<![CDATA[NBC 6 South Florida - ]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcmiami.com/feature/all-about-animals http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC+6+LOGO+GOOGLE.png NBC 6 South Florida http://www.nbcmiami.com en-us Sun, 29 Nov 2015 18:17:26 -0500 Sun, 29 Nov 2015 18:17:26 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Broward Humane Society Adoptable Pets]]> Wed, 25 Nov 2015 12:55:10 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/Sadie1125.jpg Check out the furry friends in need of homes in Broward County.]]> <![CDATA[Miami-Dade Animal Services Adoptable Pets]]> Wed, 25 Nov 2015 12:51:10 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/180*120/Genny+A1636147.jpg Check out the adorable animals up for adoption in Miami-Dade.]]> <![CDATA[Why Veterinary Clinics Are Open On Black Friday]]> Tue, 24 Nov 2015 10:57:47 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/160*120/Holiday+Hazards+for+Pets.JPG

by Dr. Ian Kupkee

Every year as Thanksgiving approaches, pet parents ask me if it’s really such a bad thing to share their feasts with the four-legged family members. I am often reminded that it’s the season for sharing, and that they are thankful for their pets. Surely a little bit of turkey is okay, right?
Nobody likes a holiday killjoy. And chances are, Grandma will break the “no table food” rule this year, too. So let’s just focus on the foods that Fluffy absolutely, positively cannot have.
Garlic and Onions
Garlic and onions are species belonging to the allium family, a type of plant that while beneficial for humans, is not tolerated by dogs and cats. Other common foods in this category include shallots, leeks, chives, and Chinese onions. Pets that ingest these foods often suffer from gastrointestinal distress. When larger amounts are consumed, a life-threatening condition called Heinz body anemia can develop. Clinical signs include lethargy, inappetance, pale gums, increased respiration and collapse. Heinz body anemia is fatal if not treated, so make sure any holiday treats do not include onions or garlic. One of our patients, a Jack Russell Terrier named Macy, spent the holidays getting blood transfusions after stealing and eating a spice packet. If you must give Fluffy a taste of the turkey, make sure it has not been seasoned with onions, garlic, or any member of the allium family.
Sugar-Free Goodies
Many sugar-free mints, candies, chewing gums and baked goods contain a sweetener called Xylitol. This naturally occurring compound is derived from the Birch tree, and is often marketed as a safe, natural alternative to sugar. Pets who ingest even small amounts of Xylitol experience sudden, dramatic drops in their blood sugar. While the most obvious clinical sign of Xylitol toxicity is seizures, many pets can also experience, vomiting, lethargy, weakness, collapse, and death. Xylitol toxicity is nearly always fatal, and pets who survive the initial crisis may still be at risk for liver damage and blood clotting disorders.
Perhaps the most alarming aspect of Xylitol is the shear number of products in which it is found. In addition to products that are clearly marked as sugar-free, it is used to sweeten toothpaste, mouthwash, kids’ vitamins, supplements, fish oil capsules, and over-the-counter medications. Bottom line - anything that is marketed for human consumption should never be given to pets without first consulting your veterinarian. And since many products containing Xylitol are often found in ladies’ handbags, make sure your dinner guests stash their purses well out of Fluffy’s reach.
Our geriatric dachshund will magically forget about her aching back and defy the laws of gravity in her attempts to knock over a bottle of beer. While our guests think it’s hilarious, alcohol toxicity is one of the leading causes of holiday visits to the emergency clinic. Symptoms include respiratory depression and liver damage, so keep any adult beverages out of your fur-kid’s reach.
The texture of nuts and seeds make them difficult to digest as a general rule. Certain types such as walnuts, pecans, and hickory nuts can contain a toxin produced by common species of mold. Additionally nuts are naturally high in fat, and even these “good fats” can lead to pancreatitis in companion animals. Macadamia nuts have been linked to lethargy, weakness, tremors and seizures in dogs with a history of ingestion. While researchers have yet to identify the compound that causes these symptoms, the connection has been proven definitively.
In addition to caffeine, chocolate contains a substance called theobromine which is toxic to dogs and cats. Clinical signs of theobromine toxicity include vomiting, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, muscle rigidity, elevated body temperature, and seizures. While all chocolate can create problems, a general rule is the darker the chocolate, the greater the threat. Baking chocolate and cocoa powder are particularly dangerous.
Grapes and Raisins
These healthy treats contain a substance that has yet to be identified, but has been definitively linked to kidney failure in dogs and cats. Because they are often given to children as healthy snacks, it is important to make sure that the youngest guests at the table understand that they will make pets very sick.
Cooking Debris
Cooking twine, turkey bones, discarded fat, foil pans, and greasy paper towels are just a few of the reasons we are open on Black Friday. Make sure garbage bags are off the floor and out of reach. Secure garbage bins and clear counter tops as soon as possible. If your dog is crate trained or your kitty is happy in a separate room, you may want to consider keeping them out of the kitchen altogether.
The Most Important Tip Of All
Have a safe and wonderful holiday! Happy Thanksgiving from your friends at NBC 6 and Sabal Chase Animal Clinic!

Dr. Kupkee is the lead practitioner at Sabal Chase Animal Clinic in Miami.

Do you have a question for Dr. Kupkee? Send him an email by clicking here.

Click here to check out great deals and discounts exclusively for NBC 6 viewers.

<![CDATA[Stuff the Turkey, Not Your Pet!]]> Wed, 18 Nov 2015 10:55:53 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/160*160/12063138406001099598867586196278n.jpg

The Thanksgiving holiday is almost here, but did you know it can be dangerous for your pet?

"So much of Thanksgiving centers around food and eating that people are often tempted to feed a traditional holiday meal - complete with turkey and stuffing - to their pets. But those foods can actually make your dog or cat very sick, and at times, can even be deadly," cautions Dr. Tim Johnson, Veterinarian, Broward County Animal Care and Adoption Division.

Here's a list of reminders for keeping your pets safe this holiday season. 

1. Keep your pet on his regular feeding schedule and feed its regular food. Stick with your routine and feed your pet at the same time you would normally.

2. Do not feed your pet any part of the meal. While people may think turkey is safe, often the seasoning from the turkey drippings, along with the skin and gravy can cause pancreatitis - inflammation of the pancreas. Turkey bones are particularly dangerous since they can splinter and cause intestinal damage. Keep your pet in another room so it can't beg at the table.

