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New Dating App Caters To Dog People: What’s Not To Love?

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From what I’ve heard, dating in the digital world isn’t easy. For one thing, you never know who you’re really talking to online. It could be your soul mate. Or it could be a serial killer. You just never know.

Personally, I’m in no hurry to find out. For one thing, I am happily divorced after a colossal betrayal by the person I believed to be the love of my life (and I met him back in the good old days — before the Internet was even a thing). Secondly, I am way too busy to be bothered. And thirdly, I have a zero-tolerance policy for BS or stupidity of any kind. So you get the picture.

A dating app for dog people

Anyhow, I digress. The point of all of this is that I just came across a really cool article in my weekly quest for blog fodder. As reported by Narcity, a (relatively) new dating app called Dig App is about to launch in Miami.

Adopt-a-Dog volunteer with her charge at Puttin' on the Dog.
Take me home! A senior dog steals the show in the first parade at the Puttin’ on the Dog festival. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

So what’s the big deal? How is it different from all of the other dating apps out there? Well, this one specifically caters to dog people. That’s right. If you love dogs, you can use this app to connect with other like-minded singles.  As for the rest… Well, I’ll just skip the predictable puns about puppy love.

Details, details…

Created by a New Orleans-based company, Dig App is also available in New York City and other major markets including San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles.

According to its website, Dig will soon be launching in Atlanta, Nashville and Denver, too.

Even though they created the app because they were “being duped by fake dog lovers too many times,” co-founders Leigh and Casey Isaacson stress that the app isn’t limited to people who have dogs. You just have to like them — and be honest about it.

“[Leigh and Casey] created Dig because being a dog lover isn’t just another box to check off on a long list of your attributes,” Dig’s website states. “It’s a way of life for a growing number of single people, and it’s crucial to know that up front when dating.”

Consequently, Dig allows users to connect with other singles who enjoy spending time with dogs even if they don’t have one, or search for dogs according to size. The app also allows users to “help plan dog friendly dates, learn tips and tricks, and connect dog lovers with local dog friendly businesses.”

Users must be at least 18 and those that have dog businesses are not allowed to promote them on their profiles. However, there are other options for such promotions on the app.

You can get Dig from the Apple Store or Google Play. You can also learn more here.

In my humble opinion

I must confess, this sounds intriguing, especially since I do love dogs. If I weren’t so busy (and so cynical), I may even be tempted to check it out. In the meantime, Eli and I have a very important question. Where’s the dating app for cat lovers?

Just a thought…

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There Is No Punishment Harsh Enough In Kitten Drowning Case

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As many of you know I was a police reporter for more than 20 years. In my career I covered everything from the aftermath of 9/11 in the New York City suburbs to homicides, courthouse shootings and airplane crashes. So I’ve seen a lot of nasty stuff. To this day, I can’t forget those things. I never will.

And to this day, nothing makes my blood boil more than an animal cruelty case. As far as I’m concerned, there is no punishment harsh enough for anyone who deliberately hurts or kills an animal. I mean think about it. If someone is sick and twisted enough to hurt or kill an animal, they probably won’t think twice about hurting or killing a human being.

Alleged kitten killer arrested

So if what I recently about Junsong Zhang, 21, of Queens, New York, is actually true, they should just lock him up and get rid of the key. Now.

According to published reports, Zhang killed two kittens on January 22, 2019. He allegedly did so by putting them in a cage, putting the cage in the bathtub, turning on the tap, and leaving for nearly an hour.

As Zhang reportedly told authorities, the animals were “lying in the water and not breathing.” So he allegedly put them in a plastic bag and took them to the Animal Medical Center in Manhattan.

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In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

In a criminal complaint cited by the New York Daily News, a forensic veterinarian said both kittens were “healthy, and that one kitten had torn nails on its right front paw, left front paw and right back paw.”

A postmortem assessment confirmed that the kittens had drowned. They were just seven months old.

New York City prosecutors told the media that Zhang intended to “cause extreme physical pain” to the animals. As a result, he was arrested earlier this month and charged with two counts of aggravated animal cruelty.

