Month: December 2014

What’s YOUR ‘Little More in 2015?

Animal Advocacy Blog Picture Janet Bovitz Sandefur

New Year’s Eve.  People have such good intentions this time of year when it comes to making those New Year’s resolutions.

“I will go to the gym every day and lose that weight.”

“I will donate 15% of my salary to a charity.”

“I will have less clutter at home.”

But often, the grander promises get pushed back, and before you know it, another whole year has passed and you find yourself making those same resolutions again.

This year, why not try something on a smaller scale, but possibly way more impacting – why not try “a little more”.

This new year, I will try:

“to be A Little More kinder.”

“to be A Little More gentler.”

“to be A Little More tolerant.”

“to be A Little More patient.”

“to be A Little More empathetic.”

“to be A Little More generous.”

“to be A Little More helpful.”

“to be A Little More.”

You just never know who YOU are making a difference for, when you just try a little more.

Just Do Something…a little more.

What will YOUR “little more” be this New Year?

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Guest Blogger, Kelly Connolly (Attorney)

Holiday Road

I can’t take my cat anywhere. Unlike my dog, who begs and pleads to go for car rides, my cat gets psychotic whenever I pull out his travel carrier. Once in the car, he’ll yowl the entire ride and manages to wet himself every half hour, necessitating frequent emergency stops along major highways with 18-wheelers whizzing by.

Personally, I’ve learned it’s best to keep my kitty at home when I travel. I have a wonderful pet sitter, and I know my cat is much happier and more comfortable in a familiar setting. However, for anyone else thinking of traveling with a pet this holiday season, please first consider whether the trip is actually in the best interests of the pet, or mostly for the benefit of the owner.

Should He Stay or Should He Go?
Before embarking on your journey, you should initially consider whether your pet is able to travel. Factors to think about include your pet’s age, breed, temperament, and health status. The trip itself, as well as a stay at an unfamiliar destination, might simply be too stressful for some pets. Prior to your journey, it’s always a good idea to bring your pet for a wellness checkup, and to talk with his veterinarian, to determine whether your pet is medically up for the ride.

For pets who are too elderly, excitable, or ill to travel, it’s best to leave them at home with a responsible pet sitter who can care for them in their own home, or to board them at a veterinary hospital or reputable boarding facility. Before you schedule your pet for any of these things, however, do your homework! Ask your vet or local animal shelter for pet sitter or boarding kennel recommendations, and then make sure to check out their references. It’s also helpful to plan a pre-trip visit with your pet sitter or boarding facility to instruct them on how to care for your pet, especially if your pet will require certain foods or medicines in your absence. Be sure to write down your pet’s entire schedule, including meal times and medicine doses, and hand it to the primary person who will be caring for him. And don’t forget to include contact information for where you’ll be on each day of your trip, so you can be reached in an emergency, even if it’s in the middle of the night.

Have Car, Will Travel
If you and your vet decide that your pet is healthy enough to come along for the ride, the best mode of transport is by car. Make sure your car is equipped with all the animal supplies your pet will need for the duration of your entire trip to, at, and from, your destination. For dogs that are especially excitable in the car, there are harnesses available that buckle into a seat belt to restrain them safely. There are also safety gate barriers you can install in the back of the car to keep them from jumping over the seat and distracting you while driving. Cats should travel in a sturdy-sided travel carrier, around which a seat belt should be buckled. Be sure you have a cloth to cover your cat’s carrier if he seems upset or anxious. It’s also a good idea to place a towel or bed from home in the back of the car for your dog, or in the bottom of the carrier for your cat, so they have somewhere to rest that smells familiar and comforting.

Make sure there is plenty of water available in the car for your pet to drink, although you might want to check with your vet about whether to feed your pet before you leave, instead of in the car, lest he become carsick. Be sure to schedule plenty of time for bathroom breaks for both you and your pet, and always put a leash on your pet before you open the car door to prevent a sudden escape. During these stops, you should also give your cat a chance to use his litter tray inside the car.

You’ll also need to check in advance whether any medical or vaccination records are required in those states or locations you will be traveling. For example, if you are traveling to Canada from America, you will need to show them your pet’s vaccination record as proof that he’s up-to-date on his rabies shot-this is true for all cats and dogs over the age of three. Even if you’re not crossing any border this holiday, be sure to bring your pet’s medical and vaccination records in case he becomes ill during the journey and you have to make an unscheduled stop at an unfamiliar veterinary hospital.

