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Tag: texas

After a basset hound’s disappearance, donations enable town to purchase a drone

The small central Texas town of Hewitt will soon be purchasing its own thermal imaging drone — and they can thank a basset hound named Gus for that.

Gus is the greying basset who went missing last July and stayed on the run nearly 50 days before, with help from a loaned drone, he was tracked down, trapped and returned to his owners.

His disappearance led to a massive search and, once he was found, one of the organizers of Team Gus began a fundraising campaign to get the Hewitt Police Department a drone of its own.

Nikki Pittman presented a check for $6,000 to city officials during Monday night’s council meeting, KWTX reported.

“We desperately needed one here and we kept depending on Dallas, North Dallas to come down here with their thermal drone,” said Pittman. “It was just necessary for Central Texas,” she said.

gusleashes1The money was raised with donations and sales of Team Gus coozies and t-shirts. It will help pay for the Hewitt police and fire department’s purchase of a drone, and licensing and training.

Police Chief Jim Devlin thanked Pittman for her hard work. “While it was a team effort, it was kind of a mission of hers,” he said. “She really stuck to her guns and pushed this thing.”

Devlin said police and fire agencies in New York City and Los Angeles have entire fleets of thermal drones that they use for “all kinds of types of operations. Those can be just as applicable to Hewitt, Texas as anywhere else,” he said.

The drone would be used for locating missing pets and people, and helping firefighting crews by giving them an overhead view of how a fire is spreading.

“It kind of boiled down to – we need one in Central Texas,” Devlin said. Hewitt police are matching the donation.

He believes having their own drone would have cut down on the time it took to catch Gus.

“I’d never thought we’d get outrun by a basset hound, but I also think if we did have the drone we could have launched that, we could have had control with that, I think it could have made a pretty big difference in the amount of time that he was actually on the loose,” said Devlin.

Devlin said the department is researching the purchase, but could have a drone in the air within the year. Firefighters, police officers and animal control staff will be trained how to use the equipment.

Gus disappeared July 24th. Mutts & Mayhem, a Dallas are rescue group, joined the search effort, using its thermal drone for three different overnight surveillance missions. Those helped lead searchers to the area where, in September, they set a trap and caught him.

Squish appears on Rachel Ray show


Squish, an Ohio dog whose face was left twisted and contorted by what veterinarians believe was a severe beating, will be a guest on “The Rachel Ray Show” today.

Appearing via a video call with the once-abused dog will be the woman who rescued him and to whom he now belongs, a veterinary intern at the time who now practices in San Antonio.

Squish was a four-month-old stray when he ended up in the Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter in 2016, with a fractured jaw, fractured skull and missing one eye.

After two months, given his appearance made him unlikely to be adopted, and given he was barely able to eat, the shelter added him to the list of dogs to be euthanized, but sent him to VCA Great Lakes Veterinary Specialists for a second opinion.

squishdog2When intern Danielle Boyd was sent to carry him into the exam room, she was taken with his friendliness and trust. “I was enamored by this little one-eyed pup who clearly endured so much pain,” she told the dodo.

Boyd decided to bring him home that night, just to give him a break from the shelter.

He has been her’s ever since.

Even though she was just a week away from a scheduled to move to Texas to finish her veterinary residency, she adopted the dog and a series of extensive surgeries began.

Less than 36 hours after Squish’s surgery, they drove from Ohio to Texas. “That became the beginning of our many adventures together,” she says. Boyd had lost her dog just days before she met Squish.

After several surgeries, Squish — who had difficulty seeing out of his one eye and whose injuries prevented him from being able to eat — is chewing on tennis balls, munching dry dog food, and apparently carrying around sticks as crooked as his face.


Vets suspect blunt force trauma led to his misshapen head. Both his skull and upper jaw had been fractured by a blow, or a series of them.

Squish now spends his time being the mascot for the veterinary hospital where Boyd works.

