Advocacy and Activism Get informed and educated Pet Care Pet Care

My Adventure into the World of Public Service Announcements

This article was contributed by Aubrie Kavanaugh

“You know life’s too short to live it in fear. Only thing you will regret is what you do not do at all even more than the stupid things you do. . .” (“Surrender,” by Fisher)

I’ve done a lot of stupid things over the years in the name of animal welfare advocacy. They never start out badly, of course, but I have been known to do the wrong thing for the right reason. I’m working on that. Really. One of those things which seemed pretty stupid at first has actually turned out quite well and that’s what I’m writing about today: my adventure into the world of Public Service Announcements (also called PSAs) for television. I just sent out my latest batch of “spots” and since I’ve seemed to hit my stride with them locally, I told Yurda and Rufino I’d share my story in hopes others can follow my path and perhaps have similar results.

We are the No -Kill Movement PSA Cutout

In the summer of 2008, Best Friends Animal Society held a contest: make a 30-second public service announcement for television on the subject of puppy mills. Finalists would be chosen by Best Friends and then put to an Internet vote. The winner would be given a trip to Best Friends’ annual Lint Roller Party. I had been making photo slide shows for nonprofit groups and about animal welfare subjects for a couple of years by then so I told myself, “why not?” I didn’t win the contest and looking back, I think my audio track was a tad too firm, but the contest did give me confidence. If I could make a PSA good enough to come in second place (by a handful of votes, or so I was told), why not just make them on my own? As we used to say in the Army, “no guts, no glory.”

After losing the contest, I started fiddling with making short slide shows in a PSA format. I knew that local rescue groups wouldn’t have the time to mess with something like this so the plan was simple: make a PSA about a subject, market it to a non-profit group and use their non-profit status to get the PSA on the air with local TV stations. My first spot was simply about rescue and adoption and I marketed it to a local no kill shelter called “The Ark.” I’m honestly not sure how much air time it got but since I was told it was “in the rotation,” that just led me to making more.

In the years since I started, my method has not changed. I think of a concept I think people either should know about or may want to know about, I develop a PSA using photographs contributed by friends of mine, I record an audio track and I find a non-profit to review a draft and let me know if they’re willing to affiliate themselves with the message. Most do. It takes very little time for them and I do the legwork. Some, however, do not. I did one about dog aggression last year which I offered to a “pit bull” advocacy group. They said, “no thanks” for reasons I never quite understood so I let a German Shepherd rescue use it instead. In the end, it’s as much about the message as it is about the group. The end goal for me as a keyboarder is the same as that of my web site: try to reach people, tell them something and then hope they reconsider previously held beliefs and perhaps behave differently in the future.

So. How difficult is this? On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give it a 4. The years when the FCC required TV stations to devote X amount of air time to non-profits are long gone. When you see an animal-oriented PSA on TV now, it is most likely something done either by The Ad Council or by some multi-million dollar group which is paying big money to get air time showing a female Canadian songstress (who shall remain nameless) sitting on a couch with a dog which may or may not belong to her. Most local animal welfare or advocacy groups don’t run PSAs because of the perceived potential cost involved. What I’ve found is that it really is not expensive at all and the majority of the “work” is in fostering relationships with TV stations – it’s all about good will and persistence. Stations will not run material they find too “out there” or objectionable. It has to be a message they support and my personal slant is to steer clear of the doom, gloom and guilt and go either for the humor or just the “do the right thing” type of message. Developing and submitting a PSA is totally doable even for a small, local group. You develop a spot, make sure you can put it in a format the station will accept, you plead your case for why they should run it, you thank them profusely and then you just work to keep that relationship healthy. One of my contacts here has a dog he rescued in Nebraska years ago. When I sent him my latest group of spots, I also sent him some home made dog biscuits. His dog liked them so much he ended up begging for them. The dog, not the guy. Good will prevails.

So. How much does this cost? On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give it a 1 or a 2, depending on what resources you have available already. When I started doing this, I had a refurbed laptop, some twenty dollar slide show software, a cheap microphone and a DVD burner. I now have a newer laptop, some fifty dollar software, another cheap microphone and my same DVD burner. As long as you have a computer, some software which allows you to make slide shows (or even videos) and a way to burn DVDs, you’re pretty much set other than for postage to mail out your PSA. You can avoid that expense if you deliver your PSA to local stations.

