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Tag: discrimination

You gotta love this landlord

judy guthLandlord Judy Guth has some strict rules about pets.

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.

guthsignGuth’s apartments run from $1,2000 a month to $1,500 a month for a two-bedroom unit. She bought the building 40 years ago for $260,000. Last month, someone offered her more than $2 million for it.

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)

Walking in support of Utah’s pit bulls

Dnews SLCStrutABulls

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)

Kayla can stay, landlord must pay

The landlords of a Boston apartment building have been ordered to pay $25,000 to a tenant with HIV/AIDS for trying to force the man to get rid of his dog.

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.’’

Hero pit bull turned away by landlords

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.

Compromising principles in Coeur d’Alene

If I’m a senior citizen — and I do not consider myself such — then so is Denny’s, which makes me wonder why they are trying to kill me.

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.

Activist’s guide dog, Ruger, dies in New York

Ruger, a yellow Lab who helped his blind owner fight for the rights of guide dogs in New York, died this week of natural causes.

For nearly a decade, Ruger was at the side of Kevin Coughlin as the two went up against taxi drivers, restaurants and other establishments that illegally denied them entry.

Coughlin, 48, undertook several high-profile cases against businesses in the city that to refused to open their doors to guide dogs, including two complaints against the Taxi and Limousine Commission for refusing Ruger a ride.

In 2002, Coughlin filed a discrimination complaint against a coffee shop  for throwing his dog out, leading to a $1,000 against the owner.

The “CBS Evening News” once followed Coughlin and Ruger with a hidden camera and recorded business owners and taxi drivers giving him a hard time because of his dog.

Ruger, who had retired as a guide dog in 2008 and was living in Warwick, N.Y., died Wednesday at the age of 13, the New York Times reported.

“After losing my vision, I truly felt like I wasn’t going to experience joy again,” Coughlin, who became blind in 1997 as a result of a genetic condition, said Thursday. “But Ruger was just so full of joy. It was this in-your-face, all encompassing feeling. That was the biggest gift. He allowed me once again to experience joy.”

Mr. Coughlin held a retirement party  for Ruger in 2008, but has not seen him since. He said it would have been too difficult emotionally.

Coughlin has been working with a new guide dog, a black Lab named Elias, but Coughlin’s e-mail handle remains “misterruger.”

Homeless shelters sued for service dog ban

Los Angeles County emergency shelters are violating disability  laws by refusing to take in homeless people who have service animals to help them deal with physical or emotional problems, a federal court lawsuit filed last week claims.

The suit, announced Friday, says the county’s Homeless Services Authority violates laws barring discrimination against the disabled. It was filed Wednesday on behalf of two people, including a woman who claims several shelters refused to accept her because she has a dog to help her deal with seizures.

The suit, which names both the city and the county, was filed by the Housing Rights Center and the Disability ghts Legal Rights Center, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The Americans With Disabilities Act and fair housing laws do not allow discrimination against people just because they rely on service animals. The lack of services leaves some of society’s most vulnerable with nowhere to go, the suit said.

“They are all supposed to take service animals,” said Shawna L. Parks, director of litigation for the Disability Rights Legal Center. “We are not talking about pets.”

Judge upholds shelter’s pit bull adoption ban

 
“Virginia may be for lovers, but Loudoun County isn’t the place for dog lovers.”

That’s the conclusion of an animal welfare legislative analyst in light of a Loudoun County judge’s ruling that the county can ban pit bull adoptions — despite a Virginia law to that ensures the right to own a pit bull.

“This is a dark day for shelter dogs in our nation,” said Ledy VanKavage, of Best Friends Animal Society.  “Throughout the land, cities and states are rejecting breed discriminatory laws and this decision embraces profiling.”

The judge’s May 21 ruling ended the nearly two-year battle over the county’s no-adopt policy on pit bulls.

