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Posts Tagged ‘Dogs’

Hooray Austin! No Kill Achieved in 2011

DaisyPress release from Austin Animal Services:

City of Austin


Release Date: Jan. 06, 2012
Contact: Patricia Fraga     512-974-2969

City of Austin achieves No-Kill City status for 2011

Austin Animal Center reported today a 91 percent live animal outcome rate for 2011 making the City of Austin officially a No-Kill City.Since February 2011, the City shelter and its rescue partners have consistently saved the lives of at least 90 percent or more of the animals entering the shelter.  This allowed the City to average more than that live outcome benchmark for the entire year, making it the first major urban city in Texas to do so. (View the full 2011 Live Animal Outcome report, 78 KB PDF.)The City’s work to achieve this goal began in March 2010 with the implementation of the City Council approved No-Kill Plan which was developed to reduce animal intake and increase live animal outcomes.

“Despite the busy mating season, an extreme summer, a major disaster in Bastrop County which brought an influx of lost pets into the city, and a major move to a new Animal Center we were able to stay on course to save as many animals lives as possible,” Chief Animal Services Officer Abigail Smith said.  “This is a true testament to the entire community’s compassion for the lost, abandoned, sick and injured animals that end up in the shelter system.”

Throughout 2011, the center saw an increase in adoptions, foster homes, volunteers and spay /neuter surgeries which all contributed to making this community no-kill.


(Photo credit: signalchao on stock.xchng)


Washington court rules county “dangerous dog” policy unconstitutional, sort of

Working Like a (always a font of questionable journalism) ran a story last week about an appellate court in Pierce County, Washington that ruled the county’s “dangerous dog” policy to be unconstitutional. In fact, the headline reads “Dangerous dog policy in Pierce County deemed unconstitutional.” If only the story were that simple.

Now, I would be the first to welcome a bit of constitutional scrutiny of our dangerous dog laws. I’ve represented dog owners in dangerous dog proceedings, and I hope it doesn’t seem like too much of a pun to say they are frequently not much better than kangaroo courts. State, county, and municipal laws set out standards for how a determination of “dangerousness” is made, a hearing is scheduled, a judge or a panel of officials hear evidence from the dog owner, the victim, and others, and a finding of “dangerousness” almost always results. Because, at the end of the day, it is usually an injured person versus a dog, and the human almost always has more political clout.

Of course, I’m generalizing, but this has been my experience.

Now then, back to the constitutional question. The case in question involved a Great Pyrenees and a Pomeranian. I’d rather not get into the details of how that turned out, but suffice it to say the Great Pyrenees was the one on trial. The dog’s owner had to pay a fee to the county simply to obtain a hearing on the decision, made without her input at all, that her dog was dangerous.

The court in Washington did not rule that the county’s policy vis a vis the dogs themselves is unconstitutional. They ruled that the practice of charging fees to the dog owners to challenge determinations made by the county animal control authority to be unconstitutional. In short, if you live in Pierce County and you wanted to have an actual hearing on whether or not your dog is “dangerous,” you have to pay the county $250. That’s the fee for an “informal” hearing. For a “formal” hearing, you need $500. If you couldn’t afford the fee, the county could declare your dog dangerous, and you couldn’t do a thing about it. A “dangerous dog” designation could obligate you to obtain extra insurance, keep the dog confined at all times, or lose the dog entirely.

Charging a three-figure fee just to have a day in court, quite frankly, is crap, so the Court of Appeals did the right thing.

As for the policy towards the dogs themselves, unless and until the law starts to view dogs as something more than just chattel with teeth, it won’t be improving any time soon.

Photo credit: Working Like a Dog by KM Photography.., on Flickr.


“You weren’t given a gift, you were given a life.”

Who knows where this originally came from.

T’was the night before Christmas and all thru the house
Not a creature was stirring not even a mouse.
Our stockings were hung by the chimney with care
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds
with no thought of their dog that was filling their head.
With mom in her kerchief and I in my cap
I knew our dog was cold, yet didn’t care about that.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
figuring our dog was free of his chain and into the trash.
The moon on the crest of the new fallen snow
gave the luster of mid-day to objects below.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
but Santa Claus with his eyes full of tears.
He unchained our dog once …so lively and quick…
last year’s Christmas present now painfully sick.

More rapid than eagles he called the dog’s name
and our dog ran to him despite all of his pain.
“On Dasher, on Dancer, now Prancer and Vixen,
on Comet, on Cupid, on Donner and Blitzen!”
To the top of the porch to the top of the wall
“Let’s find this dog a home where he will be loved by all.”

I knew in an instant there’d be no gifts this year,
for Santa had made one thing exceedingly clear.
The gift of a dog is not just for the season.
We had gotten the dog for all the wrong reasons.
In our haste to think of the kids a cool gift
there was one very important thing that we missed.
A dog should be family, and cared for the same.
You don’t give a gift, and then put it on a chain.
And I heard him explain as he rode out of sight,
“You weren’t given a gift, you were given a life.”

