Author Archives: Steve

Merle’s Door by Ted Kerasote

posted March 9th, 2013 by

Book Review

by Dr. Lynn Frame

A FERAL LABRADOR RETRIEVER mix with no collar, no history and every appearance of surviving by his own devices in the desert crossed paths with Ted Kerasote while he was rafting down the San Juan river. The dog immediately joined the rafting group, acquired the moniker of Merle, and accompanied Ted home to Wyoming.

Back at home, Ted gave Merle free run of the house and eventually installed a dog door, allowing Merle to come and go at will, permitting him the freedom to continue a life of his own—outside the bounds of a human’s dominance.

And what a life it was. Merle made his daily rounds checking on everyone and everything in their small community. He was welcomed everywhere he went and was soon regarded as the “Mayor” of the town.

By some unknown attraction, Merle was often off to track herds of elk. Not a hunter by nature, he would unfailingly find the large animals and just watch from a distance.

We also get to meet Alison, Ted’s significant other and fellow animal lover, along with a host of neighborhood animal companions with their own stories, some funny and some sad.

Although Kerasote frequently anthropomorphizes Merle’s activities, he goes behind that by delving into the scientific basis of dog evolution and behavior. His account of the two alternate theories of wolf-to-canine domestication is fascinating, including an explanation of why dogs turn in circles before they lie down.

Kerasote’s poignant description of Merle’s last illness is well done. It is more than a wonderful animal story; it’s an acknowledgment of the dignity of “man’s best friend.”

I give it four bones and three hankies

Preventing Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

posted March 9th, 2013 by

You’ve just adopted an adorable new puppy, but you’re concerned because it’s the same breed of dog you’ve had in the past and when your last dog turned two years of age, he was diagnosed with hip dysplasia, or malformed hip sockets. You spent years caring for a dog that had a painful condition in his rear legs.

Then, you talk to a friend who just had her young puppy in to see Dr Dennis Henson at Hammond Animal Hospital. Dr Henson performed a special radiographic technique called the PennHIP method. This procedure measures the laxity of the ligaments that hold the femoral head in the hip socket. Your friend’s puppy did have loose ligaments and her puppy is now scheduled to have a procedure called a juvenile pubic symphysiodesis (JPS) surgery. This surgery can actually prevent hip dysplasia in dogs.

There is an area of cartilage called the pubic symphysis that serves as a seam connecting the right side of the pelvis to the left side. As a dog matures, this cartilage converts to bone and the two halves of the pelvis fuse permanently. Through JPS, the pubic symphysis is surgically fused at an early age resulting in rotation of the developing hip sockets into a more normal alignment.

The PennHip radiography must be performed between 16 and 18 weeks so this preventative procedure can be performed before the age of 20 weeks in puppies showing a certain degree of laxity in their hip sockets. For more information, contact Hammond Animal Hospital to see how one x-ray can lead to greater peace-of-mind for you and quality of life for your new pet.

March / April 2013 TulsaPets Magazine

posted March 8th, 2013 by

What you can do to stop horse slaughter

posted March 4th, 2013 by

Let them hear your voice!

Please contact today:

  • Your legislators (state and federal)
  • Your Chamber of Commerce
  • Your local newspaper and TV stations
  • The White House- please tell President Obama to prevent federal inspections of horse slaughter plants.
  • The USDA-tell them you do not want tax dollars spent to enrich horse dealers.  If the USDA has extra money to help horse dealers maybe they have too much money.


Say no to HB 199 and SB 375

Horse slaughter is not a humane alternative to responsible horse care; we have laws in Oklahoma to stop animal neglect.    Shame on Representative Skye McNiel (R-Bristow), for introducing a bill to profit her own family.

The so-called “The Unwanted Horse Coalition” that supports horse slaughter is a consortium of horse breeding registries including the American Quarter Horse Association.  It is NOT an animal welfare organization as it implies…shame on the lies.

Please urge your Oklahoma legislators to oppose horse slaughter and ask that they let you know how they voted on this issue.

Find your legislator at

When contacting your legislator, tell them that you are a constituent.


A sample e-mail to your legislator

Dear  [name of representative]

Please vote against the, “horse slaughter” bills before the Oklahoma legislature.  The equation is not starvation vs. slaughter; we have anti-cruelty laws to prevent the neglect that Rep. McNiel claims she will stop.  Oklahoma does not need get-rich-quick schemes or the crime that comes with this underground “industry.”

