Here we have proof, on video, that a Google-owned company is abusing dogs.
Robot dogs, that is.
Boston Dynamics, a company Google purchased two years ago, designs robots for the U.S. military and others. Here, in its own video, it’s showing off “Spot,” a robot dog that can traverse all sorts of terrains and withstand being kicked by employees without toppling over.
My first question is: Why, given it’s a heartless metal gizmo, does it still bother me to watch Spot get kicked? Why, given the kicks are part of testing the machine’s balance, is my first response to seeing an employee kick Spot, “What an asshole?”
Likely it’s because the machine, with its four legs, ever so slightly resembles, and is being called, a dog.
Likely too, it’s because seeing the machine take a violent blow brings to mind how dogs are often mistreated in our society — and how our response to that falls so far short of what we invest in machines that can be used for spying and warfare.
My gut reaction is illogical, and perhaps I shouldn’t be droning on about it. Perhaps it’s silly to get even mildly worked up over robot abuse.
But considering how robots may someday be in as many homes as dogs — and how often I already want to kick my computer — robot abuse may someday become an issue. Maybe, as we did with dogs, we will first create them then abuse them.
As a society, rather than spending all our money on creating new monsters, we should be spending more on looking at those that already exist inside us, and lead us to exhibit violence and so many other undesirable behaviors.
Boston Dynamics released the latest video this week, showing the electrically powered and “hydraulically actuated” robot dog climbing stairs, jogging alongside a human and generally exhibiting its agility. Spot has a sensor head that helps it navigate rough terrain. Spot weighs about 160 lbs. See Spot run.
Watching it — even knowing full well it was a heartless machine — I found myself assigning canine traits to robots (canidaepomorphization?) “Look out. Don’t get so close to the road,” I said to myself. “There should be a fence for those robot dogs.”
What if one was to get run over, say by one of those Google mapping vehicles?
Google Car Hits Google Dog, the headline might say, assuming the story ever got out.
The disclaimer at the end of the video did little to put me at ease: “No robots,” it says, “were harmed in the making of this video.”
We’ve written a lot about dog-friendly baseball — days (or nights) set aside by Major League and, more often, Minor League teams for fans to bring their dogs to the ballpark.
But dog-friendly hockey matches?
At least three teams have them, including the Charlotte Checkers, an American Hockey League franchise that will be holding its fifth annual Pooch Party this Sunday (March 23) at 1:30 p.m. at the Time Warner Cable Arena.
Tickets for the “Pooch Party” are $15 with $5 going back to Project HALO, a local no-kill animal shelter which focuses on rescuing and adopting stray and abandoned dogs.
The video at the top of this post is from last year’s Pooch Party.
On Sunday, the Checkers will be playing the San Antonio Rampage, another AHL team that holds dog-friendly games. The Rampage claims to hold the dog attendance record — 842 dogs attended their 2012 event, which also featured a “Smooch the Pooch Cam.”
At least one other AHL team, the Milwaukee Admirals has held dog friendly nights.
For the Checkers game, all participants bringing a dog to the game must fill out the Pooch Party liability and registration form. You can print the form out here, complete it and bring it to the Pooch Party entrance, located on Trade Street.
While baseball and dogs strike me as a more natural pairing, I’m all for dogs being allowed into sporting events — even when it’s only once a season, and especially when it’s for a good cause.
My only worry is that, hockey being hockey, the dogs might pick up some bad behavior from watching the humans on the ice.
If so, I would hope their owners take a more proactive role than the referees at this recent semi-pro game did.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 19th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: ahl, american hockey league, animals, arenas, baseball, behavior, charlotte checkers, dog, dog friendly, dogs, events, hockey, human, pets, pooch party, sporting, sports, stadiums, violence
Opposition is mounting to the new game app “Dog Wars,” and among those speaking out is Michael Vick.
According to the NBC blog, Digital Life, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, who served 21 months in jail for operating a dogfighting ring, released a statement, in conjuntion with the Humane Society of the United States, against the free app, now available as a free download through Google’s Android Market.
