Sunday, May 31, 2009

Oh Screw

Phoenix had to be euthanized today due to her injuries from being set on fire:

Julie Hirsch, a nurse, told Unleashed that Phoenix was going into kidney failure. Her face and rear quarters, where most of the burns were, had swelled considerably and she wasn't recognizable.

A few hours ago, nurses brought the one-year-old dog outside to be put down. They wanted her to be outside, not in a cage.

Thank goodness for the kindness she was shown at the end of her tragic life. More from Unleashed:

She touched the hearts of everyone that came in contact with her and anyone who heard her story. We can only hope now that someone will come forward so that there can be a conviction on this case.

BARCS has a reward set up called the “Phoenix Reward” where we are collecting money for anyone who can identify the young men responsible for this cruel act of violence. The reward at this time is at $3,000 and most likely will increase over the next few days.

To contribute to the reward fund, visit BARCS and specify your donation is for "Phoenix Reward Fund". If the reward money goes unclaimed after 6 months, it will be turned over to the Franky Fund which was used to pay for Phoenix's treatment and will help other homeless pets in need of care in future.

With fume of sweet woods, to the skies,
Pure as a Saint's adoring sighs,
Warm as a prayer in Paradise,
Her life-breath rose in sacrifice!

- excerpt from "The Phoenix" by George Darley

Washington Co/Johnson City Animal Shelter in TN Kills a Pitbull

Earlier this month, I mentioned this TN shelter which had a Pitbull stolen from it. The perpetrators were caught on surveillance video. Prosecuting that crime went nowhere (shocking, I know) but oddly enough, someone actually turned the dog back in to the shelter on May 15. The man relinquishing the dog said he wasn't the one who stole him but had obtained him from another man, whose name he did not know. Stay with me now, as we get sucked deeper into the WTF Vortex:
The stocky Joker had lost some weight, and during his 13-day absence, Joker’s demeanor had changed, [Shelter Director Debbie] Dobbs said. While he still exhibited the same friendly attitude toward animal shelter employees and adults he did before he was taken, he returned with an aggressive attitude toward other animals and young children.

OK so in 13 days, the dog had become aggressive toward other pets and kids. If we take that at face value, I guess we could look at it as a rehab challenge. The dog's needs have now shifted to include behavioral modification with other pets and kids. Obviously this isn't a lifelong pattern of behavior, just something the dog supposedly picked up at some point over the last 13 days. Doesn't sound too daunting to attempt to rehab. So what efforts did the shelter make toward this end?

While she noticed no wounds on him or evidence of fighting, Dobbs said Joker’s personality change was likely caused by the breeding of the un-neutered animal. Dobbs said such activity in any breed of dog causes the animal’s testosterone levels to elevate and leads to them becoming much more territorial.

“He definitely wasn’t the calm, happy dog he was when he left,” she said.

Oh dear. Attention male mammals: breeding turns you into a territorial, aggressive beast. There goes all those Father of the Year awards. How did we ever manage to domesticate Man's Best Friend if the males all turn into aggressive a-holes after breeding?

So what about the rehab for Joker?

Dobbs said Joker was given a couple of days to settle down upon his return, and another temperament evaluation was performed.

This is the rehab? Sitting in a shelter run for a couple days before conducting another eval? And we would expect to see different results why exactly?

This time, however, Joker failed the evaluation.

Joker displayed his new aggressiveness toward children and other dogs, Dobbs said.

Well blow me down. Couldn't have seen those test results coming a mile away. And by the way, what qualifications did the person conducting the evaluations have? It wasn't the same person who thinks breeding turns a dog into an aggressive animal I hope.

“I had people who came in here with their children and said he was barking and lunging at the cage with the children, so I said ‘that’s it,’” Dobbs said.

And by "that's it" of course, she means she killed the dog. On May 20. Five days after he'd been returned.

To recap, for those of you who didn't have your Stupidity Seatbelts fastened:

Joker was out of the shelter for 13 days. The Director guesses that he was bred during that time which changed him from a friendly dog into an aggressive dog. He was returned to the shelter, evaluated apparently twice (by someone of unspecified qualifications), given no training (at least none mentioned in the article), and killed within 5 days of his return.

Regarding the thieves who stole Joker from the shelter, the Director says:
“Sure, we’d love to prosecute them for stealing, because that is theft,” she said.
Yeah and I'd love to prosecute you for failing to provide shelter for this dog and for using an "evaluation" as an excuse for killing him. Because that is theft. Theft of trust from your community and from this poor dog who had no choice but to trust and rely upon you for care.

Every dog deserves a fair evaluation by a qualified individual as a means to help determine what type of training and home environment is best suited to the dog. A fair evaluation is not a "pass/fail" and is not an excuse for killing. Shelter Fail.

Maybe the Director figured that since Joker had no owner and no one to speak for him, she could just kill him without consequence. The tragic irony being that the Shelter Director herself is supposed to be Joker's advocate. It is she who is paid to be his voice and protect him from cruelty. And it's all of us in the community who must hold our fellow citizens accountable for their actions.

Goodbye Joker. I'm sorry we failed you.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Collateral Damage

There seems to be a continuous supply of "Pitbull set on fire" stories in the news. Like most other severe cruelty cases, I try to avoid them. We all have our limits.

But the story of Phoenix, a female Pitbull in Baltimore who was saved when hero police officer Syreeta Teel saw her in flames and put the fire out using a piece of her own clothing, caught my attention:

The Pit Bull was brought to BARCS [Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter]. Despite the severe pain she was in, she wagged her tail and looked for comfort from the BARCS staff members.


She has suffered horrific burns over 95% of her body. The fire stripped the fur and flesh from her small figure.


Phoenix has a long road ahead of her. Her injuries are vast and she is at risk for infection and in severe pain.
There is a reward of $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who are responsible for setting fire to the dog in Southwest Baltimore, in the 1700 Block of Calhoun Street, on Wednesday, May 27th. All tips are confidential. Call 410-396-4698 and ask for the Animal Enforcement Officer Supervisor at the Bureau of Animal Control.

I have no idea what motivated the sicko(s) who set this dog on fire. But I got to thinking. Baltimore has a history of BSL (now repealed). And certainly one doesn't have to look too hard in the MSM to find sensationalized - and sometimes totally inaccurate - stories about Pitbull maulings. Is there a collective price to pay for demonizing an entire breed of dog based upon the actions of a small percentage of irresponsible owners? Phoenix can't talk of course, but I sure would like to hear her thoughts.

To donate to the Franky Fund which is being used to pay for Phoenix's care, please click here.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Let's Play Oddball

I missed out on doing Oddball last week. But do not fear:

Snail Boy (dig the improvised catch-pan!)

5 year old Siberian girl apparently raised as pet

Good pigs - yes biscuit!

I didn't even know kangaroos could swim, never mind that they needed a lifeguard.

Maybe this lady's number is written on an Emu restroom wall?

Secrets to long life:
He is a strict vegetarian who moves incredibly slow with a stress-free and peaceful lifestyle[...]
New book explores the "moral nuances" of animals

What's Going on at the Lyon Co Animal Shelter?

Dog owners in Nevada redeemed their dog Maui from the Lyon Co Animal Shelter in December 2008 and found he was injured. Maui had been in a run with 3 Pitbulls. From there, things get a little confusing as everybody involved tries to dodge responsibility. The Deputy who impounded the dog says he followed protocol (one dog per kennel) and placed Maui in a run by himself. He says the dog was happy and healthy at the time of impound. The county manager has his own version of events:
Lyon County Manager Dennis Stark claims shelter works had no hand in which kennel the Storey County Deputy placed Maui in. Stark also says, Maui may have been injured before he even got to the shelter since the Storey County incident report states Maui was was picked up for aggressive behavior. Regardless if maui was injured before he got to the shelter or while he was there, it appears Lyon County violated its own policies. According to Lyon County Animal Services Policy and Procedures, the shelter should have provided medical treatment to Maui.

