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Tag: enforcement

Fecal responsibility: Boulder looks at DNA testing to track down poop scofflaws

poopquestionBoulder City Councilwoman Mary Young wants to know how feasible it would be to require DNA samples from dogs, and create a registry so that, through DNA analysis, poop left on city trails could be traced to dog owners.

She’s not suggesting every dog in Boulder be tested (yet) — just the estimated 35,000 with so-called “green tags” that allow them to romp off-leash on some of the city’s trails and greenspaces.

Young has asked that the issue be discussed at tonight’s City Council meeting, the Boulder Daily Camera reports. (Yes, it happens to be an April Fools Day meeting, but nobody’s joking here.)

I would hope Boulder looks not just at whether it can be done (it can), but at whether it should be — that city leaders consider, in addition to the price tag of such a venture, the ethics and implications and utter goofiness of it.

There’s a lot of dog-related technology I don’t like (click the banner at the top of this page for one example) and poop-detection technology is near the top of the list.

Not just because of its Orwellian overtones, not just because it’s heavy-handed, dictatorial, silly, creepy, intrusive and expensive.  It’s also because technology, unleashed, has a habit of oozing beyond the boundaries of its originally intended purpose — DNA-testing of dog poop being just such a case — and spreading into ever scarier realms.

The day could still come when your tossed cigarette butt, un-recycled soda can or expectorated phlegm could be traced back to you, which, come to think of it, might be a better use of DNA technology than that being offered by the dog poop sleuths.

Declaring war on poop, and bringing out technology’s big guns, is overkill. Especially when the real solution can be achieved by simply bending over and picking up what your dog leaves behind.

In case you haven’t been following our posts on this issue, here’s how it works:

Deciding unscooped dog poop is simply intolerable, homeowners associations, apartment complexes or government entities sign up with a company called PooPrints, which sends them the supplies needed for residents to take swabs from the cheeks of their dogs. Those are sent to Tennessee, and a doggie DNA registry is created.

After that, any pile of poop that is found can be gathered, packaged and sent to a lab in Tennessee, where it can be unpackaged and tested and, by comparing DNA markers, matched to an individual dog, assuming that dog’s DNA is in the registry.

The company lets management know who the poopetrator was, and the owner is fined $100 or so — or, if a repeat offender, perhaps told they and/or their dog should move somewhere else. Thereby a community is made safe from scofflaws, as well as, say, a grandmother whose back might have been hurting too much one day to pick up every last dropping left by her Shih Tzu.

Here in my current home state, North Carolina, apartment complexes in Winston-Salem and Wilmington are among the growing number of property management companies and government entities turning to PooPrints.

Yes, dog poop can be hazardous to our health, and harmful to the environment.

So can the feces of all the non-domesticated animals we live among, but don’t feel compelled to prosecute for pooping.

danriversludgeSo, too, can the dumpage of corporate entities, like the thousands of tons of coal ash spilled into the Dan River by Duke Energy, coating 70 miles of the river with toxic sludge.

That’s a little harder to pick up after, and, I’d suggest, at least as deserving of society’s consternation and oversight and vigilance as dog poop — even if punishing the culprit won’t make them change their ways. (Big companies, unlike the average dog owner, can hire lawyers to avoid fines, and, if unsuccessful, they just pass the costs along to their customers.)

Finding clean sources of energy — that’s a use of technology I like. Using DNA to solve murders  (and clear the wrongly convicted) seems a good use,  too.

But gathering, packaging and mailing dog poop so technicians in Tennessee can comb through it and test it, by comparison, seems a silly use of our technological muscles.

In Colorado, Boulder officials say dog waste on public trails is one of the most common complaints the city receives, so it’s not surprising that they’d turn to a company that claims to have the solution.

Eric Mayer, director of business development for BioPet Vet Lab in Knoxville, Tenn., said the company’s PooPrint service is used by private property management companies in 45 states and in Canada. Franchises are popping up all over, like Burger Kings.

So far, the company doesn’t have contracts with any municipalities, but officials have been in talks with a half dozen different local governments. He said he expects to sign the first municipal PooPrints contract with Ipswich, Mass., sometime this year.

Maybe, if poop detection continues to catch on, it would be good for the economy. Maybe, you too could have a fulfilling career as a dog poop laboratory technician.

But there are far better ways to spend our time and money, and far bigger problems more deserving of our rage. Between all the emotion, and all the technology, we seem to forget that we can simply …

Pick it up!

(Top photo, fake poop question mark, from Big Mouth Toys; bottom photo, sludge from the Dan River spill, courtesy of Dan River Basin Association)

Cellphone video leads to abuse arrest

kiloWhen public officials say they “take something very seriously,” it’s often because they haven’t been taking it very seriously.

Nearly three months ago, authorities in Las Vegas dropped an investigation into a man’s complaint that his neighbor was abusing his dog.

Last week, though, that same dog owner was arrested — thanks to the persistent efforts of the neighbor who, after his earlier complaint led nowhere, went on to videotape the man mistreating his dog and than gave the evidence to officials.

Charged with felony cruelty to animals was Roy Cozart, 30, who beat his pit bull, Kilo, with a rock and the handle of a hammer and threw him against a wall, Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson announced Friday in a press release.

“Animal abuse is a serious offense that will not be tolerated,” the district attorney said.  “We take all allegations of abuse very seriously and pursue criminal charges when appropriate.”

But as KTNV pointed out in a news report, the initial complaint against the neighbor came months ago.

While authorities apparently didn’t see the original complaint as that serious, they now say Kilo was abused multiple times between July 15 and Oct. 13.

The difference, this time, was apparently the video.

cozartTaken by the neighbor’s cellphone video on Oct. 8, it allegedly shows Cozart drag Kilo by his neck, swing him around in the air and then hit the dog with a six-inch rock.

Even after that, though, an animal control investigator who later visited Cozart’s home, reported that the dog, though he had cuts and bruises on his face, “appeared happy.”

It wasn’t until a week later that the dog was seized and examined by veterinarians who said they saw signs of abuse. Kilo is now in a foster home and is reported to be doing well, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“We are thankful the D.A. has taken animal cruelty seriously and has brought the appropriate charges against Roy Cozart,” said Gina Greisen, president of Nevada Voters for Animals. “We are confident that policies and procedures addressing serious allegations of cruelty will improve as more animal cruelty cases are prosecuted under Cooney’s law,” she said.

Cooney’s Law was passed by the Nevada State Legislature in 2011 making animal cruelty a felony. It’s named after a 3-year-old beagle from Reno who was killed when her owner cut her stomach open, thinking that a mouse crawled inside the dog. The owner was charged with a misdemeanor under the law in effect at the time.

Now it’s a felony, punishable by one to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

That’s progress, but only if the law is swiftly and strongly enforced.

Lotsa bark, little bite: Chicago crackdown on unlicensed dogs fizzles out

chicagodogbeach

Was all that talk about a crackdown on unlicensed dogs in the Windy City just bluster?

Chicago’s much publicized threat to conduct sweeps at dogs parks and beaches, track down scofflaws and issue tickets carrying fines of up to $200 — all in effort to get more of the estimated 653,000 canines living there registered — never really got rolling.

City Clerk Susana Mendoza said Tuesday that, despite publicity, free rabies clinics, contests and other citywide events aimed at encouraging dog registrations, licenses  rose only from about 30,000 to 40,000 this year.

Mendoza , who testified this week at City Council budget hearings, said her office followed through on creating incentives for dog owners to get licenses, but the city’s Commission on Animal Care and Control ”dropped the ball” when it came to the enforcement side of the campaign.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that was likely  “either because it is inundated and understaffed or because Mayor Rahm Emanuel changed executive directors just when a ticket blitz was supposed to begin with stings at dog parks and beaches.”

For years, dog owners who failed to purchase dog licenses were all but ignored by the city.

That changed in 2005, when software was put in place allowing a county list of dogs who had received rabies shot to be compared to a much shorter list of licensed dogs in the city.

Warning letters were mailed to those whose names appeared on the county’s list, but not the city’s.

Those produced only a small surge in registrations. Two years ago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel endorsed the planned crackdown — with fines for violators — but that produced only another small surge, and the stiffer enforcement that was promised never took place.

