General Interest

Animal Welfare Fight Not Over Yet

posted March 15th, 2011 by
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BY RUTH STEINBERGER

Throughout The Last three months  we have seen media reports of “puppy mill  closures,” with some breeders claiming that  the recently drafted regulations for Oklahoma  kennels will cause them to close their doors.

Some Legislators are beginning to act on  behalf of breeders and their unsubstantiated  fears.  

In December, a network of Tulsa area  shelters and rescue organizations, along  with Dr. Chet Thomas of City Veterinary  Hospital, worked to provide temporary care  and housing for 197 adult dogs and puppies  released by breeders shutting down.

And while some breeders blame potential  regulations for their closing, it should be  noted that closing a business prior to public  hearing or approval of new regulations  indicates:

• These breeders would have closed,  regardless of the regulations.
• Growing awareness of puppy mills has  prompted a downturn in puppy sales.
• The slowing economy has impacted “impulse” sales that comprise  pet store puppy purchases in the  Northeast, the primary site of puppy  retail sales.
• Thousands of dogs have lost their  homes to foreclosures and job losses,  reducing the number of homes  available to dogs from any sources,  including puppy mills.
• Blaming forthcoming regulations for  breeders is a convenient excuse for  closure.

For any one or all of these reasons, some  breeders decided that it was not worth  continuing in this industry no matter what the  regulations may be.

Oklahoma residents, including readers of  Tulsa Pets Magazine, are asking what they  can do to help insure the welfare of dogs,  considering breeder closures and efforts  of breeders to dilute  or kill regulations  requiring basic  improvements for the  health and welfare  of dogs in breeder  facilities.

First and most  important, the  animals need your  voice; efforts at the  state Capitol aimed  at helping animals  will be aided by a  grass roots voice in  every community.   Contacting your  Legislator is the most  important step for the  animals. Puppy mill  operators are making  their voices heard loud  and clear.

Use e-mail, snail mail  and phone calls to let  your Legislators know  that, as a constituent,  you support the  proposed rules of  the Oklahoma State Board of Commercial  Pet Breeders specifically and animal welfare  efforts generally.

Currently, puppy producers are claiming  that last year’s passage of breeder  regulations “will shut us down” and their  position as victims has been heard by a few  Legislators. At least three bills are before the Legislature aimed at repealing or amending  Senate Bill 1712, the statute creating the  Board of Commercial Pet Breeders, or to  repeal or diminish the regulations proposed  by the board.

Breeders have overwhelmed the board  and Legislators and any extra measures  on behalf of welfare of the dogs were  eliminated during the comment period,  which led to continuing to allow small cage  sizes and no mandatory rest period between  mother dogs’ breeding cycles.

Let your Legislators know that breeding  facilities not complying should be closed.   The rules proposed by the Commercial Pet  Breeders Board ensure basic necessities  such as food, water, living conditions  and veterinary care. The proposed new  regulations were changed following lobbying  of breeders. You can view the rules in their  entirety at http://www.ok.gov/petbreeders/ documents/Rules%20Adopted%2012-22 2010.pdf.

Second, puppy mills are a consumerdriven industry and retail puppy sales are  declining. You can help promote that trend. Pet stores and Internet sites are the main  sales venues for puppies. As consumers  become more aware of the conditions  in puppy mills and the congenital health  problems of the puppies, the more people  turn elsewhere for a dog.

Increasing numbers of educated and  caring people are adopting a pet from an  animal shelter or rescue organization instead  of purchasing from a retail store or from  the Internet. According to the Pet Food  Industries Council, 24 percent of dogs are  now acquired from shelters, compared to 17  percent a few years ago.

You can support this trend by helping  raise awareness of the benefits of shelter  adoptions, while deterring people from  buying a puppy from the for-profit breeder  industry.   Volunteering at a shelter, promoting  adoptions, and generally working on behalf  of homeless pets all help to indirectly  diminish the consumer base that drives  this industry. A letter to the editor, a guest  column and sharing info with friends helps in  this effort.

A recent Tulsa World poll showed  that at least 70 percent of Oklahomans  support regulation of puppy mills. However,  regulations designed to limit the number  of dogs in a breeding facility have been  blocked for years by an underground  industry, which is regulated or even banned  in many areas of the U.S.

Breeders are successful in getting what  they want written into the regulations or  fighting to eliminate any new regulation. It is time to put this indulgence behind  us. Breeders claim to be serious players  in Oklahoma agriculture, but they are not.   Hiding behind the fear of regulations does  not serve our state well.

