Politics | Politics http://www.dogster.com/politics Politics en-us Tue, 21 Oct 2014 08:00:00 -0700 Tue, 21 Oct 2014 08:00:00 -0700 http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss Orion <![CDATA[Does Having a Dog Mean You Get to Displace Homeless People?]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/brooklyn-for-greene-park-dog-owners-dog-off-leash-homeless-people From 2002 to 2008, I lived in this apartment building in Fort Greene, Brooklyn:

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My old building in the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill area. (Google Maps)

The neighborhood has changed a lot since I moved away, and not for the better. The building itself has changed a lot. According to the friend who took over our apartment when we had to leave very suddenly, a couple of years ago the management started evicting as many people as it could or pushing them out with increased rent prices. It's easy to do a quick Google Image search on my old address and see the insides of the refurbished apartments that look nothing like the place where we lived for all those years.

None of this is a surprise. My partner and I were an early part of the gentrification that's been turbocharged in the past few years. I have a lot of memories of the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill neighborhoods, but when I read the news that's coming out of there now, I'm glad that I'm gone. Gawker reported on Friday that some new residents are demanding that the city kick homeless people out of Fort Greene Park to make the area more comfortable for their dogs.

Gawker and DNAInfo report that police have been called to investigate a homeless camp in the park because of conflicts between the people living there and the pets of local residents.

Tensions have been rising between the group and local dog owners who use the park, especially in the early morning hours when dozens of people let their dogs run off-leash, locals say.

The untethered pups sniff, bark, and jump on the slumbering people -- oftentimes waking them up and triggering a furious response, locals say.

The DNAInfo article is generally pretty friendly to the pet owners, but even it can't deny an important point: The problem seems to arise from dog owners who are unwilling to control their pets.

As much as I love dogs, I don't do so at the expense of human beings. I certainly don't think that a dog's ability to run off-leash should be used as a reason to criminalize poverty. The fact is, I know a lot of people who are closer to having to sleep in parks than they should be. I know people who have had to sleep in parks and on streets in the past. The fact that it's legal for dog owners to let their dogs off the leash does not trump the right of the homeless to live. I believe most of us don't realize just how easy it is to wind up there.

In response to one dog walker who complains of the homeless that "They are becoming more and more aggressive every day," Hamilton Nolan writes in Gawker:

In case it's not clear, "They" in this case refers to people without a home who are forced to sleep in the park, and the implication of his statement is that these humans are out of line for wishing that their "territory" not be invaded by swarms of dogs as they sleep. What sort of monster doesn't want to be woken up by a wealthy stranger's off-leash dog?

Owning a dog should enhance one's sense of humanity, not provide an excuse to flaunt your sense of entitlement. Loving your dog is not a reason to devalue the people around you. We talk a lot about the need to rescue dogs and give them forever homes, and we'll continue to do so. But being aware of that fact doesn't mean we should forget there are also people out there looking for homes of any kind. Consider the people who lived in my old apartment building and were pushed out by the landlords. Where did they go? While I didn't know my neighbors well, I knew that they weren't all young people with careers. There were quite a few older people who had probably lived in that building for years before I moved to New York. I can't say how many had families to support them or the resources to find another home.

To be fair, it sounds like some of the dog walkers had genuinely frightening encounters in the park. The DNAInfo article quotes local Cheryl Pientka, whose dog woke a sleeping man in the park. She says he threatened her with sexual assault. That's legitimately frightening, but it's not a problem with "the homeless."

I know that if I did something similar, people wouldn't start thinking that it represents some kind of problem with middle-aged white guys, or a crisis among dog bloggers. At worst, they'd think that I was an obnoxious douchebag, and they might not even think that. When women complain about street harassment (aka catcalling) that doesn't come from homeless guys, people are very eager to make excuses. People will claim that it's a natural part of being a man, or that women should be complimented by it. The truth is, middle-aged white guys get away with a lot, and we don't generally have people calling the cops to remove us from the neighborhood.

Brooklyn can be a beautiful place, and Fort Greene even more so. I hope that the new residents remember that people lived there before them, and some will continue to live there after they're gone. The fact that some sleep on the grass instead of in a brownstone doesn't make them disposable.

What do you think? Does having a dog mean you can push around homeless people? Are such people really a danger to dogs? Let us know in the comments.

Via Gawker and DNAInfo

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Tue, 21 Oct 2014 08:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/brooklyn-for-greene-park-dog-owners-dog-off-leash-homeless-people
<![CDATA[And a Dog Shall Lead Them: Minnesota Town Elects a Great Pyrenees to Mayor's Office]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/cormorant-minnesota-town-elects-dog-mayor-duke-great-pyrenees-pictures-photos The village of Cormorant, Minnesota, might be on to something. The citizens of Cormorant elected a dog as mayor of their small town.

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It's true that Duke, the seven-year-old Great Pyrenees who was swept into office, doesn't really hold a lot of power. For that matter, he doesn't even collect a salary. The office is a strictly honorary one, part of the annual Cormorant Daze festival, and it costs $1 per vote. However, the residents of Cormorant say that Duke does his part to make the town safer. David Rick told television station WDAY that just by wandering around, he helps traffic in the town: "What he does is when the cars are coming through town, they're hitting town at 50 miles per hour, and he slows them down."

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Duke showed a distinct lack of interest in his first interview as Mayor. (Screenshot: WDAY)

His media skills do seem to need some work. When a reporter from WDAY knelt down and asked him for a statement, he just panted into the microphone. Hardly an auspicious beginning to his relationship with the news media. On the other hand, he's a lot more photogenic than the average pol, so that might net him some forgiveness.

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Duke gets dressed to take office. (Screenshot: WDAY)

Following the election, Duke was treated to a five-hour grooming to celebrate, and Tuffy's Pet Food, from nearby Perham, offered the new mayor a year of free kibble. Given that Duke isn't collecting a salary, and that Perham is about 40 miles away from Cormorant, I'm inclined to think of that as charity, rather than a glaring example of graft on Duke's first day in office.

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Screenshot: WDAY

It's kind of hip to hate on "politicians" as if they were a single, indistinguishable class, but I've never believed in trashing the occupation. In a democracy, we should all think of ourselves as politicians on some level. To consider the occupation beneath decent people is to disdain democracy itself. That being said, I am a little bit of a misanthrope at heart; I've known dogs and I've known people, and I think that politics would benefit from a few more dogs in the field.


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Wed, 13 Aug 2014 11:30:00 -0700 /the-scoop/cormorant-minnesota-town-elects-dog-mayor-duke-great-pyrenees-pictures-photos
<![CDATA[Police Abusing Dogs Is Connected to Police Abusing People]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/animal-abuse-police-brutality-killing-dogs-connected Whether you're counting human bodies, dogs, or both, one thing is depressingly clear if you read Internet news on a daily basis: There are far too many cops in this country who shoot first and ask questions later. If you're a regular reader of Dogster, you'll see that I've written a lot of articles about police shooting dogs for virtually no reason. In one of the most recent cases, a Chicago police officer came to the home of Nichole Echlin. When the family dog, Apollo, bared his teeth, the officer fired one shot, killing him instantly.

"He just said it had to be done. He walked up to me, told me that and walked away," Echlin told ABC News.

The case of Apollo was unique in one sense: The cop was fired almost instantly. He killed the dog on Friday and was jobless on Monday. That's remarkable, and I wish I could write that more often.

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Police and demonstration by Shutterstock.

