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Londonderry School Uses Therapy Dog in Classroom

Southern New Hampshire Montessori Academy (SNHMA) has become one of the first schools in New England to bring in a therapy dog as a full time member of its community. Guardian, a Portuguese water dog, was chosen for his temperament, his silky soft hypoallergenic coat and teddy bear looks. While he’s in the process of completing his year-long training, Guardian is already having a positive impact in the classroom, where he is charged with being a calm, emphatic and steadfast best friend for little boys and girls.

Loundary School 1

“While school therapy dogs are still currently regarded as a cutting-edge educational tool, research is showing that dogs in the classroom can play a huge role in boosting students’ happiness, calmness, overall emotional well-being, and ability to learn,” explains Debra Hogan SNHMA’s Founder and Head of School.

Loundary School 2Guardian, who is always here to greet student with a wag and a lick in the mornings, has helped the younger pre-K students with separation anxiety as their parents drop them off in the morning. “He is happy to see the children come in in the mornings and offers a welcome huggable friend to little ones who are finding it hard to see Mom and Dad go,” says Hogan.

Guardian is also helping first graders hone in their reading skills, as Ms. Hogan explains: “Dogs are perfect listeners. They are not judgmental; they don’t care if you don’t get the words exactly right, and for most children, practicing reading aloud is all they need to become fluent readers.”

“Therapy dogs can have a positive impact on every aspect of the classroom from lessons planning, to teaching social skills and responsibility, to comforting students in a time of grief or personal crisis. They teach, they listen, they are unconditional friends. I have seen children who had attention deficit disorder become calmer. I have seen children with emotional difficulties lie down beside the dog and whisper things in his ear, things they’d never tell an adult, and then rise up ready to learn. Their self esteem really soared,” says Terri Hamilton, an Elementary Guidance Consultant and Parent-Child Connection Advocate.

Loundary School 3

Images courtesy of Tanya Swann Photography.

Southern New Hampshire Montessori Academy offers an academically focused education to children through an integrated curriculum. Concentration is given to educating the “whole child” (all facets of the child’s being, including: intellectual, physical, emotional, social and creative aspects) with a strong emphasis of hands-on and experiential learning where children develop their passion in technology, science, visual and performing arts, foreign language and physical education. Complementing a strong academic core, the school offers an enrichment program that includes elementary Latin, creative arts (visual and performing), daily physical education, technology and Spanish. For further information, please visit their website.

Source:  Londonderry News

February 15, 2012 Posted by | animal behavior, Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, Dogs, Dogs, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, We Are All God's Creatures, Working and Military Dogs and Related | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Tucson: Pets, Vets, Veterans Day

Therapy dogs bring relief and joy to Veterans

from the HSSA press release

veterans and pet therapyWhen Lady trots down the halls of the Tucson VA Medical Center, she is on a first-name basis with staff and patients.

Lady is a 10 year-old Sheltie and a therapy dog trained to give affection to strangers. Lady and her owner, Ernie Minchella, are volunteers in the Pets for Vets program at the hospital. They were certified through the Humane Society of Southern Arizona’s Pet VIP visitation program.

Ernie is a Vietnam vet and a former patient at the hospital. “When I was here I saw this man with a therapy dog, and asked about what he was doing. The rest is history.”

An animal visit can offer entertainment and a welcome distraction from pain. People often talk to the dogs, and research shows petting an animal can reduce a person’s blood pressure. Petting encourages use of hands and arms, stretching and turning.

“The Pets for Vets program is so important. We just love having the dogs come in to see the patients,” says Deborah Brookshire, VA Volunteer Services Program Manager.

Therapy pets give people a common interest and provide a focus for conversation. Many people in hospitals have had to give up their own animals and miss the unconditional love a pet provides. A dog pays little attention to age or physical ability, but accepts people as they are.

When Ernie and Lady come to visit, they stop in to see his fellow veterans. “I think I get more out of it than they do, and it’s great exercise for me and my Lady.”

by Karyn Zoldan on Nov. 11, 2011

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Waived adoption fees for active & retired military on Veterans Day
Plus, to thank active and retired military servicemen and women, the HSSA waived adoption fees (but not license fees) on all pets for military families on Veterans Day at the main shelter. Promoting a visit to the HSSA to be a hero to a homeless pet in need!

Tucson’s dog lovers will also join together to walk in support of pit bulls on Monday, November 14, 2011 at 4:30p.m.

