Blog Archives

We LOVE what we do and want to spread the word far and wide! Homeward Trails representatives are available to speak at your community group, office, school, scout troop etc. about a variety of topics related to animal rescue and advocacy.  We also have fun humane education lessons for children of all ages.

Contact for more information.


What would you do if your neighbor was chaining his dog outside for 24 hours a day? What would you do if a friend unknowingly purchased a puppy from a pet store and later found that puppy came from a puppy mill or became sick and died and the pet store refused to address it? Sadly, in Arlington County as well as most communities across the country, there is not much you can do. There are currently not adequate laws in place to protect animals and people from such issues.

We in rescue are doing great work. We are saving lives every day, spaying and neutering animals to help the overpopulation problem and ideally, educating the larger public on the importance of adopting vs. buying pets. But still, rescue is only a band aid on the larger, root problem of why so many millions of animals end up in our shelters, needlessly euthanized or suffer from neglect and abuse at the hands of owners who face few or no repercussions for mistreating their pets.


Tethering is the act of chaining a dog outside to a fixed object like a tree, a dog house, or an appliance. It is quite possibly one of the most cruel ways a dog can live his life. Dogs who are tethered not only suffer from a lack of physical and mental exercise, they also receive little human interaction. Most also suffer from heartworm and flea infestations, fly bites, allergies and in severe cases – collars that become embedded in their necks causing infection, pain and sometimes death.

Right now in Virginia there are only 13 jurisdictions that have limits on how many hours a dog can be tethered by a chain. And to date Arlington and Fairfax Counties are not included in this list. That means that in your own communities and across the state, thousands of dogs can (and do) legally spend their days, months and years chained to trees and dog houses no matter the weather. After months of HT and local animal advocates working with the Arlington County Board on this issue, we hope that in October the Board will pass a measure restricting the number of hours that dogs can be tethered in Arlington County. That will not only bring relief to dogs currently being tethered, but will prevent others from facing dismal life on a chain.

Kudos to Montgomery County, MD and Alexandria, VA for their anti-tethering laws!

Pet Stores and Puppy Mills

Thousands of puppies across the country and many right here in the DC area are being sold to the public by pet stores for thousands of dollars, having come from cruel puppy mills and disreputable breeders. Uninformed consumers flock to these pet stores, lured by the adorable pint-sized puppies being advertised and purchase one, unintentionally contributing to the massive puppy mill operation in the United States. Sadly, many of these puppies end up in our shelters when they are found to have health and/or behavioral issues and consumers find themselves without recourse when they cannot return the puppy to the store, receive a refund or financial help when their puppy requires expensive medical care. In fact, most of these pet stores offer shady financing deals for people who cannot afford to pay for their  puppy outright!

There is currently nothing stopping a pet store that gets it puppies from puppy mills (or other disreputable sources) from opening in Arlington County, Alexandria, Fairfax and most other jurisdictions in our area. In fact, two such pet stores currently operate in Fairfax and despite numerous investigations, complaints and efforts from local animal advocates to have them shut down, they continue to sell puppies and defraud their customers.

Petland in Fairfax has been known to purchase puppies from puppy mills and has been investigated many times. Most recently Petland was in the news when a family purchased a puppy that quickly became sick and died of Parvo.  And yet this large national chain continues to do business in dozens of communities across the country, reaping millions of dollars on the backs of animals.

The Dreamy Puppy Pet Store, also in Fairfax, refuses to disclose the origin of their puppies, which retail from $700-$1,000. When asked to share the breeder information, the staff refused to do so until after the puppy was purchased. That means a customer who purchases a puppy, researches the breeder and discovers the puppy came from a puppy mill or backyard breeder, has no recourse. Dreamy Puppy has a no-refund and no-return policy.  Dreamy puppy purposely does not disclose the breeder’s info to its customers, successfully banking on selling its puppies to consumers who have not done adequate research and may be completely unaware of what puppy mills are or that their new puppy came from one.

No amount of rescue efforts can address the two issues outlined above. Only stronger laws protecting animals and consumers can make a difference.  In our local area, many laws protecting animals can be enacted at the County level in a short time with a moderate amount of public participation and influence to make this happen. Permitting restrictions and zoning are two simple approaches to preventing a pet store like Petland or Dreamy Puppy from opening. And our County governments can pass ordinances restricting tethering and have many examples to emulate from jurisdictions that have taken such measures already.

How can you help? There are so many ways! Here are a few things you can do!

– Learn who your local and state elected officials are. This is key! You can more easily reach out to them when an animal issue arises that needs quick action.

-Contact your local County representatives and animal shelter to ask what current laws/ordinances exist that restrict tethering and what restrictions/requirements apply to pet stores that sell animals.

