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Does The Punishment Fit?
Accused animal beater ordered to work at SPCA

Derrick Chambers allegedly beat his Miniature Pinscher to death with a pipe. Authorities found the dog in a garbage bag in Chambers' truck less than an hour before the dog died. Chambers has been charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty.

  The defense requested that the case be dropped if Chambers agreed to volunteer 50 hours of community service at the Maryland SPCA, and the judge agreed to this offer. Aileen Gabbey, executive director of the Maryland SPCA will deny this volunteer service. She says this action is based on the fact that it is their job to protect the animals in their care, and that because of the violent nature of the case, they do not want the accused man near their animals.   Caroline Griffin of the Animal Abuse Task Force expressed frustration that Chambers will not be prosecuted. She also said that there are better options than putting a person who has been violent towards animals with animals.   Officials of the state say there is not enough evidence to convict Chambers, especially in light of evidence that his behavior was a result of serious bites by the dog to his wife and to himself. They also say that police failed to read Chambers his Miranda rights, which would make a conviction impossible.   Without access to the facts of the case, include specifics of the conduct of the police etc., it’s hard to know whether a conviction is likely or even possible. I do, however, feel very comfortable taking a stand against assigning community service with animals to anyone accused of violence towards them. What’s the justification for putting MORE animals at risk?
News: Guest Posts
Adopt Less Adoptable Pets
Make a special difference this week

I adopted what qualified as “less adoptable pets”—middle-aged, black mutts. They’ve been, no surprise to most Bark readers, amazing companions. So I was thrilled to hear about PetFinder’s initiative—Adopt A Less Adoptable Pet Week (which started yesterday)—to bring dogs like mine together with loving, responsible families. The idea is that Petfinder member shelters and rescues nominate a special, hard-to-place companion animal for a little high-profile push. Meanwhile, we all make the effort to spread the word about these future star pals.

  I went to peruse the gallery of specially designated pets and discovered Nicholas in the Ozarks, a dog who’d been dumped on the street and suffered intestinal trauma but managed to live a fairly normal, fairly pain-free life thanks to a special diet and a foster home. I clicked through the links to his profile, planning to do my part to get him the home he richly deserved, and discovered he “crossed the Rainbow Bridge” on September 15.   Adopt A Less Adoptable Pet Week came too late for Nicholas. But there are other dogs (and cats)—old, sick, injured, shy, reactive, or just breeds with bad reputations—who need special attention, patience. This is their week. Rest in peace, Nicholas.

 

News: Guest Posts
HelpJoey.com
One man’s plan to stop stray sex

I thought a woman hanging upside-down to raise awareness about puppy mill cruelty was edgy—until I met Joey Henry. With his plan to stage elaborate raids on fornicating cats and dogs, he’s my new gold standard for the wacky frontier of animal welfare activism.

  His strategy is simple to describe and probably a lot more challenging to execute: Stake out strays, wait and watch from a hidden location, and when the unwanted animals set about creating more unwanted animals, leap out and make a heck of a lot of noise, convincing the parties involved to knock it off.   Of course, Joey Henry knows one serious scare does not a celibate canine make. That’s why his cameraman will be nearby. The videos will be posted at HelpJoey.com, which launched last week. The aim is to use humor to spread the important spay/neuter message—and all the better for cats and dogs if that message goes viral.

 

News: Guest Posts
Cirque de Puppy
Aerial fabric artist spins for dogs

Ever feel like your unique talents couldn’t possibly translate into helping animals? Well, Kyla Duffy could change your mind.

 

The first time I saw Duffy, who co-founded Happy Tails Books (which publishes collections of breed-specific adoption stories), was a few days ago at the opening reception for BlogPaws West 2010. (Over the next week, I’ll be writing about several of the dedicated and talented folks I met at the pet-centric blogging conference in Denver.)

