2015-05-20 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

DNA: What do the letters stand for? Well, that depends on if you are referring to the Watson and Crick Nobel Prize-winning genetic code discovery or animal rescue. The meanings are quite different. When people in the same field communicate, they often use initial abbreviations (initialisms) for terms familiar to them, yet foreign to outsiders. For example, listening to two nurses discuss a cardiology report, “SOB? What is that?” I asked. “Shortness of breath,” they replied in unison.

Similar abbreviations occur when writing about animal rescue, veterinary reports or even purebred dogs. (GSD stands for “German Shepherd Dog” whereas SCWT signifies “Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier,” better known as “Wheaten.”) After hearing new volunteers at a kitten cage card ask, “FIV? What is that?” I realized shelter shorthand terms are not obvious to everyone, so here is a primer listing of some of animal rescue terminology:


Natale, the HBC dog with a surprise injury Natale, the HBC dog with a surprise injury *DNA- Stands for “Do Not Adopt.” Rescues and shelters share lists and notes about people with suspicious adoption histories. This could include terrible experiences about pets they have adopted in the past, or those who were not truthful on their adoption applications about veterinary care or the reason for the demise of their other pets. Hoarders and alleged cruelty cases are blasted in DNA emails too. Often these people are determined to find an agency that will let their guard down and give them a pet, so it is best that every rescue, near and far, be warned.

Recent DNAs include a LI man whose micro-chipped cat was found in a cemetery. When contacted, he said he didn’t want the cat back. Another DNA circulated through all rescue channels. I received the same warning about a woman in CT from a LI shelter and the WV transport network. Supposedly she was adopting big breed puppies such as a Doberman and then asking her vet to euthanize the dogs for minor medical problems. The strange part of the story was why any veterinarian would do such a thing.

DNAs can also pertain to rescue organizations with questionable reputations or paid transport drivers who have lost dog passengers because of unsanitary conditions or carelessness along the route. These accused applicants do not have the ability to “plead their case;” but as rescuers, we can’t take any chances when striving to give much better lives to homeless animals.

Years ago I had several conversations with a man in New England who wanted to adopt an abused German Shorthaired Pointer (aka “GSP”). When I spoke to the NE chapter of the breed rescue, I heard a terrifying tale of how cruel he was to his own dogs, plus how his disregard for their proper procedures had almost destroyed their rescue with a lawsuit. I would have been throwing this precious GSP to the lions. Yes, it is better to be safe than sorry. Prospective adopters are not always as compassionate as they profess themselves to be.

*HBC- Stands for “Hit by Car.” Sometimes the vet examining the hurt dog or cat coming into a shelter can only suspect the injuries were the result of being hit by a vehicle. Many times there is no witness to the incident. To make matters worse, a dog can seem to be acting OK, just a brush or scrape, but really have severe internal injuries. An HBC dog could have a diaphragmatic hernia (where organs are pushed out of place). This may not surface right away. Years ago Last Hope took “Natale,” a young Retriever mix from Babylon Shelter. He seemed fine after a close encounter with a car. He was heartworm positive too. Last Hope had a party at our Lindenhurst facility and Natale joined in the festivities by jumping as high as he could. Next day he collapsed and was rushed to the emergency hospital where his diaphragmatic hernia was discovered. Complex surgery was performed to save his life. Once recovered, Natale had his heartworm treatment and was then adopted by a vet tech that cared for him.

*HB- Stands for “housebroken” (or in the local lingo of our rescue friends from KY and WV, “housebroke”). In other words, the dog toilets outside.

*GWK- Stands for “Good with Kids,” This determination is difficult unless a rescue knows the pet came from a home with kids, and can trust the surrendering owner is being truthful. Dogs can be temperament tested but we rarely “sacrifice” a child when doing so. A baby doll is used. Some organizations have young volunteers interacting with the pets but you never know enough until the pet is in a home environment for a period of time. Based on the strength and exuberance of the dog, it is also best to specify whether a dog would be more suited for teens and up.

*HW- Means “heartworm.” The notation “HW+” denotes that a dog is infected with heartworms which will infiltrate the heart and lungs if left untreated. This is the deadly disease transmitted when a dog is bitten by a mosquito that has previously bitten a HW+ dog. Monthly HW preventive pills are the most common way to protect your dog. Treatment for heartworm is expensive and risky. Most LI shelters test for HW now.

*FeLV- Stands for “feline leukemia” which is a virus that kills 85% of infected cats within three years of diagnosis. FeLV is transmitted many cat to cat ways. Approximately 2-3% of all cats in the US are infected with FeLV.

*FIV- Means “feline immunodeficiency virus” which affects 1.5-3% of all cats in the US. Primary transmission is through bite wounds. An FIV cat can live years without symptoms. Many shelters test cats either for FeLV alone or a combo FeLV/FIV test.

Dogs in Need of Homes at Babylon Animal Shelter, Lamar St.W. Babylon: “Lilly” 15-291, a steel blue Pit mix, was rescued off Rt. 231. This sweet gal looks like she recently had a litter. “Carpenter,” the male Yorkie 15-293, was found outside Home Depot in Farmingdale.

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