A pit bull who was seized from a notorious dogfighting operation in Virginia, rehabilitated in Utah, and adopted by a couple in Texas helped make the case for a new law in Nevada that prohibits local governments from enacting and enforcing regulations that deem a dog dangerous based solely on its breed.
Gov. Brian Sandoval signed the anti-breed discrimination law this week, and it takes effect Oct. 1, 2013.
Assembly Bill 110, which was sponsored by Assemblyman James Ohrenschall and spearheaded Best Friends Animal Society, also got a push from our friend Mel, the former Michael Vick dog who now lives in Dallas. Richard Hunter, Mel’s new owner, testified before the Nevada Senate to show support.
“Best Friends is proud that Nevada has taken steps to prevent breed discrimination,” said Ledy VanKavage said, senior legislative attorney for Best Friends. “Every American who follows the right safety rules as a responsible dog owner should be allowed to own whatever breed of dog they choose.”
Nevada is the the 14th state to pass a law preventing breed discrimination, Best Friends said.
“Assembly Bill 110 bans breed discriminatory laws from being enacted anywhere in Nevada,” said Assemblyman Ohrenschall.
He added, “I’m confident that this law will benefit dogs, dog owners and animal lovers throughout our great state. It has always been bad public policy to enact ordinances that target a certain breed of dog without considering that individual dog’s actions. I’m proud of sponsoring this legislation because it will help keep our innocent friends from being killed needlessly and senselessly.”
Best Friends received and rehabilitated most of the dogs seized from the dogfighting operation at Michael Vick’s former estate in Virginia, including Mel, who was believed to have been used as a bait dog.
“Our fundamental goal is to achieve safe and humane communities. We want our communities to be protected against dangerous dogs – and we want abused dogs to be protected from irresponsible owners,” VanKavage said. “Because everyone benefits from a safe society – both people and pets.”
Studies done in countries with breed-discriminatory laws, such as the United Kingdom, Spain and Germany, found that these laws didn’t reduce the number of dog bites or improve public safety. Based on these studies, and concerns about due process and property rights infringement, the American Bar Association, the National Animal Control Association, and the American Veterinary Medical Association don’t support breed discrimination, Best Friends said in a press release.
“They support laws that go after the real problem–the behavior of the individual dog and the behavior of the reckless owner.”
Through its national pit bull initiatives, Best Friends Animal Society encourages state and municipal governments to adopt breed-neutral “dangerous dog” laws that focus on the key causes of dog aggression—owners’ failure to spay or neuter, train and socialize dogs regardless of breed, or because they abuse or neglect dogs or force them to live on chains.
(Photo: John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)
Posted by John Woestendiek May 31st, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: bait dog, best friends, breed discrimination, breed specific legislation, breeds, bsl, dangerous dogs, dogfighting, dogs, enact, enforce, governor, James Ohrenschall, law, legislation, mel, michael vick, nevada, owners, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, prohibits, rehabilitation, responsibility, richard hunter, seized, signed
A family in northern Maine says it is “overwhelmed” by the generosity they saw from friends and strangers who donated enough money for them to get a service dog for their 5-year-old daughter, Faith.
Faith has spina bifida and experiences seizures. The new dog — a black Lab named Dandy — has been trained to detect when they might be coming.
Bruce and Beverly McNally, of Island Falls, took Faith in as a foster child, then as their adopted daughter. They quickly realized they needed help monitoring her for the seizures, which could be deadly if not addressed.
“The family became very worried, which is why they wanted to get the dog,” Michele King, Faith’s aunt, told the Bangor Daily News.
King is also the chief administrative officer for Brave Hearts, a nonprofit Christian home for young men in Island Falls, and that organization sponsored a fundraiser last month to try and raise the $2,500 that was needed.
King said that donations came from the more than 100 people who attended a benefit supper, and from people as far away as North Carolina.
“We just couldn’t believe it,” Beverly McNally said. “We eventually had enough money and we had to gently turn people away. We had to tell them that we had enough for the dog, but that we wanted them to donate the money to a charity of their own choosing.”
Dandy came from CARES — Canine Assistance Rehabilitation Education and Services — a nonprofit organization in Concordia, Kansas, that trains and matches assistance dogs with owners.
