Thursday, April 30, 2009

Saving Bobby

From the letter to Best Friends Animal Society: On the night of March 31, the first of two large brindle puppies was picked up by Toronto Animal Services South after someone reported it wandering at large. The next morning, another pup of the same age and breed was found, by another pedestrian, sheltering under a car with its chain still attached to its collar, and after calling the police, Toronto Animal Services was notified for the pick-up (for the news report, please see http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1632714912?bctid=18263789001). In both cases, the pups could not be collared without significant struggle.

I was writing as part of a package Toronto Animal Services sent off to BFAS to see if there was a chance they might be willing take in the two Filas (I'm calling them that though the breed is still not 100% determined and probably never will be unless someone decides to do a DNA test - if those things even work). There had already been some previous communication with BFAS and it was all started by a blog reader, Joanne, who after reading the post and comments about the pups, decided to put action into words and cold called BFAS admissions.

Joanne has a gift for that, for stepping up and getting results and a day later BFAS returned her call and she and the woman on the other end of the line chatted about the situation for almost an hour and by the end of it, the BFAS admissions coordinator said she would call Toronto Animal Services to inquire about the pups. That was on a Thursday and because of people's schedules, we figured it would be the following week before that call would be made.

Meanwhile, that weekend, the pups were given names: Bobby and Andy. Bobby, while nowhere near to being people friendly, was tentatively making some progress. He was at least not retreating to the back of his kennel every time someone went into the room. One of the female staffers was even able to get him to snatch a couple of snacks out of her hand through the wire mesh of his kennel door.

Andy, however, the one who had sent someone to hospital already, wasn't getting any better. He'd bite the staff, basically not letting anyone get within a few feet of him before he'd lash out. And he didn't bite and retreat like Bobby did when he first came. Andy would bite and bite again.

The rest of the BFAS letter:

There was some uncertaintly about the breed of the pups - and there still is - but it's likely they are the offspring of two Azores Cattle Dogs (or Cao de Fila de Sao Miguel) which were, in a third and separate incident, seized from a family three days later, on April 4, in the vicinity of where the pups were found. Those mature Azores Cattle Dogs were rescued along with another 3 smaller dogs and various smaller animals from filthy, cramped living conditions in a backyard shed. (The parents were seized and are being held at another animal shelter not associated with Toronto Animal Services.)

The two pups, both male, now being housed at Toronto Animal Services, are extremely fearful of people, both exhibiting a strong tendency to fear bite if approached too closely. Even after a few days of intermittent interaction with the same people, the fear biting behaviour is still prevalent. One of the staff has made some headway with one of the pups in that after a long period of her calmly and quietly sitting just outside his kennel, he tentatively approached her when she continued to offer him food.

Also, on the plus side, the pups seem to display an unaggressive, curiosity towards other dogs.

It's obvious these pups, recently named Bobby and Andy, have had a bad start in life, more than likely never having had any positive interactions with people other than their original owners - if that. Toronto Animal Services is able to offer them a stable, clean, kennel environment but is not staffed to deal with such behaviourally challenging dogs. TAS engages in significant rescue and adoption work but generally, if dogs exhibit strong biting tendencies, they are euthanized. In this case, though, given the age of the pups, we wanted to try to pursue other possibilities for them. They are young and we are hopeful that in the right environment with a consistent and positive behaviour modification program, they can be turned back into the good dogs they are meant to be.

We are turning to Best Friends Animal Society for help with Bobby and Andy because your reputation in rescue, rehabilitation and providing sanctuary, is unsurpassed. And, in turn, please let us know if there is any support we may be able to provide on our end to help make the rehoming of these two pups easier for you, if you choose to take them on.

We're very grateful for your consideration of this matter and sincerely hope that some arrangement can be made for Bobby and Andy for a place at Best Friends.

Thank you for your time.


It was a long shot, of course, but we all collectively held our breathes waiting for that return phone call from BFAS to TAS.

It came the following week. It was the same woman whom Joanne had spoken to and she requested an information package from TAS about the two pups - hence the above letter and some additional photos. She said the package would be forwarded to their board which would be meeting in a few days to look at admissions requests. But, there was also talk about how shelters in the U.S., including BFAS, had been hit hard by the collapsed economy with surrenders way up and donations and adoptions way down. And there was talk about how BFAS was full or pretty near full and how their trainers were already overworked.

Still, we held out hope.

Bobby was progressing. He'd venture out of his kennel even with someone standing nearby and he'd allow staffers to enter his kennel without cowering or completely freaking out. When I went to see him, while he didn't quite trust me and wouldn't take the cookie I offered, he was brave enough to walk by me to check out the other dog in the room, wary but not nearly as anxious as he had been the week before.



Andy, though, was no better, maybe getting worse. Still biting and snapping at anything and anyone who got too close and now sometimes charging.

Why did Bobby behave one way and Andy behave another? Maybe their previous owners might have had some clue but I doubt they'll be talking to anyone. No one's actually ever stepped forward to claim the two pups.

The following week, we were hoping to hear back from BFAS on Tuesday but it was Thursday when they contacted TAS. They had decided not to take the dogs. Theirs was an understandable decision but still, a very disappointing one for everyone here.

The next day, a review was done of the two dogs and with Andy getting significantly worse, a decision was made to euthanize him.