It is time to support the new agency  created through the passage of SB 1712,  ask the Legislature to move forward to  address other issues facing Oklahoma, and  allow last year’s widely-supported bill to do  its job.

These Little Piggies Stay Home

posted March 15th, 2011 by
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BY LOU ANNE EPPERLEY, DVM

• Feed potbellied pig feed to potbellied pigs (NOT dog food or commercial hog ration). Pigs enjoy fruit, vegetables, melon and hard  corn-on-the-cob. Don’t over-feed! Obese pigs are prone to joint, foot  and heart problems.
• Pigs enjoy grazing, so house pets should have regular outdoor time. Don’t allow pigs to eat grass that has been treated with weed killer or  insecticide.
• In summer heat, outdoor pigs need access to a wading pool or mud,  and shade.
• Never leave a pig unattended in the presence of dogs. Even a friendly  dog can pose a threat. I’ve surgically treated many pigs for severe  dog-bite injuries.
• In cold weather, an outdoor pig needs an insulated, draft-free shelter  with straw or several blankets. Pigs instinctively root and wrap up in  blankets. Unzipped human sleeping bags work great.
• Most pigs’ hooves need trimming once to twice annually. Males generally also need their tusks trimmed at that time.
• Check for ticks regularly. Frontline® flea and tick prevention is safe  for pet pigs, if needed. Pigs also are susceptible to sarcoptic mange,  an itchy skin disease that can be diagnosed and treated by your  veterinarian.
• Potbellied pigs’ skin becomes increasingly dry as they age. Some  have found that Avon Skin-so-Soft® helps soften the skin. An  Omega-3 fatty acid food supplement might be helpful. Most pigs  shed their hair coat annually in summer and re-grow it.

Miniature Pet Pigs

A handful of reputable U.S. breeders of miniature pet pigs have been  in the business for at least 20 years.  Hundreds of rejected pet pigs,  however, end up in animal shelters annually because the owners did not  think-through their purchase and do their homework. Whether buying a  pig or adopting a rescue pig, first find out whether pigs are legal in your  municipality. Then read up on how to care for one. A great resource is  Potbellied Pig Parenting, a manual by long-time breeder Nancy Shepherd  of Rocheport, Mo.

Pig Pals

posted March 15th, 2011 by
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STORY AND PHOTOS BY PAT ATKINSON

It All Began With Marshall, a 150 pound black potbellied lump of love. Lou Anne  Epperley  was a 36-year-old successful newspaper reporter in Oklahoma City  when she attended an exotic livestock auction  at El Reno’s stockyards and locked eyes with  a five-week-old potbellied piglet on the block.

She raised her hand, the gavel went down  on her $85 bid, and her life journey took a big  turn as she drove home with  piglet Marshall,  who did indeed say, “wee, wee, wee” all the  way.

That was 15 years ago. Marshall grew into  a portly porcine while Lou Anne attended college science night classes in preparation for  applying to Oklahoma State University’s veterinary school. 

“Marshall inspired me to go to veterinary  school and I loved it,” she recalls. The 40-yearold journalist left her career and Oklahoma  City home and moved with Marshall, her cats  and dogs to a mobile home in the country near  Stillwater.

With pigs in  her heart and for  love of Marshall,  she dug out as  much learning as  possible about  swine medicine,  then took a job  for six months  at a 2,500 commercial sow  farm to gain  swine production experience, cleaning up after  mother pigs who gave birth, caring for dozens  of tiny pink squealing piglets, separating and  counting barrows and gilts (male and female  pigs) on weaning days.

“Who knew a former sorority girl whose  early career included a stint working in the  U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C., shopping at  Saks and lunching at the Monocle, would be  happiest on Green Acres?” she says.

And at the pig farm, she sometimes stood  happily in a room filled with sows as far as she  could see, singing inspirational songs and giving them pep talks as the Mama pigs quietly  settled, listening to her lullabies.  

DVM Epperley moved to the Tulsa area  working as a small animal practitioner, but pig  friend Marshall was aging, his joints becoming increasingly painful. When the best that  veterinary medicine could offer no longer  helped him, Lou Anne’s heart ached as she  rocked her pig, sang his favorite songs, and  a trusted colleague helped escort Marshall to  the Rainbow Bridge.

That was not the end of her pig love affairs  and Marshall’s legacy lives on. Youngster  Clyde Barrow came along and other pet pigs  in need of homes and veterinary care “just seem to find me,” she says. She continues  building a veterinary practice for pigs and  works closely with Tracy McDaniel, who owns  Hamalot, a Sand Springs pig sanctuary, home  to dozens of  rescues.

