Posts tagged ‘msn’

There But for the Grace of Dog…

Schadenfreude is a complex thing. It’s that scrumptiously malicious sense of pleasure we feel when we see bad things happen to people we don’t like.  The sense of having escaped the danger heightens our feelings of comfort and happiness. Seeing someone we disagree with get the come-uppance we think they deserve feeds our sense of justice.  And while we may recognize that Schadenfreude is a guilty pleasure -  the added bonus of feeling smug because we weren’t the ones responsible for causing our enemy’s pain lends an added frisson of satisfaction.

Why do dog-related crimes whet our Schadenfreude so deeply?

Is it the enormous amount of divisiveness in the many worlds of dog?  Conformation exhibitors who feel superior to obedience competitors.  Show breeders who vilify performance breeders. Purely positive trainers who denounce balanced trainers. Competitors who feel superior to average pet owners.  Toss in a few heaping helpings of envy and the widespread idea that “you’re with us or against us” — and it’s no surprise that the world of dogs is sometimes as combative as the Middle East.  That divisiveness feeds our Schadenfreude and makes it awfully easy to turn us against each other.

Witness the big, ugly can-o-worms I opened last week when I posted about the story of the Murder Hollow Bassets. Is Wendy Willard an arrogant animal hoarder who taunted law enforcement or is she the innocent victim of over-zealous grundyism?  I don’t care, because the thing is - her rights should be protected either way.

In too many cases today basic violations of noise laws, limit laws and sanitation laws are being confused with demonstrable animal cruelty.  When we read stories of animal busts - especially when the perp is someone we don’t agree with (and in the world of dogs, we are bound to disagree with him in some way) - we assume that, of course, that horrid animal abuser must be guilty.  In the rush to judge we forget that we are all innocent until proven guilty.

As society oozes deeper into political correctness, increasing numbers of Grundy laws are being passed and enforced at all levels of government. Laws that make it easier for a neighbor that doesn’t like the way you look or an animal rights group that doesn’t like the way you live – to find a law they can use to harass you.

We don’t need these laws. We’ve already got enough dog-related laws on the books. Think about it. Is it the number of dogs kept on a property, their breed or even their sexual status that creates problems or – is it just a single, lazy, clueless, disrespectful or irresponsible owner?  An owner who will be a problem even if he’s only allowed to have a single, loud, dirty, neglected obnoxious or abused dog in his care?  If existing cruelty, sanitation, noise and related laws are enforced in a timely and lawful manner - and if we treat our neighbors with mutual respect – dogs aren’t a problem.

YesBiscuit wrote an excellent post last week illustrating how we all need to pay careful attention to the context of the reasons given for animal seizures.  Be sure to read the comments – these make it stunningly clear that there but for the grace of doG walks every single one of us.  Sure, you may be able to avoid things like limit laws by moving to a rural area - but Mrs. Grundy seems to live everywhere now and unless laws regarding the seizure of animals change - the Mrs. Grundys of the world will eventually be able to hold all pet owners hostage.

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Now, even though I’ve been accused by some of being a black-helicopters nut job – I really do agree that we need laws.  And I believe that the laws should be enforced.  But I also believe that there is such a thing as too many laws – and that enforcement can be conducted too vigorously.

If were up to me, when should animals be seized?

  • When their life or health is in immediate danger.  Minor cases of parasite infestation, out of date vaccinations, temporarily unsanitary conditions and minor lapses of grooming do not constitute an immediate threat to the life or health of an animal.
  • When an owner has been given written notice of an animal-related offense and not come into compliance within a reasonable, specified time period (such as 30 days).  This warning must be given in person by an officer of the court or by registered letter.
  • When an owner is arrested and there is no one else available to care for them.
  • When they have been abandoned.
  • When an owner voluntarily relinquishes them - after he has been read his rights and allowed to consult with legal counsel.
  • In addition to the above, except under circumstances where their immediate health and safety can be proven to be at risk, pets must only be seized by, or under the direct supervision of, officers of the law.

How should seized animals be handled?

  • If they are seized because their life or health is in immediate danger – they must be put under the care of a veterinarian.
  • If they are seized as evidence in a case (such as limit laws, breed specific legislation, nuisance laws, etc.) they must be kept in such a way as to maintain chain-of-evidence requirements.  I do not think that, in most cases, releasing them to foster care meets these requirements.  Killing them, selling them or adopting them out most certainly does not meet these requirements.
  • Intact animals must be kept their original reproductive state and even aggressive animals must be kept alive whenever possible until they are either released by their owner or he is found guilty.
  • Puppies must be kept with their dam until at least the age of seven weeks unless there is a health-related reason to separate them from her.

I’m deeply concerned by the growing trend to grant police powers to private citizens who are then given the authority to enforce humane laws.  Humane officers aren’t police officers yet they are granted the power to search and seize our property. Our living property.  In some municipalities they even are even granted the power to charge us with felonies.

Humane officers are accountable to their supervisors and local boards of directors - not the public.  In most areas there’s no internal affairs department or grievance board to file a complaint with that provides an external, civilian review of their actions – so short of filing expensive, time-consuming lawsuits (and risking the loss of our beloved pets while we wait to settle them) - we have little or no recourse when non-police humane officers step beyond the boundaries of their positions.

