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When Owners Bark or Bite
by Joe Schoenman - Las Vegas Sun

Lied Animal Shelter’s intensifying struggle with visitors who lose their cool

Emotions have always run high at Lied Animal Shelter, but outbursts and violence from angry pet owners there have gotten so bad that the shelter is planning to remodel its lobby to protect workers from the public.

“We’ve had people come over the top of the counter and grab staff,” James Seitz, the animal shelter’s acting director, said. “One day, it took six of us to get a guy out.”

The man’s dog had been captured and brought to the shelter this past summer, two or three weeks before he showed up.

The shelter must euthanize unclaimed animals 72 hours after they arrive at Lied, so the man’s dog was long gone by the time he arrived at the shelter.

When the staff broke the news to him, “he just went berserk,” Seitz said.

Seitz, a retired judge, said he and the rest of the Lied staff understand how devastating that kind of news can be to a pet owner. But Seitz said he has since noticed an increase in the frequency and intensity of enraged reactions at the shelter.

Lied employees now call Metro Police or city marshals for help about three times a month for the most serious incidents, Seitz said. The shelter tries to alternate between the two agencies because of how often the calls must be made.

Dust-ups for which law enforcement is not called — the shouting and “verbal assaults” — occur every day, said cashier Sandra Robinson, herself the owner of three dogs, four cats, three birds and goldfish.

“They’re upset because their animal is here,” said the 50-year-old grandmother who has worked at Lied for about 18 months. “You try to keep calm, agree with them, then try to tell them their pet was put down.”

A few weeks ago, Robinson said, a pet owner whacked a cashier in the head with the receiver of the Lied desk phone.

Sometimes the phone is used in another way — for threats. Some are left on the shelter’s voice mail — including this one, from the owner of a cat that had been taken to the shelter early in 2008.

“The next time somebody hangs up on me, that is just disrespectful. And if somebody comes on my property? To take an animal? I will shoot them dead. That is trespassing. I will (expletive) shoot them,” the man says in his three-minute tirade, which ends with him giving his real name and a false claim that he is a police lieutenant.

He warns the staff that he will be in the next morning to pick up his cat, then adds: “And I am not paying a (expletive) fine for nothing!”

Metro was called and the man arrested, Seitz said.

But it’s not always the Lied staff on the receiving end of the anger at the shelter.

On the morning after Christmas, a woman in her late 40s was pushing her way to the front of a line at the shelter when a man in his 70s called her on it. She turned and punched him in the face. Officers handcuffed the woman and put her in a squad car, but the man declined to press charges, accepting the woman’s apology instead.

Seitz attributes the increase in boil-overs to the bad economy, the fact that people are losing their homes and their jobs and do not want to lose a beloved pet as well.

Lied also sees a larger number of people than do shelters in many other cities, because it is the largest single-site, open-admission shelter in the country.

“San Diego and New York take in similar numbers of animals, but they are spread over six and seven several shelters,” Seitz said.

For 2008, through Monday, the shelter had taken in 50,103 animals, an average of 138 per day. In that time, it also adopted out 10,320 animals.

On Tuesday afternoon, a steady stream of people arrived to look for their pets at Lied’s “Lost and Unwanted” office. The office, which the staff knows as “lost and found,” is about a decade old. The paint on the concrete floor is worn away. Seven unmatched seats for the public line one wall. A 15-by-10-foot room in the waiting area was designed, according to a plaque, as a video/education room, But now it houses two vending machines.

Cashiers sit behind a low wall with the swinging door open to offices in back.

The office is open until 7 p.m., and it’s usually later in the day, as people get off work, that is busiest.

About 4 p.m. Tuesday, Leah Gibbons arrived with David Dewitt looking for their two dogs, Max, their Chihuahua, and Asia, a Thai ridgeback.

Gibbons’ face was racked with anxiety. She dabbed her reddened nose with a kerchief while Dewitt rubbed her back.

