Is your pet suffering? by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and tethering
Is your pet lonely and bored?

The New York Times ran a piece by Jessica Pierce awhile back that asked the provocative question “Is your pet lonely and bored?” Today there are as many pets in the United States as there are people; and in most homes pets are family — and not just dogs and cats, but rabbits, rats, bearded dragons and snakes.

According to many veterinarians and psychologists this phenomenon is evidence of a deepening “human-animal bond.” Scientists studying animal cognition and emotion are continually peeling back the mysteries of animal minds, revealing an incredible and often surprising richness in the thoughts and feelings of other creatures. Continue reading “Is your pet suffering? by Ed Boks”

Best kept secret in the battle to end animal abuse by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and Deborah Knaan
Attorney Deborah Knaan creator of the B.A.R.C. curriculum

I recently became reacquainted with an important program in Los Angeles.  Although, this program could be useful in every community in the United States, it appears to me to be one of the best kept secrets in the battle to mitigate animal cruelty and abuse in our communities.

I’m talking about the Benchmark Animal Rehabilitative Curriculum (B.A.R.C.).  B.A.R.C. is a unique online animal abuse prevention course designed to educate and rehabilitate individuals who have demonstrated a propensity to mistreat animals.

The B.A.R.C. course is appropriate for adults and juveniles (aged 15-17).  The course is only open to individuals referred by a member of the criminal justice system (judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, or probation officer); an animal control professional; a social services agency; an educational institution (teachers and school counselors); or a mental health professional. Continue reading “Best kept secret in the battle to end animal abuse by Ed Boks”

What does a government shutdown mean to our nation’s animals? by Ed Boks

There has been a lot of talk concerning a government shutdown in Washington- which begs the question, how would such a shut down affect our nation’s animals?

Here is a brief outline describing how the following animal welfare-related duties would be affected during a government shutdown: Continue reading “What does a government shutdown mean to our nation’s animals? by Ed Boks”

Lawmakers target animals again By Ed Boks

Speaker of the House, Republican David Gowan, who is also running for Congress, is one of the prime sponsors of a bill raising serious concerns among people who understand the importance of strong prohibitions against animal cruelty.

House Bill 2330 will delight the corporate agriculture lobbyists who helped craft it to look like an animal protection bill – but in reality, this legislation is designed to repeal the few protections millions of animals have in Arizona.

HB 2330 is nearly identical to the first bill Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed after taking office last year. Again animal-welfare advocates are asking state representatives to defeat a bill intent on weakening the state’s current animal-cruelty laws.

The bill would remove livestock and poultry from Arizona’s definition of animals in the criminal code – stripping them of any protection from anti-cruelty laws. Further, the bill omits the crime of “abandonment” and the requirement to provide medical care to farm animals – both of which are crimes under current law. Under HB 2330, a person could abandon his horse in the desert and leave it to die without penalty.

HB 2330 would also forbid any city, town or county from enacting laws tougher than this watered-down bill. For example, in 1996, the City of Phoenix enacted an ordinance banning home slaughter of livestock following an investigation of people slaughtering goats in apartment complexes. Under HB 2330, local governments will be powerless to address issues like this in their communities.

One bizarre requirement of HB 2330 is that the Department of Agriculture Director has to be notified of any investigation of livestock abuse. The bill actually requires police officers investigating livestock abuse to notify civilians in the Department of Agriculture, thereby compromising ongoing criminal investigations. No other area of law enforcement requires such an outside notification.

HB 2330 not only threatens sensitive animal cruelty investigations conducted by law enforcement, it literally puts the fox in charge of the hen house.

HB 2330 revokes protections that all animals in Arizona have benefited from for decades and puts the welfare of certain animals at substantial risk – without any corresponding benefit or legitimate justification.

Watching the Department of Agriculture trying to undermine existing animal-cruelty statutes begs the question, “What are they trying to hide?” If most farmers and agricultural people treat their animals well, as I am convinced they do, why do they need to be exempt from animal-cruelty statutes?

The Yavapai Humane Society shares the concern of many lawmakers that animal welfare groups were not invited to be involved in the drafting of this bill nor were they even allowed to participate in any stakeholder meetings.

In a letter announcing his veto of a similar bill last year, Ducey explained, “we all agree animal cruelty is inexcusable and absolutely will not be tolerated in the state of Arizona. No animal should be the victim of abuse. Moreover, perpetrators must be held to account and properly penalized to the fullest extent of the law.

