A fact of life — or should we say death? — in this country is that whether or not you, as a human, get executed for a crime can depend largely on where your trial is held.
The same is kind of true of impounded dogs — one big difference being they get no trial, there’s usually no crime involved, and, having been surrendered or abandoned, they’re more often victims than criminals.
With dogs, most executions are not a matter of justice, but population control; and the likelihood of that fate varies not just from state to state, but from county to county. By and large, a dog’s chance of getting out of a county-run shelter alive depends primarily on what county they happen to be held in.
Just how much of a toss of the dice it can be was shown in a story Sunday by the Columbus Dispatch. It analyzed data from 85 of Ohio’s 88 counties, and found that, in 2011, they had kill rates varying from 1 percent to 81 percent.
Dogs who enter the shelter in Lawrence County, in southeastern Ohio, have less than a two in ten chance of getting out alive. Meanwhile, in Carroll County, in northeastern Ohio, only 1 percent of dogs were destroyed, the lowest rate in the state.
The story included a county-by-county interactive map, showing kill and adoption rates.
It’s some exceptional reporting — the kind newspapers should be doing more of — and it clearly shows that, even when they’re right next door, some places value dogs’ lives more than others, and work harder to place and save them.
Statewide, more than 100,000 dogs are impounded annually in Ohio’s county-run animal shelters, and roughly 30 percent, or 30,000, were euthanized in 2011. (Nationally, it’s estimated that 3 to 4 million dogs are euthanized a year.)
“It looks bad. That’s awful,” Lawrence County Dog Warden Bill Click said of the data showing his shelter had the highest kill rate in the state. He added that the county is working to improve those numbers. Lawrence County, like many others, often euthanizes dogs when the shelter gets too crowded.
The best dog wardens, the story points out, are more than wardens. (Is it time to change that outdated term?) They publicize their county shelters, welcome volunteers and visitors, post photos and profiles of their adoptable online and work with rescue groups.
But while some fight daily to keep euthanasia rates low, it seems a lower priority in many counties: 13 have kill rates higher than 50 percent.
Some dog wardens question whether it’s fair to compare the rates of urban and rural dog shelters, saying urban areas generally take in more aggressive animals that have been trained to guard property or fight other dogs, as well as more dogs that have been injured by cars.
But even among urban areas, some county shelters do a far better job than others.
Of Ohio’s urban areas, Hamilton County had the lowest kill rate, at 30 percent. The county contracts with the Cincinnati SPCA, which has worked to reduce adoption prices, extend foster care and bring animals with heartworm and other medical problems back to health, rather than putting them down.
Pit bulls have been most often destined for euthanasia — at least until Ohio dropped its ban and put a new law in place in May of this year that no longer automatically brands them vicious.
Animal welfare advocates have also succeeded in pressuring two counties, Athens and Fairfield, to stop using the gas chamber to euthanize dogs.
They were less successful in Hocking County, where, despite demonstrations and a call to switch to lethal injection, county commissioners decided to continue using gas.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 22nd, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adoption rates, animal control, animal welfare, animals, carroll county, chances, columbus, control, counties, county, death, death penalty, dispatch, dog wardens, dogs, euthanasia, euthanized, execution, gas chambers, interactive, justice, kill rates, lawrence county, lethal injection, life, location, map, news, newspaper, ohio, pets, population, rescues, shelters, survival, wardens
First came a Court of Appeals ruling, late last week, declaring all pit bulls (and pit bull mixes) “inherently dangerous” — stating, in effect, that breed, or type, or even looks alone, are all that is required to assume a dog is bad.
Then came a newspaper column by the normally level-headed Dan Rodricks, fresh from judging a dog costume contest for the Maryland SPCA, declaring pit bulls “four-legged time bombs” that should not be allowed in public.
It was not prompted by anything that happened at the SPCA’s March for the Animals — other than his seeing some pit bulls there. Instead, it seemed based on a prejudice he apparently holds and, with a court decision to back him up, felt inclined to reveal.
Taken together, the column and court decision (you can read it here) have riled friends of pit bulls, who are fighting back, on Facebook, through website comments and petitions and via letters to the editor at the Baltimore Sun, like this one — my personal favorite:
“… I live in the Pigtown neighborhood of Baltimore. When my suburban friends come visit, they hold their kids close, and they look askance at some of my more ‘unusual’ neighbors. Some of them are only too happy to hop back in their cars and scurry back to the counties. To them it’s “obvious” that Baltimore is a dangerous place, with all the derelict buildings and the homeless people and the occasional addict passed out on the sidewalk …
“I’m also a pit bull owner — an accidental one, because I found mine starving and scared, running down Wicomico Street dragging a leash behind him. I caught him and brought him home because that’s what any decent dog lover would do. Then I found out how incredibly, incredibly difficult it is to rehome these dogs — because of the stigmas, and because there are just so many of them.
