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Tag: laws

NY council member calls for Wag probe


Wag, an Uber-like app that pairs dogs with walkers, is getting more heat in New York, with city council members calling for an investigation into its dismal safety record.

Lawmakers and animal-rights advocates say Wag walkers have lost as least seven New York dogs since 2015 — four in the last two months.

“I have reached out to the Department of Consumer Affairs to investigate Wag immediately,” Councilman Justin Brannan (D-Brooklyn), a former animal-welfare advocate. “I feel absolutely terrible for these animal lovers and what they’ve been through. Clearly, Wag’s vetting process is a joke. Maybe this kind of thing flies in West Hollywood but it doesn’t fly here in New York City.”

According to the New York Post, dogs who escaped from Wag walkers in February included an Upper East Side Chihuahua named Norman, who slipped out of his harness and is still missing, and a goldendoodle named Simba who darted from his walker and was hit by a car.

New York City requires dogsitters to be licensed, but there are no rules governing walkers.

“There aren’t any regulations and there should be,” said Manhattan animal-rights lawyer Susan Chana Lask. “You can’t be the ‘Uber for Dogs’ without some kind of licensing — we already know what happened with Uber.”

Wag says its walkers must pass a background check, complete a rigorous online dog-safety and dog-knowledge test and attend an in-person orientation.

The Post reported that their are rumblings among state lawmakers as well that Wag might be worthy of some scrutiny.

“There’s a good possibility we may need some extra regulations and guidelines,” said state Sen. James Tedisco, who represents Schenectady.

(Photo: Teddy, a dog that went temporarily missing while under the care of Wag in December 2017; Facebook)

Bring in the comfort dogs — again


Jacob is a golden retriever who gets to go on lots of trips.

In 2016, he got to go to Orlando.

In 2017, he got to go to Las Vegas.

This year’s excursion was back to Florida, to a town called Parkland.

Jacob, you’d think, should be one happy dog, getting to go on all those trips, and getting lots of attention each time.

jacobBut Jacob, a four-year-old dog who lives in Illinois, is a comfort dog, specially trained to help survivors of tragedies.

He was present in the aftermath of the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas (58 left dead), and at the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre (49 left dead).

This week he’s helping the students, teachers and parents dealing with the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left at least 17 people, mostly children, dead.

You’d think, by now, comfort dogs such as he would be wondering about a species that harms its own members with such devastating regularity — and does such woefully little about it.

Likely not. Perhaps dogs don’t wonder about things like that.

Clearly, we humans don’t either — at least not enough to bring about real change.

Instead, we vent. We ache. Then we return to our own comfortable lives — lives not quite as plush and secure and NRA-supported as those politicians lead.

jacob3We are happy to see the comfort dogs arrive at the scene, happy to see people getting helped. The images serve as salve to our wounds — but they are wounds that should stay open, stay oozing and never stop throbbing until we get those politicians to act.

Dogs can lick our wounds. Humans can actually take steps to prevent them in the first place. But they don’t. Why? Because Bubba likes to hunt, and it’s his constitutional right, and if, every year or so, some deranged human decides gunning down fleeing people might be more fun, that’s the price we pay.

The rest of us, and dogs like Jacob, are left to mop up.

Jacob has been working since he was 16 months old. He’s had a lot of on-the-job experience — too much, says Tim Hetzner, president and CEO of Lutheran Church Charities, which runs the K-9 Comfort Dogs Ministry.

“I’d prefer they’d never have to be deployed for these type of situations,” Hetzner said.

Jacob is one of 130 dogs in 23 states who have been trained by LCC to be comfort dogs. They arrive in the aftermath of tragedies to soothe those coping with the trauma or mourning loved ones they lost.


They are, basically, grief sponges, absorbing the gut-wrenching misery of victims and survivors.

“They don’t bark, bite, jump up,” Hetzner told Yahoo News. “They’re trained to either sit or to lie down on the ground — it depends on the situation. A lot of times with students that are on the ground, the dog lies down on the ground, and they lie on top of the dog. They’re kind of comfort rugs with a heartbeat sometimes.”

Jacob is expected to be in Parkland until the middle of the week before returning home and awaiting the next call to duty.

Unfortunately — as politicians twiddle their thumbs and debate actually doing something, as the gun lobby digs in to ensure they won’t — there will be a next one.

And we’ll bring out the comfort dogs again.

(Top photo, Associated Press; other photos courtesy of Comfort Dogs Ministry)

More mistreated greyhounds — in Spain

America isn’t the only country where greyhounds are exploited and mistreated.

