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Tag: federal

“The only thing I’m going to do is shoot it”


That police in St. Clair Shores in Michigan saw killing a dog as the preferable way to stop her barking has been pretty well documented in dash cam videos that have become public.

As soon as they pulled up at the scene, their dashboard camera recorded remarks they were making inside their patrol car, like “The only thing I’m going to do is shoot it” and “I don’t do snares. I don’t do dogs … I’ll shoot the f—ing thing.”

lexieBut why there were 15 bullet holes in Lexie, a dog police officers only admitted to shooting four times, is a question that may go unanswered — at least until a federal lawsuit filed by the dog’s owner comes to trial.

The lawsuit, filed earlier this month, stems from the November 2013 shooting of Lexie, a 44-pound mixed breed who was the subject of a barking dog complaint filed by a neighbor.

Lexie’s owner, Brittay Preston, filed the lawsuit against the city of St. Clair Shores, two police officers and an animal control officer, according to Fox News in Detroit. It alleges a violation of her Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable seizure.

The lawsuit seeks money damages, and assurances that St. Clair Township police will “train their officers so that there’s not another incident where they respond to a barking dog complaint by killing it,” said Preston’s attorney, Chris Olson.

Preston was at work and the dog was under the care of a grandfather, who suffers from dementia and forgot to let Lexie back inside during a cold night.

Officers, after discussing their alternatives in the patrol car, approached the home and eventually persuaded the grandfather to let the dog in the house. After he agreed to do so, they shot the dog saying she lunged at them in a threatening manner.

Attorney Olson said the discussion recorded by the dash came shows the shooting was premeditated.

“Neighbors complained of a dog that was barking. [Police] showed up. The first thing that they said out of their mouths was they don’t like dogs; they don’t do dogs; they’re going to shoot the dog anyway. And that’s exactly what they did,” he said.

“Then they shot the dog again, instead of trying to take care of the dog, getting some care of the dog to prevent it from dying, they did what they intended to do. They made sure that the dog died. They shot it again, and then the dog walked into the animal control van and then when we picked up the dog it had extra bullet holes,” he added.

A necropsy conducted by a veterinarians found 15 bullet holes in Lexie.

Officers, after shooting and wounding the dog, can be heard discussing what to do next, including “choking it out” and “using a shovel,” according to the lawsuit.

One officer remarked that would be a bad idea because “you know this is going to be all over Facebook in about an hour.”

“We’re saddened when anyone loses a pet, but since the city and its employees are being sued, the city will certainly defend the lawsuit,” St. Clair Shores City Attorney Robert Ihrie said in a statement. “The complaint that was filed is filled with innuendo, speculation and half truths, and I have no doubt when it’s held up to the light of day, the truth will bear itself out in court.”

(Photo: from the Justice for Lexie Facebook page)

TJ Maxx manager asks Boston Marathon bomb survivor to remove her service dog

sydney

A 19-year-old survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing was told her service dog was not allowed to walk the aisles of a TJ Maxx in New Hampshire.

Sydney Corcoran says she was shopping at the store in Nashua when a store manager said her service dog needed to be placed in a store-supplied “carriage” or leave the store.

Corcoran suffered shrapnel wounds in the bombing and her mother, Celeste, lost both legs. Sydney Corcoran got Koda, her service dog, to help her deal with post-trauamatic stress disorder.

“He’s crucial to my everyday life now,” she told WCVB.

Last Thursday, Koda was wearing his service dog vest when a manager approached and said, “If you want to keep your dog in the store, you have to put him in the carriage.” Sydney said she informed the manager that Koda is a service dog and that he wouldn’t be able to fit comfortably in the carriage. The manager, she said, told her the carriage was a new policy, and that she was required to comply.

celesteSydney left the store and called her mother, who, when she went to the store in person, received an apology.

“She said, ‘I’m sorry.’ And I said, ‘That’s not good enough. You should have known,’” Celeste said. “You just made someone with an emotional disorder so much worse.”