(Louis Serna enjoys Lady’s company at the Tucson VA – Photo courtesy of the HSSA)

Source: TucsonCitizen.com

November 14, 2011 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, animals, Dogs, Holidays With Pets, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, NO KILL NATION, Pets, Working and Military Dogs and Related | , , , , , , | 12 Comments

I Am Loved…

image

Pitti Kisses

 

So You Think You Know a Pit Bull Person?

The Stubby Dog Project

American Pit Bull Terrier Dogs… In Memory of Ace

Dog Rescued from Fighting Becomes Therapy Dog

Camden NJ – Officers Open Fire on Crowded Street, Killing Innocent Pit Bull Puppy

Supreme Court Strikes Down Law Banning Dogfight Videos

h/t to Deonia Copeland for photo!

August 1, 2011 Posted by | Adopt Just One More Pet, animal abuse, Animal and Pet Photos, animal behavior, Animal Rescues, animals, Dogs, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, NO KILL NATION, Pet Friendship and Love, Pets, Political Change, responsible pet ownership, Stop Animal Cruelty | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

So You Think You Know a Pit Bull Person?

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Jessica Biel and her Pit Bull

by Michael Mountain – Founder, Best Friends Animal Society and The Stubby Dog Project

People are watching as the gang approaches from down the street. There are about 10 of them, each tethered to a Pit Bull, all in uniform and on a mission.

The location is downtown San Diego. The “gang” is a group of young Southern California women who call themselves “Pretties with Pitties.” And their uniform is a hot pink T-shirt. The dogs are shelter pets sporting vests that say “Adopt me, I love to cuddle.”

“A lot of people have the perception that Pit Bulls are really for masculine guys and tough guys,” said Kerri Ewing, co-founder of Pretties with Pitties. “We wanted to show people that that’s not the case. They are great dogs for anybody.”

Pit Bulls are warm, friendly, family dogs and not at all like the caricatures that have been portrayed as in recent years. Ewing, a graphic designer and social media consultant, is about as far from the stereotype of a Pit Bull person as you can get.

Ewing, a foster mom to rescued Pit Bulls, has just placed Harry Potter in a great new home. Harry was found abandoned and starving near the Mexico border.

“He refused to believe he was anything but a lap dog,” she said.

In fact, Pit Bulls are as much an “everyone dog” today as they were 50 years ago when they were known as “America’s family pet” and, in the UK, as nanny dogs. And while Labradors and Goldens have been claiming that particular title more in recent years, Pit Bull people span the social spectrum, too. Here are some examples of that.

Won over by Pit Bull puppy

At her Hudson Valley estate outside of New York City, Marilyn Cohen is checking on lunch. That would be lunch for China, her 11-year-old Pit Bull who has cancer and is on a special diet prepared by the chef. Cohen, after all, is in the business of good food – she owns two top-rated restaurants in Manhattan. So only the best is good enough for China.
China is Cohen’s second Pit Bull.

“My twin sons were teenagers on vacation in Florida 11 years ago when they saw this Pit Bull puppy on the beach,” she said. “One of them decided they had to bring the pup home, and he paid his brother to drive her back to New York. That way, he could come home a day later and wouldn’t have to have me yelling at him. Of course, I fell in love with the puppy on the spot. We called him Morgan.”

When Morgan came down with lymphoma some years later, Cohen became obsessed with finding a cure – anything that would save Morgan or even just give him a little more time. “I almost gave up my businesses taking him from one vet to another. My dentist told me ‘You’re crazy; you could have bought a condo for the amount you’ve spent on that dog.’ But not long after that he got a dog himself and admitted that ‘I would have spent any amount on that dog. They’re family.’ ”

Cohen’s husband, Dan, is an Israeli film director, who’s worked mainly in Germany and is best known in the United States for his 1978 movie Madman, starring Sigourney Weaver. Today, he’s at work on a novel that tells a fictionalized version of the family’s Pit Bulls, which he’s also planning on making into a movie.

Does your State Senator have a Pit Bull? Connecticut’s does.

Equally passionate, and a staunch member of the unofficial community of Pit Bull people all across the country is State Senator Bob Duff of Connecticut. “My family and I have adopted two abandoned Pit Bulls, welcoming them into a home with two small children without fear. We’re proud and lucky to have them in our lives,” he said.

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Connecticut state senator Bob Duff’s family includes a Pit Bull

Don’t judge a book by its cover!

Christine Craig grew up in Miami where her parents had emigrated from Haiti in the 1960s. She recently received her MBA, and has been in marketing for several years.

