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Tag: law

Kansas law student seeks justice for dogs

In a typical animal cruelty case — on those rare occasions they do get to court — you’ll see an attorney representing the people, and another representing a defendant.

But you don’t see one representing the dog.

Katie Barnett, for one, doesn’t think that’s right.

A third-year law student at Kansas University, she’s establishing an animal cruelty prosecution clinic at the school — one she says is the first of its kind.

Barnett, 30, will work with animal control, animal cruelty investigators at the Humane Society, police and prosecutors to ensure that justice is served in cases of animal abuse.

“This is the chance for me to give the animals a voice and a place in the justice system,” Barnett told the Lawrence Journal-World.

Barnett started researching how to put together the clinic two years ago, after some high-profile animal cruelty cases in Lawrence. She did ride-alongs with the police and animal cruelty investigators and followed cases through the court system.

This spring, Barnett will develop a protocol for how future students can assist in the prosecution of such cases.

“I’m doing a trial run to see how everything works,” she said. “I’m getting out all the kinks and really tailoring the position so everyone knows what to do. There’s never been a person to collect everything.”

The program will begin taking in students in the fall 2011.

Barnett was one of three law students awarded The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s (ALDF) Advancement of Animal Law Scholarships last year for their outstanding work in the growing field of animal law.

A graduate of Missouri State University, she has two pit bull mix dogs, including a three-legged rescue named Leonidas. Both are both Delta Society therapy dogs who visit schools, hospitals, and participate in community outreach programs.

Barnett and her husband, Anthony, also run Game Dog Guardian, a local organization that rehabilitates pit bulls and helps find them adoptive homes.

Another picture you don’t want to see

All the wonderful things dogs do for humans is one recurring theme of this website.

All the terrible things humans do to dogs is another.

ohmidog! – as regular readers know — is not all fluffy, feel-good dog news all the time. We think it’s important not to turn a blind eye to animal abuse, in any of its forms, because only when the public fully knows what is going on can steps be taken to do something about it.

A case in point: Patrick, the starving New Jersey pit bull tossed down a trash chute at a high-rise apartment in Newark.

His reprehensible treatment, and subsequent resiliency, is not just tugging at the heartstrings of dog lovers everywhere, it’s uniting them to demand that those who abuse dogs be subject to punishments more in line with the ones received for violent crimes against humans.

If no one had seen those disturbing pictures of what Patrick looked like when he was taken in by Associated Humane Societies, there probably wouldn’t have been the outcry that has ensued. Publicity about his case has led not just to donations for his care, and that of dogs similarly abused, but to the sprouting of grassroots movements aimed at strenghtening animal abuse laws.

Patrick’s story, amid signs he’s continuing to recover, appears headed for a happy ending.

There was one in North Carolina this week that didn’t:

A female retriever mix, believed to be about 4 years old, was found wandering in the 6500 block of Lake Brandt Road in Greensboro on Tuesday after apparently being scalded with boiling water.

She was wearing a collar and a rabies tag, but the numbers could not be read, according to Marsha Williams, the animal shelter’s director. The nameless dog was responsive when she arrived at the animal shelter, but she was emaciated and suffering third-degree burns on her face, ears and legs. She died 30 minutes later.

The Greensboro-Guilford County Crime Stoppers is offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest or indictment of those responsible. The Crime Stoppers number is 336-373-1000.

Very little is known about the dog, or what happened to her — and given as she has no known name, given that she didn’t survive — she’s not likely to emerge as a poster child or Internet sensation.

We share her story — or at least the sparse details known – for the same reason we passed along Patrick’s story; and that of Phoenix, a pit bull burned in Baltimore; and Susie, a puppy tortured in Greensboro;  and Louis Vuitton, burned and beaten in Alabama; and Buddy, dragged to death behind a truck in Colorado.

And that’s because the public needs to know — the non-sugar-coated truth, unfathomable as it is, painful as it may be to see and hear.

That’s the only way change happens. Our hope would be that change would involve more than just harsher sentences for animal abuse. More severe sentences will send a message, serve as a deterrent and satisfy our need for vengeance, but they don’t address the underlying causes that, without making compassion for animals part of every school’s curriculum, ensure such incidents will continue.

ohmidog! tries not to be one of those websites that shoves animal abuse down your throat daily (sometimes the days just don’t cooperate, though). Similarly, it tries not be one of those blissfully ignorant websites that look only at the happy dog news, pawsing only for bad puns.

If you want to be totally shielded from the sad and gory, the depraved and the troubling, don’t come here.

Because when humans sink this low, whether they be punks in an alley, breeders at a puppy mill, or scientists in a laboratory, we will make note of it and, if we can, more than likely include a photo, too — not for the purpose of sensationalizing, but to inform and spark action.

That said, to see the photo, continue. To avoid it, don’t click, don’t scroll, just go back to our main page.