  When I saw Duffy, she was wearing a pair of artistically torn leggings and dangling upside down from a few pieces of fabric. (See video below.) Seeing and hearing Duffy twist and turn a few yards away, I got a much more visceral appreciation for her talent than I did watching the distant, polished Cirque de Soliel aerialists years ago.   Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, the audience didn’t see the slideshow promoting puppy mill awareness that accompanies her performance—and explained what she was doing there. While aerial acrobatics and rescue stories don’t exactly go together like peanut butter and jelly, I’m intrigued by the concept. Calling it “creative volunteerism,” sort of like volunteer vacations, Duffy is trying to do good through her creativity. And, I think it’s possible her performances could allow her to reach beyond the choir (i.e., folks like you reading this blog) to people who don’t yet know the challenges of pet overpopulation.
Duffy says she hopes to take her show and the road, and we’ll keep an eye out for her. Meanwhile, I’m wondering about what other surprising skills and talents are or could be put to good use for shelter dogs.

News: Guest Posts
Congratulations, Temple Grandin
Biopic wins five Emmys

At the Emmy Awards on Sunday night, the HBO biopic “Temple Grandin” took home five prizes (out of seven nominations), including Outstanding Made-for-Television Movie. Grandin may have been an unknown quantity for many in the audience and readers of the Emmy’s Blog but not here at Bark. We’re big fans of her work, including the book Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior. It was great to see her feted at the Emmy’s in her signature cowgirl shirt and tie.

  Grandin’s influence on the lives of animals and people is considerable. By drawing analogies between the thought processes of animals and people with autism including herself, Grandin channeled her unique world view into benefits for others. She designed humane slaughterhouse corrals for cattle and a hug machine to calm hypersensitive people. She is an outspoken advocate for those living with autism. To learn more about how Grandin sees the world, read Claudia Kawczynska’s interview.  

 

News: Guest Posts
Five Year Katrina Anniversary
Today, we remember and reflect

When my husband and I evacuated our New Orleans home the day before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, we assumed that this would be an unexpected, albeit nice visit with my parents in the Chicago area. Surely, we’d head back in a week or so. On August 29, 2005, we learned our fate; there was no going home.

In shock, I took comfort in the fact that our beloved pets – four dogs and two cats – were safe with us. It soon became clear that many other people were not so fortunate and thousands of dogs and cats were in danger of dying due to starvation, heat or worse. Animal lovers from around the country poured into New Orleans and Mississippi, selflessly sacrificing their time and money to save as many pets as they could.

I admired their efforts and yet, I felt for those owners who were unable to bring their pets with them and desperately tried to track them down. In some cases, the pet was found only to have the new owner refuse to reunite them, claiming that the animal had been abandoned, or neglected prior to the storm.

When I interviewed people frantically looking for their animals, I started to have nightmares. The most vivid opened with me sitting in a beautiful old theater and spotting my pets near a woman a few rows away. I called out to her, “Those are my dogs and cats! I need to take them home!” The woman turned toward me and said, “You can’t. You have no home.”

The first time I needed to take one of my dogs to a vet in Illinois, I was asked about his breed and where he was from. I said Louisiana and the tech said, “Oh, a Katrina dog!” No, I corrected her. He is from Louisiana and so am I.

Five years later, and having relocated to the Chicago area, I still occasionally hear people refer to their Katrina dog or cat. Though I am glad that these animals survived, honestly, the label makes me wince. Had we not been able to transport our pets with us, would someone else be calling my 13-year-old Catahoula, Desoto, their “Katrina” dog? Would he have a different name? Would all four dogs, even our Pit Bull mix, Shelby, have been saved? Our cats, Cricket and Bruiser Bear, are siblings. Would they have been separated?

Of course, the alternative would’ve been far worse. In the weeks and months after the biggest man-made disaster in U.S. history, I heard from friends and neighbors what happened to people and pets who were not rescued in time. I saw graphic images on websites and in the news. They are impossible to forget, and they shouldn’t be forgotten.