If your trip requires an overnight stay somewhere, be sure to pack extra supplies for your pet, like a bed, a favorite toy, food and treats, and extra cat litter for cats. While there are many hotels that now allow cats and dogs to spend the night, you’ll want to call ahead and ask whether pets are allowed before making a reservation. And once you’re at the hotel, don’t leave your pets alone in the room. A pet who is in an unfamiliar setting may become overly excited or distressed, and could act on this anxiety by either causing damage to the room or barking nonstop for hours on end (behaviors that other hotel guests might not appreciate). Plus, your pet may still be unsettled from that day’s car ride, so it’s better to remain in the room to comfort him, making sure to give him plenty of love and attention.

Danger Zone
If you prefer to take another method of transportation rather than drive to your destination, be sure to phone your carrier of choice ahead of your journey to determine whether your pet will be able to accompany you. Usually only Service Animals are allowed on Greyhound buses and Amtrak trains, although that rule might differ among cities, states, and different transportation companies.

If you are thinking about flying to your destination with your pet in the cargo hold of an airplane, please reconsider. Cargo holds are notoriously dangerous places for animals. Although many cargo holds are supposed to be pressurized, this is not always the case. Cargo holds are dark and extremely noisy, and depending on the time of year or geographic location, they can be either be suffocatingly hot or freezing cold. Your pet could suffer serious injury as a result of traveling in the cargo hold, the least of which could be extreme emotional trauma. In severe cases, your pet could even die due to a lack of oxygen. This is especially true for pets with smushed-in faces (Brachycephalicbreeds), like Bulldogs and Persian cats.

If you absolutely must travel on a plane with your pet, first check each airline’s record for animal safety in the Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Reports. The best thing to do in this situation is to bring your pet on board with you in an airline-approved carrier that can fit under the seat. However, airlines have very strict rules about the type of carrier allowed, the weight limit of the animal, and how many pets are allowed in a cabin at once, so call ahead to find out the exact requirements before booking your flight. Many airlines also charge an additional fee to allow your pet to travel in the cabin.

If you ever witness mistreatment or rough handling of an animal on a plane or the tarmac, or if your pet injures himself while flying, be sure to speak with airline or airport authorities. You should also file a complaint with the DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division, especially if your pet succumbs in the cargo hold. Ultimately, the best way to avoid any unfortunate incidents and keep your pet safe and happy is to refrain from flying with him at all.

Home for the Holidays

These are just a few tips to help make holiday travel as stress free as possible for both you and your pet. Because there are many issues to consider when deciding whether to travel with your pet, you’ll need to do a lot of homework far in advance of any trip. Before you even think about packing the car, you will need to schedule a visit with your vet, and check resources for information about pet travel. Many humane societies, animal protection organizations,and veterinary medical associations offer valuable advice, tips, and suggestions on how to travel safely with your pet. You can also research relevant pet travel legal and medical requirements you may need to follow on state and federal agricultural department websites.

Remember to do everything you can to minimize your pet’s travel anxiety this holiday season, even if that means deciding to spend the holidays safely at home with your furry friend and human family. After all, your four-legged friend is part of your family, and that’s what the holidays are really all about: spending time with friends and family!

Happy Holidays!

Animal Advocacy Blog Picture Janet Bovitz Sandefur
Kelly E. Connolly is an Attorney who writes on the side. She also holds a Master’s in animals and public policy. Her expertise in animal issues has led to interviews on television and the radio, and with The New York Times, USA Today, and She shares her home with an elderly, mischievous cat and a goofy, misbehaved dog. Contact her at or on
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7 Christmas Gifts For Handicapped and Senior Dogs


1.  Interactive dog puzzles
Whether it’s due to old age or a disability, dogs need to keep their minds sharp and focused. Hagen Mind Games from SwellPets offers three games in one to stimulate a handicapped dog’s problem-solving skills. They’re fun too.

Animal Advocacy Blog Picture Janet Bovitz Sandefur






2.  Stroller

The Walkin’ Pet Stroller from is great for transporting smaller dogs.

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3.  Cart

DoggyRide has sturdy carts for bigger dogs that have trouble walking.

Animal Advocacy Blog Picture Janet Bovitz Sandefur






4.  Boots

Keep their paws warm all winter and protected with a new pair of boots from NeoPaws.

Animal Advocacy Blog Picture Janet Bovitz Sandefur






5.  Heated Beds

The Thermo Heated Dog Bed from SwellPets is a quilted bed that provides therapeutic benefits for dogs that are getting older.

Animal Advocacy Blog Picture Janet Bovitz Sandefur






6.  Suspenders and Diapers

If you can’t find a Christmas sweater that will pull over a dog wheelchair try a pair of colorful suspenders instead. The suspenders are actually made to keep doggie diapers safely in place.

