Archive for June, 2008

and into the fire…

Two weeks ago we reported on a terrible situation in Helena-West Helena, Arkansas.  The local mayor, having few financial (and even fewer intellectual) resources, decided that setting dogs from the city shelter “free” in a nearby National Forest was a good way to get rid of them manage the problem.

We wrote then – and still believe – that this was a criminal act.  Apparently Circuit Court Judge David Henry agrees.  According to KARK News Mayor James Valley will be charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty. 

According to Arkansas Code 5-62-101, “a person commits the offense of cruelty to animals if, except as authorized by law, he or she knowingly abandons any animal; subjects any animal to cruel mistreatment; subjects any animal in his or her custody to cruel neglect; or kills or injures any animal belonging to another without legal privilege or consent of the owner.”  Based on this information, it seems pretty straightforward that the mayor’s actions were, well – actionable.

As for the mayor, despite an earlier display of bravado, he’s decided to get out of the animal abuse control business for now.  According to

After being informed of the law, Valley said, his plan is now to leave the stray dogs to fend for themselves in the city until he figures out another plan.

Now he’s throwing his hands up and getting out of the animal control business altogether, at least for now.  “For now we’re not going to pick them up until we can figure somewhere to keep them. Our animal control officer, we’ll find some other stuff for him to do. He can work on potholes and clean alleys and ditches,” Valley said Thursday.

Despite finally making one sane decision in this matter (to stop picking stray dogs up until the city has an appropriate place to shelter them), the mayor is hardly contrite.  According to WTOP news  he is quoted as saying “I look forward to my day in court.” 

So do we.

WTOP also reports that:

Valley also could face federal charges because it is against the law to leave animals, livestock or abandoned personal property on public land. The U.S. attorney’s office in Little Rock is examining the case.

Sounds like another slam dunk.  The misdemeanor charges will likely involve little more than a slap on the wrist but federal charges could be a much more significant problem for the mayor. 

At least we can hope….

June 29, 2008 at 1:18 am 1 comment

Proof That Dogs are Better Than Cats?

We always suspected that cats were evil

Back in April we posted that owning a dog can make you a healthier person.  A dog encourages you to exercise and a healthy emotional bond with your four-legged friend is good for your soul – and your body.  There is also evidence that man’s best friend is also good for his children too, for young children who live with a dog appear to get an immune-system boost against asthma and other allergies. 

What do our feline friends do for us?  Well, from an article in NHS Choices:

“Own a cat and run the risk of eczema”, warns The Daily Mail today. They say that a study looking at 800 British and Danish babies has found that “those with mutations in a certain skin protein gene were twice as likely to get eczema in their first year. If they lived with a cat they were almost certain to develop it”. The article quoted the author of the research, Dr Hans Bisgaard, as saying, “If you haven’t got the mutation, it doesn’t matter if you have a cat. But if you have the mutation, a cat has an effect.”

Science Daily reports:

Eczema runs in families and evidence suggests it is caused by genetic and environmental factors. The same researchers recently discovered that two common “loss-of-function” variants in the gene encoding filaggrin (FLG) predispose people to eczema. Filaggrin is a protective protein normally found in skin. It acts as a physical barrier to potentially harmful substances in the environment. The researchers hypothesized that inheriting one or two defective FLG genes might weaken their physical barrier, affecting their response to environmental substances.

Dr Hans Bisgaard and colleagues from the Danish Paediatric Asthma Centre, and universities in the UK carried out the research.  It’s fascinating work and the results of the study may help us further assess the connection between genes, environment and nurture in the mental and physical development of humans and animals.

And it gives us just one more reason not to have a cat.

June 27, 2008 at 4:01 am 5 comments

Pooper Scooper Barbie

This just in from Terrierman’s excellent blog:


WHY didn’t they have this when I was a kid?

From Terrierman:

Barbie’s dog is a generic-looking Labrador called “Tanner.” Barbie can feed the dog biscuits which then emerge from the dog’s rear-end. Barbie then has to pooper scooper them up with her baby-blue pooper scooper before Tanner wolfs them down again. Hey, that’s just like real dog ownership!

Well – yeah….  
So when are they coming out with Dog Trainer Barbie?

…. waiting with ‘bated breath …

June 26, 2008 at 3:57 am 2 comments

Six Word Memoirs – K9 Version

The creative folks at Smith Magazine started the Six Word Memoir project a year or so ago.  The idea behind the project is to submit a super-short life story that can be written quickly and easily.

BookBabie turned the challenge into a meme, the blogging world’s equivalent of a chain letter (though thank doG, you won’t be cursed with eternal bad luck if you fail to pass this one on). The meme asked participants to write their own six-word memoirs and tag (embed a link to someone else’s blog) five friends.

