Bailing Out Benji’s 2nd Annual State-wide Puppy Mill Awareness Event

Last year, we introduced to Iowa the first ever state-wide puppy mill awareness event! Over 20 different events were held during the month of September by shelters, rescues and other businesses/groups- and it was a huge success! 

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We are SO pleased to announce that this year, we have done it again! With the help of participating animal welfare organizations, we are proud to announce…. 

Bailing Out Benji’s  SECOND Annual State-wide Puppy Mill Awareness Event

Iowa has over 230 USDA licensed “puppy mills”, with over 23,000 adult dogs trapped in cages for the entirety of their lives! (This number doesn’t include the unlicensed mills that we often hear about in the news!) Iowa, alone, sells  over 100,000 puppies to pet stores and through internet sales… Although puppy mill awareness day is September 21, that isn’t stopping these guys from making puppy mill awareness a MONTH LONG EVENT! 

The participating groups have agreed to spread the word about the fact that Iowa is the second worst state in the nation when it comes to puppy mills. Some groups have chosen to host events or add the puppy mill theme to already planned events, others have elected to have displays at their adoption events and facilities all month long. This helps bring the issue to the communities and shows solidarity among the animal welfare organizations. The groups have been encouraged to keep the display up all month long– places like the Humane Society of North Iowa in Mason City have elected to keep it up all year long! Their display has been up since last year and has helped to educate so many new people!

Please take note of the participants below and feel free to thank them for all that they do for the homeless animals, as well as those trapped in puppy mills. 

Participating Groups–

Please go to their page, like them, and give them a shout out for participating: 

Poweshiek Animal League Shelter

Atlantic Animal Shelter

Last Hope Animal Rescue

Almost Home Animal Shelter

Noah’s Hope Animal Rescue

Humane Society of North East Iowa

Humane Society of North Iowa

Paws of Greene County

Jasper County Animal Rescue League

PAW Fort Madison

Tama County Animal Shelter

Check out these participating events as well! 

Humane Society of North East Iowa

Dog Walk and 5K

Saturday September 7th

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PALS Rummage and Bake Sale
Free will donations! Please help support our shelter animals.
Saturday, September 14 from 7 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Drake Community Library
930 Park Street, Grinnell IA 50112
For more information about this event or our PALS animals, please contact palsiowa@pcpartner.net.

If you are interested in participating, please contact me through our facebook page. 

Vote with your Money– Help Stop Puppy Mills TODAY!

According to the Animal Rescue Corps, there are an estimated 15,000 puppy mills in the U.S. alone. I wanted to take a second and share with you one of the most important ways to combat puppy mills here in the United States and it is pretty simple….

DON’T SHOP AT PET STORES THAT SELL PUPPIES!!!

A visual of (most of) the pet stores in the US that choose to sell puppies

Ask that your family, friends and coworkers refrain from giving them business as well. I firmly believe that you vote with your money, and it is important to give support to those businesses that are doing it the right way!  When we succeed in educating the consumer about the pet store/puppy mill connection, then the demand for these puppies will decrease. When the demand decreases, there won’t be a need to have as many breeding dogs. 

To make this easy for you, I am providing a few links and suggestions on how to lend your support to the cause….

**Here is a list of all of the pet stores in the United States that have signed the HSUS Pet Store friendly pledge, and they have vowed to never sell puppies… TWO important things I want you to take away from this information…

1. If you know of a pet store that doesn’t sell puppies and isn’t listed, share the pledge with them and encourage them to add their name to the list!

2. If you know of pet stores that DO sell puppies, print off a copy of the pledge and either mail it to them or drop by… Encourage them to “adopt” a more humane business model by having adoptable animals in their store instead of retail puppies.

To see which stores have signed the pledge, click here

** Here is a link that shows you all of the pet stores that DO sell puppies. Again, there are two important things I want you to do with this information…

1. If you know of a pet store that DOES sell puppies and they aren’t on the list, help the ASPCA by adding them to the database. It is important to show the public which pet stores we shouldn’t support.

2. Do not give these pet stores your money in any way, shape or form. To purchase even treats, toys or food there is to show them that you are okay with the fact that they are selling puppies. And be sure to inform  your local pet store that they could get your business- they just have to stop selling puppies! 

To view the map of stores in your area, click here

** Here is a link of all of the pet store protests that are going on across the United States. This link is updated constantly and if you know of any other protests, reach out to me and I will add them to this database. If you see a protest in your area, stop by and show your support! Even if you can’t stop and stay the whole time, drive by and honk or wave! Give them the positive encouragement they deserve.

To view the list of ongoing protests, click here

** Finally, for YOU, the consumer… Add your name to the pledge to stop puppy mills. Promise to never buy choosing to adopt your next pet from a shelter or rescue, or by only purchasing a dog from a responsible breeder who will show you where your puppy was born and raised. To take the pledge, click here

Most importantly, don’t forget to join us at Bailing Out Benji! 

Stay updated on the most recent news about puppy mills and other important animal issues! 

IDALS isn’t Ideal for the Animals

When it comes to animal protection laws, the state of Iowa comes in almost last out of the whole nation, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund at the end of 2012.  Ranking 48th out of the 50 states, Iowa has a lot of room for improvement, with no one in the government willing to make that happen. Since Iowa is an agriculture state, any laws that have a glimmer of hope for the welfare of animals are usually shot down quickly, or watered down so the deep-pocketed Ag benefactors are satisfied. This leaves animal lovers in a very tough spot. The biggest problem with Iowa and the lack of animal protection laws is WHO we need to contact in times of urgency.

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I have always been told that the “go-to” contact has always been IDALS (Iowa Department of Agriculture), as they license any animal entity in the state (breeder, shelter, groomer, etc). Sadly, IDALS is no more accountable than the USDA when it comes to handling complaints about those people who are supposed to be taking care of animals. There is a reason we are the bottom-dwellers within the ranks of the nation.

Recently, I was contacted by a woman who was in a tight spot. While she wishes to remain anonymous, her story must be told.  She and her family bought a puppy from Cheryl Gribble, owner and operator of CG Kennels in Fort Dodge, Iowa, and it died just a few days later. Gribble offered the woman a free puppy to replace the one that died, as breeders often do.  When the woman showed up at the kennel, she was appalled by what she saw. Filthy cages lined the non air-conditioned garage, and the “breeder” admitted to breeding her 17 dogs and selling her puppies in parking lots and at the fairgrounds. The dogs were running around inside, breeding amongst each other. Gribble admitted that her next litter was a father/daughter combo because they can’t keep the dogs off of each other. Several of the dogs were noted as being very neglected- covered in fleas, being blind and have deformed jaws. Immediately, the woman was told to contact local law enforcement, IDALS, as well as someone from the local humane society- as this appeared to be an illegal breeding operation. In the state of Iowa, if you are breeding more than 3 females you must be licensed. Gribble was not state or USDA licensed.

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This is Kamy. The six week old puppy that died after only 4 days of being with her new family.

IDALS reacted very quickly by sending out a certified letter to the breeder, giving them 10 days to respond to the inquiry. If they don’t respond, the case would be referred to the state veterinarian who would decide what action should be taken next. When Gribble received her letter, she informed the state that she got rid of most of her dogs and the remaining ones were altered. IDALS took the breeders word for it and closed the case. The animals, in fact, left the property for a few days and have since returned.

