Monday, December 11, 2017

Why You Should Consider a Barn Cat

The farm cat, also known as a barn cat, is a domestic cat, usually of mixed breed, that lives primarily out-of-doors, in a feral or semi-feral condition on agricultural properties, usually sheltering in outbuildings.

Have you seen stray cats hanging around the barn or home?  Wish they’d go away?  Don’t be so sure they can’t lend a helping paw.  Here’s what we’ve observed of our feline farm friends…

  • Cats make the barn a happier place.  Cats make people happy. Perhaps it’s the fact that they live their own independent lives.  Or the fact that they seem to know just when you need your leg rubbed.
  • They eat bugs.  It’s a hunting thing.  Like it or not, cats enjoy the hunt and the kill.
  •  They are gold medal-winning exterminators.  Indoors and outdoors, you can count on a cat to keep rodents from feed bins, garbage cans, etc. Obviously, the humans must do their best to fend off these pests (covers, metal bins, traps, etc.).  But sadly, that probably won’t do the trick at keeping them away for good. This is where having a barn cat around comes in handy.

You’ll just need to keep a couple of cats around your property, and you’ll likely find that your rodent population will begin to decline.

  • They save money.  Sure you’ll need to feed them and provide proper care.  But consider this, for each bug or rodent they discourage…it’s one less pest consuming your feed.  Feed or human food—it’s all expensive.  The cost of keeping a barn cat healthy is small compared to the cost of the food.
  • They make great friends.  Maybe not always for the humans, but they make great animal companions, depending on their temperament.  There are pictures across the internet of dogs and cats, goats and cats, pigs and cats, etc.  Consider it a bonus to a barn cat.
  • They are low maintenance.  Barn cats are low maintenance.  They require a few shots to keep them disease free. And perhaps some nutritious food.   They need very little and usually give a whole lot back. So you don’t get a whole lot lower maintenance than keeping cats around your barn.
  • They are orphans who need a home.    Most barn cats are strays or orphaned cats that have nowhere else to live. Yet, if you give them a home in your barn or around your home, you give them a purpose.  And it’s an amazing thing to watch this animal grow and thrive as a productive member of your farm.  


There are a number of organizations with programs detailing feral cat adoption and barn cat training.  Check with your local vet, animal society or rescue organization for more details.  

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Horse Rescue - Start a Successful Sanctuary

Rescuing horses is unlike rescuing dogs, cats, and other typical pets.  Often, these animals are saved when they are given away for free, or abandoned.   Conversely, horses are often saved from the road to the slaughterhouse or purchased at auctions attended by meat buyers. 

The How To

Best case, rescue organizations don’t “buy” animals, but horse rescue is filled with exceptions.  Some animals are bought at auction in an effort to prevent a trip to the slaughterhouse.  Often, timely rescues result in free or inexpensive foals.     Some rescues are set up specifically to rescue retired race horses, or former rodeo stock.
Talking to people in the community or online gets the word out about your passion.  Other rescuers, veterinarians, and horse owners are all willing and able to help.  Owners who can no longer provide care for their animals and cannot sell the horse may be persuaded to relinquish to a shelter and provide a relinquishment fee to cover some of the expense of care.  

The Legal

A true pet rescue is a charitable organization, one that runs as a non-profit. Anyone wishing to form a proper horse rescue organization needs to establish themselves as a charity – naming, licensing and funding needs to be addressed.  In most cases they need to form a board of directors to promote the rescue operation, and do fund raising.   Raising funds is very difficult for “new” rescues, as such most rescues, including horse rescue, starts out of the organizer’s own pockets.

Rescue organizations need to

  • create relinquishment contracts – for owners who surrender their horses to sign, having the owner relinquish all rights to the horse and provide some history on it. 
  • create adoption questionnaires – something that contains information about the horse and for potential adopters to fill out to determine suitability
  • create adoption contracts that include the date, the name/number of the horse, fees, and other important information. Many adoption contracts include a clause that says the animal cannot be sold or given away for at least a year, and that if there are any problems with the horse in that time, the rescue group must be contacted, and the horse returned.  Rarely is money refunded (error or health may be exceptions).  The contracts nearly always forbid using the animal for breeding stock.

The Facility

Obviously, the horse rescuer will need some land and a few buildings—shelter for the animals, storage for feed and necessary equipment and a small office area for the humans who are involved (administrative, handlers, etc.) there will need to be not one, but several corrals. The simple fact is that you should not expect to place all rescued horses in one corral.  Some horses may come with no “background check,” others may be stressed or aggressive and others may be too weak to thrive within a group setting. 

