Unconditional Love. It Works Both Ways.

How much money would you spend on your dog’s medical care? The following appears in the current/winter issue of THE NEW BARKER. It is the story of Zack, a Lakeland Terrier, and his devoted human, Stella. Today, sadly, we learned of Zack’s passing this week. Rest in peace, Zacky. This edition of Weekend PUPdates is dedicated to you.

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Vitiligo is a condition in which the skin loses melanin, the pigment that determines the color of skin, hair and eyes. If the cells that produce melanin die, depigmentation occurs, causing patches of white irregular shapes to appear on the skin. It usually starts as small areas of pigment loss that become larger with time, striking any part of the body and anyone, regardless of race. The condition is not life-threatening or contagious, but alters the life of the patient physically, limiting sun exposure to avoid severe burning and blistering. It can also have an extremely emotional effect on the patient, especially children.

When Stella Pavlides developed vitiligo, she was only 22 and had just given birth to her son, Greg. The cosmetologist with flawless skin suddenly looked like a patchwork quilt, as she describes it. “I’ve had people refuse to take money from me,” said Pavlides. “They think what I have is contagious.”

After learning there was no cure, and that between four and five million people in the United States are afflicted with the condition, Pavlides contacted the Vitiligo Foundation. She wanted to help fund research to find a cure for vitiligo and became a faithful donor. When the animal advocate discovered that animals, including dogs, were being used for research and testing, she was conflicted. “I wanted a cure for vitiligo, but I wanted more humane research.” She asked the president of the foundation to consider going the humane route after discussing her concerns with the now late Dr. Thomas B. Fitzpatrick, Chairman of the Department of Dermatology at Harvard Medical School and Chief of the Dermatology Service at Boston’s Mass General. She was turned away.

The Clearwater resident then traveled to Gainesville to meet with Wayne McCormack, associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Florida College of Medicine. McCormack told Pavlides that if she provided the funding for the research, he would use donated blood and skin from people with vitiligo, not animals.

Since 1995, the American Vitiligo Research Foundation Pavlides founded, has given around $200,000 toward vitiligo research at UF. The money comes through fundraisers and donations.

To say this woman is unstoppable in whatever she takes on is a gross understatement. Even baseball legend Tony La Russa, who founded the Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) in 1991 with his wife Elaine, said of Pavlides, “She is a dedicated, hard-working person, devoted to her causes. She is also an avid animal lover. I admire her tenacity and drive as well as her determination to overcome obstacles.” Pavlides’ own rescue Airedale, Alex, was one of ARF’s first mascots.

In February of 1999, Pavlides adopted another dog, Sophie, a Lakeland Terrier. Several months later she received a phone call asking if she could foster another Lakeland Terrier who was just a puppy – one of Sophie’s puppies, in fact. Where Sophie was sweet, kind, high-spirited and loving, Zack was the exact opposite. He was aggressive, suffered separation anxiety and self-mutilated in addition to a host of health issues that would surface several years after Pavlides adopted him.

Pavlides allows herself to wonder, once in awhile, whether she would have adopted Zack had she known about his issues beforehand. One thing is certain: this determined, tenacious woman never gave up on Zack once she committed to bringing him into her home.

She did all the right things. Neutering Zack seemed to help with some of his aggressive behavior, but not to the extent she had hoped. She hired a professional dog trainer who told her he had trained many dogs and was certain he could train Zack. After Pavlides invested a lot of money for Zack’s training sessions, the trainer told her the dog was not trainable. Pavlides then took Zack to a licensed dog psychologist. She attended a presentation at the Humane Society of Manatee County by Cesar Millan. She purchased and read his book and applied his theories on Zack. Nothing seemed to help with her dog’s anxiety or aggressive behavioral issues.

Eventually, Pavlides accepted Zack for the dog he was. She realized his aggression and anxiety were all fear-based, and vowed to never put him in a position to fail ever again.

Zack’s physical issues began to manifest when he was five years old. He had surgery to remove cataracts in both of his eyes. He has suffered from chronic allergies, ear infections, and extensive seizures. His self mutilation involved spinning and biting his tail to the point of requiring surgery. He has seen almost every kind of veterinarian specialist within the Tampa Bay Area. At The University of Florida in Gainesville, he was seen by specialists in dermatology, ophthalmology, acupuncture, neurology and a licensed dietician.