“I couldn’t have told you what a Pit Bull was,” she said. But she adopted one of the puppies after her ex-boyfriend’s Pit Bull had gotten together with the Rottweiler across the street.

“I’ve had Diva nine years. I don’t think of her as being a big dog like a Rottie or a German Shepherd,” Craig said. “But people still seem surprised that I have a Pit Bull. I think they see me as a rather demure person who should have a dog who fits in my purse!”

Craig thinks that most people assume that Pit Bulls are a man’s dog. “Their perception of the dog doesn’t match their perception of my personality. But that just means they don’t know Pits!” she said.

In the city of sin

Across the country in Las Vegas, Tino Sanchez believes that most people in his part of the country really do understand Pit Bulls. He says they know that most of the fear of Pit Bulls is fostered almost entirely by the media’s negative portrayals.

Sanchez, a disc jockey, is a regular volunteer at the city animal shelter, and helps get the dogs ready for new homes. Right now he has five Pit Bulls at home, two of whom are certified therapy dogs.

“Yes, I get weird looks sometimes when I take them all out for a walk,” he said, “but nothing like as much as I get positive reactions. People are always coming up to me asking ‘Why do these dogs have such a bad rap when they’re such good dogs?’”

Rags and Riches

At either end of the economic spectrum you’ll find Gary Michelson, a California, Forbes 400 billionaire and the spinal surgeon who invented spinal implants, and David Love, a homeless man in Brookings, a small town on the Oregon coast.

As a dog lover and, especially, a Pit Bull lover, Michelson is using much of his wealth to help animals, offering $25 million to the first inventor of a safe and effective injectable sterilant for cats and dogs, and another $50 million to support the research and development of the product. His goal is to replace spay/neuter surgery, which is comparatively expensive and time-consuming, and so to reduce the numbers of unwanted, homeless dogs and cats coming into shelters.

In a different way, Love also strives to do the right thing for the world around him. On any given day, he can be found checking on his friend, Buddy, another homeless man, who, like him, gets around in a wheelchair.

Buddy lives more than two miles away. But it’s an easy ride for Love.

“Kitty is my motor,” he said with a grin, referring to the Pit Bull he adopted and who has become not only his best friend but also his official chauffeur and unofficial service and therapy dog. “I’d always been told they were bad dogs, but it’s all in how you teach them. She’s a very gentle dog and she’s great with kids.”

Love has several medical problems, and Kitty has become his lifeline, who enjoys her daily exercise pulling the wheelchair around town.

“She seems to know I’m going to have a seizure before I do,” Love said. When that happens, Kitty takes over, putting her head on his legs and looking at him. “She blocks me from going anywhere!”

Obama’s classmate at Harvard

During the week, David Isaacs is a media entrepreneur, but he often takes time out over the weekend to help find homes for homeless pets. One Saturday morning, he was volunteering for a local rescue group at a table outside a pet supply store on the Upper West Side of New York City. One of the dogs the group was hoping to find a home for was a sad-looking Pit Bull.

“Molly was cowering under a table, so I offered to take her for a walk,” Isaacs said. “I took her for a stroll in NYC’s Central Park. She had a long scar along her back, and she was just terrified, grazing against the wall next to the footpath. I sat down with her, hoping to calm her down a bit. Moments later, she crawled into my lap, curled up and went to sleep.” Isaacs took her home and she’s been part of the family ever since.

Isaacs studied law at Harvard and then at the Harvard Law School, where he was in the same class as Barack Obama. Today he lives with his wife and young daughter in Santa Monica, Calif.

“When we had our baby, a number of people in my wife’s family were concerned,” Isaacs said. “I told them about how in England Pit Bulls used to be known as nanny dogs. But it was soon clear that my daughter could poke Molly, pull her, even ride on her, and Molly just loved her.”

Isaacs said Molly is also the single greatest lover of cats. “The only risk to the cat is that Molly will suck her in through her nostrils when she gets up close to sniff them!”

So who’s a Pit Bull person?

From presidents (Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson) to pop stars (Pink, Madonna and Usher); TV personalities (Jon Stewart, Cesar Millan, Rachel Ray and Dr. Phil) to athletes (Shaquille O’Neal, Serena Williams, Anthony Kim and Amare Stoudemir); and actors (Jessica Biel, Michael J. Fox, Jamie Foxx and Brad Pitt) to legends (Helen Keller, Thomas Edison and Humphrey Bogart), Pit Bulls are the beloved pets of people of every kind.

