Steve Dale New Year’s Resolutions for Pets


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2022 was a year for which I will forever remember as somehow this happened:

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has forever named an award for me, the AVMA Steve Dale Excellence in Media Award, which was presented by then AVMA President Dr. Jose Arce at the AVMA Convention in Philadelphia, PA. Would be amazingly nice no matter, but coming from the AVMA amazes me.

 

In 2021, on December 19 (so close to 2022) Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot named it Steve Dale Day! This was actually an honor which was supposed to have given to years ago but it would have happened on the day my dad died, and subsequently the paperwork and resolution were lost. When Alderman James Cappleman heard about this, he just rectified the situation, and Mayor Lightfoot made the presentation at City Hall.

Here’s the City’s resolution:

The problem is that the fire still burns in my belly to make a difference for pets and families with pets.

Here are my eight resolutions for 2023:

Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act. When an individual is accused of animal cruelty no one necessarily knows what to do about it. And before you know it that same individual is committing crimes against additional animals and against people, possibly as a mass shooter, which might have been intervened and prevented. This proactive law will offer the U.S. Department of Justice with a specific branch with resources to be focused solely on animal cruelty, not only to support animal welfare but also public safety, and hope to work with  Animal Wellness Action and public officials to support this legislation.

Distressing Reality: Some are putting their heads in the sand but I won’t be. The number of pet parents skyrocketed during the pandemic and continues to rise while simultaneously the number of veterinary professionals not only can’t keep up but has been on the decline. As a result, in some places getting an appointment for routine care can take weeks or months, and the wait in veterinary ER’s are often over five hours and sometimes emergency clinics even close for the evening. I intend to be real about this problem, rather that ignoring not talking about it. While this situation is complex, I will be speaking both to pet parents and veterinary professionals about using telehealth (which a significant number of pet parents prefer) and texting to make and confirm appointments as well as to communicate (which also a significant number of pet patients prefer rather than phone tag), and even recommend systems such as Weave.

Ouch: Of course, pets feel pain just as we do. Even ten years ago, we didn’t understand that cats suffer about the same frequency of osteoarthritis as dogs. Size doesn’t matter, as once assumed. Cats are also master magicians, able to hide their pain so making it really tough to tell a cat is hurting. Now, those secrets have been revealed; the cat is out of the bag.  Simultaneously a brand-new drug is on the market, which effectively deals with pain from arthritis, and is incredibly well tolerated without significant side-effects, called Solensia. This is one of the greatest developments for cats in my career.

Fear Free: Continue to support in any way I can; this initiative to diminish fear, anxiety and stress of our pets – to deal with mental health issues, if you will. Examples include but aren’t by any means limited to visits to veterinary clinics; separation anxiety and depression due to health conditions such as obesity. Also Fear Free Happy Homes is a website with dependable information for pet parents, all approved by veterinary behavior specialists.

Association of Pet Obesity Prevention: American Veterinary Medical Association President Dr. Lori Teller is so concerned about pet obesity that she calls it the number one health issue for pets. To agree is one thing, but it’s another to at least try to be a part of the solution, a voice to support better understanding the problem and finding solutions, which is why I recently joined the Board of Directors of the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention.

EveryCat Health Foundation: Twenty years ago I created the Ricky Fund to raise dollars to fund studies to better understand and ultimately treat feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, by far the most common heart disease in cats. Ricky was a beloved piano playing cat who I lost to this often unforgiving disease, and we’ve raised well over $300,000. Still, we must do more. I joined the Board of directors 18 years ago (when this non-profit was called the Winn Feline Foundation) and today serve as the Board Secretary. I’ve witnessed so much, including feline infectious peritonitis shifting from fatal to now treatable; the coming together of two giant pet food companies (Purina and Mars) to study the role of phosphorus in kidney disease (incredibly common in older cats), and the list goes on and on. The goal is to continue to raise money to support cat health studies, as this is only organization like it in the world.

Humane Pet Store Laws: New York just became the sixth state to ban sales of dogs and cats (and in NY State also rabbits) at pet stores, this shuts down the puppy mill pipeline into these states and over 300 cities and some counties with similar bans. No responsible breeder EVER sells to pet stores. I will continue my efforts to support these laws, and simultaneously work to do something about puppy mills who also create seemingly legit websites which fool perspective pet owners. Of course, I will continue supporting adoption from shelters and rescues, and purchases from responsible breeders.

Declaw: Reality check – it’s an amputation and never medically required. Declaws are done for our convenience. While for many reasons, declaws are on the decline, I support legislating against this barbaric practice, as New York State and several cities, not to mention a list of countries around the world, have enacted.