Not only that, but someone violated the "one dog to a run" policy when they put the second Pitbull in with the first. And again when someone put the third Pitbull in with those two. But they prolly don't have owners and so there is no one to speak for them. And anyway they're just Pitbulls so who cares, I guess. Maui's owners have filed a claim for the $1600 Vet bill incurred pursuant to the dog's injuries. Mr. Stark denied the claim. They are pursuing further action.

Apparently these violations are not isolated incidents at the shelter but rather part of a pattern of abuse. An emergency meeting was recently called to discuss the shelter situation:

Many concerned Lyon County citizens say the shelter operations are not up to standards. "They need help. They don't have water, they don't have food, they don't have shelter or they're being beat. there's a number of things I've seen and we won't even go into detail." That's according to Nonie Higley, a former animal control officer.

Even local law enforcement agencies like the Lyon County Sheriff's Department have reported a lack of cooperation and assistance from Lyon County Animal Control.


Now,the board will make recommendations and report to the county commissioners to address shelter problems.

Now, it's up to Lyon County commissioners to make a decision for action and set policy regarding shelter operations.

Dennis Stark, the county manager, is the one to put that policy in place. [emphasis mine]

Sort of a HopeKill there, ain't it?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Please Don't Say...

Things that make my ears melt:

"Don't buy while shelter pets die" - If you or I or anyone buys a dog, that does NOT - I repeat NOT, not no way, not no how - condemn a shelter dog to death. It's a bit of propaganda (pdf alert) used by extremists to make people feel guilty for making informed decisions and exercising personal freedoms responsibly.

"Don't breed while shelter pets die" - Responsible breeders sell dogs with an agreement that they will take the dog back if necessary at any point in the dog's life. Consequently, responsible breeders do not contribute the shelter population. Responsible breeders do contribute to rescue efforts for the breeds they produce - by donations, fostering, referrals, or some other means. Again, the idea that all breeders are the same and they are all bad is just another bit of propaganda.

"Pet overpopulation is the main problem facing pets in this country" - There is no such thing as pet overpopulation in the US. We have enough homes for every shelter pet in the country. Where we fall short is not in the number of pets as compared to number of homes wanting pets - it's in the community as a whole. We need trap-neuter-release programs for feral cats, low/no cost spay-neuter clinics, and well run shelters which care for pets humanely and actively work to seek homes for those pets, even if it means going outside the local area and thinking outside the box. Especially then, actually.

"Unwanted shelter pets are euthanized to make room for more" - This is a double whammy for me. First, ending a life is only a kindness in my opinion if it prevents further suffering in a medically hopeless pet and is performed using the most humane method available by a Veterinarian. That is euthanasia. Ending the lives of healthy/treatable pets to make room for more is killing.

Second, killing adoptable pets to make room for more adoptable pets who will be killed shortly thereafter in order to make room for more... What kind of sick logic must one employ in order to think that is a good idea? Raise your hand if you think "animal shelter" means "pet slaughterhouse" (not you PETA, put your paws down, I'm not calling on you).

Here's my radical thinking: Shelters should work as hard as they can at finding homes for the pets in their care. Shelter staff should work as if they're getting paid to do it. Cos they are. And because anything less than making their absolute best efforts toward getting adoptable pets into homes greatly increases the likelihood that pets in their care will be killed. No one wants that. (I said hands down PETA!)

Need more motivation? Check out this presentation by Maddie's Fund (pdf link at bottom of page) that states we can save every adoptable pet in the United States by 2015. Heck if we can save 100% of the healthy/treatable pets in shelters by 2015, we can surely save more than we are now, starting today. So even if you don't believe we can get to a 100% save rate this year, why not try for something close? Or if that seems too far off, how about simply trying for a significant improvement? If your shelter currently has a 20% save rate, aim for 60%, starting today.

Enlist your community in implementing the No Kill Equation. Ask for help. People want to help save shelter pets. No matter what you've heard.

Treats on the Internets

Stats on shelter dogs - Who and why

Maddie's Fund has a dl'able coloring book for kids age 6 and under

Nutro recalls dry cat foods

A Vick article apparently intended solely to inflame Pitbull owners

The Dogs of Equality - pet slideshow by Christie Keith

Denver's Pitbull ban will be challenged in court, again.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

WSB-TV's Segment on HSUS: "Shoddy Reporting"?

A week and a half ago, WSB-TV Atlanta posted a story from their newscast investigating HSUS donations but removed both the text article and video shortly thereafter. Google's cache of the page was swiftly burned as well. Over the course of the following week, the video repeatedly popped up on a number of websites only to be quickly taken down due to "copyright violation". If in fact WSB-TV is truly concerned about copyright violations, why have they done nothing about the hundreds of other video segments from their news program posted on YouTube? Some of them have been up there for years and yet the HSUS video, whether it was posted on YouTube or elsewhere, was removed very shortly after posting each time it appeared. Finding the video before it was taken down became like a game of whack-a-mole.

This curious game led to speculation on the reasons behind the frantic action to snuff the report. Some have wondered if the possibility that the report calls into question the 501(c)3 status of the HSUS is the reason. Another guess came from a reader named Hillary who stated she works for HSUS. She left a comment on my blog which reads, in part:

WSB-TV has issued a correction and removed the story from its web site. Consider that this news station has lawyers to determine when and if they’re at fault for shoddy reporting. They don’t simply pull a story at the first sign of disagreement; in fact, they’re probably thrilled when a story gets as much attention as the one about HSUS has.

First, the "correction" referred to is a "clarification" which reads as follows:
We have a clarification to make about our story on the Humane Society of the United States. WSB-TV reported that HSUS spent almost $7 million for victims of Hurricane Katrina. HSUS says all $34 million of the funds raised in the wake of Katrina are tracked on its web site in a detailed report. If you would like to see their entire report, CLICK HERE.

This hardly sounds like a reporter backing off a story. To me, it sounds like the station wants us to know that they say X and HSUS says Y and if we want to check the figures for ourselves, we can visit the HSUS website. Fair enough.

Second, to imply that WSB-TV lawyers initiated a takedown of the report because it was total bunk is to assume that the station and the investigative reporter do not stand behind the story. Let's be clear: To my knowledge, there has been no statement from either Ms. Amanda Rosseter (the reporter) or WSB-TV indicating they do not stand behind the reporting in the HSUS piece. Therefore unless and until I hear otherwise, I absolutely defend the journalistic integrity of the piece and make no assumptions to the contrary. The fact is that we don't know for certain why the video keeps being removed from the net (claims of "copyright violation" notwithstanding) but to my mind there is no reason to assume it's due to "shoddy reporting".

The good news is that the video is available for download as a torrent here. (Simple explanation of what a torrent is, here.) And a transcript of the video is posted on PetPAC's site. Video posted for viewing here and here. There's a wmv available here.

AZ: Pitbull Rescue Fail

From CBS news in Phoenix:

Dozens of dogs and puppies, mostly pit bulls, are being pulled from a New River home by Valley rescue groups.
Rescuers said many of the animals had only green or brown water to drink, and two were so badly hurt they died from their injuries.
The man who was supposed to be caring for the dogs was a volunteer foster parent for one of the rescue groups.
Rescuers said several of the dogs had gotten into a fight and were bleeding. One dog died before they got to the property this weekend.
Another was taken to the hospital, but her injuries were too severe and she died late Monday afternoon. Two others were deemed vicious and had to be put down.
Well suck, suck and double-suck.
Mangano [who sent the dogs to this "foster parent"] added she may need to start a better screening process for potential foster parents in the future to make sure the animals go to good homes.
Oh, ya think?

Indianapolis BSL "Tabled" but Still Kicking

As I blogged last month, Indy was considering a bill discriminating against Pitbulls and low income owners. Council member Mike Speedy has a letter to the editor in the IndyStar which begins:
I continue to work diligently on the now-tabled At-Risk Dog proposal because the risk of being mauled or killed by a dog in our city is unacceptable.

