Michelle is the first of what’s known as the “Pit 6” to be cleared for adoption. She was among a group of dogs seized from Larry Alston when he was arrested at a home in the Woodlawn area on charges of animal cruelty and mutilation.
Baltimore County police said there was evidence the dogs had been used for fighting.
Humane Society officials don’t know if Michelle was used in dog fights, but she was apparently used to produced litters of fighters while Alston was living in South Carolina.
She has scars on her nose and above her left eye, and marks on both of her front legs suspected to have been left by the metal grips of a device used to hold her still for forced breeding.
Alston, 37, was charged with 22 counts of violating various animal cruelty laws, including charges of mutilating the animals.
On Monday, he was sentenced in Baltimore County Circuit Court to three years in prison for animal cruelty.
Michelle and Alston’s other surviving dogs spent nearly two years in the Baltimore County animal shelter, as Alston’s criminal case dragged on. They were released late last year to animal advocates, and eventually taken in by the shelter to be rehabilitated.
The Humane Society is still working to rehabilitate and socialize the other dogs, Shelley, Meme, Tippy, Meris and Bridgett.
Michelle is 4 1/2 years old, and shelter officials want to see her go to a home without other dogs, and without young children.
A humane society press release describes her this way:
“Michelle is a petite Staffordshire with a beautiful smile when she greets you at the front of her kennel. The “Pit 6,” five females and one male, were found by the police locked in undersized cages. They are believed to have been used as bait dogs. Bait dogs are typically less tough than others and used as practice targets for dogs training to fight. The “Pit 6” were all emaciated with multiple burn and bite scars. They also showed signs of overbreeding – in other words they were repeatedly raped. In dogfighting rings it is not unusual for bait dogs to endure severe pain. Frequently they are wounded, drowned, electrocuted, slammed to the ground, shot, or left to die a slow and painful death from their open wounds.”
The humane society added, “It’s always cause for celebration when an abused dog gets a second chance at a good life, but in the case of the Pit 6 it’s a landmark. That’s because animals held as evidence in severe animal abuse and dog fighting cases are typically euthanized once the case is complete.”
In the case of the Pit 6, animal rescue advocates and Baltimore Humane Society were able to convince the Baltimore County Attorney, State’s Attorney, and Baltimore County Animal Control that the dogs deserved a second chance.
“Michelle demonstrates that even dogs who come from such violent, abusive backgrounds can become loving family pets. Baltimore Humane Society hopes she and the remaining Pit 6 will be used as an example for dog fighting and other animal abuse cases across the nation.”
For more information about Michelle and other dogs at the Baltimore Humane Society, visit www.bmorehumane.org or call 410-833-8848.
(Photo by Mary Swift, Mary Swift Photography)
Posted by jwoestendiek January 24th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adoption, animal control, animal cruelty, animals, bait dogs, baltimore county, baltimore humane society, breeding, bridgett, charges, cleared, court, cruelty to animals, device, dogfighting, dogs, forced, larry alston, maryland, meme, meris, michelle, pets, pit 6, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, police, rape, rehabilitated, reisterstown, shelley, shelters, socialized, staffordshire, terrier, tippy
I’m looking forward to seeing “Tabloid” — the new Errol Morris documentary about the 1978 scandal that saw a beauty queen from America go to London to track down the object of her affection (a Mormon missionary named Kirk), kidnap him, according to police, and, if you believe the court testimony, have her way with him against his will.
That’s because, for better and worse, that woman, Joyce McKinney, changed the course of my life, too.
Thirty years after the scandal that erupted when McKinney tried to reclaim, one way or another, the man she saw as her one true love, I would spend more than 100 hours on the phone with her as she went about an equally — or perhaps even more — dogged pursuit.
“Tabloid,” the documentary, focuses on the scandal and all the fun the British press had with McKinney’s exploits — from her arrest on charges of abducting the young missionary named Kirk and keeping him tied up in a cottage in the countryside, to the celebrity status she enjoyed after her release from jail, to her fleeing the country before trial disguised as a member of a deaf mime troupe.
My book focuses on dog cloning, the first commercial customer of which was that same Joyce Bernann McKinney. In 2009, McKinney became the first person in the world – unassociated with the fledgling business – to pay to have her dog cloned, a deceased pit bull named Booger.
My book revisits the old scandal, too, because, to me, there seemed to be some similarities between reclaiming Kirk and cloning Booger.
As suggested in ”DOG INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend,” both were attempts to, at any cost, recapture lost love — one through feminine wiles, if not force, the other through science.
