The Interior Department’s new secretary (Trump appointee Ryan Zinke) has told his employees that he plans to let them bring their dogs to work on a trial basis.
Zinke announced in an email to employees Thursday morning the start of “Doggy Days at Interior,” a program that will launch with test runs at the agency’s Washington headquarters on two Fridays, one in May and one in September, the Washington Post reported.
“I’m taking action to establish a pilot program for Doggy Days at Interior!” Zinke said in the email to Washington-area employees. The email included two photographs of him with his wife, Lolita, and their 18-month-old black and white Havanese, Ragnar.
Zinke made a splash when he rode a horse to work on his first day on the job.
Whether it ends up being an open-ended and ongoing invitation, or just a couple of days a year when employees can bring their dogs to work, the new policy would make Interior the first federal agency to go at least a little dog-friendly.
While former CIA director Leon Panetta was known to sometimes bring his dog to work, government rules prohibit it. General Services Administration Rule 102-74.425 states that: “No person may bring dogs or other animals on Federal property for other than official purposes.”
Particulars of the Interior Department pilot program remain to be worked out, such as whether there will be size or weight limits. Likely, participating dogs would have to be housebroken, be up to date on vaccinations and stay on their leashes.
Zinke, an avid hunter, former Navy SEAL and congressman representing Montana, portrays himself as both an outdoorsman and a dog lover. Earlier this this month, he arrived at his new workplace astride Tonto, a bay roan gelding who belongs to the U.S. Park Police and resides in stables on the Mall.
His email referred to his own dog, and the times they have shared.
“Opening the door each evening and seeing him running at me is one of the highlights of my day,” it reads. “I can’t even count how many miles I’ve driven across Montana with (Ragnar) riding shotgun, or how many hikes and river floats Lola and I went on with the little guy. But I can tell you it was always better to have him.”
Zinke said his dog policy’s primary goal is to boost morale at the agency, which includes the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management and six other departments.
Interior ranked 11th in employee morale of the 18th largest federal agencies in last year’s Best Places to Work in the Federal Government survey, with just 61 percent of its 70,000 employees saying they’re happy in their jobs.
(Top photo: Zinke, wife Lola, and dog Ragnar, courtesy of Department of Interior; lower photo from The Washington Post)
Posted by John Woestendiek March 24th, 2017 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, boost, cabinet, department of the interior, dog, dogs, dogs in workplace, federal, federal government, government, havanese, interior department, morale, offices, pet, pets, pilot program, policy, ragnar, ryan zinke, test, trial, Trump, washington, work
It looks like a harmless sprinkler head, but it’s a bomb, filled with poison — and your own federal government planted it.
They are called predator control devices, or M-44s, and they are placed — generally in remote areas in the West — by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to control fox and coyote populations.
Last week, one of them killed another dog, a three-year-old lab named Casey.
The devices release a burst of cyanide when activated.
The Bannock County Sheriff’s Office says the cyanide bomb, or cyanide trap, as they are most commonly called, detonated Thursday, killing the family dog.
The incident occurred on a ridge line located above a residence on Buckskin Road in Pocatello.
Fourteen-year-old Canyon Mansfield was walking his dog on land neighboring his property when he saw what he thought was a sprinkler head protruding from the ground.
He bent down and touched the pipe. There was an explosion and a hissing sound. The boy noticed his clothing and face were covered with an orange, powdery substance. He washed his face off with snow, then called his dog.
Spotting his dog on the ground, the boy ran to him and “saw this red froth coming from his mouth and his eyes turning glassy and he was having a seizure.” The dog died within minutes, he said.
Canyon, the son of a doctor, was checked out and released, but advised to report back for monitoring of his cyanide levels, according to the Idaho State Journal,.
The devices consist of spring-loaded metal cylinders that are baited with scent that shoot sodium cyanide powder into the mouth or face of whatever or whoever touches them.
There have been calls to ban them, but APHIS says they have been deemed by the EPA to be necessary tool to reduce losses livestock owners face due to predators.
“Wildlife Services has removed M-44s in that immediate area. Wildlife Services is completing a thorough review of the circumstances of this incident, and will work to review our operating procedures to determine whether improvements can be made to reduce the likelihood of similar occurrences happening in the future,” the statement said.
A spokesman for APHIS said that the “unintentional lethal take of a dog” is a rare occurrence.
The statement also said that M-44 devices are only set with permission from property owners or managers, and that this is the first unintentional take of an animal with an M-44 device in Idaho since 2014.
“The USDA’s statement regarding the horrific incident that happened to my family yesterday is both disrespectful and inaccurate,” Canyon’s sister, Madison, said. “The USDA intentionally refers to the brutal killing of our dog as a ‘take’ to render his death trivial and insignificant.”
According to Predator Defense, one of the organizations working to halt the use of the devices, two dogs were killed earlier this year near Casper, Wyoming, while on a family hiking trip.
(Photos: At top; Canyon Mansfield holds up Casey’s collar, by Jordon Beesley / State Journal; at center, the cyanide bomb that went off, provided by the Mansfield family; at bottom, Casey in a family photo)
Posted by John Woestendiek March 20th, 2017 under Muttsblog.
Tags: agriculture, animals, aphis, bannock county, Canyon Mansfield, coyotes, cyanide, cyanide bomb, cyanide trap, deputies, device, dog, dogs, face, fox, foxes, government, hazard, health, idaho, killed, kills, m-44, m-44s, pets, pocatello, predator control, predators, safety, sheriff, spray, warning, wildlife
For journalists, animal welfare activists and all Americans, accessing information that can help protect animals just got a lot harder.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday abruptly removed inspection reports and other information from its website that keeps tabs on the treatment of animals at research laboratories, zoos, dog breeding operations and other facilities.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said court rulings and privacy laws were responsible for the decision, though many suspect President Trump or members of his transition team are behind it.
APHIS said the removed documents, which included records of enforcement actions against violators of the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act, would now be accessible only through Freedom of Information Act requests.
Those can take up to a year or more to be approved.
The records that had been available were frequently used by animal welfare advocates to monitor government regulation of animal treatment at circuses, research laboratories, zoos and puppy mills.
“The USDA action cloaks even the worst puppy mills in secrecy and allows abusers of Tennessee walking horses, zoo animals and lab animals to hide even the worst track records in animal welfare,” said John Goodwin, senior director of the Humane Society’s Stop Puppy Mills Campaign.
“This move makes it IMPOSSIBLE to find out where animals are located, their treatment and any violations, essentially giving carte blanche to anyone to hide animal violations, and violate animal welfare laws, among other things,” the Beagle Freedom Project said in a statement on Facebook.
The lack of immediately accessible inspection reports is expected to cause problems in seven states that currently require pet stores to source puppies from breeders with clean USDA inspection reports. No longer will they have a quick way to check on that.
In a statement, Kathy Guillermo, the senior vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, called it “a shameful attempt to keep the public from knowing when and which laws and regulations have been violated. Many federally registered and licensed facilities have long histories of violations that have caused terrible suffering.”
Whether President Trump is directly responsible for the website purging isn’t clear, but one member of his USDA transition team, Brian Klippenstein, has a long history of fighting animal welfare organizations.
Klippenstein is executive director of Protect the Harvest, a group that, among other things, has opposed legislation to regulate puppy mills. The group was started by Forrest Lucas, an oil magnate, cattle rancher and arch nemesis of the Humane Society of the United States.
The change came two days after U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert, a California Republican, introduced a bill calling for more transparency and a reduction in testing on animals at government research labs.
The bill is backed by an advocacy group, the White Coat Waste Project, which has been using the USDA-APHIS database to gather much of its information on animal testing at hundreds of federal laboratories.
“There was already a troubling lack of transparency about what happens in government-funded labs,” said Justin Goodman, the group’s vice president for advocacy and policy. “This was a very important resource for us, and for every animal organization, in terms of tracking patterns of animal use and compliance, whether it’s in labs or other settings.”
The USDA web page where the information was located now brings up the announcement about its removal.
The Humane Society of the United States has threatened to sue the Agriculture Department if the decision to block Internet access to the database isn’t reversed.
“We intend to sue them unless they take remedial action here,” Humane Society President and CEO Wayne Pacelle told TIME. “The clock starts ticking immediately.”
