I’ve Got Your 6.

The unconditional love of a dog heals the soul, reaching into the heart to cross canyons of loneliness and despair. Military researchers are trying to learn if there’s real science behind that semi-mystical link and whether it can help treat the signature wounds of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

by Anna Cooke

“We had never trained a tripod to be a service dog,” said Mary Peter, CEO and founder of K9 Partners For Patriots. The Brooksville, Florida program is helping veterans win the war against suicide, depression and anxiety through the experience of training their own service dog. The dog Mary was referring to, a Jack Russell Terrier mix, had been pulled from a kill shelter by a Spring Hill rescue group called Furever Friendz Inc. When volunteers picked him up, he was jaundiced with an infection in his right leg and parts of his right shoulder. He looked as if he’d been to hell and back. Once his caregivers nursed him back to health, including treating his infections, he was scheduled for surgery to save his leg. During surgery, the doctor discovered that the injury to the dog’s leg was so severe, amputation would be the best solution.

The happy little guy re-habbed really well, hardly noticing the difference. Furever Friendz Rescue Inc. made him available for adoption. He ended up in a most unusual place.

Lt. Dan, the tripod, pulled from a kill shelter, fostered by a rescue group, adopted by a veteran to be his service dog.

In War, There Are No Unwounded Soldiers. Every veteran has a story. Sometimes, it’s the wounds that are unseen that hurt the most. The conditions of Post Traumatic Stress Disease (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) are often invisible to other service members, family and society. Each condition affects mood, thoughts and behavior. Yet, these wounds often go unrecognized and unacknowledged. Roughly 20 veterans a day commit suicide nationwide, according to new data from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The problem is particularly worrisome among female veterans, who saw their suicide rates rise more than 85 percent between 2001 and 2014. Women make up 15 percent of our All Volunteer Force. About one-third of these women will be sexually assaulted during their time in service.

The first step to helping our veterans is to educate them about PTSD and what is going on inside of them. “They need to stop seeing themselves as broken, instead understanding that their brain did exactly what it was supposed to do to keep them safe in combat. They trained for combat; now they need to train to be home,” said Diane Scotland-Coogan, an associate professor in the School of Social Work at Saint Leo University. She provides counseling for many veterans with PTSD.

Two major U.S. government studies are investigating the ways that trained service dogs may help veterans with TBI and/or PTSD. The first study is underway at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Participating troops are paired with puppies that they will raise for two years to serve as assistance dogs for other injured veterans.

A second study, conducted by the VA, has taken several years and is almost complete. The focus of the study is to determine if “there are things a dog can do for a veteran with PTSD that would qualify the animal as a service dog for PTSD.” K9 Partners for Patriots is participating in the study.

IMG_8453_TheNewBarkerWe All Have A Destiny. Mike, a retired veteran, has been through many tours of duty, including theatres in Desert Storm and Panama. Daily, he faces the mental, emotional and physical challenges as a result. Like many graduates of the K9 Partners for Patriots program, Mike returns to volunteer his services, wherever needed. His wife Lana volunteers as well. The day we met Mike, he was recovering from knee replacement surgery. Standing next to him was Lt. Dan, the aforementioned tripod Jack Russell Terrier mix. Mike named the dog after the character in the movie Forest Gump. Lt. Dan is now Mike’s service dog. It turns out this burly man with the imposing presence has a soft spot for the feisty little breed.

When Lana first found the three-legged dog on the Furever Friendz Rescue website, she called her husband. “Honey, I’ve found a Jack Russell but, there might be one problem; he only has three legs.” Mike didn’t miss a beat. “Not a problem. Let’s bring him home,” he told her. Once home, the dog instinctively began alerting Mike to oncoming anxiety attacks. Mike’s wife noticed the overall calming effect Lt. Dan had on her husband and wondered if he could be trained to do more as a service dog. Lt. Dan passed the preliminary tests conducted by the trainers at K9 Partners for Patriots. He and Mike were immediately enrolled in the 19-week program.

