Treats on the Internets

The keys to canine longevity: Play with dogs your own size, socialize with people, get your owner to share his meals with you

Brampton, Ontario hires slick lawyers in hopes of winning the right to kill 2 nice dogs

A New Zealand man who fed 5 kittens to his Pitbull gets sentenced to 7 months in jail

The remains of 14 dogs were found this month in garbage bags in a wooded area in Houston

Since 2007, a FL couple with 4 Pitbulls has received dozens of citations for roaming dogs and attacks on animals and people. Authorities say the couple has not only ignored the citations but also refused to pay the accompanying fines. The county is taking legal action to declare them unfit owners. Sort of a twist on “punish the deed, not the breed” although I don’t know what will happen to the dogs if the county wins their case.

At the age of 4, a sled dog in Canada went blind so her owner followed veterinary advice to retire her. The dog stopped eating and drinking and the owner ended up letting her return to sled pulling for another 5 years before retiring her due to old age. (video)

Dr. Patty Khuly has a short Q & A on feeding basics: “Fat pets need less food; too-skinny pets need more.”

One of my pet peeves is the idea that you need to get a recipe from a professional in order to feed your pet regular food that doesn’t come in a bag with a picture of a hi-pro glow goggie on it. Research yes, “expert consultant”, not necessarily. Here’s one animal health consultant’s take on home made cat food: Vegan meals.

Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS) has an ongoing campaign against pet stores who sell dogs from puppy mills. A photograph inserted in their latest article on the subject includes a BFAS protest sign which reads “Pet overpopulation is NOT a myth”. I’m hoping they’ll clarify their position on that issue. It’s one thing to simply have outdated rhetoric on your website but this sign seems particularly targeted, shall we say?

What Will Sea World Do Next?

After the death of a killer whale trainer this week (most excellent commentary here), Sea World has been thrust into brand crisis management mode:

After decades of cultivating a corporate image around one of the ocean’s greatest predators, SeaWorld managers must reassure visitors that a killer whale’s fatal mauling of its trainer doesn’t mean the parks aren’t safe.
[…]
Marketing and public relations experts say what the company does in coming days will be key to preserving its image.

Glenn Bunting, managing director for the Los Angeles-based crisis management firm Sitrick and Co. said SeaWorld needs to respond promptly and proactively.

“They need to review every safety precaution,” he said. “They need to explain how it happened, why it happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again to reassure the public.”

I wonder how they will “make sure” this whale (Tilikum), or any other whale that gets ridden around on for park visitors’ viewing pleasure, won’t kill someone else.

Larry L. Smith, president of the Institute for Crisis Management, in Louisville, Ky., defended SeaWorld’s response.

“They’ve not overreacted. They’ve not gone into a stall. They’re not ducking the media,” he said. And, he said, they had the advantage that the attack occurred the same day the head of Toyota testified before Congress about his own company’s public relations crisis and broke down crying.

Oh that is lucky! Some people have been killed in runaway cars and this trainer lost her life when the media was distracted by the investigation. Everything fell into place so nicely.

Smith said the attack could actually drive up attendance of at least one demographic — teens and young adults.

“It’s not going to draw families necessarily or older people who would typically visit there, but there is an age group that gets excited about the risks and the potential for drama and it may attract some of those folks,” he said.

It’s like the X-Games but with whales instead of skateboards. Awesome! Sea World may have hit the jackpot here.

For now, the killer whale shows have been suspended. As for what Sea World will do next, I would love it if Sea World announced it was letting all its marine mammals go free. They won’t, I know. Tilikum in particular has been a prolific sire for their captive breeding program. He’s worth a lot of money. And that, I’m guessing, will continue to be the guiding light for Sea World.

***

News conference scheduled for 1pm Eastern.

Update: A summary of the news conference here.

Florida’s Pythons to Face ‘Crowd’ of Hunters

The state of Florida is apparently at the end of its rope in terms of how to deal with the python population explosion in the Everglades:

Local authorities tried all kinds of population control. They captured females, implanted them with the snake equivalent of LoJacks, then released into the wild—tracking them to their love lairs, in hope of snagging the lurking lotharios. There was a brief attempt to train a beagle named Python Pete to track the snakes. Sen. Bill Nelson, the Florida Democrat, has introduced federal legislation to ban the importation of nine big snakes into the country, including the Burmese Python. And the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission tried government regulation—imposing licensing requirements limiting the sale of pythons and other scaley nuisances. Authorities say there are only 137 licenses statewide—a figure that grossly undercounts the number of snakes in homes. There’s even a yearly amnesty day, when owners of illegal or unlicensed exotics can turn in their pets—no questions asked. In its fifth year, a few dozen pythons, measuring three to 10 feet, have been handed over.

