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News: JoAnna Lou
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.”

News: Guest Posts
Louisville Flood Victims Need Help!
Staff and volunteers struggled to save 550 animals from drowning.

Yesterday’s flash flood in Louisville, Kentucky, forced staff and volunteers to quickly evacuate 250 dogs and 300 cats from the Metro Animal Services shelter. Director Giles Meloche said the water rose so fast that it went from three inches to three feet in just 30 minutes. Sadly, despite their herculean efforts, one dog and 10 kittens drowned in their cages.

The flood survivors were transported to the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Fair. They stayed overnight and are expected to be able to return to the shelter today. Volunteers are needed to help move the animals back into their kennels and clean up the shelter. If you’d like to volunteer, please email your name and expected date and time of arrival to animals@louisvilleky.gov.    

The shelter lost all of its food and supplies in the flood. If you’d like to donate money to help replace what was lost, you can do so online by clicking here. If you’d like to donate food or supplies, please bring them to the shelter, located at: Metro Animal Services, 3705 Manslick Road, Louisville, Ky 40215.

These poor dogs and cats have been through a lot and could really use a stable home. Please consider adopting one or if you can’t, spread the word to friends, family and neighbors.

News: Guest Posts
My Rescue Trifecta, Plus One
Helping a dog—or three—gets personal. [Web exclusive]

Until recently, my understanding of “rescue” has been too traditional and narrow. I’ve been a breed foster mom. But rescue? Isn’t that something done by selfless, saintly people in nonprofit organizations who give their entire lives to assisting dogs and other animals? Those who drop everything to rescue homeless and lost animals after a natural disaster? I’m no saint.

Yet 2008 was my year of the “rescue trifecta,” when I unexpectedly played a direct role in the rescue of three dogs. I learned anyone can facilitate a rescue when he or she stumbles upon the need. All that’s required is a little creative thinking, lots of compassion and a willingness to see it through. Trust me, it’s worth the effort.

Rescue #1: Buddy, Easter Sunday, 2008
How appropriate—even for this ardently unreligious woman—that my rescue trifecta started on Easter Sunday, the Christian holiday of rebirth and resurrection. I was living in the mountains of Idaho, near McCall. Ponderosa State Park sits on the edge of town. The park is groomed for cross-country skiing in the winter.

I knew if I got on the ski trails early Easter morning, I’d have the park to myself. And I did, until, about 10 minutes into my ski, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I stopped and turned to see a large dog of indeterminate lineage. He also stopped. We considered each other, our breath hanging in the frigid air. I called softly, “Hey there…” with my hand extended in greeting, but he stood his ground. Dogs are not allowed on these trails. I assumed he lived nearby and wandered into the park for the same reason I came—peace on a beautiful, sunny morning.

I started skiing again. He followed. He trotted alongside me, then ahead, behind, off into the trees after a chipmunk, back alongside. Yet he wouldn’t come close enough for me to touch. Okay, play it your way, big guy. Let’s ski.

Onward we went, a quiet yet simpatico pair, deeper into the park. The white path, sparkling in the early light, contrasted with the grooved brown bark of tall pines topped with branches of long green needles. Sunshine filtered through the tree tops. The temperature was in the single digits, making everything crisp and vibrant. Views of frozen, snow-covered Payette Lake sneaked through the trees. Somehow, having this dog along made the experience even more perfect.

Soon we came to a fork in the trail. The dog took the right fork. I went left, a little sad he would no longer be my companion, but hoping he was going home. I’d gone only a few yards when he appeared beside me again, before charging off into the trees after another chipmunk.

I started talking to him, as I do my own dogs when I take them on trails with me. “Hey, Buddy. Having fun? Good dog!” I missed my dogs. He assuaged that longing. I laughed and smiled at his antics, launching into the deep untracked snow after critters, clearly having a ball.

After 45 minutes, we reached my turnaround point. I stepped out of my skis, planted my poles, and moved off the trail to pee. Buddy stayed nearby, seeming to guard me. After pulling up my tights, I squatted again, to his level. “Hey, Buddy, come say hi,” I murmured. This time, he did. He not only sniffed my ungloved hand, he melted into my embrace, almost knocking me back into the snow. Oh my. We instantly, incredibly, bonded. He trusted me.

His collar carried no tags. He didn’t feel overly thin. His coat was thick and clean. His eyes were warm and bright.

I spent the return leg wondering, “Is he lost? Abandoned? He can’t have been lost for long.”

I stopped by the ranger’s office and asked if she recognized the dog. “No, but we get strays in the park all the time,” she said. “I usually just call McPaws [the local shelter] and they send someone over to pick them up.”

I wasn’t quite satisfied with that solution. I went outside again. A car with a couple and their two dogs had just arrived. I asked if they recognized Buddy. “No,” the woman said. “But I volunteer at McPaws. I could take him over when we’re done skiing.” This sounded a little better. But I was also thinking I could provide a foster home for him. I knew my two female Malamutes would adore him. “Could I see how he behaves toward your dogs?” I asked the woman. She agreed, saying her female could be a little aggressive. Buddy was off leash; her dog was on leash, and yes, a bit pushy. Buddy simply turned his head away and was completely non-threatening, letting the other dog sniff and posture all she wanted. His was the perfect reaction.

I spent the next ten minutes fighting with myself: “Take him home!” then “No, he’d be 10 miles from his likely home in town.” I finally realized that, if he did have a home, his family would most easily find him at McPaws. With the woman’s assurance she would take him there, and the ranger’s offer to keep him in her office until that time, I left Buddy with the ranger.

My mind churned as I drove home. I wasn’t ready to adopt Buddy myself. I’d been thinking about getting another dog for more than a year, but a much smaller and younger dog. I already have two 80 pound dogs; I didn’t need another large one. But I couldn’t just forget him. In those 90 minutes skiing together, we understood each other, trusted each other. We bonded. He chose me, and now he was mine in the sense that I felt responsible for his wellbeing.

Inspiration struck. Friends in Seattle, who winter in McCall, had lost their 14-year-old Golden a couple of years before. I called them Sunday afternoon, planting the seed. I can be devious, that way. They didn’t reject the idea outright.

Monday dawned. I called the shelter to check on Buddy. Closed! Somehow I waited until they opened Tuesday. Yes, he was there, and doing well. “Very calm, a very sweet dog,” I was told. (This, I already knew.) They found a microchip and would try to reach the person listed. If that failed, he could be adopted as early as Saturday.

I visited Buddy at the shelter. We hugged and I cooed. He was calm and friendly, but subdued. I learned that the phone number on his chip had been disconnected. All other efforts to trace the name failed, but they’d keep trying. I started to wonder if Buddy was a “foreclosure” dog – left behind by a family no longer able to afford to live here.

My Seattle friends called Tuesday evening to ask more questions about Buddy. Good sign. On Wednesday, they drove ten hours to McCall to meet Buddy. Great sign.

We met at the shelter on Thursday. The visit went well. Wife was ready. Husband played it cool. I saw a crack in his armor when he arranged and paid for Buddy to be bathed as we left that day. “Whether we adopt him or not, he should look good.”

The next day, my friends called to say they’d do it and by Saturday “Buddy” was in his new home. But what to name him? They felt he needed a solid, manly name. I jokingly suggested Wally, in my honor, since he found me in the park, I rescued him, and matched him with them. Wally it is.

When I brought the ranger up to speed a few months later, she smiled and said, “Sounds like he found his own Wally’s World.”

Rescue #2: Hope, May 2008
My job was to worry about the man, but I found myself more worried about the puppy.

I sometimes act as a guardian ad litem (temporary, court-appointed guardian) for alleged incapacitated persons. The local prosecutor asked me to represent the best interests of Sam (not his real name), a 77-year-old man who, she feared, was sinking into dementia and unable to care for himself.

I first met Sam in the prosecutor’s office. We quickly discovered common ground: He had graduated from law school and loved dogs. He had a puppy back at his trailer, he said. “The puppy’s blind. Gonna have to put him down,” Sam told me.

I followed Sam to his “home” which was the sort of camper trailer that fits in the bed of a pick-up, set in a gravel parking lot. All his earthly belongings were stuffed inside or underneath it. His landlord disconnected water and electric hook-ups in an attempt to get Sam to leave. His toilet was an old coffee can. It was a warm June day and the puppy was locked inside the trailer. I was saddened by the general clutter and disarray of Sam’s trailer and living circumstances, but happy to see food and water bowls set out for the pup.

Hope, the pup, was an eight-week-old purebred Pointer. Sam picked him up by his scruff, as Hope had no collar. Sam lamented Hope’s blindness and explained that one can’t have that in a hunting line, so Hope would have to be shot. He’d taken Hope to the vet, he said, seeking a cure. The more I heard and observed, the more concerned I became, for both Sam and Hope.

