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Alabama town bans pit bulls after sheriff shoots what he thinks might have been one


Citywide pit bull bans are often knee jerk reactions — maybe even more so when a county sheriff”s knees are involved.

One week after Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale was approached in his yard by four dogs “acting aggressive and looking like pit bull breeds” — and fired a shotgun at them, grazing one — the Alabama city of Clay passed a “vicious dog” ordinance banning pit bulls and pit bull mixes.

sheriffhaleThe sheriff, according to a spokesman, fired a warning shot into the ground, then another round of ”bird shot” in the direction of the dogs, leading them to turn away. Animal control arrived to round up the dogs, and their owner was charged with letting them run at large. The dog hit by Hale’s shot survived, reported.

That incident prompted the city council in Clay, with a speed seldom seen in government affairs, to pass an ordinance banning pit bulls and other “vicious” or “dangerous” dogs. 

The ordinance bans new pit bulls and mixes that include pit bull. Such dogs already kept in the city limits are grandfathered in but must be registered with the city in the next 60 days. The ordinance requires they be kept indoors and mandates owners post a prominently displayed ”beware of dog” sign. Owners are also required to have $50,000 in liability insurance. Violations can be punished with a fine of up to $500 and up to 30 days in jail.

Having sought little public input before passing the law on June 3, the city council has gotten some since, reports.

A standing room only crowd filled Monday night’s meeting of the Clay City Council, with most citizens arguing the breed is not “inherently dangerous” and criticizing the law for unfairly penalizing responsible owners. Many, including a representative from the Birmingham Humane Society, urged the council to consider a non-breed specific dangerous dog law instead.

One speaker continued to voice his concerns after his turn to speak was over. When told he was interrupting, he continued his comments, leading Mayor Charles Webster — perhaps deeming him to be inherently dangerous — to ban him from the room.

“You are turning us all into criminals,” the man, identified as Mark Lawson, said as a deputy led him outside.

City Attorney Alan Summers said he would try to have a new or modified ordinance for the council to consider at its next meeting on July 1.

(Top photo by Jeremy Gray /

FDA reviewing complaints about dog treats

boneReal Ham Bone for Dogs — dog treats made in Missouri from the femurs of pigs — are under review by the Food and Drug Administration after complaints of them causing serious injury and death in dogs.

If warranted, an FDA spokesman said, the FDA will take appropriate action and notify the public, the Associated Press reported.

The product — a smoked pig femur sold as a dog treat or chew bone — is distributed nationally under the Dynamic Pet Products label of Frick’s Quality Meats in Washington, Mo.

The company said Thursday it was saddened to learn of the illnesses and deaths of customers’ pets, and that quality and safety remain priorities. The packaging contains a warning about the product not being for all dogs, and the possibility that it could splinter.”

“That is why every package contains a label that provides detailed instructions to owners on how they can help their pets best enjoy our products,” the company said in a statement. “We strongly encourage owners to supervise their pets with any treats or snacks.”

The Better Business Bureau of St. Louis said consumers have complained about the bones splintering, and pieces  obstructing dogs’ intestines. Consumers reported their dogs had become lethargic or were vomiting. One man came home to find his dog dead, bleeding from the mouth.

Shanghai fears being shanghaied — by dogs

Shanghai’s dog owners could find themselves facing stricter guidelines after the city’s lawmakers finish drafting new rules governing pet ownership.

Even small dogs may be forbidden on public transport and in shopping malls and supermarkets. Other provisions could restrict where dogs can be walked and make owners responsible for any messes they leave behind, according to Xinhua, the Chinese news agency.

Shanghai People’s Congress has started research on the issue and will work with the Public Security Bureau to develop comprehensive new dog ownership rules, local lawmakers said.

Shanghai’s current dog regulations were issued in 1993, and though amended in 1997 and 2002, they aren’t sufficiently detailed to cope with the city’s modern-day canine concerns, the security bureau said.

“If dog management is not strengthened, these pets may still bring pleasure to their owners but could pose trouble or even danger to the larger population,” said Deng Zixin, a member of Shanghai People’s Congress.

Economic prosperity has allowed more people to own pets in Shanghai, and the sight of dogs romping in parks and greenbelts has become increasingly common. Current regulations don’t specify what neighborhood committees can do to deal with those concerns, Deng said.

He said more than 10,000 Shanghai residents are bitten by dogs each year, and the new rules are expected to hold owners liable in such cases.

The new regulations might also order owners of “aggressive breeds” to keep their dogs out of the downtown area, reports said.

New policy gives dogfighting victims a chance

Animals seized from dogfighting operations and other cruelty investigations deserve a right to be independently reviewed, instead of being automatically euthanized, a coalition of animal welfare groups has agreed.

After a meeting in Las Vegas last week, The Humane Society of the United States has revised its policies and now recommends that all dogs seized from fighting operations be professionally evaluated, according to agreed upon standards, to determine whether they are suitable candidates for adoption.

Under the new policy, dogs deemed suitable for placement should be offered to adopters or to approved rescue organizations. The HSUS will update its law enforcement training manual and other materials to reflect this change in policy.

