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News: Guest Posts
A Stray in Haiti
Winning over the men and women of Operation United Response

Over the past few months, my cousin has been emailing me personal reports from Haiti written by Technical Sergeant Bradley Sharp of the 24th Air Expeditionary Group/Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, USAF. TSgt. Sharp was sent to Haiti as part of Operation United Response from the 446 Air Wing/Joint-Base Lewis McChord, Wash. He has been helping with the relief effort at the airport in Haiti since Feb. 15, 2010. His email letters to friends and family in the United States are honest and raw, often tough to read, other times darkly funny. I’ve followed coverage in the newspapers, but lately reporting feels remote. TSgt. Sharp reminds me things are still very, very bad and with heavy rains and hurricane season on the way—things will probably get worse before they get better. It is a sad but necessary reminder.

  Some of the lighter moments in TSgt. Sharp’s recent emails feature a sweet 30-pound stray. When I asked him if I could share his emails with our readers, he agreed and sent along some photos and updates.   March 29: A small sick dog came into camp and hid just outside of our reach. She was cute and a lot of the guys wanted to keep her. You could see the sores and cuts on her. After a few days and a lot of coaxing she decided to give us a try. We got in trouble for having her and they were going to put her down. Well, we are tough and we fight and cuss but we get a misty when you want to shoot our dog. We contacted the Army vet and they came down and fixed her up. So she is ours for the time being. [TSgt. Sharp has clarified that this is not technically true as personnel are not allowed to keep pets.]   Her name is Maggie—they wanted Molly but I would not allow it [the sergeant’s wife is named Mollie]—but she has a nickname, which is Balls [or Ballzee]. Why did they nickname her Balls? Well, she has decided that the rear rotors on the helicopters need to DIE, and she jumps in the air and tries to bite them. She will never do it but it is a ballsy thing to do so she got a proper military nickname. We are looking into how to get her back to the U.S. We have no less then 11 people who want to take her home. (I’m number nine on the list.)   April 9: The dog is getting spoiled now. They had ham for dinner the other day but she was so full she did not want it. She still roams freely and has begun to bark at thieves that sometimes try to sneak into camp at night. Needless to say, she is loved by all. I asked her if she wanted to be in The Bark and she seemed to say yes... I’m not 100 percent sure because she barks in French Creole.   April 13: Our camp’s first lady, Maggie decided that she needed to greet the First Lady of the United States today. She came up as I was putting the parking stops on Mrs. Obama’s plane. The Secret Service was concerned about the language barrier so it was decided that she should be tackled by one of our airmen, Jared Lacovara moments before the First Lady came off the plane. Maggie was shocked at the lack of planning on the military’s part in not allowing her to meet Mrs. Obama.   April 27: They decided to have a comedy show tonight and the main star was Maggie (photo, top right). Carole Montgomery and Leighann Lord managed to put Maggie in jokes no less then five times. After translation, Maggie was seen laughing and wagging her butt off. She watched the entire show with about 300 soldiers and airmen. She seemed a bit unimpressed with the Dolphins Cheerleaders... possibly she felt she is our biggest cheerleader and resented the competition.   Lastly, TSgt. Seth Zora (32APS/911AW Pittsburgh) wanted me share with you that the dog has gotten more care packages then most anyone. “Ballzee is our little slice of home. She puts a smile on my face with a simple game of just fetch. She truly makes me miss my two dogs at home.”   [See photos on Molly today here]
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Creating a Monster
Labradoodle creator regrets breeding the first “designer dog”

Ever since the Labradoodle led the “designer dog” craze, pet stores have spawned countless spinoffs that include Puggles, Schnoodles and Maltipoos. These mutts fetch hundreds of dollars, while an abundance of mixed breeds continue to wait in crowded shelters.

The Labradoodle dates back to 1988 when Wally Conran of the Royal Institute of the Blind in Australia received a letter from a woman who needed a seeing eye dog, despite her husband’s allergies. In response, Conran bred a Labrador from the Institute’s breeding stock to his manager’s Poodle to combine proven guide dog qualities with a non-shedding coat.

With the subsequent commercialization of the Labradoodle, Conran recently said that breeding the first “designer dog” is the greatest regret of his life and that he wishes he could turn the clock back.

I know Conran feels guilty, but if it weren’t Labradoodles, it would be something else. I believe that everything always comes back to responsible pet care. Until people start doing their research, puppy mills will continue to exist, catering to impulse buys and uneducated consumers. One day its “designer dogs” and tomorrow it will be “accessory puppies” or Dalmatians.