So. Where do I get the content? On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give this one a 2. You cannot, cannot, cannot use copyrighted material. As tempted as you may be to use a catchy tune, you just can’t get away with that unless you wrote it, recorded it, published it and produced it yourself, making you the sole copyright holder. When it comes to PSAs, I find that a spoken audio track does better anyway. A lot of people don’t actually watch TV when it’s on and if you speak what you want them to hear, your message is more likely to be heard. If you use photographs like I do, just get them from friends or take them yourself. Steer clear of Googling for them or just “borrowing” them from Flickr and keep in mind that you really must use high quality digital photos. You may get some great shots from friends, but be mindful of the fact that most TV stations now broadcast in high definition so the better the image you can provide, the better the likelihood that your PSA will air.

If you’re a 501(c)(3) and you’d like to get a PSA on the air, or you work with a non-profit and want to help them get a PSA on the air, you really can do it. For further information on how to get your PSA “in the rotation,” visit the See Spot Run page on my web site for some more tidbits under the “Spot Help!” link. When in doubt, drop me a line via my site and I’ll be happy to help you in any way I can. You know life’s too short to live it in fear. Go ahead. Do something stupid. You never know how well it might turn out.

Aubrie Kavanaugh


Check Aubrie’s latest interview with PackPeople

Breeds Cool and Fun Stuff Get informed and educated Interviews on Pet Care Pet Care Uncategorized

UK-based DogCast Radio – Interview with Julie Hill

While maintaining our PackPeople’s Twitter account 1 month ago I found Julie Hill’s profile and thought that this could be a very interesting addition to our interview series.  Julie is the founder of DogCast Radio, a twice monthly radio show all about dogs which first aired in 2005. On her website you can hear the show for free, download it for listening at home or on your MP3 player, or subscribe to it as a Podcast.

This entertaining and informative show for dog lovers covers important and interesting topics such as dog training, dog news, dog adoption, health…. the list is endless, and it’s truly fun to listen and learn!

Julie’s enthusiasm about what she does is engaging, and we’re grateful she joined us from her home base in England. We’re honored to share the interview with our PackPeople audience of animal advocates and responsible pet owners.

DogCast Radio show with Julie Hill by PackPeople
DogCast Radio


Twitter: @DogCastRadio

Facebook: DogCast Radio

Julie recommended following books, videos and pet related links:

Books: Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog  by Ted Kerasote

Links: Hound TV

PetPlanet – a great resource to research breeds to adopt –

Facebook and Twitter – social media is valuable for networking with other dog lovers and dog owners

Video: Eight Below  directed by Frank Marshall – Eight brave sled dogs search for their master, who is trying to rescue them in this adventure-drama.

Spreading the word can help save lives! If you liked the interview please share it with your community by clicking the Facebook and Twitter icons at the bottom of this article or feel free to leave a comment. Thank you for making an impact!

iTunes News: Get PackPeople’s interviews as a Podcast!

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Get informed and educated Interviews on Non - Profits Pet Care Shelter Animals

Helping rescues and shelters evaluate dogs – Interview with Dr. Amy Marder from the Center for Shelter Dogs

Dedicated to improving the welfare of homeless dogs cared for by humane organizations, animal control facilities and rescue groups, the Center for Shelter Dogs is a free program of the Animal Rescue League in Boston and provides expert knowledge through workshops and other educational offerings.

Dr. Amy Marder is a Clinical Behaviorist and leads the Center, which draws on the expertise of its staff to incorporate clinical medicine and epidemiology into its strategies, establishing a world-class program on behalf of shelter dogs.

We had the great honor of interviewing Dr. Amy Marder, and talking about the innovative Match-Up II Shelter Dog Rehoming Program, as well as the most common behavioral issues of shelter dogs and how rescues and other animal welfare groups can learn to improve every dog’s life in a shelter through Match-Up II Online.

Web: and

Facebook: Center for Shelter Dogs

Twitter: @Ctr4ShelterDogs

Match-Up II Online: to find out more about the next free Match-Up II Online webinar. Next Match-Up II Online training webinar: Thursday, November 17, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. (Eastern) – to begin registration, send an email to Dr. Amy Marder at

Yurda attended the Match-Up II Online Webinar with Dr. Amy Marder, and found that Dr. Marder and her team have designed a program which is not only very effective but also easy to use [It’s a free Webinar – and I was astonished at how detailed and elaborate it was. A team of professionals and experts have come together to create an extremely well-thought-out program. – Yurda].