In addition, groups participating in the meeting have vowed to  work together to help the canine victims of organized violence.

The meeting was prompted by the recent mass euthanasia of 145 dogs — including newly born puppies — that were seized from North Carolina Ed Faron, who bred fighting dogs at his Wildside Kennels.

The dogs were killed at the conclusion of his court case in Wilkes County, where authorities said their laws mandated the action. Unlike the dogs seized in the higher profile Michael Vick case, no efforts were made by the government, lawyers or major rescue organizations to save the Faron dogs, at least not until it was too late.

Lat week’s meeting was convened to address the matter of dogs seized as a result of cruelty investigations, particularly due to the increase in HSUS-led enforcement actions against dogfighters.

Participants at the meeting included Best Friends Animal Society, The Humane Society of the United States, BAD RAP, ASPCA, National Animal Control Association, Maddie’s Fund, Nevada Humane Society, and Spartanburg Humane Society.

The groups agreed that all dogs should be treated as individuals. They also agreed to support law enforcement and animal control agencies when decisions must be made regarding the dogs deemed unsuitable for adoption, and in cases when rescue organizations and adopters are unable, within a reasonable timeframe, to accept dogs from such raids that have been offered for adoption.

The organizations will form a working group to develop future protocols for cooperation in addressing the needs of dogs seized in raids, such as how to assist with the housing of fighting dogs, how to conduct professional evaluations, and how to screen potential adopters.

Puppy mills profiting from sale of seized dogs

State officials in Missouri say they plan to review a practice that allows dogs seized from puppy mills to be auctioned off — with the profits going back to the unfit breeders.

In February, for instance, the state negotiated a settlement with a Verona breeder who didn’t meet state standards. She was instructed to close her kennel. The state then arranged for her dogs to be sold by Southwest Auction Service in Wheaton. All the proceeds, minus state licensing fees, went to the kennel owner.

The state claims that since January, it has transferred more than 1,300 abused and neglected dogs from unlicensed breeders to shelters such as the Humane Society of Missouri in St. Louis. But other dogs are sold at auction to other breeders — a practice critics say is unhealthy and allows bad breeders to profit from the sale of their own confiscated or surrendered dogs.

Missouri Agriculture Director Jon Hagler said the policy is under review, according to an Associated Press article.

Missouri, which has come under fire for being the “puppy mill” capital of America, recently initiated Operation Bark Alert, allowing people to report unlicensed breeders directly to Hagler by e-mail. So far, he has received 100 reports of suspicious breeders that include licensed facilities, he said.

(Photo: Courtesy of The Humane Society of the United States)

“Hotel for Dogs:” Like a lick in the face

On Saturday, I got a chance to see “Hotel for Dogs” at a special screening to benefit the Maryland SPCA, and  I highly recommend it, whether you’re 8 or 80.

The SPCA, which runs its own sort of hotel for dogs on Falls Road, brought three up-for-adoption dogs to the fundraiser at the Regal Cinema in Hunt Valley, including the pup above (whose attempt to relieve me of my camera was unsuccessful).

The movie was cute, and funny, and elicited at least a dozen prolonged “awwwwwws” from the capacity crowd as the story unfolded — two orphans take in a New York neighborhood’s strays dogs, using an abandoned hotel to provide a contraption-filled haven for them.

It’s a movie that brings out the child in you, makes you wonder where you’ve been hiding it, and ponder whether you might ought to let it — and the idealism that went along with it – out once in a while.

“Hotel for Dogs” takes grown-up cynicism and gives it a big sloppy lick in the face.

Hotel for Dogs opens Jan. 16.

Losing a Buddy


The King County Animal Shelter in Kent, Washington acted appropriately when it euthanized a stray dog known as Buddy, a county review of the case has concluded. But the couple that picked him up off the street still disagrees with the choice.

Buddy’s death June 17 outraged the Auburn couple that found him wandering in traffic 13 days earlier. Jim Giuntoli, who rescued Buddy with his wife, Kim, said the dog was friendly and “would have made an adorable pet.”

But Carolyn Ableman, who oversees animal shelters for the county, said Buddy, a black Lab mix was so aggressive toward other animals he couldn’t safely be put up for adoption.

Those reviewing the case said Buddy snapped at the animal-control officer who first put him into a truck. He was reported to act dominantly over other dogs and snarled at an officer who intervened when Buddy attacked a kennel mate over food. A veterinarian on the review team said Buddy “represented a potential threat to public safety and therefore was not a suitable candidate” for adoption.

Jim Giuntoli disagrees. “They didn’t give Buddy a fair chance to even make it out of the shelter alive,” he said.

After Buddy’s death, the Giuntolis removed from the Kent shelter two other dogs they had rescued and took them to the Humane Society in Bellevue. One was quickly adopted out. The other is now at Seattle-based Animals First Foundation, where founder Carina Borja said he shows no signs of aggressiveness.

The county shelters in Kent and Bellevue have been under close scrutiny since independent reports over the past year said they are overcrowded and animals are held in inhumane, unhealthy conditions, according to the Seattle Times.

(Photo by Jim Giuntoli)

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