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Tag: alaska

Alaska town’s feline mayor is back home

stubbsmayor

Stubbs, the cat who serves as honorary mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska, is back home and recovering from injuries inflicted by a town dog.

The 16-year-old cat was released earlier this week from an animal hospital in Wasilla and taken home by his owner, Lauri Stec, manager of Nagley’s General Store, the Associated Press reported.

Stec said Stubbs will be cared for at a house connected to the back of the store for a few days before returning to his regular sleeping spot — in his bed on top of a freezer. There, Stubbs sleeps in a mushing sled piled with furs of fox, caribou, beaver and lynx.

Stubbs was mauled by a loose dog in Talkeetna, 115 miles north of Anchorage, on Aug. 31. The attack left Stubbs with a punctured lung, a fractured sternum, bruised hips and a deep gash on his side.

Stec said she knows the dog that attacked Stubbs, and that she reported the attack to animal control officials.

The community of 900 elected the orange and beige cat mayor in a write-in campaign 15 years ago. There is no human mayor in the town.

Stubbs greets customers at the store, but also ventures over to the tavern next door, where he often is served a water and catnip concoction in a wine glass. The dog attack was not his first scare. He has been shot with a BB gun, fallen into a fryer vat and once rode on a garbage truck before jumping off, the AP reported.

The cat’s popularity has increased since his hospitalization. Two walls of the general store are covered with cards and letters to him, donations toward his medical care have come in from around the country, and get-well messages have been posted on his Facebook page, which has almost 22,000 “likes.”

On Facebook, Stubbs reports : ”While at this point in time it is impossible to know whether my attack was politically motivated, I do hope that the government will seriously consider providing me with some Secret Service protection in the future to assist in preserving my remaining 8 lives. I am thankful for the opportunity to continue leading the great town of Talkeetna onwards to brighter tomorrows.”

(Photo: Stubbs’ Facebook page)

The talk of Talkeetna: DOG BITES MAYOR!

stubbs

When dog bites man, the old saying goes, that’s not news.

When dog bites mayor, that’s news.

And when the mayor is a cat, that’s even bigger news, right?

Stubbs, honorary mayor of lovely Talkeetna, Alaska, for the past 15 years, was badly injured over the weekend by one of the small town’s many wandering dogs.

Stubbs is in bad shape, with a punctured lung, a fractured sternum and a 5-inch gash on his side, CNN reports.

Doctors took out a chest tube Tuesday, and Stubbs was breathing on his own for the first time since the  attack.

Stubbs was found years ago in a box full of kittens left in front of Nagley’s General Store. The manager of the store, Lauri Stec, decided to keep him, and named him Stubbs because he had no tail.

Soon afterward, he ran as a write-in candidate for the position of mayor. Talkeetna being a historical district, the position is mostly an honorary one .

Even though dogs outnumber the 800 people in Talkeetna, and often can be seen running loose, the town’s canines always seemed to respect Stubbs, locals say.

But on Saturday night Stubbs was walking around town when an unleashed dog ran across the street and bit him.

“Right now is a crucial time cause he’s heavily sedated on pain meds. He’s in a lot of pain,” Stec said.

The dog, described only as a big one, is still at large.

Dog leads police to fire on owner’s property

It looks like something straight out of Lassie — a dog leads Alaska State Troopers down a series of winding back roads to a fire in his owner’s property.

It was all captured on a dashcam video that shows the German shepherd — Buddy — running to meet the trooper’s vehicle, then racing to the house on Caswell Lakes on April 4.

Troopers say Buddy and his owner, 23-year-old Ben Heinrichs, were in the family workshop when a heater ignited chemicals. According to the Associated Press, Heinrichs told Buddy: “We need to get help.”

The dog eventually found a trooper responding to a call about the fire and led him to it. Heinrichs suffered minor burns on his face, and his workshop was destroyed.

Buddy is receiving an award from the State Troopers today — an engraved silver-plated dog bowl in Anchorage.

An apparent first: No dogs die in Iditarod

husky

 
With the final teams crossing the finish line Saturday night, race officials say not a single dog died in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race — possibly a first in the event’s history, the Anchorage Daily News reports.

“To stand there and watch that last team come in, I’ll tell you, is the highlight of my veterinarian career,” chief race veterinarian Stuart Nelson said after the final musher crossed the finish line.

