Pit Bull Awareness: Breaking Down Breed Bias

Did you know that October 25 is National Pit Bull Awareness Day?

That’s right. An entire day dedicated to appreciating these often misunderstood dogs. Media sensationalism and breed stereotyping has led to the pit bull terrier being one of the most misunderstood and discriminated breeds.

What is a Pit Bull?

Let’s start by looking at what a “pittie” is and is not. Pit Bull is not actually a specific dog breed. It is more of a blanket term used to describe dogs of similar lineages and characteristics. In fact, the AKC does not recognize pit bull as a dog breed.

So what does that mean? With out getting too far down the rabbit hole — since there are a lot of strong opinion on the subject — the term pit bull or pittie is typically used to describe dogs of the following breeds or mixes:

  • American bulldog
  • American Staffordshire terrier
  • American pit bull terrier
  • Staffordshire bull terrier
  • English bull terrier
Image courtesy of ASPCA.

Since pit bull is not technically a specific breed, it is often used to describe dogs with similar physical characteristics, such as a short coat, wide blocky head, and muscular build. This is often misleading as many dogs who “appear” to be and are labeled as pit bulls often don’t have any of those breeds in their DNA.

To learn more, check out Best Friends Animal Society’s excellent resources on pit bulls, including their history and breed discrimination.

Breed-Specific Legislation

Breed-specific legislation (BSL), also knowns as breed discriminatory legislation, is the practice of laws being passed to regulate or ban people from owning specific types of dogs — perceived as dangerous and a threat —such a pit bull terriers, German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers.

Image courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society.

Not only are these regulations a knee-jerk reaction to the media frenzy over dog bites or attacks, they are short-sighted and don’t truly address the issue. Rather than address the root issue of dog bites, this type if discriminatory legislation incorrectly pins the blame on certain types of dogs, based on reputation rather than facts. There is no proof that BSLs makes communities any safer for humans or other animals.

Read more about BSL, why the ASPCA thinks it is ineffective, and how you can help fight this type of breed discrimination.

Whether you love pit bulls or not, take the time to get to know them and help bust the myths about these friendly, loving dogs.


Hot Weather Safety Tips for Dogs

Now that spring has officially sprung, summertime festivities are here! Between the barbeques, games, and Fourth of July festivities, there are some important things to consider when it comes to your pets.

Be it extreme heat or excessive summer travel, warm weather can be especially tough on animals, so it is critically important to keep the unique summertime needs of your animals in mind.

To help ensure you and your furry companions get the most out of the summer’s beautiful weather, we’ve put together a list of helpful tips and considerations you can use to avoid common dangers. Take a look!

1. Avoid Exercising Pets in Hot Weather

While this may seem like an obvious hazard to avoid, sometimes, it can stay hot all day — making it difficult for us to keep our pets happy and healthy at the same time. During the hot summer days, walk your dog in the early morning or late evening, when the temperatures are not as hot and there is more shade available. On excessively hot days, keep walks and playtime short for everyone’s safety.

Moreover, pets react to heat in unexpected ways. For example, you probably know that dogs pant to cool themselves down, but did you know they also sweat through their paws? While the temps outside may cool down, that tar road that’s been soaking up heat all day can quickly exhaust your pet or burn their sensitive pads.

With this in mind, be sure to look out for common warning signs that your pet is overheating:

  • Glassy eyes
  • Hyperventilation
  • Pale coloring
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Erratic pulse/heartbeat  
Heat stroke can occur anywhere — not just in a hot car — so it is important to know the signs! [Image courtesy of Petplan.]

2. Know Your Pet’s Limits in Summer Heat

For those of us with new additions to the family it can be difficult to gauge how long an animal is comfortable spending time in the heat. When there are several animals to a household, it can also be difficult to recognize that some pets fair better than heat than others.

For example, dog breeds like German Shepherds or Akitas have a far shorter tolerance for heat than Pointers or Retrievers. The point is that like people, our pets have unique tolerances. Older or short-nosed breeds are also less tolerant of heat By keeping a close eye on their individual thresholds, you can ensure that your pets stay happy and healthy this summer.

[Image courtesy of SheKnows.]