Animal Advocacy Blog Picture Janet Bovitz Sandefur






7.  Personalized Dog Wheelchair License Plate

This is the perfect gift for the dog that has everything, and the proceeds are donated to the Handicapped Pets Foundation.

Animal Advocacy Blog Picture Janet Bovitz Sandefur







Reprinted from Lessons From a Paralyzed Dog; Sharon Seltzer is an animal writer, co-founder of the Heaven Can Wait Animal Society in Las Vegas and CEO of Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog. She is also the pet parent to pup Cody and three semi-feral cats; Spike, Sport and Tiger. She was the proud mom to Sophie and Shadow who passed away in 2013.



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Guest Blogger, George Payne (

Elephants Wish They Could Forget

Along with a dozen other local animal rights advocates, I recently participated in a silent demonstration against the Ringling Brothers Circus. Our group gathered in front of Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena, in the chilly October evening, as hundreds of people trickled into the front doors. (I have been told that the crowds were much smaller than usual.) Our yellow signs had slogans such as “Animals are born to be wild,” “Elephants wish they could forget!” and “Boulder, CO Banned Animal Circuses.”

While standing in line with my yellow sign, I began to think about the evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson, who once said: ”Each culture has its own creation myth, the primary functions of which are to place the tribe that contrived it at the center of the universe, and to portray history as a noble epic.”

It occurred to me that most people cannot emotionally or spiritually consume the pain of these animals because they are not portrayed as being at the center of their noble epic. By and large, animals in our society are treated as resources, tools, pets, game, mascots, predators, and costumes. Rarely are animals seen as having intrinsic value with their own “special” center.

Unfortunately humanity suffers from a condition called aristocentrism. This is an unwarranted claim to superiority. In different ways we conclude that we are special, and insist that the cosmos have anointed us. We believe that our existence has the most special meaning of all, and that we have rare knowledge or a message to give to the rest of Creation. Inevitably this world view degenerates into an inordinate claim to superiority for oneself or one’s group. The word aristocentrism comes from the Greek words agathos, “good” and kentrikos, from kentron, “the center of a circle.”

The problem with aristocentrism is that it is based on an illusion. We are not the center of the universe. Our species is not the most important group in the cosmos. There are relationships between all living beings that make superiority impossible. That is precisely why Gandhi said: “The greatness of a nation can be judged by how its animals are treated.”

The way we view our place in the cosmos has a direct impact on the way we treat all other animals; and the way we treat all other animals determines the quality of our character as moral agents. In Gandhi’s view, the strong have an obligation to protect the weak. The fact that circus animals are kidnapped, caged, drugged, intimidated, beaten, and exploited means that people of freedom, sobriety, fearlessness, physical strength should come to their aid. By coming to their aid we are activating our best selves. But to truly be in solidarity with our fellow bio-companions means that we view them as having their own worth apart from our ability to appreciate and defend them.

In the Emotional Lives of Animals author Marc Bekoff proves that nonhuman creatures exhibit Charles Darwin’s six universal emotions (anger, happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, and surprise). He shows that wild and domestic species have a kaleidoscopic range of feelings, from embarrassment to awe, and that we dismiss them not only at their peril but our own. Bekoff writes, “It’s bad biology to argue against the existence of animal emotions. Scientific research in evolutionary biology, cognitive ethology, and social neuroscience supports the view that numerous and diverse animals have rich and deep emotional lives. Emotions have evolved as adaptations in numerous species, and they serve as a social glue to bond animals with one another.”

On reflection, one of the main reasons I chose to participate in the silent demonstration was to represent this primal wisdom that Bekoff writes about in his books. Elephants are one example. Just to acknowledge the suffering of elephants trapped in circuses is an act of resistance. Nearly all 60 Asian elephants incarcerated by Ringling were captured in the wild. Baby elephants suffer painful rope lesions when being pulled prematurely from their mothers. There is a chronic failure to test elephants for tuberculosis, unsanitary feeding practices, and a failure to maintain, clean, and repair their transport cages. There is an overall inability to provide adequate veterinary care. Elephants get pushed and prodded with bullhooks, and they are forced to perform whether they are healthy or sick. According to PETA, Ringling has admitted to chaining elephants by two legs, on a concrete floor, for 16 hours a day, which is a direct violation of the Endangered Species Act. They have also admitted to chaining elephants in boxcars an average of 26 straight hours (often 60 hours) when traveling. Treatment of animals like baby elephants has gotten so bad even corporate giants such as VISA, MasterCard, Denny’s, and Sears & Roebuck have ended their promotion of the circus.

