Friday, February 15, 2008

Dog gets death sentence

In Ontario, all it takes is hear say to have a Pit bull breed condemned. It doesn't matter if you can prove differently. They won't listen and that's the frightening thing for all Bullie owners.

You're always at mercy with an ex that could want to make trouble, or a neighbour dispute. Even someone who just bluntly does not like the breeds and can say, 'That dog was looking at me aggressively.', when in fact the dogs tail was wagging and just wanted to say, 'hi.'

This story was in an article of the Toronto Star.

Dog gets death sentence
Pit bull or just pitiable? Court backs decision to put down dog accused of biting Toronto man
Feb 14, 2008 04:30 AM

Staff Reporter

Is he a pit bull or isn't he?

Did he bite a man and his dog or was the man threatening him with a knife?

The facts are unclear, but Munchie's fate may be sealed. This week a court upheld a decision by Toronto Animal Services to have the 4-year-old dog destroyed. Munchie has 30 days to live, pending an appeal.

The case began last September when Munchie escaped his downtown backyard. A scuffle ended with Munchie's quarantine and criminal charges against the man the dog is alleged to have attacked.

Sheila Yeung, one of Munchie's owners, said her neighbour had previously threatened to kill the dog and on that day he attacked the dog with a knife. When the dog broke free of his grasp, it ran into the house, she said.

Yeung, a 21-year-old Ryerson student, said she locked her door only to have the man break in, make threats and hold her at knifepoint. That man currently faces charges including uttering threats, break and enter and threatening with a weapon. None of the allegations has been proven in court.

But the man claims he and his dog were bitten. As a result, Munchie was quarantined and has remained with Animal Services since.

In October, Animal Services classified Munchie as a pit bull, and a threat to the safety of others.

Yeung said the dog is gentle and friendly. Munchie is a mutt who looks like a chocolate Lab, she said.

She does not believe he is a pit bull, and a Canadian Kennel Club-licensed judge agrees. After assessing the dog, Mike Macbeth concluded Munchie is not a pit bull but a mongrel that most resembles a field Labrador.

"I thought this case was a slam dunk. He doesn't have any characteristics of a pit bull. He looks like a skinny chocolate Lab," said Macbeth. But the court concluded Macbeth was biased and noted that of the eight dogs she has assessed for court cases, she has claimed none were pit bulls.

Eletta Purdy, manager of Animal Services, said looking at pictures of Munchie can be misleading.

"We believe he is a restricted pit bull," she said. "... We had evidence that the dog did attack and bit at least one person and one animal. Upon investigation of that incident, we believed it would continue to be a menace."

A restricted pit bull is one born and owned in Ontario before Aug. 29, 2005, when the province-wide ban on pit bulls came into effect.

Purdy said staff use accumulated knowledge, training and experience to determine the breed of a dog. In the case of a pit bull, legislation also provides guidance.

The Dog Owners' Liability Act defines a pit bull as a pit bull terrier, a Staffordshire bull terrier, an American Staffordshire terrier, an American pit bull terrier or a dog that has an appearance and physical characteristics that are "substantially similar" to those dogs.

Yeung and Angela Feng, 24, co-owner of the dog, said they're upset the court rejected the argument Munchie is not a pit bull. The court ordered they pay $15,000 in court costs, money they don't have.

Lawyer Terry Green argued the expert they hired has more experience and knowledge than those at Animal Services. "Munchie looks like Bill Clinton's dog Buddy. He's a chocolate Lab," Green said.

Yeung and Feng have 30 days to file an appeal or Munchie will be destroyed.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Fight for Rambo, dog owner urges

Here we go again trying to prove Rambo is NOT a pit bull breed just because of similarities that other breeds also have, but despite the papers saying Rambo is an American Bull dog, ACC says differently.

I've written about Rambo before, so this is a continuation.

Fight for Rambo, dog owner urges

Nova Scotia’s Marilyn Cameron (above) fought her local government to win the right to keep her mix-breed dog, Zeus. She is encouraging Mississauga’s Gabriela Nowakowska to go to court for her dog Rambo, who is being held by Mississauga Animal Control under a pit bull ban.

Jim MacDonald
February 6, 2008 09:51 AM - A Nova Scotia dog owner is warning Mississauga's Gabriela Nowakowska to prepare for a long and bumpy legal ride as she tries to stop her pet from being put down.

The Mississauga woman appears in court later this month on charges of owning a prohibited animal. Her dog, Rambo, a 10-month-old pup the City of Mississauga says is a pit bull, is set to be euthanized under provincial legislation passed in 2005 that outlaws ownership of pit bulls. Rambo was picked up on Christmas Day by Animal Control officers after he got loose from Nowakowska's yard.