Horse slaughter will ensure further overbreeding of horses.  If a slaughter plant opens, horses will be trucked into our state.  In view of the current EU issues, Oklahoma could be left with many more unwanted horses than are here now.

Horse slaughter everywhere has been found to be tied to organized crime And in fact, Oklahoma horse slaughter dealer George Baker was indicted on February 8 by a grand jury on counts including conspiracy and racketeering. The indictment covered nine Oklahoma counties and extended to Texas; we do not need this type of crime (

We need jobs and infrastructure, not fly-by-night crime.  Please stand with Oklahoma on common sense and do not join with the horse slaughter proponents.

No to HB1999 and SB 375.





 Chamber of Commerce and other business representatives


Please contact the following entities to ask them to not support horse slaughter in our state (or better yet oppose it).

Please remind them…horse slaughter is bad for Oklahoma.  

Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce (Oklahoma City) use link:

Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation [email protected]

Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce (Tulsa) [email protected]

Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Association [email protected]

Oklahoma Farm Bureau use link:

Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association- please call them at (405) 235-4391 and ask them to not support (or oppose) the horse slaughter bill.  Horse slaughter is not a part of Oklahoma’s legacy and it is not a part of our agricultural heritage. 

Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association use link:  

Oklahoma Sheriff’s and Peace Officers Association  [email protected]

A sample e mail:

Dear  [name of organization]

As you lobby this session, please do not support the, “horse slaughter” measures before the Oklahoma legislature. Horse slaughter is being promoted as if it were an alternative to enforcing our anti-cruelty laws.  It is a blight on Oklahoma.

Horse slaughter is not a promising business. Oklahoma needs jobs and infrastructure, not get-rich-quick schemes that benefit the legislator who introduced it.

Contrary to what the proponents say, slaughter will not make a problem go away; it will make overbreeding profitable and ensure the breeding of more excess horses.  Especially in view of the EU issues, if this industry downsizes Oklahoma could be left with many more unwanted horses than are here now.

Horse slaughter has been found to be tied to organized crime and evidence of this is right here in our state. (  Large-scale Oklahoma slaughter horse dealer George Baker was indicted on February 8 by a grand jury. The counts include conspiracy and racketeering. The indictment covered nine Oklahoma counties and extended to Texas; we do not need an “underworld” industry (

The equation is not starve or be butchered.  We have laws to prevent starvation. Oklahoma should not be the horse killing state.

Please stand with Oklahoma on common sense and do not join with the horse slaughter.

No to HB1999 and SB 375.




Contact the White House

Please contact the White House with the message that horse slaughter is a gruesome way to put a few dollars into the wrong pockets.  Slaughter is NOT humane euthanasia and you do not want USDA inspectors put into horse slaughter plants.

Call the White House comment line at 202-456-1111

And send the president a message online at



Contact the USDA

Tell them you will support an injunction against any USDA effort to reopen horse slaughter. Slaughter is NOT humane euthanasia.  If their budget is large enough to support placing inspectors in horse slaughter plants, possibly they have more money than they need.

Call the USDA at (202) 720-2791 (this number will be updated)

Horse slaughter fact sheet

posted February 23rd, 2013 by

HB 1999 is about money.   HB 1999 was proposed by Representative Skye McNiel. Her grandparents own Mid-America sale barn, a business that stands to gain hugely from the passage of this bill. The bill mandates that the horses must be processed through a sale barn…what a gift to her family.  McNiels’ husband, Pecos is listed online as operating a trucking firm (with no phone) based at the sale barn address. He is allegedly a horse dealer (buyer/seller).

Starvation vs. slaughter is a crafty way to bypass Oklahoma’s anti-cruelty laws in order to open a new market.  Allowing horses to starve is illegal…horses do not need to be slaughtered to stop neglect.

Horse slaughter is not a simple, humane way to prevent neglect…it will increase it. Slaughter provides an incentive for continuing to breed horses for a seriously overstocked market.  Breeders want a guaranteed market for their excess horses and want Oklahomans to help them get rich.

Slaughter is a gruesome, terrifying and brutal end to a horse’s life.  Do NOT be fooled. Slaughter is NOT the same as humane euthanasia.

