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Tag: animal abuse

Pit bulls: Trials and tribulations

We can’t remember a week — at least not since 2007, when federal authorities raided 1915 Moonlight Road – that pit bulls have grabbed so many headlines … without even biting anyone.

Here in Baltimore, the week began with a pit bull parade, sponsored by B-More Dog and designed to improve the image and shatter the misconceptions about the breed — such as the one that they are innately inclined to inflict violence.

Those who ran into the pack of four-legged goodwill ambassadors at the Inner Harbor Sunday got a chance to see beyond the myths.

The very next day, a mistrial was declared in the case against twin brothers in Baltimore accused of setting a pit bull on fire in the summer of 2009. Phoenix, as the dog was dubbed, died five days later. The police investigation that followed, testimony at the trial indicated, was something less than thorough — likely, I think it’s safe to say, because the murder victim was a dog, and, in particular, a pit bull.

Jurors were unable to reach a decision, and a new trial is a possibility, but as of now, it appears the fatal burning of Phoenix will go unpunished. Despite that, she leaves a legacy.

“We waited almost two years for justice for Phoenix and though justice was not met for her, she became the change agent and public figure for animal abuse,” said Jennifer Brause, executive director of Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS). “Thousands of people offered their support on her behalf. Because of her, a Mayor’s Commission on Animal Abuse has been formed and the seriousness of animal abuse has been elevated to a national level.”

No dog, I will go out on a limb and educatedly guess, is more often the victim of abuse and neglect than the pit bull type — just as they are the most often maligned. Society, rather than simply label them as aggressive, and ban and muzzle them,  needs to come to terms with the fact that, in those instances when they are violent, our fellow humans are responsible for it, training them to fight, attempting to breed for viciousness, and trying to turn their natural born tenacity into something mean and macho.

Which brings us, once again, to Bad Newz Kennels.

Down in Dallas, the adoptive parent of one of Michael Vick’s dogs confronted the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback and offered him an opportunity to meet Mel, a shy and fearful pit bull who was apparently used as a bait dog at Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels.

The convicted dogfighting ring operator — in Dallas to receive the key to the city — declined, and his entourage shoved Mel’s new owner, local radio personality Richard Hunter, who captured the whole episode on his shaky camera, out of the way.

A few days after that, reports surfaced that Vick’s former estate on Moonlight Road, the Surry, Virginia, headquarters of Bad Newz Kennels, which has sat empty for three years, may be getting a new owner — Dog Deserves Better, a Pennsylvania-based dog rescue and advocacy group.

They hope to turn the former Vick mansion — where 51 dogs were seized by authorities and eight more were found dead and buried on the grounds — into a training and rehabilitation center for rescued dogs.

As usual, bringing up Michael Vick brings on lots of comments, on this blog and others, from his supporters — those who say “give it a rest,” those who say “he served his time,” those who say he’s a different person now who should be permitted to move beyond his besmirched reputation.

Be that as it may, I’m wondering when pit bulls — given they are regularly accused and punished without any trials, given that any violence they display has been instilled into them by humans, given that their bad reputation is mostly undeserved – will be afforded that same opportunity.

As a breed, they’ve done their time.

(Photo by Tim Quinn)

Future looks bleak for Baltimore’s animals

phoenixWhat is the city of Baltimore doing in light of an animal abuse task force study that showed animal welfare and animal control agencies were underequipped, understaffed and underfunded?

Underfunding them a little more.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has proposed a preliminary 2011 budget that would reduce both the grant the city gives to Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter and funding to the city’s Bureau of Animal Control.

Despite the lip service the mayor’s predecessor, who created the task force, paid to stamping out animal abuse, the new mayor, faced with difficult choices and huge deficits, has proposed a budget that ensures few of the task force’s recommendations — at least those involving expenditures — will be met anytime soon.

So don’t be surprised to hear more stories like that of Phoenix (top), the pit bull who was doused with gasoline and set on fire a year ago, christy1[1]or Gabrielle, the 8-month-old cat set on fire twice by two boys last summer, or Christy, the pit bull pelted with bricks and rocks by a group of youths on Easter Sunday.

Don’t be surprised if the success BARCS has achieved in reducing the euthanasia rate since the former city shelter became a non-profit agency, starts regressing as well.

And don’t be surprised when the kind of senselessly violent behavior unleashed on animals — left ignored — escalates to violence against humans, as it almost always does.burnedcat

Under the proposed budget, BARCS would see its annual grant from the city cut by $120,000.  The Bureau of Animal Control, already woefully understaffed, would lose two positions.

“I don’t see how in God’s name they can cut Animal Control any more,”  Bob Anderson, who retired as director of the bureau late last year, told the City Paper . “How can they say ‘You’re woefully understaffed’ and then say ‘OK, we’ll cut you back.’”

As for BARCS, it is already “extremely understaffed,” according to Jennifer Mead-Brause, executive director. The shelter, which turned non-profit five years ago, has reduced its euthanasia rate by almost 60 percent since then.

About 40 percent of the 33 animals it takes in each day end up being euthanized, compared to as many as 98 percent in recent years. But, Mead-Brause noted, the budget cuts could mean the percentages will rise again.

Gucci, the dog that changed Alabama’s law

gucciGucci, the dog who helped make animal abuse a felony in Alabama, died Wednesday.

