Editorial Notebook
Darcy at Her Days’ End

December 18, 2009
Not quite 15 years ago, my wife adopted a mixed-breed puppy she found tied to a storage tank behind a gas station in Great Barrington, Mass. I say she adopted it because I wasn’t quite sold on the idea. We had a new pup already — a border terrier named Tavish — and this gangly new addition looked, in comparison, like a badly made dog. Darcy’s feet were too small for her body, her hind knees were weak, and her coat made her look like a wire-haired golden retriever.

But who ever loved a dog less because it was ugly?

And now, suddenly, it’s all these years later. Darcy still lies on the lawn, basking like a lioness, and barks at the pickups going up the road. Much of the day she still has the look of an indomitably gratified mutt. But there are hours now when her eyes, a little misty with cataracts, seem worried, hollow. And she has stopped eating, or rather, she eats with deliberation and reluctance, a spoonful of this, a forkful of that.

Which means that now is the time for a hard decision. According to the vet, there are no signs of disease, other than the disease of age — nothing to force our hand. When Tavish died, four years ago, his liver was failing, and there was no choice but to sit on the floor and hold him while the vet inserted the final needle. It’s somehow not surprising that Darcy raises the matter of our responsibility in its purest form.

I’ve known too many owners who waited far too long to put their dogs to sleep, and I’ve always hated the sentimentality and the selfishness in their hesitation. Last week, watching Darcy out in the sun, it felt as though I was trying to decide just when most of the life — the good life, that is — inside her has been used up. Is it conscionable to wait until it’s plainly gone? Or is it better to err on the side of saying goodbye while she’s still discernibly Darcy, while she seems, as she nearly always does, to be without pain?

It comes down, in the end, to the pleasure she shows, the interest she takes in the world around her — and not to anything her humans feel. She has not had the life she might once have expected — a far better one instead. My job is to make sure she gets the death she deserves — in her human’s arms.

And so she has. She died quietly last Friday while I sat on the floor beside her at the vet’s.

The world is a poorer place without her.


always been there for you.


The Wisdom of Otto, a Four-Legged Elder

December 24, 2009
Friday is Otto's birthday. He was a Christmas puppy, and when we met him a few weeks later at the breeder's house, he was leaping into the air like a tiny porpoise to catch liver snacks. This was in 1999, and his commitment to food had not waned ... until one day last week.

"He actually slept through a meal?" I asked my husband in disbelief.

"And snack," my husband confirmed grimly.

We were standing in the doorway of the living room, where we could see one large brown Labrador retriever sprawled across his favorite love seat, a particularly filthy, dog-hair-covered couch that not so long ago had been a very expensive piece of furniture upholstered in a light-colored fabric.

That was before it became more of a hospital bed for Otto, who in his dotage suffers from a long list of maladies including but not limited to arthritis, recurring ear infections, fatty tumors, failing eyesight and a possible thyroid deficiency. He gets up only when called upon to fulfill his contractual duties, which include greeting anyone who comes to the front door as if they had been presumed dead. Also, he investigates anything that sounds like the opening of the refrigerator, shopping bags or cans.

But now, he was snoring. Sort of. It was actually more of a strangled rattle. And he was drooling in his sleep. "Maybe he's dreaming about eating," I said hopefully.

My husband was dubious. "What's going on with his head?" he asked. "It looks dented."

It is really hard when your dog gets old. Maybe not for the dog - Otto seems more stoic and dignified than ever - but definitely for the humans who live with him. We remember the glory days when he slobbered on tennis balls, knocked over wineglasses with his tail and rolled on the carcasses of dead field mice to perfume himself for us, his pack. And we only wish that era had lasted a lot longer. Like, say, 80 years.

Human lives follow a certain trajectory; you come full circle. You move from infancy to become a child, then make your parents' lives a living hell during your teenage years, then achieve adulthood (when your aging parents get to make your life a living hell) until finally, if you live long enough, you get to make your children's lives a living hell.

With dogs, it's different. After you watch them grow from puppies - your babies, your children - into adults, you start to notice something miraculous. Because they age much faster than humans, dogs attain wisdom much more quickly. They outpace you on that front until suddenly it's 11 years later, and as you are still running around, fretting about the children, your job and where you left your car keys, you notice that your dog is looking at you with such forgiving, patient eyes. You almost feel like he's gone from being your baby to becoming your grandparent.

"His skull does look kind of dented, now that you mention it," I said. My husband Googled "dented dog skull" and came up with prognoses that ran the gamut from parasites to brain cancer.

"Maybe we should take him to the vet," I said, which was code for, "You should take him to the vet."

My husband went to search for Otto's truss, a complicated black girdle that makes him look like an apartment superintendent, with its many straps that cinch under his chest and around his legs. It has a handle so you can lift him like a suitcase and put him into the back of the station wagon. If you can lift an 85-pound suitcase. An hour later, I heard the car pull into the driveway. My husband came into the kitchen.

"How bad?" I asked.

He said with a sigh that it was $280 so far.

"No, I mean what's wrong with the dog?"

"He was just so amazing to watch," my husband said. "They prodded him, they poked him, they took his temperature, they took blood, they biopsied some of his fatty tumors. And the whole time, he just kept thumping his tail. You know this stuff must have been really uncomfortable, but he acted like he was getting a massage."

My husband stopped; he was choked up. "It actually gave me hope," he said.

"What do you mean?"

He coughed, delicately, tentatively. "I have a terrible head cold," he said. "But now, watching Otto's incredible bravery, I suddenly have the courage to get through this thing."

That night, we fussed over Otto, hoping he didn't have a malignant tumor, permanent facial paralysis, scary nerve-system degeneration or any of the other possibilities the vet mentioned. Being the center of attention lifted Otto to a higher place. He thumped his tail on the floor. And he beamed at us, thrilled, as if he were a slightly stinky emissary from the planet Love.

This attitude, too, is different from that of most humans as they get old.

"I will never put Otto in a nursing home," I vowed to my husband.

He asked what in the world was I talking about.

The next day, the vet called with the test results. "We can't find anything wrong with him," she said. "How does he seem to you?"

"Old," I said.

"Well, can he still do the things he loves?" she asked.

I glanced at the stains on the rug, at the hair balls skittering across the floor, and I looked through the living room doorway, where I caught Otto's (good) eye. He lifted his head, expectantly, slithered off the sofa and limped over to me. I immediately understood the look.

"Yes, actually, I think he's feeling better," I said.

I opened the refrigerator, found a dry hunk of salami and pitched it in the air. With hardly any effort at all, Otto rose up and snatched it, like Namu the Killer Whale. Then he settled down for a nap on what used to be my best sofa.

Illustration: Hadley Hooper

Cindy Adams
December 18, 2009


Besides Yankee striped uniforms, rubber rain booties and hoodie pajamas, the newest holiday gigt for Park Avenue Puppies? Leg warmers.


Vermont Court Eyes Value of Love of Man's Best Friend

Dec 17, 2009

MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermont's highest court is being asked to decide what a dog's love is worth.
The state Supreme Court on Thursday was to hear a case that began in July 2003, when Denis and Sarah Scheele
(left with photo of Shadow), who were visiting relatives, let their mixed-breed dog wander into Lewis Dustin's yard and he fatally shot it. Now the Scheeles are asking the court to carve out a new legal doctrine that a dog's owners can sue for emotional distress and loss of companionship, just like parents can when they lose children.

"We're still working toward having the courts recognizing the true value of companion animals. They're members of the family, not mere property," Sarah Scheele, 58, said from her home in Annapolis, Md., on Wednesday before flying north for the court hearing.

Dustin's lawyer, David Blythe, said Dustin never intended to kill the Scheeles' dog, Shadow, and "has always regretted that it happened." He said Dustin fired an air pellet rifle at the dog in hopes of scaring it off the lawn of his home in Northfield, a community of about 6,000 residents just south of Montpelier in the heart of the state's Green Mountains. The shot Dustin fired penetrated the dog's chest and severed an aorta, and the dog died on the way to a veterinarian's office.

Dustin, 76, has said he was aiming at the dog's rear end. He did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment Wednesday. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of animal cruelty and was given a year probation. He also was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service and pay $4,000 in restitution to the Scheeles.

But the Scheeles weren't done. Sarah Scheele gave up her work as a meeting planner and has devoted her time since the dog's death to advocating for animal welfare and caring for the six special-needs dogs — most of them abused in the past — the couple has adopted in recent years. Denis Scheele, 50, continues to work as a plumber.
The Scheeles filed a civil suit against Dustin, pressing their claim that Shadow was more than a piece of property and that they could not be compensated just with reimbursement of what they paid to adopt him from an animal shelter, the veterinary bill that resulted from the shooting and the cost of his cremation.

Blythe, who owns a poodle and a maltipoo, said he would be very angry if someone shot one of his dogs. But he argued that the Scheeles aren't entitled to the legal remedy they're seeking. Historically, laws across the country have limited sharply the ability of plaintiffs to collect damages for emotional loss. A parent can sue for emotional damage from the loss of a child, but a grandparent cannot for the loss of a grandchild under Vermont law, Blythe said. "If the court carved out this exception in the common law, it would put pet owners in a position that grandparents are not in terms of recovering emotional-distress damages," he added.

The court earlier this year ruled against a plaintiff seeking to collect for emotional distress when a cat's death resulted from a veterinarian's medication error.

One of the Scheeles' lawyers, Heidi Groff, said this case is different because Dustin acted with intent and malice when he shot Shadow. "All previous (Vermont) cases that have presented this issue have involved negligence," Groff said, "and we have something that we think is a great deal more serious than that."

The Scheeles are particularly devoted pet owners. They feed their dogs human food, brush the dogs' teeth and dress them in raincoats when it's wet outside. On a Web site devoted to Shadow's memory, they wrote, "Every day without you running and playing and cuddling with us is more difficult than the day before. The loss of your presence in our every moment is unbelievably painful. Not a moment passes that you are not in our thoughts, our hearts and our prayers."

ASPCA Shined First Light on Abuse of Children

December 15, 2009
Mamma has been in the habit of whipping and beating me almost every day,” the little girl testified. “She used to whip me with a twisted whip — a rawhide. I have now on my head two black-and-blue marks which were made by Mamma with the whip, and a cut on the left side of my forehead which was made by a pair of scissors in Mamma’s hand; she struck me with the scissors and cut me. ... I never dared speak to anybody, because if I did I would get whipped.”

The quotation is from the 1874 case of Mary Ellen McCormack, below, a self-possessed 10-year-old who lived on West 41st Street, in the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan. It was Mary Ellen who finally put a human face on child abuse — and prompted a reformers’ crusade to prevent it and to protect its victims, an effort that continues to this day.

Tellingly, the case was brought by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals . In 1874, there were no laws protecting children from physical abuse from their parents. It was an era of “spare the rod and spoil the child,” and parents routinely meted out painful and damaging punishment without comment or penalty.

Mary Ellen had been orphaned as a baby. Her father, Thomas Wilson, was a Union soldier who died in the Second Battle of Cold Harbor, in Virginia. Her mother, Frances, boarded the baby with a woman living on Mulberry Bend, on the Lower East Side, while working double shifts as a laundress at the St. Nicholas Hotel.

This arrangement cost $2 a week, consuming her entire widow’s pension. When she lost her job, she could no longer afford to care for her daughter and was forced to send her to the city orphanage on Blackwells Island.

A few years later, Mary Ellen was adopted by a Manhattan couple, Thomas and Mary McCormack. But Thomas died soon after the adoption, and his widow married Francis Connolly. Unhappy and overburdened, the adoptive mother took to physically abusing Mary Ellen.

Sometime in late 1873, the severely battered and neglected child attracted the attention of her neighbors. They complained to the Department of Public Charities and Correction, which administered the city’s almshouse, workhouse, insane asylums, orphanages, jails and public hospitals . Even the hard-boiled investigator assigned to Mary Ellen’s case, Etta Angell Wheeler, was shocked and became inspired to do something.

Frustrated by the lack of child-protection laws, Wheeler approached the ASPCA It proved to be a shrewd move. Mary Ellen’s plight captured the imagination of the society’s founder, Henry Bergh, who saw the girl — like the horses he routinely saved from violent stable owners — as a vulnerable member of the animal kingdom needing the protection of the state.

Bergh recruited a prominent lawyer, Elbridge Gerry (grandson of the politician who gave his name to gerrymandering), who took the case to the New York State Supreme Court. Applying a novel use of habeas corpus , Gerry argued there was good reason to believe that Mary Ellen would be subjected to irreparable harm unless she was removed from her home.

Judge Abraham R. Lawrence ordered the child brought into the courtroom. Her heart-wrenching testimony was featured in The New York Times the next day, April 10, 1874, under the subheading “Inhuman Treatment of a Little Waif.”

“She is a bright little girl,” the article said, “with features indicating unusual mental capacity, but with a careworn, stunted and prematurely old look. Her apparent condition of health, as well as her scanty wardrobe, indicated that no change of custody or condition could be much for the worse.”

Ms. Connolly was charged and found guilty of several counts of assault and battery. Mary Ellen never returned to her adoptive home, but her temporary placement in a home for delinquent teenagers was not much of an improvement. In a lifesaving act of kindness, Etta Wheeler, her mother and her sister volunteered to raise Mary Ellen in bucolic North Chili, N.Y., outside Rochester.

At 24, Mary Ellen married Louis Schutt. The couple had two children of their own, along with three children of Schutt’s from a previous marriage, and Mary Ellen passed on her good fortune by adopting an orphan girl. By all accounts, she was a superb and caring mother. She died in 1956, at 92.

Mary Ellen’s case led Bergh, Gerry and the philanthropist John D. Wright to found the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in December 1874. It was believed to be the first child protective agency in the world.

In the years since, the society has helped rescue thousands of battered children, created shelters to care for them and, working with similar groups and agencies in cities across the nation, instituted laws that punish abusive parents.

Gone are the days when beasts of burden enjoyed more legal protection than children. In recent years, a broad spectrum of programs, diagnostic and reporting protocols, safe houses and legal protections have been developed to protect physically or sexually abused children.

But every day, at least three children die in the United States as a result of parental mistreatment. Many more remain out of sight and in harm’s way. Mary Ellen’s story reminds us of a simple equation: How much our society values its children can be measured by how well they are treated and protected.

Dr. Howard Markel is a professor of pediatrics, psychiatry and
the history of medicine at the University of Michigan.


Chihuahua Tale
December 14, 2009
Animal shelters across California are juggling chihuahuas. A rising tide of abandonment has led the little dogs to now rival pit bulls for the unhappy title of most popular, most unwanted breed.

In Oakland, half the dogs at one shelter are chihuahuas. In San Francisco’s municipal shelter, the proportion of full- or part-chihuahuas is one-third and rising. Officials in Los Angeles have taken to airlifting them to the Northeast, which has many more chihuahua lovers than shelters here can supply.

Shelter officials say breeders and puppy mills have been saturating a market that has been artificially stoked by pop culture. Add a deep recession, and it’s easy to understand the flood of plaintive stories and photos of unwanted dogs on shelter Web sites and on Craigslist, so far from the sunny worlds of “Legally Blonde” and “Beverly Hills Chihuahua.”

But let’s leave Elle Wood out of this. Too many people learn too late that their little handbag companions can be nervous, yappy, fragile — they are prone to chronic problems with their teeth, skulls and bones — and expensive to maintain.

As shelters try to solve what is essentially a distribution problem, states need to discourage reckless breeders and pass laws requiring spaying and neutering. People also need to realize the responsibility they are taking on before they buy or adopt any dog. The dogs deserve a safe, caring and permanent home. (And, if it’s a shorthaired chihuahua going to the Northeast in winter, a sweater.)

Too bad, cats! Pups are better
December 11, 2009
The cat's out of the bag. Dogs are superior to felines as pets -- by a whisker.

New Scientist magazine pitted the pets against each other in 11 categories, including brain size, bonding, understanding, eco-friendliness and problem solving, and found that man's best friend beat cats in six categories.
They were tied 5-5 in the "great pet showdown" until dogs clinched the 11th category -- utility--and were declared the winners.

Pooches' talents in the utility department included hunting, herding, guarding, sniffing out drugs, acting as guide dogs, pulling sleds and finding someone buried by an avalanche.

"Cats are good if you have an infestation of rodents," the magazine said.



November 13, 2009

OREO, a dog that was nursed back to health after surviving being thrown off the roof of a six-story building, was killed Friday by lethal injection.

A two-year-old pit bull, Oreo was euthanized inside the New York City headquarters of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, after the organization rebuffed last-minute pleas to spare her life. The organization called the dog a danger to the public.

On Friday morning, Oreo received a last meal of “premium quality” kibble and canned dog food. She was then given a sedative to keep calm during the procedure and brought into a small room used inside the headquarters for behavioral analysis. Oreo was then injected in the leg with an overdose of sodium pentobarbital and was pronounced dead shortly after 3 p.m.

The organization has euthanized 107 dogs this year, through October.

Oreo’s case came to public attention in June when her owner, Fabian Henderson, threw her off the roof of his apartment building in the Red Hook Houses in Brooklyn. Mr. Henderson was convicted of animal cruelty and is scheduled to be sentenced in December.

Oreo broke two legs in the fall. News reports of the incident, accompanied by photos of the brown and white dog with her front legs in casts, triggered a flood of adoption offers and financial donations to help pay for the medical care.

However, as Oreo recuperated from those physical injuries under the care of the A.S.P.C.A., she was increasingly viewed as a danger — difficult to control and “unpredictably aggressive,” according to an organization spokesman.

News of Oreo’s death provoked angry reactions among supporters who had been frantically lobbying the A.S.P.C.A. to delay the euthanization and allow time to negotiate a deal to transfer Oreo to an animal sanctuary in the Hudson Valley.

In one appeal, Camille Hankins, the director of Win Animal Rights, sent an e-mail message to the A.S.P.C.A. begging for clemency and accusing the organization of completing “what the animal abuser who threw her off that Brooklyn roof top set out to do.” Protesters also gathered briefly at the headquarters Friday morning.

The A.S.P.C.A. rejected those pleas, citing the evaluation of staff members and an outside veterinary behaviorist who said that Oreo could not be rehabilitated. “Animal cruelty isn’t pretty and doesn’t always have a happy ending,” said the society’s president and chief executive, Ed Sayres, “It is ugly and sad and, ultimately, tragic.”

NY Dog Oreo Put Down Despite Pleas From Dog Lovers
November 13, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) -- A young pit bull mix that survived being thrown off the sixth-floor roof of a Brooklyn building still was not fit to live because of her aggressive behavior, her caretakers said, and she was euthanized Friday, despite pleas from animal activists to spare her life.

Oreo suffered two broken legs and a fractured rib when she was beaten and thrown off a roof June 18. After months of working to rehabilitate her, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals determined that she was unpredictably aggressive, and could never live among humans or other dogs.

The plight of the 1-year-old Oreo stirred emotions among animal lovers, and the ASPCA decision to euthanize her led many to flood the organization with hundreds of calls, e-mails and Twitter messages.

''We're saddened by the outcome,'' said ASPCA spokesman Andy Izquierdo on Friday afternoon after the organization announced Oreo's death. ''But we truly feel it's the most humane decision for Oreo.'' Earlier, Izquierdo said the agency had received well over 200 calls and e-mail messages, as well as at least two death threats.
''People don't know the behavioral piece,'' Izquierdo said. ''We could fix her physically, but we couldn't do anything with her psychologically.''

Protesters rallied outside the building Friday morning. And at least one pet sanctuary offered to take in the dog.
''The aggression thing is a dumb excuse because all dogs can be worked with,'' said Emily Danks, a self-described animal rescuer who said she was escorted out of the ASPCA's building on the Upper East Side after trying to convince staff members to let her take Oreo. She said she had planned to take the dog to Pets Alive, a sanctuary in Middletown.

Matt DeAngelis, executive director of Pets Alive, said his organization had left phone messages for the ASPCA with an offer to take in Oreo. But he said they had not heard anything, and he was perplexed at why the ASPCA didn't accept the group's offer.

In an e-mail, Stephen Zawistowski, one of the ASPCA's lead animal behavior experts who had worked with Oreo, said the organization didn't believe that sanctuary placement was ''good for her welfare.''

''We made this decision having the experience of working with a number of well-known sanctuaries and rescue groups,'' he said, adding that the ASPCA was unfamiliar with Pets Alive.

Fabian Henderson (left), a 19-year-old who lived at the housing complex in Brooklyn's Red Hook section, where officers found Oreo badly injured, was arrested on felony charges. He has pleaded guilty to aggravated cruelty to animals, and is to be sentenced Dec. 1.

There was no phone listing for Henderson at the Brooklyn building. His lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.



Vet sues over Big Mac attack

November 22, 2009

A decorated disabled Iraqi War veteran is slapping McDonald's with a $10 million lawsuit -- claiming he was pummeled by employees at a Brooklyn franchise when he tried to bring his service dog into the restaurant. Retired Army Capt. Luis Montalvan, 36, charges that workers at the eatery on 52nd Street and Fifth Avenue in Sunset Park pounded him with plastic garbage can lids, leaving him with neck and back injuries.

Montalvan, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, uses his golden retriever, Tuesday, to keep him calm.

In December, the ex-soldier who walks with a cane, went to the fast-food restaurant with his dog, and the workers allegedly began berating him.

"Employees started yelling, 'No dogs!' and 'Get out!' " he told The Post.

An angered Montalvan, who earned two Bronze Stars, wrote a complaint letter to the corporation, resulting in stickers being placed on the restaurant's doors stating service dogs were allowed.
But when he went back a month later, he was tossed out.

Finally, on Jan. 30, he returned one last time to take photos of the sticker when two men wearing McDonald's uniforms approached him carrying plastic garbage can lids, he claims. The men allegedly beat him for two minutes.

The Sunset Park McDonald's management had no comment.

A Kid’s Idea, for Dogs to Savor

November 21, 2009

Dog ice cream. You get it right away, right? Just because it’s so obvious doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea. People love dogs. Dogs love ice cream. But people don’t like what ice cream does to their dogs, specifically, their dogs’ stomachs. Neither do the dogs. Neither do the carpets. So why not make ice cream dogs can tolerate?

This was the idea Christian Liendo stumbled on at the tender age of 16. Christian, a bright-eyed science buff from Flushing, Queens, who is the son of a cabdriver, has lots of great ideas — he’s just been waiting for someone to ask him to do something with them. Last summer, he enrolled in an entrepreneurial program and competition sponsored by Goldman Sachs and Prep for Prep, a nonprofit that identifies minority students and prepares them, during summers and weekends, for private schools. Christian, now a junior at Columbia Prep, started working with the group after fifth grade.

He hit on a nexus of relative originality and practicality. Because both his parents work, Christian spent a lot of his childhood at the home of his grandmother. It was an arrangement that came with perks: time with his grandmother’s dog, Max, a friendly cocker spaniel; and an after-school snack of vanilla ice cream. On a visit to his grandmother’s this summer, as he watched Max whine for a taste of the good stuff, it suddenly dawned on Christian: New York has dog bakeries, dog spas, dog therapists; how was it that the canine market wasn’t already saturated with local, artisanal ice creams?

Blizzard Dog was born.

With his mother’s help, Christian started experimenting with carob powder (chocolate is dangerous for dogs), soy milk and lactose-free milk. He gave tastes to friends’ dogs and to Max. Corn and carrot were bigger hits than chocolate and vanilla.

Given samples, the students in Christian’s class came back for seconds. At a recent tasting, the carrot had a bright, not-too-sweet taste, and a consistency on the refreshing side of icy. At least it looked like that’s what Max would have said, had he been able to verbalize it.

THE judges awarded first prize and $1,200 to a young woman who made vegan cookies. Judging from competition winners in this and past years, the future of entrepreneurship lies in tasty things, green things, animal-friendly things or things that are some combination therein: vegan dog biscuits, low-sugar power bars (for humans), environmentally friendly stuffed animals.

Christian, who won an honorable mention, thought he had something to bring to the niche market: a more upscale version of what Purina, for example, sells in grocery stores. “It won’t be in supermarkets,” Christian said of his creation. “It’s going to be sold in ice cream stores.” That way, he explained, dog owners won’t feel bad when they stop for a cone and their dogs whimper in longing.
Christian did win $250, and he is trying to figure out how to save enough money to scale up the project.

As much as Christian loved the entrepreneurial program, next summer he hopes to get a job to earn some seed money. He said that he always envisioned himself becoming a math or science academic, but that “if this business works out, that would be great.”

This is what the best youth empowerment nonprofits do: dangle a carrot — or some carrot ice cream — in front of young people, then inspire them to set their own goals. They do more than just ask for ideas, they challenge students to see how far they can take them.

Christian’s family has only one concern about the project: Max is getting chubby. A side business in personal trainers for dogs may not be far behind.

Photo: Robert Stolarik for The New York Times

'Bo Obama: The White House Tails'

First dog's magic touch extends to comic books
November 20, 2009

People can't seem to keep their paws off all things Bo Obama .

Bo made his debut in April when the first family adopted him. He continues to be a regular subject among paparazzi and pet-loving bloggers when he's spotted taking walks around the White House .

He has his own Beanie Baby likeness and was the first Obama to have his official portrait taken earlier this year.

Now, the presidential dog plays a cartoon narrator and tour guide donning his famous multicolored lei for the comic book "Bo Obama: The White House Tails." The comic book sold out its distribution when it was released in September but can still be found in comic book stores, airports and specialty shops.

An extended book version will be released in March in bookstores nationwide, said officials from the comic book's publishing group, Bluewater Productions Inc.

The comic is meant to be educational for tweens and younger kids, to teach them White House history and about past presidential pets.

Bluewater has also released a series of comics about Bo's owners, Barack and Michelle Obama , for two of the publisher's series: Political Power and Female Force, said Jason Schultz, a company spokesman.

A few copies of the Bo Obama comic are available at Graham Cracker Comics at 77 E. Madison St. in the Loop and at other local Graham Cracker stores.

And the pictures? Doggone cute.

Kenosha's track to close
You might be able to adopt a dog
November 20, 2009

Some greyhounds currently residing at Kenosha's Dairyland Greyhound Park will soon be looking for new homes.

Dogs will be available for adoption when the track closes its doors Dec. 31 because of declining revenue, officials said.

On Thursday, the track's general manager, Bill Apgar, quashed rumors that the greyhounds would be euthanized.

"There is absolutely no truth behind the rumor," Apgar said of the "viral" e-mail about the rumors.
"The state gives us three choices. The dogs can go with their owners, they can go to another track, or they can be adopted," he said. "Anyone interested can come and visit us and talk to us about adoption. We welcome visitors."

For more information about adopting a dog, contact the adoption center at (262) 612-8256 or contact the Wisconsin Chapter of Greyhound Pets of America, www.gpawisconsin.org.

Deal on Mexican Gray Wolf
November 15, 2009

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The federal Fish and Wildlife Service and environmentalists reached an agreement Friday that scraps a rule the agency had used to kill or permanently remove any wolf that killed three head of livestock in a year.

A spokesman for the agency, Tom Buckley, said the three-strikes rule would “no longer stand.” The agency has other ways to deal with livestock kills “and remains committed to assisting the local livestock operators in any negative impacts they may have related to wolves,” Mr. Buckley said.

Environmentalists argued that the rule favored the ranching industry and was a major roadblock to the population recovery effort for the Mexican gray wolf, a subspecies of the gray wolf. Ranchers said the policy was aimed at wolves that grow accustomed to preying on cattle.

Several environmental groups sued in May 2008, asking a federal court in Arizona to stop the removal policy.

Mr. Buckley said agency officials hoped a judge would sign the settlement this week.
There are about 50 wolves in Arizona and New Mexico — half of what biologists had hoped to have by now.

The recovery effort has been hampered by illegal shootings, complaints from ranchers who have lost cattle to the wolves and the removal of wolves that violated the three-strikes rule.

The Fish and Wildlife Service began backing off rigid enforcement of the policy this year. In June, the agency’s southwest regional director, Benjamin Tuggle, allowed an alpha male wolf linked to four livestock killings to remain free in southwestern New Mexico.

Mr. Tuggle said that the wolf had produced pups and that removing him could hurt the recovery program. Only the alpha pair of each pack has pups each year.

Pug of war: SI exes fight for dog custody
It's the struggle for the puggle
November 15, 2009

The breakup of a Staten Island couple has unleashed a legal dogfight over the ownership of an adorable 1-year-old pug-beagle mix named Benjamin.

Audrey Hesselberg (left, with Benjamin) wrongfully took the beloved pet, Mark Granquist claims in a lawsuit. The ex-lovers split up a month ago after three years of dating.

"Relationships don't work out, but that's my dog," said Granquist, 36. "I love the dog. He's my buddy."
But Hesselberg, 32, says Granquist is barking up the wrong tree because he gave her the pet as a gift.

"He's been sort of harassing me ever since I broke up with him," said Hesselberg, who lives with Benjamin and her parents two blocks away from her ex.

"He's just doing this because he's upset, and he's doing this out of spite."

Granquist, a wholesale-tobacco distributor, bought the pooch for $700 on Jan. 21 from Arcadia Pets on Staten Island.

Hesselberg, a teacher, said Granquist's story is about as believable as a dog eating her students' homework.

The police have sided with her because Benjamin is registered under her name with the city Department of Health.

Photo: Catherine Nance

Love for a Dog That’s No Bark and All Yodel
November 14, 2009

Donut the French bulldog was sitting outside Starbucks. Romeo was perusing the produce at the Korean market down the street, and Jack was going to see Oskar for a play date. Oh yes, Oskar was in his usual spot, sunning himself on his little red bed in the window of the Jumping Bulldog, the chic dog and cat boutique named after him.

Stroll the streets of the Ditmars area of Astoria, Queens, and you’re bound to run into a French bulldog or 32, which was where the unofficial tally stood at last count.

“Last year, there were only eight,” said Tanja R. Firrigno, Oskar’s “mom” and the owner of the Jumping Bulldog. “There are several more that I haven’t met, but I’ve seen them in the neighborhood. I see far more of them here than I do of any of the designer breeds.”

With their rabbit ears, punched-in faces, squeaky-toy voices and wrestler’s bodies, French bulldogs are a noticeable curiosity in Astoria, where the dog of choice still runs to pound, not pedigree.

“They attract more attention than any other dog,” said Erin Mara, owner of Donut, who is white with a black mask face. “I can’t walk two steps without people stopping us. I walk dogs in my spare time, and no other breed brings this type of response.”

It’s hard not to fall for Frenchies, which were popular lap dogs in wealthy households in 19th-century France, but it’s not easy to understand why working-class Astoria has succumbed so suddenly. Often conceived via artificial insemination and delivered via Caesarean section, French bulldogs can sell for $2,500 to $5,000. According to the Web site of the French Bull Dog Club of America, the dogs are difficult to breed and the C-sections are made necessary by the mother’s narrow hips and the puppies’ large heads.

“For decades, Astoria has been waiting in the wings to become the next Manhattan,” said George Halvatzis, a real estate agent whose Ditmars Boulevard office Donut passes during his daily constitutionals. “We have been getting trendy restaurants and trendy shops, but more than anything, the Frenchies, which are so Manhattanesque, may be the signal that this is finally starting to happen.”
Mr. Halvatzis, who owns a shar-pei named Chopper, said the breed was perfect for apartments. “Because of the weak economy, landlords have gotten more lax about taking dogs,” he said. “And French bulldogs are just the right size and temperament for smaller spaces.”

The dogs have another landlord-endearing quality: “They don’t bark,” said Luke Herman, who, with his wife, Natalia Lyons, owns Jack. “They have their own language of yodels, screams, chirps, warbles and what can best be described as snorfles.”

JoAnn and Matt Franjola, owners of Romeo, say he is the perfect companion for their 3-month-old son, Chase. “They’re fabulous together,” Ms. Franjola said. “Romeo licks his toes, and if the baby cries, Romeo runs up to me and stares as if to say, ‘Are you going to get that?’ ”

The only thing better than one Frenchie, say Givanni Ildefonso and Jose Sandin, is two. Coco and Samantha, sisters whose fall wardrobe includes matching brown and pink hoodies that complement their fawn bodies and black masks, have turned their owners into celebrities. “We meet new people every night,” Ms. Ildefonso said. “And people always say: ‘Wow! They’re twins. How do you tell them apart?’ ”

Astoria Frenchie owners dismiss the idea that the dogs are status symbols and emphasize that they require as much tender loving care as children. They can develop breathing and respiratory problems because of their short, pressed-in faces, and are prone to joint diseases, spinal disorders and heart defects.

“There’s an immense commitment, financially,” says Josh Flanagan, whose 2-year-old George Clooney is among the original Astoria Eight. “I’ve heard that over the life of the dog, it could cost $40,000 in veterinarian bills, premium food and general upkeep. My wife, Lindsay, and I love ours to death, but I don’t know if we’d get another.”

Astoria’s fascination with the breed can be traced back four years to the first Oscar, a high-fashion fawn who wore a red bandana around his neck. His owner, a tall, ponytailed man who was said to have been an opera singer, taught Oscar to walk at his side, leashless, and to wait for him outside the shops on 31st Street.

Oscar moved to the West Coast, Donut has since taken up the golden leash, and the new Oskar, with his darling doggie-in-the-window routine, has turned the Jumping Bulldog into a French bulldog franchise.

Dogs and owners have become fast friends, so much so that Ms. Firrigno was considering holding Frenchie Fridays at the shop for some off-leash playtime.

“You can’t be a Frenchie owner and be antisocial,” Ms. Mara said. “There’s a special bond between Frenchie owners. It’s like a club.”

Mr. Herman agreed, adding that those in the Frenchie fraternity “recognize the dogs but sometimes not the people. But we have developed social relationships with some of the owners, and sometimes we even hang out without the dogs.”

There is also a special bond between the pets. Jack, Oskar and Donut, for instance, have become fast friends.

“I can’t imagine not ever having a Frenchie,” Ms. Lyons said. “Someday, I would like to get a little sister for Jack.”

Jack looked up at her and smiled like a clown. On command, he gave Mr. Herman a high-five with his petite paw, and they continued down the street.

“Oh, that’s so cute,” a woman cooed as she knelt to pet his head. “What kind of dog is that?”

Photo: Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

Bomb-Sniffing Dog Found After 14 Months MIA
Andrew Mearse
November 13, 2009
Sabi, a bomb-sniffing black Lab who disappeared during a battle in Afghanistan 14 months ago, has been returned to her unit.

Sabi was with an Australian-Afghan army patrol when they were ambushed in the Uruzgan province in September 2008. The ensuing gunfight wounded nine soldiers, including Sabi's handler, and Sabi went missing. Soldiers searched for the dog for months, but she was gone without a trace and declared Missing in Action.

Officials from Australia's Department of Defence said Thursday that a U.S. soldier at an isolated patrol base elsewhere in the province recently found Sabi. According to newspaper The Australian, officials would identify the man who discovered Sabi only as a soldier named John who was aware that the Aussie special forces were missing one of their detection dogs.

Military spokesman Brig. Brian Dawson said that because of Sabi's good condition, it appeared that someone had been looking after her for more than a year.

Sabi returned back to base with a hero's welcome. According to The Australian, Sabi's Special Forces trainer claimed that after only a few hours back she was already adhering to orders and chasing tennis balls.

Submitted by Lee Becker and Brian Coape-Arnold

A Patchwork of Food Assistance for Pets
November 12, 2009

ANIMAL shelters have reported a steep rise in the number of cats and dogs being surrendered as owners face unemployment, home foreclosures, evictions and other financial hardships. But animal welfare groups and even churches are stepping up with bags of kibble and containers of cat litter to help owners keep their pets and to prevent more from being sent to shelters, and sometimes death.

No national network coordinates pet food assistance. Instead, efforts have sprung up at a grass-roots level as individuals and groups have recognized the problem. The means of offering aid to pet owners varies with each organization. The Humane Society of the United States keeps a long list of programs on its Web site headlined “ Having Trouble Affording Your Pet ?” And the society acknowledges that there are probably many more programs the organization is not aware of.

The Tree House Humane Society in Chicago, which focuses on cats, has provided food assistance for more than 30 years, said Ollie Davidson, the society’s programs manager.

The society, which also provides food for dogs, has seen demand almost double over the last year, giving out more than 44,000 pounds of pet food this year, Mr. Davidson said. About 20 percent of the food distributed was for dogs and about 80 percent for cats. If current trends continue, the organization expects the number of those receiving pet food assistance to grow to 200 next year, from 157.

“Most of our food is coming from donations of people,” Mr. Davidson said, but with the sharp increase in demand the organization is applying for grants to help cover the costs.

Mr. Davidson said the grant applications emphasize that the food aid program is about much more than feeding hungry animals. “We’re helping people,” he said. “In times of stress, it’s always good to keep people with their pets.”

Jennifer Fulton, president of the Northland Pet Food Pantry in Kansas City, Mo., said the demand was huge. “We started giving out food in May of this year, and the response has been incredible,” she said. “We had people feeding their pets before they were feeding themselves.” But now 155 families with pets are being helped.

PAWS Chicago, a no-kill animal shelter, started a crisis-care program and a food bank last year, “when we saw the whole real estate thing happening and people were losing their homes,” said Paula Fasseas, who founded the organization in 1997. The organization provides temporary foster care for pet owners who are struggling because of the economy. In addition, the shelter has worked with the Petco Foundation, providing dog or cat food and litter for up to three months, said Rochelle Michalek, executive director of the shelter.

Sandra Jauga, a maintenance worker in Chicago who said she had been out of work since falling off a ladder this year, turned to PAWS Chicago for help when her workers’ compensation claim was denied. Ms. Jauga, a single mother of four, said Roxy, her beagle-pit bull, would not be able to eat without the aid. “I’m really grateful for the help,” she said. “If you have to get rid of the dog, what’s going to happen with the dog? Where is it going to go?”

With a mission of making Chicago a no-kill city, the shelter visits Chicago’s animal pounds regularly to rescue animals that have not been reclaimed or adopted. By providing pet food to people facing financial hardship, the organization is trying to keep more animals from being surrendered to the pounds.

For its part, the Petco Foundation has been involved with pet- food banks since it began in 1999, said Paul Jolly, the executive director. “We have always been involved in the food bank concept simply because it keeps people with their animals.”

Mr. Jolly said that Hurricane Katrina was a drastic lesson for the country about how strong the bond between people and their pets can be. “Katrina pointed out that pets are part of the family, too,” he said.

The Petco Foundation, based in San Diego, has partnerships for pet-food assistance with about 75 organizations across the country. In January, the foundation is introducing a program with Feeding America , a hunger-relief charity whose members supply food to more than 25 million Americans each year.

Under the program, “We Are Families Too,” 750 Petco stores will have bins where customers can donate pet food, Mr. Jolly said. In addition, the foundation will supplement the donations with food from Petco and other vendors. Distributors will often donate food approaching its expiration date.
Help is also available from tiny, grass-roots organizations in smaller towns.

The Young at Heart pet rescue of Palatine, Ill., which focuses on finding homes for cats and dogs over age 5, established Nina’s Pet Food Pantry with a donation from Steve and Laurie Weiner of Buffalo Grove, Ill., in memory of their Portuguese water dog, Nina. The pantry collects donated kibble from individuals and pet-food distributors, mixes the various brands and types of food and repackages it in plastic zip-top bags for distribution at two human food banks, said Karen Ortolano, a spokeswoman for the organization. (Combining the food assures a uniform quality and makes it easier for the animal to make the transition to what the group calls its “rescue mix.”)

After Nina died about a year ago, Mr. Weiner said he could understand the pain of separating from a family pet. “I’m thrilled that dozens of pets don’t know how close they came to having their lives changed,” he said, adding that a relationship with a pet is a 24/7 commitment for the life of the pet. “You don’t move away from them or they don’t go off to college,” he said. His family continues to help with the pantry program, staying involved in the rebagging of the food. “Just last week I was knee-deep in pet food with latex gloves on, sifting and sorting,” he said.

Some of the food-pantry programs encourage or even require pet owners to spay or neuter their pets. Spay and Neuter Kansas City is one group that makes pet altering a requirement. Gloria Harris, pet outreach program manager, said the organization provides low-cost spaying and neutering services for low-income pet owners. If there is not enough money to feed a pet, there probably is not enough for a litter of puppies or kittens, she said.

In October, the organization held its “doggy food raiser,” collecting 12,000 pounds of the 20,000 pounds of food it will distribute this year, Ms. Harris said.

Part of the campaign was tied to the Kansas City Chiefs-Philadelphia Eagles National Football League game this season. Fans were asked to pledge a bag of dog food every time the Chiefs sacked Philadelphia’s quarterback, Michael Vick . Although the quarterback was sacked only once, 500 pounds of food was collected.

But the pet-food banks are not simply the work of animal welfare groups. Northeast Community Lutheran Church in the urban core of Minneapolis serves about 300 people a month at its Little Kitchen Food Shelf, according to its Web site. But the church, which also provides vaccines for companion animals, found that people struggling financially also needed food for their pets. Now people are also offered food for their pets.