Horse owners cry poverty.  Euthanizing and disposing of a horse in Oklahoma is no more expensive than euthanizing and disposing of a dog.  Euthanasia and disposal of an average sized horse at Oklahoma State University (OSU) costs from $150 to $200.  Using a private veterinarian and disposal service costs from $175 to $250 and using a veterinarian and having a backhoe can cost under $150. This is in the same ballpark as dog euthanasia.  Are horse owners so impoverished that they cannot pay for horse care? Will we sell elderly dogs by the pound next?

The average age of a horse processed for slaughter is between six and eight years old.  The slaughter market does not want the old, thin horses that McNiel claims she wants to “help.”

McNiel’s claims do not make sense.  The necessary USDA inspections for selling meat for human consumption are not available and the USDA has not indicated that the inspections will resume.  The current EU horse meat scandal revealed that products containing up to 100 percent horse meat were sold as beef for over two years  .  The supply of horse meat greatly exceeded the demand for it; and it cannot be sold legitimately.  

Because of horse meat tainted by commonly used equine drugs that are dangerous to people, the EU has indicated that horses imported for slaughter may require medical/drug documentation as is required for cattle.  If this comes to pass horse meat (or live horses for slaughter) shipped to Europe will likely be raised specifically for slaughter.  How does this fit with HB 1999’s animal welfare plan?

This can increase crime in Oklahoma.  Horse sales are frequented by Baker trucking; George Baker was recently charged with racketeering and conspiracy and receiving stolen property and farm equipment .  The charges included nine Oklahoma counties and parts of Texas.  Baker was convicted of federal animal welfare act (AWA) violations  due to horses he was trucking to slaughter in Mexico.  Are we changing laws in order to accommodate the likes of Baker?

The “Unwanted Horse Coalition,” under the umbrella of the American Horse Council (AHC), has been a proponent of horse slaughter.  The AHC is a lobbying consortium that represents horse breeders and the horse industry, not animal welfare.  Breeders want to kill excess horses in order to sell more horses.

The AHC LinkedIn profile does not mention welfare. Here it is:

The American Horse Council was organized in 1969 to represent the horse industry in Washington before Congress and the federal regulatory agencies. It is a non-profit corporation that represents all segments of the equine industry.

The mission of the American Horse Council is to promote and protect the equine industry by representing its interests in Congress and in federal regulatory agencies on national issues of importance; to unify the equine industry by informing industry members of regulations and pending legislation, and by serving as a forum for all member organizations and individuals; and to advise and inform government and the industry itself of the equine industry’s important role in the United States economy.

The goal of the AHC is to ensure that the industry works together in Washington to accomplish our ultimate goal of “Keeping Opportunities Open” for the horse industry. The AHC believes that consensus and coordinated action by our members in dealing with federal legislation and regulations is the best way to accomplish our goal. The AHC works toward those ends whenever possible.

What happens when horses are bought for pennies a pound by Oklahoma “yay-hoos” that want to make a fast buck and then cannot sell horses for slaughter?

Sue Wallis, CEO of Wyoming based United Equine and Chevideco, a Belgian horse meat company are likely the investors McNiel has referred to Chevideco literature states that they will not process old, sick animals and may breed horses to slaughter.   Wallis and Chevideco have said they will use, but not invest in, a slaughter plant.  Chevedico has left communities with environmental damage

 HB 1999 is bad for horses and bad for Oklahoma…it just serves a select few. 

Animal Shelter Numbers Tell Only a Part of the Story

posted February 10th, 2013 by
Ruth Steinberger 4

As it appeared in the 2/8/13 Huffington Post

by Ruth Steinberger

The problem of homelessness in America is cause for alarm — and for action. Most of us are aware of the distressing reality of homelessness faced every day by millions of our fellow citizens — war veterans, the mentally ill, children, families, the working poor. Far fewer are aware of another homeless population among us. Even the size of this neglected population is difficult to determine and it is entirely unable to advocate for itself.

The number of homeless dogs and cats in the U.S. cannot be established by merely tallying up the numbers at all the animal shelters. The fact is, many, perhaps most, surplus pets never enter the shelter system. Yet their lives may be at greater risk than those that do enter shelters. If we are to address the problem of homelessness among our country’s dog and cat population, and reduce the horrors that face this population (neglect, roadside abandonment, intentional cruelty, euthanasia), we must include the uncounted, the “invisible,” among them in the discussion.

In considering the issue of homeless pets, some may argue that if all pets were simply obtained from animal shelters, the number of homeless companion animals would gradually be reduced to the point that the euthanasia of healthy, loving dogs and cats would largely cease. However, that would not work because the math just doesn’t add up.

