Every Pet Deserves A Good Home…

Non-Profit Provides Food Stamps for Pets

Pet Food Stamps, a New York-based nonprofit that will give qualifying pet owners throughout the U.S. (who must be receiving government assistance for themselves) funds to buy food for their animals from the website PetFoodDirect. Applications can be filled out here on the –> Pet Food Stamps website

WSJ: If you believe the economy is improving, you’ve likely never met someone who still can’t afford a can of cat food.

Marc Okon, who has worked as a stockbroker, entrepreneur and business consultant, has a friend from his old neighborhood in Bayside, Queens, N.Y. He’s known her since age 10. Her parents died. She fell on hard times. And the economy hasn’t come back for her yet.

"She told me she sometimes fed her cat before herself," Mr. Okon said in a telephone interview.

In February, as headlines raged about a strengthening economy, Mr. Okon started a privately funded nonprofit called Pet Food Stamps. People who are already on government assistance can apply for free pet food.

The group has been swamped with more applications than his staff of a dozen people can readily process. Most applicants send letters detailing how they lost their jobs to outsourcing, their homes to foreclosure or their health to disease or accident.

"I just heard from a lady in North Carolina who has an autistic son whose only companion is a Jack Russell Terrier," he said. "It’s cookie-cutter sadness. … Little details change but the gist of each story is the same."

Despite nominal improvements in the unemployment rate, the U.S. Department of Agriculture counts more than 47 million people in its food stamp program—nearly one out of every seven Americans.

Food stamps cannot be used to purchase pet food. But they can be used to buy Coca-Cola.

Last week, the National Center for Public Research complained at Coca-Cola’s annual shareholder meeting in Atlanta that the beverage maker lobbies heavily to keep soda on the list of wholesome things that food stamps can buy.

Taxpayers subsidize about $4 billion worth of soda sales each year, the group groused, even as the sugary drink contributes to an obesity epidemic that drives up government health-care costs.

But you know what they say? Food stamps go better with Coke.

Mr. Okon, 36 years old, said he spent his 20s chasing money, first as a stockbroker, then as the founder of a company that sold pay phones as cellphones displaced them. He also did consulting work that took him into the bowels of many other companies.

He said he briefly worked for a firm that sold dubious medical benefits to seniors in the South. "Their whole corporate philosophy was to manipulate seniors who didn’t have any type of insurance," he said. "I could only do that for about a week and half."

He is a man so disgusted with the lack of ethics he witnessed in private enterprise that he founded a nonprofit to hand out dog food.

"I’ve been around enough shady businesses and surrounded by salesmen-types who were always talking about the deal," he said.

Self-dealing helped destroy the economy—so focused on the bottom line and so unfocused on consequences for everyone else. Dogs and cats don’t know what hit them.

"Millions of pets are surrendered to shelters each year and euthanized because their owners can’t afford to feed them," Mr. Okun said.

And to top it all off, the people in charge of fixing the economy are the same ones who helped destroy it.

"The people in power were put there by fat cats, who have money and control," Mr. Okun said. "I see it getting worse and worse, decade after decade. I don’t know what’s going to change."

See CBS News Video: Non-Profit Provides Food Stamps for Pets

(CBS News) SALEM, Ore. – Tough economic times in recent years have led to heartbreaking decisions for many pet owners. But now, there may be more help on the way.

Marissa Jenkins’ 6-year-old Dachshund, Olivia, is more than a dog.

Marissa Jenkins is thankful for an organization that helps feed her dog.

Marissa Jenkins is thankful for an organization that helps feed her dog.

"She’s been part of our family, she’s definitely not a dog," Jenkins said. "She’s a kid to us."

Recently, the Salem, Ore., family welcomed a new addition – and a new challenge.

"My husband lost his job in February and we just had a baby in December, and so all the costs of having a baby and a dog and a family is adding up," she said.

Now on food stamps, they turned to a non-profit for help to feed their dog because food stamps cannot be used for pet food.

Launched in February, Pet Food Stamps has received over to 160,000 applications from needy families across the country. Marc Okon is the charity’s founder.