“Employees come visit him in my office when they need a little Squish love,” Boyd said. “Squish also shows clients whose pets are facing eye removal surgery how happy he is with one eye.”

Ray gave Boyd a lifetime supply of products from her Nutrish pet food line, and, along with everyone else in the studio audience, a $100 PetSmart gift cards.

(Top photo by Kin Man Hui /San Antonio Express-News, bottom photos by Danielle Boyd)

PETA disrupts the Belk Bowl as protestors call for end to Texas A&M dog experiments

By today, you’ve probably had your fill of chips, dips and bowl games, but you might have missed this small scale demonstration staged by PETA protestors at the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, which saw Wake Forest University take on Texas A&M.

PETA has also taken on Texas A&M, calling upon the school to cease experiments on golden retrievers in which they are bred to develop a crippling canine form of muscular dystrophy.

On Friday, three PETA supporters wearing sweatshirts and brandishing signs reading, “TAMU: Stop Cruel Dog Tests,” rushed onto the field after A&M scored its first touchdown.

Texas A&M lost the game, 55-52.

For decades, generations of dogs have suffered and died in gruesome experiments at the school, PETA says — experiments that haven’t led to a cure for muscular dystrophy in humans.

PETA is calling on Texas A&M to shut down the laboratory, stop experimenting on golden retrievers, and release all surviving dogs for adoption.

Earlier this year, two PETA protesters were forcibly removed from the University of Texas Board of Regents meeting after demanding the board stop funding the research.

PETA has long been campaigning to bring an end to the research project — a cause whose supporters include comedian Bill Maher, and former A&M quarterback Ryan Tannenhill, both of whom have characterized the research as cruel.

PETA has also released video footage showing golden retrievers and other dogs in TAMU labs who were suffering from canine MD and could barely walk or swallow.

The leader of the research, Joe Kornegay, has defended the project by saying it seeks to find a cure for the debilitating disease in both humans and dogs, and that — doomed as they might be to a life of suffering — dogs brought into the world for use in the experiments are treated well.

Kornegay has said dogs are bred with the disease because researchers can’t find enough canine participants who are already afflicted.

Dog’s head gets lost in the mail

There’s an undelivered package out there somewhere and it contains the head of a dog being sent to a lab for rabies testing.

With the package getting lost in the mail, three veterinary technicians —
one of whom as bitten by the dog and two others who were exposed to its saliva — are being forced to undergo a painful and expensive series of rabies shots.

And if the package does show up somewhere, anyone who opens it all the way up — if indeed the dog was rabid — could also be exposing themselves to rabies, making for a less than merry Christmas.

KLTV reports that veterinarians at Bright Star Veterinary Clinic in Sulphur Springs recently treated a dog showing symptoms of rabies.

During the consultation, one technician was bitten on the hand by the dog.

Since the dog was in poor health, and lacked proof of a rabies vaccination, the owner and the vet decided to euthanize it and, in accordance with state and federal guidelines, send its head to be tested at a state lab in Austin.

When the staff didn’t get a phone call from the state with the test results within the normal 24 hours, they contacted the lab and were told the head had never made it there.

Dr. Leah Larson said she contacted the company delivering the package, UPS, which told her they had no record of it.

“I told them I need help because I had my employee.” said Dr Larson. “I just don’t think they understood the risk, the health risk.”

UPS officials told KLTV that the clinic used a local shipping company that is authorized by UPS, but that UPS would not have accepted the package from the shipping business because of its content. Shipping materials of that nature requires UPS agreeing to it beforehand, they said.

UPS officials said the company refunded the veterinary clinic’s shipment fee back through the local shipping outlet, but Larson says she has not received it.

Meanwhile, Larson says, the clinic has spent thousands of dollars on testing the three employees, who were taken to a Dallas hospital for their first rabies shots.

Larson said the head was packaged in three layers of protection, inside a cooler with warning stickers on it.

