The phone rings. Someone says, “Hi! What kind of dog is the brown dog that you just posted on Facebook?”
And naturally, we respond, “We think it’s a Labrador or Catahoula or….?”
We have this conversation or at least one along the same lines over and over. In most cases, it really doesn’t matter; people are just curious. But in other circumstances, the answer can be the difference between the life and death for a dog.
A study from the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida has shown that expert assessments are unreliable. We already knew this to be true, but findings are far reaching and affect everything from apartments to insurance companies. We know visual breed identification is unreliable at best, what can we do about it?
We take measures to try to identify dogs by methods other than breed identification. We typically agree on a couple things like calling the dog a brown dog or it’s a small dog. It’s an American Shelter Dog.
Looks can be deceiving.
What do you think? Here is the link to the DNA Survey.
Thank you for reading.
Shonna Harvey, Director
Although this is a few days late for National Cat Health Month, we wanted to spotlight a growing concern for cats in our area, and what we can do to help.
Our Director, Shonna was speaking to Dr. Chris at the Huntsville Vet Clinic this week, and learned that they have already seen two cats suffering from Cytauxzoonosis, more commonly known as ‘Bobcat Fever’, which makes this the earliest in the year they have dealt with this problem.
Cytaux is a tick-borne illness affecting felines, spread primarily by Lone Star Ticks. Bobcats are the ‘host’ animal, and carry the disease. A tick will bite the affected Bobcat, and then carry the infection to domestic cats. Cytauxzoonosis is a horrible, painful disease with a sudden onset, and a cat can go from seemingly healthy to death’s door within 24 hours. Until very recently there were almost no survivors amongst domestic cats infected with the disease. Recent strides in veterinary medicine have pushed the survival rates up, and now, if the illness is caught early enough and treatment commenced immediately, a healthy cat can have an almost 60% chance of pulling through.
Bobcat Fever is present throughout a number of states with high tick populations but is on the rise at an alarming rate here in our own Madison County. The last two or three years have seen a steady increase of cases, while numbers remain low in nearby areas, such as Fayetteville and Rogers. Heavily wooded, rural areas see the most cases, where wild animals carry large numbers of ticks.
The first signs of illness are typically extreme lethargy and a disinterest in eating and drinking. The cat’s temperature will soar, sometimes as high as 106f, and often the cat will hide away. Another sign that we have personally noticed in affected cats is that their eyes will seem half-closed, slanted, and slightly puffy.
If you think your cat may have contracted Bobcat Fever, it is imperative to get them to a vet as quickly as possible so that treatment (which usually consists of strong antibiotics, pain management, and fluid administration) can begin immediately. If a cat is too sick to pull through they deserve a chance to be humanely euthanized, as death from Bobcat Fever is extremely painful.
All this can be very scary, and the obvious question is - how can I keep this from happening to my cat? The best answer is to avoid exposure to tick bites as much as possible. Indoor cats are obviously much less likely to contract the disease (although they can be brought into contact with ticks by another pet), and outdoor cats in wooded or rural areas are most at risk.
It is ESSENTIAL to use a good, high-quality tick prevention, especially throughout months when ticks are active. Frontline Plus and PetArmor Plus are two options, but our personal favourite is a 30-day topical product named ‘Catego’, which is new to the market but seems very effective in not only killing ticks AFTER they bite the pet but in REPELLING ticks to stop bites before they happen. This is the only product that repels ticks.
It is also helpful to treat yards and, if possible, surrounding areas with a pet-safe tick prevention product, and of course it is important to treat all other pets.
As a shelter we want to help by educating local cat owners about the disease, providing flea and tick medications to those in need whenever we are able, and by taking stray cats in need of care into our shelter and helping to spay and neuter. It takes a village to save our pets, and we are deeply grateful to all the donors, sponsors, rescuers, and volunteers that enable us to move forward with this work. If you see a cat in need, don’t hesitate to contact us, and if you would like advice or more information please feel free to call us.
For obvious reasons, shelter data is essential to the no-kill movement. How do you know the scope of the problem that needs to be solved if shelters don’t publish or make available? Essential information includes the number of animals entering the system; the number of animals who died while in the shelter’s care; the number of animals killed, along with for the reasons they were killed; and the number of animals returned to their family, adopted to a new home or placed with a rescue organization.
The number of animals being killed in shelters each day is now more accurately marked at slightly over 4,100 — down from the 5,500 per day— or 1.5 million annually.
We are committed to ending the killing, and we know that you are as well. The only animals euthanized at our shelter during 2017, were animals that did NOT sustain a quality life or presented a danger to humans, due to aggression (one dog). There were two litters of kittens that passed away shortly after birth. We are proud to be a no-kill shelter.
Year End Results for 2017:
460 total, animal intakes
442 total, live outcomes
22 total, all other outcomes (died or euthanized)
289 total, canine intakes
285 total canine live outcomes
3 total canine all other outcomes
171 total, feline intakes
157 total, feline live outcomes
19 total feline all other outcomes
A video from a few of our moments in 2017. https://youtu.be/tE-mPf3dN40
A nursing mother dog, dragging her emaciated body on paws torn and bleeding to the closest humans to beg help for her pups, born and raised alone in a barn.