Their landlord had evicted them from their apartment. They went to find moving boxes and when they returned an hour later, Gibbons said, their apartment lock had been changed and their two dogs were gone. The apartment manager sent the dogs to Lied, she said.

When the cashier told Gibbons it would cost $120 to retrieve her dogs, she said she was unable to pay because she couldn’t find her credit card. Gibbons said she would come back the next day. At that point the couple had 48 more hours. They repeatedly asked for assurance that Max and Asia would not be marked for euthanasia.

“If they kill my dog,” Dewitt said, unwavering, “I’ll come down here with a vengeance. I’ll drive that Ryder truck right through this wall.”

If a pet owner doesn’t have enough money for fees, Lied staff can negotiate if the animal was captured in Las Vegas or North Las Vegas, because those cities won’t always demand full fee payment. If it was caught in Clark County, Lied usually can’t negotiate because the county demands full payment, Seitz said.

Lied receives private donations and funding from Las Vegas, Clark County and North Las Vegas but is operated by the nonprofit Animal Foundation.

The foundation is working on a several ideas to address the outbursts at the shelter.

It is seeking bids to remodel the lobby. Instead of waiting in lines, people will take numbers and wait to be called. Staff will be behind a partition.

New brochures are also being designed to explain the payment of citations, detail the intake and rescue process and talk about the need for proof of ownership.

Understanding the citation process is important because if a pet owner owes fines, he can’t get his animal until an animal control officer arrives to give him a citation. That wait can be two hours if the only officer available is in Laughlin, Seitz said.

The proof of ownership requirement is another frequent flash point.

People sometimes “wait in line 40 minutes when they are already emotional, then find out they have to go home to get more proof,” Seitz said. “That’s when they blow up, and start yelling, ‘I’m going to get my dog, I’m coming through!’ ”

Seitz, who is one of several in the running for the director’s job at the shelter, says shelter employees know and understand that in some cases the people they are dealing with have good reason to be upset — people like Barbara Marques.

About 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Marques and her husband drove from their North Las Vegas home to the shelter to look for their cat, Puddles, her indoor-outdoor cat that had been missing for a few days. When Puddles saw Marques at the shelter, “he came to the front of the cage like, ‘Oh, she’s here to get me,’ ” she said.

Told she needed proof of ownership to get her cat, Marques went home and returned to the shelter at 3:40 p.m. with pictures and receipts from a veterinarian.

Too late, she was told. Puddles’ 72 hours were up at 3:17 p.m. He was put down at 3:35 p.m.

Marques can barely tell the story, dissolving several times into sobs about the black-and-white feline she had for five years.

“I had told the man, ‘Would you please put a statement on the cage not to euthanize? I’m coming back. Don’t do anything to him.’ He said, ‘I’ll do that, but he’s not up for review until tomorrow anyhow, so there’s nothing to worry about. But I’ll put a note on the cage.’ ”

When she returned to find Puddles was dead, the man told her he forgot to post the note, she said.

Seitz said the shelter is investigating the incident, which he called rare since 2007, when Lied instituted new procedures. That includes scanning animals for identifying microchips twice, once upon intake and once just before euthanization, just to be sure.

“But if we have one of those (accidents) a year, it’s too many,” Seitz said, adding that Lied is the first place people should look for a missing pet. Photographs of most captured animals are also posted the Internet.

Before Chris Robinson took over as executive director of the shelter in April 2007, Seitz said, about one accidental killing took place each week.

He also said the shelter is not robotic about its 72-hour euthanization policy. Seitz said he held an animal, at the request of an owner from England, for three to four weeks to give the owner time to fly back to Las Vegas to retrieve the animal.

He believes what happened to Puddles was the result of “an unfortunate sequence of events.”

The employee Marques dealt with is the second newest person on staff and likely forgot because a matter came up with another customer about the same time that he was going to put up the note, Seitz explained.

“But it’s not all the culpability of one individual,” he said.

North Las Vegas has an ordinance that does not allow pet owners to let their animals, even cats, to roam, Seitz pointed out. Puddles was trapped by someone who called animal control.

