Tag: Top Stories

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.



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.


How Much Should You Feed Your Dog? Basic Steps to Estimate Energy Needs

How much should you feed your dog?

It depends on your dog’s age, breed, weight, activity level, and health status.  It also depends on the type and brand of food you are feeding.  Dog nutrition is complex, and that’s why you should always consult your veterinarian before starting any diet or exercise program with your pet.  Online feeding calculators and formulae for estimating your dog’s energy needs provide only a rough guide.  Only your veterinarian is qualified to make sound recommendations for your dog’s nutritional needs.

How much energy does your dog need each day?

There are many tools to help pet parents estimate how much energy their dog should get each day.  Whether you calculate by hand or use an online tool, there are two terms that you will need to understand.

Resting Energy Requirement (RER)

The resting energy requirement is the energy that your dog needs, at rest, to maintain current body weight.  The RER is calculated with the formula

70 x (body weight in kilograms)0.75

Where body weight in pounds/2.2 = body weight in kilograms (kg).

An easier way to estimate this is to convert your dogs weight in pounds  to kg (divide by 2.2). Multiply the weight in kilograms by 30 and then add 70.

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Maintenance Energy Requirement (MER)

The maintenance energy requirement is the energy that your dog requires daily based on health status, neuter status, activity level, and other factors that influence metabolism.  Veterinary nutritionists have established several multipliers to the RER.  You may find a good list at the Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine .  Note that this list includes multipliers for weight gain and weight loss as well as maintenance.

For pets, it’s customary to refer to energy as kilocalories.  That’s equivalent to the Calories (with a capital C) that are listed on the labels for human food.

Online calculators

You may find online calculators that will help you make these estimates.  The most comprehensive calculator tool out there is provided by the Pet Nutrition Alliance.   To use this tool, you will need to provide basic information about your dog.   This tool is for adult dogs only.

How much food does your dog need each day

It can be hard to know how much energy is in your favorite brand of dog food. That’s because dog food companies do not have to provide on the label the energy content of the food.  However, your dog food company should provide this information if you request it.  Many premium brands, like Pet Wants, now voluntarily list the amount of energy per cup on their label.  You may also find information about the number of calories in your dog food online. Kurgo.com is one place to find the energy content of many brands and types of dog food.

Most veterinarians recommend feeding twice daily.  To estimate the amount you should give at each feeding, in cups, divide half your dog’s MER by the number of kilocalories per cup of your dog’s food.

Always use a standard measuring cup, rather than a roughly cup-sized household object, to measure the amount of food you are giving your dog.  Even a few extra kibbles can add up to a lot of extra kilocalories when they are given at every meal.  You need a consistent measure to help you keep your dog’s diet on track.

Don’t forget treats!

If you give treats (and who doesn’t?), don’t forget to include treats in your dog’s kilocalorie count.  Don’t be fooled.  Even treats like rawhide chews may have up to 80 kilocalories per ounce!  Don’t feed over 10% of your dog’s recommended MER in treats each day. Tiny training chews make excellent low-energy treats.  Give them as a reward in place of a larger biscuit.

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be!

Still feeling confused about how much to feed your dog? There’s an easy way to get started that doesn’t require any calculations, web searches, or complicated math.  Measure the amount that you are feeding your dog each day in cups.  Look on your dog food label and find the recommended feeding amounts.  If your dog is overweight and you are feeding more than the recommended amount, gradually cut back over a couple of weeks to the lowest recommended amount.  If you feed this amount and your dog does not begin to lose weight, you may consider trying a weight loss (high fiber) diet.

It’s important to remember that dog foods are formulated to be nutritionally complete when fed as recommended.  This means that you should never decrease the amount of a dog food below the recommended amount on the label, unless instructed to do so when your dog is under veterinary supervision.

If your dog is underweight, make sure you are feeding at least the recommended amount.  Increase the amount gradually until your dog begins to fill out.  If your dog continues to be underweight, this could indicate an underlying health condition.  You should consult your veterinarian to rule out other problems.

PetWants Olathe is a sponsor of the Fit2BPawsome Challenge.  KC Pet Collective is not affiliated with Pet Wants and does not receive a commission on sales.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Golden Retrievers: What You Need to Know

The incidence of dilated cardiomyopathy in Golden Retrievers is on the rise.  Could diet be the problem?  Some veterinarians are beginning to think so.  Here’s what you need to know about the ongoing research.