3. Secure the garbage pail! Table scraps, food wrappings, bones and other items can be very tempting. Items like aluminum foil and the string from the turkey can be harmful if consumed. Be sure that all trash containers, both inside the house and outside, are securely closed so that animals cannot tear through the garbage for a private Thanksgiving feast.

4. Do not give your pets chocolate, alcohol or eggnog! Chocolate is toxic and can affect the heart and nervous system. Alcohol can cause coma and even death. Eggnog is very rich and can cause diarrhea. 

5. Most importantly, make sure your pet is wearing proper identification. Pets can easily escape through the front or back doors when guests come into your home. Remember - all dogs and cats within the County must be registered and wear the Broward County Registration tag on a secure collar. This is the best way to ensure that your pet is reunited with you if he or she becomes lost during the Thanksgiving holiday or any other day.

About Animal Care
Broward County Animal Care and Adoption is dedicated to providing shelter for lost and homeless animals. The agency provides access to hundreds of shelter pets hoping for a new home. Please prevent unwanted animals and have your pet spayed or neutered. For more information about the agency, visit our website, or like us on Facebook.

Photo Credit: bettedavisdog/Instagram]]>
<![CDATA[Zoo Miami Welcomes Sumatran Tiger Cub]]> Mon, 23 Nov 2015 13:14:28 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/180*120/tiger110.jpg

Zoo Miami has an adorable new addition!

Representatives with Zoo Miami announced that a 4-year-old female Sumatran tiger named Leelo gave birth to a male cub on Saturday, Nov. 14. This was Leelo's first pregnancy.

The cub has been in seclusion with his mother since his birth. Zoo officials hope that the isolation will protect the mother and cub and help them to establish a strong mother-son bond.

Staff members are keeping their distance from mother and cub

This marks the first Sumatran tiger birth at Zoo Miami, and only the fourth in the United States this year.

Currently, there are only 70 Sumatran tigers living in U.S. zoos.

Researchers believe there are fewer than 500 of the engandered Sumatran tigers in the wild.

Photo Credit: Zoo Miami]]>
<![CDATA[Kitten Rescued from Vehicle in Fort Lauderdale]]> Thu, 19 Nov 2015 21:58:47 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/111915+kitten+rescued.jpg A lucky kitten was rescued from a vehicle during the morning commute Thursday. A driver heard a little meow on their way into Fort Lauderdale. Firefighters were called and they were able to free the little animal.]]> <![CDATA[Wildlife Center Clears Brown Pelican for Takeoff]]> Thu, 19 Nov 2015 20:53:09 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/111915+pelican+release.jpg

A pelican who was rescued by a local fisherman in March was released back to nature on Thursday.

The pelican was admitted to the South Florida Wildlife Center, suffering from loss of vision in his left eye due to a severe cataract.

The SFWC enlisted the help of Dr. Robert Swinger of Premier Veterinary Specialties to perform pro-bono cataract surgery.

After several months of rehabilitation and veterinary care at the SFWC, the pelican's vision has returned and he was cleared for takeoff.

Photo Credit: SFWC]]>
<![CDATA[Broward Humane Society Adoptable Pets]]> Thu, 19 Nov 2015 16:57:48 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/183*120/111915+Bandit.jpg Adorable animals up for adoption in Broward County.]]> <![CDATA[Highlighting Importance of Police Dogs Amid Death of French K-9]]> Thu, 19 Nov 2015 14:59:21 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/214*120/111815+diesel+french+dog+killed.jpg

The death of French police dog Diesel has been trending worldwide Wednesday. He was killed during raids targeting the suspected planner of last week's Paris attacks, 27-year-old Abdelhamid Abaaoud.

On Wednesday, NBC 6 received a closer look at just how important those police dogs are in helping in the fight against terrorism.

We spent some time with the K-9 Unit at the Coral Gables Police Department. Officers said losing a police dog can be just like losing a human police partner.

Diesel, 7, was a Belgian Malinois.

"If you talk to any K-9 handler, they will tell you, losing your dog is the hardest experience," said Officer Gordon Dickinson with CGPD.

Officer Dickinson is the longest standing member of the CGPD K-9 Unit. His dog Stitch is his third in 16 years. He said medical issues forced him to put his first two down, and it was hard. He can only imagine what the French officer who Diesel was assigned to is going through.

"I suspect he's distraught. It's very tough."

French police tweeted the announcement of Diesel's death, and it was retweeted thousands of times.

William Delaney is with the National Police Support Team. The organization has donated bullet proof vests for dogs like these to different police departments in South Florida. He said K-9's must be protected, just like their human police partners. Often times, the animals are the first line of defense.

"They will send these dogs in where they don't go," Delaney explained.

French police did not say exactly how Diesel died but said it happened during the raids, and it was reported a woman set off a suicide vest.

Belgian Malinois dogs have a proud tradition in law enforcement and are valued for their ability to detect the odor of explosives, accelerants and narcotics.

Photo Credit: French Police]]>
<![CDATA[Alligator Crashes Picnic: Eats Food, Unfazed by Camera]]> Wed, 18 Nov 2015 12:39:05 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/GatorPicnic1118_MP4_1200x675_569171523513.jpg An alligator showed up as an uninvited guest at a Florida trio's picnic and started munching on the food spread.]]> <![CDATA[Rehabilitated Sea Turtle Released off Key Largo]]> Tue, 17 Nov 2015 07:01:11 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/197*120/rsz_4rsz_bill_intake_photo.jpg

A hawksbill sea turtle who was found critically injured in October by a dive operator was returned to the sea last week after undergoing rehabilitation for its injuries.

Named "Lucky Bill" by rehabilitation teams at The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, the animal was missing part of his front left flipper and was lethargic when divers from the Rainbow Reef Dive Center found him while diving on French Reef.

The divers worked under the direction of Turtle Hospital staff to bring the hurt turtle to shore. Turtle Hospital teams treated Bill for an intestinal impaction, and also aided in the healing of the turtle's flipper injury.

After a few weeks of rehabilitation, Bill was transported in the turtle ambulance back to Key Largo and released back into his ocean home last Sunday.

If you come across a sick or injured sea turtle, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's 24-hour Wildlife Alert Number at 1-888-404-FWCC for assistance and instructions.