I don't know what was discussed to arrive at the decision to put Andy down but I imagine it had a lot to do with cost and liability because when it comes to the nitty gritty of saving animal lives, that's what it almost always comes down to. I can debate, probably endlessly, both sides of the argument but then I wasn't the one facing the possibility of a lawsuit nor was I the one about to be injected.

What isn't debatable is that Andy was never given a fair chance in this life. Certainly not by his previous reprehensible owners who kept him locked and chained in filth and neglect; not by our animal welfare network - and I'm not just talking about TAS here - which isn't financed or organized well enough to allow dogs like Andy some more breathing space; not by us, the public at large, because even though we've created these creatures with such great capacity to love us, we still allow some people, with minimal reproach or penalty afterward, to pervert them into dangerous creatures which hate and fear us.

* * * * *

They made a decision that day to end Andy's life but at the same time, they also decided to try and save Bobby's. He was given a lifeline.

Staff began spending more time with Bobby, sitting with him daily, coaxing him with treats, soft words and their presence. Day after day, for an hour, sometimes much more, over the course of the day, staff visit and sit with him. It's slow work and the time dedicated to him is exceptional considering TAS is not staffed to be a behaviour rehab clinic. Actually, it's exceptional under any circumstances, but especially so for a city shelter to be doing this.

His progress was slow at first but then by the fourth week, his rate of improvement seemed to be noticeably better. He was bonding, well maybe not bonding, but accepting of one female staffer in particular, allowing her to enter his kennel and hand feed him. There were even reports of him wagging his nub of a tail.



Now, in this, his fifth week at TAS, his improvements seem to be coming almost daily. Bobby's engagement with people is really starting to surface. He watches people now without too much anxiety and will approach for a sniff if the person doesn't move or make any loud noises. He'll take food out of certain familiar staffers' hands with no problem. He's still very nervous about anyone touching his head area and he gives warning snaps. Amazingly, though, he did allow his favorite staffer to brush him, everywhere except his throat/upper chest area, and he even seemed to enjoy the attention a bit. He's even letting her pet him but only with an extended hand, still nothing too close.



He's also starting to exhibit the first signs of play. It always surprises me when a dog doesn't know how to play but that was Bobby when he first arrived. He certainly didn't understand toys at all. Nothing in his previous behaviour indicated any experience with fun with inanimate objects. Then just a couple of days ago, after a short grooming session, he started to nose a comb and brush which were placed on the floor. He pushed them around a bit and tried to pick them up.

This might not seem to be a big deal but it was huge because up to that point, Bobby had never shown any interest in inanimate objects and certainly he had never felt relaxed enough to express any sort of curiosity directed at an inanimate object when there were people in the room.

And then later, when he was given a cookie, he ate it right in front of us, instead of at a distance, and looked at us as if he were showing off his new found bravery. Of course, as soon as I spoke to him, he got spooked and brought the cookie back into his kennel to eat it out of my reach.

Staffers are still trying to get a collar and leash on Bobby without stressing him out too much. So far, every time someone tries to leash him, he falls to the floor and crocodile rolls in a complete panic attack. He can't be taken outside until he stops reacting so badly to the leash and he really does need to face to outside sooner than later.

He has a long, long way to go yet. Even with all his progress, he's still not that far from behaving like a badly neglected feral dog who bites, and with strangers who aren't careful, he'd probably revert to that behaviour.

While Bobby is safe at TAS now, it's not the ideal place for him to be spending all his time over the long term. Rescues are being researched and contacted but there are very few, which reputable people in the rescue community can personally vouch for, that have the ability, space and willingness to accept a large dog that bites. The short term goal, then, is to try to get Bobby comfortable enough with people so that he won't lash out. If he can get to that point, then a lot more doors will be open to him.

I'm going to try to post frequent updates on Bobby over the next while. I really want to see him win this battle over his terrible life experiences. I hope to see what was done to him undone.

(Continues here.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chain of events

I watched the movie "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" a couple of nights ago and there was a sequence in it where the female lead pirouettes into the middle of a street and gets hit by a car. The sequence of events leading up to the accident is shot and explained as a series of chance occurrences which taken singly would have amounted to nothing but strung together just so, added up to the dancer being struck by the driver.

When I got up this morning, I expected it to be still warm from yesterday and the news had said that the rain hadn't started yet so I dressed accordingly to go out with Stella and Rocky on their walk. As soon as I opened the door, it was apparent that my expectations and the weather report were both incorrect. It had cooled down significantly and rain was already falling. I turned around, to the disappointment of the dogs who thought they were being denied their walk, to put on some more weather appropriate clothing.

I searched through the coat closet downstairs but realized that what I wanted was in the upstairs closet where all my summer clothes were being stored. I walked upstairs, found the raincoat and went back downstairs.

I put raincoats on Stella and Rocky, as much for keeping them warm as for not having to deal with big smelly dog stinking up the house afterward. I put on my raincoat and then realized I left its liner upstairs. So, I went back upstairs and found the liner and redressed myself.

When I go to the park with both the dogs, I take them in the car to get down there. The car is parked on the street, usually right by the front of our house or pretty near. Last night, however, there was something going on in the neighbourhood and the parking had been tight so when I drove back from dinner, I had to park the car down the block and around the corner - so that's where Stella, Rocky and I headed this morning.

I saw the guy get into his car which was two cars behind mine. We were still several meters away on a street that crosses the one the cars were parked on. Stella stopped to sniff something and as usual, Rocky charged in there to get a whiff as well, shoving Stella out of the way. She garumphed and looked at me and I sympathized with her over Rocky's rudeness. Rocky, for his part, was now taking his first morning whiz on the spot Stella had been sniffing.

