#LessPlastic Challenge Week 2 – Plastic Shopping Bags

Plastic shopping bags are standard no matter where you shop.  These bags are destroying our environment and leaving the land and sea littered with toxic debris that can take 15-1,000 years to decompose.  It is estimated that 160,000 plastic bags are used EVERY SECOND all around the world.  These bags account for approx. 10% of the pollution washed up on US coastlines.  Statistics like that should scare you into changing your plastic-addicted ways!

Paper bags aren’t much better.  They’re still widely a single-use item, and only about 20% of the paper bags used are recycled, despite the fact they are highly recyclable.  They also take a considerable amount of energy and resources to produce which makes it hard to justify it as a more environmentally-friendly alternative to plastic.

If plastic and paper are out, what is a consumer to do?  Switch to reusable shopping totes!  These bags can survive months to years of continual use, and once you make the change, it isn’t any more difficult than shopping before you switched.


I personally made the switch in 2017.  As a mom with little kids and a busy household, we came to a point where we were literally running out of everything; milk, toilet paper, laundry detergent, bread, pet food, butter.  It was the product of not having time to hit the store the week before, and it seemed like I would never have time to get to the store again.  By the time I left the checkout lane, I had a heaping cart full of all the things it takes to make lunches, dinners, snacks, clean the house, care for the pets and get everyone cleaned up for about 2 weeks.  I came home and started putting everything away, and the end result was plastic bags filled with more plastic bags and I didn’t even have enough room to stash them under my cupboard like I normally would.  I held on to these bags for months before I finally remembered to take them to the bag recycling bin at the grocery store.

I decided then that I would sign up for a recycling service through my trash company.  I was feeling pretty good about that until the recycle bin came with a list of accepted items and in large red letters, it stated NO PLASTIC BAGS.  While I was able to recycle a lot of other things, this did not solve my plastic bag crisis!  That is when I switched.  I take them everywhere and leave them in my trunk.  I have used them for giant shopping trips at Meijer and Walmart, and I’ve used them for smaller runs to Harding’s or Walgreen’s.  I even purchased an insulated bag from Gordon Food Service for frozen items, and I have found myself distraught when I accidentally leave my “favorite” bag at home.

You can do this.  You NEED to do this.  It’s too late to remove the plastic bags from landfills now, but we can absolutely make sure that less is put in.  Here are some links to even scarier stats that you should make the time to read up on:


#LessPlastic Challenge Week 1

A few weeks ago I announced that KHS was challenging itself and all of its users to use #lessplastic.  Each Wednesday through the end of the year we want to focus on information about how plastics are destroying our planet and how we can all start adjusting our daily routines to use less of it.  It was bold (and possibly not thought out very well) to launch such an ambitious PSA campaign in the weeks leading up to the Dog Walk & K-9 Festival, and so we’re going to officially start our #lessplastic Wednesday themes today!

Let’s kick this thing off by talking about straws!  Such a simple thing, really, but they’re the source of a massive environmental problem that we should all be concerned about.

There is a significant international campaign going on right now to #DitchTheStraw.  This movement is being spearheaded by The Last Plastic Straw, which is a project of the Plastic Pollution Coalition.  From the Plastic Pollution Coalition website:

Over 500,000,000 plastic straws are used each day in the United States. In only the past twenty years, people have come to expect plastic straws in every drink, in an example of extreme waste being generated for minimal convenience. These short-lived tools are usually dropped into a garbage can with no further thought, instantly becoming a source of plastic pollution.

You can make a considerable impact by refusing the straw!  It’s easy, and once it becomes a habit, you’ll never give it a second thought.  Step 1, order your drinks #strawfree.  Step 2, drink from the cup.  Little changes like this can make an enormous difference, and encouraging others to follow your example will lead to more and more people who are happy to #refusethestraw.

Last week Sarah, our Volunteer Coordinator, and I went to Noodles & Co, and we both successfully drank beverages without a straw.  It took 0% extra effort, and we got all the feel-goods for sticking to our #lessplatic resolution!

Straw Free Lunch Meeting

Julie and Sarah of the Kalamazoo Humane Society enjoy drinks at Noodles & Co straw free!

You can take a pledge to commit yourself to making the lifestyle change that will help stop plastic waste at the Plastic Pollution Coalition website here –> http://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/no-straw-please/

Plastic in your seafood

So, just in case you haven’t heard, the ocean is filled with plastic.  According to a publication of the World Economic Forum in January 2016, at least 8 million tons of plastics are leaked into the oceans.  Most of this leakage is a result of plastic packaging.