“Dandy has just been wonderful for Faith,” McNally said on Friday. “She picks up on a chemical change in the body when a seizure occurs. One day when we got back, Faith was very lethargic. She was in the chair with me and needed to be snuggled a lot more. And the dog got up in the chair and started whining. And I didn’t realize what was going on. And 45 minutes later, Faith had a seizure. Then I realized what the dog was trying to tell me.”
(Photo: Michele King)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 23rd, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: assistance, benefit, black, brave hearts, canine, cares, dandy, detecting, dog, dogs, donations, education, faith, fundraiser, fundraising, island falls, lab, labrador retriever, maine, rehabilitation, seizures, service, services, spina bifida
It’s a done deal: Dogs Deserve Better, a nonprofit group that fights chaining, penning and other forms of cruelty to dogs, has closed on Michael Vick’s old house — the former headquarters of the quarterback’s dogfighting operation, Bad Newz Kennels.
Dogs Deserve Better plans to turn the property in Surry County, Virginia, into a center to rehabilitate and resocialize dogs that have been mistreated and abused, with the hope of finding them adoptive homes.
The name of the facility will be: The Good Newz Rehab Center for Chained and Penned Dogs.
The potential deal, which we told you about in February, became a reality in May, when Dogs Deserve Better raised enough money for the down payment and secured a bank loan to purchase the 4,600-square-foot white brick house and surrounding 15 acres.
The group paid $176,507 as the down payment for the house, liisted at $595,000, and is still raising money to pay for the rest and make improvements.
Once complete, it will be a $2.5 million facility, founder Tamira Thayne said told the Virginian-Pilot.
“Purchasing this property and in effect giving it back to the victims of the abuse that occurred here is a very powerful step for animal advocates and our country’s dogs alike,” said Thayne. “We are sending a message to those who want to abuse and fight dogs that a new day is dawning in America, a day where dogs are treated with the love and respect they deserve as companions to humans.”
The Washington Post had a report on the property’s transition from a place of nightmares to a place of hope earlier this month.
Dogs Deserve Better, which will move from its Pennsylvania base to Virginia, has never had a facility of its own, but it says it has rescued and rehomed more than 3,000 dogs during its existence.
Dogs Deserve Better says having the facililty in a house will help in socializing the dogs it takes in. The group hopes to rescue and rehabilitate 500 dogs a year.
Thayne said that, in addition to welcoming visitors, Dogs Deserve Better will also build a memorial on the property for the dogs who died and suffered there, according to Dogster.com.
For more information on the purchase, the plans and how you can donate, visit the website of Dogs Deserve Better.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 1st, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abused, adopt, adoption, animals, bad newz kennels, bought, buys, center, chained, dogfighting, dogs, dogs deserve better, dogster, football, former, good newz rehab center, home, house, michael vick, mistreated, moonlight road, nfl, operation, penned, pets, philadelphia eagles, pit bulls, property, purchase, rehab, rehabilitation, rescue, ring, surry county, tamira thayne, virginia
An animal rescue group says it has been able to raise enough money to make the down payment on Michael Vick’s former home in Virginia, which they plan to turn into a center for rescued dogs.
It will be called Good Newz (a play on Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels) Rehab Center for Chained and Penned Dogs.
The group Dogs Deserve Better announced on its website it had received an approval for a loan and hopes to close on the Surry County property that served as headquarter’s for Vick’s dogfighting operation in mid-May.
The group, which has already raised a third of the sale price, is still raising money to pay off the remaining two-thirds — the amount the loan was approved for. They hope to build a fence around the property and start accepting dogs while they raise the money to build the facility, WVEC reported.
Members have previously said say they’d need an estimated $3 million to create the dog center, which would also serve as the new headquarters for the Pennsylvania-based rescue group.
After the forfeit of Vick’s five-bedroom, 15-acre property, potential buyers were few — in part because of a down real estate economy, maybe too, though real estate agents played it down, because of the horrors that occured there. Assessed at more than $700,000, the house is being purchased by Dogs Deserve Better for $595,000.
In an interview with Care2, DDB’s Tamira Thayne said, “I felt when I was there that the dogs who lost their lives and suffered there welcomed us and were grateful to us for both preserving their memories, continuing the fight against dog abuse, and bringing happiness to a place of such sadness.”
DDB announced in February that it had obtained an option to purchase the property, located at 1915 Moonlight Road.