<![CDATA[Miami-Dade Animal Services Adoptable Pets]]> Thu, 19 Nov 2015 09:24:32 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/180*120/Sara+A1737565.jpg Check out the adorable animals up for adoption in Miami-Dade.]]> <![CDATA[Adopting a Senior Pet]]> Tue, 17 Nov 2015 09:10:13 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/160*120/Dog+and+Cat+Friends.jpg

by Heather Loenser, DVM

Try to guess the best kept secret in the pet rescue world. If you answered, “Adopting an older cat or dog”, then pat yourself on the back. It’s the best gift you can give yourself…and the pet you’re adopting. And now’s the perfect time: November is “Adopt a Senior Pet Month.”

Think of all the reasons why a senior pet is the perfect fit:
• He’s a lot calmer than a rambunctious puppy or kitten
• He may have had experience living with someone…and may adjust to children and other pets more readily.
• He’s likely housetrained, so you won’t be getting up in the middle of the night to take him out…or find puddles on your carpet when you get home.
• He probably knows basic obedience commands, so if you accidentally drop a glass, he’ll may know to “stay” and not cut himself.
• He’ll be less destructive. The days of chewing shoes and swallowing socks are far behind him.


So what does “old” really mean? Most pet owners multiply their pet’s age by 7 and think that’s the age in human years. But that’s not quite accurate.

The American Animal Hospital Association offers a wide age range for pets that are considered “senior”: 7-11 years old for a cat and 5-8 years old for a dog.

Traditional veterinary dogma believes that the larger the dog, the faster he ages.
For example, a small dog like a Chihuahua is considered a senior at 8 years old. But it’s not unusual for one – given proper care- to live into his late ‘teens. A Great Dane, on the other hand, is considered a senior at age 5 with a lifespan of 7-10 years.

Making an evidence-based determination of when all pets should be considered “senior” is difficult because of breed and species differences.

Veterinarians use the term “Senior” when a dog or cat has reached the last 25% of their life expectancy.  Your veterinarian can help you understand your pet's true age. Learn more here

Senior dogs, like senior people, have a lot of life left in them. Many of them still enjoy hiking, long walks, swimming and chasing their favorite critters. Learn more about caring for dogs at every stage of life here.

Senior cats are also a good bet! They fight the signs of aging for years and many have very similar behavior to when they were young. It’s often impossible to differentiate between a three year old and well cared for thirteen year old cat.
The American Animal Hospital Association has great resources on how to care for cats at any life stage.


Here are questions to ask yourself:

Q: Do I want a dog who still is very active but who won’t destroy the house with his excessive energy?
A: YES? Consider adopting a 7-12 year-old mix-breed with retriever, pointer, pit bull or hound in her lineage.
Q: Do I want a dog to just keep my couch warm and give me lots of love?
A: YES? Try a retired racing greyhound. Believe it or not, greyhounds are fantastic couch potatoes and there are hundreds waiting in shelters for forever homes.
Q: Do I want a pint-sized companion who I can carry with me to Starbucks and take on the plane?
A: YES? Opt for a breed like a Chihuahua (one of the most common little cuties waiting to be rescued) or poodle mix.
Older cats can make fantastic travel companions, too, especially if they enjoy nesting in a carrier.
Q: Do I want to help a medically-challenged dog or cat live out her life comfortably in a loving home?
A: YES? Look online or visit your local shelter for a pet with “Special Needs.” Certain “needs,” such as having only one eye or three legs, actually require little extra care. If you fall in love with a pet with other medical issues and have concerns about care, speak to a veterinarian before you adopt.


Just as life expectancy in humans has increased, the same has happened with our pets. Veterinary medicine has reached a golden age in our ability treat pets in their golden years. Veterinary practices are delivering higher-quality medical care to family pets, and animals are living well past what used to be considered a normal life span. Likewise, veterinary practices are diagnosing and outlining treatments for greater numbers of chronic and age-related diseases.

While your veterinarian may have access to cutting-edge treatments specifically geared for older animals including pain management, MRIs and chemotherapy, kidney transplants, acupuncture and herbal therapies, not every senior pet needs this type of aggressive treatment.

If you choose to share your life with an older pet, there is no shortage of resources for you to be sure that the time you spend with him will be rewarding and peaceful.


Once you bring your “new-to-you” senior pet home from the shelter, the next step is to visit is your veterinarian who can identify diseases that could have been transmitted within the shelter or prior to adoption. Many veterinarians follow the American Animal Hospital Association’s (AAHA) Senior Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats which recommend that “senior” wellness tests begin for pets at middle age to establish baseline values and to ensure that there are no clinically silent health abnormalities. If your pet is middle aged, your vet may recommend a physical exam and laboratory testing every year or every 6 months for senior pet.

As pets age, they can develop problems similar to those seen in elderly people. These health issues can include cancer, heart disease, kidney/urinary tract disease, liver disease, diabetes, joint or bone disease, senility, and weakness.

Be sure to keep a close eye on her as more changes occur in older bodies.

As your pet ages, so do you. What’s more special than aging together?

For more information, click on the links below:

1.       AAHA’s main Website

2.       Hospital locator

3.       Senior Dog and Cat Guidelines

4.       Dog and Cat Life Stage Guidelines

5.       The Dental Guidelines.

Heather Loenser, DVM
Staff Veterinary Advisor for the American Animal Hospital Association
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) is the only organization that accredits veterinary practices in the United States and Canada. Not all animal hospitals are accredited. In fact, only about 3,500 (12-15%) animal hospitals in the United States and Canada are accredited. Find out if your pet's veterinary hospital is accredited. If they are non-accredited? Ask them to consider accreditation!


<![CDATA[Team Building Furry Style]]> Fri, 13 Nov 2015 14:33:55 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/180*120/Puppy+kisses.JPG

Does your company love animals and want to make a difference? The Humane Society of Broward County would like to introduce you to five programs to get you and your company involved…and you may just find your next furry family member at the same time.

Pawsitive Service Day is for adult groups of 10 – 25 people to volunteer at the shelter on a weekday 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. The day includes a presentation, tour, working with the dogs and cats and an overview of the annual Walk for the Animals. The cost is $25 per person. Contact Darlene at 954-266-6848 or dfeldman@hsbroward.com to book your service day or for more details.

Shelter Pets Come to You during an HSBC snuggle delivery! This is exactly what it sounds like. Not everyone can reap the benefits of snuggling with puppies and kittens so we came up with the idea to bring the adoptable little ones to you at your workplace. You can schedule our furry friends for a snuggle delivery for a minimum donation of $500 to the shelter. For more details visit humanebroward.com and visit the “Services” tab.