Lt. Dan was further trained to alert Mike to oncoming anxiety attacks, wake him from nightmares and calm him down in other certain trigger situations. At home, throughout the day and night, Lt. Dan never leaves Mike’s side.

Never Give Up. Never Give In. In the Army for 23 years (1983-2007), Paul had been working at one of the highest security clearance levels. “There was a sense of purpose,” he said. “But once the VA slaps you with a diagnosis, you’re out. And all dignity is lost. Once, we were someone important. Now, we’re forgotten.”

Army veteran Paul and his service dog Hans, a Lemon Dalmatian/Treeing Coonhound mix.

Paul was diagnosed with PTSD, TBI, MCI (mild cognitive impairment) and GWS (Gulf War Syndrome). “I’ve seen quite a bit; lost friends,” he told us. “I was taking so many medications, just to get my head clear.” In 2000, a doctor predicted Paul would be dead in three years. He credits his faith, sense of honor and the medical profession with keeping him alive. “And my two daughters, Caroline and Viktoria. They’ve stuck with me through it all,” he said.

About two years ago, Dr. Mueller, Paul’s clinical psychiatrist with the VA in New Port Richey, handed Paul a piece of paper. It had the phone number for K9 Partners for Patriots. When he called, he was told they would be able to evaluate his dog Moose, a black Labrador Retriever. If his dog passed, they would be trained together over the course of 19 weeks.

“How much is this going to cost me?” he asked. Not a dime, he was told. There had to be a catch. “Nothing is free,” he thought, out loud. “You’re right, Paul. Nothing is free. You’ve already given us a lot. All we need now is your commitment to participate,” he was told.

One in 25 dogs assessed actually makes it into the K9 Partners for Patriots program. “We look for dogs who can sense the adrenaline. Some dogs are repelled by it. Others could care less. We look for a dog who is attuned to it,” said Mary. Moose was 12 years old and it was determined he was too old for the service dog program. The Acquisition Team set out to find the perfect partner for Paul, which usually takes anywhere from two to six weeks.

“We interview the veteran to find out their needs. We also want to see a commitment from the veteran before we spend the time and money to find a dog,” said Mary. “We ask them to spend time at our facility to get used to the environment and meet the other veterans in the program. We invite their families.”

Hans, a two-year-old Lemon Dalmatian Treeing Coonhound mix, was transported from a North Georgia shelter to the K9 Partners for Patriots campus and paired with Paul. During their second night together, Hans pushed his head into Paul to wake him. “It was late and he was just looking at me. I thought he had to go outside. But he didn’t. Then I realized, I was having a flashback, and Hans woke me up and stayed by my side.”

Paul and Hans graduated from the K9 Partners for Patriots program earlier this year. They continue to come to the campus to volunteer wherever they’re needed. “I’ll cut the grass. I figure if I can do something to free up the trainers so they can focus on what they do, then, it’ll help save another vet’s life,” he said.

I’ve Got Your Back. Mary has never been in combat. “But I’ve seen some things that affected me while working in forensics recovery, and I had no one to talk to about it,” she said. She feels a higher power called her into action to help her community. “I cannot change the world, but I can sure help my corner of it,” she told us. The second hardest part of Mary’s job is convincing the medical field that the program is working. “Many of our veterans come into this program as highly medicated, barely functioning individuals,” she said.

In spite of this roadblock put up by some medical practitioners, K9 Partners for Patriots has been recognized by experts as a successful path forward for veterans living with PTSD. “When veterans come to K9 Partners for Patriots, they may not be able to visualize what their life could be because of the symptoms of PTSD. But if they trust the process, they can take control away from the symptoms of PTSD and start to live their lives again,” said Diane Scotland-Coogan, the associate professor at Saint Leo College. She has been working with K9 Partners for Patriots, conducting the double-blind studies that will be presented as a report to the Department of Defense. Continue reading “I’ve Got Your 6.”

Every Dog Has His Lucky Day.

As the Jacksonville Humane Society celebrates the grand opening of its new facilities, we revisit our story about the devastating fire in 2007.

