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Therapy dog booted, based on his biker duds

San Diego’s most famous therapy dog has lost his certification — and all because of his biker outfit.

Chopper the Biker Dog was certified by Pet Partners, and over the past five years he has visited thousands of people in hospitals, schools and senior living centers up and down the West Coast.

But suddenly, after all that time, his biker duds have been ruled “innapropriate,” ABC 10 News reported.

Pet Partners has informed his owner, Mark Shaffer, that the certification was suspended because it did not approve of Chopper’s biker outfit. Chopper wears a leather vest and a bandana and, when he’s on his motorcycle, a helmet and some pretty cool goggles.

Shaffer got the news after he and Chopper returned from an 11-day trip to Oregon, stopping at VA hospitals and police departments every day along the trip.

chopper“Disbelief,” Shaffer said of the decision. “There was anger and there was a lot of hurt.”

In a statement, Pet Partners explained that “the use of costumes and clothing in an animal-assisted therapy environment raises a number of concerns for the animal, the handler and the clients or patients being seen … Pet Partners harbors no ill will towards motorcycle enthusiasts. Holiday costumes, tutus or clothing other than a scarf are also not allowed.”

“We wish Mark and Chopper all the best and hope that they will continue to bring smiles to the people they meet. Mark did receive written warning to correct the behavior before the suspension to follow the appropriate protocol. He is free to dress Chopper as he pleases, just not while volunteering at facilities as a therapy animal team.”

Shaffer said that — rather than taking Chopper out of his biker outfit — he will seek certification from another therapy dog organization. He’s getting a lot of support for his decision on his Facebook page.

“They claim they don’t allow dogs in costumes,” said Shaffer. “This is not a costume,” “This is his persona. This is what he is.”

(Photo: From Chopper’s Facebook page)

Who came up with this block-headed idea?

square dog2

Asian countries always seem to be out in front when it comes to new ways to manipulate dogs.

China brought us dogs dyed to resemble wild animals. South Korea was the first, and is still the only, country to clone a dog. Now, in another example of finding novel things to do with dogs — thankfully a less harmful one — groomers in Japan have come up with a new twist on canine hair styling, namely turning your dog into a cube.

Or, if you prefer, a circle.

square dog1It’s an official “craze” in Japan, or so the Daily Mail reported recently.

“It came about because people were always looking for more impressive haircuts,” said groomer Tain Yeh, 42, who runs a parlor in Taipei, “Somebody came up with the idea of shaping the dog like a hedge.”

And, given social media’s knack for getting us to do silly things, it’s catching on.

Many are now opting to give their dog the cubed look simply to get more likes and shares on social media sites, the Daily Mail reported.

Maybe it’s not as revolting as some other fads we fall for when it comes to our dogs, but it is another example of how some people try to turn dogs into something they aren’t — in this case, a hedge.

In my opinion, such fancy, boxy, geometric trims should be reserved for the boxwood and bonsai. Why would anyone want their dog to look like something growing in the garden, or that has stepped out of a primitive video game?

Cutting edge as it might be, I wonder why we can’t enjoy them just the way they are.

Consider yourselves gagged, N.C. citizens

appoultry

For those businesses in North Carolina that have something to hide, hiding it became much easier this week.

Both the state House and Senate voted Wednesday to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of a bill that muzzles whistleblowers who call public attention to anything from agricultural atrocities to elder abuse.

Dubbed an “ag-gag” measure by its critics, the bill gives businesses the right to sue employees who expose trade secrets or take pictures of their workplaces.

Animal rights groups say the measure is aimed at curbing the kind of undercover investigations that have exposed brutal and abusive practices in factory farms and slaughterhouses.

But House Bill 405 (click on the link to see its final version) could curb far more than that.

Nursing home employees might be discouraged from reporting possible abuse cases. Animal shelter staff could be dissuaded from reporting horrid conditions or cruelty to dogs and cats. Even journalists could be hauled into court for simply doing their jobs.

Only government agencies would be safe to shed light on criminal corporate behavior — whether it’s stomping on chickens at poultry farms or mistreating veterans in need of medical care.

Concerns that the bill reaches too far were behind Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of the bill.

The governor said he agreed with curbing the practice of people who get hired merely so they can film undercover or gather corporate documents, but he said the bill doesn’t protect those “honest employees who uncover criminal activity.”

The House voted 79-36 to override his veto, and the Senate quickly followed suit, voting 33-15 to override.

Among those against the bill were animal rights groups, journalism organizations, the Wounded Warrior Project and the AARP, which said the law could have a chilling effect on those who might come forward with evidence of elder abuse.

“To give one relevant example, allegations surfaced last year that employees at Veterans Affairs facilities in North Carolina had been retaliated against for whistleblowing,” wrote Steven Nardizzi, chief executive of the Wounded Warrior Project. “As an organization dedicated to honoring and empowering injured service members, we are concerned that this legislation might cause wrongdoing at hospitals and institutions to go unchecked.”

