Pets’ Microchips Are Useless If You Can’t Be Located

August 15 is Check the Chip Day.  Is your pet microchipped?  When was the last time you updated your contact information with the microchip registry?  If your information isn’t accurate, your pets’ microchips won’t help you recover your pets.

Pet microchips work

It’s a heart-breaking scenario that unfolds far too often: a shelter recovers a lost pet, but they have no way to locate the owners.  Unless they happen to make it to the right shelter at the right time, the family may never see their pet again.

Microchips that contain the owner’s contact information can successfully reunite families with lost pets. Dogs with microchips are twice as likely to be returned to their families as those without microchips.  Cats with chips are about 20 times more likely to be returned to their families.  But pet parents must register the chips with the manufacturer and keep their information up to date.  Unfortunately, only about 6 in 10 families register pet microchips.

Register your pets’ microchips

When your veterinarian implants a chip into your pet, you need to register the chip with the manufacturer.  Some veterinarians may do this step for you, using your current contact information.  If not, you must use the chip number provided to you by the veterinarian to complete all information on the website.  Always ask your veterinarian what additional steps you need to take to ensure that your microchip is fully registered and up to date.

Shelters, rescue organizations, and veterinarians can search the registries from most microchip companies.  The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) maintains a database of microchip registries, called the Universal Microchip Lookup Tool.  As long as your contact information is correct, anyone with access to a chip reader can find you to return your pet.

Keep your pets’ microchips up to date

Check the Chip Day reminds us to keep contact information up to date with microchip manufacturers. Most of us don’t think about our pets’ microchips very often.  When we move house, updating that microchip information is probably the last thing on our minds.  Log in today and update your contact information.  It’s a simple step that could make all the difference if your pet is ever lost.

If you aren’t sure your pet is microchipped, or if you have lost the manufacturer’s information, make an appointment with your veterinarian today.

Infographic: Microchip Your Pet






The New Bar K Dog Bar Brings Joyful Community to Riverfront Park

The new Bar K Dog Bar remains, first and foremost, a joyful and welcoming space. The community-building formula perfected in the Bar K Lab (pets, people, play, potables, and a touch of special Bar K magic) has not been lost in the translation.  Yes, we’re gushing.

The Bar K retains its industrial roots in the container construction and in the use of found space under the Heart of America Bridge.  Look around you, and you’ll find traces of the much-loved warehouse space in the West Bottoms that was the Bar K Lab.  Adirondack chairs still provide a pop of Bar K blue and orange and make comfortable places for intimate conversation in the open play area.  The made in Kansas City Ricochet game table has a new home on the upstairs patio.  Inside, a container door is repurposed as a sliding barn-style door.

But owners David Hensley and Leib Dodell, together with the architects at Clockwork +Design have moved far beyond the limits of industrial warehouse space to create a community gathering place with a modern vibe that pulls together the best elements of downtown Kansas City, from the Rivermarket to the Crossroads.  The team has somehow managed to create the perfect mix of posh and homey.  The blend balances without culture clash the trendy and upscale, yet down home and friendly spirit of this upwardly mobile midwestern city.

new bar k dog bar, rainbow, bar k dog bar, bar k, beer garden
What’s at the end of the rainbow? The Bar K, of course.

The team has considered the comfort and needs of both humans and dogs equally in their design.  Playful canine-themed works by local artists grace the front of the building and create a welcoming atmosphere throughout the facility.  Inside, there are humans-only social spaces, including a coffee bar, full bar, restaurant, lounge, and conference center.  Outside, and on the patios, humans and dogs mingle.

new bar k dog bar, bar k dog bar, beer garden, bar k, dog, dogs
The beer garden builds community at the Bar K. Photo courtesy Jason Doss.

The architects designed a park that is landscaped for function and beauty.  The team incorporated different types of surfaces to provide visual interest, and also textural interest for the dogs.  Turf, sand, gravel, and wood chips provide places for dogs to run, dig, and play.  A meandering walkway leads through small groves of native trees in the shade of the bridge.  Large boulders and wide concrete steps provide ampitheather-style seating with a view of the park.

Play features for dogs only include a large jungle gym, a climbing area, and a splash pool, complete with doggy cabanas.  There are separate spaces for puppies and small dogs. Humans may choose to linger on the patios,  at the outdoor bar, in the beer garden, or indoors.  Or they may play one of a number of human-sized lawn games.

As always,  dog play is well supervised by Bar K staff.  There are water stations and misters at several locations in the park, and staff keep the water bowls clean.  Recycled containers at both ends of the park serve as shelters for warming or shade.