So, you think you know a Pit Bull person? It’s easy; they’re really no different from anyone else!

This article first appeared here on zoenature.org. & Cross-posted at DogTime


Michael Mountain is one of the founders of Best Friends Animal Society, the nation’s largest animal sanctuary and one of the pioneers of the no-kill movement for homeless pets. As president of Best Friends and editor of Best Friends magazine, he helped to build grassroots adoption and spay/neuter programs all over the country before stepping down in 2008. He currently is the editor and co-founder of Zoe — a new online magazine for people who care about animals, nature and the environment — and the co-founder of StubbyDog, which is working to change public perceptions of Pit Bulls.

Related:

Pit Bulls and the Media… Hooray!

Camden NJ – Officers Open Fire on Crowded Street, Killing Innocent Pit Bull Puppy

Supreme Court Strikes Down Law Banning Dogfight Videos

American Pit Bull Terrier Dogs… In Memory of Ace

Dog Rescued from Fighting Becomes Therapy Dog

Guarding Dogs  -  Documentary in the Making

Dog Fighting Game Released for Android Phones – CALL TO ACTON

May 13, 2011 Posted by | Adopt Just One More Pet, animal behavior, Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, Animal Rescues, animals, Dogs, Fostering and Rescue, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, NO KILL NATION, Pet Friendship and Love, Pets, Political Change, responsible pet ownership, Stop Animal Cruelty, Stop Euthenization, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pit Bulls and the Media: Hooray!

April 26, 2011

By Leslie Smith, (as first posted in Dogtime on April 19, 2011)

Hooray? Yes, hooray.

I noticed the link to a video clip titled, Blind kids get a helping paw from pit bulls, and I had to click. In it, Today Show correspondent Jill Rappaport reports on a pioneer program created by Main Line Animal Rescue: Pit bulls as therapy dogs at a school for the blind.

The clip is worth watching for several reasons, not the least compelling of which is the flood of shots of adorable pittie pups.

But as the video played, it dawned on me that the big news here isn’t about pit bulls comforting the blind. The real story is that a mainstream media network chose to cover pit bulls in a positive light. This is huge. Not to mention highly unusual.

The report wasn’t perfect. More than once, Rappaport brings up the breed’s flawed reputation. Ok, fair enough. But in speaking to Main Line’s founder Bill Smith, she insists, “This is definitely an aggressive… not aggressive, but dominant, breed…”

Smith half-corrects her, reminding Rappaport that pit bulls were bred to fight each other, but remain loyal and gentle with humans. Any dog, not just a pit bull, can (and likely will) become aggressive when treated cruelly or violently.

Ultimately though, Rappaport’s message is accurate and hopeful. Pit bulls can become aggressive when in the wrong hands, but when treated with love and respect, they are just dogs. Just dogs. Today Show anchor Meredith Vieira reiterates the sentiment at the close of the segment: “Dogs are like people. Some can be good, some can be bad.”

It doesn’t surprise me that such a strong bond between blind kids and misunderstood dogs has been forged. But it is ironic that there are still “normal” adults who can’t see the light.

Did you know? 

 

The classic children’s television show, The Little Rascals, featured an American Pit Bull Terrier as “Petey the Pit Bull.”

 

 

Video:  THE REAL PIT BULL THE WAY THEY WERE INTENDED

h/t to Stubby Dog – Cross-Posted at Ask Marion

Related:

Camden NJ – Officers Open Fire on Crowded Street, Killing Innocent Pit Bull Puppy

Supreme Court Strikes Down Law Banning Dogfight Videos

American Pit Bull Terrier Dogs… In Memory of Ace

Dog Rescued from Fighting Becomes Therapy Dog

Guarding Dogs  -  Documentary in the Making

Dog Fighting Game Released for Android Phones – CALL TO ACTON

May 5, 2011 Posted by | animal behavior, Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, Animal Rights And Awareness, animals, Dogs, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, NO KILL NATION, Pet Abuse, Pet Adoption, Pet Friendship and Love, Pets, Political Change, responsible pet ownership, Stop Animal Cruelty, Stop Euthenization, Success Stories, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

American Pit Bull Terrier Dogs… In Memory of Ace

In Memory of Ace

who has gone to Rainbow Bridge

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Ace With His Sister Paige a Pit Bull Mix

A  Dog’s Purpose? (from  a 6-year-old)

Get a tissue before reading…

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron , his wife Lisa , and their little boy Shane , were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.

