Author Archives: Steve

Project Breathe

posted October 28th, 2014 by

Invisible Fence Brand providing pets a breath of fresh air.

Invisible Fence

By Anna Holton-Dean


An estimated 40,000 to 150,000 pets die each year in fires, according to industry sources, most succumbing to smoke inhalation. In many states, emergency responders are unequipped to deal with the crisis. The loss is devastating for families and heart-wrenching for firefighters also.  Because human oxygen masks do not fit pets, there’s not much first responders can do to reverse the effects of smoke inhalation.

But thanks to Invisible Fence Brand, providers of the original electronic pet containment system, 120 pets have been saved as of February 2014, through their Project Breathe campaign. Because the pet oxygen mask kits fit just right, animals can take advantage of oxygen flow, saving their lives.

Invisible Fence Brand has donated over 10,000 pet oxygen masks to fire stations throughout the U.S. and Canada. Locally, Invisible Fence of Oklahoma has donated animal oxygen masks to fire stations in Moore, Nichols Hill and The Village. They are now in the process of obtaining a kit for Mustang with Edmond as their next target area. And many of the masks given have already saved local pets’ lives.

Emily Shanbour, manager/operator of Invisible Fence of Oklahoma, says the Project Breathe campaign is a logical way for the company to help the local community.

“Invisible Fence’s motto is ‘keeping dogs safe at home.’ This takes what we are already doing one step further,” she says. “Anything that any corporation can do for a local community at no additional cost to that community is a good thing.”

The program not only saves the lives of pets, but eases the overall painful experience for their owners as well. “When a family suffers the tragedy of a fire, lives are turned upside down,” Albert Lee, director of Invisible Fence Brand, says. “Pets are valued family members, so we want families to know that their pets can be cared for if tragedy strikes.

“We realize that humans are the first priority, but in many cases, pets can be saved if firefighters have the right equipment. Our Project Breathe program is simply a way of giving firefighters the tools necessary to save pets’ lives, and we celebrate with the families and the emergency personnel each and every time a pet is rescued and saved.”

For more information on the Invisible Fence Brand Project Breathe donation program, visit or check out  .

OU lab being investigated after report of dog electrocution

posted October 22nd, 2014 by

As an OU alum, I am both horrified and disappointed at the news that one of its research labs is under federal investigation for a dog electrocution citation as well as other violations, according to

Other violations for the University of Oklahoma lab included not providing pain relief to animals during experimentation, improper sanitation and insufficient enrichment for a psychologically disturbed monkey, according to the KOCO article.

Director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now Michael A Budkie has led the push for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate further.

Budkie provided the report describing the citations to the Associated Press. According to the AP article:

“One citation was for an improper euthanasia method for dogs. The report states that the dogs were electrocuted using a 9-volt battery applied to the heart. Anesthesia was used at the time of euthanasia. However, the same report cites the facility for not using correct surgical anesthesia. The principal investigator used injectable anesthesia, which can wear off during surgery.”

Budkie says the occurrence of these two violations means that some of the dogs may have felt the pain of electrocution.

Properly done or not, I would like to know exactly what the lab was trying to accomplish by electrocuting dogs. Unquestionably this method, which has long been considered inhumane for people, is not appropriate for man’s best friend either. So, why the need to experiment with it?

Surely the University did not need the government and subsequent reaction on social media to know that this was just not right.

- Lauren Cavagnolo, [email protected]

Creature Comforts

posted October 21st, 2014 by

Penny Nichols and her team of volunteers bring therapy animals to those in need across the Metro through the non-profit Creatures and Kids, Inc.

Creature Comforts

By Kayte Spillman


Penny Nichols took a professional calling to train animals and turned it into a passion to connect those animals with at-risk kids and others who would benefit from the kind touch of a gentle animal.


In 2001, Nichols began the work of starting the nonprofit Creatures and Kids, Inc., which trains animals and handlers to interact with children, youth and even adults in therapy settings. Now, nearly 13 years later, Nichols, who serves as director of operations , works with about 30 teams of animals and handlers in training and certifying dogs, cats and other animals to conduct therapy work.

She and her team of volunteers and animals also work with various other organizations to provide therapy animals for different programs.

“I wanted to see what animals could do for people,” Nichols said. “I wanted to see how utilizing therapy animals could help develop positive character qualities in youth.”

She wanted to start a training program in the community where she lives to impact the lives around her. And she is certainly accomplishing that goal. Recently, she took trained therapy dogs to a juvenile detention center to work with young men involved in the system. Purposefully, she took a dog that was a little shy and nervous to be around all the young people.

