More Kudos For Calgary’s Animal Services

A tip of my hat (toque?) to Calgary’s Animal Services for now providing a no-cost spay and neuter program for low income pet owners.

I’ve said it before: Calgary’s Animal Services department and by-laws are great examples for how things should be done most everywhere.  And the new spay and neuter assistance program certainly adds to that.

Individuals with yearly incomes less than $18,895, or couples with a combined annual income of less than $23,523, can receive the procedures free from the Animal Services Centre Clinic. 

This will take a huge weight off the shoulders of low-income pet owners, because typically these services do not come cheap.  Just last month when I was calling around for information before getting my cat spayed, I was quoted anywhere between $200 and $600 for the procedure.  While that turned out to be a wide price range, even $200 low end can be quite a lot for many Calgarians.

The new no-cost program is paid for with the revenue received from cat licenses – just another good reason to license your pet, in addition to the city’s new I Heart My Pet rewards program, which offers discounts at local businesses for owners of licensed pets.  

Obviously, this program will help to reduce the number of unwanted pets that end up in shelters in Calgary and the surrounding area.  In 2009, the City of Calgary reports having had to euthanize 22 dogs and 16 cats for reasons only listed as “other”, in other words, not because of a health or behaviour issue that required the animal to be put down.  And the city has recently asked for help with cat adoptions, noting that they are currently at capacity.  Hopefully the no-cost program will help make these numbers lower or even non-existent in the coming years.

And, of course, I think we all know what I propose Calgary’s next big step to be when it comes to our pets: banning the sale of companion animals in pet stores.  Such a by-law will also help diminish the population of rescue animals in the area (no more impulse pet purchases) and help to curb puppy mill sales.  I’ve written this letter to Mayor Nenshi and City Council on the subject, and I encourage anyone else to do the same.

After all, while our city may be pretty great – especially in this category – it can always be greater.

‘Fetching’ Fashions

Nearly every time we thoroughly brush our dog, my husband makes a comment to the effect of “you could knit a sweater with all of this fur”. 

Perhaps that is because the product of a good brushing looks something like this:

Not my dog in particular, but a good illustration.

 

But little did I know – though I probably should not be surprised – that there are people out there who take those kinds of comments seriously.  Very seriously.

And thus you get “chiengora”. 

That’s right – wool spun from dog fur.

For those curious, they’ve taken the word “angora”, which refers to wool made from Angora rabbits, and combined it with the French word for dog.  Genius.

Evidently, spinning wool from dog fur is not a new idea, and apparently dog fur was the dominant fibre for the First Nations in North America before sheep were introduced by the Spaniards.[1] 

Of course, that was a long, long time ago. 

And while I’m sure clothing and accessories made from dog fur are super warm, soft, durable, and water resistant, I just don’t get the appeal.  I do realise they don’t smell and that no dogs are harmed in the making, but it’s just downright odd.  Sorry.

Pictures illustrate it best, so allow me to demonstrate the strangeness with some portraits of individuals and their wool-producing pets taken by this guy.

 

 

Bizarre, right?

Of course, if you disagree and would like to purchase some chiengora products (Christmas is coming!), or perhaps would like something made from your own dog (or even cat)’s fur, Chiengora Fibers out of Revelstoke, B.C. will be able to hook you up.

And to their credit, they might possibly be producing the most “normal” looking chiengora products out there, such as these 100% Pyrenees mittens:

I should note, to procure the peculiar isn’t cheap, and these mitts will set you back $180.

Is the weirdness worth it? 

Well, I highly doubt I’ll start saving up my dog’s fur, but I’m sure there’s a market out there somewhere.  Perhaps the dog show circuit?

 

[1]  Greer, J. Suzanne. “Evaluation of Non-Traditional Animal Fibers for Use in Textile Products”. Thesis submitted to the Graduate Faculty of North Carolina State University. (2003)


Terminating Baby Talk

I’m not sure what it is about newborns or cute furry animals that routinely turn seemingly normal people into incomprehensible squeaky babblers, but it just happens.  All the time.  Without explanation.  We’ve all seen it:  a completely anonymous passerby will lock eyes on one of our furry companions and the ensuing behaviour makes it downright difficult to retain any lasting respect that person.

Those who baby talk – to anything, but lets say dogs and puppies specifically for the present purposes – have got to be one of my absolute top pet peeves when it comes to human-pet behaviour.

