Thursday, May 30, 2013

Is mandatory spay/neuter of pit bulls a humane solution for this breed?

There are more pit bulls dying in US
shelters than any other dog breed.
I am proud to say that over the course of my career I may have been responsible for placing more pit bulls into loving homes than any other person in the United States. I am appalled by the fact that no dog breed in history encounters more misunderstanding and vilification than the pit bull; a breed I define as the American pit bull terrier, the American Staffordshire terrier, the Staffordshire bull terrier, and any crosses of these three. I admire these animals for their tenacious athletic ability, loyalty, intelligence, and high-energy.

Having said that, I have to ask, is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Consider these facts: The increase in dogs killed in U.S. shelters in 2011 was entirely attributable to an increase of 120,000 pit bull terriers killed. The total number of pit bulls killed rose to 930,300; the highest number in three years and representing 60 percent of all dogs killed in U.S. shelters.

Although pit bulls account for only 3.3 percent of the U.S. dog population, according to a 2011 Animal People survey, they represent 29 percent of all dogs surrendered nationally to shelters or impounded by animal control. This is a 23 percent increase since 2003.

However, pit bulls account for a whopping 51 percent (1,324) of all dogs (2,595) rescued by the Yavapai Humane Society in 2012, and 47 percent (51) of all the homeless dogs (107) euthanized that year.

During their lives, pit bulls are more often displaced than any other breed. Pit bulls are typically surrendered to shelters by their primary caretaker, but on average, each surrendered pit bull had three primary caretakers in just the preceding 18 months. Pit bulls also account for 22 percent of all dogs impounded for abuse and neglect; 46 percent of all dogs impounded for injuring humans; 51 percent of all dogs impounded for attacking other animals; and virtually all dogs impounded in dog fighting cases.

Pit bulls are adopted in greater numbers across the U.S. than any other breed. Still the volume arriving at shelters is so high that despite intensive national promotions by organizations like Best Friends Animal Society, the ASPCA, the American Humane Association, and the Maddie's Fund, the rate at which pit bulls are killed in shelters only fell from 93 percent ten years ago to 89.5 percent today. Even Los Angeles Animal Services, which adopts more pit bulls than any agency in the U.S., kills about 40 percent of all the pit bulls they rescue, and has reported increases in pit bull intakes every year since 2008.

Is there a way to end this disproportionate killing? Three U.S. communities have tried two different solutions. San Francisco, Denver and Miami each enacted breed-specific legislation. San Francisco requires pit bulls to be sterilized; Denver and Miami prohibit pit bulls within city limits. The latter seems onerous, if not unconstitutional; the former, however, may be a humane solution worthy of consideration.

Cumulatively, San Francisco, Denver and Miami kill about 40 percent fewer dogs of any breed than the U.S. national average. A comparison of San Francisco and Ontario, Canada is especially interesting. Ontario banned all pit bulls at the same time San Francisco mandated sterilization. Seven years later, the reduction in pit bulls is almost identical.

As a humane strategy for ensuring our community remains one of the safest in the nation for companion animals, should we consider mandatory sterilization of pit bulls, a breed whose offspring are at the greatest risk for being abused, killed or shuffled from home to home before being abandoned at a shelter? Please, let me know what you think at or call 445-2666, ext. 21.

All national data obtained from ANIMAL PEOPLE.

Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

YHS to be featured in national magazine

Animal Sheltering magazine is considered the gold standard for reliable information for people who care about the animals in their community - from humane society directors and city animal control managers to kennel staff, volunteers, and private individuals working as activists, breed rescuers, wildlife rehabbers, veterinarians, and more.

One of the purposes of Animal Sheltering magazine is to feature innovative animal shelters that are new, renovated, updated, or expanded, focusing specifically on aspects of the design and engineering that makes life better for the animals - as well as more pleasant for staff, volunteers, and visitors.

James Baker, a reporter with Animal Sheltering, is responsible for a feature called The Build-Out in each publication. Having heard about many YHS shelter enhancements over the past several years, he contacted us saying YHS "sounds like the perfect story for The Build-Out feature in Sept/Aug issue."

