The Humane Society’s 24th Annual PAWS Walk

Although the PAWS Walk has previously been held in September, this year the sunny summer weather has prompted the Humane Society of Fargo-Moorhead to hold it on Tuesday, July 29th. The venue, however, remains the same: Lindenwood Park’s Main Shelter will host the event, with registration beginning at 6:00 PM and the walk itself starting at 7:00 PM.

The Event Grand Marshall will be Esperanza, a dog who was adopted by her foster family back in March. She has been featured in several ads promoting the event, and her Spanish name means “hope,” which she represents with her own shelter success story.

Esperanza arrived at the Humane Society as a puppy in November 2012, when she and her siblings were surrendered by an owner who could not afford to keep them. Having been born with her back legs paralyzed, she became accustomed to dragging herself around until she was five months old, which caused open wounds on her legs.

Luckily, six generous volunteers at the shelter pitched in to buy her a cart, and eventually she was taken in as a foster by Matt and Maria Amundson, who have provided her with in-home physical therapy. Though she’s unlikely to ever walk on all fours on her own, she has made progress and can now stand up for one minute without support.

“Certainly there are days that can be very challenging,” Maria admits, “but at the same time very rewarding… I can’t imagine not seeing her happy face every day when I get home from work.”

A fun summer event for the whole family, the 24th Annual PAWS Walk will have music, games, face painting, dog training demonstrations, and free food and beverages. All proceeds will go toward the Humane Society’s shelter animals, helping both able-bodied and handicapped cats and dogs such as Esperanza find their own happy endings.

This article previously appeared in the High Plains Reader.

- Särah Nour

What You Should Know Before Adopting a Former Laboratory Animal

It was just last month that Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed the Beagle Freedom Bill into law, making Minnesota the first U.S. state—and only political body in the world—to require healthy laboratory cats and dogs to be put up for adoption once they are no longer being used for research.

The Beagle Freedom Bill is so named because beagles are the most common breed of dog used in scientific research, and because the Beagle Freedom Project was pivotal in getting this law passed. These dedicated animal activists sent emails and letters, made phone calls, and lobbied at the Capitol, eventually raising enough awareness to gain the support of Senator Scott Dibble, who wholeheartedly endorsed the bill.

Prior to this ruling, there were no federal or state laws protecting former lab animals, and euthanasia has generally been standard procedure once the experiments are over.

Many animal lovers may be eager to seize the opportunity to adopt a former lab animal. After all, most of these cats and dogs have never seen the world outside the laboratory, and they deserve loving homes and individual care and attention. However, this undertaking requires serious consideration and research, as there may be behavioral issues that may need to be addressed.

Generally, lab animals are not vicious. A good disposition and proper socialization are high priorities for breeders, as it makes it easier on handlers and researchers. But given their limited contact with humans and fellow animals, they will likely be anxious and uncertain of how to behave, so potential owners must be prepared for possible biting and scratching during the training process. Also, once a cat or a dog becomes accustomed to having an owner around, they may develop separation anxiety.

As a result of being kept indoors, lab animals often lack hunting instinct, and dogs are usually not housebroken or crate-trained. Their lack of exposure to outdoor climates may trigger seasonal or environmental allergies, and their first car ride may result in motion sickness.

If you wish to adopt, foster, or otherwise help lab animals, you need to know what you’re getting yourself into. Contact a rescue group such as Kindness RanchAnimal Rescue Corps, or New Life Animal Sanctuary for answers to any questions you may have. Take time to consider whether you have the time, patience, and resources to meet any special needs of your prospective pet.

Pictured: Sammy

Sammy is one of the Beagle Freedom Project’s success stories. Upon his rescue, he refused to eat, was easily spooked, and would run and hide when people were around. Though it took him a while to trust humans, now he’s happily adopted and has learned to revel in everyday joys that most dogs take for granted, like going for walks, playing fetch, and sticking their heads out a car window.


Pictured: Willy


Pictured: Chester

In addition to dogs, the Kindness Ranch rescues cats, horses, sheep, and pigs from research facilities. Among the cats available for adoption are brothers Willy and Chester, who are described as confident, friendly, playful, and curious—despite having spent the first months of their lives as research subjects for the Feline Herpes Virus.

