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
The owners of Atlantic City’s Steel Pier have scrapped plans to bring back the diving horse act it was once famed for.
The act — started in the 1920s, shut down in the 1970s – featured a horse and a rider plunging into a tank of water from a 40-foot-high platform.
Anthony Catanoso, whose family owns the historic pier, said he’s no longer interested in bringing back the attraction, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“We just felt that since Atlantic City is moving forward, we should move forward with it. We should create new memories for visitors instead of recreating old ones.”
Catanoso had revived the act once, in 1993, but shut it down after two months amid protests from animal rights activists.
Catanoso proposed reviving the act again earlier this month in connection with a massive redevelopment plan for Atlantic City’s Boardwalk, casino district, and shopping areas.
But within days, animal welfare activists and others were voicing opposition. A petition against the act, on the website change.org, garnered 10,000 signatures in one day.
“That negativity – we didn’t want that to interfere with the positive things we’re trying to do,” Catanoso said.
Catanoso says no horse was ever harmed in the act.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 15th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: act, animal rights, animal welfare, anthony catanoso, atlantic city, canceled, diving, diving horses, horses, opposition, petitions, plans, protests, steel pier, stunt, tourism
Bombarded by 18,000 emails and faced with a crowd of more than 100 dog lovers, the Cumberland County Animal Control Board last night dropped a proposal to ban adoptions of pit bulls, Rottweilers, chow chows and other breeds.
About 10 breeds were included in the proposal — as were any mixes of them — all of which would have been euthanized within three days of arriving at the North Carolina county’s shelter.
Instead, the Fayeteville Observer reports, the animal control board directed Dr. John Lauby, the animal control director, to look into ways the county can better screen people who adopt animals to ensure they’ll be responsible owners.
The proposed breed ban was recommended about two months after Cumberland County hired a contractor to round up stray and feral dogs in and around Fayetteville — most of which ended up getting euthanized.
That step, and the breed ban, were prompted by complaints from the public about free-running dogs that posed nuisances and dangers.
In October, the Animal Control board recommended that the county deem “unadoptable” any and all bully breeds, as well as Rottweilers chow chows, Great Danes and German shepherds, according to some reports.
Those breeds, and mixes of them — labeled “attack dogs” by one county official – would have been euthanized within 72 hours, unless other shelters or rescues took them.
By Monday night, Lauby said he had received more than 18,000 emails about the proposal, many from activists who — based on online petitions and erroneous news reports — believed the county was to start euthanizing all such breeds Monday.
“We’re not trying to kill anything,” Lauby said. “We’re trying to adopt animals.”
Among those who addressed the board were pit bull owners, rescuers, trainers and groomers, many of whom voiced their opposition to breed specific policies and laws.
“Some of the best dogs I groom are dogs that are on the list,” said Karin Miller, a groomer in Hope Mills. “We can’t categorize the dogs any more than we can categorize people.”
Troy Duke, who runs a Cumberland County pit bull rescue, said the dogs are “suffering from the same stereotypes that racists label other people with.”
Lauby told the board that dog adoptions have increased from 700 per year to about 2,000, but the county still euthanizes some 11,000 dogs annually.
About 1,000 pit bulls arrive at the county shelter a year, most of which are euthanized.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 6th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adoption ban, animal control board, animals, attack dogs, ban, breed, breed-specific, chows, cumberland county, dangerous dogs, dogs, emails, euthanasia, euthanize, fayetteville, feral dogs, german shepherds, great danes, john lauby, meeting, north carolina, petitions, pets, pit bulls, policy, proposal, protests, rottweilers, stereotypes, stray dogs, uproar
(An update to this story can be found here.)
Apparently gunning down stray dogs on the streets wasn’t enough for the dog unfriendly officials of Cumberland County, North Carolina.
Now they want to slay, within 72 hours, every dog that comes into the shelter who is, or appears to be a mix of:
American Staffordshire terrier, Rottweiller, Akita, chow chow, Doberman pinscher, German shepherd, Great Dane, Presa Canario, Siberian husky or mastiff. There’s a convenient catch-all pit bull category as well.
They’re not doing it yet, despite what you may be reading on the misinformation highway.
But they’re talking about it.
The county’s Animal Control Board is recommending that authorities limit the adoption of the above dog breeds, or, as one county official referred to them, ”attack animals.” (Clearly, they haven’t met many Great Danes.)