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Whose poop is it, anyway?

When are you responsible for picking up the poop of someone else’s dog?

Apparently, in San Francisco, when it ends up on your roof.

When a building manager complained to the city’s health department that dog feces was piling up on top of the pet-free residential building — and that she suspected it was being left there by a dog from an adjoining pet-friendly building – an inspector came to investigate.

A week later, a “Notice of Violation” letter arrived in the mail — not to the offending dog’s owner, or even to the adjacent bulding, but to the manager who had complained. The notice declared her rooftop a public nuisance and threatened a $163 fine if the waste was not immediately removed.

The tale was told in the Bay Citizen, and reprinted yesterday in The New York Times, by columnist Scott James, who knows the manager, a fellow writer named Diane Archer who also lives in the building.

Before contacting the city, Archer — based on another resident having witnessed a dog crossing over from the roof next door — complained to the neighboring building’s owner. When it continued to be an issue, she went to the police, who sent her to the Department of Public Health.

On Jan. 13, Irene Sanchez, a health department investigator, toured the roof, took notes, and promised action — and, to Archer’s surprise, that action was against her, or at least her pet-free building.

Sanchez, noting she never saw the dog in question, said she had no choice. Even though Archer’s building had been victimized, it was responsible for cleaning up the mess. A health department spokeswoman, said that, unfair as it may seem, “someone has to clean it up” — and whether it’s poop or graffiti, the building owner bears that responsibility in San Francisco.

Scott James, the columnist, said he had no trouble finding the suspect –  Jane, a 50-pound, shepherd mix who appaprently was sneaking up to the roof. Jane belongs to the girlfriend of a resident of the adjoining building.

The job of cleaning up after Jane fell to Archer, the original complainant, who scooped each pile up with a plastic sack and disposed of it.

The wheels of justice: Chamberlin’s Law

A state senator in North Carolina has introduced legislation that would makes recklessly neglecting a pet a crime.

Sen. Don Vaughan, a Greensboro Democrat, filed what he dubbed “Chamberlin’s Law” on the opening day of the General Assembly session, according to the Greensboro News-Record.

The bill would allow criminal charges to be brought against pet owners who “recklessly” neglect their pets, as opposed to the current law, which allows just those accused of doing so “maliciously” or “intentionally” to be prosecuted.

“They’re living things,” Vaughan said of dogs. “And they’re different from having a desk or a chair. They’re actually living beings in God’s world, and we ought to take care of them at least to a minimum standard.”

The bill has been named after Chamberlin, a black and white pit bull mix who was severely neglected — left in a backyard in High Point among tall weeds along with another dog. The other dog, who had been tethered, became so sick it had to be euthanized. Chamberlin was in bad shape, as well.

“His front legs had fused together,” said Marsha Williams, executive director of the Guilford County Animal Shelter. He was unable to walk when he arrived at the shelter in December, but was still wagging his tail, she said.

Since then he has put on weight and in coming weeks he will be fitted with a wheelchair to support the weight of his front legs, which no longer function.

The dog’s care was paid for with donations, some of which came from a fund established in the name of Susie — a dog that was beaten and lit on fire. The judge refused to sentence the perpetrator in that case to jail time because it was his first offense. The public outcry that followed led to ”Susie’s Law,” which increased the penalties for animal cruelty and gave judges discretion to sentence even first-time offenders to active jail time in certain cases.

The owner of Chamberlin is facing charges in Guilford County court, but under current laws, prosecutors will have to prove the dog’s owners intentionally or maliciously let him waste away.

Chamberlin’s law would switch that standard to “recklessly,” which is easier to prove.

In addition to making cruelty cases easier to prosecute, the bill also would set minimum standards for the shelter that dogs must have if they are kept outside and give judges the power to seize animals and order psychiatric evaluations in animal neglect and cruelty cases.

Sen. Austin Allran, a Hickory Republican who chairs the Judiciary Committee to which the measure has been assigned, said the bill could face an uphill battle. In the past, hunting and dog breeding groups have fought similar measures.

(Photo: Nelson Kepley / Greensboro News-Record)

New York City Council bans tethering

The New York City Council yesterday voted to make tethering a dog or other animal for more than three hours a crime, punishable by fines and, for repeat offenders, a possible jail sentence.

First-time violators would receive a written warning or a fine of up to $250, if the animal is injured. A repeat offender could face a $500 fine and up to three months in prison, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“Tethering an animal for an extended period of time is cruel and unusual,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn said. “This bill will not only prevent this type of unnecessary cruelty, but also increase public safety for pedestrians throughout the City.”

The council voted 47-1 in favor of the bill, which prohibits leaving an animal tied up for more than three consecutive hours in any continuous 12-hour period.

The council also approved an increase in the cost of  annual license for dogs that aren’t spayed or neutered, raising the fee to $34 from $11.50.