The sponsors of the house bill said critics were wrongly characterizing it, WRAL reported.

“It doesn’t stop good employees from reporting illegal activities to other authorities,” said Rep. John Szoka, R-Cumberland.

That much is true. All the bill does is make it easy for large companies and their lawyers to go after those honest employees and ensure that, when they open their mouths, they’ll be stomped on too.

Republican backers of the measure said it was important to protect businesses from bad actors.

As for who’s supposed to protect us from bad-acting businesses engaged in harmful practices, well, that’s not covered in the bill.

“Not only will this ag-gag law perpetuate animal abuse, it endangers workers’ rights, consumer health and safety, and the freedom of journalists, employees, and the public at large to share information about something as fundamental as our food supply, said Nathan Runkle, president of Mercy For Animals. “This law is bad for consumers, who want more, not less, transparency in food production.”

(Photo: Inside a North Carolina poultry plant; by Bethany Hahn / Associated Press)

Trivago man gets Lucky

I have not yet come to fully understand these feelings I have for Trivago Man.

I’m a heterosexual male, yet I will admit I find him quite appealing.

Perhaps it’s that his face has more character than the average shill pushing a product on TV. Perhaps it’s how he always looks at least a little disheveled, rumpled even, and less than smoothly shaved.

Maybe it’s because he’s sooooo laid back. Or because you just know that — behind his charming smile, tight shirt and beltless jeans — there lies a very sensitive side.

That side is played up a little more in this commercial for Trivago, the travel arrangement website based in Dusseldorf, Germany, that seems to be running its ads on every channel in America.

Wouldn’t you just know it, Trivago man has to have a dog.

And not a big dog. Trivago man doesn’t need a gigantic vehicle or large dog to prove his masculinity. A Chihuahua is sufficient for him.

wiaIt’s a quick and witty little ad, with actor Tim Williams, 47, once again serving as the pitchman who doesn’t look like a pitchman.

He’s a non-threatening sort, not supremely arrogant, not overly slick, not particularly young. He seems to be in, or just past, mid-life crisis age, but has kept, I’d guess, a calm and even keel through all that has thrown at him.

He’s just not your typical shiny TV guy. He appears as if he skipped going to make-up before coming into the studio, as if he may even have missed showering yesterday.

As one blogger wrote about him, “He’s so real you can practically smell the tobacco on the tips of his fingers.”

Maybe what’s so appealing about Trivago man is that he — even though he’s an advertising character — is so real.

Only one thing could have made him more real — a dog.

So it really should come as no big surprise that Trivago man got Lucky.

(You can find more of our “Woof in Advertising” posts here.)

Mayor: Rescuers should focus on local dogs

vana

Mayor Shelley Vana warned pet rescue organizations this week to stop bringing homeless dogs from other cities and states into Palm Beach County, saying the practice contributed to the deaths of local dogs in need of homes.

Finding homes for local shelter animals is made harder by well-meaning rescue groups that transport dogs and cats into the county for adoption events, the mayor said.

“How does flying or busing in puppies from other regions … help the dogs in this community?” Vana asked during a press conference at the county shelter on Tuesday. “How does it benefit dogs that are going to die here?”

The county’s animal shelter near West Palm Beach takes in about  15,000 dogs and cats a year. It manages to find homes for about 80 percent of the dogs (so far this year), and puts down the rest.

Included in that 80 percent of dogs who get a second chance, though, are dogs pulled from the shelter by rescue organizations — some of  the same organizations the mayor is being critical of.

In light of that, and the mayor’s very non-global perspective, her plea/warning/request strikes me as a little selfish.  It’s almost as if she’s saying Palm Beach’s bounties, beauties and kindness should be reserved only for natives.

What seems to be prompting the mayor’s push is the county’s quest to reach the admirable goal outlined in its 10-year “Count Down To Zero” program. Launched in 2014, the goal is to become a no-kill shelter by 2024.

The program calls for increasing spay-and-neuter efforts while encouraging more adoptions,  according to the Sun-Sentinel.

About 1,800 dogs and 8,300 cats were euthanized at the Palm Beach County animal shelter last year.

Because many rescue groups have “ignored” the county’s request that they stop bringing in outside dogs and cats for adoption, Vana went public Tuesday with her plea for rescue groups to focus on helping local animals.

The county wants rescue groups to stop bringing in outside animals — some from Broward and Miami-Dade counties, some from Alabama, Tennessee and other states — until the county shelter can find homes for 90 percent of the dogs and cats it receives.

The mayor’s concerns were echoed by Dianne Sauve, the county’s director of animal care and control, who agreed local dogs should be put first.