“We know that pets being dropped off at humane societies tend to be on the rise in this current economy, so its obvious that pets are suffering,” said the Rev. Craig Pederson, the pastor.
Jennifer Schultz, coordinator of the Little Kitchen, said she knew the demand was great because the church had received calls from people who live in the suburbs and needed help feeding pets.

Dwayne Pough, a Chicago cook who has been out of work for several months, said help from PAWS Chicago made a big difference for his American Staffordshire, Malachi. “Man, it was crucial because he’s a big dog and he eats a lot,” Mr. Pough said. “I get food stamps, and you can’t buy dog food with food stamps. Actually, I was down to my last bag with maybe two more feedings when they came through. It was a life-saver, really.”

Photographs by Don Ipock for The New York Times

Tony and October Gonzalez Would 'Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur'
November 12, 2009

NFL tight end Tony Gonzalez makes another amazing play! But this time it's not one of his record breaking receptions, it's his all-star move for animals. The football sensation and his wife October are baring it all in a PETA ad to tell people to wear their own skin and let animals keep theirs.  In the ad, Tony and October say "we'd rather go naked than wear fur."

This six-time Pro Bowl, all-pro tight end, and NFL Hall of Famer is raising awareness about the treatment of animals who are killed for their fur and wants his fans to join him in going the extra yard for animals too. Please join Tony and October by pledging never to buy or wear fur.



Dog trainer murder mystery
November 12, 2009

ANACORTES, Wash. -- Mark Stover (below), 57, was the Pacific Northwest's dog trainer to the stars. He taught obedience to the pets of Pearl Jam and Nirvana and Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki. He also trained his own dog, Dingo (right) -- for protection.

But when Stover's killer came last month, there was nothing the female Belgian malinois could do.
She was shot in the face, and when deputies arrived, the only signs of her master were smears of blood.
Investigators have yet to find Stover's body, but prosecutors have charged his ex-wife's boyfriend, Michiel Oakes, with murder in a case that may have stemmed from their divorce two years ago.

Stover's friends said they believed he had moved on after the split.

While Dingo survived, pet lovers are in mourning for Stover. Local K-9 officer Marie Padovan said: "Dogs that were uncontrollable would go to Mark, and they could be controlled. It's a big loss for all of us dog people."

Clifton Springs man Phillip Lane bites dog to save his best Buddy
Carl Dickens
November 11, 2009

A CLIFTON Springs man has told how he bit a dog to save his own from being mauled to death on a Collendina beach.

Phillip Lane told the Geelong Advertiser he was walking his two-year-old Jack Russell-cross-beagle Buddy with his wife Linda on a quiet Collendina dog beach about 4pm on Monday, when a large, brown ridgeback ran up and snatched their little dog in its jaws.

"It grabbed our dog, threw him to the ground and had him by the neck," Mr Lane said. "I thought, 'if he starts shaking him, he'll kill him'."

Mr Lane said he tackled the attacking dog and tried to forcibly unclamp its jaws with his hands.

"I thought Buddy was gonna be dead, that's it, he's gone ... he was crying and squealing, it was just horrible."

Then, Mr Lane's protective instinct took hold. With one hand in the ridgeback's mouth and another around its neck, he resorted to the most desperate of measures. "I thought, 'if you're not gonna let go, I'm gonna bite your ear off' ... I ended up biting him on the ear as hard as I could," he said.

The bite stunned the attacking dog, which released Buddy and was taken away by its male owner, who had just arrived. Mr and Mrs Lane then grabbed their bloodied, stricken pooch and took him to the safety of the water, before rushing him to the vet.

Mr. Lane said veterinarians told him the thick skin around Buddy's neck had helped it survive the attack. The dog was yesterday recovering from its grazes and bruises at home.

Mr Lane, meanwhile, received multiple cuts to his hands from the Ridgeback's attack, with a doctor administering butterfly stitches, a tetanus shot and antibiotics.

He voiced his anger at the ridgeback owner's apparent indifference to the attack and inability to control his pet. "The bloke had been lying down on the sand, and only arrived when he heard my wife screaming. He said 'sorry about that', and mentioned his dog had attacked other dogs," Mr Lane said.
"Dogs are supposed to be muzzled if they're dangerous, and if they've attacked other dogs, they shouldn't be allowed on the beach."

L.I. Mom Accused Of Running 'Concentration Camp' For Dogs
November 11, 2009

SELDEN, N.Y. (1010 WINS)  -- A concentration camp for dogs -- that's what a Long Island woman's own son says she was running at her home in Selden -- where the bodies of nearly two dozen animals were found buried in the backyard.

Sharon McDonough (left), of 18 Awixa Place, has been charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty after at least 20 animal carcasses where dug up in the backyard of her home where she lived with her seven children, police said.

The 43-year-old is accused of torturing, killing and burying the animals in her yard. Her son, Douglas McDonough, told reporters that she forced her children to torture the pets.

Investigators say she could face more serious charges once they determine how the animals died. Her children have been placed in protective custody. She was released on her own recognizance and is due back in court Tuesday.

"This is one of the worst cases of animal abuse I have seen in the last 25 years I have been doing this," Chief Roy Gross, of the Suffolk County SPCA, said.

Investigators say Douglas McDonough, Sharon McDonough's eldest son, tipped off an animal rescue group to conditions at the home. The group then contacted police.

"It was a concentration camp for the animals," Douglas McDonough, said. "My sisters and me, we got the end of it, too.

Firefighters save dog in Naperville fire
November 9, 2009

Naperville firefighters saved a small dog
from a smoky townhouse fire Sunday morning, reportedly giving the dog mouth-to-mouth before using a special pet-sized oxygen mask to revive it.

A fire started in the laundry room  of one of the units in the townhouse in the 900 block of West Court when clothes left near a water heater apparently caught fire, Naperville Fire Department Battalion Chief Patrick Sleik said. No one was home at the time.

Firefighters heard the dog barking when they arrived on the scene at about 10:06 a.m., Sleik said.
A passerby, Linda Quamme Merkel, said she saw firefighters carry the dog out and one of the firefighters start doing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation as his partner ran to get special equipment. She said firefighters at the scene told her they found the unresponsive dog under a sofa during a search of the home.
Sleik said firefighter/paramedics Jake Felton and Javier Saucedo used a special pet mask to give the dog oxygen. The masks are carried in the battalion car and another vehicle, Sleik said.
The dog was revived and taken to an emergency veterinary hospital in Lisle where the dog, a year-old Shih-Tzu named Pepsi, was recuperating. A veterinary employee said the dog was in good shape and expected to recover from smoke inhalation.
Damage to the townhouse unit estimated at $45,000, Sleik said, with the unit being left uninhabitable.
The unit's residents were not home at the time and will stay with a relative, he said.. A unit across from the hall from the fire location was also damaged by smoke and firefighting activities, Sleik said.
About 24 emergency personnel were on the scene along with two ambulances and five trucks, Sleik said. It took about 15 minutes to control the blaze and firefighters were on the scene for almost two hours.
A nearby water main also broke because of pressure during the fire, and Naperville public works crews were called to the scene.

Photo: Naperville firefighters administer oxygen to revive Shih-Tzu Pepsi
Courtesy of Linda Quamme Merkel

Happy Times at the Dog Run, Now Coming to an End

November 7, 2009

It’s considered impolite, yet everyone slips up occasionally. How can anyone be blamed for mixing up the name of a dog with that of its owner, especially when the dog is Henry and his owner goes by Rags?

Even still, Dick Sebastian resolved he would not make that particular mistake, or any similar one, at the small-dog run in Washington Square Park he started frequenting a few years ago with his wife, Susie, and his dog, Kitty (grounds for more confusion, but that was someone else’s problem). He whipped up cartoony illustrations of all the dogs at the run who, like Kitty, arrived like clockwork for the morning shift, and turned them into a chart labeled with their names. Mr. Sebastian sometimes brought the work in progress to the dog run, and over time, even owners who were not part of the regular crew — many of them part of a downtown, arty scene — asked if their pets could be included, or agreed when approached by Mr. Sebastian.

From there, Mr. Sebastian, a retired surgeon who is now 71, started experimenting with more serious portraiture, sketching some of the dogs he had come to know better than many of his friends’ grandchildren. He started with Sidney, an aristocratic, standoffish pug belonging to Roberta Bayley (above left), a former punk-rock photographer turned dog photographer. Everyone marveled at the images.
“I thought he really captured her weirdness,” said Ms. Bayley, sitting, as she always does, beside her sedentary, aloof pet on a bench. “She’s very into herself and quiet and serenity.”

Mr. Sebastian estimates that in less than a year, he drew and presented around 50 dog portraits to their owners, as gifts — in most cases, to great appreciation.

Jessica Pell was grateful that Mr. Sebastian omitted from the portrait of Briscoe, her bearded, shaggy Brussels griffon , the oddness that others sometimes see in him. “Some people look at Briscoe and think he looks like an Ewok ,” she said, holding up a dog that looked a lot like an Ewok, the short, furry creature of Star Wars lore. “He captured a regal quality in him. He captures things that you, as an owner, feel no one else would see.”

The drawing is one of Ms. Pell’s prized possessions, because of what it says about her dog, but also about Mr. Sebastian. “The fact that someone would care enough that he’d want to draw what’s unique about your dog for you,” she explained, trailing off.

Even more than the free art, it is his knack for noticing, for caring about the small details of his fellow dog lovers’ days, that Ms. Pell knows will leave her bereft when Mr. Sebastian and his wife move back to their native Ohio the day after Thanksgiving. They decided to make the move so that Mr. Sebastian, who has Parkinson’s disease , can get easy access to care at a retirement home.

Ms. Pell, who is single and works for herself, said that right now, Mr. Sebastian represents stability to her. She’s there every day; he’s there every day, often with Susie, always with Kitty, a border terrier , attending to the story line of Ms. Pell’s life, picking up on the details that other good friends, absorbed in their own narratives, often miss. “Susie and Dick never forget,” she said. “They’ll ask you the next day, ‘Are you feeling better?’ Or, ‘How did the meeting go?’ ”

New York is full of ad-hoc communities based on proximity and built up around mutual affection — walk into any watering hole at 7:30 p.m. — but they often have a live-and-let-live looseness to them. While parental oversight can stifle, in loco parentis oversight can be a rare, welcome comfort in the circles of urban life.

For passionate dog people, the folks at the Washington Square Park dog run are also, it turns out, passionate people people, and there have been myriad parties scheduled in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Sebastian before they depart.

Leaving is painful, said Mr. Sebastian, but walking down subway stairs is increasingly difficult. The joys of living in New York — the museums, the restaurants, the various parks — were eluding him, leaving him with only a very high rent to pay. For some time now, “this is what I’ve been doing,” said Mr. Sebastian, gesturing to the clusters of old friends talking, the small dogs frolicking.
And until it wasn’t, that was enough.

Photo: Librado Romero/The New York Times
At the small-dog run in Washington Square Park, Roberta Bayley, with Sidney, her pug,
and Sidney's likeness by Dick Sebastian.

NY Bans the Gassing of Stray Pets
November 6, 2009

An especially challenging political climate in the New York State Legislature has slowed the progress of a variety of pro-animal welfare bills this year. However, hard work by legislators, committee staff, the ASPCA and New York’s animal advocates brought the humane euthanasia bill (NY A. 999B) over the finish line!

Introduced in January, the bill sat dormant until the ASPCA, working closely with Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, Senator Suzi Oppenheimer and staff, helped revive it and secure passage in the Legislature in the fall. On October 9, it was signed into law by Governor Paterson.

The new law, which goes into effect in one year, will:
* Prohibit carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide poisoning (gassing) of stray and shelter animals (effective in 90 days).
* Require that the euthanasia of stray and shelter animals be performed by injection.
* Require that such euthanasia be performed by a certified euthanasia technician, licensed veterinarian, or licensed veterinary technician.
* Prohibit intracardiac euthanasia—a painful injection right into the heart—on unsedated shelter animals.
* Require that veterinarians who perform intracardiac euthanasia on unsedated animals not under the care of a shelter do so only if it is the most humane option and that they document the event and rationale.

“The ASPCA recognizes the necessity of humane euthanasia as a last-step option to spare animals further suffering,” says Debora Bresch, Esq., ASPCA Legislative Liaison to New York State. “We thank the bill’s sponsors, Assemblywoman Paulin and Senator Oppenheimer, for their tireless efforts to assure that animals receive humane treatment at the end of their lives, and look forward to the day when euthanasia of unwanted animals is an infrequent occurrence."

Pet Health Notice: FDA Issues Alert on Pet Insulin Product
On November 2, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine issued an alert warning pet parents and veterinarians to keep a close eye on animals receiving the insulin product, Vetsulin, to treat animal diabetes. The product, which is manufactured by Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal, may contain varying amounts of crystalline zinc insulin, and could cause a delay in insulin action and an overall longer duration of insulin activity, according to the FDA.

“Pet parents whose diabetic dogs or cats are currently being treated with Vetsulin insulin should contact their veterinarians to discuss appropriate measures,” says Dr. Louise Murray, Director of Medicine at the ASPCA. “Examples of alternative insulin choices include Humulin N and Levemir insulins for dogs, and Lantus (glargine) insulin for cats. These insulins require different syringes than those used to administer Vetsulin, and it is essential that pet parents work closely with their veterinarians when making any changes.”

Veterinarians should monitor their patients who are receiving Vetsulin, and consider transitioning them to the insulin products outlined above.

Inside the ASPCA ER: Dog Ingests Toxic Pennies and Survives
On September 29, when Keiver Guacane of Manhattan brought his five-month-old Cockapoo, Gordo, to ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital, his beloved pup was in dire straits. The fuzzy, light-brown pooch was in critical condition, suffering from severe anemia and dangerously low blood pressure.

ASPCA veterinarian Dr. Geruza Paiva examined Gordo, and immediately suspected the cause of the pup’s distress. “She was worried he may have eaten coins because he had hemolytic anemia—anemia due to red blood cell rupture—which can be caused by zinc toxicity from eating pennies,” says Dr. Louise Murray, Director of Medicine at the ASPCA. “Dr. Paiva took an x-ray and saw the coins in his stomach.”

Pennies minted after 1982 contain a zinc core surrounded by copper and are the only U.S. coins in circulation that pose a toxicity hazard to pets. Unfortunately, these toxic, late-model pennies are commonly ingested by our furry friends. The stomach provides an exceptionally acidic environment and aids in the rapid distribution of zinc into the blood stream, which can cause life-threatening anemia and kidney failure.

Luckily, Gordo was in good hands. He immediately received a blood transfusion, and then ASPCA veterinarians passed an endoscope (fiber optic technology attached to a tiny camera) through the dog’s mouth, down his esophagus and into the GI tract to locate the pennies and retrieve them with a long, grabbing instrument. The non-invasive procedure was a success, but the evidence was startling. The handful of retrieved coins included several gnarly, partially decomposed pennies and others that appeared almost new.

“If you look at the pennies we took out, the pure copper ones from before 1982 are perfect, intact and shiny,” reports Dr. Murray. “The newer, zinc ones are all eaten away.”

Of course, this interesting disparity in coin metals is probably of little consolation to mischievous little Gordo. His pet parent, too, was just relieved to see his furry friend recover well, and no doubt will forevermore watch what Gordo eats!

As always, if you suspect your pet has ingested pennies or any other toxic item, please contact your veterinarian immediately or call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline at (888) 426-4435.

Picked From a Lineup, on a Whiff of Evidence
November 4, 2009

HOUSTON — A dog’s sniff helped put Curvis Bickham in jail for eight months. Now that the case against him has been dropped, he wants to tell the world that the investigative technique that justified his arrest smells to high heaven.

The police told Mr. Bickham they had tied him to a triple homicide through a dog-scent lineup, in which dogs choose a suspect’s smell out of a group. The dogs are exposed to the scent from items found at crime scene, and are then walked by a series of containers with samples swabbed from a suspect and from others not involved in the crime. If the dog finds a can with a matching scent, it signals — stiffening, barking or giving some other alert its handler recognizes.

Dogs’ noses have long proved useful to track people, and the police rely on them to detect drugs and explosives, and to find the bodies of victims of crime and disaster. A 2004 report by the F.B.I. states that use of scent dogs, properly conducted, “has become a proven tool that can establish a connection to the crime.”

Scent lineups, however, are different. Critics say that the possibilities of cross-contamination of scent are great, and that the procedures are rarely well controlled. Nonetheless, although some courts have rejected evidence from them, the technique has been used in many states, including Alaska, Florida, New York and Texas, said Lawrence J. Myers, an associate professor of animal behavior at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine.

In particular, the methods of the dog handler in Mr. Bickham’s case, and in a half-dozen others that are the basis of lawsuits, have come under fierce attack.

The handler, Deputy Keith A. Pikett of the Fort Bend County, Tex., Sheriff’s Department , is “a charlatan,” said Rex Easley, a lawyer in Victoria, Tex., who represents a man falsely accused by the police of murdering a neighbor. Deputy Pikett, the lawyer said, “devised an unreliable dog trick to justify local police agencies’ suspicions” for producing search warrants and arrests.

Deputy Pikett, who declined to be interviewed, works in the town of Richmond, southwest of Houston, but he has served as a busy consultant to law enforcement agencies around the state, using his home-trained bloodhounds — he has given them names that include Columbo, Quincy and Clue — to sniff out crime. A native of Buffalo, N.Y., he has by his own estimate in court testimony performed thousands of scent lineups since the 1990s. His lawyer said the techniques were effective.

Thomas Lintner, the chief of the F.B.I. laboratory’s evidence response team unit, said the agency used scents only to follow a trail to a suspect or to a place associated with him, and not to identify one person out of several. The 2004 F.B.I. report warned that dog scent work “should not be used as primary evidence,” but only to corroborate other evidence.

In several of the cases that were based on Deputy Pikett’s dogs, however, the scent lineups appear to have provided the primary evidence, even when contradictory evidence was readily available. Mr. Bickham spent eight months in jail after being identified in a scent lineup by Deputy Pikett’s dogs, until another man confessed to the killings. In an interview, Mr. Bickham scoffed at the accusation that he had taken part in three murders, noting that he has been hobbled by bone spurs and diabetes and is partially blind.

Ronald Curtis, another Houston man jailed on the basis of Deputy Pikett’s dogs, was released from jail nine months after being accused of a string of burglaries. Store videos showed that the burglar did not resemble him. “Nobody was listening,” Mr. Curtis said.

Both he and Mr. Bickham are filing civil lawsuits over their treatment in federal court on Wednesday.
The first person to file such a suit, in January, was Michael Buchanek, a retired captain with the Victoria County, Tex., Sheriff’s Department and a client of Mr. Easley. After Deputy Pikett’s dogs identified him, Mr. Buchanek said the police “just kept telling me, ‘the dogs don’t lie — we know you did it.’ ” After months of uncertainty, DNA evidence implicated another man who later confessed to the crime.

As Mr. Easley examined the case, he sought the opinion of animal investigation experts who reviewed Deputy Pikett’s work and responded with incredulity. Robert Coote, the head of a British canine police unit, reviewed videos of Deputy Pikett’s scent lineup in the Buchanek case and stated, “If it was not for the fact that this is a serious matter, I could have been watching a comedy.”

Mr. Easley shared his findings with colleagues at the Innocence Project of Texas , a legal defense organization, which released a report last month that excoriated dog scent lineups as a “junk science injustice.” Jeff Blackburn, the chief counsel for the group, said Deputy Pickett merely gave the police the match they had hoped for.

Mr. Myers, the animal behavior expert, suggested that handlers like Deputy Pikett might believe in the dogs and the methods, but might allow samples to become contaminated or inadvertently allow the dogs to pick up on subtle, even unconscious signals from handlers or detectives . “They just don’t realize they’re doing it wrong,” he said.

Randall Morse, an assistant Fort Bend county attorney who is representing Deputy Pikett, said the dogs provided information, not conclusions of guilt or innocence. “Pikett doesn’t arrest anybody,” Mr. Morse said. “Our dogs don’t say, You murdered somebody. They don’t even say, You committed a crime. They just say, We picked up your scent.”

Mr. Morse said scent lineups had proved their worth, as in the case of Bart Whitaker, a Texan who hired friends to kill his family in 2003. Deputy Pikett’s dogs helped identify the trigger man from eight suspects. Mr. Whitaker is now on death row, and his accomplices are in prison. “We believe in this stuff,” Mr. Morse said.

Mr. Blackburn of the Innocence Project noted that the Whitaker case involved a great deal of corroborating evidence beyond the dogs. “Our estimate right now is we’ve got 15 to 20 people who are in prison right now based on virtually nothing but Pikett’s testimony,” he said. “That’s a big problem.”

Donna Hawkins, a spokeswoman for the Harris County district attorney’s office in Houston, said she could not comment on the dispute over dog scent lineups or on the re-examination of cases that involved them. “Cases will be evaluated on an individual basis, considering all relevant evidence,” Ms. Hawkins said.

As for Mr. Bickham, he said he had lost his home while in jail and had struggled to restart his barbecue stand; he sold his cars to hire his lawyer. These days, he said, he is easily agitated, cries readily and is taking antidepressants.

“I lost everything,” Mr. Bickham said, because of “a nothing case.”

Photo: Bill Clough/Victoria Advocate, via Associated Press

Good Dog, Smart Dog
November 1, 2009

Life as a Labradoodle may sound free and easy, but if you’re Jet, who lives in New Jersey, there is a lot of work to be done.

He is both a seizure alert dog and a psychiatric service dog whose owner has epilepsy, severe anxiety, depression, various phobias and hypoglycemia. Jet has been trained to anticipate seizures, panic attacks and plunging blood sugar and will alert his owner to these things by staring intently at her until she does something about the problem. He will drop a toy in her lap to snap her out of a dissociative state. If she has a seizure, he will position himself so that his body is under her head to cushion a fall.

Jet seems like a genius, but is he really so smart? In fact, is any of it in his brain, or is it mostly in his sniff?

The matter of what exactly goes on in the mind of a dog is a tricky one, and until recently much of the research on canine intelligence has been met with large doses of skepticism. But over the last several years a growing body of evidence, culled from small scientific studies of dogs’ abilities to do things like detect cancer or seizures, solve complex problems (complex for a dog, anyway), and learn language suggests that they may know more than we thought they did.

Their apparent ability to tune in to the needs of psychiatric patients, turning on lights for trauma victims afraid of the dark, reminding their owners to take medication and interrupting behaviors like suicide attempts and self-mutilation, for example, has lately attracted the attention of researchers.

A Dog’s Intelligence
November 5, 2009

To the Editor:
Re “Good Dog, Smart Dog” (Week in Review, Nov. 1):

As we know, dogs are highly intelligent animals. But to compare their intelligence to human intelligence is to do dogs a disservice.

As we live in closer proximity to dogs than ever before, we are learning that they can be of service to humans in many ways, as your article mentions. But to say, as some researchers have, that a dog has the intelligence of an average 2-year-old child is missing the point and purpose of advanced service dog training.

I’m sure many 2-year-old children are smarter than dogs in human terms, but can a 2-year-old human child detect seizures or onset of depression in a family member? They cannot, and most adult humans cannot either.

Let research continue to promote ways that animals can help humans lead healthy lives, using the animals’ own brand of intelligence.

Alice Laby
Valley Stream, N.Y., Nov. 2, 2009

The writer is an animal-assisted therapy volunteer.

Dog owners sought park, but may get parking lot
Uncomfortable with dogs loose in Skinner Park, officials proposed a site that has humans howling in disgust.
By Patty Pensa Special to the Tribune
October 30, 2009

In the now-bustling West Loop neighborhood, Skinner Park is a center of activity with families, teens and seniors filling the fields and tennis courts. It also draws dog owners.

They walk the perimeter, cut through the playing fields and cross the sidewalk that bisects park property and Whitney Young High School land. When the park is practically empty -- and with only other dog owners around -- many let their dogs off their leashes to run around a grassy swath.

"I know it's against the law," said Heidi Milby, 30, walking her dog, Patterson, on a recent afternoon. "But I got a Jack Russell who is hyper and he needs to run. There's not a lot of places to go."

The West Loop, like other city areas that have shed their industrial pasts to become vibrant neighborhoods, is the latest to grapple with an issue that stirs passion among neighbors: Where can dogs run free?

Skinner Park is the answer for many, who time their dogs' park visits around heavy park use.
As a solution, the Chicago Park District wants to convert part of Whitney Young's parking lot at the southeast corner of Laflin and Monroe streets into a dog-friendly area. The plan, though, has riled some in the neighborhood who say dogs should get a grassy area, not an old parking lot.

The arguments have a familiar ring to Gail Merritt, founding president of the South Loop Dog Park Action Cooperative. After years of back-and-forth with the community and the Chicago Park District, the South Loop neighborhood got its first dog-friendly area -- Grant Bark Park -- in 2006.

The South Loop Dog PAC first proposed parks where dogs can run off leash nearer residents' homes, said Merritt, but Grant Park was chosen because of its distance from residents. "It was clear there were going to be groups that were going to fight" a dog park located near homes, she said. But the location, and its hard surface, didn't have full community backing then and still doesn't today, she added.

May Toy, president of the Skinner Park Advisory Council and chairwoman of its dog advocacy committee, is opposed to the Park District's proposed site in the West Loop. "It's too small, unsafe and nobody is going to use it," she said. A better option, she said, is a fenced dog-friendly area in the middle of the Skinner Park, where cars once passed through on Loomis Street.

Park district officials, though, say the best spot for dogs is away from children.

"Safety is our No. 1 concern and we believe this site is appropriate," said Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, district spokeswoman, referring to the high school's parking lot.

The district recently approved a 40-year lease with the Chicago Board of Education for a dog-friendly area on about 7,780 square feet of the parking lot. Residents won an additional 2,500 square feet after complaining the original plan called for too small a space. The project will be presented to the community for approval before work begins to add pea gravel, trees, drainage, fencing and double gates, Maxey-Faulkner said. Construction is expected to start sometime next year, she said.

Also next year, the district will add a dog-friendly area to a new park planned at Adams and Sangamon streets, less than a mile east of Skinner Park.

The area at Skinner Park will cost between $100,000 and $150,000 and be split evenly among the Park District, the local alderman or state representative and the community, Maxey-Faulkner said.
For dog owners here, any options are welcome.

"Anything would be better than what we have now, which is nothing," said Mike Neary, 29, walking his Shih Tzu, Miles, in the park.

For now, dogs run free in Skinner Park. At dusk, about 20 dogs will run around the park in between two baseball fields on Adams and Throop streets, said Brian Boehm, 39, who had his girlfriend's dog, a white mixed-breed named Ziggy."We're not supposed to, but everyone does. Now so many people bring their dogs here and love it here," he said. "They don't think they're doing anything wrong."

Melissa Beilstein, who has lived in the neighborhood for eight years, overlooks the field where the dogs run free. She hears police blare orders over their megaphones to dog owners to leash their dogs. "I see a park that's overwhelmed," said Beilstein, 38, a member of the Skinner Park Advisory Council. Beilstein does not support the dog-friendly area in the high school parking lot but wants it in the center of Skinner Park. "We've waited so long, what's another six months to get an outside opinion?" Beilstein said.

With few dog-friendly areas around, owners have begun letting canines run off their leashes in the West Loop's Skinner Park.

Tribune photo by E. Jason Wambsgans /October 26 , 2009

Dog Shot By Memphis Officer
October 30, 2009

In a tragic example of what happens when proper police protocol is not followed, two pet Labrador Retrievers were shot at last Thursday by officers from the Memphis Police Department when the canines used their dog door to see who had come into their yard. The officers entered the private property to investigate a possible burglary because the homeowner’s alarm system had been triggered. Although one dog was shot and the other ran away, the dogs’ owner, who was not home at the time, was not informed by the authorities that anything unusual had taken place, leaving her to discover quite a frightening scene when she returned home hours later.

“Police shootings of family dogs are a huge problem nationwide,” says Dr. Randall Lockwood, ASPCA Senior Vice President of Anti-Cruelty Field Services. “In general, in at least one-third to one-half of all incidents where a police officer fires a gun, the target is a dog. In almost all cases, just a sharp verbal command or a confident display of authority is enough to deter a dog attack. The easiest way for police officers to do this would be to raise their batons in a threatening way. Failing that, pepper spray may be used. Shooting is very rarely justifiable.”

The Memphis Police Department has received regular training in animal handling and dog confrontations over the last decade, but that does not seem to have stemmed the rate of anti-protocol dog shootings by its officers, which is significantly higher in Memphis, per capita, than in major cities like New York and Los Angeles. “It’s ironic—Memphis is ahead of most other police departments in the nation in that they have official use-of-force policies for encounters with animals—but the real-world effectiveness of these policies depend much on internal support and enforcement and holding people accountable,” adds Dr. Lockwood.

Last week’s shooting of the two Labs comes just one week after a similar incident in which a Boxer mix was also shot in his home by a Memphis policeman. The Memphis Police Department is investigating both incidents, and all three dogs are now back home with their families, recovering from their ordeals.

Coyotes Kill Woman on Hike in Canadian Park

Published: October 28, 2009

TORONTO (AP) -- Two coyotes attacked a promising young musician as she was hiking alone in a national park in eastern Canada, and authorities said she died Wednesday of her injuries. The victim was identified as Taylor Mitchell, 19, a singer-songwriter from Toronto who was touring her new album on the East Coast.

She was hiking solo on a trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia on Tuesday when the attack occurred. She was airlifted to a Halifax hospital in critical condition and died Wednesday morning, authorities said.

Coyotes, which also are known as prairie wolves, are found from Central America to the United States and Canada.

Wildlife biologist Bob Bancroft said coyote attacks are extremely rare because the animals are usually shy. Bancroft, a retired biologist with Nova Scotia's Department of Natural Resources, said it's possible the coyotes thought Mitchell was a deer or other prey. ''It's very unusual and is not likely to be repeated,'' Bancroft said. ''We shouldn't assume that coyotes are suddenly going to become the big bad wolf.''

Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokeswoman Brigdit Leger said other hikers heard Mitchell's screams for help on Tuesday and called emergency police dispatchers.

Police who were in the area reached the scene quickly and shot one of the animals, apparently wounding it. But the wounded animal and a companion coyote managed to get away.

Paul Maynard of Emergency Health Services said Mitchell already was in critical condition when paramedics arrived on the scene and had multiple bite wounds over her entire body. ''She was losing a considerable amount of blood from the wounds,'' he said.

An official with Parks Canada said they blocked the entrance to the trail where Mitchell was attacked and were trying to find the animals to determine what prompted such an unusual attack. ''There's been some reports of aggressive animals, so it's not unknown,'' said Helene Robichaud, the park's superintendent. ''But we certainly never have had anything so dramatic and tragic.''

Mitchell was an up-and-coming folk and country musician who was nominated for a 2009 Canadian Folk Music Award in the Young Performer of the Year category.

''Words can't begin to express the sadness and tragedy of losing such a sweet, compassionate, vibrant, and phenomenally talented young woman,'' Lisa Weitz, Mitchell's manager, said in an e-mail. ''She just turned 19 two months ago, and was so excited about the future.''

Merci: Turning the Corner
by David Dickson
October 28, 2009

There's a lot more to the healing process than medications and time logged in at a clinic. When all is said and done, after everything the vets and caregivers can do, a lot is still up to the animal. And for Merci the dog (left), that side of the equation wasn't looking very good when she came to Best Friends.

Merci was found in about as bad shape as a dog can be, and still be breathing. Truth be told, even the whole breathing thing was in question — the poor girl was barely alive. Found alongside a dumpster, Merci had a broken leg; she was full of ticks; she was starving, and she was dehydrated. What's more, she had horrible skin infections and a systemic case of valley fever. Put another way, she already had one or two feet on the Rainbow Bridge and was getting ready to make a break for the other side.

She was rushed to Best Friends, where the first part of the healing process could happen. Fluids, medication, good food, expert care, and ultimately surgery on her leg pulled her back from the brink. But that was only part of the solution. From her side of things, Merci shut down emotionally and stayed that way for an entire month. Life had dropped her at the bottom of the heap and she had no intentions of getting back up again.

Even after the surgery that should have given her some strength back in her leg, Merci didn't want to move. She was depressed, and she wasn't going to try, no matter what. For that long month, her caregivers along with the medical team did all they could to help her, but she was struggling with her part. It seemed like she might never walk again.

There's something funny that happens at Best Friends on occasion. Every now and again an animal will make such a dramatic turnaround that the caregivers start to wonder about alien abductions! (Okay, not really, but that's as good an explanation as any.) Merci pulled off just such a turnaround. One day something clicked inside her and she decided to try to get up one more time.

From that point on, she has simply not been the same dog. The valley fever, which can be treated but never cured, continues to play tricks on her balance, but the difference this time is that Merci keeps right on walking anyway. She might wobble a bit as she goes, but she knows she'll get there eventually! Besides, she's getting stronger.

Truly, it' almost like she woke up from a bad dream. All of a sudden Merci began noticing things for the first time, even though they'd been there all along. Things like the cookie jar! Merci became so skillful at convincing visitors to give her treats from the cookie jar that her caregivers were forced to set out a bowl of more healthy treats just for Merci.

She's also been attending several of the Jin Shin Jyutsu classes with instructor and Best Friends staffer Angela Rovetto. Angela says Merci has become the ultimate ham in the class, stealing the spotlight time and again. In fact, Merci's newfound enthusiasm for life has started getting her into trouble. No longer content to wait for somebody to notice her, Merci likes to give little playful tugs on people's pant legs to catch their attention. (She's landed herself square into some basic obedience classes because of that stunt.)

There may still be some physical setbacks down the road for Merci. But she's come so far in such a short time, it's hard to imagine she won't face those setbacks head-on. Way to go, Merci. You’re an inspiration to us all.

Photo by Gary Kalpakoff

Pet cemetery offers final resting place for beloved animals
Hinsdale Animal Cemetery lets humans memorialize their furrycompanions
By Gerry Smith

October 26, 2009

About once a month, Carl and Ann Christoff visit the cemetery where Mindy and Buttons are buried. As Carl clips and sweeps grass around their graves, his wife uses vinegar to wash bird droppings off the marble headstones. Before they go, they leave decorations: flowers, an angel statue or a small Christmas tree.

This is no ordinary burial ground. Mindy and Buttons, two Shih Tzus who died in 1990 and 2005, are among more than 15,000 pets -- including dogs , cats, deer, lizards, turtles, rodents, monkeys and a 3-foot shark -- buried in Hinsdale Animal Cemetery in Willowbrook , one of the nation's oldest.

To the Christoffs, of Oak Brook , these were no ordinary pets.

"At one time, every one of the animals meant so much and brought so much joy into one's life," Ann Christoff said.

Just how much they meant to their owners is evident from the epitaphs. "Our Dear Pet," "Gentle Giant" and "Loyal Friend" are common headstone inscriptions. A mausoleum adorned with a dog sculpture reads: "He gave up his life that a human might live. Greater love hath no man."

"You walk through and read the inscriptions on the headstones and some will make you laugh, some will make you cry and some will make you think," said Bill Remkus, whose family has owned the cemetery for four generations. "You can almost understand the story."

Michael Schaffer, author of the book "One Nation Under Dog," said he has noticed the messages on pet epitaphs have evolved over time, reflecting how many people have promoted their pets to "full-fledged members of the family."

"If you visit old pet cemeteries, the oldest headstones might say 'Here lies Fido, a loyal servant,' or 'Here lies Fido, man's best friend,'" said Schaffer. "Nowadays it's 'My little girl,' or 'Mommy and Daddy miss you.' People have developed a conception of their pets as children. That is quite a dramatic development."

Remkus said he did not think the feelings people have for their pets have changed, but instead, modern society has become more accepting of people who love their pets and consider them family. "Years ago, if you buried your pet in a pet cemetery it would be seen as eccentric," he said. "That's not how it's seen today. Now it is just another way to memorialize."

Hinsdale is not a celebrity pet cemetery, although guide dogs for blind author Bernice Clifton of Oak Park, who died in 1985, are buried here. Rather, the cemetery that began in 1926 is a memorial to many pets who faithfully serve their owners.

The cemetery offers a variety of funeral packages. For about $50, pet owners can purchase a "memorial cremation" -- in which a pet's ashes are mixed with those of other pets and scattered across the cemetery grounds. For about $2,000, they can buy an oak casket with a vault and marble headstone.

Despite the recession, business at Hinsdale Animal Cemetery has remained steady, although Remkus' son, Jonathan, has noticed more "memorial cremations," which he said are "a more economical way for a pet to still be taken care of in a reverent manner."

Still, when it comes to finding a proper burial for man's best friend, money is usually not a factor. "People who are going to take care of their pets are going to do so, whether or not they are employed or unemployed," Jonathan Remkus said.

Or if they just spent more than $7,000 on medical bills trying to save their pet's life, as Ernie Yamich did this summer. Despite the high costs of sending Bogart, his 11-year-old German shepherd, to the emergency room, Yamich said he did not think twice about spending $2,100 on funeral arrangements for "my first born."

"He was our baby," said Yamich, 30, a heavy equipment operator in Chicago. "You wouldn't do any less to a human, even in a recession."

While some owners are content to simply bury their pets at the cemetery, others go further. Several people have been buried with their pets at Hinsdale Animal Cemetery. And a few people who did not have pets buried there simply chose the cemetery as their final resting place "because they felt it was a happy place," Jonathan Remkus said.

Carol Szabo of Naperville spent $160 for a private cremation to ensure the ashes she received belonged to Teddy, her uncle's beloved Shih-Tzu. Her family planned to mix Teddy's remains with those of her uncle, Raymond Beranek, who died recently, then bury them at St. Casimir Catholic Cemetery in Chicago. "I'm trying to do right by my uncle and do right by the dog," she said.

Sometimes, it is easier to do so for the dog, like when it comes to cemetery maintenance, some owners say. When Joyce Koziel of Frankfort visited her grandparents' graves this summer in Alsip , her brother had to use a weed whacker to uncover their gravestones, she said.

On the other hand, the graves of her Labrador and a Labrador/terrier mix, Sweetness and Brandon, are in immaculate shape at Hinsdale Animal Cemetery, she said. "What gets me a little angry is the pet cemetery is in better shape than where my family is buried," she said.

While the owners of Hinsdale Animal Cemetery can be credited for this, the pristine condition of many headstones also may be due to regular visits from people like the Christoffs, who view washing the headstones of Buttons and Mindy as a way of giving thanks.

"This is the reward they get from their owners for being great companions," Ann Christoff said.

Photo: James and Joyce Koziel find the graves of their two dogs, Sweetness
Chuck Berman/Chicago Tribune

Family adopts dogs of couple killed in cycle crash

October 22, 2009

A Burr Ridge animal training center may have found the right people to adopt four dogs that belonged to a couple killed in a motorcycle crash over Labor Day weekend .

Last Thursday, a family took in the four dogs that belonged to Susan and Mike Kelms, whose wishes were to keep the dogs together, said Kathy Deets, manager of the Chicago Canine Club. The adoptive family has had three dogs over the years -- but never more than one at a time, Deets said. "The family has not made a final decision yet, but things are going well," Deets said in an e-mail today.

One stumbling block in finding a family for the dogs has been that many villages in the area have a legal limit of three. But the shelter worked hard to keep the four united. "They really like each other," Deets said last month.

The dogs are 6-year-old Anacortes, a 47-pound female American Eskimo lab mix; 3-year-old Cedonia, a 34-pound female husky mix; 7-year-old Tacoma, a 92-pound male lab mix, and 4-year-old Everettt, a 47-pound male Austrian Shepherd lab mix.

A large number of people also have donated to a fund to help care for the four dogs. "Donations have been very generous and the dogs will be well taken care of," Deets said.

The center hopes "to know next week if everything is final," Deets said.

The Canine Club is a boarding, daycare and training center owned by Community Support Services, which assists people with developmental disabilities.

Left to right: Anacortes, Cedonia, Tacoma and Everett
Photo courtesy of the Chicago Canine Club

Montana: Changes in Wolf Hunt Are Considered

October 13, 2009

Wildlife officials will consider changes to the state’s inaugural wolf hunt after hunters killed nine wolves in just three weeks along the border of Yellowstone National Park. More than 1,300 gray wolves were removed from the endangered species list in Idaho and Montana this spring after a costly federal restoration effort. Hunting has been promoted as a way to keep the population of the fast-breeding species in check and reduce wolf attacks on livestock. At least 48 wolves have been killed since Sept. 1 by hunters in the two states. But all but 2 of the 11 killed in Montana came from a small part of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, along the northern border of Yellowstone. Four of those wolves were from Yellowstone’s Cottonwood Pack, including the group’s breeding female.

Concerned about the heavily concentrated killing, state wildlife commissioners suspended hunting last week in the area.

Bless the Beasts and Doris Day Too
October 11, 2009

NELLIE MCKAY hadn’t made it a block from her Upper West Side apartment when she stopped abruptly, leash in hand, halfway across Central Park West. “Oh,” she said, eyes widening. “I forgot Hank’s ‘Adopt Me’ vest. Can we go back and get it?”

Hank is a rescued pit bull, one of two in Ms. McKay’s care. (The other one, Bessie, looks to be staying for a while.) Both dogs appear in costume pearls on the cover of her fourth album, “Normal as Blueberry Pie” (Verve). Their inclusion isn’t arbitrary: the album, out on Tuesday, pays homage to Doris Day , the perennially fresh-faced singer and actress, now 87, who followed her record-breaking postwar music and movie career with a leading role in animal welfare advocacy.

On a recent afternoon, once the neon-orange vest had been retrieved from her shabby-chic ground-floor apartment, Ms. McKay, in a vintage red blazer, began to walk the dogs toward the Arthur Ross Pinetum in Central Park. She took Bessie, entrusting Hank to a reporter. Before reaching the park, there was an adoption inquiry from a passer-by, and phone numbers were exchanged.

Photo: G. Paul Burnett/The New York Times
Nellie McKay, crossing Central Park West with Bessie, foreground, and Hank

Click on image for full article

Whispering to Rottweilers, and to C.E.O.’s
October 11, 2009

LOS ANGELES -- Cesar Millan, on location for his show, walks Chase, as Royce Chang, the dog’s owner, follows. Mr. Millan says he has to transform people as well as their pets.

IT’S a miracle. That’s what the humans believe, more often than not, after watching this compact, 40-year-old C.E.O. do his work. He enters a room purposefully, his chest thrust forward and a smile on his face. “How can I help?” is his standard introduction, and the way he says it — calmly, assertively — indicates that your problems are about to be solved.

It’s unbelievable. That’s what the humans say when they see what Cesar Millan, the “Dog Whisperer,” can do. And the dogs? To a pooch, they appear to be thinking: “Thank God, help has finally arrived.” To prompt a visit from Mr. Millan, these dogs have exhibited seemingly irrational fears (of motorbikes, toasters, linoleum floors) and strange obsessions (biting rocks, ankles, tractor tires).

Their owners, meanwhile, have told poignant, if at times ludicrous, stories. One couple sought out Mr. Millan after their two pit bulls, hell-bent on killing each other, forced them to live apart. Another hadn’t slept in the same bed for months because their Yorkies wouldn’t allow it.

If you have a television, you may know Mr. Millan from “ Dog Whisperer With Cesar Millan ,” whose sixth-season premiere was on Friday on the National Geographic Channel, a cable network piped into about 70 million homes. Nearly 11 million Americans tune in each week. You may have stumbled upon his new glossy magazine, Cesar’s Way, or his four books, the latest of which, “ How to Raise the Perfect Dog ,” went on sale last week. His first three books, all New York Times best sellers, have cumulatively sold two million copies in the United States and are available in 14 other countries.

Partly because he is based in Los Angeles, the epicenter of the entertainment industry, Mr. Millan has become something of a cultural icon, a Latino man who commands respect wherever he goes. He has helped scores of movie stars and moguls — among them alpha dogs like Oprah Winfrey , the actor Will Smith , the former Disney chief Michael D. Eisner and the director Ridley Scott — become pack leaders in the one place they fail to rule: their homes.

No wonder Mr. Millan’s reputation as a fixer — he says he rehabilitates dogs, but trains people — has been immortalized in pop culture. “What is the ‘Dog Whisperer’?” has been a winning answer on “Jeopardy.” An episode of “South Park” featured the mom of Eric Cartman, the spoiled, foul-mouthed brat, hiring Mr. Millan to discipline him. A New Yorker article by Malcolm Gladwell quoted scientists and dance experts analyzing how Mr. Millan’s bearing instills confidence. The conclusion: his fluid movement communicates authenticity better than words could.

Not bad for a once-poor native of Culiacán, Mexico, who crossed the border illegally 19 years ago with nothing in his pockets. (He became a United States citizen this year.) When he talks about transformation, in other words, he’s living proof that it’s possible.

With his wife, Ilusion, he runs Cesar Millan Inc., the center of a constellation of businesses that coordinates all things Cesar beyond the show, including speaking engagements; executive leadership seminars; a line of organic dog food, fortified water, shampoos and toys that sells at Petco; and the charitable foundation financed by an undisclosed percentage of the company’s revenue.

His Web site, cesarmillaninc.com , grosses annual sales in the mid-seven figures, according to a company spokesman, chiefly from DVDs, books and merchandise like the Illusion Collar, designed by his wife to help control challenging dogs. Nearly 400,000 visitors are on the site monthly. Then there’s his Dog Psychology Center, a 43-acre mecca he calls a “ Disneyland for dogs.” Under construction north of here, near where he and his family live, it will be the first of many such centers nationwide, he says.

According to MPH Entertainment, the production company that is Mr. Millan’s partner in all its many offshoots and co-owns the TV show with the producers who discovered him, he will be a $100 million business in a few years. And he says he’s just getting started.

“Anything that is realistic, if I create it in my mind, it can become a reality,” he says, evoking one of his favorite authors, the self-help superstar Wayne W. Dyer. “That is the power of intention.”

Like the dogs that he is world-famous for understanding — and, notably, unlike some of their owners — Mr. Millan doesn’t judge others. Instead, he lives in the now and maintains a sort of über-balanced mien. For without balance, or what he calls “our most important tool: calm, assertive energy,” no one can be a pack leader. And that, more than anything else, is what Cesar Millan dearly wants each of us to be — for our animals, sure, but also for ourselves and the well-being of the planet.

“World transformation begins with self-transformation,” he advises. To achieve that, he says, you need a co-pilot: “My suggestion is you have somebody next to you that is willing at any time to transform the moment. That is called dog."

Photos: Monica Almeida/The New York Times

Click on images for full article

Paralyzed pit bull still gets around
William Hageman
October 10, 2009

By all accounts, Red is a great dog. The 7-year-old pit bull knows more than a dozen commands -- verbally and through hand signals. He is playful, smart, protective. And that last attribute almost got him killed.

Back in July, two gunmen attacked and robbed Red's elderly owner in his West Side garage, beat him severely and tied him up. Then they burglarized the man's home, where Red was. And they shot the dog. The attack is still under investigation, according to the Chicago Police Department .

"I guess Red was doing his job, defending his master's property, and they shot him in the back, paralyzed him," said the victim, a man in his 60s who asked that his name not be used.

Red ended up at Animal Care and Control; his owner ended up in the hospital. When he was released, he visited the recovering Red.

"I'd come in, hobbling with my swollen face and black eyes, and I'd kiss him and he'd kiss me, you know?"
Finally he had to make a choice: Take Red home or have him put down.

Because he lives on a second floor and has health issues, he couldn't carry a paralyzed 50-pound dog up and down the stairs several times a day. So he decided to let Red go.

"The girl (at Animal Care and Control) and I both cried," he said of the day he made the decision. "The staff there all got to know him and they liked him."

But then, a PAWS Chicago representative, making one of the shelter's daily runs to pull animals from the Animal Care and Control facility, was told about Red. The dog quickly won the hearts of the agency's volunteers, who donated funds to purchase a cart to help him get around. And Saturday he'll be in PAWS' adoption center at 1997 N. Clybourn Ave., ready to be adopted.

"Red is obviously a very special dog," says Rochelle Michalek, PAWS' executive director. "He has the best disposition. He's one of the best dogs you'll ever see. The bullet severed his spine , but you'd never know it. He's happy, he loves to play. He's a big snuggler."

First daughters thrilled - by their dog's birthday
October 10, 2009

WASHINGTON -- Moments after President Obama got the news about winning the Nobel Peace Prize, his excited daughters came to congratulate him -- and put things in perspective.

Malia, 11, and Sasha, 8, came to see their dad not long after White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs telephoned Obama with the news, awakening him in the early morning hours.

Appearing later in the Rose Garden, Obama said it wasn't "how I expected to wake up this morning."

He said that after he heard about the award, "Malia walked in and said, 'Daddy, you won the Nobel Peace Prize, and it is Bo's birthday.' And then Sasha added, 'Plus, we have a three-day weekend coming up.' So it's -- it's good to have kids to keep things in perspective."

Bo is the family's Portuguese water dog, a breed that was recommended to the Obamas by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Selling a Charitable Feeling, Along With Treats for the Dog
October 9, 2009

ONE of the most popular tactics in consumer advertising these days is what is known as cause marketing or cause-related marketing, whereby companies seek to do well by doing good. So widespread has cause marketing become that it is being expanded from products for people to products for their pets.

Skip to next paragraphFor instance, for some time the Pedigree brand of dog food sold by Mars has been promoting its support of pet adoption. Now, Del Monte Foods is making its donations to an organization named Canine Assistants the centerpiece of a campaign for its Milk-Bone line of dog treats.

Underlining that focus is the theme of the campaign: “It’s good to give.” The double meaning is meant to convey that just as Milk-Bone is good to give your dog, you can also get a warm and fuzzy feeling if you give to good causes — or support brands that do.

The campaign, created by the New York and San Francisco offices of Draft FCB, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies, has a budget estimated at more than $10 million. The ads began appearing on Sept. 21 and are scheduled to run through the spring.

The campaign includes the first television commercials for Milk-Bone in several years. There is also print advertising, ads in coupon inserts in Sunday newspapers, information on the Milk-Bone Web site (milk-bone.com or milkbone.com) and elements in social media like Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and You

Milk-Bone is “a bit of a sleeping giant,” said Christie Fleming, vice president for marketing at Del Monte in San Francisco, and “as we thought about the next generation of growth, reminding consumers why they should continue to purchase Milk-Bone is critically important to us.”

Out of those discussions came the concept of playing up the “emotional” aspects of the brand along with the “functional” aspects, Ms. Fleming said, an idea encapsulated in this language on the brand’s home page: “When you give the wholesome goodness of Milk-Bone dog snacks, you’re giving more than cleaner teeth and fresher breath. That’s because every time you buy Milk-Bone dog snacks, a portion of the proceeds goes to help the Canine Assistants organization.”

Click on image for full article

U.S. Marines Enlist ASPCA to Keep Marine Corps Pets & Families Together
October 9, 2009

On October 6, a team of ASPCA animal behavior experts arrived in Beaufort, S.C., to conduct behavior assessments of more than 100 dogs living in Marine Corps housing units in the South Carolina Tri-Command area.

The visit by ASPCA behaviorists comes after these dogs became the subject of a breed ban recently instituted by Marine Corps headquarters. The policy specifically bans purebred and mixed-breed Pit Bulls, Rottweilers and wolf hybrids, as well as canines with "dominant traits of aggression" who pose a risk to people living in U.S. Marine Corps housing worldwide.

“Our goal in coming to the Parris Island base is to make sure safe dogs and their families are able to stay together,” says Dr. Emily Weiss, ASPCA Senior Director of Shelter Research & Development, “and so far, the results have been positive."

After assessing individual canines with SAFER (the ASPCA Safety Assessment for Evaluation Rehoming)—a research-based tool that helps identify the likelihood of canine aggression—ASPCA behaviorists report that of the approximately 65 dogs assessed to date, only two have had significant aggression issues. “One, we believe, will be able to be managed while on base,” comments Dr. Weiss. “The vast majority, however, are well-loved, well-behaved family pets.”

The families of safe dogs will be given the opportunity to apply for a waiver, allowing their dog to remain on the base until 2012. "We're very excited about the ASPCA’s assessment," says Army Capt. Jenifer Gustafson, the Officer in Charge of the veterinary clinic on Parris Island. "This is a welcome alternative to the unpleasant possibility of pet parents being forced to give up their dogs or leave base housing.”

The ASPCA is opposed to breed bans, which target entire breeds instead of focusing on individual dogs. Aggressive canines are often the result of owners failing to provide proper training. Our organization continues to work on identifying potential aggression in individual dogs, opening up opportunities for behavior modification.

Connecticut, Protect Your Pets —
Trust Act Is Now Law!
October 9, 2009

Thanks to a new law that went into effect last Thursday, Connecticut residents may now make legally binding arrangements for their animals. The law, titled An Act Concerning the Creation of a Trust for the Care of an Animal, allows pet parents to set up enforceable pet trusts to provide care and stability for animals in the event of their owner's death or disability. Governor M. Jodi Rell signed the act into law in June—before it became effective on October 1, animal trusts in Connecticut were not enforceable and considered merely "honorary."

Forty-two states, including NY and NJ, now have some form of pet trust law. Like any aspect of estate management, laws vary from state to state and creating a pet trust requires advanced planning.

"As the legal wrangling over the Leona Helmsley estate has illustrated, careful consideration has to be given to the language creating a pet trust in order to safeguard the pet owner's wishes," warns Debora Bresch, attorney and ASPCA legislative liaison to Connecticut. "If you are interested in setting up a pet trust, be sure to work with a legal professional who is familiar with them—or at the very least, one who is comfortable with the concept, specializes in trusts, and is familiar with the care and maintenance needs of pets."

Visit ASPCA's Pet Care pages to learn more about how to begin the process of creating a pet trust.

Photo: Robert Coane

A Case of Pet Care and Politics
October 8, 2009

GARRISON, N.Y. -- Two things struck many people as odd three years ago when sheriff’s deputies came to Sandy Saunders’s 150-acre farm, said they had found “shocking” conditions, arrested him on nine counts of animal cruelty, and seized five horses, three sheep and a goat that have never been returned.

The first was that the barn owned by Mr. Saunders, a well-known local environmentalist and gadfly, was a popular and quite public gathering place. In the five weeks before the animals were seized, an annual barn dance there brought out perhaps 200 people, and a political fund-raiser drew 150. A woman who had visited with her children said that she had seen dozens of farms and that Mr. Saunders’s was “one of the cleanest and well-maintained I have come across.”

The second was that Barbara Dunn, the deputy who seized the animals and participated in a separate raid and arrest involving the care of purebred Maltese dogs that same month, was also the president of the Putnam Humane Society, where the animals were taken, which struck many people as an unfortunate mixing of responsibilities.

The two arrests set in motion a series of legal proceedings that culminated in the indictment of Deputy Dunn this week on 28 counts, including grand larceny, perjury and official misconduct, some stemming from her testimony in the investigation involving the dogs.

It would be nice if the indictment suggested a clear motivation. Instead, it’s more of a reminder that while politics involving humans can be pretty complicated, they’re nothing compared to the politics of people and critters.

Mr. Saunders’s case had no direct bearing on the indictment, a result of an 18-month investigation. Deputy Dunn was accused of larceny, insurance fraud and official misconduct for claiming workplace injuries when, in fact, she had fallen off a horse, prosecutors say. And she was accused of perjury and official misconduct in connection with her testimony about the seizure of the dogs from Linda Nelson, a breeder in Kent.

Deputy Dunn pleaded not guilty to all of the charges on Monday. William Aronwald, her lawyer, said the notion that she was improperly acting in the interests of the Humane Society ignored the evidence. “She took six Maltese dogs that hadn’t been fed, had no water, were sitting in their own excrement from a sweltering, hot room and took them to the Humane Society,” he said. “What other recourse did she have? Just leave them there? I don’t think there’s any evidence at all that the Humane Society benefited from this.”

The problem is that a State Supreme Court judge, Justice Andrew P. O’Rourke, in dismissing charges against Ms. Nelson, ruled otherwise, saying: “Deputy Dunn, in her position as president of the Humane Society, engaged in a public campaign to garner support for the renewal of the society’s contract with the county. She increased the number of seizures of animals and sought increased fines for animal-related violations in order to increase the coffers of the Humane Society.”

It’s small potatoes, unless you’re the one accused. In addition to the worthy work that animal protection groups do, there have been allegations elsewhere of animals improperly seized and reputations ruined out of excess zeal. An investigation by “20/20” in 2005 included numerous claims from people who said that instead of helping them care for wanted pets, the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals confiscated their animals, sold them within days and kept the money.

BUT if that kind of conflict was at work, it didn’t show up in the indictment. Christopher York, the chief assistant district attorney in Putnam County, said he had no way of knowing if any improprieties in Deputy Dunn’s conduct were affected by excess zeal for animal rights, the interests of the Humane Society or a belief that she was acting properly. “We don’t have to prove motivation,” he said.

Still, regardless of whether she’s found guilty, you could deduce three things. The first is that an accusation of animal abuse can be as damaging as one of child abuse. Mr. Saunders found himself reported on animal abuse Web sites. (He agreed to give up the animals in return for the dismissal of the charges against him.) The second is that being on the side of the animals doesn’t necessarily mean you’re on the side of the angels. And the third is that giving the president of the local Humane Society a badge and a license to investigate animal abuse isn’t the smartest move.

Wire Services
Weird but True

November 11, 2009

You've heard about hero police dogs. This is not one of them.

An Oregon burglar trying to break into a residence escaped cops after a police dog bit the innocent homeowner and let the prowler get away.

Adding insult to injury, police have yet to apologize to the man, who suffered a chomp on the butt.
The police chief said only that the incident was "unfortunate."


Call it the paws of life.

A Polish man who suffered a heart attack was revived when his pet Jack Russell terrier hopped up and down on his chest, jump-starting his ticker.

"I want everyone to know how much I love my big-hearted dog," said Piotr Wagner, pointing to a heart-shaped marking on the dog's side.


October 9, 2009

Whoa, doggy!

A massive pooch named Boomer (above) who stands 3 feet tall and 7 feet long from nose to tail may be the world's biggest living dog.

The 3-year-old, 180-pound Landseer Newfoundland, who lives on a farm in Casselton, ND, can drink from the faucet without lifting his paws off the ground. He also gobbles up a 20-pound bag of dry food a week.

Wire Services
Weird but True

By LUKAS I. ALPERTOctober 5, 2009

He got so depressed about moving out of Paris' Elysée Palace that he started kicking -- make that biting -- ass.

No, it wasn't ex-French President Jacques Chirac. Former First Dog Sumo was so upset about leaving his home of 12 years, he started chomping on the ex-president's buttocks.

He was exiled to a farm.

• • •

September 30, 2009

This Gives new meaning to the phrase"inside dope."

A 30-year-old Florida man was bustedafter a bag of cocaine "shot out" of his rear end during a traffic stop.

After a drug-sniffing Canine indicated that Warren Wiley had drugs on him, cops searched him but found nothing. But they noticed that he had his butt cheeks clenched and asked him to relax, which sent the bag flying.

Court Hears Free-Speech Case on Dogfight Videos
October 7, 2009

WASHINGTON — Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wanted to know if Congress could ban a “Human Sacrifice Channel” on cable television.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked about videos of cockfighting.

“What about hunting with a bow and arrow out of season?” Justice John Paul Stevens asked.

“What if I am an aficionado of bullfights,” Justice Antonin Scalia wondered, “and I think, contrary to the animal cruelty people, they ennoble both beast and man?”

And Justice Stephen G. Breyer asked about “stuffing geese for pâté de foie gras.”

The rapid-fire inquiries came in an exceptionally lively Supreme Court argument on Tuesday in the most important free speech case this term.

The case concerns the constitutionality of a 1999 federal law that bans commercial trafficking in “depictions of animal cruelty.” The number and variety of questions suggested that most of the justices thought the law was written too broadly and thus ran afoul of the First Amendment.

In defending the 1999 law, Neal K. Katyal, a deputy solicitor general, cautioned the justices against pursuing an “endless stream of fanciful hypotheticals.”

Mr. Katyal reminded the justices that the case before them concerned videos of dogfights and that the law itself was mainly prompted by so-called crush videos, which cater to a sexual fetish. Those videos show women in high heels stepping on small animals.

But the 1999 law by its terms applies to audio and video depictions of all sorts of activities in which “a living animal is intentionally maimed, mutilated, tortured, wounded or killed” if that conduct was illegal where the depiction was sold.

The case before the court, United States v. Stevens, No. 08-769, arose from the conviction of a Virginia man for selling videos of dogfights. The man, Robert J. Stevens , was sentenced to 37 months in prison. The federal appeals court in Philadelphia last year overturned Mr. Stevens’s conviction and struck down the law on First Amendment grounds.

Patricia A. Millett, a lawyer for Mr. Stevens, urged the justices to follow suit, saying the law could not be rendered constitutional by narrowing it through judicial interpretation.

“There is interpreting and then there is alchemy,” Ms. Millett said, “ and I think this statute requires alchemy.”

The law does exempt materials with “serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical, or artistic value.”

But several justices indicated a discomfort with the vagueness of that standard and with entrusting the question of a work’s “serious value” to prosecutors and juries.

“Could you tell me what the difference is between these videos and David Roma’s documentary on pit bulls?” Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked Mr. Katyal, referring to “Off the Chain,” an exposé of dogfighting . “David Roma’s documentary had much, much more footage on the actual animal cruelty than the films at issue here.” Mr. Katyal responded that “the line will sometimes be difficult to draw.”
Justice Scalia said the law violates the First Amendment by treating speech condemning depictions of animals fighting more favorably than speech celebrating the fighting. Mr. Stevens’s “message is that getting animals to fight is fun,” Justice Scalia said.

The hypothetical Human Sacrifice Channel came up late in the argument. Justice Alito described how it would work.

“Suppose that it is legally taking place someplace in the world,” he said. “I mean, people here would probably love to see it. Live, pay per view, you know, on the Human Sacrifice Channel.”

Ms. Millett haltingly said that Congress could not ban such a channel solely on the ground that it was offensive.

Mr. Katyal, to the apparent surprise of some of the justices, agreed, saying the First Amendment would not permit a law banning such a channel unless it could be shown that the depictions made the sacrifices more likely. The distastefulness of the depictions alone would not justify the ban.

The justices did not seem inclined to expand categories of speech outside the protection of the First Amendment, notably obscenity and child pornography , to encompass violent images unrelated to sex.

In child pornography, Justice Ginsburg said, “the very taking of the picture is the offense — that’s the abuse of the child.” In dogfighting, by contrast, she continued, “the abuse of the dog and the promotion of the fight is separate from the filming of it.”

Ms. Millett agreed. “If you throw away every dogfighting video in the country tomorrow,” Ms. Millett said, “dogfighting will continue.”

Justice Breyer suggested that Congress would be able to draft a more carefully tailored law focusing on crush videos and the kinds of animal cruelty that are illegal in all of the states.

“Why not do a simpler thing?” Justice Breyer asked. “Ask Congress to write a statute that actually aims at those frightful things it was trying to prohibit.”

“I am not giving Congress advice,” he added, “though I seem to be.”

Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times

Exploring the Health Benefits of Pets

October 5, 2009

When Chad, a yellow Labrador retriever, moved in with Claire Vaccaro’s family in Manhattan last spring, he already had an important role. As an autism service dog, he was joining the family to help protect Ms. Vaccaro’s 11-year-old son, Milo — especially in public, where he often had tantrums or tried to run away.

This week Dr. Melissa Nishawala, clinical director of the autism-spectrum service at the Child Study Center at New York University,answers questions about pet therapy, companion animals and the treatment of autism spectrum disorder.

Like many companion animals, whether service dogs or pets, Chad had an immediate effect — the kind of effect that is noticeable but has yet to be fully understood through scientific study. And it went beyond the tether that connects dog and boy in public.

“Within, I would say, a week, I noticed enormous changes,” Ms. Vaccaro said of Milo, whose autism impairs his ability to communicate and form social bonds. “More and more changes have happened over the months as their bond has grown. He’s much calmer. He can concentrate for much longer periods of time. It’s almost like a cloud has lifted.”

Dr. Melissa A. Nishawala, clinical director of the autism-spectrum service at the Child Study Center at New York University , said she saw “a prominent and noticeable change” in Milo, even though the dog just sat quietly in the room. “He started to give me narratives in a way he never did,” she said, adding that most of them were about the dog.

The changes have been so profound that Ms. Vaccaro and Dr. Nishawala are starting to talk about weaning Milo from some of his medication.

Anecdotes abound on the benefits of companion animals — whether service and therapy animals or family pets — on human health. But in-depth studies have been rare. Now the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the National Institutes of Health , is embarking on an effort to study whether these animals can have a tangible effect on children’s well-being.

In partnership with the Waltham Center for Pet Nutrition in England (part of the Mars candy and pet food company), the child health institute is seeking proposals that “focus on the interaction between humans and animals.” In particular, it is looking for studies on how these interactions affect typical development and health, and whether they have therapeutic and public-health benefits. It also invites applications for studies that “address why relationships with pets are more important to some children than to others” and that “explore the quality of child-pet relationships, noting variability of human-animal relationships within a family.”

The national institutes’ interest in this type of research goes back at least two decades. Valerie Maholmes, who directs research on child development and behavior at the children’s health institute, said that at a broad-ranging meeting in 1987 on the health benefits of pets, the N.I.H. “concluded that there needed to be much more research,” especially on child development.

Other sessions confirmed the need for research, but most studies focused on negative interactions, like the ways pets could spread disease, said James A. Griffin, the institute’s deputy chief of child development and behavior.

Meanwhile, the Waltham Center was expanding its own research to do some small studies about human-animal interaction, said Catherine E. Woteki, global director of scientific affairs for Mars Inc. “We are a pet food company and pet care company,” Dr. Woteki said, “and we’re interested in seeing that that relationship stays a strong one.”

Reviews of the Waltham research program indicated that larger studies over longer terms with appropriate control groups were needed. When Mars became aware of the institutes’ interest in this type of research, a public-private partnership was established, with the company committing more than $2 million. The National Institute of Nursing is also providing money.

Peggy McCardle, chief of the institutes’ child development and behavior branch, said the money from Mars helped jump-start the efforts. Dr. McCardle added that the N.I.H. had established protocols for public-private partnerships and that all proposals got two levels of review before being approved.

People working with animals expect the research to back up their observations. At Children’s Hospital of Orange County in Southern California, for instance, dozens of volunteers regularly take their dogs to visit patients. Children being treated for serious illnesses often have the blues, anxiety or depression. The dogs brighten them up,” said Emily Grankowski, who oversees the pet therapy program at the hospital.

Some patients who have refused to speak will talk to the dogs, she said, and others who have refused to move often reach for the dogs so they can pet them. So the animals become part of the therapeutic program, especially in the areas involving speech and movement.

“The human-animal bond bypasses the intellect and goes straight to the heart and emotions and nurtures us in ways that nothing else can,” said Karin Winegar, whose book “Saved: Rescued Animals and the Lives They Transform” (Da Capo, 2008) chronicles human-animal interactions. “We’ve seen this from coast to coast, whether it’s disabled children at a riding center in California or a nursing home in Minnesota, where a woman with Alzheimer’s could not recognize her husband but she could recognize their beloved dog.”

Such observations are not new at Autism Service Dogs of America, which brought Milo and Chad together. “Many children with autism can’t relate to a human,” said its director, Pris Taylor, “but they can relate to a dog.”

Photo: Tommy Conforti, a cancer patient, and Lady, a therapy dog.
Michal Czerwonka for The New York Times

Call of the wild
Ma ditches city to raise wolves
October 5, 2009

Who's afraid of the big, bad wolf?

Not Maggie Howell (below with Atka), 37, who traded in her Wall Street job years ago to run the Wolf Conservation Center in the sleepy Westchester suburb of South Salem, about an hour's ride from Central Park.

Howell's bumper sticker reads, "Got Wolf?" But she's not kidding.

Atka, a stunning white 85-pound arctic gray, rides in the back of Howell's work van in a crate, traveling to schools, the Museum of Natural History and other events acting as an ambassador for his endangered species.

The 7-year-old wolf was in town recently to promote National Wolf Awareness Week, beginning Oct. 11. "He's a rock star. He loves to pose for the camera," boasted Howell, who grew up a city kid in Chelsea and is the married mother of a 2?-year-old girl, Eleanor.

Atka is one of four arctic grays born in captivity on the 27-acre wooded spread, along with 22 Mexican gray wolves, indigenous to New Mexico and Arizona, and three red wolves, whose habitat is in North Carolina.

He and his three arctic gray counterparts travel around interacting with 30,000 humans a year as part of the center's outreach program to educate people.

Still, there's no petting them. They're "socialized" because they've been around people, but that doesn't mean they can be handled by the public.

To help keep Atka calm during his travels, he has a road buddy with him, a German shepherd named Kai. The dog travels in the front seat of Howell's work van during their road trips.

The aim of the nonprofit center, which receives 7,000 visitors a year, is to raise healthy offspring from selected wolf packs as potential candidates to be released in areas where they were once hunted nearly to extinction. It seems to be working. Where there were once only seven Mexican gray wolves left in the wild, now there are close to 400. And the center hopes to eventually help reintroduce red wolves in North Carolina in its Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

The 10-year-old Wolf Conservation Center was co-founded by renowned classical pianist Helene Grimaud.

Photo by Chad Rachman/N.Y.Post: Maggie Howell with Atka

Click on logo for Wolf Conservation Center

Modern Love
An Affection Multiplier, With Four Feet and Wet Nose
October 4, 2009

THE nine-pound longhaired miniature dachshund at the animal shelter wasn’t the kind of dog I imagined walking in Manhattan. She was a little lap dog and a cliché, too small for someone as insecure and image conscious as me. And her name was Zoe — too cutesy. I put a deposit down on her anyway.

“She’s just not the dog I imagined losing my freedom for,” I wailed like a freaked-out groom before his wedding night. “She’s too small. She’s just too gay!”

A form to fill out asked, “Why do you want a dog?” The answer should have been simple: companionship. But it was more complicated than that.

Bob Morris is the author of “Assisted Loving: True Tales of Double Dating With My Dad.”

Click on image for full article

Illustration by Christopher Silas Neal

When Illness Brings You Closer to Animals: The Animal Rescuer
By Tara Parker-Pope
October 4, 2009

Stefanie Rinza began rescuing animals after a long illness.

Much has been written about the healing power of pets and how animals of all kinds can improve health. Scientists have even studied whether pet owners begin to look like their dogs .

But sometimes, poor health brings us closer to our pets. Dana Jennings of The New York Times has shared how aggressive prostate cancer has changed his relationship with his dog Bijou and the lessons he has learned from her.

Stefanie Rinza (left), 44, a fine antiques dealer, relates how her poor health prompted her to seek the companionship of a rescue dog.

“I had always had this underlying feeling that I was desperate to have a dog,” she says. “But the real conscious realization came when I was 30 years old and had a very bad illness that was kind of scary, and it could have been worse. I thought, ‘Why is it I’ve worked so very hard and don’t fulfill the one dream I have and that is to have a dog?’

"As soon as I was better I went to the Battersea shelter in London and picked out a dog that had been there for 11 months, Jasper. He's probably 16 now. We have four dogs, all of them rescued in some way. Jasper was the first.

"The next one was Dinky, who I on a flier in the Corner Bookstore on 93rd, looking really sad. And Charlie -- another flier I couldn't say no to.

"And the fourth one was Tilly, who I saw running on Fifth Avenue in the morning rush hour. She'd been living in the park, clearly; she was filthy.What I didn't know then was that she only had oe eye.

"I started running straight into the traffic head-on. I must've looked quite mad, with Prada slippers and handbag. I think for that reason the cars stopped. But Tilly actually didn't stop. She kept zigzagging on the road. She crossed 96th Street ywice and then headed toward Madison and we were weaving through the cars. And in the end I kind of did a full-length tackle and just grabbed her and I thought, 'Well, you can bite my face, if you want, I'm going to just hold you anyway.' So I did hold onto her. She didn't try to bite me.

"She fell asleep for the whole day and then I walked her in the evening and, halfway through the walk, she turned around and sat down in front of me. I went down to see what was going on and she came up to me and kissed my hand.

"There's this gratitude, these just incredible ways that they use to express themselves. That never ends as long as you have that animal. What I love is when someone has just been rescued and when they come here and have their first good sleep. When they curl up and you can see that they feel really safe for the first time and they can rest. After everything they've been through, they're willing to trust someone and give them their love and devotion.

"I'm very sure that all of them would have protected me if there had ever been an issue. They're very, very loyal."

Ms. Rinza today is in good health, has 4 rescue dogs and has found homes for about 40 animals of all kinds, including a lost bunny, white doves released at a wedding and a kitten stranded in the trunk of a drunken driver’s car.

Click on the photo above to hear Stefanie Rinza's full story and see photos of her animals

Photo: Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Please releash me! Dog is home
October 3, 2009

A dog owner who handed off her small pooch to a friend because of her busy schedule was awarded custody of the pet yesterday after a six-month court battle.

Queens Supreme Court Justice Valerie Brathwaite Nelson said in her decision that Ravely Arias intended to leave Panda, a Teacup Yorkie, with Leandro Rohde only for a short time -- and not make a gift of the pooch, as Rohde asserted.

Arias said her work schedule was so hectic that, in January 2009, she dropped the dog off with Rohde until her hours settled down. But Rohde said Arias turned over Panda's health records and registration, and that the dog was his.

The judge said Rohde did not try to register the dog as his own until Arias asked for Panda's return.
She found that Arias never abandoned Panda and continually checked up on his well-being.

Rohde called the decision "sad," because Panda feels at home with him. "She's not even showing up for the [court-approved] visits," Rohde said.

Arias did not immediately return a call for comment, but her lawyer said the decision showed "compassion."

"Miss Arias is thrilled to finally get Panda back," said Joshua Krakowsky of Davidoff, Malito and Hutcher. "It's not a dog-eat-dog world after all."

A Quarterback’s Second Chance
September 27, 2009

After serving 18 months in prison for running an elaborate and sadistic dogfighting ring, Michael Vick, the professional quarterback, returns to a regular-season game Sunday in Philadelphia. There may be as much spectacle off the field as on. One cynical entrepreneur is peddling “Vick” jerseys for dogs. An animal rescue group offered dog food donations for each tackling of the former all-star.

But the real lesson in the Vick conviction is that dogfighting remains a nationwide scourge. Federal agents busted an eight-state, 400-dog ring in July, arresting 26 alleged practitioners, including a schoolteacher and a Little League coach.

The Humane Society of the United States estimates there are 40,000 organized professionals who, as in Mr. Vick’s interstate ring, illegally breed, match and ruthlessly destroy countless canines for the private entertainment of big-money bettors. “Breed the best, bury the rest” is one cynical comment on the culture. Mr. Vick first denied, then admitted to personally killing a half-dozen wounded losers.

It remains to be seen how effectively the gifted athlete delivers on his probation vow to become a cautionary role model for urban youngsters involved in the booming subculture of street-corner dogfighting. A recent address to Philadelphia youngsters was heavier on bromides about leadership than his culpability for tormenting animals.

The Humane Society has used the Vick case to help toughen anti-cruelty laws in 26 states. And arrests and convictions for dogfighting are up across the nation. But agents of the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also warn that, since Mr. Vick’s notoriety, street dogfighting appears to be more popular among youngsters as “the thing to do.” We hope Mr. Vick will use his second chance to reach out to impressionable youngsters and tell them the truth: There is no honor or glamour in dogfighting, only shame and a jail sentence.

First Annual Brooklyn Bridge 'Pup' Crawl
Excerpted from various sources
September 27, 2009

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- More than 400 dogs -- from chihuahuas to Great Danes -- took to the iconic Brooklyn Bridge under cover of darkness on Saturday, September 26 to raise funds for the 1 million pets that, according to ASPCA estimates, have lost or will lose their homes to foreclosure.

"The down economy has hit animal shelters twice as hard," said Howard Wu, Kennel Supervisor for the Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition (BARC), a non-profit, no-kill animal rescue shelter in New York City and one beneficiary of The Pup Crawl . "There is an increase in the number of animals being abandoned because people can't afford to care for them any longer and, at the same time, we are seeing a sharp decline in donations. We're caring for more animals with fewer funds."

The Brooklyn Bridge Pup Crawl was inspired by a nighttime newscast that alerted some concerned New Yorkers about the devastating impact of the economic crisis on pets.

"Our goal is to help feed as many pets as possible in animal shelters across the country," said Joseph Hassan, one organizer of The Pup Crawl. "Twenty dollars is enough to feed one shelter pet for an entire month. If we get people across the country to realize the staggering number of pets that have lost their homes and the increased financial burden that this places on shelters, we might just tug at their heartstrings enough to get them to donate to their own local shelters," Hassan said.

To get the event rolling, the 29-year-old communications consultant corralled dozens of volunteers to help and reached out to companies that donated products.

Mr. Hassan and his friends reached out to sympathetic businesses like Iams to provide pet food. Another partner, The LuLu Leash , donated the first-ever illuminated dog leash to highlight the nighttime dog walk, the cause and to help keep participants safe. And innovative music cooperative East Village Radio offered to start spreading the word over its airwaves.

In addition to the Brooklyn shelter, other official Pup Crawl partner shelters included Get-A-Life Pet Rescue in Fort Lauderdale and Ace of Hearts in Los Angeles, making the effort a true coast-to-coast initiative. Organizers encouraged Americans to donate to local shelters across the country.

Despite having no dog - his landlord doesn't allow pets - Hassan's Williamsburg apartment resembles a dog food factory, piled high with hundreds of pounds of kibble generously donated by IAMS .

Lulu Leash, a Florida -based company, donated the illuminated dog leashes that will be distributed to every dog registered for the event.

Proceeds from the event will be donated to local and national animal shelters in Florida and California .
"If, months down the line, we hear that one pup or kitten -- we love cats, too -- has been reunited with a family that gave them up because of the financial crisis, we'll have done our job," said Mr. Hassan.

For more on The Pup Crawl and to find a partner shelter to which to donate visit www.thepupcrawl.com
The fall season is chock-full of fun events to help raise funds for needy animals, including dozens of adoption events around the city.

Here's a sampling:

• On Thursday, October 1, gamble alongside celebrities including Chuck Scarborough and Q104.3 deejay Maria Milito at the Bet for Pets Casino night at Marquee in Chelsea. Organizers hope to raise $20,000 to help fund the city's first low-cost "M.A.S.H.-style" spay/neuter clinics. www.ua4a.org .

• Sunday, Oct. 4, Stray from the Heart hosts its Oktoberfest at the Boat Basin Cafe at W.79th St. from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Proceeds fund its rescue effort, which includes pit bulls and other hard-to-place dogs. www.strayfromtheheart.org .

• Oct. 10 to Oct. 18 marks the first New York Week for Animals. Throughout the week, shelters, rescue groups and humane organizations across the state will host animal-related events. To get involved, go to www.newyorkanimals.org .

Photo by José Martínez for The New York Times:
A Pomeranian named Amelie on a leash lighted with LEDs
in a practice crawl over the Brooklyn Bridge.

Urbanhound, After 10 Years, Shuts Down
September 25, 2009

A decade is a long time in dog years, and in Web years, too.

And so, on Wednesday, Urbanhound, a site conceived as “the city dog’s ultimate survival guide” at the peak of the dot-com frenzy, announced that it had run its course after 10 years and was shutting down, surprising thousands of New Yorkers who depended on its advice and considered it a permanent fixture within the city’s zealous dog culture.

Nina Munk (below), the site’s creator and editor, said that Urbanhound never generated enough revenue to justify itself as a stand-alone Web site.

“We always ran on a shoestring,” said Ms. Munk, whose sister, Cheyne Munk Beys, was her partner in the business they ran out of a studio apartment. “It was a labor of love.”

Ms. Munk, a business journalist and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, said that Urbanhound, seeking a partner to bolster the site’s national expansion, had attracted and lost three potential buyers shortly before the economic crisis began last fall.

“When the third deal fell through and the recession hit, we had to dramatically cut back on every expense,” she said. “Unfortunately, with the Internet, there is still a divide between providing something people really want and discovering the secret to monetizing it.”

An e-mail message from Ms. Munk informed 25,000 subscribers on Wednesday afternoon that Urbanhound had closed. By then, the site’s content was already inaccessible, and a note thanking its “large and loyal community” had been posted.

Urbanhound offered a curated compendium for dog owners that reflected Ms. Munk’s journalistic background and passion for animals.

On the last day of Urbanhound, reflecting on the many ways the New York dog landscape has evolved since she started the site, Ms. Munk said that even though dogs had increasingly become a kind of fetishized luxury item, her goal was always to provide high-quality information and to avoid an air of rhinestone-collar, designer-breed consumerism.

“In the end, it wasn’t enough,” she said.



Dear Urbanhounders,

Ten years after launching Urbanhound from our living room, we're folding our tent and moving on. Urbanhound always operated on a shoestring; but thanks to your support we had far more impact on dogs and their humans than our budget might have suggested.

From the get-go, the media was unanimous in its praise of Urbanhound. Entertainment Weekly named us "Best in Show." The Wall Street Journal said we were "wry" and "cool." Forbes, which added us to its "Best of the Web" list, said we were "sophisticated and sassy." Our start-up was the subject of an article in the New York Times Magazine . We were featured on Life/Style TV .   David Carr wrote about our expansion in his New York Times' column. Cindy Adams was a devoted fan.

Over the years, to reach an audience beyond the Internet, we published two spin-off books: " The Complete Healthy Dog HandBook " (2009) and " Urbanhound: The New York City Dog's Ultimate Survival Guide " (2002).