The issue here isn’t the Murder Hollow Bassets or the PSCPA per se.  It’s the disturbing increasing trend for states and municipalities to farm out enforcement duties to private citizens.  Citizens who, in some cases (not all!) are more interested in advancing a personal agenda than enforcing the law.  The issue isn’t Wendy Willard’s guilt or innocence - it’s the need to recognize that animals need to be treated as living  property.  That animals need to be treated humanely - but so do their owners.

And if believing this makes me an ignorant, lying, right-wing loon searching for black helicopters - I’m okay with that.

August 10, 2009 at 9:14 pm 7 comments

DO-TAG

Comments on this post on Tamara Follett’s program of blatant self-promotion Canine-Threat Assessment Guide over at YesBiscuit  annoyed me enough that I felt I had to write this post.  Dangerous dogs aren’t born – they’re created by ignorant and / or inattentive owners.  We don’t need a system to assess the potential danger a dog poses to society- we need one that puts responsibility squarely where it’s needed – on the shoulders of dog owners.

Dog Owner Threat Assessment Guide (DO-TAG)
Categorization of Dog Owners by Risk Factors

The goal of this draft guide is to provide a free, easy-to-use tool for authorities to employ in assessing a given dog owner’s risk  to his dog and the public.  The guide could allow local authorities to identify potentially problematic dog owners with regard to their real or potential threat so that limited resources can be focused on those dog owners most likely to have unplanned litters, encourage aggressive behavior in their dogs, let them run at large or otherwise engage in potentially dangerous and/or antisocial behaviors.

As one small step toward this goal I have created this draft assessment guide that lets you determine the level of threat you pose to society as a dog owner.  The test not only places risk where it belongs, but it also allows your score to change over time.  Answer each question honestly, sum up the points and see what kind of risk you present to society.

1. When you call your dog does he:
  I would never let my dog off leash!  7
  Only come if you have cheese or other treats in your hand? 5
  Come unless he’s distracted? 3
  Come as long as there are no large distractions like animals or people present? 2
  Turn and come even if he’s at a full run after a critter. -5
 
2. When you are gone your dog is:
  Running loose – he needs his freedom1!* 10
  Chained up out front to scare off intruders. 12
  Chained or on a tie-out in an area where people pass by. 8
  Loose in an area contained by an invisible fence. 8
  Loose in a fenced yard with people and dogs in adjacent areas. 6
  In a secure kennel in a quiet area. 1
  Loose in my house where he doesn’t get in trouble. 0
  Crated in my house because he needs more training. 0
  Crated in my house because he’s destructive and can’t be trained. 6
 
3. When you walk your dog on leash:
  I don’t have time to walk my dog, he gets plenty of exercise playing in the yard. 10
  I have to do it at a time when no one is around because of his aggression. 10
  He constantly drags me down the street no matter what I do. 8
  I let him run loose to check out the neighborhood. 9
  He’s good except when other people and dogs walk past. 3
  He walks politely by my side even around distractions. 0
  I don’t need the leash, he’ll heel around distractions without it. -2
 
4. When you groom your dog:
  I have to muzzle him to touch parts of his body. 8
  My dog doesn’t need any grooming. 10
  I have to take him to a vet or groomer, I’m afraid to groom him. 9
  He doesn’t like it but he puts up with it. 2
  He enjoys grooming! 0
 
5. When your dog misbehaves:
  I lose my temper.  The little b*$+d does it just to annoy me. 10
  I get frustrated because it happens so often. 6
  I sometimes ignore him because I’m busy. 8
  I usually discover what he’s done after the fact. 8
  I ignore it and hope the behavior will self-extinguish. 8
  I scold or correct him then move on. 5
  I correct the behavior then praise him for stopping or changing the behavior 1
  I look forward to it as a training opportunity. 0
  My darling little snookums never misbehaves! 15
 
6. Your dog is:
  The victim of terrible abuse and will to be treated with kid gloves forever. 10
  My perfect baby. 10
  Just a dog. 5
  A dog with a dog’s needs and desires. 0
 
7. When children are around:
  I leave my dog alone with them. He’s perfectly safe. 10
  I lock my dog up. He hates kids. 7
  I watch the dog. 4
  I always keep an eye on the dog and the kids. 0
  My dog has never been around children. 8
 
8. I have two or more dogs because:
  I don’t have time to entertain one. This way they entertain each other when I’m busy. 10
  I only have one dog because I don’t have time, space or money for more. 0
  I only have one dog because my dog hates other dogs. 8
  I have the time, energy, space, money and other resources I need to enjoy them all. 0
  I know I can take better care of them than anyone else.** 20
 
9. Your dog was:
  Spayed or neutered at your request at less than six months of age. 2
  Spayed or neutered at your request at more than six months of age. 0
  Spayed or neutered before you got it. 0
  Intact because he / she has papers. 8
  Intact because he / she would feel bad without all his / her parts. 7
  Intact because health and temperament tests show he / she is an excellent example of the breed. 0
  Intact because the breeder wants a puppy back from him / her. 8
  Intact because you’re too busy, broke or disorganized to deal with it. 10
  Spayed or neutered for health reasons (this includes not being a great representative of his/her breed). 0
 
10. Your dog obeys commands like sit, down and stay:
  My dog doesn’t need training. 10
  Only if I have treats in my hand. 8
  Only if there are no distractions around. 8
  When there are few distractions. 5
  As long as there aren’t big distractions around. 3
  Even around large distractions like other animals and people. 0
 
MY SCORE:  

*     If you live in a rural area and the dog is a livestock guard dog give yourself one point, not ten.
**  If this is really how you feel, get help. You may be a hoarder.

