Tag Archives: animal welfare

Amazon CARES No Kill Comes Up for Air

Amazon CARES’ no kill shelter was engulfed by 6′ of torrential rain, the worst seen in Peru in 25 years. Molly Mednikow, FounderAmazon Cares No Kill and Executive Director of the lone organization working in the region to protect and assist domestic animals, said her heart sank as she watched the waters quickly rise to cover the spacious kennels that took so long to build. Molly imagined seven years of the difficult work of social change being swept into the Amazon. That was a moment. It is never more clear what stuff you are made of than when disaster erupts.

For those who don’t know Molly or Amazon CARES beyond the no kill status and rainforest location, we talked briefly about what drove her to make such a drastic change in her life. She moved away from a successful Atlanta business to live in Peru and change people’s minds about street dogs. She opened a modern veterinary clinic in Iquitos to perform free spay/neuter to help stem teaming populations from overrunning the streets.

Relating details about Amazon CARES Humane Education program, Molly offered that volunteers are in the schools in town and surrounding villages every day teaching how to care for, respect and have compassion for animals.  You take note of what she is saying not only because of the value of the programs, but because of the passion in her voice and the persistence of her actions.

Molly has had a grant from Humane Society International for her Humane Education program, Best Friends volunteers have visited, and Brigitte Bardot’s Foundation recently sent a grant that will help Amazon CARES start again. Many individuals have donated, and help is crucial right now. If I had to bet, I would put my money on who I’ve now come to think of as the unsinkable Molly Mednikow.

Shelter Dog Training And Behavior Is Enhanced By Playgroups

shelter dog playgroupsShelter dog training and behavior is enhanced by playgroups in many ways and Cindy Bruckart of the Multnomah Animal Shelter, an open-admission, official Open Paw Shelter, is here this week to tell us why playgroups are good for shelter dogs and how to go about doing them in a safe and manageable fashion.

Shelter dogs are often quite pent up, as they generally spend about 23 hours a day in a kennel environment, often with lots of frustrating stimulation going on right outside their kennel run door. While manners training, practicing household skills such as settling and chew toy training, and continued socialization are very much top priorities when deciding what sort of environmental enrichment to provide for shelter dogs (see openpaw.org for more info), playgroups may be incorporated as one ingredient in a wellness program for maintaining or creating healthy, adoptable shelter dogs.

Exercise provides a much needed outlet for amped up dogs, but it also provides an opportunity to build confidence for shy dogs and some much needed cheer for dogs displaying signs of depression.

That said, a shelter dog playgroup should not just be a willy-nilly free for all. Cindy runs her playgroups bases on the SIRIUS Puppy Training methodology of incorporating training into play sessions. Doing so both blurs the line between training and play, to make them one and the same in the dog’s mind rather than mutually exclusive, but it also offers handlers a fantastic opportunity to use the super-high value reward of play and dog-dog interaction as a reinforcement for following their requests, such as recall out of playgroup or a brief “down-stay”.  In other words, there are lots of training breaks in the play session to maintain control and focus at all times.

In order to initiate shelter dog playgroups it’s essential to have at least one trained professional, who is experienced in both reading dog behavior/body language and in managing multiple dogs, involved in each session. Volunteers must be trained before participating and Cindy believes that the ratio of dog to human should be no higher than four dogs for each human helper.

In the podcast below, Cindy also talks about what kind of dogs are suitable for playgroups, lists the top three reasons to incorporate playgroups into your shelter dog training and behavior program, and shares a heartwarming story about a shelter dog who’s life was turned around, and likely saved, by the opportunity to grow and shine outside of her kennel.

If you’d like to learn more about shelter dog playgroups please visit Regarding Rover for a full schedule of Cindy’s two-day seminar offerings all across the U.S.

Arm the Animals Saves Them

Arm the Animals is not politically motivated, they are not a 501c3 – they are a brand seeking to expand the good their clothing line does for small rescues and shelters.  One year young, they have appeared in Star, People, Seventeen and other magazines, are on the resource pages of Petfinder, and have had celebrities modeling for them and promoting Arm the Animals Clothing through social media. They have been contacted by interested retailers – which is a very big deal. Growing a business is tough, especially in retail. But if your business model is based on a mission of providing funds to shelters and rescues, it’s even more important that you do it right.

Matt Heinemeyer, CEO of Arm the Animals Clothing, talks about doing it right. He shares why he decided on a clothing line, how he chose to go as eco-friendly as the company could afford, what that meant, and how things have progressed. I was surprised at all the things he could do at the outset and still keep costs down. He reveals how much of a success his venture has been so far for the cash-strapped shelters who have benefited from their mission. As the company grows, so does the benefit to animals in need. Heinemeyer talks about a brand new patent in recycling raw materials for clothing that is pretty exciting too, but I’ll let you check that out in the interview!

Animal Shelters – “New” Model for Adoption Success, Kelly G Dunbar

Animal shelters adoptions are getting a boost from many quarters, but it takes getting to root causes to solve long-term animal sheltersproblems of market share and negative public perception.  The way animals are kept in shelters often leads to their return when walks, socialization and other quality of life components are missing.  Adopters looking for a family pet end up with a dog who is hard to potty train, chews on the furniture, who has problems with Uncle Joe and his baseball cap, or who otherwise doesn’t “fit in”.  The Open Paw program has taken a look at this issue from a trainer’s perspective and for the past nearly 12 years has offered much success to many shelters employing their behavioral change approach.  By the way, we’re talking about behavior change on the human side of this equation.