But the problem isn't just that police officers are bad with dogs. During my morning browses for news stories, I invariably come across stories about police brutality, law enforcement officers beating or killing people for no reason at all. Most often, they are people of color, or poor, or both. Just this week, two EMTs in New York had to stop four cops from beating a patient who was handcuffed to a stretcher. Last month, police in Brooklyn dragged a 48-year-old woman out of her apartment who wore nothing but her underwear and a towel, making her pass out from an asthma attack. In June, a San Mateo sheriff's deputy shot and killed Yanira Serrano Garcia, an 18-year-old  with special needs, when her own family called 911 for medical assistance. In Ohio this week, a young man was gunned down by police when he picked up a toy gun while shopping in a WalMart. And of course, Eric Garner's choking death at the hands of New York police officers has drawn national attention.

On and on and on. The depressing thing is that I can never chronicle the number of abuses, either of dogs or people, in any but the most superficial way. Earlier this week, Gawker printed a roundtable discussion on the subject called "It's Time We Treat Police Brutality as a National Crisis." Reason Magazine posted an op-ed with a similar title: "It's Time For Cops to Stop Shooting Dogs." Both are long overdue, and we also need to consider how police abuse of dogs and humans is connected.

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Eric Garner's Funeral a katz / Shutterstock.com

Reporter Radley Balko, who has covered many dog-shooting incidents in his own blog, has also reported extensively on the increasing militarization of police departments, and how it leads to more violent responses. In an excerpt from his book, Rise of the Warrior Cop, published on Salon.com, Balko quotes former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper on the phenomenon of dog shootings:

But Stamper says that like many aspects of modern policing, dog shootings may have had a legitimate origin, but the practice has since become a symptom of the mind-set behind a militarized police culture. "Among other things, it really shows a lack of imagination. These guys think that the only solution to a dog that's yapping or charging is shooting and killing it. That's all they know. It goes with this notion that police officers have to control every situation, to control all the variables. That's an awesome responsibility, and if you take it on, you're caving to delusion. You no longer exercise discrimination or discretion. You have to control, and the way you control is with authority, power, and force. With a dog, the easiest way to take control is to simply kill it. I mean, especially if there are no consequences for doing so."

For the past 40 years (at least) there has been an escalation in politicians, news media, and law-enforcement officials talking about law enforcement in terms of fighting a war, with police officers as the soldiers. That rhetoric is borne out in the equipment issued to police and the tactics they use on the street. Since SWAT teams were developed by the Los Angeles Police Department in the late 1960s, the squads have become a nationwide phenomenon, and deployment has gone from being a rarity for extreme circumstances to standard operating procedure. The War on Drugs and the War on Terror are part of our everyday vocabulary.

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Injured Dog by Shutterstock.

We have to ask ourselves, though, if cops are fighting a war, who is the enemy? Who are they fighting? All too often, it turns out to be us, the people that they are supposed to protect and serve. The enemy is anyone who isn't a cop or who won't instantly cooperate with them, whether that's Apollo the dog or a middle-aged black woman in her underwear. As Stamper's quote underscores, the consequences for such actions are minimal, and so it happens again and again.

I don't want police to go out thinking that they're at war. That puts every one of us in danger. I'm all for police officers having guns and electric-shock devices and clubs, but they should be last resorts, not the first. In the Gawker article, I like community organizer Ruby-Beth Buitekant's idea for reforming our system of law enforcement best:

Can we imagine, for a minute, what it would look like if officers were trained in mediation? What if you called the police when you witnessed a violent fight; officers arrived ready to separate the parties, come to a nonviolent resolution, and make sure each person got home safely.

I might never see that, but if it were to happen, I believe a lot fewer people and animals would die.

Via Gawker, Reason, and Salon

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Fri, 08 Aug 2014 13:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/animal-abuse-police-brutality-killing-dogs-connected
<![CDATA[What's Wrong with an Advertisement Comparing a Black Child to a Dog? A Lot]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/south-africa-feed-a-child-ad-controversy-white-woman-black-child-boy-dog An advertisement released by South African charity Feed a Child last week has put the organization in the middle of a storm of controversy. The ad shows a wealthy white woman petting and feeding a young black child in the same way you would a beloved dog. While she lies in bed, he brings her a newspaper and is rewarded with a small snack. Sitting at a table, she gives the child scraps as he kneels beside her chair and allows him to lick her fingers. The ad closes with words saying: "The average domestic dog eats better than millions of children."

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The aristocratic white lady sits at her table, Beethoven playing in the background.

Many media outlets, attempting to be discreet and neutral in their reporting, have said something along the lines of "Some people are calling the ad racist." This is kind of similar to reporting that "Some people are calling Mount Everest a big rock." If an ad showing an indulgent white lady treating a black child as a pet doesn't trip your racism alarm, it's hard to imagine what would.

Feed a Child no doubt has the best intentions in the world. But as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

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The child gratefully accepting a crumb from the lady.

It's one thing to talk about your pet as a child; our writers and our readers often do so on this site. It represents the depth of the connection between human beings and dogs and a highly developed sense of empathy. But however much we may love our dogs, they're not human. To treat a child like a pet is very different than the reverse. Pets will always need someone to take care of them, and to make decisions for their own good. Your dog, no matter how much you love him or her, will never grow up, leave the house, go to college, and wind up taking on a mortgage.

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That comparison becomes even more problematic when you bring race into it. Like the United States, South Africa's history includes legal segregation and the concept of white supremacy. And as here in the United States, those policies were justified by images that depicted black people as childlike, bestial, or as in the Feed a Child ad, a mixture of the two.

Writing in The Daily Maverick, Richard Poplak sums up some of the important problems with the ad. Ultimately, the ad is all about white people:

We come now, as we must, to the question of gaze: Who is looking at the black boy/dog? Is this advert meant for, um, black people? I'm sure Feed a Child would be happy to include the black middle class in its donor demographic. But I suspect that the images are meant to shake and shock white folk from their torpor -- to remind them that their lifestyles are not just unethical, but unsustainable and cruel. But by employing this element of racial trickery, by dangling the bait of the black boy, the advert is not undermining but reinforcing stereotypes -- it is simply another image of black subservience fed to whites who have gorged on them for generations. In this, the Feed a Child ad begins to eat itself.

Possibly the only person who articulates the problems with the ad better than Poplak is Feed a Child's founder and director, Alza Rautenbach, although she does so unwittingly. Although most news organizations reported that Feed a Child took down the ad after being attacked, that's only half-true. It took down the original ad and then replaced it with an extended version that includes a statement from Rautenbach defending it.

"But what if this advert changed a child's life?" she asks solicitously. "What if this advert changed three and a half million children's lives? What if this was your child going to bed hungry tonight, and this advert could change that?"

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Feed a Child Founder Alza Rautenbach

What I find most revealing is when she speaks for herself: "Like a child, I don't see color. Like a child, I don't see race, or politics. The only thing that is important to me is to make a difference in a child's life and to make sure that child is fed on a daily basis."

Therein lies the root of the problem, with the ad and with the organization. An organization that intends to feed children has to be run by adults. It cannot be run by people who see the world as children do, or who think that to do so is a good thing. And it most certainly can't be run by people who pride themselves on being blind to fundamental realities such as race and politics.

There is nothing more political than hunger. At its most basic level, politics is nothing more than the determination of who has wealth and who kneels by the chair waiting for a crumb, who eats and who starves, who lives and who dies.