Vick served 21 months of a 23 month sentence in federal prison for bankrolling the dog fighting operation at the property.
DDB plans to build a state of the art dog facility there, with help from volunteers and donations.
Thayne said the group hopes to house, train, and sent to adoptive homes about 500 dogs a year at first, moving up to 1,000 dogs a year. The group will be rehabilitating primarily dogs that been abused and neglected, penned and chained.
“For us, having a standard shelter is not the answer, because we have to be teaching these dogs how to live within the home and family,” Thayne told Care 2. “So we want to design a center where they will be trained in a house setting every day, working one on one or in small groups with a human to assess and deal with issues and teach housetraining and people skills.”
For information on how to donate, visit the Dogs Deserve Better website.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 3rd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abused, bad newz, center, chained, ddb, dogs, dogs deserve better, former home, good newz, headquarters, home, kennels, michael vick, neglected, penned, philadelphia eagles, property, quarterback, rehabilitate, rehabilitation, rescue, shelter, surry county, tamira thayne, vick, virginia
A Pennsylvania-based dog rescue organization and advocacy group has reportedly signed a contract to buy the former estate of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick — headquarters of Bad Newz Kennels, a dogfighting operation.
The group, Dogs Deserve Better, says it hopes to turn the 4,600-square foot house and 15 acres of property in Surry into an animal sanctuary, where rescued dogs could be trained and rehabilitated.
The organization, which has been at the forefront of the movement towards banning the tethering and chaining of dogs, has 45 days to raise enough money to cover the asking price of $595,000, according to the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk.
Monica Severy, the group’s local representative, said it has raised more than $50,000.
“The dogs will live in the house, and we’ll use it for training and for meetings,” Severy said. “There will be somebody there all the time, living there.”
The house has been empty for three years. When Ace and I visited in August, the sign posted out front listed it as both for sale and for rent.
The white brick home has five bedrooms, four and a half baths, a pool and a basketball court.
Severy said the group chose the property for the symbolism of turning a place where dogs were made to suffer into a place of refuge for similar dogs. Fifty one dogs were seized from Bad Newz Kennels, and investigators discovered eight murdered dogs on the property once owned by Vick, who this past weekend was given the key to the city by Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 8th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, bad newz kennels, chaining, dogfighting, dogs, dogs deserve better, estate, home, house, mansion, michael vick, nfl, organization, pets, philadelphia eagles, pit bulls, pitbulls, quarterback, rehabilitation, rescue, sanctuary, shelter, surry, tethering, training, vick, vick estate, vick house, virginia
In 2007, it was one of the most sickening, disheartening stories of the year — NFL quarterback Michael Vick’s arrest and imprisonment on dogfighting charges. Revelations of what transpired at Bad Newz Kennels showed just how cruel some humans can be.
By 2009, though, the story of Vick’s dogs had become one of the most heartening of the decade. What made the difference? Mainly, the dogs – the pit bulls. For despite what they’d been put through, despite being abused, trained as killers or used as bait, they were — once the decision was made not to euthanize them – amazing the world with their remarkable resiliency.
Saving and rehabilitating the former fighting dogs of Michael Vick was not achieved without a battle, and not without the efforts of a lot of dog-loving, self-sacrificing humans. But the silver lining that eventually shone through the dismal story was provided mainly by the dogs, who showed that, no matter how bad a human messes them up, there’s hope.
Once again, the irrepressible species was teaching us humans a lesson.
Vick’s former pit bulls have gone on to reside in new homes with young children, become cherished pets, serve as therapy dogs and, in many cases, serve as shining examples of what is right with and special about the much-maligned breed.
How all that transpired is rivetingly detailed in a new book by Jim Gorant, “The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption.”
(For a preview, you can read an article by Gorant in today’s Parade magazine.)
In the book, to be released next month, Gorant expands on his 2008 Sports Illustrated story on the Vick dogs (the one that featured Baltimore’s own Sweet Jasmine on the cover), recounting how they were rescued from Vick’s estate and how — though euthanasia was routine until then for animals seized from dogfighting operations – they were saved from that fate by an outpouring of public appeals.
The outcry helped lead to a court order that Vick pay nearly a million dollars in “restitution” to the dogs — money used to allow a handful of agencies across the country to rehabilitate them.