Zack’s veterinary bills are currently more than $80,000. That does not include the money Pavlides has spent around her home to help keep her dog’s allergies in check: having the grass removed and replaced with cement; replacing her carpet with tile; providing Zack with a special daily diet of fresh cooked tilapia, salt-less peas and cream of rice.

The point at which we, as pet owners, determine enough is enough is a different decision for each of us. Factors will include the dog’s overall health and well-being, the bank account balance, and our own ability to cope with the situation.

There was a time, in the not so distant past, where euthanasia was the only solution for our pets’ suffering from chronic disease. Dogs have moved from the backyard doghouse into our homes, living as part of the family blend. We have come to learn how diet plays a role in the health of our dogs. Veterinary medicine has vastly improved over the last 10 years, offering pet owners a multitude of options.

We move forward and base our decisions on all the facts presented to us. Living with dogs takes a certain amount of patience, devotion and lots of faith.

It has been almost two years since Zack has had a seizure. Pavlides credits Dr. Gregory Todd at Animal Hospital of Dunedin, and his recommended combination treatment of acupuncture and Chinese herbs. “Zack’s indomitable spirit has been a great ally in overcoming his health challenges. But, none of it would be possible without Stella’s unwavering commitment as a pet parent, to a lifetime of love and care,” said Dr. Todd.

Pavlides knows that without each and every veterinarian and caregiver in Zack’s life, he would not be here today. Through her own trials and tribulations, as Pavlides puts it, Zack is now 16 years-old and has become a very kind, loving soul. To her, Zack has been worth every penny spent, every tear shed.

"Our last picture together," said Stella, shown here holding Zack.
“Our last picture together,” said Stella, shown here holding Zack.
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Think Progress. Think. Progress. Modifying Florida’s Dangerous Dog Law.

In June 2015, Padi, a black Lab mix, bit a four-year-old child. Despite the circumstances surrounding the incident, Manatee County Animal Services said they were required by state law to euthanize Padi, no exceptions. Manatee County citizens questioned whether or not Manatee County officials were correctly interpreting the law on how aggressive animals were handled. State Representative Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, filed legislation in August to change the state law, which currently says any dog causing severe injury to a person, which includes injuries resulting in stitches, reconstructive surgery or death has to be euthanized; no exceptions. Steube’s bill, which has been filed for the 2016 session, allows for exceptions. We asked Florida attorney Dionne Blaessing to interpret the wording of the proposed bill, as compared to the originally-written Dangerous Dog statute.

The revision of sections Fl. St.767.12, 767.135 and 767.136 essentially represents a reorganization of the concepts and a rewording of the language of the original Dangerous Dog Statute that has been in effect for decades. The new version clarifies the role of Animal Control, spells out the different options under the law and elucidates the availability of constitutional protections imbedded in the process of hearings and appeals. There are some actual changes to the law which will be expounded upon here.

Fl. St. 767.12 grants county Animal Control services the authority to investigate reports and/or incidents involving any dog that may be deemed dangerous. This section now clarifies that Animal Control has sole discretion in determining whether they, or the dog owner, will confine the dog during the investigation; during a hearing if requested by the owner; and through the appeal process if elected by the losing party. It now makes clear that during a hearing and an appeal, the dog cannot be destroyed, but must be impounded at the owner’s expense.

Dr. Gartenberg of Bradenton's The Pet Clinic hugs his dog Padi.
Dr. Gartenberg of Bradenton’s The Pet Clinic hugs his dog Padi.

Fl. St. 767.12 improves the explanation of possible defenses available for the dog. It expands requirements of the formal notice to owner, to include not only the final determination of the investigation, but also the penalty sought by Animal Control. It defines the timetable for owners requesting an initial hearing and requesting an appeal of the outcome of the hearing. The appeal is no longer to be heard in county court but must be filed and heard in circuit court.

Fl. St. 767.12 (5) outlines the responsibilities of the owner who elects to keep a dog deemed dangerous, once the hearing and appeal process has ended. This section remains the same in concept but is better organized and easier to understand.

Fl. St. 767.12 (6) has been added to clarify that if a dog determined to be dangerous in the investigation, hearing and appeal, caused severe injury to a human being, Animal Control may impose a penalty of humane euthanization. That proposed penalty must be clearly stated in the notice to the owner. Both the classification as dangerous dog and the penalty prescribed may be reviewed in the hearing, which will review all the evidence of the investigation and any defense. That may include revisiting testimony of all witnesses, affidavits and medical records used in determining the dangerous dog classification and the opted penalty.

