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Tag: animal welfare

German photographer drawing flak for her “flying” dogs photos

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A German photographer is taking some heat — at least on the Internet — for a series of photos capturing dogs in mid-air.

Dogs used in the photo shoot didn’t plummet too far, apparently only a couple of feet or so, after being dropped by their (off camera) owners onto a mattress.

slide_383962_4580588_freeBerlin-based photographer Julia Christe came up with the idea of photographing dogs while they were airborne during an assignment shooting photos for an undisclosed animal pharmaceutical product.

The photos were picked up by more than a few media outlets, including the Daily Mail, which called them “hilarious,” and the Huffington Post, which termed the dog’s faces “precious,” pointed out no dogs were injured and noted, “We’re betting some of them even wanted to go again, since dogs are just awesome.”

Readers, almost unanimously, had, an entirely different view of it. Almost all those leaving comments on the Huffington Post post, called it animal cruelty, with many noting the fear they say is evident in the dog’s eyes.

Nearly 100 dogs and their owners turned up at Christe’s studio after she issued a call for canine models — and none of the owners apparently had any problem holding their dogs in the air and dropping them onto a mattress.

christe

Christe (left) said she was seeking a unique perspective for her dog photos, and that all the dogs who took part seemed to have fun doing so.

“The dogs were dropped by their owners onto a mattress from as low a height as possible, and the impression of flight was enlarged by wind machines,” the photographer explained in the Daily Mail.

But as some commenters noted, even light landings can be hard on small dogs like dachshunds, and — regardless of how far they’re falling — the stress and fear it causes constitutes cruelty, some say.

“It’s actually incredibly dangerous for doxins to jump, let alone be dropped,” wrote one. “Their backs are very fragile and can break. This is more about a photographer wanting the spotlight, than it is art. Shame on you for putting your ego before these dogs’ safety and well being.”

We’d go a step further and say it’s also about websites who pander to dog lovers without pausing to think about what they’re pasting onto their sites — the ones that, in their haste to get more hits, slap an “adorable” label on anything dog-related and share it, failing to apply anything close to critical or responsible thinking.

2351CC9300000578-2842131-Behind_the_scenes_at_the_photoshoot_this_bearded_collie_prepares-24_1416480491504Was Christe’s project cruel to dogs? That’s debatable. Was it stupid? Definitely (and that applies to the volunteer dog owners, too).

“I really love animals, and so everything was safe, I would never take a chance on them getting hurt,” Christe said in the Daily Mail article. “…I feel the photographs show off both the grace and elegance of the dogs, which makes them appear in a slightly different way than usual.”

For all those pet photographers who would put a dog at risk so that they may achieve a new artistic perspective, we’d suggest they fling their own selves through the air, or turn their own selves upside down.

Because all those down-to-earth dogs are perfectly happy with the perspective they already have.

(Photos: Julia Christe  / HotSpot Media)

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)

Hopeless dogs? Think again

There are plenty of rescue groups that likely do as good a job saving, rehabilitating and re-homing stray dogs as Hope For Paws.

But there is probably none better than that Los Angeles-based non-profit at documenting what they do on video.

Above is their latest rescue video — that of a pit bull, since named Bunny,  found abandoned on some government property. Shy, skittish and — even we’d admit — looking a little intimidating, she was lured in with hamburgers and trapped in a crate.

Not until she’s transported to safety and let out of the crate do we get the answer to the question that — in addition to the beautiful camera work — keeps us watching: How is she going to react, close up, with a member of the species that treated her so rudely?

Therein lies the beauty of the Hope For Paws videos, and the beauty of dogs.

Bunny, who apparently experienced little kindness in life — with the exception of one good Samaritan who would drop her off some food while she was living in the wild — doesn’t just give humans a second chance, she becomes an instant, gentle, trusting and tail-wagging friend.

After a few shy sniffs, she was resting her head on the laps of her rescuers.

Bunny is now up for adoption through Sevadog, an Oregon organization that helps dogs find forever homes. Hope For Paws often teams up with other rescues. In Bunny’s case, three were involved, including the group Rescue From the Hart, which notified Hope For Paws about the dog’s situation.

Hope For Paws went to the site, found the dog and got her veterinary care — shooting video the whole time.