Licenses are $5-a-year for spayed and neutered dogs, $50 for those that are not, and $2.50 for dog owners who are senior citizens. Fines for unregistered dogs run from $30 to $200. (You can learn more about registering your dog in Chicago here.)

Mendoza estimated Chicago’s dog population at more that 500,000 but others say it exceeds 653,000.

Despite the “tremendous job” her department did, Mendoza said, the crackdown “was really predicated on a strong enforcement effort, which we’re not responsible for . . . I have not seen a crackdown that I would feel comfortable with in terms of really getting people to license their dogs. I’m very disappointed in it.”

Rounding up unlicensed dogs in Ohio

The dog warden’s office in Allen County, Ohio, is living up to its antiquated name and conducting a sweep to ensure all dogs are licensed.

Almost 100 pets have been seized since the sweep began a few days ago, Examiner.com reports. Impounded dogs that go unclaimed after three days can be euthanized under Ohio law.

The dog warden’s office let pet owners know about the impending action last Thursday — or at least those that are Facebook friends.

“Hi all of our Facebook friends. Just wanted to let you all know why we haven’t posted adoptable dogs….. we don’t have any right now! Rescue groups have been able to take our adoptable dogs and we are very grateful they have the room because we have started our tag compliance check,” the office posted.

The post continues: “Every year we print a list of people that haven’t renewed their dog license, then we try to call as many as we can to see if they still have their dog. If they do we encourage them to get it within a given time. If they choose not to, then they can receive a citation or have their dog impounded or both. While out doing our compliance checks we are checking surrounding houses as well…”

In answer to a question on its Facebook page, the office said,  “…so far most have claimed their dogs the same or next day, which is great. If unlicensed dogs are not claimed after the legal holding time of 3 days the healthy, friendly adoptable dogs are offered to rescues … Yes, we do euthanize.”

Under Ohio law, dog owners must buy a license annually.

Owners of unlicensed dogs are subject to fines, in addition to having to pay double the price for a new license. They are also held responsible, if their pet is picked up, for covering the cost of boarding it at the pound. Law requires unlicensed dogs to be held for 3 days, and licensed dogs for 14 days, before they are turned over to a rescue or euthanized.

According to the Examiner article, pit bulls seized during the sweep might never make it back home.

Even though Ohio legislators removed pit bulls from the vicious dog list last year, cities may still enforce breed specific restrictions. The city of Lima, which is the Allen County seat, is one of those that still has a pit bull restriction in place.

“Allen County dog owners be warned,” the Examiner article says. “If your dog happens to be a pit bull, or one of the other dogs that Lima ordinance lists as vicious, your dog will not make it out of the Allen County Dog Pound alive.”

(Photo: One of the dogs seized in Allen County, Ohio / Examiner.com)

Probe finds lax enforcement of puppy mills

Lax government enforcement of puppy mills has led to countless dogs dying and living in horrific conditions, according to an internal government report.

Investigators say the Department of Agriculture often ignores repeat violations, waives penalties and doesn’t adequately document inhumane treatment of dogs, the Associated Press reported.

In one case cited by the department’s inspector general, 27 dogs died at an Oklahoma breeding facility–  after inspectors had visited the facility repeatedly and cited it for violations.

The review, conducted between 2006 and 2008, found that more than half of those breeders who had already been cited for violations flouted the law again.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Tuesday that USDA will take immediate action. “USDA will reinforce its efforts under its animal welfare responsibilities, including tougher penalties for repeat offenders and greater consistent action to strongly enforce the law,” he said.

Federal investigators uncovered grisly conditions at puppy mills around the country where dogs were infested with ticks, living with gaping wounds and in pools of feces, according to the report.

The report recommends that the animal care unit at the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service immediately confiscate animals that are dying or seriously suffering, and better train its inspectors to document, report and penalize wrongdoing.

The investigators visited 68 dog breeders and dog brokers in eight states that had been cited for at least one violation in the previous three years. They found that first-time violators and even repeat offenders were rarely penalized.