There are an estimated 30,000 pythons roaming around southern FL. Last year, the state gave out 19 licenses to hunt pythons but that didn’t make a dent in the population. (They thought it would?). This year, it’s open season:

On March 6, they’re declaring open season on the giant pythons, opening up 736,000 prime snake-hunting acres to any Floridian with a hunting license. People from as far away as Australia want in on the action. For six weeks, an expected crowd of hundreds will get to take their best shot at bagging the beasts.

Sioux City Threatens to Kill Wiggles

What goes around, comes around – that’s the saying that came to my mind when Sioux City, IA councilman Aaron Rochester’s Labrador Jake was declared “vicious” and condemned to death. Mr. Rochester had successfully campaigned for a Pitbull ban in Sioux City not long before Jake bit someone and was taken to the animal shelter. Mystery of mysteries – Jake was sold by Mr. Rochester (for $1) while at the shelter and then – uh, stolen. So Jake never got his day in court, so to speak.

Now the same law that would have killed Jake is set to kill Wiggles, a Shih-Tzu accused of biting a neighbor kid who came into his fenced yard. According to a posting on Facebook, the neighbor kids had taunted and physically hurt Wiggles for a long period of time prior to the bite. Wiggles is not owned by a city councilman and has been stuck in the shelter since January. No one has – uh, stolen him. A closed door hearing to determine his fate is due to announce a result today. Wiggles is the first dog to come up for a hearing under Sioux City’s vicious dog ordinance. I will update this post when I hear something on the case.

Update: No news reports yet but the Facebook page has been updated to say Wiggles is going home.

Update Deux: Wiggles is home and the owner has posted on Facebook:

The first thing Wiggles did when he got home was run to the door. When we got inside he made a dash around the house, came up to me, gave me a big kiss, and then made his rounds running around the dinning room table” he runs around the table to tire himself out” then he layd down next to me and sighed and took a little nap! I am so happy! Thank you all!!!!!! He is too! NOW EVERYBODY SAVE SPORK!!!!!!!!!!

In addition, the owner vows to continue fighting until Sioux City’s vicious dog law is changed.

The Sioux City Journal has an article about Wiggles’ death row pardon.

Press Releases in the Spork Case

Snippet from a press release (pdf) from Donald Dodge, owner of Jasper Animal Hospital – the vet clinic Spork is scared of:

The bite was serious. Our technician required immediate medical attention. […] When an animal bites a person who seeks medical care, it is normal procedure for the hospital to alert animal control officers. This is what happened here.
[…]
The veterinary technician then made an individual decision to pursue charges. I supported that decision, because when an animal causes serious injury to a person, there should be a public record of that fact in case there are future incidents involving that animal.

He goes on to say that just because the tech is pressing charges doesn’t mean the clinic wants the owners prosecuted or the dog killed. Maybe they thought “pressing charges” meant that everyone has tea and a biscuit and goes home early, I don’t know.


Response from the lawyer for Spork’s owners:

Jasper Animal Hospital is responsible for the hiring, training and supervision of its employees. Further they are responsible for the development and implementation of hospital procedures to protect their clients, their animal patients, and their employees.

While the Walkers are perplexed by the City of Lafayette’s aggressive pursuit of the charges against them, they are also distressed by the veterinary technician’s desire to further this case. While they have been very upset and concerned about the injuries suffered by the tech, the Walkers are surprised that a trained veterinary professional would put an animal in her care in this position. In the police reports, it is clear other clinic employees were aware that Spork was distressed at the time of his visit. He was shaking and defecating in his owner’s arms. Given the visible state of Spork’s anguish, the Walkers are shocked that this veterinary technician, given her years of experience, would put her face anywhere close to Spork’s face. What is even more curious to the Walkers is why a trained tech would aggressively urge criminal charges in the matter when veterinary technicians are trained to handle animals, and there is an assumed risk that comes with the job. Colorado State Statute §18-9-204.5(6)(b) specifically exempts veterinary health care workers for this very reason.

Of all the points made in my previous post and the comments, I am most curious about this last bit. The bite happened in August 2009. Since the law specifically exempts veterinary staff from filing charges related to dog bites, why is this case still being pursued? To my mind, the fact that it was ever even opened was a mistake. The city should have told the tech from day one, “You are exempt and can not press charges”. Forcing the owners to spend all this time worrying and all their savings on lawyers is totally ridiculous. And the Vet is supporting these shenanigans? Even knowing there is no legal standing for these charges whatsoever?

Hey Lafayette pet owners: Jasper Animal Hospital doesn’t know how to handle scared pets and if you go there, they may give your name and address to the city and file charges against you. Maybe there’s another vet clinic in town? Or, if Lafayette is determined to invoke “home rule” to avoid compliance with this sensible state law, I’d say it would be well worth it to go to a vet clinic outside the city.

