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More questions arise about Gilbert kennel

sheriffpics

Workers at a Gilbert dog boarding operation were checking in newly-arrived dogs even as they stashed the corpses of other canine guests in a shed on the property.

That’s just one of the latest disturbing revelations in the case of Green Acre Dog Boarding, where 20 dogs were found dead from suspected heat-related causes last weekend.

The Arizona Republic reported yesterday that at least one customer checked her dogs in at about the same time workers were hiding the bodies of dogs who had perished and attempting to revive dogs who were dying.

Snow Aubel said she phoned the Green Acre Dog Boarding facility to confirm her pets’ drop-off time at about 10 a.m. Saturday morning and told the facility’s owner, Todd Hughes, she could be there within the hour.

He assured her that would be no problem, she said.

She dropped off her 7-year-old Weimaraner, Cheyenne, and 6-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever, Yepa, Saturday — apparently just hours before sheriff’s deputies began arriving at the boarding center.

Her dogs stayed at the facility until Sunday afternoon, when word started spreading about the deaths and a representative from the online booking site she used to make the reservation alerted her the dogs should be moved.

“What really makes me upset is when I was there the poor dogs that had passed away were right underneath my nose, and I didn’t even know it,” Snow said. “… They should not have accepted any more dogs.”

sheriffpics2In total, 20 of the 28 dogs the Sheriff’s Office found at the facility perished. Cheyenne and Yepa were alive and unharmed.

Workers told investigators that the dogs were last checked on Thursday at about 11 p.m.

They say when they returned, at 5:30 a.m. Friday, a large number were discovered dead. Others were on the brink of death.

Sheriff’s Office officials initially called the deaths a “tragic accident,” based on the owners’ claims that one of the dogs chewed through an electrical cord, turning off the air conditioning.

But Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Monday said that designation may have been premature. He promised a thorough investigation.

Arpaio said the owners’ timeline didn’t add up: “How can you be healthy at 11 o’clock and dead at 5:30 in the morning? I think that’s the key element,” he said.

Much else about the case doesn’t add up either:

Temperatures that night weren’t too hot — by Phoenix standards — staying in the 80s. At least 17 dogs were boarded in one 10-foot by 10-foot laundry room. Veterinarians weren’t called when staff started finding dead and dying dogs. And the owners told at least some clients that their dogs, who had perished, had “run away.”

On top of that, kennel workers hosed the sick dogs down and applied ice to them, which is contrary to recommended treatment for heat exhaustion, and can lead to dogs going into shock.

The owners of the kennel, Todd and MaLeisa Hughes, were out of town when the dogs died, but they cut their trip to Florida short upon learning of the deaths. In their absence, the boarded dogs were being cared for by the son of U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz), Austin Flake, and his wife Logan.

The sheriffs office, which released photos of what was found at the kennel this week, said political connections won’t influence their investigation.

(Photos: Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office)

Bartender gets $1,000 tip to help pay for her dog’s surgery

Man leaves $1,000 tip for dog's surgeryThe paw-print tattoo on Christina Summitt’s wrist often gets conversations started — not that, in her job bartending at a Holiday Inn in New Jersey, she needs any help with that.

A week ago Saturday, two customers asked her about it, and whether she had a dog of her own.

Indeed she does, one of whom is a Great Dane-Labrador mix named Tucker who, she told the man and woman, was at the veterinary hospital having emergency surgery after he swallowed a tennis ball.

The man commented about how expensive that was probably going to be, and Summitt confided that she’d received an estimate of $2,700.

But Tucker, who she adopted in 2011, was her baby, she explained, and she’d sell her car, if necessary, to pay for the operation.

After the conversation, Summitt got busy behind the bar of the Clinton Holiday Inn, and the couple ordered more drinks and dinner. When it was time to close out their $80 tab, the man filled out a tip for her on the receipt — for $1,000.

tipUpon seeing the amount, Summitt said she started crying and showed the receipt to her sister, who tends bar with her. She wanted to make sure there really were three zeros after the 1.

“I went back over and said ‘Sir, I cannot accept this, what is this for, why would you do this?’’” Summitt said. He told her to put it toward Tucker’s medical costs.

“I just stood there in shock. I walked around and hugged this couple.”

Summitt, in addition to working three jobs, is  a volunteer with a pit bull rescue group, according to CNN, which initially carried her self-reported story as an iReport.

Man leaves $1,000 tip for dog's surgerySummitt, 37, wrote a Facebook post about, and it went on to appear, on Easter morning, on the Facebook page “Why Bartenders and Servers Hate People.”

Not everyone believed it initially, but it was true.

Hotel manager Michelle Satanik told CNN she tracked down the customer to verify that the gesture was legitimate.

“Apparently this man does this quite frequently. Just a really nice guy and humanitarian,” Satanik said.

In case that’s not a happy enough ending, Tucker’s operations was a success, and he’s recovering at home.

