08/27/15

Flea Prevention in a Foster Home

Anyone who has had fleas in their house before knows what a nightmare it is – for the humans and the dogs. The clean up following a flea infestation is very painful as well.

In coordinating a dog rescue for about seven years, I have got flea control down to an art. Here are my suggestions on ensuring that foster homes stay free of fleas.

When a dog enters care and has evidence of fleas (e.g. flea dirt around their groin), or for any dog that has come from a pound environment, flea treatment and prevent starts on pick up.

  • As I put the dog in the car, I treat with a spot-on flea treatment for dogs (like Frontline).
  • In the case of multi-dog transport, then all dogs in the car are treated with a spot-on treatment.

Once the dog has vacated my car, I then have to make my car flea-free. I use bug spray on pretty much everything. This includes bug-spraying:

  • Each side of the bedding the dog had in the crate.
  • The internal surfaces of the crate.
  • On all surfaces in the car, including in particular fabric surfaces.

Any bedding the dog used then goes either straight into the wash, or, if soiled, into a secured bag and into the bin.

Any other pets in the new foster household should be treated with a spot-on as well.

Following these steps should help flea infestations taking hold in a foster home. If, however, a dog ‘sneaks’ fleas into the house, then you will need to take remedial action. My process is:

  1. All animals in the household are dosed with a flea treatment.
  2. All bedding occupied by the flea-infested dog is treated with bug spray and washed.
  3. All areas of the house are vacuumed.
  4. All surrounding areas the dog came into contact with (like carpets, couches, etc) are doused in bug spray. I particularly concentrate the bug spray in nooks (e.g. under and behind furniture) and on the thresholds of rooms (e.g. in doorways).

It took me quite a few years to work out the exact method for getting a handle on flea infestations. I have learnt that prevention is easier (and cheaper!) than cure. Despite having some close encounters (such as foster dogs sneaking in their flea-visitors), I have never had a major problem in recent years. I put it down to these techniques.

Do you have any additional ideas on controlling fleas in a foster home?

 

Other posts of interest:

5 Ways to Keep Fleas Out of the House

Parasite Treatment Comparisons

Oral Flea Treatment Most Effective in Dogs

05/4/14

How to choose a rescue or shelter to adopt from

Purchasing a dog or puppy: What to look for in a rescue or shelter

 

Congratulations on choosing to add a new dog or puppy to your family.

It is great that you are considering adopting a pet from a rescue or shelter. However, not all rescues/shelters are created equal – indeed, some facilities are merely posing as rescues and are more like an animal-broker than an animal-rescue.

It’s not a ‘black and white’ matter, but here are some suggestions that will hopefully help you when you’re looking at adopting a pet.

 

Green traffic lightNecessities

Do not purchase a dog from a shelter unless the facility:

  • Shows concern and regard to the physical health of their dogs and puppies
     
  • Shows concern and regard to the psychological well being of their dogs and puppies – either in providing enrichment on site, by frequently taking their dogs ‘out and about’, by using Dunbar’s methods of raising puppies (with toilet area, kongs, socialisation), and by providing training to dogs with behavioural problems
     
  • Is willing to provide life-long support to you as a purchaser, and is willing to take their dog or puppy back if things don’t work out. (There should be a trial period of anywhere from 1-12 weeks where a refund is provided.)
     
  • You feel comfortable approaching the rescue or shelter for advice, and feel they would be supportive and give you clear advise you can understand.
     
  • Sells all dogs and puppies microchipped, vaccinated and sterilised (or on contracts to have these procedures performed at a latter date, or with a medical certificate exempting them from these procedures)
     
  • Gives you some time to ‘think about’ adding the dog/puppy to your household
     

 

Niceities

It’s ‘nice’ if a shelter/rescue does these following things, but not a deal breaker.