Puddles also didn’t have a tag indicating he had been vaccinated for rabies. Marques said he was vaccinated but his collar broke off.

Later, when Marques, a 59-year-old medical assistant, was told about fears of violence at the shelter, she admitted that before the Lied staff asked her to leave, she got very loud. But, she added, that was only after she was told that her cat died less than 20 minutes after his 72-hour window had expired, and just a few minutes before she returned with the proper paperwork.

“I just couldn’t believe they would be so efficient, that they couldn’t just wait until the end of the day,” she said. “Especially since I had been there just two hours earlier and told them not to do anything.”

“So I lost him,” she added as she teared up again. “He never went far and used to sit in the driveway and wait for me to come home. I know — I know I shouldn’t get so upset about a cat, but when you care for them and everything, you get so attached. He never hurt anyone in the neighborhood. He would just sit and watch birds.”

Pet Python Causes Concern in Queens Apartment

NEW YORK (AP) A man staying at a friend's apartment in Queens was charged with unlawful possession of a wild animal after police arrived at the scene to capture a seven-foot python.

Police said the man called authorities Thursday evening, worried that the snake would escape the apartment, where he was staying while his friend is overseas.

The animal was caught and turned over to Animal Care and Control. Neighbors had no idea the snake was there.

Top 5 New Year Resolutions for You and Your Pet in 2009
by Helena Sung, Pet News Examiner

Cameron Diaz resolves to wear a bra in 2009. Britney Spears wants to stop biting her nails.

Whether you believe in making New Year's resolutions or not, the start of a new year always has us taking stock of our lives and the goals yet to be achieved.

I'm not suggesting you do a marathon or scale Mt. Kilimanjaro or attempt something even more difficult, such as losing weight.

Just start with something little; something that will be good for you and the one critter in your life who will never judge you, even when you watch bad reality television.

Here are the Top 5 resolutions for you and your pet this year:

1. Stop Smoking. It's one of the perennial resolutions and one of the hardest to stick to. Three-quarters of people who say they will stop smoking in the new year light up again. (Ms. Diaz, included.)

But did you know that your smoking is harmful to your dog, too? A university study found that secondhand smoke caused nasal, respiratory, and mouth cancers in dogs and flat faced cats. So do yourself and your pet a favor. If you're serious about wanting to quit, look into resources to help you stop smoking. You can do it!

2. Green Your Pet. With an environmentally-conscious president soon to be in the White House, it's time for everyone to get with the program. Dog owners can start using biodegradable or flushable poop bags, flea treatments, and organic food and dog toys. For a list of eco-friendly dog products, click here.

Cat owners can look into using kitty litters that are gentler on the environment by using sawdust, corn, wheat, pine, or other plant sources, rather than clay. For a list of eco-friendly cat litters, click here for a great list from

3. Get Your Pet Microchipped. Collars and I.D. tags fall off. But with microchipping, a tiny computer chip the size of a grain of rice is painlessly injected in the skin on your pet's back. Veterinary offices and city shelters maintain computer databases of pets registered with microchipping programs and will scan homeless or lost pets that are found.

Two widely used microchipping companies are Home Again and AVID. Check out the Humane Society of the United States website for common questions about microchipping. In New York City, two veterinarians in my neighborhood quoted me prices of $65 and $85 for microchipping. But the cost can be free or drastically reduced. Check with your local shelter or rescue program.

4. Spay or Neuter Your Pet. Getting your animal altered is good for them. Spaying a female guards against uterine, ovarian and breast cancer. Neutering a male reduces the risk of prostate enlargement and prostate cancer. Altered animals live longer and healthier. Besides, don't contribute to the pet overpopulation problem. An estimated three to seven millions animals are put to death each year. So what if your dog or cat is a purebred with an impressive lineage. Did you know that 1 out of 4 dogs in shelters are purebreds? Get the straight truth about spaying and neutering; read what the Humane Society has to say. And spay/neuter your animal. It's a no-brainer.