Each year, at least 8 million tonnes of plastics leak into the ocean – which is equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute. If no action is taken, this is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050.

By 2050, it is expected that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

There are videos going viral on social media showing miles and miles of floating plastic islands, beaches on remote islands covered in plastic.  These videos put a face to the danger, and yet we’re still not doing enough to slow it down.

As a child of the 80’s, I grew up in a time of major environmental concern.  As a species, we finally saw what we were doing to our planet and we were committed to making a difference.  Of course, we wanted a better world for ourselves, but our environment and the animals we share this planet with needed immediate action.  I can clearly remember watching Captain Planet every Saturday and I organized a few clean-ups around my neighborhood (and I may or may not have been the only participant in those cleanups…).  Recycle-Reduce-Reuse posters were plastered all around my school and I carefully cut the plastic beverage holders so that no animals would become stuck with one around their body.  This wasn’t enough.

Now, as an adult, I’m paying $44/year for recycling service through my waste service, and in some places like the City of Portage and the City of Kalamazoo offer city-wide, single-stream recycling.

If you aren’t already taking advantage of the recycling services around you, please take a moment to find out what is holding you back.  Single-stream services have made it so easy to do the right thing for the planet, and $12 every 3 months is not a lot to pay for a better future.

Even though you may not live near a visibly polluted body of water, there are plastic fibers, invisible to the naked eye contaminating our rivers and lakes.  And, if you’re eating seafood from the ocean or our Great Lakes, you can bet you’re ingesting plastics.

During a 2013 sample of Lake Michigan, researchers found 19,000 micro-fibers per kilometer when the surface water was strained with mesh netting.  The plastic fibers are coming from fleece items being laundered.  The washing machine water then enters the environment along with these micro-fibers that are too small to be filtered out in water treatment facilities.

Microbeads, like those found in face washes, toothpaste and other home and healthcare products are also causing problems for marine life.  These microbeads have been phased out of health care products with the last production being in July of 2017, but they are still causing problems for our environment.

The World Economic Forum report states that only about 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling.  This means that all of us can do a lot better.

Want more info?  Check out these sources.





Shopping for Dog Lovers

Written by guest blogger Jessica Brody, OurBestFriends.pet

woman with aussie puppy

Got someone on your gift list who is in love with her dog? You’re in luck. Dog lovers are relatively easy to shop for because they always need new gear for their dogs. Here are some of the many things your dog lover will treasure.

A dog bed

black puppy in dog bedA memory foam dog bed with a foam bumper is a great gift. The dog may well end up sleeping better than his owner. New research shows that people who sleep in a room with one dog sleep better than people who sleep with no dog. The trick is: the dog needs to have his own bed. People who share their beds with dogs have sleep disruptions that outweigh the benefits.

Be sure you:

  • Make sure there is a good space in your friend’s house or apartment for a dog bed. If there simply isn’t enough floor space, buy another gift.
  • Get the right size bed. Too big is much better than too small.
  • Be sure the bedding material will not aggravate the allergies of the dog or his human.

Recycled wine bottle candles

Even the best dog owners don’t always love the way their houses smell. Dogs are wonderful companions, but they leave an odor behind on fabrics, especially bedding.

If the dog lover on your list already uses air fresheners or candles, consider buying her a set of recycled wine bottle candles. This great gift:

  • is original and crafty.
  • reuses resources. Since many pet owners are also environmentalists, they love to recycle or buy recycled art.
  • is so much prettier and better smelling that those installed air fresheners.

Dog coat

two dogs in coatsSome dogs, like huskies and bichon frises, have ample fur to keep them warm. Other, shorter haired dogs may need a fleece coat and rain jacket to get them through the winter. The best test is whether your friend’s dog shivers on a cold day and looks miserable. Dogs should enjoy the outdoors at almost any time. The right dog coat could make an important difference, especially if the dog’s owner is outdoorsy.

Here’s a short list of dogs most in need of coats:

  • They are both skinny and super thin coated.
  • Short-legged dogs like bassets, corgis, and dachshunds.
  • Older dogs, eight or more in years.
  • Dogs with health issues, especially diabetes.

GPS collar clip with charger

The dog owner’s worst nightmare is a lost dog. Unfortunately, microchips are of limited value. Mostly they are used by veterinarians to return lost dogs to their owners. But what if no good samaritan steps forward to take your dog to the nearest vet?

The gift of a GPS collar clip will allow your friend to track his dog’s location without having to call every pound and veterinarian in an effort to locate him. This gift also:

  • Tells the owner how much exercise his dog has gotten.
  • Tells the owner the precise locations of his dog throughout the day.
  • Keeps dog walkers and daycare personnel honest.