Yappy Hour at the HSBC is a new program that enables businesses to bring their employees to the shelter for a night of fun and a chance to help out the homeless animals. Yappy hour is for groups of 10 or more (maximum 100) that would like to come and join us on a weekday from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. for wine, beer and cheese along with a tour, puppy/kitty snuggle and making toys for the homeless animals. The cost is $35.00 per person. Contact Katie at 954-266-6875 with any questions or learn more under the “Get Involved” tab on the website.

Office Cats are ready to move in. This unique program allows offices and small businesses in South Florida to essentially act as cat adoption counselors and foster a cat until they find it a new home. The HSBC will match your business with a cat that will interact well with your employees, customers, and office environment. The shelter provides food, litter box, bed, toys, veterinary care and other supplies. The employees provide the TLC. Interested? Email officecat@hsbroward.com

Join a Pack … the Walk for the Animals is the shelter’s largest annual fundraiser and you and your coworkers can join together to make a team or “pack” and raise funds and awareness for the animals. The walk is March 5, 2016 and to learn more visit www.humanebroward.com and go to “Get Involved” to sign up.

The Humane Society of Broward County is conveniently located at 2070 Griffin Road, just a block west of I-95. The HSBC is a private, non-profit organization supported by donations from people and companies who want to help us help the animals. The shelter receives no government funding and is not affiliated with any local or national organization with a similar name. Please call 954-989-3977 for more details.

<![CDATA[19th Annual Brunch for the Animals]]> Fri, 13 Nov 2015 13:50:45 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Brunch+for+the+Aniamls+2015.jpg

Sunday brunch is always a culinary treat. But when you can take your best furry friend along it is the best! And, if you have never been to the Brunch for the Animals you are really missing out. Presented and hosted by the Fontainebleau Miami Beach for the third year on Sunday, November 22, 2015, this event combines an array of scrumptious and gourmet food for the dogs and their owners, as well as fabulous shopping, great fun and camaraderie in an elegant, picture perfect garden setting. It is a truly magical afternoon!

The Humane Society of Greater Miami’s Brunch for the Animals takes place annually to raise funds for the care, medical treatment and shelter of more than 400 animals on a daily basis. Always scheduled right before the holidays, guests will be able to start their holiday shopping early at an exciting silent auction and enjoy many of the Fontainebleau hotel retailers. We are honored to have Alan G. Randolph, Steven Rodriguez, Amy Zakarin and Isaac Rosenberg as Chairs of the event.

Our fabulous hosts for the Brunch for the Animals are: Michele Addison, Lana and Michael Bernstein, Angela and Louis Birdman, Sam Blum, Mariana and Simon Cruz, Irene  Korge, Suzanne and Todd Legon, Lesley Lyons-Monahan, Jackie and Jorge Munilla, Harvey Daniels and Sabine Otamendi, Perry Ellis International, Laura and Jay Parker, James Provencher, Megan Riley, Adam and Brooke Rosenfeld, Durée and Dwayne Ross, Brigitt Rok, Kane Sarhan, Hayley Sloman, Michael Comras and Daniela Swaebe, Judge Bronwyn Miller and Maury Udell, Elena Vertlib, Deborah Young and Elizabeth Van Walleghem.

To date, Brunch for the Animals sponsors include: Brooke Soffer, Fontainebleau Miami Beach, C1 Bank, Edlen Electric, Eventstar, Gloria Estefan Foundation, Karla Conceptual Event Experiences, Southern Audio Visual, Square One Branding, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, CBS4 and Zakarin Martinez Public Relations. Tickets for the event are $200 per person and $50 per child ages three to ten. There is no charge for the stars of the event, our dogs!

The Humane Society of Greater Miami is dedicated to placing every dog and cat into a loving home, and to promoting responsible pet ownership and spay/neuter programs.

For more information call Dani at 305-749-1825 or email dani@humanesocietymiami.org.

<![CDATA[Broward Humane Society Adoptable Pets]]> Fri, 13 Nov 2015 08:34:47 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Wrigley+542255+Juicy+Fruit+5455541112.jpg Check out the adorable animals up for adoption in Broward County.]]> <![CDATA[Dog Who Guarded Friend to Go Home]]> Wed, 11 Nov 2015 07:53:54 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Brian-the-Pyrenees.jpg

The loyal Texas dog found waiting beside his fallen friend this week will be reunited with his family, animal rescuers said Tuesday.

Heart-wrenching photos of a Great Pyrenees dog found standing guard by his deceased friend's side near the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery Sunday went viral.

"He's obviously being loyal to a friend who passed away and he’s mourning," animal advocate Julie Fennell said.

He was taken to Dallas Animal Services in hopes his family would be found. On Tuesday, DAS reported they'd found the Great Pyrenees' family and that his name is Brian.

They also learned the deceased dog belonged to the same family and was a 1-year-old Shepherd mix named Marley.

Brian and Marley disappeared from the family home Sunday when someone accidentally left the garage door open.

Marley, it is believed, was killed when he was hit by a car.

The family said it was grateful for the support of rescuers, DAS and the community. Brian will be microchipped and neutered before returning home.

Photo Credit: NBC DFW/Samuel Flores]]>
<![CDATA[9-Foot Python Found Underneath Porch: Miami FR]]> Wed, 11 Nov 2015 12:50:11 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/194*120/111115+python+found+at+miami+home.JPG

A 9-foot Burmese Python was found slithering outside a Miami home underneath a front porch late Tuesday evening.

Homeowner Judy Tortoriello called 911 around 8:30 p.m. after she and neighbors saw that the snake was on her property in the area of Bayshore Drive and 18th Avenue. Miami Fire Rescue teams arrived to find the snake hiding underneath her front porch.

Miami-Fire Rescue venom response teams were called in to assist.

"We could see it through the slats, so we kind of knew where it was," Lt. Lisa Wood of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Venom Unit told NBC 6. Wood said MFR and venom teams worked together to get the snake scared enough to poke its head out from under the porch, enabling them to safely bag it.

"It was scary," said Tortoriello of the ordeal. "I'm glad it's out, because I do have four cats. I don't want a snake to kill my cat or anything like that!"

Wood said the invasive Burmese Python poses a danger to small animals, but that they're afraid of humans. She told NBC 6 that it is not as common to see the pythons in this part of Miami, and that there is no way to tell whether the python was someone's escaped pet or if it made its way to the area through waterways.

