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Tag: supreme court

Dog walks into a bar

acebar


Our forefathers may have overlooked listing it in the Constitution, but I’d rank it up there with free speech, religious freedom and the right to bear arms… maybe even above the right to bear arms:

It’s the right to get a beer at a bar with your dog — one of life’s true pleasures, assuming you love beer and love dogs (and assuming it’s cool with the bar owner).

SONY DSCI’ve always felt, and often written, that allowing dogs into a drinking establishment — especially one that doesn’t serve food — is a decision that should be left up to individual tavern operators.

Local health departments, often, don’t see it that way, as was recently the case in New York City, where The Gate, a tavern in Park Slope, was told it can no longer allow patrons to come in with their dogs.

The city Department of Health based their order on a law prohibiting any live animal from being in a food service establishment.

The Gate is not a restaurant, but, under the law, beer, wine, booze and ice are considered foods.

Silly? Yes.

Unconstitutional? Should be, I say, tongue not entirely in cheek.

All 50 states allow residents to carry concealed guns outside their homes. Tennessee, Arizona, Georgia, Virginia, and Ohio have laws specifically allowing guns in bars. Bar patrons in South Carolina and North Carolina also aren’t required to disarm when entering a bar.

Twenty states, including New York and New Jersey, do not address the question of guns in bars at all.

It makes me uncomfortable, living in a world (and a state) where guns have more rights, privileges and protections than dogs.

And it gives me pause (not paws, for that would be a pun), that local health departments can get so worked up about a hound sleeping on a bar floor when Ebola is at our doorstep. Don’t they have more important things to do?

But back to The Gate.

After the health department laid down the law at the corner of 5th Avenue and 3rd Street, management posted a sign on the door of the tavern, saying, “with apologies to our furry friends,” dogs could no longer be allowed.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn pet owners have started a petition on the website Park Slope for Pets (see the upper right corner of that page) asking the Health Department to “allow dogs at The Gate” and reclassify bars that don’t serve food. As of this morning, nearly 600 signatures had been collected.

“We support The Gate’s dog-friendly status in the neighborhood as well as all other non-food drinking establishments that welcome dogs,” the petition’s sponsors say. “We are not looking for an exception for The Gate but rather a revision to the statute with regard to all non-food drinking establishments.”

SONY DSCI hold an even more radical stance. I’m for letting well-behaved dogs into places that do serve food, and even inside, as opposed to the patio (given it’s OK with the owner).

I’m more concerned with what’s going on unseen in the kitchen than the possibility of evil germs hopping off a dog and onto my plate of mozzarella sticks.

If its OK for service dogs to go inside restaurants, it should be OK for all well-socialized dogs — because all dogs, in a way, are service dogs.

My dog Ace, a one-time therapy dog who now counsels only me (and at a very reasonable fee) grew up spending some time (but not an inordinate amount of time) at a neighborhood bar in Baltimore I patronized.

I like to think he added to the bar’s character, and warmth, and friendliness, and vice versa. Admittedly, he also served as a social crutch for me, making conversations easier to start, making me more comfortable, keeping me from getting too tongue tied.

Just as dogs need to be socialized, so do we. And dogs and bars — independently and especially in combination — can help those of us who have difficulty in that area achieve that.

Dogs in bars lead to more social dogs, and more social people. (With the exception of those humans who are aghast by the prospect of a dog in a bar or restaurant and feel the need to file an official complaint, as opposed to just avoiding the establishment.)

“One of my favorite parts about going to The Gate was that I could enjoy a quiet night out without the lingering guilt of knowing my dog was waiting for me at home,” one dog owner told Park Slope Stoop. “… It’s disappointing that they are losing part of their character because of the DOH’s overreach in enforcing the Health Law.”

thegateWhile the city health department is barking out orders, the proprietor of The Gate, we’re pleased to read, isn’t just going to roll over.

The Gate’s owner, Bobby Gagnon, reportedly plans to fight the health department edict when he appears before the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings on Nov. 18 — not so much to be granted an exception as to clarify the law.

