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Tag: boulder

Fecal responsibility: Boulder looks at DNA testing to track down poop scofflaws

poopquestionBoulder City Councilwoman Mary Young wants to know how feasible it would be to require DNA samples from dogs, and create a registry so that, through DNA analysis, poop left on city trails could be traced to dog owners.

She’s not suggesting every dog in Boulder be tested (yet) — just the estimated 35,000 with so-called “green tags” that allow them to romp off-leash on some of the city’s trails and greenspaces.

Young has asked that the issue be discussed at tonight’s City Council meeting, the Boulder Daily Camera reports. (Yes, it happens to be an April Fools Day meeting, but nobody’s joking here.)

I would hope Boulder looks not just at whether it can be done (it can), but at whether it should be — that city leaders consider, in addition to the price tag of such a venture, the ethics and implications and utter goofiness of it.

There’s a lot of dog-related technology I don’t like (click the banner at the top of this page for one example) and poop-detection technology is near the top of the list.

Not just because of its Orwellian overtones, not just because it’s heavy-handed, dictatorial, silly, creepy, intrusive and expensive.  It’s also because technology, unleashed, has a habit of oozing beyond the boundaries of its originally intended purpose — DNA-testing of dog poop being just such a case — and spreading into ever scarier realms.

The day could still come when your tossed cigarette butt, un-recycled soda can or expectorated phlegm could be traced back to you, which, come to think of it, might be a better use of DNA technology than that being offered by the dog poop sleuths.

Declaring war on poop, and bringing out technology’s big guns, is overkill. Especially when the real solution can be achieved by simply bending over and picking up what your dog leaves behind.

In case you haven’t been following our posts on this issue, here’s how it works:

Deciding unscooped dog poop is simply intolerable, homeowners associations, apartment complexes or government entities sign up with a company called PooPrints, which sends them the supplies needed for residents to take swabs from the cheeks of their dogs. Those are sent to Tennessee, and a doggie DNA registry is created.

After that, any pile of poop that is found can be gathered, packaged and sent to a lab in Tennessee, where it can be unpackaged and tested and, by comparing DNA markers, matched to an individual dog, assuming that dog’s DNA is in the registry.

The company lets management know who the poopetrator was, and the owner is fined $100 or so — or, if a repeat offender, perhaps told they and/or their dog should move somewhere else. Thereby a community is made safe from scofflaws, as well as, say, a grandmother whose back might have been hurting too much one day to pick up every last dropping left by her Shih Tzu.

Here in my current home state, North Carolina, apartment complexes in Winston-Salem and Wilmington are among the growing number of property management companies and government entities turning to PooPrints.

Yes, dog poop can be hazardous to our health, and harmful to the environment.

So can the feces of all the non-domesticated animals we live among, but don’t feel compelled to prosecute for pooping.

danriversludgeSo, too, can the dumpage of corporate entities, like the thousands of tons of coal ash spilled into the Dan River by Duke Energy, coating 70 miles of the river with toxic sludge.

That’s a little harder to pick up after, and, I’d suggest, at least as deserving of society’s consternation and oversight and vigilance as dog poop — even if punishing the culprit won’t make them change their ways. (Big companies, unlike the average dog owner, can hire lawyers to avoid fines, and, if unsuccessful, they just pass the costs along to their customers.)

Finding clean sources of energy — that’s a use of technology I like. Using DNA to solve murders  (and clear the wrongly convicted) seems a good use,  too.

But gathering, packaging and mailing dog poop so technicians in Tennessee can comb through it and test it, by comparison, seems a silly use of our technological muscles.

In Colorado, Boulder officials say dog waste on public trails is one of the most common complaints the city receives, so it’s not surprising that they’d turn to a company that claims to have the solution.

Eric Mayer, director of business development for BioPet Vet Lab in Knoxville, Tenn., said the company’s PooPrint service is used by private property management companies in 45 states and in Canada. Franchises are popping up all over, like Burger Kings.

So far, the company doesn’t have contracts with any municipalities, but officials have been in talks with a half dozen different local governments. He said he expects to sign the first municipal PooPrints contract with Ipswich, Mass., sometime this year.