  • The rescue/shelter asks you lots of questions about your household and what you’re looking for
     
  • There is a sales contract
     
  • The rescue/shelter seems to have a great deal of knowledge about dogs
     
  • The rescue/shelter uses foster carers so they know what the dog is like in a house (instead of just living in a kennel)
     
  • The rescue/shelter has had the dog in care for at least 10 days, to serve as a quarantine period
     
  • Friends, family, or other shelters and rescues have heard of this rescue and have positive things to say
     
  • Identifies as ‘no kill’ or ‘out the front door’ or as ‘saving 90%’
     

 

Red Flags

Have some concern about the shelter or rescue if any of these events take place.

  • The rescue/shelter seems overly concerned about the purchase price
     
  • The rescue/shelter puts the hard sell on – “I might sell her next week if you don’t take her today”, or “I’ll give you 10% off if you buy her now.”
     
  • The rescue/shelter sells puppies together to the same pet family
     
  • The rescue/shetler is willing to sell a puppy/dog to you without you even meeting the dog/puppy to assess it for yourself
     

 

Do Not Buys

If the shelter or rescue does any of the following things, then walk away and source a dog from an alternative source.

  • You cannot meet the dog or puppy before sale
     
  • Dogs/puppies are not microchipped – in most states of Australia, this is a legal requirement
     
  • The dogs or puppies seem unhealthy or in poor condition (dirty, matted, skinny, fat)
     
  • There seems to be no plan to improve the socialability/behaviour of dogs that have problematic temperaments
     
  • The rescue/shelter is not willing to show you all the dogs in their care
     

 

Is there anything you would add to the list?

 

Further reading: See How to Find a Good Dog Breeder

01/20/14

Cindy is an old dog that can run really fast

Elderly jack russell terrier.

Imagine you’ve recently taken a 12 year 8 month old dog into your home. She’s lazy, mostly moving from bed to bed to sleep. She comes when she’s called, goes out when she’s asked, and gets heaps excited about food. Happy and sociable with people and dogs. A joy to live with.

I hope, in doing so, you can forgive my negligence as a guest arrived. As Cindy nipped through the open door, I naturally assumed that this sociable dog would just say hi to the guest, and follow them inside. However, Cindy started sniffing a plant in the front yard. I called her, and she ignored me, and as I took a step towards her, she dashed away, stopping at the letterbox to continue sniffing. Naively, I assumed that there was just a nice smell around. As I headed towards her again, she gave me a look that could best be described as “Hahaha”, and started running, fast, away from me – and towards a busy road.

There was no chance I was going to chase her, as I am very aware that I am not as fast as a dog (they have four legs, I have two, come’n) and I did not want her to get closer to the busy road. Immediately, I thought that I could use Bandit, a dog friend she had made in foster care. If I wasn’t good enough to come back to, maybe Bandit would be.

So, hurriedly, I ran inside, threw a lead on Bandit, and took him out. Bandit was perplexed why there was a walk happening, at night, with such little fan-fare, but nonetheless was happy with the arrangement.

As I came out of the house, Cindy was nowhere to be seen. My heart was racing and I was terrified of where she had got to. Immediately, my thoughts were thinking about how she didn’t have my tag on, but she did have her surrendering owner’s tag on still, and how bad would that look if she was to get called? What if she got hit by a car? What vets are open at this time of night? Do I call the council now? Why is the husband away tonight?

Bandit and I headed towards where I last saw Cindy. Briskly walking, I hear a bush rustle and Cindy emerged. Phew! She hadn’t got to the busy road! Cindy then kept running towards the busy road – seemingly Bandit and I disturbed her bush-investigation, and now the running thing was back on. So my Bandit trick failed.

There’s no way I could catch Cindy with Bandit in toe, so back I go home, putting Bandit inside.

As I came back out, I hurriedly called a friend from Adelaide All Breed Dog Rescue Inc., “Hi. Can you come help me catch Cindy? She got out.”  The friend was on her way. Phew!

So now finding Cindy again. I took a wide berth, on the other side of the road from when I last saw her, with the only intention of cutting her off from heading closer to the main road. Once my friend got there, my plan was that I could then get them to get food in my house, or open up the carport door and we could herd Cindy into the secure area. Regardless, I had decided I couldn’t do much more than keep an eye on Cindy for the time being.

