Someone else’s trash: Rez dogs saved; rez dogs lost

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

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Dumpster pups reunite; M. Greener photo, Bozeman Daily Chronicle

From tragic to jubilant in eight short words: “Puppies left to die in garbage bin reunited.” The headline pulls you into the story–you already know it ends well–but still, you have to confront the fact that someone callously trashed a box of 10 newborns during a frigid Montana winter. Instead of freezing to death, the babies–some had not yet opened their eyes–were rescued by RezQ Dogs (websiteFacebook), a volunteer rescue operation “committed to helping the unwanted and abandoned dogs from the Fort Belknap and Rocky Boy Indian reservations” in north-central Montana. Tiny Tails K-9 Rescue (websiteFacebook) stepped in to help, and the rest is happy history.  Continue reading

New Jersey Animals Get More Protection, But Are Still Property

Seth Victor

Last month New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed laws creating two new felonies for animal abuse. The first, “Patrick’s Law,” increases neglect of a dog from a disorderly persons offense, a misdemeanor, to a fourth degree felony, or in some cases, a third degree felony. The fines associated with these crimes were also increased. Additionally, overworking an animal is now a misdemeanor offense. The law was inspired by Patrick, a malnourished pit bull who was thrown down a garbage patrickchute in a trash bag by his owner. Patrick survived and was rescued, but owner Kisha Curtis is not expected to face harsh penalties for her actions. Under the new law, even failing to provide a dog like Patrick with adequate food and water could land a similar offender in custody. The bill was passed by the NJ Assembly last spring.

Christie also signed “Dano’s Law,” aka “Dano’s and Vader’s Law.” Under this addition, it is now a fourth degree felony to threaten the life of a law enforcement animal. This measure primarily includes K-9 units, but also horses for mounted police. NJ Sen. Christopher Bateman commented, “Cowardly criminals who threaten the life of a law enforcement animal will now receive the punishment they deserve.”

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Keeping Pets out of the Market

Seth Victor

Though there is a growing dialogue about how to classify domestic animals, the norm in America is, and will likely remain for a great while longer, that animals are property that can be bought and sold, like a chair or the computer on which you are reading this blawg.

puppies in window

Of course animals are not just property, and millions of people believe that their furry friends are essential members of their families, member who should be afforded certain protections against cruelty. Most of you are aware that we do consider some types of domestic animal abuse as felonies (unless you are from the Dakotas). Clearly we care about domestic animals (I emphasize domestic; I’ll refrain from discussing the hypocrisy of our nation’s CAFO situation), but we remain entrenched in a legal framework that considers them to be chattel. No matter how egalitarian the owner, there is inherent inequality and lack of agency in such a system.To draw a common and controversial comparison, no matter how magnanimous the slave owner, it’s still slavery.

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New Jersey Takes Steps Towards Stronger Animal Laws

Seth Victor

In a move to join Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, and Rhode Island, the New Jersey Assembly passed a bill 60-5 last Thursday to ban gestation crates for pigs. A similar bill already having passed in the state senate 35-1, the measure now awaits Gov. Chris Christie’s signature. Though a progressive step forward for animal protection, the bill, while giving a thorough definition of the kinds of confinement banned, still allows for the common exceptions. Gestating pigs can still be confined for “(1) medical research, (2) veterinary examination, testing, individual treatment, or an operation, (3) transportation of the animal, (4) an exhibition or educational program, (5) animal husbandry purposes, provided the confinement is temporary and for no more than six hours in any 24-hour period, (6) humanely slaughtering of the animal in accordance with the laws, and rules and regulations adopted pursuant thereto, concerning the slaughter of animals, and (7) proper care during the seven-day period prior to the expected date of the gestating sow giving birth.” While there is a rational basis for all of these exceptions, broad ones such as “veterinary examination” seem ripe for abuse (or at least a defense), and animal testing gets its typical pass with the “medical research” caveat. Still, there is a disorderly persons misdemeanor where once there was none, and groundwork to phase out a particularly thorny issue in CAFOs. Continue reading

Michigan dog fighting penalty increases

Seth Victor

As reported by the Detroit News, the Michigan legislature recently voted to increase the penalty for dog fighting. By finding dog fighting to be an organized criminal enterprise, the legislature has made it possible for dog fighting violators to be charged with racketeering, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Additionally, the property (real and personal) in question could also be confiscated as a nuisance if the House approves the bill. The racketeering classification amendment to the law is expected to be signed by Gov. Snyder soon. As the bill analysis reads:

Under the code, racketeering is defined as committing, attempting to commit, conspiring to commit, or aiding or abetting, soliciting, coercing, or intimidating a person to commit an offense for financial gain that includes any of the listed criminal acts. The bill would amend this list to include a violation of Section 49, concerning animal fighting.