The videos, which get millions of views on YouTube, help raise funds for the organization, and melt our hearts in the process. But they also bring attention to the issue of stray and homeless dogs, and remind us that, no matter how rough shape a being might be in, hope and love can conquer all.

The Internet age has seen us all become more adept at touting ourselves — as individuals, as non-profit organizations, as corporations. There are downsides to that. One is how easy it has become to mislead the masses. Another is the danger that we all end up spending 10 percent of our time on a project, and 90 percent of our time touting what we’ve done.

On the other hand, for a non-profit organization, showing the public what it does, in a way that touches the heart, can be a key to survival.

So, all things considered, we hope the Hope For Paws videos keep coming, and we urge you to take at some of the others by clicking the link in this paragraph.

You’ll see some dogs in pretty horrid shape, like this one found living in a landfill, but you’ll also get transported from sad to happy on your way to the final destination — hope.

Group urges Catholic parish to cancel human-pig mud wrestling event

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(If you’d like musical accompaniment with this article, click on the video at the bottom of the post, then scroll back up to read.)

The mission of St. Patrick’s Parish in Hortonville, Wisconsin, is to “be one with Christ in making the reign of God a reality … celebrate His love in Word and Sacraments … and be responsible stewards of time, talent, and treasure.”

Yet the Catholic parish has no problem sponsoring a fundraising event in which frightened pigs are punched, kicked, body-slammed and crammed into steel vats.

Apparently, they don’t see pigs falling under their “stewardship.” Or they think that “dominion” we supposedly have over all God’s other creatures includes the right to thrash farm animals in the name of sport. Or maybe the 44-year-old tradition is just too big a moneymaker to cancel.

Canceling the event — scheduled for this weekend — is what a Wisconsin-based animal advocacy group is calling for.

The Global Conservation Group says the event violates state laws prohibiting cockfighting, dogfighting, and other fighting between animals or between animals and humans. They say even being a spectator at such an event is a felony under state law.

The parish says the annual “Round Up” event consists of two to six people getting into a muddy ring and wrestling a hog — one they say is “sized accordingly” — into a vat.

“We take very strong precautions to make sure our pigs and our participants are taking care of each other,” organizer Glenn Van Handel, the chair of Saint Patrick’s Parish, told NBC 26.

The Global Conservation Group says the pigs face a high potential for being injured in the event, in which it says pigs are punched in the face, kicked, body-slammed, jumped on, yelled at and thrown into a bucket.

The group says it has filed reports with local, state and federal agencies alerting them to what they say is an illegal event.

A petition urging the church to cancel the event can be found at change.org

(Photo: Change.org)

Twice spurned, dog finds love in Florida

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Like any steamy romance novel, this story features a damsel in distress, a hero, and a happy ending that shows that love — even when it’s lost — can still come back and conquer all.

The damsel in distress, in this case, is a black Lab named Lady, who walked across 30 miles of Kansas to reunite with her former owners, only to be spurned by them.

The hero is Helen Rich Rosburg, a chewing gum heiress, animal lover and writer of romance novels.

ladyonplaneThe happy ending came last week when Rosburg, after reading about the elderly dog’s long trek home, and her susbsequent rejection, decided to adopt her, and flew her to Florida on her private jet.

According to KCTV, Lady hadn’t had a stable living arrangement for several years.

Her owner died in 2012, landing Lady in the animal shelter in Sedan, Kansas.

She was adopted by a family, but surrendered back to the shelter because she didn’t seem to get along with the family’s puppy or other little dogs.

She was adopted again this summer, by a woman in Independence, Kansas.

But, the KCTV report says, Lady apparently wanted go back where she came from. Despite her age, and arthritis, she walked 30 miles back to Sedan.

The family that first adopted her declined to take her back, and so did the woman in Independence.

Lady was living at the Chautauqua County Animal Shelter when her situation and photo were shared on Facebook.

“The senior lab walked nearly 30 miles to come home,” Cindy Barclay Powell wrote on Facebook. “Is there anyone out there who can give this girl a home? She may not have many years left. She is spayed, house broken, leash trained, mellow, having problems walking (so her travels back to Sedan amazed me).”

The post was shared nearly 7,000 times and Lady’s story was picked up by Examiner.com last week.

rosburgAmong those who heard about it was Rosburg, the romance novel writer and great-granddaughter of the founder of Wrigley’s, the gum company.

Rosburg runs a rescue and sanctuary for neglected and abandoned animals out of her farm in Odessa, Florida.

On Thursday, she had a private jet flown to Kansas to bring Lady there.

Rosburg says Lady will lead a pampered life, and will join the cats and dogs living inside her home.

Who put a noose around my dog’s neck?

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A friend recently emailed me this poster she came across online — because the dog with the noose around his neck is the spitting image of my dog, Ace.

Or is it Ace?

For a while, I thought it was my dog, and wondered whether someone had copied one of the many photos of him that have appeared on ohmidog! and elsewhere, and then photoshopped a noose around his neck.

It reminded me of a photo I took of him in Montana about seven years ago, but that was noose-less, and  in the middle of a snowstorm (hence the downward cast face). I guess snowflakes can be removed as easily as nooses can be added, though.

I have no problem with the message on the poster, even with its misplaced comma: “Abandoning a dog, means killing it.” 

That is, usually, the case.

snow 030xAnd I have no objection to Ace’s image being used for a good cause.

But, if it is my dog, and my picture, someone should have checked with me first before looping a noose around his neck — even if it was done only through photo manipulation.

Is it Ace? I’m not sure. (That’s him to the left.)

The dog in the poster looks like him, with his big head, little ears, and high-rise legs. And that seemingly contemplative pose is one Ace strikes frequently.

Then again, the dog in the photo might be just a little grayer around the muzzle than he is.

To try to get to the bottom of it, I turned to tineye.com a reverse image search engine that allows you to play detective on the Internet by uploading a photo and getting a list of websites on which it has appeared.

It, after searching 5.283 billion images in an amazing 0.001 seconds — which is harder than I will ever work — found six results.

Three of them were in English, and two were this French version:

frenchacelookalike

Another one was in Italian, and it was the one that had been on the web the longest.

I clicked on that link and it took me to an Italian government webpage, listing public service campaigns the government had sponsored over the years.

The Ace lookalike appeared in a 2011 campaign aimed at informing the public that abandoning dogs is illegal, and that abandoned dogs usually die.

acelookalikeitaly

The slogan,”Chi abbandona un cane lo condanna,” means roughly that one who abandons a dog is condemning that dog to death.

The campaign made use of billboards and TV and radio spots, with most of the publicity coming at peak times of holiday travel. As a computer-translated version of the web page explained:

“It was decided to carry out the campaign at this time in view of the fact that the problem of stray dogs is sharpened so evident during the summer, when they touch the peaks of dropouts due to the difficulty of managing the presence of the animal in a recreation area.”

I’m sure it makes more sense in the original Italian.

What did come across clearly were the potential punishments for dog abandonment — a year in prison, or a fine of up to 10,000 Euros.

(Not a bad idea for this country to try, given recent instances like that doofus in Denver, or that revolting case in Parker County, Texas.)

If that is Ace helping make the Italian public more aware of the problem, I’m proud to have him serve in that capacity. If it’s not, I can only assume it’s another Rottweiler-Chow-Akita-pitbull mix).

With Ace being a mix of four breeds (according to DNA tests) it’s not as common as it is with purebreds to come across nearly exact replicas of him. But I have seen a few doppelgangers.

One thing I found while researching “DOG, INC.,” my book on commercial dog cloning, was that – rather than spending $100,000 to have your dog replicated in a laboratory in South Korea — you can generally find a lookalike in a shelter, if not in your hometown, probably not too far away.

I’m guessing Ace is not the poster boy in this case, and I’m assuming that Italy used an Italian dog for its public service announcement.

As for the Ace photo it reminds me of, it’s on my other computer — the one that’s not working right now — so I can’t call it up and compare. And the post I may have used it in apparently tunneled its way out of the Internet (which is the only way of escaping). 

If anyone in Italy knows about the dog in the photo — assuming an English to Italian computer-translation of this account makes any sense at all (and I bet it doesn’t) — get in touch with me at ohmidog@triad.rr.com.

Grazie.

Second thoughts about dog cloning

SONY DSCOne of the men behind the push to clone dogs — and market the service to bereaved pet owners — seems more convinced than ever that doing so was, if not a mistake, at least a quest that led to some bad places.

Lou Hawthorne, who established a cell bank (Genetic Savings & Clone) and pushed researchers at Texas A&M University to try and clone the world’s first dog in the late 1990s — in hopes of turning dog cloning into a profitable business — said in an interview last week that cloning has led to thousands of dogs suffering each year.