Or is that flexi-leash use?  Or people who never walk their dogs?  Or don’t pick up after their dogs?  Or people who carry their dogs around (rant forthcoming)?  Okay, yes, I am a cranky old curmudgeon on the inside who has a lot of pet peeves.  And while it’s hard to know which might be my number one annoyance, suffice it to say that baby talk definitely makes the top 5 list.

Why, you ask?  Have you never encountered it?  It’s ridiculous and irritating whether aimed at dogs, babies, toys, clothing, anything.  Nope, I’m certainly no baby-talker.  I’m not immune to inherent cuteness, either; I just have self-control (and self-respect?).  Sure, I have been known to utter an “aww” from time to time, but nothing even close to – and I’m just paraphrasing here – “ohhhlookathimisn’thejustthecutestwutestpuppywuppyeverawwlookatthathelovesmedon’tyouwuvme
awwIwuvyoutoo”.

And perhaps the worst part is that these squealing offenders usually completely disregard the owner at the end of the leash, and rush in all hands and kisses without even checking to see if it might be okay or a good idea.

I also don’t petition for a cease and desist on the baby talk simply because you sound ridiculous; I also recommend an end to it to help propel your own success with your dog.

It’s very simple: the more you talk to them generally, the less your words have meaning.  If you use verbal commands with your dog (who doesn’t?), but you are also nattering away at them all the time, telling them how adorable they are, how your day was, what you’re planning to make for dinner, etcetera, eventually they’re going to start to tune you out altogether.

The sad truth is, dogs don’t speak English.  Or French.  Or Japanese.  In fact, when dogs communicate with each other, it’s very largely through body language.  So the fact that they obey verbal commands from us at all is because we have taught them to using repetition.  But then if they learn – also through repetition – that many of the words you say to them don’t have any relevance to them specifically, then they will stop listening.  To anything.

So while talking of any kind can essentially have a detrimental effect on your verbal commands with your dog, think of what baby talk can do.

Baby talk: squealing, high pitched, excitable, annoying as all heck.  Do dogs themselves ever make those kinds of noises?  Sure, maybe when they are in pain, but not in the normal course, anyway.  Does anything else in a dog’s natural life make those kinds of noises?  Well, just prey animals and our substitutive squeaky toys.

Before you say it, NO, I am not saying baby talk will incite your dog to attack your face.  But I am saying that high-pitched baby talk – and any associated groping – sure can get them excited, which means focus and general good manners and behaviour declines.  It’s an inverse relationship.

I know that when strangers approach my dog, all handsy with the baby talk, he quickly gets too excited and you see that glimmer in his eye, indicating his thoughts:  “I know I could hump you… I’m just looking for my opportunity”.  As an observant owner, I certainly try my best to make sure he doesn’t get that opportunity (because if he does, it could only be my fault, right?), but he’s more likely to go for it the more excited and high pitched his new acquaintance is.  [And, of course, whenever possible I do try to direct calm, quiet greetings, but that’s not always possible in the face of a baby talk sneak attack.]

So there you have it:  excitement level up = focus down.  And baby talk and the standard accompanying behaviour is very exciting for dogs.  The dog doesn’t know you’re telling him he’s cute, he just responds to the hysteria accordingly.  “Is it crazy frenzy fun time?  I’m in!”

In sum, baby talk reaches the high echelons of nonsensical human behaviour.  The dogs don’t get it.  I don’t get it.  It often results in an excited dog the owner now has to manage.  And it makes you look silly.  No one benefits.  Can’t we legislate it or something?  If the island of Capri can ban wearing wooden clogs….

Kidding, of course.

Just cut it out.

Click for K9 Cuisine

Alright folks, time to take quite literally less than a minute to help out some dogs in need.

In response to Adopt-A-Shelter-Pet Month, the kind people at K9 Cuisine have offered to donate 5,000 lbs of food to two shelters: Half-Way Home and Homeward Bound, both located in Missouri.[1]

And I don’t mean 5,000 lbs of grain-filled, bad-for-your-dog kibble (i.e. Pedigree), I mean actual good quality pet food!  Have you checked out K9 Cuisine yet?  If not, you should.  It’s a great website with lots of resources on pet nutrition for both cats and dogs.[2]

For those living in the continental US, you can even order your pet’s food from them – they specialize in gluten-free, selling brands such as Horizon, Origen, and a number of great frozen and dehydrated raw food options.

