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Tag: complaints

Swiss resort bans selfies with Saint Bernards

posing

The Swiss mountain resort of Zermatt has banned Saint Bernards from being used in photo sessions with tourists.

The town’s council came to the decision after complaints by an animal protection organization that the dogs being used by two local businesses were being kept tied up without access to food and water and forced to carry children on their backs.

Posing with the dogs with the snow-cappped Matterhorn in the background has long been popular with tourists — even though St. Bernards are no longer commonly used in rescue operations. Nowadays, Alsatians are more often used to find lost skiers and avalanche survivors.

Still, Saint Bernards — with or without the whiskey barrel around their necks — remain a symbol of Swiss mountain heritage, and getting a photo with them is a must-have souvenir for many a tourist.

Swissinfo reports that at least two entrepreneurs are making a living supplying Saint Bernards for photo ops for tourists.

The Swiss Animal Protection Agency, which recently published a report on the dogs’ mistreatment, welcomed the decision ending the practice.

By banning the practice, Zermatt shows that “it loves these animals, and it will put an end to the contemptible and dangerous shows these dogs were made part of by being used as tourist props,” the organization said in a statement.

In March, the agency filed a legal complaint against the Saint Bernard owners, claiming that the dogs’ living and working conditions were abusive.

Concerns had been raised over the dogs being forced to pose for hours on end without moving and sometimes having to carry children on their backs. The dogs were also tied up for hours, not taken for walks and often went without food or water for long periods, the report stated.

Zermatt Mayor Christophe Buergin said the two local firms providing the service were in talks with tour operators to come up with alternative offerings for visitors to the Matterhorn, such as posing for photos with a person in a Saint Bernard costume, or posing with an alphorn, a traditional herdsman’s instrument.

The mayor says the practice of offering photos with Saint Bernards would be phased out by next winter, allowing the companies to honor existing contracts.

(Photo: Keystone, via Swissinfo.ch)

The puppy ad Go Daddy pulled off the air

Go Daddy previewed its Super Bowl ad today, but hours later decided to drop it amid a flood of criticism from dog lovers who said it was tasteless, mean-hearted and irresponsible.

The video of the ad was taken off YouTube, where hundreds of commenters had blasted it, including top officials of animal protection groups.

A back-up ad will be used during the 2015 Super Bowl, the company said.

The ad was intended to poke some fun at Budweiser’s puppy ads — both the highly acclaimed one that aired during last year’s Super Bowl, “Puppy Love,” and a follow-up ad that the beer company will during Sunday’s Super Bowl, called “Lost Dog.”

The 30-second Go Daddy ad featured a retriever puppy finding its way home after falling out of a truck, only to find its owner has used Go Daddy to set up a website that lets her promptly sell the dog to a new owner.

Many in the animal welfare community responded, pointing out that dogs purchased online often come from puppy mills. (For a sampling of their anger, check out hashtag #GoDaddyPuppy, or read the comments left on the YouTube page where the video itself has been deactivated.

The ad was made by Barton F. Graf 9000, but heads of the agency declined to comment.

GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving responded to the ad’s critics on Twitter this afternoon, vowing “we will not air it.”

Earlier in the day, though, Irving had defended the ad, according to AdWeek, saying, “Buddy was purchased from a reputable, loving breeder, just as the ad suggests. Sell or adopt, both need an online presence.”

Around 6:30 p.m., Irving posted a statement confirming the ad won’t run, and that another ad will be substituted.

“You’ll still see us in the Big Game this year, and we hope it makes you laugh,” he wrote.

The YouTube video was removed around the same time.

A petition launched on the website Change.org by animal rights advocate Helena Yurcho demanding the ad be pulled had more than 42,000 signatures by afternoon.

“Essentially, GoDaddy is encouraging private breeding/puppy mills while shelter animals wait patiently for their forever homes or worse—to be euthanized,” she wrote. “They are also encouraging purchasing an animal online; the animal could be sold to someone who runs a fighting ring, someone who abuses animals, or to someone who cannot adequately care for the animal. Animal rights are no laughing matter and to portray them as such is cruel and irresponsible.”

On YouTube, the clip received more than 800 comments, many of them negative. Dog breeders and animal rescuers alike were critical of the spot for sending a negative message.

Recipients say agency’s diabetic alert dogs aren’t performing as promised

Three North Texas families say the diabetic alert dogs they received from a Virginia-based nonprofit aren’t alerting them to anything, and have turned out to be nothing more than expensive house pets.

The three families are among 30 that have filed complaints against Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers, according to NBC 5 in Dallas.

Each of the three paid up to $20,000 for what they were told were specialized service dogs trained to alert them to spikes and drops in blood sugar and help them manage Type 1 diabetes.

Mindy Guidry said the dog she received to help her daughter manage her diabetes has failed to detect any blood sugar spirals. On top of that, the dog is afraid to go out in public.

“I cannot take her out in public at all. Even in our own household she’s scared,” Guidry said.

Krista Middleton told NBC 5 that her dog doesn’t alert her when her blood sugar is dropping dangerously low.

“And then I’m passing out. I’m going into comas. My kids are finding me in seizures,” said Middleton. “It gets to the point where, as a mom, I wanted to make sure my kids weren’t the ones to find me convulsing.”

Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers says it offers a one- to two-year training program with initial in-home sessions of up to five days, long-distance training and education and up to seven more multi-day visits.

Middleton and Guidry both failed to complete the training program, a spokeswoman for the agency said, and both still owe the agency money.

Middleton said when she informed the non-profit her dog wasn’t working, she got no response.

But Warren Retrievers spokeswoman Jennifer Bulotti told NBC 5 when a dog isn’t working “instant intervention and training is provided.”

Dan Warren, founder and president of the nonprofit, was convicted of passing forged documents in 2008, before he started his service dog agency. While working at a car dealership, he had someone prepare phony tax returns to help customers get loans for cars, NBC 5 reported. He was sentenced to five years’ probation

Tax records from 2012 list his salary from the service dog agency as $157,411.

The Virginia Attorney General’s office has received 30 complaints against Warren Retrievers, but declined to discuss the details of any of them.

Providers of service dogs operate relatively free of government regulation or required standards, and some think it’s time for that to change.

“This is an industry that’s fraught with fraud,” said Brent Brooks, president of The Diabetes Alert Dog Alliance (DADA). “It angers me to have to say it but you have to be skeptical.”

PetSmart and Petco to pull China-made jerky treats off their shelves — finally

Chinesjerky

After thousands of reported illnesses and 1,000 dog deaths, PetSmart and Petco have announced they will stop selling all dog and cat treats made in China.

What took the retailers so long to reach the decision, and why it will take them seven to ten months more to purge store shelves of such items, remain questions worth asking.

So too is why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has been investigating the treats for years — without determining what about them is making dogs sick — can’t tell us much more than “CAUTION,” with an exclamation point.

PetSmart said it will pull from the shelves all of the China-made treat it sells by March 2015.

Petco said it will accomplish that by the end of this year.

Both retailers have about 1,300 stores nationwide.

The two national pet retailers’ decisions came after seven years of complaints to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about jerky treats from China making pets sick, or worse.

“We know some pet parents are wary of dog and cat treats made in China, especially chicken jerky products, and we’ve heard their concerns,” said Jim Myers, Petco CEO, in a statement.

A PetSmart spokesperson, meanwhile, told USA Today it has been working toward this goal “for some time, and feel it’s the right thing to do for pets and our customers.”

Taking questionable Chinese-made treats off the shelves strikes us as a pretty simple task, as opposed to “a goal to work toward.” You just pick them up and put them in the garbage. And while “hearing customer concerns” is commendable, it shouldn’t take three or four years for them to sink in.

The move comes as sales of Chinese made jerky treats diminish, amid increasing public concerns about them.

Five years ago, 90% of the pet industry’s jerky treats were made in China, said Lisa Stark, spokeswoman for Petco. Currently, about 50% of the jerky treats sold by Petco are from China.

Since 2007, the FDA says it has received about 4,800 reports of pet illnesses, and 1,000 dog deaths, possibly related to the consumption of jerky treats. The FDA, while issuing warnings, says it has yet to establish any direct link between the pet illnesses and the China-made treats.

Most of the complaints involved chicken jerky, but others included duck, sweet potato and chicken, according to the FDA.

Struggling to survive in Sochi

sochitrash

Surely by now you’ve heard about all the inconveniences visiting journalists from the west are facing in Sochi — a town that in its rush to get ready for the Olympics didn’t quite get ready for the Olympics.

As a member of that breed, or at least a former journalist, I can’t help but have empathy for their plight.

They have an important job to do, and how can we expect them to do it when they are facing obstacles like hotel rooms with no Internet,  fallen drapery rods, faulty doorknobs, or tap water so discolored one journalist reported she had to resort to washing her face with Evian?

Life can be so cruel sometimes.

sochipuddle

Sochi’s shortcomings are being blasted all over the Internet — by journalists, by Tweeters, and by tweeting journalists.

Arriving early, and finding the amenities weren’t all they could be, journalists got the ball rolling, bellyaching about conditions and posting their complaints and photos online. Olympics guests picked up the ball, voicing their discontent; and even a few athletes — though they’re less likely than journalists to whine, or so we’d hope — have broadcast the problems they’ve encountered, including one who was forced to punch his way out of the hotel room bathroom he was locked in.

Others arrived to find that their rooms, despite being reserved and paid for, weren’t ready, or weren’t even there, forcing them to wait, bunk with someone else, or seek shelter elsewhere.

sochirescue

Fortunately, no journalists (to our knowledge) were forced to sleep in stairwells or alleyways.

sleepingdogs


Others tweeting their discontent have complained of unappealing food, and menus whose Russian to English translations are sometimes laughably off the mark, which leads us to worry whether journalists are getting the all-important nourishment they need to do their jobs.

sochiribs

I’m sure there will be much inspiration ahead in the 2014 Olympics, and perhaps even a few things to love about them. For the first few days though, it has been an embarrassment — for Sochi, for Russia, for Putin, and for all those journalists who came across as spoiled Westerners, partly because they are spoiled Westerners, partly because they have the modern-day need to self-broadcast every little bump in the road they encounter.

While most reporters are there to cover the sporting side of it all, and while many have been preoccupied by their lack of creature comforts, some have gotten around to writing about what we think is probably the most shameful Olympic-related story of all. In case you haven’t yet gotten our drift, it’s what the city is doing to stray dogs.

The city of Sochi has hired a pest control company to rid the streets of dogs, another piece in its failed plan to look good for the Olympics. Capturing and killing strays, as if that’s not bad enough, seems all the more cruel when you consider that many of the dogs are homeless because of all the new construction for the Olympics, some of which sent dog-owning families into apartments where dogs aren’t allowed.

Sochi promised it wouldn’t conduct the cull, then it did. The extermination was well underway by the time the media caught on, but eventually it was reported by, among others, the Boston Globe, Radio Free Europe, and, eventually, the New York Times. It took awhile, but the public outrage is, appropriately enough, snowballing now.

When that happens, the silly and tired old question always pops up, ”Does the world care more about dogs than it does humans?” That was pretty much the headline on an op-ed piece in The Guardian about Sochi’s strays this week — silly because  it implies people can’t care, get outraged and fight for both species.

But, to answer it only for myself , yes, I sometimes care more about dogs than humans, depending on the circumstances, depending on the dogs, and the humans, and depending on the hardships at issue. Yes, I care more about a dog being exterminated for no good reason than I do about a TV reporter who has temporarily lost his or her access to hair conditioner.

The inconveniences reporters, guests and athletes might face in Sochi aren’t enough to cast a pall over the entire Olympics.

What’s happening to the dogs is.