Last year’s race saw six dogs die — from  fluid-filled lungs, hypothermia and, in one case, a rocky airplane ride — prompting People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to demand an investigation of the deaths.

Supporters say the sheer number of dogs — more than 1,100 started the 1,000-mile race this year — make a death inevitable over the two-week competition.

This year, Iditarod organizers increased scrutiny of  rookies, calling for veterinarians and race officials to rate potential Iditarod contenders on their ability to care for themselves and their dogs. Four mushers were asked to complete additional races before competing in the main event.

On Saturday, top finishers said relatively good trail conditions, low temperatures and the lack of a major storm this year helped teams complete the race faster and healthier than in 2009, the Daily News said.

After last year’s high death count, the chief vet had appeared “on edge” at a mushers meeting before this year’s race, said musher Hugh Neff, who finished ninth. “He put out the word to all of us that the dogs were going to be checked more thoroughly and that after what happened last year, we needed to be more vigilant.”

Nelson said he can’t remember a year without any deaths since he became involved in the race in 1986. At least twice, there has only been one death: in 1994 and 1996.

The average number of deaths rose from about two a year in the 1990s to roughly three deaths a year as the field of mushers ballooned to 80 or 90 competitors around 2000, Nelson said.

“I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that this is a first,” he said of the zero deaths in 2010.

The achievement isn’t likely to end criticism of the race.

Margery Glickman of Miami, Fla., who founded the Sled Dog Action Coalition in 1999, says officials still aren’t doing enough to protect dogs.

“If it’s true that there have been no dog deaths, I hope that remains the case for however long this race is run and I hope that they make other improvements,” Glickman said Saturday. She says officials ought to require mushers to take mandatory rests at checkpoints and shorten the length of the race overall to reduce not only deaths but injuries and illness.

(Photo: from BBC’s Frozen Planet series)

Mackey wins fourth straight Iditarod

mackeyAlaskan musher Lance Mackey has won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and set an Iditarod record for most consecutive wins.

Mackey, 39, of Fairbanks, completed the 1,049-mile Iditarod race in just under nine days. He was cheered across the finish line in Nome by family and friends, including his father, Dick Mackey, the 1978 Iditarod champion, CNN reported.

“You’ve done something that will never be repeated, son,” the senior Mackey said, hugging his son at the finish line.

Mackey could be heard on the broadcast microphones speaking to his dog team just before reaching the finish line on  Nome’s Front Street, “Nice, nice. This is so cool. We’re almost there, guys. You did such a good job.”

Arriving in Nome at 2:59 p.m. local time, Mackey’s official time was 8 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes and 9 seconds.

Mackey, a throat cancer survivor who says he began racing “at birth,” was inducted into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame in February “for capturing multiple titles in two of the world’s longest sled dog races.”

More than 54 teams remained on the Iditarod trail headed toward Nome, including rookie Jamaican musher Newton Marshall, who was in 48th place. Marshall trained with Mackey this season in preparation for his first Iditarod run.

Fourteen of the original 71 teams that entered this year’s race have scratched en route.

A sled race where humans pull the dogs

Here’s an interesting role reversal. Snausages, the dog snack, sponsored what it describes as the first man sled race earlier this month — one that let the humans pull the dogs for a change.

Four teams, each representing a pet related charity, competed in the March 2 race in Anchorage.

The Snausages Man Sled Race was no Iditarod;the human teams only had to cover 75 yards. The winning team received a $5,000 donation to their charity. The second, third and fourth teams each raised $1,000.

Alaska shelter shoots all its animals

The animal shelter run by the town of Houston, Alaska, says its eight residents — four dogs and four cats — were just too difficult to adopt out.

So, according to police Sgt. Charlie Seidl, under orders, he shot them all.

Seidl said some of the animals had been at the city’s “Animal Protection and Safety Shelter” since November — unclaimed and unadopted.

“We stretched out as long as we could,” Seidl said. “At one point in time, we were completely full. So we were able to adopt out the animals that we could adopt out, but with these ones that were left we weren’t able to do that. And like I said, we can’t hang on to them indefinitely.”

Even in Alaska — a state with, to put it nicely, different sensibilities — the event sparked outrage.

“This is barbaric,” said shelter volunteer Evelyn Rohr. “I think there are better ways to handle it.” Rohr told the Anchorage Daily News she managed to get six or seven cats out before the culling and planned to deliver them to rescue facilities in Anchorage, about 30 miles south.

The Alaska Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (now there’s a tough job) said it would have tried to help find homes for the animals, but Houston animal control hadn’t contacted the agency.

“There are more humane ways of killing animals than taking them out and shooting them,” said Cindy Liggett, who operates Kitty and K-9 Connection animal rescue in Anchorage “We are not a poor society. We are not a backwoods community. There is a vet clinic there.”

Rohr said Mayor Roger Purcell ordered police to kill the animals after an officer at the shelter refused to do it, and police Sgt. Seidl said he carried out the shootings under the mayor’s orders.

Purcell denied issuing any such order. “Animal control keeps them for three to five days and then they’re disposed of in a legal way. But I don’t get told when they dispose of dogs,” he said. “I know our officers try really hard to find homes and we keep dogs longer than any other.”

Purcell said the city was working to have its animal control officer licensed by the state to euthanize animals by lethal injection rather than having a veterinarian do it at greater cost. He said euthanizing by gun is common in rural areas around the state.

Sally Clampitt, executive director of the Alaska SPCA, said lethal injections are for more humane than is terminating a dog’s life by gunshot. “I think that’s really horrible, frankly,” she said. “Our position is that euthanasia done by a licensed veterinarian is the preferred and most humane way.”

Neglect in Alaska, new questions in Memphis

There’s not an animal shelter around — public or private — that isn’t entering 2010 overloaded, overworked and overwhelmed. Some are handling the burden better than others.

Six dogs died of neglect in Alaska — while in a city animal shelter. And the troubled city-run shelter in Memphis, raided and closed in the fall, recently euthanized a dog scheduled to be adopted — again.

The six Alaska dogs represented the entire dog population of the Dillingham animal shelter, opened by the city five years ago and staffed by a single officer whose job duties also included picking up drunks.

The city suspended the animal control officer after finding the skeletal, partially eaten remains in early December, the Anchorage Daily News reports. An examination of the dead dogs by a veterinarian determined they died from dehydration, starvation and neglect.

dillingham“I’ve never seen animals desecrated quite to this extent,” said Jim Hagee, a Chugiak veterinarian who frequently practices in Dillingham. “The cannibalism is really what got to me.”

The city closed the shelter and state troopers are now investigating.

Police found the dead dogs Dec. 8 at the unheated shelter. Garbage, tools and feces covered the floor. Decomposed dog carcasses were in cages or curled on the plywood floor, among them a black husky found inside a plastic bag and a 14-week-old Rottweiler puppy wearing a pink camouflage collar.

Hagee estimates the dogs had been left alone for four to six weeks. 

Dillingham’s mayor is Alice Ruby (mayor@dillinghamak.us), and its city council members are Steve Hunt (dealernt@nushtel.com), Carol Shade (cashade@starband.com), Bob Himschoot (bhimschoot@gci.com), Keggie Tubbs (tubbs@dillinghamak.us), Sue Mulkeit (mulkeit@dillinghamak.us) and Tim Sands (sands@dillinghamak.us).

Meanwhile, in Memphis, a worker mistakenly euthanized a dog last week that was set to be adopted – the second time that has happened since  authorities raided the facility Oct. 27, and cameras were installed to allow the public to monitor the shelter on the Internet.

“I do not condone, I do not accept, I do not seek to excuse what happened to that pet,” said Mayor A C Wharton. “I accept responsibility for it, and I hope our city will say we collectively take responsibility for these innocent creatures.”

He added, ”When you’re in there and you’ve killed 25 dogs, and that’s what you’re doing, sometimes you lose sensitivity and you’re not as alert,” said Wharton. “What’s the difference, the fifteenth dog, and the sixteenth dog and the twenty-sixth dog? That’s the culture and somehow we have to break out.”

Shelby County Sheriff’s Deputies raided the facility in October after reports of abuse and neglect. An investigation continues into the shelter’s finances and whether euthanasia drugs are missing. Criminal charges are expected.

One can contact the Memphis mayor and city council members here.

(Photo: Dillingham Police Department)

Iditadrug: Of Mackey, mushing and marijuana

mackeyThree-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey may have to mush without marijuana in next year’s race.

Iditarod Trail Committee officials have announced plans to test mushers for drugs and alcohol in March. Officials haven’t decided who will get tested, or when, where and how it will be done. “It might be random. It might be a group of mushers at a specific checkpoint,” said Stan Hooley, executive director of the committee.

Alaska law allows for personal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, provided the use occurs at home. In addition, Mackey, as a throat cancer survivor, has a medical marijuana card that entitles him to use the drug legally for medical purposes.

Mackey admits marijuana has helped him stay awake and focused through the 1,100-mile race, but he insists it doesn’t give him an edge.

“It isn’t the reason I’ve won three years in a row,” Mackey told the Anchorage Daily News. ”I think it’s a little bit ridiculous,” he said of the new policy. ”It is a dog race, not a human race. It doesn’t affect the outcome of the race.”

While Iditarod dogs have long been tested for a lengthy list of prohibited substances, the humans they are pulling — despite the Iditarod having had an informal drug and alcohol policy since 1984 — never have.

Mackey doesn’t blame the Iditarod board for creating the new policy, but he contends he is being targeted by other mushers jealous of his three straight Iditarod titles.

Despite his medical marijuana clearance, Mackey said he will not pursue a therapeutic use exemption; instead, he’ll just abstain for a while.

“I’m going to pee in their little cup,” he said. “And laugh in their face.”

Elephant treadmill will train Iditarod dogs

maggieWhat do you do with an ever-so-slightly used $100,000 elephant treadmill?

If you’re a zoo in Alaska, you do the same thing you did with your captive elephant – admit it was a mistake and find it a new home.

The Alaska Zoo had the treadmill custom made so that Maggie the elephant — fat, cold and lonely being the only elephant in Alaska — could get some exercise in her otherwise cramped quarters. When the zoo finally came to its senses and shipped Maggie to a sanctuary in northern California, that left them with a contraption that wasn’t in too great demand. Not the sort of thing you can put out at the yard sale. Though the zoo did try selling it on Craigslist.

While the zoo didn’t get paid for the treadmill, they did find a home for it: Iditarod musher Martin Buser has hauled it to his kennel to be used to train his dogs for the 1,150-mile race, the Alaska Dispatch reports.

While he won’t have it reassembled in time to train dogs for the coming race, Buser, a four-time Iditarod winner, expects to use it in the future. Built for an 8,000-pound elephant, it’s 10,000 pounds and 22 feet long, more than big enough to let a whole team of dogs run on at once.

elephant_treadmillAt Buser’s Happy Trails Kennels, he plans to use it to let his dogs run long distances while getting nowhere, invite scientists to use it to learn more about sled dogs, and possibly entertain tourists who want to see a team of dogs run long distances without getting anywhere — like the Iditarod, only without the freezing cold or the breathtaking scenery.

Maggie the elephant left the Alaska Zoo in 2007, after several years of controversy over whether she should ever have been brought there in the first place.

The treadmill was the zoo’s attempt to get Maggie exercising through Alaska’s long winters. It was one of the steps the zoo took to improve her controversial and cramped living conditions. Critics argued she should be in a warmer climate , with more open space, where she could walk outdoors year-round and be with other elephants.

But the zoo decided to try the treadmill experiment first. It didn’t work out, zoo officials admitted. Maggie would have nothing to do with the treadmill – an objection to which we can relate.

At that point, the zoo gave up and loaded Maggie on an Air Force C-17 for a flight to northern California, where, thanks in part to funding from animal activist/game show host Bob Barker, she’s living the rest of her life at ARK 2000, an animal sanctuary in San Andreas operated by the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).

After Maggie left town, Buser called the zoo and inquired about the machine. In exchange for the treadmill, Buser added the zoo to his list of official sponsors.

In addition to drawing tourists, Buser says the treadmill will allow for closer scientific research of his sled dogs. Instruments like oxygen consumption masks and heart rate monitors can yield valuable information, but can’t be used when the dogs are running outside.

Sled dogs cruise at 10 to 12 mph, the Swiss-born Buser said, but he’d like to get the treadmill up to 20 mph so he can put his dogs through some speed workouts. Buser said he probably won’t get his dogs on the treadmill until after the coming Iditarod, which has its ceremonial start in Anchorage on March 6.