We may have our racing tracks, and those blood farms, but there is some even more horrendous treatment of greyhounds going on in Spain, where more than 50,000 galgos, or Spanish greyhounds, are destroyed each year — most often in cruel fashion.

Spanish greyhouds come from different lineage than American greyhounds, but they are very similar and have the same shy, sweet and gentle dispositions.

In parts of Spain, they are used for hunting, but when they start to slow down, they are cruelly disposed of by some Spanish hunters, or “galgueros” — at a rate of about 50,000 per year.

Most of the dogs, called “galgos,” are used for one or two years and then discarded, and those who perform poorly are often tortured to death

The Spanish government has mostly ignored the issue, but perhaps an upcoming documentary, now in editing, will cause enough of a stir to lead it to take some action.

“YO GALGO is a feature film about life and traditions in the villages, about an invisible genocide taking place while the authorities look the other way,” the maker of the movie says on its website. “It’s about the tireless people working to rescue these dogs, and about the new and modern Spain versus the conservative and traditional one.”

Yeray Lopez Portillo describes the documentary as “an investigative feature film that paints a picture of the consequences of these hobbies for hundreds of thousands of galgos. It shows us a glimpse into human nature through the use of these dogs; the abuse, the tradition and the silence kept by people and institutions about it. A clash between the modern and old Spain.”

His kickstarter campaign explains:

“Every year healthy galgos are killed, beaten to death, drowned or abandoned when they no longer live up to their owners’ expectations. The breeders, the so called galgueros, breed hoping to end up with the fastest dog to compete and hunt the hare, but overbreeding leads to the ‘throwing out’ of thousands and thousands of galgos every year.”

Those who have proved to be good hunters are taken to shelters to be euthanized when they’ve lost their edge. Those who have not face being burned with acid, dragged behind cars, sacrificed to fighting dogs, skinned alive and buried alive.

The most famous torture is called the “piano dance,” which involves hanging the dog by the neck with the feet just touching the ground as it struggles to breathe until it is strangled to death by its own movements.

As explained in an article in The Dodo, the breeders and hunters maintain the torturing “washes away the dishonor” of having a dog with poor hunting skills.

Because the galgos are regarded under Spanish law as working dogs, they are excluded from the laws relating to pets.

The Spanish government did pass laws in 2004 concerning abuses and neglect, but they have not been used to prosecute anyone.

Hunting with greyhounds also takes place in Portugal, Northern Ireland and in the United Kingdom, but the cruelest abuses are in Spain.

For more information, visit galgorescue.org or the Yo Galgo Facebook page.

City of Eugene ends downtown dog ban


City councilors in Eugene have opted to let lapse a ban on dogs in part of downtown — but at the same time many of them are saying the ban “worked,” that it was never intended to be permanent, and that it may be back someday.

Yes, they are all over the place, those councilors. But as of Nov. 1 dogs can return to the center city area bounded by Lincoln Street to the west, Eighth Avenue to the north, Pearl Street to the east and 10th/11th Avenue to the south.

The ban did not apply to owning a dog within the boundaries, just to those visitors who brought their dogs along to walk the streets or dine in restaurants.

Critics maintained the ban, approved by the city council in April, was actually aimed at homeless people and their dogs and encourage them to — if they wanted to keep their dogs — relocate elsewhere.

The ban was one of several initiatives the city launched over the summer to try to make the area safer and more welcoming, such as an increased police presence downtown, more programs and events in public spaces within the area and “expanded outreach” to chronic offenders on the streets.

Some councilors, and the organization that pushed for the dog ban to be enacted — The Downtown Stakeholders Group, made up of downtown business and property owners — say they could still seek to get it reinstated.

The ban was passed with the understanding that it would expire in six months if the council didn’t vote to extend it.

eugeneweeklyNow, the council has opted, after the ban met with much protest, to let it expire.

After it does, on Nov. 1, reinstating would require the council to hold a public hearing and two public votes.

Councilors say that, taken together, the initiatives improved the atmosphere downtown and attracted more people to public spaces. But they say measuring which particular initiatives were most responsible for that is difficult.

The city has yet to compile information on how many citations were issued for dog ban violations, or whether they were more often issued to the homeless, the Eugene Register-Guard reported.

During a council meeting last Monday, three people encouraged councilors to let the ban lapse, and one compared it to racism.

Eugene resident Mel Hite accused police officers of stopping and ticketing dogs controlled by the homeless and ignoring dogs controlled by “housed owners … It appears this is doggy racism based on the class of the person holding the leash,” she said.