Maybe, if poop detection continues to catch on, it would be good for the economy. Maybe, you too could have a fulfilling career as a dog poop laboratory technician.

But there are far better ways to spend our time and money, and far bigger problems more deserving of our rage. Between all the emotion, and all the technology, we seem to forget that we can simply …

Pick it up!

(Top photo, fake poop question mark, from Big Mouth Toys; bottom photo, sludge from the Dan River spill, courtesy of Dan River Basin Association)

Toll faces 18-month sentence for dog taping

The trial of Abby Toll, the former University of Colorado student accused of taping a dog to a refrigerator during a dispute with her boyfriend, came to a dramatic end last week, with a guilty verdict and protests from Toll that she didn’t act alone.

Minutes after a jury convicted her on a felony charge of animal cruelty for  sticking her boyfriend’s shiba inu upside-down on the side of a refrigerator,  Toll insisted she was not solely responsible for the abuse.

“Bryan Beck knows what he did to that dog,” the Boulder Daily Camera quoted Toll as saying, referring to her ex-boyfriend. When asked by a reporter if Beck taped the dog to the refrigerator, she answered, “Yes he did.”

Neither Beck nor Toll testified in the case.

The shiba inu — then named Rex — had his legs, snout and tail bound with hair ties and packing tape before being taped upside down to a refrigerator in a Boulder apartment last April.

The guilty verdict came after two hours of deliberation. Toll, who now lives in Chicago, faces up to 18 months in prison. She is scheduled to be sentenced May 28.

Her attorney, George Kokus, said Colorado’s felony animal cruelty statute was misapplied in the case. Before the law was put on the books in 2002, animal cruelty violations were treated as misdemeanors in Colorado.

“The legislature’s intent was that this law should be used on serial animal abusers,” Kokus said. “The serial murderers of cats and dogs, that has a systematic torture plan to it.” Kokus, in the interview in the video above, also seems to imply that Beck played a role in the taping.

During the trial, animal-rights advocates stood outside the Boulder County Justice Center with signs protesting animal abuse.

The dog has since been adopted and is living in a new home, under a new name.

Prosecution rests in Colorado dog-taping case

abbytollThe sight of a puppy stuck to the side of a refrigerator with packing type left a Boulder police officer so “caught off-guard” that he momentarily lost control of the scene he was there to investigate.

“I see this thing and it doesn’t register as a dog to me. “I’m looking at it and I see it starts to move,” Officer Rick French testified during the first day of Abby Toll’s felony animal cruelty trial in Colorado.

French described the early-morning hours of April 14, 2009 — a year ago today — when he responded to a report of a couple fighting at a Boulder apartment.

He testified that he was in the middle of interviewing Toll’s boyfriend, Bryan Beck, when Toll began to pull the animal — then named Rex — off the fridge in a “brusque and abrupt” manner.

“I’m not going to have this dog torn down and hurt any more than it appeared it already was,” the officer said. He stopped her and took the dog down himself.

French was one of only two witnesses called by the prosecution Monday in what is expected to be a three-day trial, according to the Boulder Daily Camera. Prosecutors rested their case at the end of the day.

Toll, 21, a former University of Colorado student, is being tried on a felony charge of aggravated cruelty to animals. Her attorney told the jury of seven men and six women that his client was a victim of domestic violence.

“This bizarre behavior by Abby was taking place at the same time Mr. Beck was not allowing her to leave the apartment,” he  said.

Prosecutor David Cheval told the jury the case was one of deliberate animal abuse fueled by Toll’s jealous perception that her boyfriend cared more about his dog than he did about her.

Cheval said the defendant took her time gathering up hair ties, scissors and tape at Beck’s apartment in preparation for binding up the 8-month-old puppy.

“She collected her tools, her tools of torture,” Cheval said.

Toll systematically bound the dog’s feet, tail and snout with the hair ties and then wrapped the animal in packaging tape before taping him to the fridge upside-down, Cheval said.

