The arrests of a couple accused of running a dogfighting operation in Chester County has led Pennsylvania congressmen to renew calls for tougher laws.
Rep. Jim Gerlach, of West Pikeland, and Rep. Pat Meehan, of Delaware County, both Republicans, urged passage of a bill that would make it a federal offense to attend an organized animal fight.
“As former prosecutors we know how crucial it is for law enforcement to have all of the tools necessary to deprive the organizers of these horrific events from receiving the financial rewards they need to continue the criminal enterprises,” Meehan and Marino said in a joint statement.
“With passage of this bill, we can give federal prosecutors more ability to crack down on animal fighting and the criminal culture that typically surrounds animal fighting events.”
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tom Marino, a Pennsylvania Republican, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, was passed by the Senate last week, but remains in the House Agriculture Committee.
Despite bipartisan support, the bill could die if no action is taken before the end of the year.
Called the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, the bill would also institute harsher penalties for bringing minors to animal fights.
Shane Santiago and his wife Laura Acampora, both 33, were arrested last week for allegedly operating a dogfighting ring out of the home they shared with five young children in West Brandywine.
Officials accused the couple of contributing to the death of at least 10 dogs and the maiming of many more that were forced to fight in an arena in the basement of the couple’s home. Two of the dogs were found in Chester County, left for dead at the side of the road. One survived.
Santiago and Acampora are charged with over 30 counts of animal cruelty and numerous other offenses. Both remain in Chester County Prison, according to the Pottstown Mercury.
(Photo: One of the dogs seized from the West Brandywine dogfighting operation)
Posted by jwoestendiek December 18th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal cruelty, animal fighting, arena, basement, bill, chester county, congress, couple, dog fighting, dogfighting, dogfights, family, house, jim gerlach, laura acompora, law, legislation, pass, passage, pat meehan, pennsylvania, senate, shane santiago, spectator prohibition act
After enrolling fewer than two dozen of a planned 230 dogs in the study — all paired with vets with PTSD — the VA has announced that the study has been suspended, and that, from now on, service dogs will only be paired with veterans with visible disabilities.
The new policy goes into effect today.
For the 400,000 veterans diagnosed as having post-traumatic stress disorder, that means dogs — despite all the positive effects that have been reported — will no longer be part of their treatment and recovery.
Among those blasting the decision is the American Humane Association.
Just days before its second annual celebration of hero dogs, the organization took time to put together a petition, calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs to reverse the new policy.
“Our focus on animal-assisted therapy dates back to 1945 when we promoted therapy dogs as a means to help World War II veterans recover from the effects of war,” the AHA said. ”We know from years of experience that the human-animal bond is a source of powerful healing, whether they are children suffering from cancer or military men and women who have suffered the stress of battle.
“Service dogs, in particular, are an amazing, positive resource for assisting our nation’s best and bravest though their physical pain and mental anguish. We call on the VA and the United States Congress to stand up for our veterans…”
Specifically, the new VA policy ends the program that reimbursed veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder for their use of service dogs while in recovery.
“It’s of the utmost importance that we provide our vets with every option available to treat service related ailments,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), who was also shocked to learn of the new policy.
“Especially as the wars are winding down, and more and more soldiers are returning home with mental trauma, the VA must continue to allow their doctors and mental health professionals to provide benefits to veterans who need mental health service dogs,” he said.
Congress mandated that additional scientific study be conducted on the impact of service dogs paired with PTSD vets several years ago. But apparently that study never got off the ground — at least not as ambitiously as planned.
Launched in June 2011, the study planned to follow 230 PTSD vets and their service dogs, tracking them and their families through 2014. Only about a tenth of that number were registered for the study, though.
The study was halted, according to reports, because of concerns about dogs biting children, dirty and cramped living conditions, and faulty record-keeping.
According to the VA, there are about 400,000 veterans currently in treatment for PTSD, and that group has higher than normal rates of divorce, substance abuse, unemployment and suicide. There are 32 to 39 suicide attempts daily among vets with PTSD, about half of which result in death, according to a column by the Chicago Tribune’s Steve Dale.
Dale’s column looks at the benefits of programs such as those provided by Paws for Purple Hearts – an improved quality of life, fewer flashbacks and nightmares. Vets paired with dogs are said to be more likely to find jobs; less likely to become recluses.
“One hallmark of PTSD is avoidance (of going outdoors and socializing with others),” says Robert Porter, executive director 0f Paws for Purple Hearts. “That’s hard to do with a 60-pound dog who just wants to go out and play.”