(Photos of Eugene protests, from KEZI (top) and Eugene Weekly)

A swift victory for bar dogs in DC


They say nothing gets done quickly in Washington, and at the federal level, “they” are generally right.

Look at the history of health care legislation, or that of immigration reform, or virtually any other issue.

So it’s refreshing to learn that when the DC Health Department decided to wage war on dogs in bars, the DC Council brought an end to it — and in a matter of weeks.

The council unanimously passed emergency legislation allowing businesses to choose whether they want to have pet-friendly patios — and in doing so sent a message to the health department that there are better things it could be doing with its time.

In mid-September, health inspectors, acting on complaints from uptight citizens, told owners of three dog-friendly bars — Midlands in Park View, Wonderland Ballroom in Columbia Heights, and Bardo Brewing — that they couldn’t permit dogs on their premises.

The laws have been around a while, but they are little known and seldom exercised.

Dog owners were quick to react to the crackdown.

Midlands owner Peyton Sherwood, whose bar dog AndyPants has a dog house at the beer garden, called on pet owners to contact their council members. He also hosted a “doggy sit-in and petition signing” to change the law.

A Twitter account, @PupsOnPatios, was created to advocate on behalf of the banished canines.

Other bars joined in the fight and their customers and dog owners inundated D.C. Council members with complaints, leading to emergency legislation to repeal the ban that was introduced and approved Tuesday.

The resolution, led by council members Brianne Nadeau and Vincent Gray, pointed out that the health department should be worrying about more important things, such as opioid abuse, mental health services and health care disparities, according to Washingtonian.com.

“The Department of Health’s limited time and resources are being marshaled to suddenly enforce an unknown and previously unenforced regulation about dogs being allowed in outdoor patio dining areas,” the resolution noted.

The legislation, which still needs the mayor’s approval, returns the decision on whether dogs should be permitted on bar and restaurant patios where it belongs — to bar and restaurant owners.

Under the resolution, businesses can choose whether to allow dogs, and can restrict types of dog based on breed, size, or temperament.

Establishments permitting dogs will be required to have signs clearly stating that dogs are permitted and provide a separate entrance to outdoor areas that do not open into indoor seating areas. Patrons will be required to keep their dogs on leashes.

(Photo: AndyPants, resident dog at Midlands Beer Garden, courtesy of Midlands)

NC dog rescue group fighting to stay open


Zoning laws often lack logic, but this one, in Davidson County, N.C., seems especially bone-headed.

A rescue organization in Thomasville that shelters dogs while trying to find them homes has been told that county ordinances allow kennels to have no more than 10 animals per five acres.

Exceptions to the rule are made for those who keep show dogs, those who keep hunting dogs, and those who keep or train guard dogs.

But for an organization like Ruff Love Rescue that saves dog’s lives and tries to find them adoptive homes? Sorry. Up to now, no exceptions have been made, and the county has threatened to shut them down.

ruffloveThe Winston-Salem Journal reported yesterday on the rescue, the problems it is facing, and how it is attempting to surmount them.

While the nonprofit rescue has been operating for nearly 20 years, the county issued it a zoning violation in 2015, saying, as a kennel, it is subject to rules limiting the number of animals to 10 for every five acres.

The notice followed an investigation that was prompted by a neighbor’s complaint.

The rescue’s owner, Sue Rogers, appeared before the county’s planning and zoning committee last week to again seek an exception. The committee voted in favor of allowing the rescue to have more than 10 animals as long as Rogers adds trees or other sound barriers.

That still requires approval from the Davidson County Commissioners. They are scheduled to discuss the proposal on April 11.

Rogers has argued that the rescue should receive the same exception that owners of household pets, and trainers of guard animals, show dogs and hunting dogs receive.

“So you can have 71 hunting dogs or 71 show dogs or 71 pets, but because we are a rescue, that’s a problem?” Rogers said. “What are those ‘exceptions’ doing for Davidson County? I’ll tell you what we’re doing, saving a heck of a lot of lives.”

She has a point. Shouldn’t a rescue get at least the same break that the county has granted to the owners of show dogs, guard dogs and hunting dogs? Since when is grooming dogs for beauty contests, or training them to hunt, or teaching them to get aggressive with intruders more important than saving their lives?

Given all the shortcomings over the years at the Davidson County Animal Shelter, shouldn’t the county be appreciating Rogers efforts, instead of punishing her?

The county shelter was one of the last in the state to stop euthanizing animals in a gas chamber. It has had traditionally low adoption numbers. Even after it’s operation was turned over to a nonprofit group, it had its license revoked in 2015 when investigators found, among other things, that sick and injured animals were going untreated.