Dr. Amy Marder’s recommended link/websites:

Association of Shelter Veterinarians – features ASV Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters:

Animal Farm Foundation – Securing equal treatment and opportunity for “Pit Bull” dogs:

National Canine Research Council – Preserving the Human-Canine Bond:

Spreading the word can help save lives! Please share this work with your community by clicking the Facebook and Twitter icons or feel free to leave a comment. Thank you for making an impact.

iTunes News: Get PackPeople’s interviews as a Podcast!

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Animal Stories Pet Care Shelter Animals

Lost Dog Ty reunited with his family after 2 weeks – Miracles do happen

Tysons Lost Dog Poster

For a handsome Pit Bull, Ty (short for Tyson) and his family, October 11th, 2011 will always be a special day. That’s when they were reunited after Ty had been lost for almost 2 weeks. Let’s backtrack: I work for Pacific Coast Dog Rescue (, one of the largest rescue organizations in the Los Angeles area. We house about 100 rescue dogs, some of which are special needs dogs who need regular medical attention. Consequently, I spend a lot of time at our vet, Animal Medical Center in Van Nuys, CA.

On September 30th, while I was waiting in the vet’s lobby, a man brought in a very sweet neutered male Pit Bull. The man had found him on the street nearby. No collar and no tags. (NOTE from the author: I have picked up about 300 dogs from the streets within the last 8 years. Only 4 of those dogs had tags and nearly none of them were spayed/neutered). But the dog seemed very well taken care of, he was in good shape and was pretty clean, as if he just had a bath.

According to procedure, the dog was scanned for a microchip. An AVID chip was located so the vet contacted the microchip company. The dog had been chipped to a woman who now lives in Colorado and had given the dog to somebody else. When that person was contacted, they claimed to have given the dog to somebody else. The number provided on the chip lead to one dead end after another.

So the options for this poor baby weren’t great: if he was brought to the shelter, he would most likely be euthanized after a few days (the six Los Angeles City Shelters and the six Los Angeles County Shelters euthanize an average of about 1,200 Pit Bulls PER WEEK). Since our rescue is full, and most other rescues are full, we asked the vet to hold on to this handsome boy for a little while. We were going to do our best to try and find him a home. The reality is that it takes several months, sometimes years, to find a GOOD home for a Pit Bull, especially an adult Pit Bull. Ty was estimated to be between 5 to 7 years old. Most people want puppies or young (1-2 year old) dogs, and most people do not want Pit Bulls. In short, we needed a miracle. And that’s what we got, but in a different (and much better) way than expected.

Our volunteer Leslie, and I met on Tuesday, October 11th at the vet’s office to take Ty (who we had named Stanley) out in the neighborhood for a photo and video shoot. We were going to post his info on several websites to try and find him a home. We found a nice, shady, grassy area to take photos in, and we gave him some toys and a little bandana so he would look extra cute in his pictures. We took a ton of great photos and decided to take a walk in the neighborhood nearby to find a nice spot for a video. As we were walking, I told Leslie how funny it would be if the Ty’s owners just happened to see us walking him.

After a little walk, we settled on a nice lawn and Leslie and Ty were the stars of our little adoption video. Having captured some great photos and footage, we started walking back to our car. Suddenly, an SUV pulled up next to us and a woman rolled down the window. She was very excited and asked us if we had found this dog. We told her that somebody had found him and brought him to our vet. She shouted, “That’s our dog! It’s Ty! He has been missing for almost 2 weeks!” I still get goosebumps when I think about this moment. They stopped their car in the middle of the street and the woman, her husband, and their daughter jumped out of the car. They were in complete shock as they embraced Ty. It was a wonderful reunion, with Ty snuggling up in their arms.