Dog water bottle

It might seem a little over the top, but not if your dog lover takes his dog everywhere. Dogs need to drink, but human water bottles are not contoured to let a dog easily drink from them. And some dog lovers might balk at sharing their water bottle, no matter how much they love Fido.

A dog water bottle is designed to accommodate the shape of a dog’s muzzle. So the dog lover on your list knows that his dog has gotten a real drink and not just splashed a lot of water on the ground. This is a great gift for:

  • People who take their dogs on vacation.
  • People who take their dogs camping or hiking.
  • People who take their dogs to cafes and parks.

Shopping for the dog lovers in your life is a creative and fun endeavor. Use your imagination and enjoy the experience!

How Service Dogs Assist People with Mental Health Disorders

Written by guest blogger Jessica Brody, OurBestFriends.pet



People who suffer from mental disorders are increasingly finding comfort and relief in being paired with psychiatric service dogs. Already, the service is ranked the fourth common use of trained dog companionship in America, after helping the visually-impaired, the immobile, and the deaf, a University of California, Davis, study found.

The practice is gaining more traction in treatment centers, and has been notably spreading as more sufferers look for canine support to help them get through daily life, the study concluded. The loyal animals are helping recovering addicts, autistic children, seizure-prone individuals and sufferers of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) overcome negative episodes while providing a constant loving and affectionate presence.

The companion animals assist their handlers in multiple ways. They can be trained to remind their handlers when to take medication, to comfortingly lie down on a hyperventilating person, and to monitor the safety of an autistic child. They also help ground the mentally ill who feel anxious out in public.

Here are a few reasons explaining how the trained companion animals assist their owners:

Encourage More Exercise

Dogs need constant exercise and contact with the outdoors. This fact of canine care automatically encourages their handlers to embrace long walks and outdoor exercise, which boosts endorphins in the brain. As a result, anxiety and depression are alleviated as they become fitter in body.

Enhance Social Interaction

By forcing the mentally ill person to leave her home more, where she is more likely to feel lonely and depressed if holed up too much inside, the companion animal breaks unhealthy behavioral patterns. Because people love petting and greeting dogs, the service animal, by serving as a center of attention, continually encourages her handler to socially interact with people who approach the pair.

They Make Outings in Public More Feasible

Handlers trust their service dogs will know what to do in public should an episode arise. When such meltdowns happen, the dog comforts the afflicted or guides the latter to the nearest exit. This feeling of permanent security encourages the handler to attend large group gatherings, in the knowledge that such situations won’t get out of hand because of the service animal.

They Help with Treatment Therapy

People attending treatment therapy sessions find it hard to discuss painful topics of the past and present. With a service dog present, however, to soothe and comfort them physically and emotionally, the patients are more likely to open up and discuss their trauma, paving the way for success in treatment.

They Forge Deep Bonds

For people who are sensitive to the social stigma of being labelled “mentally ill,” building a human-canine relationship that is founded on mutual loyalty and unconditional love is incredibly healing. The handler also benefits from learning to be responsible and disciplined in caring for the animal. Keeping to a set walking and feeding routine, for example, empowers the handler and grounds her by encouraging her to follow an organized day-to-day schedule.

From the very moment of its adoption, the owner comes up with creative ways to bond with her animal and make her feel comfortable in the new home, from setting aside a specialized corner in the home for the animal, to buying her toys, a dog bed, and treats, to constantly playing with the companion animal. Constant vocalized communication with the service dog also deepens the friendship bond, and calms the owner down during difficult moments.

The Takeaway

The owner of the psychiatric service animal reaps a load of benefits from the canine’s presence. Altogether, the dog promotes self-confidence, self-esteem, enhanced social interaction, greater independence and a sense of safety. It is common to have psychiatric patients credit their animal companion with a greater healing, and to being an invaluable source of support when stigmas against their mental disorders remain alive and well in society.

The Ultimate Guide to Home Insurance for Dog Owners

Shopping for home insurance can be a challenge if you have a dog–especially if its breed is seen as dangerous. This guide will help you get a policy (and affordable rate) regardless.


Sixty-five percent of US households have a pet, according to the 2015-2016 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association. Almost 78 million of those pets are dogs.

Impressive, right? Some might describe that figure as kind of alarming, too. After all, those pooches injure a lot of people every year.

Specifically, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that dogs bite about four and a half million people annually. And one-fifth of those bites are serious enough to require medical attention.

That last statistic surely is what’s prompted a portion of the insurance industry—home insurance providers, especially—to turn a wary eye toward “man’s best friend.”

