Are Airlines Unfair to Pet Owners?

Airlines Bleed Customers for Pet Travel
By George Gombossy - The Hartford Courant

A note today from Archer who lives in Western Connecticut complaining - rightly - about being charged $150 to fly the couple's cat one way from Connecticut to Floriday.

"Only two airlines that fly into Fort Myers (Delta and US Airways) allow you to take a cat in the cabin.

The cat must weigh less than 15 pounds and fit in a pet carrier under the seat in front of you. We prefer to go by Delta as it has one (3PM) non stop flight to Fort Myers and it is pretty risky making connecting flights in Winter especially with a pet, which is usually not welcome in hotels and also would need food and bodily relief if we got stuck in an airport.

In the last year, since the energy crisis the fee for the cat has gone from $70 to $150. And here is the rub. The cat is the only carry-on luggage she can take. Just the cat and her pocketbook, and it must fit under the seat. For that privilege, we pay an extra $150. By the way, the people fare is only $170.

I think it is highway robbery. They do it just because they can and they have you over a barrel. It seems to me that the policy is blatantly unfair. The rapidly escalating cost is bad enough but why not allow you to take a carry on?. Charge for the cat if you must, but allow a second carry on.

'Expert' Dog Advice
Spencer Phelps - The Marion Star

As an expert on dog handling, I offer my extensive knowledge to the general public on how to properly raise their dogs. Here are a few Q&A letters I received this week:

Question from I Hear Ya in Iberia:
My dogs are impossible. I have two 5-year-old, male Akitas named Shenzy and Crimple. Normally, they are just two delightful friendly friends. I let them sleep with me (my husband sleeps downstairs), and when they're good, which is all the time, I let them eat from the dining room table. My question is: why do my doggies hate strangers?


When dogs lash out at strangers, it means that your pets don't have enough exposure to the outside world. The best idea would be to leave them out in the yard for hours at a time, and let them bark at whatever comes by, even if it's a leaf. This is a win/win scenario because your neighbors love the soothing sound of a dulcet Akita's voice, and letting them bark for hours does not, in any way, make you a bad pet owner.

Question from Timbits:
I just bought a beautiful, six-month old Irish Mastiff last week. I named her Papaya, and we share my quaint one-bedroom apartment. I seem to be having trouble controlling her. I don't mind if she tears up the leather couch or slobbers all over my guests' hands and clothes; that's not the issue. What bothers me is she makes loud gulping noises when she drinks her water! I've tried sitting at my computer desk and weakly saying, "Papaya... Papaya..." over and over again until I get so angry that I jump a bit like I'm going to seriously get up this time (but I don't), but nothing seems to work. Halp!


It sounds like you bought a dog that just doesn't want to learn. For some reason, this sort of learning disability has become more common over the past 20 years or so. Maybe it's due to magnetic interference from power lines, or genetics; it's hard to say. Know this, though: it's not your fault. Normal dogs should be able to respond instantly to an owner saying its name softly four or five times and know exactly what he/she wants it to do even if you've only owned the dog for a short time, and it doesn't fully comprehend its own name yet. Bottom line: euthanize this dog and try again.

Question from Thought I'd Phone Ya from Caledonia:
My dog doesn't know how to act around guests! Help!


Cal, you're lavishing too much affection onto your pooch. Consequently, it thinks it's going to get the same level of affection from everyone else it meets. The best way to deal with this is to lock your dog in the smallest place possible for the entire time you're entertaining guests. Usually a crate or a small room will do. While your dog is in there, it might constantly scratch at the door, whimper, bark, etc. These are natural reactions, so don't do or say anything to or about the rascal. Just let it deal with the separation on its own terms. If, for some foolish reason, you accidentally let your dog see one of your friends, it's OK to let it sniff them (either way, the pronouns are interchangeable). The second the dog does something undesirable, however, throw it (literally) back into its seclusion.