(Photos: Tucker being dropped off for surgery; the receipt; bartender Chrstina Summitt; by Christina Summitt/iReport)

UK’s first canine clone is born in Seoul

miniwinnie

With more than 500 canine clones now roaming the world, you wouldn’t think the fact that one has been produced for a pet owner in the UK would make such a big splash.

But it has, and a big splash is just what the cloners had in mind.

To introduce its unique service to Britain, Sooam Biotech, the South Korean laboratory that’s now the only company cloning dogs, borrowed from an earlier chapter in dog cloning’s bizarre history. It held a public contest, awarding a free cloning as the grand prize.

The winner: Rebecca Smith, 29, of London, who learned in late March that a clone of her 12-year-old dachshund Winnie had been born in a Seoul laboratory, BBC reported.

She named the dog Mini Winnie.

The competition saw dog owners submit videos of their dogs and compete for the chance to “immortalize” their pet for free. The bill for dog cloning normally runs around $100,000.

“Sooam Biotech is looking for one person with the most special and inspiring reason for cloning his/her beloved dog,” the company said in announcing the contest.

The contest was similar to one held in the U.S. when dog cloning first hit the market. It was called the “Golden Clone Giveaway,” and the winner was TrakR, a search and rescue dog whose owner said the German shepherd found the last survivor in the rubble of 9/11.

The weird and wacky story of how dog cloning was achieved, how it was marketed, and the first customers to sign up for it can be found in my book, “DOG, INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”

The UK’s first canine clone — who won’t arrive in the country until after a 6-month quarantine period — was cloned at Sooam Biotech, a laboratory run by Hwang Woo Suk, who was a member of the Seoul National University team that produced the world’s first canine clone, Snuppy, in 2005.

That research began after an earlier effort to clone a dog in the U.S., at Texas A&M University, was unsuccessful.

The Texas A&M research was funded by John Sperling, founder of the University of Phoenix. After cloning a cat, and assorted farm animals, the Texas A&M efforts to clone a dog were called off, but Sperling’s front man, who had established a company to store the cells of dead and dying dogs (Genetic Savings & Clone), even before dog cloning was achieved, later teamed up Hwang and Sooam to offer an online auction, with the highest bidders receiving clones of their dogs.

SONY DSCHwang founded his lab after getting fired from Seoul National University when his claim to have produced the world’s first cloned human embryos was deemed fraudulent. He was later convicted of embezzling research funds and illegally buying human eggs, but his 18-month sentence was suspended.

Hwang has more recently has embarked on trying to clone a woolly mammoth from 10,00-year-old remains found frozen in Siberia.

Meanwhile, he’s churning out laboratory-created dogs, more than 500 of which have been born to surrogate mother dogs at his lab and kennel.

To create Mini Winnie, a piece of skin was taken from Winnie and transported to Seoul. Cells from the sample were placed inside an anonymous donor dog’s egg cell and, with a jolt of electricity, they merged.

Then the embryo was implanted inside a surrogate dog that gave birth, via Caesarean, to Winnie on March 30.

“The world would be a better place with more Winnies in it,” Smith, 29, says in a Channel 4 documentary, “The £60,000 Puppy: Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”

smithandwinnieSmith received the original Winnie as a present on her 18th birthday, and she says the dog helped her overcome “lots of demons,” including an eating disorder. Smith says Mini Winnie looks identical to the original, who is old and arthritic, but still alive.

Hundreds of pet owners have had dogs cloned since the first customer, a California woman who received five copies of her dead pit bull, Booger.

Critics of the process say cloning doesn’t result in the resurrection of an animal, but a laboratory-made twin, whose creation requires the involvement of numerous other dogs, and who might not act like the original at all.

Initially, two South Korean companies were cloning dogs for pet owners (and even more for research purposes), but one of the, RNL Bio, has pulled out of the dog-cloning business.

While the cloning process has grown more efficient, some animal welfare groups say risks are still high.

Dr Katy Taylor, Head of Science at The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, said: “Cloning is a very unpredictable and extremely wasteful process … In order to produce just one ‘perfect’ clone, many puppies with the same genes as a loved animal will be born … Some of these puppies will be aborted or will die soon after birth from unpredictable health complications and severe birth defects.”

Defective pups, and the South Korean laboratory’s failure to follow animal welfare protocols, were among the reasons cited by the American company that teamed up with Hwang for pulling out of its dog cloning arrangement.

The documentary, while it mostly follows the judges as they visit with contestants and their dogs, does go some interesting places, including Edinburg, for an interview with Sir Ian Wilmut, cloner of Dolly the sheep. Wilmut doesn’t endorse pet cloning, and says he remains skeptical of it, saying it will lead to lots of disappointed customers who, despite their hopes, won’t get an animal with the same personality as the original.

There’s also an interview with a pet owner, not a contestant, who views dog cloning as a Hitleresque pursuit, and there are several allusions to the fact that some Koreans eat dog meat.

“The £60,000 Puppy: Cloning Man’s Best Friend” was made by the same independent production company that produced “I Cloned My Pet,” several episodes of which appeared on TLC.

