Whether it’s art, propaganda, or a combination of the two, a memorial to victims of fatal dog attacks is creating controversy as one of dozens of entries in a public art display in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The work is called ”Out of the Blue,” a reference to how dog attacks — and particularly pit bull attacks, the artist repeatedly points out — usually happen.
The display, created by a woman identifying herself as Joan Marie Kowal, consists of more than 30 decorated crosses, representing the number of people killed in dog attacks this year, and images of the victims, many of them children.
The artwork is rubbing some dog lovers, and particularly pit bull lovers, the wrong way, which has led to some demonstrations and the kind of heated, everybody’s an expert debate that follows pit bulls around wherever they go.
Joan Marie Kowal, we suspect, has more experience in badmouthing pit bulls than she does in creating art, but then again artists don’t need credentials in this competition.
Every year, for 19 days, three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids is opened up to artists in ArtPrize, a competition that awards $200,000 to the grand prize winner.
Downtown becomes “an open playing field where anyone can find a voice in the conversation about what is art and why it matters,” according to the ArtPrize website. ”Art from around the world pops up in every inch of downtown … It’s unorthodox, highly disruptive, and undeniably intriguing to the art world and the public alike.”
This year, “Out of the Blue” has proved among the most disruptive.
A week ago, perturbed pit bull owners brought their dogs to Calder Plaza, where the entry is displayed, in hopes of presenting their views and showing that pit bulls — the breed most often mentioned in the memorial — aren’t vicious killing machines.
When they sat down in front of the memorial, Kowal complained they were obstructing the public’s view.
Kowal told MLIVE.com in an email that “visitors can’t even see the art and many have told me the bully breed owners, sitting on the ledges blocking the view of the victims’ biographies and refusing to move, makes them unable to enjoy the piece.”
Grand Rapids Police Lt. Pat Dean said Kowal filed a complaint in late September about people sitting with pit bulls on the stone wall in front of her ArtPrize entry. Police found nothing illegal at that time, he said, and members of the group, while on public property, moved at the request of officers.
Kowal describes the work as “an opportunity to Pay it Forward, and show the good side of humanity. Visitors are encouraged to express their sympathy, respect, and support for the victims and their families by leaving teddy bears, flowers, or memorial decorations in the designated heart-shaped memorial space.”
According to a brief biography listed on the ArtPrize website, Kowal is an animal lover, who has feral cats and pet squirrels. She attended Grand Valley State University.
Not a whole lot can be learned about her through searching her name on the Internet, and there’s no mention of any previous artistic pursuits.
There was a 2011 MLIVE.com article that mentioned her name, and quoted her as being a supporter of a proposed pit bull ban in Wyoming, Michigan.
Perhaps she became an artist “out of the blue.” Perhaps her anti-pit bull passion needed an outlet.
We support the right for just about anyone to call themselves an artist, assuming they are making some form of art. We don’t have a problem with Kowal expressing herself — either vocally or through her “art” — on the streets of Grand Rapids. By the same token, we have no problem with pit bull owners and their dogs sitting down squarely in front of it, as long as it’s public property. They have the right to express themselves in public, too, whether they’re ArtPrize contestants or not.
So do we. And our opinion is Kowal is pushing her personal agenda under the guise of a non-profit organization’s art competition, and that it’s likely part of a well-plotted effort by those forces intent on painting all members of the breed with the same brush, reinforcing negative stereotypes while playing fast and loose with the facts.
Kowal says she plans to add three more crosses this weekend in remembrance of three other people who died from injuries she says were caused by pit bull attacks.
“That is not my fault that they were all killed by pit bulls,” she said. “I’m just showing the facts.”
Posted by John Woestendiek October 6th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, art, artist, artprize, artworks, attacks, breed, breeds, contest, discrimination, dog, dogs, downtown, fatal, grand rapids, joan marie kowal, memorial, out of the blue, pets, pit bulls, pitbulls, victims
The National Federation of the Blind in California has filed a lawsuit against Uber Technologies Inc., saying its drivers have refused to transport blind people who use guide dogs and, in one instance, forced a guide dog to ride in the trunk of a car.
One registered Uber driver in Sacramento put a passenger’s guide dog in the trunk while transporting her, and refused to pull over after the customer realized where the animal was, according to the lawsuit.
Other blind riders with service animals have been refused service and harassed, the National Federation of the Blind of California alleges in a civil rights complaint filed this week in San Francisco federal court.
Uber is a ride-hailing app that connects its registered drivers with riders. It is up and running in more than 70 U.S. cities.
While the company does set guidelines for the drivers — and pretty much any schmo can be one — it points out those drivers are independent contractors, and that the company cannot be expected to be able to fully control their behavior. (Or, it follows, be held legally liable for it.)
Uber, like Lyft Inc. and other car-booking companies, are seeking to crack open the $11 billion U.S. taxi and limousine market, according to Bloomberg News.
Through the app, they hook up people needing rides with registered drivers offering one, and take a cut of the fares collected — in effect collecting money while doing none of the actual physical work, and avoiding any actual responsibility.
The federation filed the lawsuit based on complaints from more than 30 blind customers nationwide who have been denied rides because they had guide dogs — a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and California civil rights laws.
The advocacy group says the company monitors and controls interactions between drivers and customers, and should adopt and enforce policies to prevent discrimination against blind people with service animals. It is seeking a court order declaring the company discriminates against blind customers with guide dogs, and measures that would ensure that drivers don’t refuse rides to the vision-impaired.
“The Uber app is built to expand access to transportation options for all, including users with visual impairments and other disabilities,” said Eva Behrend, a spokeswoman for San Francisco-based Uber. “It is Uber’s policy that any driver partner that refuses to transport a service animal will be deactivated from the Uber platform.”
What action, if any, was taken against the driver who allegedly put a guide dog in a car trunk wasn’t specified, but we think he deserves a lot more than being “deactivated.”
Posted by John Woestendiek September 11th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: application, apps, blind, california, car, civil rights, disabilities, discrimination, guide dogs, mobile, national federation of the blind, ride, service dogs, taxi, technology, transport, uber, uber technologies, vision impaired
If you don’t have one, she won’t rent to you.
And if a resident of her 12-unit apartment house in North Hollywood loses a pet, they must get another. She insists renters whose dogs die go with her to the shelter to adopt a new one.
Some have criticized her policies as discriminatory. We find them — and her — a highly refreshing change of pace when it comes to landlords and their rules.
“My experience has told me you get people with a lot of love in their hearts when you get pet owners,” says the 84-year-old widow, who was born in Hungary.
Most of the tenants in Guth’s 12-unit apartment house have lived there over a decade, according to Los Angeles Daily News columnist Dennis McCarthy, and any apartments that do become available are generally quickly snatched up.
Guth thinks landlords who don’t allow dogs and cats are missing the boat.
“I’ve talked to other rental property owners about it, but they just laugh,” she said. “They’re stupid. The only vacancies I’ve had are when people had to move because the economy forced them out of state for a job.
“Within a day or two, there’s a new dog or cat moving in. I can’t remember all the people, but I can remember their pets.”
As for any accidents on the carpets, Guth has found a fairly painless way to make tenants pay for that.
Rather than charging a security deposit, she installs new carpet for each incoming tenant, and requires them to pay an extra $100 a month for it. When a tenant leaves, they — having paid for it over the course of a year — can take the carpet with them.
Each tenant is allowed up to two dogs. And they can be of any size. Up to three cats are allowed. Prospective tenant dogs are interviewed, and are required to be vaccinated and wear an ID tag. Dogs have to be on a leash when they are outside the apartment.
According to the column, there’s no law that prohibits requiring tenants to have pets — just as there is no law that prohibits landlords from banning them, or banning certain breeds, or banning dogs over a certain weight.
Jerry Schiess, who manages the property for Guth and owns a shepherd-mix rescued after Hurricane Katrina, says he gets calls every day from people asking if anyone’s planning to move soon.
Terri Shea, operations manager of the 3,000-member Apartment Association of Southern California Cities, says Guth may be one of a kind: “Tve never heard of a landlord renting to only people with pets,” she said.
(Photos: Michael Owen Baker / L.A. Daily News)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 7th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, apartments, discrimination, dogs, housing, judy guth, landlord, los angeles, north hollywood, pets, pets required, policies, property, rent, rentals, renting, rules, tenant
Pretty enough to be a postcard, this photo was taken Sunday during a group dog walk in Salt Lake City.
It was one of the regular bi-weekly walks staged by the organization, SLC StrutABulls, which seeks to improve the image of pit bulls by holding walks in various public locations.
Organizers chose the State Capitol this week to raise awareness about House Bill 97, which is headed to the state Senate for review, according to KSL.com. The bill would prohibit municipalities from enacting or enforcing breed-specific rules, regulations, policies or laws.
About 10 Utah cities now outlaw pit bulls or pit bull mixes, according to Natalie Schun, with SLC StrutABulls.
About 60 dogs — mostly pit bulls or mixes — and their owners walked around the grounds of the Capitol on Sunday.
“The (bad) ones that you hear about are just (a few) out of who knows how many,” said event co-organizer Kelly Lawson. “Any dog can be mean if it doesn’t get the proper socialization, exercise and attention that it needs.
“We are out to show that these are good dogs and can be good dogs no matter what breed they are.”
(Photo: Scott G. Winterton./ Deseret News)
Posted by John Woestendiek March 11th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, breed-specific, breeds, capital, capitol, discrimination, dogs, group walk, house bill 97, laws, municipalities, pets, photography, pit bulls, pitbulls, policies, rules, salt lake city, strutabulls, utah, walk
The ruling, issued by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, pertained to a mutt named Kayla, who — though not a service dog or a certified therapy dog — provided emotional support to her owner.
The complaint was brought against the owners of the Brighton Gardens building by Richard M. Blake, who was diagnosed with HIV infection more than two decades ago, according to the Boston Globe.
After his diagnosis, Blake isolated himself and rarely left the house.
“He was depressed, basically lounging around the apartment all day long, and his weight rose and blood pressure got out of control,’’ said Denise McWilliams, general counsel for the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts.
Blake’s doctor recommended a dog to help lift Blake’s mood and improve his mental and physical health.
“She’s just given me sort of a routine in my life,’’ Blake said of the boxer mix he got in 2008. “She’s given me a lot of joy. Animals just seem to make it hard for you to be in a bad mood … Ever since I have had her, the walks and the tons of exercise I do with her have helped.’’
Blake said his landlord gave him permission to get the dog, but two months later tenants were notified that a no-pet policy in their leases would be enforced.
After unsuccessful attempts to get the landlords to make an exception, Blake filed a complaint with the state commission in December, 2008.
In its ruling, the commission said that evidence “supports a finding that requiring Complainant to give up his dog would seriously jeopardize his emotional and physical well-being.’’
Posted by John Woestendiek April 6th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aids, assistance, brighton gardens, commission, discrimination, dogs, emotional, health, hiv/aids, housing, kayla, landlords, massachusetts, richard blake, rules, service, support, tenants, therapy
Diamond is a documented hero — credited with saving the lives of her California family and named one of the nation’s top ten “Valor Dogs” — but landlords only see her as trouble.
Her owner says that despite being named one of the nation’s top ten “Valor Dogs” by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), dozens of landlords are turning away “Diamond” because she’s a pit bull, WBIR-TV reports.
