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Archive for December 17th, 2009

Jury wants 10-year sentence for dogfighter

A jury in Richmond has found Richard E. Robinson guilty and recommended a 10-year prison sentence — the longest prison term in Virginia’s history for a dogfighting conviction.

The jury deliberated two hours yesterday to reach its verdict, only 40 more minutes before coming back with a recommendation of 10 years in prison and a $2,500 fine, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Robinson, 32, was found guilty of three felonies and one misdemeanor related to a dogfighting operation at his South Richmond home.

Richmond prosecutors and animal-control authorities said they are unaware of any dogfighting sentences in Virginia longer than four years. The 10-year sentence, if upheld by Circuit Court Judge Beverly W. Snukals, would be twice as long as any handed down in the state, and more than five times longer than Michael Vick’s federal sentence. Formal sentencing is scheduled for March 5.

The conviction and sentence recommendation came after prosecutor Alex Taylor introduced evidence from the property where Robinson lived with his mother, including heavy chains that had been tied around the necks of dogs to help them build strength.

One of the chains weighed 52 pounds — more than the dog to whom it was attached. The prosecutors brought the chain to court in a red plastic bucket, and while arguing for a lengthy sentence, Taylor carried the pail over to the jury box and dropped it with a thud.

“This,” he said, “is no way to treat man’s best friend.”

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Faith takes her message of hope to soldiers

Faith, the two-legged dog, continues to spread inspiration — most recently last weekend when she visited McChord Air Force Base and Fort Lewis in Washington state.

Faith met thousands of soldiers — some headed to war, some coming back.

“She just walks around barking and laughing and excited to see them all,” Faith’s owner, Jude Stringfellow, told the Associated Press.

“There is a lot of crying, pointing and surprise. From those who have lost friends or limbs, there can be silence. Some will shake my hand and thank me, some will pat her on the head. There is a lot of quiet, heartfelt, really deep emotion.”

Faith, a Lab-chow mix, was born to a junkyard dog around Christmas of 2002. Her mother rejected her and she was rescued by Jude Stringfellow’s son, Rueben, now in the Army. The mother and son taught the dog to walk on her rear legs — using peanut butter and a lot of practice.

Since then Faith has done the talk show circuit, and Stringfellow has become a motivational speaker. She has written two books about Faith and is working on a third, “Faith Walks.”

They get more than 200 letters and e-mails a day, run a website and make dozens of appearances every year, including stops at veterans’ hospitals across the country to cheer injured soldiers.

Rueben Stringfellow left Iraq in September and is stationed in Alaska. He is scheduled to get out of the Army and head home on Jan. 1.

Toxic dumping turned Russian dogs green

greendogA pack of wild dogs roaming the outskirts of the Russian city of Yekaterinburg have taken on a green tinge, and authorities suspect it’s from scavenging for food in a dump that may be contaminated with chemical waste.

The greenish dogs are among a pack of about 20 strays, believed to be former guard dogs.

“I go past those dogs every day,” villager Alexei Bukharovsky told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti. “They are usually reddish … but then I saw, running along the white snow, an almost completely emerald dog. At first I thought someone had been playing a joke.” 

A police spokesman told the news service that illegal dumping of chemical waste is probably to blame. The spokesman said local councils had been ordered to clean up the site.

You can see more photos here.

The five best states to be an animal abuser

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Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Dakota are the five best states in the country to be an animal abuser — making them the five worst states in which to be an animal.

Based on an analysis of more than 3,800 pages of statutes, a new report by the Animal Legal Defense Fund recognizes the states where animal law has real teeth, and calls out those like Kentucky – the single worst in the nation again this year for animal protection laws – where animal abusers get off the easiest.

The annual report, the only one of its kind in the nation, ranks all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories for the comprehensiveness and  strength of their animal protection laws. Maryland falls in the bottom 15 states.

The legislative weaknesses seen in the states at the bottom of the animal protection barrel include severely restricted or absent felony animal cruelty provisions, inadequate animal fighting provisions, and lack of restrictions on the future ownership of animals for those convicted of cruelty to animals.

Many state laws have improved since ALDF’s last state rankings report was released in 2008; Arkansas, for example, was one of the worst five states last year, but jumped up to 25th overall in the country in 2009 due to a host of statutory improvements.

On the other end of the spectrum, this year’s “best five for animals” list remains unchanged from the 2008 list, with California, Illinois, Maine, Michigan and Oregon demonstrating through their laws the strongest commitment to combating animal cruelty; Illinois was ranked the best for the strength of its laws protecting animals.

“This year we see many states and territories that are continuing to make outstanding progress with their laws. Unfortunately, there are still many places where the laws are incapable of providing the legal protections that our country’s animals need and deserve,” says Stephan Otto, Animal Legal Defense Fund’s director of legislative affairs and author of the report.

“Even in those jurisdictions that have today’s best laws, there remain many opportunities for improvement. Especially important during our country’s current recession are laws that help to save limited community resources by reducing the costs of caring for abused animals and ensuring that those who are responsible for such crimes shoulder this burden instead of taxpayers and private interests. While animals do not vote, those who love and care about them certainly do, so we encourage lawmakers throughout the country to take heed and commit to working to improve these critical laws.”

ALDF was founded in 1979 to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. For more information, including a copy of the state rankings report, visit www.aldf.org.

Does Denver know a pit bull when it sees one?

pitornotThe city of Denver’s faulty logic just got proven even faultier.

As if  the city’s ban on pit bulls, which has led to hundreds of dogs being put to death, weren’t ill-advised enough, there’s this: Apparently even experts can’t correctly identify a pit bull visually.

Denver Post columnist Bill Johnson took part in experiment this week , along with about two dozen animal-shelter directors, volunteers, dog trainers and others. They viewed 20 dogs on videotape and were asked to identify each one — whether it was purebred or mixed and, if the latter, what it was a mixture of.

Johnson got the breed correct one time, and the professionals didn’t fare much better.

The breed identification study was administered by Victoria L. Voith, a professor of animal behavior in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Western University in Pomona in California.

Shelter workers, she explained, are generally 75 percent wrong when they guess the breed of a dog — and most do just guess. The only sure-fire way of knowing, she said, is DNA testing, which most shelters don’t use.

“Visual identification simply is not in high agreement with DNA analysis,” Voith said. “Dogs in Denver may be dying needlessly,” she said.