Thursday, March 29, 2012

Yavapai Humane Society launches hospice program

Nelson needs a Hospice Home
The word "hospice" comes from the Latin "hospes" meaning, "to host a guest or stranger." The concept can be traced back to the year 1099, when Crusaders founded a "hospice" in Jerusalem for Christian pilgrims and Muslims alike. A Papal bull (charter) issued in 1113 christened the founding Crusaders the Knights Hospitaller and charged them to defend the hospice and care for ailing pilgrims visiting the Holy Land.

Over time, "hospice" came to refer to places of hospitality for the sick, wounded, dying, and travelers and pilgrims.

The modern concept of hospice, which includes palliative care, was pioneered in the 1950s. Palliate comes from the Latin "palliare," meaning "to cloak," as in cloaking pain without curing the underlying medical condition.

Dame Cicely Saunders, a British physician, is credited with developing the modern hospice model. Saunders was inspired by David Tasma, a patient hospitalized with an inoperable cancer. They met in 1948 and envisioned a place better suited to prepare for death than a busy hospital ward.

When Tasma died, he bequeathed £500 to Saunders. In 1967, she used the funds to open St. Christopher's Hospice and launch the modern hospice movement. Although the concept met with some resistance, it has since expanded rapidly around the world.

What, you might ask, has any of this to do with the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS)?

YHS is at the vanguard of a movement whose trajectory has largely paralleled the modern hospice movement. I'm referring to the no-kill movement.

The human "hospice movement" and the animal "no-kill movement" were born in the late 1960s and early 1970s respectively and share a deep respect for the sanctity and dignity of life. It seems only natural, albeit in retrospect, that the two movements would at some point meet.

Renowned English journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, perhaps without intending to, helped put these life-affirming movements into context when he said, "life, however low it flickers or fiercely burns, is still a divine flame which no man dare presume to put out; either life is always and in all circumstances sacred, or intrinsically of no account; it is inconceivable that it should be in some cases the one, and in some the other."

The Yavapai Humane Society embodies the ethic that all life is sacred and believes homeless pets ought not to be killed simply because of a lack of space, resources or out of convenience. This ethic leads to taking responsibility, rather than excusing problems and hiding consequences. Since implementing the no-kill ethic in July 2010, YHS has achieved an 80 percent decline in killing and a 96 percent Live Release Rate in 2012. That means 96 percent of the animals rescued by YHS are placed into loving homes; compared to a national shelter average of just 50 percent.

The animals who don't fare so well are those who come to us suffering from a disease, injury, or congenital or hereditary condition that is likely to adversely affect their health in the future. Animal shelters almost universally support euthanasia for these animals. It is for them that YHS is launching its own hospice program.

If you love animals and can find it in your heart to open your home to provide short-term hospice care to these worthy animals, please enroll in this life-affirming program. YHS will provide and support you with all the medical care the animal will need, including euthanasia when the time comes. All you need to provide is food (which we can help with), water, shelter and love. If interested, call 445-2666, ext. 21, for more information.

Nelson, the cat in the picture, is in need of a Hospice home. He is a 7-year-old neutered Persian diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease. He is on antibiotics, prednisone, an intestinal prescription diet and intestinal medication. His condition is manageable; however, his prognosis is poor. His condition progresses at varying rates and in time will not respond to medical management. He is comfortable and happy for now and needs a hospice home where he can be given medication, brought into YHS for checks-ups and monitored until his condition is no longer manageable. Call 445-2666, ext. 21, for more information.

Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society. He can be reached at or by calling 445-2666, ext. 21.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus nothing to fear

This week the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) staff asked me to feature Portia, a staff favorite. Portia is a 4-year-old domestic short hair with a spice for life; described as cool, calm, confident, playful and a joy to be around. She is mellow enough to get along with a cat-savvy dog and respectful children.

Portia has had many suitors in her two months with YHS, but potential adopters quickly lost interest when they learned she has feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).

FIV has been responsible for the unnecessary killing of far too many cats in way too many animal shelters for too many years; and that is not right, because FIV cats often live long, healthy lives with few to no symptoms.

FIV is an endemic disease found in domestic cats worldwide. It is a lentivirus, which means it progresses slowly, gradually affecting a cat's immune system. Cats are typically infected through a bite inflicted by a stray male cat - earning it the moniker "the fighting cat" disease.

The best-known lentivirus in humans is HIV - but there are major differences between FIV and HIV. HIV cannot infect cats and FIV cannot infect humans. In over 6,000 years of human/cat cohabitation, there has never been any evidence of an FIV cat infecting a human.

The fear concerning FIV cats is unfounded. I am the proud owner of an FIV cat, named Oliver, who lives happily with my FIV-free cat, Beau Bentley (for the past four years). I am distressed by the unwarranted apprehension I find among so many cat lovers regarding FIV.

As long as FIV cats are not exposed to diseases their immune system can't handle, they can live relatively normal lives. Kept indoors, as we recommend for all cats, health risks are significantly reduced. FIV is not easily passed between cats; it cannot be spread casually - in litter boxes, water and food bowls, or through snuggling and playing. It requires a serious bite to transmit the disease from cat to cat.