The study was a chance to prove, beyond the anecdotal, just how much therapy dogs could help vets with PTSD. But, for reasons that make little sense, both the study and the concept were canned.
Most of the dogs in the study were from Guardian Angel Medical Services of Williston, Fla., and its founder and director, Carol Borden, says there were no biting incidents reported.
Borden says that in the organization’s history, veterans with PTSD nearly always benefit from having a dog. Some patients have been able to cut their medication in half, or stop taking it altogether, she said.
That has raised questions among some about whether pharmaceutical companies lobbied for the new VA policy. That’s conjecture, of course — conjecture being something that tends to occur when no logical explanation is given.
The VA owes vets, not to mention Congress, an explanation.
And we all owe veterans afflicted with PSTD a chance to get past it, or at least cope with it. Ruling out dogs and dropping the study is an oath broken, a promising avenue bypassed, and a slap in the face to veterans.
“We’ve not experienced a single suicide attempt as far as we know,” Borden said of vets paired with dogs under the Guardian Angels program. “I have letters from wives thanking us because the husband has returned, and it all happens because of a dog who provides unconditional love.”
Posted by jwoestendiek October 5th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aha, american humane association, animals, benefits, ceased, charles schumer, congress, department, disabilities, divorce, dog, dogs, dropped, drug abuse, employment, funding, guardian angel medical services, halted, paws for purple hearts, petition, pets, post traumatic stress disorder, programs, promised, ptsd, ptsd dogs, reimburse, reimbursement, senator, service, study, suicide, terminated, therapy, va, vet, veterans, veterans affairs
On 35 acres in Washington, D.C., dogs romp among the remains of 80 members of Congress, cabinet members, generals, foreign diplomats, J. Edgar Hoover and John Philip Sousa.
Strange as it sounds, Roll Call reports that, at the Historic Congressional Cemetery, “the dogs and dead coexist in an arrangement that works for both of them, particularly when it comes to the graveyard’s operating expenses.”
About 25 percent of the two-centuries-old cemetery’s operating budget comes from the dog-walking members of what’s called the K9 Corps.
As explained by Patrick Crowley, former chairman of the cemetery association’s board and now interim senior manager, people have been walking their dogs in the cemetery for more than 30 years, but up until around 2000, the area was avoided by many.
“In 1990, it was a drug war zone,” Crowley said. “The early dog walkers would stick to the main loop and band together,” he said. “… The morning dog walkers, their job was to clean up the hypodermic needles. They had to [do it] very carefully to not stick yourself.”
By around 2001, with improvements to the neighborhood, Crowley said he started charging dog walkers dues. The K9 Corps became an official organization of the preservation association in 2007. Membership costs $200 per family and $50 per dog.
Dog owners are also asked to volunteer at least 12 hours per year, picking up trash, pulling weeds and policing the area to make sure non-member dogs don’t use the grounds.
Posted by jwoestendiek March 1st, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, burial, cabinet, cemetery, congress, congressional cemetery, dc, diplomats, dog walkers, dogs, fees, generals, historic congressional cemetery, j edgar hoover, john philip sousa, k9 corps, membership, patrick crowley, pets, remains, washington
Given all the attention received by Mitt Romney’s former dog, Seamus — he of roof-riding fame — it’s not surprising that Rick Santorum’s dog story takes a back seat.
Then again, unlike Romney’s, Santorum’s doesn’t reflect bad judgment, just bad luck. He brought it out of his playbook again this weekend to make the point that, well, I’m not sure what point it makes, other than he doesn’t let a little dog pee deter him.
On Saturday night, Santorum told the tale — from his first campaign for Congress in 1990 — to an Ohio crowd of more than 1,000 Republicans at the Summit County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner. The Washington Post published it verbatim:
“…We went knocking doors in Upper St. Clair, which is outside of Pittsburgh, a nice little neighborhood … And I knocked on the door and this little elderly lady comes to the door. … She had a little dog that was barking. And I said, ‘Hi, I’m Rick Santorum. I’m running for Congress.’ … She looked at me and goes, ‘Oh, you look so hot.’ She goes, ‘Why don’t you come in for a glass of water?’
“So I went in and sat down. And the dog is running around, barking. And she goes in and gets her glass of water, and I sit down … She hands me the glass of water. And the dog jumps up and hops in my lap.
“Okay, fine. So, I had the dog. I had a sip or two of water. We chatted. And the next thing I know, there is a warm sensation on my lap.
“And I jump up, and on my tan pants is a huge wet spot where you don’t want a huge wet spot. So, I jumped up to look at it, and she was aghast. She reached for my pants and said, ‘Let me dry that off.’ I backed away and said, ‘No, that’ll be fine.’ She goes, ‘Let me get a hairdryer.’ Heaven forbid! And I said, ‘No, thank you very much.’ I start to move out the door and she goes, ‘Well, take your pants off. I’ll put them in the dryer.’ That was the last I heard from her, because I was out the door …
“Undeterred, I soldiered on. … So, I looked at my sheet, and I say, ‘Well, who’s the next door?’ Well, the next door is a name I recognize. Anybody remember the closer for the 1979 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates? Kent Tekulve, correct … I said, ‘Hi, Mr. Tekulve. I’m Rick Santorum, I’m running for Congress…’
Tekulve checked out the wet blotch on the candidate’s pants, but ended up voting for him anyway.
“So, I wanted to share that with you,” Santorum concluded. “I’ve walked the path that you’ve walked. Maybe a little differently, but I’ve walked the path. And we’re walking the same path in this election.”
(Photo: Photo: Tony Dejak / AP)
Posted by jwoestendiek February 20th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: accident, animals, campaign, candidates, congress, dog, dogs, kent tekulve, mitt romney, ohio, pants, pee, pennsylvania, pets, pirates, pitcher, pittsburgh, presidential, republican, rick santorum, seamus, st. clair, story, summit county, urine
Disabled vets and homeless pets would be brought together for the mutual benefit of both under legislation recently passed by the House and now headed to the Senate.
The legislation would create a pilot program that trains shelter dogs to provide therapy to help treat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other war-related mental health conditions.
The House unanimously passed a package of veterans’ health care legislation that included the Veterans Dog Training Therapy Act, introduced by Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y.
“As a veteran, and an American, I am thrilled that this legislation has passed the House, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to pass it without delay, so that it can be signed into law and allow us to begin providing assistance to our returning veterans,” said Grimm, a Marine combat veteran from Operation Desert Storm.
The many potential benefits of the program were outlined by Michael Markarian on his Humane Society Legislative Fund blog, Political Animal:
“For wounded warriors and disabled veterans, caring for a pet can help them re-enter society and minimize stress and depression. Service dogs can also reduce the suicide rate among veterans, and provide other critical help—such as letting them know when it’s time to take medication, waking them from terrifying nightmares, or detecting changes in their breathing, perspiration, or scent to ward off panic attacks. Such benefits can decrease the number of hospitalizations, and lower the cost of medications and human care…”
“Our veterans need and deserve every opportunity to heal. This innovative legislation gives the wonderful dogs in shelters a chance to live and to serve by helping to heal the stresses and wounds so many soldiers battle when they come home.”
The bill would establish a pilot program in VA medical centers for educating veterans with mental health conditions in the art and science of assistance dog training and handling. It directs the secretary of Veterans Affairs to “consider dogs residing in animal shelters or foster homes for participation in the program.”
The Veterans Dog Training Therapy Act — one of six bills combined into a larger veteran’s health care bill — was the first Rep. Grimm introduced as a member of Congress, and his first bill to pass the House, according to a press release from his office.
(Photo: Courtesy of the office of U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm)
Posted by jwoestendiek October 17th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal shelters, animals, bill, congress, disabilities, disabled, dogs, health care, house, michael grimm, new york, pets, pilot, post traumatic stress disorder, program, ptsd, representative, shelter, therapy, therapy dogs, veterans, veterans dog training therapy act, war
(Did I just say that?)
U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, a Republican from Kentucky, took time out of his busy schedule to rescue a stray dog over the weekend, according to the Madisonville Messenger.
The veteran lawmaker was driving along U.S. 41 between Hanson and Madisonville on Sunday afternoon when he spotted a reddish colored mixed breed on the road.
“The dog was running down the middle of the highway and almost got hit by two trucks,” said Whitfield, a Hopkinsville Republican who grew up in Madisonville. “His tongue was hanging out as far as it could go.”
Whitfield stopped his vehicle and called the dog, but it ran off, disappearing into some bushes. Whitfield followed.
“I walked down there and started calling him in a real gentle voice. He stuck his head out and ran up to me.”
Whitfield put the dog in his car and stopped to get him some water and food before calling Hopkins County animal control officers, who transferred the dog to the animal shelter.
The dog was in good condition, but was missing hair from part of his neck, possibly from being chained or wearing too tight a collar.
“He was a beautiful dog and quite friendly,” Whitfield said. “I told (the officer) that if they would take care of him I would make a contribution.” On Monday, he delivered a personal check for $1,000 to the county Humane Society.