And, as you might imagine, it was a passion  for pigs that brought together Steve Epperley  and Lou Anne, a first marriage for both, who  are pet parents to one cat, six dogs, and six  pigs – all rescues and all living in pet pig  paradise.

Steve, warehouse manager for about a  decade for Southern Agriculture, and Lou  Anne, veterinarian at Southern Ag, connected  over a shared passion for pigs. (What else?)   Steve’s rural childhood included pigs and their  fondness for pigs sparked the relationship.

Their pig family at their acreage south of  Bixby includes Clyde Barrow, who at 10  weeks old came from a potbellied pig expert  friend and mentor in Missouri at  Pig O’ My Heart  Potbellies; Meegan,  a retired Momma  sow; Gladys, an  adopted orphan;  Truman and Pearl,  who came together  from a client no  longer able to care  for them, and Elmer  Pudge, a three-legged  pig whose badly  injured leg was amputated due to an attack  by a dog.

Pigs are good pet  pals, but Epperley  encourages all potential pig parents  to do lots of  homework  before falling  for the idea  of a pig in  the house. She advises  becoming  familiar with  their special needs and first checking  zoning laws.

Be aware that pigs should be spayed or  neutered, have their hooves and tusks trimmed  regularly which often requires anesthetic, be  fed mini-pig rations not other pet food, provided plenty of bedding and barn warmth in  winter and, because they do not sweat, they  need a wading pool, mud wallow and shade  in summer. They like  being with other  pig friends, are OK  living with cats,  but commonly  injured by dogs.

“Pigs are smart, clean, not noisy,  can learn tricks like sitting up, love for their  tummies to be rubbed, but are not lovey-dovey  like dogs,” she says. And, those cute little  pink potbellied piglets grow up to about 150  pounds, bigger than most big dogs.

So, move over Mastiffs. Make room at the  hearth for the pigs

Petfinder’s 15th Anniversary

posted March 15th, 2011 by
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Petfinder 2

Story by Kristi Eaton

Today marks the 15th anniversary of Petfinder.com, the No. 1 pet site in the world. In its 15 years of operation, more than 17 million animals have been adopted.

The idea for Petfinder.com came about on New Year’s Eve in 1995, when Betsy and Jared Saul started discussing the new phenomenon known as the World Wide Web. Being animal lovers, the couple decided to create a site connecting shelter pets with adopters.

Creating the website became the couple’s New Year’s Resolution. The goal was small enough in the start: save the life of one homeless animal per month and the website would be worth it.

So the couple began their quest. Betsy would call local shelters and rescue groups in and around New Jersey after work to see if they would try the new concept while Jared, who was in medical school at the time, built the website. In 1996, the site officially launched.

By 1998, the response grew and the site went national. Canadian groups joined in 2000, making the site truly international. To keep the site free for visitors and adopters, Betsy sought out corporate sponsorships.

In 2003, the Petfinder.com Foundation was created, donating more than $10 million to shelters and rescue groups. And in keeping up with technology, the site launched an app for the iPhone in 2010, making it even easier for people around the world to adopt a pet. Today more than 13,000 shelters and rescue groups in North America use the site.

Vet Field Trip Fascinates Kids

posted March 15th, 2011 by
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STORY BY KRISTI EATON

PHOTOS BY BOB FOSHAY(FOSHAY STUDIO & GALLERY)

HUDDLED In A TINY surgical suite, about  the size of a walk-in closet, seven secondgraders watch as Kevin Long, DVM, reaches  for a sharp blade. There are more observers  standing outside, peeking through a window  into the suite.

Clad in surgery mask, scrubs and gloves,  Long, the veterinarian at Good Shepherd  Veterinary Hospital in Broken Arrow, places  the blade against Ruff Ruff’s belly. He slowly  moves the blade from end-to-end on the  canine, making a long incision.

Earlier, the students watched Long weigh  Ruff Ruff and do a physical examination of the  dog’s heart, lungs, ears, eyes and mouth. The  canine was being checked because he swallowed an unknown object and was suffering  from abdominal  discomfort. The students were allowed to feel  his belly and guess what the object could be.

“It feels like a fork,” says one student.  “No, it  feels like a magnifying glass,” says another.

An X-ray showed that Ruff Ruff swallowed  scissors and Long decided surgery was necessary. 

“I’m scared. That’s scary,” one girl says, as  Long selects the blade.

“It’s OK. It’s all pretend,” the vet says.

In fact, the sweeping cut Long made along  Ruff Ruff’s belly wasn’t real at all.  Velcro was all  that kept Long from opening up Ruff Ruff’s stomach and removing the scissors.

