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Archive for June, 2017

When one foster dog becomes 19 foster dogs — overnight

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A Missouri woman trying to save one dog’s life has saved 18 more — all born Sunday when the golden retriever-Chow mix she was fostering gave birth.

Ashlee Holland took the dog into her home as a foster through the rescue group Midwest Animal ResQ, which pulled her from an area shelter as the deadline neared for her to be euthanized.

And while Holland knew the dog, named Ava, was pregnant, she wasn’t expecting the outpouring of pups that took place, starting Sunday night and not ending until Monday morning.

“It’s overwhelming. It’s incredible. I didn’t just save one life, I saved 19. It’s amazing,” Holland told Fox 4 News in Kansas City.

Holland started fostering Ava about two weeks ago.

She said her nine-year-old son named all the pups after Kansas City Royals players.

Ava and her pups will be available for adoption through Midwest Animal ResQ.

Holland has created an Ava and her 18 Royals Facebook page for those interested in following Ava and her pups.

(Photo: Ava gets a much needed break from her 18 pups, from Facebook)

No justice for Camboui, the PTSD dog slain on camera by two Fort Bragg soldiers

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One of two Fort Bragg soldiers who tied a dog to a tree, shot it 10 times, and took photos and video of the killing had the animal cruelty charges against him dismissed this week.

Instead, in North Carolina’s Harnett County District Court, Jarren Heng was found guilty only of having a gun on educational property and conspiracy to commit cruelty to animals.

Heng was sentenced to between 6 and 17 months in prison, but the sentence was suspended. He will be on supervised probation for 12 months.

He also was ordered to pay a $100 fine and $450 in court costs, undergo psychiatric counseling and (as if the sentence weren’t already asinine enough) perform community service at an animal shelter.

Heng and Marinna Rollins, 23, an Army veteran, were charged in late April with tying an emotional support dog to a tree and shooting it to death.

The dog, named Camboui, served as Rollins’ PTSD dog, though he belonged to her estranged husband, Matt Dyer.

rollinsPhotos and videos of Heng and Rollins shooting the dog ended up on Facebook, showing them giggling, drinking Coca-Colas and making jokes as they executed the dog.

Rollins killed herself on May 7, after her arrest.

Rollins had joined the Army in February of 2014 and served as a multimedia illustrator before medically retiring from the Army in January of 2017. Heng had been part of a unit that serves the Army Special Operations Command.

In April, Rollins began posting on Facebook, saying she was attempting to find Camboui a new home. She told a friend that caring for him was too expensive. On April 17, she posted that she had a great last day with Camboui and that he was going to a new home.

“Sad he has to go, but he will be much happier where he is heading off to,” Rollins wrote on Facebook.

But where Camboui was actually taken was also revealed on Facebook — bizarrely enough in photos and videos taken by Heng and Rollins and posted on Facebook.

Heng and Rollins took Camboui to a wooded area. Both wore their Army camouflage pants and boots. Heng is pictured shirtless and Rollins wore a pink polka-dotted bra.

hengRollins shot Cam in the head, then fired several more shots into his body before Heng asked for a turn and handed her the camera. “Let me hit him once,” Heng said, according to court documents. They took photographs of the execution and at least three videos.

The case was investigated by the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, which found the videos, photos and text messages between the two discussing the shooting.

But it was later transferred to Harnett County when it was learned that the shooting took place there, on some wooded property owned by Western Harnett High School.

There, prosecutors didn’t see Heng as the primary culprit, and didn’t pursue the most serious charges against him.

In a statement after the sentencing Harnett County Assistant District Attorney Edward Page said, “The evidence in the case tended to show that Marinna Rollins, the dog’s owner who has committed suicide, was the instigator of these despicable acts. Mr. Heng was certainly an active participant, but the shots he fired were after the dog had been shot 5 times by Ms. Rollins. A jury likely would have believed that the dog was already deceased by the time Mr. Heng fired the rifle.

“Additionally complicating matters is that Ms. Rollins had apparently told Mr. Heng that the dog was going to have to be euthanized anyway due to illness, which goes to his state of mind,” Page said.

“Ms. Rollins might have been the primary target of the prosecution in these matters, but she has paid the ultimate price,” he added.

Page said a charge of discharging a firearm on educational property was dismissed because it was not clear that either defendant knew the woods where they shot the dog were within the property boundaries of the school.

Chief District Court Judge Jacqueline Lee presided over the case and came up with the provision that Heng perform community service at an animal shelter as part of his punishment — an idea that many who have followed the case see as a major mistake, judging from comments left on the Justice for Cam Facebook page.

