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Julia Kamysz Lane

Julia Kamysz Lane, owner of Spot On K9 Sports and contributing editor at The Bark, is the author of multiple New Orleans travel guides, including Frommer’s New Orleans Day by Day (3rd Edition). Her work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Poets and Writers and Publishers Weekly.

News: Guest Posts
Dogs Were Burned in A Barrel
Just one of many horrific details after the largest dogfighting seizure ever.

When you heard that federal and local authorities across multiple states seized 450 dogs and arrested 26 people in the country’s largest dogfighting bust to date, what was your reaction? The dogs who were fought, of course, bore the psychological and physical scars to prove it; the dogs who could not fight suffered even worse fates. According to one Missouri prosecutor, those dogs were shot in the head, thrown in the river or burned in a barrel. That’s right. I can’t get that last image out of my head. Who are these people who could even think up such a thing much less follow through on it?

If you’re like me and have a Pit Bull or Pit mix, you’re likely already deeply involved in changing the public perception of bully breeds. But what about those of you who don’t have a Pit or know one personally? I was talking to a friend who wants to get her first dog. We discussed what kind (Boston Terrier) and from where (rescue group). While discussing different breeds, I was surprised at her comment that she will never trust a Pit Bull because they can “turn on you.” She is an intelligent, well-educated person. If she believes this myth, no wonder so many other people do, too. It’s frightening. Are there so-called dog people who think that Pit Bulls are simply doing what comes natural? Or that they don’t feel pain because they’re so "tough"?

In speaking with folks at an Agility show this past weekend, I was surprised at how most people just had passing knowledge of the seizure and just kind of shrugged. They thought it was good news, of course, but it didn’t seem to affect them or their chosen breed(s) of dog, so they didn’t give it much more thought. The people at these shows are insane for their dogs, always giving them the best food, vet care and more. Wouldn’t they want  the same for all dogs?

The longer I live with dogs, the more I (unwittingly) learn about how many dog factions there are. There are people who only love big dogs or only small dogs. Some insist on purebreds  from a breeder while others will always adopt a mix from a shelter, and both parties are emphatic that theirs is the only way to get a dog. I could go on and on. My point is that as dog lovers, couldn’t we accomplish so much more when it comes to humane treatment if we all stood united? What keeps us from coming together and forging a bond between each other that’s as strong as the one between us and our dogs?

News: Guest Posts
Stephen King, Most Famous Victim
Horror stories come true when people don’t secure dogs in cars.

Last week in Verona, Wis., a Boy Scout troop leader and one young Scout were killed when a motorhome crossed the median and hit their SUV. The 62-year-old motorhome driver was distracted when his dog jumped into his lap.

Ten years ago, Stephen King was hit and severely injured by a minivan because driver Bryan E. Smith was distracted by his loose Rottweiler. Smith was charged with aggravated assault and driving to endanger. He pled guilty to a misdemeanor and was only sentenced to six months probation.

If these two scary incidents don’t inspire you to buckle up your pup, what about your dog’s safety? I belong to several dog-related and agility email lists and every year, there are horrific stories about people getting into accidents either on their way to or from a show or other dog activity. If the dogs are not secured, they are thrown out of the vehicle. If they survive the impact, they are traumatized and very difficult to catch. In some cases, the dog guards his owner, impeding help from passersby, police and medical personnel.

My minivan is outfitted with two large wire crates permanently placed in the back and a bench seat where I can harness my other dogs to seat belts. Do you secure your dog in your car? If yes, how? If not, why not?

News: Guest Posts
More Bad Parenting
A Midwestern family sells hundreds of dogs on the side.

Which is worse, that a mother-daughter breeding operation in Southern Indiana was recently charged with tax evasion or that the pair had 240 dogs on their rural property? This was their idea of quality family time? Unbelievable.

The pair sold hundreds of dogs and puppies since 2004 but never claimed the money as income or pay taxes on it. What I’d like to know is who they sold those dogs and puppies to? Pet shops? Private buyers? Surely, someone knew what was really going on during the past five years and could’ve gone to the authorities much sooner. What would motivate people to tell the truth about puppy mill operations in their own neighborhood? 
 

News: Guest Posts
Kids Encouraged Dog to Attack Women
This isn’t your typical dog bite case. Not at all.

