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News: Guest Posts
Good News Out of Pennsylvania
Governor Rendell signs new animal welfare law.

A Golden Retriever named Maggie celebrated with her co-pilot, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, when he signed House Bill 39 last Thursday. The new law sets expanded guidelines for the care of dogs, specifying certain procedures must be performed by a veterinarian. This is especially good news for puppy mill dogs, who will now be spared the pain of things like ear-cropping and Caesarean births without anesthesia.

 

News: Guest Posts
Puppy Mill Bills Around the Country
California and North Carolina need a push.

Spurred by an unprecedented puppy mill bust north of Seattle in January (read Jan Rodak’s first-hand account in The Bark, May/June 2009), Washington state legislators passed Senate Bill 5651, which limits the number of intact dogs a breeder can maintain to 25 and establishes requirements for their care. While it’s not a complete victory, it is progress.

Right now, California’s Assembly looks poised to follow suit. The Responsible Breeder Act (AB 241), which limits the number of intact dogs and cats a seller can maintain to 50 (which still seems like an awful lot to me), has made it through committees and could come up for a senate vote at any time. There’s still time to contact your senator. Among the organizations supporting the legislation are the ASPCA, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Social Compassion in Legislation (SCIL). Not surprisingly the American Kennel Club is opposed to the legislation.

North Carolina is also looking good. Senate Bill 460 would classify a commercial breeder as anyone who has 15 or more female dogs and 30 or more puppies for the purpose of sale. Breeders would have to pay $50 to get licensed and follow standards of care. The bill has passed several committee votes so far and is currently with the senate finance committee.

Efforts to regulate dog breeding in other states have not faired as well this year. A Colorado law, establishing rules for breeders with 25 dogs like Washington, was tabled indefinitely in February. A bill setting standards for commercial breeders with 10 or more dogs in Florida died in committee this spring; as did another limiting breeders to 50 dogs in Maryland. Attempts to establish a licensing requirement or inspections foundered in Illinois and Iowa, respectively.

 

Visit the United Animal Nations website to find out what’s happening in your state and who's who behind the scenes. If you live in California or North Carolina, give your rep a howl.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
When 2 Becomes 255
A Michigan man hoards his multiplying Chihuahuas through life and death.

Three weeks ago, Michigan police discovered hundreds of Chihuahuas living in a house covered in urine and feces with garbage piled up to the ceiling. The operation quickly turned into a multi-day rescue that uncovered 105 Chihuahuas, and even more shocking, 150 dogs in freezers who had passed away.

The man who lived in the house, Kenneth Lang, Jr., is now in psychiatric care. Criminal charges are being investigated, but it appears that Lang has an obsessive-compulsive disorder that led him to hoard everything, dogs (dead or alive), garbage, and just about anything else that came into the house.

Sadly, much of the horrible conditions could have been prevented by spaying or neutering. Apparently the 255 dogs are believed to have originated from Lang’s first two dogs. 

Since the discovery, Dearborn Animal Shelter has been working around the clock to give the rescued pups much needed medical care and to help them adjust to the world they’ve been shut out of their entire lives. 

The shelter has received more than 500 applications to adopt the Chihuahuas, which will be matched based on personality among other factors. Moreover, many of these dogs have special social and medical conditions and may take months to be placed into the right homes.

This week, the first 22 Chihuahuas were sent to their forever homes. "These dogs were living under abnormal circumstances and will require a longer learning curve for the most basic of things such as being walked on a leash, or going 'potty' outside,” explains Dearborn Animal Shelter Executive Director Elaine Greene. “Patience will be the key with the new adoptive families."

For more information on the Chihuahuas or to make a donation, visit the Friends For the Dearborn Animal Shelter web site or call 313-943-2697.

News: Guest Posts
Disrupting the Dog-Meat Trade
Animal rights groups target South Korea’s taste for canines.

In January, I wrote about a raid on China’s dog-meat trade. The rescue of 149 dogs from appalling conditions provided a chilling glimpse into the supply-side of this tradition. Now we’re hearing from South Korea, where eating dog is also a strong, albeit often low-profile, practice. The Korea Animal Rights Advocates (KARA) organization estimates that more than two million dogs are killed each year for meat in South Korea. Before they are slaughtered, they endure “horrible conditions—crammed in unsanitary cages, fed with human waste food.” In the end, many are often electrocuted, hanged, burned or beaten to death because of a belief that the animals’ suffering produces a better tasting meat and enhances virility in those who consume it.

United Dogs and Cats, a social network for dog and cat owners in Europe, has launched an international petition drive to bring attention to the issue and pressure the Korean government to enforce its own animal protection measures and to ban the entire dog meat industry. United Dogs seeks no less than one million signatures, which will be presented to Korean officials by KARA. Sometimes I wonder how effective petitions are at changing policymaker’s minds but I see enormous value to a million people learning about this issue.
 
With all this attention on South Korea, it’s important to recognize the situation in the North, where international public opinion holds no sway, may be even more dire. According to an Agence France-Presse story in July, North Korea has been actively promoting the virtues of dog meat, including hosting dog meat food contests in Pyongyang. According to the story, hot dog meat soup is touted for its power to prevent diseases from malnutrition and bolster stamina—making it a special summer favorite in North and South Korea.

News: Guest Posts
Another View of Vick’s Second Chance
With his former Vick dog at his side, one man has mixed feelings.

I witness daily the physical evidence left by Vick and his cohorts. Today, Hector (a former Vick dog, now certified Therapy Dog) suns his chest full of scars on my deck. It was more than a year ago, on Friday the 13th, that we brought Hector home to join our family. He inspected everything like he was making up for lost time.

Hearing of Vick’s reinstatement and signing with the Eagles, I am filled with mixed emotions. This may surprise people, but I am not totally against Vick playing in the NFL. Emotions aside, the best situation that could come out of all this now would be for Vick to truly regret what he did, redeem his image and career, and then advocate for the extremely misunderstood dogs he once abused.  

I appreciate that Vick could get the chance to do this, and I am all for second chances to those who prove themselves. However, I still have a strong sense of doubt that Vick is really sorry for his actions. I still see him as sorry for getting caught. We all know he has people feeding him lines on what to say, so it’s hard to really trust the words coming out of his mouth as genuine. In addition, you have Vick (largely responsible for the dogs’ suffering) getting led by Wayne Pacelle (the man who advocated through HSUS for the dogs to be put down). Sorry, but the irony from the dogs’ perspective is a bit much for me, and with “friends” like that ... well, you know the saying.

I appreciate that Vick is talking out against dog fighting and that organizations are giving him the opportunity to do so. It needs to be done. I just hope that when all the dust settles, he steps up and proves it with his actions. If he’s truly sorry, he’ll do things like donate part of his salary towards the smaller organizations caring for the dogs that need it. The more money he’s willing to part with, the more he’ll show his regret for the cause, not just the regret for being caught. Regardless, I doubt Vick will be harming any more dogs anytime soon, which is a victory in and of itself.

News: Guest Posts
Dark Side of Dairy Farming
The organic milk–puppy mill connection.

This spring, Newsweek reporter Suzanne Smalley reported about Main Line Animal Rescue’s efforts to crackdown on Pennsylvania puppy mills. In that story, she revealed how organic dairy farming operations—in this case, one supplying Horizon Organics and Whole Foods—were sometimes also breeding puppies for profit in wretched conditions. In a July follow-up, Smalley wrote that when she alerted Horizon to her story, they sent an inspector who shut down the farm in question. In addition, Whole Foods issued a “stern request” to vendors that their operations not use farmers who “breed or raise dogs inhumanely.”

A barebones website calling itself PuppyMillK.com provides a slightly more expanded overview of the puppy mill-organic milk nexus (a surprise to me) and identifies Land O' Lakes as an another big name in the mix. While the Newsweek story had a direct and immediate impact, it’s important to keep up the pressure. The financial incentive for farmers to sell puppies on the side is a great temptation. We need to be sure that companies that have built their brands around a wholesome ideal live up to those promises.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Michael Vick Joins the NFL Again
Does he deserve this second chance?

Michael Vick has returned to the NFL to play football after serving 18-months in prison following his conviction. Many people are upset that the Philadelphia Eagles have signed him, and are shocked that he has been reinstated in the league.