Using this logic, one must ask why Mr. Speedy is not working just as diligently on proposals to counter the risks of being in a car wreck or getting hurt at work for example. Or are those risks acceptable in Indianapolis? Here's the thing: In a free society, there are risks. There are people who behave irresponsibly out of malice or ignorance. Then there are accidents - some preventable, others less so. And there are unfortunate victims as a consequence of all these factors.

Mr. Speedy would possibly have us look at which models of cars are involved in a portion of accidents and which occupations represent a statistical hazard for injury. Those cars and jobs could then be banned. Would that solve anything? Would irresponsible owners of these certain cars be magically transformed into responsible citizens and behave as such with their new cars? Would supervisors and workers be instantly educated on job safety and perform differently at their new jobs just because their previous jobs were banned?

It makes no sense. Banning a breed does nothing to educate or reform owners any more than banning a car or job would affect behavior. And accidents will still happen, although through education, we can work to reduce the preventable ones.

BSL doesn't work. It never has, anywhere it's been tried. Instead of forcing Indy on board the Fail Train, why not try something proven like enforcing leash laws and educating the public? Rally the community. Save some lives - human and canine. Make Indianapolis safer and more humane. Anything wrong with that?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Winograd on HSUS Partnering with Vick

From Nathan Winograd's post "In Bed with Monsters":

Can anyone imagine the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence embracing wife killer O.J. Simpson to help him regain his image? Can anyone imagine the National Organization to Prevent Sexual Abuse of Children embracing pedophile John Geoghan to help him regain his image? Can anyone imagine the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network embracing rapist Josef Fritzl to help him regain his image? It is unthinkable. And yet we in the animal movement, under Pacelle’s direction, are threatening to do this very thing, to having our movement embrace our version of Simpson, Geoghan, and Fritzl as a spokesman. It is beyond obscene. It is unthinkable.


Pacelle tried to couch the partnership in terms favorable to HSUS, regardless of the outcome:
If he makes the most of it, and demonstrates a sincere, long-term commitment to the task, then it may prove to be a tipping point in our campaign to eradicate dogfighting. If he demonstrates a fleeting or superficial interest, then it will be his own failing, not ours.

But you can't have it both ways. You don't get to declare "We win" or "He loses". The fact is that the HSUS has not demonstrated a "sincere, long term commitment to the task" of saving bust dogs. If and when they do that, maybe some of us will be interested in participating in their efforts. For now, teaming up one dog killer with another just makes my filing easier.

Memorial Day

Thank you for your service, one and all.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Loudoun Co, VA Judge: Keep Right on Killing Shelter Pitbulls

Pitbull advocates took their case to a judge earlier this month challenging Loudoun County's policy on not adopting out Pitbulls. (The county kills most of them.) The judge has now issued a ruling in favor of the county. His opinion states that although residents can legally own a Pitbull, that doesn't guarantee them the right to adopt one. I guess that makes sense if you've been to judge school.

Sorry Pitbulls ensnared by Loudoun Co's "shelter" system - sucks being you.

Benton Co WA: Dogs in Danger - Can HSUS Help?

Here's a goddamn sorry situation:

Allegations of troubles at Ella Stewart's Sun Valley Kennel are nothing new. Residents have complained for years, and county officials have investigated her operation before.

In 2007, the health department recommended her for prosecution, and the prosecutor's office asked the sheriff's department to serve a warrant and check on the animals' welfare. Stewart would not let officials inspect her property, and a court order would have been needed to see the dogs.

But the sheriff's department decided to give Stewart a break. She said she was trying to reduce the number of dogs on the property. She was on a quest to breed the world's smallest American Eskimo dog, she said, and she first needed to weed through her breeding stock.

She wasn't willing to give dogs to the Humane Society or have them put down. But she stands accused of being willing to let them live in filth.

Two years later, a deputy ran across the operation while on another call nearby. He said he found it because of the odor.


At least this time the authorities didn't mess around. Armed with a search warrant, deputies found dogs living in shopping carts with wood and scrap covering them to keep them in. Water bowls were covered in algae. Kennels -- if you can call them that -- had not been cleaned in a very, very long time, if ever, deputies said.

They arrested Stewart and charged her with animal cruelty. But there's still no resolution for the hundreds of dogs. They're still living at the kennel.

Benton County has no facility to take in the dogs and rehabilitate them or euthanize some if medically necessary. The Benton-Franklin Humane Society doesn't have the resources, nor do any other facilities in the region.

More on this story here and here. Sounds like the local dog community is willing to pitch in but is simply overwhelmed. And it doesn't help that authorities seem to be dragging their feet either. I guess they figure they've known about these dogs suffering for years, what's a little - or a lot - longer? The kennel owner seems willing to cooperate to some extent at least so hopefully things could be resolved if somebody gets on the freakin' ball here.

Seriously HSUS, can you spare some cash for area shelters so they can get these dogs out? I know writing a check probably won't satisfy your need for media coverage and fundraising opps so how about if I let you don your HSUS jackets and carry out some of the poor dogs in front of the cameras? Would you be willing to write a check then? I know you're not in the business of supporting local shelters but let's be frank - you've got the money and these dogs need help. You're not going to leave dogs living in shopping carts covered with wood scraps, just because the local shelters lack funds, right? That would be totally inhumane.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Fastest Kill in the East: AL Shelter Breaks Record

A lost Boxer wearing a collar was found Tuesday by a couple of good Samaritans who brought the dog to the shelter in Walker Co, AL at 4:00. The relieved owner was waiting to redeem the dog the next morning prior to the shelter's opening. But shelter staff had "evaluated" the dog and killed him by 4:30 the previous day. The shelter director explains:

"We can have any individual bring a dog in. It's a family pet. It's never bitten anybody. It's really nice, but I guarantee you if it tries to bite one of us while we're reaching for it, we cannot and will not put that animal up for adoption."

Where to begin?

A dog wearing a collar that is turned in to the shelter may well be owned by someone looking for him. That's just common sense. Evaluating whether to put the animal up for adoption is a non-issue until the owner has had a chance to redeem the dog. Typically that's at least a few days. What is this shelter's policy for holding dogs for redemption - 14 seconds?

Temperament evaluations are a useful tool when conducted by a qualified individual with an understanding of dog behavior in a shelter environment. I'm pretty sure if I was lost and on the run, and somebody brought me to this shelter and introduced me to this shelter director, I would not be on my best behavior. Or even my normal behavior. And I can talk.

The evaluation is a guide to determining what type of training and home environment best suits the dog's needs. It's a chance for the dog to be placed successfully in a home either now, or hopefully at some time in future after some rehab. It is NOT a Pass/Fail with Fail equaling Death. That is not an evaluation. That is a lazy and cowardly excuse for killing.

Every shelter dog deserves a fair evaluation. And you know, shelter too.

Added: Thank you Heather for posting the link to an additional story on this case in the comments. In that piece, the shelter Director, finding herself in a hole, keeps digging:

The dog would not come out of the carrier so we had to use a capture pole. That is when he became aggressive.”

According to [shelter Director, Lane] Reno most animals brought to the Humane Society become frightened or agitated, which she said could explain Boost’s reaction.

“Some of the friendliest dogs change their demeanor as soon as they get here,” Reno said. “They smell the smells and hear all the dogs barking and it scares them. It changes their mind about cooperating.”

She acknowledges that dogs are often scared and not behaving in their normal manner when they arrive at the shelter. And yet inexplicably, she stands behind her decision to immediately kill the dog. In fact, she seems to be upset only at the allegation that she possibly sold the dog and lied about it. Apparently selling someone else's dog is rude but killing him=A-OK.
“Mr. Campbell [the Boxer's owner] wants to say I sold his dog or gave him away to someone, which just isn’t true,” Reno said. “I hate the Humane Society is getting a black eye over this, but we have a lot of animals brought in on a daily basis and many of them have to be euthanized. But no one here stole his dog.”

