Tag: set on fire
It seems like every year I’ve teetered a little closer to disliking the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest.
A cute concept at first — and one that helped remind us what a superficial thing beauty can be — it seems to have grown into a pageant that, despite its focus on “ugliness,” inches ever closer to reflecting many of the same negative traits of purebred dog shows and beauty contests.
As the quirky little contest at the Sonoma County Fair in Petaluma has grown huge, and the title more sought after, there has been a concurrent increase in cut-throat competition, campaigning and hype.
But it’s the choice of this year’s winner that may have finally pushed me into being a fan no more. The title of World’s Ugliest Dog was won by a dog whose unusual appearance is the result of being abused.
And that troubles me.
This year’s winning dog, Peanut, a two-year-old mixed breed, is from Greenville, N.C. He was adopted from a shelter after being found abandoned and severely abused. It is suspected he was set on fire. While he’s healthy now, his eyelids, lips and patches of hair on his body were burned off, which accounts for much of his unusual appearance.
His owner, Holly Chandler, held fundraising campaigns to travel to California and enter Peanut in the contest — all, she said, to help raise awareness about animal abuse.
Given that’s a large part of this website’s mission, too, I have no problem with that cause.
I’m all for celebrating dogs who look different. I’m all for celebrating dogs who have overcome harsh odds. I’m all for abused dogs recovering and becoming rich and famous while their abusers rot in prison.
Where my discomfort comes in, I think, is placing abused animals in a “contest” context and, within that party atmosphere, picking a winner whose looks are the result of being horribly mistreated at the hands of man.
Abuse, it seems to me, should not be connected to pageantry and cash prizes, no matter how circuitous that link is.
Yesterday, I watched a local TV report about Peanut winning the contest. The anchor people, while noting Peanut had an inner beauty, laughed and joked about his appearance, as I’m sure the crowd did at the contest.
Peanut beat 24 other dogs to win the contest Friday, receiving more than double the votes the second-place dog received.
While his owner seemed sincere in her purpose, and probably did raise awareness about animal abuse, I can’t help but wonder whether we should all be chuckling — even while feeling sympathy and love for Peanut — at his appearance, at his prominent teeth, or his eyes that never close, given it was all the result of a cruel criminal act.
On the other hand, the world should know Peanut’s story — and the contest was a way to make that happen.
Maybe, though, there are better, more dignified ways, such as writing a book, or taking him to schools, or sharing his story with the news media — ways that might avoid the appearance of exploitation and have a little less of the circus atmosphere that seems, in my mind at least, to clash with serious nature of animal abuse.
I doubt there is any danger of people disfiguring their dogs in hopes of winning the World’s Ugliest Dog contest, but — given the world can be pretty ugly — stranger things have happened.
I think it would be wise, and in good taste, for contest officials to impose and enforce a ban on dogs whose “ugliness” or unusual looks are a result of actions taken by humans — whether those actions are heinous criminal acts or cosmetic steps, like dyeing, taken for amusement purposes.
While the contest’s web page states that “all the dogs must provide a veterinarian’s paperwork asserting that they are healthy and are ‘naturally ugly,’ Peanut’s victory casts some doubt on how strongly that’s being enforced.
All that said, I don’t find any fault with Chandler entering Peanut in the contest. She was on a mission. She made her point.
Maybe the World’s Ugliest Dog contest, after 25 years, has made its point too. A cute and well-intentioned gimmick with a sweet message, it might be growing into a bit of a monster. Maybe it should fade way before it becomes too Westminstery.
I have problems with contests that award people, or dogs, for good looks and conformity. Maybe I have issues with awarding them for “bad” looks and non-conformity, too.
Definitely I don’t like the idea of people laughing and finding amusement in a dog’s misery, which, in a very distant, removed and indirect way, is what’s going on.
That’s the best I can do at explaining the ill-at-ease feeling Peanut’s victory gives me.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
(Photo: From Holly Chandler’s Gofundme page)
Posted by John Woestendiek June 23rd, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 2014, abuse, animal cruelty, animals, awards, awareness, beauty, burned, competition, contest, contests, dogs, peanut, petaluma, pets, set on fire, sonoma county fair, ugliest, ugly, world's ugliest dog
Twins Travers and Tremayne Johnson were scheduled to be back in court this morning for a second trial on charges of setting a dog named Phoenix on fire two years ago.
The first trial for the Baltimore brothers ended in a mistrial in February.
The dog was found on fire by a police officer, who used her sweater to put out the flames. Days later, Phoenix died while being treated in Pennsylvania.
The case led to an increased focus on animal abuse in Baltimore and the creation of an Anti-Animal Abuse Taskforce.
In the first trial, a single juror held out against a guilty verdict, resulting in a hung jury.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 4th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, abused, animal cruelty, animal welfare, baltimore, burned, dog, fire, mistrial, new trial, phoenix, pit bull, postponed, postponement, second, set on fire, torture, travers johnson, tremayne johnson, trial
Jurors in the trial of the twin brothers Travers and Tremayne Johnson — accused of setting a pit bull known as “Phoenix” on fire in the summer of 2009 — will resume their deliberations Monday.
