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Tag: cruelty

When dogs ruled the Hollywood shorts

Portraying dogs as humans — a topic we’ve brought up a few times, usually with a sneer — is as ensconced in Hollywood tradition as it has now become on Facebook.

Dogs talking in movies, in fact, is as nearly old as talkies themselves. In the Early Sound Era, trained dogs (aka as cheap labor) were commonly called on to appear in movies, particular movie shorts that were shown before the feature presentation in movie houses.

Of those, one series in the pack stood out: the “All-Barkie” Dogville Comedies, including “Hot Dog” (above).

From 1929 to 1931, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer produced a series of nine short comedy films, sometimes known as the “barkies.”

The actors in these films, directed by Zion Myers and conceived and co-directed by Jules White (who both later gained fame for The Three Stooges comedies), were trained dogs, usually dressed in human attire, whose voices were dubbed by human actors.

Their aim, most often, was laughs. They commonly mocked the often naughty and haughty behavior of the noble class — and spoofed the era’s movies, as well.

But as you’ll see here today, some of them had a pretty dark side.

The series is somewhat controversial today — and was even then — due to suspected methods alleged to have been used to get the dogs to pose and to appear to talk, and they stopped being made after criticism over a scene in the final one, portraying canine cannibalism.

Of course “talking dogs” were nothing new by the 1930s. Talking movies were, though, and dogs pretty much worked for free.

The films were shot with silent film and dubbed over with human speech, often using the voices of White and Myers, as well as other actors.

The Dogville shorts started with 1929’s “College Hounds”, a parody of Buster Keaton’s “College” that features a huge doggie football game. The next film was “Hot Dog,” about a murder in a seedy cabaret after a jealous husband finds out his wife has been cheating on him.

After that came “Who Killed Rover?” and a Broadway parody called “The Dogway Melody.”

Those were followed by “The Big Dog House,” “All’s Canine on the Western Front,” and “Love Tails of Morocco.”

A nationwide theatre owners poll in 1930 rated the Dogvilles as the best short subjects over more legendary comedy and musical series, according to article published last year by Atlas Obscura

Many of the dogs were supplied by renowned Hollywood animal trainer Rennie Renfro, who was present for the making of the films.

To make the canine performers appear as if they were speaking, a director or Renfro himself would stand in front of a dog and wave various lures to focus the canine’s attention. The human would then open his hand repeatedly to entice the dog to open its mouth. Other times, they gave the dogs toffee to make them chomp.

A January 1931 article in Popular Science Monthly says the directors preferred using stray and mixed-breed dogs “because they are not high strung and can get along better in groups than the animal ‘prima donnas’ of breeding.”

Based on trade papers of the time, the Dogville Comedies were well-received and director White would call the series the favorite project of his career.

But not everyone was tickled and charmed by the “Barkies.”

There are some accounts that piano wire was used to help the dogs remain upright — as if they were part dog, part marionette.

The Performing and Captive Animals’ Defense League wrote to the British Board of Film Censors to protest the release of the movies and several films in the series were banned by British censors.

The creators stopped making the Dogville Comedies in 1931 after the controversial “Trader Hound,” a spoof of the movie, “Trader Horn.” The short was banned by U.K. censors for its hints at cannibalism — albeit dogs eating dogs, as opposed to humans eating humans

In retrospect, some see the short films — just as some see The Three Stooges — as having a mean edge. On one hand, they seem aimed at children; on the other, the plots were often mature, featuring adultery and murder.

Throw in the animal welfare concerns, and the fact that humanizing dogs doesn’t do anyone any good, and they can be looked at — by me anyway — as a less than glorious chapter of Hollywood history.

The complete series of Dogville Comedies has been released on DVD by Warner Bros. as part of its Warner Archive Collection.

More mistreated greyhounds — in Spain

America isn’t the only country where greyhounds are exploited and mistreated.

We may have our racing tracks, and those blood farms, but there is some even more horrendous treatment of greyhounds going on in Spain, where more than 50,000 galgos, or Spanish greyhounds, are destroyed each year — most often in cruel fashion.

Spanish greyhouds come from different lineage than American greyhounds, but they are very similar and have the same shy, sweet and gentle dispositions.

In parts of Spain, they are used for hunting, but when they start to slow down, they are cruelly disposed of by some Spanish hunters, or “galgueros” — at a rate of about 50,000 per year.

Most of the dogs, called “galgos,” are used for one or two years and then discarded, and those who perform poorly are often tortured to death

The Spanish government has mostly ignored the issue, but perhaps an upcoming documentary, now in editing, will cause enough of a stir to lead it to take some action.