My plan mostly worked. She decided to run away from me, back towards my house, and away from the busy road. Excellent. She would stop and snuffle in bushes, and I would stand like a lurker in the half-light in other people’s front yards, watching.

If Cindy looked at heading towards the busy road, I’d shuffle into the path to try to prevent her.  This mostly worked. But then there was this one moment, she came towards me (and the busy road), and as I puffed myself up to block her path, she ran faster and within a metre of me. I’m pretty sure I heard her say, “Hahaha, you can’t catch me!”.

Back to square one, I once again did a big loop to block her off.

My heart was in my throat as I realised she was in the yard of the house on the corner of my street and the busy road. Every car that whizzed by I held my breath.

I could hear her in the bushes, so knew where she was, and I just hoped that when she came out I could  once again drive her back up the street. It was tense.

And the little white dog came out of the bush, and looked at me.  Through my head, a word that rhymed with ‘duck’ was repeating over and over. She was going to do it again – she was going to run past, in a joy run, straight onto the busy road. Duck duck duck.

But she looked at me for a moment too long, and she wagged her stumpy tail, and seemed to say, “Okay, I’m done now.”

Hardly believing my luck, I used my best gravelly voice to firmly say, “Cindy! Stay!” as I reached out my hand…

I’ll stop for a moment as I realise I forgot to tell you something about Cindy. All the stuff about her being a joy to own? That’s true, except that if she doesn’t get her own way, she bites. Cindy bites.

So here I was in the dark, reaching my hand towards a white-shape of a dog that I know bites.

And I was saying to myself, “If she bites, don’t let go“.

I can still remember that as my hand wrapped around the collar, and I felt my fingers touch my palm. I instantly thought, “I got her!” and then, immediately after, “If she bites, don’t let go!”.

I took the lead I was carrying around my neck (carrying in anticipation of such a moment), and clipped it onto her collar.

And I think that’s when I started breathing again. I became very conscious of the adrenaline pulsing through my body, now that I didn’t need it anymore.

That’s when my phone buzzed in my pocket, and I saw the headlights up the road of where my friend had pulled up in front of my house. Imperfect timing.

Cindy happily walked on lead back home, wagging her stump and panting heavily from her joy run.

Oh, did I mention: Cindy’s available for adoption!

If you are interested in a dog that bites and runs away, Cindy’s the dog for you!

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Cindy was surrendered to us because he owner experienced unfortunate circumstances and became homeless. Cindy and the past owner lived in a car together for a few weeks, but it just wasn’t working for everyone involved, so the difficult decision was made to surrender her into care.

I was concerned about Cindy’s health initially, as she was very quiet. We had full blood works done, and a full body x-ray, and she’s in perfect health! Her teeth are in great condition, and it’s like Cindy was waiting for the vet to tell her she was A-OK too, because she became a bit of rat bag after that. As the story above shows.

Cindy loves going for walks, and barks angrily at you when you haven’t got her lead on or opened the door quite according to her schedule. “Hurry up, human!” Or maybe it’s resentment towards being leashed in itself, given her joy in running fast, away from you.

As mentioned, Cindy made a friend in Bandit while she has been in care. Bandit and Cindy are available for adoption either individually or to the same home. They’re very different to each other, but instantly took a strong liking to one another. They have an understanding.

DSC_0362

In case you didn’t guess, Cindy is all terrier!  She’s okay with other dogs, but she’s not one for pocket pets, or birds, or cats.

Cindy’s ideal home would be an older person or couple who just want to go for a short walk once or twice a day, and want a well behaved companion the rest of the time. Cindy is a nice cuddler, and will hop on your lap for pats – but very much when she wants them. She is independent, and doesn’t mind being left alone, especially if being left alone comes with some type of food.