I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the  family we couldn’t do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane  might learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker ‘s family surrounded him.. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few  minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.

The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker’s Death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.

Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, ”I know why.”

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me.  I’d never heard a more comforting explanation.  It has changed the way I try and live..

He said,”People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life — like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?” The Six-year-old continued, ”Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”

Video:  Behind the breed:  American Pit Bull Terrier Dogs

There really  are no mean or bully breeds there are just mean and bully breeders and owners.

A lot of people seriously don’t know what an American Pit Bull Terrier is. Watch this video and you will understand the breed allot more. Most people that claim to own these dogs really don’t. They own mixed bred dogs that are designed using the American Pit Bull Terrier. Allot of these crosses have American Bulldogs added in for size and strength and some even try adding Bullmastiffs! Both the American Bulldog and Bullmastiff are much larger and more powerful dogs then the American Pit Bull Terrier. That is one of the reasons they are used to produce the dog commonly seen today. Allot of these dogs end up in shelters. In reality, the true APBT is, in my opinion, one of the best dogs you can own, if you know how. Dogs are pack animals and you need to make sure you’re the pack-leader without ever hitting or abusing your animals. You also need to make sure that you can handle a dominant breed.

The true American Pit Bull Terrier is a small to medium sized dog that gets 15 – 21 inches at the shoulders and
22 – 65 pounds. Anything more then 70 pounds is obese and/or a mutt.

In this video you will learn:
*- What a true American Pit Bull Terrier is and how to know.
*- How to tell the difference between the true APBT and the Fakes.
*- How to know if the breeder is a legit, educated, responsible, reputable, respectable breeder, and also how to tell if they are a “Back-Yard” breeder.
*- You will also learn the “Pit Bull” isn’t a breed, its a term used to describe a certain group of dog breeds. “Pit Bull” isn’t a breed itself, though.
*- You will also see some of the breeds commonly confused as an APBT.

And many more ….

Dog Rescued from Fighting Becomes Therapy Dog

September 1, 2010 Posted by | animal behavior, Fostering and Rescue, Just One More Pet, Pet and Animal Training, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Dog Rescued From Fighting Becomes Therapy Dog

A dog rescued in the historic July dog fighting raids has been passed to the custody of a California Pit Bull rescue organization, and will now become a therapy dog.

Dog Rescued From Fighting Becomes Therapy Dog

Missouri District Courts have ordered that permanent custody of most of the dogs rescued in July’s multi-state dog fighting raids be transferred to the Humane Society of Missouri, who will determine suitable placements for each individual dog. In what was the largest dog fighting raid to date, more than 500 fighting dogs were rescued across 8 states, with 26 arrests being made on the scene. Nearly all of the dogs were purebred or mixed American Pit Bull Terriers, and since the raid, the rescued dogs have given birth to approximately 100 further puppies.

Broken Hearts, Mended Souls Rescue of Missouri is receiving 3 of the dogs, including Junior, Kali and Carlos who range in age from 5-months to 11-years old. Broken Hearts, Mended Souls places dogs with foster families who teach the dogs what it means to be a loved family member, with the aim of finding a suitable permanent home.

Mutts-n-Stuff, a St. Louis-based bully breed rescue group is receiving Fay, Eli and Jakob, who are 5 years, 7 months and 1 years old respectively. Eli will be relocated to New Hope Pit Bull Rescue of Goose Creek, South Carolina, and Jakob will be sent to Our Pack Inc. Pit Bull Rescue based in San Francisco, California. Jakob will now be trained as a therapy dog. Our Pack Inc. will train Jakob in basic manners before he will be employed to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes and schools.

“As soon as we saw pictures of Jakob, we knew he was special. Although Jakob comes from an abuse case, we’ve seen time and again these dogs are cut out for therapy work and we think he is a great candidate for this kind of work. The most important characteristic of a therapy dog is temperament, and as we know, Pit Bulls have loving, affectionate natures that often make them perfect for this kind of job,” said Marthina McClay, President/Founder of Our Pack Inc.

San Francisco, California (Oct 15th, 2009)

Humane Society of the U.S. finally changes its policy on fighting dogs

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Therapy Dog Needs Hearing Ad

Deductible Contributions to:

The Fire Department

The Borough of Danville

239 Mill St.

Danville, PA 17821

October 17, 2009 Posted by | Animal Rescues, Fostering and Rescue, Just One More Pet, Unusual Stories, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Wagging the Dog, and a Finger – Emotional Service Dogs

 

 

On a sun-drenched weekend last month, cafes from TriBeCa to the Upper West Side were swelling with diners, many of whom left dogs tied to parking meters in deference to Health Department rules that prohibit pets in restaurants. At French Roast on upper Broadway, however, two women sat down to brunch with dogs in tow: a golden retriever and a Yorkie toted in a bag.