Fortunately, the lessons gleaned from this tragedy should prevent any animal from being left behind again. Thanks to the PETS Act, people are allowed to bring their pets with them to an emergency shelter. The Louisiana SPCA has since rebuilt, giving safe haven to homeless and unwanted pets in a beautiful, modern shelter. Plus, its volunteer and adoption programs are stronger than ever.

Civic activism became a new, necessary way of life. Local animal lovers and the LA/SPCA persuaded the city council to pass the Intact Dog Ordinance earlier this year, a major victory in the cause against pet overpopulation.

Challenges remain, but as a Katrina survivor once said, New Orleans will always be between storms. The difference is now we are prepared to ride them out.

News: Guest Posts
Hoarder Faces Seven Years
Book-signing/sales will benefit canine victims

A few weeks ago, I posted a short notice about a local animal hoarder named Marie Castaldo, who was finally arrested on a variety of charges including animal cruelty. She awaits trial in Riker’s Island and faces seven years in prison. Her trial begins next week.

You can read about her crimes here or here (beware sad pictures).    The gist of the story is: This woman, a notorious con artist (and a good one at that), would visit local and New York City shelters and present herself as a kind and loving founder of a charming little rescue group located in Hudson Valley. The shelters’ adoption coordinators, taken with this woman’s charm, would relinquish a dog or two, and the hoarder would be on her way—off to do unspeakable things to these poor dogs.   I don’t need to go on and on to you Bark readers about how absolutely horrible this is. Or how this woman deserves to go to jail. Or how those poor dogs need tender loving care NOW. I mean, there’s so much to say on the subject I don’t know where to begin.   So how about this: I think about those sweet shelter volunteers, whose primary goal in life is to make sure that needy dogs find loving homes. I think of how their kindness, trust and goodness has been betrayed. I think how the dogs have been betrayed. I think how God/dess and Mother Earth herself has been betrayed, because we humans were entrusted to be stewards of the animals, and what kind of stewardship are people like Marie Castaldo exhibiting?   So what can we do beyond crying, bemoaning, complaining and/or hating humans like this?    We can rescue dogs, of course, which is what most of us here at Bark have already done. If we can’t take in any more dogs at this particular moment, we can give: Give our time, our dollars, or even our prayers to all those who suffer or need food or love or are in pain. I expect even this hoarder-woman is in pain at some level too—how else could she behave as she does?   The only good thing to come of horrifying events like this is a reminder that for every animal abuser out there, there is at least one, and probably many, animal lovers/rescuers. This is one of those laws of the universe. So let’s remember this every time we hear some bad news. It reminds us that we have the power to help—in large and small ways. And therefore help make amends for all the wrong that has been done. To dogs. To earth. To all.   At the very least, we can send emails to our local shelters—thanking them for all the hard work they do. We can send a tiny packet of treats.   On Monday, August 23, I am giving a reading and book-signing of my memoir Rex and the City: A Memoir of a Woman, a Man and a Dysfunctional Dog to benefit the 40 dogs of the Ulster County SPCA.  If any of you live in the Hudson Valley, I encourage you to attend. We’re trying to arrange to have some of the dogs attend the event and find a new home. Unfortunately, few are well enough to walk yet.   Details: Inquiring Minds Book Store, Partition at Main Street, Saugerties N.Y., Monday August 23 at 7 p.m. Early birds get a free copy of Bark magazine!   If you can’t make the reading, please visit ucspca.org to donate or purchase a copy of Rex and the City through my website at www.rexandthecity.net. All proceeds from book sales now through Sept. 15 will be donated to this shelter. This memoir is about rescuing and rehabilitating an abused shelter dog, and it has a very happy ending.

 

News: Guest Posts
Google: “Shoot Dog”
What do you find in your neighborhood?

If you give up your dog, please don't be a coward and abandon him in the parking lot of a shelter. Give your dog the dignity of bringing him inside to the shelter staff so he gets food, water, a safe place to sleep, and hopefully, a chance at adoption. There are worse things than humane euthanasia.