“YO GALGO is a feature film about life and traditions in the villages, about an invisible genocide taking place while the authorities look the other way,” the maker of the movie says on its website. “It’s about the tireless people working to rescue these dogs, and about the new and modern Spain versus the conservative and traditional one.”

Yeray Lopez Portillo describes the documentary as “an investigative feature film that paints a picture of the consequences of these hobbies for hundreds of thousands of galgos. It shows us a glimpse into human nature through the use of these dogs; the abuse, the tradition and the silence kept by people and institutions about it. A clash between the modern and old Spain.”

His kickstarter campaign explains:

“Every year healthy galgos are killed, beaten to death, drowned or abandoned when they no longer live up to their owners’ expectations. The breeders, the so called galgueros, breed hoping to end up with the fastest dog to compete and hunt the hare, but overbreeding leads to the ‘throwing out’ of thousands and thousands of galgos every year.”

Those who have proved to be good hunters are taken to shelters to be euthanized when they’ve lost their edge. Those who have not face being burned with acid, dragged behind cars, sacrificed to fighting dogs, skinned alive and buried alive.

The most famous torture is called the “piano dance,” which involves hanging the dog by the neck with the feet just touching the ground as it struggles to breathe until it is strangled to death by its own movements.

As explained in an article in The Dodo, the breeders and hunters maintain the torturing “washes away the dishonor” of having a dog with poor hunting skills.

Because the galgos are regarded under Spanish law as working dogs, they are excluded from the laws relating to pets.

The Spanish government did pass laws in 2004 concerning abuses and neglect, but they have not been used to prosecute anyone.

Hunting with greyhounds also takes place in Portugal, Northern Ireland and in the United Kingdom, but the cruelest abuses are in Spain.

For more information, visit galgorescue.org or the Yo Galgo Facebook page.

When is it too cold to leave pets outside? Whenever it’s too cold for you to be outside

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Reports popped up across the country last week — both in the north and south — of dogs freezing to death after being left outside during a bitterly cold stretch of winter weather.

As single-digit temperatures gripped the eastern United States, local news outlets and animal welfare organizations were reminding people of what you would think any fool would know (but apparently they don’t) — that freezing temperatures can hurt and kill your dog.

The news reports made that much clear.

Police in Hartford, Conn., charged a woman with animal cruelty after a neighbor reported a dog frozen to death and still chained to a small shelter outside a home.

In Toledo, a dog was found frozen to death on a front porch last week, and three other frozen dogs were discovered last week in Franklin County, Ohio. In Butler County, Ohio, north of Cincinnati, a man was charged with cruelty after his dog was discovered frozen.

“The dog was found in an outside dog house with no insulation. The dog was frozen to death due to the severe cold weather …” read a Facebook post from Sheriff Richard K. Jones. “Freezing to death is a horrible way for an animal to die.”

In Michigan, Detroit Dog Rescue said a Pomeranian mix left outside its offices Monday night was found dead the next day. Another dog, found shivering in a barrel outdoors, was being treated for frostbite.

“Trying to escape the frigid temperatures he curled up and crouched down, but even his underbelly and penis began to freeze,” Detroit Dog Rescue said in a Facebook post. “His feet are so painful he doesn’t want to stand.”

In Aiken, S.C., a woman was cited after officers discovered a shivering dog chained outside in 15 degree temperatures, next to a puppy in a cage that appeared to have frozen to death.

In Knox County, Illinois, the owner of a black lab mix found eight newborn puppies frozen to death in the snow last week. According to WQAD, the owner claimed not to have known his dog, whom he kept outside despite below-freezing temperatures, was pregnant. A ninth puppy survived.

We could go on, but it’s just too maddening — the lack of common sense that can exist in some humans.

“Dogs, cats and horses depend on our care, especially during life-threatening cold snaps. Take the animals in, or somehow provide a safe environment for them,” Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement.

Dogs aren’t immune from the cold, no matter how thick their coat. Bigger, furrier dogs, like huskies, can fare better in the extreme cold than a Chihuahua might. But all dogs can perish if left in extreme enough weather for long enough periods, as the chart above indicates.

Consult it, if you feel the need to. Better yet, just keep in mind that if it’s too cold for you outside, it’s too cold for pets.

(Graphic: Petplan.com)

Gang members arrested in China for selling poison darts used to kill dogs for meat

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Thousands of poisoned syringes that were sold to dog meat vendors to instantly kill dogs on the streets have been seized by police in China.

The police investigation led to the discovery of a ton of dead dogs at a storage facility in the eastern province of Anhui, and the arrest of eight gang members who were selling the weapon in 20 provinces and regions across the China, the news agency Xinhua said.

