Friday, May 29, 2009

Fighting Ignorance

While browsing through a Chihuahua discussion group on Flickr, I ran across this one particular thread where this person was contemplating acquiring himself one Chihuahua or a pair of them.  One of statements caught my eye:

…I'm going to get my dogs from a local breeder, by the way, I am all for rescuing dogs or adopting dogs, but most of those pets tend to have issues and/or need extra or special care which I do not feel like I can deal with or provide.
So I doubt if I got one it would have behavioral issues from being alone. It's still possible. Nonetheless, I am wanting two because even without noticeable effects, your pet's mental health is much better off having another member of the pack always by their side when I'm away...

Oh, boy, did that set me off.  I had no choice but to reply:

It is absolutely not true that rescue dogs tend to have issues or special needs. There is no reason to ever assume a rescue dog is inferior or flawed. Nowadays many, many dogs that end up in shelters come from good families forced to move somewhere where they can't take their dogs because of the bad economy. It's not uncommon to find beautiful purebreds of all breeds in local shelters.
Have you ever seen Beverly Hills Chihuahua? The star Chihuahua, Papi, was discovered in an animal shelter.
Breeders are the real problem. Shelters and rescues are full of perfectly fine dogs needing permanent homes and yet these breeders keep adding to the population. And you know what happens to the ones that don't get adopted. They get euthanized, which is a nice way of saying "killed".
I realize that your original post was months ago so this information can't help you now, but anyone reading this should know that the number of Chihuahuas and other small breeds in shelters have boomed. In some places the Chihuahuas actually outnumber the Pit Bulls.
Please make going to a breeder a last resort, or even better yet, not an option at all.

Folks, please don’t ever let anyone devalue the worth of a shelter dog.

Oregonian cougar run off by Chihuahua

from the May 27, 2009 Corvallis Gazette Times:

Contributed photo
Rosie the border terrier and Chiquita the Chihuahua.

Gazette-Times reporter

Mountain lion seen in yard, rebuffed in Philomath
PHILOMATH — A local cougar picked the wrong backyard to prowl at Neabeack Hill on Monday night. Two small dogs — Rosie the border terrier and Chiquita the Chihuahua — charged the mountain lion after it jumped over a low-level fence, confronting the big cat, had a brief standoff and ultimately chased it away.
Pet owner Loren Wingert said her dogs are “invincible.”
“My dogs see something in the yard, they go after it,” she added. “Actually, they were pretty lucky. One little bite there and they probably would have been seriously injured, but they didn’t have a scratch on them.”
During the backyard melee, the cougar pinned down Rosie, who squealed, but Chiquita convinced the big cat to flee by barking ferociously.
“I think we’re more traumatized than they are. They’re fine,” Wingert said.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ban on adopting Pit Bulls to stand

Loudoun (VA) Judge Rules in Lawsuit

By Kafia A. Hosh

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Loudoun County judge has ruled that the county can continue its long-standing policy banning residents from adopting pit pulls from the county animal shelter.

Ruling in a lawsuit that sought to overturn the ban, Circuit Court Judge Burke F. McCahill said that the county's policy does not violate state law and that publicly funded shelters are not required to make every breed of dog available for adoption.

For years, Loudoun euthanized all abandoned pit bulls. The county revised its policy in 2007, allowing the animals to be transferred to rescue groups or shelters in other jurisdictions if they passed a temperament test.

A Norfolk-based animal rescue group and Sterling resident Ronald Litz sued the county and its animal shelter in 2007, after Litz was turned down when he tried to adopt a pit bull from the shelter. During a two-day trial this month, the plaintiffs' attorney alleged that Loudoun was violating a state law that bars officials from finding a dog to be dangerous or vicious based solely on its breed.

In his 13-page ruling last Thursday, McCahill said that the state prohibition applies to courts trying to determine whether a dog is dangerous. But it does not prevent a public pound from having an adoption policy that treats some breeds differently from others, the judge said.

"We're obviously pleased with the decision and feel he put a lot of thought and careful consideration into it," said Laura Rizer, a spokeswoman for the Loudoun Department of Animal Care and Control.