And, of course, the best kept secret remains that “designer dogs” can be adopted from the local animal shelter for a fraction of the price!

News: Guest Posts
Missouri Strikes Back
Citizens won’t wait on Legislature to curb puppy mills

Tired of their state’s designation as the puppy mill capital of the country, 190,000 Missourians have signed a state ballot initiative to end puppy mill cruelty. The initiative lays out requirements for “sufficient food and clean water; necessary veterinary care; sufficient housing, including protection from the elements; sufficient space to turn and stretch freely, lie down, and fully extend their limbs; regular exercise; and adequate rest between breeding cycles.” The law would apply only to breeders with 11 or more intact breeding females.

 

I was struck by the arguments made by the initiative’s critics, as reported by Janice Lloyd for USA Today’s Paw Print Post. Some opponents proffer the old “slippery slope” argument—“Missouri farming groups have sharply criticized the proposal, warning that it could be a precursor to more efforts to restrict livestock production in the state”—which raises fears about possible future laws that will be inspired by this one, instead of looking at the initiative on its own terms. The second is attributed to Karen Strange, president of the Missouri Federation of Animal Owners, who said the initiative (i.e., better living conditions, veterinary care, etc.) will “make it more expensive for people to buy dogs as pets.” And that’s bad? Higher priced dogs will make it tough on the puppy mills (hooray!) and could benefit all those wonderful shelter and rescue dogs with affordable adoption fees. By the way, the Federation is challenging the initiative in court.

 

Learn more about the initiative at Missourians for the Protection of Dogs.

News: Guest Posts
A Ban on “Crush” Videos?
Proposed bill seeks to counter Supreme Court’s animal torture decision

A bill to counter the Supreme Court’s recent decision that overturned a ban on the sale of gruesome animal “crush” videos is gaining bipartisan support in the U.S. House of Representatives.

 

Supreme Court justices on April 20 ruled that a federal law prohibiting the sale of these graphic animal cruelty videos was “substantially overbroad, and therefore invalid under the First Amendment.”   Free speech advocates hailed the High Court’s 8-1 ruling; animal protection groups expressed outrage and disappointment.   The day after the court’s decision, Representatives Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), James Moran (D-Va.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced a new and narrowly-crafted bill to stop the sale of these videos, which depict the intentional crushing, burning, drowning and impaling of puppies, kittens and other animals. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) said crush videos, which often feature women wearing high heel stiletto shoes, are made for the “sexual titillation” of viewers.   “The Supreme Court made it clear that if we structured a bill that targeted crush videos it would probably pass their muster,” Tom Pfeifer, press secretary for Representative Gallegly, told ConsumerAffairs.com this week. “This bill specifically states we’re targeting animal crush videos and defines them. This is a much more narrowly-focused bill and it makes it clear what we’re targeting.”   Pfeifer said the bill had 109 co-sponsors as of Wednesday. “The Congressman is working hard to increase that number and working with the judiciary Committee to schedule a hearing.”   Representative Gallegly, who introduced the 1999 “Depiction of Animal Cruelty Act” that is at the heart of the court’s decision, emphasized this issue isn’t about First Amendments rights.   “It is a law enforcement issue,” he said. “Ted Bundy and Ted Kaczynski tortured or killed animals before killing people. The FBI, U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice consider animal cruelty to be one of the early warning signs of potential violence by youths.   “This law is one step toward ending this cycle of violence,” he added.   Co-sponsors of the new bill said the measure is designed to prevent anyone from profiting off the sale of videos that depict heinous acts of animal cruelty.   “Animal cruelty is not something to celebrate and circulate online,” said Representative Blumenauer, an original co-sponsor of the 1999 bill and Animal Protection Caucus member. “On the heels of (the) Supreme Court decision, we’re taking immediate and bipartisan action to protect animals without infringing on the right to free speech. The bottom line is that we need to protect animals from being tortured or killed in a manner that is criminal or morally reprehensible. No one should be allowed to profit from so-called crush videos or other images of animal cruelty.”   Representative Moran called the Supreme Court’s decision a “blow” to efforts to stop animal cruelty and a victory for those whose bank accounts are padded from the sale of videos that glorify the killing of defenseless animals.   “I refuse to stand by while people profit from the mutilation and torture of helpless puppies, kittens and other animals,” he said. “For 10 years, federal law had worked to dramatically reduce the proliferation of these videos. Now, Congress must act to restore these commonsense protections against animal cruelty.”   Pet owners who’d like to see the new measure passed should contact their Congressional representatives and urge them to co-sponsor the bill, Pfeifer said.   EDITOR'S NOTE: This report is excerpted, with permission, from “Support Builds for Bill to Counter Supreme Court’s Animal Torture Decision” for Consumer Affairs.com. Click the link to read the complete story.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
2010 Social Awareness Stamps
Post Office highlights shelter adoptions

 

On April 30, The United States Postal Service officially dedicates its social awareness stamps about adopting pets from shelters. As Lisa Wogan told us back in March (Stamps to the Rescue!), the post office has a history of creating stamps to highlight relevant social issues, including those concerning pets, and the most recent set of animal stamps features dogs and cats adopted from shelters. Be prepared to have an Awww moment because their faces are adorable.   Involved in the event are high-ranking members of the United States Postal Service, the American Humane Association, Petfinder.com, the Humane Society of the United States, and Ellen DeGeneres, whose work as an animal advocate has included introducing these stamps to the public on her talk show. The official dedication of these stamps takes place at The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in North Hollywood, Calif.    

 

News: Guest Posts
Dogs Hunting Dogs
Using Greyhounds to kill coyotes

My head’s spinning a little after reading today’s New York Times story about the “sport” of coyote hunting with Greyhounds. It’s the first I’ve heard of it, although my home state of Washington, along with Colorado, outlawed the practice last year.

  What I learned is that this practice is not your traditional hunting with dogs. They aren’t retrieving birds shot by a hunter or even cornering live animals to be dispatched by a human (not that I’m saying I love these options either). No, this hunt is dog-on-dog killing. The human hunter drives the dogs to the coyotes and tends the dogs’ injuries (coyote bites, broken bones, barbwire cuts among them) after the fact—or, in some cases, reportedly leaves them for dead. As Miranda Wecker, the chairwoman of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, told The Times, “This was dogs ripping apart other dogs. Thinking about it that way, it became very close to dogfighting.”   Once you read about the cruelty of the sport—for both hunter and hunted—it seems impossible that this is legal anywhere. I’m guessing it’s been a relatively under-the-radar practice in rural communities that frown on government intervention in many forms. But the high beams of The New York Times will hopefully change all that.   Watch a video slideshow with an interview with John Hardzog, a cattle rancher who uses Greyhounds to hunt coyotes.  

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Cruelty Victims Receiving Proper Care
One big grant makes a huge difference

American Humane’s Second Chance Fund has awarded a $20,000 grant to a shelter in Georgia. The Dublin-Laurens County Humane Society is caring for 71 animals that were among the 300 neglected dogs and cats seized from an inhumane situation in a neighboring state.

  A place calling itself an animal refuge in southern Mississippi had hundreds of animals confined in overcrowded crates lacking proper food, water or medical care and without protection from the elements. A new volunteer reported the conditions, which resulted in an investigation by the local sheriff’s department. The owner of the facility was charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty and the animals were taken to a local shelter. Some animals stayed at that shelter for treatment and to be adopted while others were transported to shelters in other states.   Taking care of a large number of animals that have been removed from an inhumane, neglectful or abusive situation costs money. The love and caring of volunteers is invaluable, but it still costs money for food, medicine, medical care, and supplies of all kinds. Grants of this magnitude are not common, but for cases of large numbers of animals with high needs, thousands of dollars can make the difference between being able to give the animals proper care and not being able to do so.

 

News: Guest Posts
$500K Name Change!
An Australian couple paid $300 for their puppy and $500,000 to save his life.

If you have dogs, people always ask "What kind of dogs do you have?" I often take this question as an invitation to blabber uncontrollably about my variety pack. "Oh, I have two Dalmatians who compete in agility, a Catahoula - are you familiar with that breed? They’re bred for herding and hunting. I also have a Pit Bull mix - she's super sweet - and a true Heinz 57. She looks like a hyena. Seriously, one of my neighbors asked me if she was one. She competes in Frisbee. Yeah, so I have five dogs. They range in age from 3 to 13 ... ."

Unfortunately for my audience, I can go on and on, but I'm usually interrupted the moment I  mention my Pit Bull mix. Some people are surprised that I have one of those “vicious” dogs. If possible, I invite them to meet my belly-rub-lovin’ Shelby so they can cast off those horrible stereotypes.

It would never occur to me to lie about Shelby’s breed. Hiding what she is only adds to the ignorance. And yet, if I lived in Queensland, Australia, I would rethink being so open about her bully breed background. Gold Coast couple Kylie Chivers and John Mokomoko paid $300 for their American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) puppy Tango. They soon learned that APBTs are deemed dangerous dogs in Queensland and subsequently banned. Their only choice was to move to a different state or allow him to be euthanized.  