I asked the woman, whose name was Debra, to show us some proof that Ty was really their missing dog. She showed us pictures of Ty on her cellphone, and it was clearly him! Everybody kept talking over everyone else because it was such a great moment. Debra, her husband Michael, and their daughter were in total disbelief that they just happened to be driving down this street at the right moment. What a miracle! And then they told us what had happened to Ty…

They had bathed him (remember, when he was found and brought into the vet’s office, it seemed like he had just had a bath) and then let him go potty in the yard. They left for a couple of hours to give food to the homeless people in the area, which they do regularly. While they were gone, it started to rain. Ty had a history of getting anxiety when the weather was bad. So, in his anxiousness, he chewed through the fence and got out. He wasn’t wearing his collar/tag since he had just had a bath and was drying off. (NOTE from the author: Please make sure to never let your dog into the yard without proper ID. Keep your dog indoors after a bath until you put collar/tags back on the dog.) Debra and Michael had adopted Ty about 6 years ago from a local, well known rescue who FAILED to check/change the microchip information, which could have resulted in Ty’s death if he had ended up in the shelter. We all went back to the vet’s office because I couldn’t release Ty to his family without getting approval from the vet. Dr. Nunez and the staff at Animal Medical Center were overjoyed about the wonderful news. Everybody had fallen in love with Ty during his short stay there.

We took this picture to post it - It was not necessary:)

Ironically, Debra had been referred to Animal Medical Center by a friend right before Ty had gotten out. Ty had a minor skin problem that they wanted to get checked out. The vet that was referred to them happened to be the same vet that Ty was brought to when he was found. Michael told us that he had just bought steak and fish for Ty right before his disappearance. When he went missing, they had checked the shelters (both in person and online), made lost dog posters, and posted ads on Craigslist and other pet search engines. They also recently had their fence reinforced with a metal grating so that none of their dogs would ever get out again.

When they were reunited, Michael rushed home to get Ty’s collar, tag, and leash. After we said an emotional goodbye to Ty, he and his family, now complete again, went home to reunite Ty with his little dog brother!

Cool and Fun Stuff Pet Care

When dogs turn into artists – A fun event in N.Y.

Dog Art Night – A fun Event with creative dogs

Our friend Jenna Dreher from Pet It Forward (, a website that helps pet owners save money by booking and paying for pet care online, hosted Dog Art Night at Animal Haven in SoHo on Saturday, Oct 8th. Learn more about please watch Jenna’s video interview.

The sold out event was a huge success, giving pets and their people the opportunity to unleash their inner artist by creating individual “Abstract Paw Paintings,” “Make Your Own Dog Tag Art,” and all the pups at the event had a chance to add their helping paw to paint a large scale canvas “Paw Painting” that is now for sale on to raise money for Animal Haven Shelter.  The event was attended by some local dog celebrities including Doggie Moms of NYC star Erika with her dogs Cubby and Ginger.

Rescue Chocolate founder, Sarah Gross, set-up a human’s only chocolate store for the event to raise money for Animal Haven.  We recently interviewed Sarah, learn more about her business idea here and listen to her audio interview. And New York City pet photographer Marshall Boprey took tons of great photos during the event.

We want to thank Jenna for reaching out. The pictures are too cute.

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Adoption Breeds Contests Cool and Fun Stuff Get informed and educated Interviews on Pet Care Pet Care Product Reviews Shelter Animals

Interview with Dogster's Top Dog Ted Rheingold – Helping Dogs and Cats Get Adopted Every Day

Massively popular Dogster ( is a platform for dog lovers, an online community with over one million subscribers, 800,000 pet profiles and two million unique visitors every month. Dogster Inc., the creator of award-winning Dogster as well as its feline counterpart Catster (, offers knowledgeable and trustworthy resources, expert points of view and a vast wealth of opinions, advice and wisdom from a huge community of dog and cat owners.

We had a great time interviewing the Founder, CEO and Top Dog at Dogster, Ted Rheingold – a passionate animal lover who wanted to create a platform in 2004 for dog lovers to share pictures of their dogs and communicate with other like-minded people. He shared with us his insights of one of the biggest dog- and cat-related online platforms in existence.

Interviewer: Rufino Cabang (PackPeople) / Interviewee: Ted Rheingold  –

Dog lovershttp://www.dogster.comCat Lovers

Twitter: @dogster  –  @catster

Facebook: Dogster   –   Catster

Fun and interesting websites Ted mentioned are:

The Dog and Cat Cancer Fund  –

Teddy the Dog –

Dog is Good –

Note: Ted will speak at the BarkWorld Expo in Atlanta end of this month. Visit BarkWorld Expo – a Social Media Event.

If you liked the interview please share it with your community by clicking the Facebook and Twitter icons at the bottom of this article or feel free to leave a comment. Thank you.

iTunes: Get PackPeople’s interviews as a Podcast! Free Download – Listen and enjoy when ever you want!