Up until late last week, the site also allowed dog buyers to look up specific breeders by license number and see any possible violations under the breeder’s name before buying the animal.
“I’m very concerned that there will be no incentive for breeders or research labs or any of these facilities to comply because the public won’t know,” said Elizabeth Oreck, national manager of puppy mill initiatives for Best Friends Animal Society.
“It’s going to impact every species of animals,” she added. “There shouldn’t be any reason to hide inspection reports for a dog breeding facility or a research lab. There shouldn’t be any need to keep from the public how many animals you have [in] your facility or whether or not you’re complying with care standards. That alone is a big red flag for everybody.”
“The posting of these documents has been an invaluable tool in rooting out some of the worst abuses that are occurring,” HSUS CEO Pacelle said. “Essentially, this is now going to give a bit of a get-out-of-jail card to horse soring, puppy mills, delinquent roadside zoos and animals research labs that are flouting the law.”
The Humane Society says the Agriculture Department is required to make its inspection records at animal research facilities public under a court order.
HSUS sued the government in 2005 over public access to the reports and won a settlement in 2009 that directed the Agriculture Department to post certain data on its website related to research on animals. That information, the Humane Society said, was among the data that was just purged from government website.
The USDA did not comment on the Humane Society’s threat of legal action.
In a statement explaining the change late last week, APHIS cited a year-long “comprehensive review” of public information on its website.
“Based on our commitment to being transparent, remaining responsive to our stakeholders’ informational needs, and maintaining the privacy rights of individuals, APHIS is implementing actions to remove documents it posts on APHIS’ website involving the Horse Protection Act and the Animal Welfare Act that contain personal information,” the statement said.
“Going forward, APHIS will remove from its website inspection reports, regulatory correspondence, research facility annual reports, and enforcement records that have not received final adjudication,” the statement added.
“In 2016, well before the change of Administration, APHIS decided to make adjustments to the posting of regulatory records. In addition, APHIS is currently involved in litigation concerning, among other issues, information posted on the agency’s website. While the agency is vigorously defending against this litigation, in an abundance of caution, the agency is taking additional measures to protect individual privacy. These decisions are not final. Adjustments may be made regarding information appropriate for release and posting.”
Criticism of the change has not been limited to animal welfare activists.
Speaking of Research, an international organization that supports laboratory use of research animals, said in a blog post:
“When information is hidden … the public wonders what is being hidden and why, and researchers must devote even more resources to combating the public perception that they are not transparent.”
Posted by John Woestendiek February 8th, 2017 under Muttsblog.
Tags: access, administration, agriculture department, animal welfare, animals, aphis, best friends, blocked, breeders, circus, compliance, database, dogs, federal, government, hsus, humane society of the united states, information, investigations, laboratories, monitoring, peta, pets, privacy, protecting, protection, puppy mills, purged, removed, research, searchable, team, transition, transparency, Trump, usda, web page, website, zoos
The consumption of dog meat may be slowly going out of style in South Korea, but its neighbor to the north is encouraging it.
North Korea’s government since late June has been urging citizens to eat more dog meat, or as leader Kim Jong-un has labeled it, “superfood.”
Media outlets in the country have produced multiple stories this summer about the health benefits of dishes made with dog meat — some of which have even touted the culinary benefits of beating dogs to death before butchering them.
According to the Korea Times in South Korea, the broadcasts have touted dog meat as “stamina food” and “the finest medicine” — especially during the summer.
“There’s an old saying that even a slice of dangogi can be good medicine during the dog days,” reported the Tongil Voice, a North Korean radio broadcast. “Dangogi is the finest of all medicines, especially during the dog days when the weather is scorching.”
The Korean Central Broadcasting Station (KCBS), also a radio network, introduced culinary competitions in Pyongyang last month in which contestants made stew, broiled dishes and other recipes using dog meat.
DPRK Today, a propaganda outlet on YouTube, proclaimed in June that dog meat has more vitamins than chicken, pork, beef and duck and is also good for the intestines and stomach.
It also said a dog should be beaten to death before it is butchered for better taste.