Nowakowska has been fighting a much-publicized battle to save her dog's life.

It's an issue that hits home for Nova Scotia's Marilyn Cameron, who along with her husband, Willard, butted heads with the Municipality of the District of Guysborough over their mix-breed dog, Zeus.

The Atlantic municipality had contended that the animal, which turns 16 this spring, was a pit bull. That breed has been banned in Guysborough since the mid-1990s.

But after a legal battle that lasted some 20 months — and reportedly cost taxpayers almost $10,000 in veterinarian and legal fees — the judge dismissed charges against the couple because the Crown could not prove the breed, technically, existed.

"The only thing to do is to keep fighting," Cameron said in a recent phone interview. "And it gets frustrating, but so long as you know you're in the right, just keep fighting until you get it resolved."

Unlike the legislation in Ontario, Guysborough council did not incorporate a grandfather clause when it banned breeds identified to have pit bull blood, such as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, or any dog of mixed breeds that were on the banned list.

Animal Control officers first learned of Zeus in April 2005, when a spat between the Camerons and a neighbour resulted in the dog being outed as a pit bull.
The two-day trial began in November 2006.

Much of the prosecutor's case rested on Crown witness Dr. Robert Robb, a veterinarian who examined the dogs one week before trial.

He testified the term "pit bull" is a general phrase used for canines that are mixed breeds, and there's no blood testing procedure that exists to determine whether a dog has the genetic makeup to be classified as such an animal.

Robb said he concluded Zeus had such blood after consulting a chart used by the City of San Francisco that lists the characteristics of pit bulls, such as a thick cranium and length of coat.
Robb testified that Zeus had several attributes listed on the chart, but agreed under cross examination that while all animals identified as pit bulls will have such features, not all dogs with those characteristics are pit bulls.

While rendering his decision, Judge Robert Stroud stated the bylaw was "vague and overreaching," and with a lack of blood testing that could confirm an animal is a pit bull-type dog, he questioned, "How, then, is it possible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any particular dog meets that description for purposes of a quasi-criminal prosecution?"

That's a question posed many times by Sonny Allinson, communications manager for the Canadian Kennel Club's Toronto chapter.

Under Ontario law, the onus of proving a dog is not a pit bull lies with its owner if a veterinarian certificate identifies the canine as being part of the banned breed. But since the legislation does not offer a set list of guidelines for veterinarians to determine if a dog is a pit bull, Allinson believes the opinions are subject to interpretation.

"It certainly puts a lot of individual opinion in the hands of those animal control officers (and veterinarians)...without any consistency," he said.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Vick's dogs find home, hope in Utah

We haven't heard much on Michael Vick's dogs after the fact, so I thought this article very interesting. Even after all this poor dog went through (which was a LOT) all it wanted was to be loved. Typical Bullie!

Vick's dogs find home, hope in Utah

But even best of care can't make scars fade

New York Times
Published on: 02/03/08

Kanab, Utah — A quick survey of Georgia, a caramel-colored pit bull mix with cropped ears and soulful brown eyes, offers a road map to a difficult life. Her tongue juts from the left side of her mouth because her jaw, once broken, healed at an awkward angle. Her tail zigzags.

Scars from puncture wounds on her face, legs and torso reveal that she was a fighter. Her misshapen, dangling teats show that she may have been such a successful, vicious competitor that she was forcibly bred, her new handlers suspect, again and again.

Garrett Davis/New York Times
A pit bull named Georgia does her best to grab a ball. All her teeth were pried out when she was owned by dogfighters, most likely to make certain she could not harm male dogs during forced breeding. The tooth-pulling caused excruciating pain, experts say.
Garrett Davis/New York Times
Jeff Popowich, an animal care adviser at the Best Friends Animal Society Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, gets a kiss from Lucas, one of the 47 dogs seized from the Vick property.

But there is one haunting sign that Georgia may have endured more abuse than any of the 47 surviving pit bulls seized last April from the property of suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in connection with an illegal dogfighting ring.

Georgia has no teeth. All 42 of them were pried from her mouth, most likely to make certain she could not harm male dogs during forced breeding.

Her caregivers here at the Best Friends Animal Society sanctuary, the new home for 22 of Vick's former dogs, are less concerned with her physical wounds than her emotional ones. They wonder why she barks incessantly at her doghouse and what makes her roll her toys so obsessively that her nose is rubbed raw.

"I'm worried most about Georgia," said the Best Friends veterinarian Dr. Frank McMillan, an expert on the emotional health of animals, who edited the textbook "Mental Health and Well-Being in Animals." "You don't have the luxury of asking her, or any of these animals: 'What happened to you in your past life? How can we stop you from hurting?'

