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Tag: county

Alabama town bans pit bulls after sheriff shoots what he thinks might have been one

claycouncil

Citywide pit bull bans are often knee jerk reactions — maybe even more so when a county sheriff”s knees are involved.

One week after Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale was approached in his yard by four dogs “acting aggressive and looking like pit bull breeds” — and fired a shotgun at them, grazing one — the Alabama city of Clay passed a “vicious dog” ordinance banning pit bulls and pit bull mixes.

sheriffhaleThe sheriff, according to a spokesman, fired a warning shot into the ground, then another round of ”bird shot” in the direction of the dogs, leading them to turn away. Animal control arrived to round up the dogs, and their owner was charged with letting them run at large. The dog hit by Hale’s shot survived, AL.com reported.

That incident prompted the city council in Clay, with a speed seldom seen in government affairs, to pass an ordinance banning pit bulls and other “vicious” or “dangerous” dogs. 

The ordinance bans new pit bulls and mixes that include pit bull. Such dogs already kept in the city limits are grandfathered in but must be registered with the city in the next 60 days. The ordinance requires they be kept indoors and mandates owners post a prominently displayed ”beware of dog” sign. Owners are also required to have $50,000 in liability insurance. Violations can be punished with a fine of up to $500 and up to 30 days in jail.

Having sought little public input before passing the law on June 3, the city council has gotten some since, AL.com reports.

A standing room only crowd filled Monday night’s meeting of the Clay City Council, with most citizens arguing the breed is not “inherently dangerous” and criticizing the law for unfairly penalizing responsible owners. Many, including a representative from the Birmingham Humane Society, urged the council to consider a non-breed specific dangerous dog law instead.

One speaker continued to voice his concerns after his turn to speak was over. When told he was interrupting, he continued his comments, leading Mayor Charles Webster — perhaps deeming him to be inherently dangerous — to ban him from the room.

“You are turning us all into criminals,” the man, identified as Mark Lawson, said as a deputy led him outside.

City Attorney Alan Summers said he would try to have a new or modified ordinance for the council to consider at its next meeting on July 1.

(Top photo by Jeremy Gray / AL.com)

Chasing spuds in the far north of Maine

Given that there’s not all that much else to do in Aroostook County, Maine, Ace and I followed the potatoes.

For it was potatoes, mainly, that brought John Steinbeck and his poodle Charley 50 years ago to the state’s largest and northernmost county — a place he’d never been. Neither had I, and though we’re not precisely following the path Steinbeck took for ”Travels With Charley,” this piece of it seemed worth duplicating.

“I wanted to go to the rooftree of Maine to start my trip before turning west. It seemed to give the journey a design, and everything in the world must have a design or the human mind rejects it,” Steinbeck wrote. “… Maine was my design, potatoes my purpose.”

Of particular interest to the author of “The Grapes of Wrath” were the migrant French Canadian workers who crossed the border in harvest season to pick up potatoes, after they were unearthed by machinery, and place them in baskets.

Poverty, farmworkers and migration were recurrent theme’s in Steinbeck’s vast body of work, so it’s not surprising that, for what would turn out to be his last book, he revisited them.

Steinbeck parked his camper, Rocinante, on the side of a lake, just down from a migrant camp. Smelling their soup from 100 yards away, he dispatched Charley to serve as his ambassador. He’d let the poodle go, then follow, retrieving him, apologizing for the nuisance. A conversation about the dog would inevitably ensue, leading to conversation about other things.

At this particular juncture, Steinbeck had the added advantage of his dog being French. Charley was born in Bercy, outside Paris. He invited the farmworkers to come see his camper after dinner, which six of them did. They drank beer, then brandy, served in pill bottles, a jelly glass, coffee cups and a shaving mug. They had more brandy, and then more brandy.

Rocinante, Steinbeck wrote, “took on a glow it never quite lost.”

I didn’t get a glow on in Madawaska. Seeking food, I stopped in Jerry T’s Chug-a-Mug, but they weren’t serving any. The only place that was, Jeff’s Pizza and Subs, about ten doors down, was closing in 10 minutes. I walked down, placed an order, then finished off my mug at Jerry’s. The bartender wasn’t familiar with John Steinbeck. Neither was the operator of my motel. Neither was the receptionist at Naturally Potatoes, a processing plant I stopped at after following a loaded potato truck down the highway to see where it was going.

Finding no Steinbeck afficianados, no glow, and no French Canadian farmworkers, I settled for some quality time back in the motel room with my burger.

And a side of mashed potatoes.

The harvesting of potatoes is all done by machinery now — human hands rarely enter the picture. Machines unearth the potatoes, machines scoop them out of the dirt, sending them up conveyor belts that drop them into trucks that hit the highway and dump them at processing plants.

Until around 1960, potatoes were dug out of the ground with a mechanical digger, then picked up by hand, put into baskets, then dumped into barrels. The barrels were lifted onto a flatbed truck and hauled to storage or to the processing. Farmworkers were paid by how many they picked up.

Today, migrant farmworkers have little place in the potato farming industry. They are used to harvest two of the state’s other top crops — broccoli and blueberries. But harvesting the hearty spud, thick skinned and mostly bruise-proof, is a job that clunky machines have taken over.

Maine once led the nation in potato production, but by 1994 it had fallen to eighth on the list of top potato states.

We left Madawaska the next morning amid a thick fog the sun was in the process of burning off, following Highway 1 to its end, then heading south on Highway 11 — destination Bangor, Maine.

We passed through rolling hills, more small towns, and more potato farms, whose harvest goes on to be powdered and chowedered, mashed and hashed, chipped and french-fried.

We may not be eating our vegetables, but we were seeing plenty of them, including this sea of broccoli. Was it crying out for cheese sauce, or was that just my imagination?

We passed by lumber mills, where the smell of sap wafted into the car, mom and pop motels, more farmland, and sheds both collapsed and collapsing.

Having seen both coastal Maine and inland Maine, both recreational Maine and working Maine, both comfy Maine and struggling Maine, we decided — behind schedule as we are — to rest up in Bangor before heading to the next state west: New Hampshire … or is it Vermont?

(Black and white photo, circa 1930, from the Maine Historical Society)

(Other photos by John Woestendiek)

Pawlitical appointment

They call Hewitt the sixth member of the Snohomish County Council  — and, some suspect, he may be the most energetic and charming one of the bunch.

The county council in Washington state actually has five members, but Hewitt, a black and brown terrier mix, has been a fixture in the council’s eighth-floor office for more than a year, the Daily Herald reports.

Hewitt belongs to County Councilman Dave Somers, who was headed home from work about two years ago when two men pulled alongside in a pickup truck and asked him to take their dog.

“The guy says, ‘Be good to him, give him a good home,’” Somers, who already had three dogs, recalled. ”Then they took a left, and they were gone.”

The councilman drove to an animal clinic, where, when asked for the dog’s name, he responded “Hewitt” — the name of the street he was on when the dog was handed over.

After a few months, Somers started bringing Hewitt to work with him — because, he says, the dog liked people so much.

“He could stay at home, but he’s just so much fun,” Somers said. “He enjoys us, and he fits right in. So we’ve settled into a routine here.”

(Photo by Dan Bates / The Herald)

Johnson gets 90 days for death of Karley

johnsonA former Los Angeles County assistant fire chief was sentenced to 90 days of weekend jail time and 400 hours of community service for beating his neighbor’s dog so severely with a rock that she had to be euthanized.

Animal activists packed a courtroom in Riverside to hear the, which also requires Glynn Johnson, 55,  to take anger management courses and pay the veterinary bills, according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

Johnson , accused of using a 12-pound rock to repeatedly strike a 6-month-old German-shepherd mix named Karley, was convicted in January of animal cruelty.

Johnson claimed he was freeing himself after the puppy clamped its mouth on his hand as he walked her home to his neighbor. Witnesses disputed that and said Johnson attacked the dog without reason.

Johnson apologized to the owners, but said he would appeal the sentence.

karleyKarley’s owners, Jeff and Shelley Toole, said in court that Johnson should get the maximum sentence of more than four years in prison.

“If (Karley) did this to you, her punishment would be death,” Jeff Toole said. “And if I were a judge that would be the punishment for you too, but I’m not a judge. You’re a danger society and you need to be locked up before you hurt someone else.”

Judge J. Thompson Hanks said he considered Johnson’s lack of criminal record and service as a firefighter in the lighter sentence. The judge specified that Johnson’s community service include working with dogs.

“You don’t see this kind of outpouring from the community in many cases, including the death of children,” Hanks said. “As a judge, I have to balance. I have to consider the conduct of the individual who did it and the appropriate punishment.”

How to slander a Rottweiler

DSC07857If conclusion-jumping was a Winter Olympics event, both the police and the press would be deserving medals for their handling this week of an incident in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, that saw a  dead woman’s Rottweiler locked up as her suspected killer.

The facts of the case are these: Carolyn Baker, 63, was found dead at her back steps, wearing only a thin polyester nightgown and boots, with bite marks on her arms and shoulder.

Here are just a few of the headlines (online versions) that followed over the next two days: 

Cleveland Heights Woman Dies Afer Being Attacked by Rottweiler

Ohio Woman Dies of Suspected Dog Attack

Woman Found Mauled to Death by Pet Rottweiler

POLICE: Woman Mauled to Death by Dog

Of course, headlines are never the whole story; and sometimes the whole story isn’t the whole story, as was the case with these.

Instead, as it turns out, the police and, in turn, news media, may have jumped the gun — perhaps a little too eager to place  blame on a dog because of his breed, which is, of course, nothing new.

While pit bulls have taken their place as Public Enemy No. 1, Rottweilers have long been victim to the same kind of negative stereotyping. Zeus, maybe, is just the latest.

Subsequent reports, like this one in the Cleveland Plain Dealer eventually gave the family’s suspicions given some ink — namely that 9-year-old Zeus, rather than being the stone cold killer police and the news media were portraying him as, may have merely been trying to rescue his owner after she collapsed in the yard.

The Cuyahoga County coroner’s office has yet to rule on the cause of Baker’s death, but her family believes she had another stroke or heart attack when she went into her yard to bring her dog inside late Saturday, and that Zeus tried to pull her to safety after she collapsed.

It wasn’t until 3 a.m. Sunday that a next-door neighbor called the family to tell them Zeus was in the Baker’s front yard barking. The dog had gone through a hole in the back fence. After letting the dog in, Baker’s husband found his wife at the bottom of the back steps.

Cleveland Heights police said Baker had severe arm and shoulder injuries and bite marks. While police intitially suspected Baker was “mauled” by her own dog, Baker’s family insists the bite marks aren’t from an attack, but from Zeus’ attempts to rescue his master.

“[Zeus] only locked onto her shoulder trying to bring her in,” said Baker’s son, Rinaldo. “My mom weighed about 200 pounds. The dog just grabbed her and tried to help her out. She had no clothes on or he could have grabbed that. There were no marks on her face, nowhere else.”

“That was her dog,” Rinaldo Baker said. “If we were to go upstairs that dog would run past us and go upstairs to be with us. But if my mom were to go upstairs, knowing how she can barely walk, Zeus would sit and wait for her to go up first and then he would go up. That’s a good dog.”

Zeus is being held at Pepperidge Kennels in Bedford pending the results of the autopsy. The Baker family wants him back.

“If Zeus wasn’t out there we wouldn’t have known till later on that something was wrong because he was the one who alerted somebody,” Carter said. “If he had ways of getting somebody to notice earlier, things may have been different than what they are now, but he did the best he could as a dog.”

Three charged in dogfighting operation

Baltimore County Police yesterday announced the arrest of three people they say were involved in a dogfighting ring in North Point.

The charges stemmed from a November investigation into an assault, during which officers were made aware of rival drug groups in the 7500-block of Lange Street.

The two rival groups had been responsible for disorder in the neighborhood for months, police said.

After an investigation, detectives served two search warrants and dicovered three aggressive pit bulls and dogfighting paraphernalia that included weights, chains, veterinary syringes and medicines, steroids, collars and a treadmill.

Police charged three suspects in the case with possession of marijuana and cruelty to animals – Nicole Marie Caruso, 26; Romy Bolgier, 28; and Michael Ecker, 25. All were listed as living on the 7500-block of Lange Street.

(Photo: Baltmore County Police Department)

Fire official on trial in fatal beating of dog

 

Testimony is underway in the trial of a former Los Angeles County assistant fire chief accused of beating a neighbor’s dog in Riverside so badly it had to be euthanized.

Glynn Johnson, 55, is charged with felony animal cruelty and use of a deadly weapon in the beating death of Karley, a six-month-old female shepherd mix.

Prosecutors say the dog’s brutal beating was the culmination of a long-standing feud between neighbors, KTLA in Los Angeles reported.

During opening statements Tuesday, prosecutors said Johnson put dog feces in his neighbors’ mailbox with a letter warning them to keep their dogs off his property. The defense argued that the dog’s owners, Jeff and Shelley Toole, are the “neighbors from hell” who routinely take in stray animals and then don’t take care of them. Johnson’s attorneys say the fire chief was defending himself from the puppy.

Neighbor Travis Staggs took the stand Tuesday, testifying that he watched as Johnson punched the dog 10 to 15 times in the head with his fist before using a large rock to bash Karley’s head another 10 to 15 times.

Staggs says he kept shouting for the fire chief to stop, and tried to pull him off the dog, but that Johnson pushed him away.

Police K-9 euthanized after killing dog

A Monterey County Sheriff’s Department dog was euthanized Wednesday after escaping from the home of his handler, killing another dog and attacking a second.

The dog, a Belgian Malinois named Bosco, ran away from the Aromas home of Deputy Justin Patterson, prompting a four-hour search on land and by helicopter, the Monterey County Herald reported.

Later that morning, a resident called 911 reporting that Bosco had killed their family dog and attacked another pet dog. Bosco was held in a kennel by the homeowner until deputies arrived.

The sheriff’s K-9 was euthanized Wednesday afternoon because it had “acted unexpectedly” once in the past. Officials declined to reveal details of the earlier incident because of pending litigation.

Bosco, purchased from the Netherlands, had been with the department about two years.

Michigan county nixes barking ordinance

We like this little story out of Van Buren County, Michigan.

The county board has rejected a proposed ordinance that would have allowed ticketing of dog owners if their pets barked, yelped or cried for more than 15 minutes straight between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.

The ordinance, which also required that dogs be on leashes while outdoors, had been debated for more than two years, with critics calling it an intrusion on their rights. Hunters objected, as did those who use guard dogs. Only one member of the county board voted for it.

But the real reason we like it is for its dateline, for the vote was taken in the county seat – a little town called Paw Paw.

(The town is named after the Paw Paw River, which was named by Native Americans after the paw paw fruit that grew abundantly along the river’s banks.)

America’s toughest sheriff coddles dogs

arpaio_underwearAmerica’s toughest sheriff seems to have a soft spot for pooches.

That, in part, explains why Sheriff Joe Arpaio runs an animal shelter out of the old Maricopa County jail in Phoenix — one complete with air conditioning, a luxury Arpaio has never seen fit to afford the incarcerated humans entrusted to his care.

Arpaio — a strong supporter of the death penalty, cracking down on illegal immigrants and providing the bare minimum, or slightly less, for inmates – has long been criticized for inhumane practices in the county jail, from the use of chain gangs to housing inmates in tents to mandating all inmate underwear be pink.

He once told CNN he was proud of the fact that the no-frills county prison system spent $1.10 each a day to feed its guard dogs, but only 90 cents each to feed its inmates.

His no-kill animal shelter, on the other hand — called MASH (Maricpopa Animal Safe Haven) – offers a cool and comfortable, supportive and nurturing environment for pets.

Prisoners help run the shelter, and news reports recently highlighted the story of two emaciated Rhodesian Ridgebacks who were nursed back to health by female inmates. The dogs were taken in after their owner, 34-year-old Jonathan Eder, was arrested on animal cruelty charges in August, ABC15 in Phoenix reported.

Named Bazzele and Frank, the dogs had been deprived of food and water for so long that the outlines of their rib cages  were “drastically visible.” Bazelle reportedly weighed only 48 pounds, Frank  57.  At the shelter, both have recovered.  Bazzele now weighs 71 pounds and Frank 73. Both are up for adoption for $100 each.

The shelter was created to house and care for animals that, because of abuse or neglect by their caretakers, have been seized by the county’s Animal Cruelty Investigative Unit and must remain in custody until the court cases are resolved. After that, the sheriff’s shelter finds adoptive homes for the dogs.

Arpaio opened the shelter in the First Avenue Jail, which was closed for repairs in December 1999, then reopened for pets after getting refurbished.

“Some critics have said that it’s inhumane to put dogs and cats in air-conditioned quarters when inmates don’t have air conditioning,” the sheriff’s website says. “A good answer came from one of the inmates assigned to care for the dogs. When asked if she was resentful about not having air conditioning, she gestured to some of the dogs and said, ‘They didn’t do anything wrong. I did.’”

It all makes for a fascinating contrast — the touchy feely tone of the sheriff’s animal shelter website versus the record and rhetoric of America’s toughest sheriff.sheriff

Consider the case of Schultz, the mastiff pictured to the left, also known as #1001.

“My owner kept me locked in a crate so I wasn’t allowed to go outside to use the bathroom, they also failed to provide me with the necessary food & water,” he says on the sheriff’s shelter web page that lists available animals. “I was brought to the MASH Unit in August, 2007, in which I received the medical attention and the love I needed to get better and recover …”

You won’t find many testimonials like that from the humans Arpaio oversees.

In Maricopa County, for an inmate to be treated like a dog would, literally, be an improvement — and, contrary as nurturing an inmate would be to the highly popular Arpaio’s philosophy, maybe it would keep some of them from biting again, once they are eventually released from their crates.