Animal Advocacy

OU lab being investigated after report of dog electrocution

posted October 22nd, 2014 by
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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]

Paw Law

posted October 13th, 2014 by
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Paw Law

Dani Weaver / President, Paw Law

This year, Oklahoma legislators will consider two new proposals that will greatly impact animal welfare in our state. House Bills 2553 and 2764 were introduced to our representatives earlier in the year and are currently up for vote. It is imperative that we contact our legislators and voice our support for these two measures.

Oklahoma HB 2553 would mandate an animal abuse registry in Oklahoma, requiring any person over the age of 18 who has been convicted of a felony animal cruelty violation, specifically §1680-1700 of Title 21 of the Oklahoma Statutes, to register with the sheriff of the county in which he or she lives. Registration would be required each year for 15 years and would include those individuals who have been convicted of similar crimes in other states who move to Oklahoma.

During that 15-year period of registration, the animal abuser cannot have any animal in his or her care, custody, control or management.This registry would be maintained by each county sheriff and would be public knowledge.

Suffolk County, New York, was the first community to pass an animal abuse registry in 2010, and since then, many have followed in their footsteps. A registry would help Oklahoma prevent animal abuse as well as other crimes which are closely related to animal abuse.

According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, animal abusers are five times more likely to commit violent crimes against people and four times more likely to commit property crimes than those who do not have a history of animal abuse. In addition, the recidivism rate in animal abuse is extremely high, and in some types of abuse, like animal hoarding, it is nearly 100 percent.

Implementing an animal abuse registry would give our law enforcement officers and animal welfare advocates a way to keep these abusers away from animals that may become future victims and may help to reduce other potential crimes in our communities.

SB1729 would prohibit the use of carbon monoxide gas chambers for animal euthanasia. This bill applies to any dog, cat or other animal kept for pleasure rather than utility, in any household, animal shelter or agency.

The language of the bill allows for euthanasia by any method approved by the Animal Industries Services Division of the State Department of Agriculture other than curariform derivative drugs and carbon monoxide chambers.

It specifies measures that must be taken to ensure that euthanasia of the animal is humane and physically safe for the personnel responsible for euthanizing. Some counties in Oklahoma still use carbon monoxide gas chambers, and this law would prohibit that practice across the state.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, all inhaled methods of euthanasia have the potential to negatively affect the animal. This is because the onset of unconsciousness is not immediate. There is concern among professionals that too many variables are involved with delivering carbon monoxide euthanasia to ensure that the animal does not experience pain and suffering.

Often the animal does not lose consciousness for 45 to 60 seconds, and research suggests that many are in distress during this time. In addition, standard procedures used for administration of gas are not uniformly effective for kittens and puppies, older animals or those that have physical impairments. More detailed information on this process can be found in the 2013 Edition of the AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals.

While it is disheartening for us to be forced to choose a method of euthanasia, until we get animal population under control, there is no alternative. For now, the most compassionate choice available is to make sure that the method and process of euthanizing animals is done in    the most humane way possible to prevent any suffering  or distress that the animal may experience in those last moments.

As Oklahomans, we have a responsibility to live up to our reputation as kind, caring people, and we can do that by speaking out for those who have no voice. Please contact your legislatures and show support for these measures. Go to to find your legislators and their contact information.


posted October 7th, 2014 by
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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
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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.

Making 2014 The Year of Advocacy For Animals

posted October 6th, 2014 by
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Year of Advocacy

By Ruth Steinberger

On a miserably cold night last winter, a plea for help came from a resident of a neighboring county. Tulsa temperatures were expected to dip below 5 degrees that night. The desperate caller described a donkey that had been tethered to a tree for over a week and was about to spend another night braying out loud in apparent and severe discomfort. 

I reached a frazzled sounding dispatcher who reluctantly reached a deputy for me. Thankfully, the deputy quickly got to the location, and according to anxious witnesses down the road, the donkey was immediately taken inside a barn. The owners obviously understood that the donkey was protected under the law, and a call history in the sheriff’s logs now flags that location in case of future calls.

Animal cruelty is a crime, and law enforcement agencies are the ones  who can step in to stop it. In his 2006 acceptance speech at the ASPCA Henry Bergh Award luncheon, former Chicago Police Officer Steve Brownstein noted that certain behaviors went from being treated as undesirable mischief to serious crimes in just a few decades due to public advocacy; he emphasized that animal cruelty was not one of the behaviors that was successfully challenged.

Brownstein pointed out that in 1960, intoxication was accepted as a “reason” for a fatal car crash, domestic violence was considered a private matter, child abuse was still two years away from being described for the first time in a mainstream medical publication, and animal cruelty was considered silliness.  

Drunk driving, domestic violence and child abuse were catapulted to the forefront by advocates who demanded the offenses be criminalized and that a public infrastructure become available to care for the victims. 