Shelter officials have said that all of their unclaimed dogs go through behavior monitoring and a temperament test to determine whether they are adoptable and that breed characteristics are part of that determination.

"Any decision that we make regarding the disposition of an animal is based on a number of factors," Rizer said.

Lynne C. Rhode, an attorney for Litz and Animal Rescue of Tidewater, said she was disappointed in the ruling.

"The practical result of this ruling is that any public shelter can kill any dog if that particular shelter's management doesn't like the dog's breed," she said. "In other words, the court has ruled that a pound can kill every single adoptable golden retriever or pit bull or poodle if it wants to, without restriction or recourse."

The plaintiffs presented evidence that the Loudoun shelter had euthanized more than 80 percent of abandoned pit bulls since it began allowing the animals to be transferred, compared to a euthanization rate of 48 percent for other dogs.

"If one were to rely on the statistics . . . alone, one may come to a conclusion that there is 'breed bias,' " McCahill wrote.

But, he added, "if I were to rely on the statistics alone, I would have to ignore the evidence that there are differences in breed characteristics. More importantly, the statistics do not account for the individual characteristics that are attempted to be observed . . . as part of the overall assessment of the individual dog."

During the trial, the plaintiffs contended that the Loudoun shelter showed a clear pattern of bias against pit bulls. Sherry Woodard, animal behavior expert for Best Friends Animal Society, said that pit bulls that did well on behavior assessments were put down but that other breeds that did not do as well on the assessments were trained and put up for adoption.

"This discrimination against pit bulls is becoming a topic of discussion across the country," Woodard said in a statement Tuesday. "There are golden retrievers who attack other dogs, labs who bite people, pit bulls that love children, dogs and cats. Every dog, every time, deserves to be evaluated as an individual."

Loudoun's decision to allow some pit bulls to be transferred to rescue groups or other shelters came after a 2006 nonbinding opinion by then-Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell (R), who said that pit bulls taken to public pounds could not be euthanized based solely on their breed. In his ruling, McCahill disagreed with that portion of McDonnell's opinion.

Anthony F. Troy, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys, said he feared that the judge's ruling would have a ripple effect in other localities.

"Under this opinion, the clear prohibition on euthanizing based on breed is applicable solely to those incidents of judicial cases," he said. "If other courts follow the logic, then you would have a public policy of the commonwealth being very narrowly defined."

Troy said the plaintiffs were considering their options, including appealing the judge's ruling to the Virginia Supreme Court or asking the General Assembly to clarify the state law.

THIS is what can happen when BSL is allowed.  We must take every opportunity to fight it whenever and whereever it rears its ugly head.

Police dog, alone in SUV, dies – probe launched

from today’s San Francisco Chronicle

Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer

(05-27) 14:56 PDT ALAMEDA -- An Alameda police K-9 officer is under investigation after his dog died when he left it in his personal sports utility vehicle for several hours during a training session, authorities said Wednesday.

The officer, whose name was not released, left the 6 1/2-year-old Belgian Malinois inside his SUV while attending a use-of-force training exercise May 5 on Lincoln Avenue, police Lt. Bill Scott said.

The SUV had at least one window down for ventilation, Scott said. It also was not an unusually warm day - according to the National Weather Service, the high temperature that day at nearby Oakland International Airport was 70 degrees.

But when the officer returned to his vehicle after about three hours and 15 minutes, he found his dog "in distress," Scott said. It was declared dead at a veterinary hospital. The cause is under investigation.

Police investigators forwarded the case Wednesday to the Alameda County district attorney's office, which will decide whether to charge the officer with a crime.

Police dogs are supposed to be protected under a wider umbrella than other animals under animal welfare laws.  Please phone, write, or fax Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff and urge him to not dismiss this poor dog’s rights and not to be swayed by the fact that the perpetrator of this crime is a cop.  This is the DA’s contact information from their website:

1225 Fallon Street, Room 900
Oakland, CA 94612
Telephone: (510) 272-6222
FAX: (510) 271-5157

The Chief of Police of Alameda is Walter Tibbets.  He can be contacted at 510-337-8323.  Considering the fact that police dog training can take months of time, cost upwards of $10,0000, and typically only the most dedicated officers are considered for K-9 duty, wasn’t this cop derelict of his duties?  What if he had destroyed $10,000 worth of equipment due to negligence?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pittsburgh Steeler considers letting his Pit Bull live

From today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

By Lillian Thomas, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Bob Donaldson/Post-Gazette

Patron, the pit bull owned by Steelers linebacker James Harrison, is under quarantine at Triangle Pet Control Service in McKees Rocks after biting Harrison's 2-year-old son.