The Supplies

Speak to the community for donations of halters, feed buckets, water buckets, grooming equipment, basic horse first aid box, cameras, and computers. Animals will need to have a veterinarian, and a farrier (expect to pay both, but negotiate reduced rates for a visit that includes multiple horses). 

The horse rescue will need to have people (generally volunteers) ready, willing, and capable, to work with horses that may never have had any training, to clean stalls (if needed), to feed, water, and care for the horses on day-to-day basis

And always remember that the goal of any horse rescue is to save the life of an unwanted horse and to place it in a safe and caring permanent home as soon as possible.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Pet and Disaster Preparedness

Hurricanes.  Tornadoes.  Earthquakes.  It could be a snowstorm.  Or a flood.   You've made it through safely, but what about your pets?

Follow these tips to make an emergency plan for your pets:

1. Microchip your pets
Microchipping is one of the best ways to ensure that you and your pet are reunited if you are separated.  Include at least one non-local friend/relative emergency number, and always keep the microchip registration up-to-date.

2. Keep a collar and tag on all cats and dogs
Keep a few working phone numbers on your animal’s identification tag. Identification on indoor-only cats is particularly important. If your home is damaged during a disaster, they could easily escape.

3. Plan a pet-friendly place to stay
Seek out and keep a list of out-of-town pet-friendly hotels and boarding facilities.  You’ll find lots of them by doing an internet search.  Contact out-of-area friends and relatives and agree to a housing exchange plan

4. Use the buddy system
Exchange pet information, plans and house keys with a few trusted neighbors or nearby friends.  If you find that you are unable to get back to your home, your friends and neighbors can help save your pet’s life. 

5. Prepare an emergency kit for each animal
Stock up on the items you may need during a disaster so you do not get caught unprepared. Below are basic items you should include in your pets' disaster kits. Think “Go Bag” for pets; supplies should be placed in an easy-to-move container.  Store your disaster kit supplies in an easy-to-grab container.
One-week supply of food. Store it in a water-tight container and rotate it every three months to keep it fresh. Don’t forget to include a can opener, if that’s your food of choice.

One-week supply of fresh water. Water unsafe for humans is water unsafe for animals.  Follow American Red Cross guidelines for storing emergency water for your family and your pets.
Medication. A replacement supply may not be easily available following a disaster.

Copies of vaccination records
Photographs of you with your pets to prove ownership
Photographs of your pets in case you need to make "lost pet" fliers
Pet first aid kit
Temporary ID tags. If you've evacuated, use this to record your temporary contact information and/or the phone number of an unaffected friend or relative.
Carrier or leash for each animal

6. Identify emergency veterinary facilities outside of your immediate area
If a disaster has affected your community, emergency veterinary facilities may be closed. Make sure you know how to access other emergency facilities. Ask your vet if they have an emergency plan to provide services for disaster relief. 

7. Plan for temporary confinement
Physical structures, like walls, fences and barns may be destroyed during a disaster. Have a plan for keeping your animal safely confined. You may need a tie-out, crate or kennel.

8. Soothe your animals
Your animals will appreciate your calm presence and soft, comforting voice if they are stressed following a disaster or while evacuated, and you may find it comforting to spend time with them, too. Interact with them on their terms. Some animals may find toys, especially long-lasting chew toys, comforting.

9. Know where to search for lost animals
When animals become lost during a disaster, they often end up at a local shelter. Keep a list of all area shelters; phone numbers and addresses.   

10. Take action
Get the family, neighbors and the entire town involved in a pet disaster preparedness plan.  If there is a plan in place, be sure you have all the information. 

If a disaster hit your town, would you be prepared to care for your pet? Assemble your kit and have a plan now.  Your pet is depending on you.

For more information, please visit 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Beloved Best Friends - Our Favorite Dogs in Literature

The kids are back in school.  The days are growing shorter.  Soon, a cold wind will blow and we’ll be spending more time indoors.  Put the remote down; it’s time to pick up a good book and hunker down in a comfy chair.

Kids and adults alike love a good story that has a great dog in the plot.  From the classics to the modern, here are a few of our preferred dog stories.  Read something you’ve never read before, or re-visit a tried-and-true favorite.

Spoiler Alert!  In some cases, we may be giving away the ending.

Argos, The Odyssey, Homer
He may be the first dog ever noted in Western literature.  Argos waited 20 years for the return of his master, Odysseus, and was the only one to recognize the man.  Knowing his master is home, safe and sound, the old dog peacefully dies, becoming a symbol of never-ending love and fidelity.

Toto, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum
L. Frank Baum described Toto as “a little black dog with long silky hair and small black eyes that twinkled merrily on either side of his funny, wee nose. Toto seems average enough but, in later books, he and other animals reveal that they’ve always had the ability to communicate with humans.  Why didn’t they reveal their secret earlier?