They were sent home Friday, unable to come to a consensus after a day and a half on whether Travers and Tremayne Johnson should be found guilty of the crime, the Baltimore Sun reported.
Twice on Friday, the jurors told Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Lawrence P. Fletcher-Hill they were having trouble reaching a verdict. The judge urged them to continue deliberating.
“Do not hesitate to re-examine your view,” he said. “You should change your opinion if you are convinced you are wrong.”
The jury continued deliberating until about 6:30 p.m. before being excused for the weekend.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 6th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animal cruelty, animals, baltimore, brothers, burned, burning, deliberations, dogs, fire, guilty, innocent, jury, pets, phoenix, pit bull, pitbull, set on fire, torture, travers johnson, tremayne johnson, trial, twins
Baltimore police said Monday that two 17-year-old boys have been charged with multiple accounts of animal cruelty in connection with using lighter fluid to set a cat named Mittens on fire in Baltimore’s Central Park Heights neighborhood.
The owner of the cat, who lives on the 3300 block of St. Ambrose Ave., told police that the animal had been set on fire by her grandson and a friend.
A witness told police that the suspects brought the cat onto a rear, second-floor deck three weeks ago and and put a milk crate on top of the pet. They then poured lighter fluid through the openings in the crate and dropped a book of lit matches into the crate, police said.
Police said the cat howled, knocked the milk crate over and leapt from the balcony, running in circles until the flames went out.
Mittens recently had three kittens, and continues to nurse them in her new surroundings — at Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS), where she is expected to survive her injuries.
Mittens’ ears were damaged as a result of the burns. She also sustained third- and fourth-degree burns on her back and side, according to BARCS.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 31st, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animal cruelty, arrests, baltimore, boys, burned, cat, charges, condition, cruelty to animals, doused, fire, injuries, kittens, lighter fluid, milk crate, mittens, set on fire, teenagers, torture
As the case against two brothers accused of setting a pit bull named Phoenix on fire unfolds in a Baltimore courtroom, a cat named Mittens is nursing both her kittens and the wounds she received after being set on fire in the city.
It may not be raining abused cats and dogs, but this — one case entering the public consciousness before the other has a chance to clear it — is how a reputation gets made. And if Baltimore doesn’t do something — something big, something quick — it stands in danger of becoming known not as the city that reads, or even the city that bleeds, but the city that torches, and tortures, its pets.
Whether it deserves that label more than other cities is arguable. It’s also not the point. The point is the torture of animals is a big flashing neon sign, reading “Address This Issue.” It’s a highly visible symptom of an illness in society that, even though it has been diagnosed, is largely being ignored.
Baltimore has no monopoly on animal torture — and it’s not the only city that’s failing to fully address it. In cities across the country there are pockets of misguided youths who have either failed to develop any compassion, may never have been taught any, or have had it snuffed out of them.
Attacking the problem is something that should be done not just for reasons of image, but, much more importantly, because it has been well documented that children who take pleasure in torturing pets often grow up to inflict harm on fellow humans. Pick a serial killer and you can, almost always, find animal abuse in his past.
If how a society treats its animals is a barometer of how civilized it is, Baltimore needs a massive injection of civility — stat — some large doses of empathy and compassion, best administered during childhood.
The saddest irony of it all is that animals are one of the best ways to administer that, to teach children a respect for all living things. Instead, dogs and cats, who we have so much to learn from about life, love and happiness, time and again in Baltimore are serving as the victims for those seeking sick thrills or acting out their inner hostilities.
Mittens, according to officials at Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS), was placed into a milk crate by a juvenile who doused both the cat and the crate with lighter fluid, struck a match and threw it into the crate.
In flames, the cat broke free from the milk crate and ran from the yard, running in circles until the fire was extinguished, BARCS said. She then returned to the kittens she had recently given birth to at a home on Saint Ambrose Street. (St. Ambrose, for some more irony, is considered the patron saint of domestic animals.)
That incident came to light after the first day of testimony in the trial against teenage brothers Travers and Tremayne Johnson, who are accused of dousing Phoenix, a pit bull, with accelerant and setting her on fire on May 27, 2009.
On Friday, Baltimore city police detective Syreeta Teel tearfully described finding the pit bull on fire on a West Baltimore street and running from her squad car to smother the flames with a sweater.
Despite her quick and heartfelt response, one thing that’s becoming evident during the trial is that the police department doesn’t take torturing and killing animals as seriously as some other crimes.
Teel, according to testimony, left the sweater, which might have provided traces of accelerant, on the sidewalk. The scene was never secured, and the police crime lab was never called. “The Baltimore City Police Department completely botched this,” said Assistant Public Defender Karyn Meriwether, who represents one of the brothers.