Ultimately, the new Bar K Dog Bar will be a true community center for Kansas City dogs and their families.  The team plans to host a variety of live events on their outdoor stage, including live music, educational events, and more.  For now, patrons and their pooches can enjoy live music in the evenings. In true Bar K fashion, dogs are part of the entertainment, and you will occasionally find them upstaging the performers.

new bar k dog bar, bar k dog bar, bar k, dog, dogs, stage
As always, the dogs are part of the entertainment at Bar K.

If you played at the Bar K Lab, you will recognize many familiar faces among the staff at the new Bar K, along with many new friends.  “Must love dogs” is a condition of hire, and it shows.  It’s a place where everyone knows your dog’s name.  Come in a few times, and everyone will know your name, too.  That’s the magic of the Bar K:  everyone is truly special here.



Is Your Dog Done with Summer? Spice Things Up at a Dog Swim Party

At the end of a long, hot summer, a dog swim party may be just the thing to bring back the joy of life to your dog.  We have had a brief break from dangerous summer heat in Kansas City this week, but hot summer weather is sure to return.  Our dogs are bored with early morning and late evening walks, and they’re ready for some serious day time play time.  Lucky for them, dog swim party season is just around the corner.

Dog swim parties are a growing trend

A growing number of municipalities across the US are opening public pools to canine guests after the last human swimmers have toweled off and flip-flopped out of the park.  And why not?  Thousands of gallons of water will go straight down the drain at the end of the season.  This water can be used one final time for family fun when the pool is opened to dogs.  Cities use the proceeds  to fund dog park improvements, rescue organizations, and more.

dog swim party, dog pool, kiddie pool, water slides, frisbee
Friends with a frisbee.

Dog swim party basics

  1. Bring a friend.  There’s something about water that brings dog joy bubbling to the surface.  You will want to share the experience.  If you don’t have a dog, you may want to go just to watch.  Dog swim parties are that good.
  2. Stay out of the water.  Most public pools that host a dog party ask humans to stay out of the pool.  The hosts permit wading up to the knees but discourage swimming with the dogs.  These parties are popular and the pool will be quite crowded with rowdy dogs.   Parks host these parties after the regular season.  Park staff do not test and re-treat the water to appropriate levels for human swimmers.  For this reason, disease-causing agents may not be eliminated from the water.
  3. Pay careful attention on the pool decks. Dogs don’t know that the pool area isn’t a dog park.  They will run wild on the pool decks.  Slippery surfaces plus running dogs make a dangerous situation.  Always watch out for the dogs, because they won’t always watch out for you.  Consider leaving small children at home.
  4. Keep your belongings on tables.  At one pool party last year, we saw dogs urinate on at least three different backpacks.
  5. Practice good swim safety with your dog. Watch your dog at all times. In a large pool filled with dogs, you may find it difficult to keep track of your dog’s location.  Dogs may not be able to exit the pool in deeper areas.  Be especially vigilant if your dog is swimming in water over her head.  Like small children, dogs can panic in the water, and they may not alert you to their distress.  Use a life vest if your dog is not a strong swimmer.
dog swim party, dipping dogs, life vest, life jacket, labrador retriever, dog swim, pool
Use a life vest if your dog is not a strong swimmer.

Where to find a dog swim party

Contact your local parks and recreation to find a dog swim party near you.  These events are upcoming in the Kansas City Metro area:

Tails on the Trails Pet Festival and Dog Swim, Lenexa

Dippin Dog Swim Party at the Springs

Dippin Dog Swim Party at the Bay

This Smart Litter Box Monitors Your Cat’s Health

Imagine a litter box that monitors your cat’s health and reports issues directly to your cell phone.  A new smart litter box in Japan will do just that.

The Smart Litter Box Technology

Cats are prone to many health issues as they age. Many common feline health conditions can be detected through evaluation of changes in weight and urination.  Unfortunately, cat owners often miss subtle changes in weight and the amount of urine their cat produces over time.  Cats often do not get regular veterinary examinations that could detect problems in the early stages.

A new smart litter box from the Sharp company in Japan will help pet parents monitor their cat’s health.  This box includes detectors and software that will monitor a cat’s weight, the amount she urinates, and the length of time she spends in the litter box.  When the system detects an abnormal change, it notifies the owner’s smart phone directly.

Multiple cats?  No problem.  The box comes with optional sensors that will detect individual cats in a multi-at household.

