Canine News from Near and Far, February 2011


New Top Dog at Marin Humane

Nancy B. McKenney, a veteran animal welfare executive from Seattle, has been named the new Chief Executive Officer of the Marin Humane Society (MHS). Her CV includes more than 25 years of experience in the field. She served as CEO of the Humane Society for Seattle/King County, Washington for 19 years and from 2006 to 2008 served as the first executive director of the Foundation, established in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to help animal agencies with direct funding as well as training and education grants. 


Dog Park Opens in Oakland

On a sunny but chilly Saturday in January, a happy pack of dogs and their owners convened at Oakland’s newest hangout for canines, The Grove Shafter Dog Park (GSDP), located in the Longfellow neighborhood. The park has separate play areas for small dogs and big dogs and offers benches and picnic tables for the comfort and convenience of human visitors. 

The new dog park came about through the efforts of the Oakland Dog Owners Group (ODOG), which advocates for a more dog-friendly city, in conjunction with the Oakland Office of Parks and Recreation, the Oakland Redevelopment Agency, the Longfellow Community Association, and city councilwoman Jane Brunner. 

Grove Shafter Park’s reputation as a dingy and even dangerous place is expected to improve now that the park is attracting more visitors. “This is wonderful,” said Brunner at the opening ceremony. “This was an underutilized area.” 


Warning Labels for Flea Meds

In December, a lawsuit brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) was settled in favor of dogs and their human companions in California. Henceforth, warning labels are legally required on flea and tick collars that contain propoxur, a known carcinogen. NRDC also petitioned the federal Environmental Protection Agency last year to remove toxic chemicals from all pet products, an issue that has not yet been resolved.

As a result of the settlement, eighteen pet product manufacturers and retailers have agreed to cease making collars containing propoxur available to the public without adequate warning labels. Such products should have been properly labeled by August of 2007, as required by the state’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. The NRDC’s lawsuit was aimed at forcing compliance and has succeeded in doing so.

A 2009 NRDC study found high levels of propoxur and tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP) — chemicals that have been linked to brain and nervous system damage, as well as cancer – on the fur of pets who wore ordinary flea collars. Because children often handle pets and are also known to put their fingers in their mouths, this chemical residue likely poses a health risk to them. 

To learn more about poisons in flea and tick control products, see the NRDC’s online consumer guide at


Dogs in U.S. Date Back 9,400 Years

Researchers at the University of Maine recently identified a bone fragment from the “earliest confirmed domesticated dog” found in the Americas. Samuel Balknap III discovered the fragment while analyzing fossilized human waste discovered during a 1970s dig at Hind’s Cave in Texas. Carbon-dating determined that the bone was 9,400 years old and DNA testing showed it was from a dog, not a wolf, coyote, or fox.

The discovery indicates that in addition to providing companionship, security, and hunting skills, sometimes dogs were themselves a food source. Belknap had been researching the diets of the region’s inhabitants, not looking for evidence of dogs. He wasn’t surprised by the find, however, as some American Indian tribes and ancient people from Central America were known to eat dog.

Prior to this find, archaeological evidence had dated dogs in the U.S. back to a mere 8,000 years “or more.” Some had posited they were here as early as 11,000 years ago, but the evidence was not iron-clad. DNA testing now allows for scientific proof rather than conjecture when dating such discoveries.


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