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Tag: put down

Where a trail of dead dogs has led

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When Randi Hileman came upon a trail of dead dogs and cats on the highway in North Carolina, she did what most folks do nowadays. She got out her phone and took some pictures.

She was distressed enough by the scene that, after moving the corpses to the side of the road, she posted the photos on Facebook and called the news media —  all in search of some sort of explanation.

And when, earlier this month, the explanation came, she — and a lot of other people — got even angrier.

trailWhat little official response there was went something like this: Someone failed to properly latch the tailgate of  a truck transporting dogs and cats that had been euthanized at the Davidson County Animal Shelter.

Rather than ending up at their destination, a landfill, their bodies were left strewn along U.S 64, near Interstate 85.

Judy Lanier, the shelter’s director, told inquiring reporters it was a non-story, and apparently convinced a lot of them of that.

Not too many accounts of what happened can be easily found on the Internet, other than this one in the Winston-Salem Journal.

“It was an internal employee mistake that’s been dealt with in less than 30 minutes,” Lanier told columnist Scott Sexton. “Basically it’s a nonstory. There is one thread on one Facebook page where you’ve got less than 10 people beating a dead horse.”

Between being one of only eight counties backwards enough to still use gas chambers to put down dogs, the public opposition to that, the county’s dismal adoptions figures (it reportedly euthanizes 6,000 dogs a year), Lanier’s defensive reaction and the vivid images of what her employee left, however briefly, on the highway, it’s not too surprising that some people are calling for the shelter director’s resignation.

Lanier, while she’s not granting many interviews with the media, is responding to what people are saying on Facebook.

“I never took it lightly,” she says in one comment. “I dealt with it a week ago in a professional expedient fashion … I take issue with this non story that was simply an error of equipment usage being used as another platform for attacking our shelter, our staff and our ethics … Not one cat was adopted due to this story being spread all over face book. Not one of these so called activists stepped through the door to help lessen the overcrowding that requires that truck to make that trip several times a week. Shame on those who criticize that which they don’t understand and those who don’t intend to put their words into action. Journalism when practiced honestly does not require ambushing and exploitation. That’s just his personnel (sic) self aggrandizement in print.

Lanier wrote that none of the animals found on the road had been put down in the gas chamber, and said the shelter uses lethal injection three times more often than it uses its gas chamber. Opponents of the gas chamber, she said,  are using the dead animal spill to fuel their campaign against the use of gas.

“Those animals are the visual picture of what happens in a community that does not spay/nueter (sic), thinks of animals as disposable property and expects a small shelter to absorb their decisions and re home each one. That’s a fact not an excuse but reality.

In another comment, she gets in a shot at the reporter:  ”Must be a slow day in the newspaper world when a columnist can only report week old news and quote a no comment voice mail to make a punch line … Mr. Sexton burnt a bridge he won’t ever cross again today.”

MAP TEMP NEW 2014Lanier further states that she wishes people criticizing the shelter would spend that energy instead on volunteering at the shelter, helping get dogs adopted and educating the public on spaying and neutering.

Amid her comments, an apology can be found.

“The incident where animals were found on Highway 64 on Tuesday, August 8, 2014 was an unfortunate error caused by the tailgate on the animal shelter truck being inadequately secured. The animal shelter truck was in route to the county landfill at the time of the incident. The animal shelter staff acted as soon as possible to correct this error and the staff member involved was extremely sorry and devastated that this had occurred. The shelter staff member is an excellent employee who performs above and beyond every day at the shelter. Measures have been taken by the staff to make sure this never occurs again.

“The Davidson County Animal Shelter apologizes to the public who witnessed this incident. We are aware of the impact this has had on our citizens. The entire incident was due to human error and is regrettable.”

Probably she should have provided that statement to reporters and stopped there, rather than telling them they were “beating a dead horse.” And probably she should have held back on criticizing animal advocates who want to see the gas chamber dismantled.

Criticizing those who see the issues differently is bad for public relations. Badmouthing reporters is bad for public relations. The gas chamber is bad for public relations. Dead dogs on the highway is bad for public relations.

Davidson County officials have the power to do something about one or two of those, or perhaps all four.

(Photos from Randi Hileman’s Facebook page)

Duke’s last day

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When a friend had to put her dog down a week ago, Houston photographer Robyn Arouty joined her to provide some moral support, and to document Duke’s bittersweet last day with her camera.