“I asked them what they thought about the dog, and they all said, ‘She looks scared,’” Nichols said. “And, I said, ‘You’re right; she is.’”

Nichols then proceeded to show the boys how to touch the dog and properly handle her, and before the session was over, the dog was happy and confident to be part of the group.

“And the young men were proud that they were able to help her,” she said. “She walked in with her tail down, but she left with her tail up. Any time you can have the animals help children by giving them that confidence, hope or a purpose like that, it is really something meaningful to them—and to me—to watch.”

The nonprofit supplies animals and trainers to different groups and events around town such as the VA hospital, schools, individual counseling and the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Library System’s Reading with Dogs programs. She says she sees the animals making an impact in every area they are able to serve.

“I see differences all the time,” she said.

Kenny and LuGene Jones, along with their 2-and-a-half year-old Golden Retriever Maddy, went through Creatures and Kids training starting when Maddy was just 9 months old. Now, and for the last year and a half, they take their certified pooch to the VA hospital every Friday.

“It’s good for us; it’s good for her,” Kenny said. “We’ve had some emotional times with some of the vets. Maddy is very close to some of them. They love her, and they thank us for bringing her down and letting them see her. The whole back half of her starts wagging when they start talking to her.”

Every Tuesday, the team visits the Midwest City Library, and Maddy participates in their Reading with Dogs program.

“When the kids are reading to Maddy, she will just sit there for a little bit and then just lay down,” Kenny said. “Sometimes, she will get up close to them and nudge them if they aren’t petting her enough.”

Nichols said she sees the most change when children or adults with autism interact with therapy animals. She says it gives them a way to connect with people and the world around them that they didn’t know they could do before the animal arrived.

“It is amazing to see them grow because they are able to communicate in ways they’ve never been able to do,” Nichols said.

Marla Galbraith, who is the director at Speech Therapy Professionals in Edmond, works with Penny and Creatures and Kids and agrees that therapy animals can greatly impact special needs individuals. She, along with Josephine, a 10-year-old Bassett Hound, conducts therapy with a wide spectrum of children and adults, many with autism.

“I don’t know how they do it, but somehow these dogs know how to calm these kids down,” Galbraith said. “They will be having a meltdown, and Josephine will go and just lay by their tummy or foot or head, and she will bring them out of their meltdown. They will start to calm down and then begin to smile and pet her.”

She said she had a young boy who was    a client and, because of his autism, was terrified of dogs to the point of being a danger to himself if presented with an animal. Through therapy with Josephine—first through photos, then seeing her from a distance and finally through actual physical contact—the boy is so confident around dogs now that he has a dog of his own.

Creatures and Kids works to train and create certified Therapeutic Animal Interaction/Intervention teams, and they train more than just dogs. The group has had many different types of therapy animals—dogs, cats, miniature horses, llamas and alpacas, rabbits and even ducks.

“We’ve even got a chicken,” Kenny said.

Nichols said the training ensures both animal and handler are up to the challenge of therapy work.

“Training gets the human in the right mind and the dog in the right mind,” Nichols said. “It is a learning process for both of them.”

And it doesn’t take long for volunteers to see the benefits of their time.

“When you see that smile and see those changes that the people are making by spending time with your animal, it’s pretty rewarding,” Nichols said.

The need for therapy animals is great, she says, and Creatures and Kids is always looking for people interested in getting involved, whether they have an animal to train or not.

“If you have an animal or you have an interest, give us a call,” she said. “That’s what we need. If we don’t have the people and the animals, we don’t have anything we need to serve the people we serve.”

Even as popular as Josephine is with her clients—she has her own Facebook page—Galbraith is quick to clarify what is making Creatures and Kids so successful.

“If it wasn’t for Penny, none of this would be possible,” Galbraith said. “It just wouldn’t happen.”

Ask The Doc

posted October 14th, 2014 by

Tracei Holder, DVM/Medical Director, VCA Kickingbird Animal Hospital


Q: Why do dogs lick their feet?



A: Dogs most commonly lick their feet secondary to allergies. The inciting cause can vary, from a sensitivity to grass to the wool fabric from carpets. Inhaled molds and pollens can result in the skin on their feet becoming inflamed and then itchy.

The dog begins to lick and secondary bacterial and yeast infections may arise, which leads to more licking of the feet. Management of the allergy, as well as secondary infections that develop, is necessary to control the foot licking.