Well, that and the similarly startling stats that show Americans file tens of thousands of home insurance liability claims due to dog bites and other dog-related injuries each year. In fact, the Insurance Information Institute (III) and State Farm recently revealed that US homeowners filed more than 15,000 of these claims in 2015.

Also, insurers spent approximately $570 million as a result of those claims, and that sum equaled a third of all homeowner-liability dollars paid out that year.

Although the number of home insurance claims tied to dog-related injuries in 2015 was the lowest since 2007, their combined value and their average cost (just over $37,000) represent record highs for the industry.

As for what caused those spikes, Loretta Worters, III’s vice president of communications, suggests they were spurred by “increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments, and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which are still on the upswing.”

Which dog breeds worry insurance carriers the most (or which dogs do insurers like the least)?

Combine the above with information that points to a handful of dog types accounting for more of those costly bites and injuries than others and it’s easy to understand why some insurers restrict, refuse, or cancel home coverage if a customer owns a certain breed.

Others exclude certain breeds from a homeowner’s policy, or require homeowners to sign liability waivers for any bites that occur. Or they drop coverage or raise premiums if a customer’s dog attacks and injures someone.

Speaking of which, the dog breeds listed below tend to make insurance companies the most nervous.

  • Akita
  • Alaskan Malamute
  • Chow Chow
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • German Shepherd
  • Pit Bull
  • Rottweiler
  • Siberian Husky
  • Wolf Hybrid

Liberty Mutual actually looks for all of these breeds, plus “Canary dogs” (also known as Perro de Presa Canario), when reviewing applications for home insurance.

The company “does not refuse to provide homeowners coverage, or require the exclusion of homeowners liability coverage, solely based upon dog breed,” explains Glenn Greenberg, the company’s director of media relations and sponsorship PR. Still, he adds, it sometimes reviews the listed breeds “for homeowners insurance acceptability because [they] pose increased risk of loss.”

Specifically, Liberty Mutual considers any “training the dog has received, the temperament of the dog, any prior losses, and vaccinations,” Greenberg says. Also, considerations are made if the pet in question is a service or therapy dog.

“The presence alone of a dog in the home will not result in policy denial or exclusion of liability coverage,” he adds. However, “some dog breeds will require further review. If they do not meet our acceptability guidelines, we may choose not to write the policy.”

Which home insurance companies don’t discriminate based on dog breed?

Not all insurance companies operate like Liberty Mutual–as well as Farmers and Allstate–in this regard, it has to be said. In particular, the following carriers are known to insure dog breeds that some of their competitors have “blacklisted”:

  • Amica
  • Chubb
  • Fireman’s
  • Nationwide
  • State Farm
  • USAA

These insurers usually only look at an individual dog’s bite history and history of aggressiveness, rather than its breed, when deciding to extend homeowners liability coverage to someone.

You can also use QuoteWizard to compare home insurance quotes from insurers willing to cover you in order to get the lowest rates possible.

Why do some homeowners policies blacklist certain dog breeds? Also, isn’t that a bad idea?

What caused State Farm to implement this policy, which has been in place for a number of years and extends to all 50 states? Dundov responds that the insurer doesn’t focus on breed because “determining the breed of a dog based on the physical appearance of the dog isn’t an accurate determination of risk, because any dog may bite out of fear. [And] that doesn’t necessarily mean the dog is aggressive or dangerous.”

The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals-Angell Animal Medical Center (MSPCA-Angell) is similarly opposed to insurance companies and policies that target specific dog breeds.

Why? One reason is that new research documents how difficult it is to identify the breed of a dog based on looks, says Kara Holmquist, MSPCA-Angell’s director of advocacy. As such, “focusing on breed is not an effective way to evaluate risk or prevent dog bites,” she adds, mirroring Dundov’s concerns.

In addition, the Boston-based organization frowns upon these policies because:

  • They discriminate against responsible dog owners who properly train and socialize their pets. In addition, they mistakenly focus on the animal and do not consider the owner’s behavior and responsibility
  • It’s likely they cause some people to avoid adopting certain dog breeds because they’re worried they’ll then be unable to obtain home insurance
  • It’s often difficult to determine whether a dog is a mixed-breed and, if so, the percentage of the mix represented by each breed
  • Some statistics on dog bites may not take into account the popularity of a breed, making it appear that certain breeds bite more often

“Insurers that blacklist breeds are out of step with contemporary research and expert opinion about dog behavior and bite prevention,” adds Donna Reynolds, director of Oakland, California-based BADRAP.