These animals are living proof that years of alienation in a lab do not make them unadoptable. Hopefully the Beagle Freedom Act will make the general public more aware of this, and provide more exposure for retired laboratory cats and dogs seeking homes.

- Särah Nour

What You Need to Know About Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Just a few weeks ago, CATS Cradle Shelter rescued a kitten from a hay feeder; a kitten they named Hal and placed in foster care. He is estimated to be about eight weeks old. Unfortunately, he has recently tested positive for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), though CATS Cradle is holding out hope that it was a false positive, and plan to retest him when he’s a bit older.

Though it may be an unpleasant subject to think about, FIV is something all cat owners need to be aware of. Here are just a few basic facts to consider when it comes to looking after your cat and reducing their risk of infection.


1. FIV is not transferred through casual contact.

FIV cannot be transmitted when cats share the same food or water bowl, or when they groom each other. Most often it’s transmitted through bite wounds, when an infected cat bites another. Cats are safest when they’re indoors, where they’re less likely to be exposed to infected cats that might attack them. Similarly, if your cat has FIV, they should be kept indoors, or at least supervised when they’re outside.

It’s entirely possible for infected cats to live with non-infected cats, as long as they get along and don’t fight each other. However, if you have more than one cat and discover that one of them is FIV-positive, it’s not a bad idea to get the rest of them tested as well.

It’s also possible for an infected mother cat to transfer the virus to her kittens, either during birth or when nursing, but this is rare. Which brings us to our next point:


2. False positives in kittens are not uncommon.

Sometimes kittens born to infected mothers can test positive for FIV. But if the kitten is less than six months old, there’s a chance it’s a false positive caused by ingestion of infected milk. That’s why those kittens should be retested every 60 days until they’re six months old, just to be sure.


3. FIV can go undetected for years.

Unfortunately there are no specific signs of FIV. Often it’s not diagnosed until a cat gets sick so often that the vet considers the possibility that their immune system is compromised.

The most common illnesses include upper respiratory infections, ringworm, and gingivitis. Other signs of immunodeficiency include fever, inflammation of the lymph nodes, poor coat condition, diarrhea, weight loss, and neurological conditions such as seizures. Cancers and blood diseases are also more common in FIV-positive cats.


4. Symptoms can be managed.

Though there is currently no cure for FIV, it’s certainly not a death sentence. It’s possible for an FIV-positive cat to have a full lifespan, albeit with more medicines and vet appointments than the average cat.

While spaying and neutering your pets is always essential, FIV is another factor to consider, as neutering reduces aggression in male cats, thus making it less likely they’ll seek out fights with other cats. Also, if an FIV-positive female cat gets pregnant, it’s likely she will miscarry or have other reproductive issues.

FIV-positive cats should never be fed uncooked food. Avoid raw meats and eggs or unpasteurized dairy products, because cats with compromised immune systems are more vulnerable to food-borne bacterial and parasitic infections.

Take your cat in for a checkup at least every six months. In particular, a vet should focus on the gums, eyes, skin, and lymph nodes of FIV-positive cats during physical examinations, and they should also receive blood counts, serum biochemical analyses, and urine analyses. Since weight loss is often the first sign of health deterioration, their weight should be measured and recorded.


5. There is an FIV vaccine… but many veterinarians are against it.

Despite being FDA-approved, the vaccine does not provide full protection against all strains of FIV. It can even do more harm than good, as it’s an adjuvanted vaccine, which has been linked to tumor development in cats. Not only that, cats who receive this vaccine will test positive for the FIV virus, thus making it impossible to distinguish vaccinated cats from infected ones. Needless to say, there is much research to be done and consideration to be had before deciding whether to give your cat this vaccine.


For more information, head to PetMD, or consult your veterinarian.

- Särah Nour

Pet Precautions for the 4th of July

Independence Day is generally seen as a fun event for all involved, with barbecues, bonfires, and fireworks. But this holiday isn’t for everybody—especially not animals. The loud noises, flashing lights, and smell of sulfur can be terrifying for cats and dogs; and every year, hundreds of pets are either lost or injured due to 4th of July fireworks.

However, there are safety measures and precautions that can be taken to ensure that your pets remain secure during celebrations.



If you’re going out for Independence Day, leave pets at home and have someone there to look after them while you’re gone. Keep them indoors, because sometimes not even a securely fenced yard can keep in an animal fleeing in terror.

If you’re staying home, and there’s going to be fireworks in your area, keep a detailed schedule of when and where. Call your neighbors to ask when they plan to fire them off. That way you can be prepared ahead of time.

Whether you’re staying in or going out, make sure your pets have their collars and identification tags with contact information on them. If they’re microchipped, make sure the data is up to date. Also, have current photos of them on hand in case they go missing.



Keep your pets in a “safe room” until the fireworks are over; preferably an interior room with no windows. If you can’t get them into a windowless room, close the curtains so they don’t see any flashes. Be sure to keep lights on, as a dark room might make the loud noises doubly frightening.

Make the room as familiar, homey, and comfortable as possible: set up pet beds and provide food, water, and toys (as well as a litter box, if it’s a cat). If you think noises might relax them, turn on the TV or play some music to distract them; maybe a CD with soothing nature sounds.

Remove sharp objects, decorative items, or anything else that could injure them if they get scared and start running around and knocking things over. If they scratch or bite you in a state of panic, stay calm and be gentle but firm. Remember it’s up to you to provide a calming, stable presence for them.

While you should never punish a pet for being afraid, try not to coddle them, either. That would only confirm their suspicion that something is wrong, and thus increase their anxiety. Instead, distract them with games. Give your dog their favorite chew toy, or dangle some string for your cat.



Even after the fireworks are over, your pet might have some lingering anxiety. Release them from the safe room and let them wander the house; but don’t let them outdoors anytime soon, in case someone out there decides to shoot off just one more firecracker.

Observe their behavior for signs of stress. Stressed dogs and cats may cling to you, run and hide somewhere, refuse to eat, or urinate or defecate in the house. Dogs in particular might bark a lot, whimper, tremble, or pace.

Before letting them back outside, go out in the yard and clean up any sparklers, firecrackers, or other broken or dangerous objects. Then open a window and let your cat or dog look out and see that there’s nothing wrong. Take your dog for a walk and show them it’s safe.

Above all, be mindful, attentive, and patient. What’s fun and exciting for you can be frightening and dangerous for them, so be there for your pets when they need you.

This article previously appeared on The Dodo.

- Särah Nour

The Life and Times of Yellow Ribbon Dogs

For many animal lovers, the first impulse when they see a dog is to walk up and pet it—sometimes without the consent of the owner. The problem with that is not every dog is receptive to attention from a stranger, or even from other dogs.

There can be many reasons for this. Sometimes a dog has aggression issues; sometimes they are shy or have an anxiety disorder; or they may have a medical condition that requires limited physical contact. Other cases include service dogs, dogs that have not been properly socialized, or dogs that have not yet completed obedience training.

Whatever the case, this is why dog trainer Tara Palardy founded The Yellow Dog Project: to raise awareness and help the public recognize Dogs In Need of Space (a.k.a. DINOS). This nonprofit organization began in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada and has since gone global.

Palardy first saw the need for this project when she met clients who complained of overeager strangers petting their high-strung dogs and allowing children to get too close to them. Now owners in 45 countries are attaching yellow ribbons to their dogs’ collars and leashes to let others know not to approach them.

As a trainer and a dog daycare manager, Palardy advocates positive reinforcement training to solve behavioral problems in “yellow dogs.” The organization’s website provides links to useful resources, such as training instruction books and profiles of animal trainers and behaviorists.

TYDP’s online stores sell ribbons, labeled dog vests, collars, and bandannas—and that’s just for the dogs. For themselves, dog owners can buy pins, T-shirts, clutch purses, backpacks, and iPhone cases. All money that’s raised and donated goes toward awareness campaigns and ribbon production.

- Särah Nour