5. Rid Your Furry BFF of His/Her Most Annoying Habit. We love our dogs. We adore our cats. But each of us has to admit that our beloved pet (or pets) has at least one annoying habit that drives us absolutely bonkers. For me, it's my dog, Jasper's, tendency to break out into frenzied barking whenever the door bell rings. It doesn't matter if he's asleep on the couch; as soon as he hears the door bell, he'll leap through the air, yelping, growling and barking like a dog possessed. I don't know where he picked up this habit, but I'm determined that this will be the year I put a stop to it. Nobody in the house can take it any more.

News Of Free Pet Clinic Brings Deluge Of Requests
By Penny Carnathan - Tampa Bay Online

TAMPA - The calls started pouring in early this week, about the time the billboard went up announcing free pet vaccinations.

It's just more sad evidence of how financially depleted residents are struggling to keep their animals, said Sherry Silk, executive director of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay.

On Jan. 10, the shelter plans to set up tables, chairs and seven veterinarians at Sulphur Springs Park, at the corner of Nebraska Avenue and Bird Street. From 10 a.m. till 2 p.m. it will vaccinate the first 500 dogs and cats against rabies and distemper. Hillsborough County Animal Services will provide free licenses for residents in the 33604 ZIP code, which includes Sulphur Springs, a community with many low-income residents and wandering stray animals.

"We've had over 100 phone calls," Silk said Wednesday. "I'm getting a little nervous because we had to have a cutoff. We've had people call from out of county asking if they can come. But it's Hillsborough County residents only this time."

The only other criteria are that dogs must be leashed and cats in a carrier.

To the best of anyone's knowledge, the giveaway is the first of its kind here. It came as the shelter noticed with alarm the growing number of people saying they couldn't afford shots and licenses for their pets.

"There was a distemper outbreak recently in Pasco; that's just one county away," Silk said. "We definitely need to have people current on vaccinations."

The shelter is spending $5,000 on the clinic; shots will be administered by four shelter vets and three volunteer animal doctors.

Last spring, the Humane Society started a pet food assistance program in response to the growing numbers of financially struggling pet owners. The need spiked dramatically in September and October, Silk said, and has held steady since.

There will be a truck load of free pet food at the shot clinic. Those who don't make it there but need food — or can donate food — can stop by the Humane Society, 3607 N. Armenia Ave., Tampa, during normal hours: noon to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

The society hopes to offer shot clinics again in the spring and the fall.

"The need is so great," Silk said. "It breaks my heart that people want to do right, but they can't."

Just How Far Would YOU Go to Pamper Your Pet?
By Katie Wilson - The Surrey Comet(UK)

Ever since celebrities, such as Paris Hilton, started dressing their pets in designer outfits there has been a surge of shops in the UK offering everything from diamante dog collars to organic pet biscuits.

Sarah Alton runs her business, Doggy Days Bakery, from her home in Putney. The former media worker, who recently added nine-week-old yellow Labrador, Lily, to her family was inspired to change career to fill a hole in the market as the demand grew for organic pet food.

She even created some specialist treats over the Christmas period, which included dog treats shaped like holly, bells and Christmas trees.

“Nowadays pet owners are much more concerned with what their pets are eating. I don’t use any additives, sugar or salt in my cooking, and it’s all organic produce that humans can eat as well as pets,” she said.

The most popular snacks Sarah sells are her Cheesy Basil Doggies, made with low-fat mature cheddar from £2.80, which she says dogs love because of the strong smell.

“People shouldn’t think it extravagant to buy gourmet food for their pets. You are what you eat, and dogs are just the same, “ she added.

Hydrovet’s pet boutique in Wandsworth Road, Battersea, offers a range of therapies for animals to run alongside its veterinary surgery.

In fact it’s billed as London’s first hydrotherapy centre for dogs.

Mostly the hydrotherapies are to help with medical conditions but overweight pets can also be exercised in water to help them shed the pounds.

If you want to go all-out in the pet style stakes look no further than pet boutique Waggin’ Tales across the bridge in Fulham, where designer clothes and diamond-studded dog collars are all the rage.

