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Tag: cats

Number of animals removed from overwhelmed N.C. shelter rises to 700

The number of animals taken from a no-kill shelter in Hoke County, N.C., has risen to nearly 700.

Hoke County sheriff’s deputies and about 140 ASPCA staff members cleared the last of the animals off the 122-acre property Saturday, officials said Monday.

The state shut down The Haven – Friends for Life shelter on Jan. 27, charging its owners, Linden and Stephen Spears, with four counts of animal cruelty and three counts of possession of a controlled substance.

The Spears, who had been barred from their home by court order, are now able to return, said sheriff’s Capt. John Kivett.

“The investigation is still continuing, and possibly more charges will be brought in the very near future,” Kivett told the Fayetteville Observer.

The ASPCA has taken temporary custody of the animals — more than 300 dogs, 250 cats, as well as horses, birds and pigs — and they are being cared for at undisclosed locations across North Carolina.

Investigators also found the remains of 15 dogs buried on the property.

As of Monday, about half of the adult dogs and 182 cats were in isolation due to respiratory illnesses and other contagious conditions. Ten veterinarians have been treating the animals, some of which have open wounds and some of which appeared malnourished.

“Hopefully, they’ll continue to recover,” ASPCA spokeswoman Kelly Krause said. “We will be making sure they are staying healthy, treating them and making sure they have care.”

Once healthy the ASPCA hopes to make the dogs and cats available for adoption, but that can’t happen until a court determines the custody of the animals, she said.

The next court appearance for the Spears is scheduled for Feb. 10.

Dogs vs. cats: The battle goes on

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In the perpetual debate over which makes a better pet — dog or cat — cats have been taking a drubbing lately.

It’s a silly argument to begin with: Why must we deem one species superior? What possible good does that serve? And it’s mostly a waste of time. Converting a dyed-in-the-wool dog lover to a staunch cat lover is about as likely as getting someone to switch from Donald to Hillary.

Yet, conflict seems to be something we humans require, or at least enjoy. And the endless argument does provide fodder for bloggers. And, every now and then, something interesting comes up.

In the past year, scientific and semi-scientific studies comparing dogs and cats have come down more squarely on the side of dogs — enough so that you’ve got to wonder if some cat-hater is behind it all.

dog_wins_tee_cat_tic_tac_toe_1024x1024(For the record, we confess a personal preference for dog right here at the start, though we like cats, too.)

One such study was conducted as part of a new BBC2 documentary called “Cats v. Dogs: Which is Better” — a silly concept for a TV show, though we admit some of what they bring to light is thought provoking.

Dr. Paul Zak, a California neuroscientist, compared how much oxytocin dogs produce compared to cats, and he concluded that dogs love humans more than cats do. Five times as much to be exact.

It has been well documented that bonding, petting and having eye contact with your dog produces increased levels of the oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, in both dog and human.

“It’s one of the chemical measures of love in mammals,” Zak said. “Humans produce the hormone in our brains when we care about someone. For example, when we see our spouse or child the levels in our bloodstream typically rise by 40-60 percent.”

The neuroscientist checked the oxytocin levels in both cats and dogs, taking saliva samples from 10 cats and 10 dogs on two occasions – 10 minutes before a playtime session with their owners and immediately after.

“I was really surprised to discover that dogs produced such high levels of oxytocin .. The dog level of 57.2 percent is a very powerful response. It shows these dogs really care about their owners,” he said.

dog-ppl-vs-cat-ppl4Zak said he was surprised to find any oxytocin at all in cats, which he said had never been tested for the hormone before.

Zak, also known as “Dr.Love,” believes upping our oxytocin (and hugging more) could change the world. He once took blood from an entire wedding party and a sampling of guests, to see how their oxytocin levels went up during the ceremony.

He also spent two years trying to get the Food and Drug Administration to approve his use of oxytocin inhalers on experimental subjects. (In the meantime, as reported in The Guardian, he used one on himself.)

Zak’s determination that canines love us more than felines do was just the latest bit of bad press for cats.

Another recent study, at Manhattanville College in New York, found canines provide humans with more benefits than cats.

The research suggested dog owners are more conscientious, less neurotic and more agreeable than cat owners. Dog owners scored higher in well-being than cat owners on all measures.

Last year, a study at the University of California, Berkeley, found, through web-based surveying, that cat owners were more anxious than cat owners.