 The bill proposal puts it bluntly; “Simply put, animal fighting is animal abuse on steroids.” By moving this crime into the same category as other criminal enterprises, Michigan is recognizing the vast infrastructure behind animal fighting rings. The amendment to the law will also allow prosecutors to go after repeat offenders in a more meaningful manner, rather than having to separately prosecute individual cases that carry less significant penalties. There is a concern that property seizure based simply on an allegation of such abuse might be extreme, and that is an aspect that certainlyshould  be  carefully considered in each case. Overall, this bill marks a considerable step towards greater penalties for animal abuse, and one that isn’t as particularly tailored as last year’s Schultz’s Law.

North Dakota Votes Against Animals

Seth Victor

In what must be a move of Dakotan solidarity, the people of North Dakota voted last week against Proposition 5, which would have  made it a class C felony, punishable by incarceration, “to maliciously and intentionally harm a living dog, cat or horse.” There would have been the typical exceptions for veterinarians, hunters, scientists, and, of course, agriculture workers. This is a measure aimed at domestic pets, which would have enforced against instances akin to Michael Vick’s dog torture. Nevertheless, 65.4% of voters opted to have North Dakota remain with South Dakota as the only two states in the nation without animal cruelty felonies.

Interestingly, this comes in the same election when three states approved same-sex marriage, a measure in nearby Minnesota to outlaw same-sex marriage was voted down, and recreational marijuana was legalized in two states. Additionally, within North Dakota, voters opted to ban indoor smoking in the workplace by a 2-1 majority, but also voted 2-1 for a measure that bans any law that would abridge farmers and ranchers from employing their own industry practices. It seems that while we as a nation are in a piecemeal fashion expanding the liberties of our own species, animals are clearly still an “other” that do not receive the same considerations. The vote on the smoking measure in a state that is traditionally wary of government intervention shows that individuals do not have an absolute right to do what they want to the detriment of others, but efforts to extend that same logic to establish animals as something more than property remain trapped in our legal schizophrenia. I can grasp the reasoning behind the farmed animal vote; established industry, I expect, advertised, lobbied, and campaigned more effectively to keep the status quo. Why anyone in 2012 would want to keep torture to companion animals punishable only by a slap on the wrist, however, is beyond me.

Boo: World’s Richest Dog

Eliza Boggia

Boo

Meet Boo, the world’s cutest dog. This is not a judgment call, but actually a trademark. Not only is Boo (actually, his owner) an intellectual property rights holder, but the little dog is quite popular. This 6-year-old Pomeranian has product endorsements and his own line of toys.  His stuffed animal, modeled after him, goes for about $20.  He has 5.5 million fans on his facebook page, about half as many as international icon Madonna. His page says, “My name is Boo. I am a dog. Life is good.” His favorite foods include chicken, cheese, flowers, grass and dirt. Continue reading

Is a pet-free world possible?

Seth Victor

Gary Francione rejecting the premise that animals can be property is not new; the good professor has been expressing his view for decades that the key to animal equality must be, in part, approached through our definitions of ownership. He recently posted  that pet ownership is unnatural, even if it were possible to create and enforce laws that gave pets legal status as persons. He goes on to say that even if there were only two dogs left in the world, and good homes could be assured to all of the offspring, pet ownership would still have no place, and he would work to end the institution. Continue reading

Taking the Teeth out of Animal Fighting

Seth Victor

Oh, Magoo, you’ve done it again. And by Magoo, I of course mean New York, which as a state is doing a fine job staying on the forefront of advances in animal law. Recently the state assembly passed this nice new bit of legislation, which makes it a class B misdemeanor to possess, with the intent to use, animal fighting paraphernalia. That’s up to 90 days in jail upon conviction. Certain items such as breaking sticks and fighting pits are specified and defined, but there is also a catch-all provision for “any other instrument commonly used in the furtherance of pitting an animal against another animal.”