This boutique sells Juicy Coutre dog velour hoodies and trenchcoats so they can match their owners wardrobes.

Manager Carmen Bellacasa said: “People want to treat their pets, at this time of year especially. Now it’s turned colder our pet coats and jumpers have been flying out the door.”

They say you should never work with children or animals but one professional photographer has made a business out of snapping pet portraits.

Robert Hooper, a wedding photographer who has recently branched out into pet pictures, offers the star treatment for your pet for the day with £50-an-hour photo shoots in the studio, on location or at home.

Robert says has been inundated with enquiries for animal portraits in recent years.

“I’ve been getting a lot more orders for pet photos being bought as gifts for loved ones. I prefer to shoot these outside when possible because I think they make such lovely photos. This usually means I end up laying on my belly in the dirt, but as long as we get great pictures, I’m a happy bunny.”

Dog and Puppy Thefts up in 2008

Purebred dog registry shares tips for protecting your beloved canines.

Pet thefts are on the rise, ranging from tiny puppies being stuffed into purses at pet stores to most recently, purebred dogs being snatched from cars in parking lots and animal shelters, according to the American Kennel Club.

In 2008, the AKC has tracked more than 65 pet thefts from news and customer reports, versus a handful for the previous year.

In Texas, Rep. Eddie Lucio, III (D-Brownsville) introduced a bill that would make it a state felony to steal a pet. The bill, HB 435, targets individuals who steal domesticated household pets including dogs and cats.

In addition, the bill seeks to amend the penal code by making pet theft a separate offense, and allowing a penalty of up to two years in jail. If passed, this act would take effect Sept. 1, 2009.

To safeguard against pet theft, the AKC offers the following tips:

At Home
* Don’t let dogs off leash or leave unattended in your yard. Keeping dogs near to you reduces the likelihood they will wander off and attract thieves. A Saint Bernard who wandered from his owner in Nebraska was snatched up off the road.
* Breeders should be vigilant during home visits by potential puppy buyers. From Yorkies in Los Angeles to Bulldogs in Connecticut, thieves posing as would be puppy buyers have visited breeder homes to take dogs, while other homes have been burglarized when the breeder was away.

On the Road
* Never leave your dog in an unattended car, even if it’s locked.
* Don’t tie a dog outside a store. This popular practice among city-dwellers can be risky. Reports have surfaced of such thefts in Manhattan.
* Be vigilant. Always remain aware of your surroundings when entering or leaving dog-friendly establishments.

Getting Him Back
* Protect your dogs with microchip identification. Collars and tags can be removed, so make sure dogs have permanent ID with a microchip. Keep contact information current.
* If you suspect pet theft, immediately call the police or animal control and pet shelters in the area where your dog was last seen.
* Have fliers with a recent photo ready to go if your dog goes missing. Keep pet photos handy to distribute immediately in case of a lost pet.

Tyler Morning News

Tail-Wagging Success
By Julie R. Johnson - Corning Observer

It is never a good moment when a dog to ends up at an animal shelter. But, if such is the case, ending up at the Corning Animal Shelter might not be so bad.

“Thanks to the help and support of many good people, including the Corning Police Department, 2008 has been a year of many happy and rewarding memories,” said Debbie Eaglebarger, caretaker of the Corning Animal Shelter and founder of Second Chance Pet Rescue.

Last year, Eaglebarger, through the shelter and the pet rescue, was able to help 363 dogs who entered the shelter. Seventy-one were placed in permanent homes, 112 transferred to other rescue organizations, and 158 returned to their homes.

“We were able to medically help 10 dogs with various health issues from our Weaver Medical Fund,” she said. “People’s donations, calls and e-mails of concern, help all of us here at Second Chance Pet Rescue to continue to provide the care and love these dogs deserve when they come to the shelter.”

Under her direction, the shelter’s euthanasia rate has dropped dramatically, from 86 percent in 2002 to 5 percent in 2008.