“I had only limited experience with the breed before mine chose me, but I have discovered that they are wonderful, wonderful dogs, incredibly smart and ridiculously affectionate. Some of them need more work than others, but anyone who says they’re “inherently” dangerous has obviously never met a good one. And there are lots of good ones.
“But if all you see when you look at them are the cropped ears and the muscular bodies and all the teeth — regardless of whether or not they’re showing off that famous pit bull smile — and because of the way they look decide they’re not worth getting to know, you’re just as ignorant as all the suburbanites who think Baltimore is nothing but vacant houses and drug dealers.”
Written by Erin Harty, the letter makes some excellent points about stereotyping and judging by looks — points that shouldn’t be lost on Rodricks, who has been able to look beneath the gruff exteriors and even bad behavior of convicts and ex-convicts and see some redeeming traits. It’s a shame he can’t bring himself to do the same when it comes to pit bulls, the vast majority of which have not engaged in any bad behavior. And won’t.
The Maryland SPCA’s executive director, Aileen Gabbey, voiced disappointment with Rodrick’s remarks and the court of appeals decision.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), there is no accurate way to measure and determine which breeds are more likely to bite. These legitimate agencies also state that any data collected relating to dog bites has high potential for error,” she wrote in a letter to the editor.
“Mr. Rodricks’ opinions certainly won’t damper the success of the MD SPCA’s 17th March for the Animals. Thousands of dog owners and dog breeds of all kinds safely came together to have fun while helping the homeless dogs in our community.”
Of greater concern to pit bull owners is the court of appeals ruling, and its possible ramifications.
The Humane Society of the United States said in a in a press release that it plans to work with Maryland dog advocates and members of the legislature to develop “rational, science-based dangerous dog policies for the state after the Maryland Court of Appeals issued a decision fundamentally changing longstanding liability rules relating to pit bull and mixed pit bull dogs.”
The court decision focuses on liability. Under previous case law, a victim intending to file a lawsuit after a dog attack had to prove that a dog’s owner, or landlord, knew it had a history of being dangerous. Now, under the new precedent it set, the filer of a lawsuit merely has to show that the owner knew their dog was all or part pit bull. That would be sufficient basis for a claim.
Betsy McFarland, HSUS vice president, said the court overstepped its authority.
“A seismic shift in Maryland law of this nature should be undertaken by the legislature, not judges. The legislature should conduct appropriate fact-finding and hearings, consider the available science, and make a measured, non-emotional decision on this important policy issue.
“We encourage advocates to call their state legislators to respectfully voice their concerns, and urge them to work with advocates on legislation in the next session that provides rational, science-based dangerous dog policies for the state.
“The Humane Society of the United States’ companion animals department is in communication with shelters and rescues, and will be looking for ways to support them as they consider the ramifications of this decision.”
(Photo: Jasmine, one of Michael Vick’s former fighting pit bulls, who ended up in Baltimore, and was featured in a Sports Illustrated cover story about Vick’s dogs overcoming their inhumane treatment at human hands)
Posted by jwoestendiek May 1st, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: anger, animals, baltimore, baltimore sun, banned, bashing, columnist, court, court of appeals, dan rodricks, dangerous, decision, dogs, four legged time bombs, hsus, humane society of the united states, inherently, maryland spca, media, news, newspaper, opinion, petitions, pets, pit bull, pit bull lovers, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, public, response, responses, ruling, vick dogs
A story about the dog’s disappearance appeared in Friday’s Burlington County Times, and another story in the paper on Sunday reported that Midnight had been found alive.
Actually, Midnight had been found dead on Thursday evening — before the first story even appeared – apparently struck by a car, according to Delran police. The dog’s body was returned to the pet store Thursday night.
On Thursday afternoon, store manager Josh Salyer said the dog was being walked outside when it slipped out of its collar and crossed a busy six-lane highway. The store offered a $500 reward for Midnight’s return.
On Friday, the Burlington County Times says that when it called to get an update on the dog, it was told by Salyer that Midnight had been safely located and returned.
A story to that effect appeared in the paper Sunday — and, though they knew by then their dog was dead, owner Monifa Wilson and her daughter received text messages all day long congratulating them on the dog being found.
Wilson, of Delanco, called the newspaper Monday to inform it that Midnight was dead, and that the corpse had been in the pet store’s freezer since Thursday.