Once he had finished, I checked both ways up and down the street and started to cross with the two of them. Now Rocky's a big Dobie dog and he was wearing bright red and Stella's an even bigger Great Dane dog and she had green on. I had a green raincoat on with reflective stripes. So, when I saw that car the guy had gotten into 30 seconds earlier pull slowly up the intersection and slow down, I was pretty sure he would've seen us.

I was wrong.

Rocky, Stella and I were about two thirds of the way across the street when the guy who had started out making a slow turn onto our street suddenly sped up. He accelerated directly at us and we were less than 4 meters away.

My first thought was that this guy was intentionally trying to hit us.

My second was that he was going to succeed. Stella and Rocky were typically oblivious and there was no way I was going to be able to get the two lumbering brain trusts out of the way quick enough. I did the only thing I could, which was stand directly in front of the oncoming car and pretend to be Superman.

I had about a tenth of a second to be scared shitless.

Somewhere between 2 meters away and 1 meter away, the guy saw us. He hit the brakes and I slammed the front of his car with the palm of my hand, wishing I had a baseball bat, and bent my knees, ready for impact.

But, the car had stopped.

I looked down and Rocky was against the bumper between me and the car. There was a moment there when I wasn't sure if he was alright and then he saw Stella sniffing something and he barged his way through to spoil her moment of solitude.

I walked over to the driver's window and said "What the fuck?" to the guy. I was ready to bash his window in because I still wasn't sure if what he had done was intentional but then I could see that he was in shock at what had just happened and he quickly apologized and, just as quickly, drove off.

Surprisingly, as I got to my car and started loading the dogs into it, I wasn't angry. I was thinking about the sequence of events that morning and how if any of them hadn't happened exactly the way they did - if the weather report had been correct, if it hadn't been raining out, if my raincoat had been downstairs, if I hadn't forgotten the liner upstairs, if I didn't dress the dogs up in rain gear, if Stella hadn't stopped at that first scent and if Rocky hadn't stopped to pee there - we would have crossed the street without incident and the whole almost accident would've been avoided. As I climbed into the car myself, I was thinking about Benjamin Button and that car accident with the dancer. Too bad that sequence didn't come with a warning: "This might happen to you tomorrow!"

And, you know, as loud and ridiculous as my dogs' outfits may be, they obviously aren't loud and ridiculous enough.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Rip off

I was looking at some older posts yesterday and came across this old one about Leona Helmsley bequeathing her billions of dollars to the care and welfare of dogs. All that money going to saving dogs sounded a little too good to be true, and so it was.

Apparently, by last week, judges, lawyers and trustees had managed to whittle down that $5 billion bounty to a mere $1 million which will be divided between ten different dog related organizations, all of them, except for the ASPCA, dedicated to training dogs to assist people.

The rest of the money seems destined for human related endeavours.

The Helmsley money is supposed to be managed and distributed by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. According the to the press, when this news first broke about a year ago, the mission statement for the Trust was that its money go to "purposes related to the provision of care for dogs," along with other charities.

I took a peek at the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust homepage and lo and behold, any statement to that effect has been removed - if it was ever there. Now it mostly just talks about giving money to the field of human medicine.

And to cap it off, what must have Leona really rolling in her grave and screaming profanities about the hired help is the fact that even though she left $12 million to her dog, Trouble, the little guy only got $2 million of it while two of her grandkids, whom she had intentionally left out of her will, went to court and managed to get themselves $6 million.

That's it, of course. Dogs can't represent themselves in court so they'll always get the shorter end of the stick.

I have to wonder, what's the point of writing a will if the people entrusted with carrying it out can change it as they wish? I know a lot of people will think that giving $5 billion dollars to dogs in need is way too extravagant, though of course those same people probably wouldn't bat an eye if she had spent that money on, say, AIG or GM stock, in which case it would be practically worthless by now. When it comes down to it, it was her money and, as long as it wasn't illegal, she should have been allowed to do with it as she saw fit. She could've burnt it if she wanted.

The trustees, lawyers and judges didn't have to give the whole amount to dogs in need but it seems counter to the spirit of Leona's wishes that they gave so little.

More details here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

In remembrance of Barclay


Today is the first anniversary of Barclay's death. Barclay was our Bearded Collie. He was euthanized in our home by his vet who was kind enough to do a house call.

Barclay was 18 or 19 or maybe even 20 when he was euthanized. No one knows for sure because he was adopted from the OSPCA seventeen years previous as a young dog. It's funny but I've never known the exact age of any of my dogs. That's the one drawback with adopting: I'm always having to make up their birthdays.

And I've never known any of my dogs as pups and so I can only imagine what they must've been like. I imagine Barclay among his littermates. I imagine the first time he felt the touch of human hands. I imagine the first time he opened his eyes. I imagine his first uncertain, curious puppy steps.

I didn't actually come into Barclay life until he was in his teens when I met Elizabeth and he was part of the package. He was still bright eyed and bushy tailed, full of energy and playful but very gentle, especially with children. He didn't much like Huskies, though, because he was beaten up by one as a youngster. He used to go with Elizabeth to work everyday and how happy he was to be with her. But he also had separation anxiety and she tried so many things to put him at ease and nothing seemed to work.