Why are we excited about this technology?

  1. Cat obesity: Weight gain in cats, just like in people, usually occurs slowly.  Pet parents are notoriously unreliable at recognizing weight gain and obesity in their pets.  This technology will provide consistent and objective evaluation of a cat’s weight over time.  An owner who receives an alert is more likely to take action and have their cat examined by a veterinarian. If the company has thought this through, the box will monitor improvement over time, too. Owners could use this to help evaluate the effectiveness of a diet plan for their cat.
  2. Diabetes: Changes in weight and increased urine volume are indicators of diabetes mellitus.  Cat parents may not recognize increased amounts of urine in the box, unless they are paying careful attention to the litter balls.  A tool to alert owners when their cat is urinating more frequently and with a higher volume could revolutionize the early diagnosis of diabetes in cats.   If diabetes is diagnosed early, cats have a higher chance to go into remission when treated.
  3. Kidney disease:  Kidney disease is common in aging cats.  Increases or decreases in frequency or volume of urination may signal the onset of kidney problems.  Early diagnosis and treatment is crucial to managing the progression of kidney disease.
  4. Urinary blockages: Spending a lot of time in the litter box can signal that a cat is having difficulty urinating.  Bladder infections or blockages due to bladder stones can cause this problem.  Cat parents can easily miss this sign, unless they are carefully monitoring the litter box.
  5. Hyperthyroidism: This common problem in middle-aged to older cats can cause them to drink and urinate more.

These are just the most common problems that this smart litter box could help detect.  Alerts to changes in urination and weight will encourage owners to take their cat to a veterinarian for diagnosis.

How much does the box cost?

The box is rolling out at a cost of about $224 US.  The monitoring app will cost an additional $3.00 US each month.

Will the box be available in the US?

Before you get excited, this smart litter box will be rolled out only in Japan at first.  Hopefully the Sharp company will bring this technology to the US market in the near future.  We hope this box will eventually be used with smart litter to detect things like sugar in the urine (glucosuria), an indicator of diabetes.

Fake Service Animals: The Lasting Effects of Furry Fraud

This post has been sitting in my editorial calendar for some time.  Fake service animals are creating a host of problems for people with genuine need. The topic of service dog fraud is a difficult one, fraught with strong emotions on all sides.  It’s time to clear the air in a constructive way.

Service, assistance, or emotional support.  What’s the difference?

There are some misconceptions out there about what makes an animal a service animal.  There are key differences between service animals and emotional support animals.

A service animal is a working animal that has been trained to perform specific tasks to help someone with a disability.  By law, service animals may enter public areas, including airplanes and other public transportation, with their handlers. Consequently, these animals must be well-trained, and cannot present a physical danger.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recognizes only dogs and miniature horses as service animals.

An emotional support animal (ESA) is an animal that provides companionship and emotional support for those diagnosed with a psychological disorder.  These animals do not have to be trained for a specific task.  Airlines allow ESAs on airplanes under the Air Carrier’s Act.

Both service animals and emotional support animals fit under the umbrella of assistance animals.  However, emotional support animals do not have the same protection under the law as do service animals.

Service Animal Certification

Some organizations legitimately train and certify service animals.  However, the law does not require service animals to undergo certification.  Training programs for service animals are generally quite costly.  For instance, it takes about $50,000 to train a dog through Guiding Eyes for the Blind.  Such high costs may be a barrier for some people with disabilities. Although Guiding Eyes, like many non-profits, provides these dogs free of charge to people who need them, they can’t help everyone.  For this reason,those with disabilities may legally train their own animals.

It is against the law to require a handler of a service animal to present proof of disability.  In contrast, employees may ask the handlers of ESAs to present documentation from a health care provider.  By law, airlines may require this documentation before accommodating an emotional support animal.

Service animal fraud

Because  the law does not require handlers to provide documentation of disability, it is relatively easy to pass a dog off as a genuine service animal.  And there are organizations in the US that will provide documentation for an emotional support animal at low cost.  This documentation may not meet the requirements for legal documentation based on a medical diagnosis.  For these reasons, it is inexpensive and relatively simple to fraudulently claim that a pet is an assistance animal.

Why would pet parents want to commit assistance animal fraud?  Restrictions on pets and the costs of pet care are two drivers of the increase in fake assistance animals. And some people view this type of fraud as a harmless act.

Tight restrictions  on where pets may accompany their owners in the US are frustrating to many pet parents.  At a time when an owners view pets as members of the family, pet parents are pushing back against what they see as unnecessary restrictions on pets.  Claiming that a pet is an assistance animal is one way, perhaps the easiest way, to circumvent these restrictions.