The Webster County Sheriff’s department and an animal control officer from Fort Dodge went to the breeder’s home. Upon driving up, they could smell the urine from the driveway. Gribble refused to allow them entry into her home and threatened to sue everyone involved. Neither entity has been back since.

That’s it. The case is closed. The breeders are still breeding those dogs and are continuously threatening the woman who bought a sick puppy. So, these animals need YOUR help! Please, send an email to IDALS at (katie.hyde@iowaagriculture.gov) and ask them to step in and help those animals that are trapped in CG Kennels- 2114 South 13th street. Fort Dodge, Iowa

 

This isn’t the first time that IDALS has dropped the ball, and it certainly won’t be the last.

 

It isn’t often that the USDA does more than write-up one of their breeders, but actually takes steps to shut them down. In the state of Iowa, if you are a USDA licensed breeder, you must also be licensed with the state. So, common sense says that if the USDA pulls your license the state will too, right? Wrong.

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Meet Julie Arends, puppy mill owner from Jewell, Iowa. She runs the mill “Julie’s Jewels” and everyone drives by it when they pull into town, but very few people give it a second thought. While under the supervision of the USDA, Arends received several violations and nothing was ever done about it. In September of 2010, Arends received 19 non-direct violations such as: excessive matting, opens wounds, severe bug bites, severe accumulation of materials/ hair/ dirt/ debris, areas of standing water, gullies of urine/feces/debris near the kennels, kennels being being so small the dogs couldn’t turn around or lie comfortably, and not enough staffing. At the time of this inspection, Julie Arends had 148 adult dogs and 77 puppies on her property. As far as USDA breeders go, Julie’s Jewels is a bad one. Not the worst that the world has seen, but pretty terrible. So what happened that would cause the USDA to pull her license?

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A snapshot of the USDA report

During the inspection that you just read about, Julie Arends snapped and went after the USDA inspector. She screamed at Cynthia Neis (USDA) and stole the photos that the inspector took of the neglect. Julie also threatened to start packing heat and  that the dogs were “her dogs,” that she could do what she wanted with them, and that she was going to have the veterinarian kill 50 of them. After the rant was over, Julie Arends tore out of the driveway in her pick-up truck. She later turned around and tried to run the USDA inspector off of the road. To read more about this incident, click here

After a hearing, the USDA decided that, “Allowing C&JA (Carolyn and Julie Arends)  to continue to hold an Animal Welfare Act license would be contrary to the Animal Welfare Act’s purpose of ensuring humane treatment of animals because C&JA and its agents have made it unsafe for APHIS employees to inspect C&JA’s facilities, animals, and records. C&JA’s principals, Julie Arends and Carolyn Arends, and C&JA’s apparent agent, Eldon Arends, are unwilling and/or unable to comply with the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act and the Regulations.” So their USDA license was pulled…. However, the state of Iowa still deems them fit to breed dogs. And so they do. Litter after litter, while the dogs sit neglected in their tiny cages. As of late, the mother/daughter duo has been operating under a different name, Arctic World Puppies

One of the most common things that I hear whenever I contact IDALS (or the USDA for that matter) is that these complaints and photos are just a “snapshot” in time. So they aren’t taken seriously. Several of us have also made complaints to these entities about a small roadside zoo that is riddled with violations and neglect, but as it stands, no one will step up to protect these animals either. In the last 2 years, they have been inspected by the USDA 5 times with a total of 25 violations, yet nothing has been done to improve those conditions. To read more about the Cricket Hollow Zoo, click here

So what can we do about this?  Who is supposed to swoop in and save those animals?

That burden falls on you, me and the general public. A lot of change can be made by holding those in charge accountable and facebook has made that so much easier. Please, contact the state of Iowa and ask them why they aren’t doing their jobs. Ask them why breeders like this are allowed to continue neglecting and abusing animals. 

More importantly, don’t ever lose your voice! When you see an act of abuse or neglect speak out! Contact your local humane society, county sheriff and the local government. Get people involved. Share the story, ask others to do the same and let’s get these animals the help they deserve. 

If you hate puppy mills, don’t forget to like Bailing Out Benji on Facebook to stay updated on these topics and more. We can also provide information on puppy mills in your area! Please PM us through our facebook page

Pet Store Protests across the United States

Something I value above almost everything else is education… One amazing way to educate others about the plight of the dogs trapped in puppy mills is to join in on one of the many pet store protests going on in the country. These protests are peaceful, with the intent on educating the citizens in the community about the pet store/puppy mill connection. PLEASE consider joining in on a protest in your area and if you know of any more or want more info about the protests, private message me through Bailing Out Benji on facebook and I will update my list!

 

Want to know more about why we protest? Click here

Want to know more about what a puppy mill is? Click here

 

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Protests held in Webster City, Iowa
Critter Nation

Arizona:  Tempe. These protests go on every weekend! For more information, click here

CONNECTICUT:  Branford- All Pets Club… 467 East Main Street. Protests are held on Saturdays from 11:30- 1pm. To stay updated, click here

CALIFORNIA: Riverside– Barkworks… 1299 Galleria at Tyler. Protests are held on Sundays from 12-2. 

CALIFORNIA: Oceanside– Oceanside Puppy… 1906 Oceanside blvd 92054. Protests are held every Saturday from 1-3 pm! 

COLORADO:  Colorado Springs- Chapel Hills Mall.1710 Briargate Blvd. These protests occur monthly! To stay updated, click here

COLORADO:  Fort Collins- Pet City. To stay updated on these protests, click here

COLORADO:  Littleton- Perfect Pets. 6840 S University Blvd. These protests occur every weekend! To stay updated, click here.

Florida:  Sarasota- Petland. These protests occur monthly! To stay updated, click here 

IOWA:  Ames- Dyvig’s Pet Shoppe Protests 412 Burnett Ave. These protests occur every Saturday and Sunday.   To stay updated, click here

IOWA:  Cedar Rapids- Pet’s Playhouse.  151 Jacolyn Dr NW. . These protests occur every Saturday and Sunday!   To stay updated, click here

IOWA:  Iowa City- Petland.  1851 Lower Muscatine Rd. These protests occur every Saturday from 10a-12p  To stay updated, click here

Protest in Illinois
Puppy Parlor
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Protest at Citipups
Hosted By Puppy Mill Free NYC

ILLINOIS: Arlington Heights- Happiness is Pets. 15 W Golf Rd,. These protests occur weekly. To stay updated click here. 

 

 

MAINE:  Little Paws Protest 456 Payne RD. Saturdays at 12 EST. To stay updated, click here

MICHIGAN: Novi– Petland protest, Twelve Oaks Mall- 27500 Novi Road, Novi, Michigan. Saturdays from 12:00- 1:30. To stay updated, click here

MINNESOTA: St Paul– Petland,2123 Old Hudson Rd . To stay updated, click here

MISSOURI: St. Louis– Petland Protest 6131 Ronald Reagan Dr. Lake St. Louis. Every Saturday from 11-12:30 

NEW YORK: New York City–  Citipups Protest. Wednesday at 6pm,  Thursdays from 5:30 PM until 8:30 PM and Saturdays at 3pm  … 147 Eight Avenue, New York City. To stay updated, click here.

NEW YORK: White plains— New York Breeders Pet store, 45 TARRYTOWN ROAD…. Protests are Saturdays from 11a-2p. For more information, click here

NEW YORK: Sayville— Little Wonder’s Puppy Emporium, 15 Main St, Sayville, NY. There are protests each weekend! To stay updated, click here

Ohio: Toledo— The Family Puppy Store, every Saturday 11-1 on the corner of Monroe and Talmadge, Toledo. For more information click here. 

Ohio: Youngtown—7401 Market Street, these protests occur monthly . For more information click here. 

Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh— Petland Robinson, Robinson Town Centre
Park Manor Blvd, these occur monthly!   . For more information click here.

 

For more information about what kinds of puppy mills sell to pet stores, click here 

 

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Protests hosted by Maine Citizens Against Puppy Mills

Critter Nation– Where their pups REALLY come from.

During the summer of 2013, Bailing Out Benji assisted a small group with weekly protests in front of Critter Nation in Webster City, Iowa after we found out that he is using the same two breeders that Dyvig’s Pet Shoppe in Ames, Iowa uses.  In retaliation to the weekly protests, the store decided to post this very professional statement on their facebook wall. 

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Before these protests began, one of the women in charge of the events went in to Mike to talk about his breeders and the impending protests. Mike (the owner) claimed that he had never even visited one of them! Yet he “knows” they are reputable breeders. He confirmed that the breeders he uses are Century Farm Puppies in Grundy Center, Iowa and New Design Kennels in Rockwell City, Iowa.

NEWS FLASH::

They aren’t. So, Mike and the rest of the folks at Critter Nation, before you claim that we are slandering “people”, please read here about the PUPPY MILLS that you are supporting. This is the research that you should have educated yourself with, all of it comes straight off of the USDA website.  Maybe now you will think twice about selling puppy mills puppies in your store. 

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Mike wrote this information down for us on the back of his business card.

 

And here is how the store reacted to the protesters in front of their store.

CENTURY FARM PUPPIES in GRUNDY CENTER, IOWA

Before anyone asks, I have been to this puppy mill and personally rescued a dog from them. While their website paints a beautiful picture of their farm and talks of how they are the best kennel in the state, their past USDA reports scream a different story. 

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This photo shows the number of dogs they are currently breeding. 155 adults, 48 puppies. That is a lot of dogs for one aging couple to care for.

Below are a few of the violations that they have had in the past which include: a build up of days old feces, on all of the flat surfaces of their buildings there was severe buildup of hair, dirt and other debris (which affected approximately 532 dogs at the time!!) Again, see for yourself. These are screenshots of the USDA reports. 

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Century Farm Puppies has been downgrading in recent years due to public pressure and the fact that more people are “waking up” about puppy mills. In recent years they had over 500 adult dogs on their property, which is an insane amount of dogs to care for. Yes, during that time period, Critter Nation was using them as a breeder. 

NEW DESIGN KENNELS, ROCKWELL CITY, IOWA

Nancy and Tom Carlson of New Design Kennels are very deep in the puppy mill world. Not only do they have a huge puppy mill of their own, they run under TWO names so the public doesn’t see that they breed several breeds of dogs (New Design Kennel and Illusion Japanese Chin) but they sell their unwanted dogs at terrible dog auctions. Most recently, In May, Nancy and Tom helped out at another dog auction that I attended. These “reputable breeders” have no problem breeding dogs that aren’t healthy. If you read the article above, you will note that many of her dogs were missing teeth, eyes and had open wounds AT THE AUCTION! Below shows you an approximate number of dogs that she sells on her property and, below that, we highlight some of her violations. 

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New Design Kennel

Did we mention that Nancy Carlson is an active member of the Iowa Pet Breeders Association? She works on the legislative end to make sure that laws aren’t passed that will hurt breeding facilities like the one pictured above. 

The world is waking up and seeing the pet store/puppy mill connection. It is important that the public understands where those cute pet store puppies are really coming from. 

Don’t forget to like Bailing Out Benji on Facebook

Through the Eyes of a Child

I will admit, the muse that sparked this latest article was none other than my subscription to Netflix. I happened to be browsing my watch instantly options and was inundated with options for children’s movies, although it isn’t my particular genre of choice. As I am scrolling through all of these movies, I kept thinking to myself, “too sad” and “that one always makes me cry”.

What was I looking at, you ask?

The collection of Disney movies that are new to Netflix. Here I am, an adult, and I can’t bring myself to watch silly little kids movies because they are so sad and that got me thinking…. As we are watching these movies at a young age, do they have an impact on our choices as an adult? You always hear that violent games/movies are shaping our children, but is the opposite true? Looking back on some of my favorite childhood movies, I am horrified that more people haven’t realized how true some of these messages really are. 

Paul McCartney, an avid animal welfare advocate and fellow vegan explains his loves of Disney films, “You could lose yourself in it, it’s a magical world, really. I just always loved that stuff as a kid.” McCartney also credits Disney films “Bambi” and “Lady and the Tramp” for teaching people the importance of animal welfare. McCartney says that it” taught us against cruelty to animals and made us sympathize so much with animals”. These movies “gave us a compassion” for animals. And that is completely true.

ImageBelow, you will find a list of movies that I have picked out because of the strong animal welfare theme that I got from them. By no means is it a complete list, and you don’t have to agree with every movie on there- but I want you to read through the list carefully. Look at the movies and think about you watching them and your kids/grand kids/nieces/nephews watching them. Ask yourself… Do movies help shape who we are as adults? 

 

FoxSome examples of Disney Movies that have a strong animal welfare theme:

  • “Bambi”– Bambi’s mother is shot by a hunter (and is later shot himself during a man-made fire) 
  • “Dumbo”–Dumbo’s mother is put into chains in the circus
  • “101 Dalmations”– Cruella De Vil wants to kill the puppies  and turn them into fur coats
  • “Fox and the Hound”– Fox hunting and trapping
  • “The Shaggy Dog”– The 2006 version is all about animal testing in the pharmaceutical world. 
  • “The Aristocats”– Touches on the stray animal problem, as well as overpopulation. 
  • “Finding Nemo”– Fish from the Ocean are put into a tiny aquarium and dream about escape.
  • “AirBud” “Snow Buddies”– the puppies from these movies now show up in commercials that talk about adoption. 
  • “Homeward Bound”– Focuses highly on the feelings of animals and the dangers of them becoming lost

NemoHere are a few other examples of movies that aren’t necessarily “Disney” or about animals:

  • “Free Willy”– Strong message about wild animals belonging in the wild. 
  • “Wall-E”– Has a clear message about pollution and our everyday choices. 
  • “Paulie”– A bird escapes from an animal testing lab and finds a best friend in a human. 
  • “Babe”– Starts off with his mother being slaughtered. 
  • “The Lorax”– Speaking for the trees, this movie is about our environmental impact.
  • “Chicken Run”– Focuses on a band of chickens that are intent on escaping their death on the farm.
  • “Rio”– the last blue macaw plucked from his life in the wild. 
  • “Madagascar”– Animals in zoos wanting to escape back to the wild. 
  • “Ferngully: The Last Rainforest”– The magical inhabitants of a rainforest called FernGully fight to save their home that is threatened by logging and a polluting force of destruction

ImageIn these movies, we are giving a voice to the animals and showing our children that they do have feelings. We are teaching our children from a very young age that the choices we make can directly affect the lives of others. Of course, many who are opposed to the “AR” movement would find this idea to be brainwashing. Do you think the movies are teaching our children to feel compassion for animals? Do you think that they have any impact on our future?  I  feel that these are the movies that spark instant discussions with children. Watching alone won’t necessarily teach them, but the discussions that follow will. Thanks, in large part, to my Aunt Becky, who not only owned all of these movies but watched them with me constantly, I can look back and understand why I am the person that I am today. 

 

What are your thoughts? Do these movies in anyway impact our choices as an adult? Or was it simply good writing on the part of the filmmakers? 

If this article sparked your interest about teaching animal welfare to children, please be sure to click on this link and get a list of books that will help teach your child in an age appropriate manner.

 

And don’t forget to “like” Bailing Out Benji on Facebook!  

You Are What You Eat

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The decision on what to feed our pets is always a tough one- especially with the pet food companies telling you anything you want to hear.

Your dog or cat will be happier/ healthier /live longer. 

There are cheap foods, all-natural and foods with “meat chunks”.  In all reality, we should be just as picky with what goes into their bodies as we are with what goes into ours. We all can agree that choosing the right food  can be one of the biggest factors in longevity and quality of life for our pets. We also have to realize that just like human food, the best-tasting food is often the worst for us. For example,  foods with “tasty bits” or “meaty chunks” are sold to satisfy OUR  needs more than the dog’s nutritional needs and are often the cause of obesity. 

What I want to do with this article is let you know that there isn’t any one right answer when it comes to the dog or cat food that you choose, but there are several wrong answers! I want to help you make more informed decisions when it is time to refill the doggie dish, but please keep in mind, I am no expert.  I will offer tips and sources for you to refer to while making your own decision. 

Here are a few tips to keep in mind while browsing.

*. DON’T BE FOOLED BY THE BAG!!! The bag is designed by the marketing company, not by the scientists who created the dog food. They don’t know what is in the food, and they don’t care. Be sure to look at the ingredient list and guaranteed analysis chart on the back to help you make your decision.

**:  Avoid the following ingredients AT ALL COSTS:  By-products, artificial preservatives, corn, wheat, unnamed meat ingredients (poultry meal as an example).  The secret history of  pet food is that it began and continues to be dominated by companies producing pet food from the waste in the human food industry. That means the animals get anything that is not fit for us to eat.  Now, this isn’t true of all pet foods, but especially the cheap ones. Always check for the ingredients above, where there is ONE, there are several. Especially avoid dog foods that have one of the ingredients above in its top 5 ingredients.  

Ingredient list of BENEFUL

*** Each dog/cat has different needs. You have to look for allergies, breeds, ages energy levels, and other general health issues. Keep these needs in mind when shopping for your next bag of food. It is best to talk with your veterinarian about the needs of your specific dog. I want to note that many veterinarian’s will suggest Science Diet (which, shockingly, isn’t a top of the line food.)

**** Don’t let price deter you!  I get hung up on this one often (especially since I am feeding four labs) Sure, the healthier foods are more expensive, but you are feeding your dog less (or you should be anyway). Not only will the food last longer, but you are saving money on future vet bills and, perhaps best of all, your dog will poop less! With the healthier foods there are less (or no) fillers, so your dog is using the food, which means less waste! 

As I said earlier, there is no right answer, but there are a lot of wrong ones. I am about to introduce you to your new best friend…. DogFoodAdvisor.Com   . This website is dedicated to rating all sorts of dog foods based on ingredients and they even keep an updated list of recalls. For those of you who may not have the time to click around on the site, I am going to list some of the worst and best choices of dog foods for your dog. The foods listed will be the more well-known brands and the DRY dog foods only, it is just to give you an idea of how marketing isn’t what it seems. The foods will be separated from 1 star (worst) to 5 star (best). For my kitty lovers out there, I apologize in advance, there isn’t a comprehensive site that rates all of the cat foods. However, I did find this article to help you on your journey as well! 

1 STAR FOODS

Alpo, BENEFUL (see editor’s note) , Bil-Jac Reduced Fat, Chef Michael’s,Hill’s Prescription Diet, Ol’ Roy, Kibbles N Bits, PEDIGREE, Purina (Dog Chow, Active Senior, Puppy Chow, Little Bites, Healthy Morsels, Be Happy, Fit N Trim).

2 STAR FOODS

Bil-Jac, Diamond Dog Food, Eukanuba Custom Care, Evolution Diet Dog Care, First Choice, Hill’s Science Diet (Diet R/D, Adult, Healthy Advantage, Mature Adult, Puppy), IAMS (Proactive Health, Veterinary Formulas Intestinal, Vet Formulas Skin/Coat, Vet Formulas Weight), Purina ONE Smart Blend, Purina ProPlan Savor, Rachel Ray Nutrish

3 STAR FOODS

Apex, Avoderm Natural Grain Free, Blue Buffalo Basics, Eukanuba (Breed specific formula, Dog Food, Natural, Naturally Wild, Premium Performance, Pure), Fromm Family Classics, Hill’s Science Diet (High Energy, Ideal Balance, Ideal Balance Grain Free), IAMS (Naturals Dog Food, Premium Protection), Natural Balance (Limited Ingredient Diets, Organic, Ultra), Nature’s Recipe (Original and Grain Free), Nutro (Original, Natural Choice, Natural Choice Grain Free, Natural Choice Limited Ingredient, Wholesome Essentials), Purina ONE Beyond, Purina PROplan (Focus, Select, Sport), Royal Canin (Breed specific adult, breed specific puppy, Cynotechnique Energy 4800, Giant Adult, Maxi, Medium, Mini Adult, Mini Aging, Mini Puppy, Mini Weight Care), Sojo’s Complete. 

4 STAR FOODS

Authority Grain Free, AvoDerm (Natural Dog Food, Natural Revolving Menu), Blue Buffalo (Freedom Grain Free, Life Protection, Longevity),  BOGO Bowl, Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul, Diamond Naturals, Earthborn Holistic, Fromm (Four Star Nutritionals, Gold), Halo, Newman’s Own  Organics, Nutro ULTRA, Pro Pac, Pure Vita (Original, Grain Free), Royal Canin Starter, Taste of the Wild,

5 STAR FOODS

Blue Buffalo Wilderness, Canidae (Grain Free Pure, Single Grain Protein) Earthborn Holistic (Grain Free, Primitive Natural), EVO, Fromm Four Star Nutritionals Grain Free, Merrick (Classic, Grain Free), Orijen, 

For more foods from each category, click on the hyperlink and it will take you to the specific rating category. This list is current as of March 2013 (per DogFoodAdvisor.com) Remember, just because it is on the shelf, doesn’t mean it is good for your dog or cat. Most store brand foods would receive a one star rating- ALWAYS look at the ingredients. I have always heard the rule of thumb is that YOU want to be able to eat the first five ingredients in your pet’s food. 

Anyway, I hope this helps you on your journey. Please feel free to leave your comments or ask questions! 

**Editor’s Note::: There is a huge backlash with  Purina BENEFUL right now, which was my inspiration for the article. Many dogs have been dying recently and the fingers are being pointed at this brand. Sadly, many don’t know about this issue until it is too late. Please please please be more thoughtful about what goes into your pet’s body. Share this article and help educate others on the importance of your pet’s diet!

ALSO::: There have been a lot of complaints about blue buffalo as of late. Please, no matter what food your animals are eating, if you see a change in their health/behavior contact your veterinarian right away. Here is a link with concerns about this brand. 

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Life After the Loss of a pet

Many of you know that I have recently taken in a 14 year old, deaf black lab named Abby. She lived her entire life outside on a farm, where many of her illnesses went untreated. She had an ear infection that had gone on for over 8 years without treatment, resulting in the worst case of cauliflower ear that my vet had ever seen and permanent deafness. Abby also has heartworms, mammary cancer and very bad teeth. When my husband and I decided to take her in, we knew that her time was limited but we didn’t realize how limited. My three other rescued black labs are all around four years old and and are healthy, so death isn’t something we have had to contemplate. There are nights that I can’t stop crying because I know that Abby is finally happy, and her time is so short. We have been discussing our options at home, and this led me to write an article about pet loss and grieving. While Miss Abby is still with us, I know that I will be needing help and encouragement in the months to come.  Most of my friends and readers are involved in the animal rescue world one way or another. Pet loss is something we deal with frequently, but it never gets easier. The intense bond that we share with our pets is almost deeper sometimes than the bond we share with humans, so it is only natural to feel absolutely crushed and hopeless when a furry family member dies. It goes without saying that some people will never understand the depth of love you had for your pet (be it a dog, cat, bunny or any other animal), you should NEVER feel guilty about your sadness. Give yourself time to grieve and then move on to more healthy ways of coping. While we will never forget our beloved pet, there are healthy ways of moving on and honoring their memory. 

For those of you reading, your animals are not “just animals”, they are tiny humans covered in fur, they are the children that don’t talk back, and they are the friend that listens without judgement. For us, pets are beloved members of the family and when they die, you feel a significant loss, as you would with any other family member. The grief you feel will be dependent on your situation. 

THE STAGES OF GRIEF

Like with the passing of a friend or family member, there are stages of grief that we all go through. Dividing the grief process in to fluid “stages” helps the grief stricken person to understand that their experiences and emotions are normal. Some people will quickly progress through all the phases, while others appear to get “stuck” in a particular phase, but it is different for every one. Briefly, the stages of grief are as follows:

1. SHOCK AND DENIAL-
The reality of death has not yet been accepted by the bereaved. He or she feels stunned and bewildered-as if everything is “unreal.”

2.ANGER-
The grief stricken person often lashes out at family, friends, themselves, God, the Veterinarian or the world in general. Bereaved people will also experience feelings of guilt or fear during this stage.

3. BARGAINING-
In this stage, the bereaved asks for a deal or reward from either God, the Veterinarian or the Clergy. Comments like “I’ll go to Church every day, if only my pet will come back to me” are common.

4. DEPRESSION-
Depression occurs as a reaction to the changed way of life created by the loss. The bereaved person feels intensely sad, hopeless, drained and helpless. The pet is missed and thought about constantly.

5. ACCEPTANCE- Acceptance comes when the changes brought upon the person by the loss are stabilized into a new lifestyle. The depth and intensity of the mourning process depends on many factors. The age of the owner, circumstances surrounding the death, relationship of the animal to the owner and to other family members, are all significant. Recently experiencing the death of a significant person in the owner’s life can also affect how the pet’s death is handled. Usually, children recover more quickly, while the elderly take the longest. Sometimes, the death of a pet will finally enable the bereaved to mourn the loss of a person, whose death had not yet been accepted.

Grief can be complicated by the role the animal played in your life. For example, if your pet was a working dog or a helper animal such as a guide dog, then you’ll not only be grieving the loss of a companion but also the loss of a coworker or the loss of your independence. If you cared for your pet through a protracted illness, you likely grew to love him even more. If you lived alone and the pet was your only companion, coming to terms with his loss can be even harder. If you were unable to afford expensive veterinary treatment to prolong the life of your pet, you may even feel a profound sense of guilt.

Everyone grieves differently!!

Grieving is a personal and highly individual experience. You and your spouse may have lost the same pet, but you are feeling it in completely different ways.  Some people find grief comes in stages, those listed above, and others find that grief is more cyclical, coming in waves, or a series of highs and lows. The lows are likely to be deeper and longer at the beginning and then gradually become shorter and less intense as time goes by. Still, even years after a loss, a sight, a sound, or a special anniversary can spark memories that trigger a strong sense of grief.

  • The grieving process happens only gradually. It can’t be forced or hurried—and there is no “normal” timetable for grieving. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months. For others, the grieving process is measured in years. Whatever your grief experience, it’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to naturally unfold.
  • Feeling sad, frightened, or lonely is a normal reaction to the loss of a beloved pet. Exhibiting these feelings doesn’t mean you are weak, so you shouldn’t feel ashamed.
  • Trying to ignore your pain or keep it from surfacing will only make it worse in the long run. For real healing, it is necessary to face your grief and actively deal with it. By expressing your grief, you’ll likely need less time to heal than if you withhold or “bottle up” your feelings. Write about your feelings and talk with others about them.

Tips for coping after you have lost a pet

There is no right way to feel. Everyone handles death differently, just read through the steps below and try to find out which way helps you the best. 

  • Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel, and don’t tell yourself how to feel either. This is the most important step. Your grief is your own and no one else can tell you when it’s time to “move on” or “get over it.” Let yourself feel whatever you feel without embarrassment or judgment. It’s okay to be angry, to cry or not to cry. It’s also okay to laugh, to find moments of joy, and to let go when you’re ready.
  • If you have chosen euthanasia for your pet be sure to see it through with them. There is nothing worse than being scared and dying alone, imagine if the roles were reversed. You will feel better in the end knowing that you honored your pet by letting him/her go while they were surrounded by love.
  • Reach out to others who have lost pets. Check out online message boards, pet loss hotlines, and pet loss support groups.It is important to find people who understand what you are going through. Sometimes the people in our lives don’t quite get it. It is important not to lash out at them, but instead find others than can help.  
  • Rituals can help healing. Just as they do with humans, simple celebrations of life can help with the grieving process. A funeral can help you and your family members openly express your feelings. Ignore anyone who tries to tell you that it is stupid or inappropriate to hold a funeral for a pet, this is your life not theirs. You can choose to bury your pet in a pet cemetery or spread his/her ashes in a favorite spot (or keep them). Honor your pet in a way that will help you let them go easier.
  • Create a legacy. Preparing a memorial, planting a tree in memory of your pet, compiling a photo album or scrapbook, or otherwise sharing the memories you enjoyed with your pet, can create a legacy to celebrate the life of your animal companion. It is something that you can look at for years to come and it will trigger the happy memories. 
  • If you have other pets, be sure to maintain the normalcy in your life. Surviving pets can also experience loss when their friend dies and they may become distressed by your sorrow. Maintaining their daily routines, or even increasing exercise and play times, will not only benefit the surviving pets but may also help to elevate your outlook too. In time, it is also a good step to think about adding another furry family member to your life. You are by no means replacing the lost, but honoring their memory by rescuing another life. 
  • There are animal support groups in almost every state. Here is a brief list of them. If there are none in your area, consider creating one. You will make life long friendships as you grieve and help others do the same. 

Helping a child cope with pet loss

In a lot of cases, many of us have had our pets longer than we have had the children in our lives. Grieving can be especially difficult when you are trying to be the “strong” one in the family. It is important for a child to see a healthy grieving process for a pet. You are teaching them forever that pets are family, not just something that goes away. The loss of a pet may be your child’s first experience of death, so how you react to the loss of this life will pave their reactions to similar losses in the future. Some families feel they should try to protect their children from the sadness of losing a pet by either not talking about the pet’s death, or by not being honest about what’s happened. Pretending the animal ran away, went to live on a farm or “went to sleep,”  can leave a child feeling even more confused, frightened, and betrayed when they finally learn the truth. It’s far better to be honest with children and allow them the opportunity to grieve in their own way. Losing a pet can be a traumatic experience for any child (or adult, let’s face it). Many kids love their pets very deeply and some may not even remember a time in their life when the pet wasn’t around. A child may feel angry and blame themselves—or you—for the pet’s death. A child may feel scared that other people or animals they love may also leave them. How you handle the grieving process can determine whether the experience has a positive or negative effect on your child’s personal development.

Tips for a helping a child cope with the loss of a pet

  • Let your child see you express your own grief at the loss of the pet. If you don’t experience the same sense of loss as your child, respect their grief and let them express their feelings openly, without making them feel ashamed or guilty. Children should feel proud that they have so much compassion and care deeply about their animal companions.
  • Reassure your child that they weren’t responsible for the pet’s death. The death of a pet can raise a lot of questions and fears in a child. You may need to reassure your child that you, their parents, are not also likely to die. It’s important to talk about all their feelings and concerns.
  • Involve your child in the dying process. If you have chosen euthanasia for your pet, be honest with your child. Explain why the choice is necessary and give the child chance to spend some special time with the pet and say goodbye in his or her own way.
  • If possible, give the child an opportunity to create a memento of the pet. This could be a special photograph, or a plaster cast of the animal’s paw print, for example.
  • Allow the child to be involved in any memorial service, if they desire. Holding a funeral or creating a memorial for the pet can help your child express their feelings openly and help process the loss.
  • Do not rush out to get the child a “replacement pet” before they have had chance to grieve the loss they feel. Your child may feel disloyal, or you could send the message that the grief and sadness felt when something dies can simply be overcome by buying a replacement.
  • For more information on books and age appropriate ways to talk about death with children, please click here

Getting another pet: Moving on after pet loss

In my case, getting another pet after the grieving process is only natural. There are so many black labs out there that need rescued, I would feel guilty if I didn’t honor my previous loves by rescuing more and giving them an amazing life. The key is not to rush your decision. If you aren’t ready, then the pets in your home will sense that. When the time is right, the perfect animal will find you.Please remember, each animal is different, so trying to exactly duplicate your old pet will likely result only in frustration and disappointment- which isn’t fair to you or him/her.  A new pet should be appreciated fully for its own sake, not as a direct replacement.** Editor’s note** I have said it many times before and I will say it again… There is no right way to grieve or move on. If you need to talk to someone who is going through the same thing, please reach out to me. I can be contacted through the Bailing Out Benji facebook page.

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Going All Natural for the Animals

Since I have started Bailing Out Benji, many people have asked about natural methods for fighting fleas, as they feel uncomfortable “poisoning” their dogs to protect them. It turns out that one of my friends and a huge supporter of Bailing Out Benji has some answers for us! Cindy Manning, of DoTerra Essential Oils, has written a little article for us, so we can make better choices for the animals in our lives. While this advice may not be for everyone, it is always great to learn about alternatives! 

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Happy New Year! While there may still be snow on the ground, the hope of Spring is just around the corner.  With the warm weather also comes those little pests that we don’t appreciate bugging our pets.  Lately I have been taking a more “natural way of living” and I have been questioning the chemical poop storms we put on our pets to control parasites.  While the drop or two on the back between the shoulder blades is convenient, over the years I have found it less and less effective in killing the little buggers we call fleas.  

In an advertisement I was reading for Frontline, that came in a magazine sent out by my vet, it stated that “only 5% of the fleas in your household are actually on your pet”.  Oh wow – were fighting the war on the wrong battle field.  

The very first natural defense for fleas is your vacuum.  Vacuum, Vacuum, Vacuum every single day, every where in your house.  Vacuum your couches and chairs and wash your bedding in very hot water at least once a week.  I’m exhausted just thinking about it, and I don’t own a vacuum.  So here are some other things to keep the little buggers at bay: This information is from E-how.com/

 

Essential oils are promoted as a safe, sweet-smelling and economical solution for killing fleas and their eggs, those small biting insects that feed on warm-blooded animals and jump onto pets, like cats and dogs and gain access to our homes. Essential oils are available from local health food stores and must be stored safely in child proof bottles, away from strong light.

Types of Oils that help: 

Cedar Wood

  • Cedar wood essential oil, obtained from Cedrus atlantica trees, is an inexpensive and easy-to-find essential oil that kills fleas and scents the home with a resinous perfume. To eradicate fleas, take a new spray bottle and make a mixture with the ratio of 12 drops of cedar wood oil to 1 oz. of water (1 tsp. equals approximately 100 drops of essential oil), shake well and spray the mixture in affected areas like pet beds and under sofa cushions. Vacuum one hour after treatment with disposable vacuum bags, ensuring any fleas and eggs caught up are burnt or disposed of outside the home.

Eucalyptus

  • Eucalyptus is another “woody” essential oil. It is extracted from Eucalyptus globules trees and is one of the least expensive. Pioneers of the Australian outback first brought its qualities as a home remedy to the attention of Western settlers. The reputation of eucalyptus for killing fleas without harming dogs is reassuring to pet owners. To treat a medium- to large-sized dog, combine 10 drops of eucalyptus oil with 1/2 oz. of almond oil, mix well and apply to the animal’s fur (preferably after a bath) using deep massaging strokes. A vet should be consulted before treatment, if any pre-existing health conditions like skin diseases contra -indicate this approach.

Lavender

  • Lavender is a floral essential oil derived from the flowers of the Lavandula angustifolia or Lavandula officinalis plant, and may be a surprising choice for those not familiar with its long history as a medicinal herb. Lavender offers a variation in scent from the woody oils, since typical flea eradication procedures are carried out over several weeks, to ensure new adults hatching from eggs are destroyed. When other oils meet resistance in the elimination of fleas, lavender is a popular addition to existing sprays, but care must be exercised not to let the proportion of oils exceed the amount in the original recipe. Drops of neat lavender oil in well-chosen locations such as cracks in wooden floors and inside cushions and pillows with removable covers supports and enhances a campaign to rid a home of fleas.

 

  • Another HUGE benefit of lavender oil is that it is a calming oil for dogs. I use it to calm  my anxious dogs during storms. You smear two drops on a bandanna or their collar (one drop for a smaller dog) and then put the item around their neck. They start to calm down within minutes, it is amazing! 

 

Other ways of fighting fleas naturally.

Whenever your pets get fleas, you must resolve the problem as quickly as possible to prevent the fleas from transmitting tapeworms to your pets. Fortunately, several safe and effective natural home remedies can kill fleas and flea eggs. Save a significant expense and reduce the risk of side effects with homemade treatments over store-bought chemical options. Remain vigilant in maintaining a thorough cleaning regimen to remove fleas from your home permanently.

  • Powder
  • Combine 1 cup of diatomaceous earth with 1 cup of borax. Crush together dried rosemary, fennel, yellow dock, wormwood and eucalyptus in equal parts, then mix the powdered herbs with the borax and diatomaceous earth. Apply the powder directly onto your pet’s skin daily. Sprinkle the mixture into your carpets, couches and beds throughout the house. Wait four hours, then your carpets, couches and beds.

  • – CAUTION – Diatomaceous Earth is dangerous to inhale! So keep this away from your face and your pets face – but your pets can eat it to kill internal parasites. 

  • *Flea Collars:

Make a flea-repelling collar by dabbing essential oil blended with a carrier oil onto a standard pet collar. Five drops of essential rosemary, peppermint or cedar oil mixed with 2 tbsp. of almond oil will work effectively to keep fleas off of your pet. Essential oil blends are better suited for dogs; cats are more prone to absorbing essential oils internally through prolonged direct skin contact. If you choose to put the collar on your cat use diluted neem oil in place of the essential oils.

* Bathing your pooch

Many have also asked if we knew any good homemade dog shampoo recipes. While there are a lot out there, this is one that is a favorite. To make: Use a funnel to pour 1/2 cup of liquid Castile soap into a small, lidded bottle. Add 1/4 cup of either white or apple cider vinegar, one tablespoon of vegetable glycerin or olive oil, and two tablespoons of water. You can add three or four drops of essential oils if you choose. Shake the bottle gently to mix the ingredients. The soap will hold the ingredients together, but gently shake the shampoo before each use to ensure it is properly mixed. To Use: Wet your canine pal with warm water. Lather the shampoo gently through his fur down to his skin. Take special care to avoid his eyes, as the mixture will sting them. Rinse thoroughly to remove all traces of the shampoo. Groom your buddy as needed.

*Additional Cleaning

  • Vacuum your home, furniture and pet beds daily. Wash all bedding materials, pillows and slip covers every two days. Always empty the vacuum chamber and tubes after you vacuum to prevent fleas from breeding inside your vacuum cleaner and spreading back onto your carpets and furniture. Clean the components with liquid antibacterial soap and water after each time you vacuum to prevent this scenario. If you do not have enough vacuum bags to replace the bag each time you vacuum, spray the liquid flea-killing solution into the bag after each use instead. Flea eggs hatch in seven-day cycles, so you must perform all these routines at least once every six days for a full month to achieve completely successful treatment. Good luck in your quest for getting rid of pests, I’m right there fighting the war with you.  I don’t claim to be any professional at treating pets or people, I’m just a single person trying to make my world more environmentally friendly. You can purchase these oils and more through DoTerra . DoTerra oils are independently certified organic and most of them are safe for internal use (not lavender or melaleuca).  Thanks!

    Cindy 

Please remember to share these helpful hints with your fellow animal lovers! And, also, don’t forget that this is NOT medical advice and that these helpful hints are for dogs only. Several essential oils are toxic to cats

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The Insanity of the Iditarod

Every winter since March of 1973, sled dogs have been forced to train and suffer for the “last great race” of our time- The Iditarod. Animal advocates all over the world cringe when they hear the term. What many everyday citizens don’t see is the intense cruelty that goes on behind the scenes. The breeding, the abuse, the intense training, the abandonment…. This race is a combination of multiple sources of abuse that we fight everyday. After you read this, I implore you to share the article with everyone that you know. Help me to end the “glamour” behind the Iditarod.

The Background

“Jagged mountain ranges, frozen river, dense forest, desolate tundra and miles of windswept coast . . . temperatures far below zero, winds that can cause a complete loss of visibility, the hazards of overflow, long hours of darkness and treacherous climbs and side hills . . .”

Is this a description of the Iditarod from a critic’s  point of view? No… it’s from the official Iditarod website.

The Iditarod is the longest dog sled race in the world. It starts on the first Saturday in March every year in Anchorage, Alaska and ends about 1,200 miles away in Nome. The 2013 date is set for Saturday, March 2nd. The Iditarod  is considered one of sports’ most grueling events, as mushers and their dog teams battle the Alaskan wilderness for 8-17 days. The race honors Alaska’s brave past, which centered around dog sledding, particularly the “Great Run of Mercy” in 1925, when sled dog teams brought serum to Nome to prevent a diphtheria epidemic. If you have seen the children’s movie “Balto”, you get the idea. 

The Breeding and high confinement

According to Joe Runyan, author of  Winning Strategies for Distance Mushers, 

“The goal is to produce 70 or more quality pups a year… Now, for the rest of the readers, the real answer to the question ‘Are you running a puppy mill?’ is essentially ‘yes.’ Let’s face it you made the decision to raise 70 pups and pick out the 15 or 20 best ones. That means there are 50 pups left to see, give away, or put down. You can’t keep the average dogs because it will ruin your focus on developing a championship team and besides that, unless you are independently wealthy, you cannot afford it.”

Many of you are familiar with puppy mills, this is no different. These sled dogs aren’t given the opportunity to run free, even in a fenced in area. Many of them are forced to eat and drink from rusty bowls that are fixed to their kennel, as you can imagine, they are rarely cleaned or disinfected. All dogs, no matter age or health are kept outside during the cold Alaska winters (temp ranging from -24 to 15). In true puppy mill style, there aren’t many employees at these kennels and the dogs are highly neglected. 

Ashley Keith, former musher and Iditarod kennel employee who now rescues and rehabilitates abused sled dogs wrote the following letter to the Sled Dog Action Coalition in 2007. 

“When I traveled to work for a champion Iditarod and touring kennel in Alaska, I found that over two hundred dogs lived in dilapidated wooden dog houses and plastic barrels, without straw. Even though the temperatures were below zero at night, the few elderly dogs that were present received no bedding or extra care. They slowly crawled out of their dog houses each morning, arthritic and constantly growing thinner from the cold. Poorly constructed and maintained houses are bad because they provide little to no warmth for the dog. Temperatures are bad enough in Alaska, but wind chill factors make it even worse.” 

Rick Swenson, the four-time Iditarod champ boasts in his book, The Secrets of Long Distance Training and Racing,

“But on the average, a fellow like myself, who raises a minimum of 50 pups every year, using almost all proven breeding stock, still doesn’t get more than two pups out of a litter that wind up making the race team when they are three years old.”
“If a pup is slow, I am not going to mess with them. It is not worth messing with a pup if it hasn’t got any speed and doesn’t want to go- yes, I am talking about draggers. That is the first culling – they just plain don’t want to go. Then I look at their gaits or if they throw their legs out funny or obviously are too slow, if their lines are slack all the time. There is no sense wasting good dog food and your time on a dog that isn’t fast enough to keep up.” “If you want to have trotters, you can save yourself a lot of dog food, keeping the faster ones and eliminating the others.”

You can only imagine what happens to the other 48 pups, and, no, they don’t go to rescue. George Attla, the author of Everything I Know About Training and Racing Sled Dogs talks about how he deals with dogs that aren’t up to standard. Constantly referring to “getting rid of them right now” or sending them to “Happy hunting grounds” which is a term used to mean “North American Indian Heaven”, Attla talks about the reasons for discarding dogs. Looking back, running funny, running slowly, dogs that are scared to run down hill, younger dogs that goof off… His reasons are endless and his method of removal is a bullet. 

Sled dog lot for Iditarod 2010
jkbrooks85/cc by2.0

The Training

Dogs will do anything to please their humans and, in this race, the dogs literally run themselves into the ground- leaving everything they have on the snow for their human.  These mushers crack the whip and force them to run in the cold for days. Honestly, no dog has a genetic need to run that distance under those conditions- no  matter what the sport officials will tell you. 

The Iditarod and the State of Alaska do not require kennel owners and mushers to keep record of dogs that die in training each year. And it is probably to protect the “sanctity” of the sport, because if word got out about the training practices, the race would be over before it started- so to speak. What is the trick to getting a sled dog team to obey your every command? Abuse. Not just a swat on the butt or nose… Severe abuse. Cruel methods of abuse are used to make the dogs obedient. I will not be going too in depth in this article (you can read more of the “training” methods here), but it is intense. One of the dog handlers, Mike Cranford, spoke out in a letter to the Sled Dog Action Coalition. 

“The abuse occurs during training and out of the public’s eyes. I’ve seen the dogs choked, smothered and beaten with everything from clubs to steel snowhooks. One musher showed me his club made out of chain and how well it worked and he was proud of it.” 

Sadly, that is not the worst of it… The hardest part is that these trainers are behind the scenes. Their abuse goes undocumented and no one speaks out for these poor poor souls. 

The Race

The maximum number of dogs that a musher can start off with is 16, and they are only required to finish with five. Again, the dogs suffer from severe abuse during the race itself. 1200 miles through some of the coldest spots in the world, these dogs are expected to race at their highest potential at all times. If they are sick, slow, injured, tired- they are beaten. If the injury is too much, the dog is cut loose and the dogs are re-positioned  The icy and cold ground is another danger for these animals, it is almost like sandpaper to them. “Candling” the dogs feet is a popular exercise, in which the musher cuts the fur around the paws and then proceeds to singe the hair with a propane torch. This makes it harder to the snow to pile up on their paws. 

Another danger that isn’t often mentioned, the mushers are so sleep deprived that they hallucinate. This is even more dangerous for the dogs, who are expected to listen to every command. When the commands become confusing, the dogs act out of sorts and are, again, beaten.

149 dogs have been reported to have died during the race since 1994 (before that records weren’t kept), 20 of them have died since 2005. The dangers of this race are endless- wild animals, hypothermia, asphyxiation due to the harness, drowning. The race is labeled as “man against nature”, yet the real work is done by the dogs themselves. In my opinion, the Iditarod is no worse than dog fighting. 

Dogs who couldn’t make it across Iditarod finish line:

Year Number of dogs starting race Number of dogs finishing race Number of dogs notfinishing race Percentage of dogsnot finishing race
2002 1,024 524 500 49%
2003 1,024 381 643 63%
2004 1,391 734 657 47%
2005 1,264 585 679 54%
2006 1,328 737 591 45%
2007 1,308 564 744 57%
2008 1,517 807 710 47%
2009 1,072 575 497 46%
2010 1,136 550 586 52%
2011 992 451 541 45%
2012 1056 555 501 47%

Average percentage of dogs not finishing race from 2002 to 2012: 50%
We are rarely told what happened to these dogs. from helpsleddogs.org

The Prize

 Why do people participate in this race? Greed and money of course. The first person to cross the finish line gets $50,400, and the top-30 finishers split the $528,000 prize. All of this cruelty for a little money, a little fame, and the chance to do it all again the next year. Where does all of this money come from, you ask? The sponsors, of which there are many. Two of the biggest ones are Wells Fargo and Exxon Mobile. For a full list, click here. If there were no sponsors, this cruelty would be over. 

Cruel, yes. Illegal? No.

The Iditarod violates the accepted standards of animal cruelty in 38 states and D.C, however Alaska doesn’t view cruelty in the same aspect. These states have animal cruelty laws that talk about “overdriving” and “overworking” an animal. With 149 dog deaths reported since 1994, the Iditarod is obviously an act of cruelty. 2009 was the first Iditarod in which a dog did not die… Below is an example of the California law. 

“597. Cruelty to animals. (B) Every person who overdrives, overloads, drives when overloaded, overworks… any animal… is, for every such offense, guilty of a crime punishable as a misdemeanor or as a felony or alternatively punishable as a misdemeanor or a felony and by a fine of not more than twenty thousand dollars ($20,000).”–Animal Welfare Institute, Animals and Their Legal Rights

If these races (and deaths) occurred in any other part of America, they would be illegal. So why does Alaska allow it? 

The Sad Truth

Retired or culled (rejected) sled dogs are very hard to adopt out. Not only is there not a “demand” in Alaska for the Siberian husky breed as a pet, but these animals are so extremely neglected and abused that they often have severe issues and require patience. Not to mention that with the vast numbers of dogs that are surrendered, adopting them all out is a pipe dream. Most dogs never even stand a chance, they are euthanized right away. 

“But the facts are that each year, more than 1,000 sled dogs wind up at the shelter and of those, only about a third are adopted.”- Associated Press, Anchorage Daily News, May 7, 2007

How can you help?

If this information has upset you and you would like to voice your concerns, please feel free to email the Executive Director of the Iditarod race, Stan Hooley at shooley@iditarod.com or you can head on over to the facebook page of the Iditarod and voice your concerns there!  Please see the sponsors list again and send emails to them! Let them know that we won’t stand for this abuse any longer.

And here are a few links to petitions that are focused on the sponsors of the Iditarod! Lend your signature and, who knows, maybe the sponsors will listen!!

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/464/865/000/stop-sponsoring-the-iditarod/

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/iditarod—the-worst-case-of-animal-cruelty-in-the-us/

Please like Bailing Out Benji on facebook

Stay up to date on how you can help these dogs and more!

UPDATE:: The 2013 Iditarod Champion was recently crowned… Meet Mitch Seavey, one of the most notorious animal abusers to come out of the race. Meet your 2013 Iditarod Champion (pictured below is his sled dog lot, where his dogs are kept.) Mitch Seavey, owner of 200+ sled dogs on his property.

Here is a quote from his book about training for the Iditarod.

Mitch Seavey on “Discipline and Negative Training”
– from Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way

“Fluffy, quit-your-screwing-around-you-miserable-excuse-of-a-fur-covered-garbage-disposal-before-I-whack-your-worthless-hiney-so-hard-you-will-need-two-stamps-to-send-back-a-postcard…”

“When he doesn’t respond, stop, go up to the dog…and with a pre-selected willow stick about 1/2 inch in diameter and three feet long, give him a good whack on the butt…You have to whack him good too…If you are going to bother with this, it’s got to sting.”

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***Editor’s Note: This article was one of the hardest that I had to research. The severe abuse that these dogs are forced to endure is unfathomable. Please share this article with all that you know. However, we do recognize that there are some racers that are in it for the love of the dogs and for the sport. It is the ones that use the animals to make a profit- those are the ones that need to be exposed.  

Two dogs from the 2012 Iditarod wake after a storm.

Sources:

http://www.peta.org/b/thepetafiles/archive/tags/Iditarod/default.aspx 

www.helpsleddogs.org

Iditarod.com