“It’s far more practical for insurers to look to the behavior of their clients when writing new policies rather than incorrectly assume that a dog’s behavior is going to be predicted by its appearance,” Reynolds says. “For example, those who have dogs who have been protection trained, used to guard, or who have a bite history represent a potential risk compared to low-risk dogs who are well socialized, smartly managed, and treated as family members.”

As for what home insurance companies should do instead, MSPCA-Angell suggests they should “focus on preventing all dog bites regardless of breed.”

Dundov adds that insurers should work on “educating people about responsible pet ownership and how to safely interact with any dog.” Reynolds agrees. “insurance companies have a unique opportunity to educate the public about bite prevention and elevate our understanding of dog-owner responsibilities. By doing so, they can serve as an important partner as well as a resource for their clients and communities.”

That tactic combined with stronger animal-control laws could help insurance providers “achieve [their] goal of reducing the number of dog-bite claims they face,” according to MSPCA-Angell.

More Frequently Asked Questions About Home Insurance and Dog Ownership

Here are a few more questions that are sure to pop into the heads of anyone who has a dog (or is thinking of adopting one) and either is considering buying a house or already owns one and is looking to switch homeowners insurers.

Is it legal for an insurance company to deny or cancel my homeowners policy or increase my premium because I own a certain type of dog?

Yes, it is–unless you live in Michigan or Pennsylvania.

Both of those states have passed laws that forbid insurance companies from denying or canceling coverage to homeowners because they have a certain breed of dog.

Other states have tried to pass similar laws or have pending legislation that would address the same thing, but at the moment only Michigan or Pennsylvania restrict this kind of “breed profiling.”

If you live anywhere else in the US, though, your insurance company can discriminate against what it considers to be vicious or dangerous dog breeds if it chooses to do so.

Take Washington. That state’s Office of the Insurance Commissioner “does not regulate this underwriting issue,” says Kara Klotz, public affairs and social media manager. “Insurers are free to underwrite how they want. If a consumer is interested in owning a specific breed of dog and is concerned about their homeowners or renters insurance, we advise them to talk to their insurance agent or broker.”

Adds Amy Bach, executive director of San Francisco-based non-profit United Policyholders : “as long as they’re not using unfair or illegal rating factors, an insurer is free to decide who they want to insure and who they don’t. So if an insurer chooses not to underwrite or assume the risk of selling a policy to a consumer who chooses to own dogs with a bite history or history of aggressive behavior, that is their right in our current system.”

Haven’t some cities and states passed breed-specific laws or legislation that target certain dog types?

Yes, they have. In fact, more than 700 US cities, counties, and states have passed legislation targeting specific dog breeds, according to dogsbite.org.

In addition, most states, as well as Washington, D.C., currently impose “statutory strict liability” for dog bites and attacks, which means a dog’s owner is legally liable to any victims.

The rest–or at least the bulk of them–have what are called “one bite” statutes in place. Dog owners in those states are “protected from liability as to the first injury caused by [their pets], unless liability can be based upon other grounds,” shares dogbitelaw.com. (In other words, victims have to prove the owner knew their dog had the potential to be dangerous.)

A few other states have “mixed” statutes that add some degree of strict liability to the one-bite rule described above.

What can I do if an insurance company denies or cancels my homeowners coverage because of my dog?

For starters, talk with your agent or someone else at the company, suggests MSPCA-Angell. He or she may be able to point you to another insurer that will cover you and your home.

If that doesn’t help, shop around on your own. Contact a number of home insurance providers, compare quotes, and see which ones offer you the best rate for the amount of coverage you need–no matter what kind of dog lives with you.

Something else to keep in mind here: many insurance companies don’t automatically turn down homeowners who have certain breeds. Instead, they’ll ask you to show them letters from veterinarians or certificates from obedience schools. Or they’ll have an agent visit your home and actually meet your dog before making a final decision.

Also, some insurers will sell you home coverage but exclude your dog from the policy. If that happens to you, you should be able to buy a separate liability policy for your pup. A number of companies and organizations currently offer this kind of add-on coverage that protects homeowners whose canine family members injure someone.

“Being a responsible dog owner goes hand in hand with buying homeowner or renters policies that cover our dogs while complying with local animal control regulations,” says BADRAP’s Reynolds. “Those people whose dogs have demonstrated a history of unsafe behavior are obligated to invest in the added expense of special insurance, but even more so, they’re obligated to invest in the time, resources and energy needed to house and manage their dog responsibly.”

How can I find affordable homeowners insurance even if I have a blacklisted dog breed?

Our answer to this question is similar to the advice shared above: shop around.