Sam set the pup on the ground. As I watched Hope scamper around the trailer and into the street, it was obvious to me that Hope’s eyes, nose and ears were fully functional. My most immediate fear was that he’d be hit by a car. Apparently, Sam’s previous puppy met just such a fate.

Normally, my job as guardian ad litem would include an investigation of Sam’s current circumstances, his family or community connections, mental and physical health needs, and ultimately, a recommendation to the court regarding his ability to manage his own affairs, whether a guardianship of any level was necessary. This was the first time, in my 25 years of doing this work, that I was so directly confronted with the issue of a pet. Pets are property, and, as such, they would eventually become the responsibility of a guardian, should the court appoint one. In the meantime, Sam was the owner, and made the decisions; he could decide to kill Hope. I simply couldn’t let that happen. This puppy needed immediate care and a safe living situation. Neither I nor anyone else could deprive Sam of his property without a hearing and order from the judge, but that could take days or weeks. My legal duty was to investigate and advocate for Sam’s best interests; my moral duty was to also advocate for this helpless and innocent puppy, to save its life.

McPaws, the local shelter, was bursting at the seams with “foreclosure” pets. Besides, Hope wasn’t a stray or surrendered animal. It would be a clear conflict of interest for me to take Hope. I asked everyone I knew if they’d take the pup. Finally – with the prosecutor working to get Sam on board – a court clerk stepped forward, saying she would take Hope in on a foster basis; if Sam was unable to reclaim him, she would adopt him permanently. Sam, to my relief, was happy with this arrangement; with his mental health issues, I don’t think he was capable of bonding with the puppy.

Another successful rescue! I learned, two months later, that Hope was doing wonderfully in his new home, as was Sam (assisted living, in another community).

Rescue #3: Finn MacCool, July, 2008 
Now it was time to address my own companion animal needs. I wanted to add a young, smaller dog to my pack. My two Malamutes—best trail running companions a woman could ever want—are aging and slowing. Our runs are getting shorter, and less frequent; often we just hike or walk.

Many trail running friends have Aussies. Good trail dogs. I investigated breeders, while regularly surfing Petfinder.com. The idea of rescuing appealed to me; my interest increased after the experiences with Wally and Hope. A friend recommended a specific rescue organization. Within a couple weeks of my contacting the organization and completing their paperwork, I was offered a young male, about six months old, likely a mini-Aussie.

He and his siblings had been dumped at the door of a shelter in eastern Washington by an unscrupulous breeder known to the local breed-rescue community. The first attempt to get all three to the Idaho rescue failed; while his siblings arrived safely, this boy got away and was a stray for a month until he was found tied to the front door of another shelter, miles away. Photos verified it was the same dog.

In for a rescue penny, in for a pound!

I named this rescued redheaded mini-Aussie Finn MacCool, after a minor Celtic god: The heroic Finn-MacCool delights in cross-country running into strange situations with dogged persistence. Finn has some separation anxiety, but gains confidence daily. My Malamutes accept Finn completely. He brings out their inner-puppy, shaving years off their ages. Occasionally all three hike trails with me, Finn leading the charge. His name fits him, and he fits me.

Coda, July 20, 2009
It happened again. Last night, I was riding my bike on Mercer Island, a suburb of Seattle. I came down and around a bend to see a wet dog dash up a driveway and into the road in front of me, obviously scared and lost. Left alone, he’d surely be hit by a car. I braked, twisted my bike shoes out of the pedals, and stopped, straddling my bike. “Hey you, come say hello,” I calmly said. To my surprise, he did. His butt wiggled in friendliness, and he sniffed my hand. He was soaking wet, making me guess he’d been swimming in Lake Washington. He shook, soaking me! I noticed a Haltie dangling from his neck. He allowed me to pet him and wrap my fingers around the main band of the Haltie so I could control him, keeping him out of the road. He wore no other collar, no obvious ID. Now what?

He seemed willing to stay with me, so I quickly got off my bike and tossed it into some roadside shrubs. I scanned the area, but no people appeared; I couldn’t hear anyone calling out. With cleats on my bike shoes, walking was difficult. I walked with the dog—either a very tall Wheaten, a cream-colored Standard Poodle, or a mix—across the road to peer down the driveway he’d come from. No one appeared to be home at the house at the top of the driveway, and I wasn’t able to walk down the steep drive to the house down below.

I pulled my cell phone out, but wasn’t yet ready to make the call for animal control. A few cars passed. I hoped one would see the incongruity of a woman wearing a bike helmet and shoes holding a wet dog by the side of the road, but no one stopped or offered to help. Finally, I sat with the dog on someone’s lawn, determined to wait as long as I could before dark fell. The dog stretched out next to me and started rolling in the grass, tossing his legs in the air and pushing them against me; he grunted with joy and pleasure, making me laugh out loud.

Ten minutes later, a car came around the corner and made a beeline for us. A young man, jumped out, smiling broadly with relief and hugged the dog, who was clearly glad to see him. I explained my end of the transaction. The young man said they were at a friend’s house when the dog spooked, ran under a fence, into the lake and just kept going. Boaters saw him swimming. We were a good half-mile away from where the dog started! After introducing himself, the man thanked me profusely for keeping his dog safe. I said no thanks were necessary, I hoped others would do the same if one of my dogs was lost. I did diplomatically suggest he make sure his dog always had ID on him in the future, just in case.

As I rode home I felt such joy at helping reunite dog and guardian. I mentioned the episode on my Facebook page and got lots of atta girls! from my friends.

My rescue trifecta—Wally, Hope and Finn—plus one has taught me that rescues can be accomplished by anyone, with a minimum of effort but an abundance of concern for the animal. Rescues can present themselves in a wide assortment of scenarios.

Imagine if all of us took on the welfare of just one rescue dog or cat a year. Maybe you find a stray and deliver it to the Humane Society or local shelter, following its status until it has been adopted. Maybe through your job as a social worker, home health care worker or hospital employee, you hear about a pet suddenly alone (because it’s human has died or is gravely ill) and arrange for its care. Perhaps you find a dog or cat, injured by the side of the road, or lost after a natural disaster, and take it to a vet for treatment, guaranteeing payment or asking friends to pitch in to cover the cost. You can do something.

Even if we can’t foster or adopt the animal, we can work our contacts, place some calls, write some emails, do our utmost to reunite them with their guardians, or if none can be found, search for a new home, taking that burden away from an already overcrowded and financially strapped shelter system. We can donate the cost of food and vet care while that dog or cat is in shelter or rescue or foster care. We can visit them, soothing, socializing and exercising them, which makes them easier to adopt.

Make that one pet your project in 2009. Make it personal. It’s not that difficult; it doesn’t require a long term commitment. It simply requires a big heart and a can-do attitude. The rewards—for pets, and us—are enormous.

News: Guest Posts
Unfriendly Fire
Must read: Report on police shootings of dogs.

In his recent Daily Beast story, “Dogs in A Deadly Crossfire,” Radley Balko reports on an increase in media accounts “of police shooting the family pet—with a notable lack of remorse or disciplinary consequences.” Balko’s beat is police misconduct, with a special focus on paramilitary tactics. From what he sees, dogs are increasingly innocent victims of a war footing at PD’s around the country.

Obviously, the police need to protect themselves but incident reports suggest something out of control, including raids on the wrong homes where pets of bystanders are shot—even when step are taken to keep them away from the police. How about this example from Balko’s piece?

“Last year … a local news station in Oklahoma aired security-camera footage of a police officer pulling into driveway of dog owner Tammy Christopher—just to ask for directions. In the video, Christopher’s Wheaten terrier runs out from the house, and it’s difficult to tell whether the dog is charging the officer or bounding out to greet him. But the officer was on the dog’s property. And instead of merely getting back into his car, he pulled out his gun and shot the dog dead. The officer was cleared of any wrongdoing.”
 

Balko asks the question: If dangerous dogs are so common, why does a spokesman from the United States Postal Service say that serious dog attacks on mail carriers are “vanishingly rare”? Maybe, in part, because postal workers are trained in how “to distract dogs with toys, subdue them with voice commands, or, at worst, incapacitate them with Mace.” Few police departments provide this same training (New York City is a notable exception). It suggests that this is an issue about which police really don’t care.

Also, Balko presents evidence that shooting a dog can create more problems than it solves. Grazed dogs can become angry; misfires can strike a person. And in one case, a police officer mistook shots at a dog for hostile fire and ended up killing an unarmed mother with her baby in her arms.

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
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
Another Stop on the Underdog Railway
Q & A with Dawn Painter, who lets her fingers do the saving.

“The email that started us on this journey arrived in my in-box on December 23, with the subject line: Black Wednesday of Death in Harrodsburg, KY—Please, Help! … How could I ignore that plea?” writes Bark editor Claudia Kawczynska in her story about Kit and Holly—puppies she adopted from a Kentucky rescue last December.

