Thursday, November 29, 2012

Shelter Carelessness

Dog euthanized within hour at shelter; now family grieves.

By: N Gilbert

For at least one local family, here’s a new twist on an old saying: If you love something, set it free. If it doesn’t come back – you probably took it to the Wake County Animal Center.
That was the experience of Danielle Miller and her young family when it came to their dog, Tucker.

Miller said she took Tucker to the shelter Nov. 14 to free it from their small apartment and so Tucker he could be “re-homed.” That’s animal shelter talk for adopted. But Miller changed her mind within an hour and went back to retrieve Tucker.

It was too late.

Tucker, a black German shepherd-Labrador mix, had already been put down, euthanized – oh, who are we kidding? KILLED – despite assurances that that was unlikely to occur.

Two weeks later, Miller is still distraught.

“When I took him in, they said ‘Ooh, he’s so beautiful’ and they’d try to re-home him,” she told me Wednesday. “I asked if there was any chance he’d be euthanized, and they said ‘Yes,’ but don’t worry. It’s not going to happen. I asked if it was OK to call back and check on him.”

Even as she drove away, Miller was tormented by her decision, she said. But so great was her love for the 2-year, 4-month-old dog that she knew Tucker would be better off with some place to stretch out and run.

Oh, Tucker had plenty of room to run, ears pinned back by the wind, tongue wagging, when Miller’s husband, Andy Sargent, was in the U.S. Marine Corps and stationed at Camp Lejeune. When he got out of the Corps, the family relocated to the Triangle. “It was much more affordable living” in Havelock, she said, “and we had a huge backyard where he could run and run.” But the family’s Apex apartment didn’t provide that luxury.

“We thought it would work here, but it didn’t,” she said.

It became obvious that the smaller surroundings weren’t good for him. “We read about the center’s adoption policy and thought it would be best” to let Tucker go someplace where he could roam.

‘Aggressive’ Tucker

Miller said she called back 15 minutes after driving away from the center and was told that everything was cool with Tucker. She got the same answer when she called back 30 minutes later, she said. Fifteen minutes after that, though, when she’d decided to bring Tucker home and find some new living arrangements, she got the news that devastated the family.

“I told them I was coming back to get him, and they said, ‘Don’t bother. He’s already dead.’ I said there must be some mistake.” The person on the other end, she said, assured her there was no mistake. “ ‘I’m looking at him. He’s dead,’ ” Miller said she was told.

Dr. Jennifer Federico, animal services director for the center, said the 45 minutes her staff gave for the “aggressive” Tucker to “chill out” was actually longer than usual. “We’re an extremely busy center. In the context of what we do every day, that’s about twice as long as usual.

“We’re not here to euthanize pets,” she said. “I’m a vet. I would much rather return pets to their family.”

The decision to euthanize Tucker was made, Federico said, after staff members tried to put a leash on the dog so it could be de-wormed and vaccinated. “We always tell people there’s a chance of euthanasia,” Federico said, citing space, health and temperament as possible reasons.

She said Tucker became aggressive with staff each time they tried to process him. Hence, the decision to euthanize was made.

“We want to give the animal every chance to be processed, but if they show any sign of aggression, we’re not allowed to adopt them out,” Federico said.

Miller was inconsolable. “I cried so hard,” she recalled. “I went there the next day and asked ‘How is this possible? How could you kill a loving pet within an hour?’ ”

Tucker “was so beautiful and peaceful, Miller said. “He never growled or bit. I can remember him barking only four times his entire life. We literally were concerned about his vocal chords at one point.”

But Federico said it’s impossible to predict how a dog will be at the shelter by how it behaves at home.

‘Unfortunate part’

“The really unfortunate part for Tucker,” Federico said, “ is that the front staff was putting a note in (the computer) that the owner was coming back for him, but the computer wasn’t updated. By the time Miss Miller got back, he’d already been euthanized.”

As a result of that incident, Federico said the center is now recommending that people who surrender a dog for adoption remain at the center until they’re sure the animal can be processed. If not, they can take it back home.

