How Service Dogs Assist People with Mental Health Disorders

Written by guest blogger Jessica Brody, OurBestFriends.pet

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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.

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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:
https://quotewizard.com/home-insurance/dog-breed-insurance-rates

 

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
NO PHONE CALLS PLEASE

Helpful Links:

Visit the KHS website

Read the full job description (PDF)

 

 

Kalamazoo Humane Society promotes compassion for ALL; not just animals

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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!

Tips For Fun, Safe Summer Travel With Your Dog

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By Kaitlyn Manktelow @Kurgo, the dog travel experts

With the beautiful weather outside, it seems almost a crime for you and your favorite canine to stay inside, instead of enjoying the sunshine together. While it seems pretty easy to just pack up and hit the road with your furry friend, there are some hidden dangers to traveling with a dog that you may not be aware of. Here are some safety tips to ensure both parties have a safe and fun time!

Keep Arms & Legs & Paws Inside at All Times

We know your dog loves to stick his head out the window. While it may seem like an innocent and ‘cute’ thing to allow your pooch to do, it is actually incredibly unsafe.

As human beings, we have a windshield to protect our eyes from different traveling dangers. Hanging with their heads out the window, leaves our four-legged friend’s eyes vulnerable to being hit by foreign objects like rocks, twigs and other forms of debris. The cornea of a dog’s eye is very sensitive and hard to repair if damaged. It also exposes their lungs to breathing in toxic fumes which can cause pneumonia.

Even worse, an unrestrained dog with its head out the window can jump out of a moving car. If a car swerves or is involved with a collision, your pup can be thrown out the window. The severity of these injuries can be anywhere from road rash, to broken bones to even fatal injuries.

Everyone Two-legged and Four, Should Be Buckled Up

Most of us put on a seatbelt in the car without giving it a second thought. We make sure that all human passengers are strapped in, but what about our animal family members?

In addition to being injured in a crash, a loose pet can also be a possible hazard for human passengers in an accident. An unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at 50 mph will exert roughly 500 pounds of force on anything it hits, while an unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert about 2400 pounds of force.

A loose dog can also limit a driver’s ability to steer, use the gas and brakes as well as create blind spots.

One car safety solution is to use a dog seat belt with a crash-tested dog car harness. Now your dog is safely buckled up just like you.

Click it or ticket – did you know there are laws being put into place in the United States and across the globe making it illegal to drive with a loose pet?

Bring A ‘Pet-Friendly’ Travel Kit

When humans travel, we have our go-to items like a water bottle, favorite snack or comfy sweatpants. Make your pet more comfortable on the trip by bringing them creature comforts too. Hydration is important in the summer, so be sure to throw in water for your dog and a portable dog travel bowl. Some dogs have anxiety so giving them something that smells like home such as a favorite toy or blanket can ease their fears. And of course snacks. Treats can be an easy way to coax a reluctant dog back in the car after a rest stop break.

Never, Ever Leave Your Pup Alone in the Car

A dog should never be left in an unattended car, no matter the season. However, in summer heat, it is even more important considering that on an 85 degree day, car temperatures can reach up to 120 degrees within 10 minutes even with the windows open!

For more tips, check out this Pet Travel Safety Tips Video.

About Kaitlyn Manktelow – Kaitlyn is a writer and videographer for Kurgo, a dog travel and outdoor products company. She enjoys filming, traveling, and singing way too loud with her rescue dog Samuel Jackson.

Tips for Bonding with a New Pet for First-Time Owners

Pet Bonding Photo

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

One of the main reasons we, as humans, decide to adopt a new pet is so that we can have a new companion in our lives. We don’t just want to open up a dog or cat hotel – we want an intimate bond with our pets. For first-time pet owners, knowing how to create a strong bond can be difficult. Sometimes it comes easy, and sometimes it’s not so simple. Here are some tips to ensure you and your new pet bond.

Start training your dog immediately

Whether you’re adopting an older dog or getting a puppy, it’s vital that you begin to train them as soon as they step foot into their new home. Dogs prefer structure and purpose, and an untrained dog is not just a pain – it’s an unhappy dog. When your dog is properly trained, you can spend more time enjoying each other’s company and less time trying to correct/discipline bad behaviors.

“Well-trained dogs are allowed greater freedom. If they come when called, they get to spend more time off leash. If they don’t go for the food on the table, they can stay nearby during meals. Training also reduces frustration because when you ask your dog to do something he’s been taught to do, he knows what you want,” says TheBark.com.

Always remain calm

Dogs and cats pick up on your energy, and if you are angry, nervous, or stressed out around them, they’re going to know it. It’s important to always be calm when dealing with your new pet – even if they’ve just eaten through your favorite pair of jeans or broken your grandma’s favorite vase.

