Friday, December 7, 2012

How Do You Get Them to Scoop the Poop?

Mountainous piles of un-scooped dog poop seem to be a problem all over the world.

In the United States, people who keep track of these things estimate that about 40% of American dog owners leave their dog's poop for someone else to pick up.

Poop scooping laws probably make the legislators feel useful but so far haven't had much of an impact on the poop problem.

What about signs that tell you to pick it up?

They work well in countries like Japan, where everyone is law-abiding.

A poop that could walk would make it easy!
But then, no country would have a compliance problem if the poop would actually pick itself up and follow you home, as in the poster above.

Where the signs don't work, France for instance, people must come up with other solutions. In Paris, poop collectors used to suck it up as they rode about on their "motocrottes."
A French Motocrotte
In England, unauthorized dog poop falls under the jurisdiction of the anti-terrorist laws and is monitored by the ubiquitous surveillance cameras. Brighton's Dog Control Order, passed in 2009 provides for fines of up to £1,000 for those who don't scoop the poop.A British association called Big Brother Watch found that 345 different town councils had invoked anti-terror laws 9607 times against pooping dogs and other equally heinous criminals 9607 times over a period of 3 years.

Hastings, on the other hand, liked the French idea, and in 2011 purchased four vacuums called "Henry the Hoover."
All vacuum cleaners are called "hoovers" in England.
The verb is "to hoover," as in, "I hoovered the carpet this morning."
The Hastings' Henrys probably look like this: 

The town council estimated that Henry would save them £420,000 a year.

In 2009, there were plans afoot in a small town in Germany to collect fur or saliva from all 420 resident dogs so as to do DNA matching and fine owners of any poop that might be found. 

I can't find any evidence that the scheme ever got off the ground.
DNA testing is starting to gain some traction in the U.S., however. As of August of this year, a company called PooPrints tracks down poopetrators for hundreds of property managers in 30 states.

The town of Petah Tivkah, near Tel Aviv, does DNA testing with a twist. If the poop examiner finds your dog's leavings a a marked receptacle, you get a reward--coupons for dog food or toys.

You get a reward for putting it here, a fine if you leave it on the street.

If he finds it anywhere else, you get a fine.

But sometimes, if the government fails to take action, and the private sector fails to see any financial incentive for collecting poop, you just have to take the law into your own hands. This is Super Vaclav.

He is Prague's self-appointed dog poop enforcer. If he sees your dog poop, and you don't pick it up, he will punish you by throwing it at you or smearing it on you. I doubt whether he is still active, but videos of him from 2011 are widely available.

Does anyone have any other ideas?

Could Your Dog Learn to Drive?

In case you weren't watching the news lately, 3 dogs in New Zealand have learned to drive a car.It only took 8 weeks for the dogs to learn, which wasn't as long as it took me.
Porter, Monty, & Ginny all know how to drive
They'll be demonstrating their skills on live TV on Monday, December 10 (which is probably Sunday for us). They're not quite ready for the Indy 500 yet. Their specially modified Mini will only go about 6 miles an hour, and their trainer has an "off" button in case they try to ram the camera man.

Still, I'm impressed. I can't even manage to train Caitlin to bring her squeaky chicken back to me, much less chauffeur me to the dog park.
The canine motorists are a publicity stunt dreamed up the the SPCA* in Auckland as a way to get more pets adopted. They shouldn't have any problem getting these particular dogs adopted, but considering how much it must have cost to train them and retrofit the Minis that they're driving, the cost per adoption has got to be pretty high.

*Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cyanide at Harry Griffen Park

I'm seriously concerned about the plan to poison all the gophers with cyanide, which will apparently be ongoing through February 28.

I agree that there are a lot of gophers, and maybe they're a problem.

But using cyanide to kill them in a park where children play and dogs come, not only to the dog run, but all over the park?
Is killing the gophers worth his life?
They say they won't use poison near the dog run or the children's playground.

That doesn't satisfy me. All it takes is one parent or one dog owner who didn't see the notice and lets a child or pet loose in the wrong area, and we have a tragedy.

Then there's the :"collateral damage." That would include all the hawks in the park, the heron who comes daily, the skunks, raccoons, coyotes, and possums who use the park at night when we're not there. Not to mention any neighborhood cats who may hunt in the park.

Do all the neighbors around the park know about this plan? I bet not. Has everyone who frequents the park read the notices?

I think that using cyanide here is a really bad idea. I'm going to let the city council, the Parks & Recreation Department, and anyone else I can think of know my opinion, and if you agree with me, I hope you will, too.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Dogs at Harry Griffen Park--Wadan

This handsome dog is Wadan.

He is a one-year-old Formosan Mountain Dog, Until Novemer 11 of this year, he was living wild on the streets in a mountainous region near Taipei, where his most important task was avoiding the dogcatcher.

His owner, Mary Burns, says he's terrified of white, boxy vans, so she called her contact in Taiwan, who verified her suspicion. The dogcatcher drives a white, boxy van.

Wadan is gentle and playful with other dogs, but he's still very nervous around most people, especially men. Mary obviously adores him, and appears to be adored in return.

Considering that he was a feral dog less than a month ago, Wadan is doing very well indeed. It's lucky for everyone that he managed to evade that boxy white van.
Wadan has generated a lot of interest at the dog park. If Mary should ever decide she doesn't want him any more (fat chance!), I think he'd have volunteers lined up to take him.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Has Your Dog Ever Done This?

Could Kennel Cough Be Good for Humans?

One of the viruses thought to cause kennel cough in dogs is called parainfluenza virus 5 (PIV5 for short).
A Representation of the PIV5 Virus
We humans are immune to it. If we get the virus, our bodies promptly destroy it, as well as any other pathogen (such as malaria or HIV) that happens to be along for the ride.

The ride-along pathogen is destroyed--but now our bodies recognize it and can clobber it if it shows up again.

That's the theory, anyway. The idea of using a virus as a delivery mechanism for a vaccine isn't new--but with most viruses, our bodies destroy the virus and its ride-along pathogen so quickly that we don't gain any immunity.

PIV5 seems to be different from the viruses that have been previously tried. Scientists at the University of Georgia have been experimenting with it for 15 years and have achieved promising results with mice. Immunity to the virus does not seem to limit its effectiveness in either mice or humans.
Biao He, Principal Investigator for the UGA Study
If the Georgia scientists are right about its potential, this canine virus could open the way for vaccines against a whole host of diseases that have previously been difficult or impossible to treat.

Monday, November 26, 2012

An Unusual Job for a Border Collie

In the town of Great Cornard, in Suffolk, England, a 6 year old Border Collie named Meg is on litter patrol.

Perhaps the most socially responsible dog on the planet, she cruises the local park every day with her owner, Ken Pople. When she finds candy wrappers or soda cans, she picks them up and tosses them into the trash can.

If she sees an irresponsible human littering, she's on it right away--and it goes straight into the trash. Her good habits have started to rub off on the local youth, too. After watching her put their used soda can into the trash, they decided to start picking up after themselves, proudly displaying their bagged-up litter to Meg's owner as they deposited it into the waste bin.

The local cleaning crew can take it easy. Meg has finished their job before they arrive, and the local dog warden (aka, animal control officer) is hoping to enlist her services in a local anti-littering campaign.

I wonder whether I could train Caitlin to put the stuff she finds into the trash instead of eating it. If she masters that, I'll see whether she can learn to scoop poop.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Stem Cells From Nose Tissue Help Jasper Walk

This is Jasper, a 10-year-old dachshund, after he got hit by a car:
He is one of 34 dogs who took part in a research study at Cambridge University. The researchers took cells from the lining of Jasper's nose, called olfactory ensheathing cells, and injected them into his spine.

Here he is after the study:

Like several of the 23 dogs in the study who received the treatment, Jasper could soon walk on a treadmill with a harness. Many of the others regained at least some mobility in their hind legs.

Jasper had a slipped disc as a result of the accident in 2008. His owners had been using a trolley with a sling to help him get around. They say that now, "we can't stop him whizzing around the house, and he can even keep up with the two other dogs we own. It's utterly magic."

The research holds out hope that the same technique may eventually be used to restore at least some movement to humans with spinal cord injuries, although the researchers cautioned that a lot more research is still needed before that can happen.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Horror Dog of the Nineteenth Century

Pit bulls weren't always the bad guys. A century ago they were thought of as "nanny" dogs, a gentle and reliable breed that you could safely leave your kids with. (Based on my own personal experience with pit bulls, that seems much closer to their true nature than today's stereotype. Our dog, Ben, was probably the most amiable and the most even-tempered dog we have ever owned. Rob always said of him that "he didn't have a bad bone in his body.")

In the nineteenth century, the breed that everyone was scared of was the bloodhound. Think Hound of the Baskervilles.
A Depiction of the Hound of the Baskervilles
Bloodhounds had a fairly grisly history in nineteenth century America. In 1840 the government under the Van Buren administration purchased 33 Cuban Bloodhounds to help evict the Seminole Indians from their tribal lands in Florida. The purchase caused a huge public outcry, as these dogs had been bred and trained for ferocity ever since the Conquistadors had used them to terrorize the native population in the 16th century. I'd like to think the protests were on behalf of the Seminoles, but I get the impression that most of the worries were that the dogs would used against other victims.
Hunting Indians in Florida with Bloodhounds
They were the breed most often used by runaway slave hunters. Former slave, Frederick Douglass described how slaves were often forced to beat the dogs in order to incite their hatred of black people. Harriet Beecher Stowe's best-selling novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, heightened the public fear of bloodhounds and enhanced their reputation as blood-thirsty man-killers.
Poster Advertising a Theater Production of Uncle Tom's Cabin
Certainly the slave hunters who owned and trained the dogs wanted their dogs to be feared, and doubtless trained them to be as vicious as possible.
Richard Ansdell's Painting "The Hunted Slaves"
Richard Ansdell's famous painting, first exhibited in London in 1861 further enhanced the bloodhound's already scary reputation.

During the Civil War, bloodhounds were used by both the Union and the Confederates to track down deserters and escapees. The commandant at Andersonville prison camp was sentenced to death because he (among other things) "feloniously, and of his malice aforethought, did cause, incite, and urge certain ferocious and bloodthirsty  animals, called bloodhounds, to pursue, attack, wound, and tear in pieces a soldier..."
Bloodhounds Catching an Andersonville P.O.W.
Just as dog attacks today are often wrongly attributed to pit bulls, 19th century dog attacks were often attributed to bloodhounds even though another breed was responsible or the breed of dog was unknown.

The bloodhound's ferocious reputation caused it to become highly popular among people who wanted a vicious dog. Like today's pit bulls, the dogs were often abused by brutal and uncaring owners and made to be scapegoats for the owners' sins.'s_Cabin#Eliza.27s_family_hunted.2C_Tom.27s_life_with_St._Clare

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Dog Lovers Should Thank Michael Vick

The dogs often died fighting for their lives.
If they lost their battle, he killed them.
He killed them brutally--often with his own hands.
He hanged them, drowned them, and at least once, repeatedly smashed a little female who wouldn't fight against the ground until she died.
Fifty-one living dogs were taken from his Virginia property, and nine dead ones exhumed from their shallow grave.
I could hardly bear to read their story.
I struggle to understand what inner demons could drive a man to inflict so much suffering or allow him to enjoy watching it.
I couldn't bear to show the ones who were in really bad shape!

And yet...

The Vick case shone a much-needed light on a cruel "sport" that until then had been largely ignored.
In previous dog-fighting cases, once the dogs had served as evidence, they were routinely put down. As pit bulls, they were already assumed to be a "bad" breed, vicious, a danger to society, and after being used as fighting dogs, beyond rehabilitation.

Vick's dogs were given a chance. The court decided that the dogs should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and that any who were shown not to be aggressive should be allowed to live.

The evaluators were expecting that they might be able to find five salvageable dogs.

All but one passed the test. Despite the horrific trauma of their lives, several were friendly and outgoing. Some were fearful to the point of being almost catatonic, but very few of them showed aggression toward people or other dogs. Only one was so aggressive that they felt she could not be allowed to live. Another had to be euthanized when because her injuries were too severe to be treatable.
Rose had to be euthanized because of her injuries.
The rest went to sanctuaries and foster homes, where they were treated for their mental and physical injuries, with the hope that most might someday find loving homes, as in fact, many of them did.
Some of Vick's dogs at a reunion, Sept 2012
The Vick case also served as a turning point for law enforcement.

Although dog-fighting was illegal, it was mostly ignored. Michael Vick changed all that. As the case developed it became obvious that dog-fighting didn't happen in a vacuum. The people who were running dog-fights were also running drugs and guns and other criminal pursuits. The cops started to realize that a dog-fighting bust could very well lead to a big drug bust. They started to take dog-fighting seriously.

Because of this high-profile case, the Humane Society began to soften its rules toward dogs taken in dogfight busts. The dogs began to be treated and evaluated as individuals. Pit bulls, for almost the first time, were seen as victims, rather than perpetrators of violence.

