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Tag: ruling

Condo association to pay for its stupidity

fischerA Florida condo association that told a woman with multiple sclerosis that her service dog was too big has agreed to pay $300,000 to atone for its collective stupidity.

The settlement followed a federal judge’s declaration that Sabal Palm Condominiums in Davie, which sued to force the woman to get rid of the dog, had behaved in a manner both absurd and unreasonable, not to mention in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

“Sabal Palm got it exactly — and unreasonably — wrong,” U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola wrote in his order.

“This is not just common sense — though it is most certainly that.”

Scola ordered the condo association to allow Deborah Fischer, a retired art teacher, to keep her service dog, the Miami Herald reported.

Fischer, who uses a wheelchair and has limited use of her arms and hands, received a service dog in November 2011 from Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit group that provides dogs for people with disabilities.

The dog – a 5-year-old Labrador-golden retriever mix named Sorenson — has been trained to help Fischer pick things up, open and close doors and retrieve items from counter tops.

The condominium association, saying the dog violated its 20-pound limit on pets, began demanding medical records and other information to prove that Fischer needed Sorenson — and it sued Fischer when, it said, she failed to provide it.

Fischer, along with her husband, Larry, counter-sued, saying the condo board’s demands violated the federal Fair Housing Act, or FHA.

Judge Scola, in a 30-page ruling, strongly agreed with Fischer.

That the condo association “turned to the courts to resolve what should have been an easy decision is a sad commentary on the litigious nature of our society. And it does a disservice to people like Deborah who actually are disabled and have a legitimate need for a service dog as an accommodation under the FHA,” he wrote.

Condo board members suggested that Fischer could get a smaller service dog, but Scola didn’t buy that argument.

After Scola ruled in the Fischers’ favor, their attorney negotiated a $300,000 settlement with the attorney representing Sabal Palm.

Fischer said Sorenson can recognize 40 separate commands.

“He has made my life so much better,” she said.

(Photo: Courtesy of Matthew Dietz)

You won’t be seeing this one at Westminster

BN-CS825_RACCOO_G_20140509170444

The Federal Trade Commission ruled last week that a “raccoon dog” is not a dog.

More commonly known as the “Asiatic Raccoon,” members of the fox-like species (Nyctereutes procyonoides) are raised and skinned by fur farmers in China, Finland and other countries.

The creature, native to East Asia, is technically a member of the Canidae family, which includes wolves, foxes, coyotes and the domestic dog.

But the FTC, in a 59-page ruling, rejected a bid from animal welfare advocates to have it renamed “Raccoon Dog,” a move aimed at slowing the importation and sales of its fur, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The fur ends up in clothing sold in the U.S., where the Humane Society of the United States has been waging a campaign for years to ban or relabel the product — under the thinking even a cold-hearted wearer of fur wouldn’t wear dog fur.

“To our knowledge, no single furbearing animal has ever before been so mistreated and completely misrepresented to the public,” the HSUS said in a statement in 2008: “Raccoon dogs are not raccoons (Procyon lotor) — they merely have facial markings that resemble raccoons.”

In an update of fur labeling rules, the Federal Trade Commission rejected that argument: “It has rings around its eyes and it climbs trees.” the document said. “The name ‘Asiatic Raccoon’ best identifies this animal for fur consumers.”

Industry leaders praised the decision, saying the anti-fur campaign “relied on confusion, misinformation and the sympathies it created to disparage the fur trade and convince consumers that the fur industry was trading in products made of domestic dog.” The Humane Society, as you’d expect, was less than pleased.

“Here’s an example of the FTC bending over backwards to accept an industry name made up out of whole cloth, in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence and common English usage,” chief program and policy officer Michael Markarian wrote.

“A raccoon dog isn’t a raccoon, just as a kangaroo rat isn’t a kangaroo — and the FTC should know the difference.”

(Photo: Zumapress.com via the Wall Street Journal)

One very brave piece of “property”

mickNormally, we would call Mick, a Portland, Oregon, police dog killed in the line of duty this week, a hero.

Or maybe even a life-saver, which is how his partner, Officer Jeff Dorn, referred to him while recuperating in a hospital  from two gunshot wounds fired by the same burglary suspect who fatally gunned down Mick.

But according, at least, to an Oregon Court of Appeals decision — issued the very same day Mick died while trying to apprehend the fleeing, gun-firing suspect – Mick, being a dog, was merely “property.”

The court ruling wasn’t about Mick — instead it stemmed from an abuse case — but the timing and juxtaposition of the two stories serve to make a point that society, and lawmakers, and law enforcers, and courts, ought to start heeding.

Dogs aren’t toasters.

