Wednesday, October 27, 2010

This Is Why We Do It

We had our annual Paws and Learn Fundraiser last Saturday. While this is our primary means of raising the funds to educate the public, it's also an opportunity to educate people (and dog owners). We set up our table at the start of the trail and find that many people come over to find out more about us and to take handouts that will ultimately help them to be better dog owners.

Last year, we had the pleasure of speaking with a man who was considering getting a dog. He went home with the following handouts:

Considering A Pet
Where To Get Your Pet
Why Is Training Important?
Crate Training

This year, he came back...with the dog he had adopted from a local rescue thanks to our handouts. He saved a life and that dog now has a great home. We happened to be at the right place at the right time to help educate this man and the dog gets to benefit from that education (as well as the man benefiting from having a well trained, well exercised, loving new family member).

It's always nice to see or hear about the fruits of our labor. Last week, I had three separate students in a 5th grade class tell me that their dogs had been spayed/neutered because of the handout we sent home with them in their activity packet. This is what drives us forward as an organization and as educators - knowing that what we are doing is truly making a difference in our community for dogs and people alike.

Thank you to everyone who came out for our 2nd Annual Paws and Trails Hike. We appreciate your continued support. Our success is YOUR success! Your funds help us reach adults and students in this community.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Reptiles As Pets

Paws and Learn does not recommend keeping reptiles as pets for a variety of reasons. Reptiles living with all but the most experienced caregivers are likely to suffer an early, inhumane death due to poor care. They are the only animals kept in captivity that do not typically reach or surpass their normal lifespan. The pet reptile industry contributes to depleted wildlife populations, damages ecosystems, and also poses a health risk to humans.

High mortality rates
Depending on the species, reptiles are either bred from wild-caught parents or captured directly from the wild. Wild-caught reptiles are typically grabbed from their environment and put in a bag with many others like it. They are kept like this for quite some time with no care as they’re transported, and the process is so stressful that approximately 50% die in transit. Those that manage to survive often arrive at the pet store with injuries or a weakened immune system. They're then housed with other animals and are exposed to their diseases. Approximately 90% of the wild-caught reptiles die within 1 year of being kept as a pet. This is due to a combination of factors, including trauma from being captured, stress from an unnatural lifestyle, and poor care from inexperienced owners. Several species, like North American box turtles, are being caught at a faster rate than they are capable of reproducing, resulting in depleted and endangered populations.

NOT low maintenance pets
It is a myth, often perpetuated by unknowledgeable pet store employees, that reptiles are ideal for those looking for a low maintenance pet. Reptiles have very specific environmental and dietary needs that are extremely difficult to replicate in captivity, even when they are born to captive-bred parents. In the wild, reptiles can vary their diet as they crave different nutrients. The diets they're offered as pets are often too simple for long-term nutrition and growth, and as a result many suffer a slow death from nutritional deficiencies. It's unrealistic to think an aquarium can adequately replicate the natural conditions they're accustomed to experiencing, even with artificial lighting, heat lamps and water filters. Wild reptiles rarely come into contact with their feces and uneaten food, and this exposure in an aquarium makes them susceptible to infections. It's extremely difficult to tell when a reptile is sick, and many veterinarians have little or no experience caring for them. Crocodilians, like caimans and alligators, are commonly purchased as babies yet rarely survive to adulthood when kept as a pet. Few people realize that most lizards, frogs and snakes should live a minimum of 10 years with proper care, and many species live several decades.

For those reptiles fortunate enough to receive proper care, many species become dangerous or difficult to care for as an adult. Water turtles can live for several decades, and tortoises can live 100 + years, easily outliving their owners and requiring multiple dedicated caregivers throughout their lifetime. Iguanas can grow to be 5-6 feet long within 5 years, and pythons can grow over 15 feet and 150 pounds, capable of killing humans and especially small children.