"Hundreds of thousands of pets a year are put to sleep, simply because the owners can’t feed them," Okon said.

Okon says dog and cat owners on public assistance are eligible. He’s partnered with a company called Pet Flow to provide free delivery.

" It was a relief for us that we were able to get some help for our dog and because we couldn’t provide for her, somebody else could," Jenkins said, wiping away tears.

While Marissa is grateful for the free pet food, there’s an even more valuable benefit.

"We wanted our child to be able to grow up with animals and our dog is really great with her," she said.

Once back on their feet, the Jenkins say they will donate to the program to help other families in need.


Pet Food Stamps

Struggling families can now apply for nonprofit’s Pet Food Stamps

Homeless Shelters that Allow Pets

How to Help Pets of Homeless People

A Patchwork of Food Assistance for Pets

Help Feed Hungry Pets

Humane Society list of pet financial aid-related organizations

No-No Foods for Pets

Homeless With Pets – Choosing Pets Over Shelter

“One can understand a society by how it treats the weakest among them… the sick, the elderly, the children and the animals!”

**If you can donate or perhaps work with this program, Pet Food Stamps, to help all families in need feed their pets, please do so.

May 3, 2013 Posted by | Adopt Just One More Pet, Animal or Pet Related Stories, Dogs, Dogs, Help Familie Keep Their Pets, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, Pets | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Everybody Loves Labradors, So Why Are They Underdogs?

In 136 Years of Westminster Show, Popular Breed Has Never Won Grand Prize

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WSJ: For the past 22 years, the Labrador Retriever has been the most popular dog breed in the U.S., tying the Poodle’s record reign atop American Kennel Club registrations. "They’re the greatest dogs in the world," said David Frei, the Westminster Kennel Club’s communications director. "Who doesn’t love a Labrador Retriever?"

The Labrador Retriever is the most popular dog breed in the U.S. But no Lab has ever won Best in Show at the Westminster Dog Show, making Labs the Chicago Cubs of show dogs: the most lovable of four-legged losers. WSJ’s Ben Cohen reports. Photo: Getty.

As more than 3,000 dogs descend on the city for the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, we take a look behind the scenes to find out how these four-legged champions prepare mentally and physically for the biggest stage.

The answer is judges at the Westminster Dog Show. In 136 years of the event, no Labrador has ever won Best in Show.

The Dogs That Haven’t Had Their Day at Westminster View Slideshow


Stan Honda/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Labrador Retriever Shayna Maydela attended an American Kennel Club news conference in New York, where the most popular dogs in the U.S. were announced on Jan. 30, 2013.

The Labrador hasn’t even made it out of the Sporting group to sniff at Westminster’s grand prize. In other words, Labradors are the Chicago Cubs of show dogs: the most lovable of four-legged losers.

Fifty-four Labradors will parade around Madison Square Garden’s ring Tuesday at this year’s Westminster show, which begins Monday. Only the Golden Retriever breed, another Best in Show shutout, has more entries. But the odds of a Labrador breaking the curse are 450-to-1, according to Johnny Avello of the Wynn Las Vegas casino’s sports book, making Labradors an underdog yet again.

"We all feel that we’ve been really ignored," said Mary Wiest, a Labrador breeder in Warren, N.J.

A black Labrador named Windy was given Best of Breed at last year’s Westminster show. Elizabeth Martin, her owner and breeder, only entered Windy because she thought Windy had a legitimate chance to win that award. But Ms. Martin harbored no such illusions about Best in Show or the Best of Group distinction placed on seven dogs. "I never even considered that," she said.


AFP/Getty Images

Only the Golden Retriever, shown at an American Kennel Club news conference in January, and another Best in Show shutout, has more entries than Labradors this year.

Barbara Gilchrist, the judge who rewarded Windy, was "amazed" the Labrador didn’t fare better in the Sporting group, which consists of 30 breeds. Labrador breeders and owners talk about the drought "all the time," Ms. Gilchrist said. "It’s very hard to sit by and be quiet."

