Pet Connection by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker


Shelters come up with creative solutions to help pets who might otherwise be given up

By Kim Campbell Thornton

The woman's dog lived outdoors at the end of a chain, with only a doghouse for shelter. He had some serious medical issues. Neighbors complained to the city that the dog was neglected. When officers responded, they confiscated the dog and gave the owner citations totaling more than $800. But the officers took an extra step. They called the Jacksonville Humane Society in Florida to ask if the shelter would work with the owner, saying, "We think she really loves this dog; she just doesn't have the resources."

Their instincts were right on, says JHS Executive Director Denise Deisler. "The woman dearly loved her dog, but she'd never received any information about what might be proper care for a dog and why he might be better off in the house than in the backyard."

The owner agreed to work with JHS, which provided the dog's medical treatment, and all charges and fines were dropped. They provided the owner with a crate and a bed and bowls, and she moved the dog into her house.

"This woman now has a more appropriate relationship with her dog; the dog is now healthy, and he's not sitting in a shelter," Deisler says. "A dog who's been in a backyard his whole life is not typically the first dog who gets adopted."

Imagine if your local shelter could keep up to half of the pets brought to them in their current homes. Jacksonville is just one place where that's happening. Deisler and shelter executives like her are passionate about retention: keeping pets in homes by removing barriers that might otherwise land them in the shelter. Instead of just accepting pets brought in for surrender, they offer practical assistance and advice.

Take medical care. Many people surrender animals because they can't afford needed veterinary care.

"We have incredible luck with keeping animals out of the shelter by offering medical care," Deisler says. "My stance is that if they surrender to a shelter, we're going to end up paying for medical care anyway. Why not pay for it and let them go back home?"

Other retention efforts include boarding dogs for people who are temporarily homeless or are seeking crisis shelter for domestic violence. They're able to offer that service by partnering with a local boarding facility and exchanging publicity for its boarding services. They may pay the pet deposit on rental housing if lack of it is the only thing preventing a person from keeping a pet.

The Humane Society of Boulder Valley in Colorado is one of a number of shelters that offer training classes and behavior advice to people whose relationship with a pet is faltering because of behavioral issues. Its full-service veterinary clinic has a subsidized program for people whose income might not permit them to afford treatment for a pet. Some shelters have low-cost or free spay/neuter programs or pet-food pantries to help out people who may have lost a job and are struggling to feed a pet.

"If finances are an issue, then we have some opportunities to ensure that that relationship can stay intact," says BVHS CEO Lisa Pedersen.

All of those programs help to keep pets in homes when behavior problems or finances might otherwise dictate that they be given up to the shelter. The goal is to work with individuals to find an answer to whatever challenges they might be facing with their pets.

"For us, it's almost anything goes," Deisler says. "If you really love your pet and want to keep your pet, we will do whatever we need to do to keep that pet with the people who love him. We're not judgmental."


Urine trouble? How to

remove odor, stains

Q: I was getting ready to take my dog out the other night when I discovered she had just peed on our carpet. What's the best way to clean it? -- via Facebook

A: Don't you hate it when they jump the gun on you? The good news is that there are some great products and techniques for lifting out odor and stains.

When you discover an accident right away, grab some cleanup towels (we always have a pile of old grubby ones on hand) and blot up as much of the urine as possible. Press down really hard to soak it all up and make sure the urine doesn't have a chance to penetrate to the carpet pad.

Then toss those towels in the laundry bin and saturate the area with an enzymatic cleaning product. The enzymes break down waste so it doesn't leave stains, and they neutralize odors rather than mask them. Apply the cleaning solution to an area larger than the actual wet spot from the urine to make sure you get everything. Your dog will be able to smell any remaining urine, even if you can't.

Place a clean towel over the area and weight it down with a stack of thick books or some other heavy object. The pressure will help to wick the moisture from the carpet. Check the area in 24 hours. It should be mostly dry by then, and you can remove the books and towel. The spot should be free of any stains and odor.

Avoid using ammonia-based cleaners. Ammonia is a by-product of decomposing urine, and the scent will draw your dog's attention back to the area and encourage her to pee there again.

If your dog keeps having accidents in the same place, get a black light, which can show old stains that aren't visible to the naked eye, and treat those areas as described above. -- Dr. Marty Becker

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Airlines required to report

incidents involving pets

-- Effective Jan. 1, 2015, air carriers must report to the Department of Transportation more incidents that involve the loss, injury or death of an animal during air transport. The new rule, announced in July by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, expands the reporting requirement to include all U.S. carriers that operate scheduled service with at least one aircraft with a capacity of more than 60 seats and redefines "animal" as all cats and dogs transported by the carrier, whether those animals are being transported as pets by owners or as part of a shipment by a commercial breeder. Previously, the rule did not apply to breeder shipments. The DOT publishes reports of incidents in its monthly Air Travel Consumer Report, available at

-- In a New York magazine article on pet ownership, veterinarian Katherine Quisenberry of the Upper East Side Animal Center calls bearded dragons "one of the best reptiles you can own." They'll pop up to greet you when you come home, are usually gentle, and enjoy being handled or held. Bearded dragons eat dark greens, berries, mealworms and crickets, and they can live into their teens.

-- It's not too late to vote for a candidate for the 2014 Hambone Award, presented annually by Veterinary Pet Insurance to the pet with the most unusual claim of the year. The company has nominated 12 candidates for the honor, with the winner decided by public vote. Nominees include a dachshund who survived a bear attack, a cocker spaniel who survived a two-story plunge, and a cat who required surgery to have a Nerf dart removed from his intestines. The animal hospital that treated the winner will receive $10,000 through the Veterinary Care Foundation to treat pets whose owners could not otherwise afford treatment. To vote, visit Voting ends Sept. 30.


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.

Captions and Credits

Caption 01: When animal shelters can help pets stay with their families, as more organizations are attempting to do, everybody wins. Position: Main Story

Caption 02: Curiosity got the better of Lewes, a cat who required surgery after accidentally ingesting a Nerf dart. Position: Pet Buzz/Item 3