A weak and starving kitten, wracked with infection, losing his eyesight, freezing in the cold and rain.
Litter after litter of pups and kittens - ‘oopsie’ litters from overwhelmed families, helpless babies abandoned in boxes on the pavement or dropped one at a time at different homes stretched over miles of county road, left to fend for themselves or to die.
A tiny dog dropped over an eight-foot chain-link fence in the dead of night.
Illnesses, injuries, abandonment...crisis follows crisis in a ceaseless flow. Midnight calls, racing to the shelter, trekking across fields to find a lost pet, sitting up til midnight with a birthing cat, driving through the wee hours to send dogs to a better life...picking up the broken pieces of animal lives shattered by careless humans.
This is the life of the shelter worker. Day after day, unbelieveable and hard, and many tears are shed.
What keeps us going? What pulls us back into this crazy world to lose our hearts again and again?
The first snuggle from a dog who is learning to trust. The look of wonder in their eyes as they snuggle into a warm bed with a full belly...maybe for the first time ever.
The hiss and snarl of a feral kitten melting into a rumbling purr.
The shining joy on the faces of a family as they adopt a pet for the first...or the fourth...time.
Healed bodies, fat bellies, wriggling pups with quick little tongues and wagging tails.
Because now -
The mama dog, Laci, is safe and warm, puppies weaned and wounds healed, loved and secure with a wonderful family.
The sick kitten, Graham, one-eyed, fat, and spunky, is bringing joy and light to the life of a lonely older lady.
The little dog dropped over the fence, Bubbles, is spoiled rotten along with her doggie siblings, riding to work each day with her owner and claiming the couch at night.
The work goes on, but it fills our hearts with joy to look back over the year gone by and reflect on lives saved, and new hope.
For while we certainly butt up against some of the worst of human nature, we also get to see some of the best. We have volunteers that get out of bed at 2am to drive hours in the dark to send dogs to new homes. We have those who show up faithfully week after week to hold and comfort cats, to get dogs out of the shelter for walks and playtime. Other folks provide food, toys, supplies and funds to keep the shelter going.
Foster families open their homes to those in need of a little extra care and the comfort of a home - sometimes for a few days, sometimes for weeks. Bottle moms get up night after night to feed tiny orphan kittens by hand. Some people spread the word, raise awareness, share pictures of pets looking for a home over and over and cry tears of joy when they finally see the happy adoption update.
This Christmas, we are grateful to everyone who plays a part in helping us save lives. No gift is too small, no time given is without meaning. This Christmas, we look back with joy on all the dogs and cats we lost our hearts to this year, and we smile to know that they are safe, warm and loved for the holidays. Because, when all is said and done, love is the greatest gift of all. And love, you know, makes the shelter world go round.
Merry Christmas to you all, from everyone at the shelter - four-legged and two-legged alike!
When it comes to a badly injured or unpredictably aggressive animal, even a “no kill” shelter has to call it quits. Zoie, a young 82-pound Rottweiler, was both of the above. By the time she arrived at Paws and Claws Pet Shelter she’d been through numerous homes, tossed out of all of them due to her cat-killing and chicken-massacring ways. At some point in her young life she had been hit by a car, as x-rays revealed a badly healed rear leg lacking the cartilage necessary to keep bone from rubbing against bone. All that could be done was to put her on anti-inflammatory drugs for life.
Still, it was hoped that the right home could be found for such a dog, and for many weeks the staff tried to find her one. The trouble was, she might ignore or suddenly try to attack another animal through the chain link fence that separates the runs. Zoie’s fate was sealed over the weekend, when she managed to escape from her kennel and launched herself at a Shelter worker carrying a dog that was recovering from its second knee surgery. (Fortunately, neither one was injured.) Now, sadly, there was nothing left to try.
This is the third time a dog has been euthanized at the shelter in 2017. The “no kill” mandate is taken very seriously, but sometimes there is no other option. The first was an elderly black Lab with a head tumor and huge, open sores, all filled with hundreds of deeply embedded maggots. More recently, Animal Control brought in a young Labrador-whippet with a broken back. Surgery was not possible. In both cases euthanizing was necessary to relive the dogs’ suffering.
Zoie was different because, to outward appearances, she was young and healthy. True, she was certainly in chronic pain from the leg injury, but the main problem lay with her unpredictability. One minute she’d be indifferent to another dog outside her kennel; the next, she was lunging frantically against the mesh, trying to fight it. Such behavior made her impossible to adopt out.
The difficult decision was made to have Zoie put down. The staff gathered around her, saying their good-byes, then Jasmine, the Animal Care Manager, and Jennifer, the Kennel Tech, took Zoie to the vet’s office. To keep Zoie from seeing and possibly attacking other dogs, the two women took her into a secluded corridor and knelt on the floor beside her, offering treats and gentle comfort while they waited.