But just because we Canadians can’t buy from them doesn’t mean we can’t support their cause and help deliver quality food to pets in need.

In order for K9 Cuisine to donate their 5,000 lbs of food, they’re asking for 5,000 Facebook fans.  That’s all. 

So all you need to do is visit their Facebook page and click “Like”.  Easy.  Here’s the link:  http://www.facebook.com/k9cuisine.

At my last check, they had only had 2,117 fans, which is less than half.  Not good enough!

So, take 30 seconds, “Like” K9 Cuisine, and allow some shelter animals receive a decent meal.  And then share with your friends so they can help, too.

 

November 1, 2010 Update:  Congratulations to K9 Cuisine for reaching over 5,000 Facebook fans before the end of October! All who supported will be happy to know shelter pets are getting fed as a result.


An Open Letter to Mayor Nenshi et al.

After motivating myself with my most recent post, Preventing Puppy Mills, I have sent the following letter to all addressed.  I encourage any like-minded individuals to sign and send a copy of this – or a similar – letter themselves.  All the contact information you need is below.  Let’s make a change!

 

October 19, 2010

Mr. Naheed Nenshi
Office of the Mayor
The City of Calgary
P.O. Box 2100, Station
Calgary, Alberta   T2P 2M5Via E-mail: themayor@calgary.ca
Via Facsimile: 403-268-8130   
 
Aldermanic Offices (8001)
The City of Calgary
P.O. Box 2100, Station M
Calgary, Alberta   T2P 2M5
V
ia Facsimile: 403-268-8091 and
403-268-3823

 

Dear Sirs/Mesdames,

Congratulations to all for your recent election wins!  And congratulations on making this the most exciting civic election Calgary has seen in recent memory.

I know you’re all going to be very busy, adjusting to working together as a team, and tackling issues like the budget, Enmax, and the airport tunnel.  But once the dust settles and you’ve found your groove, I have a request.

As you may or may not know, this month Richmond, B.C. became the first Canadian city to agree to ban the sale of dogs and puppies in pet stores.  Their by-law is expected to be finally adopted in November and to take effect on April 30, 2011.

I would like Calgary to follow suit. 

I am requesting that our new city council work together on a by-law to prevent the sale of companion animals (dogs and cats) in pet stores.  This is a slight expansion on Richmond’s by-law, since I am proposing Calgary ban the sale of all companion animals in pet stores, not just dogs.

Calgary is a very progressive city when it comes to its By-Law and Animals Services, and we are held as an example world-wide on how we deal with our animal laws.  As our city’s population grows, the number of “aggressive dog incidents” is on the decline, and it is no coincidence; we hold owners responsible for their pets’ actions.  We don’t discriminate on size or breed, and our city is also a leader in pet licensing, with estimates stating over 90% of pet dogs in our city our licensed.

A by-law preventing the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores can only add to our résumé.

Preventing the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores does two things:

1.  It eliminates a medium through which puppy mills sell their dogs and “kitten factories” sell their kittens; and

2.  It prevents the impulse purchase of pets. 

Point (1) should be obvious.  Puppy mills and “kitten factories” are high volume breeders who have little to no regard to the mental and physical well being of both their “breeding stock” animals and the offspring they sell.  The animals are bred in sub-standard and inhumane conditions – often in dirty, cramped kennels, literally living in their own feces.  They experience zero socialisation with other animals or human beings, and are malnourished and over-bred.  There is no concern for hereditary health conditions or inbreeding; the goal is to produce and sell as many puppies and kittens as possible.  Look it up – the horrors will make your stomach churn.  These puppies and kittens are then taken from their parents well before the recommended 8-10 week age, resulting in inevitable behaviour issues, just so that they are young and cute for the pet store window.  The squalid conditions they are born in and the disregard for proper breeding standards often results in serious undiagnosed and hereditary medical health problems.  And then, once owners are faced with these unexpected problems, these animals usually end up in shelters.

This leads us to point (2), preventing impulse pet purchases, which will help reduce the population of rescue animals.  Pet owners who did not properly think through their purchase and what they were getting into are a large supplier of rescue dogs in the first instance. 

In addition, not allowing pet stores to sell companion animals will allow rescue organizations and reputable breeders to fill the niche.  Shelter adoptions will increase, and as a result euthanasia will decrease.  Albuquerque, New Mexico has noticed a shelter adoption increase of 23% and euthanasia decrease of 35% since enacting their ban in 2006.