If your scored:

75 or more points – You are a Potentially Lethal Dog Owner.  Unless you change your ways there is a significant probability that your dog will injure someone seriously or meet an untimely death himself because of your misbehavior. You have no business owning a dog of any kind.

50 to 75 points -  You are a Dangerous Dog Owner.  Your neighbors probably hate you – and your dog.  People walk on the other side of the street to avoid you. There is a significant possibility that your dog will injure a person or another dog.  Please get help!

40 to 50 points -  You are a Problem Dog Owner.  Everyone knows your dog – for all the wrong reasons.  The police know where you live because of neighborhood complaints.  The vet only pretends he’s happy when you come in.  Some people avoid visiting you because they don’t want to deal with your dog.  While he may never bite anyone, your dog runs a significant risk of being euthanized or rehomed for ‘his’ misbehavior.

30 to 40 points -  You are an Annoying Dog Owner.  Your neighbor likes you but sometimes secretly wishes you’d move away. Your kid’s friends don’t want to play with the dog.  And the dog probably spends a lot of its time either being ignored or coddled (or – worse yet, dealing with the confusion of alternating bouts of each).  Your vet likes you, but would give you a much less than glowing referral as a foster home.

20 to 30 points – You are a Reasonable Dog Owner.  Your dog is rarely annoying and his behavior is getting better instead of worse.  People are nearly always glad to see your dog and if they aren’t, he doesn’t bother them.  Your vet would give you a good referral if a breeder or rescue group called.

Less than 20 points – You are an Excellent Dog Owner.  Even if he started out with issues, you have a great dog. Friends and neighbors ask you for dog training advice. 

This guide is a draft.  You are free to copy, use, abuse, insult, change, throw out or otherwise adapt it any way you want.  If you’ve got suggestions, post them as comments here.  I’ll take the ones I think are best (hey - this is my blog) and post an update.

July 9, 2009 at 7:10 pm 22 comments

The “Creatures’ Caucus” – A Call to Action

Back in December the HSUS bragged that a record number of animal “protection” laws had been passed in 2008.  Their website states that; “The nation’s largest animal protection organization ushered in a whole new era of policies for animals by helping to pass 91 new animal protection laws this year, surpassing the previous record number of 86 new laws enacted in 2007.” 

While we’re absolutely in favor of well-written legislation that improves the lives of animals — it is our opinion that the goal of the “protective” legislation pushed by HSUS lobbyist is to end all use of animals.  HSUS lobbies for breed-specific legislation, limit laws, mandatory spay-neuter and overly restrictive breeding regulations designed to put hobby, show and working dog breeders out of business.  While 2008 saw record numbers of these kinds of laws introduced at every level across the country, 2009 may be even worse. According to a press release just posted by United States Sportsmen’s Alliance:

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) couldn’t be happier with the formation of a new group of Congressmen that will promote its agenda.

On February 18, U.S. Representatives Jim Moran (D- VA) and Elton Gallegy (R- CA) announced the formation of a new Congressional Animal Protection Caucus. The goal of the group is to get like-minded members of Congress together and promote animal rights policy in Washington, D.C. through forums and briefings. 

According to the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF), the legislative wing of the HSUS, the new caucus will “take lawmaking for the animals to the next level.” HSLF went on to gush in its blog, “we could not be more excited about their leadership of this new organization of humane lawmakers.”

creatureblacklagoon

This group of legislators, also known as the “Creatures’ Caucus” appears to be operating under the false assumption that HSUS speaks for American pet owners.  A press release published yesterday on Moran’s website prominently features this quote:

“The American public is united in its belief that all animals deserve humane treatment,” said Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.  “The newly constituted Congressional Animal Protection Caucus will help better align our federal policies with public opinion, and we are excited to work closely with its leaders and with the entire Congress to combat cruelty and abuse.”

NEWSFLASH Representative Moran – the beliefs of the American public are in no way “united” with those of the HSUS.  Most of us enjoy eating meat, drinking milk, wearing leather and wool and owning pets.  Lots of us enjoy hunting and fishing.  Many of us love “dangerous” breeds of dogs. And unlike the self-rightous a$$#*les at HSUS, we don’t feel entitled to force our social / religious / moral standards on other people.

Folks, this is something we all need to keep an eye on. Write to your senators and representatives and let them know that “Humane Wayne” and his vicious pack of mindless, mean-spirited monsters don’t speak for you.  According to USSA:

As of press time, a full list of other U.S. Representatives joining the caucus was not available. However, the USSA will let sportsmen know as the names become available. Each member of the caucus should be contacted by constituents in their districts. 

