Friday, April 30, 2010

Infamous Colorado Dog Dragger Pleads Guilty

I would be amazed if any dog lover out there has not heard the story of Buddy, the Colorado dog dragged to his death in December of last year. The story caused an outcry among animal rights advocates and sparked numerous conversations about abuse law and consequence. Personal friends of mine have been involved in seeing this process through, so I have followed this with interest and was very happy to find this news in my inbox this morning.

Life With Dogs

Guest Blogger Maria Goodavage: The 8 Most Humiliating Products for Dogs

Maria Goodavage blogs about all things dog for Dogster. She's also the author of The Dog Lover's Companion to California, a well-loved 1,000-page tome on great places to take a dog in the Golden State. (The book will be coming out in its 7th edition in 2011.) Maria  didn't always write about dogs. She's a former long-time correspondent for USA Today who got swept into the dog world one paw at a time. She lives two blocks from the beach in San Francisco with her husband, daughter, and adopted yellowish Lab, Jake, who fills their home with happy Lab energy and lots of sand. (She also has a great sense of humor, and I'd like to welcome her as a guest blogger today with a fun list of products that are sure to make your dog want to hire a hit man!)

Do dogs get embarrassed? Scientists who study such things usually say no. Harvard University professor Mark Hauser, an evolutionary psychologist and biologist, explains it this way: "When we step away from the core emotions such as anger and fear that all animals are likely to share, we find other emotions such as guilt, embarrassment, and shame that depend critically on a sense of self and others. These emotions are uniquely human."

Perhaps Dr. Hauser and his ilk have never seen anything like the following 8 items, which tend to mortify even the most unflappable dogs.

Wearable Poop Collector


As anyone with a somewhat modest dog knows, many dogs prefer to poop in private. If you look at them while they're in the act, they'll look the other way, seemingly fascinated with a leaf on a tree, or Mrs. Morton's car's bumper. With apologies to Dr. Hauser, some dogs seem plain old embarrassed if you look at them while they're going to the loo. Now imagine the humiliation when you strap on a PooTrap, designed so humans don't have to scoop up afterward. Think of a dog facing his friends with one of these contraptions on. We're talkin' therapy sessions for life, folks. Check out the TV advert to see PooTraps in action.

Dog Fanny Pack

"I descended from wolves. I descended from wolves. I will wake up from this nightmare soon. Oh no, here comes Jake and Maggie. Smite me, Lord."

Flatulence Thong


Do not buy this for your dog if you are used to blaming the dog for your gas issues. "It was the dog!" will not work when your dog is wearing his very own Gas Neutralizing Thong. It's simple to use. Just strap it on your dog, and his smelly winds will be a distant memory. And so will your dog, who will likely run away from home, praying not to pass any of his dog pals on the way out of town. Amazingly, this product has been discontinued.

GPS Collar
Humiliating beyond belief for dogs who are known for getting lost. Wearing a GPS collar is akin to your dog carrying a sign saying, “I have absolutely no sense of direction. I am a complete moron!” Besides, most dogs don’t know the first thing about using a GPS.
Costumes Depitcing Other Animals

Some dogs don't seem to mind wearing costumes. Some even seem to enjoy wearing them, perhaps because of all the attention they get. But I've rarely met a dog who doesn't look chagrined to be seen in a costume where he's supposed to be another animal. Particularly if the animal is a crustacean. I don't know why this is. It just is.
Chastity Belt
Apparently dog chastity belts do not need to have locks and chains. In fact, dog chastity belts look like something you'd get from Fredrick's of Hollywood clearance pages. "When the heat is on -- LOCK IT" is the rallying cry of the Pet Anti Breeding System. If you'd be embarrassed to see a dog wearing one of these come-hither-but-not-really getups, imagine how the wearer feels.

Rugged Outdoor Gear

Heinie Cover
With Rear Gear heinie covers, your dog will forever be the butt of other dogs' jokes. They're the end. The living end...

Life With Dogs

Busted: One Seriously Crappy Neighbor

What do you do when you suspect that your neighbor is flinging dog poo into your shrubs? You film him and sell him out. Bonus point if you count the number of dumps. The homeowner was considerate enough to wait an entire year before releasing the video. Oh enough from me already, watch this - and make sure you hear the commentary!

Life With Dogs
*Kudos to Maria at Dogster for unearthing this treasure

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know

Bill Blakemore from ABC News and Columbia University psychology professor Alexandra Horowitz discuss what it's like to think with a dog's brain. Horowitz explores findings from hundreds of scientific and animal behavior studies in her new book, Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know.