No, bans like the proposed will not completely solve the problem, since the internet is still a popular tool used by puppy mills and the like, but it does remove one medium of sale while also creating public awareness.

And if we look to Richmond, B.C. as an example (and the several American cities with similar bans in place), such a by-law is generally met with widespread public support.  Granted, a couple of pet stores will undoubtedly voice their opposition, but Richmond’s Mayor Brodie said it best: “It seems to be acknowledged by all the parties that there is a problem with so-called puppy mills, that sell dogs in very high volumes and that are subjected to inhumane treatment.  So it’s a question of how do we deal with that. At the local level, there are only a few levers at our disposal, and we want to do what we can.”

I would like Calgary to do what it can.

For this, I would like to provide you with the section of Albuquerque’s Code of Ordinances on this issue as an example (Ch. 9, Article 2):

§ 9-2-4-4   SALE OR GIFT OF AN ANIMAL.

(A) Public Property.  No Person shall display, sell, deliver, offer for sale, barter, auction, give away, or otherwise dispose of an Animal upon a street, sidewalk, public park, public right-of-way or other public property.  Adoption events approved by the Mayor, or any adoption events held by a Rescue Group or Rescue individual are exempt.

(B) Commercial Property.  No Person shall display, sell, deliver, offer for sale, barter, auction, give away, or otherwise dispose of any Animal upon commercial property including parking lots, with or without the property owner’s permission.  [Permit] Holders are limited to the property the Permit was issued for.  Adoption events approved by the Mayor are exempt.

(C) Residential Property.  No Person shall display, sell, deliver, offer for sale, barter, auction, give away, or otherwise dispose of any Companion Animal puppies or kittens upon residential property without a Litter Permit.

(D) Sales Incentives.  No Person shall offer a live Animal as an incentive to purchase merchandise or as a premium, prize, award, or novelty.

(E) Advertising.  No Person shall advertise puppies or kittens for sale in any local periodical without a valid Litter Permit number conspicuously listed in the advertisement.   No Person shall advertise any Animal for sale in the City of Albuquerque using any roadside signs, flyers, handbills or billboards.

With this in mind, I request council consider a similar addition to Calgary’s by-laws.

I thank you very much for your time.

Yours truly,

Jen _________
Voter; Ward ___ Resident

 

Copies To:
Dale Hodges, Ward 1 Alderman, dalehodges@telus.net

Gord Lowe, Ward 2 Alderman, gord.lowe@calgary.ca; gordlowe@gordlowe.org

Jim Stevenson, Ward 3 Alderman, ward03@calgary.ca
Gael Macleod, Ward 4 Alderman, ward04@calgary.ca  
Ray Jones, Ward 5 Alderman, aldjones@telus.net
Richard Pootmans, Ward 6 Alderman, ward06@calgary.ca, richardp@richard4ward6.com
Druh Farrell, Ward 7 Alderman, ward07@calgary.ca
John Mar, Ward 8 Alderman, ward08@calgary.ca
Gian-Carlo Carra, Ward 9 Alderman, ward09@calgary.ca
Andre Chabot, Ward 10 Alderman, ward10@calgary.ca
Brian Pincott, Ward 11 Alderman, ward11@calgary.ca
Shane A. Keating, Ward 12 Alderman, ward12@calgary.ca, shane@shanekeating.ca
Diane Colley-Urquhart, Ward 13 Alderman, ward13@calgary.cadcolley@calgary.ca

Pe
ter Demong, Ward 14 Alderman, ward14@calgary.ca

City Clerk’s Office, cityclerk@calgary.ca

City of Calgary, Animal & By-Law Services, via facsimile: 403-268-4927

 Calgary Humane Society, humane.education@calgaryhumane.ca

Preventing Puppy Mills

Preventing Puppy Mills – Blog the Change for Animals

This month, Richmond, B.C. became the first Canadian city to agree to ban the sale of dogs and puppies in pet stores.[1]  The by-law is expected to be finally adopted in November and take effect April 30, 2011.[2]

While pet shop owners who financially benefit from these sales may not be impressed, this is an important step when taking action against puppy mills.  We Canadians are actually behind our neighbours to the south in this respect, with many American cities having long ago banned the sale of puppies in pet stores, including cities in California, Florida, New Mexico and Missouri.[3]

How does this help?  Well, pet stores are just one of the many mediums through which puppy mills are able to sell their puppies.  And I should note, there is a similar concern about “kitten factories”, as well.  While many puppy mills still flourish through online sales, banning the sale of puppies in pet stores remains an important step in prevention and public awareness.