Excerpted and edited from a story in the Holiday/Winter 2008/2009 edition of The New Barker.

It was late night/early morning on April 7, 2007, when Leona Sheddan, former Executive Director of the Jacksonville Humane Society received a startling phone call: The Humane Society had burned to the ground and all the animals were dead. With thoughts of death and destruction fresh in her mind, she rushed there not knowing what she would find.

To her disbelief as she approached the shelter, fire trucks had blocked off the roadways and dogs were running in the streets. At that moment, Sheddan said, “I felt things would be okay, because we could rebuild buildings, but we couldn’t bring back life.” Unfortunately, this would turn out not to be the case.

Animals were still trapped inside the burning structure. Firefighters began to open crates and toss animals out of the burning building, hoping they would run to safety. Dogs quickly exited, but cats burrowed themselves in corners and underneath crates making them more difficult to rescue. Dogs also proved to have their own difficulties as the very same ones brought out by firefighters were following them right back into the fire, forcing firefighters to put the dogs inside their trucks. Firefighters helped saved 80 animals that night, but another 86 lost their lives to a fire of unknown origin.

After the fire was extinguished, firefighters began to search what was left of the once lively building. They made a startling discovery: Belly deep in a pool of standing water, was a 10-month-old puppy. Luck struck this young pup twice that night as not only did he survive the fire, he found a home with the loving firefighters of Ladder 28. Fittingly, they dubbed him Lucky.

Lucky, a Labrador mix, was not the only miracle to come from the fire. A couple of days later, Sheddan and a few members of the staff were making another pass over the rubble, when a board member heard a noise. Silence quickly fell over the area, as everyone was intent on discovering the source of the sound, when a cat poked its head out of the debris. Sheddan remembered the face well, saying, “this cat gave us a look that said, where the heck have you people been? I’ve been here for two days. I’m hungry, tired, and dirty.” Like his canine counterpart, the pretentious feline was dubbed Lucky as well. Later that day T.J., Lucky the Cat’s brother, was also found alive. Of all the animals in that area, Lucky and his brother were the only survivors.

Lucky the Cat, painted by Ron Burns.

After the fire, the Jacksonville Humane Society was closed for five days. More than a year later, the shelter was still working out of close quarters. Two temporary modulars were moved onto the property, one housing adoptions and admissions, the second serving as a vet tech center for examinations of animals entering and leaving the shelter. Despite the cramped conditions, donations poured in from 27 states and two foreign countries. The community of Jacksonville was also quick to come to the aid of its Humane Society. The Boyd Family, long-time Jacksonville philanthropists, donated six acres of land worth $3.5 million. Artist Ron Burns, The U.S. Humane Society’s Artist-In-Residence, donated a percentage of his earnings from artwork sold at a local gallery. His donated paintings of Lucky the Dog and Lucky the Cat were on display at the temporary Humane Society offices as a constant reminder of hope. Donations were earmarked for a planned 45,000 square foot structure.

Priced at $12 million, construction of the new facility was estimated to take at least two years. The goal was to turn the Humane Society into more than just an animal shelter, by making it a destination point for families in the community, with expanded programs to benefit people as well as dogs and cats. One proposed program would allow senior citizens to leave assisted living homes for visits to the Humane Society, where they could interact with shelter animals. Another proposed program would allow for children’s parties and sleep overs.

Built along a creek, the Jacksonville Humane Society’s plans at the time, also called for construction of a promenade along the waterfront, where people could sip coffee and relax with their dog. Additional plans called for a Pooch Park, where people would bring their own dogs for interaction with the shelter’s dogs.

All surviving animals from the fire were adopted, many into the homes of emergency personnel who helped fight the fire that night. Lucky Dog spent most of his time at home, while his owner, Rod Zinick, continued to work at the fire department. For awhile, Zinick would take Lucky to the fire station with him during every shift. Lucky would play at a neighboring park or hang out at the station, but he never wandered far. “We would go out on a call,” Zinick says, “and when we came back, he was waiting in the bay.”

Lucky and his rescuers, the crew of Jacksonville Fire & Rescue Department’s Ladder 28. Photographed in 2007.

