct contact with his tiger "ambassadors" will convince members of the human race to work to preserve the endangered Bengal tiger. If you are interested in your own Big Cat Encounter, you can contact Karl Mitchell at (800) 949-3135.


Rocky to the Rescue

By Barbara Bidell

(Las Vegas, NV, Palmetto, FL) - It's five o'clock in the morning and I am
awakened by what feels like a baseball size fur ball that is repeatedly
slamming against my neck. That is followed by a painful piercing in my upper
chest. I open my eyes to find Jackie, my three-year-old cat, putting her face
underneath my chin and digging her claws into my chest. I scold her and put
her on the floor. We go through this another two times before she gets the
message that it is too dark and early to play right now. At seven o'clock,
she tries it again. It is time to get up and now she seems to be a little
more charming than she was two hours earlier. This time, I wrap my arms
around her and give her a hug. Today, would have been much the same as any
other day, and the somewhat annoying routine would have continued for years,
no doubt, had I not talked to Rocky over the phone this morning.
Melvia "Rocky" Mathys Weber is the founder and owner of  K-9 Kampground 
in Palmetto, Florida. Rocky takes in abandoned pets, trains them, and makes
them adoptable. The "Kampground" is also a training ground for pet owners.
Here, clients get one on one private seminars that will develop skills
necessary to maintain a healthy relationship between the pet and the owner.
Once a pet owner has completed the training program he or she is welcome to
return anytime for a refresher course. There is a $200.00 fee for the
program, but Rocky says she has yet to turn down a dog due to the owners'
inability to pay. Clients also have the option of getting a tag, so that if
they are in an accident, or suffer some type of health crisis where they
cannot care for their animals, they can call a toll-free number, and  Rocky
and her group will make sure the animals are taken care of.
"I do not want to see any of my dogs in a shelter", says Rocky. Which is
why she leaves the door open for both the owners and the dogs.  
She gets quite a few of  her animals from shelters. She says a lot of
these pets are hard to hard to reach at first. They have been  confined to a
cage for a good part of their lives.  Rocky calls it "solitary confinement".
In Rocky's opinion, it's a fate worse than death.
"If you were sentenced to a life of solitary confinement, you would go
crazy," she says. "If I had the choice [of death or confinement], I would
'here's my arm' ".
Despite the passionate expression, Rocky works hard to make sure that
the animals escape both fates. She gets four to six hours of sleep on a good
night. That is provided there are no new  "children" to take care of  'round
the clock.  She houses anywhere from nine to 14 dogs, 14 cats, and has had a
peacock, ferret, and even chickens in her animal haven in the five years of
its existence. She is an equal opportunity rescuer.
"Whatever God sends my way, I want to send on", says Rocky. "I want to
try to find resources to help them".
Among her resources are over a dozen volunteers she calls HKVKers, (Happy
Kampers Visitation Krew). Most of the "Krew" are clients who have
participated in dog training classes.  As the name implies, the Krew helps
out with the many community events that the Kampground is involved in. The
group dons costumes and heads out to retirements centers, schools and
whereever there is a need for their knowledge and services. They also take
dogs to senior living centers where seniors can interact with the dogs on a
regular basis. In one instance, residents at one center asked if Rocky would
train a dog even though they decided to adopt the dog from a shelter, rather
than take one of  those rescued by the K-9 Kampground.  Rocky and her "Krew"
have been rewarded several times over, though. Rocky says one elderly woman
offered to give her money to send her to veterinary school. Rocky graciously
declined the offer. She has instructed her crew to do the same with the
number of gratuities they are offered. Although most are grateful for Rocky
and HKVKers sharing their knowledge, she has had a few who have canceled
regular visits by the crew. Rocky admits, it's hard not to take it personally.
"It hurts", she says, referring to one center's decision to cancel the
group's monthly visit after the activities director said there wasn't enough
participation for the events to continue.  She observes that the residents
and the dogs got a lot out of the visits. 
However, Rocky has learned that you can't please everyone, and she
prefers honesty over congeniality. She admits to being completely honest
herself-a trait that has been keenly developed after years of dealing with
"They know when you're lyin'", she says, referring to animals. "They can
smell your chemicals".