 

Illustration by Hadi Farahani; photograph by Robert Daly/Getty Images

 

 

“They both said that their animals were emotional service dogs,” said Gil Ohana, the manager, explaining why now all of a sudden in the last several months, we’re hearing this.”

Anthony Milburn, at right with four of his dogs, rely on their pets for emotional well-being.

he let them in. “One of them actually carried a doctor’s letter.”

Health care professionals have recommended animals for psychological or emotional support for more than two decades, based on research showing many benefits, including longer lives and less stress for pet owners.

But recently a number of New York restaurateurs have noticed a surge in the number of diners seeking to bring dogs inside for emotional support, where previously restaurants had accommodated only dogs for the blind.

“I had never heard of emotional support animals before,” said Steve Hanson, an owner of 12 restaurants including Blue Fin and Blue Water Grill in Manhattan. ”

The increasing appearance of pets whose owners say they are needed for emotional support in restaurants — as well as on airplanes, in offices and even in health spas — goes back, according to those who train such animals, to a 2003 ruling by the Department of Transportation. It clarified policies regarding disabled passengers on airplanes, stating for the first time that animals used to aid people with emotional ailments like depression or anxiety should be given the same access and privileges as animals helping people with physical disabilities like blindness or deafness.

The following year appellate courts in New York State for the first time accepted tenants’ arguments in two cases that emotional support was a viable reason to keep a pet despite a building’s no-pets policy. Word of the cases and of the Transportation Department’s ruling spread, aided by television and the Internet. Now airlines are grappling with how to accommodate 200-pound dogs in the passenger cabin and even emotional-support goats. And businesses like restaurants not directly addressed in the airline or housing decisions face a newly empowered group of customers seeking admittance with their animals.

WHILE most people who train animals that help the disabled — known as service animals — are happy that deserving people are aided, some are also concerned that pet owners who might simply prefer to brunch with their Labradoodle are abusing the guidelines.

“The D.O.T. guidance document was an outrageous decision,” said Joan Froling, chairwoman of the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, a nonprofit organization representing people who depend on service dogs. “Instead of clarifying the difference between emotional support animals who provide comfort by their mere presence and animals trained to perform specific services for the disabled, they decided that support animals were service animals.”

No one interviewed for this article admitted to taking advantage of the guidelines, but there is evidence that it happens. Cynthia Dodge, the founder and owner of Tutor Service Dogs in Greenfield, Mass., said she has seen people’s lives transformed by emotional-support animals. She has also “run into a couple of people with small dogs that claim they are emotional support animals but they are not,” she said. “I’ve had teenagers approach me wanting to get their dogs certified. This isn’t cute and is a total insult to the disabled community. They are ruining it for people who need it.”

The 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act states that anyone depending on an animal to function should be allowed full access to all private businesses that serve the public, like restaurants, stores and theaters. The law specifies that such animals must be trained specifically to assist their owner. True service animals are trained in tasks like finding a spouse when a person is in distress, or preventing people from rolling onto their stomachs during seizures.

But now, because the 2003 Department of Transportation document does not include language about training, pet owners can claim that even untrained puppies are “service animals,” Ms. Froling said. “People think, ‘If the D.O.T. says I can take my animal on a plane, I can take it anywhere,’ ” she said.

Aphrodite Clamar-Cohen, who teaches psychology at John Jay College in Manhattan and sees a psychotherapist, said her dog, a pit bull mix, helps fend off dark moods that began after her husband died eight years ago. She learned about psychological support pets from the Delta Society, a nonprofit group that aims to bring people and animals together, and got her dog, Alexander, last year. “When I travel I tell hotels up front that ‘Alexander Dog Cohen’ is coming and he is my emotional-needs dog,” she said. She acknowledged that the dog is not trained as a service animal.

“He is necessary for my mental health,” she said. “I would find myself at loose ends without him.”

It is widely accepted that animals can provide emotional benefits to people. “There is a lot of evidence that animals are major antidepressants,” said Carole Fudin, a clinical social worker who specializes in the bond between animals and humans. “They give security and are wonderful emotional grease to help people with incapacitating fears like agoraphobia.”