3. Keep Fresh Water and Places to Cool Down Available

Again, while it may seem obvious, it is often overlooked. Keeping enough water and shade available for your pets is paramount to their well-being. All that panting and heavy breathing can dehydrate them quickly, so be sure to keep deep bowls of water out.

Additionally, it’s important to provide shaded areas where you pets can cool down. Considering the fact that animals regulate heat differently than we do, alternatives like fans won’t do the trick. Instead, consider tarps or tree shade and stay away from closed spaces like dog houses—which obstruct airflow and can make the problem worse.

4. Keep Your Pets in Mind When Traveling

Summer is the time for road trips, vacations, and lots of traveling. However, this can also mean dangerous situations for your pets. First, NEVER leave you pets alone in a car. In 70 degree weather, car temperatures can exceed 104 degrees — leaving pets at high risk of heat stroke. If you see a pet left alone in a hot car, take down the plate number and call either animal services or the police. In some states, Good Samaritan laws allow people to legally remove animals from vehicles, so be sure to check up on your state’s laws.

Summertime is also when the majority of us take our pets on hiking trips and adventures. With this in mind, pets are often in high-traffic areas like roads and parking lots, so always keep your pets on leashes until they’re safe from traffic and in a designated leash-free area. Also, be sure that your dog is microchipped and has a visible form of identification, like a tag or collar; this will greatly increase the chances of finding your dog if he or she does get lose or wander off.

When traveling with pets, be sure to plan ahead and keep your dog’s needs in mind.
[Image courtesy of Column Five.]

5. Keep an Eye on Your Pets During the Festivities

Summertime is the season for barbeques, pool parties, fireworks and more. However, these celebrations can be a stressful or dangerous time for your pets. First, summer is synonymous with flea and tick outbreaks. It’s virtually impossible to eradicate fleas, ticks, and other pests in your outdoor space, it’s important to get your pets on a regimen of preventative medications to limit their risk of fleas and Lyme disease.

Second, festivities are a stressful time for pets. If you’re thinking about attending a party or hosting one of your own, it may be best to keep your four-legged friend home and away from the commotion.

Additionally, the loud noises from fireworks are a common stressor for pets— which explains why more pets go missing on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year. With this in mind, consider keeping your pets indoors. If you know your pet gets anxious around loud noises, consider using a therapy blanket or vest designed to help calm dogs and lessen the stress of loud noises and sounds.

Read more about keeping your pets safe during Fourth of July festivities.

Interested in looking at local pets up for adoption? Visit the Survivor Tails website or check us out on Facebook!

What To Do If You Witness or Suspect Animal Abuse

Although it’s not something that we like to think about, sadly, animal abuse is still something that happens all the time. Here we look at the different types of abuse to be aware of and what to do when you encounter it.

The most well-known types of abuse are neglect, physical abuse such as hitting or kicking animals, or abandonment. However, less obvious forms of neglect, like inadequate shelter, animals being chained up, and hoarding also fall under animal abuse.

Always report cruelty or abuse.

##What to Do: Collect and Report

Whenever you see or suspect an animal is being abused, it is important to collect as much information as possible before contacting the appropriate authorities. Write down all relevant details, such as when and where the abuse occurred, the type and basic description of pet that is being abused, and documentation if possible (and be obtained safely).

##What Not to Do: Put Yourself in Danger

Smartphones are an excellent tool that can be used to record animal abuse, but make sure you do not put yourself in danger. Please remember that, not matter how difficult it might be, you should never attempt to rescue or remove an animal from an unstable or dangerous situation. Despite your best intentions, you could be putting yourself and others in harm’s way. Plus, it is against the law, which could complicate the legal case against the abuser.

##Know the Law

While each state has different laws regarding animal abuse, these are the three most common animal abuse laws:

It is unlawful for an owner or custodian of an animal:

  1. To fail to provide an animal with:
    * Proper food and water
    * Shelter or protection from the weather
    * Veterinary attention needed to reduce or end suffering from disease or injury
    * A sanitary environment

  2. To willfully abandon an animal
  3. To willfully permit an animal to be subjected to unnecessary torture, suffering or cruelty

Be sure you are aware of the laws specific to your state. Find out more and see where your state ranks at ALDF.  An extensive list of Massachusetts’ laws can be found by clicking this link.  the three most common animal abuse laws. While there there is currently no federal standard, a proposed bill would make animal cruelty a federal felony. Learn more about The PACT Act.