The last Labrador to make a fuss in the Sporting group was James, a rare two-time Best of Breed winner. As a 55-to-1 long-shot for Westminster’s top honor, Ms. Wiest’s pooch was the Labradors’ best bet since Mr. Avello began setting odds in 2007. And in 2010, when James placed fourth in the Sporting group, Labrador loyalists reacted as if he had taken Best in Show.

"If one ever wins the group? Oh my gosh, it’ll be just fabulous," said Robin Anderson, the Labrador Retriever Club’s newsletter editor.

Labrador owners aren’t alone in yelping for their breed. Westminster officials do, too. Mr. Frei said he always pulls for Labrador and Golden Retrievers because of the splash they would make with a win. "We’d have to rent an apartment in Manhattan to cover all the media stuff," he said.

Why they can’t break through is a question that hounds Labrador lovers.



Their fans point to the bite of the Sporting group, which has produced 19 Best in Show winners, including the Sussex Spaniel in 2009, English Springer Spaniel in 2007 and German Shorthaired Pointer in 2005. Those dogs are what buffs call "flashy" breeds. "If I were to tell a Labrador person to have more flash and dash, they’d probably stone me," said James Reynolds, the 2011 Sporting judge at Westminster.

Unlike their peers, Labradors lack the extravagance of a long coat or the grace of a fast gait, making it trickier to catch a judge’s eye. "There are lots of Labradors that have given me goose bumps," said Cindy Vogels, last year’s Best in Show judge at Westminster, "but I think it’s an acquired taste."

Labradors also go home empty for the same reason they are such reliable companions: their good temperament. Some dogs are divas. Labradors like to share the spotlight with their handlers. "Labs aren’t selfish enough," Mr. Frei said.

Some say the problem is the Labrador’s breed standard. Show dogs don’t compete with each other so much as against the standard, or the guidelines for a dog’s appearance and movement. What judges examine in a Labrador are its head ("clean-cut" with "broad back skull"), coat (black, yellow or chocolate) and tail (like an otter’s). Also important: "powerful jaws" and "friendly eyes." The American Kennel Club’s breed standard calls for a "strongly built, medium-sized, short-coupled" dog to retrieve game, hunt in the water and, yes, melt hearts.

Dogs bred for field work tend to be longer and leaner than Labradors bred to prance around conformation shows. To conform to the Labrador breed standard, males should weigh between 65 to 80 pounds, and females 55 to 70 pounds. "A Labrador that’s over 100 pounds would be very difficult to deal with in a duck boat," Ms. Gilchrist said.

Labradors should stand between 22½ and 24½ inches as males and 21½ to 23½ inches as females, according to the standard. A half-inch deviation results in disqualification.

In 1994, when the Labrador Retriever Club developed the standard to be implemented by the AKC, it was so contentious that six breeders sued. The case lasted six years and ended when their attempts to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court were unsuccessful.

Diane Ammerman’s black Labrador, RJ, in 2008 won Best of Opposite Sex at Westminster—the prize for the top male when a female takes Best of Breed, and vice versa—and will have one last Westminster hurrah Tuesday. Her theory for the Labrador’s dry spell: other dogs have waged better campaigns. Show-dog owners can burn six-figure fortunes by advertising in trade publications and traveling to shows across the country. Along the way, Ms. Ammerman said, they hope their dogs gain a higher profile. "Pure, simple politics," she said.

Despite the breed’s popularity, Westminster judges don’t go out of their way to throw the Labrador a bone. "I don’t think anyone consciously goes in the ring saying, ‘Well, a Lab’s never won the group, but at the Garden, I’m going to change that,’ " Ms. Vogels said.

So every February, Labrador enthusiasts end up repeating a well-worn mantra of fans of the Chicago Cubs, who haven’t won a World Series since 1908: there’s always next year.

"Never say never," Mr. Frei said.

Write to Ben Cohen at ben.cohen@wsj.com – A version of this article appeared February 11, 2013, on page A1 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Everybody Loves Labradors, So Why Are They Underdogs?.

February 15, 2013 Posted by | Adopt Just One More Pet, Animal or Pet Related Stories, animals, Dogs, Dogs, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, NO KILL NATION, Pet Adoption, Pet and Animal Training, Pet Events, Pets | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments