'FREE FARMED' foods mean producers are kind to animals

The American Humane Association and the US Department of Agriculture announced today the creation of a new label, "Free Farmed." The label means a product has come from animals that were treated humanely, and were not subject to unnecessary pain, fear or distress.

The new certification joins a list of recent actions - by fisheries and fast-food giant McDonald's - aimed at elevating environmental protection of natural ocean resources and standards of treatment for the more than 8 billion farm animals used in US food production annually.

"Animals raised for food often endure conditions of extreme confinement, where they cannot express their normal behaviors," said Tim O'Brien, president of the Washington, DC-based American Humane Association, the nation's oldest organization dedicated to child and animal protection. "This program will go far in changing that."

The Free Farmed label will certify that animals are raised with ample water, food, shelter and living space, and without exposure to unnecessary pain, injury or disease. The standards for the program, three years in the making, were developed in collaboration with veterniarians, animal scientists, farmers and ranchers.

Reproduced from the San Jose Mercury News, Sept. 20, 2000.

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Major federal regulatory agencies - the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission - have agreed to accept chemical safety data from a synthetic skin test in lieu of an animal test, the National Toxicology Program announced today.

This is the first such general substitution of a non-animal test under a new federal program to reduce animal experimentation.

The regulatory agencies are preparing Federal Register notices to tell industry and other research institutions they can use the non-animal test for regulatory purposes. The regulatory actions were announced today by the National Toxicology Program, which is headquartered at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, N.C. NIEHS and other federal agencies support the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods, an organization established in 1997 to foster alternative and improved test methods.

The Food and Drug Administration also endorsed the acceptability of the method, but said that corrosivity testing for the types of products it regulates is likely to be limited. Also, on a limited basis, the Department of Transportation has already been accepting the method for certain chemicals.

The new test can replace, in many uses, a method in which a chemical or chemical mixture was placed on the intact skin of a laboratory rabbit. Several thousand rabbits have been used each year in the old test, according to one estimate.

Under ICCVAM's sponsorship, a scientific panel performed a scientific review of the test and recommended it last year to the regulatory agencies. The panel said the new method could fully replace the use of animals for testing corrosiveness in some cases, while in others, when the chemical "passed" the screen as probably safe, an animal test would be required to confirm that the chemical is not corrosive. In addition, some chemicals cannot be evaluated in the assay, and these must be tested using the standard animal test, which requires one to three rabbits.

>William Stokes, D.V.M., the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences' associate director for animal and alternative resources, said, "The old test requirements called for three animals for each chemical that is evaluated for skin corrosivity and dermal irritation. Since there are more than two thousand chemicals introduced each year, the substitution of Corrositex could save many laboratory animals in a year."

Skin corrosiveness testing is conducted to ensure that chemicals and products are properly labeled to alert consumers and workers to take precautions to prevent chemical burns to the skin. Corrosion is more serious than skin irritation and involves permanent damage to skin, usually with scarring.

In the new test, developed under the trade name Corrositex, a chemical or chemical mixture is placed on a collagen matrix barrier that serves as a kind of synthetic skin. Once it penetrates the barrier, the chemical causes a color change in a liquid detection system composed of indicator dyes that are sensitive to strong acids and bases at pH extremes. The time it takes for a test chemical to penetrate the barrier and produce a color change in the detection system is compared to a classification chart to determine corrosivity.

In order to develop a scientific consensus on the usefulness and limitations of the new test, panel members evaluated all available information and data to determine the extent to which the ICCVAM criteria for validation and acceptance of new test methods was addressed.

This is the second substitute test to be approved by federal regulatory agencies after an ICCVAM panel review. The first review resulted in the acceptance by regulatory agencies of a test called the Murine Local Lymph Node Assay that uses fewer animals to determine the potential of chemicals to cause allergic dermatitis. The new, less painful assay also uses mice instead of guinea pigs.

Corrositex is sold as a test kit by InVitro International of Irvine, Calif.

# # # # Representing the regulatory agencies on the ICCVAM are these scientists: Dr. Surender Ahir, OSHA, 202/693-2092 Dr. Marilyn Wind, CPSC, 301/504-0477, ext. 1205 Dr. Richard Hill, EPA, 202/260-2894 Dr. Leonard M. Schechtman, FDA, 301/827-5186.

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Overbreeding

I'd never heard the word overbreeding before I met "One-Eyed-Jack". Since then I have learned it is the same as inbreeding, which we all know is likely to produce genetic problems for future generations.

Animals become the victims when breeders or owners breed animals related to each other. They do this because it's cheaper than paying stud fees, they want a certain "look", or they think if sister A was a good dog and brother B was a good dog, together they will produce good puppies, etc. Wrong!

Most veterinarians will tell you that if you want a smart dog which will live a long, healthy life - adopt a "Heinz 57" mix from an animal shelter. Purebreds from many breeders or pet-stores tend to cost much more in veterinary care over their lifetimes. Statistics show they are much more likely than "mixed-breeds" to have health, behavior, and psychological problems. Unfortunately, these problems don't surface until the puppy is adolescent to adult, and beyond the deadline for receiving a refund from your breeder.

As for achieving a certain look by overbreeding, let me introduce you to One-Eyed-Jack. He's a beautiful four-year-old Queensland Healer-Australian Cattledog mix, who is a product of overbreeding to achieve an unusually white coat. Although many dog and cat breeders are more likely to inbreed pets, some owners also play this game of genetic Russian-roulette. The owners knew they could sell these beautiful white pups with the blue eyes for a good price. I don't know if they also knew these pups were likely to inherit vision, hearing, and heart problems.

Jack is now the light of my life, and seems somehow eternally grateful to me for adopting him. He shows his gratitude by being well-behaved, affectionate, and bravely protective.

Overbreeding is prevalent, and found to some degree in the majority of ALL dog-breeds commonly found in America. If someone mentions to you that they are in the market for a dog, remind them that no matter what breed is reputed to have any particular personality trait, there is no way to determine these traits in a puppy.

Suggest to them that if they adopt a dog from a shelter, they can get a healthier mixed-breed who is old enough to determine its' unique personality, yet young enough to train, or (if you are lucky), pre-trained by the previous owner.

So get the word out there! Most inbreeds don't end up as lucky as my beautiful companion; "One-Eyed-Jack" adopted from the Valley Humane Society.

-Aletha Dier

This story is brought to you by the Valley Humane Society's Paws 'n Claws Newsletter.

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Auto Servicing Locations Using a Safer Antifreeze

The Valley Humane Society recently wrote a letter to all auto servicing locations in the Tri-Valley area asking them to switch to a safer type of antifreeze, one containing propylene glycol instead of highly toxic ethylene glycol. Although the alternative propylene glycol can still be lethal, it takes three times the amount to kill animals and humans. Next time you get your car serviced, make certain you ask them to use SIERRA brand antifreeze or one containing propylene glycol.

The following auto servicing location responded that they are using the safer type of antifreeze: Unocal 76 (Hora Rim Enterprise Corp.) 12105 Alcosta Blvd., San Ramon

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Proctor & Gamble Company

Proctor & Gamble Company just announced it will immediately end the use of animal tests for its current beauty, fabric, home care, and paper products (80% of their products). For the last decade, pressure has been placed on P&G since there are alternative tests available and used by other companies which do not harm animals. P&G will still animal test for food and pharmaceutical products and new product technologies and ingredients.

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I Used to Work at a "No Kill" Shelter

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Felony Conviction for Cat Collector

In June, a Placer County Superior Court jury found cat collector Suzanna Youngblood guilty of felony animal cruelty involving 92 cats seized by Placer County Animal Control officers on New Year's Eve. After two days of deliberation, the jury acquitted Youngblood on six other counts of animal abuse involving cats who were found to be in diminishing health.

The Humane Society's West Coast Regional Office (WCRO) staff helped rescue the cats and provided emergency caging to Placer County Animal Control officers. The cats were found living in Youngblood's small trailer in Penryn, California, by a concerned neighbor. According to animal control officers, they had been confined to the trailer since October 10, 1998. The malnourished cats were found covered in excrement and suffering from upper respiratory and eye infections. Once cat died.

After the verdict, Judge James D. Garbolino ordered that the remaining cats be forfeited by Youngblood, who is to be sentence on September 2. The cats, who have since recovered from their ordeal, were all spayed or neutered and vaccinated before being adopted into new loving homes.

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Stiffest Sentences Ever Imposed in Dogfighting Cases

In July, a Northern California man charged with running a professional-level, illegal dogfighting operation out of his home in Galt, received what is believed to be the longest prison term ever imposed in such a case. Cesar Cerda was sentenced to seven years in state prison by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Peter Mering in exchange for his no-contest plea to 63 felony counts related to dogfighting and other charges. Cerda's wife, Mercedes Ruiz Monterrubio, pleaded no contest to four misdemeanor charges in exchange for a sentence of six months in the county jail.

Working with The HSUS's West Coast Regional Office and the Sacramento County Department of Animal Care and Regulation, Galt police detectives arrested the couple last December on suspicion of running an illegal dogfighting operation. Officers seized 55 pit bull terriers, many of who were heavily scarred from previous fights, along with equipment used to fight dogs, stolen veterinary supplies, and videotapes of dogfights. "Cesar Cerda was a major player," said Eric Sakach, WCRO regional director. "He was totally immersed in the activity. He not only bred, raised, and conditioned his own dogs for the pit, but he also coached others who were new to the game."

Two other men pleaded guilty to charges of burglary and no contest to conspiracy for their roles in the Christmas-morning theft of 18 dogs who were being held as evidence from the Sacramento County Animal Shelter. One received 120 days in the county jail, while the other received two years in state prison. The stolen dogs were recovered.

"In particular, the Sacramento District Attorney's Office and the Galt Police Department are to be commended for the serious attention given to these cases," said Sakach. "Despite better laws and increasing enforcement, the guilty parties frequently avoid more sever penalties. Too often dogfighters and cockfighters receive little more than a slap on the wrist and probation because prosecutors and the courts don't understand the serious nature of these crimes and the level of cruelty involved. These cases will go a long way in changing all that."

"We have done some research, and we believe these sentences are among the toughest in the country," said Sacramento Deputy District Attorney Brian Myers, who prosecuted the cases. "These cases will set a precedent for many other cases to come." HSUS staff worked closely with the district attorney's staff throughout the prosecution and were present at each of the court appearances to answer questions.

Intelligence and evidence gathered by investigators during the Galt case led to additional search warrants being served in February and April in Stanislaus, San Joaquin, and Kern counties in California. WCRO staff assisted law enforcement officers in each of the subsequent cases, which resulted in the seizure of illegal drugs, assault-type weapons, dogfighting paraphernalia, and a combined total of nearly 100 fighting dogs. In Kern County in May, Russ Herren of Tehachapi, California, pleaded guilty to multiple charges related to dogfighting, marijuana cultivation, and possession of weapons by a felon. Herren was sentenced to four years in state prison. Trials are pending in the remaining cases and the investigation is continuing.

The HSUS is a leader in the fight to end animal fighting. HSUS staff have aided in the investigation and prosecution of numerous animal-fighting ventures, and have helped train local law enforcement personnel to successfully investigate such cases. All over the country, HSUS task forces have formed to help stop these brutal events. There are training materials and a video available to any group wishing to learn more. Contact WCRO for more information.

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WCRO Introduces Pilot Spay/Neuter Program to Reservations

In July, WCRO cosponsored and participated in a pilot native nations spay/neuter program on two reservations in California, along with Remote Area Medical (RAM). Veterinarians, veterinary students, and volunteers provided the no-cost service to the Round Valley, Hoopa, and Yurok tribes. Additional support came from the Sequoia Humane Society in Eureka, California, local veterinarians, Helping Our Pets and Strays (HOPS) of the Hoopa reservation, and Save Our Strays (SOS) from Willow Creek, California. "We're pleased with the success of the program and how well received it was within the reservation communities," said WCRO Program Coordinator Cynthia Cutler. "In addition to spaying, neutering, and vaccinating numerous animals, we were able to provide residents with a great deal of educational material on pet care and health, and we made many new friends."

Cutler, who coordinated the effort, said the program was designed to assist the tribal leaders in developing their own programs to prevent pet overpopulation, while promoting responsible pet ownership among reservation residents. Nearly 400 animals were examined, sterilized, and vaccinated at both locations. "The staff and volunteers endured long hours and a grueling schedule in the summer heat to make this program a reality, and they deserve a special thanks," she said. "These clinics were held in rural areas where there are few accessible alternatives for preventing pet overpopulation and the health concerns associated with roaming animals." Leashes and pet carriers were provided by The HSUS, while RAM provided veterinary services. Donated vaccines were supplied by the Sequoia Humane Society and Denny Nolet, DVM. The National Association for Humane and Environmental Education contributed humane education materials. The HSUS also commends Brandi O'Ferrall of the Round Valley Housing Authority, Gianna Orozco, and the volunteers of HOPS and SOS for their help in coordinating the program.

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Nevada Wild Horse Shooting Update

Following 17 days of intense investigation, the Washoe County Sheriff's Office received a tip from an informant who overheard a conversation alluding to the involvement of a local construction worker in the now notorious Virginia Range wild horse shootings. Three suspects were subsequently arrested and have since been arraigned on charges of shooting 34 wild horses with high-powered rifles. Most of the horses died a slow, painful death.

Charged with the killings and other crimes were: Anthony Jon Merlino, 20; Scott William Brendle, 21; and Darien Thomas Brock, 20. WCRO has been advised that their trials have been continued until mid-fall due to scheduling conflicts. Each of the defendants faces up to 15 years in state prison if convicted.

The HSUS's $10,000 donation to the reward fund helped authorities apprehend the perpetrators.

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Pet Relinquishment Study Findings Revealed During Washington and California Pet Overpopulation Symposia

Historically, the animal sheltering community has focused largely on spay/neuter and shelter adoption programs as a means of reducing the number of unwanted dogs and cats who are euthanized in animal shelters. The Washington Federation of Animal Care and Control Agencies' Pet Overpopulation Summit II, attended by WCRO staff, turned attendees' attention away from traditional pet overpopulation controls to focus on two additional means of decreasing the need for euthanasia of unwanted animals: preventing pet owners from relinquishing their animals to shelters, and increasing the return-to-owner rate for stray animals who enter shelters.

Dr. Phil Kass of the University of California at Davis (UC Davis) presented the early findings of a yet-to-be-released study of dogs and cats are relinquished to animal shelters. The goal of the study was to determine why dogs and cats are relinquished. Were some animals more likely to be relinquished by their owners? If so, what were the facts that put an animal at higher risk of relinquishment?

Many of the study's findings ere not a surprise to summit attendees. For example, the study found that spending a significant amount of time outdoors and away from the family greatly increases a dog's or cat's chances of being relinquished to a shelter and lessens the chance that the owner will look for the animal if the pet goes missing. Kass's study also found that dogs who were not taught basic obedience commands were six times more likely to be relinquished to a shelter. Animals who were not spayed or neutered were also more likely to be relinquished.

The study provides scientific validity to what many in the animal sheltering field already suspected - that the human-animal bond is the critical factor is in the long-term welfare of dogs and cats. Summit attendees concluded that shelters must increase efforts to promote, encourage, and strengthen people's bonds with their pets as an important means of keeping dogs and cats in their original homes.

The results of Kass's study were also presented at the fifth Pet Overpopulation Symposium (POP V), Positive Outcomes for People and Animals, held in June at UC Davis and sponsored by the California Council of Companion Animal Advocates (CCCAA). Also featured at POP V were panels on dog behavior issues, humane approaches for dealing with feral cats, innovative spay/neuter ideas, and methods for finding good matches for adoptive pets. The CCCAA is made up of organizations active in animal care and control, veterinary medicine, purebred dog and pedigreed cat breeding, the pet industry, and animal protection. Though the CCCAA is a diverse group with differing philosophies, it seeks to set an example by collaborating to solve the problems of unwanted or unowned companion animals. WCRO Regional Director Eric Sakach serves as The HSUS's representative on the council.

In addition to this year's symposium, CCCAA teamed with the Pet Loss Support Hot Line staff at UC Davis to celebrate the creation of the Program for Veterinary Family Practice. Included in the program were presentations on early spay/neuter, hospice care for pets, successful programs by local humane organizations, and humane education programs for schools. The Program for Veterinary Family Practice and Pet Loss Support Hot Line promote the importance of responsible care of animals, compassion in veterinary medicine, and emotional support of all those who care form animals.

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These articles are brought to you by the Humane Society's West Coast Regional Office. For more information or to make a contribution to their efforts, please email them at hsuswcro@aol.com

What can you do to have your objections heard? Check out the Humane Society's website. www.hsus.org. They have a list of your congressional leaders, retail stores and more. Send them your letters of protest. Believe in making a difference!