##Signs of Abuse: What to Look For

It is important to keep in mind that not all situations are black-and-white. Often times people lack education and resources to know what is best. For example, a first-time new dog owner might not realize that the collar on their puppy is too tight or that domestic cats live longer, safer lives when kept indoors. While ignorance is not an excuse, some individuals might need a helping hand or some resources to help them be better pet parents. However, if you ever suspect mistreatment, you should always report it.

According to the Animal Humane Society, here are some common signs of abuse and/or neglect:

  • Lack of grooming, such as overgrown nails or matted fur
  • Lack of basic needs/general care such as food, water, shelter, and vet care
  • Bruises and scarring on skin or visible signs of poor health
  • Being kept in unsanitary conditions or extreme temperatures (such as dog being chained up in backyards)
  • Malnourished or dehydrated appearance; bones visible through fur

Read more about the seven warning signs of animal cruelty.

##Where and How to Report

There are several places where you can report animal abuse. If there is imminent danger, contact your local law enforcement agency or the state police. If you suspect abuse or neglect, you can contact your town or city’s animal control officer

You can contact the Massachusetts MSPCA Law Enforcement Department  at (617) 522-6008 or (800) 628-5808 Monday through Friday from 9AM until 5PM.

The Animal Rescue League of Boston also has a Law Enforcement Department where you can report suspected cruelty at (617) 426-9170 or cruelty@arlboston.org.

You may also call the Norfolk District Attorney’s office at (781) 830-4800.

##Other Ways To Help

Apart from reporting animal abuse, there are several other ways you can help eradicate animal cruelty. People with a background in animal sciences for example, can become part of the International Veterinary Forensic Sciences Association or IVFSA. Memberships start at $25 per year and are maximum $125 per year. They educate the animal welfare community and law enforcement via conferences and courses on the application of forensic science techniques in cases of animal abuse.

If you don’t have an education in animal science, you can always volunteer for or donate to organizations such as American Humane, the MSPCA, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) or contribute to the Animal Legal Defense Fund. All these organizations are working very hard to educate people on animal abuse and put in a huge effort to make sure no animals suffer because of humans.

Remember, regardless of individual state laws animal cruelty is illegal and unnecessary. There are resources and agencies to help with abuse, neglect, or hardship. If you see or suspect abuse, report it immediately.

Dog Training 101: Top Tips for Best Behavior

When you adopt a dog or add a new pet to the family, training is a critical part of establishing a routine and ensuring success. Here are some tips for training your dog as well as insight into different forms of training.

Beginner Basics: Establishing a Potty Plan

The most important first step with puppies (or even older dogs that a new to your household) is establishing a bathroom schedule.

Creating a consistent, routine is critical. Bathroom schedules must be routine to establish proper habits and teach dogs to understand that they go to the bathroom outside and not in the house.

Age is a good marker for a time frame of how long dogs can hold their bladder. The general rule of thumb is that dogs can hold their bladder one hour for every month of their age, so, if your dog is three months old, they can hold it for three hours. Please note that this is only a general calculation and that accidents happen during potty training.

Since they cannot hold their bladder as long, puppies need to go out often while they are house-training.

For dogs less than six months old potty breaks will be more frequent and happen at regular intervals, such as 30 minutes after each meal and after they drink water. Dogs 6 months to 1-year-old can hold their urine and bowel movements for longer, but still, require frequent trips outside on a regular basis.

Often dogs will give you cues that they need to go out. Pay attention to signs, especially as you and your new family member are getting to know one another. As your dog grows and learns, you will become more familiar with their cues, such as going to the door or trying to get your attention another way, making it easier.

Remember, your dog is learning — it is up to you to provide proper structure and rewards for good behavior. Read more tips about house-training here.

When house-training your new pup, be sure to take them out often and establish a regular bathroom schedule

Hiring a Trainer: When is the Right Time

One of the most common questions that dog owners have is when to enlist the help of a training. The answer is — the sooner, the better. Most trainers offer classes starting at 4-6 months of age. By then, your puppy should know some basic commands, such as sit, down, come, and possibly, stay.