I like the idea of going after the materials used in animal fighting. It’s one of the more preventative measures I’ve seen. Prosecuting dog fights is all very important, but those animals are often far too damaged at that point. With this kind of approach, the fighting rings can be shut down before they happen. The mens rea will prevent wanton application of the law. Hopefully showing intent will not be too big of a hurdle for the courts. Then again, I’m not sure what else a “cat mill” could be used to do.

When the Wild Things Aren’t

Seth Victor

Here’s the situation. You have several domestic cats in a neighborhood from different houses. For one reason or another, a couple of these cats leave their homes and wander the neighborhood and breed, becoming more or less feral. This goes on for several generations. Does there come a point when these cats are no longer domestic animals, but should be considered wild?

I pose the question concerning cats because feral felines occupy a middle ground in our society’s ever complicated definitions when it comes to animals. Cats are cute and cuddly and are one of the primary “pet” animals; though probably just a juicy and tender, it’s faux pas to eat them, and even the dumbest cat is more lauded than the smartest pig. Cats are also noted for their more independent behavior. Ask a “dog person” why he likes his dog better, and you will inevitably hear some mention of loyalty and companionship that he doesn’t see in cats (though the “cat people” will vociferously disagree). But can that make cats more wild, and if so, what does that mean? When are animals wild, and can they cross or re-cross that line?

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Running in Place

Seth Victor

The more things change, the more they stay the same, so the saying goes. I’m not one to abide by that logic, especially when thinking about animal law; if everything stayed the same, all of the tireless advocacy would be for naught. The progress might  trickle at times, but it does happen.

Yet today I read two articles that, juxtaposed, forced the maxim to mind. Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice has announced that her office supports adding animal cruelty and dog fighting under state penal law, as opposed to the current agriculture law that houses these offenses. Long Island has been pushing for stronger law enforcement for animal abuse in recent years. Suffolk County created the nation’s first animal law abuse registry  in 2010. Moving century old laws into criminal enforcement would certainly be another step in demonstrating the seriousness of these offenses. Continue reading

“All I Want for Christmas is a Puppy”: When Dog Shopping, the Devil is in the Details

Coral Strother

As the Holiday Season sets into full swing, and people begin to shop for the perfect gift for their loved ones, no doubt “puppy” will be on the top of many lists.  But before rushing out to the nearest pet store to find that perfect pooch, it is best to be aware of who you are really buying from.  An investigation launched by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) published on November 10, 2011 reported that more than 100 New York pet stores they investigated, including several upscale ones, bought their puppies from puppy mills, despite claims that they only sell dogs that come from private and reputable breeders.

The investigation by the HSUS consisted of two parts.  First, a HSUS investigator along with animal rights activist/ABC’s “The Bachelor” Lorenzo Borghese went undercover with hidden cameras to 11 New York pet stores posing as customers and asked the store staff questions about the stores’ breeder sources.  All 11 stores made either explicit or implicit and misleading statements that they did not get their puppies from puppy mills, but instead got their dogs from small private breeders.  The second stage of the HSUS investigation involved reviewing the shipping documents of over 100 New York pet stores (including the 11 visited undercover).  The results of the review concluded more than 100 New York pet stores (including the 11 interviewed) did in fact obtain their puppies from puppy mills.  All 11 of the interviewed stores as well as many of the 100 investigated stores used puppy mills that had numerous Animal Welfare Act violations, including citations for filthy conditions, lack of adequate space, exposure to extreme weather conditions, malnourished animals, and a neglect of proper veterinary care.  Most notably, several pet stores used facilities owned by Brandi Cheney (who has over 500 pages in of USDA inspection and enforcement reports linked to her) and facilities owned by Kathy Jo Bauck/Kathy Cole (convicted animal abuser who had her USDA license revoked).  Additionally, HSUS checked out and filmed several of the “small private breeding facilities” that some of the 11 pet stores investigated cited to use, only to find these facilities housed hundred of dogs in small cages. Continue reading

Ear Cropping and Tail Docking

Ashley MacDonald

 

Cirac's ears were incorrectly (and most likely very painfully) cropped, leaving them susceptible to flies and pests, and him less able to communicate with other dogs.

Ear cropping in dogs refers to the practice of cutting off part of a dog’s ear flap, and then bandaging the ear so that it heals in an upright position. Tail docking involves cutting off the majority of the dog’s tail, usually when it is just a few days old. These practices have been carried out on domestic animals such as sheep (yes, they have tails!), pigs, horses, cows, and dogs for hundreds if not thousands of years. In working dogs, cropping and docking were historically carried out for “practical” purposes: to prevent injury and subsequent infection when dogs were protecting humans or hunting game.

Today, these procedures are almost entirely cosmetic. The AMVA openly opposes these operations when done for cosmetic purposes, while the AKC has gone so far as to vehemently oppose a New York bill seeking to ban the practices. The AKC preaches the continued utility of these amputations, stating: “tails are docked on breeds that are active in the field…pain if any, is momentary, but this procedure will prevent painful, serious injury later in life.”  Continue reading

The War on Pit Bulls

Lili Corn

Dog fighters concerned about whether they’re abusing their pit bulls

enough to achieve maximum viciousness in the fight ring can breathe a sigh of relief.  The popular dog fighting game application for Android, “Dog Wars,” from Kage Games, is back with a new name.  Pulled from the market for a few days last week due to trademark problems, the app was rereleased as “KG Dogfighting” on Saturday.   Those over the age of 14 are once again free to chose a game personality (perhaps the professional football player looking for a thrill) and get to work injecting virtual dogs with steroids, shocking them with electric currents, forcing them to drag around tractor trailer tires to build muscle, and sending them into the ring to rip apart opponents (or be ripped apart themselves).

          As heinous as it sounds, this game is not only real, but marketed as an attempt to raise awareness against animal cruelty.  Following this logic, one can only imagine what anti-pedophilia or anti-racism games would involve.  Search images of “dog fight victim” on the Internet if you want to see the true face of dog fighting and decide whether you think it is an appropriate subject matter for a game. Continue reading

Don’t Mail Dogs; Just Don’t Do It

David Cassuto

From the Wouldn’t Make This Stuff Up Even if We Could Desk:

Here’s a newsflash for all those who think humanity’s superior intellect is what separates us from “lower” animals…

Should Michael Vick Own a Dog?

Seth Victor

My quick answer is no, but Scott Heiser from ALDF offers a more detailed explanation about what realistic enforceable judicial options exist to keep abusers like Vick (who recently stated that owning a dog will help with his rehabilitation) from owning animals. You can read Heiser’s Q&A here.

 

UPDATE: While we are on the subject of punishment and rehabilitation, apparently President Obama went out of his way to praise the Philadelphia Eagles for giving Vick a second chance. Very interesting. You can read the article here.

Animal Cruelty and the Courts: Recent Cases

Gillian Lyons

Being an all purpose animal law blog, it seems appropriate to give our readers a rundown of some recent key jurisprudence dealing with cruelty towards domestic animals.  These are a few cruelty related cases decided by state courts in the last three months.

Sullivan v. Commonwealth, 2010 WL 4352715 (Va. Nov. 4, 2010):  In a recent decision, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld a misdemeanor cruelty conviction against a president of a horse rescue organization.  The charge against defendant was based on her failure to provide necessary emergency veterinary treatment.  Defendant claimed she was unaware of the horse’s grave condition, but expert testimony led the court to believe the condition was not only obvious for at least 48 hours before the horse’s death, but readily observable for weeks prior.  The court thus affirmed the trial court which had found the Defendant guilty and sentenced her to twelve months in jail, with six months suspended on conditions of good behavior and “no possession of horses” for 24 months.

Eckhart v. Department of Agriculture, 2010 WL 4596316 (Pa. Cmwlth. Nov. 15, 2010):  The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania recently issued a decision upholding almost $170,000 in administrative penalties, issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, against a former kennel operator.  Petitioner, former operator of “Almost Heaven Kennels,” had sought renewal permits from the Department’s Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement to operate kennels within the state. Both permits were rejected by the Department based on previous and pending animal cruelty conviction charges.  In response to Petitioner’s renewal request, the Department issued a Refusal Order demanding that Petitioner acquire no additional dogs, and that he cease and desist operating the kennel.  For Petitioner’s failure to abide by the order, he was charged almost 170,000 in penalties.  Petitioner appealed the penalties as excessive under the Eighth Amendment, but the Commonwealth Court disagreed with this argument and affirmed the penalties as reasonable.            Continue reading

Sex, Animal Abuse, and the Internet

Seth Victor

In Long Island, New York last Tuesday,  the Suffolk County Legislature unanimously approved a bill, sponsored by legislator Jon Cooper, creating the nation’s first registry for people convicted of animal abuse. The online registry operates in a similar fashion to the online registration required for sex offenders under Megan’s Laws. Anyone convicted of animal cruelty will be required to submit and keep updated their name, address, and photograph to the publicly searchable database for five years following their conviction. Convicted abusers will have to pay $50 annually for the cost of the registry, and those who do not face a $1,000 fine and one year imprisonment.

Mr. Cooper is quoted stating, “We know the correlation between animal abuse and domestic violence…Almost every serial killer starts out by torturing animals, so in a strange sense we could end up protecting the lives of people.” In acknowledging the link between animal abuse and domestic violence, a relationship of which many people are not aware, Mr. Cooper illustrates how animal protection laws can serve both human and animal interests.

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Football, Pit Bulls, and Regaining Trust: A book review of Jim Gorant’s The Lost Dogs

Stephen Iannacone

In July of 2007, after months of investigating, Michael Vick and three others were charged with the federal crime of operating an interstate dog fighting ring known as “Bad Newz Kennels.”  Initially, Vick maintained that he only funded the dog fighting ring.  However, as further details were released over the course of the investigation, he eventually confessed and publicly apologized for his actions.  Every sports fan, animal advocate, and legal aficionado knows the result of this case.  However, very few of us know the amount of effort that went into building a case against Vick, collecting the evidence, attempting to rehabilitate the pit bulls that authorities were able to rescue, and finding these pit bulls new and loving homes.

Jim Gorant, a senior editor at Sports Illustrated, does a remarkable job of presenting these facts in his book The Lost Dogs.  The book leaves you feeling sickened that a man like Vick could be playing football again after a mere 19 months in prison, but also feeling revitalized to learn that so many of the pit bulls have survived what they were forced to endure.  Gorant pays credit where it is due: to the investigators who managed to obtain a near impossible warrant and eventually indicted Vick; to the shelters that helped care for the pit bulls after they were rescued; to the many people who assisted in rehabilitating the pit bulls; and to the pit bulls themselves.  Gorant reveals the true side of not only the Vick dogs, but also an entire breed.  Plainly stated, pit bulls are discriminated against, especially in the media.  This book takes a step in the right direction, clearing the name of a misunderstood and mislabeled breed.   Continue reading

Torturing Beagles (Because They’re Nice Dogs)

David Cassuto

I’ve been bothered by this article in U.S.A. Today since I read it.  The article, which talks about the rescue and subsequent adoption of some 120 beagles who were vivisected, has the typical feel-good, happy-ending narrative one often sees in articles of this type.  And don’t get me wrong; I’m delighted that the dogs were rescued and it is certainly a much better ending than anyone had any reason to expect for them.

Still, I found one passage especially haunting:   Continue reading

Funeral for a Friend

Seth Victor

Most days you can read the news and find headlines about a tragic human death, but you will seldom, if ever, read about the daily mass slaughter of farmed animals, or even the daily deaths of shelter dogs and cats. I was thus pleasantly surprised this morning to find a story on the front page of The Express-Times, a major paper in the Lehigh Valley, about two police dogs, Oszi and Boris, who were euthanized this month after long careers working with their human partners. Putting aside the debate on euthanasia for a moment, it’s good to see an article, on the front page no less, touching on how the loss is as tough on the detectives as any human death. It’s also a reminder that while we often talk about how animals are affected by our laws, some of them spend their lives enforcing them. You can read the article here.

Come Fly with Me

Seth Victor

Dogs are property, so it makes sense that they are shipped as cargo by most major airlines. As aggravating as it is for the airline to misplace your luggage, it must be soul-wrenching to find that your companion has died during her trip. Yet since May of 2005, 122 dogs have died in transit on airlines, according to reports by the Department of Transportation, with 144 pet deaths overall , along with 55 injuries and 33 lost pets. Purebreds with short muzzles bear the highest risk of death or injury from overheating, since they are unable to cool themselves. Go ahead and add this to the number of health problems these dogs face. Continue reading

Robert Byrd, 1917-2010

Robert Byrd was a United States Senator for 51 years.  No one can be in the Senate for that long and leave an uncomplicated legacy.  However, at least 2 things are very clear.  One, Byrd was one of the most gifted orators this country has ever known.  Two, he cared deeply about animals and loathed animal cruelty. 

His 2001 speech on the Senate floor, which I reproduce here with a hat tip to the Animal Welfare Institute, says much, leaves much unsaid, and speaks to all who are capable of listening.  Those of us who work in animal advocacy may have very different methods and views but we all abhor cruelty.  Senator Byrd’s eloquent voice offers a lesson to us all and his common decency will be sorely missed.

CONGRESSIONAL RECORD-SENATE
July 9, 2001

CRUELTY TO ANIMALS

Mr. BYRD. Mr. President, a few months ago, a lady by the name of Sara McBurnett accidentally tapped a sports utility vehicle from behind on a busy highway in California. The angry owner of the bumped vehicle, Mr. Andrew Burnett, stormed back to Ms. McBurnett’s car and began yelling at her; and then reached through her open car window with both hands, grabbed her little white dog and hurled it onto the busy roadway. The lady sat helplessly watching in horror as her frightened little pet ran for its life, dodging speeding traffic to no avail. The traffic was too heavy and the traffic was too swift.        Continue reading

Still Thinking About Dogs (and Cats Too)

Bruce Wagman

There’s so many issues that come up with dogs that I am still thinking about them.  And much of this applies to cats as well.  Let me be clear to start that I live with three dogs, five cats and one wife, and it’s the rare event that I get to sleep on my pillow (because Nzuri beats me there every night) or stretch out my legs (Rafiki) or get near the middle of the bed (Paka, Sybil).  And the ones that are not there are sleeping not just on the couches, but actually on special beds that sit atop the couches, because those big-pillowed couches are just too hard for the cats and dogs to sleep on without some other cushion.  So I am certainly a canine and feline worshipper.  The smell and feel of dog or cat fur are nectar and succor; and if one of them decides to perch on me, their presence freezes time.

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Thinking About Dogs

Bruce Wagman

I have had dogs on my mind lately.  They are the main players in many of my (and many animal lawyers’) cases, and they are the species I get the most calls about.  This week I had a call about a sheep owner shooting a roaming dog, with the caller wondering about the implication of the California statute that allows a livestock owner to shoot any dog on his land, even if the dog is nowhere near livestock, Cal. Food and Agric. Code section 31103, and the case that upheld the broad scope of that statute, Katsaris v. Cook, 180 Cal. App. 3d 256 (Cal. App. 1986).  I talked earlier in the year with a lawyer who convinced a court that her client’s dog breeding operation was a livestock facility, United States v. Park, 536 F.3d 1058 (9th Cir. 2008), on remand, 2009 WL 2949333 (D. Idaho).  The irony of that case seemed to escape everyone involved.  The issue in the case was whether this breeding operation could operate on land with a federal easement.  “Livestock operations” were allowed to do so.  So the interesting point of the ruling for me is the conclusion that breeders are in fact just like factory (livestock) farmers and others who operate commercial operations, use animals for profit, and in the short and long run contribute directly to the death of thousands of animals in shelters around the country.  When someone buys a dog from a breeder, they automatically kill a dog in a shelter who could have been saved – “buy one, get one killed,” as one of my t-shirts says.  The math is simple and can’t be denied; if a new dog if brought into the world for profit, and given to someone who has room for a dog, then that breed dog replaces the life of a dog in a shelter, who will then be gassed, injected or otherwise summarily wiped off the planet, dying sad and alone and wondering why.    Continue reading

Breeding Ignorance

David Cassuto

Wherever you go, there it is.  Or something like that.  Settling into Rio means (for me, anyway) drinking my bodyweight in tropical juices and running on the beach.  It also means working really hard on my Portuguese, which involves spending a lot of time with the dictionary and the newspaper.  Of course, some articles are easier to understand than others because the context is so familiar.

For example, when I see a picture of a muzzled dog and a headline that says `Projeto de lei quer punir dono de´pit bull que fizer vítimas,´ my dictionary becomes less necessary.  The proposed law labels 17 breeds of dog as dangerous, aiming particularly at pit bulls who are barred from reproducing (it may be my [lack of] language skills but the ban doesn´t seem to aim at breeders but rather at the dogs themselves).  And the law would require that Continue reading

Fast Friends – Adopting a Racing Greyhound

In my first guest post on Animal Blawg, I talked a little bit about my addiction to retired racing greyhounds and I mentioned that we have adopted six since 2003.  A few of the comments in response talked about what wonderful companions retired racers make.  Of course, this topic is near and dear to my heart, but it’s also a timely one in light of some recent changes to the dog racing landscape.

2009 has been unprecedented in the number of racetracks that have closed or ended live racing, and the same is expected for 2010.  This year, five tracks have already ended live racing, and three more will join the list at the end of this month:  Dairyland Greyhound Park in Wisconsin, Phoenix Greyhound Park in Arizona and Raynham Park in Massachusetts.  While the numbers of greyhounds being bred to race is down significantly, there will be a resulting influx of dogs being retired each time a track closes.   Continue reading

Animal Drop Boxes and the Economic Recession

Katy Steere

Dog left in drop box in Sacramento, CA

As more and more Americans face poverty and homelessness during this economic recession, their pets are being left at after hours shelter drop boxes in droves. Foreclosure pets make up a great number of the pets surrendered every day. After hours drop boxes are outdoor kennels attached to shelters where people can anonymously abandon their animals when shelters are closed. Animal drop boxes are controversial because states with animal cruelty laws in place have provisions making animal abandonment illegal.

Elkhart, Indiana is one of the hardest hit recession areas in the United States. Kari Huus of MSNBC.com writes, “Each day at five, staff members of the Humane Society of Elkhart County close the animal shelter and hold a meeting. And each day, like clockwork, they begin hearing a “thump, thump, thump” from outside.” Many of the animals being dropped off are malnourished, diseased and beyond the point of rehabilitation. The shelter is seeing an influx of 600 to 700 animals each month while the shelter only has space for 266 animals. Huus writes, “Since October 2008, the shelter has handled 5,783 animals, 42 percent of which were abandoned anonymously.” When the drop box becomes full overnight, the staff finds animals tied up outside the shelter as well as animals roaming the parking lot. Because of this overwhelming influx of animals, the shelter is euthanizing two to three times the number of animals it would in an average month. The Elkhart Humane Society is desperate for donations to help them deal with this incredible influx.  Continue reading

Oreo’s Law

Christopher Cuomo

In June 2009, I was deeply saddened to learn that a fellow New Yorker threw his pit bull (Oreo) off the roof of a building. Despite the horrendous act I was happy to hear that the owner was being prosecuted and Oreo was recovering. In November 2009, after Oreo had made a full physical recovery the A.S.P.C.A decided to euthanize him. The A.S.P.C.A claimed that Oreo displayed aggressiveness. As was explained in Ms. Gallo’s November 16th post, the A.S.P.C.A made the decision to kill Oreo despite the fact there had been many offers from animal rescue groups and No Kill shelters to take Oreo and save him from being killed.  Once the announcement was made public the A.S.P.C.A received emails, phone calls, and an online petition was even launched in an attempt to save Oreo.   

All was done in vain.  What was once an act of animal cruelty by one became an act of complicity. The A.S.P.C.A had the resources available to give Oreo a good life, yet they chose the easy way out and ended his life.

Oreo may be memorialized and his death may have had a purpose after all. Not only did he defy all the odds by surviving the fall, but his death may be the catalyst needed to save thousands of animals each year. Two New York State legislators introduced a bill named “Oreo’s Law”.  This law would make it illegal for a shelter in New York State to kill an animal if a rescue group or No Kill shelter is willing to save the animal’s life.  “Oreo’s Law” is modeled after a similar California law.   Continue reading

Stores, Food, Dogs and Oregon

Apparently, folks in Portland like to bring companion animals into food stores, a predilection that the Oregon Agriculture Department (Food Safety Division) wishes to discourage.  The law states that only “service” animals may enter food stores.  However, enforcement of the rule is complicated by a Catch-22 created by the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The ADA bars business owners from questioning people about the nature of their disability.  Though an animal may fall outside the category of service animal, the business owner cannot inquire if this is the case because that would involve asking why the animal’s presence is necessary.  Thus, though non-service animals are banned, enforcing the ban is illegal.

This situation raises a host of legal and ethical issues.  First, as a legal matter, the rule clearly is unenforceable.  Unenforceable laws (or laws that are routinely disregarded) serve no social purpose and undermine the legal system.  We must therefore ask: should this law be abolished?

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Nationwide Dogfighting Crackdown Leads to 26 Arrests

7 states, 400 dogs.  Apparently this was not one large ring.  Just lots of people around the country with vicious, sadistic streaks.  Read all about it here.

–David Cassuto

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