What is Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Dilated cardiomyopathy  (DCM) is a condition caused by a weakening of the heart muscle that leads to poor contraction strength.  Ultimately, both the left and the right chambers of the heart become dilated, with thin walls.  The disease is most often progressive and fatal.

Some breeds have a genetic predisposition to DCM.  Affected breeds include the Doberman Pinscher, Boxer Dogs, American Cocker Spaniels, Newfoundlands, Irish Wolfhounds, Portuguese Water Dogs, mastiffs, and Great Danes.  Other breeds, including Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Saint Bernards, Springer Spaniels, English Sheepdogs, Afghan hounds, Scottish Deerhounds, terriers, and English Cocker Spaniels also have a relatively high incidence of the disease.

But genetics isn’t the whole story in some cases.  In the 1990’s, veterinary cardiologists began to connect dietary taurine deficiency with DCM in some breeds.  They found that the disease was linked to diet in some Cocker Spaniels, Newfoundlands, and Golden Retrievers.

What is taurine?

Taurine is an amino acid.  Unlike many amino acids, it is not used by the body to build protein.  Instead, taurine helps regulate the volume of cells, and  it is a component of bile salts. It is necessary for many body functions.  Many animal tissues contain high levels of taurine.  Dogs can make taurine, and it is not considered an essential amino acid for the canine diet.

Dr. Josh Stern, a veterinary cardiologist who studies DCM at the UC Davis College of Veterinary Medicine thinks that some dogs may have something in their genes that causes them to make less taurine.  In these dogs, diets that are lower in taurine could lead to disease. He is studying blood samples from dogs with and without DCM for clues.

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What diets have been associated with Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Golden Retrievers?

Although there are no published studies that link any diets to DCM, Dr. Stern and others have observed an association between some diets and the disease.  These diets include high fiber, lamb and rice meal, and very low protein diets (Morris Animal Foundation, Golden Retriever lifetime study).  Recently, investigators have also linked some grain-free diets, especially those high in legumes such as peas or soy,  to development of DCM.   They speculate that there may be something in legumes that hinders the absorption of taurine.

What should parents of Golden Retrievers do?

Regular veterinary visits and health examinations are essential for any dog.  Make sure you talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s diet.  Your vet may recommend a blood test for dietary taurine levels.  If your dog has signs of dilated cardiomyopathy, your vet may recommend a taurine supplement.  Continue to feed your dog a balanced diet with plenty of protein.

It is important to catch the disease early.  Taurine supplementation will not always be effective in treating the disease.  However, the earlier treatment begins, the better the chances for improvement.

Photo credit: Yvonne Kubo

Your Dog Smells and Mirrors Your Emotions

You are convinced your dog understands you better than anyone else.  Maybe you’re right. A newly published study by Biagio D’Aniello of the University of Naples “Federico II” found that dogs respond in predictable ways to chemosignals from people in different emotional states.  In this study, sweat was collected from men who watched videos that evoked fear or happiness.   Dogs were exposed to sweat dispensers randomly loaded with sweat from fearful or happy men, or no sweat (control).  The dogs’ owner and a stranger were also present.  Scientists recorded the dogs behavior, noting activities like approaching, interacting, and gazing.  They also noted whether the behaviors were directed at the owner, the stranger, or the sweat dispenser.  Dogs interacted less with owners and more with strangers when exposed to the “happy” sweat.  They interacted more with their owners and exhibited fear behavior when in the presence of the “fearful” sweat.  Heart rate data also indicated that dogs exposed to sweat from fearful people were more stressed than those exposed to sweat from happy people.

These results indicate that not only does your dog understand you, but he also senses the emotions of strangers.  This may be important when you and your dog are in a public place and exposed to people who may be afraid of dogs or who may be having a bad day.  (Anger was not tested in this study, but it’s a safe bet that dogs modify their behavior in the presence of angry people).  Dog trainers know that one of the keys to successfully controlling your dog is to control your own emotions.  This study provides further evidence that the best thing you can do for your dog in a stressful situation is to remain calm and positive.  Not only will your dog read your facial expressions, she will also read your scent.