Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pets are victims of domestic violence too

I worked at a domestic violence shelter a few years ago and once asked the director about the pets of the women who arrived in need. After all, many victims of domestic violence have been threatened with the harm or death of their dog or cat. Pets are at great risk in such instances. While not unsympathetic, the director shrugged her shoulders and said, "Well, we just don't have the facilities to care for animals too."

Since then, a lot of research has revealed a direct connection between animal and human abuse. If a woman is enduring someone who is hitting, slapping, burning or otherwise degrading her, chances are her children and the family pets are in danger as well.

And as with hurricanes, sometimes women won't leave a bad situation because they just don't want to leave the family pet behind. To many, the wrath of an abusive person is just as great as a major storm and a defenseless pet stands little to no chance of surviving if left behind.

Quigley House, a domestic violence shelter in Northeast Florida, may be one of the first in the country to finally address this matter. They've built 10 outdoor runs about 40 square feet in size to house client's pets. It's a terrific first step.

The shelter is initiating fundraising projects because they want to build another area where they can house animals not used to living outside. One of the events will be a charity poker run scheduled for December 1. There's a $10 entry fee. The ride will leave from Cracker's Lounge at 1282 Blanding Blvd. in Middleburg. To register or get more information, please call 904-272-4620 or just show up at Cracker's at 9 a.m.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Giant toads bad news for Florida dogs

Watch out for cane toads. They can cause canines considerable damage.

We humans think we've got it rough down here in Florida with the heat and the hurricanes, but there's plenty to make life difficult for our doggies too, such as alligators and fleas. The latest threat to their tranquility is the "Cane" toad, known to scientists as "bufo marinus" and generally referred to as the "giant toad."

Found weighing as much as 5 pounds, giant toads carry giant loads of venom in the large glands found along their bodies. There's enough toxin in an average giant toad to put even your large dog in peril if he gets too close. An animal can quickly become sick and could die from cardiac arrest within 15 minutes of coming into contact with the toad's toxins.

So far, cane toads have mainly been seen in South Florida, but they're an invasive species and have lately been showing up in the Tampa Bay area. Researchers expect them to continue moving around the sunshine state.

If your dog exhibits any combination of the following symptoms, he or she may have been poisoned by the venom of a giant toad and should be seen by a veterinarian immediately:

* Profuse salivation or foaming from the mouth
* Twitching
* Vomiting
* Shallow breathing
* Collapse of the hind limbs

TIP: Experts say you should flush your dog's mouth with water before dashing off to the vet's office.

You can learn more about the giant toad and ways to keep them away by checking out

Florida Exotic Species

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Who wins and who loses with rent-a-pooch?

Have you heard about the latest trend of renting a dog? It's said to be gaining popularity in California and is being touted as perfect for those upscale folks who are just too darned busy during the day or the week to care for an actual, live dog. Companies will rent out furry companionship to these poor, overworked people, giving them, of course, their choice of breed, size, sex and color.

Thankfully, there's only one company currently in the biz and they're charging clients like there's no tomorrow - a registration fee of about $300 PLUS a maintenance fee of around $50 per month PLUS another $24.95 per 24-hour visit from a dog who may visit someone else the next night and another the next. You get the picture.

My concern about such an arrangement is three-fold. How are these dogs cared for in between their rent-outs? And what happens to these dogs when they get too old or no longer cute enough to be used as a profitable commodity?

This isn't like going down to the local shelter and picking out a dog needing a good forever home. These dogs don't get homes. They get gigs, like freelance writers. They don't get to be anyone's forever companion. They get pimped out, used up, and then, well, who knows their fate?

I hope this renting of dogs idea poops out quickly. And if not, I hope animal welfare people will start keeping an eye out and stand at the ready to care for any dogs in need that are created by these businesses.