“The agency believed that compliance achieved through education and cooperation would result in long-term dealer compliance and, accordingly, it chose to take little or no enforcement action against most violators,” the report said.

In the case of the Oklahoma breeding facility, the breeder had been cited for 29 violations, including nine repeated violations, from February 2006 to January 2007. The inspector returned in November 2007 before any enforcement action had taken place, according to the report, and found five dead dogs and “other starving dogs that had resorted to cannibalism.”

Despite these conditions, the inspectors did not immediately confiscate the surviving dogs and, the report says, 22 additional dogs died before the breeder’s license was revoked.

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, said the report confirms what animal rights groups have been pointing out for for years.

“Enforcement is flaccid, the laws are weak and reform needs to happen,” he said. “We have long criticized having the animal welfare enforcement functions within a bureaucracy dedicated to promoting American agriculture. There’s a built-in conflict of interest.”

Children pelt tied dog with rocks and bricks

christy1[1]On Easter Sunday, a bloodied 1-year-old dog who’d been pelted with rocks and bricks was brought into Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter. Staff named her Christy.

Christy was treated for injuries that included several wounds on the top of her head, a swollen and bruised snout, a bloodied nose, hemorrhages in both eyes and a wound on the dorsal surface of a front paw.

The Baltimore Bureau of Animal Control is investigating the case, which was reported by a witness who saw a group of  youths — estimated to be 12 or 13 years old — throwing rocks and bricks at a dog who was tied up in the 3700 block of Greenspring Avenue near the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School.

When a concerned citizen went to rescue the dog, BARCS officials say, the youths began throwing rocks and bricks at him.

Animal enforcement officers are contacting the school to determine if the surveillance cameras captured the incident.

Jennifer Mead-Brause, BARCS executive director, appealed to any one with information about the case to step forward.

“This is another shocking incident of animal abuse. Once again the fact that perpetrators are so young … is very disturbing. These young people are in urgent need of help. Incidents of animal abuse are a key predictor of violent criminal behavior.”

Any one with information is asked to call the Baltimore city Bureau of Animal Control at (410) 396-4698.

Mead-Braus added, “I urge people living in the neighborhood to pay close attention to their companion animals. Animals who are allowed to roam at large are an easy target for this type of abuse.”

Keep your dog, lose your parking space

trumpvillageResidents who have snuck dogs into a no-dogs-allowed Brooklyn housing co-op are being told to get rid of their dogs, or face monthly $100 fines and the loss of their parking spaces.

The co-op board notified residents of  Trump Village of the new enforcement policy in a notice last month.

“I think it’s totally ridiculous,” Marylyn Langsdorf, 66, who lives with her 6-pound Yorkshire terrier, Chelsea, told the New York Daily News. “I think the whole point is to just get money from us.”

Langsdorf and other residents with dogs have already been fined, but they’ve yet to have their parking spaces revoked.

About 1,700 residents live in the three-building complex, and a dozen already have contacted a Manhattan attorney who specializes in pet-related tenant rights.

“It’s a way to extract money from these folks and scare the hell out of them to give up dogs they’ve had for years,” said attorney Maddy Tarnofsky.

Warren Hirsch, a spokesman for the Trump Village co-op board, said “a small number of residents have surreptitiously smuggled in dogs in defiance of the rules and regulations binding them. They have thumbed their noses at their fellow cooperators and dared the co-op to do something about it.”

(Photo: Langsdorf, left, with Chelsea, and another dog-owning resident; New York Daily News)

Los Angeles seeks out unlicensed dogs

By taking steps to register the estimated two-thirds of dogs in Los Angeles who aren’t licensed, the city stands to gain $3.6 million.

So, being in dire of of revenue, that’s exactly what it’s doing, the Los Angeles Times reports.

About 120,000 dogs are licensed in the city, as required by law; it’s estimated that there are twice that many whose owners are not following the rules.

The task of locating unlicensed dogs falls to eight full-time canvassers for the Department of Animal Services, who roam the city looking for canines with no licenses or expired licenses and handing out information on spaying and neutering.

But they’ll soon be getting some help. On Tuesday, the council unanimously approved a motion to have the Department of Animal Services coordinate with the Department of Water and Power, which keeps a  database from its meter readers of residences with dogs.