Zhang was reportedly “released under supervision” and ordered to surrender his passport pending future court appearances.

Possible punishment upon conviction

Under Section 353-a of New York’s Agriculture and Markets Law, someone is guilty of aggravated cruelty to animals when he or she, “intentionally kills or intentionally causes serious physical injury to a companion animal with aggravated cruelty.” In this context, aggravated cruelty is defined as conduct that: “(i) is intended to cause extreme physical pain;  or (ii) is done or carried out in an especially depraved or sadistic manner.”

Aggravated cruelty to animals is a felony in New York. The maximum punishment upon conviction is two years in prison.

And as far as I’m concerned, that’s just not good enough.

Addressing The Controversial Decision Not To Have Pets Vaccinated

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It’s something every pet parent has experienced at the veterinarian’s office. A dog in the lobby cowers at the end of its leash — shivering with its tail tucked between its legs — and stubbornly refuses to walk into the exam room. A cat in a carrier yowls to make its feelings known, and anyone brave enough to take a closer look is most likely confronted by the sight of a decidedly unhappy feline, complete with bristled fur, a lashing tail and bared teeth.

No, it’s not a secret that most of our pets hate going to the vet, especially if they need shots. Luckily for some, their human caretakers don’t seem to think vaccinations are necessary. But is that really a good thing? Well, it depends on who you ask.

To vaccinate or not: that is the question

Personally, I must confess that I wasn’t aware there was a controversy about pet vaccinations until I read about it on time.com. I mean, it never occurred to me not to have Eli’s shots done. And now that I am thinking about it, I have mixed feelings.

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Eli The Cat. Photo By Alexandra Bogdanovic

On one hand, my life would be so much easier if I didn’t have to take him to the vet for shots. He is an indoor cat, so I could easily justify the decision not to. On the other hand, the thought of him getting some horrible disease — like rabies — is enough to make me glad I’m following the rules.

Even though Eli is an indoor cat,  his penchant for eating the mice he catches puts him at risk for picking up all sorts of nasty bugs — and passing them on to me. His penchant for biting when he’s feeling threatened, scared or mad, is also plenty of incentive to make sure his shots are up to date.

My dog doesn’t need any shots, thank you

But I digress. The point, according to the time.com article is that so-called “anti-vaxxers” are refusing to have their dogs vaccinated based on  misguided fears. Specifically, their opposition seems largely based on the belief that  vaccines are “unnecessary, dangerous and that they can cause a form of (canine) autism, along with other diseases.”

While it says evidence about opposition to pet vaccinations in the United States seems mostly anecdotal and highly localized, TIME reports that “anti-vax activists” in some states are pushing for the loosening of mandatory pet vaccination laws. TIME also reports that some states, including Connecticut, have entertained measures that would do so. So far, those measures have not garnered the support needed to become law.

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, there is more concrete information about growing reluctance to have pets vaccinated. As cited by TIME, the PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report for 2018 indicates that:

  • One quarter of owners report that their dog wasn’t vaccinated when it was young.
  • The total number of young dogs that weren’t vaccinated is approximately 2.2. million.
  • The number of owners who say they didn’t have their young dogs vaccinated “has levelled [sic] off after a significant increase last year.”
  • Twenty-three percent of dogs “have not received regular boosters.”

Furthermore, 20 percent of owners said initial vaccinations are unnecessary; 19 percent cited cost; and 11 percent said they “haven’t thought about it.”  Dog owners gave similar reasons for not ensuring that their pets get annual shots. Fourteen percent stated that their vet “hasn’t recommended annual vaccinations,” and 13 percent said they disagree with the practice.

My cats don’t need any shots, either

Low vaccination rates in the U.K. are not unique to dogs, however. According to the same report:

  • Thirty-five percent of owners said cats never had an initial course of vaccines when they were young.
  • Forty-one percent of cats haven’t gotten annual shots.

The top reasons owners gave for failing to ensure that their cats were vaccinated as youngsters were cost, that they find it unnecessary, and that the cat has no contact with other animals. Owners also gave those reasons for failing to have their cats get annual shots. Sixteen percent of owners also said their cats didn’t get annual shots because the cats are too stressed out by vet visits.

