Your Dressed-Up Pet Photos - Part II

America's Most Pet-Friendly Cities
Tom Van Riper and Robert Malone -

Americans love their pets, shelling out more for food, supplies and veterinary care than they do on consumer staples like beer, ice cream, cosmetics and golf--some $36 billion annually. The combined total of cats and dogs in the U.S. is estimated at 163 million, or more than one for every two people.

But how many owners factor in Fido's or Fluffy's happiness when it comes to choosing a place to live?

For those who do, some cities measure up better than others. And Colorado Springs, Colo., tops our list of America's Most Pet-Friendly Cities. Generous public space, ample veterinary care and wealth of pet-friendly retailers all added up to heaven on earth for this small metropolis of just under 400,000 people and their estimated 61,000 dogs and 54,000 cats.

To find out where pets and their owners are most welcome, we measured the country's 50 largest cites to see which had the most public park acreage, including those parks tailored specifically for dogs (the second most common pet after cats and the ones that require the most outdoor facilities), the most pet supply and service businesses, and the most veterinary facilities. We also looked at which cities typically charge the least for veterinary care. We measured the statistics on both a per capita basis, or against each city's human population, and on a "pet capita" basis--against the city's estimated pet population. Those cities with the most vets, public parks, dog parks and pet businesses, both per person and per animal, shot to the top of the list.

Colorado Springs ranked in the top 20 in all the categories. The city has more than 10,000 acres of public park space, or almost a tenth of an acre for every pet. It also features seven dog parks and 113 veterinarians.

Colorado Springs fits a profile common to the top 10, a list of small- to medium-sized cites with a median population of 507,000 people. The list includes Portland, Ore., Albuquerque, N.M. and Charlotte, N.C., cities with a sought after sweet spot: They're large enough to draw lots of pet shops, vets and public parks, but small enough not to drown out such amenities with overly dense populations.

While large cities like New York and Los Angeles rank very high in total park space, for example, both are near the bottom on a per capita (and "pet capita") basis. New York is also the most expensive city in which to care for a pet, followed by major metros Boston and San Francisco.

The most pet-friendly among cities with populations of over a million is San Diego, which ranks 13th overall and sixth in public park space per capita/pet capita.

One factor that was considered but ultimately not included in the rankings was air quality. While cleaner air would seem inherently healthier for cats, dogs and birds, their relatively short life spans and their ability to make do in most any climate makes the issue moot, according to experts.

"Animals can generally adapt to anything humans can," says New York City veterinarian Richard Green.

And while no official statistics exist that track the number of pet-friendly rental dwellings in various cities, those in the apartment business say the trend is going the pet owners' way. The roots go back to the last real estate slump of the early 1990s, when building owners fought off low occupancy rates by allowing pets.

"People were almost desperate to fill their apartments, so they decided to either take pets or to relax their restrictions somewhat," says Lisa Trosien of

No doubt, the relative lack of high-rise buildings in smaller cities also plays to pet owners wishes, since smaller, lower-to-the-ground units usually have more lenient rules. Throw in a nearby park and a pet store on the corner, and life is good for small city pet lovers and their furry friends.

Sports Illustrated on the Vick dogs: Has the Tide Finally Turned for Pit Bulls?
By Christie Keith - Pet Connection

“Did you see the Sports Illustrated article on Michael Vick’s dogs?” a friend asked me this morning.

“Not yet,” I told her. “Is it good?”

“No,” she said. “It’s perfect.”

In a year full of bad news, what’s happened to the dogs of the Bad Newz Kennels is turning out to be the best news of all for pit bulls. I don’t just mean for the 51 Vick dogs themselves, although certainly the 47 surviving dogs’ lives are better than they were.

No, it’s every pit bull in America who will benefit from this massive PR overhaul. It will be more and more difficult for “shelters,” animal control agencies, and courts to condemn these dogs to death simply because they’re pit bulls or ex-fighters. Too many of us have heard about the Vick dogs now — the therapy dogs, the loving family pets, even the dogs living out their lives in a sanctuary on Michael Vick’s dime.

And while many of us in the pet media have been singing this song for a long time, there may be no better audience for this message than the readers of Sports Illustrated — a magazine that had previously made the problem worse with a sensationalistic 1987 cover featuring a snarling pit and the headline “Beware of this dog.”

But I just forgave Sports Illustrated for that, because this story is beautiful. I read it with tears pouring down my face, not because the dogs were abused, but because they were saved, and how, and why.

I expected a basic rehash of articles we’ve seen before: the successful adoptions, the former fighting dogs who now do pet assisted therapy, the ones still in sanctuaries, some of whom will never leave. And that would have been wonderful, it would have been a cause to celebrate. It would have made my day.