What is a puppy mill and why is it bad?  Well, essentially a puppy mill (or kitten factory, for that matter) is a high-volume breeder.  Dogs are bred in sub-standard and inhumane conditions, often in dirty, cramped kennels, literally living in their own feces.  The parents (the “breeding stock”) experience zero socialisation with other animals or human beings, and are malnourished and over-bred.  There is no concern for hereditary health conditions or inbreeding; the goal is to produce and sell as many puppies as possible.  Look it up – horrors will make your stomach churn.

The products of these puppy mills – the puppies often seen in those pet store windows – are yes, an extremely sad case, but not an ideal pet.  These puppies are taken from their mothers long before the recommended age of 8-10 weeks, to ensure they are still adorable for those window shoppers.  This early removal results in numerous potential behaviour problems.  In addition, the squalid conditions they are born in and the disregard for proper breeding standards often result in serious undiagnosed and hereditary medical health problems.

While bans like the one in Richmond do not completely prevent the problem, they are a significant step.  They create awareness, put a dent in puppy mill sales, and often allow rescue organizations to fill the void and adopt out more dogs. 

These bans also prevent the “impulse purchase” of companion pets, effectively – I believe – preventing many instances of bad owners and animal cruelty in private homes.  Owners who did not properly think through their purchase and what they were getting into are a large supplier of rescue dogs in the first instance.

So what can you do?  Lots!

1.  Lobby your local government (i.e. city council) for bans similar to those in Richmond, B.C.  Lobby your federal and provincial government for better regulation of commercial breeders and stronger animal cruelty laws.

2.  If you’re considering a pet, look for a reputable breeder or seek out a rescue organization.  Reputable breeders and many rescue organizations will make you fill out long applications and interview you before determining whether or not you’re a suitable candidate for one of their dogs.  This is not a bad thing.  If you’re not sure what to look for in a breeder, do some research.  There are lots of helpful resources out there.[4]

3.  In addition to not buying from a pet store, avoid the other mediums for puppy mill sales – largely the internet and newspaper ads.  Be aware of pets sold through Kijiji and similar websites, and always insist on making a location visit prior to picking up your new family member.  Ask to meet the puppy’s parents.  If they are willing to give you your puppy prior to it turning 8 weeks old (at minimum), walk away.  There are lots of puppies out there in need of a good home.

4.  Don’t support pet stores that sell companion animals.  At all.  Many pet stores opt to feature pets from local shelters, or just sell supplies – this is great!  Give your business to them.

5.  Speak up!  If you suspect a puppy mill, report it.  The Humane Society of the United States actually has a toll free number you can call to report suspected puppy mills: 1-877-MILL-TIP.[5]  Don’t let them go unreported.  In Canada, make reports to your local SPCA or Humane Society.  You can also report suspected cases of animal cruelty to your local Animal & By-Law Services.

Be the change for animals: http://btc4animals.com/


Facebook Faux Pas

Inspired by www.yourstatusisannoying.com, a website that and is both lovable and objectively hilarious.

The line between “social networking” and actual, real-life “socializing” is constantly getting blurrier.  And it seems that users are finding more and more reasons to put even more information on Facebook.  Sure, Facebook is handy when your mom asks what old so-and-so from high school is up to and you want to find out without having to make personal contact.  It’s also great for sharing vacation photos.  However, there are many things I believe Facebook should never be used for.  And so follows my angry list.

1.  Airing your dirty laundry.  Facebook is not a dispute resolution forum.  Starting or trying to resolve arguments via status updates and/or comments thereto may be mildly entertaining for us bystanders, but think: you’re putting that stuff online for all to see.  All 400 of your Facebook “friends”, that is.  Yes, it’s funny for us (to a certain extent), but rather than cathartic for you, it’s just embarrassing and likely regretful.

2.  Offering condolences.  This is the worst.  If someone died or lost someone, or got fired or dumped, condolences should be offered in person or over the telephone, NOT by wall post or status update.  You don’t need to invite everyone on Facebook into someone else’s personal suffering.  Worst case scenario – you absolutely cannot call or visit – send a private e-mail or message.  And if you’re not close enough to give them a direct message, then you’re not close enough to be obligated to comment on the situation at all; it’s none of your business, so leave it alone altogether.