“Clearly, more education is needed to impress the importance of regular vaccinations to prevent
potentially fatal diseases in cats. Equally, ways of reducing cat stress in veterinary clinics could also be a way of encouraging more cat owners to take their pet in for vaccinations,” the report states.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that our pets count on us to keep them safe and keep them healthy. As far as I’m concerned, making sure they get their shots is a crucial part of that. But that’s just my opinion. What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Connecticut Cat Tax Proposed

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It’s official. I’m speechless. Completely. Utterly. Totally. Speechless. Seriously. I’ve got nothing.

And for the record, it takes a lot to put me in this state. I’m never at a loss for words. But I just can’t wrap my head around the Connecticut Cat Tax. l’m serious. Connecticut Democrats want to impose a “cat tax” on those of us who have felines and are still “lucky” enough to live here (sarcasm fully intended).

I read all about it on the Hartford Courant’s website earlier this week. At first I thought it had to be fake news. Unfortunately I checked the Connecticut General Assembly’s website, and it’s true.

What a catastrophe

At this time, raised S.B. 999 is officially known as An Act Concerning The Fee For Adopting a Dog, Cat or Other Domestic Animal From a Municipal Pound and Requiring the Licensing of Such Cats and Other Domestic Animals. 

I kid you not. This is what they decided to call it. Why didn’t they just call it a cat tax? It would have been so much easier that way.

In Brief Legal Writing Services Mascot, Eli.
Eli The Cat. Photo By Alexandra Bogdanovic

At any rate, the stated purpose of this proposed “Act” is to “increase the fee paid by anyone adopting a dog from a municipal shelter and to require the payment of such fee for anyone adopting a cat or other domestic animal from a municipal shelter and to require the licensing of such cats and other domestic animals.”

You can find the link text of the proposed bill here. In the meantime, I’ll just hit the “high points.”

As currently proposed:

  • Any Connecticut resident that  purchases a dog, cat or other domestic animal as a pet will have to pay a $15 fee to the municipal animal shelter or dog pound in order to get a license and tag for it from the town clerk.
  • Anyone that purchases a dog, cat or other domestic animal as a pet in Connecticut will also be required to cover the cost the municipality incurred, if any, to spay or neuter and vaccinate the dog [sic], provided such charge is not more than $150.
  • Any Connecticut resident that owns or keeps a dog that is at least six months old, except those  kept under a kennel license as provided by law; and anyone that owns a cat or other domestic animal adopted from a municipal animal shelter or dog pound  will be required to have the animal licensed in the town clerk’s office in the town where it is kept, on or before June 30th, each year after it turns six-months old.
  • The annual licensing fee for each qualifying neutered or spayed animal would be $10.
  • The annual licensing fee for each unaltered qualifying animal would be $15.
  • In addition to the licensing fee there would be a $2 fee for issuing a license and tag as allowed by law.
  • Anyone required to comply with the new law who failed to do so would be required to pay the appropriate license fee, the town clerk’s fee and a $1 penalty for each month or portion of a month that the animal remains unlicensed.

Why a cat tax simply won’t work…

The public got a chance to have its say at an Environment Committee hearing held March 11.

In a letter to the committee, Ellington resident Diana Bump voiced numerous reasons for her opposition.

“Requiring cats to be licensed will deter adoption and/or barn cat owners from taking in cats and also lead to more euthanizing of shelter cats. Licensing cats will cost more to the state implement than it will actually receive in cat licensing fees, no doubt,” Bump wrote. “Licensing cats will not incentivize spaying/ neutering either as the main reason people do not spay/neuter is because of costs and adding licensing fees will make it even more unaffordable.”

Bump also pointed out that most indoor/outdoor cats wear so-called “break away” collars, which are designed to come off if the cat gets it caught on something, so tags could be lost easily. The use of non-break away collars is unsafe, she added. Finally Bump also noted that any noise made by the tags could alert predators to a cat’s location, putting it at risk.

Hamden resident David Malicki put it even more succinctly.