Dog owners need to push back from time to time, as opposed to just letting themselves be pushed around. I think that happens because dog owners are generally calm, easy-going, reasonable, level-headed people (thanks, at least in part, to their dogs), and because they realize having a dog — whether it’s a right or not — is truly a privilege.

Maybe if dog owners got political, played dirty, sported bumper stickers and insisted on exercising the right to have a Bud with their bud, we could resolve the problem, short of a Constitutional amendment.

Maybe if dog owners could be as strident and overbearing as gun lobbyists, they could enjoy more freedoms with their dogs.

Maybe, when authorities come to take our dogs out of a bar in which he or she is otherwise welcome, we should say, “Sure, you can take my dog out of this establishment … when you pry the leash out of my cold dead fingers.”

Maybe someday the Supreme Court will address the burning questions: Is ice food? And even if so, do we have a right to walk into a bar with our dog?

I’m sure critics will say it’s frivolous of me to compare taking your terrier to a tavern with our right to tote firearms, or our Constitutionally granted freedoms of religion and speech.

But are they really that different?

My dog protects me, like a gun. My dog nourishes and consoles me, like a religion. And he frees up my speech better than the First Amendment ever did.

(Photos: Ace and his friend Stringer at a Recreation Billiards, a dog friendly bar in Winston-Salem, Ace at The Dog Bar in Charlotte, and a Great Dane at The Dog Bar, by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!; sign outside The Gate in New York, from Park Slope Stoop)

John Oliver dogs the Supreme Court

Not since they started playing poker — at least on canvas — have dogs been presented as ridiculously and imaginatively as they are in this bit of cable television comedy.

Generally, dogs who are depicted as talking, or otherwise behaving as humans, fail to rise to the level of art, or even comedy, in my view. On top of never being too funny, the humanizing of dogs makes me wince. They’re perfect as they are; why drag them down to our species’ level?

But, in light of the point it makes, we’ll cut John Oliver some slack. Noting that cameras aren’t allowed in the U.S. Supreme Court, and that those courtroom artist renderings don’t make for riveting drama, Oliver suggested on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight” that dogs be used to act out the audio — the audio, unlike the video, being public.

“Cameras aren’t allowed in the Supreme Court, so most coverage of our most important cases looks like garbage. We fixed that problem with real animals and fake paws. Feel free to take our footage.”

In addition to what was aired on the show, he provided some stock dog video so that viewers can create their own dog-ified Supreme Court re-enactments. You can find that footage on YouTube. You can find some viewer submissions through #realanimalsfakepaws.

Oliver suggested broadcast news organizations use the animal footage with actual Supreme Court audio, instead of the boring still illustrations that they currently depend on. Doing so, he says, might get Americans more interested in what’s transpiring in the highest court in the land.

The sketch features dogs as the nine justices. That’s a bulldog as Antonin Scalia and a glasses-wearing Chihuahua providing the voice of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. There’s also a duck as an assistant, and a chicken as a stenographer. The sketch uses audio from an actual Supreme Court session (dealing with Holt vs. Hobbs, a case that questions whether prisons can force Muslim prisoners to trim their beards).

It’s unlikely the comedic barb will lead to any change in the stuffy and camera-shy court’s refusal to allow its proceedings to be televised. And if anybody took the issue to court, guess where it would eventually end up?

Even if the Supreme Court did go fully public, and became a TV show, I suspect it would only take one or two viewings of SCOTUS Live — or whatever it would be called — to turn most viewers off. In truth, most of us don’t want to watch the Supreme Court on TV, we just want to have that right.

More likely, after watching the dry and dusty judges making dry and dusty arguments, we’d all be saying, “Bring back the doggie version!”

Agency files lawsuit seeking to “repossess” handicapped priest’s retired service dog

A Pennsylvania service dog agency is suing an Episcopal priest with cerebral palsy to force her to give up the service dog she has had since 2007.

So reports the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

The Rev. Claire Wimbush says it’s unlikely she could continue living on her own without Willa, a 10-year-old yellow Labrador retriever provided to her through Canine Partners for Life, a Cochranville, Pa.-based agency that says it wants the dog back for reasons not fully specified.