Mokomoko’s job made it difficult for the entire family to move, so they opted to board Tango at a kennel out of state in New South Wales. They also initiated legal proceedings to change his breed from APBT to American Staffordshire Terrier (AST), which is not considered a dangerous dog in their region even though it can be argued that APBTs and ASTs are practically interchangeable. Take this quiz and see if you can find the Pit Bull. How did you do? (I thought I would ace it but was far from perfect!)

The couple have faithfully visited Tango for the past five years as they took their battle all the way to the Supreme Court. They spent $500,000 on this battle on behalf of Tango and other people determined to keep their dogs, regardless of what they’re called. You can read about the court’s findings here.  

Do you agree with the ruling? Why or why not?

News: Guest Posts
Speech v. Cruelty
SCOTUS rejects law banning animal cruelty videos

The Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday to strike down a law banning the sale of graphic animal cruelty videos has won the support of First Amendment advocates and the ire of animal protection groups.

  Supreme Court justices, by an 8-1 vote, ruled the federal law was “substantially overbroad, and therefore invalid under the First Amendment.”   The head of an organization that defends the First Amendment applauded Tuesday’s ruling, saying, “Speech is protected whether it’s popular or unpopular, harmful or unharmful.”   But the president of the Humane Society of the United States, who emphasized his organization is a “devoted defender of the First Amendment,” said no one should be able to profit from “malicious, illegal, and violent acts.”   Tuesday’s high court ruling also threw out the conviction of a Virginia man sentenced to three years in prison under the law for selling dogfighting videos. Robert Stevens of Pittsville, Virginia, appealed his conviction, saying it violated his right of free speech. The U.S Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia tossed out Stevens’ conviction and ruled the 1999 law was unconstitutional.   The Department of Justice later appealed that decision to the Supreme Court.   The 11-year-old law at the center of this debate—the Depiction of Animal Cruelty Act—banned the interstate sale of videos depicting illegal and extreme acts of animal cruelty, including dog fighting and “crush videos.” Those are “sexual gratification” videos in which puppies, kittens, and other small animals are crushed, smothered, and pierced to death—often by women wearing high-heeled shoes.
Read the complete story in Consumer Affairs.

 

News: Guest Posts
Grieving Together
An Okla. couple is creating a memorial to pets poisoned by melamine

[Editor’s note: It’s been two years since melamine-tainted pet food destroyed the lives of countless dogs and cats and their people. Yesterday, Bark contributor Lisa Wade McCormick reported for Consumer Affairs.com on how one Oklahoma couple has decided to remember the pets they lost.]

  A grieving pet owner is creating a memorial to honor the thousands of dogs and cats that died or became seriously ill during the 2007 melamine-tainted pet food recall.   The Oklahoma woman and her husband, who lost six pets in the recall that “nuked” their lives, have donated five acres of land near Keystone Lake in Tulsa for the sanctuary they’ve named Vindication.    The memorial is scheduled to open on June 12, 2010.   “The animals that were lost or are still suffering need to be counted and acknowledged,” says the woman, who wants to remain anonymous. “I want people to feel like their animals did matter. This memorial is to honor the bond between animals and humans.”   Creating the memorial is also the donor’s way of helping pet owners deal with heartbreaking loss of their beloved dogs and cats.   Such a loss can shatter someone’s life, she says. It devastated hers.   She and her husband lost two dogs and four cats because of melamine-tainted food.   “By March 17, one day after Menu announced its recall, I had three dead animals and three who were dying slowly,” the woman says. “I have cleaned vomit and bloody urine and know what happens when pets die of catastrophic kidney failure. And I can’t tell you how it hurts me to open my door and walk into an empty house.   “But this (memorial) isn’t about my loss,” she adds. “It’s about the thousands and thousands of pet owners out who are being stabbed in the backs. There is no justice or mercy for them or their pets. And there are no safer pet foods out there. I’m doing this as one grieving pet family to the rest of those out there. And I honestly feel this will help their hearts’ heal.”   The donor plans to transform the five acres of Oklahoma’s ancient Cross Timbers -- covered with 500-year-old oak trees -- into a memorial garden that will feature cascading pathways lined with flowers, park benches, and handmade stones. Each stone will bear the name of a dog or cat that died or is still sick because of the contaminated pet food, the donor says.   “I will make all the stones at no cost to pet owners,” she told ConsumerAffairs.com. “I expect I will be overwhelmed, but I felt compelled to do this for the pet people. It’s time somebody did something right for them.”   Read Lisa Wade McCormick’s complete report for ConsumerAffairs.com.

 

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