Fl. St. 767.12 (7) exempts from this section, hunting dogs, show dogs and herding dogs when they are involved in legal activities, such as shows, trials, hunts, herding, et al, while engaged in the activity. However, a hunting dog previously classified as dangerous cannot hunt. Any dog exempted under (7), when not engaged in their sport or activity, are subject to Fl. St. 767.12 and all local laws.

Fl. St. 767.12 (8) explains the fine for violation of the provisions of Fl. St. 767.12.

Fl. St. 135 and 136 do a good job of rewording the former confusing statutory language. The new Fl. St. 767.135 addresses an attack or bite by a dog that has not been previously declared dangerous. Now, if the dog causes the death of a human, the dog will be immediately confiscated by Animal Control and held for a period outlined in the section to allow the owner to request a hearing and an appeal. The owner must act within the times prescribed by the section. And the owner will be liable for all costs of the confinement of the dog during the process.

Fl. St. 767.136 imposes a criminal penalty on an owner who is aware of the dangerous propensity of a dog, when the dog causes severe injury or death of a person, unless the dog attacks a person engaged in a criminal activity.

Fl. St. 767.16 fully exempts police dogs from this section. The section exempts a service dog used by a blind, deaf or disabled person, which bites a human or another dog, from a quarantine period if the dog’s rabies vaccine is veterinarian administered and current. Quarantine is not the same as confinement for the infliction of severe injury or death of a human.

Note to readers: The following is a rule of statutory construction: Whenever you are reading a statute which includes a word or phrase that may have many interpretations, do not assume that your interpretation is correct. Instead, each act or chapter of law has a Definition section with the definition of words used in the section. See Fl. St. 767.11 (partially displayed below) for the definition of the term “dangerous dog” and the phrase “severe injury” et al.

Definition of a dangerous dog as defined in the current Florida Dangerous Dog statute: (1) “Dangerous dog” means any dog that according to the records of the appropriate authority: (a) Has aggressively bitten, attacked, or endangered or has inflicted severe injury on a human being on public or private property; (b) Has more than once severely injured or killed a domestic animal while off the owner’s property; or (c) Has, when unprovoked, chased or approached a person upon the streets, sidewalks, or any public grounds in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack, provided that such actions are attested to in a sworn statement by one or more persons and dutifully investigated by the appropriate authority. (2) “Unprovoked” means that the victim who has been conducting himself or herself peacefully and lawfully has been bitten or chased in a menacing fashion or attacked by a dog. (3) “Severe injury” means any physical injury that results in broken bones, multiple bites, or disfiguring lacerations requiring sutures or reconstructive surgery.

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If your dog is involved in an incident, please see a well-versed animal law attorney to understand your rights and responsibilities with regard to the administrative Animal Control process. That process will be separate and apart from civil liability for the victim’s injuries and your attorney should explain both issues to you.

Dionne Blaessing is a regular contributor to THE NEW BARKER dog magazine’s Paw Law column. She obtained her Juris Doctor with Honors from the University of Florida in 1994. Prior to becoming an attorney, Dionne’s 20 year background in veterinary science included serving as an emergency technician at the SPCA Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Boston; Chief of Nursing for Boston Zoological Society; managing a local veterinary hospital in Pasco County. She has also served on the board of the Suncoast SPCA in New Port Richey for 10 years, including as the board president. Her practice is in New Port Richey, and she may be reached by calling 727.992.9114.

Florida’s New Tourism Slogan: The Good Dog State.

This month, the Governor’s Office of  Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development might want to consider re-branding the Sunshine State to the Good Dog State. From Jacksonville to West Palm Beach, Tampa Bay to Orlando and everywhere in between, Florida is chockfull of dog friendly events.

What’s more, if you’ve been thinking about bringing another dog into the family, October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. Many of the events this weekend and next will have rescue groups and their adoptables on hand.

This is Petey, available for adoption through All Dog Rescue of Florida.

Over the last couple of weeks we have met some pretty amazing people who donate whatever time they have to volunteer for various rescue groups. Of course, we’ve met some pretty incredible dogs too. Like Petey, who was abandoned as a puppy along with his mom, both found wandering the streets. All Dog Rescue of Florida is fostering Petey, and has already put $800 into him for his medical treatment. And still, his adoption fee is only $300. So, in your travels over the weekend, should you happen to attend one of the following events and come upon a rescue group, please drop a dollar or two in the donation jar. Petey (and many more like him) will thank you with puppy love and sweet kisses.