3.  Quoting lyrics incessantly.  Annoying.  Extremely annoying.  This behaviour will fast-track you to deletion.

4.  The same goes for constant “inspirational” quotes and strange rhetorical questions.  If I was in the market for inspiration, Facebook would not be on my list of places to look.

5.  TMI: too much information.  This can be any number of things: health issues, relationship woes, conflicts at work and school, anything at all about your sex life or lack thereof.  If it’s something you should probably keep private or only within your inner circle, it should stay far away from Facebook.

6. Discussing bowel movements.  Of anyone.  This falls under the realm of too much information, but occurs frequently enough to deserve special mention.  Potty training your child?  Congratulations.  I have zero interest in learning about it, and these types of statuses and any accompanying photos will get your profile hidden at best, but more likely removed completely.  There are, what, almost 7 billion people on earth?  Most of them figure out the toilet eventually.  A miracle is it not.

7.  Your daily minutia.  I really don’t care what you’re wearing or what you ate for dinner the last 20 days in a row.  If you feel you must absolutely must share this meaningless information via the internet get a Twitter account.

8.  Flirting.  Gross.  Sure, she does look hot in that photo from Cancun (that is probably two years old), but at least drool via text message.

9.  Discussing your diet/work-out regime.  I’m lazy, I know.  I don’t need you to make me feel guilty about it.  You’re just bragging, anyway.  Which brings me to…

10.  Unnecessary and transparent bragging.  Yes, Facebook allows you to show off and edit your information in order to portray your own notion of the “ideal you” (that does not exist in reality, FYI).  We all know this, so showing off is not required and/or should be done with tact and subtlety. 

11.  Baiting your friends.  Here I’m referring to the ambiguous status updates that don’t say anything in particular but hint to deep emotional turmoil, begging for follow-up comments like “are you okay?” and “what happened?”  I make it a point to never indulge these attention seekers.

12.   Be a Debbie Downer.  Hate your job?  Your parents?  Your ex?  Generally depressed?  Vent elsewhere.  Write a haiku.  Go for a walk.  See a counsellor.  Do something, anything, other than sharing these woes through Facebook, because Facebook is not going to help or change anything.  Also, it’s not wise to put any feelings you may regret later (or that may find their way back to the subject person) on the internet, because once it’s out there, it’s out there.

13.  The infamous “is” update.  “Bob is.”  That’s it.  The end.  How very Descartes of you.  Clearly you’ve run out of ideas.  If you don’t have anything worthwhile to say, don’t say anything at all.

14.  Exhibit why you failed high school English.  I appreciate proper spelling and grammar in Facebook content, what can I say?  So until Facebook implements a spell-check feature, do us all a favour and go easy on the capital letters and exclamation points.  Learning the difference between “there”, “their”, and “they’re” will truly make you a better person.

15.  Coordinate important events.  Wedding invitations via Facebook?  Really?  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: tack-y.

16.  Posting anything racist, sexist, or generally offensive.  This should be self-explanatory, but sadly is not.

17.   Updates that read something like “If you can read this, you made the cut”.  I’m happy you discovered the friend-removal function and have now realized you don’t need to be “friends” with everyone you’ve ever had a conversation with, but is this supposed to make me feel special?

18.  Your legal problems.  Lost custody of your kid?  Spent the night in the slammer?  As much as we all love to revel in the misfortune of others, sharing this information with the masses is just another instance of the poor judgment that probably got you into those situations in the first place.

19. TV spoilers.  In the age of the PVR, it is completely inappropriate and totally inconsiderate to announce the results of finales, evictions and plot twists in your status update.  Any wrath incurred as a result is warranted.  You’ve been warned.  The same applies to any movie that hasn’t been out on DVD for more than a month.

20.  Statuses that request you to copy and paste them as your own status.  You know, so a wish comes true or something.  They are the chain letters of Facebook.

Please feel free to comment with your own grievances or post how awesome this is as your status update.

A special prize will be given to anyone who can devise a status update that violates all 20.

The Beef on Raw

Blogging about diet almost seems to be a rite of passage for those who focus on dog-related topics.  Every dog blogger does it eventually, and they do it with vigour and enthusiasm.  It solidifies your status as “that kind” of dog person.  And now it’s my turn.