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Cool and Fun Stuff Interviews on Pet Care Pet Care

Fido, Fasten your Seat Belt! An Airline just for Animals – Pet Airways Services in America

A business idea was born when Dan Weisel and Alysa Binder, Founders of Pet Airways, wanted to travel with their Jack Russell Terrier, Zoe. After searching for a safe and comfortable way to take Zoe with them, they founded Pet Airways, the first pet-only airline  in 2009.

The best travel solution for our pets, Pet Airways transports all animals only in the climate-controlled cabin with an in-flight attendant who takes care of the “pawsengers” and checks on them every 15 minutes. Pet Airways supports safety, care and comfort for all pet travelers and their significant growth in revenue (an increase of 105% in the second quarter of 2010) shows us that we and our pets love this new and innovative service. Dogs, cats and even pigs can fly….with Pet Airways.

Now it’s boarding time…fasten your seat belt and check out the great audio interview with Aly Tognotti, Director of Customer Care for Pet Airways.

Pet Airways by PackPeople
Pet Airways 


You Tube: Pet Airways

Facebook: Pet Airways

Twitter: @PetAiways

Aly Tognotti, Director of Customer Care at Pet Airways recommends:

Best Friends Animal Society –

Petfinder –

VPI Pet Insurance –

If you liked the interview please share it with your community by clicking the Facebook and Twitter icons at the bottom of this article or feel free to leave a comment. Thank you.

iTunes News: Get PackPeople’s interviews as a Podcast!

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Adoption Get informed and educated Interviews on Non - Profits Pet Care Shelter Animals

Food, Water, Shelter, Care and Love – Video Interview with Erica from PEP!

PEP! The Pet Education Project was founded in 2009 in Louisiana by Erica Callais. This education and outreach program visits schools and youth organizations to teach the importance of responsible pet ownership and other topics regarding animal and environmental awareness. PEP! also supports pet owners through pet food drives and other projects.

PEP! incorporates a variety of games, trivia, and prizes to make PEP Talks memorable and fun. Therapy animals are available to be present if allowed. PEP! also offers contests and competitions throughout the year to further engage students in materials covered during their time outside of the classroom. PEP’s method has proven to be an enjoyable time for teachers and students alike. Since March of 2009 PEP! has spoken to over 7,000 kids across North West Louisiana!

We had a great time interviewing Erica, a passionate animal lover and educator. She shared with us her projects, events and how The Pet Education Project’s school program  works.

Interviewee: Erica Callais / Interviewer: Rufino Cabang (PackPeople)

Pet Education Project


Twitter: @EricaCallais

Facebook: Pet Education Project (PEP!)

Websites Erica mentioned are:

Spay Day –
Petfinder –
Pet Education –
PackPeople (YAY) –
KSCL –  for PEP Talk on the Radio, streamed live on Saturdays, 10am – 11am (Central)

Spreading the word can help save lives! If you liked the interview please share it with your community by clicking the Facebook and Twitter icons at the bottom of this article or feel free to leave a comment. Thank you.

iTunes News: Get PackPeople’s interviews as a Podcast!

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Adoption Breeds Interviews on News No - Kill Movement Non - Profits Pet Care Pet Care Shelter Animals

PackPeople adds your fundraising to our mission!

Hi, Fellow PackPeople –

We are very excited to announce a new phase in our mission toward achieving a no-kill nation – the launch of our free platform that can be used by shelters and rescues all across America and abroad to raise funds, increase awareness, manage and organize volunteers and events.


With PackPeople’s new organizing platform, groups and individuals will be able to support, start and join animal welfare groups in an easy-to-follow online format, illustrated below:

The launch of this new development is coming soon, and we hope you’ll join PackPeople as a participating member to gain the benefits of this free program – one that will help save and improve the lives of countless animals.

Of course, we’ll continue to feature our interviews with the people who make animal rescue, welfare and care a priority, as well as our informative blog entries from passionate animal activists. So in the meantime, please enjoy reading the information we truly enjoy sharing.



You don’t want to wait? Be one of the first ones! Fill out the form below and join our list of the top 50 organizations.


Pet Care Pet Care

Flea and Tick Treatments – What’s Right for Your Pet?

Here’s another excellent entry from our friend Katie Jockers at and Beloved Beasts – valuable information about caution, precaution and caring for our best friends!