The animal will be transported to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Photo Credit: Miami Fire Rescue]]>
<![CDATA[Miami-Dade Animal Services Adoptable Pets]]> Thu, 12 Nov 2015 15:26:45 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/160*120/Lola+A1729003.jpg Check out the furry friends looking for forever homes in Miami-Dade.]]> <![CDATA[Pup Thrown From Moving Car at NMB Police Station]]> Tue, 10 Nov 2015 18:33:21 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/243*120/111015+north+miami+beach+puppy.JPG

A small black-and-white puppy is recovering after being thrown from a moving car in front of the North Miami Beach police station Monday.

According to the North Miami Beach Police Department's Twitter account, the female puppy was tossed from a moving car around 7:15 p.m. Monday in front of the station, located at 16901 Northeast 19th Avenue in North Miami Beach.

Officers tweeted that the puppy is OK, and that Officer Luis Soto took her home.

"Apparently someone had it in the vehicle and was traveling so they must have thrown it out the door," Officer Soto said.

Anyone with information as to who threw the puppy from the vehicle should contact Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS.

Photo Credit: Twitter: @myNMBPolice
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<![CDATA[Gator Shows Up at Tampa Doorstep at 3 a.m.: Cops]]> Mon, 09 Nov 2015 11:59:23 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/12196179_955032281235638_2028212975440969693_n.jpg

An alligator who was about two weeks late for Halloween showed up outside a Tampa-area home early Monday morning.

According to the Tampa Police Department's Facebook page, the 9-foot alligator appeared at a doorstep in New Tampa around 3 a.m.

The quaint house still had a pumpkin and Halloween decorations out front.

"No candy for this guy," police joked in the Facebook post.

A trapper was called in and managed to safely relocate the animal to a local gator farm.

Photo Credit: Facebook: Tampa Police Department]]>
<![CDATA[Key Largo Animal Shelter Caring for Migrant Dogs]]> Fri, 06 Nov 2015 17:07:29 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/110615+migrant+dogs.jpg

Two dogs that crossed the Florida Straits with Cuban migrants are being cared for by a shelter in Key Largo and will soon be up for adoption.

The dogs were reportedly aboard a Cuban sailboat that made landfall Oct. 29 in Islamorada, according to the Florida Keys Keynoter. The two were then turned over to Monroe County's Key Largo Animal Shelter.

An animal control officer picked them up at Cheeca Lodge and Resort, where the sailboat grounded with a dozen men and women on board.

The mixed-breed dogs, Leo and Lexi, weigh 30-40 pounds and are at least a year old. The shelter said the male had suffered an open facial cut and both were starving.

Shelter staff bathed the dogs and started a regimen of vaccinations.

The shelter said no family has come to claim the dogs. Once they are spayed/neutered, they will be up for adoption:

Humane Animal Care Coalition, Inc
105951 Overseas Highway (MM 106)
Key Largo, FL 33037

Photo Credit: Key Largo Animal Shelter]]>
<![CDATA[Broward Humane Society Adoptable Pets]]> Thu, 05 Nov 2015 21:12:48 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Ralph1105.jpg Check out this week's gallery of animals up for adoption at the Broward Humane Society.]]> <![CDATA[Miami-Dade Animal Services Adoptable Pets]]> Fri, 06 Nov 2015 08:36:13 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/160*120/Frodo+A1731637.jpg Check out the furry friends looking for forever homes in Miami-Dade.]]> <![CDATA[Preventing Dog Shootings by Police]]> Fri, 06 Nov 2015 08:42:25 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/160*175/Duchess+Dog+Shot+by+Cop.JPG

by Dr. Ian Kupkee

My new neighbor is a police officer. For the purpose of this article, I’ll call him Bob. Two weeks ago, I was puttering around the garage after walking our younger dog, Zohan. He was still on his leash, and the garage door was open. I turned my back to look for something, and in that split second of distraction, Bob came walking up the driveway to say hello. Zohan went ballistic. I tightened my grip on the leash - only to drop it. So there I stood, bellowing like a maniac while my barking dog charged full speed ahead at the police officer in my driveway.

That same week, an eerily similar scene played out at a residence in Florida City. Like millions of others, I’ve watched the video - and often wished I had not. I also wish there had been audio on the clip, and I wish I could have seen the incident from additional angles. It’s hard to write an opinion piece when you don’t have all the facts. So I’m going to do the best I can, with what little information I have.

In a perfect world, I’d love to do so without getting dragged into the toxic pit of vitriol that damn near drowned the internet the day it happened. Don’t get me wrong - I’m angry too, and I absolutely want answers. But some of the comments I’ve read are almost as disturbing as the contents of the video. This is neither helpful nor constructive and it needs to stop.Seriously, people. Enough.

First and foremost, enough with the owner-blaming. Granted, Duchess' owner failed to contain her pet. Yes, it is the responsibility of every dog owner - including me - to keep our pets under control and out of harm’s way at all times. It is a given that Dutchess’ owner should have secured her dog before the door was opened. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate that her owner is well aware of this fact. She is no doubt kicking herself, so what do you say we cut her some slack?

She was not expecting a knock at her door, and accidents happen in the nanoseconds it takes us to blink, pee, or answer the phone. They happen to all of us, including you, Judgey McJudgerson. Have some compassion, or at least keep your opinions to yourself. Someday it will be your turn, and when it happens, the last thing you’ll want to deal with is a bunch of armchair quarterbacks smugly stating the obvious. This family has suffered a devastating loss.

Once again, I implore you: Enough.

Let’s move on to the breed-blaming. It would be so easy to resolve dog-related conflict if DNA was truly the issue. But the most recent and comprehensive scientific studies have thoroughly debunked this belief. Even if this were not the case, there’s another annoying little hole in the “it needed to be shot because it was a pit bull” argument: Dutchess was not a pit bull. A quick look at the still photos makes this clear. Her nose was too long, her legs too lanky, her back was too long, her chest was too narrow.

She was supposedly a cross between a Labrador and an American Bulldog, but even that description does not sit well with me. While no one will ever know for sure, the dog whose photograph haunts me looks like a hodgepodge of a Labrador and maybe some kind of herding or working breed. Maybe. That’s the best I can do, and all of you “experts” citing your so-called credentials are just making yourselves look silly.

Fellow journalists, that goes for you too. One of you described Dutchess as a bull terrier. Come on, folks - at least do a Google image search. Get it right, or better yet, don’t report it. It isn’t relevant.

I said it before, I’ll say it again. Enough.

Finally, let’s talk about the cop hating. Wow ... just ...wow. My wife, Lynn, is fond of saying “you don’t need to be nice, you do need to be fair.” So let’s be fair, shall we?

Many commentators are howling that the police officer involved “had no business being on that property.” To be fair, he was not there because the homeowner had called him. But let’s walk through the scenario with a cop’s-eye view. The officer noticed the homeowner’s car was empty, yet her car door was wide open. Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, we know now that she was making multiple trips to and from the car as she loaded it up for work. But I’ve had several cops tell me that this type of scene very closely resembles that of an abduction.

What if the car door had been open because the owner had been ambushed? Had this homeowner been forced from her vehicle, dragged into her home, and was about to have her throat slit, we would be calling this same cop a hero. Make no mistake - I am not defending this officer’s decision to shoot, and I’ll get to that in a minute. But do we really want a police force that looks the other way when their instincts tell them to investigate? If not, we need to stop crucifying the lot of them when one bad shoot makes the headlines. The rallying cries for the blood, torture and murder of this officer have made my own blood run cold. We are well within our rights to demand answers and justice. We are not, however, entitled to demand blood for blood. Enough.

That’s what I read. Let’s talk about what I saw.

Those of you claiming “the dog was clearly in attack mode” have “clearly” never been attacked by a dog. An aggressive or defensive dog displays body language that I did not see in this video. On the contrary, I saw a dog that was low to the ground in an excited, but submissive posture. I’d love some audio. I’d love some close-ups. I’d love a side view. But speaking as someone who must assess canine body language every day, I do not see anything in that video that would lead me to fear for my life.

I’ve had many exchanges with clients who insisted their dogs would never, ever bite - clients who were then rendered speechless when their dogs bit me or lunged at my nurse. People in my profession see things that the untrained eye does not, and my trained eye does not see a dog whose behavior posed a threat to human life.

Perhaps a different angle of view might tell a better story; perhaps she was about to bite the officer’s foot. But even that possible scenario begs the question of why deadly force was deemed the only option. In my experience, a dog that means business will take aim at the face, neck, arm, or torso. While I won’t say I would be happy about being bitten on the foot, I would not respond to the threat of such a bite by ending an animal’s life.

Off-leash dogs are a huge problem in Miami and I understand that. In fact, I have literally lost count of the number of times I have been charged while walking my own dogs. I have gotten into the habit of carrying a marine air horn on our walks. I have found that the blast of noise from these things is enough to stop even the most unruly dog in its tracks.

Dogs can be frightening - I get it. Even dogs who are on leashes can be dangerous if the owner is not in control. During one of our first years in business, a new client walked in with an 80-pound, intact male German Shephard. There was nothing subtle about this dog’s body language as he bared his teeth and growled at my other patients. When my wife approached the owner with the forms he needed to fill out, the dog raised his hackles and lunged at her chest. So when I say I understand how even “family pets” can be frightening, trust me - I absolutely understand. Yet Lynn was able to stop the dog simply by using the clipboard to block him. When his head made contact with the clipboard, he jumped back, blinking and looking perplexed. While this tactic would not have worked on a trained attack dog, this was not a trained attack dog. And neither was Dutchess.

I don’t share this anecdote for the purpose of bragging about the awesome woman I married. I share it because it demonstrates how a 135-pound female was able to neutralize an 80-pound dog with a piece of particle board. Granted she has some training, and that’s my point - how is it that our police force does not?

I can hear the trolls clacking away at their keyboards already.

“All this fuss over a dog!” “It’s just a stupid dog!”

But like every other aspect of this case, it’s really not that simple. While Dutchess’ death cut me to the core, the shooting would have bothered me even if the officer had missed. Her owner was standing roughly three feet away when the latter shots were fired. The owner’s son reportedly watched from the window.

Bullets can ricochet - and they do. Shots can miss - and they do. The decision to discharge a firearm always carries a consequence, the most devastating of which is the accidental shooting of an innocent bystander. When that decision is made in a residential area, the risk of that consequence increases exponentially.

This incident occurred dangerously close to at least one human being. In a true life or death situation, that risk is justifiable. But I am not convinced that the risk presented by a 40-pound dog justifies the risk to the humans in such close proximity. Perhaps this time it was “just a dog," but what about the next time? “We don’t need to be nice, we do need to be fair.” Is it fair to say that our law enforcement officers should be better trained in threat assessment, and less so in threat elimination?

I began this musing with the story of my neighbor, a police officer who had an unexpected encounter with one of my dogs. I watched in horror as Zohan plowed toward him and Lynn tried in vain to grab his leash. Officer Bob stopped, allowed Zohan to sniff him, then laughed heartily as Zohan rolled onto his back for a belly rub. In that moment a friendship was born. Granted, Zohan is a much smaller dog, and I like to think Bob knows me well enough to assume that I would not own a vicious dog. My point is that he handled the situation with professionalism, restraint, humor, and far more grace than my recalcitrant dog deserved. My point is that it can be done.

In Milwaukee,in fact, it has been done. After a series of incidents like the one in Florida City, officials became concerned over the rift that was developing between law enforcement officers, and the citizenry they are sworn to protect. The public relations nightmare, combined with a growing sense of distrust prompted the city to take action. After implementing new training in 2008 that focused on how to identify threatening canine body language, the number of dogs shot by police went from 48 per year from 2000-2008 to just 28 in 2012.

In other words, what happened to Dutchess was not an isolated incident. On the contrary, stories like Dutchess’s have become so common, that a new word is creeping into the American vernacular: “puppycide."

Between 2010 and 2012, nearly 100 dogs were shot by police - in metro Atlanta alone. In 2013, an animal care group estimated that a dog is shot by a police officer every 98 minutes in the U.S.

Regardless of how one chooses to dissect that number, the fact remains that it is too high. It represents too many incidents, too many dogs, too many risks, too much outrage, and way too many broken hearts.

I said it before, I’ll say it one last time:


Dr. Kupkee is the lead practitioner at Sabal Chase Animal Clinic in Miami.

Do you have a question for Dr. Kupkee? Send him an email by clicking here.