The Burlington County Times ran an article yesterday about the mix-up.
The Times says when it contacted the store Friday the manager said: “I was just notified that he was found a few blocks away. He’s OK … We’re ecstatic, and thanks to all the people who helped search.”
Barbara Johnson, general manager with the Pets Plus chain, based in Fairless Hills, Pa., denied that Salyer said the dog was alive, and said he was merely thanking the community for helping in the search.
“That’s all it was,” she said. “The only thing Josh was happy about was that the search was over, and he wanted to thank all those who helped. We weren’t trying to spread any mistruths.”
Posted by jwoestendiek November 2nd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alive, bichon, burlington county times, car, dead, delran, found, groomer, grooming, josh salyer, killed, lies, lost, manager, midnight, mistruths, misunderstandings, mix, monifa wilson, new jersey, news media, newspaper, pet store, pets plus, ran away, runaway, truth, yorkie
With a deep bass toot, the ferry to Connecticut began churning across Long Island Sound. I leaned over the railing and, as the water rushed by, felt a deep sense of accomplishment — for the ground we’ve already covered and that which we will be covering in the second phase of our trip.
Ace not being around — he was inside the car in the ferry’s gut — I gave myself, figuratively, of course, a pat on the back. This was a good idea — my highly original plan to copy (more or less) John Steinbeck’s trip. Others have retraced the route, and written about it, but I had the foresight to be starting off exactly 50 years to the day after Steinbeck did.
I had just settled on a bench, and had stopped patting myself, when Bill Steigerwald walked by, camera around his neck, notepad at his side, taking it all in and looking at passengers that way reporters look at people — like they are cuts of meat that might be worth tasting — as he pursued his highly original plan … to copy John Steinbeck’s trip.
So we sat and talked, comparing notes about our highly original plans to copy John Steinbeck’s trip. We decided, I think, that we liked each other, and concluded that though our goals our similar — a book, somewhere down the road – we weren’t barking up, or peeing on, the same tree.
Steigerwald, like me, was a career newspaper guy. We both accepted buyout offers from our newspapers — he in 2009, from the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, me in 2008 from the Baltimore Sun — in hopes that, if we continued our writerly ways, we might survive in 21st Century America without having to become fast food cooks, Wal-Mart greeters, or strip club flaks. And both of us are now self-subsidizing our travels in hopes that some day, in some way, somebody might want to buy what we want to write.
We are both brilliant, in a stupid kind of way; or maybe we’re stupid, in a brilliant kind of way.
Steigerwald, who is traveling doglessly, is reporting on his trip — which will be a more precise retracing of Steinbeck’s route than mine — for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he also once worked. He, like me, is blogging about it daily.
Bill is 62, five years older than me, but I think we’re both among a large group of once-and-maybe-still-somewhat-idealistic baby boomer former reporters who jumped ship amid the industry’s downward spiral. Now we’re seeking a flotation device. In my case, at least, I’ve continued doing what I’ve always done — write stories — even though I’m not paid (other than by my fine advertisers) for it. I wonder if people who have left other careers do that — keep plying their trade even though the salary and benefits have stopped. To some extent, I think yes. One’s job gets in one’s blood. So retired lawyers probably keep arguing long after their last case closed. Former politicians probably continue to lie. TV weather reporters likely continue to make erroneous forecasts.
Possibly the whistling ferry loader in charge of getting cars aboard the boat yesterday will keep whistling, waving his arms, complaining about “f***in’ management” and saying things like, “Give me a couple of minutes, I’ll wave youse up,” for at least several months after he starts drawing a pension.
With writers, though, I think that runs even deeper — either because we see it as somehow noble, or because we don’t know how do do anything else. Like dogs, we tend to keep following and sniffing along the trail we are on. It’s not a totally mindless pursuit. We do what we know how to do. We know there might be something good ahead.
Not knowing, either, how to board a ferry, I just followed the shouted orders yesterday. I didn’t get a ticket in advance, so I paid $61 for my sound crossing; Bill, clearly a better planner than me, paid $49.
I took him down to the bowels of the ferry, and we compared vehicles. He has a red sport utility much like the one I’m in, but his backseat — because he’s not toting a dog — is open, with a large mattress he can sleep on. I showed him my dog, then took Ace up on the deck, which I had assumed wasn’t allowed, but actually was.
Bill fell for Ace, but, as he wrote today, was kind of glad – after seeing how much space my dog took up in my vehicle — that he didn’t have a dog along.
We parted ways — both intent on continuing our highly original plans to copy John Steinbeck’s trip — agreeing to try to meet up again in Maine or Michigan or Montana. As he plans to complete his trip in six weeks, I’ll probably be lagging behind, though.