Don’t wait for that list to come out. Call or write NOW.  We all need to make sure that we are the voice our elected representatives hear.

February 19, 2009 at 10:19 pm 4 comments

Moral Hygiene

Ritual washing and purification ceremonies are a feature of many religions — but now research shows that those rites may put us in a less forgiving frame of mind.  A study published earlier this month in the journal Psychological Science  indicates that washing with soap and water can make people view questionable activities as less acceptable and reasonable than they would if they had not washed.  The study also indicated that being exposed to disgusting stimuli can make us judge situations less harshly than we ordinarily would.  This appears to indicate that people rely more on emotion and intuition than deliberate reasoning when we make decisions regarding what is right and what is wrong.

From The Economist:

Dr Schnall’s study was inspired by some previous work of her own. She had found that when feelings of disgust are instilled in them beforehand, people make decisions which are more ethical than would otherwise be expected. She speculates that the reason for this is that feeling morally unclean (ie, disgusted) leads to feelings of moral wrongness and thus triggers increased ethical behaviour by instilling a desire to right the wrong. However, as the cleanliness and purification rituals found in many religions suggest, physical cleanliness, too, is linked to moral behaviour, so she decided to investigate this as well.

[...]

The researchers report that those who were given the “clean” words or who washed themselves rated the acts they were asked to consider as ethically more acceptable than the control groups did.

I found it interesting that all the reports I read interpreted the results of this study to mean that washing our hands causes us to make less moral judgements. Hey — wait, what happened to the idea that qualities like understanding and forgiveness are moral values? Are we only moral and ethical when we judge others’ behavior harshly?  Oddly (especially in this age of political correctness), the researchers and the press both seem to be inferring this.

And maybe I’m weird, but I thought that the most interesting aspect of the study was evidence that we don’t make moral judgements in a rational way. That our sense of physical cleanliness directly affects how easily we become outraged.  Seriously – doesn’t this make some things a little clearer? 

Things like making a judgement that killing dogs solely because they resemble a certain rather broad physical type that has acquired a reputition for viciousness through human abuse and ignorance?  [Dirty, icky people own those kinds of dogs -- and they do vile things with them - off with their heads!]

Things like feeling justified in demanding that all licensed dogs be spayed and neutered before sexual maturity because some irresponsible people (people who usually don’t license their dogs anyway) have unplanned litters and abandon unwanted dogs?  [Eww, dog sex.  Disgusting.  Have you seen how that dog licks himself -- off with his balls!]

Things like believing it’s right to limit all households to a specific number of dogs just because some people are bothered by morons who keep loud, obnoxious, untrained beasts in unsanitary or unsafe conditions?  [Revolting, nasty yard full of dog poop and filthy dogs who bark all day.  Sleazebag owner that I wish would move away -- off with his property rights!]

Maybe the people who are convinced that we need more of those kinds of laws need to wash a bit more — and judge a bit less.

Our Lady of the Immaculate Decision

Our Lady of the Immaculate Conclusion

In fact, an earlier study (published in  Science in 2006) which also studied links between morality and hygiene, found that people commonly felt an urge to wash themselves after committing, or remembering  they had committed, acts that they felt were immoral.  The “MacBeth Effect” was manifested through increased attention on hygiene-related words and ideas, an enhanced desire to have and use cleaning products, and a craving for antiseptic wipes (seriously, I could not make this stuff up).  The researchers noted that the study indicated that “physical cleansing alleviates the upsetting consequences of unethical behavior and reduces threats to one’s moral self-image.”

Interesting.  So – while on the one hand (pun intended) we are more likely to judge other’s actions less harshly after washing ourselves – we also feel an urge to cleanse ourselves after commiting or thinking of an act we think of as wrong or immoral.  Does this imply that we subconsciously feel that judging others is wrong?  And that we should engage in ritual purification before making moral judgements instead of afterward?

And maybe that people who think we need to live in a harshly judgemental, politically correct world are exposed to too many fithy and disgusting experiences in their own lives?

December 18, 2008 at 2:15 am 2 comments

How to Lie With Statistics

howtolie

How to Lie With Statistics is a nifty little book written back in 1954. Anyone who is exposed to advertising, reads the news, votes in elections or is affected by corporate operations should read this book. If you have an interest in issues like breed-specific legislation, mandatory spay / neuter or pet limit laws – you MUST read the book.

Author Darrell Huff teaches you how to lie (or better yet, how to recognize a lie) with built-in sample bias, well-chosen averages, small data sets, truncated charts, creative scaling, manipulation of proportions and good-old fashioned sleight of hand post hoc and straw man fallacies. At only 142 pages and liberally peppered with cartoons, jokes and case histories - it’s a simple and amusing read – and Huff’s ideas are as relevant today as they were a half-century ago.