“As most shelters are often overflowing with animals for adoption, I find this proposed House Bill 999 absolutely sub-human,” he wrote. “This bill should not be even considered for a motion. This bill should have never been proposed. Shame on all of you for this shortsighted proposal.”

Animal advocates also oppose the measure as proposed.

So now it’s your turn. What do you think? Is this a good idea, or not? Let’s talk about it. Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Fake Service Animal Use Prompts Community Concerns

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Apparently, some people in a Pennsylvania community are passing their pets off as service dogs — and the business owners there aren’t happy about it.

According to a recent media account, the concerns about alleged activity prompted a community meeting at the Kennett Public Library in Kennett Square. The chief concern addressed there was that laws designed to protect people who really need service dogs also make it difficult to take any action against people who clearly don’t.

Use of service animals under the ADA

For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as, “a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.”

guide dog demo
Fidelco Guide Dog Demonstration. Puttin’ On The Dog, 2018. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

In this context, a dog that is taught to detect the onset of a medical emergency such as an epileptic seizure, or hyper/hypoglycemia in a diabetic, and take a specific action to help the person based on that is legally classified as a service animal. A dog that facilitates routine tasks or its handler’s mobility can also be classified as a service animal.

The ADA differentiates service dogs/service animals from emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals, which “provide comfort just by being with a person,” and have not been trained to perform specific tasks.

However, the ADA also stipulates that:

  1. There are no breed restrictions when it comes to service animals.
  2. Exclusion of a service animal based solely on “assumptions or stereotypes about the animal’s breed or how the animal might behave” is not permitted. The only exception to this is if  “a particular service animal behaves in a way that poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, has a history of such behavior, or is not under the control of the handler.”
  3. Communities that ban certain breeds “must make an exception for a service animal of a prohibited breed, unless the dog poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.”
  4. There are no requirements pertaining to the use of vests, ID tags, or specific harnesses to identify service animals.
  5. Service animals must be under the control of the handler at all times.

Exclusion of service animals under the ADA

In accordance with the ADA, a handler may be asked to remove the service animal from the premises if it is “out of control” and the handler fails to “take effective action to control it.”

Businesses are also allowed to prevent service animals from entering the premises of admitting them would “fundamentally alter the nature of the service” provided there.

In this context, it is also important to note that proprietors and staff can only ask for limited information in situations where it is not clear whether the dog is really a service animal. Specifically, they can ask: a) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and; b) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

They cannot ask for any documentation for the dog, demand that the dog demonstrate its task, or ask about the nature of the person’s disability.

In many cases, the Department of Justice says, it would be pointless to ask for documentation even if businesses and proprietors were allowed to do so.

“There are individuals and organizations that sell service animal certification or registration documents online,” the agency explains. “These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA and the Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof that the dog is a service animal.”

What about housing?

The ADA applies to any housing program overseen by a state or local government, such as a public housing authority, and by places of public accommodation, including public and private universities.

Then there’s the Fair Housing Act, which covers nearly every type of housing, regardless of whether it is public or privately owned; including housing covered by the ADA. Under the Fair Housing Act, housing providers must permit, “as a reasonable accommodation,” the use of animals that “work, provide assistance, or perform tasks that benefit persons with a disabilities, or provide emotional support to alleviate a symptom or effect of a disability.”

You can learn more here.

The bottom line

As stories about  “fake” service dogs and emotional support animals continue to make headlines, lawmakers across the country are taking notice. To date, 21 states have taken steps to deter people from wrongfully presenting their pets as service and support animals.

Recently, I wrote about Connecticut’s efforts to thwart the activity. You can find that post here.

 

New York Following Cali’s Lead On Pet Store Law

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If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That’s the approach two New York legislators are taking as they push for the passage of a new law regulating how people can acquire pets.

According to recent media reports,  the state lawmakers, who represent different New York City boroughs, co-sponsored the legislation that would prevent pet stores from selling small animals and companion animals obtained from “large commercial breeders.”

Instead, the pet stores will be required to source and sell animals from licensed rescue shelters or humane societies. The law would also allow the humane society or shelter to keep any animal not sold/adopted through the shops.

The proposed measure failed to gain any support last year. However, proponents are optimistic that will now change with the power shift in the state legislature.