The idea is only in the discussion stages, but many websites are reporting –erroneously — that the new policy goes into effect today.
“I’ve probably had 1,500 emails,” said John Lauby, director of Cumberland County Animal Control. (Here’s hoping he gets about 150,000 more.)
Lauby told a Fayetteville Observer columnist that misinformation on the Internet led people to believe the county will ban adoption of pit bulls and other breeds starting Monday, and immediately euthanize any members of those breeds in the shelter.
In reality, the county hasn’t taken that medieval step, it’s just considering it.
“We’re looking at a list of animals used as attack animals,” County Commissioner Charles Evans said. “It has been suggested that something needs to be done about those.”
The recommendation would have to make its way through a committe and then require approval by the county commissioners before going into effect. But it’s scheduled to be introduced at a meeting tonight. (6 p.m., at Cumberland County Animal Services, 4704 Corporation Drive, Fayetteville).
Lauby said animal control constantly receives calls from residents complaining about dogs behaving aggressively or running loose, preventing people from getting into their cars.
“We have an inordinate number of pit bulls in the county that are chasing people, chasing dogs, they’re on school grounds and generally bother people,” he said. “The reality is that about 80 percent of our calls are related to that particular breed.”
Complaints from the public also led Cumberland County to hire an outside contractor to capture stray dogs in and around Fayetteville — a massive roundup that started in August and, at last report, led to more dogs being gunned down than caught alive.
Fayetteville doesn’t have its own animal control department, instead relying on the county office to handle dog-related issues.
As I’ve implied before, that might be part of the problem — the problem, in my view, being not just too many uncontrolled dogs, but too many unenlightened public servants, who see dogs as foes and death as a solution.
Maybe it’s the army base influence. In any event, someone needs to usher Cumberland County into modern times.
In a way, the proposed policy — while it it lists some new ”public enemy” breeds, like the husky, and some returning ones, like the shepherd — would only formalize what’s already common practice in the county.
Since April, Cumberland County Animal Control has taken in nearly 1,300 pit bulls, but only 124 have been adopted. The shelter has taken in 180 Rottweilers since then, only 26 of whom were adopted. Of 96 chow chows received at the shelter since April, 15 have been adopted, according to the Fayetteville Observer.
The rest are euthanized.
Now, some want to make it official, banning the adoption of any of those breeds and guaranteeing a death sentence for all of them, or any mixes thereof — all based on what will likely be, judging from the wisdom they’ve shown so far, an uneducated guess.
In addition to complaints, worries about liability issues are also behind the proposal. The county fears it might be held responsible for any damage done by dogs adopted from its shelter. Most shelters handle that with a simple waiver.
If you’d like to give Cumberland County officials a piece of your mind — and it appears they could use it — continue reading for contact information.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 5th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adoptions, aggressive, akita, american staffordshire terrier, animal control, attack animals, automatically, banned, bans, breed, breeds, bully breeds, captured, chow, contact, cumberland county, death, doberman, erroneous, euthanasia, euthanized, fayetteville, german shepherd, great dane, internet, john lauby, kill, killed, liability, mastiff, north carolina, petitions, pit bulls, pitbulls, presa canario, proposal, purge, reports, rottweiler, shelter, shot, siberian husky, strays, three days
Nearly 200,000 signatures have been submitted to the Missouri Secretary of State’s office in an attempt to get the proposed “Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act” on the November ballot.
Missourians for the Protection of Dogs, the group spearheading the citizen-backed initiative, gathered 190,127 signatures, nearly twice as many as required.
“This can only be considered a massive outpouring of public support for the idea of puppy mill reform,” said Barbara Schmitz, campaign manager.
Backers say the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act will improve the lives of dogs by requiring large-scale breeding operations to provide each dog under their care with sufficient food and clean water, necessary veterinary care, adequate housing, and adequate space and exercise.
Lawmakers in Iowa enacted puppy mill legislation earlier this year, and a similar bill in Oklahoma now awaits the governor’s signature. After Missouri, they are the next largest dog breeding states in the nation. Last year, 10 states approved legislation to address puppy mill problems.
Missourians for the Protection of Dogs is comprised of numerous individuals, veterinarians, and animal welfare organizations, including the Humane Society of Missouri, the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and The Humane Society of the United States.
“We’re tired of being known as the puppy mill capital of the country,” Schmitz said. “We’re tired of having dogs being treated in such a substandard and cruel way.”
Missouri has been estimated to have more than 4,000 shoddy and inhumane high-volume breeders, and state officials been cracking down on them, the Jefferson City News Tribune reports.
Under the ballot measure, dog-breeders could only have 50 breeding dogs and would be required to feed animals daily, provide annual veterinary care and not breed animals more than twice every 18 months. Breeders also would have to follow rules for the dogs’ living space and house animals indoors with unfettered access to an outdoor exercise yard.
It would apply to people with at least 10 female dogs for breeding. Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to 15 days in jail and a $300 fine.
Dog breeders and many Missouri farming groups have criticized the initiative and say it could lead to efforts to restrict livestock production in the state.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 4th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ballot, barbara schmitz, breeders, breeding, initiative, iowa, large scale, measure, missouri, petitions, puppy mill capital, puppy mill cruelty prevention act, puppy mills, signatures, submitted
As it so articulately sums up the concerns and feelings of many dog owners — both in regards to the recent increases in fines and the city’s overall lack of dog-friendliness – we’re reprinting it here in its entirety:
(A City Council committee is holding a hearing on the fine for unleashed dogs today –10 a.m., on the fourth floor of City Hall — and is considering lowering the fine from $1,000 to $250 for a first offense.)
Dear Councilman Kraft:
I have been a resident of Baltimore for almost thirty years, and for the past twenty have resided in your district. My husband and I own a rescued purebred Beagle who was acquired by us as the direct result of two violent crimes–a burglary and a home invasion in which my then 80-year-old mother was seriously injured by criminals who robbed her. While not an “attack dog” by any means, the dog provides us with security and peace of mind by barking appropriately and alertly when anyone comes into our space. My husband works on the third shift, and our dog provides additional comfort and security for me because I do not need to feel I am alone at night. Frankly, after what happened to my mother, it was buy a dog or buy a gun. We chose the sane and non-violent alternative.
We are responsible dog owners. Our dog is exercised on leash in the neighborhood or off leash at the Canton Dog Park, which as you know was built through the efforts and fundraising of the dog-loving community members of Canton. Our dog is properly vaccinated for rabies and other canine diseases. He is microchipped. We acquire and pay for the correct license each year from the city. He is neutered.
I am appalled by the punitive animal control fines recently enacted by the City Government for various transgressions that are, to be blunt, fairly minor. I am stunned by the fact that one careless failure to “scoop the poop” or one lonely afternoon of dog “separation anxiety” can net a fine TWICE THE AMOUNT of that levied against someone running a dog fight or running an unlicensed boarding facility or (as it appears) hoarding animals or running a puppy mill.
What was the City Government thinking? It appears at first glance that you may have chronicled the impression that this was some sort of untapped revenue source there for the taking. It appears at first glance that you, the members of the City Council, care more about rolling in the bucks than you do about the welfare and well-being of either the city’s human or animal population. We’ve heard a great deal of hoopla about dog parks in various areas of the city–but there’s been little action. People in the Patterson Park area have been trying for seven years to get some small area of that vast expanse set aside for their use. Apparently giant balloon-like skating structures and asphalt tennis courts are “attractive” but a fenced dog park is “not attractive.” It appears that the “Friends of Patterson Park” aren’t actually friends to all.
You should be aware that average, working, tax-paying, bill-paying people regard dog ownership as a quality-of-life issue. When the quality of life gets too poor, or the cost of living in the city becomes too burdensome, people flee their city homes for the suburbs or the country. To be honest, we’re at the point where if a friend asked us whether to move to Baltimore City or one of the surrounding counties, we’d seriously advise that person not to come here.
While I am on the subject, I found it singularly unattractive that someone sent two Baltimore City police officers to make their presence felt at the recent MD SPCA March for the Animals at Druid Hill Park. Frankly, Mr. Kraft, it was bad PR. It had the appearance that they were looking out for tickets they could issue. I hope the event will be relocated to a county park next year.