Nothing until we all moved in together and then almost overnight, his separation anxiety was gone. I think it was because of Stella. I think because she was always there even when the humans went out, he got some sense of stability from her. Of course, if he could speak, he never would've admitted that. He didn't like Stella much. He tolerated her but didn't really ever like her.

Barclay really liked Rocky, though, when a few years later, Rocky came to live with us even though Rocky didn't return that affection.


Yeah, it was a weird love triangle at our house. Stella liked Barclay but Barclay didn't like her and Barclay liked Rocky but Rocky didn't like him and Rocky liked Stella but Stella didn't like Rocky.

Part of the reason Rocky didn't like Barclay was because Barclay use to fall on him. After his seizures, Barclay became quite wobbly and would sometimes lose his balance and fall over. So he'd be hovering around Rocky, who was just lying down somewhere having a snooze, and Barclay would be sniffing around and then just suddenly topple on him. Rocky hated that and even though Rocky can be a growling, snapping nutter with other dogs, he never bit Barclay. He'd just bark in bitter complaint and then heave himself up and move elsewhere away from the old falling down dog.

Barclay's love was unrequited.


Maybe they could've been friends if Barclay was younger. Those final months of Barclay's life saw him go into a slow decline. His hearing was gone; his sight was going; his tired old heart was worn out; his balance was so out of tune that he walked like a drunken sailor constantly crashing into the furniture, walls, the floor; his joints ached; his thoughts were foggy; he'd lost so much weight that after one of his last haircuts to keep him cooler in the summer, he came out of it looking like a concentration camp inmate.


And yet, and yet he still enjoyed a good pizza crust, he still sniffed all the sniffs on his short, doddery walks, he was still happy to see me when I got home at the end of the day and he still loved being picked up and held. So, I asked myself was it really time? Was this the best I could do for him? But mostly I wondered how I could have him be put down when he trusted me and looked to me for protection in his old age?

On his last day, we gave him his favorites carrots, pizza and ice cream for breakfast and let him eat until he could eat no more. The vet arrived with an assistant at around 12:20. Barclay was already settled in his bed. When the vet put the needle in, Barclay didn't protest. He was always good that way. Moments later his breathing subsided and then his tired old heart stopped beating. I can only hope that Barclay passed away with a full belly, dreaming about being a fast, young dog again, chasing squirrels through the trees.

I can't say that's what Barclay would've wanted. Ultimately, it's what we humans wanted. If Barclay had been able to speak who knows what he would've said. Even a dog in pain will fight for its life. Who are we to say no to that? Except that we do say no and we do it based on our personal idea of what a dog's life should or shouldn't be. I've known people who have loved their pets but had them put down just because of a broken leg and others who have refused to do so even though their pet was bed ridden, delirious and suffering seizures every day. Who was the coward, who was the brave one and as long as the owners made their decisions in good faith on behalf of their pets who am I to judge? Eventually, we all decide for ourselves on behalf of our pets, through a fog of love and anguish, when to let go.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Three stooges in three acts and more

Act 1

"I brought the dog home and my roommate said he didn't want a dog in the apartment so I'm returning it."

"But on the form you said you lived alone in a house."

"Oh yeah, you caught me. So?"


Act 2

"I don't want him anymore. I brought him home and he got into a fight with my Pomeranian and killed it and then when I went to grab him, he bit me."

"But we told you this dog can't live with other dogs and you told us you didn't have any other dogs."

"So, I lied."


Act 3

"You've got a few infractions in the past for your dog being at large."

"Yeah, well, you know, that was my last dog. It was a digger and it kept digging out of the backyard."

"Okay, well, I can give you a break this time but be careful."

"Yeah, sure."

Later, that afternoon, TAS picks up the dog at large. The owner lost the dog 10 minutes after taking him out of the shelter.


How does your head not burst after having to deal with such low specimens of humanity on a daily if not hourly basis? Therapy? Drugs? Religion?

Three dogs were killed yesterday on the DVP in three separate incidents. Like what? The first nice sunny day of the year and people start losing their minds and let their dogs run along the highway?

What do you do to calm your nerves when you have to pick up the dead bodies of these animals and put them in the freezer?

"They'll let an animal lie sick and dying in its cage rather than euthanize it so they can keep their kill numbers down."

Where do you turn when you hear about what goes on at other "shelters"?

I can understand that, like a doctor, you have to work with a sense of detachment if you want to function well enough to do the job and survive the job but if it was me having to hear and deal with all that wretchedness day after day, I'd have to detach my head and leave it at home.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Toronto Animal Services Friday review, April 24

These first two guys came into Toronto Animal Services South as strays a while ago and their owners haven't shown up to collect them so any day now, they're going to go up for adoption. Someone's already expressed interest in Boomer, the American Bulldog, and you can bet the gentle, brindle Collie mix will have lots of fans as well as soon as it hits the adoption room.



The next two are both Corgis. Well, the first, Susie, is a Corgi mix and may look like a pup but is actually full grown. It's terribly cute with its ferocious brindle coat and big owl eyes.


The "original" Corgi below does look kind of regal though I'm pretty sure it that if given a choice between living with royalty or living with someone who smelled like bacon, it would pick the bacon guy.


And finally, an always popular, very friendly black Lab.

Update on Susie here.

Update on Boomer here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Smile






Smiley just wants to make friends so whenever someone walks up to his kennel, he jumps up and he "smiles". I know it looks more like a weird snarl but it's not at all an indication of aggression.

