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Tag: department of agriculture

USDA releases confidential Vick documents

The United States Department of Agriculture, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, released hundreds of pages of new evidence last week from its investigation of NFL quarterback Michael Vick to Atlanta’s WSBTV.

The documents  include summaries of interrogations by federal investigators with member of Vick’s dogfighting ring and confidential informants in the case.

Among the  revelations:

• A confidential informant told investigators that Vick drowned dogs, shot them to death and killed others “with a shovel.”

• A Delta Airlines employee from Virginia was fired “when he attempted to get Vick around security” during the peak of the dog fighting operation. Vick “felt responsible” and went on to hire the employee.

• In 2003, Vick and two other men attended a dog fight in Blackstone, Va., bringing with them two pit bulls. Both lost so the dogs were left with the owner of the property. Vick did not keep dogs that lost matches.

• In April 2007, Vick tested several dogs to determine if they had the predisposition to fight. He ordered six or eight dogs destroyed because they did not meet his standards. The witness said Vick personally helped drown three or four dogs, a process that took two people to hold the animal’s legs while the dog’s head was held under water. Vick also hung dogs.

• The witness told investigators Vick “seemed to get an ‘adrenaline high’ when killing the dogs.”

Vick served nearly two years in federal prison after pleading guilty to a federal animal fighting charge. He was released in 2009 and joined the Philadelphia Eagles.

WSBTV.COM submitted the request for the records in March 2008. The information was delivered by the USDA last week.

Oregon cracks down on dogs in grocery stores

The Oregon Department of Agriculture is reminding Oregonians that dogs aren’t welcome in grocery stores unless they’re providing a service to the disabled.

“Of all the complaints we receive … pets in a grocery store — especially dogs — is by far our number one issue,” said officials said in a press release on the DOA website. “We’ve received complaints about dogs urinating in the aisle of a grocery store, jumping up and licking packages of meat, or sniffing food items on the shelf.”

The new public awareness campaign uses dog-shaped posters that will provide definitions of service animal and “tips” for consumers who see pets inside stores. Pamphlets will also be distributed to business owners to help them “know what to ask” and “when to ask” when an animal enters a store.

State officials say it is against state and federal law for live animals to enter establishments selling or preparing food,  unless the animal falls under a specific exemption of the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.  The ADA defines a service animal as “any guide dog, signal dog or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability.”

Citations will be issued to businesses in violation, not animal owners, according to the DOA website.

Almost Heaven owner faces 230 charges

beau-and-dogs-281x225The owner of the Almost Heaven Kennel in eastern Pennsylvania has been fined more than $150,000 and is facing over 230 charges of violating the state’s dog laws.

Breeder Derbe Eckhart has 15 days to appeal the $152,900 fine from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, according to the Associated Press.

The fines and charges stem from a raid on Almost Heaven Kennel in Emmaus last month by the department and the Humane Society of the United States .

A Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture spokesman said Eckhart failed to get rid of 216 dogs after he lost his kennel license. Almost Heaven was also raided in Oct. 2008. At that time, animal welfare officials said hundreds of animals were living in filthy conditions. Eckhart faces animal cruelty charges from that raid.

(Photo: A Humane Society of the United States staff member removes two of the hundreds of dogs seized from Almost Heaven; courtesy of HSUS)

Dogs, cats still commonly used in college labs

Despite easily available alternatives, more than half of American colleges and universities are using live and dead dogs and cats for teaching and training purposes — including animals that were once pets, according to a new report.

The report, “Dying to Learn: Exposing the Supply of Dogs and Cats to Higher Education,” is the result of a two-year investigation by the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS). The report was released today by Animalearn, the education division of AAVS.

You can download the full report, learn how to take action, and explore alternatives to animal dissection at the new AAVS website, dyingtolearn.org.

The report says 52 percent of the colleges and universities covered in the study still used dogs and cats to teach and train students in life science, veterinary, and medical education.

According to the report, former pets are also ending up in the mix — either obtained by universities directly from shelters, or sold to universities by an animal dealer. With more pets ending up in shelters due to the economic downturn, the likelihood of that happening is growing.

“The numbers of pets being relinquished to shelters is drastically increasing. This puts an ever increasing number of former pets at risk of ending up in labs,” said Animalearn Director Laura Ducceschi.

The report traces the route that sent dogs like Cruella, a shepherd-mix from Michigan to end up being used in a college laboratory. Once someone’s pet, she was purchased from a shelter and sold to a university. The dogs and cats are used for live surgeries and other procedures.

The reported looked at animal acquisition procedures at 92 public colleges and universities in the U.S.

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The buzz on Klinker, Md.’s newby bee dog

Sniffing out harmful bacteria in bee colonies is a full time job for Klinker — “our newest employee,” said William Troup, an apiary inspector with the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

A black Labrador retriever trained late last year, Klinker is part of the department’s strategy to detect diseased bee colonies. Specifically, she’s looking for American foulbrood, the most common and destructive bacterial disease facing Maryland’s honeybees.

Klinker’s normal workday consists of walking along rows of hives. When she smells bacteria, she sits, alerting her handler.

A recent Washington Post story described American foulbrood as a bacteria that forms microscopic spores that can survive for decades, spreading quickly from hive to hive, killing bee larvae. If the infection is caught early, the hive can be treated with antibiotics. If not, the hive usually must be destroyed.

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Live dogs used in trauma surgery class

The University of Michigan is coming under fire for a class in which doctors practice their emergency surgical procedures on live, otherwise healthy dogs.

The procedures so badly damage the animals — some of which are procured from animals shelters — that they must be euthanized — the Detroit Free Press reports.

According to the Free Press, one of the dogs used in the test was Koda, a male malamute that was surrendered at an animal shelter. Instead of being adopted, Koda was sold to R&R Research of Howard City, which resold it to the university for its Advanced Trauma Life Support class.

The University of Miichigan uses simulators for doctors in other courses, but Dr. Richard Burney, who directs the Advanced Trauma Life Support class, insists the dogs are the most realistic training tool and that the training will help save human lives. The dogs are anesthetized during before surgery.

“This is a fair and proper use of animals,” he said. “If you come … with a gunshot wound, without adequate training, you become the animal that is being learned upon.”

The University of Michigan course is one of 15 in the country — and the only one in Michigan — that uses animals, according to a survey from the animal welfare group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. The group is to file a complaint today with the U.S. Department of Agriculture against Burney.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found in a survey of 198 Advanced Trauma Life Support courses nationwide that more than 90% use human cadavers or simulator dummies. The remaining courses use dogs, goats or pigs to teach these skills.