OUR BEST FRIENDS

whs-logo

The Sergei Foundation

shelterpet_logo

B-more Dog

aldflogo

Pinups for Pitbulls

philadoptables

TFPF_Logo

Mid Atlantic Pug Rescue

Our Pack, Inc.

Maine Coonhound Rescue

Saving Shelter Pets, Inc.

mabb

LD Logo Color

Tag: enforcement

Half of Kentucky’s county animal shelters called substandard — and nobody’s watching

Trixie Foundation dogsleashes1

One day after basking in the nationwide attention the Kentucky Derby brings, Kentuckians woke up to the reality of how another species of animal is being treated by the state.

The Lexington Herald-Leader presented a package of stories addressing the often poor conditions in the state’s rarely monitored animal shelters.

In a state most famous for racing horses — and doing so in manner that almost appears civilized, what with the all the elegant outfits, mint juleps and whimsical hats — many dogs are living far less regal lives, stuck in county-run shelters that, under state law, receive almost no scrutiny from state agencies.

Unlike most states, Kentucky’s animal-shelter law does not include any inspection or enforcement provisions, which means any actions taken against them such shelters must from citizens.

Not until 2004 did state laws even get written to lay down minimum standards for county-run shelters. Those new measures required each county to have access to a shelter and animal-control officer, and set out standards that include protection from the weather; basic veterinary care or humane euthanasia for ill or injured animals; adequate heat in winter; clean and dry pens with adequate room for animal comfort; construction with materials that can be properly cleaned and disinfected; available clean water; uncontaminated food provided daily; and public access to the facility.

Those laws didn’t outline how, or specify who, was responsible for enforcing those standards.

A measure in the 2017 legislative session called for a study of ways to better fund animal shelters and cited the need for a “government entity” to enforce the state’s shelter rules, but it died without consideration.

That lack of enforcement is a large part of the reason the Animal Legal Defense Fund has ranked the state last in animal protection laws for 11 years in a row.

A study by the University of Kentucky, done in 2016, found that of 92 shelters covering Kentucky’s 120 counties – some of them regional facilities – conditions at 57 percent violated three or more provisions of Kentucky’s animal-shelter laws.

More than a fourth were considered “very substandard,” and only 12 percent were meeting all the rules the legislature put in place in 2004.

“Current laws do not appear to be fully satisfactory at accomplishing the goal of providing good shelter animal care across Kentucky,” said the study.

skaggsWhile county-run shelters operate with relative immunity, independent nonprofit sanctuaries and shelters get no such free ride, as was the case last week when the state Department of Agriculture seized 14 dogs from a no-kill sanctuary called Eden.

Randy J. Skaggs, who operates the sanctuary in Elliot County through his Trixie Foundation, faces 179 misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty in connection with poor health and living conditions.

Skaggs defenders say he has devoted his life to caring for animals because so many public shelters in the region were substandard.

Skaggs says he is housing animals no one else wants, and that shelters would end up euthanizing. He refuses to let anyone adopt dogs because believes their best chance to live a healthy and happy life is at his sanctuary.

Skaggs believes the criminal charges against him are retaliation over his efforts to bring attention to Kentucky’s failure to adopt adequate animal protection laws, his criticisms of county shelters and his efforts to push for improvements.

(Photos: Will Wright / Lexington Herald-Leader)

A modest proposal: Let’s lose “control”

I have a simple and modest proposal — one that would involve only a name change, a slightly new way of thinking, and maybe some new stationery.

It has long been in the back of my head, but was brought to the forefront by recent cellphone videos gone viral — one (it used to be above but was removed from YouTube) of a dog being dragged through the halls of an animal control department in California; one (below) of a police officer slapping and otherwise berating a homeless man in Florida.

Both are examples of what can go wrong — and often does — when you give one group power over others. Both are about control.

Seeking, seizing and holding “control,” necessary as it sometimes seem in a so-called civilized society, almost always leads to bad things, including most of the dog abuse that occurs in our country. We get a little too caught up in the whole idea of having control — over our fellow man, over other species, over other nations, over nature itself.

Those put in control, as today’s videos show, tend to lose control when they see their control being threatened.

Hence, I propose that we do away with the term “animal control” and rename all those county animal control offices “animal protection” departments — protection being what they are mostly about, or should be mostly about, in the first place.

I’m not suggesting doing away with regulating and enforcing in the dog world — only that those doing it go under a different moniker, which, just maybe, would allow them to be seen by the public, and see themselves, less as heavy-handed dictators, more as noble do-gooders.

And animal control offices do do good. They operate shelters, find dogs new homes, rescue strays from the streets and abusive situations. The new name would put an emphasis on that, and take it away from “control.”

The term “animal control” is archaic — not much better than the even more outdated “dog warden” — yet most counties continue to use it. Employees see it on the sign when they pull into the parking lot, when they walk through the front door, on their memos and their paychecks. It’s a constant reminder, even though most of their duties are aimed at helping dogs, that they are, above all, strict enforcers and inflexible bureaucrats.

A simple name change could help fix that.

I, for instance, would love working as an animal protection officer; I’m not sure I’d want to be an animal control officer — even though most of what they do is about protecting animals. The name change could attract job applicants who see the mission as helping dogs, and possibly help weed out those who see all dogs as nuisances, and control as paramount.

In addition to improving employee self-esteem, it could help change the negative public perceptions that come with being the agency that tickets dog owners for leash-less or unlicensed dogs, euthanizes dogs when their facilities get too crowded, and sends the “dog catcher” out on his daily rounds.

There’s no reason — assuming a stray dog is being captured humanely, and treated humanely in a shelter, and put up for adoption — that the “dog catcher,” traditionally portrayed as a villain, can’t become a dog savior in the public view.

Having “Animal Protection Department” written on the side of the truck, instead of “Animal Control Department,” would go a long way toward that.

A simple shift in emphasis, and in how some agencies present themselves to the public, is all I’m talking about. It wouldn’t be only a matter of spin, though. Being an animal protection department would require actually protecting animals — and seeing that as a primary mission.

It wouldn’t make the world a kinder place overnight, and it wouldn’t keep cranky police officers from slapping homeless people — like I said it’s a modest proposal — but it could be a start, at least in the dog world, to a new way of thinking both about and among the government employees we entrust those duties to (and pay the salaries of).

They would be more about helping and educating, less about controlling.

A handful of agencies have at least worked “animal protection,” or “animal care” into their names, but most can’t quite bring themselves to let go of the term “control.”

Thus you have, for instance, the Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control.

Maybe they think losing “control” would be a sign they are losing control.

The term “control” might be appropriate when it comes to those agencies dealing with things like disease and traffic.

But not for those dealing with our family members.

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.”