My most common piece of advice is never take your pet to obedience school. I teach the "Three P" method of dog learning: punish, punish, punish. Above all, remember this crucial statement: there is nothing you can do if your dog won't listen, because you are NOT in charge. That and I lie a lot.

The Promise of Poo Power?
Amelia Glynn - SF Gate

Back in early 2006, there was a lot of "to do" about poo. Dog poo that is. Numerous stories touted the hidden energy promise of all that pet poop we toss every year — to the tune of more than 6,500 tons in the San Francisco Bay Area alone. So, here we are at the end of 2008, trash cans at busy parks still spilling over with poop-filled plastic bags. What happened to the promise that brown is the new green?

Two years ago, Norcal Waste Systems proposed a grand poo-converting plan for the City that included placing biodegradable bags and dog-waste carts in San Francisco's high-traffic Duboce Park, and then loading it all into a methane digester, where bacteria could chow down on the poo for about two weeks to create methane. Then the methane could be piped directly to a gas stove, heater, turbine or anything else powered by natural gas. Experts say a year's worth of recycled pet poop from a city park has the potential to yield as much as 50 gallons of fuel. This creative approach to dealing with animal feces was to aid San Francisco in meeting it's goal of halting its reliance on landfills by 2020. But, at least for the time being, the City decided to focus its resources on other recycling-related priorities.

Unfortunately, this leaves few alternatives to those of us who don't want our "shout out" to future generations to be carefully preserved samples of our dog's excrement. The bulk of our city's doggie dreck is still mummified in plastic and carted off to the landfill where it oozes unharnessed methane into the atmosphere (which significantly contributes to global warming). But theoretically, it is possible to produce electricity, natural gas and even fuel from our pets' poop.

The concept isn't nearly as "brave-new-world" as it might sound. Several European countries and some American dairy farms already convert animal waste into energy. Straus Family Creamery in Marin County installed a methane digester in 2000 and uses the gas to power its plant, saving Straus thousands of dollars a month in energy bills.

But methane digesters aren't going to become the hip new thing until they make more sense economically. It still only costs $40 per ton to dump garbage into a landfill. And even with the average Californian creating five pounds or more of trash daily, it's still among the cheapest short-term options. According to waste experts, the most ecologically sound way to dispose of our animals' poo is to flush it down the toilet, where it can be treated in the sewage system. (Although there is a concern about cat poop harming sea otters.) But this isn't exactly convenient, unless you're cool with toting those warm bags of poo back to your home or office after each trip to the park.

Overall, animal feces comprises nearly 4 percent of San Francisco's residential waste (almost as much as disposable diapers). Pet owners and environmental groups debate about whether it's kosher to put pet waste into backyard compost bins. Most scientists warn against it because the compost doesn't heat up enough to kill pathogens such as E. coli, which could be bad news if the compost is used in a vegetable garden. Industrial composters are a safer bet because they usually reach temperatures of 160 degrees — hot enough to kill even the hardiest pathogens.

The most recent statement about the bagged poo project came in January of this year from Robert Reed, spokesperson for Sunset Scavenger, a subsidiary of Norcal. He states that the company is collecting pet waste separately from one pet-care business, but has NOT initiated a pilot project specifically for pet waste due to lack of funding. "Instead we are collecting food scraps from restaurants... and producing a "manufactured biomass" that we are sending to a digester operated by another entity. This project produces methane that is piped to a generator and burned to produce electricity." Apparently, undigested food scraps provide a greater opportunity to harvest energy then dog poo.

Reed goes on to say that it would be possible to conduct a pilot program to collect dog waste in San Francisco, but cites the ubiquitous plastic bag as the biggest challenge. "Unfortunately, plastic bags would plug up the methane digester," says Reed. "So how do we make sure that plastic bags aren't used?"

Then there's the issue of identifying the best bag for the job — essentially one that easily dissolves in a digester without mucking it up or disrupting the microorganisms that are working away inside. AND (yes there are more hurdles) even if this miracle bag existed, who would pay for them and how would they be distributed? And perhaps most importantly, what would prevent people from cheating in a pinch and using that plastic bag from their morning newspaper?

Even in the face of these challenges, Reed still believes that if someone were to run a pilot project to harvest energy from dog poo, SF would be the place to do it.

Knowing that our animals leave their own "pawprint" on the environment, what do you do with your pets poop? Do you use biodegradable bags? Compost? What's your solution to the poo dilemma?


Humane Society Warns Against Buying Puppies From Pet Stores
By Lisa Wade McCormick -

Puppy mills mistreat animals and farm them out to retailers

If a new puppy is on your wish list this holiday season, don't buy one from a pet store. It may have come from the billion-dollar puppy mill industry, and supporting that store could lead to continued cruelty against animals.

That's the message from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which launched its second annual Puppy Mill Action Week on Sunday. The goal of this campaign, HSUS officials said, is to encourage pet stores to stop selling puppies and support animal shelter adoptions instead.

While retail pet stores defend their industry, saying they're committed to animal welfare, HSUS disagrees and warns consumers that pet stores simply fuel the demand for puppy mills.

"The bulk of puppies sold at pet stores come from puppy mills," said Stephanie Shain, puppy mill expert and director of the HSUS' Stop Puppy Mills campaign. "If you're in the business of selling puppies, you need a constant supply of different types of breeds. Puppy mills fill that demand for pet stores."

Puppy mills--mass commercial breeding operations--churn out two to four million puppies each year, the HSUS said. Those puppies are raised in horrible conditions and often have health problems, genetic defects, and behavioral issues.

The HSUS has documented scores of deplorable conditions in puppy mills, including crowded cages, poor food and shelter, over-breeding, and inbreeding. Puppy mill dogs, HSUS officials say, receive minimal veterinary care, little social interaction, and those kept for breeding suffer for years in continual confinement.

The driving force behind this inhumane industry, HSUS officials say, is money. "They (the dogs) are bred as often as possible and then destroyed or discarded once they can no longer produce puppies," according the HSUS. "Mills only look to make a profit; commonly disregard the dog's physical and emotional health; and do not adhere to sound breeding practices."

"The end result: Hundreds of thousands of dogs who will spend their entire lives in cages for their entire lives, suffering from cruelty and neglect every day."

How it happens
Pet stores, for example, may claim their puppies come from breeders -- not puppy mills.

"If a pet store manager tells you this, ask to see documentation that shows exactly where their breeders are located," HSUS officials say. "In most cases, you will find out that the breeders they 'know' are in distant states.

Some pet stores also claim they don't sell puppies from local breeders because their state doesn't regulate that industry.

"Commercial breeders in all states who sell wholesale to pet stores are required to be regulated by the USDA," HSUS officials say. "Some states, such as Missouri and Pennsylvania, also require a state kennel license and state inspections."

That, however, doesn't mean puppies from Missouri or Pennsylvania are healthier than dogs bred in other states.

"These states have two of the worst concentrations of puppy mills in the United States, with some of the worst conditions," HSUS officials said. "This is due in part to the very small number of qualified inspectors, infrequent inspections, and the fact that even facilities that are found to be substandard during the inspections process are rarely penalized."

Some other examples of pet store double-speak, HSUS officials said, include:

"Our store's puppies are healthy and have a health certificate from a licensed veterinarian." "A health certificate only means that the puppy has had a very brief 'wellness' examination by a veterinarian," HSUS officials said. The certificate does not mean the puppy or its parents have undergone any testing for genetic disorders or other diseases.

"Our puppies come with a health guarantee." HSUS officials say these guarantees often protect the store's interest -- not the consumers. Be sure to read those guarantees carefully.

"Our puppies are registered and come with papers." Purebred registration papers -- from one of many "kennel clubs" or other dog registries-- are only a record of a puppy's parents and sometimes its lineage. "Puppy mills routinely sell puppies with papers from prestigious sounding 'kennel clubs," HSUS officials say. "Registration papers do nothing to ensure that an individual puppy (or his or her parents) is healthy or free of genetic defects, or that they were raised in a humane and sanitary environment."

"We've never had a problem with any of the puppies." "Even facilities with mostly healthy puppies and problem-free inspection reports are keeping dozens or even hundreds of breeding dogs in cages for their entire lives," HSUS officials said. "These parent dogs live behind bars from birth until death...they are bred repeatedly until they can no longer reproduce, and then they are discarded."

"All our puppies come from USDA-inspected facilities. "Being USDA-inspected does not mean that the business is not a puppy mill," HSUS officials says. "There are hundreds of USDA-licensed puppy mills in operation that have long lists of violations and problems associated with them."

Those involved in the retail pet industry, however, say they're in the business of promoting healthy animals--not puppy mills.

"The health and well being of our pets comes first to all of us," Lacey Clever, a spokeswoman for Petland, Inc., told "Healthy puppies are truly our #1 priority."

Clever said Petland gets its "registerable" puppies from professional and hobby breeders and licensed professional pet distributors "who have years of experience in raising quality pets."

Company representatives also inspect their distributors' and breeders' facilities, she said. "In addition, these facilities are licensed and inspected by the federal government (USDA). We require that our franchisees buy only from Petland, Inc. associated facilities. We even encourage our franchisees to visit facilities for themselves."

Petland even has a "Do Not Buy List" of breeders that operate substandard facilities, Clever said.

And the company encourages its customers to adopt from local animal shelters.

"We have an Adopt-A-Pet program that enables our stores to partner with local shelters and rescue groups on whatever level works for them," Clever said. "Some stores have fundraisers and donation drives for their local shelters while others have a more intense partnership, providing kennel space for shelter animals."

But pet stores aren't the only places where puppy mill dogs are sold, HSUS officials warn.

"Classified listings and Web sites are also selling puppy mill dogs," Shain said. "We see puppy mills selling through classified ads and they do a good job of making their postings look like they're small breeders with a litter of puppies and not huge breed operations. We also see many savvy looking Web sites (by puppy mill operators)."

Consider the Pine Bluff Kennels in Lyles, Tennessee, which the HSUS raided in June -- an effort that rescued nearly 700 dogs.

"If you went to that (operator's) Web site, you'd see many beautiful comments about how the dogs lived on a 92 acre farm," Shain said. "But when we went there, there were nearly 700 dogs stuck in tiny cages." Many of the dogs had no food or water, HSUS officials said. They were stuck in wire cages--that made it impossible to stand--and surrounded by their own feces.

Scores of dogs found during the raid had eye injuries and broken bones, HSUS officials said. Some were even dead.

During the raid, HSUS officials discovered the grave site of a pile of dogs that had multiple gunshot wounds in their decaying bodies.

Tennessee authorities charged the kennel's operator, Patricia Adkisson, with 24 felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty, nine counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty, one count of unlawful sale or transport of dogs, one count of unlawful administration of rabies vaccine, and one count of paraphernalia.

Despite her kennel's deplorable conditions, Adkisson sold many dogs online for as much as $400 each. Most of those dogs were smaller breeds, like Chihuahuas, miniature pinschers, and terriers.

HSUS officials say consumers are often duped by sophisticated Web sites--like the one Adkisson had--that sell puppies.

"We hear all sorts of horrible stories," Shain told us. "We've heard stories about puppies arriving dead, or the dog they received was not the one pictured on the Web site, or it was a different breed, or in some cases, the dog never arrives."

Other common complaints include puppies sold with crippling genetic conditions, sick puppies arriving in need of expensive emergency veterinary care, or puppies that became sick or died from serious infectious diseases. Some of those diseases, officials said, were parasitic and transmittable to humans.