Don’t take our word for it. Comparing insurance companies and quotes also is Bach’s main piece of advice for consumers in this situation. “Different insurers sell different policies,” she says. “Some exclude certain dog breeds, [but] not all exclude the same breeds.”

In addition, Bach suggests that you “ask good questions.” That means asking whether specific breeds of animal are excluded from coverage, of course, but it also means asking “whether you can buy a rider or add-on that would fill the gap caused by the exclusion.”

And if you have a hard time finding an insurance company that will sell you a homeowners policy because of your dog, contact your state insurance commissioner’s office. Someone there may be able to point you in the direction of an insurer that will cover you and your pet.

What kind of homeowners coverage do I need if I have a dog? And how much coverage should I get as a dog owner?

According to the III, most home and renters insurance policies cover some amount of liability legal costs related to dog bites and attacks. Typically, they cover up to $100,000 or even $300,000 of damages.

Dog owners are responsible for any amount that goes above that limit. Given that, it’s often a good idea for homeowners and renters with dogs to either increase their liability coverage or buy an umbrella policy.

Another option is to look for supplemental or specialized liability insurance specifically aimed at dog owners.

Who is covered by my home insurance policy?

A standard homeowners policy covers spouses, relatives, and dependents who are under 21 years of age.

Although all of those folks will be protected from any losses tied to a dog bite or injury, they won’t be able to file a claim if they’re the victim of an attack.

Most homeowners policies also cover unpaid dog sitters or dog walkers if your pooch injures or bites someone while in their care.

Do I need to tell my insurance provider if I adopt a dog? Or what happens if I don’t tell my home insurer about my dog?

Yes, you should tell your insurance company if you have a dog. That’s especially true if yours tends to show up on lists of vicious or dangerous dog breeds.

If you don’t, you could be due for a rude awakening. For starters, any claim you file could be denied if your dog bites or injures someone and your insurer didn’t previously know about your pet. Your insurer may even cancel your policy because of your dishonesty.

“Don’t lie on the application and say you don’t have a dog if you really do,” Bach recommends. “Because if you do, and something happens that necessitates filing a claim, the insurer may be able to void or rescind the policy based on your misrepresentation and you’ll be without coverage.”

It may not even wait for you to file a claim. There are plenty of examples out there of insurance companies canceling a homeowner’s coverage after it found out they had a dog of a blacklisted breed and didn’t report it.

Given that, if you already have a homeowners policy, read it over if you’re thinking of getting a dog. If it’s not clear, contact your agent or someone else at your insurance company.

Does it matter what kind of dog I have if I’m a renter?

Do you currently have renters insurance? If so, it may protect you if your dog bites or injures anyone.

That’s not true of all renters insurance policies, though, so check with your agent (or someone else at your insurer) if you’re not sure about the extent of your coverage.

Renters insurance can help dog owners in other ways, too. Say you’re looking for a new place to live. If you have a canine that some consider dangerous, a renters policy may help convince a potential landlord to accept you and your dog as tenants, according to MSPCA-Angell.

What can I do to combat home insurance policies that discriminate against certain dog breeds?

The best and most effective thing you can do to fight these policies and prevent new ones from being introduced is to set a positive example. Put your dog through obedience school if you haven’t already. This will help you show that properly trained dogs don’t bite or injure people, no matter their breed.

Another option, of course, is to contact insurance companies. Share research and information with them that explains why policies that single out entire dog breeds are discriminatory and wrong. Or you can support organizations that do the same kind of advocacy work but have more clout than an individual citizen.

Why do dogs bite?

According to MSPCA-Angell, a dog’s tendency to bite is the product of a number of factors. They include:

  • Genetic predisposition to be aggressive
  • Early socialization
  • Training for obedience or fighting
  • Quality of care and supervision

As a result, the organization warns that “an inherently aggressive dog may present little or no risk of biting if the dog is well trained and responsibly supervised. A seemingly friendly dog with little genetic tendency to bite may become dangerous if it lacks socialization or supervision, or if it is mistreated or provoked.”

In other words, pretty much any dog can bite or injure someone if they’re subject to certain situations.

The III agrees, adding that “even normally docile dogs may bite when they are frightened or when defending their puppies, owners, or food.”

Two other factors that often affect a dog’s tendency to bite, by the way: its gender and whether it is spayed or neutered. In fact, research suggests male dogs are over six times more likely to bite than female dogs, while dogs that haven’t been spayed or neutered are nearly three times more likely to bite than ones that have been spayed or neutered dogs.

What can I do to keep my dog from biting someone?

