Tag Archives: animal welfare

Pet Heirs

Preparing a will isn’t what most people consider a fun thing to do. And even for those who do, it still takes a lot of time and thought to Dad with my animalsget it right. You don’t know when your will is going to take effect or what the circumstances around it will be so you have to balance specificity and generality so it can be satisfactorily fulfilled.

If you have pets you need to think about them. Just leaving it to hope, or even a promise, that a family member or friend will look after Fluffy, isn’t enough. The belief that everyone loves Fluffy as much as you do may be only in your own head. And a promise might be meant sincerely when it’s given, but you want to get it in writing – literally. Circumstances change and, after you’re dead, there’s nothing you can do if promises aren’t kept. So think about it very carefully and talk to a lawyer about it.

I initially thought of setting aside an amount of money for each animal based on health, age, size etc. The animals would bring their legacies to their new carer. My lawyer said no right off the bat. “Next day, they say ‘too bad, cat got hit, thanks for the money’.” So we came up with a plan where the executor would hold the pets’ money in trust and dole it out accordingly. More cumbersome, but better assurance that the animals will be cared for and their new people properly recompensed.

But my kids love Skippy!

When volunteering at a St. Thomas shelter, I answered the phone once right at closing. A guy said “My dad’s gone in a home and I’ve got his dog. Either you people take it or I have it put down.”  Yes, I asked enough questions to learn the father had dementia and neither knew nor approved of his son’s actions. The shelter had no space, but I was new there and hadn’t yet had hundreds of such calls. I couldn’t let this dog’s blood be on Maggie July 2000 pets in willmy hands, even if a so-called caretaker could. So I told him to bring the dog by. He seemed like a perfectly nice guy. He didn’t hang around long, which was fine by me.

I took Maggie home. She was a sweet elderly Miniature Poodle. She found a home with another couple and their teenage daughter. All three seemed as smitten with Maggie as she was with them.

Maggie’s person hadn’t died, and already the son was getting rid of her. This brings up another important point: your power of attorney, generally prepared with your will. If you are incapacitated mentally or physically, you need someone you trust to act for you. The person, legally, becomes you. If you still have your mental faculties and realize that person is not acting in your best interests or doing what you wish, you have the right to give your power of attorney to someone else. If you are mentally incapacitated, however, you can’t.  As well as control over your banking, home, personal care and medical decisions, that person also has control over your possessions and assets, including your pets. So choose carefully, based on a person’s integrity rather than sentiment.

Will Planning for Pets

will planning for pets book by Barry Seltzer Amazon link
Click for Amazon link

There’s a book that can help with planning for your pets’ life after you are gone. Co-authored by Toronto lawyer Barry Seltzer, Fat Cats & Lucky Dogs can help you plan for your pets. There’s also an article here about the topic.

The top photo is of my Dad, my dog Jack and cat Elsie. All are now loved in my memory. The other photo is Maggie. This post was originally published on my St. Thomas Dog Blog on Nov. 23, 2012.

Westminster Dogs

2012-02-14 hunter walker observer“Crategate” exploded in Mitt Romney’s campaign for the US Republican leadership, just as his Irish Setter Seamus’ bowels did when he was strapped in a crate on the roof of the family car for a 12-hour ride.  This story finally hit the media this week [Feb. 2012*].  Protestors used the publicity around the Westminster Dog Show held this week in New York City to garner attention for what Romney did to his dog.

And the winner of Westminster has caused great excitement in the once-yearly media attention paid to dog shows.  But another Westminster story got buried by the other two.

Pedigree shelter dog adWestminster dropped Pedigree as a sponsor.  Why?  Because they didn’t like the ads that Pedigree runs during the broadcast.  They were “too sad”, they said, showing shelter dogs in cages.  The wrong image of doggyness, evidently, to display while the Olympic athletes of dogdom showed their stuff.

How weird is this?  Usually in advertising, it’s the sponsors who pull out because they don’t like what the ‘sponsees’ are doing.  Westminster must be a very expensive event to put on.   Pedigree presumably has the big money needed in that it has been a major sponsor of Westminster for the past 24 years.