Cindy is now with a foster carer (with instructions: never, ever let her off lead and never leave gates or doors open) and doing well, but we would love to see her in her forever home.

For more details about Cindy and her adoption, see her PetRescue profile.

DSC_0386

Snoopy's Dog Blog

01/17/14

Pets as Gifts – Evidence not Anecdotes

ResearchBlogging.orgPets aren’t gifts. We all know that.

If a pet is given as a gift, the recipient might not be prepared for the financial commitment. The pet might be unsuitable to their lifestyle, or the recipieint may be uncommitted. And this means the pet is more likely to be relinquished.

But are you willing to be wrong about that?

This pretty shar pei has found her home through Adelaide All Breed Dog Rescue Inc.

This pretty shar pei has found her home through Adelaide All Breed Dog Rescue Inc.

“Studies of dog and cat relinquishment to shelters, however, show that the relinquishment of dogs and cats received as gifts is lower than from other sources,” says Weiss et al. in their 2013 paper. While this blog post will concentrate on this article, it’s important to note that this study builds on the research of others. For example (as summarised by Weiss et al.),

  • This article looked at 2600 dogs and 2300 cats, and found “Relinquished dogs infrequently came from pet shops, as gifts and from veterinarians. The study found the odds of dog relinquishment were higher when acquiring an animal from a shelter, friend, as a stray, and from a pet shop compared to receiving an animal as a gift”. Cats had similar trends.
  • This article “identified 71 reasons for pet relinquishment” and unwanted gift made up only 0.3% of dog surrenders and 0.4% of cat surrenders.
  • And this one found that being received as a gift was a protective factor, with dogs and cats received as gifts being “at [a] significantly decreased risk of being relinquished”.

Simply, there is no evidence that pets being given as gifts leads to relinquishment. It is an unfounded myth.

This study even says, “the myth that dogs and cats should not be given as gifts still persists“.

 

How was this study conducted?

A large telephone survey of 1006 adults was conducted, with 222 people saying they received a dog or cat as a pet in the last 10 years.

If an individual identified them self as a pet-gift-receipient, they were asked further questions. Were they involved in selecting the pet? How attached are they to their pet? Do they still own the pet?

 

And what did they find?

Some of the gifted-pets were rehomed – 21 out of the 215 pets. That is, 9.7%.

It didn’t seem to matter if the gift was a surprise or not – it wasn’t associated with people rehoming their pet, or being more or less attached to it.

“These results suggest that there is no increased risk of relinquishment for dogs and cats received as a gift.”

On a side note, this study is different, because it looked at owner retention, instead of shelter relinquishment data. This means that the statistic of 9.7% rehomed is probably higher than shelter surrender intake (as many pets would be rehomed privately instead of through shelter facilities).

 

How does this relate to shelters?

Weiss et al. express their concern about shelters who prohibit adoptions when they know that the animal is going to be given as a gift.  Weiss et al. says, not allowing pets to go as gifts may “impede the overarching goal of increasing adoptions of pets from our nations’ shelter system”.

Significantly, they say (emphasis my own):

“These findings may help animal welfare organisations open options for those interested in obtaining dogs and cats for their family and friends. It is important to note that animals obtained from a shelter are more at risk than those obtained as gifts. Allowing adoptions of dogs and cats to those obtaining the pet as a gift may decrease the risk of return or relinquishment for that dog or cat. Furthermore, it would allow for more animals from shelters to find homes.”

 

The next thing

Briefly, the article suggests that the next area for study is research and planning, and how that relates to pet retention. Current evidence suggests that ‘spur of the moment’ type acquisitions made with little or no research or planning are not associated with higher rates of relinquishment.

 

So have you ever received a pet as a gift? And did you keep that pet for its life?

Reference:

Weiss, E, Dolan, ED, Garrison, L, Hong, J & Slater, M (2013). Should dogs and cats be given as gifts? Animals, 3 (4) DOI: 10.3390/ani3040995

01/13/14

Clever Marketing Ideas for Shelters

Often, we hear about ‘the overpopulation problem‘ – the myth that there are too many animals in the shelter system to find homes for.  Of those that argue that an overpopulation problem exists, they often point to shelter-euthanasia rates. The argument goes that if there was no overpopulation problem, then there would be no pets killed in shelters.