Ruff Ruff is a toy, a Pillow Pet borrowed from  Long’s 3-year-old son.

The kids, second-  and third-graders  from Immanuel  Lutheran Christian  Academy, along  with various home  school students,  are on a field trip to  learn proper animal  care and what a  veterinarian does. It’s the second  field trip Long has  hosted and he  hopes to make it a regular event.

“The more kids that want to experience what  it’s like to be a veterinarian, that’s what we  want,” he says.

In addition to watching Ruff Ruff’s “treatment,” the 35 students saw how X-ray equipment works, viewed blood under a microscope,  and were given stethoscopes to listen to the  real heart beats of Betty, a 7-year-old Spaniel  mix owned by vet technician DeAndra Roberts,  and Sugar, whose owner, Adrienne Ashworth,  is the receptionist at Good Shepherd.

Ellis Stevens, 8, says he enjoyed looking  at the X-ray and discovering what was inside  Ruff Ruff’s stomach, while Taylor Mosby,  also 8, says her favorite part of the field trip  was the surgery “because you could see him  (Long) open him up.” She also enjoyed looking  through the microscope at the blood, something she is currently learning about at school.

Long says he enjoys letting the students feel  Ruff Ruff’s stomach and guess what could be  inside, similar to what he does as a vet.

“They’re literally doing what I do on a live animal – to see if I can feel something in there. It’s  a very important part of what we do,” he says. “It’s fun to see their eyes light up when they feel  something because I don’t think they’re expecting that. Their mind starts churning and then  they get excited about the X-ray….You can see  their brains starting to turn. ”

He also hopes the students will take away knowledge about proper pet care. “We want kids to  know the right thing to do, so when their animal is sick,  they know the vet is where they go,” he says. “It’s like  when your stomach is sick, you know your mom takes  you to the doctor.”

The field trips grew out of a discussion between  Long and his wife, Stacey, a kindergarten teacher  at Immanuel Lutheran. Long, who graduated from  Oklahoma State University’s College of Veterinary  Medicine in 2002, believes his classmates with veterinary parents had a leg-up in school,  they had experience touching animals and knowing the ins and outs of  how things work in the office, he says.

“Students like me, without parents who were vets, it  was almost like a little bit of catch up.”

When the couple designed the Good Shepherd  clinic, they wanted the space to be family-friendly and  conducive to learning. Every room has a window and  mothers can watch what their kids are doing from the  waiting area.

“So the room works in both directions, providing a  learning opportunity from the outside in, and the mom  being able to watch her kids from the inside out,” Long  says.

The field trips, open to 3-year-olds to high school  students and all area schools – public, private and  home school, are held once weekly. The 1.5 hour visits  ideally include up to 30 students.

They are developing curricula for the older students,  who will see and experience more technical aspects. For example, high school students will see and examine real X-rays and may get to observe surgeries.

The field trips are currently free, thanks to grants  from the Future Vet Program that has covered the cost  of the stethoscopes provided to the students. Merial  drug company donated plastic ticks. If the funding  eventually runs out, Long says he may charge $1 or $2 for the stethoscopes, but it will still be a reasonable  price, he says.

For Information

Good Shepherd Veterinary Hospital
Lynn Lane and Broken Arrow Expressway,
Broken Arrow
www.goodshepherdvets.com
918-893-3400

A Walk is Healthy at Both Ends of the Leash

posted March 7th, 2011 by
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animal health - cute pug dog laying on weigh scales

Story by Kristi Eaton

As spring approaches and the weather slowly improves each day, Petplan, a pet insurance provider, is reminding pet owners that their beloved four-legged friends may have added a few extra pounds during the harsh winter as well.

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates 35 million dogs, or 45 percent of all dogs in the United States, and 54 million, or 58 percent of all cats in the country, are now classified as overweight or obese.

Petplan is reminding owners to make sure Fido and Tigger get their required daily exercise to maintain a healthy weight.

“In recent years, obesity in pets has significantly increased to the point that five of our top insurance claims are closely linked to this health issue,” says Dr. Jules Benson, vice president of Veterinary Services for Petplan in a press release.  “Exercise, even if just a daily walk or chasing a toy, can help keep pets at a healthy weight.

When pets become overweight, serious health issues, such as diabetes, orthopedic disease and heart problems can arise.  Pet parents rarely realize the major financial effect a few extra pounds can have on veterinary care.”

Petplan says that if your pet has gained weight over the winter months, exercise should be restarted in moderation in the spring, so as to not cause injury. The pet insurance company also recommends taking a break from the exercise if your pet begins panting, and to bring along water for both you and your four-legged friend.