I’ve been impressed that Pedigree holds a shelter fundraising drive during Westminster and that their ads show the other side of the dog world – dogs that are lucky to get any food no matter what quality, that don’t have someone worrying about tartar buildup on their teeth.  I’ve thought their Westminster shelter dogs ads are a good antidote, the yin and yang of “man’s best friend”.

Komondor in ring at WestminsterIt’s fun watching beautiful show dogs.  I ooh and aah, then look at my own.  I have a purebred who probably was born in a show kennel.  A Standard Poodle, he became a puppy mill breeding dog.  That’s behind him now and I hope he’s forgotten it.  I look at the Poodles in the ring, with their leonine hair.  “You could look like that” I tell him, in his short serviceable clip.  He could, but I’m not willing to put the time and effort into it.  I worry about ensuring he’s well fed, his coat mat-free and his body exercised.

When watching Westminster, I’ve got a purebred reality check beside me.  If I didn’t have him?  Maybe I’d think, wow, I’d like a dog just like the one on tv.  Go out, spend a fortune on a puppy, not have the interest or time to put into showing (which is a full-time job, not a dabbling hobby), and the dog becomes too much work and – that’s how dogs end up in shelters and pounds.  Not all of course, but enough.

What I’d like to see in Pedigree’s ads at Westminster are the purebred Poodles, Mastiffs and Cocker Spaniels that are in pounds and breed-specific rescues.  The mongrels in the ads make no explicit connection to dog shows or breeders.  If that connection was made, Roscoe hound cross in Pedigree adWestminster might have a valid reason to object.  But would it be grounds to fire a sponsor?

Dog breeders, of all people, ought to know about the neglect and abuse of dogs and ought to be outraged about it.  Dogs are their vocation and avocation.  What’s wrong with Pedigree reminding us that there are dogs desperately in need?  The Westminster Dog Show and the AKC ought to be doing that themselves.

*From my St. Thomas Dog Blog Feb. 17th, 2012, when it seemed that the US Republican leadership campaign was as strange as it could ever possibly get. Bwahahaha!

Home for the Holidays

Don’t give a dog as a Christmas present.  At least not as a spur of the moment gift.  But if you are planning to get a dog anyway, why not?  If you are aware that your “present” is alive and, with luck, will live many years, you will give an enormous gift to the dog as well.  A home – permanent and loving.

Home for the Holidays "No one came, now I'm gone" dog

Adopt

The St. Thomas Animal Shelter gives you a $75 spay/neuter rebate when you adopt an eligible pet.  Wherever you live, if you can give a dog or cat a home, please do.

Adopting from a rescue group or pound rather than a pet store or off Kijiji or Craig’s List means you also are not supporting puppy mills or backyard breeders. Support “No-Kill” shelters, but adopt from any shelter or pound.  Don’t let more pets be killed just because they couldn’t get adopted in 3 or 7 days.

Donate

If you can’t have a pet, give to an animal shelter or rescue group.  Money is always welcome, or ask what is needed.  They always have a wish list of goods they need most.

Sponsor/Volunteer

If you’d like a connection with a specific dog but can’t have one, sponsor a shelter dog.  You give a monthly donation in the name of that dog and you’re welcome to spend time with “your” dog.  If your shelter doesn’t have such a programme, you can do it unofficially.  Shelters generally always welcome volunteers who will play with dogs, walk them and clean kennels.  That’s a way you can spend time with your special dog and help all of them.

Foster

If you could have a dog but can’t commit for the long term, consider fostering. You’ll have to give him or her up when a permanent home is found, but you’ll have the fun of canine companionship until then.  It’s work too.  You have to properly socialize the dog, but you’ll learn as much as the dog does.  If you’re a post-secondary student and wish you could have a Puppy (or Kitty) Room at home, talk to an animal shelter near you. Some are happy to have students foster dogs and cats.

Transport

If you like driving, volunteer with a group such as Open Arms Pound Rescue.  They need people to drive animals to new homes or to shelters where there’s a better chance of finding homes.  If you’re a pilot and love excuses to go flying, check out Pilots N Paws (US or Canada) or talk to your buddies about setting up something similar in conjunction with a rescue group or shelter.