If you still don’t believe cats have been getting some bad press, check out this headline on a story about a study of cats last year: “Study: Your cat might be trying to kill you.”

The story dealt with a study by researchers from the University of Edinburgh and the Bronx Zoo that compared the personality of the domestic cat with bigger, wilder members of the cat species.

The headline … well, it’s what happens when you try to condense a 40-page study into eight catchy words.

So if you find yourself reading/listening to/watching the latest account of which is better, cats or dogs — whether it’s labeled science or not — be at least a little wary.

And if it stresses you out, go pet your dog. Or cat.

600 animals seized from The Haven in N.C.

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Authorities in Hoke County, N.C., yesterday unearthed the remains of 15 dogs on the grounds of a “no-kill” animal shelter from which 600 animals were seized this week.

A day after Hoke County deputies and the ASPCA raided The Haven — Friends for Life shelter near Raeford, authorities on Thursday dug up the remains of 15 dogs that had been buried on the property.

stephenspearmsspearShelters owners Stephen and Linden Spears were released on bond after appearing in court on charges of neglect and possession of a controlled substance, but authorities says more charges against them are possible.

They’ve been banned from returning to the shelter.

Representatives of the ASPCA continued to remove some of the more than 600 neglected animals from the shelter yesterday, taking them to a warehouse near Raleigh where they could be checked by veterinarians and cared for.

ASPCA officials called the raid the largest companion-animal raid they’ve conducted nationwide in the last 20 years.

More than 300 dogs, 250 cats, 40 horses and numerous farm animals were living at the 122-acre shelter in Raeford, the ASPCA said in a press release.

hoke2“What we found today at this facility — self-described as ‘North Carolina’s most successful no-kill shelter’ — is unacceptable,” said Tim Rickey, senior vice president of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response.

“This is one of the largest animal seizures the ASPCA has ever conducted in our 150 years as an organization,” he added. “We have a team of nearly 140 responders on the ground to remove and care for these hundreds of neglected animals who have clearly not been receiving adequate care. Our goal is to help them become healthy and ultimately find them homes.”

The ASPCA’s assistance was requested by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and the Hoke County Sheriff’s Office, which began an investigation into the shelter after receiving complaints about sick animals and unsanitary conditions.

The Haven was operating without a license for about a decade, according to the ASPCA, and past inspections by the state Department of Agriculture had deemed the facility “inadequate.”

The population at the facility has fluctuated over the years, reaching more than 1,000 animals.

According to the shelter’s Facebook page, it was often seeking donations to improve the shelter, and had recently launched a GoFundMe drive to build roofs over the outdoor pens where dogs were kept.

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The seized dogs, cats and other animals will be held at an undisclosed location, and the ASPCA will continue to care for them until custody is determined by the court,

“The condition of these animals is pressing and required immediate attention,” said Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin. “In addition to protecting Hoke County citizens, law enforcement has an obligation to ensure the safety and well being of Hoke County animals at all times. We cannot and will not allow this type of mistreatment to continue any longer. All persons involved will be held accountable.”

No deceased animals were found on the property Wednesday, but yesterday investigators found at least 15 dead dogs and “dozens” of animals buried on the property, according to WRAL in Raleigh.

(Photos of shelter courtesy of ASPCA; photos of Spears family courtesy of Hoke sheriff’s department)

Another N.C. shelter accused of cruelty

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Another North Carolina animal shelter has come under fire from the state Department of Agriculture — this time the county-operated shelter in Stokes County, where an investigation found dogs were being inhumanely euthanized.

The Veterinary Division of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture released documents Friday showing inspectors found credible evidence that shelter director Phillip Handy and employee Darryl Sheppard “performed, participated in and/or witnessed the inhumane euthanasia of multiple animals that involved improper euthanasia administration.”

The allegations, now being investigated by the state Bureau of Investigation, include putting down one dog by gunshot, failing to confirm the death of an animal, and improper disposal of an animal. The report also accuses the two men of putting dogs down prior to the 72-hour holding period.

The shelter (pictured above) is located in a cinder block building in Germanton.

The division revoked both Handy and Sheppard’s certifications to perform euthanasia, and both have been relieved from duty, according to Stokes County Manager Rick Morris.