It's a funny little expression and I hope it doesn't scare off any potential adopters. I'm sure when he gets to the adoption floor, there'll be a big sign explaining his "smile".

He never does it outside the kennel so it must have something to do with the barrier.

Update on Travis

Sometimes a dog just can't seem to get adopted from Toronto Animal Services and ends up malingering in its kennel for several weeks. Travis was such a dog.

At first, there was another male dog in the adoption room whom Travis didn't like at all and so his bad behaviour whenever he was walked by or near this other dog probably turned some potential adopters away. Later, after the other dog was adopted, Travis, being a high energy dog, just wasn't settling well in his kennel.

Staff put him in one of the larger play rooms with big windows to the main upstairs lobby and Travis did much better there but still no one wanted him.

I liked the guy and couldn't understand why no one had chosen him yet. He was clean, healthy, handsome, affectionate and while not the best on leash, certainly wasn't the worst. And yes, he had some issues sometimes with other male dogs but, again, nothing impossible to handle.

After another couple of weeks of no one showing any interest in Travis, it was decided that his chances might be better elsewhere so he was placed with Nickquenum Dog Adoptions, a great dog rescue based out of Guelph.

Rescues generally (though not always) operate by fostering out dogs to volunteers' homes where a dog gets to live in and experience a stable home environment. That's of course ideal for most dogs but especially for higher energy dogs like Travis.

I didn't hear anything about Travis for a while and then just a few days ago, Toronto Animal Services got this e-mail:

Travis got a great home with someone whose dogs are his kids. Travis showed no dog aggression and in fact he shares his new home with another big male dog. When the 2 dogs first met the other dog kept mounting Travis but Travis just ignored him and then they just hit it off. Thanks for saving him he is a really nice dog.

News like that always makes my day.

Thanks Nickquenum!

Continued http://onebarkatatime.blogspot.com/2009/06/husky-toronto-animal-services-update-2.htmlhere.

Update on Ozzie

Well, just some photos actually, with Ozzie looking pretty comfy in his new pad.





I figured all the Cocker Spaniels were going to go fast but was still pleasantly surprised at just how quickly they were snatched up. I think most of them only lasted a couple of days on the adoption floor with one slow poke maybe lasting a week.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

ESPN - Vick's dogs in new homes

(h/t to KC Dog Blog for this)

I missed the show last night - hopefully, they'll put it online - but this was their preview:



And some behind the scenes stuff from Bad Rap:

Best "Play dead" ever

(h/t to Joanne for this)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Talk to strangers

Well there was a big plan to post all their pictures along with their write-ups here and on Petfinder and maybe with another rescue group but it seems all three of these pipsqueaks are already pretty well spoken for. Of course, nothing's for sure until they're safe in their own beds but it's looking pretty good.

Dr. Ruth Weintrop, a vet at Leaside Animal Clinic, had decided to open up her practice to help out with some rescue dogs and these guys were her first batch of homeseekers. They came in kind of rough from pounds in Quebec but Ruth has fixed them up all nice and tidy. They were just about to make their online debut but after a chance encounter in a drug store where a conversation with a friendly stranger about dogs and adopting dogs lead to their photos being circulated around a major law firm in the city, it seems they may already have some owners ready to take them home.

Let's hope that's the case because that would be sweet. These three have been on a long hard journey and it would be great to see them finally safe and settled.

Anyway, here's their pics and if they're still available in a week, I'll let you know.


T'Loup


Bonsai

Update on Bonsai here.
Update on T'Loup here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Reserve dogs

Toronto Animal Services South is helping out with some of the unwanted stray dogs from one of the reserves up north. The working partnership has been pretty successful so far, and last week, four more were transported down and are being put up for adoption. Actually, I think one or two of them may already be taken - yes, I've been slow this week with my posts. It's no surprise, though, because these dogs are super friendly and pretty leash obedient for untrained dogs.

All four are pretty much housebroken. That seems to be one good thing with dogs that have lived most of their lives outdoors: they don't do their business inside the house.

The Border Collie cross was actually considered feral and had to be trapped but now it sure seems to love being around people. I think it's discovered that we're a good source for food and ear scratches.



I think this black Lab was crossed with a bear with its big bowling ball head and tree trunk limbs. Thick coated and affectionate, he'd be good for keeping someone warm on a cold winter's night.



This one's got a really unique look, like a brindled German Shepherd/Collie(?). Also, very friendly and a very good leash walker. He kept checking back on me and barely pulled at all.



This German Shepherd cross was the shyest of the bunch but not in any unfriendly way - just a tiny bit unsure of new people but very quick to warm up and then very happy to meet you.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Update on Chewy

This once shy little fella, Chewy, is finally right where he was always meant to be:
I just wanted to say thank you so much for allowing me to adopt Chewy on March 30th, 2009. He has such a great personality and has settled into his new home quickly. He is such a sweet, cuddly dog. Chewy loves going on adventures in the car and is slowly getting over his dislike of grass and puddles. He loves walking with his new friend Misty down by the lake and up in the conservation area and gets very excited when his harness is being put on! One of Chewy's favourite things to do is sit on his "work bench" (my mini trampoline) and do his "crafts" (destroying his toys!) He loves to bring my cat toys and loves chasing her as much as he can until he gets caught! Chewy recently went to the vet to get his second round of vaccines and they said he looks great! Here is a recent picture of Chewy in his new home!

Thank you!!!


More here.