Kelly Gorman Dunbar, better known to many as certified dog trainer and the co-founder and executive editor of Dog Star Daily, is President and co-founder of Open Paw.  This international organization works by approaching the problem of unwanted animals through coordinated educational programs, educating owners before and after finding their new best friends so training needs are not ignored.  This works to keep more animals from entering the shelter system, since most give-ups are based on behavior, training or temperament problems. Open Paw also shows shelters ways to reduce returns and increase the pace of adoptions while raising the morale of their employees and volunteers.  And it all serves the highest and best needs of the dogs and cats in the shelter.

Animal Shelters quickly see positive results when the program is implemented, even if it’s only tested on a few.  There is a four-level training program for people and dogs explained on the podcast, and you will be quick to notice that even the first level makes a real difference in the lives of shelter animals. The shelter becomes a quiet place – the frantic barking, pacing, lunging can become a bad memory and the quality of life for everyone in the building, especially the cats(!), improves dramatically.

Animal shelters need to succeed, and they need community support to do that.  The volunteer base of every animal shelter is that shelter’s connection to their community, but the relationship between the two is often one of distrust, even disdain.  Open Paw is a program that will get volunteers and employees on the same page, working toward the same goals using the same methods.

Dog behavior and management in animal shelters using the Open Paw program is a very exciting, thoughtful approach that does not overwhelm with high costs or extensive re-training needs to implement.  Open Paw does offer two implementation grants for those who feel they need a quick start to the program, and they hope to double that number in 2012.  If you would care to sponsor a grant, find out more about the shelter program, or donate to Open Paw you can email info@openpaw.org or use the contact page on the site.


Audubon Project Puffin: Extinction to Repopulation

Maybe you’ve seen those cute little clownish birds, with their colorful beaks and penguin looks. But did you know the Atlantic Puffins became extinct in our country for 100 years? Now they’re re-emerging off the Gulf of Maine in an incredible success story that is still unfolding.

The National Audubon Society launched Project Puffin in 1973 to help restore the Puffins to their historic nesting islands. Led by world-renowned ornithologist Dr. Stephen Kress, an international leader in seabird conservation and vice president for bird conservation for Audubon, Project Puffin uses innovative bird restoration techniques that have enabled the Puffin colonies to grow.

In “Audubon Project Puffin — Extinction to Repopulation,” Dr. Kress, known as the “Puffin Man,” recounts some amazing stories and provides interesting Puffin tidbits–including why it is important to have these birds return to their original nesting areas, the process to get them back (wooden decoys and mirrors, for starters), how long these birds live, where they go and what they do during the winter months when they’re not nesting, how many fish their beaks can hold simultaneously, and hear some of the strangest bird sounds around! Plus, you’ll learn about what’s happening globally to the plight of seabirds in general.

The Audubon Project Puffin restoration success is a model for building seabird colonies worldwide. At least 40 seabird species in 14 countries have benefited from the project. However, years of work, persistence, and adaptation, challenges such as oil spills, depleted food supplies, fishing nets and predators make it even more incredible that these species are flourishing.

Project Puffin offers field watching boat tours, a live Puffin cam, adoption opportunities, a visitor center, and much more at the Todd Wildlife Sanctuary on mid-coast Maine.

In  addition to his work with the Atlantic Puffins, Dr. Kress is an associate at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, where he developed and teaches a popular spring field ornithology course. His books include Project Puffin: How We Brought Puffins Back to Egg Rock, The Audubon Society Guide to Attracting Birds, and numerous books on bird habitats.




Elephant Parade: American Artist on European Public Art, Royalty, & Conservation

Elephants are on parade across Europe, trekking all the way to Southeast Asia, raising publicElephant Parade awareness and millions of dollars in funding for conservation of the endangered Asian elephant.  These are artists’ versions of course, not the real thing, parading the streets of Milan, Heerlen, Copenhagen and points beyond.  The Elephant Parade is the world’s largest open-air art exhibit casting the elephants’ 6 foot tall life-size presence onto the streets of participating cities.

The brainchild of a father & son team, Marc and Michael Spits, the Rotterdam, Netherlands Zoo was the first to take them up on their idea of an Elephant Parade with a sponsorship, and more of the same quickly followed. Experts know all too well that Asian elephants have been in decline since the early 20th century and populations have fallen from 250,000 to somewhere between 20,000 to 40,000 due to loss of habitat, poaching, and accidents. The Elephant Parade art and its success is described by the Asian Elephant Foundation:

“Painted by local and international artists, each elephant is a unique piece of art. After the exhibition, all elephants are auctioned off by a leading auction house. Part of all proceeds from Elephant Parade are donated to The Asian Elephant Foundation.”  Over 4 Million Euros have been donated between 2007 and 2010.

Sona Mirzaei, the only American artist to be invited to participate in the Elephant Parade, tells us how that happened and gives her impressions and experiences of working with Danish friend, the well-known artist Per Hillo under unusual conditions – at Copenhagen’s Illum, a major department store.  Mirzaei shares what her participation in co-creating public art to raise awareness for a cause meant to her throughout the process, the success of the event so far, and possibilities of US participation next year. You can get to know her through her work at Sona Art