YHS has central HVAC
While YHS appreciates the national attention we receive for our innovative, life-saving programs, we are especially grateful to our local community for your support in making these improvements possible. Here is just a small list of accomplishments made possible by YHS supporters that may be featured in the upcoming Animal Sheltering magazine:

• The YHS Pet Adoption Center is now climate-controlled, thanks to a newly installed central HVAC system.

• All YHS animals have their own beds, private kennels or cages (cats have condos), piped-in music, and daily enrichment exercises.

• An outdoor Enrichment Kennel facility that helps housetrain dogs and provides training and holding space for animals.
Enrichment Facility

• Commercial laundry equipment ensures YHS is able to provide the cleanest blankets and towels to our animals every day.

• Solar power helped reduce utility costs by 50 percent, providing more money for direct animal needs.

• A new digital X-ray machine allows YHS Medical Team to diagnose and rehabilitate greater numbers of sick and injured animals.

• Water-retention barrels are being installed to help beautify YHS landscaping.

• The YHS Cat Facility to care for sick and injured homeless cats, and momma cats and their kittens.

All of these amenities are the result of gifts, donations and grants that demonstrate our community's unflappable commitment to making YHS the best it can be; a truly happy place for man and beast.

One of the premier amenities at YHS is the Buffy Pence Dog Park; named in memory of the beloved pet of Don and Shirl Pence - the benefactors who made the YHS dog park a reality. The park was recently reconfigured and enlarged with a net result that YHS now has two large dog parks where there used to be just one.

The fabulous YHS volunteer dog walkers use the dog park to ensure all our dogs have ample exercise and enrichment activities every day. The park provides a great place for dogs wanting to play fetch, catch Frisbees or just run around exploring. The park also serves as a friendly space where potential adopters get acquainted with prospective pets before actually adopting. The YHS dog behaviorist also uses this space for training dogs and teaching dog walkers to do likewise.

The only deficit this wonderful area has is a lack of shade; and with summer warming up this is a real concern. YHS would like to install artistic canopies that provide sun shade and UV protection for our animals, guests and volunteers. Shade will maximize the usefulness of the parks during the dog days of summer; making them more enjoyable.

YHS is gathering estimates for this enhancement now; if you would like to help, please send your donation to YHS at 1625 Sundog Ranch Road, Prescott AZ 86301.

Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society. He can be reached at or by calling 445-2666, ext. 21.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Foxtails are serious threat to your pets

Foxtails are a deadly threat to our pets
Your pet has a deadly enemy that comes in the form of several species of grassy weeds found throughout the western United States. These weeds grow rapidly during the winter/spring rains, and then dry out in the summer months. As the grasses mature, a seed forms at the top of the stalk resembling a foxtail. As foxtail grasses dry out, the seeds detach easily and stick readily to clothing and fur.

Foxtails can enter a dog's body in a variety of ways and once in they work like an animated fishhook: the seed moves steadily inward, and because of tiny barbs, it cannot back out. It's most common for a foxtail to enter a dog's body through the skin, nose, ears, paws, genitals, and eyes. One veterinarian reported a foxtail found in a dog's lung had initially entered through the dog's paw. Foxtails are tenacious and deadly.

Foxtails are relatively small, so detecting them after they enter a dog's body can be difficult. Veterinarians usually rely on telltale symptoms such as head-shaking, paw licking, swellings on the body, or sudden and continuous sneezing. Foxtails in the ears, nose and eyes are serious and can ultimately be life-threatening if not treated promptly.

When a foxtail is inhaled and lodged in the nasal cavity, a dog will sneeze repeatedly and violently, sometimes even banging his nose on the floor with each sneeze in a futile attempt to dislodge the seed. It is often possible for a veterinarian to sedate the animal, locate the seed with an otoscope and remove it using special forceps - provided the animal is brought in when symptoms first appear.

When a foxtail is lodged in the paw or under the coat, a lump will usually form that is painful to touch. Depending on how deep the foxtail has traveled it can usually be removed surgically.

When a foxtail gets into a dog's eye, the dog will usually paw the eye, which will water. When you see a foxtail under the eyelid, don't try to remove it yourself. There's a good chance you may not get it all. Keep your dog from pawing the eye and get him to a veterinarian immediately, preferably a veterinary opthomologist.

When your dog gets a foxtail in an ear, he will usually shake his head violently. Again, whenever you suspect a foxtail, get your dog to a veterinarian immediately. The best way to handle foxtail problems is to prevent them or treat them early.

