When Randi Hileman came upon a trail of dead dogs and cats on the highway in North Carolina, she did what most folks do nowadays. She got out her phone and took some pictures.
She was distressed enough by the scene that, after moving the corpses to the side of the road, she posted the photos on Facebook and called the news media — all in search of some sort of explanation.
And when, earlier this month, the explanation came, she — and a lot of other people — got even angrier.
What little official response there was went something like this: Someone failed to properly latch the tailgate of a truck transporting dogs and cats that had been euthanized at the Davidson County Animal Shelter.
Rather than ending up at their destination, a landfill, their bodies were left strewn along U.S 64, near Interstate 85.
Judy Lanier, the shelter’s director, told inquiring reporters it was a non-story, and apparently convinced a lot of them of that.
Not too many accounts of what happened can be easily found on the Internet, other than this one in the Winston-Salem Journal.
“It was an internal employee mistake that’s been dealt with in less than 30 minutes,” Lanier told columnist Scott Sexton. “Basically it’s a nonstory. There is one thread on one Facebook page where you’ve got less than 10 people beating a dead horse.”
Between being one of only eight counties backwards enough to still use gas chambers to put down dogs, the public opposition to that, the county’s dismal adoptions figures (it reportedly euthanizes 6,000 dogs a year), Lanier’s defensive reaction and the vivid images of what her employee left, however briefly, on the highway, it’s not too surprising that some people are calling for the shelter director’s resignation.
Lanier, while she’s not granting many interviews with the media, is responding to what people are saying on Facebook.
“I never took it lightly,” she says in one comment. “I dealt with it a week ago in a professional expedient fashion … I take issue with this non story that was simply an error of equipment usage being used as another platform for attacking our shelter, our staff and our ethics … Not one cat was adopted due to this story being spread all over face book. Not one of these so called activists stepped through the door to help lessen the overcrowding that requires that truck to make that trip several times a week. Shame on those who criticize that which they don’t understand and those who don’t intend to put their words into action. Journalism when practiced honestly does not require ambushing and exploitation. That’s just his personnel (sic) self aggrandizement in print.
Lanier wrote that none of the animals found on the road had been put down in the gas chamber, and said the shelter uses lethal injection three times more often than it uses its gas chamber. Opponents of the gas chamber, she said, are using the dead animal spill to fuel their campaign against the use of gas.
“Those animals are the visual picture of what happens in a community that does not spay/nueter (sic), thinks of animals as disposable property and expects a small shelter to absorb their decisions and re home each one. That’s a fact not an excuse but reality.
In another comment, she gets in a shot at the reporter: ”Must be a slow day in the newspaper world when a columnist can only report week old news and quote a no comment voice mail to make a punch line … Mr. Sexton burnt a bridge he won’t ever cross again today.”
Lanier further states that she wishes people criticizing the shelter would spend that energy instead on volunteering at the shelter, helping get dogs adopted and educating the public on spaying and neutering.
Amid her comments, an apology can be found.
“The incident where animals were found on Highway 64 on Tuesday, August 8, 2014 was an unfortunate error caused by the tailgate on the animal shelter truck being inadequately secured. The animal shelter truck was in route to the county landfill at the time of the incident. The animal shelter staff acted as soon as possible to correct this error and the staff member involved was extremely sorry and devastated that this had occurred. The shelter staff member is an excellent employee who performs above and beyond every day at the shelter. Measures have been taken by the staff to make sure this never occurs again.
“The Davidson County Animal Shelter apologizes to the public who witnessed this incident. We are aware of the impact this has had on our citizens. The entire incident was due to human error and is regrettable.”
Probably she should have provided that statement to reporters and stopped there, rather than telling them they were “beating a dead horse.” And probably she should have held back on criticizing animal advocates who want to see the gas chamber dismantled.
Criticizing those who see the issues differently is bad for public relations. Badmouthing reporters is bad for public relations. The gas chamber is bad for public relations. Dead dogs on the highway is bad for public relations.
Davidson County officials have the power to do something about one or two of those, or perhaps all four.
