• Susan Houser

News of the Week 8-30-15

We hear a lot about police officers shooting family pets with little or no provocation. In a recent case in Round Rock, Texas, a police officer answering a call at a private home was bitten in the leg – twice – by an excitable Aussie that lunged at him when the owner’s child opened the door. Instead of shooting, the officer backed up and tried to calm the dog. Fortunately the owner got to the door quickly and collared the dog. The only consequence of the incident is that the dog will have to do a 10-day home quarantine. The officer, Randall Frederick, received a well-deserved medal for the way he handled the situation. Police officers in the town received mandatory training in how to handle dog situations after several complaints. (Round Rock is a No Kill community, with animal sheltering provided by the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter.)


The Clear the Shelters event on August 15th, which was sponsored by NBC and Telemundo, found homes for more than 19,000 pets. The Richmond SPCA, one of the many participating shelters, had only 3 dogs left at the end of the event.


County shelters in two counties in Michigan – Berrien and Van Buren – are permanently ending the use of gas chambers. In Berrien, it took a resolution of the county commissioners to force an end to the practice. In Van Buren the current director says she has never used the chamber, and now it has been dismantled and sold for scrap.

In a short interview, Tawny Hammond, the new Chief Animal Services Officer for the city of Austin, talks about her short list of goals. She wants to increase adoptions by fine-tuning social media based on her experience in Fairfax County, Virginia, solve the problem of dogs not getting enough attention by an all-hands-on-deck effort to walk dogs and recruit more volunteer dog walkers, and “stay flexible.”


Discover has an interesting article on the explosion in recent years of research on dog cognition and how dogs and humans co-evolved. The article discusses a new book which suggest that dogs might have been the secret weapon that allowed humans to replace Neanderthals in the evolutionary battle for survival. It also describes the rise of “citizen science,” which involves ordinary people providing information about their dogs. Scientists can then use the information to create large data sets on various topics of research about dogs. In other dog-research news, this journal article that appeared in PeerJ reports on a brain imaging study that found that dogs, like humans and monkeys, have an area of the brain dedicated to facial recognition. The facial recognition area in dogs responds to both human and dog faces. The authors posit that this brain development may be what allows dogs to interpret social cues from humans so well.


Belinda Lewis, who runs the shelter in Fort Wayne, Indiana, is resigning early next year. This might be a good opportunity for someone who feels that they have what it takes to turn a shelter around. Some progress has reportedly been made in recent years in Fort Wayne but there is much left to do.


The Gainesville newspaper has a nice feature on the progress made by Alachua County Animal Services after joining the Million Cat Challenge. Alachua County is home turf for Dr. Julie Levy of the University of Florida, one of the founders of the Million Cat Challenge. Gainesville has had several organizations working hard for years to bring up its live release rate, and with help from the Million Cat Challenge it may finally reach its goal of stopping the killing of healthy and treatable animals.


The ambitious renovation project for the Waco city shelter recently got a boost from McLennan County, which gave the city two pieces of land adjacent to the shelter grounds. The renovation is expected to cost $2.6 million, and the project will go up for bid shortly. The city hopes to award the contract in October. According to Wiley Stem, who has been one of the driving forces behind Waco’s No Kill effort, the shelter’s live release rate is now around 85%.


LifeLine’s Fulton County shelter in Atlanta, which is closing in on a 90% live release rate, received a $40,000 donation from an Atlanta company, Anisa International, to build a meet-and-greet area and more outdoor play space. The county shelter was built long before LifeLine took over the contract, and is showing its age.


As you no doubt know, this August marks the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Brent Toellner of Kansas City Pet Project has posted his trip diary as a volunteer in Louisiana taking care of dogs evacuated following Katrina. Toellner will be writing more about Katrina this week.

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