This past Father’s Day in Seatac, Washington, witnesses saw four children aged 11 to 15 kicking Snaps, their male brindle pit bull. When a 63-year-old woman driving past stopped to help the dog, the 15-year-old girl told her to “mind her own business” then proceeded to pull her out of the car by her hair and hit her. One of the boys dragged Snaps over and encouraged his dog to bite her on the hands and thigh. A second good samaritan chased down the kids only to have them again encourage Snaps to attack. As they egged him on, he repeatedly bit the 41-year-old woman’s head, face and arms.

The kids were taken into police custody then released to their parents. Only the 15-year-old girl was charged with a felony assault charge. King County sheriff’s spokesman John Urquhart said the kids were deliberately hurting the dog to incite aggression. Where did they learn this kind of behavior? Surely, this wasn’t the first time the kids had abused Snaps. Where were their parents or other responsible adults?

Snaps was taken to local animal control and will likely be euthanized at the end of the week. Why is Snaps paying with his life after being abused and following the children’s orders? Where is the justice in that?

The whole situation is frightening and wrong. All four kids – and parents – should be held accountable for the abuse inflicted on their dog and the two women who tried to save him. What kind of abuse is going on in this family’s home? Why haven’t the kids been schooled in responsibility and compassion? Who will they hurt next if there are no serious repercussions for their actions?

Do you think Snaps should be killed? If not, what can be done to save his life and rehabilitate him?

News: Guest Posts
Government Imposes One-Dog Policy
How could you choose which dog to keep?

Be glad you don’t live in Guangzhou, a wealthy urban area one hour north of Hong Kong.  As of July 1, each household will be limited to one dog, no exceptions. If you have multiple dogs, they will not be grandfathered in. You will have to choose. I have five dogs. How could I possibly choose which one to keep? How would I find loving homes for the other four?

This strict new law is intended to cut down on China’s rampant stray dog population and combat rabies. Last year, more than 2,000 people died after being bitten by a rabid dog.

Instead of punishing people and ultimately, their dogs, why doesn’t the government educate its citizens about responsible dog ownership? If more people spayed/neutered their dogs and contained them instead of letting them run loose,  there would be long-term benefits instead of a superficial image overhaul.
 

News: Guest Posts
Peanut-Sniffing Poodles & Cash-Crazy Cockers
A nosy dog can catch criminals and help kids.

When my dogs sniff at a tree or dirt patch with special enthusiasm, I wonder what kind of information they’re getting. Their amazing noses allow them to “see” a world that’s practically foreign to us humans.

Over the years, smart people have found ways to harness that nose power to help detect drugs, cancer and illegal DVDs. Now they’re training Cocker Spaniels to sniff out cash-carrying criminals and Poodles to detect peanuts to help kids with life-threatening allergic reactions.

When you take your dog for a walk, is it more like going for a sniff? Does s/he put her nose to the ground or prefer air scenting? What's the strangest thing your dog's nose has discovered?

News: Guest Posts
Are No-Kill Shelters the Solution?
Or are they “animal warehouses” as some critics claim?

A shelter in rural Shelby County, Kentucky, recently celebrated one year as a no-kill facility. This is no easy feat in any state, where thousands of dogs and cats are euthanized weekly for lack of homes. Making Shelby County Humane Society and Animal Shelter completely no kill was ten years in the making, according to Woodstock Animal Foundation founder Denise Jones. It required the support and cooperation of the local community, including farmers willing to serve as foster parents.  

When I was in high school, I volunteered at a no-kill shelter in my community. It seemed like a great way to help animals in need. Unfortunately, I came away from the experience wondering if no kill truly helped homeless dogs and cats or was simply a feel-good Band-Aid for the overwhelming problem of pet overpopulation.

On the one hand, animals were safe until adopted, but if they were not adopted quickly, it was not unusual for dogs and cats to live at the shelter for months, even years. Some no-kill shelters have a wonderful foster home program, so the dogs and cats live in homes until they are adopted. That’s fine. But what about the no-kill shelters whose animals are confined to kennels with concrete floors for months or even years at a time? What kind of quality of life is that? Some animals cannot handle the lack of mental and physical exercise and go kennel crazy, which ultimately makes them unadoptable, making the point of a no-kill shelter moot.

To help prevent animals from living out the rest of their lives in kennels, some no-kill shelters only accept those pets they believe to be adoptable. But what happens to the animals who are turned away? They are taken to kill shelters, which can’t cherry-pick which animals they accept, or the owner finds another way to “get rid of them.” (Interpret that as you will.) As a volunteer with several breed rescue groups over the years, we occasionally get desperate calls from owners who hope we’ll see some glimpse of our breed in their dog so they will be accepted into our rescue program, assuming we have room, which we rarely do. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.