Life With Dogs

The Post-Bath Crazies

Does your dog go batty after a bath? Our current pack includes one resident bath hater. Sola absolutely despises me for a day after every bath, but you wouldn't know it by the way she tears through the house after we dry her off and set her free. I'll do my best to capture one of her episodes on tape the next time she is forced to endure the indignity of a good scrubbing, but today I would like you to meet two dogs who do a fine job of speaking for all of the bath haters out there.

Sally is a whirlwind - if ever there were a video to represent what most of us see after a dog washing, this is it. Nothing truly remarkable happens, but this video is priceless because for the first time ever, someone has captured the music that all of our dogs must be hearing in their heads as they run amok in an attempt to shake off that fresh, clean smell.

Our second guest is a standout for one very clear reason - he's the voice of every poor pooch subjected to bathing torture, and he has a lot to say...


Banned for Life

Life With Dogs

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Police Make Arrest in Case of Hogtied Pit Bull

Police have made an arrest in the case of a Bakersfield, CA dog found hogtied and left for dead last week. James Worley, 52, is expected to face felony charges for abandoning the dog. According to officials, a tip from the public led to the arrest. The dog is currently under quarantine for ten days and is expected to be released to a local rescue group.

Life With Dogs

Wordless Wednesday 65

Life With Dogs

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

X-ray of the Month: Australian Boxer Survives Nail Gun Shot to Brain

An Australian Boxer named Max has good reason to thank his lucky stars this week after surviving an injury that would normally be considered fatal. Tim Horvat was putting the finishing touches on a deck project when Max ran a little too close to the end of his nail gun, intercepting a nail intended for a very different target. Horvat initially thought the gun had missed Max, but ended up rushing the dog to the Melbourne Veterinary Specialist Centre after noticing a nail head protruding from his skull.

Max is recovering nicely after vets performed a craniectomy to remove the nail from his brain, and the Horvat's are now in possession of a remarkable souvenir pic:

Life With Dogs

The Green Pug

This video was created in response to Animal Planet's video casting call. Think your dog has the right stuff? Here is a peek at some of the better competition you'll face!

Life With Dogs

Color Match

Life With Dogs

Monday, April 26, 2010

Texas Pooch on the Ballot in Governor's Race

A tax attorney from Austin has entered her Dog Woodrow in the Texas Governor's race. Lorri Michel said her frustration with politics and a desire to raise funds and awareness for animal rescue led to the decision let Woodrow try his paw at politics. His campaign slogan: How ruff could it be?


Earthly Matters

Life With Dogs

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Abandoned, Abused Puppy Bounces Back, Gains Global Fan Support

Walter is one tough, sweet pup. Join his fan club here if you'd like to show support.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Alaskan hero dog Buddy the German Shepherd honored for showing troopers the way to fire.

It's time to revisit Buddy and his owner in what may be the biggest dog hero story of the year.

Life With Dogs

Lost Dog and Owner Reunited After 3 1/2 Years Apart

SAN ANGELO, Texas - Jessica Cochran got the news of a lifetime when a certified letter arrived at her home two weeks ago. Her beloved Pembroke Welsh Corgi had been found after going missing for three and a half years. 

Roby disappeared from Cochran's front yard on a November evening in San Angelo Texas, where she was stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base. Cochran had returned to her front yard after letting Roby out for a routine bathroom break to find the dog missing and a dark pickup truck driving away into the darkness. She spent the next year trying to locate her best friend before being transferred out of state. She left Texas expecting that she would never see him again.

So when a letter arrived from the San Angelo animal shelter explaining that a stranger had dropped Roby off nearly four years later, she did what most any dog lover would do - and drove a thousand miles to retrieve her lost pal. A microchip implanted between Roby's shoulder blades is credited with reuniting the pair. Their reunion was captured in the following video. *if video will not play click here


Snatched from the Jaws of Death: Dog Saved One Hour Before Euthanasia

Deeply affecting. One of the more powerful videos I've seen in the past few weeks. 


Friday, April 23, 2010

Remarkable Rudy Defies the Odds

Cape May animal control officers got a big surprise when they were asked to retrieve the body of a dog that had been hit by a car in Estell Manor and left on the side of the road for three days. Rudy, a tough little pooch from Wildwood, NJ was not quite ready to give up the fight despite multiple life threatening injuries. His owner, Caroline Ranoia, expressed relief in an interview with a local NBC reporter.


Alaskan Hero Dog Shows Troopers The Way To Fire

I was slack-jawed as I watched this video of Buddy, a German Shepherd as he led an Alaska State Trooper through winding back roads to a fire at his residence. Best friend indeed.

The Alaska State Troopers have issued the following press release:

German Shepherds were bred for intelligence to protect sheep flocks from predators. They are revered for their loyalty and renowned to be sensitive to people's emotions. While a collie named Lassie may be best known as a dog hero for the saying "Lassie, go get help," Buddy carried on the tradition set by German Shepherds Strongheart and Rin Tin Tin when he went to get help after his owners' Caswell Lakes property caught on fire on April 4, 2010.

Like usual, Buddy was beside his human companion, Ben Heinrichs, who was working in the family's shop. A heater ignited chemicals the 23-year-old was working with, giving Ben flash burns to his face. The flames quickly grew as Ben escaped the shop. However, Buddy was briefly entrapped inside the burning shed when Ben shut the shop door behind him to keep the flames from spreading. After extinguishing the flames on his body, Ben immediately realized his dog was still inside the shed and went back in to let Buddy out. After Buddy exited the shed, Ben said to him, "Buddy, we need to get help."

Buddy headed for the woods, but not to hide as his owners expected the shy dog to do. Instead he ran to Caswell Loop Road where he eventually found help.

Alaska State Trooper Terrence Shanigan was struggling with finding the fire in the Caswell Lakes area outside Willow, which has approximately 75 miles of back roads. He had just received a frantic phone message calling for help left by neighbors of the Heinrichs who are members of the local neighborhood watch program. Shanigan's global positioning device froze up on him and dispatch was trying to pinpoint the address among the maze of neighborhood back roads. He was planning on taking a turn that would send him the long way around the neighborhood when Buddy appeared as a shadow at the edge of Shanigan's moose lights on his patrol vehicle. When Shanigan approached the intersection, the dog looked at him, and took off running down a side road. Shanigan acted on a hunch that the loose dog was there for a purpose and followed the running dog through three turns that eventually led the Heinrichs' property. Every once in a while during the run back to his home, Buddy looked back at Shanigan's car as if to make sure the trooper was following. By the time Shanigan reached the property, the work shop was fully engulfed in flames that also lapped precariously close to the Heinrichs' house.

Shanigan said Buddy stopped at the end of the driveway and turned around to wait for him. When Shanigan got out of his parked car, the dog ran around the patrol vehicle and approached him, jumped up and down and nudged him as he walked up the driveway to the burning building. Afterwards, Buddy disappeared, presumably into the woods.

Shanigan was then able to verbally guide fire engines from local volunteer fire departments to the Heinrichs' home. The work shop was destroyed and a nearby wood shed was badly burned. However, the Heinrichs' home escaped the flames. Only the trim around the kitchen window was damaged by the fire.

"Buddy's valiant actions saved Trooper Shanigan valuable time in responding to the fire," said AST Director Col. Audie Holloway. "Buddy's pluckiness is a bright spot among an otherwise tragic event for the Heinrichs family."

Because of this, Buddy will be presented an award at 1:30 p.m. Friday, April 23 at the Alaska State Troopers Headquarters building at 5700 E. Tudor Road in Anchorage. Buddy and his owners, Lynnette and Thomas Heinrich and their son, Ben, will be given the award with much appreciation from Alaska State Troopers. AST Director Col. Audie Holloway and Trooper Terrence Shanigan, who works out of the Talkeetna post, will be present as well.


Dead Dogs: Breed Bans, Euthanasia, and Preemptive Justice

By  Colin Dayan

Early on Friday morning, March 11, 2005, a caravan of vehicles drove from New Orleans to a home outside the city of Lafayette, in the heart of “Cajun country.” State police, a SWAT team, U.S. customs officials, and federal agents, with the aid of the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (LSPCA) and the Humane Society of the United States, raided the home of Floyd Boudreaux. They confiscated 57 American pit bull terriers and arrested Boudreaux and his son Guy on 48 counts of dogfighting. The dogs were loaded into a truck and driven back to New Orleans.

That night the LSPCA began killing the dogs by injection. They did not stop until the next day. By the time the Boudreauxs were released on bail on Monday morning, their dogs had already been cremated.

The dogs were not crippled, maimed, or blinded. Some had scars. Some had calluses. Most were healthy, described as “normal” on the LSPCA’s intake forms. Nineteen of the pit bulls were puppies, less than one year old. One of them would have whelped that weekend. Dr. Wendy Wolfson, a veterinarian with the LSPCA, testified that she conducted a hands-on exam of each animal: “We did a whole barrage of things to each dog,” she said. She later testified that she found evidence of dogfighting injuries and that the animals were labeled “fighting dogs.” During my visit to his clinic in Lafayette, J.W. Lambert, Jr., Boudreaux’s veterinarian, told me, “God couldn’t have created a more efficient destruction of evidence.”

Once categorized as fighting dogs, the pit bulls were assumed inherently dangerous, too aggressive to live—no matter the evidence of their friendliness and vigor and regardless of the absence of any proof of actual fighting. Deemed “threats to the public,” they could be killed summarily. According to Louisiana law, “fighting dogs are contraband per se.” An arbitrary label put an end to their lives, without any recourse, appeal, even notice to their owners. Not only were they no longer personal property, but once seized from their owners, the dogs were legally disposable too.

Three and a half years after the raid, in October 2008, the Boudreauxs were acquitted of all the charges against them. The judge found no evidence of any crime. During the proceedings, Jason Robideaux, Boudreaux’s lawyer, condemned the LSPCA: “I believe the state’s purpose was to seize the Boudreaux’s dogs and kill them to end the bloodline. I don’t want to speculate on the reasons.”

The seizures, detentions, and exterminations of pit bulls—sanctioned by laws in many states—expose the statutory logic for making preemptive justice constitutionally permissible: canine profiling supplies the terms for inclusion and ostracism, and even the suspension of due process rights. No criminal conviction of the owner is required for state seizure and destruction of property. In other words, the Constitution’s Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, which prohibit the government from depriving anyone of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” can be suspended for the public good without evidence, without trial, by classification alone.

In legal rationales, realities are created. Old inequalities and radical discrimination are repackaged in unexpected forms. In breed-specific legislation, the taint and incapacity of the disenfranchised live on. At a time when our government is labeling certain persons as threats—alleged terrorists, enemy aliens, illegal immigrants, ordinary people who want to get on airplanes—we need to ask how the seizure and destruction of dogs deemed contraband becomes a medium for the intimidation and debasement of humans in turn. Who should suffer deprivation without redress so that we can live in reasonable—safe and secure—consensus? And who gets to decide?

• • •

Pit bulls were once known as “America’s Breed”: RCA’s “Nipper” (pictured head cocked while listening to “his master’s voice”); Buster Brown’s “Tige”; “Pete the Pup,” part of the Little Rascals gang in the Our Gang comedies; and the pit bull pictured on the celebrated World War I poster proclaiming: “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave.” Sergeant Stubby, the most decorated dog in military history, fought for eighteen months in the trenches, saved several soldiers’ lives, and captured a German spy. Now the pit bull is the most demonized breed, the poster dog for dogfighting, the herald of criminality and drug-dealing, the mauler of children.

In 1987 Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, and Time Magazine all ran articles featuring pit bulls. Rolling Stone’s “A Boy and his Dog in Hell” reported on pit bulls used in street fights by gangs in North Philadelphia. Valued as proof of their owner’s mettle, the dogs were subjected to unimaginable torture and death if they lost. The cover of Sports Illustrated showed a snarling pit bull with the headline “Beware of This Dog” and branded these dogs with the locking-jaw myth and “a will to kill.” It was bested by Time’s “Time Bombs on Legs,” which compared the pit bull to “the vicious hound of the Baskervilles.” According to the Time article, the pit bull “has seized small children like rag dolls and mauled them to death in a frenzy of bloodletting.”

Dogs are liable to extermination if their presence signals disturbance or danger, even if they themselves are not dangerous.

Since then the pit bull has been the media’s choice for horror stories about dogs labeled “four-legged guns” or “lethal weapons.” Citing pit bulls’ “vicious propensity,” hundreds of towns large and small throughout the United States have adopted the first ever breed-specific dog bans. Regulations vary from one city to the next, but once a ban has been enacted, any dog considered a threat to public welfare can be summarily seized and put down. This despite the fact that other breeds of dogs also bite, but we hardly ever read about them. “Dogs that bite people,” as Malcolm Gladwell has pointed out, “are vicious because they have owners who want a vicious dog.” That is, what predisposes a dog to bite is not its nature, but its environment. The most loyal dogs are the most abused. Ever ready to please, these dogs become victimized by those they love most. They are either the tools of human-initiated aggression or, as Karen Delise writes in The Pit Bull Placebo, the targets of “every type of positive or negative emotional and physical circumstance humans are capable of imposing on dogs.”