(Photos from Randi Hileman’s Facebook page)
Posted by John Woestendiek August 25th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adoption rates, animals, bodies, carcasses, cats, davidson county, dead, director, dogs, euthanized, facebook, gas chamber, judy lanier, lethal injection, neuter, north carolina, pets, photos, put down, rescues, shelters, spay, spill, tailgate, truck
A South Carolina man who dragged a pit bull mix behind his pick-up truck for two miles received the state’s maximum penalty for animal cruelty.
Circuit Judge Letitia Verdin sentenced Roger Dennis Owens of Greenville to five years in prison Tuesday for ill treatment of animals. He received another 5 1/2 years for habitual traffic offenses.
“This is one of the cruelest things that I’ve seen since I’ve been on the bench,” Verdin said.
Owens dragged the dog behind his truck for at least two miles on Nov. 29 — even as witnesses tried to get him to stop, according to the Greenville News.
Witnesses said the dog was tied to an open truck bed with her front paws on the gate while her hind legs were dragged across the road. The dog was running, trying to keep up with the truck, which was being driven at high speeds.
Two witnesses pursued Owens, following a trail of blood on the road until they found the dog, said Assistant Solicitor Julie Anders.
The dog, now named Andra Grace, was taken to a veterinary clinic for treatment, and more than $16,000 was donated to help pay for her care.
She has since been adopted.
Owens’ attorney, public defender Elizabeth Powers Price, said her client has cared for dogs his whole life but had been drinking that day.
You can learn more about Andra Grace on the Justice for Andra Grace Facebook page.
Posted by John Woestendiek July 18th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: 10 years, 2 miles, abuse, andra grace, animal cruelty, court, cruelty to animals, dennis owens, dog, dogs, dragged, greenville, judge, letitia verdin, mix, pets, pit bull, sentence, south carolina, trial, truck, two miles, vehicle
Police in Carver received a call Saturday after the truck went into the murky pond.
By the time Officer David Harriman arrived, one of two dogs had escaped and was standing on shore with the owner. But the other hadn’t surfaced, according to Boston.com
“Instead of waiting for the dive team, I decided to go in and try and get the dog,” Harriman explained.
“Seconds mean a big difference for animals, and people for that matter, under water,” he said.
The owner of the dogs, Debra Titus, 59, of Plymouth, stopped the vehicle next to a pond that provides water to the local fire department to argue with a man about dogs, South Coast Today reported.
“She thought she threw it in park but in fact threw it in reverse,” Sgt. Raymond Orr said. “It backed up and went into the pond.”
According to a police department press release, Harriman “removed his gun belt and dove into the murky water … He then managed to open the door and enter the vehicle and retrieve the dog. The dog was returned to its owner in good health but a little frightened.”
A photo of Harriman standing on the roof of the submerged Toyota Tacoma, with the tiny dog in his arms, is racking up the likes on Facebook.
Harriman, who described himself as a dog lover, has an 8-month old bulldog named Jaxx.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 10th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: accolades, animals, car, carver, david harriman, dive, dog, dogs, facebook, hero, law enforcement, officer, pets, pickup, police, pond, rescue, submerged, trapped, truck, under water
Yesterday I suggested, half-seriously, that a Dog Walker Hall of Shame be established, and that an aspiring actor in Los Angeles who left a client’s dog in his parked Jaguar be made a charter member.
It only took a few minutes, once I put a link to the post on my Facebook page, for one reader to nominate what she thought was an even more deserving candidate.
(I have nothing against dog walkers; I am one. But I’ve always felt — even as a journalist — that it’s up to members of a profession to help weed out the bad seeds, or at least shine a spotlight on the dangerously dim bulbs certain occupation sometimes attract.)
Last Tuesday a dog walker in Langley, British Columbia, reported to police that six dogs were stolen from the back of her truck, parked just outside an off-leash area. She said she went to the bathroom and returned 10 minutes later to find all six dogs were gone.
That led to a week-long search — by authorities, doggie detectives, and the individual families who owned the pets.