Whitfield has rescued dogs before, including one he saw on the highway several years ago when he and his wife, Connie Harriman-Whitfield — a former assistant secretary of the Interior who now works as a senior adviser for the Humane Society of the United States — were driving back to Washington.
They saw a dog dodging in and out of traffic on Interstate 64 near Mount Sterling, coaxed her into the car and still have her. A mixed breed, her name is Julep.
Whitfield also owns a Scottish terrier named Bosley and a Jack Russell terrier named Nigel, according to the Washington Post.
Nigel (left) often goes to work with Whitfield “because our dog walker can’t really deal with him,” he said.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 10th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal control, animals, bosley, congress, congressman, connie harriman whitfield, dog, donation, ed whitefield, highway, hopkins county, hsus, humane society, julep, kentucky, news, nigel, pets, politics, rep, republican, rescued, rescues, shelter, stray
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of some our dog-blogging peers.
Foley Monster, a highly respected Yorkshire terrier whose blog is among those on our recommended reading list (see blogroll in our right hand column) has apologized to constituents for Tweeting photos of her crotch area.
In a statement issued last week Foley Monster (A) denied the photo circulating through Twitter was her, (B) admitted it was, (C) denied Tweeting it, (D) admitted she did, and then (E) fell back on the “everybody does it” defense.
“Let me state first of all, that is not a picture of me,” Foley Monster said. “There are plenty of adorable, fit, super sexy Yorkshire Terriers out there and that could be any one of us … Oh all right. That is me. I mean who am I trying to kid? Who else could be that adorable?”
After admitting the crotch in question belonged to her, Foley Monster first blamed hackers, or jealous enemies, or family members for Tweeting the photo, then admitted she had done it.
In a blog post, Foley Monster (that’s her to the left) backs up her statement with a portfolio of pooches shamelessly exposing their groins for all to see.
Dogs, it seems, will be dogs.
“I know that this behavior must be a great shock to my family … I would like to apologize to my constituents,” Foley Monster said. “ …. I know you have always trusted me to make the best decision for you and instead of doing so I’ve been spreading my fluffy over six continents …
“To be clear I have not met any of these dogs or had a physical relationship of any kind. I haven’t told the truth and I’ve done things I deeply regret. I once bit a squirrel in Reno just to watch it die…
Foley Monster goes on to confess all her other sins.
“I brought pain to those dogs who trust me, and most of all believe in me … In closing I would like to say I am deeply ashamed of my terrible judgement and actions. But I’m not going to stop. If you would like more dirty pictures of me please let me just drop me an e-mail. I can’t stop now and disappoint my fans.
“That would make me some kind of Weiner.”
(Photos of Foley Monster and that immodest black and white dog courtesy of Foley Monster and Pocket)
Posted by jwoestendiek June 12th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, anthony weiner, behavior, congress, crotch, dogs, dogs will be dogs, foley monster, genitalia, groin, humor, internet, pets, photos, pictures, politics, privates, representative, terrier, twitter, weiner, yorkshire
When U.S. Marine Cpl. Dustin Lee was cut down by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq’s Anbar province, his partner was hit by shrapnel too, but still managed to crawl over to Lee and lay on top of him, protecting him until medics arrived.
Lee, who hadn’t yet turned 21 and was three months from finishing his tour, didn’t survive. But his partner did. He came back home for medical treatment, attended Lee’s funeral, got awarded a Commemorative Purple Heart and — though still carrying shrapnel — was assigned to complete his tour of duty.
That’s when Lee’s family intervened and, with help from a Congressman, persuaded the Marines to let Lee’s partner — a bomb-sniffing German shepherd named Lex — take early retirement and come live with them.
Lee’s parents, Jerome and Rachel Lee, and his teenage brother and sister, thought that adopting the dog that survived the attack would help fill the void left by their son’s death. They had previously adopted another of their son’s military working dogs after the animal started going blind and had to retire.
Lee and Lex, who were renowned for their abilities to detect and clear roadside bombs, shared a deep bond, his family says — as evidenced Lex’s behavior when they were under attack.
“He was still protecting him until the end,” said Lee’s mother. “Lex was bleeding. Dustin was bleeding. “Their blood combined. They were already brothers and partners. They just became one.”
Posted by jwoestendiek February 14th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: akc, bomb-sniffing, congress, corporal, detection, dog, dustin lee, honored, hsus, iraq, john burnam, lex, marines, memorial, news, representative, walter jones, war, war dogs