When I say “pit bull,” I include American Staffordshire terriers (known as Amstaffs), as well as other dogs that merely look as if they might be part of the bully breed. The debates distinguishing between American pit bull terriers and American Staffordshire terriers or Staffordshire bull terriers continue. Most generally, the dogs are considered cousins, bred from British bull and terrier combinations. The breed registered with the United Kennel Club and the American Dog Breeders Association is an American pit bull terrier, and with the American Kennel Club an American Staffordshire terrier. But they do look different. The pit bull is leaner, slightly higher up on the legs, while the Amstaff is stockier, with a squarer—more robust—wedge-head and the body lower to the ground.

As the late animal trainer, poet, and philosopher Vicki Hearne, Gladwell, and advocates of the breed explain, contemporary bans do not distinguish among the various members of the breed. The specter of outlawry tracks pit bulls, and indeed Amstaffs, and any dog categorized as a “pit bull type.”

How does a dog, a breed, get labeled “dangerous?” Are “vicious propensities” revealed by a bite, or simply the result of an alleged or a perceived ability to injure?

The summary disposal of dogs branded as “dangerous,” “offensive,” or a “threat” to the public can be traced to the early common law and later to the range of police measures instituted ostensibly to protect community interests. “The act to regulate and license the keeping of dogs is an exercise of the police . . . and is constitutional,” a Wisconsin court ruled in 1862. Dogs are liable to extermination if their presence signals disturbance or danger, even if they themselves are not dangerous. In spite of an abundance of concern for dogs throughout the nineteenth century, a dog without a license faced death by gunshot or beating not just from the police, who were entitled to destroy any threat to public welfare, but from anyone.

But more critical to their legal status than this canine outlawry was the early common law judgment that dogs were not property. Unlike “useful” or “domestic” animals such as cows or sheep, dogs could not be owned, and persons had no rights in them. Considered “base” or “inferior” to more valuable animals, dogs were entitled to less regard and protection.

Dogs’ disposability was always enshrined in legal judgments; current legislation against pit bulls takes the general legal discrimination against dogs and focuses it on one breed. Yet some appellate cases in the nineteenth century repudiated such summary execution. Questioning the necessity of legalized violence against dogs and their owners, a few judges not only shared their enthusiasm for dogs but also revealed a respect for their independence, nobility, and gameness.

In September 1905 John Domm was bitten by a dog while playing billiards in a saloon in Seneca, Illinois. More than a year later, he sued the owner, George Hollenbeck. Over a period of five years, four different courts grappled with questions about the dog’s temperament: was the dog fierce and malicious? Was the “face of a dog” inevitably “an index to his disposition”? This dog was identified as a “bull dog,” the generic term used to identify breeds that originated as bull baiters or pit fighters, though most no longer performed these functions. The case finally reached the Supreme Court of Illinois, whose decision tells a story exceptional by today’s standards in the attention paid to the dog’s relationships and his popularity.

We know that Hollenbeck had owned the dog only six weeks when he left him with friends. Subsequently he left the dog at another friend’s butcher shop. The dog remained there for two days. A grocery delivery wagon drove past; the driver’s friend noticed the dog with his “shiny harness” and whistled to him, and the dog jumped into the wagon. Sitting in the delivery truck for most of that day, the dog “acted in a quiet and inoffensive manner.” Later, the dog was brought to the saloon. What happened then remains unclear. Did the plaintiff provoke, push, kick, and chase the dog with his cue before being bitten, or did the dog attack first, chase him around the bar and onto the pool table, biting his arm and leg?

Though these questions were never answered, lower courts found that the bite alone proved “vicious propensity,” and such proof of threat remained impervious to any evidence to the contrary. Domm was awarded $750 for damages and costs.

A final appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, however, reversed the decision. Numerous witnesses testified to the dog’s good nature and his elaborate trappings: a “fancy, ornamental harness, with brass buttons or tags” wound around “the legs and chest” and “a ring in the collar.” Not only was he “nice, quiet, sensible, good natured,” but “anybody could do anything in the world with him.” He had never “been used for fighting purposes . . . and had no marks to show that he ever was in a fight.” We also find out how he fared in the company of humans. Children played with him, wrestled with him, threw him down, and rode on his back through the streets. At the Keeley Liquor Cure, which promised a treatment for drugs and alcohol addiction through what was known as the “gold cure,” he became known as the “jag dog,” which meant something like “binge dog.” He followed recovering patients and became “a source of amusement to them.”

For the Supreme Court, no dangerous-dog determination could be made without first hearing ample evidence about the dog’s behavior or disposition—and his good nature, the brass buttons, the happy children, the recovering alcoholics redeemed him.

Hollenbeck’s dog nonetheless met a bad end. A guest described a visit to the dog’s owner, reporting that he had seen a skin or a robe on the floor. Hollenbeck said it was a bulldog’s skin: the dog had accidentally hanged himself by a rod that caught in his collar.