Before we knew FIV existed, shelters routinely placed FIV cats into loving homes where they often lived long, normal lives. The discovery of FIV in 1986 brought with it an undeserved stigma that has since made placing these wonderful animals more difficult.

Dr. Susan Cotter, professor of hematology and oncology at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, is helping counteract these misinformed fears. "I would not advise getting rid of a cat that tests positive for FIV," she says. "If the cat is young and healthy, it could be years before anything changes."

The important thing is to keep your FIV cat healthy, which is good advice for all cats. In fact, the same advice we offer FIV cat adopters is equally appropriate for all cats. That is, all cats should be kept as healthy as possible; kept indoors and free from stress, fed a high-quality diet, and medical problems should be treated as soon as they arise.

If you already own a cat, ask your veterinarian (or the YHS Wellness Clinic) about early detection to help maintain his health and to help prevent the spread of this infection to other cats.

Although many FIV cats live long, happy lives, some may need periodic medical care or ongoing medical management. That is why adopting a special-needs animal is such a noble and selfless act. If you can find room in your heart and home for Portia, or a cat like her, visit the Yavapai Humane Society and take advantage of our drastically reduced adoption fees in celebration of our 40th anniversary.

Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society. He can be reached at or by calling 445-2666, ext. 21.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Botox removes wrinkles... and animal testing!

I've never met a person willing to admit a tolerance for animal cruelty. However, animal cruelty is quietly accepted by most of us as an inescapable cost of human existence. Case in point: The government requires every new compound that you might be exposed to - whether it's the latest wonder drug, lipstick shade, pesticide or food dye - to be tested to make sure it isn't toxic. This testing usually results in a torturous life and death for many lab animals.

When it comes to corporate budget sheets, saving animals can seem a minor concern. One exception to that mindset is Allergan Inc. of Irvine, Calif., the manufacturer of Botox. Allergan announced last June that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved its new method to test Botox's potency. Instead of testing every batch on live animals, Allergan can now run a test on cells in a lab dish.

It took Allergan scientists 10 years to perfect this test. If approved in all the countries where Botox is sold, Allergan predicts 95 percent of its animal testing could be eliminated within three years.

U.S. agencies have already approved alternative tests for experiments on animals' eyes and skin. Scientists are now focusing on humane testing of toxins. These tests could make animal toxicity experiments obsolete in 10 to 20 years, according to the FDA.

In addition to being humane, alternative tests promise better results more quickly and cheaply than classic tests on animals.

Most scientists who experiment on animals prefer not to do so, according to a 2006 survey by the journal Nature. The survey found 78 percent of biologists want to eliminate animal experiments - but only 80 percent of those thought it would ever be possible.

According to the Department of Agriculture, laboratories in the U.S. experiment on nearly 1 million mammals each year. However, that number excludes animals not protected by the U.S. Animal Welfare Act. According to the journal Alternatives to Laboratory Animals, an animal advocacy science publication, the number of research animals is closer to 17 million, including rodents, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish.

The Johns Hopkins Center estimates that alternatives to animal toxicity tests could save between 10 and 25 percent of these animals. The remaining animals are used in biomedical research labs.

Animal toxicity tests are classic scientific experiments - despite the fact they don't yield the best results. They often fail to accurately predict a toxin's effect on people. For instance: chocolate is bad for dogs but okay for people. Toxicity tests don't even reveal how a toxin sickens an animal, only if it kills the animal.

That's the principle behind the "Lethal Dose, 50 percent" test, invented in 1927. It determines how much toxin will kill half the animals exposed to it. Until recently, that was the test Allergan used.

Allergan scientists decided to think outside that box. This enabled them to apply their understanding of animal and human anatomy towards an unlikely bioterrorism agent called botulinum toxin. This agent, designed to cause paralysis, was found to not only eliminate unwanted frown lines but treat 21 other conditions, including migraines and muscle spasms.

Thanks to Allergan's compassionate leadership, the need to kill millions of lab animals in order to approve household products may soon be a thing of the past.

Join the Yavapai Humane Society in celebrating a more humane future for all animals, especially those in our own community. Register today to participate in the Walk for the Animals scheduled for Saturday morning, April 21, at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott. You can learn more and sign up at, or by calling 445-2666, ext. 20.

Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society. He can be reached at or by calling 445-2666, ext. 21.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Thwarting the attack of the pre-alarm cat

I've always been a dog person, so you can imagine my surprise when I learned that cats have idiosyncrasies no self-respecting dog would ever engage in. For instance, why do cats insist on waking you up before the alarm goes off?

Contrary to popular belief, cats are not nocturnal. "Nocturnal" refers to animals that are awake at night and sleep during the day. However, cats sleep at night, as we do - just not as long. Cats are "crepuscular," which means they are most active at dawn and dusk. This is because their ancestors' natural prey was most active at these times. Although cats have good night vision, they can't see without light, so they do sleep at night.