This summer has also seen the Department of Agriculture revoke the licenses of animal shelters in Guilford County and Davidson County, citing a “systemic failure to care for animals.” Both were run by the United Animal Coalition under contracts with the counties.

And last week, news surfaced of a dog at the Forsyth County Animal Shelter being mistakenly euthanized.

The Stokes County shelter was closed for two weeks in July, for what county officials said was state-ordered maintenance and repairs.

County Manager Morris assured the public then that animals housed there at the time would not be euthanized.

The revocation notice from the state — instructing the shelter to cease all euthanizations — was issued two days before the temporary closure.

Animal advocates in Stokes County have been working to improve the shelter and are raising funds to open a new no-kill shelter, with around $180,000 raised so far.

(Photo: By Jennifer Rotenizer / Winston-Salem Journal)

Shelters in Guilford, Davidson counties shut down amid continuing investigation

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Citing 75 incidents of animal cruelty and a “systemic failure to care for animals,” the N.C. Department of Agriculture on Monday yanked the United Animal Coalition’s license to run animal shelters in Davidson and Guilford counties.

The non-profit organization has been running Guilford County’s animal shelter since 1998, when it was hired by the county to improve conditions.

Seventeen years later, the same sort of allegations have resurfaced during continuing investigations by state and county officials as well as the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.

Department of Agriculture reports mention more than 100 cases of animals receiving inadequate medical care, including a cat with a broken leg and internal bleeding that went seven days without being seen by a vet and a dog with a gunshot wound to the face who went 12 days without medical attention before being euthanized.

The former shelter director in Guilford County, Marsha Williams, was suspended with pay earlier this month. As of yesterday, that pay was halted and Williams was officially terminated under the orders of the county commissioners.

The Guilford County Board of Commissioners convened an emergency meeting Monday, voting unanimously to revoke the United Animal Coalition’s contract and to place the shelter under the county’s control on an interim basis.

A letter of revocation was delivered by hand to the shelter yesterday.

“The things we’ve learned are very disturbing and unacceptable, as I know it is for the community as a whole,” Commissioner Hank Henning, the board’s chairman, said at a press conference after the county commissioner’s meeting. “Our goal is to put transparency and a culture of efficiency back into the shelter, so the community at large can get the services and the shelter that it wants and deserves.”

The N.C. Department of Agriculture has been investigating both shelters for about a month following complaints about animal care and conditions, according to the Greensboro News & Record

The Davidson County investigation began after the state agency received a complaint that a dog had arrived at the shelter with a broken back but received no veterinary care.

The federal Drug Enforcement Agency continues to investigate potential unspecified violations at both facilities.

Also still investigating are the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office and the Lexington Police Department.

“To be quite frank with you, I expect to see criminal charges come out of this,” said Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes.

Deputy County Manager Clarence Grier will serve as interim director of the Guilford County shelter, which will remain closed the rest of the week.

The facility is expected to reopen Aug. 22.

(Photo: Former Guilford County Animal Shelter director Marsha Williams; by Lynn Hey / Greensboro News & Record)

Dutch woman plans to marry her dog

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You can’t say Bible-quoting conservatives didn’t warn us.

Let members of the same sex get married, they said, and it will open the door to even unholier unions.

Now comes word from Metro that a woman in the Nederlands plans to marry her dog.

Dominique Lesbirel, 41, says she might not do it immediately, because she wants to be sure that she’s not acting out of grief.

You see, her husband, Doerack, just died. He had kidney failure.

Oh, and he was a cat.

Lesbirel married Doerack eight years ago, conducting the ceremony herself, based on the authority she thinks she holds from getting ordained online.

She says she regularly officiates weddings between people with their pets — but not before doing some research and making sure they truly love, respect and are committed to each other. Also, she says, she wouldn’t marry anyone to a lion or tiger.

A Metro online poll shows only 8 percent of us would marry our pet.

Lesbirel, whose services are explained on her website, says some people have accused her of animal cruelty and promoting bestialty, which is “certainly not the case.”

“I would never condone such terrible acts of cruelty to animals. My site is all about making a commitment to pets to show your dedication to them and promise that you will always look after them.”

“We’d be lost without those happy little faces at our windows, so I’ll do anything I can to remind people to treat animals with love, kindness and respect.”

That, she says, is why she will someday soon tie the knot with her dog, Travis.