Though the Illinois Supreme Court proved a fair arbiter, most courts and legislatures of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw dogs as disturbances or threats, and tougher regulations demonstrated the peculiar vigilance of the modern era. Nowadays, dangerous-dog hearings decide if dogs live or die. Vicious-dog law, or what some simply call “dog-bite law,” usually precludes any legal challenge—especially if the offending animal happens to be identified as dangerous simply because of the breed.

In May 2005 animal-control units began to round up all pit bulls within the Denver city limits. Dogs were taken from their homes and put down regardless of their disposition or demeanor. Last summer the New York City Housing Authority issued a ban on pit bulls (also identified as American Staffordshire terriers or Staffordshire bull terriers), rottweilers, and Doberman pinschers—“all of these either full breed or mixed breed”—or any other full-grown dog over 25 pounds in all public housing. So New York, the most urbane of American cities, now boasts the harshest public-housing dog regime in the country. What Gladwell described a few years ago as “a generalization about a generalization about a trait that is not, in fact, general” anticipated the undesirable, if not toxic, effects of unfounded prejudice.

In May of last year, Judge Burke F. McCahill of Loudoun Circuit Court in Virginia ruled legal Loudoun County Animal Care and Control’s current “No Adopt Out” policy. That meant that any abandoned dog identified as a “pit bull,” even if judged temperamentally sound by animal-behavior specialists, had to be euthanized rather than adopted. In the past three years, more than 200 dogs have been put down in Loudoun County. McCahill ruled that “a Citizen’s right to own a pit bull is entirely different than a citizen’s right to adopt.” So if you already possess a pit bull you can keep it, but anyone who wants to acquire one from a shelter is prohibited from doing so.

• • •

Today’s pit bull bans tell us more about ourselves than about the breed: about the rituals and the illusions that have become necessary to our survival. The drive to label, condemn, and exterminate has become a moral enterprise. No wonder the stories about pit bulls—at once labeled “vicious” and brutalized by those who so label them—confound the ability to know right from wrong, to judge injury, to discriminate between victims and predators, cruelty and care.

On a hot day in June 2009 Fabian Henderson threw his year-old pit bull Oreo off the roof of his Brooklyn apartment building. She survived the fall of six floors, breaking her two front legs and a rib and sustaining severe injuries to her liver. The New York-based American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) used donations from concerned dog-lovers over the next four months and longer to nurse the “miracle” dog back to life—and then put her to death on November 13.

The ASPCA remains a paradox: a private organization paid for by donations that is also an arm of the state, endowed with police powers; a society instituted to prevent cruelty that kills dogs to be kind. In order to protect Oreo’s “quality of life,” Ed Sayres, ASPCA President and CEO, ordered that she be deprived of life. Although individuals and organizations—such as Camille Hankins of Win Animal Rights, and the no-kill animal shelter Pets Alive in Middletown, New York—begged to take Oreo, they were ignored or rebuffed.

Hearne, who observed the sanctimonious compassion that heralds the extermination of animals, doubted the pretense of humane treatment. In her preface to the 1994 edition of Adam’s Task: Calling Animals by Name, she wonders why the rise of the animal rights movement and an increased interest in ‘humane’ and ‘not for profit’ activities should coincide with, and at times be indistinguishable from, relentless enforcement activities targeting dogs.

Faced with the proliferation of breed bans and the escalation of police control, Hearne targets the well-meaning language of animal welfare. She argues that self-righteous care not only justifies, but also masks violence. The history of “humane law enforcement” prepares us for Oreo’s fate at the hands of the ASPCA. “I had to protect public safety,” Sayres said.

Nineteenth-century state regulatory policies and the police power that accompanies them always resurface. If a dog was a stray, the state had the right to unleash familiar practices of discrimination and violence. In Sentell v. New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad Company (1896), the precedent-setting case still used today to dispose of allegedly “dangerous and vicious dogs,” Justice Henry Billings Brown called for “legislation of a drastic nature” for “property” deemed offensive or harmful.

Even if dogs are considered property in “the fullest sense of the word,” Brown writes, they are comparable to rotten “meats, fruits, and vegetables.” If decayed, they “do not cease to become private property,” but “it is clearly within the power of the State to order their destruction in times of epidemic, or whenever they are so exposed as to be deleterious to the public health.” What counts as disposable, and when can due process be surrendered? He adds that “rags and clothing” must be destroyed if “they become infected or dangerous.”