An honest and straight forward approach is what Rocky recommends for pet
owners. Lesson number one in her dog training program is that owners should
not let the pet be the boss. She says feeding time is a good example. When
pet owners feed a dog when it barks it front of its dish that owner is
serving the dog. The dog is the boss, and the owner the servant. When the
owner tries to reverse the roll in any other situation it doesn't work. The
dog has learned he is in control.

"I'm the boss and I'm not going to take orders from you", Rocky exemplifies.
Instead, Rocky says owners need to make their dogs earn their meals. She says
at feeding time, the owner should give the pet a little something to do. That
way the owner is in control.   On the other hand, Rocky is quick to point out
that that although "no" is a common word in her vocabulary, she says, "'No'
is never followed by 'bad dog'". The idea is to develop a relationship
between the owner and the animal that is based on trust and communication.
She wants the lessons learned and the relationships to last a lifetime. She
wants to break the cycle of pet owners who adopt animals, and then ditch them
a few years down the road because they have become unruly. Instead, her goal
is to teach owners and pets how to live with one another to each can get the
most out of the relationship.

So far, it's working. But Rocky says her work has outgrown the workplace. 
She says she needs her own "dirt", so she can expand K-9 Kampground and
provide more help for troubled pets and their owners. Those interested on
knowing more about Rocky's rescue efforts and training can call her at 

Meanwhile, I'm going to take the information and run with it.  No more furry
baseballs under my head, where it is 5 AM --  or 7 AM for that matter.


The Early Life of a Guide Dog

By Barbara Bidell

(Phoenix) - It's early in the morning in what is going to be an average June day of 107 in the Valley of the Sun. Cathy Lankford and her six-month-old puppy Murphy gather at the Eye Dog Foundation training center in South Phoenix for their training class. If all goes as planned in about another six months, Murphy will enter guide dog training, and soon after he will be teamed up with a member of the visually impaired community as a guide dog. Her owner will rely on her not only to cross the street, but to protect him or her from potentially life threatening situations. That means Murphy must learn to stay calm and focused in even the most chaotic situations. It's up to Cathy and about 20 other Foster Parents to take the young German Shepherds  chosen for the Eye Dog Foundation's Program through the critical first year of life.  During this year of "basic training", the dog will develop the skill and discipline to guide a blind person through workings of everyday life.

The puppy raisers and their potential eye dogs gather once a month to make sure the puppies are making progress and are in good physical and psychological condition. Eye Dog Foundation Director of  Training Scott Heywood opens the session by soliciting comments about behavior and answering questions. The dogs then go through a series of conditioning drills to train them to stay calm in certain stressful situations. For example, in one drill Heywood fires a blank shot into the air while the puppy raisers feed the young dogs a treat. The purpose is to get the dogs to associate gunshots and similar loud noises with something pleasurable so they will remain calm in the event their blind owner finds himself in the midst of gunfire. Similarly, Scott tells the puppy raisers that it is important not to try to comfort the dog when it gets frightened. He says comforting the dog is the equivalent of saying that its O-K to be scared in the midst of chaos, and puppy raisers should not reinforce feelings of fear and intimidation. He tells the puppy raisers, by the same token, the dogs must be taught to restrain from aggressive behavior. At several times during the session, dogs were disciplined for jumping up on another puppy raiser or for simply ignoring an order given by the foster parent. The discipline consists of a tough yank on the adjustable chain. I noticed in observing that some puppy raisers are more comfortable with disciplining the dogs than others.

The task for raising a guide dog is not for the faint of heart. At time it
seems to be the equivalent of  tough love for teens. In fact, Heywood often used the comparison during the peer group session.  For example, the young dogs often push their owners aside if they find something more interesting.
Scott puts the behavior in perspective.

"When they slam you, that's the equivalent of your teenage child giving you the finger and pushing you out of the way", says Scott. However, he tells puppy raisers that it is important that they don't get angry with the dog.
> "Just be forceful with a smile".

