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Guest Blogger, Billy Howard –

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Our Note: Dogfighting and dog baiting is well known to those involved, but they make it VERY difficult for outsiders to find them. With the colder weather upon us, it might be even harder in some places to spot a dog fighting ring. This is because the dogs and events may be moved more routinely inside, and snow hides things even though leafless-trees makes it easier to look around.  Dogfighting and dog baiting can be anywhere: from deep in a wooded area, to the basement of a condemned or boarded up house, to even someone’s fenced in backyard. If you THINK you see or hear something, or you KNOW about a person or animal involved in dogfighting and/or dog baiting, PLEASE report it.

Many people don’t report it because some dogfighting and dog baiting rings are run by gangs. And ratting on a gang related event is cause for retaliation. But know that you can report dogfighting and dog baiting anonymously to your local 911.  Yes, 911 will ask for your information, but legally they cannot and will not make your information known publicly. And if, you are still nervous about reporting dogfighting or dog baiting, reach out to us and WE will report it for you.

Take a moment to google “Report Dog Fighting” for other references and information on how you can help, and report on this brutal and illegal practice.

Let’s End Dog Fighting Together

Many people are not aware of what dog fighting really is, or are aware of the possible signs of a dog fighting operation.

Dog fighting is extremely inhumane and cruel, and the things these dogs are forced to endure are unimaginable.

Do a quick search on the internet and you will learn how dogs are treated and what they are forced to do to fight or be the “bait” dog.

Dogs are stolen from shelters and domestic homes for dog fighting purposes, or raised just for this purpose.

Dog fighting is no “sport”, contrary to those who treat it as a sporting event.

Here in the Alabama area, dog fighting areas and operations usually present signs of multiple dogs (usually pitbull mixes) living outside in 55 gallon barrel drums chained with logging chain (10 feet long).  Surrounding that area are usually ropes and chains hanging from trees, with springs attached to those ropes and chains.  We see a number of tread mills in the area.  And the dogs that are used to fight have scars and/or fresh wounds on their faces and bodies.

Sadly, dog fighting is prevalent is ALL countries.  Did you know that within the Unites States, almost every county in every state has dog fighting organizations?

Our organization is, and we go ANYWHERE in the United States for FREE when it comes to investigating and stopped dog fighting operations.  There is up to a $5,000.00 Reward for valid information, and we encourage people to reach out to us if they have any reason to suspect, or have information about, dog fighting.  Call 1-877-215-2250.

Dog fighters are not stupid.  They are very aware of what they are doing is illegal and inhumane, so they are very careful to conduct these operations in secret and without bringing too much attention to the dogs they are using for dog fighting.

In addition, please visit my own personal endeavor at  I do ALL rescuing and website maintenance by myself, without any volunteers because where we are located in Alabama it is quite rural and it’s difficult to get interested people to want to help.  Anyone wanting to help my dog rescue here, 90% are Death Row Rescued!  You can call my local Farmers Co-op at 256-357-4743 and order dog food by phone or through pay-pal listed under my e mail account through Yahoo.

My additional contact information is listed on my website.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and share it.
Thank you to for helping me share my story and spread awareness on this important issue.

Please, do what you can, where and when you can.

– Billy Howard
Alabama Investigator

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Guest Blogger, Karen Menczer (Animal-Kind International)

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Nune Mehrabyan has Dedicated her Life to Saving Yerevan’s Street Dogs

I hadn’t yet made it through my 1st week of a four-week work trip in Armenia, and I was already tired of the cold, the wet, and mostly, of seeing the shivering, hungry, too-skinny dogs wandering the streets of Yerevan. Even for Armenia, December of 2008 was a cold and icy month. How was I going to make it through 3 ½ more weeks, when after only a few days I could barely face the world outside my guest house?

My walk from guest house to office involved crossing several busy streets, where people and dogs swerved among the vehicles, whose drivers had no time or patience to make a full stop. Dogs quickly learn to wait with the people at stop lights and cross when the people cross. If they don’t learn that lesson quickly, they don’t survive; a dogs’ life in Yerevan is cheap, and for harried drivers, swerving to avoid a dog is too much effort.

That winter of 2008, everywhere I went in Yerevan, I saw dogs searching for a dry sunny spot (almost impossible to find). I saw cats perched on roofs; the luckier ones found broken basement windows, where they could sneak inside and warm up.

Along my route, I knew every grocery-deli that sold small sausage links that I could easily throw to or leave for the dogs I met as I walked to and from work. The deli workers must have thought I had a voracious appetite for Armenian sausages. Water was scarce-it didn’t get warm enough for the ice to melt, so I filled containers with water for dogs to drink with their sausages.