We have come to rely too much on a main-stream media that is blatantly biased and shamelessly sensationalistic — and misrepresentation the creative use of statistics is one of the main tools that the media uses to spread its propaganda message. Educate yourself on how to recognize these lies — and how to take them apart and expose their weaknesses to others. As Joseph Pulitzer said “A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will in time produce a people as base as itself.”  Well… if we’re all doomed to be cynical mercenaries, we should at least take the time to be well-educated ones.

thesis

...or Pulitzer Prize winning journalism

 

November 18, 2008 at 7:03 pm 5 comments

Nanny State 911

This just in from The Telegraph:

“Absurd” new guidelines advise pet owners against allowing dogs to beg at the table
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Failing to notive your dog is getting fat, feeding it at the table and chocolate treats are all animal cruelty that could end up putting someone in jail under new government guidelines.
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It also recommends that dogs should not be fed at the table as this can lead to begging – and that “curious” animals such as cats should be kept away from windows or tumble dryers.
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[...]
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Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, said the new laws afford animals “greater protection than ever before”. Launching the eight-week consultation, Mr Benn said: “These three new codes of practice will outline the responsibilities of owners under the Act and give practical advice on how to fulfil them. This means no one will be able to claim ignorance as an excuse for mistreating any animal.”
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[...]Bill Wiggin, the Tory spokesman on animal welfare, said the new codes are “absurd”.
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“Defra has missed the opportunity to produce a set of sensible proposals that would protect animals from abuse and mistreatment. Here we have this ridiculous guide which tells people not to walk their dog in the heat of the day or feed it at the table. DEFRA are taking people for fools.”

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I’m not sure which part of this story scares me more – the idea that the British government feels entitled to micro-manage the lives of its subjects - or the idea that a frighteningly large number of pet owners appear to have become so far separated from the world of animal husbandry that they now need detailed instruction manuals to care for their pets.

But wait – maybe these aren’t really two different issues…

In a related, and even more alarming, note BBC Newsreports (note, the bolding is mine):

Animal welfare minister Barry Gardiner said: “For the first time ever, there will be legislation to stop the suffering of pet animals before it occurs.  “By allowing early intervention this Act works on the principle that prevention is better than cure.”
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So now the goal of government is to prevent crimes before they occur?  God Save our friends in the UK. And if these kinds of totalitarian ideals spread – God Save us all.

How on earth did we get here? I mean, I understand that avoiding risk is an adaptive trait. We’re hard-wired for it, but this current obsession to avoid allrisk is rapidly turning into a form of mass psychosis… and our governments have, quite literally, become world class enablers – not just encouraging, but now also legislating, the self-destructive spiral of decreasing personal irresponsibility and increasing bureaucratic control.

There is an increasing expectation that the government should must  take care of us and protect us from all  risk and danger.  The government is now viewed by many as a necessary force to protect the value of our homes, prevent our corporations from going bankrupt and save us from buying, using, eating or even doing any thing that poses risk.

When we substitute governmental protection for personal responsibility, we become more and more willing to cede our personal freedoms as we seek the mythical dream of life without risk. Bit by bit we give up things we see as minor freedoms ‘to acheive a higher good’ – after all – who in their right mind objects to making the world a better safer place?

But where will this incremental process lead us?  In a thoughful essay published at Strike the Root, Lee McCracken writes:

The thought that government will look after them has made too many people willing to give up on looking after themselves. People are tempted to use government to shift the costs of their own actions onto others, resulting in an increasingly irresponsible populace, and a riskier world. If someone else is picking up the tab, why not order the steak? When people are forced to bear the costs of their own behavior themselves, they tend to make more rational choices, which actually does result in a less risky world. The attempt to use government to stamp out risk is like dousing a fire with oil.

But the strongest argument against the omnipotent Nanny State is that it leads logically to totalitarianism. The only way to completely eliminate risk would be total control of every aspect of life. After all, virtually anything we do in any area of our lives could involve some potential risk, either to ourselves or to others. Eliminating all such risk would require surveillance and regulation beyond the dreams of all the tyrants in history. After all, this kind of control is for our own good. As C. S. Lewis once put it:

Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies, The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

November 5, 2008 at 5:22 pm 4 comments

Going Out on a Limb

Gina over at PetConnection posted today on “A New Contender for the ‘Hell Isn’t Hot Enough Award‘.”  A heartless, irresponsible dolt who owns a boarding and training facility in Youngstown, Ohio apparently decided that feeding the dogs he was supposed to be caring for was an unnecessary task beyond his budget. And according to Vindy.com:

Kyle Ziegler and Joe Borosky, Animal Charity humane agents, went to the business Wednesday afternoon after a woman called and complained that she couldn’t get her dog back from the man operating the place. The agents knocked but no one answered, so they got permission to look from the next-door neighbor’s backyard.

[...]

After taking the dogs, staff at Animal Charity found the animals were in worse condition than first believed. Some were aggressive against staff because of starvation, he said.

“For the safety of the animal, we’re not going to release the dogs until we’re sure they’re healthy,” Borosky said.

Ziegler said it’s not clear how long ago the seven dogs died. The veterinarian at Animal Charity would know more after post-mortem exams, he said.

The dead dogs included Doberman pinschers, pit bulls and two German shepherds, Borosky said.

