Flagler Humane Society sees 23 percent drop in stray kittens

Flagler Humane Society has seen a 23 percent drop in the number of stray kittens that entered the shelter between 2013 and 2015. The significant decline in kittens means that trap-neuter-return efforts in Flagler are having a positive effect, the society’s commitment to spaying and neutering animals is working, the public, community and wildlife are more safe and tax dollars are being saved.

feral kittens
Feral kittens and mother

One of the biggest contributors to the drop in intakes though has been through trap, neuter and return efforts for community cats in Flagler county. Thanks to grant funding from Florida Animal Friend the humane society, community groups and volunteers have been able to spay and neuter hundreds of unowned cats, vaccinate them and release them back where they were living.

The TNR efforts in Flagler have come a long way with the help of organizations like Community Cats of Palm Coast, local ordinance changes to allow for cats and because of dedicated volunteers and medical professionals. The majority of cats brought in have been trapped by volunteers of local citizens. The cats have surgery, receive a rabies vaccination and have the tip of their left ear notched off so they can be identified as being fixed. There are also many local veterinarians volunteer their time and clinics to perform surgery.

Virtually every animal adopted from Flagler Humane Society is spayed or neutered with the only exception being because of age or for health reasons. “We’ve been committed to only adopting out animals that have been altered for decades,” said Amy Carotenuto, Flagler Humane Society Executive Director. “We perform surgery on any of our animals here at our shelter that need it as well as for the public for low-cost.”

Citizens also benefit from TNR from not experiencing the nuisance problems that come from unsterilized cats. Issues like spraying and howling go away, no new kittens are born and the overall problem decreases. Plus the public is happy with the solution. A 2007 survey by cat advocacy group Alley Cat Allies found that 81 percent of people surveyed believe that community cats should be allowed to live out their lives roaming free.

Most importantly, TNR and a reduction in kitten intakes helps saves taxpayers money and allows for more humane treatment of all cats. According to the advocacy group Target-Zero Institute, “ Keeping community cats and their subsequent litters out of public animal shelters will save taxpayers money and improve the likelihood that other shelter cats will be adopted. Decreasing overall cat intake also leads to less crowding, an opportunity for more humane cat housing, less stress for staff and cats and cost savings.”

The Land of the Strays

Imagine a place where 900 dogs run free through the countryside, are well taken care of by teams of volunteers and are all available for adoption. This place does exist and it’s called The Land of the Strays, or Territorio de Zaguates, in the Santa Bárbara mountains in Costa Rica’s Heredia province. The non-profit sanctuary provides a safe life for all these dogs with the hope of finding them all forever homes.

The Land of the Strays
The Land of the Strays

Costa Rica is known for its untouched beaches and playful surf that make it a top destination for tourists; but, it is also home to over one million stray dogs, according to The Costa Rica Star. The Land of the Strays began as a privately funded, volunteer-run organization to help put a dent in this problem and find these strays homes.

Volunteers make sure all the animals are fed and bathed as the dogs spend their days roaming freely around the property and its scenic walking trails. Fresh-flowing watering pools can be found scattered across the property There are indoor areas for sleeping and eating that also provide extra shelter during bad or rainy weather. Visitors can come for free and play with the dogs and are encouraged to adopt.

But one of the best initiatives The Land of the Strays has begun is its extra special naming of dog breeds. The sanctuary is almost exclusively full of mixed breed dogs and unfortunately these are often viewed as less desirable. So the leading Costa Rican veterinarian went on the country’s national television to describe how these dogs are one-of-a-kind and can only be found in their country.

The volunteers take a look at each individual animal and create its own unique breed like “The Alaskan Collie Fluffyterrier” or the “Chubby-Tailed Dobernauzer.” This special way of renaming the dogs and their breeds has had tremendous success especially when the organization began posting the dog’s pictures and descriptions on social media. Followers began clamoring to want to adopt these extra special breeds, sharing animal pictures and details across the internet. This new way of thinking about dog breeds has been the most successful way the sanctuary has found animals homes.

This might seem like a paradise for dogs to run free and be happy; but really it’s a paradise for the many animal-loving volunteers and visitors that come by everyday.

Top health issues for dogs and cats

Pet owners spent more than $15 billion dollars on veterinary care last year, and much of that cost was used to treat minor ailments. Pets require routine medical attention just like their human counterparts, and while common issues such as ear infections and skin allergies are rarely life-threatening, they can be unexpected and expensive. Nationwide, the nation’s first and largest provider of pet health insurance, recently sorted through its database of more than 550,000 insured pets to determine the top medical conditions that prompted veterinary visits for dogs and cats in 2015.

The top problems for dogs were skin allergies, ear infections, non-cancerous skin masses, skin infections, arthritis, periodontitis/dental disease, vomiting/upset stomach, diarrhea/intestinal upset, bladder or urinary tract infections and soft tissue traumas. For cats, they were bladder or urinary tract disease, periodontitis/dental disease, chronic kidney disease, vomiting/upset stomach, excessive thyroid hormones, diarrhea/intestinal upset, diabetes, upper respiratory infections, skin allergies and inflammatory bowel disease.  

“We encourage pet owners to schedule regular medical checkups as recommended by their veterinarians to prevent many common, yet problematic medical conditions,” said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for Nationwide. “It’s also important for pet owners to get familiar with their pet’s daily habits to help identify oddities in their routine. The majority of top 10 conditions can be managed with the help of a veterinarian, and early detection can prevent many of these issues from becoming severe, limiting the cost of treatment.”

Last year, Nationwide members spent more than $77 million to treat the 10 most common medical conditions affecting their pets. Last year, skin allergies were the most common health issue among Nationwide insured canines with more than 80,000 individual claims at an average cost of $210 per dog. Bladder or urinary tract diseases accounted for the most common medical condition amongst Nationwide insured felines with more than 4,700 claims received at an average cost of $441 per cat.

Non-cancerous skin masses accounted for the most costly canine medical condition on the list with an average cost of $347 per dog. The most expensive feline medical condition on the list was diabetes, which carries a significantly higher cost of $862 per cat.

Flagler Humane Society offers wellness clinics for local residents that need help with some of these issues and not might be able to afford a full-service veterinary clinic. Wellness clinics are held every Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Appointments are required and your pet can receive an examination by for as low as $17.

“Many of the issues on this list are preventable and treatable if pet owners seek help quickly,” said Amy Carotenuto, Flagler Humane Society Executive Director. “Patients receive a 15 minute appointment to help keep costs low and we encourage anyone having a health issue with their pet to come in when they first see a problem and not let it become something serious.”


Chocolate bunnies might be better

Easter is tomorrow and we’ve all been bombarded by images and advertisements featuring bunnies, chicks and all other sorts of animals. Many families see this time of year as a good time to buy or bring into the home a rabbit, but there are a host of issues that come from this decision. Easter bunnies often become more trouble than anticipated, end up in shelters like Flagler Humane Society or abandoned.

Rabbits require much more care when first thought about, especially when made as an impulse decision. They are also thought of as good “starter pets” which is far from the case. First, a rabbit hutch has to be cleaned daily and the majority purchased online or in pet stores are made from low-quality wood that rots within a year or two. Most are too small because rabbits need at least a 6X3X3ft hutch plus a similar sized run.

The majority of Easter bunnies end up surrendered to shelters often when they grow into adulthood or if children and families lose interest. According

Chocolate Bunnies

to the Huffington Post, “Almost 80 percent of bunnies that are up for adoption at shelters were once purchased as Easter gifts.”

This is even true here locally. “Just over 40 percent of all rabbits surrendered at the shelter last year came in a month before or after Easter,” said Amy Carotenuto, Flagler Humane Society Executive Director. “Parents sometimes think a bunny or rabbit might be a good first pet or way to teach their children how to care for a pet, but once they’re no longer cute and cuddly and prove to be too much to handle they get surrendered to us.”

The worst thing that can happen to Easter rabbits is being abandoned or let loose. These animals usually end of as prey food for predatory animals or hit by cars. Pet rabbits have flashy coloring and can’t hide well and have no strong instincts to keep themselves safe.

They are groups around the globe that have created public awareness campaigns to highlight the problems that come from adopting or buying an Easter bunny. The House Rabbit Society in Albuquerque placed ads on city buses saying a chocolate bunny last 10 minutes, but an actual rabbit lasts 10 years.

A British rabbit welfare group called Make Mine Chocolate has launched a campaign to encourage people to buy chocolate rather than real bunnies. “This is the time of year that many people rush out to buy a bunny,” Lisa Whitty of Make Mine Chocolate told the Examiner.com. “Within a few months of Easter, the already over-stretched rabbit rescue centers are then inundated with unwanted bunnies.”

So if you are thinking about purchasing or adoption a rabbit or bunny for Easter, make sure to look at all the pros and cons. More than likely a chocolate bunny might be a much better choice.

New tracker for your pets

New technologies, smartphones and GPS programs are all scurrying to keep helping us take the best care of our pets. Now there is a new product that combines all the fitness feature of a Fitbit, along with social networking and apps that can help owners across the country work together to search for or locate a lost pet.

Poof, a start-up that exceeded its $27,000 fundraising goal on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, has developed the ‘Bean’. It’s the smallest device ever made for dogs and cats and the first to monitor a pet’s fitness level that also includes a tracking device at very affordable prices starting at just $30.


Poof works with a free downloadable App that combines social networking and Bluetooth based crowd GPS technology so that people across the country can work together to search for and locate lost pets, whether they own a Poof device or not. It’s referred to as social GPS and it alerts users of nearby lost pets with passive and automatic alerts.

“Pet lovers now have a small, easy to use, tracking and fitness product that harnesses modern technology and the power of social networking without weighing down their precious pets,” said Larry Kaufman, VP Sales, Partner Relations for Poof.

The Bean is as small as a pill for cats and small dogs. It’s lightweight and makes tracking easier and more consistent because it can be clipped on a collar like other dog/cat tags, so the pet is always connected. Harnessing similar technology that is used in the world’s best smartphones, it has 60 days of battery life and is rechargeable through a standard USB port.

“We believe pets deserve the benefits of the best technology can offer, so we approached the engineering of Poof like we would for a high performance human product. The result is the longest lasting battery in the smallest for factor ever made for a pet tracker,” added Kaufman.

Young people put pet health before their own

It’s no secret that tobacco kills people, but did you know that Big Tobacco’s products kill pets too? The organization truth, that is part of America’s largest non-profit public health organization dedicated to making tobacco use a thing of the past, is calling attention to the impact of tobacco on our pets with its new ad, “#CATmageddon”. According to a new truth survey, young pet owners visit the vet just as frequently as visiting the doctor themselves.

“#CATmageddon” premiered on the 2016 Grammy Awards broadcast and has already been viewed more than 33 million times. The new ad called “#FinishIT” makes clear that dogs and cats are twice as likely to get cancer if their owners smoke. An extension of truth’s award-winning Finish It campaign, the ad underscores the immediate, unexpected dangers of the number one cause of preventable death, tobacco.

To explore Gen Z’s love of pets, truth conducted a nationwide survey of 1,000 15-21 year-olds. The survey revealed young pet owners are seriously dedicated to the health of their pets:

  • Pet owners visit the vet just as frequently as they visit the doctor themselves

  • Pet owners are more likely to buy organic food for their pets than for themselves
  • Nearly a quarter of pet owners have taken a sick day to care for their pet

It’s clear that today’s youth care about animals. With the teen cigarette smoking rate currently at 7 percent, this latest ad urges, “Let’s treat our best friends like real best friends.”. And in collaboration with Petco, truth is giving teens ways to help pets exposed to smoking in the home and carry the Finish It message.

“The more attention we generate and the more young people we engage to help us finish the tobacco epidemic, the more lives – humans and pets – we can save,” said Robin Koval, CEO and President of Truth Initiative. “When one out of four young pet owners has taken a sick day to care for a pet, you know you will grab their attention with the truth about pets and cancer.”

Petco, a leading pet specialty retailer that focuses on nurturing powerful relationships between people and pets, has teamed up with truth to help spread the word. Beginning this month all Petco locations nationwide will be giving out free Finish It pet collar charms and tips on how to protect pets from the negative impact of tobacco. Pet owners can support “Finishing it” in the name of their furry friends by visiting a local Petco to receive a collar charm for their dog or cat to wear, while supplies last.

“We’ve watched for more than 50 years as people increasingly treat their pets like true members of the family, so we’re not surprised to see that many young pet parents take their pet’s health so seriously,” said Dr. Whitney Miller, Director of Veterinary Medicine for Petco.

Oklahoma Passes Bill to Gut Animal Advocacy

By a vote of 56 to 26, the Oklahoma state House of Representatives approved a bill to undercut core First Amendment protections and prohibit “animal rights organizations” from soliciting the support of Oklahomans. The bill sponsored by Rep. Brian Renegar, and Rep. John Enns would deny the rights of Oklahoma families to make their own philanthropic choices. 

“This bill would make it a crime for Girl Scouts to raise money by selling lemonade and donating it to the Humane Society of the United States to support disaster response in Kansas after a flood or tornado, fight the dog meat trade in South Korea, or stop the clubbing of seals in Canada,” said Cynthia Armstrong, Oklahoma state director of The HSUS.  “It is so absurdly overreaching that it would bar any Oklahoma animal organization from lobbying to strengthen our anti-cruelty law or to fight a bill to repeal our state’s anti-cockfighting law.”

H.B. 2250 is demonstrably unconstitutional, and amounts to a waste of taxpayer money to clog the courts with this content-based restriction on speech. The bill if enacted could open the door to restrict the work of other philanthropic organizations—including health organizations and churches who support in-state work as well as missions overseas to help the poor and the needy.