As if her life hadn’t already oozed enough pathos and irony, McKinney’s attempt to resurrect Booger, or at least bring a genetically identical copy of him back into the world, would lead to an embarassing resurfacing of the old scandal. While doing news media interviews, in exchange for a discount on her cloning bill, she was recognized as the women who, as the British tabloids told the story at the time, manacled and raped the young Mormon missionary.
By 2000, McKinney had thought the scandal was finally behind her. She’d gone on to a new life by then, after years as recluse, living with her dogs and other animals, first in North Carolina, then in California. In California, she began using the name Bernann instead of Joyce and, having not lost her soft spot for dogs, continued taking in abandoned and unwanted pit bulls.
All were loved, but none were Booger, a dog she found on the highway in North Carolina who she says later saved her life when she was attacked by another of her dogs. After that, Booger went on to become her unofficial service dog, helping her with the day to day tasks her injuries made difficult.
After Booger died, she sought to have him cloned — first through an American company that was working with Texas A & M University to clone a dog. That research was funded by John Sperling, founder of the University of Phoenix. Unable to produce a canine clone, Texas A & M dropped the project. Scientists at Seoul National University picked up the research and cloned the world’s first dog, Snuppy, in 2005. McKinney then signed on with a South Korean company that had formed after that success.
McKinney first contacted me while I was a reporter at the Baltimore Sun, after I ran an item about dog cloning on the newspaper’s pet blog that mentioned a then-anonymous woman who was paying $150,000 to have her dog cloned.
So began a conversation that would continue, off and on, for a year, and lead me to quit my job, travel to Korea, and write a book about dog cloning.
While we hit it off initially — both being dog lovers, both being from North Carolina — McKinney, as the months went on, would grow angry with me often. The first time was when I told her that, rather than writing a book with her about Booger, I wanted to write a book that looked at dog cloning overall — how the new business got started, how it was being marketed, and the animal welfare concerns it raised.
That would be the first of our many “break-ups.” But always, she would eventually call me back, updating me and seeking assistance with this or that.
On her trip to meet the newborn clones, during which she appeared globally in TV interviews, someone made the connection, raising the possibility, later confirmed, that the woman cloning her dog and the “Mormon manacler” were one in the same. She blamed me for that, though I had nothing to do with it.
She had feared there was a possibility that might happen. I was pretty sure it would. (Although I had written a newspaper story by then, it didn’t mention the 1970s scandal; at the time she had only vaguely referred to it and I had only reached 99 percent certainty that she was the same woman — a fact that she would confirm, and go into great detail about, later.)
After another period of silence, she reconnected with me again, this time asking me to go with her to pick up the clones. She wanted me to pretend I was handicapped so that I could claim one of the clones was my service dog, and she — if she found three more conspirators — could avoid having them fly home in the jet’s cargo hold.
For ethical reasons, I declined. But she still stayed in touch during her trip to pick up and return the dogs, an effort that didn’t go smoothly, as you can read in this excerpt from “DOG, INC.”
Back home with her clones, her troubles continued. At one point, all five clones, and her other dogs, were seized and impounded by animal control, though she managed to reclaim them.
After an argument, she moved out of the house she shared with a friend, bounced with the clones from motel to motel, and eventually moved back in.
That was about the time she was contacted by Morris.
I’m sure Morris, as was the case with me, found that dealing with her, to put it mildly, had some ups and downs. She, while appearing with one of the clones at an early screening of the movie, denounced its accuracy, even as Morris stood next to her.
I won’t see it until this weekend, but I’d guess, from what I’ve seen of previews and knowing the work of Morris, it fairly portrays all sides. And given his trademark style of turning on the camera and letting the subject talk into it, I’m sure McKinney gets ample chance to share her version.
I’ve only spoken with her once since my book came out, when she called, enraged, having seen a reference to it in a newspaper. She hadn’t read it by then, but denounced it, too, adding that I had no right to tell her story — either that of the scandal or that of the cloning.
McKinney told me repeatedly she didn’t want to see the two stories overlap — for she saw one as “tabloid filth” and the other — cloning her dog — as pure and heartwarming. Her hope is to start a center where pit bulls can be trained to be service dogs. She wants to call it Booger’s Place.
Some of those who see the movie, or for that matter read my book, may see her as manipulative and devious. Some may see her, in connection with the scandal, as a woman who holds little respect for the boundaries society imposes. Some may see her, in connection with cloning, as a person who was willing to jump over those nature imposes, as well. Some may see her, overall, as a person who will stop at nothing to get what she wants.
I’ll say this much: She is without a doubt the most determined person I’ve ever known.
(John will be discussing and signing copies of “DOG, INC.” from 6 to 8 p.m. at Barnhills, 811 Burke St., in Winston-Salem.)