<![CDATA[Howl-O-Ween Pet Safety]]> Fri, 30 Oct 2015 08:19:10 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/160*120/Dr+Kupkee+and+Halloween.JPG

No matter how old you are, or whether or not you have kids, Halloween is fun! But just like during other hectic holidays, fun and games need to be tempered with a little due diligence. Here are some tips to keep your fur kids safe this Halloween.
Keep all candy away from pets
While cats are not generally drawn to candy, dogs will eat it with gusto - especially chocolate! Chocolate contains theobromine, an alkaloid that is toxic to companion animals. Clinical signs of theobromine poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, Excessive panting, and increased urination. These signs can to progress to irregular heartbeats, seizures, internal bleeding, cardiac arrest, and even death. While the amount of theobromine found in dark chocolate or baking chocolate is much higher than amounts found in milk chocolate, all chocolate candies can pose serious risks to your pet. The high fat and sugar contents can lead to gastrointestinal upset or life-threatening pancreatitis.
In addition to chocolate, nuts can pose problems for pets as well. Their shape, size, and texture make them difficult to digest, and in the worst case scenario, they can cause an obstruction that requires a surgical repair. Walnuts can contain toxins produced by fungi that can lead to neurological symptoms, and macadamia nuts have been linked to muscle tremors, hindquarter paralysis, high fever and rapid heart rate. As of this writing, veterinary researchers have not identified the substance that causes these symptoms. Raisins must also be kept away from pets.   Raisins and grapes contain compounds that have been linked to kidney failure in dogs. And it only takes a small amount to make them seriously ill.
Sugar free candy must also be kept out of a pet’s reach. Xyliltol, an artificial sweetener found in many sugar free sweets, can cause a life-threatening drop in blood sugar within 10-15 minutes of ingestion. Larger doses can lead to liver necrosis, kidney failure, and death. Xylotil is a common added ingredient in toothpaste, mouthwash, medications and supplements, so be sure to check with your veterinarian before giving your pet any products intended for human use.
It is important to make sure children know about the doggie dangers in their trick-or-treat bags. Make sure they know that candy is never to be shared, and must be stored out of your pet's reach. Ask them to bring any unwanted candy to an adult so they will not be tempted to get rid of it by sharing it with your pet. If your pet has a habit of getting into the trash, try to find a creative solution for unwanted candy.
Remember that Halloween is scary
While many pets are happy to join in the fun, some find it absolutely terrifying. Constant knocking, strangers at the door, loud noises, crazy costumes - all of these things can be frightening to dogs and cats. Since the front door is likely to opening and closing often, the best place for your cat may be in another room, behind a closed door, with access to food, water, and a litter box. If your dog is not having fun, it's okay to put her in her kennel. Frightened animals may bolt through open doors. Additionally, a frightened dog is statistically likely to bite. Keep a watchful eye on both dogs and children, and calmly remove dogs from situations that may trigger a bite.
Clean up after crafts
If you are making Halloween costumes this year, clean up all crafting debris as soon as possible. Shiny needles and wispy threads are irresistible to cats. When swallowed, they present a life-threatening emergency. Ribbons and strings can cause problems as well, so keep your kitty away from the crafting supplies.
Keep pets inside
As Halloween approaches, our neighbors may decide to head out for a bit of mischief. Do not leave pets unattended outside where they can be teased, harassed, or frightened.
Most importantly - have fun! By taking a few simple precautions, we can save our pets from a scary Halloween trip to the vet.
Do you have a question for Dr. Kupkee? Send him an email by clicking here.
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<![CDATA[Broward Humane Society Adoptable Pets]]> Thu, 29 Oct 2015 21:07:31 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/hsbcRed.jpg Check out the adorable animals up for adoption in Broward County.]]> <![CDATA[Palm Beach County Deputies 'Pull Over' Tortoise]]> Thu, 29 Oct 2015 11:59:03 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/102915+PBSO+tortoise.jpg

A tortoise was "pulled over" in Palm Beach County for doing what comes naturally: going too slowly.

According to the Facebook page for the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, the tortoise was plodding along Wednesday on Gateway Boulevard westbound, just west of Lawrence Road Wednesday, and causing traffic problems.

Deputies "pulled over" the tortoise and placed him in the rear of their patrol vehicle.

Deputies decided not to take the tortoise to jail, instead opting to deliver the animal to Busch Wildlife Sanctuary in Jupiter.

Photo Credit: Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office]]>
<![CDATA[Dog Stolen From Homestead Training Center Found]]> Thu, 29 Oct 2015 10:21:00 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/102815+bear+german+shepherd+found.jpg

A German Shepherd that was stolen from a Homestead dog training company has been found safe.

Bear, the 11-week-old service dog, was found Wednesday on Southwest 257th Street, trainer Allan Castillo said.

The dog was stolen earlier this week from Top Dog America when a trainer stepped away to have lunch. Bear's owner is a 23-year-old paralyzed man who needs him to get around.

Photo Credit: Miami-Dade Police]]>
<![CDATA[Miami-Dade Animal Services Adoptable Pets]]> Tue, 27 Oct 2015 21:11:59 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/180*120/Jake+A1734492.JPG Check out the furry friends looking for forever homes in Miami-Dade.]]> <![CDATA[German Shepherd Stolen From Dog Training Company]]> Tue, 27 Oct 2015 08:25:10 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/214*120/102615+stolen+german+shepherd.jpg A Homestead dog training company needs the public's help tracking down its stolen German Shepherd puppy.]]> <![CDATA[Last Chance Dogs at Broward Animal Care]]> Fri, 23 Oct 2015 13:03:35 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/169*120/Ariel-A1771348++%284%29+%28Large%29.JPG Last Chance Dogs at Broward Animal Care]]> <![CDATA[Broward Humane Society Adoptable Pets]]> Thu, 22 Oct 2015 21:28:32 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Tyler1022.jpg Check out the adorable animals up for adoption at the Broward Humane Society.]]> <![CDATA[Newborn Grevy's Zebra Makes Debut at Zoo Miami]]> Thu, 22 Oct 2015 21:12:48 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/102215+zoo+miami+baby+zebra.jpg

Zoo Miami's newborn Grevy's zebra made its exhibit debut on Thursday, along with its mother and another female.

The male foal was born on Sunday after a gestation period of approximately 13 months and weighed in at 104 pounds.

The first time mother is just over 3-years-old and came from Omaha's Henry Doorley Zoo and the father is 17-years-old and came from White Oak Conservation Center in Northern Florida.

After giving it a couple days to settle in and bond with its mother, it was introduced to the exhibit for the first time.

This is the 16th successful birth of this endangered species at Zoo Miami.