But our greatest accomplishment was building a large and loyal community of dog people all across the United States. You posted photos of your dogs on urbanhound.com, subscribed to our newsletters, contributed to our message boards, bought our books, and otherwise helped keep us afloat. Thank you!

When Urbanhound began, our mascot, the handsome Brittany named Mack, was a puppy. In the years since, he has aged gracefully. We like to think we have too.

With best wishes to you and to your best friends, yours,

Nina Munk & Cheyne Munk Beys


Photo of Nina Munk by Mark Shäfer

Sad. One less good thing in New York City.

NYC Must Create More Animal Shelters
September 24, 2009

The ASPCA applauds a decision by the New York State Supreme Court to uphold a 2000 law mandating the existence of full-service animal shelters in all five New York City boroughs. In last week’s ruling, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Shafer gave the City 60 days to come up with a plan to implement the law (pdf) which will ultimately allow for more animals to be adopted and fewer to be euthanized.

While the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island are each outfitted with New York City Animal Care and Control shelters, the Bronx and Queens have only part-time animal receiving centers. Animals in these two boroughs are routinely sent to Manhattan and Brooklyn, where shelters quickly reach capacity, resulting in the euthanasia of healthy pets. Although funds were allocated for a full-service shelter in each borough, the City has not yet taken steps to purchase sites in the Bronx and Queens.

“Each New York City borough, by law, was required to have a full-service animal shelter by July 1, 2006,” states Michelle Villagomez, ASPCA Senior Manager of Advocacy & Campaigns. "The ASPCA has been urging New York City for years to fulfill its mandate and provide the people and animals of Queens and the Bronx with these shelters."

In January 2009, the nonprofit group Stray from the Heart sued the City, reasoning that its failure to set up animal shelters in the Bronx and Queens resulted in the “needless suffering and death of homeless cats and dogs." In its lawsuit, the group charged: “Homeless dogs have been dying in unconscionable numbers because the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has not provided the shelter space required by statute.”

Notes Villagomez, “Not only are healthy, innocent animals being euthanized before getting a chance at adoption, but residents of these boroughs are tax-paying New Yorkers and deserve the same services that residents in the other three boroughs receive.”

The City of New York plans to appeal the court's decision.

How You Can Help

The impact of the shelter shortage is felt city-wide—even in the three boroughs that currently have shelters. Please phone your representative on the New York City Council and urge him or her to support the establishment of full-service animal shelters in all five boroughs.

Click Find out who your councilmember is.

How to sculpt a special Halloween pumpkin
By Terri Hardin

September 24, 2009

When Halloween rolls around, you don’t have to be an artist— or even think you’re particularly creative—to feel the pull of the pumpkin. The pumpkin reminds us of our childhood, of times when the whole family gave it their best shot. We knew that if our pumpkins weren’t perfect, they would rot and that would be the end of the embarrassment. And this is true today, my friends. Pumpkins still rot. So take a chance!

Last year, I sculpted some puppy pumpkins and sent the photos to the editor. Which is how I came to be invited write this piece. Even if you believe you’re not an artist, I encourage you to try this. Why? Because Bark and its readers inspired me to start pumpkin carving in the first place.

My technique involves removing the skin and sculpting the meat of the pumpkin, varying the wall thickness to create the design. When you punch through to the cavity of the pumpkin, you have a dark pumpkin with a flaming hot yellow color inside when it is lit. But if you don’t cut all the way through, you can create many layers of color.

on images for instructions

the BARk Goes Digital
September 24, 2009

Bark’s new digital edition looks and feels like the “real” Bark print magazine, but with more bells and whistles—all the links are live, so a mouse click takes you directly to a website or launches a video. It provides instant access to helpful information and resources, and makes Bark into a multimedia experience. It’s easy to turn the pages (from bottom right corner), and zooming in and out is a cinch too!

The digital edition is absolutely free to you — as a Bark subscriber. Subscribers to the magazine edition will receive both the print and digital versions.

Click on image to access thebark.com

$40,000 Dog Custody Dispute
September 23, 2009

WOODBURY, NJ - When a couple splits, what happens to the Pooch?

A New Jersey Judge settled the question Monday. Eric Dare and DoreenHosemen are to share the Pug Dexter (right).

Judge Ronald tomasello said the arrangement would last until 6-year-old Dexter "goes to the Great Kennel in the Sky."

Large Dogs in Public Housing Are Now Endangered Species

September 23, 2009

Tyson was a tough-looking, head-turning dog — a 60-pound, year-old Staffordshire bull terrier with a silver-gray coat and blue eyes. But the only thing tough about him was his name, his owner said.

Tyson followed commands, never bit anyone and liked to put his paws on people’s heads to play with their hair. “He was a big baby,” said his owner, Marc Hernandez, 20, who had had Tyson since he was a puppy of 7 weeks. Yet one day in May, Mr. Hernandez, a student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice , took Tyson to an East Harlem animal shelter, where he reluctantly and tearfully surrendered him. The problem was not Tyson’s behavior, but his home: Mr. Hernandez lives in one of New York City’s public housing projects, where a ban on pit bulls and other large dogs went into effect May 1.

The ban , one of the strictest for any public housing authority in the country, prohibits residents from keeping pure-bred or mixed-breed pit bulls, Rottweilers and Doberman pinschers, as well as any dog, with the exception of service dogs, expected to weigh more than 25 pounds when grown. It has divided tenants and outraged animal welfare groups.

For the New York City Housing Authority , keeping track of the pets in 178,000 apartments has been a challenge. But the way the agency announced the policy and the way it has enforced it has confused and angered many.

Under the 14-page policy, residents who already owned dogs on the outlawed list could keep them if they were registered by May 1, but many tenants failed to do so and were forced, like Mr. Hernandez, to choose between keeping their dogs or their apartments.

Since April, the owners of at least 113 dogs have given them up, citing the ban, to shelters and centers run by Animal Care and Control of New York City , the nonprofit group that has a contract with the city to take in unwanted animals. Of the 113 dogs, 49 have been euthanized, because of illness, behavior or a lack of space. Fifty-nine were adopted by individuals or taken by rescue groups, two remain in shelters and three were reclaimed by their owners. The statistics were supplied by the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals , a coalition of animal rescue groups and shelters that examined shelter intake records.

The Mayor’s Alliance, which is not affiliated with the mayor’s office, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have asked the Housing Authority to stop enforcing the ban. The groups found that many of the dogs turned in were described as well behaved by shelter workers.

“You can’t predict what a dog is going to be like just simply based on its breed,” said Jane Hoffman, president of the Mayor’s Alliance. “I don’t want a dangerous dog out there. But doing it this way is wrong and it’s condemning perfectly innocent dogs to death.”

City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez of Manhattan, the chairwoman of the Council’s Subcommittee on Public Housing, has also called for a re-examination of the policy. She said one resident with a 28-pound poodle told her that she planned not to feed the dog until it was under the 25-pound limit.

A spokesman for the Housing Authority, Howard Marder, said the new rules were a response to complaints and reports of dangerous and threatening dogs from tenants, tenant leaders and the police. The three breeds on the forbidden list had been identified as “the most frequent problem breed s,” Mr. Marder said.

There have been several attacks by pit bulls in public housing buildings in recent years. A 12-year-old girl was mauled by two pit bulls in Brooklyn in 1997, and there have been more than 17 dog attacks since 2007 in which people were hurt or other pets were killed or maimed.

Mr. Marder said that the Housing Authority had discussed the issue with animal welfare groups, but that he was not aware of any plans to ease the restrictions. “We made these changes based on the realities of what we hear from residents living in public housing, about how difficult their lives are because of being threatened or attacked by these animals,” he said.

Victor A. Gonzalez, 60, tenant association president at Rabbi Stephen Wise Towers on the Upper West Side, said he knew of about 16 pit bulls there. “The elderly are fearful,” he said. “They’re afraid to get on the elevators with these dogs, much less be in the lobby when they get in.”

As of July 31, there were 4,792 dogs registered with the authority. So far, no one has been evicted for having an unauthorized dog, but the authority has pursued 41 termination-of-tenancy cases against residents for violating the pet policy. Nine cases have been resolved, Mr. Marder said: Some were withdrawn at the housing manager’s request and one tenant gave a dog to a friend. The 32 others are pending.

The agency announced the rules by publishing a notice in the April issue of its monthly newspaper. But that notice listed 27 prohibited breeds, including the Shar-Pei, the cane corso and the dogo Argentino . Mr. Marder said the agency had tried to identify breeds that exceed 25 pounds when grown, but realized that the long list was “impractical” and cut it to three.

Tenants have received verbal and written warnings about their dogs from housing managers. An employee instruction guide on using the agency’s computerized program of pet tracking is 37 pages long, and maintenance workers who go into apartments to make repairs make a note of any pets in the household, Mr. Marder said.

Mr. Hernandez, who lives with his mother at Mariana Bracetti Plaza in the East Village, took Tyson into the management office the day before the ban started, but Tyson could not be registered because he also exceeded the previous weight limit , infrequently enforced, of 40 pounds. Mr. Hernandez said he feared that he and his mother would be evicted if he kept Tyson. “I got scared, so of course I’m going to do it,” he said. Mr. Hernandez later learned that Tyson had been adopted.

Kanielle Hernandez, 23, who lives in the same building as Mr. Hernandez but is not related to him, refused to give up Denim (right), her 60-pound blue-nosed pit bull, after he was refused registration because of his weight. She said she walked Denim when housing managers were not around, as if harboring a fugitive. “I’m still cautious,” she said. “I get scared if I see a manager.”


Photo: Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Tax Break for Pet Care Costs

September 23, 2009

Introduced by Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (left), H.R. 3501—known as the Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years (“HAPPY”) Act—is a federal bill that would reward responsible pet parents by allowing them to keep more money in their pockets come tax time.

We all want to give our animal companions the best care we possibly can, but it seems that pet care costs are always on the rise—and these days, it’s harder than ever to stretch the family budget. That’s why the ASPCA supports H.R. 3501, which would amend U.S. tax code to allow qualifying pet care expenses, including veterinary care, to be tax-deductible.

This means that when you prepare your income taxes, money you spent on pet care that year would count as non-taxable income—and you can deduct up to $3,500 per year!

Help us support the HAPPY Act, H.R. 3501.

What You Can Do

Visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center online to send an email to your U.S. representative and urge him or her to support and cosponsor the HAPPY Act, H.R. 3501

Tie to Pets Has Germ Jumping to and Fro
September 21, 2009

For decades, the drug-resistant germ called MRSA was almost exclusively a concern of humans, usually in hospitals and other health care settings.

But in recent years, the germ has become a growing problem for veterinarians, with an increasing number of infections turning up in birds, cats, dogs, horses, pigs, rabbits and rodents. And that, infectious-disease experts say, is becoming a hazard to humans who own or spend time with these animals.

“What’s happened for the first time that we’ve noticed is that you’re getting flip back and forth,” said Scott Shaw, head of the infection control committee at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University .

It is unknown how often pets play a role in human infections by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and vice versa; physicians and veterinarians do not routinely trace such infections to their source. When such scientific sleuthing is conducted, however — usually in the case of multiple or recurring infections — the results suggest a strong link.

In 2008, for example, an elephant calf and 20 of its caretakers at the San Diego Zoo contracted MRSA skin infections. An investigation by the zoo and state health officials determined that the calf, which was eventually euthanized, had probably been infected by a keeper who unknowingly carried the bacteria. (The case was reported in The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.)

Still, experts are not recommending routine testing of pets and their humans. Instead, they call for the same kinds of precautions that apply to other pathogens, especially frequent washing or sanitizing of hands before and after playing with a pet.

The first cases of MRSA in pets, about five years ago, appeared to be in therapy dogs and other animals exposed to patients or health care workers. Those animals are still thought to be at greatest risk, but the pattern might be changing.

In a study this summer in The American Journal of Infection Control , Elizabeth A. Scott and her colleagues at the Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community at Simmons College in Boston swabbed household surfaces like kitchen and bathtub drains, faucet handles, toilets, high chairs, trash cans and kitchen sponges at 35 randomly selected addresses to see what germs they would find.

They found MRSA in nearly half of the homes they sampled.

When they tried to figure out what might make it more likely to have the bacteria at home, they ruled out many supposed risk factors, including working out at a gym, having children who attended day care, having a recent infection or recent antibiotic use, and even working in a health care facility. The one variable that overwhelmingly predicted the presence of the germ was the presence of a cat. Cat owners were eight times more likely than others to have MRSA at home. “There are a number of papers coming out now showing that pets pick up MRSA from us,” Dr. Scott said, “and that they shed it back into the environment again.”

Dr. Scott’s next study will screen patients scheduled for elective surgeries. When she finds MRSA, she will also test their pets to determine how common that transmission might be.

“This is a burgeoning epidemic,” said Dr. Richard L. Oehler, an infectious disease specialist at the University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa, who reviewed case reports of MRSA’s jumping between people and animals. Dr. Oehler’s paper appeared in July in The Lancet. Dr. Oehler recounted the case of a diabetic man with recurrent MRSA skin infections that were eventually traced to his dog, a Dalmatian who carried the bacteria but was not ill.

“He would sleep with the couple in the bed and lick them in the face,” said Dr. Farrin A. Manian, chief of infectious diseases at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center in St. Louis. Dr. Manian believes the dog was infected by its owner, but then served as a reservoir for the bacteria, reinfecting his patient. “Only after we treated all three members of the family were we able to get rid of the infections,” Dr. Manian said.

Then there was the case of the 15-year-old girl and her calico cat; both developed MRSA infections. DNA fingerprinting confirmed that the bacteria in wounds on the girl’s arm and near the cat’s tail were the same.

J. Scott Weese, a veterinary internist and microbiologist at the University of Guelph in Ontario, believes MRSA infections transmitted between people and animals are relatively rare.
His tests of randomly selected dogs, for example, have shown that at any given time only 2 to 3 percent carry MRSA on their fur or skin or in their saliva. And even if a pet becomes colonized, meaning that the bacteria take up residence and reproduce, veterinarians say most healthy animals should be rid of it in a matter of weeks.

For protection, Dr. Oehler recommends hand washing or using hand gels before and after playing with a pet, not letting a pet lick people around the face, and not washing pet food or water bowls in the same sink that food is prepared. People should also wear gloves when attending to pets that have open wounds, he said, and should keep any of their own broken skin bandaged. And Dr. Oehler advised owners to be more attentive to their pets’ health in general. “In many of these cases, there was a lack of awareness that the animal was ill,” he said. “If a pet has a wound, they need that evaluated.”

Dr. Weese, who estimated that relatively few animals were infected, nevertheless agreed that attentiveness was in order. “In the grand scheme of things with MRSA, pets are a pretty minor thing,” he said. “But when you consider how many MRSA infections are occurring in North America at the moment, if they’re a minor component of a major disease, that’s still something we need to be aware of.”

And pets may pose a particular hazard because their relationships with people can be very close.

“If you think about the individuals with whom you have the closest contact in terms of duration, intensity, intimacy, in most people, it’s going to be the spouse, then small children, then pets,” Dr. Weese said. “For some people, pets are No. 1 on the list.”

Photo: Alex di Suvero
INFECTION Don Graff of Belle Mead, N.J., with his English setter, Sunny. The dog contracted MRSA after a spider bite but was given medication and has improved.

Cindy Adams
September 20, 2009

So this guy, in the pet food aisle of the supermarket, says: "My little dog cost me $2800. I paud $1800 for him, and just a few months after I got him he ate 15 cents. I had to rush him to the vet and the surgery cost me $1000. Besides that, the vet kept the 15 cents."

Motive in Yale Slaying May Never Be Explained
September 18, 2009

The biggest break in the case came from a German shepherd named Max handled by State Trooper Nick Leary, according to a law enforcement official.

Max, who is trained in body recognition, was first sent to search through mounds of garbage that had been sent out for incineration from the lab. On Sunday he was taken to the basement of the lab building, where he picked up Ms. Le’s scent.

Alison Leigh Cowan contributed reporting from Stamford, Conn., and Javier C. Hernandez from New York City.

Click on image for full artcle

A Free Speech Battle Arises From Videos of Fighting Dogs
September 18, 2009

WASHINGTON — The next great First Amendment battle in the Supreme Court concerns, of all things, dogfight videos.

The ones at issue in the case are old and grainy, and they feature commentary from the defendant, Robert J. Stevens (left), an author and small-time film producer. Mr. Stevens calls himself an educator, and his subject is the history and status of pit bulls.

“For centuries,” Mr. Stevens exclaimed on one videotape, “the American pit bull terrier has reigned supreme as the gladiator of the pit!”

Mr. Stevens, 69, had nothing to do with the dogfights themselves. But he did compile and sell tapes showing them, and that was enough to earn him a 37-month sentence under a 1999 federal law that bans trafficking in “depictions of animal cruelty.”

The Supreme Court will hear his case, which has divided animal rights groups and free-speech advocates, on Oct. 6. The central issue is whether the court should for the first time in a generation designate a category of expression as so vile that it deserves no protection under the First Amendment. The last time the court did that was in 1982; the subject was child pornography.

Dogfighting and other forms of cruelty to animals are illegal in all 50 states. The 1999 law was aimed solely at depictions of such conduct. A federal appeals court last year struck down the law on First Amendment grounds and overturned Mr. Stevens’s conviction.

The law has an odd history. It was enacted in large part to address what a House report called “a very specific sexual fetish.” There are people, it seems, who enjoy watching videos of small animals being crushed. “Much of the material featured women inflicting the torture with their bare feet or while wearing high-heeled shoes,” according to the report. “In some video depictions, the woman’s voice can be heard talking to the animals in a kind of dominatrix patter.”

When President Bill Clinton signed the bill, he expressed reservations prompted by the First Amendment and instructed the Justice Department to limit prosecutions to “wanton cruelty to animals designed to appeal to a prurient interest in sex.” But the Justice Department in the Bush administration pursued at least three prosecutions for the sale of dogfighting videos.

There is little dispute that crush videos are profoundly disturbing. The two dogfighting videos Mr. Stevens was prosecuted for selling present a harder question.

There was conflicting testimony at Mr. Stevens’s trial about the nature and social worth of the videos. Defense experts said the films had educational and historical value, noting that much of the footage came from Japan, where dogfighting is legal. A veterinarian who testified for the prosecution disputed that and said the videos depicted terrible suffering, including scenes of dogs that were “bitten, ripped and torn” and “screaming in pain.”

There is certainly biting in the dogfighting videos, but the fights are not bloody. In their Supreme Court brief, Mr. Stevens’s lawyers denied that any of the dogs in the videos were “ripped and torn,” and they counted “at most, 25 seconds containing yelps” in the more than two hours of footage on the tapes.

The third video at issue in the case, “Catch Dogs and Country Living,” shows pit bulls being trained to attack hogs and then hunting wild boar. The encounters are gory and brutal. Mr. Stevens participated in the hunting and filmed parts of the third video, which bears some resemblance to nature documentaries.

The law applies to audio and video recordings of “conduct in which a living animal is intentionally maimed, mutilated, tortured, wounded or killed.” It does not matter whether the conduct was legal when and where it occurred so long as it would have been illegal where the recording was sold. That means it may be a crime for an American to sell a video of a bullfight that took place in Spain, where bullfighting is legal. And because all hunting is illegal in Washington, a literal reading of the statute would make the sale of hunting videos illegal here. The law contains an exception for materials with “serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical or artistic value.” That exception may well protect journalism, scholarship and animal rights advocacy about subjects like factory farming, pharmaceutical testing, circuses and the slaughter of baby seals. But the determination of whether particular materials have “serious value” is, in the first instance at least, made by prosecutors.

News organizations, including The New York Times, filed a brief supporting Mr. Stevens. The 1999 law, the brief said, “imperils the media’s ability to report on issues related to animals.”

In a brief supporting the government, the Humane Society of the United States said that “gruesome depictions of animal mutilation targeted” by the law “simply do not merit the dignity of full First Amendment protection.”

When federal agents raided Mr. Stevens’s home in rural Virginia in 2003, he had no idea, his lawyers and family say, that he was breaking the law. But there are hints in the videotapes that Mr. Stevens at least knew that people participating in dogfighting in the United States were doing something illegal.

“Because I’m not going to show any participants or spectators, I have to cut a lot of it,” Mr. Stevens, who has a folksy manner and looks a little like the actor Bill Murray, said on one of the videos. “I only show certain action clips I think you’ll enjoy.” Mr. Stevens did not try to hide the identities of those involved in the Japanese dogfights or in the video of dogs attacking hogs.

There is a crucial difference, Mr. Stevens’s lawyers told the Supreme Court, between illegal conduct and depictions of that conduct. “While acts of animal cruelty have long been outlawed,” the brief for Mr. Stevens said, “there have never been any laws against speech depicting the killing or wounding of animals from the time of the First Amendment’s adoption through the intervening two centuries.”

State and local governments occasionally try to ban depictions of violence against people, notably in videogames. But those laws are routinely struck down, and the Supreme Court has never ruled that speech about nonsexual violence is beyond the protection of the First Amendment.

Mr. Stevens’s sentence was 14 months longer, the brief noted, than that of Michael Vick, the football star who actually participated in a dogfighting venture.

Through his lawyers, Mr. Stevens declined to be interviewed. He has said he never had his own dogs participate in dogfights.

Mr. Stevens’s son, Michael, said his father was guilty of nothing more than a longtime fascination with the affection, loyalty and passion of pit bulls. “You couldn’t treat a dog any better,” the younger Mr. Stevens said, “than my father treats pit bull dogs.”

Dog poop for sale
Fertile minds devise doo-doo compost plan
September 18, 2009

Some upstate dog owners think they have a can-doo plan to profitably compost the billions of pounds of pooch poop produced yearly in the United States.

If their pilot project in Ithaca is successful, the Tompkins County Dog Owners Group and Cayuga Compost hope to market usable compost within the next two or three years.

Finding a use could also lead to a significant reduction in the amount of waste material sent to landfills, said Leon Kochian, a spokesman for TC DOG, the not-for-profit volunteer group involved in funding the project.

"There was a large Dumpster at the park, and it was just always overflowing with plastic bags of dog poop. The amount was unbelievable," said Kochian, a Cornell University biology professor who owns a yellow Labrador retriever. "Ithaca has a reputation as a green community . . . It made sense to us to find a way to compost and spare the landfill from all the plastic bags."

Dog and cat waste contain parasites and pathogens that make them unsuitable as compost for vegetable gardens and topsoil and can run off into waterways and diminish water quality, said Cary Oshins, an assistant program director for the US Composting Council. Composted pet waste can be used for deep-fill or other purposes.

There are any number of small-scale backyard pet-waste composters and converters available on the market, but Oshins said he had not heard of any place in the country composting pet waste on such a grand scale.

"It actually makes sense to do it on a larger scale. The larger the facility, the more control," he said. "Anything that gets waste out of a landfill is a good thing."

There are 73 million pet dogs in the United States. The average dog produces about 274 pounds of waste a year, which means total dog waste in the United States is more than 20 billion pounds.

A handful of dog parks in the country provides on-site composting receptacles but none has tried moving it off site to a large-scale composting facility in a commercial venture, according to DogParkUSA.com, a national dog-park Web site. But large-scale composting has worked at the Parc Notre Dame de Grace in Montreal, Canada, where municipal officials have been composting dog waste since 2004 and annually divert about a ton of dog waste and 7,000 plastic bags from landfills.

Kochian estimated Cayuga Compost has been collecting about 1,000 pounds of poop monthly from the nearly five-acre Ithaca Dog Park.

Barbra adds dog prize

Richard Johnson
September 18, 2009

Barbra Streisand declared a second winner in her "cute pet competition" after Page Six revealed it was originally won by the diva's breeder. Fur flew after the contest (to win two tickets to Streisand's Sept. 26 Village Vanguard show) was won by Dina , a dog owned by the star's friend, Mari lyn Smart.

After we asked Streisand's people about a possible fix, Streisand announced a new winner yesterday -- but refused to strip Dina of the title.

Streisand wrote on her Web site, "We've got an additional winner in our Sammie Strei sand's Cutest Pet Photo Contest! Dina, our first stellar and adorable winner, will share her winning sta tus with Punks ," a Chihuahua. Streisand had claimed the first choice had been made by record executives, not her.

One fan wrote, "Thank you to The Post for getting this one right."


Barbra in pooch-gate
Richard Johnson
September 17, 2009

Fuming Barbra Streisand fans claim she rigged a "cute pet competition" so one of her friends could win priceless tickets to her upcoming Village Vanguard show. But after Page Six started looking into the scandal, the contest results were nullified, and a new winner will be selected.

The contest was won Monday by Dina , a Coton de Tulear owned by Streisand's friend Marilyn Smart -- the breeder of the diva's equally fluffy, white dog, Sammie .

Streisand's intimate Sept. 26 show for just 123 fans is the hottest ticket in town because it's the first time she's performed in a jazz club since 1961.

Smart boasted on her blog on Tuesday how Dina was "the proud winner" and how she "was awarded round-trip airfare for two, hotel accommodations, and two tickets to attend Barbra Streisand's concert."
The superstar's Web site and Facebook page were soon deluged with complaints from furious fans desperate for a ticket. One, Theresa , fumed on Facebook, "It was nothing but a scam!"

Smart told Page Six yesterday, "I have nothing to say to you," before slamming down the phone.

"Barbra does know Marilyn Smart," her publicist, Dick Guttman , said. "Barbra did not participate in the selection because she has been away on a boat in Europe. She knows nothing about this. This was an inappropriate selection and arrangements are being made to rectify the situation. The tickets will be given to the next runner-up," Guttman said.

A spokesman from Columbia Records added, "This is a complete accident which I cannot quite believe happened.

"We had no idea that the winner was Sammy's breeder until it was pointed out to us by fans. Barbra had absolutely nothing to do with this." May the best dog win.

Dog dies in Bronx home invasion

September 18, 2009

A pitbull who ran after its owners during a home invasion in the Bronx accidentally hanged itself early today after jumping out a second-story in an effort to escape three armed men, police said.

Cops said that three men barged into an apartment on Cauldwell Avenue in the Morrisannia section at 6:50 a.m., scaring the two men and three pitbulls that were inside the apartment.

Spooked by the invasion, the two men who live inside the apartment jumped out the window, police said.

One of the dogs, a pitbull that was chained inside the apartment, ran after its owners, police said. Not knowing it was tied down, the dog hanged itself and was found dangling by police on the building's exterior as the two men hit the ground.

The men, who were not immediately identified by police, suffered cuts and bruises. The three attackers fled without taking anything, police said

ASPCA Locates Dog Attacker Through Facebook

September 17, 2009

Last Friday, September 11, ASPCA Special Agent Paul Lai arrested New Yorker Donnell Walters for allegedly beating his boyfriend’s dog, a 41⁄2-pound Yorkshire Terrier named Lucy. Lucy’s owner alleges that in late July, a verbal dispute triggered Walters, 22, to assault the tiny canine. He is accused of repeatedly slamming or dropping Lucy to the ground, shattering one of her legs.

When ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement (HLE) began its investigation, Agent Lai had trouble finding Walters. He cleverly used a variety of tools, including Facebook, the popular social networking website, to locate the suspect. Friday’s arrest was made at Walters’ Manhattan workplace; he has been charged with one count of aggravated animal cruelty, which carries a penalty of up to two years in jail.

"Lucy was the innocent victim of a domestic dispute,” says Stacy Wolf, ASPCA HLE Vice President & Chief Legal Counsel. “As unfortunate as these kinds of incidents are, it is good to know that the criminal justice system is treating them with the seriousness that these crimes deserve."

After the incident, Lucy’s owner phoned the ASPCA to report the dog’s injuries. He then brought her to the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital, where her broken leg was operated on and repaired using screws and a metal plate. Lucy was returned to her owner and is recovering well from her ordeal.

If you know of an animal who is being hurt, please report it—those who intentionally hurt animals may move on to abuse the people in their lives. To report animal cruelty in New York City, call the ASPCA’s tip line at (877) THE-ASPCA.

Visit the ASPCA's Report Cruelty FAQ to learn how to report cruelty elsewhere.

No Kill in San Francisco: Saving Bay Area Pets
by Sandy Miller
September 16, 2009

San Francisco is close to becoming the first large no-kill city in the United States. But there is still much work left to be done to get to that point. Three members of the city’s Commission of Animal Control and Welfare recently presented what they call “One Possible Road Map to No Kill in San Francisco.” Though most agree their plan contains some good ideas, many say it’s still lacking some key components.

When the commission began exploring the idea of making the city by the bay a no-kill community, it sought the advice of a number of animal welfare organizations, including Best Friends Animal Society.

Gregory Castle, Best Friends co-founder and interim chief executive officer, traveled to San Francisco’s City Hall this summer to speak to the commission. “It would be easy for them to become a no-kill community with some commitment,” Castle says. “They have a very high save rate — about 85 percent. There are a lot of people who feel that if they just did a few things right now, they could become the biggest city in the U.S. to become no-kill.”

Castle (left) told the commission there are some key things that must be in place if San Francisco wants to reach the goal of becoming no-kill community. Agencies and organizations, including Animal Care and Control, government agencies, the San Francisco SPCA, veterinarians, rescues, and other no-kill organizations — must form a coalition and work together toward the same goal. And one of those organizations must be willing to step up and take leadership of the group effort, providing coordination, motivation and direction, Castle says. He says the coalition must tap all available resources, and that there is money available from foundations such as Maddie’s Fund that is currently not being used to save lives in the San Francisco community. And if San Francisco and other cities across the nation are ever to reach the goal of No More Homeless Pets, they must keep those pets from entering shelters in the first place, Castle says. That means having programs that help animals with behavioral and medical issues so they can stay in their homes or find new ones. It also means having programs that address the most commonly euthanized animals in shelters — pit bulls and feral cats. “Pit Bulls: Saving America’s Dog” and “Focus on Felines” are two of four Best Friends campaigns aimed at reaching the goal of No More Homeless Pets. Read more about the campaigns here .

Where to go from here
After spending months hearing testimony from Castle and other animal welfare advocates, commission chairwoman Sally Stephens and commissioners Angela Padilla and Andrea Brooks put together “One Possible Road Map to No Kill in San Francisco.” The plan does indeed incorporate some of the advice from Castle and others, such as creating a coalition. Among other things, it would offer free or low-cost dog training classes and would develop a fund to pay for medical and behavioral treatment of animals at Animal Care and Control. It would create a halfway house for shelter animals to stay until foster homes could be found for them. It would provide education and outreach to help end the horrible blood sport of dogfighting, and it states that landlords can’t refuse to rent to pit bull guardians. In addition, it would make trap/neuter/return (TNR) an official city policy. But many, including Castle, say the plan doesn’t go nearly far enough. Castle says the policy should be a mandate and not just a resolution. He says Animal Care and Control should be mandated to run TNR programs, and that the city should also mandate programs that address pit bulls, feral cats and animals who enter shelters sick or in need of rehabilitation.

FixSanFrancisco.org, a group made up of local animal welfare advocates and organizations, agrees.

“We believe that legislation is absolutely necessary to accomplish no kill in San Francisco,” wrote Kathleen McGarr in a letter to commissioners on behalf of the group. “No kill legislation in San Francisco is a tangible goal within our reach. It is time to ensure that all savable animals in San Francisco have a secure future.” Stephens says the road map is by no means a final document. She and the other commissioners drafted it simply to get the discussion going. She says she’s not sure whether the final plan should be a mandate.

“If it is mandated, the city is saying you have to do this,” Stephens says. “If you don’t have programs in place to support it, it becomes an empty mandate. How do you enforce it? If they don’t meet the mandate, do you fine them? The money spent on fines could be going to the animals. If there was better coordination between these groups, no-kill would happen whether there’s a mandate or not.”
Pit Bulls: Saving America’s Dog

The importance of working together
Getting all of San Francisco’s local organizations to work together and coordinate their efforts could prove to be a challenge. For a long time, the San Francisco SPCA, which is celebrating its 141st anniversary this year, was considered the model for how to do things right. The organization worked closely with animal care and control to help raise the city’s save rate to the impressive 85 percent it is today. It built a brand new adoption center and was one of the first organizations to create cage-free environments. But in the last couple years, some have criticized the organization for diluting its lifesaving programs and becoming less committed to no-kill.

One of the biggest criticisms of the SFSPCA is that it brings easily adoptable animals in from outside the community while refusing to take in many of the animals from animal care and control. According to FixSanFrancisco.org, the SFSPCA brought in more than 1,000 animals from outside the city in 2008 alone.

The SFSPCA is bringing in animals that are easy to adopt while “choosing to abandon the older black dog who needs his teeth cleaned,” McGarr says. Only when San Francisco reaches the goal of saving all of its own animals should it reach out to take in animals from other communities, the letter to commissioners said. According to FixSanFrancisco.org, any road map to no-kill must also:

• Establish that San Francisco shelters’ primary role is to save the lives of animals.
• Fully comply with California’s Hayden Law, including the section that requires shelters to transfer animals to rescue groups that are willing to take them.
• Make TNR an official city policy.
• Provide free and/or affordable spay/neuter services for all of the city’s low-income companion animals.
• Establish uniform criteria for determining if an animal is saved or killed.
• Prohibit killing animals based on arbitrary criteria such as breed bans.
• Require shelters to notify people surrendering animals about the possibility of those animals being killed.
• Refuse to kill savable, surrendered animals even when requested by the guardian, unless independent assessment has been made that the animal is irremediably suffering or hopelessly ill or injured.
• Require shelters to regularly report outcomes — how many animals are adopted, killed, transferred to other shelters or taken in by rescue groups — and conduct regular reporting of the outcomes. And, those statistics should be reported monthly rather than annually.
• Require both public and private shelters to have fully functioning adoption programs that include such things as offsite adoptions, use of the Internet and staying open seven days a week with some evening hours.
• Require shelters to involve qualified, trained volunteers in all aspects of animal saving endeavors, including fostering and socializing animals and assisting with adoptions.

Already having an 85 percent save rate, San Francisco is very close to becoming the country’s first large no-kill city. But everyone will need to work together if they’re going to make the final stretch to the finish line. Castle says the community as a whole must believe that the goal of No More Homeless Pets is possible and must be committed to getting there.

“None of it is very difficult,” Castle says. “They need to save an extra 600 animals a year.”

Photo by Molly Wald: Gregory Castle, Best Friends co-founder and interim chief executive officer

Oxygen for pets
Tribune photo by Chuck Berman
September 15, 2009

Bailey, an eight-year-old a beagle-Lab mix, has his snout covered by an oxygen mask in a demonstration in Aurora. The Aurora Fire Department was given nine sets of oxygen masks designed for pet with smoke inhalation from fires. The masks were donated by Invisible Fence of Chicagoland and their use was demonstrated on a couple of pooches at the Central Fire Station.

Jessica Simpson's Dog Snatched by Coyote
Jarett Wieselman

September 15, 2009

Jessica Simpson 's beloved maltipoo Daisy was grabbed by a wild coyote that then vanished with the small dog, the singer wrote via Twitter Monday night.

"My heart is broken because a coyote took my precious Daisy right in front of our eyes. HORROR!".

Simpson, 29, has offered a reward to anyone who can reunite her with her 5-year-old, caramel-colored dog.


Cruel dog-bash in Queens
September 12, 2009

A Queens man was busted yesterday for allegedly taking the tiny Yorkshire terrier he'd given his boyfriend as an engagement gift and smashing her down until he'd shattered her leg, authorities said.

After Donnell Walters, 22, and Omar Koonce, 20, argued outside their Far Rockaway home July 29, Walters grabbed Lucy, 4, "by the neck and started slamming her against the stairwell three times and dropped her to the ground," the heartbroken Koonce told investigators.

The ASPCA said Lucy's leg required pins, plates and a splint to repair.

Walters was charged with felony animal cruelty and criminal mischief.

Most expensive' at $585G

September 11, 2009

A Tibetan mastiff called Yangtze River Number Two is believed to have broken the world record as the most expensive dog, having been sold to a Chinese woman for a reported $585,000.

In keeping with its status the dog — 18 months old and 80cm high — arrived at its new owner’s home in stupendous style. According to local reports, a motorcade of 30 cars cruised to the airport in Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province, to take delivery of Yangtze, and a throng gathered to fête the arrival of the city’s new resident.

If the sales figure is accurate it makes Yangtze River Number Two possibly the most expensive dog ever. This year a family in Florida paid $155,000 (£90,000) for a Labrador called Lancelot Encore — a price that included the cost of cloning him from the original Lancelot.

In the days of Mao Zedong, pet dog ownership was condemned as a bourgeois folly and banned. Now nearly 150,000 dogs are registered in Shanghai alone.

The Tibetan mastiff’s wealthy new owner, a Chinese website said, fell in love with it while on a visit to Qinghai province. The woman, referred to only as Mrs Wang, had been travelling to the town of Yushu with a Tibetan mastiff that she already owned with a view to mating it with the famously pure-blooded hounds of that region. While there, though, she spotted a dog known as White Root and knew immediately that she had to make it hers.

AFP/Getty Images: Yangtze River Number Two

Wolves Aren’t Making It Easy for Idaho Hunters
September 11, 2009

BOISE NATIONAL FOREST, Idaho — Hunting and killing are not the same thing. Even as Idaho has sold more than 14,000 wolf-hunting permits, the first 10 days of the first legal wolf hunt here in decades have yielded only three reported legal kills.

“It’s clear it’s not going to be easy,” said Jon Rachael, the wildlife manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Click on images or full article

Photos: Paul Hosefros for The New York Times
Imaging: Artgrunge


ASPCA Rescues 25 Dogs from Queens Hoarder

September 11, 2009

On August 19, the ASPCA, NYC Animal Care & Control and the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals worked in tandem with local police to rescue 25 dogs from an animal hoarder in Queens, NY. After a carefully planned intervention led by the ASPCA, the hoarder, a man in his mid-50s, voluntarily relinquished the dogs.

While neighbors had long been complaining to each other about the excessive barking and horrible smells coming from the house, it took several years for anyone to contact authorities. Officials were finally tipped off after a neighbor complained to various city agencies about the constant barking, vile stench and the ever-increasing number of animals in the residence.

The dogs—mostly Beagles, Miniature Pinschers and mixes of the two—were living in squalid conditions and suffering from an array of medical conditions including parasites, fleas, overgrown nails and mange. Four of the dogs are pregnant.

"Hoarding situations are complex and depending upon a number of factors, including the mental health status of the hoarder, they may or may not be referred to the criminal justice system," says Allison Cardona, ASPCA Director of Disaster Response. "It is vital that authorities be notified of hoarding situations so that steps can be taken to ensure the protection of the animals. This kind of problem will not go away by itself. It will only get worse. That is why people need to speak up!"

The ASPCA also worked closely with Adult Protective Services because, as in many of these cases, the hoarder himself was in need of medical attention. "Like many psychological conditions, there are probably multiple underlying causes for animal-hoarding behavior. These are not situations that can or should be handled by animal welfare agencies alone," explains Cardona. "The ASPCA will continue to work with Adult Protective Services to monitor this man's behavior. Without intervention and monitoring, the relapse rate for hoarders is 100 percent."

The surrendered dogs are recuperating in several shelters, and ASPCA animal behaviorists are currently working with seven in particular. "These dogs have never been socialized, walked on a leash or run around in a yard," says Cardona. "Their future pet parents will need to be especially caring, patient people, willing go the extra mile."

For more information on animal hoarding, visit ASPCA.org.

Judge Rules Wolf Hunts in Rockies Can Proceed

September 10, 2009

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Four months after the government removed gray wolves from the endangered species list, a federal judge has ruled that the first hunts for them in the contiguous United States in decades can proceed.

In a decision issued late Tuesday, the judge, Donald W. Molloy of the Federal District Court for Montana, denied a request by environmentalists and animal welfare groups that he stop the hunts, in Montana and Idaho.

Judge Molloy said plans by the two states to allow hunters to kill more than 20 percent of the estimated 1,350 wolves there would not cause long-term harm to the species. He said the wolf population could sustain a hunting harvest in excess of 30 percent and still bounce back.

Idaho, which introduced a wolf hunting season on Sept. 1, has a quota allowing as many as 220 wolves to be killed. Montana, whose season begins next Tuesday, has a quota of 75.

While Judge Molloy’s ruling denied an injunction that would have put a halt to this fall’s hunts, it left unresolved the broader fight, brought by the environmentalists in their continuing lawsuit, over whether wolves should be returned to the endangered species list.

The judge did say, however, that the Fish and Wildlife Service appeared to have violated the Endangered Species Act when it carved Wyoming out of its decision to lift protections in May for wolves elsewhere in the Northern Rockies. ‘The service has distinguished a natural population of wolves based on a political line, not the best available science,” he said. “That, by definition, seems arbitrary and capricious.”

That statement suggested that the environmentalists could ultimately prevail in their effort to restore the wolf’s protections.

Doug Honnold, a lawyer who argued the case on behalf of groups opposed to the hunts, offered a mixed reaction to the ruling. “If they violated the Endangered Species Act, then this population eventually is going to have to go back on the list,” Mr. Honnold said. But he also said that he was disappointed that the injunction request had been denied, and that he “took no comfort” in Judge Molloy’s statement that the population could withstand a hunt.