Update on Gigi

I remember the first time I saw Gigi, she'd just come back from the groomer's and her coat was glossy black. I figured she wasn't going to stay too long at TAS and sure enough, she was one of the first dogs adopted from her group that came in that week.

From Gigi's (now Brooklyn's) owners:

Hello,

She is doing very well and we are getting to know each other better.
We are planning to enroll her in obedience school in a few weeks as
well. We have attached a few of her pictures to this email. We look
forward to hearing back from you soon.





Friday, April 17, 2009

Update on Duke

Remember the ubercute Jashamagopoogle pups here and here? Well, it's sprouted like a bean stalk. Who would have thought that those stubby legs would stretch out long. Still has a fuzzy face, though.

Breaking bad

Life's been busy this week so not much writing from me today but I have to point you to a shiny new blog that promises to be a shitkickin', in yer face, mondo Pit Bull blog.

It's called Pit Bull Patriarchy and even if Pit Bulls aren't your main thing, I'm getting the feeling the posts here are going to be pretty damn pertinent to anyone who cares about dogs and their place in our social (dis)order.

Here's a taste from the first post,Tremble, Hetero Swine!:

Where do we even begin? I can't possibly outline in this initial blog post all the links between pit bull dogs and broader structures of oppression. First that would mean defining "pit bull" - always a hot topic online - is it a breed, or not a breed? And would ya even know one when you saw one? We'll deal with all that soon. But there are also myriad discourses swirling around pit bulls, both in popular culture and in the political landscape. These are where the real problems lie: in rampant ignorance and prejudice that manifest in neighborhoods, in shelters, in ill-conceived legislation, and that directly result in mountains, literally landfills full of bodies of dead "pit bulls."

But I'm getting ahead of myself. In order to recognize these as problems, one has to be aware that these structures of oppression even exist. If you don't believe in sexism, racism, classism - if you think we've taken care of all that and need to stop squawking - then you're not gonna get it. If you're invested in maintaining the status quo of white male privilege, then you might even want to silence us or worse: hurt our dogs.


Some buttons are about to get pushed.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pet Expo - part 2

Some more pictures from last weekend's All About Pets show in Toronto.

There was also a flyball competition at the show with some super high energy dogs. It was lots of fun to watch but rather loud. If you want to get a sense of it, put a big pot over your head and get a dozen or so people to bang on it with wooden spoons.










Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mark Holland and animal cruelty law

(h/t to redstarcafe for this)

Is Mark Holland the only MP speaking up for animal cruelty laws with teeth? He's the MP for Ajax-Pickering and for five years now, he's been trying to get our animal cruelty laws updated.

From The Mark Holland Update: Provisions of the Criminal Code dealing with animal cruelty have changed very little since 1892 and they are extremely antiquated. This has often made it difficult to obtain convictions against animal abusers, and when convictions are obtained, the penalties are often too light.

My Bill C-373 is a comprehensive bill that not only increases penalties, but also closes off the many loopholes that allow animal abusers to walk away scot-free. There's little sense increasing penalties if you can't convict people. In fact, currently
only one quarter of 1% of animal cruelty complaints actually result in conviction!

You may recall that last spring, there were two competing animal cruelty bills being discussed in the media. I know. Two is way too complicated for mass consumption and already the fleeting public attention span was wavering over to Paris' next up skirt underwear photo. And of course that was the strategy behind the introduction of the weaker than water S-213 bill by Senator John Bryden to counter Mark Holland's C-373.

It was a strategy well played because S-213 (name changed to S-203. Why? Why not?) was quickly passed while C-373 sat in a Parliamentary wannabe law line-up never to see the light of day.

Just to give you idea of which bill had the strength to protect animals against cruelty and which bill was a wet noodle: the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) supported Mark Holland's C-373. Hunters supported S-213.

According to Holland, however, not even hunters should have been worried about C-373.

In particular, they object to part of C-373 that would make it an offence to kill an animal, or allow it to be killed, “brutally or viciously.” Nothing in my bill would interfere with responsible hunters who use guns or bows in a lawful manner, so it’s a mystery to me why these groups feel the need to kill animals “brutally or viciously.”

So now we're stuck with S-213 which is basically the same as the old animal cruelty bill except with stiffer penalties, but as Holland said, what's the use of stiffer penalties if you can't get convictions?

Some examples of the utter failure of the current law are here but for a hit-yer-head-against-a-wall look at how it plays out in court, there's this case, summarized from Pet-Abuse.Com (and remember, this is a "successful" example of the one quarter of 1% that resulted in convictions):

October 8, 2006
Didsbury, Alberta

A 19-year-old girl found a female collie-Lab cross, still alive but lying in a pool of blood in the street. Her four legs were bound together with duct tape, a bag was covering her head and there was a tow rope around her neck. It appeared she had been dragged behind a vehicle.

The veterinarian called to the scene said the rope around her neck was so tight it caused one of her eyes to pop out. Her neck, back and pelvis were also broken.

The vet euthanized the dog immediately.

A 100-metre-long blood trail, where she had been dragged behind a vehicle, led to a home where arrests were later made.

Daniel Charles Haskett, 19, and a 17-year-old youth, on October 8, have been charged under the Criminal Code with injuring or endangering an animal and causing unnecessary suffering to an animal, as well as obstructing police.

Adults convicted of the cruelty charge could face a maximum penalty of a $2,000 fine and/or six months in jail.

