Despite all we’ve done over the centuries to manipulate their shapes, sizes and appearance — even though Chihuahua, shar-pei and Afghan hound don’t much look like members of the same species — a dog knows a fellow dog when he sees one.
And, though we commonly give the dog’s nose all the credit, they can do so using visual cues alone, according to new research published in the journal Animal Cognition.
As summarized by Science Daily, the study by Dr. Dominique Autier-Dérian from the LEEC and National Veterinary School in Lyon in France, is the first to test dogs’ ability to discriminate between species and form a “dog” category — an impressive feat given the huge variability within the canine species.
Autier-Derian and his team explored whether — with 400 breeds and the greatest morphological diversity of any species — dogs have trouble recognizing other dogs as dogs.
On a computer screen, the researchers showed nine pet dogs pictures of faces from various dog breeds and cross-breeds, along with faces of other species, including humans.
The results showed all nine dogs recognized members of their species, strictly by looks.
“The fact that dogs are able to recognize their own species visually, and that they have great olfactory discriminative capacities, insures that social behavior and mating between different breeds is still potentially possible,” the study’s authors concluded. “Although humans have stretched the Canis familiaris species to its morphological limits, its biological entity has been preserved.”
(Image: Springer Science+Business Media)
Posted by jwoestendiek February 18th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, appearance, breeds, categories, cognition, diversity, dogs, morphological, pets, recongition, research, science, shape, size, study, variability, visualization
In another month, he’ll be trying to bring home some gold, but it was back in November that Michael Phelps went to New York for a “Today Show” appearance and came back to Baltimore with a dog.
The olympic swimmer was there to talk about his training regimen — and it was the same day the show was presenting another segment in its Bow To Wow series, in which shelter dogs get makeovers.
Now renamed Stella, the dog is doing fine, Debbie Phelps, Michael’s mother, reports, and she’s getting along well with Michael’s other dog, a bulldog named Herman.
Michael’s mom told MSNBC that Michael plans to teach Stella to swim soon — maybe once the Olympics are out of the way.
(Photos: Top, MSNBC; close-up by by Lisa Dixon)
Posted by jwoestendiek June 29th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopted, adopts, animals, appearance, baltimore, bow to wow, bulldog, catahoula, dog, dogs, from bow to wow, gold, herman, london, makeovers, medals, michael phelps, mix, nbc, new york, olympics, penelope, pets, shelter, stella, swimmer, swimming, today show
While there’s an old one hanging on my wall, and while I served as a juror once, I have little to say these days about Pulitzer Prizes.
The Pawlitzer Prizes are another matter, though, and, since they don’t really exist, I hereby bestow one on the Toledo Blade.
The newspaper’s report Sunday, asking and answering the question of how many dogs are put down at the local shelter under the mistaken belief they are pit bulls, is the kind of probing, hard-hitting doggie journalism we need more of — as opposed to celebrity dogs, costumed dogs, ugly dogs and cute dogs.
(It’s also the kind of journalism we need more of, in these times of fading newspapers and diminishing depth.)
The story raises some serious questions about how many supposed pit bulls have been and are being euthanized at the Lucas County Animal Shelter, where the decision of who’s a pit bull — as at most shelters — is based on an educated guess, or often an uneducated one, reached solely on the basis of looks.
The story shows that looks can be deceiving.
Written by Tanya Irwin, it’s a piece that should be required reading at every animal shelter. It starts like this:
Lucas is lucky to be alive.
The dog, owned by Laurie and George Hughes of Rossford, was one of the first “pit bull” puppies spared by the Lucas County dog warden in January, 2010, after the county commissioners changed a long-standing policy under which all “pit bulls,” no matter their age or temperament, were automatically destroyed.
The irony is that Lucas, who was transferred to the Toledo Area Humane Society, isn’t a “pit bull.”
As the story points out, recent changes in local and state law mean dogs designated as pit bulls will no longer get an automatic death sentence when they arrive at a county shelter. In practice, though, and somewhat less automatically, they still are often euthanized, due to factors like an overabundance of their kind at shelters.