Another reason people may fraudulently claim their pet as an assistance animal is to avoid some of the costs of pet care.  Under the Fair Housing Act, those with assistance animals do not pay additional pet rent or fees.  Just like service animals, emotional support animals do not incur airline fees.

Finally, people may view assistance animal fraud as a victimless act.  “Does it really hurt anyone for me to use existing laws to take my pet into this restaurant?  On this bus?” some may ask.  Well, the issue may be more complex than it seems at first glance.

What’s the problem with fake service animals?

The AVMA has released a position paper on Assistance Animal Fraud.  The paper outlines three main problems that assistance animal fraud may cause.  Service animal fraud makes it harder for those who need real assistance animals to consistently obtain reasonable accommodation.  Fraud also causes decreased goodwill for service animals and may lead to decreased access for those who need them. And finally, the large numbers of fake service animals make it harder for real service animals to do their job.

Decreased good will

How do fake service animals make it harder for real service animals?  One problem is that this fraud decreases goodwill for those who genuinely need assistance.  When poorly-trained fake assistance animals act out in a public space, the public becomes less tolerant and more suspicious of all service animals.  Recently, there have even been cases in which fraudulent assistance animals have become aggressive and injured people.

If people are suspicious of service animals, it is harder for those who need them to seamlessly use their animals in public.  The law does not require service animals to wear a vest or other identification. When the handler of a service animal has an obvious disability, such as blindness, it’s pretty easy to recognize that the service animal is genuine.  In these cases, the handler usually encounters no problem with getting reasonable accommodation.  But what happens when the handler has a less visible disability, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or epilepsy?

Service dogs may be trained to detect the onset of anxiety attacks or seizures.  They may learn special tasks to help those with anxiety disorders or PTSD.  These tasks may include placing their bodies between their handlers and others in a room, leaning on the handler during times of stress to provide physical comfort, or other subtle behaviors.  Because the handler may look and act “normal,” people may suspect that the service dog is unnecessary, and some may even accuse the handler of fraud.

Decreased access

The rise in assistance animal fraud has led state legislatures to comtemplate, and in some cases to pass, legislation that increases barriers to access for those who need an assistance animal.  Such bills may require training certification (this increases the costs to those with disabilities) or proof of disability.   Some handlers are concerned that states may refuse to acknowledge the need for service animals in cases of psychological disorders.

Decreased ability to do the job

The presence of poorly trained animals in public spaces sometimes makes it hard for service animals to do their job.  A service animal is trained to ignore distractions, including other animals.  But a reactive or even friendly animal may attempt to interact with the service animal.   A disruptive animal may force the handler to stop or to move around the other animal.  As a worst-case scenario, other animals may attack and injure the service animal.

What are potential solutions to the problem?

The AVMA lays out some potential solutions to help prevent assistance animal fraud.

    1. Make the laws and legal definitions for assistance animals more consistent from state to state.
      Consistent definitions will allow the public to distinguish real and fake assistance animals.  Consistent laws will help employees to know when they must make reasonable accommodation for an assistance animal, and when it is acceptable to limit access.  If any service animal is disruptive or dangerous, for example, an employee may ask the handler to leave or take the animal outside.
    2. Make it harder to obtain fraudulent materials and certifications for assistance animals.
    3. Make it easier for pets to accompany their owners in public spaces.
    4. Provide broader access for emotional support animals.

What can pet parents do about this problem?

Pet parents and the public can address this problem by increasing awareness, working to pass pet-friendly legislation, and ensuring that pets are well-trained.  Let people know that passing off a pet as an assistance animal is not only illegal, but it also creates real problems for the genuinely disabled.   Get involved at the local and state level. Rromote pet-friendly legislation that makes it easier for everyone to take their pet with them in public spaces.  Finally, make sure your pets are well-trained.  Increasing public access for pets requires that pets be well behaved.  Take a Canine Good Citizen certification course or basic obedience training for your pet.

Support organizations that provide service animals at low or no cost to those who need them.  Warrior’s Best Friend,  Battle Buddy Service DogsFreedom Service Dogs, Little Angels Service Dogs, KSDS Assistance DogsGuiding Eyes for the Blind, Canine Companions for Independence, and many others are working to ensure that service animals are there for the people in need.

And for those who use and will continue to use a fraudulent service animal, it is on you to ensure that the animal is as well trained as a real service animal.