Further, saying that you "don't see race" is not only a lie, but a lie that's available only to those with power. The United States built itself up on slavery and segregation; South Africa was built on apartheid. In either country, the survival of black people depended on being very aware of race, and which rules applied to their skin color. That reality hasn't gone away because apartheid and segregation were officially dismantled. Because of our white skin, Rautenbach and I can, if we like, pretend that race doesn't matter. But race does matter, and to pretend otherwise is a fiction that just preserves the injustices of poverty and starvation.

What do you think about the depictions in the ad, or its defense? Let me know in the comments.

Via The Root and The Daily Maverick

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Tue, 08 Jul 2014 14:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/south-africa-feed-a-child-ad-controversy-white-woman-black-child-boy-dog
<![CDATA[Mickey the Pit Bull Goes Home to Jail, Courtesy of a Controversial Sheriff]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/mickey-the-pit-bull-sheriff-joe-arpaio The story of Mickey, the Pit Bull who attacked and maimed four-year-old Kevin Vicente in Phoenix, Arizona, was one of the most controversial issues that we've covered recently. It's not surprising; Pit Bull lovers are very passionate and defensive about the bad press that the breed gets; on the other hand, a four-year old child received severely traumatic injuries that will probably stay with him for life. The mix of those two are extremely volatile.

The next step in Mickey's story happened this week, and it involved someone who is even more controversial than Mickey: Joe Arpaio, the extremely controversial sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. "Controversial" is the polite, journalistic way of putting it: Arpaio's law-and-order policies have favored the authoritarian, racist, and unconstitutional.

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Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks to the press.

While the conditions in Arpaio's jails have been deemed unhealthy and unconstitutional for humans, Mickey's supporters were pleased to hear that the dog will be spending the rest of his life in one. Sheriff Arpaio volunteered to take Mickey into the MCSO Safe Animal Haven (MASH) Unit, a no-kill shelter which is located in a former jail. About 70 dogs and cats live in the unit, and are cared for by inmates. The difference between Mickey and the other dogs in the MASH is that he's going to be there as long as he lives; part of the judge's conditions for sparing his life was that no one would be allowed to adopt him.

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Kevin Vicente is still recovering from the attack by Mickey.

Veronica Lee, one of Mickey's supporters who attended the hearing, said that "I think this decision is fabulous. I think that Mickey will finally have the justice he deserved." Judging by the postings on the Facebook "Save Mickey" page, her sentiments were shared by many of her fellow supporters.

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One of the judge's initial concerns was what would happen to Mickey if Arpaio were to leave office and the MASH Unit were to close. The 81-year-old Arpaio responded, "I expect to be the sheriff forever." Regardless of age, though, the idea that Arpaio might leave office soon is not that far-fetched, since he's expected to announce his candidacy for governor of Arizona in two weeks. When pressed on the point, he claimed that any sheriff who did close down the shelter wouldn't get re-elected. "As long as I'm the sheriff, nobody is touching my MASH unit," Arpaio told reporters. "The judge's concern was what if I'm not the sheriff. I think it would continue if the new guy or gal is smart. I know I want the dog and let's see what the future brings."

As part of his sentence, Mickey will also be defanged, neutered, and microchipped, and although the matter of custody has been settled, the judge ordered that a status conference be held in six months, and then annually thereafter.

Via Albuquerque Journal, KTAR, and ABC

Wed, 30 Apr 2014 13:45:00 -0700 /the-scoop/mickey-the-pit-bull-sheriff-joe-arpaio
<![CDATA[Pa Kettle, a Soulful Bloodhound, Is Now Mayor of Divide, Colorado]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/dog-elected-mayor-pa-kettle-bloodhound-divide-colorado-animal-shelter Meet Pa Kettle. He's the new mayor of the Colorado mountain town of Divide, according to the Gazette. Walter is a search-and-rescue Bloodhound. Handsome fellow, isn't he: 

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Here's the old mayor, Walter the cat. Walter is pisssssed off. He thought would be mayor indefinitely, or at least work the gig into a cushy life running the town on the sly, grafting off a nice chunk of revenue in the process. Things didn't turn out that way. 

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Actually, that's not entirely true. Walter wasn't even on the ballot this year. Pa Kettle battled Herbie the donkey, Gracie the mustang, Keyni the wolf, Blackberry the hedgehog, Buster the cat, and a bunch of other dogs for the mayorship. Pa Kettle won. Pa Kettle got 2,387 votes, beating the wolf, Kenyi, by only 55 votes.

Only 55 votes stood between Divide being run by a wolf instead of a dog. Can you imagine? 

By now you might wonder: What in the world are we talking about? Well, it seems the town of Divide has a sense of humor. It's a small town, and it doesn't officially have a mayor. So the local animal shelter, Teller County Regional Animal Shelter, runs an election every year to elect something non-human to be mayor. Every vote costs $1, which goes to the shelter. 

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In each of the 2010 and 2012 elections, the animal shelter raised more than $10,000; two weeks ago the 2014 campaign had already raised nearly $9,000. 

This year, Pa Kettle won, largely because of those soulful eyes, but also because of those long ears. Kenyi the wolf gets to be vice mayor. I imagine he's going to be the one doing the dirty work.  

Via the Gazette

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Fri, 11 Apr 2014 12:30:00 -0700 /the-scoop/dog-elected-mayor-pa-kettle-bloodhound-divide-colorado-animal-shelter
<![CDATA[Will Boulder, Colorado, Start Testing Dog Poop DNA?]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/dna-testing-dog-poop-scofflaw-boulder-colorado You might remember a weird-sounding plan from Ipswich, Massachusetts, last month: Animal control officer Matt Anczak, known not so fondly among the locals as the "poop Nazi" proposed that the city spend $80,000 to build a DNA database of all the dogs in the area so that owners who didn't pick up after their pooches could be fined. (Note: When people start openly referring to you in the press as a "poop Nazi," it's time to reassess your path in life. Really, it is.)

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Clean It Up, Printed on a Path by Shutterstock.

Mock Anczak if you will, but he's not the only one who dreams of starring in CSI: Dog Park. City Councilwoman Mary Young of Boulder, Colorado, has proposed the idea be applied to the holders of "green tags," which allow owners to have their dogs off-leash while walking on park trails, according to the Daily Camera.

Whereas critics in Ipswich believed the program would be too massive to implement because it would have involved getting samples from more than 2,000 dogs, in Boulder there are about 35,000 people who hold green tags. Anyone has to admit that that is a lot of dogs to sample.

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DNA Strand by Shutterstock.

So far, the company that does the testing, PooPrints, primarily contracts with apartment complexes and other small, enclosed areas. Despite the best efforts of Anczak in Ipswich, the company hasn't signed any deals with municipalities. The original cheek swab, to collect the DNA, costs about $35; testing a fecal sample and comparing it to the database costs about $60 to $75 per poop.

The green tag program has become highly controversial lately, and not just because of the DNA proposal. There have been many changes proposed; green tag holders are supposed to be able to control their dogs with voice and sight commands, yet there's no requirement that they demonstrate that fact. A study by the city showed that about half the dogs with green tags didn't come when called. Supporters of the green tags say that the study had flawed methodology.

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Laboratory Microsope by Shutterstock.

At OhMiDog, John Woestendiek has deftly critiqued some of the problems with the DNA idea:

Yes, dog poop can be hazardous to our health, and harmful to the environment.

So can the feces of all the non-domesticated animals we live among, but we don't feel compelled to prosecute for pooping. So, too, can the dumpage of corporate entities, like the thousands of tons of coal ash spilled into the Dan River by Duke Energy, coating 70 miles of the river with toxic sludge ...

Finding clean sources of energy -- that's a use of technology I like. Using DNA to solve murders (and clear the wrongly convicted) seems a good use, too.