“These guys deserve a home,” Sauve said. “Let’s try to clean up our own backyard.”

Others think the mayor is going too far.

“It doesn’t matter where the dog is born, if the dog is need,” said Lauree Simmons, president of Big Dog Ranch Rescue in Wellington.

Simmons estimates that her group has 350 dogs from Palm Beach County, but it also has volunteer foster homes across the state that help find dogs in need. The group takes dogs from the county shelter and from other shelters across the state that would otherwise be euthanized, she said.

The Sun-Sentinel reports that Tuesday’s press conference was prompted by the actions of another local rescue group that, on Saturday, brought in 60 pets from Alabama for an adoption event.

According to the Palm Beach Post, local philanthropist Lois Pope worked with the American Humane Association to fly 60 pets from Greenville, Ala. Assisting Pope in that effort was part-time Palm Beach resident Beth Stern, wife of Howard Stern.

“I’m on a mission,” Pope explained. “I want nothing more than to save dogs from being euthanized in gas chambers. I want to take them from kill shelters and find them forever homes.”

Even if that means Palm Beach County might have to work even harder to reach the numbers it wants to reach, it’s hard to find any fault in that.

(Photo: Lannis Waters / Palm Beach Post)

Britain’s got talent, and some shysters, too

We won’t call it the scandal of the century, or even of the year, but the dog who won “Britain’s Got Talent” didn’t actually perform the tightrope-walking portion of the skit that so delighted viewers and judges.

“Matisse was replaced for the show-stopping tight-rope trick by another dog, which was not mentioned on the show,” the Daily Mail reported yesterday.

o'dwyerdogsThe revelation that Matisse didn’t do all his own stunts (because he has a fear of heights), and that a lookalike stunt dog named Chase was snuck into the act, was first made by the dog’s owner, Jules O’Dwyer, on Britain’s ITV show, “Lorraine.”

Walking the tightrope was the high point of the act, which was built around a story involving some sausages stolen by Matisse from a three-legged dog named Skippy.

O’Dwyer plays the role of a police officer in the act.

Only Matisse, Skippy and O’Dwyer dog took bows on stage after the act, accepting accolades from the judges, some of who were left near tears by the performance.

Matisse was named the winner of the £250,000 prize.

Some viewers expressed outrage on social media about the switch.

“So it turns out the dog on the tightrope was a double for Matisse on #BGT?! Basically conning the public!!! Shameful!” Fiona Fairbairn wrote on Twitter.

An online poll by The Telegraph showed opinion was split on whether the judges and public had been deceived, with 51 percent considering it a scandal and 49 percent saying they saw no problem.

Falcons linebacker, accused of kicking Yorkie to death, waived from team

The Atlanta Falcons have waived linebacker Prince Shembo after his arrest on animal cruelty charges filed in connection with the death of his girlfriend’s Yorkshire terrier.

Shembo is accused of kicking the dog, named Dior, after she bit him.

“We are extremely disappointed that one of our players is involved in something like this. Accordingly, we have decided to waive Prince Shembo,” read a statement from the Falcons — the team Michael Vick was quarterbacking when he was arrested in connection with a dogfighting operation.

Shembo’s attorney, Jerry Froelich, who appears in the video above, said Shembo was in tears over his arrest and release from the team.

“He didn’t mean to kill the dog,” Froelich told reporters outside the Gwinnett County jail.”

princeshemboShembo, 23, was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, a felony, and released from jail after posting $15,000 bond, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

He was waived by the Falcons within two hours.

That was a far swifter reaction by the team than was the case with Vick.

He wasn’t formally released from the team for years — not until after he had served the prison portion of his sentence.

Shembo’s girlfriend — now former girlfriend –called police in April to report that Shembo had killed Dior while caring for her in his home.

The dog died shortly after she took her to an animal hospital.

The following day, she told police, Shembo made comments to her about killing the dog, and she broke up with him.

Police said Dior had significant internal injuries and the cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma.

deadyorkieThe dog had a fractured rib, fractured liver, abdominal hemorrhage, thoracic hemorrhage, extensive bruising and hemorrhage in the muscles in her front leg and shoulders, head trauma, hemorrhage and edema in lungs, hemorrhage between the esophagus and trachea, and hemorrhage in the left eye with internal injuries, police said.

Shembo, a linebacker who played at Notre Dame, was a fourth-round pick for the Falcons in 2014.

The Atlanta newspaper reported that Shembo was investigated for allegedly sexually assaulting a Saint Mary’s College freshman in his dorm room in 2010. The 19-year-old woman killed herself 10 days later by taking an overdose of the antidepressant Effexor.

“Pretty much it was an unfortunate event,” Shembo told reporters after being drafted. “My name was pretty much cleared. It’s behind me now. I just want to focus on playing football for the Atlanta Falcons.”

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