In 1866 the state legislature of New York passed the country’s first anti-cruelty law. In the same year, it issued an Act to Incorporate the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and granted it power in vague terms: “An Act for the prevention of cruelty to animals, and empowering certain societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals to do certain things.”

These “certain things” creditably included arresting anyone who tortured; tormented; deprived of necessary sustenance; or beat, mutilated, or killed “any living creature.” But that was not all. In 1894 a new law gave the ASPCA in New York control over stray and unwanted animals. Along with this responsibility, it was granted the power to order a license tax on dogs and the right to seize and dispose of dogs it had not licensed. A few years later, a New York court in Fox v. Mohawk and Hudson River Humane Society ruled this authority unconstitutional, since no state could delegate a private corporation to levy or collect taxes. The court questioned the validity of a statute that gave the Society the right to seize unlicensed dogs. Such a dispensation—and the profits that followed—gave it a special immunity and privilege not granted to others.

But on appeal the court upheld the statute. Though recognized as a private organization, this humane society was now legally authorized to enforce the law, to levy canine taxes, and to impound and destroy unlicensed dogs without notice to the owner and without any judicial proceeding.

The state’s power over dogs expanded in tandem with its empowerment of the newly established societies for “humane treatment.” So too did claims of humanitarian enlightenment. Dogs were no longer as legally insignificant as before, but they continued to be subject to the rigor of law: judged as dangerous, accused of damage or injury, impounded or killed. Their representation and treatment—cared for, beaten, ignored—offer limit cases in the extravagance of status-making in law.

Dogs thus legally disabled take their place along with vagrants and criminals. Around 1900, courts rallied to support legislative acts that led not only to re-enslavement through convict lease and chain gangs, but also to vigilante justice. Just as someone who summarily killed an unruly, stray, or unmuzzled dog was seen as peaceable and law-abiding, so lynch mobs tortured and murdered, knowing that they were respected as guardians of the community. Police departments, especially, used tramp acts or loitering and vagrancy laws to control persons the public viewed as nuisances. The language of threat, used to warn against the allegedly noxious, was the same whether the subject was human or animal. Police power was justified in the name of civil order—for the public safety, welfare, or morality of a community.

• • •

What does Oreo’s death teach us? How can the best way to protect an animal be to kill it? Since the much-publicized indictment of Michael Vick for dogfighting at his “Bad Newz Kennels” in Virginia, the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) have led the campaign against cruelty, rescuing dogs from alleged dogfighting operations. Once Vick’s surviving dogs were saved from abuse and confiscated, however, the same HSUS, along with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), argued for their destruction. According to PETA spokesman Dan Shannon, “the cruelty they’ve suffered is such that they can’t lead what anyone who loves dogs would consider a normal life.”

In November 2009 Time portrayed the mutilated, crippled, and blinded dogs rescued from a Michigan dogfighting ring. No longer to be feared, neither lethal nor hellish, these defeated dogs deserve our pity, or so the article suggests. They were more fortunate than the 146 pit bulls—including 60 puppies, even newborns—seized from breeder and convicted dogfighter Ed Faron’s Wildside Kennels in the mountains of North Carolina. Numerous organizations tried to adopt the dogs. They included Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah, where Vick’s dogs were rehabilitated and renamed “Vicktory Dogs” in spite of the HSUS and PETA’s determination that they were beyond hope. Nevertheless, a superior court judge ordered that Wilkes County Animal Control must destroy them. Again, the HSUS publicly endorsed the court’s decision to kill the dogs, describing the “fight crazy” instinct, the irrevocable nature of “game-bred dogs.”

These accounts of deprivation and injustice return us to the deaths of the Boudreaux dogs of Lafayette. In confronting their summary disposal, we see how cruelty thrives in the guise of compassion. The possibility of such collective social derangement makes intellectually coherent actions that are incompatible with moral integrity.

LSPCA’s Kathryn Destreza, in her twenties when she led the raid and directed the “euthanasia” of the dogs, was recognized for her dedication to animal welfare and her role in this high-profile case. In February 2006 she was promoted from Chief Humane Officer to Director of Humane Law Enforcement for the LSPCA. A couple of years later, she was presented with a replica of a vintage ASPCA peace-officer badge. She received special recognition from Ed Sayres, the ASPCA chief who decided Oreo’s fate. He praised her “extraordinary zeal in providing mercy to animals.” Interviewed after the dogs’ destruction, she confessed that she had cried when the dogs were led, one by one, to Room 9-5, the LSPCA’s “euthanasia room”:

Seeing those big dopey looks from those big brown eyes . . . . I cried, yes, but I made sure not to cry in front of my staff . . . . Even as we were loading them onto the truck, you couldn’t help but think about what was eventually going to happen to them. Trying to breed another line like Boudreaux would be like trying to re-create Elvis. You can make some gold records, but there’s only one Elvis.

