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Tag: county

A modest proposal: Let’s lose “control”

I have a simple and modest proposal — one that would involve only a name change, a slightly new way of thinking, and maybe some new stationery.

It has long been in the back of my head, but was brought to the forefront by recent cellphone videos gone viral — one (it used to be above but was removed from YouTube) of a dog being dragged through the halls of an animal control department in California; one (below) of a police officer slapping and otherwise berating a homeless man in Florida.

Both are examples of what can go wrong — and often does — when you give one group power over others. Both are about control.

Seeking, seizing and holding “control,” necessary as it sometimes seem in a so-called civilized society, almost always leads to bad things, including most of the dog abuse that occurs in our country. We get a little too caught up in the whole idea of having control — over our fellow man, over other species, over other nations, over nature itself.

Those put in control, as today’s videos show, tend to lose control when they see their control being threatened.

Hence, I propose that we do away with the term “animal control” and rename all those county animal control offices “animal protection” departments — protection being what they are mostly about, or should be mostly about, in the first place.

I’m not suggesting doing away with regulating and enforcing in the dog world — only that those doing it go under a different moniker, which, just maybe, would allow them to be seen by the public, and see themselves, less as heavy-handed dictators, more as noble do-gooders.

And animal control offices do do good. They operate shelters, find dogs new homes, rescue strays from the streets and abusive situations. The new name would put an emphasis on that, and take it away from “control.”

The term “animal control” is archaic — not much better than the even more outdated “dog warden” — yet most counties continue to use it. Employees see it on the sign when they pull into the parking lot, when they walk through the front door, on their memos and their paychecks. It’s a constant reminder, even though most of their duties are aimed at helping dogs, that they are, above all, strict enforcers and inflexible bureaucrats.

A simple name change could help fix that.

I, for instance, would love working as an animal protection officer; I’m not sure I’d want to be an animal control officer — even though most of what they do is about protecting animals. The name change could attract job applicants who see the mission as helping dogs, and possibly help weed out those who see all dogs as nuisances, and control as paramount.

In addition to improving employee self-esteem, it could help change the negative public perceptions that come with being the agency that tickets dog owners for leash-less or unlicensed dogs, euthanizes dogs when their facilities get too crowded, and sends the “dog catcher” out on his daily rounds.

There’s no reason — assuming a stray dog is being captured humanely, and treated humanely in a shelter, and put up for adoption — that the “dog catcher,” traditionally portrayed as a villain, can’t become a dog savior in the public view.

Having “Animal Protection Department” written on the side of the truck, instead of “Animal Control Department,” would go a long way toward that.

A simple shift in emphasis, and in how some agencies present themselves to the public, is all I’m talking about. It wouldn’t be only a matter of spin, though. Being an animal protection department would require actually protecting animals — and seeing that as a primary mission.

It wouldn’t make the world a kinder place overnight, and it wouldn’t keep cranky police officers from slapping homeless people — like I said it’s a modest proposal — but it could be a start, at least in the dog world, to a new way of thinking both about and among the government employees we entrust those duties to (and pay the salaries of).

They would be more about helping and educating, less about controlling.

A handful of agencies have at least worked “animal protection,” or “animal care” into their names, but most can’t quite bring themselves to let go of the term “control.”

Thus you have, for instance, the Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control.

Maybe they think losing “control” would be a sign they are losing control.

The term “control” might be appropriate when it comes to those agencies dealing with things like disease and traffic.

But not for those dealing with our family members.

Ohmidog! I want that rug

indogwetrust

(An update to this story can be found at the bottom of this page.)

A Florida sheriff’s office sees it as an embarrassing mistake.

I see it as a collector’s item, and I want it.

After installing some official rugs with the county’s official seal on their official lobby floors, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office noticed a printing mistake on one of them. Instead of saying “In God We Trust,” it said “In Dog We Trust.”

After a deputy noticed the error Wednesday, the rug was rolled up and stored, according to WFTS in Tampa Bay — but not before the station got some pictures. The large green rugs with the black and yellow Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office logo cost about $500.

The Sheriff’s Office said the manufacturer of the rugs, American Floor Mats, has taken responsibility for the error and will replace the one with the error.

Headquartered in Rockville, Maryland, the company calls itself “a premier supplier of floor mats and matting. With over 25 years of floor mat experience, our customers rely on our vast knowledge and expertise …”

As for what becomes of the “In Dog We Trust” version, I’d love to have it, but I have some other ideas, too.

fullrugs

Put it back on the floor. There’s nothing wrong with trusting in dog, and God would understand.

Wouldn’t He?

At the very least, give it a home in the department’s 12-man K-9 unit.

Given the rugs look pretty lush and comfortable, Pinellas County Animal Services might find one of them useful — either as decor or dog bedding.

Or, it could be auctioned online. Who knows, they might be valuable — like those rare coins with mistakes on them.

Then again, American Floor Mats might want it back, so their boo-boo doesn’t live on.

The best solution? Dog only knows.

Update: An online auction it is: Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says that the rug in question will be sold to raise money for a nonprofit rescue group called Canine Estates.

(It’s the rescue from which he adopted a 13-year-old Maltese last year.)

As of Friday afternoon, bids had gone over $2,600 for the rug.

Gualtieri says his office has been getting calls from all over the world from people saying, “‘Oh my God, don’t throw it away.”

“We’re so excited,” Canine Estates’ founder Jayne Sidwell told The Huffington Post. “We need the funding so bad.”

The auction closes at 4 p.m. next Wednesday, Jan. 21. Bids are being accepted at OnlineAuction.com.

Another update: The rug sold for at auction for $9,650. Details here.

(Photos: WFTS)

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.”