Baby Ruth
Photo credit: Baby Ruth by AAWLSPCA, on Flickr.


Words matter when talking about pit bulls

Boxer/pit-bull close-up 2I came across a great post called “Pit bull awareness: words do matter” at the Love and a Six-Foot Leash blog (thanks, Meghan!)

It discusses how the words we use to support pit bulls and to try to educate people about them carry more weight than we often realize. People tend to hear what they already believe in other people’s words, and some of the words used to describe pitties have more than one interpretation.

You should read the whole post (go ahead, I’ll wait), but here are the highlights:

Don’t call them American Pit Bull Terriers.

Don’t call them bullies or bully breeds.

Don’t say “it’s all in how they’re raised.”

Don’t ascribe attributes — good or bad — based solely on appearance.

Here are my own thoughts on these points:

Most dogs now described as “pit bulls” aren’t pit bulls at all. They’re mixes of many, many other breeds.

For a very long time, I took the term “bully breed” at face value. I thought it meant that these types of dogs were more likely to be “bullies” in a schoolyard sense. That’s not what it means at all.

It’s not how they’re raised at all. It’s how they’re being treated right now.

Any dog can be the nicest, sweetest dog in the w0rld. Don’t judge a book by its cover, duh.

Photo: Boxer/pit-bull close-up 2 by bastique, on Flickr.


Three Cheers for Austin Pit Bulls!!!

LokiI had the awesome and amazing privilege of attending Love A Bull’s Third Annual Pit Bull Awareness Day event this past Sunday, and to be their social media guy for the day. The weather was not as cooperative as I might have liked, but the park was full, the people were out with their dogs, and the dogs were phenomenal. I also had the honor to meet and hang out with Tim Racer and Donna Reynolds, the founders of Oakland, California’s BAD RAP, who rehabilitated many of Michael Vick’s dogs when so many other people just wanted them put down. I occasionally find myself at a loss for words, so I’ll just say this about them:

I have met a fair number of famous people, including politicians, actors, musicians. I have spent some time in our nation’s capital, and Capitol, and I have shook the hands of quite a few important people. Meeting Tim and Donna was a bigger honor than any of that.

Media coverage, as always, was a concern. Pit bulls are a popular target for people looking to score a few easy points for sensationalism and fear. Lazy journalists can just pop out a few scares about pit bulls for people who don’t know much about the breed, or who think that they know all they need to know because someone they know once got bitten by a pit or because they Googled “dog bite” and got 10,000 hits about pit bulls. As it happens, the day passed without incident in the park, although in a strange cosmic twist, a man on the hike & bike trail was bitten by a “pit bull type” dog, which could mean almost anything short of a chihuahua. How media outlets chose to focus its coverage is a good measure of how worthwhile those media sources are, as well as how worthwhile their reporters are. Here is my take on the stories put out by the media right after the event (please note these are my opinions, and mine alone):

1. Karen Brooks, CultureMap Austin. I name Ms. Brooks’ story on the event, and by extension Ms. Brooks herself, as the best coverage of the event by far. Her article, “With a face like that, what’s not to love? Pit bull festival celebrates a misunderstood breed,” has put the focus where it belongs: on the facts and figures from the people who know the most, and on the dogs themselves. After giving quite a bit of ink to the people and dogs enjoying the day, she drops this bit of awesome on us:

[Pit bull] critics trot out myths to back their vastly unresearched opinions, the most popular of which is the completely false one about pit bulls’ jaws locking on its targets and that unproven theory that pit bulls are ticking time bombs.

These people vigorously defend a mysterious willingness to decide that one highly publicized pit bull attack means all pit bulls are alike, much like the indefensible position that one undocumented immigrant from Mexico means that all Latinos swam the river to get here.

Among the most embarrassing and irresponsible factors in all this is the treatment of pit bulls by the news media.

We in the media like stories about bad guys, and we like stories that draw high ratings/hits/circulation numbers. Pit bull stories, unfortunately, make it easy to do both because they let us play on fear and ignorance while skimping on time and facts and increasing our audience.

But some stories simply don’t have two sides.

In covering Sunday’s festival, I’m not going to drag out the cursory anti-pittie quote from a victim because, frankly, while the experience was horrific, being bitten by a dog does not make them experts on an entire breed.

I’m not going to talk to your typical man-on-the-street because, frankly, while they may have consumed lots of stories about dog bites, simply watching TV does not make them experts, either.

And as a member of the media, I’m not going to be dragged into a CYA-inspired back-and-forth that gives ink to unsubstantiated rumors simply for the sake of appearing to be fair. This is a common trick of the media that occasionally fools even the most discerning viewer/reader/listener into thinking we’re actually being balanced.