I call bullshit.

There are plenty of pounds in Australia that impound animals, hold them for the mandatory holding period, and then kill them with not a scrap of community engagement. They didn’t try to find the owner. They didn’t try to find a new owner. For whatever reason, there are many facilities in Australia that just do what they have to do (legally), and not what they should do (morally).

So what should impounding facilities be doing?

I argue that impounding facilities need to do each of these marketing and promotional steps for every animal in care, in order to get animals out alive.

 

"That's absolutely my dog!" said no one ever. This is a genuine impound photo from an Australian pound - not very useful.

“That’s absolutely my dog!” said no one ever. This is a genuine impound photo from an Australian pound – not very useful.

On Impound

Take a good photo and use it

When an animal comes into the facility, they should take a clear and appealing photo. The animal should not be obstructed by cages, people, or other animals.

Once a good photo is obtained, it needs to be distributed everywhere – Facebook, Gumtree, council offices, the local paper. While we would love for our good photo to find the original owner, it also, potentially, will find the pet a new owner once that holding period is over.

 

Correctly record details on the animal

Make sure that the impounded animal is recorded in a way that can maximise reclaim. In short: Record details correctly!

Try to minimise the emphasis on breed. Breed cannot be identified by looks alone, and owners may believe their pet is a different breed than the pound, making reclaims less likely. Bad!

So instead, details about the pet needs to be accurately recorded: colour and coat type, any obvious medical issues, its sex (please get it right!), and make a note of any tattoos.

 

Minimise disease risk

Administer relevant vaccinations immediately, upon intake, to minimise the chance of disease risk across the shelter. (And, obviously, protect that individual pet from contracting a disease, too.)

 

For more details, read the KC Dog Blog on “The First 60 Minutes“.

 

During Holding Period (i.e. Find the past owner!)

Check for identification

Obviously, facilities need to check the animal for details on the collar (e.g. stitched into the fabric) or the tag.

Animals need to be scanned for a microchip – but this needs to be done thoroughly and properly. This involves:

  • The scanner needs to be fully charged,
  • The scanner needs to be waved, slowly, all over the animal, but remain close to the animal at all times,
  • If no chip is found, a second fully charged scanner should be used, by a second person.

Basically, facilities should assume that every animal is microchipped, and work hard to find that chip.

Some animals have tattoos on their ears or groin, so these can also be used for identification.

 

Use all available information on past owners to full capacity

If you find any skerrick of information regarding the animal and the past owners, find out more!  If the number on the microchip is no longer active, use their names to look them up on Facebook or the electoral roll. If you can find the phone number on their tag, Google it, and see if you can find a name associated. If there’s a number or word in the ear of a dog, find out what it pertains to. Do everything possible to make contact with the owners. Get that pet back home!

 

Know who’s lost

Shelters and pounds should use staff or volunteers to maintain a catalogue of lost pets.  These individuals would check lost pet notices, online and in print, and record the details on a centralised system.  If this resource was to be kept up to date, then it could mean that impounded animals could quickly be reunited with their people.

 

Be accessible for reclaims

Many people work 9am to 5pm, and find it difficult to access the shelter to reclaim their pet.  Having opening times of 8am-8pm would allow working people to access the facility and reclaim their pets, or simply just come to the shelter to make sure their pet has not been impounded over the course of the day.

 

During Adoption Period (i.e. Find new owners!)

So now the animal has been in the shelter for the mandatory holding period – what now?

This is the kind of photo that gets pets adopted. Taken by Kimberley Gifford Photography, this photo of 'Benjamin' led my now-husband and I to adopt.

This is the kind of photo that gets pets adopted. Taken by Kimberley Gifford Photography, this photo of ‘Benjamin’ led my now-husband and I to adopt. (And we didn’t even want a cat at the time.)