But gathering, packaging and mailing dog poop so technicians in Tennessee can comb through it and test it, by comparison, seems a silly use of our technological muscles.

That's it, really. DNA testing has a certain sexiness to it, thanks to endless police procedural dramas, but in the end, it's going after the problem with an awfully big gun.

Via Daily Camera

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Wed, 02 Apr 2014 12:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/dna-testing-dog-poop-scofflaw-boulder-colorado
<![CDATA[A Dog for Mayor? Why Not? DOGTV Stages Nationwide Vote]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/dogtv-dogs-mayor-elections-vote-cute-funny-pictures-dog-photos-candidates San Francisco is the only city to have once been the home of the Emperor of the United States, so it's not surprising that the city's political life definitely has a down-the-rabbit-hole quality. That is, even more than usual.

Mayoral elections are always especially interesting to watch. There's a real tradition of things skewing into the strange and surreal in elections. A particularly legendary example is the 1979 election, when the candidates included Sister Boom Boom (aka Jack Fertig), who was a prominent member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and Jello Biafra, the lead singer of noted punk rock band the Dead Kennedys. Biafra's campaign slogan was, naturally, "There's always room for Jello." His platform included a proposal to require businessmen to wear clown suits between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., and one banning cars from the city limits. He came in third out of 11 candidates. Comedian Will Durst later ran and finished fourth out of 11.

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Jello Biafra and Sister Boom Boom: Two of SF's previous Mayoral candidates.

So, really, while it might seem weird in the rest of the country, DOGTV's idea to elect dogs as mayors throughout the country isn't really that odd here. The campaign is drawing to an end today (March 20), so if you want to have a say in what dog rules the political landscape of your town, this is your opportunity. The winners will take office March 25 and receive a 6-month subscription to DOGTV online, plus a 3-month subscription to PetBox for the top 10 winners. (I have to admit feeling a little disappointed that bribery and graft are happening so openly before the candidates have even taken office.)

The primaries have already been held, of course, and DOGTV has narrowed each city's candidates down to about three or four, based on their "adorableness and ambition." The latter is certainly common among human politicians, although you rarely see them promoting their adorableness.

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Izzy: One of the mayoral candidates for San Francisco. You can find candidates for your own city on the Facebook page.

Go to the Facebook page linked above, and you can see a big wall of doggies, just begging to be voted for with a small bit of text describing their platform. For those of us here in San Francisco, we're faced with three choices: Izzy (who "Enjoys partying like a rock star"), Spud (whose efforts towards green politics include "eats his own poo as well as all muffin wrappers, take-out containers, and other garbage that he comes across on the street") and Pismo (who "is strong willed and respectful to his council").

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Pismo, another SF candidate.

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The author is throwing his support behind Spud, because of his street cred with genderbending.

It's a close race, but I think I'm going for Spud, despite the fact that he shares most of a first name with a rather annoying corporate icon from the 1980s. Why? First, because he's shown that he's willing to eat his own poop, which is an essential qualification to prove integrity for politicians in any part of the country. And second, he's got the gender-bending sympathies that make him perfect for a town like San Francisco. According to his bio, "Though born male, Spud still squats to pee like a lady in a bid to close the gender gap one squirt at a time." Yeah, that's a San Francisco dog.

What do you think? Is it time to start putting more dogs into office? Let us know if you're happy with who wins in your area. 

Check out these adorable stories on Dogster:

Thu, 20 Mar 2014 12:30:00 -0700 /the-scoop/dogtv-dogs-mayor-elections-vote-cute-funny-pictures-dog-photos-candidates
<![CDATA[Killing Stray Dogs and Beating Pussy Riot: Just a Glimpse of Putin's Ugly Politics]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/winter-olympics-sochi-russia-vladimir-putin-pussy-riot-dead-stray-dogs By now, you have probably seen or at least heard about the video showing Russian Cossacks attacking members of the band Pussy Riot with whips and tear gas. It's a memorable, horrible scene, and it speaks volumes about the kind of place Vladimir Putin's Russia is. If the point hadn't been made for us before, the image of security officers brutalizing unarmed young women will burn it into the public consciousness.

The 2014 Winter Olympics were supposed to attract international investment and tourism to Russia, to demonstrate the nation's ability to function as a modern power in the 21st century. Instead, the Olympic Games have turned the world's eyes on all of Russia's greatest shortcomings. The attack on Pussy Riot is a harsh confirmation of what many have been thinking: Putin's Russia is little different than previous eras of totalitarian, updated to include pepper spray and tasers. But some things never go out of style: The whips used by the Cossacks this week are a part of Russian history. Their ancestors, mounted on horseback, favored the very same weapon to beat starving peasants who might question the legitimacy of their rulers.

Already, I know that people are asking what this has to do with dogs. Even if the name "Pussy Riot" is meant to evoke a bunch of overly aggressive felines (it's not), this site is all about dogs, not cats, and certainly not feminist punk bands.

Except that I've spent the past several weeks cruising Google News for stories about the Russian extermination campaign against the stray dogs of Sochi and writing about it. I've found occasional relief through the stories of Russian nationals such as Vlada Provotorova and Igor Ayrapetyan, who have selflessly worked to rescue dogs from Sochi. There has also been some relief because of kindhearted international visitors taking dogs home. But any way you cut it, looking through such stories is a grim way to spend your days.

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Stray Dog Sleeping On the Street by Shutterstock.

Although it might not seem like it at first, the distance between dead dogs and whipping musicians is not a great one.

The American news media has loved reporting on the story about the stray dogs of Sochi not only because it tugs at the heartstrings, but because at first glance, it's a very nonpolitical story. It seems as controversial as casting a production of Old Yeller on the shores of the Black Sea, and most outlets have reported it with the heavy servings of sentiment and treacle appropriate to that.

But look even the slightest bit beyond the surface, and the story of the Sochi dogs is very political.

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The construction of the stadium in Sochi, and other venues, meant that many citizens were driven from their homes. Martynova Anna / Shutterstock.com

As I noted the first time I wrote about the extermination campaign, the fact that those dogs are on the streets in the first place is itself political. While most cities have strays, one of the reasons that Sochi has so many is because human families were displaced to make room for the Olympics. When building the huge venues to hold the events and the training grounds, families that lived in houses with yards were forced from their homes into apartments. The construction was expedited by something called Law 301, which allowed private buildings to be seized and demolished to prepare for the Winter Olympics.

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times spoke to Nina Toromonyan, a 63-year-old resident of Sochi. Riot police threw her and 12 members of her family out of their three-story house at gunpoint in preparation for a new highway. The highway, in fact, had already been built and passed two miles away from the house. Police did not seize the houses on either side of hers.

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Singulyarra / Shutterstock.com

Those who have lost their homes to Law 301 received compensation, but by all reports, it has been minimal. Most have been forced to move into smaller apartments. It's a struggle for families such as Nina Tormonyan's to find space for themselves, never mind their dogs. According to the Los Angeles Times, Tormonyan still comes to the vacant lot where her house once stood to feed her dogs and cats, who continue to hang around the area.

The single phrase that came to symbolize the extermination campaign in Sochi was the description of strays as "biological trash." That turned out to be the soundbite that spoke to everyone in a universal language.

The problem with soundbites, though, is that they often function without context. And within the context of Russian politics, that sentiment was not so surprising. After forcing old people and families onto the street at gunpoint, should we have expected the Russian authorities to value the lives of dogs as worth anything more than trash? Perhaps the real surprise was that they were so open and honest about it.