Rogers started her independent rescue in her 5-acre backyard in the late 1990s. In 2015 she took in about 400 dogs. Last year, she took in 220 dogs, most of which were adopted.

The rescue regularly pulls dogs from the Davidson County shelter and other county shelters.

“I take the dogs that don’t have a chance because no one wants to invest the time and money to get them better,” Rogers said. “A lot of the dogs I take in have medical issues, like broken femurs or fractured pelvis, and would be euthanized otherwise.”

She estimates she has spent $50,000 on legal fees to keep the shelter open.

“It’s been a hard fight, but I’m not giving up,” she said. “This is my passion, this is my life, this is what I do.”

An online petition to keep the rescue open has received 1,400 signatures in a week.

(Photos: At top, Ruff Love Director Sue Rogers loads toys, treats and food donated at an adoption fair Saturday; lower photo, one of Ruff Love’s dogs is greeted at an adoption fair in Greensboro; by Allison Lee Isley, Winston-Salem Journal)

Alaska teen hunters boast of their dog kill


Two teen hunters in Alaska were proud of “bagging a wolf” — even though the wolf was wearing a collar and turned out to be a sled dog.

Either way, they did no wrong, at least under Alaska’s animal cruelty laws, which permit the killing of dogs on public property.

Some people around Fairbanks are saying it’s time to change those laws after what was at least the second fatal shooting of a dog this year in the same community.

Back in July, an eight-month old puppy, a lab mix named Lucy, was found with a bullet through her head after wandering away from her home in the community of Goldstream Valley in Fairbanks.

When the owner called state troopers, he was told they wouldn’t even respond.

A spokeswoman told the Fairbanks News-Miner then that no crime had taken place: “Just shooting a dog and killing it is technically not against the animal cruelty statute,” she said.

In the more recent case, a 14-month-old sled dog named Padouk was killed on public land by two brothers, age 12 and 13, who were hunting together with a .22-caliber rifle.

He was shot through the heart about 30 minutes after he had escaped his owner’s yard, and the teens took his body to their great-grandfather, a taxidermist, to be mounted as a hunting trophy.

Padouk’s co-owners said they found out what happened to their dog when they were contacted by an ATVer who told them he’d come across two teenagers who were proud of themselves for bagging a “wolf” and asked for his help transporting the carcass to their grandmother’s home.

The ATVer refused to give the boys a ride, but he let them use his cellphone to call their grandmother.

“These two kids have been rabbit hunting in the area and they are continuing, people have been reporting. If you drive the road at 6 p.m., you have a good chance of meeting them,” said Helene Genet, one of Padouk’s co-owners.

“They haven’t apologized at all and they don’t have the feeling that they’ve done something wrong … and rightfully so, the law doesn’t provide for dogs not to be shot in public areas,” Genet said at a Friday meeting called to address concerns among dog owners about the shootings.

More than 50 people attended the meeting spurred by the shooting of Padouk, the Fairbanks News-Miner reported.

The two boys will face no charges because under Alaska animal cruelty laws it must be proven that a suspect was intentionally trying to cause pain and suffering.

And, as many in Alaska — and elsewhere — believe, hunters never do that.

In Alaska, hunters, as well as those who perform do-it-yourself euthanizations, are pretty much exempted from animal cruelty laws.

Padouk’s owners said they called state troopers after they got the phone number for the boys’ grandmother from the ATVer. Genet said the grandmother hung up on her three times when she requested permission to come and see if the dead “wolf” was their dog.

Padouk was co-owned by Genet, a recreational musher, and tourism kennel operator Nita Rae, of Sirius Sled Dogs.

At Friday’s meeting, participants discussed ways to stop future dog shootings, such as a rule against shooting guns on Goldstream Valley trails, or building a database of dogs killed in the valley to show leaders the extent of the problem.

Fairbanks Borough Assemblywoman Katheryn Dodge said she plans to re-introduce a borough animal cruelty law that existed until a 2013 reorganization of borough code.

Alaska Legislator David Guttenberg told the crowd they shouldn’t expect any changes in state laws.

Padouk’s owners say they doubt the boys really believed Padouk was a wolf. He only weighed 60 to 70 pounds and was wearing a blue collar.

While state troopers told the owners no charges would be filed, they did assist them in reclaiming Padouk’s body. The boys’ great grandfather, after being contacted by troopers, agreed to call off the taxidermy and let Rae and Genet have the body of their dog back.

(Photo: Fairbanks News-Miner)