“Think about the time, the effort, and the deliberate effort it would take to do that act,” he said to the jury. “Is that torture?”

Rex showed obvious signs of pain as he was set free from his “tomb of tape,” French testified.

The dog has since been adopted.

(Photo: Boulder Daily Camera / Paul Aiken)

Dog taping trial scheduled for next month

abbytoll_t200Abby Toll, the former University of Colorado student accused of taping her boyfriend’s dog to a refrigerator, did not have an “impaired mental condition” at the time that would excuse her behavior, a state mental health doctor says.

Toll, 20, has entered a not guilty plea, claiming she suffered from an impaired mental condition as a result of being an “ongoing victim of domestic violence.”

Her case goes to trial April 12, according to the Boulder Daily Camera. The doctor’s conclusion came in a pre-trial report.

Toll, who now lives in Chicago and is no longer enrolled at the university, is accused of binding her boyfriend’s 2-year-old shiba inu, Rex, in hair bands and packing tape and sticking him upside-down to a refrigerator during a fight.

Her boyfriend, Bryan Beck, also was charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty. In exchange for a guilty plea, he was given a one-year deferred sentence and 50 hours of community service.

The dog has since been adopted by another family.

Dog’s head in pipe was tip of the iceberg

A six-inch wide piece of steel pipe had sat in Kay Simmons backyard in Colorado for a long time, but only this week did her wolf-dog hybrid, Marina, decide, for reasons unknown, to stick her head in it.

The 3-year-old dog is recovering from cuts, scrapes and bruises after spending more than seven hours Tuesday with her skull wedged in the 8-foot-long pipe.

“It was a pretty terrible day,” Simmons, 73, told the Boulder Daily Camera Wednesday before leaving to pick up her pet from the veterinarian.

On Friday, though the Daily Camera reported that Simmons has had a lot of terrible days:

She has a lengthy history of animal violations, and last year authorities killed five of her wolf-dogs after they attacked neighborhood pets, according to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

Simmons,  who lives on the Boulder County side of the border with Jefferson County, has at least four open “animal violation” cases in Jefferson County, into which her wolf hybrids sometimes wander.

“She has the largest file in the office,” said Camille Paczosa, animal control officer and supervisor.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office has taken more than 50 complaints about Simmons’ wolf-dogs and charged her dozens of times since 1985. The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office has taken at least 16 reports of “dangerous animals at large” and similar violations since 1986.

One neighbor said he’s glad the animal is OK, but he finds it “ironic, if not insulting,” that the Sheriff’s Office and firefighters spent so much time and money “to save one of these animals but let the documented hazard to humans go on for almost 15 years.”

Simmons told authorities this week that one of her dogs started “making a racket” about noon Tuesday. When she went outside she found Marina squirming to free herself from the pipe.

Nearly 20 people from the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, the Coal Creek Fire Department and the Boulder Emergency Squad tried to free her, using everything from vegetable oil to a spatula. Finally, one of the firefighters — who also works as a plumber — used a pipe saw to cut off most of the steel, leaving just one foot of pipe covering the dog’s head. That allowed crews to transport her safely to the veterinary clinic.

Once at the clinic, a “grinding tool” was used to cut a triangle out of the pipe. When Marina was finally freed from the pipe she “sprang up” and appeared to be fine. She’s expected to make a full recovery.

But Wednesday’s feel-good story took a turn later in the week.

Steve McAdoo, who has lived near Simmons for about six years, told the Daily Camera he’s afraid for his 3- and 5-year-old children’s lives after four of Simmons’ wolf-dogs “ripped to shreds and almost killed” his 35-pound spaniel, Molly, in August.

After the attack on that same night, according to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, the wolf-dogs attacked other animals and caused property damage. As a result, the Sheriff’s Office killed five of the hybrids.

“Two weeks later, she got five more,” McAdoo said. “And she’s been doing this for years.”

In August 2003, Jefferson County animal control officers took three of Simmons’ wolf-dogs and charged her with having a dangerous dog. In 2000, authorities took a report of a dog being killed by wolves in that area, but they were unable to identify the wolves that attacked, according to Jefferson County officials.