The quickest ways to damage the bond between you and your pet is to be aggressive – physically or emotionally. And this sort of damage is very hard to reverse. Dogs have a hard time recovering from fear.

Be generous with the praise

“Praising your dog is a super easy way to let him know that you appreciate his good behavior, which will encourage him to continue making the right decisions. There are endless daily opportunities to give your dog positive feedback,” says PetMD.

You don’t have to give your dog treats every time they do anything good, a nice pat on the head, belly rub, and “atta boy” will do just fine. But it’s important that you always acknowledge good behavior, instead of just reacting to bad behavior. Physical contact is one of the best ways to bond with your new pet.

Spend lots of time with them

This may sound like a no brainer, but with cats and dogs alike, the most important way to develop a strong bond is to spend a lot of time together. Some people mistakenly think that pets are mostly solitary creatures who can spend a lot of time alone, and just a few interactions a day is enough to make them happy. If you want a strong bond, however, you have to do things together. If you work long days or your job requires you to be gone during the night or on lengthy business trips, you may need to make considerations for your pet to get some attention and exercise. You can seek out a local dog walking service, for instance. Or you can have a friend come over and play with your new pet when you’re not around.

The main ways in which you can create a stronger bond with your new pet are to give it plenty of attention, train it to the best of your ability, always stay calm and never be mean or aggressive, and be overly generous with the praise. If you start with those steps, you’ll be well on your way to forming a rewarding friendship with your new animal pal.

 

 

Press Release: KHS announces $4.75 mil capital campaign for new facility; $3 mil already raised

PRESS RELEASE

proposal

June 13, 2017
MEDIA CONTACT:
Aaron Winters, Executive Director
Kalamazoo Humane Society
269-345-1181 / awinters@kazoohumane.org

$4.75 MILLION CAPITAL CAMPAIGN
TO CREATE CRUCIAL CARE AND RESOURCE CENTER FOR ANIMALS

Kalamazoo Humane Society Kicks Off Fundraiser for New Facility
Expanding Spay/Neuter Services, Education, Support Services

KALAMAZOO, Michigan—The Kalamazoo Humane Society’s new animal care and resource facility edged closer to reality today as the Kalamazoo Humane Society (KHS) announced it had raised $3 million toward a goal of $4.75 million and invited the community to help finish the task.

KHS kicked off the public portion of its capital campaign at a news conference in downtown Kalamazoo, surrounded by supporters, local dignitaries and a few pets.
“The amazingly generous response we’ve seen in the early part of our capital campaign shows what I’ve always known, that this community loves, cares for and wants to protect its animals,” said Aaron Winters, Executive Director of KHS.

Robert Cinabro and Colleen Killen-Roberts, co-chairs of the Compassion/Prevention/Results Campaign, shared Winters’ enthusiasm.

“The Kalamazoo Humane Society’s campaign began with a simple goal: to fund an animal care and resource center to tackle increased demand for access to services that help not only reduce the number of unwanted pets in shelters and on the streets but also help keep pets safe and in their own homes,” said Cinabro. “Thanks to the vision and commitment of 140 donors to date, we’ve made outstanding progress toward that goal.”

“The specific needs of the Kalamazoo community may have changed over 120 years, but the Kalamazoo Humane Society has remained committed to protecting the vulnerable since 1897,” added Killen-Roberts. “This new animal care and resource center, which expands the Humane Society’s crucial medical, education and support services, is the next step in advancing our identity as a compassionate community. Now we’re asking the rest of the community to take us over the finish line in this important campaign.”
The new facility will be located in Comstock Township at River Street and the I-94 Business Loop. It will replace the Humane Society’s current home, which is a converted bridal shop. Winters said the center will expand KHS’s low-cost spay and neuter services to reduce unwanted litters, increase access to its emergency pet food bank and other services for pet owners in crisis, and provide humane education activities to promote responsible treatment of animals.

Operation Fix-It, KHS’s spay and neuter program, has exceeded 60,000 procedures since 2002, which correlates to dramatic reductions in the number of animals housed in the shelter operated by Kalamazoo County Animal Services & Enforcement. Reportedly, in 2015 no dogs were euthanized for lack of space—a result attributed to Operation Fix-It.
The new animal care and resource center will increase the scope of Operation Fix-It, according to Winters.

“When complete, our new home will allow us to grow programs that reduce the number of shelter animals through education and access to medical services and assistance,” Winters said.

