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Tag: liability

When drones deliver will dogs get to growling? Amazon wants to know

drone

Reports surfaced this week that Amazon, as it continues to develop its top secret project to someday deliver packages by drones, has obtained a “simulated dog” so they can assess what obstacles dogs might pose to drones, and how to avoid them.

This is a real story. Honest.

It sounds a little like something out of an episode of Robot Wars, but the dangers dogs could pose to drones, and, more important, drones could pose to dogs, are well worth considering if this whole drone delivery idea is going to come to pass.

(Which I’d prefer it didn’t.)

Amazon doesn’t care what I think, though, and it is proceeding very secretly on the drone project, and looking at how to equip drones with enough artificial intelligence (beyond GPS) for them to cope with what postal carriers have long been coping with — everything from dogs to clotheslines.

Ironically, the Amazon simulated dog story came out same day the Postal Service released its latest dog bite figures, which are undergoing the largest increase in three decades.

Dog attacks on postal workers rose last year to 6,755, up 206 from the previous year — but the increase comes amid double-digit increases in the post office’s package business. Postal carriers are visiting more homes more frequently and at all times of day, often burdened with packages, thanks to agreements the Postal Service struck with Amazon in 2013 and 2014.

In other words, the more Internet shopping we all do, the greater burden we put on postal carriers, thereby increasing the chances for them to be victims of dog bites.

Unless of course packages are being delivered by drones, as Amazon — clearly the biggest catalyst in online shopping’s growth — proposes to do.

If there’s a conspiracy theory that might apply to all this, please feel free to apply it. Because I can’t come up with one.

According to the International Business Times, Amazon is using the simulated dogs as it conducts tests with drones in the UK.

It is not known how many simulated dogs there are in Amazon’s pack or what, if any, behaviors they’ve been programmed to imitate — barking, biting, tail-wagging?

410I1FkDAkLNor is it known whether Amazon created them, procured them from a contractor, or ordered them from themselves.

Amazon has been testing delivery drones since 2015. In July 2016 it signed a partnership with the UK government to explore the safe use of UAV’s (unmanned aerial vehicles) to make deliveries in rural and suburban areas.

There are plenty of rough spots still to be figured out, most of them dealing with the drone’s use of air space.

But, once it comes time for a drone to land, one of the major concerns is going to be dogs. The drones will deliver packages, guided by GPS, and leave them on a special welcome mat the customer has placed on a front porch or a back patio.

Some dogs, I suspect, will cower in fear when a drone appears overhead; maybe a few will take them in stride, but many will see them as humming and hovering monsters, intent on trying to invade their territory.

(Which, to me, is a pretty accurate description.)

A drone’s blades can inflict serious damage, and ingesting a drone’s parts could also be a hazard. And Amazon is not unaware of the potential liabilities.

So now it’s researching how to give drones some artificial intelligence — to equip them with the ability to protect themselves when they sense a danger to themselves or others.

Given it’s a dog friendly company, it’s not likely Amazon will arm drones to spray cayenne pepper when a dog approaches.

Dropping a couple of treats — charming as that would be, and though it works well for postal carriers — probably wouldn’t work, either.

More likely, the drones will be taught to just abort their landing and return to their home base if a dog’s presence is sensed.

That could ruin many a “same day delivery,” but, unless you are ordering insulin, is that really so important?

The best solution is pretty obvious. Drop the fanciful and futuristic pipe dream. Keep the skies clear. Let humans make the deliveries.

I’ll gladly wait another day, or two, or three, for my package in exchange for the benefits that would offer — jobs, peace and quiet, and safer dogs and children among them.

(Photos: At top, an Amazon delivery drone, courtesy of Amazon.com; lower, the Genibo SD Robotic Dog, available from Amazon)

Recognizing a gift when it lands in your lap

Nala isn’t an officially certified therapy dog.

Her presence at a Minnesota nursing home, apparently, didn’t require her owner to navigate a bureaucracy or fill out mounds of paperwork.

She was never trained to make people feel better. She just, like many a dog, magically does.

The tiny teacup poodle, who comes to work with her owner — medications assistant Doug Dawson — makes the rounds daily at the Lyngblomsten care center, somehow figuring out not just how to ride the elevator to get from room to room, but who at the nursing home might most need a visit from her.

It’s another one of those feel-good stories about a dog bringing comfort, hope and smiles to residents of an otherwise impersonal institution.

Let’s hope this one doesn’t get crushed.

On Wednesday, we told you about Ivy — a Siberian husky whose owner, a janitor at a University of Rhode Island dormitory, brings her to work with him everyday. And how Ivy, through bonding with the students who live there, has made it, in the view of most, a better place to be. And how the university, after the school newspaper ran a feature about the dog, banned Ivy from campus — even though she is certified as a therapy dog — citing things like rules and liability concerns.

Today we bring you Nala, who, fortunately, is spreading her magic at a facility that — rather than fretting about pests, bites and liability — seems to recognize a gift when it sees one.

Dawson brings Nala to work with him each morning, then lets her go her own way.