Reno alleges the Humane Society did not have any room for the boxer, despite Campbell’s claim of three empty pens. Reno said the pens to which Campbell referred are useless because of damage.

Gee, if only they would invent some kind of thing which could be done to fix damaged runs - something like a "repair". That could be useful for a shelter I would imagine in my La La Land of Fantasy Animal Shelter World. In reality, I guess the only answer is to kill dogs.

When confronted with AL law specifying that impounded dogs must be held for at least 7 days, Ms. FancyShelterDirectorPants has an answer for that too:
“That doesn’t apply to us, We aren’t a pound. We are a animal shelter,” Reno said when read the code. “The only pound that is in this building is on the city side. The building belongs to us, but the City of Jasper has Animal Control. When you have animal control you have to provide impound. Impound is what ever the city want’s to make it. Jasper City has a 72-hour hold. Jasper City pays us to feed and house their city impound dogs. Anything else that gets directly turned into us becomes our dogs. This is a not-for-profit organization, and is privately owned and operated by a board.”

Unless your business sign that reads "Humane Society" is actually made up of characters from some now defunct language which translate to "Dog Killin' Hole", I'd say you've got some kinda problem. We are the real humane society and we don't kill people's pets. I don't care what part of the building you're in (?!) or who pays your salary. You are not above the law lady, even if'n ya thinks so.

Contact info for the Walker Co Humane Society:

JASPER, AL 35501
PHONE: (205) 221-6621

Aiken Co Shelter in SC Asleep at the Wheel?

The Aiken Co Animal Shelter in SC has an appalling kill rate of 86%. In order to improve, the County Council set aside $30,000 last year for a program offering spay-neuter vouchers to those in the community who qualified. Paws up! Unfortunately, the money has run out and there are still several months to go before any new money might be available in the new fiscal year. Even worse, the prevailing attitude seems to be: When faced with adversity, give up. Paws down.

Nine months in, the money ran out…during their busiest season. In the short time we were at the shelter, four more cats were brought in. Their future owners will have to hang on until next year’s budget passes, and another round of spay and neuter vouchers are up for grabs.

[Chief Enforcement Officer at the shelter, Bobby] Arthurs: “I feel like the county’s doing there part. I think it’s going to be left up to the citizens, next year, to use the voucher program, which it’s clear that a lot of them did, because we ran out of money in 9 months.”

I am loathe to tell anyone how to do their job but in the absence of any other ideas, I'm going to offer a few:
  1. Someone needed to be evaluating the use of the program's funds on a monthly basis to make projections on future needs. When a shortfall was anticipated, steps should have been taken to address it. Perhaps contracted rates with Vets participating in the voucher program could be renegotiated to get through to the next fiscal year.
  2. Since apparently that was not done and the program is now buried on empty, steps should be taken to allow for the continuation of the program on a temporary basis until the new fiscal year starts. Again the contracted rates might be renegotiated, a community fundraiser might be in order and certainly reaching out to the media with an attitude beyond "Oh well" would be an important step in rallying community support.
  3. Give some area Vets the chance to be heroes! Rally the veterinary community, making them aware of the situation and ask if anyone can donate services to bridge the gap until the new fiscal year starts. People want to help.
  4. A report detailing the success and need for the program needs to be put together so that a convincing pitch can be made for more funding to the County Council at the next budget meeting. It may not be successful but it should at least be given an honest try!

Friday, May 22, 2009

2 Pitbulls Seized from Alleged Dogfighters in NJ

Police in Hamilton Township, NJ charged 5 men with dogfighting and seized 2 Pitbulls after apparently coming upon a dogfight in the woods. Video showing the dogs with multiple bite wounds and swollen legs is here. If the owners are convicted or sign the dogs over to authorities, I hope the dogs receive a fair evaluation to determine what type of training and home environment is most appropriate for each. A positive sign that there isn't a rush to kill them:

Since animal control officers transported the dogs to the Columbus Veterinary Hospital, where they are currently recovering, the animal control officer has received numerous calls from people interested in adopting the two animals.

"At this point both seem well and will recover," he [Captain James Stevens] said.

Colorado Dog Bites: July 2007 - July 2008

A comprehensive study of reported dog bites over a one year period in that state of CO yields some unsurprising results:

1. Most dogs don't bite.
2. Any dog can bite, regardless of breed.
3. Loose dogs contribute significantly to bite stats.
4. Unsupervised children left with dogs are at risk for bites.

These are all common sense findings to my mind and further proof that targeting specific breeds for punishment will not reduce bite stats. Despite the findings of this study, Denver, CO maintains its ban on Pitbulls.

Treats on the Internets

Save Our Dogs profiles "The Best Animal Control Program in North America" in Calgary, Canada. Calgary shelters take in 5000 dogs per year and do not kill for population control. Their dog licensing rate is over 90%. Their success has been achieved in part because they don't have MSN, BSL, pet limit laws or anti-tethering laws. Sounds like a good model to follow.

It's Dog Bite Prevention Week, which looks a bit different from the dog's perspective

From The Senior Dogs Project: Top 10 Reasons to Adopt an Older Dog

Another opinion piece on Vick's possible return to the NFL

Sign PetPAC's petition letting Congress know that HSUS and PETA do not speak for you

Join our Facebook group to promote awareness and effect change regarding animal shelter abuse and killings

Rawr: Feral cat video - Kitty gone wild

Thursday, May 21, 2009

ABC News Atlanta Segment on HSUS Donations: Now You See it, Now You Don't

I am truly confounded by the disappearing act on the WSB-TV news segment on HSUS donations. I haven't found anything to indicate the station doesn't stand behind its report. At any rate, the video is available here (although perhaps it will disappear at some point too?) and PetPAC has posted a transcript as well (same caveat). I hope the station reposts the segment on its website or issues some kind of clarification as to why it was removed.

Added, 5-22-09: YouTube posting of video here.

Added, 5-23-09: See it here and here, before it disappears (momentarily anyway)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

We've Always Been at War with Eastasia

Whatever the reasons, the WSB-TV Atlanta report examining the fact that many pet lovers incorrectly believe their donations to HSUS support their local shelters, has been pulled. The news site removed the video and text article (including HSUS response and reader comments) and apparently demanded YouTube remove the video as well (claiming copyright violation). All that's left is a "clarification" from the news station regarding the Hurricane Katrina funds and of course HSUS has posted their response (to a story now deleted) on their own site. CCF has a write up of the piece here.

So I guess we're all just supposed to forget about the whole thing. And we should definitely not remember the part about how the station checked on their state's HSUS activities and found them to be primarily directed toward legislation, not sheltering. In the piece, the GA director for HSUS agreed that legislation and lobbying were her group's main focus. I'm sure we should delete that from our memory banks because if we were to think about it, well that would call into question the 501(c)3 status of the HSUS, which might get someone riled up.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Not so hahaha

In Debbie Downer news, the AP is reporting that Michael Vick will work with the HSUS on an anti-dogfighting campaign. I wonder how these two will get along based on their histories. Cos Michael Vick apparently only wanted some of his Pitbulls dead which obviously is in sharp contrast to the HSUS who has worked to get all Pitbulls they can get their hands on killed. And as far as I know, Vick didn't consider Pitbull puppies still nursing from their dams to be a menace to society whereas HSUS - well you know, the death thing again. As for the HSUS calling for all the Vick dogs to be killed instead of rehomed, I guess that's just water under the bridge.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Holding Ourselves Accountable: Confinement

It seems like I come across this type of story fairly regularly: one starting out with a pet Pitbull and from there, everything goes wrong. This one is from San Antonio, TX:

After repeated instances of pit bulls running loose from a home in the 8400 block of Timber Mill, at least 20 residents have signed a petition that states that they feel like “prisoners in their own home.” Now, one of the dogs — an excitable but not particularly aggressive canine named Genghis Khan — could face euthanasia.

