Thoughts on the Wording That Both Inspires and Divides

By: | July 24, 2018

We recently shared the TedX talk below with our employees. In response, one of our staff members, Edward Burch, penned the following thoughts when sharing the video with his friends. We were so moved, we felt it was worth sharing here.

By our stats, we could probably call ourselves “no kill.” But we don’t. For many of the reasons outlined here. I agree that the term is divisive as well as misleading.

I’m proud that our live placement rates are very high, and that those numbers are up from last year at this time. And it’s because of the committed work of our phenomenal staff.

We’re open admission, which means we’ll make room when other places say they’re full—even when we are also full. We do our best for every animal who comes under our care. Most of them find homes very quickly; some take a bit longer. And we never euthanize for space. We commit ourselves to finding a home for every adoptable animal.

Like the speaker, I am grateful for the progress of the past quarter century that has saved millions of animals thanks to the advocacy of the no-kill movement.

The optimist in me says we will continue to progress in saving animals at higher rates. The pessimist knows that the cruelties of the world ensure that my work, my vocation of finding homes for animals is in no danger of being rendered obsolete.

I’d love for us to be so successful that we put ourselves out of a job. I don’t think it will ever happen, but I’ll do my damnedest to make us so good at what we do that I have to start polishing my resume because the shelters are empty.

4th of July Pet Safety Tips

By: | July 1, 2015

Scary sounds and flashes of light send some animals bolting out the door or over a fence on the 4th of July. The APA Adoption Center sees an influx of stray animals after the holiday. Keep your furry friends safe during the celebrations with these tips.

  • Leave your dog at home when you attend celebrations with fireworks. Don’t expose your pet to the crackling noises and shrieking light displays- even pets who are normally calm tend to react differently to the commotion of the 4th.
  • Never leave your pet unattended outdoors when they go to use the bathroom. Even pets who typically stay in the yard are more prone to jumping fences to escape the frightening sounds.
  • Furthermore, do not chain up your pet outside. A frightened animal will try to run, which can lead to entanglement, injury, or even death.
  • Be sure your pet is wearing current identification. If your pet is microchipped, check that your address and phone number are up-to-date, and the same goes for the ID tags they wear on their collars. 4thjuly kitten
  • Keep your pets indoors that night. Give them a cool, dark room to find a safe place to go. If your dog likes his/her crate, drape a blanket over the top to give them a better sense of security in their “den.”
  • Some people find soft music or a television helps drown out the festivities and gives their pets peace.
  • Dr. Denise Dietsch, Director of the APA Veterinary Clinic, recommends trying pheromone sprays and diffusers, available at most pet stores, to calm frightened pets.  “Pheromones are natural chemicals produced by animals that trigger behavioral responses,” she explains. “In some cases, tranquilizers are the only thing that will help.  Pet owners should consult with their veterinarians to see if this is a possible treatment.”
  • Use caution when allowing your pets outside the next day. The powder discharged by fireworks can be toxic, so it’s best to avoid areas where they might come into contact with the residue.

Follow these tips, and your pets will thank you for giving them a “safe and sane” 4th of July. Happy Independence Day from your friends at the APA Adoption Center!


Helping Victims of Domestic Violence and their Pets

By: | March 20, 2015

Escaping an abusive home is a brave but stressful and difficult decision. It is enough for a woman to worry about getting herself and children to safety; to have to consider pets’ safety, too, can make the move overwhelming. In fact, several studies show that somewhere between 25-40% of women delay their departure or stay with their abuser all together because they worry about what will happen to their pets when they go.

We have long known a behavioral link exists between animal abuse and human abuse: violent behavior toward animals often acts as a precursor to violence against people. Social scientists, abuse counselors and law enforcement refer to this cycle simply as “The Link.” In domestic abuse situations, some abusers harm the pets’ of their victims in order to intimidate or coerce them back into the relationship. Other times, pets are simple victims of abuse themselves.


Recently, bipartisan legislation was introduced in Washington that aims to assist victims of abuse and their pets. The Pet and Women Safety Act (PAWS Act) would establish a federal grant program that helps domestic violence shelters house both women and their companion animals. The APA strongly supports keeping people and pets together, especially during challenging, uncertain times. Women in abusive relationships are often made to feel isolated, scared and lonely. Their companion animals provide security, reliability and comfort during an especially challenging period. The proposed legislation would potentially benefit thousands of women one day, and we hope you will encourage your representative to cosponsor or support the PAWS Act and help keep families together.

Until the day when pets are able to stay with their people in safe places, the APA offers Domestic Violence Pet Assistance. This program fosters the pets of victims while they are in shelter and reunites them with their family once they are back on their feet. During that time, the APA provides all medical care, vaccinations, food and shelter at no cost to the family.

The APA has offered Domestic Violence Pet Assistance – the only safe harbor program for pets in the St. Louis region – since 1997. In that time, we have served hundreds of women and pets, and we see every day how important it is to provide protection and services for abuse victims and their animals. By fostering her pets while a woman is in shelter, we give her time to focus on herself and to regain her independence outside of a violent home. When the family is reunited afterward, it’s a happy ending for everyone.



Dogfighting – No Winners!

By: | January 15, 2015

What is dogfighting?

Typically, an Organized Dogfight is a contest in which two dogs, bred and trained to fight by “dog men”, is placed in a pit (an area enclosed by plywood or straw bales) for the purpose of attacking and mauling each other to earn money for their owners and “entertain” spectators. An organized dogfight averages an hour in length and often lasts more than two hours. These dogfights end when one of the dogs is no longer able or willing to continue. Individuals, who consider themselves to be professional dog fighters, may run sophisticated matches where thousands of dollars exchange hands during multiple fights with different dogs. They may read or help run Web sites and magazines related to fighting. Gambling regarding the outcome of the fights is an integral part of this activity.

Streetfighting, the fastest growing type of dogfighting, is spur of the moment (impromptu) fighting that usually ends in minutes. Fights happen anywhere the “contestants” happen to be—in an alley, a garage, a park, etc. These dogs are not usually trained to fight, and could even be dogs that are stolen or found. These dogfighters usually just want to gain status, not money, especially if the fight is against a rival gang member’s dog. The street fighters torment, assault, and terrorize the dogs to create the fear and aggressive behavior required for the fight.

How does dog fighting affect our community?

The presence of fighting dogs in our community increases the risk of dog attacks on animals and people. Children are especially at risk; their size may cause a fighting dog to perceive them to be a small and active animal. Irresponsible breeders and owners have created animals conditioned and genetically predisposed to aggression.

It is reported in dog fighting magazines and websites that true “dog men” believe fighting dogs should never be aggressive toward people because owners must be able to handle a dog in the ring. These professionals say that until fairly recently, this highly undesirable trait was kept out of the breed by shooting any dog on the spot that displayed aggression toward humans. These owners also specify “pit bulls” to be among the friendliest of breeds. “Dog men” remark that popularization in the 1980s, created an opportunity for backyard breeders who through abuse, teasing, or “practice” on non-fighting dogs, cats and other small animals or even other humans have caused a problem. However, genetic control through gunshot is not grounded in any science nor does it qualify for humane husbandry of a breed. “Dog men” are as culpable as backyard breeders.

Dog fighters and many spectators have a history of violent and criminal behavior toward people. Sideline activities of gun sales, narcotic sales, and gambling are undesirable. Dog fights in any neighborhood increase the likelihood of other violence and crimes occurring in that neighborhood and indicate a problem.

Children and teens involved in dog fighting are more likely to become “hard” and uncaring. Are these the character traits we want to encourage in future generations?

Many studies have now documented “the link” between violence to animals and violence to people. Animal cruelty is often an early-warning sign of violent tendencies that may be acted out eventually against people. The adult who performs violent and cruel acts against an animal is unlikely to recognize boundaries about rage and aggressive behavior. The parent who abuses the family pet may also be abusing humans in the household. The youth who abuses dogs or forces them to fight may move on to harm or kill humans. The child who hurts an animal may already be a victim of, or a witness to, family violence.

Why do people participate in dog fighting?

Some young men value what they believe to be the masculine image presented by people walking around with aggressive dogs. They think it’s a show of status and strength to have the toughest dog.

Dog fighting is another entertainment activity for gangs.

People make money by betting on the dogs.

Some “dog men” claim to do it for the love of the breed and the joy of watching a “pit bull” do what he loves to do. They like to be involved in training and breeding to produce aggressive winning dogs and they feel they benefit from the reputation of being able to train a “winner”.

Sideline activities such as gun and drug sales can be lucrative.

Are you interested in talking with others about dogfighting?

Be ready to ask and answer many questions, including:

  • Is it a good decision to participate in dog fighting?
  • How do any of us decide if we are doing the right thing?
    Doing the right thing is an act of self-respect and responsible decision making.

The following questions may be helpful the next time you consider if an action is the right thing to do:

  • “Could it hurt anyone, including me?”
  • “Is it fair?”
  • “How would I feel if someone did this to me?”

Here are some reasons why dogfighting isn’t the right thing to do:

1) It’s a violent activity.

Spectators enjoy watching dogs injure and maim one another, usually to the death. Dogs who survive a fight often die of blood loss, shock, dehydration, exhaustion or infection hours or even days after a fight. Many losers are shot in the arena.

Some streetfighters abuse their dogs to make them mean and provoke them to fight. These animals may be hit, stabbed, poked with a fork, or even burned. Some animals suffer horrible lives, living in small, isolated cages without proper food and water or human contact. Some injured dogs are thrown in alleys or dumpsters to die alone when they can no longer fight.

Young children are often allowed or forced to watch, which promotes insensitivity to animal cruelty, an enthusiasm for violence, and a lack of respect for the law.

2) It’s illegal and other illegal activities accompany dogfighting.

Baiting and fighting animals is a class D felony in the state of Missouri. Attending the baiting and fighting of animals is a class A misdemeanor.

Illegal gambling is the norm at dogfights. Owners and spectators spend thousands of dollars wagering on their favorite dogs.

Firearms and other weapons are quite common at dogfights because of the large amounts of cash present.

Illegal drugs are often sold and used at dogfights.

Stealing an animal (to use to participate in dogfighting) is illegal because animals are considered property.

3) It hurts other living things.

Yes, animals can feel pain. How do we know? The external signs of pain that human beings show are very similar in species most closely related to us—mammals and birds. Dogs and cats are mammals. Outward signs of pain include writhing, facial contortions, moaning, yelping or other forms of calling, attempts to avoid the source of pain, appearance of fear at the prospect of its repetition, etc. These animals also have nervous systems very like ours, which respond physiologically like ours do when the animal is in circumstances where we would feel pain—rise in blood pressure, dilated pupils, perspiration (in dogs expressed through panting), and an increased pulse rate.

How to respond to someone who argues that pit bulls would quit if they wanted to, if they were in pain, but keep fighting because of their love of the “sport”:

Some people say that dogs who fight refuse to stop even when they’re injured because of the love of the “game”-an indication of the dog’s “gameness” (the determination to master any situation and never back down out of fear.) However, fighting dogs may not respond to pain in the same way as many other dogs, even if they feel the pain. They don’t pay attention to the cries of the nervous system that tell them to stop struggling and flee the situation that is causing so much pain. Why? Because they have been bred to honor the wishes of an owner. They are bred to remove many natural instincts that could cause a dog to lose in a fight, such as threat displays, backing down or showing signs of submission even when they’re suffering.

Wolves in the wild (and even our own pet dogs) use “threat displays.” They use this type of behavior or body language so that they don’t have to fight. A wolf shows his opponent his teeth, raises the hair on his back to appear larger than he is, and might even growl to sound mean. The idea is intimidation first. The adversary will hopefully be intimidated into submission and display this by rolling on his back and exposing his belly. But, if the opponent still doesn’t back down, then and only then will the wolves fight. Most dogs in the wild don’t fight. They have a strong survival instinct and being physically injured could potentially risk life itself. The fights that do happen are very short and rarely result in debilitating injuries.

Intimidation and threat displays make no sense for fighting dogs—they’re “supposed” to fight. During matches, there is no precursor to fighting. In fact, there is almost no noise at all during a match. There is no growling, no raised hair, no snapping. There is no threatening posturing. With only the sound of breathing, the dogs will take turns biting and holding onto each other.

However, one common form of dog body language still remains in many fighting dogs that could indicate pain and fear. At some point in the match, one of the dogs might tuck his tail to display that he is having second thoughts about wanting to be there. Another reliable sign that he is about to quit fighting is when he physically turns his head and shoulders away from his opponent.

During the match, these animals can sustain severe injuries such as broken bones, severe bruising, and deep puncture wounds. However, because they have been “programmed” not to back down, they often continue to fight even with severe injuries, sometimes until death. If they do not die in the ring they may die later from untreated injuries, if they lost the match, since owners no longer value the dog’s abilities. Even those who survive the match may succumb to illness or death from blood loss or shock.

Now Ask Yourself: Does dogfighting hurt anyone? Is it fair? How would you feel if somebody did it to you? Is it the right thing to do?

It’s your responsibility, because you are the only person over whom you have control. A lot of any problems’ outcome is determined by our reaction to that problem. We can choose to become angry or remain calm; anger and violence can cause a problem to escalate while remaining calm can help to de-escalate and solve a problem. It’s also your responsibility to help prevent violence because you may be the only person that is aware of a bad situation (dogfighting, an abused child, a neglected animal). If you don’t do something about it, who will? Your decision to help by just making a phone call to an authority could literally save a human or animal life.

You have the choice to do the right thing. Be true to yourself. Take responsibility for yourself and your actions.

Bite-Proof Your Children

By: | January 15, 2015

Outdoors or indoors, kids are on the move. Children running, riding bicycles or skateboards explore new places and come into contact with different sights, sounds, people and yes, animals. To prevent upsetting or even tragic situations resulting from active children encountering strange dogs, teach your children these rules about how to behave around dogs.

  • Dogs do not like to be teased. Stay away from dogs that are chained or in fenced yards.
  • Do not shout, run around, or stick hands at dogs through fences or open car windows.
  • Never approach a strange dog. Dogs are possessive about certain things. Do not grab things like bones, balls or other pet toys from a dog.
  • Never stick your hand into a dog fight. Find an adult to help. Know what an angry dog looks like. Barking, growling, snarling with teeth showing,ears laid flat, legs stiff, tail up, and hair standing up on a dogs back are warning signs.
  • Never stare a dog in the eyes, or turnaround and run away. Curl up in a ball on the ground and protect your face if a dog attacks.
  • If bitten, tell an adult right away. Remember what the dog looked like, if it had a collar and in what direction it went. Wash the wound with soap and water. See a doctor, and report the bite
    to the local health department.

The rewards of teaching consideration and respect for animals are children who are both humane and safe. If you have any additional questions, please contact your veterinarian or call the APA at 314.645.4610, between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. CST.

(With thanks to the American Humane Association.)