On November 10 and 11, 2017 the Jacksonville Humane Society will be hosting Grand Opening celebrations of their new Adoption, Education and Community Resource Center. Bacon Group Architects, out of Clearwater, Florida, was the Architect of Record and Project Manager. The shelter, led by current Executive Director Denise Deisler, is located at 8464 Beach Boulevard, Jacksonville, Florida. JaxHumane.org

 

Florida Bound For A Fresh Start.

Eighteen of the original 21 alleged fighting dogs that were facing a death sentence in Ontario are coming to Florida for rehabilitation. They will live on a 12-acre farm run by Aimee Sadler, a renowned canine behavior modification specialist. Sadler has agreed to assume ownership of the dogs, who are scheduled to arrive on the farm some time in August. Fulltime staff is being prepared to care for the dogs over the next six months. Enrichment training will include daily walks, basic and more advanced training to help them integrate into play groups and allow the dogs to socialize with other animals and people.

The public journey for these dogs began in October 2015 when authorities seized a total of 31 “pit bull-type dogs” from a home near Chatham, Ontario. The raid led to animal cruelty and firearm-related charges against five people.

During the raid, officials found a grim scene in a building at the back of the property, behind a sign that read “Dirty White Boy Kennels.” Medical kits with injectable solutions and vitamin supplements, anabolic steroids, suture and skin staple kits, syringes, surgical tools, lists of names of dogs, training and weight schedules, muzzles, sticks and weight training harnesses, and dog-fighting contracts. All of the dogs were attached to chains that were tied to metal stakes in the ground. An inspector noted that “the majority of the adult dogs had severe scarring consistent with dog fighting. The scars were primarily located on the head, neck and forelimbs of the dogs.”

The dogs were transferred to the care of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA). Three dogs were euthanized for medical reasons following the recommendations by to veterinarians. The remaining 28 were evaluated by the ASPCA which deemed 21 of the dogs a menace to society and could not be rehabilitated. The OSPCA filed a court application to have the remaining 21 euthanized.

Dog Tales, a dog rescue and horse sanctuary north of Toronto and Animal Justice, an animal rights organization, intervened in court. The judge denied their attempts to intervene this past December. In February, Dog Tales launched a publicity campaign called #SaveThe21. Celebrity endorsements came from Sir Richard Branson, actress Maggie Q, and Angel, a staff member of The New Barker dog magazine.

BransonMaggieQAngel_#SaveThe21

Dog Tales pushed for a second assessment earlier this year, which was a turning point for the dogs. “That second assessment has shown some slight improvement as a direct result of our daily care and some promise for rehabilitation,” said Jennifer Bluhm, deputy chief of the OSPCA. She called the Florida arrangement “almost unprecedented”, adding, “These dogs range in behaviors from extremely aggressive to unpredictable. They were bred to fight and trained to kill. A wagging tail is not always a sign these dogs are safe for interaction with other animals or people.”

Rob Scheinberg, owner of Dog Tales along with his wife, said he fought hard for the dogs because he owned a Pit Bull for 17 years. He is against Ontario’s breed-specific legislation that bans them. “It has been a long battle and I’m very happy that these dogs are getting this chance,” Scheinberg told The Canadian Press. He will be driving the dogs to Florida in a modified bus. “I think for most of them, the future is a good one. There’s a long road ahead for these dogs and we’re going to closely follow all of them.” Dog Tales will be funding the dogs’ rehabilitation, veterinary care, and food.

Dogfighting Ring 20170725

What Pet Should I Get?

Theodor Seuss Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss, died in 1991, leaving behind boxes and boxes of stuff. Soon after his death, his widow, Audrey, packed most of it and shipped it away for proper archiving. Around 2013, Seuss’ longtime assistant Claudia Prescott called Cathy Goldsmith, a publisher at Random House. She had found something very special – a treasure trove of drawn cartoons on onion paper with typed text, taped precisely into place on each page. The fragile originals were to be the book “What Pet Should I Get” by  Dr. Seuss. The writing and drawings were complete, but still required some art decisions, backgrounds and shading.