Perhaps the enthusiasm stems from the notion that feeding your dog a raw diet is controversial and ground-breaking.  I disagree.  On the surface maybe it does seem somewhat controversial because raw-feeders appear to be the minority, but dig just a little deeper and the whole thing – to me at least – seems pretty obvious.  The soapbox issue here is pet owner education (or the lack thereof).

The reasons behind feeding your dog a raw diet are pretty straightforward.  Dogs are primarily meat-eaters and therefore should be fed meat.  Thus, raw food is good for your dog; grain-based kibble is not.  In fact, the commercial kibbles are so bad that they are responsible for most pet allergies (due to the wheat and soy ingredients), periodontal disease, skin issues, and even some behavioural problems.  It makes sense – these kinds of things can happen to an animal when fed an insufficient diet.  So why the debate?

Well, giving pet owners the benefit of the doubt and assuming everyone wants the best for their animals, it must be that people just aren’t aware of this or don’t read ingredients labels.  Someone has to be buying the big name grain-based foods for their pets or the folks selling them wouldn’t be in business.

Unfortunately, those selling poor-quality, mass-produced, grain-based kibble appear to dominate the market.  Their frequent, high-budget, cutesy commercials and print ads can be found nearly everywhere, and their products are sold in pretty much every big name grocery and pet store.  They speak to your love for all things furry and tell you “if you love your dog (or cat), you will feed them [insert brand here], because we love them too and only want to give them the best”. 

They’re lying, of course.  Considering over one-third of Canadian and American households have a pet dog, there is a large market for pet food,[1] and these companies exist to turn a profit.[2]  And they certainly don’t do so by filling their foods with the quality ingredients your dogs and cats should be eating.  This, of course, has resulted in many pet food recalls in recent years, such as the infamous 2007 Menu Foods recall that involved dog food sold under 53 different brands and cat food sold under 42 different brands, including the familiar labels Iams and Eukanuba.[3]

But marketing dominance is not the only problem.  The lack of education does not only plague the average pet owner, but also the person they often turn to for advice: our trustworthy neighbourhood veterinarians.  The majority of vets are insufficiently educated about nutrition.  There.  I said it.  Firstly, this is because the average veterinary degree only requires that 40 hours/one week of study be dedicated to the subject of nutrition generally, out of a total three years of schooling.  Secondly, I did a quick search on companies that sponsor many nutrition education programs for vets in North America, and guess what names came up.  Hill’s.  Purina.  Great, so our “experts” are taught by the bad guys. 

Before you write this off as the least interesting conspiracy theory ever, think for a second: what brand is often found on your vet’s shelves?  Hill’s Science Diet, of course.

Using my favourite website on this issue, www.dogfoodanalysis.com, take a look at the breakdown of Hill’s Science Diet Canine Maintenance Beef and Rice.[4]  The analysis gives this food the lowest possible rating.  Its sole meat ingredient (beef) isn’t properly accounted for because they’ve included water content in the weight which is removed as it’s made into kibble.  The next three ingredients by volume are grains: brewers rice (low quality by-product); rice flour (grain fragment, filler); and corn meal (difficult for dogs to digest and thought to be the cause of allergies and yeast infections).  Tell me, when exactly was the last time you saw a wolf or dog (or cat) down a cob of corn in the wild?  The next two ingredients are soybean meal (low quality protein, cause of canine allergy problems) and chicken by-product meal (by-products are low-quality unidentified meats, usually rejects from human food processing that could not be used elsewhere).  The several remaining ingredients are more unidentified by-products, beet pulp (cheap filler, thought to be responsible for allergies and kidney and liver problems), and chemical preservatives (possibly carcinogenic).

So why does the vet sell or promote this junk food?  Either they don’t know any better, or they do but would rather profit from sales-based incentives from selling the food and getting business from ailments that plague our pets as a result of the food.  Ahh, the old debate of ignorance v. malevolence

I’ll pick ignorance as the perpetrator, because I really don’t (want to) think most vets are inherently evil (although Blofeld did have that cat…).

It’s simple.  Look at the ingredients in the kibble analysed above.  Why would you feed that stuff to your pet?