Whew. Up until now, I’d always thought the saddest dog story ever was the one contained within the song “Mr. Bojangles.” You know, where the dude:

“spoke through tears of 15 years how his dog and him traveled about.

“The dog up and died. He up and died. And after 20 years he still grieves.”

Tucker didn’t up and die. He was killed because of a slow-to-update computer or some other reason.

Whatever the reason, the Millers, too, still grieve.

Moral of the story here: NEVER believe that a shelter is telling you the complete truth unless you see it with your own eyes! RIP Tucker! Never forgotten and always loved!


More Details in the Case of Trooper!

More has been revealed in the terror on little Trooper.

By: N Gilbert

New details on Trooper's case!!!
A pit bull puppy that was dragged behind a truck on Interstate 55 for a mile on Wednesday is recovering from severe injuries, Humane Society officials said today.

The 5-month-old dog, named Trooper by his medical team, has improved after five days in intensive care and veterinarians are "guardedly optimistic" about his chances.

“This puppy has experienced severe trauma and horrible injuries and his condition could change quickly,” said Dr. Mark Wright, the Humane Society’s director of shelter medicine, in a statement. “However, we are doing everything possible to support his recovery, reduce the chances for infection and keep him out of pain.”

At some point Wednesday morning, the puppy's leash became hooked on the trailer hitch of a Dodge pickup without the driver's knowledge. When the driver left a parking lot at Wilmington Avenue near I-55, the animal was pulled under a trailer already attached to the truck, investigators said.

The driver took the Bates Street on-ramp and traveled northbound one mile before another driver spotted the dog and flagged him down.

Investigators said the driver was distraught but cooperative. He did not recognize the dog or know how the 20-lb. animal became tethered to the truck. The dog had a blue collar and leash but no identifying tags or microchip.

The Humane Society of Missouri is offering a $2,500 reward for information on the incident. Investigators have received several tips but have not found the dog's owner. Anyone with information is asked to call the animal abuse hotline at 314-647-4400.

Toxic Toys!

New study shows dogs exposed to harmful chemicals from plastic toys.

By: N Gilbert

A new study has found that plastic pet toys, such as as bumper toys, which is a common device used to train retrieving dogs, readily leach the harmful chemicals bisphenol-A (BPA) and phtalates and could pose a health risk to dogs.

Scientists at the Texas Tech University revealed that dogs that chew and play with bumper toys (also called "dummies") may be exposing themselves to the chemicals.

In recent years, research in humans and rodents linked BPA and phthalates to a number of health issues including: hormonal fluctuations, decreased fertility, impaired development of reproductive organs and cancers.

Typically, BPA is found in polycarbonate plastic (often hard plastics and vinyl), including some water bottles, baby bottles, and in epoxy resins, which are used to line metal products including some canned foods. Phthalates are mainly used as plasticizers - substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility.

The substance was originally declared safe but recently, many health authorities worldwide reversed its position on BPA and phtalates. The United States, Canada and the European Union have banned some BPAs and phthalates in children’s toys, baby bottles and sippy cups. Consumer pressure has also resulted in many manufacturers discontinued using of the chemical additives in their products. However, there are still numerous products, including canned foods, which still use BPAs and phtalates.

Philip Smith, co-author of the study and a toxicologist at The Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech, became interested in chemical exposures from bumpers after using them to train his own Labrador Retrievers. "Some of the dogs are exposed to plastic bumpers from the time they are born until the day they die. We all want our pets to be healthy," Smith told Environmental Health News.

The study took orange and white bumpers and then measured how much BPA and phthalates leached from the plastic items into dishes filled with artificial dog saliva. Since simulated saliva was used, it is difficult to say how much actual leaching would occur in a dog's mouth.

The bumpers were also exposed to simulated chewing. Chewed bumpers leached more BPAs and phalates than those simply left outside to the elements for a period of time. Further studies would need to be done in order to begin to estimate actual exposure of the chemicals to a dog. However, scientists suspect that the levels of chemicals observed from the bumpers would be considered very high when compared with children's toys.