November 6, 2006 - Brandon Sun
A young man accused of beating his family dog and then dragging it behind a car was confronted by at least 50 people and their pets Monday as he made his first court appearance.

The crowd threw threats and profanities at Daniel Charles Haskett, 19, as he tried to leave the courthouse in the central Alberta community of Didsbury. Haskett and a 17-year-old youth, who can't be named due to his age, are charged with injuring or endangering an animal and causing unnecessary suffering to an animal.

"We've received hundreds, maybe thousands, of messages from people who are just outraged at the reports," said Tim Battle with the Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The case is in the early stages and none of the charges has been proven.

When an animal is found mistreated, it inevitably raises questions about the people who do such things.

Battle and Randy Lockwood, a senior vice-president with the American SPCA, told resource officers at a safe schools conference Monday in Edmonton that cruelty to animals by young students can be an important warning sign of future violent behaviour against people.

People who intentionally hurt animals are four to five times more likely to commit violent crimes than the general population, Lockwood said.

He also said most offenders start abusing animals when they are still children around the ages of seven or eight.

"It gives the individual an opportunity to experience gaining a sense of power and control through the suffering of others. And if it has no consequences, it's certainly likely to be repeated."

November 23, 2006 - CBC
A young Didsbury man accused of animal cruelty in the dragging death of a dog stayed away from the local courthouse Wednesday on the advice of his lawyer.

"I was concerned for his safety to be honest with you," lawyer Mark Takada said of Daniel Haskett,19, who was surrounded by jeering protesters at his first court appearance.

The two accused aren't the "sadistic brutes" they've been made out to be, Takada said.

The dog was initially accidentally hit by a vehicle, he said. Takada says his client is not responsible for dragging the dog behind a car.

December 11, 2006 - AZ Central
A central Alberta man has pleaded not guilty to a charge of animal cruelty in a case that has shocked much of the province.

Daniel Charles Haskett, 19, was accused of dragging his family's pet to its death behind a car.

Haskett's trial is scheduled for May 23.

April 18, 2007 - CNews
A 17-year-old Alberta youth has pleaded guilty in a horrific case of animal abuse. The youth is also charged with causing death or injury to an animal, a charge that will be dealt with May 10.

An animal lover from Didsbury collected nearly 100,000 signatures on a petition calling on the federal government to strengthen federal animal cruelty laws.

May 23, 2007 - CBC
A 19-year-old in Didsbury, Alta., entered a surprise guilty plea Wednesday on a charge of willfully causing injury to an animal, after a dog was dragged behind a car last fall and found barely alive.

Daniel Haskett had been scheduled to begin trial in Didsbury on Wednesday after entering a plea of not guilty in December 2006.

Police said the dog was Haskett's family pet.

Haskett has been ordered to undergo a psychological assessment before a sentencing hearing on Aug. 1.

The 17-year-old has already been sentenced to house arrest and probation.

May 23, 2007 - Globe and Mail
According to an agreed statement of facts, the chain of events that led to Daisy Duke's death began last October when the teen accidentally drove over the dog after visiting with Mr. Haskett.

Fearing that he would lose his driver's licence and get in trouble from Mr. Haskett's mother, the teen and Mr. Haskett devised a plan to kill the dog and pretend that she had run away.

After various attempts to kill Daisy failed, the two decided to drag the dog out of town to dispose of the body.

Both confessed to not seeking help or checking to see if the dog was still alive.

The teen's attempt to drag Daisy out of town failed when he ran over the dog a second time and snapped the tow rope.

May 10, 2007 - CBC News
A central Alberta man who pleaded guilty in a horrific case of animal abuse involving a pet dog has been sentenced to three months of house arrest followed by two years of probation. The young man will also have to abide by a curfew for nine months after his house arrest is up and do 240 hours of community service.

The young man from Didsbury, Alta., was less than three weeks away from his 18th birthday when he became involved in what his defence lawyer told court was a "poorly thought-out euthanasia attempt."

August 1, 2007 - CNews
A 10-week delay in the sentencing of a central Alberta man who admitted to fatally torturing his mother's dog left animal rights activists disappointed but determined to see the case through to its conclusion.

Incomplete psychological and pre-sentencing reports means the case, which sent shock waves across Canada, will not be closed until Oct. 17 - a little more than a year after Daisy was found barely alive in an intersection of this quiet farming town.

In May, Haskett pleaded guilty to one count of animal cruelty and one count of obstruction of justice for initially lying to police over his involvement in the crime.

In an agreed statement of facts, Haskett admitted to dragging the dog and putting a bag over its head after his 17-year-old friend inadvertently ran over the animal and then hit it with a shovel.

October 18, 2007 - Edmonton Sun
Sentencing for an Alberta man who admitted to torturing his mother's dog has been delayed again after his lawyer quit abruptly yesterday over ethical and professional concerns.

Daniel Haskett, 20, of Didsbury pleaded guilty last spring to one count of animal cruelty and one count of obstruction of justice for initially lying to police about his role in the death of Daisy Duke, a Lab-border-collie cross.

Haskett has until Nov. 5 to find a new lawyer.

March 14, 2008 - Canada.com
Sentencing of a man charged in a high-profile animal abuse case in Didsbury has been delayed yet again.

Haskett was originally set to be sentenced on Oct. 17, 2007, but his lawyer withdrew on the day of sentencing. The case was then adjourned to April 21 for sentencing.

That date has now been pushed back to June 27 due to a scheduling conflict with Judge Ian Kirkpatrick, officials said Thursday.