Health Risk
As many as 90% of reptiles are natural carriers of Salmonella bacteria and don’t show sign of illness. It can be transmitted to humans through direct contact like handling, or indirect contact such as touching contaminated surfaces in the home. Young children, pregnant women, the elderly and those who are ill are especially susceptible to infection.

When owners find themselves unable or unwilling to care fortheir reptile any longer, it’s often very difficult to find them a new home. Most shelters are ill-equipped to handle the special care they require so they are often euthanized upon intake. Pet reptiles should never be released to the wild because they often die of starvation or exposure, and if they survive they can introduce new diseases and parasites to the native population and easily unbalance the local ecosystem.

Not recommended for beginners:
The following reptiles should not be considered by those with little experience due to a variety of factors including size, origin, potential for aggression, tendency to have parasites, or strict dietary and environmental needs.

Turtles & tortoises: ALL species, including Box turtles
Boas – Rainbow boas, red-tailed boas
Pythons - Burmese pythons, African Rock Pythons, reticulated pythons
wild-caught or captive hatched ball pythons
wild-caught garter, gopher and king snakes
Most lizards, including:
Dragons – mountain dragon, tree dragon, sailfin dragon
Iguanas – Green iguanas, spiny tailed iguanas, crested or helmeted iguanas
Tokay gecko
Crocodilians: caimans and alligators

While we strongly discourage keeping ANY reptile as a pet, if you choose to do so please consider adopting a homeless reptile from a rescue group. Do extensive research before making your decision. The following reptiles are generally recognized as needing the least specialized care:
Turtles & Tortoises: none
Snakes: captive bred Corn snakes, captive bred King snakes, captive bred Ball pythons
Lizards: Blue-tongue skinks, Leopard geckos, Bearded dragons

For Care Information:
Melissa Kaplan’s Herp Care Collection

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why Our Dogs Should Sleep INSIDE the House

Growing up many of us had backyard dogs. Although the dogs slept outdoors, their days were spent in our company while gardening, hanging laundry, camping and playing with the children. However, times have changed. We spend much less time doing outdoor activities than we once did. Now it is common for both parents to work outside of the home. Children play video games and surf the internet rather than run for hours outside. The result is thousands of dogs that simply aren’t getting the "people time" they need.

Pack Animals
Like wolves, dogs are social animals. From birth, dogs are part of a pack and are never left alone. When you adopt a dog, you and your family members become their new "pack" and separation from this pack is viewed by them as the worst form of punishment. Regular interaction with people is one of their basic needs just like food and water. When those needs aren’t met, it can have a negative psychological effect on that animal. Dogs forced to live outside often develop behavior problems due to stress and boredom.

Dogs need mental stimulation. While barking, digging and chewing are normal dog behaviors to a small degree, the boredom an outdoor dog experiences often makes these behaviors more extreme. In the absence of stimulation, they will create their own games. This can include destroying your garden with excessive digging, constant barking throughout the day and night or aggressively chasing away anyone or thing that wanders too close to your fence. While these are acceptable games for your dog, they are seldom acceptable to you.

Dogs that live outdoors on a farm get their mental stimulation and exercise in a variety of ways. They have wildlife to chase, scents to track and other animals to herd/protect. The average dog today has little of these things to stimulate him. They spend their time in a small, confined yard. Everything exciting is happening on the other side of the fence. It is a myth that dogs with yards get exercise. Outdoor dogs spend the majority of their time at the backdoor waiting for the owners to pay attention to them. No matter where a dog spends it’s time, a happy dog is one that gets daily exercise whether it’s a walk around the neighborhood or a fun game of fetch.