"So here we are left with figuring out how to bring joy to her life," he said of Georgia, known to lick the face of anyone who comes near. "We want to offset the unpleasant memories that dwell in her brain."

Vick, once the highest-paid player in the NFL, is serving a 23-month sentence in a federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan., for bankrolling his Bad Newz Kennels dogfighting operation and helping execute dogs that were not good fighters. Dogs were electrocuted, hanged, drowned, shot or slammed to the ground, according to court records. Two mass graves with the remains of eight pit bulls were found on Vick's property in rural Virginia.

Pit bulls seized from illegal fighting operations are usually euthanized after becoming property of the government. The Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals recommended that Vick's dogs be euthanized, but many animal rescue organizations urged the prosecutors to let the dogs live.

The government agreed to give them a second chance after Vick agreed to pay $928,073 for evaluation and care of all the dogs. They were seen by animal experts, who named the dogs, and were eventually dispersed to eight rescue organizations for adoption, rehabilitation or lifetime care in sanctuaries, where they have been neutered. Only one of Vick's dogs was euthanized for aggression against people.

Best Friends, which is caring for more dogs than any other organization, received about $389,000. Many of their dogs are expected to be adopted after they are rehabilitated and matched with the right families. Vick's 25 other dogs are in foster care all over the country.

Abused, now pampered

Life at Best Friends is nothing like it was at Vick's property on Moonlight Road in Smithfield, Va., where many of the dogs were found chained to buried car axles. They slept on concrete. Their water, if any, was kept in algae-covered bowls. Most were underfed. Some showed recent lacerations.

Here, they live in a 3,700-acre sanctuary that is covered by juniper trees and sagebrush, and surrounded by canyons and red-rock formations. They have food called Canine Caviar, squeaky toys, fluffy beds and four full-time caregivers. The caregiver on the night shift curls up with the dogs for naps.

They are assigned to an area of the sanctuary called Dogtown Heights, what Best Friends calls a gated community. Vick's dogs have their own building with heated floors, sound-absorbing barriers and skylights. Each has an individual dog run because, for now, the dogs must remain isolated, for safety's sake.

Little Red is a tiny rust-colored female whose teeth were filed, likely because she was bait for the Bad Newz fighters. Handlers cannot explain why loud noises make her jumpy.

Cherry, a black-and-white male, has what seem to be chemical burns on his back. His file at Best Friends says he loves car rides and hind rubs. But like many of Vick's pit bulls, he is petrified of new situations and new people.

Oscar cowers in the corner of his run when strangers arrive. Shadow runs in circles. Black Bear pants so heavily that he seems on the verge of hyperventilation.

Vick paid $18,275 for the lifetime care of each of his dogs here but one. Denzel was deemed highly adoptable, so his fee was only $5,000.

Bred to be friendly

John Garcia, the assistant dog care manager of Dogtown, which houses about 500 dogs, said pit bulls that are withdrawn or aggressive toward humans break his heart because they are bred to be people-friendly. "With most of these dogs ... their actions are based on fear," said Garcia, who communicates with the dogs in soothing baby talk. "The biggest job we have with these guys is teaching them that it's OK to trust people. It may take months or years, but we're very stubborn. We won't give up on them."

Because the dogs are still adjusting to their surroundings, it is difficult to predict how many of them will become adoptable. They arrived Jan. 2 from Richmond on a chartered airplane, stressed after eight months in shelters. In initial evaluations last September, many lay flat and looked frightened. Now, many respond to caregivers by wagging their tails and giving sloppy kisses.

"They have improved by light-years," Garcia said, adding that it would take patience and a lot of time for these dogs to be happy and safe in an adoptive home.

Caregivers walk the dogs several times a day and spend time in their kennels, praising and caressing them. It is progress when a dog like Cherry does not need to be carried, because he is afraid to walk on a leash. It is monumental when Shadow approaches them without retreating.

Coping with trauma

Whether Georgia will find happiness is a big question. McMillan said she exhibited behavior that might be trauma coping mechanisms.

Georgia gnaws on her doghouse. She flipped her bed over so much that her handlers removed it. When toys are around, she often ignores people. Georgia, who was called Jane at Bad Newz Kennels, was sold to Vick in 2001 to help start his dogfighting business. She is thought to be his oldest dog, but her handlers can only guess that she is about 7. Dogs' ages are usually estimated by examining their teeth, but she has none.

Having those teeth extracted, McMillan and other vets said, must have been excruciating. Even with medication, dogs are in pain after losing one tooth, which may take more than an hour of digging, prying and leveling to pull.

"These dogs have been beaten and starved and tortured, and they have every reason not to trust us," John Garcia said as Georgia crawled onto his lap, melted into him for an afternoon nap and began to snore. "But deep down, they love us and still want to be with us. It is amazing how resilient they are."