Winter 2009 Newsletter

Cover Story

Top Stories of 2008

By Nancy Marano

Picking the year's top animal-related stories is always difficult because there are so many requiring our attention - good, bad and ugly. As with any list, the choices are arbitrary, but these are the stories that resonate from this year.

1) Economy

The failing economy is causing more and more people to relinquish their animals to humane societies, shelters and rescues. If people don't have enough food for their children, their animals suffer too. Animals are an integral part of the family until crisis hits. When people are worried about a foreclosure notice on their home or they lose their job, they have to cut back wherever possible. Unfortunately, this often begins with the animals. Shelters are coping with a rise in the number of in-coming animals, many of whom are older and have never been away from their home. Another consequence is animals who aren't being adopted as quickly - not even puppies and kittens. Animals are part of our family. To make the difficult, heart-wrenching decision to relinquish your animal because you can't feed it is one of the worst a person will be asked to make. Many food banks now give out free animal food to help alleviate the crisis to some degree.

2) Hurricane Ike

September 13, 2008 brought landfall for Hurricane Ike, a massive Category 3 hurricane that smashed into the coast of Galveston Bay and Houston. It was several days before the rescue crews from Best Friends, HSUS, and other disaster teams could get into the area to pick up four-legged refugees. Local shelters quickly became overwhelmed with animals in search of their families. Disasters bring out the best and the worst in people. Those who searched the flooded area bringing food, water and aid to the many animals left in the storm's wake are heroes indeed.

3) Proposition 2 and Question 3

Two of the best success stories of the year are the passage of Proposition 2 on the California ballot and Question 3 on the Massachusetts ballot. Proposition 2 ends the practice of confining certain animals raised for food in crates and cages so small they can barely move. It applies to breeding pigs, egg laying hens and veal calves. The measure goes into effect in 2015 to give factory farms time to transition to new housing systems.

Question 3 is a measure to ban greyhound racing in Massachusetts. It takes effect in 2010. A similar ballot measure failed in 2000. This was truly a case of people protecting dogs.

4) New First Dog

What an exciting time we are living in with a new President and the promise of a new first dog. Barney and Miss Beazley Bush did their jobs admirably - until those recent biting incidents - but now they get to retire to the Texas ranch. President-elect Obama has promised one dog will be going to the White House and possibly two. Dog organizations everywhere are atwitter with opinions. What breed of dog should it be? Should it be purebred or a shelter dog? What's best choice with his daughter Malia's allergy? Anyone who has taken a peek at the Internet knows the controversy raging there. One good thing to come from this chatter is the elevation of shelter dogs as wonderful companion animals. Maybe people will remember that after January 20. We are all panting to see what the Obama's choice will be.

5) PETCO and rabbits

This is a wonderful piece of news for all animal lovers. The House Rabbit Society (HRS) announced PETCO agreed to stop the sale of rabbits in their stores. PETCO will begin phasing rabbits out of their stores immediately. By 2009 the only rabbits available at PETCO will be rabbits from shelters or rescue organizations. As of 2008, HRS volunteers have rescued 20,000 rabbits many of whom were sold originally through pet stores or breeders. Animal lovers should thank PETCO for this long awaited decision.

6) Trouble - Easy come, easy go

Leona Helmsley's Maltese, Trouble, became the wealthiest dog in the world when Helmsley died and left her a $12 million trust fund. Her grandchildren, who were cut out of her estate, sued saying Helmsley was not mentally competent to sign the will. A Manhattan judge agreed and ruled they receive $6 million from Helmsley's estate. $10 million of Trouble's inheritance will go into Helmsley's charitable foundation. Trouble's caretaker will be given $2 million to continue caring for the dog as long as she lives. She should live quite well on that.

7) FlexPetz

Too busy to have a dog in your life full time? Then your solution might be to rent a dog by the day. Marlena Cervantes, founder of FlexPetz, refers to her controversial service as "shared pet ownership" and compares the concept to a time-share vacation or gym membership. A person buys a yearly membership, pays a monthly fee, a per-visit charge, and you get a dog for the day. Her service is available in New York, Los Angeles and London now. She hopes to open franchises in other cities soon. Is this a good idea that might lead to adoptions or is this a case of treating animals as life style accessories? The success of her business will depend on animal lovers nationwide.

If we missed some of the stories you felt were important, please let us know. Send your comments to We look forward to hearing what you think.

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