Don’t worry if your dog does not have full command of these cues. Trainers are professionals and they want to help you as much as possible. Establishing an early relationship with a trainer will be beneficial to both you and your dog, especially if you a training refresher in the future.

Never Too Old: Teaching Older Dogs

We are all familiar with the classic adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” However, that is not true. Older dogs can and should still be learning as they continue to develop and mature. This is especially true when adopting an adult or senior pet — these animals often come from unstructured environments and need routine and training to settle into a new home. The good news is that more mature dogs often have a basic understanding of commands and house-training; they may just require a fresher as they are learning their new home and family.

Steps to Success: Types of Training

There are several different training methods for dogs and cats. Here is a look at some of the most popular:

Positive Reinforcement: Positive reinforcement is probably the most popular type of training. It is particularly helpful with potty training, as mentioned above. With this type of training, a reward (treat, praise) is given for good behavior, and bad behavior is ignored.

Clicker Training: This method is fairly popular as well. The premise is similar to positive reinforcement. The clicker is used to reinforce good behavior. When you give your dog a command, you click the clicker as they perform that command, so that they associate the click sound with getting a reward, such as a treat.

Relationship-Based Training: This method helps to build the relationship between dog and owner. This effective method is designed to let the owner and dog bond together while training. Read more about relationship-based training.

Positive reinforcement is a great training tool for dogs.

Training Resources


Training Books:

The ASPCA also offers lots of tips and resources to help with many common dog behavior issues.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Disaster Preparedness for Pets

While it’s not something we ever imagine happening to our beloved pets, it’s important to be prepared for the worst. Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye and having things on hand or knowing what to do can prevent things from escalating.

Here are some suggestions on how to be prepared in case disaster strikes.

Have a Pet First Aid Kit Ready

Whether you’re out hiking in the woods or just letting your furry friend in the back yard, first aid kits are crucial. There are plenty of places where you can buy them pre-assembled, such as Chewy, World Market or Amazon.

You can also choose to assemble one for yourself. The ASPCA recommends including the following items in your first aid kit:

  • Absorbent gauze pads
  • Adhesive tape
  • Cotton balls or swabs
  • Fresh 3% hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting (always check with veterinarian or animal poison control expert before giving to your pet)
  • Ice pack
  • Disposable gloves
  • Scissors with a blunt end
  • Tweezers
  • OTC antibiotic ointment
  • Oral syringe or turkey baster
  • Liquid dishwashing detergent (for bathing)
  • Towels
  • Small flashlight
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Styptic powder
  • Saline eye solution
  • Artificial tear gel

Be sure to check your first aid kit regularly to make sure nothing has expired or needs to be replaced.

Create an Emergency Kit and Plan for Your Pets

If you live in an area where earthquakes, hurricanes, or other natural disasters are a possibility, it’s important to know what to do before these happen. Make sure you know where you can take your pet, items that they need if they are separated from you, and ensure that all members of your household are aware of this plan.

Although sad and difficult to witness, recently natural disasters have brought into focus the need for better planning and emergency services and facilities that include companion animals. Many hotels and emergency shelters do not allow pets, so be sure to research and plan ahead so you know where you can – or cannot – bring your animals.

If you plan to have a friend or relative care for your pet during an emergency, be sure they are aware of any medical conditions your pet may have, their feeding and potty schedule, and contact information for your vet.

Have supplies and essential ready ahead of time.

Separate from medical items, it’s important to have a bag packed with day-to-day things, such as a leash, harness, food, and comforting items from home such as a favorite toy or water bowl.

It is also a great idea to pack pictures or your pets as well as pix of you with your pets so that can be identified more easily in case you are separated from them. Some organizations even recommend creating a “lost” flyer beforehand so they are ready to go if you need them. Make sure your pet is up-to-date on their vaccinations, and that the information on their microchip is correct. Don’t forget – this applies to cats as well as dogs.

Prep and Train Your Pets

Apart from making sure that your family members know what to do in case of an emergency, it’s essential your four-legged family members know what to do as well. This can include to getting them more comfortable and trusting you with things like scissors and tweezers or creams and gels as well as practicing commands, such as recall, come, crate, and even speak (bark).