Admittedly, I’m dog crazy and I love them all. But sometimes one dog will steal my heart. Back in 2008 in Yerevan, a small, young, sweet black dog melted me. She seemed so vulnerable, not a street-smart city girl, she needed someone to help her learn the ropes. I gave her sausage links and she followed me back to my guest house. I asked if she could stay in the yard. I was hopeful; the guest house owner had lived in California for years, I was sure he understood that many Americans are dog crazy. I hoped he had lived in America long enough to get smitten with dogs. He made an attempt to act concerned but his “no” showed no real emotion. I wasn’t in a position to switch guest houses, and it was highly unlikely I’d find one that allowed dogs as guests. 

The morning after she followed me home, even before I brushed my teeth, I threw my jacket on and found my dog waiting for me, curled up outside the door to the guest house. We greeted each other like we belonged to each other. I quickly realized that this situation was not sustainable-I was going to leave Armenia in a few weeks, she was not (I already had four dogs and two cats at home, my work required a lot of overseas travel and time away from home.) Soon she’ll be waiting for me in the mornings and after work, and I won’t show up.

So I asked the Armenians I worked with if they knew of an animal shelter and was told about Nune Mehrabyan, a pianist, who started the only shelter in Yerevan. Because cat and dog population control in Yerevan is mainly through government contracted shooters who roam the streets in search of dogs or takes place behind the scenes at a contractor operated facility (many horror stories are told about that facility), Nune was often interviewed in newspapers and on TV to provide an argument for more humane population control. Because of her media presence, Nune and her shelter were well-known around Yerevan.

That weekend, I met Nune at the Save the Animals-Armenia shelter in Eribuni, an industrial area of Yerevan, where about 220 dogs were housed. That was the start of our friendship; a mutual love for dogs and an overwhelming feeling of wanting to help the helpless overcame our language barrier.

I learned that Nune couldn’t stand hearing the shooting every night and thinking about the dogs being killed or injured just because they had no homes. She pleaded for help from friends and family and raised enough money to buy land and open the first animal shelter in Yerevan. Over time, her promising career as a pianist took a back seat to the more immediate need of saving Yerevan’s dogs.

The Save the Animals’ shelter was pretty basic. There was lots of space and some fenced yards so the dogs could get out of their pens to exercise and socialize. But the pens had no roofs, and during that icy cold winter, it was hard for the dogs to stay warm and dry. Still, it was so much better than life on the street; here the dogs were safe, got nutritious food, exercise, and love. I spent my remaining weekends at the shelter, petting and brushing the dogs, spending time with the emotionally scarred ones.

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The Save the Animals-Armenia shelter in 2008 (before improvements).

Nune helped me arrange a spay appointment for my Armenian dog and found a taxi driver that didn’t mind carrying a dog in his car. I brought her for her spay appointment, relieved that for a few days, she’d be safe at the vet’s office. 

One day, Nune called me to tell me she was picking me up at 5 AM the following day, would bring me back to the guest house by 7 AM. Sometimes the language barrier can’t be crossed, and I had no idea what was happening between 5 and 7 AM.

Groggy and cold at 5 AM, I dragged myself into the cab when Nune pulled up. We were dropped off at a building that housed a television station. It turns out that we were scheduled to be on a morning TV show! My 1st thought was: Oh no, what if people from work see me, this is not what I’m supposed to be doing while in Armenia for my actual job.

The morning’s topic was animal welfare in Armenia and worldwide, and I was there as the expert on the latter. Although 98% of the show was in Armenian, the interviewer switched to English for a few minutes, while she interviewed me. If anyone I was working with saw the morning show, no one mentioned seeing me on it.


Karen, Nune, and interviewer on the set, Yerevan, Armenia, 2008

The following day, I picked up my dog from the vet’s office, where she had remained for a few days to fully recover from surgery. Her time was up though and they needed her cage for other patients. So I brought her back to the guest house and planned to bring her to the shelter over the weekend, hoping she would stick around for a couple of days, as she had before her spay surgery.

On Saturday morning, when I was preparing to go to the shelter with her, she was nowhere to be found. All day while at the shelter, I hoped that when I returned that afternoon, I’d find her waiting for me. She wasn’t. She didn’t show up on Sunday morning either before I left for my shelter visit.

As much as I dreaded wandering around the streets of Yerevan, facing all those cold and hungry street cats and dogs, I searched the neighborhood for her. But I never saw her again. My hope is that as a spayed dog, she could focus on feeding herself and not get worn down by constant pregnancies
and many mouths to feed and that she would become one of the survivors.

Nune and my friendship has thrived and the Save the Animals shelter continues to survive. The shelter has had its highs and lows. Armenia’s dismal economic situation means that fundraising for animal welfare is very difficult. The organization that I started and direct, Animal-Kind International, made Save the Animals-Armenia, an AKI partner organization, and since 2009, we’ve been helping to raise money for the shelter.