The book recounts the ASPCA-led evaluations of each dog — and how, though there were a few hardened fighters among them, many more were dogs ready to be loved, ready to forgive and try to forget.
In “The Lost Dogs,” we learn more about Johnny Justice, the former Vick dog that participates in Paws for Tales, which lets kids get more comfortable with their reading skills by reading aloud to dogs; about Leo, who now spends three hours a week with cancer patients and troubled teens; and about Sweet Jasmine, who was coming out of her shell while living in Baltimore until she got loose and was hit by a car.
The book lists the outcomes for all 49 of the surviving pit bulls that were seized in April 2007 from Bad Newz Kennels, the Smithfield, Va., dogfighting ring run by Vick, then quarterback of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, now — getting a multi-million dollar second chance of his own — a quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles.
While experts were expecting only 5 percent of Vick’s dogs could be rehabilitated, only two, initially, had to be put down. One was excessively violent and the other was suffering from an irreparable injury. For the rest, though, there was hope, and no small amount of faith – which, more than anything else is what “The Lost Dogs” is about.
Rather than showing aggression, the Vick dogs tended to be “pancake dogs”— animals so traumatized that they flattened themselves on the ground and trembled when humans neared, much like our friend Mel, the former Vick dog we recently met in our travels through Dallas.
Many more seemed to be dogs with normal temperaments, but who had simply never been socialized.
Accomplishing that fell to the handful of animal welfare organizations that stepped forward, offering to take the Vick dogs in and work to rehabilitate them — among them Baltimore’s Recycled Love, California’s BAD RAP, (Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls), and Best Friends Animal Society in Utah.
As Gorant writes in the Parade magazine article, “… rescuers argued from the start that rather than be condemned as a whole, the dogs should be individually assessed and treated — and this has turned out to be one of the great lessons of the Bad Newz dogs. Generalizations and preconceptions are as unhelpful and counterproductive for pit bulls as they are for people.”
Posted by John Woestendiek August 15th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animals, article, aspca, bad newz, bad rap, best friends, book, case, court, cruelty, dog books, dog fighting, dogfighting, dogs, euthanasia, good dog reads, jim gorant, lesson, lost dogs, magazine, maligned, michael vick, michael vick's dogs, nfl, parade, pets, philadelphia eagles, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, recycled love, redemption, rehabilitation, rescue, resiliency, saving, socialization, sports illustrated, sweet jasmine, temperament, the lost dogs, therapy dogs, vick, vick dogs
I never expected our “Travels with Ace” adventures would include Ace riding in the back seat of a car with a former Michael Vick dog.
Then again, I never expected we’d be hanging out in a strip club, either.
But our visit to The Lodge in Dallas led us to meet Mel, a still meek and fearful, sad-eyed, mostly black pit bull — small in stature, short on confidence, and sweet as pecan pie.
Mel was adopted from Best Friends by Sunny Hunter, manager of VIP services at the swanky Dallas gentlemen’s club, and her husband Richard Hunter, a talk show host whose outlook on life isn’t as bleak as his goth appearance may lead you to think — especially since Mel came into their lives.
For one thing, you see – in his fearful eyes, his tentative stride – the effects of the torture Vick inflicted; for another you see a true innocent; a mild-mannered dog whose lack of killer instinct led him to be designated a bait dog, a living chew toy.
But you also see a dog who, despite all that humans did to him in his first year of life, seems to hold no grudge against the species.
Mel was only about a year old when he was seized from the Vick estate in Virginia. He was one of 47 survivors, and one of the 22 who, deemed most hopeless, were sent to Best Friends, the animal sanctuary in southern Utah.
He spent nearly two years at Best Friends, where trainers worked to help him overcome his fearfulness and eventually pronounced him adoptable.
Richard and Sunny already had an application in by then — starting off a process that would take more than a year. Sunny had grown interested in adopting a Vick dog after seeing a documentary. Richard had one of Best Friends’ trainers on his talk show.
The couple waited for nine months, then underwent a criminal background check, and a home visit. Finally, they were invited up to Best Friends to spend a week living on the grounds and getting to know Mel. They brought their dog Pumpkin, a terrier mix, along as well.
Pumpkin immediately became friends with Mel, and became his guardian — a role he continues to fulfill.
