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The Internet has connected millions upon millions of lonely shelter puppies and kitties with forever homes, facilitated a boom in pet fostering, and changed the way we look at adopting pets altogether. One of the adoption innovators responsible for this shelter pet revolution is none other than Petfinder co-founder Betsy Saul.
As part of our coverage of Petfinder’s Adopt the Internet Day (March 15), Paw Nation got the chance to chat with Saul about Petfinder’s humble beginnings, the joy of rescuing pets and the letters she gets about some of the 17 million animals that have been adopted through Petfinder.
Petfinder.com has been going strong since 1996. Can you give us a little history of how the whole Petfinder phenomenon came about?
When Jared Saul, my ex-husband, and I started Petfinder 15 years ago, we never dreamed it would be as powerful as it turned out to be. I remember hoping that we could save at least one life a month. And I remember fantasizing about being able to do it as a part-time job — and really give it the attention it deserved. This year we expect to help find families for 2.5 million pets and there is a whole team of people working full-time to make sure we meet our goal to end the euthanasia of adoptable pets.
We thought that if only people knew about the vast amount of love waiting in shelters — the loyal companions just waiting to be chosen and taken home — then we would increase adoptions and be able to stop killing pets simply for lack of a home. Nobody wanted to euthanize so many pets, but folks just weren’t going to the shelters to adopt and there was a seemingly endless tide of unwanted animals. When we started Petfinder in 1996, it is estimated that the U.S. was euthanizing more than 16 million pets in shelters. This year, that number will be less than 4 million — still too high, but amazing progress by the animal welfare community in 15 years. There are about 325,000 pets posted from more than 13,500 adoption organizations.
What was the goal of Petfinder in the early days? How did it change?
Our focus has always been on adoption and more support is needed for fostering and adoption. To try to muster enthusiasm for their plight, we’ve launched initiatives that keep everyone’s eye on homeless pets. From turtles and barnyard animals, to cats and dogs, we will continue to bring them into your living room, office, and iPhone. Even the more beleaguered get their own celebration, like Adopt-a-less-adoptable-pet Month in September.
These days, we’re not only about showcasing homeless pets. We also work to help make sure that once they are adopted, that family is their “furever” home. And that they really are a part of the family. How do we keep pets out of the shelters and in their homes? We’ve launched FurKeeps, a program that focuses on reducing the number of pets going into the shelters.
FurKeeps has three parts. We promote microchipping and registration of the microchips, so when pets get lost, we can help them find their way home. For this we’ve partnered with HomeAgain. We ask people to get pet health insurance, because no family member should be abandoned or euthanized because his pet parent can’t afford medical treatment. For insurance, we’ve partnered with PetFirst. Finally, we ask people to train their pets (yes, cats too!) with positive training techniques that feel like play and forge an unbreakable bond.
Do you have any tips for prospective pet parents to make the best adoption for their lifestyle?
Yes! Take stock of your lifestyle and be honest with yourself and the adoption group about how much time you want to devote to a new family member and how you want to spend that time. Do you want a running companion? Do you want a couch potato when you come home from work? (There’s no shame in that and a lot of pets who’d be happy to oblige.) Go to Petfinder.com and check out the Before You Adopt videos on the right side of the home page.
What’s your proudest achievement when it comes to PetFinder?
My favorite part of Petfinder are the e-mails that come in from happy adopters that say (and this is very, very common), “I thought I was going to the shelter to save a pet and it turned out that she was the one saving me.” Pets play such an important role in our lives. They greet us first when we walk in the door, they love us almost unconditionally, and they get us outside of ourselves — which is all very healthy. Pets actually make us healthier. I love it when we hear that one of our Petfinder pets changed someone’s life. Here was an animal that nobody wanted who has now shown us the power of friendship, love, companionship, and on and on. After 15 years, it still gives me goosebumps.
by Josh Loposer
Today more than ever before we rely on the wealth of information available at our fingertips when we surf the internet. The important thing to know is that not all information is good information. Here are a few websites that may help answer your questions about a variety of pet related topics.
Illness and Disease
Enrichment and Training
Stumped by mysterious illnesses in at least 600 dogs in the U.S., federal health officials have turned to consumers for help investigating problems possibly tied to chicken jerky pet treats made in China.
A log of complaints collected from pet owners and veterinarians contains references to at least three popular brands of jerky treats that may be associated with kidney failure and other serious ailments, according to internal Food and Drug Administration documents obtained by msnbc.com.
Of 22 “Priority 1” cases listed by the FDA late last year, 13 cited Waggin’ Train or Canyon Creek Ranch jerky treats or tenders, both produced by Nestle Purina PetCare Co., the records show.
Advertise | AdChoicesAnother three listed Milo’s Kitchen Home-style Dog Treats, produced by the Del Monte Corp. The rest listed single brands or no brand.
Priority 1 cases are those in which the animal is aged 11 or younger and medical records that document illness are available, an FDA spokeswoman said. In many cases, samples of the suspect treats also are collected.