Dogs and cats are biologically carnivores.  Consider their teeth, jaw and neck muscles, stomachs, colons and other internal organs – they are anatomically designed to be the eaters of raw meat.[5]  Because (some) humans have been feeding their pets grain-based kibble in recent decades does not change that, and just because they can “get by” on a sub-par diet doesn’t mean they should.  You shouldn’t eat Doritos every day for dinner, either.[6]

My favourite fanciful objection to raw diets (I’ve even heard it cited by a vet[7]), and one that misses the point entirely, argues wolves and dogs are actually omnivores, meaning their natural diet is made up of primarily both plants and animals.  This often is supported by the suggestion that wolves eat the stomach contents of their prey – the prey having ingested a diet of primarily herbs and grains.  Thus, the wolf is getting its necessary corn, wheat, or grain intake from the deer/rabbit/whatever’s stomach.  And because your dog isn’t out there eating stomach contents, his everyday meal should be a kibble made of cheap corn and wheat.

To answer this – and pretty much any other objection you may have heard about raw diets – I recommend a visit to http://www.rawfed.com/myths/.  They look to biologists and other wolf experts to explain the carnivorous activities of wolves:

Wolves do NOT eat the stomach contents of their prey. Only if the prey is small enough (like the size of a rabbit) will they eat the stomach contents, which just happen to get consumed along with the entire animal. Otherwise, wolves will shake out the stomach contents of their large herbivorous prey before sometimes eating the stomach wall.

No, dogs and wolves are not omnivores.  They are “facultative carnivores”, which means while they are primarily meat-eaters, they do occasionally eat a non-meat meal.  Note the emphasis on occasionally, meaning that their diet should still consist primarily of meat, not corn or wheat.

On the other hand, as a feline, your cat is an “obligate carnivore”, and a meat-only diet meets his nutritional requirements, and housecats actually lack the physiology necessary to effectively digest plants and vegetables.[8]  So not only is a raw or meat-based diet the best for Felix, too, this also means that grain-based kibbles can have an even more detrimental effect on your feline friends.

So the topic sums up as follows: to feed your pet a diet most suited to his natural needs, and closest to what he would eat if left to his own devices, is to feed him a raw diet.  It is more appropriate and healthier, and many pet owners report a variety of improvements in their pets once having switched to a raw diet, including better dental and digestive health, a reduction or even complete elimination of allergies, and better coat and skin health.

And I should note that to feed your dog or cat a raw diet doesn’t mean you have to fill your deep freeze with an entire cow carcass (although you could if you wanted).  There is a tonne of selection when it comes to raw diets, you just have to look.  Sure, you can purchase your own raw meat in bulk and add fruits and vegetables at meal time,[9] or there are many brands that offer convenient pre-packaged and prepared raw patties – fruit and veggies included.  All you need to do is thaw the food and give it to your dog.  It can be as simple or as involved as you want.  Granted, the cost does increase when you switch your pet to a raw or otherwise quality diet, compared to feeding your dog cheap, commercial garbage kibble, but it’s a matter of proper diet and the overall health of your pet.  The advantages are worth the expense, and so is your pet.

And, of course, if you simply can’t stomach feeding a raw diet, there is a decent middle-ground compromise of high-quality kibble, which you can supplement with fish oil and the occasional raw bone or turkey neck, as you are willing or as is necessary.  To find a suitable brand of food, simply examine the ingredients.[10]  Look for foods that include actual meat as the first ingredients:  beef, bison, turkey, chicken, eggs, pork, salmon, etc.  Potato is an acceptable ingredient and is a good source of carbohydrates.  Ensure the food you select is void of grains, but look for fruit and vegetable ingredients (pumpkin, carrots, turnip, apples, etc.), which do provide necessary nutrients alongside meat.

And if you’re ever unsure or concerned about your pet’s diet, just think back to that ingenious Wendy’s ad campaign from the ‘80s and ask yourself: where’s the beef?


[1]  To see where I first mentioned these stats in more detail, visit https://backalleysoapbox.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/in-defence-of-big-dogs/
[2]  Really?  Daschund-specific kibble?  Terrier-specific kibble?  There’s a scam if I’ve ever seen one.
[3]  The pet food sold was responsible for poisoning 471 animals and 104 deaths.  The related litigation in Canada and the US recently settled for US$24 million.  See: http://www.menufoods.com/Recall/
[4]  http://www.dogfoodanalysis.com/dog_food_reviews/showproduct.php?product=125&cat=7
[5]  http://rawfed.com/myths/omnivores.html
[6]  Sorry.
[7]  Score one for ignorance.
[8]  If your cat is in the back yard eating grass, they’re probably just trying to induce vomiting.  Hairball, anyone?
[9]  Not corn, soy or wheat.
[10]  Or visit www.dogfoodanalysis.com and look for brands given the highest (6 star) rating.