“We must ensure that all animals are protected, and [be] mindful that increasing protections for one class of animals does not inadvertently undercut protections of another,” which is exactly what HB 2330 intentionally does.

HB 2330 is bad law. We can do better. Let your state representatives know how you feel.

Practical consequences of the no-kill ethic By Ed Boks

Ed Boks and the STAR Program
Ed Boks’ STAR Program makes sure animals like Ziggy get the care they need!

Although the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) has been providing animal shelter services to our community for 43 years, it was only five and a half years ago that YHS embraced what we have come to call our “no-kill ethic.” We define this ethic as applying the same criteria to determining a homeless pets’ fate that a pet owner or conscientious veterinarian would apply to a beloved family pet. That is, healthy and treatable animals are not euthanized (killed) simply because of a lack of resources.

Once this life-affirming ethic was implemented, the practical consequences immediately began to fall into place.  Embracing and practicing the no-kill ethic has resulted in our community becoming the region in the United States for dogs and cats – for five consecutive years.  Euthanasia/killing has been effectively eliminated as a tool to control pet overpopulation in our community and overcrowding in our shelter.  Killing has been replaced by a robust low-cost spay/neuter and pet identification (microchip) programs. Spay/neuter programs reduce the number of unwanted pets and pet identification programs allow for the quick return of lost pets to their frantic owners.

A perfect example of an animal benefiting from the YHS no-kill ethic is Ziggy – a 2-year-old intact male Tibetan spaniel mix. Ziggy was found by animal control on Dec. 1.  He was abandoned by his owners with an apparent broken leg.

Upon arrival, the YHS medical team found Ziggy had suffered severe trauma. X-rays revealed two broken legs: his right front leg had fractures of the radius and ulna and his left front leg had metacarpal fractures. We splinted both front legs and started him on pain medications. YHS veterinarian consulted with a private practice veterinary orthopedic surgeon.

The decision was made to transport Ziggy to a local veterinary hospital in Phoenix where Ziggy was examined and immediately scheduled for surgery. His multiple fractures were repaired with plates, screws and a tension splint. Ziggy’s recovery is expected to take 6 to 8 weeks and is made possible thanks to YHS’ compassionate foster care giving volunteers.  The orthopedic surgeon felt the fractures could be old injuries suggesting criminal cruelty and neglect may have been involved.

Typically, the cost for this surgery would exceed $4,300; however, the private veterinarian graciously agreed to charge YHS only $2,800 for this lifesaving surgery. Ziggy is now a STAR Animal.

STAR (Special Treatment And Recovery) is a donation funded program designed to ensure animals in critical need of medical care beyond the scope of the YHS budget are not denied the care they need to survive. These animals are sadly routinely euthanized in many other shelters.

If you would like to help animals like Ziggy please make sure your local shelter has a STAR Program you can make a tax deductible donation.  Your donation will help ensure your local shelter has the funds available to help the next rescued animal in need of life saving medical care.

No-kill: truth and consequences By Ed Boks

Ed Boks and pet hospice
Foster and Hospice Care saves lives!

I’m often asked how the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) maintains its “no-kill” status. (“no-kill” is defined as applying the same criteria to deciding a homeless animal’s fate that a devoted pet owner or a conscientious veterinarian would apply to a beloved pet). Since embracing this ethic in July 2010, pet euthanasia in our community has declined 94 percent, and 97 percent of all the animals rescued are re-homed (compared to the national average of about 40 percent).

How do we do this? Every animal shelter has “decision points.” YHS refers to these as our “moments of truth” – junctures where we ask ourselves if we’re being true to our no-kill ethic or are we capitulating to expediency because of a perceived lack of resources.

Let me share a true story to help illustrate how YHS responds to moments of truth. On a Wednesday this past April a Good Samaritan found a severely injured four year old cat hit by a car. The Samaritan rushed the cat to YHS where we found no microchip, collar or ID. This sweet cat was clearly someone’s pet; but now she was alone and scared.

Moment of Truth 1: Euthanize or treat?

The trauma was severe. No one would have faulted YHS for humanely euthanizing this cat at that moment. In fact, it is common practice in many shelters to immediately euthanize severely injured animals at impound. Instead, the YHS medical team jumped into action and stabilized, evaluated and diagnosed the cat – finding a right femoral head fracture and gross hematuria. She was befittingly named Tuscany, defined in the Urban Dictionary as a “perfect mixture of art and wisdom.”

Moment of Truth 2: Euthanize or operate?

Tuscany’s prognosis was good so the YHS medical team performed surgery. However, weeks of recovery were now necessary – requiring prolonged use of cage space that could otherwise benefit many other cats.