Researchers also tested pet toys sold through major retailers. Bumpers tended to leach higher concentrations than other toys, but preliminary test results showed that some store-bought toys might have leached other hormonally-active chemicals.

"A lot of plastic products are used for dogs, so to understand the potential for some of the chemicals to leach out from toys is a new and important area of research," said veterinarian Safdar Khan, senior director of toxicology research at the ASPCA's Poison Control Center in Illinois. Dr. Khan also pointed out that there may be other potential sources of environmental chemicals - such as house dust - that affect dogs, given they are much closer to the ground than humans.

Although more research needs to be done on the potential health risks for dogs exposed to BPA and phthalates Smith said that consumer education about potential risk seems warranted based on their data.

A number of popular dog toy manufacturers do have BPA and phtalate-free products available. They include: West Paw Design, Chewber, Planet Dog, Jolly Pets, Nylabone and Kong.


Memphis: the drama is finally over!

Memphis & Coltenback: the saga is finally coming to an end.

By: N Gilbert

The months-long ordeal over the Bloomfield pit bull named Memphis may be coming to an end.

Bloomfield dog trainer Jeff Coltenback says an agreement is in the works for him to adopt the pit bull Memphis.

According to a statement from local dog trainer Jeff Coltenback, he and his wife Diana have reached a preliminary deal with the Bloomfield Board of Health.

"We are still ironing out the details," Coltenback said in the statement. "But, basically, once Memphis is deemed adoptable by his current caretaker, he will be adopted by Diana and me."

He stated an agreement would be up for resolution at the Bloomfield Board of Health meeting next month.

"I think the agreement [on the table] is putting it in writing what the boards' concern was from the beginning - adoptability and public safety," Karen Lore, director of the Bloomfield Health and Human Services Department, told Bloomfield Life on Wednesday. The issue was never who should adopt the dog once deemed adoptable, she added.

Memphis was held at the John A. Bukowski Shelter for Animals after being picked up as a stray in February. Officials deemed the dog "unadoptable" after an evaluation.

Coltenbacks were training the dog at home, but were asked to return Memphis after being accused of violating the contract for allegedly having the dog near children. The Coltenbacks denied that claim.

"Memphis was never at risk," Lore said of the dog's fate in shelter care.

Township officials said Memphis was moved to South Dakota for additional training and because of threats toward the shelter.

Lore said Wednesday that a rescue ground transporter carried Memphis to the Midwest through donations from the town's volunteer Neighbor to Neighbor Network. Lore did not know how much it cost.

Karen Lore, President of the Neighbor-to-Neighbor Network and Acting Director of Health and Human Services.

"I'm grateful to the NTNN support committee for assisting us in the rehabilitation, and also the rescue group that came forward on behalf of Memphis," Lore said.

Coltenback said the Board of Health attorney Ronald Ricci approved his statement.

"I'd like to thank the Board of Health for their willingness to work with us," Coltenback stated. "I'd especially like to thank all of the Memphis supporters. Your continued support throughout this is appreciated beyond words. I think this is a great start to the healing process for everyone involved and for the Township of Bloomfield as a community."

Pet adoptions

The animal shelter is running a holiday promotion for the adoption of other cats and dogs, Lore said.

Home for the Holidays runs until the end of the year. The animals are spayed or neutered, and there is a "minimum fee, if anything" to adopt.

The attention of Memphis has hurt the shelter, Lore said, saying donations are down.

"There's been a lot of attention placed on Memphis, but there are a lot of other animals there," she said. "Some of our older animals have been in the shelter for a longer period of time.

"Our goal is to get them into homes with the right families," she said.


Dog Protected

Woman's dog protected from domestic violence by restraining order.

By: N Gilbert

For the first time in Massachusetts state history, a dog has been covered by a restraining order to protect him from domestic violence. The dog's owner was granted a restraining order in Plymouth District Court against her violent ex-boyfriend that covers her, her child and her 6-year-old Labrador mix named Panzer.