Groups of pet owners with specially trained “therapy dogs” have long visited hospitals and volunteered after disasters. Following the 9/11 attack in New York, 100 therapy dogs were enlisted to comfort victims’ families at a special center.

But Dr. Fudin said that emotional reliance on an animal can be taken too far. “If a person can’t entertain the idea of going out without an animal, that would suggest an extreme anxiety level,” she said, “and he or she should probably be on medication, in psychotherapy or both.”

The question of when an animal goes from being a pet that provides love and companionship to an emotional-support animal, without which an owner cannot get through a day, is subjective.

Elicia Brand, 36, said the role her Bernese mountain dog played in her life changed drastically after Ms. Brand suffered severe traumas — being trapped on a subway during the 9/11 attack and being raped the next year. “I am a strong person and it almost did me in,” she said of the rape. “My dog was my crutch. If I didn’t have him I wouldn’t be here now.” After Sept. 11, Ms. Brand enrolled her dog in disaster relief training and put him through 10 weeks of training so he could be a therapy animal to others as well as herself. The dog now accompanies her everywhere, even to work. She also sees a therapist and takes medication.

One reason it is difficult to sort out the varying levels of dependency people have on their animals is that it is a violation of the disabilities act to inquire about someone’s disability, and although service animals are supposed to be trained, there is no definitive list of skills such animals must have.

“The A.D.A. started with the idea of the honor system,” Ms. Froling said. “The goal was to make sure that people with disabilities were not hassled. They didn’t list the services an animal should perform because they didn’t want to limit creativity, and they didn’t want to specify dogs because monkeys were being trained in helpful tasks.”

These days people rely on a veritable Noah’s Ark of support animals. Tami McLallen, a spokeswoman for American Airlines, said that although dogs are the most common service animals taken onto planes, the airline has had to accommodate monkeys, miniature horses, cats and even an emotional support duck. “Its owner dressed it up in clothes,” she recalled.

There have also been at least two instances (on American and Delta) in which airlines have been presented with emotional support goats. Ms. McLallen said the airline flies service animals every day; all owners need to do is show up with a letter from a mental health professional and the animal can fly free in the cabin.

There is no way to know how many of the pets now sitting in coach class or accompanying their owners to dinner at restaurants are trained in health-related tasks. But the fact that dog vests bearing the words “service animal” and wallet-size cards explaining the rights of a support-dog owner are available over the Internet, no questions asked, suggests there is wiggle room for those wishing to exploit it.

One such wallet card proclaims: “This person is accompanied by a Service Dog — an animal individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities. Service Dogs are working animals, not pets.” On the back is a number to call at the Department of Justice for information about the Americans With Disabilities Act.

One 30-year-old woman, a resident of Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., said she does not see a psychotherapist but suffers from anxiety and abandonment issues and learned about emotional-needs dogs from a television show. She ordered a dog vest over the Internet with the words “service dog in training” for one of the several dogs she lives with, even though none are trained as service animals. “Having my dogs with me makes me feel less hostile,” said the woman, who refused to give her name.

“I can fine people or have them put in jail if they don’t let me in a restaurant with my dogs, because they are violating my rights,” she insisted.

In general, business owners seem to extend themselves to accommodate service animals. Though Completely Bare, a chain of health spas in New York and Palm Beach, Fla., has a policy barring animals in treatment rooms, Cindy Barshop, the company’s owner, said that she made an exception for a customer who insisted that she needed her large dog for support while she had laser hair removal. “We had to cover the dog with a blanket to protect its eyes during the procedure,” Ms. Barshop said.

One area in which business owners have resisted what they see as abuse of the law is housing. Litigators for both tenants and landlords say cases involving people’s demands to have service animals admitted to no-pets buildings in New York have risen sharply in the last two years, with rulings often in the tenants’ favor.

“If you have backing of a medical professional and you can show a connection between a disabling condition and the keeping of an animal, I have 99.9 percent success,” said Karen Copeland, a tenants’ lawyer.

One of her current clients maintains that she needs an animal in her apartment because she is a recovering alcoholic and, apart from her pet, all her other friends are drinkers. Another client, Anthony Milburn, lives in Kew Gardens, Queens, with five cocker spaniels and one mixed breed. He says he has severe chest pains from stress and has a note from a social worker saying that he relies on his pets for his emotional well-being. He is pursuing a case against his landlord.