“I tried to do the job he would do if he were doing it today,” said Goldsmith. “I also wanted it to be a piece that, when somebody looked at, they would know it is a Dr. Seuss book.” Goldsmith started working on Dr. Seuss books in 1978. She remembers the first time she met the author, a tall, imposing figure with a wicked sense of humor. She had no idea what to call him. “No one else called him Dr. Seuss,” said Goldsmith. He finally noticed that she was awkwardly avoiding using his hame and told her to call him Ted.

Goldsmith would end up working with Ted for the next 11 years. Toward the end of his life, when he was too ill to finish coloring in the final pages of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!,” he called Ms. Goldsmith. She flew out and stayed at his home for several days, coloring under his direction.

“What Pet Shall We Get” was written some time between 1958 and 1962, a time when pets were spoken about a bit differently than we do today. Goldsmith tweaked the script to encourage people to adopt, rather than buy, pets.

Dr. Seuss was an animal lover. His first “pet” was a brown stuffed toy dog given to him by his mother. He named the dog Theophrastus. He would keep Theophrastus for the rest of his life. The stuffed dog was often seen perched near his drawing board. Just before he died, at the age of 87, Dr. Seuss gave Theophrastus to his stepdaughter Lea Grey. “You will take care of the dog, won’t you?” he asked her.

Ted and Theophrastus
Theodor Seuss Geisel and his first “pet” a stuffed dog.

Ted (Dr. Seuss) got his first real live dog around 1914 when he was 10 years-old. Rex was a Boston Bulldog who had a habit of walking on three of his four feet. Perhaps this habit inspired Dr. Seuss to create odd-legged animals in his books.

Ted and Rex
Rex, a Boston Bulldog, was Ted’s first real live dog.

Ted and his wife Helen loved big dogs. In this photograph, Cluny sits with Ted by the pool at their home in La Jolla, California in 1957. This was around the time that Random House published Dr. Seuss’s 13th book, “The Cat in the Hat.”

Cluny and Ted
Cluny checks out some of Dr. Seuss’s drawings.
Ted, Helen and Cluny
At the beach, Helen and Cluny watch as Dr. Seuss draws a creation in the sand.

After Helen died, Ted remarried. His second wife, Audrey, loved small dogs. This is Ted and Samantha, a Yorkshire Terrier, the first of several Yorkies he and Audrey lived with over the years. Photobombing Ted and Sam is one of his creations – a Semi-Normal-Green-Lidded Fawn.

Ted and Samantha
Sam would be one of several Yorkies who lived with Ted and his second wife Audrey.

Dr. Seuss wrote over 60 books, beginning in 1931. “Green Eggs and Ham” was his biggest seller with 17.5 million copies sold, to date. “The Cat in the Hat” is next with 15.5 million copies sold to date. When “What Pet Should I Get” was released on July 28, 2015, 200,000 copies were sold in the first week, making it the fastest-selling picture book in Random House Children’s Books history.

One Dog At A Time.

In 2006, during a tour of duty in the Afghanistan town of Now Zad, Royal Marine Sergeant Pen Farthing helped break up a dogfight. Located in Helmand Province, this was an area once described as the most dangerous place on Earth. Pen could not resist the soulful eyes of one of the street dogs he saved, whose ears had been cut off for fighting. He ended up befriending the dog and named him Nowzad.

Pen_Nowzad
Pen Farthing and Nowzad.

After his tour of duty ended, Pen went through a difficult process to bring Nowzad home to the UK. He quickly realized that he wasn’t the only one hoping to do the same. Pen founded NOWZAD, and soon began the process of reuniting dogs with the soldiers who had befriended them in war zones around the world, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine, Kuwait and Libya. Through donations, happy homecoming destinations have included USA, UK, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain, Jordan and South Africa.

Seven of the rescued street dogs have become fully fledged service dogs in the United States. The dogs are a much valued and loved lifeline to their veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD. That these dogs endured a war zone like their handlers only strengthens the connection and understanding.