The newspaper conducted DNA tests on six dogs that were originally labeled as pit bulls by the Lucas County dog warden. Using the Mars Veterinary Wisdom Panel Insights DNA test, it determined only one was predominantly American Staffordshire terrier and Staffordshire bull terrier. Two had some “pit,” and three of the dogs had no “pit bull” breed in them at all
“We really don’t care what breed he is, he’s a good dog and we love him,” said Hughes. “I think it’s awful what people say about ‘pit bulls’ or dogs that look like ‘pit bulls.’ It’s like racism, except against dogs.”
Two other dogs, despite their labels, were pit-free: Carly, who turned out to be an American bulldog -American Eskimo mix, and Bandit, whose breeds were boxer, Scottish terrier, Chinook, Doberman pinscher, black Russian terrier, Irish setter, Glen of Imaal terrier, and dogue de Bordeaux.
Based on factors like a large head or broad chest, dogs are being mislabeled as pit bulls – a subjective judgment that, in the case of Toledo and Lucas County, and many other jurisdictions, can determine whether a dog lives or dies. It often also determines, in communities across America, whether you can rent, the cost of your insurance, and even whether you’re allowed into town in the first place.
Then you have the “pit bull mix,” an equally dangerous designation, also used to unfairly ban, restrict or single out dogs. Is it based on having a majority of pit bull blood, a small percentage (as my dog does, according to our own experiences with DNA testing), or any at all? No. It’s also most often a guess, based on looks, that allows even more dogs to be discriminated against.
Former Lucas County Dog Warden Tom Skeldon, who departed the office amid complaints over its high kill rate and his insistence that all dogs he deemed pit bulls must be killed, said he never considered the DNA tests to be reliable, and therefore made no use of them.
Dr. Angela Hughes, a veterinarian and the veterinary genetics research manager at Mars Veterinary, told the newspaper that the reliability of the tests has increased over the past four years, and now stands at about 80 to 85 percent in the case of the cheek-swab tests.
That’s a far better record than many an animal shelter probably has. At most of them, classifying a dog’s breed is a guessing game. Dogs shouldn’t be put to death based on a guess. In Lucas County, the article notes, thousands may have been.
“It’s impossible to know how many dogs Mr. Skeldon killed claiming they were pit bulls when they weren’t, but based on the kill rate during his more than 20 years as warden, the fact that close to half the dogs at the pound traditionally have been labeled pit bulls, and the DNA tests The Blade performed, easily thousands of dogs could have been killed because they were mislabeled pit bull.”
The Lucas County dog warden’s office continues to euthanize perceived pit bulls because it is “at capacity for ‘pit bull-type’ dogs.” Dog Warden Julie Lyle told the newspaper that — despite Ohio having recently revamped a law that labeled all pit bulls dangerous – the shelter has yet to begin adopting out pit bulls.
The state’s new dangerous dog law, which brings an end to pit bulls being automatically designated as dangerous, goes into effect May 21. But even then, pit bulls, due to their numbers, will likely remain the type of dog most often euthanized.
Dr. Amy Marder, director for the Center for Shelter Dogs, has proposed that dogs adopted from shelters in the United States simply be identified as “American shelter dogs.”
The North Shore Animal League in New York has done away with the pit bull label, in part because it’s not actually a breed, anyway. Instead the league refers to dogs who have “the look” as terrier mixes.
Lucas County dog warden Lyle thinks that approach is deceptive.
“When people think of terriers, they think of small, cuddly dogs, not large dogs,” Lyle said.
She said that, unless a breed is mentioned by people surrendering a dog, she and her deputies designate what breed a dog is. Currently about 40 percent of the dogs the pound takes in are designated as pit bulls.
Lyle said she was not surprised that there were cases they had gotten wrong. Overall, she said, she thinks she and her staff have done a good job deciding who is a pit bull and who is not. She said she doesn’t see any reason for the pound to change how it identifies a dog’s breed.
I can think of three: Lucas, Carly and Bandit.