Bradley Silverbush, a partner at Borah, Goldstein, Altschuler, Schwartz & Nahins, the largest landlord law firm in New York, said people are manipulating the law.

“I’m a dog owner and a dog lover but to claim emotional support is beyond affection,” he said. “People send letters from doctors saying the person relies on the animal, or a person has just lost a parent and purchased a Pomeranian. Some doctors will write anything if asked by a patient.”

Jerri Cohen, the owner of a jewelry store in Manhattan, said she tried living without animals when she married a man who bought an apartment in a no-dog building. “I went into a severe depression and had to go on medication,” she said. “Three years later a friend bought me two pug puppies, and I refused to give them away. My co-op threatened us with eviction. An attorney suggested I get a letter from my psychiatrist. She wrote that I was emotionally needy and the lawyer said that was no good. So she wrote that I can barely function or run my store without them. I won the case.

“They sleep with me,” she said. “They have a double stroller. They go to restaurants with me and fly with me.”

By BETH LANDMAN, originally published – New York Times:  May 14, 2006

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March 23, 2009 Posted by | Just One More Pet, Pet and Animal Training, Pet Friendship and Love, Pets, Political Change, Unusual Stories | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Humane Society of the U.S. finally changes its policy on fighting dogs

 

Careful – you might get cuddled to death by this sweetie    Photo: BestFriends.org 

In a reversal of their decades-old stance, the Humane Society of the United States has reportedly decided on a new interim policy that all dogs seized from fighting operations should now be evaluated for their suitability for adoption on a case-by-case basis.  This is a reversal of longstanding HSUS policy that any dog impounded from a fighting situation was inherently too dangerous to be safely placed in a home and should therefore be killed by authorities as soon as legally permissible.

[Author’s note: Though it is common practice to refer to such government-sanctioned killings of animals as “euthanasia,” the Merriam-Webster definition of euthanasia is “the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy,” hence the term cannot truthfully be used to describe the killing of healthy animals who have not yet been determined to be irreversibly aggressive.]


Former Vick fighting dog Leo takes his job as a therapy dog very seriously  Photo: msnbc.com

The announcement of this change in policy came from the Best Friends Animal Society website, and has yet to appear on the HSUS website as of this writing.  A call to the Washington office of the HSUS was not returned.

The reversal comes in the wake of the recent killing of 146 pit bulls who were seized at or born after a raid on a fighting dog operation in Wilkes County, North Carolina.  Seventy of the dogs killed were puppies; nineteen of whom were born after the seizure had taken place.  The killings were ordered by Superior Court Judge Ed Wilson Jr. after testimony from local animal control officials and two representatives of the HSUS.  According the Best Friends website, Judge Wilson ordered that the dogs be killed “without evaluation to determine suitability for placement.”

Scarred ex-fighter, now therapy dog Hector snuggles with new mom Leslie Nuccio  Photo: Eric Risberg/AP

Prior to this incident, the Humane Society of the United States’ policy on fighting dogs came under public fire during the Michael Vick case, when HSUS representatives advocated the killing of all dogs seized from Vick’s “Bad Newz Kennels.”  Subsequent case-by-case evaluations ordered by Judge Henry Hudson revealed that only one dog was too aggressive to be safely placed with a rescue.  That dog was euthanized, another was euthanized due to severe health problems, and the rest were sent to rescues around the country.  Subsequently at least two of these dogs, Leo and Hector, who were considered experienced fighters due to their scars, have gone on to become therapy dogs who visit and comfort patients in hospitals.

I would like to note that I am a supporter of the Humane Society of the United States.  They have done unsurpassed work over decades to increase public awareness of cruelty to animals, including exposing the issue of puppy mills; their groundbreaking work in helping to pass Prop. 2 in California, which is an important first step in decreasing cruel farming practices; and their unparalleled work in exposing shocking cruelty to downed dairy cows headed for slaughter at the now-defunct Hallmark/Westland meat packing company, which led to the nation’s largest-ever beef recall. 

Their stance on fighting dogs, however, has been uncharacteristically rigid and inhumane and I am extremely glad that although it took the senseless, indiscriminate deaths of 146 dogs, HSUS is starting to reexamine their policy in this matter and the injustice of judging and condemning any creature without knowing them personally.

By:  Kate Woodviolet

Source:  Examiner.com – LA Pet Rescue Examiner

Posted By:  Ask Marion – Just One More Pet

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March 21, 2009 Posted by | Animal Rescues, Just One More Pet, Pets, Political Change, Stop Euthenization, Success Stories | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments