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Monday, July 30, 2012

More pet shelters and rescues go green!

Not too long ago, my shelter (that is the shelter from where my Mum adopted me), the Southside Animal Shelter in Indianapolis, was awarded a 2 KW Solar Renewable system through a contest conducted by Johnson Melloh Solutions, a company that focuses on renewable energy products and services for their customers by offering offer Solar PV, Solar Thermal, Biomass, and Wind.

This new system will reduce energy consumption and lower energy costs for years to come at the no-kill shelter.

SSASI isn't the only shelter in the country concentrating on being more green and eco-friendly.

Just recently the Chicago-based Harmony House for Cats unveiled its new eco-friendly shelter, the first Net-Zero Energy building in the Chicago area. Powered by 14 geothermal wells, 20 solar thermal panels, and 96 photovoltaic panels, the amount of energy created on location will be more than the building will use in a year.

In addition, the 7,086 square feet location now has motion light sensors and temperature-regulated cooling and heating units in every room. The shelter also has a fully landscaped courtyard, that allows for full natural light to shine in and enjoyed by the cats as they wait for their furever home.

Back in 2009, we sharee info with you about a new eco-friendly shelter in Silicon Valley. The Humane Society of Silicon Valley, opened on Saturday Mar. 28, 2009, to show off its new green, cageless, homelike habitat in Milpitas for strays that it's calling an Animal Community Center. The new center includes solar heating and a water-efficient kennel cleansing system.

In 2005, the Tompkins County SPCA in central New York led the way in becoming the first shelter to earn a silver LEED rating (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

And it's no surprise that Tompkins County became the first No Kill community in U.S. history in 2001/2002. The green, eco-friendly lifestyle works very well, and hand-in-hand, with the no-kill movement.

These aren't the only shelters taking the green, eco-friendly route. In 2011, the city of Denver utilizing a $17 million bond — $10.5 million of which was for construction — paid for a brand new shelter. At just less than 36,000 square feet, it is nearly triple the size of the old structure.

The new Denver Animal Shelter includes a variety of green features that may help the facility be certified with a LEED Platinum rating; including skylights for natural light, radiant heated floors, evaporate cooling, a recovery ventilation system and more.

Other eco-friendly shelters are in Florida, Texas, Wisconsin, and Rhode Island.

The benefits of shelters being able to go green include:
  • Reducing costs that free up funds that can be redirected in saving more four legged lives.
  • Developing more life-like, realistic environments for dogs and cats, through more natural light, greener spaces and fresher air.
  • Creating a healthier, less toxic environment.

All of these benefits are designed to make a huge impact on the demeanor and health of the pets, increasing their chances of adoption, as well as reducing the effect on the environment..

How can you help your local shelter be more green and eco-friendly? Here are just a few suggestions:
  • One of the most effective ways you can help your local shelter be more green is to donate greener materials that they need and want, including items such as CFL/LED light bulbs, rags and towels (instead of paper towels), greener and healthier cleaning products and supplies and more.
  • Seek out on behalf of your shelter any community grants, corporate donations and/or fundraising efforts that may be able to provide fresher air exchange systems, solar energy, and more energy efficient appliances. 
  • Donate your time to maintain (or help build) the shelter's green spaces utilizing organic and natural fertilizers. Pull weeds, replant bare areas with un-coated grass seed, fertilize with organic product and more. And while you're there take the time to take a few dogs for a nice walk.
  • Provide funds or donations, or fundraising opportunities to provide the shelter with more eco-friendly, healthier pet foods and cat litter supplies. 
  • Help the shelter institute a recycle, reuse program to cut back on waste. 
We are very happy and proud to see so many shelters devote their time and efforts to being more green and eco-friendly, as well as create more life-like and healthier environments for dogs and cats (and other animals) looking for their furever home!

Photos courtesy of Southside Animal Shelter, Inc., Earth911, Tompkins County SPCA, Harmony House for Cats.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Watch out for the blue-green algae, it's toxic and dangerous!

It's that time of year.

Heat, humidity and low levels of rain and stagnant waters have created the perfect environment for a very toxic substance in our nation's lakes and streams - blue-green algae.

Just this past week, according to Indy Channel, 'the Board of Animal Health said toxins released by blue-green algae are likely what caused two dogs belonging to Larry and Marge Young to die last week after the dogs played in Salamonie Reservoir in Northern Indiana.'

The Wabash, Indiana couple's two other dogs became ill and are being treated for liver failure.Indiana state officials have found high blue-green algae levels in seven Indiana lakes, including the Salamonie, where record levels were discovered.

Blue-green algae is toxic to cats, dogs, horses, cows, birds and humans, and can be found in all parts of the country and the world. Signs to watch for with blue-green algae toxicity are:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in stool or black, tarry stool
  • Pale mucous membranes
  • Jaundice
  • Seizures
  • Disorientation
  • Coma
  • Shock
  • Excessive secretions (e.g., salivation, lacrimation, etc.)
  • Neurologic signs (including muscle tremors, muscle rigidity, paralysis, etc.)
  • Blue discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes
  • Difficulty breathing

According to the Pet Poison Hotline:
Cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae) are microscopic bacteria found in freshwater lakes, streams, ponds and brackish water ecosystems. They can produce toxins (such as microcystins and anatoxins) that affect people, livestock and pets that swim in and drink from the algae-contaminated water.
Blue-green algae grow and colonize to form “blooms” that give the water a blue-green appearance or a “pea soup” like color. It also looks like blue or green paint on the surface of the water. Because the algae float, they may be blown by the wind into thick, concentrated mats near the shore, thus making them easily accessible to livestock, pets and people.
Algal concentrations vary throughout the year, but are most abundant during periods of hot weather in mid- to late-summer months and are most likely to be found in nutrient-rich water. While most blue-green algae blooms do not produce toxins, it is not possible to determine the presence of toxins without testing. Thus, all blooms should be considered potentially toxic. Very small exposures, such a few mouthfuls of algae-contaminated water, may result in fatal poisoning.
Unfortunately, there is no antidote for the toxins produced by blue-green algae, so immediate veterinary attention is imperative!

Why is there blue-green algae in our rivers, ponds and stagnant streams?

Many believe that it is caused by excessive phosphate and nitrate caused by chemical and animal waste run off from farms and factories.

Though the impact by larger farms and factories can contribute greatly to the problem of contamination of our rivers, lakes and ponds, there are ways you can help reduce your contribution and help create safer water. We recommend these tips:

  • Conserve water. The less water you use, the less run off into drains and gutters you will contribute.
  • Pick up the doo. The less animal waste creates less harmful nutrients that can contribute to water contamination.
  • Reduce the use of fertilizer. And be sure to utilize only organic. Better yet, utilize your compost to fertilize your plants and garden.
  • Utilize natural cleaners and phosphate free detergents.

The best advice? Keep your dogs away from stagnant, scummy, pea soup looking rivers and streams during the heat of the summer months, and only allow your dog to enjoy water from fresh, free flowing and running streams and rivers that are far away from farm and factory land.

Photos courtesy of the American Red Cross and IDNR/Outdoor Indiana.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How to shop for a green, eco-friendly dog car.

Gas prices are lower now than they have been in the past year, but we know that eco-friendly folks are always looking for ways to save money, help the environment and reduce our country's dependence on foreign oil.

Now that green and eco-friendly cars are becoming more available and (in some cases) more affordable, we wanted to share some thoughts about how you can wisely shop for your next dog car the green way!

Type of environmentally friendly cars

The types of green and more eco-friendly cars currently readily available include Hybrid, Electric, and Clean Diesel. Lets take a look at the differences and some pros and cons:


Hybrid cars are the more well-known of green vehicles. Hybrids use gasoline just like most other cars, but are combined in power by electric assistance, reducing the use of gasoline and reducing the cost of driving and pollution.

Hybrids range from 40 mpg up to 50 mpg. And over time they are proving to be very reliable, which is key when you're transporting precious cargo like your best friend. According to Green Car Reports, "it's not uncommon to hear stories of hybrids lasting 300,000 miles or more without problems, and we've heard stories on the grapevine of hybrids still going strong at well over half a million miles.' But they can be pricey especially if you are looking for a larger car."


While diesel still carries a stigma of smelly and loud to most people, they are a high gas mileage option to look at for your next green dog car. Diesel cars can range widely in price, but are more expensive than hybrids.

Now that the technology has improved over the years, they are no longer the smelly, loud hunks of metal that they used to be, but they do lag in emissions behind hybrids. If you do a lot of highway driving you would most likely recoup the extra cost of a diesel in more gas mileage, but if you do a lot of city driving, the cost may not be worth it.


The biggest draw back of electric cars is the distance you can drive without having to recharge. So if you go on longer trips it would be wise to look at a conventional hybrid. But if you don't, an electric car could be a great option for shorter trips and for those that don't live in an apartment (or have access to charging at home). They are pricey, but may qualify for tax incentives up to $7500.

There is one other alternative energy vehicle coming out in concept stages, and that is vehicles utilizing Fuel Cell technology. They are only in the concept stages right now and may be hitting the market in 2015. In addition, there are several really good low gas mileage cars on the market now that may be a good greener alternative for you and your dog's lifestyle.

Dog car safety

Before we dive into tips on how to shop for your new (or used) green, eco-friendly dog car, let's first look at the importance of dog car safety, and how you can best keep your dog(s) safe in your car while you travel. This will also help in determining the best type of car for you and your dog's lifestyle.

Keeping your dog safe in the car is very important. Did you know that in 2009 the Travel Industry Association of America latest statistics show that "of the 71 million people in the U.S. who own dogs, over 29 million travel with them." And the latest info from the APPMA National Pet Owners Survey shows "only 20% of pet owners use a restraint for their pet when they travel."

Those are sad statistics and good reasons for keeping our dogs safe while traveling in the car.  

Every year thousands of animals are injured, die or become lost after being in a car accident. In addition, dogs can become a distraction and actually cause an accident if not properly and safely secured. Loose equipment or items in your car can also needlessly injure your dog even when braking hard for a stop light.

So what are the ways you can keep your dog safer when traveling? The way you secure your dog in your car depends on several factors and lifestyles. Here, we recommend a few ways that we believe will fit with nearly any situation, size (and price) of car, and provided needed travel comfort for your dog.


By far the safest, and many times most comfortable, means of car travel for your dog is in a crate. Over the years many people have tested and showcased the safest crates on the market. By utilizing a strong plastic, wire, or even heavy aluminum crate secured either by your backseat shoulder belts or by straps secured to floor hooks that come with your SUV, crates can be a very secure and safe option for your dog. Just remember to keep them out of the far back end if your new (or recently new) car has a crumple zone.

Car Harnesses

Another option, if you don't have room for a crate or have multiple dogs, are car harnesses. But all car harnesses for dogs are not created equal. Be sure and look for a car harness with the V9DT" logo to ensure that you have a harness that has been fully tested and passed for the utmost safety, as we have heard reports lately about more inexpensive, untested dog car harnesses coming apart in minimal safety tests.

And remember to always secure your dog in the back seat, or front of the way back, away from front air bags and back crumple zones. And if you have side air bags please keep them (or their crate(s)) at least 5-7 inches away from the side doors.

To read more about dog car safety, visit the Dog Car Safety Squidoo lens.

Do your research

The first step in looking at a new (or used) green, eco-friendly dog car is research.

Dog safety zone

Determine the area that you will be securing your dog whether that be the back seat, or the front of way back of an SUV, or in the area where the back seats fold down (make sure they fold flat!). Take measurements of the area that your dog, or dog crate, will need and have that information with you as you shop and compare.


Next step is to determine what size of car you'll need and can afford. Green and eco-friendly cars now come in small, to mid-sized, all the way up to luxury and SUV.

Comparison and price

Green Car Reports is a great website to get you started in your search for either a hybrid, diesel or electric car. The site includes many reviews on a wide varity of green, eco-friendly cars, in all price ranges and sizes.

We don't profess to be experts at buying cars, so we recommend reading up on info, tips and ideas to help you through the process of purchasing your new or used eco-friendly car via Consumer Reports.

Friends of ours at Bark Buckle Up frequently review cars suited for dogs on their website. We only found one Hybrid in their list of reviews, the GMC Yukon Denali Hybrid (with so, so reviews for space and safety). However, the site can give you lots of great ideas of your needs and wants when shopping for a new car. In addition, Gayot has recently named the Volkswagen Jetta SportWagon TDI (a clean diesel) as one of their top 10 Pet Friendly cars.

Shopping day

On shopping day, we highly recommend that you take your tape measure and your measurements of your dog's safety zone area with you to the car dealer, along with all your price and negotiating notes. And if you are utilizing a crate, take your crate, or crate dimension measurements, along too to test and see if it's a good firm fit and that you can secure it safely to the car. 

In conclusion...

“Control emissions, won’t you? Thanks,” says the dog.

Photos courtesy: To Aire is Divine, Edmunds, Green Car Reports.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Is your dog's stainless steel bowl radioactive?

Just when you thought your dog's stainless steel dog bowl was safe, come reports from Chicago that stainless steel pet bowls with low levels of radioactive material might have been shipped to 11 Petco stores throughout Illinois.

Two contaminated bowls were discovered on Friday by state inspectors from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency at a Petco store at 2000 N. Clybourn Ave., in Chicago, and it is believe that five possibly contaminated bowls might have been sold from the Clybourn store between June 14 and 15, 2012.

“These bowls do not pose an immediate health risk, but we always want to prevent unnecessary exposure to radiation,” said IEMA Director Jonathon Monken in a statement.

The bowls have since been pulled from shelves, and state and federal officials are working with Petco officials to isolate any contaminated bowls, the IEMA said.

Among the Petco stores that might have received contaminated bowls are:
  • 2000 North Clybourn, Chicago
  • 440 North Orleans Street, Chicago
  • 629 East Dundee Road, Palatine
  • 2204 South Harlem, North Riverside
  • 4411 16th Street, Moline
  • 1310-1312 East Main Street, Carbondale
  • 2046 North State Route 50, Bourbonnais
  • 199 South Route 83, Elmhurst
  • 9645 Skokie Boulevard, Skokie
  • 17930 Halstead Street, Homewood
  • 11720 South Marshfield, Chicago

It wasn't all that long ago, that, an organization dedicated to bringing awareness to the potential dangers lurking in products for pets, children and adults, indicated in their pet product report that the DuraPet Stainless Steel pet bowl contained high levels of lead.

You may not be aware but radioactive contaminated products have been found in various sources over the years, including the recent recall of contaminated tissue boxes from Bed Bath & Beyond, and a radioactive cheese grader found in Michigan

How does this happen?

The big question is how did radioactive material get in stainless steel pet bowls? We've been doing a lot of research over the past day or so and found that this is not that uncommon in the World marketplace and it's not a problem with just imports, but also a problem within the United States market, as well.

Although there is no definitive information about how these particular pet bowls became radioactive (however, see our update below), there is information that we've garnered from a variety of sources that show just how this may be happening, and could provide potential clues.

According to an article in the LA Times at the end of last year, 'improper disposal of industrial equipment and medical scanners containing radioactive materials is allowing nuclear waste to trickle into scrap smelters, contaminating consumer goods, threatening the $140-billion trade in recycled metal and spurring the United Nations to call for increased screening."

Medical scanners, mining equipment and other related items contain radioactive metals such as cobalt-60 (the very source of the radioactivity found in the Petco stainless steel pet bowls) are collected and sold to recyclers.

The article goes on to say, 'last year, U.S. Customs rejected 64 shipments of radioactive goods at the nation's ports, including purses, cutlery, sinks and hand tools, according to data released by the Department of Homeland Security in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. India was the largest source, followed by China."

The EPA indicates that the United States imports millions of tons of scrap metal, each year from various countries for production uses.

In the United States the EPA also says, "many scrap metal yards and metal processing facilities monitor scrap shipments for radioactive contamination. However, monitoring does not guarantee detection of sources. They may be shielded by the scrap metal or by their own casings."

So what's a dog to do?

Chronic exposure to low doses of radiation can lead to cataracts, cancer and birth defects in humans, according to the EPA. Being smaller species, you can just imagine the potential impact on our dogs.

The reality is with International trade at it's highest to date, scrap metal is imported frequently into the United States from many parts of the World and then utilized to manufacturer products in the United States. In addition, monitoring of radioactive scrap in the US is done by many scrap metal yards and metal processing facilities that acquire scrap from all over the United States, but as stated above, sometimes hidden items cannot be screened. In addition the monitoring is done by the company and not by a regulation agency.

Purchasing USA Made stainless steel bowls may not be the final and best answer, but it may be less risky than purchasing stainless steel pet bowls from India and China.

Here are a couple of things you may be able to do to avoid radiation in your dog's stainless steel bowl:
  • Test for radioactivity yourself with handheld radiation testers, yes, these are handheld Geiger counters. 
  • Contact pet product companies that carry stainless steel bowls and ask if they have been tested for radiation and for lead (because some stainless steel pet bowls have also found to have high levels of lead).
  • Some State Department of Health agencies have listed resources for home radiation testing, that you may be able to look into.
On a global level, products manufactured and sold from contaminated scrap metal is not a new problem, but one that is still being investigated and regulated, so that meaningful precautions and testing at the highest levels may be achieved. 

We live life in the face of danger, every single day. The world is a dangerous place. But don't let that discourage you. Be informed, be educated and help minimize as many risks in your and your dog's life. We at Raise A Green Dog are here to share the information you need to make the best decisions possible to help your dog be healthier, happier and greener.

Update: Read our recent post, 'Is Your Dog Bowl Safe' to learn about other types of dog bowls on the market, along with outlines we've discovered about their safety, including stainless steel, ceramic, plastic, stoneware, silicone, sugar cane, corn and bamboo.


UPDATE 8-9-2012: Just recently, Petco has posted a 'Stainless Steel Bowl Notice' on their website. And it seems we were correct in our prediction of how the bowls became contaminated.

From their update they have shared, "Petco has determined that one of its foreign suppliers used stainless steel mistakenly containing small quantities of Cobalt-60 when fabricating certain orders of certain SKUs/models of stainless steel pet food bowls. Cobalt-60 is a radioactive material commonly used in industrial gauging equipment and other uses. We don’t know for certain how it got into our product, but we believe it came from scrap metal that had some Cobalt-60 accidentally mixed in. The affected products were found to emit low levels of radiation."

They also go on to state, "to our knowledge, the affected products were limited to two cargo containers that entered the United States in late May and early June."

The effected bowls are identified as follows:

SKU 1047493
9.25” diameter; 3.75 cup capacity

SKU 1386956
9” diameter; 3.5 cup capacity

SKU 1047477
9” diameter; 7 cup capacity

SKU numbers can be found on labels inside and on the bottom of the bowls. Additional information from Petco states, "Customers who purchased these products between the dates of May 31 and June 20, 2012, should bring it to their local Petco store for a full refund. If you have any questions, please call Petco Customer Service at 877-738-6742."
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