Former racing greyhounds to find adoptive homes after Texas blood bank shuts down


That Texas operation that held retired racing greyhounds in captivity to regularly harvest and sell their blood is shutting down.

PETA exposed neglectful conditions at the blood farm this fall and has been campaigning hard for its closure — going so far as to put up billboards, engage in protests and even buy a share of stock in the company it sold blood to.

The Pet Blood Bank, located northwest of Austin, is one of several commercial blood banks in the United States with an in-house “colony” of dogs used to supply blood for veterinary treatments, according to the Washington Post blog Animalia.

An attorney for the blood bank said in a statement Thursday that the closing was a “business decision” made because the PETA campaign had “caused our long-standing customer relationships to be terminated.”

The National Greyhound Association and other dog-racing advocacy organizations said they were working with regional greyhound adoption groups and the Pet Blood Bank to place all of the 150 greyhounds now housed there up for adoption.

“We’re confident that every greyhound at the blood bank will be on its way to a loving new home within the next few days,” said Jim Gartland, the association’s executive director.”

Last month, PETA obtained photos and videos from a former company employee showing dogs confined in squalid quarters and, in some cases, left to suffer from painful injuries and dental disease.

The blood bank’s owner, Shane Altizer, denied the allegations.

PETA aimed its campaign primarily at Patterson Veterinary, the Minnesota-based company that the blood bank was a provider for. It held protests at the company headquarters and the home of the CEO of its parent group. It bought billboards, and one share of stock in Patterson Companies “to put pressure on the billion-dollar enterprise.”

Operations like the Pet Blood Bank sell their products to veterinary clinics or supply companies, and greyhounds — because members of the breed often have a universal blood type — are commonly used as donors.

The banks are not regulated by the federal government, and California is the only state that regulates them.

In a statement on Thursday, President Ingrid Newkirk said PETA would “work hard to get regulations passed to ensure all blood for emergency transfusions comes from real donors and not from imprisoned, miserable dogs.”

(Photo: PETA)

Did dog’s death actually break her heart?


It’s a phrase we might all throw around a little carelessly — having a “broken heart” about something, or even dying of one — but the medical community is coming to suspect there’s something to it.

On top of loads of anecdotal evidence — such as one spouse dying unexpectedly soon after another — doctors are seeing more cases where what appears to be a heart attack turns out to more likely be spasms brought on by “broken heart syndrome.”

Now comes what doctors say is a solidly diagnosed case — of a woman in Texas who was grieving the death of her dog — featured in no less august a publication than the New England Journal of Medicine.

{A fuller and more layman-friendly account can be found on the Washington Post animal blog, Animalia.)

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, to use it’s official name, is a condition with symptoms that mimic heart attacks. And that’s what doctors at Houston’s Hermann Memorial Hospital say a Texas woman suffered after the death of her dog.

Joanie Simpson, after having chest pains, was rushed last year into the cardiac catheterization lab at Hermann Memorial where a tube was threaded into a blood vessel leading to her heart. One of her doctors, Abhishek Maiti, said they expected to find blocked arteries.

The arteries were “crystal clear,” Maiti said. Further tests indicated she had Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, a condition, most common in postmenopausal women, in which a flood of stress hormones “stun” the heart to produce spasms similar to those of a heart attack.

brokenheartThe condition is characterized by transient left ventricular systolic and diastolic dysfunction of the apex and mid-ventricle. That is Simpson’s to the left, upon the onset.)

Simpson, 62, was stabilized with medications, after which she told doctors about the recent stresses in her life, culminating with the recent death of her Yorkshire terrier, Meha.

She was sent home after two days, and, while still taking two heart medications, she is doing fine.

Doctors say the condition usually occurs following an emotional event such as the loss of a spouse or child.

Maiti’s said Simpson’s case was published in the journal not because it is the first involving broken heart syndrome and stress over a pet’s death, but because hers was a “very concise, elegant case” of a fascinating condition.