Dogster exists because the lives of dogs and humans have become so intertwined with each other over thousands of years. Sochi presents an excellent example of how close our lives can be. It is very, very easy to draw a line from Law 301 to the extermination of stray dogs to the beating of Pussy Riot. One follows logically from the other.

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Pussy Riot fights against attacking cossacks.

Despite all the hype and good press about how the Olympics are about excellence, sportsmanship, and competition, most of us know that that's nonsense. First and foremost, they have always been about money. Russia reportedly spent $50 billion on the Olympics, the most ever spent. It's starting to look like a failure of massive proportions.

Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch summarized the problem for NBC: "Putin wants the world to celebrate Russia: Russia's modernizations, Russia's wealth, Russia's achievements. They want to show off. They want the prestige associated with the games. But prestige always comes with responsibility, and it seems that responsibility is actually something that the Kremlin does not want."

If you want to describe the connection between killing stray dogs and beating musicians with whips, you could hardly do better than to read those words again.

Read the most talked about news on Dogster:

Mon, 24 Feb 2014 08:00:00 -0800 /the-scoop/winter-olympics-sochi-russia-vladimir-putin-pussy-riot-dead-stray-dogs
<![CDATA[Dylan's a Good Dog, But He's Not Qualified to Run for Mayor]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/west-highland-white-terrier-dylan-dog-run-mayor-irving-texas Last week, the world lost Hank the Cat, famous for his campaign to be elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012. Just as Hank left the scene, another would-be politician from the animal world tried to launch his career, only to have it grounded on the launch pad because of bureaucracy.

The prospective candidate was Dylan Westie, a West Highland White Terrier. If owner Mike Howard had his way, Dylan would be in the running to be the next mayor of Irving, Texas. Unfortunately, when Howard filed the petition to add Dylan to the ballot, the Irving city secretary found several disqualifying errors, even without considering the fact that Dylan is a dog. For instance, Dylan's petition had only 13 signatures supporting his candidacy; Irving requires a minimum of 60. Candidates need to be registered voters, another qualification that Dylan failed.

Finally, the signature on the petition wasn't even notarized, yet another requirement. Even worse, the signature itself was a forgery by Howard, rather than Dylan's own paw print. In an interview with the Dallas News, Howard admitted to the forgery, saying, "It would be a paw print, had I let him sign. I didn't want to get ink on his paws."

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It's easy to sympathize with that logic, but if Dylan's candidacy was serious, he and Howard should have realized that he would ultimately have much worse things on his paws if he made it into office.

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Howard is himself a former member of the Irving City Council. Writing under the name "Mark Holbrook," he's been a longtime critic of the local government, especially the current mayor, Beth Van Duyne. Dylan's candidacy, he says, was inspired by the idea that the council has been deadlocked between two opposing sides, and that there's nothing better than a dog to break up what he terms as "cat fighting."

In his official announcement of Dylan's candidacy, Howard writes that "Dylan is the only candidate that can accurately state that he is a registered 'son of a bitch.' His official AKC registration number is RN04869502. Other politicians reflect this SOB-attitude, but can they provide proof of registration?"

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Mark Howard quizzes Dylan about his agenda and plans. The truth is, Dylan doesn't show much interest in governing.

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Truth be told, it's hard to sympathize too much with the failed campaign. The candidate himself doesn't seem too interested in the issues in his agenda. Video shows man and dog sitting on a couch while Howard asks Dylan about his feelings on various issues: "What's gonna be your campaign platform, Dylan? What's wrong with the current City Council that they can't hire a city manager?" The candidate just looks around blankly, bored and unresponsive, as though he'd rather be chasing a ball outside.

He has also failed to do outreach on social media. Although Dylan has a Twitter account, as of this writing it has only a single tweet, made just this morning. His Facebook page is devoid of public postings. Contrast that with Hank the Cat's 2012 campaign, which remained highly engaged with Hank's supporters even after the election, and up to his tragic death. Frankly, it looks like Dylan isn't too disappointed at his failed entry into politics, and he will be just as happy playing in the yard.

Via Dallas Observer, CBS Local, and Dallas News

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Wed, 19 Feb 2014 11:45:00 -0800 /the-scoop/west-highland-white-terrier-dylan-dog-run-mayor-irving-texas
<![CDATA[Detroit Animal Advocates Spend a Freezing Night in Doghouses]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/dog-health-michigan-humane-society-doghouse-freezing-spend-night On Tuesday night, members of the Michigan Humane Society Cruelty Investigation and Rescue Department and emergency rescue teams slept outside to raise awareness of the dangers of leaving pets outside at night. They slept in doghouses, named in memory of dogs who had died in the cold this winter: Bella, Brandy, Brownie, and one simply titled “In Memory of All the Unnamed.”

The temps: low 30s. Winds up to 15 mph. It could have been a lot worse -- Monday was in the 20s.

“It’s been a really rough winter for dogs,” Debby MacDonald, chief cruelty investigator, told the Detroit News. “We’ve seen dogs frozen to death, dogs with hypothermia, and we don’t know if they’re going to make it. We’re doing this to raise awareness.”

The MHS Cruelty Investigation and Rescue Department responds to more than 10,000 calls every year for animals who have been abused and neglected or sick and injured. The hotline takes five to 10 calls on typical days, but that spikes to 30 or more during periods of cold weather. 

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The four members who tucked themselves into the doghouses -- Elise Ramsey, cruelty investigator; Stacy Bean, rescue driver; Chris Ouwerkerk; rescue driver; and Debby MacDonald -- slept off and on during the night, according to YouTube videos made throughout their stay. They were bundled up in their own cold-weather gear, but they made nests out of bunches of straw. The effectiveness of the straw at keeping them warm seemed to surprise everyone.

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Inside the doghouse.

"You can tell when you're up against the wall, if you don't have the straw between you and the walls, the walls are cold," MacDonald said at 2 a.m. between snatches of sleep. "You can really see how it keeps a dog warm and how it keeps them insulated. A dog in a bare dog house with wet frozen blankets would be really, really cold."

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"It's amazing to me that so many dogs survive the nights that they do with junky shelters and no straw," said Ramsey. 

However, the team used a lot of straw, stuffing the dog houses. They understand that many people don't use nearly enough, just laying down a bed of straw instead of letting a dog tunnel in to make a nest.

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"Ideally you would stuff the doghouse almost completely with straw," said a groggy Ramsay, "and just create a little nest for the dog to go into, turn around and plop down, so that's he's covered by straw and essentially stays warm."

From her own doghouse, she listed three "really easy ways" to make doghouses better: keeping them off the ground, adding straw, and putting a flap on the door.

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“Animals have lost their lives this winter that really didn’t need to,” said Ryan McTigue, spokesman for the Michigan Humane Society. “It’s sad because it’s one of those things where one is too many.”

Via the Detroit News

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Wed, 19 Feb 2014 10:00:00 -0800 /the-scoop/dog-health-michigan-humane-society-doghouse-freezing-spend-night
<![CDATA[A Girl Takes a Tumble and Gets a Kiss from a White House Dog]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/michelle-obama-white-house-dog-sunny-2-year-old-girl-knocked-over So this morning, I did the usual thing: I dragged myself out of bed, made some coffee, and started checking out Google News for tidbits to bring to you, Dogster's loyal readership. More a sacred quest than a job, really. It turns out that the big dog news item today is that the Obamas new puppy knocked over a two-year-old girl who was visiting the White House.

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Ashtyn and Sunny kiss and make up after her fall.