-Gather a handful of fellow animal advocates and set a meeting with your elected County official to discuss these issues and what can be done to improve the laws for animals

– Make your vote and your dollar count! Did you know that both Maryland and Virginia have Political Action Committees devoted to getting animal-friendly legislators elected to office and working on pro-animal legislation? At the state level where so many laws can effectively help animals, an election can often be made by a few hundred votes and a few hundred dollars!  Your efforts and money can go a great distance in supporting pro-animal legislators and legislation! Check out the PACS in MD and VA and get educated and involved! By liking these groups on Facebook, you will get regular updates on legislation, events, and elections that you can influence!

-Attend the upcoming Advocacy Training by Homeward Trails, Humane Society of the United States and the Animal Welfare League of Arlington to learn specific steps you can take to become an active, effective animal advocate (Monday, October 21, 2013, 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM, Arlington County Parks Recreation Center, 2700 S Taylor Street, Arlington, VA 22206) and similar training in MD.

– Learn what the larger national organizations like Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the American Society for the Protection of Animals (ASPCA) are doing nationally as well as state-wide to enact pro-animal legislation.

– Spread the word!! Educate everyone you know about tethering and puppy mills. You will be shocked to learn that so many people do not know about either.

Contact Sue Bell at Homeward Trails  if you would like more information or advice on ways you can get involved!


How to Become a Therapy Dog information session will be hosted by Dog Paws ‘n Cat Claws and presented by People Animals Love (PAL) on August 15th.

The human-animal bond is powerful. Leveraging the human-animal bond to make the DC metro community a better, richer place to live keeps PAL busy. The medical, emotional and social benefits of pet ownership are well documented — PAL extends these benefits into the community with our two programs, Pet Visiting and PAL Club and Camp.

Ever wanted to learn how you can get your pet involved in a great program like this? Join us August 15th from 7:15-9pm as Jack Hillelsohn from PAL discusses all the ways to get involved with Pet Therapy.

Dog Paws ‘n Cat Claws
5818-C Seminary Rd.,
Bailey’s Crossroads, VA 22041


Homeward Trails Animal Rescue Third Thursday Educational Series

Dr. John Herrity, DVM, practice owner of Burke Animal Clinic, will present an informative session about  advances in veterinary medicine and alternative treatments.

Date/Time: Thursday, May 23, 2013, 7:15 – 9:00 p.m.

Location: Dog Paws ‘n Cat Claws, 5818-C Seminary Rd. Falls Church, VA 22041


Cost: $5 donation to Homeward Trails

Dr. John Herrity has been caring for pets in Northern Virginia for over 25 years.  He attended Virginia Tech and graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.   Never satisfied to tell a client, “There’s nothing more I can do for your pet,” he continues to look for ways to increase the quality of life for his patients.  He practices integrative medicine by offering traditional veterinary medicine alongside progressive holistic therapies, such as stem cell therapy, Veterinary Orthopedic Manipulation, cold laser therapy, homotoxicology, and Bicom bioresonance therapy.

These therapies give Dr. Herrity more options to treat injuries, illnesses, and chronic conditions and to provide drug-free alternatives to pain management.  He’ll talk about his philosophy on healing and how he treats common conditions, such as torn cruciate ligaments, allergies, kidney disease, and hip dysplasia, with therapies that don’t just treat or mask symptoms but address underlying issues that, once treated, may improve the overall wellness of pets and help them live with a better quality of life.  He’ll share real-life cases and answer questions.


Homeward Trails Animal Rescue Third Thursday Education Series

Everything you ever wanted to know about your cat’s health!

Dr. Marcus Brown of NOVA Cat Clinic (formerly Capital Cat Clinic) will be discussing comprehensive cat health including urinary tract issues, dental health and diet which are very important topics for our feline friends.  Dr Brown will also answers questions from the audience.

Date/Time: Thursday, April 25, 2013, 7:15 – 9:00 p.m.

Location: Dog Paws ‘n Cat Claws, 5818-C Seminary Rd. Falls Church, VA 22041


Cost: $5 donation to Homeward Trails

Dr. Brown knew that he wanted to become a veterinarian at age 5.  He was fortunate to be able to work with his father, a veterinarian, and became passionate about helping animals.  He is the founder NOVA Cat Clinic and he received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1986 from the University of Illinois.  He is an active supporter in local, state and national feline organizations and serves as the medical director for Alley Cat Allies.  Dr. Brown is the President-elect of the  American Association of Feline Practitioners  and was one of the authors of new wellness guidelines for feline practitioners. Dr. Brown is the AAFP alternate delegate to the AVMA House of Delegates.  Dr. Brown lives in Arlington with his three cats , Spanky, Cosmo and Bootie. In his free time, Dr. Brown enjoys traveling, reading, and running.



Homeward Trails Animal Rescue Third Thursday Education Series

Legal Responsibilities of Pet Owners

What if your dog bites or is bitten by another dog?  What if your dog bites a person?  Are there legal implications to owning certain breeds of dogs?  What if your neighbor’s dog barks uncontrollably?  And how do you plan for your pets in the event of your death or incapacitation?  What is the legal status of your faithful companion?  Find out all of this and more about the legal aspect of dog ownership!