The collusion between humane organizations and the police functions of the state in seizing and dispatching dogs, once revealed and understood for what it is, has a frightening and well-known political analogue in Nazi concern for “life not worthy of being lived” and the euthanasia program of the Reich, which murdered over 100,000 incurably ill, severely disabled, criminally insane, or physically deformed persons. It was known euphemistically as Gnadentod—“mercy killing” or “death by grace”—among well-meaning health officials.

Henry Bergh, the founder of the ASPCA, once noted, “mercy to animals means mercy to mankind.” Perhaps we should not be consoled by this cliché.


Republished with permission of the author and Boston Review.  Read Peta's response here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Rockne and Friends


FDA: Just Say No to Bones

 The FDA would like you to reconsider before handing that next bone over to your dog.

“Some people think it’s safe to give dogs large bones, like those from a ham or a roast,” says Carmela Stamper, D.V.M., a veterinarian in the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the Food and Drug Administration. “Bones are unsafe no matter what their size. Giving your dog a bone may make your pet a candidate for a trip to your veterinarian’s office later, possible emergency surgery, or even death.”
“Make sure you throw out bones from your own meals in a way that your dog can’t get to them,” adds Stamper, who suggests taking the trash out right away or putting the bones up high and out of your dog’s reach until you have a chance to dispose of them. “And pay attention to where your dog’s nose is when you walk him around the neighborhood—steer him away from any objects lying in the grass.”
Here are 10 reasons why it’s a bad idea to give your dog a bone:
  1. Broken teeth. This may call for expensive veterinary dentistry.
  2. Mouth or tongue injuries. These can be very bloody and messy and may require a trip to see your veterinarian.
  3. Bone gets looped around your dog’s lower jaw. This can be frightening or painful for your dog and potentially costly to you, as it usually means a trip to see your veterinarian.
  4. Bone gets stuck in esophagus, the tube that food travels through to reach the stomach. Your dog may gag, trying to bring the bone back up, and will need to see your veterinarian.
  5. Bone gets stuck in windpipe. This may happen if your dog accidentally inhales a small enough piece of bone. This is an emergency because your dog will have trouble breathing. Get your pet to your veterinarian immediately!
  6. Bone gets stuck in stomach. It went down just fine, but the bone may be too big to pass out of the stomach and into the intestines. Depending on the bone’s size, your dog may need surgery or upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, a procedure in which your veterinarian uses a long tube with a built-in camera and grabbing tools to try to remove the stuck bone from the stomach.
  7. Bone gets stuck in intestines and causes a blockage. It may be time for surgery.
  8. Constipation due to bone fragments. Your dog may have a hard time passing the bone fragments because they’re very sharp and they scrape the inside of the large intestine or rectum as they move along. This causes severe pain and may require a visit to your veterinarian.
  9. Severe bleeding from the rectum. This is very messy and can be dangerous. It’s time for a trip to see your veterinarian.
  10. Peritonitis. This nasty, difficult-to-treat bacterial infection of the abdomen is caused when bone fragments poke holes in your dog’s stomach or intestines. Your dog needs an emergency visit to your veterinarian because peritonitis can kill your dog.
“Talk with your veterinarian about alternatives to giving bones to your dog,” says Stamper. “There are many bone-like products made with materials that are safe for dogs to chew on.”
“Always supervise your dog with any chew product, especially one your dog hasn’t had before,” adds Stamper. “And always, if your dog ‘just isn’t acting right,’ call your veterinarian right away!”
This article appears on FDA's Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.


Courage Update: Vet Kennel Attendant at Center of Animal Cruelty Case Terminated

Citing death threats from angry members of the public, hospital administrator Gilbert Velasquez of the Southern California Veterinary Specialty Hospital has confirmed the termination of  Kimberly Nizato, the California woman charged with tying a German Shepherd out and leaving it to starve for five weeks. In a statement issued last week, Velasquez had indicated that the hospital intended to continue Nizato's employment after she proclaimed her innocence in a private conversation. Hospital officials reversed that decision when evidence led to formal charges in the case and Velasquez began receiving death threat calls.

Kimberly Nizato

Nizato is free on $20,00 bail pending arraignment on May 12. A web page has been set up for fans and supporters to keep tabs on Courage during the recovery process. Donations are sought to help cover the cost of his treatment. See the most recent video update on Courage here.


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