A decision on whether to appeal the ruling could be made by Thursday.

Joshua Winchell, a spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said the ruling confirmed the agency’s assessment that the Northern Rockies’ gray wolves had recovered, at least in terms of sheer numbers. But Mr. Winchell acknowledged that the ruling also raised legal issues that were more far-reaching. “Obviously, we want to make sure we’re doing right by the law, too,” he said, adding that the agency would consult with the Justice Department on the issue.

Image: Two Wolves by Doug Lehnhardt

Smallest dog dies
Petite pooch had short leash on life
September 5, 2009

Scooter, we hardly knew ya.
A 14-ounce Maltese puppy who may have been the smallest dog in the world died this week after a tragic accident.

The 6-month-old New Zealand pooch became seriously ill after jumping from the hands of his owners and breaking his leg, the Kiwi Web site Stuff.co.nz reported.

Although he was placed in a tiny cast, his medication caused stomach ulcers that proved fatal, the site said.

"He was a big part of my life," his owner, Cheryl McKnight told the site.

Though the fluffy white pup was too young to qualify for the official Guinness record for littlest pooch, his owners were planning to get him certified as soon as he turned 1.

Scooter was only 3 inches tall and 7 inches long. He was so tiny that McKnight said she had trouble giving him a proper burial. "There was no box small enough for him," she told the site. "I said 'I'm not going to bury him in that,' so I thought I would put him in the shoe box he lived in. The poor little fella. "I put him in the box with flowers and a little dove picture to take him to."

McKnight told the site that she named the dog Pee Wee at first -- but changed his name to Scooter to avoid an "inferiority complex."

Scooter was among a number of little young dogs who were considered to be a contender to take the tiny title from the current record holder, an American Chihuahua named Heaven Sent Brandy, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Photo: Reuters

Pit bulls find redemption in new homes

2 years after police broke up a massive dogfighting ring, rescuers say many of dogs they campaigned to save are thriving in adoptive homes
By Wendy E. Normandy
September 4, 2009

Guests at Catherine Hedges' home in Chicago are surprised when Holland gives them a high-five.

The 2-year-old dog is playful like that, often frolicking with her other dogs and cats. Hedges describes him as affectionate and sweet, but because he's a pit bull rescued from a dog-fighting ring, some people doubt he can be saved. Holland was one of 39 dogs, most of them pit bulls, Hedges and others helped rescue after a dogfighting ring -- said by Cook County sheriff's officers to be the largest pit bull ring ever uncovered in Illinois -- was broken up in South Holland two years ago.

In normal circumstances, many, if not all, of the dogs likely would have been destroyed, Hedges said. But because of the rescuers, 31 of the dogs -- including Holland -- now have permanent homes. Though the future for some of the others remains uncertain, Hedges said she believes it shows that dogs rescued from an upbringing of violence -- including pit bulls -- can be saved.

Many dogs still carry physical and emotional scars and Hedges admits Holland was "on the borderline" of being able to assimilate into a normal social environment. He had a previously broken jaw and leg and needed extensive dental work.

"When Holland first came to us he was shell-shocked. He didn't even know what toys were for," she said. "Now he runs through the household at high speeds, jumping on furniture, playing with his toys and giving everyone in sight his version of high-fives. "The South Holland case was -- and still is -- important because it was one of the first times anyone gave pit bulls, rescued from a fighting situation, a chance to live in normal homes," said Hedges, founder of the rescue group Don't Bully My Breed. "Even PETA did not think these dogs would be safe to place up for adoption."

The Humane Society of the United States had recommended that pit bulls taken from fighting rings be put down, reasoning that they are beyond rehabilitation. The organization has changed its stance in the last year.

The South Holland raid came just months after a similar one in Virginia that involved Michael Vick. The star quarterback pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges, served time in prison and is working on full reinstatement into the NFL.

More than 50 full- or mixed-breed pit bulls were taken from Vick's Virginia home and those that survived were sent to various shelters, including 22 dogs sent to a ranch in Utah ( Best Friends Animal Society) for medical and social rehabilitation. The court ordered Vick to pay almost $1 million for their care.

Those dogs, too, have shown rehabilitation to be worthwhile, Hedges said.

"After all they went through, only one had to be euthanized and the rest have shown wonderful temperaments, even some becoming certified therapy dogs," she said, mentioning Leo, a 2-year-old male pit bull that was certified and spends a few hours a week visiting chemotherapy patients at cancer wards near his adopted home.

As for the South Holland dogs, two had to be euthanized because of severe medical problems. The rest were kept at area shelters as "evidence" in the case against the homeowner until November 2007 when a judge relinquished them to the rescue groups.

Before they could even be considered for adoption, the dogs had to go through several months of medical treatments and temperament testing because of what they'd been through.

When police raided a small, makeshift barn behind a home on July 13, 2007, investigators found dozens of malnourished dogs kept in small cages without ventilation, covered in their own feces and urine, in temperatures often exceeding 100 degrees. They were only taken out of their cages to be trained as fighters.

The female "breed" dogs were often strapped to stands to keep them from fighting with the males they were forced to mate with. Others were used as bait dogs, thrown into a ring with a fighter for "practice." If the bait dogs lived, they were tossed back into cages with their wounds untreated to await the next "training session."

The homeowner, Kevin Taylor, then 29, was arrested and charged with 75 counts of dog fighting and animal cruelty. His case is pending.

Some of the adopted dogs still show effects of their ordeal, their handlers said. Rosey shows signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, which almost all fighting dogs suffer to some degree, experts said. She's afraid of being left alone, and is fearful of noises, quick movements and yelling or raised voices, said Rich Carbon of Melrose Park, who, with his mother, Flora Ann, adopted Rosey after she spent a year and a half at the Pawsitively Heaven Pet Resort in Chicago Ridge.

Carbon said he gets disapproving looks from many of his neighbors, whom he suspects think Rosey should have been destroyed. "I guess it goes with the breed. It's easier for people to turn the other way with these dogs," he said. That's why Hedges' Chicago-based organization specializes in pit bull rescues and educating the public on the misconceptions about the breed. "When someone hears the word pit bull, they immediately think the dog is going to be an aggressive danger to society," Carbon said. "It seems as though every single event of a dog attack represented in the media is immediately assumed to be a pit bull." Sometimes, he said, it turns out to be a different breed.

"What people need to know is that these dogs don't want to be fighting machines," said Judi Schnur of Chicago Ridge, owner of Pawsitively Heaven Pet Resort. She adopted one dog from the raid and has two up for adoption, Flora and Chula.

"They just want to be shown love and compassion, even after they have lived a life of hell and been brought back into society, like Chula. She shames every single person who participates in this gruesome activity," Schnur said.

Rescued pitbulls find happy hopes
Two years ago 39 pit bulls were saved after a massive dog-fighting ring was uncovered in south suburban South Holland, the largest in state history. Since then 31 of the dogs have been permanently adopted into new homes.

Photos: William DeShazer / Antonio Pérez / Chicago Tribune

PETITION: Alaska's Wolves Need YOUR Help
President, Defenders of Wildlife
September 3, 2009

In the past five years, more than 800 wolves have been brutally slaughtered by Alaska's aerial killing program. Now another season of aerial gunning is underway. But -- with your help -- we can
stop this awful practice!

Take action now to help save these wolves -- sign our petition to urge the Obama Administration to put an end to aerial gunning in Alaska.

Easy targets against fallen snow, wolves are gunned down from airplanes or chased to exhaustion, then shot at point blank range. State-licensed riflemen can target entire packs -- even pregnant

It's not wolf management. It's a wolf massacre.

Please take action now to save these wolves:


Defenders of Wildlife has long led the fight to stop this horrific practice and promote sound management of wolves in Alaska. And with the anti-wolf Bush/Cheney Administration now gone from the White House, we have even more hope to end this awful practice once and for all.

Urge the Obama Administration to enforce the Federal Airborne Hunting Act, the federal law that could put an end to the killing.

Alaska's politicians continue to promote aerial gunning and other extreme measures to kill wolves. In fact, in 2008 Governor Sarah Palin (right) and the state legislature approved spending $400,000 in taxpayer funds to promote the slaughter from the skies and defeat a citizen's initiative to limit aerial gunning. To encourage the killing, Governor Palin even proposed a $150 bounty for the left foreleg of each dead wolf and other measures -- a grisly proposal that Defenders of Wildlife stopped.

Now Palin and her allies are once again working to expand the killing and we need your help to stop them.


Our wolves are a crucial part of the natural heritage that we'll leave our children and grandchildren, and we have a real chance to end this terrible practice.

Please sign our petition right now and help us end aerial gunning in Alaska:

Guns, hunting. The boring occupations of the barbarian mind.”
American academic and writer of historical novels

U.S. Presidential Master Chef adopts a Best Friends Dog!

How cool is that? And we’re betting the dog food at his new home is pretty good, too! Plus, his local doggie park has chutes, slides, ramps, race tracks.
by Ted Brewer
September 3, 2009

There was something about the dog on television that captured Talli Counsel. “The way he was bouncing around, something just hit me, and I knew,” Counsel says.

Rescued by Best Friends from a Los Angeles county shelter, the 5-month-old Chihuahua mix named Popcorn was on the local Fox affiliate’s “Good Day L.A.” program. He was being featured as one of the dogs who would be up for adoption the next day at a Best Friends mobile event in West Hollywood. Counsel was so taken by Popcorn that he and his girlfriend Ingrid Ingram drove 60 miles from their home to meet him.

“I was determined to get him, and I did,” Counsel says.

Popcorn, renamed Henderson by Counsel and Ingram but still called “Pop,” is now living a rather privileged life as the dog of an appointed and commissioned United States Presidential Master Chef.

For two previous administrations and now the current one, Counsel has organized special presidential dinner events that occur outside the White House when the president is traveling. In addition, he organizes the American Presidents Table, a series of fundraising events introducing the fine wine and grand cuisine served at private and state dinners that have been hosted by presidents both former and current. Counsel is now in the midst of planning an American Presidents Table event to benefit the Los Angeles Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to be held late November or early December.

Along with Counsel and Ingram’s other two former shelter dogs, Harrison and Hamilton (hence Popcorn’s name change), Henderson is now living a life many humans dream of having: a life that includes regular lunches at upscale restaurants, dinners prepared by his master chef guardian, and shopping in Beverly Hills with Ingram. Yes, Counsel and Ingram take their guardian role extremely serious, and almost always have one or more of the dogs with them wherever they go. They both abide by a schedule which has both of them spending quality one-on-one time with each of the dogs. They call this one-on-one time “bonding days.”

“We do this so each pup can have a relationship with us,” Counsel says.

Henderson is now spending nearly every day at a dog park near Ingram and Counsel’s home, which might just qualify as the best dog park in the world. It has chutes, slides, ramps, ground level water, and a race track around its circumference. There, Henderson and Harrison have taken to racing each other. Though still very much a puppy, Henderson is giving the older and more conditioned Harrison a run for his money.

“We were amazed to see that amount of determination and drive at such a young age,” Counsel says.
Henderson has proven to be a rather colorful character, and a voracious eater.

“During dinner on Friday evening, not only did Pop eat the dinner I prepared for him, he just picked up Hamilton’s small chicken breast and went to his pillow,” Counsel says. “Hamilton is the elder of the boys and is very lovable and gentle, so we carefully watched to see what would unfold. Hammy walked over to Pop and licked him on his ear and laid down right beside him until he went to sleep.

“Pop is a blessing and he has had a wonderful effect on everyone he encounters. This little guy is one of the greatest dogs I have ever had, and we just love him.”

Photo: Counsel, Henderson, Ingram
Courtesy of Talli Counsel

Any advice for first-time dog owner?
ASK DOG LADY | Tales in 'Pack of Two' will inspire and encourage


September 3, 2009

I read your column every week in the Sun-Times. I'm a dog lover but have never been a dog owner. I'm thinking of getting a dog. Can you suggest a Web site or book that could provide information for new dog owners?
Janis, Chicago

A. If Dog Lady could read just one book about the joys and trials of a first-time dog owner, it would be Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond Between People and Dogs by Caroline Knapp (Delta, $10.88).

Sure, there are many books and sites to advise you how to buy a leash, a bed, how to train, etc. But only this book captures the deep dynamic between the person who has never had a dog before and the dog. After Dog Lady got her puppy (and was totally miserable, by the way), she would creep into bed exhausted by the ordeal, pull up the covers, and read Pack of Two for inspiration.

This book leaps out of the pack because Knapp writes so well about her relationship with Lucille, the shepherd-mix adopted from a shelter: "Before you get a dog, you can't quite imagine what living with one might be like, afterward you can't imagine living any other way. Life without Lucille? Unfathomable, to contemplate how quiet and still my home would be, and how much less laughter there'd be, and how much less tenderness, and how unanchored I'd be without her presence, the simple constancy of it."

Knapp is not afraid to admit her mistakes and personal vulnerabilities. Knapp died of lung cancer at age 42 in 2002. The Boston Globe's obituary said that Lucille was at her bedside.

Q. My 16-year-old Scruffy barked at night and kept us awake. Even when we carried her to our bedroom, she was restless and not comfortable. Our solution? TV. Her favorite was Nick at Nite.
Margaret, Cicero

A. Your Nick at Nite solution worked for your dog but may not work for every woofer, although the sights and sounds of the TV can definitely help assuage loneliness and restlessness.

Q. I recently adopted a 2-year-old shepherd/hound mix who is a great dog and house broken for the most part. Problem: She gets so excited when people come to visit that she widdles all the way to the door. Any suggestions?
Hold That Thought, Chicago

A. When you know company is coming, calmly put her in her crate, or behind a closed door, and keep her contained. Or command her to sit and stay (canine basic training). The point? You do not want your dog all hopped up when company arrives.

Pet perplexed? Write doglady@askdoglady.com

Oregon Wants ‘Dog Friendly’ to Be Less So

September 2, 2009

“Look at her; she’s the calmest dog you’ve ever met, isn’t she?” Lawrence Sax said of Star, his 8-year-old Australian shepherd mix (left), as he held her leash at a Whole Foods Market here. “Everybody I know loves her.”

Mr. Sax had apparently overlooked the glare of Stefan Koprinkov.

“I love animals,” Mr. Koprinkov, who had to step around the dog in his search for cheese pizza, said later. “But it’s wrong for animals to be in the store.”

Mr. Koprinkov is not the only person who thinks so. In the last year, the food safety division of the Oregon Agriculture Department has received more than 600 complaints about animals in food stores, and a disproportionate number of them have come from the Pearl District of Portland, an affluent, dog-passionate procession of newer condominiums and shiny retail shops at the edge of downtown. Whole Foods has had complaints; the Safeway a few blocks away has had even more.

“Usually they’ll hold off and not make a complaint until they’ve seen a dog urinate in the grocery store or jump up and try to swipe a pack of meat,” said Vance Bybee, the head of the food safety division. “Or they’ve seen dogs pooping in the aisle, that sort of thing. That sort of puts them over the edge,” Mr. Bybee said.

In response to the complaints, Oregon is about to begin an unusual campaign, distributing posters and pamphlets to about 4,500 retail stores that sell food. The message is this: Animals, except those trained to help the disabled, are not allowed.

The campaign, however, is not likely to make the problem go away, state officials and dog owners say, particularly in a neighborhood like the Pearl District, where many people who are not physically disabled consider the company of their pets therapeutic and insist on taking them just about everywhere. Some banks put water bowls by their front doors, and dog day-care facilities take time to serve pets the specially packed lunches their owners make for them.

“Portland is dog crazy,” said Andrea Schneider, who lives in the Pearl District and runs pdxdog.com, a social network for dog lovers. “If you don’t understand that context, you’re not going to get this.” Ms. Schneider confessed that she had in the past taken her golden retriever, Ellie, who is not a service animal, into places where animals were prohibited, fearing leaving the dog on the street. She said she took Ellie to Safeway, too, thinking dogs were allowed. When an employee politely stopped her, she said that “it was a surprise” but that she understood.

The federal Food Code, based on language from the Americans with Disabilities Act, describes service animals as aiding people with physical disabilities and performing certain tasks the disabled person cannot, like those provided by Seeing Eye dogs. The code says, too, that a service animal is not considered a pet. Yet the disability law also limits the extent to which a private business can question people about their disabilities and the service an animal provides, and there is no requirement under state or federal law that an animal be licensed or somehow labeled as a service animal.

A new poster created by the state says, “Animals that provide support or companionship are not regarded as service animals.” Still, the limits on questions a business can ask could leave the door open to interpretation and abuse.

“It’s this weird gray area,” said Caitlin Lomen, working in the deli at Whole Foods. “Like when you see little Foo Foo in someone’s purse, you know that’s not a service animal.”

A co-worker, Carl Anderson, joined the conversation, saying: “Some people are kind of grossed out by it, but it’s a comfort thing for a lot of people, to have their dog with them. Who am I to judge someone else’s needs? Unless they’re jumping up and eating out of the salad bar,” Mr. Anderson added, “we try to roll with it the best we can.”

The Pearl District is a recently erected confection in a city often regarded as ahead of the curve in so-called New Urbanist thinking. Streetcars whisper by. Yoga is popular in Tanner Springs Park, described by a sign at its entrance as “a habitat garden created on reclaimed industrial land.” Dogs are not allowed in that park, but some owners let them run free at a dog park nearby, where the area’s developer, Hoyt, provides bags for poop and empties the trash cans that fill up quickly.

“Livability perfected” is printed on the back of the business card of Tiffany Sweitzer, the president of Hoyt, which began developing the area in the 1990s. Ms. Sweitzer said that dogs were initially not a priority for the project, which is built on old railyards, but that they had become central to its identity. Her family dog, Scout, is featured prominently in advertising.

Ms. Sweitzer said she once tried to promote a condominium building as dog-free. “You couldn’t believe how many people called me and said, ‘What are you doing?’ ” she said.

Mr. Sax, with Star at Whole Foods, is not a condominium owner. He said he was living in a hostel after having moved up from Los Angeles a few weeks ago. He produced a card identifying Star as a service animal. The card is sold at activedogs.com for less than $30; the Web site notes that it “is not a certifying agency, nor do we hold any responsibility for information that you have us put on your ID badge.”

Mr. Sax, 57, said Star helped him because he did not “see that well,” though he is able to shop for himself. As far as he is concerned, Mr. Sax said, “I’m legal.”

Photos: Leah Nash for The New York Times
Star, an Australian shepherd mix, goes shopping at a Whole Foods Market in Portland, Ore., with her owner, Lawrence Sax.

A sign at a Safeway in Portland spells out the rules for dogs not trained to help the disabled.

Wire Services
Weird but True

September 3, 2009

In this battle between Dog and police car, the pooch won.

A pit bull ate all four tires of deputy's cruiser while the officer was responding to a complaint, said the Cumberland County, NC, Sheriff's Office. When he returned to his car, the Dog calmly sat there next to its handiwork. His owner was billed for new tires.

• • •

And in this battle between Dog and Cop, the cop won.

An Australian Dog owner who left her pooch tied uo outside a store while she went shopping was stunned to find an officer had tucked a ticket under the pup's collar for being "parked" ilegally.

Qarwin's Rapid Creek Council spokesman said it is illegal to leave a Dog unattended.

• • •

September 9, 2009

If a deaf Dog barks in the forest, does he make a sound?

A stone deaf puppy in Australia has been taught sign language to know when to sit, lay down and heel.

"Dogs understand your body language, your hand gestures. They read all of that. They know." said trainer Liz Grewal. To get Pixie's attention, she gently squirts some water on him.


Wolf Season Begins
Published: September 1, 2009

The first legal wolf hunt in decades in the continental United States began at dawn in Idaho on Tuesday. Legal wolf hunting will begin in Montana on Sept. 15. All told, some 295 wolves are likely to be killed in these two states in the next two months. Idaho has set a quota of 220, Montana 75.

These hunts are misguided and, at best, premature. Until April, wolves in these two states and Wyoming had enjoyed the protection of the Endangered Species Act. But the Interior Department decided that the wolf population across the northern Rocky Mountains had recovered to the point that limited hunts could be allowed in Idaho and Montana, which in the department’s view had developed management plans that would ensure the animal’s long-term survival.

The ironic result is that the gray wolf now enjoys more protection in Wyoming — a state where it is still listed as endangered, thanks to an unacceptably weak management plan — than it does elsewhere in the West.

Environmental groups have made two persuasive counterarguments, which they will continue to press in court, hopeful for an injunction to stop the hunts. One is that Idaho’s and Montana’s plans are also inadequate. The other is that the wolf population across the northern Rockies has not in fact reached sustainable levels — it is now just under 1,600 — and that wolves should be left alone until there are at least 2,000.

After wolves were reintroduced to the Rockies in the mid-1990s — in central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park — they did more than just hunt and breed and prosper. The impact they had on their ecosystem was extraordinary, and beneficial. You might almost argue that their prosperity was and is an expression of an ecological hunger for a top predator.

To us, the wolf hunt in Idaho and Montana seems indecent. Hunters want to kill wolves because wolves kill elk — and the human hunters want the elk. A second reason is a love of killing things. A third is an implacable, and unjustified, hostility to the wolf. It is well past time to let gray wolves find their own balance in the Rockies.


Hunting Wolves, and Men
Timothy Egan
September 1, 2009
They started hunting gray wolves in the high reaches of the Rocky Mountains on Tuesday, the first time in years that people have been allowed to shoot for sport this genetic cousin of man’s best friend.

For those who hate wolves and long for the era when they were wiped off the map, and for those who welcomed back this call of the wild, the last few days have revealed some dark feelings in the changing West — and some strength of character as well.

A Republican candidate for governor of Idaho , Rex Rammell
(right), was at a political barbecue last week when somebody brought up the tags used by wolf hunters, and then made a reference to killing the president of the United States . “Obama tags?” Rammell replied, to laughter, according to an account in The Times-News of Twin Falls. “We’d buy some of those.”

In the Idaho of the past, jokes about shooting a president could sometimes be dismissed without consequence. Indeed, the comment was buried in an initial news story about the gathering, and Rammell sloughed it off later, saying on his Web site that “Obama hunting tags was just a joke! Everyone knows Idaho has no jurisdiction to issue tags in Washington, D.C.”

Ha-ha. What a knee-slapper, these assassination jokes. And besides, he couldn’t hunt down Obama with out-of-state tags. Get it?

This episode was not unlike a town hall meeting last month in the northern California district of Wally Herger (left), a Republican congressman. When people show up at an event that is supposed to be about health care, and get their applause by proclaiming themselves to be “a proud, right-wing terrorist,” as one man did in front of an approving Herger, you know they could care less about defined insurance benefits.
As with wolves, the fear has many faces, and the true source of it is seldom clear.

But what followed in Idaho was rare in a year of endangered civility. The Idaho Republican establishment came down hard on Rammell, condemning the comments of a fringe candidate who channels voices that have found a wide airing in the YouTube age.

Of course, the reaction could be driven by self-interest. For years, Idaho officials have been trying to convince businesses that their state is not a hotbed of hate-filled rubes, gun-toting racists and assorted nut jobs getting their information from Glenn Beck (right). Tech companies that thrive in the New West metro area of Boise and the outdoor paradise of the north say the state’s reputation has severely hurt efforts to recruit ethnic minorities.

But this is a changed state in a quick-stirring part of the country — not necessarily less Republican, but certainly less tolerant of the kind of hate speech that used to flow with warm beer on late nights at the wacko corral. Obama, the candidate, drew about 14,000 people in his appearance in Boise last year — putting it among the largest political gatherings in state history. He got just under 47 percent of the vote in Ada County, the state’s most populous.

The wolf hunt has brought out feelings that have less to do with Canis lupus than with something more deep-seated. Gray wolves were exterminated long ago in most Western states, a campaign of blood lust, terror and bounty kills.

In some counties it was against the law not to put wolf poison on the fence post. Their return by federal wildlife officials has been such a success that two states, Montana and Idaho, have authorized hunting to keep the numbers in check.

Whether the reintroduced wolf packs — which feast on elk, deer and occasional domestic livestock — can still flourish even with the hunt is an issue now before the courts. But this call to arms against an animal that has been historically misunderstood by most anyone whose name is not St. Francis of Assisi is in part a fear of letting the wild back into Western lands.

Rammell himself is a prime exhibit of a nature-phobe. Until 2007, he made his living in elk ranching, which he calls “a novel agricultural enterprise.” Imagine this majestic creature at dawn in a high mountain meadow, in all its glory. Now imagine it inside a fenced-off plot while someone tries to domesticate it into stupidity. That’s elk ranching.

As for wolves, Rammell wants them all dead, dead, dead. “I believe wolves need to be eliminated,” he says on his Web site. Does it matter to him that they roamed every Western state long before Rex Rammell starting tossing one-liners to red-faced Republicans blowing on their soup at the diner?

Probably not. But judging by the success of tourism built around wolf sightings, the four-legged hunter is back in the West to stay. Still, it would help all concerned if what we talk about when talking about wolves was just that.

"The human race had yet to render itself extinct; perhaps the animals were just a dry run.
Once you believed animals were insensate things, disposable, of utilitarian value only,
it wasn't hard to move on to people."


American novelist and poet

Wolves Are Set to Become Fair Game in the West
Dogust 31, 2009

A wolf hunt is set to begin in Idaho on Tuesday if a federal judge does not stop it. It would be the first time in decades that hunters have been allowed to pursue the gray wolf, an animal that has come to symbolize tensions over how people interact with wilderness in the West.

On Monday, the judge, Donald W. Molloy of Federal District Court, will hold a hearing to determine whether to issue an injunction sought by wildlife advocates against the hunt and reopen the question of returning the wolf to the endangered list.

Gray wolves were taken off the list five months ago, after being protected under federal law for more than 30 years. More than 6,000 hunters in Idaho have bought licenses for the chance to participate in the hunt, in which wildlife officials will allow 220 wolves to be killed. In 2008, the population stood at about 850. Montana will allow 75 animals to be killed, starting Sept. 15.

The states’ hunts will be over when the limit is reached or when the season ends, which is Dec. 31 in most areas.

“The first day is the best day when it comes to an animal as smart as a wolf,” said Nate Helm, president of Idaho Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife.

The resurgence of the wolf population, rooted in a federal effort to reintroduce the animals to the Northern Rockies in the mid-1990s, has long angered deer and elk hunters and cattle and sheep ranchers who say the wolves are depleting game and killing livestock. Federal wildlife officials said that in 2008 a record 264 wolves were killed in the region for the legal reason of protecting livestock.

The clash illustrates a persistent divide in the West, where environmentalists and wildlife conservationists have long gone to court to fight laws they say favor powerful groups like hunters, ranchers and others. Wolves have been one of the most tangled issues of late, including in front of Judge Molloy.

In March, the Obama administration announced it would remove wolves from the endangered list. The Bush administration made a similar decision the year before, but Judge Molloy, in a lawsuit by plaintiffs including Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club, ordered wolves returned to the list last fall.

In the years since they were reintroduced to parts of the Northern Rockies, including Yellowstone National Park, the wolf population had risen to more than 1,640 in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming as of 2008. Federal officials say the population has recovered and no longer needs protection as if it were endangered.

Idaho and Montana game officials say their hunts will keep the population from growing and eventually reduce it, while the limits will make sure enough animals endure to keep them from becoming endangered. Idaho game officials say they would like to have a little more than 500 wolves in the state, though the official plan calls for at least 150.

Wildlife advocates cite several reasons for wanting to stop the hunt. They say that the state plans do not have enough protections, that hunting will prevent the wolves from roaming the Northern Rockies freely enough to preserve genetic diversity and maintain access to the proper habitat.

Part of the claim is rooted in the federal government’s continuing effort to protect wolves in Wyoming because it has not come to terms with that state on a management plan.

“It’s a matter of whether we’re going to have a healthy recovered population or isolated animals that are always struggling to survive,” said Suzanne Stone, the Northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife, one of the parties seeking the injunction.

Doug Honnold, the lead lawyer for the environmentalists in the case, said, “Our vision of recovery is 2,000 to 5,000 wolves in a connected population and with a legal safety net to keep them there.”
State and federal wildlife officials overseeing the wolf population say the number of wolves is more than enough and that multiple studies, including those on genetic diversity, have established that the animals are roaming widely and intermingling with others elsewhere.

“Clearly, wolves are restored in the Rocky Mountains,” said Ed Bangs, the wolf recovery coordinator for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in Helena, Mont. “They’re always going to be here, and nobody is talking about getting rid of all the wolves. That’s never going to happen. The population is doing great. There are not genetic problems. There are not connectivity problems.”

Mr. Bangs added, “But they’re starting to cause a lot of problems, and the question is what’s the best tool for the future management of wolves.” He said the wolves had caused about $1 million in livestock losses and other damage.

Photo: United States Fish and Wildlife Service, via Associated Press


With No Order From Judge, Wolf Season Is Set to Begin

Dogust 31, 2009

BOISE, Idaho — The first legal wolf hunt in decades in the continental United States appeared likely to begin in Idaho on Tuesday after a federal judge did not immediately rule Monday on an effort by environmentalists to stop the hunt and return the animal to the endangered species list.

At the end of a three-hour hearing on Monday morning, Judge Donald W. Molloy of Federal District Court in Montana said he would make a decision “as quickly as I can” but also said he first needed to review documents filed in the case. Some leaders of the 13 groups that filed suit had hoped Judge Molloy would issue an injunction against the hunt from the bench on Monday.

Now, given the uncertainty of the judge’s time frame, said Doug Honnold, the lead lawyer for the 13 groups, “the hunters are going to start tomorrow, and it’s up to the judge to stop it.” He said it could be several days before Judge Molloy ruled.

As of 2008, about 1,640 wolves were believed to be in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, with the largest population, about 850, in Idaho. This month, Idaho game officials said hunters could kill up to 220 wolves beginning Sept. 1. A hunt in Montana that could kill up to 75 wolves is to begin Sept. 15. Members of the Nez Perce tribe can also kill up to 35 animals.

Last year, Judge Molloy stopped a wolf hunt in Idaho many weeks before it was to begin. This year, however, Idaho game officials announced the details of the hunt only two weeks in advance, leaving little time for a legal challenge.

“That squeezed the judge and the judicial review process,” Mr. Honnold said.

In March, the Obama administration affirmed a decision by the Bush administration to remove gray wolves from the endangered list, where they had been protected for more than 30 years.

The resurgence of the wolf population, rooted in a federal effort to reintroduce the animals to the Northern Rockies, including Yellowstone National Park, beginning in 1995, has long angered deer and elk hunters and cattle and sheep ranchers who say the wolves are depleting game and killing livestock. Killing wolves that have directly harmed livestock has been legal, and federal wildlife officials said that in 2008 a record 264 wolves were killed in the region for that reason.

Federal and state wildlife officials say multiple studies have established that the wolf population is healthy and growing and that the management programs put in place by Idaho and Montana will keep the animal from becoming endangered again.

“I’m not worried at all about our ability to perform,” said Jim Unsworth, the deputy director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Times Topics: Wolves
Click on image for related stories

"Beware the beast Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone among god's primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him; drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of death."


Park Raving Glad!
Dog Owners Refute Run Accusations; Changes to Come
Dogust 30, 2009

Last week's column addressed the concerns of a group of dog lovers and the recent renovation of their neighborhood dog park on East 63rd Street. They complained that the park's new sandy gravel surface, "brownstone screening," creates dust in dry weather and unhealthy, muddy conditions when wet.

To be fair, there are park users who are quite happy with their pups' new playground. In fact, brownstone screening has been very well received at the city's first and largest dog run in Tompkins Square Park, where it was installed last year.

"There are pluses and minuses," says Amy Lam, who brings her fox terrier Jeeves to the 63rd Street run twice a day. "It's very dusty, and when Jeeves runs through a puddle, sometimes his paws get a little irritated, but I just wash them when we get home and it's fine."

Sandy Paget, who also visits the run daily with her Westie Gillie and her French bulldog Winnie the Pooh, is equally happy with the experimental surface: "The dogs are more active," she says. Perhaps this is because they're less fearful of wiping out on a hard surface like hex tile, the park's previous surface.

Robert Marino of NYCdog, a volunteer advocacy group that advises on dog park design, suggests that a concrete surface like hex tile puts older dogs at serious risk for orthopedic injury.

Although it's not certain that the dog run surface caused conjunctivitis in Charlie Berns' Maltese Stella, her vet, Dr. Patrick Cotter, says, "A dusty environment can irritate a dog's eyes."

Likewise, Andrea Diamond, who herself complained of allergic symptoms after using the run with her three dogs, was advised to stop visiting it by her doctor, Dr. Gerald Epstein. "It's my opinion that the airborne dust particles will exacerbate her symptoms," says Dr. Epstein.

With regard to bacteria and parasites thriving on the moist surface, simply emptying the drinking water bowls at night is not enough.

According to Dr. Andrew J. Kaplan of City Veterinary Care, "Whether water exists in a bowl or collects as a result of a poorly draining surface, the stagnation of such water is a perfect breeding ground for a variety of viruses."

Part of the problem, though, stems from the fact that the surface was poorly installed to begin with. Fortunately, that's an error City Council Member Jessica Lappin promises to fix. In a newsletter dated Aug. 3, Lappin wrote: "The Department of Parks and Recreation has come to the conclusion that the difficulties experienced at the large dog run are caused not by the surface material itself but by the manner in which the various layers of the surface were compacted when the surface was installed."

As a result, William Castro, Manhattan Borough Commissioner of Parks, says they plan to re-install the surface to ensure proper drainage.

"We're also putting in decking so that [those in wheel chairs] can make the turn radius and bring pets in," he says.

150 Puppy Mill Dogs Rescued from Midwest Mills

Dogust 28, 2009

North Shore Animal League America in collaboration with Best Friends Animal Society
rescued 150 cast off puppy mill dogs from three Midwest states.

The mill owners considered these dogs undesirable and unsellable. These innocent
victims were destined for an inhumane death or to be sold at auction for as little
as 25 cents each.

Lemonade is a sweet, adult Beagle with mammary gland tumors as a result of over
breeding. She can no longer produce litters and therefore is deemed useless by a
puppy mill breeder.

Pugsly is an adorable Pug that has ulcers in his eyes. Because Pugsly would not
bring top dollar in a pet store, he has no value to a puppy mill breeder.

Kisses is a stunning adult Keeshond. There is nothing wrong with her. But Kisses is
not as in demand as a tea-cup Yorkie, so there was no reason to keep her in the eyes
of a puppy mill breeder.

To a puppy mill breeder, the space these "defective" dogs take up is more valuable
than the dogs themselves. The Animal League, however, sees these magnificent
creatures as beautiful and worthy of a wonderful life that they have been deprived
of for so long. You as an animal lover surely would agree.

Read Full Story and Watch the Video at:

Stepdad allegedly tossed dog to death
Threw sick pet from third-floor porch, prosecutors say
Dogust 28, 2009

WICKER PARK | Some of his Wicker Park neighbors call him "mudo," Spanish for mute. Alfredo Tamarit's words often spill out in a muffled jumble, but there was one word that the 30-year-old man always pronounced clearly -- the name of his beloved black lab, "Coco."

On Thursday, prosecutors told a Cook County judge that Tamarit was among the witnesses when his stepfather allegedly threw Coco off the family's third-floor porch Aug. 15. Coco was found lying on the ground "shaking" just before he died, Cook County assistant state's attorney Erin Antonietti said in court at 26th and California.

Judge Ramon Ocasio III ordered the stepfather, Lawrence Juliano (above), 45, held on $50,000 bail. Juliano, who later bonded out, is charged with aggravated cruelty to animals and animal torture, both felonies.

A law enforcement source told the Chicago Sun-Times the dog was sick and needed to be put down, but the family couldn't afford a trip to the vet. In court, Juliano's attorney, Barry D. Sheppard, told Ocasio that euthanasia was a possible defense in the case.

One of Tamarit's sisters, who did not want her name used, said Alfredo Tamarit considered Coco "like his child." The sister, Juliano's stepdaughter, said, "It boils down to the fact that my stepfather needs some kind of medical help, and we hope he gets it. "He's been under stress because he lost his job," said the sister, who added she didn't see the alleged incident. "Stress affects people in different ways ... but people don't go throwing dogs from third-floor balconies."

Depending on which neighbor you talked to Thursday, Juliano is either a loudmouthed bully or a considerate, caring neighbor.

"I saw when they arrested him, and my heart was broken," said neighbor Carmen Beltran, 57. Beltran said Juliano is a good man who helps neighbors with yard work and lets her park her car behind his home when she goes away on vacation.

Roland Kaeser, 60, who lives in the same building as Juliano, says his neighbor has a chronic anger-management problem. "He's seen me picking up garbage in the backyard ... and he'll throw a bag full of garbage back down at you," Kaeser said.

Others said they would often see Alfredo Tamarit out walking Coco. Earlier this summer, Coco went missing and Tamarit, who family members say is so hard of hearing that he couldn't be interviewed for this story, went door to door sounding out the word "Coco" to urge people to keep an eye out for his missing dog.

Contributing: Rosemary Sobol
Photo: Scott Stewart/Sun-Times
Lawrence Juliano, 45, is accused of fatally throwing Coco, a black labrador,
off this third-floor porch in the 1300 block of North Wolcott.


Dogust 27, 2009

Pals of dogged actor Gerard Butler (right) yesterday insisted that his precious pug was attacked by a Queens greyhound (left), and likely for one reason -- the pug looks like a rabbit, which the former racing dog used to chase at the track.

"[Butler's] dog is pretty much like a fat bunny," said Stacey Richman, who accompanied the 39-year-old star and his beloved pooch, Lolita, to an Upper East Side animal hospital after Monday's dustup involving the greyhound and its elderly owners.

"The doctors at the hospital said [such attacks were] common when [greyhounds] retired because these dogs are trained on small animals," Richman said.

Even Fred Varecka, who along with his wife, Maria, got into the dispute with Butler over their greyhound, Mayfly, agreed the scenario was possible -- to a point. "Maybe Mayfly thought his dog was a rabbit, but he didn't touch the dog. He growled, but he never touched the dog," insisted Fred, 67. "I'm going to be honest. The greyhounds need to be watched in the beginning because their life is either racing or being put down. That's a true statement. But I had complete control," Fred said.

The Vareckas called the cops on Butler after alleging that he flipped out when Mayfly touched noses with Lolita and then slammed the greyhound's head into a fence during a walk near the set of Butler's latest flick with Jennifer Aniston in Long Island City.

Butler's camp claimed that Mayfly viciously attacked Lolita, biting her twice on the neck.
The actor's rep yesterday said Butler may have brushed the bigger dog away -- but only to get it off Lolita.

"Gerard was trying to protect his dog and separate the both of them. He would never intentionally hurt another animal," said spokeswoman Joy Fehily.

But Maria bit back. "He's not a nice person," she said of Butler. "I want people to know he's an ass. I don't want anything from him. Maybe he could make a donation to Grateful Greyhounds," the organization that places the fleet-footed canines after their racing days, said Maria, 61, who works for the organization with her husband.

Dogust 26, 2009

The Brooklyn dog owner who allegedly got into a shouting match with the NYPD's first Hasidic police officer turned down a plea deal yesterday that would have ended the case with no jail, fines or punishment.

Blogger Chrissie Brodigan told a judicial-hearing officer yesterday that she wasn't interested in his offer of an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal -- a promise to dismiss the whole case as long as she stayed out of trouble for six months.

Her lawyer, Jonathon Warner, would not say why his client turned down the deal.

Brodigan was cited by Officer Joel Witriol (left) June 28 at a Williamsburg subway station for carrying her pet pug outside a bag.

No recession for pampered pets
Dogust 25, 2009

Cookie Coco Chanel's owner is feeling the sting of the recession -- her real estate business has dropped off more than 50 percent. But for the chocolate-colored Chihuahua, the good life goes on interrupted -- a twice-monthly oatmeal-aloe vera bath, doggie cheesecake, a professional blow dry.

Despite the recession, Americans are expected to spend an estimated $45.4 billion on their pets.

"We make little sacrifices to keep our animals in a healthy lifestyle," explained Cookie's owner, Dominica Cece, 48, a North Sider who says she spends about $5,000 annually caring for her two dogs and three cats.

Cookie is hardly the only pet oblivious to the worst global downturn since the Great Depression. The A
merican Pet Products Association predicts Americans will spend about $45.4 billion on their pets this year, up $2.2 billion over 2008. Petco and Petsmart, which together have about 2,100 stores nationwide, both say business has been good, although not exceptional, during the recession.

"The fact of the matter is people still love their pets, and just because the economy changes, that doesn't change," said Petco spokeswoman Brooke Simon.

Joel Spainhour owns Tucker Pup's, a West Loop business that offers dog grooming, boarding, day care and training. Last October, business was dreadful -- but only temporarily, Spainhour said. "We just had a huge amount of cancellations for day care and especially for boarding, because so many people canceled their business trips and personal trips," Spainhour said. But people were, in fact, postponing trips, not canceling them. "Now, [business] is stronger than it's ever been," Spainhour said.