The report, obtained through a public records request, is the first agency indication of any brands linked to illnesses that have climbed since the FDA warned pet owners about jerky treats in November. That was the FDA’s third caution about the pet products since 2007.
Nestle Purina and Del Monte officials said their treats are safe and FDA regulators said repeated tests have shown no absolute tie to any brand or manufacturer.
“No specific products have been recalled because a definitive cause has not been determined,” FDA officials said in a statement.
The internal report, overseen by the FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak and Response Evaluation, or CORE, group, is one of several ongoing assignments in which FDA regulators are seeking jerky treat samples and medical records of dogs that may have developed kidney failure, liver disease or Fanconi syndrome, which can lead to serious illness and death.
The recent complaints were filed from October through December by people in cities from California to New York, but the agency will continue to accept them.
“We still invite owners and veterinarians to submit complaints and samples,” said Siobhan DeLancey, an FDA spokeswoman. “The more information we have, the more likely we can find a link.”
The move comes as the FDA is under growing pressure from consumers and lawmakers to address rising numbers of illnesses blamed on the China-made treats. Before the warning was issued in November, the agency had logged 70 reports of illnesses tied to the treats last year. Since then, more than 530 additional complaints of illnesses and some deaths have been filed, officials said.
Bella, a 2-year-old pug, died last fall after her owner, Robin Pierre, said she ate Waggin’ Train chicken jerky treats.
Consumers who say their dogs were sickened or killed have launched at least three petitions demanding recalls of jerky pet treats made in China, including one begun in December that has more than 3,400 signatures from the U.S. and around the world.
“At the slightest doubt, these products should have been recalled, especially knowing there was a link or at the very least a caution/warning label put on the packaging warning the consumers,” said Robin Pierre, a co-founder of “Animal Parents Against Pet Treats Made in China.”
Pierre, 49, of Pine Bush, N.Y., believes Waggin’ Train chicken jerky treats were responsible for the sudden death last fall of her previously health 2-year-old pug, Bella, who developed kidney failure.
“The last week of her life was nothing but misery and pain, separated from her family, she died all alone, in a cage, despite the fact that she had a family who loved her,” Pierre wrote in an email to msnbc.com. “She meant the world to me and my family.”
More than 375 people have signed a petition launched last week by Susan Rhodes, 51, of Port St. Lucie, Fla. She believes her 14-year-old dog, Ginger, may have developed life-threatening kidney failure after eating chicken jerky treats. She was stunned to hear that consumer complaints alone can’t force the FDA — or a company — to recall potentially tainted products.
“That is just unreal. I am not happy with that,” Rhodes said.
For their part, FDA officials said the companies are free to enact a voluntary recall at any time.
Lawmakers call for action
Lawmakers, however, are demanding stronger FDA action. Ohio Democrats Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Dennis Kucinich in February called on the FDA to step up investigation of tainted pet treats.
In a response sent late last week, an FDA official told Brown the agency “continues to actively investigate” the reports and to pursue testing for chemical and microbiological contaminants.
On Monday, Brown called the agency’s response “inadequate” and urged prompt release of results of 153 pending tests on the Chinese-made treats.
“I will continue to press the FDA on this issue because Ohio consumers shouldn’t have to worry about the safety of their pet’s food,” he said in a statement.
Since 2007, FDA scientists have analyzed jerky treats for evidence of dangerous toxins, including heavy metals, melamine, melamine analogs and diethylene glycol, chemicals used in plastics and resins.
So far, they’ve found nothing convincing, a point emphasized by Keith Schopp, director of communications for Nestle Purina. He noted that FDA officials also suggest that illnesses may be a result of causes other than eating jerky treats.
“Our chicken jerky treats are safe to feed as directed,” said Schopp. “The safety of our products — and the pets who consume them — are our top priorities.”
The company has a comprehensive food safety program in place, he said, including at manufacturing plants in China.
Pierre, who lost her dog, has little faith in pet food manufacturers — or in the FDA.
“Actions speak louder than words and there has been no action from them up until now,” Pierre said. “Waggin’ Train has hid behind the technicality that the FDA cannot find the link and the FDA has let them.”
Consumers can report illnesses to the FDA’s pet food complaint site at http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/ReportaProblem/ucm182403.htm
By JoNel Aleccia
Birth control for deer has now been approved for use in Maryland. Thebirth control is actually a vaccine. It causes the deer to produceantibodies against a hormone, Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH),which triggers production of sex hormones. This is different fromother birth controls because it actually stops the animals fromexhibiting dangerous and destructive mating behaviors which can beresponsible for the autumn increase in collisions between cars anddeer. (There are approximately 1.5 million deer-auto collisions and anaverage 150 people die each year. They also cause an estimated $1billion in property damage per year.) The vaccine lasts for 5 yearsand while designed for deer, it can be used in other animals as well.
The entire article can be viewed athttp://news.discovery.com/animals/deer-birth-control-could-prevent-collisions-110901.html