[From Katie:]

You want to be the best-ever guardian and friend to your pets, and are careful to provide the best nutrition and vet care. You make sure your home, no matter what size, is safe and comfy. You make sure to provide plenty of enrichment and an interesting life for your beloved beast. You are a good human after all, and want nothing but the best for your pets.

Good grooming and flea and tick control are a large part of responsible pet care, yet this is an area where a lot of good humans become confused – and struggle with making the best choice for their pets. We know there are dangers associated with some products,  but we also want to keep our pets safe. Also depending on where you live, the same treatment is not going to be the best choice for every pet.

Dangers posed by fleas and ticks

Fleas can – and do – reproduce fast! A female can lay up to 100 eggs at a time, so your pet can go from having just one to having hundreds of fleas in a very short time. Even more troublesome than infestation is the problem caused by flea bites. Flea bites cause itching, and with itching comes scratching. Scratching can cause any number of painful rashes which can become infected. Pets can also pick up parasites like tapeworm, develop flea allergy dermatitis, become anemic, or contract serious diseases.  Depending on the type of fleas in your area these diseases can include flea-borne typhus or yes, even the dreaded bubonic plague.

Ticks are known for spreading Lyme Disease, but in the US they have also been known to bear other unwanted and life-threatening gifts. These include babesiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever, tularemia, Q fever, and tick paralysis. Serious stuff indeed.

Balancing the severity of potential problems caused by these plentiful pests with the dangers associated with many common flea and tick remedies is important, and the decision may differ from person to person. What we want to do here is to give you an overview of what to look for so you can make an informed decision for your beloveds. As always, if something you read doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right for you… so listen to your gut.

Like I always say: You are your pet’s best defense and you know her (or him) better than anyone, so educating yourself about the options you have available is one of the best things you can do – for the both of you.

Health Matters!

Good nutrition is absolutely the place to start. Animals with properly functioning immune systems are less attractive to pests and resist many diseases carried by fleas and ticks. While it may be necessary to address the fleas and ticks themselves as well, please don’t forget to take care of your pet’s nutritional needs. This means feeding a wholesome diet free of nutritionally empty fillers, dyes and by-products. That’s a column in itself, and we’ll just leave it at that for now, but remember to care for that immune system while your pets are healthy. We give our pets Immune Support every day and have seen a halt to ear infections and skin allergies. And so far, we haven’t seen one flea. Then again, I must remind you that we live in Colorado and not Pennsylvania or Florida.

Types of flea and tick control – and what to watch out for

Organophosphate Insecticides & Carbamates

Found in most OTC (over the counter) flea and tick sprays on grocery and chain store shelves, the organophosphate insecticide tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP) is extremely toxic to the nervous system. TCVP is the culprit in the many cases where Hartz brand flea and tick products have been linked to poisonings and deaths of so many companion animals. On their own website, Hartz supplies the following warnings:

“Contains an organophosphate that inhibits cholinesterase.

“NOTE TO PHYSICIANS AND VETERINARIANS: This product contains an organophosphate and may cause cholinesterase inhibition. Cholinergic symptoms may include salivation, miosis, incoordination, muscle fasciculation and/or weakness, vomiting and diarrhea. Atropine is antidotal. 2-PAM may be effective as an adjunct to atropine. Call your local Poison Control Center for further information.”

Carbamates are listed on ingredient labels as carbaryl or propoxur. In September 2010, carbaryl was banned from inclusion in any flea or tick products, but products already on store shelves are still permitted to be sold.

Pyrethroid Spot-On Treatments

Permethrin is a pyrethoid insecticide. Just as it is on OPs and carbamates, the EPA risk assigned to permethrin is that it is “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” Of course this leads me to believe that translates to our sensitive furry family members too, yet permethrin and pyrethroid insecticides are approved for use on pets’ skin.

While EPA approved, over-the counter pyrethroid spot-on treatments are consistently reported to the EPA to be the cause of deaths, seizures, brain and heart damage, the EPA continues to grant approval.  This is partly because they contend that many reports come from pet guardians, not trained toxicologists, so proof is not solid. Hmmm…

For a deeper look at these risks, including why the EPA continues to approve the dips, powders, sprays, collars etc. which use permethrin as flea and tick control and why we find the facts so concerning, the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) filed a report over ten years ago which is particularly readable and informative. You can read it here:

The danger signs to watch for in pets who have been overexposed to poisons found in flea and tick treatments include skin rashes, hiding (avoiding people and other animals),  shivering or tremors, excess salivating, dilated pupils and vomiting. A trip to your veterinarian is in order immediately. Also, when your pet has been treated for any emergency associated with these products, please call the EPA’s National Pesticide Telecommunications Network at 800-858-7378.