This session will be led by Heidi Meinzer. Heidi is an attorney and animal lover, not necessarily in that order.  She is the founder and owner of the Companion Animal Law Blog, which you can find at, the Chair-Elect of the MSBA Animal Law Section, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies. She is also on the Board of Homeward Trails Animal Rescue, Inc.  Heidi is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, and is proud to work as an Assistant Trainer with Fur-Get Me Not, an award-winning dog training school in Arlington, Virginia.

COMPLETED: Date/Time:  Thursday, March 21, 2013, 7:15 – 9:00 p.m.
Location: Dog Paws and Cat Claws, 5818 C Seminary Rd. Falls Church, VA 22041


Cost: $5 donation to Homeward Trails



…and Where to Find a Positive Trainer

Training is a very, very important part of ensuring that your new family member settles in and successfully integrates into the family. Much of this success can be determined in the first few months of bringing your new dog home – but training can also be a lifelong commitment. With so much information out there these days online, on television and at your local pet stores it is difficult to choose between so many options.

There are many types of training and not one type will fit every dog. But what should always be consistent is that the training type be positive. But what does “positive” mean? How do you know if the trainer you choose is truly qualified? What if your dog needs help beyond a trainer in the form of a behaviorist? What does that mean and who is qualified to be a behaviorist?

The following article is courtesy of Fur-Get Me Not, an Arlington-based doggy daycare, pet sitting and dog training business.

Positive Dog Training: What Does The Term Really Mean?

There are two main approaches to dog training: traditional and modern. Traditional dog training evolved from the use of dogs in the military during WWI and WWII. It relies on using physical force and the standard equipment includes: choke chains, pinch collars, or shock collars. Modern dog training was introduced to the public in the 1980s and originated from scientific studies of animal behavior and the application of learning theory. The main scientific application in the training field at this time was with wild animals, particularly marine mammals. Studies followed a formal scientific process requiring trainers to base their results on solid data that could be replicated by other trainers and scientists. Karen Pryor, a marine mammal trainer, played a major role in popularizing positive training methods and expanding them to dogs. Her book Don’t Shoot the Dog (1984) was ground breaking. It translated behavioral concepts to a practical level and dispelled the myth that force and coercion to “show who is boss” was required to get an animal to respond. The positive dog training movement has never looked back.

Rachel Davino

Rachel Davino


What is positive dog training?

The Pet Professional Guild defines it simply as: “No Shock, No Pain, No Choke, No Fear, No Physical Force, No Physical Molding, No Compulsion Based Methods are employed to train or care for a pet.”


Characteristics of positive dog training

  • HUMANE: Does not use any methods that will deliberately hurt or intimidate the dog. Uses equipment such as buckle collars, martingales, no-pull harnesses, and head-halters. Applies the principles of the Humane Hierarchy as defined by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT).
  • SCIENTIFIC: Emphasis on learning theory (classical and operant learning) and animal behavior. Knowledge of canine body language and the ability to use techniques based in behavioral science to keep a low stress level and provide the optimum opportunity for learning.
  • MOTIVATIONAL: Recognizes importance of finding foods, objects or activities that motivates each individual dog.
  • RELATIONSHIP BUILDING ORIENTED: Understands the training experience is a partnership and the more you learn about and know your partner, the more effective the training. Takes into consideration the entire dog, including personality, genetics, past experiences, living environment, and immediate needs. Appreciates dogs are living beings with good and bad days and will adjust the expectations of the dog accordingly.
  • PROFESSIONAL: Realizes high standards are important.  A national and independent certification system has been developed.  Dog trainers are able to sit for exams (certification level #1 – CPDT-KA), and provide videotaped clips teaching a student how to train their dog (certification level #2 – CPDT-KSA). Continued education by attending seminars and participating in workshops in order to remain certified is required.

Positive dog training benefits:



  • It teaches the animal that paying attention to humans is rewarding so they do it because they want to.
  • It is an effective method for all dogs. All dogs have something they are motivated by that can be used in training.  The final behavior we are looking for is always broken down in many small steps to make sure we build on success.
  • It takes into account the entire dog, both physical and mental well-being. The goal is to change old behaviors and develop new  – not suppressing bad behaviors.
  • It encourages the dog to think, to be creative, and to problem-solve by offering a safe learning environment.
  • It teaches the dog what we want him to do – not punishing him for behaviors we do not want him to do.
  • It builds on success for both you and your dog. Errors are an integral part of the learning process, you both get more practice and improve your skill set but no one gets hurt in the process.
  • It will build your dog’s confidence level.

The below links are also excellent resources to ensuring that you select a qualified, positive trainer or behaviorist for your dog.

 Here are positive trainers in the DC area and an excellent organization that focuses on helping adopters secure positive training for their dogs: