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Tag: criminal

Consider yourselves gagged, N.C. citizens

appoultry

For those businesses in North Carolina that have something to hide, hiding it became much easier this week.

Both the state House and Senate voted Wednesday to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of a bill that muzzles whistleblowers who call public attention to anything from agricultural atrocities to elder abuse.

Dubbed an “ag-gag” measure by its critics, the bill gives businesses the right to sue employees who expose trade secrets or take pictures of their workplaces.

Animal rights groups say the measure is aimed at curbing the kind of undercover investigations that have exposed brutal and abusive practices in factory farms and slaughterhouses.

But House Bill 405 (click on the link to see its final version) could curb far more than that.

Nursing home employees might be discouraged from reporting possible abuse cases. Animal shelter staff could be dissuaded from reporting horrid conditions or cruelty to dogs and cats. Even journalists could be hauled into court for simply doing their jobs.

Only government agencies would be safe to shed light on criminal corporate behavior — whether it’s stomping on chickens at poultry farms or mistreating veterans in need of medical care.

Concerns that the bill reaches too far were behind Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of the bill.

The governor said he agreed with curbing the practice of people who get hired merely so they can film undercover or gather corporate documents, but he said the bill doesn’t protect those “honest employees who uncover criminal activity.”

The House voted 79-36 to override his veto, and the Senate quickly followed suit, voting 33-15 to override.

Among those against the bill were animal rights groups, journalism organizations, the Wounded Warrior Project and the AARP, which said the law could have a chilling effect on those who might come forward with evidence of elder abuse.

“To give one relevant example, allegations surfaced last year that employees at Veterans Affairs facilities in North Carolina had been retaliated against for whistleblowing,” wrote Steven Nardizzi, chief executive of the Wounded Warrior Project. “As an organization dedicated to honoring and empowering injured service members, we are concerned that this legislation might cause wrongdoing at hospitals and institutions to go unchecked.”

The sponsors of the house bill said critics were wrongly characterizing it, WRAL reported.

“It doesn’t stop good employees from reporting illegal activities to other authorities,” said Rep. John Szoka, R-Cumberland.

That much is true. All the bill does is make it easy for large companies and their lawyers to go after those honest employees and ensure that, when they open their mouths, they’ll be stomped on too.

Republican backers of the measure said it was important to protect businesses from bad actors.

As for who’s supposed to protect us from bad-acting businesses engaged in harmful practices, well, that’s not covered in the bill.

“Not only will this ag-gag law perpetuate animal abuse, it endangers workers’ rights, consumer health and safety, and the freedom of journalists, employees, and the public at large to share information about something as fundamental as our food supply, said Nathan Runkle, president of Mercy For Animals. “This law is bad for consumers, who want more, not less, transparency in food production.”

(Photo: Inside a North Carolina poultry plant; by Bethany Hahn / Associated Press)

Felony charges urged in Green Acre case

Green-Acre--memorial

Justice for the more than 20 dogs who died at an Arizona boarding kennel came one step closer this week with a recommendation from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office that both felony and misdemeanor animal cruelty charges be brought against the kennel’s owners and two caretakers, one of them the son of a U.S. senator.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio said he is recommending prosecutors file 21 felony charges of neglect against Todd and MaLeisia Hughes, who own Green Acre Dog Boarding in Gilbert; their daughter Logan Flake; and her her husband, Austin Flake, who is the son of U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake.

The final decision on filing charges will be made by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, the Arizona Republic reported. He says that process could take a few weeks.

Authorities found 21 dead dogs on the property June 21 when they went to the kennel after customers began learning something was amiss.

Some customers whose dogs had died while cramped with more than 25 others in a 12-by-12-foot laundry room were told their dogs had run away. Later, the kennel owners said there had been a “freak accident” that knocked out the room’s air conditioning.

The sheriff’s department investigation concluded the dogs died of “apparent suffocation and overheating.”

Two other dogs also died, including one who ran away.

The kennel owners were on vacation in Florida when the dogs died, and had left the animals in the care of the Flakes.

Sheriff Arpaio, said to have a soft spot for dogs, vowed at the investigation’s start to get to the bottom of what happened:  “If a crime occurred, someone will be held accountable,” he said. It took nearly three months to accomplish that, but Arpaio was being praised this week, by the owners of pets who died and some members of the news media.

Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts commended Arpaio’s actions, saying, “Of course, there are bigger cases to be cracked, more horrifying things that happen to humans every day. But on this day, there is no more important story than this one and the statement that it makes.

“For Parker and Rosie and Zed. For Ellie and Roxie and Francis.For Remy and Buick. For Valor and Patrick and Sonny.

“For a pair of Bernese Mountain dogs named Carson and Daisy.

“For all good dogs everywhere.”

(Photo: A memorial created near the Green Acre kennel in Gilbert to commemorate the more than 20 dogs that died there; by Corina Vanek / The Republic)

Copse and robbers

How do I describe the winds that swept through North Dakota this week? They were relentless. They sliced right through you. They were cold and mean. In a word, they were criminal.

When I finally pulled out of Fargo, I was certain any visions of fall colors were over. No way, I figured, could any leaves still be clinging to their trees. Those winds, like a heartless gang of thieves, surely stripped them bare.

But, as Ace and I traveled west across the state, there were a few bright exceptions: groves of yellow-leafed trees — birch or aspen — that, by virtue of being tightly grouped together, still sported their fall colors.

The only way I can figure it, they were saved by the copse.

By being huddled together in a group, they — at least those not on the periphery — were able to keep their leaves a little longer. They, like early American settlers, bees in a hive and the huddled masses everywhere found safety in numbers.

You don’t hear the word “copse” that much anymore. In “Travels with Charley,” it shows up a few times. When John Steinbeck camped, it was usually in a copse, alongside a river, which is where you’ll generally find the copse — despite what you might have heard about donut shops.

Driving along, I wondered if the copse might hold some lessons for us humans, or at least remind us of some.

When pioneers set forth across America, they did so in groups, depending on each other, and each other’s skills, for their survival. When Indians attacked, pioneers circled the wagons, recognizing that forming, in effect, a copse, was the best defense. They established towns for the same reason — so neighbors would be close, so that help would never be too far away.

And long before that, cavemen and cavewomen learned — apparently from sources other than reality TV — that, by forming alliances, they could better protect themselves from the elements, evil-doers and scary creatures.

For long time Americans lived a copse-like existence. We established a home. We dropped our seed. We watched it grow. Once it did, it stayed around, mingled with other hometown trees and dropped its own seed. Children lived where parents lived. The apple didn’t fall, or roll, far from the tree; it stayed in its parent’s shadow, at least until it ended up in a pie.

Somewhere along the line, that went by the wayside. Children grew up and ventured off, carving their own paths. Mom and dad, once on the periphery of the copse, shielding us from the nasty winds, were relocated to places they can get some assistance with living.

The copse-like closeness has diminished not just in the family, but in the family of man. We’re less inclined, I think, to help each other out. Rather than thinking we’re all in this together, rather than the stronger helping the weaker, the richer helping the poorer, the franchised helping the disenfranchised, we look out for No. 1.

And the more insular we’ve become, the more we fail to stake up those in need of support, the more we turn away from those stuck out in the cold, the more robbers we produce.

In the 21st Century, when it comes to protection, we rely on the cops.

But maybe the real answer is the copse.

PETA seeks probe of Iditarod dog deaths

PETA has asked Alaskan law enforcement officials to launch a criminal investigation into the deaths of five dogs who ran in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to determine if four mushers should be charged under the state’s cruelty-to-animals law.

The PETA letter cites Alaska State Statute 11.61.140, which prohibits a person from knowingly inflicting “prolonged suffering on an animal.”

According to news reports, Grasshopper and Dizzy, both belonging to musher Lou Packer of Wasilla, apparently froze to death in high winds and sub-zero temperatures. Two other dogs, Omen and Maynard, who were under the care of mushers Rick Larson and Warren Palfrey, died of pulmonary edema, or excess fluid in the lungs. Race veterinarians have been unable to determine what caused the death of Victor, the first dog to die in this year’s Iditarod.

A study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that after a 1,100-mile race, 81 percent of dogs had “abnormal accumulations” of debris in their lower airways. PETA also cites a Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine article about the Iditarod that revealed 61 percent of dogs who were studied exhibited an increased frequency of gastric erosions or ulcers after completing the race.

“The Iditarod is more than a thousand miles of torment for these dogs,” says PETA Director Debbie Leahy. “Every year, dogs suffer serious injuries and death. The five dogs who paid for this race with their lives deserve justice — and that means holding these mushers accountable under Alaska’s very clear cruelty-to-animals law.”

PETA’s letter was sent to the director of Alaska’s State Troopers. A spokeswoman for the troopers  said  the state law PETA cites in asking for the investigation does not generally apply to accepted dog mushing contests.

What seems to be the problem, officer?

A bad day just kept getting worse for Ralph Bias, an 18-year-old arrested in Louisiana last week.

Police stopped Bias for speeding. He was going 52 mph in a 35 mph zone (Mistake One).

The officer noticed he wasn’t wearing a seat belt (Mistake Two), and upon checking his license, saw that he was driving with a suspended one (Mistake Three).

Then, according to nola.com, the officer noticed the handrolled marijuana cigarette on the console (Mistake Four).

With some further checking, the officer found that the 2004 Lexus that Bias was driving had been reported stolen from New Orleans (Mistake Five).

At that point, the officer — not having much reason to trust the driver — made some inquiries about the Shih Tzu sitting on the front passenger seat, and ended up calling the veterinarian whose name was listed on the dog’s tags.

The vet told the officer that the pet had been stolen during a home burglary (Mistake Six).

A laptop computer in the vehicle was also found to be stolen (Mistake Seven).

In all, Bias was found with stolen items valued at $27,020, including the value of the Lexus.

Bias was booked with possession of stolen goods, marijuana possession and various traffic offenses. He was released on bond Thursday.

Shooting your dog in Pennsylvania

A Pennsylvania appeals court ruled Friday that a state animal cruelty law is too vague and confusing to be used to prosecute people for shooting and killing their dogs or cats.

The Superior Court overturned the conviction of a northeastern Pennsylvania woman on conspiracy to commit cruelty to animals in the 2006 shooting outside Weissport of her 6-year-old pit bull-chow mix, named Bouta.

“If the Legislature wishes to make it criminal to shoot one’s own dog or cat, it must do so in a clear, unambiguous manner to give reasonable notice that the act is criminal,” wrote Judge Richard B. Klein for the majority. “It did not do so in this case.”

It was the second time in less than a year that the appeals court ruled in favor of Wendy Colleen Kneller of Carbon County, according to an Associated Press report. A decision last February was issued by only three judges, but the court agreed to hear it argued again and on Friday issued an 8-1 ruling.

The dissenting judge, Correale F. Stevens, wrote, “A sweeping policy conclusion that a dog owner can shoot a healthy, happy dog for no reason … would replace the call of ‘Lassie, come home’ with ‘Lassie, run for your life.”‘

The court said Kneller told a state trooper that the dog had bitten her child. Prosecutors said Kneller gave her boyfriend a .40-caliber handgun and told him to shoot the dog. Her lawyer, Paul Levy, said Friday that some people do not have the money to have their pets euthanized at an animal clinic.