“The £60,000 Puppy” is an improvement over those productions, which brushed aside most ethical questions and animal welfare concerns about pet cloning. While the new documentary doesn’t delve too deeply into them either, it does present something more than a one-sided view.

Like the earlier documentaries, it reinforces that most customers of dog cloning are, shall we say, eccentric sorts, and that their attachment to their dogs — as with all of us — is a powerful one.

Perhaps the most telling moment, though, comes as the judges debate — American Idol style — the public relations benefits of each contestant.

After that, the winner is … after a long, long pause … announced.

Cloning, it seems, is no longer some futuristic pipedream. It has become a reality, and apparently an entertainment form.

My view? Cloning is no game show, or at least it shouldn’t be.

(Photos: Top, Mini Winnie / Channel 4; middle, Hwang in his lab / John Woestendiek; bottom; Smith and the original Winnie / Channel 4)

Roadside Encounters: Sarah

Name: Sarah

Breed: Pit bull

Age: 7

Encountered: In a parking lot in Cave Creek, Arizona, where her owner sells cowboy hats at a roadside stand.

Backstory: Everyday, Michael Chazan, of Phoenix, sets up his tables on a dusty parking lot and hawks hats from Guatemala. At first, he would bring his daughter’s dog with him — partly for company, partly because, he’s found,  dogs can help bring in business.

When she moved away, he debated whether he should bring along his dog, Sarah, who he’s had since she was a pup. While amazingly and unwaveringly friendly, she is a pit bull, and while he knows she’s a sweetheart, some customers, he feared, might shy away.

He gave it a try anyway, and Sarah proved to be as good for business as she is at being a friend.

I picked up her affectionate vibe from 50 yards away. When she saw me, her tail began wagging wildly. She got down on all fours, shaking with anticipation of meeting someone new.

I had no choice but to go over and say hello. And now — though I’m not the cowboy hat type — I’m wearing a cowboy hat.

Michael says Sarah is good at luring in customers, and while he sometimes tells customers that his dog will eat them if they don’t buy the hat they tried on, one look at Sarah’s smiling face lets them know, if they didn’t already, that it’s a joke.

Sarah is good with other dogs, too, Michael said, and she seemed to adore Ace, licking his face and prancing around him.

He, as is usually his way with assertive females, all but ignored her.

I, on the other hand was smitten – and not just because we both have big heads. It was her sweet disposition that hooked me, reeled me in and sealed the sale, with a big sloppy lick.

(To see all of our Roadside Encounters, click here.)

Inspectors say gas station dog must go

codyCody, the chocolate Labrador we showed you a video of last week — the one who jumps up and greets customers at the drive-through window of a Florida gas station — has been declared a health hazard and ordered to leave the premises.

The dog was featured last month in a St. Petersburg Times story, along with a heartwarming video of Cody in action that has been seen widely on the Internet.

Apparently state officials didn’t find it as heartwarming as everybody else.

Inspectors — from the health department according to some reports, agriculture department according to others — stopped by Karim Mansour’s BP station and convenience store in Clearwater and issued a warning. Unless the dog was removed, all of Mansour’s food products would be declared unfit for consumption, the St. Petersburg Times reported yesterday.

That most everything Mansour sells at his shop in Clearwater is packaged — bottled sodas, candy bars, chips and the like — didn’t matter to the Grinch-like bureacrats, who apparently feared the wholesome goodness of the store’s Slim Jims, Twinkies and Marlboros might be tainted by a deadly pet hair.

Mansour, who adopted 6-year-old Cody three years ago, accepted the warning and plans to start leaving his dog at home.

Most readers, judging from the comments the Times has received on the story, see the state’s crackdown on Mansour as a ridiculous case of overkill.

We couldn’t agree more. Once again, it appears, bureaucracy has prevailed, accomplishing its mission of  making the world a safer, far more boring, smile-free  place.

Suburb of Sydney cracks down on dining dogs

mosmanBucking global fashion, the Australian suburb of Mosman, outside Sydney, is working to make restaurants with outdoor dining less dog friendly.

The town’s council has drafted a new policy, requiring cafe owners to set aside areas where dogs can be chained up like bicycles while their owners eat — in effect ruining the dining with dog experience, not to mention raising new questions about the safety and humaneness of leaving dogs tied.

Tying them up, the council reasons, will keep dogs far enough away from food to comply with law — and keep dog-loving restaurant patrons from taking their business elsewhere.

”It could be on the street, it might be at a bus seat or it might be a street pole,” said Anthony Fitzpatrick, the council’s manager of governance.

At The Avenue Cafe, Barbara Standen told the Sydney Morning Herald she could not understand why well-behaved dogs should not be allowed to sit at her feet while she has a coffee. ”In Europe they go into food shops and dress shops.”

(Photo: Barbara Standen outside The Avenue Cafe with her dog Molly and her friend’s labrador, Annie. By SAHLAN HAYES/Sydney Morning Herald)

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