June 27, 2008 - The Canadian Press
Daniel Haskett had been scheduled to be sentenced to one count of animal cruelty in the torturous death of Daisy Duke, a Lab-border-collie cross, who was bound and dragged behind a car. But his lawyer surprised provincial court in Didsbury by announcing his client wished to change his plea to not guilty.

As Haskett and his family were escorted away by the RCMP, he turned and lunged at a protester who was yelling obscenities at him and his mother.

Haskett, 20, told court he had lied when he agreed to the facts of the case because he wanted the matter to be over with and people to quit harassing him.

December 20, 2008 - The Barrie Examiner
An Alberta man who tried to kill his family's injured pet dog by binding her with duct tape and dragging her behind a car was sentenced yesterday to
30 days in jail.

Daniel Charles Haskett, 21, will serve his sentence on weekends.


So, house arrest for the unidentified youth and jail on weekends for Daniel Haskett and they only got those sentences because they both pleaded guilty. I have to wonder what would have happened if they had both pleaded not guilty. Would they both have simply joined the 99.75% of accused animal abusers in Canada that are never convicted?

On the other hand, imagine the terror the dog went through when these two lads broke its back, then hit it with a shovel, then tried to suffocate it, then taped up its legs and chained it and dragged it through the streets. Imagine its horror knowing that this was being done by someone it trusted, by someone in its own family. Imagine if this was your dog. How does this extreme suffering equate with three months house arrest for one and weekend jail for the other?

Thank you, Senator John Bryden, for that.

Now, let's look at something that will actually do the job properly.

Again, from The Mark Holland Update:

Animal Cruelty: Bill S-213 versus Bill C-373

Both bills increase penalties to a jail term up to five years and unlimited fines for indictable offenses, and up to 18 months jail and/or a fine up to $10,000 for summary convictions. Both also allow the court to make an order prohibiting an offender from keeping an animal and may require payment of restitution. This is the only common ground between the two bills.

• Bill S-213 leaves in place the dysfunctional term "willful neglect" requiring the court to prove motive for neglecting animals. For example, a farmer who starved his sheep despite repeated warnings was found not guilty because the court couldn't prove he intended to starve them. Bill C-373 instead uses the term "negligent" which is defined as "departing markedly from the standard of care that a reasonable person would use."

• Bill S-213 leaves in place wording that allows stray and wild animals to be killed for any reason, or even for no reason. Bill C-373 makes it an offence to kill an animal "without a lawful excuse." Under common law and statute law, lawful excuses include hunting, fishing, farming, euthanasia, research, pest control, and protection of life and property.

• Bill S-213 leaves in place wording that allows people to kill animals brutally and viciously if the animal dies immediately. For example, someone who ties an animal to a train track can get off by arguing that the animal died quickly and didn't suffer. Bill C-373 makes it an offence to kill an animal with brutal and or vicious intent, whether or not the animal dies immediately.

• Bill S-213 leaves in place different protections for various animals in an illogical way. For example, cattle are in a class of their own, and wild animals and strays are unprotected for some offences. Bill C-373 protects all vertebrates, owned or unowned. It also adds special protection for law enforcement animals, "Brigadier's Law," something that S-213 also fails to do.

• Bill S-213 fails to define "animal." Bill C-373 defines an animal as a "vertebrate other than a human being."

• Bill S-213 leaves animal cruelty in the section of the criminal code dealing with protection of property. C-373 puts animals in a new section, reflecting the modern view that animals should be protected because they are feeling, sentient beings. This change, however, continues to recognize that many animals, both livestock and pets, are property.

• Bill S-213 does nothing to address training animals to fight other animals or betting on such fights. C-373 prohibits these practices.

The most effective thing you can do to help pass effective animal cruelty legislation is to inform yourself about the issue and the different bills and then share your views with your Member of Parliament. Tell him or her you care about animal cruelty and want to see an effective bill passed. Remember that MPs receive hundreds and hundreds of e-mails a day on many issues. A personal phone call to your MP or a carefully written letter with your address to indicate you are a constituent is more effective than a mass e-mail or a petition, but everything helps.


For more information on how you can help pass effective animal cruelty laws, visit these two sites:

Mark Holland - Animal Issues
Stop Animal Cruelty in Canada with effective legislation

Really. Check 'em out. Please.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pet Expo - part 1

I went to the All About Pets Show at the International Centre in Toronto this past weekend. I got there mid afternoon on Friday and most of the dogs that were being showcased were already exhausted from the hundreds of hands fondling them. They were awfully good sports about it all even when confronted with out of control toddlers or obnoxious adults - that would be me - asking their very knowledgeable breeders too many questions which they were all more than happy to answer.

The place was packed. I don't have the attendance numbers to compare with last year but even now with our disastrous economy, people were willing to shell out $12 a ticket to go wander around a bunch of dogs and cats and lizards and birds. I know we've got a huge pet owner population Toronto, but still, seeing so many all gathered together was kind of surprising. All ages, ethnicities, rich and poor, from pocket pet to giant breed aficionados, all geeking out on pets.

About a dozen rescues/shelters were there, including Toronto Animal Services, and I hope they had an impact on the people in the crowd. Some of their booths, though, maybe because they didn't all have dogs with them, got lost in the hustle and bustle of the crowds and I thought wouldn't it be great to have a show dedicated to just shelter animals?

Anyone got a convention center we could borrow?