(Graphic from the Toledo Blade; photo by Lori King / Toledo Blade)
Posted by jwoestendiek March 20th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: american shelter dogs, american staffordshire terrier, animals, appearance, breed testing, breeds, bully, dangerous, dna, dna testing, dog, dog warden, dogs, euthanasia, euthanized, guessing, investigation, killed, labeled, looks, lucas county, mislabeled, mixes, mutts, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, shelter dogs, shelters, staffordshire bull terrier, terriers, testing, toledo, toledo blade, warden, wrongly
Here, as promised, is Adam Yamada-Hanff’s big news: He and his singing dogs, Sierra and Cody, will be on the Anderson Cooper show.
Adam tells me the segment was taped last week and is scheduled to air Monday.
They’ll be performing Auld Lang Syne, one of their earlier renditions of which is shown above.
Adam said one of the program’s producers called him last week, asking him to come on the show with both dogs. She told him she’d been searching YouTube for interesting New Year’s videos when she came across Sierra and Cody.
“We think they’re hilarious!” he quoted her as saying. “We would love to have you on the show. We just thought it would be perfect for our New Year’s special …”
Adam said they drove to New York last Wednesday for the Thursday taping. Both dogs sang during a rehearsal, as they generally do when he starts playing the saxophone. But when the crew asked him to perform it again, for a sound check, neither dog uttered a sound.
“Sierra just lay on the floor and had a look as to say, ‘We just did this!’”
Adam said he was a little nervous they might not perform when the time came, and he didn’t divulge how the final performance went.
“Watch Monday,” he said.
The show airs in Baltimore at 2 p.m on WBAL. To find when and where it airs in your part of the country, click here.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 25th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adam yamada-hanff, anderson cooper, appearance, auld lang syne, baltimore, cody, dogs, dogs singing, new years, saxophone, sierra, sierra and cody, singing, singing dogs, videos, youtube
That’s the slogan of a new RSPCA campaign aimed at shifting the emphasis when it comes to breeding purebred dogs — from looks to health.
The campaign launched yesterday, with this ad — featuring a pug as the poster child — in the Daily Mail.
It’s directed mostly at breeders, who the RSCPA asserts often seek to meet dog show breed standards that place appearance above canine health.
But it’s also meant to change the thinking of consumers, who help create the demand and often aren’t aware of the genetic health problems many purebreds face.
“Everyone needs to be aware of the serious health and welfare problems affecting pedigree dogs and that dogs bred for looks are born to suffer,” RSPCA senior scientist Claire Calder said.
“A cute-looking puppy or dog can be hard to resist, but the result of not looking beyond this can be thousands of pounds spent on vets’ bills and a pet with long-lasting health and welfare problems. This is one of the biggest challenges facing dog welfare in the UK today.”
As we’ve written before — here and elsewhere — it’s one of the biggest challenges in the U.S., too, even though it rarely seems to rise to the forefront.
One major exception came last month, with an in-depth article in the New York Times magazine about the plight of the purebred bulldog.
But, by and large, the UK is leading the debate, which, while long-lurking in the shadows, was retriggered by Jemima Harrison’s documentary for the BBC, “Pedigree Dogs Exposed.”
Between its impact, and the efforts of the RSPCA, there have been some changes, mostly in kennel club’s breed standards that seemed to place appearance above health.
The RSPCA website elaborates on some of the problems those standards have led to:
“According to scientific studies some of the UK’s favourite breeds of dogs have been bred to such extremes that they can no longer breathe or walk normally. For example, dogs with short, flat faces often have narrow nostrils and abnormally developed windpipes. They can often suffer severe breathing difficulties and may have difficulty enjoying a walk or playing.
Dogs with folded or wrinkled skin are prone to itchy and painful skin complaints, and dogs with bulging or sunken eyes are prone to injury, pain or discomfort. These are only a few examples and a recent study showed that all of the 50 most popular breeds have some aspect of their body which can cause suffering
Recent research by the RSPCA shows the public is prone to thinking buying a purebred dog ensures that dog will be healthy. But dogs “bred for their looks,” the RSPCA says, ”are vulnerable to unnecessary disease, disability, pain or behavioural problems.”
Among those quoted in an RSPCA press release is Victoria Stilwell, dog trainer from the TV show “It’s Me Or The Dog.”