In a heartbreaking development, police now say the dogs weren’t stolen, but died of heat exhaustion in the dog walker’s truck. Police are looking into charging the woman with public mischief, according to the National Post. The SPCA is also investigating.
The bodies of the dogs — five belonging to clients, one belonging to the dog walker — were found in Abbotsford, police said.
Alesha and Al MacLellan, of Petsearchers Canada, who were assisting in the search for the dogs, said the dog walker, Emma Paulsen, admitted to them that the dogs died.
She “disclosed that on May 13th, all six dogs were in the back of her vehicle with the side vent windows open and water available, as she had done hundreds of times,” Alesha MacLellan said. “Sometime during the outing, all six dogs perished from heatstroke. Upon arriving at the location and seeing her beloved charges deceased, she went into a blind panic at the thought of notifying the families and the possible repercussions.”
Initially, Paulsen said of the disappearance of the dogs, ”It’s just unimaginable. If somebody thought they were doing the right thing by saving theses dogs out of a hot truck, I can understand this perspective. But enough already, bring them home. Everybody’s just tortured at this point.”
The missing dogs, dubbed the Brookswood 6, gained widespread media coverage in B.C. Money was donated for rewards, and there was a rally for them at a Langley dog park.
The dog walker’s own dog, Salty, was among the deceased animals, according to The Province. The other dogs were Mia, a 15-month-old pit bull; Oscar, a six-year-old Rottweiler-husky mix; Buddy, a Boston terrier; Molly, a five-year-old German shepherd-blue heeler cross; and Teemo, a poodle-Bouvier mix.
The owners of the pets were devastated to learn that the dogs they thought were missing were dead, Mrs. MacLellan said.
“There’s always that sliver of hope. Until we talked to them today, we were also hopeful that if something bad had happened to some of the dogs, maybe one or two were hidden away somewhere safe. It’s pretty devastating that all six have perished.”
“Each year we attend hundreds of calls to rescue dogs in distress in hot cars,” said SPCA spokeswoman Lorie Chortyk. “Animals can suffer brain damage and death in as little as 10 minutes in a hot car, even with windows left open. The SPCA issues this warning repeatedly in warm weather in the hopes of averting such tragedies but sadly, we still continue to see animals left in hot cars.”
You’d think a professional dog walker would know better.
Louise Scott, who owned Molly, said she’d been hopeful her dog might return. She learned what happened from a neighbor, whose dog was also among the six.
“They said they’re all dead,” said Scott, 80. “I’m too upset to say anything. And I’m very, very mad. Angry is the word.”
(Photo: National Post)
Posted by John Woestendiek May 21st, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, british columbia, canada, deaths, died, dog walker, dog walkers, dog walking, dogs, dogwalker, dogwalking, emma paulsen, hall of shame, heat, heat deaths, pets, petsearchers canada, six, spca, truck, walkers
More than 500 dogs being trucked to a slaughterhouse in China were freed from that fate when an animal activist spotted the truck transporting them on the highway, went on line and used social media to arrange an impromptu blockade.
Around 200 people helped block the truck at a toll booth for 15 hours — until they were able to negotiate the dogs’ release for $17,000, saving the dogs from being slaughtered and served as food.
While farm-raised dogs are traditionally eaten in China and some other Asian countries, the man who arranged the spontaneous road block over the Twitter-like social media site Sina Weibo, in addition to being an animal activist, reportedly suspected they were stolen.
After spotting a truck packed with hundreds of whimpering dogs on a Beijing highway, he put out a call begging fellow animal lovers to come and help him force the driver to release the animals.
Many of the animals were dehydrated, injured and suffering from a virus; at least 68 have been hospitalized, and one has died, the Associated Press reports. Video footage taken Tuesday showed the animals barking and whining in cramped metal crates.
“They were squeezing and pressing on each other and some were biting and fighting, and I saw some were injured or sick,” said Li Wei, manager of Capital Animal Welfare Association and one of the people who participated in the rescue. Li said at least one dog had died in the truck.
The rescue was remarkable on several levels. It was a rare successful case of social activism in China, a sign that new sensibilities are rising when it comes to dogs, and that the traditional practice of eating them is, for many, intolerable.