That’s not what S.I. Senior Editor Jim Gorant wrote. Not at all.

The dog approaches the outstretched hand. Her name is Sweet Jasmine, and she is 35 pounds of twitchy curiosity with a coat the color of fried chicken, a pink nose and brown eyes. She had spent a full 20 seconds studying this five-fingered offering before advancing. Now, as she moves forward, her tail points straight down, her butt is hunched toward the ground, her head is bowed, her ears pinned back. She stands at maybe three quarters of her height.

She gets within a foot of the hand and stops. She licks her snout, a sign of nervousness, and looks up at the stranger, seeking assurance. She looks back to the hand, licks her snout again and begins to extend her neck. Her nose is six inches away from the hand, one inch, half an inch. She sniffs once. She sniffs again. At this point almost any other dog in the world would offer up a gentle lick, a sweet hello, an invitation to be scratched or petted. She’s come so far. She’s so close.

But Jasmine pulls away.

PETA wanted Jasmine dead. Not just Jasmine, and not just PETA. The Humane Society of the U.S., agreeing with PETA, took the position that Michael Vick’s pit bulls, like all dogs saved from fight rings, were beyond rehabilitation and that trying to save them was a misappropriation of time and money. “The cruelty they’ve suffered is such that they can’t lead what anyone who loves dogs would consider a normal life,” says PETA spokesman Dan Shannon. “We feel it’s better that they have their suffering ended once and for all.”

That’s how his piece opens, and that’s when I knew he got it, really got it. I don’t know how, but this guy, who mostly writes about golf, found the heart of this story and never once let go of it.

He told the individual stories of Jasmine and the other dogs. He made you see them and care about them. He made you want to chain Michael Vick to a tire axle in the woods for the rest of his life. But he went beyond that, and questioned every lie and myth about these dogs, made his readers feel and see and believe what writer Vicki Hearne so famously said, “It is true that Pit Bulls grab and hold on. But what they most often grab and refuse to let go of is your heart, not your arm.”

And then he went after PETA and HSUS for wanting to see these dogs die, for even now refusing to believe their salvation was a good thing for them, and for all pit bulls. And for us.

He also went after the people responsible for what happened to the dogs after they were “rescued” from Bad Newz Kennels:

After being taken from the Moonlight Road property, Vick’s dogs were dispersed to six animal-control facilities in Virginia. Conditions differed slightly from place to place, but for the most part each dog was kept alone in a cage for months at a time. They were often forced to relieve themselves where they stood, and they weren’t let out even while their cages were being cleaned; attendants simply hosed down the floors with the dogs inside. They were given so little attention because workers assumed they were dangerous and would be put down after Vick’s trial. The common belief is that any money and time spent caring for dogs saved from fight rings would be better devoted to the millions of dogs already sitting in shelters, about half of which are destroyed each year.

But those dogs had something on their side, Gorant says: Michael Vick. Not the man, but the name. The notoriety. Because suddenly a whole lot of people didn’t want to see these dogs pay the final price for what had been done to them. Wondered, can’t any of these dogs be saved?

Letters and e-mails poured in to the offices of Judge Henry E. Hudson and of Mike Gill, assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Gill had worked on several animal-related cases and still had ties to the rescue community. He reached out to, among others, [certified applied animal behaviorist and ASPCA executive vice president Stephen] Zawistowski. Could the ASPCA put together a team to evaluate the animals and determine if any of them could be saved?

Around the same time Donna Reynolds, the executive director and cofounder, along with her husband, Tim Racer, of BAD RAP, sent Gill a seven-page proposal suggesting a dog-by-dog evaluation to see if any could be spared. The couple, who have placed more than 400 pit bulls in new homes during the last 10 years, knew it was a long shot. It’s faster and easier to judge the entire barrel as rotten. Zawistowski put together a team composed of himself, two other ASPCA staffers, three outside certified animal behaviorists and three members of BAD RAP, including Reynolds and Racer.

On Aug. 23, 2007, Vick appeared in U.S. District Court in Richmond, and Judge Hudson accepted a plea agreement in which the former quarterback admitted that he had been involved in dogfighting and had personally participated in killing animals. The agreement required him to pay $928,000 for the care and treatment of the dogs, including any humane destruction deemed necessary. “That was the landmark moment — when he not only gave the dogs the money but referred to it as restitution,” says Zawistowski. “That’s when these dogs went from weapons to victims.”

Assessing the dogs wasn’t easy. No one really expected much; even the “care” they’d had in “shelters” after being taken from Bad Newz could have turned a lot of dogs into unstable basket cases, to say nothing of the rest of their lives before that. Bad Rap’s Reynolds told Gorant, “If we can save three or four, it will be fantastic.”

