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Tag: orlando

Who needs Disney World when 900 dogs are staying at your hotel?

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If you passed through the lobby of Orlando’s Hyatt Regency a week ago, you might have thought the Westminster Dog Show had a new home.

The hotel estimates it had between 800 and 900 canine guests over the weekend — the vast majority of them belonging to families that were fleeing Hurricane Irma.

irmaAs the hurricane struck Florida’s southern tip, and then its western shores, many residents headed north or east to Orlando for safety and sought refuge in the dog-friendly hotel.
The hotel wasn’t doing anything as noble as offering free shelter, though.

To say it “opened its heart” to evacuees and their dogs — as some reports have put it — is a bit of a leap.

But it did offer paying guests with dogs a break on its normal $150 cleaning fee, dropping it to (an almost reasonable) $50.

irma2Judging from photos of guests and their dogs that were posted on Instagram, the hotel maybe also have relaxed its 50-pound weight limit.

Most of the dogs belonged to families fleeing the hurricane, the Orlando Sentinel reported. But others belonged to families on vacation who either planned to bring their dogs along or brought them along at the last minute, not wanting to leave them behind in kennels when a hurricane was approaching.

The hotel also designated a few areas closer to the hotel entrance where dogs could relieve themselves that were partially sheltered from the wind and rain.

(Photos: Instagram)

Deaf dog helps abused children be heard

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A deaf boxer in Florida is helping abused children be heard, by helping them get through the trauma of testifying in court.

Karl, a 5-year-old therapy dog, was born deaf, but that might actually assist him in calmly and quietly performing his duties with the Orange County K-9th Circuit Program.

“He doesn’t hear all the noise,” said Karl’s owner and trainer Joanne Hart-Rittenhouse told News 13. “So he’s not going to react to yelling, banging, all the other things that can happen during a case.”

karl1Children who are testifying at a trial enter the courtroom before the jury is seated, with the dog on a leash. The dog lies at their feet, hidden from the jury’s view, while they testify.

Karl’s presence helps children summon the courage to face the microphone and speak — usually as the accused watches.

“One of the questions a child had asked me, the person who had hurt her that was in the courtroom with her, If he comes over and tries to hurt me, will Karl protect me?’

“I doubt very much that he would do anything,” Hart-Rittenhouse said. “But if that’s what made the child feel better, then absolutely, he’s going to protect you.”

“Most of them won’t testify, won’t go through a deposition, if they don’t have a dog beside them,” she added.

Karl’s owner stays in the courtroom, hearing the testimony that Karl will never hear, and Karl stays available to the children even after the court case is over.

“We’ll be there as long as the child wants Karl to stay in their life,” Hart-Rittenhouse said. “He’s helped a lot of children.”

Karl is one of six therapy dogs providing support through the non-profit Companions for Courage that works in courtrooms and hospitals.

The Ninth Circuit is the first Florida circuit to utilize both pet therapy dog teams and professionally trained handlers.

(Photos: Amanda McKenzie, News 13)

Comfort dogs arriving in Orlando

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As they did after the Boston Marathon bombing, the Sandy Hook school shootings and the Charleston church massacre, comfort dogs are headed to the scene of an American tragedy — this time, the deadliest mass shooting in the nation’s history.

About a dozen dogs from seven states were headed to Orlando yesterday to provide comfort and encouragement to the relatives of the dead, surviving victims, their families, first responders and a stunned community.

Forty-nine people were killed and 53 were injured when what authorities are describing as a “home grown extremist” opened fire inside the crowded Pulse nightclub with a semi-automatic weapon.

Lutheran Church Charities, which began its comfort dog program in 2008, said a dozen dogs and 20 volunteers arrived in Orlando yesterday, where they will work with local hospitals and churches.

“They help people relax and calm down,” Tim Hetzner, president of the LCC Comfort Dogs, told ABC News.

“Your blood pressure goes down when you pet a dog, you feel more comfortable, and people end up talking,” Hetzner said. “They’re good listeners, they’re non-judgmental, they’re confidential.”

The program has more than 100 dogs in 23 states.

Yesterday, many of them, along with handlers and volunteers, sprang into action.

gracieGracie, a 5-year-old golden retriever in Davenport, Iowa, who was little more than a pup when she went to the Sandy Hook shootings that killed 26 in Newtown, Connecticut, was aboard a flight to Orlando out of Chicago.

“Her purpose is to share love and compassion with those who are suffering,” Jane Marsh-Johnson, one of Gracie’s handlers, told News 10.

“The dogs do more for those suffering than human beings can do.”