That advise can be used in many ways. Puppy raisers also have to learn how to be persistent but pleasant with those in the community as well. Cathy cites one instance in which she was forbidden to come into a grocery store with her eye dog in training. She explained to the manager that a state statute allows for the puppies to go anywhere that an eye dog would go, and she even had the papers to prove that Murphy was on the road to service.
> However, the manager was unimpressed, and they were forced to leave the supermarket.

Nonetheless, both Cathy and Scott say that attitude is rare.

"Most people are really positive", says Cathy. Even those who are a little leery of allowing a dog into a supermarket without a blind owner  eventually give in once they see the papers and are made aware of the statute.

The dogs can go just about anywhere. In fact, during the training session, Scott solicits ideas on where puppy raisers can take their dogs to get them acclimated to some of the situations they will have to encounter in the Eye Dog world. One creative foster parent tells me that she took her dog Anna scuba diving with her. Anna has also been to the new Bank One Ballpark for a Diamondbacks baseball game.

Surprisingly, the more challenging the situation, the better the dogs
appear to be.

Although, Cathy admits discipline is a challenge in itself. "You have to
show the dog that you're the leader", says Cathy. "You have to be really
consistent and follow through".

Cathy says she has learned that the dogs have to earn their attention.
"There are no free touches", she says.
Despite the rigid discipline and the dedication to the mission, Cathy
admits that she has grown attached to Murphy.

"It's going to be difficult to give her up", she says.

Although this is her second German Shepherd that she has raised to be part of the Eye Dog Foundation's program, she has yet to give up a dog to another owner. She raised Sidney for a year and gave the dog up to the training program. However, they found out soon after that Sidney suffered from a mild hip pathology. Even though it was a mild case, it prevented him from entering the program. Cathy and her husband Jeff decided  to keep Sidney as do most foster parents whose puppies are not able to go on to be guide dogs. In fact, Cathy says the younger pup Murphy has learned a lot from the older dog. Even so, Murphy still needs a lot of guidance and attention.

"It's like having a child", she says. Only you can't drop dogs off at
daycare and pick them up after work. Cathy says during the winter months, she has to spend her lunch hour driving through metro Phoenix traffic to let the dog out.  During the summer months, she can rely on a school age neighbor to help out with the task.

Despite the logistic difficulties, Cathy says the experience has been

Scott Heywood agrees. Puppy raising can be an extremely rewarding
experience for those who have the time to spend with the dog. Heywood says there is no profile for who would make a good puppy raiser. He says he has singles and those with large families who have been successful foster parents to guide dogs. He even tells of a second grade teacher who brings her puppy to class everyday.  All it takes is a willingness to spend the time with the dog.

The Eye Dog Foundation graduates 18 students per year in three different sessions. It is the smallest school of its kind in the country, but they are looking to expand. They are always looking for potential puppy raisers to take the German Shepherds through their first year. Those Phoenix area residents interested in becoming a puppy raiser can call Scott or Gail Heywood at 602-276-0051. For those outside of the Phoenix area interested more information on the foundation, they can call 1-800-EYE-DOG1.


Putting the 'Care' in Animal Control

(JACKSONVILLE, FL) - The City of Jacksonville was holding an animal adoption day outside a discount department store on a late spring day. Several volunteers of the city's Animal Care and Control Center sat near a table covered with literature about lost pets, spaying and neutering, hurricane protection tips, and bite prevention. One volunteer held a black Dachshund in her lap. Patti Mason fosters dogs and cats until permanent adoptive families can be found.

When people hear the words "animal control," sad images often come to mind -- pounds filled with strays and lost pets, and dog catchers who remove curs from the streets.

"Well, unfortunately we still do that," said John Kursey, then manager of The Animal Care and Control Center for the City of Jacksonville. "There are a lot of people who still look at us that way." 

But Kursey says over the last decade great strides have been made to team "control" up with "care". Thus, the Jacksonville center's name. "We've evolved over the last ten years. We have an adoption program and two volunteers."

Kursey said about 17,000 animals are taken into the city's Care and Control center  each year. Of that number, 1,500 are adopted and a few hundred are returned to their owners. The remainder are euthanized.