Speak/bark is especially useful when you can’t locate your pet and there is a possibility he or she might be stuck somewhere or lost. It is also good to familiarize your pet with the planned safe haven and the people who might be watching over him in case you can’t take him with you.

Stay Calm

Your pets feed off your energy. If you are behaving nervous and erratic, so will your furry friend. As long as you are prepared and have a plan, there is nothing to worry about.

Your pet can be a great source of comfort when a disaster occurs and can help calm down nervous family members. There are a lot of helpful tools and websites you can consult to help you prepare for a disaster. RedRover and the CDC have great checklists you can print and the US Government has a Pet Preparedness website with more resources. Just be aware that during a disaster, internet and phone lines might not be available, which can make communication very difficult.  

Please note: While those “In Case of Emergency” stickers for doors and windows can be helpful, many first responders don’t rely on them since they can be inaccurate or outdated. The general rule of thumb is people first, pets second, and property third.

World Spay Day 2019: Why Spay/Neuter Matters

February 26: World Spay Day 2019

Today is World Spay Day, an international day devoted to calling attention to the need for spaying and neutering animals across the world.

Originally founded by Doris Day and her animal organization in 1995, this day has grown into a global event.

Why spay?

The reality is that there are more animals than there are homes for. Back in the mid-90s, 14-17 million animals were euthanized in shelters each year due to overpopulation and overcrowding.

Fortunately, due to spay/neuter efforts, including educational campaigns, awareness initiatives, and low-cost clinics, those numbers have come down.
But, there is still work to be done as 2-3 million animals — healthy, loving animals who want homes — are still euthanized annually in the US alone,
due to overpopulation and lack of homes.

February is Spay/Neuter Awareness Month

In honor of World Spay Day and Spay/Neuter Awareness, here are some facts and stats to emphasize the importance of spaying and neutering, particularly in cats since roaming cats produce lots of kittens!

  • Stray and feral cats are the number one source of cat overpopulation and produce up to 80 percent of the kittens born every year!
  • Female cats are “seasonally polyestrous,” which means that they have multiple estrus (heat) cycles during the breeding season, typically going into heat in mid-to-late January. A female cat will keep coming back into heat every 1-2 weeks until she is bred. Plus, unspayed females can still get pregnant while nursing.
  • Kitten Season is just around the corner! Spring is kitten season (feline gestation period is approximately 65 days), usually beginning in late March and running through the Summer. We get it, kittens are cute, but in the spring and summer, shelters are overflowing with them and they tend to get adopted first, meaning older cats are less likely to get adopted and more likely to be euthanized due to overpopulation issues.
  • Spaying refers to removing the ovaries and uterus of female cats; neutering means removing a male cats’ testicles. Although neutering typically refers to males, it is often used interchangeably for males and females, such as in TNR.
  • Statistically, unneutered male cats are by far the most likely to be involved in accidents since hormones and the desire to roam means they are less cautious around roads or busy areas.
  • A male cat can travel for miles when they pick up the scent of a female in heat. Hormones drive them to seek a mate to breed with (not for pleasure), often leading to aggressive behavior.
  • Neutering a male cat has many benefits, including stopping or reducing spraying, less aggression and fighting with other male cats, and lower risks of testicular cancer or prostate problems. Overall neutered toms are quieter, gentler, and more affectionate.
  • Spaying or neutering cats and dogs is not cruel. They do not have an emotional or psychological attachment to their genitalia. In fact, neutering animals is compassionate since it protects their health and helps them live happier safer lives.
  • Neutered dogs have lower rates of cancer and are less aggressive. Neutering dogs often eliminates aggression or other behaviorial issues. Unneutered males have a higher risk of injuries since they are more likey to stray and get into fights.
  • In female dogs, spaying greatly reduces the risks of mammary cancer and uterine infections (called pyometra).
Unneutered animals roam looking to mate, which increases their chances of getting injured or lost.

Ways to Help

Always Spay or Neuter

Always spay and neuter your pets, especially if you have outdoor or free-roaming cats. Even if you have indoor-only cats, it is better for their health and overall temperament. Plus, in the awful event your indoor cat gets out, spaying eliminates the chance of unwanted pregnancy and increases the chances of her returning home.

