Dog's Life: Lifestyle
PSPCA sees dog fighting cases triple post-Vick

In a previous blog post, Lisa Wogan contemplated the effect of Michael Vick’s reality television show and the perception of his crime.

The show, which debuted in February, follows Vick’s comeback from his dog fighting conviction and subsequent 21 month prison sentence. While the show highlights the repercussions of dog fighting, and Vick comes across as genuinely remorseful, many wonder if the newfound attention may be having a negative effect. 

Despite the fact that Vick served almost 2 years in prison, lost endorsement deals and was forced to declare bankruptcy, he seems to have been rewarded with more attention and fame than ever before. Vick has since signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, landed a reality show and was even awarded the Ed Block Courage Award by his new teammates, given to players who “exemplify commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage.”

The SPCA of Pennsylvania’s director of law enforcement, George Bengal, worries that Vick may have made dog fighting “cool” and made Pit Bulls a status symbol. Since Vick joined the Eagles, his organization’s dog fighting cases have tripled. 

The spike could be a result of Vick’s addition to Philadelphia’s pro football team, but I certainly hope it’s actually a reflection of an increase in awareness and reporting of dog fighting. 

Vick’s reality show certainly doesn’t portray his crime in a positive light, but I can see how the attention could sensationalize dog fighting.

What’s your take?

News: Guest Posts
Crackdown Needed
Report slams fed over puppy mills

A new government report blasts the U.S. Department of Agriculture for failing to crack down on reckless dog breeders. 

  Far too often, inspectors charged with carrying out the Animal Welfare Act fall short of documenting cruel treatment of dogs kept in breeding kennels, overlook chronic violators and even when they write them up, they stop short of fining them, the USDA’s inspector general found.   More than half of the kennels cited for violations between 2006 and 2008 continued to break the law. One especially egregious example was a breeder from Oklahoma with 219 adult dogs, who was cited for 29 violations during three inspections—and a year and half later was found with five dead dogs on his property and other dogs so starved they had begun eating one another. “Despite those conditions (the inspector) did not immediately confiscate the surviving dogs and, as a result, 22 additional dogs died before the breeder’s license was finally revoked,” the report said.   Sprinkled throughout the 69-page report are some of the worst photos I’ve seen, including one of a live dog’s leg stripped down to the bone; another of a deep pool of eye-stinging urine and feces festering below an occupied cage and a shot of an enormous cluster of ticks feeding on one small dog’s face.   The report found four major flaws with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) handling of commercial dog-breeding inspections:    
  • Spotty and ineffective enforcement; some of the breeders violated the law as many as a dozen times.
  • A lack of proper documentation by inspectors. Thirty percent of them failed to correctly report violations, and the failures caused nearly half of all administrative hearings involving problem breeders to be compromised due to lack of evidence.
  • Inspectors reduced punishments arbitrarily, allowing breeders to continue reckless practices.
  • A large loophole in the Animal Welfare Act exempts breeders who sell dogs over the Internet from the minimal guidelines required by law. 
  Here’s a link to the report. Its findings underscore the scandalous conditions I write about in Saving Gracie: How one dog escaped the shadowy world of American puppy mills.   Inspector general reports have chronicled abuses in commercial dog-breeding before, and still they persist. What will it take to turn the tide?   Two lawmakers, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator David Vitter (R-La.) today called for immediate changes at APHIS and promised to work with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to reform the system.   “This report raises serious concerns about APHIS’s ability to enforce the law, ensure the welfare of animals, and crack down on the most negligent and irresponsible dog breeders,” Durbin said. “While USDA has already begun to make administrative changes, more needs to be done.”   Durbin introduced legislation on Tuesday, May25, to close the Internet loophole puppy mills are currently exploiting. The Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act would require all breeders selling more than 50 dogs a year to be licensed and to undergo inspections to ensure the dogs are receiving proper care. USDA played a role in developing the legislation, according to Durbin’s office. Senator Vitter is the bill’s lead cosponsor.


News: Guest Posts
Thumbs Down on Store-bought Dogs
New poll finds Americans prefer shelters to stores

Good news for shelter dogs and cats: More than half of pet owners to respond to an Associated Press-Petside.com poll said “they would get their next dog or cat from a shelter, nearly seven times the number who said they would buy their next pet from a store.” About a quarter said they would seek out a breeder for their next pet.

  The telephone poll conducted April 7-12, 2010, with 1,112 pet owners nationwide revealed that shelters are seen by many as a better option for healthy pets and as a necessary response to overpopulation and euthanasia. I was most surprised—and heartened—by the finding that “…more than four in 10 said they thought store pets could have hidden medical or psychological problems. That’s significantly more than those who expressed the same concerns about pets from animal shelters or breeders.”   Interestingly, people under 30 were more likely to buy a pet from a store than older respondents, which signals to me that education efforts about pet stores and puppy mills needs to zero in on a younger audience.


Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The Legality of Helping Chained Dogs
Court case dropped against dog advocate

Tamira Ci Thayne is the founder and CEO of Dogs Deserve Better, which appeared in a previous blog called Have a Heart For Chained Dogs Week. The goal of this organization is to stop the constant chaining of dogs. They educate people about why constantly chaining dogs is inhumane and about the dangers of this practice.

  Thayne has taken more direct action to help some of these unfortunate dogs, which has led to legal trouble. She was first arrested for taking a chained dog to the vet and refusing to return him. The dog had been chained for 13 years and left lying on the ground and unable to stand for three days when Thayne intervened.   This week, Thayne was appealing a trespassing charge in Pennsylvania for going onto someone’s property and providing the dogs chained there with food, straw, and water. These dogs were underweight and dealing with temperatures of -11 with the wind chill. Because Krystal Cann, the prosecution’s witness and owner of the property where the dogs were chained did not show up, the prosecution ended its criminal case against Thayne. Without this witness, they had little hope of proving their case. Cann’s dogs remain chained up.   Thayne is working to get legislation in Pennsylvania that will limit the amount of time that dogs can be chained up. This will make it easier to help dogs without breaking the law.    


Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Stopping Breed Stereotypes
Petition persuades Mafia Wars to remove Pit Bull “weapons”

If you’re on Facebook, most likely you either love or hate the popular game, Mafia Wars. I happen to fall on the dislike side, but I can tell from my Facebook News Feed that many of my friends play the game quite frequently! And they’re not alone--over 7 million people play Mafia Wars every day.

Recently, the game announced the addition of animals as a new type of weapon, which included Pit Bulls. This was obviously disturbing to anyone fighting against Pit Bull stereotypes. It was also surprising coming from Mafia Wars creator, Zynga, who also created YoVille, a game where virtual adoptions of dogs and cats have raised over $125,000 for the San Francisco SPCA. Zynga even allows employees to bring their pets to work, many who have rescue Pit Bulls.

Earlier this month, Zynga announced it would remove Pit Bulls from Mafia Wars after receiving a Change.org petition signed by over 500 community members. The appeal urged the company to stop perpetuating negative pit bull stereotypes.

Personally I don’t see the appeal of Mafia Wars, but I commend Zynga for being responsive to feedback and for ultimately pulling Pit Bulls from the game. The depiction of the breed in the game was downright offensive. Given that only a small fraction of the millions of Mafia Wars users complained, I think Zynga demonstrated sensitivity once the issue was brought to their attention.

And the next time you pass on signing a petition, assuming it won’t make a difference, think twice about the power of your signature!

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.