***

There is also an e-mail posted online that is purported to be from the city of Lafayette regarding the case. The city thinks we should all be grateful they don’t have breed bans and didn’t seize Spork immediately.

CO Vet’s Office FAIL

The city of Lafayette, CO has declared a 10 year old dog named “Spork” to be vicious and filed charges against the owners. Based upon your knowledge of these type of cases, have a go at these multiple guess questions:

What specifically did this “vicious dog” do?

  • Kill livestock?
  • Bite a neighborhood kid?
  • Attack someone’s pet?

How about the owners – what are they accused of doing?

  • Allowing their dog to roam loose?
  • Leaving the dog on a chain for his entire life?
  • Failing to supervise their dog around a toddler?

If you guessed “None of the Above” (oops, I forgot to include that choice), you are correct. The owners of the vicious Spork (yeah I’m loving that name) are accused of taking their Miniature Dachshund to the Vet for routine care. Like many dogs, Spork is scared at the Vet’s office. Very scared. He shakes. He loses control of his bowels. Vets see dogs like this regularly and usually know, or should know, that with these type of dogs, the owner can never hold the dog during examination. These dogs are not in a balanced state of mind during their Vet visits. And when an owner holds a dog, the owner becomes a physical extension of the dog. If that dog is already in an unbalanced state, the potential for a bite is very high.

So when the owner was told at the Vet visit to hold her dog and the technician put her face up to Spork’s, he bit the technician’s chin. State law in CO exempts veterinary workers from filing charges regarding dog bites. Somehow, the city found out about the incident (I think we can safely guess the owners did not contact the city about it) and served the owners with a citation. The owners hired a lawyer and are going to trial in April in an effort to save their dog:

The Walkers’ attorney says the charges should be dismissed. “It’ll put a scare, a fear into people with animals, that they can’t bring their dogs or cats to health care facilities in the city of Lafayette for fear of criminal charges and fear their family friend will be euthanized,” says Jennifer Edwards of the Animal Law Center.

The Walkers say they’ll do anything to make sure their dog isn’t euthanized. “Not everyone would spend their life savings protecting a 10-year-old dog, but we feel we need to.”

I am hesitant to make generalizations about biting dogs but I’ll go out on a limb here: Little dogs bite. Unlike big dogs, they can not physically resist something that makes them feel uncomfortable. They scream when they’re panicked and they bite as a last resort. Those are their defenses in a world where everyone is bigger than they are and they can be picked up, held down, or inadvertently knocked over and trampled at any moment. Anyone who works in a Vet’s office should know that a little dog presents a bite risk while at the office. Even more so for a dog who’s scared. And still more for one who is overly scared and being held in the arms of his owner as you stick your face into his/their personal space.

From the information I’ve read about this incident, it seems like the Vet’s office mishandled the situation which resulted in a staff member being bitten. Instead of using it as a learning experience, they (I’m guessing) reported the bite to the city, causing the owners terrible emotional and financial hardship. Ultimately, the dog may be locked up or killed.

At the Vets’ offices I worked in (many moons ago), we had a box full of muzzles of all sizes and we placed a muzzle on any dog who was “questionable”. Has Spork’s veterinary office heard of these things? When I take my Chihuahua mix to the Vet’s, I bring along her muzzle from home. She’s never bitten anyone and I hope to keep it that way. I’d rather be safe than sorry – especially if sorry means the city might take my dog. Although I doubt my Vet would ever mishandle a situation so badly and then try to get authorities to kill my dog over their mistakes.

Spork does not deserve to be punished. Neither do his owners. I feel for them.

The idea that Spork is vicious is something Spork’s owners have a hard time accepting. “Every night I tuck him into bed. If he doesn’t have a blanket on him, he starts crying, I have to get up and make sure he’s covered,” Kelly Walker, Spork’s owner says.

I hope that the city will come to their senses and drop this whole thing. I bet there are probably actual irresponsible owners in Lafayette who deserve citations. And I hope that Spork gets to spend many more nights in his bed, covered up by his blankie.

Buckets of Blood

Today, additional information on the dogfighting bust in York Co, SC which included the discovery of a fighting pit in a wooded area. Three men were charged with dogfighting and thirteen Pitbulls were seized:

The trail through the woods led to a pit. Among the branches of the surrounding trees, temporary lights had been strung.

The base of the wooden pit was stained with blood, and buckets of blood rested beside the pit.

Some 100 feet from the pit, a pack of pit bulls were confined, scars apparent on their bodies.

[…]

Officers also found a paddle used to separate dogs during a fight, [Lt. Mike Baker] said.

The pit bulls weren’t badly injured but had signs of being hurt in fights in the past, Baker said. The animals’ living conditions didn’t meet county standards.

[…]

Deputies destroyed the pit with chainsaws so it can’t be used again.