Be a Friend to Ferals

If you know of stray or feral cats in your community, contact a local shelter or rescue group for help. Many run TNR programs, where feral cats are trapped, neutered, and returned to their colonies. Also, be nice to ferals — they might not want to be touched, but they always appreciate food, water, shelter, and kindness. Remember, they did not choose to be homeless.

Become a foster!

We always need foster homes for cats as well as dogs. Sometimes the dogs get more attention, but all of us at STAR love cats just as much and want to help as many as possible, but we need your help! Apply to foster. 

Spread the Word

Help get the word out by sharing this post. Talk to friends and family about the importance of spaying and neutering their pets. Volunteer with an animal organization. Donate money or supplies.


ASPCA: Spay/Neuter Your Pet

Best Friends: FAQ on Trap Neuter Return (TNR)

Humane Society: Why You Should Spay/Neuter Your Pet

Doris Day Animal Foundation: World Spay Day

Kitten season is right around the corner! Apply now to be a foster!

Pet Adoption & Children: 4 Tips to Pick the Perfect Match for Your Family

There’s nothing quite like the excitement of bringing a new friend home to your family. Whether you’re looking for a new exercise buddy, a companion for cuddling, or anything in between, choosing a new pet is a big deal.

For families with children, however, choosing the right pet can be especially hard. You want the best for your kids, and want to make sure your pet and children are the best possible fit for each other.

To help make sure your newest family member is the perfect match for you and your children, we’ve put together a list of helpful tips to help you find the ideal rescue companion.

1. Understand the Kind of Characteristics You’re Looking for in a Pet

White dog with red toy

When it comes to pets and children, having a clear idea of what characteristics you want in your pet can go a long way. For example, dogs with high energy can make great backyard playmates and adventure buddies, but if the pet is too physical, it may not be an ideal match, especially if you have young children.

Even if you do not have young children, consider if you have other companion animals; many dogs love having a buddy, while others do best as an only pet. The same goes for cats and mixed-species households.

Plenty of dogs are great around kids (and other animals), so it is essential to understand your needs and do thorough research before adopting. Take the time to understand what kind of traits you would like your pet to have — attributes that compliment your family and your lifestyle — and look for a dog or cat that matches them best!

2. Consider Personality and Temperament Over Breed


Too often, families will choose a pet based on the overall reputation or look of a breed. While a pet’s breed can certainly play a role in its behavior and temperament, their individual personality and overall behavior are far more critical.

Just like people, every pet has unique qualities that make him or her special. When it comes time to find the perfect match for your children, understanding these special quirks and personality traits can give you a much clearer and dependable idea of how well a potential pet will fit in with your kids.

3. Keep Your Living Space in Mind


The type of pet you choose for your kids greatly depends on your family and your family’s living space. Large dog breeds are often better suited for households with room to accommodate their energy, such as a large fenced-in yard or close access to a park.

For those that live in apartments or smaller sized homes, it may be appropriate to consider pets more tolerant to small-space, indoor living. Cats make great household companions and don’t require a daily walk or romp around the yard. 

By keeping your living space in mind, you’ll be able to provide the ideal home for your pet, while creating an atmosphere that your pets and children can both enjoy.

4. Consider Where You’re Getting Your Pet

If you’re reading this, we’ll assume that you’re considering adopting your newest family member, which is excellent!

Good Boy

Unfortunately, breed stereotypes and misinformation can sway people to thinking they should buy a dog from a breeder or pet store. Bred animals live sad lives, often in deplorable conditions, and nearly all pet-store animals come from puppy mills. With 7.6 million companion animals in shelters across the U.S., you can rest assured that there’s a perfect pet for your children patiently waiting for a new forever home. So please, adopt, don’t shop!

When it comes to finding the perfect pet for your kids, it’s crucial to understand your new buddy as an individual, rather than a “type” —  which goes far beyond breed. Another benefit of adopting is that shelters and rescue groups know much more about the overall temperament of an animal and can help you gauge their characteristics, personality, and temperament, and get a sense of whether or not a specific pet would be a good fit within your home.

Interested in looking at local pets up for adoption? Visit our website or check us out on Facebook for a list of adoptable dogs.