“I’ve come to learn the hard way that dogfighting is a dead-end street. Now, I am on the right side of this issue, and I think it’s important to send the smart message to kids, and not glorify this form of animal cruelty, even in an Android app,” Vick is quoted as saying in the statement.
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS, added, “Android should drop ‘Dog Wars’ from its online market and join the national movement to save dogs from this violent practice. Because “Dog Wars” actually instructs players on how to condition a dog using methods that are standard in organized dogfighting, this game may be a virtual training ground for would-be dogfighters. Its timing and message are all wrong.”
Meanhile, a petition calling for the game’s removal from the marketplace has been launched at Change.org, the same open petition website on which 150,000 people signed a petition demanding Apple drop a “gay cure” game from its App store.
(Android is an open source operating system created by Google. While Google does not approve every app offered there, it does maintain a website where people can complain about objectionable content in games and apps. You can find it here.)
The Massachusetts SPCA also has spoken out against the dogfighting game app.
“Although illegal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, dog fighting remains a pervasive problem in America and is investigated inby the MSPCA’s Law Enforcement department. Dog Wars is a sickening tool that can be used to recruit potential dogfighters about how to train future victims, perpetuate breed specific stereotypes, and undermine the many years of hard work that animal protection agencies, including the MSPCA-Angell, have contributed to ensure strong penalties against dog fighters and spectators,” said Carter Luke, MSPCA-Angell president
“In the past, dog fighting instruction remained underground; however this ‘game’ brings this knowledge to the mainstream public through a tool attractive to young game players. Similar to the Dog Wars application, real life trainers work to ensure a mean temperament in kind animals from puppyhood, subjecting the young animals to ongoing cruelty and neglect, including living without shelter, enduring bouts of starvation, and sustaining beatings. To improve stamina and muscle mass, trainers also impose exhausting treadmill exercises on their dogs and force them to wear heavy chains around their necks. Identical to Dog Wars, the dogs are fed steroids and stimulants to increase their aggression. Dogs who refuse to fight, or consistently lose, may be shot, hanged, drowned, or electrocuted by their trainers. To further promote viciousness, trainers bait their dogs with intentionally wounded dogs, puppies, cats, and other small animals.
“The training ground that Dog Wars provides has the potential to increase occurrences of animal cruelty as well as violence against humans. In a study performed by the MSPCA and Northeastern University we definitively discovered the correlation between those who abuse both animals and humans. Our research proved that those who abuse animals have the same psychological detachment as those who abuse humans and may harm animals after purposefully injuring people.”
Posted by John Woestendiek April 26th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: android, animal welfare, app, carter luke, cruelty, dog wars, dogfight, dogfighting, game, google, hsus, humane society of the united states, michael vick, mspca, mspca-angell, pit bulls, society, video games, violence, wayne pacelle
The ASPCA has made its first felony arrest of the year — a 265-pound Queens man accused of punching his 8-pound Chihuahua, the New York Post reported.
ASPCA officials say Jerry Melendez, 33, struck his dog, Spotty, hard enough to fracture his skull and cause a hemmorhage to his left eye.
Melendez took the dog to a veterinary clinic, but, being unemployed, was unable to pay for the medical care vets said would be necessary to save him. So Spotty, 5, was euthanized.
Veterinarians notified the ASPCA about the case, and a necropsy determined Spotty died of blunt-force impact.
“It appears he was just frustrated and became angry at his family dog,” ASPCA Assistant Director Joe Pentangelo said of Melendez, who recently lost his job at a pharmacy.
Melendez’ wife, Lillian Vargas, said her husband only yelled at the dog after discovering the couch had been soiled. The dog, she said, jumped off the couch and ran into the leg of the dining-room table. Authorities didn’t buy that account.