Service dog Hannah with Nate
Nate, reunited with Hannah through the efforts of NOWZAD. Hannah is now Nate’s service dog.

“As the troop sergeant in Afghanistan, I was there to motivate the guys and get them fired up again to go out and do the job. But no one was doing that for me,” said Pen. “My time with this dog was a way of de-stressing, collecting my thoughts and popping my head back in the game.”

KIA_TNB
Lexi, moments after being rescued. Sadly, Staff Sergeant David P. Day, 26 of Gaylord, MI, later gave his life in service with Fox Company, 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, during combat operations in Badges Province, Afghanistan, April 24, 2011.

Hope For Animals In A War-Tone Region. The charitable organization has reunited more than 900 dogs and cats with the soldiers. NOWZAD also runs the only animal shelter and clinic of its kind in all of Afghanistan. Currently, it is home to around 150 dogs, 40 cats and six donkeys. The modern veterinary clinic is staffed by a team of Afghan nationals. In addition to animal welfare education, NOWZAD’s mission at the clinic is the prevention of the spread of rabies. They are also implementing a humane trap, neuter, vaccinate and return program in Kabul for cats.

Who Rescued Whom? Often, the brave men and women serving their countries in war zones around the world, find themselves adopting a stray dog or cat struggling to survive. The animals end up providing a respite from war; a moment of peace, home and love. Leaving them behind, after their tour of duty is over, is unthinkable for many of these soldiers. NOWZAD arranges for the dog or cat to safely get to the Nowzad clinic where shelter and care are provided. They spay/neuter all rescues and provide any other required medical attention as well as vaccinations. Then, they carry out all necessary checks and paperwork to ensure the animal will arrive to its final destination, back in the arms of its loving warrior.

NOWZAD’s Policy Statement On The Import Of Dogs. There has been an increase of press speculation in reference to the irresponsible importation of dogs in the UK and the US. “It has been reported that more than 30,000 dogs were brought into the UK from the EU alone, with the majority coming from Romania, Bulgaria and Lithuania; many of which are via puppy traffickers or negligent organizations that do not adhere to the strict regulations that are required to import a dog or cat into the UK. Irresponsible dog importation poses a health and safety threat not only to the dog itself, but to other dogs and humans it may come into contact with. Many of the dogs imported are not a typical domesticated dog that easily integrates into a household environment; a fact not always communicated fully to a new owner,” states NOWZAD on its website.  While there have been numerous calls to prevent this international rehoming as standard practice, NOWZAD adds. “Whilst a complete ban would be unfavorable to us as it would prevent us reuniting soldiers with the dogs or cats, we strongly advocate the need for tighter regulations to prevent rogue importers who are detrimental to the hard work of reputable and responsible animal charities like ourselves.”

Cathy Kangas, who sits on the Board of NOWZAD says of Pen, “He has shown that one person can have an amazing impact, bringing good to an environment written off by many. NOWZAD is demonstrating what can be achieved when people from all walks of life and cultures cast differences aside and work toward a common goal.”

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November, 2011/JFK Airport. With the help of American Dog Rescue, NOWZAD was able to make this emotional reunion possible between Adam and his battle buddy Freedom.

The New Barker dog magazine was first introduced to Pen Farthing and NOWZAD in 2011 by Florida’s own Arthur Benjamin of American Dog Rescue. Pen has written the bestseller “One Dog at a Time, Saving the Strays of Helmand.” The NOWZAD charity has support from animal lovers all over the world, including Ricky Gervais, who  donated the profits from one of his warm-up gigs, earlier this year. The warm-ups took place ahead of Gervais’ national tour of his stand-up show, appropriately called Humanity.

Why Do We Need National Dog Fighting Awareness Day?

 

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Today, April 8, 2017,  is National Dog Fighting Awareness Day. The activity may seem out of place in our society, where dogs are considered family members. It’s also a felony offense in all 50 states.