Task force on animal abuse calls for changes

phoenix3Baltimore could be doing a far better job of protecting its pets and animals, a task force appointed by Mayor Sheila Dixon concludes in an interim report released this week.

Its recommendations include stiffer penalties, stronger laws, greater police involvement, a larger and better equipped animal shelter, improved coordination between city departments and a greater effort to increase public awareness about the problem.

The task force was created after a pit bull was doused with gasoline and set on fire in West Baltimore in May, 2009.

Police Officer Syreeta Teel observed the burning dog on the 1600 block of Presbury Street and extinguished the flames with her sweater. The dog, who was subsequently named Phoenix by her caretakers, suffered severe burns over 95% of her body and died four days later.

The task force was charged with looking at ways to eradicate animal abuse, and dogfighting in particular, in the city; increase awareness of animal cruelty laws; legislation to protect animals and prosecute abusers; and how animal control and law enforcement could better handle animal cruelty cases.

“Our examination into these subject areas has not been all bleak,” the task force reported. “While the Department of Animal Control is in urgent need of assistance and reform, other systems, such as the current system for tracking animal related concerns, operates fairly effectively and needs only minor revamping to track animal cruelty cases.

“And while additional legislation should be enacted to prosecute abusers, on a positive note, the State’s Attorney’s Office of the City of Baltimore has shown great commitment in the prosecution of Travers and Tremayne Johnson, the defendants charged with aggravated animal cruelty in the burning death of Phoenix.”

The report adds: ”The public response to the work of the Task Force has been positive. Public sentiment is changing and a “no tolerance” policy toward animal abuse is emerging. Moreover, it is well recognized that animal abuse is a precursor to violent crime against people …

“If the City of Baltimore seeks to eradicate drug violence, gang violence, child abuse and spousal abuse, it must also eradicate animal abuse, for when one encounters animal abuse or dogfighting, one of the former scourges is likely to be present. Stamping out animal abuse is one of the most effective crime prevention tools available to law enforcement officials.”

You can find the full report on the mayor’s website.

Recommendations in the report call for a better system of reporting and tracking animal abuse, beefing up Animal Control staff, better communication with the city’s social services department about animal abuse cases, and assigning three police officers to work full-time with Animal Control.

Currently, there are no officers assigned to work with the department and no liaison between Animal Control and the Baltimore City Police Department, and no channel of communication to discuss ongoing investigations, the report says.

Animal control officers have no authority to make arrests or carry guns, the report notes, and “must call for police backup when investigating dogfighting or crimes in progress against animals.” Police response times can vary, but can be as long as 40 minutes. “In the interim, witnesses flee, crime scenes are not secured, and evidence degrades.”

Maryland has recently dropped into the bottom tier of states in terms of the strength of its animal cruelty laws, according to the report, which calls for stiffer penalties for animal abuse.

Here is the complete list of recommendations:

Read more »

Robert E. Lee Park will rise again

releemastoffBaltimore County plans to spend $6 million in local and state funds to begin the first phase of improvements to Robert E. Lee Park — one of which is to establish a dog park within the park’s 415 acres.

Long a popular, but unsanctioned spot for dogs to run off-leash, the park — owned by Baltimore City but located within the county — remains officially closed. The footbridge leading to it was condemned as unsafe and recently demolished. The county will soon sign a long-term lease and take over management of the park.

While there is pressure from some groups to declare parts of the park off limits to dogs, plans call for a fenced-in area where dogs can run unleashed, and have access to the water. In all other areas of the park, dogs will have to remain on leash — a rule that will be enforced by park rangers.DSC02802

Work on a new bridge, estimated to cost about $2.8 million, is to begin in March and take about six months to complete. Construction of a fenced dog park and trails will start in late spring, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Plans call for the park to include a nature center, hiking and biking trails, fountains, benches, restrooms and improved access to Lake Roland.DSC02811

I took these photos at the park last year, while it was still open, but a little down at the heels. I’m fairly certain dogs, leashed or unleashed, didn’t vandalize the signs — more likely unleashed humans.