She added, “There are so many people with invisible, silent injuries — and the public needs to be aware that their service animals are sometimes their lifeline.”

TJ Maxx said in a statement: “We are taking this customer matter very seriously. Customers with disabilities who are accompanied by their service animals are welcome in our stores at any time.

“We have looked into the particulars regarding this customer’s experience and deeply regret that our procedures were not appropriately followed in this instance. We are taking actions which we believe are appropriate, including working with our stores to reinforce the acceptance of service animals.”

(Photos: Top, Sydney and Celeste Corcoran with Koda, WCVB; bottom, Celeste and Sydney in this year’s Boston Marathon, Reuters)

Best Western could do better


You’d think a big hotel-motel chain would know and share the rules when it comes to service dogs — even one whose inns are “individually owned and operated.”

By federal law, service dogs are allowed. No ifs, ands or buts.

But a Best Western in Baton Rouge, citing its policy prohibiting dogs, recently denied reservations to a North Carolina family whose golden retriever serves as an epilepsy alert dog to their 13-year-old son, Beau.

Chip goes everywhere with Beau, who has a rare type of epilepsy called Landau-Kleffner Syndrome. “Chip alerts us to when Beau is having a seizure,” Beau’s mother, Karen Vaughn, told KPLC.

But after Vaughn made an online reservation at a Best Western in Baton Rouge, pointing out that service dog Chip would be among their party, the motel notified her that the reservation was being refused because the inn doesn’t allow dogs.

Vaughn, who is an attorney specializing in the rights of children with special needs, said that after she raised a stink the corporate office called back, a week later, saying they would honor the reservation. She said no thanks.

Normally, we would say sue the pants off the motel’s individual owner, and sue the pants off Best Western corporate honchos, too.

But Best Western has an unusual corporate structure — one they’ve argued doesn’t comprise a profit-making corporation, but is more of a cooperative. All hotels are individually owned and operated, and Best Western, from its headquarters in Phoenix, provides only reservations, marketing, brand identity and support services.

Individual owners of Best Western inns are allowed to make their own rules — but not rules that violate federal laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A Best Western spokesman told ohmidog! that the Baton Rouge motel has been temporarily banned from representing itself as a Best Western hotel.

“Best Western International has restricted the hotel on our reservations systems and we have required the hotel to stop representing itself as a Best Western branded hotel (cover or remove all Best Western signs and logos) until its representatives attend a hearing at our corporate headquarters at which their future association with Best Western will be decided,” he said.

“Best Western International requires each independently owned and operated hotel to comply with all federal, state and local laws and standards, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We provide extensive training to ensure our hotels understand and address the needs of guests with special needs. When this matter came to our attention, we immediately provided direction to the hotel and a reservation was offered to the family.

“We deeply regret the matter and we will continue to proactively communicate ADA requirements and training to Best Western branded hotels to ensure all guests are treated with the utmost dignity and respect.”

Best Western’s website boasts about their 1,600 pet-friendly locations.

Condo association to pay for its stupidity

fischerA Florida condo association that told a woman with multiple sclerosis that her service dog was too big has agreed to pay $300,000 to atone for its collective stupidity.

The settlement followed a federal judge’s declaration that Sabal Palm Condominiums in Davie, which sued to force the woman to get rid of the dog, had behaved in a manner both absurd and unreasonable, not to mention in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

“Sabal Palm got it exactly — and unreasonably — wrong,” U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola wrote in his order.

“This is not just common sense — though it is most certainly that.”

Scola ordered the condo association to allow Deborah Fischer, a retired art teacher, to keep her service dog, the Miami Herald reported.

Fischer, who uses a wheelchair and has limited use of her arms and hands, received a service dog in November 2011 from Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit group that provides dogs for people with disabilities.

The dog – a 5-year-old Labrador-golden retriever mix named Sorenson — has been trained to help Fischer pick things up, open and close doors and retrieve items from counter tops.

The condominium association, saying the dog violated its 20-pound limit on pets, began demanding medical records and other information to prove that Fischer needed Sorenson — and it sued Fischer when, it said, she failed to provide it.

Fischer, along with her husband, Larry, counter-sued, saying the condo board’s demands violated the federal Fair Housing Act, or FHA.

Judge Scola, in a 30-page ruling, strongly agreed with Fischer.

That the condo association “turned to the courts to resolve what should have been an easy decision is a sad commentary on the litigious nature of our society. And it does a disservice to people like Deborah who actually are disabled and have a legitimate need for a service dog as an accommodation under the FHA,” he wrote.

Condo board members suggested that Fischer could get a smaller service dog, but Scola didn’t buy that argument.

After Scola ruled in the Fischers’ favor, their attorney negotiated a $300,000 settlement with the attorney representing Sabal Palm.

Fischer said Sorenson can recognize 40 separate commands.

“He has made my life so much better,” she said.

(Photo: Courtesy of Matthew Dietz)

The fuzzy — and not so fuzzy — sides of the federal government furloughs

justwalkPoliticians aren’t happy about it. Americans aren’t happy about. But there may be one group can see a bright side in the federal government shutdown.

Dogs. (Then again, they see the bright side in pretty much everything.)

With their owners spending more time at home, the pets of furloughed federal workers are likely getting more attention, more dog park time, more time to snuggle while watching daytime TV on the couch.

Let’s just hope no one gets too used to it.

The shutdown, while already hurting some pet-related business, is helping some others. The  Huffington Post reports that business is booming, for example, at Muddy Mutt, a self-serve dog wash next to Shirlington Dog Park in Northern Virginia.

“I’m getting more business because people aren’t working,” said Andrew Low, owner of the Muddy Mutt, where dog owners commonly bring their dogs in after romping in the river. Low said the business is usually quiet during the week. But since the furlough? “Twenty-five on Monday, 14 on Tuesday, 23 yesterday… We don’t even ever come close to that.”

The furlough might be bad news, though, for professional dog walkers in the DC area.

Christina Bell, owner of Doggy Daze DC,  said that business is down by about half since the shutdown went into effect. JJ Scheele says her business, Dog Walking DC, has also taken a hit.

“All the walkers are down anywhere from one to three dogs,”  Scheele said.

At Just Walk DC, a dog-walking cooperative, Meg Levine said the decrease of customers, three days into the shutdown, has been slight. But between government-employed pet owners having more time, and less income, a protracted shutdown could hurt dogwalkers badly — not to mention the rest of the country.

“There certainly is a sense of frustration from a lot of my clients, who feel that this is just needless roadblocking,”Levine said. “For the most part, we are continuing to chug along and feeling very hopeful this will end soon. I like D.C. when it functions. Oh, this town.”

(Photo: Dog walker Meg Levine, courtesy of  Just Walk DC)

Golden? Yes. Silence? Not a chance

ggnra

How many human years have gone into figuring out just where and how dogs can play in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area?

We don’t know, but clearly the debate isn’t over yet, and won’t likely ever be.

The latest revision of the federal dog management plan for GGNRA adds some new areas that dogs on leashes can roam, subtracts a few areas where dogs could previously run free, and once again stirs the decades-long debate over where dogs fit in at the scenic, 80,00-plus-acre federal playground.

The new document is an attempt by National Park Service officials to address some of the 4,713 comments that poured in after the first 2,400-page dog management plan was released in 2011. “The tome,” the San Francisco Chronicle notes, ”outweighs many of the pooches that frequent the park.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere in the Bay Area, dog talking amongst themselves are just shaking their heads and laughing about all the man-hours that have gone into figuring it all out: “C’mon guys, is it really that complex?”

Unfortunately, since it involves humans, yes, dogs, it is.

Especially when many of those humans see what they want to do on the land as paramount — be it dog-walking, bird-watching, jogging, hiking, biking, picnicking, ocean-gazing, serenity-seeking or soul-searching.