Last fall, the adoption having been approved by the same judge who sent Vick to prison for two years, Mel was delivered to the Hunter’s home in Dallas by a Best Friends trainer and caregiver, who stayed in town for a week, visiting daily.
Richard describes the adoption process as “daunting,” but worth it. Mel slowly came out of his shell, and though he still quivers at first when strangers show up, or when he’s in new surroundings, he’s getting more used to meeting people. It used to take three visits before he was comfortable with a stranger, now it takes only 20 minutes or so.
Pumpkin, who is 13, has been a huge factor in his transition.
“At home, when a new person shows up, Mel sits in the corner with his back to the wall, like a statue. Pumpkin gets in front of him and screens him. Pumpkin has been instrumental in getting him to relax,” Richard said.
Mel has never barked, or made any sound, in the time they have had him. At night, if Mel needs a trip outside, Pumpkin takes note of him standing by the door and barks for him.
Mel seems most comfortable when he’s in a car, Sunny and Richard said — so we decided that’s how we all should meet. We greeted Mel and Pumpkin through a window, then loaded Ace into the backseat with them — a tight fit, but no one seemed bothered by it. Pumpkin shielded Mel the whole time, allowing him to be sniffed and petted, but never leaving his side.
Richard says Mel was used as a bait dog, due to his small size and mild temperament. He was likely muzzled when he was thrown into the ring with other dogs being trained to fight. He was not one of those that Bad Newz Kennels terminated — sometimes by drowning or hanging.
“Most people really didn’t take the time to look at the details of the case – the jumper cables, the hanging, the drowning, the distance throwing contests. That’s just bizarre. It’s diabolical,” Richard said. As for Vick’s return to the NFL, he said, “It was very disappointing to me that the American public stood for it. He’s psychopathic, like a serial killer.”
While Vick’s dogs were, in most cases, rehabilitated, Richard is among those who doubt the same was truly achieved by Vick, despite his appearances in an anti-dogfighting campaign.
Mel’s tail, which was broken in his youth, stayed between his legs for the first few months, Richard said. ”Now, he smiles and he walks with his head up. His tail was broken, so it doesn’t really wag.”
“His resilience is amazing to me,” Richard said. “He really has changed my life. It’s amazing to me that he’s willing to love us — that he’s still able to judge people individualy when for the first year of his life, if he saw a human being, it meant something terrible was going to happen to him.
“We just want to make him as happy as can be.”
Posted by John Woestendiek July 28th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, ace does america, adoption, animal welfare, animals, best friends, cruelty, dallas, dog fighting, dog's country, dogfighting, dogs, gentlemen's club, mel, michael vick, pets, pumpkin, rehabilitation, rescue, resilience, richard hunter, road trip, shelter, sunny hunter, the lodge, torture, travel, traveling with dogs, vick, vick dogs
The 120 beagles rescued from a bankrupt New Jersey laboratory earlier this month are learning life’s simple pleasures — chief among them, the joy of grass.
Having spent their entire lives in cages, the beagles were turned over to rescue groups on the 4th of July weekend. They had been left behind, along with 55 monkeys, when Aniclin Preclinical Services in Warren County, N.J., went out of business in April.
The beagles were taken to Pets Alive, where the video above was shot, and since then, in a joint effort by several rescue organizations — they’ve been taught how to be dogs, as opposed to specimens.
As of Friday, all but 15 had been adopted, and those were expected to be placed soon, Pets Alive reported on its website.
Some of the beagles have taken more quickly to freedom than others, according to this dispatch, on the Best Friends website:
“For the first few days, volunteers would show up at Pets Alive and want to walk the beagles. Ordinarily, this would be welcomed help. But before the Great Escape, the beagles had never been outside, so a common item like a leash is a foreign object from outer space. When everything is new, it’s important not to introduce too much at once because if the dogs become too overwhelmed they can withdraw and shock becomes an issue.
“But these dogs are resilient. Every day, they are increasingly curious and decreasingly timid. So after slow stepping it for a week, today, the walks began.
“With the help of wonderful volunteers, like John, the dogs were each walked more times today then all the days of their previous lives combined. For most of the dogs, it was a bit of a painstaking experience. Take a step. Stop. Look around. Step. Freeze. Move backward. Take a step.