What they found was heartbreaking:

Many of the dogs had all but shut down. They cowered in the corners of their kennels or stood hunched with their heads lowered, their tails between their legs and their feet shifting nervously. Some didn’t want to come out. As far as they knew bad things happened when people came. Bad things happened when they were led out of their cages.

One dog was so scared that even the confines of her kennel offered her no comfort. Shelter workers used a blanket to construct a little tent inside her cage that she could duck under. Remembering that dog, McMillan says, “Jasmine broke my heart.”

In the end, all but four of the 51 dogs were saved. Two died in shelters, one was euthanized for medical reasons, and one for aggression.


The rest are farmed out to rescue groups like Bad Rap, foster homes, and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, which will rehabilitate the dogs they can, and give lifelong care, attention, and affection to any they can’t. Some are already in loving new homes, where a few are even working as therapy dogs and with troubled kids.

So was it worth it? All the money and effort, PETA still saying they’d be better off dead than living the lives they have now? Gorant lets Jasmine’s story be the answer:

Despite a promising start, Jasmine had a long way to go. For months she sat in her little cage in Stirling’s house and refused to come out. “I had to pick her up and carry her outside so she could go to the bathroom,” Stirling says. “She wouldn’t even stand up until I had walked away. There’s a little hole in the yard, and once she was done, she would go lie in the hole.” It was three or four months before Jasmine would exit the cage on her own, and then only to go out, relieve herself and lie in the hole.


Around people she almost always walks with her head and tail down. She won’t let anyone approach her from behind, and she spends most of the day in her pen, sitting quietly, the open door yawning before her. Stirling works with her endlessly. “I feel like what I do for her is so little compared with what she does for me,” she says, welling up.


“Vick showed the worst of us, our bloodlust, but this rescue showed the best,” [Bad Rap's] Reynolds says. “I don’t think any of us thought it was possible to save these dogs — the government, the rescuers, the regular people — but we surprised ourselves.”

It’s Christmas time. I suppose some people might think it’s a time for forgiveness, but I can’t find any of that in my heart — not for Michael Vick, and not for the mean-spirited, propaganda-spewing, self-serving spokespeople at PETA and HSUS who care more about their own agenda than really helping these dogs and all those like them. Certainly not for the city of Houston and the Houston SPCA, who ignored all the lessons of the Vick dogs and slaughtered 187 dogs “rescued” from a fighting ring in Texas last month.

But for the people at Bad Rap, Recycled Love, Our Pack and Best Friends, who gave these dogs a chance and a home? For Judge Henry E. Hudson and U.S. assistant district attorney Mike Gill, who let this happen, and the ASPCA-led team of experts who looked every one of these dogs in the eye and saw him or her as an individual to be evaluated and, if possible, saved?

For every one of you who wrote a letter or made a call? For the foster homes and rehabbers?

For the people of Kay County, Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Animal Alliance, who saw what was possible with the Vick dogs and tried to do the same thing for 106 fighting dogs discovered in the woods outside the town of Newkirk?

And for Jim Gorant who got it all so right?

Public Can Help Save Pet Rescue Animals
Daily Herald

Operation Mia is a group that has been trying to save the animals at Pet Rescue. There have been countless complaints filed against the shelter for animal cruelty and neglect.

Volunteers and former staff have stepped forward to tell the truth about pets suffering as prisoners.

We have tried to do everything right by appealing to government organizations responsible for protecting animals from harm. We have written, phoned, e-mailed, met with The Illinois Department of Agriculture officials, DuPage State's Attorney Joe Birkett's office and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's representatives, Bloomingdale Police, and the village board. Operation Mia has pleaded with these agencies to fulfill the mandated legislation to save the pets to no avail. All of these agencies have been supplied with reams of documentation and incontrovertible evidence of severe neglect and abuse.

Attorney fees to save the pets are being paid for by former volunteers who can ill afford to pay. It seems unfair to have government agencies that are mandated to oversee the welfare of these animals shirking their responsibilities forcing Operation Mia volunteers to look to outside resources to save the animals.

The media particularly The Daily Herald, Fox News, Tribune, and has been sympathetic to the plight of pets and exposed our incompetent IDOA and the slow-moving court system.

A standard aphorism uttered repeatedly by workers at PRI was "Penny and Dale can't take care of the animals because they have to spend too much money on attorney fees." This is why we are appealing to the public for advice or help that can save the pets. How long do these animals have to suffer and die in silence?

Ethel Lillis


Doggie Must Haves: Ten Essentials for Your Four-Legged Friend
By Lisa Acho Remorenko - Santa Barbara Independent

If your dog didn’t receive everything on his wish list this holiday season, at least make sure he has the essentials. Here is a list of the 10 things your dog should have.