We’re taking the idea and tweaking it a bit.  Write one for yourself, if you’d like – but what we’d really like to see are Six Word Memoirs – for your dogs.  Do here in comments here, or put them in your blog (and drop us a line to let us know they’re there).  If there’s interest, we’ll update you with a post on the results.

Here’s mine:

Lived well with dogs.
That’s enough.

For my Kelpie Zip:

Obsessive compulsive disorder works for me


For young Audie:

Lives to serve
(with editorial privileges)




Life is an adventure!
Attack it!

June 26, 2008 at 3:36 am 2 comments

Malign Neglect?

I had a private training session today with a small designer breed dog.  He was a teenager, originally purchased as a baby puppy by a busy family as a gift for their tweenage children.  The novelty of this new puppy wore off early and the poor little fellow was quickly consigned to a life of being shuttled back and forth between crate and tie out.  Fortunately for the pup, after a few months his owners tired of even this effort and they gave him up.

His new owner quickly realized that the little dog had potential and that she’d need help bringing it out.  When they arrived all you saw of this young dog was a wild bouncing mouth – endlessly leaping up and latching (albeit gently) onto ANYTHING within reach.  It seemed the only reactions he knew were to jump up or mouth.

The truly wonderful thing about this little dog was how quickly and easily he was willing to change that behavior provided with little more than touch and treats to guide him.  You would not have guessed it by observing his behavior when he arrived, but he is a very bright and biddable little fellow.  And to bring out this potential, all we really needed to do was stay calm and make sense to him. 

In one hour the little dog went from rude leaping mouthiness to cheerfully and agreeably sitting, lying down and doing simple tricks. 


Benign neglect is defined as:

Doing nothing about a problem, in the hope that it will not be serious or will be solved by others; or as

An attitude or policy of ignoring an often delicate or undesirable situation that one is held to be responsible for dealing with

The word benign is defined as:

Not dangerous to health; not recurrent or progressive (especially of a tumor);

Neutral or harmless in its effect or influence; or

Pleasant and beneficial in nature or influence.

So…how is it that when someone gets a dog, doesn’t exercise it, doesn’t train it and — in fact — refuses to take any sort of proactive part in the animal’s life whatsoever (which almost inevitably results in the dog being endlessly confined to a kennel or tie out — or worse yet, in its death….)  …that we refer to this as “benign neglect”?

There’s absolutely nothing pleasant, beneficial, harmless or frankly – even neutral about it.

IMO, “malign neglect” is a far better term.  Malign is defined as:

Of an evil nature or character, evil in influence; injurious;

A  clinical term that means to be severe and become progressively worse; or

Having or showing malice or ill will; malevolent.

Its also a transitive verb that refers to the act of criticizing somebody spitefully. 

That would be me.  Criticizing people who treat their dogs like this — and doing it spitefully

June 24, 2008 at 4:42 am 2 comments

Pythons Brutally Hacked!

Or not…. 


Thanks to TechFaux for this amusing bit of satirical social commentary that pokes fun at PeTA and nerds.

June 23, 2008 at 2:35 pm 4 comments

News on the Genetics of Canine Behavior

Coming in tomorrow’s issue of Genetics Magazine in an interesting follow up to the historic studies on canine behavioral genetics summarized in a well-known book by Scott and Fuller,  a study conducted by staff at the Waltham Center for Pet Nutrition, the University of Utah, Sundowner’s Kennels, and the National Human Genome Research Institute on how genes control size, lifespan, and even complex breed behaviors like pointing and herding.

The entire dog genome was first sequenced in 2005. Since then, canine genetic studies have focused primarily on genes controlling basic traits like coat color and inherited diseases.  These studies have necessarily focused for the most part on just a single breed at a time.  To study the genetic basis of behavior, a scoring system was developed to rate 148 breeds for traits like herding, pointing, boldness, excitability and trainability.

Dog breeds have largely developed through stringent selection to conform to specific stereotypic criteria of appearance and behavior and the results of the study strongly indicate that most breed-related (phenotypic) standardized (stereotypic) behaviors observed in dogs are the result polygenic factors. 

DNA samples isolated from 148 dog breeds were used to associate SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) markers with breed stereotypes.  Size was initially used as a trait to test the method and it allowed the team to identify six significant quantitative trait loci (QTL) on five chromosomes that appear to control the size of dog breeds.

From a review on the article in New Scientist:

Greg Barsh of Stanford University in California, US, says the research certainly pushes forward the genetic analysis of dog personalities, but he cautions that behaviours may be difficult to explain genetically.

“We’ve learned from human genetics that classifying behaviour is not so easy,” he says. Just as one person’s schizophrenia differs from another’s, collies might herd differently than sheepdogs.