As I waited my turn to pull off the ferry, I wondered what Charley — now buried behind John Steinbeck’s house in Sag Harbor – would make of it all: all these literary/scholarly/newspaper/blogging types who, over the years, have seen fit to repeat the trek that he made with his master.
Silly humans, he might think, following their so-called instincts, which aren’t very good in the first place.
My guess is he would get a good doggie chuckle out of it all. He’d probably break into a poodle smile.
“Ftt,” he’d say.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 24th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, american, animals, baby boomers, bill steigerwald, blog, blogging, blogs, charley, connecticut, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, ferry boat, industry, john woestendiek, long island, new york, newspaper, pets, pittsburgh post-gazette, poodle, reporters, road trip, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, travels with charley, travels without charley
The days of dogs bringing in the newspaper might be numbered — for reasons that have nothing at all to do with dogs — but until then there are those, like Nariz, who are eager to deliver.
Nariz, whose name comes from the Spanish word for nose, belongs to Deb and Roger Pyle, who get their local newspaper delivered to their home in Astoria, Oregon. Every afternoon, Nariz sticks her nose into the Pyles’ newspaper box, pulls out The Daily Astorian and delivers it to her waiting owners in exchange for a cookie, reports — who else — The Daily Astorian.
“We didn’t train her. She just likes to do stuff for us,” Deb Pyle explained.
The Pyles’ adopted the dog from the Clatsop County Animal Shelter when she was 10 months old.
“There was one day when she was acting like she wanted a job so I walked her out to the paper and put it in her mouth and then we walked back to the house together,” Deb Pyle said. Next, Roger Pyle taught Nariz how to put her head in the newspaper box and remove the paper herself.
After that, Nariz expanded into mail delivery. “The mailman has learned that he can hand it over to her and she’ll bring it to us,” Deb Pyle said.
Posted by jwoestendiek March 31st, 2010 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, box, communications, daily astorian, deb pyle, deliver, dog, dogs, fetch, internet, journalism, mailbox, media, nariz, news, newspaper, newspaper box, newspapers, ohmidog!, online, oregon, pets, retrieve, roger pyle
It’s no secret that animals seem to sense earthquakes before they hit, but here’s some video proof.
A 6.5 magnitude earthquake that caused millions of dollars of property damage in Humboldt County, California, Saturday was sensed by a Labrador named Sophie well before humans started reacting, according to this video, from surveillance cameras in the offices of the Times-Standard in Eureka.
Sophie bolts from the room several seconds before the room starts visibly shaking and workers can be seen fleeing.
Yet more proof that dogs have more sense than humans — or at least humans who work for newspapers.
Posted by jwoestendiek January 12th, 2010 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: california, detection, detects, dog, earthquake, eureka, humboldt county, magnitude, newspaper, northern, office, quake, reaction, reacts, sense, senses, times-standard, video
Columnist Ronnie Polaneczky paid a touching tribute to her dog, Blackie, in yesterday’s Philadelphia Daily News.
Blackie, a female border collie-Labrador mix, died on Sunday evening after a sudden illness.
“I was so overcome with tears as she died, I was unable to properly tell her all the ways that her life had made mine better,” Polaneczky wrote. “So this is my thank-you letter to Blackie, the first dog I ever called my own.”
Nine years ago, Daily New columnist Stu Bykofsky offered her the dog, which he had taken in after finding it abandoned in South Philly. Here’s an excerpt from Polaneczky’s column:
“Thank you for tolerating the way we claimed that you had magic ‘healing powers.’ See, not long after you came into our lives, we discovered that our daughter’s bumps and scrapes didn’t hurt her so much once we had her press the injured area into your warm, shaggy coat. Soon, she was telling her young friends to use your powers when they were hurt, too.
“Over time, we realized that those powers were not a parent-created myth but a true ability. When my husband and I were distressed about something, you’d sense our upset and quietly lean against us in solemn comfort.
“Thank you for letting us dress you as a bee on Halloween.
“Thank you for never – ever – chewing our shoes into jerky.
“Thank you for having a gentle spirit that belied your fierce appearance. The first time my husband took you to the schoolyard to retrieve our daughter from kindergarten, a few of the parents pulled their children away in fear of your wolfish looks. Within moments, you were sprawled on your back, a portrait of maternal contentment as a dozen tiny hands rubbed up and down on your belly.
“Thank you for your tolerance of your four-legged housemates. You put up with one prickly cat until his death at 19. You endured the addition of two kittens, who tried to nurse at your row of tiny teats. And then you gamely allowed the latest member of the family, a tiny Yorkie with a brain the size of an M&M, to use your belly like a trampoline, grabbing at your ears and snout while you lolled placidly on the floor.