According to the Spay USA website, 70,000 pets are born in the U.S. each day, while according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 10,957.2 people are born each day (or 3,999,386 annually). So unless families pick up their seven dogs or cats each time there is an addition to the family, the number of surplus pets will continue to exceed the number of homes available to them.

By focusing our efforts on adoption instead of reducing births we may cycle different, but not fewer, pets through the shelter system. Only by reducing the number of unintended births among our dog and cat population can we hope to reduce euthanasia, neglect and cruelty.

According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA) the world’s leading pet products and manufacturers trade association, the largest source of household pets is not the local animal shelter, a breeder, or a pet store. A 2012 APPA poll revealed that while 21 percent of dogs are obtained from shelters and 26 percent from breeders, 39 percent are from the combined random sources of friend, family member or stray — sources that typically reflect impulse decisions, not planned adoptions. The number of cats obtained from a friend, family member or stray is reported to be 75 percent. And for both dogs and cats, the number obtained as a stray is greater than the number coming from pet stores. These figures represent the cycles of pets in poverty; pets obtained from these sources are at risk of producing even more unintended litters that are also likely to join the ranks of the invisible homeless.

An April, 2009, a Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) article revealed that household income is the greatest predictor of whether or not pets undergo a spay/neuter operation, with homes earning under $35,000 being almost half as likely to have pets altered than homes over $75,000. Ultimately, most unwanted litters originate in low-income communities and the pets are likely to be passed on to their new homes unaltered and with the mothers remaining at risk of producing more litters. Those concerned with shelter euthanasias and animal neglect should be alarmed that the animals most likely to suffer are the unplanned puppies and kittens that are passed between family members, friends and neighbors, or given away in parking lots or through newspaper ads and websites like Craigslist. According to, a national database on animal cruelty, dogs are the number-one animal victim targeted for cruelty. also notes that “free-to-good home” advertisements, a common method for placing unplanned litters in communities without shelters, increase the risk of an animal becoming a victim. Intact male dogs are victims in 80 percent of canine cruelty cases, followed by puppies.

Even if we were to count only the animals that enter the shelter system, the number of homeless is startling: According to Oxford Pets, roughly eight million surplus animals will enter shelters in the U.S. this year. Some will enter as part of a litter and others will enter as adults. Only 25 percent of the dogs and a very small percentage of cats will be purebred; 75 percent of dogs and nearly all of the cats will be mixed breed animals that originated in unplanned and largely unwanted litters. Most will originate in low-income communities and fewer than half will leave the shelters alive.

Although we may be drawn to complex socio-economic explanations to account for and address the problem of homelessness in people, in the case of homeless pets we need to begin with the simple fact that there are just too many dogs and cats for the number of homes available for them and that being part of this surplus leaves millions of dogs and cats out in the cold. Although affordable spay/neuter services exist in many urban areas of our nation, throughout vast areas of the U.S., spay/neuter services remain spotty and unavailable. Literally millions of surplus animals are born as a result of that void. Without increasing convenient access to spay/neuter programs and mandating their use, effecting change in many areas of the nation could still take decades.

With ad campaigns and other encouragements, we can, perhaps, increase the number of cats and dogs entering and leaving through the revolving door of our local animal shelters, but spay/neuter programs, not adoption, prevent the overwhelming number of excess pets from needing homes, entering shelters or becoming victims, no matter where on the timeline they are counted.

Nancy Atwater, executive director of Tulsa-based Spay Oklahoma, a high volume spay/neuter program founded in 2004 that currently provides over 12,000 spays or neuters to pets in low-income Tulsa City/County homes each year, says that much of this is a matter of common sense. According to Atwater, “The shelters in most large cities are diligent about spaying or neutering pets before release. So if most pets came from either shelters or breeders, urban spay/neuter programs would serve largely purebred dogs and cats. But that’s not what happens. Our clients mainly have mixed-breed animals that were obtained locally. And we see almost as many of these as the number of surplus pets that enter the local shelter every year.”

The number of pets entering shelters may be equaled by the number of surplus pets that are never counted. Our vision, and our solution, needs to encompass all that are at risk of hunger, cruelty and neglect.

Shifting our current practice from the collection and dispersal of homeless animals to preventing their births can stop the suffering and abate the need for building or expanding shelters. It can be done. It just means changing our strategy to spay/neuter, something that is cheaper, easier and more humane than building shelters to lock up unwanted pets. This should not take decades.



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