The death of Phoenix drew national attention, leading to thousands of dollars in donations to a reward fund and the creation of a city-wide Anti-Animal Abuse Task Force, which issued a report last year that found numerous flaws in the city’s response — particularly that of law enforcement — to incidents of animal abuse.
According to a Baltimore Sun report, the prosecution’s evidence is limited in the Phoenix case, and relies largely on unclear surveillance video and the word of witnesses — including a woman who the defense says came forward once the reward topped $25,000.
Phoenix was burned over more than 95 percent of her body. Veterinarians would later find that her corneas had melted, and the inside of her mouth was scorched. She’d lost her footpads to the flames, but she kept fighting until, with her kidneys failing, she was put to sleep five days later.
“On a scale of one to 10,” her pain level was “10,” said a Pennsylvania veterinarian who treated her. Phoenix also had puncture wounds on her neck and leg, indicating she might have been in dog fights, but throughout her treatment she showed no aggression.
The Johnson brothers both were initially charged in juvenile court, but were later indicted as adults on the animal cruelty charges, which carry a maximum prison sentence of three years. Testimony is expected to continue this morning.
Animal advocates in Baltimore are watching the case closely, and hoping that, if found guilty, the twins receive the most severe punishment posible.
But as the weekend’s developments show, as Mittens reminds us, a strict sentence is not the entire solution. It’s reactive, and while it may send a needed message, the city needs to do more, in a proactive way. Investigating, arresting, prosecuting and imprisoning animal abusers all need to be done, and done properly, and taken seriously, but what’s even more vital is preventing it from happening in the first place.
Our favorite reader comment: “Kindness and concern for animals is going to have to be taught in elementary school. It’s the only way to stop this problem in its tracks.”
To see all the comments on this post, click here.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 31st, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, abusers, animal, animal cruelty, animals, arrest, baltimore, baltimore animal rescue & care shelter, barcs, cat, cats, children, compassion, cruelty to animals, dogs, fire, image, juveniles, law enforcement, mittens, pets, phoenix, pit bull, prevention, prosecution, punishment, set on fire, task force, torture, travers johnson, tremayne johnson, trial, youth
The cat, and the kittens she recently gave birth to, were taken to Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS) after police responded to a call in the 3300 block Saint Ambrose Street.
The cat, who has been nicknamed Mittens at the shelter, is suffering from burns on most of her body.
Witnesses told police that, earlier this month, a juvenile placed the cat in a milk crate on the back porch, doused the milk crate and the cat with lighter fluid and then struck a match and threw it in the crate.
In flames, the cat broke free from the milk crate and ran from the yard, running in circles until the fire was extinguished, BARCS said. She then returned home and hid under a table.
Police have not reported whether any arrests were made at the residence, which they said still smelled of singed skin when they arrived.
The cat and her kittens are residing in “Critter Care” at BARCS. Mittens has third and fourth degree burns. She is expected to survive, but will need long term treatment. It will be months before she is healed and her fur may not grow back
“This is another horrible case of animal abuse in Baltimore City, ” said Jennifer Brause, BARCS’ Executive Director. “Mittens is a wonderful cat, who despite her injuries is still caring for her kittens and is very affectionate to the staff.”
Mittens’ medical bills will be covered by BARCS’ Franky Fund, a fund that relies on donations from the public to pay the veterinarian and medical bills of injured animals that come to the shelter for care.
Donations to the Franky Fund are accepted through the BARCS website, or at the shelter, located at 301 Stockholm Street in South Baltimore (near M&T Bank Stadium).
Posted by John Woestendiek January 30th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animal cruelty, baltimore, baltimore animal rescue & care shelter, barcs, bills, burns, care, cat, cruelty to animals, degree, donations, doused, fire, fourth, franky fuknd, fur, juvenile, kittens, lighter fluid, mittens, mittens the cat, police, set on fire, skin, third, torture, veterinarian, veterinary, youth
A South Carolina woman says God advised her to hang and burn her nephew’s pit bull because it had chewed her Bible and was a “devil dog,” according to animal control officers.
Miriam Fowler Smith, 65, of Pacolet Mills, S.C., remained in jail Tuesday morning in Spartanburg County, charged with felony animal cruelty, the Charlotte Observer reported.
Smith’s nephew, Andy Fowler, said he originally thought his dog, Diamond, had broken its leash and got away. But when he confronted his aunt, officers said, she admitted killing the dog.
Officers searched the property around the house and said they found the dog’s burned body under a mound of leaves and grass.
The police report said officers found an orange extension cord wrapped around the dog’s neck and noticed a kerosene smell.
Smith was arrested Sunday and charged with one count of ill treatment of animals.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 25th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animal cruelty, animal welfare, animals, arrest, bible, burned, chew, chewed, chewing, cruelty to animals, devil dog, diamond, dog, dogs, extension cord, fire, hung, miriam fowler smith, pets, pit bull, pitbull, set on fire, south carolina, spartanburg, torture