Winter Activities for Dogs to Keep Them Happy and Healthy

During wintertime, it is not always easy coming up with activities to keep your dog happy and active. Temperatures drop below freezing, you have to deal with rain, snow, and sleet as well as concerns about the chemicals used on the sidewalks to melt the snow hurting your furry friend’s paws. Keep reading for some tips on entertaining your dog and helping them release some energy during the winter.

Practice or Teach your Dog Some New Tricks

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? For dogs or puppies that don’t know a lot of commands, you can practice very useful ones, such as “sit”, “stay” or “come.” Once you have the basics down, you can move on to more advanced commands, such as “roll over” “speak” or “play dead.”

Although these tricks are not very demanding physically, they require a lot of mental energy from your dog so they are a great winter activity that can be practiced indoors. Remember to limit your training sessions to about 15 minutes so that it stays fun for you and your dog. Practice these tricks daily and your dog will be fully trained by spring time!

Schedule Playtime with Other Dogs

If your dog is good with other dogs, it’s always good to put a playdate in the calendar. Just as with kids most dogs like to socialize and will even correct each other while playing, making it easier for you to supervise. If playing indoors, make sure that they have enough space to play safely. If outdoors, make sure it is not too cold and that they have an appropriate place outside where they can run and play, such as a fenced in yard or park. Bring some toys and let the fun begin! Remember, all dogs play differently so be sure to use your best judgment for your pet.

Take Your Dog for a Walk

Unless the temperatures drop below zero, it’s okay to take your dog outside for short periods of time. Most medium and large dogs can walk outside for about 30 minutes as long as the temperature is above 20 degrees F and they are in good health. If your dog is on the smaller side, limit their outdoor exposure to 20 minutes and consider buying them a coat and protection for their paws.  For pups who don’t like wearing little booties, try a dog-safe gel that can be applied to paws to help prevent cracks and bleeding. Hurtta has an amazing collection of coats for dogs for all types of weather!

Sign Your Dog Up for a Class

Winter is the perfect time for an indoor agility or swimming class. There are plenty of classes for dogs who have never swum before as well as  advanced swimmers. Just as with humans, swimming is easy on their joints, so it is perfect  for senior dogs or those with arthritis.

 A new class such as agility will also provide a mental and physical stimulation for your dog, making it the perfect activity for dogs with plenty of energy! There are many great resources in the Boston area, but a quick online search for your area will yield other options for swim classes, doggy daycare, agility classes, and more.

Make Mealtime Fun

There are so many ways to make mealtime fun for your dog. You can grab a treat dispenser or a food puzzle that your dog has to solve in order to get his reward. Make sure you purchase high-quality toys that your dog cannot tear apart — you want to keep them safe and entertained when they’re home alone. And remember, all dogs have different chew strength and habits, so always buy the size and durability appropriate for your dog.

Kongs are very popular and have proven themselves with dogs of all sizes! As an added bonus, food toys and puzzles slow down your dog’s eating pace, keeping him or her safe from gastrointestinal conditions.  

Ordering from Amazon? Make sure you put Survivor Tails as your AmazonSmile charity!

We know the weather can make it tough, but keeping your dogs happy and active in the winter is very important. Do you have any winter activities that you like to do with your dog? Let us know in the comments!

Adopt, Don’t Shop: Why Adoption and Rescue Matter

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What Shelter Life Looks Like

Envision an animal shelter full of anxious dogs, crying out for attention. Some howling at all hours of the night, just patiently waiting for their next walk or meal. Imagine the dogs (and cats) at extra-crowded “high kill” shelters, most of whom face the horrible fate of being put down due to lack of space, resources, and homes. These dogs are waiting for someone with a big enough heart like you to come and adopt/rescue them!

The Numbers Don’t Lie

According to the ASPCA, approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year (including 3.3 million dogs, and 3.2 million cats). Conservative numbers state that of those animals, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized each year.

That means that 670,000 dogs — or 20% of dogs that enter animal shelters — and 860,000 cats — or 27% of cats that enter animal shelters — are euthanized annually. The good news is that adoption numbers are encouraging —approximately 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted each year (1.6 million dogs and 1.6 million cats).


orange tabby cat beside fawn short coated puppy

Millions of dogs and cats are euthanized at shelters every year due to lack of homes.