Revenue generated from the incnrease will be used to subsidize animal population control programs.

Popping in on some Amish pups

I was on my way to see an Amish man about a dog.

Not because I want another dog — Ace is more than enough, especially during our current nomadic phase — but because I wanted a first-hand glimpse of what an Amish-run breeding operation is like.

I’ve always been puzzled by the disparity — that a seemingly peaceful and simple people could be breeding and raising dogs under conditions as horrendous as those that have been described in recent years.  The most recent horror came out of an Amish puppy farm in New York, where a breeder, rather than have his dogs treated for possible brucellosis, killed them all using a hose-and-tailpipe home-made gas chamber.

In Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio, for more than a decade, reports have surfaced of despicable conditions at Amish puppy mills, and while Pennsylvania has begun to crack down on the larger scale operations, plenty of smaller ones remain.

Passing through Pennsylvania Dutch Country, I placed a phone call to Pine Tree Kennels, which I knew to be an Amish owned kennel and which was advertising “American Bulldogs” on the internet. I left a message that I was in the area and would like to see his pups.

Minutes later, my call was returned by kennel owner David Fisher and, even though he wasn’t home, arrangements were made for me to drop by his farm, where his children would show me the pups.

He said that if I saw one I liked, I could pay and take the pup with me, and he’d send me the paperwork later. “Do you have the money now?” he asked. The bulldogs pups were listed at $875, though there were two runts he was willing to let go for $650. “I don’t think that they are sick, it’s just that sometimes you get runts.”

Asked what the paperwork consisted of, he said it was the pups’ registration with the National Kennel Club — an outfit some critics describe as a paper mill for puppy mill dogs. Breeders not willing to abide by the more stringent rules and guidelines of the American Kennel Club, often register their dogs with the NKC instead.

A honking horn brought Fishers children out of their farmhouse — or at least half of the nine he has, and they showed me both the bulldogs and another litter of blue heeler-border collie mixes that they retrieved from a building obscured behind trees and bushes.

They seemed happy to show off the dogs (and to have their own pictures taken well), lifting the pups up two at a time and carrying them from their enclosures. Both pups and kids were adorable — and Fisher’s operation, at least that part of it that’s visible from the road, didn’t seem too horrendous at all.

Then again, it’s not, from all appearances, what it used to be.

Fisher’s operation outside of Lykens, in Dauphin County, was once larger scale, and state inspections reports reveal repeated violations — things like feces not cleaned up, rough and sharp edges and, perhaps most disturbing, worming syringes being used as chew toys. 

n 2009 Fisher pleaded guilty to 14 counts of dog law violations in 2009 (three of which were later withdrawn), including failure to keep kennel in a “sanitary and humane” condition, refusal of entry and selling underage puppies. In Feb. 2010 he was sentenced to six months probation for refusal entry to an inspector, selling underage puppies and failure to mantain a sanitary kennel.

On my weekend visit, Fisher’s scaled down operation seemed cleaner and more organized than the inspection reports of recent years portrayed it.

I checked out the bulldogs as their mama paced back and forth inside an enclosure — and I did like the solid white runt the best. When I asked Fisher’s young son which dog was the best he picked up the white puppy. ”You mean the nicest? This one.”

In an adjoining pen a blue heeler — who the children said lost one her legs in a mowing accident — barked, while another one, the mother of the hybrid pups, sat stationed atop a dog house.

Her puppies were kept in a shack all but hidden from view, and when I asked to see them, all the children ran back there, each returning with one or two in the crooks of their arms.

It was a bucolic scene, with beautiful kids and beautiful pups — and one that belied the increasing mound of evidence shedding a bad light on Amish breeders.

I got a chance during my visit to talk to Amy Worden, who writes the “Philly Dawg” blog for the Philadelphia Inquirer, which is probably the best place to keep up with the latest news and developments pertaining to puppy mills in Pennsylvania.

As she explained it, the state is introducing the law in stages, and granting waivers that allow some larger scale operations to keep running. Overall though, in the past few years, the number of puppy mills has dropped from 300 to around 100.

Worden thinks that, in addition to those who have gotten out of the business or moved, other Amish breeders have scaled down to avoid the regulations. The new law has its gray areas, she said, but it goes along way to ensure that huge puppy mills will become history in Pennsylvania. “Clearly, nobody’s going to have 800 dogs or more, as was case in the past.”

Worden said the Amish were persuaded to start breeding dogs by outsiders, who pushed the concept as a way the farming families could make some supplemental income — important when one has a family as large as Fisher’s.

Critics say — and it’s probably a generalization — that the Amish view dogs as livestock, but watching Fisher’s children with the dogs, though they did sling them around pretty casually, there seemed to be genuine affection.