Finally, the vet arrived with a syringe filled with Telazol, a pre-anesthetic to make Zoie groggy. “We never want to euthanize a dog that’s awake,” said Jasmine. “Because,” Jennifer explained, “the animal is frightened and anxious, and the last thing to stop is the heart.” Within minutes Zoie was deeply relaxed, her head cradled in Jasmine’s lap, while Jennifer gently stroked the dog’s flank and paws. “There hasn’t been a single time that I haven’t second-guessed this,” Jasmine admitted, fighting back tears, as the vet and his assistant returned with a second syringe.
Slowly, the bright pink medicine was injected into a vein. All four humans knelt on the floor as the big dog took four deep breaths, then was silent. The vet examined Zoie’s pupils for dilation, felt for a pulse, and listened for a heartbeat. “I don’t hear anything,” he said finally, removing his stethoscope. She was gone.
Jasmine removed Zoie’s bright purple leash and the women placed the big body in a heavy plastic bag, to join other bodies in the vet’s freezer. At last Jasmine and Jennifer did not have to hold back their tears. Does it ever get any easier? “No,” said Jasmine. “If it does, you need to get out.” Jennifer, a veteran of many years of working in a veterinary office, was adamant: “It shouldn’t be easy.”
These women have taken care of Zoie from the day she arrived at the Shelter, bathed and fed and worked with her, in the hope that she would find a permanent home. Now they have stayed beside her until the end, holding, comforting, and speaking lovingly to her through the entire ordeal. They continued to murmur gently to her, long after she stopped breathing.
“Good dog. Good dog.”
The comment was made at a workshop for non-profits to improve their networking, media or fund-raising skills. One by one we went around the room, introducing ourselves and our organizations. “I’m ___, and I’m with Paws and Claws Pet Shelter, in Huntsville, Arkansas. We’re a no-kill facility that finds homes for homeless animals.”
The next person to introduce herself paused as she adjusted her bracelets with perfectly manicured fingertips. “It’s nice that you take care of pets,” she said sweetly, “but what you do is easy. Anyone can find homes for cute puppies and kittens. My organization runs programs for developmentally disabled adults, and that is truly difficult.”
This wasn’t a one-time remark. Everyone who works in animal rescue has been condescended to by those who think we spend our time cuddling puppies and cooing over kittens. Running a shelter, people reason, isn’t real work, given the non-stop adorableness. The trouble was, this woman’s condescending remarks came at the end of an unusually difficult week. The staff had had to deal with problems brought to them by the public: an emaciated cat that died giving birth, an injured dog whose deep lacerations were filled with writhing maggots, and a litter of kittens left on the doorstep in the night, tightly sealed inside a plastic tote that had no air holes.
But good things also happen here – it’s what makes bad days bearable. No two days, no two sad stories – or even two happy adoptions – are alike.
The purpose of this blog is to tell the story of what goes on at Paws and Claws Pet Shelter on a regular basis. The staff is made up of Shelter Director Shonna Harvey, a veteran of over twenty years working in the field of animal rescue, and employees Jasmine Hill, Vanessa Taylor and Jennifer Bolinger. Asked why they do what they do – because there are certainly easier, cleaner and less stressful jobs – each one pauses. “I can’t not do this work,” Harvey says finally. “It’s who I am.” Jasmine Hill, the Animal Care Manager, says she never expected to become so deeply involved in shelter work but, “Once you start, it’s not something you can walk away from.” Taylor, who previously worked with preschool-aged children, as well as in Eldercare, echoes Harvey’s description of such work being a calling. “I feel called to take care of those who can’t take care of themselves,” says Taylor, who serves as Office Manager and Kennel Tech. Jenn Bolinger, also a Kennel Tech who spent years working in a veterinary office, says she wants to make a difference in animals’ lives, giving them help, support, safety and the second chance they deserve.
In addition to this staff, Paws and Claws has a large, unpaid supporting cast that includes the women who run a Thrift Cottage that raises money for the Shelter, a Board of Directors tasked with fund-raising, and a long list of volunteers. These volunteers run a monthly bingo fund-raiser, walk dogs and tame feral kittens, drive dogs to transports headed to other shelters, foster animals in their homes when the shelter is at capacity (which it almost always is) and serve in a many other areas. There are also approved rescue partners (no-kill shelters and rescues around the country who take our animals) as well as loyal local supporters and donors. Some days it really does take a village.
It wasn’t always this way. Less than four years ago Paws and Claws had one of the highest euthanasia rates in the reporting area (74 percent), but became a no-kill shelter when hiring Harvey. This amounts to more than having a policy of not killing dogs and cats to make room for more dogs and cats. With only eight dog kennels, one small room housing cats and kittens, and an even smaller quarantine room, there simply isn’t space for the volume of animals awaiting adoption. This means sending dogs to other no-kill shelters and breed-specific rescues across the country, and holding spay/neuter clinics in an attempt to decrease the tsunami of canines and felines pouring into the Shelter.
“We all feel personally responsible for every animal that needs us,” Harvey says of her staff and volunteers. “It hurts deeply when we’re told by someone, ‘I don’t have time to help this animal – I’ll just kill it.’”
In future blogs we plan to tell you about the goings on at Paws and Claws Pet Shelter, through stories about the animals we serve, and the people who adopt them. The accounts will be true, and honest, and we’ll try to strike a balance between gritty reality and the pleasures of kitten-cuddling.