Buck, The Call of the Wild, Jack London
A powder puff living the good life in California, Buck is sold into dog sled slavery and must face the hard life of winters in Canada.  Having gone virtually wild, he is tamed when he meets gold miner/outdoorsman John Thornton, and is reminded of the power of love, even in the face of tragedy.

Lassie, Lassie Come Home, Eric Knight
Though most people probably know Lassie from her on-screen appearances (“What’s that girl?  Timmy fell down the well?”), she originated in a 1938 Saturday Evening Post story by Eric Knight.  The full-length novel was published in 1940, which chronicles the dog’s journey to get back to the boy she loves.   The beloved collie spawned additional books, radio programs and an entire series of movies. 

Old Yeller, Old Yeller, Fred Gipson
A story that makes the most hard-hearted well up.  He hunts, saves the family from a bear and loves the 14-year-old hero of the book.  Yeller makes the ultimate sacrifice for the Coates family; he’s lost but never forgotten.  This is probably the first tragedy that youngsters experience; it deserves high marks for what it teaches all of us about love.

Fang, Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling
We have a soft spot for Hagrid’s bumbling boarhound. Sure, he’s a big, drooling coward — but when the plot calls for him, he’s ready to take the stupendous spell. 

So, head to the library, download an eBook, or check the dusty boxes in your attic.  Who better to help you enjoy the shorter days than man’s best friend?

Friday, October 13, 2017

Protect Your Horse From Autumn Health Hazards

With the start of autumn, new challenges arise for breeders, owners, and boarders. You need to be aware of a variety of conditions from colic to worming, atypical myopathy to mud fever. 

 Equine colic is defined as a condition of severe abdominal discomfort characterized by pawing, rolling, and sometimes the inability to defecate. The change in weather can increase the risk for a number of reasons.  Horses may start to be stabled for longer periods of time, resulting in a change in routine, feeding and activity levels. Making sure that fluid intake is maximized with stress minimized can reduce the risk of an impaction occurring.

Ways to reduce the risk
-Soak hay to help hydrate horses
-Add water to hard feeds to help increase water intake
-Ensure buckets/troughs are not frozen
-Make any changes in feed gradually
-Make sure teeth are routinely rasped to avoid potential pain as well as to ensure the horse can adequately chew roughage prior to swallowing  

Autumn/winter is the time to treat horses for tapeworm and red worm. The best way to monitor a horse’s worm burden and generate a worming plan is to carry out worm egg counts (WEC) at routine intervals throughout the year.

Ways to reduce the risk
-Perform a WEC every 3-4 months throughout the year to monitor worm burdens.  Speak with your vet and determine when and if your horse needs a worming.   
-Let nature be your guide.  After the first frost (November/December) is a good time to fight both tapeworm and red worm.  Your vet can offer advice on best products. 

Atypical Myopathy/Seasonal Pasture Myopathy
This is a condition linked to the ingestion of sycamore seeds, leading to severe muscle damage. AM affects full-time pastured horses and is more frequently reported in the autumn, immediately following inclement weather such as cold, humidity and rain. Horses that develop AM are usually kept in sparse pastures with an accumulation of dead leaves, dead wood and trees in or around the pasture, are often not fed any supplementary hay or feed and have less-than adequate exercise.  Animals 3 years and younger are especially susceptible.

NOTE: This is a potentially fatal condition and so early recognition and hospitalization are vital.

Signs of atypical myopathy:
-Severe muscle stiffness/weakness, shaking and collapse
-Red or brown urine
-Reduced appetite

Ways to reduce the risk
-Check pasture for sycamore seeds.  Fence off trees (seeds can travel a long way on the wind so the absence of a tree in the field does not mean there won’t be seeds)
-Supplement poor pastures with hay
-Reduce stocking density in paddocks (overcrowding leads to bullying and horses at the bottom of the pecking order are more likely to resort to poorer areas of pasture with a higher concentration of seeds)
-Reduce turnout time if sycamore seeds are found and there is no alternative pasture.

Mud fever
Mud fever, also known as scratches or pastern dermatitis, is a group of diseases of horses causing irritation and dermatitis in the lower limbs of horses. Cases of mud fever are much more common in autumn/winter as horses’ legs are more likely to be wet for long periods of time. The severity of mud fever can vary and not all cases will require veterinary attention.

-Avoid excessive washing of legs; bacteria thrive in damp areas
-Brush legs instead of washing legs 
-Use cold water and dry thoroughly.   
- Mud fever scabs shelter bacteria.   It’s important to remove scabs (either by softening with an antibacterial wash or an emollient cream).

If limbs become swollen, hot, and painful or lameness is seen your vet can provide systemic and topical treatment.   