The NRDC’s Green Paws page has an excellent list of many OTC flea and tick control products along with their ingredients and a risk assessment. Here’s the link:

My take on this is that if it’s cheap and you found it at your local big-box-mart or at the grocery store, you are likely going to find these pesticides in your flea and tick control product.

Safer Alternatives

Prescription Oral Flea and Tick control Products

These are safer, since they do not need to be applied directly to your pet’s skin. They do contain pesticides though, and in some cases can cause significant danger and allergic reaction in pets. If you live in an area where infestations are unbearable, your veterinarian may advise using one of these safer once-a-month oral medications.

Topical Sprays Made With Essential Oils

While pesticide-free and much safer than chemical pest control, care still needs to be taken when using essential oil preparations to combat fleas and ticks. Always use a formula designed specifically for pets, and make sure the oils are natural and organic, not synthetic. Cats, in particular, are highly sensitive to essential oils – so make sure the formulation you choose is safe for cats before using. Some people advise not to use essential oils with cats EVER: this is because over time, accumulation can become toxic. We have seen a few carefully formulated and diluted sprays which can be used safely. In fact, we work with a holistic veterinarian who makes one for our company. But even with these safe and natural sprays, care must be taken. Remember that although herbs are “natural”, they can be potent antagonists also!  It is also important that you never spray essential oil flea and tick preparations in the eyes, face or on genitals of your pet. Never EVER use pennyroyal oil on pets, as it can cause serious neurological damage.  Oils like peppermint, cedar, clove, and lemongrass are safest but still need to be used wisely. Lemon eucalyptus oil does a tremendous job of killing fungus and repelling mosquitoes, but as with all essential oils, should only be used on pets if formulated specifically for them.

Bonus: Herbal sprays can be used with oral flea and tick control methods quite nicely for extra protection. More often than not, they can also be used for humans. Sharing is caring, after all.

Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth

Food grade diatomaceous earth (that’s a mouthful. let’s just call it DE, shall we?) works by dehydrating fleas and ticks that come in contact with it, usually in anywhere from one to 72 hours. It is not poisonous to pets. It is important that you choose food-grade for pets. DE can be sprinkled in your home and on your pets. Don’t forget to sprinkle on their beds, too. It can be used outside in any area where fleas frequent. The catch is that if the area treated (and this includes your pet) gets wet, the area needs to be retreated.

Parasitic Nematodes

Yes. Parasitic nematodes. Steinernema carpocapse nematodes to be exact. These are not the same nematodes which wreak havoc on plants and can attach themselves to people and pets. Parasitic nematodes’ destructive ways are limited to only certain insects and have been reported to be incredibly effective in controlling fleas in soil and lawns which regularly get wet. Unlike DE, they will survive wet conditions. They are easy to apply (most can be sprayed with a garden sprayer) and are affordable.

Nutritional Yeast and Garlic
Nutritional (or Brewer’s) yeast and garlic work by making pets’ blood taste awful to fleas. Many companies offer pet-safe formulations in tablet form, or you can add them yourself. I buy nutritional yeast in the bulk foods section of my local natural grocer. Take special care with garlic and pets, especially in cats, as it can be toxic. I would avoid adding it unless fleas are unresponsive to yeast, and only then after discussing garlic safety with an animal health professional. If you want to try using nutritional or brewer’s yeast, start by adding about a teaspoon of brewer’s yeast to food for cats and small dogs, and about a tablespoon for large dogs. Watch for an allergic reaction and stomach upset before adding anything else. Most pets actually like the way it tastes.

So What’s Best For My Pet?

I won’t sit here in relatively benign Colorado and tell you that what works here for my furry family will be the same solution for your furry family in Florida,  California or wherever you may live. What I hope you gained from this article is a better understanding of the need for flea control and also the very real risks associated with the treatment options most readily available. I hope that you will take a good look at your pet’s nutrition and that you will consider using natural alternatives to chemicals first. Keep in mind that the risks and discomfort associated with fleas and ticks are greater than not treating for them at all, so learn what you can – and ask a lot of questions. Your pets will thank you!