If a dog suddenly begins to lick at one foot in particular, we look for something stuck on the foot or between the foot pads, an acute injury to a toe or nail, development of arthritis in a joint in the foot or the presence of a growth. Growths can be either malignant or benign and should be evaluated by your veterinarian to determine the best course of treatment.

We do on occasion see dogs that have an obsessive compulsive disorder, and they may lick at their feet in order to soothe themselves. It may involve one foot or more and may be managed by use of anti-anxiety medications.


Q: Why do some dogs’ feet smell like Fritos?


A: This is commonly reported by owners, and most times a yeast infection is found as the underlying cause. If there is no obvious redness of skin or sores on the feet, the smell can be managed by washing the feet in a shampoo containing ketoconazole or 2 percent chlorhexidine.



Q: What is bloat?


A: Bloat is a very serious, potentially life-threatening situation that can develop without much warning. The term refers to a medical condition—gastric dilatation and volvulus/GDV—where the stomach becomes filled with gas and/or food and stretches to many times its normal size. It then twists, blocking outflow and the normal blood supply. This results in an extreme amount of pain and can be fatal within hours.

Large, deep-chested breeds, such as Great Danes, St. Bernards and Weimaraners, are at increased risk. Some factors that can reduce the risks are eating two or more meals per day including some canned food in the diet and  feeding a dry food containing a calcium-rich meat meal listed in the first four ingredients—such as lamb meat meal, fish meal, chicken by-product meal or bone meal. Dogs that have a more relaxed or happy temperament are less likely to bloat.


posted October 7th, 2014 by
Spring Kitty 2

“My Cat From Hell” Behaviorist Says All Cats Deserve Love and Protection

BETHESDA, MD—The Cat Daddy himself, Jackson Galaxy, stars in Alley Cat Allies’ National Feral Cat Day® (Oct. 16) Public Service Announcement (PSA) to help raise awareness of community cat care.

On his popular Animal Planet show “My Cat From Hell,” Galaxy works with cats of all kinds, and teaches cat owners how to provide an enriched environment for their furry family members. But Galaxy’s love for cats doesn’t stop there. 

The PSA shares the important message that outdoor cats deserve the same love and respect as the cats who share our homes.

“Whether you call them family cats, house cats, feral cats, community cats, alley cats…it doesn’t matter,” says Galaxy in the PSA. “They are our cats, our community cats, and they deserve our love and our protection.”

This year marks the 14th annual National Feral Cat Day® and the theme—TNR: From the Alley…to Main Street—represents how far Trap-Neuter-Return has come. Starting in the alleyways with volunteers and rescue groups, TNR is now finding its way into shelters and animal control policies.

“Trap-Neuter-Return has become the mainstream way to care for community cats,” says Becky Robinson, president and founder of Alley Cat Allies. “If your local shelter isn’t doing TNR they are behind the times, and you should ask them to adopt the program. It saves lives and tax dollars.”

There are over 450 cities and counties with official ordinances or policies endorsing TNR and there are more than 600 nonprofit groups across the country practicing TNR.

Determined to change the state of cat care provided in our country’s animal sheltering system, Alley Cat Allies was the first to advocate for TNR for community cats in 1990. Since then a groundswell of support has arisen for community cats and their care. Learn more at

Reporting Dog Abuse – Citizens Taking Action

posted October 7th, 2014 by


By Wilhelm Murg


A few weeks ago, I played a small but important part in an animal abuse investigation;

I brought a gruesome web video to the attention of KOTV News, which broadcast a report about it on local television, and more importantly, put the original uncut video on their website.


The KOTV page received over 850 comments, three petitions were started online with one getting over 10,000 signatures, a Facebook community was started over the incident, and the Wagoner County Sherriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office were inundated with calls from concerned citizens.

What I realized from this experience is a tiny amount of effort can get a snowball rolling. I’m a professional journalist and that helped a little in choosing the right words, but ultimately, I was calling people and simply describing a video I witnessed—something anyone can do.

It all started on the morning of Monday, February 3. A disturbing video had been linked on the Joe Station Bark Park Facebook page of three dogs mauling another dog to death in the snow. Whoever filmed it did not seem to try to stop the fight at any point.

Of course, the first thing that comes to mind when you see dogs killing one another is that you are witnessing dog fighting, which is illegal in Oklahoma. The video was originally incorrectly identified as coming from Coweta; it turned out it came from neighboring Bixby.