Jumping on the bandwagon

This idea isn’t unique to New York. Not too long ago, I wrote about a similar measure currently being considered in Connecticut.

dog parade, puttin on the dog, 2018
An Adopt-A-Dog volunteer with a dog available for adoption. Puttin’ On The Dog, 2018. Photo by A. Bogdanovic

Like the proposed legislation in New York, the Connecticut measure failed to gain any support in the past. Although a fire at a Danbury, Connecticut pet store prompted renewed interest in the issue, it also sparked concern.

“We’ve been sending home between 60 to 80 puppies a month, and we’ve been doing it for 25 years. Most of the people who come to us are looking for pure-bred dogs, which many local rescues don’t offer,” Sean Silverman, the owner of Puppy Love in Danbury told the media.

“If stores like ours are unable to provide the type of puppies that people want, then some 15 to 20 thousand people here in Connecticut will go on the internet, get a dog with zero regulations, and have it shipped, but will not get any guarantees, it’s just putting these people in a bad situations.”

Because some state lawmakers have express reservations as well, there is no guarantee the measure will pass.

California law enactment sets precedence

Earlier this year, California became the first state with this type of law.

Inked by Governor Jerry Brown in October 2017, the new law (which included provisions giving businesses time to adjust) takes aim at so-called “puppy mills” and “kitten factories.” While it does not prohibit people from buying small- and companion animals directly from breeders,  it does mandate that pet stores throughout the state sell only dogs, cats and rabbits sourced from shelters and rescues.

“By offering puppies, kittens, and rabbits for adoption from nearby shelters, pet stores can save the lives of animals in search of a home, save the breeding animals trapped in puppy mills, and relieve pressure on county budgets and local tax payers,” a fact sheet said.

Among other things, SEC. 2. Section 122354.5(c) of California’s Health and Safety Code now mandates that pet stores keep detailed records of the animals made available to the public. Specifically, pet shop owners must “post, in a conspicuous location on the cage or enclosure of each animal, a sign listing the name of the public animal control agency or shelter, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals shelter, humane society shelter, or nonprofit from which each dog, cat, or rabbit was obtained.” Pet shop owners must also make this information available to  public animal control agencies or shelters upon request.

As stipulated in SEC. 2.Section 122354.5(e) of the state Health and Safety Code,  pet store owners that don’t comply with the new law faces a civil penalty (fine) of five hundred dollars ($500) for each animal “offered for sale in violation of this section.”

In conclusion

Clearly, these laws — like any others — have their share of pros and cons. Proponents hope they’ll put an end to puppy mills and kitten factories, while easing the burden on animal shelters and rescue groups. Opponents are concerned about over regulation.

The bottom line is that only time will tell whether the type of legislation passed in California will become law elsewhere.

Pit Bulls As Police Dogs — Now That’s Cool!

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Time for another confession. I love pit bulls. I think they are so cool. I’d definitely get one (or more) if I could. But unfortunately, I am allergic to dogs, I live in a small house, and the pet I do have is definitely an only child. So I’ll just have to “settle” for a pit bull in a cat costume.

I’ll also take any chance I can get to advocate for these wonderful dogs, which are all too frequently exploited, vilified and discarded by irresponsible and ignorant people. And I’m not the only one.

Recently I came across an article about a program that trains rescued pit bulls as police dogs. No, I am not kidding. Along with German Shepherd Dogs and Belgian Malinois, Bloodhounds, Dutch Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers and similar breeds, some American law enforcement agencies are using pit bulls as police dogs.

As a former cops and courts reporter, and as someone who volunteered at a local animal shelter for several years, I think that is pretty (bleeping) awesome. In fact, I think it’s so awesome, I’ve probably written about it before. But if I did, it was more than a year ago… so I’m going to write about it again.

Animal Farm Foundation + Sector K9 = Success

The story that caught my attention was about Sector K9’s latest graduating class, starring Pepper, Hype, and Maverick. All three are pit bulls, all of them were pulled from animal shelters around the country, and each of them now has a second chance at life.