Rather than quote much more from the article (you can read the lunacy for yourself), suffice to say that both sides have gone a bit (or more) wonky. And ultimately a dog with no record of biting may be killed. It does seem as if the whole situation - and many of these types of stories - could have been prevented from escalating if the owner had kept the dog confined. Keeping a dog reliably confined to your own property is a basic tenet of responsible ownership. Of course an accident can happen where a dog escapes but provided this is a rare occurrence and the owner has a history of responsible behavior, neighbors are likely to be more understanding than in the case of a dog who roams loose on a regular basis.

The days of letting the dog out the front door and assuming he stays in your unfenced yard are over. Or maybe you think he just visits neighbors who squeal with delight seeing your dog trounce upon their flowerbeds, fight or mate with their dogs, and potty on their lawns. Yeah, no. The fact is that many areas, both urban and rural, now have leash laws. And in some places, property owners can legally shoot your dog if he is on their property and for example, chasing livestock.

It does no good to campaign for an end to breed specific legislation if we, as dog owners, are not following the dog laws already on the books. Most of us do obviously but as a community we need to do better. Educating dog owners - and their kids at school - on responsible ownership, including adherence to existing laws, is essential. We can't all afford to fence in our yards or hire dog walkers while we're at work but we can - and must - work within our means to hold up our end of the bargain as responsible dog owners and members of the community.

One way to educate your neighbors is by example. If and when an anti-pet law such as BSL or MSN rears its ugly head in your area, you can stand up as a voice for responsible owners and their pets. Others may disagree with your opinion but they won't be able to dispute your track record of complying with existing dog laws and acting responsibly. That gives you an edge right out the starting gate. And in this climate of anti-dog legislation, we need any advantage we can give ourselves.

Related Reading: The Future of Dogs by Walt Hutchens

Treats on the Internets

Sign an online petition demanding an independent investigation into allegations of pet abuse/killings at LA Co shelters

L.A. Animal Services will be increasing fees for pet adoptions and rescue groups

Save Our Dogs reports that Lake Co, CA - which has mandatory spay-neuter - has the highest kill stats of any shelter in the state.

There's a new head of BARC in Houston and he seems fond of using the word nebulous.

Nathan Winograd's latest post includes a link to a bizarro slide show opposing no kill featuring cereal boxes. For reals. [Insert "cereal killer" puns here.]

AR-HR wonders how the HSUS can maintain its 501(c)3 status after the recent Atlanta news piece

I don't think Cesar Millan is Satan - I like him - but I do like to consider all (reasonable) sides in any argument. Finally, I came across an anti-Millan article that didn't go off the rails.

NPR's Science Friday had some segments of interest to dog owners last week.

Nest cam for Red-Tailed Hawks (Love nest cams, LOVE hawks)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Taking Action Against Shelters

As a follow on to the previous post about a judge ordering a shelter in TN not to kill pets involved in legal cases without court permission, I wanted to mention a couple of other shelters and the action or lack thereof taken in their cases.

This no kill shelter in NJ has been shut down by county and state authorities for having "stagnant air" in the barn and exposed wiring while undergoing repairs:

County health officer Claude W. Mitchell said an April 8 county and state inspection led to the closure orders, after revealing incomplete renovations to a barn on the property used to house the animals.

This has left the shelter in "unsatisfactory" condition, he said, adding the barn has poor ventilation and exposed wires that pose risks to people who visit.

In stark contrast, allegations of abuse/killings at LA Co shelters in CA are apparently "very minor" incidents and A-OK with the folks in charge:

We have the videos and obtained documents showing a hidden culture at the county shelters, where animals are allegedly euthanized and abused by employees, sometimes for kicks.

But the head of L.A. County's shelter system says three instances is just a small amount.

Sign a petition demanding an independent investigation into these reports of pet abuse at LA Co shelters and/or contact Animal Control directly. LA Co residents can find info on contacting government offices here.

TN Shelter Ordered by Judge to Reign in Killing of Redeemable Pets

I recently blogged about 2 seized Pitbulls in TN who were ordered released to their owner by a judge. The McKamey Animal Center killed both dogs before the owner got to the shelter to pick them up. The judge in the case has now issued a new order:
City Judge Sherry Paty has put down an order directing the McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center not to euthanize animals [involved in court cases] without her approval.

Some new details emerge regarding the circumstances of the case as well:
Judge Paty said she heard a case on April 30 involving two dogs belonging to Raquelle Harrison of East Lake. She said the neighbor had complained about the dogs being chained to the fence, though she said the dogs had remained on Ms. Harrison's side of the fence and the neighbor did not come to court to testify.

She said the McKamey Center had gone out on April 17 and had taken the dogs, though they were still in Ms. Harrison's yard.

I'm not an attorney but I would think the owner has sufficient cause to pursue legal action against the McKamey Center. Since when is AC allowed to come into someone's yard and seize chained dogs who are contained within the yard? There is no mention made that the dogs were emaciated, lacking sufficient care or anything of that nature. And obviously even the judge agrees that killing the dogs was improper.

AC officers are supposed to help animals - not abuse their authority to seize and destroy them. I wonder if this is an isolated incident at McKamey or if there is a culture of abuse of power there and a history of killing pets waiting to be redeemed by owners.

Friday, May 15, 2009

LA Co Shelter Workers Caught on Video

A CBS news report in Los Angeles documents alleged pet abuse by shelter staff:
These investigative reports, obtained by CBS 2 News, document dogs that were intentionally or mistakenly euthanized, killed in the shelters after being put on hold for adoption or the return to their owners.

"Intentionally or mistakenly euthanized" - I'm not sure which is worse. OK, you both win. There is a video that apparently shows some of the abuse (I didn't watch) but the shelter brass shrugs it off:

"We take in 90,000 animals a year, three incidents over the numbers of thousands of animals that have come in during that period of time I think is very minor."

In other words, the only incidents of abuse at the shelters were the ones featured in this news report. Such a coincidence. Also: such a crock.

What is an animal shelter FOR?

Is it supposed to be one last hell on Earth for unlucky pets who, through no fault of their own, are at the mercy of shelter staff who might be inclined to abuse and kill them for personal pleasure? Or is it a safe haven for pets who are "between homes" and in need of care by compassionate shelter workers? I'd like to think it's always the latter. But we know that in some cases, it's the former. And that is unacceptable to me.

I hope there is a full and publicly transparent investigation into these allegations in LA Co. We are a humane society. Join us.

Sign an online petition calling for an independent investigation into abuse at LA Co shelters here.

ABC News Atlanta Segment on HSUS Donations

Text article from the news program (with HSUS response) here.

UPDATE, May 16: The text article, including the HSUS response and reader comments, has been removed from the website without explanation. Page now says "The story you are trying to view is no longer available through this Web site." Guess at will. Cache version of the page here.

TN Pitbull Rescue Posts Response to News Story

A website page has been posted by someone claiming to be Casey Phelps in response to the story run by a TN news program. In the interest of fairness, I hope you will read the entire posting as I will only be quoting parts of it here.

Regarding criticism that she rescues and breeds at the same time (which I have no problem with, as long as both are done responsibly and euthanasia is reserved to end suffering in dogs deemed hopeless or unmanageable by a Veterinarian):
I just felt like If breeders would also help out with the over population along with the rescues then a major dent could be made in the homeless Bully Population.

There is no pet overpopulation. That myth has been debunked to my satisfaction by Nathan Winograd. But I would agree that if breeders, along with all pet lovers, would participate in helping to save homeless pets, we could in fact get all of them into homes or sanctuaries. I have no problem with - and in fact I fully support - responsible breeders who stand by the pups they produce and will take them back if necessary at some point in their lives. Rescues who condemn breeders just for breeding usually cite the overpopulation myth which, as I said, does not resonate with me.

Regarding dogs with human aggression, Ms. Phelps writes:
But with the good parts of rescue also comes the bad parts. The human aggressive dogs! It's heartbreaking,because with every people aggressive dog that comes in ,I regardless of being nervous I have to work with it. I have to feed it,walk it,clean it! They come around and they learn to love,but they only love me.

