Wednesday wag: Unwanted horses, Capitol animal agenda, dog contests

Calling all Philly dog lovers, it's time to cast your vote for the new Anti-Poop Pooch, otherwise known as the spokesdog for the Philadelphia Water Department.

Anyone who logs on to can vote daily for the hounds they feel best represent "Philly Water’s Best Friend."

More than 80 dog owners have declared their pets’ candidacy. Each dog entry has a photo and bio to help voters decide if the dog's lifestyle is eco-friendly enough for the job.

The 20 dogs with the most votes by February 28 will face off during two pageants next spring. In the end, two winners will be named, one from East Falls (home to First Dogs Maggie and Ginger Rendell. We trust the gov is a regular pooper scooper.) and one from Manayunk or Roxborough.

Winners will receive a $200 gift certificate for doggy stuff and in return must appear at three events on behalf of the water company. The spokesdogs will encourage pet owners to clean up and help protect the water supply through brochures and biodegradable bags.

“When left on the ground, pet waste becomes a pollutant,” said water department spokeswoman Joanne Dahme said. “Rain and melting snow can wash it into creeks and rivers, raising bacteria levels in the same waterways where we like to fish, boat and picnic along. Our rivers and streams are precious public amenities, and we need to ensure that they are treated that way.”

(Photo/Lucky Jo, Manyunk/Roxborough contestant)

The Pennsylvania General Assembly started its new session yesterday with animal lovers wondering if there may be new hope for chained dogs in Pennsylvania this legislative session? State Sen. Elder Vogel (R., Beaver) has been named chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs committee, replacing Sen. Michael Brubaker (R., Lancaster) who now heads the Finance Committee. Last session Brubaker bottled up a bill to ban 24/7 dog chaining in Pennsylvania. It's not known where Vogel, a fourth-generation dairy farmer, stands on the chained dog bill or other animal welfare proposals such as banning the use of gas chambers at shelters. The new chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. John Maher, a Republican, is an avowed companion animal lover from Pittsburgh.

Ranchers and others in the horse industry who want to bring back horse slaughter in the U.S. are gathering in for a "horse summit" in Las Vegas. They are asking the federal government to allow slaughter plants to reopen and as the Associated Press put it, "embrace" the butchering of horses for meat.

Sue Wallis, a Wyoming legislator and vice president of United Horsemen, said horse processing is the humane and ethical solution to controlling horse populations. “What’s happening is we’ve taken a valuable asset and turned it into a very expensive liability,” she told the AP. “The United States will become like Europe, where only the very wealthy will be able to afford horses.” Since the last slaughter plant closed in the U.S. in 2007 (thanks to the end of federal funding for the plants) thousands of horses, including wild mustangs, ex-racehorses, backyard pets, breeding stock, Amish buggy and plow horses, are trucked across the border to Canada and Mexico each month where they meet a gruesome end (graphic video below). Their meat is shipped to Japan and France for human consumption. Animal rights activists call the methods of slaughter barbaric and blame horse breeders, driven by tax breaks for each horse produced, for causing the overpopulation problem.

Give Chrome, one of our Pennsylvania comeback stories for 2010, might well have a met a terrible end in a slaughter house. Instead Chrome, the malnourished standardbred gelding found in Nov. bleeding profusely from ill-fitting harness and gashes from broken bottles, will live out his days on a Kentucky estate. His alleged abuser, Wilbur Frost, sits in a jail cell today in Gettysburg unable to make bail. Adams County District Attorney Shaun Wagner says Frost - who was convicted last March for abusing two draft horses and a puppy in Kansas - will be prosecuted on animal cruelty and weapons charges.

Dog lovers can watch canine professionals perform in Harrisburg at the annual Farm Show starting this Saturday. There will be continues demonstrations with service dogs, therapy dogs and law enforcement dogs. Visitors can pet the dogs, ask questions and pick up dog license applications and brochures on rabies, the Puppy Lemon Law, bite prevention and responsible dog care. A sporting and working dog demonstration, hosted by Penn Ridge Kennel Club (Montgomery/Lehigh/Bucks Counties) and Harrisburg Kennel Club will be held on January 9 between 6 pm until 8 pm in the Equine Arena. It features frisbee dogs, flyball teams and search and rescue blood hounds.

On the topic of rabies, my colleague Mari Schaeffer wrote in Tuesday's Inquirer that Pennsylvania is on track to be the national leader in the number of rabies cases in domestic animals, primarily they are turning up in feral cats. Lest the anti-cat crowd seize on this news to call for slaughter of feral cats - as a University of Nebraska study has done - we asked Alley Cat Allies, the nation's leading advocate for stray and feral cats, to respond to a memo by a Pennsylvania state veterinarian that raises what they say are unnecessary alarm bells about the disease. Here's what founder and director Becky Robinson had to say: 

“We find the state veterinarian’s comments surprising. Overall, rabies is a public health victory in the United States. Rates of the disease have declined nationally in the last several decades, with the U.S. averaging perhaps one or two cases in humans per year. Despite the state veterinarian’s assertion, feral cats are not a major source of rabies transmission to people. The last confirmed cat to human transmission of rabies occurred more than 30 years ago, and wildlife like raccoons and bats are far more likely to serve as a source – not cats.

The rabies vaccine has been one of the big public health successes over the last 50 years, and that is the major reason it is incorporated into Trap-Neuter-Return programs for feral cats. Trap-Neuter-Return programs continue the successful preventative process of keeping rabies case numbers down by vaccinating the cats in addition to neutering them to stabilize populations.”