(Allowing someone to parrot untruths unchecked is, actually, unfair and intellectually dishonest, and it’s time the media quit doing it. But that’s a WHOLE ‘nother essay…)

On Sunday, the story simply was that hundreds of beloved pit bulls and their proud owners turned out to show society that these dogs, like Justice, can be pure bundles of joy. And, with or without the audience, to just celebrate their dogs in a nonjudgmental environment.

2. Jim Swift, KXAN. With his article, “Pit bull lovers campaign for ‘underdog,’” Mr. Swift has done a good job telling Love A Bull’s story and showing how pit bull’s have become a victim of bad owners and stereotypes. He begins, alas, with stories of attacks by “pit bull-type” dogs around Austin over the course of several months, but he eventually gets to some good coverage of the event. Pit bull critics can read the first few paragraphs and then go about their business without having to challenge any of their previously-held assumptions. If I have learned anything, it is that some people cling tenaciously to Just Not Getting It (you might even say that pit bull critics cling to their arguments with their jaws locked down.) For those who care to learn, though, this is a good overview of Love-A-Bull and its mission to help pit bulls and their image. He extensively interviews Lydia Zaidman, one of Love-A-Bull’s founders, and Dr. Lynanne Mockler, an Austin veterinarian who knows these dogs well.

3. Fox Austin’s byline-less article, simply titled “Pit Bull Awareness Day,” waits until the fifth paragraph of an eight-paragraph article to mention the event, but at least it describes the dogs as “calm.”

4. Steve Alberts of KVUE is last, and very much least. He wrote an article entitled “Man attacked by dog at the Hike and Bike Trail.” He will be getting his own blog post, because I want to keep this one positive.

Something I noticed that gives me a sense of hope is the near-total lack of negative comments on all but one of the stories. An online article on pit bulls invariably brings out a few people who will post comments, sometimes being generous with their use of ALL CAPS, explaining how pit bulls are impossible to train and cannot be rehabilitated because yargle blargle wargle lalalalalalala and so forth. Pit bull advocates, though surely well-meaning, always end up sinking to their level in responding, calling them “ignorant” and whatnot.

Here’s the thing, though: I only saw those negative comments on the Fox story, and the only commenter I saw really phoned it in: some guy named Cody really doesn’t like pit bulls or Rottweilers. It’s hardly even worth trying to argue with him. It seems, though, that if an article gives pitties a fair shake, the haters can’t quite muster the steam to spew in the comments. To that I say hell yeah.

Coming soon: I take on Steve Alberts, and I calmly explain why pit bull critics are wrong.


Austin animals need your help!!!

Austin’s animal shelter will be moving to its new location in one week, so they need help fostering animals! The following is from
Sarah Hammond, Foster Coordinator for Austin Animal Services:

Many of you have signed up to foster animals during our move or asked me how you can help and I’d like to let you know how YOU, yes YOU can help!

We are T minus 7 days before the move so the time is NOW to come pick out a pet you can foster. Dog, cat, kitten, puppy, no matter. As long as their stray time is over and they have no adopter waiting for them, they are available for fostering.

So how can I tell by looking?

Online: Visit go to “Get a Pet” (the cat) from there, click on “View Adoptable Pets” and select dog or cat and the sex and age you are interested in.  Leave that blank if you do not care. Scroll though and jot down the ID number and the Kennel number of the pets you are interested in.

In the Shelter: Working off your list or off the cuff, look for animals you are interested in who have a GREEN “Let’s Go” sign (that means they are done with their stray time) and also do NOT have a PINK “Interest Pending” tag (which means there is already an adopter interested.) You can visit with these animals, pet them, hang out them and decide if you think them crashing at your place for 7-14 days is something that would be a good idea.

How do I take them home?

Visit with the Customer Service Reps in Building C – you want to be sure there are not any medical needs or behavior concerns that you were not aware of. If all looks good, let the staff member know you are ready to take them home and foster them for “The Move”.  The staff member will make sure your pet gets a microchip and a rabies shot (if they are old enough) before they go home with you.

How do I return them?

It will take us several days after the move to settle in and figure out how everything is going to work – be patient with us! I am guessing around the 15th, we will have a decent idea of how things work, how full we are and where we can put incoming foster pets. E-mail and let her know you are ready to turn your foster pet and she will finalize the arrangements.

What if I don’t WANT to return them?

It happens to the best of us, if you want to adopt the pet you fostered, or found someone who is interested in adopting them, let Sarah know. We just need to make sure the animal is old and healthy enough for adoption and also MUST be fixed and chipped before going to a new home. Sarah can help you make these arrangements. If you are an approved foster, you are an approved adopter automatically. If you are a volunteer, you will need to complete the adoption process with customer service. If someone you know wants to adopt the pet, they do have to complete the adoption application with the shelter before they can take ownership of the pet.