Mick joined the Portland Police Bureau K-9 Unit in March. After only a few days on the job, police, he captured three suspects within a 10-hour period. On Wednesday, he was with Dorn, chasing down a fleeing burglary suspect, when he was shot.

“Officer Dorn would like the community to know that ‘Mick saved my life,’ ” Portland police Sgt. Pete Simpson said in a press release.

“The dog was doing its job. He was out there protecting our community, and it’s tragic that we lost the dog,” said Portland Police Chief Mike Reese.

dornandmickAfter Mick’s body was recovered, a procession of police cars followed him to a veterinarian’s office, according to a report in Wednesday’s Oregonian, but it was too late.

On the same day Mick died, the Oregon Court of Appeals issued a ruling declaring — in line with what all the law books say — that dogs are “property.”

As such, the three-judge panel ruled, dogs can’t be seized and examined without a warrant, even if the purpose is to save a dog’s life.

The legal view of dogs as — above all else — property both degrades and endangers man’s best friend, and can make it difficult for animal-cruelty investigators to provide help to beaten, starved or neglected pets.

Changing that age-old view would require throwing away a lot of law books, and it would require judges to finally start showing half the backbone Mick did.

It’s time to make a legal distinction between inanimate ”property” that has no soul, and “property” (if we must call them that) that does have a soul.

The Court of Appeals Wednesday did the opposite, throwing out the conviction of a 28-year-old woman who, based on evidence from a veterinarian who tested and treated the animal without a warrant, was found guilty of starving her dog, the Oregonian reported.

After an informant told the Oregon Humane Society that Amanda L. Newcomb was beating her dog and failing to properly feed it, an animal-cruelty investigator went to Newcomb’s apartment in December 2010 and saw the dog in the yard “in a near emaciated condition.”

Newcomb told the investigator she was out of dog food and that she was going to get some more, but the investigator  determined the dog likely needed medical care and brought the dog to a Humane Society vet for an examination.

That exam, according to the appeals court ruling, constituted unreasonable search and seizure of property — namely, Newcomb’s dog.

While the investigator had probable cause to seize the dog without a warrant, the court said, the “search” — i.e. medical exam — of the dog violated Newcomb’s privacy rights because the authorities hadn’t obtained a warrant.

The ruling effectively overturns her conviction on charges of second-degree animal neglect, and the original judge’s orders for her to serve one year of probation and not possess animals for five years.

It could also serve to hamper animal cruelty investigations across the state.

Maybe worst of all, it confirms the foolish concept that dogs — despite their heroics, despite their loyalty, despite their having character traits that we humans can only envy — are, first and foremost, property, a wrongful designation that legally, if not in reality, seems to trump all else.

Ignoring Leona: Dogs have a bone to pick

If Leona Helmsley was betrayed as much in life as she is being betrayed in death, it’s easy to understand why she might have become the bitch — and we’re not talking female dog — she was so often portrayed as.

In the latest development with the wealth she left behind, a second judge has ruled, in effect, that the foundation divvying up her fortune among charitable groups need not follow her express wish that much of that money be spent on the care of dogs.

The judge denied a bid by the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States and other animal groups to get a larger share of Helmsley’s billions.

Although Helmsley directed a share of her massive fortune go to “the care of dogs” — that being in addition to the $12 million she asked be left to her own dog — the Helmsley Foundation’s trustees have seen fit to dispense most of the foundation money among organizations that have little or nothing to do with canines.

According to the animal welfare groups, only about $100,000 of the $450 million the foundation has given away has gone to dog causes.

The dog charities argued they should have standing to challenge how the foundation gives away its money in light of Helmsley’s written statements and last wishes. Wayne Pacelle, president of HSUS, called the $100,000 received so far ”a trifling amount, and contrary to Helmsley’s intentions.”

Surrogate’s Court Judge Nora Anderson in Manhattan rejected the bid by the animal welfare organizations to intervene in the case, agreeing with a judge who ruled earlier that the trustees have sole discretion in how to distribute the money, the New York Post reported yesterday.

She said she feared the groups’ challenge could open the floodgates to countless lawsuits from dog organizations around the world.

It’s hardly the first time Helmsley’s last wishes have been overruled since her death: Of that $12 million she left in her will for the care of her Maltese, named Trouble, a judge reduced the amount to $2 million.

Beyond what she intended to leave for the care and feeding of Trouble, Helmsley had another $5 to $8 billion, according to estimates of the trust’s worth.

Helmsley, who died in 2007, wrote in a 2004 mission statement for the trust that she wanted that money used for “1) purposes related to the provision or care of dogs and 2) such other charitable activities as the Trustees shall determine.”