Doug James — Gucci’s rescuer and owner — said he made the difficult decision to euthanize the dog, who recently turned 16.

“I had dreaded it, and put if off for two or three days,”  James, who lives in Mobile told the Times Daily. “His kidneys were failing him.”

James caught some youths torturing the chow-husky mix one night in 1994. The youths hanged the dog by his neck and set him on fire.

The incident triggered a campaign for animal rights that resulted in the Pet Protection Act, better known as the “Gucci Law,” in Alabama.

The act , making animal cruelty a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, was signed by then-Gov. Don Siegelman on May 19, 2000 – the sixth anniversary of the attack – as Gucci looked on.

Gucci’s celebrity continued after that, with appearances at schools, on ”The Maury Povich Show” and “Inside Edition.” He also played played “Sandy” in Mobile theatrical productions of “Little Orphan Annie.”

The dog was only 12 weeks old when he was beaten, hung in a tree by his neck, doused with lighter fluid and set on fire.  Two of the three abusers received sentences of community service, while a third — the lone adult — was sentenced to six months in jail.

“If ever there was a dog that should hate people it should be Gucci, but he loved everyone,” said Brenda Cashdollar, vice president of Friends of the Mobile Animal Shelter.

Cashdollar told Al.com that Gucci was unable to walk by the time of his 15th birthday, but still wagged his tail in response to those who greeted him. A party planned to mark his 16th birthday Saturday at B&B Pet Stop in Mobile will now serve as a memorial event, organizers said.

Gucci will be cremated, James said, and his ashes will be placed in a memorial garden planned at the Mobile Animal Shelter.

Task force on animal abuse calls for changes

phoenix3Baltimore could be doing a far better job of protecting its pets and animals, a task force appointed by Mayor Sheila Dixon concludes in an interim report released this week.

Its recommendations include stiffer penalties, stronger laws, greater police involvement, a larger and better equipped animal shelter, improved coordination between city departments and a greater effort to increase public awareness about the problem.

The task force was created after a pit bull was doused with gasoline and set on fire in West Baltimore in May, 2009.

Police Officer Syreeta Teel observed the burning dog on the 1600 block of Presbury Street and extinguished the flames with her sweater. The dog, who was subsequently named Phoenix by her caretakers, suffered severe burns over 95% of her body and died four days later.

The task force was charged with looking at ways to eradicate animal abuse, and dogfighting in particular, in the city; increase awareness of animal cruelty laws; legislation to protect animals and prosecute abusers; and how animal control and law enforcement could better handle animal cruelty cases.

“Our examination into these subject areas has not been all bleak,” the task force reported. “While the Department of Animal Control is in urgent need of assistance and reform, other systems, such as the current system for tracking animal related concerns, operates fairly effectively and needs only minor revamping to track animal cruelty cases.

“And while additional legislation should be enacted to prosecute abusers, on a positive note, the State’s Attorney’s Office of the City of Baltimore has shown great commitment in the prosecution of Travers and Tremayne Johnson, the defendants charged with aggravated animal cruelty in the burning death of Phoenix.”

The report adds: ”The public response to the work of the Task Force has been positive. Public sentiment is changing and a “no tolerance” policy toward animal abuse is emerging. Moreover, it is well recognized that animal abuse is a precursor to violent crime against people …

“If the City of Baltimore seeks to eradicate drug violence, gang violence, child abuse and spousal abuse, it must also eradicate animal abuse, for when one encounters animal abuse or dogfighting, one of the former scourges is likely to be present. Stamping out animal abuse is one of the most effective crime prevention tools available to law enforcement officials.”

You can find the full report on the mayor’s website.

Recommendations in the report call for a better system of reporting and tracking animal abuse, beefing up Animal Control staff, better communication with the city’s social services department about animal abuse cases, and assigning three police officers to work full-time with Animal Control.

Currently, there are no officers assigned to work with the department and no liaison between Animal Control and the Baltimore City Police Department, and no channel of communication to discuss ongoing investigations, the report says.

Animal control officers have no authority to make arrests or carry guns, the report notes, and “must call for police backup when investigating dogfighting or crimes in progress against animals.” Police response times can vary, but can be as long as 40 minutes. “In the interim, witnesses flee, crime scenes are not secured, and evidence degrades.”

Maryland has recently dropped into the bottom tier of states in terms of the strength of its animal cruelty laws, according to the report, which calls for stiffer penalties for animal abuse.

Here is the complete list of recommendations:

Read more »

Chihuahua thrown from car; two arrested

Two people were arrested Tuesday after they threw a dog out the window of a moving SUV in New Bedford, Mass., police said.

At first, witnesses thought it was an accident, but then they saw the driver yelling at the dog, according to Fox News

According to police, the pair threw Princess, a 1-year-old Chihuahua, from the window of their SUV as the car was speeding down the street. The couple then drove back around the block.

“These people were overheard laughing, saying that the stupid dog was still there waiting. Turns out that the dog wasn’t so stupid at all, because that allowed witnesses the opportunity to give us the license plate,” New Bedford police Lt. Jeffrey Silva told WCVB-TV in Boston.

Princess wasn’t injured in the incident and will be put up for adoption at a local animal shelter.

Jenny Torres, 31, and Jimmy Correa, 24, were arraigned Wednesday on felony animal abuse and abandonment charges.

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