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Tag: federal

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.

Dog-shooting officer placed on leave

The off-duty federal police officer who shot and killed a Siberian husky he claims attacked his German shepherd in a Severn dog park has been placed on administrative leave.

Police in Anne Arundel County are still declining to identify the 32-year-old officer, and the officer’s attorney would not release his name either, citing threats against his client.

Attorney David Putzi says the Department of Defense officer shot the 3-year-old husky known as Bear-Bear in defense of his dog, himself and his wife, according to the Associated Press. Putzi says Bear-Bear attacked the officer’s German shepherd and that the husky’s owners “could not or would not” control their pet.

Police say the officer fired his personal handgun.

About 50 people, including Bear-Bear’s owner and her family attended a memorial for the dog at the Quail Run Dog Park last night, according to the Baltimore Sun blog, “Unleashed.”

The blog reported that consideration will be given to renaming the park in Bear-Bear’s honor.

Family demands justice for Bear-Bear

Authorities in Anne Arundel County say they won’t file charges against a federal officer who entered an off-leash dog park with his leashed German shepherd and shot a Siberian husky who he thought was playing too roughly with his dog.

Bear-Bear, a 3-year-old brown and white husky, was playing in the Quail Run dog park at about 6:30 p.m. Monday when the officer and his wife arrived with a German shepherd, who was kept on a leash.

According to the Baltimore Sun, when the dogs began to play roughly, the federal officer asked Bear-Bear’s guardian — the brother of the dog’s owner – to call off the dog. Then, seconds later, he pulled out a gun and shot Bear-Bear.

Bear-Bear died of his injuries a few hours later.

Anne Arundel County police, astonishingly, have not named the federal officer, and — equally astonishingly — say no charges will be filed against him. No further investigation appears to be taking place.

“I’ve been bawling my eyes out since 7 p.m. last night,” Rachel Rettaliata, Bear-Bear’s owner, told the Sun. “It’s grief mixed with anger. We’re so angry this guy was able to take our animal for what we feel was no reason at all…We still don’t believe that he’s gone. We just want so badly to be diligent about this. [The officer] has to pay some sort of consequence for his foolishness.”

Rettaliata adopted Bear-Bear about two years ago from a husky rescue. He’d been seized from a Delaware home where people had tied him up outside and neglected him.

Bear-Bear was a regular at the dog park in Quail Run, a community of townhomes. Neighbors say the park is generally an easygoing place where well-mannered dogs play with one another.

“I’ve never personally seen him be aggressive toward any dog or human or anything, for that matter,” Tarnna Hernandez, who lives two doors down from the Rettaliatas, told the Sun.

“I have not seen that dog hurt anyone. Or snarl. He’s never even barked,” she said. “His only way was to get out a gun out and shoot him? Uh-uh. It’s completely unbelievable.”

The manager of the homeowner’s association, Dorothy Pearce, called the shooting “tragic…A community of homeowners with children playing around should not have gun-crazy, off-duty policemen shooting in their area, especially a dog in a controllable situation.”

According to Rettaliata, Bear-Bear didn’t cry out when shot.  “He just went and laid down,” she said.

Carolyn Kilborn, chairwoman of Maryland Votes for Animals, based in Annapolis, said the case should be further investigated.

“The killing of the dog in Severn is a sad situation that should be investigated carefully to determine if the incident was caused by a dangerous dog or a dangerous person,” she said.

A “Justice for Bear-Bear” Facebook page has been established, encouraging concerned citizens to contact county authorities through this email address.

Short snouts and long flights don’t mix

Short-snouted dogs appear to run a far higher risk of death when it comes to air travel, according to federal government statistics released last week.

Bulldogs, pugs, and other short-of-snout breeds accounted for about half of the purebred dog deaths on airplanes in the past five years, the data shows.

Overall, 122 dog deaths — 108 of them purebreds — were reported between May 2005, when U.S. airlines were required to start disclosing them, and May 2010, the Transportation Department says.

All the dogs died while being shipped as cargo, as opposed to flying in the cabin.

English bulldogs accounted for the highest number, with 25 deaths. Second highest were pugs, 11 of which died. Seven golden retrievers, six French bulldogs and four American Staffordshire terriers died while flying as cargo in that period. And boxers, cockapoos, Pekingese and Pomeranians accounted for two deaths each.

You can see the full list here.

The Department of Transportation says dog owners should consult with veterinarians before putting their dogs on planes. It believes that the deaths represent a tiny percentage of the pets shipped on airlines.

Short-nose breeds — known as “brachycephalic” — in addition to being less tolerant of heat, have a skull formation that affects their airways, Dan Bandy, chairman of the Bulldog Club of America’s health committee, told the Associated Press.