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

June 23rd is Take Your Dog to Work Day

Simple Tips to Make the Day a Success
Business goes to the dogs as workplaces across the country celebrate the annual Take Your Dog to Work Day. The temporary office canines won’t be barking out orders to employees or wagging approval after a presentation, although some might be helping the receptionist greet visitors. The day is an opportunity to celebrate dogs’ special abilities to reduce stress in the workplace and increase job satisfaction, skills confirmed in a study published in 2012 by Virginia Commonwealth University.
Take Your Dog to Work Day  was created by Pet Sitters International and first celebrated in 1999. PSI created the day to encourage businesses to allow dogs in the workplace for one Friday each year to celebrate the great companions dogs make and promote their adoptions from local shelters, rescue groups and humane societies. PSI believes that through the event dogless co-workers will be encouraged to adopt when they witness the human/animal bond. The week leading up to Take Your Dog To Work Day is Take Your Pet To Work Week.
But before you put a tie around his neck and print out an employee badge for Fido, take some common-sense steps to help the workday go smoothly for all involved.

  1. Check in with your co-workers.
Even if Rover’s home base is your office or cubicle, be sure that everyone is looking forward to her presence.  Be sympathetic to fears and allergies.
  1. Pack for the day.
Be sure that you have everything you need to make the day a happy one for your pals, both 2- and 4-legged.  Food and water dishes, toys, shareable treats, a comfy mat or towel, leash and poop bags for a start.  Homey things go a long way to the office experience.
  1. A little grooming goes a long, long way
Admit it- even you don’t like a smelly dog.  Give him a bath and a good brushing.    Is he a kisser?  Brush his teeth so he has nice breath when he meets the boss.
  1. Dog-proof your workspace.
So many new temptations!  Prep the area by lifting power cords, emptying the trash and removing little items like paper clips.  Make sure that there’s nothing on the floor or desk that Rover might find appealing.
  1. Do a good deed for dogs.
Find out if your company will OK a raffle, a guest speaker from a local shelter, visits from dogs in need of rescue etc.  Even people who don’t bring in their pets enjoy the opportunity to interact with other people’s dogs and meet vendors.
  1. Don’t bring Fido in if you can’t rely on his good manners and housetraining.
  2. Don’t bring Fido if he’s sick.
  3. Don’t let Fido wander around off leash.

The most important thing – Everyone should have a great time…Fido included!!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

June is National Adopt a Shelter Cat Month

June is a very important month for organizations, nationwide, that work with the community to find permanent homes for rescued cats.  June is National Adopt a Shelter Cat Month.   You may wonder why June was chosen  as the month for this very special service.  The short answer- June is kitten season. It is the time of the year when cats give birth, and flood animal shelters and rescue groups across the nation with homeless litters.   More than 3 million cats end up in shelters each year. This situation makes it more difficult for shelters to find  permanent homes for their rescue cats.  National Adopt a Shelter Cat Month was created to bring awareness and encourage people to ADOPT a shelter cat rather than purchase one from a pet shop.
A new survey of American adults shows that a majority of cat owners believe that cats are intelligent (77%) and independent (71%), which confirms what many of us already know – cats are smart animals that make excellent companions.
They are also skilled hunters that will help keep the bug population down in your home, as well as those hair-raising lizards, mice, moths, etc.
Another good reason to adopt a cat is they make the great cuddle companions.  They are warm and fuzzy and love to snuggle.
And finally…most importantly, you will be saving a life. Each year 3-4 million unadopted shelter cats are eventually euthanized. You could be the one who saves a life.
But what if you can’t adopt?
Here are some easy ways you can still help:
Donate to your favorite animal rescue organization. Not just money, but old towels/blankets, pillows, collars, etc.   Ask the shelter about food needs.
Donate your Facebook status. Just paste this message into the “What’s on your mind?” box at the top of your page: “June is Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat Month. Save a life: Adopt a cat!”
Tweet, retweet, repeat the following (or your own engaging message): “June is Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month. Save a life: Adopt a cat!”
Share an adoptable cat, cat-care or adoption article or any other appropriate story through your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter accounts each day of the month.
Sign up as a foster parent or shelter volunteer then tell your friends how great it is. Contact your local shelter, ASPCA, etc. to register as a volunteer.
Pass on an understanding of the importance of pet adoption to the next generation. Talk to your kids, nieces, nephews, grandchildren and other up-and-comers about animal shelters and why Adopt  a Shelter Cat Month, and pet adoption in general, is important.

As part of the ASPCA’s 150th anniversary celebration, a campaign has been created to inspire the nation to take 150,000 actions for animals in just 150 days! If you adopt a cat, help a stray or donate your time to animals in need during Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, be sure to log your action for the chance win a $150,000 grand prize for your favorite shelter!