Now that James Harrison III is up and walking, his father is seeking a way to avoid putting down the dog that bit the 2-year-old.

Patron, the pit bull owned by Steelers linebacker James Harrison, became agitated when the toddler began crying last Wednesday at their Franklin Park home and bit the child. James III was released from Children's Hospital of UPMC and is now home. The child's mother, Beth Tibbott, and a friend also were injured as they tried to separate dog and boy. Both women have recovered. Mr. Harrison was not at home during the attack.

The dog was taken to Animal Control of McKees Rocks, and Mr. Harrison said he would have him put down after a 10-day quarantine.

A number of people responded to the planned euthanization by saying there were organizations that might take the dog. Mr. Harrison's agent, Bill Parise, said yesterday that they were seeking an alternative for Patron.

"I'm a dog lover, and I don't know what I'd do if I lost [my dog]," Mr. Parise said. "James was that close with Patron. One of the things James and I talked about was that this was a real tragedy -- the injury to his baby, and the baby's mother, and the loss of the dog. It's hard."

The responsibility to the family obviously had to come first, Mr. Parise said, and there was the issue of whether Patron could ever be trusted with people.

But with James III's improvement -- "the baby was actually walking [Monday], there is no muscle or nerve damage, no infection," Mr Parise said -- Mr. Harrison wanted to see whether there was a way to avoid putting Patron down.

"I just got done talking to James," he said yesterday afternoon, "and he would love to find a home for him, but only if it was a home that would provide maximum security. This decision is not being made lightly, and it would have to be in the best interest of the welfare of the animal as well as of people."

It won't be an easy task. Many shelters won't take dogs that have bitten people.

"No reputable rescue organization will take a dog that has bitten a person," said Daisy Balawejder of Hello Bully, a local group that rehabilitates and places pit bulls.

"When a dog is in the media, everyone wants to save that dog," she said. But her organizations and many like it are overloaded with dogs that are well-socialized and have no problems with people, she said.

Best Friends, the organization that has taken in former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick's fighting pit bulls, said space is severely limited.

"Some dogs can be rehabilitated with training," said Ledy VanKavage, legislative analyst for Best Friends. "But so many healthy dogs are being put down. If we had room, we would [take dogs that bite people], but we're pretty full. Unfortunately there aren't enough sanctuaries out there."

A spokeswoman for Animal Friends in Ohio Township said her organization considers animals on a case-by-case basis.

"That's such a sad story, especially since pit bulls are always getting such a bad reputation," said Jolene Miklas, director of communications.

Some dogs might have a particular problem related to their background, she said.

"It may be a dog has been a stray and is now aggressive around food. In that case, that might be something that can be managed. We might say this dog is not good for a household where little kids might grab during feeding time."

If Patron were brought to the shelter, she said, he would work with the behavior team. If the group didn't believe there was any way to find a home for him, it would be one of the "sad instances in which we do consider euthanasia."

All of the shelter representatives contacted yesterday said breed-specific rules don't make sense.

"Any dog can bite," said Ms. VanKavage of Best Friends. "We had a woman killed by dachshunds in Florida, a child killed by a Pomeranian. Any dog can bite and kill."

Mr. Harrison hopes his dog will get a second chance, his agent said.

"This dog -- it's first time in his life he ever did attack," said Mr. Parise. "It's hard. I think what happens, when you try to get away from emotion, which is almost impossible, you have to weigh your responsibilities."

It’s disturbing that the article implies that the dog is some kind of unpredictable monster, that he was angered by the crying baby and somehow “snapped” and attacked.  It’s too bad that in articles like this the dog’s owner is never evaluated for how good of an owner he or she has been.