The 38-year-old Marshfield woman feared for the safety of her family and sought help from a woman's resource centre. She told domestic violence advocates that she feared that her boyfriend might try to take the dog, and she stated that he had already kicked and dragged the dog in the past. Marshfield Animal Control officer Deni Michele Goldman was alerted to the situation and arrangements were made to protect the family.

The restraining order was filed in September, just weeks after Governor Deval Patrick signed an animal protection bill that created a safety net for pets caught in domestic violence situations.

The dog is now in safekeeping at an undisclosed foster family under the care of Marshfield Animal Control. Officer Goldman  told the Taunton Daily Gazette, "This new law allows a judge to award the possession of an animal to the victim and to prohibit the accused from abusing, threatening or taking the pet," she said. "This was really good timing."

Goldman said that that more than 70% of abused women report that their batterers have threatened to hurt or kill their pets and have tried to used such threats to coerce battered women into staying or refraining from calling police.

The woman and her 2-year-old son are now staying at a domestic violence shelter out-of-state. Officer Goldman is in touch with Panzer's owner regularly and says that once the woman and her son are settled in a safe place she will be reunited with Panzer.

As the owner of a pet who was also around domestic violence, I can't stress this enough that if you're with someone who is violent, physical or verbal or both, PLEASE consider the feelings of your beloved pet. They see what's going on and they feel the tension. I myself was in a violent relationship and my dog is still somewhat skiddish around people that are yelling. So for yourself and for the sake of your pet, get out of there immediately. Trust me, it will only get worse!

Florida Dog Fighters: Busted!

Dog fighting ring operating for decades busted by authorities in Florida.

By: O Jefferson

Rudolf was rescued from a dog fighting ring that had been operating for decades and was closed down by authorities in Hillsborough County, Florida.

A dog fighting operation, which appears to have been operating for decades, has been closed down by Hillsborough County authorities in Seffner, Florida after they received an anonymous tip.

Upon arriving at the large and remote property yesterday, they discovered one of the largest dog fighting rings they have seen in years. Although 7 dogs were rescued from the property, authorities expect to find hundreds of bodies on the property after one of two men arrested confessed.
One of the dogs rescued from the dog fighting ring receiving medical care.

"The individual there actually admitted to us that he has been fighting dogs out there for 20 years and jokingly said we were walking on a graveyard," said Sgt. Pam Perry, investigations manager for Hillsborough County Animal Services.

Authorities report the property had the stench of death and that it was clearly set up for dog fighting. They found a blood-stained pit, paraphanalia, mounds of earth, and other grisly evidence. "There was also a chain with a collar and as you reached the end of that chain with the collar and looked up to a mound there was a jaw and a skull of a dog," said Sgt. Perry.

The isolation of the property meant that neighbors a quarter of a mile away would likely not heard dogs barking or known of its existence. Neighbors expressed shock at learning of the dog fighting operation.

But someone knew enough to tell animal control that dogs were injured and not being properly treated, which lead investigators to the home at 6846 Stark Road.

The two suspects arrested were identified as 55-year-old Vannie Franklin and his nephew 41-year-old Russell Franklin. Both are facing a slew of felony charges including dog fighting, possession of animals used for dog fighting, animal cruelty, improper confinement, possession of marijuana, and possession of firearms by a convicted felon.

Six of the dogs rescued are pitbulls, and one black Labrador mix. Sgt. Perry could not say if all the dogs would survive their injuries, but one named Rudolf appears to have fresh gashes and wounds. His nose raw and red, Sgt. Perry hopes he will find a loving home. "They deserve to live the rest of their life in luxury," said Sgt. Perry of the rescued dogs. "Because they were living in a kill zone."

Hillsborough Animal Services recently found a dog buried to her neck and shot twice in the head. The search for a suspect in that case continues.

If anyone has with information about suspected animal cruelty in Hillsborough County, they can contact Animal Services at (813) 744-5660 or can call Crimestoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS.

The Humane Society of the United States also has a nationwide tip line to report suspected dog fighting at 1-877-TIP-HSUS and offers rewards for tips that lead to prosecution.

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