From there, the news gets even worse:

This is not the first time at least one of the men charged has been in trouble for something like this. Antoni Orr was sentenced to two years probation for torturing, fighting and baiting animals in March of 2000.

Golly gee willikers, seems like that non-punishment for animal fighting didn’t teach Mr. Orr any lessons. But wait – there’s even more bad news:

The men willingly turned over 13 pit bulls to authorities. The dogs are now being housed at York County Animal Control and all have scarring consistent with dog-fighting.

“We do know they are aggressive to other animals which is why they are being housed in separate cages,” said Chris Peninger with the York County Animal Control.

The pit bulls take up nearly 1/3 of Animal Control’s available space. Unless they are returned back to the owners, they will have to be destroyed.

It’s not the dogs’ fault they are taking up 1/3 of the shelter’s space. Nor are they to blame for having been abused. Every dog deserves a fair evaluation.

Naked Photo Shoot in a Piggly Wiggly Dumpster

Playgirl wants Michael Vick to pose nude for the magazine and is willing make a $1 million donation to PETA as payment. Just imagine how many more pets PETA could kill with an extra million bucks! That notion probably has a dog torturer like Vick all hot and bothered. A Playgirl spokesman says:

“It’s kind of a win-win situation.”

Yeah, kind of. Unless you’re a dog. Then it’s more of a lose-lose.

One Thing Leads to Another

Humane Watch has a full page ad in the New York Times today about HSUS. The ad reads, in part:

The Humane Society of the United States is NOT your local animal shelter. In fact, it gives less than one-half of one percent of its $100 million budget to hands-on pet shelters.

It’s always good to research any group before making a donation. Learning how your money will be spent goes a long way toward providing that peace of mind we seek when donating to a charity. To that end, users can explore HSUS relationships in detail by clicking on this interactive map. Some may be interested to explore these relationships further.

For example, the lobbying firm Hogan & Hartson lobbies/d Congress on behalf of many clients in addition to HSUS (which is a tax-exempt organization). Those clients include a number of farm related groups such as American Farmland Trust, International Dairy Foods Association, and National Chicken Council. There are many household name corporations including Wal-Mart, General Electric, Pepsi, American Express, Citibank, and Amway. Big auto is on the list as well with Ford Motor Company and General Motors. The insurance industry clients include Aflac, Blue Cross Blue Shield of MA, and Health Insurance Association of America. There are many clients from the pharmaceutical industry such as Bristol-Meyers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Graceway Pharmaceuticals, Guilford Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer, PHRMA, and SmithKline Beecham. Other clients of interest include Monsanto Co and National Renderers Association.

According to HSUS’ 2008 tax return (pdf – page 19), they spent over $4 million on lobbying activities for the year. In the 2008 “Annual Filing for Charitable Organizations”, HSUS stated the following:

GENERAL PURPOSE FOR WHICH CONTRIBUTIONS WILL BE USED
Contributions are used to produce publications including educational materials, which are sent on a regular basis to members and the general public. The society investigates cruelty in the transportation, handling and sale of animals at pet shops, zoos, circuses and animal shelters. The Society also uses contributions for animals in the wild including wildlife refuges, predator control and people/wildlife problems.

I don’t see anything about spending millions on lobbying in there but hey, I’m not a tax professional. Maybe this is A-OK.

Related Tidbit:

On February 16, a federal lawsuit was filed against HSUS (and others) by the parent company of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus under RICO. The lawsuit alleges the defendants are using such crimes as bribery and money laundering in an effort to “unjustly enrich themselves” while working to ban elephants in circuses.

Trapped in the Closet: Dog Park Edition

Well, this should result in something great:

Things have been scary on a neighborhood list serv this week. There was a report of a large dog — one post says it’s a puppy, about 70 pounds — that was attacked in Elysian Park by a loose pit bull and badly hurt. The pit bull was described as a brindle, its owner as looking a bit like Danny Devito. According to the puppy’s owner, the pit bull’s owner basically fled the scene, walking away quickly and leaving the injured puppy without asking questions or giving his own contact information. The puppy’s owner has asked for help in identifying the pit bull and its owner.

The attack quickly led to an extended song of fear on the list serv: Dog owners who fear for their safety and the safety of their dogs. One woman says she has a .22 and is considering bringing it with her to the park so that she can shoot a dangerous dog if it tries to attack one of her four dogs. Another woman says she already carries a stun wand. Someone asked where to get one. At least two maybe three say they pack pepper spray, but one person says it’s hard to use.

I feel sorry for anyone at that dog park with a brindle dog of any breed or who looks remotely like Danny Devito. In the dark. At a distance. With a hat and sunglasses on. Or anyone who has a dog that looks like a Pitbull. Which you may have to judge as the dog runs past and you’re fumbling in your purse for your gun.

Yep, something good is going to come of this. It always does.

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