Still, it isn't all good news for the family pooch. Some pet owners, particularly those who have recently lost a job, are cutting back on pet health care.

"We're seeing a drop in some of the preventative care, and we're seeing an increase in some of the diseases that could have been prevented," said Lenette DiCiaula, a veterinarian at Portage Park Animal Hospital & Dental Clinic.

When money's tight, DiCiaula said, patients may not be able to afford "the gold standard." "We try to work with people and try to address the most important issues," she said.

At Famous Fido and Happy Tails in Andersonville, Cookie was experiencing the platinum standard Monday afternoon. She'd just enjoyed a beef-carrot-and-peas entree, followed by turkey meatballs and a slice of doggie cheesecake. But something was making the tiny dog snarl.

"You've got a few little issues you've got to work out," her owner, Cece, cooed.

A few feet away, Benji, a freshly clipped and washed Wheaten terrier, was sniffing the ground. Benji's owner, Patricia Rollins, a 67-year-old retired banker who lives on the North Side, said she couldn't imagine cutting back on her dog's grooming.

"For one thing, he sleeps with me, so it keeps germs and the dirt off the bed," Rollins said. "They clean his ears and his butt -- and I wouldn't even know how to start to do that.

Photo: Brian Jackson/Sun-Times


Dogust 23, 2009

What makes Spot run?

New Yorkers who adopt mixed-breed canines are now using doggie DNA tests to gain insight into their pooches' ancestry and personal quirks.

"It's a fun test to run," said Amy Kurowski, a veterinarian with St. Marks Veterinary Hospital in the East Village. "[You can] guess what the breeds are and then get the results back and see if you were right."

The technology for decoding dog DNA was developed in the past few years, and since then, owners have been clamoring to discover their mutts' heritage. Vets take a small sample of the dog's blood or a cheek swab and send it to a lab; a few weeks later, the results are in. The tests are used most often for dogs adopted from the pound, although some owners get their purebreds tested to verify their pedigree.

Josh Lucas (above), the actor, said he learned a lot about his 2-year-old dog Loki, whom he tested after adopting him from Animal Care and Control in 2007. The shelter claimed Loki was a border collie -- but a $125 DNA test showed he was part German shepherd, part chow chow, part Akita and part Irish setter.

"He's a quarter of each," said Lucas, who sees subtle elements of each of the breeds in Loki's appearance and behavior. "He has the black spotted tongue and crimped ears of a chow, while his shape is that of an Akita and a shepherd, and his face looks like a black and white setter."

Health is another reason for canine DNA tests. Some breeds are prone to specific illnesses, so knowing more about their pedigree can help owners stay ahead of medical problems.

West Village resident Nathaniel Garber Schoen thinks his 7-year-old dog Kodos (right), an Animal Care and Control alum, is half pit bull and half Rottweiler, but he wants her tested since Rottweilers are prone to heart disease, which can be reduced through diet.

"But I could be 100 percent wrong!" he said. "She could conceivably be half beagle and half Doberman pinscher!"

Additional reporting by Stefanie Cohen

Dog flu vaccine protects canines from influenza virus

By Leslie Mann
Dogust 23, 2009

These days 5-year-old Moose divides his time between napping, walking with his master, Nicole Kirk, and throwing his 107 pounds into wrestling matches with his favorite squeaky toy. But a month ago this black Labrador was one sick pup.

Moose came down with canine flu, which has hit several major metropolitan areas, including his hometown, Princeton, N.J. Although most dogs recover without hospitalization, Moose's flu progressed to pneumonia, so he had to spend a week in the hospital with an IV and antibiotic.

Now a new vaccine from Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health lets dog owners protect their four-legged friends from this illness. Conditionally licensed in May by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for dogs age 6 weeks and older, the vaccine includes two injections, then an annual booster. Full licensure may follow, pending further studies.

The vaccine was tested on 746 dogs from 30 breeds, age 6 weeks to 10 years. No side effects resulted, Intervet says.

"It's a 'lifestyle vaccine' for dogs who are in communal places such as dog parks, day care, shows, boarding kennels, spas," said veterinarian Cynda Crawford, who identified the canine influenza virus in 2004 with veterinarian Edward Dubovi from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University. "Dogs who stay at home and just walk around the block are not at risk."

"Before 2004, it was thought that dogs were not susceptible to the influenza virus," said Crawford, who is a clinical assistant professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville. "Then we saw it that year among racing greyhounds."

The virus, known among scientists as H3N8, mutated from an equine virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 2004, thousands of cases have been laboratory-confirmed in 30 states and in the District of Columbia, Crawford said. The states that have been hit the hardest are Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

Moose's veterinarian, Joshua Portner of NorthStar VETS in Clarksburg, N.J., says his clinic saw 10 to 20 dogs with canine influenza (numbers are not exact because not all owners opted for laboratory tests) in May and June. None of his patients succumbed to the disease. "Most of them had been with many other dogs," Portner said. A two-sample blood test, taken while the dog is sick and again two to three weeks later, confirms the virus.

Despite the outbreak in his area, Portner does not recommend the vaccine for all his patients. "It's still new, so we don't yet know about all the side effects, and most dogs recover from it if they do get it. So I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for every dog," he said.

The canine virus behaves a lot like human flu viruses, Crawford said. "The symptoms are similar -- coughing, runny nose, sneezing. And it spreads the same way, through direct contact," she said. Fortunately, she added, the virus is easily inactivated by washing hands, clothes and items such as dog bowls.

"While sick, the dog should be quarantined," Crawford said. "You should call your vet, but you have to let it run its course, just like when you have the flu."

Only 10 to 20 percent of dogs that acquire canine flu progress to a more serious disease such as pneumonia, according to the CDC. Only 5 to 8 percent die. Unlike the human flu, canine flu is not seasonal. Dogs in communal facilities can be vulnerable year round.

The vaccine contains a "killed," not "live" virus, so it is a myth that it "causes the flu," Crawford said. She said the cost of the vaccine is on par with the commonly used distemper vaccine.

Crawford said there is no evidence that humans or other pets can catch the canine flu. "But we know that cats can get influenza viruses from birds, so it is prudent to keep your cats away from your infected dog," she said, adding that canine flu is not linked to swine flu.

Animal shelters, especially, get a bad rap during canine flu outbreaks, said American Veterinary Medical Association spokeswoman Kimberly May. "The recession has caused the perfect storm -- more relinquishments of dogs [that may or may not have vaccination histories] because people can't afford to take care of them, and outbreaks of the flu," May said.

Bottom line, she said: "The vaccine is a critical step in getting canine flu under control. It isn't for every dog, but dog owners should talk to their vets about whether or not their dogs are at risk."

August 23, 2009

Historically, dogs have been workers: hunting companions, sled-pullers, sheep herders. It's only in the last century or so that they've become members of the family, and instead of thinking of them as beasts, we have assigned them human feelings and characteristics.

We think we know what they're thinking and what their motivations are. And perhaps most provocatively, we have started to think our pets actually have souls. This is the question that consumes author and farmer Jon Katz in his 18th book, "Soul of a Dog."

Katz purchased Bedlam Farm in his 50s, and he takes us through a tour of his farm as seen through the eyes of his many species of animals, starting and ending with his three dogs -- Rose, Izzy, and Lenore -- all the while wondering whether the special characteristics of each beast could possibly mean it has a soul.

We also meet the 2,000-pound steer Elvis, who was miraculously saved from the slaughterhouse because his previous owner couldn't bring himself to kill him. Elvis, Katz writes, seems to have an innate ability to appeal to humans (though it could just be his desire for the Snickers bars that Katz brings him every day).
There's also a cat named Mother, who perplexes Katz with her ability to be loving towards him but murderous towards birds, mice and other creatures.

Katz is particularly interested in interspecies friendships. A chicken Henrietta forms a surprising bond with a donkey named Jeannette; Lenore, his Labrador, charms an ornery sheep named Brutus. "Each dog responds to what's innate in them, and also to what I ask of them," Katz writes. "Rose works for me and Lenore loves me. That's where our souls converge."

When he invites a pastor onto the farm to discuss animal theology, Katz discovers that his musings over whether animals have souls don't stand up to religious doctrine.

He wonders whether one of his donkeys, Lulu -- his "most calm and affectionate donkey" -- can truly be said to be going to hell. The pastor looks Lulu in the eyes and asks, "Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?" In response, Lulu snorts and rubs her nose against the pastor's hat, and he is forced to report to Katz that, no, Lulu is not going to heaven -- but she's probably not going to hell either, because she doesn't have the ability to accept Christ as her savior.

In the end, Katz writes of his farm friends: "I have to admit how much of their behavior and motives is unknowable. Perhaps that's part of their appeal." He's never able to determine conclusively whether his animals have souls, but they do seem to have the capacity to love.

*Soul of a Dog
Reflections on the Spirit of the Animals on Bedlam Farm
by Jon Katz

The battle for autistic kids' service dogs
DOWNSTATE | Schools bar them, but judges side with 2 families
Dogust 23, 2009

Like seeing-eye dogs for the blind, trained dogs are now being used to help autistic children deal with their disabilities. But some schools want to keep the animals out, and families are fighting back.

Two autistic elementary school students recently won court orders in Illinois allowing their dogs to accompany them to school. Parents say the animals calm their children, ease transitions and even keep the kids from running into traffic. At issue is whether the dogs are true "service dogs" -- essential to managing a disability -- or simply companions that provide comfort.

School districts say they are not discriminating when they object, just drawing the line to protect the safety and health of other students who may be allergic or afraid of dogs.

"The school district has 650 students, not just one. So we have to balance," said Brandon Wright, attorney for the Villa Grove district in central Illinois, which objected to 6-year-old Kaleb Drew taking his Labrador retriever, Chewey, to school.

Kaleb's family won a judge's order in July allowing the dog to go to class until a trial, set to start Nov. 10. So as Kaleb enters first grade, Chewey is by his side.

Service dogs have long been used by the blind, but training them to help those with autism is relatively new. While there's little research on how these animals affect autistic children, families like Kaleb's say they have seen marked improvement. The dogs are trained to be a calming influence, providing a constant between home, school and other new places.

"It's done so much more than we thought it could," said Kaleb's mother, Nichelle Drew. "We want Kaleb to be able to experience more of life," and the dog has helped him do that, she said.

On Thursday, a judge sided with a family in Columbia, Ill., near St. Louis, that sued over their school district's unwillingness to allow an autism service dog in a special education pre-kindergarten classroom. Five-year-old Carter Kalbfleisch's family credits the dog with helping stop the boy from running off and keeping him from eating things like rocks.

Dogust 21, 2009
Nia Long Would Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur
Actor Nia Long has teamed up with PeTA to encourage people to be comfortable in their own skin and to let animals keep theirs by baring it all in a sexy ad. Nia believes that "all things that have been given life deserve to live life," and she proves to her fans that she is committed to the cause by posing naked on the subway train with a tagline that reads, "I'd rather go naked than wear fur."
Nia joins a long list of gorgeous celebrities who have posed for PeTA's iconic anti-fur campaign. She says, "In being a responsible adult and really understanding what happens for one fur coat and how many animals are killed and slaughtered for one fur coat, it just isn't worth it to me."

Animals who are raised and killed for their fur endure tremendous suffering. Foxes, minks, coyote, and rabbits—and even cats and dogs—are bludgeoned, electrocuted, and often skinned alive for their fur.
Nia wants everyone to know about the cruelty behind fur. Check out what else Nia had to say when we sat down with her during her photo shoot. 

• • •

PeTA's Statement on Eagles Vick Signing
PeTA and millions of decent football fans around the world are disappointed that the Philadelphia Eagles have chosen to sign a man who hanged dogs from trees, electrocuted them with jumper cables, held them underwater until they drowned in his swimming pool, and even threw his own family dogs into the fighting pit to be torn to shreds while he laughed. What sort of message does this send to young fans who care about animals and don't want to see them be harmed?

PeTA certainly hopes that Vick has learned his lesson and feels truly remorseful for his crimes—but since he's given no public indication that that's the case, only time will tell. At this point, all Eagles fans can do is cross their fingers and hope that they won't ever have to explain to their sons and daughters what a "rape rack" is and why their favorite player was using one, as Falcons fans once had to.

Corporate Partners
Dogust 2009
Furry Fashion Shows Benefit Local Shelters
Posted: Dogust 21, 2009

Rescues & Runways kicks off on August 26 with a major fashion show and entertainment at the maurices* home office in Duluth, MN.

Rescues & Runways is an exciting new nationwide effort by maurices to support local shelters and the animals they help.

During the month of September, more than 700 maurices stores in 44 states will host pet-themed fashion shows in partnership with their local animal shelter and sell a special charm to benefit the American
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®).

Each Rescues & Runways fashion show will feature models from each community walking the runway with the latest fall looks from maurices, plus a pet who is available for adoption. Also throughout
September, people are encouraged to support their local shelters by bringing the supplies they need to their local maurices store.

Customers who bring in a donation for the shelter will receive a coupon for 20 percent off one regular-priced item. The campaign goal is to collect 500,000 pounds of supplies across the nation.

In addition, maurices is introducing a limited edition Friends for Life Charm, a celebration of the special bond people share with their furry friends. The Friends for Life Charm is just $5.00 and will be sold in all maurices stores beginning in mid-September through October 31. For every charm purchased, $2.50 will go to support the ASPCA and its national shelter outreach program. The ASPCA will receive a
minimum donation of $50,000 from maurices, with an ultimate goal of raising more than $100,000.

Click on image above for rescuesandrunways.com

*Maurices, typeset as maurices, is an American clothing retail chain based in Duluth, Minnesota . Founded in 1931, the chain comprises more than 500 stores in 43 states, primarily located in shopping malls and smaller towns.

Only in New York
A One-Woman Show to Help Save Animals’ Lives
Posted: Dogust 21, 2009

Long before TMZ, Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood, there was the nation’s indisputable Queen of Celebrity Gossip, Cindy Adams!

You’ve heard her dish on celebrities in the New York Post for almost 30 years. Now is your chance to learn this legendary columnist’s own unique and almost unbelievable story of becoming the media’s authority on celebrity news. Only in New York, Cindy Adams’s bitingly humorous one-woman performance, offers an inside glimpse into the world of celebrity news, gossip and scandals she’s written about since 1981.

Four performances will be held in Ms. Adams’s historic private residence on Park Avenue in New York City, with an intimate Q&A for guests after each show. (Get ready for celeb tidbits she’s never revealed before!)

“We are so honored that Cindy is dedicating her upcoming performances to such an important cause,” says Jo Sullivan, ASPCA’s Executive Vice President of External Affairs. “As an ASPCA Board Member, Cindy has already devoted herself to saving animals’ lives—now this allows people in the Only in New York audience to do their part.”

“Animal welfare is a cause that is very important to me,” said Ms. Adams. “I am delighted that I can debut this exclusive show and help the ASPCA at the same time.”

Each performance seats only 50 people. All net proceeds will benefit the ASPCA.

What: A one-woman show by legendary gossip columnist & ASPCA Board Member Cindy Adams

When: Tuesday, September 29 through Friday, October 2—four performances only!

Where: Ms. Adams’s historic penthouse apartment on Park Avenue

What Time: Pre-show penthouse tour begins at 7:00 P.M., show starts at 7:30 P.M.

Why: To benefit the ASPCA’s mission to end animal cruelty

How Much: $250 per ticket, includes penthouse tour and Q&A

To purchase tickets
please contact Rachel Herman in the
ASPCA’s Special Giving Department
at (212) 876-7700, ext. 4564 or via email at onlyinnewyork@aspca.org.

• • •

Brooklyn Man Arrested for Neglecting Aging Pet

On August 11, Brooklyn resident Vincent Turzio, 43, was arrested by ASPCA Special Agent Kristi Adams for severely neglecting his 12-year-old German Shepherd, Bella.

Covered in urine and feces, Bella was brought to the Bay Ridge Animal Hospital, where veterinarians contacted the ASPCA about the dog’s deplorable condition. Emaciated and too weak to stand on her own, Bella was also suffering from an open wound on her hind leg that was the size of a large grapefruit. The wound was infected, and blood, bone and tissue were fully exposed.

“By the time we arrived, the vet had already made the decision to humanely euthanize the suffering dog,” explains Special Agent Adams. “Bella’s old age, coupled with the severity of her body condition and open leg wound, left the vet little choice. She had been in pure agony for some time.” The vet estimated the dog had been in this terrible state for over a month.

Turzio was charged with one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty. He faces up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

• • •

ASPCA.org Launches Web Pages in Spanish

We are happy to announce that ASPCA.org/espanol is up and running! Twenty of our website’s informative pages have been translated into Spanish, and more are on the way. Most of the newly translated pages cover our New York City-based services, like how to adopt a pet at the ASPCA or where to get your pet spayed or neutered—but many will interest our national readers, too, including how to recognize and report animal cruelty.


Dogust 20, 2009

A depraved Staten Island bruiser was busted yesterday for unleashing a savage beating on his girlfriend's defenseless Chihuahua, killing the 5-pound pooch days after the animal bit him, authorities said. Frank Coppola (left), 28, allegedly took out his rage on the 3-year-old bitch named Bella (above) on Feb. 28 at the Annadale apartment he shared with his girlfriend, throttling the poor animal while the woman was away, investigators said.

It took investigators nearly six months to get their man, as girlfriend Melissa DePietro was initially reluctant to testify against Coppola. "The boyfriend was trying to convince her that the cops would lock her up," said ASPCA assistant director Joseph Pentangelo. Prosecutors eventually convinced her to testify before a grand jury, which, along with graphic medical evidence, proved enough for an indictment.

A necropsy performed on Bella showed the dog had suffered severe trauma to its chest, internal bleeding, several broken ribs, a ruptured jugular vein and bruised lungs, investigators said.

The day of the heinous assault, Coppola phoned DePietro and told her he had no clue what had happened. "There's a problem with the dog. I don't know what happened," Pentangelo quoted Coppola as saying.

DePietro, 25, raced back home and rushed Bella to the Richmond Valley Animal Hospital, where the animal -- which had hemorrhaging in its eyes and blood coming from its mouth -- was declared dead. When asked by the veterinarian what had happened, Coppola claimed the dog had run into a wall and collapsed.

Sources said the sweet-natured dog -- the same breed made famous in a series of Taco Bell ads -- got along with everyone except Coppola, and had bitten him days before the fatal beating. "My dog didn't like him," DePietro told the Staten Island Advance. "A lot of people kept telling me that he's jealous of the dog."

Coppola, reportedly on probation in an insurance-fraud case, was charged with animal cruelty, and faces up to four years in prison. He was released on $2,500 bail.

"This is a very serious crime. It's not every day that an animal-cruelty charge goes before a grand jury, but obviously we thought this case was serious enough to take that step," said Bill Smith, a spokesman for District Attorney Daniel Donovan.

Coppola's lawyer, Joseph Sorrentino, said his client "vehemently denies that he ever hurt the dog."
"Shortly before this dog's death, the dog had gotten loose and ran out of the house, and was gone for the better part of the day," he said. "When Mr. Coppola found the dog, it was exhibiting strange behavior, and they took it to the vet."

2008 Law Leading to Crackdown on Pennsylvania Puppy Mills
Dogust 18, 2009

PHILADELPHIA — At the Almost Heaven kennel, a commercial dog breeder in Emmaus, Pa., more than 200 dogs lived in wire-floored cages and suffered from matted fur, ear infections and mange because of dirty conditions and a lack of veterinary care, according to state officials.

After reports from a former employee about inhumane conditions at the kennel, the owner, Derbe Eckhart, lost his state license. The kennel continued to operate, however, and in June, state officials shut it down and moved 218 dogs to temporary shelters.

The action represented the largest closing so far under a 2008 law intended to crack down on what critics say are cruel conditions in hundreds of commercial kennels that have given Pennsylvania a reputation as the “puppy mill” capital of the East.

In July, a kennel in Tioga County was shut down because dogs were kept in unsanitary conditions. Eighteen dogs were taken to animal-rescue centers, and the owner was cited for 57 violations of the law.
Since last December, officials have revoked or refused 11 kennel licenses, and they are in the process of revoking three more. Before the 2008 law was passed, officials had already stepped up efforts to regulate the kennels, revoking 41 licenses in 2007 and in early 2008, compared with only 3 in 2006.

The law increases minimum cage sizes, requires veterinary care and exercise periods, and bans wire flooring, all changes that take effect in October. Provisions that allowed the closing of the Emmaus kennel are already in effect.

Thousands of dogs spend their lives in small wire cages where confinement and boredom leads some to spin in circles for long periods, said Jessie L. Smith , the state’s special deputy secretary for dog law enforcement.

The dogs never exercise, are subjected to extremes of heat and cold, lack veterinary care and suffer from splayed paws as a result of having to stand on wire mesh rather than a solid floor. At some kennels, cages are stacked, causing dogs in lower cages to be covered in feces and urine from those above.

When a female dog can no longer breed, it might be given away or killed, Ms. Smith said. One breeder in Kutztown, Pa., shot 70 dogs rather than provide veterinary care for flea and horsefly bites identified by state inspectors, she said.

Pennsylvania officials estimate that 84,000 dogs and puppies are kept in kennels or sold each year, the majority of which are kept in facilities with 250 or more animals. The state has 297 licensed commercial kennels that sell or transfer at least 60 dogs a year.

Stephanie Shain, who heads an anti-puppy-mill campaign for the Humane Society of the United States , said the new law gave Pennsylvania one of the strictest dog-breeding laws in the nation. The commercial kennel industry, represented by the Professional Dog Breeders Advisory Council, has sued the State Department of Agriculture over the new law, saying it violates the interstate commerce clause of the federal Constitution by charging out-of-state operators higher fees for kennel licenses than Pennsylvania breeders.

The breeders also accuse the state of breaching the Constitution by allowing inspectors to enter breeders’ homes without probable cause and by eliminating due-process rights. “The law is designed to put them out of business,” said Bob Yarnall Jr., a board member of the dog breeders’ advisory council.

Mr. Yarnall said the law imposed the strictest dog-breeding regulations of any state, and he predicted that 70 percent of Pennsylvania breeders would immediately shut down if the law was fully put in place because they would not be able to afford the costs of compliance. New regulations on kennels’ air quality, for example, would require breeders to install multiple ventilation units and result in sharply higher electricity costs, Mr. Yarnall said. A court ruling is expected before October, he said.

Mr. Yarnall denied accusations of widespread abuses in Pennsylvania kennels and said any reports of cruelty could be dealt with by the effective enforcement of existing law.

Matchmaking in India: Canine Division

Dogust 17, 2009

NEW DELHI — Their lonely-hearts faces peer out of the advertisements, hangdog and looking for love.

“Hi, I am Musti,” one poster reads. “I am a well-mannered, good-looking and considerate hunk. I am very health conscious and love my carrots. I am a one-woman man and promise to take good care of you.”

And then there is Foster (left), all jowls and hooded eyes. “Foster refuses to eat till we find him a girlfriend!” the poster declares.

In matrimony-mad India, where marriage is the central event of a lifetime, these posters could easily be for lovelorn, small-town bachelors, pasted up by anxious parents seeking a bride. But the suitable girl these single fellows seek is of the furry, four-footed variety. Finding one, though, is not easy.
“I have been searching for months, but no luck,” said Kunal Shingla, who is looking for a mate for Foster, his 2-year-old basset hound.

New Delhi’s elite has long treasured purebred dogs, and as more Indians enter the middle class, having a Pomeranian, Shih Tzu or Neapolitan mastiff at the end of the leash has become a symbol of new wealth and status.

Unlike backyard Indian mutts of old, these dogs, like the pampered pets of affluent Westerners, are part of the family. With young, middle-class Indians waiting longer to get married and have children, and with would-be grandparents impatient for grandchildren, designer dogs have filled a void created by the realities of modern urban life.

“Families are smaller now, just a husband and wife, and they have nobody to talk to,” said Partha Chatterjee, a well-known dog show judge in India. “And then they have access to all these television programs where they see how dogs are being treated abroad. They want that kind of symbol of affluence.”

But the pups of India’s surging middle class have a problem. Everyone, it seems, wants a male dog. This being India, everyone also wants his or her dog to have a mate. Sterilization is simply out of the question.

“He is a good dog,” Mr. Shingla, a well-to-do marketing executive at his family’s manufacturing company, said of Foster. “I want him to have every happiness in life.”

Three months ago he posted advertisements with Foster’s tongue-wagging visage at pet shops across Delhi, and on popular pet message boards, searching for a female basset hound. But he has had no takers.

Indians’ penchant for male dogs is partly a result of a societal preference towards all things male, breeders here say. In parts of India, sons are treasured far more than daughters. This fact is reflected in the skewed ratio of boys to girls in some states, evidence of the illegal but still prevalent practice of aborting female fetuses.

There is also the perception, false for the most part, that females are more trouble to keep than males as a result of their menstrual cycles. And in the past, when most people got dogs to guard their homes, the perception that male dogs were more aggressive gave them an edge.

Sandeep Chopra, whose company, Classic Kennels, provides dogs to pet shops across the country, said he personally preferred female dogs for their easy temperaments. His clients are another matter.
“When a customer goes and buys a dog, 99 percent go for a male, and down the road when they need a mate, they face a problem,” Mr. Chopra said.

He tried his hand at pet matchmaking, linking males and females of the same breeds, but it was simply impossible to find matches. Most of the females remain with breeders, he said, who prefer professional stud dogs. This also helps keep the supply of popular breeds tight — if people cannot breed dogs in their backyard they cannot cut into breeders’ profits.

Particular breeds go in and out of fashion. These days pugs are all the rage. Vodafone, a cellphone company, featured one of the small smushy-faced dogs in a popular advertising campaign. The quizzical little pup of the advertisement, with its pointy ears, wrinkly jowls, and head cocked at a jaunty angle, sent the price for a pug puppy skyrocketing upward of $400.

Vidushi Sinha, a 23-year-old actress, loved her female dog, Betsy, the puppy of a neighborhood mutt. But a few years ago her mother spotted a pug puppy that melted her heart at a pet shop. “He was just so cute,” Ms. Sinha said. They named the puppy Julian. He is still adorable, Ms. Sinha said, but the family quickly learned the disadvantages of potty training a male.

“Male dogs just lift their leg anywhere,” she said. And now there is another problem: Julian likes to get amorous with both furniture and people — closer than many would like.And so a year ago she put up a poster in an upscale market in New Delhi. A few calls have trickled in, but so far none of the matches have worked out.

“I have already got him about two or three girlfriends, and he is not interested,” she said. “I think he is already committed. There is no point looking for a girlfriend because he already has a boyfriend. I hear that a lot of small dogs are gay.” Julian has become very fond of another pug down the street named Chotabhai, Hindi for little brother. “I am fine with it,” Ms. Sinha said, a nonchalant note of resignation in her voice. “As long as he is happy.”

Photo: Adam Ferguson/VII Mentor, for The New York Times
"I want him to have every happiness in life," said Kunal Shingla, who is looking for a mate for Foster, his 2-year-old basset hound.

Dogust 15, 2009

They make quite a couple! Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (right in both photos) and President Dmitry Medvedev are spending some serious quality time together.

The pals strolled near the Black Sea beachfront (right) with Medvedev's golden retriever, Aldo. Later, they pranced around on the badminton court -- also with the dog.

The shots, taken at the president's official vacation home, show a different side to the leaders' relationship -- as well as to Putin, whose vacations are usually macho, bare-chested affairs.

Wire Services
Weird but True

Dogust 22, 2009

She's Britney's bitch now.

A man who dressed his beloved pet Chihuahua in pink was devastated when a man with a Britney Spears tattoo stole the pooch from a party at a Fort Lauderdale gay bar.

Brian Dortort said he let the Spears-loving thief hold his pet, Hudson Hayward Hemingway, for a second, but the man darted off with the dog.

In a Surprise, Vick Signs With the Eagles

Dogust 14, 2009

Michael Vick , exiled from football for two seasons, finally has a new team, and it is not one anyone expected. The Philadelphia Eagles , who have Donovan McNabb as their starting quarterback, sent a shock wave through the preseason Thursday night by signing Vick. He will give them a versatile backup who can run as well as pass, but who could also eventually compete for McNabb’s job.
Coach Andy Reid
(left) benched McNabb briefly last season during a poor performance against the Ravens . McNabb chafed at the move. But he rallied after that and led the Eagles to the National Football Conference championship game, where they lost to the Arizona Cardinals .

The N.F.C. East may be the N.F.L. ’s most treacherous division, and the addition of Vick could help the Eagles establish supremacy over the Giants .

“I’m a believer that as long as people go through the right process, they deserve a second chance,” Reid said Thursday night after the Eagles lost to the Patriots , 27-25, in a preseason game. “You’re talking about one of the top quarterbacks in the league when he was playing,” Reid added. “I talked to Michael and he’s in a good place.”

...Vick, who was reinstated last month after serving 18 months in federal prison for his role in a dogfighting ring , can begin practicing immediately, and he could play in the final two preseason games. But Commissioner Roger Goodell will decide by the sixth week of the season when Vick can play in a regular-season game.

“I pretty much lobbied to get him here,” McNabb said. “I believe in second chances and what better place to get a second chance than here with this group of guys.” McNabb added, “We had the opportunity to add another weapon to our offense."

The Eagles’ decision to sign Vick drew a quick response from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals , the animal-rights group.
said in a statement:
“What sort of message does this send to young fans who care about animals and don’t want to see them be harmed?
eTA certainly hopes that Vick has learned his lesson and feels truly remorseful for his crimes — but since he’s given no public indication that that’s the case, only time will tell.”

The Eagles will most likely use Vick as a backup and perhaps in a small package of plays that will take advantage of his ability to keep defenses guessing, perhaps in Wildcat-style formats where he could run or pass.

...Vick agreed to a one-year contract, with a one-year option, making this essentially a tryout and a chance for him to get reacclimated to the N.F.L.

(Dung-heap) Dungy (left), the former coach of the Colts , has acted as Vick’s mentor. Dungy has said that he spoke with several coaches about Vick, but that only a small number of teams were a good fit, particularly because owners feared an adverse reaction from fans.

The Eagles provide Vick with a stable organization to insulate him during what is sure to be a tumultuous return....The Falcons once made Vick the highest-paid player in the N.F.L., but his new contract will pay him $1.6 million in 2009, with an option for $5.2 million, according to FoxSports.com.

Full article @ http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/14/sports/football/14vick.html?ref=sports

Jeffrey Lurie

General Manager
Tom Heckert
Rodin Coane
click on image for more of
Rodin Coane's

To contact the PHILADELPHIA EAGLES -- http://www.philadelphiaeagles.com/fanzone/contactus.asp

To contact the NFL -- http://www.nfl.com/contact-us

To learn about and CONTRIBUTE to the rehabilitation of the

click here

Justice Department honors Best Friends Animal Society

Tax Deductions for Pet Owners!
Michele McCaffrey

Fri, Dogust 14, 2009

During these difficult economic times, more and more people find that the financial cost of giving pets the care they deserve becomes a burden, or worse, unbearable.

Urge New York's representatives to support the tax deduction for pet care expenses >> http://www.care2.com/go/z/e/AFO_W/zJMa/Uci0

The Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years (HAPPY) Act (H.R. 3501) was just introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives and referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

The Act would amend the Internal Revenue Code to allow an individual to deduct up to $3,500 for "qualified pet care expenses" - including veterinary care - for a legally owned, domesticated, live animal.

Even a small tax deduction for responsible pet owners will go a long way to meet the needs of companion animals, ease the tax burden of those who own a pet (63 percent of all households) and may even encourage more people to provide loving homes to the countless animals filling
America's shelters.

Urge your representatives to co-sponsor the HAPPY Act! >>
< http://www.care2.com/go/z/e/AFO_W/zJMa/Uci0 >

As you, family members or neighbors may be trimming budgets to make ends meet, innocent animals should not have to go without adequate care! On behalf of all the companion animals who do not have a voice.

Take action link: http://www.care2.com/go/z/e/AFO_W/zJMa/Uci0

Wire Services
Weird but True

Dogust 14, 2009

Moscow has a dog race as well as the rat race.

Scientists discovered that stray dogs in Russia's capital have mastered the subway system, riding the rails from their homes in the outskirts of town to the city center, where food is more plentiful.

"They seem to have learned how long they need to stay on the train and to leave at the right station," said professor Andrew Poyarkov.

Dogust 14, 2009

ASPCA Asks Court to Direct Helmsley Money Back to Dogs

The ASPCA, along with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Maddie’s Fund, filed suit this week in New York Surrogate’s Court to intervene in the matter of the late Leona Helmsley’s $5 billion estate. The suit seeks to overturn an earlier ruling that allows the Helmsley Trustees—those responsible for issuing charitable grants from the estate—to disregard Mrs. Helmsley’s specific instructions that her wealth be used to help dogs.

“Just a fraction of the money involved in Mrs. Helmsley’s estate is a game-changer for animal welfare,” says Marsha Perelman, ASPCA Board Chair. “The fate of dogs in this country could very well rest on the decision of this lawsuit—it is that critical.”

No nonprofit groups involved with animal welfare were contacted or given an opportunity to register formal objections prior to the court’s controversial ruling last fall. As a result of that ruling, and in clear violation of Mrs. Helmsley’s wishes, less than 0.1% the trust’s initial round of grants was allocated to dog welfare-related charities.

“Dog fighting, puppy mills, pet homelessness and overpopulation are not $100,000 problems. But they’re not billion-dollar problems, either,” says Ed Sayres, President and CEO of the ASPCA. “Mrs. Helmsley understood the importance of animal welfare. She wanted her worldly estate to make our society better for dogs and animals—and if distributed as she intended, it definitely has the power to do so.”

This case has larger implications beyond the fate of the Helmsley estate. The three organizations believe that the court system has a responsibility to protect the wishes of any decedent, and also to protect the charity world from the whims of trustees who wish to ignore estate planning instructions. The misdirection of the Helmsley fortune should be of interest to everyone who hopes to provide for beloved pets after death, as well as to the multitude of organizations, from nonprofits to universities, that rely on bequests.

The groups involved in the lawsuit are not seeking grants for themselves, but do hope to work with the Helmsley Trustees in an advisory capacity to award grants to animal welfare groups of various size and scope around the country. “There has been a sea change in recent years in how we treat animals. It’s a shame that the Helmsley Trustees don’t understand or respect that change,” says Sayres.

• • •

Teen Indicted for Throwing Dog from Roof

On Dogust 10, Brooklyn resident Fabian Henderson
(left), who was arrested last month by ASPCA Special Agents for throwing his one-year-old Pit Bull, Oreo, from the roof of his housing project, was indicted by the Brooklyn D.A.’s office. The charges handed down include aggravated cruelty to animals, which is a felony, the misdemeanor charge of animal cruelty, as well as criminal trespass in the third degree. If convicted, he could face more than two years in jail. Henderson, 19, pleaded not guilty to the charges.

“On June 18, the ASPCA received a complaint that an animal was being beaten on the third floor of 28 W. Ninth St., where Henderson lives with his family,” says Joseph Pentangelo, Assistant Director of ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement (HLE). “A few minutes later, HLE received two more calls from people reporting a dog had been thrown off the roof.”

Upon their arrival, ASPCA officers found Oreo on the ground six floors below, badly broken, but alive. “We couldn’t believe the dog survived the six-story fall,” says ASPCA Special Agent Rivas. “We immediately took her to the nearest animal clinic, where she received emergency care.” As soon as she was stabilized, Oreo was transferred to the ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital where veterinarians treated her shattered legs, bruised lungs and severe internal bleeding. Surgery was also performed to reconstruct her front legs, using plates and screws.

“She's showing a lot of resilience. She's eating on her own, she's standing and she’s walking,” confirms Pentangelo. “But she has a long road ahead of her before a decision will be made regarding adoption.”


Coney Island Freak Show Owner Gets $ --
Not 5-Legged Pup
Thursday, 13 Dogust 2009

CHICAGO -- Thanks to a  TV judge, a Coney Island freak show operator is up $4,000 but down a five-legged puppy.

Judge Jeanine Pirro (left) ruled during a taping of her show Wednesday that freak show owner John Strong is entitled to the cash after the dog's owner backed out of a contract to sell the Chihuahua-terrier mix to him.
Calvin Owensby agreed to sell the five-legged puppy formerly known as Precious to Strong on June 29. Strong sent Owensby $1,000, with a promise to deliver $2,000 more when Precious got to New York. But Owensby, an unemployed electrician from Gastonia, N.C., balked days later after researching Strong online.
"I didn't know it was a freak show,'' a tearful Owensby told Pirro. "He said it was an amazing animal show.''
After a flurry of media attention, Owensby said he got threatening phone calls, including one from a New York man who said only a freak would sell his dog to a freak show.
Strong's show has 27 odd animals, including a two-headed turtle named Pete and Repeat, a six-legged cow and an eight-legged pig.
Owensby was so spooked that when Allyson Siegel of Charlotte, N.C., offered to buy Precious for $4,000 to keep the dog from going to Strong, he accepted. Siegel took Precious, renamed her Lilly and quickly had the extra leg removed. Owensby returned Strong's $1,000.
But Strong still wanted the dog -- or what Owensby was paid for her -- and sued for breach of contract. Pirro agreed Strong was wronged. "We've got a contract, and the defendant broke it, pure and simple,'' Pirro said. She also sided with Strong in Owensby's countersuit for intentional infliction of emotional distress, ruling that while the situation was undoubtedly stressful, Strong couldn't be blamed.
Strong said after the taping that he's thrilled with the decision. "This is such an emotional case, and it could've gone either way,'' he said. "I just wish I'd met Calvin before all this happened.''
Owensby said he doesn't harbor any hard feelings and understands Strong is just doing his job.
Strong said once Pirro's show airs on Sept. 8, he'll sue Siegel to reclaim the dog -- despite her lack of an extra paw. "I certainly am not chasing four-legged dogs around the world,'' he said. "Because of the cuteness of the dog ... I would still like to have the dog.''
It probably also helps that he said his business has increased 60 percent since the story hit the news.
Lilly, meanwhile, is doing well at her new home. "She is just a ball of fire,'' Siegel told a North Carolina TV station. "I hope she is going to have a normal life.''


Dogust 12, 2009

The trustees of Leona Helmsley's multibillion-dollar estate are biting back.

A day after three animal-welfare groups accused them of ignoring the late hotel queen's last wishes by not spending more of her money on dogs, the trustees' rep, Howard Rubenstein, accused the groups of leveling "a broadside attack against the trustees, against the Surrogate, and against the New York State Attorney General." The latter two approved the trust's charitable giving.

The trust's Web site also noted that of $55 million Helmsley, herself, contributed to charitable causes in her last eight years "she made only one gift to a dog-related charity, for one thousand dollars."

Since the real-estate baroness died in 2007, her own dog, Trouble
(left), has been living on a $2 million trust fund in Florida.

Dog hailed as hero for guiding rescuers to owner's body

Reporting by Pauline Askin, Editing by Miral Fahmy
Tue Dogust 11, 2009

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) – A mongrel has proven that dogs really are man's best friend when he helped rescuers find the body of his owner who was killed in a car crash in Australia.

Moja, a small mixed breed, was in the truck with his owner Henry Drew when it crashed off a highway in Queensland and landed in dense shrubs.

The animal sat by Drew's body, which was hidden by trees, barking incessantly for two days until a farmer went to investigate the cause of the noise.

"If it was not for the man's dog, he may not have been found for some time because his truck was completely covered by trees and our helicopter couldn't see it," a spokesperson for AGL Action Rescue told Reuters.

"This bloke heard the dog barking , it was literally sitting by the man's side," the spokesperson said.
Drew had been reported missing by his wife after he did not answer his mobile phone. Rescue helicopters worked with police to search for the him until the farmer called.

Dogs as Smart as 2-year-old Kids

Jeanna Bryner, Senior Writer
Dogust 8, 2009

The canine IQ test results are in: Even the average dog has the mental abilities of a 2-year-old child.
The finding is based on a language development test , revealing average dogs can learn 165 words (similar to a 2-year-old child), including signals and gestures, and dogs in the top 20 percent in intelligence can learn 250 words.

Border collies, poodles, and German shepherds, in that order, says Stanley Coren, a canine expert and professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia. Those breeds have been created recently compared with other dog breeds and may be smarter in part because we've trained and bred them to be so, Coren said. The dogs at the top of the pack are on par with a 2.5-year-old.

While dogs ranked with the 2-year-olds in language, they would trump a 3- or 4-year-old in basic arithmetic, Coren found. In terms of social smarts, our drooling furballs fare even better.
"The social life of dogs is much more complex, much more like human teenagers at that stage, interested in who is moving up in the pack and who is sleeping with who and that sort of thing," Coren told LiveScience .

Coren, who has written more than a half-dozen books on dogs and dog behavior, will present an overview of various studies on dog smarts at the American Psychological Association's annual meeting in Toronto.