I've worked with them and I have walked them to other family members who live here but do not do the work with the dogs that I do. So to these people aggressive dogs my family members might have been a potential adopter,and they lunge,they growl,they snap and tuck that tail and they try to bite!!

Now I am not a certified behaviorist nor do I claim to be an expert at dealing with human aggressive dogs (far from it). But to my mind, a dog with aggression issues is not going to be helped by someone who is nervous. I can see a dog growing accustomed to being handled by this nervous person and falling into a routine which may give the false impression that the dog is being rehabbed. But the moment a family member or stranger is introduced, the truth of the situation would quickly be revealed - the dog has not been rehabbed, the aggression issues are still there, and no progress has been made. Time to call in a professional for assistance. If that is not possible, it may be best to redirect owners surrendering aggressive dogs to another rescue. Because the method currently being employed by Ms. Phelps is to have the dog killed:

So I did the right thing and I took that dog to Animal Control where they can handle him and have him put down.

I mean,should I have gave the aggressive dog to people with a family,and let the dog bite them or a neighbor?? Am I supposed to keep all the aggressive dogs forever!

I don't see either option as advisable nor would I agree that these are the only two choices. Reach out for assistance from the dog community when needed. Ask for help.
Every dog that I have taken into Animal Control has either been human aggressive ad or un-stable. Some of those guys will wag their tails and growl at the same time.

Again, I'm not an expert but how do we know these dogs are "unstable"? Because they growl and wag their tails at the same time? Tail wagging does not always indicate happiness. It sometimes indicates excitement or fear. Would I kill an unevaluated dog over it? Absolutely not.

If that is your position as a rescue, why accept dogs that you feel can't be adopted? Why not redirect the owners elsewhere or seek out a sanctuary for the dog? Believe me, I understand the challenges but that's part of what rescue is all about to my mind - to meet those challenges head on, to rally the community to save pets' lives and to help dogs in need. Adopting a policy that basically says "dogs that I am nervous about handling and unqualified to help must be killed" is inconsistent with the goal of saving dogs' lives.

I want to support rescues with all my heart. But charging money to an owner for surrendering a dog and ultimately taking the dog to AC to be killed is not "rescue" to me - especially given that the dog never had a real chance to see if he could be rehabbed with guidance from a professional. That's quitting on a dog. Every dog deserves a fair evaluation by a qualified individual to determine a direction for rehab training and/or the type of home environment for which he is best suited. Every dog deserves a chance. I don't expect 100% success. I do expect a chance.

We are a no kill nation and a humane society. Join us.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

TN Pitbull Rescue Takes Dogs to Pound for Killing

For $50, a Pitbull rescue group in Nashville TN may or may not take your dog to the pound to be killed:
For three years hundreds of people have turned over dogs to a Nashville rescue group with the hope they will find new homes, but it turned out to be a death sentence for the dogs.

"Some are strays. Some are owner releases," said Billy Biggs with Metro Animal Control.

Officer Biggs said Phelps brought in 261 dogs to Metro Animal Control since 2006.

"The bad thing about a pit bull is once you release them to us it's a death penalty it's our policy not to adopt pit bulls," said Biggs.

The Phelps' insist they are only surrendering animals that can not be adopted.

"Only the aggressive ones, the ones you can't find homes for," said Curly [Phelps].

Oh crap. We need a rescue to rescue the dogs from rescue.

Police said a fraud case would be extremely difficult to prove, and animal control does not have the power to go after a rescue group simply because it was misleading people.

Really? Surrendering a pet to a rescue who took money in exchange for finding the dog a home and then brought him to the pound to be killed is the legal equivalent of telling a fish tale? I'm not a legal expert but I would think there would be some sort of case here. If anyone felt like pursuing it that is. It kinda sounds like no one is motivated to do that. Will anyone stand up and speak for the 261 dead Pitbulls whose owners thought they were buying them a chance at a new home?

Treats on the Internets

Chicago police dog bolted during thunderstorm, now lost

Nice opinion piece on Vick's possible return to the NFL

Straight forward explanation on what vaccine titers do and don't tell us

Animal sheltering: ur doing it rong (Winograd)

Christie Keith on FDA's ongoing failure to ensure pet food is safe

Scumbucket impersonates AC officer in KY, beats Pitbull's face with baton and seizes dog

I was going to complain about this loser but I'm too sleepy

KY community rallies to help shelter pets displaced by mudslide

SC pet owners: My local no kill shelter is having a $10 microchip clinic on May 23 (pdf)

Goodbye to a special dog who some of us got to know via his owner's online presence

Two Dead Pitbulls in TN - What Happened?

From Chattanooga, TN, another complicated story with only partial information and a sad outcome:
One Chattanooga woman wants to know why the McKamey Animal Center killed her two dogs after a judge released them to her.

The backstory: On April 17th, Animal Control seized two Pitbulls after a neighbor complained they were coming under the fence while he was mowing his lawn. The article describes the dogs as being on "chain runners" and it's unclear to me whether the dogs were on the runners at the time or whether the owner was home. If the owner was home, the neighbor possibly would have contacted her directly, advised her of the situation with the dogs getting under the fence and requested a remedy. Maybe that happened with no result or maybe the neighbor went straight to Animal Control with the complaint, I don't know. Why the dogs were seized, as opposed to the owner being given a citation for example, is also unclear. But there is mention made by Animal Control of prior complaints on these two dogs so perhaps that was a factor.

The case went to court approximately two weeks later and the judge ordered the dogs released to the owner with a follow up compliance visit to be conducted in 6 months. I don't know if the owner (or a representative) was present at the hearing or advised of the court order. Animal Control says that a judge's order to release the dogs to the owner requires the owner to pick the dogs up within 24 hours. Again, was the owner made aware of this small window in which she had to pick up her dogs? After the 24 hours went by and the dogs remained unclaimed, the shelter deemed them abandoned and aggressive and killed them.

The owner was apparently not informed of the killings until she came to the shelter last week to pick up the dogs. She asked why and when the dogs had been killed but says she received no answers from Animal Control.

You Can't Fix Stupid has a February 2009 post on this shelter and it gives a sense of troubled waters. It's a shame that these dogs got caught up in what sounds like a multi-faceted failure in animal sheltering. At the very least, I would expect the shelter to make certain the owner was aware she had 24 hours to redeem her dogs. It doesn't sound as if they did that. And I would hope that a rescue or other potential adopter would be given access to the dogs once they were deemed abandoned. If the shelter truly felt the dogs were too dangerous to adopt out (based on what, exactly?) to the public, that's what rescue is for. Did the shelter reach out to the network of rescues they (presumably) normally work with in trying to get these dogs out of the shelter? It doesn't sound like it. In fact, from the article cited, it doesn't sound like any effort whatsoever was made to help these dogs. Rather, I get the impression that Animal Control was counting down the minutes on a 24 hour clock with blue needles in hand, waiting to kill these unevaluated dogs. Animal Shelter Fail.

Every dog deserves a fair evaluation.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Let's Play Oddball

The cow who decided to leg it out the slaughterhouse in NY now has a name (not "Dinner" - "Molly") and a home.

Oh Kitty, I hate it when that happens.

Orangutan escapes zoo enclosure, just to show she can.

Arachnophobics may want to go green.

Oldest known human hair now much older, and in need of a shampoo.

Sure you work out, but are you in shape enough for the Penguathlon?

I'm pretty sure the pets in these photos are saying, "Do not want".

Pinchona non Grata

This campground info page for a place in NC came through my inbox this morning:
Leashed pets are welcome, excluding the following breeds: Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Pinchers, Greyhounds, Husky, and German Shepherds.
Apparently Greyhounds and these other breeds (and non-breeds) pose such a menacing threat to campground society even on leash that they simply can not be allowed into the place. The website doesn't say but I'm wondering if they allow guns and alcohol.