“I have nothing against dog showing and nothing against responsible breeders, she said. “But what I do have something against is breeding animals just for the way we want them to look, even though that animal is compromised both physically and, a lot of the time, mentally. So we have to change. Why are we destroying these animals just because we like the way they look?”
Unlike in the U.S., where interest seems to rise and fizzle, the issue isn’t likely to go away anytime soon in the UK.
Harrison is now working on a sequel to “Pedigree Dogs Exposed,” which promises to be just as hard hitting, or maybe harder hitting, than the first. You can keep up with those developments on her Pedigree Dogs Exposed blog.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 19th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, appearance, awareness, breathing, breed standards, breeders, breeds, bulldog, campaign, dog shows, dogs, genetic, health, health problems, jemima harrison, pedigree, pedigree dogs exposed, pets, public, pug, purebred, purebreds, rspca, trainer, uk, victoria stilwell
As some of you know, the main reason for my lengthy layover in Winston-Salem, North Carolina — in addition to it being the place of my birth, and a lovely mid-sized town, and its temperate climate, and its thriving arts scene, and it’s cigaretty legacy — is that my mother lives here.
About twice a week we get together. They are brief and pleasant visits, usually for a meal at the retirement community in which she lives, though sometimes I manage to talk her into an outing.
It has been nice to live so near her, and we get along well, almost drama free. I feel we’ve grown closer, and that she’s grown closer to Ace, too — but not so close that she’s accepting when he drools on her, as he does when she breaks out the dog biscuits.
“It leaves a stain,” she says. “No,” I argue, “drool doesn’t leave a stain. It just disappears.” (I know this from my own pillow.) Usually, any disagreements we have are minor, like that.
There’s really only one recurring major issue we clash over: pants, namely mine.
Well, there is the job issue (as in I should really get one) and the health insurance issue (as in I should really get some). But mainly it’s pants.
She thinks I should have some ”dress pants.”
That’s her term. To me, it seems a contradiction. “Dress pants” is like “bottle can” or “shoe socks” or “underpants hat,” or like those half skirt/half shorts things women once wore that I think have gone out of style. What were they called? Culottes?
For nearly 40 years, I’ve worn blue jeans every day. There might have been a brief phase where I experimented with corduroy, but mainly my lower half is constantly clad in denim, which I’m pretty sure is the reason all the hair has rubbed off my lower legs.
I knew when I moved here that the official uniform of the southern male was khaki pants, but I figured I could get by with my one pair. Alas, in my mothers view, they — at least my pair — don’t constitute real dress pants.
This is because all my pants that aren’t jeans — and I think most of them were purchased in the 1980s or early 90s — have extra pockets and, often, a little loop for a hammer.
At some point — and perhaps it still is, I don’t know – it became fashionable for some men’s pants to have a little loop for a hammer, even though they were worn by non-carpenters who didn’t need a little loop for a hammer.
My other non-jean pants are what I think are called “cargo pants” — the ones with extra pockets and pouches with velcro flaps at knee level.
To my mother’s eye, neither carpenter-style pants, nor cargo-style pants, nor “casual pants” of any ilk qualify as dress pants.
In my defense, I ditched many of my belongings, possibly including some “dress pants,” before Ace and I began our travels. Maybe I figured I would be attending few formal functions on the road, and would be more likely to need pants with a little loop for a hammer.
Besides, I never liked “dress pants.” They are too billowy. I need pants that I know are there, that embrace me. It’s probably the same concept as that Temple Grandin hugging machine, or the Thundershirt.
With Thanksgiving coming up, I’ve been invited to join some friends of hers – my mother, not Temple Grandin – at the retirement community for dinner, so again last weekend, the subject of “dress pants” arose.
“Do you even have any dress pants?” she asked.
“These are dress pants.”
“Dress pants don’t have little loops for hammers.”
“Well you can do other things with the little loop,” I said.
“Nothing I can think of right off, but I’m sure there are other, more formal uses.”
The interesting thing about this tension — and what is Thanksgiving without some family tension? — is that it’s a carryover from my teen-aged years, a good 40 years past, when we’d have many an argument, more heated than the ones we have now, about appearance and especially the length of my hair at the time.