Two dynamics conspire to create the relentless "pre-alarm" cat.

The first is nature. Your cat's internal clock responds to the first light of day and tells her to get up. In the lands of the midnight sun, cats adjusted their biological clock and are not affected by the dawn. However, during the long, dark, sunless Antarctic winters, it's not uncommon for cats to sleep until noon.

The second is training - and this is where we cat owners come in. When your cat wakes in the morning, she quickly becomes bored because there's nothing to do. If you so much as look at her, you've rewarded her with your attention and "trained" her to behave this way every day. If you make the mistake of assuming your cat is pacing and scratching the furniture because she's hungry, and you get up and feed her, then you just made your own bed - and you can forget about sleeping in it.

At this point, pretending to be asleep, yelling or rolling over isn't likely to work. You actually train your cat to pester you in the morning by occasionally giving her attention. An occasional reward is just as powerful a re-enforcer as a continuous reward. For instance, you don't have to hit the jackpot every time you play the slot machines. An occasional win is enough to bring you back - and so it is with kitty. In fact, some forms of resistance may so amuse a bored cat that they'll cause her to see you as a big squeaky toy.

Fortunately, cats can be reprogrammed. When the caterwauling is because your cat really is hungry, place dry food in her dish before going to bed. This gives her something to snack on during the night and in the morning. When it's not hunger, try placing a small fan on the floor. If you like the bedroom door closed with the cat outside, make sure the fan blows air under the door. This will discourage her from sitting outside yelling at you.

Another reprogramming technique is to keep a spray bottle filled with water nearby. When kitty begins to meow at dawn, spray her. Most cats will run off and spend the next hour grooming.

If your cat meows and scratches at the door, try taping bubble wrap to the bottom of the door. Most cats don't like the feel or noise it makes. Laying a piece on the floor in front of the door could keep your cat at bay until after the alarm sounds.

Come by Betty's Cattery at the Yavapai Humane Society to adopt a pal for your cat. Two or three cats are better than one because they'll entertain each while you're sleeping in. In celebration of YHS's 40th anniversary, you can adopt any kitten for $40 (thanks to an anonymous donor) or you can pick your price for any cat that chooses you.

Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society.  He can be reached at or by calling 445-2666, ext. 21.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

You are invited to the first annual Yavapai Humane Society Walk for the Animals

Prescott hosts many marvelous events each year; many are steeped in history and tradition. Imagine what it would have been like to have participated in the first rodeo, the first Christmas lighting, the first 4th of July parade. Cicero tells us that "history is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life and brings us tidings of antiquity." 

The Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) is inviting you to participate in history in the making. You, your friends, neighbors, kids, co-workers, and anyone else who loves a howlin' good time are invited to participate in our first-ever Walk for the Animals on the morning of Saturday, April 21, at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

There will be two courses, a 5k and a 1k, to accommodate all ages, leg heights and energy levels. You can run, walk or jog at your own pace. The walk is not timed so you can even enjoy a leisurely stroll.

Registration couldn't be simpler. Visit and click on Walk for the Animals. You can register online as a Walker, Youth Walker (11-17), or, for the folks who love animals but not exercise, a Lazy Dog. Registration is only $15 ($12 for Youth Walkers) before April 1. Children 10 and under are free. Registrants receive a free T-shirt and a "doggie bag" full of goodies. If you register after April 1, you pay $20, and if you register on the day of the event, we can't guarantee a T-shirt or "doggie bag." So why wait?

Every walker gets a personal fundraising page that they can personalize with photos, videos, and text and then email to their contacts. Many of our walkers have been shocked at how positive the response has been from their friends and family all over the country.

Charity walks are always more fun with a group so we're encouraging people to create or join a Dog Pack with friends, family, or co-workers. Prescott Animal Hospital created a pack and is challenging the other local veterinary hospitals in a Vet Challenge to see who can raise the most cash for YHS and have bragging rights for 2012. Whisker's Barkery agreed to donate an additional $10 to every walker who joins their team up to $1,000! The YHS volunteers are getting in the act too with their team, the Pawsitively Purrfect YHS Volunteers. We can't wait to see if any of the teams dress in a theme on the day of the walk!

Dogs are welcome to walk with their owners. Dogs must be currently licensed, vaccinated, and on a leash no more than 6 feet in length in keeping with Prescott's leash law. Walk officials reserve the right to refuse entry to any dog whose behavior could be dangerous to others. Please use good judgment regarding the temperament of your pet so the event will be safe and enjoyable for everyone.

All proceeds from the event will go to helping the animals at the Yavapai Humane Society. YHS is the largest animal shelter in Northern Arizona, rescuing more than 4,000 lost, homeless, abused and neglected pets every year. YHS provides many life-saving services and programs, which have resulted in YHS ranking as the safest animal shelter in Arizona by the nation's leading animal shelter watchdog. YHS' "live release rate" is the highest in Arizona and among the highest in the nation: 96 percent.

Sign up today at or to find more information on this soon-to-become historic and fun community event.

Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society. He can be reached at or by calling 445-2666, ext. 21.