Moment of Truth 3: Euthanize or Foster

To benefit the greatest number of animals, Tuscany was placed into Foster Care with a qualified YHS volunteer. While in Foster Care our volunteer discovered a lump – demonstrating the value of the individualized attention foster volunteers provide. The YHS Chief Veterinarian was consulted and confirmed three masses had acutely developed – suggesting cancer.

Moment of Truth 4: Euthanize or test?

To make an informed decision, biopsies were performed. Two tests were negative; the third discovered fibrosarcoma, a type of soft tissue cancer. Prognosis in such cases, even with surgery, projected a mean survival time of about 19 months. Recovery would take weeks and the trauma would negatively impact Tuscany’s remaining quality of life.

Moment of Truth 5: Euthanize or hospice?

In many shelters, euthanasia would be the only remaining option. YHS had three: uncertain surgery, euthanasia, or keep her comfortable until the tumor metastasizes. Because Tuscany has significant quality of life, she was placed in the YHS Hospice Program – where she is thriving in a home dedicated to ensuring her remaining months are filled with tender loving care.

Multiply Tuscany’s story by 3,500 animals annually and you begin to understand the challenge. Every animal has a story – and our mission is to create as many happy endings as possible.

Tuscany’s story underscores how YHS depends on exceptional employees and compassionate volunteers and supporters. If you’d like to volunteer to provide foster or hospice care to a needy animal, contact your local shelter. If you’d like to help support lifesaving programs financially, send your tax-deductible gift to your local shelter or call for information on giving opportunities. Together we can keep this dream alive.

FBI calls animal cruelty ‘crime against society’ By Ed Boks

Many studies over the years have demonstrated conclusively that young people who torture and kill animals are prone to violence against people later in life if it goes unchecked. Finally, this knowledge is being applied by law enforcement in an effort to identify and intervene in the lives of young animal abusers before they become serial and/or mass murderers.

For years, the FBI has filed animal abuse crimes under the label “other” – thus lumping them with a variety of lesser crimes. This makes cruelty crimes hard to find, count and track. The bureau announced this month that it will make animal cruelty a Group A felony with its own category in the same way crimes like homicide, arson and assault are listed.

This new federal category for animal cruelty crimes will help identify animal abusers before their behavior worsens. It will also encourage prosecutors and judges to take these crimes seriously.

It is hoped this new category will result in more appropriate sentences, more influence with juries, and the ability to make more meaningful plea bargains.

The special category will also help law enforcement officials identify young offenders, and hopefully help offenders realize early that with the right help they need not turn into a Jeffrey Dahmer later.

With this new category, law enforcement agencies will soon be required to report incidents and arrests in four areas: simple or gross neglect; intentional abuse and torture; organized abuse, including dogfighting and cockfighting; and animal sexual abuse.

“The immediate benefit is that it will be in front of law enforcement every month when they have to do their crime reports,” said John Thompson, interim executive director of the National Sheriffs’ Association who worked to get the new animal cruelty category instituted. “That’s something we have never seen.”

Law enforcement officials will soon understand that this data provides an important crime fighting tool, and its “not just somebody saying the ‘Son of Sam’ killed animals before he went to human victims, and 70-some percent of the school shooters abused animals prior to killing people,” said Thompson, a retired assistant sheriff from Prince George’s County, Maryland.

FBI studies show that serial killers like Dahmer impaled the heads of dogs, frogs and cats on sticks; David Berkowitz, known as the “Son of Sam,” poisoned his mother’s pet; and Albert DeSalvo, aka the “Boston Strangler,” trapped cats and dogs in wooden crates and killed them by shooting arrows through the boxes.

It will take time and money to update FBI and law enforcement databases nationwide, revise manuals and send out guidelines, Thompson said, so there won’t be any data collected until January 2016. After that, it will take several months before there are numbers to analyze.

The new animal cruelty statistics will allow police and counselors to work with children who show early signs of trouble, enabling professionals to intervene early when a preschooler is known to be hurting animals – so hopefully the urge to hurt can be mitigated before humans become targets.

The FBI’s category will track crimes nationwide and is bound to give animal cruelty laws in all 50 states more clout. Many states are seeing more of those convicted of animal cruelty being sentenced to prison in marked contrast to years past.

Whether talking about state laws or the FBI change, it is clear “that regardless of whether people care about how animals are treated, people – like legislators and judges – care about humans, and they can’t deny the data,” said Natasha Dolezal, director of the animal law program in the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon.