(Photo: Paul Aiken/Boulder Daily Camera)

Toll, of dog taping fame, pleads not guilty

rexAbby Toll, the University of Colorado student accused of taping her boyfriend’s dog, Rex, to the refrigerator during an argument, entered a not guilty plea to animal cruelty and drug charges Friday.

Toll arrived at the Boulder County Justice Center to see animal-lovers, many with their pets, toting signs demanding justice for Rex.

Toll, 20, who is now is living in Chicago, had the drug charge filed against her after police said they found heroin on her when she was booked into Boulder County Jail on April 14, according to Coloradodaily.com.

abbytoll_t200Toll’s attorney, George Kokus, said he might file a change-of-venue request because “of the amount of hate mail we’ve received.” He said Toll’s case should be viewed as a “domestic violence” matter and said “she was the human victim.”

Her boyfriend, Brian Beck, 21, also faces misdemeanor animal-cruelty and false-imprisonment charges. Kokus said Beck wouldn’t let Toll leave their apartment and took away her cell phone.

“How would any woman react?” he said.

(Editorial comment: I can think of several alternatives that might be slightly more effective than taping a dog to the refrigerator.)

Beck is scheduled to accept a plea deal on his charges July 15. Toll is due back in court for a motions hearing Oct. 27.

Toll was arrested April 14 on suspicion of binding her boyfriend’s 2-year-old shiba inu, Rex, in packing tape and sticking him upside-down to the refrigerator during a fight. At the time of her arrest, Toll told police, “I know this looks bad. We were going to get rid of him anyway. We usually don’t do this.”

Rex is now in a new home in Castle Rock. Her new owners held a contest in May to rename the abused puppy. Online voters chose Yoshi — a Japanese word for “good luck.”

“There’s a dog taped to the fridge”

Police found an 8-month-old puppy taped to the side of a refrigerator in a Boulder, Colorado home Tuesday morning, the apparent subect and victim of a domestic dispute between his owner and his girlfriend.

Abby Toll, 20, was arrested on suspicion of felony animal cruelty after telling police she taped the puppy, a shiba inu named Rex, to the fridge because she was angry at her boyfriend for not getting rid of his pet after it had bitten her, the Colorado Daily reported.

“There’s a dog taped to the fridge,” she reportedly told an officer who responded to a call about a domestic incident at the apartment in the 2900 block of East Aurora Avenue around 5 a.m. Tuesday. “I know this looks bad. We were going to get rid of him anyway. We usually don’t do this.”

The dog’s feet, snout and tail were bound in clear packing tape, a plastic bag and elastic hair ties, and he was taped to the side of the refrigerator with more packing tape. He was taken to  the Humane Society of Boulder Valley for safekeeping.

CEO Lisa Pedersen said Tuesday that Rex was doing fine and the Humane Society would take care of him until the legal case is resolved, at which time he may be put up for adoption.

Toll, a University of Colorado sophomore majoring in environmental design, faces felony charges of animal cruelty and domestic violence. She was being held at Boulder County Jail in lieu of a $12,500 bond.

Police said Toll slapped her boyfriend, 21-year-old Bryan Beck, in the face and threw several objects at him after taping the dog to the fridge.

Beck, who has been dating Toll for about a year, returned to his apartment Monday evening to find dog poop and urine throughout. Toll told Beck to get rid of Rex, saying he bit her a few days earlier. The couple argued, but made up. The next morning, Toll tried to apply cream to an old wound on Rex and he growled and bared his teeth at her. Upset, she decided to get back at her boyfriend and “teach the dog a lesson.”

When Beck saw the dog, he told Toll: “Take him down. You are so sick.” To which she replied: “No, you are sick for not caring enough about me to get rid of the dog.” A fight ensued, and the dog remained taped to the fridge for about 20 minutes, until police arrived in response to someone reporting the couple’s yells.

Toll’s Chihuahua, Peanut, was also taken to the Humane Society after the couple’s arrest.

(Photo: Police mug shot, via Colorado Daily)