Tag Archives: pet gaze

Suit against EPA seeks ban on pesticides in flea treatments

The Natural Resources Defense Council has filed a lawsuit seeking to push the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  to respond to its petitions and ban two hazardous pesticides used in popular pet flea treatment products.

The EPA has restricted household use of some neurotoxic pesticides due to concerns that the products can harm children’s brains and nervous systems, but it still allows neurotoxic propoxur and tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP) to be used in flea treatments for dogs and cats.

The lawsuit filed this week seeks to force EPA to respond to cancel all pet uses and manufacturer registrations fo the two chemicals.

“These flea collars leave a toxic residue on pets’ fur, exposing children to chemicals which can have harmful effects on their brains, similar to those from lead,” said Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, senior scientist with NRDC’s health program. “Luckily, there are less-toxic alternatives readily available to control fleas. Nearly a decade has passed since NRDC urged EPA to get these toxic chemical collars off store shelves, but the agency continues to drag its feet. After all, EPA decided long ago that nervous system-damaging chemicals shouldn’t be used indoors, so why is it OK to put them on our pets?”

Flea collars are designed to leave pesticide residues on pet fur, exposing people to the chemicals they contain when they play with their pet or touch pet bedding. Once on a child’s skin, the pesticide is absorbed through the skin or it can be ingested when a child puts their hand in their mouth.

Propoxur and TCVP are types of pesticides that are known to be toxic to brain development, nervous system communication and can cause cancer. Children are particularly vulnerable because their smaller bodies are still developing and their activities, such as putting their hands in their mouths after petting animals or playing, increase the likelihood and amount of these pesticides that can enter their bodies, according to the NRDC.

In large doses, these chemicals can also harm or kill dogs, cats and in extreme poisoning cases, even humans.

To protect against exposure to these chemicals, NRDC recommends avoiding flea collars brands that use them, including: Sergeant’s Pet Care Products, Inc., Wellmark International and Hartz Mountain Corporation. NRDC has updated its Green Paws product guide, which encourages consumers and pet owners to use safer methods of pet flea control.

NRDC’s Green Paws guide also ranks more than 125 flea and tick products based on ingredients, categorizing them by the level of their potential health threat to people and animals.

Tips to keep Fido on the floor, off the guests

The holidays often involve visits from family and friends, but unless your dog keeps all four on the floor, you might be the one in the doghouse.

Some people will be frightened by a dog that greets guests at the door by jumping up. Others may be allergic, frail or easily knocked off balance. A pawmark or doggy drool on guests’ clothing is embarrassing, and while some visitors will say they love dogs and it’s no big deal, others will be annoyed.

Diane Morgan, who includes jumping up in her book “Complete Guide to Dog Care” (Animal Planet and TFH Publications), says dogs can be trained not to jump at the door. But it takes time and patience.

Tucker, a 50-pound Labradoodle, can “sit, shake, high-five, lay down, roll over, stay, heel, do all that stuff,” said owner Mike Pentz, who lives in Columbus, Ohio. “The only time he doesn’t listen is at the front door.”

Pentz and his wife Yvonne worked with trainers using clickers, a leash, and commands to try to stop the behavior, but nothing worked. Finally they resorted to putting him in the laundry room when company arrives. Now, Pentz says, when the bell rings, Tucker runs to the laundry room and “waits for me to close the door.” Once guests have settled in, Tucker comes out, checks everyone out and lies down.

But Morgan doesn’t recommend putting a dog in another room as a way to prevent jumping at the door, because it can lead to other problems like whining, scratching or barking.

The goal, she said, is to refocus the pooch’s attention. About 85 percent of dogs care about treats and 15 percent care about toys, so use what amuses your pet the most.

Here are some of Morgan’s techniques:

• Have a treat or toy in your hand when you walk in the door. Instantly throw it on the floor. The dog will soon understand that the best way to get the treat is to look on the floor, not to jump up.

• Teach the dog to sit. Once he is still, throw a treat on the floor.

• Try walking in the door with a can or jar of pennies. “Shake it really hard. It acts as a warning or signal to stay away.”

• Put the dog on a short leash and keep him at your side. “Have people get down low to greet him.”

• Walk in and ignore the dog. If you don’t give him attention, he will stop. Morgan added this warning: “He may become frantic at first and try harder and might ruin your clothes.” You may have to cross your arms and turn your back on the dog to be sure he gets the message.

• Last resort: When the dog jumps up, take him by his front legs and hold him like you are dancing. He will be real happy for about two seconds, then want down. Keep holding for several more seconds. Dogs don’t like staying on their hind legs. With repetition, the dog will get the idea.

No matter what method you try, “it will only work if everybody in the house is involved,” Morgan said.

Take turns leaving the house and coming back, repeating the treat, the dance, the chilly reception or the noise, whatever you’ve chosen.