MSPCA-Angell’s Holmquist and State Farm’s Dundov suggest you do the following to prevent dog bites:

  • Walk and exercise your dog regularly to keep it healthy and provide mental stimulation
  • Socialize your dog so it knows how to behave with other animals and with people
  • Don’t put your dog in a position where it feels threatened or teased
  • Put it through obedience training
  • Make sure your pet receives preventive health care (vaccinations, parasite control, etc.), as well as care for any illnesses or injuries. This is important because how your dog feels affects how it behaves
  • Mark your property so people are aware of your dog’s presence
  • Obey all local ordinances, including licensing, leash requirements, and noise control
  • Use a leash in public so you can control your dog and so you can show others you’re in control of your dog
  • If you have a fenced yard, ensure the gates and fence are secure
  • Don’t allow your pet to stray
  • Avoid tethering your dog for long periods of time, as doing do can increase the likelihood of a bite

“Responsible pet ownership builds a solid foundation for dog-bite prevention,” Dundov says.

“Your dog is part of your family and wants to be part of family life,” she adds. “But sometimes it’s difficult for us to fully understand how a dog sees the world, and providing your dog with a secure resting space and supervision in risky situations is the best way to plan for success.”

This article was reposted with permission from QuoteWizard.
Original post can be found here:


Post-adoption Decompression

Too often the news headlines involve children getting mauled by newly adopted/purchased/acquired dogs.  Just today, Detroit news outlet WDIV-TV showed video of a Gordon Setter being led out of a home after it had “attacked” a 14 month old boy 10 days after its adoption.  The boy was reaching to pull a toy out of the dogs mouth at the time of the attack.

This is a horrific accident for everyone involved.  Adopting a new dog can and should be a very exciting time.  From the time you first made the decision to adopt, to the time you walk your new dog through your door weeks or months have probably gone by.  Time, money, energy and a lot of planning went into this moment, but too often, a critical step in the adoption phase is forgotten:  Decompression.

You don’t know this dog and the dog doesn’t know you.  The background of your new dog could be unknown, or perhaps it came with a detailed history from the original owner, but in either case, everything that is happening to the dog at this point is stressful, unknown and inconsistent.

Imagine you have been up-heaved from your life, to find yourself in a temporary housing situation without your prior knowledge or consent, and without knowing how long you’ll be there.  At some point, possibly soon or possibly after a long time, you meet someone new for a few minutes and find yourself going home with them.  This is stressful!  The thought is terrifying and yet this happens to dogs all the time!  Dogs end up in rescue groups and shelters and this exact scenario plays out every single day all across the world for the “lucky” ones.  The unlucky ones don’t ever make it out of the shelter they came to.

When a new dog comes into your home it is not only important, but necessary to introduce your pet to you, your home and your life carefully.  Your dog needs time with minimal exposure to stimulus, to unwind from the stress that they’ve just lived through and to give you and your home/family a fair shake.  To skip the decompression stage of adoption is to rob your dog of the second chance it so desperately needs.

All dogs respond to stress differently, just as people do.  Some dogs can decompress in a week or two, and other dogs could take a month or more to really start to settle and adjust.  There are no magical timeline that will tell you how long you should allow your new dog time to decompress but experts state anywhere from 2-4 weeks is the minimum.

Decompression or lack thereof can’t be the blame for every incident involving a new dog, but doing it properly helps eliminate that risk.  Children should never be trying to take things from a dog, or be in the dog’s space.  Babies and kids shouldn’t be allowed to lay on the dog, pull on it, climb it, pull tails or any of those other things that kids just love to do to dogs.  Many parents believe these are cute interactions, but the dog may not be as enthusiastic and the child and the dog will be the ones to pay the price.

The take-away is this:  new dogs must be introduced carefully, slowly, and with supervision.  Children should never be left alone with a dog (new or otherwise!), and a dog needs time to destress after it comes home to a new household before any of the exciting “getting to know you” activities are planned.

Below are three examples of new adoptions that turned to tragedy.  I intentionally left out any Pit Bull examples because it’s easy to forgot that ANY DOG can bite and attack.

Links to some non-Pit Bull examples:

Links about decompressing new dogs:


Job Opening: Volunteer Program Coordinator (Part Time)

The Kalamazoo Humane Society is looking for a part-time Volunteer Program Coordinator!  Candidates should be energetic, organized and excited about engaging people and helping animals.  Under the supervision of the Director of Operations, this position carries responsibility for planning, implementing, and sustaining an active and successful volunteer program focused on bringing the mission of the Kalamazoo Humane Society to life.

