PET CORNER: Some important milestones for pets in 2018

By DEB GREEN
Guest Columnist

While January is typically the time to make resolutions, look toward the future and set new goals, I want to first reflect on what I think was some notable animal welfare news in 2018.

• Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed HB 5916/5917

On Dec. 28, Snyder vetoed the bills that would have prohibited local regulations of pet stores. These bills would have stripped local governments of their right to protect consumers and the public’s right to address local issues with their elected officials.

Animal welfare organizations considered these bills to have been a “bait and switch.” In exchange for some policies on pet stores, they would have prohibited local communities from establishing local policies such as not allowing puppy mill puppies to be sold a pet stores.

What are puppy mills and why is this a problem? Puppy mills are commercial breeding facilities that mass-produce dogs (and cats in cat mills) for sale through pet stores. Roughly 90 percent of puppies in pet stores come from puppy mills. In most states, puppy mills can legally keep hundreds of dogs in cages their entire lives, for the sole purpose of continuously churning out puppies.

In a 10 year summary of over 5,000 puppy buyer complaints received by The Humane Society of the United States, Michigan ranked sixth in number of complaints about puppies purchased from pet stores. So this is a problem in Michigan and with the veto, local government will be the place decisions are made about the protection of local consumers and their pets.

• Meghan Markle

I personally think that adopting a dog or cat from a shelter or rescue is the only way to go. Meghan Markle’s rescue beagle Guy, besides being one lucky dog, has put the spotlight on the great animals available for adoption at animal shelters and rescues.

In 2015 the now Duchess of Sussex adopted Guy from A Dog’s Dream Rescue in Ontario. Guy came from the Montgomery County Animal Shelter in Kentucky. Shortly after Guy arrived at A Dog’s Dream Rescue, Meghan emailed the rescue after finding its page on Petfinder.

She thought that a beagle, known for being energetic, kind and gentle, would be a good match. At the time, no one knew just how charmed Guy’s life would turn out to be. He is now living in a palace, a member of the royal family and going for rides with the queen. But more importantly, he is making people aware of pet rescue and adoption. Adopt don’t shop.

• More pets, fewer allergies

Most people know that owning a pet comes with all kinds of health perks and a recent study out of Sweden just found another. According to a New York Times article, “More Pets, Fewer Allergies”, a study set out to see what effect having multiple pets had on the development of allergies in children after several other studies “indicated that early pet keeping could protect the infant from later allergy development.”

The study’s lead author, Bill Hesselmar of Sweden’s University of Gothenburg, and his research team looked at data from two previous studies, covering 1,278 children overall, and found that those children who live with cats and dogs when they are infants are less likely to develop allergies later in childhood. And the more pets they have, the better.

One of the studies interviewed the parents of 249 children. The first interview, conducted at 6-12 months old, asked the parents about pet ownership. Follow up clinical evaluations occurred at 18 months, 3 years and 8-9 years. The other study gave 1,000-plus families questionnaires about pet ownership and the presence of allergies, asthma and their symptoms among family members. Even when accounting for numerous outside factors, this recent studies found the reports of allergies in children decreased as the number of pets in the household increased, according to the New York Times article.

• New law in California

A new law in California starting Jan. 1 empowers judges to consider “the care of the pet animals” and create shared custody agreements in divorce cases. The measure provides judges with the power to consider what’s in the best interests of the animal in divorce cases, instead of treating them the way they’ve been treated by courts in the past — as physical property.

David Favre, a professor who teaches animal law at Michigan State University College of Law said, “It’s important for humans and animals. Before it was an issue of who owns the dog and how you distribute the property. But pets aren’t quite the same thing as China and sofas. They’re more like children, in that they’re living beings who have their own preferences. And as with children, he said, divorce can be trauma for animals as well.”

It is my hope that this is the beginning of all states recognizing that the courts must no longer view pets as property.

These are just a few important milestones in 2018 that will result in improving the lives of pets. We have come such a long way in the past decade in the recognition and advancement of animal welfare. Pets play such an important role in our lives and deserve nothing less. The 85 million families in the U.S. that own a pet would agree.

Deb Green is a member of the Manistee County Humane Society Board of Directors. She can be reached at dgreen1004@gmail.com.

MORE INFORMATION

Homeward Bound Animal Shelter is located off M-55 at 736 Paws Trail in Manistee. Hours are noon to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays and noon to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

For more information, contact Homeward Bound at (231) 723-7387 or visit www.homewardboundmanistee.org or Facebook. Manistee County Humane Society/Homeward Bound is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

 

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