Melendez was charged with animal cruelty and faces a maximum two-year sentence and a fine.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 21st, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animal cruelty, animals, arrest, aspca, beat, beaten, charge, chihuahua, cruelty to animals, dogs, fracture, hit, jerry melendez, necropsy, new york, pets, punch, punched, queens, skull, spotty, violence
The first trial ended Monday in a hung jury.
The new trial is scheduled for May 4, ABC2 in Baltimore reported.
The announcement came after a series of meetings held by the prosecutor’s office this week.
The dog, named Phoenix, was doused with accelerant and set on fire in the summer of 2009 — an act that would make headlines across the country, lead to the formation of a citywide animal abuse task force and provoke outrage from animal welfare advocates.
The five-day trial came to a close Monday after the jurors deliberated for more than 20 hours over three days, but couldn’t agree on a verdict. One juror wasn’t convinced of the brothers’ guilt in the attack, according to news reports.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 11th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animal cruetly, animal welfare, animals, baltimore, brothers, burning, courts, crime, dog, dogs, fire, hung jury, johnson, may 4, new trial, pets, phoenix, phoenix case, pit bull, pitbull, prosecutors, retrial, torture, travers, tremayne, trial, twins, violence
We can’t remember a week — at least not since 2007, when federal authorities raided 1915 Moonlight Road — that pit bulls have grabbed so many headlines … without even biting anyone.
Here in Baltimore, the week began with a pit bull parade, sponsored by B-More Dog and designed to improve the image and shatter the misconceptions about the breed — such as the one that they are innately inclined to inflict violence.
Those who ran into the pack of four-legged goodwill ambassadors at the Inner Harbor Sunday got a chance to see beyond the myths.
The very next day, a mistrial was declared in the case against twin brothers in Baltimore accused of setting a pit bull on fire in the summer of 2009. Phoenix, as the dog was dubbed, died five days later. The police investigation that followed, testimony at the trial indicated, was something less than thorough — likely, I think it’s safe to say, because the murder victim was a dog, and, in particular, a pit bull.
Jurors were unable to reach a decision, and a new trial is a possibility, but as of now, it appears the fatal burning of Phoenix will go unpunished. Despite that, she leaves a legacy.
“We waited almost two years for justice for Phoenix and though justice was not met for her, she became the change agent and public figure for animal abuse,” said Jennifer Brause, executive director of Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS). “Thousands of people offered their support on her behalf. Because of her, a Mayor’s Commission on Animal Abuse has been formed and the seriousness of animal abuse has been elevated to a national level.”
No dog, I will go out on a limb and educatedly guess, is more often the victim of abuse and neglect than the pit bull type — just as they are the most often maligned. Society, rather than simply label them as aggressive, and ban and muzzle them, needs to come to terms with the fact that, in those instances when they are violent, our fellow humans are responsible for it, training them to fight, attempting to breed for viciousness, and trying to turn their natural born tenacity into something mean and macho.
Which brings us, once again, to Bad Newz Kennels.
Down in Dallas, the adoptive parent of one of Michael Vick’s dogs confronted the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback and offered him an opportunity to meet Mel, a shy and fearful pit bull who was apparently used as a bait dog at Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels.
The convicted dogfighting ring operator — in Dallas to receive the key to the city — declined, and his entourage shoved Mel’s new owner, local radio personality Richard Hunter, who captured the whole episode on his shaky camera, out of the way.
A few days after that, reports surfaced that Vick’s former estate on Moonlight Road, the Surry, Virginia, headquarters of Bad Newz Kennels, which has sat empty for three years, may be getting a new owner — Dog Deserves Better, a Pennsylvania-based dog rescue and advocacy group.
They hope to turn the former Vick mansion — where 51 dogs were seized by authorities and eight more were found dead and buried on the grounds — into a training and rehabilitation center for rescued dogs.
As usual, bringing up Michael Vick brings on lots of comments, on this blog and others, from his supporters — those who say “give it a rest,” those who say “he served his time,” those who say he’s a different person now who should be permitted to move beyond his besmirched reputation.