Thanks to AKI donors, we’ve provided funds for:
 Roofs over the dog pens (see picture)
 Repair of the large shelter building roof/ceiling (see picture)
 Fencing to further divide the yard so more dogs can get out of their pens for longer periods
(2 pictures)
 Improved drainage
 A water trough where the dogs can drink and take a dip during Yerevan’s hot summers (see
 A deep freeze to store meat for dogs
 Many, many months of food for the shelter dogs and street dogs
 Many months of the electric bill, especially during the winter when Nune keeps many of the
dogs inside the large shelter building.
 Sterilization of many shelter dogs and street dogs
 Vet care of shelter and street dogs, the most recent involved the reconstruction of 2 dogs’
legs that were so misshapen, possibly from accidents long ago.











By the winter of 2012, an AKI donor had supported construction of a roof over the dog pens so the dogs are now warm and dry during cold, snowy Yerevan winters.











Repair of the SAA shelter roof funded by AKI donors

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2 pictures above: AKI donated the money for fencing to section off the shelter yard so more dogs could get out of their pens for a longer period of time each day.












AKI funded the construction of a water trough, a great way to cool off in Yerevan’s hot summer months.

I’ve been back to Armenia two times since 2008, and each time, the shelter looks so much better than when I first visited. Of course, many of the dogs I knew from 2008 have died. A few have been adopted, but adopting mixed breeds and older dogs is still uncommon in Armenia, and in Yerevan,
where most people live in apartments, where no dogs are allowed, per capita dog ownership remains low.

Now, the shelter houses about 180 dogs, so many of them elderly. Because funds are short, Nune rarely accepts new dogs to the shelter and she balances sheltering with keeping street dogs and cats fed and safe and getting them sterilized. The AKI-SAA partnership has endured for nine years and we hope to continue helping Nune Mehrabyan save Armenia’s animals.

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Karen Menczer is Founder and Director of Animal-Kind International,, and for over 25 years has been working with animal rescue and protection organizations in resource-poor countries to raise funds for them and awareness about their work, their challenges, and their achievements. She is also an international environmental and biodiversity conservation specialist.

Connect with AKI on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube!

Animal Advocacy Guest Blogger Thank You Janet Bovitz Sandefur

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De-Rut for Animals this Thanksgiving (From Janet)

nimal Advocacy Blog Picture Janet Bovitz Sandefur

It’s sometimes easy to get into a rut. A rut where everything can feel the same, to the point where it’s easier to do nothing than to get up and get motivated to find something to do.

  • I’m bored
  • I’m too tired
  • It’s too late
  • It’s too early
  • I have no-one to do anything with
  • I’ll start tomorrow
  • I can’t think of anything to do
  • I don’t have the money
  • I don’t have the time

It’s unfortunate that so many people actually live their daily lives by the philosophy that they’re in a rut – but it’s not impossible to get out of one.

One of the best ways to de-rut?

  • Think about YOUR blessings
  • Be thankful for every one of them
  • Promise not to take advantage of them
  • Use your blessings to make a difference

What does that mean?

Okay, so you’re bored. But (BUT), you have the luxury of being able to get up, get out, get a drink or grab a bite to eat. If you’re cold, you can go in. If you’re hot, you can open a window. If you’re hurt, you can go to a doctor. If you’re tired, you can rest in comfort and in safety. If you’re anxious, you can go for a walk. If you’re itchy, you can use a back-scratcher.

You get where I’m going with this, right?

  • Most animals in need do not have even the most simple luxuries you might take for granted.

The point?

No matter what YOUR rut, YOU can do something to change it. It might not be the change you desire on every level, but you CAN do something to change it.

  • You can be thankful for what you have right now, and use those blessings to make a difference.

YOU are blessed. No matter what your situation is today, right now, you have the option to turn it around. And that’s a lot.

That’s more than most animals in need have, or hope to have.

If you can change the world for YOU, you can go one step farther, and change the world for an animal in need.

Today, and every day, take a moment to count YOUR blessings, and then use your blessings to make a difference for an animal in need who needs YOU to be their blessing.

Animal Advocacy Blog Picture Janet Bovitz Sandefur

Be thankful, be grateful, be appreciative, and live. And then take THAT and make it MORE for an animal in need.  It matters.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Please. Always Stop. (from Janet)

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So, tonight was going to be a different blog. But then we found Badly Hurt Cat.

My husband and I were driving home from dinner this evening, and up ahead, on the cold dark road, cars were driving over a pretty large lump on the road.

We always – ALWAYS – stop.

Tonight was no different. 

We did a u-turn and drove up to the spot where something was lying in the road. It didn’t take more than a quick glance to see that this was an adult striped cat – green eyes open, not blinking, tongue hanging out of a mouth that wasn’t closing.