Whenever possible avoid foxtail infested areas - especially during the dry season. After a romp through tall, mature grass follow these steps:

• Thoroughly brush and inspect your dog's coat. Run your hands over his coat looking for foxtails. Dogs with long hair are particularly susceptible to foxtails.

• Look into your dog's ears. If your dog has floppy ears, lift each ear and inspect.

• Examine your dog's paws (in-between toes and paw pads), neck (under the collar), tail/anus, and under "armpit" areas. Remove any foxtails sitting on the fur.

• If you believe your dog has a foxtail lodged somewhere in his body get him to a veterinarian immediately. The longer you wait, the deeper the foxtail will travel and the more damage it will do, and the more difficult and costly it will be to treat.

If you are new to Arizona and you're not sure what a foxtail looks like, ask fellow dog people or your veterinarian to show you. Learn to recognize foxtails and avoid them! Foxtail danger in our parks and neighborhoods can be greatly reduced by simply mowing the grass regularly, especially in the late spring. Mowing cuts off the foxtail grass before the deadly seed forms.

Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society.  He can be reached at or by calling 445-2666, ext. 21.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Sustaining the no-kill vision

The Yavapai Humane Society has achieved
the no-kill dream.  Can it be sustained? 
Only in a community willing to help!
In July 2010, the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) embraced a no-kill ethic. We defined that ethic as applying the same criteria when deciding a homeless animal's fate that a loving owner or conscientious veterinarian would apply to a beloved pet. That is, healthy and treatable animals would not be killed simply because we lack the room or resources to care for them.

With a 95 percent live release rate in 2012 and a 97 percent live release rate YTD for 2013, it could be argued that YHS has achieved its no-kill goal. The challenge now is sustaining it. Google dictionary defines "sustaining" as strengthening or supporting.

It is important to understand the life affirming momentum occurring at YHS. In nearly every community in every state in the Union, killing is the primary method employed to control pet overpopulation. In just three short years our community has become a national model for a better way, a way of compassion through strategic planning.

Last week I shared the news concerning the success of the recent Walk for the Animals. It is remarkable how our community came together, for one of the most fun family events of the year, and raised over $41,000 to help sustain YHS' many life saving no-kill programs.

This week YHS moved into a newly completed facility dedicated to sustaining quality medical care for our community's sick and injured homeless cats. The facility was made possible thanks to the generosity of the MCS Charitable Foundation, the PETCO Foundation, Pat and Nancy O'Brien, Yavapai County, the City of Prescott, the Town of Prescott Valley, Max Fogleman and Kathy Coleman, and the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe.

Also, this week, we are installing a climate controlled HVAC system throughout our Pet Adoption Center. This amazing enhancement was made possible thanks to the compassionate generosity of the Harold James Family Trust.

Next on the YHS drawing board is a canine hospital to care for our community's lost and homeless sick and injured dogs. We are in the design phase and should have a budget for this project within 30 days. It is my hope that there is the same public support for our canine friends as there is for our felines, so we have no delay in building this much-needed facility. Naming rights are available to anyone willing to fund a substantial portion of the construction cost.

These new facilities are designed to help ensure our community never returns to the barbaric practice of killing homeless animals simply because we lack the room or resources to care for them. Achieving no-kill is not an Olympic moment; it is an arduous marathon. We've proven it can be achieved, the question now is can it be sustained?

Imagine if everyone reading this article donated $1 a day or $30 a month to YHS. YHS could then sustain its many no-kill programs, each designed to save animals' lives, fight cruelty and rescue homeless animals.

It's easy to become a YHS sustaining partner when you join the PAWS (Planned Automatic Withdrawal Service) program. An automatic monthly donation of your choice comes to YHS and our secure system automatically processes it for you. You choose a tax deductible amount that is comfortable, and you can change or cancel your participation at any time.

Simply go to to designate your gift; check the box that says, "Repeat this donation every month" and enter how many months you want to repeat your tax deductible gift. If you have questions give us a call at 445-2666 ext. 21. Together we can sustain both our no-kill ethic and our place among the safest communities in the nation for our pets.

Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society. He can be reached at or by calling 445-2666, ext. 21.