“But while Rex was at the head of the class, little Millie was sitting in the back of the room hoping nobody would notice her. Millie is a sweet little girl who has captured the heart of all of us involved with the rescue. She has struggled with all the changes, at times being outgoing and jovial and then quickly changing to withdrawn and timid.
“Today, when a young couple came in to find a female beagle to adopt, Millie didn’t give them much to work with. She was curled up tight in her kennel, with her back to all potential adopters and her face tucked under her legs. Motionless, she stayed like a ball. Trying to shut everyone out. But something about this family told me Millie was the perfect dog for them…
“It took a good 20 minutes before Millie and the couple were warming up to each other. An hour later? Millie was strutting, on a leash, down the driveway with her tail wagging, heading home with her new family.”
(Photo: Rex running, by Becky Tegze / Courtesy of Best Friends)
Posted by John Woestendiek July 19th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopted, adoptions, aniclin, animal welfare, animals, beagle, beagles, best friends, dogs, experiments, great escape, lab, laboratory, new jersey, ohmidog!, pets, pets alive, rehabilitate, rehabilitation, rescue, research
It’s probably the closest thing there is to heaven on earth for dogs (and a lot of other animals, too), a place where — despite abusive pasts, ill health or handicaps — dogs, cats, birds, horses, pigs and more can be rehabilitated enough to find new homes, or, if not, spend the rest of their days in the tranquil, sun-dappled canyons of southern Utah.
A lot of humans are coming to see Best Friends Animal Sanctuary as pretty close to paradise, too – they’re showing up in droves, not just for tours or visits, but to roll up their sleeves and do some work.
There’s something about Best Friends that seems to bring people who have visited once back again — myself included – and, refreshingly, they often return asking not what the animals can do for them, but what they can do for the animals.
My first visit to Best Friends was two years ago, and both the sanctuary and the terrain of southern Utah stuck with me — the way that few things, Mexican food included, do. Photos taken during that visit — while I was still a reporter for the Baltimore Sun –, helped inspire the look and color scheme of ohmidog!, the website I started after leaving the newspaper.
And the mission and staff of Best Friends inspired me as well, as they have millions of others — first with their response during Hurricane Katrina, more recently through the National Geographic Channel’s series, “Dogtown.”
Given that debt, it was only right that I — as about 100 people do every day — showed up at the sanctuary to work as a volunteer.
I was one of about 10 new volunteers going through orientation Tuesday, after making arrangements to do so — a simple matter — on the volunteer section of the Best Friends website.
Such was the case with Kenzie Wolff, an 11-year-old California girl who, when offered a trip to the location of her choice by her parents as a birthday present, chose to do volunteer work at Best Friends.
She and her parents were staying at one of the guest cottages available at Best Friends (there’s an RV park, too), and she and her mom showed up bright and early to go through the quick orientation.
Kenzie said she got the urge to visit and volunteer after watching “Dogtown.”
“We were watching Dogtown and it seemed really cool, and I went on their website a lot, and all the dogs and animals were really cool. I just really like animals.”
Kenzie, who has a 12-year-old Belgian Malinois named Sophie back home in Laguna Beach — and a cat named Gypsy — was scheduled for a full day of dog duty Tuesday, planned to work with cats today, and to work with dogs and bunnies on Thursday.
She was hoping to invite two animals back to the cottage for sleepovers. Permitting volunteers to take dogs and cats overnight, on trips through the canyon, or even into town, is another unusual aspect of Best Friends volunteer program — a massive operation that seems to run amazingly smoothly and without heavy layers of bureaucracy or bossiness.
For us new volunteers, we were equipped with nametags and orange whistles to blow in case of emergency — such as a dog we’re walking getting loose – and treated to a 10-minute safety video.
The video informed us of the color-coded collar system — green ones for safe and approachable dogs, purple ones for those requiring some caution and red ones for those dogs that staff only can handle.
We were provided with some common sense basics — don’t shout or run around the dogs, don’t throw toys without permission, or engage in tug of war games. Let the dogs approach you, sniff you and get to know you.
A brief talk followed in which we warned to watch out for, and back away from, rattlesnakes, and that, it being lizard season, to make sure to hold tight to leashes, because some dogs are prone to chasing them.
After the briefing, Kenzie and her mom, Peggy, headed for puppy class, where trainer Don Bain uses the volunteers to help socialize newly arrived puppies — generally at 12 weeks of age.