For those of us who volunteer or work for or support shelters and rescues, this sort of e-missive is familiar. When we receive these dog-needs-home notices we become possible links in a chain that may connect a stray in Georgia with a loving home in Maine, or a puppy mill refugee in Kansas with a family in California. The email from “James Painter” that caught Claudia’s eye, actually came from his daughter, Dawn, who uses her parents’ email as part of her effort to help southern shelters and rescues find homes for homeless dogs often in far away locations.

We catch up with the Dawn Painter in the second part of our online series on the people behind animal transport—the grassroots network that moves dogs from shelters in the South or the Midwest to communities where they have a better chance of finding a good adoptive home. (In the first part, we talked to the founders of C.A.R.E., who transport homeless dogs and cats via van convoy from shelters in the Midwest to rescues in Colorado.)

Painter, 38, is a classic animal welfare advocate, making time to help in addition to a full-time job—in her case, in the planning department at UPS. She lives with four rescue cats in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. She has not website, and relies exclusively on email. As you might expect, we communicated with Painter via email and she responded in that efficient, spare text language that allows her to get more from each keystroke. (We have “translated” her answers into pre-texting English.)

TheBark.com: How did you get involved in this work?
Dawn Painter: I began by helping local shelters by going to yard sales and buying pet supplies then donating them. Seeing the shelters made me realize how Kentucky is in dire need of financial support for its homeless animals. I love going to yard sales, thrift stores, Goodwill, Salvation Army, Craigslist, and even dumpster diving for pet supplies.  Through the years, I have adopted through Animal Protection Association and Shamrock.

Bark: Are you connected to any organization or are you simply a one-woman advocate?
Painter: I just try to take turns with the different shelters and rescue groups. I do not officially work for any of them; I just do what I can.

Bark: As we understand it, you pull together and send out urgent calls for adoption or shelter help from around the country. Can you explain your role: How do you learn about dogs in need, and how you try to connect dogs in need with people who can help?
Painter: The people that head the shelters and rescue groups started adding me to their address books and thus the rescue, support and funding emails started. I forward them along to whomever I think can help. When my parents got a computer, I decided to make a breed-specific address book so that I can send the information directly to those who can help out that cat/dog. I also have a support group, so whenever there is an email regarding that I forward it there.

Any type of abuse cases, I have a contact who is a prosecutor. Of course, I have a cat group so a lot of my emails go to those no-kill sanctuaries. Shelters that are in dire need get forwarded to my animal welfare organizations (Best Friends, IDA, ASPCA, etc.). I also have a rehab and rescue group, and all the dogs that are good therapy dogs I send their information to them.

I love to get news clippings about how dog/cats help inmates or residents at nursing homes. I forward these to shelters in the hopes that they will contact their local facilities. I also have media-type contacts where I forward any emails regarding abuse, special events by animal organizations, puppy mills, etc.

Bark: Do you know what happens after you send out emails?
Painter: I usually find out when dogs have found a forever home and I just praise God and St. Francis.

Bark: Do you worry that there will be too many email alerts going out and that people will start to tune you out?
Painter: I try not to worry about sending out too much. If someone wants me to remove them from the list I always do so.
    
Bark: Are you ever overwhelmed?
Painter: It is very sad how many dogs/cats are put down each year. Every night, I say a prayer to St. Francis in the hopes that people will bring love, care, funding to all animal-related issues. I pray people become more responsible regarding spay/neutering. I pray that those four-legged babies who were put down are now in pet heaven and are playfully running through the fields and soaking up the sun with not a care in the world.

News: Karen B. London
Paula Abdul Helping People and Animals
Auction will benefit Pets and Women’s Shelters (PAWS) Program

Many women in situations of domestic violence delay leaving because they don’t want to leave their pets behind and they can’t take them with them because so few women’s shelters have the ability to house pets. There is a growing recognition that women stay in violent situations rather than leave their pets with their abusers and that bringing pets with them provides comfort and security. As a result, more women’s shelters are seeking to enable women to bring their pets with them when they flee an abusive situation to start a new life in safety.

Paula Abdul is the spokesperson for American Humane Association’s Pets and Women’s Shelters (PAWS) Program, which helps shelters fund and set up such programs. Abdul has written a letter encouraging domestic violence shelters to start programs that accommodate pets. She will be auctioning off many items from her own wardrobe with a portion of the proceeds going to PAWS.

Check out the auction on eBay. Fans of American Idol will recognize clothes and accessories that Abdul wore on the show.

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