Police believe the gang sold more than 200,000 poisoned syringes to vendors who hunted pets on the street and traded their meat with restaurants.

The syringes contained a large enough dose of the muscle relaxant suxamethonium to kill the dogs instantly — and enough to be toxic to any human later consuming the dog’s meat.

Police said the needles were modified with a spring and a tailfin at the rear so they could be shot like a dart.

The Telegraph reported that the investigation into the gang began in September when police were tipped off by a postal worker who came across a suspicious package leaking a pungent smelling fluid.

syringesThey discovered 200 syringes in the package, and arrested the man who it was being delivered to in Huainan city, in Anhui.

Police then arrested two accomplices who shot the dogs in local streets, before finding a ton of frozen dogs at a nearby cold storage.

The men had frozen the meat and had planned to sell it in the winter.

Police also raided the gang’s workshop in central China’s Hubei Province, where they arrested another five men who were making the syringes.

At that site they discovered four kilograms of the chemical powder, 10,000 needles and 100,000 yuan, or more than $15,000, Xinhua said.

The poisoned darts have been in use for years. Two years ago, in Hunan province, a man who ran a dog meat-selling operation shot himself with one while demonstrating how to fire one with a crossbow. He died on his way to the hospital.

The other members of the operation were later arrested, and confessed to freezing the canine carcasses with the intention of selling the meat to restaurants.

“The dog meat trade in China is organized, large scale and facilitated by crime, with as many as 20 million dogs and four million cats killed every year,” said Wendy Higgins, from the Humane Society International. “Stopping the gangs involved is a major step in the right direction.”

She added: “The use of poison to catch dogs for the meat trade is a cruelty that very often sees people’s beloved pets targeted, and the animals involved can suffer enormously.”

Dog meat has long been consumed by humans in China and other Asian countries. It is eaten by a small minority of Chinese, and the practice is fading as dogs become a popular pet.

Guggenheim, citing threats, pulls controversial pit bull piece from exhibit

The Guggenheim Museum in New York has pulled from an upcoming exhibit an “artwork” that features, on video, four pairs of pit bulls on treadmills charging at each other.

Real dogs are used in the piece, titled “Dogs Cannot Touch Each Other,” but it is a video version of a performance staged live when it first appeared in Beijing in 2003.

It and two other works condemned by animal welfare activists will no longer be part of the exhibit when it opens Oct. 6.

The charging pit bull piece — a seven minute long video — is by artists Peng Yu and Sun Yuan, a husband and wife team (let’s hope they treat each other with a little more kindness) who, in the original exhibit, lined up four pairs of pit bulls, face to face, on eight treadmills.

The dogs charge towards each other, but never get more than a few inches away. Still, they keep at it, panting and drooling and becoming more and more stressed out and frustrated.

The Guggenheim initially responded to animal welfare concerns by saying it had no intention of removing the work from the exhibit.

But, just four days later, museum officials reconsidered.

guggenheim-gallery-exterior-lightAccording to a report from NPR, the Guggenheim will pull the pieces from its upcoming exhibit, “Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World.”

The museum blamed “explicit and repeated threats of violence,” but provided no details.

An online petition demanding the museum remove the works garnered more than 600,000 signatures since it was posted five days ago, and protesters gathered outside the museum on Saturday, holding signs that say “suffering animals is not art.”

Even after that, the Guggenheim defended the pit bull video, calling it on Thursday “an intentionally challenging and provocative artwork that seeks to examine and critique systems of power and control. We recognize that the work may be upsetting. The curators of the exhibition hope that viewers will consider why the artists produced it and what they may be saying about the social conditions of globalization and the complex nature of the world we share.”

But on Monday the museum relented under the pressure and said it was pulling that work and two others, citing threats of violence and concern for the safety of its staff, visitors and the artists.

“Although these works have been exhibited in museums in Asia, Europe, and the United States, the Guggenheim regrets that explicit and repeated threats of violence have made our decision necessary,” the museum said in a statement. “As an arts institution committed to presenting a multiplicity of voices, we are dismayed that we must withhold works of art. Freedom of expression has always been and will remain a paramount value of the Guggenheim.”

In another of the to-be-removed pieces, artist Xu Bing tattooed meaningless characters all over the bodies of two pigs, a boar and a sow, who were put on display, mating, in a museum exhibit in Beijing in 1994. The Guggenheim was to feature the video of that “performance” as well.

Also removed was a work featuring live animals — reptiles, amphibians, insects — that are trapped in a glass enclosure and proceed to eat and kill each other for the viewing pleasure of attendees.