“Our legislators are attempting to defund an entire category of work that helps billions of animals throughout the world every year – not with tax dollars, but with the hard-earned dollars of Oklahomans who choose to spend their money as they wish,” added Armstrong. “Big Government should not tell private Oklahoma citizens how to spend their money or what causes they can support.”

New Chicken Soup for the Pet’s Soul

Dogs and cats do so much to save and even improve our lives, and that’s exactly what the newest entries in the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series – Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog and Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Cat – are about. Written by Amy Newmark, Chicken Soup for the Soul’s publisher and editor-in-chief, and featuring forewords written by American Humane Association president and CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert, they are now available wherever books are sold, and each features 101 hilarious, touching, and sometimes mind-boggling stories about all the very good, very bad, and simply amazing things that our nevertheless endearing dogs and cats do.

Chicken Soup for the Soul is donating royalties from these books to American Humane Association, helping the country’s first national humane organization to continue its life-saving 139-year old mission of protecting America’s dogs, cats, and millions more animals. This newest effort is part of the company’s widespread support for animal shelters and pet adoption, including the donation of Chicken Soup for the Soul pet food and books to shelters across the country.

 “Our dogs and cats are our best friends, and pet owners everywhere know the unbreakable bond that forms between them and their furry friends,” said Dr. Ganzert. “Pick up copies of these books today and I guarantee you will laugh, cry, and come away with an even greater appreciation for the amazing healing power of the human-animal bond, the inextricable link between people, pets, and the world we share.”

Readers can read the “tails” of Spirit, the pup who takes the yoga pose “downward dog” literally, and learns to steal the cucumber slices covering his mom’s eyes when she’s meditating, or King Murphy, the big Maine Coon who loves to play board games with a little girl and wear the jewelry he wins. The 101 stories chosen for each book from thousands of submissions are not only inspirational and fun, but many of them also feature adopted dogs and cats, including black dogs and cats, senior pets, and pit bulls, the categories of pets that are most often left behind at shelters. Each chapter is preceded by a compelling photo of a dog or cat adopted from a shelter by a Chicken Soup for the Soul employee or family member. 

“From clever cats that sneak food to heroic dogs that save lives—from mischievous dogs that chew shoes to intuitive cats that repair families—from goofy cats that crack us up to nurturing dogs that act like therapists—you’ll have a new appreciation for your own dog or cat’s unique skills,” said Newmark.

U.S. trophy hunting has dire effects on wildlife

In the last ten years, American hunters have imported more than 1.2 million animals, more than 126,000 a year, as hunting trophies from across the world, according to a new report by Humane Society International and The Humane Society of the United States. 

The report, Trophy Hunting by the Numbers: the United States’ Role in Global Trophy Hunting, uses original analysis of hunting trophy import data obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Among its findings include:

  • Trophies are primarily imported from Canada and South Africa. They are followed by Namibia, Mexico, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Tanzania,
    U.S. Trophy Hunters

    Argentina, Zambia and Botswana.

  • The species most favored by trophy hunters include: American black bears, impalas, common wildebeests, greater kudus, gemsboks, springboks and bonteboks.
  • Trophy hunters highly covet the African big five, importing them to the U.S. in staggering numbers between 2005 and 2014: 5,600 African lions, 4,600 African elephants, 4,500 African leopards, 330 southern white rhinos, and 17,200 African buffalo. All of these species, except the African buffalo, are near threatened or vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
  • The U.S. ports of entry importing the most wildlife trophies during the decade were: New York, New York; Pembina, North Dakota; Chicago, Illinois; Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas; and Portal, North Dakota.

“This report clearly shows the dire impact American trophy hunters are having on wildlife in other countries. It’s outrageous that every year hunters take the lives of thousands of animals, many threatened with extinction, just to win a prize and show off,” said Teresa M. Telecky, director of the wildlife department at HSI. “The fact that rare, majestic species are entering the U.S. in large and small ports of entry should alarm lawmakers and the public concerned about trophy hunting.”  

Competitive hunting groups promote these hunts, offering accolades and awards to its members. The largest such group, Safari Club International, just wrapped up its convention in Las Vegas where more than 300 mammal hunts for more than 600 animals were auctioned off, and countless other hunts arranged privately on the exhibit floor. SCI often uses these proceeds to fight wildlife protection measures. For certain species, including lions, elephants, leopards and rhinos, the U.S. is the largest trophy importing country.

As one way of preventing disastrous consequences of trophy hunting, HSI and The HSUS will continue to seek new protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act for species that meet the criteria for listing. The African lion is the latest species to receive ESA protection after a multi-year effort by animal protection organizations.