The session takes place in a room set up like a house — complete with refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave and a doorbell. The setting helps increase the chances that the puppies, once adopted, will feel more at home, and decrease the chances of them being returned.
Bain says as many as one in five pups were being returned at one point, but in the past two years, only two have been. “We’re sending out very well-adjusted, socialized puppies now.”
“We try to throw as many people in their puppy faces as we possibly can,” Bain said. In the class, volunteers worked with seven puppies, picking them up, poking and prodding them and getting them used to having humans play with their paws, mouths and ears.
The pups are taught their names, and to sit and lay down. Treats and consistency are the key. “If a puppy wins once, he wins forever,” Bain says.
Kenzie worked with a chocolate ball of fluff named Nike, who came from a rescue in Page, Arizona, and probably from an Indian reservation before that. A birth defect left him without the tip of one of his front paws. It had pads, but no toes or claws. None of which seemed to slow him down a bit.
Kenzie spent the rest of the morning walking dogs, including one with a neurological problem that caused him to go in circles.
After a vegetarian buffet in a dining hall that overlooks the canyons — sweet and sour sesame tofu was the entree — Kenzie spent some time with the old dogs.
When the battery on the family’s rental car died, Best Friends maintenance staff responded within minutes, charging it up and allowing Kenzie and her mom to get to their next assignment.
It’s astounding how so many volunteers can be so calmly and smoothly dispatched to their duties — even amid the pounding of a jackhammer in the front office (more expansion was underway). And it’s all done with kindness and flexibility. Volunteers can come and go from the sanctuary as they please and pursue their individual interests as long as they sign in and out and follow a few simple rules.
As with Kenzie, and as with me (more on my experiences tomorrow), volunteers get far more than they give. I hate to use the phrase “win-win,” but that’s exactly what the situation is. Dogs can grow more social, humans can grow more compassionate. Sure, poop gets scooped and dog bowls get washed, but in Best Friends’ volunteer program, far more than daily chores are getting accomplished.
(Tomorrow: More from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.)
(To read all of “Dog’s Country, from the beginning, click here.)
Posted by John Woestendiek June 30th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace does america, animal sanctuary, animal welfare, animals, best friends, dog's country, dogs, dogtown, kanab, kenzie wolff, ohmidog!, pets, rehabilitation, rescue, sanctuary, shelter, tourism, tours, travel, traveling with dogs, utah, visits, volunteer, volunteering, volunteers
Red, a pit bull seized from Michael Vick’s dogfighting operation who went on to become a sweet-tempered mascot at the Monterey County SPCA, died this week while battling cancer.
Red arrived with scars on his face, chest, legs and torso — one of three pit bulls who came to the Monterey SPCA after federal authorities seized 47 dogs in a 2007 raid of Vick’s dog-fighting compound in Virginia.
He was adopted by SPCA pet behavior specialist Amanda Mouisset.
“He just really blossomed,” Beth Brookhouser, community outreach director for the SPCA for Monterey County, told the Monterey County Herald. “He was like a regular employee, a friend and a fellow staff member.”
Red made the daily rounds with Mouisset and helped her train other dogs by providing a calm example to the shelter’s more hyperactive residents.
Ginger and Bunny, the other Vick dogs that went to the Monterey SPCA, are both doing well, the Herald reported. One was adopted by a SPCA staff member and the other is with a foster family.
Red was diagnosed with cancer in 2008 and underwent surgery and chemotherapy, which was paid for by Vick as part of his sentencing. He took a turn for the worse last week and tests showed the cancer, thought to be in remission, had returned. He was euthanized Monday.
Red was 8 years old, which is three years more than he would have lived if those recommending all the Vick dogs be put down had their way.
“Before this case, dogs from the kind of situation were automatically euthanized,” Brookhouser said. “Red is a stunning example why animals should be treated as individuals — not lumped as a breed. He was the best ambassador for that breed any of us have ever seen.”
(Photo: Red with Katie Mouisset, daughter of SPCA pet behavior specialist Amanda Mouisset.)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 8th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopted, amanda mouisset, animals, behavior, bunny, california, cancer, dead, death, died, dogfighting, dogs, euthanized, ginger, michael vick, monterey, monterey county spca, news, ohmidog!, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbulls, red, rehabilitation, rescue, seized, shelter, spca