Even members of Rollins’ family were upset with Heng’s sentencing.

“It is so unfortunate that true justice was not served, for Cam,” Rollins’ sister, Ariana Rollins told the Fayetteville Observer. “He has to pay a hundred-dollar fine, for taking a life of an innocent animal. I hope he has to live everyday knowing what he did, and how many people his actions affected.”

The newspaper quoted Rollins’ estranged husband, Matt Dyer, as saying, “I am so mad. Watching that video, how could you not think he’s going to do terrible things to humans? He’s a sick person.”

Animal rights activist Donna Lawrence, one of about eight observers at Heng’s court appearance, said, “I’m in shock. It’s ridiculous … Who would want him working in a shelter?”

Prosecutor Page insisted the sentence was a fair one.

“Mr. Heng is now a convicted felon for the rest of his life, he received about as severe a punishment as he could get … and we expect the felony conviction will end his military career,” he said. “We appreciate the public’s interest in this case, and believe the outcome in the case was just.”

(Photos from the Justice for Cam Facebook page)

Now open in L.A.: PetSpace, an adoption center that’s much, much more

All humane societies and SPCA’s see education as a large part of their mission, but few if any have taken that to the heights of PetSpace, a newly opened center in Los Angeles that is finding new homes for dogs and increasing our understanding of them at the same time.

Over a dozen dogs and cats were adopted during Saturday’s opening of PetSpace, the brainchild of Wallis Annenberg, the CEO and president of the Annenberg Foundation.

But, as the Los Angles Times reported over the weekend, PetSpace is about much more than rehoming dogs.

It’s part interactive science center, part children’s playground, part pet paradise, part research institute and part adoption center.

On top of facilitating adoptions, PetSpace will offer educational programming for the general public on how to care for pets, all while conducting its own scientific research focused on the human-animal bond.

To that end, it has established a Leadership Institute with 16 research fellows — experts in different academic fields — who will write a white paper on the science behind the human-animal bond.

“This whole notion of the human-animal bond goes so much deeper than how you choose a pet,” said Eric Strauss, a biology professor at Loyola Marymount University and the research paper’s lead author.

“We’re bonded emotionally through our pets. But we’re also bonded ecologically, medically and economically. I think that’s the real genesis of a new science here.”

Located in Silicon Beach in Playa Vista, the 30,000-square-foot facility houses more than 80 dogs, cats and rabbits from the Los Angeles County’s Department of Animal Care and Control shelters.

It has a staff of 30, assisted by more than 100 volunteers and will be open Wednesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with free admission.

Its creators see it as a destination in itself, a fun place that will inform and delight adults and children (and maybe make them even happier yet if they end up taking home a dog or cat).

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During Saturday’s opening, a large mechanical dog barked and wagged his tongue while perched on the second floor. On the ground level, visitors read animal adoption stories displayed on panels and explored an interactive touch screen wall announcing upcoming events.

The center, in addition to periodic seminars, will have a Sunday reading program where children can sit down with a book and an animal.

Meanwhile, in the various play areas, visitors snuggled with cats and dogs, while others met with dogs in their “suites.” Outside each is an interactive digital screen with information about the pets up for adoption.

The center will be making an intense effort to match the right dog to the right owner.

“What’s your lifestyle like? What time commitment do you have? We’ll have a pretty extensive conversation,” said J.J. Rawlinson, the center’s animal care manager and veterinarian. “We really take time to get to know the animals.”

The adoption fee is $80.

PetSpace has partnered with organizations across the city to develop its programming, which will also include higher education workshops on human-animal relationships.

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It will also provide medical resources, including aqua therapy, that are generally not available in shelters.

Part of the center’s mission will be to educate the public about spaying, neutering, grooming and other aspects of caring for a pet.

Wallis Annenberg is a billionaire philanthropist who has long made pets one of her pet projects.

“In my life, animals have been a profound gift — not just dear companions, but teachers and healers, showing how to live and love fully and in the moment. That’s why the opening of Annenberg PetSpace is so thrilling for me,” said Annenberg, the Annenberg Foundation’s chair and CEO.

The family foundation was founded by Walter H. Annenberg, whose company published, among others, TV Guide, Seventeen magazine and my old alma mater, the Philadelphia Inquirer. It also operated radio and TV stations nationwide. Annenberg died in 2002.

Wallis Annenberg, his daughter, described PetSpace as “a world-class space in which to study the joys and mysteries of life in all its forms. It will be an innovative and interactive place for families to engage with animals and animal lovers of all kinds.”