Some observers believe Kim is preparing citizens for hard times ahead. On top of a heat wave that has forced the government to close some businesses, recent reductions in the state-controlled handouts have “severely threatened” much of the nation from getting enough to eat, according to an Amnesty International report.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 17th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, campaign, consumption, dog, dog meat, dogs, dprk, eating dog, encourages, government, health, heat, hunger, kim jong-un, leader, meat, north korea, nutrition, pets, propaganda, restaurants, soup, south korea, summer, urges
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.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 26th, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: agency, animal control, animal rights, animal welfare, animals, change, control, controlling, county, department, dog catcher, dog dragged, dog warden, dogs, duties, enforcement, government, hesperia, homeless, local, los angeles, mission, name, name change, office, pets, police, proposal, purpose, regulation, rescues, shelters, slapped, videos
(Warning: The videos accompanying this article are graphic and disturbing)
Street dogs in Thailand can end up in stew, served as jerky, and even worn as golf gloves (made from the skin of their testicles), but those behind Thailand’s brutal dog trade could be finding it harder to conduct their business.
Thailand’s military government, which seized power from an elected government in May, is considering a law that would ban the dog meat trade, and it has intensified enforcement of laws that ban slaughtering and transporting dogs without a license, the New York Times reported yesterday.
The change comes partly as a result of changing attitudes, partly at the encouragement of animal rights activists, partly from increased scrutiny from news media inside and outside the country, and partly, the Times suggests, for political reasons.
The newly installed military government may see cracking down on the dog trade as a way to enhance its image internationally.
National police have intensified a crackdown begun two years ago on the dog trade, setting up sting operations in the forests where dogs are slaughtered and shipped, often to Vietnam and China, where dog eating is more prevalent.
While most of the dogs are strays, family pets often end up among the mix.
Police have stopped trucks carrying as many as 1,000 dogs bound for Laos, Vietnam and China, where, in addition to selling the meat, dog traders sell dog skin, which is used to make drum skins and gloves.
Inside the country, members of Watchdog Thailand recently met with senior military officers in the junta and urged them to pass an animal rights law that would outlaw killing dogs for meat.
Foreigners are playing an important role in trying to eradicate the dog meat trade, the Times article notes.
British celebrities like Ricky Gervais and Judi Dench were featured in a video posted on the Internet last month condemning it. And the animal welfare group Soi Dog receives much of its funding from the United States and Europe.
“It’s not about cultural difference or anything else,” said John Dalley, a co-founder of Soi Dog. “It’s a horrendously cruel business from start to finish. The dogs are crammed into cages, and it’s not unusual that live dogs are thrown into pots of boiling water.”
Posted by John Woestendiek November 3rd, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, crackdown, dogs, golf gloves, government, jerky, junta, laws, meat, military government, pets, skin, soi dog, sold, street dogs, thai, thailand, traders, transporting
You’d think in a world preparing for Ebola — especially in a country as sophisticated, dog-crazy and health-oriented as ours — someone would have given it at least a moment’s thought.
You’d think — between all the agencies and organizations, protocols and precautions; between the National Institutes for Health, the Centers for Disease Control and the American Veterinary Medical Association — someone somewhere would have stood up and said, hey, what about our dogs?
Instead, with Ebola’s spread to countries outside Africa, public health officials find themselves scratching their heads and — even though there’s no proof yet that dogs can transmit the disease — considering options as drastic as incarceration and extermination for the pets of humans diagnosed with Ebola.
Caution, of course, is good, but planning would have been better.
Excalibur was the first one to come to light. The large mixed-breed dog belonged to a nurse in Madrid who contracted the disease from Spain’s first Ebola patient. Her dog, over the family’s objections, was killed and incinerated nearly immediately upon the order of government officials.
America, or at least Dallas, took a more compassionate approach when a local nurse was determined to have contracted Ebola from a patient being treated in a hospital there. Bentley, her Cavalier King Charles spaniel, was moved into a quarantined area at a decommissioned Naval base, where he’s being tended to by hazardous material crews in full protective garb.
The question arises, and should have arisen long ago: What are we going to do with the pets of Ebola victims?
Will we turn to extermination, as the number of cases, and our fears, increase?
Will we keep them isolated in crates, bubbles or decommissioned military bases?
For how long? At what costs? Under whose supervision? And is it even necessary?