Everything above also applies to cats, horses and other domestic animals.  There are rescue groups for all of them across the country.  Give an animal somewhere a very happy holiday season.  It will make you happy too.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Dec. 10, 2012, minus information on adoption events specific to that time. (Below and right are Amazon links to some Christmas dog stories that look guaranteed to make you cry happy tears.)

 

Water for Elephants

water for elephants dvd amazon link
Click to buy on Amazon

(from 2011*) In the past week, I’ve been sent two Facebook requests to boycott the film Water for ElephantsADI (Animal Defenders International) says that Have Trunk Will Travel, trainers of the elephants in the film, use abusive methods.  This contradicts the trainers’ statement that they only use positive reinforcement.

I watched the 2005 video ADI provided, and I think I don’t know enough about elephants to know.   I went to Sara Gruen’s website.  She wrote the novel on which the movie is based.  She is a supporter of animal welfare and several specific animal sanctuaries.  While the author of the original material may not have much say over the movie production, having read her other novels, I couldn’t Tai, in ADI videoimagine Ms. Gruen not caring about the animal stars of a work in which she’s got a vested interest.  But I still don’t know.

I don’t think the trainers did themselves a favour by saying they only use reward-based training methods.  No way electric prods look like positive reinforcement.  But used in conjunction with reward?  Necessary for effectiveness and safety?  I don’t know.  I do know that they and bull hooks do not look nice.  But the appearance of something shouldn’t Tai lifting Sara Gruenbe the sole criterion for judging it.  Lots of things don’t look nice, but there may be valid reasons for their use.  Also, anything can be an instrument of cruelty if used incorrectly or to deliberately inflict pain.  A dog’s leash, a horse’s reins.

Two things this controversy made me think about:

1.  Shock collars.  Many trainers condemn their use, saying they’re just a lazy way to train a dog.  Other trainers sell them to people (I got a Shock_collar-Polymath38-Wikicommonssalespitch on their virtues when talking to a trainer about my dog’s poop-eating habit.)  I know a barky dog who can live happily in an apartment building because she wears an electrified “bark collar” when left alone.  Without it, I don’t know what would happen.  But the bottom line is, those collars administer shocks of varying intensity to dogs.  And electric shock is not only used for retraining bad behaviour.  “Invisible fencing” relies on a shock if the dog gets too close to the boundary.  It’s selling like hotcakes.

2.  When learning to ride, my teacher told me “kick him” when my horse would not move forward with just verbal clucks.  I kicked a bit.  “Harder” she yelled, “kick him like you mean it.”  I couldn’t.  I felt I was betraying our friendship by kicking him.  She told me to watch the horses in the field and see what they do to each other.  I did, and sure enough, I watched ‘my’ horse give his best friend a big old kick when Spurs_western_lostinfog-wikicommonshe got too near the hay.  There is no way I could ever kick as hard as he did.

When I learned to kick, he looked back at me like “ok, you’re learning horse language now!”  I learned to use spurs, a riding crop and a longe whip.  I try to keep my hands steady. Reins jerking ‘giddyup’ style does cause a horse pain.  With me knowing proper use of equipment, we began riding as a team.

All methods of control and training can be abused and therefore cruel.  All, aside from sheer brutality, can also be used correctly.  Until I try handling an elephant, I won’t opine on how to do it.

*First posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog May 12/11. Since then, I’ve read Water for Elephants and it is absolutely wonderful.

Rodeo Kings

From St. Thomas Dog Blog July 8, 2011. Sadly in this year’s Stampede, 2 horses died in chuckwagon race crashes.

William & Kate open 2011 Stampede Parade (ctv pic)William and Kate opened the Calgary Stampede and attended the parade. William even took part in a chuckwagon race. I’d wondered what they’d do. Before their visit, there was a furor about their endorsement-by-attendance at what some call an event about animal abuse.

But wait, doesn’t Vancouver Humane Society have abandoned and abused animals in its own city? Doesn’t it receive calls about horse starvation within its jurisdiction? Isn’t there factory farming in the Lower Mainland?