I always stop, and I always wait. 

It took just another five seconds for Badly Hurt Cat to move. Making an effort to perhaps get up, or a reflex from still being alive but badly hurt from the trauma of being hit by a vehicle.

Regardless, Badly Hurt Cat was alive – barely – and breathing, and not doing much else. Not even a sound. 

We immediately put on hazards, and positioned our car so that others would no longer drive over him, or her. We called 911 and let them know Badly Hurt Cat was severely injured but still alive.

Sometimes 911 takes a while to answer a call, especially, we have found, when it comes to animals in need.

Meanwhile, while my husband is in the car with the hazards, I am making rounds to the nearest houses on all sides of Badly Hurt Cat.  S/he needed prompt medical attention, if in fact s/he would even make it to an emergency vet. Yes, Badly Hurt Cat was hurt that bad.

At least in the county where we live, you can call 911 to come and shoot an injured deer (for example), but they will NOT shoot a domestic animal, even one as badly injured as Badly Hurt Cat. Which is a shame sometimes, because on occasion, it’s kinder to put a greatly suffering animal out of misery than to have to go through the motions of taking him or her to an emergency vet where they will just humanely euthanize that animal anyway.  But the process makes that animal wait – something I disagree with when you know there is no coming back from such an injury.

And, if you get caught euthanizing a domestic animal yourself – even when doing the humane thing, you will get arrested.

Honestly, if I had had an axe, I would have put Badly Hurt Cat out of his/her misery immediately. S/he was that badly unjured, and obviously suffering a great deal. I would have glady taken a police car ride if it meant ending the suffering of an animal that needed that kind of help.  

I would not leave Badly Hurt Cat until I confirmed that 911 sent for additional help, and then they would be taking Badly Hurt Cat to the local Emergency Animal Hospital.  When we drove away, the police car moved his vehicle to our spot, blocking Badly Hurt Cat from oncoming traffic until additional help came. That made me feel better, but not by much. Because I know that Badly Hurt Cat will not be healing from tonight’s accident.

I am not sure the circumstances of how Badly Hurt Cat was hit tonight. But I am certain that the driver was aware that s/he hit something. It would have taken ten seconds to pull over and check. Badly Hurt Cat was a BIG cat. And s/he was left alive, lying in the road, so s/he would be difficult NOT to notice.  But for whatever reason, the driver left the scene without obviously stopping to check – and that is unacceptable in my book.

Dinner tonight ended sadly for me because of Badly Hurt Cat. But how blessed I am that I have the deep desire to always stop, always check and always wait. Because tonight, I came to the aide of an animal in need, and because of that, at least Badly Hurt Cat will not still be lying on a cold dark road, hurt, and not be hit again (and again) until finally that little body has had enough.  By the time I post this, Badly Hurt Cat will have been taken to the Emergency Animal Hospital and humanely euthanized.  And tonight, that is the only reassuring thought out of a horrible thing.

Please – it only takes a moment to make that u-turn, pull over, or keep your eyes open.  It matters. It mattered to Badly Hurt Cat.

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Another Reason Not to Smoke

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The colder weather is upon us, and that means that the majority of those who smoke will be looking for warmer ways to light up.   Previously, those who stepped outside, or opened vehicle windows to take a puff, will be doing that less and less.

Ten years ago, Shirley Worthington rushed Tigger to the vet when the dog’s mouth started bleeding. When she was told he had cancer, she knew to blame her heavy smoking, an addiction she couldn’t kick until after her pet died.

Secondhand smoke can cause lung and nasal cancer in dogs, malignant lymphoma in cats and allergy and respiratory problems in both animals, according to studies done at Tufts University’s School of Veterinary Medicine in Massachusetts, Colorado State University and other schools.

The number of pets that die each year from tobacco exposure isn’t available, but vets know from lab tests and office visits that inhaling smoke causes allergic reactions, inflammation and nasal and pulmonary cancers in pets, said Dr. Kerri Marshall, the chief veterinary officer for Trupanion pet insurance.

Despite Worthington’s certainty about the cause of her dog’s death, more research needs to be done before veterinarians can definitively say whether a dog’s cancer was caused by secondhand smoke or something else, said Dr. Liz Rozanski, whose research at Tufts College focuses on respiratory function in small animals.

Worthington, 52, of Brooklyn, New York, said she was a teenager when she started smoking and she had always smoked around Tigger, who was 8 when he died in 2004. A year later, Worthington, her mom and sister all quit in honor of the bichon frise.

Then, in 2007, Worthington’s mom died while suffering from cancer.

“Cigarettes took my mother,” she said. “And they took my dog.”