I have to say, it's a disappointing story. Not in itself, but because of what it says about the American body politic: it's been almost 24 hours since the incident, and still the political fringes don't seem to have come up with a single conspiracy theory. No one seems to even have started a drive to demand that the White House produce the dog's birth certificate.

Here are the facts: On Wednesday, Ashtyn Gardner, from Mobile, Alabama, was visiting the White House with other military families to get a first glimpse of the holiday ornaments. First Lady Michelle Obama brought the Obama's new dog, Sunny, out to the visitors on a leash. Sunny seemed delighted to meet all the new people, and in her exuberance, nudged Ashtyn a little too hard and she tumbled over, as youngsters are wont to do. Two-year-olds are remarkably resilient, of course, and in a few moments, Ashtyn was back on her feet being hugged by the First Lady and getting licked by Sunny, who seemed eager to make things right between them.

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Michelle Obama hugs Ashtyn.

Ashtyn's father, a Navy lieutenant, said that his daughter is a dog lover and was restless to see the White House pets.

"She went straight for them, reaching out to hug Sunny," he said. "The next thing you knew her shiny shoes were in the air!"

From such moments, trending Twitter topics are born.

The responses to the event haven't been entirely paranoia-free. A couple of outlets have said that Sunny "attacked" Ashtyn, and one particularly ugly tweet turned it into a white supremacist fantasy, claiming, "Trained To Attack White Children. Obama dog attacks, knocks over toddler Ashtyn Gardner." But still, by this point, I'd expect that Sunny would have been accused for the problems with HealthCare.gov, or having secret ties to terrorists.

The Obamas did get criticism when they first got Sunny a few months ago. Like the other White House dog, Bo, Sunny is a purebred Portugese Water Dog. At the time, Ingrid Newkirk of PETA said that the president's decision to go to a breeder instead of getting a shelter dog was "the animal-protection world equivalent of kicking a hobo," which demonstrated only that there's no legitimate point that PETA can't make in the most insensitive and idiotic way possible.

In the meantime, here's hoping that Sunny and Ashtyn are feeling well recovered from the media fuss and have very happy holidays.


Thu, 05 Dec 2013 12:00:00 -0800 /the-scoop/michelle-obama-white-house-dog-sunny-2-year-old-girl-knocked-over
<![CDATA[D.C. Dog Walkers Get Shut Out in the Government Shutdown]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/government-shutdown-washington-dc-dog-walkers Since the federal government shut down on Oct. 1, more than half a million federal employees have been staying home on furlough — without work and without pay.

One unexpected effect of the shutdown is that it's killing the dog-walking market in Washington, D.C. While dogs and their owners might see having more quality time as a silver lining in a very dark cloud, the walkers and their agencies are just worried about how long they'll be without business.

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Overwhelmed dog walker by Thomas Nord / Shutterstock.com

Christina Bell, owner of Doggy Daze DC, told the Huffington Post last week that her business took a 50 percent dive as soon as the shutdown went into effect. If this lasts longer than an month, she says, she'll probably have to give up dog-walking and find a paycheck another way. That would mean not only losing her own business, but a significant portion of her income as well: "Working at a grocery store or something would be cutting my pay in half."

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Christina Bell owns Doggy Daze dog walking service.

At Saving Grace Pet Care, Grace Steckler has seen a 20 percent decline in business, according to USA Today. Steckler employs 30 walkers, and she's having trouble getting enough work to go around.

"I have fixed expenses that I need to pay no matter what," Steckler said. "My main concern is that my dog walkers are able to make the money they need."

That's probably going to get harder as people start pinching pennies and bracing for the long haul. One of Grace's managers, Karl Sidenstick, says that some of their regulars have called in tears to cancel their walks: "They don't know how long it's going to be so they just can't afford it."

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One of the Muddy Mutt's customers waiting patiently but not happily in a tub.

One dog-related business is reporting a surge in business, thanks to the shutdown. The Muddy Mutt, a self-serve dog wash in Arlington, Virginia, is seeing record crowds because owners who are stuck at home are bringing their dogs to nearby Shirlington Dog Park. Muddy Mutt owner Andrew Low said that, "Usually we're dead during the week ... Twenty-five on Monday, 14 on Tuesday, 23 yesterday. That's a lot during the week. We don't even ever come close to that."

(Via Huffington Post and USA Today)

Top photo: Dog Walker Silhouette by Shutterstock.

Tue, 15 Oct 2013 04:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/government-shutdown-washington-dc-dog-walkers
<![CDATA[Look Out, Puppy Mills, New USDA Regulations Apply to You]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/puppy-mills-dog-breeders-new-usda-federal-regulations Dog breeders who sell dogs over the Internet now face new restrictions, thanks to action by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in response to the puppy mill crisis. The new rules, announced Tuesday, require dog owners who breed more than four females and sell the puppies online to apply for federal licenses, according to the Associated Press.

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A puppy mill in Florida.

Previously, breeders -- including puppy mill operators -- had been able to skirt federal oversight by classifying themselves as retail pet stores, a loophole in the federal Animal Welfare Act. Pet stores are exempt from federal licensing requirements because customers are able to see the dogs before they purchase them. 

The USDA's Kevin Shea says that the idea behind the new rules is that either government inspectors or buyers see the animals with their own eyes before they are sold, according to the Associated Press. 

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Lonely dog in cage by Shutterstock.

The new rules are in response to a 2010 USDA inspector general's report, which uncovered "grisly conditions" at "so-called puppy mills" around the country. Inspectors also found numerous instances of buyers who bought animals who were sick or dying. 

The rules are intended to get eyes on the dogs -- and the places they are born.

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Dogs in captivity by Shutterstock.com

Small-size breeders have lobbied against any changes, fearing they could be regulated out of business. But Shea says the "more than four dogs" requirement should satisfy them.

"People who have generally been thought of as 'hobby breeders' continue to be exempt," he said.

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, praised the move. 

"There are hundreds of thousands of dogs languishing in small wire cages, denied vet care, and exposed to the elements that literally had no protection under federal law," Pacelle said. "This turns that around."

In a blog post, Pacelle wrote: “Puppy mills aren’t going away overnight, and it’s still important for any potential puppy buyer to meet the breeder in person at his or her facility to see how and where a puppy was born and raised. But this rule has the potential to allow federal inspectors to peer behind the closed doors of puppy mills and improve the lives of tens of thousands of animals."

Via the Associated Press 

Wed, 11 Sep 2013 06:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/puppy-mills-dog-breeders-new-usda-federal-regulations
<![CDATA[Furor Over Service Dog's Treatment in a Diner Brings People Together]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/service-dog-kicked-out-diner-furor-apologizes-ptsd-veterans-dogs Last week, after Air Force veteran James Glaser and his service dog, Jack, were turned away from Big I’s diner in Oxford, Massachusetts, the Internet -- and Oxford -- erupted. 

Much of the furor stemmed from owner Russell Ireland's callous treatment of Glaser, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. When Glaser entered the restaurant, he heard someone say, "Get that f-ing fake service dog out of my restaurant." It was Ireland.  

"Just the fact he did it in public, I never felt so belittled in my life," Glaser told NECN in an interview. 

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After being kicked out, Glaser called the police, who informed Ireland that he was in the wrong, but Ireland held his ground. 

"This is not a needs dog to me," Ireland said after the incident. "He did not come in with a harness. There's no muzzle on it."

He also made snide comments.

“How much emotional support do you need when you’re eating breakfast?” he said, according to the Boston Globe.

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Glaser at a weekend rally over the incident.