And the UK’s RSPCA and League Against Cruel Sports? Isn’t there abuse and neglect within the UK? What’s happening with fox hunting? That can pretty hard on horses let alone the fox, if there’s Horses in Old National steeplechasestill hunting of live foxes. And polo. Show jumping, eventing, steeplechasing, hurdling: all involve horses as active partners under the control of a human.

The protestors made a lot about the UK having banned rodeo in 1934 and that it was William’s “great-great-grandfather George V who signed [it] into law.” Funny, I had no idea rodeo was part of British culture and history. Not like Canada and the US where the activities that comprise rodeo have been part of the national landscape since the beginning.

Stampede and all horse sports

Prince Philip 2005 driving competition Lowther wikicommonsBut there are horse sports that William, his father and brother, his aunt Anne, his cousin Zara, grandfather and other members of both sides of his family actively participate in. Polo, show jumping, eventing and driving. His paternal grandmother and late great-grandmother have huge stables of Thoroughbreds and have long been active in “The Sport of Kings.” How many horses are killed yearly in Thoroughbred racing alone?

In Los Angeles, where William and Kate headed after Calgary, he is participating in a polo match. Not one peep about animal abuse in anything I read about that. Why weren’t the Vancouver and UK animal rights people all over that one?

I do not want to fuel activism against polo. It is a beautiful sport. But, like any sport involving animals, it has a lot of Prince William playing polo (commons.wikimedia.org)room for abuse in treatment of horses and in training methods. Read Jilly Cooper’s Polo. She explains the game and the training. There are good trainers and players, and bad. There are selfish, egotistical, win-at-all-costs brutes who take out their frustrations on their horse partner. Some training methods rely on infliction of pain to “teach” the horse. There can be individual and systemic abuse of half the polo team. The description of the training by the world-champion level Argentines is so horrific that I flinched at the mere word Argentina long after finishing the book. And that’s just the world of polo.

Look into the spikes and sticks used by some show jumper trainers to get a horse’s feet lifted high. I’m not sure that the flank strap used to cause bucking by rodeo broncs is worse than many tools used by horse trainers unwilling to practice patience.

Priorities for animal activists

Windsor_2009_Limelight-detail-don-carey-kersti-nebelsiek-wikicommonsShould we ban show jumping and polo? No. But abuse should not be permitted in those sports any more than it should be permitted in rodeo or any sport or event that involves animals. Also maybe UK and Canadian animal rights people ought to clean up their own backyards first. Feeding and fixing ‘stray’ cats, stopping the supply of puppies on Kijiji: that’ll keep you busy right there.

Jilly Cooper’s Rutshire Chronicles are sequential so start at the beginning, with Riders.They are wonderful books, with horrible people and lovely animals and some nice people. Here’s a link for all Jilly Cooper books on Amazon.

 

Hot Cars, Hot Dogs

My brother and I conducted an experiment recently on heat build-up in a car. We didn’t plan to, but what happened while he was waiting for me in a parking lot proved instructive. It was a pleasant summer trees shading roadway so hot cars, hot dogsday, a nice breeze, no humidity and a temperature of 22o Celsius.

The dogs weren’t with us but, with that temperature, I wouldn’t have worried about leaving them while I went into a store. Instead, I left my brother in the car. After maybe 20 minutes, when I was leaving the checkout, my brother came in. “Too hot to sit in that sun” he said. He had been in the driver’s seat and the sun was hitting the windshield. Even with the windows completely down, it got unbearably hot. “When I got out, it was 10 degrees cooler outside.”  Wow.

My dogs ride in the backseat and stay there when I’m not in the car. If I have to leave them in the car on a sunny day, I park so the sun is not hitting the back window. But it doesn’t really matter, I suppose. If the front can heat up quickly enough to bother a full-grown man with windows wide open and a decent breeze blowing through, it must be just as hot in the back seat.

sun shade in windshieldSo it’s not temperature alone, humidity, breeze or lack of, it’s sun hitting glass. I wonder if windshield shades help keep the interior temperature down? I’ve thought people use them just to keep the front seats from getting burning hot. If they do that, do they keep the whole space cooler?