"We all want insight into how our furry companions think, and we want to understand the silly, quirky and apparently irrational behaviors [that] Lassie or Rover demonstrate," Coren said. "Their stunning flashes of brilliance and creativity are reminders that they may not be Einsteins but are sure closer to humans than we thought."

To get inside the noggin of man's best friend, scientists are modifying tests for dogs that were originally developed to measure skills in children.

Here's one: In an arithmetic test, dogs watch as one treat and then another treat are lowered down behind a screen. When the screen gets lifted, the dogs, if they get arithmetic (1+1=2), will expect to see two treats. (For toddlers , other objects would be used.)

But say the scientist swipes one of the treats, or adds another so the end result is one, or three treats, respectively. "Now we're giving him the wrong equation which is 1+1=1, or 1+1=3," Coren said. Sure enough, studies show the dogs get it. "The dog acts surprised and stares at it for a longer period of time, just like a human kid would," he said.

These studies suggest dogs have a basic understanding of arithmetic, and they can count to four or five.

Other studies Coren notes have found that dogs show spatial problem-solving skills. For instance, they can locate valued items, such as treats, find better routes in the environment, such as the fastest way to a favorite chair, and figure out how to operate latches and simple machines.

Like human toddlers, dogs also show some basic emotions, such as happiness, anger and disgust. But more complex emotions, such as guilt, are not in a dog's toolbox . (What humans once thought was guilt was found to be doggy fear, Coren noted.)

And while dogs know whether they're being treated fairly, they don't grasp the concept of equity. Coren recalls a study in which dogs get a treat for "giving a paw."

When one dog gets a treat and the other doesn't, the unrewarded dog stops performing the trick and avoids making eye contact with the trainer. But if one dog, say, gets rewarded with a juicy steak while the other snags a measly piece of bread, on average the dogs don't care about the inequality of the treats.

To find out which dogs had the top school smarts, Coren collected data from more than 200 dog obedience judges from the United States and Canada .

He found the top dogs, in order of their doggy IQ are:
Border collies Poodles German shepherds Golden retrievers Dobermans Shetland sheepdogs Labrador retrievers.

At the bottom of the intelligence barrel, Coren would include many of the hounds, such as the bassett hound and the Afghan hound, along with the bulldog, beagle and basenji (a hunting dog ).

"It's important to note that these breeds which don't do as well tend to be considerably older breeds," he said. "They were developed when the task of a hound was to find something by smell or sight."

These dogs might fare better on tests of so-called instinctive intelligence, which measure how well dogs do what they are bred to do.

"The dogs that are the brightest dogs in terms of school learning ability tend to be the dogs that are much more recently developed," Coren said. He added that there's a "high probability that we've been breeding dogs so they're more responsive to human beings and human signals." So the most recently bred dogs would be more human-friendly and rank higher on school smarts.

Many of these smarty-pants are also the most popular pets. "We like dogs that understand us," Coren said.

We also love the beagle, which made it to the top 10 list of most popular dog breeds in 2008 by the American Kennel Club . That's because they are so sweet and socialable, Coren said. "Sometimes people love the dumb blonde," Coren said.

And sometimes the dim-wits make better pets. While a smart dog will figure out everything you want it to know, your super pet will also learn everything it can get away with, Coren warns.


Dogust 8, 2009

CIARA will do anything for her dogs.

The pop starlet was stranded at Newark Airport after Continental Airlines mixed up her first-class ticket order.

"She was in town for the 'Do Something' campaign shoot and tried to board a flight to LAX with her two small puppies," said our source. " But Continental gave away the two seats she purchased for her dogs to other passengers."

Rather than put her Maltipoo and miniature Schnauzer in cargo, Ciara waited for the next flight, signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans in the terminal.

America's Best Dance Crew 's Layla Kayleigh Stars in Sexy PETA Ad

Dogust 7, 2009

Layla Kayleigh wants you to stop and think before making your next purchase at the cosmetics counter.

The sexy co-host of MTV's America's Best Dance Crew feels so strongly about stopping product tests on animals that she posed for PETA's first-ever "Animal Testing Breaks Hearts" ad.

Every year countless animals are poisoned, blinded, and killed in cruel and outdated product tests that are not required by law and often produce inaccurate results. These animals suffer and die alone, without ever experiencing an ounce of kindness, so chemicals in things like shampoo, makeup, deodorant, toothpaste, and household cleaners can be tested. Animal testing breaks hearts!

The good news is that more than 950 companies have banned animal tests forever! There is no reason that anyone should be buying products that blinded bunnies or poisoned mice when there are plenty of cruelty-free options out there. All you have to do is read those labels!

Says Layla , "I don't think people are purposely buying cosmetics and household products that are tested on animals. I just don't think they think twice. … It really takes such a small thing to make such big impact, you know, and I feel like the more people get involved, the more it can make a difference."

Brooklyn Woman Assaults Two ASPCA Agents
Published: Dogust 7, 2009

On July 23, ASPCA Supervisory Special Investigator Annemarie Lucas and Special Agent Kristi Adams arrested Brooklyn resident Andrea Stewart, age 39, after the 260-pound woman attacked the two Agents.

Responding to an anonymous tip about a neglected cat, the Humane Law Enforcement agents arrived at Stewart’s residence to find a seven-week-old, one-pound orange tabby with his whiskers cut off and a serious injury to his right front paw. “The kitten’s leg was broken,” says Supervisor Lucas. “As of now, he might lose his paw and is suffering from a rib fracture as well.” It was determined that Stewart had failed to get medical attention for her cat.
Says Joseph Pentangelo, Assistant Director of ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement, “In response to the agents’ decision to seize the kitten, Stewart choked and knocked down one of the ASPCA uniformed officers and punched the other."

Stewart was arrested by ASPCA Special Agent Kristi Adams and taken to Kings County Hospital for observation. The agents were treated for injuries at local hospitals, while the kitten, named Macaroni by officials, was taken to the ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital, where he’s expected to recover and be readied for adoption.

Since it is a felony to assault a New York State Peace Officer, Stewart could receive two counts of felony assault and one count of animal cruelty.

Handsome Dan Goes Home
Story by David Dickson
Dogust 7, 2009

Handsome Dan, one of the Vicktory Dogs, has left the building! And he couldn’t have landed in a better home. Heather and Mark from New England run a kenneling service, doggie day care, animal rescue group, and more. They specialize in rescuing and placing pit bulls, among other breeds.

By law, the screening process is super intense for this group of dogs—way beyond the already detailed adoption process at Best Friends. For any Vicktory dog, there’s a huge checklist to go through, including background checks and everything. Says adoption coordinator Kristi Litrell, "I do have to admire anyone who goes through all this!"

The funny thing is, Mark and Heather are usually on the other end of that process. The rescue group they work with has around 80 dogs in a foster network, and they’re the ones who screen potential homes for the dogs, often pit bulls. These two know all the questions to ask and where to probe and how. It should come as no surprise then, that they passed the process with flying colors. These folks know dogs inside and out. Once they were cleared to foster, all that remained was to find the right Vicktory dog.

They came out to Best Friends with a couple names in mind, but the short list was narrowed down to only one dog as soon as they met Handsome Dan. They could tell he needed them. Like many of the Vicktory dogs, Handsome Dan is still not the most confident in new situations.

All during his time at the sanctuary, Handsome has been working on getting used to new situations. Even so, he still had his comfort zone: going on walks or running in his exercise area—and he was in his element. But a meet and greet over at the Dogtown staff room? The poor guy wasn’t exactly feeling too confident when he first met them. Yet Heather and Mark could see what a sweetheart he was underneath. One sleepover later and they were in love! They knew they could help him.

Best Friends staffer Ann Allums flew out to personally deliver Handsome Dan to Mark and Heather (another requirement for the Vicktory dogs). Everything went smoothly and Handsome Dan’s new chapter in life began. It should come as no surprise though, that Handsome Dan was nervous all over again. After all, if new things haven’t always been his strong point, try this schedule on for size.

Heather and Mark run doggie day trips all around their area. Each day, they take a different group of dogs to a different area. And Handsome Dan has been along every step of the way. Talk about a whole host of new things to take in! Yet a funny thing happened. Before long, Handsome Dan started to enjoy himself. He’s always been great with other dogs, and that’s what made the difference in the end.

After a few days of moping around, Handsome Dan decided it was time to play. A little dog who looks like a mix between a corgi and a golden retriever (try to picture that!) convinced Handsome Dan to run and romp around. Heather says she cried when Handsome finally let go of his fears that first time and had some fun. After all, this is a dog who knows darn well how to have a good time when he’s feeling like himself.

Ever since that first time, Handsome has been getting better and better. He even does a little happy dance when he sees the leash! Those daily adventures are just what the doctor ordered for getting him past his jitters. He’s still cautious around strangers and sometimes tries to hide out of habit, but Heather and Mark gently and consistently encourage and help him past those fears. They know he’ll get there. It’s onward and upward from here on out.
Per the court order, Handsome can’t be considered for adoption until he has lived with them for six months. Make no mistake, though, they are in this for the long haul. They want him to be with them forever. "We just love him," Heather says.

So here’s the nutshell version. Handsome Dan is in a home with a family who loves him unconditionally. He lives with people who know how to help him. He loves other dogs and gets to meet new dogs on a daily basis. He goes on adventures every single day, where he will improve his confidence issues without even realizing it. Um, is there a downside here? Congrats, Handsome Dan! You deserve such a happy ending.

Photo by Molly Wald: Handsome Dan and family

Wire Services
Weird but True

Dogust 6, 2009

Oh, the doggone irony!

A woman who tried to break into an animal shelter to free her beloved pooch has been sentenced to 45 days in jail.

Jessica Johnson, 26, of Casper, Wyo., told the judge she felt her pit bull had been unfairly deemed a vicious animal, and feared that it was going to be put down.

She pleaded guilty to destruction of property and criminal entry.

Research Undermines Dog Domestication Theory
Dogust 3, 2009

Few people spend their honeymoon catching and drawing blood from village dogs up and down Africa. But Ryan and Corin Boyko, two anthropologists at the University of California, Davis, chose this way to collect valuable genetic data that is casting a new light on the domestication of dogs.

The opportunity to combine love with science arose when Ryan’s brother Adam Boyko, a biologist at Cornell University, was discussing dog genetics with his professor, Carlos Bustamente. Dr. Bustamente, just back from a visit to Venezuela, remarked on how small the street dogs there were.

The two researchers wondered if the dogs carried a recently discovered gene that downsizes dogs from wolves and is found in all small dog breeds. Dr. Bustamente said the idea could be explored by collecting street dogs from up and down South America. Dr. Boyko, knowing his brother was planning a honeymoon in Africa but lacked the money to go far, proposed that the survey be done in Africa instead. “I paid for half their honeymoon,” Dr. Bustamente said.

Ryan and Corin Boyko collected 223 samples of village dog blood from Egypt, Uganda and Namibia. The small gene question has not yet been assessed, but their samples, reported in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, have called into question a finding on the origin of dog domestication from wolves.

The origin is thought to be East Asia, based on a 2002 survey of both village dogs and breed dogs. But most of the village dogs in that survey came from East Asia, which could have tilted the outcome. The African village dogs turn out to have much the same amount of genetic diversity as those of East Asia. This is puzzling because the origin of a species is usually also the source of greatest genetic diversity.

The Boykos and Dr. Bustamente do not think dogs were domesticated in Africa — there are no wolves in Africa now, apart from the Ethiopian wolf — but they say the origin may not be East Asia. The issue is better addressed by looking just at village dogs, they think, and by excluding European breeds, which are mostly of recent origin.

They are now collecting samples from village dogs throughout the world — Ryan and Corin Boyko are at present catching dogs in New Guinea — in hope of tracing not just the place or places where dogs were first domesticated, but also the travels that dogs then took around the world with their masters.

The lack of any sharp gradient of genetic diversity between East Asian and African village dogs could mean that once domesticated, dogs spread very quickly from their point of origin. Another explanation, Dr. Boyko said, is that they originated at some point halfway between the two regions, like in the Caucasus mountains.

Robert Wayne, a biologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the new report “leaves in disarray” the thesis that dogs evolved in East Asia. But they could not have evolved in sub-Saharan Africa, which has no wolves, and “so must have evolved somewhere else, maybe in the Middle East,” Dr. Wayne said.

The solution to the origin of the dog will come from sampling wolves throughout the world as well as village dogs, Dr. Wayne said. A genome-scanning chip, similar to those developed for studying the human genome, has been developed for dogs. Dr. Wayne, working with Dr. Boyko and colleagues, has used the chip to scan wolf genomes. He said they were now working on a report that might resolve the current quandary as to where the first dogs originated.

Photo: ONCE A WOLF Scientists had thought that dogs, like these in Tibet, were domesticated from wolves in East Asia, but new work calls that into question -- Agence France-Press

Snuggie for Dogs:
The Blanket with Sleeves is coming to a dog near you very soon
By William Hageman | Tribune Reporter
Dogust 1, 2009

Not content with conquering the world of human fashion, the folks who brought us the Snuggie ("The Blanket with Sleeves!") are now taking aim at man's best friend.

The Snuggie for Dogs -- available in two colors and four sizes -- has just hit the market. And it promises to do for Little Spanky what the original Snuggie did for Little Spanky's owner last holiday season.

"The original Snuggie blanket was such a success, we decided to extend the product line to include the entire family, which, for many of us, means a dog," said Anne Flynn, director of marketing for Allstar Products Group, the Hawthorne, N.Y., firm that sells all things Snuggie.

The Snuggie for Dogs is $14.95 plus $7.95 shipping and handling. A second one is free if you pay for shipping.

Get your Snuggie on Photos A video at snuggiefordogs.com lays it all out, from the ease of slipping one onto your pet to the warmth and comfort the fleecy garment provides. Machine washable too.

As a bonus -- yes, there's always a "bonus" -- you get two free talking dog tags, on which you can record a message. The Web site suggests recording contact information in case your dog runs off.

Makes sense. Any dog that has to wear a Snuggie in public might be looking to escape.

PRNewsFoto/Allstar Products Group, LLC

Sullivan pet owner snared by law for having too many pooches
Third dog puts her over limit set by Sullivan town
By Steve Israel
Dogust 01, 2009

NORTH BRANCH — She's 11 inches long from her moist button nose to her tiny twist tail. She weighs 16 pounds — a tad more when she holds her favorite toy, a "Mickey" doll, in her wrinkled mouth. Her name is Ruby. She's a French bulldog. She's breaking the law.

Here in this no-stoplight hamlet nestled in the mountains of western Sullivan County, the law says you can only have two dogs in a "settlement or business district."

Ruby's owner, Victoria Lesser, has two other dogs, Baxter, a pug, and Roxie, a Great Dane, who live with her in her Old North Branch Inn, putting her one pooch over the limit.

The sage-colored inn, which rents rooms, serves fare ranging from organic coffee to chili and has two immaculately restored set-your-own pins bowling lanes, looks like the only business on its street of neat homes. There is, however, a post office across the street. Mel's Garage and the volunteer firehouse sit around the corner. It's safe to say that North Branch — in the Town of Callicoon — has more animals than people (estimated population, 300).

No matter. The pet law — which also forbids howling, roaming and property destruction — has sharper teeth than Ruby. An owner can face fines of up to $300 for a third offense, or up to 15 days in jail. It was passed eight years ago, after complaints in the same hamlet about one resident with 150 dogs and cats and another with 17 dogs.

Still, the notion that little Ruby — who is as silent as a mouse (and almost as small) — could feel the bite of this law strikes some as ridiculous.

Take Robert Pisall, who paused from walking his dogs the other day to say, "C'mon, we're in the country. You can have 50 cows but you can't have three dogs?"

Lesser — a designer who designed pajamas for Bill Cosby — learned that the hard way. After she got Ruby, she wanted to make her legal. When Town Clerk Janet Brahm realized Lesser had three dogs, she says she checked with Callicoon Supervisor Linda Babicz.

"The law's the law," said Brahm, adding that she "feels bad" for Lesser. "But if you make an exception for one ."

To which Lesser says, "I wanted to play by the rules, but how was I to know?"

So there Ruby stands, on her tiny paws. But she can free her 11-inch body from the long leash of the law by tangling herself in something else that's all too human — applying for a variance.

Photo: Victoria Lesser with her French bulldog, Ruby, at her home at the North Branch Inn in the Town of Callicoon.
Times Herald-Record/MICHELE HASKELL

Brooklyn Man Threw Dog Off 6th-Floor Roof

Friday, 1 Dogust 2009

NEW YORK (AP)  -- A New York City man has been accused of throwing his dog from the roof of a six-floor city housing project in Brooklyn, critically injuring the animal.

Joseph Pentangelo
(right), assistant director at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, says surgeons reassembled the one-year-old terrier mix's front legs. The 45-pound dog, named "Oreo'' is able to walk.

ASCPA officers arrested 19-year-old Fabian Henderson
(left) on Friday on felony charges of aggravated cruelty to animals and reckless endangerment. His lawyer's name was not immediately known.

Residents of the Red Hook Houses called the ASCPA last month, saying a dog was being beaten inside an apartment. Neighbors later called to say a dog had been thrown off a building's roof.

Dogust 1, 2009

A 1-year-old wonder dog miraculously survived a six-story plunge off a housing-project roof after being tossed by a heartless Brooklyn teen, who was arrested yesterday, authorities said.

Oreo's legs were shattered, and she suffered internal injuries, but the female, black-and-white terrier mix is expected to pull through.

Fabian Henderson, 19, grabbed the dog and savagely hurled her from the building in the Red Hook Houses on June 18, said Special Agent Joe Pentangelo of the ASPCA.

"This was unquestionably an act of cruelty," he said.

Several people called 911 saying a dog had gone off the roof, and police found the maimed pup on the ground six floors below, clinging to life.

All four of the dog's limbs had to be surgically repaired with plates and screws. She also suffered internal bruising and damage to her lungs.

Investigators have named her Oreo for her black-and-white markings.

"She is healing, but it is a long road ahead," Pentangelo said.

It was unclear whom the dog belongs to. While Henderson's family said Oreo did not belong to them, NYPD Housing Police issued Henderson a summons for walking a dog off-leash that fit Oreo's description 12 days before the incident, sources said.

ASPCA Special Agent Peter Rivas spent two weeks conducting interviews before Henderson was arrested.

The teen didn't comment to reporters when he was brought into the 76th Precinct station on charges of animal cruelty, reckless endangerment and criminal trespass. At first, Henderson, who has a prior robbery arrest, allegedly admitted to the crime. But he later claimed the dog jumped off the roof, though investigators say a large ledge made it unlikely the dog could have just fallen, sources said.

Henderson's stunned family insisted that he "loved animals," noting their own dog, Diamond.
"I can't believe it. My son wouldn't do anything like that," said his mother, Samantha, 41. "He is around the dog all the time, and he has shown no signs of abuse with the dog or any family member."

Henderson's girlfriend, Laniya Walker, 16, said, "It was raining that day. We weren't even outside. I never saw the dog."

U.S. Justice Department honors Best Friends Animal Society for rehabilitative work with Michael Vick’s fighting dogs
Dogust 1, 2009

Best Friends Animal Society received a 2009 Asset Forfeiture National Award from the U.S. Justice Department for its “outstanding work with the dogs on the Bad Newz Kennels (the Michael Vick case).”
This award to Best Friends is in conjunction with 2009 National Leadership Conference for the U.S. Justice Department’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) and the Asset Forfeiture Program. The conference focused on the essential role the OCDETF and Asset Forfeiture Programs play in disrupting and dismantling illegal enterprises, depriving criminals of the proceeds of illegal activity, deterring crime, and restoring property to victims of crime.
For the last 19 months, Best Friends has been in the national spotlight for its care of nearly half the animals seized from Michael Vick’s dog fighting operation. Considered the most challenging cases, these dogs would have been destroyed if Best Friends had not accepted them. During that time, the dogs have made steady progress, with one dog being recently adopted and another in foster care.
Co-managers of DogTown, Michelle Beshmehn
(far left) and John Garcia (left), accepted the award on behalf of Best Friends.

“We are honored to receive this award,” said Gregory Castle
(right), interim chief executive officer for Best Friends Animal Society. “This honor comes just weeks after what is probably the single largest bust of dogfighting rings in the country and it drives home the complexity of the issues surrounding American pit bull terriers and other ‘bully breeds.’”

“It is our hope that across the country people will step forward, as they did for the Michael Vick dogs and say ‘these dogs deserve a chance at life and here’s what we can do to help.’”
This award arrives at a monumental time when Halle, a dog rescued from Bad Newz Kennels, is being adopted into her forever home.


July 31, 2009

The wedding was called off years ago, but a New Jersey couple is still engaged in a pug of war over their dog.

Eric Dare, 36, and Doreen Houseman, 35, squared off Wednesday in Salem County Family Court -- each hoping to be named the permanent keeper of the leash for Dexter
(left), a 6-year-old Pug they got before their relationship imploded in 2006.

It marked the third time that Dare, a South Jersey cop, and former fiancée Houseman, a customer-service manager, have gone to court over Dexter. The dogfight has cost $40,000 in legal fees so far.

Dare, who claims he let Houseman share the dog with him after their 13-year relationship ended, was originally awarded custody of Dexter last year by Salem County Judge John Tomasello. But Houseman -- who had sued for custody in March 2007, contending that Dare gave Dexter to her after the split -- appealed.

Last March, she won a precedent-setting reversal. An appellate court ruled that pets have "special subjective" and "sentimental value" that should have been considered in the initial decision.
During the appeal, lawyers for the Animal Defense League and Lawyers in Defense of Animals filed briefs, asking the appellate court to adopt a rule "that requires consideration of the best interest of the dog," court papers say. Dare and Houseman were ordered back in front of Tomasello this week.
"I'm not inclined to be Solomon and cut the dog in half," Tomasello told the warring exes Wednesday, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. "That dog has to go somewhere."

During testimony, Dare said he paid for the dog and footed the veterinary bills. But he said he shared Dexter with Houseman after they split to be civil, "just like people with children have to share custody."
Houseman testified that she was "blindsided" when Dare broke up with her and asked her to move out. But she contended he told her she could have their precious, pedigreed pooch.

She said the once-happy couple had referred to Dexter as "our son."

During testimony, Tomasello sometimes appeared annoyed, rolling his eyes and cutting Houseman short as she recounted how she had pampered the pooch and showered it with gifts.

Tomasello did not make a final custody decision. He ordered the dog-crazy duo and their lawyers back to court in September. The judge said there are three options: sole custody for either of the two parties, or a joint visitation pact.

With AP and Post Wire Services



Contact NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell
Logon to
http://www.nfl.com/contact-us and protest
Contact DeMaurice Smith
Executive Director of the N.F.L. Players Association

N.F.L. Opens Door to Vick, Though Not All the Way
Published: July 27, 2009

A few years ago, Michael Vick was the highest-paid player in the N.F.L. , adored by fans across the country who wore his Atlanta Falcons jersey, his legend growing with each highlight-reel gallop across the field.

Now, Vick waits for a call as if he were the lowliest undrafted free agent, hoping that a team will give him a chance to restart his career after his involvement in a dogfighting operation.

Vick, the former star quarterback who served a 23-month prison sentence for bankrolling the dogfighting ring, was conditionally reinstated by the league Monday. The decision makes Vick, 29, eligible to sign with a team, join it during training camp and play in the final two preseason games.

But Commissioner Roger Goodell has not determined when Vick can return to regular-season games. That ruling is to come no later than Week 6, in mid-October, although it could come much sooner if Vick’s behavior is exemplary.

The kind of market awaiting Vick , the first overall pick in the 2001 draft, remains to be seen. While Vick was incarcerated, several teams — including the Giants and the Jets — said they would not be interested. But with training camps opening this week and teams getting a close look at their quarterback prospects, Vick is likely to find a few suitors. Several people who have seen Vick say he is in fine physical shape, and he will work out with a trainer.

Still, he is unlikely to be sought as an immediate starter, but rather as a backup or as a situational quarterback for formations like the Wildcat, which would take advantage of his superb scrambling ability. Then perhaps next year, Vick’s tortuous journey back to stardom and the riches that accompany it will be complete. Vick needs that journey to be successful: he has filed for bankruptcy and is deeply in debt.

But first, Vick must again convince Goodell — and owners considering taking an enormous risk on him — that he is prepared to reimmerse himself in the N.F.L. without drowning in the bad decisions that pulled him down. Goodell said he met with Vick for about four and a half hours, including two one-one-one meetings in which they discussed Vick’s past, the fact that he lied to Goodell when initially confronted with the dogfighting allegations and the challenges Vick faces off the field. Goodell said they did not discuss football.

“I believe he is sincere in his remorse,” Goodell said in a conference call. “He recognizes what he was engaging in was horrific and cruel. He wanted an opportunity to prove that was not Michael Vick. He really didn’t focus significantly on the loss of career and the loss of money.”

In a letter to Vick on Monday, Goodell noted that Vick’s margin for error was “extremely limited.” He wrote: “My decision at that time will be based on reports from outside professionals, your probation officer, and others charged with supervising your activities, the quality of your work outside football, the absence of any further adverse involvement in law enforcement, and other concrete actions that you take that are consistent with your representations to me.”

Tony Dungy
(left), the former Indianapolis Colts coach, visited Vick during his time at a federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan., and will be his mentor.

Vick, who has been suspended since August 2007, was released from federal custody on July 20. He is serving three years of probation. In a statement Monday, Vick recalled the “terrible mistakes” he had made in the past and referred to the maturation he had since experienced.

“I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to Commissioner Goodell for allowing me to be readmitted to the National Football League,” Vick said. “I fully understand that playing football in the N.F.L. is a privilege, not a right, and I am truly thankful for the opportunity I have been given.”

Goodell interviewed Vick’s family members and associates, and Vick’s ability to show that he has severed ties with some of the people who exerted a bad influence on him at home in Virginia will probably be scrutinized by the league before he is allowed back on the field. Vick also had to submit a written plan concerning his proposed living arrangements, management of his finances, counseling and mentoring plans and his proposed work with the Humane Society of the United States .

Goodell said that while considering Vick’s future, he consulted with current and former players and coaches, as well as community leaders, and encountered a broad spectrum of reaction. Goodell spoke repeatedly with DeMaurice Smith, the head of the N.F.L. Players Association, and on Monday, Smith pledged to support Vick.

“We are pleased that he is on the right path to return not only to the field, but as a contributing member of his community,” Smith said in a statement.

Still, Goodell said some fans would be outraged by the decision to allow Vick back into the league. The team that signs Vick will almost certainly find animal-rights protesters greeting it at training camp, which may deter a franchise that is not a well-respected community presence, no matter how dire its quarterbacking situation.

“I’m a believer personally that if somebody recognizes either mistakes in judgment or things, they can do better going forward, that the general public will recognize that and give people an opportunity to prove themselves,” Goodell said. “I’m trying to give Michael the opportunity to prove himself to play in the N.F.L. again. It’s in his hands now.”

• • •

Vick Now Has to Deal With How Teams and Public Receive Him
Published: July 27, 2009

Ingrid Newkirk was the first person who came to mind Monday when N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Michael Vick ’s transition plan for reinstatement.

Newkirk is the tenacious president and co-founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals . Her sprawling organization, which is capable and quite willing to create havoc, will set the tone for the reception Vick receives if he signs with a team.

Now that Goodell has announced his soft re-entry plan for Vick — conditional reinstatement and possible full reinstatement no later than Week 6 based on progress he makes — will Newkirk unleash a firestorm against the N.F.L. with legions of pickets?

During a conversation on Monday, Newkirk seemed undecided on what course of action she would take. “We’re not encouraging it,” Newkirk said when asked about PETA’s plans to picket. “We’re not in a picketing mood.” Then in an about-face she said: “We may, I can’t really say. There are so many strong sentiments. It’s on the table, but we’re not encouraging it.”

Last year, PETA implied that it might work with Vick, who attended the group’s sensitivity training. But Newkirk suddenly backed off a partnership, perhaps because of internal pressure, perhaps out of more pragmatic consideration. If PETA forged a relationship with Vick, what justification would the organization have for launching spectacles this fall at stadiums where Vick plays — if he plays?

What Newkirk did was encourage the N.F.L. to probe Vick’s psyche.

“We continue to ask Mr. Goodell to put him through psychological counseling and testing to see if he can be remorseful,” Newkirk said. “We still want cruelty to animals to be part of the personal conduct policy for the N.F.L.”

Goodell said Monday that Vick had been tested, though apparently not by PETA people. “We worked with animal-rights activist groups,” he said. “Michael fully cooperated with all of those tests; those tests did not indicate that there was any reason he couldn’t make a transition forward.”

The other people who came to mind were N.F.L. general managers, men whose lifeblood is providing their franchises with on-the-field weapons. Publicly, most have made comments that sound like, No way do we want Vick, or We like what we’ve got.

Even the Lions , the worst team in N.F.L. history, say they are trying to build something.

Give general managers three weeks to see what they’ve got. They all know in their hearts that Vick is better than half the quarterbacks on rosters right now. But talent isn’t the issue. Public relations is. How will signing Vick play to a fan base? Under the terms of his conditional reinstatement, Vick can sign with a team, join it in training camp and play in the final two preseason games, but will have to wait until Week 6 at the latest to play in regular-season games.

“This gives him the best chance for success,” Goodell said. “We are not looking for a failure here. We are looking to see a young man succeed.”

Maybe as part of the plan, Goodell has been twisting a few arms, encouraging a couple of teams to take a chance on someone who was once the N.F.L.’s most exciting player.

Goodell said Monday that the former Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy had agreed to continue working with Vick as an adviser and mentor.

Dungy may be the most important person on Vick’s rehabilitation team, possibly in his life right now. One thing the two men share is a deep sense of loss. Vick lost two years of his life; three years ago, Dungy and his wife lost their son. If anyone can show Vick the way from darkness to light, it’s Dungy.

Loss often puts life in perspective and perhaps Vick will come to see, if he hasn’t already, that this really isn’t about football. It’s not about controversy, boos, cheers or getting back to the roar of the crowd.
He had all of that and look where it got him.

Goodell calls this a transition plan. For Vick, one hopes it’s the beginning of a great transformation.


Julia Szabo
July 26, 2009

It's tough to find a dreamier destination for dogs and the people who love them than Portland, Oregon, which earned the title "Dog Town USA" from Dog Fancy magazine.

JetBlue offers nonstop service for dogs -- provided the pooch is small enough to fit inside an under-seat pet carrier. Conveniently, the airline sells a stylin' blue-and-orange carrier that looks right at home in JFK's swank new Terminal Five. They've even got the "JetPaws" program, featuring frequent-flyer miles for pets!

Once your plane touches down, the serious fun begins. Portland International Airport has a spacious, grassy area equipped with free poop-pickup bags so dogs can get comfortable right before and after the nearly five-hour flight.

In addition to pet-friendly outdoor spaces like gorgeous Washington Park, Portland is home to many dog-oriented businesses. Lucky Labrador Brewing Company (luckylab.com) has three locations where beer lovers can tap a keg with their best friends: Lucky Labrador Brew Pub, Lucky Labrador Public House and Lucky Labrador Beer Hall.

Another "lucky Lab" of sorts is Art, whose day job is "director of pet relations" at the swank Hotel Monaco (monaco-portland.com), where he greets guests in the lobby. Meanwhile, at the nearby Hotel Vintage Plaza (vintageplaza.com), the "diva of pet relations" is Georgie, a female Havanese. Both dogs extend tail-wagging hospitality to human and canine visitors.

Free four-footed features at both hotels include cushy dog beds, toys, bowls and a mat, treats and pets' names chalked on the welcome board at reception. There's even a pet portraitist, pet masseuse and pet psychic. But those cost extra, along with hiring a dog walker.

The Monaco's mouthwatering Red Star Restaurant and Pazzo Ristorante at the Vintage Plaza both offer outdoor seating for diners with dogs, and wine hounds may order a bottle of Rascal Pinot Noir from the Great Oregon Wine Company, whose label features a handsome, haloed hound.

Meanwhile, Portland's Gemisphere (gemisphere.com) offers healing gemstone necklaces worn by Richard Gere, Sheryl Crow, Clint Eastwood and Halle Berry. For stressed-out K9s adopted from animal shelters, such as Humane Society rescue Gordon (pictured) or any pet experiencing travel-related stress, Gemisphere's Dr. Ada Gonzalez prescribes "grounding" Onyx and "physically soothing" Light Green Aventurine.

On a sad note, the popular downtown Portland gift shop Funny Bone (funnybonestore.com) is offering a whopping $5,000 reward for the safe return of its beloved store mascot, a miniature Yorkshire terrier named Veronica, who went missing in June.

Even in America's dog-friendliest city, bad things can happen. But the good news is that Portland's entire K9 community has rallied to help find Veronica. Now that's a city any dog would be happy to visit.

Photo: Christian Jhonston

Chicago's dog beaches
Zak Stambor, Special to the Tribune
July 26, 2009


Rare a decade ago, dog-friendly sections of the lakefront now number six in the Chicago area, from Belmont Harbor in the city to north suburban Lake Bluff.

Not all dog beaches are alike. Some are tranquil spots hidden below scenic bluffs. Some are little more than a tiny strip of sand.

Wire Services
Weird but True

July 25, 2009

A blind British border collie has his own seeing-eye dog.

Clyde relies entirely on Bonnie to guide him to food and water and take him on walks. The two have become inseparable, with Clyde refusing to move unless Bonnie is there to help.

"He totally relies on her," said Cherie Cootes, who rescued the former strays.

• • •

A Chinese Alsatian has become the coolest dog in town by refusing to leave the house without his signature sunglasses.

Fei Fei's owner said he bought the pooch the shades to protect his eyes from the strong sun in Chongqing and he grew to love them.

"If I don't put his sunglasses on before we go out, he barks at me until I do," the owner said.

Pet project more than puppy love

BRIGHTON PARK | Lifelong passion fuels big plans to help strays
July 25, 2009

As a little girl, Estela Michelle Bustos Flores sought out animals in distress, and brought home abandoned animals and tried to hide them. When her parents let her pick a pet goldfish, she chose the fish with one eye.

Now, at 34, Bustos, who works as a waitress in her dad's Argentinian restaurant, El Nandu, obsessively eyeballs every alley she passes, saving stray dogs and abandoned animals she spots in her Brighton Park neighborhood. One time, she even jumped from a moving car to keep a dog from trying to cross busy Archer Avenue.

"She feels such a deep need to protect these animals because they cannot defend themselves," said neighbor Eduardo Garcia.

Her fiance, Paul Calcano, said of her: "She sacrifices everything for these animals. She even refuses to buy new clothes so she can use the money she saves for the animals."

Bustos said she was "rebellious and angst-ridden" as a teenager, then found her calling and a sense of peace in rescuing abused, abandoned and neglected animals.

Her passion reached its zenith after her beloved American pit bull terrier, T-Bone, died eight years ago on Bustos' birthday. Her sister Tania had saved the dog from an owner who tied him to a radiator, beat him and denied him food. Michelle Bustos credits T-Bone for her dedication to changing the lives of animals in need.

"We're a bunch of people with no money," Bustos said. "How do we start something?"

Bustos' mom, Rita, a former Chicago community organizer, came up with an idea: Rita would allow her longtime artist-friends to teach her how to create art in a variety of disciplines -- pastels, sketches, oils and acrylics and more -- and she would auction off her handiwork. Michelle's mom is being joined by eight professional artists who are contributing their work to a fund-raiser Sunday.

The fund-raising "Artists 4 Life" exhibition will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at El Nandu restaurant, 2731 W. Fullerton. Bustos said the money raised will be used for veterinary care for her rescued animals and to help create a nonprofit organization. She dreams of opening a no-kill shelter and a dying-animal hospice.

Photo (Jean Lachat/Sun-Times): Estela Michelle Bustos Flores with fiance Paul Calcano, and dogs Lucy and Ace, two of their many rescued pets.

It's official! Halle’s Vick~torious!

The first Vicktory dog is being adopted!
by David Dickson
July 25, 2009

Woohoo! Sound the bells, toss the confetti! Halle the Vicktory dog proves once and for all that not only does every dog deserve a second chance, but she can take that chance and run with it to a happy ending of epic proportions. Her life now is totally backwards and opposite in every possible way from her days before as part of Michael Vick's dogfighting ring. Good for her!

You may remember that six months ago Halle went into foster care with her new mom Traci. Part of the intricate legal hoops with adopting any Vicktory dog is that the dog must first live in a potential new home for six months before being considered for adoption. There are a whole host of other things that have to happen during those six months as well (such as working with a trainer toward Canine Good Citizen certification) but in the end it all came down to waiting out the time. Traci and Halle sailed through the other stuff perfectly.

In fact, Traci's application, paperwork and so forth are already filled out and approved. At this point, it's just a matter of waiting for the calendar to flip over to the date when everybody can sign on the dotted line and Halle will be adopted once and for all.

So, when exactly does that happen? This week, as it turns out! The six-month date falls this Saturday, July 18. Traci has big plans, including an even bigger party, for Halle and pals on her big day. But here's the best side of the whole thing. To Halle, the festivities will be nothing more than business as usual. To her, every day is a party now!

Backing up a bit, several months before Halle went into foster care, Traci had adopted another pit bull from Best Friends. Anybody remember Tacoma? He came to Best Friends from the local animal control. Almost immediately, Tacoma proved his invaluable skills as an office assistant in Dogtown. Nobody could knock over furniture and swoosh files off the counters like Tacoma. But his true genius, his ace in the hole, as it were, was that Tacoma could bring a smile to any face that walked in the door.

If you had a chance to meet him during his brief stay at the sanctuary, you won't have to wonder how Traci fell head over heels in love with him. She decided to adopt and Tacoma was everything Traci hoped he would be. Soon, however, she was thinking about finding him a friend.

She thought it may be a long shot, but Traci applied to adopt one of the Vicktory dogs. Traci wanted to help one of those dogs have a better life. In her application, she asked the staff members to pick whichever dog they felt would best get along with Tacoma (since they knew Tacoma).

Put simply, the adoption staffers hit one out of the park with Halle. She was the picture-perfect match for Tacoma, and he for her. She has always been a little shy, but Tacoma has enough confidence for three dogs. They hit it off the very first day, snuggling together on a sleepover and everything. Traci knew Halle was the right fit.

The last six months have been magical indeed for Halle, Tacoma, and Traci. Traci is able to bring the two dogs to work, where they soak up loads of attention and treats from coworkers. The dogs go on hikes with Traci all the time, they have play dates with other canine pals, and the two are inseparable day and night. They play constantly in the house and yard. Swimming pools in the summer, snow wrestling in the winter, Tacoma and Halle are stuck like glue. In fact, Traci says that even though she bought them double beds, they're never in more than one at a time. They double up in the dog beds, on the couch, Traci's bed, anywhere!

Halle has come a long way with her confidence, too. Here's one example. Back when she first went into foster care, the video folks at Best Friends wanted to get some footage of the big day. That didn’t work out, though, because Halle got really nervous around the cameras. A couple weeks ago, however, Traci attended a nearby news conference to talk about pit bulls. This time around, Halle had no problems with the cameras. She let the reporters pet her and everything.

Sometimes that confidence isn't always a good thing, though. Halle has developed a mischievous streak! Traci says that one of Halle's new favorite pastimes is to sneak up on her while she's applying makeup for the day. Halle watches, waits, and then quick as can be, she grabs one of the cosmetics and dashes out the room! (Hey, she's gotta look good for Tacoma, right?)

Safe to say, this is one happy family. Congratulations, you guys. Some happy endings take a bit longer to pull off than others, but this one was worth the wait.

Halle and Tacoma are helping to dispel the negative stereotypes surrounding pit bulls. For more information about breed discriminatory legislation, dogfighting, and other challenges pit bulls face, see the Pit Bulls: Saving America's Dog campaign

Photos provided courtesy of Traci :
Halle and Tacoma / Tacoma and Halle with Tracy
Summer fun with Halle / Bed buddies

• • •
News Release
July 24, 2009

Michael Vick Released from Federal Custody
ASPCA President Speaks Out

“The question isn't whether he deserves to earn a livelihood. The question is whether Mr. Vick should be able to re-join the ranks of elite athletes in the NFL.”—Ed Sayres, ASPCA President & CEO

On Monday, July 20, former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, once the highest-paid player in the National Football League (NFL), was released from federal custody after serving a 23-month sentence for dog fighting. The investigation into the horrific activities that took place at Vick’s Virginia dog fighting operation, Bad Newz Kennels, and his 2007 federal conviction not only led to a sullied public image, but to the star quarterback being let go by his team and indefinitely suspended from the NFL.

In light of th e ASPCA’s integral role in the investigation—we collected forensic evidence for the court case and led a team of behaviorists in the evaluation of the dozens of dogs rescued from Vick’s property—Ed Sayres, ASPCA President & CEO, offers his unique perspective on the release of Michael Vick and the question on everyone's mind: what will he do now?

The following are selections from Sayres's statement, which can be read in its entirety at ASPCA.org.