To Apply:

Apply Online
Or, submit your resume and letter of interest to:
David Hess
Director of Operations – Kalamazoo Humane Society
4239 S. Westnedge Ave.
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
Email:  dhess@kazoohumane.org

Helpful Links:

Visit the KHS website

Read the full job description (PDF)



Kalamazoo Humane Society promotes compassion for ALL; not just animals


Every morning I come to work, some of our staff have already been working since before we’re even open to check in our surgery clients for the day and get a start on a long day of spays and neuters.  I always check our social media to see what’s happening around town, find out if anyone left us any messages that need responding to, and to keep up on anything we should be aware of before I dig in to whatever I need to get done.

As the Community Connections Director, nothing starts my day off better than positive feedback or interaction with a client.  It tells me we’re on the right track, and I love to know that we were able to help someone or an animal.  Today started like any other, and when I saw we had a new check-in on FaceBook I was so excited because that usually gives me an opportunity to reassure someone their pet is doing well in surgery, or to thank someone for visiting.  Today, however, was not a typical check-in.

I read a heartfelt and painfully honest post from a mother who wants you to know that your words can hurt.  After experiencing an aggressive encounter with another one of our clients in our lobby this morning, Judith McNees took to social media with an open post to the woman that lashed out at her and her child.


Her message struck a chord with me, not just because I’m also a mother, but because I work here, and because compassion for all living things is such a huge part of our mission.  For something like this to happen in our lobby is so out of place.  Our office has always welcomed everyone from all walks of life.  Just the very nature of our work brings us people at their most vulnerable.

We would like to take this opportunity to remind people to be kind.  Be kind to animals and be kind to others.  Just.  Be.  Kind.

Updated post from Judith McNeeds clarifies that it was not KHS staff or volunteers that mistreated her this morning:


Helping Kalamazoo’s Neediest

The Kalamazoo Humane Society will be taking the Pet Food Bank to the Mothers Of Hope Ultimate Family Reunion and we need your help to make the biggest impact!

For the second year, KHS will be attending the Mothers of Hope Ultimate Family Reunion at LaCrone Park in Kalamazoo’s Northside neighborhood on Saturday, August 5th.  We knew this event was important for our community, but I didn’t realize just how important until I was there.

The Ultimate Family Reunion had organizations and businesses from all over Kalamazoo helping those in our community that need it most.  There were free haircuts for kids, school bags and school supplies to be handed out and a lot of information about services for families who are struggling.  It was a very positive environment with entertainment, food and activities.

Not knowing what to expect, I brought all of our leftover Dog Walk t-shirts from previous years, pencils and information about our Pet Food Bank and Operation Fix-It.  We had a few hundred t-shirts to give away and I couldn’t believe we ran out before the event was half over.

In the crowd were a lot of homeless citizens who were happy for a new clean shirt to wear.  I remember when we were down to the last shirt, a small boy who couldn’t have been more than 8-10 years old asked me if he could have a shirt.  The only shirt I had left as an Adult 2X so I told him it was too big, and that I was out of kid shirts.  He looked at me, and the shirt I was holding up, and said that he would still wear it, and that he could tuck it in.  I knew then that he needed this shirt, even if it was going to be way too big.  I handed it to him, and he thanked me with excellent manners.

There were so many kids at this event with their families that all needed things.  Things for school, things to wear, things to eat, things to do, things for their pets.  When I was driving away, I saw a family who had just left the event walking down the street, all wearing new KHS Dog Walk t-shirts.  Having two young boys of my own I was deeply effected by the kids I met at this event and the need of the people who came to the Ultimate Family Reunion.

For 2017, to be able to offer even more help, we’re planning to bring our Pet Food Bank so that we can distribute food for pets while we’re there.  We’ll be taking sign-ups for the food bank program on-site and helping as many as we can while supplies last.  Based on my experience last year, I know we’ll be giving out a lot of pet food and supplies to people who truly need a helping hand.

This is where we need your help!  Anyone who has pet items, or who can donate pet food, cat litter and pet supplies is strongly encouraged to bring items to our office by Thursday, August 3rd.  I’ll be loading up the KHS van on Friday to get ready for the event on Saturday.

Any items in new or used and good condition will be accepted, especially leashes, collars, harnesses, brushes, nail clippers or other basic pet supplies for cats and dogs.  Donations of small bags of food (5-7 lb bags work great), cat litter, canned food or treats would also be appreciated.

These donations will be driven directly to LaCrone Park on Saturday, August 5th, to help some of the most impoverished pet owners in Kalamazoo.  Thank you for your help!

KHS Blog Authors

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