“Through all of it, you’d look at us with world-weary affection, as if to say, ‘These little ones, eh? Waddya gonna do?’
“We were there with you at the end, at Penn’s veterinary hospital, to sob goodbyes and stroke your soft, dark fur as you peacefully slipped away from us. The doctor had told us that the illness in your lungs was slowly suffocating you and had caused an en
Posted by jwoestendiek September 2nd, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, blackie, column, columnist, death, dog, dogs, letter, news, newspaper, pets, philadelphia, philadelphia daily news, ronnie polaneczky, thank you
Finally, the Baltimore Sun is giving dogs some say. Either that, or it has laid off so many people it has to turn to dogs to provide content. In any case, the once-great newspaper printed a letter to the editor today from an Airedale, who may or may not have been assisted by her owner, Tom McCracken.
Apparently provoked by the new $1,000 penalty for unleashed dogs, the dog unleashed some opinions of her own in the letter, which was directed to Baltimore’s City Council. Here are some excerpts:
City Council Members: Please do not be surprised to get an e-mail from a dog … My name is Maggie Mae, and I am a very lucky dog. My people live along a wonderful park … A lot of my friends and I get to meet in this park almost daily for socialization and exercise, and any dog will tell you that a happy dog is a much better citizen than a frustrated one.
The park itself gets a tremendous amount of use. Why just tonight at 3 a.m., I was awakened by Loyola College students having a party there … Well, that got me thinking about all of the people who do share the park and ways that they do or don’t take care of it. The college students will leave their empty beer cans scattered about. My owner often crushes them and carries them home in a poop bag because there are no trash cans there. Speaking of poop bags, we should all hope that The Baltimore Sun doesn’t go out of business, because that would be the end of poop bags as I understand it…
Another problem in the park is trail erosion. Every afternoon a hundred or so young humans come running through the park. They are wearing shirts that say Friends, Gilman, RPCS, Bryn Mawr, Hopkins and Loyola. They wear shoes with lugged soles that destroy the grass and cause mud puddles. I think it would be smart if the City Council asked them to wear collars with annual $10 ID tags, and maybe keep them all in a tight pack with a leash…
My purpose in writing this morning is to lodge my concern about the new $1,000 leash-law fines … I like my owner’s leash. It is important to get me safely across streets and past urban areas heavily populated with humans. It keeps a good dog honest. Conversely, a leash is a detriment in safe wooded park areas like mine.
If it is necessary to crack down on real dog threats, the dog police need to be given discretionary authority, to focus on those parts of the city where humans are being irresponsible … Barring that, the city should create and maintain fenced parks, for dogs only, where there would not be drunken college kids, high school runners, bicycles, and flowing sewage. There was a time when blacks and women could not vote. Council people, there will come a time, thanks to the Internet, when dogs will.
Thank you for your careful consideration on this matter.
Maggie Mae Airedale
Posted by jwoestendiek May 8th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: airedale, baltimore, baltimore sun, city, city council, dog, dog parks, fines, journalism, leash free, leash law, letter to the editor, maggie mae, newspaper, parks, penalties, pets, tom mccracken, unleashed
The Portland Oregonian, in a Sunday editorial prompted by several recent dog attacks, called for laws classifying all pit bulls as “potentially dangerous.”
“We don’t favor a total ban on pit bulls: Some have good dispositions and can be wonderful animals if well-trained. However, we do think Oregon should reconsider breed-specific laws, rather than treating pit bulls as if they were puppies,” the editorial said.
Under the current Multnomah County ordinance, any dog can be classified as “potentially dangerous,” but only based on its behavior. Owners whose dogs are classified as “potentially dangerous” can be required to take extra steps to protect the public, such as getting liability insurance and attending obedience school.
The newspaper called for pit bulls to be automatically classified as potentially dangerous, then allowing owners to take steps to get their dogs declassified through the already established procedures.
In other words, if you’re a pit bull, or possibly a Rottweiler, you’re guilty until proven innocent.
The editorial cites misleading figures – then makes the same knee-jerk conclusion a lot of jurisidictions have been making.
Fortunately, the paper’s pet blogger sees it differently and provided some balance, and more than a few online commenters (at the bottom of the article) are pointing out the fallacy of breed-specific legislation.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 2nd, 2008 under Muttsblog.
Tags: attacks, ban, breed specific legislation, breeds, dangerous, dogs, editorial, law, legislation, multnomah, news, newspaper, oregon, pit bulls, portland, restrictions, rottweilers