“He has given me so much happiness and unconditional love. I just want to celebrate that bond.”

(Photo:PA Real Life, via Metro)

Where a trail of dead dogs has led

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When Randi Hileman came upon a trail of dead dogs and cats on the highway in North Carolina, she did what most folks do nowadays. She got out her phone and took some pictures.

She was distressed enough by the scene that, after moving the corpses to the side of the road, she posted the photos on Facebook and called the news media —  all in search of some sort of explanation.

And when, earlier this month, the explanation came, she — and a lot of other people — got even angrier.

trailWhat little official response there was went something like this: Someone failed to properly latch the tailgate of  a truck transporting dogs and cats that had been euthanized at the Davidson County Animal Shelter.

Rather than ending up at their destination, a landfill, their bodies were left strewn along U.S 64, near Interstate 85.

Judy Lanier, the shelter’s director, told inquiring reporters it was a non-story, and apparently convinced a lot of them of that.

Not too many accounts of what happened can be easily found on the Internet, other than this one in the Winston-Salem Journal.

“It was an internal employee mistake that’s been dealt with in less than 30 minutes,” Lanier told columnist Scott Sexton. “Basically it’s a nonstory. There is one thread on one Facebook page where you’ve got less than 10 people beating a dead horse.”

Between being one of only eight counties backwards enough to still use gas chambers to put down dogs, the public opposition to that, the county’s dismal adoptions figures (it reportedly euthanizes 6,000 dogs a year), Lanier’s defensive reaction and the vivid images of what her employee left, however briefly, on the highway, it’s not too surprising that some people are calling for the shelter director’s resignation.

Lanier, while she’s not granting many interviews with the media, is responding to what people are saying on Facebook.

“I never took it lightly,” she says in one comment. “I dealt with it a week ago in a professional expedient fashion … I take issue with this non story that was simply an error of equipment usage being used as another platform for attacking our shelter, our staff and our ethics … Not one cat was adopted due to this story being spread all over face book. Not one of these so called activists stepped through the door to help lessen the overcrowding that requires that truck to make that trip several times a week. Shame on those who criticize that which they don’t understand and those who don’t intend to put their words into action. Journalism when practiced honestly does not require ambushing and exploitation. That’s just his personnel (sic) self aggrandizement in print.

Lanier wrote that none of the animals found on the road had been put down in the gas chamber, and said the shelter uses lethal injection three times more often than it uses its gas chamber. Opponents of the gas chamber, she said,  are using the dead animal spill to fuel their campaign against the use of gas.

“Those animals are the visual picture of what happens in a community that does not spay/nueter (sic), thinks of animals as disposable property and expects a small shelter to absorb their decisions and re home each one. That’s a fact not an excuse but reality.

In another comment, she gets in a shot at the reporter:  “Must be a slow day in the newspaper world when a columnist can only report week old news and quote a no comment voice mail to make a punch line … Mr. Sexton burnt a bridge he won’t ever cross again today.”

MAP TEMP NEW 2014Lanier further states that she wishes people criticizing the shelter would spend that energy instead on volunteering at the shelter, helping get dogs adopted and educating the public on spaying and neutering.

Amid her comments, an apology can be found.

“The incident where animals were found on Highway 64 on Tuesday, August 8, 2014 was an unfortunate error caused by the tailgate on the animal shelter truck being inadequately secured. The animal shelter truck was in route to the county landfill at the time of the incident. The animal shelter staff acted as soon as possible to correct this error and the staff member involved was extremely sorry and devastated that this had occurred. The shelter staff member is an excellent employee who performs above and beyond every day at the shelter. Measures have been taken by the staff to make sure this never occurs again.

“The Davidson County Animal Shelter apologizes to the public who witnessed this incident. We are aware of the impact this has had on our citizens. The entire incident was due to human error and is regrettable.”

Probably she should have provided that statement to reporters and stopped there, rather than telling them they were “beating a dead horse.” And probably she should have held back on criticizing animal advocates who want to see the gas chamber dismantled.

Criticizing those who see the issues differently is bad for public relations. Badmouthing reporters is bad for public relations. The gas chamber is bad for public relations. Dead dogs on the highway is bad for public relations.

Davidson County officials have the power to do something about one or two of those, or perhaps all four.

(Photos from Randi Hileman’s Facebook page)