Never leaving your dog in a car on a hot day is not a realistic thing to ask all the time all summer. You are going to combine dog park outings or walks with other errands. Nothing wrong with that, I think. So instead of having police time occupied with releasing dogs from overheated cars, change the attitude to parking spots.

Trees give shaded parking at edge of parking lotMall lots often have trees along thoroughfares for the sake of appearance. Redesign the lot so the trees are in the middle of the parking area, not along the roadway. One side of the tree or the other will have shade. They can be anywhere in the lot. If you have no room for trees, make parking spots by the side of the building and build a canopy.

Most malls and streets already have areas that could easily provide shaded parking spots. But usually they are marked as “no parking” or “loading zone.” I’m sure there are easy ways of converting part of those areas to shaded parking. Mark them “for cars with dogs”. Unlike other special needs spots, they don’t need to be near the  Afternoon building shade at Sussex Co-opentrance or have special curbs. We just need the social will. That, after all, is how we got “handicapped” and “expectant mothers” reserved spots. There’s no point in making dogs suffer and charging good owners with animal cruelty when simple design changes can alleviate a real problem. Shaded parking isn’t a complete solution; summer heat and dogs in cars still don’t mix well. But it would help.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Aug. 22/12

Lost and Found

Amazon link to Lost and Found by Elizabeth Hess arts journalist
Click for Amazon link

Lost and Found: Dogs, Cats, and Everyday Heroes at a Country Animal Shelter is a wonderful book. Elizabeth Hess, a New York City arts journalist and author of Nim Chimpsky, writes about volunteering at the Columbia-Greene Animal Shelter near Hudson, New York. She and her family were among the “weekenders” who travel between this rural area and the city. When her daughter wanted a dog, they found one at the shelter and Elizabeth found a world that she hadn’t known before. She volunteered and kept notes.

I’ve had this book for a while, but put off reading it. I thought I would cry too much. I did, and got angry, but not as often as I feared. That’s due to Ms Hess’ writing. She is empathetic but analytic. She acts as a camera, showing us a whole picture from her perspective. She records events and puts them in a larger framework. She says what she thinks about it but lets us draw our own conclusions.

One story stood out for me. A “week-ender” came into the shelter one hot summer day, saying he’d found kittens and couldn’t keep them. Elizabeth knew him from gallery events in New York City, so they chatted about new shows and gossip in the artsy crowd. Finally he remembered the kittens and said they were in a box in his car! But the heat inside a sturdy box with only “a few pencil-sized holes” had done its job. The kittens were already nearly dead. “While Fitzgerald was chatting with me… the cats were in his car baking.” She doesn’t need to say that clearly this urbane man didn’t have the sense to come in out of the rain (or bring kittens out of the sun) or that she felt guilt for not asking the cats’ whereabouts. Both things are there, between the lines.

rescue dog Max before and after picturesThe Columbia-Greene Animal Shelter was a county operation, and therefore responsible for cruelty investigations as well as taking in owner-surrendered animals and strays. It adopted animals out and it euthanized.* It had animal quarters in the shelter and used foster homes and farms. Knowledgeable people committed to the wellbeing of animals staffed this shelter, fortunately.

Ms Hess talks about puppy mills and describes a raid on one. She talks about euthanasia of animals for no reason other than homes have not been found for them. She takes us into the euthanasia room and introduces us to the people who do the killing. A story from a euthanasia technician: just after euthanizing a young dog sick with pneumonia, she saw the young couple who had surrendered her. She overheard them excitedly talking about going to the pet store and what kind of puppy they would buy. They asked how their other dog was. “She’s such a good little dog.  You’ll have no trouble placing her.” The Columbia-Greene Animal Shelter, poster for Animal Art at 2012dog’s illness was curable, but this couple evidently didn’t want to be bothered, and the shelter was full. The “good little dog” had been killed.

You become engaged in the stories and you think long and hard about the issues. This book is neither fluffy animal tales nor a diatribe.  It’s a valuable ethnography of our society’s treatment and attitudes towards pets and those who clean up the mess.