Dog fighters often have dark and violent pasts, even though they may come from diverse social and economic backgrounds, investigators say. Doctors, lawyers, teachers and professional athletes have been arrested in federal animal-fighting busts in recent years. One characteristic all of these people have in common is a love for brutality and money.

Florida has a reputation for having a “prevalent” dog fighting problem even though detailed statistics don’t exist. It’s such a covert operation that it’s hard to measure. What is known, for sure, is that big money drives the industry, especially in breeding “bloodthirsty” bloodlines. Buyers in large operations pay between $5,000 and $10,000 for puppies in a champion bloodline. Of course, there is also money in the fight itself. Dog fighters are also motivated by power, according to Mark Winton, a criminal-justice lecturer at the University of Central Florida.

National Dog Fighting Awareness Day isn’t just another way to fill a calendar box; it’s a necessary measure to help stop one of the most horrific forms of animal abuse imaginable.

The following is an excerpt from a journalist’s account, who went undercover during a dog fight: “The crowd’s roar dulled to a hum as the next two fighters appeared. The previous match had been short, as one contestant quickly outmatched his opponent, mauling him badly and tearing off an ear. But this final fight matched two highly respected and feared combatants. They eyed each other warily as their handlers finished corner preparations. Spectators came to the edge of their seats, and fathers lifted children to their shoulders for a better view as the judge stepped to the center, called the dogs to their scratch lines and yelled, “Let ’em go!” A cheer arose as the dogs charged across the pit and violently slammed into each other, teeth flashing as they sought a vulnerable target.

The dogs came apart once, when the brindle appeared to give up, and turned for a moment. They were returned to their scratch lines and held. Both dogs were breathing hard and bleeding. “Let ’em go,” the judge called again. If the brindle failed to attack now, he would lose. But he was a game dog, and responded to an instinct bred into him over generations and nurtured through training. As the brindle charged across his line, his opponent’s handler released him with the encouragement, “Finish him, Bo.”

Tired and weakened by his wounds, the brindle was slow to meet Bo’s ferocious attacks. Bo grabbed the brindle’s right front leg in powerful jaws, bit and twisted. The “snap” of breaking bone was heard as the brindle was flipped onto his back, while Bo sought a better grip on his opponent’s throat. Remarkably, as the judge ordered the handlers to break the dogs, the brindle tried to crawl after Bo, still intent on fighting. His handler gently wrapped him in a blanket, saying, “No more, boy. It’s over.”

Writer Matthew Bershadker wrote in a Huffington Post blog, three years ago: “It’s not enough to see dog fighting as just a crime. Society discourages, yet tolerates a number of crimes – some are even glorified. But dog fighting is a deep stain on our national character, a cultural embarrassment we should all feel. This is not about just locking up bad guys; this is about doing everything we can to bring this nightmarish practice to an end. We can’t rest until it does. That’s why National Dog Fighting Awareness Day isn’t just another way to fill a calendar box; it’s a necessary measure to help stop one of the most horrific forms of animal abuse imaginable.”

To report dogfighting, call the following tip line: 1.877.TIP.HSUS

Here is a link for possible signs of dog fighting:

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“If You See A Risk And Walk Away…

Then hope you never have to say, I could have saved a life that day, But I chose to look the other way.” From a poem by Don Merrill, “I Chose To Look The Other Way.”

by Anna Cooke, Editor-in-Chief of The New Barker dog magazine.

We have a problem in this state. Call it whatever you want: pet overpopulation. Blame it on the irresponsible public, if you’d like. It has reached epic proportions in Miami-Dade. Law enforcement and government officials are turning the other way, saying it’s not their job, not in their pay grade, not in their circle of knowledge.

Small bands of animal advocates are stepping in, but it’s only a bandaid. The problem is growing, and dogs are dying as a result.

Dogs are being dumped in an area known as the Redland Rock Pit. Volunteers with organizations like the Redland Rock Pit Abandoned Dog Project are trying to help the dogs by either capturing or feeding them have witnessed cars driving up, doors opening to let a dog out, then driving away. In one heartbreaking scene that played out just last week, a German Shepherd Dog chased after his owner’s car. The dog stood on the corner as the white car took off. A volunteer with Racing 4 Rescues coaxed the dog, now named Brady, safely into her car. Racing 4 Rescues volunteers were already in the area with the goal of pulling a momma (another German Shepherd Dog) and her two pups to safety.