Canine Partners filed suit last month in Pennsylvania Supreme Court, accusing Wimbush of violating her dog care contract and asking the court to order the dog’s return — along with “reimbursement of all costs and expenses, including legal and court fees.”

Darlene Sullivan, executive director of Canine Partners, declined to comment on the specifics of Wimbush’s case, according to the Democrat and Chronicle. The newspaper is owned by Gannett Co. Inc., and the Rev. Wimbush is the daughter of Gannett Vice President Jane Ann Wimbush.

According to the lawsuit, the Rev. Wimbush did not follow the agency’s training rules, including those that require recipients of  its dogs to maintain contact through follow-up reports. 

“If on repeated occasions there are problems with compliance, we will place that person on probation and they will get a letter explaining everything about why and letting them know if there are further violations they will lose their dog,” the agency’s director said. “If it gets to that point, and they refuse to return the dog to us, we have no choice but to take legal action.”

The Rev. Wimbush said she believes the agency wants Willa back because she was late turning in paperwork about the dog’s health and behavior. She said the documents were mailed on March 25, but Canine Partners didn’t get them by the April 2 deadline. An email from the agency came on April 4, saying arrangements needed to be made for the dog’s return. Six days later, she says, she received a letter telling her to bring Willa to the airport for “repossession.”

wimbushandwilla“I’m bewildered by this,” said Wimbush, who who has spastic cerebral palsy quadriplegia and uses a motorized wheelchair for mobility. Wimbush served as Curate of Christian Education at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Rochester from 2011 until last weekend, and is now planning to move back to her native Virginia to be closer to her mother.

On a website supporting her campaign to keep the dog, claireandwilla.com, the Rev. Wimbush notes that Willa’s status changed in February, 2012, when she retired from being a service dog and became a home companion dog:

“My ministry had changed; I was no longer moving from place to place over the course of a day, so I didn’t need her to help me carry things and open doors as often. The Rochester winters are tough on both of us. She was nine years old, almost ten; it seemed like the right time to make a change. Since her retirement, she gets to be petted and admired by all the members of my congregation, especially the elementary school crowd. She still goes with me to the church most days, and often accompanies me when I visit parishioners in animal-friendly retirement communities…”

The reverend admits to having had trouble keeping up with the agency’s required paperwork in 2007, due to illness. The lawsuit says she has had a history of not complying with those requirements. In 2009, the suit says, Wimbush was placed on “permanent probation” and told that any future violations would result in the immediate loss of the dog.

On the Facebook page of Canine Partners for Life, the agency is taking some lumps for filing the lawsuit against the handicapped priest, and some commenters are saying it is “shameful” for it to be demanding the dog back.

“What part of ‘for life’ am I missing?” one person wrote.

It’s unusual for an agency like Canine Partners to demand a dog be returned, according to Toni Eames, president of the International Association of Assistant Dog Partners, an advocacy group of people with guide, hearing and service dogs.

“It’s a very legitimate agency, and there has to be something, mistreatment of the dog, neglect, maybe it has gained a tremendous amount of weight or there’s abuse, there‘s got to be something. Filing papers late is not a reason to demand return of a dog,” she told the newspaper.

Marsha Sweet, assistant director of independent living services for the Center for Disability Rights in Rochester, knew of only two such cases, and both times an agreement was reached allowing the person to keep the dog. “Usually, the agencies really try to remedy the situation,” she said.

The Rev. Wimbush hopes that might still happen, and an agreement can be worked out.

“I would do anything, anything, to keep my dog,” she said.

(Photo: ClaireandWilla.com)

State Supreme Court to decide Onion’s fate

The Nevada Supreme Court — no stranger to such matters — will decide whether Onion, the Mastiff mix who killed his owner’s grandson on his first birthday, should live or die.

The court will hear arguments — 30 minutes worth, it has specified — on July 3 before deciding whether the city of Henderson should be allowed to kill the dog.

Another option has been offered by the Lexus Project, a New York-based organization that provides legal representation to dogs.

The Lexus Project intervened in the case and wants to gain custody of Onion, then send him to live at a secure sanctuary in Colorado.