Arouty, who is also an animal rescuer and advocate, joined her friend Jordan Roberts on July 7 as she let Duke feast on hamburgers and visit a water park before he received a lethal injection — all while surrounded by friends.

Duke, a black Lab, was diagnosed a few years ago with osteosarcoma, a cancerous bone tumor, and had his right front leg removed. The cancer came back, though, and was spreading.

“His tumor was growing rapidly and we were out of options,” Roberts said. “He would rally during the day, but his nights were increasingly uncomfortable as his tumor started to separate his ribs. We struggled with the decision to let Dukey go, but ultimately did everything in our power to protect him from further pain.”

duke2She made an appointment with a vet to have him euthanized on Monday, July 7. Then she called Arouty, who had taken photos for her before. She told her about her plans for Duke’s last day and asked her to photograph it.

Arouty’s photos show Duke and friends eating hamburgers in the morning, visiting a water park, and cuddling with friends.

Along with the photos, Arouty told the story of Duke (narrated from his point of view) on  her blog . (Note: At the time of this writing, it was having some technical difficulties.)

“Jordan let me know she had scheduled the appointment with the vet and the words just came,” Arouty told KSL.com. “See, I have lost three of my own dogs in the past year and a half.”

“With the help from our friends, Dukey had a beautiful day filled with love and happiness,” his owner said. “We should all be so lucky.”

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(Photos: From Robyn Arouty’s Facebook page)

Vet kept their “euthanized” dog alive — and used him for blood transfusions, family says

Imagine being told by your vet that your dog had an incurable condition and had to be euthanized.

Imagine saying your goodbyes and agreeing to let the vet put the dog down, with the promise that he would bury him on his farm.

Now imagine learning — six months later — that your dog never died, and the vet was keeping him alive to use him for blood transfusions.

A veterinary clinic in Fort Worth is under investigation for just such a Frankenstein-like scenario, NBC 5 reports.

campbowieFort Worth police, the city of Fort Worth and state officials are involved in an investigation that started when a client of the Camp Bowie Animal Clinic found out his “euthanized” dog, a 5-year-old Leonberger named Sid, was alive.

Alive and well, in fact — except for being kept in a cage around the clock, and apparently being periodically tapped for blood at the clinic.

Jamie and Marian Harris said they took their dog to the vet for a minor anal gland issue.

After getting treated, Sid had trouble walking.

They say the vet, Lou Tierce, told them their dog had a spinal condition that was only going to get worse, and recommended he be put down. The couple and the son agreed to let the clinic bury Sid on the vet’s farm.

Six months later, the Harrises received a call from a veterinary technician, Mary Brewer, who told them Sid was alive and being used for blood transfusions while being kept in a cage most of the day.

“I told her, ‘He’s still here,’ and she’s like, ‘Can he walk?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, he’s here waiting on you. If you came today, he’d walk out and jump in your car,’” Brewer told News 5.

“It was like getting punched in the stomach and then some,” said Marian Harris. “This has rocked our world. My kids are like, ‘How does somebody do this?’ How does this happen?”

The couple went to the clinic, found Sid and freed him.

State and local authorities went to the Camp Bowie Animal Clinic Tuesday and seized several animals as evidence.

Sid, now back home, is being treated by other veterinarians. They’ve found he has mange, and shows signs of being used for blood transfusions, as well as being “abusively kenneled,” according to the Harrises’ lawyer, Jim Eggleston.

Eggleston says allegations have surfaced that more dogs and cats — some with serious illnesses — were being kept alive for blood transfusions and other experimental treatments, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

“You have a vet keeping dogs under false pretenses,” he said. “You have family pets that people thought were cremated or put down peacefully that may still be alive.”

Tierce has not been responding to media requests for his side of the story.

When the Harrises drove to the clinic to pick up their dog, they found Sid in a cage behind the building. Tierce came outside, according to their complaint, and explained that he had not euthanized Sid because some of his employees had threatened to quit if he did.

An investigator from the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners met with Fort Worth police and the Tarrant County District Attorney yesterday to discuss whether criminal animal abuse charges will be filed.

An Act of Dog: A memorial to the millions of shelter dogs put down in America


It’s easy to ignore statistics. They’re cold and dry and lack soulful eyes. And when the numbers are overwhelming — like the 5,500 unwanted dogs who are put to death daily in U.S. shelters — we tend, as a rule, to find life is more comfortable and less depressing when we don’t do the math.

Louisville artist Mark Barone is an exception to that rule. Rather than ignore the problem, he decided to put a face on it — 5,500 of them, in fact.