Here's what I'm thinking: The campground doesn't really mean to single out and ban specific kinds of dogs. What they actually intend to do is keep irresponsible people from creating a nuisance or dangerous situation for others. Lacking the legal A-OK from their attorney to put up a "Everyone Gotta Act Right" sign, they are instead falling into the breed profiling trap.

The people who run this campground obviously know little about dogs and probably are incapable of identifying the targeted breeds (real and make believe) anyway. They just don't want bad owners of any breed behaving irresponsibly and making trouble. I can understand that. But the policy banning specific breeds isn't going to accomplish that. Nor will it prevent irresponsible people from behaving badly with say, guns or alcohol - a far more realistic threat to my mind than a family pet on a camping trip. Responsible people know how to handle their dogs, guns and alcohol. The breed ban policy is ignorant and needs to be eliminated.

Monday, May 11, 2009

No Kill: Celebrating Success, Recognizing Failure

Q: Why can't I just be happy that at least some shelter pets are saved, even if most are killed?

A: I can be happy that some are saved while simultaneously being outraged that others, often the majority of shelter pets, are killed. I don't see that as illogical or contradictory in any way. That's my adult answer. Answer I wanted to put first: Dude, seriously?

See I don't get why, when there are enough homes for all the adoptable pets in shelters in this country, there is pressure from rescue groups to accept - or even be happy about - killing. I can't do that. I understand the "glass half-full" concept but in the case of shelter pets the glass is half-dead. I reject that unreservedly.

I further fail to understand how being upset over unnecessary killing of shelter pets in any way detracts from the hard work and successes of rescue groups who have managed to save some of them. It doesn't, to my mind. I am positively grateful for any and all community efforts to save homeless pets from being killed. I support and celebrate the efforts. Without everyone chipping in to do their part, we would have far fewer success stories.

I want more success stories. Is that wrong? Am I supposed to be afraid of discouraging shelter staff or rescue volunteers by continually highlighting the need for improvement and change? On the contrary, I want to motivate members of the community to keep learning, keep doing their good work and/or to keep trying to effect change where needed. I'm right here with you and I am determined to keep trying.

The fact is that every day, healthy, adoptable pets in shelters are killed. They are killed for phony "reasons" such as Pass/Fail temperament tests or to make space for more pets who will be killed shortly thereafter to make space for more. That is unacceptable to me. We can do better. We must do better. We are a humane society. Let's work together to end the killing of adoptable pets in shelters. It could happen today.

8 Pitbulls Seized in Harvey, IL

Cook Co, IL:

[Michael] Whitted, 38, of Lincoln Avenue, was charged with eight counts of cruel treatment to animals, eight counts of animal owner duties, two counts of unlawful use of a weapon and one count of possession of firearms without a valid FOID card, according to.the Cook County Sheriff’s office.

When officers executed the search warrant, they found six dogs in a small yard cluttered with cars and trash. The dogs were “tethered with logging chains and locks, with no food or water in sight,” according to the report.

“Based on the temperament of the dogs, it is believed they were being trained for fighting.”

Two six-month-old puppies were found in urine and feces-filled cages in the garage. Cook County Animal Control took all of the dogs to be examined.

I'm guessing authorities are basing their temperament assessment on how the dogs behaved at the time strangers came into their yard to seize them. (Video here.) Hopefully the dogs will get the chance to be evaluated by a qualified behaviorist for the purpose of determining what type of training and home environment would be the most appropriate match for each individual.

Every dog deserves a fair evaluation.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

BARC's No Kill Bait and Switch

Another stone on the track in the effort to foster a no kill Houston:
Some of you may have heard that Stephen Williams, Director of the Department of Health and Human Services which oversees BARC, has mentioned the fact that he thinks Winograd’s “snapshot” services, paid for by community donations, can be better used.

Instead of an overall assessment as to why BARC is broken, he thinks Winograd should just provide a training session instead.

If I'm interpreting this correctly, the community chipped in money to have Nathan Winograd come in and tell the shelter what changes need to be made in order to save more pets. Now some guy in charge is basically saying, "Thanks for the cash but I've got a better use for it"? Granted that use still involves bringing Winograd in but for what sounds like a completely different purpose than the community wanted. Is this legal? If so, is anyone in the community going to want to donate next time the shelter asks for money?

FDA Seizes Organic Herbs and Spices from Filthy Warehouse

NPI Center reports:

U.S. Marshals seized millions of dollars worth of ingredients on May 7 2009 from American Mercantile Corporation, based in Memphis Tennessee. During an inspection of the company in March, FDA investigators discovered evidence of extensive rodent and insect infestation throughout the company's warehouse, which the company failed to correct.

American Mercantile stores and processes food ingredients, which are sold or used in the dietary supplements, food, tea and pet food manufacturing industries.
American Mercantile apparently also has links to pet and equine foods. According to a story on, American Mercantile is a parent company of Herbs for Horses, an herbal product company for the equine and pet market. American Mercantile's ability to source ingredients for equine and pet foods is what attracted Don Silver, Manager of Equine Science to sell his company to American Mercantile in 2006.
No one at Ingredients Corporation of America or Herbs for Horses was available for comment at the time of publication, but the ownership affiliation between these two companies and American Mercantile gives rise to the question about whether contaminated ingredients are in finished foods and pet products.

Based upon past recalls involving the contaminant melamine and the recent contaminated peanut product recall, we know that some ingredients are spread throughout the human and pet food market in a large scale manner. While we don't know yet how widespread the use of these seized ingredients may be, I think it's probably worth following the story to see what develops.

Greenies Chews Will No Longer Be Sold at Supermarkets

The dog chew called "Greenies" have been on clearance at the supermarket where I shop for groceries and now I know why. Consumer Affairs reports that Nutro, maker of "Greenies", is pulling them from supermarket shelves:
NUTRO Products, Inc. says it is pulling its Greenies line of pet dental chews from supermarkets and other mass markets. Beginning in June, the Greenies — which have been blamed for illness and deaths in some dogs and cats — will be distributed only through veterinary hospitals and pet specialty retailers.
It's the latest attempt to resolve highly-publicized incidents of pet deaths attributed to the popular treats. Pet owners said the treats failed to be properly digested and led to fatal intestinal obstructions.It's the latest attempt to resolve highly-publicized incidents of pet deaths attributed to the popular treats. Pet owners said the treats failed to be properly digested and led to fatal intestinal obstructions.

Read more on the safety concerns regarding the product at the Consumer Affairs website.

Nutro's announcement is here.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Bust Dog Evaluation: Live or Die?

The dogs seized from a Virginia sheriff's deputy in connection with dogfighting charges have reportedly been evaluated. Subsequently, 12 were killed and 7 are being put into rescue:

[Lt. Doug] Perry says that was the case with the 19 dogs who survived after being seized from the home of former Richmond Sheriff's deputy Dave Robinson, who is charged with animal cruelty and dog fighting.

He says experts from the Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force, and local group Ring Dog Rescue came in to evaluate the surviving dogs, to see if any could be rehabilitated and adopted.

But the experts determined 12 dogs were beyond help.

"They were just not adoptable, these dogs were extremely aggressive, very dangerous dogs, we did not want to do that, but we had to do that, and it was in the best interest of the animal, just to put them down," explained Perry.

12 out of 19 had to be killed based upon evaluations? These numbers scare me. I looked up the Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force to see if their evaluation methods were discussed on their website but I didn't find that information. Ring Dog Rescue has more info on their site although I did not see anything about the evaluation methods.

Don't get me wrong, I'm always thrilled to hear that evaluations are being performed on dogs at kill shelters. But the evaluations must be fair and must be performed by at least one qualified person (preferably a small group). The evaluators should be experienced with rehoming dogs seized from fight cases and familiar with the behavior of dogs in a shelter environment. The evaluation is a useful tool to have in the toolbox. It can help rescues to match dogs to the most appropriate adopters. But it shouldn't be used as a sole means in determining life or death for a dog.