No one knows the answers to any of those questions, and the fear and uncertainty that ignorance leads to is bound to take us to some bad places, if it hasn’t already.
In an ideal world, we’d have studies to turn to — proving, one way or the other, whether dogs can contract and transmit the virus. We’d be testing them, as we do humans, before quarantining them, or at least before releasing them from that quarantine. We’d know how long, if at all, they need to be sequestered and monitored.
Instead, we’re playing a messy game of catch-up, and the argument can be made that it’s because we were wearing blinders.
Even in this supposed era of increased awareness about the health issues that cross species lines, our planet seems to once again have gotten caught up in the view that only humans matter.
Perhaps too it could be argued that, among many in America, some strange disease in Africa didn’t strike us as a big concern, or as an opportunity to learn and prepare for what might be coming. (Maybe we humans don’t like to look at the big picture when the big picture is too big, and too scary.)
What is abundantly clear is that no one, up until now, gave much thought to how Ebola might affect our dogs — if not the disease itself, at least the fear of it.
No one knows whether dogs can get the full-fledged virus. One study during the 2001-02 Ebola outbreak in Gabon showed some exposed dogs carried signs of infection, and had an immune response — but that’s not the same as getting the disease.
“Studies have shown that dogs can have an immune response to Ebola, but there have been no reports of pet dogs or cats becoming sick with Ebola or of passing the disease to other animals or people,” said Kristen Nordlund, a CDC health-communications specialist.
“In a situation where there is a dog or cat in the home of an Ebola patient, CDC recommends public-health officials evaluate the animal’s risk of exposure,” she added.
Given dogs are present in nearly half of American homes, given many of them share our beds and lick our faces, we’d like to see the CDC recommending something more than “risk evaluation.”
Between the lack of knowledge, and the lack of a clear-cut recommended response when it comes to the pets of Ebola victims, public fears will only snowball as questions go unanswered.
Why, given all our physiological similarities, can’t the dogs of Ebola patients be tested like humans are to confirm if they’ve been exposed? And if, as limited study suggests, dogs can have the virus without getting sick and dying, might there be something worth further studying in that?
“We know that you and your clients are looking for answers, and we’re working to get information for you,” the American Veterinary Medical Association says on its website.
“The AVMA is collaborating with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and USDA along with other agencies and experts and is tapping into the broad expertise of our member veterinarians to develop information for our members and the public. We will strive to ensure that veterinarians have a prominent voice as these issues are discussed and decided in the U.S.”
Up until now, the CDC has taken the line that the risk of Ebola to pets is low. Its website also says there is little risk of an Ebola outbreak in the U.S.
“The risk of an Ebola outbreak affecting multiple people in the United States is very low,” says a question and answer fact sheet on the CDC website.. “Therefore, the risk to pets is also very low, as they would have to come into contact with blood and body fluids of a person with Ebola. Even in areas in Africa where Ebola is present, there have been no reports of dogs and cats becoming sick with Ebola.”
And yet Excalibur is dead and Bentley is being treated as hazardous material, and with each new case there will be new fears and ripples.
In Madrid, a dog that often played with Excalibur was surrendered to a shelter by his owners because of fears he might have contracted the disease.
Tronco was dropped off by his owners at the Spanish animal charity Escuela Canina Esga in Madrid, according to the New York Post.
“They were parents with young children and they just were not prepared to take the risk and so [they] handed him over to us,” said manager Esga Juan Esteban. “We did everything we could to reassure them that it was probably OK, but of course we couldn’t guarantee that the animal didn’t have Ebola, and so they were adamant that they didn’t want him any longer.”
The shelter, in its effort (successful) to find Tronco a new home, used only photos of him as a pup — so that, once he was adopted, he wouldn’t be recognized in public as a dog who once played with a dog whose owner has Ebola.
(Top photo: The image of Soviet Space dog Belka is from the distant past, but might we see something like it in the near future?)
Posted by John Woestendiek October 20th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, answers, bentley, cross species, dallas, dallas animal services, disease, dogs, dogs and ebola, ebola, ebola dogs, euthanasia, exalibur, extermination, government, health, madrid, nina pham, officials, options, pets, planning, protocol, public health, quarantine, questions, spain, species, texas, transmit, tronco, virus, zoobiquity