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Tag: police

Baltimore police officer who cut dog’s throat is found not guilty of all charges


There was no justice for Nala in Baltimore this week.

A Baltimore Circuit Court judge on Thursday acquitted a former city police officer charged with animal cruelty, misconduct and mutilating an animal after he slit the seven-year-old Shar-Pei’s throat in the summer of 2014.

Judge Melissa M. Phinn said the state did not present adequate evidence that proved Jeffrey Bolger, 50, was responsible for the death.

That despite the fact he pulled out a knife and drew it across the throat of a dog already restrained by a catchpole — after uttering, at least according to one witness, “I’m going to gut this thing.”

Phinn noted that the verdict might not be popular, but said the evidence indicated the officer was acting in the interest of public safety and putting the dog out of it’s misery.

She also noted that Maryland’s Chief Medical Examiner David R. Fowler testified that the dog likely was dead before her throat was cut.

Phinn said that Bolger would not have the expertise to know the dog was already dead when he slit its throat.

Bolger’s attorneys — attempting to cover all the bases — had argued both that the dog was already dead and that Bolger was attempting to euthanize the dog in the most humane way possible.

“Rather than have a dog suffer needlessly, a dog that was going to be tested for rabies, he decided to make an incision,” said Bolger’s attorney, Steven H. Levin, said as he left the courthouse with his client on Thursday.

An incision???

bolgerApparently, at least according to the defense arguments the judge bought, Bolger — or should we call him Dr. Bolger — decided to euthanize an already subdued dog he wasn’t sure was dead or alive out of the goodness of his heart with his trusty pocket knife.

Contrary to the state medical examiner’s findings, a necropsy performed by a doctor working for the city’s animal control determined a cut artery led to the dog’s death.

The state medical examiner said those findings were faulty, and while some witnesses said they heard the dog whimper and that her eyes remained opened before Bolger cut her, the medical examiner testified that both signs are not uncommon even after death.

The judge noted that, while one witness said they heard Bolger say, “I’m going to gut this thing,” another person within earshot did not recall him use the phrase.

Prosecutor Paul O’Connor had argued the Bolger had no reason to slit the dog’s throat, saying she was already restrained when Bolger cut her.

Bolger’s attorneys argued that the officer did not have proper equipment to sedate the dog, that the dog choked “itself” to death while on the pole, and that Bolger used the knife to protect the public.

Both that pole and Nala’s collar “disappeared” long before the trial started.

Nala escaped from her yard last year and was spotted roaming the streets of a Highlandtown neighborhood. Police were called after she bit a pregnant woman who was trying to rescue her from traffic.

Bolger had no comment to reporters at the trial’s conclusion, other than to thank his attorneys. The dog’s owner, Sarah Gossard, 30, left the courtroom in tears.

In a Facebook post Thursday, she said she was “heartbroken,” by the judge’s verdict.

“I do believe that just because this judge didn’t find the evidence sufficient, that doesn’t mean that he didn’t kill her. I don’t feel that justice was served but I can only hope that Nala’s death has raised animal cruelty awareness.”

After the trial, Bolger’s attorneys talked about their client’s suffering — that’s right, Bolger’s suffering.

Levin said the case drew nationally publicity, negatively affected his client’s life and forced him to retire early from the police department and suffered after having been suspended without pay.

State’s Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Rochelle Ritchie said her office was disappointed by the judge’s decision. “It will not deter us from pursuing and prosecuting those who commit heinous acts against animals,” she said.

Katie Flory, who heads the Mayor’s Anti-Animal Abuse Advisory Commission and is director of Community Affairs for the Maryland SPCA, said she was also disappointed by the verdict.

“We are very sad and frustrated to hear that a guilty verdict was not given today. It shows us that we have a lot more work to do when it comes to the egregious acts to animals in our city,” she told the Baltimore Sun.

“We are very sad for Sarah’s family,” Flory added. “It’s not going to bring Nala back and we hoped for justice for Nala, and for her family.”

Making a mountain out of a … poop bag?


Vanderbilt University may well have some racial inequities worth addressing. And some racist acts may take place on campus from time to time. But Marley’s poop was not one of them.

A sack of dog poop left on the front steps of Vanderbilt University’s Black Cultural Center — discovered the day after a student demonstration to show support for protesters at the University of Missouri — was quickly decried by a student organization as a “vile” and “racist” act.

In reality, the bag was left there by a blind student who cleaned up the mess left by her guide dog, Marley, but could not find a trash receptacle to place it in.

On Monday, about 200 Vanderbilt students staged a walkout over campus race relations — one described as a show of support for the Missouri students, but also held to draw attention to Vanderbilt’s own problems when it comes to racial imbalances.

On Tuesday, the bag of feces was found in front of the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center.

Backers of a university campaign called Hidden Dores, the mission of which is to “draw attention to the racial and ethnic minority experience on a predominantly white campus,” quickly placed a post on Facebook decrying the deed.

“The Hidden Dores team is appalled to announce that our demonstration yesterday was met this morning with a vile act. This morning someone left a bag of feces on the porch of Vanderbilt University’s Black Cultural Center. The center has served as the nexus of many aspects of black life on Vanderbilt’s campus since its inception 31 years ago. The violation of a place that in many ways is the sole home for black students is deplorable.

“As many of us sit in grief, recognize that these types of actions are what we speak of when we note the reality of exclusion and isolation of students of color and specifically black students on our campus. This act has hurt many and will not be received lightly. We will not allow for the desecration of the place we call home. As we announced yesterday and reaffirm today, we will not be silent.”

Campus police launched an investigation immediately. After surveillance camera footage was reviewed, officers contacted the student who appeared to have left the bag of feces there.

“The investigation found the bag was inadvertently left by an individual with a service dog who was authorized to be in the building who could not find a trash can near the entrance and did not wish to take the bag inside. VUPD has concluded, based on their investigation, that there was no criminal or malicious intent in this action, and the investigation is considered closed,” Vanderbilt News reported yesterday.

The blind student posted her own account of what happened on Facebook:

“I would like to inform everyone on this campus that no racial threat occurred. I am a blind student on this campus with a guide dog. I was meeting with a group last night to go over our debate for one of my sociology classes. My dog did her business outside on the grass and I picked it up and put it in a bag like always … I did not want to bring the feces inside and make the building smell, so I left it outside by the door … Everyone is going to point me out now as the blind girl who left her dog feces by the black cultural center. I am sorry that I do not know where all the trash cans are on main campus…”

Leaders of the Hidden Dores campaign put a new post on its Facebook page, apologizing to the blind student, and for reacting a little too swiftly.

“Given the recent elevation in polarization on this campus in the aftermath of our silent protest this Monday, evidenced by tough personal exchanges and anonymous targeted posts, it was too easy for us to believe that a member of our community would stoop low enough to maliciously leave fecal matter at the Black Cultural Center,” the Facebook post said.

“Nonetheless, we apologize to the Vanderbilt community for jumping to conclusions and for any personal trauma caused by the quick escalation of this situation.”

(Photo: Hidden Dores Facebook page)

Three pit bulls freed from storm sewer

trapped pits

Not every time a police officer encounters three barking pit bulls does the story end on a positive note, but I promise this one won’t haunt you.

Three pit bulls trapped in a storm drain on the side of a Florida highway were rescued earlier this week, thanks to the efforts of police, animal control officers and a fire department rescue team.

A Cocoa police officer found the dogs Tuesday morning after hearing them barking, WFTV reported

Officer Matt Rush called Brevard County Animal Services officers, who then called Cocoa Fire Rescue to help remove the heavy grate they were trapped under.

Firefighters were able to pry open the grate and the dogs were safely removed and turned over to Brevard County Animal Services. According to a Facebook post, the dogs, who had no tags or other identification, have been returned to their owner.

“My first thought was, ‘How in the world did they get in there, and how did I manage to hear them?’” Rush said.

Authorities say the dog may have gone into an open drain nearby that leads into the storm sewer system.

Of Dogs and Men: Documentary examines epidemic of dog shootings by police officers

A new documentary brings attention to an epidemic that really needs some — the shooting of dogs by police officers in America.

Anyone who reads this website knows it happens far too much — take Tuesday, for example — and often without good reason.

There are no firm statistics, but consider the estimates: The Department of Justice says about 10,000 dogs are shot by police officers every year.

And the number of police officers killed by dogs? None. Ever.

The documentary “Of Dogs and Men” takes a look at those alarming numbers, and what’s behind them, featuring many of the same cases we’ve reported here:

• Cisco, who was playing Frisbee with his owner in his Austin, Texas back yard when police at the wrong address for a domestic dispute call, shot and killed him.

• Payton and Chase, who were shot by police during a raid on a Maryland home – not only was their owner innocent of any charges, he is the town’s mayor.

• General Patton, who watched as his owners were handcuffed on the side of a Tennessee highway, completely innocent of any charges, and then killed as he exited the car, wagging his tail.

• Patches, a 12 pound Jack Russell terrier, who was shot by a 250-pound police officer who claimed to be in fear for his life.

“From SWAT raids to simple calls and even visits to wrong addresses, we are seeing more and more incidents of officers using lethal force against a family pet, despite the fact that no officer has ever been killed in the line of duty by a dog,” said director Michael Ozias. “We are hoping that this film compels more jurisdictions to follow the lead of states like Texas and Colorado that have taken steps to protect our law enforcement officers and our family dogs through increased awareness, proper training and effective policy.”

Of Dogs and Men, by Ozymandias Media, Inc., will premier Nov. 1 at the Austin Film Festival.

The film is being released in association with the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).

“Use of deadly force is rarely justified in these types of cases,” said ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “With better training, we are confident that we can put an end to these pointless killings,”

“Of Dogs and Men does an excellent job educating citizens on both the common facts of these heartbreaking cases and the surprising scope of the problem, while highlighting the tools citizens can employ to change outcomes for the better—from legislation requiring officer training in canine encounters to litigation under the federal civil rights act,” Wells added. “This film needed to be made and ALDF is proud to be a part of it.”