While it adds to the growing recognition the condition is getting, it also underscores how — just as having dogs can make us healthier — losing them can take a toll that surpasses the emotional.

Simpson said the death of her dog, 9 years old and suffering from congestive heart failure, was not a peaceful one. Simpson postponed an appointment to euthanize the dog, and Meha died the next day.

“It was such a horrendous thing to have to witness,” she’s quoted as saying in the Post. “When you’re already kind of upset about other things, it’s like a brick on a scale. I mean, everything just weighs on you.”

Simpson, who now lives about two hours northwest of San Antonio, says she wants to get another dog someday, but for now she has a cat named Buster.

Getting every last drop from greyhounds

As if racing their hearts out weren’t enough, some greyhounds are retired to dog blood banks where they live caged all day long, except for outings to get their blood drawn.

PETA last month exposed one such kennel, The Pet Blood Bank, Inc., in Cherokee, Texas, which houses about 150 retired greyhounds — solely for the purpose of extracting and selling their blood and blood products.

The products, PETA reported, are distributed by Patterson Veterinary Supply, Inc., which did about $3 billion worth of business in 2016.

After the the PETA expose and a story in The Washington Post, Patterson Veterinary Supply announced it would take steps to correct the horrible conditions they described.

bloodbankBut PETA says no steps have been taken, even after they had Paul McCartney send a plea to the company.

Patterson Veterinary Supply initially announced it would terminate business with the The Pet Blood Bank, Inc.

It also promised to support “efforts to ensure that the animals receive appropriate care.” Bu PETA says it has seen no evidence of any such efforts.

The whistle-blower was Bill Larsen, 60, a former employee of the blood bank who went back to work there and was horrified by how conditions had deteriorated.

Larsen, who took the incriminating photos, said he unsuccessfully sought help from local animal shelters and a state agency before contacting PETA. “I just like dogs,” he said, and “hate for any animal to get treated like that.”

The photos show kenneled dogs with open wounds, rotting teeth and toenails curling into their paw pads.

The blood bank was founded in 2004 by Austin entrepreneur Mark Ziller, who said he initially sought volunteers and used a bloodmobile. When that did not turn up enough dogs, the company began using retired greyhounds housed in a kennel on a private farm northwest of Austin, the Post reported.

Ziller said he sold the company in November 2015 to Shane Altizer, whose family owns the farm in Cherokee.

“The Pet Blood Bank had a noble mission: It provided blood for veterinarians to use in lifesaving transfusions,” Ziller tod the Post. After viewing the photos PETA obtained, he added, “To see the animals in that state is beyond depressing.”

Altizer did not deny that the images were taken there, but said they predated his 2015 purchase of the company or were “moment snapshots” unrepresentative of overall conditions now.

Blood banks help save thousands of animals a year, but they are also profit-driven and unregulated.

With more medical procedures being used by vets, transfusions are more often required, and animal blood banks struggle to meet the demand. Only one state, California, regulates such operations and requires annual inspections.

bloodbank2Greyhounds are considered especially desirable as donors because they typically have a universal blood type and have big neck veins that make drawing blood easy.

Veterinarian Anne Hale, former CEO of the nation’s first and largest commercial animal blood bank, said she visited the Pet Blood Bank this summer and was “pleasantly surprised” with conditions there. After viewing the PETA photos and video though, she said, “It appears that the facility was ‘cleaned up’ before our touring … I agree that this facility should be addressed. This certainly suggests that regional, state and/or federal regulation is warranted.”

Former Beatle McCartney, who wrote a letter on PETA’s behalf, wants to see all the dogs removed from the facility.

“I have had dogs since I was a boy and loved them all dearly, including Martha who was my companion for about 15 years and about whom I wrote the song ‘Martha, My Dear,'” McCartney wrote. “I join my friends at PETA in asking you to pay these greyhounds back, and to let them retire from the dirt-floored, barren conditions in which they are kept isolated and alone.”

(Photos and video from PETA)