With fewer than 25 dogs on hand, Fisher is not subject to the regulations contained in Pennyslvania’s new dog law, which was passed in 2008, though many of its provisions have yet to kick in.

Other than that, the only solid conclusion I reached is that the Amish can be pretty persistent salesmen — at least Fisher is.

He called me before we had gotten a mile away from his farm, and has called me 15 times since.

Man wants new name: Boomer the Dog

A judge in Pennsylvania has rejected a Pittsburgh-area man’s petition to change his name from Gary Guy Mathews to “Boomer the Dog.”

Mathews, 44, is an unemployed computer technician and a follower of the ”furry” lifestyle, which celebrates giving human characteristics to animals. He sought the name change because he’s a big fan of the short-lived 1980s NBC show “Here’s Boomer.”

His obsession with the Boomer character led him to create a giant dog costume made from shredded newspaper, which he now wears at home and to conventions.

Common Pleas Court Judge Ronald W. Folino, after hearing Mathews request Tuesday, denied it on Wednesday on the grounds it could cause confusion and possibly put “the public welfare at risk,” according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The denial, which came in a page and a half-ruling, sounded almost as convoluted as the request:

What if, the judge wrote, Boomer the Dog witnessed a serious auto accident and telephoned police? “The dispatcher on the phone queries as to the caller’s identity, and the caller responds, ‘This is Boomer the Dog.’ It is not a stretch to imagine the telephone dispatcher concluding that the call is a prank and refusing to send an emergency medical response.”

“Right now I’m not sure what I’m going to do next, I’ll just have to look into it,” Mathews said after the decision. “All I know is that I’ve been trying to realize my identity for a long time, like many people have I guess.”

Furries, the Post-Gazette reports, have become fairly common around Pittsburgh, which for five years has hosted the movement’s largest annual convention.

Dogs banned from Concord cemeteries

The city council in Concord, New Hampshire, has voted to ban dogs — we’re talking live ones — from cemeteries.

Dogs are no longer permitted in the 13 cemeteries in Concord as a result of the vote, and those caught disturbing the deceased will face fines between $50 and $1,000, according to the Concord Monitor.

Councilor Steve Shurtleff proposed the measure, saying using cemeteries as dog parks is disrespectful — though it’s not clear whether anyone was actually doing that to any large extent.

What the councilors were aiming at, most agree, was preventing dogs from urinating or defecating in cemeteries.

What they passed was a blanket ban that fails to take into consideration that some families might want to bring their dog to visit a deceased family member — or bring a deceased family member’s dog to visit their master’s grave.

The council — apparently obsessed with dog waste, and apparently pandering to the uptight members of their constituency — neglected to factor in the comfort dogs can provide when families are coping with the death of a loved one.

So while we admire their effort to keep dead people covered with dirt — and the rocks set atop dead people covered with dirt — pristine, we’ll have to add this to our list of dumb dog laws.

Trial opens in Miami police dog’s death

The trial began yesterday for a former Miami-Dade police officer charged with killing a K-9 with a series of kicks.

Duke, a Belgian Malinois, died in 2006 after collapsing during a training exercise with handler Sgt. Allen Cockfield, according to the Miami Herald.

Cockfield is charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty and a felony count of killing a police dog. If convicted, he faces possible prison time and the loss of his state police certification. Cockfield contends any blows he might have administered were in self defense.

“He was simply trying to save himself,” defense attorney Douglas Hartman said.

Authorities arrested Cockfield, 55, in 2007 after a one-year investigation by Miami-Dades Police Department’s internal affairs unit. Cockfield spent more than two decades as a canine handler with the department, which has since fired him.

Miami-Dade prosecutor Isis Perez told jurors yesterday that Duke was not obeying commands during a training exercise, prompting Cockfield to lift the dog up by its leash and kick it three to five times.

“He stiffened his hind legs, shaking as he was going into some sort of seizure, and a few seconds later he became numb, and that was it,” a fellow police officer who witnessed the incident testified.

Cockfield’s attorney disputed that account, saying the dog was behaving aggressively and his client was trying to protect himself.

Md. couple will share custody of Lucky

Maryland law — apparently one written back in medieval times — requires that a divorcing couple that can’t agree on who should get custody of the family dog sell the dog like any other disputed marital property, and then split the proceeds.

Fortunately, that resolution didn’t seem right to a judge in Calvert County, Maryland, who instead ordered a divorcing couple to split the custody of their dog, Lucky.

Retired Prince George’s County Circuit Judge Graydon S. McKee III made the decision last month in the case of Gayle and Craig Myers, the Associated Press reported.

The judge, presiding over the limited-divorce proceeding by special assignment, decided last month that the childless couple should split custody of Lucky, meaning every six months the dog will back and forth.

“It was very clear that both of them love this dog equally,” McKee said. “The only fair thing to do was to give each one an equal chance to share in the love of the dog.”

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