As a dog lover in my private life and a dog behaviorist in my professional life, I’m disgusted by what he did. I had trouble reading about the specifics of his case because it was so upsetting it led me to tears and nausea. Yet, I find myself in the minority in the dog world, including, I believe, here at The Bark) because I’m in favor of giving him the opportunity to play football again. Although his prison sentence was much shorter than I would have liked, that was not my call to make. He has paid his debt to society as determined by the justice system and I believe he deserves the chance to return to his former career.

Maybe this sort of compassion comes easily to me because over the years, I have worked with many dogs who have bite histories and serious aggression issues and whose owners came to me hoping to find some way other than euthanasia to keep their families and other people safe from their dog. Whenever I believe that it is possible for a dog to be safe with a combination of treatment and management, I want that dog to have a second chance, but with reasonable limits and expectation to insure the dog’s success. A lot of my career working to help animals with serious aggression issues is based on a fervent belief in second chances. Defining an individual of any species based solely on their mistakes isn’t in my nature. While the comparison should not be taken too far, the same sort of compassion that makes me believe that aggressive dogs deserve a second chance leads to me to extend that same courtesy to Michael Vick, as long as certain limits are in place. Yes, I think it’s right that he not ever be allowed to own another dog, but yes, I think it’s right that he be allowed to play football again.

He has a chance to be a role model for kids about how you can mess up big and go on to live your life. He may be uniquely able to reach people from the same upbringing he had in a culture of violence who are at risk of lawless behavior and show them that what he did was wrong and that he’s changed. Maybe his interest in humane societies and speaking to youth are just a way to improve his image so he can get some of what he lost back and he’s on the path to ruining his life for good, and my support of his second chance will be a waste. Not all second chances in this world prove worthwhile. Or maybe, he’s sincere enough to make a difference in the lives of both animals and people and he may prevent future cases of abuse and violence. The “maybes” just mean that we don’t know now. That’s how second chances are—the outcome varies case by case and there’s some unpredictability.

Some comments I’ve read on a previous blog suggest that Vick’s punishment should be to receive the sort of abuse that he inflicted on those innocent dogs. It seems many people’s anger fuels a desire to torture Vick. I don’t understand that perspective. The abuse that Vick inflicted on those dogs was so horrendous that it was a crime. I don’t see how committing additional crimes of abuse will improve anything. It won’t bring back the dogs he killed or erase the tremendous suffering he caused. It won’t make Vick more likely to become a kind and caring man who does some good in this world. It won’t increase the chance of him being an upstanding citizen from this point forward. Abuse begets more abuse, while compassion breeds more of the same.

I know a lot of dog professionals and dog lovers think otherwise, but I believe that Michael Vick deserves a second chance. What do you think?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Fighting for a Rightful Piece of the Trust
Animal welfare organizations contest how Leona Helmsley’s estate has been allocated.

This week, the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Maddie’s Fund, filed a petition arguing that Leona Helmsley’s trustees disregarded her wishes to use her multibillion-dollar estate to help dogs. In February, a judge ruled in the trustees’ favor, allowing them to have sole discretionary power to decide which charities would benefit from her estate. The three organizations are calling their lawsuit the most significant financial litigation in animal welfare history. 

The topic has been a heated one since Leona Helmsley, wife of real estate mogul, Harry B. Helmsley, passed away in August 2007 with a fortune estimated at $5 billion to $8 billion. Most notably was the $12 million that Leona left to her own Maltese, Trouble, that later was reduced to $2 million by a judge.

Animal lovers rejoiced when it was revealed that four years earlier, Leona drafted a mission statement for her trust that listed providing for the care of dogs as a priority and other charitable causes could be determined by the trustees. Unfortunately, the last part left a gaping loophole for the current events. 

Furthermore, since the mission statement was never incorporated into her will or the trust documents, it wasn’t legally binding. Though her intentions seem clear, less than one percent of the trustee’s grants announced in April benefits animal related organizations. Of that amount very little went to animal welfare. Ten percent went to the ASPCA and 90 percent to guide dog organizations. 

According to the Humane Society of the United States, there’s a long history of disputing animal trusts. In the later half of the 19th century, a bequest of a $100,000 estate to the ASPCA was contested by the donor’s heirs and a court ruled in their favor.

More recently, tobacco heiress, Doris Duke, left her money to support the arts and the prevention of cruelty to animals or children. But because of that “or,” her trustees chose to allocate the money to only children. 