K-9 Demonstration at Puttin’ On The Dog, 2018. Photo by A. Bogdanovic

Grant funding from the New York-based Animal Farm Foundation allows Sector K9 to train rescued pit bulls as police dogs. But not only that. The  Midlothian, Texas organization trains their handlers, too. Once they’ve completed the program, some of the canine and human partners hit the streets in search of drugs and guns. Others head “back to school,” where they help provide a secure learning environment for kids. All of them are expected to participate in community out reach, and act as ambassadors for the breed.

“Participating in our Police Detection Dog Donation Program is more than conducting a sniff of a vehicle or a building. It’s about educating school kids and sharing your K9 with the community at events,” Sector K9 says. “We carefully select departments and handlers who share these values.”

Saving money, saving lives

According to the Animal Foundation, law enforcement agencies often spend a small fortune (more than $20,000) to acquire one purebred, purpose-bred dog capable of doing the same jobs as a Sector K9 graduate.

On the other hand, Animal Farm Foundation’s grant allows authorities to acquire K9s at no cost. Just as importantly, it improves the quality of life in the communities they serve while giving the dogs opportunities to do meaningful work.

So far, brief bios for more than 30 detection dogs and their partners are featured on the Animal Foundation’s website.

There’s also plenty of praise for the dogs from the people who know them best.

“The best thing about having K9 Wilson is that he did not just benefit one community. He has brought several communities together because other agencies have contacted us to do searches for them as well, thus creating a partnership between our communities,” says Officer Lucky Huff of the Quinton Police Department in Oklahoma.

At a time when law enforcement is often maligned by politicians and the press, having a pit bull as a partner can actually help kids overcome their distrust of the police, another officer says.
“[The program] benefits the community a great deal by impacting young kids and bringing them closer to the police department as a whole with the help of K9 Athena’s presence. Hopefully, after they meet Athena, they walk away with a better outlook on police officers,” says Office Jody Bullard, who is assigned to the Dallas Independent School District.

NY Farm Bureau Pledges More Support For Those Who Enforce Animal Cruelty Laws

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A few years ago, the New York Farm Bureau — a volunteer organization dedicated to serving and strengthening agriculture in the state — teamed up with the New York State Humane Association. Together, they convinced state legislators and the governor that a new law created a to help provide law enforcement training in existing animal cruelty laws would be worthwhile.

The law mandates that the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets work with the Municipal Police Training Council and the Division of Criminal Justice Services to:

  • develop training,
  • create materials and
  • provide information regarding animal cruelty statutes for New York’s police agencies, officers and district attorneys.

“Crimes against animals are a significant public safety, health and quality of life concern for communities across New York State” said Susan McDonough of the New York State Humane Association. “Improved access and understanding of the state’s cruelty statutes will enhance the efforts of officers and ensure better outcomes for animals and people.”

Unfortunately,  nothing has transpired due to a lack of funding in the state budget since then. The New York Farm Bureau now says that is not acceptable.

A top priority

Back in January, the organization issued its list of legislative priorities for 2019. Among other things, the organization pledged to support training for authorities and prosecutors that investigate animal cruelty laws included in the current statute in Agriculture and Markets Law.

“Farmers take animal care seriously and believe law enforcement could be better equipped to deal with abuse cases by receiving adequate training on Agriculture and Markets Law,” said Jeff Williams, New York Farm Bureau’s Director of Public Policy.

It makes sense. These laws are complicated.

New York’s animal cruelty laws

Eli, the In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

To begin with, look how the state defines animal cruelty. In Article 26, Section 353 of the Agriculture and Markets law, it is classified as activity in which someone:

  • overdrives, overloads, tortures or cruelly beats or unjustifiably injures, maims, mutilates or kills any animal, whether wild or tame, and whether belonging to himself or to another; or
  • deprives any animal of necessary sustenance, food or drink, or neglects or refuses to furnish it such sustenance or drink; or
  • causes, procures or permits any animal to be overdriven, overloaded, tortured, cruelly beaten, or unjustifiably injured, maimed, mutilated or killed, or to be deprived of necessary food or drink; or
  • wilfully sets on foot, instigates, engages in, or in any way furthers any act of cruelty to any animal, or any act tending to produce such cruelty.