“A cloned dog contributes to the happiness of a family but I do not think it is possible to do it without a huge amount of suffering to hundreds of others,” Hawthorne told The Mirror, which was reporting on the first dog cloning for a customer in the UK.

Hawthorne has been out of the dog cloning business since shutting down BioArts, the successor to Genetic Savings & Clone, which closed not long after efforts to clone a dog at Texas A&M were dropped.

That research was funded by John Sperling, the wealthy founder of the University of Phoenix and the boyfriend of Hawthorne’s mother. Millions of dollars were poured into the attempt to clone Joan Hawthorne’s dog, Missy, a husky-border collie mix.

SONY DSCWhen Texas A&M dropped the project, scientists as Seoul National University in South Korea began their own effort to clone the world’s first dog.

They picked up where American scientists left off, and dog cloning was achieved within two years with the 2005 birth of Snuppy, an Afghan hound manufactured from cells taken from a veterinary student’s dog.

Hawthorne, under the auspices of Bio Arts, later teamed up with Hwang Woo Suk, one of the lead scientists on the Snuppy project who opened his own lab after being fired from the university.

First, he had Hwang clone Missy, resulting in a dog named Mira, but when the clone was delivered to Joan Hawthorne she didn’t want her. She told a New York Times reporter at the time the puppy was too rambunctious.

SONY DSCThen Hawthorne and Hwang teamed up to produce and sell more clones. They held a “Golden Clone Giveaway,” in which a free cloning was offered to the winner of an essay contest, and an online auction where five winning bidders, offering upwards of $150,000, had their dogs cloned.

A second South Korean company RNL Bio, with help from another of Snuppy’s creators at SNU, was also cloning dogs — and it produced the first one sold to a customer not connected to the industry, a pit bull named Booger, five copies of which were cloned from the dead dog and, eventually, brought home by the California woman who owned him.

RNL pulled out of cloning pet dogs in 2011, not long after the publication of my book, “DOG, INC: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”

Hawthorne had already stepped away from the business by then. In September of 2009, Hawthorne pulled out of the partnership with Hwang, citing, among other reasons, his concerns that accepted animal welfare protocols – or at least those accepted by most Western countries — weren’t being followed by the South Koreans.

He also, at the time, blamed court fights over patent rights, the high cost of cloning, deformities and abnormalities that occurred in the cloning process, and what he called the ”distraction factor” — annoying questions from the media and bloggers about the wisdom and ethics of cloning dogs.

doginccover (5)(As a newspaper reporter who wrote one of the earliest articles on commercial dog cloning, then a blogger, and then the author of “Dog, Inc.,” an expose of the dog cloning industry, I’m pretty sure that latter group included me.)

In his interview wih the Mirror, Hawthorne referred to the vast numbers of dogs that it took — up to 80, he said – to clone just one.

And, he said, random dogs used for cloning by Korean researchers were returned to the dog farms they were borrowed from — farms where dogs are raised for their meat.

“That is why I got out,”  Hawthorne said. “I couldn’t care less if the cloning business world collapses but I care about suffering.”

Sooam told me, in 2009, that dogs used in the process were returned to the farms. In more recent years, however, Sooam has insisted that both the dogs from whom egg cells are harvested, and those who serve as surrogate mothers, are sent to adoptive homes when their use in the laboratory is completed.

Hawthorne’s remarks came after the birth of Mini Winnie, a dachshund cloned by Hwang’s lab for a London resident who won a contest sponsored by Sooam. As Sooam attempts to spread the word about its unusual service, Hawthorne has taken to speaking out against it.

SONY DSC“Dog cloning is unviable,” Hawthorne said. “It cannot be achieved at a price people can afford.”

Hawthorne now cares for two clones of Missy — Mira and Missy Too.

The Mirror reports Hawthorne has more recently been working on cures for human cancer and Alzheimer’s, and the newspaper quoted him as saying human cloning would be safer and more viable than dog cloning.

“Unlike the dog industry, no human would die.”

(Photos: Lou Hawthorne with Mira; Snuppy at Seoul National University, James Symington, winner of the “Golden Clone Giveaway,” with five clones of his former police dog, TrakR, in Los Angeles; Mira at the dog park; by John Woestendiek)

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