Borosky said the eight remaining dogs, German shepherds, Dobermans, a mastiff and pit bull puppy, are barely alive, just skin and bones, and that four of them “might not make it.”

The opinion that Steve Croley, the owner and ‘operator’ of the facility deserves a fast, nonstop ride to hell is an understatement.  This is cold-hearted, criminal neglect of the worst kind and I’m relieved to hear that the surviving animals have been taken from him.

But there’s more to this story than the rescue of abused animals…

In a follow-up story Vindy.com reports:

If Animal Charity humane agents had waited for a search warrant before using bolt cutters to enter High Caliber K-9 — where seven dogs died — the city prosecutor would have filed more charges against the operator.

[...]

[Prosecutor] Macejko, however, did not file charges related to the 15 dogs found after agents entered Croley’s property with bolt cutters.

“They should have called me. I could have got a warrant in one hour,” Macejko said Friday. “Saving animals doesn’t mean you can prosecute.”

Macejko said civilians can act to save animals in distress, but the agents, Kyle Ziegler and Joe Borosky, were acting on behalf of the state and must follow the law if they expect criminal charges to be filed.

[...]

In a written response, Macejko said the Fourth Amendment, which guards against unreasonable search and seizure, applies to humane agents.

The article is a bit vague, but it sounds like the humane agents:

1. Entered the site not only without a warrant, but without asking for a warrant

2. Notified the media either before, or immediately after, they entered the property allowing the press to arrive while they were removing the dogs.

3. Further may not have been duly authorized as one of the armed agents responding had not been appointed by authorities to act in this capacity.

According to Vandy.com, the prosecutor responded by telling them…

“You and they further complicated the matter by turning the scene into a media spectacle. None of you had a right to escort the media around this man’s property,” Macejko wrote. “If you wished to hold a press conference, you would have been fully within your right to do so once the animals had been removed from the scene and secured at Animal Charity.”

He said her conduct — sending letters to the mayor and reporters before they spoke — “only serves to justify my lack of faith in your agency.”

The prosecutor said he learned Thursday, while researching the case, that Borosky has not been appointed by the mayor to act as a humane agent, but Ziegler has, so Borosky had no authority to act at all, other than as a private citizen.

Macejko warned Owen that if Borosky acts again without authority or enters a public building wearing a firearm under the auspices of being a humane agent, all necessary action will be taken. The prosecutor added that her agents are generally unprepared when they present cases to his office and severely need training.

Before you blow a gasket – I am in no way defending the scumbag who tortured and abused these dogs.  And if I had been there, it would have been hard to keep me from going in there to get them.  ButI am going to go out on a limb and defend the scumbag’s civil rights (along with yours and mine).  Specifically the rights granted by the fourth amendment - which specifically requires that search and arrest warrants be judicially sanctioned, supported by probable cause and be limited in scope according to specific information supplied by a person (usually a law enforcement officer) who has sworn by it and is therefore accountable to the issuing court.

OK – you say, search warrants are a good thing – but what about those poor dogs? Can’t a humane agent just break in to rescue them when they are in dire need?  Especially when the dogs are clearly visible from a public area?  Well, he or she can – but if they do so without a warrant they run the risk of polluting the case against the abuser.  From FourthAmendment.com :

Morgan v. State, 285 Ga. App. 254, 645 S.E.2d 745 (2007): (a) The Curtilage.  Morgan contends that the trial court erred in concluding that the warrantless search of the curtilage surrounding his home was justified under the plain view doctrine. We agree that the plain view doctrine, standing alone, did not provide a sufficient basis for the search of the curtilage.

It is true that the deputy’s initial observations of malnourished and mistreated animals occurred while he was standing in the driveway and on the public road, a vantage point that “breached no right of privacy of [Morgan].” State v. Nichols, 160 Ga. App. 386 (287 SE2d 53) (1981). See Sirmans v. State, 244 Ga. App. 252, 254-255 (2) (b) (534 SE2d 862) (2000) (officer’s observations of mistreated animals from public roadway did not violate defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights); Galloway v. State,178 Ga. App. 31, 34 (342 SE2d 473) (1986) (officer’s observations made while on driveway did not violate defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights since officer had taken “the same route as would any guest, deliveryman, postal employee, or other caller”) (citation and punctuation omitted). These initial observations constituted “a lawful, nonsearch plain view situation” supporting a finding of probable cause to suspect that the crime of cruelty to animals was being committed on Morgan’s property. (Punctuation and footnote omitted.) Boldin v. State, 282 Ga. App. 492, 495 (2) (639 SE2d 522) (2006). See Sirmans, 244 Ga. App. at 254-255 (2) (b) (plain view observation of animals in deprived condition supplied officer with probable cause to search defendant’s property).

However, the officer’s initial plain view observations from the driveway and road, in and of themselves, did not authorize the officer to then make a warrantless entry into Morgan’s backyard–a location indisputably within the curtilage surrounding the residence–and take steps culminating in the dogs there being seized and removed from the property.