Some states are headed in the right direction.

Texas, where the problem is perhaps most severe, passed HB 593 in 2015, which requires mandatory canine encounter training for incoming Texas peace officers as well as those who seek advancement. The training helps officers who encounter dogs achieve safe and non-confrontational outcomes for both the officer and the dog.

The State of Colorado also enacted a statute that requires local law enforcement to undergo training to differentiate between threatening and non-threatening dog behaviors, and employ non-lethal means whenever possible.

Illinois has enacted similar legislation and other states are considering it as well.

You’d almost think dog lives don’t matter

No dog has ever killed a police officer in the line of duty.

And yet police officers, in the line of duty, shoot about 10,000 dogs a year in America, according to Department of Justice estimates.

One of the latest fatalities in the epidemic was Duchess, shot down Tuesday by an officer who acted quickly, if not wisely.

Within the space of about two seconds, a Florida City police officer determined the dog running out a front door he had knocked on was a threat and shot him three times.

The 40-pound pit bull mix died almost instantly as a surveillance camera recorded the incident.

Gillian Palacios said her two-year-old dog ran out of the front door when she started to open it.

The officer had knocked on the door to let the family know their car door was open.

“Before I could even do anything, the officer had his gun out and shot her three times in the head,” she told WPLG.

“She was curious. She wasn’t barking (and) she wasn’t growling,” Palacios said. “There was no reason for him to think she was aggressive in any way.”

“There were a million things he could have done other that shoot her three times in the head,” she added.

The officer has been placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation.

Florida City police spokesman Ken Armenteros defended the officer’s actions.

“We don’t have the luxury of hindsight,” Armenteros said. “We have to use the information that is given to us in a split second. So, the officer has to make that decision with the information that he has available.”

What about the luxury of foresight, though, we’d ask?

What about a mandatory program that trains all of a police force’s officers in canine behavior, how to interpret it, how to deal with it and how to make their split second decisions a little more wisely, a little less rashly?

All state legislatures should require such training, all police forces should get it in place. Only then will the “shoot first” mentality, and the thinking that dog lives don’t matter, begin to subside.

(Tomorrow: A look at a new documentary that explores the epidemic, “Of Dogs and Men.”)

Homeless man in Paris gets his dog back

Amid a police investigation and a public outcry, animal rights activists have returned the puppy they seized from a homeless man in Paris last month, according to news reports.

Activists from Cause Animale Nord, an animal rights group based in Lille in northern France, snatched the puppy in September from a homeless man on a street in central Paris. Members later said the homeless man had drugged the dog and was using it to assist him in begging.

The incident was caught on camera and, since being posted on Facebook and elsewhere, it has been viewed more than 1.7 million times.

parisA petition on the website calling for an investigation into Cause Animale Nord’s actions has been signed by nearly 250,000 people.

A police inquiry was launched a on September 25, according to The Telegraph.

The president of Cause Animale Nord — seen taking the dog on the video — was brought in for questioning, but released after promising to return the dog to its owner.

The group had placed the dog in foster care, and was offering it for adoption for a fee of €175.

23 dogs seized from home outside of Charlotte in dog fighting investigation


More than 20 dogs believed to be part of a dog-fighting operation were seized yesterday by police in Huntersville, N.C., as part of a joint investigation with the ASPCA.

“We’re not going to put up with that in Huntersville,” Police Chief Cleveland Spruill said.

Officers have questioned residents of the home on Statesville Road, but have yet to file any charges.

In addition to seizing 23 dogs, a treadmill and other items commonly used to train fighting dogs were also taken as evidence.

ASPCA Director of Investigations, Kathryn Destreza, said that 16 adult dogs and seven puppies were tethered to heavy chains and removed from filthy conditions.

“That’s how they live their life,” she said. “If they’re not fighting or being conditioned to fight they live their life on the end of a chain.”

According to an ASPCA news release, “Some were thin and exhibited scars, bite marks, broken teeth and other injuries commonly associated with dog fighting … Dog fighting paraphernalia was discovered, including conditioning and training devices, indoor and outdoor fighting pits, and medication common to treating wounds associated with dog fighting.”

dogfightingHuntersville police said that after receiving tips, they obtained a search warrant for the property.

It was executed with assistance from ASPCA investigators and Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s animal control department.

Police Chief Spruill said the puppies will likely be able to be adopted, but that will have to be decided by a judge.

“The ASPCA’s goal is always to rehab as many animals we can from any criminal situation,” the ASPCA’s Destreza said.

Where the dogs were being taken was not divulged.

Destreza said numerous dogs chained in a back yard is often an indication that dog fighting might be taking place.

A woman who described herself as the dog owner’s aunt told WBTV in Charlotte that the dogs were being raised to be sold. She denied that they were involved in dog fighting.

Police are asking anyone with information to contact Lt. Andrew Dempski at 704-464-5400.

(Photos: ASPCA)

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