Construction of the animal care and resource center should begin by spring 2018.
The Kalamazoo Humane Society is a qualified 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, meaning gifts are tax-deductible. Individuals and groups wishing to support the Compassion/Prevention/Results Campaign may do so in any of the following ways:

• A one-time cash gift
• A multi-year pledge commitment that can be paid over three years
• A gift of appreciated assets, such as stocks
• A donation of an asset that can be converted to cash, such as property, a car, collectibles, etc.
• An estate gift

More information about the Kalamazoo Humane Society and the Animal Care and Resource Center, including an informational video, is available online at www.kazoohumane.org/campaign

About the Kalamazoo Humane Society
Founded in 1897, the Kalamazoo Humane Society provides humane education, pet population control and emergency response services to pets and pet owners throughout Kalamazoo County and many under-served Southwest Michigan communities. Find out more at http://www.kazoohumane.org, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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Bills 413, 414 and 416 need your support! #protectMIanimals

DSC_0015In 2012 as an Animal Services Officer I reached out to the Humane Society of the United States to help me investigate dog fighting here in Kalamazoo.  With limited resources and training, I knew I needed help and the HSUS stepped in and gave myself and my department all the tools we needed to go after the big names on my list.  The HSUS invested $250,000 into investigating and prosecuting dog fighting here in Kalamazoo.  The 2012 string of dog fighting raids was a success because of the help of the experts and generous donors of the HSUS.

Michigan has some of the best laws out there to protect animals from fighting and abuse, but it lacks in the ability to punish people who break these laws.  Time and time again we have watched dog fighters in Kalamazoo, Detroit, and all over the state get away with minor penalties for felony offenses, and as a result they pick up where they left off and get more dogs to continue.

khs-press-release-photos7

It’s important to know that for people who are fighting dogs, this blood sport is a business, a way of life, and an addiction.  It isn’t something they’ll give up without a compelling reason.  A 1-30 day sentence to jail is worth it, because the rewards greatly outweigh the risks.

This game of cat and mouse between law enforcement and dog fighters is maddening, because even though law enforcement may “win” in a legal sense, the offender knows that nothing has really changed, and they can continue as soon as probation is over.  In the end, with these cases taking months to years to properly investigate and prosecute, it’s hard to justify the effort.  The only silver lining is knowing that the dogs we were able to rescue would never know that kind of life again.  Getting the dogs out was the only thing that made it worth the time.

dog3After watching Kelvin Thomas receive a slap on the wrist for his 3rd dog fighting offense, we knew something had to change.  Our system was broken and needed fixing.  Public outrage over the sentencing of Kelvin Thomas made it clear that it was time to take this problem to the next level.

Again, we reached out to our friends at the HSUS and we began working to make changes to the current laws.  Senator Margaret O’Brien sponsored these changes that would eventually become bills 413 and 414, and would create mandatory minimum sentences for repeat offenders.

Yesterday I was able to sit in on a hearing before the Senate Judiciary committee regarding bills 413 and 414.  The bills passed the Senate unanimously and will continue to move through the legislative process.  We hope to have these bills written into the law before the end of 2017 but it could be 2018.

Also introduced was bill 416.  Currently, if a humane agency is in custody of a dog that is known to be bred or trained for fighting purposes, it is illegal to adopt those dogs.  This goes for puppies, dogs that will not fight and breeding females.  In many cases the outcome is euthanasia after spending weeks to months in an animal shelter, as there is no place for these dogs to go unless an out of state agency is able to take them on.  Bill 416 would allow humane agencies the ability to adopt out dogs that can safely re-homed.  This bill would give the animal victims of dog fighting a chance at a better life, and a chance to become a pet.  It is no fault of the dog that they have found themselves in the hands of a dog fighter.  Together, bills 413, 414 and 416 make the necessary changes to our existing laws that allow humane law enforcement officers and court workers to effectively manage dog fighters and their animal victims in the aftermath of an investigation.

These bills can be supported individually or together.  This is the time to make it clear to our legislators that there is public support for these changes.  Please contact your legislator by writing a letter or an email, and express your support for bills 413/414 and 416.

All 3 bills (413, 414 and 416) were passed 4-0 with no objections with a recommendation to be immediately effective.  The video below is the recording of that Judiciary Committee hearing at 3:00PM June 6th, 2017.  413, 414 and 416 can be seen from the beginning of the video until 21:08, and voting begins at 44:40.

https://misenate.viebit.com/vod/?v=bshLUsD22WjV&s=false

Resources:

A Citizens Guide to State Government (2017; Michigan) – This PDF file includes all the information you would need to contact your legislator, and also outlines the process these bills are subject to.

Bill 413 – Details and PDF download of Bill 413

Bill 414 – Details and PDF download of Bill 414

Bill 416 – Details and PDF download of Bill 416

Dogfighting in Kalamazoo:

Marvis Blanks, 2012
HSUS Coverage of 2012 Collaberation
Leonard Turner, 2012
August 2012, Leonard Turner and Kelvin Thomas

KHS Blog Authors

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