The 120-pound mastiff-Rhodesian ridgeback mix killed Jeremiah Eskew-Shahan by biting him on the head the day of his first birthday party. Later that day, the owner turned Onion over to Henderson animal control officers, who planned to kill the dog in accordance with the city’s vicious-dog ordinance.

The city turned down the Lexus Project’s offer to take responsibility for the dog, and has fought its request to be awarded custody. Onion’s former owner now wants Lexus to have the dog, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

The court battle has been going on for a year now.

Last year, Clark County District Court Joanna Kishner ruled the city of Henderson could proceed with the dog’s execution.

The state Supreme Court issued a stay — it’s second in the case — until arguments could be heard.

Those will take place July 3 at 11:30 a.m.

Is this man’s “free speech” worth protecting?

stevensThe self-described “author and journalist” whose dogfighting videos were given the Supreme Court’s seal of approval this week, has at least three “pro-dogfighting videos” to his credit as well as an instructional book for aspiring dogfighters, the Humane Society of the United States says.

Robert “Bob” Stevens, a 69-year-old resident of Virginia, produced the videos “Japan Pit Fights,” “Pick a Winna,” and “Catch Dogs and Country Living.” He has also sold other dogfighting videos, including “The $100 Keep.”

Stevens, the first person tried and convicted under the now-defunct federal Depiction of Animal Cruelty Act, is also the author of “Dogs of Velvet and Steel.”

Stevens’ was convicted under the 1999 law in 2005 and sentenced to 37 months in prison. A decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit overturned the conviction, and the Supreme Court agreed with the appeals court decision this week.

velvetsteelWhile Stevens has claimed to be merely a pit bull lover with no interest in dogfighting, HSUS says the evidence points to the contrary. In “Dogs of Velvet and Steel,” he declares, “I attended many pit fights” and gives graphic accounts of several.

“Japan Pit Fights” includes a series of graphic dogfights. In “Pick-a-Winna,” Stevens invites viewers to pick the dog they think is going to win the fight. He goes on to act as commentator for each match, providing analysis on which dog is the better fighter. 

“Theeeere they go!” he shouts as each new pit bull match launches.

Stevens’ final video, “Catch Dogs and Country Living,” is geared toward training dogs for hog catching, an event in which pit bulls commonly latch onto the faces of pigs. Sometimes the pigs go down, sometimes the dogs do.

During one scene a pit bull named Katie is shown doing “catch work” by latching onto the face of a  farm hog. “In about three minutes there is no bottom jaw on that hog.  Stevens says. “Katie took that, and good part of his throat and his nose out…”

(Photo: Stevens, in a scene from Pick-a-Winna)

Numerous animals were permanently harmed in the making of this nasty and perverted film

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The American Humane Association is urging Congress to act immediately in light of Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down a federal law that prohibited videos, photographs and other depictions of acts of cruelty to animals for commercial gain.

The association — which bestows the “No animals were harmed” disclaimer on movies — says a new law is needed to “protect animals from the type of horrific cruelty this law was meant to prevent.”

The law, the Depiction of Animal Cruelty Act, was intended to prevent the creation and sale of dogfighting, other animal fighting, and “crush” videos that show real and intentional harm to animals for “entertainment” purposes.

“Deliberately killing animals for entertainment has nothing to do with freedom of speech,” said American Humane’s interim president and CEO, George C. Casey. “Americans are within their right to keep blatant animal torture and killing out of the marketplace, and the Supreme Court should have made that the priority over the supposed protections of those who take sick pleasure in this material.”

The American Humane Association, whose mission is to protect both children and animals, says the connection between violence to people and violence to animals is undeniable, and many studies indicate that animal maltreatment is “part of a complex constellation of family violence.”

The Supreme Court Monday ruled on the case of  Robert J. Stevens, who was convicted of selling videos of dogs fighting each other and attacking other animals. The court ruled the law was overly broad, and that such depictions are protected by free speech.

Stevens, who made the video “Catch Dogs and Country Living” — sounds almost civilized, don’t it? – was the first to be prosecuted under the federal law.

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.

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