For two years now, he has been painting portraits of dogs who have been put down at shelters across the country, and he’s more than halfway to his goal: 5,500 portraits that he hopes will someday — unlike their subjects — find a forever home.

Barone and his partner, Marina Dervan, call the project “An Act of Dog.”

Their hope is the works will someday be displayed in a permanent memorial museum, which — between its emotional impact and the funds it would help raise for no-kill rescues and shelters – could help lead to their larger goal,  a no-kill nation.

Mark, a well-established artist, had moved to Santa Fe when, about three years ago, he lost his dog of 21 years, Santina.

“It was kind of a sad time, and I thought it would be therapeutic for Mark to go to the dog park,” Marina recalled. “I thought it would be helpful for him to get some dog love, and it was. It was really great. It got me in the mood to think about adopting another dog. Mark wasn’t at that stage, but it didn’t stop me from looking.”

Looking for adoptable dogs online and at local shelters, she quickly learned the sad reality that she says neither she nor Mark, up to then, were aware of — that millions of dogs in need of homes are put down at shelters every year.

“Instead of finding a dog, I found out all these horrifying statistics,” she said. She shared them with Mark, along with images and videos of dogs who had been, or were on the verge of, being put down.

He asked her to stop sharing, but she kept up.

“If we don’t look at it, nothing will change,” she said. “So he looked at it, as painful as it was, and day or two later, we were standing in the kitchen and he asked me the number of dogs killed everyday in the country … I gave him the number 5,500, based on statistics from Best Friends.”

It was then that the idea of honoring shelter dogs by painting 5,500 portraits of those who had been killed was born, and along with it, the longer term plan of a memorial museum, along the lines of the Vietnam Memorial and the Holocaust Museum.

First, they started looking for the studio space to get started on the task, mailing out inquiries in search of a city or town that might offer free space for him to paint.

Santa Fe wasn’t interested. Louisville was among about 30 places that were.

That’s where the couple lives now, and where Mark has completed about 3,200 of the portraits — some of them life- sized, some of them larger.

“It’s the big ones, 8 feet by 8 feet, that slow things down,” Mark said.

Only one of the 8×8-foot paintings depicts a dog who died a natural death — Mark’s dog, Santina. According to Marina, Santina will serve as the gatekeeper of the exhibit. Other large portraits feature  Batman, a 10-year-old pit bull who was left outside in 21 degree weather, and was found dead at a shelter the next morning, and Grant, who was deemed unadoptable due food bowl aggression and put down.

The large paintings — there will be 10 of them — will include the individual stories of those dogs, representing the most common reasons shelters give to put animals down.

“It’s pretty much the wall of shame,” Marina said.

Mark and Marina are still looking for a permanent place to house the works, and for sponsors and benefactors for the museum, and they have some promising leads, both in Louisville and around the country. In addition to being an educational center, the museum would also be an outlet for selling merchandise that features the images – shirts, cards, and other products. An Act of Dog, which is a nonprofit organization, would pass on all profits to no-kill facilities and rescue groups.

The dogs in the paintings come from shelters all around the country. Their photos are submitted by rescue groups, volunteers and shelter employees. They have all been put down.

Mark and Marina object to the use of the term “euthanized” when it’s applied to healthy animals. “Deliberately ending the life of a healthy and treatable pet is killing.  Deliberately ending the life of a medically hopeless and suffering pet is euthanasia,” Marina said. They don’t much like “put to sleep,” either.

“Semantics are a powerful way to keep people from the truth and our mission is to show reality without the candy wrapping,” she added.

Mark paints everyday, from sunrise to sunset. At night, he and Marina work on the An Act of Dog website. They’re both foregoing salaries at this point.

Mark has served as a consultant to cities interested in using the arts to revitalize blighted areas, among them Paducah, Kentucky, and its Paducah Artist Re-locaton Program. Marina worked 20 years coaching corporate executives.  

Now they’ve cashed in their retirement savings and are devoting full time to the project.

“We could turn away and pretend like we didn’t see what we saw, or we could do something about it,” she added. “If that means we have to live poor,  we’re OK with that, because we know we did something.”

They’re working now in studio space provided by the Mellwood Art Center in Louisville, where they did end up adopting a new dog, named Gigi, from a local shelter.

What drives the couple, though, are all the dogs who don’t get out alive — the thousands put down each day.

“The no-kill movement is making strides, but not fast enough,” said Mark who, on those days he doesn’t feel like painting, reminds himself of the bleak numbers, and the 5,500 reasons — every day — he must continue.