“And it will be a chance for me to pass on the kind of awe and affection and insight animals have provided me for all my years,” she told the San Diego News Daily.

The Annenberg team worked with Los Angeles area animal welfare organizations, including Los Angeles Animal Services, the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control, spcaLA and the Humane Association of California to design the center.

(Photos and video from the PetSpace website)

Something rotten in paradise

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In the Indonesian paradise of Bali, unsuspecting tourists are regularly being served dog meat — described as “chicken satay” — by restaurants and street vendors.

Eating dog meat is legal in Bali, and some locals consume it regularly, but according to a shocking report by ABC.net in Australia, visitors to the popular tourist destination are unwittingly buying it from vendors.

“Dog meat is essentially filtering into the tourist food chain,” said Lyn White, director of Animals Australia, which is campaigning to end the practice and recently conducted an investigation into it.

The Australian news program “7.30” reported last week on the investigation into how dogs are brutally caught, butchered and barbecued not far from the beaches visited by more than 1 million Australians every year, then served to those who don’t realize what they’re eating — though some seem to have suspicions.

Footage filmed by the investigator included this exchange between a vendor and a group of Australian tourists:

Vendor: “Satay just $1.”

Australian: “Mystery bag. What is, chicken?”

Vendor: “Satay.”

Australian: “Satay chicken, not dog?”

Vendor: “No, not dog.”

Australian: “I’m happy just as long as it’s not dog.”

bali3It was the same vendor who moments before had admitted to an investigator that what he was selling was dog meat.

The dogs are bludgeoned, shot, strangled, and sometimes poisoned with cyanide, leading to public health concerns.

It is possible for cyanide to be passed on to a human, even after a dog has been cooked.

While eating and selling dog meat is not illegal in Bali, the methods use to kill the dogs do violate animal cruelty laws, Animals Australia says.

The dog meat is being sold by vendors on the beach and in specialty restaurants. Locals know the letters RW on a restaurant mean dog meat is being served, but most tourists do not.

An undercover investigator for Animals Australia infiltrated the dog trade and spent four months documenting how it operates.

bali1You can see the ABC.net report here, but be warned it contains some graphic videos and images.

The Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) estimates about 70,000 dogs a year end up as dog meat.

It has documented 70 restaurants serving dog meat in Bali.

“We rescue them from the [dog] trader,” said Bagus Ndurah, a volunteer with BAWA. The organization is currently looking after about 150 dogs, he said.

Animals Australia is looking at ways to end the dog meat trade, including compensating those who earn a living from it in exchange for their promise to leave the business.

“We’ve given thought to that,” White sad. “I’ve even spoken to our management about possibility of compensation,” she said.

“This is not about laying blame. This is about unnecessary cruelty that puts the human health population at risk and is causing shocking animal cruelty.”

“We are certainly also willing to partner with the Bali government to bring about a positive solution here.”

(Top photos from Animals Australia; bottom photo by James Thomas, ABC News)

A gathering of second chancers

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Five years ago, Danny Rawley was an inmate in a North Carolina prison.

One year ago, my dog Jinjja was one of more than 100 dogs waiting to be slaughtered for their meat at a dog farm in South Korea.

Four weeks ago, I was on an operating table, having what doctors suspected was a cancerous kidney removed.

Recently, we all came together, proving not only that it’s a small world, but one that — thank goodness — often gives us second chances. And sometimes third, fourth and fifth ones as well.

Some backing up is in order.

jindolI adopted Jinjja last November from the Watauga Humane Society, which was hosting four dogs that were among a much larger group rescued from a dog farm in South Korea and brought to the United States for adoption.

He was fearful. He was skittish. He didn’t seem to much like men. But in the months that followed he made slow but steady progress, in everything except for his fear of meeting new human males and his tendency to run away if he experienced a small taste of freedom.

We made it to our first obedience class (and he did great) before I got ill, and, in a matter of weeks, found myself scheduled to have one of my kidneys removed.

Given the outlook beyond the surgery was uncertain, given the operation comes with a six-week no-heavy-lifting recovery period, given Jinjja’s tendencies to sometimes tug pretty hard on the leash, to be be slow to warm up to new people, and the escape risks he posed, I was hesitant to ask a friend to care for him.

I was contemplating surrendering him back to the Watauga Humane Society when a friend at the Forsyth Humane Society offered to take him into her own home. Darla Kirkeeng, the society’s director of development, volunteered to keep him as long as necessary — even after I warned her of his eccentricities and that he’d likely be slow to warm up to her husband.