Photo Credit: Zoo Miami]]>
<![CDATA[Service Dog Rules of Etiquette]]> Mon, 26 Oct 2015 09:26:38 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Ian+Kupkee+Service+Dogs+side+by+side.jpg

Last month, my wife and I spent a week in Ireland. On our last day in Dublin, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant reputed to have the best fish and chips in the city. As we got up to leave, I noticed the two ladies seated at the table behind us were accompanied by a service dog. I couldn’t help but smile, but looked away quickly, not wanting to distract the dog from her work. The handler however, didn’t miss a beat. 
“She’s off-duty at the moment,” she informed me in her lively Dublin lilt. “You can pet her if you like. She would love it!” 
I soon learned that her name was Cassie, and she was an absolute sweetheart. It was a fantastic moment, not just because it was serendipitous and sweet, but because moments like that one are rare. When it comes to interacting with service dogs in public, experiences like the one I had with Cassie are very much the exception, not the rule.
Throughout the course of this series on service dogs, several folks have emailed me to inquire about the rules of etiquette for approaching service dog teams. What should I do when I see a service dog? When is it OK to pet a service dog? Is it OK if my kids approach a service dog? What can I do to help a service dog handler? The answers may surprise you. 
When encountering a service dog team in public, the most courteous thing you can do is nothing. Yes, you read that correctly. They do not need assistance, and more than likely, would prefer to simply be ignored.
I have a friend in San Francisco whom I’ll call Sue. During a recent conversation, Sue lamented that she rarely gets a moment’s peace when she is out with her service dog, Molly. Curious, well-meaning strangers are forever approaching her, asking questions about Molly. While they mean no disrespect, many of the questions they ask are personal, and some are downright rude. 
“Why do you need a service dog?” and “What’s wrong with you?” are questions she hears on an almost daily basis. Such questions are not only inappropriate, they are technically illegal.
As per the Americans With Disabilities Act, a service dog handler may only be asked if their dog is a service animal, and what tasks said animal is trained to do which mitigate the effects of a disability. That’s it.
Other common, yet unacceptable remarks include “But you look perfectly fine!” and “That’s so cool that you get to take your dog everywhere with you!”
Many disabilities (epilepsy, diabetes, obsessive compulsive disorder, PTSD, and dozens of others) are not obvious to the casual observer. The widespread problem of service dog fraud is an additional fly in the ointment. Just this summer, a law was passed banning service dogs from riding in shopping carts. As a result, many handlers with invisible illnesses face a tough decision if their service dog happens to be small. Do they place their dog on the floor where she may be kicked or trod upon? Or do they carry the dog, and risk being seen as a pet owner committing fraud?
A small dog that is being carried may very well be a medical alert dog. Since it is also not required for service dogs to wear identifying vests or harnesses, dogs in hot climates like South Florida often do not. Remember, it is not permitted to ask questions of handlers other than the ones that are allowed by the ADA.
With regards to observers who may envy a handler’s privilege of taking their dog with them in public, bear in mind that service dog handlers do not do this because it is cool. They are disabled, and their dogs accompany them in order to help them lead a productive life.
Even comments that are not disrespectful can still present an imposition to a service dog handler. As our friend Sue so eloquently put it:
“Being disabled means everything takes me twice as long as it should. I know it sounds mean, but interacting with curious strangers is a really inefficient use of my time. Last week, I was out with Molly for two and a half hours, and nineteen people stopped us to ask me questions. One of them even took a selfie.
The whole outing should have been done and dusted in an hour. People are just curious. They mean no harm, and I get that. But I’m doing my darndest to be productive and independent despite the disability. I don’t want to have to rely on the government, the community, my family or my church. The constant interruptions just make my life harder. Honestly, the most helpful thing a person can do for a service dog team is to just ignore them.” 
Another handler, CeceIia, chimed in on my fan page:
“It’s so tiring when I’m out in public with Emery, my service dog, and people are constantly trying to pet her. I have to tell them no and explain why they can’t, so a 10-minute shopping trip turns into an an hour, and I go home in pain because of it. It really is exhausting.” 
I couldn’t have said it better myself, so I won’t even try.
When it comes to interacting with service dogs, a hands-off approach is required. Generally speaking, service dogs are trained to ignore other people, and focus exclusively on the needs of the handler. Attention from strangers is not only unwelcome, it is stressful for a well-trained service dog. More importantly, the distraction can cause a service dog to miss the cues that signal a handler’s need for assistance. While handlers understand this is never a kindly stranger’s intention, the fact of the matter is that this behavior puts handlers in harm’s way.
When I asked our friend Sue who the worst offenders were, she answered with a sigh:
“Parents. Again, I know it sounds so awful. I love kids - I have kids. Kids love animals, and parents see an encounter with a service dog as a teachable moment. But it’s not a teachable moment. It’s my time. It’s my ability to get around. My life is complicated enough as it is - I don’t have time for show-and-tell.
Molly is my best friend and my closest companion. But in a very real way, she’s like medical equipment. So parents should ask themselves, 'Is it appropriate to let your child play with a person’s wheelchair, cane, or oxygen tank?' Surely most kids would want to play with those too, right? Why wouldn’t they? Wheels, machines, big sticks - they’re interesting, and they’re awesome. But any parent would object to their child playing with these things because they’re not toys. Neither are service dogs. Ditto for kids who point, stare, or make loud comments. If my kid did that to a person in a wheelchair, I’d correct the behavior and teach them a better way. Service dog handlers would really like to have that same courtesy.”
Teach curious children that these doggies are working and must not be interrupted. There are plenty of ways to expound upon this lesson without putting a service dog handler at risk.
If you see a dog in a public place that does not generally allow pets, assume it is a service dog and do not interfere. If the handler needs help, they will ask for it. If the dog is off-duty and allowed to play, as was the case with my new friend in Dublin, the handler will let you know. But I cannot stress strongly enough just how rarely experiences like the one I shared with Cassie come along.
Service dogs work hard, but they get tons of attention, down time, and TLC from the humans in their lives. We would be misguided in thinking that they needed affection from strangers in order to feel happy and fulfilled. On the contrary, these animals lead rewarding lives by helping individuals who face obstacles on a daily basis. We can all do our part to make their lives easier by smiling politely, and letting them have their space.
Do you have a question for Dr. Kupkee? Send him an email by clicking here.
Click here for special deals and discounts exclusively for NBC 6 viewers.

<![CDATA[Miami-Dade Animal Services Adoptable Pets]]> Mon, 19 Oct 2015 14:48:56 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/160*120/Mercy+A1718923.JPG Check out the adorable animals up for adoption in Miami-Dade and in need of a good home.]]> <![CDATA[Broward Humane Society Adoptable Pets - Oct. 15, 2015]]> Mon, 19 Oct 2015 14:48:46 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/101515Bacardi.jpg Broward Humane Society Adoptable Pets - October 15, 2015]]>