When it comes to a trust or will, like many others, I assume that my loved ones know how I feel about animals. It’s unbelievable to me that Leona’s trustees would ignore her seemingly obvious intentions and has made me think about how specific you have to be, no matter how much you trust those around you.

Hopefully with the attention this case has received, more people will be careful about how they draft their wills and trusts.

For more information on creating a pet trust, see Rebecca Wallick’s article and HSUS’ online resources on the topic.

News: Guest Posts
Update: Kids Instigate Attack
Teen pleads not guilty; Snaps in limbo.

In June, Julia Kamysz Lane wrote a post about an attack involving a dog. A group of teens allegedly beat a dog, and when strangers intervened, they attacked and sicced their dog on them. The story touched a nerve in all of us—and inspired unprecedented response; anger and sadness pervaded every comment. The overwhelming sentiment was that Snaps, a Pit Bull at the heart of the matter, would be forced to pay a heavy price for the bad choices of the people around him. Even one of the attack victims has said the dog was innocent.

Two months later there have been a few developments in the case. In July, the now-16-year-old who reportedly instigated the attack pled not guilty. She’s been charged with two counts of third-degree assault and one count of being a minor in possession of alcohol. Each of the three charges can result in a 30-day jail sentence. The other younger teens are not being charged at this time. A spokesman for the prosecutor told The Seattle Times “that his office plans to ask for an exceptional sentence if the girl is convicted.”

Meanwhile, Snaps is still alive but in grim circumstances. According to KCACC Exposed, the dog is being kept in solitary confinement at a King County Animal Care and Control shelter. KCACC Exposed is grassroots organization working to improve conditions for animals at the county-run shelters, which have been mired in controversy since a report earlier this year cited “inhumane” practices and “gross inadequacy” in housing animals.

In a July 27 letter to King County Council and King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg, KCACC Exposed writes:

“For the past month [Snaps] has been locked in solitary confinement at KCACC; kept alone and terrified in a small, bare concrete kennel, without exercise, fresh air, social contact, or enrichment – or even basic comforts such as a bed or towel to sleep on. In fact, KCACC management has gone so far as to specifically instruct its officers that Snaps is to receive only minimal levels of care, such as food, water and cage cleaning, and that staff members are not supposed to make any effort to ease his misery.”

While Snaps’ future has not been officially declared, the decision to keep him isolated bodes very ill for his future.

News: Guest Posts
Guide Dogs for Cats and Dogs?
Amazing stories of seeing-eye canines.

A story in the Daily Telegraph about a blind Border Collie who has his own guide dog didn’t surprise me. I’ve heard a number of stories about dogs acting as guides for blind animals. One news story—about a dog who guided a blind cat to safety after Hurricane Katrina—was even made into a children’s book.

I learned about Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival at the ASPCA/Henry Bergh Children’s Book Award ceremony last month. Named in honor of ASPCA founder Henry Bergh, the award honors books that “promote the humane ethic of compassion and respect for all living things.” (My own children’s book about my Seeing Eye dog—Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound—won a Henry Bergh children’s Book award in 2008.) The awards are given out annually during the American Library Association convention, which met in Chicago this year. As difficult as it was to give up our crown, Hanni and I were thrilled to learn we’d be handing it over to the likes of Two Bobbies. Here's the book's 411:

“During Hurricane Katrina, evacuating New Orleans residents were forced to leave their pets behind. Bobbi the dog was initially chained to keep her safe, but after her owners failed to return, she had to break free. For months, Bobbi wandered the city’s ravaged streets, dragging her chain behind her, followed by her feline companion, Bob Cat. After months of hunger and struggle, the two Bobbies were finally rescued by a construction worker helping to rebuild the city. When he brought them to a shelter, volunteers made an amazing discovery about the devoted friends—Bob Cat was actually blind! He had survived the aftermath of the storm by following the sound Bobbi’s chain made as she dragged it along the ground.”

Hanni and I met the Two Bobbies co-authors—Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery—at the ceremony, and they were as endearing as the two friends they wrote about in their book. Books that win the Henry Bergh Children’s Book Award are available at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) online store and your purchase helps the ASPCA in its “ongoing efforts to educate children about animal awareness and create a more humane nation.”

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