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Tag: animals

Changes vowed at Baltimore County shelter

animal-shelter

Some long called for changes may be coming at Baltimore County’s animal shelter.

After more than a year of pressure by animal advocates for improvements, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced yesterday that  the shelter in Baldwin, Md., will be shifting from the “narrow view” of it being a place for dangerous animals and focusing more on caring for animals and getting them adopted.

That’s exactly the sort of change we called for in yesterday’s ohmidog! post — the one suggesting local governments ditch their use of the term “animal control” and become animal protection departments.

Baltimore County hasn’t announced any formal plans to do that (maybe it’s not too late to work that in), but the county executive did outline future steps to add more employees, expand low-cost spaying and neutering services, cooperate with a program aimed at neutering feral cats and increase the shelter’s focus on getting animals adopted.

Kevin KamenetzKamenetz said he’ll hire a volunteer coordinator and a foster care coordinator at the shelter – two areas animal advocates have been critical of. He also announced that  a new Facebook page will be set up devoted to promoting adoptable animals, and that the shelter will be receiving guidance from the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, commonly known as BARCS.

The changes will be included in his next budget for Animal Services — a division of the county health department — and would go into effect at the start of the next budget year on July 1, the Baltimore Sun reported.

“We think we’re moving in the proper direction in a deliberative manner,” Kamenetz said.

Animal advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland complained to the county last fall that shelter volunteers were banned from taking pictures, in violation of their First Amendment rights. The county has been working with the ACLU on training shelter employees on the rights of volunteers.

Earlier this month, the County Council passed a bill creating an animal services advisory commission to review the shelter’s operations. The 11-member commission has yet to be appointed.

In a statement released by the county executive’s office, Council Chairwoman Cathy Bevins praised the proposals as “bold steps to upgrade animal services in Baltimore County.”

The county already is building a new shelter on its current site,  scheduled to open in August.

Our hope would be — in accordance with the proposal we put forth yesterday, and in accordance with the new focus Kamenetz spoke of — that the sign in front of it reads Animal Protection, or Animal Services …  anything but Animal Control.

(Photos: Protest sign from WJZ; Kamenetz from Baltimore Sun)

A modest proposal: Let’s lose “control”

I have a simple and modest proposal — one that would involve only a name change, a slightly new way of thinking, and maybe some new stationery.

It has long been in the back of my head, but was brought to the forefront by recent cellphone videos gone viral — one (above) of a dog being dragged through the halls of an animal control department in California; one (below) of a police officer slapping and otherwise berating a homeless man in Florida.

Both are examples of what can go wrong — and often does — when you give one group power over others. Both are about control.

Seeking, seizing and holding “control,” necessary as it sometimes seem in a so-called civilized society, almost always leads to bad things, including most of the dog abuse that occurs in our country. We get a little too caught up in the whole idea of having control — over our fellow man, over other species, over other nations, over nature itself.

Those put in control, as today’s videos show, tend to lose control when they see their control being threatened.

Hence, I propose that we do away with the term “animal control” and rename all those county animal control offices “animal protection” departments — protection being what they are mostly about, or should be mostly about, in the first place.

I’m not suggesting doing away with regulating and enforcing in the dog world — only that those doing it go under a different moniker, which, just maybe, would allow them to be seen by the public, and see themselves, less as heavy-handed dictators, more as noble do-gooders.

And animal control offices do do good. They operate shelters, find dogs new homes, rescue strays from the streets and abusive situations. The new name would put an emphasis on that, and take it away from “control.”

The term “animal control” is archaic — not much better than the even more outdated “dog warden” — yet most counties continue to use it. Employees see it on the sign when they pull into the parking lot, when they walk through the front door, on their memos and their paychecks. It’s a constant reminder, even though most of their duties are aimed at helping dogs, that they are, above all, strict enforcers and inflexible bureaucrats.

A simple name change could help fix that.

I, for instance, would love working as an animal protection officer; I’m not sure I’d want to be an animal control officer — even though most of what they do is about protecting animals. The name change could attract job applicants who see the mission as helping dogs, and possibly help weed out those who see all dogs as nuisances, and control as paramount.