Animal cruelty still lags way behind other crimes in terms of response and prosecution; despite record levels of animal welfare awareness, many rural prosecutors have still never prosecuted a single cruelty case, dispatchers often do not know what to tell callers who are frantically trying to report cruelty, many cases that are reported are never investigated and organized animal cruelty, including dog fighting and the use of animals in pornography, are on the rise. 

Throughout much of the Midwest, there are no shelters available to house an animal if a sheriff’s office needs emergency placement for a cruelty victim. In fact, despite being a felony, an incident of animal cruelty or neglect that is reported, investigated and successfully prosecuted to the extent of the law is the exception, not the rule. 

Brownstein’s point was that animal cruelty continues to be treated differently and therefore, less effectively, than other crimes. The problem is not a lack of com-passion by officers, nor is it a lack of concern by the public; the problem is a quagmire of misinformation that inadvertently lets public agencies off the hook and leaves animals out in the cold.

A combination of understaffed law enforcement agencies and a seriously undereducated public leave animals suffering. Until public demand and emergency responders are all on the same page, it will remain that way. 

We do not donate to private anti-crime organizations and, in turn, expect them to investigate murders. We report crimes to the police, and we expect them to act. 

Animal cruelty became the purview of those who were socially opposed to it in the 1800s.  Today, despite enormous public concern for animals in distress, the diversion away from municipal agencies continues. 

Many people think they should report cruelty to a local humane society, a belief that is fostered by fundraising campaigns that promise to address cruelty by having viewers respond to pictures of injured pets by sending money across the nation.  

Convicted dog fighter Michael Vick was jailed due to federal laws that were successfully lobbied by national animal advocacy organizations not long before his arrest. However, while national lobbying efforts indeed strengthen federal animal protection laws, stopping cruelty within our own community is absolutely a local affair that is driven by residents with the power to elect someone good to office or throw someone bad out. 

Until local and state leaders view animal cruelty as a voters’ issue, the response to it will continue to be the luck of the draw.  Make a 2014 commitment to speak for the animals with your vote, your voice, your purchasing power and your presence at the courthouse during  a trial. 

Create a letter writing tree to send a flurry of postcards to officials and letters to editors. Develop a phone tree to support animal welfare legislation during the 2014 legislative session. Ten cards or letters may be 10 more than an official has ever received.

Present an animal-friendly force at a council meeting. Every single time a candidate asks for your vote, ask for his or her sense of urgency about enforcement of animal welfare laws. If they do not care about animal cruelty, they do not deserve your vote. Shop cruelty free, especially boycotting products from China and Korea, where dogs, cats and other animals are horrifically tortured before being killed to be eaten.         

Create a “red T-shirt” anti-cruelty brigade, a group of animal advocates who attend court hearings. The red T-shirts tell the courtroom you are there, that you support the prosecutor and care about what happens. 

By having a group of people who commit to being available, the responsibility doesn’t fall to the same few again and again. Follow the case all the way through; don’t have four or five red shirts at just the first hearing and then vanish. Empty benches tell the judge and prosecutor that we don’t care quite enough to stay on it. 

The presence of those who care absolutely makes a difference.  At the end of the case, publicly thank the agencies that worked hard to bring the case to court. As animal advocates, we are the family of the four-legged victim who was dragged behind a truck, ignited by gang members, starved in a cold garage or hoarded like trash. We are the family of the victim. 

The story of the donkey that was moved inside a barn on that freezing night did not end there.  It was followed up by a call to the sheriff of that county to thank him for the deputy’s response. A letter went to the local newspaper, thanking the sheriff publicly as well. 

Local voters are the only ones who can make the point about animal cruelty to our local elected officials… we need to do so.

If we have to stand up for hours at a hearing or protest by sitting down on the courthouse steps, animal cruelty will be vigorously prosecuted—but only when we, as local voters, refuse to tolerate cruelty one minute more.

Feeding The Need

posted September 29th, 2014 by
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Feed the Need

by Kayte Spillman 

Kim Pempin, with the help of her husband Michaeland a group of volunteers, gives away thousands of pounds of dog food to Oklahoma City’s neediest pets every month through her nonprofit, the Pet Food Pantry of Oklahoma City. 

It took just one night to open Kim Pempin’s eyes to the need that was right before her.

One evening, she took a small donation of dog food to Skyline Urban Ministries, a nonprofit organization that addresses the needs of poverty in Oklahoma. The group was having a bingo night with seniors, each receiving their choice of clothing or food if they won a game of bingo.

“Every single person who won chose the food,” she said.

Even though she had been donating pet food for about a year, as she saw the need arise, the realization that people would choose dog food over food or clothing for themselves startled Kim.

“I realized people will give up their food before they let their pets go hungry,” she said. “I realized if we give the pets food, they won’t give them their food, and then everyone has a full tummy.”