(Photos: A dog checks out a trash can across from the Olympic stadium / Twitter; a dog drinks from an icy puddle outside of Sochi / Reuters; dogs and volunteers at a makeshift shelter / The New York Times; dogs napping on the street / Twitter; a starving street dog in Sochi / Getty Images/iStockphoto )

Greetings from Bellaville, New Yorkie

I’m a proponent of spending more time with your dog, and less with your computer, but here’s an interesting, and interactive,  presentation from WNYC in New York, which has mapped out not just what breeds dominate the city’s neighborhoods, but what names as well.

Citywide, the top three female names for dogs are Bella, Princess and Lola; the top male names are Max, Rocky and Lucky and the top breeds are Yorkie, Shih Tzu and Maltese.

(Actually the most popular dog in New York is the mutt, and WYNC does report that elsewhere. Somehow they didn’t rate getting on the map, though.)

What’s the most fun though is scrolling through the boroughs to see where Lola tops Lucy, where Buddy beats Buster as the name of choice, and what breeds are, from neighborhood to neighborhood, most predominant. While Yorkies dominate most areas, there are enclaves where Labs and Chihuahuas and pit bulls are owned in the highest numbers. There’s a major English bulldog contingent in lower Manhattan, and pit bulls are the highest in number in Bed Stuy.

The list is based on information WNYC obtained from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which runs the city’s dog licensing program.

The feature has some other bells and whistles, too, including opportunities to play games and make a t-shirt.

Just after WNYC came out with its map, Gothamist put together an interactive map of its own – this back in January — claiming to show not where the dogs are, but where their poop is, or at least where it’s most complained about. The map shows what neighborhoods have the most barking dog complaints, too.

One wonders what would happen if those two interactive maps were to interact. Would that reveal large dogs named Brutus leave bigger droppings than Chihuahuas named Princess? That Sparky barks more than Snoozy?

Somewhere we have to draw line on all this interactivity with our computers — especially that share of it that’s presenting information that’s just everyday knowledge or common sense or entirely bogus.

In those cases, your time would be better spend interacting with the dog.

“Dog Wars” disappears, comes back

Has “Dog Wars” bitten the dust?

ABC4 in Salt Lake City says so. So does Best Friends, and All Things Digital.

But those reports were apparently based solely  on the dogfighting game app temporarily disappearing from the Android Marketplace, Google’s online store.

Like a bad case of hemorrhoids, it’s back.

Unconfirmed reports say the app was temporarily removed from Google’s online market over concerns about copyright infringement — as opposed to the formidable and still growing opposition being voiced about it by dog lovers and animal welfare organizations.

Developed by Kage Games, the free app allows players to train and fight pit bulls, accumulating money and “cred.”

It has been roundly criticized by, among others, the Humane Society of the United States, PETA, numerous state and local humane societies, actress Alicia Silverstone and football quarterback Michael Vick, who served 21 months in prison for operating a dogfighting ring.

The creators of Dog Wars, in response to criticism, have added some explanation to the Android Marketplace page on which the app is offered.

“We’ve heard thoughts from many dog and animal lovers about our app and first we, as dog owners and dog lovers ourselves, would like to thank you for your thoughts and for the work many of you do on behalf of our canine friends. We DO NOT CONDONE violence towards animals or humans, and we are confident in humankind’s ability to distinguish between a rudimentary game and the consequences of real life.

“We are confident this game will be a net benefit to dogs as it has been in our operating agreement from the start of this project that a portion of the proceeds go to animal rescue organizations. Further, this is a satire about the ridiculousness of dogfighting and we believe in the power of a modern media tool to educate and raise awareness of the real horrors.

“There are hundreds of games on the Google Android market as well as any other popular game platform which, if acted out in real life, would be illegal. What makes the Google Android platform special is it gives the freedom and responsibility to the individual users to decide what to put on their phones as opposed to the phone carriers and app stores making value judgments on our behalf … Please remember that censorship is a very slippery slope.”