China has no animal protection laws for dogs or livestock, but animal welfare movements are growing there and in much of Asia.
The activists reached an agreement with the driver to purchase the dogs for about $17,000 dollars — most of which was contributed by a pet company and an animal protection foundation, Li said.
AP reports that dozens of volunteers have flocked to the Dongxing Animal Hospital in Beijing where they are helping to clean cages and mop floors. Sixty-eight dogs were at the hospital, many of them bandaged and hooked up to intravenous drips. Most were severely dehydrated and some had parvovirus.
The rest of the dogs have been taken to a property on the northern outskirts of Beijing where Li’s group is caring for them.
“When I saw the poor dogs on Twitter, I cried and cried, but I thought there was no way they could stop the truck. So I was very surprised when they did it and I wanted to help,” said Chen Yang, 30, a woman who tended to a dog that had given birth to four puppies just after the rescue.
The volunteer response indicates a growing awareness for animal rights, said Lu Yunfeng, a sociology professor at Peking University.
“Dogs were historically on the food list in China and South Korea, while they were loved in Western countries,” Lu said.
But in China, “as people became well-off, they had money to raise dogs, and while raising these dogs, they developed feelings for dogs,” he said.
Posted by John Woestendiek April 19th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: activism, animal rights, animal welfare, asia, attitudes, beijing, block, blockade, cages, changing, china, cramped, dog, dog meat, dogs, eat, eating, freed, meat, movement, purchased, released, rescued, road block, saved, shipped, sina weibo, slaughterhouse, social media, truck, trucked, video
So here’s where we are now: After 11 months of having no home, we now have two — the mansion basement we are leaving and an apartment unit less than a mile away that we are moving into, it being the very unit my parents lived in when I was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
I’m paying double rent in April, giving me time to make the transition to the new place from the basement, which we’re leaving because of Ace’s recently diagnosed herniated disc, and the 11 steps required to get in and out.
As fate would have it, not long after Ace’s problem flared up, my mother, who lives in this town, was showing me the first place I ever lived — not counting the hospital — when we spotted a “For Rent” sign in the window of the apartment unit.
On top of its reasonable rent and two small steps to get inside, it seemed a somehow symmetrical place — it’s not where our trip started, but it is where I did — for Ace and me to end our year on the road.
We’ll move in this weekend, and begin unpacking all the belongings I left in storage when Ace and I pulled out of Baltimore 11 months ago to see America.
Said stuff was packed into the truck Monday in Baltimore, with help from Will Weaver and some other friends, all of whom made a daunting task slightly less so.
Will followed me back down to North Carolina in the rental truck Tuesday. And on Wednesday, Will and I — that’s him (top photo), with one of my prized possessions, a painting of Ace — lugged everything into the new place. That’s me (above left) testing the two small steps into the new place to make sure they are structurally sound.
Then we drove the truck down to Charlotte to pick up a box spring and mattress my cousin and her husband offered me. We stopped for breakfast at a Waffle House, and I picked up a job application (It has always been a fantasy of mine to be the grill person at a Waffle House — though, for now, it remains Plan B.)
Back in the truck, Will drove, while I, aching by then, put my feet up. Thanks to his GPS device, there was no need for my navigational skills, which was good because my knowledge of Charlotte’s roadways had grown foggy in the ten years since I lived there.
At my cousin’s house, as their cat Manny watched, we loaded the bed, and a coffee table, too, on the truck. We were almost halfway back to Winston-Salem when we realized I’d left the dolly that came with the truck back in Charlotte.
Since you can’t clone that kind of dolly (subtle advertisement for my book), I drove back to Charlotte yesterday to pick it up, then back here to square things away with the rental company, which was also wondering what happened to the truck’s front grill. (It came without one.)
For the next few days, I’ll be unpacking, cleaning (a coat of greasy grunge somehow glommed on to all my belongings while they were in a locked storage unit), arranging furniture and decorating, being sure to do some accessorizing to really make things pop.