Then there are the laws pertaining to aggravated animal cruelty, and related offenses set forth in Section 353-b through Section 353-f.

Additional resources

Of course, authorities and lawyers aren’t completely without guidance when it comes to this topic. Here are just a few of the available resources.

The New York City Bar Association’s Committee on Legal Issues Pertaining to Animals makes comprehensive information available online. This information is specifically tailored for prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges.

The New York State Humane Association also makes How to Investigate Animal Cruelty in NY State – A Manual of Procedures available online. This guide covers numerous topics of interest and use to authorities including:

  • how to receive and investigate a complaint,
  • all NYS laws pertinent to animals – along with explanations,
  • pertinent case law
  • basic animal care standards

It also includes:

  • appendices including forms that can be used in cruelty investigations,
  • pamphlets on various animal care topics,
  • relevant articles

The bottom line is that knowledge is power — especially when it comes to fighting animal cruelty.

Painkillers For Pets + People = Dangerous Mix

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A few years back, something really strange happened to Eli. Maybe something stung him. Or maybe he hurt his back somehow. Since I didn’t see what happened to cause him so much pain, I guess I’ll never know. But it wasn’t good.

So I took him to the veterinarian — and she couldn’t figure out what happened, either. All she could say for sure was that his back was extremely tender and he was in a lot of discomfort. So she gave him something for the pain and sent him home.

Eli, the In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

I don’t know what it was. But it drove him crazy. Literally. He hid under the bed for days, only coming out to use his litter box. Of course I stopped giving him the medicine as soon as I figured out it was causing the odd behavior. Even so, it took poor old Eli a few day to recover.

When I told the vet what happened, she confirmed that cats and dogs sometimes have adverse reaction to strong painkillers.

So imagine my shock — and horror — when I came across a recent article about the potential misuse of these drugs by people.

Establishing a link between the prescription of pet painkillers and the American opioid crisis

The article, which appeared on cbsnews.com back in January details the findings of a new study published in JAMA NETWORK OPEN earlier this year.

Based on research conducted during an 11-year period, the study addresses the following question: “What kind of opioids and how many are prescribed by veterinarians?”

To answer it, researchers documented the number of opioid tablets and/or patches dispensed or prescribed by veterinarians at a “multispecialty academic veterinary teaching hospital” in Philadelphia  between January 1, 2007 and December 31, 2017 (all dates inclusive).  They found that 134 veterinarians practicing there during the time in question prescribed:

  • 1 05,1 836 Tramadol tablets
  • 97 547 Hydrocodone tablets
  • 38 939 Codeine tablets
  • 3153 Fentanyl patches

The research also determined that the veterinarians prescribed most of these medications  for dogs (73 percent); followed by cats (22.5 percent); and other species including rabbits, birds, and reptiles (4.5%)

Finally, the research revealed that while the number of animal hospital visits increased by 12.8 percent over the 11-year period, the number of opioid-based medications increased by 41.2 percent.

With a lack of available data for the entire 11-year period, researchers could not make an accurate comparison between the number of new prescriptions and refills. However, a separate assessment of 2017 prescriptions revealed that approximately 10 percent were refills.

Nap time! Hurricane Harvey kittens take a break at the 30th annual Puttin’ on the Dog festival. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

So what?

In their assessment of these findings, the researchers acknowledge that veterinarians have historically received less education about opioid misuse than medical doctors and dentists. The researchers also acknowledge that increased awareness among physicians and dentists has prompted people who misuse opioids to get opioid-based painkillers elsewhere.

Specifically, the assessment cites the FDA Commissioner’s concerns that, “the recent increased scrutiny of medical and dental opioid prescribing may have redirected some individuals to obtain opioids from veterinarians.”

As a result, the researchers conclude that veterinarians should be subjected to the same rules and regulations as their peers in medicine and dentistry. They also say that veterinarians should receive similar educational outreach.

As things now stand

Rules and regulations

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association there are regulations that mandate reporting when veterinarians dispense controlled substances — including opioids — to patients on the books in 15 states and the District Columbia. These are:

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Michigan
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Vermont
  • Washington state
  • West Virginia

However, it is important to note that 34 states exempt veterinarians from Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs.