1. Outfit your dog with an identification tag and collar. Your dog should always be wearing a collar with an ID tag that includes your name, address, and telephone number. Another good idea is to have a microchip implanted by your veterinarian. This will increase the chance that your dog will be returned home safely. For tips on finding your pet should he become lost, check out previous Pet Chat column Homeward Bound.

2. Obey your local laws for licensing. Dogs require a license in Santa Barbara County and to obtain this license you must have a current rabies vaccination. Check with your local animal control to find out more information about licensing.

3. Watch over your dog. A fenced-in yard is a bonus for dog owners, but be careful not to leave your dog outside unsupervised for too long. Dogs crave companionship and prefer to be with their human family, plus you never know what they can get into when they’re not being watched. Be especially careful with your dog if you don’t have a fenced-in yard. There is a leash law in Santa Barbara County that requires your dog to stay on your property, so always keep an eye on your pooch.

4. Take your dog to the veterinarian for regular checkups. Prevention is the best medicine. By taking your dog to the vet once a year for regular checkups, you will catch diseases in their early state. For more advice on veterinary care, visit Pet Chat column Vet Visits.

5. Spay or neuter your dog. Spaying or neutering helps your dog live longer, it eliminates many undesirable behaviors, plus it helps prevent animal overpopulation. For more information on spaying and neutering, check out previous Pet Chat column Preventing Overpopulation.

6. Give your dog a nutritionally balanced diet. When you purchase dog food, make sure the ingredient list contains “meat” and not “meat by-product.” This will ensure your dog is getting the best nutrition.

7. Become the “pack leader.” The energy you project internally is the message you’re sending to your dog. Utilize your dog’s energy in a positive manner. If you haven’t read Pack Leader by Cesar Millan, you need to. For more information on becoming the pack leader, check out Pet Chat column Pack Leader.

8. Walk your dog. Ideally, you should walk your dog twice a day. If you don’t have time for this, consider hiring a neighborhood kid to help. Of course you’ll want to make sure your dog can walk well on a leash before you do this. For more advice on getting your dog to walk well on a leash, visit previous Pet Chat column Good Doggie.

9. Set aside time to play with your dog. While walking is great exercise for your dog, playing Frisbee and fetch help keep your dog’s mind engaged. Try taking your dog to the beach or park on the weekends and play a game of fetch.

10. Be patient with your dog. Make sure the expectations you have of your companion are reasonable and keep in mind that the vast majority of behavior problems can be solved. And remember that the best pet owner is an informed pet owner. The Natural Dog: A Complete Guide for Caring Dog Lovers by Mary L. Brennan and Norma Eckroate is one of my favorites. Bookstores have entire sections on just pets, so there are many to choose from.

By taking care of these 10 essentials, you’ll not only keep your dog healthier and safer, but also develop an even more rewarding relationship.

What is VIP Pet Insurance Really?

Before I’ll dive into what VIP pet insurance really is then I’ll like to take a moment to discuss what pet insurance is in the first place.

I’ve been running this site for quite some time now and from the comments that people have made on the different articles I’ve written I can see that most people are really confused when it comes to what a pet insurance really is.

So what is an insurance really
As I said above it seems like there are a lot of people that thinks that if they pay for a pet insurance for their pet then the insurance company will pay for any damages, injuries or illnesses that their pet will acquire. That is NOT so!

A pet insurance is no different from any other insurance that you can have. What is means is that you pay a premium that will cover specific incidents that will happen. The key is the word “specific” and that is where I find that most people are mistaken. It is far from all possible happenings that will be covered by the insurance and that applies to pet insurance as well.

Pet owners has to realize what an insurance is
If you want to be free of all future bills for VETs, medicine etc. then it’ll likely cost you a little fortune (if not a big fortune) and I’m not even sure that you’ll find an pet insurance company that will take on a policy like that. Some of them have created something called a VIP pet insurance package which will cover more than regular insurance policies but they still won’t cover everything and as a pet owner you need to realize this.

Pet insurance companies run businesses as well and if they pay out more than they get in they’ll go bankrupt. It is a simple as that. That does not mean that they should cheat you out of something that you have paid them to cover (and I know that they’ll try that at times) but you’ll also need realize that even though you want them to pay the bill (because otherwise you’ll have to pay it yourself) then it might not be their obligation to do so.

If they turn you down you might become angry, scream and yell but instead you should rather spend your energy trying to figure out whether they are mistaken in turning your request down. Seek out experts that have nothing to do with the company and pay for their advice.

So even though you would like a VIP pet insurance to cover everything that you could possibly imagine could happen to your pet an insurance policy like that would cost you a fortune and would definitely be a poor investment on your part and you’re not likely to even be able to find a company that would let you sign such a policy.

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

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