The High Cost of Breeding

So, with pet overpopulation an ongoing issue, why would anyone still purchase a dog through a breeder or pet store? Sadly, breeders’ primary interest is making a profit from breeding animals; in contrast, animal shelters and rescue organizations are dedicated to finding homes for dogs and cats rather than making money.

In fact, adoption fees are minimal particularly in comparison to the high costs charged by breeders and pet stores. Plus, nearly all pet store dogs come from horribly cruel puppy mills, which are rampant with abuse and neglect. Furthermore, just in terms of logistics, why drive many miles to an out-of-state breeder or even ship a dog on an airplane (which is not only dangerous but traumatic for animals), when you can drive just down the street and adopt an amazing pet?

Breaking Down Stereotypes

Despite common misconception, most shelter and/or rescue dogs are perfectly “normal” —happy, healthy dogs. Sadly, dogs and cats end up in shelters for many reasons. Often, their owners can no longer take care of them or are unable to keep them, so they surrender them to an animal shelter.


Sadie, a Hurrican Harvey survivor, is just one of the many dogs adoptable through STAR.

In the case of rescue groups, the aim is to get animals, particularly dogs, out of “high kill” shelters as soon as possible, giving them a chance at life. Once out of that stressful environment, many dogs thrive in foster homes before getting adopted out to their forever homes. The importance of rescue cannot be underestimated, and the statistics only paint a partial picture of the larger issue.

In terms of placing animals in homes, shelters and rescues do their due diligence to ensure that dogs (and cats) are placed in good, appropriate homes, whereas most breeders and pet stores don’t and will sell a dog to just about anyone for a profit. Not only is this lack of oversight irresponsible, but is also a major safety issue and often ends up leading to MORE dogs in shelters as are owners find they cannot handle a particular type/size/breed of dog.

My Adoption Story

Furthermore, I can tell you from my own experience that it is SO worth it to adopt/rescue a dog. Ten years ago, my husband and I rescued our own dog from a shelter! My own dog came from a shelter ten years ago, when my husband adopted him. Our now 12-year-old pitbull/terrier mix has the same personality and spunk as he did when we first got him and he still has lots of love to give! Plus, he came to us trained with basic commands and a file full of paperwork that included basic health info, vaccination dates, microchip information, etc. Adoption made it easier to make him part of our family.

So, please — adopt, don’t shop. Visit your local animal shelter or rescue organization, in person or online. If you cannot take on the responsibility of adopting/rescuing a dog, you can always help by volunteering. Most non-profits could not function without volunteers, and many (like us!) are actually are 100% volunteer run. Other ways to help include sharing posts on social media or attending a local fundraising event to raise money for a good cause. Together we can help these animals find loving homes!

For a listing of pets available for adoption, visit our Survivor Tails website or Facebook page.

This post was written by STAR volunteer Kerry Richards. If you are interested in helping with the STAR blog, please contact marketing@survivortails.org.

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Urgent: Hurricane Relief Help Needed

Donations Needed for Generator

Our Southern rescue partners are bracing as Florence makes landfall. Many of our partners are in the path of imminent danger and will likely be without power for days or weeks after the rain and high winds.


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Dogs4U — in the path of Hurrican Florence — needs help for animals! 



Dog4You is a Southern rescue farm with cows, horse, and a ton of dogs. Since they cannot evacuate they are in desperate need of a generator to help them get through the aftermath of Florence. Water to care for all of these animals requires electricity and temps will be in the 90s even after the storm. Please consider donating any amount to help these animals. Two ways to help: https://fundrazr.com/11Oth1?ref=ab_5YSge_ab_2lXEABsuIe32lXEABsuIe3 or Paypal – Kristina@dog4u.org please note “for relief generators.”

Foster Homes Needed ASAP

Survivor Tails is also looking for foster homes to help take in dogs after the storm. After natural disasters, shelters are overrun with displaced dogs, strays, and surrenders. Foster homes help save lives by providing a safe outlet for dogs and cats. Please fill out an application here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSem_gZXY5rYhQRFCdagSM_kZBYRx3BWEQuxbx1t-ud6ceSNBg/viewform

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