*At the time of the book’s writing. Their website home page states: “We do not euthanize animals for space constraints.” (From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Jan. 13/12)

 

Iditarod Murder: Review

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, June 13/11.  The 2015 Iditarod starts Sat. March 7th.

Amazon link for Iditarod murder novel by Sue Henry
Click image or text for Amazon

A 1991 mystery novel by Sue HenryMurder on the Iditarod Trail is good.  Several murders: at first I thought she just wanted to use all the ways she’d thought of for murder in a dogteam race.  But actually all the murders are necessary for the plot line.  They’re inventive and the murder mystery part of the book is good – right to the end.

But what’s just as good is you, the reader, are going along with the teams every hard mile of the race.  You get put inside it, why and how people and their dogs do this sometimes year after year.  You also get some of the history and geography of Alaska – of the race itself, the gold-rush, the land and the peoples both aboriginal and white settlers.

She takes on political controversies that have been part of the Itidarod for the past few decades.  Many male racers opposed women entering the competition and Henry discusses this through the plot line and a female musher who is a main character.*  She also discusses the animal welfare activists who have sought to shut down the race.  She photo of sled dog in snow by Magnus-Manskeaddresses the issue of the dogs’ health and safety throughout as background of the actual running and the protestors as possible murder suspects.

Henry has lived in Alaska for many years and clearly is a proponent and admirer of the Iditarod – the mushers and dogs, as well as the terrain and the history.  There’s nothing ‘preachy’ in her inclusion of the politics of the race; it’s presented as a natural part of her story.

This book is the first in what became a series of novels featuring the two main characters in it.  I look forward to reading the rest of her books.  They’ll be the closest I ever come to running the Iditarod myself.

* The statements made by men in the book about why women shouldn’t be running made me think of a 1980s tongue-in-cheek state ‘slogan’ I came across:  “Alaska, where women win the Iditarod and men mush Poodles”.  During that decade, women won several times and teams of Standard Poodles ran it respectably.

 

The Wolf in the Parlor

It took me a few months to read Jon Franklin’s The Wolf in the Parlor: How the dog came to share your brain.  It was my ‘morning coffee’ book.  Those always are read slowly.  But I had trouble with this one.  I considered not finishing it, but I’m glad I did.

Amazon link for Wolf in the Parlor by Jon Franklin
Click for Amazon link

Franklin’s premise is that humans and dogs evolved together and, in fact, became parts of each other in terms of brain function. ‘Tame wolves’, he says, began to develop about 50,000 years ago when some wolves became essentially camp followers of humans.  They realized putting up with human contact was an easy way of getting food.  The humans realized that putting up with these less aggressive wolves was an easy way to have protection from wilder animals and to have a constant food supply if needed (wolf meat).  Wolves evolved into dogs, humans evolved to a form more like us, and the interconnectedness between wolf/dog and human grew.

12,000 years ago, he says, human and dog brains got smaller.  His argument is that the rational, thinking part of dogs’ brains decreased as did simultaneously the emotional and sensory part of humans’ brains.  The dog handed the thinking over to humans and the humans handed emotional and sensory intuition over to dogs.  Together, they have the full spectrum of intelligence and perception.  Apart, they do not.

I know nothing about evolution or neurology, so I can’t comment on his scientific accuracy.  However, like religion, his thesis seems as good a framework as any for thinking.  It ‘feels’ right to me and, in thinking about my history with dogs, I can ‘see’ it.

My persistence in reading paid off in the final chapters.  He discusses how humans too often now have forgotten the mutuality of the bond with dogs.  There’s a horrible tale of a day he spent with an animal control officer.  That story introduces his argument in favour of purebred dogs.  In essence, he says that if you expect the dog to fit into your lifestyle and match your needs, get one where you can be pretty sure that the innate traits and needs of the dog will be that match.  The best way is get a purebred from a breeder who knows his or her dogs and their lineage.