In addition to improving employee self-esteem, it could help change the negative public perceptions that come with being the agency that tickets dog owners for leash-less or unlicensed dogs, euthanizes dogs when their facilities get too crowded, and sends the “dog catcher” out on his daily rounds.

There’s no reason — assuming a stray dog is being captured humanely, and treated humanely in a shelter, and put up for adoption — that the “dog catcher,” traditionally portrayed as a villain, can’t become a dog savior in the public view.

Having “Animal Protection Department” written on the side of the truck, instead of “Animal Control Department,” would go a long way toward that.

A simple shift in emphasis, and in how some agencies present themselves to the public, is all I’m talking about. It wouldn’t be only a matter of spin, though. Being an animal protection department would require actually protecting animals — and seeing that as a primary mission.

It wouldn’t make the world a kinder place overnight, and it wouldn’t keep cranky police officers from slapping homeless people — like I said it’s a modest proposal — but it could be a start, at least in the dog world, to a new way of thinking both about and among the government employees we entrust those duties to (and pay the salaries of).

They would be more about helping and educating, less about controlling.

A handful of agencies have at least worked “animal protection,” or “animal care” into their names, but most can’t quite bring themselves to let go of the term “control.”

Thus you have, for instance, the Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control.

Maybe they think losing “control” would be a sign they are losing control.

The term “control” might be appropriate when it comes to those agencies dealing with things like disease and traffic.

But not for those dealing with our family members.

Animated Short: Dog movie wins an Oscar

If there’s any dog breed that could be described as an “animated short,” it has to be the Boston terrier.

So it’s fitting that a Boston Terrier — an animated animated Boston terrier — is the star of “Feast,” which won the Academy Award for animated short film Sunday night.

The Disney film depicts a relationship, over the years, between a voracious puppy named Winston and the young man who feeds him.

Through the miracles of animation, this paean to doghood didn’t take 12 years to make.

“Feast” was first-time nominee Patrick Osborne’s directorial debut.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the choice of breed for the film wasn’t taken lightly:

“Because Disney has a long tradition of animated canine superstars — Pluto, Goofy, pampered cocker spaniel Lady, Tramp and the 101 Dalmatians, among them — Osborne watched the studio’s films to make sure he wasn’t repeating a character. He also wanted a dog that wasn’t too big and that had a light-dark pattern that would make its movements more visible.

“The compact, intelligent Boston terrier — a.k.a. the American Gentleman, known for its amusing, bright and friendly personality — fit the bill.”

One of the story artists working on the film had Boston terriers, Osborne said, and brought them in so that their motions and behavior could be observed.

The movie chronicles Winston’s growth, and the coming of age of the boy who owns him.

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we saw a puppy go through from being a young dog to grown up below the table as part of the family and enjoying these meals together?’” Osborne told The Times.

For $1.99 ($2.99 for HD) you can watch it in its six-minute entirety on YouTube.

Osborne said he grew up with dachshunds. “They are all gone now, but there is a little bit of them alive with the short, because of my memory of how they moved and acted.”

While he doesn’t have a dog now, he said he felt like he had one a dog during the year he worked on the film about Winston and his eating habits.

“I spent a lot of time with him,” Osborne said.

Three daring rescues of dogs from icy ponds

KMSP-TV

Today we bring you three dramatic rescues of dogs from icy ponds — all with happy endings.

The one above took place Tuesday, when emergency responders in North Carolina tied two ladders together and use life vests to keep them afloat to rescue a dog who fell through the ice at a pond in Zebulon.

Bryanna Schug, 12, was sledding with a friend when her eight-year-old dog, Brody, walked onto the pond and fell through the ice.

She ran to get her mother, Laura, who tried to slide out on the ice on Bryanna’s sled, but fell through.

Schug was able to get out of the icy water and Wake County sheriff’s deputies soon arrived with paramedics and Zebulon firefighters, according to UPI.

They tied two ladders together to reach 30 feet out into the water, and secured life vests to help keep it afloat when the dog climbed aboard.

Brody cooperated, riding atop the ladders before being helped to shore with a long hook. He survived the ordeal.

Earlier in the week, a dog and the couple who owns her fell through ice and into a pond in Louisville, Ky. Emergency workers rescued the couple, while a neighbor grabbed her kayak to go after the dog, named Lady,

Nicole Young paddled up to Lady and hoisted her aboard. Later, Nicole, Lady and the kayak were pulled by a rope over the ice to shore.

This last video, said to have been shot in a village outside Moscow last winter, a man named Ivan uses only his bare hands, and fists, to rescue a dog from a frozen pond.

According to the Russian news channel m24.ru, Ivan says had stopped his car near the pond to help a motorist who had broken down. As he was talking to the driver, he heard the dog barking and ran to help him.

If Ivan is starting to sound a little like Superman, well, just watch what he did next.

According to local media reports, Ivan later adopted the dog and named him Rex.

Pardon me while I perpetuate your legacy

It’s a well-known but little publicized fact that some dogs competing at Westminster and in many other dog shows aren’t brought into the world in a 100 percent natural way.

Since the 1960s, breeders have been harvesting semen from male purebreds — one technique for which is demonstrated in the video above — and inserting it into females in hopes of creating champions.

The American Kennel Club, though it doesn’t allow cloned dogs to participate in the dog shows it sanctions, has no problem with permitting those who are products of artificial insemination.

Over the decades, as with artificial insemination in humans, the technology has progressed and become widely accepted. (My view is, if we are going to widely accept something, we shouldn’t balk at watching it.)

While some human, uh, effort is involved in the semen-gathering method depicted above, more state of the art techniques involve artificial vaginas and electro-stimulation. Even today though, to get the canine juices flowing, breeders commonly use a female dog in heat, parading her in front of the male. She’s referred to as a “teaser bitch.”

Breeders say practicing artificial insemination can help improve the quality of breeds. For sure, it gives them more control, allowing them to overcome logistical obstacles, such as when a male and female are living on opposite ends of the country. They can still have a long distance relationship, so to speak.

It allows a champion male to breed with many more females than would be physically possible through traditional one-on-one mating. It allows older male dogs to continue reproducing after they can no longer mount a female. And it allows a male dog to keep producing offspring long after his death, which is the case with a champion Old English sheep dog named Yoshi.

yoshiYoshi, under his registered name, Lambluv Desert Dancer, won more best in shows than any other sheep dog. He won Best of Breed at Westminster three times, most recently in 1999. He died in 2006, but he could still be daddy to more than 100 future litters.

“I have about 100 straws,” his owner Jere Marder told Bloomberg.com, in reference to the frozen semen samples from Yoshi she has in storage.

No product of artificial insemination has won at Westminster, but last year’s runner up in Best in Breed was a dog created with 17-year-old sperm from one of Lambluv’s sheep dogs.

“Most serious breeders that I know of have something in store,” says Marder, who owns Lambluv Old English Sheepdogs. “If anything, it’s just a precaution; otherwise, if anything happens to your champion dog before you can breed him, you’re out a good chunk of money.”

“It’s definitely a market — and one that’s growing,” said Randall Popkin, owner of the California-based Breeder’s Veterinary Services, which has been storing frozen semen and inseminating dogs with it since 1984.

“When I first started, few breeders were doing this,” he said. “Nowadays, you travel to dog shows and there’ll be three companies there offering to freeze your dog’s semen.”

According to the American Kennel Club, the number of registered purebred litters conceived with frozen semen has risen by 26 percent over the past decade. In 2013, the year for which the most recent data is available, the AKC registered about 2,200 litters that were produced via artificial insemination. That’s about 1 percent of all AKC-approved litters.

The Bloomberg article notes there are downsides.

In 2009, a Pembroke Welsh corgi breeder sued an animal hospital after her dog was allegedly accidentally inseminated with sperm from a Great Pyrenees — a breed roughly five times her dog’s size. The corgi nearly died giving birth.

In addition, there have been lawsuits over samples that were damaged during shipping or produced puppies that didn’t look purebred. In 2012, a jury awarded $200,000 to a Pennsylvania breeder who had sued a veterinary hospital for accidentally defrosting more than 100 samples from her champion poodles.

Marder, who sat out Westminster this year, says she’d love to see one of dead Yoshi’s offspring win there someday. Doing so, the article said “feels to her as if she’s keeping her old dogs alive.”

(Photo: Yoshi, from the website Lambluv.com)

Beagle takes top honors at Westminster

Miss P, a 15-inch beagle, and handler William Alexander, react after winning the Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) ORG XMIT: MSG215

A beagle named Miss P beat out a shih tzu owned by Patty Hearst, a Portuguese water dog related to Sunny Obama and four other finalists to capture best in show honors at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Miss P, whose full name is “Ch Tashtins Looking for Trouble,” is only the second beagle to win best in show at Westminster.

The 4-year-old beagle from British Columbia will retire after the victory, but not before embarking on a whirlwind media tour that includes a stop atop the Empire State Building, steak lunch at a nearby restaurant, a meeting with Donald Trump, and a walk-on part in the Broadway musical Kinky Boots, USA Today reported.

rocketAmong the other dogs competing for best in show was a shih tzu named Rocket,  co-owned by kidnapped newspaper heiress, convicted bank robber and actress Patty Hearst.

Rocket was awarded top honors in the toy dog category.

Hearst is the granddaughter of William Randolph Hears. She was kidnapped by the radical group the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974, and was later seen holding a machine gun while robbing a California bank. She spent two years in prison.

pattyHer sentence was commuted by President Carter, and President Clinton gave her a full pardon.

Hearst, who turns 61 on Friday, is one of Rocket’s three co-owners. She has been involved in the dog show world for more than 10 years and has also worked as an actress.

A cousin of Sunny, one of the First Family’s Portuguese water dogs, was also in the running, and considered by some to be a favorite.

Matisse won the working group category for the third straight year.

More results, photos and videos can be found at the Westminster website.

(Photo: Photos of Miss P and Rocket by the Associated Press)

Inmates + dogs = a second chance times 2

A new documentary takes an inside look at the kind of “win-win-win” program I think should exist in every state, if not every prison.

“Dogs on the Inside” follows the relationships between abused stray dogs and inmates at a Massachusetts prison who are training and caring for them, getting them prepared to be put up for adoption.

dogsoninsideUnder a program called “Don’t Throw Us Away,” shelter and rescued dogs from the southeastern U.S. are sent to the North Central Correctional Institution at Gardner, where a group of inmate trainers work to regain their trust and, in the process, get some lessons in resilience and empathy.

The program benefits dogs and inmates. The third winner? Society — the one to which those inmates eventually are returning.

It’s similar to programs in other states we’ve written about before, including Philadelphia’s New Leash on Life, and, in North Carolina, a program with the same name, operated by the Forsyth County Humane Society.

insideGiven we’re a country with more two million inmates incarcerated, given six to eight million dogs and cats enter shelters each year, and given most of both spend that time unloved and idle, getting them together — given the benefits that can follow — makes good sense

Dogs on the Inside” follows the relationships between neglected and abused stray dogs and prison inmates in Gardner, Mass., as they “work together for a second chance at a better life: a forever home for the dogs and a positive life outside prison for the inmates.”

“Connected by their troubled pasts, the dogs learn to have faith in people again while the inmates are reminded of their own humanity and capacity for love and empathy,” the filmmakers say.

Directed by Brean Cunningham and Douglas Seirup, the film shows “the timeless connection between man and dog, showing the resiliency of a dogs’ trust and the generosity of the human spirit in the unlikeliest of places … In the seemingly dark recesses of a prison, a spark of light emerges that is a reminder of the wonderful and timeless connection that exists between dog and man.”

(Photos: Courtesy of “Dogs on the Inside”)


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