I like no-kill shelters in theory, but not always in practice. Frankly, the no-kill shelter concept oversimplifies the pet overpopulation problem. Solving this requires a multi-tiered approach, which some no-kill shelters embrace. How do we encourage pet owners to spay/neuter their animals and take responsibility for them for a lifetime? How do we inspire people to actively help the homeless pets in their own community? How do we educate the next generation so that we can put all shelters out of business?   

News: Guest Posts
Mastiff 1, Reporter 0
CNN's Soledad O'Brien attempts to evict family because of their dog.

Back in January, CNN correspondent Soledad O’Brien complained about a Neapolitan Mastiff who lived in her exclusive New York City co-op building. As secretary of the co-op board, she and the other board members filed a 20-page affidavit claiming that poor Ugo had to go due to his "size, slobbering, shedding, drooling, gassiness and odors." Were they serious? Clearly, the board members are not dog people as just about any pup could be described this way at one time or another.

Owner Steven Lyon and family refused to give up Ugo. The board then stupidly insisted on evicting the family from their $3 million condo. O’Brien even signed the marching orders. Thankfully, a judge dismissed the case this week and only O’Brien is in the doghouse. Due to threats over the past couple months, she resigned from her position on the board. I can only imagine how this has affected her very public career as well. Maybe she should focus on that instead of picking on a dog for just being a dog.

News: Guest Posts
Pup Perks at Work
Allowing dogs at work can be a real morale boost.

Did your company cancel its annual holiday party? Or insist on more hours for less pay? Employers are finding it tougher than ever to keep up employee morale when everyone worries that the next cut might be their job. So kudos to businesses like Marcus Thomas marketing agency in Ohio for allowing dogs at work. Employees and customers alike benefit from the relaxation of petting a pup and it costs the company nothing.

As a freelance writer and part-time agility trainer, my dogs are constant companions. Occasionally, this can be a bit of a distraction, but for the most part, they remind me to take a break from the computer to rest my eyes, stretch, and throw the ball a few times. When I wrote about this subject for Bark last year (“Dogs @ Work,” May/June 2008), it was surprising how many workplaces allowed dogs and how well everyone got along. Even employees who weren't necessarily "dog people" didn't object to a pup presence.

 

Do you bring your dog to work? If so, how has the experience affected you and your co-workers’ productivity? If not, would you like to and do you think your boss would be open to it?
 

News: Guest Posts
Pay to Play
Once free, some dog parks now require a hefty fee.

When we lived in New Orleans, we regularly took our dogs to a fenced-in model airplane  field in the middle of City Park to play.  Friends who lived Uptown took their pups to a grassy levee area along the Mississippi River.  On especially hot days, we’d go to the lakefront, where Bayou St. John met Lake Pontchartrain, forming a perfectly shallow, sandy area for the dogs and their people. The good news was that all of these gathering places were free. The downside? None of them were official dog parks, which meant we could lose the space. For example, bicyclists and horseback riders (understandably) protested dogs chasing them as they rode along the levee. (New Orleans will soon have two legal dog parks, City Bark and the Louisiana SPCA Dog Park.)  

However, as much as I longed for legal dog parks, I was shocked by the sticker price of said puppy play areas when we moved to the Chicago area. If you’re lucky enough to have a nice off-leash spot nearby, the resident fees aren’t too bad – generally $10-$50. But the closest fenced park – just 10 minutes away – is outside of our county, so we have to pay $150 for the first dog and $25 for each one thereafter. There is a free dog park about 15 minutes away, but it’s not fenced and one boundary is bordered by a fairly busy road.

So I feel the pain of a group of California dog lovers whose park access might change from free to a $75 annual fee. I can understand the need for some kind of fee to cover park maintenance and “amenities,” such as poop bags, but $75 seems a bit much. Regulars to Dogbone Meadow in Novato, Calif., are upset and protesting the fee, in part because visitors become a family of sorts and not everyone will be able to afford to come if the fee is implemented. One of the best things about dog parks is serving as a social equalizer. No one cares what you do or how much money you make. All they want to talk about are dogs.

Do you pay a fee for your local dog park? If so, how much and do you think it’s worth it?  

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