What you can do
How can consumers protect themselves from getting taken by deceitful online puppy mills and unscrupulous breeders selling dogs through classified ads? And what steps can dog lovers take to ensure they're not supporting the puppy mill industry?

The HSUS recommends the following:

• Adopt a dog from a local animal shelter. "Visit your local shelter and at least give adoption a try," Shain said. "You might just find your next best friend." HSUS officials say one in four dogs in a shelter is a pure bred.

• Check out breed-specific rescue groups. "There are breeds of every kind that need a home," Shain said. "They even have rare breeds."

• Don't buy puppies from pet stores or online. "Pet stores and Internet puppy dealers are very smart about deceiving people," Shain said. "These dogs are a cash crop for the puppy mill operators and the pet stores, and it's reprehensible." Dogs sold in pet stores are also considered "inventory," HSUS officials said. The faster they can get rid of one dog, the faster they can restock their cages.

• Beware of slick Web sites and classified ads selling dogs. "This is a savvy industry," Shain said. "These people have sophisticated Web sites and that might make you to let your guard down." Reputable breeders never sell their puppies over the Internet or through pet stores, HSUS officials said. They insist on meeting the family or individual interested in buying their dogs.

• If you decide to buy from a breeder, visit the facility. "That is an absolute must," Shain said. "You must go to that (breeder's) home, meet the animals, and see how they live. You want to make sure those animals are members of the family. We feel that all dogs should be companions first and breeders seconds. Breeding shouldn't be the sole reason for the animal's existence."

• Encourage pet stores to start adoption programs. "The best models are the ones used by Petco and PetSmart, which let local shelters come in their stores and adopt their dogs," Shain said. "That is a great thing. It gets the animals in the stores and sends a humane message to the community that this is a puppy-friendly pet store."

Land of 10,000 Stories: Duck in a Truck
Boyd Huppert - Minneapolis KARE 11

So, you're driving down the road, it could be anywhere in the Twin Cities.

You pull up alongside a flatbed truck and you glance to your left, and, what

The view through Joe Mansheim's side window raises all sorts of questions. What for instance is a duck-hunting truck driver doing with a waterfowl riding shotgun?

"Truckers are like, 'what the heck is that?'" says Joe about the nine-month-old mallard named Frank, propped up on a pillow, head darting from side to side, riding in the passenger seat of his International Truck.

"Goofy duck," says Joe, with the affection a father might show his young son.

Joe and Frank chat often on the road. Joe complains about the traffic; Frank quacks. And driver and duck go about their business delivering construction materials throughout the Twin Cities for Elite Transportation Systems.

"Pretty good looking site we helped build there," Joe says proudly to Frank as they descend into the Mississippi River valley with a load of steel for the new I-35W bridge. "We did a good job Frankie."

To many of the construction workers he encounters in his deliveries, Joe is now known as the "duck man."

The title suits him just fine.

"I go to these construction sites and you always see everybody smile when they see him," Joe says.

It all started about a year ago when Joe spent $700 dollars on a duck hunting dog, that wouldn't hunt. His boss quipped that he should have skipped the dog and just bought the duck. "So I called up a feed and tack store in Stillwater and said, 'I'd like to order a duck,'" Joe recalls.

It was all meant to be a joke, until the little ball of fuzz that arrived a few days later connected with the duck hunter in ways that aren't quite natural.

"Here have a little more," says Joe to Frank as they share a banana in the cab of the truck. "Good stuff, hey buddy."

One morning last spring Frank followed Joe out the kitchen and across the yard to his truck. Frank hasn't missed a day of work since.

"I'm a duck hunter but I don't consider Frank a duck. I just consider him a friend," says Joe. Truth is for the first few weeks Frank was known as Frances, until Joe realized his duck was a drake.

"Stupid as it sounds maybe if more people had a duck in their lives we wouldn't be all so mad at each other," he says.