No, I don’t want to keep them but I want to try to find them a home and keep them at my house until a forever home is found.

That’s GREAT! Even our brand new shelter is not as good as crashing in a HOME until a FURRever home is found.  Ask Sarah for more Marketing Ideas to promote your foster pet! And remember, they need wellness (shots, parasite protection) regularly so don’t loose touch!

If you can help (as Bob Barker would say) COME ON DOWN!!!

Sarah Hammond
Austin Animal Services
Foster Coordinator
Current Contact Info:
1156 W. Cesar Chavez
Austin, TX 78704
Phone: 512-972-6071
Fax: 512-972-6036

as of November 10, 2011
Contact Info:
Austin Animal Center
7201 Levander Loop
Austin, TX 78702
Phone: 512-978-0541
Fax: 512-978-0616

Photo credit: Kenphot from


National Pit Bull Awareness Day festivities in Austin

Texas-Sized Pittie PrideOctober 22, 2011 is National Pit Bull Awareness Day! In celebration, Austin pit bull education and advocacy group Love-A-Bull is hosting the Texas-Sized Pittie Pride event on Sunday, November 6, 2011 in Republic Square Park in downtown Austin. They will be looking to set a record for the world’s largest gathering of pit bull-type dogs. I was there last year and can affirm that it was a great time with some amazing people and the most wonderful dogs in the world.

The night before, they will host a VIP Kickoff Party at Austin Speed Shop, 1414 S. Lamar. More information and tickets are available at Love-A-Bull’s Meetup page.

Special guests at the Pittie Pride event and the VIP party include:

Here’s a sample of John Shipe’s musical stylings:

Here are a few of my own pictures from last year’s event:

Pit Bull Awareness Day, November 7, 2010 Pit Bull Awareness Day, November 7, 2010
Pit Bull Awareness Day, November 7, 2010 Pit Bull Awareness Day, November 7, 2010

Animal Welfare CLE presentation for Bastrop Wildfire Relief

Yesterday I made a brief presentation on animal welfare legal issues for the Austin Bar Association’s CLE program for Bastrop wildfire relief volunteers.


No dogs in the bar, yankee!

Bailey (photo by rfirman)

You never take me out anymore

In New York City, a dog can help you testify in court but can’t help you drown your sorrows in a bar. Via Volokh Conspiracy comes the story of how the NYC health department is stepping up enforcement of a long-neglected ban on canines in the vicinity of food prep. Since booze is legally considered “food,” dogs aren’t even allowed in bars that serve booze but not food. They’re not even allowed on outside patios.

For once, I’m actually inclined to agree with the libertarianish arguments in the Volokh post, in that dogs are an easily-minimized risk in a business like a bar, and that people can certainly make an educated choice as to whether to go to a dog-friendly or dog-prohibited bar. It’s also quite a blow to the social opportunities offered by dogs. Not everyone is a dog person, but dog people tend to be social, and they might like a place to gather with their dogs besides a dog park. For a city that prides itself on its many social and cultural offerings, it seems unfortunate to make such a drastic prohibition.

I’m staying in Austin no matter what, but now I feel even better about it. We allow dogs on patios.


Would you punch a bear in the face to save your dog? She would.

Brooke Collins and Fudge (via MSNBC)

Brooke Collins and Fudge (via MSNBC)

This is just oodles and oodles of awesome. An Alaska woman punched a black bear in the face when she found it trying to nom on her dachshund.

A 22-year-old Alaska woman said on Wednesday she punched a black bear in the face to save her small dog from being carried off and possibly eaten.

Juneau resident Brooke Collins said she hit the bear Sunday night to save the life of her dachshund, Fudge. She said she discovered the bear crouched down, clutching Fudge in its paws and biting the back of the dog’s neck.

“It had her kind of like when they eat salmon,” Collins said Wednesday. “I was freaking out. I was screaming at it. My dog was screaming. I ran up to it … I just punched it right in the snout and it let go.”

Collins said her boyfriend then scared the bear away. “I think it was more startled than anything,” she said.

If I had a bad-ass dog owner award, Collins would be my first recipient. Never underestimate the power of our love for our dogs. It can make us do some pretty crazy stuff.

I’m glad we don’t have many bears in Texas (but apparently we’re getting more). We have coyotes to worry about, but at least they’re smaller than bears.

I was assuming that punching a black bear in the nose is not the appropriate way, generally speaking, to respond to such an incident, but not according to (“The Field Guide for the Next Millennium”):

If the attack escalates and a black bear (or any bear that appears to have been stalking you) physically contacts you, fight back with anything that is available to you. Black bears tend to be more timid than grizzlies and fighting back may scare the bear off.

So now you know.

Photo by Quapaw

Who could punch a face like that?