Between all those conflicting agendas, and its mission to protect the integrity of the land, the National Park Service faces a balancing act that has no end.

Its latest effort is a proposal that loosens some restrictions and tightens others when it comes to dogs in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The proposal adds more leashed areas to the GGNRA and let dogs run free in new areas of Fort Funston and Fort Mason.

“It’s a substantial increase in the amount available for off-leash voice control use and connectability to the beach,” said Howard Levitt, the park’s director of communications and partnerships. “The trails themselves are on leash, but the off-leash areas are substantial, including flat open areas that are commonly used right now.”

Still, dog lovers, see its restrictions as overly severe.

“It’s far more restrictive than we ever would have imagined,” said Martha Walters, chairwoman of the Crissy Field Dog Group.  “We feel very betrayed by the Park Service, especially after all these years working with them in a cooperative manner. There is no scientific basis for this radical change.”

Recreation area officials said the changes are needed because of the increasing number of visitors — they now number about 14.5 million a year — and their conflicting recreational pursuits. Naturalists and bird-watchers, for instance, often complain about dogs trampling vegetation, frightening birds and harassing wildlife.

Adding to complexity of it all is the fact that GGNRA includes  21 locations spread over San Mateo, San Francisco and Marin counties; with 1,273 plant and animal species, some endangered; 1,200 historic structures, including 5 National Historic Landmarks; and 192 recorded archeological sites.

That leads to different doggy rules for different locations. Under the park service’s latest proposal, canines would still be prohibited on East Beach, but they would be allowed on the middle portion of the beach and on the east side of the grassy former air field. Ocean Beach would still be off limits to unleashed dogs everywhere except north of Stairwell 21, which is closest to the Cliff House. Off leash areas would be added to the grassy areas near Bay and Laguna streets, at Fort Mason and at Fort Funston.

Instead of a complete ban on dogs at Muir Beach in Marin County — as originally proposed — leashed dogs would be permitted. The six beaches in Marin County where unleashed dogs are now permitted would be reduced to one — Rodeo Beach.

The GGNRA’s new park, Rancho Corral de Tierra in San Mateo County, near Moss Beach, would allow leashed dogs only on trails next to the communities of El Granada and Montara.

Dog lovers say were expecting more when the park decide to review and reissue a dog management plan.

“People have been walking their dogs off leash on Crissy Field, Baker Beach, Muir Beach and many of these other coastal areas with no problems for generations,” Walters said. “Can you imagine taking your dog to the beach and keeping him on a leash? It doesn’t make any practical sense.”

A 90-day public comment period on the new proposals began Friday and will end Dec. 4, and a series of public meeting will be held in November. ( Nov. 2, at Fort Mason Center, Bldg. D, Fleet Room, in San Francisco;  Nov. 4, Farallone View Elementary School in Montara;  Nov. 6, Tamalpais High School, Ruby Gym, in Mill Valley.)

The final (yeah, right) plan is expected in late 2015.

(Photo: Crissy Field Beach in San Francisco; by Raphael Kluzniok / The San Francisco Chronicle)

Probe continues in Bear-Bear shooting

Police still haven’t released the name of the officer who shot a Siberian husky at a Severn dog park, but two Anne Arundel County prosecutors have been assigned to work with police on the continuing investigation.

Bear-Bear was shot Aug. 2 at the private dog park in the Quail Run community by a civilian police officer employed by the Army at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Northern Virginia. The officer told police his leashed German shepherd was attacked by Bear-Bear.

One of the prosecutors assigned to investigate whether charges should be brought against the officer is Kimberly DiPietro, who handles the office’s animal cruelty cases and other matters relating to animals.

DiPietro told the Baltimore Sun there are two issues: whether the shooter had a right to carry a weapon, and whether the shooting of the pet violated the law.

The weapon used in the shooting was the man’s personal weapon, police said.

Sign documents electronically, electronically.