She went home that night and told her husband Michael that they needed to start an organization to give dog food to low-income seniors, veterans and the homeless.

“I can still remember the day she came in,” Michael said. “She walks through the kitchen while I’m watching TV and says, ‘We’re starting a pet pantry!’ And I said, “OK, babe!”

And, so they did.

Michael and Kim started in their garage in July 2010. They’d make bags of dog food and deliver them where they knew there was a need. In the beginning, with just homemade scoops out of Cain’s coffee cans and improvising, the pair came up with a lot of ways to make it work with what they had.

“To fill the bags and to weigh how much we had, I would stand on a regular scale, and Mike would fill up the bag until I gained eight or nine pounds,” Kim said, with a laugh.

From there, as their needs, donations and client list grew, they secured a storage facility, then expanded into a second.

“We quickly outgrew those places because we were getting more food donations than we could handle,” Kim said. 

Finally, a benefactor got on board and allowed the growing group of volunteers to occupy a large warehouse space for a low yearly cost. And, they connected with Rescue Bank, a nonprofit that runs a national pet food distribution program by partnering with major dog food manufacturers to donate products to them. In turn, Rescue Bank provides large donations to the Pet Pantry. Thanks to a  partnership with Rescue Bank and with a space that has multiple ground-level dock doors and a large storage facility to house, sort and organize the food donations, the Pet Food Pantry now is able to serve a much wider audience.

“Everything that has happened proves that God was saying, ‘OK, I asked you to start this, and I’m going to see you through this,” Kim said. “We just keep doing what we’re doing, and we’ll do it as long as we have the means to do it. We’ve only begun to tap the need of what is out there.”

Today, the organization serves about 500 or more dogs a month, delivering anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 pounds of dog food. Despite the large size of the facility that they work out of, Michael said the demand they are trying to meet means they are already starting to fill up their current space.

“Whenever you move into somewhere, you say, ‘I’ll never outgrow this place,’” he said. “And we’re two-thirds full now.”

With 19 route drivers, the group visits about 85 seniors monthly through home deliverers.

“It started out just delivering pet food,” Michael said. “It is so much more now. It is making sure pets are taken care of, but it is also to make sure their owners are OK too. Make sure they have food, clothing, etc. It seems like something really simple, but it is way more than that.”

Kim says for homebound seniors, their pets are the only family they might see for days and days. She says she was taking food to a senior through Meals on Wheels one time and saw the woman give her food to the dog out of necessity.

“People really will take care of their dogs before they take care of themselves,” she said.

The Styers family—Steve, April and their 15-year-old daughter Maddie—have been volunteering for the Pet Pantry for about a year. They drive a route one Saturday a month, visiting several seniors and their pets. For April, she enjoys being able to spend time volunteering as a family, and she says building relationships with the people she gets to meet is the real joy.

“We have some really incredible people on our route,” April said. “By bringing food for the animals, we are helping improve the nutrition of the owners. And we will bring treats for the owners too.”

She says having the regular contact with the owners allows her to assess what needs they have as well, like providing hams for her seniors at Christmas time. She says her first delivery was to a woman named Bunny, who has several cats and feeds a stray dog named Grandpa. April says Bunny had just lost her adult son when they met, and April and her family were able to build a relationship with her over the past year.

“She always comes out and sits on the porch and talks with us,” April said. “Every single time we see her, she wants us to pray with her. Our volunteering is much more about the relationships we get to have with people like Bunny. ”

“It’s a pretty incredible experience,” April said.

In addition, the Pet Pantry is “boots on the ground” serving a “ton of homeless and a handful of veterans” every month by bringing donations directly to where they know the owners and pets will be. In addition to partnering with the Regional Food Bank, they also partner with Ice Angels, a nonprofit organization that hands out food and water to the homeless. The Pet Pantry volunteers travel to where the homeless live, rather than taking the food to a shelter, because Kim says they know many homeless people who have pets will not go to a shelter because they cannot bring their animals with them.

“Along with the pet food, I also try to give them fleece jackets and blankets, because I know they won’t go to a shelter because they can’t take their dogs,” Kim said. “These pets are their families.”

With delivery routes, sorting and organizing the food and personal hand deliveries almost every weekend, the Pempins and their crew of volunteers are busy all throughout the month fulfilling donation requests. Even so, Kim says she often gets a call that sends her out in the evenings. Or she will make stops on her way home from work where she knows there is a need.

“Last weekend, I just loaded up about 600 pounds of food and delivered it to some people I knew needed  it,” Kim said. “I probably have 200 pounds of dog food in my car all the time, just in case there is someone who needs it. My husband calls me a pet food hoarder! But I can’t go to sleep at night and think, ‘Well, I was too tired after work to take them food.’”

For more information, visit While there, donors can donate through Paypal. To volunteer, email [email protected] or call  (405) 664-2858. Or check out their volunteer tab on the home page.