She spends the day popping into the rooms of residents, hopping in their laps and getting petted and nuzzled before moving on to the next room, according to this report by KARE 11

“She’s an angel,” 90-year-old resident Ruth New said. “I love her and she loves me.”

Nala, Dawson says, seems to have an uncanny knack for knowing who needs a visit, and knowing how to get there, even when it involves riding the four-story building’s elevator.

nala“There’s something about her,” said Dawson, who inherited Nala after she failed in her debut as a potential therapy dog at another facility.

He says Nala was too young at the time, and had spent too much time in a kennel.

Now 5 years old, Nala has redeemed herself at Lyngblomsten.

“If you put her down she’ll pick out the person with Alzheimer’s,” said Dawson. “She has a way of picking the sick.”

After the recent death of one resident, Nala entered her room and stationed herself at her side.

“She had died earlier in the morning, but Nala knew and went and sat with her,” said Sandy Glomski, a Lyngblomsten staffer. “It was wonderful and we were all in tears.”

Dawson says he’s constantly amazed by both Nala’s compassion and her ability to navigate the nursing home’s floors on her own.

“She’s here for a purpose,” he said. “She really is doing God’s work.”

That’s kind of what dogs will do when humans — and especially bureaucrats — don’t get in the way,

Overdue: Yale law library tries therapy dog

At the Yale University Law Library, you can check out “Legal Alchemy: The Use and Misuse of Science in the Law.” You can check out “The Supreme Court A to Z: A Ready Reference Encyclopedia.”

Or, you can check out Monty, a terrier mix whose mission, in an experimental program started this month, is to de-stress, during final exam time, the litigators of tomorrow.

You’d think a genius farm like Yale University would have figured out sooner — as some smaller and lesser known colleges have — that dogs can, physically and emotionally, help students through troubled or stressful times.

But, for the school whose mascot is an English bulldog named Handsome Dan, it’s better late than never.

In the pilot program, students can check out Monty — a  21-pound “certified library therapy dog” who provides 30-minute sessions of what ABCNews describes as “unconditional, stress-busting puppy love.”

“The interest in available slots has been high,” said Jan Conroy, a spokeswoman for Yale Law School.

In a March 10 memo, law librarian Blair Kauffman said she hoped the free, three-day pilot pet therapy program would be “a positive addition to current services offered by the library … It is well documented that visits from therapy dogs have resulted in increased happiness, calmness and overall emotional well-being.” The memo directed students to the website of Therapy Dogs International for more information.

The school has yet to decide if the program will be ongoing. Likely, it being Yale Law School, there are liability concerns — the type that are known to paralyze bureaucracies and often limit the good dogs can do, based on mostly baseless fears.

Monty, for example, though he is said to be hypoallergenic, will hold his visits in a “designated non-public space” in the library to eliminate “potential adverse reactions from any library user who might have dog-related concerns.”

Concerns have also been expressed about the sign-up list for Monty being in a visible spot. That, the overly fearful fear, results in students having to expose their need for a mental health session — or at least some time with a dog — in public.

Monty — whose full name is General Montgomery — belongs to librarian Julian Aiken. And the pilot program got started after a Yale legal blog jokingly suggested making Monty available for checkout.

Therapy dogs have been introduced at Tufts University in Massachusetts, Oberlin College in Ohio and UC San Diego to help students get through the pressures of mid-terms and finals.

Indianapolis looks at breed specific rules

Indianapolis Councilman Mike Speedy plans to submit a “dangerous dog” proposal to the city-county council this month, calling for all pit bulls to be spayed or neutered.

His proposal also would require dog owners to purchase liability insurance if they mistreat their dog  or fail to keep it confined — no matter what breed it is.

“Living with the fear of a serious dog bite, you’re not fully free to enjoy this great city or your neighborhood,” Speedy said. “The pit bull is the most abused breed in America and in Indianapolis, and when that breed is abused they are more likely to bite people in a devastating and life-altering way. If you reduce their numbers in a humane way through spay and neutering, you will reduce the bites.”

Speedy’s comments came in an Indianapolis Star article. The newspaper has reported that pit bull bites rose 33 percent in 2008 from the previous year and were three times higher than in 2006. Pit bulls also account for more bites and more severe bites than any other breed, the newspaper said.

Animal Care and Control Advisory Board Chairman Warren Patitz said he is opposed to the sterilization requirement and is “not enthusiastic” about the liability insurance provision, because it would make dog ownership more difficult for low-income residents.

“Targeting a specific breed isn’t in the best interests of anyone because we need to target individual behaviors and people and not breeds of dogs,” he said. The city’s new animal control director, Doug Rae, has instituted a policy to try to curb euthanizations, including among pit bulls. Humane Society of Indianapolis Executive Director John Aleshire also prefers laws that are not breed-specific.

It’s the second attempt in as many years to pass breed specific laws in Indianapolis. Last time around, after a pit bull nearly killed a local toddler, a council member proposed banning the breed from the city.  A majority of council members opposed it.