Recently, in going through her papers, with her permission of course, I found a letter I had written her one summer during my college years, lecturing her on how it was what is in one’s heart that was important, not the clothes upon one’s back or the length of one’s hair.
Such a sanctimonious little wannabe hippy I was.
Anyway, with Thanksgiving approaching, I have three options. Plan A is to wear a suit (I do have a suit). Plan B (because I do like to sometimes irritate my mother) is to wear my pants with a little loop for a hammer and actually put a hammer in the little loop. Plan C (because I also like to, on rare occasion, make her happy) is to go buy some “nice dress pants.”
Plan C is highly unlikely. (But I did get a haircut yesterday.)
I’m leaning toward the suit, or at least the pants from the suit. Chances are they will be a little tight, but I think maybe with help from the claw end of a hammer, I can squeeze into them.
Now where did I put my hammer?
Posted by jwoestendiek November 23rd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, appearance, attire, big boy pants, blue jeans, cargo pants, carpenter pants, casual pants, clothing, dogs, dress, dress pants, families, haircut, hammer, holidays, humor, khakis, mother, pants, parents, peace, pets, spiffy, temple grandin, tension, thanksgiving, travels with ace
About five hours after she was featured as “Pet of the Day” on a Raleigh TV news program, Sassy, an 8-month-old Lab mix, was euthanized by the Wake County Animal Center.
Sassy appeared on WRAL’s noon news Tuesday.
She was euthanized Tuesday at 5:30.
Wake County Deputy Manager Joe Durham released a statement several hours later saying that “it was a mistake” for Sassy to have appeared on TV as an adoptable dog.
“Sassy appeared to be healthy when she left the center. That evening, a kennel technician reported Sassy was demonstrating a ‘honking cough and green nasal discharge,’” he said. “At that time, Sassy was identified as a dog that needed to be euthanized, based on her demonstrated symptoms.”
Animal Shelter Director Dennis McMichael, who started the job Monday, was scheduled to do an interview with WRAL News Wednesday to talk about Sassy’s death, but later canceled it, the station said.
Shelter volunteers told WRAL News that at least one caller saw Sassy on TV and wanted to adopt her. “She was such a great dog and very adoptable, and it’s just sad that this is her outcome,” said volunteer Julie Powers.
Sassy, a Labrador/hound mix, appeared to be in good health Tuesday afternoon when she appeared on the news program with a shelter staff member who pronounced her immediately available.
“She’s already spayed. We went ahead and did it earlier, so we can go ahead and send her home today,” the staff member said.
The county-run shelter also posted Sassy’s TV appearance on its Facebook page:
“Check out Miss Sassy on WRAL! She is sweet as sugar and all ready to go.”
Since the dog’s death was made public, the Wake County Animal Center — which has come under criticism in recent months for its soaring kill rate — has seen its Facebook page inundated with angry comments.
In January, the Wake County animal center euthanized 131 dogs, or about 18 percent of those brought in. By August, it euthanized 327 dogs, or nearly 42 percent of the intake.
“I don’t understand how Sassy … can be ‘Pet of the Day’ on WRAL at noon and then dead by suppertime,” said Hope Hancock, executive director of the Wake County SPCA, which also operates a shelter in Raleigh.
Posted by jwoestendiek November 9th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 8 months old, adopt, adoptable, adoption, animal welfare, animals, appearance, county, county shelter, dogs, euthanasia, euthanized, hours, joe durham, kill rate, kill shelter, killed, labrador, mix, news, noon, pet of the day, pets, put down, rescue, sassy, shelter, shelters, statement, television, tv, wake county animal center, wral
Once again it’s time to get out the metaphorical crowbar — metaphorical ones being far lighter and easier to use — and dislodge ourselves from the beach.
And once again, pry as I might, leaving isn’t easy.
Though the sun was making only intermittent appearances — which didn’t really matter, because even rain is better at the beach — Ace and I had a great four days in the Wilmington area.
Our appearance went well at Pomegranate Books — a fine little bookstore that pulled in an equally fine crowd. Ace got to meet a lot of people. I did some reading and talking and signed lots of copies of my book, “DOG, INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”
Our hosts, Steven and Louise Coggins, and their dog Earl, were hospitable and otherwise magnificent, somehow making time for us between their jobs and all the noble work they do, for a variety of causes, on their own time.
In connection with one of those, I got to go along to see a screening of the new documentary “Nefarious: Merchant of Souls,” the first of a planned three-part series on human trafficking.
As with my previous visits to their home on Figure 8 Island, I marveled at the amount of good-deed-doing they manage to squeeze into their lives — generally doing so while I was lazily sitting on a rope swing or lounge chair.
On Wednesday, leaving Ace and Earl behind, I went with another visiting friend to Wrightsville Beach, and lunch at a place called the Oceanic. Though muggy, we sat outside on the pier, sharing it — the pier, not the lunch — with the seagulls.
“Don’t feed the birds” signs were everywhere, as were the gulls, waiting to swoop in for the leftovers when diners departed.
As soon as I sat down, this one (above) landed right behind me, and managed to snag a french fry from the neighboring table just seconds after it was vacated. A waiter quickly came by and covered the basket of fries with his tray. Party pooper.
On Thursday, the sun was out in the morning, but then storm clouds rumbled in. For a good hour, though, the beach side of the house afforded sunny views, while, on the inland side, it was grey and dark, with flashes of lightning.
Earl, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, didn’t seem bothered at all by the thunder, while Ace, five times his size cowered with every rumble.
The rain and sun fought it out all day, both winning several rounds. Late in the afternoon, a drizzle was falling when I walked Ace and Earl on the beach. When we turned around and began walking back, into the wind, Ace fell into step behind me to keep dry, sometimes stepping on my heels, sometimes bumping into me when I stopped, which I did a lot, so he would bump into me.
This morning we packed up the stinkmobile for the trip back to Winston-Salem. My first day here, I had left my windows down, to air out the car. Rain left both front seats soaked, which only made it more pungent, and required I cover them with my collection of dog blankets, my towels, and some of Steve and Louise’s.
Finally, they seemed to have dried out.
I just hate leaving the beach.
It makes me feel a little like the seagulls, after the french fries are covered up.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 23rd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animals, appearance, author, beach, book signing, dog, figure 8 island, north carolina, pets, pomegranate books, road trip, travels with ace, wilmington
When Pomegranate Books in Wilmington, N.C., invited Ace and me for a book signing, we couldn’t wait for the time to arrive, for — in addition to maybe selling a few copies of “DOG, INC.” — it meant a return to the beach.
He got up, poked his head out the window and his tail commenced to wagging.
By the time we pulled up to our host’s house — that’s him, Earl, to the left — Ace was raring to jump out of the car.
Once inside, we found Earl in a first floor room, where he was watching a gardening show on TV.
He showed us upstairs to our room and, after dropping my bags, we all headed out for a quick romp on the beach.
Back inside, I sat in the swinging rope chair on the deck and hoisted him in my lap. He seemed especially interested in my breath — maybe because he was trying to figure out who the heck had invaded his home, maybe because of the peanut butter left from the two sandwiches Ace and I shared on the drive down.
Or perhaps he remembered me. That’s what I like to think.
After a while, Earl went to work on his tan, and Ace joined him briefly on the neighboring lounge before deciding the shade would be nicer.
Some humans live in the beach house, too, who we’ve told you about before. They’ll be bringing Earl along to tomorrow (Tuesday) night’s signing.
It’s at Pomegranate Books, 4418 Park Avenue in Wilmington, starting at 7 p.m.
“DOG, INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend” recounts the race to clone the world’s first dog, the quick transition the service made to the marketplace, and the stories of the first pet owners who, hoping for genetic duplicates of their recently deceased pets, availed themselves of the service.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 19th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, appearance, author, beach, book, book signing, books, clone, cloned, cloning, dog, dog cloning, dog inc., dogs, earl, figure 8, island, john woestendiek, non-fiction, north carolina, pets, pomegranate books, signing, stranger than fiction, wilmington
Rolled into a North Carolina courtroom in a green wagon, a pit bull mix named Chamberlin watched as one of two people accused of neglecting him so severely he’ll likely never fully recover was sentenced to 30 days in jail.
