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Tag: abuse

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)

Swiss resort bans selfies with Saint Bernards

posing

The Swiss mountain resort of Zermatt has banned Saint Bernards from being used in photo sessions with tourists.

The town’s council came to the decision after complaints by an animal protection organization that the dogs being used by two local businesses were being kept tied up without access to food and water and forced to carry children on their backs.

Posing with the dogs with the snow-cappped Matterhorn in the background has long been popular with tourists — even though St. Bernards are no longer commonly used in rescue operations. Nowadays, Alsatians are more often used to find lost skiers and avalanche survivors.

Still, Saint Bernards — with or without the whiskey barrel around their necks — remain a symbol of Swiss mountain heritage, and getting a photo with them is a must-have souvenir for many a tourist.

Swissinfo reports that at least two entrepreneurs are making a living supplying Saint Bernards for photo ops for tourists.

The Swiss Animal Protection Agency, which recently published a report on the dogs’ mistreatment, welcomed the decision ending the practice.

By banning the practice, Zermatt shows that “it loves these animals, and it will put an end to the contemptible and dangerous shows these dogs were made part of by being used as tourist props,” the organization said in a statement.

In March, the agency filed a legal complaint against the Saint Bernard owners, claiming that the dogs’ living and working conditions were abusive.

Concerns had been raised over the dogs being forced to pose for hours on end without moving and sometimes having to carry children on their backs. The dogs were also tied up for hours, not taken for walks and often went without food or water for long periods, the report stated.

Zermatt Mayor Christophe Buergin said the two local firms providing the service were in talks with tour operators to come up with alternative offerings for visitors to the Matterhorn, such as posing for photos with a person in a Saint Bernard costume, or posing with an alphorn, a traditional herdsman’s instrument.

The mayor says the practice of offering photos with Saint Bernards would be phased out by next winter, allowing the companies to honor existing contracts.

(Photo: Keystone, via Swissinfo.ch)

Google-owned company abusing robot dogs?

Here we have proof, on video, that a Google-owned company is abusing dogs.

Robot dogs, that is.

Boston Dynamics, a company Google purchased two years ago, designs robots for the U.S. military and others. Here, in its own video, it’s showing off “Spot,” a robot dog that can traverse all sorts of terrains and withstand being kicked by employees without toppling over.

My first question is: Why, given it’s a heartless metal gizmo, does it still bother me to watch Spot get kicked? Why, given the kicks are part of testing the machine’s balance, is my first response to seeing an employee kick Spot, “What an asshole?”

Likely it’s because the machine, with its four legs, ever so slightly resembles, and is being called, a dog.

Likely too, it’s because seeing the machine take a violent blow brings to mind how dogs are often mistreated in our society — and how our response to that falls so far short of what we invest in machines that can be used for spying and warfare.

My gut reaction is illogical, and perhaps I shouldn’t be droning on about it. Perhaps it’s silly to get even mildly worked up over robot abuse.

But considering how robots may someday be in as many homes as dogs — and how often I already want to kick my computer — robot abuse may someday become an issue. Maybe, as we did with dogs, we will first create them then abuse them.

As a society, rather than spending all our money on creating new monsters, we should be spending more on looking at those that already exist inside us, and lead us to exhibit violence and so many other undesirable behaviors.

Boston Dynamics released the latest video this week, showing the electrically powered and “hydraulically actuated” robot dog climbing stairs, jogging alongside a human and generally exhibiting its agility. Spot has a sensor head that helps it navigate rough terrain. Spot weighs about 160 lbs. See Spot run.

Watching it — even knowing full well it was a heartless machine — I found myself assigning canine traits to robots (canidaepomorphization?) “Look out. Don’t get so close to the road,” I said to myself. “There should be a fence for those robot dogs.”

What if one was to get run over, say by one of those Google mapping vehicles?

Google Car Hits Google Dog, the headline might say, assuming the story ever got out.

The disclaimer at the end of the video did little to put me at ease: “No robots,” it says, “were harmed in the making of this video.”

CEO who kicked dog charged with cruelty

The CEO who was drummed out of his job after video surfaced of him mistreating a dog on an elevator has been charged with causing an animal distress.

Desmond Hague, who lost his job last year after the video went public, was head of Centerplate, the food service giant that contracts with stadiums across the country.

He was charged Friday with two civil violations of causing an animal distress. The charges were filed in Provincial Court in Vancouver, British Columbia, where the incident took place — inside a luxury downtown high rise on July 27, 2014.

hagueHe is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 24, according to U-T San Diego.

Conviction of the charges can carry fines up to $75,000 and two years imprisonment, but it’s considered unlikely that Hague will see any jail time.

The video showed Hague kicking the dog — a one-year-old Doberman pinscher — and jerking her off the ground by her leash.

Around the world, the widely shared video sparked anger among dog lovers and calls for the CEO to be immediately fired.

Hague, who had been walking the dog, named Sade, for a friend, issued a public apology. Centerplate, after its board initially stood behind Hague, placed him on probation and ordered him to take anger management classes, donate $100,000 to a nonprofit to assist abused animals and perform 1,000 hours of community service.

When all of that did little to quell the continuing public outrage, the company forced Hague to resign.

Sade was taken into protective custody, and has since been returned to her owner, said Lorie Chortyk of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Canada.

Hague is not permitted to see Sade under terms of the dog’s release back to her owner, Chortyk said.

(Photo: Twitter)

Woman used — and abused — her dog to score painkillers for herself, police say

pereiraA Kentucky woman has admitted to police that she injured her dog repeatedly to feed her own addiction to painkillers.

Police arrested Heather Pereira, of Elizabethtown, during a visit to her veterinarian’s office and charged her with three counts of animal torture and obtaining a controlled substance by fraud. She was being held this week at the Hardin County Detention Center on a $5,000 bond.

It was the veterinarian’s office that contacted authorities after Pereira brought her dog in three times in three months for treatment of lacerations. Each time, Pereira asked for the powerful pain medication Tramadol for the dog, a golden retriever.

“Typically, as veterinarians, we see the best of people, people rescuing unwanted pets, people rescuing pets that have been hit on the street,” veterinarian Dr. Chad Bailey with Elizabethtown Animal Hospital said in an interview with WLKY. “Something like this is definitely uncharted territory,” Bailey said.

Pereira, 23, brought her dog to the hospital twice in October for treatment of mulitiple lacerations. On Dec. 4, the dog returned with more cuts and vets suspected, based on “the cleanliness of the cuts,” that they were inflicted with a razor, possibly intentionally.

Police were called and began an investigation, during which Pereira confessed she was injuring the dog to obtain pain medications.

“It was determined she was actually taking them and using those medications for herself instead of for the dog,” said Elizabethtown Police Sgt. Timothy Cleary.

At one point, police said, Pereira told vets she needed more painkillers for the dog because her child had flushed them down the toilet.

Pereira doesn’t have any children.

The dog has been removed from her home and placed in foster care. She’s going by a new name — Alice.

“She’s a great dog, wagging her tail, and, you know, I’m sure the dog has already forgiven, that’s just what dogs do. They love us unconditionally, and she’s a great dog and doing fine,” Bailey said.

Less dogma, more dogs

malaysia

Hundreds of Muslims in Malaysia put their dogma aside Sunday so they could pet some dogs.

The event was called “I Want to Touch a Dog,” and it was aimed at addressing concerns among large segments of the Muslim population who think dogs are unclean, unpure and of no spiritual value.

It was organized by Syed Azmi Alhabshi, a pharmacist in his 30s who hopes it will help people overcome their misconceptions, sensitivities and fears of dogs and instill compassion for all animals, according to the Malaysian Insider.

About 1,000 people gathered at Central Park in Petaling Jaya for the event, which was promoted though Facebook.

Roughly half of those present were Muslims, Asia One reported.

Those attending were asked to wear coded colors — yellow for those who wanted to touch dogs, orange for those who just wanted to watch, and red for pet owners and volunteers.

“I came here to learn more about interacting with dogs,” said a mother of two who identified herself as Fatimah. “I’ve never done such a thing before.”

The ‘pettable’ dogs included a purebred Afghan hound, Chow Chows, and mutts.

Organizers also hope the event will help reduce rock-throwing and other abuses directed at dogs as a result of the dim view some Muslims have of them.

“Spent two-three hours of my morning strolling around Central Park and playing with these cute furbabies!” one attendee wrote in a post on Pinterest ” … I always thought that as a Muslim I needed to stay away from (dogs) by all means. Ignorance at its best? Perhaps. This program was a great initiative … to raise awareness about the position of dogs through the Muslim perspective and I even learned the proper way to wash-up after being in contact with a wet dog/their saliva.

“We are all so quick to judge and say that dogs are ‘haram’ because that’s what we’ve been taught all along, but we never bother to learn beyond that. Islam has never taught any of their believers to discriminate against any of God’s creations, so why should we treat these beautiful creatures any differently?”

(Photo: By Aileen Chuah / Facebook)

Susie named 2014’s “American Hero Dog”

susie

Susie, the abused North Carolina dog who inspired a law, a movie, and a nonprofit organization, has been named the American Humane Association’s 2014 American Hero Dog.

Susie, found with burns over most of her body in 2009, received a standing ovation at the AHA‘s black-tie awards gala Saturday night in Beverly Hills, where she was one of eight finalists competing for the prize.

“I’m just blown away,” Donna Lawrence told TODAY.com after learning her dog had won. “There were so many amazing dogs with great stories. When they called Susie, I just wanted to cry.”

In 2009, Susie was found with severe second and third-degree burns over most of her body in Greenfield Park in south Greensboro. Her ears were burned off and she had a broken jaw and teeth. She was taken to the Guilford County Animal Shelter and eventually nursed back to health.

She was adopted by Donna and Roy Lawrence — just 10 months after Donna was attacked while trying to help a neglected pit bull that had spent much of its life tied to a tree in her neighbor’s yard in High Point, North Carolina.

When the man who was convicted of setting Susie on fire was sentenced to probation, outraged dog lovers launched a campaign for tougher penalties for animal cruelty and abuse.

“Susie’s Law,” which made animal cruelty a felony in North Carolina, went into effect in 2010, signed by then-governor Bev Perdue.

Donna Lawrence went on to establish Susie’s Hope, a nonprofit organization that fosters awareness of animal abuse. In 2013, the story was made into a movie, also called “Susie’s Hope.”

Susie is now a certified therapy dog and visits schools, hospitals and churches to bring messages of kindness, respect and responsibility to children and adults.

Other finalists in the Hero Dog Awards, included:

Bretagne, one of the last known surviving search dogs who worked at Ground Zero in New York after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks

Kai, an arson dog who has worked more than 200 fire investigations in San Antonio

JJ, a little dog with a powerful nose that can detect when his human, ther  a girl named KK Krawczyk, is about to have a life-threatening reaction due to a rare illness

Kota, a law-enforcement K9 who sustained multiple fractures while responding to a burglary in progress but who kept trying to help his police officer partner apprehend a suspect

Xena the Warrior Puppy, a dog rescued from extreme abuse who went on to help a little boy with autism in profound ways

Chaney, a military dog who served multiple tours sniffing out explosives in Iraq and Afghanistan

Xxon, a guide dog who helped an Air Force sergeant continue to serve active duty and regain independence after being blinded by explosives in Afghanistan.

The Hallmark Channel will air the awards show on Oct. 30 at 8 p.m. (Eastern Time).

(Photo: American Humane Association)