Pets aren’t mentioned in this year’s surgeon general’s report, but in 2006, it said secondhand smoke puts animals at risk. The Legacy Foundation, our nation’s largest nonprofit public health charity, encouraged smokers to quit for the sake of their pets, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals urged making homes with pets smoke-free.

It’s even more important to safeguard cats, which are more susceptible to tobacco smoke than dogs.

Lymphoma is one of the leading causes of feline death. The Tufts research showed that repeated exposure to smoke doubled a cat’s chances of getting the cancer and living with a smoker for more than five years increased the risk fourfold. It can also cause a fatal mouth cancer.

Tobacco companies acknowledge the risks of smoking in people but haven’t taken the same stance with dogs and cats. Philip Morris USA says on its website that it believes cigarettes cause diseases and aggravates others in non-smokers and that the problems warrant warnings.

But “we haven’t taken a stand on the potential impact on pets,” said David Sylvia, a spokesman for Altria Group Inc., the parent company of Philip Morris.

Symptoms of cancer in animals include coughing, trouble eating or breathing, drooling, weight loss, vomiting, nasal discharge, bleeding and sneezing. Cancer kills more dogs and cats than any other disease, according to Denver-based Morris Animal Foundation, which has been funding pet cancer research since 1962.

In addition, the recent surge in the use of electronic cigarettes has raised questions about their impact on pets. The greatest danger is the trash, where dogs can find nicotine cartridges from e-cigarettes, said Rozanski, the Tufts veterinarian.

“You wouldn’t think dogs would eat such things, but they do,” she said.

Do YOU smoke?  We’d like to hear what steps you take to prevent your pet(s) from being around secondhand smoke. Your tips may inspire another smoker to do the same – and that’s helping to save a four-legged life!

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Safety Shouldn’t Be Scary for Halloween (From Janet)

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Many people don’t like Halloween, but for those who do, and celebrate it – let’s revisit some simple common sense tips to help ensure that animals are out of harm’s way.

  • There are nasty people every where. It’s unfortunate that we even feel the need to mention it. But just like predators who prey on children, there are those that prey on animals. Many predators don’t need a specific occasion to abuse an animal, but there are those that ramp up their nastiness on events just like Halloween, and the night before. Be wary of strangers, never leave your pet alone with someone you do not know or trust, and if something looks wrong, it probably is, so keep alert in the event that you can help ANY animal in trouble.
  • Do you keep your pet outside 24/7? First, tethering or confining an animal outdoors in the same place, every day is misery for the majority of animals, who are pack-oriented.  Re-think your motives for wanting to keep your family pet outside every day. With that said, always go the extra step for your outside pet during bad weather, and holiday events.
  • It’s 10 PM, do you know where your pet is? ID tags and a safe collar are always good practice, but even more so during times when your pet is apt to get spooked, shy, scared, anxious, upset and/or excited. And, Halloween is definitely a time when your pet can be more prone to getting spooked, shy, scared, anxious, upset and/or excited.
  • Hide the candy. Check for candy that may have been dropped while handing it out, or that trick-or-treaters may lose in  your yard. Did you knowChocolate in all forms – especially dark or baking chocolate – can be dangerous, even lethal for dogs. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning may include vomiting, diarrhea, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and seizures. Candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can also be poisonous to dogs. Even small amounts of xylitol can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar and subsequent loss of coordination and seizures. Tin foil and cellophane wrappers are dangerous if ingested. If you do suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435. Candy is always better locked up where animals aren’t tempted and they can’t reach it.
  • Go easy on the pumpkins! Popular Halloween plants such as pumpkins and decorative corn are relatively nontoxic, but they can produce gastrointestinal upset or even intestinal blockage in pets who nibble on them.
  • Do you like to costume-up your pet for Halloween? If you are planning on dressing up your pet, don’t just show up on Halloween and drop your pet into his/her new garb.  Buy early, let your pet investigate it, and try it on a few times first. Costumes should be be restrictive or too warm. Some animals won’t potty if they are wearing something strange. Limit the amount of time your pet is in his/her costume, and make sure s/he can’t chew off any costume pieces. NEVER let your pet out of your sight if s/he is in a costume. And, certainly, if your pet definitely does not like the idea of wearing part or all of his/her costume, take it off! After all, pet costumes are for the HUMAN element of Halloween; no animal should be uncomfortable for ANY reason at the cost of entertaining a human.
  • What are YOU wearing? Make sure your pet knows who YOU are underneath all that glitter and make-up, and never tease ANY animal if you are wearing a costume. That’s just plain not nice. Speak up if you see someone scaring an animal in costume.
  • Are you taking your pet(s) to a Halloween event? Keep in mind how stressful that can be, even if s/he is with their owner. Although a lively event is fun for YOU, many times, especially times when others will be in costumes (and therefore not looking like a standard human being), these types of events can do a stressful and unpleasant number on your pet.
  • Are you having people over for a Halloween event, or is that doorbell going to ring all night? Better to keep your pet away from the in-house fun, and instead create a safe and quieter place where your pet hang (with access to water and toys of course) and that you can easily and routinely check up on him/her.
  • No candles or anything burning around your pet! End of story. Period. Just don’t.
  • Is your Halloween going to be glowing? Glow sticks are great to keep little ones in the light while trick-or-treating, but some are toxic. If you use them, lose them after Halloween is over, and keep them in a secure place.
  • How many Halloween lights do you need? Wires and cords from electric lights and other decorations should also be kept out of reach of your pets. If chewed, your dogs might suffer cuts or burns, or receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock.
  • Don’t forget your smaller critters! Smaller pets should be given every consideration when necessary, so don’t forget them as you plan for holidays and special events.