Along with the limitations presented by the curtilage issue discussed above (see Wikipedia for more on that), BlueDogState wrote an excellent post back in May touching on the potentially terrifying problems associated with allowing private animal welfare officers to conduct searches, seizures and arrests.  Though they may have good intentions, these people operate in the private sector- outside the system of checks and balances designed to help protect our rights in the public law enforcement system.  As BlueDogState astutely noted; “They answer to no one, other than the privately-employed individual that signs their paycheck.” And in too many cases (though I’m not throwing stones at the folks involved here) these are groups with agendas, not relatively impartial law enforcement officers.

Along with the potential problems that arise if we allow armed private individuals to enter our property without warrants to conduct searches and seizures, it’s also important to note that the public (i.e. you and I) has no ability to influence the operations of these private groups and individuals - so when problems (like the very sobering one discussed here) arise, as they are likely to do, - how are we going resolve them? In civil court? Criminal court? Or perhaps with sabers at dawn?

I understand the need – and even more so the desire – to rush in and rescue these dogs, but when it’s done in a manner that isn’t in accordance with constitutional search and seizure provisions - it unneccessarily creates further problems.  And allowing, or worse yet, condoning these kinds of actions could lead us all down the slippery slope that lets anyone who doesn’t agree with the way we keep our dogs or with the kinds of dogs we choose keep to take them away from us without due process of law.

October 28, 2008 at 1:10 am 9 comments

Theriogenologists Weigh in on MSN

Theriogenologists are veterinarians who specialize in animal (therio) reproductive (gen / genesis) science (ology).

The American College of Theriogenologists has published a position statement on mandatory spay-neuter (MSN) of companion animals. From their website:

The American College of Theriogenologists and The Society for Theriogenology believe that companion animals not intended for breeding should be spayed or neutered; however, both organizations believe that the decision to spay or neuter a pet must be made on a case by case basis, and this decision should be made between the pet’s owner and its veterinarian, taking into consideration the pet’s age, breed, sex, health status, intended use, household environment and temperament.

While there are health benefits to spaying and neutering these must be weighed against the health benefits of the sex steroids. In general, the advantages of spaying or neutering a pet include effective population control, decreased aggression, decreased wandering, decreased risk of being hit by a car, and decreased risk of mammary, testicular and ovarian cancer. On the other hand, the disadvantages of spaying or neutering may include increased risk of obesity, diabetes, osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, prostatic adenocarcinoma, transitional cell carcinoma, urinary tract infections, urinary incontinence, autoimmune thyroiditis, hypothyroidism and hip dysplasia. Therefore, the decision to spay or neuter a dog or cat should be made solely by the pet’s owner with the direct input of their veterinarian and will be dependent on each particular animal’s situation.

Additionally, research has shown that in locations where mandatory spay and neuter programs have been instituted, a decrease in the number of vaccinated and licensed animals has been seen due to poor program compliance from pet owners’ fears of seeking veterinary care if their animals are still intact. This may result in decreased preventive care and regular wellness examinations which may then diminish the pet’s quality of life because of increasing undiagnosed health issues. It also may result in an increase in zoonotic diseases, such as hookworm and roundworm infection in children due to poor deworming programs, and decreased compliance with routine rabies vaccination.

They have also published the basis for their position statement here.  There’s some good information at the link, and we *hope* that state and local legislators take heed of these recommendations made by veterinarians who specialize in reproductive medicine.

August 14, 2008 at 1:27 pm 1 comment

MSN for Wolves?

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

The newest residents at Forest Lake’s Wildlife Science Center will play a key role in wolf study. 

Four, 10-day old Canadian wolf pups arrived at the center back in May.

Canadian pups being greeted by the Minnesota pack.

Canadian pups being greeted by the Minnesota pack.

They traveled all the way from British Columbia on a very special mission: to participate in a potentially groundbreaking study that researchers hope will reveal better ways to manage Canada’s wolf population.

The study, the result of an unusual alliance between two countries, began when a Canadian veterinarian called the Wildlife Science Center and asked whether it would be willing to take the wolf pups.

According to the Vancouver Sun:

The idea is that keeping wolf packs small allows the sterilized alpha pair to defend its territories, while letting more elk live.

But author and zoologist Paul Paquet, an expert on wolf research, called the experiment “destructive and morally reprehensible.”

Paquet said it’s difficult to label this as legitimate research, particularly because these are already disturbed wolf packs subject to hunting and trapping.

Eww Canada….

Parks Canada has voiced its opposition to any wolf control to increase elk densities, saying predator control in the 1960s created unnaturally high prey densities and problems that are still prevalent.

In particular, they have concerns about two wolf packs whose territories take in both provincial and federal lands, including a pack between Banff and Jasper.

Jim Pissot, executive director of Canmore-based Defenders of Wildlife Canada, said this appears to be another “bone-headed wolf cull poorly disguised as research.”

He said wolves typically take down weaker animals, while humans take out the strongest and best-adapted animals in the elk herd: bulls.

Apparently some time between March (when the Sun article was published) and May (when the Star-Tribune article came out) there was a change of heart somewhere.  The original plan was to killeuthanize all the wolf pups and sterilize the alpha pairs.  According to the Star Trib:

But now Canadian officials are exploring another option: sterilizing the wolves.