Sasha, a 19-month-old golden retriever left Hilton Head Island with her handlers, Brenda and Phil Burden. It was Sasha’s first comfort mission, though the Burdens brought comfort dogs to Oregon last year after a gunman killed nine people at Umpqua Community College.

The Burdens told the Island Packet they will likely visit with the first responders who are dealing with the aftermath of the worst mass shooting in American history.

Other dogs were responding from Illinois, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Nebraska and Texas.

While in Orlando, they will be based in Trinity Lutheran Church in downtown Orlando.

Travel for the dogs and volunteers is funded by donations.

(Photos: At top, a comfort dog at Sandy Hook, by Allison Joyce / New York Daily News; below, Gracie, a comfort dog from Iowa / Lutheran Church Charities)

Cecil Williams will keep his guide dog; help pours in after they’re hit by subway train

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A blind man and his guide dog who were struck by a subway train in Manhattan Tuesday will be able to remain together — thanks to donations from members of the public touched by their story.

Cecil Williams fainted and fell on the New York City subway tracks, taking his harnessed dog, Orlando, with him.

Orlando barked for help and stayed by his side, even as the train passed over them.

In a story about the accident that aired on NBC Nightly News Tuesday night, it was reported that Orlando was slated to retire in January, and that Williams lacked the funds to continue to care for the dog afterwards, when the dog would no longer be covered by his insurance.

Since then, enough donations to their cause have been received by Guiding Eyes for the Blind to help pay for all of Orlando’s retirement expenses, and ensure that the pair’s eight-year relationship continues.

williamsand orlandoWilliams, 61, was on his way to the dentist when he fainted at the 125th Street platform. Witnesses said the dog was barking and tried to stop Williams from falling, as he is trained to do. When they both landed on the tracks, Orlando tried to rouse Williams, who was unconscious. Both lay there as a slow-moving subway train passed above them.

Nieither sustained serious injuries.

“The dog saved my life,” Williams said of his Labrador retriever. “I’m feeling amazed. I feel that God, the powers that be, have something in store from me. They didn’t take me away this time. I’m here for a reason.”

Williams, who is on insulin and other medications, was taken to a hospital, where Orlando remains at his bedside.

The Brooklyn man has been blind since 1995. Orlando, his second guide dog, “saves my life on a daily basis,” he said.

At a press conference Williams thanked everyone “for showing their humanity and peace and goodwill” by making donations to the guide dog school that trained Orlando.

“All the people who contribute and donated I think we should take our hat off to them,” he said. “There’s still good people in this world.”

(Photo: Williams and Orlando at press conference; by Carlo Allegri / REUTERS, via NBC)

Vet tech that swung dog into wall is fired

That Florida veterinary technician videotaped holding a dog by its neck and slamming it against the wall has been fired.

And the footage apparently is finally being reviewed by the state attorney’s office.

The video was recorded on a cellphone, and it was posted on YouTube just over a month ago.

Mohammad Hassan, the veterinarian who heads Emergency Pet Hospital in Orlando, originally defended the employee, but he recently apologized for her actions on on the hospital’s Facebook page.

“I want to apologize to all of the pet owners and animal lovers who were rightly shocked by the cruelty on the video,” he wrote in the post.

Hassan also says the vet tech, Stefanie Stasse, has been fired.

Meanwhile, WFTV in Orlando reports that the state attorney’s office has received a copy of the video from the Orange County sheriff’s office for review.

Boys, 10 and 12, charged with dogfighting

Two boys — aged 10 and 12 — have been charged with fighting, baiting and cruelty to animals after deputies say they discovered the boys were operating a backyard dogfighting operation.

A neighbor called deputies in Orange County after the boys dumped a dead dog on his property. When deputies arrived to ask one of them about the allegations cops say the boy picked up a puppy and started beating it until deputies forced him to stop, according to Fox News in Orlando.

Three dogs were taken from the property after they were found covered with wounds, spray painted and living in unhealthy conditions.

Service dog alerts owner to fire

Yet another dog is being credited with saving his owner from a house fire — and a neighbor, too.

A hearing-impaired man’s service dog, named Roscoe, smelled the fire and jumped on the bed to wake him, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The owner, Darrin Weeks, then went on to save his sleeping neighbor, who lived in the other half of the burning Orlando duplex. (You can see a video report from WFTV here.)

Rescue crews treated Weeks’ neighbor for smoke inhalation. Weeks, who was not injured in the blaze, said he owed his life to his dog.

“I’m going to give him a steak tomorrow,” Weeks said.