After Glaser wrote about the event on Facebook, Ireland's world came crashing down. The story drew national attention, outraging veterans and service dog owners alike. A Boycott Big I's Facebook page sprang up, which currently has more than 33,000 likes. Big I's has received a steady stream of angry calls and even arson threats; Ireland has received death threats. 

“It’s the talk of the town; you can’t go anywhere without hearing about it,” said Gordon Cook of Carl’s Oxford Diner. 

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Things came to a head this weekend at a veterans' rally, which was staged at the Greenbriar Recreation Area near the diner to heighten awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder in light of the incident. The rally was organized by the state’s chapter of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, and more than 300 people attended -- after first roaring past Big I's.

Fortunately, one of those was Ireland. Stung by criticism -- and probably looking out for his business --  he attended the rally, got on stage, and apologized directly to Glaser.  

“I stand before you embarrassed, ashamed,” said Ireland, addressing the crowd and Glaser. “I ask for your forgiveness.”

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Glaser and Ireland.

“I just want to thank you for the apology,” said Glaser.

After the rally, Ireland invited Glaser and his wife back to Big I's for a free meal. 

“I was very uneducated about post-traumatic stress disorder,” Ireland told the Boston Globe. “I now realize how important the love of the animals are to those who suffer from the disorder.

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“This has been a living nightmare,” Ireland said. “I am an old-fashioned guy, and this seems to be part of the problem. I am not well known for being politically correct.”

As for Glaser, he is focusing on using his fame to increasing awareness of PTSD. On his Facebook page, he wrote: 

"Just a reminder that the boycott is over and I wish people to eat at his establishment. The purpose of all of this now is education, and he says he is learning and learned. Now let us focus on a bigger forum for education of [the Americans with Disabilities Act] laws and PTSD."

Via the the Boston Globe

Wed, 04 Sep 2013 08:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/service-dog-kicked-out-diner-furor-apologizes-ptsd-veterans-dogs
<![CDATA[Bring Drugs or Guns to School? Say Hi to the Dog Squad]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/drug-sniffing-police-dogs-high-schools-guns Students at Valley Christian High School in San Jose, California, were greeted by Ranger and Sparks, two Golden Retrievers, at the beginning of the school year. But the dogs weren’t there to play -- they were at work. These canines have been specially trained to sniff out drugs and illegal substances by a nonprofit organization called Wonder Woofs, according to an article in the San Jose Mercury News. The high school has a zero-tolerance policy on substance abuse, and the school’s director of security, Joel Gonzalez, brought the dogs on campus to search for drugs.

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High school students and one of the Wonder Woofs dogs. Photo: Valley Christian High School.

“We’re not sniffing students,” he said. “We’re using them to sniff around places like lockers, hallways, and the parking lot.”

School administrators don’t believe that the school’s drug problems are any worse than other high schools, but they say the dogs act as a smart deterrent.

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The dog nose knows best by Shutterstock.

Valley Christian is not the only high school to allow drug-sniffing canines on campus. School administrators across the country are embracing this trend. In Green Township, Ohio (a Cincinnati suburb), school officials at Oak Hill High School have enlisted dogs from American Success Dog Training to sniff out drugs as well as weapons.

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Photo: American Success Dog Training

WCPO-TV reports that Atticus, a 60-pound Dutch Shepherd, has been walking the school’s halls with security personnel in search of illegal substances and weapons. District superintendent Todd Yohey said the reaction from parents has been positive.

“I’ve received a lot of comments and there have been a great many social media posts about Atticus,” he said. “There were two questions about what we’d do about students who are afraid of dogs, but they didn’t realize Atticus would be on a leash with handlers.”

When Atticus comes across an illegal substance, he sits down and stays at the location. He doesn’t take commands from anyone except his handlers. At night, Atticus goes home with the school’s principal.

Meanwhile, in Santa Barbara, California, school district officials recently voted to renew the contract for another year with Interquest Detection Canines. As reported in an article by Noozhawk.com, district officials had some reservations about the drug-sniffing canine program but gave the program another year. There are questions as to whether the practice of sniffing students’ belongings violates the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as well as questions of how effective the $13,500 annual program has been. Controlled-substance violations were at a 10-year low last year, but this trend has been declining for the past three years.

Thu, 29 Aug 2013 12:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/drug-sniffing-police-dogs-high-schools-guns
<![CDATA[Obama Comes Clean on Why He Got His New Dog, Sunny]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/president-obama-dog-sunny-white-house-cnn-chris-cuomo Last week, the nation was caught by surprise when the president came home with a new dog -- Sunny, a Portuguese Water Dog, just like Bo. Up to that point, the president had been intent on fighting the "second dog" legislation, co-authored by his daughters, that had been winding its way through the bedrooms and pillow forts of the White House for months. 

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Why the sudden change of heart? Does Sasha have something on the president? Did Bo strong-arm him on the south lawn? Did he start watching House of Cards on Neflix like I just did? Speculation has been rife. Some thought the dog was to distract attention away from the White House and that World War III was starting ... now

The truth, however, is far more mundane. In a groundbreaking interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo, Obama comes clean on the Sunny. He says he got the dog because his girls, 15 and 12, don't like "family time" as much as they did before, and he and Michelle need a little pick me up around the house. 

"What I’m discovering is that each year I get more excited about spending time with them, they get a little less excited. ... I think there is an element for Michelle and me of, you know, we see what’s coming and we need to make sure that we got somebody who greets us at the door when we get home."

And that somebody is the butler. I mean Sunny. 

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To be sure, Bo was a big part of the decision. According to the president, Bo is also feeling sad that the girls are away a lot of the time, and the president and his wife wanted to make sure he had company. 

"Yep, Bo was getting lonely because the two other puppies are grown up. And they still have some responsibilities for him, but they’re not always around between school, sports practice, all that stuff. And so Bo was starting to look a little down in the dumps inside the house. And Sunny, the new dog. she’s only a year old and, uh, the truth is she’s faster than she is, she jumps higher, she’s friskier."

Sunny has also put Michelle in “in full parenting mode," said the president, and "really focused on getting Sunny to sit and catch."

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Portuguese Water Dogs Bo and Sunny live with President Obama and his family.

And the dog pees on the floor. For reals. 

"Is that like a federal violation?" wondered CNN's Cuomo. "Because that's a national museum."

"We live in rental housing. We didn't have to put down a deposit," said the president. "But we are making sure that it gets cleaned up for the next occupant."

Here's Sunny in action: 

Official White House Photos by Pete Souza.

Mon, 26 Aug 2013 08:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/president-obama-dog-sunny-white-house-cnn-chris-cuomo
<![CDATA[Score! The White House Takes a Stand Against Breed Specific Legislation]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/white-house-takes-a-stand-againt-breed-specific-legislation-bsl On Dec. 19 of last year, a petition was created on the White House's "We the People" section of its website, titled "Ban and outlaw Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) in the United States of America on a Federal level!" It has more than 30,000 signatures. It also just got the backing of President Obama. 

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The First Family's new dog, Sunny; it's a big month for dogs at the White House.

On Aug. 12, the White House posted the "official White House response" to the petition, and its contents have anti-BSL groups cheering. The White House is throughly against BSL -- at whatever level of government. 

Here's the response in full: 

Thanks for your petition.

We don't support breed-specific legislation -- research shows that bans on certain types of dogs are largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources.

In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at twenty years of data about dog bites and human fatalities in the United States. They found that fatal attacks represent a very small proportion of dog bite injuries to people and that it's virtually impossible to calculate bite rates for specific breeds.

The CDC also noted that the types of people who look to exploit dogs aren't deterred by breed regulations -- when their communities establish a ban, these people just seek out new, unregulated breeds. And the simple fact is that dogs of any breed can become dangerous when they're intentionally or unintentionally raised to be aggressive.

For all those reasons, the CDC officially recommends against breed-specific legislation -- which they call inappropriate. ...

As an alternative to breed-specific policies, the CDC recommends a community-based approach to prevent dog bites. And ultimately, we think that's a much more promising way to build stronger communities of pets and pet owners.

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Bo trying to rustle up a game of fetch.

So, it looks like BSL won't become federal law, but what about breed bans in effect in individual municipalities? Many believe this will give people a boost to get rid of them or to prevent similar local laws from occurring. 

"The White House is such a bully pulpit for important issues," Lisa LaFontaine, Pit Bull owner and president of the Washington Humane Society, told the Huffington Post. "And certainly for them to come down against this type of discrimination I think will give pause to any communities that are thinking about putting something like this in place, and certainly will fuel the work that's already being done by advocates to overturn legislation that already exists."

"It's a really happy day," she said. 

However, a new petition went up right after the White House posted its response. It turns out that the federal government does have breed bans in place -- at military base housing. A new petition is asking "the President to direct his Secretary of Defense to develop military base housing policies that do not ban dogs based on appearance, and that protect people from dangerous dogs based solely on behavior."

The petition, last we checked, had nearly 3,000 signatures. Yours could be next.

Fri, 23 Aug 2013 08:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/white-house-takes-a-stand-againt-breed-specific-legislation-bsl
<![CDATA[The American Kennel Club Protests Russian Homophobia]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/american-kennel-club-russia-anti-gay-law-homophobia-world-dog-show The American Kennel Club has made an incredible step forward to defend human diversity in the dog world. The World Dog Show, which is the dog world's equivalent of the Olympics (a comparison that will matter in a moment), is scheduled to take place in Russia in 2016. For those who haven't been following the news, Russia has recently passed and begun enforcing some scary anti-gay laws. The legislation outlaws the discussion of LGBT rights or relationships anywhere that minors might overhear them -- which covers a lot of places. The result has been the arrest and beating of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.

In response, the AKC has released a strong public statement written by chairman of the board Alan T. Kalter Chairman as well as President and CEO Dennis B. Sprung. It condemns Russia's homophobic law and also demands that Fédération Cynologique Internationale move the dog show to a county where all guardians, regardless of sexual orientation, will be safe to participate.

The 2014 Winter Olympics are also scheduled to be held in Russia, and many people are calling for those to also be moved for the safety of LGBT athletes and spectators. Although the AKC is not known for its progressive politics, this is a tremendous statement that carries a lot of weight in the international dog world.

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Here I am at an agility trial with my dog Snickers, about six months before I would come out as gay and be kicked out of my home.

You can read the whole AKC statement here. And here is my favorite part:

"Dogs do not discriminate. Gender, race, sexual orientation, and other status do not enter the equation of responsible pet ownership. That is why the American Kennel Club and our constituency are puzzled and disappointed by the decision to allow Russia to host the 2016 World Dog Show. The proliferation of anti-gay and lesbian laws in Russia today is both disturbing and shocking to our community. The choice of this country as a venue for such a prestigious dog show flies in the face of the ideals of the human-canine bond."

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Charlotte and Mercury getting their pride on!

Even though I'm the guardian of two mixed breed dogs, I care about what the AKC has to say. They wield an undeniable amount of power in the world of dogs, and when they make this kind of statement it carries huge cultural meaning, not only to the International Dog Show, which hopefully will not take place in Russia, but also to the dog world here in the States. For me this isn't just a story in the news, it hits very close to home. It was a homophobic dog show world that left me 17 years old, homeless and faced with no choice but to rehome my dogs who were not only my best friends, but also my teammates in canine sports, and the only reason I survived high school and my abusive childhood home.

It sounds silly, but when I read the AKC's statement about Russia, LGBT people, and the world dog I started crying. A lot has changed for me in the years since I became homeless and had my dogs ripped away from me -- I've built my own home and been able to recapture stolen dreams of working with dogs -- but there are still moments when the past haunts me. I think about how much has changed in the past 12 years. I think about being a scared homeless gay teenager holding empty leashes. I never would have believed that I would see the AKC would issue this kind of powerful statement. It says in no uncertain terms that dogs do not discriminate, which is the beauty of the human dog bond, and that as a gay person I am not only welcome in the dog world, but the most powerful dog organization in the country will fight to protect us.

About the author: Sassafras Lowrey is a dog-obsessed author based in Brooklyn. She is the winner of the 2013 Berzon Emerging Writer Award from the Lambda Literary Foundation, and the editor of two anthologies and one novel. Sassafras is a Certified Trick Dog Instructor, and she assists with dog agility classes. She lives with her partner, two dogs of dramatically different sizes, and two bossy cats. She is always on the lookout for adventures with her canine pack. Learn more at her website.

Read more by Sassafras Lowrey:

Thu, 15 Aug 2013 08:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/american-kennel-club-russia-anti-gay-law-homophobia-world-dog-show
<![CDATA[It's About Time: Activists in China Protest a Dog-Meat Festival]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/china-activists-dog-meat-festival In a mark of changing opinions in China over the welfare of dogs, the dog-meat festival in the southern city of Yulin promoted strong negative reactions by the public, signaling that one day such barbaric events might be no more. 

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, the festival, in which people traditionally eat dog meat with lychee fruit on the summer solstice, attracted "intense attention" on news websites and on Weibo, China's version of Twitter. Activists had been protesting during the run-up to the event, asserting that many of the "table-bound canines were abducted strays and pets being slaughtered at unlicensed butcheries."

The day before the event, there was even a pro-dog demonstration held in Beijing. Activists are heartened by the increased attention, as it shows that people are finally beginning to place animal welfare over cultural traditions. 

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Protestors at the 2012 Yulin dog-meat festival.

“Thousands of dogs will be eaten at a dog meat festival in Yulin,” wrote one Weibo user, Yu Jichun. “As long as such a festival still exists in China, this country can't start talk about becoming civilized.”

According to the story, Grace Gabriel, Asia regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said that more than 100,000 people had signed an online petition condemning dog meat festivals, and that many such events have been abandoned in recent years. 

“I was kind of surprised that Yulin went ahead this year,” she said. “As more and more people keep dogs as pets, more and more people are against slaughtering them for meat.”

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Laws protecting dogs in China are abysmal -- there are none, really. There's nothing to prevent the abuse, abduction, and killing of dogs.

“There is no law to protect them, other than quarantine laws, which require that animals sent to slaughter have quarantine certificates,” said Gabriel.

The reports of the Yulin festival are horrific. Du Yufeng, founder of the Boai Small Animal Protection Centre, which has been protesting in Yulin, told the Telegraph, "We have seen animals beaten just before being cooked ... the more we inspect, the more cruelty we discover."

Activists say that about 10,000 dogs are killed every year, many "burned, electrocuted, and skinned alive," according to the Huffington Post.

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Lost dog by Shutterstock.

Though the festival did take place, some dogs were saved. Song Jinzhang of the China Small Animal Protection Association traveled to Yulan with other activists, and they forced government inspectors to shut down an illegal dog-slaughtering facility. 

He said 48 dogs were saved. 

The key is “to try to convince people not to eat dog meat, because that will reduce demand,” he said.

Via the L.A. Times

Mon, 24 Jun 2013 10:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/china-activists-dog-meat-festival