"…the facts are clear: Mr. Vick participated in a six-year pattern of illegal activity. His plea clearly stated that along with these activities, he savagely electrocuted and beat dogs to death after they lost their brutal fights[…]. This was not a one-time transgression or crime of passion—this was a multi-year pattern of behavior that demonstrates a startling lack of moral character and judgment.”

"Given the stature of what it means to be a part of the NFL, it is crucial that Mr. Vick first express remorse for what he has done—something that he has yet to do throughout his incarceration.”

Original illustration, "GUILTY", by Ian Kim
Additional digital enhancement by ARTGRUNGE

• • •

ASPCA Offers Nation’s First Animal Cruelty CSI Workshop

The ASPCA, in collaboration with the University of Florida’s William R. Maples Center for Forensic Medicine, recently offered the nation’s first Veterinary Forensics Crime Scene Investigations Workshop to help increase the number of professionals trained in the forensic investigation of animal cruelty cases and aid in the prosecution of crimes against animals.

The three-day workshop, which took place from June 17-19, offered students—many of whom were law enforcement officers, veterinarians, forensic specialists and emergency responders—a hands-on training experience. Through fieldwork and classroom instruction, students learned to detect and properly document a crime scene, including the collection of evidence, photography, mapping, sketching and the excavation of remains.

The program reaches beyond a workshop, as well. The University of Florida will soon be offering undergraduate and postgraduate courses in veterinary forensic sciences. The program will receive an initial gift of $150,000 from the ASPCAand three years of support from our organization.

“The development of veterinary forensics is in a similar place now that human forensics was a few decades ago,” says Dr. Melinda Merck, ASPCA Senior Director of Veterinary Forensics, who was on hand at the workshop with the ASPCA's Mobile Animal Crime Scene Investigation Unit. “Now there are special prosecutors and special courts that focus on violent crimes—I expect that is where we’ll eventually get with animal cruelty.”

• • •

Legislative Victory: CT Passes Pet Store-Related Bill

Earlier this month, Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell signed into law Senate Bill 499, legislation
spearheaded by the ASPCA and Connecticut Votes for Animals (CVA). The new law will help shoppers make more educated decisions when purchasing a pet by requiring all retail pet shops in the state of Connecticut to disclose where the puppies they sell came from. Each dog’s “certificate of origin” must be posted openly (no more than 10 feet from his enclosure)—and, when a puppy is sold, a copy of his certificate must be given to his purchasers. Pet stores are also responsible for guaranteeing that their out-of-state animal suppliers are licensed by the USDA and appropriate state agencies. Violations of these measures can result in fines and jail time.

“This bill ensures accountability from both pet stores and the animal breeders that sell to them,” says Debora Bresch, ASPCA Legislative Liaison to Connecticut. “Sadly, puppies sold at pet stores are usually from puppy mills.” A puppy mill is a commercial breeding enterprise where dogs are mass-produced for profit without concern for their health or welfare. With your help, the ASPCA is working tirelessly to pass legislation in every state to ensure that all animals bred to be pets are raised in healthy conditions.

Want to have a hand in passing pro-animal legislation in your state? Join the ASPCA
Advocacy Brigade.

By Todd Venezia
July 23, 2009

Vaya con tacos, amiga!

The final bell has tolled for a charming Chihuahua who became an advertising icon in the 1990s for saying, "Yo quiero Taco Bell!" in TV ads for the fast-food chain. The little dog named Gidget was 15 when she died on Tuesday from the effects of a stroke, according to People magazine.

"She made so many people happy," Gidget's trainer, Sue Chipperton, told People.

Gidget first appeared mouthing her famous catch phrase -- which means "I want Taco Bell" -- in 1997. She played the part of a male pup, and her voice was performed by "Reno 911!" actor Carlos Alazraqui.

Gidget's slogans would enter the pantheon of legendary ad lines along with "Where's the Beef" and "I can't believe I ate the whole thing."

She was immortalized in toys and was credited with making Chihuahua sales soar, and some of her other Taco Bell lines became famous, such as "Drop the chalupa!" and "Viva gorditas!" She would later appear in a Geico ad in 2002 and the film "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde" in 2003. But she didn't get much work in her later years because she was typecast, her trainer said recently.

Nevertheless, she was enjoying a happy retirement in Santa Clara, Calif., Chipperton told People earlier this year.

"She loves laying out in the sun," said Chipperton. "It's like looking after a plant." The chalupa-hawking pooch remained popular after her retirement, and would be recognized as she went on hikes and trips to the beach with her trainer. The perro viejo -- who was 76 in human years -- enjoyed nothing more than to snooze in the sun.

"She was like a little old lady. She'd kind of gotten smaller," said Karin McElhatton, owner of Studio Animal Services in Castaic, which owned the dog. McElhatton said Gidget will be cremated. Her owners had not decided on a final disposition of her remains yesterday.

Taco Bell Corp. said in a press release that Gidget would be missed by many. "Our deepest sympathies go out to her owners and fans," the company said.

Over 90 dogs, many Chihuahuas, found in Michigan home
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, July 23, 2009

DEARBORN, Mich. A man kept more than 90 dogs - mostly Chihuahuas - in a small suburban Detroit home that from the outside looked generally well kept but inside was filled with feces and trash, authorities said Thursday.

Neighbors in the past had complained of an odor, but this week was the first time Dearborn officials got inside. On Wednesday and Thursday, crews wearing masks to help them breathe carried dogs from the two-story home.

"There's trash from floor to ceiling," said Nick Siroskey, director of residential services for the city. "There's feces and urine throughout the entire house."

City workers, along with Friends for the Dearborn Animal Shelter, removed 42 ailing and feces-covered dogs from the home Wednesday. They returned Thursday and found about 50 more dogs.

The 56-year-old man who was living in the house was taken to a local hospital for observation. His family, which lives in Florida, was involved in his care and cooperating with officials. The man's sister told officials that she believed he initially had two dogs in the home and that they may have reproduced, Siroskey said. Misdemeanor animal cruelty charges were possible, but Siroskey said the man appears to have mental health issues that could be a factor in the case.

Outside, the lawn was neatly cut and the bushes were manicured. Neighbors and investigators said the smell of urine, noticeable from the street Thursday, may have been contained previously because windows were closed and covered.

"There was a little bit of a smell, but it was just like a ... person that doesn't keep their house up," said Abe Baydoun. "He didn't take care of himself, personally, but he took care of the outside of his house." Baydoun, 25, lives across the street and said he only had seen two of the man's dogs outside. "It just seemed like there was five or six," he said.

The dogs, which were being examined at the animal shelter, appear to have been unattended and were in various stages of health.

Crews pulled bags full of trash from the home to clear pathways inside. The house was deemed unfit for human habitation and the city likely will seek to tear it down, Siroskey said. On Friday, Siroskey said police were called to the home by a neighbor who spotted some kittens in a hole in the backyard, and the officer who responded reported that it seemed like there were many dogs inside. Animal control authorities got the case and, after obtaining a warrant, investigators went inside Wednesday.

Wire Services
Weird but True
July 22, 2009

Dog-o origato, Roboto San.

A Japanese toymaker has created a device that can translate a dog's barks into human words. The "Bowlingual Voice" tells a dog's master whether the pooch is sad, happy, frustrated or just wants to play.

Bow ouch! City's Animal Care cuts adoption schedule
'IT'S IRONIC' | City's Animal Care has cut adoption schedule from 49 hours a week to 17 to accommodate layoffs
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter
July 21, 2009

Chicago's 2009 vehicle sticker features a dog with a city flag stuck in its mouth above the slogan, "Dog Friendly Chicago."

Somebody forgot to tell the Commission on Animal Care and Control. Animal Care has dramatically reduced its adoption schedule -- from 49 hours a week to 17 -- to accommodate the layoffs ordered by Mayor Daley after two holdout unions refused to make cost-cutting concessions.

Even worse was the fact that the David R. Lee Animal Center, 2741 S. Western, was not open for adoptions Sunday, which had been one of the busiest days of the week for dog and cat adoptions.

"The fear among the volunteers is that more animals will be euthanized because people will not be able to access the shelter during the hours most convenient to the public," said volunteer Katharine Wilson.
But on Monday city officials reversed themselves under pressure from volunteers and questions from the Sun-Times.

They now vow to keep the shelter open on Sundays, instead closing on another week day, in addition to the Monday they had already decided would also be a no-business day.

Monday's reversal came after a confusing day Sunday. Dozens of people showed up at the shelter Sunday oblivious to the new hours, according to volunteer Dee Brodlo, who set up a card table outside to explain the change and urge people to call their local alderman to protest.

"We're losing out on all those people who were turned away. It's almost like they're making it impossible for someone to come and adopt," Brodlo said. She added, "There's only so much room in the adoption pavilion. If we're not moving dogs out, and every day we get more surrenders and strays coming in because of the economic situation, it's got to lead to more animals" being put to death.

Marvin Feutz, yet another volunteer, said, "It's ironic that we're doing this to the dogs and cats of Chicago the year I'm paying $120 for my city decal that has, 'Dog Friendly Chicago' as the motto."

Sandra Alfred, acting executive director of Animal Care and Control, said the department was forced to cut back its schedule after laying off five workers whose union refused to agree to concessions.
Alfred said she initially decided to close Sunday and Mondays, but changed her mind on the Sunday closure after volunteers voiced concerns.

"We plan to change the schedule to remain open on Sundays and instead close on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday [we will determine the appropriate day within the next several days]," Alfred said in an e-mail. "We may also seek some grant funding that would allow us to restore some of these positions and again remain open for adoptions and redemptions seven days a week." Until last week, the center was open for adoptions from noon to 7 p.m. seven days a week. Until Alfred's about face, the revised hours were to be 3-to-6 p.m. Tuesday-through-Friday and Saturday from noon-to-1:45 p.m. and 3-to-6 p.m. It's unclear what the hours will be now.

Animal Care and Control euthanized 17,159 animals in 2006 and had hoped to hold the number of cats and dogs put to sleep this year down to 10,000, according to the mayor's budget.

The number of annual adoptions hit a peak of 3,541 in 2005 and has declined every year since. The goal for 2009 is 2,600 adoptions.

Noting that the city receives a $65 adoption fee, Feutz said, "Adoptions are a revenue source for the shelter. If you close your doors and cut your hours by two-thirds, you're cutting revenue and increasing expenses. It's shortsighted."

Meanwhile, voluntary surrenders of dogs are up at least 20 percent. "Since the economy went south, there are even more fancy dogs coming in," Brodlo said.

Feutz said there's a Mastif named Moses at the shelter that weighs 80 pounds, even though it should weigh as much as 130. "Here's an underweight dog because the family couldn't afford to feed it," he said.

Photo: Volunteer Marvin Feutz, with his adopted dog Dunkin, says "it's ironic" that the city has promoted dogs on its sticker. The city's vehicle sticker (inset) says "Dog Friendly Chicago."
(Keith Hale/Sun-Times)

Wire Services
Weird but True
July 20, 2009

This man is his dog's best friend!

David Grounds, 65, lost two fingers while fighting a 7-foot alligator that had clamped its powerful jaws on his Wheaten terrier. The West Palm Beach civil engineer said all that mattered was that his pooch, Mandy got, away safely: "I'd do it again."

Charlotte Woman Saves Five-legged Dog from Life of Sideshows
Puppy owned by Gastonia, N.C., man was close to getting shipped to N.Y.
By Ely Portillo
Saturday, Jul. 18, 2009

CHARLOTTE -- How much would you pay for a dog with five legs?

If you're Allyson Siegel, the answer is $4,000, plus at least $2,000 more for medical expenses to remove said leg. The 45-year-old Charlotte woman bought Precious the puppy, whom she has renamed Lilly, from Gastonia, N.C., resident Calvin Owensby last week because she couldn't bear to see her sold to a show that features deformed animals.

Lilly was born about six weeks ago to Owensby's Chihuahua, Diamond, and is a Chihuahua-terrier mix. One of six puppies, she seemed healthy, except for the extra appendage. The fifth leg, white and without feeling, hangs down between her two back legs.

When John Strong , the owner of a Coney Island sideshow, heard about Lilly from a friend, he knew he had to have her. Owensby asked for $3,000, and Strong immediately agreed to the price. “There are millions of dogs with four legs, and there are only three with five legs I'm aware of,” said Strong, who makes it his business to find the deformed animals.

The money couldn't have come at a better time for Owensby, a 57-year-old electrician who was laid off in December. “I've been looking for work, can't find work nowhere,” he said. “It hurts when you go from $500 a week to nothing.”

Strong saw it as a good deal too. Not only had he passed over the chance to buy a five legged dog just last year, he moved 27 live animals and 250 stuffed, preserved or mummified ones to Coney Island for the summer season just this spring, setting up down the street from a well-established rival sideshow. But when a local paper published Owensby's plans — and his phone number — he started getting calls from irate animal lovers, protesting the sale and “cussing me out.”

Allyson Siegel also read the story, and decided she couldn't let the adorable puppy live the life of a carny. She has donated to animal charities and helped injured animals, but she felt she had to do more for this little dog. “I just called him and I said, ‘How much'?” Owensby still wanted a $3,000 profit, but he had to pay back a $1,000 deposit that Strong had given him, so Siegel forked over $4,000.

Siegel says a simple creed motivated her: “Don't do to animals what you wouldn't do to your kids.”

Surgery to remove the leg, which is tripping Lilly up as she tries to walk, is scheduled in two weeks. And after all her trouble, Siegel — who already has six cats — plans to give Lilly to her sister in Charlotte to raise.

Strong scoffs at the notion that his show constitutes animal abuse, and said he would have given Lilly a good life. And although Strong is disappointed that he didn't get the dog, he said he's counting his blessings. “Sometimes, you just gotta say, ‘OK, I still have nine live, two-headed animals,' and move on.”


Lilly the pup is now free of her extra leg

Coney Island freak show owner vows custody fight despite leg's removal:
‘We're going to sew it right back on.'

By Ely Portillo
July 24, 2009

Allyson Siegel says she bought Lily, a five-legged puppy, to spare her from a New York man's plan to put her in an animal show. She vowed to fight the man's threatened lawsuit.

The owner of a Coney Island, N.Y., animal show says he's legally entitled to buy Lily, a five-legged dog.

Lilly the five-legged puppy had her fifth leg removed Thursday. Allyson Siegel
(right >) – the Charlotte woman who paid $4,000 to rescue the dog from a future in a New York freak show – had the surgery performed Thursday morning, a day after the show's operator threatened to sue for custody of the dog. Siegel said the 90-minute operation went well.

“There were no complications whatsoever,” Siegel told the Observer. “The vet says he expects her to make a full recovery. All four legs work great.” Siegel declined to say exactly where Lilly had the surgery. She had planned the operation for next week, but decided she needed to act quickly when the custoday dispute erupted.

On Wednesday, John Strong, the owner of the Coney Island exhibit of unusual animals, threatened legal action to stop any surgery until his claim to Lilly could be considered in court. Strong said he had an implied contract with Lilly's original owner, Calvin Owensby of Gastonia, complete with $1,000 deposit. But Owensby broke the deal when he returned Strong's deposit and sold Lilly to Siegel for the same $3,000 price.

Lilly's plight has played out in local and national media over the last few weeks.

Siegel said she appreciates all the support she's received, but the media firestorm had become too intense. She wanted her seven-week-old Chihuahua-terrier mix to have surgery and begin a more normal life. The dog's fifth leg, which hung limp and without feeling between her hind legs, made it difficult for Lilly to walk. “I just want it to be over,” Siegel said Thursday. “What I did was for Lilly.” Siegel also emphasized she has no hard feelings for Strong: “I have no judgment about him.”

Strong could not be reached Thursday and apparently didn't deliver on his Wednesday promise to sue. Clerks at the Mecklenburg and Gaston county courthouses said they hadn't received a lawsuit Thursday.

In an interview with the (New York) Daily News, however, Strong said he would continue his custody fight, regardless of Thursday's operation to remove the extra leg. “We're going to sew it right back on when we win the civil case,” he told the Daily News. “What good is a four-legged puppy to a freak show?”

The Animal League of Gaston County has raised about $1,000 to help defray Siegel's expenses, Siegel said. A benefit for Lilly is planned for 6 p.m. today at the Dog Bar in Charlotte's NoDa district. No word yet on whether Charlotte's most famous four-legged dog will appear.

Redefining ‘Government Watchdog’

One Bite at a Time

July 17, 2009

ALBANY — At six pounds, much of it frizzy white fur, Cheerio Paterson looks harmless enough.
But in the nearly year and a half since he became New York’s First Dog, the little Maltese has earned a reputation as a fierce, high-strung guardian of the executive mansion.

He has sunk his teeth into a state trooper and run in furious circles around senior legislative staff members, barking at them scoldingly. This week Cheerio, age 5 (or 35 in dog years), claimed his latest victim: a carpenter who was working on the mansion on Thursday.

Cheerio’s miniature fangs left enough of a mark on the carpenter, Thomas Keyser, that he decided to see a nurse at the Empire State Plaza concourse, a few blocks from the mansion, Gov. David A. Paterson’s office said.

Cheerio’s tendency to occasionally chomp on the help so concerns Mr. Paterson that he said through a spokeswoman on Friday that he will bring a dog trainer to the executive mansion next week to put Cheerio through obedience training.

The spokeswoman, Marissa Shorenstein, confirmed that in addition to attacking the carpenter, Cheerio has bitten a state trooper and perhaps one other person since moving into the executive mansion in 2008.

The New York Post, which reported the incident Friday, said that the dog had also bitten an elevator worker and a painter at the residence.

Ms. Shorenstein said Cheerio is not a troublemaker. But interviews with people who have petted or played with him or heard his piercing bark reveal that Cheerio can be something of a menace.

“It certainly didn’t seem like the kind of dog you’d want to reach out and pet,” said one Republican staff member in Albany, who, like most people interviewed about Cheerio’s disposition, declined to speak on the record out of fear of further antagonizing the pooch. The Republican staff member recalled a meeting on a hot August day last year at the executive mansion with Mr. Paterson; Dean G. Skelos, then the Senate majority leader; and Sheldon Silver, the Assembly speaker. While members of Mr. Skelos’s and Mr. Silver’s staff sat on a couch in the living room waiting for the meeting to end, Cheerio yelped loudly, ran around in circles and jumped up on the couch, where he barked some more.

A Paterson associate, who also asked not to be named, said he was petting Cheerio one evening at the mansion when he remarked to another guest how docile and friendly the dog seemed. “Yeah, until he bites you,” the other guest said, and told a story about the dog lunging at a state trooper on the governor’s security detail.

Through Ms. Shorenstein, Mr. Paterson on Thursday described his relationship with the dog as “strained,” though he admitted to sometimes letting the dog rest on his lap while he listened to his daily briefings on the telephone. The dog is more the pet of the governor’s wife, Michelle Paige Paterson, and Mr. Paterson’s patience with Cheerio has been known to fray.

After the attack Thursday, the Patersons checked Cheerio’s vaccination records and made sure all his shots were up to date.

Cheerio splits his time between Manhattan and Albany, and is said to enjoy staying at the governor’s mansion because of the sweeping five-acre grounds that surround it. He is also given the run of the house.

Pets are almost always a plus for a politician, from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Scottish terrier Fala to President Obama’s new Portuguese water dog, Bo. Dogs tend to humanize politicians, showing their more playful side. Cheerio’s behavior, of course, could test that truism. (President George W. Bush’s beloved dog Barney did last year when he bit a Reuters reporter on the index finger.)

Still, Cheerio is not the first dog to snap at a visitor to the New York governor’s mansion. Cara, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo’s German shepherd, once bit Rudy F. Runko, a deputy budget officer at the time. Patrick Bulgaro, then the budget director and Mr. Runko’s boss, said he empathized with Cara.

“I don’t know what Rudy was doing,” Mr. Bulgaro joked in a phone interview Friday. “There were days I felt like biting Rudy, too. So I can’t say I blame the dog.”

Cheerio and Cara had nothing on Gov. Thomas E. Dewey’s Great Dane, who was known as a fierce protector of the mansion’s grounds. Mr. Bulgaro, who grew up in the Albany area, said he remembered walking past the mansion and seeing the dog barking at the fence — a successful deterrent that “let you know you weren’t welcome in the area,” he said.

At least one person who has visited the mansion and seen Cheerio on his best behavior said the dog should not be blamed. Albany, he said, can bring out the worst in anyone. “Maybe Albany has a way of turning friendly pets into rabid animals.”

Photo: Mario Cuomo with Cara in 1994.
James Estrin/The New York Times

July 17, 2009

ALBANY -- It was another do-nothing day at the state Capitol yesterday, but over at the Governor's Mansion, some real action took place.

Gov. Paterson's dog attacked a state carpenter -- proving it's the only living thing with any bite in Albany. Cheerio, a 6-pound Maltese, bit Thomas Keyser in the leg in what sources said was at least the third attack by the pooch on a state worker this year.

A source familiar with the incident said Keyser, who was fixing a staircase rail, had to "repeatedly shake his leg up in the air because the goddamn dog wouldn't let go." Paterson was in New York City at the time.

"The dog came running out of the kitchen and bit me on my calf," Keyser, 53, of upstate Troy told The Post. "Everyone over there knows the dog is aggressive. I know plenty of these guys who got bit, and if they can't put this dog in a cage, I can't understand it."

Paterson spokesman Peter Kauffmann confirmed the attack.

A source said last night that Cheerio had been caged and brought to a state Health Department lab for observation and to make sure he had received required vaccines.

Kauffmann said Cheerio had been up to date with shots. A source also said other state workers had been bitten by Cheerio. "The elevator guy got bit, the painter got bit," the source said.

An Office of Government Services spokesman, Brad Maione, said he was unaware of any other biting charges.

Record-Breaking Dog Fighting Raid Leads to Nearly 500 Rescues

July 17, 2009

Last week’s multi-state dog fighting raid, the largest federal and state agency crackdown on dog fighting in U.S. history, has resulted in the rescue of nearly 500 dogs, most of whom are Pit Bulls. At the Humane Society of Missouri (HSMO), which is housing more than 400 dogs, 14 puppies were born last week, adding to the overall number of dogs seized.

The operation spanned eight states—Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nebraska and Mississippi—and news reports indicate that a total of 26 arrests have been made. Because dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states, if convicted of animal fighting charges, those arrested each face up to five years in prison.

According to the ASPCA’s Dr. Randall Lockwood, Senior Vice President of Anti-Cruelty Field Services, who was on-site in Missouri, not all dogs seized in raids have been used directly in fights. “Some are breeders—they do not fight, but produce litters of fresh fighters. Others are bait dogs. They lack the bloodlust and so serve as punching bags in training fights. Such dogs often get the worst of it.” Although the task of evaluating all of the seized dogs will be enormous, Dr. Lockwood notes, "At the very least, we're honoring these animals by caring for them.”

The dogs are being sheltered in a secure St. Louis facility under the direction of HSMO’s Animal Cruelty Task Force. Each dog has been examined by a veterinarian and has received an individual medical plan. All have been microchipped and treated for parasites and continue to receive nutritious food, fresh water and a safe place to sleep.

Meanwhile, additional aid is desperately needed. HSMO is actively seeking rescue groups who can take in some of the dogs. During the next several weeks, a team of pet behavior experts, including HSMO behavior staff, Dr. Lockwood and other ASPCA experts, will evaluate each dog to determine suitability for possible placement with qualified rescue groups or experienced individual adopters.

A complete veterinary and behavior report for each dog will be submitted to the U.S. Attorney’s office, which will provide information to the courts for the final determination for each animal.

• • •

New York Dogs Hurt by Leptospirosis
June’s near-constant rains may have helped make some dogs in New York City critically ill. Local news outlets have been reporting that several otherwise healthy dogs are believed to have died in recent weeks from leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that occurs worldwide and is transmitted in several ways: through bites, contact with the urine of an infected animal, or exposure to contaminated soil, food or bedding.

Veterinarians at the ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital (BMAH) confirm that leptospirosis outbreaks do increase during periods of heavy rainfall because the Leptospira family of bacteria thrives in stagnant or slow-moving water. City dog runs with poor drainage and a lack of fresh drinking water create ideal conditions for the disease to flourish. 

Fortunately, there is a leptospirosis vaccine—talk to your vet about whether vaccinating is a good idea for your dog. “Like other vaccines, there may be a higher rate of adverse reactions in small-breed dogs,” says Dr. Louise Murray, Director of Medicine at BMAH. “The vaccine should be administered separately from other vaccinations and in two stages—one shot followed by a booster two or three weeks later.”

The ASPCA also urges dog owners to be on the lookout for the following symptoms: fever, vomiting, poor appetite, lethargy, coughing and labored breathing. Infected dogs may become jaundiced (yellowing of the eyes and skin) or stop urinating if the disease is severe. Leptospirosis is treatable with antibiotics, but prompt medical attention is vital as the disease can be fatal and can be transmitted to humans.

Furthermore, “when outdoors—whether at the dog run or by a pond—dog owners must be vigilant about not letting their pets drink stagnant water,” warns Dr. Murray. “We recommend the leptospirosis vaccine, but don’t allow it to make you lax. Because there are many strains of the disease, vaccination does not guarantee absolute protection. Always bring fresh drinking water when you take your dogs on outings.” 

What do you think? Tweet on this article. Include @aspca and #Leptospirosis5. ASPCA Helps Launch Baltimore

• • •

Anti-Cruelty Task Force
In late May, a two-year-old Pit Bull named Phoenix was doused with gasoline and set on fire in the streets of Southwest Baltimore, MD. Although the flames were extinguished by a heroic police officer, the dog suffered burns to 98 percent of her body and eventually had to be euthanized. (Two 17-year-old brothers have since been arrested and charged with the crime.)

The incident received extensive news coverage in Maryland, including a letter to the editor published in the Baltimore Sun from ASPCA Anti-Cruelty Group Senior Vice President, Laura Maloney. Amidst public demands for justice, Governor Martin O'Malley requested that the state attorney general review Maryland’s animal cruelty laws to determine if they are strong enough to both deter and adequately penalize such horrific abuses.

Baltimore’s proactive response to Phoenix’s tragic death hasn’t ended there—out of this appalling act of animal cruelty, something positive has been born. On July 8, Mayor Sheila Dixon held a press conference to announce the formation of the Anti-Animal Abuse Task Force, a committee that includes among its 14 members Dr. Randall Lockwood, ASPCA Senior Vice President of Anti-Cruelty Initiatives & Training. “The ASPCA was horrified to learn of what happened to Phoenix,” says Dr. Lockwood.

“We have long recognized the dangerous potential for animal cruelty to lead to more serious crimes and look forward to working with the City of Baltimore to help put a stop to these violent injustices against animals.”

The Task Force will submit a report to the mayor on ways to prevent and prosecute animal abuse, including dog fighting, in the City of Baltimore. The group convenes next week to begin forming its recommendations regarding issues such as:
* ways to stop animal abuse in the City of Baltimore
* legislation that will protect animals and prosecute abusers
* training/techniques for law enforcement on the humane handling of animal cruelty cases and evidence collection
* ways of increasing awareness of animal cruelty laws
* whether an ongoing Anti-Animal Abuse Board should be created, and if so, an outline of its function and mission

“The protection and safety of animals in the City of Baltimore is an important concern,” says Mayor Dixon. “This is more than a legal issue. This is a community issue. If you improve animal welfare in a community, you improve public safety for everyone.”
Read more about Baltimore’s Anti-Animal Abuse Task Force at ASPCA.org.

When Dogs Fly
July 16, 2009

The only objection we have to Pet Airways, the new airline devoted just to pets, is the fact that we can’t book space on it ourselves.

Think of it: separate compartments — dog crates, that is — with plenty of room to stretch out, flight attendants, a pet lounge, escort from check-in to the plane and preboarding walks. We wouldn’t recommend it for business travelers. The trip from New York to Los Angeles — $250 one way — does take about 24 hours. But that includes dinner, play time and a sleepover in Chicago. No security hassles, no in-flight movies, just the luxury of one’s doggie dreams in one’s private cabin.

Yes, Pet Airways is yet another stage in the humanizing of our pets, a process that has resulted in, among other things, Rachael Ray pet food and animal health care and lifestyles beyond the means of most of the humans on this planet.

We worry, too, that as the transportation needs of pets increase — quite separately from our own — it will mean, of course, a new load of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. On the other hand, would business and diplomacy be handled so much worse if we sent our dogs as proxies to negotiate on our behalf?

The immediate overbooked success of Pet Airways suggests a growing intolerance for the sometimes haphazard care of pets on the national airlines. If Pet Airways succeeds, there may be an economic lesson as well for the foundering human airlines. If we had less stress at the airport and dinner on board, we, too, would feel a lot happier about flying.

The First Hundred (Dog) Days
Translated from Woofish by BEN GREENMAN
July 16, 2009

BEFORE my arrival in the White House in April, I was not well known to the American people. Perhaps understandably, I was greeted with some suspicion.

“Portuguese water dog” has a foreign sound to it. My hair covers my eyes, which can create the impression that I am not trustworthy. From the first, I took it upon myself not only to illustrate my own belief in clear thinking and accountability, but to give the American people a sense of what their lives would be like during my time in the White House. As I approach the milestone of my first 100 days in office, I want to reiterate some of my basic convictions.

Historically, my breed is used to herd fish in shallows or carry messages from ships to the nearby shore, and I have tried to show the American people that I will continue that tradition, both leading (the fish) and communicating (the messages). I have succeeded more than I have failed, but there have been lapses. Remember when I bit that reporter’s microphone? I had a sudden urge to get that thing. I thought it was a fish. Even thinking about it now makes me jumpy. Another time the president almost tripped over my leash, and even though that wasn’t technically my fault, I take full responsibility.

My time in the White House thus far has had one driving theme: we all share the same world. There have been those who have criticized my willingness to sniff in an exploratory manner around hostile breeds from foreign lands. But remember, we are all one species, from the tiniest Chihuahua to the mightiest mastiff. I have tried to practice this openness closer to home as well, by spending more time with Joe Biden’s German shepherd puppy, despite our considerable difference in temperament and bite force.

The press likes to play a game where it compares my record with that of other presidential pets. I find that premature and unhelpful. Other presidential pets came to power in different times, and faced different challenges.

Still, I would like to remark briefly upon the pet to whom I am most often compared. Fala came to Franklin Delano Roosevelt in November 1940, and quickly captured the national imagination. But Fala lived in a time when there was an understanding between the press and politicians, and many of his peccadilloes (his habit of eating garbage, his eye for the ladies) were simply overlooked.

By comparison, consider the way that the news media scrutinized Buddy, the Clintons’ Labrador. Before his untimely death by car accident in 2002, Buddy was persistently maligned by rumors that he did not get along with Socks the cat, as if that were his fault. (Cats, need I remind you, are jerks.)

In the end, while it is all well and good to compare this dog with that dog, any honest and forthright White House pet must acknowledge that we are all standing in the long shadow cast by Dash, the brilliant, charming, perfect-tailed collie mix owned by President Benjamin Harrison’s wife, Caroline. Dash responded to voice commands with great efficiency, never demonstrated undue unruliness and still found time to pursue his own interests. I use his example to remind myself that there is always room for improvement, and that we should never fail to aspire to perfection, even as we know that we cannot reach it. Excuse me: I must chase a ball.

O.K., I’m back. As we head into the second hundred days of my administration, I feel more pride and pleasure than ever at the prospect of serving the American people and finding ways to make this nation, and this planet, a better place for our children and our children’s children. I am speaking metaphorically here, of course, as I am neutered.

This has been a rewarding but difficult time for our nation, yet I remain confident of our prospects so long as I spend every day with at least three feet on the ground — four is a little optimistic, if you know what I mean.

Thank you.

Wire Services
Weird but True

July 16, 2009

A 2-year-old from Pennsylvania is so talented at hide-and-seek that her family had to call cops and firefighters to find her.

Natalie Jasmer, of Greenville, was missing for an hour as rescuers frantically searched the area. But the hero was the family's dog, Cooper, who found the toddler in a drawer underneath the washing machine.

Smokey and BBQ Fork:
Chihuahua OK after freak accident

By Dean Manning
July 13, 2009

LONDON, Ky -- After two days on the run and a day recovering after a vet removed a meat fork from his head, 12-week-old Smokey the Chihuahua is back home with his family.

According to Dr. Mark Smith at Cumberland Valley Animal Hospital, Smokey was brought into the office Tuesday with about six inches of the meat fork’s prongs sticking into his head.

Hughie Wagers, who brought his nephew’s dog to the vet, told the staff that someone had been using the meat fork to rake scraps onto the plates for the family’s dogs.

“There was another big dog and they were trying to shoo it away so Smokey could eat,” Smith said. “The handle to the fork broke, sending the prongs flying into the dog.”

Smokey ran away and hid after the accident, and his owners were unable to find him. He returned home two days later, with the fork still in his head.

“We didn’t know what to do,” Wagers said. “I had to take it to the vet.”

Smith said when Smokey was brought in, he didn’t appear to be in pain. “He was acting like nothing was wrong with him unless you touched the fork,” Smith said. Smith said it wasn’t technically surgery as he didn’t have to make any incisions to remove the fork. “All I did was anesthetize Smokey, disinfect the area around the fork, grab it and pull it out,” Smith said.

Smokey appears to be recovering, and Smith said the wounds should heal completely. “The skull will granulate over the holes,” Smith said.

Smith has ordered six weeks of bed rest for Smokey as a precaution. “He is confined to a cage,” Smith said. “Maybe once in a while, he can be let on the couch to watch Oprah.”

Smith said he has never seen anything like this in 25 years working with animals. “The only place I have seen something similar is on Discovery Channel when you have seen someone fall and have rebar sticking through them.”

To view TODAY Show interview click on logo >

July 13, 2009

A well-known Manhattan veterinary clinic poisoned a beloved family dog with a lethal mixture of too much chemotherapy and an unauthorized blood transfusion, according to a lawsuit.

Marshall Allan and Karen LaGatta Allan claim a vet at the Animal Medical Center on East 62nd Street gave Hans
(left in photo with Mitzi), their 3-year-old miniature dachshund, an intense dose of chemotherapy -- medicine that was 10 times more powerful than what the pooch was prescribed.

Hans, severely weakened by the massive dose, died after having a heart attack during a blood transfusion that the hospital decided on its own to administer -- using a "young inexperienced veterinarian," the suit alleges.

"The AMC's fine reputation for pet care is a sham," the Allans said in the suit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court.

The heartache began last October when Hans developed a cancerous growth under his right eye.
The pooch began a course of chemo using two drugs in alternating visits but needed to be hospitalized for fever after the first session in December -- after which doctors promised to cut the dosage, according to court papers. A second round of chemotherapy with the alternate drug went smoothly, but after Hans returned on March 9 for his third treatment, he began vomiting the moment he got home.
He was admitted for emergency care the next day.

On March 11, a doctor, blaming a "math error," confirmed to the Allans in an e-mail that Hans was given 10 times the correct dosage, the suit says.

Doctors told Marshall Allan the dog would bounce back, but after he left the hospital an inexperienced vet gave Hans a transfusion, sending the dog into cardiac arrest, the suit said. Hans died after 90 minutes of failed attempts to revive him.

"This has been a heartbreaking and devastating loss," said the couple's lawyer, Larry Hutcher.
The Animal Medical Center replied that it has a history of providing outstanding medical treatment to pets.

Wire Services
Weird but True

Kathianne Boniello
July 13, 2009

A British couple is making a stink in their bid to find their missing Dog.

Jonathan and Louise Baltesze have been sprinkling their neighborhood with their own urine in an effort to induce their Black Labrador, Simon, to return. The couple is trying to mark their territory as a wy to attract the stray pooch, on the advice of an animal-behaviour expert.

Presidential pets, from Washington's to Obama's, examined in 'First Dogs' Comments
July 9, 2009

Everything you've ever wanted to know about presidential dogs is covered in a new book, First Dogs: American Presidents and Their Best Friends (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $9.99).

The doggone little book looks at canine cuties from the time George Washington took office. Washington had several "French import" hounds, and the the nation has been fascinated with presidential dogs ever since.

The book is full of tidbits such as the suspicion that Richard Nixon used his cocker spaniel Checkers to win public sympathy.

Of course, today the most famous top dog is Bo, a Portuguese water dog owned by President Barack Obama and family.

Photo: Yuki, howling for then President Lyndon Johnson

Visit our Presidential Pooches page at From-The-DOGHOUSE.com

Clickon imageΔ

Cops Forced to Kill Attacking Pit Bull on Upper East Side
Eileen Lehpamer
09 July 2009

NEW YORK  -- Several police officers are recovering Thursday morning after they were forced to shoot an attacking pit bull inside an Upper East Side housing project.

The shooting occurred as the officers respond to a call of an assault with a gun at the Isaacs Houses near the intersection of First Avenue and East 94th Street around 10 p.m. last night, police said.

As police investigated the disturbance at an apartment on the 11th floor a raging pit bull was "deliberately" let loose on them by the woman who opened the door, police said.  Three officers were bitten or scratched by the dog before it was shot and killed.

Three officers and the woman were struck with bullet fragments as the bullets richocheted through the narrow hallway. One officer was struck under the eye, another officer was hit in the hand, and a third was hit on the side of his nose. No weapon was found inside the apartment.  The woman was struck in the hand.

There was a brief standoff after the shooting as several people barricaded themselves inside the apartment, however they all eventually surrendered. 

$5,000 Reward in Long Island Dog Torture Case
06 July 2009

MANORVILLE, N.Y. (AP)  -- Animal welfare groups have increased the reward for information that leads to a conviction in a Long Island dog torture case.
A bicyclist found four badly decomposed pit bulls a week ago in the woods in Manorville.
Suffolk County SPCA official Roy Gross says the animals were mutilated, and one appeared to have a broken neck.
The Suffolk SPCA and the Humane Society of the U.S. are now offering a $5,000 reward.
Anyone with information is asked to call 631-382-7722. Calls will be kept confidential.

Wire Services
Weird but True

July 2, 2009

El perro se comió mi pasaporte ~

That explanation didn't help an Eau Claire, Wis., teen, who missed a trip to Peru with his Spanish class after his golden retriever, Sunshine, chowed down on his passport.

Officials at Chicago's O'Hare Airport told 17-year-old Jon Meier the chewed document was fine, but authorities in Miami wouldn't let him board the Peru-bound plane because some numbers were gnawed.

Meier says he can't be angry at anyone, not even Sunshine. "I love her too much," he said.

• • •

July 1, 2009

El perro se comió mi pasaporte ~

A Washington state woman accused of dipping into her ex-husband's bank account is blaming her dog for eating her checkbook.

Kristin Banfield, 50, said she needed to pay her utility bills and had no choice but to steal from her ex.

She's been charged with identity theft and forgery.



July 1, 2009

The city's first Hasidic cop was excoriated in a anti-Semitic rant by a dog-loving subway passenger who allegedly refused to place her sick pet in an animal carrier, sources and a witness said yesterday.
Brooklyn blogger Chrissie Brodigan claimed Officer Joel Witriol went ballistic when he saw her take her pug, Dempsey, out of her purse in violation of subway regulations at around 5:30 p.m. Monday. She said he cuffed her, insulted her and roughed her up.

But a witness, Viane Delgado, said Brodigan was the one out of line. Delgado said Witriol "repeatedly" asked the woman to place the barking pug in a carrier she had. But instead, she allegedly insulted him with anti-Semitic slurs and tried to walk away. "You f---ing Jew, you're not even human," Delgado quoted Brodigan as saying. She repeatedly said, "Jewish people think they own everything," a source said.

But Brodigan denied that account. "I don't remember saying anything anti-Semitic," she said. "I do remember saying, 'Clearly, you have trouble with women.' I probably called him an a--hole."

According to her account, Witriol "said he needed to talk to me" as she was ascending a staircase at the L-line Bedford Avenue station. "He pushed me against the wall and said, 'I need your name and
ID.' "

Brodigan, 32, said that when she told Witriol she had left her wallet at work, things turned ugly.
"He pushed me against the wall and said, 'If you're gonna act like a woman, I'm gonna treat you like a woman,' " said Brodigan. The blogger denied she had a carrying case with her and said her dog suffers from a health condition that causes it to overheat.

She claims that when she started to walk away, "he handcuffed my wrist, pushed me against the wall, punched me in the back and kicked me in the shin." She also claimed Witriol at one point put his hands on her breasts.

Melissa Randazzo, 29, another witness, backed up Brodigan's story. "His tone was really alarming," Randazzo said of Witriol. "The girl looked scared. She didn't look like someone who would get into trouble. Something didn't seem right about this situation."

Witriol's family would not comment on the case last night.

The NYPD said that there's no record of any impropriety on the part of Witriol and that Brodigan was given a summons for failing to identify herself and for not having a dog in a proper container. A police source said Brodigan was belligerent and argumentative.

Brodigan claimed the cop took away her pug and threatened he'd have it "put down."

ROBERT COANE 2010 © All rights reserved