 

Photos and advertising

Facilities need to seek the services of a professional photographer to take awesome photos of pets for adoption. The photos should be well lit, with an appealing background, with the pet looking happy. Once you have an awesome photo or two, share the bejesus out of it. Put it on your website, on Facebook, on PetRescue, on Gumtree, share with the press, whatever! Get it out there!

 

Use deals and events to lure in adopters

It’s no secret that people like a bargain, so facilities can offer financial incentives to potential adopters: Your pets are cheap, especially considering all the vet work that has been done. If you buy a cat, you get a bag of cat food free. If you adopt a kitten, get the mother free. Adult cats are free. Whatever needs to be done to get an adopter in, needs to be done!

The other option is to run big events. Invite the media to mega adoption days, where you hope ’100 pets in new homes before the end of the day’, or whatever it may be. Make a spectacle.

Also, make sure at least some of your adoptions can occur off of the shelter. Many people find a shelter environment depressing, and so may not be inclined to visit the shelter to find their new pets. Using pleasant, external environments is likely to encourage adopters to take pets home.

 

Be accessible

This flows from off site adoption days – facilities need to make sure their adoption events are off site and are in different geographic locations, so people from many areas can get their hands on a rescue pet.

Just like I advocate shelters being open 8am-8pm for reclaims, adoptions can also happen in these extended hours too. This means that the average-worker can adopt a pet without having to take the day off work.

Having an online site, listing pets available for adoption, also means that people can access potential-new-pets in the comfort of their home – online shopping, for pets!

 

Make the pets you have better

Clearly, not every pet that enters a pound or shelter is going to be ‘the perfect pet’ on intake. Facilities need to run programs that make them more adoptable. Does that cat have a skin problem? Put her on medication and fix her up. Is that bunny a bit scared of people? Get him onto a regular handling program. Does that dog jump up? Engage in some behavioural modification.

Sometimes, some pets need a lot of work to improve their adoptability, and these pets may be better suited to entering foster care or a different rescue…

 

Use rescue groups

Rescue groups are valuable to shelters and pounds.  They can help relieve the pressure of bigger facilities by taking in pets and rehoming them.  As they are often smaller, they can often more intensely treat medical and behavioural issues.  As they normally hold pets in foster homes, for animals requiring long term treatment (for example, mange), then a foster home may be more humane than a shelter environment.

In short, rescues and pounds need to use rescue groups to their advantage.

 

Use compatible animals to maximise kennel space

Many pounds claim that they need to kill pets for space. An alternative to this is doubling up compatible pets in the same run.

 

But, but, but…

People keep saying to me that pounds can’t afford to do this. I argue that if they stopped killing animals, they probably would gather community support. It’s not a secret that people don’t like volunteering at places that kill pets. If you stop killing pets, you’ll attract volunteers, who will be able to take sexy pictures of animals, will be able to put them online for you, and will be able to staff your front counter during your opening hours. The possibilities are endless.

Further, successful shelters don’t shame the public. They don’t call people irresponsible for surrendering pets.  They don’t criticise people when their pets get lost. They don’t black mail the public, telling them that if they don’t adopt, pets will die. All these things get the public off side – and the public is a very important friend.

Also, the public is more likely to donate to pounds that don’t criticse them, and don’t kill the pets in care. So fundraising will be easier.

In summary, shelters kill pets because they don’t bother finding their owner or don’t bother finding a new owner. And if they just stopped killing pets and blaming the ‘irresponsible’ public, perhaps the public would like them more and volunteer and donate, and then there will be less dead pets.

Pound’s nonchalance to getting pets out alive is the real bullshit here.

 

Further reading:

10 Ways to Get Pit Bulls Adopted from ThatMutt.com

The First 60 Minutes from the KC Dog Blog

What a Good Pound Does from Dog Rescue Association of Victoria Inc.

The Seven Deadly Sins of ‘Overpopulation’ from SavingPets