Case in point: This past January, a dog was left outside Save-A-Pet, an animal shelter in Grayslake, Ill. While shelter manager Dana Deutsch attempted to coax him from a field to get him inside, she saw a man in a nearby house point a gun at the dog and shoot. The dog suffered before succumbing to his injuries later that day. Deutsch confronted the dog killer, Elvin Dooley, and contacted police. Her brave testimony lead to yesterday’s sentence: 20 months in jail for Dooley.  

While searching online for coverage of this incident, I came across many more stories about dogs being shot, from other unlucky strays to even family pets. Don't believe me? Go to your local daily's website, search the phrase "shoot dog," and tell me how many stories you find about people shooting either their own dogs or strays. In every story I read, a man pulled the trigger. Why do you think this is?
 

News: Guest Posts
Animal Shelter Wish Lists
Probably not what you expect

It sounds a little counterintuitive: Dog and cat food, litter and leashes aren’t at the top of most shelters’ wish lists, but paper, pens, phones, faxes are. At least, according to the 250 animal shelters and nonprofits to register their needs on TheGivingEffect.com.

  While cash contributions are usually preferred, not everyone is in a position to give. The benefit to in-kind donations (clothes, shoes, food, etc.) is that folks who want to help but are short on cash may have items in their homes that they no longer need (a replaced printer, for example) but which could help a local shelter. The Giving Effect, a free website that launched last month, connects donors with items to spare directly with the organizations in need. Win-win.   According to TheGivingEffect.com, animal shelters top five most requested items are:   1. Office supplies (computers, printers, fax machines, phones, paper, pens) 
 2. Cleaning supplies (bleach, laundry detergent, Fantastik, Windex) 
 3. Blankets, sheets and towels 
 4. Miscellaneous items that can be sold to raise money 
 5. Building supplies (to construct fences, crates, dog runs)   Since most shelters are 501c3 nonprofits, these contributions likely qualify as a tax write-off.

 

News: Guest Posts
Humane Network
No kill advocates launch new partnership

I’m sitting in an airport, waiting for my final flight home to Reno from our capital. Back to my life as it was last week – but not exactly. The No Kill Conference 2010 was revitalizing for me and inspirational for all, but I expected nothing less. The aftermath buzz is that this year was even more wonderful than last year.

  But the conference was about the future. Nathan Winograd, founder of the No Kill Advocacy Center who presented this conference, promised us that it is a bright future if only we make the commitment. “No kill is not a series of dogmas we cling to with religious fervor, but it is a philosophy that first and foremost values life,” he reminded us in his closing comments. “In all of its manifestation, irrespective of practical considerations, it does not fear change and it does not make excuses; it champions life.”   Going forward, I return to Nevada Humane Society where we will continue to improve the save rates. (July 31 marked the end of our most productive adoption month ever – 1,006 pet adoptions.) And how fitting that we’re launching a new venture – Humane Network – where fellow believers and industry experts are partnering together to provide practical tools and services to other organization and communities that have the commitment and just need the know-how. Although, I couldn’t be prouder of what’s been accomplished in Reno, it’s not enough to have a handful of no kill communities.   Nathan assured us that the bright future included a no kill nation in our lifetime – and we all believed him. The sponsors, hosts, speakers and attendees of this conference are a microcosm of what exists across the country. I know in my heart and soul that they can’t be stopped!   Our parting thoughts were inspired by the Fleetwood Mac song, “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.”   If you wake up and don’t want to smile, If it takes just a little while, Open your eyes and look at the day, You’ll see things in a different way.    Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow, Don’t stop it’ll soon be here, It’ll be better than before, Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone.   No kill nation, here we come!   Note: If organizations or communities want help in implementing a no kill mission, please contact Humane Network at humanenetworkinfo@gmail.com.

 

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