Plumber fired after video posted on Facebook of him kicking a dog

An employee at a Winston-Salem plumbing company was fired after a video of him kicking a dog inside a house was posted on Facebook Wednesday.

The employee, who hasn’t been named, worked for PF Plumbing, a company that features a bulldog named Cooper in its advertising.

On the company’s website, Cooper is pictured holding a wrench in his mouth, next to the company’s promise that its employees are “drug tested, background checked and highly professional.”

A woman with the Facebook profile name Kelly Nicole posted a 34-second video clip showing two men from the company coming into a living room on the way to the kitchen, with a barking dog following them.

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One of the men kicked the dog before continuing into the kitchen.

The video was captured by the home’s Nest, a security and monitoring system.

The Facebook post, before it was taken down, had more than 1,800 shares and more than 550 comments Wednesday evening, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.

Initially, Nicole posted, “see the video below of what this scumbag did to our completely harmless dog this morning,” along with a screenshot of a PF Plumbing truck.

In a subsequent post, Nicole wrote that the company had expressed a “heartfelt sincere apology and made sure our dog was OK” in a phone call, and that, despite the incident, she would still recommend it.

Teresa Freer, corporate secretary and owner of PF Plumbing, told the Journal that the longtime employee — a pet owner himself — had been fired.

“PF Plumbing is not taking this lightly and is taking the appropriate steps,” she wrote in a post on the company’s Facebook page.

“We have terminated the employee and have been in contact with the company attorney throughout the day for advice on further steps to take, PF Plumbing will release the details at which time it becomes available. Again PF Plumbing sincerely apologizes. Please … keep an open mind and do not allow one employee’s actions to misconstrue what our company stands for!”

Freer told the Journal that the employees were surprised to find a dog in the new house, because they thought it was empty.

The visit was scheduled by the builder of the house, who told them no one would be home, she said.

Kelly Nicole said on her Facebook page that one of her dogs stays in a crate when no one is home, but the other one does not.

She said she was unaware anyone was coming to the house Wednesday.

“Had we known they were coming, we would have put the dog away beforehand or came home and done so,” she said.

Something rotten in paradise

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In the Indonesian paradise of Bali, unsuspecting tourists are regularly being served dog meat — described as “chicken satay” — by restaurants and street vendors.

Eating dog meat is legal in Bali, and some locals consume it regularly, but according to a shocking report by ABC.net in Australia, visitors to the popular tourist destination are unwittingly buying it from vendors.

“Dog meat is essentially filtering into the tourist food chain,” said Lyn White, director of Animals Australia, which is campaigning to end the practice and recently conducted an investigation into it.

The Australian news program “7.30” reported last week on the investigation into how dogs are brutally caught, butchered and barbecued not far from the beaches visited by more than 1 million Australians every year, then served to those who don’t realize what they’re eating — though some seem to have suspicions.

Footage filmed by the investigator included this exchange between a vendor and a group of Australian tourists:

Vendor: “Satay just $1.”

Australian: “Mystery bag. What is, chicken?”

Vendor: “Satay.”

Australian: “Satay chicken, not dog?”

Vendor: “No, not dog.”

Australian: “I’m happy just as long as it’s not dog.”

bali3It was the same vendor who moments before had admitted to an investigator that what he was selling was dog meat.

The dogs are bludgeoned, shot, strangled, and sometimes poisoned with cyanide, leading to public health concerns.

It is possible for cyanide to be passed on to a human, even after a dog has been cooked.

While eating and selling dog meat is not illegal in Bali, the methods use to kill the dogs do violate animal cruelty laws, Animals Australia says.

The dog meat is being sold by vendors on the beach and in specialty restaurants. Locals know the letters RW on a restaurant mean dog meat is being served, but most tourists do not.

An undercover investigator for Animals Australia infiltrated the dog trade and spent four months documenting how it operates.

bali1You can see the ABC.net report here, but be warned it contains some graphic videos and images.

The Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) estimates about 70,000 dogs a year end up as dog meat.

It has documented 70 restaurants serving dog meat in Bali.

“We rescue them from the [dog] trader,” said Bagus Ndurah, a volunteer with BAWA. The organization is currently looking after about 150 dogs, he said.

Animals Australia is looking at ways to end the dog meat trade, including compensating those who earn a living from it in exchange for their promise to leave the business.

“We’ve given thought to that,” White sad. “I’ve even spoken to our management about possibility of compensation,” she said.

“This is not about laying blame. This is about unnecessary cruelty that puts the human health population at risk and is causing shocking animal cruelty.”

“We are certainly also willing to partner with the Bali government to bring about a positive solution here.”

(Top photos from Animals Australia; bottom photo by James Thomas, ABC News)