Be that as it may, I’m wondering when pit bulls — given they are regularly accused and punished without any trials, given that any violence they display has been instilled into them by humans, given that their bad reputation is mostly undeserved — will be afforded that same opportunity.
As a breed, they’ve done their time.
(Photo by Tim Quinn)
Posted by John Woestendiek February 9th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, aggression, animal abuse, animal welfare, animals, bad newz kennels, baltimore, baltimore animal rescue & care shelter, barcs, brothers, burned, burned dog, cruelty to animals, dogfighting, dogs, doused, fire, image, investigation, media, mel, michael vick, myths, news, parade, pets, phoenix, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, prosecution, richard hunter, stereotypes, trial, vick, vick dogs, violence
Ace made a big impression on pre-k and kindergarten students at Baltimore’s Lakewood Elementary School yesterday, dazzling them with tricks, soaking up their pats and hugs and swearing in two classrooms whose students took the “Oath of Kindness,” a pledge to be kind to animals.
How this latest stop in our continuing travels came to pass was actually pretty simple, and amazingly bureaucracy-free.
A teacher friend asked if we’d visit. We said yes. She got the necessary clearances and, before you know it, a 130-pound Rottweiler-Akita-chow-pit bull mix was being snuggled, stroked and hugged by a bunch of children half his size.
Karma Dogs, the therapy dog organization of which Ace is a member, came up with two more volunteers who visited the school along with Ace and me — Janet Shepherd and her dog Tami, and Kathryn Corrigan and her dog Puddy.
Together, we covered six classrooms in just over an hour, administering the oath, passing along some basic dog safety tips and stressing the importance of treating animals kindly.
Karma Dogs developed the “Oath of Kindness” after the death of Phoenix, a pit bull puppy who was set on fire by Baltimore teenagers in the summer of 2009 — not the first, or last, case of its type in the city.
The oath reads: “I … pledge always to be kind to animals. I promise never to hurt an animal, be it dog or cat, furry or fat. I promise to tell my friends to be kind to animals and if I see an animal that is being hurt I will tell an adult right away. Scaly or slimy, feathered or blue, to this promise I will be true.”
After reciting the pledge, the children receive a certificate,which is “pawtographed” by the dog, in this case, Ace. The hope is that children who have openly declared they will not be violent towards animals will remember that, tell their friends and inform adults when they see an animal being taunted or abused.
Of the students Ace and I appeared before, about a dozen raised their hands when I asked who was afraid of dogs. But only one declined a chance to pet Ace. Several more had some trepidations, but those seemed to melt away as they watched the other children interact with him.
They were eager to ask questions, and talk about their own pets. One girl spent three minutes talking about her Chihuahua, which she said had the same name she did. Not until the end of her dissertation did she reveal that her dog was a stuffed toy.
I cautioned them against approaching stray dogs, told them to always to ask the owner before approaching a dog, showed them how to let dogs sniff their hands as an introduction and encouraged them to treat dogs as they’d like to be treated — calmly, kindly and lovingly.
Ace made an impression on the children in several ways, I think –through his size alone, his gentleness and his back story: a stray adopted from the shelter, like most of the other Karma Dogs, who went on to try and help humans.
The teacher behind the event (who also took these photos) was Marite Edwards, a longtime friend of Ace’s. When she took the idea to her principal, she learned that the school and district were looking at ways to add dog safety and kindness to animals to the curriculum.
That another case of animal abuse surfaced in Baltimore over the weekend — that of a cat set on fire by two teenagers — confirmed just how much those lessons are needed.
You can find more information about Karma Dogs at its website.
(Photos by Marite Edwards)
Posted by John Woestendiek February 2nd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animals, approach, baltimore, certificate, children, city, compassion, curriculum, dog, dogs, hand, karma dogs, kids, kind to animals, kindergarten, lakewood elementary, marite edwards, mittens, oath of kindness, pets, phoenix, pre-k, safety, schools, sniff, teacher, therapy dog, violence, volunteers