In the days ahead, we’ll be bidding farewell to the mansion basement, which — except for its stairs, and somewhat depressing lack of sunlight — served us nicely.
Ahead, too, are all the annoying little hassles and choices I gleefully avoided during our near-year as roaming vagabonds — cable or satellite, utility bills, vacuuming, doorbells, and the ongoing dilemma of too much stuff.
We’ll be doing some downsizing, since a lot of my junk is just that, and since the new place doesn’t have much in the way of storage areas. Fortunately, there’s a Goodwill donation center right down the road.
I’m thankful, as Ace and I enter a new phase, for that Goodwill — and for the other good Will, the one from Philadelphia, for helping to carry my load.
(Cat photo and John-testing-the-steps photo by Will Weaver)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 15th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, baltimore, basement, dogs, dolly, downsizing, mansion, move, moving, north carolina, packing, pets, possessions, relocation, rental, storage, storage units, stuff, travel, traveling, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, truck, waffle house, will weaver, winston-salem
Three friends showed up to help me load my rental truck, along with a fourth, from Philadelphia, who also followed me the 400-plus miles back to North Carolina in the rental truck.
There are two types of friends in the world — those who say they’ll help you move, and those who help you move. And while they’re all worth keeping, one must take special care never to take the latter type for granted. A friend who helps you move is right up there with the person who pulls you from the path of an oncoming bus: You are forever in their debt — at least until you help them move, or save their life.
Will Weaver of Philadelphia flew down from Baltimore, did most of the heavy lifting and masterminded the loading of my Budget rental truck in such away that the contents would not be crushed — at least I think so, we haven’t unpacked yet.
Three Baltimore friends showed up to help load, including the couple who, as they have before, let us stay at their home, which they occupy with a Boston terrier named Darcy. They even saved us a space to park the truck on the street in front of their house.
All the shows of friendship gave me second thoughts about departing the city — even if it’s only temporary. And as for Ace, he was thrilled to visit, reconnect and suck in the smells of Riverside Park. Despite his herniated disc, he frolicked as he hasn’t frolicked for at least two weeks.
But just as we when we left Baltimore 11 months ago to start our journey, the city made leaving a little easier, slapping a parking ticket on my rental truck sometime during the night. Though it was otherwise parked legally, apparently “commercial” vehicles aren’t allowed on the street. Cost of the ticket: $250, almost as much as the truck rental.
The ticket was one of only two moving mishaps (so far). The other was when I stopped at my ex-girlfriend’s home (the real one, not the cardboard one). I was picking up a few items I left in her care, and Will and I grabbed lunch to go at the eatery across the street. We sat at her picnic table to eat, and, just after I took my last bite — as if it somehow that last swallow of cheeseburger put me over the limit — the legs on the bench cracked, sending me falling over backwards.
I was fine. The bench is not.
As for the cardboard girlfriend, I passed her on to another male friend, leaving her on his doorstep.
Yesterday, we pulled out of Baltimore in the rain, and arrived seven hours later in Winston-Salem, also in the rain.
That allowed us to put off unpacking until today. Instead, Will and I went out to eat at a Vietnamese restaurant, where we got soup in bowls bigger than my bathroom sink. I, the ever-frugal one, got what remained of mine packaged to go.
As we walked back to my car (which thankfully had no parking ticket this time), a large man approached me and said he wanted to shake my hand.
His story, as they always do, followed: Just got out of jail three hours ago, trying to raise $14 for a cab ride to his aunt’s house, already had $10, needed $4 more.
I informed him that, with his $10, he was in possession of more cash than me, but — feeling his pain and smelling his breath, and realizing I should probably stay on his good side – I offered up what I had.
“How about some soup?”
Being new to town, and not having my protector, Ace, with me, I figured it was better to make a new acquaintance than to have soup tomorrow.
For me, the choice was simple: Friend or Pho.
Posted by John Woestendiek April 13th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animals, begging, budget, dogs, friends, frugality, move, moving, north carolina, panhandlers, pets, pho, rental, road trip, soup, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, trip, truck, vietnamese, winston-salem