Why I say my “persistence” is that I had some problems with the writing.  First, the beginning of the first four chapters all read like introductions.  It felt like he had several good openings and couldn’t decide on one so used them all.  Second, no references.  I was shocked.  I’d seen he had no foot- or endnote numbers, but I thought he must be using chapter-by-chapter summary citation at the end.  Then I read about Standard Poodles in the Iditarod and wanted to know more.  I flipped to the back – nothing, not even a bibliography.  Yes, I can google it but I think that, within a book, I should be able to find out where a fact came from.  Isn’t lack of citation plagiarism?

So the scientific bases of his evolutionary, neurological and paleontology arguments are only sporadically backed up with sources in in-text form.  This particularly surprised me because he’s a science journalist.  Reference, reference, reference.

Anyway, you can read a q & a with him about the book on his website. He says you’ll have to read it to find out how the story ends. For me, the ending did make reading it all worthwhile.

Here is a review of The Wolf in the Parlor’s first 60 pages in The Other End of the Leash, an interesting dog blog. I think the leash should have extended to the end of the book. (From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, May 20, 2011)

Santa Bunny

perfume and cosmetics counter decorated for ChristmasThe cosmetics sections of stores have beautiful Christmas displays. Toiletries, creams and bath oils are lovely and easy gifts to give almost anyone. You can do it in one stop shopping in any drugstore or shop cruelty free logodepartment store. But look beyond the pretty packaging. Think of the how the products were made before you start loading up your cart. Look for the bunny or something saying that the product was not tested on animals.

rabbit's eye in cosmetic testThis is what happens to the animals who get sprayed in the eyes or lathered with potentially damaging ingredients so that you can safely stick cosmetics or cleaning products in your eyes. Most of these product formulas are long established and proven in the industry. Also other means of testing for adverse reaction now exist. Animal testing is not needed.

Beagle with side shaved for lab testingBut many companies still do it. Avoiding buying their products can easily be done, but you do have to read labels. Familiarizing yourself with company names that do animal testing can allow you to take shopping shortcuts by just avoiding those brands totally. Do you need to buy from the company that does this to animals?

Finding cruelty-free products

St. Ives lotion no animal testing labelRevlon, Avon and Almay are some of the big cosmetic companies that do not do animal testing.* Neither do Physicians Formula and Smashbox. For lotions and cleansers, St. Ives**. Burt’s Bees** has a greatly expanded line of cruelty-free skin care. Body Shop products say they’re not tested on animals and that Fair Trade ingredients are used. But the Burt's Bees display in Sears cosmetic sectioncompany is owned by L’Oreal, which still tests on animals. That’s a situation where you have to make a judgment call: do you support the ethical branches of a corporation or boycott all lines.

Tints of Nature organic cruelty-free hair dyeHair dye is not something usually given as a Christmas gift but may be part of holiday preparations. I had a hard time finding any hair dye made by companies I knew didn’t test on animals. Then in an aisle of the Atlantic Superstore, way across the store from other skin and hair products, I found a whole section of holistic, organic and cruelty-free lotions, creams, shampoos and conditioners – and two brands of hair dye. Wahoo!

By looking for the “odd” items in pharmacy, grocery and department stores, I found cruelty-free products in my own small towns without ordering online or going to specialty stores. The big names like St. Ives and Revlon are in the cosmetics sections, but there is usually a section somewhere with cruelty-free and/or organic less well-known brands. In the St. Thomas Zellers, for instance, I found that on the other side of the main cosmetics and toiletries shelves there was a whole section of organic and “not tested on animals” lotions and cleansers. They were no more expensive.

Make your own gift sets

As I did, you might find a whole range of neat stuff you never knew about.  If you basket of cruelty-free productsplanned to get pre-made gift baskets of toiletries as easy to buy and easy to please gifts, just put your own together. I found lots of small bottles, sample bath salts and facial packs and soaps. Put them in a basket or box with tissue and ribbon and voilà – a personalized Christmas gift basket.

* See update on changes in companies’ practices in Oct. 30/13 post.

** According to Vegan Rabbit, Burt’s Bees is another of the no-cruelty companies that has an animal-testing parent company. Also there is discussion as to whether St. Ives is still cruelty-free, but the labelling I have seen recently still says no animal testing.

Click Cruelty-free Beauty for my Amazon links to available ethical products.