One disclaimer, should anyone be thinking about a duck for their next pet. Ducks cannot be house (or truck) broken. What they leave behind is not pleasant. But to Joe it's a small price to pay for Frank's companionship.

"Let's call it a day Frankie," say Joe as he pulls the truck into the driveway of the duplex he and Frank share in Columbia Heights. "We're home bud, what do you think of that?"

Good times can be had in a backyard too. Frank enjoyes hassling the dog or taking a dip in a plastic wading pool.

But each morning before sunrise, Frank waddles out toward the truck - an early bird, without a worm to be had.

"Alright, let's go to work, go make some more money," encourages Joe as they head down the road, to a mix of Frank quacking and the KQRS morning show.

A daffy little tale from the 'Land of 10,000 Stories' that could render obsolete an old saying, for who cares about the worth of a bird in a hand, once you've caught a glimpse of a duck in a truck.

Gaston Veterinarian Decided to Help Animals When His Own Pet Died
Diane Turbyfill - The Gaston Gazette

DALLAS - Dr. George Creed makes decisions and sticks to them.

The determined man decided to become a veterinarian at the age of 6 and chose his future wife at 12.

"I say that's focus. She says I've only had two good ideas in my life," Creed joked.

From his marriage, Creed has a lasting relationship with his wife, Natalie, and their three children.

From his practice, Crossroads Animal Hospital, Creed has a profitable business of 33 years and a clientele he cherishes.

Creed picked his career after losing his cocker spaniel to parvo. The dog became sick, and veterinary care without a car and extra money was hard to find. A family member gave them a ride to the vet, but it was too late.

"I cried all the way home, and I told my mom that I was going to be a veterinarian and I was going to be free," he said, adding that half of that vow remains true.

Running a profitable business would be pretty tough without charging patients, but Creed says he strives to keep prices reasonable. Pro bono work will have to wait until retirement. At that time, Creed plans to volunteer some time at a clinic.

"So I can keep that promise to that 6-year-old boy," he said.

The opportunity to volunteer may come sooner than originally planned, he said. Creed wanted to retire in 2010 but is considering hanging it up within the year. Hard economic times are steering him toward selling his practice. The business isn't on the market just yet, but Creed is looking at his options.

Creed began his business out of his living room, using his house in Gastonia as home base and working solely with large animals. While he loved the job, it was physically taxing.

"You're dealing with a 1,000-pound animal. They don't have to be mad at you to hurt you," he said.

The increasing number of clients and hazardous conditions of working with large animals drove Creed to take on a partner and start treating smaller animals at a facility at the intersection of U.S. 321 and N.C. 279 - lending itself to the name, Crossroads Animal Hospital.

Creed eventually broke off on his own, this time opening shop at his current location in Dallas.

Eight employees man the office, led by Creed's office manager of 30 years, Pat Haynes.

For 25 years, Creed only missed two days of work - one because of the flu and the other following wisdom tooth extraction. He still didn't escape work.

"Somebody brought a horse to my house," he said.

Creed is an animal lover, but it takes more than a passion for pets to drive a veterinarian, he said.

"It's not a love of animals. It's a love of medicine," Creed said. "It's a love of what you do. Every day I'm excited to get up and go to work."

Creed's desk is littered with a mixture of work documents and letters of thanks from his patients' owners. He tells stories from a year ago and 40 years ago that reflect a life of caring and compassion. He talks of the changes in veterinary medicine and in society.

He remembers milestones in life from attending segregated schools and graduating college to seeing the first black president.

Upon retirement, Creed plans to write a book to share some of his stories in veterinary medicine and take off to go fishing at a moment's notice.

"I want to be selfish for at least a year," he said.

Working from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week and half of the day on Saturday doesn't leave a lot of free time, said Creed, but the schedule is one he set and will continue to follow until retirement... no regrets.

"If I had my life to live over, I'd marry the same woman, and I'd have the same job," he said.

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