Some people get dogs for protection. A dog that spends time indoors with his family bonds with them and is more likely to be protective. If your dog is never allowed to come indoors, it may not know the difference between a burglar and Aunt Susana who drops by to say hello. Also, outdoor dogs tend to bark excessively whether someone is in their backyard or not. Like a car alarm, your dog barking isn’t going to alert anyone that something is wrong because you and your neighbors have learned to ignore it. Once the burglar is inside your home, there is nothing your outdoor dog can do about it, nor does he really want to. Dogs are protective of the areas they are kept in. As long as they aren’t stealing his lawn furniture, pool or grass, he’s fine with what happens inside your house. However, if the dog is allowed to spend time in the house, your things become his things. He will not tolerate a stranger coming inside and stealing your stuff. Installing a dog door is a simple way to allow your dog to spend his time where he chooses.


Although California has a mild climate, we still experience our share of inclement weather. The average dog feels the heat and cold as we do, but some breeds are even more susceptible to climate change. Small dogs and short-coated breeds such as Chihuahuas and Pit Bulls don’t tolerate cold weather very well even with an insulated shelter. Dogs with thick coats such as Akitas, Huskies, Malamutes and Chows as well as short-nosed breeds such as pugs and bulldogs can easily overheat even in mild temperatures. It is imperative that they have shade and cold, fresh water in the summer if they are going to be outdoors for even a short length of time. Some people feel that the garage provides adequate shelter. A garage becomes very hot during the summer and extremely cold during the winter. Pets can suffer and die from both heat exhaustion and exposure to the cold after being left in the garage. Garages often harbor other dangers as well. Sharp tools and poisonous chemicals are stored in the garage. A bored dog looking to fill his time may get injured investigating these things. Your dog could get loose when you open the garage door or you might accidentally run over him while parking your car.

You should never chain a dog in your backyard. It is against the law in the state of California to tether a dog for more than 3 hours in a 24 hour period. If you do so, you could end up with a hefty fine. The law also requires you to provide food, water and adequate shelter for your pet at all times. Chaining your dog creates insecurity and severely increases the likelihood of stress and boredom. It can also increase aggression. If the dog can’t retreat from what it perceives to be a threatening situation, it becomes fearful and is more likely to bite to protect itself.

Most dogs do enjoy spending some time outdoors. It is essential that time alone outdoors be balanced with time indoors with their "pack." They are happier, healthier and safer when they are indoor pets. The more time a dog spends outdoors, the less control you have over his behavior. It only takes a little time and training to teach your dog how to behave in the house. Then you will be able to enjoy your new companion and treat him as a member of the family.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Paws and Trails Hike

WHEN: Saturday, October 23rd at 9am (raffle to be held at 11am).

WHERE: Griffith Park

2800 East Observatory Ave

Los Angeles, CA 90027 US

Please join us for a fun hike up the Mt. Hollywood Trail (aka Charlie Turner Trail) in Griffith Park. The entire trail has amazing views of Los Angeles all the way to the beach, including Downtown, the Observatory and the famous Hollywood sign. This event is open to everyone, including children, so bring a friend!

Ticket Info: Event tickets are $20 and include 3 raffle tickets and refreshments served at the top. They can be purchased through or the day of the event. BONUS: If you buy your tickets by Oct. 21st, you will receive an extra 5 raffle tickets for free!

Raffle Info: Drawing will be held at 11am the day of the event. Prizes include tickets to Disneyland, San Diego Zoo and many more. For those unable to attend the hike, raffle tickets may be purchased separately for $3 each, or 2 for $5.

Trail Info: Hike at your own pace! Elevation climb is moderate (500 ft) and broken up with a few relatively flat stretches of trail. Total distance up and back is 3 miles, with an average time to the top taking 30-45 minutes. Dogs on leash are most welcome!

Paws and Learn is a volunteer-run nonprofit 501c3 dedicated to improving the lives of animals through education. Your donation is tax-deductible and 100% of the proceeds will go towards educational material. For more information on our organization, please visit

Directions to Trail:- 5 South to Los Feliz Blvd (head west)- Right on Hillhurst Ave (which becomes Vermont Canyon Rd)- Follow all signs to the Observatory (pass the Greek Theatre)- After the tunnel, go Left up the hill to Observatory parking lot- trailhead is across from the Observatory parking lot