Chamberlin, who Guilford County Animal Shelter officials said spent more than two months chained in a yard with little or no food — along with another dog who didn’t survive — was neglected to the point that his muscle tissue deteriorated, his bones fused and his claws circled back into his footpads.
Chamberlin, whose case led to a proposed law to make prosecution of neglect cases easier, called “Chamberlin’s Law,” entered the shelter over a year ago, and remains there, normally getting around on a cart that supports his front legs.
While he does have occasional outings, Wednesday’s might have been the most unusual of all.
Chamberlin was accompanied by shelter staff to today’s sentencing of Wilburt Morrison, Jr., 56. Morrison and his former live-in companion, Nellie Brock, were arrested last September and charged with two counts of animal cruelty each.
Chamberlin arrived at the Guilford County Courthouse in High Point atop a pink cushion in a heavy duty wagon, flanked by shelter staff and about 20 animal advocates.
When Morrison’s hearing began, the dog was rolled into the courtroom to the front row of seats.
(Brock rejected a plea agreement and will stand trial on the charges.)
Morrison’s attorney told the judge that Brock, not Morrison, was the owner of the dogs, and that Morrison had been ”under the impression that she would bring food to the dogs.”
He said the case was not as “black and white” as it appeared, and pointed out that, contrary to some earlier news reports, it was Morrison who called animal control to come get the dog.
Prosectors allowed a representative of Susie’s Miracle Fund — named after a burned dog whose case led to laws imposing harsher penalties for animal abuse in North Carolina — to read a statement. Upon its completion, the prosecutor said, “Finally, I would present Chamberlin.”
The black pit bull mix was wheeled into the middle of the courtroom, poking his head over the rails. After about 20 seconds of silence, he was pulled back to the front row.
Superior Court Judge John O. Craig, III, while he had some strong words for Morrison, accepted the plea agreement prosecutors offered.
Morrison in exchange for pleading to one count of animal cruelty (a second was dropped) was given a suspended 7 to 9-month prison sentence. He will spend 30 days in jail, and three years on probation. He was also ordered to make $1,000 in restitution to help cover Chamberlin’s medical bills.
The plea agreement also prohibits Morrison from having pets during his three-year probationary period.
“I don’t want him even to have a guppy,” the judge said. “Not even a pet rock.”
The maximum penalty Morrison could have received was 15 months in prison, because “Susie’s Law” had yet to go into effect at the time of his arrest.
Calling the dogs’ treatment “deplorable,” Craig said who owned the dogs was not the issue: “Even though the dogs may not technically have been owned by you, they were on your property and in your care.”
“They’re like children or elderly adults who can’t fend for themselves,” the judge added. “They are totally dependent on humans,” he added — and even moreso when they are chained, and unable to reach or seek their own food.
Judge Craig thanked Chamberlin’s backers for coming, but lamented that the same kind of support isn’t shown in cases involving the abuse and neglect of children and the elderly.
After the hearing, Nellie Brock spoke to reporters outside the courthouse, saying that, while the dogs belonged to her, Morrison was responsible for them.
“He put me out in May. He was responsible. Where I was at I could not take those dogs,” she said. She said she turned down a plea bargain because, ”I’m not guilty … I didn’t abuse my dogs.” A trial date has yet to be set.
In the most awkward moment of the afternoon, Brock approached the dog outside the courthouse, knelt down and spent several minutes petting and hugging him before an animal shelter official interrupted.
“He’s a strong dog and he has a good will and he knows in his heart that I didn’t do anything,” Brock said. “I pray every night for him.”
(Photos by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)
Posted by jwoestendiek September 14th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 30 days, abuse, animal cruelty, appearance, chained, chamberlin, chamberlin's law, courtroom, deal, englect, guilford county, guilford county animal shelter, hearing, high point, jail, neglected, nellie brock, north carolina, pit bull, plea agreement, probation, restitution, rolled, sentencing, starved, susies miracle fund, wagon, wheeled, wilburt morrison