In 2009, though, the Surrogate’s Court found that the mission statement did not place any legal restrictions on what donations could be made from the trust.

Later that year, the ASPCA, the Humane Society and Maddie’s Fund, filed a motion asking the court to vacate its earlier order and allow them to intervene. The primary interest of those groups was not, of course, in seeing solely that Helmsley’s wishes were honored, but neither, it seems, are the foundation’s. The animal welfare groups’ goals seem more aligned with her wishes, though.

By all descriptions, the so-called ”queen of mean” was a hard-hearted woman, with one soft spot — dogs.

The foundation doling out her fortune doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of respect for dogs, or for Helmsley.

I’m no legal expert, just a dog lover, and I’m not asking for Trouble.  But if I arranged to leave my fortune – non-existent though it may currently be — to my dog Ace, or anywhere else, and you didn’t carry out my wishes, you can be sure I’d be back to haunt you.

I’d show you mean.

High Court: Dogfight videos are free speech

dogfight

 
The Supreme Court has ruled that videos showing dogfights and other acts of animal cruelty are protected by free speech.

The court, in an 8-1 decision, struck down a federal law designed to stop the sale and marketing of such videos. The justices concluded the 10-year-old statute was overly broad.

The case before the court stemmed from an appeal by Robert Stevens, of Pittsville, Virginia, who sold videos through his business, Dogs of Velvet and Steel. The tapes show pit bulldogs attacking other animals and one another in staged confrontations.

The high court threw out Stevens’ conviction for selling depictions of animal cruelty.

Stevens argued his 37-month sentence sentence was longer than the 14 months given professional football player Michael Vick, who ran an illegal dogfighting ring.

His case was the first prosecution in the United States to proceed to trial under the 1999 law.

Read more »

Stray dogs get another day in California

shakespearedogAccording to the old saying — at least as old as Shakespeare — every dog has his day. 

In California they just got an extra one.

Interpreting a regulation that sets the “holding period” for a stray dog impounded in a public or private animal shelter at “six business days” (or, if certain exceptions apply, “four business days”), a state appeals court in San Francisco has ruled that Saturdays don’t count as business days.

The ruling  was the first to interpret a 1998 California law that increased the holding periods for public and private shelters, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The ruling will affect Contra Costa County Animal Services and all other counties and cities with similar policies.

The case goes back to 2006, when a miniature pinscher named Duke, was impounded at a county shelter in Pinole on a Thursday. The shelter held the dog until the following Wednesday, when another person took him. Duke’s owner, Veena Purifoy, went to the shelter the next day the following to find him gone.

She sued both the county and the new owner, who relinquished Duke in a settlement, Evans said. The suit against the county challenged its claim that the shelter had held the dog for the required four business days.

Overturning a judge’s ruling in the county’s favor, the appeals court said the state law did not define business days but was intended to increase holding periods from the pre-1998 law, which required a 72-hour hold.

Excluding Saturday as a business day serves “the legislative goal of access, because longer holding periods will often provide more opportunities for redemption and adoption,” Justice Martin Jenkins said in the 3-0 ruling.

(Photo from Cafepress.com)

Little Lola’s free ride

A couple agrees to care for a friend’s Chihuahua for the weekend.

The dog’s owner doesn’t pick her up when the weekend’s over; in fact, she doesn’t try to reclaim the Chihuahua, named Lola,  for 10 months.

What’s the couple who cared for the dog owed?

According to the Nebraska Court of Appeals — the third court to hear the case — absolutely nothing.

The saga of Lola, a four-pound, black-and-tan Chihuahua, began Aug. 22, 2007, when Heather Linville of Lincoln asked her friends Travis Derr and Natasha Combs to care for her dog for the weekend, according to the Omaha World-Herald. Linville’s new apartment complex didn’t allow dogs, and she explained she needed time to make arrangements for her pet.

When, 10 months later, Linville asked to get Lola back, Derr and Combs said they wanted to keep the dog.

Linville summoned police, and the dog was returned to her, but Derr and Combs filed a small-claims court case, asking to be paid $2,700 for boarding the animal for 320 days.

A Lancaster County judge ruled in favor of Derr and Combs, a decision later upheld by a district judge. But the appeals court overturned the $2,700 judgment in a 3-0 ruling — proving, in my view, three heads aren’t better than one. What Lola’s owner did sounds to me like abandonment, pure and simple.

The court said Derr and Combs did not ask for compensation when they agreed to keep the dog for the weekend. They should have notified Linville if they were no longer willing to keep Lola for free, the panel said. The court said the couple was entitled only to reimbursement for a $152.98 veterinarian’s bill.

However, they were just coming out, the team works in different machines can in different ways.