“The way all dogs cool themselves is basically through respiration, either just panting or the action of breathing in or out, is a method of heat exchange for them,” Bandy said. “A dog that has a long snout or a long muzzle has more surface area within its nasal cavity for that heat exchange to take place. So breeds like labradors or collies or those types of dogs with the long muzzles have a more efficient cooling system.”

Bandy said that in addition to trying to cool themselves, dogs may also pant excessively in the cargo hold because of stress or excitement. But he believes dogs shouldn’t be given tranquilizers before flying because that makes them less able to manage their own cooling process. In addition, airlines generally do not want pets tranquilized, he added.

In all, 144 pet deaths were reported by airlines over the past five years, along with 55 injuries and 33 lost pets.

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.”

Romero pleads guilty in dog’s dragging death

Steven Romero pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal charge of aggravated animal cruelty in connection with the death of Buddy, a stolen German shepherd mix who was dragged to his death behind a pickup truck in the Colorado National Monument.

While the charge carries a maximum sentence of up to three years in prison and a $100,000 fine, it was expected that prosecutors would offer a reduced sentence in exchange for his guilty plea.

Buddy was found dead on Dec. 30. Romero is accused of putting a rope around the dog’s neck and driving until the dog was dead.

Romero, 38, will remain in custody until his sentencing, scheduled for July 30, according to 9News.

“It’s a good day for animal lovers and I’m happy to see this happen. It was the right thing for him to do to accept responsibility,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Meyer said.

Prosecutors say Romero’s sister, 32-year-old Melissa Lockhart, stole the pup from a pickup truck in Fruita and told him to “get rid” of it. Lockhart faces a felony charge for lying to investigators. She will appear in court on May 10 in Grand Junction.

A Facebook page was created in the wake of Buddy’s death. It is called “Demand Justice for Buddy” and has more than 260,000 members around the world.

Man slips on poop, sues store for $1 million

Robert Holloway went to a Virginia PetSmart to pick up some bird seed and dog food.

Instead, he slipped on a pile of dog poop in the pet-friendly store, hurting his back and knocking out four of his false teeth.

Now he wants $1 million, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court. PetSmart and its employees “negligently allowed animals to enter the premises and deposit feces in such a manner as to create a dangerous and hazardous condition,” his lawsuit states.

PetSmart has filed an initial reply stating that the store and its manager that day were not negligent in the accident. Pet accidents are a fact of life in its stores, where leashed pets are welcome, a company spokeswoman told the Virginian-Pilot.

Holloway, of Poquoson, went to a Newport News PetSmart on Jan. 18, 2009.  While he didn’t fall to the floor after slipping, his body twisted violently and he smacked his head against something nearby, his lawyer said. As a result, Holloway, 70, who already had back problems, had to have surgery.

A spokeswoman for PetSmart, the largest pet specialty retailer in the country, said employees are trained to clean up messes and customers are encouraged to clean up after their pets. Every store has “oops” stations, clearly marked, with clean-up supplies. “They’re animals. There’s always going to be accidents,” she said.

A similar suit was filed by a woman who slipped and fell in dog urine at the same store.  The judge ruled against her, saying the woman failed to show that any store employee knew there was urine on the floor.

Romero, sister, indicted in death of Buddy

romeroSteven Clay Romero and his sister were indicted late Monday in connection with the dragging death of Buddy, a stolen German shepherd mix who was pulled by a rope attached to a pick-up truck for miles at Colorado National Monument.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the National Park Service announced the indictments today against 37-year-old Romero, of Grand Junction, and his sister, 32-year-old Melissa Marie Lockhart of Fruita, according to the Denver Post.

Romero is already in federal custody and an arrest warrant was issued for Lockhart.

The federal indictment alleges Romero knowingly tortured and needlessly mutilated and killed the dog by dragging it behind a vehicle for three miles at the Colorado National Monument sometime between Dec. 29 and 30.

lockhartThe indictment says Lockhart knew about the crime between Dec. 30 and 31, but concealed it by making false statements to law enforcement, and failed to report it.

Romero faces one count of aggravated animal cruelty, punishable, if convicted, by up to three years in federal prison and up to a $100,000 fine. Lockhart is additionally charged with stealing Buddy and another dog, and faces up to three years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine, if convicted.

The case is in federal court because the crime is alleged to have occurred in a national park.

More than 100,000 signatures gathered via Facebook are to be presented to prosecutors tomorrow, demanding the maximum sentence for Romero and Lockhart, if convicted.

(For our previous posts on Buddy, click here.)

Sign documents electronically, electronically.