The Wildlife Science Center, a nationally known research and education facility that specializes in wolves and other predators, has teamed up with the Ministry of Environment of British Columbia and a top reproductive physiologist at the St. Louis Zoo to develop a way to sterilize the wolves from afar.

Sterilization is better than death – but why can’t we find better ways to balance the needs of two- and four-legged hunters?  Are trophy elk worth more than wolves?

August 5, 2008 at 3:08 am 1 comment

PeTA’s Goal

This just in from Newsweek:

“Since 1998 PETA has killed more than 17,000 animals, nearly 85 percent of all those it has rescued.”

Yup.  It’s true.  PeTA kills animals.  Pay no attention to the photos of sweet, sad abandoned pets hyped in their print and media ads.  PeTA is NOT in the business of saving animals — at least not pet animals.  In fact, one of their goals is the extinction of domestic cats and dogs.

“Instead of zero kills, PETA claims to be shooting for zero births.”

 To control pet populations, the folks at PeTA and their allies at the Humane Society for the United States (not to be confused with the folks who run your local humane society) have chosen to focus on increasing deaths and decreasing births.  And its not enough for them to recommend the spaying/neutering of all pets and measures that encourage shelters to kill very high percentages of the animals taken in – both groups are also actively lobbying to have these kinds of measures legislated in cities and states across the country.

The sad truth is that these measures are not needed to control pet populations.

According to Nathan Winograd, author of “Redemption” as quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Based on data from the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Animal Hospital Association, the Pet Food Manufacturers Association, and the latest census, there are more than enough homes for every dog and cat being killed in shelters every year. In fact, when I spoke to him for this article, he told me that there aren’t just enough homes for the dogs and cats being killed in shelters. There are more homes for cats and dogs opening each year than there are cats and dogs even entering shelters.”

More homes than pets?  Whassup with that?  If it’s true, why are we being bombarded with print and media ads publicizing the plight of MILLIONS of homeless dogs and cats doomed to languish and then die in shelters across the country?

In “Redemption,” Winograd lays the lion’s share of the blame for shelter deaths not on pet owners and communities, but on the management, staff, and boards of directors of the shelters themselves.
Redemption makes the case that bad shelter management leads to overcrowding, which is then confused with pet overpopulation. Instead of warehousing and killing animals, shelters, he says, should be using proven, innovative programs to find those homes he says are out there. They should wholeheartedly adopt the movement known as No Kill, and stop using killing as a form of population control.

In fact, in many urban areas there are now not enough shelter dogs (especially small, young dogs) to fill existing demand.  According to the National Animal Interest Alliance:

In many US cities today, campaigns to end ‘pet overpopulation’ have been so successful that the demand for dogs far outstrips supply. In fact, shelters in many of these cities would have a significant percentage of empty dog runs were it not for the mushrooming practice of moving dogs around from one region to another and from one shelter to another within regions, an activity known somewhat euphemistically as humane relocation.  Humane relocation began as a common sense method for helping animals to get adopted through cooperative efforts among city shelters. It made no sense for the humane society to euthanize dogs for lack of room while the local animal control agency had the space and resources to help get them adopted. Over time, as the number of surplus dogs in some cities continued to drop, they began taking in animals from greater distances.

Faced with fewer small dogs and puppies to offer the public, a handful of shelters and organizations have swapped their traditional mission for a new bottom line strategy aimed at filling consumer demands. Simply stated, they have become pet stores. Some are importing stray dogs across state lines and from foreign countries to maintain an inventory of adoptable dogs.

Despite all this, PeTA and HSUS still want to take your pet (and working) dogs away from you.  By force if necessary.  Here it is in their own words:

“In the end, I think it would be lovely if we stopped this whole notion of pets altogether.” Ingrid Newkirk, national Director, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA), Newsday, 2/21/88

“I don’t have a hands-on fondness for animals…To this day I don’t feel bonded to any non-human animal. I like them and I pet them and I’m kind to them, but there’s no special bond between me and other animals.” Wayne Pacelle, of the Humane Society of the United States, quoted in Bloodties: Nature, Culture and the Hunt by Ted Kerasote, 1993, p. 251

So, if you really want to help homeless dogs in a meaningful way, donate to your local humane society or a no kill shelter.  Adopt a dog from a local shelter and make sure that that dog was NOT imported from Puerto Rico, Mexico or from another state. Do NOT donate money to PeTA, HSUS or other animal rights organizations. 

(added 4/29/08 at 9:30 am Central)
This comment from Audie’s Gramma is so important that I’ve taken the liberty of posting it here so that no one misses it:

FOSTER a dog for a shelter or rescue. Turn him around, help him get adopted, take a break, and then FOSTER another one.

Every animal being cared for in a foster home is one more space free at the shelter.

An aggressive foster program, where animals are socialized, evaluated, rehabbed and trained by the foster humans, is one of the cornerstones of a good shelter program.

It’s one more way we can fight the reflexive use of the term “euthanasia” for a practice that is really “convenience killing.”

April 29, 2008 at 5:07 am 4 comments

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