While you’re out and about on Saturday, October 20, you will definitely work up an appetite. And that’s a good thing, because our best event pick of the day is happening at the Clearwater Quaker Steak & Lube.  Don’t miss the Red Hot Rescue Chili Cook Off from 1p until 6p, hosted by the Florida Great Pyrenees Club. There will be some delicious samplings from some pretty competitive cooks, along with live entertainment, rescue groups, raffle items, giveaways, auctions and demonstrations. Not only will you satisfy your appetite, but your heart and soul will be filled up as well. All proceeds will benefit the participating rescue groups.

If you happen to be traveling through Lutz on Saturday, you might think you’re seeing spots. You would be right, since Dalmatian Rescue of Tampa Bay will be hosting their annual fundraiser, Dal-loween at Lake Park just off North Dale Mabry Highway. This is another one of those rescue groups whose volunteers have worked tirelessly over the years, and this is the one event that helps them sustain as a 501c3 all year long. Go, Spots. Go.

About 2000 people and hundreds of their dogs are expected to be at the Shell Factory’s Doggy Heaven this Saturday, October 20 for Goldenfest, hosted by Golden Retriever Rescue of Southwest Florida. If you know Golden Retrievers, you’ll love that one of the offerings throughout the day will be Pet Brushing and Furminating. The Shell Factory (located in Fort Myers) is also home to SunCoast DockDogs, so demonstrations and competitions will be held. Other organizations on hand with adoptables: SW Florida Wiener Dog Club, Healing Paws-Ability Agility, Gulf Coast Humane Society, Grey Muzzle, Labrador Retriever Rescue of Florida, and the Pitbull Crew of Florida.If you happen to stick around through Sunday, check out the Doggie Church, a half hour non-denominational service held at 12:30 pm. By the way, our choice for dog friendly hotel accommodations would be Hotel Indigo, just minutes from the Shell Factory.

Maybe you’re a fan of the low-riding wiener dog. You’re in luck. The annual Dachstoberfest takes place on Sunday, October 21 between 10a and 2p at Centennial Square in West Palm Beach. There will be a Dachshund Parade, Doxie Dash Race, and a Costume Contest Competition conducted by The New Barker rover reporter and award-winning photographer, Tina Valant. Proceeds from this event benefit Dachshund Rescue of South Florida. Tina will also be handing out complimentary copies of The New Barker while supplies last. Travel tip: You’ll receive a delicious brunch during your stay at Hibiscus House B&B in West Palm Beach. Your dogs get to wander around the lushly landscaped, fenced-in yard, while you dine poolside.

We’re betting that the biggest gathering of dogs and people in Florida will take place this Sunday, October 21, at the 12th Annual Stride for Strays 3k Walk and Fundraiser for Animal Coalition of Tampa. Curtis Hixon Park on the Riverfront is one of the coolest venues in Florida. Stride for Strays has proven time and again, to be one of the most entertaining, fun-filled afternoons for the entire family. The Doggie Fun Zone will be set up for Agility demonstrations, and there will be plenty of food available (including vegan-friendly menus). Be sure to check out Groovy Cats & Dogs and Lucky Dog Daycare for specials and treats.

Also this Sunday, The Jacksonville Landing is hosting their 4th Annual Howl-O-Ween Bash and Yappy Hour between 2p and 5p. This has become known as the Largest Dog Costume Contest in Jacksonville. Complimentary copies of The New Barker will be available. Travel tip: Hotel Indigo does have a Jacksonville location as well.

Pitbull advocate and singer/songwriter John Shipe will be coming to Florida next weekend, courtesy of Pitbull Happenings. He will be at the 4th Annual Dogtoberfest at The Shops of Wiregrass, a daylong adoptathon on Saturday, October 27 with multiple rescue groups from all over Florida on hand. The event is hosted by Animal Based Charities.

For more howling good times, be sure to check out The New Barker calendar. Spooktacular picks, including the 6th Annual Barkoween, hosted by Fluffy Puppies, and A Pawsitively Posh Halloween Party, hosted by Pawsitively Posh Pooch are always good bets for a whole lotta fun. One Lucky Dog in St. Petersburg and Wet Noses Boutique in Sarasota are each hosting their own dog-friendly Halloween Parties, as are Pet Food Warehouse, Gone to the Dogs Boutique, What A Dog Play Center and The Doggie Door.

Whatever you do, wherever you go, be safe. Florida dogs are counting on you to look out for them (and to not leave them behind). For now, we’ll leave you with a funny (yet, sadly true) PSA from The Shelter Pet Project.