Eaglebarger, who is an on-site caretaker living in a mobile home provided by the city, lives by the mantra written on the shelter’s wall” “We all are called on to treat them with kindness,” although this year she had to reduce her living expenses stipend provided by Second Chance Pet Rescue from $1,000 monthly to $300 a month.

Undaunted, Eaglebarger said she would “absolutely not” do anything else but continue to help the animals she cares for.

One of Eaglebarger’s favorite success stories is Nola, a pit bull who had been housed at the shelter for two years before finally being adopted last year.

“Nola was too good a dog to give p on simply because of the length of time she had been with us,” Eaglebarger said.

Nola was adopted by Dan and Nita Fuller after receiving her AKC Good Citizen certification.

Another of Eaglebarger’s success stories is Rocky, a black Labrador Retriever that came to the shelter and was adopted when he was six months old. The adopting family returned Rocky at the age of 1.

Turned out to be a good thing,” Eaglebarger said. “Right after he came back to us he was adopted from the Corning Animal Shelter as a drug-sniffing dog by the San Francisco Police Department.”

Probably the saddest, yet happiest story is of Truly, a young pit bull that had been abandoned in a house in Corning.

When 6-month-old Truly was located in May 2008 she was literally starving to death; her skin was riddled with sores and her hair was falling out.

Truly’s horrendous condition was the result of her owners’ divorce, according Eaglebarger.

“I received a phone call on a Sunday night from the wife who said she had not been at the house for a while because she supposedly was ordered not to go to the house,” Eaglebarger said. “The woman said she knew her husband was gone and so she went to the house to retrieve some items.”

She said the woman claims that when she got to the house she found the dog inside with no food or water.

“I told her to immediately call the police to get the dog taken care of,” said Eaglebarger. “She didn’t call until the next day and the dog didn’t come to the shelter until the following evening.”

“Her condition was beyond simple neglect, it was terrible abuse. We took her to the vet the next day,” Eaglebarger said.

Because of her extremely poor condition, Truly was placed on a special diet of pumpkin, rice, ground turkey, and cottage cheese which she got every couple hours so her system wouldn’t be shocked with commercial dog food.

The cost to Second Chance Pet Rescue to pay for this diet was about $120 a week.

Truly was also confirmed to have demodex, a debilitating skin condition, but her extreme loss of hair had not happened overnight or even over a couple weeks, according to Eaglebarger.

“The emaciation was the same. It had been ongoing starvation and lack of medical attention to treat the demodex for at least a month or two, in my opinion,” she said.

Truly has been transformed under Eaglebarger’s care. Now up for adoption, Truly has received her AKC Canine Citizen certificate and has a great attitude on life and living, especially considering all she has been through.

“She just loves people,” Eaglebarger said. “Truly is truly an amazing dog.”

Anyone interested in Truly or any of the other dogs at the Corning Animal Shelter can receive more information by calling Eaglebarger at 824-7054 or go online at

Eaglebarger is also holding community pit bull training and puppy classes every Saturday at 10 a.m. (for the next two weeks at 11 a.m.).

“People need to call first to let me know they are interested in coming. We need spotters for so many dogs in the class and I would have to line that up. Any more than four dogs at a time will require an additional person. I would just hate to have people drop in and I would have to turn them away because of safety and liability and not being prepared for them,” Eaglebarger said.

She is very pleased to announce Second Chance Pet Rescue has received a grant to spay/neuter 20 community pit bulls.

“We are becoming known for our pit bull ambassador program by the surrounding tri-county area,” she said. “Butte Humane is emulating our program to some degree. It should be noted that only ambassador pit bulls are adopted out of the shelter.”

Another program Eaglebarger is heading-up at the animal shelter is humane education presentations, being safe around dogs, spaying/neutering, and the tragedy of dog fighting.

“We did a full school assembly with all grades at Sacred Heart Parish School in September,” Eaglebarger said. “We are working with the Humane Society of the United States in their $5,000 reward program for the arrest and conviction of dog- and cockfighters.”

Your Dressed-Up Pet Photos - Part IX
The Boston Globe

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