Darryl Steen, Diamond’s owner, says she woke him up when his apartment caught fire last October. He was able to get one of his daughters to safety by dropping her out of a window, but couldn’t reach the second child.
When firefighters finally got to her, Diamond was laying on top of the girl in an effort to protect her from the flames.
The dog suffered severe burns, but has recovered.
Steen says that several landlords have told them that pets are welcome, only to renege when they learn that Diamond is a pit bull.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 17th, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, banned, california, darryl steen, diamond, discrimination, dogs, family, fire, hayward, hero, humane society, landlords, pets, pit bull, pitbull, rentals, saved, valor
While Denny’s has more than 1,500 outlets across the country, we haven’t stopped at them on our trip across America, vaguely recollecting some of the chain’s restaurants were accused of discriminating against black customers at some point in its 57-year history.
It’s the same reason – 21 years after the oil spill in Alaska – I still don’t gas up at Exxon stations (unless it’s the only choice at the exit, or their prices are the lowest). It’s my way-outdated and somewhat variable sense of social justice – old grudges still held against corporations, often long after I’ve forgotten why I’m holding them, and easily overlooked if the price is right.
I’m willing to let bygones be bygones if you let a couple of decades pass, and tempt me with a “Value Meal.” It helps, too, if you’ve cleaned up your act in the interim.
So, passing through Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, I pulled in under the bright yellow sign, told Ace I’d only be a minute, and went inside for a quick bite — fully intending, of course, as we did with the Waffle House, to share the experience with you, the reader.
By way of history, Denny’s, like the Waffle House, started off as one restaurant — actually a donut shop, named Danny’s Donuts, in Lakewood, California. It had 20 locations by 1959, when the name was changed to Denny’s to avoid confusion with another chain called ”Doughnut Dan’s.” In 1977, it would introduce its “Grand Slam Breakfasts,” reportedly in honor of Hank Aaron.
In the 1990s, Denny’s was named in a class action suit filed by African-American customers who claimed they’d been refused service and forced to wait longer or pay more than white customers. The case resulted in a $54.4 million settlement in 1994.
After that, Denny’s created a racial sensitivity training program for its employees, and began running advertisements featuring Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford, from the television show, “The Jeffersons.” In 2001, Fortune magazine named Denny’s the “Best Company for Minorities.”
This year, though, Denny’s came under ethnic fire again, for a commercial that used the 150th anniversary of the Irish potato famine, which left more than a million dead, to promote an all-you-can-eat french fries and pancakes offer. It later apologized and pulled the ad.
My visit to Denny’s was the first in a year or so, so I took some time familiarizing myself with the multi-page menu. There was a page of special entrees for people 55 and over (quite an arbitrary cut off point, in my view), and another page of ”Value Menu” items (not restricted to old farts) – low-priced entrees that the restaurant seems to make up for with higher prices for everything else (including $2 sodas).
Among the Value Menu offerings, at $4, was the “Fried Cheese Melt.”
It’s a grilled cheese sandwich, with mozarella sticks embedded in the American cheese — that’s right, four breaded and deep fried sticks of cheese, on a bed of cheese, between two pieces of sourdough bread, buttered and fried.
Fortunately, the Fried Cheese Melt is not on the senior menu, because it would probably kill us after just a few bites — and by us, I mean both actual seniors and those of us still enjoying that frolicsome, vital and exploratory stage of life known as our fifties.
At 57 — the same age as me — Denny’s should be smart enough, sympatico enough not to thrust us 50-somethings into the category of seniors. Or at least, if they insist on doing so, offer us some sweeter deals.
That, of course, would make everything – even the Fried Cheese Melt — OK.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 8th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: african americans, animals, black, cheese, compromising, denny's, dining, discrimination, dog's country, dogscountry, Exxon, famine, fried cheese melt, health, irish, lawsuit, menu, nutrition, pets, potato, principles, restaurant, restaurants, road trip, travel, traveling, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, value meals, value menu