In a 13-page opinion, Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge Burke F. McCahill sided with the county, ruling that banning the adoption of pit bulls does not break state or local laws, the Loudoun Times reports. The ruling came after a two-day trial May 5 and 6.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by Loudoun resident Ronald Litz in 2007 after he tried to adopt a pit bull from the county animal shelter. He was told the shelter did not allow pit bull adoptions.

Of the judge’s May 21 decision, Litz said, “If the judge doesn’t want to enforce Virginia law, there’s nothing I can do about it.” Litz had argued that the county was denying him the right of ownership of a pit bull, which is against Virginia law.

McCahill disagreed, saying that while state law may give county residents the right to own pit bulls, there is no right to adopt one.

Effectively, the sentence is a death penalty for any pit bulls who end up in Loudoun’s animal shelter and go unclaimed by owners.

Read more »

NYC bans pits, large dogs from public housing

New York’s Housing Authority has managed to discriminate against dogs and poor people — all in one vast, over-reaching swoop.

Effective today, pit bulls, Rottweilers and Doberman pinschers are banned from all city housing projects. 

“Finally someone is realizing that these potentially dangerous animals have no place in a confined urban space,” said City Councilman Peter Vallone (D-Queens), who has unsuccessfully lobbied state legislators to ban the dogs.

The new Housing Authority regulations also bar residents from owning any dog over 25 pounds; previously the limit was 40 pounds. (Housing Authority residents who already have the breeds will be able to keep them as long as they register by today.)

City housing officials said residents urged them to ban the dogs because they are vicious and threatening, the New York Daily News reports. But dog lovers who have pit bulls and the other targeted pooches are upset.

“He’s my baby,” Jose Hernandez, 32, who lives in the Lillian Wald Houses on the lower East Side, said of his 6-year-old pit bull, Chopper. “These are not bad dogs.”

The ASPCA and other groups opposed to the ban have been working with the city housing agency to ease some of the restrictions. “We are opposed to breed-specific bans,” said Michelle Villagomez, ASPCA senior manager of advocacy and campaigns. “And we find the weight restriction is too oppressive.”

Pit bull documentary goes “Beyond the Myth”

The roots of “Beyond the Myth,” an independent documentary about the plight of pit bulls, go back to when Libby Sherrill was a student in graduate school at the University of Tennessee.

What was her senior project is now a nearly-finished product — a documentary that looks at pit bulls and the people who love and defend them.

The film explores the factors behind the public’s fear of pit bulls and examines the conflict existing between advocates and opponents of breed specific legislation. It also investigates the myths associated with the breed and asks the question, “What exactly is a pit bull”?

To see a trailer, click here.

Sherrill left an eight-year career with HGTV to write, direct and produce her self-financed film debut, and is now hoping to enter “Beyond the Myth” in film festivals.

“Beyond the Myth” challenges the idea that pit bulls are inherently vicious and goes one-on-one with people on both sides of this controversial issue, according to the documentary’s website.

A pit bull owners herself, Sherrill is against breed specific legislation, such as that passed in Ohio, Denver and numerous other jurisdictions.

“Opponents of BSL believe that such laws are a demeaning overreaction perpetuated by media bias and claim that dog bite statistics (showing pit bulls are responsible for the majority of fatal dog attacks) are unreliable sources of information regarding the ‘viciousness’ of a breed. They argue that BSL is unenforceable and ineffective, and that it fails to reduce the occurrence of dog attacks because it fails to address the root cause — people.

“Instead of focusing on and punishing owners who are irresponsible and criminals who use their dogs for illegal purposes, legislatures choose to place their focus on the dogs, making them into scapegoats. Many opponents believe BSL is the equivalent of racial profiling and banning a breed is, quite possibly, unconstitutional.

Through the documentary’s website, Sherrill is raising funds to help offset its cost of the documentary, fund a public opinion survey about public perceptions of pit bulls and how the media contributes to them, and establish a legal defense fund for people trying to keep their dogs in jurisdictions that have banned them.