I find it a bit ironic that Dr. Barsh chose to use a comparison of the working styles of ‘collies’ and ‘sheepdogs’ (and frankly, I’m not sure at all what he’s referring to with either term) to illustrate the point that the genetic classification of behavior is, at best, in its infancy — IMO it’s a bit like saying that apples aren’t pears.  Still, the complex nature of the genetics of behavior is not surprising and it does much to emphasize the importance of considering temperament and performance in breeding every litter of dogs.

June 22, 2008 at 3:56 pm 1 comment

Out of the Frying Pan…

People living in Helena-West Helena, Arkansas are upset – they say their community has gone to the dogs – and the mayor is to blame!

From USA Today:

LITTLE ROCK (AP) — Unable and unwilling to keep abandoned dogs in a dilapidated shelter, the city of Helena-West Helena is taking strays to a national forest and leaving them on the side of the road.

“They are better off free,” Mayor James Valley said Thursday. “Pardon the pun, but it was just something that was dogging us. So it would be easier for us until we get a facility and have a plan that we just not be in the animal shelter business.”

Excuse me, the major actually admitted that he believes that abandoning dogs by the side of the road in a rural area is a viable solution to shelter overcrowding?  Is this solution about what’s good for the dogs or is it really about a simple and inexpensive solution for the city?

Fortunately, not everyone in Arkansas agrees with the mayor:

But the St. Francis National Forest isn’t in the animal shelter business, either.  “In the code, it is illegal to release animals, livestock or abandoned personal property on national forest land,” spokeswoman Tracy Farley said.

Uh, yeah.  And probably illegal too.  Don’t they have animal cruelty laws in Helena-West Helena?

Valley said the city’s animal shelter was so run down that a regional humane society worker cut its locks last winter and released all the dogs. The city then temporarily moved its shelter to four uncovered pens at the city sanitation department.

After people complained the animals were still not properly cared for, the mayor decided the animals would be better off in the forest. The city street director on Wednesday took about 10 dogs to the forest after feeding and watering them. About three dogs were kept to be put down by a veterinarian, Valley said.

So, mayor apparently feels that a history of negligence on the part of the city absolves them of the need to properly maintain animals in their care.  And – there’s more:

“We have a leash law that we’ve been trying to work our way into enforcing. It’s been so lax,” the mayor said. “People are not buying leashes or tags for the animals. We could literally pick up every other dog in the city.”

{shaking my head in complete and utter consternation…} 
Wait – the city couldn’t maintain the shelter they had, they are so ill-prepared to care for the dogs now in custody that they’re illegally setting them ‘free’ in the woods — and now they want to increase the number of dogs they’re abusing confiscating?

Eyewitnessnews reports interviewed local resident Shirley Blair.  Blair lives near the forest where the dogs were released.  She thinks the plan is crazy too.

“I think it’s ridiculous.  We’re not pleased with the decision to turn them loose out here.”  Shirley Blair says just one day after the dogs were released, six of them showed up in her yard growling.  “We headed to the mailbox and he (grandson, Parker) ran towards the house crying.  One of them looked ill on the driveway, bleeding, bacteria, we don’t need that here.”

And… it gets better (or is that worse…?)  From WREG Memphis:

The national offices of the Humane Society Of America and PETA are stepping into this situation according to Gloria Higginbotham of the Humane Society Of The Delta.

These poor dogs may end up going from the frying pan into the fire.  If the dogs the mayor so moronically magnanimously ‘set free’ are unlucky enough to be captured and turned over to PETA — they will likely all be killed.  PETA’s own records state that the group killed more than 90% of the animals they took in in 2007.

But hey, that’s better than letting them be unlicensed and off leash.

June 15, 2008 at 8:00 pm 3 comments

Forget American Idol

Britain’s Got Talent — and some of the best comes on four legs! 

Check out this footage from Kate and Gin’s audition:

and more from the semi-finals:

Dogs play a key part in Kate’s family.  Her grandmother trained and exhibited Golden Retrievers, her mother is a part-time dog handler, her father trains gun dogs and her sister is in veterinary school. Kate got Gin when she was 10, and has worked with her since they were both pups.

Although the pair successfully made it to the semi-finals, they were defeated in the final talent show by 14-year-old break dancer George Sampson.

June 15, 2008 at 12:47 am Leave a comment

Looking for Puppies?

Or laughs?

She’s ba-ack.  After a short hiatus, Carol over at the FrogDog Blog wrote an excellent post a few days ago on how to evaluate dog breeder’s websites.  While you’re there, also be sure to check out her piece on ‘Plaidies‘ and how to evaluate a Kijiji pet ad.

June 13, 2008 at 4:25 pm Leave a comment

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June 2008