Keepers of the Wild Nature Park

Purchasing a Pet
By Sue McGuire - The Press-Democrat

Avoiding common mistakes

Sonoma County’s animal shelters are full of perfectly wonderful animals waiting for a forever home. That is the first place Sonoma Pets encourages people to look for their new family member.

Top Five Tips for Purchasing an Animal:

1) Meet the parents; often the sire is offsite but insist on meeting the dam. If she is cowering under the table, hissing, growling; leave. It’s not the temperament you would want in a pet.

2) Avoid breeders who breed more than just one or two breeds or have more than three to four litters a year. Anything more than that and it likely a puppy mill, where profit can often take precedent over the health of animals.

3) Demand Orthopedic Foundation of America (OFA) clearance of any adults in the breeding line. X-rays are used to review joint issues, like dysplasia, on adult dogs. Don’t let the breeder say the puppies have had OFA clearance because they’re too young! Dogs must be at least nine months old before getting OFA x-rays. That’s why you need to get clearances on several generations of the parents.

4) Make sure your breeder has a long track record of happy customers and healthy dogs. Most dogs/cat hobbyists regularly compete in professional events.

5) Never, never buy an animal, sight unseen, off the Internet. Buy locally from people, who have a reputation to uphold.

But for people seeking a registered breed dog or a purebred cat, the advice is to do some homework first. Buyers should bring a healthy dose of skepticism before making a purchase.

“More people put more thought into buying a car than they do a living being, like a dog,” says Linda Giorgi of Petaluma. Giorgi has been showing Golden Retrievers since 1970. One her puppies became the family dog for President Gerald Ford.

“A lot of people have no idea what they are getting into,” says Giorgi, owner of Foxfire Golden Retrievers. Giorgi has show dogs, Golden Retrievers and Papillions, whom she occasionally breeds. “Unrealistic expectations are the big thing,” she says. Potential adopters must fill out an extensive questionnaire before they are considered for a dog. “You’re not qualified if you can write a check. It’s not that kind of thing.”

Giorgi and other hobby breeders cringe at people who, because they have a “purebred” dog, they decide to breed with a friend’s purebred dog. These so-called backyard breeders often unknowingly pass on genetic issues in breeds, which result in a poorer outcome for the breed in general. In Goldens it’s hip issues and with Boxers for example, it’s often eye related issues.

Dennis and Beth Kirwan of Sebastopol rescued Daisy, a McNabb mix, and were looking for another dog. After researching breeds, they liked the energy and intelligence of terriers. Nervous about going to a breeder alone, they hired a canine behaviorist to accompany them. The behaviorist insisted the sire and dam be available for inspection, and the puppy undergo a complete health exam by a veterinarian of their choosing, before agreeing to the purchase.

Same Goes for Cat Breeders

Barbara Redalia of Tuleberg Cattery in Sebastopol occasionally has some kittens available after breeding her show cats. “When purchasing from a professional breeder, one should expect to receive a record of the kitten's vaccinations, as well as pedigrees of its parents, a registration form, if it is to be registered, a description of what it has been eating, and where that food can be obtained, and any pertinent information about previous illnesses or inherited genetic traits that might impact its health,” she says.

Adopters interested in a particular breed should attend dog shows held in Sonoma County throughout the year, to learn more about their breed of interest.

Purchasing a pet as a holiday gift is never a good idea say adoption counselors at Sonoma County animal shelters. It’s recommended people instead purchase a collar or a pet-related gift package, and after the holidays, take some time to decide on the new family member.

Packing Some Bite

Even if marveling at "Marley & Me" on the big screen is still on your to-do list, here is a roundup of animal-centric books to curl up with during the holiday season:

"Izzy & Lenore: Two Dogs, an Unexpected Journey, and Me." Author Jon Katz returns with another powerful memoir that chronicles his life on his upstate Bedlam Farm. He introduces us to an unruly border collie named Izzy, whose owners moved away. Izzy's metamorphosis into a service dog that helps hospice patients is deeply moving.

"Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs," by Gene Weingarten, with photographs by Michael S. Williamson. This is a heartfelt, upbeat tribute to the wisdom and joy of senior dogs. Each photo is accompanied by a story that captures the essence of each subject.

"Happy Cat Happy You: Quick Tips for Building a Bond with Your Feline Friend." Many owners find themselves confounded by common feline behaviors, like scratching, biting, stalking or yowling for attention at 3 a.m. Author and pet expert Arden Moore offers hundreds of playful tips and practical advice for living harmoniously with your cat.

"Wild Horses: Endangered Beauty." Photographer Traer Scott turns our attention to the current plight of wild horses in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. For centuries, the wild horses of North America have figured prominently in art, history and folklore as symbols of beauty, strength and freedom. But today many of these creatures are fighting for survival.

"Bird Brain Teasers: Puzzles, Games & Avian Trivia." Does the early bird really get the worm? Find out from The New York Times crossword puzzle creator Patrick Merrell's 324-page book filled with bird-themed crosswords, visual puzzles, and the first-ever Birdoku challenges.

"Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World," by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter. On a bitter-cold night, someone stuffed a kitten into the book dropoff box at the Spencer, Iowa, public library. He was rescued and raised by Myron, the library director, and stayed for 19 years.

"Eco Dog: Healthy Living For Your Pet," by Corbett Marshall and Jim Deskevich, is packed with do-it-yourself projects and natural alternatives to conventional pet food, grooming products, household products and toys.

"Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life." Dr. Nancy Kay offers guides to selecting the right veterinarian, when to ask for a second opinion and tips on choosing the right treatment option. Much of the information can pertain to cats, too.

"Bliss to You: Trixie's Guide to a Happy Life," as told to Dean Koontz. The best-selling author says his 68-pound dog changed his life and made him a better, happier person. Trixie shares her secrets on how to achieve not merely happiness, but bliss.

"Heritage of Care: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals," by Marion S. Lane and Stephen L. Zawistowski chronicles 142 years of the ASPCA and its commitment to companion animals.

"The Ultimate Cat Lover", Marty Becker, D.V.M., America's Favorite Vet. "The Best Experts' Advice for a Happy, Healthy Cat with Stories and Photos of Fabulous Felines." HCI Books.

Keep Pets In Mind During Winter
Kim Dacey Reports - Pets Section

BALTIMORE - The bitter cold weather can wreak havoc on everything from cars to pets -- depending on the breed of animal you have.

People in the Baltimore area and across the country are bundling up to brave the wintry weather, but a pet can't do the same. Officials at the Maryland SPCA said pet owners need to make sure their animals are safe this time of year.

"You need to know the breed of animal you have. A lot of the smaller breeds like your daschunds, your Chihuahuas -- they don't deal with the cold as well as some of the other breeds do, so it's very important that you put a jacket on them or put a sweater on them to keep them warm," said SPCA spokeswoman Katie Flory.

Flory recommended pet owners bring animals inside as much as possible, especially at night. If they are outside, check their water frequently to make sure it's not frozen, check their paws for damage from ice or salt on sidewalks and use pet-safe antifreeze and sidewalk salt this winter.

Flory said signs that a pet is in trouble include excessive shaking or panting and acting unusual.

"My first suggestion would be to call your vet to make sure that you're getting the professional help you need. Don't try to do it on your own. Get their advice for each specific animal," she said.

Flory said a good rule of thumb is to think of pets as people and use common sense.

"The things that you'd do for us, you'd do for your pet. So, when you're thinking, 'Hey, is this the right thing to do?' Think about it from a human standpoint," she said.

Thanks to Kathy from Bhc,Az

New California Pet Store Standards
By Eric Syverson - The Reptile

The Pet Store Animal Care Act sets requirements covering everything from caging to animal handling to enrichment in every pet store selling live companion animals, including reptiles and fish.

California pet stores begin 2009 with new standards. An industry initiative to provide clearer guidelines for pet stores and animal-control officers takes effect Jan. 1.