Sustaining the no-kill vision By Ed Boks

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.

While it requires a lot of work to sustain a compassionate, no-kill community, we have our share of fun too.  Take for instance our 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 our many life saving no-kill programs.

This week we 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 our community.

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

Next on the 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.  We could then sustain our many no-kill programs – each designed to save animals’ lives, fight cruelty and rescue homeless animals.  Choose a tax deductible amount that is comfortable, and you can change or cancel your participation at any time.

If you have questions about achieving and sustaining no-kill contact me today.  It can be done in your community too!  Together we can achieve and sustain no-kill throughout our nation.

Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society. He can be reached at ed@edboks.com or by calling 213-792-4800,

Botox removes wrinkles… and animal testing! by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and animal testing
Six states have passed Rescue + Freedom Project’s Beagle Freedom Bill, which requires laboratories to offer healthy dogs and cats for public adoption after the experiments have ended. Click on link to see how you can help!

I’ve never met a person willing to admit a tolerance for animal cruelty. However, animal cruelty is quietly accepted by most of us.  Case in point: The government requires every new compound that you might be exposed to – whether it’s the latest wonder drug, lipstick shade, pesticide or food dye – to be tested to make sure it isn’t toxic. This testing usually results in a torturous life and death for many lab animals.

When it comes to corporate budget sheets, saving animals can seem a minor concern. One exception to that mindset is Allergan Inc. of Irvine, Calif., the manufacturer of Botox. Allergan announced last June that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved its new method to test Botox’s potency. Instead of testing every batch on live animals, Allergan can now run a test on cells in a lab dish. Continue reading “Botox removes wrinkles… and animal testing! by Ed Boks”

Animal abuser registries would protect all of us By Ed Boks

Sex offender registration is a system designed to allow authorities to track the residence and activities of sex offenders. Information in the registry is made available to the public via a website or other means. In many jurisdictions registered sex offenders are subject to restrictions including housing, being in the presence of minors, and living in proximity to a school or day care center.

Efforts are now underway to expand this concept to include animal abusers. Initiatives are gaining support and legislation has been introduced in at least five states, including Arizona.

The Arizona Animal Cruelty Registry Law (HB 2310) would require people convicted of animal torture, mutilation, intentional killings and animal fighting to register with the police and provide an array of personal information along with a current photograph, much like sexual predators. The information, along with the registrants’ specific offense, would be posted on the Internet.

Animal welfare activists hope laws like this will inspire governments nationwide in the same way Megan’s Law registries for child molesters have proliferated in the past decade.

In Florida, State Senator Mike Fasano proposed Dexter’s law, named after a kitten beaten to death in his state. His proposal would require convicted animal abusers to register with authorities. Their names, home addresses and photographs would be posted online, and they would pay $50 a year to maintain the registry.

Registries have also been proposed in Colorado, Maryland and New York and similar proposals are expected in other states.

Suffolk County on Long Island moved to create a registry in 2010, and has since been followed by two other New York counties. No names appear on the Suffolk County registry yet, because it was only recently set up. Convicted abusers will appear on the registry for five years. Those failing to register are subject to a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.

The New York counties require pet stores and animal shelters to check the names of anyone seeking to adopt or buy an animal against the registry.

Maryland State Senator Ronald Young said he plans to introduce legislation in the wake of two incidents in his state. In one, a Yorkshire terrier was thrown off a 23-foot-high balcony; the dog, Louie, survived. In the other, a golden retriever puppy named Heidi was shot to death.

A bill to create a registry in California, introduced in 2010, didn’t make it through the Legislature, partly because of concerns about its cost.

Liberty Watch Colorado, an advocacy organization committed to holding elected officials accountable, says such legislation is “an unnecessary expansion of government.’

However, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, an animal rights law organization based in California, outlines some taxpayer benefits. For instance, well-managed registries can reduce the number of abused animals and the animal control costs associated with caring for and treating abused animals. They also serve as an early warning system for potentially violent criminals like Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz and Jeffrey Dahmer all of whom tortured and killed animals during their childhoods.

“Researchers as well as FBI and other law enforcement agencies nationwide have linked animal cruelty to domestic violence, child abuse, serial killings and the recent rash of killings by school age children,” says Dr. Randall Lockwood, vice president of training for the Humane Society of the United States.

Albert Schweitzer said it best when he warned that “Anyone who has accustomed himself to regard the life of any living creature as worthless is in danger of arriving also at the idea of worthless human lives.” Registering felony animal abusers not only helps protect innocent animals, it helps protect our families, friends and neighborhoods.