I urge you and the other City Council members to reconsider these outrageous fines.There should be warnings and progressively larger tickets to weed out people who genuinely don’t care. And you should punish animal abusers just as severely or more severely. While you are at it, it is past time to make a move towards reasonable off-leash exercise areas in various parts of the city. Tomorrow’s hearing provides the City Council with a golden opportunity to set things right. Please do your part to see that they avail themselves of it.
(Photo by Anne Madison)
Posted by jwoestendiek April 27th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: anne madison, baltimore, beagle, city council, dog, dog friendly, dogs, fines, guns, hearing, james kraft, leash free, leash law, letter, letters, one thousand dollars, parks, penalties, petitions, spencer, unleashed
Ratchet, a dog adopted by a U.S. soldier in Iraq, was put aboard a plane to Kuwait today and is expected to be flown to Washington tomorrow, CNN reported.
Operation Baghdad Pups, a project of SPCA International, said once a veterinarian determines the dog is healthy he will be flown to Minnesota — the home state of Sgt. Gwen Beberg, one of a group of soliders who saved Ratchet from a burning trash pile.
Beberg tried to have the dog flown home to the United States on October 1, but the military, which prohibits soldiers from adopting pets abroad and bringing them home, confiscated the dog on the way to the airport.
Operation Baghdad Pups returned to pick up Ratchet this weekend, after the military reconsidered and cleared Ratchet’s trip. More than 65,000 people signed two online petitions urging the military to let Ratchet go to the United States.
On Sunday, private security contractors took Ratchet from a base to the airport, where he was put on a charter flight to Kuwait. Northwest Airlines is donating the flights from Kuwait to Minnesota, SPCA officials said.
Beberg’s deployment started in September 2007 and is scheduled to end in November.
“She was absolutely miserable in the war and was really struggling to keep going every day. Ratchet turned it around for her,” SPCA spokeswoman Stephanie Scroggs said last week.
Beberg’s mother, Patricia Beberg, in a statement released by the SPCA, said Ratchet “was the savior of her [daughter's] sanity” in Iraq.
A worldwide outcry by dog lovers has led the U.S. military to agree to release Ratchet, the Iraqi puppy they had confiscated from an Army sergeant who wanted to bring him home to Minnesota, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports.
Fifty thousand signatures on online petitions, and some help from politicians, prompted the Army to make an exception (as it has before) to its ban on soldiers adopting and bringing home pets from Iraq.
Operation Baghdad Pups, a program of SPCA International, had hoped to get the pup on a flight Wednesday, but the Army moved slowly in releasing the dog, causing it to miss a scheduled flight.
Program officials will make a special trip back to Iraq on Sunday to try to retrieve him.
Sgt. Gwen Beberg, who adopted Ratchet as a 4-week-old pup after fellow soldiers in Baghdad rescued him from a pile of burning trash, sent her mother a short e-mail Wednesday when she heard the news: “I AM THRILLED THAT RATCHET IS GOING HOME.”
Her mother, Pat Beberg, said she hopes Ratchet’s case might get the military to reconsider its policy against pets. “I want to make sure that other soldiers do not encounter this,” Beberg said. “[Gwen] is using a puppy to handle stress. Isn’t that so much better than popping a handful of pills?”
Operation Baghdad Pups was founded a year ago and relies on donations to rescue dogs and cats adopted by American military personnel in Iraq. It has flown more than 50 dogs and cats to the United States.
Gwen Beberg, whose saw her duty in Iraq extended, is supposed to return to the United States in the coming months. When she tried to get Ratchet to her parents’ home in Spring Lake Park, a superior officer confiscated the dog on the way to the airport.
The case, through coverage by the mainstream media and intrepid dog bloggers, prompted a “firestorm of interest” on the Internet, the Star-Tribune said. By Wednesday afternoon, petitions demanding clemency for the dog had been signed by more than 50,000 people around the world, and the pup’s story was posted on almost 27,000 websites.
In addition to the petitions, supporters called congressional offices and Army headquarters this week demanding that something be done to save the dog.
The offices of Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., and Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., also pushed for the dog’s release. Northwest Airlines has offered to fly Ratchet from Kuwait to Minneapolis.
(Photo courtesy SPCA International)
Posted by jwoestendiek October 16th, 2008 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopted, army, baghdad, ban, beberg, dog, dogs, exception, flying, home, iraq, military, minnesota, operation baghdad pups, petitions, ratchet, sergeant, soldiers, spca international, stress, u.s., war