(John will be speaking after the 3:30 and 6 p.m. showings of “Tabloid” at the Aperture Cinema, 311 W. Fourth St., in Winston-Salem, this Sunday, Aug. 21.)
(For more information on “DOG, INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend, click here.)
Posted by jwoestendiek August 17th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abducted, author, booger, british, clone, cloned, cloning, documentary, dog inc., england, errol morris, john woestendiek, joyce mckinney, kidnap, kinky sex, kirk, london, manacles, media, missionary, mormon, newspapers, pit bull, press, rape, scandal, sex, sex scandal, snuppy, south korea, tabloid
That question may be headed to New York state’s highest court in a case in which the state’s first judicially approved courtroom dog sat in the witness box with a 15-year-old girl as she testified that her father raped and impregnated her.
The father went on to be convicted, but defense lawyers are appealing, saying that the courtroom dog — a golden retriever named Rosie — may have swayed jurors, according to a report in The New York Times.
Rosie is a therapy dog who specializes in comforting children and other vulnerable witnesses and victims – one of a growing number of which are being used by prosecutors to put crime victims at ease. They’ve been allowed in courtrooms in Arizona, Hawaii, Indiana, Idaho and other states.
Defense lawyers argue that the dogs may unfairly sway jurors with their cuteness, that they can evoke sympathy for a victim, and that they can even be seen by some as a reason to trust the human they’re alongside.
The new witness-stand role for dogs in a handful of states began in 2003, when the prosecution won permission to use a dog named Jeeter in a sexual assault case in Seattle.
In a ruling in June that allowed Rosie to accompany the teenage rape victim, Dutchess County Court judge Stephen L. Greller said the teenager was traumatized and the defendant, Victor Tohom, appeared threatening. Greller ruled that Rosie was similar to the teddy bear that a New York state appeals court said in 1994 could accompany a child witness.
At least once when the teenager hesitated in Judge Greller’s courtroom, Rosie rose and seemed to push the girl gently with her nose.
Lawyers for the father, who was convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life, have raised a series of objections that they say seem likely to land the case in New York’s highest court. They argue that jurors are likely to conclude that the dog is helping victims expose the truth.
Rosie’s presence “infected the trial with such unfairness” that it constituted a violation of their client’s constitutional rights.
Since that case, Rosie has been busy, the Times reports. She spent recent weeks with two girls, ages 5 and 11, who were getting ready to testify against the man accused of murder in the stabbing of their mother.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 8th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 15 year old, appeal, comfort, convicted, courtroom dog, criminal, defendant, defense, dutchess county, father, judge, jurors, new york, rape, rose, rosie, stephen greller, sway, symbols, sympathy, testimony, therapy dogs, trials, trust, truth, unfair, victim, victor tohom, witness stand
The sperm-sniffing dog, reported to the only one in southern Sweden, is named Rapports Opus.
The suspect is charged with forcing a woman to perform oral sex in a park in Karlskrona, according to Sydöstran, a regional newspaper. The dog found traces of semen at the scene of the crime. They were sent to a lab for analysis and were found to match the 23-year-old suspect’s DNA.
Rapports Opus underwent a year’s training to become a certified sperm-sniffing dog, graduating from the dog academy last year, according to The Local, an English language publication in Sweden.
“He’s the only dog in southern Sweden specialised in tracking sperm,” said B.G. Carlsson, the police officer who trained the dog.
Carlsson will be testifying in the trial against the 23-year-old. The case is the first in which evidence found by Rapports Opus will be used in court.
Down in Dumas, Texas a rapist was sentenced to three life terms — don’t be surprised, we told you it was Texas — after a jury heard that dog feces on his shirt matched the DNA of the woman’s dog.
Rufus Sito Nanez III, 34, a former meatpacker, was convicted by a Moore County jury on Wednesday of the aggravated sexual assault of a 27-year-old Dumas woman last year, who he attacked in her back yard.
Prosecutors presented DNA evidence from the woman, too, but said the dog DNA bolstered the case, according to an Associated Press report.
Fecal matter on Nanez’s shirt, feces from the woman’s yard and saliva from her dog were sent to a veterinary genetics lab in California for testing. DNA does not exist in fecal matter, but cells containing DNA from the walls of colons attach themselves to waste material, prosecutor David Green said Friday.
According to testimony, Nanez waited for the woman’s husband to leave before breaking into their home and attacking her. The rape occurred in the back yard after she tried to fight him off.
The life sentences were triggered by Nanez’s criminal history, which includes convictions for felony burglary of a habitation and being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to Texas Department of Criminal Justice records.