Called the Pet Store Animal Care Act, California Assembly Bill 1347 sets requirements covering everything from caging to animal handling to enrichment in every pet store selling live companion animals, including reptiles and fish, in the state.

Some new recordkeeping requirements stand to benefit customers. Stores must note information such as veterinary treatment records and who provided them with the animals, and they must supply it upon request to people purchasing individually housed animals. Pet stores are also responsible for either providing an animal-return policy at the time of sale or informing customers about no returns.

The new law also sets some operating standards. Stores must establish and maintain a documented animal-care program in consultation with a licensed veterinarian, and they must make written animal-husbandry procedures available to all employees.

According to the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, which helped craft the bill, many pet stores are already operating within the scope of most of these criteria. But for stores without the required written procedures, spokeswomen Kari Ardolino Rudgers said PIJAC has developed guidelines regarding what the law covers, including sample checklists and forms. One free copy has been mailed to independent retailers in California, she said, and additional copies and a Microsoft Word version on CD are available for sale at

No More Room for Pets at Nature Coast Humane Society
By Beth N. Gray, St. Petersburg Times correspondent

BROOKSVILLE — This may be a terrible time to mount a capital fundraising campaign, but officials at the Humane Society of the Nature Coast say the depressed economy is one reason they need to expand their animal shelter.

Pets that need a roof over their heads, good nutrition and love are being turned away for lack of space.

"The need is greater than ever due to loss of jobs, and the number of (home) foreclosures is staggering," said executive director Joanne Schoch.

"We have staff in tears, saying no to people lined up at our door who have nurtured their pet. 'Help me; help my pet,' " they lament, Schoch said.

The local alternative to the Humane Society and the overstocked Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shelter, both no-kill facilities, is Hernando County Animal Services, which employs euthanasia.

The pet owners descending on the Humane Society are either cash-strapped or are moving in with relatives, moving to smaller homes or renting apartments that do not allow pets.

"Our kennels are always full," Schoch said of the facility at Wiscon and Mobley roads.

"We're seeing more dogs," the director noted. The shelter has 17 individual dog kennels. "It's easier to take a cat with you than a dog. A cat is a lower-maintenance animal."

The cageless environment in the Humane Society's cat cottage, which opened five years ago, can comfortably accommodate some 30 felines.

The society has $100,000 earmarked already for its capital campaign. But the goal is $650,000 to $750,000 for the first phase of expansion, a 40,000-square-foot accommodation for dogs that will mimic the cageless facility for cats and include a clinic, education center and a conference room that will double as an indoor play area for pets.

The numbers seem daunting, but Schoch has some ideas on raising it.

"If we could get a majority of the population to donate just $10, we could raise it," she said. "If we could get a major corporation (to give a considerable contribution), they could jump-start this campaign." Grants are also being pursued.

Coastal Engineering Associates of Brooksville has provided gratis a site design and rendering for the new service area.

Another option costs not a penny and offers an opportunity to immortalize one's pet.

The online group is featuring a contest whose winner will receive a $1-million makeover of its shelter. Contestants register on the Web site, post stories or photos of their pets, and the shelter receives points for every submission. There is no limit on submissions. From the highest point gatherers — a panel will determine the most needy and worthy — the public will vote online.

Says Schoch: "What a great way for kids and families to participate."

"I think we have a good chance," she added. "We were No. 40 on their list at last count."

This month, the Humane Society dedicated several projects at its site, primarily a new dog play area that has a stone base and is topped with a dig-proof artificial turf that can be sanitized.

"Dogs roll on it. They absolutely love it," Schoch said, noting that a lot of shelters provide mainly dirt pits for canine play. The state-of-the-art installation was financed by a small foundation that prefers to remain anonymous.

Also dedicated were Cemex Lane, honoring the company for its longtime support; Cori Court for Cori Messenger, a veterinary technician and the longest employee with the society; and Edythe Way, honoring the longest active volunteer, Edythe Cook.

"While raising the funding for the new care center, the Humane Society needs to rely on the generosity of the community to fund the daily operations of the current facility," Schoch said.

Your Dressed-Up Pet Photos - Part I
The Boston Globe

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