To learn more about An Act of Dog, and how to become a sponsor or benefactor, visit its Facebook page or the An Act of Dog website.

(Photos and video courtesy of An Act of Dog: At top, a collage of Mark’s paintings; Mark and Marina in their studio; some of the larger paintings, with Mark’s former dog, Santina, at left; and three shelter dogs dogs Breeze, Freckles and Sky)

“Last Minutes wih Oden”

The short documentary above — and, be warned, it will make you cry — chronicles the last minutes of a dog named Oden.

One of more than 6,500 submissions from thousands of artists and filmmakers, “Last Minutes with Oden” won top honors in a video contest sponsored by Vimeo, the online video sharing website.

The video focuses on Jason Wood and his dog Oden, who got cancer and had a leg amputated last year. But the cancer spread, leading Wood to make the anguishing decision to put down the dog who taught him how to love.

The video by Eliot Rausch documents the last day of Oden’s life. Vimeo’s panel of judges named it the best documentary, and the best video, and Vimeo presented the owners with a grant of $25,000. The awards were presented last month in New York City.

Jeremy Boxer, Co-Director of the Vimeo Festival + Awards called the video “one of those rare, intimate shorts that leads with its heart and soul.”

Hero dog accidentally euthanized

Target — a dog credited with saving soldiers lives in Afghanistan, and brought to the U.S. by one of them — was accidentally euthanized yesterday at an Arizona animal shelter.

Target’s owner, Sgt. Terry Young, found out his dog had been killed when he showed up at the shelter to claim her.

The dog had escaped from his backyard over the weekend.

“When it comes to euthanizing an animal, there are some clear-cut procedures to follow,” Ruth Stalter, Pinal County animal-control director, said in a statement. “Based on my preliminary investigation, our employee did not follow those procedures.” 

The county is investigating the accidental euthanization at its Casa Grande shelter.

In Afghanistan, Target snapped and barked at a suicide bomber, who was trying to enter a building on a military base. The bomber instead set off his bomb in a doorway. Five soldiers were injured, several of whom credited Target with helping save their lives.

“I just can’t believe that something like this would happen to such a good dog,” Young told the Arizona Republic.

When he returned to the U.S., Young brought Target with him to his home in the Phoenix area.

A county spokesman said a shelter employee has been placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation.

Young said he found the gate to his backyard open on Friday morning, the day after Veterans Day.

Heather Murphy, a spokeswoman for Pinal County, said Target was found by a nearby resident, who put her in his backyard and called the pound.

Later that night Young saw Target’s picture on a website used by Pinal County’s animal control office, and, assuming the shelter was closed for the weekend, figured she would be safe until he could pick her up Monday.

When he arrived, he filled out some forms and a staff member brought him another dog. Young then showed the employee a picture of his dog. Then he waited for an hour.

According to the Republic, Young saw one worker sobbing. And the director of the shelter told him there had been a mistake.

Is Tango a pit bull? Decision expected today

tangoWhether an Australian couple’s half million dollar investment in keeping their $300 dog alive was successful is expected to be learned today.

Kylie Chivers and John Mokomoko have been locked in a six-year battle with the Gold Coast City Council in the Supreme Court over its identification of their dog Tango as an American pit bull, as opposed to an American staffordshire terrier.

The city’s ruling that Tango is a pit bull meant the dog was automatically deemed dangerous and would be required to be euthanized.

To avoid that, the family moved Tango to a kennel more than five years ago, where it could be registered as an American staffordshire terrier.

Today, a judge is to decide Tango’s fate in a decision which could have ramifications for thousands of dog owners, the Gold Coast Bulletin reports. The city is arguing the American pit bull and American staffordshire terrier are the same breed, which means it would fall under its breed ban.

“The fallout of the decision could be horrendous,” said Mokomoko, 47, who works as a Brisbane airport security officer.

The case prompted Mokomoko to work 98-hour weeks at his former security job at a desalination plant to pay the cost of the kennel, weekly travel, lawyers and documentation, including Freedom of Information requests, and video evidence.

Along with thousands of pages of documents, the couple also obtained DNA samples from Tango’s parents and submitted a breed identification test to the court, arguing the 22-point identification checklist was flawed.

The American staffordshire terrier clubs of Queensland, Victoria and Northern Territory have asked the city council to drop the case.

If the family wins, Mokomoko believes it will prompt litigation from other owners who may have had their dog wrongfully identified as pit bulls.

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