Educational outreach

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also provided a comprehensive list of tips for veterinarians that stock and prescribe opioid-based medications for animals.

Among other things, it includes advice about how to spot clients and staff that may be “diverting” and misusing these medications.

Some warning signs that a client is potentially abusing opioids may include:

  • Suspect injuries in a new patient
  • Asking for specific medications by name
  • Asking for refills for lost or stolen medications
  • Pet owner is insistent in their request

Some warning signs that veterinary staff may be abusing opioids include:

  • Mood swings, anxiety, or depression
  • Mental confusion and an inability to concentrate
  • Making frequent mistakes at work
  • Not showing up for work

The bottom line

“Combating opioid addiction and addressing misuse of pain medication continues to be one of FDA’s highest priorities,” the agency says. “Veterinarians as medical professionals have an opportunity to partner with FDA and others to take on this deadly epidemic, and the agency encourages them to continue to work with their clients and both local and national organizations to join in the fight.”

CT Regulation Of Gig Economy Pet Businesses Stirs Debate

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

GIG ECONOMY(noun): A way of working that is based on people having temporary jobs or doing separate pieces of work, each paid separately, rather than working for an employer…

Of course, this definition is from the dictionary. And as such, it is accurate. But it is also rather generic and somewhat outdated. Since I’m an active participant in the 21st century version, I prefer to think of the gig economy as: a system in which Internet platforms and/or apps are created to: a) offer certain services, and b) facilitate hiring of independent contractors to provide them.

If that sounds too convoluted, here are some examples. First, there are platforms that specifically cater to “creatives” and other skilled professionals, such as Upwork and Freelancer. And then there’s:

  • Uber
  • Lyft
  • Instacart
  • DoorDash
  • TaskRabbit

The list goes on, and on….

Don’t forget Rover and Wag

There are even apps that cater to those of us who have — and those of us who enjoy working with — companion animals. Take Rover, for example. This website/app lets people sign up as pet sitters. If they are approved (following an application process that includes a basic background check),  they are paired with pet owners in need of boarding, house sitting, dog walking, “doggy daycare,” and home visits.

Great Dane wins Best Lap Dog contest at Puttin' on the Dog.
Best Lap Dog winner. Puttin’ on the Dog. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

Specifically, pet owners can use Rover to find sitters in their area and arrange for the services they need.

Another website/app called Wag also caters to people interested in becoming dog walkers and dog sitters/boarders. Like its counterpart, Wag claims that it puts applicants through comprehensive screening process before they are approved. Once they are, they are paired with pet owners in need of specific services.

In Connecticut, the law struggles to keep up

As the gig economy keeps on booming, legislators across the country are struggling to keep up. In Connecticut, for example, lawmakers have come up with two approaches for addressing regulatory concerns associated with Internet/app-based pet care services.

Introduced by state Senator Catherine Osten, proposed S.B. No. 250 is also known as “An Act Concerning the Regulation of Commercial Kennels.”  If approved, it would change the language in existing laws so a commercial kennel would be legally classified as “a place maintained for boarding or grooming five or more cats or dogs.”  That way, anyone who cares for four or fewer animals belonging to other people  in their own homes would not be defined and regulated as commercial kennels.

Osten said she proposed the legislation as a way to protect thousands of people in Connecticut that work as gig economy pet sitters from being regulated in the same way as traditional commercial kennels.

Then there’s proposed H.B. No. 5399 or “Ann Act Concerning the Definition of Kennel for the Purposes of Commercial Kennel Regulation,” which was introduced by state Rep. Kim Rose. It also calls for changes to existing language so that a kennel is defined as “a facility rather than to a pack or collection of dogs.” Doing so would “clarify the statutory provisions for  commercial kennel registration and regulation by the Department of Agriculture.”

“We’re not trying to tell these internet businesses ‘you can’t do business in Connecticut,’” Rose told the Hartford Courant. “All we’re asking them to do is the right thing: become licensed and inspected so we can make sure you’re taking good, healthy care of our pets.”

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.