Maybe I've got the entire dog behavior issue terribly misunderstood but to my mind, the overwhelming majority of healthy dogs in shelters are adoptable and will test as such in a fair behavioral evaluation by a qualified individual. Some will be "more" adoptable - that is, they can be matched with a variety of homes - while others will have special needs and their pool of potential adopters will be narrower. Hardly any - and again this is just my thought - will need to be killed based upon a fair evaluation. Am I totally in la-la land or does this make sense?

I am very interested to know what testing methods were used on each of these VA dogs, how long the tests took, who conducted the tests and who interpreted the results. Because something seems very wrong here. An evaluation's purpose is to help match the dog with the right owner so that a successful relationship can develop. It's not a means to justify killing dogs who don't "pass". The test shouldn't be a pass/fail, especially when fail=death. It's one useful way to steer a dog in the right direction as far as training and setting goals for the future. One of those goals should always be rehoming. I understand there can be exceptional cases where a dog is deemed unmanageable and unsafe but that would be after many attempts at rehab training, not after one test. And in this case the majority of dogs were deemed worthy of nothing except death.

On a related note, I read a very interesting post today at KC Dog Blog regarding temperament testing for shelter dogs. Well worth a read.

I'm Not on Board with HSUS Proposed Laws and I Love Pets

In a recent post, Wayne Pacelle of HSUS states he is "astonished" that responsible breeders are not on board with the many dog breeding bills HSUS has introduced across the country recently. He says that those of us who oppose these bills are paranoid, friends of the NRA, and apparently don't care about animals. Despite Wayne's diagnosis, I'm going to cling to the hope that I don't suffer from paranoia. (Who told you that anyway?) I am not a friend of the NRA although I do support the rights of hunters to hunt responsibly. (I'm so complicated-like.) And I'm quite certain I care about animals and especially dogs.

Now Wayne must be supa-astonished.

Here's the thing: Puppy mills suck. We agree. But there are already laws on the books regarding the treatment of dogs in breeding facilities and an agency charged with enforcement - the USDA. Just because the USDA has been falling down on the job for years, failing to even inspect some of these mills regularly doesn't mean I think we need to pile more laws on the problem. The legislation HSUS proposes would, in some cases, clearly infringe on the rights of responsible breeders and subject them to warrantless home searches. Put me down for OPPOSE on that one.

Why doesn't the HSUS use its vast resources to help get the USDA the tools it needs to do its job? If they get enough inspectors out in the field and have sufficient follow through on citations, that would be a welcome change that I think many people would be happy about. And once they get a good system going, maybe laws will need tweaking here and there, I don't know. But I know I'd be a lot more open to hearing about it from a government agency like the USDA who'd been doing its job than hearing from a private fundraising group like HSUS who wants to add intrusive laws on top of the already unenforced regulations.

So Wayne, you got me wrong on this. And the admission that you are "astonished" at the opposition should show you how off base you are. We want some of the same things, I think. Is there a way to work together toward getting better care for pets? We are a no kill nation and a humane society. Join us. Otherwise, if you're just going to continue trying to force your will down our legislative throats, expect further astonishment. We're going to keep resisting these laws because we care about animals and our rights as U.S. citizens. We want our government to do its job and we want special interest group lobbyists like HSUS out of our state legislatures. That's not so surprising, is it?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Let's Play Oddball

Another guy smuggling birds in his stockings:
Sony Dong, 46, was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport in March after an inspector spotted bird feathers and droppings on his socks and tail feathers peeking out from under his pants, prosecutors said.
There's only 1 pig in Afghanistan, and he's now on lockdown

Cow leaves slaughterhouse, tours Queens

If giant pterosaurs didn't fly, what'd they do - just walk around?

Dog eats Homer Simpson

Dog eats dog

File under Bad Ideas:
Malaysian villagers caught more than 300 stray dogs and dumped them on a mangrove island, driving the canines to cannibalism after weeks of starvation, animal welfare activists said Thursday.
The villagers said they never intended to be cruel — they believed the dogs could feed on Pulau Tengah's wildlife[...]
Anyone consult the wildlife regarding this brill plan?

Treats on the Internets, Round Deux

More links to writings on the 2009 No Kill Conference:

It's a Wonderful World - Nathan Winograd

An Amazing Success - The No Kill Nation

Regarding the Keynote Address - No Kill Revolution

No Kill Sheltering Workshop - No Kill Revolution

What Cats Need and Want - Pet Connection

Other bits for your reading pleasure:

Two great pieces on how the "breed ambassador" Pitbull program has turned into another excuse for killing Pitbulls in shelters: One by The No Kill Nation and the other by Nathan Winograd.

Major increase in mailmen being bitten by dogs in SC

TN shelter has another Pitbull stolen

It costs $16,000 a year to keep this police dog on the force, and budget cuts loom

Opinion piece responding to rationales used by dogfighters

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pitbull Advocates in Loudoun Co, VA in Court

A legal effort to save shelter Pitbulls from automatic death in Loudoun Co VA started in 2007:
The effort to save the Vick dogs, seized under federal jurisdiction, is consistent with a Virginia law which prohibits killing impounded dogs solely based on their breed. Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge Thomas D. Horne on October 15, 2007 issued an injunction under that law against the Loudoun County Department of Animal Care and Control, at the request of the Animal Rescue League of Tidewater and Norfolk resident Ron Litz, who had sued seeking to force the shelter to allow pit bull terriers to be adopted.
The county did revise its policy to allow for some Pitbulls to be transferred out to rescue but most were still being killed and the case finally got scheduled for trial in 2009:

At issue is whether the county is violating a state law that gives people the right to adopt the dog of their choice from a publicly funded shelter. State law also says that "no canine or canine crossbreed shall be found to be a dangerous dog or vicious dog solely because it is a particular breed."

For years, Loudoun euthanized all abandoned pit bulls. The county revised its policy in 2007, allowing the animals to be transferred to rescue groups or shelters in other jurisdictions if the dogs passed a temperament test. The change came soon after Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell (R) issued a nonbinding opinion saying that pit bulls taken to public pounds could not be euthanized based solely on their breed.

The plaintiffs in the suit, filed in 2007, are a Norfolk-based animal rescue group and Ronald Litz, a Sterling man who was turned down when he tried to adopt a pit bull from the shelter that year. They contend that the county treats pit bulls differently from other breeds and that the public should be allowed to adopt the animals.

The shelter's current evaluation methods for dogs are also at issue:

Laura Rizer, spokeswoman for the Loudoun Department of Animal Care and Control, said that all unclaimed dogs go through a comprehensive evaluation that includes behavior monitoring.


The plaintiffs' attorneys question whether such tests are a fair and accurate way to determine pit bulls' suitability as pets. For example, if a test involves a toy being yanked away from a dog, one would expect a pit bull to react differently than another breed placed in that situation, said Anthony F. Troy, who represents Litz and Animal Rescue of Tidewater.


Troy said he plans to have an animal behavior expert testify to raise questions about the merits of the temperament tests.

The shelter is following a policy set by the county's Board of Supervisors:

Board members stand behind the ban on pit bull adoptions.

"We believe that the policy that we have is a good one and protects the public and also provides for an appropriate discharge of those dogs," said Supervisor James Burton (I-Blue Ridge.)

So how has this "good" policy been going so far?

Since July 1, 49 pit bulls and mixed pit bull breeds have been euthanized, and three have been transferred to other shelters or animal rescue groups, according to the Loudoun shelter. Seventeen of the dogs have been transferred since that became an option in 2007.

Since we don't have complete stats to understand the total number of 17, we must look at the numbers from July to January: That's a 94% kill rate. 49 out of 52 Pitbulls surveyed say policy not so good.

The trial began yesterday and is scheduled to continue through tomorrow.

UPDATE, 5-7-09: The trial has wrapped, and a summary of the case can be found here.