Anyone can get caught up in the excitement of a party, event, or holiday. No harm in that. But when YOUR enjoyment or overindulgence leads to stress, neglect, or harm of ANY animal, then it’s time to rethink your actions and plans. Ultimately, it is YOUR responsibility to, well, BE responsible for your own pet, and to keep your eyes open if you see something happening to another animal that needs attention.

Remember, YOU are their voice and their protector!

This Halloween, have FUN, be SAFE, make your choices and options RESPONSIBLE ones, and certainly, if you have any other tips to make this coming Halloween weekend a better one for animals, send it our way and we will share it.

Happy, Safe Halloween!

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Halloween is Coming! Making It Safe for Pets

Animal Advocacy Blog Picture Janet Bovitz Sandefur

With Halloween just around the corner, here is some good advice to share.

Make It a Safe Halloween for your Pets!

Do you believe in Magic? This time of the year is particular magical, holding promises of fun and fantasy for the young and old. After all, Halloween is coming up! For kids especially, that sacred tradition of pretending to be someone-or someTHING-else in order to get sweet treats from your neighbor down the block is a time to look forward to from the moment school begins.

But for every tasty treat this holiday offers your human family, Halloween can play some icky tricks on your furry one. In order to keep your four-legged friends safe this Halloween season, the following is a list of safety tips to follow.

No candy here

  • They say that cats can’t taste anything sweet because they lack a specific protein receptor, but don’t tell me that! My cat loves sweet temptations like ice cream, yogurt, oatmeal with brown sugar, and, of course, chocolate. (By the way, cats aren’t the only animals who can’t taste sweet morsels-dolphins and spotted hyenas can’t either!) But as much as you may want to, please resist the temptation to offer your kitty or doggie a chocolate or candy Halloween snack. Many of these treats today contain Xylitol, a type of artificial sweetener that can make animals, especially dogs, very sick. If large amounts of Xylitol are ingested, it can even prove fatal. Other common Halloween treats could be toxic to animals too, including raisins, Macadamia nuts, and apple seeds.
  • If your pet does accidentally ingest something toxic (ever), you should immediately call your veterinarian or an animal poison center for advice, like the Pet Poison Hotline at 855-886-7965 (online at Just remember, that to keep them truly safe, instead of giving your pets candy or chocolate kisses, give them real ones instead!

Deceptively dangerous decorations

  • Many Halloween decorations have hanging chains, artificial spider webs, and long pieces of rope attached. An inquisitive pet could eat these items, which could then end up twisting inside their intestine or causing a serious intestinal blockage, possibly leading to a life-threatening condition. Dangling, loose, and other smaller decorations can also pose a choking risk to your pet. And, as cute as it may be, try to resist the temptation to dress up your pet Dachshund in a hot dog costume, because many pet costumes also have ribbons and loose threads that can be ingested. It can also stress your pet to be bundled into a restrictive costume on a night that is already going to be hectic and chaotic enough. Lastly, remember to be especially careful lighting that candle in your jack-o’-lantern! You don’t want your fuzzy friend to accidentally knock a candle over in the house or end up with singed whiskers or paws from getting too close to the flame.

Anxious pets and hectic holidays

  • If you’re like me and have a dog who can’t resist charging 100 mph to the front door at the ringing of the doorbell, or a cat who likewise scrambles under the bed at the sound of outside footsteps, do the right thing by putting them in a room away from the activity and making sure to close the door behind you. The constant stream of trick-or-treaters can be a huge stressor for a pet who is not used to constant stimulation. Out of fear, stressed animals are more likely to act angrily towards other people and animals.
  • The combination of a stressed-out dog and a sugar-stimulated child could result in disastrous consequences for that child, and for you, too. So throw your buddies their own Halloween party by finding an empty bedroom or closet, putting on some soft music or a white noise machine to drown out scary sounds, setting out fresh water, and laying down a comfy blanket or sweatshirt for your four-legged little monster to curl up on. And don’t forget the biscuits and catnip!

Always by your side

  • On Halloween and “Mischief Night” (the night before All Hallows Eve), there are always people who try to wreak havoc on your neighborhood. Toilet-papering trees and decorating your mailbox with shaving cream can be the least of it. Black cats may be lucky in Ancient Egypt, and modern-day Scotland and Japan, but there are some people who don’t feel the same way. On Halloween night, with so many people roaming the streets, there may be some who want to steal your pet, or any animal, regardless of color, for decidedly nefarious purposes. To be on the safe side, make sure your animals remain inside for several days, or even weeks, before and after Halloween. And remember that for pet cats, the only truly safe place for them to be is inside your house!

Identification Required

  • Always make sure your pets wear a collar, regardless of whether they are indoor-only or outside-friendly. On Halloween in particular, it is very easy for an animal to escape unnoticed through a constantly-opening door. Halloween is chock full of outdoor activities that could scare and traumatize even the friendliest and most outgoing of pets, so make sure your companion’s collar lists your cell phone number along with your home number in case you are out looking for your pet and their rescuer can’t reach you at home. And always have another collar made with your pet’s new address every time you move. This may mean the difference between a pet who ends up hopelessly wandering unfamiliar and dangerous terrain, and one who comes back safely to a happy and healthy home.

These are just a few safety precautions you can take to make All Hallows Eve as fun for your pets as it is for your children. Remember though, that accidents can happen, so you want to have your vet’s emergency number on hand, along with a list of your pets’ medications and medical conditions. All you need to do is treat your four-legged friends as carefully and with as much love as you do your two-legged ones. And I hope you and your pets have a safe and happy Halloween! Boo!

Kelly Connolly is an Eastern attorney who got her start in companion animal protection after attending Tufts Veterinary School for her master’s degree. For many years she worked at an animal protection organization focusing on pet issues like adoption, safety, health, and legislation. She has also volunteered for pet therapy programs, shelters, and rescue organizations. Her many interviews include: The New York Times, USA Today,, WJLA-TV, and WICC radio. She shares her home with two adopted cats, a 19-year-old Maine Coon mix named Gator, and an 11-year-old Silver Tabby named Butternut, who amuse and inspire her every day.

Animal Advocacy Guest Blogger Thank You Janet Bovitz Sandefur


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Autumn Safety Tips for your pets

Animal Advocacy Blog Picture Janet Bovitz Sandefur


There’s nothing like crisp, cool air, the first months of school and luscious foliage to get you excited for the changing seasons. Your pet, too, is probably welcoming the break from hot, sticky weather. But pet parents, beware—fall is also a time of lurking dangers for our furry friends. From household poisons to cold weather hazards, the season is a minefield! Here are some tips to keep your pet snug and healthy during the autumn months.

  • The use of rodenticides increases in the fall as rodents seek shelter from the cooler temperatures by attempting to move indoors. Rodenticides are highly toxic to pets—if ingested, the results could be fatal. If you must use these products, do so with extreme caution and put them in places inaccessible to your pets.
  • It’s back-to-school time, and those of you with young children know that means stocking up on fun items like glue sticks, pencils and magic markers. These items are considered “low toxicity” to pets, which means they’re unlikely to cause serious problems unless large amounts are ingested. However, since gastrointestinal upset and blockages certainly are possible, be sure your children keep their school supplies out of paw’s reach.
  • Training tip: If you and your pooch haven’t been active outdoors in a while because of the summer heat, do some remedial recall training. Dogs, like people, get rusty on their skills if they aren’t using them.
  • Fall and spring and are mushroom seasons. While 99% of mushrooms have little or no toxicity, the 1% that are highly toxic can cause life-threatening problems in pets. Unfortunately, most of the highly toxic mushrooms are difficult to distinguish from the nontoxic ones, so the best way to keep pets from ingesting poisonous mushrooms is to keep them away from areas where any mushrooms are growing. Contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center immediately if you witness your pet eating a wild mushroom.
  • In order to generate body heat, pets who exercise heavily outdoors, or who live outdoors, should be given more food during colder seasons. Make sure horses and other outdoor animals have access to clean, fresh water that is not frozen.
  • Autumn is the season when snakes who are preparing for hibernation may be particularly “grumpy,” increasing the possibility of severe bites to those unlucky pups who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pet owners should know what kinds of venomous snakes may be in their environment—and where these snakes are most likely to be found—so they can keep pets out of those areas.
  • Many people choose Fall as the time to change their car’s engine coolant. Ethylene glycol-based coolants are highly toxic, so spills should be cleaned up immediately. Consider switching to propylene glycol-based coolants—though they aren’t completely nontoxic, they are much less toxic than other engine coolants.

What do you do to add to the safety and well-being of your pet? Let us know, and we’ll share it! Your tip may be the life-saving tip for someone’s pet!

Animal Advocacy logo Janet Bovitz Sandefur

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Leave Those Leaves! (from Janet)


Fall has arrived—which means leaves are changing color and beginning to fall to the ground.

Did you know that leaving the leaves in your yard or garden not only saves you time and energy but also benefits wildlife? 

Here are a few good reasons to put down the rake:

  • Provide habitat for wildlife: frogs, turtles and salamanders rely on fallen leaves to provide cover and hibernation places; many moth and butterfly caterpillars overwinter in fallen leaves before emerging in spring
  • Provide food for wildlife: creatures like earthworms and millipedes reside in and decompose leaf litter, and also are themselves a source of food for bigger wildlife like birds and toads
  • Increase fertility of your soil: as the leaves decompose, nutrients are added to your soil, and also allows for greater water retention

So, the next time you would rather be doing something else than raking leaves – you’re in luck! Remember there are GOOD reasons not to rake, and forgo your raking in favor of doing something more fun this Fall. You’ll be doing wildlife, and yourself, a favor!


  • Think twice about cutting back all your bushes and branches before the cold weather hits. Wildlife NEED protection from the wintry elements as well as their natural predators. Protection from the winter weather is hard to come by, so make it easier on ALL wildlife and curb the urge to cut and trim everything on your property.
  • Don’t toss your fallen pine cones! Go HERE to find out why!

Animal Advocacy Blog Picture Janet Bovitz Sandefur



Animal Advocacy Founder signature Janet Bovitz Sandefur

Animal Advocacy logo Janet Bovitz Sandefur







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Save Those Pine Cones This Fall! (from Janet)

Animal Advocacy Blog Animal Welfare janet Bovitz sandefur

Have you ever come across a pile of pine cone scales?  Usually you will find them under the Pine tree itself, close to the trunk.  Most times, the culprit are squirrels.  The scales (outer layer) of the pine cone are removed by both Grey and Red squirrels, so they can get to the pine nuts underneath, which are a natural part of a squirrels’ diet. 

If you are lucky enough to watch a Red Squirrel go about gathering pine cones, it’s something to watch. The Red Squirrel, being so tiny, has a hard time pulling the larger pine cones off the tree and then carrying them away to eat the pine nuts.  Instead, s/he will crawl to the end of the branches where the pine cones grow, and chew the end of off pine cone, severing it from the tree, so that it falls to the ground. Then it’s easier to grab the pine cone that way. Remember, this is a learned behavior handed down from adult squirrels to juveniles. Pretty cool.

Unfortunately, many home owners find squirrels, as well as the pile of pine cone scales, a nuisance.

But many others delight in watching squirrel behavior, and even are able to feed them by hand with time and patience.

Between the squirrels severing pine cones, and the trees naturally dropping them, in no time during the Fall, your lawn may have many pine cones lying around! But for squirrels and other wildlife, this is a wonderful thing. 

Did you know? Pine cones are a food source not only for squirrels, but for woodpeckers and deer. Deer will eat almost anything during times when food is scarce even though pine cones are not part of their main diet and not their first choice. Woodpeckers will pull the scales apart to get at the pine nuts. Even wild rabbits benefit from pine cones, because the scale of the cone can be hard, which, when chewed on by rabbits, helps to wear down their teeth which grow constantly.  Note: do NOT feed pine cones to domestic pets without first checking with your veterinarian.

With Fall here and Winter on it’s way, you can help keep squirrels, woodpeckers and deer fed during the colder months when food is scarce simply by relocating those fallen pine cones to another spot on your property that is clean and quiet.

We did:

Animal Advocacy Blog Animal Welfare janet Bovitz sandefur

We keep a few spots on our property wild and natural for our wildlife year around, and one of these spots is the perfect place for us to relocate our pine cones.

Now, all these pine cones probably looks messy to you, but it’s actually organized chaos! The majority of these pine cones will have been eaten by the end of the cold weather, and for anything left over, it’s easy enough to rake them up (along with the scale piles) to get ready for a new year.  And, I love that we are able to help wildlife in this little way that will have a positive big impact during the winter months.  

Speaking of pine cone scales, they are a good natural fertilizer, and a perfect way to add “mulch” cover to your gardens. We put down the pine cone scales first, and then top it off with regular mulch.  

So, maybe the next time you are getting ready to do a Fall clean-up, you’ll think twice about tossing those very useful pine cones, and relocating them instead. It will make a world of difference to hungry wildlife this Fall and Winter.

P.S. – And, think twice before you rake up all your leaves and prune everything for the Fall Season! Find out why, HERE!










Animal Advocacy Founder signature Janet Bovitz Sandefur

Animal Advocacy logo Janet Bovitz Sandefur

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