Several of Vick's dogs won their canine good citizen certifications and went on to become therapy dogs.
Jonny Justice Helps Kids Learn to Read
Kids in Transition, in Camden, New Jersey, is a residential rehab facility for severely troubled youth. In 2010 the boys were visited by a pit bull named Sarge, a survivor of a dog-fight bust in Philadelphia. After meeting the dog, the boys read Jim Gorant's book about the Vick dogs, The Lost Dogs.
Cover of Jim Gorant's Book
Suddenly these boys, who had been in emotional lock-down, were able to begin opening up about the abuse in their own lives. Because they could identify with the dogs, they could empathize with them--the first time for many of them that they had been able to feel any pain other than their own.
Hector, A Vick Survivor, Meets with Kids inTransition, 2011
Because Michael Vick's dogs were saved, many other dogs were and will be saved. Both law enforcement and the public have become far more aware of the cruelty and criminality of dog fighting rings. And maybe, just maybe, these resilient survivors of Vick's abuse, will be able to save some equally abused young boys.

We should all thank Michael Vick.

The Lost Dogs, Jim Gorant, Penguin, N.Y., 2011
To see photos of Michael Vick's rescued  dogs:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What Makes a Great Dog Park?

Hilda came to the dog park yesterday with a handful of photos she had taken on a visit to Ashley Memorial Dog Park in Auburn, and it started me thinking. What do the really good ones have in common? What can we do to put our own dog park within their ranks?
Big Dog, Little Dog Statue at Ashley Park

I googled "best dog parks" and found quite a few candidates for greatness. Here is a sample:

Pilgrim Bark Park, in Provincetown Massachusetts, is free to all licensed dogs. It is run by the Provincetown Dog Park Association, Inc., which has 4 volunteer Directors. It is entirely funded by donations and grants. Their website has a "merchandise" page on which donors can purchase park pavers with a dog's name, t-shirts, art, and other items, proceeds from which go to the park. Among their corporate sponsors are listed such companies as Petco, Purina, and Eukanuba. The park features sculptures and other works by local artists.
A Bench at Pilgrim Bark Park

Thornberry Off-Leash Dog Park, Iowa City, Iowa requires a $35-per-year access fee for local users. It's run by the city Parks & Recreation Department. The park has 12 acres, including a pond and playground for the dogs, and sponsors many doggie recreation events throughout the year. It got a special mention for its bio-degradable poop bags with pipes to underground "poop tanks" where the waste is processed.
Map of Thornberry Off-Leash Park

The Millie Bush Dog Park (named for First Dog, Millie), in West Houston, Texas, is one of 20 dog parks in the Houston area that were created by the Houston Dog Parks Association, a 501c3 (non-profit) staffed entirely by volunteers.  The HDPA looks for land for new dog parks, oversees their construction, promotes them when they open, and serves as liaison and trouble-shooting organization for Houston dog park users. Amenities in the 13-acre park include swimming ponds, showers, and fountains for the dogs, shaded areas with benches, and a walking path.

Millie Bush Dog Park

Jackass Acres K-9 Korral, New River, Arizona is a members-only park run by Anthem Pets, a non-profit corporation whose mission is "to implement a fully rounded animal welfare program." It calls itself "the first ALL GREEN dog park in the USA." It operates a solar water pump and solar lighting. The artwork is created from recycled cars, and the artificial turf is retrieved from football fields.

Dog Playground at K-9 Korral

So what do all these very different dog parks have in common?

First of all, they all have enough money. If they are not part of a city parks department, they have corporate donors or reliable sponsors. Many of them, including the city-run parks charge an access fee to help with expenses.

Every single non-government run park is organized as a formal non-profit (501c3) organization with a federal tax identification number and a board of directors who operate under clear written rules and accounting practices. Their non-profit status allows them to attract corporate sponsors (who CANNOT donate to an entity that does not have that all-important tax i.d.) Small donors can also write off their donations on their tax return, which is not otherwise (legally) possible.

They are pro-active. They have goals, mission statements, and a vision of where they want to go and what they want to do. Because they are well-organized, they are able to mobilize volunteers and attract sponsors. They know where they want to go, and they have a road-map for getting there.

In addition, the people running these dog parks, as well as their donors and volunteers are well-protected from the liabilities that ensue if their organization is either unaware of or does not follow the laws governing charities and non-profits.*

For more information on the rules governing charities, see:

Here are links to some lists of "best dog parks."