Even though these beautiful creatures are not dependent on humans to guarantee them value and rights, we cannot be truly ourselves in any adequate manner without animals as miraculous as Asian elephants being free of confinement, harassment, torture, and murder. Asian elephants console others who are in distress using physical touches and vocalizations. They have been shown to demonstrate keen intelligence. Like people, they live in complex societies with family units at their core. For these reasons alone, we must put a stop to this slavery. Let’s prove that we are not a nation of cowards and killers but a community of friends working for the betterment of our race.

Animal Advocacy Blog Picture Janet Bovitz Sandefur


George Payne is the founder and director of Gandhi Earth Keepers International in Rochester, NY.

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Guest Blogger, Ian White (

Animal Advocacy Blog Picture Janet Bovitz Sandefur

Vacationers and their pets benefit from sitters.

“Have pets, won‘t travel”; is the reality for many people. Many pet owners never travel from home for more than a few days because the usual care options just don‘t work for them. Asking a family member or friend to take your pets is often a favor you can‘t ask for regularly. Kennels are not an option for most pet owners, who simply won‘t subject their loved ones to a caged stay of any duration.

Bringing pets along for travel is often not realistic for many pet owners, especially when there are old, large, or multiple pets involved.

The main problem with most care options is that they require the animals to be taken out of their home environment and daily routines. Being cared for by strangers is not usually a problem for animals, but it can be when it is also in a strange place (not home). Being in a strange environment is often stressful for animals when they are separated from their human family for several weeks or months.

I recently asked an animal expert for her view on the topic. “Dogs are creatures of habit and are generally very emotionally connected to their social group (i.e. their people),” says Francine Miller, a canine behavior specialist in San Diego, CA. “It is always preferable to keep them in their home environment and in their normal routine to minimize stress.”

Live-in dogsitters means less stress for your pets

There is also the stress, worry, or guilt experienced by the pet owners when they leave their pets. People want the best for their pets and they don‘t want their vacations to become guilt trips.

Fortunately, a growing number of pet owners are discovering the advantages of having pet-loving house sitters stay in their home while they travel. Having house sitters (the non-paid kind) care for you pets and home is really an ideal solution for pet owners, their pets, and the sitters, who are often pet owners themselves on vacation or retirement travel. Sitters care for homes, pets, and even larger animals such as horses and llamas. Sometimes they care for injured or dying pets and help avert robberies or home disasters related to gas leaks, power outages, etc.

The number of house sitting companies/websites has grown rapidly in recent years as pet owners look for better solutions and travelers seek richer experiences with lower costs. It‘s a global and growing trend that is changing how many people travel and make new friends.

“I would not be able to travel if I had no-one to come to my home to care for my pets,” wrote Rosalie Guttman of Chicago.”My cats have never been out of the house and one is claustrophobic and cannot be in a cage. I‘ve seen animals left in kennels and they don‘t look very happy.”

“We have not put our two pets in a kennel for many years,” wrote Nancy and Jerry Kamens of Arlington, Virginia, who now use house sitters. “Our dog does much better at home in familiar surroundings.”

“Cats are very territorial and taking them away from their home is rather distressing to them,” wrote Silvia Mariani, who lives in London, England. “Even a short trip to the vet becomes an ordeal, let alone separating them from their home for days or weeks”.

As I have heard from many pet owners, Silvia adds that she has remained friends with many sitters around the world. I‘ve also been invited to stay at their places – “all this makes house sitting a more personal, rewarding experience.”

These pet owners shared their experiences as part of a survey I recently conducted of the nearly 50,000 home owners registered on my house sitting website,

Here is a fact that gives an idea of how large and global house sitting has become: in the past year, my members have posted sitting opportunities in at least 64 countries. The most popular countries for house sitting in order are the U.S., Australia, Canada, the UK, France, New Zealand, Spain, Costa Rica, Mexico, Italy, and South Africa. The popularity of house sitting is growing rapidly and the demand for house sits is often greater than the supply.

Many house sitting websites have popped up in recent years, but the key is to create a secure environment for both parties to make a personalized match. There are sitters who are paid for their help, but the growth is happening in the non-paid type. House/pet sitters on sites like ours mainly receive no money for caring for homes and pets – they receive only accommodation. House sitting is all about mutual benefit. And making new friends around the world.

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Ian White
Owner, Housecarers Worldwide House Sitting and Pet Sitting Directory

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