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Momma and her two pups in the Redland Rock Pit area. Photography by Jaime Wald Seymour-Newton of JSN Photo/Animal Rescue.

 

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Her puppies were pulled. But, momma eluded volunteers with Racing 4 Rescues.

Miami-Dade Animal Services is crowded – at capacity. Same story, different town. This, in spite of a grand opening in June 2016 of the brand new Miami-Dade Animal Services Pet Adoption and Protection Center. “The new Pet Adoption and Protection center is a significant accomplishment for our pet loving community and will help Animal Services continue to save lives,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. “We built the best facility to help ensure every pet gets adopted, offer more low-cost spay/neuter services and enrich our life-saving programs,” he added.

Yet, in a response to the Redland Rock Pit problem, the Mayor sent this email last year, around the same time: “The shelter has rescued over 1100 strays from the Redlands/Homestead/Florida City area in this time period (three years). ASD continues to stand ready to respond to any issues identified by volunteers and asks all individuals to provide specific addresses and locations so that they can respond and follow-up on stray animals or cruelty issues.”

Mayor Gimenez, emails and phone calls are going unanswered. The dumped dogs, many of whom are unaltered, are left to fend for themselves. They are breeding, adding to the problem. Cruelty issues include dogs being sacrificed in Santeria rituals. Death by poisoning, or from being hit by cars. Starving to death.  Have you seen some of the cruelties, Mayor?

Welcome to Miami, Florida (warning – graphic images within this video)

Meanwhile, people and businesses from outside your community are coming in to help, donating time, services and food. Resources that could be used to help shelter pets and the pet overpopulation problems in their own communities.

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Food, donated by Pet Food Warehouse of St. Petersburg, is loaded onto a truck bound for Miami.
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Yoho Automotive & Towing, owned by Danielle Yoho – also the founder and president of Racing 4 Rescues.

But, your situation, Mayor Gimenez, has moved people to want to help, because it is a problem that belongs to all of us. And yet – no word from anyone in your offices, Miami-Dade Animal Services or law enforcement. Tell us, please, what should your constituents do? What can we, as concerned Florida animal advocates, do? We would love to speak with you. We’d love to hear your take on the situation. It is only going to get worse. My email address is anna@thenewbarker.com

Contact the office of Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez: mayor@miamidade.gov Call 305.375.1880.

Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners:

District 1 – Commissioner Barbara J. Jordan: district1@miamidade.gov; 305.375.5694

District 2 – Commissioner Jean Monestime: district2@miamidade.gov; 305.375.4833

District 3 – Vice Chairwoman Audrey M. Edmonson: district3@miamidade.gov; 305.375.5393

District 4 – Commissioner Sally A Heyman: district4@miamidade.gov; 305.375.5128

District 5 – Commissioner Bruno A. Barreiro: district5@miamidade.gov; 305.643.8525

District 6 – Commissioner Rebeca Sosa: district6@miamidade.gov; 305.375.5696

District 7 – Commissioner Xavier L. Suarez: district7@miamidade.gov; 305.669.4003

District 8 – Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava: district8@miamidade.gov; 305.375.5218

District 9 – Commissioner Dennis C. Moss: DennisMoss@miamidade.gov; 305.375.4832

District 10 – Commissioner Javier D. Souto: district10@miamidade.gov; 305.375.4835

District 11 – Commissioner Joe A. Martinez: district11@miamidade.gov; 305.375.5511

District 12 – Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz: district12@miamidade.gov; 305.375.4343

District 13 – Chairman Esteban L. Bovo, Jr.: district13@miamidade.gov; 305.375.4831

brady
Brady, the dog left behind in front of witnesses at Redland Rock Pit, is in the caring hands of volunteers at Racing 4 Rescues. He has tested HW negative and is receiving treatment for skin issues.