But that’s where he has been since shortly before my surgery, living happily with Darla and her daughter, tolerating Darla’s husband, and joining her pack of two other rescued dogs, Luigi and Olivia.

DSC06532As if that act wasn’t gracious enough, Darla threw in a bonus, and arranged for Danny Rawley, a dog trainer, to drop by for a few sessions with Jinjja.

That’s where I met him recently when I dropped by Darla’s for my first visit with Jinjja since my surgery.

Despite my fears that being apart would harm the bond we’d developed, Jinjja remembered me and didn’t hesitate to approach and allow me to pet him and show him affection — something he doesn’t generally permit males to do.

Danny admitted Jinjja was skittish around him, too, and snarled and snapped at him during the first session.

Once leashed though, Jinjja paid attention to instructions and, as Danny demonstrated, made some great progress.

Danny also gave me some advice on working on recall — something Jinjja, if he accidentally gets unleashed outside, doesn’t begin to understand. The smallest taste of freedom, and he’s off and running, and gets into a mode where he will allow no one to approach.

My guess is that’s partly a trait of his breed (Jindo), a once wild breed that populated an island of the same name off the coast of Korea. Partly too it’s a result of the dog farm environment, where dogs live crated or chained, and anyone putting their hands on you was likely a sign that it was your turn to be slaughtered or taken to market.

Likely, it is something he will never fully overcome. Freedom, and the desire for it, are powerful forces, especially to any being that has had his freedom taken away.

DSC06516 (2)If anyone can relate to that, it’s Danny.

After growing up in Mt. Airy, he got caught up in selling drugs and, through that, using them.

“That turned my whole world around. I ended up hurting a man,” he said.

He was sentenced to 12 years. While serving that sentence at the state prison in Caledonia, a maximum security facility in the eastern part of the state, he learned of and enrolled in a newly started program called “New Leash on Life.”

In it, a inmates spent their days with dogs who lived on the grounds who were awaiting — but not always prepared for — adoption.

He jumped at the opportunity because of “my love for dogs for one thing, and wanting to put something positive in my life.”

As has been the experience with similar programs across the country, it worked, improving the lives and outlooks for both canine and human participants.

Danny remembers the first dog he was assigned — Lee, a coon dog mix who seemed pretty untrainable and also had a problem with recall. Jinjja reminded him of another dog he trained in prison, named Spirit, who was mostly feral, to the point she preferred eating bugs to eating dog food.

“She finally came around to be a great dog,” he said. In all, he probably trained 25 to 30 dogs while in prison, and just as he helped changed them, they helped change him.

DSC06542“When a dog and a man come together, somehow or another it changes your soul, that feeling that your care, that you believe, and it don’t go away … The more you work with dogs, the more you earn their trust. It’s all about trust.”

When the New Leash on Life program was launched, with funding from the humane society, at the Forsyth Correctional Center, Danny agreed to a transfer to help train inmates there to take part in the program.

He was released in 2012, after serving eight years, and was hired as an employee by the Forsyth Humane Society.

Danny, in addition to having his own business training dogs, is based at the facility and spends much of his time making house calls, going to the homes of people who are having issues with their recently adopted dogs.

The New Leash program at Forsyth Correctional Center is now on hiatus while the Humane Society undergoes a pretty big transition and restructuring. Since moving into a new building, its adoption rates have surged, and dogs are moving in and out more quickly. On top of that, there are plans for the society to assume all adoption services at Forsyth Animal Control, part of an ongoing effort to make Forsyth a “no-kill” county by 2023. The goal is to reduce the countywide euthanasia rate from 64 percent to 10 percent or less.

Under the proposal, the Humane Society would run the 215-kennel county shelter, possibly by as early as this fall.

It’s a massive joint effort between Animal Control, the Humane Society, the Animal Adoption & Rescue Foundation and other local rescue groups — aimed at better coordinating all agencies involved and giving thousands more dogs and cats a second chance.

And, as both Danny and Jinjja could probably attest, you can’t put a price tag on a second chance. I’d agree (though my hospital, judging from the one-foot high stack of unpaid bills on my desk, seems to do a pretty good job of it).

Though I’m down to my final kidney, my surgeon was pleased with how things went, confident that they removed all of the cancerous mass, and he has given me a positive prognosis with no need for follow-up treatments.

I’m feeling good enough to, as of today, fire ohmidog! back up and make it daily, or almost daily, again.

And, in about one more week, more or less, I’ll be ready to bring Jinjja back home.