The video link was posted by a woman justifiably upset by the content. It was going around Facebook, and she posted it on the dog park page to notify someone, anyone, who might know what to do about it.

I called my friend, animal advocate and TulsaPets contributor Ruth Steinberger, who is involved in an ongoing case where someone had dumped dog carcasses in North Tulsa. She was booked solid that day, so she told me to report it to the police, call the animal control officers at the Tulsa Animal Shelter and call the media.

The video was originally posted on the Facebook page of Taylor Given. Given’s girlfriend, Amy Kaye Jacobsen, had commented on the post that the three attacking dogs belonged to her. In the comments section, she had gotten into a series of arguments with outraged people who had seen the video, which was     going viral.

When calling the media or the authorities, it’s important to have a simple narrative; clarity is essential in your description. My narrative was: (a.) I saw this video and in the accompanying comments a woman claimed the three attacking dogs were hers; (b.) Whoever filmed the incident did not seem to attempt to stop it; (c.) I know there are ongoing investigations about dog fighting, and this could be connected to it; (d.) I grew up in the country with a pack of dogs; I’ve owned dogs my whole life, and this never happened. Dogs are survivors by nature; they don’t normally attempt one-against-three suicidal attacks.

You can call the newsroom and sell a reporter on a story, but if the editor doesn’t like it, it gets thrown in the trash. The more media outlets you call, the better chance you have that one of them will be interested in your story.

I called the Tulsa Police Department (thinking the video was made in Tulsa County). They had received other calls, but they were trying to figure out if this was in their jurisdiction. Animal Control and the various news outlets had also received multiple calls. After calling all of the TV stations (except KTUL as I got sidetracked), The Tulsa World and KRMG, I sat back and let them mull it over.

I knew the video would be a double-edged sword; it would get the reporters’ attention because the video is so brutal, but at the same time the content was so violent that it could not be broadcast.

That afternoon I got a call from KOTV reporter Ashlei King. Earlier this year, King had also reported on the dumped dog carcasses (mentioned above). Given gave her an interview, so she wanted me to give my side of the story on-camera for the broadcast.

When I met King, she told me that Given and Jacobsen were now saying that all four dogs were strays and that, for some reason, they only feed three of the four. In the original post, Jacobsen claimed they were her dogs, and contradictions like that, coupled with the video, added fuel to the upcoming fire.

KOTV put the story on their 9 p.m. newscast that evening and posted the entire unedited video on their website. That’s when interest exploded with the petitions and the Facebook page, where they posthumously named the deceased dog “Spirit,” so he would have a name.

It also started an unofficial online investigation by people who were digging through Given’s and Jacobsen’s Facebook and Instagram pages, which were still open for the public. They wisely changed their profiles to private the next day.

While all of this was going on, there were virtual screaming matches going on between Jacobsen and complete strangers via Facebook while people claiming to be friends of the couple were defending their actions on the KOTV commentary section. Obviously the video was going viral, as people from other countries signed the petitions.

Of all the comments, my favorite was from a woman who was very upset with the video, but at the same time she questioned KOTV’s labeling of me as an “animal advocate.”  I “liked” her comment because she hit the nail on the head; I am not a professional “animal advocate.”

I am just a normal citizen who made six or seven telephone calls one morning,  which may have taken 30 minutes out of my day. I saw something that might be criminal and, as my Grandmother taught me when I was a child, I reported it.

I became a member of the Facebook   page, which had to become private due to supporters of Given and Jacobsen trolling the group. People posted questions, asking permission to call the Wagoner Sheriff and the District Attorney about the case. I kept restating that, as citizens, it is their right to call and inquire; they do not need anyone’s permission. Everyone should remember that.

As I look back at the story, I feel the real reason it took off was because there were two videos: the news story and the gruesome original video. The news story promoted the video, so people could read the story and then decide if they wanted to see the original video.

I was amazed that a video as gruesome as this, with footage that many animal rights advocates have attempted to get disseminated, was published by a main-stream TV station on the web before a general audience.

Sadly, for all this effort and attention, no charges were ever brought up. As of this writing, nearly two months since the video was posted, the investigation has gone back and forth between the Wagoner County Sheriff’s Department and the D.A.’s Office, but nothing has happened.

A call to the Wagoner County District Attorney’s Office was not immediately returned. One can only hope that there will be some movement in the near future on  this case.

No matter the outcome of this particular case, it proves everyday citizens’ voices can be heard when they work together. Change must begin somewhere, and simply speaking up is a good starting point.