In addition, she said, before guests arrive, “make sure your dog has access to toys and things he likes. Make sure he gets some healthy exercise before dinner. Wear him out. The more tired he is before guests arrive, the better behaved he will be after. Make sure he is bathed and clean. You don’t want the dog to smell bad. And make sure his toenails are clipped in case he does jump.”

There are also things you should not do, she said.

• “Never yell at them. Believe it or not, that’s reward, getting attention.”

• “Never shove them in the chest. It will hurt the dog. And big challenging dogs like malamutes will think you are playing and will push back.”

• “Some people say step on their toes. No.”

• “Never pet your dog on his hind legs. Petting there encourages them to jump up.”

Morgan says you can use the same techniques to retrain dogs who greet guests by sniffing them in embarrassing places.

Once you’ve made progress breaking the dog’s jumping habit, ask a friend to come over for a test run before your holiday party or big dinner.

Dog lovers exercise political clout in San Francisco

There are more dogs than kids in the City by the Bay. So it stands to reason dog owners carry a lot of clout – so much so they believe their endorsement can sway the upcoming mayoral race.

Dog lovers have formed a political action committee to promote the interests of their four-footed friends, namely space to run free in one of the world’s largest urban national parks. And they are calling on mayoral candidates to defend their stands on canine affairs.

“We expect the dog vote to be a game-changer,” said Bruce Wolfe, president of DogPAC, which held a forum attended by several mayoral hopefuls recently.

There are an estimated 150,000 dogs in the city, compared with some 108,000 children, according to the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the 2010 U.S. Census. More than 800,000 people are sandwiched into 7-by-7 square miles in the city named for St. Francis, patron saint of animals.

As more parents seeking new schools and lower housing costs move out of the city, more straight and gay couples, as well as aging baby boomers, are choosing canines over kids. San Francisco is renowned for its dog parks and, like Paris, many of its restaurants and shops welcome pampered pooches in their leopard-print sweaters and bling-ringed dog collars.

City officials typically can be found at animal fairs and forums. Debates over the funding of the city’s Animal Control department and bans on the sale of shark fins and pet-store hamsters can turn into big brouhahas.

“San Franciscans take their dogs very seriously,” said Wolfe, who has a disability and recently lost Charlie, his service dog of 10 years. 

Seven of the 16 candidates vying for City Hall’s top job in the Nov. 8 election attended DogPAC’s recent forum, where candidates were asked about the cost of dog licenses, trash cans in parks where owners can dispose of dog waste and pet-friendly rental housing for people who want to adopt foster animals.

Candidate Joanna Rees – a venture capitalist with two dogs, Jack and Jill – held her own “Bark in the Park” forum several weeks ago.

“Dogs are an important part of many families and neighborhoods across our community,” Rees said. “Open lines of communication between City Hall and pet owners – as with merchants, educators, parents, working families and other stakeholder groups – are the foundation of good policy.”

Some campaign websites even note where candidates stand on puppy policy.

“Making San Francisco a family-friendly city means recognizing the multitude of ways in which we define families,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera says on his site. “And in the city of St. Francis, that includes dogs and companion animals.” 

Herrera made national headlines in 2002 when, after lengthy city investigations, he sued Petco Animal Supplies Inc. for the alleged mistreatment of animals. The pet supply chain settled the lawsuit, and the rock star Pink sent her thanks in a photo pasted on his website.

The big issue that has the city’s dog owners on edge is an investigation by the National Parks Service as to whether it should close down great swaths of parkland in Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties where dogs are allowed to run off leash. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area, some 75,400 acres of open land and water, is nearly two and a half times the size of the city of San Francisco itself. The Park Service’s proposed dog plan, which will be finalized next year, has elicited about 4,700 public comments on its website.

The Park Service is considering mandating leashes in some open spaces and fencing off some popular dog-walking areas. They and environmentalists want to protect some 1,200 native plant and animal species, including the Snowy Plover, a federally endangered shorebird.

The Golden Gate Audubon Society is working with the Park Service to find the right balance. Measures they’re recommending would mandate that dog walkers be limited to three dogs each and that professional dog walkers be required to carry permits.

Fort Funston, a former military outpost of sand dunes and eucalyptus groves on cliffs that overlook the Pacific Ocean, is one of the most beloved dog parks in America. Dogs run free in joyous packs through trails that line the 35 acres of wilderness.

Wolfe and Sally Stephens, president of the dog owners’ association SF Dog, walked the Fort Funston trails last week and handed out leaflets to the dog walkers, urging them to attend the forum and help them decide which mayoral candidate they should endorse.

“It is miles and miles of smiles out here,” Stephens said, as dog walkers cheered on Fritz, a plucky Dachshund who needs wheels on his hind legs to get around and keep up with his pack. “It’s such a great community out here – and people who don’t have dogs just don’t get that.”